Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Play me a song

Jody Rosen, in Slate, reviews the new Billy Joel box set:
All this came to a head in my freshman year of high school when I discovered Elvis Costello, who, a friend informed me, "writes songs about why people like Billy Joel are just so bad." I didn't want to believe it; surely, I told myself, it was possible to be a fan of Costello and Joel, both of whom, after all, had a way with a tune. Later that year, I went to my first Costello concert. Midway through the show, Costello sat down at an electric piano and began playing a series of cheesy cocktail-jazz chords. "I'd like to sing a Billy Joel song for you now," he said dryly, as laughter rippled through the audience. "It's called 'Just the Way You Are.' " When I returned home that night, all the Joel albums got stuck away in the back of a closet.

It's now more than 20 years later and the new Billy Joel box set, My Lives, sits on my desk—a four-CD-plus-bonus-DVD behemoth whose 80 tracks offer ample reminders of why I loved Joel in the first place, and why, indeed, he's just so bad.

I've always enjoyed 52nd Street, but I probably lost interest in Billy Joel back in 1984. Saw him in concert and, frankly, the saxophonist just blew him off the stage.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Stalking the Christmas tree

A. Whitney Brown. Anyone remember him? He was on Saturday Night Live during the late 1980s, and later appeared on the Kilborn version of The Daily Show.

Later, I'd heard he'd been on Air America, but was fired for insubordination. I found a blog from about that time, but it's been inactive for 2.5 years. He might be doing an occassional diary entry on Dailykos, or someone has appropriated his name.

This is all setup for what used to be an annual email, A. Whitney Brown's tale of hunting the elusive christmas tree. He originally performed this as one of his The Big Picture commentaries delivered during the SNL Weekend Update (the good ones, with Dennis Miller). I've copied this from his collection of The Big Picture: An American Commentary; 1991, looks to be long out of print.

This is my annual Christmas story.

by A. Whitney Brown, from the chapter The environment, or the tale of the old tar:
I cut down my own Christmas tree every year, but I stalk it for a few hours first. I bagged a seventy-eight pointer last season. I surprised him in a clearing. He was just standing there, growing and throwing off oxygen like there was no tomorrow, dreaming his evergreen dreams. Oh, he was cunning. He thought he'd be safe there in front of the courthouse.

But when I got him home, he was still alive. I should have put him out of his misery, but 'twas the season to be jolly. So I put him in water to make sure he didn't die too quickly. Then I drilled thumbscrews into his little trunk and dressed him up with humiliating balls and stringed tin junk.

The whole family piled presents at his feet, and, just for a tease, we led him to believe they were his. While the rest of us celebrated the coming of he Prince of peace in the spirit of goodwill to all mankind, he withered and died in my living room.

At last he surrendered his essence into the air he helped create, leaving the sweet scent of his corpse as one las gift to the lumbering race. Finally, I ditched him in my neighbor's yard.

This story always makes me smile. Mr. Brown has left a cold internet trail, so maybe someone else will find this and be entertained. This also makes me smile because one December, back in the 1980s, some friends at St. Thomas decided they needed a Christmas tree. So they chopped one down. From the middle of Summit Avenue. Just a couple blocks from the governor's mansion. And dragged it almost a mile back to their apartment. Alcohol may have been involved. Good times, good times.

Smithsonian American Art Museum's blog

The Smithsonian American Art Museum has started a blog, EyeLevel:
So what's this museum blog all about? Here's the short version: Eye Level investigates American art—its history, evolution, and currents. The hope is that this blog hosts a vital conversation among artists, curators, collectors, and enthusiasts on a broad range of subjects related to American art. It's the kind of conversation you have in a museum—that unique social space that a museum provides—that Eye Level would like to bring to the blogosphere.

Book of Imaginary Beings

Wonderful book by Jorge Luis Borges. And, The Book of Imaginary Beings is a very web-like book, as can be seen in this">wonderful project (update: May 2, 2006, the project has moved to the University of Iowa September 17, 2008: realized it's moved again and is now at Pittsburgh):
The complete series of illustrations for The Book of Imaginary Beings was done by the graduate students in the Department of Illustration and Art of the Book at the Vakalo School of Art and Design in Athens, Greece. The project was carried out under the Art Direction of Hector Haralambous and Dimitris Kritsotakis and started with a few selected students. As it went on many more students insisted that they had fallen in love with the theme of the book and that they would like to do it as well.

It was so successful that it ended with the completion of 20 original series of illustrations of 150 - 200 drawings each. The best drawings were designed by Costas Koutsoukos. George Mastrandonis, lecturer of Web Design at the Digital Design Workshop of Vakalo School of Art and Design, and his students designed a web site for The Book of Imaginary Beings, a site that contains not only these illustrations but also the complete text of the book as well as a "search" feature that has been deployed extending the site's research usability

Now there is a new hardcover book with beautiful illustrations:

Cheerleaders selling drugs

Unable to persuade doctors as they had in the past - dinners, vacations, speaking fees - drug companies just hire pretty people. From the NY Times:
But many cheerleaders, and their proponents, say they bring attributes besides good looks to the job - so much so that their success has led to a recruiting pipeline that fuels the country's pharmaceutical sales force. T. Lynn Williamson, Ms. Napier's cheering adviser at Kentucky, says he regularly gets calls from recruiters looking for talent, mainly from pharmaceutical companies. "They watch to see who's graduating," he said.

"They don't ask what the major is," Mr. Williamson said. Proven cheerleading skills suffice. "Exaggerated motions, exaggerated smiles, exaggerated enthusiasm - they learn those things, and they can get people to do what they want."

Approximately two dozen Kentucky cheerleaders, mostly women but a few men, have become drug reps in recent years.

While there are no statistics on how many drug representatives are former or current cheerleaders, demand for them led to the formation of an employment firm, Spirited Sales Leaders, in Memphis. It maintains a database of thousands of potential candidates.

