Thursday, January 25, 2007

Cat Power

This made me laugh pretty hard.
Ya ever wonder...

...if the music industry has any freakin' idea how to sell music?

According to this article, they're blocking songs made in Japan from American consumers. The hell?

"No, you can't have the song you want!" Is this the direction the music industry feels is right and good? And I bet they still wonder why they're tanking.

I also like the point of Japan being a nirvana for music geeks.

I've probably never made a more embarrassing admission on the web about my vast and eclectic musical tastes than the one I'm about to make.

I really really wanted a replacement to the soundtrack from the Robby Benson bassetball movie One on One after the old cassette tape I had gave out. Any given song from the much loathed High School Musical has more hair on its balls than this entire soundtrack, being the product of Paul Williams and Seals & Crofts, but dammit I liked it. However, not a single print was available in America. A buddy of mine was living in Japan at the time and came across it in a record store over there and snagged it for me.

And, if they have the soundtrack to One on One, they will have anything.

I can't wait till the walls come down and Japanese, Eastern Europe and such flood the U.S. market. The American music scene will be overwhelmed and the last noise you hear as it goes down will be (to steal the phrase from David Foster Wallace): "like a goat drowning in something viscous." But that will be a happy sound because it will only mean that American music will resurrect as something better than it is now.
Obama Bitchslaps Faux News

I still think he needs more experience before being the big dude, but at least he's attacked this one head on.

Obama is not a Muslim.


Personally, I'd like to see Gore run again.

After all he did win the popular election, and probably even the actual election. Most of the problems he had back then have been corrected (right-wing lies and his robotic demeanor, to name two).

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Do Scientologists yell "Thomas H. Cruise!" when they stub their toe?

If not, apparently they should start. Someone in the "church" has declared him to be their Jesus.

If you sit very quietly, you can actually hear his publicist screaming.

Of course the comments on Digg are a snort. (I stole the title from one of the jokes.)

And whilst hunting down the reports on this - heh - revelation, I discovered this gem: Jenna Elfman got all up in the guy's grill for his t-shirt that said Scientology is so gay. I wonder how insulted gay groups must feel over the shirt; I mean, what a slam.

I was also thinking, if Scientology can get itself recognized as a religion for tax purposes, certainly the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster should be able to. Wouldn't that be a hoot?
Wow. This race is the easiest to call, ever.

Performance by an actor in a leading role
Will Smith in The Pursuit of Happyness (Sony Pictures Releasing)

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Eddie Murphy in Dreamgirls (DreamWorks and Paramount)

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Helen Mirren in The Queen (Miramax, Pathé and Granada)

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls (DreamWorks and Paramount)

Best animated feature film of the year
Cars (Buena Vista) John Lasseter

Achievement in directing
Letters from Iwo Jima (Warner Bros.) Clint Eastwood

Achievement in makeup
Pan's Labyrinth (Picturehouse) David Marti and Montse Ribe

Best motion picture of the year
The Queen (Miramax, Pathé and Granada)

Adapted screenplay
Children of Men (Universal)
Screenplay by Alfonso Cuarón & Timothy J. Sexton and David Arata and Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby

Original screenplay
Pan's Labyrinth (Picturehouse)
Written by Guillermo del Toro

And what another sucky year for movies, mang.

Monday, January 22, 2007

And she'll have fun fun fun 'till daddy takes the CD away....

Eilene Zimmerman got the duty of tackling the phenomenon of High School Musical, and delivered this dead-on observation:

Musicologist Elizabeth Upton, a professor at UCLA (and mother of two tweens) whose many areas of scholarship include children's music, says in the last decade there has been a dearth of pop music for the 5-14 age group. The reason Disney's songs are so attractive to tweens is that they are, well, pretty. "This kind of melodic pop music just hasn't been fashionable for a long while. A lot of what's been popular has been scratchy, alternative stuff," says Upton. "If you're a kid and you're going to listen to pop, Disney isn't a bad place to be. Imagine that for your entire life, pop music has been ugly, edgy or beat-heavy, from grunge to hip-hop. This kind of music is a revelation."

Exactly. They're catchy. They're pretty. I hate every song from High School Musical with a deep blue passion (and have had to tell my daughter to not play it the third freakin' time, twice was too much), but they are sparkly little nuggets of pop.

Upton is right. If you can find a local radio station that plays new music (or, even rarer, one that fits the original mold of radio, cycling old stuff with new hits), you're not going to find a lot of "pretty" music. It's either rap, repetitively mind-numbing (and usually crude) hip-hop, or cookie monster vocals over banks of droning steroidal guitars. Not much of it is downright pretty. When a pretty song comes on, you should see both of my daughters (ages 10 and 2) light up.

So, dear God, for all our sakes, let's let pretty music actually make it to radio stations and best seller lists so we don't have to die in a sea of Disney tunes. Next time you read a music critic take apart an offering of pretty, catchy (non-Disney) tunes, write them and tell them they are responsible for the demise of civilization.

It's your civic duty.

FWIW, some examples of great pretty music from the past:
- Beatles
- Marshall Crenshaw
- Queen
- Electric Light Orchestra
- U2
- Pink Floyd
- Eagles
- Steely Dan
- Earth, Wind and Fire

You get the idea. Fight the power.
What white guilt?

This article is explicit proof as to why every President of a University in the United States needs to shut down* the "Identity Politics" wing in the Humanities Departments (best described by Stanley Crouch via the quote "Alienation has become a commodity that you sell on an academic market.").

(*And, actually, they should keep just one "Identity Politics" prof. on and allow her (it's never a "he" - males are forbidden as they are part of the supposed problem) to continue to teach the classes, just so if anyone wants to experience the looniness up close, they can. But limit each student to just one of the classes, and it's pass/fail.)

