Thursday, December 23, 2010

TLA Year in Review: When everything changed in 2010

I'm not even going to make excuses this time around - every year I do a review of the past 12 months on this here blog, so why quit now? I always get a little kick out of digging through the archives to see what the hell I was going on about this time. Hopefully it's somewhat enjoyable for you, too? Maybe there's something interesting that you missed...maybe I'll throw in something new...maybe it will make you want to claw your eyes out? I don't even know. Here we go!


Hah, look at that! The first post of the year was all about me quitting my day job. Which I totally did! And though the year has since been filled with some very extreme financial lows, mental hurdles, and general Hard Times, I wouldn't take back the decision for the world. I have learned so much, been able to do more than I ever would have still chained to a desk, and managed to eke out a basic living by writing and making music. That is, simply put, amazing. And hey, I have health insurance now! And I've moved up from a 40 oz. of Pabst to a 40 oz. of Miller High Life. It's the champagne of beers! I'M RICH, BITCH!

We also kicked off "Chapel," the web series I've been working on all year and which just released part one of its season finale the other day. For a show that runs on Facebook and the Dollar Store, that's pretty damn good, if I do say so myself.

This post gleefully announcing the arrival of high speed rail just makes me sad now, though.


I helped throw the second annual Fire Ball masquerade party at the High Noon Saloon (number three is coming Jan. 29!), and that was cool. I started to learn just how glamorous being a freelance writer is. And how much not being insured can suck.


We filmed the second (two-part) "Chapel" episode of the season in a very cold, very awesome underground skate park. My pontificating over at Emily's Post got itself a perma-link (and now, several months later, I'm about due for a landing page and link to the RSS feed, which does exist!). And my band, Little Red Wolf, officially began the process of recording our first album. Also for some reason I decided to torture myself a live-blog a viewing of "Twilight: New Moon." Never again.


Apparently I was busy going outside and getting some sunshine or some junk, because there's just one lonely post from that month. About going outside and getting some sunshine.


 I spent some quality time feeling sorry for myself, and then attempted to get my band into Lilith Fair (it didn't work out).


Took a great/terrible trip to perform at something called Freakshow-a-Go-Go in Seattle and got my ass robbed while I was at it. Well, got my bag ass is fine, thank you.


Took a much needed, theft-free vacation to Rock Island with a handful of good friends and had myself a merry time living off-grid for a week. And then I got my hands on some mixing equipment and put together my first DJ mix in ages - which was super fun and damn I miss doing that.


What's summer without a gay pride rally? NOTHING I'll tell you. Of course, me being me, I couldn't just let it pass without criticizing someone for something.


Still had hope that Russ Feingold would hold onto his Senate seat. Hold on, need to sob for a minute.......OK, back. Little Red Wolf released an EP!


Pretty pictures and my own It Gets Better tale. I didn't blog about it, but Halloween weekend was absolutely spectacular. Little Red Wolf played as an all-'80s girl pop cover band one night (aka The Lisa Frank Unicorn Experience, and I got to be Pat Benatar for an evening), then as ourselves the next night for the Neil Gaiman/American Gods convention at the House on the Rock. I KNOW, RIGHT?!

Also I wrote this vignette about something I witnessed while writing in a coffee shop downtown. Will be attempting more such shorts, both fic and non-fic, in the new year.


I got a little bit older; wiser still up for debate. Live-blogged the mid-term elections and probably drank myself into oblivion over the results. I don't remember. Talked about my love-hate relationship with Oklahoma. And I made you a mixtape! You can still download it for free.


Everything happened in December. It's still happening now, for a few more days, at least. First, I release my favorite music of the year mixtape. Little Red Wolf released our debut, full-length album! I'm still riding high on that one, as I'm genuinely psyched with how the record turned out. So far, too, been hearing nothing but good things about it from other people. Not just my family!

We had ourselves a very snowed in but totally awesome CD release party to celebrate, and then one of the band members left on a round-the-world vacation for three months and the rest of us are still kind of in mourning about it. Mixed emotions! You can help me feel better by purchasing the CD, though.

I went to the capitol and had a Life Event which I will tell you more about next year. And the nation finally repealed Don't Ask Don't Tell. Truly, not a bad month.

Bring it on, 2011!

No sassy cheerleaders, though. I'm genuinely excited to see what the new year brings. The band is planning to do some touring, I'll continue to work on my novel and maybe actually even finish it, the play I'm currently rehearsing for will go up in late January...good things. And I am grateful, always.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


It's done. Finally.

My country gets one step closer to living up to the ideals upon which it was founded. Now if we could just get around to legalizing gay marriage nationally, the Wisconsin State Journal's Sunday edition would have actually been correct when it declared DADT to have been the last bastion of legal discrimination based on sexual orientation in the U.S. (I wish I could find a link to the article, because I about spit out my cereal when I read it in the paper).

I've been feeling a little excessively upbeat for the last couple of days - because of the DADT repeal, and for some big (awesome) personal reasons. I'm going to do my best to hold on to that as the winter drags on and my vitamin D levels drop off.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

If Only We Were Just Like We Are

It's done, it's here, for real for real! My band, Little Red Wolf, yesterday officially released our debut album, If Only We Were Just Like We Are! After just under a year of recording, mixing, tweaking, etc. the damn thing is finally done and available to the world and I could not be more thrilled.

Seriously, I am so incredibly fortunate to get to work with the other three talented and amazing women in this group. And I really do think it's a good record, if I do say so myself.

And I was grateful to everyone who braved the literal blizzard last night to attend our CD release show here in Madison. We steamed up the Project Lodge and had ourselves one hell of a little blizzard party, complete with a disco dance-off after our set was done with local cover supergroup VO5 (and many thanks to them for coming out to play with us). We had to dig quite a few people's cars out of the snow and ice afterward, but I like to think it was worth it.

Now we've got three months off from gigging (one member will be out of the country), during which we'll be trying to promote the hell out of the album and schedule some small tours for next spring/summer. Lots of work, but I'm excited about it all.

And hey, if you're curious (and I hope you are) to check out the record, you can listen to previews of all the songs and then, if sold, pick yourself up a copy via our CD Baby page. The album is also available in Madison at the Exclusive Company, B-Side Records, and Strictly Discs. Within the next couple of weeks you'll also be able to buy the album digitally through a bunch of places like iTunes, etc.

Before all the serious work starts, though - for today, I'm going to curl up indoors and enjoy the sense of accomplishment. No matter what comes next, I have this, and that's pretty damn awesome.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The best/my favorite music of 2010

It's that time of year again! When everyone starts navel gazing to reflect on the year that was and the year that might be. I am not immune to the impulse, of course, though I recognize that our system of tracking time is highly arbitrary and other cultures mark the new year very differently. Still, I find it somewhat helpful to use the turning over of the calendar year as a time to take stock and make plans.

It's part of why I do my "Best of" mixtape each December (officially going on four years now). I love the hell out of music, and putting together a compilation of my favorite tracks to come out each year kind of provides me with further motivation to, y'know, keep up with things.

