Worst of 2012 – Music

So it’s that time of year again, for my Best-of and Worst-of entertainment (books and music).  To see last year’s entries, click here:

Worst of 2011 – Music

Best of 2011 – Music

Worst of 2011 – Books

Best of 2011 – Books

Like last year, I’m stretching this into a four-part series.  I’ll start with the Worst CDs.  In all, I’ve obtained around new 50 CDs last year, not counting random online downloads from Amazon (free!).  For this list, a few notes: these CDs didn’t all come out in 2012, they were just obtained this year.  I’ve included release date years.  Also, I’m not including gifts on here, which I usually rip before giving away. Let us begin.

Runners Up: Paul & Storm: Gumbo Pants (more disappointing than bad); The Black Keys: El Camino (nothing stands out except the radio track, which I hadn’t even heard until I won this CD)

7. Wilco – A Ghost is Born (2004): This album made me coin a term. To “Wilco” a song is to take a perfectly good song and then let a tone-deaf one-armed chimpanzee have a guitar solo in the middle of it. Half the songs on this album would be perfectly fine if they didn’t have annoying guitar noise interrupt them halfway through. But alas, almost all of them do. Not as good as Yankee Foxtrot Hotel, which isn’t as good as many of the other albums I own.

6. The Corrs – In Blue (2000): This was a random whim. I had a song of them playing with the Chieftains and that song rocks. So I picked this one up for $.29. Well, it’s bland pop from start to finish. One of the songs is even famous (who knew? I certainly didn’t when I purchased the album). If it weren’t for the surprisingly good instrumental track at the end (which sounds more like what I HOPED this album would sound like), this album would not have fared so well.

5. Rockapella – Don’t Tell Me You Do (1999): Rockapella with Sean Altman fronting the band? Pretty awesome. Rockapella without Sean Altman? Not so much. Another CD with only one decent track.

4. Various Artists – People Make the World Go Round (1996): So far each of these CDs was bought at Grassroots for $1 or less, so that explains why I didn’t properly vet them. In fact, all the worst-of CDs this year were from Grassroots. However, I’ve typically done well with world/jazz/atypical music. So this “Jazz” CD seemed pretty cool, especially with some of artists on there (Herb Alpert, Lionel Hampton, Herbie Hancock…) Turns out this CD is just lame R&B, one of my two least favorite styles of music.

3. From Autumn to Ashes – Too Bad You’re Beautiful (2005): To be fair, this CD isn’t bad for what it is. They aren’t an untalented band. The problem is the style of music is one I absolutely abhor (and clearly didn’t glean based on the liner notes when I blindly purchased it). It’s thrash metal – not particularly good, but not particularly bad – but the style is just so not me that I couldn’t bring myself to find a single track I liked.

2. Ben Harper – Fight For Your Mind (1995): I remember a time where a few of my friends were going to see Ben Harper and Keller Williams in concert together and they were oohing and aahing over it. I had never heard much by either artist. But when I saw this Harper album for $.29, I figured, why not? I’ll tell you why not. This CD bores the ever-loving stuffing out of me. This whole album is just monotony incarnate. Don’t purchase this unless you are having trouble sleeping or if you want to study how to make your songwriting less interesting.

1. Ophelia’s Sweet Demise – Dark Ensemble (1998): You’d think with a harsh review like #2 that it couldn’t be beat. Well, it did, and in spades. Unlike #3, which had some talent if just not at all my style, or #2 which had at least okay musicianship, this CD has nothing. I bought it because it seemed like goth metal that I like (Nightwish, Epica…etc). Turns out it’s just three people (maybe more?) with little idea how to play their instruments, sing, or write music. I can overlook bad singing if I like the music (Ben Folds Five, Mountain Goats). I can overlook bad composition if it’s well-played or orchestrated (Vanessa Carlton), but this is neither. The composition is bland at best, the musicians aren’t particularly good. Hell, the instruments themselves are out of key in a couple of the tracks. I haven’t yet deleted it because I keep hoping one day, while coming up on random, a single track will leap out and at least let me see a glimmer as to why I should enjoy this music. So far, I’ve had no luck. This is in the running for one of the worst CDs I’ve ever bought for myself (it’s a tight race between this and 2010’s winner).

A Bunch of Disc Golf Stats

The title says it all, so if you’re not into disc golf, you can probably mosey along or look at older posts with adorable pictures of my kids.

 

Anyway, I’ve signed up for the Memorial, the first time I’ve ever played in this National Tour event. The actual layout of the tournament is both going to be a benefit and a detriment. 1) It’s open and probably windy. A few years ago, this would have been my bane, but that’s exactly what our Reno course is on a daily basis, so I’ve grown accustomed to it. The wind in particular could give me an advantage if it’s strong (and if I don’t have to make a crosswind up shot) because I’ve learned to play pretty consistently in heavy winds. However: 2) It’s long and at sea level. Half a year ago, length would have been something that didn’t bother me. I’m certainly no big-arm, but not a weenie either. However, in the last few months of playing, my distance inexplicably dropped off by about 50′ on my long drives. I’ve thought of a few possible reasons why, but debunked most of them. Cold? Well, a few of the tourneys were decently warm weather. My change in diet? I started that in June and didn’t start losing distance until September. Not practicing enough? I’ve NEVER practiced enough. Other stuff on my mind? Possibly, but I like to think I can shut that stuff out.

The tournament is doing something new this year (of which I am NOT a fan) – they are having a cut. So I am paying $200 for this tournament in entry fee alone and only guaranteeing myself 3 rounds of golf. That’s pretty lame, but what can you do? I’ll tell you what I can do, get in the top half. What would that take, you ask?

There are currently 84 pros signed up. So I have to come in at 42nd or better. How hard can that be? Turns out quite hard. If I go based on rating alone (I’m currently rated 963), I am sitting in T65 out of those 84. That’s bottom quarter, not top half. Now, my 963 rating is pretty low – it fell off drastically at the end of last year. So what happens if I use my strongest rating from last year (978)? That pulls my projected finish to a  top 60%. Good, but still not good enough, and that’s the highest my rating has ever been. So is it a lost cause? Will I be driving home the Saturday of the tourney?

Not quite. After all, I don’t have to have a full YEAR of that rating, just one single tourney. Looking at last year’s statistics for the Memorial, the person  at the cutline (my buddy John DeBizzle being the first one to miss this cut) averaged a rating of 987 per round. So fine, how many times have I ever averaged that for a tournament.

Once. In 2006.

Uh oh. However, in the last 14 months alone, I did come very close several times. I averaged 983 at a sea-level course I’d never played before, two rounds, 985 (3 round tourney) and 985.5 (at my home course, the open windy one, two rounds). One more good putt a round and all of those tournaments would be ‘qualifying’ ones. And in that 2006 tourney (which was my first ever pro cash), I averaged 990 in a 3-round tourney. So I certainly have it in me.

I’ve decided to break all this down now because as it gets closer to the tournament, I don’t want to be putting myself in that “I need this score” mindset – I want to just play my shots. But as it’s still 2 months away, I can do all the speculation I want. In short, I need to have the best single tournament of my life. Which means getting some of my distance back, keeping my good putting up (for the most part, putting was a plus for me this year), and getting the hell out of my head during the round. Also, getting good rest and not partying it up will be good tips.

