How the hell have I never heard of this guy?

searching_for_sugar_man_filmstill1_rodriguez_byhalwilsonI’m titling this post, knowing full well that somewhere, one of my much hipper and more musically aware friends will read it while sipping espresso (is that still what hip people drink?) in some dimly lit coffee house and think, “Oh yeah, Rodriguez. I had both of his records in junior high.” (I’m looking at you, Kohnhorst.)

Our search for an Oscar-winning movie last night landed us on the Best Documentary winner: Searching for Sugar Man. Holy crap. What an incredible story. Watch the trailer:

So the guy goes viral before that’s even a thing – only he doesn’t have a website where he can track his number of hits … or a Facebook page where he can watch his fan count tick up and up … or even an email address so someone around the world can tell him, “Hey, man. Love your music.” That sense of isolation is what hit me hardest about this movie.

But the other thing this movie made me wonder is how did this guy not find any success here at home? Whether you like his music today or not (and I do), there’s no denying that it captures that 1971 zeitgeist. Or at least it seems to, looking back on it from right now. Listen to a little bit of it. The Dylan comparisons are easy. I hear a lot of Don McLean in there. Maybe a little Warren Zevon? Some Arlo Guthrie? Maybe not quite so much. But my point is, those guys all found great success and this guy couldn’t get a sniff?

Rodriguez got two albums recorded. And it’s not like they were slapped together in some Detroit garage. They’re nicely produced and arranged, with horns and strings backing him and the whole bit. So a record company thought enough of him to invest that much. I always thought that, back then, once the record company was on board to that extent, then they’d pick a single and your A&R man would go out and start bribing DJs and you’d be on the radio. And once you were on the radio, you were all set. People’d buy your records – because the radio was the only place we had to learn about new music. Clearly my limited understanding of the music industry is missing some key components.

So, to me, the story of his failure at home is almost as intriguing as the story of his success abroad.

At any rate, the movie’s definitely worth watching.

What a weekend should be

I just had the kind of weekend that picks up your brutal, beat-down of a week, shakes it by its scrawny neck, and hollers "Suck it, bitch!"

It was the kind of weekend that God sends on rare occasions to some of His most weary and downtrodden little creations. The kind where the veils of stress and frustration flutter and part in a passing breeze of chance.

My weekend kicked ass.

Now, in order to truly grasp the scope of this weekend's awesomeness, you need to get your head around the profound suckfest that was "last week." Stuff was breaking, funds were dwindling, kids were crabbing, schedules were bursting…and I'm not even going to get into work (because anything honest I wrote would probably get me fired…and this blog doesn't pay ANY bills).

So Corinne and I limped into Friday evening. Fortunately, Molly and Claudia were both out of town for the early evening marching in a parade, because it gave us the last couple of hours it took to finish putting together the zebra room.

Family room by day, bedroom by 2 nights every 14.
It's a consistent challenge, fitting six kids into a three-bedroom house. It's gotten a little easier as they get older — Josie's more out than in (though her stuff still occupies what will one day be my workout room), and Erin doesn't sleep over anymore. But it's still crowded, and it leaves Molly with a family room as her bedroom.

That means we need to find ways to make it a dual-use space. It needs to be a functioning family room for 12 days…and then it needs to make Molly feel welcome and at home for two days. So we built a 5×8 foot platform at 4.5 feet high. The couch goes under that, and Molly's bed goes on top of that – on her own little mezzanine level. It came out awesome. And Corinne took Molly's request for a  "zebra-colored theme with bright-blue accents" and ran with it.

Zebra bed

Molly loved it. We actually got an, "It's more than I dreamed of" out of a 13-year-old. THAT is a statement.

So the weekend was off and running.

Claudia got to go spend the weekend at her friend's cabin, goofing around and tubing. Big, happy win there.

Josh got to sleep over at his friend's house on Saturday night. Win for him. (And Luke's parents are good about making them get some actual sleep. Win for us.)

