knox snooze

Succotash my Balzac, dipshiitake.

Autumn on the Square

Thursday, July 28
There's no official word in these quarters yet, but it appears that The Gourds will be part of the yet unannounced Autumn on the Square concert series in Knoxville.


(via Metro Pulse)

My personal favorite, Mitch Rutman Group, also makes the "Go" listings at the bottom of the page. Nice to see them back in business.


David Sedaris has a new story available for print at The New Yorker. (via Kottke)

I've got half a pack of Camel Lights and nowhere to go this evening. I think I'm going out to read a little, write a little, and have a dram of something nice to drink.

Ministry of Silly Travels

Michael Palin is possibly my favorite celebrity. He was great in Monty Python, and he's fantastic as a documentarian/travel guide writer. He is brilliantly funny, and comes across in his shows as utterly disarming. He has the sort of sincere interest in other people that opens doors and casts the world in a much more positive light. Plus, he is just so damned polite. You have to love him.

His travel books are now available in html format at his website for free. Read them.

(via BoingBoing)

Night sweats

Last night, I had a dream. The snake was in it. That's right, the snake. As in the snake that lives in my attic. A not small black snake is in my attic. When we first moved in, I found one of his old skins up there. The house had been empty for over a year, so I wasn't too worried. I'm a loud, smelly person, and several people have made a point to tell me that I do not look scrumptious in the least. So this snake was sure to leave before long.

Nearly a year later, he's still there. And I've seen him in all his coiled and evil glory. He hangs out at the edge of the attic, where the eaves of the roof leave a little daylight around the edge of the house. I tell myself that I'm ok with this - that he probably keeps down the rodent population up there, and that there is no way he is interested in taking on a fatty like me.

But I had a dream, and he was in it. It was not pleasant. In the dream, he can go airborne and launch himself at my face, which he is prone to do in this dream. He never gets me, though, and after four or five attempts, I finally grab him out of the air during one of these alrmingly slow lunges. I don't know what to do with a snake, other than try not to get bitten, so I pry his mouth open. This is somehow my alternative to holding his mouth shut - this will keep him from biting me. As I pry his mouth open, however, I find that the hinges of his jaw are not only separating, but that two seam down the side of his boy are opening up as well. The harder I pull, the more I rip the snake in half.

I woke up sweating, trying with all my might to rip my knees apart. I don't like that dream.

Bad comparison

Wednesday, July 27
While I think there is some legitimacy to the arguments Field Maloney makes about the significance of Owen Wilson's creative contributions to Wes Anderson's films, it's so not fair for Slate to tease the column on their front page "Owen Wilson, the Karl Rove of Hollywood." Unsung genius, perhaps. Baby-hating fatty, no.

Regardless, the piece is worth reading. Maloney begins the argument:
The disappointment was widespread, yet the critics at the major papers and the hipster blogs all overlooked one important fact: The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou was the first Wes Anderson film in which Owen Wilson didn't share the writing chores. What if Owen Wilson, America's resident goofy roué with the broken nose and the lazy nasal drawl, was the rudder keeping USS Anderson on course, steering its captain away from solipsism and ironic overload?

Notably absent from the piece are the exceptions to Owen Wilson's presumed genius - his headlong dives into some fuddy bombs (Zoolander, I Spy, and The Big Bounce come to mind). Sure, he has no writing credits on those, and the sweet bank he pulls down for them has got to be pretty hard to turn down. Shoot, he even gets to hang out with his bud Ben Stiller on the set. But these aren't exactly the mid-career moves of the next great American auteur

What I'm saying is, I think the guy is funny, talented, and probably an important part of Anderson's creative process. But I don't think he's the exclusive catalyst in Anderson's better films (those that are not The Life Aquatic...). Anderson has done one film without Owen Wilson as a writer, and it was not very good, but let's not jump to conclusions.

I can't believe I just wrote an entire post about this.

The truth

Tuesday, July 26
It's sad how long it's been since I rode my bike to work - nearly 4 weeks. It's the heat, man. It's brutal. And just for good measure, it thunderstorms a couple days every week.

I think I've decided to ride on Friday, no matter how brutal it is. I've got to get at least one day in before July is gone.

