My Heart-Shaped Chicken Fillet

I pulled the final chicken fillet out of the bag this morning — and it was definitely giving me vibes. I don't know what my first clue was — perhaps its heart shape?

There are certainly days when life’s fruits are bestowed upon you and, if you’re lucky, those fruits may not actually be healthy fruits but very tasty breads and sweets.

I knew my day was off to a good start when I got a message from a not-so-secret admirer to “check outside my door.” I rushed to see what awaited me and there, hanging on the door knob, was a bag filled with sausage, French toast and a muffin.

“The best part of waking up — is breakfast on your knob!” Wait, that doesn’t sound quite right …

Impressive and intuitive, not-so-secret admirer. The way to my heart is through my stomach, after all.

Shortly thereafter, I was preparing my lunch for the day. I pulled out the last chicken fillet in the bag and it was definitely heart-shaped (as you can tell from the photo above). Not only do a select (and misguided) few people love me, but my food loves me, too!

My only bit of sadness came from the thought that if the fillet had been shaped like Jesus, who I last saw taking up residence on a shovel, I could have auctioned it off on eBay for some sweet cash. Oh well. I’ll take what I can get.

I thought that would be the end of the goodies bestowed upon me for the day, but I was gravely mistaken. As I was writing this blog, I got a phone call from an old friend. She had some left-over sweet and cinnamon-y churros from lunch and wanted to bring them my way.

“Umm, OK!”


So yeah, I feel like I’m bragging here. But I know I’ve been fortunate today, and I want to tell the world about my luck while it lasts.

I haven’t been to the grocery store for a while, so tomorrow it will probably be three square meals of unadorned black beans. Watch out, cruel world!

To everyone who contributed — not-so-secret admirer, sacrificed chicken and old friend — thank you! (And keep it coming!)

Colin Farrell Watches Movie In Mitchell, S.D.

Actor Colin Farrell (though this was not taken during his Mitchell visit).

The Mitchell Daily Republic reported Monday that Colin Farrell attended “Moneyball” at Mitchell’s Logan Luxury 5 Cinema Saturday night.

How cool would it have been to happen upon him there? (By the way, I loved “Moneyball” when I saw it Friday. I highly recommend it Sadly, no one was waiting to talk with me and take my photo when I emerged from the Yankton theater.)

Farrell has had some ups and downs over the years. He was funny in this summer’s “Horrible Bosses,” though I was not a big fan of the film as a whole. My favorite Farrell performance is probably from “In Bruges.”

Here is an excerpt from the story in the Mitchell Daily Republic:

The Logan Luxury 5 Cinema shows movies seven days a week — but it’s rare that a movie star is in the audience.

Mauli Delaney was selling popcorn at the Logan Luxury 5 Cinema Saturday night when she noticed a handsome young man walking toward her. She was especially struck by the expensive-looking leather boots he was wearing.

But it wasn’t until he spoke, and she heard his Irish accent, that she and a co-worker came to the realization that actor Colin Farrell was in Mitchell to see a movie.

“The rumor is true,” said Luxury 5 owner Jeff Logan, who came down to the theater and chatted with Farrell after the 9:40 p.m. showing of “Moneyball” ended around midnight.

“He was just very charming and very nice,” Logan said. “It was great fun, and exciting for the staff.”

He said Farrell, 35, told him he has been filming a remake of “Total Recall” in Toronto, Canada, and was headed to California when he and his sister Claudine stopped in Mitchell.

Logan said he assumed they stayed in Mitchell for the night. They stopped at the theater to see “Moneyball,” a new film on the evolution of baseball statistics and management starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill.

While his sister bought the tickets, Farrell went to the concession stand.

Delaney, 23, Mitchell, has been working at the theater since her sophomore year in high school. It was just another Saturday night when the man in the “pretty fancy looking boots” walked up and, in a very quiet voice, ordered a small popcorn, small soda and Peanut M&M’s.

He was wearing a “big hipster hat” that hid a great deal of his face, Delaney said.

“It was hard to see who it was,” she said, but she caught a hint of an accent and that sparked her curiosity.

“While I was waiting on him, “I thought, ‘I know this guy,’” Delaney recalled Sunday night. “’He’s got to be in a movie. Or maybe he’s a friend of a friend.’”