After a few days of terror and panic induced by her new invisible-fence collar,

Please don't make me go out there!
Bijou finally got the hang of it and started discovering the joys of running around the yard without a chain. Huge, unfettered win there.


I took down some branches off the maple tree out front and managed to burn them on the same night — so they didn't add to the unsightly brush pile on Ty's side of our house. Nice little win for Ty there.

On Saturday, we managed to remove an imminent lawsuit from our backyard and replace it with a mere probable lawsuit. We tore down the 10-year-old trampoline and replaced it with a brand-new, much springier, much nettier trampoline. Very big win for all there.


I got a great little Sunday-morning ride in with my wife. (On bikes, you pervs.) And Corinne accomplished the geometric impossibility of charting a looped route that pretty much avoided wind for its entirety. Take THAT, south-easterly breeze.

Quinn got to go to the fly-in breakfast with his Grandpa Lloyd and catch pancakes from across the hanger. Good-time win for him.

Molly and Anngel got to make a trip to the mall on Sunday afternoon and waste a whole lot of time (though not a lot of money). Jasmine got to take a trip to the beauty salon and, since she's so fat and happy, didn't have to get shaved down all the way bald. Quinn, Josh, Ben, Tommy and I all got to go catch a Sunday matinee of Green Lantern. Win for us.

And while all THAT was going on, Corinne was home making serrano-infused homemade salsa, marinating chicken in a fantastic green curry sauce, and cooking up a double batch of cheesy potatoes. Gigantic-sized win and a great way to wrap up the weekend.

Not sure why Corinne photographs a lot of the food we make.

Weekends should all be like that.

(And I'm already in need of another one, because today kicked off Suck Week, Part Deux.)

Are you sure you wouldn’t rather get a tattoo?

WARNING: I'm probably going to be dropping some borderline sacrilegious stuff here before this post is finished. But I want to make it clear from the start that I have great big giant slabs of respect for the Mormon Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Assemblies of God, and all faithful practitioners thereof.


Adolescence is all about discovering yourself. And part of discovering yourself is trying on things that you’re pretty sure are going to freak your parents out. For me it was boxers that hung down below the end of my soccer shorts. For Corinne it was thermal long johns under her cheerleading uniform. And for Josie, evidently, it’s magic underwear.

No, I’m kidding. (They’re nowhere close to letting her wear temple garments yet.) Josie was baptized this past weekend into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Okay, that was flippant and rude. I mean, like I said, I really do have respect for the LDS Church. I grew up with (and still hold) a reverent fear of the Catholic Church. And aside from the no booze thing, I think I'm getting along pretty well so far with the Assemblies of God.


I do have trouble with some of the doctrines, principles and practices of each. But each is an honest, passionate, faith-based route toward God. And, in the end, I think that’s the important thing. You gotta believe in something. As the brilliant Walter Sobchak put it, “Nihilists?! F*ck me. I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos.”

I know that makes me sound kind of theologically wishy-washy. I guess my views on structured religion are influenced by my own fallible humanity. See, I’m an idiot. And I know I’m not alone in that. To one degree or another, we’re all idiots.

Soooo, while I do believe that the Holy Bible is the inspired Word of God*…I also believe that it was transcribed by humans. Passionate, reverent, faithful humans – but humans nonetheless.

I’m confident that God has spoken to quite a few humans (and probably a few dinosaurs too). And some of those humans probably got their parts right. Others probably garbled the translations a bit. Humans mess things up.

Problem is, we don’t know which parts are which. So the safest course is to assume it’s all divinely inspired and accurate but that some parts are just a little wacky. And where there’s wacky, you’ll get “smart” people who’ll insist on explaining things. And that’s where competing theologies begin to develop.

Given that, do I worry that Josie has chosen a church other than the one her mom and I attend? Honestly, no. (At least she’s choosing a church! I would love to see Erin come to the same conclusion.)

I do worry a little about her reasoning and her timing. Is she joining the church now in a star-crossed effort to hold onto her boyfriend as he packs for his mission trip? Seems likely to me.

