Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The invasion was televised

As far back as I can remember I thought that joke about dreaming that one ate a giant marshmallow and waking to discover one's pillow consumed was pretty stupid. Not only because pillows taste nothing like marshmallows (don't ask how I know) and therefore the logic behind the joke falls flat, but because I saw a fairly solid line between what was happening outside the dream (i.e., in the so-called "real" world) and the content of a dream. Sure, dreaming about something could elicit some physiological reactions (talking in one's sleep, for example, or having an erotic dream and waking aroused), but it was a one-way street; the body was reacting to the dream, not the dream to what the body was experiencing.

Anyway, let's move on.

This morning, I was having a dream that took place in a field of trees, and involved people undoubtedly influenced by me having seen an episode of the John Adams mini-series on HBO. One of the people was referred to as George Washington I recall. So, at least on the surface the setting was the 18th century. At some point a helicopter appeared, hovering in the sky above the tree line. Even in the context of the dream I remember thinking it incongruous with what was going on.

When I awoke, the sound of a helicopter in the sky above the apartment was immediately discernible. Frankly, I'm surprised it didn't wake me immediately, with as loud as it was. It certainly prevented me from returning to sleep and figuring out how the father of our country would tackle this flying contraption.

Turning on the TV, the nature of why the copters were hovering was revealed: a "landmark" building in Hollywood was engulfed in flames at the famous intersection of Hollywood and Vine, and being less than two miles away put us under where the aerial shots of the firefighters battling the blaze were being taken. An empty nightclub had caught fire in the very early morning hours, and the two helicopter for the local Fox and CW affiliates (which have morning shows) had been covering it since dawn.

And thus the appearance of the helicopter in the dream was explained.

The veil between the two worlds is thinner than I thought. The pillow joke is still stupid, however.


Speaking of the fire: I did eventually get up and go outside and see some smoke mingled with the morning hazy clouds, and see the two helicopters (but by this point they'd moved to a different vantage point and were now a few miles to the east, and not directly overhead (and hence not as loud).

But by this point it was too late to try to go back to sleep.

Here's the thing: The story was not important enough for the local ABC, CBS, or NBC stations to interrupt their national broadcasts, but both the local channels (KTTV and KTLA) covered the story with the same intensity as the OJ Bronco chase; they did not go to commercial, they did not go to whatever pieces and guests they may have had scheduled.

Even after the fire was clearly pretty well under control, or at least when it wasn't changing, they kept showing pictures from the hovering helicopters of hoses shooting water on a smoke-covered building.

Even though there was no one in the building.

Even though the surrounding structures were not in significant danger of going up (at least by the time I was watching).

Even though the hosts and the reporters on the scene and in the copter had nothing new to say about what was happening, and grasped at anything to say to fill time.

Which would be all fine and dandy as far as I was concerned were it not for the fact that their obsequious coverage had gotten into my dream, and then woke me up long before I would have otherwise done so.

I know if the building in question had not been in the heart of historic Hollywood but in a less famous neighborhood, it would have gotten maybe two minutes of air time. But some place where the first few minutes of Ocean's Eleven were filmed surely deserves hours of continuous coverage. And obviously that deserves to interrupt my sleeping.

I gotta get out of this town.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

If you could only see inside my mind, you'd be disappointed

A few years ago a friend* and I were in the car and a song came on the radio. It was the mid-'90s pseudo-alternative rock hit "If You Could Only See." We both remembered it. However, she was convinced the artist who recorded it was Duncan Sheik, and I was certain that it was not. I could not remember the name of the band at that moment, but I knew it wasn't Duncan Sheik for a simple reason: I had a copy of the album on which said track appeared.

(I am not saying I bought the album—which I recalled was called Lemon Parade. I am saying that I acquired a copy of it, because I knew someone who had bought it. Generally speaking, if I plop down some of my own money for something I can recall who it is. However, sometimes the brain is unwilling to give up its information, for reasons that are never clear.)

Undaunted by my assurances that the artist was not, in fact, Duncan Sheik, and probably emboldened by my failure to recall who it actually was, she challenged me to a bet. I declined over and over because this was not something over which I should be winning anything, but eventually I agreed just to get her to stop harping on it.