Once they realized it was Farrell, they “didn’t want to appear unprofessional” and bother him, so they decided to summon Logan to his theater.

They texted Logan and he came down. After the show, when they came out, Logan approached Farrell and said, “Colin?”

“Yeah?” said the Irish actor, who has starred in several movies, including “The Recruit,” “Miami Vice,” “Phone Booth,” “Alexander” and two new movies “Horrible Bosses” and “Fright Night.”

Farrell then confirmed who he was and agreed to talk with the staff.

“He was really, really sweet,” Delaney said. “He was very sweet, very kind.”

Logan gave him T-shirts from the Starlite Drive-in, located on the edge of Mitchell, and they talked a little bit, Logan said.

“He liked the theater,” he said.

Logan said he told the actor the staff was very thrilled he was there and Farrell agreed to pose for photos with them. He joked around with staff while they set up the shot, Logan said.

“He was very charming, very polite, very soft-spoken,” he said. “His sister is gorgeous.”

She works as Farrell’s personal assistant.

Logan asked if Farrell stopped in South Dakota for the start of the duck hunting season but the actor said he wasn’t aware it had began. Farrell also said, with a smile, that it wouldn’t be polite to stop in South Dakota and kill some of its birds, Logan said.

In addition to liking the theater, Farrell had one other compliment, Logan said: He thought the popcorn was delicious.

Logan had Adam Schorzmann, who was Saturday night’s “popcorn chef,” come forward to take a bow.

“Well, I like your work, man,” Farrell said to him.

“Well, I like yours, too,” replied Schorzmann, 23, of Mount Vernon.

“He was actually pretty modest,” said Schorzmann, a South Dakota State University student who works weekends at the theater. “Kinda quiet and real nice. He posed for a few pictures for us.”

Life Is Your Love Song Unsung …

Brett Anderson’s new album, “Black Rainbows,” comes out today.

Read an interesting review of the album at Pitchfork, wherein the reviewer makes a compelling comparison of Anderson and Stephen Malkmus of Pavement. (However, it should be noted that, unlike Pavement, Suede does plan to at least attempt a new album. The review makes it sound like that is not the case.)

The review isn’t exactly glowing, and I don’t entirely disagree with it. “Black Rainbows” is a collection of some really great songs, although I don’t think it is as powerful and profound as his last, “Slow Attack.”

I’ve written extensively about the impact Anderson and his former band Suede have had upon me here and here, so you can understand my excitement about a new album from him.

My favorite track is the album’s first. It’s called “Unsung.”

“Brittle Heart” is the first single. The opening lines are classic Brett: “Give me your brittle heart and your ashtray eyes. I’ll give you carpet burns and a slanted life. And all that power, and all that passion can be ours tonight.”

If The Goal Of Societies Is To Make Citizens Happy …

Does happiness have value?

I think it does.

And a recent study shows that tax policy matters when it comes to the happiness of a society’s citizens.

People value fairness when it comes to tax structure. And though I have friends who believe we should have a flat tax where everyone pays the same percentage rate, in practice a majority of people don’t deem such a system fair.

What tax system correlates with happiness and satisfaction? A progressive tax system.

Read about the study that concluded so here:

The way some people talk, you’d think that a flat tax system—in which everyone pays at the same rate regardless of income—would make citizens feel better than more progressive taxation, where wealthier people are taxed at higher rates. Indeed, the U.S. has been diminishing progressivity of its tax structure for decades.

But a new study comparing 54 nations found that flattening the tax risks flattening social wellbeing as well. “The more progressive the tax policy is, the happier the citizens are,” says University of Virginia psychologist Shigehiro Oishi, summarizing the findings, which will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. Oishi conducted the study with Ulrich Schimmack of the University of Toronto at Mississauga and Ed Diener, also at University of Illinois and the Gallup Organization.

The researchers analyzed the relationship between tax progressivity and personal well-being in 54 nations surveyed by the Gallup Organization in 2007—a total of 59,634 respondents. Well-being was expressed in people’s assessments of their overall life quality, from “worst” to “best possible life,” on a scale of 1 to 10; and in whether they enjoyed positive daily experiences (such as smiling, being treated with respect, and eating good food) or suffered negative ones, including sadness, worry, and shame. Finally, the analysis looked at the participants’ satisfaction with their nation’s public goods, from schools to clean air.

