Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Pinnacles of Marketing Perfection

They finally did it! They finally made a Pop-Tart that's not so goddamn hard to lug around.

I couldn't help but notice Kellogg's "Go-Tarts" popping up, so to speak, on the shelves. They're like regular Pop-Tarts, but . . . easier to carry around. And they're in bar form, for less effortful holding.

Is this really the best angle they can find to justify this product? Or have we as a society gotten this lazy?

I appreciate that coming up with a new product isn't always about filling an empty niche, so much as capturing more shelf space for your brand in an existing niche. And in that case, establishing a reason for your product to exist in the first place is beside the point.

But still, Go-Tarts? The Pop-Tarts you can carry somewhat more easily? I think we all need to do better than this.

Part of the problem is that the phrase "Go-Tarts" just reminds me of this Onion joke from a while ago, which is in hilariously bad taste.

Are You Punk? Or Are You Polka?

You can't be both! Wait, does this make sense yet? Let me back up a minute.

One of the great things about good college radio is the seamless transition from one show to a completely different one. Today I was listening to my station of choice online while doing some after-hours overtime work for another office department — this, incidentally, pays ludicrously well at time-and-a-half, for the kind of work you can just plow through while listening to music.

Anyway, at 6 pm the punk show that's on turns over to a polka show, and two things strike me immediately. One is that punk and polka music are just complete polar opposites of each other. The other is that I like polka music, really, just a whole lot better than punk.

The stark opposition of punk and polka is, I think, fairly clear. Punk is all about being angry and antisocial, while polka is about being happy and completely social. Punk also maintains a vicious ironic distance from everyone and everything, while polka is carelessly loopy and unselfconscious. Punk wants to break a bottle over your head. Polka just wants everyone to be entertained.

The punk scene probably features a lot of hardcore drug use, but the polka scene has pretzels, and the big chewy kind.

Why do I like polka better than punk? Possibly because I have a soft spot for people trying to make me happy, and I like woodwind instruments. Also, a punk band is much less likely to an up-tempo cover of "Blueberry Hill", or "Under the Sea" from The Little Mermaid.

Now that I know what side of the fence I'm on, I want to throw my gloves down and call everyone out too. Are you gonna be punk, or are you gonna be polka? You can't be both!

Better pick the right side, too. Push comes to shove and you ain't gonna get any big chewy pretzels, punk.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Rain, Rain

After spending so many evenings on the deck, when it’s raining and I can’t linger out there, I feel surprisingly boxed in. It’s been raining about 80% of the time for the last two days, but it was clear enough last night to get in some high-quality deck-sittin’ with my temp-roommate Judith and her boyfriend. Some kind of conversation concerning libertarianism and the theory behind housing regulations accompanied the proceedings, as well as some brownies Judith made.

Shortly after, and even better: listening alone to the veiled treetop scrape of crickets (to my right), the quiet clatter of dishes being done (to my left), and the imagined slow movement of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto (at center, and confined to the space inside my head, as it turns out. I have never paid attention to the actual apparent spatial location of imagined music before, but I guess this makes sense.) This was a pleasant kind of trio.

Today after a quick lunch (and during one of the many spates of rain) I stopped in the music library to try to find something on CD by James Tenney, an apparent beacon to academic and experimental composers who I had not heard of before he passed away this week. There wasn’t much there, but I got a listen in to his "Water on the Mountain . . . Fire in Heaven" for six electric guitars. Not what you'd expect from the ensemble, not aggressive at all: very pontillistic, built on many many clipped single notes in complex counterpoint.

In the recording, it’s one electric guitarist putting down six tracks, or probably twelve: the piece is built on each guitar part containing two staves; the first and second movements feature the top and bottom staves of each part, respectively; the third movement combines everything. If this sounds kind of academic/thinky-music to you, you would be correct. Additionally, each of the guitars is tuned to a different harmonic scheme (I know not what, exactly) so when each part is plinking away its series of isolated notes in complex rhythms, it comes off as a sort of a slow procession of crippled metallic overtones.

After about twelve minutes of this I’d finally fixed on the mental image that allowed me to start enjoying the experience – I find I can come up with a satisfying image with increasing facility, and sometimes this will actually snap a piece I don’t like into one that I do. Here it was the idea of staring at a giant abstract mobile with stainless steel panel-appendages, watching the parts drift and slowly oscillate. I started to think this might be a good piece to listen to while wandering around Storm King for a while: sharing some kind of kindred spirit with all those Mark Di Suvero sculptures.

But I still was not sold on the piece, and I would have stopped listening if Tenney hadn’t just died. I figured I could give the man that much.

But then, the third movement: everything together turns out to create a detectable expressive line, but one with an effect that I have not felt from any piece of music before: that expressive line was invisible, inferred from the many separate notes, more a compositional center of gravity (to channel a Dennett-related analogy) than a stream of consciousness. The harmony, meanwhile, coalesces into something tangible but fragile, like the spectrum of color on dark oil slick. All those diffuse and mistuned dissonances are suddenly little shards of light, glinting off a dark and invisible, complex whole.

And this reminded me all of a sudden of watching the little multifaceted glass ball that used to hang from the window in our grandparents’ living room: a certain quality of light and suspended daytime and being alone, and spinning that little ball around to throw little bitty rainbows over the white walls, and being transfixed by this. The image itself is known to be a memory; in the memory no one else is in that house, and it feels very empty. The window itself is bright white, and I don’t know what’s past it. I don’t know what the connection between the music and the image is. The music feels very dark, the image feels very light.

So that, in my own corner of the world, is the music of James Tenney. May he rest in peace.

Later in the afternoon I listened to Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto while molding a word file of book jacket copy into its properly templated shape, and I remembered that this piece, too, reminds me of our grandparents’ house, though the subsequent house. I listened to this piece for the first time (at age 16 or 17) on their stereo, sitting on the floor wearing big cushioned headphones, after a family dinner but before our younger cousins had been released into the living room. And the thrill of hearing the Big Melody in the first movement recapitulate so grandly, with the timpani underneath it – this actually takes me back to that point on the floor with some frequency.

I might add that the Rachmaninoff Second Concerto is very well-suited music to the kind of rainy day where it feels like 7 pm at 3:30 in the afternoon.

Monday, August 28, 2006

High Anxiety, Whenever You're Near

In lieu of writing anything fresh tonight I'll reproduce some brief musings on Hitchcock's Vertigo and Psycho that I put in an email to a friend of mine a couple days ago, with some tweaks for content, hyperlinking, and correct apostrophe usage. It mostly assumes some familiarity with both those movies (as well as, um, Sister Act) but it's probably as mildly interesting as anything else I have to say.


