Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Another fine trailer remix

Via Yodelling Llama, here's Sleepless in Seattle.

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Sciencey catchup

A few things I've had saved for a while...

1) A discussion of the ancient history of Kansas in context of the evolution debates back there last year

2) The image archive from the Spitzer Space Telescope, which can show us things like stars being born

3) It's good to see that the scientist being silenced by the Bush administration is getting some press, but it's been going on for quite a while

4) What a Piece of Work is Man is a fine essay on homo sapiens' place in the family of living things

5) so you don't overload on science: 10 reasons why gay marriage should be illegal from craigslist

Something I don't want to see being used

The Bumper Dumper

Boondocks Idol

This recent Sunday strip is an excellent defense of criticism. It's just the kind of thing that the kids at my school need to learn, but I know that any teacher who hung it up would get themselves fired. I miss watching Showtime at the Apollo's Amateur Night...

Speaking of criticism, this month is the first showing of American Idol that we haven't watched as it happens (a friend is taping it for us). The Simon v. Paula wars are a great analogy for intellectual criticism v. hugs & encouragement. I know what Paula's version of the show would be like. I wonder if she's learned any new fake-criticisms-that-sound-musical this year; it's so amusing to hear a non-musician like her tell singers they were "pitchy." Say what you will about Randy Jackson being middle-of-the-road in terms of criticism, he is a real musician. Way back when I was in high school I used to read his columns in Bass Player and was amused to see him show up on AI.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Team America

I was really glad to finally see this movie recently because I'd heard so much about it, from a friend's claim that it was The World According to Wingnuts (TWAtW; wingnut = extreme conservative) to some liberals whining that conservatives weren't lampooned enough. One friend recently said he wasn't sure if the movie was a parody of TWAtW or a humorous endorsement of it.

I've come to the conclusion that this movie is both a parody of TWAtW... AND an endorsement. Ms. Goat wondered why George Clooney was one of the FAG members in the movie (given his working on South Park once) but it's obvious that they aren't making fun of Clooney et al, just giving a Wingnut's view of Clooney et al (like with Sean Penn's speech about how lovely Iraq was before the war). Even changing the SAG to FAG reminded me of how, at one online forum I used to frequent, Senator John Kerry is usually referred to as 'Senator Carrie'.

like one commentator put it:

But the movie goes a step further — perhaps a step not even realized by Parker and Stone. By filtering these partisan worldviews of the War on Terror through a parody of a Jerry Bruckheimer movie, they suggest that we've swallowed these ridiculous, movie-ish approaches to terrorism precisely because our collective consciousness has been shaped by Bruckheimer, whose productions include Crimson Tide, The Rock and Armageddon. Didn't the Bush administration pretty much tell us that the military would do just what Team America does in 15 of the most hilarious minutes of the past decade of movies: fly their star-spangled fighter jets from Mount Rushmore to the Middle East accompanied by a hard rock song ("Team America, fuck yeah!/ Off to save the motherfucking day, yeah!"), kill terrorists with red-and-white-striped missiles missiles and jet back to George Washington's mouth? That anyone ever thought it would really be as easy the propaganda suggested is, as much as anything else, a testament to how dumbass Bruckheimer action movies have warped our minds.

Now, a Wingnut-parody analysis runs into some rough waters at the end of the movie, where the moral of the story comes out (as it does in South Park episodes). Here, the moral comes out that there really are bad people ('assholes' like Kim-Jong Il) and the US needs to be tough ('dicks') in order to deal with them, not appeasing ('pussies'). The message reminded me of the South Park episode I'm a Little Bit Country. let me quote a bit of it:

Cartman: I learned somethin' today. This country was founded by some of the smartest thinkers the world has ever seen. And they knew one thing: that a truely great country can go to war, and at the same time, act like it doesn't want to. You people who are for the war, you need the protesters. Because they make the country look like it's made of sane, caring individuals. And you people who are anti-war, you need these flag-wavers, because, if our whole country was made up of nothing but soft pussy protesters, we'd get taken down in a second. That's why the founding fathers decided we should have both. It's called 'having your cake and eating it too.'

Randy: He's right. The strength of this country is the ability to do one thing and say another.

it's in the exact same way that Trey Parker and Matt Stone have their cake and eat it by not making a full parody of TWAtD, because then the liberals would champion it, nor a full criticism of liberal celebrities' view of the war, because then conservatives would champion it.

