Friday, December 29, 2006


Great Lakes Lesser Cities will not be posting until after the holidays. Expect a new post ringing in the new year around Jan. 4 or 5. In the meantime, please peruse our old posts, which you may have missed, but are assuredly worth your time.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Ted's Top 10
Albums of 2006

It's the end of the year and that means that it's time for my top ten albums list of 2006. At the end of every mini-review/description or whatever you want to call it, I've included a link to a song that I think sums up the album it's from, or at least is one of the better songs from the album. The link takes you to a page where the song streams, so if you want to download the song to your computer just right-click and hit "save as" on the "Download This File" link on the bottom right. Well, without further ado, here are my Top 10 Albums of 2006:

10. The Decemberists "The Crane Wife"
-There's not much to be said about this album that Evan didn't already say in his review. Instead I'll just quote him: "When the sound of what can only be described as the sickest accordion/keyboard note this side of the Atlantic bleets above the rolling din of drums and vocals at 7:51 in the 'Landlord's Daughter' section of 'The Island,' you know you're listening to one of America's most important bands." Simply put, "The Island" is one of the best songs of the year and the fact that it clocks in at a whopping 12'26" does nothing to diminish its awesomeness.
Standout Track: "The Island"

9. Bonnie 'Prince' Billy "The Letting Go"
-I've been waiting for this album since Will Oldham's last album as Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, "Master and Everyone", came out in 2003. Between then and now, he has released a live album and an album as one-half of the duo Superwolf. With "The Letting Go" and the resumption of the BPB mantle, Oldham brings a return to form. As BPB, Oldham has mastered the art of creating albums that sound like a weathered old appalachian man singing about a lifetime full of heartbreak and disappointment. "The Letting Go" just builds on his trademark sound with the inclusion of a female backing vocalist on almost all of the tracks and a somewhat "slicker" production sound. But luckily for us, the darkness and pain of the previous BPB albums still remains.
Standout Track: "Cursed Sleep"

8. Spank Rock "YoYoYoYoYoYo"
-I don't really know how to describe Spank Rock. They're hip-hop, yes, but they're a lot more than that. The best way I've heard them described is when my friend told me they were "pure shake-your-ass music." And he was right. The beats are glitchy and super hard and their lyrics are just ridiculous. For example, one of the hooks for the song "Backyard Betty" is, "Ass-shaking competition champ/Oooh that pussy gets damp." I guess another, possibly more pretentious way to describe their sound would be to say they take certain aspects of American hip-hop and mix in British grime and garage with a dash of techno. But you should really just listen for yourself.
Standout Track: "Backyard Betty"

7. Justin Timberlake "FutureSex/LoveSounds"
-Some people may give me flak for this one, but this album is fucking good. Yes, Justin Timberlake used to be in N'Sync, and yes, he used to be a Mouseketeer, but damnit if our little JT hasn't grown up. This album is an ass-shaker and anyone who says otherwise is soulless. It's also more mature, in many ways, than his debut solo album, "Justified." It's got a darker vibe to it and the instrumentation and beats are more complex. One negative thing, though: the single "SexyBack" has been so overplayed that I want to break the radio everytime I hear it.
Standout Track: "FutureSex/LoveSound"

6. Girl Talk "Night Ripper"
-Apparently this was the year of awesome party albums. Girl Talk's "Night Ripper" is one album that could play at a party from start to finish and everyone would dance the entire way through. Here's the story behind "Night Ripper": Girl Talk is a DJ and this album consists entirely of mash-ups he's made of other people's songs. I think the number of songs used on this album is some ridiculous number like 150 or something. It's possible to recognize quite a few of them but some samples only last for a few beats so you have to listen closely. It seems like it could have been really easy for this album to become gimmicky but Girl Talk mixes these songs together so well that he really makes them his own.
Standout Track: "Once Again"

5. T.I. "King"
-Another one that I may get guff for. Again, I don't care. This is the only mainstream hip-hop album that I can listen to almost straight through. Many mainstream hip-hop albums are mostly all filler with a few really stand out singles but T.I.'s "King" is entirely the other way around. In addition to knocking out the filler, T.I. has also mastered the art of self-aggrandizement on this album. When he says, "I'm the king," you believe him. Also, the bass-lines and old school horn samples make this album perfect to cruise to on a hot summer day with the windows open and the volume up all the way.
Standout Track: "King Back"