In the department of sitting-on-my-ass-and-watching, I just watched Psycho and Vertigo again on DVD, both of which are worth revisiting every couple of years. Vertigo's newer to me but it fairly easily displaced Psycho as my favorite Hitchcock film, due largely to its exquisitely lush Bernard Herrmann score and the nuances of Jimmy Stewart's character that both cut through the fake-psychological trappings of the plot (such trappings in Psycho, unfortunately, are given the unrebutted last word) and make you wish for some parody version of It's a Wonderful Life in which he brings the same freakazoid unlikeability to bear on his role ("Go up the stairs, Clarence. Go up the stairs!") Vertigo's rightly a favorite subject of introductory lessons on the cinematic gaze, as Stewart spends the first several minutes of the second act shadowing Kim Novak and watching her, and the camera hovers at a distance watching her and watching him watch her -- it's a credit of some kind to Hitchcock that it's not his most voyeuristic movie, coming in a decisive second behind Rear Window. I prefer Vertigo for the rapturous, gauzy treatment its camera lays on Novak, though, always heightened by the soundtrack... The way it sets up Madeleine as an impossible object of desire (who or what could live up to that sort of deluxe cinematic treatment?), besides raining manna upon sophomore-year film theorists, perfectly establishes that the object of Stewart's affection doesn't exist, and couldn't. It's only a bit of a shame that Novak can't entirely convince as the earthy, regular gal that the last half hour of the movie needs her to be. (Transforming her from a platinum blonde to what the original theatrical trailer cattily calls a "tawdry redhead" has lost a lot of its power as Hollywood shorthand.) Even more of a shame is that they don't make movie starlets like Kim Novak anymore, e.g. about 75% torso. Ancillary credit goes to the movie for a mostly neat, pre-psychedelic dream sequence and the most disturbing filmic nun this side of Whoopi Goldberg.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

A Small Soul, and Not Immortal

I just watched EMI's DVD recording of a Gran Teatre del Liceu production of Shostakovich's opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, since it recently became available on Netflix. I should have more to say about it shortly, as well as about some other Shostakovich-related media -- this being the composer's centennial year (he was born in 1906) there's a modest glut of stuff newly available, plus a crop of somewhat older stuff I've noticed while looking for the new stuff.

For now, though, I just want to share one of my favorite minor episodes in the opera. (The text is lifted from Joan Pemberton Smith's translation of the libretto, as included in EMI's 1990 CD edition of their Vishnevskaya/ Gedda/ Rostropovich recording -- I'm not sure if it's in their more recent mid-price reissue.) In Scene 7, a bunch of dangerously bored Czarist policemen briefly amuse themselves by interrogating a socialist schoolteacher. The teacher, singing in a tremulous voice underscored by a wailing flexatone, is pressed into explaining an experiment he performed on a frog:

I started wondering why only man should possess a soul, and why frogs
shouldn't have one too. So I took a frog and examined it.


It has a soul, only a very small one, and not immortal...

Lock him up!

Sorry, God does exist, God does exist!

...Setting aside the propagandistic attitude of this exchange, I like the roundabout way that the teacher poses his statement of humankind's spiritual condition, if only because I agree with his viewpoint.

Beer Me

Hey Pete, I forgot to ask you this last week. You recently used the term "concept beer" in a post, and I was curious what you meant by this exactly. I thought the idea behind concept cars was that they were prototyped but never manufactured; wouldn't the same be true for concept beer? Or maybe I have this wrong?

I'm still trying to sort out your distinction between microbrews and craft brews, anyway. And what was that beer we drank from the snooty glasses on the back porch of your now-ex-apartment? Was that a concept beer? It didn't taste anything at all like beer, and in fact I don't have enough taste-words to describe what it actually did taste like.

Speaking of transcendental picnic-type consumables, I stopped yesterday for lunch into a little city-type diner called "Yankee Doodle", the kind of tiny place with a grill & a counter with maybe a dozen stools, and burgers on the menu for less than $3. It's really close to the campus gym, and since I'd just come from the campus gym, I thought I'd go ahead & order two pigs-in-a-blanket with a chocolate milkshake.

The first pig was fantastic. (These guys are hot dogs wrapped in bacon and served in a bun with just a little bit of melted cheese.) The second pig came off the grill a couple of minutes later, and this time the cook put a glob of butter on the bun.

Friends, you must eat someday a hot dog wrapped in bacon and slathered with butter. Wash it down with a chocolate shake, too.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Name That Annoying Tune

When I was driving to Harris Teeter to buy some kielbasa earlier this afternoon I caught a snatch of an orchestral piece on the radio. I recognized it but couldn't place it -- light, jazz-flavored, castanets -- was it Gerswhin's Cuban Overture? No, that doesn't have these Ives-lite polytonal contrasting sections... It wasn't good, really, and wasn't even really that interesting, but I was curious. I'd heard about four minutes of it by the time I got to the grocery store and the piece sounded like it was almost over, so I figured I'd wait in the parking lot until it finished so I could hear what it was.

The piece was not in fact almost over and the car became very hot very fast, even with the door cracked, so the music became increasingly maddening to me. It was put together like the world's worst rondo, with the peppy yet grating main theme playing for a couple minutes, then a slightly darker section or two for another couple minutes, then that main theme again. And again. By the time the piece actually did finish (without much fanfare, as though it had merely run out of music) I was sweating and thinking various angry thoughts (mainly "Just stop! You haven't had an original musical idea for eight minutes!")

End. Applause. Wave of relief. Mystery answer: Milhaud's Le Boeuf sur le Toit. Dammit! I already knew I didn't like that piece at all. At least I feel confirmed in my opinion. So let me just reiterate as a public service message: Do not listen to Le Boeuf sur le Toit. It's an irritating and structurally dull little oddity of a composition. I'll add that ten minutes in a sun-baked parking lot waiting for it to end doesn't help it any.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Arrr, I Don't Know What I'm Doin'

Lieberman, Lamont, Lieberman, Lamont. Why don't we get to vote for any crazy people?

I'd like to know just how serious that guy is. I'm not sure whether I'd be more or less likely to vote for him if he is serious, but I guess it'll be the good citizens of Iowa who have to sort this out. However, "Chain Whip Me If I Ever Ride in a Limo" is a pretty good political catchphrase regardless.

