Saturday, April 28, 2012

The case for beer

I saw this on another site and it fit so well with the ethos of HillcrestBlog that I had to report it here :)

Beer Infographic

Saturday music videos - Mother Love Bone

I guess we'll just consider this a Grunge Week, why don't we, capping it off with what might be the most influential band of the scene, Mother Love Bone, which was apparently poised to make the big time before the singer, Andrew Wood's, unfortunate death at the hands of heroin (which was likewise unfortunately to be repeated a couple of more times to some well-known tragic figures in the Seattle music scene).  From the ashes of MLB of course sprang Pearl Jam and the one-off, primarily Chris Cornell solo record Temple of the Dog

It is interesting to think what would have happened had Wood not died and if Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament had not made contact with San Diego surfer Edward Vedder, because MLB had some chops and Wood certainly knew how to control a stage.  That being said, we still have this to look back on and enjoy...

Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday music featuring Green River

Keeping with the Grunge theme...

Green River was one of those bands who's influence on the nascent grunge scene likely has to do more with the band's eventual spawn (Mudhoney, Mother Love Bone, Pearl Jam) than the band's output itself, which is saying a lot about the bands that were to come because Green River held their own with some quality output.  Hear for yourself (disclaimer - YouTube doesn't have any old live clips, so these are unfortunately reunion shows):

Most anticipated movie of the summer

Last summer, it was Moneyball.  2012?

Hands down, considering the fervor in which Aliens is my favorite movie of ALL-TIME!!... could it be anything but Prometheus?

My hated student loans

I was fortunate enough to have parents who footed the bill for me to complete my undergraduate degree at the University of Arkansas.  At the time, I had no comprehension what kind of a gift that truly was, to escape with a BA degree in English with zero debt.  That was in May of 1995.  The rip-roaring 90's, when everyone was making boatloads of money and when the Most Important Happening in the World was OJ Simpson.  Why not go to law school, I told myself?

Fast forward to May of 1998.  Twenty-five years old, Juris Doctor degree in hand, pretty significant credit card debt ($10,000??)  and somewhere in the neighborhood of $42,000 in nondischargable student loan debt that, unbeknownst to me, should really be paid back sooner rather than later.  But hey, Clinton was still in office and the tech bubble hadn't burst -- things were still awesomely looking up!  I would be a full-fledged lawyer soon and lawyers made great money with terrific career!

Fast forward to today.  I still am a lawyer and in fact do have a terrific career, although the magnificent riches I imagined as a wide-eyed law school grad never quite materialized.  But I am supremely happy, with a wonderful wife and two fantastic kiddos, a nice, old house in the Greatest Neighborhood in Little Rock.  I even overcame my youthful, idiotic credit card spending frenzy as well as the poor economic and financial choices I made circa 1998-2003 (fun times to be sure, but completely irresponsible!).  My credit card balance now reaches into only the very low hundreds (currently around $250) on the worst days, and I actually have retirement savings and a Roth IRA and all that.

But man, those f*cking student loans.

Thirteen years after walking across that stage at the Walton Arts Center to grab my JD diploma from the meaty hand of Dean Strickland, I still owe just slightly more than $19,000 in student loans.  And while I'm on track to pay these off within the next twelve months due to my wife's and my decision to put everything else on the backburner to aggressively knock them out before next spring (which is only possible after previously knocking out all our other existing debt), it makes me sick to my stomach that I very likely will end up spending close to $70,000 to pay off the original $42,000 note. 

Granted, this is completely my fault given my spendthrift ways when I was a young, single man about town (again, circa 1998-2003 :)), running up consumer debt and not fully addressing -- or, really, appreciating -- the student loan debt that was piling up while I deferred payments for five years while I survived on a salary that started out at $25K/year in 1998 and was only at $43K/year in 2003.  But even while fully culpable for my own foibles, the fact that I could not discharge them in bankruptcy even if I wanted to, allowing them to follow you around well, forever...well, it just infuriates me.  And this doesn't even address what the costs of college and the rules regarding student loans are doing to this generation.  THAT is a crime. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The HillcrestBlog Novel Project

As promised, here's the link to the All-TIME 100 novels (since 1923), all of which I intend to read over the next three years.

That is, if I have not read them already.  Here are the ones that I already have in the plus column:

American Pastoral
Are You There, God?  It's Me, Margaret (yes, this was actually on the list)
Animal Farm
Blood Meridian
The Catcher in the Rye
The Grapes of Wrath
The Great Gatsby
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Lord of the Flies
Lord of the Rings
On the Road
Portnoy's Complaint
Slaughterhouse Five
To Kill a Mockingbird
Watchmen (yes, this graphic novel is also on the list)

Seventeen novels in already.  Not too bad, I guess.  Oh, and for those of you (like me) who looked at the list and were, like, ummm...where exactly is One Hundred Years of Solitude or Ulysses?'s the explanation for those novels' exclusion: 
The parameters: English language novels published anywhere in the world since 1923, the year that TIME Magazine began...
OK.  Fair enough.  One Hundred Years... was written in Spanish and Ulysses was written in 1922.  Problem solved!