4. Lily Allen "Alright Still"
-Who knew an album full of songs about a British girl's break-up could be so addicting? Lily Allen's "Alright Still" is just that. In addition to being incredibly poppy, it's also witty and bitchy and catty. In the song, "Not Big," she states, "I could see it in your face when you give it to me gently/Yeah, you really must think you're great/Let's see how you feel in a couple of weeks/When I work my way through your mates." The songs deal with issues like a break-up and drug abuse with a very laissez-faire attitude, super catchy hooks, and great choruses. The fact that it's so catchy is probably the reason it's so high on my list. Also, the fact that she's got a really cute accent and that she's pretty hot help, too.
Standout Track: "Smile"

3. Beck "The Information"
-I like Beck. I like Nigel Godrich. And when Beck and Nigel Godrich get together, I get very excited. "The Information" brings them together again and it's everything I hoped it would be. Beck has always been a little out there musically and this album is no different. What is different, however, is the cohesiveness of the album. Sure, there are songs where he raps and yes, there are songs where he sounds like an old-timey country singer, but thematically and musically, it all fits together. Don't ask me how, but it does.
Standout Track: "Dark Star"

2. Gnarls Barkley "St. Elsewhere"
-Did anyone think when they heard that Cee-Lo and Dangermouse were teaming up that it wouldn't be awesome? If anyone did, I hope that upon hearing "St. Elsewhere" their suspicions were put to rest. It was probably the most funkily eccentric album of the year and it also included one of the most catchy songs of all time. That, of course, being the hit single "Crazy." I still find to this day that I get that song stuck in my head. Plus, you could hardly go to a concert this year without hearing it covered by whoever was playing.
Standout Track: "Crazy"

1. Thom Yorke "The Eraser"
-Is anyone surprised by the fact that Thom Yorke's solo album is my number one album of the year? Probably not. BUT! It is an awesome album, nonetheless. How could it not be? Although, anyone who had been expecting another Radiohead album may have been a bit disappointed. It's definitely got more electronic bleeps and bloops, and more synths in the background. Also, there's no really straight up guitar or piano based songs. But if you take the time to listen to the songs individually and thoroughly, you will be greatly rewarded. The song "Analyse," for example, has one of the sickest bass-lines of the year, but I didn't notice until probably the fifth time I listened to it. And pretty much every song has incredible backing vocals, you just need to PAY ATTENTION. Go grab a pair of headphones and sit down with "The Eraser" and you will see why this is my number one album, regardless of the fact that it probably would have been even if it had just been Thom Yorke farting into a microphone.
Standout Track: "The Eraser"

That does it for my Top 10 List. I hope you all agree with me, but I'm sure some of you, maybe even most of you, don't. But that's what makes music great. I can be a snob and pretend I'm better than all of you if you don't like what I like!

Friday, December 8, 2006

You Don't Want
My Job

When I'm at school in Milwaukee, I work as a parking enforcer for the university. This means that I'm the guy that's universally hated by everyone. Even people who don't have a car. As soon as I tell someone what I do the first words that come out of their mouth are almost always, "I fucking HATE you!" Really? You hate me? Personally? Now that you know what I do you all of a sudden hate me? Great. My job sucks enough without everyone I meet instantly deriding me.

Here's a typical shift as a parking enforcer: I get to work and gear up with my shitty yellow vest thing that turns me into a big blazing yellow target. Then I go out onto the campus and start making my rounds. It's even better now that it's December and it's practically -50000 Degrees below zero. So I'm out and about, doing my job, and I immediately feel like I have to watch my back.

