1. image: Download

    Old Man Sailboat Shorts say “Happy Fourth!”

    Old Man Sailboat Shorts say “Happy Fourth!”

     
  2. Gone Fishin’: See you in August, time sucks

    "Where does this idea of greater connection come from? I’ve never in my life felt more disconnected." — from Joshua Ferris’ new novel To Rise Again at a Decent Hour

    Did you hear the one about the kid who got detention for correcting his teacher in class? See, the kid was right, but the teacher objected to his manners, his insolence. “… Alex’s actions show a blatant disregard for authority, and a complete lack of respect for his school,” the letter says.

    I heard about it on Facebook where I took one look at the letter—typed, no letterhead—and thought, “Well that’s bullshit.” Not the teacher’s reaction. The whole story. It’s almost certainly fake. Snopes’ verdict is “Legend,” because nothing in the letter is verifiable. The grand debunkers of the Internet filed it under Loony Letters. But it’s too perfect a target for misdirected rage toward teachers, public schools, the government in general, people today, the works.

    And the works is pretty much what happened on Facebook. Finally someone linked to Snopes and that should have been the end of it, but it wasn’t. Everyone kept arguing with each other. Someone else linked to Snopes. The argument continued unabated. It was like they didn’t even notice they were arguing about a fabrication, or didn’t care.

    I was still contemplating the stupidity of that when I came across this perfect little Twitter sketch.

    I was talking to my therapist about time management. Only one of us is any good at it—the one who sat patiently while I went on and on about Twitter, which, on the whole, seems to have become the purest distillation of humanity’s worst impulses.

    Well, Twitter and war, I suppose.

    Each day I wake up and reach for my phone and scroll back through Twitter, interested in what we’re pissed off about now that we’ll forget about later, anxious to catch up on a conversation that isn’t really very interesting. The river of voices on my computer, my phone, my iPad, they’re talking to me—all the time—and telling me nothing I need to know.

    My therapist agreed with me. I think she especially agreed with me when I said I didn’t think it was her job to keep me from checking Twitter. Or Facebook.

    This conversation happened a couple days before an anniversary of sorts. The one-year mark of a somewhat significant date for myself and a bunch of other talented people who had their careers upended on a random Thursday. 

    Through a hellacious (and well-deserved) hangover the next day, I wrote this, and I still feel pretty good about it. I feel good about the work I did, and since I walked out that door, I wrote a book. It’ll be out in October. You’ll be hearing a lot about it. 

    I’ve also had to wade through a lot of bullshit, and parts of the nine weeks that followed the writing of that post were pretty humiliating.

    But, you know: Book. (Out in October.)

    At Ye Olde Word Shoppe, engagement in the digital conversation seemed necessary. There were blog posts to write, and you sure as hell could write an entire blog post off a single tweet or Facebook post. You could write one with less. Whether or not you should doesn’t matter. That’s how it is right now.

    Here in the quiet of my basement office, that conversation is noise. It’s distraction. It’s dispiriting. It has nothing to do with what I’m working on at the moment.

    I’m tired. Of outrage, and snark, and smarm, and testimonials, and inspirational quackery. Of hashtags, gifs, retweets, modified tweets, and the same stupid clickbait being picked up and passed around from site to site like an STD. Of the existential navel gazing typed up daily by others in the word industry. And by myself, for this surely qualifies. But I figure if I put it out there, I got a little skin in the game, a reason to make good on this—beyond the good reasons.

    Like that character in Ferris’ new book, I feel less connected to my life, and so I’m hanging up the ‘Gone Fishin’ sign for July. I got stuff to do. Words to write. A big project that has to be plotted or else come fall I’m going to have to write a resume, and I don’t want to write a fucking resume.

    I want to learn to do that stand-up paddle board thing. (Anyone want to pay me to learn how to do that stand-up paddle board thing?)

    I want to listen to this Townes Van Zandt record I picked up a few weeks ago—over, and over, and over—and I don’t want to feel the pull of my phone while I do it.

    I have a stack of books and I want to read them without checking to see if someone “liked” whatever I’ve most recently shared.

    I want to think. 

    And hopefully come August, I’ll be able to use these tools a little better. Especially to promote the book. Which comes out in October. (Pre-order!)

