Thursday, November 15, 2007

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

You asked for it: The New BlogFreeSpringfield

Hamburger Helper Potatoes Stroganoff

You will need:

1 lb. hamburger meat

1¼ cups milk

2 cups hot water


Brown hamburger meat in 10-inch skillet; drain.

Stir in milk, hot water, Sauce Mix and uncooked Potatoes.

Heat to boiling, stirring occasionally.

Reduce heat; cover and simmer about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender.

Remove from heat and uncover (sauce will thicken as it stands).

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Crap Tablet (edited) (updated)

Here's my latest SJ-R column. I liked it, by then again, I'm a partial to my own musings. If I were to be objective, I'd say that you could probably skip it and not miss much.

Update I was remiss in not linking to another SJ-R article, written by Chris Young and focused on local historian, amateur photographer, and keeper of massive amounts of trivial knowledge, Russ Friedewald and his Springfield Rewind Web site. No profanity was used in the making of that article.

Thanks to everyone who filled out the user survey. I haven't done an extensive analysis of the results yet, but a cursory glance suggests that most of you would prefer that I shut up about music and politics and just provide recipes suitable for a family on a budget. I have to admit, I'm a bit surprised as that's not what I thought BFS was about But I'm nothing if not accommodating so look for a "2,000 Ways to Make Hamburger Helper Work for You" feature to appear on a regular basis.

I'm "this much" closer to having a BFS T-shirt to give away to those who want one, but not everyone. Russ designed several killer logos and we have a shirt in the works.

The Firefighters Club trivia night is next Saturday. It's proven to be the most entertaining of trivia nights and emcee Allen Reyne is a local treasure. If you 'd like to come and compete for second place, click here for details.

I've never embedded a video before, but all the cool people are doing it, so I thought I'd give it a go. This is a totally captivating video by a cool chic goes by the name a' Feist. I'll leave you with this. Look for bigger and better things ahead.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

You won't want to miss out on this!

There’s still time to take the BFS User Survey. I forgot to mention it earlier, but if you make a wish before taking it, and then answer all ten questions, then your wish will come true or something. Don’t ask me how, but it works.

BlogFreeSpringfield User Survey

Monday, November 05, 2007

Take our survey . . . Please!

AT BFS, we’re committed to occasionally providing you with something to read when you’re bored at work. To better attune ourselves to your interests, we’re asking that you complete a brief survey that can be accessed through this link.* There are nine multiple choice questions and a tenth where you will be asked to comment on how we can better serve your blogging needs. Feel free to be blunt, our feelings aren’t easily compromised.

Take a moment, won’t you, and complete this important survey. All entries will be eligible for a prize, although you’ll have to be content with just being eligible as there are no plans to award prizes at this time.

With your help, we can build a stronger BlogFreeSpringfield.

BlogFreeSpringfield User Survey

*(The survey is hosted by Survey Monkey, by all accounts, a reputable concern. You can access it without fear of corruptive intrusions or inappropriate content. Trust me on this.)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

. . . in which I confess to the Almighty Gods of Rock.

Over yonder at Slate, they asked some authors to name the book they feel most guilty about having never read. Most of them picked a title that is generally considered to be a classic, written by an author generally considered to be a big dog in literary circles.

Many of the people interviewed have actually started to read the book at issue and they offer a litany of reasons for why they haven’t finished it. It’s interesting that none of them said, however, what is probably the real reason: they just don’t care for the book.

It’s not easy to admit that you don’t appreciate a work that your aspirational peers admire. There can be a certain shame involved because you end up not faulting the work, but your own inability to grasp its greatness. Perhaps you’re too simple or shallow. Maybe you went to the wrong schools. Maybe it’s genetic. Whatever shortcomings you lay at your own feet, it’s best to keep them to yourself and go along with what your “betters” have established to be true.

All of this set me to thinking about things I should like, but don’t. Not a guilty pleasure, but a guilty annoyance, if you will. For the interest of this blog, I’ll concentrate on music, since that seems to be a favorite topic of suggestion.

Some in my set like Dave Matthews, but I don’t feel guilty about finding him insufferable. I’ve run with some Deadheads in my day, but despite a brief dalliance (I once owned American Beauty), I don’t feel the need to pretend that I enjoy their incessant noodling. Then there are the authentic rockers like Tom Petty or Eric Clapton, who portray none of the preening or pretentiousness that I despise, yet who, with few exceptions (American Girl), still fail to move me with their music and can even be the source of great annoyance (Jammin’ Me. Lord do I hate that song.)