I'm like the fucking parking NINJA. I'm in and out of those lots so fast that people don't even know what hit them. But sometimes I'm not fast enough and that's when I get shit on. Here's an example: One time I was out working and I was in this medium-sized lot when I look over at this area that I had already been in and I see this lady looking around madly. I see her see me. She sees me see her. She yells at the top of her lungs, "FUCK YOU YOU MOTHERFUCKERIN' ASSHOLE!" Then she gets in her car and drives away. She's content to vent at me. She doesn't feel the need to come over to me and challenge the ticket, even though if she had I would have taken it back. My boss' policy is if someone comes up to you while you're writing a ticket, you cancel it immediately and walk away. My own policy is if someone comes up to me within five minuts of me writing the ticket, I take it and write on it, "Person came while ticket was printing," and then I walk away. No questions asked.

I don't like giving tickets, OK? I don't like being a dick who has to make people pay $20-$30 for a stupid ticket. Let me stress this again. I'M JUST DOING MY JOB. I don't like my job. I don't like being universally hated. But if I didn't do it, I wouldn't get paid. And it helps that it's the highest paying job on campus, all right? It's nice to make some money. And yes, sometimes when I'm in a bad mood I like giving out tickets and making other people pissed off. But most of the time I'm a nice person. So fuck you.

Monday, December 4, 2006

Sunday, December 3, 2006

People Can't Spell!

I work at a medical clinic over the summers. One of the departments I work in is the International Travel department which gives people immunizations and information to help them while they're travelling abroad. In addition to having me and the other people at our desk schedule appointments, we also have this place called Centralized Scheduling which gets all the run-off calls from all the departments in the clinic and schedules appointments for them. For some reason it seems that a lot of the people in Centralized don't really know their geography that well. Here is a list of some of their spelling mistakes from the last 3 months. Some of them are pretty understandable, but a few are just ridiculous:

Tilan (I assume this is Thailand?)
S. Afrifica/Nimibia
Cancau, then the next appointment said Cancaun
Erope/New Zeland/Austraille (Probably my favorite. The guy's 3 for 3 on this one)
Coasta Rica

Thursday, November 30, 2006

If Car Names
Reflected Reality

Mustang: Car used to be able to gallop freely over the prarie. Then man came, tamed the car and domesticated it. Now the car is forced to prance around like a pansy at circus shows.

Jaguar: Car hides in the driveway behind the rose bushes for several days. When your 9-year-old son emerges from the house to go to school one morning the car pounces, mauls him to death and leaves his carcass in the oak tree for later.

Matrix: Entering the car transports you to another world populated by threatening men in black suits who can replicate themselves by the hundreds and attack you with martial arts.

Hummer: You typically receive this car after 2-4 dates, depending.

Viper: Car delivers a deadly venomous strike if you approach with sudden or threatening movements.

Edge: Car often plummets off abrupt precipices.

Cavalier: Car seems to take even the most sad and depressing events with an alarmingly positive and flippant attitude. Car also wears stirrups and carries a sword.

Aztek: Car will use you as a sacrifice to appease the gods.

LeBaron: Car used to own a vast estate in the south of France. Though it was raised to take on the responsibility of its father's winery and assume its rightful place at the head of the family, recent economic restrictions passed by French legislators have stripped the car of its expected inheritance. The car now slums around the beaches of Ibiza looking for club girls who get off on its majestic-sounding name.

Focus: Car studies way too much for its own good, really needs to get out more.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Mr. Johnson's

The following is what seems to be a letter of recommendation and a personal essay that I found sitting on the counter at the local Little Caesar's. As you can probably tell just by reading it, the letter of recommendation was not actually written by the teacher, Mr. Kawitzki. It seems, instead, to have been written by the student, Mr. Johnson, who is also the author of the personal essay. The original is written on loose leaf notebook paper with a pen, in all the same handwriting, and has dozens of crossed-out sections. I reproduced as much of it as possible, including the crossed-out sections and the portions that were added between words, which I included as super-scripts. There are a few parts that I couldn't really make out. I labeled those as "(illegible)". All of the spelling and grammatical mistakes are the author's own. I have changed nothing but the names of the boy and his teacher. So enjoy, and feel guilty for enjoying, the troubled life of Marcus:

Marquette University

My Name is Mr. Kawitzki and I was Mar Hearby writing a letter of Recomendation for Marcus Williams. I taught marcus During his junior year course of Chemistry. Although did not achieve the highest grades in my class, I felt that he made the biggest impact in the classroom. Marcus always took the leadership roles in and outside of my class. He was very smart, Respectful, and had as much potential as all of my students combined. Marcus was one of my best students that year, but there seemed to be something about I couldnt quite figure out. He always seemed so down as if something was troubling him to be hiding something inside. Being curious I pulled Marcus to the side one day and asked was had there been anything wrong troubling him and he begin to tell me about his situation at home. He told me how his mom was going through a very hard abusive relationship and that he hardly ever get time to sleep or study because there was always arguing going on or and fighting going on and he was worried (illegible) him mom (illegible) be attacked by her boyfriend for the well being and safety of his mom. this situation troubled Marcus but and he felt that all he could do is wait for a way out always hoped for a way out for him, his little sister and mom. The situation at hand was a continuing situation which lasted had been taking place all of high school thus far. AT the beginning of his senior year, he came to me very happy and egor to get an education. He told me that the his mom was finally able to get away from the abusive situation and they finally were happy. After years of torture and abuse Marcus was finally able to get out of focus on school work and his future; not having to worry about the well-being of his family. since then he has shown a remarkable improvement increase in grades; (illegible) and his (illegible) knowlege. his grades are increasing; he's getting time to sleep and now has time to study for the ACT which he didn't do good on the first time because of this. In concluding this letter of Recomendation, I feel that Marcus would make a good positive impact on your campus and anyone who gets to know him. After all, someone who has been through so much and still wants to go to college deserves a chance a promising future.

I feel that I would be an excellent attribute to your college campus because I am smart, responsible, respectful, and I love school. Although I don't have the best of grades one I have a world full of potential that makes up for it. Throughout my life thus far, For the last 4 years, I have experienced a great deal of hardships to overcome for almost 4 years. I have to witnessed live through my mother being abused and I having to worry about weather or not my family we would ever make it to the next day. Sometimes I wouldn't go to sleep at night because I was to afraid of what the would happen to my family and I overnight. The nights when I did get sleep I was always tossing and turning or I would have to get up because of all the arguing and fighting going on in the back ground. this hardship has tarnished my school records and cause me to do not so well in school. I never had time to study and hardly anytime to do homework because I either had to babysit my little sister or go to work; which I was forced to do to help provide for my family. When I did have free time, I tried to attend some of the many scholar pre-college programs that I was in to make up for loss study time. Although it helped it simply wasn't enough to catch up my grades. I was am currently still enrolled in the Educational Talent Search program which is a pre college program through UW-Milwauke and being involved in this program, I am always on the UW-Milwaukee campus which helps me to adapt to college life. In my free time I also try to do some give back to the community by volunteering. I have help the elderly rake leaves or shovel snow, I have helped out with donating clothes to the Easter Seals of Wisconsin which is, I helped Fox 6 hand out food to the less fortunate, and I help collect can-goods for the homeless. This helped me feel as if I was doing something good for those who have gone through complications in life as i had. Although I have struggled in high school my freshman, sophomore, and junior year, I am back on the right track as my family is finally Rid of the problem that has held us back for almost 4 yrs. I now have time to study, time for homework, and time to participate in school. This year I joined my schools (illegible) and chess team which helps keep me focused. My life is completely turned around and I am ready for a promising future and a college education. Afterall, someone who has endured as much as I have, deserves a second chance at life.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Wisconsin Towns
That Wouldn't Be Out of Place
in a Fantasy Novel

  • Albion (pop. 1,093)
  • Amnicon (pop. 1,074)
  • Arbor Vitae (pop. 3,153)
  • Arcadia (pop. 1,555)
  • Aztalan (pop. 1,447)
  • Bonduel (pop. 1,416)
  • Bovina (pop. 1,130)
  • Brillion (pop. 1,438)
  • Calamus (pop. 1,005)
  • Caledonia (pop. 1,466)
  • Christiana (pop. 1,313)
  • Ettrick (pop. 1,284)
  • Eureka (pop. 1,338)
  • Excelsior (pop. 1,410)
  • Fredonia (pop. 1,934)
  • Genesee (pop. 7,284)
  • Gibraltar (pop. 1,063)
  • Hortonia (pop. 1,063)
  • Iola (pop. 1,298)
  • Ixonia (pop. 2,902)
  • Ladysmith (pop. 3,932)
  • Laona (pop. 1,367)
  • Plover (pop. 2,415)
  • Rubicon (pop. 2,005)
  • Sevastopol (pop. 2,667)
  • Trimbelle (pop. 1,511)
  • Utica (pop. 1,168)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Music Review
The Decemberists
"The Crane Wife"

