Friday, January 26, 2007

Now this is a musical worthy of winning awards

Wherein Leonard Maltin is an ass

The opening to Bob Fosse's legendary All That Jazz:

If it isn't Scottish it's crap!

Wherein bet I'm the only who thought of that phrase because I AM ORIGINAL

From Bookslut is this link to a Scottish Writer quiz. My score, and I guessed for all thirteen:
You scored 3 out of a possible 13
"O life! thou art a galling load,
Along a rough, a weary road,
To wretches such as I!"

Despondency, indeed, you poor wretch. Perhaps a case of one wee dram of the auld fire-water too many?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

A eulogy for a hauntingly sad naval officer

Wherein best munchie food ever

John Derbyshire, at National Review Online, read Cryptonomicon and had this to say:
I must say, I liked Cryptonomicon. Not many people can carry off a style as florid as Stephenson’s, and even he doesn’t carry it off all the time. My own advice to a fiction writer would be: keep it plain and brief. Stephenson is elaborate and l — o — n — g. He can pull it off, though. The famous six-page account of a guy preparing and eating a bowl of Captain Crunch cereal didn’t work for me...

No problem with that, but I think Derbyshire missed a subtext with the Cap’n Crunch soliloquy that a lot of people missed--though this knowledge doesn't stop you from complaining about the length.

Derbyshire's comment also reminded me of an article in the Village Voice back in late 1999 (looked, couldn't find it) discussing high and low culture in literature and also pulled out the Cap’n Crunch section as an example of low culture. This was definately incorrect. What Stephenson was doing here--and the book is filled with these Easter eggs--was paying tribute to one of the legendary characters of the hacking era: John Draper. As a central underpinning of Cryptonomicon is how information is transmitted, secured, and hacked, this is very relevant.

BoingBoing recently ran an update on Draper, so click for more information. This wiki page also has some good links. Probably the best history of computing revolution in the 60s and 70s and the rise of the hacker ethic is Steven Levy's Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution.

So, when reading Cryptonomicon and it takes Randy six pages to eat a bowl of Cap’n Crunch is it necessary to know that John Draper used a toy whistle from a Cap’n Crunch box to make the Ma Bell phones do anything he wanted them to do? No. You could take it as a writing tic of Stephenson's that you either love or hate. Or it's just another example of how Randy processes information. If you don't get the easter eggs, it shouldn't lessen your understanding of the book. It also isn't necessary to know that Commander Schoen, the code-breaking genius in the bathrobe, represents Joseph J. Rochefort, who broke most of the Japanese ciphers. Nor do you need to know that when Lawrence is biking around the Pine Barrens, what seems like a weirdly hallucinogenic dream is actually the crash of the Hindenburg:
He stared down upon the world’s globe, not the globe fleshed with continents and oceans but only its skeleton: a burst of meridians, curving backwards to cage an inner dome of orange flame. Against the light of the burning oil those longitudes were thin and crisp as a draftsman’s ink-strokes. But coming closer he saw them resolve into clever works of rings and struts, hollow as a bird’s bones. As they spread away from the pole they sooner or later began to wander, or split into bent parts, or just broke off and hung in the fire oscillating like dry stalks. The perfect geometry was also mottled, here and there, by webs of cable and harnesses of electrical wiring.

if you pick up on these easter eggs, they're like a private joke between the author and reader. But more than a joke, they also add layers of depths that raise Cryptonomicon above a WWII thriller and a modern hunt for Nazi gold. It becomes the historical background for the rise of the modern information age.

Or maybe it's just a guy eating cereal. Sometimes it's best not to get too carried away with these things.
The apartment only has one closet and when its door is open it appears to have been bricked shut, Cask of Amontillado-style, with very large flat red oblongs, each imprinted with the image of a venerable and yet oddly cheerful and yet somehow kind of hauntingly sad naval officer. The whole pallet load was shipped here several weeks ago by Avi, in an attempt to lift Randy’s spirits. For all Randy knows more are still sitting on a Manila dockside ringed with armed guards and dictionary-sized rat traps straining against their triggers, each baited with a single golden nugget.

Randy selects one of the bricks from this wall, creating a gap in the formation, but there is another, identical one right behind it, another picture of that same naval officer. They seem to be marching from his closet in a peppy phalanx. "Part of this complete balanced breakfast," Randy says. Then he slams the door on them and walks with a measured, forcibly calm step to the living room where he does most of his dining, usually while facing his thirty-six-inch television. He sets up his San Miguel, an empty bowl, an exceptionally large soup spoon—so large that most European cultures would identify it as a serving spoon and most Asian ones as a horticultural implement. He obtains a stack of paper napkins, not the brown recycled ones that can’t be moistened even by immersion in water, but the flagrantly environmentally unsound type, brilliant white and cotton-fluffy and desperately hygroscopic. He goes to the kitchen, opens the fridge, reaches deep into the back, and finds an unopened box-bag-pod-unit of UHT milk. UHT milk need not, technically, be refrigerated, but it is pivotal, in what is to follow, that the milk be only a few microdegrees above the point of freezing. The fridge in Randy’s apartment has louvers in the back where the cold air is blown in, straight from the freon coils. Randy always stores his milk-pods directly in front of those louvers. Not too close, or else the pods will block the flow of air, and not too far away either. The cold air becomes visible as it rushes in and condenses moisture, so it is a simple matter to sit there with the fridge door open and observe its flow characteristics, like an engineer testing an experimental minivan in a River Rouge wind tunnel. What Randy would like to see, ideally, is the whole milk-pod enveloped in an even, jacketlike flow to produce better heat exchange through the multilayered plastic-and-foil skin of the milk-pod. He would like the milk to be so cold that when he reaches in and grabs it, he feels the flexible, squishy pod stiffen between his fingers as ice crystals spring into existence, summoned out of nowhere simply by the disturbance of being squished.

Today the milk is almost, but not quite, that cold. Randy goes into his living room with it. He has to wrap it in a towel because it is so cold it hurts his fingers.
Randy takes the red box and holds it securely between his knees with the handy stay-closed tab pointing away from him. Using both hands in unison he carefully works his fingertips underneath the flap, trying to achieve equal pressure on each side, paying special attention to places where too much glue was laid down by the gluing-machine. For a few long, tense moments, nothing at all happens, and an ignorant or impatient observer might suppose that Randy is getting nowhere. But then the entire flap pops open in an instant as the entire glue-front gives way. Randy hates it when the box-top gets bent or, worst of all possible worlds, torn. The lower flap is merely tacked down with a couple of small glue-spots and Randy pulls it back to reveal a translucent, inflated sac. The halogen down-light recessed in the ceiling shines through the cloudy material of the sac to reveal gold—everywhere the glint of gold. Randy rotates the box ninety degrees and holds it between his knees so its long axis is pointed at the television set, then grips the top of the sac and carefully parts its heat-sealed seam, which purrs as it gives way. Removal of the somewhat milky plastic barrier causes the individual nuggets of Cap’n Crunch to resolve, under the halogen light, with a kind of preternatural crispness and definition that makes the roof of Randy’s mouth glow and throb in trepidation.