"The cheerleaders now are the top people in universities; these are really capable and high-profile people," said Gregory C. Webb, who is also a principal in a company that runs cheerleading camps and employs former cheerleaders. He started Spirited Sales Leaders about 18 months ago because so many cheerleaders were going into drug sales. He said he knew several hundred former cheerleaders who had become drug representatives.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

This is funny

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Riffing on pajamas

I'm plagiarizing myself here. This is a post I left at Althouse. I'll need to come back and stick in some links, but until then consider this a rough draft.


Throughout these last few days, I keep thinking that the Huffingtons dealt with ridicule with much more backbone than Roger and Charles and friends. Has everyone forgotten the funniest website of the year - Huffington's Toast? Arianna was ripped to shreds and then those shreds were put through a coffee grinder and I don't recall much of a complaint. Nope, that just kept doing what they were doing and it's become somewhat successful. I guess.

With Pajamas, they make grandiose pronouncements and deliver no content. People come knocking - hello, anyone in here? - and the faithful act like Althouse and Den Beste and Hogonice and Moxie, and many, many others are guilty of philosophical impurities. Not to mention the Open Source debacle and the very interesting claims of Dennis the Peasant.

So they've changed the name. Huzzah. What do they have to offer?

It's still wire copy from the Xinhua News Agency.

There's a link to NormBlog. Actually, it's a link to an inside page, but if you click again they claim they'll take you to Normblog. Gotta get those page clicks for the advertisers.

At the top is a post from the vaunted Barcelona staff. Whoa, I think this qualifies for A few days ago it was Liberia; today it's in Germany where a female will be taking power for the first time in the country's history (she's also the first head og government to have grown up in Germany's formerly Communist East, CNN reminds, and the youngest one since World War II, according to Bloomberg). No! not an honest to goodness FEMALE!

Don't forget the tag: And, predictably, bloggers are starting to have their take...Well, thank God, because the world can't spin until bloggers have their take. I guess it's better than bloggers go wild.

I was surprised at the number of blogs I read that are OSM blogs. They all seemed more reasonable...more intelligent.

It's been almost a week and other than Roger L. Simon worried the internet will harm his daughter and the intelligence carnival, I have yet to see them offer anything of anything. Say what you will of Huffington Post, but at least they had crap to make fun of. Which is a heck of a lot better than being made fun of for having nothing.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Thank you for smoking

This was to be a simple post. Just a recommendation for a humorous book to get you through these trying holidays. The book is Thank You For Smoking, a satirical look at the life of a tobacco lobbyist written by Christopher Buckley.

Clicking around, there's been a movie made, with a decent cast! Aaron Eckhart, Robert Duvall, some child actor called katie Holmes, William H. Macy, Sam Elliott playing a cancer-ridden cowboy (think Marlboro man), this is all good. Of greater concern is the director, Jason Reitman. Based on his slim body of work as extras in Ivan Reitman movies, I can only guess he is Ivan Reitman's son.

More vexing is that even though it played this fall at a Toronto film festival, it won't hit U.S. theaters until at least March 2006. But here's what has my vex meter at pissed off: even though there's a completed movie, no one has a trailer on the internet! Gah.

What, someone can't find another relative to pimp a website? Well, here's an excerpt from the book. Nick Naylor, the tobacco guy, is on the Koppel show debating Senator Ortolan Finistirre from the great state of Vermont.
Koppel sounded amused, in a disgusted sort of way. "All right, let's for the sake of argument suppose that is stil an open question. But would you agree that until such a time as there is conclusive evidence that smoking is harmful, that we ought to err on the side of prudence and protect society against the possibiity--to use as neutral a term as I can--that it might be harmful, and therefore put Senator Finisterre's labels on cigarettes?"

Subtle bastard.

"well," Nick laughed softly, tolerantly, "sure, but we're going to have to print up an awful lot of warning labels to cover all the things in life that might not be a hundred percent safe." But enough palaver. It was time to pull the pin on the hand grenade that the waitress had given him. "But the irony in all this, Ted, is that the real, demonstrated number-one killer in America is cholesterol. I don't know any scientists who would disagree with that. And here comes Senator Finisterre, whose fine and beautiful state is, I regret to have to say, clogging the nation's arteries with Vermont cheddar cheese, with this proposal to plaster us with rat-poison labels."

"That's absolutely absurd. Ted, may I--"

"If" I might be allowed to finish?" Nick said, snatching back the mike. "I was merely going to say that I'm sure that the tobacco industry would consent to having these labels put on our product, if he will acknowledge the tragic role that his product is playing, by putting the same warning labels on these deadly chunks of solid, low-density lipoprotein that go by the name of Vermont cheddar cheese."


Think of it as evolution in action*

So John Wesley Harding's Darwin pops up on the playlist and I had two thoughts. The first is the above title, it's taken from the Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle novel, Oath of Fealty*. Then, partway through the song, a couple white tigers in Vegas discuss eating their magicians. This caused me to wonder when the song was written - before or after Seigfroid and Roy. From this tour diary note, it looks like it was written before the mauling.

Entry #8: November 23rd 2003
Darwin: I played this song last night, and a woman asked: "How did you feel when you heard the news about Seigfrid/Roy (in the light of having written the song)?" As Max Von Sydow says in Hannah And Her Sisters, though he's talking about the holocaust: "The surprise is not that it happened, but that it doesn't happen more often." (That isn't my favourite Woody Allen dialogue, however. That's from Broadway Danny Rose and is something along the lines of:
'They shot him through the eyes'
'So he's blind?'
'No, he's dead!'
'Of course, yes, because the bullets go right through.')

