Thursday, August 31, 2006

Scooter Chronicles, #3

Wherein problems in India

XWL has recommended considering the Bajaj Chetak scooter. I briefly considered it and despite favorable reviews, decided it wasn't for me. I wasn't crazy about 10-inch wheels and it didn't offer much storage. Then there's the issues with the Indian factories. Seems like every scooter imported from India was having production or labor issues. Being fairly mechanically retarded, dealer support is very important for me--I'm not working on it. Kymco has a more established history and their market share seems to be growing. Then, despite driving manual transmission cars my entire life, I was more interested in the twist and go automatic scooters.

There's also the fact that the Chetak is done, finished, no more. Posting in the Bajaj yahoo scooter forum in January, Al Kolvites, president of Argo USA (formerly Bajaj USA), wrote:
We had suspicions that this kind of thing might happen when we visited the factory 8 months ago. Management spent a lot of time telling us how the motorcycles were selling great guns (145,000 per month at that time)
and how scooter sales were declining (averaging about 9,000 a month). And we could see that they were gradually removing scooters from their lineup. Bajaj has promised many things in the past that never came to pass, we were becoming accustomed to disappointment, so we were waiting for the other shoe to drop. (more on this subject later)

It looks like Bajaj is going out of the scooter business and will concentrate on motorcycles. Bajaj Auto has obviously made a business decision to change the direction of the products they produce, they have something like 10,000 employees at three plants, they are not closing shop, they are growing the business, just not to our liking.

Fortunately we had ordered enough Chetaks to cover us for 2006 and into 2007. The Silver and Black Chetaks have arrived and the metallic Jade are on the water.

Bajaj's policy is to stock and supply parts for a least 5 years after discontinuing a model, then leaving parts to aftermarket suppliers. As you can see with other discontinued brands, spare parts are not normally a problem. The more scooters out there, the more manufacturers there are that want to take advantage of the parts business. As I state on our web site, we will continue to support and supply parts for the Bajaj scooters that we sell. We have thousands of parts in stock and have
every intention of supporting the Bajaj products... selling parts is a good business too.

There's more, so read the rest. If you're interested in a Chetak, they're still out there and the Bajaj yahoo forum is very active. From my research it looked like a nice machine, just not for me.

Scooter Chronicles, #2

Wherein I also refer you to #1

I'll have a more complete writeup on the handling and plusses and minuses (great, lots, not many), but until then here's a quick update.

80 miles per gallon. Suck it Prius and Insight. Perhaps I should borrow/steal Amy Alkon's SUV idea and start tagging hybrids. Bwah ha ha ha.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Ask is the worst search engine

Wherein the proof is obvious

Saw this in the referrals. Go to and search for "who invented fire." So Quoted is the number one result. That is so wrong.

Rock Star: The Baddening

Wherein this sucked so hard there was a color shift

Lukas sang with the band. After two bad songs this one almost sounded good. Too bad theypicked a singer who sounded like he was belching the alphabet. Toby got the encore. Good, he deserved it and gave another great performance.

Last week I ranked Storm as the next to go followed by Ryan. So it was no surprise seeing them in the bottom three. Also considering how the show has dumped on her, justifiably, no surprise to see Dilana there, as well. I actually enjoyed Ryan's Tuesday performance and Storm gave what I thought was her best. So how'd they do tonight?

Ryan did something to The Who's Baba O'Riley. I wouldn't call it singing, all I can really say is that it made me physically ill. Go watch Jordis from last season; now that's good stuff. So I'm thinking Storm has to be safe as there's no way anyone could be as bad as Ryan.

Storm picked Helter Skelter. I was worried when she claimed it as the first punk song. Then as The Wife put it, "How can she be flat and sharp at the same time?" You got me. All's I know is that she stunk up the stage almost as much as Ryan. What should have been an easy elimination, just turned competitive.

Dilana hasn't had a truly bad performance yet and picks Psycho Killer by the Talking Heads. Ooh, I'm thinking, this should be good. Good fucking god, she's been possessed by Zayra. How else to explain such a weirdly fucked up performance. She's given the band a clear opportunity to ditch her.

Frankly, all three were so bad they should all be sent packing. Dilana, with that one performance, burned all my good will towards her. She will not win. Based on the negative comments she's garnered, mostly from Gilby, I'm still expecting Storm to go. Ryan is picked, so I guess he's off to work on his Mr. Roboto retrospective.

Two more weeks and this abomination is over. Storm probably goes next week. I'll pick Toby to win the whole thing. I'll watch, but I'm probably done writing about this.

To wash Dilana's performance out of my head, here's David Byrne from Stop Making Sense performing Psycho Killer:

Other Conversations:

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

"we're not dead, and we're not dying"

Wherein later this fall I need to take a Monday off so I can make it to one of Pete's Sunday dinners

Poppy Z. Brite, writing in the Boston Globe, reminds us why we should care about New Orleans. Quote:
Yet we survive. In New Orleans, on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and (especially) in the mind-bogglingly devastated St. Bernard Parish, communities relegated to the status of Third World nations have pulled together to ensure that the places, customs, cuisines, and ways of life we love will not be destroyed by incompetence or neglect, the way so much else has.

Life in New Orleans is extraordinarily difficult now. Business is bad, essential services are shaky, and the people rebuilding our levees seem to tell a different story every day. One side effect of the hardships: The people still in town are the ones unshakably committed to New Orleans, the ones willing to invest in it and fight for its future.

Our tourism industry struggles because people elsewhere don't realize that it is still possible to have a great vacation in the city .

Nevertheless, the theater and art scenes are vibrant. The cocktails are flowing as always. Chefs freed from the obligation to cater to cautious tourist palates are creating some of the best food New Orleans has seen in years. Pete Vazquez, who lost his restaurant, Marisol, uses a portable grill to prepare weekly ethnic feasts at a Ninth Ward wine bar.

And with the local school board replaced by a network of charter schools, we've got a chance to ensure that current and future generations of New Orleans children will receive a high-quality public education rather than enduring the horrors of pre-Katrina public schools. We can begin to address our crime problem by teaching kids that they matter, that there are possible lives for them other than that of the street and the gun.

You can help us get through this difficult time by acknowledging that we matter, and by reminding your representatives. Coastal Louisiana provides America with 30 percent of its annual seafood harvest, 18 percent of its oil supply, 24 percent of its natural gas, and vast amounts of imported goods that come through the Port of New Orleans.

Rock Star preview

Wherein much use is made of dramatic music

Watched the web episode. Much more fallout from last week's tearing down of Dilana. About half the show continued with this theme and showed her breaking down in front of the cameras. In an extreme melodramatic moment, she gestures at the cameras, throws a wine glass on the patio and stalks off. Unfortunately, Magni was in the way a shard of glass ricocheted off his bald head. We never saw the extent of the damage, but much was made about how out of control Dilana was. The editing even pulled off the Emmy-worthy feat of making Lukas sound reasonable.

Also shown were the rockers at a photo shoot. Storm did her usual stripper crawl in lingerie, because she's all about the stereotype. Magni was shown being difficult. Honestly, I was quite sympathetic towards his portrayal as the photographer was insisting on dumb stunts. Too many of these guys have worn "rock star" as a fashion statement and it was refreshing to see him turn it down.

For viewer choice songs, I remember two (the wiki entry lists the songs they'll be singing). Lukas will be doing Nirvana's Lithium, a song he doesn't like and also one that Dilana killed with in week one [youtube]. Dilana is performing Tracy Bonham's Mother, Mother. This should be very good...and it should be since she's had a lot of practice with it. On her website is an mp3 of Mother Mother she recorded with her band in the Netherlands. There are a few other songs and what's interesting is that the style she displays on her website is very different from how she's performed on the show.

The question now: is there a method behind the Dilana editing or is she just giving them too much good material to waste? I look back at last year when JD was constantly cast as the bad apple for dramatic effect, but by the time it was apparent the band considered him a frontrunner it was too late to reverse course. This year, Dilana has been the consistent favorite since week 1. So for choices we have:
  • She's a horrible person and we're finally seeing her true personality
    • making her a good fit for the band, or
    • paving the way for her removal

  • Selective editing to make her look bad to:
    • add drama to what's seen as a forgone conclusion, or
    • the band has turned on her and is trying to kill her support

kentrivia number 9 number 9 number 9 number 9

Wherein that's the sound crickets make

Let's get last week's #7 out of the way:
What, specifically, do these classic works all have in common? James Fenimore Cooper's The Pioneers, Dickens' Great Expectations, Ibsen's A Doll's House, Henry James's The Turn of the Screw, Puccini's La Boheme and Tennessee Williams' Period of Adjustment? They all begin on Christmas Eve.