The last couple days at work I've felt, mildly but still unaccountably, nervous and occasionally even a little paranoid; not being in a particularly introspective mood I'm just chalking this up to cycles of brain chemistry and waiting for it to pass. This odd little anxiety fire was fueled today, I think, by the persistent slow rain that fell during most of the day, but damped somewhat by Nielsen's "Inextinguishable" Symphony, which I listened to at my desk after lunch. (Following on the listening list, Nielsen's Fifth and Sibelius's Fourth and Seventh symphonies. I didn't check the weather this morning, when I picked these CDs out, and I thought it would be sunny. Apparently my internal barometer is hooked up to the area of the brain responsible for atmospheric soundtracking, but not to the one responsible for bringing an umbrella to work.)

Later on I was in the middle of some twenty minutes of photocopying, and lunch wasn't sitting very comfortably and I still felt kind of wound up, and it occurred to me that if I'd had this same work day any time between last Thanksgiving and last Valentine's Day, it would probably still have been the best workday of my week. I am reminded here and there to be glad I'm not at my last job anymore.

Anyway, on that note: the weekend's here, it's stopped raining, and I'm thinking about painting my room a different color. It's flat white, like the last . . . counting . . . let's see, seven years' worth of rooms I've slept in. So I'm looking for a change, preferably in the Very Small Change Towards Something in an Off-White direction. I'll have to do some research into color environment on affect: preferably something that'll make me think I'm warmer in the winter.


Maynard Ferguson, dead at 78. Even though I didn't play trumpet he'll always remind me of high school marching band music.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

O Planet, What Art Thou

Does this whole business about Pluto strike anyone else as kind of weird? None of this debate has any bearing on the origin, physical characteristics, or behavior of Pluto. It's just a debate over whether or not you call Pluto a planet, or I guess more accurately, whether what you call a planet is defined to include Pluto.

Lewis Carroll is tangential but I think instructive here.

It's a bit surprising how intensely people want to anthropomorphize Pluto: really, it's just a hunk of icy rock, not some kind of scrappy underdog. And I like that this AP article makes certain to note that NASA's not, you know, changing its plans for a Pluto probe that's already on the way there. "Call 'er back, boys, it's not a planet any more! Better cut our losses while we can."

I'm betting that the irrelevence to scientific pursuit is what caused the low turnout among astronomers in a position to vote at that convention.

I won't miss Pluto too much, but, you know, it's still out there. And there's some elegance in that Holst's Planets suite is comprehensive again.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Slime Molds! Robot Orchestras!

Quick mini-omnibus post before bed.

I've recommended Carl Zimmer's evolutionary-bio blog The Loom before, but really don't miss this bit about slime molds. Fascinating stuff about some of the darker corners of Selfish Gene territory. Also, slime molds are just bizarre to read about in general.

Meanwhile, orchestra-consultant/blogger Drew McManus reports on new orchestra-simulating software (using scads of recorded instrument samples) that can actually put together a pretty believable Holberg Suite excerpt. At least until the big tutti sections: to me it looks like this doesn't represent an advance in the technology, just a larger compilation of sounds, still subject to the same limits. You just can't fake complex acoustics, to say nothing of emotions or quirky expressions. I wouldn't want to hear this software try to approximate Petrouchka, much less Rhapsody in Blue.

McManus is the only orchestra-industry-focused blogger I know of, and I don't know anything about him besides his blog. I often sense a faint "I'm Worth Hiring" vibe from his writing, and there's a pronounced sympathy for the musicians' union (versus orchestra management in general) that makes me wonder what dogs he's got in the fight. But, as far as classical music industry wonkery goes, he's the go-to-guy.

"You can get a rape on horseback..."

So I just heard on my roommate's radio (I'm assuming NPR), that there's some new production of The Fantasticks being put on in New York, and for it they've changed the lyrics for that song about rape to something less, well, rape-y.

I'm not sure what's sadder... that the original librettist (Tom Jones) made the changes himself, saying, "Over the years, I grew increasingly uncomfortable with getting laughs from the word 'rape.' I've finally solved the problem by writing new lyrics that keep the playfulness but don't use that word. I know some people are going to hate that I changed it, but others -- including myself -- would've hated me if I didn't." or that the shitty tourist audiences always laughed at the song, forcing the librettist to feel like he had to change it.

I, of course, side against both Tom Jones and his audiences.

But, really, if the North Allegheny school district could pull the song off without laughter or discomfort, then how sorry are those Middle-American tourists that have seemingly pushed this musical into such obvious conservative revisionism?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Still Better Than Nougat

Morals and Ethics and Carnal Forbearance

By the way, I accidentally bought Season Eight of the Simpsons on DVD, so none of you wonderful people out there feel like you have to get a copy yourself if you'd rather just borrow it. It's probably not worth having permanently on hand, though the Guatemalan Insanity Pepper episode holds up well (aye, the hot pants), as do Homer's surprisingly subtle early suspicions that Bart is turning gay. If nothing else you get a smattering of those cultural through-the-looking-glass moments when you realize how many throwaway lines from these shows are on bumper stickers now.

Crack Report: Crack Reporting, or on Crack?

Pete, remember how we were arguing in Boston about whether the CIA had introduced crack into the USA to suppress the black underclass? You argued yes, and I argued that you had no evidence for this and that I thought it highly unlikely. Neither of us had any real information about this.

Well, moderate-liberal political blogger Kevin Drum posted about this last week, so I've got some answers that I believe. His post was mostly about an LA Times op-ed on the same topic that appeared recently, but what you want to read is this article from '98 from Mother Jones. (Pete, I hope they're not too centrist for you.)

The short answer is: no, the CIA did not introduce crack into the USA to suppress the black underclass. This was never asserted, and even some weaker assertions that CIA activity incidentally caused the crack epidemic were soundly debunked.

The CIA did, however, provide a massive amount of cover for drug rings run by Nicaraguan Contras, in one case even requesting that the Attorney General return confiscated drug money to a Contra-connected dealer. (He did.)

Naturally the national liberal media would have jumped all over John Kerry's Senate investigation into this in the mid-80s, right? Read the article to find out the answer! The answer may shock and surprise you! The answer is "no."

So there you go.

Next week: Did the CIA introduce Pop Rocks into the USA as a coordinated hit effort against the Mikey Likes It kid? Read our report to find out the answer! The answer may shock and surprise you!

Great Googly Moogly

Having been on interstates relatively often during the last couple of weekends, I've been noticing billboards for a new ad campaign being run by Snickers, based on making up fake words. Since I'm generally a fan of making up fake words, I thought I would offer up some sweet, chewy commentary.