From the CD D4: Swings and Roundabouts, here are the lyrics:
The tourists get into their car
And drive through the safari park
There's animals you've only seen in books
And despite the helpful warnings
(You could read them in the dark)
They decide to try and get a closer look
And they park the car and lock it cos you're better safe than sorry
And they try to make the lions look their way
And in a perfect Kodak moment, they're hunting for their car keys
As the lions come bid them all good day
And they say: Haven't you ever heard of Darwin?
Did you think we were going to run and hide?
Haven't you ever heard of Darwin?
Don't roll down your car windows
It's a jungle outside

There's white tigers in Las Vegas
Who deign to show their teeth
Sip tea from china to polite applause
And they're weighing up the gamblers
They're masters or they're meat
Provided they stay arm's length from the paws
And it's very nearly showtime, the magicians warm up backstage
And the sound effects so loud that no-one hears
As one tiger turns to the other and says: "you wanna see some magic?
Tonight it's the magicians disappear!"
And the tigers say: Haven't they ever heard of Darwin?
Did they think we'd vanish in thin air?
Haven't they ever heard of Darwin?
Don't roll down your car windows
It's a jungle out there
Further down the food chain
Closer to the ground
Scurry all the scavengers at home
You can tidy up the kitchen
And wash all of the plates
But there's always meat left somewhere on the bone
And all our tiny flatmates are waiting to inherit
The legacy we'll leave behind one night
They feed their little habit and wait with perfect patience til
There's no-one left to turn on all the lights
And they'll sing: Hadn't they ever heard of Darwin?
Now we don't have to run and hide
Hadn't they ever heard of Darwin?
Open up the windows, It's a jungle inside

Friday, November 18, 2005

Polyester gets sweaty and smelly

In today's news is the earth-shattering news that the IT industry has the worst dressed workers. Shocking, isn't it?

Of course this reminded me of a passage in Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon.
Randy's posture is righteous and alert: it is all because of his suit.

It is trite to observe that hackers don't like fancy clothes. Avi has learned that good clothes can actually be comfortable--the slacks that go with a business suit, for example, are really much more comfortable than blue jeans. And he has spent enough time with hackers to obtain the insight that is it is not wearing suits that they object to, so much as getting them on. Which includes not only the donning process per se but also picking them out, maintaining them, and worrying whether they are still in style--this last being especially difficult for men who wear suits once every five years.

So it's like this: Avi has a spreadsheet on one of his computers, listing the necks, inseams, and other vital measurements of every man in his employ. A couple of weeks before an important meeting, he will simply fax it to his tailor in Shanghai. Then, in a classic demonstration of the Asian just-in-time delivery system as pioneered by Toyota, the suits will arrive via Federal Express, twenty-fours ahead of time so that they can be automatically piped to the hotel's laundry room. This morning, just as Randy emerged from the shower, he heard a knock at his door, and swung it open to reveal a valet carrying a freshly cleaned and pressed business suit, complete with shirt and tie. He put it all on (a tenth generation photocopy of a bad diagram of the half-Windsor knot was thoughtfully provided). It fit perfectly.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Name that movie

Ralph Macchio in a movie is generally not a good sign. Ralph Macchio as a Juilliard trained classical guitarist who really just wants to play the blues definately not a good sign. Jami Gertz playing an underage runaway hooker? Also not good. Poor Jami, that same year also saw her in the futuristic roller blade epic, Solarbabies!

Despite that...well, despite nothing, it's a bad movie. However, it does have a couple redeeming features. One, decent music by Ry Cooder. Two, Joe Seneca has two of my favorite movie lines:
  • Boy, don't you know, Muddy Waters invented electricity.
  • The blues ain't nothin' but a good man feelin' bad.

Even Marilyn Monroe was a man

Here's today's song. It popped up on the iPod on the ride to work and I hit replay four times. From Robyn Hitchcock's brilliant I Often Dream of Trains.

Uncorrected Personality Traits
Uncorrected personality traits that seem
Whimsical in a child may prove
To be ugly in a fully grown adult.

Lack of involvement with the father or
Over involvement with the mother
Can result in lack of ability
To relate to sexual peers.

And in homosexual leanings,
Narcicissm, transsexuality.
Girls from the waist up,
Men from the waist down.
Attempts to be your own love object.

Reconcile your parents to you
By becoming both at once.

Even Marilyn Monroe was a man but this
Tends to get over looked by our
Mother-fixated, overweight, sexist media.

So, uncorrected personality traits that seem
Whimsical in a child may prove
To be ugly in a fully grown adult.

If you give in to them,
Every time they cry,
They will become little tyrants
But they won't remember why.
Then when they are thwarted
By people in later life,
They will become psychotic
And they won't make an ideal husband or wife.

This spoiled baby grows into
The escapist teenager who's
The adult alcoholic who's
The middle-age suicide.

Oy, so. Uncorrected personality traits that seem
Whimsical in a child may prove
To be ugly in a fully grown adult.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Kenny Chesney is an assclown

Jack Sparks has been too quiet. But the CMA music awards were last night so this day starts with his review of rage and disgust. It's a beautiful thing:
As we gear up for Volume III of my Running Diary of the annual schlockfest known as the Country Music Association Awards, I'm filled with equal parts dread and excitement. Nothing will top last year's work...a rambling screed so vile that not one, but two executives from "Music Row" felt the need to encourage me to perform impossible feats of auto and transitive sexual prowess. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Before we engage the wondrous powers of Dish Network's recording feature, let's examine what we know:
1) Kenny Chesney is an assclown of proportions heretofore unknown to mortal man.
2) Ed Benson is the greedy, Matrix-like "Architect" behind the cash grab in Nashville that has led to shameless spectacles like the one I just know I'm about to watch.
3) Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, and Buck Owens wouldn't walk across the street to piss on any of these people if they were on fire.
4) I'm out of beer, but I have one Newcastle Brown Ale, 2 Dr. Peppers, and a full bottle of Bacardi behind the bar.
Let the games begin...Maestro, the "play" button if you please....

Read the rest...

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Today's freaky news

Oprah dated Roger Ebert.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Two weeks of HR emails

More from the corporate lost and found:
  • A pair of clip on shades very Top Gun'ish found on the first floor
  • Set of keys were found in the 4th floor breakroom
  • Silver Samsung cellphone was found in the 4th floor breakroom
  • Small orange bag found in first floor women’s bathroom
  • Audiovox cell phone was found in the 4th floor breakroom
  • Keys found in 4th floor ladies restroom
  • A large hooped gold earring was found in the parking lot
  • A ring was found in the 1st floor women’s restroom

Changing zero to one

Since we've loaded all our CDs on the computer to use it as a jukebox and have iPods for music in the car and at work, I've boxed up the physical CDs for storage. As I boxed the CDs I double-checked iTunes to make sure they were all there. I expected a handful would be missing. Oops, I had almost 90 CDs I'd skipped. Crap. Well, now they are all loaded and in my Unplayed Songs playlist I have 1,470 tracks. Better start listening.

