Tag Archives: history

Fifteen Years of Idle Time: The Bonfire

Last month, on a characteristically can’t-make-up-its-mind Saturday, with spring sunshine jockeying with wind and fog, we assembled on Ocean Beach to celebrate fifteen years of Idle Time nonsense. The original three hadn’t been in the same place since a fantasy baseball draft in 2014, and our core four likely hadn’t been together since those traumatizing rock ‘n roll roulette sessions in the back room of Ink way back in 2012.

LDG: "This is what you look like. Crazy people."
LDG: “This is what you look like. Beach surgeons in an outdoor operating room. Or crazy people.”

This was also the first ever in-person assemblage of both the O.G. Idle Timers and the next-generation of enthusiastic souls, plus friends and wayward, woebegone blog contributors. It’s never easy to get perfect attendance (heretofore impossible, really), and the Doodle calendaring went on for weeks. But, for this particular get-together, having us all together was essential. We were finally going to do it. After three failed attempts dating back to 2009, Idle Time’s Ultimate Mixtape was so close to realization. And we were going to stay on that goddam beach until we had ranked the whole fucking thing.

Continue reading Fifteen Years of Idle Time: The Bonfire

Steph Curry’s Historic Unanimity

Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors took home his second consecutive NBA Most Valuable Player award the other night, and, this time, the vote was unanimous. This was the first time in NBA history, as a matter of fact, that an MVP award has been awarded by unanimous vote. This season Steph has shattered his own ridiculous three-point record while leading his team to a 73-9 record, the best single-season mark in NBA history. The Warriors push ever closer to their second straight trip to the NBA Finals, and their humble lead-by-example point guard continues to mystify opponents with impossible shots and an unmatched desire to win. Hell yes, he’s the unanimous choice.

But, because this is sports, much like Harden’s ridiculous whining a year ago after finishing second to Curry, a celebrated occurrence like this unanimous decision allows former stars to say ridiculous shit in attempts at garnering some remember-me attention. Sorry, T-Mac. Open your eyes. If anyone doesn’t think Curry has deserved either of these two MVPs, he or she simply isn’t watching basketball.

No matter how deserving or appropriate, unanimous decisions tend to stir up controversy. Maybe it’s the Don’t Tell Me What To Think mentality that reacts against being told that everyone agrees on a particular decision. So, to properly ensconce Steph’s achievement in history, let’s take a look at five other great – albeit sometimes controversial – unanimous decisions.

On February 4, 1789, George Washington was elected the first President of the United States, and he did so by unanimous vote. All 69 Electors voted for the insanely popular war hero, and our country was treated to the start of a celebrated political career. Controversial? Not really. In fact, in the very next presidential election, Washington again won by unanimous vote, this time with all 132 electoral votes, despite pissing people off with a whiskey tax a year earlier. He stands as the only president to have ever been elected unanimously and (not going out on a limb here, especially as we shake our heads in horror at the clusterfuck that has become the 2016 election process), that is a distinction that will never be equaled.  Continue reading Steph Curry’s Historic Unanimity

Fifteen Years of Idle Time: The Swedish Obsession

Looking back over the fifteen-year history of our silly little collective has involved much more than spinning old CD-R mixes, reading photocopied zines, and digging up photos of RF in a skirt. But of course I’ve done all of those things too.

The infamous “Young Folks” mock cover, November 2006. RF on the left.
The infamous “Young Folks” mock cover, November ’06. RF on the left.

It has also involved opening backup folders in subfolders in mis-labeled directories on flashdrives and SD cards hiding in dusty cardboard boxes all over Northern California. I’m not the most organized of archivists, but I do maintain that everything is somewhere, provided I have the patience to look for it. In this case, I didn’t find what I was initially looking for (a spreadsheet with the first iteration of our Ultimate Mixtape), but I did uncover some random word documents with transcribed content from our old Google group.

One particular narrative (that I composed as a radio play for some reason) is especially interesting. It recounts the car ride in which WH, RF, and I realized that we had slowly come under the spell of Swedish pop music. And it snowballed from there. The accuracy of the transcript is debatable, but it certainly sounds like one of our car ride conversations.
Continue reading Fifteen Years of Idle Time: The Swedish Obsession

Fifteen Years of Idle Time: Rock n’ Roll Roulette Revisited

digino_decades_covers_Page_1On Saturday, April 2, we’ll be ranking the top 50 of the 150 songs featured on the 15th Anniversary Ultimate Mixtape. The first 100 songs were ranked by secret ballot (most of us won’t even know how that shook out until the weekend), but those top 50 tunes will be ranked by our often contentious but always entertaining Rock n’ Roll Roulette. To further explain the process and its origins, here’s a reprint of an article first published in the Decades book in 2009.

