Thursday, December 28, 2006

Morph the Cat

I've been meaning to post about Donald Fagen's recent offering, Morph the Cat.

When I first spun it up, I liked it, but wasn't blown away. Yet "Morph" proved to be one of the albums that "snuck up on me." I kept humming the tunes. I kept putting it back on the player. Finally, I played it twice in a row, which means I really, really like it, Sally.

I think it's one of the best things he's done since Steely Dan closed up shop for awhile in the early 80s after Gaucho. I've dug the occasional tune, like "Cousin Dupree," and of course The Nightfly was all-around good. I just think this is better.

Terry Teachout has mentioned it a few times as a great album, so I'm basically seconding his (e)motion.

Now, if you decide to get it, let me implore you to get the version I linked to above that includes a DVD version of the album in addition to the CD. This is a new and very welcome trend. The Beatles have done it with their recent Love mash-up. I think this is gonna be the way the industry goes, rather than DualDiscs, which don't fit in those slot-loading players.

I recommend that every time you are going to buy an album, see if they have the DVD combo. The sound is nothing short of stunning. If you've not treated yourself to one of these discs, you should.

Tres Cool

ice men by Nele azavedo
ice men by Nele azavedo,
originally uploaded by Lemoox.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Yeah, like that.

So I vault into the holiday season with a new Stephen King tucked under my arm, repeatedly vandalized Christmas reindeer display repaired yet again, happy kids in tow, up to the mountains to have a wondrously good time.

Colorado gets a record snowstorm so we can barely get around, and half a day is consumed by getting chains for the tires of the mommyvan. Then, after our one outing that neither child enjoyed, MPC2 - the two-year-old - power vomits at a restaurant (the only one open - literally) at the exact same moment the plates arrive at the table. Poor dear proceeds to hurf for the next 13 hours. Supermom prevents her from dehydration by staying up all night and spoon-feeding her water, but child is rendered a pale and limp rag after 24 hours, at which point we end up trapped due to the snow tsunami, but it works out since MPC2 could use just a day to rest.

The King,Lisey's Story, was my least favorite of King's ever. Once in a while King experiments with other genres and styles, some of which are amazing, like The Eyes of the Dragon, which he wrote for his daughter. This one - "Lisey" - is a dud a far as I'm concerned. Like someone on Amazon said, King has written some bad books, but he's never been boring before. Someone else said that it picked up after the first section, about 100 page in. They were wrong. Give this one a pass folks.

After we got back, I caught up on my web surfing, and turned up some fun stuff:

This clever parody of the atheist fundie Richard Dawkins: Professor Richard Dawkins Speaks at Fair Hills Kindergarten Regarding Santa Claus, December 2, 2006. (Via

I think Dawkins would be happier if someone got him this t-shirt.

Checking in with Dear Prudence, whose advice column is not to be missed, I happed upon her "best of 2006" article, which featured all the hell she got from folks by actually suggesting to a woman who'd turned up pregnant to - get this - go ahead and have the child. Oh, the wailing and gnashing of teeth! Oh, the slings and arrows flung at we breeders. Oh, go read it yourself!

I think those people need to watch more cartoons and just chill the heck out. (Be sure to watch "The Big Snit" and "The Cat Came Back.")

Oh, the in-laws came for Christmas dinner. We have about as much in common as duck-billed platypus(es) and actual ducks do, so usually it's a minor ordeal for me. However, pops-in-laws had some good one-liners. We were discussing all the vegetarians we know, and he said, "Here's a vegans breastfeed?" I had a good snort over that.

Finally, some perspective.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Scads of Free Music

If you didn't get any new music for Christmas (Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, etc.), then let me help you out.

This site is offering 2 CDs worth of free songs, in two handy zip files no less. (Via Free is good. From a brief preview, my verdict is: Some good stuff in there, certainly something for everyone. Worth the time to suck down the bits.

Also, Santa brought me a $25 mp3 player that holds 256 Mb of songs (which is 60 to 70 songs, depending on size and sample rate, or for old fogies like me, about 5 CDs worth of songs). Well, Windows 98 wouldn't recognize the drive, so I went out to the manufacturer's page for a software fix, which they had, bless'em. But, ensconced at the bottom of the page is a link to restore the music that the player is pre-loaded with (though it looks like they spliffed and didn't include the last 7 songs, oh well). It's of the "chill out" variety which I love; think muzak crossed with Windam Hill. Nice to read by, write by, and hang on a lazy day by.

There ya have it, at least 3 CDs of free tunage.