And while the college pres. is at it, s/he should send a memo to the Literature dept. telling them to get over it and get back to teaching actual literature. (Lit. depts. are the second refuge of Identity Politics goons, much to my continued embarrassment. When I was in college, I watched our best Shakespeare prof. go from happy and fun teacher, to bitter and resentful scold where each class ended up being a hen party for gender feminists who wanted all "males" (can't use the word "men") rounded up into camps. What a loss that was.)

Anyway, pertinent excerpts below. My emphasis added.

Which brings me to the main reason I delayed writing about Obama. For me, it was a trick question in a game I refused to play. Since the issue was always framed as a battle between gender and race (read: non-whiteness -- the question is moot when all the players are white), I didn't have the heart (or the stomach) to point out the obvious: Obama isn't black.

"Black," in our political and social reality, means those descended from West African slaves. Voluntary immigrants of African descent (even those descended from West Indian slaves) are just that, voluntary immigrants of African descent with markedly different outlooks on the role of race in their lives and in politics. At a minimum, it can't be assumed that a Nigerian cabdriver and a third-generation Harlemite have more in common than the fact a cop won't bother to make the distinction. They're both "black" as a matter of skin color and DNA, but only the Harlemite, for better or worse, is politically and culturally black, as we use the term.

To say that Obama isn't black is merely to say that, by virtue of his white American mom and his Kenyan dad who abandoned both him and America, he is an American of African immigrant extraction. It is also to point out the continuing significance of the slave experience to the white American psyche; it's not we who can't get over it. It's you. Lumping us all together (which blacks also do from sloppiness and ignorance, and as a way to dominate the race issue and to force immigrants of African descent to subordinate their preferences to ours) erases the significance of slavery and continuing racism while giving the appearance of progress. Though actually, it is a kind of progress. And that's why I break my silence: Obama, with his non-black ass, is doing us all a favor.

Since he had no part in our racial history, he is free of it. And once he's opened the door to even an awkward embrace of candidates of color for the highest offices, the door will stay open. A side door, but an open door. Yet until Obama survives the scourging he's about to receive from Hillary Clinton (God help him if he really did lie about his Muslim background) and the electoral process, no candidate of color will ever be taken seriously. Clinton isn't about to leave the stage in the name of racial progress, and the pundit class has only just begun to take apart the senator's record, associates and bank accounts. Still, this is progress. A non-black on the down low about his non-blackness is about to get what blacks have always asked for: to be judged on his merits. So let's all just pretend that we've really overcome.

-- Debra J. Dickerson

Jaw-dropping, isn't it?

Plowing through the letters responding to the article, though, it was heartening to see the vast majority were of the "WTF?" variety.

I thought "Gary" had a particularly salient observation (I've edited it down, but haven't changed the meaning by taking things out of context):

First off, let's address this "white guilt" and "safe black people" nonsense once and for all. Obviously I can't speak for the entire country, but I suspect most white Americans are like me: we don't hold any white guilt, and we aren't frightened of black people. I'm not sure where these rumors started, or why they play such a smug refrain in black politics.

Like every other white person I know, my family arrived in this country after the Civil War. I'm second generation born-in-America, with my grandparents having arrived on Ellis Island, at various times, from Italy and Ireland in the 20s and 30s. This is the culture I grew up in, and lord knows, there are millions upon millions of us similarly situated. I'm sorry, but as a general rule, we don't feel the slightest personal guilt over slavery, or any responsibility for the atmosphere in the South prior to the Civil Rights movement. It had nothing to do with us, and our cultural history gives us enough of our own problems to worry about. It amazes me that Dickerson is so readily able to distinguish between held-in-bondage-blacks and African-immigrant-not-blacks, but is also so willing to lump 80% of the country together as "white".

Obama looks like his white mother, and therefore is "safe" for us to vote for? Don't make me laugh. "Swooning over nice safe Obama means you aren't racist?" What the hell? Despite Dickerson's belief, most of white people don't spend any time worrying about whether we're racist or not. We just aren't, but don't feel any need to prove our lack of racism to Ms. Dickerson, any more than I feel the need to prove to Europeans that "hey, I may be descended from Italians, but I don't like Mussolini, I swear." All this crap is too far removed from my generation and my experience.

But two things: first, you really shouldn't be throwing white people into this mix, acting insulted and condescending if we don't bother to constantly distinguish between the groups – no one is entitled to that as a matter of right. I don't demand that you understand the historical rise of Italians and Irish in America, or to recognize me as Irish/Italian, or to distinguish between the clear differences between an Italian looking person and, say, a Polish person; don't demand that I vote for Ronald Washington from Detroit, just because he's black enough for you.

(Before I read this letter, my original title for the post was "So, because my heritage is essentially Swedish and Irish, I should feel like half a victim because one of my distant ancestors kicked the butt of another one?", but I felt this letter said it better.)

Like this guy, I have never felt "white guilt."

Even though I grew up in the Midwest amongst the Lakota Sioux, and at any given opportunity they would use "white man stole my ..." complaint (fill in the blank with whatever the moment's grievance was), I just couldn't manage to give a damn.

All of that happened several generations back, and I had as much to do with it as I did the formation of the sun, and there's not a hell of a lot I can do about it now. If free education through the graduate level and monthly checks for simply belonging to a particular race aren't enough, I don't know what would be.

"Give the land back." Sure. Let's start with your house. And, for the record, all the land that was "given back" was pretty promptly sold to someone who had the funds to buy it.

"Well, you are on the 'winning' side, so that's why you don't care" is usually the next refrain, but again, I'm not on any side. I inherited things the way they are just as everyone else my age did. I didn't win anything. In my home state, someone of Lakota descent can literally attend college as long as they want to for free. Hell, I'd have stayed until my liver gave out, had I had that opportunity. Who's the winner again?