The gold nuggets of Cap’n Crunch pelt the bottom of the bowl with a sound like glass rods being snapped in half Tiny fragments spall away from their corners and ricochet around on the white porcelain surface. World-class cereal-eating is a dance of fine compromises. The giant heaping bowl of sodden cereal, awash in milk, is the mark of the novice. Ideally one wants the bone-dry cereal nuggets and the cryogenic milk to enter the mouth with minimal contact and for the entire reaction between them to take place in the mouth. Randy has worked out a set of mental blueprints for a special cereal-eating spoon that will have a tube running down the handle and a little pump for the milk, so that you can spoon dry cereal up out of a bowl, hit a button with your thumb, and squirt milk into the bowl of the spoon even as you are introducing it into your mouth. The next best thing is to work in small increments, putting only a small amount of Cap’n Crunch in your bowl at a time and eating it all up before it becomes a pit of loathsome slime, which, in the case of Cap’n Crunch, takes about thirty seconds.

He pours the milk with one hand while jamming the spoon in with the other, not wanting to waste a single moment of the magical, golden time when cold milk and Cap’n Crunch are together but have not yet begun to pollute each other’s essential natures: two Platonic ideals separated by a boundary a molecule wide. Where the flume of milk splashes over the spoon-handle, the polished stainless steel fogs with condensation. Randy of course uses whole milk, because otherwise why bother? Anything less is indistinguishable from water, and besides he thinks that the fat in whole milk acts as some kind of a buffer that retards the dissolution-into-slime process. The giant spoon goes into his mouth before the milk in the bowl has even had time to seek its own level. A few drips come off the bottom and are caught by his freshly washed goatee (still trying to find the right balance between beardedness and vulnerability, Randy has allowed one of these to grow). Randy sets the milk-pod down, grabs a fluffy napkin, lifts it to his chin, and uses a pinching motion to sort of lift the drops of milk from his whiskers rather than smashing and smearing them down into the beard. Meanwhile all his concentration is fixed on the interior of his mouth, which naturally he cannot see, but which he can imagine in three dimensions as if zooming through it in a virtual reality display. Here is where a novice would lose his cool and simply chomp down. A few of the nuggets would explode between his molars, but then his jaw would snap shut and drive all of the unshattered nuggets straight up into his palate where their armor of razor-sharp dextrose crystals would inflict massive collateral damage, turning the rest of the meal into a sort of pain-hazed death march and rendering him Novocain mute for three days. But Randy has, over time, worked out a really fiendish Cap’n Crunch eating strategy that revolves around playing the nuggets’ most deadly features against each other. The nuggets themselves are pillow-shaped and vaguely striated to echo piratical treasure chests. Now, with a flake-type of cereal, Randy’s strategy would never work. But then, Cap’n Crunch in a flake form would be suicidal madness; it would last about as long, when immersed in milk, as snowflakes sifting down into a deep fryer. No, the cereal engineers at General Mills had to find a shape that would minimize surface area, and, as some sort of compromise between the sphere that is dictated by Euclidean geometry and whatever sunken-treasure-related shapes that the cereal-aestheticians were probably clamoring for, they came up with this hard-to-pin-down striated pillow formation. The important thing, for Randy’s purposes, is that the individual pieces of Cap’n Crunch are, to a very rough approximation, shaped kind of like molars. The strategy, then, is to make the Cap’n Crunch chew itself by grinding the nuggets together in the center of the oral cavity, like stones in a lapidary tumbler.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Five from Fishbone

Wherein one of the great bands

Only caught them once in concert. Around 1991, and Bytches with Problems opened. Might be the best concert ever. Took a Doc marten to the side of the head from someone crowd-surfing. Knocked my glasses clear off'n my head. I started to reach towards the floor to pick them up and about four hands reached down and yanked me up. Kept me from being trampled to death. Thanks! Damn good time.

New album due in April.

Freddie's Dead

What's New Pussycat with Fabulosos Cadillacs. AWESOME!

Modern Industry


Ma and Pa

"The author should die once he has finished writing. So as not to trouble the path of the text"

Wherein Eco's dream title for The Name of the Rose was Adso of Melk, but Italian publishers dislike proper names

There is a postscript to Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose. I did not know this. The novel was published in America in 1983 and the postscript was written in 1984. My beat up paperback, from 1985, did not have the postscript. But Borders had a nice looking trade paperbook version sitting on the "3 books for the price of 2" table and there it was, waiting for me to discover it. Read the postscript, bought the book, trashed the old copy when I got home.

The postscript is a study of narration, the creative act of writing, and reader interpretation. Being Eco, it's brilliant and a joy to read. Here's a sample:
Telling the process

The author must not interpret. But he may tell why and how he wrote his book. so-called texts of poetics are not always useful in understanding the work that inspired them, but they help us understand how to solve the technical problem which is the production of a work.

Poe, in his "Philosophy of Composition," tells how he wrote "The Raven." He does not tell us how we should read it, but what problems he set himself in order to achieve a poetic effect. And I would define the poetic effect as the capacity that a text displays for continuing to generate different readings, without ever being completely consumed.

The writer (or painter or sculptor or composer) always knows what he is doing and how much it costs him. He knows he has to solve a problem. Perhaps the original data are obscure, pulsive, obsessive, no more than a yearning or a memory. But then the problem is solved at the writer's desk as he interrogates the material on which he is working--material that reveals natural laws of its own, but at the same time contains the recollections of the culture with which it is loaded (the echo of intertextuality).

When the author tells us he worked in a raptus of inspiration, he is lying. Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.

Talking about a famous poem of his, I forget which, Lamartine said that it had come to him in a single flash, on a stormy night, in a forest. When he died, the manuscripts were found, with revisions and variants; and the poem proved to be the most "worked out" in all of French literature.

When the writer (or the artist in general) says he has worked without giving any thought to the rules of the process, he simply means he was working without realizing he knew the rules. A child speaks his mother tongue properly, though he could never write out its grammar. But the grammarian is not the only one who knows the rules of the language; they are well known, albeit unconsciously, also t the child. The grammarian is merely the one who knows how and why the child knows language.

Telling how you wrote something does not mean proving it is "well" written. Poe said that the effect of the work is one thing and the knowledge of the process is another. When Kandinsky and Klee tell us how to paint, neither is saying he is better than the other. When Michelangelo says that sculpture amounts to freeing from the block of stone the figure already defined in it, he is not saying that the Vatican Pieta is superior to the Rondanini. Sometimes the most illuminating pages on the artistic process have been written by minor artists, who achieved modest effects but knew how to onder their own processes: Vasari, Horatio Greenough, Aaron Copland...

Triple X Kentrivia

Wherein a trivia quiz so good he sent it twice.

Question: Does everyone know what this is or is it more than the normal amount of obtuseness you expect from Soquoted?

  1. I have 10 bucks that says I couldn't recognize a single Billboard Hot 100 number one single from 2006 if you played it for me. So I have no framework to even form a guess.
  2. They are all guests who stayed at the Petticoat Junction hotel.
  3. You know what's a good movie? The Year of Living Dangerously with Linda Hunt, Mel Gibson, and Sigourney Weaver.
  4. Tom.
  5. Obviously an island of little people with little, petty concerns. Manhattan.
  6. Probably would have flown higher if it hadn't been filled with boxes of tissues. Normally don't think of Kleenex as being heavy, but a ton of paper is a ton of paper.
  7. Never heard of Checking In or Models Inc., but the others are spinoffs of other shows so I assume those two are, too. What makes them unique to other spinoffs eludes me. I'm guessing the Stealth Spinoffs post at Something Old, Nothing New will be helpful in answering this.

The So Quoted condensed versions

Wherein I find something useful to do with MS Word

Because this is my thing, I guess...