But why stop at making the cut, why not go for the cashline? What would THAT take? Last year, 2 people with ratings lower than mine (3 if you use my 978 rating) cashed. That’s not great, but it’s certainly DOable. The average rating of last-cash? 996. Why, I’ve hit that score or better 15 times in my career (just never twice in the same tournament), and I’ve hit 990-995 an additional 9 times. Alls I’m saying is I have it in me if I can play my game and not let 100 things get in the way.

I’m sure I’ll have more of these analytical disc-golf stat type columns in the next months. After all, I’m a stat nerd.

So where do you all think I’ll end up? Will I make the cut? Think I’ll cash? Think I’ll DFL? Let’s get some hype going.

 

15 years in under 600 words

I started writing a letter to a very old friend who I had lost contact with shortly after high school. I wanted to catch her up to where I am at and how I got there, so I decided to catch her up on 15 years of my life, with the superfluous caveat that I would only allow myself 40 words per year. It was pretty tough, but somewhat rewarding. Interesting to see what sticks out in my memory (my first draft omitted that I graduated from college.) Here’s the result:

1998: spent much of year dressing poorly, being anti-social, and wishing I majored in writing – was put on wrong campus but became good friends with a few non-actors – dated a girl that went nuts – co-founded a multi-medium entertainment company Prometheus Productions

1999: finally started establishing friendship network and enjoying school a bit – wrote my first ever play that later debuted with Prometheus and won award – romantic scene barren – parents divorced after 33 years

2000: made resolution to date girl I’d liked for 2 years – got surprising amount of acting work –2nd play I wrote for Prometheus got award – spent semester in London, hated it (but Edinburgh was awesome) – on 12/28, started dating that girl

2001: dated girl entire year – graduated college and took road trips – Prometheus performed last shows – was introduced to disc golf – my acting showcase (to attract agents) interrupted by 9/11, lost interest in acting after that – got new job at office-type company

2002: worked way up company ladder, soon helmed broker department – moved out of folks’ house for first time – broke up with girl for several reasons – had first liquor at 23 years old, started to make up for lost time – started website

2003: got jealous that old girlfriend moved on, got back together with her – it didn’t last – by end of year, moved in with her (as friends) – worked fine for a few months but seeds were sown for problems

2004: social implosion as friends and exes started hooking up, dishonesty and bullshittery abounded – became pretty reclusive – moved in with longtime friend where stupidity commenced and pretended to live a college-esque existence – increased disc golf activity

2005: made NYC debut as a playwright with two shows – social life rebuilt painfully slowly – started playing disc golf professionally, made $0 – quit longtime office job over increased loathing of it, worked freelance theatre lighting by year’s end

2006: released comedy music CD – toured as disc golf pro for 5 weeks, finally cashed – moved for fourth time – met no-expectations pen pal on dating site OkCupid – freelance work dried up, got job in old industry but better company

2007: fell in love with supposed no-expectations girl after several visits – first full-length musical debuted in NYC at Fringe Festival to emphatic end-of-spectrum reviews, convinced boss at relatively new job to let me move to Nevada and keep job – headed west

2008: bought 2nd car – found out girlfriend was pregnant five days later, we got new larger apartment together – wedding plans discussed – tried to play as much disc golf as possible – finished my first novel – last year I got sleep

2009: son Landen born in January, had a “weddingish” ceremony for friends/family in May, had legal proceedings in August – after a two-month nightmare, bought our first house – spent year adapting to budgeting and selflessness with varied success

2010: Just existed happily for much of it – started small home projects – apparently played much disc golf, video games, and online poker – started reading much more frequently – company announced it could shut down close soon – panic ensued

2011: became an uncle for the first time – wife enrolled in school to get her degree – got promotion to A.V.P. at company which was now stable – welcomed second child Duncan – finished 2nd at tournament, highest finish as a pro

2012: started short story writing project with friend – entire family traveled east to visit good friends who lost their toddler – otherwise lived life contentedly as father, husband, homeowner, professional athlete, artist, and frequent sweet potato fry chef

My Coming-Out Post

I’ve lived with a secret for many years. Well, it’s not completely a secret – most of my friends know, but several key members of my family do not know. Of those folks who don’t know, several have probably guessed and the remainder probably don’t want to know. So here it is:

I am as close to an atheist as you can get without using that label fully. At a bare minimum, I am a staunch agnostic. How did I get here?

I was raised in a Christian Reformed household that attended church every Sunday. I did Sunday school early where I learned, it seems, about the story of Lazarus over and over again. I’m sure there was other stuff, but I swear they really drilled that story home. I was a part of the youth group, though our excursions seemed to be less vehemently religious than they perhaps should have been. My father was a long-serving deacon at our church, and my mother for a time was the secretary. My oldest brother was also extremely active in the church.

For the first 13 years of my life, going to church meant a time to sit in the pews and draw on the church bulletins. I became quite adept at making paper airplanes at this time because, well, what else was there to do? At 13, when most people made profession of faith, I did not. Something that surprises me now: my father never required me to. My oldest brother and sister had (I believe), but it was always left up to us. At the time, I didn’t do it – not because of some innate belief – but because I simply felt I wasn’t ready, whatever that meant.

At 13, we were no longer allowed to draw during the sermons, but had to listen. It was something I was rarely able to do, a young kid with a hyperactive imagination. I can remember maybe three sermons to this day from my entire life, and one was at a guest-church in NY that explained why it’s okay to hunt animals and not to kill people (“you don’t murder rabbits”). By the middle of high school it became very apparent that my father was going to require I continue to go to church as long as I lived under his roof. It’s not that I hated it, I just didn’t get much out of it, and though I could be doing something better with my Sunday mornings. So I decided to join the choir. I always enjoyed singing, and the songs, although mostly dour, were the bright spots of going to church.

I think this tricked me into thinking I was more religious than I really was. To some degree, I was looking forward to going to church every week, not really realizing it was, at that time, SOLELY because of being in the choir. I even asked a girl I had just started dating, “What is your view of religion?” At that time, I considered myself religious enough that the question even had to be broached. But as I think back on college, I can already recall me pulling away from the idea of religion in general. I was making up excuses and illnesses so I wouldn’t have to go to church (except on weeks where I had a song to sing).

By that time I’d done a couple of years at Rutgers, I feel like I would have classified myself as simply not religious, but really with no further explanation. It just wasn’t a part of my life. By the time I’d leave Rutgers, I would probably have declared myself as not at all spiritual. It was also around that time that I started claiming to be “against organized religion.”

That transition happened pretty gradually. I started to look at how a cult was defined. I always thought of it as a group of people with shared beliefs, usually extremely outlandish, who are funded at the expense of their own followers. Well, how was Christianity any different? Every week we passed around a collection plate specifically for the church itself, to keep it running. It was voluntary, sure, but there was a certain guilt that came with not putting money in.

And here’s where I started to come to the biggest realization in my life. Most of the major religions preach that theirs is the only one – that others are wrong. In Christianity, the first commandment is that nobody has any other gods before him, and the second is that nobody is allowed to worship any other images. Other major religions have something comparable. Well, the realization was that I could not, in all honesty, tell someone else that their belief was wrong. I mean, Christians believe that Jesus’ mother conceived without sex, and that he walked on water, and that 33 years of his life are inexplicably not mentioned. Those are all pretty tough pills to swallow. It makes some of the fringe religions’ claims seem not altogether outlandish (I’m looking at you, Scientology.)