But so what if she is? If it doesn’t work out with her boyfriend, she’s “wasted” many hours in church developing her own personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Beats the heck out of squandering that same number of hours in front of the PS3 like her brothers would.

So congratulations, Josie! Your mom and I are both proud of you for expressing an interest in exploring faith. Just a word of advice though: don’t let this youthful rebellion thing off the hook quite so simply. As youthful rebellions go, I know you can (and you should) do better.

Being 19 should mean doing some stupid, fun stuff. I’m not requesting that you start dabbling in chemicals and prancing about promiscuously. I’d love it if your stupid fun stuff happened to also be safe and legal.

Dye your hair purple. Try Jeep skiing this winter. Cut classes and road trip to Chicago with friends for a long weekend. Find something so fun that you know you’re going to get yelled at for it…but it’s still worth doing.

As Gardner Barnes so eloquently put it, “Here’s to [you], and the privileges of youth!”


*I have respect for faithful followers of religions outside Christianity as well. I believe what I believe – but I can’t bring myself to believe that a good person who honestly lives by another creed will be damned to eternal misery for picking wrong.

The night has a thousand eyes

People in Los Angeles really like to look at themselves, right? A lot. Does that sound terrible? That’s just a stereotype, isn’t it? Or is it?

The cameras I knew about. Between the tourists, the reality shows, TMZ, and the news choppers hovering over high-speed chases, I think every movement within a 100-mile circle of that Hollywood sign is caught on camera from some angle.

It’s the mirrors I didn’t expect. They’re everywhere. Which I suppose makes sense if you concede my point from the previous paragraph. If you figure you’re on camera all the time, you probably want to be checking your look frequently.

Now don’t get me wrong, a mirror’s a handy thing. You can use it to signal a search plane if you’re lost in the wilderness and in danger of being mauled by ravenous wolverines. You can use it to find that popcorn husk caught in your teeth that’s been driving you crazy for an hour. In college I took a J-Term class called Geometric Patterns and spent an entire January playing with mirrors to discover planes of symmetry and to attempt to see up skirts.

I’m not mirror bashing here. I’m a fan. But when they’re everywhere, they’re going to result in some unanticipated reflections.

[Hold that thought. I’ll get back to it. I need to veer off in another direction for a bit.]

Corinne, who’s your favorite Little Rascal? Is it Alfalfa? Or Spanky?

If you’re working under the assumption that someone (a camera) is always watching, and you’re a woman, you’re more likely to spend more time sucking in your gut. Spanx, Inc. is making a fortune based on this little truism.

Every woman is wearing these fantastically restrictive undergarments. Ridiculously thin women are wearing them. If you were to undress an Olsen Twin, I’ll betcha she’d be wearing Spanx. (Somebody back me up on this? Statistically speaking, approximately 3.6 of my readers should have undressed an Olsen Twin.)

Given that, I don’t feel like I should get in trouble for revealing that when my super-hot wife wore this beautiful-yet-reasonably-priced dress (thank you Herberger’s; obviously such a great deal it put an overly-enthusiastic-but-still-beautiful smile on her face) in Los Angeles, she started with a Spanky little foundation layer.

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As the saying goes, “Everybody’s doin’ it.”

Evidently, however, one area of concern with Spanx is that they ride up.

Speaking as a guy, I’d say big deal. As a boxer guy, I’ve been shamelessly adjusting stuff ever since I switched out of tidy whities in 10th grade. But women are more concerned with decorum and appearances.

So as Corinne was working behind the swag table at that Hollywood book launch party (for Nancy O’Dell’s new book, Full of Love, available now through your Creative Memories Consultant or, when she felt the fabric start to shifting, she skillfully executed what I would categorize as a brilliant maneuver.

She gracefully bent down (at the knees) “to reach for something under the table.” And, in the process, she reached back and gave a good, swift, solid tug on her underwear. Mission accomplished. Relief achieved.

