I recently completed a ridiculous undertaking: I drove a U-Haul truck cross-country, burdened with nearly all of the earthly possessions of my long-time friend, Aaron. Aaron recently accepted a new job and in so doing, committed to significant relocation. The journey began in Chicago where we both took our residence, and found its terminus in San Francisco. We drove for the better part of 3 days, and spent a total of 38.5 hours on the road.

These long, confined hours afforded me the chance to do some real, honest, thinking. Something I done for longer than I care to admit. The breathless pursuit of staying afloat in my normal life has, if I’m honest, drained me of maintaining my heretofore normal periods of mental musing.

As the lines of the road ceaselessly passed, joining their forebears in a lengthy serpentine blur contrasted against the ever evolving landscape, I began to really think again. Here is a catalog of these thoughts, some more fully formed than others:

1.) I live in a boring place – the rest of the world is impossibly more interesting:

Let me lead with the caveat that Chicago is, despite itself, an objectively enthralling city. The suburbs where I take my residence offer serious advantages: decent schools, access to the city itself and the cultural and employment opportunities which Chicago affords its residents… and rich farmland (if you’re in to that sort of thing). It is in the cradle of a very strong craft beer movement taking place in the Midwest, the people are generally polite, and it also supplies a home to many friends I hold dear (though this entire piece is bourn out of one friend leaving the area). Ultimately, the admission must be made that one struggles to articulately delineate the difference between living in Chicagoland and Soviet Russia: salaries are heavily taxed, people are really into hockey, the government is staggeringly corrupt and, for much of the year, the ground is covered by a thick layer of snow and ice. More specifically, this past winter was particularly brutal, as we were richly and repeatedly battered by the icy baton of whichever regional weather deity we apparently angered. After driving across a diverse swath of these United States, I can sum up my extensive research into topographical arrangement in this way:

California > Utah > Wyoming > Iowa > Illinois > 5th Ring of Hell > Nebraska

So, why am I interested in paying so much to live somewhere that offers so little in terms of vistas and climate? I’m not sure I can give a satisfactory answer. Perhaps I need to start job-hunting elsewhere.

 More to follow.

Posted by: vagariesandvelleities | 07/16/2013

Words I Like (Vol. 7)

nerd-bigstock_Extreme_Computer_Nerd_1520708

(This edition comes with special thanks to P.G Wodehouse)

– hirsute

– sobriquet

– pansophy

– serviette

– comestibles

– disapprobation

– excrescence

– scabrous

Posted by: vagariesandvelleities | 06/30/2013

Gary Clark Jr. : Thick-Cut Blues Chops.

Give this guy a listen (and some lovin’ if you feel so compelled).

At the risk of repeating the same tired preamble to most musical discussions I want to be clear that I like  music; many genres thereof. And now I can rest easy, having self-servingly ticked the box that conversationally signals that I’m a man with a *very*  discerning music taste (see: ego assuaging 101). However, when one finds himself pushed into the corner with the dreaded ‘desert island’ style question, I’d probably revert to my more primal, blues-influenced, roots and reach for something like I’ve found in Gary Clark Jr. to keep me company on a sandy beach, as I struggle with just how to corner and consume the wild boar who also finds himself marooned on this wretched dot of tan in a sea of turquoise (and water), as I befriend sports equipment and await my eventual rescue. Yep.

And in keeping with my earlier checklist verbiage, this fellow ticks most of the boxes I’m always on the hunt for, but rarely find contained all in the same package: He’s dripping with soul, easy on the ears, good vocal range, slings riffs with swagger to spare, and from time to time, he *might* tend towards some thinly-veiled-axeman-self-indulgence, all while maintaining a sound which isn’t overly produced/sanitized, which I find to be the death-knell of many a promising bluesman. Clark Jr. leaves me plenty of grit left to keep the music interesting.

Clearly not everyone’s cup of Darjeeling, but the boy’s got serious chops. Hope you enjoy!

 

Yep. It’s been over a year since I posted here.

I seem to have experienced a shortage of ‘free time’ over the past year (see: I was busy AND I’m disorganized). Thankfully, but perhaps a bit regretfully, my 2 regular readers didn’t put up much of a fuss, thereby keeping me on track with regular written expressions.

