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December 31, 2009

Lost Forest After Dark 2009

Another year in the books and another year of blogging complete. Lost Forest After Dark went with a new design mid-year, had a bunch new readers and commenters and continued to be an outlet of barely coherent rants on whatever interests me. I thank you for stopping by and especially commenting. If you are a lurker, drop a note, then I know that someone actually reads this crap. Oh, and if you read this from Facebook, come on over to the actual site, that's where all the action is. Below are a bunch of posts I was particularly proud of this year, check them out if you missed them the first time around.

Thoughts on a New Vikings Stadium

Katherine Kersten and Gay Marriage

My Poem on the End of the Twins Season

My Controversial Take on the Beatles Re-issues

My 97-mile bike ride to Siren, WI

Review of Wilco (the Album)

Trip to Wrigley Field

Going to the 7th Street Entry with My Daughter

Live Replacements and Meat Puppets Concerts Available for Download

The People of Haiti

December 29, 2009

Books Read 2009

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O.k. So it's my annual review of the books I read over the past year and like 2006, 2007, and 2008 it is dominated by non-fiction. Overall I have to say this was one of my more disappointing years in books reading as I tackled more than a couple of books in which I had a hard time getting through. With that, the 2009 list:

Mountains Beyond Mountains -- Tracy Kidder
. The story of Paul Thatcher Farmer and his efforts to eliminate TB in Haiti. Great book illustrating how someone totally committed to a cause can make a difference in a bleak country.

Ten Cent Plague - David Hadju. I reviewed this book here. All about the growth and downfall of comic books from the turn of the last century to the 1950's. Nice little history, could have used more color illustrations of some of the comic book covers the book discusses.

The Wordy Shipmates - Sarah Vowell.
Quirkly history of the Puritans who settled Massachussetts Colony in the 1600s. Vowell has a nice way of making history a lot of fun. Reviewed here.

Mystery Train - Greil Marcus. The ur-text on how to do rock and roll criticism. I of course loved the chapter on Elvis but the chapter on Sly and the Family Stone is really good too.

Hitchcock's Romantic Irony - Richard Allen. A film critic's look at Hitchcock's films. A little too scholarly for my sensibilities. I was hoping for something a little more accessible. Definitely only for the film studies major.

Positively Main Street - Toby Thompson. The author goes to Hibbing to find out about Dylan's childhood and finds a whole new world called Minnesota. A must read for all Dylan fans.

In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World it Made - Norman Cantor.
This book was about the Black Plague and was wretched. Supposedly this guy is a European History professor but you'd never know it by reading this book. I could do a better job of writing this book using the Black Plague entry from Wikipedia. Stay Away!

The Cousins' Wars - Kevin Phillips. Another book that I was disappointed in. Ostensibly about English-American relations from the 1600's to World War I, seen through the lens of the English Civil War, American Revolution, and Civil War. This book was just too boring and too tedious. I am interested in the subject, I just need a better book.

Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crimewave and the Birth of the FBI - Bryan Burrough. The book which inspired the movie starring Johnny Depp. True life accounts of the gangsters who terrorized the mid-west in the early to mid-1930's. Excellent book if interested in this slice of American History.

A Walk in the Woods - Bill Bryson.
Reviewed Here. Bill Bryson is having a mid-life crises and decides to walk the 2100 mile Appalachian Trail. No word if he also had an Argentinean mistress. Great travelogue of his adventures on the trail, U.S. forest and environmental policy. A great, breezy read.

Pillars of the Earth - Ken Follett. This was the only novel I read all year. Epic story of a 13th Century English town and their efforts to build a grand cathedral. Not great literature but a fun page turner nonetheless.

Wrestling with Moses - Anthony Flint. Reviewed Here. Story of the epic struggle of Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses and the protection of NYC's West Village. We struggle to this day over the same urban development/protection issues these two fought over 50 some years ago although I would have to say that Jane Jacobs is winning.

