The day the music died and then sold for a load of cash (what it means, maybe)

Interviews with Don McLean famously used to go like this.

Interviewer: What does your song "American Pie" mean?
Don McLean: It means I don't have to ever work again if I don't want.

There are all kinds of crazy interpretations about what the lyrics mean. There are probably some reasonable interpretations, too. I've never heard one, though I've probably tried to give a couple.

The original lyrics recently sold at auction for $1.2 million.

But the bonus: McLean, in that article, talks a little about the song and what it means.

I didn't live through the time McLean memorialized, but the song definitely shaped my vision of the pre-Internet U.S.

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How do you see a blank page?

Marc Maron spoke to Amber Tamblyn this week on his podcast (listen here). The actress has a new book of poetry, Dark Sparkler, out.

In the book, Tamblyn uses troubled and deceased child actresses as inspiration for poems (she herself began acting professionally as a preteen).

One notable moment in the podcast is when Maron opens the book to a poem dedicated to Lindsay Lohan, and finds nothing but a titled on an otherwise blank page. He finds it very pessimistic, but Tamblyn doesn't agree. She says she's not willing to impose anything on Lohan (though to be fair, putting her name on the page sure does impose something, it's just a bit more open to interpretation, I think).

While Maron looks at that blank page as pessimistic — empty, devoid — I feel very optimistic about it. There's still a chance to write a whole story there — and not only that, but a new story, leaving a past behind.

On the other hand, some of you will have read The Wit and Wisdom of Spiro T. Agnew or SEX after 60, which are famously blank for humorous reasons.

So, what is it? How do you see a blank page?

In defense of silly

Stop taking yourself so seriously. Every now and then, you have to just let yourself go.

2015-03-15 07.08.30A few weeks ago I did a 5k. It went fine. It's been a tumultuous six months, and I'd only just recently had the opportunity to start getting back into a running and general fitness routine. It went better than fine, really; I figured I'd come in at 38 minutes or so, and then I added in a costume and a Camelbak full of water, so maybe closer to 42 minutes. But it was 36 minutes, even all decked out.

Oh, and all decked out I was! Check out that photo! Green* fu manchu! Giant glass of green beer on my head! Suspenders! Shamrock shades!

To some extent, I think I'd become grumpy old guy. Maybe it was the severe Syracuse skies as winter approached again. Maybe it was working nights. I don't know. But I'd been taking myself way too seriously for a while.

Given the new setting, and the fact that I knew pretty much no one, I figured I'd go a little nuts. And it felt good to get high-fived and have strangers ask for photos. No need of deep conversation, no judgment, just a bit of old-fashioned silliness.

See the team photo at the previous post.


*The green "dye" was green food coloring and an aloe lotion. It came right out of my beard, off my hands, off the shirt and out of the dish. Use an aloe gel instead; it'll probably actually dry and set, which this never did.

What we’re drinking: Savannah Craft Brew Races

Here are some of my faves from the festival at Savannah's Craft Brew Race last week (see ratings and brief thoughts on Untappd).

Service Brewing Compass Rose and Old Guard Biere de Garde. Service Brewing is a veteran-owned Savannah brewery. Compass Rose is a tasty IPA that I could just stick my nose in forever. It has a nice floral aroma, and drinks easily. Keith does it more justice, and has the benefit of comparing it to last year's release. Bierre de Garde is one of their R&D beers, made with some locally produced honey. It's a nice sipper, a little heavier on account of the honey, but not too sweet.

Bonus: The new run of Old Guard hit the shelves in just the past couple of days.

Coastal Empire Southern Delight Praline Amber. Coastal is another Savannah brewery. Southern Delight Praline Amber is a seasonal beer with a decidedly local flair — pralines being a Savannah treat. This is a nice, light amber that isn't weighed down by the sweetness, which comes through well. I definitely recommend this one if you can get it.

Terrapin Liquid Bliss. I don't care what you think of darker beers, Liquid Bliss from Atlanta's Terrapin is simply delicious. It's a chocolate peanut butter porter. It's really well-balanced, with a not-too-sweet dark chocolate taste and a hint of peanut butter. You might even forget you're drinking a beer. Terrapin is spreading up the East Coast; they're now available as far north as New Jersey, so y'all might be able to find some soon in New York.

Sour Plum Saison by Orpheus Brewing. Orpheus is another Atlanta brewery. They do a sour series, including a fig sour, which is a fall seasonal. The plum sour might be an occasional or a research release for them, but I'm hoping to be able to find it. It was really interesting. I do enjoy some sour beers, and the plum is such a different twist, in general, for a beer that I think this is worth a shot.

Heavy Seas Beer Loose Cannon. Heavy Seas is a Maryland Brewery, and Loose Cannon is its flagship beer, a citrusy IPA that tastes mainly of grapefruit up front with a pine finish that will be familiar to IPA fans. I would love a session version of this, but still, after a run on a hot day, the citrus is refreshing even at 7.25% ABV.

What are you drinking?

