Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Resolutions

I'm not a person for making New Year's Resolutions. I've never done so before as I've always been one to make major life-changing decisions whenever the hell I wanted to, but this year I'm making a couple of resolutions. And the reason why I'm doing this is because the life-changing decisions I'm making are ones I don't want to make. So I figured giving myself a deadline to steel myself up against would be a good way to go about making these major changes:

1) Give up eating meat
This is not a health-related decision. It is, however, a guilt-related decision. Ever since I started working at Bridging The Gap, I've been challenged to do more and more to reduce the negative impact my life has on the state of the world. Besides not driving a car, I have been recycling, composting and making better consumer choices, but according to Consumer Consequences my current lifestyle would still require the resources of 3 Earths to sustain a planet full of people living like me. And with the threat of climate change imminent, I have to do more.

So that's why I'm giving up meat. If everyone stopped eating meat, there would be a greater positive impact on greenhouse gas emissions than if everyone stopped driving cars - not a statistic I find myself capable of ignoring. And, granted, I've been eating lower on the food chain anyway since my "You Are What You Eat" self-challenge, but it's not the same. I'm a Midwest girl and I love a good steak now and then, but I'd rather eat like I've got a conscious.

2) Give up smoking cigarettes
This is a health-related decision. I started smoking when I was 20 and I promised myself that I'd stop once I got out of school. I've tried half-heartedly to quit several times before, which supposedly only helps in the end. Now that I've been out of school since June, I'm all out of excuses. I ran out of cigarettes in my last pack almost a week ago now, so I've got a bit of a head start on this one, which is good because apparently it takes 3 weeks for the chemicals to work their way out of one's system. The nicotine, on the other hand, only takes 3 days so my cravings have already subsided considerably.

Anyway, those are my resolutions. Anybody else planning to change something in 2008?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Generation Me

All my life I've wondered what generation I am. According to what I heard, I wasn't an "X" or a "Y" but there didn't seem to be any other option. (Yes, I probably could have looked this up somewhere, but I never did) But Mission to Learn has now schooled me. In a recent post, they outlined the generations as such:

Boomers: 1946-1964
GenX: 1965-1980
Millenials: 1981-2000

And so, one more item on my life-long to-learn list (not to be confused with my life-long to-do list) has been scratched off. It's always nice to know how one is being labeled.

I <3ed Juno

I feel about Juno the way I think I might have felt about My Best Friend's Wedding if I'd given a crap about it: it finally provides the ending to this type of movie that I've been waiting to see my whole life. As we were walking out of the theater, my man mentioned that he thought the end would somehow stick Juno with the baby and she would be okay with that. On behalf of myself and every other woman who's ever gotten prego and wanted to give the kid to someone who actually wanted it, it was fan-fricken-tastic to see.

Granted, my feelings are greatly aggravated by the fact that if it weren't for a recent miscarriage, I would currently be in a situation much like Juno's - except for the details anyway. The few women I talked to about my decision to carry the baby but give it up for adoption responded with little more than disbelief. The over-arching societal belief about this seems to be that women can't give birth without wanting to change their entire lives to care for a child. I was happy that Juno - as a character and a movie - showed a more rational view.

The light-handedness with which Juno treated the major button-pushing issues of teen pregnancy and abortion v. adoption was beyond impressive. The actors owned their characters so fully that any pro or con argument presented was shown only through an individual's perspective. All this contributed towards making Juno stand out as the one in control, a message I am all about having girls internalize.

Anyway, it seems I can't talk about this movie without making it seem overtly feminist-y or whatever, but when all is said and done, you should see Juno because you'll laugh, you'll cry (if you're me), and you'll go home happy. Michael Cera and Jason Bateman from Arrested Development maintain their track record of awesome acting, Ellen Page who plays Juno is captivating. Oh, yeah, and the soundtrack is cute as buttons.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Woman Warrior

I recently re-read my favorite non-fiction book The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts by Maxine Hong Kingston. Woman Warrior chronicles the difficulty Kingston and her female ancestors experienced growing up in a culture where that considered females a burden. One of the most fascinating chapters of the book, however, tells the story of Fa Mu Lan as Kingston's mother told it to her. Of course, this isn't at all close to the Disney version.

In Kingston's version, Fa Mu Lan follows a white bird up a mountain, meets an old couple at the top and agrees to stay with them to be trained as a warrior and, eventually, to revenge her family, village and nation. She learns to possess the qualities that make a fighter mentally and physically fit and while she misses her family, her life with them began to grow more and more unreal. One day the couple showed her a gourd in which she could see her childhood friend being married to her in a full ceremony. But still she trained with the couple and did not leave the mountain until they declared her ready. That day she returned home and was welcomed with a celebration as though she had come back from the dead. That night, her parents carved the names and deeds of their enemies into her back so that she would never forget and those who found her body would know. After these wounds healed, Fa Mu Lan took men from the village and began to fight. In this way she was reunited with her husband and childhood friend. They all battled together toward the capitol where they beheaded the emperor and set up a peasant in his stead.

I like this version much better than Disney's and if you did too, then you should read the rest of the book. It's full of more crazy shit than you can shake a stick at... which, by the way, tends to be one thing most of my favorite books have in common.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

How To Live Car-Free in the Midwest

When I moved back to Kansas City from Seattle this past June, everyone and her mother was telling me that I wouldn't be able to survive life in the Midwest without a car. I decided to prove them wrong. I've never owned a car in my life, although I have driven and ridden in them extensively like most Americans. Initially, my lack of car was always a direct result of my poverty and subsequent lack of incentive to spend wads of money on something I didn't need but eventually it became a lifestyle choice that I've fiercely taken hold of.

So I moved back in June and initially I was staying with family and commuting downtown with them every day, then taking the bus over to Westport. At that point I had almost resigned myself to inadvertently having a car because my boyfriend had one, but the Universe took care of that soon enough and his car was totaled in an accident. He decided not to get another one. So by the time we'd moved into our new apartment in Valentine, we were car-free and planning to stay that way.