(Further, imagine had it been the Chinese, or the Arabs, who'd ventured out and not Europeans. What would your world be like, then? Bush baby is a freakin' cake walk compared to Mao or Mohammad.)

And it's not as if I don't have the opportunity to have multi-generation grievances over injustices in the past. My family once pretty much owned a small town, because we owned the only restaurant, the only bar, and the grocery store. One night my grandma sold a shot of whiskey to a guy who later got into an auto accident where he killed people. I don't know who exactly sued - the victims or the drunk - but someone sued my family out of the ownership of all their property on the grounds that my grandma was responsible for giving him the drink that allowed him to kill people. My family left the town in poverty and had to start anew elsewhere. Had that not happened, my brother and I would probably be pretty wealthy at this moment in time.

Even before I knew of this particular chapter of family history, it has always struck me as odd that the law can actually go after a bartender or bar owner if someone who drank there later gets into trouble. That flies in the face of personal responsibility. The reasoning: if you sold me the crack, it's your fault I'm a crackhead. That just doesn't wash with me. How is a bar owner any more responsible for the actions of a drunk any more so than the owner of a liquor store?

Given that, should I hunt down the family of that drunkard, or the family of those who were killed, those who essentially took all of my family's wealth and possessions and hound them for reparations for generations? Hell, no. What happened, happened, and it's over now.

So I've got no white guilt whatsoever, thank you very much.

Any guilt I carry around is for stuff I've done myself (or, y'know, have allowed to occur when I could have changed things).

For the record, I don't think Obama is experienced enough to be the pres, yet. (Not that Georgie Porgy was/is, but he's a puppet for a shadow council anyway.) We don't have enough info about him given the resume he does have. Let him be a Senator for a while before he tries for the office that turns everyone's hair white. (And why is that, you suppose? Do they take every pres. down to the x-files office, show them the truth about aliens, or the memos from the Vatican regarding the third secret of Our Lady of Fatima, or pictures of Margaret Thatcher nude? What could it be?)

Update: In a sort of "response" article to the one above, Salon's Gary Kamiya says this:

"Of course, the fact that white people are the majority in America makes it easy for them not to feel 'white.' A majority group's racial identity, since it encounters no external obstacles, singling out or bigotry, is always invisible to itself."

Here is another fallacy that folks who don't think of themselves as "white" subscribe to in America. I've been singled out or have been the subject (I hate to use the word "victim") of bigotry plenty of times.

Here are just two examples:

When I lived in Florida, I frequented a local KFC. If I walked in when the white manager was not working, leaving the all-black staff, and was first in line at the counter and a dozen black people walked in, they would all be waited on ahead of me. If the white manager were working, the reverse would occur, where I would be pulled to the front of the line around any black people. This happened so frequently that I would look who was at the counter and get in line accordingly. I had tried to not be put ahead of black people who were ahead of me once, but the manager would not have it any other way. Of course, complaining about the reverse might have been dangerous.

Again in Florida, I had to drive through a portion of the town to get home euphemistically called "French Town" which was the local black ghetto. When it was daytime, no problem. However, when I had to cross it at night, there was the potential I'd get trapped at one of the two lights. Invariably when I did, people would come up to the car, usually the hood, and pound on it or rock the car, yelling some racist thing at me. Only once did someone come up to the window.

During my afternoon peruse of the latest on Digg, I found this lovely article.

So let's not fool ourselves that white people walk around oblivious and free from racial harassment.
Please don't read this until you've mentally played the theme song from "Mr. Ed" in your head a couple times. Especially Vegans.

Back during the "Brokeback" controversy, I opined that it would be a bigger scandal had they hauled off and fucked a sheep. Well, seems I had spoken too soon.

From Andrew O'Hehir's reports from Sundance:

There's already a media mini-flurry around "Zoo," the quiet, sensitive, resolutely unsensational documentary about virtually the most sensational subject you can imagine. OK, no, it's not about vagina dentata. But it is about a small community of men in rural Washington state who used to get together on a ranch to have carnal relations with animals. Specifically, with horses. That is, with stallions. One of these men was dumped at an emergency room in July 2005, where he died of a perforated colon. A subsequent investigation of the ranch he had been visiting uncovered many hours of videos of men enjoying similar activities.

Much about this case remains shrouded in mystery. It's amazing that director Robinson Devor got any of these guys to talk to him at all. None of them reveals his real name, and several won't appear on camera. The dead man, purportedly a midlevel U.S. intelligence officer in an unspecified agency, is identified only as "Mr. Hands." Since there's no archival footage to work with (the ranch tapes remain under wraps, unsurprisingly), most of Devor's film consists of re-creations, using actors on substitute locations, narrated in voice-over.

It would be ludicrous to claim that "Zoo" dispels prejudice against people who have sex with animals; these men themselves understand that their practices are not socially acceptable. (They refer to themselves as "zoo," short for zoophile or zoophilia. They say, "I'm zoo," as other people might say they were gay or straight.) But at some level this film will confuse and surprise you. For the most part these guys seem like gentle, lonely and odd people, poorly socialized to human life. They insist that their love for their horses is genuine, and make clear that for the activities they have in mind, no coercion -- and not much persuasion -- was required.

To Bible-believing fundamentalists, of course, there isn't much difference between the activities presented in "Zoo" and ordinary, garden-variety homosexuality.

No, there isn't, Andrew. Unless you consider the vegan angle, then it's worse.

Dude, most of us view that part of the anatomy as "exit only." Particularly when it involves something roughly the size of a louisville slugger. (Even those of us who aren't fundies. Thanks for the obligatory swipe at Christianity, btw.)

Still, I have to see this movie. Truly, what could be better entertainment than a serious documentary about guys who like getting fucked by horses? I'll probably round up the gang and tap a keg.

