Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Life and The Start of It

For the zero of you who read this and are not friends on Facebook, on Sunday afternoon at 1:38 pm, Maureen birthed our new baby son, Dean. Don't believe me? Here's a picture.

As a result of this momentous life event, it will be difficult for me to, for at least a little bit, create any sort of interesting thoughts. I actually have way more to say about the birth process than I would have thought, and I'm really looking forward to getting my thoughts down here as soon as possible. In the meantime, I need to tend to my wife and my beautiful son. You'll be able to assess how much the baby is napping by whether or not I'm knocking out any posts. In the meantime, let me just say that while I love Michigan and all the amazing things about our state, I love my wife and son a little bit more.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Kid Rock Will Save Us

It was the summer of 1999. That was not my favorite summer of all time for many teenage-angst reasons, but there were also some non-teenage-angst reasons, and one of those reasons was the song Bawitdaba by KIIIIIIIIDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD................KIDDDDDDDD ROCK! There was some sort of a motor cycle rally taking place on top of a mobile home and a bunch of people (guys and girls) wearing glittery clothes and dancing around in a provocative manner. No one knew or cared what the song was about, but it was conducive to aggression and included the phrase "topless dancers", so it was primed for success before it even hit the pre-iTunes airwaves. There was even a swearing and angry little person - another sure sign of success. The guy who sang (yelled the song at you) had a terrible haircut, always wore hats, and apparently, was a proud southeastern Michigan native. He had been growing through the Detroit music scene for many years, slowly developing his local fan base until his album Devil Without a Cause found strong success on the national level. At that time, it seemed clear that Kid Rock would be a temporary and annoying distraction until the next Backstreet Boys song hit the streets.

The haircut hasn't changed and he still wears the exact same hats, but Kid Rock has clearly become much more than a temporary and annoying distraction. In fact, he is likely one of the most diverse and popular endearing popular music artists of the last decade. He can and does swing styles from performance to performance, and he has played at events ranging from The Rally to Restore Sanity to Hope for Haiti Now to wherever you can find moonshine across the United States. All the while, The Kid has been a proud and strong representative of Michigan, publicly speaking out on behalf of Michigan and the many good things going on here. Humorously, he often acknowledges something along the lines of "I don't know why you have me here to talk about this. You're the smart ones," but he soldiers on as a good native son.

He took this support farther at the American Music Awards last evening when he performed a song called Times Like These from his new album. Why was I watching the AMAs, you may be thinking. I would never under any circumstance watch the AMAs. I'd rather listen to Bawitdaba. This song was entirely about Michigan, and the performance included images of Michigan behind him throughout the entire song. It was sweet, sincere, and touching to anyone who has any ties to the state and is not a jerk. I have to say that there are lines that don't make a whole lot of sense, like "and even though it's bittersweet, it brings us to our knees" (normally a thought structured in this way would have clearly conflicting elements, but I just don't see it here. Like "Even though I knew it would make me vomit all night, I ate the entire bag of Salt and Vinegar Potato Chips." True story.), but I can look past the simplicity of parts of the song and just appreciate someone out there publicly and extremely visibly positively representing Detroit. It's not that deep and you may not love the song, but I greatly appreciate anyone who is proud to stand up and tell them you're from...Detroit! Who could have possibly guessed 10 years ago that this person would be Kid Rock. I still think he would look way better with a haircut. I really like my barber, Rudy, and I would definitely recommend him if I meet Mr. Rock.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The End of a National Nightmare