In fact, there’s my point. Most people, religious or not, consider Scientology to be a sham. Its doctrine was written by a science-fiction author, after all. Just written by a dude. Well, the Bible, at least the parts written about Jesus, were written by dudes, none of whom were alive when Jesus was. So it’s not like they had direct interaction; they were getting second-hand, third-hand (who knows, eighth-hand?) information from people about his life. I once started a rumor in college about myself, and I had a good friend later accuse me of lying to her when I denied it. Stories get mangled. It happens.

I also couldn’t look past the rampant hatred, bigotry, and (in many cases) warfare that was initiated in the name of religious differences. I had so much trouble believing that something that true and pure could be so inherently destructive.

That’s where I stayed for years – against organized religion. Fast forward until maybe the last five-ten years, where I actively described myself as “agnostic”. I just didn’t know what the truth was. I was reluctant to buy any of the major religions, but I certainly didn’t deny that there COULD be a higher power out there, possibly even an unrealistically light-skinned Arab man with a beard.

Then, in the last year, a few things happened:

1) I watched the movie “Religulous”. I’m no fan of Bill Maher (in addition to being someone whose convictions get in the way too severely to get his point across, he’s not at all funny), but this movie was an eye-opener. Basically, he did all the research that I’d wanted to do. It was interesting to see the actual religious fanatics not having answers to some of the simpler questions he asked about their religion. But where it really struck me was when he compared the major tenets of Jesus’ story to the religions that preceded Christianity (Horus and/or Osiris if my memory serves me correctly, and even someone from Norse mythology). I mean, these parallels are far too similar to chalk off as coincidence. It really really seems like people lifted “facts” straight from pre-existing religions, kinda like how the Romans just stole Greek gods and renamed them.

2) I had a visit from my father and stepmother, very devout Christians. It was an enjoyable time, although I did have to roll my eyes when they denied global warming, and had to actually speak up when they condemned homosexuality (“The real problem I have is when they want to adopt a child. I mean, what chance does that child have?” I brought up the divorce rates among straight folk and how in my opinion that would be harder for a child to grow up with.) But my stepmother asked Ashley if in the four years I’d been here we’d found a church yet. I don’t know whether that means that they honestly thought I was still religious enough to attend a church, or that she was putting out a feeler to see what our reaction would be. Ashley gave a non-committal answer and it wasn’t brought up again.

But this interchange was part of the reason for this blog post. I don’t want this to be a secret anymore. I’m not religious. I won’t be raising my kids as religious. That does NOT mean that I will raise them necessarily to forsake religion. If they get older and ask about it, I have no problems if they want to go out in the world and amass information about whatever they want. And I will instill them with several of the moral compasses that most religions institute (not killing people is pretty universal). I will, however, actively dissuade them from making hateful social choices for any reason  – whether religiously-based or not. I will not tolerate homophobia, racism, disdain of the poor… etc. Tolerance is preached in so many religious sects but practiced in so few. It will be a hallmark of my boys’ upbringing.

3) I’ve been to recent ceremonies where religion trumped the actual event. Weddings, funerals, even reunions. I’ve been to them all where I heard more ‘praise Jesus’ and ‘he is good’ than I heard mention of the people getting married, the ones who passed, the people who were meeting… It’s conceited and, frankly, bullshit. To have a ceremony in the tradition of a religion I have no problem with. Where I have a problem is when it becomes a billboard for religion rather than a template from which to work. One ceremony saw the pastor use the time to basically try to convert any non-believers to Christianity. That has NO part in the ceremony! Talk about the people who were the cause of this ceremony, you self-involved douche!

 

So where does that leave me, and why am I not an atheist? What am I, exactly? First, here is why I’m not an agnostic in the sense that most people perceive (but I think, by definition, I am a perfect agnostic):

I don’t actively believe that there is a god. I think most people’s definition of agnosticism ends there – they feel like agnostics could be swayed into some of the facets and stories of Christianity (or Buddhism or Judaism) even if they do not necessarily think there may be a bearded guy who created everything. Me? I have a very active disbelief in all religious teachings. Christianity is the whipping-boy because it’s the one I know the most about, but it holds true for all. I do not believe that a mythical bored man created everything in six days, I do not believe someone turned water into wine, I do not believe in an immaculate conception, I do not believe there is a Heaven where winged people play harps, I do not believe there is a burning place of damnation for all non-believers. These are absolutes in my mind: just as I believe that Earth is round, I believe that Christianity is in all ways fake. I believe in some of the ETHICS of Christianity (you shouldn’t murder, cheat on your wife, etc) but none of the rest of it. I also fully believe that there isn’t a Mohammad that judges everyone, just as there is no Flying Spaghetti Monster, just as there is no spaceship behind the comet. I think all the religions that are widely practiced today have it wrong, and it’s egotistical of people to say they have it all figured out.

However, on to why I will not say I’m atheist: just as it is wrong for humans to say they figured out the mysteries of life through religion, it’s equally pompous to say that about science as well. I mean, as few as 1000 years ago, scientists SWORE the Earth was flat. As recent as 50 years ago, scientists thought there could be aliens on Mars. The fact is humans are wrong – even our experts – with spectacular frequency. So when all life – the incomprehensive complexity of, say, the human body – is said to be traced to a bunch of matter banging all over the place (a term I used in one of my stories), that’s an equally tough pill to swallow. The sheer amount of coincidences needed to brew the perfect storm of matter that caused us to exist borders on ludicrous. Of course, there are facts POINTING this direction (we can calculate that things are expanding, so it can be extrapolated what would happen if you rewound the tape), but it is NOT a fact. It is a very very sound theory. See, science is based on repeatable results, and it has a definite leg-up on religion in terms of explaining things, but it is not absolute and I don’t feel it can be considered “fact”.

Science, to me, is full of really really great explanations that I will repeat as my innate beliefs, but I will not say that The Big Bang Theory is an absolute fact. It’s just 99.9996% more likely than some dude with time to kill creating the heavens and the earth. I will also not rule out that there is something else out there, something otherworldly that perhaps caused some or all of existence to be, or even some otherworld being that doesn’t do anything, (s)he just hangs around and checks out what people are doing. I will say that this hypothetical being isn’t Jesus, and it’s not Buddha, and it’s not Zeus, but I will not say that there is a 0% chance that it exists. And that is what is needed to be an atheist. Douglas Adams put what atheism is best: “I really do not believe that there is a god; in fact, I am convinced that there is not a god (a subtle difference). I see not a shred of evidence to suggest that there is one … etc., etc. It’s easier to say that I am a radical atheist, just to signal that I really mean it, have thought about it a great deal, and that it’s an opinion I hold seriously.” I’m not quite there yet. I don’t believe that god as Christians know it exists, nor any of the majors, but I’m not ready to say that there is no possible unearthly being.

I feel compelled to add something of a post-script. I believe religions are wrong, but I don’t begrudge or belittle anyone who disagrees with my stance. Just as I was never able to tell anyone of a different religion that they were wrong, I still can’t seem to do the same thing with religious people. I don’t try to convert religious people, just as I *hope* (in vain) that they won’t try to convert me, and I’m certain that they wouldn’t be able to if they tried. We coexist. I understand historically the importance of religion, and in quite a number of people, they lead very virtuous, giving lives because of it. I can respect that. Just as I’d hope religious people would respect my beliefs, which are as steadfast as theirs.