Isn't that interesting? On to this week's Ken Jennings quiz.
  1. For some reason, I read wallpaper cleaner and thought wallpaper stripper. Not that it would've made a difference. Here's a tip: After scoring wallpaper, windex (and any other glass cleaner) does a great job for stripping wallpaper. For the cleaner answer, read this.
  2. Didn't pay enough attention to what the "alpin" in "alpinum" might signify.
  3. Forgot about him.
  4. I feel stupid for not figuring out this one.
  5. Not the Charleston.
  6. I went with the Eiffel Tower, but it's the Inverse Catenary landmark. And I've been in that one. Those little elevators taking you to the top are very claustrophobic.
  7. They all slept with Frank Sinatra? Maybe not. I did learn that the Beatles' Dear Prudence was about Mia Farrow's sister and that kd Lang sang with Tony Bennett.

Ok, that's a mutated giant of a goose egg. Much more like an ostrich egg. But I learned a couple new things today, and isn't that really what it's all about?

Monday, August 28, 2006

Keith Richards destroys the morals of 50,000 people

Whrein I swear to god I'm planting tobacco in the backyard

If found guilty, Richards will have to shell out US$94.

Tracking Ernesto

Wherein we're hoping this has no impact on our St. Augustine Thanksgiving plans

And here's hoping you people in Orlando and Miami have no problems.

Dr. Jeff Masters, the Weather Underground's Director of Meteorology, writes:
Ernesto is a more significant threat to the Carolinas While much of the focus of attention has deservedly been on Ernesto's impact on Florida, I believe the best chance of Ernesto hitting the U.S. as a Category 2 or 3 hurricane will come in the Carolinas. The GFDL model has Ernesto as a borderline Category 1 or 2 hurricane with a pressure of 975 mb Thursday night upon landfall in South Carolina. The GFS, UKMET, and Canadian models predict that Ernesto will stall off the Carolina coast, as the trough of low pressure drawing it northeastwards accelerates away. High pressure will then build in, forcing Ernesto back to the west towards the Carolina coast. If this happens, Ernesto will have plenty of time over the warm Gulf Stream, and could easily reach Category 2 or 3 strength before making landfall in the Carolinas. The NOGAPS model depicts a similar scenario, but predicts Ernest will stall further north, then move west, threatening the Mid-Atlantic states.

Print it, memorize it, put it on a t-shirt, post it on the front door

Wherein The Child will be in kindergarten next year so I'll save this and print up copies for the teachers and PTAers

Michelle Singletary is fed up with the tyranny of school begging:
Please understand. I donate money to my children's schools. I give to other projects at schools my children don't attend. But the key word is "give." I write a check in which 100 percent of my donation goes to the schools in need.
But I will no longer sell, cook, walk, wash cars, run or beg for any school fundraising project. Frankly, I've done my time. I've sold my share of candy bars, wrapping paper, tumblers of tiny jelly beans, cookies and books. I deserve time off for good selling. I'm tired of begging.

Ain't that the truth. I hated that stuff when I had to do it and I see no value in turning children into door-to-door salesmen. Not like they're allowed to go door-to-door nowadays. More often this stuff ends up in the office guilting coworkers afraid of being a grumpy nonteam player. For me, that boat sailed, hit an iceberg, and sank a long time ago, so no worries.

Despite the enormous waste of time all this involves, the amount of money actually given back to the schools is insulting. It's usually a small fraction of the total purchase. Even Girl Scout cookies are a ripoff; I think they get 50 cents for every box. I don't need the cookies, so I've stopped buying them. Instead I'll just donate $5. That costs less than the usual two boxes I've purchased and the troop gets more money.

When The Wife was in school The M-i-L headed up the PTA. Also not a fan of fundraising, she figured out how much each family was expected to "raise" so you could write a check for the amount and never be bothered by the fundraising junk mail. Great idea and I've heard of more schools offering that approach. Just tell us what you want and what you'll do with it and I'll probably write you a check. But we're not selling candles, wrapping paper, seeds, cookies, fruit, cheesecakes, any anything. Sally Foster is not welcome in our home.

In a related area, we've heard from neighbors that classrooms at the local elementary school have room mothers. Apparently it is not uncommon for them to request $25 a student to buy a gift for the teacher. I'm not opposed to a gift, and $25 isn't much money, but if there's 20 kids in a class that's a $500 gift. I think a signed card will do nicely, thank you very much. Knowing this will cause my head to explode, The Wife has already put me charge of dealing with this little bit of extortion.

How to define art?

Wherein I still use 35mm, but don't make a big a deal of it because I just haven't felt like dealing with the expense of switching over

Professional photographer, Photodude, makes fun of whiney Wired writer.

Tony Long doesn't think digital photography is art. For him, it's all about the craft of the darkroom:
In other words, it was hands-on. It required some honest sweat. It required time. When you were finished, and assuming you had done sterling work, you had produced a piece of art.

Mr. Stott responds:
One, truly great photographs are most often created the instant the shutter is snapped. Think Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald. It’s about capturing the moment, a place and time, not masturbating in the darkroom after the fact.

And two, a really good darkroom technician can take an average snapshot, and turn it into a nice reproduction. But that process does not change the fact the original is a snapshot. Because … class? ... it’s about capturing a moment, not darkroom magic.

And another bitch slap:
The tools I have today are an order of magnitude better than the tools I had a decade or so ago. Safer, too. Long ago, newspaper photographers used what were essentially hand held 4×5 cameras, most commonly, the Speed Graphic. Then along came 35mm film and cameras. Some old pros insisted they wouldn’t use those little toy cameras. But eventually, well, they stopped getting work. The 35mm guys got where they couldn’t, and came back with 5 times the number of photos.

The conversion from analog to digital is even more momentous than that. And only a relative dinosaur out of touch with current reality would make the kind of claims Mr. Long does.

Some good stuff, and there's plenty more. I believe the phrase is "Go read the rest." You don't want to miss the conclusion.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Levees might not hold in another big storm this year

Whereiin that's the headline in the Times-Picayune

Author and New Orleans resident Poppy Z. Brite writes:
I hope everyone understands why I have no intention of evacuating again. After having spent weeks shut out of my city due to bureaucracy and multiple system failures, I consider the matter closed to discussion. Leaving last year was the worst, most irresponsible decision I ever made, and I regret it more than anything else I've ever done in my life. Unfortunately, staying would have been an equally bad decision, because we weren't prepared for the aftermath. This time, we will be. In the event of another system breakdown, we are prepared to feed, water, and defend ourselves for several weeks.

She'll also have an op-ed article in the Boston Globe. Look for it Monday or Tuesday:
I've got 750 words to convince Boston readers that New Orleans is worth saving, that we remain a vibrant city but that we still need a lot of help. 750 words is nothing at all. Economy has never been one of my strong suits.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Scooter Chronicles, #1

Wherein a new feature on buying a scooter and commuting in Atlanta and surrounding suburbs

Our cars get decent gas mileage--manual transmission Saturn Vue gets 26 mpg and the Honda Civic averages 36 mpg. We're doing pretty good, but with gas prices flirting with $3/gal it never hurts to keep an eye open for better options. FYI, Aug 25, 2006, gas was $2.69!. Hybrids are a nice idea, though for us the increased gas mileage doesn't justify the higher price. Maybe if you currently drive a gas guzzler. Take the Vue as an example. The hybrid model starts at about $23k and reports an estimated 27 mpg (city) and 32 mpg (highway). Adding on options, it would cost at least $25K to compare to our $18K Vue. Does it make sense to spend an extra $7000 to save maybe 3-4 mpg? I don't think so...and most of our driving is city, so there we're looking at a push.

Frankly, after driving a dirt cheap Geo Metro through most of the 1990s--and at 170,000 miles it was still getting 56 miles to the gallon when a Ford pickup forgot to stop and ended up in my backseat--I'm not all that impressed with the hybrid's cost/performance ratio. Then there's our experience driving one around Orlando as a rental: it was a usability nightmare. Drove nice once we got it turned on...after we stood in the parking lot for ten minutes reading the manual...trying to figure out how to turn it on. Not to mention that dumbass distracting touch screen that told me if I floored it I was getting 0 mpg and if I coasted I was getting 99 mpg. You mean the harder I drive the car the less efficient it is? Thanks, that's really useful information. Could you show me the average mpg for a trip from point A to point B? No? Eff off, then. And what team of idiots thought having to work through four levels of touch screens to change the radio station or even the volume was a good idea? How about some separate tactile dials? Dumb assiest controls I've ever been exposed to. Even if I thought Hybrids were reasonably priced, there are some issues that have to be worked out.