SOTU autosummarized to 10%:
Spreading opportunity and hope in America also requires public schools that give children the knowledge and character they need in life. We must increase funds for students who struggle and make sure these children get the special help they need. The No Child Left Behind Act has worked for America’s children, and I ask Congress to reauthorize this good law.

And so tonight, I propose two new initiatives to help more Americans afford their own insurance. First, I propose a standard tax deduction for health insurance that will be like the standard tax deduction for dependents. Single Americans with health insurance will pay no income or payroll taxes on $7,500 of their income. States that make basic private health insurance available to all their citizens should receive federal funds to help them provide this coverage to the poor and the sick. We need to help small businesses through association health plans.

Extending hope and opportunity in our country requires an immigration system worthy of America, with laws that are fair and borders that are secure. Extending hope and opportunity depends on a stable supply of energy that keeps America’s economy running and America’s environment clean. For too long our nation has been dependent on foreign oil. Tonight, I ask Congress to join me in pursuing a great goal. From the start, America and our allies have protected our people by staying on the offense. For the terrorists, life since 9/11 has never been the same.

We broke up a Southeast Asian terrorist cell grooming operatives for attacks inside the United States. We uncovered an Al Qaeda cell developing anthrax to be used in attacks against America. By killing and terrorizing Americans, they want to force our country to retreat from the world and abandon the cause of liberty. The great question of our day is whether America will help men and women in the Middle East to build free societies and share in the rights of all humanity. In 2005, the people of Afghanistan defied the terrorists and elected a democratic legislature. We’re carrying out a new strategy in Iraq: a plan that demands more from Iraq’s elected government and gives our forces in Iraq the reinforcements they need to complete their mission. Our goal is a democratic Iraq that upholds the rule of law, respects the rights of its people, provides them security and is an ally in the war on terror.

The people of Iraq want to live in peace, and now it’s time for their government to act. Iraq’s leaders have committed themselves to a series of benchmarks to achieve reconciliation: to share oil revenues among all of Iraq’s citizens, to put the wealth of Iraq into the rebuilding of Iraq, to allow more Iraqis to re-enter their nation’s civic life, to hold local elections and to take responsibility for security in every Iraqi province. If American forces step back before Baghdad is secure, the Iraqi government would be overrun by extremists on all sides. For America, this is a nightmare scenario. We’ll show our enemies abroad that we’re united in the goal of victory.

In Iraq, multinational forces are operating under a mandate from the United Nations. We’re working with Jordan and Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and the gulf states to increase support for Iraq’s government. Julie represents the great enterprising spirit of America.

Democratic response autosummarized to 10%:
The second regards our foreign policy ¬ how we might bring the war in Iraq to a proper conclusion that will also allow us to continue to fight the war against international terrorism, and to address other strategic concerns that our country faces around the world.
When I graduated from college, the average corporate CEO made 20 times what the average worker did; today, it's nearly 400 times. Wages and salaries for our workers are at all-time lows as a percentage of national wealth, even though the productivity of American workers is the highest in the world. With respect to foreign policy, this country has patiently endured a mismanaged war for nearly four years. My son has joined the tradition, now serving as an infantry Marine in Iraq.
The President took us into this war recklessly. The war's costs to our nation have been staggering. Not one step back from the war against international terrorism. "When comes the end?" asked the General who had commanded our forces in Europe during World War Two.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Lucky Guy

Wherein if you don't like this song, you must be gay

I love The Muffs. And Lucky Guy is a great first song off a great first album .

Damn, that's fun. One of those songs that I cannot listen to enough nor loud enough (to be the subject of a future post). Truly is one of my favorite albums and that song--right from a great drum intro--announces its presence with authority. Doesn't hurt that Kim Shattuck is way cute. I've never known what to properly classify the Muffs as--power pop garage punk? They've just become a type of comfort music for me. Got a big deadline, a giant pile of work requiring me to shut off of email, unplug the phone, and generally drown out the ambient office noise, I call up The Muffs, plug in the earphones, and crank up the volume to ear drum shattering levels. Massive head-banging is required and I do miss my ponytail. Then for all her vocal cord shredding singing style Ms. Shattuck's voice is also wonderfully expressive and surprisingly tender. All For Nothing is just beautiful. The way she twists the intonations on Really Really Happy is perfect.

Here's some more videos. Watch>>listen>>buy.

I'm currently listening to the just purchased Really Really Happy [iTunes]. Out in 2004, I completely missed it. First impression: one of their best. I'm just a big ball of hapiness listening to this.

I thought I'd previously mentioned The Muffs by transcribing the phone message left by Courtney Love (from Hamburger). Can't find it. They did get a Wherein mention in this classic post about Bruuuuce. I haven't seen cakreiz around, anywhere, but I also still laugh at "Get Courtney Cox dancing on stage and that shit is the national anthem." Sometimes So Quoted is quite insightfully funny.

What I learned today

Wherein pandering pablum is not a philosophy

I really hate motivational speakers. Loathe is also a good word.

Monday, January 22, 2007

What's amusing me today

Wherein yes, it is one big party

I always enjoy reading Questions and Answers at the CMO. Here's a new one:
Q. In a scholarly book about popular culture, the author has used several -esque word endings, usually hyphenated. According to CMOS instructions for the similar constructions of -wide, -like, and -borne, I would be inclined to remove the hyphen. But the result is unsavory. Also, in the case of open compounds, should the -esque ending acquire an en-dash? See the following: Tarantinoesque, Skeeteresque, Gandalfesque, Billy Idolesque, Sid Vicious–like, John Paul–esque, The Parallax View–esque.

A. Unsavory indeed. (Your list should appear on the book jacket—who wouldn’t want to know what the pope is doing in the middle of all the carnage?) The rule is that unless the usage is self-consciously playful, you may have two -esques per book (no hyphens), but only if they are at least a hundred pages apart. If they involve en dashes, however, you get none.

Just when I thought that I was out they pull me back in

Wherein Orlando over Memorial Day weekend: great timing. Bet it won't be hot or crowded. Nope, not at all.

Ask Edward Tufte

Wherein I like using small caps for AM and PM, but for casual usage I go with lowercase. Except in the previous sentence. I have no opinion on colon versus period.

A few current topics of some interest:

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Pg 152: "But Hitler's vegetarianism was related to the natural health movement not to the protest literature and tradition as described in this book"

Wherein that's the REAL problem with Hitler--he ate vegetables for all the wrong reasons. Why, if he'd embraced the animal rights movement and not have been so concerned with being healthy, he'd never have invaded all those countries and killed millions of people

Doing some cleaning in the basement I opened a box to find a book I thought I'd lost. And it's a great book, possibly the funniest book I own. I love to just open to a random page, read a random sentence, and start chuckling. Who is this comic genius? It's none other than Carol J. Adams and her classic overstated tome, The Sexual Politics of Meat, A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory.

I think we all know that whenever the words "critical theory" appear comedy gold is sure to follow. Let's take a look at how the Award Advisory Committee for the Continuum Women's Studies Award describes it: Adams's compelling thesis is that women and animals are linked as 'absent referents' in the 'texts' of patriarchal society, and that therefore feminist critical theory must be informed by vegetarianism. I just sat through a hour of Saturday Night Live and they didn't have anything that sounded that entertaining. Adams's comedic style is a wily one. Occasionally she seems on the verge of making an interesting point or discussing a serious matter, then like all great satirists, she buries it under a blizzard of buzzwords or a string unconnected random thoughts or--my favorite--begins with a rational thought then carries it far past the point of sane comprehension. I wouldn't be surprised to find that Mike Myers was a student of this book. His Austin Powers movies are a graduate seminar in this book's rhetorical art of to tell a joke once is funny; tell it five times it's no longer funny; tell it another ten times and it's funny again.