Since we live in such a fabulous location, everything we need is within walking distance or by bus. It has been a joy to walk to work every morning and having a 10-15 minute commute. The whole experience has been supremely idyllic and I was a little worried that winter snow and ice might bring that to a halt, but it turns out that ice storms and snow storms are a lot less problematic when you can slide down the icy street to work instead of sliding around on the highways.

And I know this lifestyle isn't for everyone (yet), but I'm happy to a living example of how to live without a car in the big ole sprawling Midwest. If the idea of living car-free or even car-light appeals to you in any way (like your checkbook, for instance... check out the true cost of your car over at Edmonds.com) I suggest reading How to Live Well Without Owning a Car: Save Money, Breathe Easier, and Get More Mileage Out of Life by Chris Balish. He's a non-car-owner who came to change his lifestyle because he - like my boyfriend - totaled his car and decided he really didn't need it.

Balish's take is very common-sense and he does a great job of breaking down all of the little details that you need to know to make living without a car work really successfully. For instance, he provides 6 questions to ask yourself to see if you're ready to work towards a car-free life:

  • Can you get over your own ego?
  • Can you get to work reliably without a car?
  • Do you live in an urban area, or in a mixed-use development?
  • Do you have access to public transportation?
  • Do you live in close proximity to amenities?
  • Are you flexible?
If you answered "yes" to at least two of those questions, Balish and I think you can start changing your lifestyle. You might be surprised how happy you become once you cut your freaking umbilical cord from your car. Anyway, I'm gonna go test out my new boots now.

Friday, December 21, 2007

SquireCast Interview: Part 3

Today I'm bringing you the third and final installment in the SquireCast interview with Kent's answers. Enjoy and don't forget to listen to the latest SquireCast; it's a Christmas episode and it's embedded at the bottom of the interview for your listening pleasure.

How did the original Squire show get started?
It's a great story -- we should tell it on air sometime. The short version is that we participated in a college radio promotion that involved meeting some DJs, and they told us that it was pretty easy to get a show on the radio station -- even though we were only in high school at the time. We were on the air from 1995-2000, in a few different incarnations.


What was your favorite part of being on the show back then?
As a certified music snob, I've always enjoyed forcing my listening tastes on the audience. Umm, I mean, introducing people to great new music.
Also, interacting with the listeners was always a hallmark of the show -- taking requests, holding contests, having an internet presence. I think it helped us get a loyal following of people who would tune in every week. Plus, we got to meet a lot of chicks.

Whose idea was it to "get the band back together?"
Mostly Rob. He and I had always talked about how much we missed doing radio. He and Joe looked into the technology and figured out a way to easily record a podcast with all of us in different places. I was psyched from the start.

How did you want to new show to resemble and/or differ from the old show?
We're trying to keep the podcast as similar to our old radio show as possible. Even though the music is edited in later after we record all our talk breaks, we still listen to the songs that we're going to play in between as if we were recording a continuous show. It helps us feel like we're still in "the studio" and get in a radio mindset.

How does podcasting change the nature of what you were doing on the radio?
The main difference is that it allows us to edit parts of the show. If a part of our talk break don't sound right, or if it just sucks, we can edit it. We can also add production and liners after we record to make a better overall show. Of course, spontaneity is a big part of the show, so we really try to keep the editing to a minimum. If Rob starts rambling, or I make a reference that nobody understands, so what? That's who we are, that's part of the show.

How do you choose music to play?
Rob and I basically split song choices evenly. Joe gets one song a week, and we try to play about two requests a week also. We tend to pick our songs out beforehand, but Rob and I don't know what the other one is going to play until we start recording. It helps keep it fresh.

As far as my personal choices, I try to always include a few newer songs, and add some of my favorite older tunes or bands. Of course, one of the best things about podcasting vs. radio is that we can play anything, without having to worry about format or FCC restrictions -- as Rob so eloquently demonstrated during Episode #4.

What has been your favorite SquireCast so far and why?
I would say Episode #2. Even though it probably made me look like a obsessive freak, it was absolutely hilarious. It really shows the advantages to recording a podcast and being able to add production and piece together other elements to make a high-quality, entertaining show.

What can listeners expect in the future?
We're still tweaking with the show structure and format to figure out what makes everything flow the best. We might add some more regular features, similar to Joe's Pick of Week, but not necessarily on every episode. Listener feedback is the best way to gauge how we're doing, so I encourage everyone to let us know what you think.

Listen now:



Related posts:
SquireCast Interview: Part 1
SquireCast Interview: Part 2

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Bloch Building Declared 2007's Top Architectural Wonder

Note: Thanks to a nod from Tony's Kansas City, people might actually be reading this now. How odd. Well, what do you know? TIME Magazine titled the Nelson Atkins' new Bloch Building the "#1 Architectural Marvel of 2007." While this is great news for Kansas City (especially following on the bad news about the Paseo Bridge plans) I'm a little disappointed that a green building took second. And I'm extremely surprised that the Olympic Sculpture Park took third. I mean, the Park was cool and all, but it was still mostly just grass on a bunch of ramps with well-planned gardening and gigantic pieces of sculpture, of course.

I wonder what criteria the choices were based on. It all seems very random to me.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Pavel Tsatsouline: The Coolest Communist


My boyfriend introduced me to Pavel Tsatsouline through his exercise videos, one of which is posted below. Pavel tells you how to work your body like a Soviet Super Soldier and begins most sentences by looking straight into the camera and barking "Comrade!" It is the best video I've seen with Russians in it since The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming. And while my super-smart co-worker Richard said his exercises aren't really the best thing for your health, I'm okay with that. I wasn't really watching for the exercise tips anyway. ;)

You can see clips from Pavel's videos ova hea.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Biomimicry for Greener Buildings

In a meeting with my work's CEO, he said that "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" as the mantra for green lifestyles has to be replaced with "Rethink, Re-imagine, Redesign" and nothing expresses that better than the Eastgate Centre of Harare, Zimbabwe. I found out about this through a post at Sustainablog, and it is just one of the coolest building green methods I've heard of yet.