Let me leave you with this, though. My father-in-law had a good one this last holiday season that I've forgotten to thread into a post until now. But, he asked the very legitimate question (with his tongue firmly in cheek):
"Do vegans breastfeed?"

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Even I didn't know...

Bob Dylan wrote every popular song, ever.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Salty Egg Vegetable Sponge Liver Pig Soup

Oh, this is a gem.

Digg dug it up.

Some commenters began to call BS on it as a fake, but then a prof. of Chinese pipes up and 'splains how they really are direct literal translations using a current Chinese to English dictionary that includes modern slang. S/he reports:

"The problem here is that the word 'gan' means both 'to dry' and 'to do,' and the latter meaning has come to mean 'to fuck.' Unfortunately, the recent proliferation of Colloquial English dictionaries in China means people choose the vulgar translation way too often, on the grounds that it's colloquial. Last summer I was in a spiffy modern supermarket in Taiyuan whose dried-foods aisle was helpfully labeled 'Assorted Fuck.'"

Y'know, I've not seen any aisle in my local Walmart labeled thus, but some certainly should be.
That Explains Things a Little

I've always wondered why the corporate habit of massive layoffs simply to meet projected earnings - even when the company is solvent and does not need to have the layoffs to survive or even be profitable - has never been a bigger blip on the media's radar. Everyone I know has been hit by it at some point.

Even having a corporate-friendly administration in the White House wouldn't entirely explain it away, because Republicans get laid off in droves, too.

The disruption in people's lives is nearly equivalent to a death in the family and other traumas of that level, but every year hundreds of companies do it, and the media reports nada. (Maybe they report the numbers.)

So, why the silence? Here ya go:

From "The Fix" of Jan. 19 on Salon:
Huge layoffs yesterday at Time, Inc.: The media company cut nearly 300 jobs, mostly from the magazines People, Time and Sports Illustrated, saying that the company is attempting to refocus its efforts in digital media. (Variety)

300 people a HUGE layoff? Wow. Methinks they need a little perspective.

I've been in companies no where near the size of Time, Inc., and they've laid off half a grand of folks just because. I once worked for a company that regularly laid off people who'd reached a certain pay grade, and hire someone in their place for less.

But, clearly the media doesn't notice it because it's not happening to them. Mystery solved.

TLD: True story: One layoff I survived was just amazing regarding the callousness and cluelessness of the company. No one knew it was coming (except, of course, some upper management), but then the HR people started showing up at cubes and asking the person to follow them.

"My" company had recently bought another company in order to utilize it as a component of our product. (This is done a lot, actually. Just open the "about" screen in Microsoft Word and look at all the companies they bought in order to use their functionality.)

Usually when this happens, the company that's bought faces the majority of the layoffs due to duplicated roles and depts., and at first that was the case. But they were a cagey bunch of folks, and complained that of those left from "their" company, none of them were in leadership roles, so some of "them" were rewarded with just that. Immediately they went to work insuring no one else from their old company got laid off, and boy did it work. So much so that "we," the existing company, suffered the most layoffs, and eventually were completely routed. The company "we" bought effectively took us over.

But before that happened (and when I finally got the boot), the first big round of layoffs for "our" part of the company (after "they" had gotten power and arranged it) was simply amazing in its scope.

We took up three floors of a huge office building. The building was essentially cut in half by the elevators, break rooms, and staircases. On either side of that column was a huge cube farm, about 10 deep by 10 wide - the typical rat maze/veal pens of corporate America.

I was on the phone essentially playing Master of Ceremonies with a group of about 10 people who were given the responsibility of sorting all our documentation into one pile, as it were. We had these calls that would take up the entire morning once a week for about a month to complete the effort.

Since I was the was who had to do the talking for what amounted to half of the 4 hour phone call, I couldn't go on mute or step away for a bit. The folks who got it first came by holding their cardboard boxes to shake my hand and mine various "call me", "write me", "keep in contact", "here's my card", and "let's grab a few cold ones tonight" messages as I kept having to say things into my headset like, "Ok, Stan, I agree that sections 3.5 through 3.8 should become the primary text for that product. Wendy, I think I recall from an email that you wanted to include the forward from the..." etc. etc. I couldn't say goodbye. I could only wave, shrug, gesture, and shake hands. The stream of shocked and sometimes teary-eyed comrades stayed steady all morning.

It dawned on me sometime during the call that I was probably laid off, too, but they knew what I was doing (it was supposed to be the final meeting/call of its type), and were just waiting for me to complete the effort. We got done at about 12:30, and I took my headset off and stood up.

Every single cube in my visual field was now empty. They'd nuked my whole side of the floor. Even some of the offices along the edge were dark. There was litter all over the floor. The desks and walls of the cubes had the dust marks where pictures and knick-knacks had been removed. Abandoned pens, paper clips, and rubber bands were everywhere. The push-pins on the cubie walls formed vast constellations. It was one of the saddest sites I've seen, because just that morning it had been bustling.

Well, my bladder had reached the proportions of a dirigible, and I wanted to see the damage throughout the building, and hopefully my wandering would keep me ahead of the HR reaper for a few more minutes while I located a sturdy box. I sauntered past the office of the guy who'd been my boss two reorgs back; he was a great guy, one of the best bosses I've had. He seemed shocked to see me, which I took as proof that I was marked. He asked if I knew if I had a job or not. I told him I didn't know, and asked about him. He said he was fine, but he'd need to catch up with me later, and closed his door, seemingly angry.

I later found out he immediately called my current boss and read him the riot act about how inappropriate it was that I didn't know my fate yet. When I returned to my desk, a message was waiting, which I assumed was from HR telling me to <Ironic Bob Barker Voice>Come on down!</Ironic Bob Barker Voice>, but it was my boss apologizing all over himself (he was really a good guy, too, btw), and telling me I was safe. He knew I was on the other call and wanted to wait until it was over, but then got sidetracked by the layoffs in his building. (Yes, there was another whole facility that was getting cleaned out, too.)