My Trip East – Part 1

This is going to be a several-part series about my unexpected trip east. It was originally just going to be about my diet (which I’ve made a few concessions on), but I figured I had to get more involved. There will be subsequent parts about my diet and about all the crazy stupid things that happened to us, but first, a moment to talk about why I left.

A very good friend of mine, Jason Marshall, and his wife Jen lost their 15-month old son Gavin a week ago. Gavin was born with congenital nephrotic syndrome, a very rare genetic disorder that causes his kidneys to leak out proteins and other nutrients.  While I never looked, I was told the mortality rate of this extremely rare condition was quite high (more than 50%?) So I don’t think anyone would ultimately say it was totally unexpected that he passed, but what made it most surprising was the timing.

The first year of this condition is the hardest, and he made it through more or less unscathed. Despite having to have frequent treatments (at first they were daily and then every other day, for four hours, in the hospital.) After many months, they were able to transition to home treatments, but any sort of complication (such as a low-grade fever) meant they had to go back to the hospital, and it was usually for several days or a week or more. However, after a month-long battle at the hospital a few months ago, Gavin had shown signs of doing the best he’d done – gaining weight, being in great health. Jen had recently taken a video of Gavin walking (with the assistance of holding onto things) ALL around the room. Then, last Thursday, he simply stopped breathing. Despite the valiant effort of the EMTs, they could not bring him back.

I heard this news at around 7:30 am last Thursday. By noon, I had already made plans for the whole family to head over to New Jersey and then Connecticut to be there for Jay and Jen. Now, I’m not a godparent to Gavin or anything, but I always felt there was an extra-special kinship that the Marshall family and ours shared, despite the kids never having met. Jay has probably spent more on cool onesies and gadgets for Duncan and Landen than we have, and I was fortunate enough to be able to give parenting advice here and there for Gavin (I was one of the first of Jay’s friends to be a father). So it was a no-brainer for me to be there.

Let me tell you about Gavin. In 15 months, he was able to touch more lives positively than most people strive to in a lifetime. He was loved like few others out there, and he loved with such amazing strength right back. He had a smile that melted hearts, and they melted often as he smiled all the time. There were a few things about Gavin I noticed in the two times I’d been fortunate enough to meet him. He was trusting, loving, and incredibly bright. He taught those around him so many things: how to fight, how to scooch, and how to love. But the one thing he taught over all else was how to smile amid adversity. His life was about as challenging as you could get for a child of any age, yet you’d be hard pressed to find a photo of him not grinning ear to ear. In fact, among the photos at the wake was one where someone had held up a clear drum-head, and Gavin put his mouth up to it and blew, puffing out his cheeks. It is one of the greatest photos I’ve ever seen.

As I said, I was lucky enough to meet him twice. Once when he was probably less than 3 months old. He slept for nearly all of the few hours I was at Jay’s house, though I did get to pick him up a few times when he eventually awoke. He was so light at the time, yet I still felt like I was holding not just a baby, but a whole person. The seeds for his glowing personality were already there. But it was the last trip I’ll always remember.

Last month I had to go east for work. I arranged it so I’d have a disc golf tournament to go to in CT. It was an excuse to try to get up to see Jay and Jen and Gavin. It became immediately apparent though that the plans just didn’t line up – Gavin was basically confined to his house on Saturdays for his treatment, and I had to be back in Jersey by 7 for another obligation. But I was driven at the time to see them for reasons I didn’t know then. I borrowed a car and woke up at 7:30 to drive 3 hours up to see them when he got up from his nap. Before I  drove down 2 hours to practice at the disc golf course I would have at tournament, I squeezed in maybe 3 hours of hanging out. In all, I drove 5 hours out of my way. But I was resolute in my desire to go. While there, I got to witness firsthand the magic that is Gavin. I took some photos with him and of him playing with a friend’s 4-month-old. I got to watch him perfect the art of forward-scooching. I took him on a walk, just him-and-me, to the pond in the backyard, where we talked about fishing. And most dear to me, I got to play a simple game of rolling a ball back and forth with him for more than 5 minutes. At the time, I thought it was simply really cool. Now I think it’s one of the coolest thing I’ve done in a long time.

It’s not just me. The scope of people that Gavin affected is far-reaching. I would estimate there were several hundred people who filed in and out through the 4-hour ceremony. Family, friends, neighbors, and friends-of-friends. Perhaps the most touching was the stream of nurses and doctors who visited. I had heard that many nurses had stopped by, and those that weren’t there were covering other nurses’ shifts so more could come. I don’t know the tally, but I do know these people were simply doing their JOB and they fell in love with Gavin and had to pay a final visit. The nephrologist (sp?) came by too, and she had just retired two weeks previous. If one of my clients passed, I doubt I’d even know. When Gavin passed, everyone knew, and everyone cared more than they might have thought. I know I’ve cried more tears this week than I have in the last 5 years put together.

I’d met Gavin twice in fifteen months. In that time, I’ve not seen my mother at all, nor one of my brothers. I’d only seem my twin brother once. There was something special about Gavin, and I feel honored to have ever met him. I know many there at that wake had never had the pleasure.

Gavin Robert Marshall, rest in peace little buddy. Your smile has made – and will continue to make – countless people smile in return.

I’m a Prognosticator

On a chat board for disc golf, I just stumbled on this post I had made on April 28, 2005:

“Fats is deliberating “pulling a Mullet” and just up and moving in about a year to some part of the country and completely restarting his life.  Any suggestion of areas?  (Do NOT include your own city/state, because if Fats follows through with actually leaving, he is likely going to want to know nobody in the area – an actual restart)”

I have no recollection of ever posting that, nor did I know I had ever thought about moving anywhere. I guess it made sense; I knew I was quitting my job around that time, but to move across country where I didn’t know anyone? That would have been nuts.

Well, it turns out my guess was exactly right, even down to “pulling a Mitch” – moving for a girl. I just was wrong about the timeframe. I left on Halloween of 2007. Though it was a spur-of-the-moment idea. I think from the time I spoke with my boss to the time I left in my car was less than 6 weeks if memory serves me.

Who knew I knew? I didn’t.

Best of 2011 – Books

Alas, the final episode of my 4-part Series.  See here for Worst Music, Best Music, and Worst Books.  Let’s finish this strong!

7. Earth: The Book – The Daily Show Staff:  Quite frankly, this was an improvement over America: The Book, which I felt was funny in parts but too juvenile, even for me.  The science jokes were very intelligent and definitely chuckle-worthy if you got the references.  This one was funny almost the whole way through.

6. The Pluto Files – Neil deGrasse Tyson:  A history of Pluto, including (and focusing on) Pluto’s “fall from grace,” the only reason this isn’t higher is the caliber of the books I read this year.  I had wanted to read this since I saw the inimitable Mr. deGrasse Tyson appear on The Daily Show a few years ago, advertising it.  What I never quite realized was how much NdGT had to do directly with Pluto’s seeming demotion.  I, for one, agree, but then again, that man is so likeable he could lobby to eat a penguin alive and I’d probably agree.  A very fascinating read.