The Eastgate Centre was designed by architect Mick Pierce and engineers at Aryup Associates to mimic the HVAC system methodology of African termites. These two quotes will give you the general idea, but you can head on over to Sustainablog for the full post:

If you’ve ever seen a termite mound you should still be impressed by these built by African termites in Zimbabwe. The termites build mounds reaching multiple feet in order to farm a fungus that feeds them. The finicky fungus must live at exactly 87 degrees F. While temperatures outside the mound walls vary by about 70 degrees F, they had a problem to solve. “The termites achieve this remarkable feat by constantly opening and closing a series of heating and cooling vents throughout the mound over the course of the day. With a system of carefully adjusted convection currents, air is sucked in at the lower part of the mound, down into enclosures with muddy walls, and up through a channel to the peak of the termite mound. The industrious termites constantly dig new vents and plug up old ones in order to regulate the temperature,” describes Abigail of Inhabitat.

...

The complex is made up of two buildings connected by a glass passageway that is open to the fresh air. As air is drawn from this space, fresh air is constantly replacing stale air. Not only is this healthy for the people inside the space, but nature is doing most of the work for us. Using less than 10% of the energy of a conventional HVAC system, this system has saved the owners $3.5 million over the last decade. Tenants also pay about 20% less in rent than surrounding office buildings.
With 50% of climate changing emissions are coming from buildings across the globe. Imagine how much cleaner and healthier we and the world will be when we start using smarter technologies like this in every building. That's gonna be fricken sweet.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Restaurant Review: Cancun Fiesta Fresh

Since I've done one restaurant review, I figured I might as well talk about going out to eat now when I feel like it. Hopefully, some of you will also find some tasty food this way. One of my co-workers recently suggested Cancun Fiesta Fresh as his top choice for Mexican food in Westport. I was complaining about the Mexican restaurant I'd enjoyed closing down, and decided that since I had a reccomendation of someone I could trust, I'd go ahead and try eating at this place that pass every day on the way to work. And while it's as divey as it looks on the outside, the food was absolutely incredible.

My boyfriend and I both ordered chimichangas and after about 15 minutes they were sitting in front of us. I've never seen a chimichanga like that before: instead of being wrapped in a tortilla, it was wrapped with some kind of puff pastry that'd been toasted to a flaky perfection. Oh my god, yum! According to every other conversation I could over hear, everyone else also had the same general reaction to their dinners. (An aside: The party of 4 sitting at the table next to us provided a scary view into 1984-alternative-reality world. The entire conversation (all 45 mins or so that we heard anyway) revolved around news stories... regurgitating and misremembering news stories. It was like having Fox News on in the background. How can people do that?)

So if you're in Westport and hungry for Mexican, sidle on over to Cancun Fiesta Fresh. It's spicy and delicious, just like MY conversation at restaurants. XP

Thursday, December 13, 2007

SquireCast Interview: Part 2

Today I bring you Part 2 of the SquireCast interview with Rob's answers. If you missed Part 1, you might want to go back and read the introduction so you'll know what we're talking about.

How did the original Squire show get started?

Kent and I were on an epic journey trying to find something to do as teenagers in downtown Erie, PA in 1996. After many obstacles and no fake IDs, we stumbled upon the program director of Energy FM 90 WERG while she and the GM were doing a promo in Perry Square for their show. We hung out with them all night, and eventually talked them into letting us on the air.....suckers. Before that, even, Kent and I used to make mixtapes. We figured out how to rig up a microphone to my shelf system CD/Tape/Stereo, and actually DJ'd the tapes as if it were a live show. I can assure you the quality has not improved much since then... haha. I can remember more than once where I quoted line for line things that Matt Pinfield said on 120 Minutes about the exact same bands we were using, and I totally passed it off as if was my own knowledge. Hey, I was 15... but honestly, if MP was still on the air, I'd still be quoting him verbatim.

What was your favorite part of being on the show back then?

That's a really hard question. For me, there were so many awesome things that came from that terrestrial radio show. I gotta be honest though, even with all the craziness and small town clout we were able to tote for a while, my favorite times were when it was really calm in the studio, and Kent (and Steve when he took over for Kent) and I just got off the air... I would sit there and contemplate how we were sending sound to hundreds, if not thousands, of people and hopefully entertaining them. In a weird way, I felt like I was really connecting with a lot of people without having some tangible contact. Those moments, along with a few others since, actually drove me to my career in entertainment. Being able to reach so many people, or even just a few, simply by creating something that connects you visually or sonically without ever needing to meet just resonates with me as sort of an intimate power that not a many people will every experience. ...ha...With great power, comes great responsibility...listen to SquireCast.

Whose idea was it to "get the band back together?"

I think it was really all of us. I know I would say things like, "Man, I really miss doing the radio show." Kent would concur, so would Joe. Finally, we tossed around the idea of doing a podcast, but none of us knew the first thing about how you made one. So for about 3 or 4 months we researched what needed to be done, and on my end, I focused on how to successfully record all three of us live even though we weren't in the same room talking into the same mic, a la Energy FM 90. It literally took several months to get all the kinks worked out, and honestly, we still deal with those kinks every time we record. Look! I went on a tangent! Go fig? Short answer: We all pretty much came up with the idea, as far as I remember. It was just a mutual feeling... unless I'm wrong, ask Kent.

How did you want to new show to resemble and/or differ from the old show?

I think we're all going to answer that differently. I personally wanted to work on my personal show structure again and how to present an entertaining program without being lame...unfortunately, I think I nailed the "lame" part. ;) Also, I wanted to play stuff that I wasn't hearing on the radio without having to answer to management. I have a severe problem with authority....just ask my boss. But at the same time, I wanted the new podcast to be like the old radio show in that we really do strive to bring something not necessarily new to the "airwaves," but to shrink the divide between the audience and the show. Too many radio shows are too pretentious or over-produced... I want it to feel like you're hanging out with us, not just listening to something. That's always been my goal with the show, past and present.

How does podcasting change the nature of what you were doing on the radio?

This has been a great sociology experiment for me. Turns out, actual human contact does make a difference! Our show is completely improvisational. It's a LOT harder to improv with people who aren't in the room with you. That makes the podcast a lot more challenging for me. But it's a good challenge, and I think we're getting better at it. The best part about it is that we can reach potentially billions of people with the podcast versus the 200,000 people in the Erie, PA area, which only about 50,000 could even pick up the signal. Something tells me Energy FM 90 had a lot less than 50,000 listeners. ;)

How do you choose music to play?