Took a quick look at motorcycles about a year ago. Despite all my years of serious road bicycling I've never had much interest in motorcycles. But I looked around and found a few that weren't bad. Actually, I've always loved BMW bikes, but I have no interest in spending that much money. I liked a few smaller machines like the Honda Rebel or Shadow and and they're inexpensive at $5-$6k. Thing is, motorcycles don't get the gas mileage I thought they did. For some reason I assumed 70-90 mpg, but 40-60 seems more accurate. That's not that much of a step up from my current transportation. It's not like I'm completely replacing one vehicle with the other, we'll still have two cars. Plus there's the expense of the gear I'd need to buy, so on second thought, nevermind.

Then earlier this summer I saw something new--a scooter flying through rush-hour traffic at 45-50mph. Ooh, that's interesting. Specifically, it was a TNG Verona. A 150 CC machine with a top speed around 60 and mpg of 50-100. And it's only $2900. Ooh, I'm interested. But no oneseemed to be selling them. The listed local dealer no longer carries them and another scooter shop said they'd stopped carrying them because of manufacturing issues. Then I came across a couple news stories that the factory in India had shut down over labor issues. By this time I'd uncovered a whole world of scooters I never knew existed. Some are the equivalent to small motorcycles in price and power and are serious highway machines. These are not the putt-putt Vespas I remember.

The whole Vespa culture is an interesting one. Plenty of people love restoring old ones, even though many of the old models weren't that great to begin with. Then the new ones are kinda pricey. But they have the Vespa/Piaggio name and that classic styling and wouldn't it look cool buzzing around campus. Whatever. A Vespa can easily run over $5000 for a small model and if I'm spending that much I'm getting a real motorcycle.

Here's how I defined my criteria. My suburban Atlanta commute is 30 miles, roundtrip. Much of this is over divided four lane roads with a posted speed limit of 45, meaning if you're not doing 50-55, you're getting run over. Hills, lots of them as it's around the river, so I need some climbing power. I need some pickup, speed, and power. No intention of highway riding, so I can probably cross off needing the 250cc and higher models. Though I'd appreciate the additional power of a 250cc, it's a bout a grand more with a lower mpg. This Motorbyte article about trying to run a Kymco People 250 into the ground almost had me convinced to go with it:
And when the 24 hour timer started beeping the Kymco rolled into the driveway with over 1466 miles having rolled under it's tires in the space of just 24 hours. To put that distance in perspective, we rode the Kymco the equivalent of all the way into Mexico or to Florida and on a single cylinder 250cc scooter to boot. Our average speed for the entire trip was 61 miles an hour including rider hand offs and fuel stops. Our fuel economy had been just shy of 50 mpg.

Try as we might, the only item we managed to break was an exhaust bracket. At about hour 22 the scooter went from quiet to very loud, as the nuts holding the exhaust on had vibrated off. This was traced to a bolt that came loose and caused the bracket to give under the increased stress. It was quickly repaired but did cost us some time overall. That being said, the reliability of this machine is phenomenal. Considering that large men, read 200, 250 and 300 pounds, rode the People 250 by holding the throttle wide open for 2 hours at a crack and the only thing we could break was an exhaust bracket is downright amazing!

Looks like a 150cc should do the trick. Fairly quickly settled on a Kymco People 150. Great combination of features, price, and performance. At $3200, it'll top out around 70mph and should get around 70mpg. Also comes with 16-inch tires instead of the usual 12-inch. It's pretty quick, too; I think it will out accelerate my Civic. From what I can tell, the local dealer has a decent reputation and deals solely with scooters. Also nice is that Kymco has a very good reputation for quality machines (they've built Honda engines for decades) and have always had the longest warranty in the scooter world.

Being the Southeast I should be able to ride it year round. Add some layers and a windbreaker and I'll be good easily into the 30s. I've been ice skating and cross country skiing into the minus 20s, so how bad can it be? Reminds me I should get some good Minnesota-winter quality gloves. It's been in the mid-90s the last couple weeks and I'd think riding in January would be more comfortable than this.

According to this story, the scooter market is facing a relatively new rebound. Looks like the reason so many people have been restoring old Vespas is that they were only reintroduced into this country in 2000.

Scooter is ordered and should be in any day now. Took the motorcycle written test and now have a provisional license good for six months.

Rock Star finally gets rid of Patrice

Wherein and then there were six

Well, Rock Star: Supernova decided Patrice wasn't roight for the band. She'd become my favorite singer, but this was the correct decision. And that's what's fun about this show. Not only do you develop favorites over the weeks, you're also trying to determine who would be a better fit for the band.

Last year, with Rock Star: INXS, we had an established band with a known sound. The bg question was whether they'd go with someone closer in style to Michael Hutchence or try something new. The band chose JD, a decent singer who could do a decent Hutchence impersonation if he had to. I felt, as did many, that the more interesting and daring choice would have been Marty Casey. I guess I'm a casual fan of INXS--I've always enjoyed their music, but have never purchased an album or CD. If they'd chosen Marty or Jordis, or maybe even Mig or Suzie, I probably would have purchased the new CD and considered going to a concert. With JD, I just wasn't interested. For the record, I did buy the Marty and the Lovehammers CD and will buy the Jordis CD when it's released.

So I'm watching the show looking for someone new and interesting, not just paying attention to the band. Which is good for me, because no matter who Supernova picks, I don't care. Even if they pick one of the few people left who doesn't completely bore me or irritate me, I'm not giving these people any money. While I've never had any interest in Motley Crue, Metallica, or Guns N'Roses, and feel pretty good about saying I flatout hate GnR, I suppose it's possible I could like a band comprising former members of said bands. But I don't think so. Tommy Lee, as portrayed by himself on TV, is a disgusting individual, a true asshole; I honestly can't tell if he's a good drummer or just enjoys hitting things with sticks. Gilby Clarke isn't very good. He's also not very interested in hearing anything new done with an established song. Jason Newsted seems ok, but he's not air enough to get a good feel for. I've enjoyed the few times he's played on stage. Then the original music they've played is a pale imitation of T Rex and lyrically quite bad. Frankly, I think these guys got together for the TV show, a quick album, and a quicker tour. The tour is scheduled for small halls through February. I'd bet we never see a second Supernova album.

And the recently release Patrice? I downloaded an album from iTunes and will likely buy more. The rest of these guys, I'm not so sure about.

We're down to six people, let's review. The order will be my ranking from strongest to weakest. I've said before that I felt the final four would be Dilana, Lukas, Storm, and Magni. I believe that has changed.
  1. Dilana bored with Every Breath You Take and even sounded like she was chanting her own name. Highlights showed not only being brash self-confident, but also rude and insulting to the other contestants. From week one she's been one of my favorites and obviously one of the band's favorites. Even the other contestants have commented on her frontrunner status. Dilana is a good enough performer that even when she has an off night she's usually better than the others. Problem is, while she hasn't had a truly captivating performance for a few weeks, some others are looking better and moving up the ranks. Still likely she'll make the final two.
  2. Magni screeched through Smells Like Teen Spirit. After a few stellar performances making him one of my favorites, this was a weak performance. It was just loud. Still, he's probably the most consistent person on stage. Rarely making me say "wow," yet never sucking. He would be the professional, safe choice. Some of the others could play the crazy rock guy, while Magni would leave that up the band and be the calm at the center of the storm. A lot of people have pegged Dilana and Lukas as the final two...I think Magni is there.
  3. Toby impressed with Layla. Took a song we've heard Clapton play into the ground and breath new life into it. Toby has probably shown the most growth over the course of the show. After initially coming off as young and inexperienced, he's shown an ability to create fascinating rearrangements and has a jittery energy that's fun to watch. I'd say he's the choice between Magni and Lukas.
  4. Lukas entertained with All These Things That I've Done. If by entertained I mean made us laugh. He has this habit of turning his head and mumbling. At some point in the song The Wife and I turned to each other and mimic'd him. The rest of the song was lost due to the laughing. He does have a certain energy that's fun to watch, but the clothes, the makeup, the attitude, his stage walk, all look like an act. I forget where I said this: he's a marsupial imitation of Mick Jagger; he's all strut and no cock. The band enjoys him, I just expect when finally faced with the decision to keep him or let him go, he's gone.
  5. Ryan was almost as bad the original song "Back of Your Car." Maybe I'm being unfair by claiming the only song Ryan could do justice to is Mr. Roboto. Maybe he and Supernova deserve each other. A fake band and a fake singer, yeah, that'll work.
  6. Storm did a nice job with Crying. I've never been a Storm fan. She's a very good singer, can't argue with that. Much like Sepinwall, I'm tired of her ballads and if given the choice I think the band boots her.

Who goes next is really up for grabs as half the group will end up in the bottom three. Dilana and Magni are the only true safe ones.
Other discussions I recommend:

Friday, August 25, 2006

Honest spam?

