A poetry book for people who’d rather look at drawings than read poetry.

[download file=”http://www.bilgaines.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/The-Moving-Sidewalk-to-Mars-a.pdf”]

This collection of over ninety poems & over forty drawings looks great on coffee tables. Topics cover multidimensional physics, effective warping of space-time, transcendental love, and, of course, food.

You can download it as an ebook or get it in physical, tearable paperback book form.

Poetry & Drawings Free Download

Buy the physical version for your physical coffee table:

Real-Life Poetry Book

…Or, if you’d LIKE to pay money for the ebook, you can still do so here:

Poetry Ebook For NOOK


New Music Discovery: WOOF.


Recently I found an artist called Woof. Actually, that’s misleading. It’s more like he found me.

Mastermind Kelan Bonislawski followed me one day out of the blue on Twitter. I work in digital marketing and I knew exactly what was going on. Some clever software connected us.

This happens all the time, and usually I ignore it, but when it’s an indie musician or filmmaker, I tend to at least give ‘em a look. I checked out his Soundcloud account, and you know what? This music is great. Super-great.

Check out the track below, and if you dig it, pick up that EP on iTunes. I am totally into it. If you enjoy (as described by the artist) “ugly pop songs” as well, then this EP is refreshing as hell.

The songs are strikingly personal, in that these are very clearly representative of what’s going on in his own head. But there’s something at least a little bit universal. And maybe that is only to the tiniest possible degree, but it connects with me, at least, and I am a complete stranger.

The synthy indie-pop sensibilities belie an appreciation for the little oddities of life that the lyrics appear to complain about on the surface. There’s heavier content in what is sung over an almost Nintendo-ish melodic glee than what you’d imagine at first, but just because it’s heavier doesn’t mean it’s not full of life and joy.

If there’s one common thematic element, it’s control – when you let go of trying to control things, you’ll find yourself similarly free of things that control you, which is a very human-centric way of saying that our universe tends toward entropy and there’s nothing we can do about that.

Anyway: indulge your ears for a surprisingly chipper slice of cynical pie and groove along while you drive somewhere. And don’t forget to pick up that EP! (iTunes) (Amazon)

Caitlyn Jenner: Mutual Respect

Faceless Caitlyn Jenner

Previously I mentioned my Facebook post on the newly-Caitlyn Caitlyn Jenner did indeed take a different direction. We didn’t wind up talking much about the definition(s) of bravery, because the entire chain was hijacked by a Christian troll. We’ll refer to him here as “Sparky.”

After some good comments from decent folks, both military and civilian, out of left field Sparky joined in with the following:

MHO & I know most people feel the same way, but will not speak up, because of the intolerance of the Homosexual community (which I have never seen bullied, but does a lot of bullying of their own). No animosity toward him, but I think Bruce (not Caitlyn) Jenner is a sick man, and needs help, and I pray he gets it. He does not need publicity for this, as he’s just very confused. IF he’s not sick, he’s very selfish seeking attention, and his poor children are suffering. He won in the Olympics & competed and did things physically that only a man can do. He has male body parts. He is not a woman.

We were naturally caught off guard, since there’s so much wrong with this one paragraph one doesn’t even know where to begin.

But I thought if I ignored it, it would go away.

But someone else replied, and it opened up the can of worms I was hoping would stay closed for this particular discussion.

One friend posted a video that clarified the issue in seemingly inarguable terms, containing an intro that this video was intended to clear up some confusion, because with more understanding comes less hate (and less self-hate). Sparky called the video “Gobbleygook & made up spin.”

Another friend offered up that her former husband is transgender. Sparky literally said: “…your ex-husband is still a man…he just had surgery. No different than Bruce Jenner is still a man…he just CHOOSES to dress up like a woman.”

He threw insults and derision, and when called out on it, acted all hurt and victimized.

He led everything with the phrase, “With respect,” and then said something completely disrespectful.

I asked him to respect that there are many different religions in the world, and he basically told me no.

Instead of apologizing, he shrugged and said, “Agree to disagree.”

He acted like a bully and then blamed his bad behavior on God.

The best part was when he said, “Sometimes the Truth hurts,” which is so ironic it would be hilarious, except it wasn’t.

And I know this is not indicative of most good religious people…but it is indicative of the loudest religious people, the ones who cast judgments and scorn while never truly looking in the mirror.

I actually feel kind of bad for Sparky. I suspect he’s a recovering alcoholic or even junkie, and maybe religion is the only thing that keeps him from destroying his body.

But he’s so stuck in his own mindset that he can’t understand anyone with a different point of view. He’s like a wounded animal who can’t function properly without help, and can’t show gratitude for the help.

Sparky’s inability to show respect was upsetting, but my confidence that he is totally wrong never once wavered.

I’m just not sure how to get through with logic. His is a closed mind.

So, how do we get through to closed minds?

Answer: we don’t. We maintain our composure. We carry on. We keep improving. We keep talking about transgender transformation as though it’s not some circus act.

And we don’t shut them out. We invite them into the conversation.