Setting to random, here's the first fifteen:
  • 2 Nigs United 4 West Compton, Prince (The Black Album)
  • Just the Right Bullets, Tom Waits (The Black Rider)
  • On My Way Home, Enya (Paint the Sky with Stars)
  • Bayou Girl, Buckwheat Zydeco (Five Card Stud)
  • Walking Along, The Solitaires (The Doo Wop Box)
  • Way Down, Tori Amos (Boys for Pele)
  • Young Love, Sonny James (Back to the 50's)
  • Police and Thieves, The Clash (Story of the Clash)
  • Nostalgie Amoureuse, Zap Mama (Seven)
  • Slow Ride, Bonnie Raitt (Luck of the Draw)
  • See You Later Alligator, Bill Hailey and the Comets (Back to the 50's)
  • When Love Comes to Town, Herbie Hancock (Possibilities)
  • 1. Departure, Kronos Quartet (Black Angels)
  • Bonita Applebaum, A Tribe Called Quest (People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm)
  • Sweethearts, Camper Van Beethoven (Key Lime Pie)

ALERT! Aluminum foil hats do not work!

On the Effectiveness of Aluminium Foil Helmets: An Empirical Study
Among a fringe community of paranoids, aluminum helmets serve as the protective measure of choice against invasive radio signals. We investigate the efficacy of three aluminum helmet designs on a sample group of four individuals. Using a $250,000 network analyser, we find that although on average all helmets attenuate invasive radio frequencies in either directions (either emanating from an outside source, or emanating from the cranium of the subject), certain frequencies are in fact greatly amplified. These amplified frequencies coincide with radio bands reserved for government use according to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). Statistical evidence suggests the use of helmets may in fact enhance the government's invasive abilities. We theorize that the government may in fact have started the helmet craze for this reason.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

iTunes Tournament of 64, Round 4

Round 4! Let's kill off four more songs and we're finally at the final 4! I am never doing this again. I am also all out of comments and will just a song and think of something to say for the finale.

To recap:

  1. Popular (Kristin Chenoweth) vs Till I Whisper U Something (Sinead O'Connor)
  2. I Hear the Bells (Mike Doughty) vs Every Little Bit Hurts (Charles Brown)
  3. Never Like This Before (Peter Wolf) vs Living Loving Maid - She's Just a Woman (Dread Zeppelin)
  4. Rainbow Connection (Me First and the Gimme Gimmes) vs Hamlet (John Wesley Harding). I highly recommend listening to Hamlet. It's 4 minute recap Shakespeare as written by Adam MacNaughton. I'll point you towards the lyrics and provide a small excerpt:
    I've been killed and it's your duty to take revenge on Claudius.
    Kill him quick and clean and tell the Nation what a fraud he is."
    The boy says "Right, I'll do it but I'll need to play it crafty
    And so's naeone will suspect me I'll kid on that I'm a daftie."

iTunes Tournament of 64, Round 3

And now to Round 3. To recap:

I had these running in the background while painting a room, so blame the fumes.

  1. Popular (Kristin Chenoweth) vs Get Up Offa That Thing (James Brown). Yes, I'm picking the pep, yet inconsequential broadway tune over James Brown. Earlier I said something about Get Up Offa That Thing including every James Brown cliche and that was a good thing. After awhile, it isn't such a good thing. Good Gawd James, get it over with. I thought this song lasted about 8 minutes, but it's only half that. It's a bit like a hungover Sunday - too loud, too bright, and just gives me a headache.
  2. Laughing at Birds (The Subdudes) vs Till I Whisper U Something (Sinead O'Connor). I'll go back and listen to the Subdudes CD, for now, they did a good job getting this far.
  3. I Hear the Bells (Mike Doughty) vs I Shall Believe (Sheryl Crow). When Sheryl Crow's first album came out I wrote a review saying something along the lines of "This a very good music, but I don't see it getting much airplay. It won't appeal to the teeny bop demographics and it isn't bland enough for the adult contemporary audience. Oops, guess I missed that. I still enjoy her first album, though I've never picked up any of her other releases. Not really related, but OLN's pandering by constantly showing shots of Sheryl during "Le Tour" was infuriating. Less pop stars, more Bob Roll, I say.
  4. Body By Fisher (Zydeco Force) vs Every Little Bit Hurts (Charles Brown). I could listen to Zydeco Force all day, but they'll have to lose to Charles Brown. Now let's try and figure out what Body by Fisher is about. If you google the title the first hit is an Orange County plastic surgeon. Most of the following are links to car parts. Looks like "Body by Fisher" was a General Motors advertising campaign
  5. Never Like This Before (Peter Wolf) vs Lucy Doesn't Love You (Ivy). Love the way Lucy Doesn't Love You starts with the jangly guitar. I even like Ivy's voice. I just expect something deeper or not so whispy.
  6. Living Loving Maid - She's Just a Woman (Dread Zeppelin) vs Borderline (Camper Van Beethoven). Here's my Borderline story. Sometime back in the 1990's Maggie Estep released a spoken word CD, "NO More Mr. Nice Girl." My favorite track is Bad Day at the Beauty Salon, wherein she recounts taking a ill-fated job as a stripper after a bad haircut.
    I stand there weaving through the air. The strobe light is illuminating my pubic unicorn. Madonna's song Borderline is pumping through the club's speaking system for the 5th time tonight. BORDERLINE BORDERLINE BORDERLINE, love me till I just can't see. And I start wondering, waht the hell does that mean? Love me till I just can't see - what does that mean? Screw me so much my eyes pop out, I go blind, end up walking crazy naked and horny down 2nd Avenue? What? There's a glitch in the tape, it starts to skip. Borderline whoop Borderline whoop. I stumble and twist my ankle. My g-string rides between my butt cheeks making me twitch with pain. My head starts spinning, my kees buckle, and I go down on all fours and puke right in the bald guy's beer.