And today I read this line from an interview they did w/ GQ, Stone speaking:

But Trey is so brilliant at writing songs that shoot down the middle. "America, Fuck Yeah!" is both totally patriotic and totally ripping on patriotism at the same time.

(and doesn't Trey look weird w/ short hair?)

One of the deleted scenes on the DVD is brilliant: the imprisoned Team America members are being guarded by "Tim Robbins" and "Martin Sheen" and they begin to argue. The actors tells the TA gang that they're just puppets and they reply that the actors are puppets of Kim-Jong Il. It devolves to: "YOU'RE the puppets!" "No, YOU'RE the puppets!" How could they have cut that?

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Recipe for a fun weekend

- watched The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, a nice documentary about some pretty birds in SF and a friendly fellow who took care of them

- refilled our provisions at Trader Joe's

- saw The Book of Liz, an amusing play by David and Amy Sedaris.

- ate very well at House of Vege and Astro Burger

Friday, January 27, 2006

Free song of the day

The mp3 of the single version of Meteorite Showers by the band Estradasphere makes the loss of Mr. Bungle hurt just a tiny bit less.


Happy 250th, "Wolfie"!

Today is the 250th birthday of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, as you may have heard. If all you know about him is from the fine (tho ahistorical) film Amadeus, you should get to know the man better. The BBC has a nice quiz that you should take, too, that is ok for you non-music majors. Those of you who think you really know your stuff should try the Haydn/Mozart string quartet quiz, which can probably stump lots of music majors.

It's amusing to hear of Austria's celebrations on this day (and year), as that's a nation very much stuck in the past. When we visited Salzburg I was amazed at how the town survives over flogging Mozart's corpse, which is especially odd because Mozart hated the city. Then again, such flogging did help create the delicious Mozartkugel (here's another English page). Mmmmm... wish I had some, think the goat got the last of them a few months ago...

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Be nice!

This story's been going around for a little while, finally got a nice summary of it along with some of the reaction. An idiot named Kate O'Beirne wrote a book called Women Who Make the World Worse about how those radical feminists are ruining everything. Several thoughtful commentators wrote reviews of the book pointing out what an idiot she is and conservatives complained about how those reviews were the 'spotlight' reviews and how cruel those evil libs were for slandering O'Beirne's character. The summary I linked above points out some of their hypocricy but what I like best is how they claim the libs are being cruel when the cover of the book is a gross caricature of prominent women.

Goat report, 1/26/06

This article asks: Are you allowed to spank a goat? OF COURSE YOU ARE!


While awaiting falafel

The other day I was at the sole local Middle Eastern restaurant fetching some falafel for my fetching goat; it's not as good as the stuff at Efes in New Brunswick, but it does the job. The dining room TV was tuned to its usual station: ASC TV, with its endless string of music videos. They're very much in the style of Indian music videos, except some of the men aren't quite as attractive and there's more kissing. Anyway, I was lucky enough to see a few commercials, one of which was for Tushy Clean bidets. If the name wasn't amusing enough, the excitement of the announcer's voice when takling about the water-warming system made it difficult for me to keep from laughing out loud. He actually said "Add some FUN to your bathroom!"

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Names, con't

A few recent names I've encountered on campus:

1) why do people name their daughters "Precious"? Do they need a reminder? I won't complain about when the name is spelled "Preshuss" (or something close to it), because that's minor compared to the intent. But I've seen both lately.

2) because I know how high school boys are, I feel bad for girls w/ particular names. The last name of "Hymen" seems to be somewhat common, not that I've seen it in the past few years. But lately I met an "Ariola" (I almost reflexively said, "Nice to see you, Ariola!") and a non-slender girl who is named "Vaca" (which wouldn't be so bad if there weren't so many Spanish speakers around).

And I just read an article on convienent names this morning (got it from A Word A Day).

You speak Chinese?

Via the well-written baseball blog Dodger Thoughts, I saw this description of spoken Chinese, coming from a blog written by an American living in China. The article is a nice summation of what my goat has been telling me about Chinese language(s) for years; she can vouch for its difficulty (having become fluent in 6 languages at one time or another). Then again, maybe it's not so hard for the kids to learn (don't you love the pic of the child in this picture? it's like she's leading the pre-teen revolution).

a few other related notes:

- also good from the China blog is this article on names; dig the note about the John Denver concert.