Recipe: Low country rice with shrimp and andouille sausage

This wound up so delicious I thought I might share. It's a bit of a project; give yourself a bunch of time.

2015-03-09 15.55.37Ingredients:

  • Six slices bacon
  • 2 lbs. shrimp
  • 1 lb. andouille sausage
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 4 jalapeño peppers
  • 1 large onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • Creole seasoning (I used a local blend from The Salt Table)
  • 1 lb. rice
  • 3 cans diced tomatoes
  • 2.5 cups chicken broth

In a large pan or pot (or dutch oven), cut up about six slices of bacon and get them cooking. While that's going on, slice a couple of celery stalks, a large onion, a few cloves of garlic, a green bell pepper and a couple of jalapeño peppers.

When the bacon is crispy, scoop it out with a slotted spoon and set it aside, leaving the fat in the pan. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Pour all the veggies in and let them cook. Add the diced tomatoes (including the liquid) and chicken broth. Let simmer. Add the rice.

When the rice is done cooking, transfer to a casserole dish (or, if using the dutch oven, leave it in there), and put it in the oven for 45 minutes.

Peel the shrimp and cut up the andouille sausage. Add the bacon and creole seasoning and toss, then cook.

When everything's done, combine and toss.

Get smarter: Seth Godin talks to Srini Rao about responsibility and work

It's not often that a podcast comes along that really, truly teaches some lessons. Sure, there are often great lessons hidden in podcasts, or you can come away from them as a whole saying, "I definitely learned something," but very few really require a notebook and a pen alongside your earphones.

Such is the case, however, when Seth Godin talks to Srini Rao on The Unmistakable Creative.

I'm not going to ramble on too much; I'd rather you just go give it a listen. Godin's new book is called What To Do When It's Your Turn (And It's Always Your Turn). He and Rao discuss the benefit of blogging every day, of ability to dodge responsibility in a corporate workplace, and a bunch of other stuff you should be ready to examine yourself over.

On responsibility and rescue: 2 stories from Michigan

I saw a couple of stories juxtaposed on one of the sites I work on the other night.

One was about a woman who asked the legislature to create a duty to act law. From the story:

Brandon Mitchner may still be alive if someone had called 911 when he fell into the Grand River last June, his mother told Michigan lawmakers on Tuesday.

Mitchner, 22, was last seen walking home from a downtown Lansing bar after a long day on a party bus. An inexperienced drinker, he'd been celebrating a friend's birthday and was intoxicated.

People saw him fall in but didn't call police.

This is a shitty story all around. Her kid got drunk, fell in the river, and died. Nobody called for help. Damn, that sucks.

Should someone have called for help? Absolutely. Should the people who were there be punished? I don't think so. What about the friends who were there and let "an inexperienced drinker" drink enough to become "intoxicated" (the quotes because they're in the story)? Do they bear any responsibility? They lost their friend; that's a lot of punishment. What about the bartender and/or owner? What about the homeowner who allowed him to leave?

I'm trying to push the level of ridiculous a bit without being too insensitive, but I think at some point, individuals need to be responsible for their own actions. And if someone made a point to call 911, awesome! But if you can't rely on the responsibility of individuals or their friends, or the kindness of strangers, do we really need legislation to require someone to interpret a situation as dangerous and call 911? What if someone calls 911 and it winds up not being an emergency? Will citizens be required to learn a list of instances during which 911 must be called, and if there are 10 people around and only one person calls, do the other nine get fined? What if a bystander doesn't have a cell phone with him or her?

Speaking of responsibility and not doing what's required, let me tell you about the other story. It's about four state police officers in Saginaw who saw a guy who in a restaurant with only enough cash to buy fries — so they bought him dinner. I'm pretty sure that wouldn't fall under a duty to act law.

I posted the story on Facebook (to the site's page) and was happy to see that most of the comments were positive, but I'm still rolling my eyes seeing that people were skeptical about the action as a publicity stunt.

I guess my question is this: Should we legislate helping our fellow humans? I don't think so.

How to publish an ebook on Amazon

Something I did recently was this. I compiled some of my blog posts, edited them a bit, and put them together in an ebook to sell on Amazon. It's called Resolutions for the Rest of the Year, and is meant to give you the tools to set and accomplish goals now that most people have given up their New Year's resolution.

Almost as important to me as putting the book together (it's short; go ahead and give it a shot, why not?) was the process. Let me tell you how I did it, so that you can do it, too.

First, I redeemed a coupon I had for Scrivener, an amazing $40 piece of software (that's without the coupon). It makes it really easy to organize a book, and will help you compile it for pretty much any format — Kindle, iBooks, hard cover, soft cover, PDF — and provides you with a bunch of tools for proofing and organizing research and putting together keywords to embed in electronic versions.

Next, because it's such a complete piece of software, I took advantage of a special on a Udemy course on Scrivener (at this writing there's not a special, but almost 20 hours, it's still a deal at $169 for Mac or Windows).

Then I put the actual product together. If you're going to try this, be honest with your self and understand that the software's easy enough to learn, putting the product together is the hardest work.

