Brave Exhibitions

1. In New York, we could only buy wine and spirits at liquor stores. In Iowa, we can buy it pretty much anywhere: grocery stores, drug stores, convenience stores, wine stores, wherever. Quality varies widely, needless to say. We rank the wine shopping hierarchy in Des Moines as follows:

Ingersoll Wine & Spirits > Hy-Vee > Dahl’s > Wahlgreens > Quik Trip > Casey’s > Kum & Go

2. Heresy alert: Critics around the world are falling all over themselves to praise Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ new disc, Push the Sky Away, as a moody, atmospheric masterpiece. But me? I think it’s slow, boring, and proves just how important ex-member Mick Harvey was to the Bad Seeds.

3. My other biggest musical disappointment in 2013 is Frightened Rabbit’s Pedestrian Verse. I adored their last two albums, and their 2012 EP State Hospital boded well as a preview for the new disc, but it really fell flat for me upon arrival. I read one review that compared the new record to Coldplay. I wouldn’t argue with that assessment, though I consider it a terrible insult.

4. Grand Mal’s Binge/Purge is one of my favorite records from the time I spent in mid-1980s Washington, DC’s musical underground. You can nab a copy here. Don’t be put off by the heinous album cover, a poster of which used to adorn my bulletin board at the Naval Academy, much to our visitors’ horror.

5. Still the best children’s book ever: Jerome.

6. Still the most terrifying version of the tired Charles Dickens classic: Richard Williams’ A Christmas Carol (1971). See especially 5:58 and 16:40.

7. As a native South Carolinian, I am very good at cracking pecans by hand. There’s some brute force involved, but also some finesse, and it is deeply satisfying to end up with two perfect pecan halves in hand without any mechanical assistance. I bought some pecans at our indoor Winter Farmer’s Market a couple of months ago, and one afternoon was particularly pleased by the perfect pecan I extracted. I went to the living room to show Marcia and share my accomplishment, hand held out in front of me. Before I could say a word, she grabbed one of the pecan halves, popped it in her mouth, and walked away. Show Off FAIL.

8. How much money do state and federal governments spend on signs that are essentially universal, such as “No Littering” or “Bridge Freezes Before Road” or “Keep Right Except to Pass.” How about we save a ton of tax dollars and eliminate all of these and other stupid signs by just having acceptance of a driver’s license include a signed attestation the the recipient understands that all bridges freeze before all roads, that littering is a no-no, that the left lane is reserved for passing, etc.

9. This post cleared about half of my office whiteboard.

Five Things That Make Me Happy

Let me note right up front that this is a shallow post . . . I’m talking about little things that make me happy, not profound ones. The big things don’t lend themselves to list-making of this online variety, because my family, and my home, and my work, and my friends please and delight me on such fundamental levels that they’re beyond reducing to a piffle and tripe blog post like this one. The fact that they make me happy goes without saying, so these five items are just the sorts of little details that make me smile amidst the rush and hustle of life. Simple pleasures. Easy thrills. Happy happy happy.

1. The “Metalocalypse” Theme Song: I love everything about this cartoon centered around a death metal band called Dethklok, who — despite its members’ idiocy and disregard for the consequences of their actions — become the world’s seventh largest economy, worthy of attention from a shadowy supernatural cabal called The Tribunal. But I particularly love the way that the series’ opening theme song boils everything stupid and happy-making about the death metal genre down into a perfectly nuanced 30-second nugget of brutal excellence. We tape “Metalocalypse” on our DVR, and for most shows, that would mean that we fast forward through the opening and closing credits. But I don’t allow that in this case, and make my family watch it in its entirety, every week, because it makes me smile with glee every time. Here ’tis, if you’ve not seen it:

2. Our Backyard Ecosystem: Marcia quickly created an amazingly beautiful series of gardens in our backyard in Des Moines, just as she had done in Albany. My role when it comes to these gardens is to provide brute labor when heavy things need to be moved, and to provide the required elements of chaos, either by sowing Johnny Jump-Up seeds that will propagate and blossom for years to come in places where they aren’t supposed to be, or by putting out feeders that bring critters to lively up the space. I have to refill my two bird feeders pretty much every day at this point, as we get an incredible assortment of avian visitors, and the seeds that they scatter also attracts fox squirrels, chipmunks and bunnies galore. We also have bats and cicadas aplenty, and I like seeing and listening to them, too. Sometimes when I look out at the backyard from our dining room, I can see literally dozens of mammal, bird and arthropod species going about their business, blissfully unaware of how much I am enjoying watching them do it.

