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I own four 301 Series V Bose speakers. They’re were the cornerstones of my home theatre when I lived in a place conducive to big-ass explosions in surround sound. There were nine speakers that made up my 7.1 system. It ran two different subs, one down-firing for LFE effects and one smaller front-firing for musical bass.

If you asked anyone who ever sat and watched a movie in my theater, they might comment that I spent half the movie tweaking levels and measuring in decibels the pressure of sound in the sweet spot (where the equilateral triangle forms between the front left and right speakers and the viewer). It didn’t matter much (for me at least) because chances are I had already seen the movie a number of times and valued it for either its visual or aural elements. I built retinal bias backlights from scratch, I read books, I learned to calibrate television sets, I even founded a company to do for others what I spent so long fiddling with in my apartment. And while most people laughed it off, occasionally someone would comment that they could no longer watch other people’s televisions or listen to records when they weren’t on my system. That always made me happy. I loved when people rediscovered something and heard/saw it in a new way.  And while I’m sure there were millions of better, more expensive systems available, for a 20 year old, it felt like living in a movie palace. 

I still love the science of AV and think the pursuit of reproducing an artist’s vision for a given medium is worthwhile. The goal of a great sound system is not to be noticed. The art should be front and center; the machinery should disappear while enveloping the viewer.

And while 20 year old Nick is cringing at the idea of me listening to MP3s through my laptop right now (despite the fact I ripped it at 320kbps and calibrated eq to compensate for the inherent weakness of MBP speakers), Depeche Mode presses on. And now that I’ve drawn attention to it, I switched to my Koss PortaPros through a portable headphone amp.  

I don’t understand people who don’t have hobbies. And while my AV noodling has ebbed in recent years, primarily due to the fact I had to leave most of my gear behind when I moved, a deep love remains. A fondness for all my old hobbies lives on. When I become interested in something, I want to know everything. I want to know which girl builds the best DACs (digital audio converters) at the factory and seek out only the CD players she built. How could you not?

At the moment, coffee is my focus. I signed up for a coffee course at Ipsento and have been experimenting with my AeroPress for weeks now. I measure my beans (roasted within a week and stored in a vaccumm tight container) and filtered water on a digital food scale.

I want to know how the world works and how it can be made more efficient, more enjoyable, and more robust. How could you not? If you’re going to do something, you might as well dedicate a substantial portion of your life and free time to it, right? Right?!

When I meet someone who doesn’t have any hobbies, I look at them like they just said they hate sex and pizza. How do you fend off curiosity? How do you pick something up and not immediately start digging into the settings menu?

I love things and am fascinated by the world. I don’t know about most things in the world, but the handful I’m proud to call my hobbies, I know inside and out. And to those other things: I’ll get to you.

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I’ve seen every episode of Gilmore Girls. I am tempted to call it a guilty pleasure, but I don’t feel guilty about it. I’ve never understood people who talk like that. I’m going to bat for it. I’m going to stand behind it because I like it. Is it Breaking Bad good? No. But, if I followed that standard the only television I’d ever watch would be the first 88 episodes of West Wing and Seinfeld. And even if it isn’t good, I don’t care. The notion of a guilty pleasure is a lie. 

Supposedly, a guilty pleasure is one you indulge while ultimately having a finely tuned sense and appreciation of art. Bullshit. There is no secondary self beyond the self that watches Mob Wives, no secret artist that transcends the watcher of a pandering reality TV show. Deal with the fact that you like Mob Wives. If that is embarrassing to you, own it. Why should you care what others think of your taste? Can’t we just admit that our taste isn’t always good? Would that be so terrible?

We want to go intellectually slumming and still pretend like we give a shit about modern art. Hiding behind guilty pleasures is how we pretend to be people we’re not and present a second-order public self.      

