Reversing the Numbness

Monday, April 30, 2007

Travels with Roscoe

At the suggestion of my buddy Josh Williams, I dropped $3 on a book called Travels with Roscoe by a writer previously unknown to me named Roscoe. I'm just getting to know Josh, but I trust his judgment anyway because I like what he says to people, and $3 is a pretty good deal for a book with a cover like this. Little did I know that the price would soon skyrocket by 33 percent (to $4 all of you Journalism or English majors out there), but I got in while the gettin' was good. Sometimes it really pays to commit to something and act without thinking too much about it.

It took a couple of weeks, but Travels finally arrived today. I immediately read it cover to cover. It's fabulous. It's pure. It's about chimps and assplosions and fishing and belligerent Amish men and jail and Confucius and Steve McQueen and Tequila and Tang and so much more ... but best of all it's about motorcycles. It's about Bob Hannah and Chuck Sun and, again, Steve McQueen. And Travels with Roscoe contains perhaps the most unique description of a motorcycle crash that I've ever read.

I make motorcycle magazines for a living, and we have a reader or two. They're gonna find out about Travels with Roscoe in our August issue. Josh, tell Repair Manual to fire up the presses.

Order this book.

Free Joy

If you're a fan of new music and haven't yet discovered the live archives at, run -- don't walk! -- on over to that little treasure chest. You'll find hundreds of performances going back to 2001 by many bands you know and many you've never heard of. They used to have it so you could only listen to a song at a time, but newer sets have a full-performance link that's pretty handy. And because these sets were originally aired on KEXP in Seattle, the studio sound quality is really good.

I usually ask for music suggestions from you guys, but here are a couple of artists I'm really into doing songs I really like. I'd love to hear what you think, as there are few things in this world that give me more joy than sharing, talking about, and of course listening to music. And if you post a link to a set or a song, I'll check it out as well.

These are all Windows Media links, but you can use Real Player too if you go to the site.

Joseph Arthur
I talk a lot about this guy, but he's not exactly a household name, so if you don't know him, check him out. He's been playing with a backup band lately and it's cool stuff, but I very much prefer his solo stuff. It's pretty mellow, usually, and it's cool to watch him build songs by looping beats, rhythms, backing vocals, harmonica and more over top of each other. Sometimes, once he gets a song built up, he puts the instruments down and sings over the song he's looped together as he paints a set-long mural in the background that's so good it rivals the music. Talented dude.

"She Paints Me Gold" - 2005
"Mercedes" - 2004

I love this band, but they're definitely not for everyone. They use dozens of instruments to achieve a sort of Eastern European festival sound, but there's nary a guitar to be found. If you like Neutral Milk Hotel, you'll like Beirut. It's very possible that this band would make Rob Zero's head explode.

"Elephant Gun" - 2006
"Ederlezi" - 2006

Saturday, April 28, 2007

TV's Next Big Thing

While The Dalai Mama was watching Celebrity Fat Club the other day, she came up with a great idea for a spin-off: Celebrity Fart Tub. Now there's a reality show I might actually watch.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Friday eBay rant

Let me preface by saying that I hate eBay. Not only is it addictive (you can spend hours a night looking up meaningless shit) but it is also a breeding ground for the truly dishonest.
I used to race road bikes in junior and high schools. I have been wanting to get back into it for some time now, so I have been looking for an old Italian frame like I used to ride. Well, after months of searching all over the country, I find one on eBay. I am psyched all week waitng for my new, old school ride, and it finally comes yesterday while I am at work. Man, I can't wait to get home to ride it. I open up the box and start unpacking it. Lo and behold there is an 1 1/2" long crack in the top tube where it meets the seat tube. It was never mentioned in the "cherry of a bike" description.
Now begins the wonderful, stress inducing process of trying to recoup my money. Sometimes a little honesty would be nice.
I hate eBay.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Friday Music

It's Friday. (Almost.) I need music. I'm a hunk of wet clay on a pottery wheel. You're Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze.