The five of us that were left moved into the cubes over by the windows. About two months later, someone from HR or facilities noticed what we had done, and reassigned us to cubes away from each other on another floor, as far from the windows as possible. They didn't want us to get uppity, after all. We should feel lucky, doncha know.

Shortly after that, the empty cubes around me started filling up with guys from India who mostly kept to themselves. I learned I had to wait in the morning until they started talking to each other before I could talk to them, because they all had pictures of Vishnu at the entrance to their cubes, and they would kiss their hand and touch the picture and bow to it for a while every morning, and then sit and say a prayer.

A few months later, I got laid off, too, along with the rest of those few left from the original company. This was when Bush's first depression had hit, and half the folks in my culdesac were unemployed as well. It was an amazing and rough year. (My primary shock that year was our loss of a baby through miscarriage just weeks before she could have survived. I got laid off the day I came back from my week off for mourning. So if you read those posts, that's what my primary focus was.)

And, for the record, the layoff I described here was the kind that I actually understand. Having redundant staff makes no sense. However, there are still vast swathes of companies that do layoffs merely to meet projected earnings, or to replace workers with slightly cheaper ones (while the CEO gets a million-plus bonus), and when it's not even close to a financial necessity. That's immoral, in my book.

So, I'd always wondered why the media just missed the boat on the pervasiveness of layoffs, and the immorality of most of them. Until today. Verdict: It's just not about them, so who cares? Crass loudmouths and millionaires with bad comb-overs feuding are more interesting, you see.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Rock trivia, factoids, ephemera

All of these are stolen from found in the fun new tome: Is Tiny Dancer Really Elton's Little John? by Gavin Edwards. I heartily recommend it for all music noids.

(Oh, and it contains the best definition of rock and roll I've found: "[B]y "rock," I mean "the whole megillah of popular music since 1955, based on the union of blues and country, but encompassing soul, folks, hip-hop, distorted electric guitars, and the funky chicken.")

- Steve Wonder briefly lost his sense of smell and taste after a car accident in 1973. He got most of it back eventually.
- Bono of U2 is 5' 6" tall.
- John Mayer has synaesthesia where he sees/experiences colors when he hears music. For instance, his first hit "No Such Thing" is "red over white." And "'Dave Matthew's Under the Table and Dreaming was like a kid breaking into a paint store.'" (I have a touch of this myself. I taste candy when I see multi-colored Christmas lights, for example. Mayer mentions he's way into the melody of music, and so am I; which leads me to wonder if folks with synaesthesia all lock onto the melody when they listen to music.)
- Elvis Presley "liked girls in lacy white panties, with some pubic hair coming out the sides."
- Elvis Costello's album Blood and Chocolate was so named after girlfriend Bebe Buell's (she of many rock star couplings, mother of Liv Tyler) need for chocolate when she was having her period.
- Huey Lewis has a big dick, second only Iggy Pop's amongst living rock stars, with Jimi Hendrix weighing in for the deceased.
- The original "chorus" for Chic's "Le Freak" was not, "Aww, freak out!" but "Aww, fuck off!" because composer Nile Rodgers was turned away from Studio 54 even when they were playing his previous hit inside. The bassist was religious, hence the change.
- The Beatles' "Yesterday" is the most covered song written in the rock era (see above for definition). "Summertime" from Porgy & Bess is the most covered song of all time, not counting Christmas songs.
- Neil Young personally paid for the recall of all 200,000 copies of the initial pressing of Comes a Time when he discovered it was pressed from a damaged master tape. He shot all the boxes with a rifle.
- Donald Fagen and Walter Becker of Steely Dan wrote for the (in)famous Brill Building, and one song, "I Mean to Shine," was done by Streisand.
- "Charlie Watts legendarily picked up the Rolling Stones' backbeat from the movements of Mick Jagger's ass."
- Stevie Nicks on Lindsey Buckingham: "'He could take my songs and do what I would do if I had his musical talent. When he wasn't angry with me, that is. That's why there's seven or eight great songs, and there's fifty more where he wasn't happy with me and didn't help me.'"
- It's now kinda common knowledge that Bachman Turner Overdrive's song "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet" was never meant for release, and the stuttered vocals are really Randy Bachman ribbing his brother - the manager of the band - about his stutter. Here's the new news: His brother stopped stuttering after that.
- Alanis Morissette has a twin brother, and Justin Timberlake - like Elvis - had a twin sibling that died at birth.
- The supposed death wail of a woman being murdered on Ohio Players "Love Rollercoaster" is actually keyboardist Billy Breck screeching.
- George Harrison once told John Bonham of Led Zeppelin, "'The problem with your band is that you don't do any ballads.'" (Cheeky, even for a Beatle, imho.) Page responded by "'purposely [sticking] the first two notes of 'Something" on 'The Rain Song.''" (A ballad.)
- Gregg Allman avoided the Vietnam draft by shooting himself in the foot. His brother Duane later snuck into the emergency room and absconded with the moccasin with the target painted on the top.
- Tom Waits, Rickie Lee Jones' boyfriend at the time, provided the title/lyric/hook for "Chuck E.'s in Love" by saying those exact words after hanging up from a phone conversation with said Chuck who'd followed a girl half way across the nation. And the line about Chuck being "in love with the little girl who's singing this song" was just artistic license. She was Tom's girl.
- Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" is about a (wealthy) boyfriend she (also wealthy) had way before she was popular as a singer (according to her husband, Jim Hart). She auctioned off the answer in a charity action and Dick Ebersol was the highest bidder, and thus knows the secret. She has explicitly denied it was neither Mick Jagger (who wasn't slated to do the background vocal, but when he offered to pitch in, the original choice, Harry Nilsson, graciously bowed out), nor Warren Beatty. However, Beatty did assume it was about him and once called Simon and thanked her for the honor. (No doubt "heaven can wait" merely so they have time to make enough room for his freakin' ego.)
- Don Henley claims he was the father of the child that Stevie Nicks aborted (to her deep, lasting regret), for whom she wrote the song "Sara" (which is heartbreaking to listen to, once you know).
- The first time the Beatles' had LSD, a dentist who was holding a dinner party for them had slipped it into their after-dinner coffee without their knowledge. They did not have a good time. Reportedly a lot of screaming was involved.
- During the recording of Donna Summer's "Love to Love You Baby" she was (in her own words): "'...on my back. I couldn't do the song with four guys staring at me, so I lay down on the floor; we put up curtains and shut the lights off.'"
- Pink Floyd once tried to record a whole album using household items rather than instruments. They bailed after a month of trying and recording only about a minute and a half of music.
- The band Jimmy Eat World got their name from a drawing done by the guitarist's brother during his fight with another (elder) brother, which showed "Jimmy" shoving a planet down his throat and containing the famous caption, which the band regrets using as their name to this day.
- Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Robert Johnson, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison all died at 27.
- James Taylor wrote the first verse of "Fire and Rain" in his basement apartment in London, the second in a New York hospital where he landed due to his heroin addiction, and the third verse in a Massachusetts psych clinic.
- Mama Cass and Keith Moon both died in the same London flat, which was owned by Nilsson (during both deaths). Pete Townshend subsequently bought the flat from Nilsson who no longer wanted it. (The book contains a great crack from Townshend regarding the issue.)