The Tipping Point/Blink - Malcolm Gladwell. Tipping Point discusses the mechanics behind when something goes what we now call "viral" and what it means for advertising and cultural norms. Blink is the lesser book and discusses how we make snap judgments and first impressions, sometimes within a blink of an eye. Both are very interesting and quick reads. Tipping Point has sometimes been compared to (vastly overrated imho) Freakonomics.

Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 - Tony Judt. Another big disappointment. I had high hopes for this book as it promised a vast discussion of all of European history from 1945-2005. But it was way too boring and got into more discussion of political alliances than the history of what happened. There's got to be a better book on this subject than what Judt attempted.

I also re-read two books that I have enjoyed in the past. They included Perfect From Now On: How Indie Rock Saved My Life by John Sellers and Like a Rolling Stone: Dylan at the Crossroads by Griel Marcus. Both are quite excellent and well worth the re-reads.

That's it I think. Seventeen books, which is about average. Not sure what 2010 has in store for me yet but I do have a $25 gift card to B&N. I'll probably also try to get Gladwell's other two books as well. Any suggestions? What did you read in the past year?

December 22, 2009

Year in Music 2009

It's time for my annual round up of music I liked in the past year. Previous years can be found here: 2006, 2007, 2008.

I actually didn't listen to a lot of new music this year so my list is short. But there definitely were some winners with at least two I think I will be listening for a long time.

Camera Obscura - My Maudlin Career

A great band straight from the Belle & Sebastian branch of the music tree, My Maudlin Career is a great pop album full of catchy lyrics and sweet songs. Singer Tracyanne Campbell has a wonderful voice that will bring a smile to your face. Great album from top to bottom.

Dinosaur Jr. - Farm
With the original Djr line-up of J Mascus, Lou Barlow, and Murph, Djr proved with Farm that they can still bring the fuzzy guitars. In fact I would put Farm up there with some of their great releases of the 1980s. Thankfully not over-produced like so many other comeback bands (I'm looking at you My Bloody Valentine) the songs are given room to breathe and sprawl around in your brain. Long intros, guitar solos, and repeated chorus are the rule on Farm resulting in 60 plus minutes of fuzzed out bliss.

Wilco - Wilco (The Album)
Probably a lesser effort than Sky Blue Sky or A Ghost is Born, Wilco (the Album) still got lots of listens this past summer and fall. With the infectious Wilco (the Song) and You Never Know, Jeff Tweedy and friends wrote an album for the Great Recession and for those with fears of a black President. Basically telling us to settle down, everything is going to be ok. While lacking some of the experimental guitar chops of previous efforts, Wilco (the Album) is still a solid effort from a band that is producing music at a higher level than almost every other band out there.

The Decemberists - Harzards of Love

The Decemberists followed their dabbling into prog rock with a full on rock opera about wood nymphs, killing babies, a shape-shifting boreal forest dweller named William and a jealous forest queen. Sounds goofy I know and the story is hard to follow but the album rocks. Plus the album includes what I think is the song of the year: The Rake, which even though is about a guy killing his children after their mother dies, is a great song (see video above).

And that's it. Like I said, not a lot new stuff this year. And U2? You should be ashamed for that piece of garbage you released this year. It's one of those rare albums that gets worse upon every listen.

Also I didn't go to a lot of shows this year either. Below are some write-ups of shows I went to. Also a shout out to the apparently no more 757s. I saw them at the Uptown Bar in May (or was it April) and it was a blast. Probably the most fun I had at a bar show in a long time.

Noah and the Whale
Wilco

And finally I can't let the year go by without a shoutout to The Charlie Pickett and the Eggs re-issue/greatest hits album that I picked up this year, what a great album and songs that were sadly missed over these past 20 years.

What music did you like in 2009?


December 21, 2009

Vikings -- Embrace the Inevitable

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Forty years of Viking choking on the big game has led to one established fact: The Vikings will disappoint, they cannot win the big game. It's pre-ordained, it's in their DNA, it's who. they. are.

Most Viking fans realize this but it still doesn't matter. They get whipped up into thinking this is the year, this time they might have a chance and then they allow their soul to be crushed by the inevitable stupid play calling, bad tackling, and gutless approach. It's pathological really. Why go batshit insane over a team you know is going to disappoint you?

