Get outta my way Rudy!

The I Don't Get It feature is on the disabled list. Instead, here is a midweek list of some random musings, headlines, links and other tidbits.

Damn you Rudy Guliani! Is it because I included you in inaugural I Don't Get It along with Hannah Montana? After 37 hours of not eating, I was looking forward to (salivating for is more like it) an egg sandwich and French fries at our local Too Jay's restaurant. When we got there, though, it was impossible to get in. The deli was packed with Young (and Old) Republicans. Turns out Too Jay's was one of Rudy's stops in his Florida blitz. I listened to Rudy for a few minutes, lost my appetite, then went to a different Too Jay's several miles away. Since he's basically ignored all the previous primary states, I expect to see a lot of Rudy here in South Florida over the next several days.

Did you know that my egg sandwich choice was healthier than a bran muffin? It's true, according to a recent article in Men's Health -- Health Foods That Aren't. But here's some even better news. According to WebMD's Healthy Foods for Brain Power, coffee is good for your brain!

But if you do go for the egg sandwich, make sure you hold the bacon. I'm not saying this because I'm a vegetarian. You don't want to accidentally eat one of the famous Pigs in Literature.

Annoying cell phone users
How about those self-centered people with cell phones who continue on with their conversations, regardless of the people around them? I've seen it a lot lately at the gym, people on the treadmill or elliptic machine gabbing away as if there is wasn't anybody right next to them. At the supermarket the other day, one woman held a full conversation as the cashier checked her out. Never said hello. Never said thank you. I find these people incredibly rude. Just shut up for a few minutes. Be a decent person. I don't want to hear about your medical appointments, your argument with your sister, or your plans for later that night. Check out the great blog Jew Eat Yet? where Jeff Tweedy's brother-in-law kvetched about this recently.

Where's my Ricky Watters jersey?
Patriots and Giants in the Super Bowl? I can't root for either team. I guess there's hope for the Eagles if the Giants, just 8-8 a year ago, are in the Super Bowl. I still think the Giants are not that much better than the Birds. And though I hate to say, they've played well for the last few weeks, particularly Eli Manning.

In the meantime ... Did you ever spend mucho bucks on a shirt of someone on your team, then a year later find him either cut, traded or gone via free agency. What happens to all those jerseys? People still wear them, apparently. Spot the jerseys at this very funny Web site.

What I'm thankful for ...
Oh, I got my egg sandwich (sans bacon) eventually at a GOP-free Too Jay's. But that wasn't all. I topped off with a wonderful dessert. This week, I'm extremely thankful for the Too Jay's Banana Dream with its chocolate chips and walnuts and chocolate icing over rich banana cream.


Playlist 10 -- You Shall Know Our Vasectomy!

The time spent in airports and hotels this past week allowed me to catch up a little on my reading. But before this week's Playlist, a little reminder: Don't be shy. Click the comment button. Let me know: What are you listening to? What are you reading?

Oxford American's 9th annual music issue.
As if attempting to complete your meal with supersize fries, several magazines provide readers with bonus CDs and/or DVDs to complement their content. I particularly enjoy two specific "literary" magazines that do this with their "music issues" -- The Believer and Oxford American. What makes Oxford's music issue stand out is that it doesn't just toss together a CD of indie rock or confessional songwriter types and call it a music issue. The issue carries the same well-written pieces this quarterly Southern magazine is known for. It delivers some of the artists you have heard about (Dwight Yoakam, Percy Mayfield and Thelonius Monk) along with a collection of long-lost nuggets from those artists who you may recall, but can't tell why. Or, quite frankly, you've never heard of. This wonderful mix tape isn't stuck in one genre or one era. Teddy Grace's jazzy blues of "Hey Lawdy Papa" from 1939 sits between Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks and that extremely nasty Betty Davis. But you don't just get the songs. You get the story behind the songs, and the artists -- the sad, addiction-riddled life of the powerful folk singer Karen Dalton as well as the rise and demise of the Parchment Prison Band. Great stories that fill these otherwise unknown songs with life and passion. And there are other great articles, ranging from a tale of Dylan's recording of Blonde on Blonde to this piece on the "blog band of the moment" culture of indie rock.

Upcoming music releases to look forward to ...
So who is the blog band of the moment? It appears to be Vampire Weekend, who are all over the blogs and, now the mainstream like the St. Paul Pioneer Press list of 5 bands to watch. (Note, you have to register for free to read the Pioneer Press article)
I guess if they're in the newspapers, they're so over now. Truth is, Vampire Weekend's blend of African- and classical-influenced pop is very catchy and comes with the Distractions' seal of approval (based on their Mansard Roof EP). In the blog buzz, the comparison they most often get is to Graceland-era Paul Simon. Definitely check out their self-titled album when it drops on January 29.

