August 24, 2012

A Boy and His Nunchaku

It is a well-known fact that if you give a boy a cardboard tube, he will instantly be compelled to use it as a sword. A lesser-known corollary to this is that if you give a boy two items attached together by a string, he will instantly be compelled to use them as a pair of nunchaku — even if he has no idea what nunchaku are. I call it the “Bruce Lee Principle”.

“American Wheeze” by 16 Horsepower

The first 16 Horsepower song I ever heard, and still one of my favorites.

August 23, 2012

Discovering Nebraska’s musical past

Casey Welsch discovered a stack of 7-inches from long-gone Nebraska bands and with it, a vital part of Nebraska’s musical history.

Like most people of my generation, I’m spoiled and apprised of an undue sense of worth and entitlement. I have long assumed that the been-and-gone local greats that I’ve seen were the best that ever were. I assumed that the current wave of creativity in Nebraska was a brand new thing, unique to our time.

Hidden in the back of the bottom shelf of a knee-level cupboard blocked by an empty filing cabinet with a television and a boombox on top, I found a stack of records buried at 90.3 KRNU that proved me dead wrong.


Lullaby for the Working Class is a name I’ve heard, but whose music I haven’t. I expected working class punk, but what I got was gorgeously crafted indie-folk tunes from the mid-'90s, long before the current national craze. This band featured Ted Stevens (Cursive), Shane Aspegren (The Berg Sans Nipple) and both of the infalible Mogis brothers. That's where I've seen the name, mentioned in passing on one of these band's profile sites. That's all the attention I've ever given the band, and all I've ever seen given to it, yet it's good enough to deserve its own exhibit in a museum. This is Nebraska's musical history. It never got across to me until this point.

Eric the Red (no idea) and Sideshow (possibly the reason this Caulfield lable existed?) continue the trend of fantastic rock. Nothing in this pile is bad. Absolutely nothing. It keeps coming with Plastik Trumpet (no info), Cellophane Ceiling and Opium Taylor (I know one of these guys helped found Liars). It would be a moot point to describe them all in detail, but believe me when I say it’s all just as good as anything Nebraska is pumping out today.

Reading this article brought on an instant nostalgia trip. I remember catching Plastik Trumpet, Sideshow, Opium Taylor, Mercy Rule, et al. at places like the Silk Cafe, outside the UNL Student Union, in an old warehouse (that I think used to be at the top of the Apothecary building), and probably even in somebody’s basement. So many great bands and shows, so many great memories.

August 22, 2012

Is Hollywood planning a “Rocketeer” remake

The Rocketeer, along with Flight of the Navigator, was one of my favorite movies as a kid. Suffice to say, the news that Hollywood is sniffing around a beloved childhood movie is both exciting and terrifying. Here’s hoping that if/when the remake is made, Disney doesn’t feel it’s necessary to make it “edgy” or “gritty” in order to appeal to modern audiences.

What we talk about when we talk about art

Michael Demkowicz, by way of Jeffrey Overstreet, with an excellent article on the nature of art, and how we can/should respond to it.

When people respond to a poem, a painting, a song, they are responding to the thing that is art. This is appropriate. The piece stands on its own, apart from any intent of its maker (conscious or otherwise). As they consider the piece, if they are thoughtful, they will begin to trace their reactions back through their experience of the piece to see if their “reading” has any basis. They pay close attention to the work and their encounter with it. If they are experienced in their critical analysis, they will compare aspects of the work with other pieces by this artist or with similar things by other artists. They will try to articulate their sense of the maker’s vision.

At some point, people may venture to compare the vision of the work with their own. Whatever their perspective — if they are Christians, Marxists, Feminists, or hold any religious or philosophical position — they will no doubt find aspects of the work to commend or attack. This may prove fruitful, as individuals test their understanding against the challenge of the work and others’ views — even against the challenge of others with a similar philosophy. Depending on individual temperaments, such exchanges will be stimulating, invigorating, and enriching; or, they will be frustrating, threatening, and angering. The play or song or film has contributed to everyone’s knowledge and experience — the audience is now included in the artist’s encounter.