And we keep the conversation moving forward.

They’ll catch up eventually. People like Sparky will have to change their own minds. No outside force is going to do it, certainly not on Facebook. It’ll have to come from within.

And when those minds do change, we need to welcome them into the community of modern thinkers. Don’t throw it in their faces that they thought backwardly for so long. Forgiveness will be necessary.

Without mutual respect, we cannot move forward as a nation. We may disagree with people, but we still have to treat them as valid human beings. And we must absolutely insist that they treat us the same.

Caitlyn Jenner: Think of the Children

Caitlyn Jenner Drawing (2)

Previously I mentioned my reaction to one set of reactions to Caitlyn Jenner; here, again for posterity, I wanted to paste another reaction to another set of reactions to Caitlyn Jenner.

This one comes from the illustrious John Keogh, a man of many smarts:

One of the most common reactions I see coming from the transphobic crowd in reaction to Caitlyn Jenner coming out is the tired old trope:

“But think of the children! This will hurt the children! You do care about the children, don’t you?”

These people fear that coming out publicly will subject a trans person’s children to scorn and ridicule.

But it’s transphobic people who heap that scorn and ridicule on them in the first place. It’s a result of the culture of intolerance and fear that they maintain and nurture.

The harm done to children here is on their shoulders. It’s not the fault of any trans people.
Transphobic folk are worried that having a trans parent or other trans adults in their lives will confuse children.

Over the years, I’ve interacted with a lot of kids from many different walks of life. The vast majority of kids that I know have no problem comprehending the idea of more than two genders. It really isn’t that confusing.

If there’s confusion here, it’s because transphobic people persist in maintaining a society that refuses to accept more than two gender identities. The confusion isn’t inherent in the concept of a gender spectrum, but in the artificial contradictions generated between the reality of a gender spectrum and the transphobic’s insistently dualistic worldview.

So, again – any harm done to children on this front is the fault of the transphobic crowd. It’s not the fault of any trans people.

None of this is anything more than bullies blaming the victims.

Again, comments are always open and welcome, but do try not to say anything you’ll regret later.

Caitlyn Jenner: a Different Kind of Brave

Caitlyn Jenner Drawing

Immediately after Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover came out, my Facebook feed was filled to the brim with happiness and hope and support and all kinds of wonderful, positive things, among them kudos on the bravery of doing something like that.

Then, shortly after that, I saw half a dozen of those wounded vet memes that throws the word bravery back in our faces. And it disturbed me. So I whipped up a Facebook status update and gave it back to Facebook, and it started a conversation that ended up going in a completely different direction.

But I wanted to record the original post here on this blog, because Facebook is impermanent and it’s hard to find status updates from long ago. Sticking it on a website makes it easier to find.

Here is what I wrote:

Here’s something that’s bothering me, Facebook.

“Oh, you think Caitlyn Jenner is so brave? Well, here’s a picture of a military veteran who lost two limbs.”

I think you guys are missing the point. It’s a different kind of brave. You don’t need to be a dick about it. That’s kind of like doing this:

“Oh, you think that kid who stood up to a bully is so brave? Well, here’s a picture of a military veteran who lost two limbs.”

“Oh, you think that friendless kid with horrible social anxiety who went to his class party anyway is so brave? Well, here’s a picture of a military veteran who lost three limbs and a kidney.”

“Oh, you think that mega-church pastor’s son who came out as gay is so brave? Well, here’s a picture of a military veteran who lost both legs and still runs marathons.”

“Oh, you think that girl who pressed charges against her rapist even though she was immersed in a victim-blaming small-town society is so brave? Well, here’s a picture of a military veteran who lost both arms and still does push-ups.”

Apples to oranges, you guys.

No one is disputing that our country’s military men and women are super-brave. Firefighters and cops, too, for that matter, and also those engineers who climb to the tops of those ridiculously tall radio towers.

And those vets that get wounded but still continue to do awesome things? They blow my mind with how awesome they are. I am in total agreement with you on that.

But it’s not a most-brave competition. Just because someone hasn’t served in the military doesn’t mean they can’t be brave in their own way, and it doesn’t mean they can’t inspire others.

This is America. There’s like 310 million of us, and we’re all unique and complex and weird, and some of us need different heroes.

So how about less derision and more celebration, yeah?

Comments are open, so feel free to drop your opinion. Fair warning: be careful what you say, the internet is forever.

McDonaldland – The Gritty Reboot

Recent Facebook musings have inspired what may be my best idea ever: the gritty, noir-ish reboot of the McDonald’s universe. I have created an infographic of sorts describing the main characters and some strong supporting characters, and I have whipped up a plot synopsis (below the infographic).

Let’s build on this. Give me your ideas on what to add/improve in the comments!