I'm also looking forward to the soon-to-be-released heavy riffs of Black Mountain and the heartful, Cat Power sound-alike Thao Nguyen. You can hear some of Thao's music here.

And a final interesting music-related read before we move on ... Can you really trust a list of 120 essential pop albums when Beyonce and Ghostface Killa are on the first page? Maybe. There are some otherwise interesting choices in the Telegraph's list.

You Shall Know Our Velocity! By David Eggers.
I'm making my way through the David Eggers' catalog backwards and hope to eventually get to his one book that everyone has already read -- A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Though I haven't read all his books, I'm a huge Eggers fan. His McSweeney's publishes some terrific books and magazines and a kick-ass Web site. YSKOV is a modern tale that has a classic feel to it. The characters are trying to give away $32,000 in a week while traveling around the world. Sounds easy, but not for our characters, particularly Will who can't get rid of the pain, voices and little librarians in his head. It's a book that moves at a fast pace, as the boys jaunt from to places like Senegal and Estonia, but also stands still. The book opens with ....
Everything within takes place after Jack dies and before my mom and I drowned in a burning ferry in the cool tannin-tinted Guaviare River in East Central Colombia with forty-two locals we hadn't yet met.

Makes No "Diferentia" to Me
Or Pour the Coffee, Pass the Eggs, Let's Read About My Vasectomy

Since Distractions has a smaller circulation (I'm just guessing here) than the Palm Beach Post's 200,000+ (on Sundays), I think it's safe to share. I'm married to a writer, an incredibly gifted writer. But living with a writer means that your life, warts and all, is sometimes shared in print. Our attempts to kill bugs, clean the house, raise two boys, etc. have been great fodder for wonderful articles by my wife. But when she asked me: Can I write about your vasectomy. I said sure, but where's the humor in this horrific event? I asked just one thing. Leave my name out. So my wife did that, referring to me throughout the article as "Hubby," which would've been great if the editor didn't decide to "out" me in a PHOTO and caption on the article, which ran on the front page of the newspaper's Sunday Accent section! At least the online version leaves out the photo.

Scrimshaw and Acme Pale Ale
Both of these beers from the North Shore Brewing Company are light-tasting, refreshing beers that I highly recommended. Scrimshaw, a Pilsner, in particular, has a very subtle, yet rewarding, taste. Good stuff!

And, finally, some songs I've been digging this past week.
-- Walk Where He Walked, Golden Smog, Down by the old Mainstream. Super song, underrated super group.
-- Suite for 20 G, James Taylor, Sweet Baby James. It has folky guitar, soulful horns, call-outs to the various instruments, basically summing up 70s soft rock in one song (and it's on the quintessential soft rock album).
-- Psychotic Reaction (live), Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Playback. Drummer Stan Lynch takes over vocals on this Yardbirds-sounding tune .
-- Anti-Love Song, Betty Davis, Betty Davis (and the Oxford American music issue CD). Miles' former wife put out two classic funky rocking albums in the 70s, then disappeared to Pittsburgh. I hate to repeat my adjectives, but this stuff is Nasty -- capital N.


Playlist 9 -- Trivia, Heads, Ween, 1908

In honor of the top item on this week's playlist, I'm footnoting several trivia tests throughout the blog. You can find the answers at the end.

Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs by Ken Jennings.
This book, published in 2006, follows the Jeopardy champ's long run on the show, which would be fascinating in and of itself. But Jennings also gives a history of trivia and the interesting characters who build their world around it. There's the early radio quiz shows and the Canadians who created Trivial Pursuit, which leads to the sad story of Fred Worth (1). And Jennings fills the book with the trivia nuggets that are footnoted throughout the book -- with answers at the end of each chapter (Hence the reason for this week's post footnotes). A fun, captivating read. Jennings is a very good writer, has a keen wit and never takes himself too seriously. I look forward to his trivia almanac, which should arrive in stores next week.

If you liked this book, here are some other things you may enjoy.

-- Ken Jennings blog.
Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive ScrabblePlayers by Stefan Fatsis.
The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World by A.J. Jacobs.

Sedano Show Blog -- Politicians and Athletes.
So, have you wondered which athletes the current slate of presidential candidates are most like? Of course not. But Jorge Sedano, host of a sports talk show on Miami's 790 AM has. And he blogged about it in his latest post. Very interesting. Probably the only time the names John McCain and Allen Iverson will ever reside in the same sentence. A couple dead-on selections -- Huckabee as Kurt Warner and Hillary as Alex Rodriguez. Here's my suggestion. (Note. Although I say this, you need to know that I have a lot of respect for Dennis Kucinich, so while it's a cheap shot, it's one done with love). Anyway, how about Dennis Kucinich as Eddie Gaedel? (2)

The Name of this B
and is Talking Heads. Talking Heads.
I'm not a big fan of live albums. But this one is a killer. It covers two specific time periods 77-79 and 80-81, an era that I consider the band's peak -- before Jonathan Demme, big suits and heavy MTV video rotation. In fact, if you only have one Talking Heads album, I suggest that this one be it. It captures the vibrancy, funkiness and, yes, weirdness that doesn't reveal itself as much on their studio albums. The second disc, covering the later period, has an expanded band, which includes the inventive Adrian Belew on guitar.