     
  3. Most of the album is just a lot of fun: ‘Born in the USA’ turns 30

    image

    Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA was released 30 years ago today. As someone who has written a book about Springsteen’s work, a book that will be out in October and is available for pre-order now, it is my duty to tell you about the album from the perspective of my book that is available for pre-order. And out in October.

    I’m kind of lousy with “duty” lately, however. Caryn Rose has an excellent track-by-track run through the record over at Billboard. This is isn’t that.

    Born in the USA introduced me to Springsteen, and he existed for me on MTV. I was nine when it was released, fast approaching 10 and 10 was a big deal because it was double digits. But I didn’t go to concerts yet, and my parents weren’t exactly big music fans. They had a bunch of Carpenters records and not much else. 

    We didn’t have cable, but my friends on the top floor of our apartment building did. That might also have been the summer we started a break dance crew, but embarrassment has singed the details of that particular endeavor. 

    The summer of 1984 was, for me, the summer I became aware of culture. Big, bold, American popular culture. Van Halen. Michael. Prince. Madonna, and Bruce.

    Born in the USA was the record that made Springsteen, already a rock star, an avatar for his country, something hyper-American. He knew the flag was a big, unwieldy symbol when he chose that album cover. He chose it anyway. He knew he was presenting a version of the title track that was as big and as difficult to control as the flag itself. A chorus built for a stadium can drown out the rest of the song if someone is willing to let it.

    Very powerful someones allowed that to happen—intentionally made it happen, most likely. The only thing worse than reading George Will on baseball is reading George Will on rock and roll, and so we’d happily lose his Springsteen column to the decades but for the fact that it pulled Springsteen into the presidential election fray, which only reinforced his American-ness. 

    The complexities of the song “Born in the USA” are captured in an essay Vietnam War vet Douglas Bradley wrote for Backstreets.

    …I heard Bruce’s voice, his anger and pain on that title song, and I realized that somebody cared what we were going through, somebody knew, as he put it, that “Vietnam turned this whole country into that dark street, and unless we’re able to walk down those dark alleys and look into the eyes of the men and the women that are down there and the things that happened, we’re never gonna be able to get home….”

    All of which was lost on a nine year old. The size of that album is what I remember. It seemed larger than life, and it was. It was a conscious effort on Springsteen’s part to summit the mountain, and it worked. He was everywhere. 

    It would be years before I owned the record, which remains one of my favorite summertime listens (and is his second-best summertime album behind the 2-discs of The Promise). Most of Born in the USA is just a hell of a lot of fun. My daughter calls “Working on the Highway” the “fixing the road song” and I don’t have any interest in telling her it began as a song called “Child Bride.” 

    "Dancing in the Dark" is filled with frustration, and I’ll forever love the line "there’s a joke here somewhere and it’s on me," because I feel that just about every day. But then again, dancing. Not only dancing, but this first failed attempt at a video. 

    Bruce looks like a mime. 

    Eventually it turned into the version we all know, the one with Courteney Cox, the video that marks my first memory of Bruce Springsteen and his music.

     
  4. This is Four

    We gave her the bike last, as the sun was beginning to set on a perfect summer day. The breeze caught the streamers in the ends of the handlebars and rustled them beautifully. 

    She smiled and ran down the steps. She examined the tires and the seat. She admired Ariel, swimming with her undersea friends across the frame.

    "This says ‘Princess of the Sea,’" my wife said, pointing to chain guard.

    My little girl smiled some more and climbed on. I explained how to brake, gave her a push to get her going, and she was off. Pretty soon she’d put half a block between me and her, and then almost a full block. A little more distance with each turn of the pedals.

    I strolled along with my hands in pockets. I was smiling, too. I could do this forever, I thought. Then I realized: In a way, I will. 

    So happy birthday, kiddo. Keep pedaling out into your world. Sing your songs and dance your dances. Be a princess, or a pony, or a kitten, or a bead maker, or whatever you want.

    Your Mom and I will be back here when you need us.