Dining room at Alba, Des Moines. (Photo from their website).

3. Alba: This exceptional East Village venue is rapidly cementing its stature as my favorite restaurant in Des Moines, as we keep having outstanding dining experiences there. The menu is eclectic, with most of its dishes based on sautes involving fresh, rough cut vegetables and meats, served with beautifully balanced and tasty sauces. The service is knowledgeable and attentive without being obtrusive, the dining room is comfortable and spacious (it’s situated in a converted car showroom), the decor and location are appealing, and the wine list is strong, creating a complete dining environment that’s hard to match, in Des Moines or anywhere else I’ve been in recent years. We went there for dinner last night, and I had an incredible English Pea Soup followed by a prawn gnocchi dish to die for. Sublime, divine, and deliciously pleasurable.

4. The Lyrics of John Balance: It’s hard to explain why these make me happy, as you’d be hard pressed to find someone more different than me, on some plane, than John Balance, a proudly gay English musician with the group COIL whose chronic alcoholism led to his untimely death by misfortune in 2004. (His long-time musical and personal partner, Peter Christopherson, also flew from this world in 2010, which I wrote about, here). Balance’s subject matter was often dark, and reading many of his lyrics after his demise creates an uncanny sense that he knew it was coming, perhaps even down to the manner of his passing (e.g. “When I find you I will remind you: most accidents occur at home.”) But I still listen to his music on almost a daily basis, and I am regularly moved by the beauty of his words and the imagery that they evoke, regardless of their seemingly insurmountable surface darkness. As I type, I am listening to COIL’s “Are You Shivering?“, which contains the following lines: “In the oceans of the moon / swimming squidlike and squalid / This bright moon is a liquid / The dark earth is a solid / This is moon music in the light of the moon.” “Squidlike and squalid”?!? That’s lyrical magic, and it makes me happy to know that such creative beauty can emerge from such seemingly dark spaces.

5. The Library at Salisbury House: I said I wasn’t going to write about obvious things like my work, and this is equally obviously work related, since as Executive Director of the Salisbury House Foundation, I am responsible for the care and promotion of this incredible collection of books and documents. But the happiness this collection evokes in me is deeper than sheer professional responsibility would dictate, as I am legitimately moved — deeply — by the objects that are housed in my workplace.  I have spent a lot of my time at Salisbury House researching this under-utilized and under-promoted resource, and the more I study, the happier I get about the objects that have been placed under my supervision and care. I have held in my hands a leaf from an original Gutenberg Bible, and a letter signed in 1492 by King Ferdinard II of Aragon, and a hand-illuminated Book of Hours from the 14th Century, and galley proofs hand-edited by James Joyce, and a first edition Book of Mormon, and countless other epic historic and literary works, experiencing their corporeality and presence in ways that few people will ever have an opportunity to share. I spent most of this week working on a grant application to the National Endowment of Humanities to allow us to better catalog and share this awesome material, and among my many aspirations for Salisbury House, few would make me happier than reaching a point where our library receives the international acclaim from scholars and researchers that it deserves.

So those are some things that are making me happy these days. What sorts of things are rocking your worlds?

The library at Salisbury House. The shelves to the left of the fireplace contain some of the world’s most amazing D.H. Lawrence and James Joyce collections, which make me shiver every time I walk into the room. How could I not be happy to spend time here?

Dear Oscar, Here’s How It’s Done . . .

I plan to watch the Academy Awards show tomorrow, even though I’m largely disiniterested in the results, given the lame slate of films competing this year. As much of an epic jerk as director Lars Von Trier is, the Academy voters’ collective decision to leave his Melancholia (and its star, Kirsten Dunst) out of the running is a mind-boggling creative snub to me, since I consider it not only the best movie of 2011, but also one of the best films I’ve ever seen. Here’s my updated faves list (in alphabetical order), which I will mull and ponder while watching lesser fare feted on the idiot box tomorrow. Feh.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972)
Black Swan (2010)
Blade Runner (1982)
Brazil (1985)

A Clockwork Orange (1971)
The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989)
Cool Hand Luke (1967)
Dead Man (1995)
Do the Right Thing (1989)

Don’t Look Now (1973)
Eraserhead (1977)
The Fountain (2006)
The Great Dictator (1940)
Melancholia (2011)

Mulholland Drive (2001)
Network (1976)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
The Piano Teacher (2002)
The Princess Bride (1987)

