Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Islamo-teenpop menace

Sometimes when intolerance meets gullibility and they like each other a lot, idiotic boycotts happen. Such a grand union took place this week.

Andy Sullivan, a construction worker and Brooklyn native, has been one of the loudest opponents of Park51, the planned mosque and community center near ground zero. Founder of the 9/11 Hard Hat Pledge -- under which construction workers vow not to work at the mosque site -- Sullivan has been a regular presence on television, known for wearing his signature American flag hard hat and talking tough about radical Muslims.

So it was quite a surprise this month to read that Sullivan has set his sights on a new target: Canadian teen pop superstar Justin Bieber.

Mosque foes recently started a boycott of Bieber after he made comments in support of the mosque project in an interview with Tiger Beat, a teen fan magazine, Sullivan told WYNC earlier this month. Now, his 8-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son have been banned from attending Bieber performances.

"I informed them, 'Hey guys, guess what? Justin Bieber spoke out for the ground zero mosque," Sullivan explained to Salon in an interview. "My little girl took down his poster and said she didn't want to have nothing to do with him anymore. These are my kids. They're living this thing."

Thus far it would seem to be a lesson on what really white people can do to alienate really pissy white people. Except that Bieber didn't really do anything.

The magazine does cover Bieber obsessively ("Justin Bieber Dodges Dating Selena Gomez Question!" and "Did Justin Bieber Grow a Mustache?" are two recent features). But I couldn't find any sign of an interview on Park51. There is, however, a post on the website purporting to describe a Tiger Beat interview. It reads in part:

In an interview with Tiger Beat, the pop sensation stressed that freedom of religion is what makes America great, and went on to say that those who oppose the Mosque are motivated by bigotry.

“Muslims should be allowed to build a mosque anywhere they want,” the singer said. “Coming from Canada, I’m not used to this level of intolerance, eh.”

Bieber went on to say that Muslims are “super cool,” Christians are “lame-o-rama,” and that the mosque will help “start a dialogue” with all religions about which Justin Bieber song is the most awesome.

“I was like seven when September 11th went down, and frankly I’m surprised people are still going on about it. Move on, already!” seems to specialize in softcore celebrity porn, but poke around a bit and you find this disclaimer: is a satirical website containing published rumors, speculation, assumptions, opinions, fiction as well as factual information

I was able to reach the proprietor of the site, who confirmed that the Bieber item is in fact a hoax. "[T]he fact that some people take it seriously is hilariously depressing," he said in an e-mail.

It's easy to make fun, and yes, I'm doing just that. And if this were mainly a matter of inconveniencing overexposed pop stars, who cares? Let's hear Ke$ha say something that offends conservatives.

But you see proof every day that there's no sales resistance, no bullshit detector. Even interviewed in places perfectly in tune with his closed-off worldview, Sullivan comes across as one part PTSD to four parts narcissism. But apparently he's a Voice that Matters on this subject, and he'll be able to dine out on it for years. Evidence that he and other anti-Moskers don't know what they're talking about is easily ignored.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pig in a blanket... OF LIES!

This cartoon was made by a Croatian--who later moved to Canada, I believe--back in the sixties. I have a feeling that there's some allegory of Eastern European politics intended here. The army scene and the fact that it ends... differently from the way a comparable American animation would are clues. But I'm not bending my head over it. Just admiring the look and feel of it. There's even an inventive spin on the Wile E Coyote dynamite gag.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Carol-free Friday Random Ten

Which is not to say that the selections wouldn't go well with spiked egg nog. Or the spike without the nog.

1. Sly & the Family Stone--Hot Fun in the Summertime
2. Tito Rodriguez--The Magnificent Seven
3. The New Pornographers--Crash Years
4. Roy Orbison--Ooby Dooby
5. Esquivel--Rosetta
6. They Might Be Giants--Whistling in the Dark
7. Patsy Cline--Imagine That
8. Ladytron--International Dateline
9. Don Byron--Tobacco Auctioneer
10. Nina Simone--Trouble in Mind

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Know thyself

Here's an interesting little exercise if you have a few minutes to kill. It doesn't really matter if you don't know much about D&D/role playing games in general. The questions are pretty comprehensible stuff regardless of your walk in life.

My results were as follows:

You Are A:

Chaotic Good Human Sorcerer (5th Level)

Ability Scores:
Strength- 13
Dexterity- 10
Constitution- 12
Intelligence- 14
Wisdom- 12
Charisma- 11

Chaotic Good- A chaotic good character acts as his conscience directs him with little regard for what others expect of him. He makes his own way, but he's kind and benevolent. He believes in goodness and right but has little use for laws and regulations. He hates it when people try to intimidate others and tell them what to do. He follows his own moral compass, which, although good, may not agree with that of society. Chaotic good is the best alignment you can be because it combines a good heart with a free spirit. However, chaotic good can be a dangerous alignment because it disrupts the order of society and punishes those who do well for themselves.

Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Sorcerers- Sorcerers are arcane spellcasters who manipulate magic energy with imagination and talent rather than studious discipline. They have no books, no mentors, no theories just raw power that they direct at will. Sorcerers know fewer spells than wizards do and acquire them more slowly, but they can cast individual spells more often and have no need to prepare their incantations ahead of time. Also unlike wizards, sorcerers cannot specialize in a school of magic. Since sorcerers gain their powers without undergoing the years of rigorous study that wizards go through, they have more time to learn fighting skills and are proficient with simple weapons. Charisma is very important for sorcerers; the higher their value in this ability, the higher the spell level they can cast.

Meaning that I'd be a magician, but that I'd want to keep supervision and red tape to a minimum. Sounds about right.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Been having trouble coming up with a decent blog post. So instead, we have this. Oh well.

Did get our first serious snowfall today, which was pretty.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Tesseract now

Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time is a book that I remember covering in grammar school, but one that I'm not sure I ever read properly until this past week. That is, my class read it, and I may have taken a look inside, but I think I left the heavy lifting to the teacher reading aloud in class.

I was missing something, though. It's a book that can be read very quickly, having been written for older children. But this is a fictional world worth going to regardless of how long you're there.

Quick summary: Meg Murry's father is missing, which has caused her some what-we-now-call-"issues." Her little brother Charles Wallace--always referred to by his given and middle name--is a prodigy who seems backward to nearly everyone else. Eccentric neighbor Mrs Whatsit introduces both of them and neighbor boy Calvin O'Keefe to her friends Mrs Who and *pun alert!* Mrs Which. These three uncanny women send the children on a dangerous mission to another galaxy, which results in a family reunion.

A crude outline, and much can be unpacked from the actual story. As some have noted, the 1962 novel mines a vein of anticommunism that probably helped to sell it in many school districts. The planet of Camazotz is suffocated by an inhuman level of social planning. The total kind that Americans feared was going on behind the Iron Curtain, and not the Keystone Kops version that the actual Soviets generally had going. And one of the villains--in actuality a puppet--is the Man with the Red Eyes.

But of course the idea of free will and individualism being choked off existed before the Cold War and has survived beyond it. L'Engle is neither Ian Fleming nor Ayn Rand.

To some degree she is CS Lewis. Or at least she is wrote science fiction and fantasy within a Christian--and specifically Anglican/Episcopal--framework as he had before. In some ways the three seeming witches are the Holy Trinity in female guise. And Christ is mentioned by name as a "light for others to stand by" although he's on a list with Gandhi, Buddha, and Louis Pasteur. That's actually gotten L'Engle in trouble with some religios conservatives.

But above the political and aside from the religious, it may be in investing Meg with the hero's role that the book makes its greatest impact. Meg is superficially middle class, but she is also an outcast. She's ungainly. She has a great head for math but doesn't do well in school. She gets into fights with boys but isn't strong enough to win. Her being a witness to the adventure for much of the time may strike some contemporary readers as an example of how limited female characters were in the early sixties. But that's not what's going on. Meg is someone with a very low opinion in herself. She will save the day, but finding that capability in herself won't be easy.

So, better late than never?

Life is Vlieting


Sigh. I suppose such a giant couldn't walk among us forever.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday Random Ten is Enigmatic

More to come.

(Did you think the header was lying?)