    And that is what I think of whenever anyone, in any context, says borderline.
  7. Add It Up (Violent Femmes) vs Rainbow Connection (Me First and the Gimme Gimmes). One of the best concerts I've been to was the Violent Femmes at 1st Avenue during the "Hallowed Ground" tour. Amazing. Since all those 20+ years ago I've noticed that Femmes fans fall into two camps. The first is former fans who can't understand why they ever liked the band and ones. like me, who still find much to appreciate and enjoy. Femmes rule, there's just something special about Rainbow Connection.
  8. Hamlet (John Wesley Harding) vs Under Pressure (Queen/David Bowie. About all I can say to this is that Queen and Bowie worked much better than I thought they would. It's a shame they didn't do more together.

On to Round 4
  1. Popular (Kristin Chenoweth) vs Till I Whisper U Something (Sinead O'Connor)
  2. I Hear the Bells (Mike Doughty) vs Every Little Bit Hurts (Charles Brown)
  3. Never Like This Before (Peter Wolf) vs Living Loving Maid - She's Just a Woman (Dread Zeppelin)
  4. Rainbow Connection (Me First and the Gimme Gimmes) vs Hamlet (John Wesley Harding)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Quote of the day

From My Name is Earl:
She's getting married to a Canadian. But not the French kind, so we're OK with it.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

iTunes Tournament of 64, Round 2

For the second round I have to eliminate 16 more songs. Since this is taking forever, let's get to it.
See Round 1.

  1. The Memphis Train (Rufus Thomas) vs Popular (Kristin Chenoweth). Rufus Thomas had quite the interesting life and career. Before helping found the Memphis sound with Stax records, he had Sun Records first hit; and before that, was one of the first black radio personalities in the 1940s. One problem with Memphis Train is that it's derivative of his earlier Stax releases. But what really hurts it is the post-production of actual train noise before and after the song. Much like the seagulls in Otis Redding's Dock of the Bay, this added atmosphere is distracting and takes you out of the song. Chenoweth uses the phrasing in Popular to great effect and I'll give it a slight edge.
  2. Seven Deadly Sins (Flogging Molly) vs Get Up Offa That Thing (James Brown). From the opening scream to the fadeout, JB can do no wrong. Flogging Molly, with their Irish-folk-punk sound will obviously be compared to the Pogues. While not fair, Flogging Molly can almost stand up to that comparison. Actually, they fall somewhere in between the Pogues and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, so if you're a fan of either of those two bands you should enjoy Flogging Molly. Seven Deadly Sins is good, just not good enough to defeat the hardest working man in show business.
  3. Laughing at Birds (The Subdudes) vs The Garden (PJ Harvey) The Subdudes are a collection of of New Orleans musicians who have been kicking around for close to twenty years. This song is from 1996 and since then they've broken up and gotten back together. If PJ Harvey puts out a CD, I'll stand in line to buy it, even though nothing has ever again reached the level of Rid of Me. The Garden suffers from not being as good as I want PJ Harvey to be and Laughing at Birds surprises by being better than expected.
  4. The Christmas Song (Jackson 5) vs Till I Whisper U Something (Sinead O'Connor). The Jackson 5 Christmas album is 'pert near perfect and is one of a small handful of Christmas albums everyone SHOULD own. In one form or another, I've owned a copy since 1970. O'Connor's Faith and Courage is almost as strong as I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got and Till I Whisper is a fine example for her strength as a singer. It's a close call, but it's Sinead.
  5. I Hear the Bells (Mike Doughty) vs More than Meets the Eyes (Bangles). Crap. All Over the Place is easily my favorite Bangles album and this is one of the top tracks. I think what I like about it is the emphasis on group harmonies. Subsequent albums were more pop/new wave with Susannah Hoffs taking more of a lead singer role. Not bad, just not the same. I Hear the Bells is from Doughty's new release and I'm constantly replaying this song. Come back in a month and the result might be different, but today the Bangles go home.
  6. Good Enough (Sarah McLachlan) vs I Shall Believe (Sheryl Crow). These two are evenly matched. I guess what tips it in favor of Sheryl Crow is the realization that Good Enough reminds me of Anticipation, which reminds me of ketchup. I'm not a big fan of ketchup. This is what happens when I force myself to pay attention to what I'm listening to.
  7. Body By Fisher (Zydeco Force) vs The Volga Vouty (Duke Ellington). I'm keeping Zydeco Force around for at least one more round, so let's talk Ellington. Volga Vouty is from Ellington's version of the Tchaikovsky "Nutcracker" Suite. Brilliant music - even Tchaikovsky approved. Like the Jackson 5 Christmas album this is another everyone should own. You can find it on the Three Suites collection. My first exposure to it came at a small cabaret in Minneapolis. Instead of the traditional Nutcracker ballet, this version was with tap dancers and the setting was moved to 1940's Harlem.
  8. Every Little Bit Hurts (Charles Brown) vs We Belong Together (Rickie Lee Jones). Good song from a great album, but Rickie can't stop Charles. Go, Charles, go!
  9. 7 Deadly Sins (Mary's Danish) vs Never Like This Before (Peter Wolf). Read the sad tale of the music industry killing a band that should have been huge: The life and premature death of Mary’s Danish.
  10. Writing on the Wall (Lowen & Navarro) vs Lucy Doesn't Love You (Ivy), Lowen & Navarro are a completely likeable duo, in the easy adult alternative mode of Dave Matthews or Dave Edmunds. Nice, but nothing gripping. On the other hand, starting with some jangly guitar and throwing in a horn arrangement, Lucy Doesn't Love You has me immediately humming along.
  11. Hey (Shona Laing) vs Living Loving Maid - She's Just a Woman (Dread Zeppelin). Dread Zeppelin rocks. Shona Laing has had an interesting career. She's performed since the age of 17 and in addition to her solo career has performed with Manfred Mann and New Faces. What grabs me about Hey is that it sounds exactly like Joan Armatrading. I'm listening to it now and as soon as the first notes kick in I'm thinking I clicked Joan by mistake. Freaky.
  12. Hard Times (Eddie Bo) vs Borderline (Camper Van Beethoven). Now if Eddie added some accordian and a washboard, he'd have a kick ass zydeco stomp; as it stands it isn't much more than chanting over a nice piano line. I have a Borderline story that I'm saving for later.
  13. Add It Up (Violent Femmes) vs Drunken Lullabies (Flogging Molly). My favorite Flogging Molly song up against one of my favorite Violen Femmes songs. My daugher will request Drunken Lullabies had ear drum splitting levels and there's nothing cuter than a 4-year-old headbanging and pogoing to punk folk. But you cannot fuck with the Violent Femmes. You cannot fuck with this band.
  14. Rainbow Connection (Me First and the Gimme Gimmes) vs Ball the Wall (Professor Longhair). Tough, tough choice. Professor Longhair is genius and this is one of those songs that made the creation of rock and roll possible. Me First and the Gimme Gimmes are the ultimate punk cover band. Their version of Rainbow Connection is performed with such affection it's infectious. One of those songs I could listen to all day.
  15. Hamlet (John Wesley Harding) vs Lucky Day Overture (Tom Waits). Waits never had a chance against this sub-4 minute version of Shakespeare's Hamlet.
  16. Whippin' Piccadilly (Petty Booka) vs Under Pressure (Queen/David Bowie). I enjoy the Petty Booka CD Let's Talk Dirty in Hawaiian. I have this theory, though. I'm convinced that these cute Japanese girl bands like Shonen Knife and the 5,6,7,8s all speak perfect English. And that their cutesy schoolgirl Engrish is a calculated effort to appeal to the same pervs that find anime to be artistically interesting.