Other highlights of the book include:
- The hilarious observation (regarding the fact that Barry Manilow did NOT write, "I Write the Songs" - Bruce Johnston of the Beach Boys did) that: "The song was recorded by the Captain and Tennille and David Cassidy before Manilow got his hands on it, which is some sort of strange '70s light-rock trifecta." (The whole book is amusing that way.)
- The odd synchronicity between The Wizard of Oz and Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon is described in full, so you don't have to bother experiencing it yourself (especially if you aren't altered). Any purposeful coincidence (ooo, did I just make a new oxymoron?) is cleverly debunked.
- An investigation of the rumor that Kurt Cobain wrote Hole's (Courtney Love's) only good album, Live Through This.
- An examination of whether or not Ringo Starr is/was a great drummer.

Apologies for leaving you hanging re Edwards' verdicts (all of which I think are dead-on), but I've got to leave you some reason to read the book (and in case he ever reads this post and contemplates litigation - if you are reading this Mr. Edwards, just consider this a free full-page ad!).

Speaking of the Beatles (and this was not in this book), I read in an article on the web that John Lennon briefly thought he was Jesus Christ, and announced that revelation to the other Beatles in a meeting called for that specific purpose (search for "Jesus" (har har) in the article to get to the goods). What a moment that must have been, eh? Besides the fact that it's kinda funny (especially since Lennon got over that delusion - apparently Yoko was good for something), I just love the irony that the guy who wrote the most popular atheist hymn thought he was Jesus once.

Finally, last year I read two separate books (one, two) on the music scene of Laurel Canyon that spawned well over half the songs from that era (late 60s, early 70s) and have dominated FM radio since, but this book sums up the whole schmear on three pages, 132 through 134 - to be precise. And I mean it. He hits all salient factoids in those few paragraphs (save for perhaps Mama Cass's phenomenal drug use and litanies of who screwed whom*), where it took the other two books over 300 pages to relay the same info. That is not to say I didn't enjoy the other two, but I did read them primarily for the trivia, and could have saved a lot of time.

(*So here's the short version for you completists: Pretty much everyone who was anyone in the Laurel Canyon/Californian music scene got a whack at Joni Mitchell, Michelle Phillips, and Grace Slick (except Marty Balin who considers it a source of pride that he was the only band member who didn't do Slick), with Linda Ronstadt probably achieving the same thing, but managing to leave the names out of it. More notable, though, was that Ronstadt was more egalitarian in that she often, uh, bonded with a lot of the band members and recording studio folks she, uh, worked with, and wasn't as much of a star-fucker. Stevie Nicks, after Buckingham, had an affair with Mick Fleetwood before she moved on to Henley. However, the biggest slut of all was Jackson Browne, even compared to Don Henley and Glen Frey, which brings new light to the song, "Doctor, My Eyes.")

I literally didn't put Is Tiny Dancer Really Elton's Little John? down once I turned the first page. What a blast!
The Best Set of Aurora Borealis Pictures I've Seen

Kam Lake, NWT
Originally uploaded by antennas.
Oddly, a lot of folks who manage to get good pictures of the phenomenon post them in little postcard sizes. These are spectacular and big enough to be your wallpaper.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Yeah that looks about right

For you visual folks out there who've always wondered....

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

"It's a planet! Who knew." Part 2.

Ok, when you use this as a title for your article, you've gotta include at least one wink to the audience: Uranus Has a Dark Spot

But, no. Not this journalist.

Nor this one.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


I always have kind of a Beavis and Butthead response to that word, so it's a favorite of mine. I imagine it said like a black Baptist preacher would scream "Sanctify" or whatever it is they yell a lot. (I'm pretty much Lutheran/Presbyterian and if anyone stands up and starts yelling in church, we assume s/he's having a medical emergency.)

Anyway, of course after I post my grousing "2006, what the hell?" post, I encounter two CDs from the year that are pretty damn good.

One kinda doesn't count because it's a soundtrack (but, hey, any grouping of good songs is a reason to indulge in a little snake-handling, to continue my religious references and if that's what floats your ontological boat), and the other I originally wasn't impressed, but upon a revisit, was duly impressed.