The billboards each feature a single fake word transposed into the Snickers font & logo. Their fake words, unfortunately, suck. The best of the lot, NOUGATOCITY, only highlights the least attractive part of the candy bar. Do any other candy products actually advertise that they're made of nougat? Who even likes nougat?

Other words include HUNGERECTOMY, which sounds unpleasantly invasive; SATISFECTELLENT, which sounds like something that might come out of a gland; and SUBSTANTIALISCIOUS. Note that they've inexplicably spelled SUBSTANTIALISCIOUS with an extra S, before the C.

Even if they managed to spell their made-up word right, SUBSTANTIALISCIOUS would only serve to remind one again of the densely packed wad of nougat hidden in the middle of the bar.

So, I am afraid that our neighbors at the BBDO Worldwide advertising corporation may have missed the boat. Instead they are stranded on the metaphoric and lonely dock, looking out over the chocolate-hued water. Perhaps the sun sets as they look on, sinking as slowly as a glob of nougat passing dispiritingly through one's digestive tract.

A sad scene indeed. If only there were something for them to snack on while they are thusly not able to go anywhere for a while. Unfortunately I have not been informed of any such food item.

Who Wants the Worry, the Noise, the Dirt, the Heat

It's amazing how dirty New York City is, or at least it's amazing how strongly I notice that now. I went back this weekend for the first time in several weeks and it's just dirty, everywhere. I was used to this for four years, for the most part. I guess I always thought that Astoria was relatively dirty.

Mandy & I cleaned out the rest of the apartment on Sunday, and I U-Hauled the rest of my belongings up to New Haven in the evening. I am now reunited with my bed and a small host of used furniture items that look cheaper after my absence from them.

It feels strange that we only lived in that apartment for 21 months and change. (We moved in on Election Day 2004. That kept us, happily, from watching the exit polls.) Mandy just moved into her grad school housing, a big dorm/apartment building at 33rd and 1st adjacent to the NYU hospital. She's got a roommate I didn't get to meet; the place looks basically like a hotel; she's pretty excited about it. Her classes start Monday. It was good to see her again, and naturally I'm really glad we've kept on good terms.

Saturday night I saw most of my ex-coworkers at an office BBQ being held at the assistant-to-the-president's place in Brooklyn. Very nice time, and good to catch up with people I hadn't seen since February. There was a light rain most of the time, but people managed to keep the little grill going for ribs & chicken; later on there was a singalong. Every so often the octogenarian landlady would stick her head out of the window & say hi to everyone.

From what I picked up, things seem pretty frought at the office & I'm not unhappy that I left when I did. The president of the NY office left about two months after I did, and that's straining people even further.

Even later Saturday night I went to the apartment-warming party for my friend Andy (who conducts the wind ensemble I played in) and his girlfriend Lisa, who recently moved in together up near Columbia. I spent the night there & caught up with them, plus Lisa's brother, who I knew at college.

So all in all, a very productive weekend, both socially and practically.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Anno Pete XXIV

Happy Birthday to Pete! In the good old days, this would have meant we all got cake, but even if we don't get cake today, let's all wish many happy returns to Pete.

Mmmm . . . cake.

Here in my Car

Three scenes from my Sunday driving:

Pulling into the typically crowded Trader Joe's parking lot, I noticed the air seemed unusually hazy. Then I noticed the car on fire, at about time the fire truck pulled up. No visible flames, but oily brownish-gray smoke seeping from under the hood, through the doors, and any other seams between the body panels. Lots of people were standing about on the sidewalk staring, watching the firemen go swiftly about their business (they had their masks on and everything, pulled out the hose on the truck, etc. Exactly what you'd expect, but you don't see it in action very often). It strikes me as funny how people just stand and watch that sort of thing; it reminded me of seeing a hawk kill and pluck a pigeon once on the Cut in the middle of Carnegie Mellon's campus, which bystanders also paused to watch with a perverse sort of fascination. A silver lining: Despite the Sunday afternoon crush of TJ's shoppers, parking in the immediate vicinity of the burning car was relatively ample.

There's a ligament of highway that connects the eastbound Dulles Toll Road with I-66. On the left shoulder close to the merge point there's a roadkilled mammal of indeterminate species that's been sitting there for several weeks. When it was fresh I thought it looked a lot like a possum, though it's looked progressively less like a possum ever since, at this point reduced to a greasy black packet of skin with one lurid white streak of exposed bone (I think the jaw, but who knows). Since my afternoon commute follows this route I see it most days. Sometimes it strikes me as a baroque detail artfully added to my drive home from work to remind me of my own mortality, like the flies hanging around the fruit bowl in old Dutch masters' still life paintings. Sometimes I just wish the county would clean up the roadkilled animals more quickly, rather than leaving them to decay.

On I-66 I saw a woman, probably in her mid-sixties, driving a sedan with the vanity license plate MY2PAPS. I cannot interpret this in a way I'm entirely comfortable with.

Bad News Baseball

For those of you not following the Pirates' fortunes of late, they've actually been doing relatively not poorly since the All-Star break, hovering around .500. Despite yesterday's football-scorish 14-7 loss to the Reds (a score which sets me fondly thinking of grudge-fueled Pittsburgh-Cincinnati bloodsport to come in about a month) recent games have shown some long absent components of Pirates baseball, such as relatively stable starting pitching and home runs with runners on base. Besides Freddy Sanchez's run at the NL batting title (he's been on another tear for the past couple weeks and as of last night is hitting .355, plus leading the league in doubles), then, I'm rooting against the now traditional September meltdown -- If the team wins about as many games as they lose in the second half of the season it could more plausibly portend a glorious future of Brewers-like mediocrity instead of another year of Pirates-like why-the-hell-am-I-even-watching-this-ocrity. Granted, the fortunes of recent acquisition Shawn Chacon (one decent start, one blow-up, relegation to the bullpen due to aggravating an old knee injury) are yet another reminder that building up the franchise's base of players -- much less maintaining it -- is either beyond the reach of the team's management or simply not a priority, so it's hard to see any runs of competent play as laying groundwork for the future. Still, having a winning season in 2007 looks attainable, if only about as likely as the team inexplicably being selected to play a championship series in Japan under the guidance of grumpy new manager Walter Matthau.

On the brighter side, when I read last night's box score I noticed the Reds' shortstop is Royce Clayton. Fellow Tecmo Baseball afficionados may recognize a convergence with that game's Cinci. roster:

Chalk one up for this venerable arcade-style baseball simulation and its stable of fictional, first-name-only players. Now if anyone can point out Major League ballplayers named Fries, Gunner, or Marghe, I'll revise my opinion that the game's developers had a less than stellar command of American naming conventions.

