ROWE: It's time once again for the holiday tradition of columnists and providers-of-content to PHONE IT IN.
BRASHER: Can you in your mind’s eye, imagine me making this dialing motion with my hand? Now i'm picking up the receiver. It's for you! Look on your incoming call list and you will see that it is from Brasher and Rowe.
ROWE: That's right, this Thanksgiving, we’re going to phone it in with a collection of some of our favorite things and recommendations for your amusement while traveling, hanging with family or trying to find something that will help minimize the sound of Fox News in the background.
ROWE: Last month, ESPNpulled the plug on Grantland, its literary, in-depth sports reporting website. During its brief stint, Grantland published some of the best and most interesting sports-writing anywhere. It also boasted the work of Arkansas native son, David Hill. Hill, from Hot Springs, has an impressive catalog of articles online, many about his personal history growing up in the spa city, including this one about a killing, a fixed horse and the underworld surrounding Oaklawn Park.
After that, he wrote several great ones, like this one about the board game Diplomacy, which was also featured in the first This American Life to feature uncensored salty language. My favorite articles though, are the ones about gamblers, hustlers and con men. Hill is drawn to these kinds of stories, and as a Hot Springs native myself, I can understand the allure of these stories. A story about big time bass fishing cheats is a great one, as well as this one about pool hustling are must reads for anyone who sees themself as a sneaky person who knows how to talk real good.
In full disclosure, I consider Dave a good friend. I hear he’s writing a book about the Vapors nightclub in Hot Springs.
SUPERNATURAL STRATEGIES FOR MAKING A ROCK AND ROLL GROUP
BRASHER: Let's see here. Hmm ... what could I recommend? It's a sad fact that I don't read too often these days unless I am on an airplane. I blame the incredibleness of video games these days for eating up all the time I could be bettering myself with. However, it just so happens I have been on an airplane recently, perhaps you will be on a plane as well. You might want to read something eh?
In 1996, at a ramshackle venue on Main street in Little Rock called Das Yutes a Go Go I saw a show by DC weirdo commie-garage-soul group The Make Up. Their enigmatic and entertaining singer Ian Svenonius, along with other veterans of the previous manifesto laden band Nation of Ulysses, had created a new sort of aesthetic drawing on gospel music without actually sounding anything remotely like gospel music, at least to my ears. Maybe I've been listening to the wrong kind of gospel music. The Make Up played a great show that night and they went on to tour and record for several more years. In 2000 the band broke up according to Svenonious: "Due to the large number of counter-gang copy groups which had appropriated their look and sound and applied it to vacuous and counter-revolutionary forms." Whoa, that's some words right there.
If you ever wanted to see that sort of train of thought fleshed out into a fairly amusing book, then Svenonius' book: "Supernatural Strategies for Making a Rock and Roll Group" may be a thing you would like. It came out in 2012 and follows the events of a seance in which the spirits of rock 'n' roll's deceased musicians speak on everything from the connection between street gangs and bands and other aspects of creating and maintaining a group of musicians for purposes of rock and/or revolution. It's funny and occasionally insightful stuff for rockers and squares alike. As an added bonus if you have ever heard Svenonius talk you can read the entire book in his distinctive lisp in your head. Check it out. If you hit me up pretty soon you can even borrow my copy.
ROWE: Since the year 2000, the appropriately named "Best Show with Tom Scharpling" has been the best friend to anyone who appreciates that kind of laughter that shuts down your entire body. When I worked out of a car, driving long stretches of road, listening to Tom’s show via podcast was the thing that kept me going, mile after mile. If you’re going to be on the road over this holiday, and you want something to listen to, this is what you should turn to. Part call-in show, part comedy bits, part-interview show, the "Best Show" has it all. If you’re looking to get started, I recommend this great episode from earlier this year with Patton Oswalt, Lisa Jane Persky and Gary the Squirrel. That’s right, Gary the Squirrel, a puppet on a radio show.
BRASHER: Speaking of the aforementioned incredibleness of video games, I want to talk about the 500 pound radioactive monster man in the room: Fallout 4. If you know anything about video games, i'm preaching to the converted here. This is the biggest thing out in a while, eclipsing even the recent Halo 5 release. I have been a fan of this series since it's 1988 Commodore 64 predecessor Wasteland. With every iteration the series seems to improve along with the technology. Fallout 3 marked a turn to first person, story driven, sandbox shooter, not dissimilar from Skyrim or GTA 5 and that mechanic is still present. The real gem here though is the new building aspect. I have spent literally days of real earth lifetime scavenging the Boston ruins for supplies necessary to turn an abandoned post apocalyptic video game gas station into a functional self sustaining human colony. It's strangely rewarding in a way that many other building sims aren't, maybe it's because of resource scarcity, it makes every scavenged typewriter and desk fan a glorious find. Only bummer of this game is it is so unrelentingly gory that I can’t play it with or around my kid. So it has to be a late night activity, which means i’m up all night.
ROWE: If there has been one piece of media that has influenced my language, it’s definitely "Achewood." Over a decade’s worth of comics are online, Chris Onstad’s "Achewood" is the smartest and funniest comic you will ever read.
BRASHER: At an old job I had I once spent a few days at my desk reading, in chronological order, the entirety of "Achewood." That was possibly the best thing I ever did at that job and I worked there for like five years. Onstad is on the short list of people I want to bother to create art for every scheme I have, not because of his technique but his comic humor. He's up there with Arkansan made good Brad Neely in that regard. I think for awhile there was a brief pitch to make Achewood an animated series but that seems to have fizzled out. I think it may be because the characters have such distinct voices, and once you create them in your head to hear anyone else take a shot at them it is jarring. Word is that Onstad is making sodas now in Portland, which probably pays better but is not nearly as funny. I still keep the link in my favorites bar in case a new strip comes out.