Wherein I bet she would

Here's some new spam:
From: mildred williams Signed-By: | Mailed-By:

Date: Aug 25, 2006 10:30 AM
Subject: inquiry

I am introducing my self as Ms. mildred ,the only Daugther of late Chief and Mrs donald williams. I wish to request for your assistance in a financial transaction. I got your contact from a member of this your site, And I wish to invest in Manufacturing and real estate management in your country.and I will require your assistance in receiving the funds in your personal/company account for investment, I will be glad to offer you 10% of the total sum for your assistance.please it is very important you contact me immediately for we to proceed.Awaiting your immediate response
Thanks and God bless.
Best Regards ,
Ms mildred

Did you catch the "I will require your assistance in receiving the funds in your personal/company account?" Because that's the whole point of these emails--to take the money from your account. I'm so impressed by this upfront approach that I'm almost willing to help her out. And then she'll give back 10% of the money I give her! I swear, this woman is practically a saint.

At this time I am disinclined to acquiesce to her request; perhaps, later. Until then I have to determine who are the members of this my site. This is news to me. I did not know I had members, now I just have to find something for them to do.

Chili recipe, Cincinnati Green

Wherein: quick, easy, good

A few years back we stayed in Santa Fe, NM while visiting the Albuquerque ballon fest. Weather was horrible: cold and windy, and we didn't see a single balloon launch. Instead, we drove around, did some sight-seeing, and ate. Bought a giclee print from Joseph Comellas; the Rio Chama to be exact. Had some excellent meals, though one of my favorite meals was from a street vendor by the capital. He opened a bag of Fritos and dumped in chili sauce (green and/or red), cheese, and onions. One of the highlights of the trip, seriously.

Back at home, playing around with green chili sauce, I had the idea to somehow combine it with a Cincinnati chili recipe for some sort of sweet and sour chili. Sounds odd, but it worked. There's a sweetness from the cinnamon, cloves, and allspice; sour from the vinegar--the green chili and chocolate helps out here; then heat from the cayenne and chilis. It's well-balanced and the heat sits nicely on the tongue and lips. If you like more heat, I'd add some Crystals hot sauce (definately not Tabasco) instead of ramping up the cayenne.

Entered this in a chili cook-off at work and was surprised when it took 3rd place. I enjoyed it, but thought it would be too different.

Excellent chili – nice and thick. If you wanted thinner, then use 3 cans of sauce and skip the chopped tomatoes or add some water during the cooking stage.

Fool around with this in any way you want. This makes a huge pot of chili, but my guess is that halving the recipe shouldn’t be a problem.
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 med or large chopped onion
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 bay leafs
  • 1 ounce square unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 cans tomato sauce
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 can of chopped green chili (5-6oz can)

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until tender, about 6 minutes.
  2. Add beef, and cook until browned.
  3. Drain grease.
  4. Add everything else. Stir to mix well. Bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Best to refrigerate overnight.Remove the bay leaves. Reheat gently over medium heat. Cheese and sour cream go well with this. Or dump a ladle into a bag of Fritos.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Kentrivia, week 8

Wherein answers and vague clues are discussed

Let’s revisit last week’s #7: What do these people have in common: Jose Canseco, Patrick Ewing, Kelsey Grammer, Alexander Hamilton, the Empress Josephine, Camille Pissarro, and Sidney Poitier?

I was leaning towards all of them probably being born in the Carribbean, the East/West Indies, or more likely, a specific island. Without a true guess I started googling for the answer, but there’s a problem: Sidney Poiter was born in Miami. There goes that theory. I never got around to further researching the answer, so with anticipation I opened today’s email. Huh, Ken, fcuked up the question:
All were born in the Caribbean. Not a hard question, except for a little factual boo-boo on my part that many pointed out: Sidney Poitier *is* Bahamian, but his parents were visiting Miami when Sidney was unexpectedly born two months premature, thereby ruining my Question Seven. Still, a whopping 153 players, well over half, got this right, even though I didn't accept answers that were too specific ("All born in Jamaica") or too general ("All born on islands").

Seems to me this question should be stricken from the record books. His intended answer is just as wrong as someone guessing they all had seven toes.

A petition. Maybe a petition will get him to halt the two spaces after the end of a sentence. Or I could just email him a profanity-laced email. It is the internet afterall and that’s the way I was schooled in the newsgroups.

I finished 5 for 6 last week and Ken claims this week is harder. Let’s get this over with.
  1. Moo
  2. Oops, I guessed Burma and that's just a little outside.
  3. I've never heard of the Madden curse, but it's probably a coach of an American I'll guess...Dick Vermeil. Oh, that is so wrong. That's what I get for not playing video games.
  4. Drawing a blank. I should know more about this guy.
  5. Liberia. Looks to be correct, though in verifying the answer I came up with more than three.
  6. I was going for River Phoenix. But he never made the list. The guy who crashed the plane was younger than I thought.

That gives me two correct, four wrong. Now the google-proof question. Of the six works I've only read Great Expectations and A Doll's House. Both were so long ago that any common element escapes me.

Until next week.

Nomination for most worthless conversation of the month

Wherein Seattle's Best will be reopening in the local Barnes and Noble next month so I'm good...though they are now owned by Starbucks, who then closed almost every free-standing store a couple years ago...and I'm still bitter...but not as bitter as the overroasted swill Starbucks sells

Starbucks Gossip, run by Jim Romenesko, should probably be in the running for a lifetime achievement award for "most inconsequential website." It transcends normal customer bitching and carping and enters a weird dimenson of Starbucks frequent customers who actively hate Starbucks, Starbucks sycophants, and throw in a steady dose of Starbucks empoyees who actively hate the customer.

This all culminates in a post with 111 (at this writing) comments. The topic? The writer gets what he ordered, but the assistant manager is oddly hostile.
ME to an assistant manager I'm told is Natalie: "A tall Sumatra for here."
NATALIE: "That's a grande."
ME: "I asked for a tall."
Natalie then took the cup, turned around to the sink behind her and dumped about two-ounces of coffee into the sink and handed me -- a regular customer who pays with a Starbucks card -- the cup.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Patrice Pike: Kiss Me Baby

Wherein this concerns RockStar the summer diversion

Other than Dilana, my other consistent favorite has been Patrice Pike. She can obviously sing, but doesn't get the votes and receives plenty of criticism. This, as opposed to Storm Large, who is one of the favorites and whose appeal I've never understood. I don't think Storm is that great of a singer and I picture her being more comfortable with the American Idol format. Besides, Patrice is so much cuter than than Storm. Idiots keep complaining about Patrice smiling...seriously, what the fuck is that about? It's a great smile.

Not that winning Rockstar would do any of these guys and gals any good. The Supernova song just sounded like warmed over 70s crap heavily cribbed from T. Rex.

So I went looking for some of Patrice's past performances to see if I was missing anything. I don't think so. Check these out:

Then you can listen to songs from her old band Sister7. And there's a CD at CD Baby.

Getting back to YouTube I found proof that Patrice may be the best singer on this year's RockStar. Looks like it's from the CD Patrice Pike Live at the Brushwood Lounge; yeah, I will be buying this CD. I could listen to Kiss Me Baby all day long. I think I've already pulled a neck muscle bobbing along while typing this up.

Heh, it's at iTunes. Consider this purchased and downloaded.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

On notice

Wherein this is a seriously lame attempt

Create your own On Notice board.

KJ trivia quiz VII...Or try some marmalade with your tea when rowing across the crater

Wherein I guess...I score

Sign up for the Ken Jennings weekly quiz and read Ken Jennings here (or not*).
For today's quiz I went 5 for 6. My best mark, yet. Question 2 was a total WAG, but my only other choice was Donna Summer's I love to love you baby and that didn't seem right. Question 3 was a slightly smaller WAG, but I still wasn't completely confident; got it any way. Questions 4 & 5 were relatively easy, but then I missed Question 6. I should've known this one and I was close--I went with Big Bird.

With Question 7 I was close to making a guess. But just didn't have enough biographical data to go with it.

Here's last week's Question 7: What unusual distinction is shared by these eight movies, listed in chronological order? Be specific; I won't prompt on partial answers. The movies: Five Graves to Cairo, Brighton Rock, The Third Man, Stalag 17, Chinatown, Quiz Show, Othello, A Civil Action.

I had no idea, but searching IMDB, each of those movies were helmed by a winner of the Best Director Oscar. At first I thought each movie also had an actor who had won a Best Director Oscar. But this quickly fell apart with Erich von Stroheim. I think my direction would make a great question, but Jennings was heading in a subtler direction:
I tried to warn you. I tried to emphasize that the correct answer was a very specific one. Fully 50 players were on the right track, noticing that a distinguished director acted in each movie, but only eight noticed that the answer was a little more interesting that that: in each movie, a distinguished director plays the baddie (or at least a major villain) of the piece. The menacing directors are, respectively, Erich von Stroheim, Richard Attenborough, Orson Welles, Otto Preminger, John Huston, Martin Scorsese, Kenneth Branagh, and Sydney Pollack. But take heart...I have painstakingly awarded half-credit to the forty of you who were oh-so-close. The half-points may not be on the scoreboard, but they're in my heart, and also on my spreadsheet.