I remember a few years before I started doing these mixes when I'd get to everyone's year-end lists and realize how much great stuff I'd missed out on. No more! And this was a damn fine year for new tunes. I tried to create a list that was somewhat diverse, or at least reflective of my various musical tastes. If you know me in Real Life you're likely to get a copy as my holiday gift to you (and feel free to ask for one if I miss you!). Otherwise, here's the digital version, for your edification:

Em's Best of 2010 Mixtape: "Throwbacks and Future Love"

1. "End Love" by OK Go, from Of the Blue Colour of the Sky.
Put aside the fact that OK Go consistently creates some of the most mind-bogglingly awesome videos to accompany their songs and you're still left with really solid music. The whole of this album is more than worth a listen (and a look, of course), but this particular track is one of my favorites. Catchy, melodic synth-pop with feeling. [Watch the video]

2. "Cold War" by Janelle Monae, from The ArchAndroid.
This woman (, sorry), I swear. The album is a fascinating collage of styles - from the upbeat funk/bop of this particular track to some seriously psychedelic stuff, it's a daring enterprise. I don't think Monae has quite reached her full potential with this record, though - which is awesome, because she's already phenomenal and I can barely begin to imagine where she'll go from here. [Watch the video]

3. "We Used to Wait" by Arcade Fire, from The Suburbs.
So Arcade Fire was supposed to be one of those new hotness indie bands that went away after their first record. Or that's what I had in my head for some reason - probably because everyone and their mother wouldn't stop gushing over Neon Bible when it came out. Turns out I'm a moron and this band is actually really very rad. Their newest record, The Suburbs, is gorgeous and plays like a concept album but with very little pretense. [Listen here]

4. "Apply" by Glasser, from Ring.
I admit, this was a last-minute addition to the list after I heard it on the recent NPR All Songs Considered podcast listing albums they'd missed this year. I can't help it, though, it's a fabulous track and so far the album is proving to be pretty unique and interesting as well. [Watch the video]

5. "Dreaming" by Goldfrapp, from Head First.
Oh Goldfrapp, I just can't quit you. Every record this outfit releases is almost entirely different from the last and I love it. Head First is like an '80s electro-pop album but with far better mastering and a deeper sense of...well...everything. It's fantastic. And so are you. [Listen here]

6. "Shades of Marble" by Trentemøller, from Into the Great Wide Yonder.
This record. Holy shit. So good. I was first introduced to Trentemoller through his excellent remix work - and frankly, when I heard about the album I was a little hesitant. There have been far too many instances of an artist I love for remixes who then releases original music that is, simply put, terrible. Happily, that is not even remotely the case here. And this track does a good job of representing just how versatile and lush Trentemoller's original work is. [Listen here]

7. "Paradise Circus" by Massive Attack, from Heligoland.
Although the album itself is far from being Massive Attack's best work (um, Mezzanine anyone?), it does contain one particularly stand-out track in "Paradise Circus." Moody, melodic, beautiful - everything I've come to know and love from this group. Check out this fabulously understated remix of the song by Gui Boratto, too. [Listen here]

8. "Snowden's Jig" by the Carolina Chocolate Drops, from Genuine Negro Jig.
I had hardly heard this trio before they came to Madison over the summer and played to an ecstatic, packed crowd at the Orton Park Festival. And boy howdy are they talented. Plus, this is some really great, classic bluegrass - I mean old school. But with a bit of modern flavor and youthful vigor thrown in for good measure. It's awesome to see my fellow young folks learning from the old and bringing back styles and traditions that were at risk of dying out entirely. This track in particular I find haunting and gorgeous, and there's something weirdly unsettling about it, too. Read about the band here. [Listen here]

9. "If I Had My Way" by Patty Griffin, from Downtown Church.
Patty Griffin can do no wrong. That voice! I mean c'mon. And I love that she explores a different theme on each record. She is a consummate storyteller, a folk singer in the best sense of the word, and on this album Griffin takes a look at more traditional spiritual music and style. [Listen here]

10. "Better Things To Do" by Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings, from I Learned the Hard Way.
I have Stephen Colbert to thank for introducing me to Sharon Jones, which is really a shame for me because she's been around a lot longer than that, being equally as awesome. This is a great R&B/soul record, a sort of throwback to the '60s-era Motown style right down to how they physically recorded it. [Listen here]

11. "Fuck You" by Cee Lo Green, from The Lady Killer.
The summer jam of the year and you couldn't even play it on the radio! Ballsy. Brilliant. (except for the part where his label, I presume, made him do the public-friendly version called "Forget You" that was then covered, just to really kill its spirit, by Gwenyth Paltrow on an episode of "Glee" - gross). [Watch the video]

12. "Awakenings" by Sarah McLachlan, from Laws of Illusion.
My girl! Awww yiss! While 1994's Fumbling Towards Ecstasy will forever remain my number one favorite album of all time (for various reasons), her newest opus ain't no slacker. It took a little while to grow on me, and certain of the tracks still feel...forced...but there's plenty to like here, too. Including this track, which I love. [Listen here]

13. "Madder Red" by Yeasayer, from Odd Blood.
 This was another band I'd decided was just a hipster approved flash in the pan, but then the damn album grew on me. Plus then Kristen Bell, my secret girlfriend, did this really bizarre/hilarious music video for this song, so really, what was I to do? Anyway, good stuff, and very much their own sound. [Watch the video]

14. "I Found A Whistle" by MGMT, from Congratulations.
You have to respect a band that can go from having a wildly popular, omnipresent, dance-friendly first album to doing what MGMT did with Congratulations, which is to pretty much do an about face and try something entirely new. [Listen here]

15. "Soldier On" by Little Red Wolf, from If Only We Were Just Like We Are.
Um, so this is my own band. Is that tacky? I don't even care. I can't properly put into words just how excited I am that we're finally releasing our first full-length, so instead I put it onto this mixtape. [Listen here]

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Thanksgiving mix tape

Happy Thanksgiving, all! In these less-than-luxurious times, it's more important than ever to recognize those things each of us still have to be thankful for (and judging by the fact that you're online, reading a blog - you, like me, have plenty). It is with the fuel of gratitude that we can better tackle those injustices and inequities that persist not just for ourselves, but everyone around us.

And in the meantime, music can go a long way toward keeping us all sane. Yes? Yes.

So, like I said I would waaaay back in July, I've finally put together a mix tape of some of my favorite downtempo tunes. Unfortunately I couldn't actually do a proper DJ mix (currently unable to afford the necessary tools for making that happen) - so instead you get an old-fashioned collection of songs. Click the big ol' image to download the (rather large) .zip file.

Consider this my Thanksgiving gift to you for reading. Hope you enjoy! Track listing below - and please, if you dig any of this stuff, go support the artists by purchasing their music and attending their shows!

"Down, But Not Out" (millbot's downtempo Thanksgiving mixtape)

  1. "Roads Must Roll" - Boom Bip, Seed to Sun
  2. "Kid For Today" - Boards of Canada, In A Beautiful Place Out in the Country
  3. "Gravity" - Lusine, Music for Our Future
  4. "Shades of Marble" - Trentmoller, Into the Great Wide Yonder
  5. "as serious as your life" - Four Tet, Rounds
  6. "Evergreen" - Faithless, Outrospective
  7. "Sheared Box" - Portishead, Melody Nelson
  8. "Paradise Circus" - Massive Attack ft. Hope Sandoval, Heligoland
  9. "Blue Planet (Abacus Blue Planeteria Remix") - Chaser, OM Lounge, Vol. 3
  10. "La Sangre" - J Boogie's Dubtronic Science, OM Lounge, Vol. 3
  11. "I Have the Moon, You Have the Internet (Gold Panda Remix) - The Field, Music for Our Future
  12. "Into the Light" - Arkestra One, Den of Thieves: The Sound of Eighteenth Street Lounge Music
  13. "Illumination" - Thievery Corporation, The Mirror Conspiracy
  14. "Mandala" - Morcheeba, Blood Like Lemonade
  15. "Poppin' Ya Head (Deep Diferenz Mix)" - Differenz ft. Jazz Con Bazz, Pure Abstrakt
  16. "Traveler (remix)" - Talvin Singh, OK
(note: mixtape will only be available for a limited time - if you're checking this post and it's no longer 2010, it's probably gone)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Oklahoma: Still crazy after all these years

I have a great fondness for Oklahoma. I spent two years - my junior and senior of high school - living in Ardmore, a small city in the absolute center of the state and located in the absolute middle between Dallas and Oklahoma City. When I first moved there I was not optimistic. I had been living in a western suburb of Chicago since the third grade, used to having multiple options for movie theatres and being able to hop the Metra train into the big city whenever I liked.