Merry belated Christmas (Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, etc.)!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Well, the Yahmdallah clan is heading for the mountains this week. We got the pet sitter set up, neighbors watching the house for suspicious activity and deer vandalization. Cooler's loaded. Sled's fueled. Etc.

We'll be back by Christmas, but just wanted to alert you to no updates whilst we Vay-Kay.

So, let me leave you with this: Entertainment Weekly has an article about the permutations of the 2nd favorite Christmas song these days, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."

Apparently the original version was kinda bleak, but Judy Garland ... ah, but that would be giving it away.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Oh, deer!

Someone rather cleverly vandalized one of our Christmas yard displays this evening.

Our neighbors across the street called and registered their offense at the sight, then burst out laughing.
Recent Media Consumption

Inside Man
Well, finally, Spike Lee has tackled a straight-ahead commercial film and proven he can bat it out of the park. This is not a great movie, but it's a darned good one. I've always admired Lee's prowess as a director in the way he can tell a story via camera movement, editing, etc. But his topics have usually left me ambivalent because they're ham-handed diatribes about race - though sometimes uses sexual politics as a guise. Now maybe She's Gotta Have It and Malcolm X can escape that generalization, but not may others until this film.

Another first for this film is that Jodie Foster plays a completely unlikable character; a first, I think, for her.

Inside Man is worth the rental and the viewing time, imvho, and will make for a nice evening. Let's hope Lee gets more regular gigs in between his after school specials.

TLD: Let me say this, though. I understand why Lee made a lot of the movies he did, and I think he achieved a lot of his goals. He accomplished substantive changes in Hollywood that were sorely needed. However, the movies themselves don't often stand on their own as good entertainments unto themselves. That's all I'm saying.

The Police - Everyone Stares
Stewart Copeland, the drummer extraordinaire for the famed demised band, bought himself a Super 8mm camera in the band's early days and started filming when the mood struck, eventually amassing an interesting document about the genesis of a major rock group from touring holiday inns to headlining arenas. It really does give you the feel for the change in their surroundings as he captures the first time they're mobbed by fans (when up to that point they've only been timidly approached by fans during record signings in stores) to when they essentially live in a bubble away from most of the rest of the world.

Highlights are Copeland's brief and to-the-point summaries and bon-mots. For instance, the one about such quandaries regarding band member roles in music videos that are not set on a stage during a performance. See, the singer has the job of mouthing the words, the guitarist can pretend to play the guitar, but what does the drummer do? "Jerk around a bit and mostly look like a dick," according to Stewart.

For music fans this is a must-see. Copeland remixed and in some cases re-imagined old Police tracks, so the music side of the movie is intriguing and something that you've not quite heard before. I hope there's a soundtrack someday. (For now, their live set that contains a concert from their early days and one from their height of fame days will have to suffice; one of my favorite live sets ever.)

For folks looking for a riveting movie experience, this is not the entertainment for you. (See "Stop Making Sense" by the Talking Heads for that.) But, for those who want a peek into what it's like to become a huge rock band through the intimate device of home movies, you'll walk away happy.

R.E.M. - And I Feel Fine...: The Best of the I.R.S. Years 1982-1987

If you like R.E.M., 'specially the early years, this set should be a wet dream. The song selection achieves the perfect balance between the actual "hits", the fan favorites, and the band favorites. A rare feat for a hits package. On top of that, this one of the best remastering jobs I've come across.

There is no entire career retrospective in one set from these guys, yet (but you can bet it's forthcoming if they're remastering, more on that in a bit), so if you want all their hits, you have to buy "In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003", too.

"R.E.M. - And I Feel Fine...: The Best of the I.R.S. Years 1982-1987" replaces the previous early hits compilation "Eponymous."

Fans should purchase this immediately.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Polymorphously perverse post on religion

The other day a buddy dropped by, and we ended up talking briefly about religion. And I said, "I wish that I could just discuss my views on religion openly on my blog."

But in hindsight, I realize two things, 1) it's so unnecessary because being the adherent of a particular faith kinda says it all in the first place, 2) when I do want to, there's enough stuff out there on the web that just covers it better than any nouns and verbs I could rub together to attempt to make a point.

I found this nice little comparison of the "Abrahamic" religions (the big three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christanity, and Islam), which is one of the better thumbnail guides I've ever seen. My only quibble is the supposed Christian view of "human nature" as "tendency towards evil." I don't think that's the larger view we hold, nor did my buddy. Other than that, it's a gem.