Mold me.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Dolphin Machine

I was thumbing through Intersection magazine today and I ran across a short piece on something called a SeaBreacher that stopped me in my tracks. A California-based company called Innerspace has invented what amounts to a dolphin machine. Looks like a dolphin. Moves like a dolphin. Jumps like a dolphin ... but you get to freaking ride in it! With a friend! It's a dolphin machine! (Anybody read Christopher Moore's Fluke? If so, this thing should seem somewhat familiar.)

This thing goes 40 mph on the surface and 20 mph under water. It can jump 10 feet in the air. It can do barrel rolls. It costs $70,000, and the people who invented it expect dolphin-machine races in the future to rival monster trucks in popularity.

All I can say is, I hope this thing starts a trend, because I love the idea of animal machines. The possibilities are endless, but what I'd really like is an elephant machine.

Imagine what you could do with this thing! I don't think the monster-truck drivers are going to sweat much about racing dolphins -- are the spectators going to wear scuba gear? -- but get a few elephants crushing cars at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and Bigfoot just might have some competition.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Name That 'Do 4

In this edition of Name That 'Do, we're tackling a theme of royal proportions. Every 'do above belongs to a person who is somehow closely associated with a royal-sounding name. They start very easy, but I think there are a couple of tough ones in there. Note the three final 'dos are all attached to H. I'm going to send a copy of Poor Bailey's awesome Pyrite and Gold double CD to the person who gets what I consider the toughest one.

Plane-Crash Song

At the show last night, I was talking with my wife and a few of my friends, and the subject of plane crashes came up. That transitioned into what I can only assume is an age-old question: If you're on a plane that's plummeting to earth and you only have time to listen to one more song, what would it be?

At first I thought my song would be Radiohead's "Paranoid Android," which I think is one of the best songs ever written, but I'm not sure I'd truly appreciate the spastic crescendo of that number while free falling with coffee and carry-on luggage flying everywhere.

Next I thought perhaps Pink Floyd's "Time" or "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" or even "Great Gig in the Sky," which I guess would be sort of ironic in that circumstance.

I went through some other possibilities as well, but in the end I went with Fiona Apple's version of the Beatles' "Across the Universe." It's spiritual and mellow and it even includes some chanting, and that just seems like it would really work well with a heavy dose of impending doom.

And you?

Monday, April 23, 2007


It's a beautiful morning and the first day of 2007 that I've ridden my Triumph. My coffee was excellent. Tonight's the Joseph Arthur show in Pittsburgh, which I wouldn't miss for the world. Sure, I'm on a tight deadline, but this is still a great way to start off a week.

Happy Monday, everybody.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Camp Days

From the time I was in seventh grade to my final year of high school, I went to a church camp called Camp Luther with my buddy the Lutheran. I still find it hard to believe that the place existed.

It was held in the beautiful hills of Cowen, West Virginia, and in many ways it was like any other church camp. We had daily devotionals, sang "Pass it On" around camp fires, played four-square and basketball and softball, ate together in a cafeteria ... those things probably happened at every single church camp that has ever existed.

But, man ... there were some ways that it was very much different, at least once we were in high school and made it up to senior camp. For example:

Smoking? No problem. Anyone in senior camp, including campers, was allowed to smoke at will. Camp counselors would pick up cigarettes for the kids when they went into town. The barn that held our morning devotionals had a smoking section one year.

Making out? No problem. We had two dances during the week, one on Tuesday, and one on the last night, which I believe was Friday. During these dances, every year, I openly made out with whoever my girlfriend of the year was. (Classy!) The dances always ended with "Stairway to Heaven" (what else?), and one year I remember making out with Jannasue Owens for the entire duration of the song.

That same year, there were two girls to every guy in senior camp. This meant there would be a chance that some girls didn't have boys to dance with. How was this resolved? The camp administrators organized a simple game of flag-chase. Every boy attached two flags (think flag football) to their wastes, we all got out in a field with all of the girls, and at the whistle, everyone started running. Whichever two girls got your flags were your two dates to the Friday dance. I got very lucky and scored Jannasue Owens and her blonde friend, but it was Jannasue I ended up sharing that memorable last dance with.