*Here's something I just noticed that might make it impossible to continue with his quizzes or reading his blog. He uses two spaces after the end of a sentence. This is just wrong. And extremely annoying. And wrong.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

A curious and sad connection with Stephen Colbert

Wherein not much humor

I'm watching the 60 MInutes profile of Stephen Colbert and learned something interesting. Something that affected our family deeply. I knew Stephen was from a large family, but didn't know he grew up in Charleston, SC. I also did not know that his father and two of his brothers were killed on an Eastern Airlines crash in Charlotte, NC in 1974. As soon as he said that I knew exactly what flight he was speaking of: Eastern Flight 212.

I was waiting for the school bus when it crashed. I didn't hear it, though others in my neighborhood claimed they did. I do remember hearing the siren from the volunteer fire department, then a minute later a pickup truck went by, probably doing 80. Get on the bus, and heading towards the last couple stops, traffic is backed up, then stopped. It's foggy and raining, so can't tell what happened. Eventually, the bus is let through, though no other cars are. When the last kids get on we hear they saw a plane crash in the far field. Later that night, I see a couple of these kids interviewed on the local news.

When I get home, I hear it was an Eastern Airlines flight. This was a big deal. One, Charlotte was a major hub for Eastern; two, both my parents had worked for Eastern and my dad was still a programmer with them. After a week or so, once the bodies had been recovered and the major onsite investigation had been completed, it was time to pick up all the wreckage. This was mostly done by Eastern employees. Of course the the accident was so horrendous that it wasn't uncommon to still find bits of people on a burned seat cushion. My dad worked the cleanup crews--two, maybe three weeks? Came home and burned his clothes each night. Never really asked him about it, though I'm pretty sure he wouldn't have wanted to talk about.

Hadn't thought about that in awhile. The internet is an amazing thing. Not only did it take me seconds to confirm the flight, but the wiki link also links to the NTSB report. The school was Marie G. Davis elementary (now a middle school). I remember it being a long ride and always thought we were being bussed to the inner city. Checking googlemaps, turns out it was only about 5 miles from home and Marie G. Davis isn't quite inner city. The bus route was probably closer to ten miles and the neighborhood around the school wasn't that great. This article on Charlotte desegregation probably explains the vague memories I have of occasional riots at the high schools.

Make them laugh

Wherein humor

Friday, August 11, 2006

Age of Scrutiny

Wherein another quote from Interface

Cy Ogle is a political media consultant explaining his philosophy. This is excerpted from a conversation ranging over four pages.
In the 1700s, politics was all about the ideas. But Jefferson came up with all the good ideas. In the 1800s, it was all about character. But no one will ever have as much character as Lincoln and Lee. For much of the 1900s it was about charisma. But we no longer trust charisma because Hitler used it to kill Jews and JFK used it to get laid and send us to Vietnam.

Today, we are in the Age of Scrutiny. A public figure must withstand the scrutiny of the media. The President is the ultimate public figure and must stand up under ultimate scrutiny; he is like a man stretched out on a rack in the public square in some medieval shithole of a town, undergoing the rigors of the Inquisition. Like the medieval trial by ordeal, the Age of Scrutiny sneers at rational inquiry and debate, and presumes that mere oaths and protestations are deceptions and lies. The only way to discover the real truth is by the rite of the ordeal, which exposes the subject to such inhuman strain that any defect in his character will cause him to crack wide open, like a flawed diamond. It is a mystical procedure that skirts rationality, which is seen as the work of the Devil, instead drawing down a higher, ineffable power. Like the Roman haruspex who foretold the outcome of a battle, not by analyzing the strengths of the opposing forces but by groping through the steaming guts of a slaughtered ram, we seek to establish a candidate's fitness for office by pinning him under the lights of a television studio and counting the number of times he blinks his eyes in a minute, deconstructing his use of eye contact, monitoring his gesticulations--whether his hands are held open or closed, towards or away from the camera, spread open forthcomingly or clenched like grasping claws.

I paint a depressing picture here. But we, you and I, are like the literate monks who nurtured the flickering flame of Greek rationality through the Dark Ages, remaining underground, knowing each other by secret signs and code words, meeting in cellars and thickets to exchange our dangerous and subversive ideas. We do not have the strength to change the minds of the illiterate multitude. But we do have the wit to exploit their foolishness, to familiarize ourselves with their stunted thought patterns, and to use that knowledge to manipulate them toward the goals that we all know are, quote, right and true, unquote...

...A human being cannot withstand the scrutiny given to a presidential candidate, any more than a human being could survive the medieval trial by fire, in which he was forced to walk barefoot across hot coals....

Anyone can walk barefoot across hot coals. But you have to do it right. There's a trick to it. If you know the trick, you can survive. Now, back in medieval times, some people got lucky and happened to stumble across this trick, and they made it. The rest failed. It was therefore an essentially random process, hence irrational. But if they had had fire-walking seminars in the Dark Ages, anyone could have done it.

The same thing used to apply to the modern trial by ordeal. Abe Lincoln would never have been elected to anything, because random genetic chance gave him a user-unfriendly face. But as a rational person I can learn all of the little tricks and teach them to my friends, eliminating the the random, hence irrational elements from the modern trial by ordeal. I have the knowledge to guide a presidential candidate through his trial in this, the Age of Scrutiny.

Additional links:

Just came across an interesting review at Inchoatus. Of Interface, it is "not literature and we are forced to give it a rather mediocre rating" yet it is also "a great book and should be read." The reviewer is slightly conflicted. Or, having just come across Inchoatus, they have their own levels of definitions and this makes sense. However, the reviewer does recognize one of the very strong points of the novel:
In many ways, this is a book about stereotypes. In an age where every conceivable ethnic group has a political action committee, when every physiological difference becomes protected, and when all psychology has shrunk to self-help platitudes, generalities become truths, and blogs that cater to the most detailed possible demographic, Stephenson bothers to offer a list of stereotypes used for political purposes. A flavor of these:

Stone-faced urban homeboy.
Burger-flipping history major.
Bible-slinging porch monkey.
Pretentious urban-lifestyle slave.
Apartment-dwelling mall staff.
Shit-kicking wrestlemaniac.

Once again, Stephenson takes these labels, peels them back and uses them as a lens to examine the real person beneath.

Good point and easy to overlook amidst all the intrigue and illuminati-like subplots.

Lost music: Eubie!

Wherein more later

I'll backfill some information later. Until then, enjoy Gregory Hines singing Eubie Blake's "Low Down Blues".

Reality is just an illusion

Wherein watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat

From Cathy Seipp is a pointer to an LA Weekly article about Charles Johnson of LGF uncovering the faked Reuters photographs. It's an interesting story and for a generalized look at the decision process in the news room that may lead to such errors, the current Lileks Bleat is a good place to start.

So while that thread of news is in the background, I'm rereading Interface, my favorite political conspiracy novel. Because conspiracy theories are also floating around and it seemed appropriate. I came across this quote that made me laugh and also wonder why the deception wasn't uncovered any earlier.
Americans may be undereducated, lazy, and disorganized, but they do one thing better than any people on the face of the earth, and that is watch television. The average eight-year-old American has absorbed more media technology than a goddamn film student in most other countries. You can tell lies to them and they'll never know. But if you try to lie to them with the camera, they'll crucify you.

This does seem to agree with the following description from Snow Crash: There are only four things we do better than anyone else: music, movies, microcode (software), and high-speed pizza delivery.

More conspiracy quotes
Here's a few quotes I pasted at Althouse and I might as well put them here.

Two quotes from Bill Hicks, profanity removed.
There's a handful of people running everything. That's true. It's proveable...I'm not a conspiracy's proveable. A handful, a very small elite run and own these corporations, which includes the mainstream media. I have this feeling whoever is elected matter what the promises were on the campaign trail--blah, blah, blah. When you win you go into this smoky room with the 12 industrialist capitalist scum*** who got you in there. And you're in this smoky room, this little film screen comes down, and a big guy with a cigar (puff puff) Roll the Film (puff puff)...

And it's a shot of the Kennedy assassination from an angle you've never seen before. That looks suspiciously off the grassy knoll. And the screen goes up and the lights come on, and they go to the new president: "Any questions?"

They're all the same. I'll show in politics in America. Here it is right here.

I think the puppet on the right shares my beliefs.
I think the puppet on the left is more to my liking.

Hey, wait a minute, there's one guy holding both puppets.