The soundtrack is "Marie Antoinette". I have yet to see the movie as it's not on DVD, but got the soundtrack and was really pleased. Beautiful mix of classical music, 80s rock and, dear Lord, the manufactured band with the hottie jailbait lead singer (I think she was 16 at the time), Bow Wow Wow.

"The Animal Years" by Josh Ritter, upon second listen, really opened up to me. Maybe my mood was off first time I listened to it. But it's a Dylan-esque set from someone who can actually sing. If you like thoughtful, folky stuff, you'll love this. One of the songs I like best, "Thin Blue Flame" (right-click and save as) is available as a free MP3 download on the site.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Some trivia

Apparently they're going to make a new Star Trek movie that centers around the original crew prior to their "going where no man has gone before" (to which my eldest daughter gleefully screams, "The ladies room!", thereby making the joke officially multi-generational).

Anyway, the EW article announcing this shows this picture.

Now, Scotty was not a lefty, so why is he holding his phaser in his left hand? Well, they hid it entirely during the series, but Doohan was missing the middle finger of his right hand from a WWII battle injury. It's kinda fun watching the old series and seeing all the gyrations they go through to not show that hand.

Maybe that's why Scotty could always get things done so quickly; he only had to count to nine when everyone else had to go on to ten.
Yes, it's art

Back when I lived in Minneapolis, I was heavily immersed in the world of visual art simply through association with buddies who were trying to break into the local scene. I attended so many gallery openings that I learned the rhythms, the accepted behavior, etc. and of course I saw a lot of art. (Or attempts thereof.)

As with all the arts, there is necessarily a lot of chaff amongst the few grains of wheat, so I considered a showing successful if I liked even one piece.

(Not counting naked pictures, by the way. A work containing a nude is a gimme because we all find the human body intrinsically interesting, so art depicting the same is automatically interesting just because of that. That didn't disqualify a piece from being something of true imagination and quality, it still had to pass the personal test of like it/hate it. To be honest, though, I can remember only a couple times where a nude was interesting beyond nakedness.)

Nonetheless, to this day if you put a gallery somewhere on my path, I will wander through it.

Had I encountered this during a show, I would have loved it.

But is it art?

This is essentially what all special effects houses do for a living. I'm impressed that Patricia Piccinini went the gallery route rather than the Industrial Light and Magic route, simply because it's a great way to stand out and be unique. But now that she's done it, it's done for good. If other artists started offering sci-fi creature statues, it would now be passé.

So, yeah, it's art. But I think getting this stuff into galleries in the first place is the larger accomplishment.
I think you can see his jaw breaking...


Also, the dad in the black hat to the left ain't doing the best job of protecting that little head. And what a cutie! Got her hands up, too, not knowing why. Gotta love kids, mang.

Friday, January 05, 2007

I don't know what this is...

But I like it! (NSFW, btw)

Thursday, January 04, 2007

2006 - All that will be remembered is "Crazy"

We Americans love our nostalgia don't we? I do. Thus, the ritualized "year in review" stuff is always fun in that regard. Even years like this.

So, this here's a slamdance through the "year in review" according to moi. (My abrupt segue reminds me of that old joke about redneck foreplay, which consists solely of, "Brace yourself, Marge.")

Let's start with the top grossing movies:

1. "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," $423.3 million
2. "Cars," $244.1 million
3. "X-Men: The Last Stand," $234.4 million
4. "The Da Vinci Code," $217.5 million
5. "Superman Returns," $200.1 million
6. "Ice Age: The Meltdown," $195.3 million
7. "Happy Feet," $176.2 million
8. "Over the Hedge," $155.0 million
9. "Casino Royale," $153.4 million
10. "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby," $148.2 million
Source: CNN

Boy, but ain't Hollywood in a slump? Cartoons and comics rule the day. Nothing much wrong with that, but grown-ups just didn't have a lot to choose from this year, eh?

I saw all of those, except 7, 9, and 10. I'll see 7 and 9 on DVD, but not 10, the Nascar sendup. The entertainment folks on the coasts paint rednecks with such a broad brush anymore (Think, "My Name is Earl"), that "The Beverly Hillbillies" was subtle in comparison.

Of those movies I saw, I was mostly entertained. "Da Vinci" was dull, surprisingly, because the book - as preposterous as the premise was - was a page-turner. I thought "Cars" was a retread of every sports movie ever made (the "big show-down" genre, not the "he dies at the end" genre). "Pirates" was a messy, loud popcorn movie that was more grotesque than it needed to be, but today's kids don't seem to bat an eye at a thing with a realistic octopus for a head. The superhero movies entertained in the moment, but I'd have to work to recall the plots. The only sticky image was Superman's unconscious plunge to earth after he tossed "Manhattan Island, the sequel" into space. "Ice Age" had the best jokes.

My favorite this year was The Matador, a sleeper at best.

How about music?

Top 10 best-selling albums released in 2006 (worldwide):

1. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Stadium Arcadium
2. High School Musical - High School Musical Soundtrack
3. Justin Timberlake - FutureSex / LoveSounds
4. Rascal Flatts - Me And My Gang
5. Pink - I'm Not Dead
6. Nelly Furtado - Loose
7. Beyonce - B'Day
8. Andrea Bocelli - Amore
9. Evanescence - The Open Door
10. Gnarls Barkley - St. Elsewhere

I've heard 10, 7, 5, and 2 (Lord help me), and only 10 was worth the time and electricity. Though, to be honest, I don't play the whole CD because it has rap on it. I have cherry-picked the bouncy hits for MP3 players, and have probably shelved the CD for good.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers begin to sound the same to me after a couple tunes, so I didn't even give it a courtesy listen. I've got 3 on hold at the library, since it has ended up on a lot of "best of" lists this year, though my hopes aren't high, given the fact that "High School Musical" is the best selling album of the year (on some lists), and the fact that he's the alumni of a boy band.