Ok, so that leaves Round 3 looking like the following. I'll be back in a few days to wrap all this up.
  1. Popular (Kristin Chenoweth) vs Get Up Offa That Thing (James Brown)
  2. Laughing at Birds (The Subdudes) vs Till I Whisper U Something (Sinead O'Connor)
  3. I Hear the Bells (Mike Doughty) vs I Shall Believe (Sheryl Crow)
  4. Body By Fisher (Zydeco Force) vs Every Little Bit Hurts (Charles Brown)
  5. Never Like This Before (Peter Wolf) vs Lucy Doesn't Love You (Ivy)
  6. Living Loving Maid - She's Just a Woman (Dread Zeppelin) vs Borderline (Camper Van Beethoven)
  7. Add It Up (Violent Femmes) vs Rainbow Connection (Me First and the Gimme Gimmes)
  8. Hamlet (John Wesley Harding) vs Under Pressure (Queen/David Bowie)

Redux: overpriced fishbowl

The Georgia Aquarium opens November 23 and general admission tickets are now on sale.

Along with being the world's largest aquarium, it also comes with the highest ticket prices in the country. I wrote about this in September, see Really Expensive Georgia Aquarium. Here's an excerpt comparing a visit to the Tennessee aquarium, less than two hours from downtown Atlanta:
Let’s compare Tennessee versus Georgia with two adults and two teenagers. Both charge children thirteen and older at the adult price.

Tennessee aquarium would cost $71.80 (17.95 x 4) for a day visit.
Georgia aquarium would cost $91.00 (22.75 x 4) for a day visit.

Now, according to the article, the Georgia aquarium does offer annual passes. That’s $59.50 a person ($43.25 if under 12), so the same family of four could pay $238 for annual passes. That would require three visits before you started saving money.

Now take a look at the Tennessee aquarium, they have a family pass for $85. That’s unlimited visits for two adults and two children under eighteen. You’ve paid for the membership less than halfway through your second visit.

In other words, with the family/annual pass the Tennessee aquarium will cost you $85 for three visits, while the Georgia aquarium will cost you $238.

As it is, the cost for a family of four to attend the Georgia Aqurium is more than $19 above the average of the other major aquariums.

AquariumadultchildFamily of 4 per dayFamily membership
Mote, Sarasota FL151050none
SC Aq, Charleston SC15846$80
Dallas TX15.958.9549.80$135
Adventure, Camden NJ16.9513.9561.80none
Ripley's, Myrtle Beach16.959.9553.80none
Mystic Aq, Mystic CT17.512.560$110
Tennessee Aq, Chattanooga17.959.554.90$85
Aq of the Pacific, Long Beach CA18.9510.9559.80$109
National Aq, Baltimore MD19.513.566$109
Monterey Bay21.9510.9565.80$175
Shedd, Chicago23.0016.0078.00$95

breach of confidentiality will result in disqualification

Fraudulent email recieved from Mrs. Mitchele Young,





After a successful completion of the second category

You have emerged as one of the winners of the
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As a category B winner, you have been selected by
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Remember, you must contact your claim agent not later
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we advice that you adhere strictly to their procedures to avoid any
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Contact your claims agent.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

iTunes Tournament of 64, round 1

I'm calling this the iTunes Tournament of 64. The basic idea is to randomly choose 64 songs and pit them against each other with one being chosen the winner. Huzzah!

If you have a sufficently large collection of music you probably have plenty of end of the CD, back catalog music you don't spend much time with. So it will be interesting to see what happens when a fresh song comes up against a song you like, but may suffer from overplaying.

I used the iTunes party shuffle feature to pick my songs. You could just set to list 64 songs, but I found this led to frequent song groupings by artist. To try and make this as random as possible, here's what I did:
  1. Set party shuffle to 100 songs. The playlist I drew from has 7400 songs.
  2. Pick the top song.
  3. Resuffle, and repeat until 64 songs are selected.
  4. Play 1vs2, 3vs4, and so forth.
  5. Pick your favorite. Provide a short note.
  6. Repeat until 1 song reigns supreme.