[This is me getting back to my original point. Remember the mirrors?]

When Corinne elegantly and innocently arose from behind the table she was locked eye-to-eye across the patio with Karen the Hollywood make-up stylist.

"You are totally busted!" she shouted, for many to hear. "You were just yankin' your Spanx, weren't you?!"

Corinne was, indeed, busted. And, when she turned around and noticed the 6- by 10-foot mirror positioned behind the table with her, she knew just how.


My Life Aspiring to the D List


NOTE: This headline is in no way intended to imply that any of the guests attending the event to which I'm about to refer could or should be assigned to any "D List." I don't judge. I'm just alluding to the rumor that Kathy Griffin was going to show up…and how that very concept scared the crap out of my poor boss.

So I just got back from a few days in Los Angeles. You'll hear all about it cuz I'm probably going to milk this trip for a bunch of posts since the bulk of my day-to-day existence is boring like watching the bonus features on the DVD from season one of Numbers. (Hey, Mister. Are you calling a non-threateningly cute genius who solves crimes through math boring? Yes. Yes I am.)

Big picture, Corinne and I were there for work. Creative Memories has been working with Nancy O'Dell (former co-host of Access Hollywood, current co-host of Your OWN Show…). She just finished writing a book about how important scrapbook albums can be in raising happy, self-confident kids. I edited it and Corinne was the art director on the project. I'm not going to make any jokes about that (and not just because it could cost me my job) because I really do think that's pretty darned cool. She totally lives this stuff. If you were to cut Nancy O'Dell – and, let me be clear, I am in no way suggesting that you do – she would bleed fade-resistant, bleed-resistant (okay, that doesn't make any sense dumbshit) ink in any of six lovely jewel-tone colors.

The main event of the trip was the book launch party at the insanely swanky SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills. Now, I've never been to a Hollywood book launch party, so in my mind I had the event bracketed somewhere between:

An Academy Awards Red Carpet Arrivals Show


The Hamster Party we threw in our sophomore dorm floor study lounge where everyone brought a newspaper to shred and throw on the floor

I knew it was going to be something in between those two, coolnesswise.

So here are a few highlights.

Booze: Open bar with wine and beer. I thought this was a good thing, but I was wrong. It became a GREAT thing when I asked the bartender what they had for beer. "Um…Let's see… Bud, Miller Lite, Coors Light…and this Long Hammer IPA from RedHook."

Free RedHooks? Score! (Although it is a little awkward to approach the bar and ask, "Excuse me, do you have a Long Hammer back there?") Bacchus was protecting me from getting out of hand (which is good, because I was working and representing my company) by making sure that most of my bottles were tipped over by co-workers. And I couldn't even get up in anyone's face because all their titles started with "Vice President of". The bottles that didn't get spilled were mostly snatched prematurely by overeager waiters. No biggie. Still tasty.

Brushes with fame: The nicest famous person I met that night was Jeff Probst from Survivor. Wow. Just a really nice guy. And, when I explained that my son was such a fan that I had to switch my regular visitation night with my kids from Wednesday to Thursday this fall (because Quinn and his mom love to watch Survivor together), he got all excited about writing a note and signing an autograph for them.

The famous person I was most excited about meeting that night was Alison Sweeney. Corinne and I are huge avid Biggest Loser fans. She was nice, but seemed just a little distracted and standoffish. Nothing wrong with that when you're talking to some creepy guy you don't know. The only reason I even mention it is because it made her reaction that much more dramatic when I mentioned Jesse. "What?! How do you know Jesse? I love that guy!"

Then I had to admit that my connection was pretty weak. "Um…this guy we work with used to be his college roommate."

[Ali's look says, "You've got to be fucking kidding me. That's it?" But the only sound is the awkward pause.]