Vikings fans need to take my approach. Embrace the dysfunction. Sure you watch, you swear at the TV when the Vikes go 3 and out (again) or give up a touchdown on 3rd and 26(!!!), but you also laugh. You are assured that everything is right in the world safe in the knowledge that the big loss is happening again you know it's coming. So sit back and watch the wreckage knowing that choking and the Vikings are two things that are just meant to be. How it could be otherwise?

December 18, 2009

Friday Random Top 10

On Wednesdays the Current has a program called "Theft of the Dial" where a celebrity gets to spin records and talk with Mark Wheat. This past Wednesday was play-write Kevin Kling and it was an amazing 50 minutes of radio. Click here to give a listen, it's well worth it. Here's your Friday top 10:

1. Wanted Man -- Johnny Cash
2. Not Cool -- The dB's
3. They'll Never Take Your Love From Me -- Hank Williams
4. In the Flesh? -- Luther Wright and the Wrongs
5. Liar's Tale -- Guided By Voices
6. This is the One -- Stone Roses
7. Billy Bug -- U-Joint
8. Good Sculpture -- The Rezillos
9. The Big Foist -- Minutement
10. Possession -- Elvis Costello

Bonus: Ordinary People -- Neil Young

Some obscurities from well known artists. Can we consider the Stone Roses a "one album wonder?" What's your top 10?

December 17, 2009

New Vikings Stadium

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Photo from Minnpost.com

I was a big supporter of the new Twins ballfield and the new Gophers football stadium. My support was based on purely selfish and aesthetic reasons: Baseball is meant to be played outdoors and college football should be played on campus. It was a mistake to move those teams into a domed stadium and felt that both should have their own place to call home. Also both those teams are close to my heart and allegiance so of course I wanted the best for them. It was especially frustrating for the Twins and almost every state/city was building a new, interesting ballpark for their team and the Twins were being left behind.

Also, while I understood and was sympathetic to the argument against public support of basically a private enterprise, that never entered into my support for these two teams. First of course, the Gophers are a public enterprise and deserve public support. However for the Twins, it basically came down to the fact that most other baseball markets had already decided that public support was appropriate for a ballpark. Basically the price of having major league baseball was public support for a ballpark. And given that the finance agreement for a new Twins ballpark was going to cost me probably less than $150 a year, it was well worth it.

That brings us to the Vikings. I've been pretty quiet about a new Vikings stadium. This has been for a couple of reasons. One, while I watch on Sundays, the Vikings rank below the Twins and Gophers in my opinion. Also, while not ideal, indoor football at the Metrodome for professional football is ok in my book. Finally given the dire financial situation the State is in, those complaints about public support have a little more resonance.

The Vikings of course are pushing hard for a new stadium. There is no argument that, when compared to other teams, the Metrodome is not professional football-worthy. Fan amenities are low and revenue generating opportunities are slim. The Vikings lease ends in 2011 and if something is going to happen, it needs to happen soon. Although I have to say, threats of moving to California are not that realistic.

Unfortunately $950 million for a stadium in this economic climate is really tough. So given the fact that I believe the Vikings need a new stadium, here are some criteria that I think the state should pursue when considering a new stadium:

1. The stadium should be enclosed, either through a retractable or permanent roof. I think football should be played outdoors, but 10 games a year is not enough activity to justify a Billion dollar investment. A roof allows the stadium to be used for concerts, trade shows, high school sports, etc. It will cost more, but will provide more public benefit.

2. Vikings need to contribute more of their own $$$. Right now the Wilfs are saying they will contribute $250M. That needs to increase. In fact from the Vikings own web site, they should new stadiums with owner contributions ranging from 50 to 30 percent. A minimal contribution of 1/3 should be negotiated, with 50% the goal.

3. Support needs to be statewide. Hennepin County took on the burden for the Twins, that can't/won't happen for the Vikings. Gambling is an easy way to pay for it. Taxes on hotels, taxis, sports jersey's etc., is another.