5. Timeline – Michael Chrichton: I’ve read an awful lot of Chrichton since moving to Reno (thank you Grassroots Books!) and this was one of his best.  Time travel stories always capture my fancy, and this one being so far in the past gave me a little something different. Again, his research that goes into his books never ceases to amaze me.  I think the major detractor of this book was simply how many times the protagonists were in “well, we’re done now” situations only to be saved at the last possible moment.  I had just wanted them to be killed just for difference sake.  But really, this was a fun romp from start to finish.

4. Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie: I liked this book far more than I thought I would.  I had seen the movie version of it back in middle school or grade school, but remembered nothing about it.  When I saw it for $1, I figured, why not?  And it was just an enjoyable old-school caper.  It’s actually a shame that this is the only pre-1940 book that made my best-of-list, but I imagine if this had been a Top 10 list instead, it might include Jules Verne’s “The Chase for the Golden Meteor” and H.G. Wells’ “Island of Dr. Moreau.”  I’m just glad I didn’t try to figure it out on my own, because I would have been hopelessly wrong.

3. Bad Astronomy – Phil Plait: For the most part, I really like Phil Plait (and his Bad Astronomy blog), even if he didn’t respond to my repeated question I’ve emailed him about the Big Bang Theory.  My only real gripes are that his skepticism shows a bit of favoritism.  And while I agree with him about things like the anti-vax movement, he tends to be much less skeptical when a scientist or astronomer makes some new untested discovery than when something he doesn’t believe in makes a proclamation.  Anyway, that aside, this book is great.  It debunks common misconceptions about astronomy, a few of which I (an avid astronomy fan) even fell prey to.  For instance, did you know you can stand eggs on their end any day of the year?  Yup.  I did it.  Crazy.  Anyway, read this book if you’re not knowledgeable about astronomy, or even if you think you might be.  It might open up your eyes a bit.

2. Sphere – Michael Crichton:  MC’s second entry this year, Sphere was one of the few books that genuinely creeped me out.  I’ve read thrillers that are supposed to be scary, but really just leave me thinking, “If this were a movie, it’d probably be scary.”  But [spoiler alert] when the crazy jellyfish start doing boring through the one scientist, and nobody had any real clue why, it really just sent a shiver through me.  The movie does a decent job of relating to the book, but the book is definitely better (as just about every book is, except for Apollo 13 – just watch the movie.)  This is my favorite MC book, though The Lost World would come close.

1. Shades of Grey – Jasper Fforde: I’m going to be honest here: I have no real idea why this book is #1 on my list.  I spent most of the book not having a clue what was going on.  Fforde is great at setting up worlds that are similar to, but drastically different from, our own.  And he states these differences up front to some degree.  In the Thursday Next books, he lets you know that it’s a world where literature is next to godliness.  In “Shades of Grey”, he puts you in a world of some crazy color heirarchy but never once explains any of it, except anecdotally throughout the book.  He doesn’t explain why swans are so dangerous.  He makes reference to things that seem commonplace, but without context (and he doesn’t give you any), you have no real understanding of how any of it ties together.  Yet I found myself really digging what happens to the main characters, and really excited for the 2nd installment (it will be a 3-part series if the back cover is to be believed).  So yeah, this is an excellent book, I am just not sure who I can recommend it to.

 

I’m falling apart

No, I don’t mean metaphorically or emotionally.  I’m solid as a rather squishy rock there.  I mean as close to literally as you can get without being literally.  My body is not the beacon of strength it once was.  I have had a bad back for a while, including having a herniation, so I’m used to a little pain.  And whenever I get a back flare up, I know what to expect.

But now all the sudden other parts of my body are deciding to get in on the action.  Most notably, the TOP/outside of my right foot greeted me this morning with extreme pain.  It hurts put much pressure on it.  What’s weirdest is that I have no idea how this happened.  It started to hurt last night gradually, culminating in this morning’s unpleasant greeting.  Some ibuprofen helps quite a bit, but seriously?

Then, I had played my first round of disc golf on Tuesday (to prepare for this Saturday’s tournament on my home turf).  It was only my second or third round since August.  So right shoulder, trap, and upper back pain?  Yeah, expected.  But left shoulder and neck?  That was a bonus.

Add to that a tweak of my back from last weekend which is still healing and a stubbed left toe from last night.  Bear in mind, I have two days to prepare for a tournament in weather that MIGHT reach 40 if I’m lucky.  This was supposed to be my first PDGA win.  Now I’m not so sure.  I think if I finish, I’ll be pretty happy.

Within a week?

Today’s OB appointment came at a crucial time.  Our OB (who we love) goes away tomorrow for 5 days.  It’s all the more crucial because, when I asked “What do you think the odds are of him making it that long?” she replied “It’s going to be close.”  She’ll be back in the office on Tuesday morning.  And she is on call that Wednesday night (a week from today).  If the baby is not yet born by Wed, the game plan is to take steps on our Wednesday appointment to get labor going, and she’s it being VERY probable the baby would be born by Wed night.

Of course, we learned from Landen’s birth that what she thinks will happen and what actually will happen are two very different things.  I reread some of my blogs from the time, and it showed that her expert opinion can also be wrong.  I had predicted a few days ago that it would be the 12th (9 days before the due date, just like Landen).  I could be very right.  😉  Really, like every other sane parent says, I want the baby and mom to be healthy.  But if he can just hold off one more week, we’re REALLY appreciate it.

In other news… um, there really isn’t other news.  We’re likely within a week of having a baby.  Eeesh.

Top 10 Least-Funny Famous People

I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, and while watching Colin Quinn suffer on Conan last night, grabbing at straws to attempt to get laughs, I decided the time was right.   It’s pretty self-explanatory: people who are supposed to be funny who just aren’t.  What do you think of the list?  Agree?  Someone I left off?

10.  Jason Schwartzman – He might only be on this list because I haven’t ever liked any of the movies he’s been in.  That’s got to be partially his fault, though.

9.  Cheri Oteri – She was almost exempt from this list because I feared she wasn’t relevant enough anymore to include on the list.  But her exceptionally forced characters and “I’M LOUD SO I’M FUNNY” shtick was glaring enough to stick her on the list, even if not as high as she might have been 5 years ago.

8.  Ben Stiller – More than probably any other actor, he bothers me.  He’s fashioned a career out of either being a) a douchebag or b) the character who everyone is a douchebag to.  That sort of awkward insult/humiliation humor is tired and never funny.  He’s only not higher on the list because of Tropic Thunder, and even that was almost entirely because of Robert Downey Jr.

7.  Seth Rogan – Not to be confused with Joe Rogan, who occasionally scrapes a laugh out of me, Seth is an overexposed actor who, in small doses, might have enough charm to escape the list.  However, with 23498065 movies where he plays the exact same character, who might be funny to people already high, but not at all funny to people with intact senses of humor.

6.  Jerry Seinfeld – Some of you may be surprised that he’s not higher on this list, due largely to my abhorrence of the TV show.  Well, that’ll put into perspective how unfunny I think the last five people are.  Anyone who made their career out of pointing to something banal and saying “What is up with that?” should never have made it further than a curtain-jerker at Topeka’s second-rate comedy clubs.

5.  Jay Leno – His show has a slew of funny writers on it, yet he can ruin each and every joke he gets with his patented delivery, which seems to hinge largely on using awkward inflection to ruin jokes.  He might not have cracked the Top 10 a few years ago, but after he or NBC (or both) decided he was better than Conan, he gets bitch-slapped down here.