"But the guy at work, he sits, like, right next to me… And Brady – that's the guy's name – Brady's a really good guy… Seems like Jesse's probably a really good guy too… I'll bet I'd really like him… If I ever actually met him… Did I mention I went to that same college?… Only that was a lot earlier than Jesse and Brady… And Brady's the guy I work with… Really nearby…"

At that point I went looking for another Long Hammer. Cuz my hammer was feeling particularly short.

More details from the trip to come!



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Any preferences?

[WARNING: Sports post ahead. If you don't care about baseball, skip this one (and go screw yourself).]

Damn, for years I hated this stupid The Natural thing before every pitch. Strange. For some reason I love it now.

I know the Twins haven’t clinched their division yet, but – with an 11-game lead and 12 games to play – I don’t think even the baseball gods would begrudge us a quick look forward.

So the question to Twins fans becomes: Who do you want first? Rays or Skankees?

In order to win it all, I’m pretty sure we’re going to have to face them both.*

So whom would you prefer to face first?

We’ll have one series with home field advantage (against the wild card winner) and then one series without it (against the AL East winner).



Which way do you want it?

I hesitate to even say it, but I think I want the Skankees first.

In the Ron Gardenhire era, the American League team from New York has pretty much done to the Twins what those two hillbillies did to Ned Beatty. And (pardon my mixing of animal metaphors), as much as that monkey still scares me, I want it off my back. So let’s get it on. Bring it in here and let’s do this.

Plus, in that first series, we only have to win three big games from the Skankees. In the second, we'd have to figure out a way to win four big games. And besides, if we’re only going to have home field advantage in one of these series, Yankee Stadium scares me lots more than that juice box in Tampa.

Your thoughts? Anyone?


*This question presupposes a few things:

1. I’m of the opinion that the Twins won’t do what it takes to get best record and home field throughout. (And I don’t think they should jump through hoops to get that.) That status is going to land with the winner of the AL East.

2. I think the Texas Rangers have a very good team and I wish them well. But I don't think they're going to beat the winner of the AL East. So I've pretty much factored them out of this discussion. (Sorry about that. I really am. My Google Analytics [which is easily among the top 5 most fun-to-say phrases in the English language] tell me that I have at least 2 readers in Texas. And I hope I haven't alienated either of you. I just don't think your team's gonna get it done this year.)

Hello. My name is Quinn Skoog. You are my father. Prepare to die.

Sure, I spent 10 years in the Army. But I was an officer. And a Quartermaster officer at that.

Our oldest boy, on the other hand, is a master in the development and use of all kinds of crazy weapons. And he's a blossoming martial arts expert to boot. (Though I will point out, just to keep his head from swelling, that I am just as scared of Claudia on this count.)

So I don't know why anyone would be surprised when I announce that I was bested by my son this weekend.

Now don't get me wrong – I'm a man. If I'm going to square off against the boy, I like my chances if we're …

  • On bikes, in a pool or lacing up running shoes.

  • Playing soccer or tennis.

  • Bouncing quarters. (I'd better dominate him for a good, solid 7 years in this one or he and I are going to be having a completely different talk…)

  • Filling out crossword puzzles.

But fencing?

Advantage, Quinn.

I was employing Venetti's defense, based on the rough terrain. Quinn, however, was just plain comin' out strong and working to resolve some unsettled parental issues. (That first break you see in the duel? That's the guy telling Quinn, "Dude, lighten up. They're balloons. If you hit them, they'll break. You're not trying to take his head off…. Are you?")

I waited patiently for my chance and struck first to take one of Quinn's balloons. Then, when we went back at it, I saw my chance and was sure I had his second balloon. Evidently though, the guy was wrong and they DON'T necessarily break if you hit them. And half a second later, my son came slashing brutally across the crown of my skull to take out both of my balloons with one, mighty stroke.

If you watch at the end, you can see me hang my head in shame as I'm berated mercilessly for being a disgrace to southpaws everywhere by squandering my lefty advantage and losing to a mere right-hander. Also, please note Quinn's PG-13 rated victory cry of "Suck it" at the end.


All part of a great day at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. Love that place!

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