On that same site is a great rundown of the facts and fiction in Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. Especially nice is the tweaking of the central premise of the book:
- In The Da Vinci Code: A child of Jesus would undermine the critical notion of Christ's divinity and therefore the Christian Church, which declared itself the sole vessel through which humanity could access the divine.
- In Reality: Not necessarily. Official Christian teaching is that Jesus was fully God and fully man - if he had a child, it would be part of his humanity and would not necessarily endanger his divinity.

So there. (For the record, I enjoyed the book, because even though Brown may not be Shakespeare, he certainly knows how to put together a thriller. The movie was dull.)

At a party this weekend, some friends who are what I'd classify as (and they'd probably agree with me) non-denominational pagans were shocked that Christianity is the most popular religion in the world. I was shocked that they were shocked. But, nonetheless it made me look it up again, and here is the rundown of religions by adherents, if you're interested.

This year I had to request that the Mormon church excommunicate me because they would not stop harassing us at home.

I originally joined the church because the girl I was dating at the time said I had to be Mormon to marry her, which I thought I was going to do, so I started the classes.

Well, the relationship went bust, and what I was learning struck me as a big a pile of hooey as Scientology does (Joey and Ronny clearly made it all up; one for glory and chicks, the other for glory and cash, respectively).

So I showed up to my baptism with the intent to call it off, but they got real pushy, and I thought I'd get out of there faster if I just went along with it. There I was, in my white cotton clothes they provided, standing waist-deep in the baptismal font, looking at the cute, recently-dipped girls standing there in their wet and transparent white cotton clothes, vacillating between asking forgiveness for pervy thoughts and allowing myself to be baptized into a false religion.

Alas, my brilliant idea that going through with it would be the path of least resistance was way wrong. Those buggers showed up at my door everywhere I moved, and always ran down the list of where I'd been previously, just to show me they always knew where I was, the freaks. When I was single, it was just entertaining, particularly the time I asked them in and showed them verse and scripture as to why their religion was specifically something Jesus would've had a conniption fit about. They told me in the nicest way I've ever heard that I was going straight to hell.

And I thought that was the end of that.

But no, these two kids in their early twenties started showing up at my door this spring because they just built a HUGE temple in our town. (We hiss at it every time we drive by.) They said things to my wife like, "Did your husband ever tell you he was a member of our church?" and things even more inappropriate. Well, interrupting me in the middle of sitcom and a cold one is one thing, but scaring my wife is another.

One night, the doorbell rang, and there they were again. To say I put the fear of God in them would be to understate it a bit. I even used the phrase "if you ever darken my door again..."! I've never come unglued like that on anyone, especially a stranger. They were as white as their cotton shirts by the time they scampered away.

But that didn't take care of it. No, I had to formally request, via letter, excommunication from the local "Bishop." He even sent me an "are you sure?" letter, as if I were asking to close a computer program without saving. I shot back a "hell yeah" with a few "please insure your ilk never bother me again" hosannas.

Even after all of that, I got an invitation to a local "reading group" and found the titles a bit odd (didn't bother to go look them up first), and just called the number. Sure enough, it was the Mormons just wanting me to join their reading group, just a friendly little get-together with no pressure. I asked them if they were aware of my excommunication and my request for no further contact. Reluctantly, and belligerently, they said they did. I then inquired as to what it would take for them to leave me the hell alone. They said I didn't have to be rude about it.

I'm pretty sure this is close to the facial expression I had at that point.

Y'know, I appreciate the efforts some folks are trying to make to ensure we don't vilify Islam needlessly because of the actions of some of its followers. And, yes, the actions of a few do not represent the views of the majority, maybe. (Though this woman begs to differ, and I found her book convincing.) Yet, when it comes down to it, can you really deal with people who send hit squads after each other's children? It's the very definition of depravity.

Finally, this article by Ben Stein (former Nixon speech writer and the monotone-voiced guy who during roll call said the famous lines, "Bueller....Bueller") put the star on top of the tree for me this Christmas season. I hope you enjoy it, too.

Oh, and Merry Christmas!
Bashing Moment

This one's too crude for even this blog, but for those of you who aren't bothered by immensely crude humor, here's one for the books.

The punchline kills me: "You have lived more in that one moment than anyone else in their entire lives"

Monday, December 11, 2006

Definition of "clueless"

Or maybe just obtuse.