4. The stadium DOES NOT necessarily need to be located in downtown Minneapolis. Professional football seems more suburban in its fan base. If there is a suitable suburban location, the Vikings should pursue it. The failing Brookdale Mall area is a perfect location. Lots of transportation and utilities already in place. Also this is a part of the metro area that could use an economic shot in the arm.

With these criteria in place, I could support a new Vikings stadium. Over 2010, as this debate heats up, I will take a closer look at the Vikings stadium debate and hope to generate some discussion over this issue.

What do you think should be done about the Vikings and their need for a new stadium?

December 15, 2009

Best Movies of the Decade

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Since it's the end of the decade, it's practically a blogger's obligation to make best of or worst of lists. A couple of weeks ago I listed my favorite albums of the decade. Today I'll tackle movies. As always reaction, ridicule are welcomed in the comments.

In no particular order.....

Spiderman II - Probably the best Comic Book Hero movie ever (and that includes you Dark Knight).

Juno - Wonderful script, quirky characters. Fun little movie.

Unfaithful - Diane Lane gets it on in a hallway, bathroom, floor, couch, bed... with some French dude or and she's married to Richard Gere.

Memento - By doling out the movie "backwards" the viewer experiences the story much like the main character.

Lord of the Rings - I'm including all three here although I think Fellowship is the best. Not too many people think it could be done, but a pretty good adaption of the books. Deserves all its accolades.

Shaun of the Dead - Funny, scary take on the whole zombie romantic comedy genre.

Eternal Sunrise of the Spotless Mind -- Wonderful movie, probably one of my favorites. Like Memento, great use of non-linear storytelling to get into what the characters are experiencing.

Almost Famous - Another favorite. Perfect movie about what it means to love rock and roll.

Pan's Labyrinth - Magical storytelling with an ending that will break your heart.

Into the Wild
- A great adaption of a great book. One is both horrified and completely understanding of Chris' decisions to move to Alaska.

Brokeback Mountain - Get over the homosexual themes of this movie. It is wonderfully filmed and Heath Ledger's last scene will shatter your soul.

United 93 - Intense. You know how this ends but still keeps your grabbing your seat to the very end.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - The movie that brought Asian wire work to the masses. Beautifully shot. This is the same Director who brought us The Hulk?

King of Kong
- Documentary about grown up boys pursuing video game records. Compelling characters you just can't make up.

Man on Wire - Story of how a guy was able to string a line between the Twin Towers and walk across. Fascinating story.

Diving Bell and the Butterfly
- Very interesting true story about a man who can only communicate through the blinking of his eyes. The movie brings you virtually right inside his head as he reacts to his new circumstances.

In America - Nice little story about recent immigrants to NYC.

Donnie Darko - Weird story about descending into madness or time travel? You decide. Cool soundtrack too.

Little Miss Sunshine - I love how this story portrays this down-on-its-luck family. The payoff at the end is fantastic.

Sideways - Maybe a little pretentious but some great writing. Plus I never laughed so loud at some of the antics.

American Splendor - Again one of my favorites. A great way to bring a comic book series to the big screen.

Once - A nice little movie with wonderful music and great characters. Simple, straightforward plot that is not clich├ęd.

Moulin Rouge - I'm a sucker for this movie. Big musical numbers, wild renditions of popular songs, glorious sets. I wish they made them like this more often.

O Brother Where Art Thou - Again the music makes this movie. Coen Brothers at their finest.

School of Rock - A perfect vehicle for Jack Black but another love letter to Rock and Roll.

Milk - Wears its heart on its sleeve, portrays the man warts and all.

Where the Wild Things Are - Kids movie for adults. Wonderful movie about the joys and frustration of being a kid.

Avatar - O.k. I haven't seen this yet but have read a lot of reviews and seen interviews. It sounds amazing. If I see it and it stinks, I will modify.

What did I miss, what above doesn't deserve to make it?