- as I'm sure you know, there's actually no single Chinese language, but a few hundred. And they're often not very close at all; money quote from the article: "Linguists say the Wu dialect widely spoken in Shanghai, to take one prominent example, shares only about 31 percent lexical similarity with Mandarin, or roughly the same as English and French." So saying "You speak Chinese?" is like saying "You speak European?"

-- the above article was originally in the New York Times but is now behind a wall that you must pay to scale. I found it by looking up the article, getting the title, then Googling that, which led me to the full article at the author's website (which has lots of interesting Asian articles at it). The NY Times obviously doesn't want to be part of the world's intellectual community, given their recent Times Select non-service that hides their columnists from public view. And their archives only go back 2 weeks, unlike real news organizations like the BBC.

--- on the subject of The NY Times, the above, combined with the fact that they covered that idiot Judith Miller's ass during her recent imprisonment during Plamegate, used Miller to help trumpet WMD claims about Iraq, and that the paper that claims to be 'all the news that's fit to print' sat on the domestic spying story right before the 2004 presidential election makes it certain that I will never pay for the NY Times again.

- on a somewhat related thread, I'm reminded of the time several years ago when a friend of Korean descent said that one of her friends had said the following to her: "You're Korean? I thought you were Asian!" Rutgers, the best and brightest of New Jersey.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Troubling stuff from blogs

1) From Talking Points Memo via Crooks & Liars, the free flow of information on the internet may soon come to an end. I'd have to say that lots of things about the ol' web-net have a sense of 'too good to be true', so it doesn't come as a huge surprise.

2) In a more commercial matter, cell phone records are available for a price. This isn't as worrysome to me, as if privacy groups make a fuss over it the wireless providers can be forced to stop doing it. In fact, there's already an act going thru congress about it.

3) The most troubling thing I've seen lately is this article about how CD-Rs aren't very stable storage media. I know a few people who've put their entire music collection into mp3 form, hopefully they can back things up once in a while. There is a follow-up article that presents some other experiences that run counter to the 'expert' one, as well as a discussion forum that does more... A nice reminder of the power of impermanence.


Today I noticed one of the punk-rock kids had a patch safety-pinned to her jacket that says, "I'm a whore for cheap sex." I did a quick search and found that yes, it is band reference. I have to wonder if that band thought up the slogan when they came up with the band name. Have you ever noticed how the "anti-corporate" punk rock bands often have really catchy, marketable names?

Monday, January 23, 2006

More 2006 movies

A couple of other films that have got me interested to see later this year:

1) Tristram Shandy looks to be (from the trailer) another meta-movie in the tradition of Adaptation. The book it's based upon is one I've been wanting to read for years but haven't gotten around to; it's said to be a major influence on Monty Python.

2) Perhaps the first concert film I've been interested in for years: Awesome; I Fuckin' Shot That, which comes from the minds of the Beastie Boys.



The goat sent me some pix from this project, which really scares me. Hopefully she won't start stockpiling cans soon... we still get teased by our friends about the box of rocks that was amongst our stuff back on moving day. Yes, we did use those rocks in a backyard path but I think the teasing is well-earned.

Friday, January 20, 2006

A new countdown

I guess this'll work: Bush's Last Day

Textbook room

In my school's textbook room are several boxes of books from years past that are set aside for donation to third-world schools that need books in English (so I've been told). I was browsing thru the boxes and found books for a long-lost typing class (I took one of those back in 8th grade), a book (actually a professionally produced notebook) from 1978 called "Pre-Algebra with PIZZAZZ!" and, my favorite, a book on Logo. Let me quote from the back cover:

The Second Logo Book gives tips on writing and formatting programs in Dr. Logo and Apple Logo -- and includes dozens of examples and programs for the IBM PC and PCjr and the Apple II, IIe, and IIc.

Just looking thru this book takes me back to my days of reading Enter magazine and learning about the other programming languages (besides BASIC) they occasionally mentioned.

Inside this book on Logo is a "save the date" notice for a 1986 teacher's conference and a discount card for Marineland, a Sea World-type park near where I grew up, which was closed down in 1987 (also when I was in jr. high); interesting how the wikipedia entry has been vandalized.

