31 October 2012

A kinder, gentler scare

how dapper

 Ah Halloween, that holiday that while growing up in the church was conveniently avoided and replaced by the likes of the Hallelujah Hoe Down or the Holy Ghost Weenie Roast. Good reasons no doubt since my birth All Hallows Eve has become more about the gore and scare and more recently a little bit of sexy. And Christians really wanted to avoid the big scare that Frank Peretti painted in a lot of his books. I think my 'brethern and sistern' responded in reactionary ways and did not engage the culture or have a desire to influence it. However, I am not going to delve into the merits of why or why not you should recognize Halloween. Too long, too complicated and I don't have time. I desire to be neutral towards it. So disguises, sweets, meeting neigbors- I like. Scares, gore, witchcraft and their ilk- I do not like. Strangely enough, Martin Luther decided to begin an scholarly engagement that eventually turned out to become the reformation on this date in 1517. Maybe we should engage the current trends with some well thought out actions on this day? I think I should don a Martin Luther costume next year.

Miss Piggy for President

As for this year my first costume is the dapperly dressed man. It basically is a gangster costume I culled from the Wal-Mart discout bins a number of years ago. Must have cost me a few bucks. The hat, on the other hand, has been around since my high school days. I belive it appeared in "42nd Street" when I portrayed the character Abner Dillion. Friends at work suggested this costume could double as one for Batman's nemesis "Two-Face" with a little make-up.
The big winner at work this year was our receptionist's Miss Piggy costume.

25 October 2012

Baptism in the Quetico: Part 4

Quetico landscape
The following series is a narrative from my first canoeing trip back over a decade ago into the wilderness of the Quetico. In this final episode we hike an old logging road, are visited by rain showers, and head back home.

We went hiking the next day on trail north of our island campsite. We canoed to a closest entry point for the trail. It was not close enough so we ended up bushwhacking through the forest and underbrush until the trail was spotted. During that foray we discovered a wooden boat hidden in the woods. I am not sure how far we hiked but it took up much of the day. The trail deteriorated at a marsh that was once a beaver colony. There we made instant pudding. Unfortunately I had no water, just a little lemonade. In substitute of the water I added Tang. It was a regrettable decision. Orange and chocolate do not taste pleasing together. We returned the same route only exploring a spur that went to another lake. Along the way we saw a variety of forest flora including lady slippers. Much to my dismay, I did not see any animals. What amazed me the most was that the trail was a two lane road as late as the 1960s. Unusual litter and debris were found along the path like tires and coffee cans. When we got back to camp we jokingly referred to the hike as the “forced march.”

checking the map

The good weather ebbed as storm clouds blew in a few days later. Much to my dismay, my tent did not pass the rainproof test. Water pooled up on the sides and floor of the tent. The rain lasted on and off for about a day. Neil, 3 Names and myself helped put up a tarp over the campfire and cooking area in the morning. Waiting for the rain to cease, we played numerous hands of 500 and drank hot tea. In the late afternoon the sky changed and the sun returned. Almost immediately 3 Names and I started pulling things out of the tent to allow them to dry. Valuable lesson learned: always have a tent with a full rainfly. My tent only had a roof fly- hardly capable of keeping the rain at bay. 

In the morning we broke camp, loaded the canoes, and paddled back to where we first launched. I would be prepared for the challenges ahead this time. I was even willing to get out of the canoe and into the water. Portaging was not easy but now I knew it would not be and expected it. Rapids and beaver dams did not discourage me. 3 Names and I took them well. I even got out in the water to walk the canoe through a set of rapids. At last we made it to our most difficult portage. It was no small task but this time I came out hardly scathed. Mental preparation is the key. And expect to get wet and dirty, it’s part of the journey.

Paddling out on Baptism Creek
 With no portages ahead, 3 Names and I dug into paddling. We zipped through the set of rapids we had to walk through before. However, my partner's steering invited a number of trees to take a bite out of us. The twists and turns of the stream returned although they were not as annoying. 3 Names and I had at last passed Neil and Ruth in the home stretch out of the creek thanks to my intense paddling.