I can stand by my dislike of these musicians without feeling unhip or stunted in some manner. It’s much harder for me to admit that . . . that I . . . I . . I don’t like the Beatles, OKAY!

Just keep walking, boys.

Well, perhaps don’t like is too strong. But I can no longer count myself as a Beatles fan.

Now let’s be clear about one thing, I have the utmost respect for their talent and their body of work. There can be no doubt that they’ve written some great songs. They are one of the most groundbreaking bands in the history of popular music and their influence is beyond measure. I’ve enjoyed listening to them in the past, but for some reason, I don’t anymore.

What’s troubling is that I don’t know why.

Some might suggest that I’ve forsaken the past for more modern sounds, but if that were the case, then why do I still love the Kinks? Clearly, I can commit to a long-term relationship with a band, even after younger, more attractive bands start to catch me eye.

Others might say that I’m a music snob and am thus put off by the Beatles massive mainstream following. I’ll admit that my CD collection contains few top Billboard artists, but I can assure you that even in the deepest recesses of the indie rock world, there is no cachet to be had by dissing the Fab Four.

The only reason I can come up with, and this probably doesn’t really explain it, is that I’m not a big fan of Lennon or McCartney as vocalists. Again, this is no indictment on their abilities, it’s just that you either like a singer’s voice or you don’t and it may have nothing to do with his range or tonality.

It’s perhaps revealing that my two favorite Beatles songs aren’t Beatles songs, they’re George Harrison songs. What Is Life is in heavy rotation during our weekly dance parties and My Sweet Lord is one of my favorite inspirationals. Clearly it’s not an anti-Liverpool bias that drives my indifference to the lads, so perhaps there is something about the group dynamic that I subconsciously find off-putting.

Could it be that I resent the second-class status that Ringo was laden with? Was it the mockery that became of the Lennon-McCartney collaboration? Was it Yoko? Linda?

I’ll probably never know. But what I would like to know is what is your guilty annoyance? What band just doesn’t rock you like you think that they should?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Stuff I can comment on because I have a blog but is otherwise unremarkable.

Dining Out
Thanks for all of the dining suggestions. We ended up at D'Arcy's, just as I hoped we would. My wife didn't want to go there because the last time her parents were in town, we waited over an hour for a table at Springfield's favorite Irishesque pub. With four kids in tow, this was not an easy wait. This time, we had a table in under 30 minutes. The roast beef ponyshoe and pint of Guinness were divine. And two of my favorite BFS commentors were bellied up to the bar.

Andrew Bujalski
If you like small movies (no car chases or actors you've heard of before), then take a rent on Funny Ha Ha and Mutual Appreciation. Both movies have lead characters that, after five minutes in, you'll swear that you'll despise. But get past that point, and you'll become captivated by their performances. It's really good stuff.

Sunday afternoons will often find us availing ourselves of Springfield's finest parks. We'll usually hit two or three, mastering the monkey bars at one before looking for a faster slide at another. Three or four hours later, we're ready for refreshment. The problem is, while the kids are craving a big scoop of ice cream, my wife and I are more in the mood for a pint and some chips and salsa. What's a family to do? Of course, you get the kids their ice cream and deprive yourself of a frosty ale. But why should that be?

If someone really wanted to take over the ice cream parlor market in this country, they'd add 31 craft beers to their selection. It amazes me that no one has adopted this business model yet.

Goodwill Hunting
I went to the Goodwill store last week to look for potential Halloween costumes for the kids. This in itself is a cause of discomfort because clothing that I might find scary or funny, some other parent might think is perfect for class picture day. I'm not above poking fun of people's fashion choices, but not when it comes to kids.

After coming up empty on potential costumes, I decided to browse through the men's clothing. There, among the flannels and other plaid clothing, was a rather hip-looking striped oxford from the Gap company. It was my size and in good condition. It was priced to move at $3.75. I walked out of the store with only the shirt on my back.

So I ask you, should a person of means feel guilty, as I did, of availing themselves of the affordable clothing at Goodwill? Can you partake of government cheese when your dairy crisper is well-stocked with Kraft Singles?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Wanted: Good restaurant for casual dining experience this Friday. Dinner, drinks, possibly dessert. Must adore children. No chain restaurants, please.

My in-laws are visiting this weekend and they want to take us to dinner on Friday night. We’re looking for a kid-tolerant restaurant that serves food that’s perhaps a step or two above the fare at TGITueBees. We'd like to be able to make reservations, but that's not a deal breaker. If you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them. And please, be respectful of each others recommendations.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Should the Boss just shut up and sing?

I think so.