Enough from me, time to throw out some quotes so you can laugh along.

Page 16:
Just as feminist theory needs to be informed by vegetarian insights, animal rights theory requires an incorporation of feminist principles. Meat is a symbol for what is not seen but is always there--patriarchal control of animals

Page 34, where she quotes Marty Feldman. Yes, that Marty Feldman. Interestingly, he died of a heart attack as a result of shellfish food poisoning and Mel Brooks comments on his unhealthy lifestyle.
Men who decide to eschew meat eating are deemed effeminate; failure of men to eat meat announces that they are not masculine. Nutritionist Jean Mayer suggested that "the more men sit at their desks all day, the more they want to be reassured about their maleness in eating those large slabs of bleeding meat which are the last symbol of machismo." The late Marty Feldman observed, "It has to do with the function of the male within our society. Football players drink beer because it's a man's drink, and eat steak because it's a man's meal. The emphasis is on 'man-sized portions,' 'hero' sandwiches; the whole terminology of meat-eating reflects this masculine bias." Meat-and-potatoes men are our stereotypical strong and hearty, rough and ready, able males. hearty beef stews are named "Manhandlers." Chicago Bears' head football coach, Mike Ditka, operates a restaurant that features "he-man food" such as steaks and chops.

One's maleness is reassured by the food one eats.

Page 169:
The patriarchal structure of the absent referent that renders women and animals absent as subjects, collapses referent points, and results in overlapping opression, requires a combined challenge by feminism and vegetarianism. Yet, this oppression of women and animals, though unified by the structure of the absent referent, is experienced separately and differently by women and animals. Thus, it is an oppressive structure that, when perceived, is often perceived in fragments and attacked in fragmented wass, i.e., some women work for their liberation, other women and men challenge the oppression of animals.

Page 184:
Can it be that literary consciousness is paradigmatic for vegeratian consciousness? A phenomenology of vegetarianism recapitulates the phenomenology of writing: of seizing language, of identifying gaps and silences. This vegetarian phenomenology includes identification with animals or animals' fate; questions of articulation, of when to speak up or accept silence of control of food choices; and of dissenting to patriarchal myths that approve of meat eating. As opposed to the brokenness and violence characteristic of the fall into patriarchal culture, vegetarianism in women's writings signifies a different way of relating to the world. We are told that there is something metaphorically instructive about our relationship to animals. Feminist use of story telling often conveys the importance of this metaphorical relationship. This story telling suggests that as we consider the power for nuclear annihilation or for interpersonal cruelty based on rigid social mores, vegetarianism may point to a reordering of the patriarchal moral order.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Yes, that sound is annoying

Wherein testing

No, I don't know how to make it stop. I'll delete it later today.

Sunday 12:43am: OK, I made the bad noise go away.

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Molasses Disaster of January 15, 1919

Wherein I could have sworn I wrote something about this last year

One of the odder disasters as a giant wall of molasses kills 21 people. Since I'd just planned to link to the post I wrote last year, but can't find so maybe I didn't, I'll just link to Eric Postpischil's Molasses Disaster Pages.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Some people make scrapbooks, others write songs

Wherein I thought he was great in Undeclared

Mommytracksblog is compiling a list of parenting songs. ALOTT5MA links to it and I left a couple comments and songs there; and a good song is buried at the end of this post. Someone mentioned Loudon Wainwright's Rufus Was a Tit Man, which reminded me you could spend days analyzing parenting--both good and bad-- through the autobiographical songs of Loudon Wainwright III.

He's one of my favorite singers, and I thoroughly enjoy his shows, but he's probably not a great person. From a Guardian profile on the Wainwrights, Martha about her dad:
She has a more fractious relationship with her 58-year-old father, whom she has described as a man who wrote songs about his children instead of raising them. At concerts she sometimes introduces her visceral anthem Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole with the words, "This is a song about my dad."

Hard not to see her point. There are a number of his songs that are about her. In Loudon's Grown Man, she makes a vocal appearance on Father/Daughter Dialogue calling out him out:
Dearest Daddy with your songs
Do you hope to right your wrongs?
You can’t undo what has been done
To all your daughters and your son
The facts are in and we have found
That basically you’re not around
Dearest Daddy try as you might
All you are is just uptight

...and he weakly responds with:
Darling Daughter can’t you see
The guy singing the songs ain’t me
He’s someone people wish I was
What I can’t do this dude does

And if the songs seem slightly pat
I know life’s messier than that
They’re just songs and life is real
They’re just my version how I feel

Then there's That Hospital (from the same album), with a particularly uncomfortable passage about Martha:
I was there again 76
the wife was having a D&C
in the end she couldn't go through with it
so three left she and me
and that little girl who was born there
who escaped that scrape with fate
a months ago in Montreal I watched her graduate

I think he's getting off lucky if all Martha writes is BMFA. And--this is still from Grown Man; you could probably make a violent, bloody Opera based on the songs from Loudon/Rufus/Martha and half could come from this album---he clearly displays in a A Year that he learned nothing from his earlier children. I think I recall reading, during an article about Last Man on Earth, that he had reconciled with the mother and they were living together; but that was a long time ago. I wonder if family members have avoided Loudon throughout the years hoping not to embarrassingly end up in a song.

A Year,...a family song about the newest member of my family
The only time I've seen you was about a year ago
I was afraid to hold you but I wanted you to know
I touched your tiny perfect hand Before I went uptown
I didn't pick you up because I'd have to put you down

For reasons that don't make much sense and you won't understand
I've stayed away for your first year, it's sort of what I planned
I've been in your neighborhood, sometimes just blocks away
I didn't come to visit you because I couldn't stay

There was a baby on a plane maybe she was two
And she was smiling at me I was not sure what to do
I've kept my distance from you a year's much more than awhile
So I looked away from her too ashamed to smile.

When I saw you last year I knew that there was no mistake
Amazing things can happen why just look what life can make
But life can get so hard sometimes some feelings can't be tamed
And people get so angry frightened and ashamed

You've been a sort of secret for a year I've told but few
Although I'm sure that where you are so many must love you
I've passed by your window but haven't dared look in
Although I know I'd love you too I'm too scared to begin

Still, as dads go, that's still better than the father in the Violent Femmes' Country Death Song:
I led to her a hole
A deep black well
I said make a wish
Be sure and not tell
Close your eyes and count to seven
You know your poppa loves you
good children go to heaven
You know your poppa loves you
good children go to heaven
I gave her a push
I gave her a shove
I pushed with all my might
I pushed with all my love
I threw my child into a bottomless pit
She was screaming as she fell
But I never heard her hit

But is Loudon as involved in his children's lives as the father in Eminem's 97 Bonnie and Clyde:
we gonna take mommy for a wittle walk out on the pier
baby don't cry honey, don't get the wrong idea
mama's too sweepy to hear you screaming in her ear
that's why you can't get her to wake
but don't worry
da-da made a nice bed for mommy at the bottom of the lake
here, you wanna help da-da tie a rope around this rock
we'll tie it to her footsy, then we'll roll her off the dock
ready now, here we go, on the count of phree
1, 2, phree, weeeeeeee
there goes mama, spwashing in the water
no more fighting wit dad
no more restraining order
no more step da-da
no more brother
blow her kisses buh-bye
tell mommy you love her
now we'll go play in the sand, build a sand castle and junk
but first, just help dad with two more things out of the trunk

just. the. two. of. us...