Hmmm. For me it really depends. I go through awkward musical shifts constantly. I usually just play songs that I'm really into at the time. Other times I'll hear something I really like and I want to share with people. And honestly, sometimes I build my half of the playlist about 10 minutes before we record. haha.

What has been your favorite SquireCast so far and why?

Hmmm... I don't really have a favorite. Uh, I mean, they are all so damn incredible, just this side of celestial, how could I ever decide? lol, yeah right. I'm just avoiding answering... Whatever episode is most current when you read this, that one is my favorite. So you should go download it and rock out!

What can listeners expect in the future?
I want to figure out how to give stuff out...I love giving stuff away. And I will invent time travel LIVE on SquireCast....tune in for that...

You can visit the SquireCast MySpace page for more info and downloading links.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Story of Stuff with Annie Leonard

Word around work and the green blogosphere was that "The Story of Stuff" with Annie Leonard is a must see. So I went and saw it.

A 20 minute video, "The Story of Stuff" breaks down the American consumer culture step by step from extraction to disposal and examines some of the deadlier issues at play behind it. Even for people who already know about the real cost of what we buy, this is still worth your time. So go see it... and pass it on.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Wink: Your Friendly Neighborhood Sex Shop

WARNING: This post was written for an adult audience.

Clinical sexologist Elizabeth Rich opened Wink on West 39th Street this summer. It wasn't until this weekend that I was able to finally pop in and see what it was all about, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it as amazing as I'd hoped.

The atmosphere is markedly different from the sweaty-old-guy-jacking-off-in-the-back feeling I usually get at sex shops. Small, but open and inviting, Wink displays its wares with all the tact and care of a jewelry store. The selection is surprisingly various for the size of the store, ranging from glass pieces, many vibrator options, a small book section, a small (but good) S&M section, lubes, condoms, etc. They have an incredible lube for women called Pink. (I tried a sample of it and I have to say it is the most incredibly successful lube-for-women I've ever experienced.) They also had some high quality toys that I've only previously seen online (including the best "strap-on" ever). One of their more unique toys was a vibrator(s) that links up with an iPod and pulses to the beat of the music.

The prices are also the best I've seen in a store of that quality (although most things are more expensive on the West coast). For instance, I purchased some incredible bondage tape that only adheres to itself for $5, which is the cheapest I've seen it anywhere ever. The staff person
working when we went in was extremely attentive and offered suggestions and advice that made the entire process of finding what we wanted smooth and easy.

Wink also offers sex ed classes, movie nights and other randomly awesome events. I highly suggest you check Wink out. They'll be having holiday deals throughout the end of the year and we were told that they'll be serving hot chocolate and cookies to make it feel "even more homey." And a sex store I can feel at home in is a long-waited for blessing.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

UX: Cultural Guerrillas in Paris

The FIX art blog of Missoula Art Museum recently posted about UX - a Parisian grassroots underground organization of 'cultural guerrillas' working to restore the cultural heritage of Paris. Their existence became known after they secretly repaired a landmark clock (pictured at the left), working from the inside at night.

From the FIX post:

UX claims to have about 150 members divided into 10 specialized groups, secret radios for communication, and are actively restoring Paris's underground, including crypts, sewers, and even a movie theater, complete with bar, that officials discovered UNDER THE SEINE. In response to "why?" a Mr. Kunstmann, spokesman for UX, said “We are the counterpoint to an era where everything is slow and complicated. It’s very difficult to get anything done through official channels. If you want to do it, you have to be clandestine."
Fascinating stuff, huh? It really makes guerrilla gardening look like child's play. FIX is asking if you think UX should be considered terrorists because they often employ illegal action. Go on over and put in your two cents. I personally choose to define them as contentious objectors.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Friday, December 7, 2007

Restaurant Review: The Mixx

I'm not normally a big restaurant review kind of gal, but I had a shockingly good experience at a newish place the other day, so I thought I'd share.

The Mixx is an 'upscale' sandwich shop that recently opened over on Main Street. I was a little perturbed to walk in and find it painted the nearly the exact same colors as my smoking TV room at home, but the aqua & spring green combination created a warm backdrop for the unique light fixtures and open kitchen area. And besides the really horrible gay club music they were playing, it was a nice (although uber-hipster) atmosphere.

The menu is composed of salads, soups, sandwiches, pasta and sides. I ordered the Salmon BLT, not because I like salmon (I don't), but because nothing else looked good and fish is healthful. Imagine my surprise when the sandwich not only didn't make me gag, but it was completely freaking delicious. The best part of my meal though was my side. I paid the extra few dollars to replace my potato chips with garlic mashers, and it's one of the best food decisions I've made in forever. Even though we got take-out and I didn't eat for about half an hour or more after leaving, the mashers were still nearly nuclear hot and full of not-to-garlicy tastiness.

If you're looking for a sandwich place to offer options most Midwestern restaurant's won't have, then the Mixx is the place for you. It is so good.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

SquireCast Interview: Part 1

My friend Joe of YourDailyJoe recently started a podcast with Rob and Kent, two of his buddies from back in the day when they were all growing up in chilly Erie, Pennsylvania. Their MySpace profile describes the evolution of SquireCast:

In 1996, friends Rob and Kent took to the airwaves of Erie, PA, by way of Energy FM 90 WERG. The show grew and changed over the next four years, adding new people and losing others. By fall of 2000, the show came to an end, and the Squires scattered themselves across the country.
Now, through the power of modern technology, The Squires are reunited.
Today Joe will be answering my questions about the show. Check back soon for Parts 2 and 3 of the SquireCast interview, when Kent and Rob will answer the same 8 questions to give you their own stories.

How did the original Squire show get started?