1. Marvin Gaye--Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)
2. Arcade Fire--The Suburbs
3. Soul Coughing--Uh Zoom Zip
4. XTC--No Language In Our Lungs
5. Blossom Dearie--I'm In Love Again
6. The Beatles--Birthday
7. Magnetic Fields--Busby Berkeley Dreams
8. Sly & the Family Stone--Everybody Is a Star
9. They Might Be Giants--Letterbox
10. Patsy Cline--When I Get Thru With You (You'll Love Me Too)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Making a scene

The artist who bills himself as Scott C is obviously something of a movie buff. And he's gone about immortalizing some of his favorite scenes at the site Great Showdowns. Not just any scenes but, as he puts it, "the struggles that make us stop what we are doing and sort of check things out… wondering what the eff." And as the cherry on top, he does all of this in an innocent, presentational style worthy of books for young readers. See, for example, this immortal scene from Babe Goes to the Dentist Marathon Man.

“Is it safe?… Is it safe?”

Scott C. provides the quote on-site.

Such awesomeness. Thank God I was bored at work today so that I could find this.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Savings account

On the (mostly fiction) writing front, I've made a couple of changes recently. These seem to be having a positive effect.

First off, I've transitioned from saving documents on floppy to preserving them on CD-R. Yes, up through most of this year I've been using floppy discs. In general it's an okay system. As long as something doesn't go wrong, that is. One thing that can go wrong is for the little metal or black plastic clasp to come off in the external drive. You never really feel safe using it after that, since once they come off they're always loose and jiggly. Even worse, sometimes these discs just up and decide they have to be formatted. Which they already are, or you couldn't have used them in the first place. But never mind that, they demand to be formatted here and now and everything you've saved on them gets lost. Doesn't happen that often, but I'm as glad to stop worrying about it.

The other thing I've started doing is to schedule an hour a day for writing. I figure out when I want to stop, and that tells me when I need to start. Then when I start, I keep going until the hour is up.

On paper, you can get as much done in two days working a half-hour each as one hour altogether in one day. And for some people maybe it does work like that. But for me, once start with under forty-five minutes, self-fulfilling prophecy kicks in and I think, "Ah, can't really get anything done." So you just do a couple of paragraphs. Or a couple of sentences. Or try to sketch the idea in Microsoft Paint. Committing to an hour, or something very close to it, allows me to build up a head of steam.

Or a head of lettuce. Maybe I should get some feedback on that.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Great names and Friday Random Ten

I just found out today that Lubbock's newspaper is called The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. I love that. Every city seems to have a Record-This or a Tribune-That. But calling to mind three tons of falling rock is something else. I've ragged on Texas before, but credit where credit is due.

1. The New Pornographers--Bite Out of My Bed
2. Nellie McKay--Do Do Do
3. Esquivel--Manicero
4. Finn Riggins--Shaky
5. Tom Waits--Down There By the Train
6. Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings--If You Call
7. The Beatles--Sexy Sadie
8. Brian Eno & David Byrne--Everything That Happens
9. Nina Simone--Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair
10. Pink Martini--Tuca Tuca

Friday, December 10, 2010

A little perspective

Speaking for myself, while I have some problems, none of them really compares to the possibility of carried off and eaten by a stork. Can't speak for everyone.

This must have been before they got into the business of bringing babies.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Good cleanish fun

Okay, so last night I do laundry. The place is just down the street, so I can walk to and from home a few times while attending to business. When the wash cycle is—I figure—about done, I get ready to go back to the laundromat. I notice on my bed there's a dirty sock, a pair of boxers, an undershirt. Even though I'm not washing more than my biweekly loads, for some reason it had a hard time all fitting in the laundry bag.

Well, as noted, the wash part of the night is just about done already. But I don't want to wait another two weeks when I do laundry again to wash this stuff. So I make a plan for afterwards.

When laundry proper is done, I fill up a big cooking pot with water. Water and suds from a high-powered dish detergent. I put in the stray clothes and let them sit for a while. Then I fill the pot with hot, soap-free water, for a rinse. A few minutes later, a second rinse. It's practically winter, so the heat runs constantly at night. I hang the clothes in the shower, and then find space on a radiator for them. Should be pretty much dry by the next day.

All part of my ongoing project to find the most ghetto way of doing everything. And to try it at least once.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Midnight (of the soul) snack

First the peanut butter, a proposed repeal of the 17th amendment to the US Constitution, so that Senators don't feel pressured to do things for their loser constituents.

Then the jelly, a Texas Tea Party attempt to oust the state legislature's Jewish Republican speaker because code word innuendo code word. Ever suspect that the big reason the Christian right loves Israel so much is that it's so fucking far away?

Find some white bread to bind these together, and Texas may never have to send a Hebrew to the Senate. That's just special.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday Random Ten on a Friday and everything!

Technical issues resolved. Re-installed iTunes on the advice of a worker at the Apple Store, and it worked.

Busy day at work today. Probably busiest of the last couple of weeks. Mostly the afternoon, so I was going at a pretty fast clip, then stopped and went home. I guess that's the way to do it.

1. Brian Eno & David Byrne--Strange Overtones
2. Arcade Fire--The Suburbs
3. The Magnetic Fields--How to Say Goodbye
4. XTC--The Somnambulist
5. Blossom Dearie--I Wish You Love
6. Beck--Beautiful Way
7. Nina Simone--Sugar In My Bowl
8. Esquivel--Rhapsody In Blue
9. Tom Waits--Never Let Go
10. The Kinks--Mr. Pleasant

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

But seriously...

At this point Corvallis, Oregon shows every sign of being a class act.

CORVALLIS (Oregon) - Hundreds of people attended a candlelight vigil on Tuesday in support of an Islamic centre targeted by an apparent hate crime, after a teen who worshipped there was arrested for planning mass killings in Portland.

Ms Elizabeth Oettinger, senior minister of the First Congregational Church United Church of Christ, said a number of religious leaders organised the event in a show of support for the Muslim community after the centre's office was set on fire on Sunday.

The authorities are investigating whether the arson was a hate crime, after Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, was arrested last Friday on charges of trying to set off a car bomb at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in downtown Portland.

Mr Mohammad Siala, the centre's administrator, told the crowd: "With your support here tonight and standing by your side, we tell (the arsonists) that there is no place for prejudice towards anybody, regardless of the faith or race or nationality."

Pleasant, kind, and nutjob-resistant. You have done well.

Ad analysis

First, a look at the footage. Warning, curly-headed objects may be less cute than the appear.

A considered opinion.

There is so much wrong with that commercial that I don't even know where to start. Like adults should make major financial decisions based on what a kid thinks is cool? And the bad, shallow attitude! That kid reminds me of the bully that tormented me all through grade school!
Not a smart way to market.

Initially, I thought the opposite. It seemed to me a dramatic and persuasive argument. Then I realized it wasn't made by a ZPG group trying to push vasectomies and tubal ligations.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Take it to the bridge

Today I got fitted for removeable dental fill-ins/what have you. It was a fairly simple process, but a weird one. First the dentist's assistant put a couple of things that looked like U-shaped sink-strainers in my mouth to see if they'd fit over the teeth. Then the dentist herself came in and made notches on the enamel of the teeth that will be neighboring the dentures. Not really painful, but still, it is a drill. Then the assistant filled in the sink strainers with this algae-derived... stuff. It's like rubber that's somehow in semi-liquid state at less than room temperatures. But somehow that hardened enough to take impressions of the teeth, and she removed it. There were still some eraser shavings left behind, or what felt and tasted like bits of eraser.

Not bad overall. Did not involve the taste of blood, anyway.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Pour one out for Leslie Nielsen

This is a neatly creepy scene from George Romero's Creepshow. Really, the only thing about it that isn't scary is the zombies, who look like they've been sleeping outdoors at a reggae festival. But by this time Nielsen had already done Airplane!, so it's alarming how much of a no-holds-barred jealous husband he plays.

Friday, November 26, 2010

For the goth (They still exist, right?) on your holiday shopping list

What are you looking at, Sigmund?

In honor of Black Friday--and because I may as well keep up the focus on artistically accomplished nightmare fuel--let us note that a few artists are using the medium of taxidermy in new ways. If you didn't already know this--and I didn't until seeing a link on Dark Roasted Blend--you probably haven't given the possibilities of animal stuffing a lot of thought.

Taxidermy itself is generally thought to be as dead as its subjects to begin with. It's not that absolutely no one practices it anymore, but it belongs to an imagined past. Pop culture may be part of the equation. Since the release of Psycho a half-century ago, the idea of being a taxidermy enthusiast carries about it a whiff of "freeeeeeak!"

More than that, there are huge differences in the way life was lived in the nineteenth century and the way it's lived in the early twenty-first. More people in those days lived on farms and slaughtered animals for sustenance. Even among city dwellers, one was more likely to live with an elderly, dying relative. It was more accepted back then that death would have a place in the center of life.