A few notes:
  • I removed all audio books, comedy and spoken word, but left in holiday music. Adjust as you see fit.
  • I'm picking the "best" song; which I'll describe vaguely as the song I'm most likely to hit replay for.
  • When selecting my 64, I gave myself the option of picking the 2nd track on the list if the first wasn't appropriate.
  • An artist can appear more than once.
  • Probably want to keep your comments short at the beginning. The final song will win 6 contests, so don't blow it after round 1.
  • No apologizing for the music that is selected. It's in your library so deal with it.
  • Don't agonize over your winners. With 64 songs you'll have 3-4 hours of music, so go with your first impression.

Round 1 - 32 contests - is below. The winner is in bold and Round 2 will be in a following post.
  1. Victoria (Ray Davies) vs The Memphis Train (Rufus Thomas). Ouch. First contest is a tough one. Nice sing-along song by Davies, but I'll have to go with the classic Stax sound of Rufus.
  2. Popular (Kristin Chenoweth) vs Shenandoah (Richard Thompson). Dang. Popular is a fun, silly song (probably my favorite selection from the Wicked soundtrack) and Chenoweth is a treat to listen to. This might also be my favorite version of Shenandoah. Sorry, Richard; I'm going with Kristin.
  3. Seven Deadly Sins (Flogging Molly) vs Waltz Darling (Malcolm Mclaren). My daughter, not yet four, loves Flogging Molly. Gotta agree with her on this song and it's an easy victory over Mclaren's waltz.
  4. Abadou (Zap Mama) vs Get Up Offa That Thing (James Brown). I think Zap Mama's first two albums are best described as "What if Bobby McFerrin was four women?" Remember Eddie Murphy's James Brown Celebrity Hot tub? This song has every James Brown cliche you can think of, therefore it is brilliant.
  5. 5 You will Pay Tomorrow (Terence Trent D'Arby) vs Laughing at Birds (The Subdudes). I don't who The Subdudes are or why I have this CD, but I do and this a decent bluesy soul. D'Arby doesn't get my head a bobbing and that damn kazoo is annoying and distracting, so he gets sent home in what I'll call a minor upset.
  6. The Garden (PJ Harvey) vs Far From Me (John Prine). I own a John Prine CD for his Angel From Montgomery; one of the most depressing, yet beautiful songs I've heard. Have doubts? Listen to the definitive version by Bonnie Raitt. For the rest of it, he's a voice that takes getting used to and I'm not there yet.
  7. Spam (Dayroom) vs The Christmas Song (Jackson 5). Dayroom was probably popular at frat parties in Athens. But as they have a few songs I enjoy, I'll let that slide. However, Spam is a hidden bonus track, that's mostly a studio oddity and The Jackson 5 Christmas Album might be the best xmas album ever. No contest.
  8. Till I Whisper U Something (Sinead O'Connor) vs Baby Moon (Audra McDonald). These are two of my favorite singers, both are good songs, and it[s a shame one has to go out in the first round.
  9. I Hear the Bells (Mike Doughty) vs Billy (Del Suggs). If you like Jimmy Buffett, you'd probably like Del Suggs. Interesting factoid about Suggs is that it looks like he makes most of his living performing at the expense of Campus Activity Boards. Which is how I came to own his CD - it was a gift for helping him set up. Let's do the math: he claims about 100 shows a year, with a price of $1250 plus room and board. In the CAB world, that's very reasonable and for a performer it's gotta beat playing for tips in a bar.
  10. Santa Claus, Santa Claus (Louis Jorden) vs More than Meets the Eyes (Bangles). I'm a big fan of the Bangles first, more folksy, album. Infinately listenable.
  11. Good Enough (Sarah McLachlan) vs What Now My Love? (Miss Piggy). Maybe if Miss Piggy was served as a steaming platter of bacon.
  12. I Shall Believe (Sheryl Crow) vs The Pusher (S.W.A.T). Funny, as I was writing this The Pusher, in its original version, was just referenced over at Althouse. The S.W.A.T. CD is one of my more enjoyable possessions and deserves a post of its own, but for this matchup it's I Shall Believe.
  13. Body By Fisher (Zydeco Force) vs Geisha (Until December). I'm sure if this was 1989 I'd be all over Until December, but at my advanced age Geisha is 6.5 minutes of drudgery.
  14. The Volga Vouty (Duke Ellington) vs Ooooh Yeah (Voodolulu). When I saw this on the list I was very intrigued. Ellington's remix of the Nutcracker Suite is unmatched, yet I'm oddly intrigued with Voodoolulu. The more I listen to them the more I enjoy it. Maybe it has something to do with the main female lead sounding like Ruby, The Galactic Gumshoe. Here's a Voodoolulu link.
  15. Every Little Bit Hurts (Charles Brown) vs Furry Green Atom Bowl (Robyn Hitchcock). Oh, it hurts to send Robyn Hitchcock home early, so listen to Charles Brown and know what hurt sounds like. Maybe to make up for it I'll teach my daughter to sing Furry Green Atom Bowl.
  16. We Belong Together (Rickie Lee Jones) vs Tell It To the Sky (Tracy Bonham). Next.
  17. 7 Deadly Sins (Mary's Danish) vs There's a Moon Out Tonight (Capris). I like doo wop - doesn't that sound like a horrible ethnic slur - but not even close.
  18. A Spoonful of Sugar (Julie Andrews) vs Never Like This Before (Peter Wolf). Have you recently watched Mary Poppins? Ms. Andrews is walking a fine line of subtle sexual flirtation. Very interesting.
  19. Hometown New Orleans (Champion Jack Dupree) vs Writing on the Wall (Lowen & Navarro). Two songs I'm unfamiliar with. Ah, Dupree is stride piano New Orleans jazz; not much of a song, just kinda talking about New Orleans. I'll keep L&N around for another round while I try and remember who they remind me of.
  20. Oh Lawd, I'm on my Way (Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong) vs Lucy Doesn't Love You (Ivy). Can't much explain this pick. Ella and Louis singing Porgy & Bess should be a romp. Problem is, as much as I love the instrumentation on this production, the singing leaves me cold. It's Ivy in a Chaminade-style upset.
  21. Honey Bun (Mandy Patinkin) vs Hey (Shona Laing). For the record, I happily own every Mandy Patinkin CD.
  22. Living Loving Maid - She's Just a Woman (Dread Zeppelin) vs O Canada (Geddy Lee - south park). Fuck Canada. I don't like Rush and Dread Zeppelin is brilliant.
  23. Milord (Edith Piaf) vs Hard Times (Eddie Bo). The Sparrow, she is used to the disappointment.
  24. Grapefruit - Juicy Fruit (Jimmy Buffett) vs Borderline (Camper Van Beethoven). The worst thing about Buffett is the Parrotheads. Some of his early music is quite good, but he's been coasting for close to 20 years.
  25. Add It Up (Violent Femmes) vs Daddy Didn't Tell Me (Astors). Very good song by the Astors off the Stax label. If we're comparing 60's soul labels, Stax kicks Motown's a-s-s to the moon and back. Still, it will take much more to beat this live version by the Femmes.
  26. Mother Nature's Son (Beatles) vs Drunken Lullabies (Flogging Molly). Another Flogging Molly song easily advances.
  27. Lock Stock & Teardrops (k.d. lang) vs Rainbow Connection (Me First and the Gimme Gimmes). I thought k.d. Lang would win this one. I prefer her earlier torch and twang to her more recent just torch. When she sings country you can just tell she loves this music. Oh well, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes won me over.
  28. Ball the Wall (Professor Longhair) vs Blackbird (Bernadette Peters). I'm a big Bernadette fan, but she sings this song like a funeral dirge. Not the least bit enjoyable. For me, the definitive Blackbird is by Dionne Farris. Think I'll buy some more Professor Longhair.
  29. Hamlet (John Wesley Harding) vs Speak (The Roches). Good lord, Roches, that is just bad.
  30. Leave heaven Alone (Exene Cervenka) vs Lucky Day Overture (Tom Waits). The Overture is more of a transition piece and should have lost. It, however, had the good fortune to come against solo Cervenka.
  31. Whippin' Piccadilly (Petty Booka) vs Street Parade (Earl King). Petty Booka - Japanese ukelele duo; Earl King - kinda generic New Orleans 70s funk.
  32. Lost My Mind (Matthew Sweet) vs Under Pressure (Queen/David Bowie).Sorry, if Matthew Sweet isn't singing Girlfriend, I'm not interested.