Then I looked in the video section, where I was thrilled to find Internet Searching Skills. When I was subbing, I had to watch this masterpiece 7 times in one day on one assignment. To be fair, it's not badly done but two things really bothered me about it:

1) the graphic of the Earth on the cover (and used in animated form in the video) is supposed to represent The Internet but is actually the Van Allen Radiation Belts. I'm sure you saw that right off.

2) it was released in 1998 so that means, you guessed it, it does not mention Google at all. Instead kids get to hear about how they can search the web-net with Altavista, Lycos or Metacrawler. They also mentioned a few that aren't around anymore, too, but I can't remember them.

This video is hosted by Eleanor Mondale. I recall reading a profile of her in George Magazine that had an unnamed source say something like, "When her dad was running for president, the Secret Service agents literally covered her, if you know what I mean."

Thursday, January 19, 2006


I have no idea why Professor is included in this list of Best Jobs to Have. It's like it wasn't proofread; when your paragraph on the drawbacks is twice the size of the paragraph on the alleged advantages, maybe it doesn't belong in this article.

In related news, forktine passes along a blog that's been a long time coming, as far as I'm concerned: Rate Your Students.


Margaret Cho's blog can be pretty interesting at times. A recent excerpt from her adventures in India:

I thought I was ghetto, before I went to India. I was so painfully mistaken. I saw a man in a three piece suit take a shit on the sidewalk. That is gangsta!!! He just squatted down and went for it, all the while, casually reading the paper. I love that he had such an air of weary decadence, so that the act of defecating in the street wasn’t enough for him. He still needed something to read.

And she's recently gotten a big tattoo, too.

Goat report, 1/19/06

Swing goat!


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Best Movies Seen, 2005

One more arbitrary list of bests: I watched a movie 74 times (as opposed to watching 74 movies) in 2005. Of the newly-released movies I saw this year, the best were (in no order) The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Howl's Moving Castle, Batman Begins, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire; our movie-going was a bit hampered by our location, as the local cinema doesn't show the more artsy stuff that I wanted to see (The Constant Gardener, for instance). Of all the above, I'm sure you've seen them all, except maybe Howl's Moving Castle, which is a beautiful bit of animation, tho the story isn't as strong as the other Ghibli movies.

For "first-time viewing" of movies that have been out for a while, the best I saw was probably Donnie Darko. I could also add F for Fake, although it didn't get much of a showing when it was initially released. But it wasn't released theatrically so I can't put it in the first list. It's a great movie about fakery and such from the legendary cinematic mind of Orson Welles, I recommend it highly.


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

SNL video

This was fun to find... I feel like it's been years since I've seen SNL and the last time I saw it I wasn't terribly amused. But this video is quite catchy, especially for mentioning Google maps and Mr. Pibb.

I guess lots have liked this video, as it has a Wikipedia entry that details some of the best lines. And it confirms that it does co-star Andy Samberg, from The Lonely Island group that did the very funny Awesometown video.

I'm learning

Today the kids were working pretty quietly, save for some soft whispering between adjacent students. Out of nowhere, one girl says to another (loudly, so the whole class could hear), "It's not safe to swallow? To swallow CUM????"

I said nothing to this and nothing came of it (pun not intended). They were just testing me; if I correct them and say that it isn't unsafe, they'll either ask me how I know or try to start a discussion on that matter. If I asked them to quiet down, the girl who spoke out would defend herself with a more detailed restatement of her question, including probably my educated opinion: "You're a teacher, is it true that..."

About a year ago, I might have done either of these things. But I'm learning.


In honor of yesterday's MLK Day, here's a great speech by the man himself on civil disobedience. Listen and learn! (thanks to Nicko McBrain for passing this on to me)

Friday, January 13, 2006

Artistic science

From Physics News Weekly comes the collision of art and science with Art in Crystallography. Interesting that one of the winning artists shares a name with a virtuoso bassist.

Scratch that off the list

I had finally gotten around to listening to a nice song called Where's the Money Mr. Blair that I had learned about thru the DGM Live site. In downloading and listening to this fine track, I learned it had type of file I hadn't heard of, a Weed file. Going to the Weedshare site, I noticed that in the top 10 is a band called The Ultraviolet Catastrophe. That bothered me because I had 'Ultraviolet Catastrophe' on my list of potential band names when I learned about it in my 20th century physics class about 10 years ago. I think I still have some good names from that and my advanced Calculus classes...

DGM, incidentally, is a music company that grew out of my favorite band, King Crimson. Incidentally, today is the birthday of the Crimson King.