Another interesting aspect to these works is the way they tie into a lengthy and hidden tradition: that of zoological trickery. The raw materials are from real animals. The creatures as depicted, however, are either fictitious or acting in ways far different from the way they would in life. When the world was larger, it was easier to mistake exotic specimens and huckster's chimerae. Errors were made on both sides.

Meaning, perhaps, that if natural history museums were as credulous as they were in the past, some of these works could pass muster as "real" grotesque creatures. I find that--along with the care and the beauty many exhibit--to be exciting.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Where's the rest of me?

I spent Thanksgiving night with a couple of friends. Good time. When I was close to leaving, the wife told me mentioned that I had lost a ton of weight. Another friend of mine said about the same thing a couple of weeks ago. Both times I reacted with surprise, because that's not really something I've been trying to do. Maybe stop gaining at a noticeable rate, but even there I wasn't too conscious of it. Having acid reflux there are a few dietary changes I've made, and they may have had side effects. But really it just sort of crept up on me. So I guess the key to weight loss is obliviousness.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

It's always Time for Beany!

For fans of ulcerous sailors and bolshy clowns:

I can't really imagine anything with as basic an aesthetic as this making the airwaves today. Tell the networks "Well, my friends and I have these handpuppets..." and the door will immediately be slammed in your face.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

We all scream

A little something from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, a very productive, usually quite funny webcomic that operates at varying levels of cuttingness.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Fox Business thumb wrestling


Oh, it's not surprising that Neil Cavuto just tucked in his chin, waved his finger, and spouted nonsense when Rep. Hahn belatedly made the point that unemployed people will spend the money quicker than multimillionaires will.

Nor is it a surprise when Cavuto insisted that businesses aren't spending the money they have because they know taxes are going up and so are health care contributions. Just for fun, though, compare the upper tax rates and unemployment numbers for 1960 with current stats.

No, the humdinger is that Cavuto was actually interviewing someone who would contradict him. He could have just found a video soundbite and eviscerated someone from a distance. Some intern is so fired over this.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The day the music was out sick

No Friday Random Ten this week. Probably not Saturday either. I can't import anything into iTunes right now because the program will shut down as soon as I try. So I'll have to get it looked at. But I will be keeping the blog fires burning one way or another.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


This author dispels some rumors that are so ridiculous on the face of it that this probably shouldn't have been necessary.

The ignorance expressed in this passage is beyond anything I've encountered in a long time. In my letters to Matlin and the editors at Slate (thus far unanswered), I did my best to rein in my temper, turning instead to one of my most reliable and, I think, useful analogies: High-tech cockpit equipment assists pilots in the way that high-tech medical equipment assists doctors. It has vastly improved their capabilities as professionals, but it by no means degrades the experience and skill required to perform at that level, and has not come remotely close to rendering them redundant. Thus, modern commercial airplanes can "fly themselves" about as much as the modern operating room can perform a surgical procedure "by itself."

Except of course that someone saw fit to publish them. And apparently thought that visiting 30 airports in 3o days was worth doing. Big fan of pat-downs?

Anyway, I'm wondering if this will eventually lead to an epic battle between Slate and Salon. Since everything I've ever seen from Slate has made me want to go back in time and uninvent the Internet, my side is already chosen.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Gross meets cool

I forgot which eye offended me, so I played it safe.

The above image is from British artist Jessica Harrison. Looking through her image archives she seems to have a gift for this kind of brutal surrealism, often on a very small scale. There are some unnervingly fine pencil drawings in her 2006 gallery.

Credit where credit is due to Lauren Davis at io9.

So that happened

Apparently there's a fair-sized group of people willing to believe that Jim Davis hates the military. Well, it's possible that a Marine stole his girlfriend once. That's not the silly part.

This same group seems to think that Davis has a taste for controversy. It's at that point that I spew my beverage all over the keyboard. I'll shotgun a bottle of fabric softener before the creator of Garfield deliberately sets out to offend people. His "bad timing" explanation is so obviously true that I'm surprised he even had to make it.

Nonetheless, some rightie blog whose URL I've mercifully forgotten described Davis as "just another liberal elitist." For a comic strip that, like Hagar the Horrible and Family Circus, is aimed at people foggy on who the president currently is. Really.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Second straight Saturday Random Ten

Just sort of got away from me on Friday proper. Ah well, I caught it again. And this lunatic cough is starting to lift.

1. Arcade Fire--Suburban War
2. Don Byron--Charley's Prelude
3. Jackson Browne--Late for the Sky
4. The New Pornographers--Up in the Dark
5. Sly & the Family Stone--Fun
6. Nellie McKay--Crazy Rhythm
7. Ladytron--Last One Standing
8 Beck--Mixed Bizness
9. Finn Riggins--Mahoney
10. Talk Talk--Life's What You Make It

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


I definitely like the idea of the It Gets Better Project and there is a need for it. Hopefully the world is a little kinder and safer for bullied teens when they hear encouragement from people who have been through it.

That said I wonder if there isn't an opportunity being lost here. As far as I know, none of the people who have spoken out have been on the other side of the equation. There would be value in hearing from someone who used to be a homophobic bully, but who got past it. Not just as a mea culpa, although there is that. Kids are killing themselves because they think their lives aren't going to change. But one way and another they will. And there is every possibility that their oppressors will too.

Then again, it's best to make clear that this will take time.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Submitted for your approval...

The similarity in patterns of behavior between male castellans, male chimpanzees, amd female baboons raises the question of how we explain it. Someone might be tempted to posit a sort of racial memory, as if castellans and spouse abusers were and are controlled by the genes of their distant primate ancestors, genes that had been "turned off" during Boehm's intervening period of reverse dominance hierarchies. But genes do not usually act this way. It is more productive to explain the similarity of these behaviors as the product of convergent evolution. It is similarity of ecology, not relatedness, that often determines the similarity of behavior. In societies or relationships where certain conditios are met—where resources are scarce, power is distributed asymmetrically, and the ability to form coalitions is suppressed—alpha individuals manage to reinvent the pattern of random abuse because it is a psychotropic device toward which certain politically adaptive behaviors will converge. In Paleolithic ecologies, as Boehm argues, some of the key ingredients of dominance were missing, notably because power was relatively evenly distributed and because nothing hampered the formation of political coalition: the Paleolithic counterpart to the public sphere as described by Jürgen Habermas. The Neolithic revolution brought about a return to the ecology of ancestral primate societies, and, as a result, dominance hierarchies were reinvented, though in forms very different from the strictly competitive hierarchies of primate societies. The practice of random abuse, as a concomitant of dominance, was, and is, just one of the many new psychotropic mechanisms that evolved to reinstall the feeling of dominance and submission among inferiors in Neo- and Postlithic human societies.

Daniel Lord Smail, On Deep History and the Brain; University of California Press; 2008

While Smail focuses on Neolithic developments in this passage, he seems to realize that the subject—abuse to maintain dominance—is still relevant. Very much so.

Neither gone nor forgotten Saturday Random Ten

While the last week has been a fallow one for blogging, I actually did intend to run a Friday Random Ten. But Thursday I forgot to bring my iPod home to recharge it. It was still there when I went to work the next day, which speaks well of our custodial staff. The toothbrush I left in the bathroom was still there too, although that's less of a surprise.

1. Beck--Nicotine & Gravy
2. Battles--Race: In
3. Sly & the Family Stone--M'lady
4. Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings--Give It Back
5. L'Attirail--Sophiapolis
6. Count Basie & Sarah Vaughan--Little Man (You've Had a Busy Day)
7. The 5,6,7,8's--Roadrunner
8. Talking Heads--Uh-Oh Love Comes to Town
9. Nina Simone--I Loves You Porgy*
10. Finn Riggins--Antoinette Pt 1

*But she says "I love..." Apparently the nonstandard syntax rubbed her the wrong way.

This is another Finn Riggins video, and a cool one. The spacious, unplugged version of "Antoinette" is very different from the studio version on my list, but both are exemplary.

finn riggins // Session #5A // ANTOINETTE from Marja Kuivisto on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A little late...

... Halloween humor. On the other hand it's going up three nights before Simpsons Treehouse of Horror, so it's not too late.

This is from Medium Large. I know that Shermy was dropped because no one except maybe Schultz himself could remember who he was, but this makes a funny story.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Questionable taste

I have a friend who fasted all day so that he could gorge on Halloween candy at night. No breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Just, like, Whatchamacallit bars and Reese's Cups. He wasn't going on my advice.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Frightday Friday Random Ten

Slo-oooo-ow day at work. It's nice to have a light workload now and then, but it can get a little much. Or rather much little. Would have been awfully boring except that it was Halloween. That meant there was a witch, as well as two matching ninjas. And candy, which meant an excuse to get up and go get candy. You take the action you can get.

