Monthly Archives: August 2008

Walking among the rolling hills and grand spreading oaks of Eloise Butler Wildflower Sanctuary feels like stepping out of your life for a few hours. On our visit Sunday morning, we followed Johanna along the hay-lined paths until we found a nice spot to draw. Sarah said it felt like church (in a good way).

Short on bandwidth for books lately, so my bedstand’s a nest of mags and newspapers. The August 21st issue of the New Yorker has been so satisfying I’m inspired to share two bits:

“Conflicts of Interest” by Nicholas Lemann: Why all the hating on lobbyists and special interests? According to the early-20th-century theorist Arthur Bentley, these groups are the sum and substance of politics, not its nadir. Lemann’s review of Thomas Frank’s Wrecking Crew questions the pervasive liberal assumption that Republicans are the party of voracious self interest while Dems are out for the greater good (certainly my bias leans this way). Bentley would argue that is there is no greater good, only competing groups vying for their own interests. Lemann reveals Frank’s false dichotomy between conservative villains and libreal angels: when one group of companies and their supporters and lobbyists battle another group of companies, their supporters and lobbyists, how to tease out who’s acting in “the public interest?”

“Dinner Party” by Joshua Ferris: I didn’t love “Then We Came to the End,” Ferris’s novel about life as a copywriter in a doomed agency, probably because the  scenarios evoked too much of what makes me cringe about my own life. In “Dinner Party,” the peevish narrator tries to sabotage his wife’s enthusiasm for their imminent dinner party, oblivious to the damage he’s inflicting. Again, Ferris hits a nerve, but this time builds to a surprising and shattering conclusion.

Yesterday was a series of frustrating tasks—from ponying up for last year’s water main replacement (can you think of any better way to spend $3k?) to acquiring a new keyboard (the in-town Mac retailer was closed so I had to storm the Death Star if I wanted to work today). The trip wasn’t all bad: I’m listening to the haul of sweet cassette titles I garage-saled on Sunday ($.25/). It’s like cruising with my adolescent self.

Some favorite bits from the tapes:

Mudhoney – In ‘n’ Out Of Grace
Found at

Fugazi – Give Me the Cure
Found at

big black – kerosene
Found at

Sebadoh – Sister
Found at

Pavement – Summer Babe [Winter Version]
Found at

A Tribe Called Quest – Award Tour (Feat. Trugoy of De La Soul)
Found at

Sonic Youth – Dirty Boots
Found at

There’s no real organizing principle to my newest Muxtape update, other than “stuff I’ve been liking sequenced to avoid jarring transitions.” Marc annotated his latest mix on his blog, which is cool but more ambitious than I’m feeling this morning.

My neighbor’s problematic daughter (who I may elaborate on one day) cranks the most obnoxious kind of commercial rap and r&b in the mornings while shout-singing angrily with the refrains. Asking her to stop would be curmudgeonly (and probably pointless). Ranked among her many annoying habits, it’s actually not that bad, so I’ll pick my battles.

But I’ve got my iTunes turned up to 11.

8/19/08 NEWS FLASH: Looks like Muxtape is in negotiations with the RIAA about whether it can stream so much music without paying a licensing fee. Bummer.

Let me trot out another Minnesota/Iowa comparison (and personal axe) to illustrate the difference between the states’ fairs. It’s like our public radio stations. Iowa Public Radio (especially AM 640) sounds like it’s broadcast from a first-floor studio in Ames by volunteers who just dig being on the airwaves. MPR sounds like the product of an aggressive plan to generate underwriting revenue and build respectability among high-income consumers ages 40-65.

The Iowa State Fair is happy being a hot, dirty and occasionally goofy party while the Minnesota State Fair is preening for the “best national state fair” competition.

No, no, Minnesota, really—YOU WIN. We’ll just be over here with the funnel cakes and High Life.

Here are some snaps from our visit to Des Moines:

These things zip along at two miles per hour not including frequent pauses to seat the unsteady.

It was shady for a second, so we rested on a shiny new tractor.

I love that there is a ribbon category for animal drawings.

It was hot enough you could watch this and a stumpy little angel melt before your eyes.

Kirk losing the first round of the backgammon tournament, undone by “nerves.”

Food was more spendy this year, which means it cost me $12 to make myself sick.

“The sheep barn is distinguished by fine polychrome terracotta details.”

Sarah got her Olympics fix on Monday, so last night we tuned in global entertainment of a different sort—just as kinetic, costumed and heavily made-up but with fewer cloying Coke spots. Black Book, a Dutch war thriller about a Jewish heiress turned Nazi spy, bounded along with so many twists that I was propelled to the web this morning to unravel some of the knots.

I recommend Black Book for the unstoppable foxiness (all senses intended) of its heroine, played by Carice van Houten, the sympathetic SS portrayal from Sebastian Koch, who we loved in Lives of Others, and the scrambling of the good guy/bad guy dualities that dominate the genre.

With all our trips to Iowa this year, we outta pay for upkeep on a section of I-35. This weekend, the undisputed king of state fairs opens, and Sarah and Johanna will pay their first visit after years of second-rate fairgoing (Iowa’s State Fair makes ours look like Disneyland—not a point in favor of The Great Minnesota Get Together). I’m looking forward to Kirk and Alex competing in the Backgammon Tournament (imagine a Martin-Orozco final!) and dinner at Le Jardin, a posh new French place near my high school. Quelle prévision!

They always butter you up at Jardin Magico, confiding how your kid had “a very good day” and “played well” with just enough detail to make this commitment of attention believable in a room full of rowdy toddlers shrieking in two languages.

But today’s report was far from pat. Refusing help from her teachers (imagine that), Johanna painted over a drawing of el panadero with extraordinary skill for her age, mostly staying within the lines and using color to clearly delineate the baker from his table. Voila:

Sarah tried to record some of the teacher’s praise at the bottom based on my lame recollection. Fortunately, Johanna’s work speaks for itself.