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.

My pianist has a mind of its own


I like to think of my pianist as a strong, intelligent, competent woman. So sing us a song, Corinne, you’re the piano woman. (Although I AM prepared for it to be sung fairly quietly.)

Yep. Bought a piano tonight. Well, technically, half a piano. It’s currently safely tucked away in the walkout basement of a fantastically friendly (read: talkative) woman from rural St. Joe. So we’ll pay for the other half when the snow melts and we (and some as-yet-unnamed friends) haul it around back, load it up onto a truck/trailer, and transport it home.

It’s important to note that this is not an impulse purchase. Far from it. She’s been going off on this idea for years. And so, last year around this time I got my road bike. This year, it’s Corinne’s turn.

And so (happy ending in sight), instead of listening to persistent pestering about “when are we going to get a piano”, I’ll get to listen to the electrifying strains of the theme from Remington Steele.

Click here. My kids’ happiness depends on it.

When Aeschines spoke, they said, ‘How well he speaks.’ But when Demosthenes spoke, they said, ‘Let us march against Philip.’*

So this is my channeling of Demosthenes. This is my call to action. This is my stirring, ‘Win one for the Gipper’ speech.


Please invest three minutes of your life into watching the embedded video below.

Pretty please?

What’s that? What the heck are you watching? It’s a church youth group project starring Molly, Claudia, and cousin Alyssa. It was shot and directed by our very own Josie. (Please don’t ask me what the Glee version of Safety Dance has to do with church youth group. Just go with it.)

There are four teams locked in mortal combat right now for the highest total number of views. (Hey, that’s quite enough of the depressingly cynical comments on mortal combat in the name of religion, jerks. It’s just a youth group video contest.)

So thanks for watching. You’ve made our girls very happy. Want to make them even happier? Watch it again.

I think the kids have until Friday, Aug. 20. So watch it early and watch it often. (It makes a wonderful stretch break at work. Seriously. If your boss gets after you over three lousy minutes, give me a call and I’ll go to bat for you.)




*Love this line from Ogilvy on Advertising. Classic.

Start decorating for Gopi Day, Sartell

Went to Sartell Middle School today to cheer on Molly and Josh on the occasion of their graduation from the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program. Very cool. Very proud.


But when they'd finished handing out the last of the certificates, they launched into the surprise highlight of the afternoon. It was a Gopi pepfest.

Gopi Ramanathan is a sixth grader at SMS. I met him once, back when Molly was in elementary school and I came to volunteer and read stories at a literature circle (which is almost, but not completely, unlike a beatnik poetry slam) . He was in my group of five or six kids and I remember him as being a bright, engaging, but not obnoxiously-know-it-all kid.

So now he's a sixth grader and on Sunday he and his family will take off for D.C. to represent all of Minnesota at the National Geography Bee (which I've decided is 10 times cooler than that lame-ass spelling bee).

That's all great. Very excited for him. But what really refreshed my faith in humanity was the way the school and the town came together to send him off.

It was cool when they called Gopi up out of the sea of sixth graders to recognize him in front of his class and all the parents. It was cooler when the Go Gopi signs started showing up. It was even cooler when the sixth graders started scooting over so the fifth graders could come join in. But when the sixth grade band came in and we all started stomping the bleachers for We Will Rock You and chanting Gopi's name during Rock 'n' Roll Part 2, I couldn't help smiling. And when Mayor Tim O'Driscoll stepped up to proclaim this coming Tuesday to be Gopi Day, I kind of got goosebumps.

Here's why: It was an old-school, archetypical pep rally. And there wasn't a quarterback in sight. So, did the teachers, the parents, the cops and the mayor all get pretty jacked up that this young man from Sartell is on his way to compete on such a grand stage? Of course they did. This is the kind of stuff that teachers, parents, cops and mayors gobble up on toast. The thing that sent me over the top was how revved up those kids were. All of them. Cheering like mad for a kid who knows enough about geography to find his way to Washington, D.C.

So mark your calendars, Sartell. The GeoBee starts on Tuesday, so that's Gopi Day. Way to go, humanity!


As every parent will tell you, hate is a strong word.

So there aren’t many things in life that I’ll consistently say that I hate. I hate the Yankees and the Lakers. I hate when the cat craps right outside the litter box because someone’s been too lazy to clean it. I hate mayonaise. And I hate karaoke.

I really do. Even more than those other things I mentioned. (Except the Yankees. Man, do I hate the Yankees.) Karaoke takes a perfectly delightful bar/restaurant atmosphere and shouts it down in sad, monotonous, red-necky voices.

Corinne and I decided to sneak out for an hour tonight after we got the kids into bed and grab a late dinner and a cheap late-night happy hour drink at the Blue Line. We split the half-pound bacon cheeseburger and it was awesome. Although I’ll warn you, you do need to carefully under-order on your cooking preference. Otherwise, it’s a hockey bar – they’ll serve you a hockey puck. We had a couple of woefully weak Morgan Diet Cokes, but all in all, dinner was lovely.