When I was in my late one's, maybe around eight years old, my Dad and I were big into playing Transformers with each other. Our favorite activity involved setting up two vast opposing armies of Decepticons and Autobots in our living room and pitting them against each other in combat while a dramatic soundtrack played in the background. We always used my Dad's music - his record collection was constantly scattered enticingly around the house - but we both knew which song to play at the battle's climax. For the longest time I only knew it as "The Wild Song," our private slang for the tune. But in high school I finally found out that all along we had been setting our cinematic war to The Pogue's "Turkish Song of the Damned," off of If I Should Fall from Grace with God. If I ever have kids, we will set up whichever toys are popular and fight them against each other, and the song I'll play will be The Decemberists' 12-minute epic "The Island."

Leading music review sites and magazines have already showered The Crane Wife with glory. The reviewer at Tiny Mix Tapes even suggested he almost quit the business of writing about music after the epiphany of listening to the album. While it's not quite that life-changing, Crane Wife is still definitely an excellent work. When the sound of what can only be described as the sickest accordion/keyboard note this side of the Atlantic bleets above the rolling din of drums and vocals at 7:51 in the "Landlord's Daughter" section of "The Island," you know you're listening to one of America's most important bands.

The album is framed in reverse order by two songs (The Crane Wife, Pt.3 and The Crane Wife, Pts. 1 & 2) that retell a Japanese folk tale about a farmer who finds a beautiful wife adept at weaving but becomes greedy, forcing her to change back into the crane she really wa and fly away from him forever (hey, it's a folk tale). Colin Meloy, the Decemberists' frontman whose voice I wish I could bottle and preserve forever, said in an interview with Pitchfork Media that Crane Wife is not a concept album. If it had been, we probably would have to listen to 10 bombastic, allegorical pieces of prog rock rather than just one, 12-minute, amazing piece of prog-rock, and the songs on the album which actually do tell the Crane Wife story would lose all their effectiveness.

As for the rest of the album, the seven songs planted between the opening and two-track-long finale run the gamut of classic Decemberist characters, including separated Civil War-era lovers, bank robbers and Irish serial killers. Listeners accustomed to the orchestral richness of Picaresque songs like "We Both Go Down Together" and "16 Military Wives" will find on Crane Wife a much sparer production. But that's not as bad as it might sound; the disciplined composition opens up space for Meloy's maturing vocal talents and memorable guitar moments like the slick, three-note stab at 1:43 in "The Perfect Crime #2."

Despite the epic musicianship which marks the the first nine of the album's ten tracks, the Decemberists reach the pinnacle of their career to date in the final song, "Sons and Daughters." Following the heartache of "Crane Wife Pts. 1 & 2," the five-minute long triumphal march inexorably raises the listener to an ecstatic height, calling "Take up your arm, sons and daughters/we will arise from the bunkers/by land, by sea, by dirigible/we'll leave our tracks untraceable now." By the time the full band begins chanting "Hear all the bombs fade away," over a crescendoing accordion and pulsing drums, you can't help but feel that despite the gloom in the world today, the Decemberists will always be there to tell you a good story.

True Story
The Search
My Hidden
Super Power

Lately, I've been really obsessed with the idea that I have a hidden super power. It must just be that I don't know what it is yet because I haven't tried the right one. This revelation led me to create a list of every super power I could think of, which I then went through, one by one, to see if I did in fact have any extraordinary abilities:

Flight: I kind of half-assed this one. While I was walking around outside I closed my eyes really hard and tried to concentrate on my body lifting off the ground. Obviously nothing happened but I think to really test this one I need to jump off something. But then there's always the horrible possibility that I don't have the power of flight and that I'll just kill myself. I'll just assume for now that I can't fly and move on.