Rob and Kent were already doing a show -- The X-Centric Squires Show -- before I came on board. I'm not sure how long they were doing it. I think it was less than a year. But it was the mid-90s, and that whole swing music revival was picking up steam. Rob and Kent were really into that, so they asked the management at WERG if they could do a specialty swing show. Management agreed. I had expressed my interest in being on the radio to Rob several times. So as the show switched format from the usual college music to swing music, Rob brought me in to do the entertainment news updates every hour. They were supposed to be short segments, but they'd almost always go on for a full ten minutes or longer.

What was your favorite part of being on the show back then?

I'm just an entertainment kind of guy. I love movies, TV, music. I love taking it all in, and I also love creating it for other people. Erie is a small city, so there's only so much you can do about creating entertainment when you're there. So I did school plays. I co-wrote a comic book series with an artist friend of mine to pass around to my friends at school. And when the opportunity came up to be on the radio, even though it was a college station, this was probably a chance to have the widest audience yet.

Whose idea was it to "get the band back together?"

I sort of want to take the credit for this myself, but I think all three of us were thinking it. I got a nice new computer about a year and a half ago, and an iPod not too long after that. I became a huge podcast fanatic. I probably download 15 hours worth of free podcasts every week. And since I love to make entertainment and put it out there for people, I started thinking about how I might be able to contribute to the podcasting universe. It didn't take long before I thought of the Squires again. Even though we're spread out over the country, the internet can simulate the experience of being together in the radio station. I tossed the idea to Rob. He said he'd been thinking of doing something like that. So Rob and I recorded a test to see how it would come out. We were pretty happy with it, so we got in touch with Kent.

How did you want to new show to resemble and/or differ from the old show?

Needless to say, swing music is done. The classics still survive, but that's really not our focus anymore. We really just want to spread the word on music we think is good, new and old. We try to be diverse in the type of music we play, although rock tends to dominate. The biggest similarity to the old show is our talk breaks. There's just that friendly dynamic. We joke with each other, share what we know about the music and musicians we play. With any luck, we end up being interesting and informative to our audience.

How does podcasting change the nature of what you were doing on the radio?

The internet has its limits in how closely it can simulate the experience of being in the same physical location of the other guys. I think we underestimated how much we rely on visual cues from each other, so that we wouldn't talk over each other, or so that we could take the conversation in a particular direction. But the flip side of that is, without the internet, there's no show at all. So you do what you can.

Obviously, we don't have to deal with FCC regulations. We don't try to exploit that by swearing all the time or anything. But it's a relief to not have to babysit ourselves, and to not edit the songs we play. We're adults, and we're making a show for other adults. We shouldn't have to worry about getting fined by moral extremists.

How do you choose music to play?

You may be asking the wrong person, since I only get one pick per week. I have an idea of the process Rob and Kent go through. They'll e-mail or call each other and start talking about one or two songs they'd each like to play. Then they start thinking of other songs that would go well sonically or thematically with the songs they already picked. They try to create some sense of unity. We're not just playing random songs. We're grouping things together for a reason. And then, of course, our general guideline is just to play stuff we like, that we think other people would like.

What has been your favorite SquireCast so far and why?

Ah, the old "pick your favorite child" question. I really liked 1 and 4. So far, I think those episodes have been the most diverse in their music selection. Rob and Kent picked a lot of songs for those episodes that I had never heard before and, they presented that material in a way that helped me get right into it. It's hard to pinpoint what exactly we did in those episodes that I think worked well, but sometimes that stars are just aligned the right way. Hopefully that will happen many more times.
If I had to pick just one of those two episodes I mentioned, I guess I'd go with 1. Not to sing our own praise, but I really think we knocked it out of the park right from the start. I was impressed with how the show seemed almost fully formed right from the start.

What can listeners expect in the future?

Well, we're constantly making little adjustments here and there, so I feel like the show is in a constant state of improvement. We're planning a holiday music special, if you can believe that. And then I think we're going to try to do a "best music of 2007" episode. Then we just have to hope more great music is on the way in 2008.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Act Now to Save Affordable Birth Control

Since I can't possibly say it any better, this is an excerpt from an email I recently received from Planned Parenthood:

Last year's Congress made a technical error writing a new law, and the cost of birth control in many clinics is rising to almost 900 percent what it was just months ago. Women who were paying $5 to $10 per month are now paying $40 to $50 for birth control. For the college students and low-income women who will be affected by this cost hike, that's no small matter.

This delay adds insult to injury in a year when Planned Parenthood and women across America have endured multiple attacks on access to birth control: the appointment of radically anti-birth control Susan Orr to lead the U.S. family planning program, then the attempt by anti-choice radicals to block much-needed federal funding for our health centers. It's unfair and shocking that Congress is becoming part of this anti-birth control trend.

All it will take is for Congress to agree to pass the Prevention Through Affordable Access Act to immediately make birth control more accessible to millions of women who need it.
Please write to your congress member today (Planned Parenthood even has a super-easy form to use) and urge him or her to back this act.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Marion True: Still On Trial... Or Is She?

I nearly had a heart attack yesterday when I saw that Marion True has been acquitted in a case involving a Greek artifact. Marion True became my example of everything a museum curator ought not to be while in grad school, especially during and after my Cultural Property & Museums class (which examined cultural property laws, looting past and present, and where museums and collectors fit into those issues).

Since her guilt regarding her purchasing of looted Italian artifacts (for the Getty) is so obvious even to the most casual observer, I thought there was no way in hell she'd ever get off. To be suddenly confronted with her being let off the hook was about to shatter my believe in JUSTICE (you know, moreso), but then I read the article more closely and saw that these charges that were acquitted aren't the same as her major trial. And then all was right with the world again (the real problem is that I completely forgot that she is being tried in Italy for the crimes I'm thinking of, not in Greece).

I want Marion True to go to jail and make every single curator who thinks of purchasing stolen materials (believe me, it's easy to know when it's stolen) stop dead in his/her tracks. I am so against stealing cultural heritage.

Photo: Marion True at the Getty from the Christian Science Monitor

Monday, December 3, 2007

Guerilla Gardening

One of the more exciting concepts I've learned about since starting at Bridging The Gap is Guerrilla Gardening. I learned about it from a coworker and now it's my favorite form of random protest ever.