“Bob Dylan Sucks…”
Rock n Roll Roulette and the Origins of the Favorite 400

It began idly enough, as most of our endeavors do. It was sometime towards the end of 2008, and we were all struggling through hours and hours of each others’ year-end picks.

I dropped a stack of burned CDs on a table in the lunch room, indistinguishable from one another save for the black Sharpie-scrawl, shuffled them together face-down, pulled out two at random and asked WH and MI, “Which would you rather listen to?”

The “winner” was set aside, primed to face-off against other round one survivors in a game that spontaneously took on the name “Rock n’ Roll Roulette,” despite having no real wheel to speak of, or gambling component whatsoever. The element of chance was certainly a huge factor, and damn if that name didn’t have a cool ring to it. Within minutes the discs had shuffled down to one final match-up, and a would-you-rather champion was selected with a 2-1 majority vote. WH held the final disc up and said, “There’s our record of the year.” Continue reading Fifteen Years of Idle Time: Rock n’ Roll Roulette Revisited

Fifteen Years of Idle Time: The Road to Ultimate Mixtape

some of those original lists
some of those original lists

It’s an established fact that this whole Idle Time business began when grown adults passed notes back and forth at staff meetings, Top 5 lists running the gamut from music to breakfast cereal. Thanks, Nick Hornby.

After we published our Decades book in 2009, WH scribbled in my copy, like a high school yearbook. “I can’t believe this bitch was for real. Thanks for entertaining all of my stupid ideas. Next, 500 tracks!”

That book was the biggest list we had assembled to date: 400 albums curated, debated, and ranked in one of the most drawn-out processes any collective could have ever bothered with. But we didn’t want to stop there. And the idea that we could generate a list representing our favorite songs of all time didn’t seem at all daunting at the time. After that mammoth undertaking, this would be an afterthought, yeah? What marvelous hubris. Continue reading Fifteen Years of Idle Time: The Road to Ultimate Mixtape

The Most Perfect of Wednesdays

128 years of Giants baseball, and it hadn’t ever happened. Until tonight.

In more than a century of Major League Baseball, more than 300,000 starting pitchers have taken the mound. Only 21 had ever pitched a perfect game. Until tonight.

On Wednesday, June 13, 2012, Matt Cain became the 22nd player in MLB history to record a perfect game.

When the ball left Chris Snyder’s bat in the top of the 6th, the bar where I was watching the game let out a collective groan. That turned into a rolling cheer when Melky Cabrera leaped to catch the ball at the wall.

An inning later Jordan Schafer laced one to right-center that looked ticketed for a double. Gregor Blanco made the greatest catch of his career. And everyone in the bar remained on his or her feet until that final out.

I love Matt Cain. I love this team. Go Giants.

Idle Time: A Look Back, Part 2

Uncle Isey, the official historian of our collective, recounts our humble origins in the website’s About the Institute section. Admittedly, however, some of those early tales of Top 5 tomfoolery and mixtape mayhem have been either dismissed or disregarded as a mixed bag of half-truths and hyperbole. It’s much more interesting, after all, to say that Isey ate Beau Baca’s entire seven-layer burrito without asking rather than report that he unwittingly snuck a bite before realization set in. Never let the truth get in the way of a good story, I’ve been told.

Sometimes we get lucky. Sometimes, scouring through drawers of discarded memoranda and forgotten files actually turns up something of value. An original artifact of those halcyon days of yore was recently uncovered, serving as far more than just a time capsule reminder of idle days past. This gem of a CD-R, in all its archaic glory, gives us a glance at an early music-themed Top 5…

But it also gives us a bonafide anniversary date. Continue reading Idle Time: A Look Back, Part 2

Idle Time: A Look Back, Part 1

Those of you in the know are already aware that we have a big anniversary coming up. With any luck our annual Best Of music list will publish on that very anniversary date, thus kicking off in a very formal fashion The Year of Idle Time. Looking forward always forces us to look back, so this first peek into the Institute’s origins takes us all the way back to 2001, and a blog post that was originally published in Justifications on June 26, 2006:

In the spring of 2001 a friend and coworker left a CD on my desk at work. We were (and are still) in the habit of recommending music to each other constantly, labeling every new find and must-listen as the best thing since the last record we swore would save rock and roll. This CD had a different sort of note attached; it was a different sort of record and required a more appropriate hook to give it a place atop of my need-to-listen pile.