December 11, 2009

Friday Random Top 10

Yikes, my daughter takes her driving test today. Pray for me. Maybe a random top 10 will soothe my jangled nerves:

1. Johnny Ryall -- Beastie Boys
2. Elevator Music -- Beck
3. Universal Corner (live) -- X
4. Engine 143 -- The Carter Family
5. Darkness on the Edge of Town (live) -- Bruce Springsteen
6. Full Moon Empty Heart -- Belly
7. Oh, My Pregnant Head -- The Flaming Lips
8. Fountain of Youth -- Guided By Voices
9. There's No There -- Dinosaur Jr.
10. Oceans -- Pearl Jam

Bonus: Thing Called Love -- Johnny Cash

That was a little different. Don't see The Carter Family nestled in with The Flaming Lips and X much do you? What's your top 10?

December 10, 2009

Big G Reduces Cereal Sugar

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General Mills announced yesterday that it was reducing the amount of sugar in its most popular cereals that are marketed to kids under 12 years old. Once implemented, these cereals will have less than 10 grams of sugar per serving. As my kid eats Cinnamon Toast Crunch by the bucket, I am very happy with this decision and think this is another sign that consumers are taking a closer look at what they are eating and putting into their bodies.

However I was amused by information from the story:

Boo Berry or Franken Berry, which have 12 grams of sugar per serving, aren't included because they aren't advertised on TV shows marketed to those under 12. Nor does the reduction cover Chocolate Lucky Charms, which is 43 percent sugar by weight, down from 50 percent two years ago.

First if Boo Berry and Franken Berry aren't marketed to those under 12, who's buying the stuff? Are there hipster-like 20-somethings who eat Boo Berry to be ironic? Do goth chicks eat Frankenberry as part of their lifestyle? Also Chocolate Lucky Charms? I didn't know it existed but it sounds disgusting. But 43 percent of its weight is sugar? And that is down by 14 percent from 2 years ago? Wholly crap I wonder if you get a free insulin shot with every box of Chocolate Lucky Charms. Some pharma company should look into the cross marketing possibilities - they could lock up the pre-diabetes segment of the population at an early age of their soon to be shortened life.

December 8, 2009

It' Coming!!!!

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TV Weather men/women are checking their radar, tweaking the dials. Snow plow drivers are making sure the heat works in their rigs and filling up their thermoses. Those who threw out that old shovel last year are flocking to the hardware store to get the latest model. Grocery stores are stocking up on beer, milk, and other staples. Kids are dreaming of snow days and wondering if they should do their homework tonight. It's snow-mageddon 2009 and it's bearing down hard on the Upper Midwest!!!!!!!!!!!!

The TV weather folks are in full Defcon 1 over this. We had a relatively mild November with not even a whisper of precipitation that could be blown up as a nuisance snow. So these guys are chomping at the bit. They need this, it completes them. We are getting hourly updates on the snow and reporters are scattered throughout the area to report on how much, how cold, and what it means for traffic. Even if we end up with one or two inches, we will hear about this for the next four days.

Me, I am ready. After 2 years of sitting inoperable in the garage, I spent some coin to tune up the snow-blower. I have two new shovels. I get some milk on the way home. Heck we are even going to get the Christmas tree tonight so that we don't have to deal with the snow on Wednesday. We are ready, bring it on.

Update: Apparently the storm has a name (just like a hurricane) Ladies and gentlemen may I introduce Billybluster!

December 4, 2009

Friday Random Top 10

It's finally getting cold enough to get some ice down for the rinks. Broomball/skating season will soon be upon us!

1. Conversation -- Gary Numan
2. The Murder Mystery -- Velvet Underground
3. Fame Throwa -- Pavement
4. And I Love Her -- The Beatles
5. Mexico City Blues 104 -- Jack Kerouac
6. Dig For Fire -- Pixies
7. Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon -- The Flaming Lips
8. Help -- Howie Day
9. This Is Not a Photograph -- Mission of Burma
10. Blackbird -- Sarah McLaclan

Bonus: One Way Street -- Bevery Williams

Not the greatest list. Three Beatles tunes, only one original version.