Of course I won the bet. That was never in question. When we got home and I could find the disc copy in question and prove that it was Tonic, not Duncan Sheik, she graciously conceded. (Or at least for the purposes of this story we will say she did.) Suffice it to say she has not challenged me on musical knowledge since that day.

My point, however, is not to tout my prowess in the realm of music. It is actually the opposite.

It's not that I know everything. It's not that I know even a majority of things. It's simply that I know what I know; with what I have some experience I have knowledge, but that is so far from general expertise that I actively refute even a glib association with the term. The most that can be said is that, for whatever reason, bits of such trivia do tend to stick with me (although not necessarily in a manner that allows me instant recollection), and perhaps that is more than the so-called average person would do. And by virtue of knowing a few bits of trivia that other people do not, that seems to indicate to them that I must possess a vast cache of information that they do not, despite the fact that I have only demonstrated knowing the specific bits.

Why does this matter? Almost invariably, when someone who has seen me exhibit knowing something (that I didn't even mean to be impressive but just something my brain didn't have the good sense to let go), they will start using me as some kind of source for reference material. And depending on the specifics of what they wish to know, it is only a matter of time until their grandiose expectations of me are hideously disappointed; it doesn't take too much effort to find something I don't know.

Not that I ever claimed to know it.

Nonetheless, it is similarly inevitable that as soon as the people who deluded themselves with ideas about my prowess hit that point where I don't know something their expectations would have me know, they feel an unconscious compulsion to direct at me the full brunt of their disappointment. I have come to believe it's nothing they can control; they have this negative reaction which they attribute to being my fault, and whether it is or is not is of little importance at that moment. ("What do you mean you don't know?!" Then an exasperated and indignant shake of the head.)

While I try to dismiss it as the simple projection, it's difficult to not feel at least a twinge of having let them down.

It's hard enough for me to be right about anything as it is, and frankly, with as many times as that scenario has occurred, there are times when I think it's better to feign ignorance (or intentionally be wrong) up front; it is not admirable, but clearly being admired is fraught with its own dangers.

I am the first to admit when I'm not sure. I equivocate in answers to questions at work all the time; I employ phrases like "it should do this" and avoid "it will do this" at all costs, so I don't have to put up with "you said it would do this" crap when things don't go as they should (which happens daily). I am an awful poker player; the only time I win is early on, before the others have figured out that I am rarely bluffing.

I don't want to let the idiots drag me down, but these people aren't idiots; if they were, I wouldn't care. These people kind of believe in me, and that's flattering, but I know it's only temporary. And the real thing is this: Their first impression persists in their mind, despite the incident that revealed the exaggeration in their expectation; the next time I don't know something is met with the same vitriolic reaction as the previous time. They don't pull back their expectations to a reasonable level; they simply overlook the evidence that should have caused the re-evaluation of the expectations, so I get to experience it all over again.

So, to sum up, when I tell you that it's not Duncan Sheik, just accept that it's not Duncan Sheik. It may or may not be Tonic, but it's definitely not Duncan Sheik. And accept that the entirety of which I'm certain is exclusively that, in that particular case, it's not Duncan Sheik.


You only get one chance to make a first impression, but sometimes a good one can be just as bad as a bad one. It just takes longer to realize it.


No, I couldn't name a Duncan Sheik song if someone held a gun to my head. I never had his album.

I admit his sound, to the extent I have any familiarity with it, was not unlike that of Tonic. I understand how they could be confused.


Oh, and when it comes to music: I assure you there's thousands of people who know more about what's going on now than I could even pretend to know. I can't compete with the college student who's in his heyday. That I can find new music I like, whether I'm keeping up with a scene or not, is cause for tiny celebration in my book.

* Possibly a euphemism.

Song lyrics du jour

She stares at the screen
At the little words of green
Tries to remember what to do next
A trace of frustration
That crosses her face
Searching for the key she should press

And I would help her if I only knew how
But these things, they are a mystery to me too

And it seems that the corporate eyes, they are watching
She fears for her job, and the moments are passing

I stare at her name tag
I think to myself

Both you and I
We never asked
For any of this

- New Model Army, "225"

Monday, April 28, 2008

Mixed up more

From the Um-get-to-the-point-Doug department:

I suppose a basic thesis I have at least implied in some posts here is this: I like music. I aspire to get more of it because there’s more out there that’s good than what I could possibly possess. I’m not content merely listening over and over to what I have already. Were I a better writer, that much would have been obvious from the aforementioned entries, with no sense of obligation on my part to clarify it today. Big shock, eh? (And people wonder why I don’t do this for a living.)