Once on shore we loaded the gear into the trailer and changed clothes. 3 Names and I took our usual places in the back of the pig smelling pickup and we began the eight-hour journey home. We stopped to eat a few times and laughed at the retelling of our escapades.

“You can come along anytime.” Neil told me during a meal at a café. “That is if you want to go again.”

I hesitated for a moment. Memories of constant paddling, strenuous portages, rain, and bogs went through my head. Just then I realized that I made it through them all and I’m not dead.

“Sure thing.” I responded. “Next time I’ll be ready.”

Short form video or why I love Mister Glasses

I caught the You Tube bug shortly after Google bought them. For me it pretty much replaced television since no service could satisfy my eclectic tastes. Then again I did not watch much television to begin with- I just didn't have the time. Well, the advent of You Tubism increased the viral video- the short incredibly absorbing video which made you want others to see.  

A few years before- and maybe even earlier- Channel101 became the incubator for the new the short form webisode. One might even suggest the 48 hour film fest also gave rise to the sub-10 minute video. However I am not going to dwell on Channel101 and its sibling Channel 102 (although may have been rebranded as Channel101 NY) in New York. Read the backstory on the wiki page. These twins put out a slew of short forms almost once a month- some good and some not so good. As of late I have perferred the New York flavor's offerings although LA did have Yacht Rock, House of Cosbys, and the beginning of the ever famous Chad Vader-Day Shift Manager.

Production of these videos is becoming somewhat of a lucrative business venture as more and more production companies are formed just to make these videos. Heck, Saturday Night Live has been toying with it. Still, anyone with a DV camera and a computer can make a video these days but quality no budget productions are not so easy. You need a decent crew and locations and make sure you've got good sound.

One of my favorite webisodes from Channel 102 New York is Mr. Glasses. This creation follows the life of a bald bespectacled architect who with some colleagues intend to help people through the means of modern architecture. Today, it is lost amongst the myriad of webisodes flooding the Nets. But Mr Glasses was special. The black and white production was steeped in subtle humor affixed to modernism.
But like most internet things, Mr. Glasses just went away after 7 webisodes. His creator, Mitch Magee, found other things to poke with the pointed spear of his humor.
However, Mr. Glasses did sit for a blog interview in 2011.

24 October 2012

Nowhere Band remembered

Guitarist Johnny McK. Former member of many nowhere bands.
 A college mate of mine- Keith Pille- illustrated and wrote the Internet comic Nowhere Band up until it ended in Spring 2011. A one shot strip appeared one year ago today documenting the an incident that happened 5 years after the Awesome Boys sputtered out when Josh decided to leave the group to pursue writing.
I followed the web comic a little. It had the working of a decent sit-com that would revolved around the indy and garage band scene. Probably would still work- so somebody call Dan Harmon.
As legend has it- Keith and I were in a few bands together in college. Or at least that is what my memory is telling me.
The first- Mr. Willie. Keith was on bass, I was on rhythm guitar, Dale on drums, a guy named Dan was lead guitar, and the indomitable played viola and threw peeps. The band did a few Velvet Underground covers and a few originals for their 1 and only performance at battle of the bands. I think was using Keith's cheap Squier telecaster. The name of band was a nod to a local grocer.
The second- Studly Party Tonight. Keith was again on bass and I on rhythm guitar. Pat J was our lead guitar and I totally forget who played drums because Dale was unavailable. Keith came up with the name based on an incident in his hometown of Blair, Nebraska. I forget the details but it had to do with a party and some guy spray painting "studly party tonight" on the outside of the building where the party was to be held. This band came together with 1 rehearsal. We covered the Velvets a little and did a few originals. We formed for 1 day to play the Battle of the Bands.
The following year The Angry Minnesotan formed without the help of Keith on bass. He instead began the early formation of what eventually became Red Hay. You can read about the AMs here.
So here is to all those bands that struggled to make it big but continued to conquer the mole hill in their basements and garages.