Suddenly I was living at what felt like the ass-end of the universe, with a two-hour drive separating me from any decent movie theatres, clubs, concerts, and generally any other form of legitimate entertainment. In typically melodramatic 16-year-old fashion, I thought my life was over.

But after two years of living and exploring some beautiful countryside and meeting new people, the damn place grew on me. Would I live there again? Not likely. Am I glad I spent time there? Absolutely I am. I met some really amazing people in Oklahoma - freaks and theatre geeks, queer jocks and open minded Born Agains, closet Democrats and out-and-proud liberals.

To be fair, I also met my fair share of Oklahoma's special brand of crazy person: Those Baptist kids who thought I was going to hell for not believing in hell, the politicians who believed they had mandates from God to expel All the Gays from their fair state, religious snake handlers, and a whole cavalcade of your garden variety jerk you'd find anywhere else in the country.

Point is, I learned that there are good people and nasty people all over this great land, and that having prejudices about a particular state or region is a good way to make yourself look real stupid, real fast.

It is on that note, then, that I'd like to point out a recent episode of Special Oklahoma Crazy that has me all kinds of embarrassed for my former home:
Oklahoma voters on Tuesday approved a measure that bans the application of Islamic law and orders judges in the state to rely only on federal law when deciding cases. State Rep. Rex Duncan, a Republican, was the primary author of the measure, which amends that state constitution.
Of course, this kind of reactionary ignorance isn't unique to Oklahoma. I wouldn't put passing a measure like this passed a wide swath of the population right now, as we grapple with a fairly serious wave of xenophobia that has people freaking out when their Muslim neighbors just want to build a mosque in the community (y'know, the equivalent of a church or synagogue, you twits!).

There are so many problems with the Oklahoma measure that I hardly know where to begin, but law professor Rick Tepker from the University of Oklahoma does:
"Many of us who understand the law are scratching our heads this morning, laughing so we don't cry," he said. "I would like to see Oklahoma politicians explain if this means that the courts can no longer consider the Ten Commandments. Isn't that a precept of another culture and another nation? The result of this is that judges aren't going to know when and how they can look at sources of American law that were international law in origin."

So while this strange vote has OK stamped all over it at the moment, I worry that similar attitudes prevail around the country - and hope against hope that, even with the wave of GOP fever that swept the land on Tuesday, we don't see anything else like this popping up in other places. Not only would it be a legal mess, it would also be an enormous shame to face up to with the international community.

It would also make us look real stupid, real fast. And hey, Oklahoma? I happen to know you're better than this.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Live blogging the mid-term election results

Because deep down we all want to be pundits. Right? RIGHT?! (no not really, but I do love to blather!)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fair Trade

The young man sitting at the table next to me keeps clearing his throat.

At first I think it might be the low rumble of some piece of coffee house machinery, but I hazard a glance to my right and see the guy working the muscles in his throat. It looks like a tick, not like he actually has anything stuck in there.

He looks young, maybe my age or a few years shy. Long, dark brown hair that falls in front of his face and doesn't seem to be recently washed. He's wearing jeans, sneakers with the laces untied, and a too-big winter coat. A stuffed, ragged bag lays at his feet. Sometimes he just sits and stares out the window for a few minutes without moving. Now his hand is raised, waving back and forth as though he's conducting some invisible symphony.

I think he must be homeless, probably, and not entirely level in the head. There are a lot of street kids that hang out in this area. A lot of transient adults, too. Most keep to themselves, I assume focused less on the mobs of students going to and from class and more on finding some place to sleep tonight. He's quiet, looking far away, not all there. I think he's too young for that. Too young to be so abandoned already.

A woman, one of the owners of this coffee shop, comes and sits at his table. Asks him if he has any family nearby, a place to stay. I hear him say something about how only one person still talks to him anymore, and they live in Rockton. Illinois? she asks. He nods and mumbles something else. I think it's nice that she's talking to him instead of just kicking him out. I guess.

I don't hear the whole conversation, but it ends in him shuffling to his feet and leaving. I don't think there was any resolution, nowhere for him to go, just another move-along-please but, to her credit, nicer said than some.

Another young man comes to sit in the now vacant seat, laptop in hand, but the woman tells him to wait, "I'm going to wash off the table first."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

It Gets Better

My piece for today's Emily's Post blog at Isthmus is now live, and I wanted to cross-post this one because it's an ongoing issue that's especially near and dear to my heart. In related news, you can now subscribe to Emily's Post via an RSS feed right here.

Teen suicide is not a new problem. The way the media has been covering the recent surge might make it seem otherwise, but kids have been getting bullied and driven to drastic measures for as long as anyone living today can remember.

I remember.

There can be a silver lining to all of the recent, highly-publicized tragedy, though – if it raises awareness nationwide and leads to serious, concerted changes in the ways we all deal with homophobia and discrimination in general. If it means no kid will feel ostracized and alone because of their sexual orientation or differentness.

Dan Savage (he of Savage Love fame) started the “It Gets Better” project in response to the rash of teen suicides as a way to spread the message to young people who might be feeling hopeless that, if they just hold on through high school, their life can and will improve. They’ll be able to choose their peer groups – people who love and accept them for exactly who they are – and live full lives.

It’s a marvelous movement, and the positive response to it has been overwhelming.

But I’ve been glad to see many people taking the idea a step further and recognizing that grade school shouldn’t have to be such a mine field in the first place. That students and school administrators alike bear the responsibility of fighting against bullying, of enforcing rules that make the learning environment a safe one for every student.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Golden hour in Wisconsin

Autumn in Wisconsin is one of my favorite things in the world. Too bad it's all too often so fleeting. I took these shots during "golden hour," just before the sun set yesterday, somewhere between Madison and Waterloo after returning from a mountain bike ride in the country.

Truly, this is not a bad place to live.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Truthers, meet your new crazy ally abroad

"Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."

Hanlon's razor is the motto I generally abide by when it comes to talk of massive government conspiracies. I don't deny that there have been and continue to be certain top secret operations orchestrated by elements of the U.S. government - some successful, many spectacular failures.

Quite frankly, though, the idea that our notoriously slow-moving, red-tape laden, bureaucratic nightmare of a government could plan out and implement the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 - all while conducting a massive cover-up to place blame on al Queda and its operatives - is downright laughable.

And yet that doesn't stop plenty of so-called Truthers from believing just that. "9/11 was an inside job" claim their signs and documentaries. I see them camped out at the Farmer's Market every week, and they show up at more than a few political rallies, people intent on ignoring the historic, scientific, and other evidence that solidly points to the towers collapsing because, y'know, a couple of passenger jets slammed into them. Not because of some remarkably well-orchestrated controlled demolition.

Anyway, I was amused - if not surprised - to read of a new Truther ally making his voice heard today. None other than angry elven racist and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made vociferous claims that 9/11 was a "U.S. government orchestrated attack" while speaking in front of the UN General Assembly today.