I remember the first time I had a turkey sandwich where the meat was actually cut off a bird with a knife. It was fucking bizarre. My turkey is pressed into perfect ovals, uniform in color, and 70% water. And I prefer it that way. We pretend like there aren’t a hundred reasons to like something. I like Olive Garden soup. I don’t give a shit it comes out of a box. I like it. Is it better, in an objective sense of being fresher and more carefully prepared than the gourmet Italian restaurant down the street? Probably, but I don’t give a shit. And I don’t feel bad about it. It isn’t a guilty pleasure. it’s a regular pleasure. I’m not a foodie. It isn’t important to me.

I am the person who fastidiously measures out coffee beans on a digital scale and keeps an Excel spreadsheet of my car’s gas mileage, but I’m also the man who watches Gilmore Girls and loves OG minestrone.

We are layered and multifarious. Our puzzle pieces don’t always fit together neatly. We don’t always make rational sense or adhere to a perfect model of aesthetic taste, and it’s time we stop pretending like we do.

Let’s not hide from our pleasures. No one watches the Criterion Collection all the time. Fuck guilt.

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I go to art museums when I need to remind myself my education was worthwhile. I’ve been to the SF MOMA a bunch of times, but the outing that yielded this little guy sticks out. 

In the winter of 2009, I moved from Reno to Chicago. I, in a most ignorant and impetuous way, chose to move during December. Anyone who lives in Chicago just quivered a little. The idea of moving during a Chicago winter should send bristles down your spine. I did it because I’m dumb and don’t understand anything but 200 days of sunshine. 

My trip to SF was three-fold: Hour of the Wolf, see Dark Knight in IMAX, and attend Point Break: Live. Hour of the Wolf slayed and Dark Knight was so loud my chest rattled. But the day I picked up this mug was the day I realized I had what it takes to be an actor.

The central conceit of Point Break: Live is that it is a stage adaptation of the Bigelow’s 1991 action-adventure cult-classic of bank-robbing surfers and the FBI agents who go undercover to expose, infiltrate, and destroy them. But when Johnny Utah, an ex-quarterback turned FBI agent, gets too close to the edge, the lines get blurry. The film and the play are 100% pure adrenaline.

This might be my favorite film synopsis. 

It is a triumphant failure. Keanu Reeves is terrible/brilliant in it. So bad in fact, the play believes that anyone could play his role; they cast from the audience and guide the night’s Johnny through the play via cue cards. 

On the night I attended, almost two dozen gentlemen stepped to the stage in hopes of donning the wetsuit. 

In the end, it was me chosen to play Johnny Utah that night (the entire show is here). And while it was one of the best experiences of my life, it wasn’t being cast that made me feel like I wasn’t a fool for lugging all my shit to Chicago. It was that I got out of my chair to volunteer for the audition. Having what it takes to be an actor/writer has less to do with your talent and more to do with your ability to get out of a chair and put yourself in an uncomfortable situation. It is not simply a willingness, but an enthusiasm to fail.

I have tested this theory relentlessly over the last five years and I have learned this: failure is hard. It is a bummer. It doesn’t always teach you something. It doesn’t always make you better. Sometimes it’s just pointless pain. But I have learned this: I’d rather fail in an audition room than succeed in a cubicle. 

Also, for those with an intrepid eye, yes that is the little kangaroo from Pulp Fiction where Butch keeps his grandfather’s watch. She is dear to me. 

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I don’t have many memories of my whole family (all three of us) doing anything together. But I do remember us playing Ms. Pac-Man on my original Nintendo. My mom would stabilize the joystick with her feet and give full lean when avoiding ghosts. My Dad was calculating and precise. He is still one of the best Tetris players I’ve ever seen. And, at the time, I was only a meddling player. 

Now I’m fucking excellent. My parents met playing Ms. Pac-Man. My college girlfriend and I got together over milkshakes rousing two player competitions. At one point, I held the high score at the Barcade in New York City. I’ve held high scores at Empty Bottle, Bowtruss, HQ, Emporium and Dollop in Chicago. Those ghosts run deep. 