The longer you wait the less you get- hiatus debunked

Some of you would suspect that the blog is on hiatus. And you would be partially right although in an accidental kind of way. Numerous blog-worthy items have occurred since that last post. But on hiatus I am not. I just moved someplace where I do not have a regular internet connection.
So I digress and will compress the items of note from previous weeks.

Item 1: Return of the bike trip

In August my Mostly Finnish Bride and I took a bicycling adventure which took us through the central part of Minnesota. It was mostly on rail to trail but was a scenic trip that took us through miles of landscape which perhaps inspired Garrison Keillor. You know I have yet to read anything from him that does not take its setting from that idyllic community someplace near St. Cloud or related to his life. It would be interesting if he could right a series of science fiction stories or maybe a treatise on deep sea exploration. I suspect it would either begin or end or somehow cross paths with Lake Wobegon.
We traversed the entirity of the Central Lakes Trail and the Lake Wobegon Trail and then needed to take to the road to get from Holdingford to Sauk Center without retracing our steps. And yes, we did dine at Charlie's Cafe in Freeport.

A Night in Holdingford

Speaking of Holdingford- it was quite the Lake Wobegonesque town. A bit sleepy when we arrived but it awoke promptly at 8 PM for 2 softball games. And did you know it is home of the oldest World War II memorial in the US.

WWII Shrine in Holdingford
 Finding the campground in Holdingford was not a problem. It was just blocks from the trail once you reached downtown. However we re-routed many blocks up a hill and back down in order to get to it because the street leading to it were torn up- really torn up. The promise of showers also faded when I spied the sign on the bath house doors stating it was closed for repairs but we could use the adjacent porta-potties. No thanks- not for showering.
We shrugged off that disappointment and went into town looking for food. What we found was 2 bars, 1 closed bar,  and 1 small convenience store. After walking around a little more we decided to go to Corner Pizza & Antiques on the recommendation of an Holdingford resident. Apparently if we came a month earlier there would have also been a sandwhich shop. It went out of business. So to the pizza place we went.

We were not disappointed.  It was just as advertised- a pizza shop that doubled as an antique store. There were antiques everywhere. Even the booth we sat in was antique We enjoyed a pizza in while listening to old 60s and 70s tunes play on an antique record player console.

Item 2: Moving

Almost a week after the bike trip we closed on a house. Actually we almost closed on a house and then finally closed on a house. The seller had messed up part of the transaction. Eventually we did close once those items were cleared up. Thankfully our realitor caught it before we signed anything.
We moved in few days later with the help of a regiment of seasoned movers. Many of our friends had moved this summer so they were in gear when the time came to get our stuff transported to the new house across town.
I'll miss the downtown locale but our new place has more room.

Item 3: Fair Pilgrimage

looking for something at the fair

Despite having moved just a few days before and not settled in yet, we decided to make a pilgrimage to the Minnesota State Fair. We had a lovely time with my family. It was a perfect day even if I did not get to every exhibit or listen to some live music for a while. We did manage to get to a lot of exhibits from cows to seed art to bees. The seed art this year was particularly politically charged.
Foregoing the price of meals at the fair we decided to head off the grounds for a while and enjoy Famous Dave's BBQ just down the street. 
We returned and enjoyed a fantastic end of the day by strolling through Heritage Square and then catching the last part of the laser show.

Horticulture Building

Foodwise I consumed a few 1919 Root Beers, cheese curds, roasted corn on the cob, chocolate milk, and an apple dumpling in addition to some pancakes for breakfast. I was very impressed with the cheese curd operation in the food building. Despite the line being huge, we got the curds in about 1 minute!

Item 4: Labor Day on the farm

Then Labor Day rolled on in and we spent some time on a real farm. Actually we've been to this farm numerous times- it belongs to my most Finnish father in law. We celebrated a birthday and then headed home to do more unpacking and arranging.

That's all for now. More will come, I just need to find a decent internet signal around here.