Telekinesis: This is the ability to move things with your mind. I actually did put quite a bit of effort into this. I was sitting in a chair in a lounge on campus with a little thing of milk I was drinking sitting on the table directly next to me. I placed my hand around the milk container like I was going to grab it but I kept my hand about an inch or so away from it. I closed my eyes and tried to concentrate on the space between my hand and the container . Then, I tried to focus on the molecules between them and attempted to make the milk carton come to me. I tried this for like two minutes before I realized that I probably looked really creepy just sitting there with my eyes closed, a look of intense concentration on my face, and my hand on this milk carton. So I got up and left. Scratch that power.

Super Strength: I'm pretty sure I would know if I had this power. And I don't. The most I could ever bench press in my high school weight training class was 165 pounds. Strike three on the powers list.

Tissue Regeneration: I burned my finger with a match two weekends ago and it's still not even completely healed. Maybe I have the opposite of this power? But I guess that would be like tissue necrosis or something and I would have gangrene all the time. Gross.

Weather Control: I know I don't have this power because I used to be incredibly scared of tornadoes and even thunderstorms in general. I'm pretty sure this ability would have manifested itself already while I was desperately praying for the clouds to go away and trying not to piss my pants while cowering in my basement.

Freeze Time: I tried to see if I had this power many times during high school. Who doesn't want to stop time and touch a girl's boobs? Well, I guess a gay person, but the consequence-free genitalia-touching idea remains the same. Needless to say I regrettably don't have this power.

Invisibility: I tried this before for the same reasons as above. Again, unfortunately, it was a no go.

Walk Through Walls: This power has always kind of puzzled me. When people walk through walls, I assume that their molecules change somehow to allow them to pass through. But how do their clothes and other accessories stay on them? Wouldn't you walk through a wall and come through naked on the other side? And when you do switch your molecules around, what's to stop you from falling through the floor? It's totally mind-boggling. Oh, and no, I don't have it.

Shoot Lasers From The Eyes: I have tried this, but on more careful consideration, I realized I wouldn't really want this power. What if I became like Cyclops from the X-Men and I had to wear sunglasses or a visor all the time? How does he fall asleep with that thing on? I guess I would like it if I could turn it on and off like Superman, but other than that it would kind of suck.

Obviously this list could go on and on, but I don't want to bore you with the powers I don't have. Instead, I will now reveal the power I do have......

Power Mimicry: I have come to the conclusion that I must have the ability to take on the powers of those around me. The only problem is I'm the only one in the world with a super power that I've met so far, so nothing has really happened with it yet. But give it time and you'll see what I mean.

Selected Journals
Northwestern's Library

"The Ephemeral Cape St. George Shipwreck
on the Northern Gulf Coast"
by Nancy Marie White

The Florida Anthropologist
, June, 2006

First discovered in the spring of 2006, the shipwreck on the cape section of Little St. George Island in Franklin County, designated 8FR857, was recorded during July 1996 as part of an archaeological survey in the path of 1994 tropical storms Alberto and Beryl. The shipwreck is a portion of a large wooden cargo vessel believed to be American or British, which apparently wrecked some time around 1870 to 1890. It was copper-sheathed, with fasteners of copper, iron, Muntz metal, and wood (trunnels or "tree nails"). It was probably one of hundreds of vessels participating in the global commerce involving forest products and other commodities harvested throughout the nineteenth century in northwest Florida. Like any shipwreck, it must be understood within the cultural systems of its time (Gould 1983, Lenihan 1983, Murphy 1983, Watson 1983). The dynamic environment of the Gulf shore resulted in greater exposure of the wreck after it was first recorded, but it was difficult to monitor due to its isolated location. The sea and sand then reclaimed the material evidence; the wreck disappeared in a little over two years. This article expands upon the original report of this shipwreck (White 1996:70-72) in order to describe the evidence, place the ship within its historical and socioeconomic context, and show the behavior of natural site formation processes in this very dynamic coastal environment.