Friday, August 18, 2006

My New Monitor Is Very Nice

But I have this strange problem:

Sometimes I wear my glasses when I use my computer, and sometimes I don't. Sometimes I start out with my glasses on but take them off, and other times the opposite. When I take my glasses off, or put them on, while looking at my new monitor, yellowish-brown splotches become visible on the LCD screen, and linger there for as long as it takes for me to stop noticing them (often times it takes several minutes).

If I use my monitor without glasses for the whole time (or the opposite) these splotches never appear.

I'm tempted to call Dell about this one, but I figured I'd get yinz' input first, before spending my valuable cell phone minutes on what will surely be a fruitless phonecall.

The First Rule of Fight Club Is — You Do Not Actually Ever Watch Fight Club

I don't like reading reviews of movies I want to see, but I really like reading reviews of movies I'm not going to see. I like this snippet about "Snakes on a Plane" from Dana Stevens in Slate:
But those of us who had no expectations — much like the characters in the movie who assumed there were no snakes on their plane — were wrong. Dead wrong. Who knows whether Snakes will have — forgive me — legs, but it's more than awesome enough to assure opening-weekend euphoria for those who were waiting for it already.
See, this totally makes me vaguely want to see this movie, then not see it, then think about renting it on DVD for a while but never getting around to it, and then deciding not to see it after Nate tells me it's not as good as everyone says. (See also: Fight Club.) In other words, exactly what a movie review is supposed to do.

Anyway, Happy Weekend, everybody!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Talladega Nights

So I went and saw The Ballad of Ricky Bobby last weekend, and I haven’t felt so duped into seeing a movie since I rented Waking Life. These two movies are actually rather similar, despite the obvious difference in genre, in that they both pander to the easily impressed. I wasn’t actually duped by only the previews for Ricky Bobby either, but the reviews I read of it too, which makes the whole thing that much more disheartening. Many people actually read the thing as being satire, when it was little more than just another sports movie brought to you by a whole slew of sponsors, none of whose obvious presence in the movie is ever subverted. This includes NASCAR themselves, who clearly sanctioned the movie, and undoubtedly played a large hand in toning down what very well may have been an edgy, cutting early draft of the screenplay.

So to maybe focus a little bit – it may be the case that the movie that was released was very much the movie that Ferrell and McKay were hoping to make, and that they are satisfied with as a comedy. It may simply be that, as was also the case with the funnier, but also bad, Legend of Ron Burgundy (and is the “blank” of “R- B—“ a sly self reference, or merely a ploy to ride the coattails of the success of Anchorman?), the movie falls flat because its just a taping-together of a bunch of sketches involving the same characters standing around as though on a cheap stage at the local improve club.

So why were the reviews good (or at least not bad and even angry at the audacity to sell so many products while claiming to poke fun at them)? I guess its just not actually the case that people won’t realize that as soon as you place a product on screen, it takes an awful lot of work to subvert its presence there. For instance, the fact that Will Ferrell spins a vaguely blasphemous prayer to “baby Jesus” as opposed to “bearded Jesus” does nothing to undermine the 2-liter bottle of Coca-Cola whose logo dominates the foreground as is kept well focused despite the fact that we are “watching” Ferrell. Or when it comes time for the big family meal, and they all head out to Applebee’s, which is some amount of joke on our culture of homogenization and the fake-special, again, when it seems to be time for the fact the Applebee’s is getting a ton of exposure to be subverted into the hands of the satire, the punch line involves nothing more than the father being tossed out for being angry that everything was too damn nice.

Big-ups to Sacha Baron Cohen, though, for killing literally every scene he has in in the entire movie with his awful French accent and extraordinarily slow talking - the only flashes of irony in the entire movie.

At the Moment (feel like doing one of these)

Catch Phrase: Inquiry is inevitable.

Listening to: Mackey's Dreamhouse. I swear this is a coincidence. This recording has lived in my CD turntable since Jack first gave it to me years ago, except for the brief period of time where my initial copy had worn out and Jack hadn't given me another yet. I listen to the whole thing, but generally only hear the 5th movement, although I really like this really specific 45 seconds of the 4th movement (steady rain, steady rain) and get pissed off when I hear the 5th movement kick into gear and realize that I ignored the 4th movement again. Sometimes I would swear that my favorite parts of the piece don't actual exist on the recording, but have only been extrapolated in my mind.

Currently reading: Hofstadter/Dennett edited (composed and arranged) The Mind's I. Enjoying this collection, but surprised by how many of the selections are drawn from science fiction. Still fascinating concepts and reflections, and I think I have an understanding of Dennett's stance on fiction-at-large, but still...

Also reading: William Gaddis' JR. Just started this novel. It's all dialogue so far, so kind of difficult, but in a good way. I do like difficult fiction, no matter how dumb it makes me feel sometimes.

About to start reading: A bilingual edition of poems by Friedrich Hölderlin (translated by Michael Hamburger). A combination of my desire to keep active with the German language and also my desire to understand the poetry of Paul Celan, which requires an understanding of both Hölderlin and Heidegger, and especially Hölderlin as explicated by Heidegger, which requires an understanding of Hegel (who, according to Marcuse, essentially demarcates the "end" of Western philosophy, as he is the Enlightened, Protestant return to Aristotle), which requires an intense fluency in academic German, which requires my gaining even a tourist's German, which requires the study of German as well as an active engagement with the German language until I can actually get my ass to German and learn it for real...

Currently drinking: Houblon Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel. Perhaps the finest concept beer I have ever had the pleasure to consume. Look for it your local snobby-beer outlet. Requires at least a tourist's knowledge of Belgian, American, and British beer styles, and how it is actually possible to make a beer that subtly combines (more than just combines, really) elements of all three.

Currently embarrassed by: This post.

"That's the bottom line, baby!"

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


Via James Wolcott's blog I navigated my way this afternoon to The Comics Curmudgeon, which I'll probably have to add to my regular reading list. While backing up a database for the umpteenth time at the office I worked backwards a bit through the archives, until I decided I was laughing too much... Assuming you have a similarly morbid fascination with the relentlessly sub-par likes of Mary Worth and B.C., each Wonkette-style rundown of the day's comic strips is hilarious and somehow more deeply compelling -- whether it gleefully overanalyzes yet another phoned-in installment of The Lockhorns or merely records a sense of lukewarm surprise that Garfield is bothering with a long-term storyline, it leads you further than anyone should ever go into what's probably the least necessary corridor of our vast, labyrinthine pop culture. Not for nothing did Mr. Show's Imminent Death Syndrome sketch include "the man who draws Ziggy... the man who draws the Family Circus... many famous cartoonists" among the disease's most prominent, most generously humored sufferers. The level of sustained mediocrity in this artistic space is truly awesome to behold.