Shut up! Go back to bed America, your government is in control. Here's Love Connection; watch this and get fat and stupid. By the way, keep drinking beer you morons.

And now Umberto Eco, from Foucault's Pendulum:
Not that the incredulous person doesn't believe in anything. It's just that he doesn't believe everything. Or he believes in one thing at a time. He believes a second thing only if it somehow follows from the first thing. He is nearsighted and methodical, avoiding wide horizons. If two things don't fit, but you believe both of them, thinking that somewhere, hidden, there must be a third thing that connects them, that's credulity.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Just like all those demons from the 80s horror movies, I'm sure Cynthia McKinney will rise again

Wherein I just get to vote against idiots trying to put warning stickers in biology books

Though no longer in her district, Photodude still provides background and runs the numbers on McKinney's dwindling pool of support:
She’d been playing it quite smart for quite a while. A low profile button-lipped campaign got her re-elected in 2004. When she returned to office, she maintained that low profile. She didn’t get any attention for anything positive … or negative. She was the Stealth Representative. And it was working.

Until last March when she slugged a cop.

Kinda blew her low key cover, eh? However, I’d argue she still could have walked away with minimal damage if she’d handled it like a normal human being. But no, she got her back up, put on her old McKinney BadAss act, and proceeded to deliberately escalate the incident with appearances on CNN, the Today Show, etc. All this from a representative who normally won’t give the press the time of day.

Until her peers in the Congressional Black Caucus met with her one night and told her she had to back down and de-escalate, as she was at risk of a felony indictment and conviction that would force her out of her office. That finally shut her up.

Of course, the grand jury never saw fit to bring down an indictment. Which caused McKinney to gloat in the debates that she’d done nothing wrong. And that’s an interesting moral and ethical code for a public servant, isn’t it? Anything is OK as long as it does not result in an indictment.

I think McKinney honestly thought that with no indictment, “her people” would vote for her just as they had in the past. I just have come to think she’s severely misjudged her district. I don’t think it is what it once might have been. More on that in a second.

Neal Boortz also provides a sendoff:
Well, Cynthia. I tried. Lord knows I tried. I tried to tell my conservative and libertarian friend out there that they would be better off with a barking moonbat Democrat such as yourself in office than with a liberal Democrat who might actually be taken seriously. Some listened ... but not enough.

Just wondering: Are you eligible for unemployment benefits if you're fired by voters?

Losing gracefully?
As McKinney walked outside her campaign headquarters after losing her reelection bid to Hank Johnson, a boom microphone carried by a photographer struck members of McKinney's entourage. In the confusion, McKinney staffers struck an 11Alive photographer and knocked his camera equipment to the ground.

A short time later, the 11Alive news desk called 9-1-1 after some people followed an 11Alive staff member into the station's satellite truck outside the McKinney headquarters.

Who is Dr. Lobotomy?

Wherein The Ken Jenning's quiz or 3 out 6 is bad

Last week I printed all seven questions along with my guesses. This resulted in plenty of search engine hits as many other people were googling the exact questions. Leading me to think that their search strategies aren't too creative and they're not taking the honor system too seriously. Perhaps, like me, they're playing along but not recording their scores.

About the questions, Ken Jennings wrote the following in one of his forums:
I may not make them available either, since those questions might be "re-purposed" for something else at some point. But maybe I should post them anyway.

Since they are his questions, I'll refrain from reprinting them in full.
  1. Serious bah! I should have known this.
  2. I had no knowledge of this.
  3. Turns out Dr. Lobotomy was a bad guess.
  4. Yea! An easy one.
  5. No idea why I knew this, but I guessed correctly.
  6. I knew this, because Where the Suckers Moon: The Life and Death of an Advertising Campaign is one of my favorite books.

For question 7, eight movies in chronological order. Half of them I haven't seen, so this might take some time. Perhaps something about undercover agents, deceit, or chess pieces.

I think I have #7 solved, or at least partially solved. Too much time spent in IMDB to claim a point, but then I'm not really playing. For anyone else playing who wants a clue: look for something in common with a member of each film's cast.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Rockstar: Aug 8

Wherein ten are left

Last week Dana was sent home. Not a surprise. The only real surprise was that Zayra wasn't in the bottom three.

Other reviews and comments:

The performances this week were probably the best of the competition. A solid set of songs sung well. Except for two; but I'll get to them.

Dilana, Won't Get Fooled Again. I was looking forward to this, but gotta say I was slightly disappointed. It was a good performance, not great and I expect great from Dilana. Seemed to lack a little energy and she was heading in a southern rock direction. Still, if this was her off week, the performance was still better than most of what the others have done.

Jill, Mother, Mother. Not bad, almost sold it. Jason was correct-she lost energy running around the stage. One of her best, but I'm losing faith in her and she's obviously not going to win. For an interesting comparison, go to Dilanarox, click Discography, select Mother Mother and listen to Dilana's version. That's the way to do it.

Ryan, Paint it Black. A suckfest of infinite suckitude. last week I said of his "Losing My Religion": an emotionally overwrought ball of cheese and Ryan's performance reminded me of Dana Carvey singing Chopping Broccoli. This was worse. This was a pretentious theater geek wet dream of what a rock and roll performance should be. Easily the worst of the night. Not even Zayra has been this bad and at least she's a slightly interesting trainwreck.

Storm, We Are the Champion. I've mostly been annoyed by Storm. Not much she's done has worked for me. This did. Kept the theatrics down and sang. Very solid.

Zayra, All the Young Dudes. What I imagine cats shoved through a wood chipper would sound like. I think she's getting worse each week and The Wife says "Just go shoot the horse."

Josh, Interstate Love Song. It was definately ok. Playing the guitar kept the annoying tics down to a manageable level.

Magni, The Dolphins Cry. Solo on guitar, that was a great performance. I like Magni--good voice, nice stage presence--and he's definately showing improvement and growing.

Patrice, Instant Karma. There's just something about Patrice I enjoy. Cute smile, hints of a great voice, just hasn't had a breakout performance. This was close. Loved the arrangement. Reminds me a little of Cheryl Crow and I don't mean that in a bad way. A god singer that doesn't fit with the band.

Lukas, Creep. Not a Lukas fan, but he hit this one well. Kinda lost it on the high notes and I don't know about the spaz attack stage boogie towards the end.

Toby, Burning Down the Edge. Just a giddy, slightly spastic (this time in a good way) performance that I was totally buying...until the megaphone. Sucked the energy out of the room. Damn, that was a wasted opportunity.

Best of the night
  1. Magni
  2. Patrice
  3. Lukas

Worst of the night
  1. Ryan
  2. Zayra
  3. Toby. Could have been best song until he picked up the megaphone

Bottom three
Discussed this during the commercial break and our picks matched the early voting.
  1. Jill
  2. Zayra
  3. Patrice

Patrice just isn't pulling the votes, Zayra is just bad, and Supernova obviously has problems with Jill. Jill goes home this week.

The four pillars of the male heterosexual psyche

Wherein sociology class is adjourned; this is all you need to know

Steve Moffat's Coupling is one of the funniest sitcoms ever aired. At least the first three seasons culminating in the Spiderman dance. Season 4 we do not speak of. We also do not speak of the NBC version that was quickly and correctly euthanized.

Season 1 started off a bit slowly as the characters are introduced and situations arranged, but by episode 3, Inferno, they were off and running. This episode introduced the first Steve rant.

Here's a youtube clip, followed by a text excerpt.

Look, I like naked women! I'm a bloke! I'm supposed to like them! We're born like that. We like naked women as soon as we're pulled out of one. Halfway down the birth canal we're already enjoying the view. Look, it's the four pillars of the male heterosexual psyche. We like: naked women, stockings, lesbians, and Sean Connery best as James Bond. Because that is what being a bloke is. And if you don't like it, darling, join a film collective. I want to spend the rest of my life with the woman at the end of the table here. But that does not stop me wanting to see several thousand more naked bottoms before I die. Because that's what being a bloke is. When Man invented fire, he didn't say "Hey, let's cook!" He said: "Great! Now we can see naked bottoms in the dark!" As soon as Caxton invented the printing press we were using it to make pictures of - hey! - naked bottoms. We've turned the Internet into an enormous international database of... naked bottoms. So, you see, the story of male achievement through the ages, feeble though it may have been, has been the story of our struggle to get a better look at your bottoms. Frankly, girls, I'm not so sure how insulted you really ought to be.

Update: This was going in the comments to answer Pooh's question, but it grew a bit.