Grittily yours,


McDonaldland - The Gritty Reboot - Characters Infographic


Ronald is a popular guy in McNugget Heights, a low-class neighborhood in the hard city of McDonaldland. He’s a clever and creative handyman who never works for free. One day, a young orphan watches him improvise a solution for an old lady neighbor, who rewards him not with money but with a shiny golden key. He argues that he only takes cash, but she assures him it’s extremely valuable. She urges him to keep it secret. That night, the orphan shows up at Ronald’s doorstep. Ronald reluctantly allows her to sleep on his couch, promising to take her somewhere tomorrow (to get rid of her).

That night, the Hamburglar attempts to rob Ronald’s place; Ronald fights him off, with help from the orphan and a good frying pan. As thanks, the next morning, Ronald takes the child for pancakes before taking her downtown to see Birdie, a childhood friend who is now a selfless city attorney. Birdie recommends a city-funded orphanage, but the orphan tells her no — it’s already closed down, that’s why she went to Ronald’s to begin with. Ronald and Birdie both despise bullies, and Mayor McCheese is a bully, so they will bully him back and get that orphanage re-opened.

The Hamburglar meets with Captain Crook, the pirate leader who got McCheese elected. Crook killed the Hamburglar’s wife years ago – each blames the other for the incident, but Captain Crook has all the power – and now Crook threatens to kill the Hamburglar as well if he doesn’t bring him what he wants. He gives the Hamburglar one more chance to get him that shiny golden key, and insists that the Hamburglar take the Fry Guys and Grimace with him. Meanwhile, Birdie crashes a press conference for Mayor McCheese, humiliating him on his record of defunding important city services like schooling, police, public transportation, parking meters and (now) the orphanage. Ronald and the kid return to his neighborhood as the Hamburglar and the Fry Guys tear his apartment apart; they don’t find the key, but the Hamburglar DOES take all of Ronald’s hamburgers. Grimace meets Ronald on the street; Ronald offers the kid to the criminals if they’ll just leave him alone. No dice, says Grimace, and they have a fight. Ronald is no match for the monstrous brute, but he comes up with a clever ruse in an improvised disguise, which fools the giant. With additional help from the kid, he manages to escape. The kid, it seems, is quick on her feet, good in a fight. Ronald loses his will to not care about the kid.

The Mayor meets with Captain Crook to try & get him to take down Birdie; the pirate laughs at him, saying the Mayor owes him his mayorship. That was their deal – McCheese is mayor, Captain Crook no longer has to worry about pesky cops. He says no to killing her, but has a plan: since she’s pals with the guy who has the key he’s after, he will kidnap her. This is beneficial for both parties. The Hamburglar leads the Fry Guys and Grimace to Birdie’s…Meanwhile, at Birdie’s, Ronald and the kid temporarily move in and regroup. They discuss plans to further embarrass the mayor until he either fixes the problems he’s created, or else someone else gets elected. Birdie tells him of her work outside of work, and Ronald chastises her for working for free. She tells him she doesn’t work for free, but rewards aren’t always money. She produces a weekly video blog and puts it on the Internet for free because she believes in the goodness of McDonaldland, and wants to make it a good place to live again. Drinks get drunk. Romance brews…until Ronald tries to convince Birdie to look after the kid so he can go his way. She sees through his selfish charade and tells him NO to watching the kid for him — and NO to romance.

The Hamburglar enters Birdie’s house late at night. He sees the key around Ronald’s neck and uses Birdie as bait to get him to give it up. He does, but the Fry Guys kidnap Birdie anyway and they leave with the Hamburglar. Grimace stays behind to finish what he started. A nasty fight takes them outside, where, once again, Ronald fashions a disguise, and by outwitting a witless giant, appears to gain the upper hand. Before he kills Grimace, however, the orphan asks him not to — she sees that he’s sympathetic, and he’s been bullied his whole life. Ronald offers to help Grimace break free of the pirates if he helps them take down Captain Crook (and the Mayor). Ronald begins to see what Birdie meant about rewards not always being money.

The Hamburglar delivers the key that he stole from Ronald to Captain Crook. The pirate reveals its true power: this is the Key to the City, and it can open any building door in town. Captain Crook makes copies of the key and gives them to pirate ruffians, and sends them on their first errand: raiding the homes of the remaining police force. The Hamburglar is horrified, realizes he just gave complete power to the pirates. Captain Crook allows the Hamburglar to leave town, as he had been wanting to; he goes. Meanwhile, Ronald, the kid and Grimace use Birdie’s video equipment to upload videos describing secrets of the pirates, how they have been bullying the populace, and how the Mayor is basically in their pocket. Ronald delivers a quick speech about rising up together as a community, with power in numbers, as the perfect way to remember Birdie. The videos quickly go viral, with hackers taking them and broadcasting them on all TVs and mobile devices. Between this and the home invasions, the population is furious, and in a matter of hours, protests start to break out. The protests clash with the pirates, and quickly turn into riots. The city is in flames; it’s actually going to be easier for the pirates to rule once the dust settles.