Guerrilla Gardening can be as simple as throwing seeds in uncultivated urban areas (esp. public spaces) and letting nature take its course or as complicated as turning a Mercedes logo made of bushes into a peace symbol. Easy or hard, the premise is the same: to re-purpose unused urban spaces through "nonviolent direct action" into productive green spaces (a premise that dovetails neatly with the Food Not Lawns movement). Imagine how cool it would be to have all the little bare patches of earth downtown blooming instead of blowing dust everywhere.

I'm excited to see if the native wildflower seeds I scattered last week will bloom in the Spring... if not, maybe I'll step it up a notch. Either way, I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Friday, November 30, 2007

Music I Can't Stop Listening To

EDIT: I just got this email from my friend Laura: "I have a nitpicky lyrics comment to make: I believe it's "Krakow, Poland!", not "Cracker, Poland!" Just thought I'd let you know." While I'm disappointed ("cracker poland" made me giggle!), there's the truth of it.

For the past couple of weeks, I've been replaying two albums over and over again in my head & foobar player. You need to hear these CDs, mkay?

Storm Large's The Calm Years is as sexy as it is catchy and angsty. I feel this album is an almost-perfect expression of what it feels like being female in American society, but that might just be my own complete identification with it.

But nevermind all that, the sound is incredible. Storm's voice is as dynamic and explosive as her name suggests. The music compliments her emotion and vocal stylings perfectly and one cannot resist toe-tapping, head-bobbing and the like when listening... even at work. Storm is a freaking force of nature. She cannot be stopped!


The Lovely Feathers' Hind Hind Legs is the other album I can't get enough of. Listening to their songs is like taking a hike that starts at the edge of a forest, but once the song is over you're lost in the woods with no idea how you got there and no memory of how to get back. It's awesome. They have a sound similar to other bands coming out of Montreal with songs that seem often spastic or disjointed if you listen to carefully.

Their lyrics are clever and silly, covering diverse topics as from Pope John Paul's death ("Pope John Paul died today and we say/Pope John Paul, where you from?/Cracker Poland! Cracker Poland!") to making love in a cornfield ("OH lets go outside/put the car in drive/to the cornfield side/there we'll take off our pants/kiss the court and dance"). And while those two aren't in the same song, a lot of other odd combinations are. They'll stick in the cracks of your brain.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Sam & Max are Back!

A few weeks ago if you told me you'd never yet experienced the complete awesomeness that is Sam & Max: Freelance Police I would have said I felt very sorry for you . But now everyone has a chance to rediscover them thanks to a new video game that has revitalized interest in the fuzzy duo.

Having been a Sam & Max fan for years, I've had to content myself with a few readings of the (currently but not for long) out-of-print comic (while planning to steal it from my brother's cold dead fingers one of these days), playing Sam & Max Hit the Road and watching the few episodes of the quickly-cancelled Fox cartoon. But now, suddenly the floodgates have opened and the Universe is blessing us with not only another video game, but a re-printing of the comic as well. Now I won't have to kill anybody to get a copy! How awesome is that?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Get a Red Cedar Christmas Tree for $10!


If you live in the Kansas City and you would like to have a live Christmas tree this year, Kansas City WildLands* is here to help. Saturday, December 8th, 10 - 3 PM at Shawnee Mission Park, KCWL will be hosting an event where you can cut down your very own Christmas tree and walk away with it for a mere suggested donation of $10.

KCWL is a coalition to restore, conserve and manage remnant wild areas. Part of what they do is restoring native prairies and when you take home a tree, you'll also be helping restore prairie at Shawnee Mission Park. This is way better than picking up a tree for $25-45 at your local hardware store.

Read more on the KCWL website.

*KCWL is an affiliate of my employer, Bridging The Gap. Go team!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Luminecence: My recent visit to the KC Sculpture Park and Bloch Building

As much as I wanted to make it to the Plaza Lighting Ceremony this Thanksgiving, I managed to miss it anyway. To make up for it, I went to the Nelson-Atkins' Kansas City Sculpture Park Luminary Walk on Saturday.

It was an incredible experience as the Sculpture Park path winds all around the new Bloch building. The Bloch glowing all over the grass was actually more interesting than the luminaries, but the little path-lights led me to places in the Sculpture Park I'd never experienced before. I recommend just walking around the Bloch sometime in the evening... although maybe after it warms up again.

So, the Bloch building, I said a while ago that I would talk about it when I went to see it for the first time, but I was so disappointed after my initial visit that I didn't even feel like talking about it. I was horrified to find inside such shiny architecture ass-loads of wasted space. Instead of being full of beauty and mystery and COLOR! like the main building of the Nelson-Atkins, the Bloch presents a faceless, soulless contemporary gallery-type feel that I do not like.

However, since visiting again, my initially harsh impression has been somewhat softened by the incredible art they keep moving through the Bloch. On my first visit, Kiki Smith's Constellation was set up in one of the galleries and it was easily my favorite piece in the building. An entire room of blue paper grounding glass and metal representations of the constellations is a surprisingly involving experience.

This time, there were two new temporary exhibits up: Time in the West and Tapping Currents. Both feature beautiful and unique pieces that I was happy to encounter. Time in the West had some amazing layers of photographs on top of one another, showing changes in landscape (pictured below). And Tapping Currents, a contemporary African Art exhibit, featured large, bold works that made all the white walls fade into the background. My favorite was Julie Mehretu's Dispersion.

I'm still not 100% sold on Bloch, but I like it a lot better than I did before. And if the Nelson continues to fill it up with such good pieces, I'll no doubt stop complaining all together.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the Midwest

The World Resources Institute has released Charting the Midwest a report about the state of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Here are some of the highlights:
-In 2003, the states studied in this report accounted for 25% of US emissions and 5% of world emissions
-If the Midwest were a country, it would rank as the fifth largest emitter of GHG in the world
-Electric generation, transportation and industrial energy use accounted for 75% of emissions
-The average person in these states emits 13% more GHG annually than the national average
-Compared to the US overall, the Midwest is more dependent upon coal for energy

Key findings for Missouri:
"Between 1990 and 2003, Missouri experienced the largest absolute increase in total GHG emissions of any Midwest state, approximately 32 million metric tons of C02. This increase was largely driven by a 22% growth in transportation emissions and a region-leading 54% increase in emissions from electricity generation. Overall emissions growth in Missouri outpaced population growth by a factor of two." (page 14)

Sure, it's slightly depressing, but the good news is that this sort of thing is all the more reason why organizations like Bridging The Gap need to exist and I'm happy to be a part of it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

New Paseo Bridge Design Revealed

The Kansas City Star is saying that the newly unveiled Paseo Bridge design is going to be as iconic for KC as the Golden Gate bridge is for San Francisco. I don't know about that, but I'd be happy if it makes KC get in all the movies instead of the St. Louis arch (which really should've been in KC, you know). And it is absolutely going to be the most beautiful bridge in the city.