The note reads (I’m not insensitive to the photo’s lack of clarity or the hundreds of readers who visit from outside this community and are looking at a duct-taped Suicide Girl rather than a CD-R and its memo): “Mike, Turn off the lights and curl up with this record. It will wreck you like a ninth grade romance. Keep a hankie close by. – Will. Oh, Inverted World!”

The album was, of course, Oh, Inverted World, the sublime debut by New Mexico’s The Shins. And it is a record with a place.

I listen to a ridiculous amount of music. Tuesdays are my Fridays and the latter half of the week is spent in frenetic caffeinated states of stereophoria. Oftentimes a record gets one chance to grab my attention before it’s relegated to the back of the pack and has to wait for a window in the cycle of new releases and mood-specific mixes for a second shot at roping me in. Gone are the days when every CD in an undergrad’s backseat carried a story, a memory, a reflection of a time and event and place. Blame the internet, blame my attention-span, blame Bush, blame whomever you please… that’s just the way it is. Continue reading Idle Time: A Look Back, Part 1

Grant Morrison’s Supergods

It should be an easy question to answer, a simple topic to elaborate upon. I love comics, and I love talking about the medium. And despite the fact that some of the best, most literate expressions of this artform have nothing to do with superheroes, I can’t ever deny the deep-seated passion I’ve had for capes-and-tights adventures since my first Avengers so many decades ago. But – why superheroes? What is it about this mythic cross of science fiction and fantasy that had not only enthralled me from a young age, but has also turned into huge business, dominating popular culture in movies and video games in the twenty-first century? Should be simple to answer. Shouldn’t it?

Grant Morrison, one of the most renowned and respected comics writers of our day, is far more equipped to tackle this subject than I. Thankfully, at least, as his new book Supergods shows us, I wasn’t wrong in thinking that there is no simple answer to the question. I’m just as thankful that the exploration of superhero culture, in his capable hands and guided by a life similarly captivated by the genre (as well as being twisted through years of genuine chaos magic and intense psychedelia), is a tremendously fascinating and rewarding one.

The "demigod" begins his journey to "pop deity"

Supergods explores the history of superheroes, from Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s creation of Superman in 1938 through the modern era and the infusion of superheroics into the “real world,” both in Hollywood’s forays into more realistic portrayals, and the advent of real world superheroes, like Portland’s Zetaman and Atlanta’s Crimson Fist. As each decade and each era is explored, Morrison beautifully connects current events with the responses of popular culture, demonstrating how the world of comics, and superheroes specifically, became both accurate reflections of the times as well as prescient oracles of developing fears, dreams, and ideals.

Continue reading Grant Morrison’s Supergods

Excerpts from the Journal, Italia 2010

It’s been little over a year since my most recent trip to Italy, which means I’ve already started thinking about how soon I can get back. The da Vinci-esque scrawls that fill up my Moleskine on traveling adventures are perfectly useless (and not just because of the illegibility) as a guide through foreign cities, but chronicling ruminations and observations about anything interesting in our lives is an Idle Time virtue, and one which I ceaselessly promote.

June 29, 2010

A week ago today we made our first trip into Firenze. The five of us, led by Margaret (our rental car’s soothing British-accented navigation device), parked at Piazza Michelangelo above the city, fairly near San Miniato en Monte. As promised by my Rough Guides guidebook (I’m now a big proponent of RG — dispensing with the juvenile snapshot summaries of DK and weary of the snarky pretension of Lonely Planet), parking was free in the piazza, and for €1,20 each we could ride the bus into town (which, honestly, wasn’t that far… we could really have handled a lot more walking on this trip…)

I was happy to show the kids (and Matt) what I remembered from my time here in ’06. Street-level, outdoor views of the Piazza del Duomo, Piazza della Signoria, Santa Maria Novella, Ponte Vecchio, and numerous other churches that I had something to say about — all marginally interesting, and in play later that evening.

The interior catwalk, lower rung

The highlight — and easily the most memorable moment of our time in northern Tuscany — came during our exploration of the Duomo. After exploring the inside of Santa Maria del Fiore we decided to appreciate Brunelleschi’s accomplishment up close by forking over the €8 apiece to climb up into the dome itself. The stairwells were even narrower than the climbs in Siena; the exertion double what we experienced in San Gimignano. The initial egress put us on the first of two narrow walkways encircling the inside of the great dome. A sheet of plexiglass kept us from tumbling down the twenty stories onto the altar below, and above and all around us, the spectacular fresco of the Last Judgment in all its glory. Heads of demons and devils fifteen feet across were just above us — Hell being the lower rung of the artwork — tormenting poor souls with flaming cudgels and flaying skin from sinners’ bones.

Continue reading Excerpts from the Journal, Italia 2010