Presently, I’m gradually trying to return to some of my old hobbies: blogging, reading, writing music and taking photos. Here are some nice shots I took when a few of my nearest and dearest chums came out to Chi-town to visit, which I finally had time to put through Lightroom. I’m pleased with the results!

So here’s to writing more than 5 blog posts in 2013, and finishing a book that isn’t a textbook or some other sort of required reading!

Cheers!

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Posted by: vagariesandvelleities | 06/01/2012

15 Minutes of Feint: (Episode 7: Long Live Rock)

Here’s a quick shout-out (i.e. lazy post) to a song and a band that have significantly helped me pass the long hours of studying with slightly less agony: Enjoy!

Twas the end of the season, and all through the land

Poor Gunners fans nervous and wringing their hands.

Twas no title decider. No, not who would be crowned,

But for fear that St. Totteringham would not be around!

_

The season was bumpy, the team all askew,

The defense, at times solid, now knew not what to do.

The injuries plagued them, brave Sagna and Per,

None could say just what Santos was doing out there.

_

They started in August, so shamefully poor,

the team disarrayed, Cesc fresh out the door.

And Jackie-boy done, for the season, it seemed.

It looked like the season the Spurs fans had dreamed.

_

A hiding at Manchester, looked to signal the end.

As teams opened us up, our netting was rent.

Was this how it went? Such an early death-knell?

The rhythm disrupted, no real chance to gel?

_

But who should arrive, to pick up the slack?

An unlikely hero, with a heck of a knack.

A knack, that is, of scoring at will.

The sort who makes opposing defenders quite ill.

_

And the cry it rang forth, from Ashburton Grove,

as our table position, it steadily rose

The faithful Gooner fans cheered! What a jubilant throng!

For the Dutchmen’s once brittle bones, were finally strong!

_

Captain Van-Tastic, this glorious chap!

Why, he kept the goals flowing – At times Szczęsny could nap!

A golden boot, it would seem, was strapped to his foot,

And shot after shot, in the net he would put!

_

And assists were supplied by a man they called Song,

His parrot-like mohawk, all dyed-up and long,

Only one assist shy of Cesc’s offering last year,

He became an offensive threat that opposing strikers too, fear.

_

And Walcott seemed to have found him a brain,

his crosses found heads, be it sun and/or rain.

And the Ox, at his age, he looks a real treat,

He’s got blistering pace, but also 2 feet…

_

And Rosiscky, became merciless, and defenses he tore,

After 2 seasons of nothing… make that 3… or possibly 4?

And Arteta did well, to hold them together,

much like his hair product that sustains any weather.

_

And just when it seemed Ol’ St. Totts might not arrive,

The Gunners, they rallied, determined to survive!

They put in quite a run, beating Chelsea and City

And beat Spurs from 2 down: Oh what a pity!

_

Of course, they left it late, as the Gunners, they do,

almost threw it away, with Spurs in clear view!

Three painful draws, both at home and away,

did just nearly enough to give Spurs their day!

_

But intervention by Gibbs, in the game’s dying second,

assured Champions League, and St. Totteringham beckoned!

17 glorious years, as the Kings of North London!

Had never come closer to being undone.

_

But undone it was not! Arsenal found themselves third,

The Spurs’ recent boasting rendered all but absurd.

So don’t fret, you young Gunners, don’t give in to your fears,

For St. Totteringham promised he’d be back in a year!

_

(And if Robin stays on, and Podolski works out,

we might just have a team that possesses the clout,

to earn us some silverware: to change the team’s fate,

and also keep Ol’ St. Totts, from arriving so late!)

_

Posted by: vagariesandvelleities | 05/15/2012

15 Minutes of Feint: (Episode 5: How to Stop Looking Dumb in Print)

This is a shameless “link to awesomeness” post, in the interest of not going over my 15 minute writing quota. So, for all of you who are polluting this fine internets we have with your abominable and abhorrent grasp of English, I submit this for your edification.

http://theoatmeal.com/comics/misspelling

(When you’re done, if you feel as though you’ve learned a lot, I would recommend going to the other “grammar” posters they have, though be forewarned, some are “edgier” than this one.”)

