Thursday, June 30, 2011

Xalam Project

Brandon Terzic is one of my oldest and best friends, a fellow veteran of the Akron Public School system with all the scars and residual trauma to prove it.  Like the great bluesmen of yore, he's managed to summon his anguish and frustration and turn it into a musical phenomenon for the ages.  How does that happen to a skinny white kid from Akron?  I'll remind you that Firestone High School, not unlike the Mississippi Delta, is one of the legendary breeding grounds of great musicians.  The release of Xalam Project indicates that there must be more to that West Akron water than fluoridation and heavy metals. Yes, Akron has served as a launching pad for a number of first-rate acts, but Brandon's journey to this point is unique, one steeped in many lands and cultures and all the winding roads he's traveled down.

Our friendship has always been centered in part around music.  He introduced me to Jimi Hendrix, not just user-friendly hits like Purple Haze, but the dark, brooding blues, funk and soul found in Band of Gypsys.  Hoping to repay that immense debt, I mixed for him tapes of choice Dylan songs. While other guys were trying their damnedest to hang out with girls, we exiled ourselves to my parent's house with a CD player, a jug of Minute Maid fruit punch and our latest score from the local record store.  There were some miscues along the way, but John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Robert Johnson, Mozart and Beethoven proved milestone discoveries and lasting companions.

While laying that foundation of influence, Brandon was becoming more proficient on his Stratocaster.  Often of a Friday night, he and his band could be heard electrifying the dingy haunts of Highland Square, turning half-dead saloons into, at least for a few hours, hallowed blues houses.  Though it would seem an easy jump from basement bar to major record deal, somewhere along the line our prodigy gave it up, relocated to New York and rode the tech surge to a full-time job.  That move may seem an aberration considering that most musicians move to New York to pursue, not abandon, their artistic endeavors, not until Brandon quit the job and made a few transitional transatlantic journeys--Israel, Cyprus, Morocco, Senegal, Egypt--was his calling renewed.  Only now he was experimenting with the sounds and instruments of the regions.  Gone was the Strat, replaced by distant stringed cousins the oud, the ngani, the saz.  

His return to New York saw him having to grind out a living as a subway performer.  Though dwindling coffers and an inability to find steady work and may seem like a bottoming out, I would argue that the fetid platforms of the Manhattan mass transit system were as formative a training ground as the streets of Egypt.  He could easily have packed up and headed back family and friends in Akron.  He did not.  And here we are.

I'm not sure how one goes about writing a proper music review (I continue to rebuff job offers from Rolling Stone), and so here is a simple, unequivocal, stone-cold endorsement of a powerful debut.  Xalam Project is a tour de force that I have spun dozens of times and gotten just a cursory peek into the wealth of surprises housed within a ten-track production.  Emotional to its core and yet intellectual enough to satisfy the snootiest jazz enthusiast, the band packs in something for everyone into these generous instrumentals.  Xalam Project is neither predictable nor inaccessible.  Fans of jazz, blues, funk, rock and world music will feel right at home because Brandon has not confined himself to one style.  He avoids the trappings of esoterica by surrounding himself with a top flight band of diversely talented musicians: 

Matt Kilmer - percussion

Matt Darriau - sax

John Shannon - guitar

Peter Slavov - bass

None of them hails from Akron, but all of these boys can play, and thus there is not a single dud to be found on the album.  Am I biased?  Certainly, but I wouldn't be writing this post if I didn't mean every word.  I implore you to buy a copy from Amazon or download it on itunes.  Put on a pair of headphones and immerse yourself in a world that is both here and there, grounded and transient, East and West, earthbound and intergalactic.  You know this album, and yet it is entirely new.  Jimi, Coltrane, Miles, Eddie Hazel, Led Zeppelin, Toumani Diabate, Peter Gabriel, the Delta, Cuba, Senegal, Islam...I hear all of these sounds and places and influences and more, not rehashed but amplified through the creative channels of five superb musicians.