In an effort to right a wrong that would haunt him, the Hamburglar finds Ronald and tells him that Birdie is still alive, held by the pirates. Ronald, the kid, Grimace and the Hamburglar steer a local riot towards the pirates’ ship at the docks. Ronald leaves the kid with Grimace and goes with the Hamburglar to rescue Birdie while the pirates are distracted by rioters. Ronald deftly rescues Birdie while the Hamburglar duels in a suave swordfight with Captain Crook; after some clever wordplay, the Hamburglar wins, and as the Captain lay dying, the Hamburglar whispers that this is revenge for the Captain killing his wife all those years ago. Ronald emerges from the ship with Birdie…

…On the dock, however, they find the Mayor waiting for them with some pirates; he tells them to kill them, but Grimace and the kid burst onto the scene – in disguise! – and Grimace gets the pirates to chase after him instead, leaving Ronald and Birdie alone with the mayor. The kid notes that the Mayor has been caught on camera describing his crimes. He’s going down. Day is saved. Happy family time. Milkshakes. And in the ashes of a burned-down McDonaldland, a new mayor, free of corruption and greed, takes the place of the old mayor. A new orphanage is opened to provide a place for homeless children, and a new family — Ronald, Birdie and the kid — settle into a new home in the charming neighborhood of McNugget Heights.

New Music Alert: Cautiontape

Austin Indie Rock Band Cautiontape

Austin-based indie rock outfit Cautiontape isn’t famous yet, but don’t be surprised if there’s some serious buzz by the time this band hits the studio for a full-length album next year. These guys possess some serious entertainment bones.

Their ebullient EP “How We Shine” is available on iTunes now, and is absolutely worth picking up, if for no other reason than their lead singer is credited with both vocals and glockenspiel. It’s a rare band that uses a glockenspiel well, and Cautiontape belongs to this generation.

Their sound is somewhat airy and electronic, more keyboard-driven than anything else, but with serious backbeat from a very real drumset and bass guitar. The lead singer’s gender aside, this band reminds me very strongly of Chicago rock veterans Oh My God.

Cautiontape’s EP leads off with the catchy and infectious “Get To Me” – which, on its own, is a solid introduction to a promising group – but stick with it through “Be Sweet” (where the glock really shines) and “I’m Sunshine” and you’ll be hooked. They are fun times ten.

The real reward is “The New Normal,” a brooding and introspective lament (from which the title of the EP is derived) that is both singularly personal and broadly universal – not just to interpersonal relationships, but to our country’s relationship with itself. It’s a secret treat for those who listen closely.

It’s all capped off with “We Belong To Us,” a surprisingly big anthem from a not-yet-famous little rock band.

After several listens, I am certainly eager to see what a full-length album brings. But until that happens, I’m just gonna try to spread the word of Cautiontape and hopefully catch a show if they ever head to L.A.

Dig them on SoundCloud.

Or, better yet, download “How We Shine” from iTunes.

Ex Cops vs. McDonald’s

Here’s an excellent story:
McDonald’s Asks Indie Band to Play For Free During SXSW. Read Their Fantastic Reply.

The gist:

Not-yet-super-famous indie band Ex Cops was asked to play SXSW for FREE. By McDonald’s. McDonald’s is a multi-billion dollar company. If they “don’t have the budget” to pay artists, then fuck that company.

Ex Cops did what everybody would love to say they had done in a similar situation. They wrote an open letter to McDonald’s that essentially said, “Screw you, we don’t need to get paid in ‘exposure,’ we prefer to get paid in US currency.”

That’s right. They were rock stars before they were rock stars.

That was awhile ago. South By Southwest 2015 has come and gone. I thought it was cool at the time, and it certainly put Ex Cops on MY radar. I listened to their album “Daggers” and thought it was super-cool, but I didn’t know if anybody else would really appreciate this band beyond their symbolic middle finger to corporate assholes.

You guys. I have heard this band on the radio. Not once, but TWICE in the last week.

So I guess they really didn’t need sacrifice any integrity to McDonald’s for exposure after all, because they are getting it, folks. They have more than a few catchy tracks on “Daggers” and I think the world is noticing them — for the right reasons, too. Because their music is good, not because they’ve got sass.

I want to keep this momentum going for them. Please share this all around social media. They deserve exposure and fame and all the rewards of working hard & maintaining respect for their audience.

Check ’em out on YouTube.

Follow ’em on Twitter.

Get “Daggers” on iTunes — or, better yet, pick up the album this Saturday on Record Store Day.

“White Noise” music video:

Bland Car Enthusiast: The All-New Scion iA Sedan, Baby!

Scion has made a sedan and I am so, so, SO happy. I currently have a Scion xD, and I love it, but I’ve always felt that Scion is not a complete brand without a sedan. So there we go. Problem solved.