That is one creepy song; especially when the only version I have is sung by Tori Amos. Anyway, back to Loudon Wainwright III. If all you've ever heard is Dead Skunk or I wish I was a lesbian, you've missed a lot of good songs and a lot of drama.


Pulling out the vinyl, I'm looking at Loudon's Attempted Mustache from 1973. This is a good good parent song. If I'd of remembered this I'd of played it when my daughter was born. As it was, she came into the world with a Pogues CD blaring. Which isn't bad.

Dilated to Meet You
We're wondering when you will arrive
We're wondering what you'll be
We're wondering if you'll be a her
Or if you'll be a he

Maybe you'll arrive today
Perhaps tomorrow night
We're hoping you won't be hurt too much
And that you'll be alright

Life has a few unpleasantries
We may as well confess
we suppose you'll cry a lot
And that you'll be a mess

There is one thing that you should note well
Of this there is no doubt
You cannot go inside again
Once you have come out

Even though there's trouble
Even though there's fuss
We really think you'll like it here
We hope that you'll like us

I think this speaks for itself

Wherein an example of damning with faint praise: "I believe it is the best version of Windows that Microsoft has produced."

Walter Mossberg reviews Windows Vista. Let's pull out a few quotes:
  • Nearly all of the major, visible new features in Vista are already available in Apple's operating system
  • it's been on the Macintosh for years
  • But unlike the Mac version...a stranger or a child using your PC could grant permission for something you yourself might not allow.
  • This is also already on the Macintosh
  • It apes some elements on the Macintosh
  • As on the Mac
  • It's like the Mac's excellent Exposé feature
  • Once again, this is awfully similar to a Macintosh feature
  • Like the Mac
  • As on the Mac
  • And Apple is about to leap ahead again
  • This is another feature introduced earlier by Apple

It's like sucking water through a dog

Wherein but that's an analogy--and gross--so it doesn't really apply

Interesting discussion on arguing with metaphors.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

January reading list

Wherein a list in progress

Notes, commentary, and quotes to follow. Finished:
  • The Ghost Map, Steven Johnson. See Mr. Johnson discuss the book (youtube)
  • D*U*C*K, Poppy Z. Brite. Limited edition novella available from Subterranean Press
  • Ultimate Punishment: A Lawyer's Reflections on Dealing with the Death Penalty, Scott Turow
  • The Tao of Pooh, Benjamin Hoff. He created a website to explain why he will no longer write books--publishers are evil.
  • The City of Falling Angels, John Berendt. Venetians were unhappy.
  • FrameMaker 7.0, Classroom in a Book, Adobe

The ambiguity is common in post-Neolithic cultures

Wherein this may be of interest to a few people. Not me, mind you...I'm just passing it along

I read it on Instapundit, so it must be true. George Clooney to develop Diamond Age or a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer, with Neal Stephenson to adapt his own book. Previous Diamond Age mentions on So Quoted:

So what is a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer, you may ask? Read on:
"Is the binding and so on what you had in mind? Hackworth said.

"Oh, yes," said Lord Finkle-McGraw. If I found it in an antiquarian bookshop, covered with dust, I shouldn't give it a second glance."

"Because if you were not happy with any detail," Hackworth said, "I could recompile it." He had come in hoping desperately that Finkle-McGraw would object to something; this might give him an opportunity to filch another copy for Fiona. But so far the Equity Lord had been uncharacteristically complacent. He kept flipping through the book, waiting for something to happen.

"It is unlikely to do anything interesting just now," Hackworth said. "It won't really activate itself until it bonds."


"As we discussed, it sees and hears everything in its vicinity," Hackworth said. "At the moment, it's looking for a small female. As soon as a little girl picks it up and opens the front cover for the first time, it will imprint that child's face and voice into its memory-"

"Bonding with her. Yes, I see."

"And thenceforth it will see all events and persons in relation to that girl, using her as a datum from which to chart a psychological terrain, as it were. Maintenance of that terrain is one of the book's primary processes. Whenever the child uses the book, then, it will perform a sort of dynamic mapping from the database onto her particular terrain."

"You mean the database of folklore."

Hackworth hesitated. "Pardon me, but not precisely, sir. Folklore consists of certain universal ideas that have been mapped onto local cultures. For example, many cultures have a Trickster figure, so the Trickster may be deemed a universal; but he appears in different guises, each appropriate to a particular culture's environment. The Indians of the American Southwest called him Coyote, those of the Pacific Coast called him Raven. Europeans called him Reynard the Fox. African-Americans called him Br'er Rabbit. In twentieth-century literature he appears first as Bugs Bunny and then as the Hacker."

Finkle-McGraw chuckled. "When I was a lad, that word had a double meaning. It could mean a trickster who broke into things– but it could also mean an especially skilled coder."

"The ambiguity is common in post-Neolithic cultures," Hackworth said. "As technology became more important, the Trickster underwent a shift in character and became the god of crafts– of technology, if you will– while retaining the underlying roguish qualities. So we have the Sumerian Enki, the Greek Prometheus and Hermes, Norse Loki, and so on.

"In any case," Hackworth continued, "Trickster/Technologist is just one of the universals. The database is full of them. It's a catalogue of the collective unconscious. In the old days, writers of children's books had to map these universals onto concrete symbols familiar to their audience– like Beatrix Potter mapping the Trickster onto Peter Rabbit. This is a reasonably effective way to do it, especially if the society is homogeneous and static, so that all children share similar experiences.

"What my team and I have done here is to abstract that process and develop systems for mapping the universals onto the unique psychological terrain of one child– even as that terrain changes over time. Hence it is important that you not allow this book to fall into the hands of any other little girl until Elizabeth has the opportunity to open it up."

"Understood," said Lord Alexander Chung-Sik Finkle-McGraw.

"I'll wrap it up myself, right now. Compiled some nice wrapping paper this morning." He opened a desk drawer and took out a roll of thick, glossy mediatronic paper bearing animated Christmas scenes: Santa sliding down the chimney, the ballistic reindeer, the three Zoroastrian sovereigns dismounting from their dromedaries in front of the stable. There was a lull while Hackworth and Finkle-McGraw watched the little scenes; one of the hazards of living in a world filled with mediatrons was that conversations were always being interrupted in this way, and that explained why Atlantans tried to keep mediatronic commodities to a minimum. Go into a thete's house, and every object had moving pictures on it, everyone sat around slackjawed, eyes jumping from the bawdy figures cavorting on the mediatronic toilet paper to the big-eyed elves playing tag in the bathroom mirror to ...

"Oh, yes," Finkle-McGraw said. "Can it be written on? I should like to inscribe it to Elizabeth."

"The paper is a subclass of both input-paper and output-paper, so it possesses all the underlying functionality of the sort of paper you would write on. For the most part these functions are not used–-beyond, of course, simply making marks where the nib of the pen has moved across it."

"You can write on it," Finkle-McGraw translated with some asperity, "but it doesn't think about what you're writing."

"Well, my answer to that question must be ambiguous," Hackworth said. "The Illustrated Primer is an extremely general and powerful system capable of more extensive self-reconfiguration than most. Remember that a fundamental part of its job is to respond to its environment. If the owner were to take up a pen and write on a blank page, this input would be thrown into the hopper along with everything else, so to speak."

"Can I inscribe it to Elizabeth or not?" Finkle-McGraw demanded.

"Certainly, sir."