Buy Xalam Project and see why I give my buddy's album 5.0 McBones.

nwb

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Not a Baby Blog II

In Venezuela there's an expression that says a baby is born carrying bread under its arm.  Not sure what that means or who would even want a loaf of bread dripping with amniotic juices, but I can tell you that the house has been filling up in a hurry with all manner of baby-related objects.  Here are just a few of the things that have appeared as if by magic ever since my sometimes-pregnant wife announced to the world that she was with child:

Orb.  We have no idea where it came from or what its purpose is or why all the fish and plants have died since the orb's mysterious appearance a few weeks ago.


Baby books.  There are countless books about birthing methods and child rearing and about a billion experts ready to tell you that your child will certainly become a homicidal maniac if you don't follow their proven methods.


Giant pillow.  Each night this massive, hypoallergenic pillow forms the foundation of a pillow fort that my wife constructs around herself at bedtime, effectively reducing my share of the mattress to a three-inch sliver.


Bigger, better wife.  What could be better than having a cheeseburger?  A bigger cheeseburger, of course.  The same principle applies to foxy wives.  She's growing at an astonishing rate and every millimeter added to her middle section makes her that much foxier.


nwb

Friday, June 24, 2011

Good Week

Damned good week all around.  I suppose one could say that things are blowin' up here in the McBoniverse.  Some highlights:

-Felt the McBonerito move for the first time, a good swift kick to my sometimes-pregnant wife's lower abdomen.

-Sometimes-pregnant wife passed dissertation prospectus, vaulting herself into official PhD candidacy.

-Now being followed on Twitter by our involuntary spokeswoman, Chan Marshall.

-No diarrhea.

-Cavs got better.

-Amazing shrimp boil prepared by our doula to celebrate doula's b-day.

-Four life birds: song sparrow, field sparrow, common yellowthroat, dickcissel.

-Obliterated the five-minute 0.7 mile mark.

-Awesome Friday Robots.

-New York legalized gay marriage (learned from a Chan Marshall Tweet).  Forty-four states to go!

Now we're winding things down with some Jimmie Rodgers and I'll be mixing a martini about 20 seconds after publishing this post.  For one seven-day span, that will be hard to top, but prospects are excellent heading into the weekend.

Have a good one, McBoners.

nwb

Mock Draft

As a loyal fan of Cleveland sports, I'm given, nay, I'm obligated, without really understanding what we did to deserve it, to believe in curses.  Long, drawn out, decades-long curses.  The silver lining is that I also get to believe that curses are meant to be broken.  By choosing Kyrie Irving with the number one pick in the NBA draft tonight, the Cavaliers are hoping to smash two bad luck trends to microscopic bits:

1) The Cleveland championship drought - 1964 and counting.

2) The Duke point guard curse.  Johnny Dawkins with his crumby knees and mediocre NBA career represents the best of them.

I quietly shook my head when ESPN draft coverage opened with a clip of Michael Jordan hitting his goddam game winner over Craig Ehlo--some programmer with a morbid sense of humor poking a finger into the permanent festering wound of the Cleveland devotee.  Then I had to wince when Irving was selected, ascended the dias and put on what is probably the ugliest cap I've ever seen.  Can an ugly hat really prophesy the quality of a player's career and the future of a sports franchise?  That I would even consider such a possibility must mean I'm a hopeless Cleveland fan.  Ah, what the hell.  We got the best guard in the draft, and probably the best all around player.  Good.  Great.  I love it.  Fucking hat.

Then, following Minnesota's pick of Derrick Williams (crammed into a suit that would comfortably fit my 6' 165 lb frame) and Utah's choice of the big Turk Enes Kanter, the Cavs selected, um, Tristan Thompson.

Excuse me?  Who?  And why?  And wtf???

I do not accept this pick.  Not at #4.  The line on Thompson is that he's a high energy defender, rebounder and shot blocker.  He also has a very limited offensive repertoire and shoots an alarming 49% from the line--not so good for an around the rim type of player who likes to mix it up in the paint.  I'm being pessimistic I know, but this doesn't this guy have 'journeyman' written all over him?  Oh, he's also touted as a character guy, and I remember all too vividly the halcyon days of Gund Brothers ownership, when loading up on character guys was paramount.