La Cucaracha.
Speaking of weirdness. Just like the Ween boys themselves, this CD, their first in a few years, is all over the map. Gene and Dean go from the mariachi garage rock of "Fiesta" to the smooth jazz/R&B vibe of "Your Party." But the album's high point is the 10-minute epic "Woman and Man" that builds into a jam that sounds right off of Santana's first album, which has that memorable title.(3) And it all comes with Ween's craziness and sophomoric humor. Don't take it from me -- even the Lord listed it as his 12th favorite album of the year. [FYI -- Don't click the previous link or listen to La Cucaracha if you're easily offended.]

Other songs I was digging this past week ...
-- The Treasure (Take One), Stephen Stills, Manassas. Stephen and the band rock on this song.
-- Cloudscape, Phillip Glass, Koyaanisqatsi. I don't know why, but this haunted me this past week.
-- Won't Be Home, Rhett Miller, At the Fez 2001 (bootleg). Rhett Miller is a great songwriter, love hearing the Old 97s tunes stripped down.
--Anyone Else But You, Moldy Peaches, Moldy Peaches. The original version of the catchy tune all over the movie Juno.

Smithsonian Magazine article on "1908."
Want to know how fascinating 1908 was? It started with the first ever ball-drop in Times Square. The Wright brothers made major advancements in flying. Adm. Robert Peary set out for the North Pole, while some other guy(4) claimed to have already reached it. Disposable razors and vacuum cleaners made their debuts. The telegraph hinted at a future of wireless communication. In a 14-month voyage, the Navy showed its might, but made friends around the world at the same time. All of this is captured in Jim Rasenberger's engaging article.

FYI -- You need to get the January issue to read the article. The link only goes to a Web piece about the article, but interesting nonetheless.

One final note
A big thank you for the reminders about some books that I accidentally left off my list of favorites read in 2007. The list has been updated.

1. Fred Worth wrote numerous trivia books and sued the makers of Trivial Pursuit. Even though almost 30% of the questions in the original board game came from Worth's books, he lost his suit. Read Jennings' book to find out how "Philip Columbo" played a role in this story.
2. Eddie Gaedel was the dwarf who was famous for his one plate appearance in a major league baseball game in 1951. What was his number? You'll have to read this week's Wikipedia link to find out.
3. Easy one. Santana's first album was named "Santana."
4. Dr. Frederick Cook claimed to reach the North Pole before Adm. Robert Peary.


Playlist 8 -- Juno, Simpsons, Rollie, Gong

For the first time in ages (thanks to all the holiday days off), I got to the movie theatre and took time to watch a movie at home. Both were excellent and lead off this week's Playlist, which also includes a couple Web sites, a crazy old space rock band and an exciting basketball game.

The Simpsons Movie. I wondered if this would be a jumping the shark moment for Homer and the gang, which they've avoided so well for 20+ years. But not to worry. This is more than just an extended TV show. Hilarious movie that, like the show, gets in a lot of little jabs at "the man" and the general hypocrisy of our society. Oh, and Bart goes full monty on us.

Juno. Yep, I was at a real movie theater -- and not just to drop my kids off. I was hoping to see No Country for Old Men, but with teen-ager (and fellow Arrested Development fan) in tow, we decided on this quirky, well-written movie. First off, the movie avoids all the usual stereotypes. The characters have depth. And it shows how a girl who isn't sure "what kind of girl she is" maturely faces all the challenges ahead of her. And it's damn funny. I see Oscar nominations in its future, at the very least for screenwriting.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
by Alison Bechdel.
This memoir by the Dykes to Watch Out For cartoonist was my first graphic novel. Bechdel covers her childhood and coming of age as a lesbian, but the book mostly deals with her father's dark secret (he was bisexual and had a thing for boys). This was certainly interesting and an easy read, but ultimately I found it a bit too depressing. I found myself breezing over all the literary references. (Remember, I am only the writer of a junior high school level blog).

Tacky Christmas Yards -- the Blog. Those of you who remember I Don't Get It 2 know I love Christmas decorations only if they're done tastefully. But thanks to inflatables, everywhere is looking a lot like a White (Trash) Christmas. Just this week, I found this blog devoted to pictures of tacky Christmas yards -- along with the author's lists of violations. So if you've put away your Christmas decorations, stop on over and start making plans for next year.

Search for D.B. Cooper. It's been 36 years since Dan Cooper parachuted out of a hijacked airplane with $200,000 in cash. The FBI wants to know if you can have any information on where to find him.