I'm not shocked that he believes this (or at least believes that saying so will give him cred with his extremist supporters). But I do hope that suddenly finding themselves in bed with one of the world's most visible crazy people will make at least a few Truthers sit up and say, "Shit. Maybe I got this wrong."

(When the guy whose favorite pastime is denying that the Holocaust happened sides with you, it's probably time to reassess your position)

Because as horrifying as it would be to believe the your government perpetrated such despicable mass murder - it might be yet more disturbing for some to realize that their government is so inept, so incompetent, and so self-absorbed that it failed to prevent one of the biggest terrorist attacks in the history of the world.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Ah ssshhh push it, push it real good

You know that band I'm in that I'm always blathering on about? Little Red Wolf? If not, then clearly we need to hang out more often. Anyway, we've been working on our first, full-length album all summer and it's finally about a month away from becoming a reality.

So. Excited.

In the meantime, we've released a 3-track EP called "Good Girl" as a sort of preview to help us all get through the wait until the whole record gets released. And! If you throw a few bucks our way by purchasing said EP, you'll be contributing to that very effort (since we're doing the whole thing by ourselves, thankyouverymuch).

That also wins you our sincere gratitude, and trust me, even in this economy that goes a long way.

Interested? I hope so! Then head on over to the Little Red Wolf Bandcamp site, where you can snag a high-quality digital copy of the EP and choose your own price! Well, choose your own price with a minimum of $2, but hey, we can't just give it away all the time. That just feels dirty.

Also, I apologize if it feels like I've been using this blog mostly to ask you to give money to one good cause or another. I mean, I stand by my assertion that it's important to donate to these causes (and my band) - but I also know that variety is the spice of life. And the spice must flow!

Change is coming. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

How I learned to stop worrying and love the cheddarbomb

Cheddarbomb for Russ Feingold! What's that, you ask? I mean, it sounds delicious and all, but here's the lowdown:

Help Support Russ Feingold by contributing to his Cheddarbomb. We're attempting to raise money from 15,000 grassroots donors to match the $15 million that Ron Johnson is spending from his own pocket. And we're trying to raise it all today. So please, contribute to Russ today, September 15, 2010, and help keep a strong progressive leader in the Senate.

Feingold has been a staunch advocate of the people in Wisconsin and nationally, standing up to fight the good fight even when it wasn't remotely popular. There is absolutely no reason not to re-elect him come September - unless you just effing hate sunspots.

Goal Thermometer

Monday, August 23, 2010

The subtle art of the successful rally

Gay Pride events in Madison are always held a little later than in the rest of the country. When most places are celebrating all the colors of the LGBT rainbow in June, Madison likes to kick back and wait until the dog days of August to get its gay on.

And that's OK. Frankly, it'd be hard to compete with the much bigger festivals in nearby cities like Milwaukee and Chicago. We here in Madison are pretty keen on marching to our own drummer, anyway. And, truth be told, our fair city kind of does Pride all year round (one of many reasons to love this crazy place).

Just last month, for instance, Madison's LGBT residents and their allies marched and rallied to counter the bigotry and distortions of the National Organization for Marriage's anti-equality tour. Some 500 gay rights supporters turned out for an event that drew a diverse coalition of individuals and groups from around Wisconsin.

So I was surprised when the Wisconsin Capitol Pride festivities on Sunday featured more politicking and speechifying than celebrating.

After a joyous parade around the capitol building, down State Street, and onto Library Mall, revelers were met by the thumpa thumpa of a DJ spinning dance tunes. People were exhilarated, ready to party, feelin' good.

And then began the seemingly endless line-up of speeches. Mayor Dave, Tammy Baldwin, Sheriff Mahoney, Mark Pocan, and a fellow running for the Wisconsin Supreme Court all took their turns in front of the microphone while the assembled crowd grew more and more sun baked and subdued.

Let me be clear: I'm in no way saying that politics and the politicians who represent and support the LGBT community have no place at Pride festivities. Quite the opposite. I'm glad they're there. I think it's crucial that our elected representatives show their support by showing their faces (second only to actually working for positive change, of course).

I believe there is a place for good, motivational speeches at Pride, too - but for the love of sunscreen, can we limit the number and pacing of the speakers? For all of the positive energy that had been built up during the parade, by the time the final talker talked themselves out, half of the people had gone home.

The band (disco superstars VO5) was finally able to go on, effectively pulling some folks back in and prompting a good ol' gay dance-off, but then had to stop after maybe five songs for yet more talking. And that's when I gave up and left.

Look, I'm sure the people behind Madison's official Pride celebration mean well, and I'm fully aware of how difficult it can be to properly organize large events (been there, done that) - but that's no excuse for not trying to improve.

Pride is about going out, getting a little rowdy, and showing the world how spectacularly awesome every element of our human family is. It's about being yourself and loving it, about being an example to all those still crushed under the boot of oppression and ignorance of what's possible - and, dammit, it's about having fun.

The good people of Madison spend much of their year being active, engaged citizens working hard to improve their communities. That's why Pride has always been, to me anyway, a time to kick off our shoes and just enjoy ourselves. A little less politics and a little more booty shaking, you know?

So next year, here's how we do it:

Parade around the capitol and down State Street? Great. Done. Have the crowd met by an awesome DJ, good food vendors, local artists and businesses sellin' stuff, etc. at Library Mall. Make it a proper festival! Do a very brief crowd rev up, introduce big political supporters en masse (let them wave, smile for cameras, and at most take a minute to say their peace), and then get back to the party.

Also, before any of this happens, make sure plans and expectations for the various events are clearly and concisely laid out in your PR materials so people have a decent idea of what to expect and when (I saw nothing about all of the speeches and speakers in said materials for this event, for instance).

Finally and foremost, be all-inclusive.

Follow these very simple guidelines and I can almost guarantee you won't face another awkward situation where 3/4ths of your audience leaves during someones speech.

Sure, it's not the apocalypse if a Pride celebration gets a bit bungled. There are far worse things happening in the world that we could (and should) be working on. But Pride is still important - for the veterans of the struggle to mark progress made, for those people just figuring themselves out to see what's possible, for misguided folks who really can, slowly but surely, have their minds changed just by our community's increasing visibility.

People care. You care. Let's work together to get it right.

P.S. On a related note, this is fairly awesome: "A CNN poll this month found that a narrow majority of Americans supported same-sex marriage — the first poll to find majority support." About damn time.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Millbot Mix - July - "Electro-A-Go-Go"

I can't remember exactly how old I was when I fell in love with DJs. Young. Probably around 14 or so. And I'm not talking about radio hosts. My discovery of electronic music coincided with this infatuation and led to me saving my pennies so I could purchase my first set of turntables and mixer.

I got them secondhand from a friend. They were purple Numarks, very plastic and not at all fancy but still - turntables. And they were mine.

I still remember the first record I bought, too. The town where I lived had just gotten its first music store that sold new dance records, so I threw a few bucks together and headed over. I picked up a remix of Tori Amos' "Professional Widow" and a couple other cuts - and that was it. I was hooked. I spent hours teaching myself how to beat-match (because no one I knew in the area really did it so there was no one to pester into being a tutor), bought records, played a couple of house parties...and one day even upgraded to a pair of really nice Numark's and mixer that I still have now.

The trouble was that being a really good DJ requires a serious time commitment that I just wasn't able to make. Between everything else I got up to and a full-time job, both the tables and my skills started to collect dust.

But over the past couple of years - and especially since I've embarked on my desk-jobless life - the allure of mixing has taken hold of me again. And now, with the advent of mp3s and laptop mixing technology, you don't need to lug around an expansive vinyl collection to play shows. So I figured I've let it go for long enough. It's time to get back into the swing of things.