Check out this video of what the completed bridge will look like (it will blow you away). Another great new feature will be a pedestrian/bike lane. Construction starts June 2011.

Monday, November 19, 2007

And "Good Christian People" Vote for this Guy?

A recent "special bonus political edition of Dumb Things Guys Say" over at the Evil Slutopia blog features a video of John McCain answering a question about Hillary Clinton. Either go watch the video or go to Evil Slutopia to read a transcript, unless you just like to hear rants you know nothing about.

I'm disgusted, pissed and bummed out by this. No matter how much our elected officials, for the most part MALES, fuck up the nation and fuck over their citizens it is still THAT threatening to people that a woman wants to be the president? It's not like it even MATTERS in the long run who is elected, because they don't hold any real power anyway. The people with that power don't have to be elected. And I'm voting for Hillary in part to flip the bird at people like McCain and his supporters. I refuse to accept a world where a body with breasts, ovaries and a vagina is still treated like a bimbo in what is still largely a boy's club.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Caturday Clip: Cowbell Hero

What's better than Guitar Hero? Oh, I think you'll see...



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Friday, November 16, 2007

Concert Review: Australian Pink Floyd at the Uptown Theater

I went and saw Australian Pink Floyd with my little brother Wednesday night at the Uptown Theater, which is now located a convenient block away from my new apartment. I'd never been to the Uptown before and I was surprised how beautiful it is on the inside, considering the outside sets me up to think it will look like a faux-carnival inside (although I guess if I looked at more than the marquee, I would have noticed the dome!).

Instead, I found elaborately painted wooden panels, statues and and a layout that all made it look like something that wanted to be from 1700s Italy. It was gorgeous.

Unfortunately, its old layout meant that the front half of the audience had to sit on plastic folding chairs and, if you were me and your seat mysteriously didn't exist where it was supposed to, partially behind a pillar as well. Needless to say, the concert wasn't what I'd describe to my museum geek friends as "an optimal flow experience."

But who the hell cares? I got to hear faux-Floyd played live! When we came in (late) they were playing "Time," then the back-up singers carried us away with some incredible vocalizing. The first half was difficult to enjoy or pay attention to because of the whole disappearing chair issue and my anxiety that they would not play the one song I wanted to hear, but I was somewhat settled down after a disgusting drink and a cigarette during the intermission.

The second and longest part of the show started with "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" and then, wouldn't you know it? The song I'd been waiting for and my favorite Pink Floyd song evar: "One of These Days." I know that's a weird song to have as my favorite, but Meddle is the only P.F. album I really listen to regularly so it's my favorite. Plus, I think "One of These Days" is a perfect stream of sound. I love the double bass line and the crescendos of brighter sound exploding over it (if this song was a person I'd have sex with it). Plus, I love growling "one of these days I'm going to cut you into little pieces." I love it so much that I often automatically say that line when someone trails off a sentence with "one of these days..."

Okay, but back to the show. Next Aussie Floyd played a a few songs from The Wall, of course, and Animals. Watching the crowd stand, shake their fists, and scream "Teachers! Leave Those Kids Alone!" was an incredibly moving experience. And then, of course, everyone also sang along when they encoured with "Comfortably Numb."

The images that flashed on the screen now and then were often amusing as kangaroos were inserted into the graphics as often as possible, but for the most part I found them boring. Once or twice they were really impressive, like when the backup singers were keening like crazy over images of gigantic waves. That was amazing.

Of course, it wasn't like actually listening to Pink Floyd but it was close enough. I enjoyed how Aussie Floyd made the experience their own and the excitement and joy of the crowd - parts of which were composed of seriously old people - made this one of top two shows I've ever seen.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

America Recycles Day

Today is America Recycles Day and I'm pretty sure you can guess what it's all about. The National Recycling Coalition is encouraging people to take a pledge, and getting involved locally. They're also offering education resources covering topics like why it's important and interesting end products.

Here's why I think it's important: the average household produces 2,020 pounds of waste annually. Imagine just the waste from the households on your block. It would no doubt bury your neighborhood. Instead, we're burying other neighborhoods and ecological niches with our waste when we could be doing all sorts of better things with it, like turning it into things we want and need.

You might also want to check out the EPA's Personal Emissions Calculator to see how many pounds of waste your household produces and how much that can be cut down through recycling.

For Kansas City area people, you can go here to find where you can recycle even odd items like microwaves and paint.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Simplify Your Holidays With the Alternative Gift Registry

As I may have implied yesterday, I would rather duck out of holiday festivities all together in order to avoid the pressure and stress that comes along with them. One of the worst headache-inducing aspects is gift-giving and/or receiving. Thankfully, the New American Dream has created the Alternative Gift Registry to help us out.

"We all love giving and receiving gifts; it’s important to our culture and good for the spirit. When the gifts we buy don’t match our values, however, they can distract from, rather than deepen, the meaning behind an event, despite the best intentions of those involved. The cost to gift-givers—not to mention the environmental impacts—also adds up quickly.

By encouraging non-material, second-hand, homemade, and environmentally friendly gifts, we seek to continue the proud tradition of gift-giving while helping celebrants focus on what matters most: a joyous commemoration with loved ones that honors the important moments in their lives."

It's easy, free and best of all, now you don't have to listen to any one complain because you don't have an online wishlist for them to shop from. Ease + value = my kind of present! Sign up to create your registry today and finally get something you'll treasure this year.