Here's a quip from Salon's "The Fix" on Mel Gibson's latest offering:

It may have gotten mostly lousy reviews (Salon critic Andrew O'Hehir called it "relentlessly gruesome, visually impressive and ultimately not very interesting"), but Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto" still grabbed the top spot at this weekend's box office, though its take of $14.2 million is nothing close to last year's "Passion of the Christ" opening weekend of $76.2 million.

So, a movie about Aztecs hunting down an escaped sacrifice to the sun god didn't open as well as a movie about Jesus Christ.


Wonder why.

Friday, December 08, 2006


Well, I've been ruminating over a post about the recent trip I took to Florida for a convention on my particular (peculiar) profession. Y'know how some things seem like they will be great fodder for a post, but it never seems to quite gel? That's the case here, so here are the disjointed "greatest hits" that I wasn't able to work into a greater whole.

The elevators at the hotel we stayed were wired backwards. There were two elevators on each side of the lobby, and if you pushed the button on the south side, the north side doors would open, and vice versa. All day you'd see groups of people waiting for the elevator make the trek across the lobby to get the elevator on the other side. There was a person stationed at a desk who watched this all day. Finally I went up to him and said, "Have you noticed the elevator buttons are wired backwards?" He seemed legitimately surprised by the observation, even though he sat there all day watching folks go to and fro.

The trip took place during the election, so the TV news in Florida was brewing with nothing but the local controversies and bias. Florida is uber-republicanland, so you can imagine - Fox news everywhere, all the time. What was striking was how localized it was, as if the rest of the country didn't exist, and how little it had in common with the topics that were hot in Colorado.

We, of course, had to do Disneyland with the chilluns. It was mostly fun, so know that whilst I dive into the things that weren't so great. (The rides really are unlike anything else anywhere else.)

Most amusement parks have gone to this ridiculous practice of selling "premium access" tickets that allow the purchaser to jump to the head of the line. So on all the popular rides, we, the unwashed peasants, got to watch as Marie and the Antoinettes walked past in the walkway built just for them. It was especially galling when you'd be at the front of the peasant line and these croutons would walk up hop into the seat that should've been yours. That alone has assured the fact that the Yahmdallah clan will not be attending amusement parks very often in the future (our local one does that, too).

Disneyworld is huge, of course; you have to take 3 forms of transportation just to be delivered a city block away from the front gates. It's divided up into "worlds." Futureworld, frontierland, fantatsyland, etc. Well, each of those worlds typically has only one major food place that has something besides popcorn or pretzels. There are two restaurants at the front of the park, but you have to get advance reservations for those. So, we literally could not get anything to eat other than popcorn from 11:00 AM until 11:00 PM that night after we'd left and found a restaurant near the hotel. The baby had breast milk to subsist on, but the rest of us were beyond famished. Now, how come they can't figure out they don't have enough food places when the lines to each are over 30 people deep at all times, and the minimum wait was over a half hour. At Seaworld, the wait just to buy a soda from a cart was 45 minutes.

And they wonder why they're going broke. (And there's a master's thesis for someone - the politics of standing in line, and the results of hour long waits for a drink and letting the wealthy skip past everyone in line for the rides.)

UPDATE: Sleemoth tells me had I merely done my homework, I could have procurred the golden ticket without extra cost to moi. See comments for details. Thanks Sleemoth!

One of the more pleasant aspects of the trip was the flights. No kidding. We got major deals on Southwest, and were a little concerned about the "first come, first serve" seating, but actually, it made things nicer. You could move away from those people who harmed your soul. And our baby let out a few ear-splitting cries on the return flight as she was fussy (maybe the no food for a day thing had changed mom's milk), and we saw the seats around us empty out. Yay for them. But the seats themselves were the most comfortable I've encountered outside of first class (the one time I've been there via a lucky upgrade).

The best part, however, was the crew. They were allowed to have a sense of humor! When I worked for an airline, everything was deadly serious and any levity around passengers was shunned. (I have that situation, again, btw, in my current IT job. We've got a buffoon kinda high up who considers any levity to be a mark of unprofessionalism. Yes, he's an asshole in the first degree.)

On the flight out, as we were taxiing toward the gate after landing, the pilot came on the com and announced he had lost a bet and had to sing us a song. I thought he was kidding, but no, he began warbling away, and his voice wasn't half bad.

On the flight back, as the flight attendant was announcing all the safety stuff she threw in little bon mots that illustrated just how many people ignore said announcements. Only a few of us snickered. Here's a sample:

"We don't anticipate a sudden depressurization of the cabin, or we wouldn't have come to work today. However, should such an event occur, oxygen masks will (yadda yadda). Ladies, for those of you traveling with small children, please secure your own mask before assisting your husband with his."