2016 Scion iA sedanScion iA FAQ:

    • What is the Scion iA? It’s a four-door sedan. A small one. It’s Mazda-esque with its sleek exterior styling, but still definitely a Scion.
    • Is the engine impressive? Negative. It’ll probably be a flyweight with a peppy four-banger. There’ll be enough pickup to get you to the taqueria in a hurry, but don’t expect enough muscle to climb a steep hill without whining. It’ll get excellent gas mileage, though – 42 MPG (expected, highway) – and that’s a little impressive.
    • Is it secretly luxurious? No. And that’s a good thing, because now we won’t see any advertising based around the interior. Interiors make the worst advertising.
    • Can I paint it crazy colors or advertise my small, local business all over it? Fuck yeah, you can.
    • Will this car sell better than outgoing Scion models? Yes. Because Scion is part of Toyota, and Toyota learns from mistakes.
    • Who’s excited about a sedan? This guy’s excited about a sedan. Me. I am. So stoked. Seriously.

2016 Scion iA – Official Website

Bland Car Enthusiast: The 2016 Chrysler 300, At Last

Redesigned 2016 Chrysler 300Redesigns get revealed earlier and earlier, it seems, especially with Chrysler’s brands, and the 2016 Chrysler 300 is no exception. The 2016 model was revealed in 2014, which left two years’ models in between looking somewhat unstreamlined by comparison. I’ve always been confused as to how revealing the new redesign could possibly boost sales for the older models — unless, of course, the redesign is much uglier than the outgoing model, in which case, yes, you’d want to buy the better looking one before it goes away.

But whatever.

Awkward timing aside, I’m pretty pleased that the “redesigned” Chrysler 300 isn’t that drastically different. I really like it as is, and I like the next iteration of it.

So now that it’s March of 2015, I feel a little more comfortable talking about the 2016 model, even though by now it’s old news (even though it’s really NOT news yet because the model won’t be available till later this year).

Again, whatever, I don’t care.

I’m really just glad that it looks as awesome as it does, even if it’s not a surprise or really that much of a change on the outside. There was some pretty wild speculation and artist’s renderings of what the car COULD have looked like. And maybe they chose the “safer” path, but after all the conceptual drawings I saw, the actual car is much nicer looking.

It’s still a classic, still a confident and powerful vehicle, and still good enough for any executive or any successful crime boss.

Remember that chase scene from “Drive” with the Chrysler 300 and the Mustang? A large, four-door sedan keeping up with a high-end Mustang is cinematic gold. And it made me want to drive a 300 every bit as much as it made me want to drive a Mustang.

Looking for all the Bland Car Enthusiast blogs?

Mumford & Sons Goes Electric

With their new single “Believe” and, presumably, the album that it foreshadows, Mumford & Sons have moved from the barn into the big city. Unfortunately, that big city was London, and now they sound like Coldplay.

Actually, I take that back, that’s not fair. And not entirely accurate. I just wrote it because the joke was easy.

While the immediate comparison is Coldplay and any number of Coldplay-inspired medium-rock tunes coming out of England over the last decade, subsequent listens actually bring me back around to U2. And while that’s not always a good thing, in this case, it is.

I’ll admit, when I saw that the new track’s title is “Believe,” I assumed it was going to be total shit, because, historically, when a song is called “Believe,” it’s total shit. But this particular “Believe” is, sneakily, a song entirely about self-doubt. And I like that. Well played, boys, well played.

It’s pretty clear that Mumford & Sons has committed wholeheartedly to a new sound — at least for one album — and, just as Wye Oak did last year with “Shriek” (one of my favorite albums of 2014), they are out to prove that their songwriting prowess transcends one specific genre. They’ve gone electric, and when the best songwriters do that, it usually turns out well. And here, we have lyrical tomfoolery and some super-hot guitar lines blasting in like missiles from nowhere. So things should be pretty good with the new sound.

In all honesty, I think their first single from this new album is a little bit boring, but there’s something about it that makes me crave the whole album, whatever that may turn out to be. And with two incredible albums preceding what’s next, they’ve earned a little faith. I remain very, very optimistic about what they have in store.

Mumford and Sons Goes Electric - Single - Believe

Hilma af Klint is My Jam

Hilma af Klint is My Jam
Holy shitsnacks, who was this amazing artist and how did I never hear of her until I randomly stumbled upon her works on Pinterest?!

Hilma af Klint, according to her Wikipedia page, was one of the earliest pioneers of abstract art. She was from Sweden and worked in art & philosophy with a group of five women called “The Five” (da fem).

Her outlook on spirituality and theosophy led Google to define her as both an artist and a mystic. This, along with a well-documented aptitude for mathematics, influenced what she referred to as her life’s work. Her paintings are generally described as brightly-colored geometrical weirdness, which is pretty much my favorite kind of art.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about her, though, is that she requested her art not be shown publicly until 20 years after her death. That was kind of a brilliant move.

I’m not gonna lie. I wish I was her.

Pinterest is cool for finding home decorating hacks and food recipes, but whatever. I like Pinterest for discovering new artists. Hilma af Klint’s work is magnificent and I love, love, love it. And I might never have found her without Pinterest.

Here’s the pin board I originally found:

Bland Car Enthusiast: The SMP Corp Parts App #sponsored

Image - SMP App IconDisclosure: This is a sponsored blog; while the views expressed here are my own, I have received compensation from Standard Motor Products, Inc., to review information.