I've got a lot of coins to save before I can get a proper laptop setup, but in the meantime I'm going to work on the basics. A new mix about once a month, if I can manage it, even though I still don't have the ideal set-up (as things stand, the program I'm using doesn't let me hear incoming tracks, so I have to do everything visually and by being really familiar with the songs).

And the first one is here! It's all electro-house (and indie-dance) all the time! Enjoy:

Millbots Electro-A-Go-Go by Millbot

Friday, July 9, 2010

Ode to Rock Island

Camping. Since humankind first moved into towns and cities, the seemingly instinctive desire to return to the wilderness has driven us to everything from the epic treks of the explorers to the backyard tent-outs of suburban children.

I'm no different. While I have a great appreciation for the many comfortable amenities of modern life, there's a part of me that yearns to prepare and cook my meals in the great outdoors, sleep on the ground, live off the grid. And so I, like countless other Americans, set out for the campground - looking for even a small taste of the lost rustic existence of my ancestors.

...well, with the addition of waterproof fabrics and propane stoves, anyway.

A short while ago I headed north with four good friends and The Fella for a place I'd never before visited but is, as it turns out, just a short drive and some ferry-hopping away. Rock Island. A state park set off the tip of tourist-famous Door County, Wisconsin, it's one of those rare, relatively close-by places a person can go for something a little more serious than the "family camping" experience found in most other parks.

It's 912 acres of incredibly rocky soil, pine forests, beautifully blue-green water, no cars, no bikes, and no electricity. You have to take the ferry from Door County to Washington Island, and then the much smaller Karfi ferry from Washington Island to Rock Island, to make it over. That alone seems to weed out the more casual campers.

Once there, you need to be able to carry all of your equipment on your back or, if you're lucky, on one of the very few handcarts available at the landing, all the way to whatever campsite you've reserved. We'd booked two sites on the southeastern side of the island - one that overlooked a small rocky bluff down to the water, where we set up for cooking and loafing, and another that was more set back and sheltered, where we pitched our tents.

There are a couple of backpacking sites that are much further removed from everything else and would take a more serious and thoughtful packing effort to occupy. (Actually, I'm keen to try one of them out next time we make the trip.)

You see, even once you get all of your gear to your site, both firewood and drinking water have to be hauled in from the one spot on the island where you can get them. Firewood is sold from a shelter near the boat landing from only 4:30 - 5:30 p.m. each day, and the only potable water pump is nearby. Getting and hauling these things quickly becomes a crucial daily routine, forcing you to plan all other activities around them.

That's OK, because when staying on Rock Island, time is definitely on your side. Since there's no electricity, there's no television or telephones or internet. Which is precisely one of the main reasons I loved it.

But Emily, you may ask, you're a total internet nerd! How could you handle not being plugged in for a whole five days?

Quite frankly, I've never had issues going off grid. Once I'm away from the distraction of the web, I really don't miss it. Instead, I'm more than content to focus on the world around me and the essential tasks required to stay alive and comfortable.

I really like building good campfires (to the point that, minus one crucial sanity gene, I might otherwise have become a bit of a pyromaniac). I adore cooking meals over them. I enjoy the challenge of putting together a sturdy, weather resistant campsite. I like waking up with the sun in the morning and under the unpolluted stars at night.

Of course, it rained off and on while we were there and made the whole waking-with-the-sun thing a little difficult, but otherwise Rock Island is a great place to do all of those things.

Plus! 10 miles of hiking trails, several rocky beaches and one white sand beach, an over century-old restored lighthouse, rock carvings, wild strawberry patches, and a few good lawn games available at the main boat house (we opted for a bocce ball deathmatch).

And just a few snakes.

*It's worth noting, too, that said boat house and most of the structures on the island were built by inventor, businessman, and rare book enthusiast Chester Thordarson, who used to own the place--because that's what rich folk do. Own islands. Thankfully these rich folk took pretty good care of the place and then the state bought it from the family in 1965, giving us the fabulous park in return.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Conservative watchdog group SO ANGRY at county employee blogging while on unpaid furlough

What else could explain such a needless and sloppy investigation and accompanying complaint? If you've been paying any attention to the political blog scene in Wisconsin lately, you may have noticed that the chattering classes are currently abuzz with talk of the Milwaukee County DA seizing the computer of a one Christopher Liebenthal, aka "capper."

Why would the DA, presumably someone with a fairly heavy caseload of slightly more pressing issues, swoop in to sniff around in one guy's computer, you might ask?

Well, as it turns out, conservative (the exceptionally silly kind, specifically) activist group Citizens for Responsible Government (CRG) filed a complaint with said DA alleging that capper, a county employee, was blogging while at work. Which, if true, would certainly be a giant no-no and even I, friend of the capster, would advocate appropriate legal wrist slapping.

Oh but there's a whole lot more to the story than that, surprise surprise. Let's put it all in handy, bullet list format, shall we? Makes it more digestible, like taking a lactase pill before eating cheese:
  • Though bloggers have long used the tactic of "I bet you write while at work!" to attack their political foes, back in May one was actually caught doing just that: Darlene Wink, constituent services coordinator for Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, got caught with her hand in the proverbial cookie jar and was forced to resign because of it. Turns out she'd been posting comments, under several pseudonyms, at a bunch of sites in turn praising Walker, her boss, and lambasting his critics. Tsk tsk.
  • Curiosity then piqued, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin filed an open records request for the internet browsing history of computers in Walker's office - just to be sure no one else was up to Wink-like shenanigans as well. (Milwaukee County Supervisor John Weishan Jr. also filed a complaint with the DA asking that a criminal investigation of Wink be started.)
  • In response, Cheryl Berdan of the county executive's office claimed that making those records available would cost anywhere from a cool $400 to nearly $900. Apparently no one bothered to tell anyone at the county exec's HQ that the world's upgraded from mimeograph machines, because I'm fairly certain just exporting browser history into a word document of some sort is pretty dang cheap.
  • Anyway, all of this made a lot of the more rabid right-wing bloggers in the state feel especially butt hurt and angry, and many began looking for potential targets to redirect the controversy onto. Enter capper, an outspoken and somewhat prolific lefty blogger who also happens to work for the county. BINGO.
  • So the CRG figures, "Hey! That guy totally has to be writing and posting on county time, because our people do it, like, constantly, and my worldview is so skewed because of it that clearly my opponents must be just as daring/stupid." They go right to the DA with a complaint, who for some reason decides he has nothing better to do and seizes capper's work computer. For the CRG and its allies, there is much rejoicing.
Putting aside the fact that blog time stamps are almost entirely useless as evidence because you can schedule them to go up automatically at any time you want - looking at the dates being paraded around as evidence of capper's (who gets his blog on at both Cognitive Dissidence and Whallah!) terrible malfeasance, it doesn't take a whole lot of sleuthing to realize that the whole thing is complete bunk.

Every single one of the dates in question was either 1) an unpaid furlough day county employees were all forced to take (thanks, Scott Walker!), 2) a pre-approved vacation day that capper usually announced directly on the blog, or 3) an official holiday. Like MLK Jr. Day and Memorial Day. THE HORROR.

Capper's rightfully employed a lawyer to handle what could very well turn into a defamation or libel suit against CRG and any of the several bloggers who've been posting scurrilous nonsense about the incident, some even pretending to be capper.

One such comment, posted at Boots & Sabers, even went so far as to claim that the investigation had uncovered pr0n on capper's 'puter - which put Owen Robinson, owner of the site, on the receiving end of a take-down letter from capper's attorney.