1. Sly & the Family Stone--Underdog
2. Perez Prado--Zelda's Theme
3. Tom Waits--You Can Never Hold Back Spring
4. Nellie McKay--Black Hills of Dakota
5. Soul Coughing--Mr Bitterness
6. Talk Talk--I Believe In You
7. Beck--Broken Train
8. Talking Heads--No Compassion
9. Finn Riggins--Antoinette Pt 2
10. The New Pornographers--Valkyrie in the Roller Disco

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Match game

:You tend to start out with a low number of possible matches. This puts you on edge.

:Treacherous. You can go from having several options to being out of luck in just a couple of turns.

:Intermediate. Variable.

:Appropriately well-guarded. Easy to exhaust your choices.

:The beginner's level, for the most part.

:See "Cat."

If you hadn't guessed, the mahjongg games they bundle with the computer are addictive. I'm weaning myself off to get some productivity back.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

No money in it

Okay, so this is basically a cheesy repost post, but on those terms it's good. This Gin and Tacos piece on the current fetish for budget-balancing gets at some excellent points.

What changes? What gets better? No one has been willing or able to explain what the benefits of "lower spending" will be, either in the real-world or abstract economics textbook sense. The Ron Johnsons of the world can't explain how their magical remedy will reduce unemployment. I mean, are there businesses in the U.S. right now that aren't able to hire because the Federal government spends too much money, especially bearing in mind that a vast portion of the private sector depends on government contracts? How will the balanced budget make up for, let alone stimulate, the drop in consumer demand that will result from kicking millions of people off of their current benefits (which would presumably be necessary) such as unemployment compensation, Social Security, and so on?

Stumping politicians like to point out that families have to draw up their budgets on the basis of money they have. True... ish. It doesn't take into account the role of credit that's become crucial in the age of stagnant or shrinking wages. And it really doesn't explain why it's better for family budgets to get even tighter. A big reason why the recovery has been so desperately slow to get here is the lack of money in the hands of those most likely to spend it.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Wired Saturday Random Ten

I've figured something out recently. If you have a laptop, computer tech-y people will tell you to keep a lot of twist ties around. But no matter how sturdy they seem, metal fatigue will always do in a twist tie in about a month, give or take. Elasticized hair bands--the kind you put in your hair if that's your thing, not Cinderella or Poison--are better for the job. They're made to be wound and bent a lot. Plain ol' rubber bands? Probably less of a good idea.

1. Blossom Dearie--Put on a Happy Face
2. The Magnetic Fields--The Night You Can't Remember
3. Soul Coughing--True Dreams of Wichita
4. Ladytron--Soft Power
5. Barenaked Ladies--I'll Be That Girl
6. Arcade Fire--We Used to Wait
7. XTC--No Language In Our Lungs
8. The Kinks--Session Man
9. Count Basie & Sarah Vaughan--The Gentleman Is a Dope
10. Battles--Tij

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Building Wide Web

The story behind the pictures above (which in and of themselves are worth 2000 words) can be found here. There's something extraordinarily ambitious about this installation, scotch tape being stretched and doubled until it becomes a new space. On the other hand it seems natural as well. Like it took humans long enough to get into the business of spinning cobwebs.

Wonder what kind of upkeep it takes, though.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Because you demanded it: Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

I had heard about this show before, but until I saw the footage I wasn't convinced it actually existed. An emo-punk musical about that crusty old bastard, our seventh president.

Kinda funny that so much of the rhetoric is sung by girls. Was there anyplace that women could vote back then? Obviously there were electric guitars in the Jacksonian era, because there have always been electric guitars. But female suffrage?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Deuce Bigalow: Angry Gigolo

From a semi-random websearch, Rob Schneider unloads during an interview.

I don't think Dennis Miller is as smart as people think. He's a fascist. He seems to be manipulated by money. All conservatism is grasping what was radical 90 years ago. There are no ideas.

He unloads on Democrats too, and to be honest he's not exactly a penetrating analyst. But even barroom punditry is more than most would expect from the man behind and in front of The Hot Chick. Mainly it just interests me that there's political friction between greying SNL comics. Let the Victoria Jackson-Julia Sweeney Cold War begin.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Basic Friday Random Ten.

Nothing fancy. I have to get some real shut-eye.

1. Brian Eno--Another Green World
2. Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings--I'll Still Be True
3. Marvin Gaye--What's Going On
4. Barenaked Ladies--Light Up My Room
5. Sly & the Family Stone--That Kind of Person
6. New Pornographers--Your Hands (Together)
7. The Velvet Underground--That's the Story of My Life
8. Count Basie & Sarah Vaughan--You Go to My Head
9. Arcade Fire--Month of May
10. Nina Simone--Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sticking with "New Post" as a header

This essay would be worthwhile if only for the quote, "The future is a mutated bacteria that you never saw coming." But Ms Newitz's take on the non-imminence of The Singularity is good all around. The point can be elaborated. We now live in a world where some people have mechanical arms and cochlear implants in their ears. At one time they would have been seen as gods or monsters, or at least aliens. But now we see them as simply people who have parts they weren't born with. The mundaneness of self-image usually carries the day.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Not too much to say about this. It just gave me a giggle. I've thought about joining support groups for things I don't have just as a way of socializing, but I'm not sure I'm equipped for a double life.

CON ARTIST SUPPORT GROUP from Serious Lunch on Vimeo.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Friday Random Ten, under or over the weather

I think I'm starting to get over this cold. Which I'm fairly certain I have now. For a couple of days I thought it might be allergies still. Sort of like playing whack-a-mole with OTC medications.

1. John Buzon Trio--It Must Be True
2. Stan Kenton--Blues in Riff
3. Velvet Underground--Pale Blue Eyes
4. Roy Orbison--He's Too Late
5. The Barenaked Ladies--Told You So
6. Tom Waits--You Can Never Hold Back Spring
7. Jackson Browne--Late For the Sky
8. Macy Gray feat. Slick Rick--Hey Young World, Part 2
9. Taj Mahal--Statesboro Blues
10. Count BAsie & Sarah Vaughan--You Turned the Tables On Me

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mass. update

All of this is somewhat baffling. Tim Cahill never really had a chance in the Massachusetts governor's election, but suing his own advisors while the election is still on makes him totally marginal. Better to wait until next year, when there won't be as much attention on him. On the other hand, why are the Republicans paying him any attention when the state house in Boston is still very much in play? Not exactly keeping your eyes on the prize.

Then again, elections frequently play out as slow motion train wrecks. I guess they didn't want to let Democrats have all the fun.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Waiting for Joey

I don't see myself going out to see Waiting for "Superman". When it comes to films about education, Allan Arkush's and the Ramones' Rock 'n' Roll High School set a very high standard. Can Davis Guggenheim fill those sneakers? I doubt it.

This rave from Forbes is smooth and articulate. It has the structure and contours of a reasoned response. Trust it not. Close your eyes for a second and you can see the guy in front of you swearing that he's never met the three card monte dealer before, and going "golly gee" as he "wins" twenty bucks.

I find myself more in the same boat as IOZ.

I would probably strangle the first "likely voter" I saw upon leaving the theater, and somehow I don't think that my cellmate would believe me when I told him that I'm a top. The anguish that our technocrats direct at the perceived failures of our system of education delights me to no end. Oh, no, we are failing to turn our children into readily employable automotons whose mecahnistic mental processes mitigate against any improvement in their own station, amelioration of their own working conditions, or consideration of the nature of control and ownership--indeed, cause them to work actively against their own best interests by inculcating a Stockholm-syndrome-like identification with the values and imperatives of a corporate ownership class that they themselves will never join!

And through him, Eye of the Storm.

if you are sitting here with tom friedman actually worrying that our kids have lower standardized test scores than the finns or something, i say you have floated outside the realm of actual human beings or real children or anything relevant to learning. really is this an education program, or is it a project for world conquest? these people give you the impression of each nation's children as a kind of army, in a war with all the other nations' children to dominate the future. try to become aware of how fantastical and optional that is as a way of representing reality. but try to be aware too of what a picture like that entails about how we actually treat children.

My own two cents, the expression of which is compromised by computer keyboards lacking a cent sign? You hear about merit pay. You hear about battling the evil teacher's unions to get rid of bad teachers. A smokescreen, all of it. They're not talking about elevating good teachers over bad ones, not really. All educators are to be reduced to indentured servants. The future is all about central planners. Pay attention to flesh and blood kids to see what they need on a case-by-case basis, and you are not With The Program.