Making my own fixes to my car is not something I do very often, but when I do, I feel super-manly. I like feeling manly. I also like feeling smart. So – when a mobile app comes around that helps me do both, well, naturally I’m inclined to love it.

The SMP Corp Parts Lookup Tool (a free download in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store) is an app that is exactly what it claims to be: a tool for looking up auto parts on your mobile device. The mobile aspect is a very convenient feature, since cars and computers are rarely in the same room.

Check it out:

To recap: this app is for finding auto parts from any or all of SMP’s parts brands. Search is easy and intuitive, and provides loads of info on each. It’s got a bar code scanner function and up to date information.

What I Like About It

You can search by year/car, which is handy for me because that’s the information I’m most confident on. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that my wife and I share a 2008 Scion xD and a 2012 Hyundai Tucson. Brands and part names, I’m shakier on those.

The app also shows you related parts. Again, the mobile aspect comes in handy: I can check my car right then and there to see if I need additional parts. No going back and forth from the computer to the car, and better yet, no going from home to the parts store to get something I didn’t know I needed.

Saved search – for when I need to buy parts tomorrow because I’m broke today.

The VIN scan is also really sweet. I gave it a test run as soon as I downloaded it, and it pulled up all my Tucson’s info lightning-fast.

What I Feel It’s Lacking

All it doesn’t have for me is some kind of click-to-buy-now or click-to-find-in-real world functionality. An easy next step to actually get the part I need would be convenient. But, on the other hand, it’s comforting to know that this app isn’t a sales-based app, it’s really just a handy tool to look up parts, given out for free by SMP because they are an awesome company like that (more about them here: http://www.smpcorp.com). Anyway, if I really want to buy the part, I can do a simple Google search, it’s not a huge deal.Image - SMP App Screens

And also…Act fast, kids, there’s a sweepstakes going on now! Go to: http://www.smpcorp.com/ShareTheApp for info. Prizes include Samsung Galaxy Note 4 phones, iPod touches and more. To enter, just download the app, go to the URL I just provided, complete the registration form, and share it via Facebook or Twitter. But hurry, the sweepstakes only lasts till March 15.

If you like handy mobile apps that make you feel awesome both in the garage and in your own mind, I definitely recommend giving this the SMP Parts app a try.


The word “alright” — and, specifically, the internal struggle whether or not to recognize it as a word — was an easier decision than I ever gave it credit for. One simple Google search solved the problem for me.

From Wiktionary:

The Oxford English Dictionary notes that, while analogous forms exist in words such as “already,” “altogether,” and “always,” “the contracted form is strongly criticized in the vast majority of usage guides, but without cogent reasons.”

Therefore, lacking any logical contrary arguments, and in the progressive spirit, I hereby formally declare my acceptance and recognition of “alright” as a legitimate word.

However: if you say “all alright,” you are still a stupid-head, because that’s redundant and annoying.

Alright - It's a Word!

Bland Car Enthusiast: The Buick Avenir Concept

Buick Avenir Concept - Bland Car Enthusiast

If you haven’t heard about the Buick Avenir concept vehicle, that’s not really surprising. Concept vehicles are for the truly enthused. Everyday citizens generally have little to no idea what concept vehicles come and go, but those who pay attention are regularly rewarded with something they like.

Me, I like sedans. Especially big ones. Especially Buicks.

So imagine the height of my eyebrows’ arch when I caught photos from the Detroit Auto Show of the extra-large, extra-awesome Buick Avenir Concept Vehicle. (Click here for the official website.)

I recommend reading Buick’s actual website, because it comes with more details and real photos. Here are the things that matter to me, though, in a nutshell:

  • No exterior dimensions given, but I’d wager that’s wider and longer than an Enclave (Buick’s big crossover).
  • No interior dimensions are given, but it’s only got four seats. For such a large vehicle, one would expect five seats, but I think Buick knows exactly what they’re doing and who their audience is.
  • It’s got loads of super-futuristic looking design elements (as I write this, the year is 2015), but I won’t be surprised when some of those elements start showing up in actual production vehicles. And I know that’s kind of a blanket statement that applies in general to all concept vehicles, but I’m thinking very specifically here about the 2×2 interior layout for Buick sedans and that 80’s-tastic white leather.

Follow Buick on Twitter for frequent photos and updates of where the Avenir is. (Right now, it’s at the Chicago Auto Show.)

I want this car…I. Want. This. Car.

Why Everyone Should Follow Emma Watson on Twitter

Emma Watson - UN Speech On Feminism

Emma Watson is a damn fine actress. See “The Bling Ring” and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” — she seems perfectly comfortable with the generic American accent, and her acting is sharp. She’s the next Cate Blanchett. But that’s not why everyone should follow her on Twitter.

Everyone should follow Emma Watson on Twitter because she may be humanity’s brightest beacon of positive change for gender equality. Did you know she’s the Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women? That’s a hell of an accomplishment for someone so young.

This handy BuzzFeed article has curated some excellent examples of Emma Watson being a wonderful person.