    Just don’t cross the street alone. You’re still only four.

     image

     
  5. I was lucky. They all came back. But they have friends who didn’t.

    My Dad’s Uncle Sam—his actual Uncle Sam, not the red, white, and blue cartoon—had this fantastic basement. We’d play down there at family gatherings for Thanksgiving and Christmas and maybe a birthday or two. So there must have been some toys and a TV, but what I remember most was the beer can collection and the bar.

    The beer cans lined the walls, all different makes and models. An improbable amount of beer for a kid who was still a decade away from college. The bar sat at one end, had a mirror in the back, was well stocked and professional in every way. The grownups would pull up stools and drink beer and talk about grownup things we kids never paid much attention to.

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  6. image: Download

    The German cover for ‘Springsteen: Album by Album.’ Though I guess there it’s ‘Springsteen: Retrospektive.’ I feel like it should have an exclamation mark. You can pre-order the U.S. edition now. Out in October. 

    The German cover for ‘Springsteen: Album by Album.’ Though I guess there it’s ‘Springsteen: Retrospektive.’ I feel like it should have an exclamation mark. You can pre-order the U.S. edition now. Out in October. 

     
  7. Notes from Date Night with Godzilla

    “What do you think,” my wife said, “shall we go enjoy the destruction of western civilization?”

    “I sit around and watch that every day,” I said.

    We finished our drinks and went across the street to get more drinks and see Godzilla.

    Read More

     
  8. 19:37 8th May 2014

    Notes: 1

    Tags: parenting

    Why would Spider-Man or Spider-Woman have a compact?

    There was/is a Spider-Woman. I guess she grew up on some rural property where fields of uranium glimmered in the sun. Her dad was a scientist partnered with a guy who would become High Evolutionary, which is maybe a Scientology thing? I missed the comic book gene. But I figured there had to be a Spider-Woman and so I Googled and indeed there was/is. She was created by Marvel for the most altruistic of reasons: They worried about someone else stealing the idea and they wanted to nail down the copyright.

    Still, she seems kick ass and I like kick ass, especially as the father of a daughter I’d like to kick ass in whatever it is she chooses to go after in this world. I should find her a Spider-Woman comic, because all she knows is Spider-Man. You don’t need an interest in comics to know Spider-Man.

    Every six to eight months there’s a new Spider-Man movie that isn’t substantially different from the last Spider-Man movie but for a slightly better waxed leading man. The script? The script:

    Peter Parker, radioactive spider, Uncle Ben nooooooooooo, a love interest, super villain, big fight, good guys win, merchandise for everyone!

    Which brings us to McDonald’s. Or me to McDonald’s because without a doubt you’re a better parent than me in at least this one regard.

    "Is that Happy Meal for a boy or a girl?"

    I hate that question. I’m not alone. This is a Slate piece by someone who hated that question and decided to do something about it, someone better than me.

    I hate that question but want to get home. I also realize the person asking that question is wearing a headset and is in the middle of a long day of dealing with people like me. He or she doesn’t deserve and isn’t paid nearly enough to deal with Dad being aggrieved on behalf of his four-year-old who doesn’t care.

    "A girl," I say, swallowing the guilt which, admittedly, tastes better than the food. The acid reflux resulting from each is roughly the same.

    We get home, and she opens her box and finds …

    image

    It’s a compact. There’s a mirror on the back. If you slide Spider-Man’s face, a comb swings out.

    I hate it. I don’t hate it because it’s purple and pink. I hate it because it’s pointless.

    Spider-Woman wouldn’t need a comb and she wouldn’t need a mirror. She’s crime fighter not a Kardashian. Hell, early Spider-Woman wore the full Spidey hood. In her life as Jessica Drew, sure, she’s got a comb, and probably even a brush. Shampoo and conditioner and no, sorry, she can’t go out with you tonight because she’s got to wash her hair.

    But she’s not home washing her hair. She’s out busting heads, and even if she’s just hitting the town with friends, she’s not using a branded product because someone would be like “Oh my god, you’re Spider-Woman aren’t you?!” And then they’d shoot her dead and that’s not now how the movie ends. If the hero dies you can’t squeeze out a sequel before the reboot.

    Oh, but it’s a Spider-Man compact, right? Same logic applies. Bruce Wayne doesn’t keep his pants up with Batman’s utility belt and Toby Maguire doesn’t pretty up with that thing. 