Cussing? No problem. We could say whatever we wanted to say in camp. No swear word was off limits, even during religious discussions. I remember hearing counselors and pastors swearing. One year we had a skit night, and the raunchiness of the skits was astounding. One involved a remake of I Love Lucy that involved a live theme song touting a specific body part that was "so nice and juicy." One girl played Lucy, one guy played Ricky, and they used a can of whipped cream as a prop.

Simulated sexual acts by high-school kids? No problem.

This sounds far-fetched, but it's absolutely true, and I'm sure there was more crazy shit that I just can't think of right now. The place was just an anomaly. My pal Raoul Duke was there when he was younger, but he bailed before the good stuff happened. Still, he always heard the stories. I'm still great friends with my buddy the Lutheran's older brother, and he was there -- he can vouch for this.

I really don't know what their reasoning was for allowing, and sometimes encouraging, this sort of thing at a church camp, of all places, but I'd guess it had something to do with the belief that if they just let the kids actually be themselves, maybe they'd open up and learn something. I'm not the church-going type now, so I don't think that tactic worked, but one thing's for certain: as far as I was concerned, Camp Luther ruled, and going there was the single most highly anticipated event of the year for me.

Friday Music

It's Friday. I need music. New is good. Old is good. Fast is good. Slow is good. Metal, pop, opera, classical, indie, punk, country (as long as it happened thirty years ago or more), hip hop, electronic, jazz, blues ... all good.

Take me; I'm yours.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

It's the Opiate of the Masses, but TV's Had Some Moments

The A Confederacy of Dunces Excerpt of the Day

I'm overdue on a new excerpt.

The scene: After Ignatius takes on a job as a hot dog vendor on the streets of New Orleans and eats all of the hot dogs, his boss is none too pleased. Ignatius claims the hot dogs were stolen by a kid with a gun.

"Perhaps he was very hungry. Perhaps some vitamin deficiency in his growing body was screaming for appeasement. The human desire for food and sex is relatively equal. If there are armed rapes, why should there not be armed hot dog thefts? I see nothing unusual in the matter."

"You are full of bullshit" [says the boss]

"I? The incident is sociologically valid. The blame rests upon our society. The youth, crazed by suggestive television programs and lascivious periodicals, had apparently been consorting with some rather conventional adolescent females who refused to participate in his imaginative sexual program. His unfulfilled physical desires therefore sought sublimation in food. I, unfortunately, was the victim of all this. We may thank God that this boy has turned to food for an outlet. Had he not, I might have been raped right there on the spot."

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Landlord

Will Ferrell. awesome.

More on Fang and Introducing Randy Rat

Good news for Fang! (That's what I've named this dog.) While he's still chained up and doing the exact same thing he was doing yesterday, when I said hello to him on my way home from work tonight he barked at me and he seemed a little less bitter. I'm hoping it's because of this:

I tell my kids a series of stories about a character named Randy Rat. This is pretty much every night, and we've been doing it for a long time.

They all begin exactly the same way: "Once upon a time there was a rat named Randy Rat, and he was the nicest rat that anyone ever knew. He was always invited to all of the parties, and all of the other animals loved to come over to his garbage heap to hang out with Randy and eat garbage."

Then it just kind of goes wherever it goes. By far the most popular Randy Rat story of all -- which both of my kids could recite verbatim -- is the one where Randy, a city alley rat, decides to venture far down the alley in search of a garbage can that's so stinky you could hardly believe it, so as to get himself the holy grail of snacks.

The first garbage can he comes to appears promising, but upon further inspection, and this is my son's line, "Nope, not danky enough!" Unfortunately the second garbage can proves to be a red herring as well, but then Randy is fortunate enough to run into his old friend Carly Cockroach. After the brief but sincere pleasantries that always begin Randy's interaction with another animal, he answers her inquiry as to why he's ventured so far down the alley. Carley, being a cockroach, is very familiar with the local garbage cans and heaps, and she gives him a lead on a garbage can that is so amazingly stinky it'll knock his socks off. (This is figurative, because he doesn't really wear socks. That would be unrealistic.) After Randy expresses dismay at having to leave his friend after such a short time with her, he follows her directions and finds the nasty can Carly told him about. (My son: "Yep, danky enough!)