Seconds (1966)
WALL-E (2008)
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)
When We Were Kings (1996)
A Zed and Two Noughts (1986)

The 2012 GOP Campaign: On Divided Parties, Brokered Conventions, and Dark Horse Nominations from the Floor

I recently read a tremendous book by Candice Millard called Destiny of the Republic, which ably documented the magnificent life and tragic death of James A. Garfield, truly one of the most exceptional men to have ever been elected President of the United States. Unfortunately, he is remembered today primarily for the horrific nature of his death: shot by deranged office-seeker Charles Guiteau, then slowly tortured and poisoned for 80 days by attending physician D. Willard Bliss, who refused to practice Listerian antisepsis, ultimately leading to Garfield’s death by infection. It is a remarkable and heart-breaking story, well told in Millard’s book, and I recommend it highly.

As related by Millard, one of the cornerstone events in the Garfield’s life, as well as the history of the Grand Old Party, was the Republican National Convention of 1880. Incumbent Republican president Rutherford B. Hayes had declined to stand for re-election, in large part due to abuse heaped upon him throughout his sole term by factions within his own party. When the Republicans gathered in Chicago in June 1880, the divided party was presented with three aspirant candidates: Ulysses S. Grant (seeking a third Presidential term), Maine’s James G. Blaine, and John Sherman from Ohio.

The convention was gridlocked through thirty-three rounds of voting, at which point members of the Wisconsin delegation unexpectedly cast their votes for Ohio Senator-elect Garfield, who had no declared interest in the Presidency, and actually protested the ballot, to no avail. Three ballots later, Garfield was the Republican nominee for the Presidency, and six months after the convention closed, he defeated Winfield Scott Hancock for the Nation’s highest elected position, despite refusing to campaign.

I believe that the 1880 Republican convention is worth reconsidering in 2012 given the pronounced divisions in today’s GOP between the moderate/economic conservative branch, the libertarian wing, and the evangelical/social conservative contingent. Given these entrenched factions, is it possible for this year’s GOP National Convention to convene without everybody knowing its outcome beforehand? And should such a brokered convention occur, is there any chance of a modern James A. Garfield emerging from the floor to unite a fractured party behind an electable new face? Who might that be, if so?

While Republican powerbrokers will do everything in their power to preclude such an uncertain convention, there are rules they must follow, and a motivated set of equally balanced delegate pools could lead to unexpected outcomes. Personally, I think such a brokered convention with a Dark Horse nominee could be just the shot in the arm that the GOP needs today, if it is going to even pretend to stand for anything other than the vested interests of the super conservative and the super wealthy. The historical record also backs up the premise that such conventions can be reinvigorating to the GOP, as Chief Executives Lincoln, Hayes, Garfield, Harding and Eisenhower were all elected President after brokered conventions.

So for argument’s sake, let’s assume that (a) brokered conventions are good things for the GOP and should not be actively discouraged, and (b) the GOP is headed for such a convention in 2012. Now, is there anybody out there who might emerge from party gridlock as a 21st Century analog to James A. Garfield in 1880? I think there might be, and here’s how I would seek to identify such a Dark Horse candidate.

As a first step, let’s look at the prior electoral positions of the 18 Republican Presidents in our nation’s history. The clearest path to the White House for GOP aspirants is the Vice Presidency: six Republicans held this position before becoming Presidents (Bush Sr., Nixon, Arthur, Coolidge, T. Roosevelt, Ford), with the latter four of them ascending on the death or resignation of their predecessors.

We have three living GOP Vice Presidents now: George H.W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Dan Quayle. There’s not a future President in that troika, so that path doesn’t appear to be likely in 2012.

Four Republican Vice Presidents had no prior electoral experience before moving to the White House: Hoover, Taft, Eisenhower and Grant. The latter two were victorious generals of monumental, Nation-shaping wars, the former two had been cabinet members in prior administrations. I don’t see any of our contemporary or recent senior military officers having the political clout and gravitas, not to mention unquestioned public good will, that Grant and Eisenhower would have commanded after the Civil War and World War II. And the only nationally prominent, long-serving cabinet members in recent Republican administrations who seem to me to have potentially Presidential chops, and are not permanently tarred with Neo-Con and/or Iraq War taint and/or scandals of their own making are Robert Gates (who probably hurt himself in this regard by serving in the Obama administration, if the Jon Hunstman campaign is any indicator) and Elaine Chao (who wasn’t born in the United States, so is not eligible to serve as President). So this doesn’t look like a fruitful path, either.

