Saturday, June 19, 2004

A star is born

You oughta know that our own Nicholas Watson, a/k/a Mr. Friends, is appearing in Broom Street Theater's current production, Morality Play. He is, it turns out, a terrific actor. I can't say I'm surprised. The title of this blog entry is not quite accurate: after the show last night he told me he has been acting for about three years.

For those of you not in the know, Nicholas is maitre d' of my favorite breakfast spot, the Original Pancake House in Monona, Wisc. A small group of us call him Mr. Friends because once Ereck and I showed up for brunch after our chums had already left, and Nicholas said, "You missed your friends." I misheard this as "Mr. Friends," which I thought was a greeting. The moniker stuck.
Good word

"All you have to do is say something nobody understands and they'll do practically anything you want them to."

--J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Friday, June 18, 2004

Hello? Hello? Hello? Hello? Hello? Hello? Hello? Hello? Hello? Hello? Hello?

The New York Times reports that the organizers of the U.S. Open golf tournament in Southampton, N.Y. have banned cell phones from the event. Phones are being confiscated at the gate. To this I say, hallelujah. Cell phones also should be banned from movie theaters, libraries and AA meetings, and the last time I was in an airport I desperately wanted a phone-free concourse.

Needless to say, I don't have a cell phone. I love my land line: it never cuts me off, it doesn't get me into car accidents, and the connection is always great. About once every six months some freakout makes me wish I had a cell phone at that moment, but generally there's still a payphone somewhere nearby. And anyway, I don't deliver babies. I never really need a cell phone.

Come to think of it, though, my inner obsessive-compulsive is a little worried about those payphones.
So I wanna be a rock 'n' roll star

If anyone is selling an electric guitar, I'm buying. I'm serious.
Good word

"In addition, there were thousands of errors in [Microsoft CD-ROM encyclopedia] Encarta's displays of content. One of the more horrifying to the team showed up when the encyclopedia displayed an article on Bill Gates, featuring a captioned photograph of the chairman. Above the caption was a picture of Hank Williams."

--Fred Moody, I Sing the Body Electronic: A Year With Microsoft on the Multimedia Frontier (New York: Viking, 1995)

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Good word

"Soylent Green freaked me out when I was a kid, but I watched it again a couple of years ago and thought, what a great idea!"

--Overheard on the forum
Technical support

Ereck is having this weird problem with my blog: when he points his browser at, he is prompted to download some mysterious file. This doesn't happen on my computer, nor does it happen when he points his browser at (sans www).

Is this happening to anyone else?

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

No business like show business

This New York Times book review intrigues me. It was written by James McMurtry, the son of novelist Larry McMurtry and a fine roots rocker and songwriter.

The review is of a new memoir by Jacob Shlicter, a name that didn't send me rushing to Borders. It turns out that Shlicter is the drummer of the Minneapolis rock band Semisonic who, you may recall, had a hit a few years ago with "Closing Time" ("I know who I want to take me home/I know who I want to take me home/I know who I want to take me home," etc.). You know that "Closing Time" was big, because it made its way into one of Weird Al Yankovic's inspired polka medleys.

I was only dimly aware of Semisonic when they were on the charts, and their fifteen minutes were rapidly ticking away before I realized who they were--or, more precisely, who two of them were: Semisonic's singer, Dan Wilson, and bass player, John Munson, were members of Trip Shakespeare, a Twin Cities combo that made a bit of splash on the college circuit when I was, yes, in college. I used to love Trip Shakespeare.

Let me strengthen that: Trip Shakespeare inspired in me a frenzy that's as close as I'll likely ever come to Beatlemania-like ecstasy. I first saw Trip Shakespeare in Nashville, long about the summer of 1990. I recall they got a tiny writeup in Rolling Stone, which I read religiously at the time, and when I noticed they were playing at Music City's famed Exit/In nightclub (Keith Carradine performs there in Robert Altman's Nashville), I grabbed my friend Walter, and we made our way down.

We were blown away, mostly by the quartet's quirky songwriting and, even better, their vocal harmonies, the beauty of which had a lot to do with the fact that the two frontmen were Dan Wilson and his brother Matt. You can't beat DNA for great vocal harmonies.

But Trip Shakespeare's earnest songs about space and the afterlife and stuff weren't especially mainstream, so after a couple of albums on A&M, the group dissolved. Semisonic presently emerged, with a slick sound and slightly more commercial songwriting. Judging from McMurtry's review, what happened next is a familiar music-business tale of crushing debt, monotonous road trips and, once in a while, moments of great satisfaction on stage. Semisonic had the one big hit, and that was it for Semisonic.

The review was a pleasant reminder of my Trip Shakespeare obsession. I'm looking forward to reading the book.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Is this useful?

A note from Yahoo! tells me that I now have two gigabytes of storage available to me in my mailbox. The venerable Internet company is responding to the challenge of Google's gmail, the new, free email service that provides one gigabyte of storage.

It's funny, just yesterday I cleaned out my inbox because I was close to exceeding the 100 megabytes of storage I heretofore rented from Yahoo! for $19.99 per year. The cleaning got me down to 60% of my quota, but now Yahoo! tells me I am using only 2%.

For the record, my first PC had a 20-megabyte hard drive. That is 1% of my new Yahoo! allotment. And that hard drive's capacity used to seem unimaginably vast.

At any rate, if you email me that copy of The Fellowship of the Ring, now it won't max me out.


Monday, June 14, 2004

A thousand words

Today saw the unveiling of the official White House portraits of Bill and Hillary Clinton, and President Bush's remarks were wholly laudatory, statesmanlike, even eloquent. Discomfitingly so. What's he up to?