(my smarmasaur sure raised his head in that last paragraph, huh?)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

No Purchase Necessary

Nov. 23 is coming up soon and with it all of the psychotic Christmas commercialism that goes with Black Friday. It's so perfectly placed after Thanksgiving, a day we've been conditioned to believe is a day for devouring as much as humanly possible. What better way to enjoy the next-day bloaty feeling, but with a group of strangers fighting for cheap electronics?

Well, Adbusters is suggesting an alternative: Buy Nothing Day. From their press release:

Buy Nothing Day has taken many shapes, from relaxed family outings, to free, non-commercial street parties, to politically charged public protests. Anyone can take part provided they spend a day without spending.

In past years, street activists have proven particularly imaginative in their celebrations, bringing zombie marches, credit-card cut-ups, and shopaholic clinics to malls and public squares in an effort to expose the environmental and social consequences of First World over-consumption.
As you should have picked up by this time, I'm totally for making our lifestyles sustainable because I think that people shouldn't go extinct. That's my end goal, and to get there are tons of silly little things like not buying into consumerist bullshit. I challenge you to think of what you can do to change your family's celebrations this year into something that is good for everybody.

More reading:
Buy Nothing Day
Buy Nothing Christmas
Tips for an Eco-Friendly Holiday
Green Holiday Tips
How to Have a Green Christmas

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Monday, November 12, 2007

My Top Ten Authors

It's that time of year again when I start reading more. For some reason I have an aversion to going outside after dark and since it gets dark at 5pm now, I'm spending a lot of leisure time at home. Luckily for me I have an enormous pile of used books from Seattle that I've yet to read, including some books by some of my all-time favorite authors:

1. Richard Adams (England, b. 1920)
Since I couldn't decide any other way to do it, this list is vaguely in the order in which I discovered the authors. Richard Adams has been a part of my life since I was a kid in the form of Watership Down. It was just about the only fiction book my dad would read out loud to us (everything else was all biblical.. yeesh) and, to give my dad credit, he has a great style for reading out loud. Because of it, I've been in love with that novel, rereading it several times over the years. I only recently started reading more books by him, including Maia and Shardik (both of which take place in the same universe with some few overlapping characters).

I love Adams because he is vivaciously descriptive and because he truly love his characters and the worlds they inhabit. It is easy to get swept away with him.

2. E.E. Cummings (U.S., 1894-1962)
Still the poet who influences me the most subconsciously, I am almost ashamed to admit that I discovered Cummings because of a Johnathon Taylor Thomas movie. But despite all that, I fell in love with his brevity, depth of feeling and sharp insight. Whenever I've fallen in love, his poetry captures it the best and it seems no other author is so able to evoke what I'm feeling while not talking about it at all.

3. Margaret Atwood (Canada, b. 1939)
Atwood is THE feminist novelist of North America in my opinion. Introduced to her by way of a Political Science project requiring A Handmaid's Tale be read, Atwood was one of my favorite authors to write papers about in college because her characters and situations are so effortlessly disturbing, like a good episode of The Twilight Zone. My top Atwood suggestions are The Blind Assassin, Oryx and Crake and Good Bones and Simple Murders.

4. Orson Scott Card (U.S., b. 1951)
I was introduced to Card through Ender's Game which made a huge impact on my life. As I was growing up, I was convinced that adults kept vital information from children in order to control them and Ender's Game faced that reality as only science fiction can. Later the other books in the Ender "Trilogy" eclipsed it in significance, but I will never be able to forget the solidarity that I felt with Ender. Plus, it's good sci-fi too.

I know Card writes fantasy as well, but since most fantasy books disappoint me, I've been avoiding it. If someone were to suggest a good Card fantasy to me though, I'd probably give it a chance (hint, hint).

5. Tim O'Brien (U.S., b. 1946)
My all-time-favorite Vietnam veteran/writer, Tim O'Brien does an incredible job of exploring the destruction or deadening of the psyche as a response to war. Since America is -goddammit- almost constantly at war, O'Brien isn't going to stop being relevant for a long, long time. His characters are perfectly articulated through a careful balance of their thoughts, their stuff, and their interactions. I'd suggest starting with The Things They Carried or The Nuclear Age.

6. Jorge Luis Borges (Argentina, 1899-1986)
Borges is pretty much The Man when it comes to Magical Realism. His narrators have encountered the Fountain of Youth and Homer, the Real Don Quixote, an object for viewing the entire Universe, and much much more. Fascinated with the nature of time, memory, reality and identity, Borges stories, essays and poems evoke his continual wonder in the face of the unknown.

7. Jeanette Winterson (England, b. 1959)
Winterson is an imaginative lesbian author whose writing style is like Virginia Woolf without all of the hangups and an added shot of sexy. She was also raised by crazy Fundamentalists, which gives me a special affinity for her and certain of her characters. My favorite of her books is still Written on the Body and its gender-bending narrator who might be male or female.

8. Neil Gaiman (England, b. 1960)
In my opinion, Gaiman is the only author who has been able to successfully revive (not just re-interpret) the power of myth in modern times. His success is because he is not afraid to re-invent the old gods or to invent new gods to stand in where none previously existed. In my mind, this gives his writing a power that other people might not see, but even without that, his stories are incredible journeys of fancy and fear that will suck you in so fast your head will spin.

9. Peter Carey (Australia, b. 1943)
Carey writes about Australia in the way that only an insider can and produces brilliant pieces of humanity that capture an era. His novels tend towards the tragic ultimately, but the adventure along the way makes the destination matter less. I recommend Oscar and Lucinda as the best place to start with him.

10. J.K. Rowling (England, 1965)
I don't have much to say about Rowling except that she is giving Gaiman a run for his money when it comes to reviving old myths. Taking the best from the fantasy genre, Rowling has created a Universe that continues to expand, growing in complexity from a simple beginning. I have read the Harry Potter books more times in the past 4 years that I've ever re-read any book (except for maybe Watership Down). Best of all, while she's using mythic structures in her magical universe, she's also staying true to her characters (look at how easily she resolved the whole Snape issue in book 7). All sorts of awesomeness.