The actor playing Jeff quit before season 4 started. He was afraid of being typecast. For me, the main problem with season 4 is the character that replaced Jeff. One way of looking at the show is that Steve and Susan are "complete" characters, making Jane/sally different aspects of the female personality and Jeff/Patrick the different aspects of the male personality. Jeff was the insecure part, but Richard Coyle brought this sort of "mad Welshman" portrayal that was utterly fascinating. He'd go off on these Jeffisms, like the sock gap or the giggle loop, that were showstoppers. As great as season 3 was, the Jeff role had become predictable and slightly silly, so I can see Coyle's misgivings.

Oliver was the season 4 replacement and he didn't work because Moffat wrote him too much like Jeff and the actor couldn't pull it off. He reflects the main problem the NBC version had. Coupling had a very unique, non-sitcom style--the dialog was very conversational, not jokey, and the Jeff character walked a fine line. A stereotypical American comedy is based more around punchlines and Jeff became just another "goofy neighbor," completely losing the nuance Coyle brought to the character.

I watched the NBC version just to see how badly they mangled the scripts. Unfortunately, the show was canceled before they aired their version of The Girl With the Two Breasts. This is a classic Jeff episode and its storytelling techniques--hafway through the episode it switches to Hebrew with English subtitles--are what hooked me for good.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Putting the sin back in synergy

Wherein don't expect me to shake their hands

Reader_IAM finds a story about Hundreds of Britons are being urged to attend what is being branded as Europe's first "Masturbate-a-thon."

Hit and Run comments on last April the British government banned anonymous sperm donation for use at fertility clinics. The result is a growing shortage of native sperm.

Don't know about anyone else, but I see the actions of one group being able to benefit the needs of the other.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

But you can upgrade Windoz

Wherein poor Linux

That's two parodies from Truenuff and there's four more

File sharing with a Mac

Wherein this is a great tutorial

Think Different

Wherein buy a Mac and be like us

Everybody hates the Juice

Wherein whattaya mean the song isn't about OJ?

In honor of the Carnival of Mel (also scroll Hog On Ice for some candid Mel Gibson photos), I thought I'd listen to Tom Lehrer's National Brotherhood Week.

Oh, the white folks hate the black folks,
And the black folks hate the white folks.
To hate all but the right folks
Is an old established rule.

But during National Brotherhood Week, National Brotherhood Week,
Lena Horne and Sheriff Clarke are dancing cheek to cheek.
It's fun to eulogize
The people you despise,
As long as you don't let 'em in your school.

Oh, the poor folks hate the rich folks,
And the rich folks hate the poor folks.
All of my folks hate all of your folks,
It's American as apple pie.

But during National Brotherhood Week, National Brotherhood Week,
New Yorkers love the Puerto Ricans 'cause it's very chic.
Step up and shake the hand
Of someone you can't stand.
You can tolerate him if you try.

Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics,
And the Catholics hate the Protestants,
And the Hindus hate the Moslems,
And everybody hates the Jews.

But during National Brotherhood Week, National Brotherhood Week,
It's National Everyone-smile-at-one-another-hood Week.
Be nice to people who
Are inferior to you.
It's only for a week, so have no fear.
Be grateful that it doesn't last all year

Might watch, they can be amusing

Wherein "                                               "

Reading Fishbowl LA, they have an item that Penn and Teller are hosting the Emmys and snarks:
What if he has a really funky accent or talks like a girl? It's enough to make us want to tune in.

I'm sure it's no secret that Teller isn't actually a deaf mute and the no talking thing is part of the act. Listen to an interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air.

Silly rabbit

Wherein try my product

Silly rabbit/trix are for kids now just reminds me of Tarantino's Kill Bill. Two/(one?) movie(s) that surprised me by how much I enjoy them. Interesting how Vol 2 is the least bloodiest of the two, yet feels more violent. How cool would it have been if, when The Bride entered the House of Blue Leaves, she yelled out to O-Ren:
Hello, my name is [beeeeep]. You killed my fianceé . Prepare to die.

I probably would have peed my pants.

Jaime finds a Trix commercial from 1964:
I've always found it amusing that even though the commercials are clearly set up with the expectation that we'll identify with the kids -- they are, after all, the same age as the target audience, and the rabbit is their antagonist -- the one constant of audience reaction to those commercials is that audiences hate those kids. I mean, really hate those kids. They are cruel little monsters and greedy pigs, and real kids always identify with the rabbit instead.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Proofreading your resumé with a fine-tooth comb; because you've picked a profession filled to capacity with nit-picking, anal-retentive assholes

Wherein that's my proposed seminar title

Looking over a few resumés and they're filled with typos and inconsistencies. And please, please, review the document's Properties. I'm not excited about seeing cartoon character names as author tags. Or in the company field, a company name from three jobs ago. Update and review, not that hard.

One more tip. I don't think "Egnlish" is a word.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

But they didn't fix the quote

Wherein the NY Times looks at my ass

Looks like I had a visit from the Diners Journal. Evidence:

I'm assuming this visit is in response to Word deferred.... That's nice. What would be better would be them fixing the quote

Almost a year after Katrina

Wherein I'll try to write a review of her Soul Kitchen this weekend. Fabulous book; maybe not quite as good as Liquor, but close. Definately better than Prime

Poppy Z. Brite discusses people giving unhelpful advice:
Something you need to understand, if you're not in New Orleans or in unwilling exile from here: This is probably the worst, scariest, most unstable time for us since the immediate aftermath of the storm. It feels like we've reached an unsatisfactory plateau of progress, especially with Nagin back in office and not talking to us, and many of us are still waiting on insurance/FEMA/LRA while our homes sit and rot, and the one-year anniversary is coming up and we've all got to argue about how it should be observed the same way we had to argue about whether or not we should have Mardi Gras. Things are just going to get rawer and rawer and crazier and crazier in this town until August 29. I don't know what's going to happen after that, but until then, we don't need people who don't know what it's like to be here SAYING SHIT TO US.

Did she say she was still waiting for the insurance? A year in review:
November 2005: Disappointed with our insurance company's initial response to the destruction of our home, we hire a public insurance adjuster. Their job is to go to bat for us, wrangle with the insurance company, and see that we are paid what we are owed.

March 2006: The public adjuster (henceforth known as PA) finally reaches a settlement on our homeowner's insurance. They send us the insurance company's check. Unfortunately, they send it by U.S. Mail, which isn't yet reliable in New Orleans. We never receive it and have no idea that a check has been issued, though since the PA starts invoicing us for their share, we figure one will be forthcoming.

May 2006: We call the PA to find out where the hell the check is. They're shocked that we never received it and arrange for our insurance company to issue another check.

June 2006: I receive the check and forward it to my mortgage company, instructing them to start the process that will pay off my mortgage and refund the balance to me.

July 2006 (week one): I receive a call from my mortgage company saying that our insurance company has stopped payment on the check I sent them. Apparently, upon realizing that one check had been lost, they stopped payment on both checks. My mortgage company informs me that unless they receive another check soon, I will have to resume mortgage payments.

July 2006 (week two): The mortgage company sends us a check for $32,716.83, approximately the balance I should receive once the mortgage is paid off. Confused, I call and ask them how we managed to receive a check when the insurance company hasn't paid them. (Obviously I was tempted to just deposit it, but I have a formerly spotless record with this mortgage company and they are probably my best hope of being able to buy another house, so I want to stay in their good graces.) They say it is an administrative error, they can't imagine how it happens, and I should send the check back, which I do, at my own expense ($25) via FedEx.

July 2006 (week three): The check from the mortgage company arrives again, through the U.S. Mail, in an envelope with a vast glassine window through which my name and the figure "$32,716.83" are clearly visible. The mortgage company is not returning our calls, nor is the insurance company, who is only supposed to speak with the public adjuster anyway.

July 2006 (today): I receive a registered letter from the PA threatening to turn my account over to a collection agency if their fee for the money I have been issued four times but have somehow failed to receive isn't paid within seven days. Maybe the Insurance Fairy will pay them the same way they apparently assume she paid us.

Number 7 is solved

Wherein if that makes no sense then you're not playing so move along nothing to see

If you're still trying to solve the question, I don't give the answer, just read the comments for enough clues to help you along. I almost had it, but my Nancy Reagan history was weak.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Rockstar: Just declare Dilana the winner

Wherein Tommy Lee is about as entertaining as a syphilitic chancre sore

Rockstar, week something or other. I'm not enjoying this as much as last season. Partly because last season kinda snuck up on me and it took awhile before I realized how much fun I was having. Then there's the Supernova band. We know who the members are, but they haven't done a good job explaining what the Supernova sound will be like. At least with INXS we had a better idea of the target. I think this had left many of the singers floundering and trying to create a false image. Especially true with the women, most of whom seem to be going for the "flirty stripper" personae rather than just singing. A shame too, because vocally, they're probably stronger than the guys. Then there's Tommy Lee, the one person most likely to make me change the channel. I'm disinfecting the TV after every show.