Die for the fruit. That was the motto around our house. It didn’t matter if it were a cherry or a pear, you ate that fucking fruit. We didn’t play for level. We didn’t play for score. We played for pride. We played for the love of the game. We played because we stared death in the face and said, “That apple is mine.”

I’d like to think it made me bold growing up and taught me to take risks. I’d like to think it taught me quick thinking under pressure and war strategy. I like to imagine those things instead of my parents’ bitter divorce which decimated my familial model for love and trust.

My relationship with my college girlfriend ended. We never played Ms. Pac-Man again. Neither did my parents. 

It’s a stupid little game, but I love it.

Like Pac-Man. 

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My Dad has excellent taste in music. My first exposure to heavy metal was Black Sabbath’s Paranoid. I couldn’t have been older than ten. In my teen years I discovered punk and wholly discounted heavy metal as a genre. I hated metal. My friends hated metal. And, at the time, there wasn’t an Internet to introduce you to new bands. If your friends didn’t have the record, you didn’t hear that shit. If your friends didn’t listen to that band, you never heard it. Fast forward about a decade and my buddy Troy blows my mind with Dillinger Escape Plan’s Calculating Infinity and Converge’s Jane Doe.

I have to be careful about what things I vehemently deny. Spend enough of your life with a disproportionate hate for something and invariably you’ll come to love it. You’ll realize just how uncharitable you’ve been and become overly sympathetic. Before you know it, you’ve got The Haunted’s One Kill Wonder on repeat and you’ve bent your steering wheel out of shape drumming on it.

Metal is fucking awesome. I’m a believer. I don’t understand people who don’t listen to heavy music. Punk, metal, noise, grunge, whatever. So long as it’s heavy. Kids today are completely fucked. Nothing has any fury. It’s all mellow and congenial. Every Pitchfork band. Everything on the radio. Fucking electronic music. Nothing has any brutality in it. The Rollins’ life mantra of fucking on the floor and breaking shit is being stomped out of the music-listening public with bands like Fun. Fuck that band in its stupid mouth.

Give me the chuggas and the weedles. Throw the horns and give me a bass drum the size of a Honda Civic. GIVE ME HEAVY FUCKING METAL!!!!! 

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Like any reasonable kid growing up in the 90s, I wanted to be a goddamn Ninja Turtle. I wanted sais and to do backflips. Fueled by a belief that pizza and skateboarding were the requisite skills for ninja training, I was assured my destiny was to become a human warrior fighting alongside my heroes.

And like any forward-thinking person, I begged my Dad to sign me up for karate classes. There they would teach me the ninja secrets to defeat the foot clan. Surely their methodologies were sophisticated and performed in secret. I prepared myself for the lonely bushido lifestyle of solitude and discipline, fully ready to abandon my previous life for one of heroic servitude, acrobatic feats of agility, and furious wielding of deadly weapons.

The first day they taught us how to stand. It was called “Horse Stance.” Basically you stand with your legs shoulder width apart and bend them at a forty-five degree angle. Of course I’d be holding a battle axe or some similarly gnarly and impressive weapon, right? Nope. My little paws were wadded up in flaccid fists next to my poorly tied white belt. This was the first in a series of brutally disappointing let-downs in my life.

I fucking quit. I quit hard. I quit the next day. Fuck that shit. Fuck it in its boring, ineffectual, down-blocking ass.

This went on a few more times. I’d forget how crappy it was, and want to do karate again. My Dad said yes. I’d quit.

Years later, aided by the forgetfulness of youth and reinvigorated by The Power Rangers, I again asked my father if I could join the martial arts. He acquiesced on the following condition: if I rejoined, I would not be allowed to quit. I, being all of ten, agreed immediately. He then added a caveat that haunted me for the next thousand days: were I to quit, secret ninjas would come to our home, drag me from my bed, and force me to return to the ranks of my fellow martial artists.

Three years later, I got my black belt. I went on to teach the weapons class, join the live demonstration team, and win several state tournaments.