UT Libraries Film Series

Monday, July 25

The Fall schedule for the University of Tennessee Libraries' Film Movement Series is available online now. I have been looking forward to this for some time now. I don't know any of the films, but I'm looking forward to Manito on October 4 and The Party's Over with Philip Seymour Hoffman on November 1.

Fat Man Walking

If I like anything, it's a solid mania. And while Steve Vaught's got some weight to lose, going about it this way is dangerous, overkill, and possibly crazy. I think it's awesome.

Forehead smooshiness

I'm not a lake guy. I don't have a boat, have never harbored a secret desire to own a boat - I haven't even spent that much time on a boat. Some friends of mine rented a pontoon boat on Saturday, and asked me to go with them. During their invitation, I believe the vessel was referred to as a "Party Barge," and the promise of free beer was made. Not a boat or lake guy, but definitely a free beer guy.

So we went, and I had a blast. It was like finding an entirely different version of myself that exists only in boats on greenish lakes. I roamed the deck, shirtless and beerified. I grew jealous of people in ski boats, and made plans to save my money and find a good used houseboat I could fix up and live in on the weekends. I think I almost made plans to buy tickets to NASCAR.

It was a close call.

Today, I'm back to normal. My only memento is the region of loose, fluid-filled skin across my forehead, and the tender pain of sunburned nose and shoulders. I am so not a lake guy, but it was still fun.

Volcano car

Friday, July 22
You know, I was just thinking about what sources of renewable energy there are in the world that we haven't really tapped into. My wife and I want to buy a new Jetta Wagon TDI (Dark Gray, please) in order to run it on biodiesel. But it's so damn expensive to get the car and the fuel, and a lot of people tell me that biomass isn't a good long-term solution since it would take an area of arable land about the size of...oh...Africa to produce all the beans the US would need to supply its energy needs.

So I've been trying to come up with another solution. For awhile, I was thinking we could just strap Tom Cruise to an exercise wheel and say mean things about multi-vitamins to him. But then I realized that he might actually overload the grid, and let's face it, we'd end up wanting to kill him pretty quickly anyway.

And that's when I realized the perfect solution: Lava. Seriously, that stuff is hot, plus, it's always spurting out of the ground and, you know, devastating things. So we should make it work for us instead of against us. I don't know how the logistics of it would work - I envision dudes in silver space suits scooping it into buckets and hauling it down the mountain, but I could be wrong. I'll leave the details to the scientists.

Lava-powered cars, magma-plasma TVs and molten-rock driven generators.

Yes, it's been a very slow day here.

What Condi meant

"I am about the only person they did not rough up. I expect an apology before we land." -- Condoleeza Rice, after leaving Sudan.

I'm sure they regret not pushing her around too, but I doubt they'll apologize for the oversight.

We blow stuff up

Thursday, July 21

Originally uploaded by ashby.

The University of Tennessee: turning your tuition dollars into balls of fire since...well, for a real long time.

I do, of course, see the point of this exercise. I just feel like an idiot because I'm counting out my change jar to get a new headlight for my truck, and these guys get to hurl a perfectly good plane to the ground. No fair.

new design

Ok, new look. Quick, dirty, right before German class. Let me know if there are any glaring oversights, please.

You can see the design credits at the bottom of the page. I found them via lifehacker.


Tuesday, July 19
Maybe it's because summer school is just dragging on and on. And on. Maybe it's because a friend of mine is about to go hopping around the world to, you know, save it. Maybe it's because the Cleveland Indians look as though they're going to let me down again this year, and I feel that a holy pilgrimage of some sort is their only hope at a postseason run.

Whatever it is, I've got the itch. You know, the wandering one. The one that spawned a Knoxville-to-Boston and back in two days roadtrip a couple years ago. The one that had me in 8 separate addresses in the first 5 years of my marriage. The one that has every inch of wall space in a room in my house covered with maps.

I've been doing well over the last 2 years. I haven't quit my job, changed majors, dropped out of school, I've only moved once - and that was into a house I bought. I've been standing pat like a futhermucker.