The end result is that I've once again affirmed I do not like to travel if it involves any sort of waiting in line for anything (check-in, security, food). I think the Yahmdallah clan has officially moved into the era of short trips in the mommyvan to interesting places that can be reached within daylight hours.
Area 51

My wife sometimes chides me for being something of a conspiracy nut.

I don't think a lone gunman killed Kennedy, for instance.

For another instance, even though I don't believe that aliens are secretly visiting the earth and abducting people to perform proctology exams, I love most of the "X-Files" TV series, and recently bought the brilliant DVD collections of the "mythology" that gathers the "aliens among us" story arc from the series into one cogent group. (Like Whiskey, I think the series jumped the green shark when David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson left the series to be replaced by Terminator 2.0 and Xena: Warrior Princess (though the two did give it the old college try). I love the "X-Files" for its exploration of conspiracy theory and the mechanisms behind it/them all. It makes my conspiracy nut dendrites twinkle. (And, FWIW, there may be aliens out there, but I doubt we will see them in our lifetimes because their planet, should it/any exist, began most likely at the same time ours did, so how could they be that much further ahead of us? This is based on the assumption that only life forms similar to ourselves (or at least some variant from the amazing diversity evidenced during the "Cambrian explosion") can and would form via evolution, given the known components of our universe.)

But I digress...

Back when all the wingnut falderol whipped up around Clinton, where they spent years and millions trying to nail him with something so the Republicans could have their tit-for-tat Nixon revenge experience, I kept fuming to anyone who would listen as to why the press wasn't tearing the those pultroons a new one. Clinton was a popular president, save for the wingnuts. It was so clearly a witchhunt, but only the right wing echo chamber was getting airplay. The lack of journalistic response on the opposing side just didn't make sense. Also, Newt Gingrinch (yes, that's on purpose) and his little revolution seemed like so much BS from guys who really were just selfish, grubby, and mean-spirited bastards, rather than guys who honestly wanted to improve America. The chirping of crickets that accompanied that whole clusterfandango astounded me.

Well, now some journalistic mea culpas are quietly beginning to surface from the various media outlets. The majority of the journalist world still has the 'tude articulated by Lily Tomlin when she played an operator for AT&T: "We don't care. We don't have to." But it's nice to see some of those who don't assume the rest of us are stupid and unworthy beginning to fess up.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden of Making Light has constructed a great anthology of this occurrence in a post entitled "Why I blog".

Usually, I don't feel the need to be pushy about exhorting you to follow a link, because any links I provide are done so merely for your pleasure should the topic tickle your interest. However, this time, I think this one has enough importance and gravity (and it's fun, btw, this is not a homework assignment) that you owe it to yourself to at least give it a glance, even if right now it doesn't seem to be something you'd typically read.
Check Out the One Where Superman Guiltily Visits Tinkerbelle for a Little Lift.

Fanfic is almost always unbearable, but sometimes fan art can be illuminating. Here's a collective of artist who compete drawing iconic fictional characters.
Mr. "Purple" Nirpal
offers some opine on "How feminism destroyed real men."

Here's an excerpt:
"The female orgasm is the natural mechanism by which men assert dominion over women: a man who appreciates this can negotiate whatever difficulties arise in his relationships with them.

Last Christmas, my wife threw me out after discovering I'd been cheating on her. On the night we got back together, I made strong, passionate love to her. Unfaithful as I'd been, I was not going to let her have me over a barrel for the rest of our marriage. I needed to keep a sense of self and not allow her to mire me in guilt and a desperate quest of forgiveness."

This dude is confusing being a mean bastard with having strength. Real men don't cheat on their wives or have to play wolf pack dominance games to be good in bed.

Y'know, I'll readily agree that what gender feminism proffers as "the sensitive, new-age man" is silly at best and disastrous at worst, because the punchline is that nearly none of those kind of women want men in the first place.

But this guy was exactly the type shithead who helped put those goofy ideas in their man-hating heads in the first place (and in cases like Purple Nirpal here, it's justified).

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Parts is Parts

I've been meaning to hunt up this commercial for a while.

Having watched it again after all these years, I still think it rates as the best commercial ever.

I love the way the guy says "fused."

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

I think it may be official

The Flaming Lips might just be the best band in the world right now.

Via digg.

In other news, the big labels have a rule now that they will not sign anyone over the age of 25. Just one more slouch towards the grave for those guys.