As he claws his way to the top, he dreams of diving into the can and eating so much garbage that he can hardly move, and then taking a nap right there in the can. Sadly, when he reaches the rim, he meets the only antagonists to ever appear in the Randy Rat series -- the three, big, mean alley cats are already inside the receptacle.

The good news is that he spots them before he jumps in. The bad news is that they spot him immediately too. The first cat, who sounds like Vizzinni from The Princess Bride ("Never go in against a Sicilian when DEATH is on the line!"), stakes his lunch claim to Randy. The second cat, who sounds like the Lenny cat from the old Loony Tunes (based of course on Lenny from Of Mice and Men -- "Duh, okay, George!") quickly reminds the first that he's quicker and will be having this rat for lunch. The final rat, who sounds like Hand Banana from Aqua Teen Hunger Force, says: "Wrong on both counts. I'm quicker, and I'm smarter. I'll be having the rat today.

Of course, while they're arguing, Randy doesn't stick around to see who wins. He's down the alley like a shot. It doesn't take long for the cats to catch up, though, and our tender hero finds himself in a pretty precarious situation.

See, here's the thing about being as nice as Randy Rat is -- he's got a hell of a lot of friends. And it turns out, the three big, nice alley dogs happen to be in the vicinity. They catch wind of Randy's trouble and turn the cats from predator to prey in a split second. Randy's safe, and the cats end up treed at the end of the alley, where they falsely promise to never return if only the dogs give them another chance. (Their appearances in a host of other Randy Rat stories prove their dishonesty.)

So Randy thanks the three big, nice alley dogs for saving his life and invites them over to his garbage heap for a snack and some nice conversation.

Okay, so that's the top-selling story, as far as my kids are concerned.

Well, last night, we did a new one. After the standard intro, Randy decides to take a walk to the outskirts of town to clear his head. In doing so, he discovers a miserable, pathetic white dog who's chained up in a circle of mud. He approaches the dog in an attempt to make friends, and of course the dog goes ballistic.

Randy is persistent when he sees others in need, though, and he finds the courage to approach Fang's perimeter, where the rodent sits down and patiently waits. Eventually the angered pooch tires and just sits down too. Here's where Randy works his magic. With his typical genuine, caring, level-headed approach, he tells Fang that it's not true that he's a lost cause on paws. His solution for this dreadful existence is quite simple -- Randy states that if the two animals can establish a base level of trust for each other, Randy will attempt to gnaw his collar off and will take him back to the alley with him.

After some real soul-searching (it was fun explaining that term to my five-year-old daughter), Fang goes against his nature to distrust and promises Randy that he won't tear him to shreds if the rat comes closer. Randy, who of course has a mean set of teeth, makes short work of the collar and then rides his new friend Fang into town, into the alley, and into a life of wondrous, intoxicating freedom.

The end? For this story, yes, but not for our newest character. Because the first thing Randy did was to introduce Fang to the three big, nice alley dogs. And now, in all future Randy Rat stories that involve the the K9s, they will be the four big, nice alley dogs.

I'm just hoping that on some cosmic level this feeling of freedom made it down to Fang last night and he had the greatest dream of his miserable little life.


In case you're interested, some of other recurring characters in the Randy Rat series include:

  • Paul Pigeon, who lives upstairs on the roof
  • Pasquale Squirrel (also upstairs)
  • Berry Bear (he's an immigrant)
  • Tom Trout (his appearances have been limited to when Randy goes down to the river, except for the time when he made it to a party at Paul's place in a fish tank, thanks to Randy)
  • Ricky Rat, Randy's good-hearted but trouble-prone brother (who was completely to blame for the infamous ceiling-fan incident)
  • Ollie Owl, who's sort of a cliche, know-it-all owl, I'm afraid (sorry, it's not as easy as you'd think to make up a new, detailed kids' story every freaking night)
  • Bob the Bicycle Badger, who scared Randy a bit at first because of a badger's reputation as being ferocious, but Randy later learned that the only thing Bob the Bicycle Badger cares about is riding his bike and teaching others to ride bikes. (He taught Randy in tonight's story, and Randy used his new wheels to get away from you-know-who)
  • The Possum Twins, Perry and Polly, who always say the exact same thing at the exact same time. (I guess this could be an homage to Kubrick's The Shining, though I only just thought of that, so it wasn't intentional)
There are probably another dozen characters, but I forget them. My kids know them all, though.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Just Down the Road