One more cursory glance at the novels reveals that there are going to be some doozies:  Infinite JestGravity's Rainbow (tried and failed at least four times to get through that one).  Is three years going to be enough time?

Thursday night music - More from the Grunge Era: Screaming Trees

As I wrote yesterday about recently reading Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge, there was a lot of good music that came out of the scene that maybe didn't get the exposure that was afforded the Big Four (if you have to ask who the Big Four...I guess maybe Big Five, if you're feeling generous, go read yesterday's post).  Screaming Trees was one of those bands.  Sure, they had that Big Hit Single from the Singles movie, but there was a lot more to offer from Mark Lanegan and the boys.

First, the Big Hit Single:

And more...

The daily schedule

I saw this graph on one of the internets today and felt the need to repost it here:

I'm not sure how your daily schedule breaks down, dear reader, but I know that in the HillcrestBlogger household, we would kill for this breakdown. Maybe when our kids get into preschool range... ;)

My favorite show on the TeeVee

Really, this is just an excuse to post a video clip from Game of Thrones ;)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Overstating it a bit

It is one of the modern tenets of HillcrestBlog to refrain from politics for a variety of reasons.  This is not to say that I do not have political opinions; to the contrary, I am very opinionated.  But that's not the direction I want this blog to take.  If you want some good political bloggage, trust me, its out there, whatever your politics. That being said, I want to shortly discuss something that the current Speaker of the House of Representatives said yesterday in order to make a broader point. 

Specifically, John Boehner of Ohio said this, in relation to the possibility that Barack Obama may be reelected to the Presidency this November:

The president’s economic policies have failed. I would argue they actually have made things worse. And as a result, the president has turned to the politics of envy and division...
America can’t live for four more years with Barack Obama as president. His policies will turn America in a direction that we may never recover from...
It’s sending America down a path that will look a lot like what we see in Europe: A big social welfare state, high unemployment, slow economic growth and a government that is overly large.
If you have a government that can give you everything that you want, you have a government that can take everything that you have.
I excerpted the entire passage from this FOX News interview to give the quote some context, but the specific sentence I'm focusing on I've highlighted in bold print.

"That we may never recover from." 

Seriously?  I mean, does he really mean that? 

Not to get too bogged down in historical analysis, but this nation has recovered from some very trying times.  There's the whole dissolution of the Union thing, a couple of World Wars, a Great Depression, several Presidential assassinations, September 11, 2001 -- you know, really big freaking happenings that tore the fabric of our nation.  But after each one, the nation recovered and moved forward. 

Now, you might be of a mind that President Obama's economic policies are indeed quite destructive.  That is your opinion and you are absolutely entitled to it.  But does Speaker Boehner really believe the fallout from those economic policies would be worse than the Great Depression, where unemployment increased 607% from 1929 to 1932?  Or any worse than the United State's own death toll from World War Two -- 400,000 citizens?  Or the Civil War -- 620,000 military deaths?

I guess what bugs me the most is this use of extreme hyperbole in what should be real-world discussions about real-world issues.  Statements like Boehner's only serve to inflame and exaggerate for the benefit of one's own opinion to the point where you cannot even take it seriously.  And a Presidential Election should be taken seriously, especially when it is being commented on by the person third in the line of succession to the Presidency itself.  If Boehner had said something like "economic policies that will take us several years to recover from," well, OK.  Hell, even if he said "a generation," I would be OK with that.  Whether or not you believe that or not, at least that statement has some real-world tether, because although the United States did in fact emerge from the Great Depression, it did take several years, indeed over a decade. 

Ultimately, the United States is a strong, strong nation -- so strong that any one President's economic policies are not going to doom it, much less forever.  The nation has resisted schism and conquered foes and met challenges far greater than the ones Speaker Boehner portends would be so terrible from our current President.  I just think that, given his position in the government and the fact that he has to know that his statement is demonstrably false, that his comments should reflect that and should avoid the sky-is-falling rhetoric that seems so pervasive during the election season.

And Democrats, if one of you says something similarly over-the-top, shame on you as well.

The 20th Century Canon

A couple of years ago, Time magazine listed its 100 best books of the 20th Century (or, at least since 1923 I think it was -- the year Time first started publishing). I've decided to take each book down, one by one. I'm already well into the teens I think, which I'll post more specifically in a later blog post, but to kickstart this project, I went and checked out the following from the library yesterday:

Light in August by Faulkner
Tropic of Cancer by Miller
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Hemingway

I hope to complete the list in three years.

Wednesday night music - Mudhoney

I recently read a book called Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge, which, aside from being very long (500+ pages...for an oral history!), also helped me take a closer look at some of the bands of that scene and that era that for whatever reason evaded the huge spotlight that eventually shone on Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and...ahem...Candlebox.

Mudhoney was one of those bands.  Of course I was familiar with them on the surface, as they had some minor success, but nothing compared to what their contemporaries believed they should have had.  The following songs are evidence that I agree...

See your goal

For the next month, it is finishing this:

Yes, a 5K. 