The problem was that we’d planned on talking (since, unlike most days when we’re both in the office, we hadn’t seen each other hardly at all today) and I planned on using the Wi-Fi to do this post. (Well, not this post. I was toying with something about how I’m worried that one of our daughters is in serious danger of growing into a bitter, self-righteous, judgmental little pill. And I’m having trouble talking her out of it. Or maybe she's just being a teenager.)

That didn’t happen, however, because there were too many drunken yahoos violating the microphone. (Dear God, I hope they were drunk. My faith in humanity demands that I assume they were drunk.) Too loud. Too obtrusive. Too terrible. Plus, let’s face it. I love Corinne dearly, but she’s a low talker. She just is.

Now, for the sake of clarity, let’s verify that, yes, I am getting old. And I am reaching the point where I’m occasionally tempted to complain about the volume of the music in bars. I don’t, but I’m tempted. But at least when it’s real music it sounds good. Honestly, if I wanted to hear terribly off-key, talentless crooning, I’d take a shower.

So I hate to complain, but is this fad getting close to passing? Are we almost done with this stuff? Or is this a bigger phenomenon than I give it credit for? Are we at least getting close to the point where we can back down from two nights every week to just one? Please?

Grand theft audience

Is it a sin to steal a church talent show? Cuz if it is, I know four little talents who are headed straight for the fourth ring of H-E-double hockey sticks after tonight’s The Waters’ Got Talent show!

Claudia and Molly both got on the program at the last minute. Their cousins Ben and Emma had played by the rules and were lined up weeks ago. No matter. When the curtains pulled open, all four were primed and ready.

First up was Ben. The program said he was going to perform a trombone rendition of Rock ‘n’ Roll Is Here to Stay. I asked him beforehand if he’d practiced and he just gave me this totally cool look like I’d just insulted him. No practicing, he was totally just riffing. Which is probably why his five-minute freestyle jam rambled on to the point where it started to feel like the drum solo from In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. Awesome.

Next came Emma, who played the piano. Unfortunately she’s sort of small (not for her age, she’s really tall for her age) and the music stand was sort of large and the stage was sort of high and it all combined to make sure that we could see just about none of Emma. (Which is tragic, because she’s really cute. I’ve included a picture of her here so you can see that I’m totally serious. She’s an adorable kid.) We could see part of one leg. And it wasn’t even the leg in the cast so that we could truly verify that it was really her up there. I’m pretty sure it was though.


Later in the show, Claudia took the stage. By force. She busted out a little Shee Hyung Bo – the latest form she’s been working on with her bo – loud and proud. It was intimidatingly cool. She was strong, confident and nothing could stop her…until she busted up her ankle on the playground afterward. She’s icing it in bed right now to see if the swelling goes down. I’ll keep you posted.

Then, once the crowd was worked up to a fevered pitch, they brought in Molly and her self-taught gymnastics as the grand finale. She flipped, stretched, bent and kicked her way into the hearts of everyone. She probably would have won the coveted iTunes gift card for her age group if she hadn’t included the distracting bit at the end with that stumbling doofus. Talk about a buzzkill.

That was it. That was our evening. And everyone but Erin enjoyed it immensely. (She’s 17 and contractually obligated to hate just about everything. – especially things that might cause her to be late for the first couple minutes of Law & Order SVU. [If you miss the opening dun-dung, you’re lost for the whole episode.])

One special shout out to Bear and his free-form, on-stage performance art. He drew a picture on stage while we all watched, so it was almost like THIS, only totally different. Way to go, Bear!

PS. Mom, click here for video.

Oh, happiness!

First, let me start out by wishing a gloriously happy Mother’s Day to my mom, to my grandma, to my wife, to my ex-wife and to all the other moms out there. You gals and your uteri are exceptionally awesome.

Now on to the burning question of the day. What the heck did I get my wife for Mother’s Day for $1 or less?* (If the burning question of the day has left you thoroughly confused, click here.)

This one wasn’t too hard for an attentive, thoughtful, observant guy like me. All it took was an orderly, logical thought process. (And, as anyone who knows me will attest, that’s me all over.)

Step 1. What kind of stuff is Corinne into? Easy. Geeky, techie electronica.

Step 2. What gift options exist in that area for $1? There’s a world of music waiting to be downloaded. And, thanks to our good friends in Cupertino, much of it is still available for $.99/song.

Step 3. What song out there would make a gift that’s both appreciated and appropriate? Focus gentlemen, cuz here comes the genius part. What I figured out is that, if you pay attention and listen, women say a ton of stuff about things that they like and things that interest them. Seriously. It’s like she was giving away the answers. I just turn on the old ears for a couple of hours and, bam! Problem solved.

The results? I got her this impossibly upbeat little ditty that she’s been very into for the last week. She gets something she’s interested in, something she likes, something with a relevant message, and something within our challenged price limit.

Mission accomplished. I will now accept your fawning admiration.

*Okay, now if that burning question of the day has led you to the obvious follow-up question of the day (i.e., Hey, dumbsh!t, it’s MOTHER’S DAY – What did you get for YOUR mom?), feel free to rescind your previously granted fawning admiration. I just gave my mom a phone call and told her I loved her. (Although, in my defense, I DID offer to go up there last night and visit her. She and Dad weren’t interested.)