And doesn't the question of "Why are so many immigrants doctors and engineers?" sound a lot like "Why can't we put those people back in their place?"

Friday, October 1, 2010

Sesame Friday Random Ten

Feel like checking in with everyone's favorite roommates?

Well, I guess they're pretty comfortable with each other at this point. Moving right along...

1. Ladytron--Whitelightgenerator
2. Soul Coughing--Moon Sammy
3. Macy Gray--Relating to a Psychopath
4. The New Pornographers--Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk
5. The Kinks--I'll Remember
6. Marvin Gaye--Flyin' High (In the Friendly Sky)
7. Yuka Honda--Why Do We Distrust the Machines We Made?
8. Nellie McKay--Crazy Rhythm
9. The Magnetic Fields--Acoustic Guitar
10. Nina Simone--Trouble in Mind

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Casino inferno, burn baby burn!

This is one of those stories that just sort of speaks for itself.

The curved glass facade of the Vdara Hotel in Las Vegas promises a world of climate-controlled luxury. Except if you are poolside, where sunlight reflected and intensified by the building's shape has been melting plastic and burning people's hair.

More at the link, obviously. For now the robber barons and vapid heiresses will have to double up at some other pool.

I'm assuming one or both of these architects were consulted.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Exile is not an option

Fraternity of one pranks self? Thus far.

Here's the rather bizarre story. Conservative gadfly filmmaker is approached for an interview by a CNN up-and-comer. The guy, James O'Keefe, thinks she's out to get him. He responds to her mostly-imaginary persecution of him by using his entirely nonexistent sexual charm to lure her out to a bad porno setup on a boat. An associate of his gets an epiphany that this whole endeavor is beyond scummy and warns off the reporter. The sad, failed attempt becomes public knowledge.

You may have heard of this elsewhere. My only reason to bring it up is that it should mean that the political and media establishments are done with O'Keefe. But it almost certainly does not mean that. His greatest accomplishment was a hard-hitting exposé of ACORN that helped drive the nonprofit out of business. It also turned out to be a bullshit on whitebread sandwich, a fact that became known when it was too late to make a difference. So it's not like he should have had any credibility before his smoove boat-ridin' moves.

Then there's the fact that Carl Paladino is running as the Republican nominee for New York governor, rather than getting his face bashed in by a Buffalo strip club bouncer. One is forced to conclude that there's no longer any such thing as right wing damaged goods.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Thankfully, not like pulling teeth

Fascinating dental update: I had a checkup and cleaning this afternoon. Apparently I've gotten somewhat better at keeping my teeth clean, since the hygienist said they look good. There wasn't all that much pain while she was scraping around with that metal hook thing. A little on a couple of the lower teeth. She gave me a tube of Sensodyne Pronamel for it, which sounds like an aerospace firm.

Also we're talking about getting a removeable denture plate. I have had a couple of fallen soldiers, so it seems right to put up a memorial for them. I wonder if you can still use denture plates to scare kids.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Good thinking

I'm getting drowsy so I'll make this short. It's good to take pride in your accomplishments. It's less than good to feed your ego by putting others down.

Our species has the habit of doing the latter. Even the Neanderthals--and I've mentioned this before--have until recently been thought of as half-bright pack animals incapable of language, innovation, and most forms of abstract thought.

The Stone Age did see Neanderthal society advance to a relatively high level, especially in the Châtelperronian era, but scientists have generally put that down to the influence of moder homo sapiens.

But new evidence calls that into question, as seen here.

About 42,000 years ago, the Aurignacian culture, attributed to modern Homo sapiens, appeared in northern Italy while central Italy continued to be occupied by Neanderthals of the Mousterian culture which had been around for at least 100,000 years. At this time a new culture arose in the south, one also thought to be created by Neanderthals. They were the Uluzzian and they were very different.

Riel-Salvatore identified projectile points, ochre, bone tools, ornaments and possible evidence of fishing and small game hunting at Uluzzian archeological sites throughout southern Italy. Such innovations are not traditionally associated with Neanderthals, strongly suggesting that they evolved independently, possibly due to dramatic changes in climate. More importantly, they emerged in an area geographically separated from modern humans.

Cavemen are doing it for themselves. Cool.

Friday Random Ten for closing time

On Fridays the building where I work shuts down at five. One of the front desk ladies has started to come up and browbeat me into leaving when it gets to be about five of. Is it weird that I've become that guy?

1. Blossom Dearie--Don't Wait Too Long
2. Nellie McKay--Send Me No Flowers
3. Arcade Fire--Rococo
4. Sonic Youth--Unmade Bed
5. Ladytron--AMTV
6. Tom Waits--The Fall of Troy
7. Yuka Honda--Sun Beam—nothing hurts—On A Cold Winter Morning I Walked Back Home: On A Street Paved With Pieces Of Broken Hearts
8. Joni Mitchell--The Jungle Line
9. Soul Coughing--Down to This
10. The Magnetic Fields--Love Is Like a Bottle of Gin

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Label on a can

Am I glad not to be in college anymore. This is just wrong. When I was a younger man there was something pure about checking out a girl's ass. We wouldn't have stood for this kind of crass commercialism. Well, I wouldn't have. The frat guys would have bought more KFC.

There's also the aspect of women renting out their bodies and dignity to help move product, although there it could be worse.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


A friend of mine got his car stolen tonight. Which apparently means that driving a shitbox is no defense. There were three of us hanging out at a coffeeshop. What's weird is that one of the baristas had her car stolen from the same lot at about the same time. The cop my friend was talking to was all, "Maybe it just got towed." He must have been winning at poker and didn't want to leave.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Feted (not fetid) Friday Random Ten

At work an outdoor party, held in the parking lot. I guess sort of an end of summer thing. Luckily it wasn't rained out, although there still were some sprinkles. And water balloon relay races, which can sort of fill the rain niche.

1. Roy Orbison--The Clown
2. Stan Kenton--Cuban Carnival
3. Brian Eno--Saint Elmo's Fire
4. The Magnetic Fields--Zebra
5. TV on the Radio--Hours
6. Edgardo Cintron--Brazilian Sunset
7. Ladytron--All the Way
8. Nellie McKay--If I Ever Had a Dream
9. Nina Simone--See-Line Woman
10. Arcade Fire--Ready to Start

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The furnished frontier

This is a wild French short, featuring some breathtaking stop-motion work. What can I say? If I find a cowboy riding through my drawers*, he has my blessing.

Cowboy Blues from Cancres Debouts on Vimeo.

*Not those drawers, pervert.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Plus ça change

Early in the 18th century, Jonathan Swift said, "We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another."

That's just eerie.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The enigma

This singer is one I've only learned of in the last year or so. The vast majority of people haven't heard of her at all, and no wonder. Her career was never really fulfilled, and recordings didn't surface until long after her disappearance (and presumed death, sad to say.) The music I've heard by her is really beautiful, though. She could well be adopted by fans of Rickie Lee Jones.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fresh-forged Friday Random Ten

You know what would be fun? Convincing people that the word "chillaxin'" can be traced back to an obscure Shakespeare play. It would take some prep. Be properly wonky and inconsistent in spelleing. Make mead stains at random spots on the script...

1. TV on the Radio--I Was a Lover
2. The Zapolski Quartet--Allegretto Scherzando
3. XTC--Don't Lose Your Temper
4. Lou Rawls--The Shadow of Your Smile
5. Arcade Fire--Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
6. Talk Talk--Life's What You Make It
7. Nellie McKay--Dig It
8. L'Attirail--Bielamor Canal
9. The New Pornographers--My Shepherd
10. Tom Waits--Little Drop of Poison

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A new plea

There's an acronym I just made up that I think the online community could use: IPRL. Short for "I plead real life." The idea is that if you haven't done a created a wiki article like you meant to, or if you haven't updated your blog for a while (not that that's ever happened here) you can plead real life. Say "I have a job/family/rooftop pigeon coop/what have you. Sorry."

The letter combination has been used, but not for this. Although "isolated perfused rat liver" does sound like it could make a good appetizer.

Anyway, I figure if there's one thing the Internet needs, it's another acronym. lol

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Sticky sweet

A tragic story. The lesson, of course, is that if someone takes your money and tries to make you live in a candy house, you need to sue their ass off. It could save many lives.

From Maneggs, a site with a Paul Harvey-esque ability to show "the rest of the story."

Monday, September 6, 2010

Something for the birds

Haven't done poetry corner here for a while. This is something by light verse poet Phyllis McGinley. The note is hers.