My favorite is this response to someone asking what to do against internalized sexism:

Become aware of it.

It’s so perfect, so profound. And she’s full of these. It’s like if Mae West, Eleanor Roosevelt and Oscar Wilde had a joint Twitter account.

She also uses Twitter to point out great books to read, post pictures of interesting men holding signs that say “#HeForShe” and basically make the universe a better place through confidence, positivity, patience and a David Bowie-esque je-ne-sais-quoi.

Follow her on Twitter here: @EmWatson


Instagram is pretty much my favorite social media platform. It’s like auto-tuning for photographers – it’s definitely cheating, but I’m not selling it, so it’s okay.

As an experiment, for all of January I used the new “Slumber” filter on Instagram and hashtagged them #januaryslumber. I was curious to see how it would alter my photography choices over the course of a month. (Ordinarily, I use the “Sierra” filter exclusively.)

When you know in advance which filter you’re going to use, you tend to learn to take photos with your phone that will pair well with the filter. So I gave myself a month to learn the new filter and see how that altered my photo habits.

What was my hypothesis?

I hadn’t really played around with “Slumber” much, but I had a suspicion it was going to turn things more red, so I figured it would force me to focus more on blue and green things like the sky and outdoor stuff.

What were the results?

On the whole, it turned my feed quite brown. It really had the effect of removing most of the green from everything, so I wound up avoiding the color green instead of chasing it.

As for shoving me outdoors, “Slumber” didn’t do that at all. As it turned out, my favorites on that filter were taken indoors under fluorescent lighting. That was unexpected.

In fact, I noticed I gradually started taking fewer and fewer photos of things outdoors. Too much natural lighting, I found, mixes poorly with the “Slumber” filter.

I’m not sure why the Instagods decided to call this filter “Slumber,” because it doesn’t strike me as a “dreamy” filter. If anything, they should have called it “Insomnia,” because it looks like the world when I’ve had too much coffee after dark.

I like “Sierra” for a lot of reasons, but one of the biggest is that it has a tendency to draw me in. “Slumber,” on the other hand, has a tendency to push me back.

…Which is actually a pretty cool effect. There’s a real sense of distance, both in space and in time, with all of those photos under that filter. I think it’s because of the lack of a vignette (darkened corners), which Sierra has, big time.

It was a nice little experiment, and I might decide to play around with another filter later this year, but for now, I’m happy to be back on the “Sierra” filter. It’s my drug of choice.

See #januaryslumber here.

[wp_instagram_bank album_id=2 title=”true” desc=”true” ]

On Instagram? Follow along!

Happy National Draw a Dinosaur Day!

It’s one of my favorite holidays, National Draw a Dinosaur Day! Here’s my entry this year:

Prettyprettyprincessaurus - National Draw a Dinosaur Day 2015

Prettyprettyprincessaurus is a beautiful royal sauropod with pink toenails and a fancy tiara. She lived about 160 million years ago in the late Jurassic period, and was approximately 45 feet long.

Quick story about Prettyprettyprincessaurus: one day a fairysaurus granted her magical special powers, and she flew over a nest of baby dinosaurs to save them from a mean bad tyrannosaurus rex. Those baby dinosaurs then made her the queen of dinosaur land, and they all ate donuts every day for breakfast. The end.

Submit your own entry at drawadinosaurday.com!

Oops, I Killed PDI/DreamWorks

Last week I bemoaned the inadequacies of the female characters in “How To Train Your Dragon 2,” and now I read here that DreamWorks is killing a major portion of its animation force.

End of an Era for PDI as DreamWorks Animation Closes Studio

The article states that PDI/DreamWorks is losing half of its 450-strong workforce, the other half of which will be offered the chance to relocate to DreamWorks Animation in Glendale.

Obviously, I didn’t really do that, it was internal failures to plan for box-office flops like Mr. Peabody and Sherman and The Penguins of Madagascar. That’s a tough blow, especially since – while I enjoyed How To Train Your Dragon 2 (in spite of its female character problem) – I absolutely loved Mr. Peabody and Penguins, and the part that DreamWorks is shutting down is PDI, which made these two.

So, for what it’s worth: I’m sorry for the shit-talking.

Female Characters: A Higher Standard For Animated Features

Wyldstyle vs. Valka

Oscar nominations have been announced, which means the Oscar snub trolls are in the midst of their annual Winter Festival of Bitching.

I don’t generally like to participate. The Oscars are important and influential, and I admit I’m a sucker for them, but I don’t get hung up about who didn’t get nominated, because let’s face it, the Academy voters are overwhelmingly old rich white men with different opinions than mine (kind of like Congress).

But I did scratch my head about the Animated Feature Film category this year. The LEGO Movie was noticeably absent, while How To Train Your Dragon 2 was noticeably NOT absent.

I have a litany of complaints regarding this nomination, and I believe The LEGO Movie is a better film in many, many ways. And I didn’t want a childish argument on Facebook, so I thought I’d write about them in blog format.