The end of two national nightmares, actually. First, in case you haven't heard, this week marks an extremely significant development in the world of Apple and iTunes. Specifically, we will never, ever have to hear another rumor about Steve Jobs announcing that The Beatles will be available through iTunes. This is a rumor that has run rampant on average 9.4 distinct times a year for the last 5 years, including the last 3 years when absolutely nobody was left to care whether or not The Beatles were available through iTunes. The regularity of this rumor was on par with whether or not the show Seinfeld would pick up right where it left off or if Barry Sanders was going to return from retirement. Come back, Barry! The Lions have won something like 1 game since you unexpectedly left the team 700 The Beatles are coming to iTunes rumors ago. To me personally, this Beatles thing has been particularly annoying because I tend to root against the behemoth that is Apple and I just don't understand the love of Beatles music. I don't dislike it by any measure, it's just kind of average and nondescript sounding. It's like how Shakespeare invented a whole bunch of words and phrases and the like, and when we read them now, they feel really overused even though he invented them. That's how I feel about the Beatles. "They invented modern rock and roll!" yes, but The Great Train Robbery invented modern film and I wouldn't really chose to watch that anymore. What's that you say? The best analogy ever? Thank you.

The next national nightmare that has ended is England can finally, FINALLY stop waiting for Prince William to get engaged. He is going to marry that millionaire commoner peasant, Kate Middleton, who will now have to figure out how to not be ashamed of her family's millions and millions of dollars. Life as a millionaire marrying a billionaire is tough. The best part of this story is that, like The Beatles on iTunes, we'll no longer ever have to hear Meredith Viera say "is it finally time for Prince William to tie the knot" or whatever other colloquialism the writers of The Today Show choose to represent marriage. My favorite is "hug the exercise waterfowl", which I just made up right now.

The best part of these two things together, as Maureen pointed out, is that this means at the reception of Kate and William, they'll be able to include legally downloaded copies of songs from The Beatles when they build their wedding playlist to play directly off of their iPod shuffle through the speakers at their local Elks Lodge. DJs are expensive. Do they have Elks Lodges in England? Likely not, but if so, they're probably only for weddings for lowly commoners like Kate.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Timing is Everything

By my calendar count, we have 7 days until the due date of one baby male human being, probably preliminarily incapable of both speaking and basic calculus. When I found that out, I said to Maureen "why even have a baby?" She then informed me that on top of these developmental facts, your average child can't understand sarcasm until they're 10, to which I responded "well isn't that GREAT."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Worst Place in Michigan

Focus, of course, is usually on the great people and place in Michigan, what I ate for dinner, or how much I dislike gypsies. I actually don't have any opinion about gypsies, but I thought I needed a third subject beyond Michigan and what I ate for dinner. As it turns out, that's all I got. I have a very limited view of the world.

Today, as Maureen and I drove through a very busy interchange on Michigan's extensive and great freeway system, I started to feel my blood boil. I'm no civil engineer or construction expert, but what in the damn crap poop hell are they doing on I-96 just west of I-275? They have been working on this stretch of freeway since the earth cooled from the great rains after the magma solidified to create Pangaea. At this time, the creator of earth, Martha Stewart, planted a sign near the middle of Pangaea and wrote on the sign "I-96 Under Construction. Seek Alternative Route." For as long as I can remember back, there have been bulldozers, concrete breakers, piles of rubble, concrete barriers, and port-a-potties stretching along this forsaken stretch of road. Nights like tonight are especially frustrating because I hadn't been on this stretch of road for months, and when I finally return to it, absolutely nothing has discernibly changed. Nothing. The same damn traffic shifts, the same damn concrete barriers, the same barren median just screaming with open space on which you and I are not allowed to drive because this is the worst place in Michigan.

What's worse, this stretch of road has been creating backups to Telegraph road on westbound I-696 for as long as this terrible construction has been going on. Ridiculous. We are all accustomed to road construction projects in this great state, but this is the grand mama of Michigan road projects. It is the Alpha and Omega. The Simon and the Garfunkel. The "acrossed" of Michigan road projects. It is the worst stretch of land in the state.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Acrossed, A Farewell

I don't know when or where or why or how it happened, but over the past 5 years, the word across, a simple, wonderful word, has been replaced by people everywhere by "acrossed" or "acrosst" or some variation of the word across with a "t" sound at the end. Many people have a word or words that aren't actually words that are upsetting to them, but I believe that acrossed may be the most insidious non-word in the world. The reason why is the stunning breadth and depth of the infiltration of this devolution of the English language. From my own personal experience (which I would feel very comfortable saying is interaction with people of above-average intelligence) , it now seems that more than 50% of people I know fail at not using "acrossed." Every time I write it down it makes me feel like my soul is dying a little bit. These are smart, professional, accomplished individuals who, for some reason, feel compelled to make me hate them by putting together letters in this utter failure of letter arrangement. Acrossed is everywhere and it sucks. I hate it, and probably you if you say it.