Four Republican Presidents served as Governors before leading our Nation: Reagan (California, though he was a native of Illinois, which will be important later in this analysis), McKinley (Ohio), Hayes (Ohio) and Bush Jr. (Texas). Since the putative favorite at this point (Mitt Romney) is a former Governor himself, and since the impacts of plucking a Governor unexpectedly late in the national campaign would be far more serious on the emergent candidate’s home state than would be selecting a member of that state’s legislative delegation, I have a very hard time imagining a sitting governor being successfully nominated from the floor, support for the likes of Chris Christie notwitshanding. I don’t think anybody at a national GOP level is going to want to risk flipping New Jersey into the Democratic Governors’ column on a desperation nomination of a reluctant candidate.

The remaining four Republican Presidents did their prior elected service in Congress: two Senators (B. Harrison of Indiana, and Harding of Ohio) and two members of the House (Lincoln and Garfield, though the latter was a Senator-elect at the time of his nomination for the Presidency). All four of them were from the Midwest, as were most of the GOP Governors who became President.

I consider this important, as I see the Midwest as being the true cradle and heartland of the Republican Party, as much as the party has worked to position itself in the South and the Mountain West in the post-Reagan quarter-century. There is no denying that the Midwest states often stand as key battlegrounds, so the benefit of embracing a candidate from the former Northwest Territories would be significant, especially given the region’s proven history as birthplace (physically and philosophically) of Republican Presidents.

I believe the only way a regionally and philosophically divided party would be able to rally around a late-breaking, Dark Horse candidate would be for that candidate to come from the solid heart of the Midwest. I also think that such a candidate would need to be a Baby Boomer at this point, as I don’t see the Nation wanting to swing backward a generation after the relatively youthful Obama, Bush Jr., and Clinton administrations. Senator John McCain’s cranky old man candidacy in 2004 against then-Senator Obama should give proof to the futility of trying to pull a President from a generation that’s moving deep into its retirement years at this point, since it forced McCain to pick a plucky (relative) youngster as his Veep, and we all know how that worked out.

The party also would not likely rally around its more inexperienced members (e.g. Tea Party affiliates from 2010), so I think anybody who was proposed from the convention floor would have to have at least a full Senate term or three House terms under his or her belt to demonstrate their staying power and re-electability. I’d say anybody elected to Congress after 2005 wouldn’t have a shot accordingly.

So what do you see if you look at Midwestern House and Senate Republicans born between 1947 and 1962, with seniority dates of 2005 or earlier? You get 14 elected officials: one Senator (John Thune, South Dakota) and 13 members of the House. That’s a manageable pool to vet.

To make the next cull, I think you’d want a floor candidate to have the broadest appeal possible within a fragmented party, which means respected mainline rank and file members rather than leaders and followers from the far-right or centrist fringes. offers an excellent analytical tool for assessing the political spectrum and legislative leadership ratings of all members of Congress, and using their model, you can eliminate Senator Thune and five of the House members as being further right or moderate than would be ideal for a unity candidate within the GOP, leaving eight rank and file members of the House still standing for scrutiny.

Who are they? In alphabetical order:

  • David Camp (MI)
  • Thomas Latham (IA)
  • Steven LaTourette (OH)
  • Candice Miller (MI)
  • John Shimkus (IL)
  • Patrick Tiberi (OH)
  • Michael Turner (OH)
  • Fred Upton (MI)

In order to evaluate the relative merits of these eight Congresspeople as potential uniters of their party, I set up a mathematical model to score them based on the following criteria, using data culled from the aforementioned GovTrack website:

  • Sponsored bills enacted per year of service: The GOP would want people who can get things done, and see their efforts through to legislative fruition. Michelle Bachmann was easily dismissed for (among other reasons) never managing to get an issue important to her passed into law. A GOP unity candidate would need to show lawmaking skills.
  • Sponsored bills failed per year of service: The GOP would not want people who spend all of their time crafting bills that never make it out of committee. Proposing a plethora of doomed bills may help incumbents demonstrate to their districts that they are working on their behalf, but if none of those home issues ever manage to pass into law, then they become pointless on a national front.
  • Success rate of sponsored bills: There’s nothing wrong with focusing on a smaller number of legislative actions, then getting them through to completion. I’d prefer a legislator who got 100% of his or her 10 bills passed into law over one who got 5% of his or her 200 bills passed into law, even though the total number of sponsored laws passed between these hypothetical officials are the same.
  • Co-sponsored bills per year of service: The GOP would want a unity candidate to be someone who was a proven collaborator, and not someone who marched to his or her own agenda, which appealed to no one else in Congress. Co-sponsorship demonstrates a willingness to read and respond to others’ work, or to craft legislation compelling enough to attract others.
  • Missed votes: The GOP would want someone who was serious about service, and couldn’t be viewed as a hands-off, unengaged elected official. As a general rule, declared candidates for national office fare poorly on this front, so a unity candidate would likely be someone who was hard at work doing the job they were paid to do, rather than campaigning.