4.  Colin Quinn – I am having trouble remembering anything that he has ever said that made me laugh.  Ever.  This guy makes Mencia seem witty.

3.  Daniel Tosh – The only thing unfunnier than his stand-up show is his desperate attempts to garner laughs with Tosh.0.  I mean, seriously, when Chris Hardwick, who does the same thing on G4’s “Web Soup”, seem downright perfect with his comedy, you know something is wrong.  Then again, I happen to think Chris Hardwick was funny even in Singled Out.  And especially his cameo here.

2.  Jimmy Fallon – He wasn’t funny in Saturday Night Live, when he spent the majority of his time breaking character and giggling.  Heck, he wasn’t funny when he wasn’t spoiling scenes.  He wasn’t funny hosting the Emmys.  He isn’t funny in those credit card commercials.  And he isn’t funny in his TV show.  The worst part is he seems to think he is.  I daresay he’s probably his biggest fan.

1.  Jonah Hill – Please please please please please please please please please please please please stop putting him in movies.

 

honorable mentions: Ashton Kutcher, Will Farrell, The Rock, Lisa Lampanelli (really most of the “comedians” on the Comedy Central roasts), Norm McDonald, any minority comedian who spends 90% of their set making jokes about being black/Hispanic, Jewish/gay/fat…

Random Thoughts Going Into Worlds

With my first pro Worlds around the corner, I’ve been doing some thinking (for a change of pace.)  In no particular order:

– The Masters division is an age-protected division.  You have to be between 40-50 to play in it.  People gripe about this because someone who is 41 really has no disadvantage over someone who is 38, but they get to play in an “easier” division.  So many 40+ guys defend it saying it’s not about the age, it’s about playing with a body that is breaking down, and having family to take care of, and important jobs, and not being able to make disc golf the priority it once was.  Well, I have a herniated disc and problems in my neck and back, I have a family that I take quite seriously, and I’m the sole breadwinner in the house right now.  Can I play Masters too?

– I’ve been having dreams about disc golf, not surprisingly.  Yesterday was the second one about Worlds specifically.  I ended up throwing one hole for practice and did a shot I would never do in a tournament.  It worked out well.  I wonder if that’s telling me something.

– In talking with some guys at dubs yesterday, one guy jokingly picked me to win it all, and the other guy said I’ll be “top 100 for sure.”  I’m flattered everyone else has such confidence in my game.  Right now I’m rated T145 out of 180.  Obviously, I’ve got my work cut out for me to hit top 100.  If I did that, I would be ecstatic.

– It is four rounds of 27 holes, then another semi-final round for the top ~64 players in pro.  Right now there are 55 players who are 1000+ rated, and another 21 who are 990+.  I am 956, which means those 990 guys should beat me by 4-5 strokes a round.  So I figure in order to make the cut, I need to throw 4 rounds of 1000-rated golf, which would be pretty amazing golf for me.

– I only have 9 1000+ rated rounds ever, and the most I’ve ever had in a tournament is 2.  My other two rounds in that tournament were 949 and 953.

– I’ve only played two of the courses once each.  I played about six holes of a third course and walked off.  I’ve never played the fourth course.  I go down tomorrow, will hopefully play one round at all 4 courses over the next three days.  It isn’t much, but at least I won’t be playing totally blind.  The two I played – I didn’t play particularly well.

– I am predicting a finish in 125th place.

– Someone brought up score.  The course par will be 341.  I think that’s actually a “tough” par because Delaveaga is listed as 81, and earlier this year an 81 was an 977 rated round.  Watching the videos, there was a number of holes where the demonstrators said “You should be happy if you get a 3 on this hole.”  If I can end up around par, I’d be thrilled.

– This is my first Worlds since 2005.  And I’m pretty happy that Flick will be there.  He was one of the guys who went out in 2005 and played in Arizona.  It’ll be good to see him again.  And we have the exact same rating, so DOLLAHZ IS ON!

– This will be my first tournament with glasses.  There isn’t much change in vision, but there is the fear that they’ll suddenly fling off my face.  If they become a distraction, they’re coming off.

– I’ve been putting “tired” lately, not committing to them, and consequently I’m missing low and/or left.  Before almost all of my tester putts (20-40′) I’ve been saying “COMMIT” to myself.  My putting has been better, but not spectacular.  Hopefully I don’t need the verbal reminder, but I can’t play tired.  Which will be a challenge with those 27-hole rounds.

That’s it.  BRING IT ON!

The Lyrics of Darnielle

For a long time, I’ve told myself I would keep a list of really cool lyrics and quotes that I like.  I think I wrote down two and forgot about it.  So recently I have been on a Mountain Goats kick and I’ve re-realized what I’ve known for a while: he is a pretty awesome lyricist.  So I combed through his songs and started jotting down quotes of his that I liked.  When I was done with his library of work, I had 60 quotes.  I’m not going to post them all, because not even my most ardent follower (read: me) would read all those.  But I picked my favorites of the favorites.  I’m just gonna list ’em.  Enjoy.

 

“No emotion that’s worth having could call my heart its home.”
– Autoclave

 

“When you punish a person for dreaming his dream,
don’t expect him to thank or forgive you.”
– The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton

 

“See the young man who dwells inside his body like an uninvited guest.”
– Birth of Serpents

 

“I started reading the Bible –
I Corinthians 13 –
where Paul talks all about love,
but I don’t know what he means
because he says that love is kind.
That hasn’t been my experience.
So I set the Bible on the kitchen table
and yelled at it until I was unable.
Yeah, I’m talking to inanimate objects over you.”
– The Doll Song

 

“Hang on to your dreams ’til someone beats them out of you.”
– From TG & Y

 

“Our love is like Jesus, but worse:
though you seal the cave up where you’ve lain its body,
it rises,
it rises.”
– Going to Marrakesh

 

“I loved you so much it was making me sick.”
– Going to Scotland

 

“Held under these smothering waves
by your strong and thick-veined hand,
but one of these days I’m going to wriggle up on dry land.”
– Hast Thou Considered the Tetrapod

 

“I am not this body
that imprisons me.”
– Isaiah 45:23

 

“Oh would that you would kiss me
with the kisses of your mouth,
’cause your mouth is sweeter than wine
and has a more complicated history than the American south.”
– New Chevrolet in Flames

 

“I know that one of us, I’m not saying who,
has got rocks in her head.”
– Orange Ball of Hate

 

“Our conversations are like minefields:
no one’s found a safe way through one yet.”
– Southwood Plantation Road

 

“There’s a hole in my chest in the spot that you wormed out through.”
– Standard Bitter Love Song #6

 

“I am going to make it through this year if it kills me.”
– This Year

 

“One hopes that the destroyers aspiring to extinguish us
will suffer conciliatory remorse at the sight of their own fantastic success.”
– Two Thousand Seasons

Being a Homeowner

I was a homeowner the day I signed a contract and moved into my house.  But I haven’t actually been a HOMEOWNER in that I maintain a home.  I live in one, and assume the weeds will pull themselves.  Well, with Ash getting more pregnant daily and soon to be out of commission in terms of larger-scale projects, I’ve decided to kick my own ass and get things done.  First up was cleaning the office last night, and organizing our loose-leaf recipes into a book.  It’s a start, and it’s not the most daunting part (the backyard and front yard would take that cake), but it’s a start.