Really, the whole thing strikes me as one giant waste of the DA's (and the public's, for that matter) time, all because of some petty political vendetta. For a group that claims to be all about more responsible government and use of taxpayer money, CRG sure does seem to be overly prone to irresponsible behavior.

But hey, this is just the sort of ridiculousness Wisconsin will be in for if it elects Scott Walker as its governor - or Ron Johnson as its Senator. In addition to their own, personal shortcomings, they're liable to bring along a whole posse of like-minded supporters who'll spend all their time on partisan bickering and one-upmanship, instead of on, oh I don't know, job creation? The environment? Education? Silly little things like that.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

On finding some solace in being robbed

The past several weeks have been difficult, I won't lie. Certainly not the most trying time of my life by any means (thanks, ages 14 - 16, for providing that perspective), but no fun nonetheless. What's especially interesting is that things have been all about extremes: some really great stuff tempered by the really bad. So it goes.

For instance, as I mentioned before, recently I spent a long weekend in Seattle. I'd never been to the city before and was looking forward to exploring new territory and meeting new people. Officially I was there with my sister to perform our Twins act for something called Freakshow-A-Go-Go (aka FAGG), which was exciting on its own. Unofficially it was to be a chance to tromp around unfamiliar ground and get away from the increasingly depressing hunt for income back in Madison for a short while.

And Seattle was beautiful. It was rainy and cool almost the whole time we were there but I had expected as much, and even so it was still lovely. The rain there is different than what you typically get in Wisconsin. Instead of downpours, there would be short, light showers followed by intermittent drizzle - which sounds more dreary than it was, I assure you. Though I'd probably change my tune if I actually lived there. Still, we stayed with two excellent hostesses who took good care of us, hiked through some gorgeous city parks, gazed out over Puget Sound, and I also made a point to check out the I-5 Colonnade. A spectacular and very cool example of good urban planning, the Colonnade is an inner city dirt bike park that accommodates riders of all skill levels. And it's all underneath a massive freeway overpass, so it stays almost entirely dry year-round.

I took photos of all of this, of course. And I'd be posting them now if it weren't for the Bad Extreme that happened next.

The show was on Saturday at the Rainier Valley Cultural Arts Center, a little venue in the Columbia City section of town. We had to be there a bit earlier in the day for our tech call, and while we were running our act had left some of our bags downstairs in the dressing room. Mind you, the dressing room door was not visible from the street. And there were performers in it almost all day. Somehow, though - and perhaps I'm just the luckiest girl in the world - during the (maybe) 10 minutes during which everyone was watching two particularly talented acrobats do their tech run, some desperate soul managed to wander in off the street and steal my bag.

At first I thought I was just losing my mind and had misplaced the thing, but after another girl discovered that her phone and wallet had been taken from her purse, too, there was no denying that we'd been robbed.

All told, I lost both of my cameras, my wallet, and those wonderful, custom-molded earplugs that had been a very thoughtful birthday gift from my friends a couple years ago.

And this happened about two hours before the show was to begin. I chalked it up to a good lesson in taking "the show must go on!" to heart, called the police to file a report, and went about the business of putting on my costume and makeup and trying to focus on putting on a solid performance. Which I'm told we did. I had fun, anyway.

To the credit of the Seattle police, they sent an officer by in a fairly timely fashion to take our statements about what was surely a dime-a-dozen crime. I had to laugh, though, because the cop showed up during intermission and promptly found himself surrounded by dozens of performers in all manner of weird get-ups, including me looking like the photo at right and the other girl dressed as a cat (she being part of a group called Catittude with which I am now absolutely in love). I'm sure he's seen stranger things in his time as a cop, of course, but he took it all with good humor.

I don't expect to see any of my stuff ever again. At the time I tried to take some comfort in the notion that my renter's insurance might well cover a lot of it, but when I got home and saw that my deductible was $1,000 and the total worth of what was taken only about $900, that shred of comfort went out the window.

But in the midst of all that, I had to make up my mind to have a good time for the rest of my trip. What else was there? And I had some faith in humanity restored by how kind everyone was to me - including the surprise chunk of change that my fellow performers donated at the end of the night. Sure, I had no ID and only the cash given to me, all my vacation photos were gone, and I had to deal with the tedium of calling to cancel all of my cards and such.

But I wasn't hurt, and I was surrounded by good people, and there was still plenty of city to explore. And, ultimately, I got to go home to my beloved fella and city (turns out they will let you fly without ID - you just get treated to extra special security screening fun times).

Strangely, the whole thing left me feeling...lighter. It's hard to explain. I'm still frustrated as hell about losing my cameras and those completely awesome earplugs. They were, after all, things I use in my art and work. I still felt violated and helpless, which I hate. And yet I had/have this sense of lightness about the whole thing. Like it slapped me upside the head and cleared a few of the heavier cobwebs that had gathered there and focused my attention on more important things.

Getting robbed certainly didn't bring me any Buddha-like enlightenment about the impermanence of things - though it was definitely a lesson toward that end - but I have to think that it was a valuable experience. Even if that's all that I can get from it, it's not bad. And if it helps balance one extreme with another, I'm all for it.

(top photo by Chethan Shankar on Flickr)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

All work and no pay

Just back from a long weekend in Seattle and boy, was that a mixed bag. Met a lot of really great people, got to be part of a fun show, tromped around a very pretty city...and had my bag stolen.

My bag that contained my wallet, my custom molded musician earplugs, and BOTH of my cameras. So yeah, that sucked. Needless to say I have no photos to post of the trip.

While I was gone, though, Rob posted the most recent episode of "Chapel" that we shot and I have to say that I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out. We learn a little more each time we do one of these, and it's generally good fun. If you're curious, you can watch the whole series (thus far) in order right here, or just check out the more recent installment (in three parts) below. Fair warning, it's NSFW.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Help me and my band go to Lilith Fair!

UPDATE (5/25/10): We've made it to the quarter-finals! But we still need you all to votevotevote for us. The process outlined below is still the same if you haven't already registered. If you have, please come back and vote some more! We are incredibly grateful for all your support that's gotten us to this point, and would be even more so if we could keep up the momentum!


Hello all you extremely beautiful and generous people!

Little Red Wolf (my band) has submitted itself to play at this years triumphantly returned Lilith Fair music festival when it comes to Chicago on July 17. We think we'd be a pretty excellent fit, and they're holding a competition for one local band to get a slot on their Village Stage.

Not only would this be a great opportunity for us as a band, it would also mean a great deal to me personally. Playing at Lilith has been a dream of mine since the festival first made the rounds in the '90s. It was, in fact, while watching Sarah McLachlan play the Chicago show in '98 that I had my "I must perform music for ever and ever" epiphany.

To make this happen, though, we need people to VOTE FOR US in as great a number as possible. The competition is stiff and numerous, but we're hoping we have what it takes to rally the troops. You have to create an account at the contest website, but it's FREE. You can also vote more than once (it's once per day, I think)! Here's the only catch: you have to vote in at least 25 of the voting clumps (basically, there are four songs to a group, and you rate them from favorite to worst before moving on to the next 4). So it'll take a little extra work on your part, but you can take heart in the fact that you'll be doing a good deed for us and several other up-and-coming lady bands. To make it a bit easier to find Little Red Wolf specifically, though, once you're registered and logged in just go to our profile and click the button that makes us your favorite band. That way we're guaranteed to show up in your voting at least once a day!

Full voting instructions and details below. Voting ends MAY 31! Tell your friends!

Thanks so much!