For other reviews:

My rundown:
  • Patrice, Higher Ground, Red Hot Chili Peppers. I keep thinking maybe she'll be this year's Suzie McNeil: someone without a lot of personality who sticks around because of her ability until your forced to recognize how good she is. But with this performance I'm realizing just how inconsistent she is from week to week. This was just skreechy.
  • Josh, Santeria, Sublime. Josh is an odd guy with an odd style--I think he's going for some sort of bluesy trip-hop thing; maybe something like Soul Coughing?. I think he's realized he isn't going to win, so he's doing what he wants to do. Last night was the first time he truly looked comfortable on stage and even though not one of my favorites, I disliked him less than I usually do. He'll probably survive a couple more weeks.
  • Dilana, Can't Get Enough, Bad Company. Does anyone know how old she is? Looking at the bio Rockstar provides I'm guessing she's easily the most accomplished and professional performer on the show. I thought this was her least interesting and most workmanlike performance; yet she was still captivating and her moving through the crowd was completely natural. I'm completely sold on her and think she's made every song unique to herself, now I'd like to see Dilana really push her range and show what she can do.
  • Toby, Pennyroyal Tea, Nirvana. I've never been much of a Nirvana fan and Toby made me think of a Jim Morrison impersonator playing Nirvana. Kinda sedate, not too interesting.
  • Zayra, 867-5309 (Jenny), Tommy Tune. Freak, go home. My wife referred to her costume as a "superhero stripper" and Sepinwall echoes that.
  • Magni, Clocks, Coldplay. Magni shows a lot of potential, he just needs a couple breakout performances in a row to move him ahead of the pack. He made the song better than it is, but still needs more.
  • Jill, Don't You Forget About Me, Simple Minds. I think Jill is probably a great singer and this show has her completely twisted trying to figure out what to do. She's likeable, but she's shooting herself in the foot every week. Like many, she's guilty of oversinging, trying to "rawk" out. She needs to stop, step back, and find what she's good at: deep-throaty blues. Make the song work for her, instead of trying to work the song. I think she could have killed with "Santeria." Takes criticism too personally and is probably getting too frustrated and and self-conscious to last long.
  • Ryan, Losing My Religion, REM. I thought this was appallingly bad. But even my wife disagreed with me on this. I thought this was an emotionally overwrought ball of cheese and Ryan's performance reminded me of Dana Carvey singing Chopping Broccoli and I couldn't stop laughing. Ryan is another guy who shows potential, just too hit and miss.
  • Lukas, Celebrity Skin, Hole. I can't stand Lukas and his shiny ferret face, but he can sing. Tonight's performance was his first real misstep that we've seen. It's been obvious that Supernova likes him and he took tonight off. This exposed the fact that all his performances have been pretty similar and he hasn't demonstrated much range. He can captivate an audience, though his repetition is becoming boring.
  • Storm, Changes, David Bowie. I don't get the Storm love and though last week's performance was horrid. She can sing, I just see more of a pole dancer performance than anything. Her whole act just comes off as an act.
  • Dana, Baba O'Riley, The Who. One of her best and she's getting better. But she won't be sticking around for much longer. Her "I'm alternative rebelling because I'm getting my first tattoo" was hysterically naive. That's a big problem with this show--to show how edgy and alternative they are, they all wear the same costume.

Ryan will probably get the encore, so I'll have to leave the room for a few minutes.

Bottom three projection: Zayra and Jill, definately. Then either Josh or Toby, though Patrice wouldn't surprise me. Zayra stays around one more week, as Jill gets to go home.

Still haven't seen anyone close to the level of Dilana. Lukas has attitude and a bit of a voice, but I think he's being exposed for being one dimensional. I'd put Toby, Magni, Ryan, and Storm in the next group. These seem the ones making the biggest impressions, someone will just need to show some consistency to stand out. I like Patrice and Jill, they're not getting it done on this show, though.

Update: At Throwing Things, I think we've reached a quorum for Ryan hate! Yea! And at Sepinwall, I'm trying to form an even smaller splinter group for hating Ty's "No Woman No Cry" from last season.

In the news: MTV and nsync

Wherein also mentioned are NFL halftime shows, Oprah, and a prescient shoutout to Clerks II

It's MTV's birthday, Lance Bass (is that bass like fish or bass like guitar? I've never been sure) is gay, I hear Clerks II has donkey action, and football practice has started. With all that, a strangely relevant Lewis Black routine popped up during shuffle play. From the 2001 CD, End of the Universe, here's "Halftime at the Superbowl." Slightly edited:

...Halftime is the best. If you want to know exactly where the American culture is at that point in time, at that year, you watch the Superbowl at halftime. It is unbelievable, it has gotten exponentially worse in my lifetime. I used the word exponentially because I learned it in math class and that's the first sentence I've ever been able to use it in. By exponentially I mean shittier and shittier and shittier. And this year didn't let me down at all, 'cause it was the shittiest.

It was brought to you by MTV, because when I think music--oh, yeah--I think MTV. The people, who, during my lifetime, have done everything they can to destroy music. MTV is not music. Music is a wonderful thing; it's like a drug, really. It's played and it goes in our ear, and we get a vision. MTV is a video, and that goes where? In your eye. This is an eye...ear. There's a big fuck difference. And if you get a vision in your head after you listen to some music and you go home and turn on MTV and the video they show is the vision you had--kill yourself. You're better off coming back as a lobster.

So who did MTV get to play at halftime? They got N'Sync, 'cause when I think football I think N'Sync. Unlike most Americans, I'd never heard of N'Sync, because usually when they come on I like to take a pencil and shove it in my ear. I'd never seen them because I do not track these fuckers and I was shocked; I did not know this considering they have a demographic of young girls: N'Sync is gay! I can tell by your reaction that you're a little shocked. Aren't you? Well, they are gay. Gay, gay, gay, gay, gay. They may not know they're gay, but they're rootie tootie fresh and fruitie. And I don't know who their manager is but he's gay, too.

N'Sync would've been enough--that's a halftime show. Maybe if I'd heard them sing a couple sings I would've understood what all the ruckus is about. So then, they bring on who? Aerosmith. They now have N'Sync and Aerosmith, now I'm really fucked up. How did they decide on N'Sync and Aerosmith? Where did that decision come from? One MTV executive turned to another and said "Who should we get for halftime at the Superbowl?" and then he took a shovel and whapped the guy across the head. And then he said "well, N'Sync and Aerosmith." When they were playing together, it wasn't music, it was the sound of chaos. It was unbelievable. I knew it was chaos because you could hear pigs being slaughtered. Women were weeping, men were gnashing their teeth. And there were sounds so hideous I cannot describe them to you or you will flee from the room.

It was unbelievable and while I listened a vision came into my head. I'm embarrassed to tell you this, but I felt at this point and time I'd rather be seeing donkeys fucking. I told you I'm not happy. It's not like I sit in my New York apartment and pine to see livestock go at it. When you've got N'Sync and Aerosmith, you know what I say? I say bring on the burros! And if you're going to have donkey's fucking on television, be sure there's a musical soundtrack. Because if you have donkeys fucking and it's quiet, that's perverted. There's a fine line. Don't cross it.

N'Sync and Aerosmith would've been enough, but no, they were joined by Britney Spears. Now I've got N'Sync, Aerosmith, and Britney Spears--I've got a trifecta from hell. But I was lucky, I had a spoon in my hand. And I shoved it up my ass. Why, you might ask? To distract myself from the pain. Because if I'm going to hurt that much I'm going to do it to myself. And you know what we call that? Empowerment. I learned that from Oprah.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Snobby monkey music quizzes

Wherein the only incorrect answers are those you disagree with

snobby music quiz:
I'll pick I Often Dream of Trains for #6 and profess mostly indifference towards the others.

Extra snobby music quiz:
  1. I love the Propaganda single The Nine Lives of Dr. Mabuse and for a Trevor Horn-produced album I chose ABC's Lexicon of Love.
  2. Thought I'd pass on this one, but discovered David J. Haskins played bass on two Jazz Butcher albums, so Scandal in Bohemia.
  3. Me First and the Gimme Gimmes Have a Ball
  4. I'll pass.
  5. As it's the only one we own, Key Lime Pie by default.
  6. Didn't recognize the name, but Robert Fripp has some good work.
  7. Not really a follower of King Crimson, can't do much with questions 6 and 7. I'd probably have to go with something Adrian Belew worked on.
  8. not interested
  9. not interested
  10. I'm sure there's something good here: He also became a sought-after session player and producer, writing, touring and recording with, among others, Bryan Ferry, The Pretenders, Kirsty MacColl, Talking Heads, Black Grape, Billy Bragg, Pet Shop Boys, Beck and Oasis.

Conclusion: not snobby enough. Am I referring to myself or the quiz? That's an interesting question.