Did I become a ninja? Kind of. Did I learn any lessons? Kind of. It turns out that fear totally fucking works. Do I regret any of it or wish it to be different? No. Sometimes worthwhile things aren’t rewarding at first. They take time and dedication and work. Fundamentals are boring as shit. They’re awful. But you need them. And my Dad knew this. And he insisted I develop discipline and character. I phrase it like this because, to the extent I still have these characteristics, it is a direct ratio of the work my Dad put in to instill these values in me. They are not innate. My Dad saw it valuable to ingrain them in me, and he did. They are buried so deep in my DNA I couldn’t shake them if I tried.

On Saturdays from 9-12 was a Black Belt Training Class. It was grueling. Hundreds of push-ups and squat thrusts, sparring, running, getting yelled at. It was, hands down, the worst way to spend a Saturday morning. I begged my Dad to stay home and watch cartoons. It was the same dance every weekend.

"Dad, can I stay home?"

"No."

“Please?!!!!!!”

And he made me go every week. Said it built character to face something difficult head on and not run from it. Fucking eighteen years later and I still can’t call off from work. I’ve had perfect attendance for over a decade. The only time I did was because our van broke down on tour and I was stranded in California. Even then, I tried to make it in to work.

We feel heavy with the weight of our choices, but so much of who we grow to be is decided without our consent. I keep telling myself that I’m going to call in sick as an existential proof I control my destiny, a tiny reminder that I’m at the helm of this tiny ship. But the ocean is immense. And while you can steer and fight the tempest with white knuckles, sometimes it takes you where it wants.  

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Nietzsche gazes suspiciously at a church.

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Redemption tickets and pinball play a huge role in my life.

My first job was working the midway (i.e. the exploitative carnival) at Circus Circus in Reno, NV. I was fifteen. Though I didn’t know it at the time, every member of This Computer Kills worked there too. Jawsh painted faces as Needles the clown, and Jeff ran his redemption counter like an owner. On my breaks I’d sneak down into the arcade and play pinball. My Dad taught me the flipper catch. All the other kids played Blitz, which was featured on the top floor. The pinballs were hidden down in the sub-arcade. I loved them. Eventually, I convinced Jawsh to play South Park with me. We played together most of high school when we weren’t playing guitars together.

Once, at the Harrah’s arcade, some kid gave us a bunch of his tickets and Jawsh and I traded them for matching Spider-Man lapel pins. I declared that they made us a pinball club. He humored me and wore it on his Jansport. I still have mine.

Here’s where Batman (above) comes in. My friends and I didn’t drink in high school. We didn’t drink in college. When we went raging, it was at the Atlantis playing coin-op basketball and having air hockey tournaments. Between the four of us, we collected a fuck ton of redemption tickets. And while we toyed with the notion of recreating the battle of Normandy with army men, we opted to blow our ticket 401k on Batman mugs and, for some reason, a Dora the Explorer door-hanging mini-basketball set. Each of us got one of these handsome Dark Knight mugs.

If I think back far enough, this might be the first mug I ever started collecting. It reminds me of friends, fun-level, and staying up all night eating chicken wings and drinking milkshakes from the tin.

I turn 30 today. Most days, I wear band t-shirts and Chucks. I still listen to the Misfits. I don’t have kids, a career, or a suit. I fail most traditional measures of adulthood. Yet, I’m debt free, healthy, and chasing an impossible dream. I work very little, and read and write everyday. If adulthood were measured by happiness, I’d be married with two kids.

And this weekend the bar down my street is opening the midwest’s largest pinball lounge. Now, if I could fly in JDH, JCP, and ACF, and get Headquarters to make me a milkshake, I’d be set.

Monster Bash, NED is coming for you. “Let’s rock,” (as said by an ax-wielding Dracula).