TO ENTER: There are two ways to enter. One way to enter the Contest, is entrant can first create a free account by logging on to Once you are on the Home Page, click on the word "Judge" at the top of the page. Then click "Lilith Fair Local Talent Contest." This will bring you to a page that will allow you to judge in any of the Lilith Local Talent Search Channels (for us you'll want to choose Lilith Fair: Chicago).

The second way to enter is by logging into OurStage using Facebook Connect and judging in any of the Lilith Local Talent Search Channels from Lilith Fair’s main facebook page:

To be eligible for the Best Predictor Giveaway entrants must:
• Participate in at least 25 Sort4 and/or 100 Head-To-Head battles. Both Sort4 and
Head-to-Head battles are acceptable forms of judging on Additional
information on the forms of judging can be found on the OurStage FAQs,
• The entrant must vote within the Lilith Local Talent Search Channel and between
the Contest Period. There is no limit on the number of times you can vote.
once the Contest become available on Web Site for entrants to vote on, but no later than
12:00:00 am ET on May 1, 2010 and ends at 12:01:00 am ET on May 31, 2010
(“Contest Period”).

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Crayola Nation (aka WTF Arizona?)

The funny thing is that the white crayon has always been the most useless of the bunch.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Part-time pity party


Any half-sane person would anticipate that, upon quitting their perfectly good day job in order to pursue a career as a freelance anything, life would get a little more difficult. I did. But it turns out it's near impossible to fully anticipate just how mentally taxing the whole process can be. Especially if you're not, like, immediately just selling tons of work and getting mad advances for your totally genius book idea, et cetera.

Never knowing exactly when your next paycheck will come, or even how much it will be for; scrambling to pay bills on time, canceling various services to save money, being in near-constant hustle mode--that alone is exhausting.

Throw "no one will hire me for a crappy part-time job so I can at least make ends meet" into the mix and it's enough to turn even the most optimistic soul a little sour.

A friend of mine once told me that he thought there were two types of people in the word: those that just shut down in the face of adversity, small or large, and those who immediately say to themselves, "OK, how do I make this work?" and then just do. He said he thought I was the latter, and generally, perhaps somewhat egotistically, I agree.

And maybe that's why I have such a hard time coming to terms with those instances when I do let myself shut down. They don't happen often, and they don't usually announce themselves with any great fanfare. It's just, suddenly I'm missing appointments and having a hard time getting off the couch and am deeply, deeply mired down in an internal pity party that I can't seem to shake.

I've applied at something like 15 different places around town and, lo and behold the recession, no one yet is hiring--or if they are, they're getting a million applications and mine failed to rise to the top of the heap. It's rough on the ol' ego.

Fact of the matter is I've made it three months into this grand experiment and am now officially broke. It's not exactly how I planned it, and that threw me for a loop. But I woke up at the beginning of this week and simply said, "Emily, it's time to get this thing done." No more laying around feeling sorry for myself, no matter how rough things get. Because what does that accomplish? (other than a chance to catch up on episodes of The Wire)

So a word to the wise: If you're thinking of doing something similar with your life, be prepared. Make a schedule and a list of goals, large and small, and stick to it. And know that, unless you're just wildly successful from the get-go, it's likely you'll be dealing with some very low moments. Don't let them get the best of you. Frankly, it could always be worse - and the promise of something better should be enough to keep you rolling.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Digging the earth

Since the weather's taken a turn for the awesome, Wisconsin has made its annual mass migration to outdoor activities. And since this year I am the master of my schedule, I've been making a point to really enjoy the sunshine as much as possible.

That's still not super easy, as the work that actually makes me money (albeit still very little) tends to be a fairly solitary and indoor activity. And I am, by nature, neither of those things. But what can I say?

Oh writing, I just can't quit you.

Still, one of my other passions pulls me into the woods and countryside of our fair state fairly often: mountain biking. I know I've babbled on about how awesome the sport is before, but as I intend to keep at it until such time as my limbs fall off or something, you'll have to accept that I will be babbling about it more in the future.

I even had the opportunity to write my first mountain bike-centric article for Isthmus, to be published in the not-so distant future. As part of the research for the piece, and because it made for a good excuse to get out and do/see things I've been meaning to do/see for awhile anyway, me and the fella recently joined the Capital Off-Road Pathfinders (CORP for more easier) for an early-morning trail work session out at Cam-Rock.

Turns out the Cam-Rock III trail system, just outside of the quaint village of Cambridge and not so far from Madison, is really very nice. Lots of great, flowing singletrack and some seriously beautiful scenery. CORP and the park folk have done a great job of building and expanding the trails, and they continue to work on them every season.

On the day we went out to pitch in, we ended up assigned to a group that was building berms along the more advanced section of trail. Basically, it became a morning of digging and hauling (gorgeous black) dirt. But we also met some very friendly people and learned a thing or two about good trail construction. We also assisted in the creation of something like seven berms, which was no small feat. Perhaps, after all that work, I'll actually be able to rail said berms in an appropriately sweet and/or gnarly fashion.

I also need to work on my biker slang, apparently.

Anyway, it was good times and I was glad to finally do a bit more to earn my saddle time. See, a big component of mountain biking is the stewardship thing. Good riders are also good about chipping in to help keep the landscape ship-shape.

In addition to wanting to become a better rider for my own personal reasons there's also a professional goal behind that drive. This mountain biking article for Isthmus will be, I'm hoping, just the first of many. I'd like to parlay my love of the sport, my writing abilities (such as they are), and the fact that I'm a lady (omg you didn't know?!) into a bit of a career niche. That is, lady riders who write aren't exactly a dime a dozen (yet!) so maybe I can use that to my advantage. Because it'd be fulfilling for me, and because I'd like to do whatever small thing I can to help encourage more women to take up the sport, which I think would be great. So there's that.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sunshine and blisters

We broke 70 degrees today! I put on shorts! Shorts! Oh heavenly sun, I praise you. It's true that those of us who reside in more northern climes tend to get a little batty toward the end of winter, especially when the weather starts doing that awesome "will it or won't it" snow-then-rain-then-sun-then-who-knows-what dance in early spring. We tend to become moody bastards, hiding away in our unwashed dens and subsisting on nothing but beer and centipedes (I hate those jerks).

Lousy Smarch weather.

But hey, 70 friggen degrees! And though I had writing to get done, there was simply no excuse not to get outside and enjoy the beauty. I broke out the Surly and pedaled off to the gym, followed by a jaunt around the isthmus to drop off my resume with a few coffee shops. Still looking for a part time gig to supplement my income. This makes six applications made and zero call-backs, but that's nothing, right? I'll keep plugging away until something pans out. You figure that with all the students leaving in a couple of months there will be a few openings. Yeah? Yeah.

Of course the down side of all this hoofing and pedaling after several months spent cooped up in a gym and/or on the couch is that my feet have gone soft on me. The result of this week's various outdoor excursions is one rather gnarly blister on my left foot. Part of the blame for that lies with the fact that I have two completely different sized feet (woman's 8 and 9, respectively), because apparently I'm a mutant. And since it's nearly impossible to buy two different size shoes unless you fork over the cash for two different pairs, that means the shorter of my feet tends to slide around a bit more than it ought to when I walk. Lucky me.

Don't scroll down if you don't want visual evidence of the gnar.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Chapel: "Battered" (part one)

The new episode of our web series, "Chapel," is finally live! You can read about some of the experience of filming it here.

This was one of the more challenging shoots we've done, and simply because the first half is so dialogue heavy. That's a little new to us, being the action nuts we typically are. But it was a good challenge. We had some trouble with the sound, though I think learned many valuable lessons alongside the coronary inducing hiccups. On the plus side, my band mate (and the girl who plays Yvonne in the show), Meghan, wrote a great score for us, so there's that.