This is one of the small benefits of writing a blog. It enables me to say to any readers without explicitly telling individuals that you are frequently using a nonsensical sound combination. In this way, I can slowly begin the defeat and eventual death of acrossed - which, if you haven't been able to tell by now, is a WORD THAT DOESN'T EXIST.

Again I acknowledge that there are dozens, if not hundreds, of these non-words that people use every day, but I sincerely believe that this one has entered a pantheon of its own in the terrible realm deserving of special acknowledgment right here, right now.

You may be wondering right now, "Do I say this stupid thing and is Ken talking about me right now." And the answer to this question is "yes, you are almost definitely doing this." So stop, dummy. Really, stop. Even Urban Dictionary agrees, except that they emphasize that this happens primarily in the Midwest, and I know more than a few very smart guys from California who also happen to use this word.

Now that you know, if I hear you using acrossed, I'm going to slap you acrossed the face.

Friday, November 5, 2010

I Understand

Over two years ago, the college football world was like a big, ripe melon. Much like purchasing and eventually cutting in to a delicious cantaloupe, it was unclear what the future held for U of Michigan football, but it was unarguably exciting. Michigan was entering a brave new world of offensive firepower, insanely in shape athletes, and possibly even black quarterbacks! If that last statement alone didn't imply significant changes in the program, I don't know what statement would. This old, stodgy guy was leaving and a new, successful guy who "got modern football" was breezing into town bringing only a moderate amount of controversy up from West Virginia. As we now know, this time of great anticipation was not one of waiting to cut into the perfect cantaloupe, but rather the precursor to an alien hatching out of a shell that looked like a cantaloupe, infiltrating your body, killing most humans and taking over the world, and then you found out that the supermarket at which you were shopping for the first cantaloupe doesn't even carry that particular melon, or any melon at all! Yes, exactly like that.

It has been a terrible, terrible almost three seasons of Michigan football. I really don't care that the team is 5-3 this year. They are terrible. I fear we are in the midst of an unturnable long-term downturn, and we will end up as something even more terrible like Notre Dame or Tennessee. Poor Notre Dame and Tennessee.

As a prideful person, our suck has been embarrassing and emotional. Like that time I bought the alien that I thought was a cantaloupe. Even the rare victories have felt like defeats. Against abominable teams, Michigan would have to navigate last minute drives or big second half comebacks to avoid losing to teams like UMass. I don't know a ton about some of the really deep, dark details of football strategy, but it hasn't been hard to realize that neither does Michigan.

As an alum, I could not figure out why this level of performance was acceptable to the athletic department. Also as a young alum, I find myself sometimes wondering what the university is doing for me now that I (my parents) am not paying tuition and I can only donate modestly each calendar year. Finally, these two pieces came together and I'm feeling a whole lot better. The University of Michigan football team is sucking for me. Thank you U of M!

The past couple years have been a really busy period in my life. I was wedding planning, moving, changing jobs, getting married, acclimating to married life, trying to find time for scripted TV viewing and working out with all of these changes, and trying to keep up with a number of other significant life events like getting ready for a baby. Thanks to the terror of U of M football, I was able to claim Saturdays as my own and not be chained to the TV rooting for a run at the Big Ten title. I didn't even have to root for a run at The Motor City Bowl. I could do the things that I needed to do, maintain all my responsibilities, and still have a little time to relax and center myself thanks to those hours on Saturday I did not have to commit to maize and blue football.