This overweight almost-39 year old is all-in.  I've paid my money and I'm signed up.  I've been training using what is cutely (and accurately) called a couch-to-5K program and I'm up to week 4, day 2, which involves sixteen minutes of running intermittent with five minutes of walking (bookended by two five-minute warmup/cooldown walks).  By my very loose math and given that I ran about a 12-minute mile last week, I'm up to running 1 and 1/3 miles in about twenty minutes.

Can I triple that number in a month?  The 5K is in slightly more than one month (32 days).  Well, I'm going to give it my best shot. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Here's some Tuesday music for you - Bon Iver

Just recently I discovered Bon Iver, a band (well, a guy named Justin Vernon with his supporting musicians) that has been around for several years and two albums.  Also, too, a Grammy win for Best New Artist and Best Alternative Album in 2012.  Well deserved.

These songs are off that same Grammy winner, the self-titled Bon Iver.  Not exactly your hard rockin' stuff, but fantastic nonetheless.  Like a little Shins crossed with Sigur Rós, if you ask me. 

Thoughts on the new Razorback coach

The uniquely named John Smith, new head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Good hire, I guess?  Really, when push comes to shove, I suppose I really don't care about who heads the team with the same kind of gusto several of my good friends and family do (also, the chuckleheads and callers on local sports talk radio...thank you, I'll hang up and listen).  There was a time that this was decidedly not the case, where I very much cared about the Head Hog and our sports teams' records and how much respect! we were getting at the national level.  But in recent years, that interest has ceded to the more enjoyable and relaxing position of supporting the teams on game day, hoisting a cold beer when they score a touchdown or sink a three-pointer, but being able to sleep soundly after a win or a loss -- especially after a loss -- and not letting the result affect me one way or the other for the rest of the week, season, or year.

I'm not sure when the change came, whether it is the effect of simply getting older and further and further away from the relative ages of the players themselves (making college sports look in my eyes like more and more of a game that kids play -- Big Business, sure, but still a game), or whether having children just makes everything else so tangential and inconsequential, or for some other reason.  I do know that when I canceled my subscription to the Democrat-Gazette and stopped reading daily dispatches from the practice fields and (thank goodness) Wally Hall's perfectly and pointedly stupid daily Hog Yes-Man/Apologist sports-page column, my compulsive interest almost immediately waned.  Likewise, tuning out sports talk radio was a godsend for disconnecting myself from the rabidity displayed by the overwhelming majority of Hogoholics.

Now, don't get me wrong -- I was well attuned to the circumstances and almost-daily breaking news of Bob Petrino's shocking downfall, as well as the who's-it-gonna be drama surrounding the search for his successor.  I exchanged bits of news I came across with several good friends and enjoyed the speculation and internet rumor-mongering.  How could I not?!  It was an Arkansas Soap Opera of the highest order!  Even the relatively disengaged such as myself could not help but be drawn into the fray of discussion.  But now that the music's over and John L. Smith Has Signed a Ten-Month Contract Only (trademarked phrase), I have no real feelings about it one way or the other.  It could have been him or Jon Gruden or Garrick McGehee or Bud Foster or Bill Freaking Belechick.  Doesn't really matter - I just want the team to do well and play an enjoyable (from my perspective) style of football.

And Hell Yeah I'm excited about the prospects of the team this year, with Tyler Wilson! and Knile Davis! going for the Heisman! and BAMA AND LSU AT HOME! and all that, but I'm perfectly happy not worrying or thinking about it one whit until, oh, I don't know, August the 10th or something like that?  Two weeks prior to the season sounds about right.  It'll be lots of fun for those four months.  But to everything there is a (football) season, and my fan-sense is perfectly happy with enjoying those twelve Saturday afternoons in the fall and leaving it at that.

So, go Hogs and Woo Piggie!  Now, I'll redirect my attention to almost anything else.  Let me know when the first game is.

Six months

That's how long this blog has been dormant.  Almost to the day.  How do I know this?  Well, today I took my son in for his six-month checkup and my last post was the day he was born last October.  Not exactly High Math, that.

During this last six months I've often thought about posting something to the blog but, for whatever reason, just either didn't get around to doing it or got sidetracked by something else (if you have ever lived in 1,350 square feet of house with a wife, a two year old and a newborn, you know this is a very easy thing to have happen to you!).  Or maybe the post I thought about writing was interesting but just not *that interesting* to the point where I felt the urge to get the laptop, try to remember my password, and then opine on it.  The moment by then would surely have passed, I'd tell myself.  Or there are any other number of reasons...but probably just one main one: inertia.  Because the further you get from regularly blogging the harder it gets to return to the fold, exponentially.  It literally requires sitting down and just freaking *making* yourself write something.  And once you do...the blockage has been removed and you remember just how painless it is -- indeed, enjoyable even! :) -- to throw something up on your blog.  Which is what I am experiencing literally while I write this sentence.

And then you think of a hundred things to write about.  And you cannot wait to get started.

See, self?  That was easy.  Welcome back, HillcrestBlogger.