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I watched The West Wing with my best friend on DVD in a tiny studio apartment that perpetually reeked of cat piss. Our landlord had decided to sell our previous apartment forcing us to vacate earlier than we’d have liked. The eviction politely coincided with the start of my band’s tour. The day we set off, I was homeless with no place to return to. The night before we left, I alone slept in the house. A sleeping bag, a laptop, and a backpack the last remnants of our co-habitation. He’d already found a new place to crash: some basement room in one of the co-opted punk houses. It was just me in a big empty house. Still not sure why I slept in my room. The house was fucking empty; I could have slept on the ceiling (physics aside). But I suppose it was a small comfort of familiarity, like picking the same seat in class. 

The tour went as tours go: it was amazing and terrible. We might have broken up on that tour. In fact, I’m certain we did. All Reno bands break up on tour. It’s the inevitable consequence of being unpopular and unprepared for a grueling and exhausting journey with people you love, but best experienced in small doses. A month long sleepover is bound to try the strongest of friendships. It amazes me that every band doesn’t break up on tour. 

Though I’m reminded that at the end of the tour, two of my friends from back home asked me to help write for their comedy website. Until that point I had largely ignored their project. It would later be revealed to me that I’m not interested in comedy projects I’m not a part of. I had never really written comedy or satire before. I hadn’t really written anything outside of a couple Salinger-esque short stories in high school. Tim, the aforementioned best friend and West Wing viewing partner, read my short stories and nurtured the budding writer in me with the literary Miracle Gro of praise. He would ask to see what I wrote, and I would write more. I wrote for him. And he made me feel like I had something, like my writing wasn’t terrible (which it was).

Midway through the tour, my attention strayed from music to writing. I began work on my first article for the website, Anarchy Golf Balls, named for a marketing stunt which I still don’t completely understand. Something about users reporting golfballs left around the city with jokes or sayings written on them. The name stuck. It is apt the first article I wrote was written about my twenty-first birthday as tomorrow I celebrate my thirtieth.

Nine years, three degrees, and a few failed attempts at bands later, writing persists. And I owe it to him, and maybe a little to Sorkin’s West Wing. We should all be so lucky to have someone to encourage us. I wouldn’t put pen to paper without him. Thanks, Buddy.       

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Last time I was in SF, I helped build a computer, went to the SF MOMA, and saw the Night Marchers. It seems like a fairly accurate representation of my life. A little bit nerd, one foot in up-its-own-ass academia, and a rock ‘n’ roll show.

I picked up this mug at the MOMA and kept it safe like a male emperor  penguin on the way home. I’m a fan of simplicity.

Sometimes I think I might make a good designer. Then I remember I can’t draw, paint, draft, or sculpt, It seems my role will be of the perpetual fan: Helvetica. Pantone. Dieter Rams. 

Clean. Restrained. Minimal. I’m working harder to vote with my choices, choosing good design over what’s convenient. How silly to have to seek out and pay more for things that are free of adornments, bullshit, and superfluous extras. 

Do one thing well. My coffee maker doesn’t have a clock, it doesn’t have different settings for hot chocolate or tea, and it doesn’t fuck around. It makes a bitchin’ cup of black coffee. And it is perfect for me.

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Nobody wants it, but sometimes it’s hard to argue with open. 

I used to go to Denny’s with my friends and spend all night drinking endless hot chocolate and annoying the piss out of the poor waitresses. How were we supposed to know you shouldn’t spend five hours in a place, drink ten cups of hot cocoa with extra whipped cream, tip $1, and be seventeen all at the same time?

I didn’t have my first cup of coffee until I was in my mid-twenties. I was on tour with a band called Da Capo and comfortably abstained from driving the van most of my life. My innate sense of direction leaves something to be desired. I get turned around when I walk out of a store in the mall. Everyone was beat and I, characteristically, had slept in the van all day. An all-night drive was ahead of us and the rest of the band reluctantly turned over the keys to me. But before they did, my band of coffee experts introduced my to my first coffee beverage: an Americano. 