    (I know Toby Maguire isn’t the new Spider-Man, but I have no idea who the new one is. I’m coming to grips with the fact that Toby Maguire is probably the last Spider-Man I’ll ever be able to name.)

    There is no reason for the pink and purple Spider-Man compact to exist. It’s a shitty toy* and if the boy’s toy was a web shooter I’m going to be doubly pissed, because I’d like a web shooter. 

    This is my pissed and possibly doubly pissed face.

    image

    *Ok. They’re all shitty toys. But this one’s shittier than most.

     
  9. 19:19 6th May 2014

    Notes: 20

    Tags: blazers

    Damian Lillard is the hero Portland needs

    I don’t watch much Portlandia, because I live here and it’s redundant. I don’t need television to deliver whatever airy spirit inspires someone to brake unexpectedly on I-5 for a longer view of a rainbow. Never mind that there are rainbows every 10 minutes in Portland. We have rainbows the way the Midwest has rust. But by all means, please, slow for the Instagram.

    I don’t need Portlandia, because I have lived through the Great Fluoride Wars, and I have seen Darth Vader in his kilt on his unicycle blowing flames from his bagpipes.

    I haven’t seen a copy of Kinfolk, but I don’t want to. If even the New York Times—Portlandia’s paper of record—thinks Kinfolk represents peak “Rustic Artisanal Twee,” well, fuck that.

    Portland weird has turned slowly into Portland Weird, a particularly self-conscious brand of preciousness calibrated for maximum media coverage. We’re playing to type, or at least we’ve allowed ourselves to be typecast. I had an overgrown beard this winter, too. I like folk music. We’re all in this together.

    But then along comes Damian Lillard to put a little steel in our civic spine.

    You saw the shot. I saw the shot. Everyone saw the shot and then we watched it again, and again, and again. All the angles, all the reactions. I don’t even have to link to it, because you know it. (I’ll link to it anyway, because it’s fun—all the audio, too.)

    That shot, that deep three drifting hard to his left with the game on the line? The one that never bothered to even acknowledge the rim on the way to pushing the Trail Blazers to the second round for the first time in 14 seasons?

    That shot didn’t care about feelings, or hats, or mustache wax. That shot didn’t give a shit about fair trade, free range, or fluoride. That shot was not ironic. That shot honked its horn at you for being an asshole. That shot didn’t want to be on your kickball team.

    Lillard hit that shot and he scowled a scowl he might well have been born with. Imagine: 8-year-old Damian Lillard on Christmas morning unwrapping the perfect present, and scowling. Damian Lillard learning to ride a bike, and scowling. Damian Lillard bringing home an A on a test, and scowling. Damian Lillard at prom, scowling.

    Or, as my favorite Blazers game day follow put it after the fact:

    That shot asked out Katie while she was having dinner with Dwight Howard and then streamers fell and the Moda Center erupted and, on the radio, Antonio Harvey went all caps: “BOOM! THAT BOY IS SPECIAL!”

    We all went ALL CAPS. That shot turned Portland, a city with a Comic Sans reputation, into hoarse pack of bold New Times Roman badasses.

    Lillard was on Portlandia. He played himself, incredulous over the lack of seriousness, less than amused by the level of cute.

    Damian Lillard is the first thing to come out of Portland in a long time that makes sense to my Midwestern pals. (That and the beer. They love the beer.)

    It’s great that Robin Lopez is here. He likes comic books and hashtags tweets “goonies.” Lopez is awesome. LaMarcus Aldridge is fantastic, a superstar whether he fits Tony Kornheiser’s strange definition of superstar or not.

    But Lillard. Lillard and that shot. That shot. That shot was mean. It was cold-blooded. That shot didn’t have a fuck to give about anything other than winning. That shot was perfectly launched ambition.

    This town could use a little more of that shot.

     
  10. 12:11 29th Apr 2014

    Notes: 2

    image: Download

    “We had the whole Pacific Ocean in front of us, with nothing to do but nothing and be comfortable.” — Mark Twain, Following the Equator 

    “We had the whole Pacific Ocean in front of us, with nothing to do but nothing and be comfortable.” — Mark Twain, Following the Equator