Text for Today
A cheerful poem written upon reading in the New York Times that Dr. Robert Cusheman Murphy, of the Museum of Natural History, has discovered on Bermuda several specimens of the cahow, a bird believed to be extinct since 1620

Amid the dark that rims us now,
Beset by news we cannot cherish,
Let us consider the cahow--
That petrel which refused to perish,
In spite of gossip it had gone
The way of auk and mastodon.

Three hundred years ago or more,
It built its nest, it spent its slumbers,
At ease upon Bermuda's shore
In innocent, prolific numbers
A creature of the coral reef
Credulous, gentle, and naïf.

But then the hungry settlers came
To find those pastures stern for plowing.
The bird was edible and tame,
So everybody went cahowing,
Till by and by, beside the water,
There were no more cahows to slaughter.

"Alas!" cried all the scientists, 
"Alas, career so brief and checkered!"
They crossed "cahow" from off the lists
And wrote "extinct" upon the record.
And man could boast another feat
Of rendering nature obsolete.

But all the while, with stealth and skill
(Necessity become its motto),
The shrewd cahow was nesting still
On lonely rock, in cave and grotto;
Invincibly, and by some plan,
Three hundred years outwitting man.

O brave cahow, so stubborn-linked
To your own island, palmed and surly!
I'm happy you are not extinct,
But got espied by Dr. Murphy.
You lend me hope, you give me joy,
Whom Total Man could not destroy.

You give me joy, you lend me hope
(At any rate, what hope is bred on);
Fpr surely if a bird can cope
So cunningly with Armageddon,
And, snug in umimagined dens,
Wait out its season for returning,
Why, so can Homo sapiens
Tomorrow when the planet's burning--

Can flee, root, cower, scrabble, strive,
And rear its progeny. And survive.
Amid our ills that seem incurable,
Cahow, you make me feel more durable.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

"Ever notice this?" Friday Random Ten

With more and more books that I check out from the library, they just stamp the due date on a post-it note or something. Not as many have the date slips attached inside the cover. This kind of bums me out. If I'm the first person to have checked a book out since 1986, I like to know that.

1. Taj Mahal--Johnny Too Bad
2. Roy Orbison--Ooby Dooby
3. Sonic Youth--New Hampshire
4. Jackson Browne--For a Dancer
5. Brian Eno--The Big Ship
6. The Magnetic Fields--Love is Like a Bottle of Gin
7. Isobel Campbell--James
8. Tom Waiths--Shiny Things
9. The New Pornographers--We End Up Together
10. The Kinks--Rosie Won't You Please Come Home

Friday, September 3, 2010

Vote early, vote often

Actually you have to register and sign in to vote. So unless you plan to construct a sockpuppet identity--not recommended--you can't do often. I refer, of course, to the AV Club's Undercover competition. There have been some nice, off the cuff cover songs included, worth checking out whether or not you plan to vote.

Here's one that I had to put near the top. It's Baltimore's Wye Oak, paying tribute to the songwriting genius of Dave Davies. Yes, Dave. (And since Anheuser-Busch isn't giving me anything, I'm well within my rights to tell you you can hit pause before the beer commercial.)

Wye Oak covers The Kinks
May do Saturday Random Ten. Will help if Earl's sloppy seconds have really ended the heat wave.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Another way to look at it

Here's another one from the A&M anthropology page. It's a NYT article about how language shapes perception. Of course the Benjamin Lee Whorf theory recapped near the beginning falls apart on the face of it. If it were true, Europeans coming to the Americas would have no way of perceiving bison or tomatoes. But there are subtle effects that are no less interesting.

This is a passage that really made me take notice.

The area where the most striking evidence for the influence of language on thought has come to light is the language of space — how we describe the orientation of the world around us. Suppose you want to give someone directions for getting to your house. You might say: “After the traffic lights, take the first left, then the second right, and then you’ll see a white house in front of you. Our door is on the right.” But in theory, you could also say: “After the traffic lights, drive north, and then on the second crossing drive east, and you’ll see a white house directly to the east. Ours is the southern door.” These two sets of directions may describe the same route, but they rely on different systems of coordinates. The first uses egocentric coordinates, which depend on our own bodies: a left-right axis and a front-back axis orthogonal to it. The second system uses fixed geographic directions, which do not rotate with us wherever we turn.

We find it useful to use geographic directions when hiking in the open countryside, for example, but the egocentric coordinates completely dominate our speech when we describe small-scale spaces. We don’t say: “When you get out of the elevator, walk south, and then take the second door to the east.” The reason the egocentric system is so dominant in our language is that it feels so much easier and more natural. After all, we always know where “behind” or “in front of” us is. We don’t need a map or a compass to work it out, we just feel it, because the egocentric coordinates are based directly on our own bodies and our immediate visual fields.

But then a remote Australian aboriginal tongue, Guugu Yimithirr, from north Queensland, turned up, and with it came the astounding realization that not all languages conform to what we have always taken as simply “natural.” In fact, Guugu Yimithirr doesn’t make any use of egocentric coordinates at all. The anthropologist John Haviland and later the linguist Stephen Levinson have shown that Guugu Yimithirr does not use words like “left” or “right,” “in front of” or “behind,” to describe the position of objects. Whenever we would use the egocentric system, the Guugu Yimithirr rely on cardinal directions. If they want you to move over on the car seat to make room, they’ll say “move a bit to the east.” To tell you where exactly they left something in your house, they’ll say, “I left it on the southern edge of the western table.” Or they would warn you to “look out for that big ant just north of your foot.” Even when shown a film on television, they gave descriptions of it based on the orientation of the screen. If the television was facing north, and a man on the screen was approaching, they said that he was “coming northward.”

This fascinates me. I love the idea that somewhere a child is at the fridge asking her mother where the orange juice is, and the mother is replying that it's eighteen centimeters northwest.

Of course it's not just a matter of language shaping ideas. It's language and ideas being shaped by environment. A language without egocentric coordinates is likely to arise in a land of open spaces, where everyone learns early the subtleties of where the north and the west are.

What's cool is that if all language comes from somewhere, it can carry clues as to what that where is like.

Monday, August 30, 2010

New York State of Troubled Mind

Tonight I watched Synecdoche, New York, one of many fine films available through our local library. Through much of it I wondered whether it was a depressing movie that lucked intoa few funny moments or a parody of depressing movies.

Probably an unfair question. It's actually a serious attempt to put the methods of magic realism onscreen. This is not something that American movies are generally known for, and it's a surprise to see Charlie Kaufman succeed as much as he does. For example, the disorientation of hero Caden Cotard watching years pass by him as he thinks they're days and we see only minutes.

What makes it hard to get into is that Cotard can be--is--a rather offputting character. He's a self-absorbed depressive lump, and the question isn't why his wife ran out on him. Nay, the question is how she stayed with him long enough to birth a daughter and watch her turn four. Given that the character, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, is named after the Cotard delusion (being convinced that you're dead) means his unattractive qualities are almost certainly intentional. But it is something you have to get past, and it may take me more than one viewing.

In short, I think that while it may take some reaching, this is a wothwhile and accomplished film. And if I want to convince my friends to see it, my money quote will be "Emily Watson takes her bra off."

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Winged vanity

Today I saw one of the most hilarious wastes of money it's been my privelege to witness. A plane was dragging a banner through the air. It was all red, with a familiar yellow M on the right hand side. To the left of this were three lines of text in white. What did they say? I don't know. I couldn't read it. There is no way anyone standing on the ground could read this banner. So this pilot was paid probably thousands of dollars to tell the public that McDonalds exists. We were all so close to forgetting, I'm sure.

To be fair, they may be trying to reach out to the seagull community.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Friday Random Ten both Calvinist and Lutheran

Not much to report. I'm taking a few days off from work, and feel just fine about that. So why don't I show you this from here?

1. Jackson Browne--Before the Deluge
2. Taj Mahal--Take a Giant Step
3. Brian Eno--Spirits Drifting
4. Gnarls Barkley--Run (I'm a Natural Disaster)
5. The Kinks--Mister Pleasant
6. Arcade Fire--Half Light II (No Celebration)
7. Yma Sumac--Gopher Mambo
8. Isobel Campbell--Thursday's Child
9. Nina Simone--Four Women
10. Sonic Youth--Stones

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Jiminy Cricket was a friend of mine, and doctor...

The silencing of anyone's voice is not really a good goal, even when as in this case, it's self-silencing. That said, is the retirement of Dr. Laura an occasion for great regret? Not really.