In re: our humble blog's slogan this week, I'd like to agitate against pillaging my unpublished draft posts for slogan material. Don't pillage; if you have to rip off Futurama one-liners you may as well do it directly and with attribution. In the meantime I'll put up my own stuff in good time, once I'm done with my other important free-time work of reading Willa Cather and playing a lot of Tecmo Super Bowl.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Free Orchestra Music & British Accents

It's BBC Proms time in London, and for the next several days they have a bunch of their orchestra programs streaming online.

Steven Stucky's Second Concerto for Orchestra is worth listening to, a big glossy piece that won him the 2005 Pulitzer. (It has a lot in common with recent orchestra pieces by Esa-Pekka Salonen, who premiered Stucky's piece as conductor with the LA Philharmonic.) Jonathan Harvey's "Towards a Pure Land" has some great sounds in it, too — Harvey's a big electronic music guy, and you can hear the influence in his textures & quick cross-cuts, and also in the rough edge he can put on a very clear harmony.

Also available are Adams's "My Father Knew Charles Ives" and a rambling but fairly effective piano concerto by James Dillon, someone I haven't heard of before. I think that's most of the brand-new/unrecorded set there.

I'll Build You a . . .

Dreamhouse, Boston, May 2007.

American premiere: Rinde Eckert, solo baritone/indescribable performance artist, with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project. This is most welcome news: a concert CD of Dreamhouse was among my most treasured promotional recordings experienced through my former mode of employment.

As one might expect for a fifty-minute work involving an indescribable performance artist, chamber chorus, four electric guitar solists, and a large orchestra, Dreamhouse has been performed exactly once in its young life, by its commissioning festival in the Netherlands.

Easily one of the best rock-infused classical works of all time, though that's not saying much, it's ambitious, vivid, sometimes ungainly, and appealingly loopy. Nocturnal sections are hauntingly beautiful and the finale is unforgettably catchy.

BMOP also has a nice fat audio clip of Mackey's goofball cello concerto Banana/Dump Truck on their website: worth listening to, and a good example of Mackey's style.

While we're future-gazing, note that John Adams's Hindemith-style symphony on music from Doctor Atomic is scheduled to batter some hearts at Carnegie Hall at the end of March, courtesy David Robertson & the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. Robertson, one of the best concert programmers around, has aptly matched it with Britten and the completed fragment of Mahler's Tenth.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Boston Itself

Bus rides to and fro notwithstanding, Boston itself was perfectly fine. I finally got to see Pete's apartment (the street that he lives on is indeed too loud), had a drink with him at Bukowski's, and visited the famous supermarket that employs him.

And, like Pete, I noticed this time how Boston is overrun with irritating college kids, yakking or being drunk on the subways or flashing bright & bandwagony, never-before-
worn Red Sox paraphernalia. It's funny this never sunk in before. But at least the weather was fantastic, clear fall air with summer sun.

We watched Little Miss Sunshine — which is fantastic, go see this movie — and we wandered around the city some, but best of all was eating Indian food back in Jamaica Plain and then drinking snobby beer while watching Mr. Show on DVD.

Since Pete's moving away to an unknown destination in a couple of weeks, I'm particularly glad I saw him now.

I would perhaps address Pete in the second and not the third person, but Pete's computer monitor is broken, meaning he is probably not reading this.

While Pete was working on Saturday morning I hopped over to Harvard to see their art museums, one of which (the Fogg) has a pretty interesting exhibit of artists' sketchbooks up. You can poke through some of them online: check out George Grosz's Manhattan skyline 'n' dead mouse mix. The Sackler museum is a tidy ancient & Asian art museum, spanning many centuries, where I still found the highlight to be their one room of contemporary art, particularly a couple of abstracted ink landscapes by the Chinese artist Liu Guosong, who pulls threads out of his inked cotton paper to produce a whorled, softly marble-like effect. The Sackler had some neat Korean paintings of bamboo, too, monochromatic and calligraphic, from I think the 18th century or so.

Sunday I took a non-Greyhound and therefore non-unhappiness-inducing bus to Plymouth, near which my college friend Dan is spending his summer at an incredibly pleasant summer camp for English & Scottish folk dancing. Dan is working in the kitchen and dancing where his free time allows him. Highly reminiscent of scout camp, the place is envelopingly treesy (principally pines) and features a nice-sized lake, around which we canoed before lunch while talking about movies and music. I think bucolic is more a country word then a foresty word, but bucolic still sums it up pretty well.

The people at the camp are a friendly mix of mousy-haired college kids, couples in upper middle age, Canadians, and the other earthy-type men & women you'd expect to see doing English & Scottish folk dance in Massachusetts. Lunch, serving some 120 in a pavilion, was incredibly good. Dan is doing well, looking towards his second year of musicology grad school in Ann Arbor.

Someone connected to the camp had installed on certain interior walls (here and there, mostly in bathrooms) these contraptions made out of small bits of wood, taking up a space maybe two feet high and a little less wide. Pumping a vertical handle up and down conveys marbles, one by one, to the top of the device, from which they clatter down a compiled slalom in two or sometimes three dimensions, clacking off the wooden pieces nailed into the wall & striking glockenspiel-like metal bells, tuned in triads and boxing in some of the ramp-patterns. You end up with a whimsical little minute-serenade of marbly rolling & whacking noises, with the added harmony of the bells. It's kind of hard to explain why these are the best thing ever, but they are.

Harmonielehre, Autobuslehre

Nighttime intercity bus window-watching is soundtracked last Friday with the third movement of John Adams's Harmonielehre. Under that starrily pulsing orchestral sky passes a calm stream of golden lamplights, their individual stalks always gradually changing position in relation to each other. Below them, small round headlight-pairs traffic by in quicker smooth curves. The scene glides along with the music in a thoughtful aura of consonant resonance. A gibbous moon has affixed itself low on the horizon, bright but otherwise evoking the texture and temperament of a folded moth.