My system, at that time untouched by alcohol, coffee, or much of anything unseemly, went apeshit. I was drumming on the steering wheel like a motherfucker, howling along with the stereo (the only modification we made was upgrading the CD player), and twitching the whole way. I’ve never been high, but that drive was surreal. No coffee experience since then ever came close. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

We broke up shortly after that tour. We were ill-prepared, the shows were terrible, and we had no fan base, but I miss those dudes. Someone should have told me to enjoy the time in the van. 

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I discovered Nirvava before punk rock. It was backwards. The biggest band in the world, a band that loved the Wipers and the Pixies, bands I wouldn’t fall in love with for another decade, introduced me to underground music.

I spent most of seventh grade learning to get the pick scrapes right on “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. I still don’t have them down.

I’m reading this book for research. I’m on a steady diet of Olympia girl-rock, early pre-Grohl Nirvana records, Gang of Four, and old Sonic Youth—though my preference is for late SY records and Grohl.

I’m developing a play with a wonderful director and it is heavily inspired by my time playing in bands, sleeping on floors, and trapped in a stinky van.

It was the best/worst/best time of my life. I’m not the same without it. And maybe this will fill a sprawling Northwestern gap in my life. And my stomach is in knots thinking about writing it; a punk rock “That Thing You Do.”

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Ron is right about many things: whisky, steak, breakfast. Though I can’t abide his love for brown heads. Somewhere deep in every brunette-dating male is a primordial and unshakable love for blondes. His love for the auburn is his Achilles heel, proof he is both fallible and human. 

I finished Steve Martin’s Shopgirl last night and it was lovely, a minor triumph. Knowing he studied philosophy is apparent in his writing, which is surprisingly dark and its humor is rooted in truth and not silliness. I found a special, private joy in understanding his Kant references. It is a great way to spend four hours of your time. 

As I type, the new Man Or Astroman? “Defcon 5…4…3…2…1…” is playing in my headphones. It is mature and picks up where “Made from Technetium” left off, ignoring the records Starcrunch didn’t play on. And I’m fine with it. They’ve gone the furniture store route of punk bands: constantly threatening to close their doors for good, creating a false sense of urgency to see them before they break up for good. I’ve flown to Chicago (from Reno), to NYC, driven to SF, and biked across Chicago to see them. I’ve got two more MOAM dates in June and I don’t care if they pretend to break up every week. They have put out so many great records, their place in my heart is earned. And I love the new record: Sonic Youth in space. 

The weather is changing. Iced lattes are in the forecast. The sun and I are about to be reacquainted. It has been a long time, Old Friend. 

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Coffee and metal. Limited edition to 30. Only available at the Bottom Lounge show on 4-18-13 in Chicago. Roasted yesterday.

I don’t know why, but it tastes way better when you’re listening to “Lost in the Headlights.” Picked up on for me and sent the other one to my buddy Hank in AZ. We comprise 1/15th of those who enjoyed this dark, heavy brew.

The show was incredible. The bass was so heavy it rattled my chest. Despite the wall of sound, the instrumentation was nuanced. I could here the interweaving melodies of both guitars. The new guitar player, Dallas, is solid. I’ve enjoyed his work in Swan King and he brings it. 

I sort of love going to shows by myself. When I bring someone along, I feel responsible for their good time. I keep checking in with them to make sure they’re not bored. And if they don’t like it, it plants a seed of doubt in me as to whether the band was any good to begin with.

Maybe my taste sucks?

Not tonight, though. Shit was on point. 

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I don’t have an irrational fear of flying. Fuck statistics. Hurling through the air at 100 times my top running speed in a tin can is always scary. It’s a perfectly rational fear.

But fear isn’t the right word. My anxiety lasts no longer than one minute. It is departure, the moment the pilot puts that fucker in gear and my back makes love to the seat. Have I lived the life I wanted? If I were to die right now, would my Dad be proud of me? Should I have broken up or married her?

In that minute, I see the silhouette of my death. I see her in the distance smiling. She knows I’ll meet her soon. And the shiver I get precipitates my pen into motion. And while the nudge isn’t permanent, it is always welcome.