Here’s the lineup for Round 2 (for a later post)
  1. The Memphis Train (Rufus Thomas) vs Popular (Kristin Chenoweth)
  2. Seven Deadly Sins (Flogging Molly) vs Get Up Offa That Thing (James Brown)
  3. Laughing at Birds (The Subdudes) vs The Garden (PJ Harvey)
  4. The Christmas Song (Jackson 5) vs Till I Whisper U Something (Sinead O'Connor)
  5. I Hear the Bells (Mike Doughty) vs More than Meets the Eyes (Bangles)
  6. Good Enough (Sarah McLachlan) vs I Shall Believe (Sheryl Crow)
  7. Body By Fisher (Zydeco Force) vs The Volga Vouty (Duke Ellington)
  8. Every Little Bit Hurts (Charles Brown) vs We Belong Together (Rickie Lee Jones)
  9. 7 Deadly Sins (Mary's Danish) vs Never Like This Before (Peter Wolf)
  10. Writing on the Wall (Lowen & Navarro) vs Lucy Doesn't Love You (Ivy)
  11. Hey (Shona Laing) vs Living Loving Maid - She's Just a Woman (Dread Zeppelin)
  12. Hard Times (Eddie Bo) vs Borderline (Camper Van Beethoven)
  13. Add It Up (Violent Femmes) vs Drunken Lullabies (Flogging Molly)
  14. Rainbow Connection (Me First and the Gimme Gimmes) vs Ball the Wall (Professor Longhair)
  15. Hamlet (John Wesley Harding) vs Lucky Day Overture (Tom Waits)
  16. Whippin' Piccadilly (Petty Booka) vs Under Pressure (Queen/David Bowie)

U mSt su773r 4 MY a'rt

Question. Are poets allowed poetic license to do practically anything with punctuation? I ask this in view of a poem by Emily Dickinson that seems to use the em dash in bewildering and inscrutable ways.
A. Yes, poets are pretty much allowed to do as they please. In my experience, they are sometimes even offended by editing, believing that their misspellings and inconsistencies are inspired, if not intentional. Of course, if poetry is idiosyncratic to the point of being annoying, nobody will want to buy it, so there’s some motivation for restraint in the first place.

Just saying...

Shouldn't a colitis bracelet be brown?

Funding politically correct cancers?

Dr Helen asks:
Why is it that breast cancer and other illnesses get so much more funding than the major diseases that kill both men and women such as lung cancer and heart disease?

In response to Cathy Seipp's:
I never owned up to all this here before because I didn’t want to be written off as Lung Cancer Girl. But I have some things to say on the subject, and maybe the time has come to say them, although no way is this ever going to become a cancer blog. For one thing, I’m beginning to feel a responsibility to point out that lung cancer, which kills more people annually (about 163,000) than the next four most common cancers (colon, breast, pancreatic and prostate) combined, is terribly underfunded compared to other diseases: $950 in research money per lung cancer death, compared to $8800 for breast cancer and $34,000 for AIDS.

That’s because the vast majority of lung cancer (about 85%) is still caused by smoking, even though the rate for lifelong nonsmoking women like me (and Christopher Reeve’s widow) has been going up for some mysterious reason, and the general attitude is that smokers deserve whatever they get.

But half of all lung cancer patients have been nonsmokers by the time of diagnosis, sometimes for decades, like Warren Zevon. If they deserve to get sick, then I suppose so do people who are overweight or don’t exercise or who have promiscuous sex with strangers, all of which are contributing factors for various illnesses that get much more sympathy in the form of research dollars. Maybe the amount of attention we pay to a disease should have less to do with how many celebrities and magazine editors and junk bond kings carry its banner, and more with how many people actually die of it.