She always appealed to--and eventually aimed straight for--a conservative talk-radio audience. No surprise there. Under "government off our backs" there's usually a whole lotta busybody. That's not really the issue. True, she alienated gays and lesbians with clueless gusto. And true, she ended her career with a bizarre racial meltdown. But these are sidetrips.

What made her really not-so-helpful was the finality of her advice. When people called her, she didn't help them think through their problems and moral dilemmas. She just told them what to do. And even if her advice was good--stopped clocks and all that--giving answers without a way to get there doesn't help. You can't always carry your favorite radio host around.

Then again, there seems to be a market. Maybe people don't want a friend to talk to. Maybe they actually want a visit from the morality police. In which case the next Laura Schlessinger is on the horizon.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Speak, boy!

In college I took a voice and articulation class. It was taught by a woman who was... nice on a certain level. And she was a good teacher in a lot of respects. But she was a singer, an actress, and a professor. That's a lot of crazy for one body to hold.

In this class I did learn that my optimal pitch was in the baritone range. That's held up pretty well. I do seem to sound better that way.

However, you kind of have to go beyond that. Good posture is, I think, important to sounding your best too. If you have your feet planted firmly on the ground and your back straight, you can summon up more energy when you need it. And it helps to take a direct approach to communication. If you're trying to pussyfoot around a subject, you could well find yourself stammering and falling back on other old habits.

It's also good to imagine that you're holding a miniature laser cannon in your hand. But now we're dealing with advanced methods...

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Random Ten from a ghost town

How many people are scrambling to get their vacation hours in now? Quite a few, I'm guessing. Even as Fridays go, it was abandoned and tomblike at work today. Spa-kooky!

1. Brian Eno--Zawinul/Lava
2. The Magnetic Fields--The Death of Ferdinand de Saussure
3. Jackson Browne--Walking Slow
4. Sly & the Family Stone--Run, Run, Run
5. Nina Simone--Come Ye
6. The Kinks--Session Man
7. Sonic Youth--Paper Cup Exit
8. The White Stripes--Little People
9. The Velvet Underground--Pale Blue Eyes
10. Stan Kenton--Peg o' My Heart

* At first I disliked the snide tone of this song. Now I kind of like it. Wny shouldn't peace and love allow for a little grumpiness?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

#21 & #24

I returned a book to the Fox Point library today. Since I still had a couple of brief chapters to go, I read them at one of the tables. A few feet away, one of the librarians was giving kids the 411 on the development of a monarch butterfly. They had a display with caterpillars in glass 'n grass, the difference between a cocoon and a chrysalis, etc. It was kind of a neat refresher course for me, too.

The caterpillars turn from green to brown to avoid being eaten. Birds are either fooled by this or are really good sports.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Making the mosque of it

To reiterate, what can be gleaned from the Park51/Cordoba House "Ground Zero" "mosque" kerfuffle?

1.Outside of xenophobia there is no case against the project.
2. President Obama is right to support their rights on this and remind people of what country this is supposed to be.
3. Most of the country is wrong on this one. Hey, happens to the best of us.
4. Harry Reid has no balls.

Pop quizzes an exams will be held every day from now until eternity.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Snap judgments

Artcle here about Richard Avedon, whose work is being exhibited at the MFA. I must confess he's an artist it's been difficult for me to warm up to. That kind of difficulty runs the risk of personal growth.

This is largely because he was so much of his time, place, and social circle in ways in which it's difficult for me to identify. He was a very good-looking man all through his life, and he made his living by taking pictures of other pretty people in chic (translation: Go out there and sell! Sell! Sell!) clothes. He went to a therapist more often than I go to the dentist. Said therapist has since bought his own island, and you can be executed for visiting it without a written invitation. Plus he directed those eighties Calvin Klein ads with models staring into the distance and sputing inane prose poetry.

Yet there is quite a bit to admire in him and his work. While he worked within a framework--a very commercial one at that--he found a method that worked for him as it wouldn't for anyone else. He created his own discipline. Important, that. And while he followed his muse through places I wouldn't follow, it did lead to some interesting destinations.

And some of those destinations were off the beaten path for a New York fashion photographer. As seen here, he exposed some places and people in rural and interior America that were unknown twenty miles away. Including a guy who let bees crawl all over him. How hardcore is that?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fri...zzzz... Oh! Friday Random Ten

Spent the end of last night figuring something out in Microsoft Word. That is, figuring out how to add page numbers to a manuscript with name & title as part of the same field, while not putting a page number on the first page. I've found webpages that have claimed to offer instruction on how to do this, but they were lying frauds.

Now, in sussing this out, I stayed up later than usual. This has required some cat-napping today. Totally worth it, though.

1. Roy Orbison--The Clown
2. Johnny Cash--Staring at the Wall
3. The Velvet Underground--Jesus
4. Elvis Costello & the Attractions--Oliver's Army
5. Arcade Fire--City With No Children
6. Nina Simone--Nobody Knows you When You're Down and Out
7. The Kinks--Most Exclusive Residence For Sale
8. Sly & the Family Stone--I Cannot Make It
9. TV on the Radio--Things You Can Do
10. Dinah Washington--Drinking Again

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Speak softly and...

It's an interesting experience to get up, think you're cutting it close on time, and wind up arriving at work about an hour early.

Weird set-up for something about Richard Thompson's Cul de Sac comic strip. Then again, it's notable for its sense of almost-uncontrolled movement. Here's one of his three-panel gems translated into animated form.

So far no clips have turned up with Alice's angst-ridden older brother Petey. Ah well, Petey Otterloop, we do appreciate you.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Time wounds all heels

Languageologist Erin McKean has a new column where she provides a history of insults and epithets taken from politicians' names. For example "gerrymandering" from Elbridge Gerry and the unjustly maligned salamander.

Into this context she puts "Breitbarting, or intentionally taking a statement out of context for political ends", inspired by Andrew BreitbartDon't worry, the article is more interesting than if it were all about that. But that's what we're focusing on here. It must be said that the shoe fits. And "breitbarting" sounds Teutonic. German is one of the world's more percussive languages, always gets the point across. And yet, and yet...

Face it. This is Andy Breitbart. He's a dimwit. Do you really think he even rates lasting infamy.

The truth is that most eponyms--positive or negative--don't last. You can find scores of them in any book of obsolete words. "Borking" is already faded to almost nothing. Conservative pundits occasionally use it, once they have the bandages unwrapped. Outside of them, it's widely assumed to be sexual slang. "Yeah, we got high, took a shower, and borked some more."

Friday, August 6, 2010

Thanks for the tip

As a rule, creative writing manuals fall into two camps.

There's the stereotypically male one. Do this. Follow these instructions. Here are ten bestselling novelists. Read them and do exactly what they did. This is a good approach if your hobbies include going to Bellevue and shopping for a new straitjacket.

Then there's the stereotypical female. Find out how you feel. Face your issues. Here are eight to fourteen things you can find while searching your navel. Reading these you can waste time facing personal problems that either you're not ready to deal with or that you don't actually have.

Kelly Link's roundup isn't a book. In hard copy it would be a magazine article of a couple of pages. There isn't really that much to say. But what she does say is helpful.

The exercise of starting with one sentence and going onto the next, say. It gives you the idea, "Why don't I try to make every sentence a keeper?" Is this possible? I don't know. Probably not. But the attempt is energizing, not tiring.

Recently I went back to a project that I had played with and sort of given up on. It was the usual deal for me. Start out with what seems like an interesting idea. Meander. Get a few pages done and sort of give up. This time out, though, a funny thing happened. The interesting idea led to other interesting ideas. As time went on I got more keyed up, not less. And while endings suck in general, I managed to wrap this draft up in a way that wasn't embarassing.

There have been other changes in my life and outlook lately, and these have helped too. But I figure I should at least give Link's advice partial credit.

"A Funny Thing Happened"/Friday Random Ten

Today I carried a linen jacket with me, letting it dry out from a rainstorm. A rainstorm that lasted about as long as an infomercial. Yesterday: It's overcast and I walk into a store. I come out and it's like there are invisible gardeners holding hoses everywhere. The streets are flooded. Two or three minutes to walk home, and it only takes a fraction of that for me to get soaked to the skin. Bizarre.