So I went to this website I'd heard about to find my ideal city. You tell it who you are, and it tells you where to go, but not in an obscene way. It's a nice and involved online quiz. What kind of weather do I like? Do I like the opera? Is it okay if my neighbor is a BDSM freakboy? Perhaps this site would help me distill all of these wandering longings I have into a single destination to which I can pin all my hopes. Finally, I can have a Mecca.

20 minutes later, I haven't decided if I should be monumentally let down or encouraged after finding out my number one city is Knoxville, TN.


Broadway Revealed

Monday, July 18

Broadway Revealed
Originally uploaded by ashby.

On my way to the Food Co-op last week, I found that Broadway was coned off and undergoing some serious yellow-construction-equipment style work. Saturday, I got to see that they were apparently regrading the street to pave it again. For the time being, the grading equipment has revealed the old brick pavers and trolley line rails in the middle of the street. I have no idea how long ago it was that these were first paved over, but it seems a shame that they ever were - even worse that we've peeled the road back enough to see them, and we're just going to smother them in steaming blackness again.

I had to stand in the middle of the street to get these shots, and I'm sure I looked like I had a death wish, crouching in the turn lane while cars went sailing past. Out in the middle, down close to the street, though, I could imagine what it looked like before all the blacktop was poured. I wanted to take the trolley into the city and have some lunch on Market Square.

Peas Core

Saturday, July 16
A long time ago (1999) in a land far, far away (Indiana) I met a very unusual man (Pervis). And now he's joining the Peace Corps.

My friendship with Pervis is one of those that just sort of happens. We spent a week together at a church camp, and we somehow became great friends. I think it may be because we share many of the same mental...umm...idiosyncracies. Anyway, we've kept in touch (he drove an unspeakable distance for 15 minutes of conversation with me at my wedding) over the years, and now he's going to the other side of the world.

I can't think of a better guy to send to people in need of hope and help. He changes things, makes them better. Check out his blog. Someone, buy his house.

It should be "mein"

Friday, July 15

Originally uploaded by ashby.

"Pimp My Fahrrad" is a real show on MTV in Germany. Fahrrad is German for bicycle. There are a couple or RM clips to watch at the site. It's unbelievably hilarious.

(via BoingBoing)

I do reviews now?

Thursday, July 14
I'm not a big fan of reviewing things. Spouting unsupported opinions in conversations at the bar - yes. Writing something down with actual description and analysis for God, the internet and everyone to see - not as much.

That said, my wife and I watched The Manchurian Candidate last night. This is not a movie that I wanted to see when it was in the theaters. Why? Because I'm cynical. I think Denzel Washington is probably a nice guy who can make a Yankees hat look almost decent, but who plays pretty much the same kind of character in every movie. That's not bad - a good racket if you can get it - but I'm not a fan. Also, I dislike remakes.

But that's the beauty of renting from Blockbuster or Netflix, right? You may watch as many movies as your little eyeballs can handle for the same price every month. Plus, no one can really see what you're picking out to rent. So, you get bored at work and you start wandering around through the new releases and some that are old but you've never seen before and all of the sudden you've got 300 titles in your queue, and a copy of The Manchurian Candidate shows up at your door.

(warning: spoilers ahead. But you don't care)

So, we watched. I have to say that Denzel totally fulfilled my expectations of him, but at least I can't say I was let down by it. It actually turned out to be a decent bit of storytelling. Except for three things. 1) It has that dude from Quantum Leap in it. He's just a bit character, but every time he was on the screen, I was like, "Hey, it's that dude from Quantum Leap." 2) They couldn't leave well enough alone and merely let me wonder if I was way creepy because I suspected some serious Oedipal shit between Liev Schrieber and Meryl Streep. No. They had to show it. It really wasn't essential to the story (though that is some SERIOUS character revelation), and it was totally gross. 2) They leave so much stuff unresolved. Like, where is the state-the-art desert island lab now? Was it ever real? Which versions of the dreams were accurate. Were all the deaths of the soldiers murders, or did they all go crazy and kill themselves? Aren't there any more of these sleeper agents? I can handle unresolved plotlines and open endings. Unless the whole point of your story is to unravel the mystery. Questions at the end of Lost In Translation and Garden State - sounds fine. But this is like Scooby and the gang almost figuring out that it's old Mr. Tanner in a bed sheet, and then deciding to chunk it all and go get burgers instead.