Finkle-McGraw extracted a heavy gold fountain pen from a holder on his desk and wrote in the front of the book for a while.

"That being done, sir, there remains only for you to authorise a standing purchase order for the ractors."

"Ah, yes, thank you for reminding me," said Finkle-McGraw, not very sincerely. "I still would have thought that for all the money that went into this project--"

"That we might have solved the voice-generation problem to boot, yes sir," Hackworth said. "As you know, we took some stabs at it, but none of the results were up to the level of quality you demand. After all of our technology, the pseudo-intelligence algorithms, the vast exception matrices, the portent and content monitors, and everything else, we still can't come close to generating a human voice that sounds as good as what a real, live ractor can give us."

"Can't say I'm surprised, really," said Finkle-McGraw. "I just wish it were a completely self-contained system."

"It might as well be, sir. At any given time there are tens of millions of professional ractors in their stages all over the world, in every time zone, ready to take on this kind of work at an instant's notice. We are planning to authorise payment at a relatively high rate, which should bring in only the best talent. You won't be disappointed with the results."

kentrivia time

Wherein did you know the Whereins have appeared for over a year now? I'm getting a little tired of them. Perhaps I should change to Therefores or Wassups or Right Speedily.

You'll have to take my word for it, but I correctly guessed drummer for last week's #7. Now to this week's assortment of random guesses.
  1. At first I thought it said "Dondi" and I remembered reading that comic and while it wasn't very good I couldn't see why Ghandi would protest it, but I was 8 so what did I know. After rereading the question I see Kentrivia was going in a different direction. I'll guess musicals; that's the only explanation for the rise of Bollywood.
  2. From this is the modern derivation of "bar code." As we all know the bar code is the mark of the beast so the correct answer would have to be Satan. Sometimes people will refer to "minions of Satan" but that is not only wrong, it's an abominable misunderstanding and twisting of the language.
  3. Deuter, in the classic sense, was an honorable bodyguard of the 12 Century and the term signified self-sacrifice. For the more modern, Swayzefied usage it refers to an overwhelming and psychological need to kick ass.
  4. Denver and Arizona. But Phoenix is only 1000 feet above sea level and that should not qualify as a mountain. Even worse, looking at this list of U.S. States by elevation, Arizona is 12th. BY mean elevation, they do a little better at 7th. I suppose Arizona qualifies for Mountain Time, but just barely. I think their TV listings should come with an asterisk.
  5. Prior to WWI it was not entirely impolite to point your finger at another person. Politicians and children were noted for running around and jabbing their fingers in other people's business. Decrying a general breakdown of public morality, "Leslie's Weekly" commissioned a portrait of a stern, malnourished, poorly shaven drunk pointing his boney, low class (obviously Irish, probably Catholic) finger at America. Dutiably shamed, schools and churches soon began an antipointing campaign. This has held up over the decades--for the general population. With politicians, a backsliding has been noticed. You can see this in the "clenched-fist thumb point" politicians use for emphasis. The only explanation for why this only affects those running for public office would have to be the basic genetic defects that cause a person to raise money for the sole purpose of winning a job to pass laws to take more money. Basically thieves and liars without the common decency to rip you off behind your back. Let's not completely forget the poor parenting skills that cause these people to seek out public attention. And the pope.
  6. It must be asked: can a fictional character truly marry someone? I think not and fault Kentrivia for constructing such a nonsensical question. And "during the sack of Rome"? Shouldn't that be "in the sack of Rome" or even better, "in Rome's sack."
  7. Since the correct answer is very googleable and can be found here, I will not bore you by repeating said answer.

Today's kentrivia quiz was exceptionally easy.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Yes, yes there is

Wherein yawn

This might be my favorite comment on David Beckham joining the MSL (third down):
...Is there something seriously wrong with the fact that the soon to be highest earning footballer in the world, by threefold (possibly) on basic wage, won't even be able to make his international team?
Jamie, Derry

The NASL brought in retired, past their prime, international all-stars because U.S. soccer wasn't that great in the 1970s. Thirty years later, the NASL is long gone and the MSL operates as a very respectable 2nd-tier league. The better a U.S. player is the more the conventional wisdom says to ship him off to Europe for some real competition.

So does Beckham joining the MSL mean much? Other than the current media blitz and increased ticket sales for the LA galaxy, I doubt it. He's a fading talent who was never as good as his hype. Beckham is being paid for his celebrityness, not his talent; so what happens when it turns out he's no better than anyone else? Or worse, gets benched?

Maybe I'll be wrong and he'll lead the league in scoring. I doubt it and I doubt he'll make the Galaxy a better team. Let me rescind that last sentence a bit--the Galaxy was next to last in their division and, by points, tied for the third worst team in the league. So it would be hard to get much worse. How about:
  • Beckham won't compete for the scoring title, and
  • LA won't compete for the division title

But will more people watch soccer because of Beckham? Probably, at least initially, and I guess that's a good thing. Until they realize he isn't the second coming of Pele. Or Giorgia Chinaglia. Or even Ace Ntsoelengoe*. Personally, I don't find MLS soccer to be that enjoyable and most of my soccer viewing is spent on EPL games.

**Ace scored my favorite goal of all-time during the 1979 playoffs. Down by a game and a goal, the Kicks are pressing as time is running out. Awarded a corner kick with 15 seconds left, the ball curls towards the net only to be punched out by the keeper. However, the ball arches towards Ace, who--from 30 yards out--power volleys into the upper corner as time expires. Pandemonium. Unfortunately, they lost about 5 minutes into overtime when a direct kick sailed past midgety keeper Tino Lettieri. As I recall, he never moved until the ball hit net. Tino was a nice guy and a decent, if overly acrobatic, keeper, who got beat by a lot of shots he was too short to reach.

Whale shark dead, Atlanta police to be questioned

Wherein later I'll see if youtube has the video of the Atlanta cop body-slamming a 100-lb woman to the pavement because she wasn't moving her car fast enough; or read/look here

Ralph the whale shark dies. Read down to the eighth paragraph and there's this unexplained line: "Around 9:30 p.m., the uninsured whale shark abruptly died...." So I guess we can assume he wasn't knocked off for his money.

Other links:

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A shift in the universe

Wherein Cingular is a big negative

San Francisco Gate:
Shares of Apple rose more than 8.3 percent Tuesday to $92.57 per share on news of the iPhone. Meanwhile, competitors Palm, the Sunnyvale maker of the Treo smart phone, fell nearly 5.7 percent to $13.92 per share and Research in Motion dropped 7.85 percent to $131 per share.

John Gruber, of Daring Fireball, remembers a quote:
Remember back in November when Palm CEO Ed Colligan was quoted saying, with regard to a then-hypothetical Apple phone, “We’ve learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make a decent phone. PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They’re not going to just walk in.”

Guess what? They’re just walking in.

Gruber also linked to a one day graph of Apple's stock price graphed against Palm and RIM. His linked graph is updating so it doesn't show the stark reality of yesterday's end-of-day returns. But this snapshot of the last five days displays a definate change in the playing field. The Apple iPhone won't be out for another five months, yet everyone else is already playing catchup.

Friday, January 05, 2007

I Often Dream of Trains

Wherein Robyn Hitchcock is on tour. Dude, I am so there.

Matt Welch wrote an article about John McCain that generated many responses. He reviews them here. In his post, Welch writes:
And certainly I stand in awe at what he endured, with great spirit, in the name of our country. But just because someone is sympathetic and funny and able to withstand torture doesn't make him presidential material, or somehow off-limits to a critical examination of his political philosophy, such as it exists.