Gong. Best of Gong. I was jonezin' for some prog rock and I found this band I had never heard of before -- and I know my 60s/70s music pretty well. It's pretty crazy -- parts pre-Phil Collins Genesis, a little early Floyd, dashes of Zappa and the Mothers, and a pinch of Spinal Tap (only because they did a trilogy of albums based on the adventures of space traveler Zero the Hero and wrote numerous songs about gnomes). Gong has survived for more than 30 years with rotating musician and the band naming changing to Mothergong, Gongzilla, Planet Gong ...

Bethel College 95, Northwood 94. After running into the Bethel team the night before at Sw
eet Tomatoes, I decided to take my younger son to see a college basketball game -- not NCAA, but NAIA. Didn't matter. These guys were good. We started rooting for our local team Northwood -- coached by Rollie Massimino -- as they built up a 26-point lead. But we couldn't help cheering on Bethel as they scrapped their way back to a 92-92 tie before winning it with three William Walker free throws in the last 11 seconds. And all this for a total of -- $8 ($3 for children, $5 for adults).

And why Chester Arthur on the link this week? It's about time ol' Chester, our 21st president, got some love. We need politicians who can bravely stand up against the hands feeding them for the good of the people, as Arthur did when he championed civil service reform.


Playlist 7 -- Fave books, Miles, candidates

Happy New Year and best wishes to everyone for a successful and satisfying '08! I return this week with a long post, but a resolution to write shorter ones this year.

In recent weeks, we've put out Distractions 10 Best Albums of the Year List and Distractions 20 Best Songs of 2007. This week's Playlist introduces ...

Distractions Favorite Books (Read) in 07

I know I'm late with this list. Some of you out there have already listed your favorite books of the past year. And I appreciate your suggestions. Unlike my music lists, these books were not all published last year. It just so happens that I read them over the last 12 months. Of those books I read, these are the ones that stick with me most and that I'd recommend to anyone. In no particular order ...

Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon
Riven Rock and East is East by TC Boyle
No Country for Old Men and The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Pistol: The Life of Pete Maravich by Mark Kriegel
Bowl of Cherries by Millard Kaufman
The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs
Here They Come by Yannick Murphy
Fieldwork by Mischa Berlinski
Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson
How to be Good by Nick Hornby
Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield
About Alice by Calvin Trillin
The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall
Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

... And I highly recommend David Eggers' What is the What, a novel (sort of) that helped me better understand what's going on in the Sudan.

Wait, I've left one great book out. The best book I've read all year actually hasn't come out yet. (I was lucky enough to read the ARC -- advanced reader copy). But when it does hit the bookstores in February, be sure to get it, especially if you have a teen-ager in the house. And that's .... As if Being 12 3/4 Isn't Bad Enough, My Mother is Running for President by my favorite author Donna Gephart.

And now, the rest of this week's Playlist.

Choose Your Candidate. Believe or not, the Iowa Caucus (see this week's Wikipedia link) is just a couple days away. And the Florida primary is later this month. Whether Republican or Democrat, you have a lot of options this year. This fun little interactive quick from the Washington Post helps you narrow your choice.

Are you more of a moderate? Need a slogan. Then check out this funny list of lesser known political slogans of moderates.

Traveler IQ Challenge/How Well Do You Know the World?
Beware, this is a highly addictive game, but it will help you improve your geography knowledge.

WPRB/Princeton. Back when I lived in Philly, I'd occasionally listen to this college station. I liked their 24 hours of mostly obnoxious and bad, yet surprisingly fun, Christmas music. Turns out the Christmas show is a labor of love for DJ Jon Solomon. On Christmas Day, I found the station's Web page and listened to Solomon's show from sunny FL. The station is even more eclectic than ever with a mix of rock, classical, jazz, etc. And since some of the stuff is
pretty far out there, it helps to have the running playlist.

Miles Davis. On the Corner. Speaking of far out there, this album turned heads and created a lot of confusion when it came out in 1973. There's tabla, electric guitar, numerous drummers, synthesizers and, of course, Miles' trumpet creating a funky brew of noise. Only one song Black Satin has anything resembling a melody. But it's the grooves that keep you coming back for more. It's an album that's still ahead of its time. Sony recently released the The Complete On the Corner Sessions, a 6-disc set that includes the original CD as well as numerous outtakes. That might be just a little too adventurous for me.

St. Vincent. Marry Me. St. Vincent is actually Annie Clark. And based on her work with Sufjan Stevens and Polyphonic Spree, you'd expect an ambitious outing for her first solo album. And that's what you get. She earns the comparisions to Kate Bush, Bjork, Feist and Regina Spektor with inventive compositions that will stick in your head. Favorite tracks: Landmines, Jesus Saves, I Spend and Now, Now.