The degree of progressivity was measured by the difference between the highest and lowest tax rates, corrected for such confounding factors as family size, social security taxes paid, and tax benefits received by individuals.

The results: On average, residents of the nations with the most progressive taxation evaluated their own lives as closer to “the best possible.” They also reported having more satisfying experiences and fewer discomfiting ones than respondents living in nations with less progressive taxes. That happiness, Oishi says, was “explained by a greater degree of satisfaction with the public goods, such as housing, education, and public transportation.”

Higher government spending per se did not yield greater happiness, in spite of the well-being that was associated with satisfaction with state-funded services. In fact, there was a slight negative correlation between government spending and average happiness.

“That data is kind of weird,” Oishi says. He guesses that the misalignment might indicate national differences in the efficiency with which those services are delivered or in people’s relative ability to access them. For example, the U.S. spends more on education and health care than other developed countries, “but its international standing in those areas is not so great.” Such puzzling findings may be illuminated in further research.

The study, like others Oishi has done looking at connections between economics and personal life, has important social implications. “If the goal of societies is to make citizens happy, tax policy matters,” he says. “Certain policies, like tax progressivity, seem to be more conducive to the happiness of the people.”

Attacked By A Mastodon

Well, my ears are being attacked by a Mastodon, anyway. And that’s not as bad as it sounds.

If you know anything about my musical tastes, you know they don’t tend to appreciate the heavier metal in life. Mastodon is the exception.

I began listening to Mastodon in 2004 after Pitchfork gave their “Moby Dick”-inspired album, “Leviathan,” a best new music designation.

“I Am Ahab” was one of the singles:

I was just as surprised as anyone that I was digging a heavy metal album. It got a lot of play.

Since then, I have only intermittently kept up with the band. For whatever reason, subsequent albums “Blood Mountain” and “Crack the Skye” didn’t get a lot of air time with me. I’m thinking that I need to go back and re-evaluate those albums.


Because the new album, “The Hunter,” is blowing my mind. It took me two listens to find my metal head, but now I’m totally immersed in the dynamics of this album. Yes, it’s heavy, but it’s also melodic. It’s soft and hard. It’s an emotional journey. And it does indeed feel like a journey.

Check out the video for new song “Curl of the Burl.” (Oh, and by the way, it’s slightly NSFW!)

I think, however, that “Stargasm” is my current favorite song.

The album officially drops Tuesday, and it is well worth your time to check it out. Find out more at their official site.

Oh, and would you like to see what happens in Magic Land when there is a solar eclipse? Sure you do, and you can see it below. (Warning: All hell breaks loose.)


Did Anyone Hear A Loud Sound/See A Light In The Sky Near Lesterville Last Night?

The title says it all.

I received a report today from a reader that there was a loud sound by Lesterville last night and a light in the sky. He thought it was a bit strange.

I don’t want to give out too many details at this point to see if anyone else can corroborate the story.

So I’m putting this out there: Did anyone hear a loud sound/see a light in the sky near Lesterville last night that seemed out of the ordinary? If you did, shoot an e-mail to me about what you saw and when —


Another Sign That Missouri River Flooding Is Over

In the last several weeks, there have been many signs that the flooding along the Missouri River is finally ending — not least of which was the announcement earlier this week that the National Weather Service has canceled its flood warning for the Missouri River at Yankton.

Also, sandbags have been disappearing from along the river, with a volunteer clean-up effort planned for this Saturday.

Today, I received the following release from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. More good news, I’m happy to report.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Gavins Point Project is pleased to announce that Nebraska Tailwaters Campground, located below Gavins Point Dam, will re-open Friday, September 23 at 10:00 a.m. after being closed since June due to flooding on the Missouri River.

While a few tent sites remained open throughout this period, all electric sites were closed when flood water began to cross the access road.

Campsites in Nebraska Tailwaters will be available on a first come – first serve basis until the park closes for the season on Monday, October 10, 2011.

‘Monster’ Announcement: R.E.M. Calls It Quits

R.E.M. announced today that they are calling it quits.

I found this shocking.