Good stuff, go read.

And while you're over there, check out his James Brown youtube links. Also good. Because I have a train theme to flesh out, I'll just steal his cool train videos. The second was left in the comments.

Chaiyya Chaiyya


Tom Waits

Train songs I own:
  1. Broken Train, Beck
  2. Different Trains, America - Before The War, Kronos Quartet
  3. Different Trains, Europe - During The War, Kronos Quartet
  4. Different Trains, After The War, Kronos Quartet
  5. Downtown Train, Tom Waits
  6. From A Late Night Train, The Blue Nile
  7. Ghost Train,Marc Cohn
  8. Ghost Train, Rickie Lee Jones
  9. Ghosttrain, Gorillaz
  10. Glory Train, Randy Newman
  11. Gospel Train, Tom Waits
  12. I Often Dream of Trains, Robyn Hitchcock
  13. I wanna be a train, Prudence Johnson and Gary Rue
  14. Like a Train, Ken Layne and the Corvids
  15. Night Train, James Brown
  16. Night Train, The Scofflaws
  17. Number 9 Train, Tarheel Slim
  18. Snaketrain, Stan Ridgway
  19. Thank You, Lord, For Sending Me The F Train, Mike Doughty
  20. The Getaway (Lonesome Train), Ray Davies
  21. The Memphis Train, Rufus Thomas
  22. The Train Carrying Jimmy Rodgers Home, Prudence Johnson
  23. The Train Kept A-Rollin', Tiny Bradshaw
  24. The Train Song, The Robustos
  25. The Woo Woo Train, Valentines
  26. This Train, Buckwheat Zydeco
  27. Train in Vain, The Clash
  28. Train Song, Tom Waits
  29. Wood and Dutch on the Slow Train to Peking, Rickie Lee Jones

Kim, Rudyard Kipling:
They entered the fort-like railway station, black in the end of night; the electrics sizzling over the goods-yard where they handle the heavy Northern grain-traffic.

'This is the work of devils!' said the lama, recoiling from the hollow echoing darkness, the glimmer of rails between the masonry platforms, and the maze of girders above. He stood in a gigantic stone hall paved, it seemed, with the sheeted dead third-class passengers who had taken their tickets overnight and were sleeping in the waiting-rooms. All hours of the twenty-four are alike to Orientals, and their passenger traffic is regulated accordingly.

'This is where the fire-carriages come. One stands behind that hole' -Kim pointed to the ticket-office - 'who will give thee a paper to take thee to Umballa.'

Lewis Carroll
Problem. — (1) Two travelers, starting at the same time, went opposite ways round a circular railway. Trains start each way every 15 minutes, the easterly ones going round in 3 hours, the westerly in 2. How many trains did each meet on the way, not counting trains met at the terminus itself? (2) They went round, as before, each traveler counting as “one” the train containing the other traveler. How many did each meet?

Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson:
The train climbs up out of the night and into a red-brick arroyo, headed northwards out of the city. It is about three in the afternoon; that special BP train must have been carrying swing shift gals.

Waterhouse has the feeling he will not be working anything like a regular shift. His duffel bag—which was packed for him—is pregnant with sartorial possibilities: thick oiled-wool sweaters, tropical-weight Navy and Army uniforms, black ski mask, condoms.

The train slowly pulls free of the city and passes into a territory patched with small residential towns. Waterhouse feels heavy in his seat, and suspects a slight uphill tendency. They pass through a cleft that has been made across a low range of hills, like a kerf in the top of a log, and enter into a lovely territory of subtly swelling emerald green fields strewn randomly with small white capsules that he takes to be sheep.

Of course, their distribution is probably not random at all—it probably reflects local variations in soil chemistry producing grass that the sheep find more or less desirable. From aerial reconnaissance, the Germans could draw up a map of British soil chemistry based upon analysis of sheep distribution.

Two Trains Running, August Wilson

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

I've often used gentile beets

Wherein spellcheck would vastly improve readability

From Kottke's Best Links 2006 is this review of the Xbox 360:
DONKEYE-KYNGE: Yn thys game, ye playe a peasaunt who hath yn his care a smal donkeye. Ye use the gentil beeste to dryve yower carte and to transporte donge, for which ye are payde ful litel, and yet ye muste kepe obeiant and meke to wards the bettir and mower substantiale menne of yower village. At the ende of XX minutes, a purveyor of the kinge cometh and taketh aweye the donkey, and the ye, the pesaunte, are sesed wyth despayr and do falle deed. Then ye, the playere, are rankid by how manye piles of donge ye hauen transportid and wyth howe much meekeness.

Speaking of spellcheck, here's what happens if you accept all of MS Word's spelling suggestions:
Donkey king Yen this game, ye played a peas aunt who hath yen his care a small donkey. Ye use the gentile beets to drive lower carte and to transported dongle, for which ye are payee full lintel, and yet ye muster keep obeisant and meek to wards the better and mower substantial mane of lower village. At the ended of XX minutes, a purveyor of the king cometh and teeth away the donkey, and the ye, the peasant, are sensed with despair and do fallen deed. Then ye, the player, are rancid by how many piles of dongle ye haven transported and with Howe much meekness.

But that's still too much to read, so let's autosummarize to 10 percent of the new version:
Donkey king Yen this game, ye played a peas aunt who hath yen his care a small donkey.

Rancid piles of dongles...reminds me it's time to get back to work.

Monday, January 01, 2007

From 2006

Wherein I propose we move New Years to the first weekend in August. First, this Sunday/Monday thing sucks ass. Two, instead of an ending and a beginning, January 1 seems to be the middle of just about everything. Three, I forget what three is for.