Could it be that GM Chris Grant would use the fourth overall pick on a destined backup forward?  Sure.  I've seen the Cavs botch too many drafts to put it past them.

Then again...NO!  A grand scheme has to be in the works.  The Cavs now have 5 power forwards, 5 point guards and not enough minutes to go around.  Something's gotta give.  JJ Hickson, the Cavs just sent you a message--you and your low b-ball IQ are living on borrowed time.  If you please, score us another unconditional first round pick from the Clippers.  Thanks!

Round 2

With the 32nd pick in the draft, the Cavs selected Justin Harper out of Richmond...and then promptly traded him to Orlando for two future second-round picks.

The 54th pick in the draft resulted in burly Croat Milan Macvan, whom analysts described as a 'below the rim' 'bull in a china shop,' and someone they weren't sure we will ever see don an NBA jersey.

So that's that. 

It's still early.

Months to go before the season maybe starts.

Sigh.

Go Cavs.

nwb

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Serial Hedge Trimmer Strikes Again

Today I spent 2 hours pulling weeds and trimming trees in response to the slightly psychotic action taken by a neighbor yesterday.

To me there are better ways to make a grievance known.  A note in the mailbox?  A friendly knock on the door?  I suppose I'm a little old fashioned that way.  Anyway, I get it.  Things were overgrown.  The sidewalk was crowded.  I leaped to action.

Apparently my gesture of reconciliation wasn't enough:


The first time was amusing.  Now this shit's real.  It takes a lot to summon the rage of McGraw, but if I see this reptile sniffing around our yard again with his clippers, he's going to have to extract these razor sharp blades of decorative grass one by one from his ass.

nwb

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Hormones, Meet Mr. Jackman

Pregnancy, it's a strange and mysterious thing.  This trailer for the movie about boxing robots (which I will absolutely, 100% see in theaters), brought my sometimes-pregnant wife to tears.  For real!



Then again, with dialogue like this, who can blame her?

Kid: What are we looking for?

Dad: Anything I can use to put a fighting robot together!

Powerful stuff indeed.

nwb

Serial Hedge Trimmer Strikes West Lafayette Lawn

Today, as my sometimes-pregnant wife and I were outdoors reading on a glorious 75-degree Saturday afternoon, an old man came striding along the sidewalk with a pair of hedge clippers.  Following a long, icy glare in our direction, he went on the offensive, snipping away any plant life that had dared encroach from our yard into public space.  Clearly this codger saw it as is duty to keep the walkways of West Lafayette free of impediments.  He wasn't messing around, either.  Snip first, ask questions later--that was his style.  After a furious few seconds of pruning, he was gone in a trail of dust.


I wasn't sure how to react.  Should I have upbraided the old vulture and run him off?  It's true that I'm not the best about maintaining the verge, but I can't help thinking this slightly deranged ancient was overstepping his rights as a fellow citizen and neighbor.  I'll be honest, though; potential senility in combination with sharp garden implements gives me pause.  I didn't want to get too close lest I have a new haircut inflicted on me.  Also, I was drinking beer, and therefore mellow.

The wife and I laughed it off.  Was I right to play the amused spectator?  Should I be more protective of the verdure in the future?  As always, I defer to your wisdom, McBoners.

nwb

Friday, June 17, 2011

Not a Baby Blog

Just thought some of you might be interested in a good look at a fetal spine and a heart pump, pump, pumping away at 140 beats/minute, or roughly half as fast as Dad's was racing after today's 0.7 mile run (with a gut full of hamburger, fries and beer).



nwb

Thursday, June 16, 2011

5:43:97

In 1954, Roger Bannister ran a mile in less than four minutes, a barrier that many considered beyond the capacity of the human body.  They said it couldn't be done.  He said 'fuck you' and clocked a 3:59.4 right in their faces.  In honor of that indomitable spirit, and in the name of not dying of coronary heart disease before my son reaches his teens, I decided to go for a little jog yesterday.