I think I’m going to use my new stud-finder to hang some stuff up today.  And as soon as Cold #49206 goes away, I’ll hopefully have a bit more energy to do other stuff.  Baby steps.

My online vow

Inspire by Susan’s online vow of intent, I am making a public vow that I’m not going to have alcohol or soda until the end of May as an experiment (with the only exception being an energy drink on mornings of disc golf tournaments).  Going east, and even trying to eat healthier, I still felt kinda run down a few days, particularly after drinking liquor – even in moderation.  I had had more soda than normal, so that might have been it.

So I want to give it 6 weeks to see if I feel better.  No Dew, no Pibb, no Vodka, no wine.  I don’t think it’s a matter of being able to do it or not.  Let’s see if it helps my body feel better in general.  If it does, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m going to give up both permanently, but it’s certainly going to make me rethink doing anything silly more than occasionally.

March Resolutions

Like most things in my life, once one thing starts up, I usually embark on a dozen.  I’ll go through long stretches where I have time (and desire) to play 1000 games of All Star Baseball 2005 (yes, I still play that game), and then other times when I don’t have time to breath.  I think I’ll soon be transitioning from the former to the latter.

First off, we expecting #2, affectionately named Peanut.  Now, this seems like a huge deal, and don’t get me wrong, it is, but having done it all before, both Ash and I find that there’s not much to DO about it right now.  I mean, he or she is just kinda gestating for a while, and Ashley is getting less and less comfortable, but our lifestyles only need minor tweaks right now.

So on top of that, I’m finally getting sick of not having a career in writing.  So I’ve signed up for an online class in writing and getting your work published, and what’s more I have a short meeting set up with an agent who describes on his website that he’s looking for humor writing, both in fiction and non-fiction.  What will I show him?  My finally revised novel!  Yes, the one I started in 1996.  It’s undergone many rewrites in the past, but 6 months ago I began some pretty serious cleaving of the words.  I trimmed it from 95k+ words to 82k+, almost 700 of which were adverbs.  I also took out 1,400 commas.  That tells you how unnecessarily convoluted the writing was.  Now it’s necessarily convoluted.  Either way, I’m excited about this prospect.

With the new one on the way, we also have about three dozen house projects (ranging from buying a light bulb for the fridge to completely overhauling the guest bedroom and setting up Landen with a new room).  The outside needs work and we’ve neglected it enough.

Add to the top of that that I’m planning on playing two of the biggest disc golf events of the year this year (Worlds, which is the biggest, and an NT, which is in the top 10), and I need to get better and more in shape to do so, and you’ve got a recipe for a busy time.

All in all, though, I gotta say I’m pretty excited about the prospects this year.  I won’t be as diligent in updating as Susan’s new blog, but I’ll do what I can.  Who knows, maybe some day I’ll get over to the other blog and put some new Landen pics up there.  He’s a cutie.

Letter to Everyone

Dear Website, Blog, and My Ardent Followers (both of you),

I am sorry for having utterly neglected you.  From the date of my last post (2/4) until present, I’ve been sidetracked at every turn.  Work has bombarded me in impressive fashion, my health has been, at best, a roller-coaster in 2011, and I’ve tried to turn my attentions elsewhere at times (trying to finish revising my damn novel, for starters.)  Our personal life has also become pretty time consuming, as we have the cutest kid ever and we really like hanging out with him.  While I can’t guarantee any better results in the near future, I can at least declare that I wish I had more time and energy to keep up with it.

I pray for good news from work so I will have time to breathe.

Sincerely,

Me

Questioning the Big Bang

Here’s an interesting one – I’m going to include an email verbatim that I wrote to Phil Plait, awesome astronomer guy, after reading one of his books.  The Big Bang Theory seems so counterintuitive–that things accelerate faster as they go on–that I had trouble relating to it – I had nothing to compare it to.  On Earth if things explode, they eventually LOSE acceleration (due to friction, air resistance, etc…)

At the time, I had come up with an alternative hypothesis.  As I say in the email, I’m sure I’m not the first to think of it, but based on my rudimentary knowledge of astronomy, I couldn’t figure out WHY it was impossible, assuming that someone had refuted it along the way.  It still seems to be a feasible explanation to me.  I never got a response.  I post it now with the original dates so that, if someone ever makes a mint in the astronomy community (ha!) on this new theory, I can try to sue them for a piece of that.

Rereading it today, it isn’t the clearest, and there are typos, but forgive me.  Thoughts?

Question about universal expansion

Saturday, October 24, 2009 11:06 PM

I am a very new fan of the Bad Astronomy blog, as well as someone who just finished Death From the Skies (which I enjoyed a great deal), and I will start by apologizing for what I fear will become a painfully long email.  After all, I’m asking only one question.  (I hope you’re the type who somehow finds time to slog through, and respond to, your emails.)

I had a thought that I’m assured has been conceived before, but I can’t for the life of me figure out why it couldn’t be possible.  I’m not saying I’m the next Poe (an unlikely source from whom a huge leap in astronomy comes – after all I’m a comedy writer with a degree in acting), but it’s a question I’ve love disproved nonetheless if it’s already been theorized and debunked by people paid to have a much stronger grasp of this stuff than I do.

In reading the chapter about universal expansion and the Big Bang, the idea that the other two theories (of the Big Collapse and of uniform expansion) were discredited once it was determined that the acceleration rate of, well, everything is increasing sorta blew my mind.  I had trouble wrapping my head around it.  The only way I could possibly envision increased acceleration to nothingness was to think of the universe as an endless, frictionless volcano and the Big Bang basically dropped all matter on its slopes, to forever accelerate.  It’s the only way I could justify acceleration like that.

So [hopefully not mincing words/ideas] you went on to say the generally accepted theory is that the universe is expanding increasingly rapidly (as is attested by the fact that all matter is moving away from us.)  And it’s moving in all directions into nothingness.  Everything will eventually dissolve beyond the shrinking universal horizon (which I believe I’ve been able to wrap my head around… figuratively.)  It all goes ad infinitum towards nothing in particular.

Now here’s where I have a problem.  I can’t just accept acceleration continuing forever.  It strikes me as… – not pointless, that’s not what I’m looking for.  But certainly weird.

Is it possible (six paragraphs in and I finally get to the question) that there could be some very very big mass (far bigger than anything we’ve comprehended) whose gravity is so big it caused the Big Bang?  So way over to our right (and this made much more sense when I could act it out with my hands to my wife) we have this super-gravitational orange (it could be something solid or just a really really freakybig black hole – the uberhole.)  It’s very very far away (well beyond the universal horizon and therefore out of our view) and its gravity is so strong that ultimately it just saps all the matter from the infinitesimal spot that was the Big Bang beginning.  It explodes uniformly (like a circle that continues to increase), but because of the intense gravity of the superorange, all matter makes a pretty quick beeline towards the superorange.