A cool set of pictures that shows how a sculpture can emerge from a block of granite. I don't think I liked abstract or semi-abstract work like this until I learned about Barbara Hepworth.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Best Books Read, 2005

This past year I read 20 books (including 2 graphic novels). Most common authors were Philip K. Dick (4, including a short story collection), Ursula K. LeGuin (3), and Neil Gaiman (4, including 2 co-authorships (Good Omens and Sandman: The Doll's House)). I should probably read a greater variety of authors, something I'll try to work on this year; maybe I won't repeat an author this year. Anyway, my favorites this year were (in no order):

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis is a great look at how one baseball team (the Oakland A's) had a different way of valuing players than other teams. Specifically, it shows how the A's take a more intellectual look at a player's stats to determine if he can contribute to making a winning team, rather than the traditional approach which involves mostly "going with your gut" or other nonsense (it's amazing how much appearance influences baseball scouts, someone needs to do a study of the homoerotic overtones of their work). Lewis also discusses the backlash against this newer approach, which brought to mind the idiot coaches in the classic Ball Four by Jim Bouton. You don't have to be a baseball fan to like either of these books, but if you know a bit about baseball I have to recommend them.

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman was funny, magical and might be his best work. The more I think about it, the more I love the idea of the protagonist's being easily embarrassed as his greatest flaw.

A Scanner Darkly and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick were both great. I'd read Androids before, but didn't really remember very much; it's significantly superior to the movie Blade Runner, upon which it's based. The movie is a great bit of eye-candy, but really doesn't have much of a plot (detective hunts down androids, might be an android); the book has a few great twists in the plot and an entire sub-plot where Deckard explores the meaning of life, all excised for the movie. Scanner explores drug use, identity and government surveillance as we watch a man go insane.

Goat report, 1/12/06

Here's something I should look into: kissing a goat for charity



My goat sent this on to me, tho I check Astronomy Picture of the Day every so often. But this is cool because it's something we actually saw happening this past September: a sunset rocket launch. Thanks to Vandenberg's proximity to L.A., I saw a bunch of these growing up. It was Princess Whitegoat's first and she was really excited by it. But APOD is my main source of desktops, as most of their pix are available in high-res form. Here are two of my recent desktops: 1 and 2

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


Can we start doing sanity tests for people who are leaders in mainstream religions?

CD listening

For the past several months, I've been working my way thru my entire CD collection in an attempt to listen to it all. This is partially due to the fact that now, unlike the past 6 or 7 years, I'm finally around all of it at once. Unlike my friend Geoff, who's listened to his music collection in alphabetical order a few times, I wanted to be a bit more random about it. I went to Random.org and generated a sequence of 849 numbers (that being the number of my CDs when I began) and have been working thru the list since last summer.

I've occasionally gotten some interesting patterns, like when the Propellerheads' Decksanddrumsandrockandroll came up right before The Who's Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy. Last week, I had another where two unquestionable double-album prog-rock masterpieces came up in close proximity: The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway by Genesis and The Wall by Pink Floyd (tho I will admit that the latter is only marginally a prog album). I just thought I'd mention it because I know some friends will love to see talk about unquestionable prog-rock masterpieces. This system usually leads to very interesting sequences, like this week's Allan Holdsworth followed by They Might Be Giants followed by Rush followed by Gary Numan followed by Captain Beefheart.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Go me

Excuse the horn-trumpeting (I'll try to keep it at a minimum), but this weekend I passed an audition and have rejoined the ranks of professional musicians (creatures often indistinguishable from amateur musicians). I'll be plying my trade professionally this spring for the first time in years (I think summer of 97 was the last time, but I'm not sure). If the gig goes well, it may lead to others; it's nice to have some motivation to practice.

Video mash-up?

First time I'd heard the phrase, but I guess it applies. The unintentional hilarity of He-Man meets Se7en in He-7en.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Back at school....

...and catching up on email, blogs, and work (in that order). One story of note for today is that I helped get a couple of new students started. While checking their records on the computer, I noticed they were both born in 1991, the year I graduated high school. I haven't felt this weird until I noticed that some of my friends were born in the 80s....

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Goat update, 1/5/06

What do you get when you cross the poker trend with goat-gifting? Poker Goat!


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Break continues

...and I won't be posting again until next week, probably. Promise to excite you then!