Best of 2007, the beard, and other excuses not to go to sleep

It's almost midnight and I should certainly be getting ready to go to sleep, BUT I'm totally wired. So I might as well rant here for awhile. Here's a cool pic of me and young Paavo shoveling the driveway.

Maybe I'm so awake and jittery 'cause I drank two re-filled XL sized cups of caffeinated iced tea from McDonalds for lunch today. I took Paavo to the Golden Arches after church today on our way to Menards to get my Dad his Christmas gift. I've been thinking of starting another blog...this one would be based around my patronage of chain restaurants. Every time I go to McDonalds, Culvers, Panera, Hesburger, whatever, I'd blog about the food quality, customer service, bathroom cleanliness, piped-in background music, etc. What do you think? Sound interesting? I'd be like the online Upton Sinclair of fast food. Just what I need... ANOTHER blog to take up hours of my non-existent free time. But I bet I'd get some serious readership.

This blog, Protestant Blog Ethic, gets about 30 readers a day, and I suppose that's okay, but I bet even more folks would tune in if I developed some kind of french fry ranking system. After reading comments and talking to a surprising number of real people out in the world, it seems like the best way I could increase my readership here would be to focus this blog more on religion and politics, and less on songwriting, recording, and the sub-underground late-80s indie rock bands that I enjoy. Oh well.

For every year of my adult life I've assembled year-end "Best of" lists for my favorite movies and music, but alas, this year I have so few choices to be excited about that instead I'll choose to share some general stuff about 2007.

I'm also dumping some random data from my digital camera, so for my first favorite thing I shall share this:

A week or so ago I shaved off the chin-weasel, but here's how it looked at its end. I have very slow and pre-pubescent facial hair powers, so this was about one month's work. Ultimately, it was blotchy and weak, and only succeeded at making me look weird, lumpy, and old. And Paavo and Svea hated it. After I got rid of it, Dawn said "Wow, you look a lot younger." It was the most serious beard I ever had. I thought maybe I'd gain some "beard-rock" musical powers, like the Beatles' "White Album" era, or like hipsters like that Iron And Wine dude, or those ZZ Topp guys. But no, my musical abilities were unchanged with the beard.

On with the Best of 2007 list:

Once: a blissful filmgoing experience, and most inspiring music movie I've ever seen
Gone Baby Gone: great acting and cultural analysis from the Affleck brothers
Before The Devil Knows You're Dead: Philip Seymour Hoffman rules as always

MuteMath: modern electro-arena-pop-prog with '80s influences and the greatest drummer I've heard in a long long time. My introduction to this band was seeing them live last Spring on Maundy Thursday and although I knew none of their songs at the time, they blew my mind and proved to be one of the best live acts I have ever ever seen. I bought their album soon after, and it gradually grew on me (the best albums are growers, you know) and now I am a believer. All this, and I think the video for their song "Typical" is the greatest music video I have EVER seen (search YouTube and you shall see). Oh, and my 3 year old son LOVES them, too.

Soda pop: Back on New Years Eve 2002-03 I drank pop for the last time. I needed to, 'cause I was rotting my mouth with the equivalent of about three cans off Coke per day. And I didn't touch soda pop for four years. This Fall I fell off the wagon, in honor of my tonsillectomy. 7UP and Sprite were good for my throat and healing, and since then I've been casually using Root Beer and Coke. Nothing like the old days, but I'm drinking again. Coke is pretty darn good, and Root Beer totally hits the spot.

I don't usually read books. I'm a magazine and newspaper lovin' man. But this year I really "hit the books" literally. Favorites were:
Everything Matters by Richard Rohr: a book on contemplative spirituality by a Catholic monk, and one of the most challenging and profound books I've ever read
The Grand Delusion by Sterling Whitaker: a biography of the band Styx, written using interview snippets. Many good lessons for folks in showbiz, mostly about the value of hard work and insane levels of dedication. And of course some interpersonal disaster stories as well.
The Grand Illusion by Chuck Panazzo: if you can believe this, ANOTHER Styx-related biography, this time by the band's bass player, mostly detailing his long coming-out process as one of the few public gay musicians in the classic rock universe. I've interviewed Chuck back in my journalism days (when he was still in the closet), and it's awesome to see how his openness has changed his and everyone's life for the better. Chuck, you rule, man.
Popular Music from Vittula by Mikael Niemi: the first work of fiction I've read in over a decade, and a crass and funny reminder to me of my own childhood in a remote rural Finnish community. (Thanks for letting me borrow the book, Joe! I'll try to return it before Xmas!)

Usually it's called "Moose Track" on most packaging, but the Blue Bunny brand calls it "Bunny Tracks" and I think it's the best kind I've ever tasted.

Parthenon Huxley released a new album called Kiss The Monster this year, and it's great, like all his music. BUT, I recently realized that, when experienced in chronological order with his previous two studio albums (Purgatory Falls and Deluxe) the listener witnesses one of the most personal and powerful stories of tragedy and rebirth in rock music. Parthenon is like the MIT of songwriting universities, and his new song "Come Clean" (in context of these three records) is one example of completely vulnerable and amazingly personal lyricizing. Plus, the music rocks.

The Juliana Hatfield family tree. Juliana has been around since the late-80s, but I only started to appreciate her a few years ago. In 2007, though, I played her CDs constantly. Her new EP Sittin' in a Tree was a favorite, I collected all her early work with the Blake Babies this year, and her greatest achievement has to be her trio called Some Girls, who I totally adore. The drummer for the Blake Babies AND Some Girls is the floor-tom queen Freda Love, and Freda's OTHER band has been in huge rotation for me and Paavo the past few weeks: they're called The Mysteries of Life. I've been listening to the MOL album Distant Relative in the car lately, and I can't believe how amazing it is. Jake Smith (Freda's husband) is a delightfully simple and melodic writer, and all the instruments are grooving and hooking along constantly. MOL has direct connections to the Vulgar Boatmen (and The Silos and Lisa Germano, too...more of my all-time faves), and of course everything works its way back to Ms. Hatfield.

Okay, now it's way too late. Time for bed.


Anonymous said…
I love Moose Tracks ice cream (Moose Tracks is a trademark brand and I don't think Blue Bunny pays to use it).

The other day, I found mint moose tracks ice cream! It had mint ice cream with fudge swirls all in it and then the chocolate mint cups. They were cute little cups, too, not smashed pieces of bigger ones! It was the Private Selections brand that Kroger (and others?) sell.
Chase said…
Speaking of facial hair & "best ofs", check out the 2007-08 edition of Whiskerino at These cats grow beards from Nov 1 thru Feb 28, and they have a daily contest for the best pic titled King Beard. A co-worker of mine is participating (on the site as Ozzy Nelson). Gotta admit its a bit weird tracking a bunch of guys growing beard, but some of the pics and comments are hilarious. Merry Christmas JR.
michael said…
About popular music from Vittula: you should try and see the movie. it's a lot of fun, but also some kind of wierd. don't know if it's available in English, but your German seemed so good. Merry Christmas J&Fam!

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