5:43:97.  That's exactly the time it took to haul my dead-legged carcass across 0.7 miles--exactly the distance from our driveway to the entrance of Happy Hollow Park and back again--of mostly flat terrain.  By the time my 'run' was over, I was cursing Roger Bannister and his lunatic, ego-driven need show the world what a great big fucking deal he was.

Then, as I slumped to the grass, something funny happened.  My oxygen rich blood made its way to my brain.  I was swept into a nether realm of strange colors and geometric shapes.  I was full of energy and thinking clearly for first time in years.  Suddenly I had visions of the man I could be.

I wanted more.  That's when I decided to launch, as an alternative to the more recognized exercise regimes of the world, a personal campaign to shatter the five-minute 0.7 mile barrier.  I call it the McBone 0.7 Mile Challenge!

Keep in mind that I haaate running.  I've heard long distance runners speak of the mythical 'runner's high,' a state of being in which all sense of pain and exertion are displaced by some sort of endorphin-rich surge of energy and even, dare I say it, enlightenment.  I confess that, in all the miles I ran in a four-year career on the Firestone High School cross country team, I never once came close to experiencing this sensation.  Scarcely can I remember a moment when running long distances that I wasn't desperately wanting the ordeal to end.  Why the hell did I do it year after year?  I don't fucking know.  Why am I doing this now, when I was on the cusp of achieving an almost perfectly sedentary lifestyle?  Beats me.  All I know is my quest began today, with startling results.

5:28:17 

I realize that I can hardly expect to shave off 15+ seconds every time I lace up the New Balances, and I am aware that running farther than 0.7 miles on a regular basis would do wonders in shrinking my time, but let me reemphasize how much I hate running.  My lone incentive, other than setting a good example for the McBonerito, is to shorten these daily torture sessions little by little until they are barely more than a five minute afterthought in my day. Inspiring, right?  I know!  Don't think I can do it?  My hero Roger Bannister has a finger he would like to show you.

Oh, and by the way, when I say 'daily,' that does not mean I will never miss a day.  On the days that I do attempt to establish a personal best, I will post my time on a 'widget' on this blog's handy sidebar.

All those wishing to join me, I say misery loves company.  Feel free to post your own times in the comment section!

nwb

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The McBone Birdwatching Journal; Birds Sighted

Downy woodpecker
This weekend featured some first-rate birding, both here at McBone Manor and at Celery Bog Park.

Here's what we sighted:

Robin

Hairy woodpecker (2 pairs)

Mourning dove

House finch

Chipping sparrow

Some kind of thrush.  Hell if I could figure out which one.

Goldfinch

Downy woodpecker

Chickadee

Blue-Gray gnatcatcher

Cardinal

Blue jay

Tufted titmouse

White-breasted nuthatch

Catbird

Ruby-throated hummingbird

Red-winged blackbird

Bluebird

Cedar waxwing

Orchard oriole*

Baltimore oriole

Grackle

Starling

Kingbird

Chimney swift

Eastern phoebe

Tree swallow

Crow

*I was especially delighted to have seen an orchard oriole for the first time in my birdwatching career.  Contending with a flock of cedar waxwings for some ripe tree berries, the brick-red oriole burst through the foliage and perched on a bare branch long enough for me to realize I had no idea what it was.  Luckily, my Golden guide was on hand to help me rack up a life bird.

In other birding news, our gray squirrel population has taken to openly mocking me, evacuating the feeders only when within arm's length of their imbecilic enemy and resuming their feast as quickly as the door shuts behind me.

nwb

Eye of Newt

Callista zeroes in on a doomed photographer.
With her unnatural coif of molded plastic and a glare capable of liquefying the insides of political foes, I must confess that, as terrifying as the words 'Gingrich Administration' sound, I'm far more terrified of Newt Gingrich's maniacal third wife, Callista.

Until now, I would have said that the wholesale evacuation of Candidate Gingrich's campaign staff was due to irreconcilable differences, or his dubious electability, or his seeming reluctance to hit the campaign trail in earnest, or the fact that his political life keeled over and died 15 years ago.