Albums purchased/sampled in 2006. Not that many. I'm finding it harder and harder to be interested in much of anything. In reverse order.
  1. Santastic II: Clausome. A mashup collection of Christmas music. Some not so good, some interesting, a couple that are good, then there's Jingle Jane. A very cool collage pasted around Smokey Robinson and The Miracles AND The Velvet Underground, it's instantly become one of my holiday favorites.
  2. Christmas is 4 Ever, Bootsy Collins. What's particularly nice about this album is he obviously put some effort into it. Not everything works, but what does work is just a funky jam sandwich. Since December 4, I have played Boot-Off (AKA Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer) 21 times.
  3. Briefcase Full of Blues, Blues Brothers. Because it is fun.
  4. Sean Na Na. Downloaded four songs by the band from the guy who is Har Mar Superstar. Nah, not enough there to get me to spend money.
  5. Ultimate Collection: Jesse Johnson, Jesse Johnson. Because I was missing a bunch of his songs. One of the lost treasures of 80s R&B.
  6. Live At the Brushwood Lounge, Patrice Pike. Discovered her on that Rock Star show. Though she was completely wrong for what was revealed to be a joke of a band, she impressed me and this album is a treat. It's from 2004, but she does have a 2006 CD I forgot to buy. She's the only member of this summer's show I purchased music from--I spent money on three performers from Rock Star: INXS.
  7. Oh No, OK Go. The guys with the video done on treadmills. It was clever and inventive and the song was kinda good. Bought the album and enjoyed.
  8. Wendy and Lisa, Wendy and Lisa. Again, another lost treasure from the 80s. My cassette of this album disintegrated decades ago.
  9. Victor Vito, Laurie Berkner. We were missing one of her CDs, now the set is complete. If you have kids Laurie is an Oasis in a desert of bad music.
  10. *********, *******. This album to remain unnamed was gifted from a person to remain unnamed. I haven't quite come to terms with this album. Despite it being loud and bluesy bar music it just doesn't work for me. I think it's the singer. During the solos I find myself cranking the volume, then turning it back down for the vocals. When a song pops up during shuffle play I'll usually say "this is good, who is it?" Guess it works better for me in small bites. Does track 5 have a different lead singer? Might be my favorite.
  11. Too-Rye-Ay, Dexy's Midnight Runners. The band's Stand Me Down is one of my favorite albums and I'd read a few things about the band and Kevin Rowland. I think I was going to write something about them, then forgot. Anyway, I downloaded this to see if it was as good as I remembered. It is. Come On Eileen tends to get a lot of crap, but I think that's mostly to it's being played to death. It's quite a good pop song. A lot of the music in the early 80s tended towards the dour and/or the heavy use of synthesizers. Not that this was necessarily bad; my record collection is filled with this stuff. But Dexy's unbridled Northern Soul enthusiasm was and is a treat. Stand Me Down is still a masterpiece, but this ain't half bad.
  12. I like Giants, Kimya Dawson. Forgot about this. Heard I Like Giants and looked it up. Loved the fast-paced monotone delivery. One of my favorite songs of the year, but I never got around to buying a CD.
  13. The Little Willies, The Little Willies. Favorite CD of the year., I'm no fan of country music, but I kept coming back to this collection of Western swing all year. Never paid much attention to Norah Jones, now I want to buy her CDs. Not a damn thing bad about this.
  14. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee , Original Cast Recording. Enjoyable. Missed it when The Alliance opened their season with it.
  15. From Croydon To Cuba... An Anthology, Kirsty MacColl. Excellent collection of music by a singer who never did much in the U.S. other than appear on a couple of Pogues songs. See Justice For Kirsty.
  16. James Brown's Original Funky Divas, Lyn Collins, Marva Whitney, Vicki Anderson, James Brown, and others. Found this looking for Lyn Collins' Think (About It). It's a collection of 46 songs featuring women produced by James Brown. Never knew this existed and that isn't right.
  17. Whatever and Ever Amen (Remastered Edition), Ben Folds Five. Song for the Dumped is worth the price of admission.
  18. Romance 1600, Sheila E. Bought for A Love Bizarre. Some of the rest is ok.
  19. Other People's Lives, Ray Davies. Uneven.
  20. Faust, Randy Newman. Already owned this, but found that the version on iTunes came with about 20 aditional demo tracks. Neat stuff with Randy explaining what the characters are doing.
  21. Marty Casey & Lovehammers, Marty Casey & Lovehammers. Marty Casey was on Rock Star: INXS and his Trees was one of my favorite 2005 songs. This is ok, a little too Soundgardenish for my ears. A little too much studio smoothing.

That's it. Buncha music I probably would've liked, just never got around to it.

An updated 1000 Years of Popular Music

Wherein "Orange Coloured Sky" has become a household favorite

Richard Thompson has produced an updated concert of his 1,000 Years of Popular Music. Now available as a concert DVD and 2-CD audio collection. Sound quality is vastly improved and a number of the performances are better. The song list has changed, so you get some new songs. From the concert introduction to Oops!...I Did It Again:
This is a song by what may be considered a rather crass pop artist. Just my kind of person. It's kind of a classic pop song and if we just take it out of the original hands and give it a slightly different interpretation perhaps we can reveal it's splendor. Also, strangely enough, its chord sequence is reminescent of other centuries and just for a bit towards the end we'll play it in the style of the 16th century. Just to show that everything comes around again.

Songs on the first CD not on this one
Notes by Richard Thompson
  • When I Am Laid In Earth. From Dido and Aeneas, by Henry Purcell. Aeneas has been tricked away to war by the witches, and Queen Dido, in despair, is about to kill herself. First performed at a School For Gentlewomen in Chelsea in 1689.
  • Waiting at the Church. Written and performed by the great Vesta Victoria. A Music Hall classic from 1906.
  • Why Have My Loved Ones Gone?. Did Stephen Foster's love of Black music help prolong racial stereotypes or break down the barriers? This seems a more personal song. He died in New York in poverty, having given away his copyrights.
  • Old Rocking Chair's Got Me. I love my old version of this by Louis Armstrong, duetting with the author, Bloomington, Indiana's finest, Hoagy Carmichael.
  • The Fool. Originally by Sanford Clark.
  • Legal Matter. From the days when The Who were just the best band in town. Kings of the Marquee Club in Wardour Street, and Pete was writing great three minute pop songs.
  • Kiss. Strategically sung about an octave lower than Prince, one of the best pop songs of the 80s, by one of the best artists.
  • Money. Clever arranging and composing ideas from Bjorn and Benny, behind the disco façade.
  • It Won't Be Long.The greatest pure pop of the 20th century, from the fortuitous alliance of John and Paul and the other George (Martin).
  • Marry, Ageyn Hic Hev Donne Yt. Anonymous fragment from the 13th century, possibly from Brittany, to bring us full circle.

New songs
  • Bonnie St. Johnstone. c 17th C, traditional. The tune is from Songs of the North, Volume 2, a Victorian collection. The words are collated from many versions. From the 'Cruel Mother' family of ballads.
  • O Sleep Fond Fancy. 1590, written by Thomas Morley. A three-part madrigal, being a part-song for several voices, unaccompanied. This type of madrigal Morley described as a Canzonet--"a little short song wherein little art can be shewed; being made in strains...and every strain repeated except the middle." Morley was also the composer of the favourite setting of "It Was a Lover And His lass" in Shakespeare's As You Like It.
  • Remember O Thou Man. Thomas Ravenscroft. From the Lelismata (1611) - this carol reprinted in Chappell's Popular Music of Olden Time. It may have been merely collected, or updated, by Ravenscroft.
  • Java Jive. 1940, written by Ben Oakland and Milton Drake. Milton Drake wrote songs for many films including My little Chickadee, For Whom The Bell Tolls, and The Big Stone. He composed the lyrics for "Mairzy Doats." Ben Oakland played piano at Carnegie Hall at the age of none, and wrote, directed, and produced shows for artists as Jeanette MacDonald, Josephine Baker, and Nanette Fabray. The Ink Spots were previously known as The Riff Brothers and The Percolating Puppiess!
  • Night and Day. 1932, Cole Porter. from The Gay Divorcee. Originally sung in the stage production by Fred Astaire. This song was apparently inspired by Porter's feelings for choreographer Nelson Barclift.
  • A-11.1963, Hank Cochran. Cochran was in a teenage duo, "The Cochran Brothers" with Eddie Cochran, even though they were unrelated! He wrote many country hits, including "I fall To Pieces" for Patsy Cline. "A-11" was a hit for Buck Owens.
  • See My Friends. 1965, Ray Davies. Inspired by a stopover in Bombay in 1965. Ray Davies was moved by the droning song of fishermen on the beach at dawn. Dave Davies cites an influence from Davy Graham. Usually considered the first "oriental" pop song.
  • Friday on my Mind. 1966, George Young and Harry Vanda. The easybeats were an Australia-based band composed of three Brits and two Dutch nationals, including ex-Mojo drummer Godon "Snowy" Fleet. This is one of the classic Merseybeat era pop songs.
  • 1985. 2004, Jaret reddick, John Allen, and Mitchell Scherr. from that fine band, Bowling For Soup, self-stled drunk-rockers and fat guys, from Wichita Falls, Texas.