Posted by: vagariesandvelleities | 05/14/2012

15 Minutes of Feint: (Episode 4 – Music to Study By)

As I persist in the arduous task of studying for my boards, 2 songs have struck a chord with me:

Gimme Shelter – The title track off the Rolling Stones 1969 release, Let it Bleed is not only a brilliant example of Mick Jagger’s undeniable swagger, but it exudes a rough, gritty angst that is almost disturbing, while simultaneously remaining incredibly easy on the ears. The steady, throbbing guitar and drums setting the rhythm, build a steady foundation for Jagger to do his thing. Swirl in the last minute addition of Merry Clayton’s backup vocals nail the song into the annals of rock history forever. Pretty good.

Far Away – the final track of Ingrid Michaelson’s 2007, Girls and Boys is a definite departure from the previous song. In many ways it is the antithesis of Gimme Shelter. It’s the final track of the album, Michaelson’s vocals have all of the abrasive quality of lanolin, and it’s a medium-tempo, up-beat melodic experience, that I find vaguely reminiscent of some of Paul McCartney’s more whimsical works (“Two of Us”, “When I’m Sixty-Four”), an association that adds even more contrast to the juxtaposition. It’s a no-frills, daydream, that is tastefully executed (like most of Michaleson’s songs) to the extent that I’m not ashamed to say she is one female vocalist I actually find quite spectacular.

Posted by: vagariesandvelleities | 05/14/2012

15 Minutes of Feint: (Episode 3 – Escape to Nostalgia)

 Last week, Bethesda Software released Wolfenstein 3-D to play for free on both online and smartphone platforms in order to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the game’s release. This also just so happened to coincide with a phase in my life I’m having to be extremely disciplined in my studying…

The thing about Wolfenstein is that it was maybe the first computer game I ever played. It was an early share-ware release, and my dad brought it home one day on a floppy disk. I learned how to navigate MS DOS as a 5 year-old in order to play this thing, along with Commander Keen and Treasure Math Storm (the latter being slightly more educational than the previous two). Upon giving the game a quick play “for old time’s sake,” I was overwhelmed with the sense of nostalgia: I was a 5 year old again, and I was desperately trying to escape my Nazi captors. It was surprisingly intoxicating, especially in light of the fact that I all but swore off video-games somewhere around my sophomore year of college.

The first “boss,” Hans Grosse, went down last Thursday during a study-break. I predict I will also ‘off’ Mechanical Hitler some time before my exam…

Back to work.

Posted by: vagariesandvelleities | 05/11/2012

15 Minutes of Feint: (Episode 2 – The Birds I Hate)

I have a route I enjoy running near my apartment. It’s around 4 miles around the riverfront, and I like to vary the direction in which I run it, in order to spice things up. However, whenever spring arrives, so does a certain group of avian-monstrosities: the Red-Winged Blackbirds.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Red-Winged Blackbird, you should probably go outdoors: According to Wikipedia, they completely envelope the entire North American continent. They’re actually quite beautiful, while simultaneously being exquisitely annoying. During the spring, the males of the species become remarkably protective of the nesting sites of their mates (which they enjoy placing along riverfronts apparently). Zealous to the point of dive-bombing hapless humans who have made the unwitting error of locomoting too near an absurd, arbitrarily defined, avian boundary.

It feels (perhaps a little) like Gail Devers has run up behind you and for a brief moment has decided to rasp the back of your head as though trying to execute the beginning of a Van-Halen-esque air-guitar, tap solo. The analogy begins to break down at some point…

I really don’t wish harm on these little guys. One sympathizes with the notion of protecting his wife and progeny, but it seems to me the efforts of a 6 oz. bird to attack a human being are misplaced to the point of folly. However, I’m not really willing to alter my actions to accommodate their notions of personal space. Also, doing anything to ‘off’ these creatures is illegal due to their classification as songbirds.

I need to invest in a hat with something shiny on the back of it; but it will do me little good since I don’t like running with the encumbrance of headwear. It seems the status-quo will likely prevail (at least until I contract some sort of avian lice from the incessant, lilliputian, battering I will likely continue to receive).

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