But after catching a glimpse of the prodigal son's witch-queen and the lunatic grin on her blood-smeared craw, I began to have some doubts. While my political philosophy may be at odds with that of Newt's team, I never for a second wished the staffers any actual physical harm.  I fear their rumored disgruntlement may have cost them dearly.

To anyone wanting to solve the case of their mysterious disappearance, I suggest you take a close look at Callista's leavings.

nwb

Friday, June 10, 2011

Cookie Crisis

We were just wrapping up what seemed an uneventful meal of Chinese carryout when I cracked open this cryptic fortune cookie:
 


I was baffled, and wanted more.  Per the cookie's advice, I visited the website, only to be informed that 'the domain name expired on 6/5/2011.'  Can it be that my fortune cookie fortune has expired too?  Is my destiny not only unintelligible but moot as well?  Should I play the lucky numbers in this week's mega lotto?  I don't know a goddam thing anymore.

As usual during times of existential crisis, I turned to my sometimes-pregnant wife.  She suggested that maybe the words 'a strong woman' had been omitted from the second phrase.  Possibly, but that would mean an irreconcilable clash between subject and verb.  Not likely, knowing what careful grammarians Chinese fortune tellers are.  No, I believe I am meant to take this as is, heaven help me.

How about it, McBoners?  Is there a deconstructionist in the audience?  You're my only hope.

nwb

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Drumroll Please

Don't hide the kids, McBoners.  What you're looking at is no hideous, eyeless, gape-mouthed demon from the sulfur wastes of hell.  On the contrary, my sometimes-pregnant wife had her first ultrasound today.  After squeezing a copious blob of warm goop on the distended belly, our genial technician (sitting in what looked to me like a space shuttle cockpit) began the fateful probe with her magic wand.  Nervously we watched as a silvery image of our child appeared on the screen.

The ensuing exchange went something like this:

Ultrasound Technician: So what do you guys think it is?

Us: (In unison) Girl.

Tech: (After making a game show buzzer sound) WRONG!!!

Wrong indeed.  From the deepest, darkest, happiest depths come these images of our son, William Miguel:


By all accounts, WM is healthy, active and absolutely, unequivocally a boy (junk not pictured):


For those of you not satisfied with mere photographic documentation of the McBonerito, enjoy some video footage of the squirmy little rascal.  Look close and you can see his little heart chugging away:



There is no describing what one feels upon seeing a child for the first time, so I won't bother with any grandiose or florid narrative.  I'm not trying to make you barf, after all.

Suffice it to say you cry.

nwb

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Rock McGraw's 115th Dream

Normally I would think twice before blogging about a dream I had.  Dreams, which rarely follow (at least for me) a cohesive or linear narrative pattern, tend to be far less interesting to the listener than the dreamer might want to believe.  Generally, if I'm going to share my nocturnal imaginings, I make sure that the listener was actually in the dream.  That more or less guarantees an attentive audience.  I also try to limit the anecdote to a sentence or two, as in: I had dream you were murdered last night.

This will be longer than a sentence, but I hope you will indulge me, McBoners.  The dream was just so awesome on a personal level that I wanted to commit it to internet permanence.

In my dream, my sometimes-pregnant wife and I were hanging out with Kris Kristofferson.  I don't know why, or what we were doing.  I like to think we were drinking bourbon and singing songs, but that may just be wishful thinking.  What I do remember is that, all of a sudden, Kris Kristofferson stood up and informed us that he would have to be leaving.  Apologetically, he said but I'd like to give you this before I go.  He pulled from his pack an especially large cut of raw flank steak, all hygienically wrapped in plastic.  It comes from a cow that I raised and slaughtered myself.  This should grill up real nice for you folks.