Crunching these raw numbers into a multi-attribute utility model, I scored these eight members of the House in terms of their demonstrated performance per the criteria above, ranking them from best qualified (100 points) of the eight to least qualified (0 points) of the eight. Here are the results, top to bottom:

  • Steven LaTourette (OH): 100.0
  • John Shimkus (IL): 87.7
  • Patrick Tiberi (OH): 46.0
  • Fred Upton (MI): 44.4
  • Candice Miller (MI): 36.2
  • Thomas Latham (IA): 34.8
  • David Camp (MI): 2.1
  • Michael Turner (OH): 0.0

So . . . if the Republican Party remains divided going into the 2012 National Convention, I’d like to respectfully propose that some delegate(s) should nominate Congressman Steve LaTourette of Ohio to represent his party as its 2012 Presidential Nominee. Should Congressman LaTourette demur, then Congressman John Shimkus would be a worthy alternate, based his strong scores as well.

Please note that I say this knowing virtually nothing at all about Congressman LaTourette’s personal or family life, what his wife looks like, his religious beliefs, his relations with his constituents, what kind of car he drives, what sports he enjoys, how much money he has, what district controversies plague him, what he did when he was in college, whether or not he inhaled, nor any other media-favorite topics that have nothing to do with his ability to serve as an elected official right here, right now, today. Likewise with Congressman Shimkus, although I am aware that he is a West Point graduate and career Army reservist, which I respect tremendously, despite being an Annapolis ring-knocker myself.

And I like the fact that I don’t know much about these Congressmen, actually, since at this point, I’d prefer to have both parties nominating lower-profile legislators of proven accomplishments and thoughtful, consistent positions than charismatic wafflers driven more by ego or vendetta than by a desire to serve humbly and effectively. Here’s a list of issues important to Congressman LaTourette, in case you want to start pondering his Presidential campaign now. It’s not half bad. I could vote for a party platform that included many of these items.

I’d welcome thoughts on other such potential Dark Horse candidates. There’s always 2016, after all, and I always love a good, well-thought-out political insurgency . . .

Don’t You Ever Wash That Thing?

1. While there are still some i’s to dot and t’s to cross, it appears that we have a buyer for our home in Latham. Conceptualizing the relocation to Iowa just became orders of magnitude easier.

2. I don’t watch much television, other than feature films that I nab from pay-per-view. Currently, the only serial show that I enjoy is “Breaking Bad,” and a few shows and shorts on Cartoon Network that I watch when I’m bored. I do find, however, that I can park myself in front of the television happily and vegetate whenever there’s an NFL game on. The only other regular sporting event that appeals to me in similar fashion is the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament. While watching the Bills-Giants game yesterday (and not enjoying the outcome), I got to thinking about why these sporting events appeal to me, when other related ones (e.g college football and NBA basketball) don’t. In the case of football, I think it comes down to my absolute antipathy against the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), and the myriad evils inflicted in its name. Other than the Army-Navy and Navy-Notre Dame games each year, there are really no other college football games that do much for me, although I might get excited if it ever comes to pass that two non-BCS schools end up playing for the (so-called) national championship within the rotten BCS structure. In the case of basketball, I think it’s because I like the length and tempo of the college game (two 20-minute halves) much more than I like the length and tempo of the pro game (four twelve-minute quarters). I also watch college players and generally feel like I am observing a sport played by human beings, whereas NBA games occur at such an ethereal level of performance that they don’t look as spectacular as the games played by smaller, slower college students. The pros make it looks easy, and easy is boring to me.

3. I mentioned earlier that I’m ready to part with my rather large CD, DVD and music book collections as part of our move. I am targeting the evening of Wednesday, November 2nd to hold a big movie and music sale accordingly. If you’re interested in participating, shoot me an e-mail offline. It’ll be a cheap way to add all sorts of weirdness to your own collection.