But what happens when a person in the audience meets the work and immediately — even abruptly — announces an evaluation of it? (He found it uplifting. She approves of the message. He is offended by the language. She is upset by the frankness of the sexuality. It is too violent, ugly, loud, irreverent.) Whatever the merit of such comments, they carry little weight because they do not result from careful reflection on the work. They result in a superficial endorsement or dismissal. Indeed, there has hardly been an honest encounter with the work. Shallow reactions, no matter how sincere or well-meaning, create strain with anyone who does not already agree, and prevent worthwhile discussion or critique.


Art, as both a thing and a way, reminds us — even compels us — to “be still and know.” In a real sense, the artist feels compelled to “make something of it.” The resulting drama or dance or picture or poem calls us — audience as well as artist — to know something. We may be enraptured by it or offended. We may be delighted or disturbed. Our initial reaction to it may be skewed by intellectual, spiritual, and emotional baggage we bring to our experience of it. It may take us days, weeks, or even years to come to terms with what the work stirs in us. It takes faith, patience, and humility to be still and know amid all of the ambiguity of life and art.

Japan’s final ninja

Jinichi Kawakami is a 63-year-old engineer who claims to be the last ninja in Japan, and that when he dies, the secrets of ninjitsu will die with him.

Kawakami is studying ninja history at Mie University in Tsu, and doesn’t plan to take on an apprentice who will become the 22nd head of his clan.

In related news, “ninja history” classes are for real, folks. This changes everything.

Your passwords have never been weaker

Scary, sobering stuff:

“The whole password-cracking scene has changed drastically in the last couple years,” said [Matt] Weir, the Florida State University post-doctoral student. “You can look online and you can generally find passwords for just about everyone at some point. I’ve found my own username and passwords on several different sites. If you think every single website you have an account on is secure and has never been hacked, you’re a much more optimistic person than I am.”

“Optimistic” is, in this case, just a nicer way of saying “naïve”.

The best seat in the house

The best seat in the house

Gods of the Prairie descended on downtown Lincoln this past weekend, transforming it into a land of mythological gods, heros, and monsters — with a Nebraskan twist. We weren’t able to see all of it, but what we did see was great, and the boys really liked it. Simon was especially fascinated by the scene that took place on our front porch, and he had the best seat in the house for it.

Photo via Karin Dalziel, who posted a bunch of Gods of the Prairie photos on Flickr and wrote a nice review of the “traveling theatrical event”.

August 21, 2012

Finding solace in a Godless world

Christopher R. Beha:

So what are we to do about this unscratchable itch? Rosenberg’s answer in his book is basically to ignore it. The modern world offers lots of help in this effort. To begin with, there are pharmaceuticals; Rosenberg strongly encourages those depressed by the emptiness of the Godless world to avail themselves of mood-altering drugs. Then there are the pleasures of acquisitive consumer culture — the making of money and the getting of things. My own, provisional solution rests in the way of art, and in particular in literature. Fiction, at its best, not only suggests but insists upon the possibility of some order in the world, even if we create or impose that order. Likewise, it insists that human experience has meaning, and that in that meaning lies a form of solace. Rosenberg’s response to all this, I’m sure, would be: more power to you. At the same time, he would urge me not to make the mistake of believing that the solace I find in art is any more real or meaningful than the solace others find from shopping or from altering the chemicals in their brains. To which I want to say, why not? By Rosenberg’s own reckoning, nihilism follows logically from atheism. But nihilism, in turn, leaves one unable to make normative demands of others — or, for that matter, oneself. Even the demand that one follow logic or not believe in God.

Beha recently wrote an article for Harper’s — which I haven’t read, but really want to — regarding recent books by the “New New Atheists”, who “seek to salvage what is lost when belief erodes, concerning themselves with what atheists ought to believe and do in religion’s stead.”

Big changes are coming to Hulu

This will suck if it comes to pass: basically, more ads and less exclusive content. Once again, studios and executives take something that had a lot of promise and could’ve been really good for their customers, knock it to the ground, and proceed to stomp all over it.