I've got The Door In The Floor lined up for tonight. I've watched the first five minutes and I'm already conflicted. It already encompasses the entire spectrum of devices that can completely engross me or utterly repulse me in a film: full nudity (good) and Jeff Bridges playing raquetball in a toga (bad). I'll let you know how it goes.

On a totally unrelated note, Pedro The Lion has a new demo available as an mp3 at PureVolume. It's acoustic and a little rough, but it's nice to hear an actual guitar track with Dave Bazan's voice as he's been on the whole Headphones kick lately. There's a bunch of other PTL stuff to listen to there as well, if you need an introduction. Bazan is amazing. I love the music and the poetry. He always sounds like he is half muttering, half roaring out of a hangover. Except that where you have a hangover from some Jagerbombs or some such foolishness, Bazan has one from being on a fucking vision quest. The dude is good. Raw and good.

Potter Hottness

Wednesday, July 13

Potter Fully Processed
Originally uploaded by ashby.

Who says librarians don't have thrilling, sex-filled lives? The one who took this picture would if I could only get his number.

Just kidding. Sort of.

What we need is more good waitresses

Tuesday, July 12

All about Eve.
Originally uploaded by ashby.

Some friends came to visit us this weekend, and while my wife was working on Saturday the rest of us went to Waffle House. We were served by Eve. Eve did not speak of the day's specials in the first-person possessive. She did not ask me if "we" were done when my plate was clear, and she did not try to convince me to add anything to my grits, hash browns or eggs.

I know the food there is horrible for me. I know it's like 50% preservatives, and the rest is just cleverly colored fats. I don't care. If I have a waitress as good as Eve every time I go there, I gladly eat grits and eggs every day until I keel over at 40.

It's quality, not quantity, right?

We're #52!

Thursday, July 7
Intel recently ranked the 100 "Most Unwired Cities," those that are best for wireless internet accessibility. Knoxville came in at #52, ahead of such luminaries as Cleveland, Indianapolis, Honolulu and Birmingham. Nashville was #27 (damn them!), Memphis was #68, and the Tri-Cities rounded out the Tennessee contingent at #77.

Knoxville: Download your email while you drink!

Sir Billy

Not to be overtly dorky or anything, but Billy Collins has a new book of poetry due out this October. Here's hoping it gets supported with a speaking tour that swings through Knoxville.

Es ist fantastich!

Wednesday, July 6
(I'm practicing my German...sorry)

There is an excellent new hack/app/extension for Google Maps: Google Pedometer. This is precisely what I need for mapping bike routes around the city. It's not limited to the streets, so it can map distances between any waypoints you select. Much cheaper than some of the alternatives I've considered.

Plus, you have to love any website that includes a "click here if you don't live in Hoboken" link.

(via Lifehacker)

Did I mention the weekend?

Some kind of soup.
Originally uploaded by ashby.

This is the coconut soup at Taste of Thai. I didn't try it, but I'm a fan of any soup course that has its own armor.

There need to be more state-organized three-day weekends. This last one was awesome. Faith and I managed to score two free meals (Taste of Thai and Altruda's), I won my first poker game ($20, thanks), and I got my bike fixed. There was much drinking and rejoicing.

Item 44

Tuesday, July 5
Merlin Mann at 43 folders pointed me to the very interesting Language is a Virus website. Among the various werdnerdcentric items on the site is a list of 82 writing exercises by Bernadette Mayer. There are many tried-and-true ideas like focusing on a single word or rewriting bland copy from a textbook, but I think I like number 44 the best so far:
44. Write a soothing novel in twelve short paragraphs.
Of course. Why had I not thought of this yet?


Jasmine 2
Originally uploaded by ashby.

We already have two cats and a dog, but we're watching my brother's cat this week. I had forgotten what boundless sources of misguided energy half-grown kittens can be. I'm pretty sure she's running a meth lab out of my spare bedroom.

Ich spreche Deutsch

Friday, July 1
German 101 is done. Up next (week): German 102.

In the meantime, Ich möchte viele Bier trinken.