I have a friend, a frequenter of this blog, who is a big fan of Bruce Springsteen’s music. He isn’t, however, a big fan of Bruce’s particular brand of politics. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem, except that he, Bruce, has become quite vocal about expressing his various points-of-view. So along with stories of Mary cross the Jersey shore, a Springsteen concert-goer must also be up for some progressive lecturing.

I can understand how Bruce came to this point. After millions of Americans misinterpreted the lyrics to Born in the U.S.A. and reacted as if it was a flag-waving anthem, he probably felt that in order to articulate his message more clearly, he would have to spell it out between songs so that it doesn’t get lost amidst a wailing saxophone solo.

But somewhere along the way to superstardom, Bruce has forgotten why people line up to see him. His fans don’t buy his albums and attend his concerts because they feel that his music will lead to a shift in the political landscape that will in turn evoke positive changes to our society. No, they do so because they feel that his music rocks and they like to be rocked or in some other way emotionally moved by the sounds emanating from the stage.

It’s good that musicians aren’t apathetic to the issues of the day and they have just as much right to let their views be known as anyone else. But they must remember that the stage isn’t a soapbox and that they didn’t earn their place on that stage because of their astute political musings.

I’m sure none of us would appreciate it if, during a routine physical, the doctor changed the topic of conversation from our health to her views on the environment. Even if we agree with those views, we’re paying her to find out if our 245 mg/dL cholesterol level means that we’ll have to cut down on buttered bacon nachos, not to learn the effect the Kyoto agreement will have on third world economies.

Yet more and more entertainers feel that, for the right to pay $100 for their concert ticket, we are obliged to listen to them offer up political slogans while the guitarist takes a moment to strap on the double-neck Stratocaster.

Pity the meat-eschewing metalhead who just once would like to hear Wango Tango live without being emasculated by Uncle Ted’s carnivorous rants. And, at the other end of the tract, I’m sure that many a rancher have been left weeping at a Smith’s concert by Morrissey’s none-too-subtle suggestion that meat is murder.

Musicians have always pandered to their audiences, usually by offering up a crowd pleasing, profanity-accented tribute to their hometown. While “Bush sucks!” is a fairly widespread sentiment, it’s not universal. So why would someone want to offend or irritate one of their fans over an issue that isn’t even relevant to the occasion at hand?

Granted there are exceptions. If you go to an Earth Day concert or see Steve Earle while he’s supporting one of his protest albums, then you should expect to get a heavy dose of ideological dialogue. Even then, to most in attendence it’s still about the music, not rocking the vote.

Whatever Bruce aspires to be, to his audience he’s the guy who sings some of their favorite songs. That’s a pretty good gig. He shouldn’t jeopardize it by playing political pundit while he’s on the audience’s dime.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


I intended to write about the Andrew Sallenger case last week, but just didn’t have the time. You’ll recall that in 2002 (okay, you might not remember the exact year) police were called by Sallenger’s family after he had began acting bizarrely and frightfully. After a long struggle with the police, Sallenger, who was overweight, mentally ill and had a heart ailment, stopped breathing. He was revived but died 24 hours later at the hospital.

I’m not sure that I have much to say on it except that it is a sad story. I can understand why the grief-stricken family believes that their brother and son had his life unfairly taken. I’m just not sure what the police should have done differently.

Since I didn’t hear the entire amount of testimony and wasn’t privy to all of the evidence, I won’t make a judgment as to whether the police are responsible for his death. But I would like to pose some questions of a more general nature to you.

What should the police do when a person refuses to be put under arrest? Are tasers or nightsticks too much? Is there a point when the police should retreat, similar to when a high-speed chase is called off? Perhaps wait until the person falls asleep or is in a more congenial mood.

If a person is an imminent danger to himself or others, should the police use different methods for subduing him if he is mentally ill? What if the person is drunk or on drugs, should that affect the degree of force that is used?

Should the police even try to ascertain a person’s mental condition while he is still posing a danger?

Is there anyway the police can tell when someone is resisting, not because he wants to avoid arrest or because he wants to hurt someone, but because he is so frightened that he doesn’t know how else to react?

I’ll hang up and listen.

I would like to make one brief defense for the police that I would have probably ended up making in the comments section anyway.

If you or I, as civilians, encounter someone brandishing a gun, wielding a pitchfork or who is in any other way acting menacing, we have the option of fleeing for our safety and then calling the police. The police don’t have this option. They must confront the danger until the danger subsides. I think this fact sometimes gets lost when Monday morning quarterbacking the actions of the police. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t question what the police do or that they are never in the wrong, it’s just meant to provide a bit of perspective that we may lack having never walked in their shiny black shoes.