Under the first few minutes of Adams's Violin Concerto, the same scene unwinds differently: finding kinship with the eerie unravel of mindwandery melody, the headlights now are curious, mouselike, of their own agency and passing each other by in loose counterpoint. The lamplights on this stretch of highway have disappeared; the moon's tilt now implies a leaning in, a peering over the rim of however many miles of void come between it and the road. During some of the spikier violin digressions a note of paranoia creeps in — — that moon may not be entirely disinterested — — —

These fifteen minutes of Adamsian road movies are the one transcendental note of an otherwise very unpleasant process, that of depending on Greyhound to get you from New Haven to Boston on a Friday night. For various reasons that I have no interest in laying out, this took seven hours.

My favorite Greyhound bus memory is watching dusk fall over the NY Thruway between Utica and the City, the third movement of Naive and Sentimental Music peppering its pulse into the shifting landscape. This was the summer three or four years back; I didn't know the piece well then, and the communion between its moving parts and the glowing stream of cars and horizon going past kind of made it click for me.

Much better than Friday's trip was the return Sunday night, much more comfortable, as the trip went straightforwardly, without traffic or significant holdups, and still the industrious bus pulled into New Haven an inexplicable hour and twenty minutes behind schedule.

The message from this particular volume of bus lessons is this: Do Not Take Greyhound Buses Any More. I mean it this time. I am very tired of Greyhound buses.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

La, La, La, La, Laundry

A nice thing about having a laundromat right next door to your apartment is that you can just hang out at home while your laundry is going, rather than hanging around and trying to read while Spanish language soap operas blare out at you from frizzy TVs.

I still have a hard time spending 40 minutes of dryer-time on anything really productive, wherever I am. Which leads to my main point: here are some memorable clips of Ernie and Bert.

Mmm . . . Lichen Sampler

My job is going to gradually give me a Jeopardy-level knowledge of quite a few things, I can already tell. For example, I could now tell you that Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun was a portrait artist around the Napoleonic years. I can tell you very little else about Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun.

Today I learned that lichens, or at least pictures of lichens, are weirdly beautiful. Lichens have generally, for me, lived in a mental taxonomic drawer just labelled "Stuff" so I'm kind of surprised how varied and odd they are. Unfortunately I can only look at lichen pictures so long before thinking about bread mold too, and then I need to take a breath of fresh air.

Mmm . . . lichen sampler.

This also reminds me of the fictional intelligent space lichens that featured in the young-adult sci-fi novel Interstellar Pig, by William Sleator. That was a fine book. It’s got to be either a classic or a cult classic, I guess depending on its sales.

In unrelated book-content news, one of my Red-Sox-fanatic coworkers (in the marketing department I used to work in) self-published a book about Fenway Park, specifically one that describes, section by section, where seats are blocked by poles. He apparently had the idea for this in April and finished it in three months, staying up very late at night. (He also sat in almost every one of the seats at Fenway himself, largely during a college baseball double-header sometime before the Sox season started.) I don’t think I’ll ever need to use this book, but I think it’s pretty neat.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Mediums

Okay, my turn to take armchair swipes at news coverage!

This article in Slate about global warming is pretty bad. I generally like William Saletan's writing (and he's a Swarthmore alum too!) but I think there's a couple counterproductive ideas here.

The whole article is based on this neatly divided image: we're cooling our living places, but cooking everything else — which I don't think holds up on further review. He says that a sixth of US electricity goes towards cooling, which surprises me, but that still doesn't make AC demand the driving factor, or more to the point, the battle we have to win.

Yes, the amount of air conditioning is increasing, too, but that's probably not a reflection of environmental necessity, just the increasing luxury people can afford as economic production grows. Describing this trend with a tinge of desperation seems a bit ridiculous. It'd have probably increased similarly even if temperatures were dropping gradually.

I don't doubt that we can change regional weather patterns in depressingly short amounts of time, but air conditioning isn't the issue then so much as droughts and agricultural shifts. Look: if we all have to be a little hotter in the summers, we as a culture will survive, or if worst comes to worst, gradually move to cooler places. It's the ecologically sensitive stuff we have to worry about. Talking about the wrong thing, even if more people can relate to it, feels like a bad move.

You get the sense this article is kind of about the patio he & his wife built, which he talks about near the end, which is too warm in the summer to use. That's too bad. I don't want to harp on this since it sounds like your stereotypical conservative-style DC-media bashing, but, well.

Most of all, if we get a spate of relatively cool summers, we don't want there to be a rash of "Maybe Global Warming Isn't Happening After All!" type of thinking. The New York Post pulled a front page out of this during a cold snap a couple of years ago.

In terms of Other News, I checked the New Haven Register's primary endorsement out of curiosity today (I haven't read any Register coverage of anything to date) & was very disappointed to read the inane line of Iraq thought proffered pro Lieberman:
"Lieberman supported the war and believes setting a timetable for withdrawal will only aid the insurgents. It is the only responsible position. The United States can't abandon Iraq until some semblance of stability and security has been established."
And that's it. Is there any way for people to start recognizing this as a fake argument? That's a dangerous "until" there, snapping around like a loose electrical line, and the burden should be on the stay-the-course side to grab it first. But no, better to leave it sparking and go after any skeptics who do try to grab it as pessimists and losers.

More informed commentary about that here.

Monday, August 07, 2006

"Odds & Ends"

Most puerile environmental bumper sticker ever: "Keep the Earth Clean! It's Not Uranus." I would, um, advocate also keeping Uranus clean. . . . Another car features two bumper stickers, "My Other Car is a Bicycle" and "My Bicycle Doesn't Need a War to Keep It Running." Hey, why let driving a car get in the way of your smug self-
satisfaction about not driving a car? . . . The Philadelphia Orchestra is performing the Ralph Vaughan Williams Sixth Symphony in October. This is shaping up to be a good year for the RVW Sixth Symphony on the East Coast. . . . You don't need a TV if you can occasionally watch clips of Stephen Colbert on YouTube . . . Amato's down the street from me makes excellent pizza, though in New Haven it doesn't count as one of the superstar spots. You don't have to wait in line to get in, though: a plus . . . A drugstore checkout counter displays a rack of lip balm that is supposed to gloss, plump, and sun-protect your lips, as well as to suppress your appetite. Whatever chemical they're putting in there, I'm not having any.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The West Rock is the Better of the Two Rocks

Newly able, as are we all, to move around outside without being dogged by crushing heat, I went for a short bike ride this morning to West Rock Ridge State Park, which is about a half-hour away at my prevailing cycle-tempo. This is kind of the "other" rock from New Haven's perspective, since East Rock is just north of the city, maybe about a mile from my apartment.