4. There are a number of classic albums from the ’80s and early ’90s that have remained incomprehensibly unavailable in CD or digital formats over the years, among them Human Sexual Response’s In a Roman Mood and the entire Tragic Mulatto catalog. I was delighted recently to discover that another series of lost classic albums is now readily and legally available from iTunes: Andy Prieboy’s solo albums and the last two studio albums he recorded with Wall of Voodoo. Now . . . I know that when I say “Wall of Voodoo,” you say “I wanna go to . . . Tee-ah-WAHN-ah . . . eat some bar-bee-cued ee-GUAN-ah.” That’s a shame, since “Mexican Radio” doesn’t really do justice to the clattering first incarnation of the band, which imploded soon after that release when nasal singer-songwriter Stanard Ridgway and pots-and-pans drummer Joe Nanini (now deceased) left the group. Wall of Voodoo soldiered on after that, though, with two studio albums and a contractual-obligation live album featuring new singer-songwriter Andy Prieboy and his longtime accomplice, drummer Ned Leukhardt, along with returning prodigal bass player Bruce Moreland and stalwarts Chas T. Gray and Marc Moreland (immortalized in Concrete Blonde’s hit “Joey,” and also now deceased) on keyboards and guitar respectively. Personally, I consider the two Prieboy-fronted albums, Seven Days In Sammystown (which featured the MTV demi/alt-hit “Far Side of Crazy“) and Happy Planet, to be the group’s greatest work, offering some brilliantly lyrical and melodic songwriting and powerful, charismatic baritone vocals from Prieboy. Wall of Voodoo’s rhythm section also became much stronger with Bruce Moreland and Leukhardt anchoring the proceedings, while Marc Moreland and Gray maintained the group’s signature spaghetti western soundtrack flavor. There’s not a clunker among either album, and I consider “The Grass is Greener,” “Don’t Spill My Courage,” “Elvis Bought Dora a Cadillac” and “Blackboard Sky” to be among my favorite songs from that era. If having those albums available wasn’t exciting enough, Prieboy has also issued a two volume set of albums (Volume I, Big Rock Finish: 1990-1993 and Volume II, When The Dream Is Over: 1993-1995) that summarize the best bits of his first two solo albums and related singles from those years. The first set features two of his best known songs: the exquisite “Loving the Highwayman” (covered by Linda Ronstadt and Emilylou Harris) and “Tomorrow Wendy” (originally a duet with Johnette Napolitano, and later covered by her band, Concrete Blonde), but the deep catalog is equally remarkable, covering an insane amount of stylistic ground, with dozens of earworms that will stick in your brain as soon as they penetrate it. I most highly recommend scoring these four albums (legally, not by downloading the samples I linked above) to get a taste of one of the most talented, though largely under-appreciated, performers and songwriters of the period.

What’s The Ugliest Part of Your Body?

1. Marcia and I had to fly out to the Midwest this weekend, and booked a round-trip on Delta Airlines that appeared, online and on paper, to construe a reasonably easy trip. Woe unto us, however, that’s not how things played out, as one flight was cancelled and one flight was delayed due to mechanical difficulties, one flight was cancelled due to weather in a distant market precluding the equipment from arriving, and an easy hop through Detroit was re-routed through Atlanta, more than doubling the amount of time we had to spend up above 30,000 feet. All told, we ended up spending two nights in places that were not on our original agenda. No good. No fun. While I appreciate the fact that Delta flies Canadair Regional Jets (my favorite commercial aircraft), I’m not sure I can ever book a flight with them again after this weekend.

2. Speaking of movies, I’m not a fan of paid product placement in films, nor do I care to see great songs marred by association with crappy commercials that use them in a needlessly exploitative fashion. That being said, I am glad to note that our nation’s hipoisie seem to have discovered The Free Design in recent years when they program their soundtracks and advertisements, and anything that gets this awesome family band’s music a wider audience is okay by me. I have particularly adored their song “Love You” since I was a child. I think you need to adore it, too, since it sounds like nothing before or since. Listen here:


3. And speaking of awesome, Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is within a day or so of peering down into the massive Endeavour Crater for the first time, amazingly surviving a trek that was largely unimaginable when the doughty little robot landed in the Meridiani Planum seven and a half years ago, with a planned 90-day life expectancy. The Road to Endeavour website has been providing regular reports on Opportunity’s progress since December 2008, and the excitement there is palpable as Opportunity closes in on landfall at Botany Bay and Cape York. Incredible stuff, truly, and it will be touching moment indeed when Opportunity rolls up to Spirit Point, named after her late lamented sister rover, star of the saddest cartoon ever.