Now that I've made this realization, I just wanted to send a big thank you to Michigan football. The extra free time has really been appreciated and has enabled me to live a fuller, happier, and less football-filled life. Michigan even took this a step further and coordinated with the Lions to ensure that they also were embarrassing, so that I could take the entire weekend as my own. Those are the kinds of sacrifices that really make you feel like you have a personal connection with your team.

Now that the baby is almost here, I also wanted to let Michigan know that you don't need to worry about me anymore. We're as ready for what comes next in life as any two people can be, and I feel selfish making everyone suffer just so that I don't have to concern myself with football on Saturday. This post constitutes my formal permission for Michigan Football to pretend I don't exist and perform like a team with the full complement of 11 players on the field at any given time.Your sacrifice of respectability as a program just for me has been a very special gesture, but I think it's time that we both move on. I'll always remember what you did for me.

Monday, November 1, 2010

D.C. Envy

Washington D.C. was the proud recipient of me and my positive attitude from Thursday of last week to Sunday. I had to go for a couple meetings on Friday, and then my traveling companion and I stuck around that part of the world for the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. It's really a good thing that I did go to help flesh out the crowd. Barely 250,000 people showed up. I don't want to say that I was key to making the event a success, but I can't think of another way of finishing that sentence. It was one of those weird things where you go to a event and you can only barely see a giant monitor and you're literally about a mile from the stage, but you're still happy that you went. This phenomenal partial view of the monitor was the payoff of standing in one place for six hours next to a group of 7 or 8 freshman-aged wastes of life that must have smoked about 30 joints and 60 cigarettes over the course of the 6 hours. Really, they were just absolutely terrible people, maybe the worst I've ever experienced in my entire life. Here are a couples quotes from one of the guys:

"You don't even know what it takes to be me. I have to spend three hours in the gym everyday."

"I've done every drug in the world. Name a drug and I'll tell you if I've taken it. Yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, so many times I can't even count, yep, yep, cocaine really clears out my system."

The good news is that this guy is a proud member of the U.S. Army.

Aside from the busy rally attendance of Saturday, I had a good amount of time to tool around D.C. between Thursday and Friday evening. I walked the national mall, quickly saw most of the key monuments and buildings, and found myself envying the majesty of Washington D.C. As the center of our nation, it is understandable that it should be an impressive destination. In addition to the traditional biggies, there were several new buildings near the mall, any one of which, if built in Detroit, would be the BIGGEST DEAL OF THE DECADE. I'd even take the Newseum in the D (which opened in D.C. in 2008) and enjoy it thoroughly despite its immense lameness. In addition to this, property values in D.C. and the surrounding suburbs (especially those in Virginia) have benefited immensely from D.C.'s largesse and the fact that if you want to do business with the federal government, you probably have to have a pretty big presence in the D.C. area. I don't fault any particular individual act or person for our country's trillion dollar deficit, but it does bother me a little bit as someone from a depressed big city that every federal tax dollar flows through D.C., and they can do pretty much whatever they want with it to keep the D.C.-area economy rolling along.

What's my point in all this? It has been five years since my last trip to D.C. and I forgot how much I enjoy it, but I do envy the leg up that region has on most other areas in the U.S. including our own. However, when I think about it, not that many areas in our country have clear economic advantages - the Bay Area has incomparable technology talent, D.C. has the feds, Connecticut has GE (which is an advantage unto itself), and a few tourist hot spots like Miami also tend to be a strong draw for businesses. Metro Detroit, while certainly not sexy, is one of these rare places in the U.S. that has a specific and significant business advantage. We have lived and died by the automotive industry (mostly died of late), but having these gigantic manufacturing+technology companies within a pretty small radius for about 100 years has provided a backbone for continued manufacturing and technology development if we just figure out how to harness this power as a state. I'm a pretty jealous guy and clearly very defensive of my home turf, but I just can't use "everywhere else has an unfair advantage over us" as a reasonable excuse for our troubles. We are the ones with an unfair advantage. Can we figure out what to do with it?