1. Harry Nilsson--Me and My Arrow
2. Yuka Honda--The Last One to Fall Asleep With
3. Nina Simone--The Other Woman
4. L'Attirail--Disco Tel Aviv
5. Bjork--Vertebrae by Vertebrae
6. Taj Mahal--Statesboro Blues
7. Bob Dylan--Early in the Morning
8. Isobel Campbell--James
9. Modern Jazz Quartet--The Queen's Fancy
10. Magnetic Fields--Bitter Tears

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Stuffed into a locker, thrown overboard

Through bjkeefe, I saw this Mother Jones story on Bob Inglis. Inglis is a Republican congressman from South Carolina who's been overthrown by the Becktist wing of the party. Without sarcasm, I'd say he seems like someone I like. I hope that he follows his good instincts.

That basically means getting out and staying out of electoral politics. If he continues to try and be voice of reason--especially in his home district, after the scorched earth campaign that did him in--he's not going to get anywhere.

If he did run and win again, it would probably be by doing a 180 and agreeing with everything he was shying away from at that angry rally. Then getting ahead of it. Suffice it to say, that kind of thing will mess up your head.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Quote of the day: The wonders of...

This is a one-paragraph passage from a book I'm reading. I found it evocative somehow.

It was my dad who introduced me to the wonders of the natural world. In a sacred way, he revealed the first crocus of spring, removing the debris around the jack-in-the-pulpits in the forest as he chopped a fallen birch for firewood. He reveled in the salamaders and crayfish in the brook and marveled over where the deer must have fawned in the fairy circle next to the old barn.

Caitlin O'Connell, The Elephant's Secret Sense: The Hidden Life of the Wild Herds of Africa

A brilliantined stick insect

What can be said about Rudy Giuliani? He exists. He's from New York. And while he'd probably like to be remembered for more than those two things, anything more is probably a long shot.

Recently a Muslim group has applied for a permit to build a tower that includes a mosque, rather than the whole thing being a mosque, as you may have heard. The site happens to be on the site of in the same county as the World Trade Center attacks. Well, that prospect made the former mayor's saggy diaper leak, and he responded with a show of bluster. "Bluster" in this case being a fancy word for "being an asshole."

"This is a desecration," he added. "Nobody would allow something like that at Pearl Harbor. Let's have some respect for who died there and why they died there. Let's not put this off on some kind of politically correct theory.

"I mean, they died there because of Islamic extremist terrorism. They are our enemy, we can say that, the world will not end when we say that. And the reality is it will not and should not insult any decent Muslim because decent Muslims should be as opposed to Islamic extremism as you and I are."

There was a time when these words would have carried weight. An aura of heroism surrounded him for a good three or four years after 9/11, even if it was mostly reflected glory. He was "America's Mayor" back then, after a long and honorable term by Mayor McCheese.

At the time, his public castigation of the Landmarks Preservation Commission would have put the fear into them, and perhaps even spurred a reversal.

That was then, before he was revealed as a more venal than average big city pol. Before his presidential campaign showed what a lousy campaigner he was three inches out of his comfort zone. Now he's been reduced to background noise in his own backyard, thank God.

Oh yes, and one of Giuliani's fellow New Yorker's has something to say about hizzoner's forehead.

Word, Count. Word.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Suspenseful Friday Random Ten

Saw another good Alfred Hitchcock Presents tonight. A guy reunites with and marries his long lost love, played by Jessica Tandy. She has a baby whose guardian she claims to have become after her sister and brother-in-law were killed. Well, needless to say, she's crazy and the baby isn't what she claims. She gets the shrieking lunatic--who yikes! doesn't like to be touched--part across, but also has a great deal of charm in the role.


1. M83--Space Fertilizer
2. Johnny Cash--The Long Black Veil
3. Edgardo Cintron--Triste
4. The White Stripes--Slicker Drips
5. Macy Gray--Forgiveness
6. Talk Talk--Today
7. Pink Martini--Over the Valley
8. Nina Simone--My Baby Just Cares For Me
9. Dinah Washington--What a Difference a Day Made
10. L'Attirail--Viskos Circus

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!

Here's a random musical delight. It's Bis, a Scottish band of the nineties, in touch with their inner children. Hell, letting their inner children run the show. Like, there's a four-year-old playing the Moog.

Kid-riffic, even by Japanese standards.

Burst o' energy

Today I felt good, better than I can remember in the recent past. Not that nothing is bothering me, but nothing is weighing on me. It may be because I just came to a realization. I'm right a lot of the time. Yes, people get angry at me and on good occasion shout me down without listening. What does that say about them? Dunno, guess it varies. But it doesn't say anything about me. So I can transcend some of the nastiness just by recognizing it for what it is. Yes, this is a recent realization, for some reason.

Also, my acid reflux is under control. That means I got a better sleep last night. It helps.

I am, at present, pretty good at doing crossword puzzles. When people see this, they say I must be smart. Which I am, but not a genius. There is a way, though, to bring slightly above-average intelligence to bear on crosswords and conquer most of them.

1. Find an answer that you know. Not think you know, but actually know.
2. After you solve it, pick a clue that crosses it. Assuming your first answer was right, you've got one letter in at least three others. (Crosswords never use less than three letters for a correct response).
3. Keep going.
4. If you get stuck, move to another part of the grid.

Like I say, this gives you a push, even if you don't always complete the puzzle. Even better, it means you get a true challenge, rather than just heartbreak and bafflement.

Lucky 13

For those of us who like the numb tingle of floorboards against our jaw, this, and thanks to blogger bjkeefe.

In Iowa, the state Republican Party is calling for the “reintroduction and ratification of the original 13th Amendment” to the U.S. Constitution — a provision that the state party’s spokesman admits is focused solely on Barack Obama.
The current 13th amendment bans slavery, and Iowa Republicans are not in favor of its repeal. They are, however, interested in reintroducing an amendment originally put before the states for ratification back in 1810. It outlawed any person who accepts a “title of nobility” from a foreign country from ever holding political office. The amendment was ratified by 12 states but never got the 13th state that it needed, and thus, never became law.

Rough translation: "We're not bigots or anything. We just want to take a phantom law that's never been used against anyone, and nail the first black president with it."

You guys are beautiful. Don't ever change.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A new dimension in whatever

There's another update here from San Diego Comic-Con. The news here is that people involved in the movie industry are expressing skepticism about the future of 3D movies. I tend to agree with them, and I don't think this is nostalgia or fear of change on my part.

Here's the thing. Synchronized sound was invented in the late twenties. It was adopted almost immediately in all American films. The talkies took over not in FDR's time, but in Hoover's. Filming in color became possible at around the same time. It took a little longer to hit its sttride, because of the Depression and World War II. It took off after the war, becoming the norm in about another five years.

So the two biggest changes implemented in film to date were phased in--respectively--over periods of about two years and something like fifteen.

By contrast 3-D has been an option for about sixty years without catching on. Now, things have changed and the technology is more sophisticated now. Duh. Telephones are now glowing all-purpose robot pals that you carry on your person at all times. But the problem with three dimensional film has never been technical. It's psychological. For the technology to seem worth the effort to the audience, there have to be effects and scenes that make unique use of the third dimension. And these are almost always so cheesy as to become more of a laughingstock than a draw. Which is one reason most of the big 3-D movies of the recent past and near future are 2-d movies converted without the approvial of their directors, Tim Burton and Michel Gondry included in this number.

This is just musing, and I could be wrong. If every movie within five years becomes a giant moving snowglobe, what will I do? As Kevin Costner said in The Untouchables, have a drink.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Hey! Fever! Friday Random Ten

Wow. Allergy season hasn't ended yet. Which, if you're within 80 miles of me, you already know. Ah well, keeps the neighbors on thier toes.

1. Bjork--Declare Independence
2. Sly & the Family Stone--Advice
3. The Velvet Underground--That's the Story of My Life
4. Johnny Cash--Wildwood Flower
5. Gnarls Barkley--Blind Mary
6. Harry Nilsson--The Moonbeam Song
7. Sarah Vaughan--Dreamsville
8. Edgardo Cintron--Alice in Wonderland
9. Macy Gray--Shed
10. TV On the Radio--Let the Devil In

Thursday, July 22, 2010

4 color revolution

The Westboro Baptist Church? Fred Phelps? Yeah, you've heard of them. They've found reason to protest the funerals of Iraq War soldiers for aligning themselves with the homosexual agenda, and that's with Don't Ask Don't Tell still in effect.

So it's not much of a surprise that this same group went to San Diego to protest the Comic Con over something... the continued existence of Joss Whedon maybe? The surprise--and a pleasant one it is--is that this group of conventioneers was so well prepared for them. Who's cooler? The Bender with the "Kill all humans sign"? Or the Velma Binkley* with the sign raving about the Cylons. I may put up a poll later, but I might never make up my mind.

*It's a cute chubby girl with glasses. Given the context, Velma seems the most likely identity.