Anyway, hope you enjoy - and the second half will go up in early April.

Very, very NSFW by the way (words, not images):

Monday, March 22, 2010

Cinematic Torture: Live-blogging "Twilight: New Moon"

While I've got all this free time during the day (well, to be fair I'm still pretty busy even as a self-employed, loutish writer - but there are a few chunks of nothing-to-do to be had), I figured I'd pick a completely unnecessary project and roll with it for awhile.

On Thursday of this week, I'll be doing an actual live-blog of my first ever viewing of Gore Vidal's 1979 X-rated Roman romp, "Caligula." You can follow along as my brain either melts or I start to get ideas about blood orgies. Could go either way.

To get this Cinematic Torture project going, though, I've decided to start with some even lower hanging fruit. I'm also blogging this on Friday and posting it after the fact on Monday, so it's not really "live" but I'm sure you'll be able to see the progression (or regression?) of my mental state as we go along here. Consider this the test case for the main event.


Twilight: New Moon (2009)

You can follow along via your own copy of the movie (admit it), or get ye to Netflix to stream/rent it. Or you can skip my commentary entirely and check out the sure-to-be-superior Rifftrax version. Also be sure to read the Ultra-Condensed Movies synopsis, which is hilarious.

4:22pm It may be important to note as we start things that I have never read a single sentence of the Twilight books. I did see the first movie, almost by accident, and thought that it was a relatively pretty but soulless piece of filler that misused an otherwise reasonably talented director and cast.

4:25 Hey, that's a full moon, not a new moon. Do some damn research peop...oh I see what you did there.

4:26 Oh snap! Bella's running into the middle of an Eyes Wide Shut style orgy. But then it's all flowers and shit? But hey, Sparkle Vampire's here now. Seriously, what's with the diamond skin business? It's fine to make up your own, unique vampire mythology I guess but this just seems silly.

4:28: I'm distracted by Kristen Stewart's attractiveness. Which in turn makes me feel like an old creep. Which I am, so there's that.

4:30 This bit in the parking lot is pretty high school accurate. I seem to remember lots of dry humping and gross PDAs. And there's the famous dreamcatcher. Jacob's really trying to turn Bella into a lesbian, I guess.

4:34 They're watching "Romeo & Juliet" in class. Subtle. (side note: I remember watching the 1968 version of the movie--which is what I think they're watching here--in class sophomore year, but the teacher insisted on standing in front of the screen when the scene with boobs in it came on. Buzz kill.)

4:37 "Bella, the only thing that can hurt me is you." I think I read that same line in a pamphlet about warning signs of domestic mental abuse. This statement is followed up by a way overkill shove that sends her flying into a table. Well done! That wasn't messed up at all.

4:43 That is a kickin' old truck Bella drives, though.

4:44 And then he jizzed. In. His pants. (Seriously, all that noise from a short kiss? I thought he said he wasn't actually a 17-year-old boy)

4:48 "Bella, I don't want you to come." Again with the mental abuse and control! That's just cruel. But it does explain his refusal to do more than give her a half-assed kiss.

4:54: Someone should be sure to turn Bella every so often if she's just gonna sit in that chair for month's on end. Poor thing's gonna get bed (chair?) sores. She also appears not to be changing clothes. Doesn't her dad at least notice the stench? Oh lord this is so damn emo.

4:57 "Don't be so pleased with your self-reverential cleverness." Hello, movie? Are you listening to yourself?

5:01 This whole "if I do something dangerous I totally see Sparkle Boy" set-up has to be the most convoluted plot line since...well...almost anything in a David Lynch movie. Only Lynch movies are generally, y'know, good.

5:04 I hope Jacob's actually teaching her something about building bikes as they go. This whole process would be incredibly dull for her otherwise.

5:10 Oh man, everyone knows girls can't ride motorcycles. This is a terrible idea. Of course, it might help her concentration if Glitter Pants wasn't manifesting himself every few feet as she goes. Also has no one heard of helmets in this world? Aaaand the shirt comes off. Nicely played, Jacob, nicely played.

5:14 Guns and adrenaline?! That's totally my thing, too! No way. Me and Bella, so much in common. Also can someone actually make a movie called "Face Punch" please? It would pretty much have to be better than this flick. Also also, real subtle with the proffered hands, guys. THIS FILM IS SO SUBTLE I CAN BARELY SEE IT.

5:20 Graham Greene, you're better than this.

5:23 Taylor Lautner is certainly a good looking kid, but I still don't get why they couldn't have cast an actual First Nation's actor in the role (Lautner claims to have something like a thimble-full in his ancestry, but really, it's not like there are a ton of roles for honest-to-goodness Native Americans in major movie projects. Raw deal).

5:27 All right! Finally, what this movie has been missing. Bad CG wolves.

5:33 This bedroom scene is just one extended excuse to have Lautner wander around topless for awhile. I can appreciate that. Honestly if that was the whole movie, no dialog, this might be easier to sit through.

5:39 Wolfmen love muffins (and one of them even has the muffin tops to prove it)! Who knew? Also apparently a flippant "Sorry" is enough to be forgiven for going into a rage, turning into a wolf, and attacking a girl for no very good reason.

5:44 So far the music is the best thing about this movie.

5:46 Yes! Dive into the waves, Bella! The cold, dark, end-of-this-movie waves! Oh who am I kidding, I know there are two more of these damn things to come.

5:50 Man, this really is just one giant "Men are animals but women should lust after the abusive ones anyway" fable, isn't it?

5:59 Why is everyone so concerned about Charlie? I didn't think this was a Vietnam War flick. (sorry, sorry, had to)

6:02 Yay, we're back at the Eyes Wide Shut parade! Apparently these people are idiots, though, all celebrating the expulsion of vampires from their city when apparently the most powerful ruling family of vampires still lives there and shit.

6:05 Stupidest reunion ever. And why does Bella keep staring at everyone's chins? Eye contact, woman! Try it some time.

6:08 Oh hi Dakota Fanning. Later you and Bella are totally going to make out.

6:10 Mind reader fancy vamp thinks him not being able to read Bella is her power, but it could simply be that there's nothing in there. Just sayin'. Now why's everyone always gotta be fighting in slow motion? I thought vampires were all fast and stuff.

6:16 OMG BELLA'S GONNA BE A VAMPIRE. I would have never seen that coming. At least then she can be super mopey and emo in good company. Forever.

6:20 And we're back to the controlling abuser talk. "Can you forgive me? I hope so, because I honestly don't think I can live without you." Textbook, dude. Textbook.

6:25 Edward would like to thank Jacob for carrying the movie with his epic shirtlessness.

6:27 I can see why everyone is so in love with Bella. Indecisive, whiny, pouty, vaguely suicidal. I mean, what's not to love?

OK at this point it's just a lot of Edward begging her not to become a vampire and Bella pretty much not giving him a choice. Pouting. Hair touching. Longing glances. Oh and him saying that he has one condition for turning her, which is that she marry him. To which she gasps. OK I'm officially headed to the bathroom to throw up now.

Man, I felt like I've needed to sit through these movies just so I wouldn't be completely in the dark about one of the biggest cultural zeitgeists of our day - but now I kind of wish I hadn't. I've read/seen some terrible stories in my day and this one is right up there with the very worst. I'm fairly certain teenage me would have felt the same way. But to each their own, I guess. I'll stick with my vampires who actually have sex outside of marriage and female characters that display basic competency, thanks.
The Lost Albatross