The way to West Rock is flat and can be taken mostly on residential roads, so it's pretty low-key. The Rock itself affords a wide view of the city that today was kind of hazy, as you can see from the picture above. Very few people were out today: basically no one in the Park itself, and not a lot of activity on most of the roads on the way there. This actually disappointed me a bit; I think the type of Desire for Hermitage that comes to me on quiet Sundays affords a soft spot for people in the background.

East Rock's view of the city, compared to West Rock's, is easily more striking. Pete, you'll remember it from when you were in New Haven briefly: we went up there in the evening, and looked over the city sunset, and neither of us said anything for about a minute, just watching. It was a very traditionally inspiring view, and I don't think this was lost on you either, since finally you said something, still looking out over the view, along the lines of "Yeah . . . I think we're basically going to destroy everything within about twenty years."

Biking up West Rock itself isn't too hard, going by a paved and only moderately steep road. The way up to East Rock, on the other hand, whoof: now that hill ain't no Professor Pickles.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

I Think, Therefore: ??!?!!???

I finished reading Daniel Dennett's Consciousness Explained last weekend, or I should say finished re-reading, since I read it a couple of years ago. At that time I felt like I hadn't successfully absorbed what he had to say; this time around I think I have a better bead on it, or at least I've filtered out the parts which I can get interested in. This should hold me as far as smarty-pants beach reading for the summer goes.

Describing the self as a "center of narrative gravity" located among a bunch of competing mini-streams of thought sounds like it could be about right.

At one point, Dennett notes how much visual discontinuity the brain can process without it seeming discontinuous, and I think this is a neat thing to think about. It's easy to take this for granted, since we all live it constantly, but as Dennett writes, we don't notice as visual details fall in and out of our (very narrow) range of detailed sight. Patterned areas seem to be clear throughout even if areas of it aren't visually in focus, and in general we don't mentally store nearly as much visual information as it seems: we just observe our surroundings constantly, without a sense of anything going missing or becoming less well defined.

I wonder if there's an analogue here to the sense of continuous self. You feel like your personality traits, ways of thinking, word associations, memories, etc., all "belong to you" & are present constantly even if you're not constantly thinking of them. But maybe when they're out of your immediate stream of thought, they're just gone, stored in your brain but not accessed: and when they percolate back up into your stream of thought, you don't notice the discontinuity, since it's familiar.

What we identify as sustained presence (of visually recognized objects, or of memories) isn't physical reality, necessarily, just a feeling of the brain not registering discontinuity.

So I don't think one's self is made up out of the sum total of one's traits & memories, and neither does the self bundle traits & memories together into a sustained identity. The feeling of sustained self is just a reflection that when these traits & memories "pipe up" for whatever reason, they're not unfamiliar and therefore apparently continuous with who you apparently are.

It's easier to think about how a self can exist in the physical world when it isn't assigned the impossible quality of sustaining nonphysical things like personality traits or moral values. There is no sustaining of anything: just repeated, discrete occurrences of certain mental states (observations of objects, ideas, impulses) that produce no sense of discontinuity. Maybe. Does this make any sense?

Or something like that. I don't think any of us will ever figure this out, but fortunately we have worse things to worry about.

Anyway, that wasn't really Dennett's point. I haven't mentally stored all of Dennett's actual arguments, but they're there in the book if I feel like observing them again.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Alternative Fuel

An illustrative cautionary tale about the dangers of workplace happy hours:
"Curious about the taste and its effects, I dipped into this lake of liquor and drank what I considered to be 2 to 3 ounces. The next thing I remember is waking up in Crawford County Memorial Hospital."
Well, that's fuel ethanol for you.

Seriously, don't do this.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Pirates-Related Humor Coming to an End . . . Now

Someone left a New York Times sports section in the office restroom today, and I couldn't help but notice that Craig Wilson seemed to be on the Yankees all of a sudden, so I thought I'd better check the ol' Pirates news just this once, it being right after the trade deadline and all.

The gory details may be obtained elsewhere. I just wanted to note this in passing.

Now that the Pirates have obtained Xavier Nady from the Mets, I think they should abandon the idea of rebuilding a competitive team, and aim instead to have a 25-man roster (plus manager) where everyone's first name starts with a different letter of the alphabet. With Zach Duke still hanging in there and Yurendell DeCaster a quick call-up away, the Pirates have already got most of the tough letters covered.

How much do you think the Reds want for Quinton McCracken? Hey, the guy's 35 and hitting .208! Someone sign this man as a free agent! Does he play first base? No? Even better!

I won't claim this will make the Pirates a better team, but think about it: if the front office had avoided alphabetical overlap last time around, they wouldn't have been saddled with Jeromy Burnitz, Joe Randa, or José Hernandez. And, um, a certain manager might have found his way to a happier place too.

So I say they go for it. Cheese Chester gets dibs on "C" though. Sorry Duffy.

Okay, all Pirates-related attempts at humor deemed unnecessary starting exactly . . . now.

Dept. of Spurious Statistics

All right, if we're just being entirely goofy about things . . .

Why Are Americans Eating So Many Light Bulbs???

33% Four more and will have the single-week record
25% "Soft white" description reminiscent of delicious sponge cake
17% Don't want to spend $25 on flourescent light bulb you only have to eat once
12% Contain tungsten, something body needs anyway; like that
10% Bad parenting
3% Hungry

Recommended Supply List for a Party to End All Parties

15 lbs. Soylent Green
500 tablets Substance D
4 metric tons cobalt thorium G
4 oz. Ice-9
25.0 liters weaponized MacGuffin
corn on the cob, for corn roast
1 underground high-energy synchrotron (circumference 6.0 km or greater)

Important Reminder: Party will end all parties.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

At Risk of Copyright Infringement...

...this picture is awesome!

Why I Don't Care About Getting Newsweek From the P.O.

I have a free subscription to Newsweek from my public radio station membership, so although I don't really pay much attention to them the latest issues arrive in my mailbox on a more or less weekly basis.

This week, which as you've probably noticed has been defined news-wise by a continuing flare-up of violence in the Middle East, the magazine's cover is devoted to Oliver Stone's 9/11 movie. To be fair, Newsweek did devote last week's cover to the Israel-Lebanon conflict, but this still seems emblematic of why I can't really put up with reading the magazine anymore. Something about focusing on the imaginary version of recent events rather than the real-life version of extremely current events. Especially given how said recent event (or imagination-fueled interpretations of it) shapes our government's policy, such as it is, towards what's going on right now. Something about an apparent lack of intellectual seriousness.