Since the explosion is a “normal” explosion, some matter is ejected backwards and has to make a swooping motion to get to this orange, because the force of the explosion it is able to (on a galactic scale) briefly go in the opposite direction – quite a strong blast.  Imagine a firework blowing up sideways on a world with no air friction but strong gravity, and you sorta get my model [thanks go to my wife who got out of bed to give me the example.]  This could arc so high and wide that, from our vantage point, the backwards and perpendicular ejecta wouldn’t even be visible because it’d be so far to our side or, more likely, behind us (temporally as well as physically.)  Let’s say we were on the side of the explosion that is at least on the orange-half side of the explosion.  We’re moving towards the uberorange, and accelerating as it happens.  That’s something that makes sense to me – there’s something sucking us in, that’s why we continually increase our speed.  (Though, I should add, it would also seem to work if we were at the direct opposite side of the explosion, and we were literally the last possibly piece of matter still getting sucked into the uberorange – everything would still be moving away from us as it all would have gotten a head start into the overwhelming gravity.)
This would also explain why everything is moving away from us (using the example that we were on the orange-side of the orange side of the explosion): anything in front of us is accelerating faster than us, and anything behind us is accelerating slower, so from our perspective, it would also move away from us like a slow runner would look to us in our car – moving towards us but so slowly it’s losing distance – if that makes sense.  Anything else to the side or backside of the explosion is too far away (or too slow) to be within our universal horizon.  And the matter that happens to be at the EXACT same distance to the uberorange is just so rare and sparse that it constitutes, fractionally, basically a zero.  After all, space is mostly filled with not stars/planets/”stuff”.

Now I’m positive the number of people who have been considering universal expansion is staggeringly big, so this has to have been thought of before; that we are actually all traveling TO a single point (other than to the starting point, which is illustrated in a theory whose name I forget, but it’s the Big Collapse where the gravity of the universe is great enough to suck it back to the initial Bang.)  Basically, it would put something vastly bigger than any SMBH that we’ve conceived out there that provides an impetus for sudden expansion and explain the increased acceleration and well as why we can’t see anything beyond the universal horizon, because what lurks there could be truly scary.

So I suppose the question twofold: a) has this been theorized and b) if so, why was it shot down?  My inconceivably limited knowledge of the universe, astronomy, and quantum physics can’t figure out the hole in my admittedly ill-thought out hypothesis that I came up with tonight after finishing your book.

Please answer if you have the time and interest.  And if not, continue writing entertaining smart stuff – there’s just not enough of it around.

-Derek

p.s. I fear the answer may lie somehow in the theory of relativity which, try as I might, I can’t seem to fully comprehend.  I say this to illustrate exactly how limited my knowledge is.

p.p.s.  If I misread your book and this IS the generally accepted theory, I’ll feel very silly indeed.

Best of 2010 – Music

I didn’t buy many albums that came out in 2010, but that didn’t mean I didn’t get 40+ new CDs in 2010.  Here are my best of and worst of lists.  Listen to my suggestions, they’re awesome.

BEST ALBUMS

7.  The Dirty Dozen Brass Band – Open Up: Whatcha Gonna Do for the Rest of Your Life: This was a random purchase for $.50 at Grassroots.  It’s some good Louisiana blues arranged and played by local musicians (as far as I can tell.)  I holds up better if you hear a few songs on random than if you just plug through the whole album, but it’s got some really interesting tunes.

6.  Various Artists – Bluegrass Roots: I purchased this album online because it was the only inexpensive way I could find to purchase the version of “I’ll Fly Away” that’s actually featured in O Brother Where Art Thou? (as opposed to the one that comes on the soundtrack.)  The inclusion of other Kossoy Sisters songs is what makes this album so good – many of the other tracks seem like instrumental fillers, but it’s worth the purchase if it can be found cheap.

5.  Jellyfish – Spilt Milk: This band has apparently been labelled power pop, but I don’t know that I agree with it.  In the first track, it harkens to Imogen Heap, the second to Queen, and the third to Beach Boys, though it’s from ~1993.  The band didn’t last long, having only put out one other album, but this one is fun enough to get you by.  Good upbeat melodies, fun harmonies, and songs that won’t make you think too hard.

4. Glenn Miller Orchestra – In the Christmas Mood, Vol. 1: Every year, I try to get more Christmas music so that we have an alternative to stores which only seem to have 7 different Christmas songs.  Combining it with my love of big band music and this album is a no-brainer.  The worst song on the album is probably the “original” song, In the Christmas Mood.  Some of their renditions of classics are themselves classics.

3.  The Nevada Bachelors – Hello Jupiter: I found this band by accident in 2009 and found several of their melodies and chord progressions to be quite revolutionary.  I purchased this, their other album, and it is much of the same.  For anyone who likes music that you can’t predict the melody on each track, pick it up.

2.  Joe Henry – Scar:  It’s hard to quantify what type of music Joe Henry plays.  He’s listed as country in a few places, and his earlier stuff have some country roots.  But by the time Scar came out, at least, he had moved over to a very swanky, jazzy, bluesy sound.  His voice isn’t the greatest, but I listen to him for the vibe that I get from listening to his music.  It seems like I need to sit in a room with a few candles lit and just stare at something.  And not in a bad way.

1.  Tripod – Entire collection: Okay, I’m cheating.  I managed to grab basically all of this Australian comedy trios music this year, mainly because I found a place that actually offered it all.  Being from Australia, their music is hard to come by.  I like alot of comedy music, but much of it finds a funny concept then writes a song about it.  What sets Tripod apart (particularly live) is that often it IS the composition of the song itself that makes it funny.  After all, this is the same band that has written dozens of songs as challenges in an hour.  Definitely worth a buy if you can find them.

WORST ALBUMS

5.  Various Artists – Timeless Christmas Classics: I suppose I can’t fault this album for it’s title, or at least the descriptor ‘timeless’.  That’s because nearly every version of these famous Christmas songs is either much too fast or much too slow.  Believe me, I like Silent Night done slowly as much as the next guy, but I also like it to finish the first verse before I have to shave again.

4.  Various Artists – Guitar Heroes: Ash had seen this as a special at Best Buy and we hopped right on it, figuring it was songs from the video game.  It wasn’t.  That was a strike against it.  But then I saw that it was labelled as new versions of classics recorded by the original artists.  Okay, that should be a decent substitute.  Problem is they are nearly all live recordings, and many of them not of high quality.  We both feel bamboozled by this cheap ploy to make money.  (edit: I just noticed that one of the songs they included, Sentimental Avenue by Night Ranger, has no guitar – in fact, no other instruments besides piano and voice – awesome.)

3.  John Cale – Walking on Locusts: I had had a Cale song or two on my computer from various compilations, and thought they were decent, so when I found this one for $1, I picked it up.  It is not decent.  It is pretty personalityless.  Maybe it’s all in the lyrics, but the music (and to a lesser extent his voice) won’t permit me to listen to the album long enough to find out.

2.  Grateful Dead – Infrared Roses: I think I am more mad at myself for this album and not the Dead, per se.   I vaguely remember hearing that my brothers didn’t like this album, but seeing it for $.50, I couldn’t pass up to get a Dead album I didn’t have.  I forgot (and didn’t bother to read) that this wasn’t an album of tunes, but the “best of” their live jams Drums & Space.  Saying these are the best is sorta like being the tallest midget, no?

1.  The Phylum Chordata – A Sequential Proportion of Line and Mass Intended Mostly for My Muse: If you’re like me, you’d look at this album and think it is something nerdy and pretty cool.  You, like me, would have been very wrong.  This makes last year’s worst album, The Flaming Lips Embryonic, sound like Vivaldi.  These “songs” are more experiments with synthesizes and voice modulators.  It’s not often that I delete an album from my computer, but this will be one of the first to go.