December 3, 2009

Best Albums of the Decade

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O.k. I broke down. I'm going to list my favorite albums of the 2000's. But I'm going to cheat. Instead of ranking them, I just going to list them by year. The thing is I move back and forth on albums all the time. Talk to me next week and this list will change, next year it may be radically different. A good example is The Crane Wife by the Decemberists. Six months ago it probably would not have made this list, now I think it's in the top 5. By the way, I have indicated my top 5 in bold and have linked to albums I have discussed in the past. So with that, here are the best albums of 2000-2009:

2009
Farm - Dinosaur Jr.
My Maudlin Career - Camera Obscura

2008
El Rey - The Wedding Present
Glasvegas - Glasvegas

2007
Sky Blue Sky - Wilco

Raising Sand - Robert Plant and Allison Kraus
Neon Bible - Arcade Fire

2006

Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers, and Bastards - Tom Waits
Living With War - Neil Young
Another Fine Day - Golden Smog
Normal Happiness - Robert Pollard
The Crane Wife - The Decemberists
Life's Pursuit - Belle & Sebastian

2005
Freedom and Weep - The Waco Brothers
Junky Faithful - Ike Reilly Assassination
Howl - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

2004
A Ghost is Born - Wilco
Folker - Paul Westerberg
Van Lear Rose - Loretta Lynn
Funeral - Arcade Fire

2003
Fever to Tell - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Elephant - The White Stripes
Rainy Day Music - The Jayhawks

2002
Yankee Foxtrot Hotel - Wilco
Rebuild the Wall - Luther Wright and the Wrongs
Sea Change - Beck

2001
Amnesiac - Radiohead
Isolation Drills - Guided By Voices
Ralph's Last Show - Fred Eaglesmith

2000
All That You Can't Leave Behind - U2
Strokes - Is This It
O Brother Where Art Thou Soundtrack
Solitary Man - Johnny Cash
Smile - The Jayhawks

December 2, 2009

What's Wrong with Adrian Peterson?

I don't post a lot about the Vikings because quite frankly I don't care that much about them. Sure I watch on Sundays but growing up as a kid and watching 3 Super Bowl losses and then as an adult seeing at least three NFC Championship games choked away has left me pretty jaded. Let's face it, the Vikings will lose sometime in January and break purple and gold hearts all across the State. Let's hope they don't do it in a fashion like this, however.

I wasn't able to watch much of Sunday's dismantling of the Bears, however I did hear a lot of it over the radio, including the post game. Since the Vikings win was so convincing, a lot of discussion centered around Adrian Peterson and his, for him, pedestrian game of 85 yards on 25 carries and 2 fumbles (one lost). Callers and analysts were wondering if AP was hurt, criticized the O-line, and whether or not AP was washed up.

What came out the next day, however, was really interesting. The Bears all but admitted that they set up their defense to stop AP, they weren't going to let him beat them. The Vikings recognized this and exploited it with pass after pass. Even after the Vikings had huge success with the passing game, the Bears didn't change their strategy.

After previous games it's been the same story. Defenses scheme to stop AP first, the pass second. Now I'm not a great football mind but given what Brett Favre and his arsenal of WRs and TEs have done all season, this seems to me to be short sighted. Sure, with all the offensive weapons the Vikings have, defenses are in a little bit of "pick your poison" mode, but one would think that after 11 games, defenses would figure out that the season Brett Favre has had isn't a mirage.

Actually I think it's all due to the first game against the Browns when AP went apeshit all over that defense, running over guys, tossing them aside like they were skinny high school players. Teams saw that film and said, I'll take my chances against a 40 year old gunslinger than a beast like that. Then when teams saw the huge hit AP put on that Steeler Safety (see above), those fears were confirmed. Fortunately for the Vikings, Favre has been able to exploit the defense emphasis on stopping the run.

So to answer my question above, I don't think anything is wrong with Adrian Peterson. Soon a defense is going to say, we can't let Favre beat us, and then AP will run wild. So enjoy the season for what it is. But in the end, don't worry, they will disappoint. They will lose a playoff game that they could have won. After all it's the Vikings.