I'm a Dog on A Chain

I'm a dog on a chain
Living out in the rain
A lost cause on paws

The perimeter of my circle of life
Is determined by the number of links
In my restriction

I just have dirt, man
But there's grass -- right there!
In front of my nose
Or a light year away

But because I can't feel it
Because it's not mine
I won't be your friend
I'll scare you away

I'm a dog on a chain
Living out in the rain
A lost cause on paws

Friday, April 13, 2007

Choose Your Misadventure

Remember those little Choose Your Own Adventure books from back in the day? Turns out they're still making them, and they've sold more than 250 million copies. Thats a serious business right there!

Well, I've decided to make my own little related feature here on Reversing the Numbness. We'll call this Choose Your Misadventures. So read the beginning of the story below and see where your misadventure takes you. Think you can make it out alive? Have fun trying! If you don't like the way your first adventure turns out, try again.


You wake up in an empty room. You have no idea where you are or who you are. There's a door, a shiny red button, a burlap sack with something in it, and a popcorn ball in the room, but nothing else. What do you do?

Walk out the door

Push the shiny red button
Look in the sack
Eat the popcorn ball

Fun With Photoshop

I might try to have some fun with Photoshop this weekend, if I get the time. If you've got a good photo of yourself that's of reasonably high resolution, e-mail it to me at

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Name That 'Do 3

Okay, geto boy, you figured out Rod Stewart pretty easily. Punk Let's see how you guys do with this 'do. I'll start with one hint: his big hit was in the '80s. "Yes or no" questions are welcome.

Pick My Music

Once again, I'm looking for some music suggestions to get me through the week. (Toilets, I still need to kick The Dead -- I'll get on that this afternoon. I went to five Dead shows and got into three of them, including Jerry's last Pittsburgh show with the truly magical rain set. To this day it's one of the top concert experiences of my life.)

In case anyone's interested, Bright Eyes released a new one on Tuesday, and it's awesome. Hey, Zee, remember that time you saw him play in Philly before he was anybody? Didn't you love that show?

Name That 'Do 2

I'm trying something a little different for this edition of Name That 'Do, mainly because I don't have time to cut out a bunch of 'dos.

One 'do. You can ask 'yes or no' questions in the comments. The first person who gets it right will get the $3 I'm getting from Josh Williams for getting his challenge right.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Nobody Comes

I recently stumbled onto this poem by Thomas Hardy. The second stanza is intensely sad to me, but I really love the way it reads, so I thought I'd post it here.

Nobody Comes

TREE-LEAVES labour up and down,
And through them the fainting light
Succumbs to the crawl of night.
Outside in the road the telegraph wire
To the town from the darkening land
Intones to travelers like a spectral lyre
Swept by a spectral hand.

A car comes up, with lamps full-glare,
That flash upon a tree:
It has nothing to do with me,
And whangs along in a world of its own,
Leaving a blacker air;
And mute by the gate I stand again alone,
And nobody pulls up there.
— 9 October 1924

Saturday, April 7, 2007


I'd planned on posting throughout our vacation, but I got quite sick early in the week and had a pretty rough time. The trip did not go as well as we'd hoped. I trudged through and we still had some fun, at least. Now we're back in WV, I'm still hopped up on over-the-counter medication, and my brain is still barely working. I do have something I really want to post about, but I can't make the sentences right now. I'll try tomorrow.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Geico Caveman

Not sure if anyone agrees, but I really get a kick out of those Geico caveman commercials. I even heard they may get their own sitcom. Anyway, I was just surfing the web this evening and ran across the Caveman's Crib. This is a website dedicated totally to the Caveman, and once inside you can take a virtual tour of his apartment as he gets ready for a party he is hosting. The level of detail and the content on this website is very impressive. You can click on the iPod dock on the left and change the music that plays while cruising this site. Click on the TV to watch a Geico commerical, and once in the kitchen you can listen to messages on his answering machine, or click on his laptop to read emails. Very cool. Let me know what you guys think.