I did some searching for royalty-free art to turn into a cover (feel free to pay for some, too), put the cover together, spelled a word wrong, went back and did the cover again, and thanked my eyes for catching that.

Next, I signed up for Kindle Direct Publishing, Amazon's Kindle publishing platform. It's a fairly simple process (it took about 15 minutes) to upload the book and cover, add some keywords, price it, confirm that I own the copyright on the book and click the submit button (which is the scariest part, but that was the goal of the whole project — pressing that submit button).

I sent that on a lunch break, about 2 a.m., and by the time I woke up about 10 a.m., I had a book on Amazon.

Your turn. Go!

Recipe: Breakfast cookies

Breakfast cookies!

A photo posted by Josh Shear (@joshuanshear) on

Take three overripe bananas, mash them up until they're the consistency of apple sauce. Add two cups of oats and mix well.

After that, the ingredients are negotiable, but here is what I added:

• One chopped apple
• Four tablespoons peanut butter
• Dash of vanilla

Mix it all well. Spoon it onto a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Let cool. Eat. The end.

Date night Savannah: The Olde Pink House and 22 Square

One thing I'm finding in Savannah is one of those things that's nice to see in a business community: businesses in the same industry recommending each other. Without variety, an industry dies down. Without competition, an individual business can get lazy.

In a big tourist town (12 million visitors a year, and they don't allow cruise ships to dock here), there will never be a shortage of restaurants. But that doesn't mean they can't strive to be the best.

My conversation with Chef Brandon Whitestone of The Olde Pink House started with me saying we had a great night that included a dessert stop and him recommending another bar.

I went on to say thanks, and that my wife and I would have to give his restaurant a try, too; he responded as if it almost hadn't occurred to him to recommend himself.

Nice.

We got our reservations in (even two weeks out, a Monday, a 7 p.m. seating request had to be pushed out to 7:15, so if you're planning on a trip, call early), and spent way too long staring at the menu over those two weeks. We made sure we read the bad reviews on Yelp so we knew what to watch out for (mostly the complaints were about cold food and long prep times; not only did we not experience either, but the latter isn't something we were worried about — if you're looking to not wait for your food, either pick a fast food place or pick a destination not in the deep south).

So, Monday night, off to The Olde Pink House we went.

We managed to get parking nearby; Miss Kimberly and Chef Brandon both made sure to introduce themselves. We were seated in what was the master bedroom of the original house, next to a window overlooking Reynolds Square. The window still had some of the original panes in it (you can tell because old panes had a higher lead content, creating the appearance of waves in the glass).

Now, it was need-a-flash-on-your-camera-dark in there and people were enjoying their vacations and Valentine's Day celebrations, so we didn't take pictures of our food; we'll have to let the words do it.

Jenny started with a semi-sweet riesling; I ordered a Sazerac cocktail (Herbsaint is essentially absinthe, so that's what's typically used, if you're looking cross-eyed at the recipe). Both were delivered promptly and cold.

We shared three appetizers. First, a charcuterie that included a fantastic mustard that must have been house-made and a local camembert-style cheese, along with some Berkshire meat and tasty accoutrements. After that, we had artichoke fritters; these were artichoke hearts stuffed with goat cheese and lightly batter-fried, done with a spicy sauce. Then, jalapeño poppers, stuffed with some very creamy mac & cheese. All were delicious.

For dinner, Jenny had sea scallops and shrimp tossed over fettuccine with a cream sauce, and asked them to toss in some spinach. I had their house specialty, scored flounder, which is a whole fish (sans head), scored into little medallions, then cooked and topped with a spicy apricot glaze. It was delicious. To eat it, you pop up the medallions, chew, swallow, repeat, then flip the fish and do it again on the other side. They claim to be the first to serve it in this style, though it's a popular method for cooking flounder in other locales as well.

While we dined, a maitre d' came by a couple of times, as did our server. We felt well-attended-to and well-fed, and will most certainly be back.

We then walked five blocks to the Andaz Hotel (which Chef Brandon mentioned in his first tweet to me), for coffee and dessert. The hotel restaurant, 22 Square, offers a much different environment from Olde Pink House, very contemporary, with modern art on the walls and some exposed brick. The cocktail list looked interesting, but we were at a nice finishing-up point.

Jenny had ice cream and berries. It was a raspberry base with some Italian wedding cookies mixed in, made by Leopold's specifically for the restaurant and only available there. I had a dark and stormy chocolate cake, which, as the name implies, is derived from the rum-and-ginger ale cocktail. The cake tasted like a chocolate gingerbread, and the rum was pleasantly infused in the icing. It came with a scoop of very creamy vanilla ice cream, which I can only imagine must have come from Leopold's as well.

I think next time we try 22 Square, it will be for pre-dinner cocktails, and we'll sit at the bar. While the food was delicious and I love what they're doing with local food, the contemporary atmosphere was a little overwhelming to me with the bright colors and the art and the more open space allowing sound to travel a little more. But we'll definitely be back to Olde Pink House at some point.

Where to next, Savannah?