But I’m not going to write about all of them. I only want to discuss one thing: the female characters, and the shortcomings in Dragon vs. the spectacular satire in LEGO.

When I started this chain of thought, I wondered if this last point might not be an adequate measuring stick for judging which movie is a better movie, since LEGO is satire and Dragon is not, and in that regard it may be like comparing apples to oranges.

But then it dawned on me – of course it is. There is plenty of talking and writing happening around the persistent lack of well-written female characters in modern cinema. It may seem like more of a social issue and less of a “good movie” quality, but really, it’s the other way around. When we say something is a great movie, but all the female characters are less well-rounded, less developed, less involved and generally less interesting than their male counterparts, is it really a great movie?

No, it is not. And it’s time to start recognizing that.


So, to get into it: the main woman in LEGO, Wyldstyle, is a typical Trinity character suffering from typical Trinity Sydrome. (“Trinity Syndrome” is where the female character starts out way awesomer than the male hero, but her entire function is to support him until he surpasses her in awesomeness, and then there’s kissing. It’s not a medical term. It’s named after Trinity from The Matrix.)

But it’s satire. LEGO leans on this trope heavy-handedly, and makes it a big stupid joke, calling itself out on the flaw numerous times. It is, in fact, a major plot point, which is more than can be said for The Matrix or, really, any other film where the lead woman is in a similar situation.

Toward the end of the film, Wyldstyle’s big confession is that she wanted to be the hero, and was jealous that Emmet was chosen to be “the Special.” Her monologue essentially sums up exactly what is wrong with female characters everywhere that suffer from Trinity Syndrome.

And in the end, she actually does complete a character arc. After she helps Emmet complete his arc, he helps her complete hers, and she finds self-esteem buried within.

Valka and Astrid

Dragon, on the other hand, has two important female characters who both suffer dreadfully from Trinity Syndrome, and not in any apparently intentional way. It’s not satirical, it just reinforces the bad ideas that have prevailed over the last 100+ years of filmmaking.

Valka, the hero’s long-lost mother, has quite possibly the coolest entrance of any character ever. Seriously. When we see her riding up from the cloud with her big hook and her terrifying mask, standing still as a statue on a massive dragon – that’s cinematic gold. It’s the best entrance.

And her backstory is really cool – she was part of a society that feared and hunted dragons, led by her husband (Stoick). During a fight with dragons invading her village, she came to realize that dragons are intelligent, sensitive creatures, and they shouldn’t kill them. So in the middle of this fight, she tries to defend a dragon as her husband tries to kill it, and the dragon carries her off. She is never seen again for twenty years.

But it’s all downhill for her after that. The instant she sees her husband, she becomes apologetic and submissive and the character never really recovers from that. She’s still the self-proclaimed protector of dragons, but that becomes secondary to being Hiccup’s mother and Stoick’s wife. And she doesn’t actually offer much help after that point, she’s just sort of there. She offers a little emotional support after (spoiler alert!) Stoick dies, but she’s really not actually important to furthering the plot or even to helping Hiccup complete his character arc, which is usually the Trinity character’s job. She just disappears. From a story standpoint, that’s pathetic.

And Astrid, hiccup’s girlfriend – who played a much more important role in the first Dragon movie – is just sort of a henchman in this film. Like Valka, she is there for some emotional support, and a little assistance for when Hiccup can’t be two places at once, but nothing particularly special. She is given some work to do in a side plot, but in that side plot, she is again the Trinity character: she’s there to help Eret complete his character arc. But neither Astrid nor Valka has any sort of interesting character arc of their own.

This is a waste of two potentially great – great ­– female characters.

Possible Solution

I read somewhere that an earlier draft of Dragon had Valka as the villain. That would have been much more interesting. Drago Bloodfist is a great villain name, but if you really must have him as your villain, either save him for How To Train Your Dragon 3, or else – and this is the preferred choice – make him a co-villain with Valka.

Check it out. They could team up. They could share a similar goal – to rid the world of dragon hunters – and then when the time comes to either go with Drago to murder dragon-hunting people as opposed to simply stopping them from hunting dragons, well, that’s an interesting dilemma for an interesting character.

Or perhaps she agrees, but then faces the fact that she may be murdering her long-lost husband and son, ooooh, then it gets really crazy. Like, Luke-Vader-Emperor crazy. Bam, instant character arc.

Story choices like these would also give Hiccup some more interesting ways to complete his own arc, rather than the overly simplistic fight-bad-guy-and-win story we’re left with.

Am I Making Too Much Of This?

Does this even matter in a kids’ movie? I mean, it’s for kids, right? Not worthy of a lengthy discussion?

Wrong. It matters more, explicitly because these movies are for kids. Kids learn values from movies – in some cases, only from movies. We can’t let kids’ movies get away with insulting women by relegating them to just assistants who’ll pat a man on the back when times are tough.

Boys and girls deserve better. Our future deserves better.

I want more The LEGO Movie’s and fewer How To Train Your Dragon 2’s. And I want the Academy Awards to reflect that.