The 10 Top Singles were:

1. Bad Day - Daniel Powter
2. Temperature - Sean Paul
3. Promiscuous - Nelly Furtado featuring Timbaland
4. You're Beautiful - James Blunt
5. Hips Don't Lie - Shakira featuring Wyclef Jean
6. Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield
7. Crazy - Gnarls Barkley
8. Ridin' - Chamillionaire featuring Krayzie Bone
9. SexyBack - Justin Timberlake
10. Check on It - Beyoncé featuring Slim Thug

Of those, I've heard only 1, 4 (Lord help me), and 7. 7 was the only one I liked. 4 still tickles my gag reflex if I'm trapped in public with it blaring over the soundsystem of the store/restaurant. I even have trouble listening to Weird Al's parody of it, though Al's reedy voice oddly makes it more tolerable than the muppet-like vocal of the original song.

The music industry has largely faced up to the fact that it's not illegal downloads that're kneecapping the industry (it's the sucky music, stupid). However, I read somewhere that the major labels will not sign an act that's over the age of 25, so they still haven't learned all the lessons they need to, apparently.
Update: "Album sales in the U.S. were down 4.9 percent in 2006, the seventh straight year of decline, while digital downloads jumped 65 percent over 2005's numbers. Selling 3.7 million records, Disney's "High School Musical" soundtrack was the year's best-selling album, but it was also the lowest-selling No. 1 album in the 15 years SoundScan has been keeping track." (via Salon, via Variety)

Radio stations are up for sale in droves, but no one's buying because no one above the age of 25 is listening to radio. (Won't it be nice if radio comes back someday? I've always wanted to run one. Hmm....)

The only two CDs I still play that I bought this year are Morph the Cat by Donald Fagen, and At War with the Mystics by the Flaming Lips. Oh, wait, there's also Andy Narell, whom I discovered on a Windam Hill disc because MPC2 loves going to sleep listening to "smooth jazz." It's essentially steel drum jazz, believe it or not, and I find it interestingly soothing and stimulating at the same time.

Either this coming year will be a worse year in music, and you'll see reports of layoffs and selloffs re the major labels, or this will be one of those years the pendulum swings back, and we get a bunch of new good music via the labels trying to save themselves by releasing anything and everything. I bet on the prior because radio's still broken, and if you can't get the tunes out to the people, they don't go to the store.

Found two sites that posted "best of" free MP3 lists. So far, I like a handful of the songs. Check'em out:
- Salon
- Iheartmusic

I think when people look back to this year in media, the only thing that will end up anthologized and remembered is "Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley (though I think "Smiley Faces" is the superior song).

I researched the best book lists for this post, but didn't find much there that inspired me to write about it.

Off the top of my head, I don't recall reading any fiction this year that really grabbed me. I seem to recall liking S. King's Cell, but that's all that comes to mind.

I finally encountered a great little tome that tackled most of the issues facing Christianity today entitled, Judas and the Gospel of Jesus, by N. T. Wright. It's scholarly and entertaining - two worlds that often don't intersect - and it covers a fun gamut of false gospels, Gnosticism, church history, modern critiques of the faith, and so on. Fellow Christians should definitely give it a look, and, for that matter, anyone who wants a brief overview of the stances of modern, orthodox Christianity (I'm casting that net rather wide to include Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholicism, and all Protestant variants that don't claim a modern prophet).

Looking back over the blog, I recall that I also liked Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin. (Though only the paperback was released in 2006.)

Wow. Just three standouts. Maybe I should cut back on my reading if those are the remains of the day, considering all the books I've read this year.

Of course the big story outside of the entertainment world was the Republicans getting swept out of power for being shitheads by advertising themselves as conservatives for smaller govt. but then proceeding with the biggest, unconstitutional powergrab in American history whilst reconstituting the Nixon administration in all of its putrid glory - sans intelligence, of course. (My favorite summary is still, "Monica Lewinsky had more president in her than Bush ever will.")

Though it officially kicked off last year with the publishing of two (or three, depending on how you cound) new atheist hymnals (and I only use those terms because it pisses them off so much) by Dawkins and Harris, fundie atheist evangelism begins to mount in the new year on Digg and Youtube (via This article provides a nice summary and some pretty thorough linkage.

Most of the missionary work centers around mocking Christianity and declaring believers to be of lesser intelligence and education than atheists, so of course things aren't going so well for that effort. (Maybe a little Marketing 101 is in order for our brethren of supposed superior intellect who envision only a void in the God-shaped hole in our souls, which don't exist, of course.)

One of the more annoying elements in this movement is the simplistic (mis)understanding of Christianity that most of the self-professed, fundie atheists have. They would do well to read N. T. Wright's book, linked to above.

(And let me re-state that I have absolutely nothing against atheists or atheism whatsoever. Whatever your views on God, the afterlife, the lack thereof, etc. are fine with me - as long as it never moves to suggestions of violence or suppression. My issue is that a lot of fundie atheists (just like some fundie Christians and Moslems) get kinda strident about suppression, and Sam Harris has offered execution of Christians as one possible means of achieving a religion-free utopia. Sorry, but you can fuck off, Mr. Harris.)

Supposedly Saddam took the big swing into eternity, and you can view it on Youtube, so I did. ...I dunno... After he drops, there's a long gap in the video before we are shown his face, cocked up beneath the knot. He doesn't look very dead to me. From what I understand, that particular type of death shows pretty clearly on the face. Don't be surprised if he joins the conspiracy nut list of someone who's presumed to be not really dead.

Finally, Slate has a nice roundup of "the year in culture" which concludes this post better than I could.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

You Won't Let Those Robots Eat Me...

Best use of "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" in a Youtube video featuring a creepy walking military robot.

Happy New Year!