With that, the grizzled bard was gone.  The significance?  Those well versed in dreams and the subconscious mind would probably have an opinion.  Me, I'm not sure it's anything more than a simple desire for the world I live in to be populated by aging troubadours who can appreciate a good cut of beef when they see one.

nwb

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Meet the McBonemobile II

It was with no small measure of sadness that we said goodbye last week to a faithful friend.  Though the McBonemobile was known by many names in many parts, we called her Serafina Pekkala, after the powerful witch of the His Dark Materials saga (and with a nod to the bewitching actor who translated the role to film).  Like a storm-heavy cloud Serafina patrolled the roads of West Lafayette, ready at all times to unleash her merciless form of justice.

Yes our little Honda served us well in nearly 4 years together.  She was good to us, even if we didn't always do right by her:

Serafina, meet mailbox. Mailbox, Serafina

The old gal could've gone another billion miles for sure, but with a half-baked bun in the oven, it was time to trade our two door coup for something more practical.  Behold this red-hot hunk of a 2008 Kia Rondo, the McBonemobile 2.0, aka Fawkes:

Parked at McBone HQ in Akron, OH

Named by my sometimes-pregnant wife for the incendiary phoenix of the Harry Potter septrilogy,* Fawkes offers the quadruple advantage of breakneck speed, state-of-the-art gadgetry, world-class safety and sophisticated style and comfort.  Best of all, this low-mileage used vehicle has a clean history.  The previous owner must have been a really responsible, down-to-earth person.


Like a caged eagle, the McBonemobile idles impatiently in the driveway, practically begging for the chance to dig his talons into the rodent scum of Tippecanoe County.


Though the name Kia may not call to mind some of the sexier autos of the world, this fella packs a more than a few surprises: 

-Powerful 550 hp, V-12 engine

-Room for 7 adults (or 5 Americans)

-Flux capicitor/MP3 jack

-100% Squirrelskin interior

-Taco bar

-GPS system voiced by, depending on gender or sexual orientation of driver, Zooey Deschanel or James McAvoy.

A few demerits are warranted for decreased fuel efficiency, but we will attempt to limit our carbon footprint by eliminating a few wasteful luxury items from our lives (planetarium, electric refrigerator).

Watch out, villains of Indiana; the blood-dimmed tide has been loosed on yo asses.

nwb

*I like Harry Potter.  Sue me.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The McBone Birdwatching Journal; The Dark Side of Feeding Birds

The downside of keeping feeders is a significant one indeed.  Luring birds to a residence makes them occasional targets for hawks and cats.  More often, some poor soul will take wing and chart a course toward a pane of glass.  Usually, the victim will shake it off and set sail with no harm done.  Others aren't so lucky.

The sickening, unmistakable thud of bird hitting house at full tilt had me running to the front window.  My fears were confirmed when I saw the female house finch twitching in the grass.  Right away I knew what the score was; I had seen it before.

Because it was my fault that this poor finch was suffering, I was intent on the death throes not being drawn out.  Armed with a shovel, I went outside to finish the job--one fatal thwack would do the trick.

And yet, as she lay there stunned and slightly bloodied on the crown, a cognizant glint in her eye made me hesitate.  I could not inflict a death blow just yet.  Instead, a sudden impulse had me scooping her up and taking her inside:


For a moment, she seemed to be fading, and thus drained away all hope.  When she loosed her bowels in my hands, I was sure she was bound for her final nesting place.  Shadows filled the room.  The end was nigh. 

Despairing, I relaxed my grip and, lo!, with a flurry of violent flaps, she was airborne, careening off the ceiling and walls as if our bird bath had been filled with liquor.  Our brave finch did not elude me for long.  I quickly corralled her and had her back out in the misty morning.  She was free to go, but even after the surge of energy, she seemed reticent to fly.  I sat and I let her perch on my hand, where she stayed for a solid ten minutes.  We had an understanding: I would not harm her, and she would not summon an angry flock to peck out my eyes.

At last, feeling up to the challenge, she tested her navigational controls and risked the short distance to a neighboring bush--without a hitch. 


There she remained, until, one half hour later, she took a confident, undulating path toward the woods. I was sorry her bell was rung so severely, but overjoyed that she escaped the fate that has doomed too many of her kind.

Soar on, house finch, and beware the invisible walls of McBone Manor!

nwb