It shouldn’t be, though. They formed in 1979, achieved huge success and maintained their artistic integrity throughout. They’ve earned a band retirement.

I guess it’s just the fact that they’ve been around since about the time I was born and seemed to get along so well that I kind of thought they would go on indefinitely.

Like many, I didn’t really get into the band until “Out of Time” and that album’s huge single, “Losing My Religion.” I had a cassette of the “Green” album prior to that, but hadn’t really appreciated it.

After “Out of Time,” I paid close attention to the band through the 90s and found them soundtracking a good portion of my young adulthood. However, by the turn of the millennium, I found myself giving their new releases a listen or two, maybe putting some of the singles on repeat and not thinking about them much again. That’s just what happens with a lot of bands. You lose touch with them.

However, I’m still really sad to see R.E.M. go. They are a great band and made a huge impact.

It’s good to see that it is a happy ending to their story. The members seems to be at peace with the decision.

Here is the announcement from their website:

ATHENS, GA–(Marketwire – Sep 21, 2011)

“During our last tour, and while making Collapse Into Now and putting together this greatest hits retrospective; we started to ask ourselves ‘what next?’,” commented Mike Mills. “Working through our music and memories from over three decades was a hell of a journey. We realized that these songs seemed to draw a natural line under the last 31 years of our working together. The time just feels right.”

R.E.M. is unique in that they are very much still the group of friends from Athens, Georgia that they’ve been since the band formed in 1979. While their career has spanned 15 studio albums and huge global success, the band itself only ever comprised the four original members. The one person to leave this tight-knit group was drummer Bill Berry, who retired two years after suffering a brain aneurysm on-stage during 1995’s “Monster” tour. But not before extracting a promise from his band mates that they would continue on as R.E.M.: “Bill insisted he would stay, if his leaving meant breaking the band up,” remembers Michael Stipe.

Mills adds: “We have always been a band in the truest sense of the word. Brothers who truly love and respect each other. We feel kind of like pioneers in this — there’s no disharmony here, no falling-outs, no lawyers squaring off. We’ve made this decision together, amicably and with each other’s best interests at heart.”

“A wise man once said — ‘the skill in attending a party is knowing when it’s time to leave,” agrees Michael Stipe. “We built something extraordinary together. We did this thing. And now we’re going to walk away from it. I hope our fans realize this wasn’t an easy decision; but all things must end; and we wanted to do it right, to do it our way. We have to thank all the people who helped us be R.E.M. for these 31 years, our deepest gratitude to those who allowed us to do this. It’s been amazing.”

Buck picks up on his thoughts: “One of the things that was always so great about being in R.E.M., was the fact that the records we made and the songs we wrote, meant as much to our fans as they did to us. It was, and still is, important to us to do right by them. Being a part of their lives has been an unbelievable gift.

“Mike, Michael, Bill, Bertis, and I walk away as great friends. I know I will be seeing them in the future, just as I know I will be seeing everyone that has followed and supported us through the years. Even if it’s only in the vinyl aisle of your local record store, or standing at the back of a club; watching a group of 19-year-olds trying to change the world.”

R.E.M. will release a career-spanning Greatest Hits album through Warner Brothers in November. More information to follow.

‘There Is Nobody In This Country Who Got Rich On His Own’

Elizabeth Warren is a smart lady.

I first came across her several years ago when she was discussing her book, “The Two-Income Trap – Why Middle Class Mothers And Fathers Are Going Broke.” It explains how middle class families became increasingly pinched by the economy — and this was before the Lesser Depression.

Warren explains the heart of her book here:

Fast forward to today, and Warren has just announced that she is running for Congress in Massachusetts.

I’m not advocating for her candidacy here, but I do want to call attention to something she said while on a recent talking tour. It is a message that many people in this country seem to forget because there is a tendency to worship the rich, as if they got where they are without anyone’s help but that of Divine Providence.

This is what Warren has to say about those sentiments:

I hear all this, you know, “Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever.”—No!

There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody.

You built a factory out there — good for you! But I want to be clear.

You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for.

You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate.

You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.

You didn’t have to worry that maurauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.

Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea — God bless. Keep a big hunk of it.

But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.

That’s a message we need to hear more often. It’s not about “you,” it’s about “us.”