It’s too pithy to declare a general like for music; I do appreciate the artform, in my humble opinion, but that means little in and of itself. I haven’t studied it well enough to write about it skillfully (I know what 4/4 time is, and I can still vaguely recall what the sonata form in a symphony is—what could at best be described as a dilettante’s intelligence); that’s probably why I still like it. I have no particular interest in picking apart how it works, to look too deeply under the hood. I can appreciate it sufficiently well with what I know. I don’t mind learning more, of course—my favorite classes at college were the music appreciation lectures about the Romantic period (classical) and about the history of jazz—but those weren’t hardcore deconstruction of music; they were what non-music majors were supposed to understand.

It’s not lost on me how that could seem incongruous, given how I overanalyze myself in these pages, but really it makes perfect sense; the reason I can still like music is because I haven’t taken it to that level, but I have long since abandoned the notion of liking myself (at least in the same way I like music), so there’s no room to lose in that arena. (The self-analysis seeks to find some modicum of explanation for why I am what I am, to draw conclusions—logical or not—that allow me to not despise myself, which it does reasonably well.)

(Get over it, people. I love myself, but I don’t always like myself. You knew what I meant if you’ve read this far. Yeesh. If I haven’t offed myself by this point, it sure as hell ain’t gonna happen now.)

Anyway, I am familiar with more music, and know a certain level of trivia about it, than (as far as I can tell) does the average person. The average person, in this scenario, however, is one who will never fill a 20 GB iPod in his/her lifetime. I probably could have done that before I was old enough to drink. Still, relative to the people who are really into music (the journalists, the critics, the DJs, the guys like the main character in High Fidelity, etc.), I know barely enough to get into the stadium, much less compete on the field. However, those average people around me assume I must know anything they might wish to know or be familiar with whatever song/artist to which they may allude, and the reality is that I know what I know. That may be more than you in certain areas, but what you really like may be something where you possess infinitely more knowledge.

Besides, when it comes to music, the determining factor of whether something is good is whether it appeals to you; you don’t have to understand why you like it, just that you do. There’s no better way to attempt to explain a piece of music than to play it for someone; unlike other art, descriptions always fall short of capturing its essence.

That’s why I like it. And don’t wish to study it too deeply.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Gone to the dogs

It's true that I rarely post pictures of people, but I have posted some shots of puppies on the photo site. (Dogs, like flowers and sunsets and buildings, never get embarrassed about how they look.)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Maturity, schmaturity

Even at my age, I can't help but snicker at this sign.

I grant that there is a difference between "speed bumps" and "speed humps" (regarding the height and width), and that the sign was accurately reflecting the situation on the street where this was posted. I further grant that the signs should be thusly posted to alert motorists driving down the street.


I'm not proud, but to be honest, I'm not ashamed either.

Friday, April 25, 2008

On our own

I could offer a review of Forgetting Sarah Marshall (which we saw last weekend), but if I learned anything from my time at the student paper when in college, it's this: Composing a cogent response to an artistic effort is far more difficult than it appears. There are many, many people who get paid to do that sort of thing who are better equipped to perform such tasks.

However, there are also those out there who are offering their opinions of movies (and TV shows and albums and books, and virtually anything about which one can have an opinion)—it's called "the internet"—who are, by relative standards, probably even less equipped to be offering their opinions. So why am I refraining?

I like to think over the course of the last couple decades that I have figured out a few things, and one of which is: People who see a trailer and think a movie looks good are not swayed by bad reviews; they'll go anyway. People don't read reviews to see whether a movie is good; people read reviews to see if the reviews jibe with the impression they had from seeing the trailer. It's how to gauge whether the review is good or not.

(I'm not going so far as to say that nobody really cares what others think and that people really care whether what other people think jibes with what they think. Egad, but wouldn't that be cynical?)

Of course, by denying insight into what I thought of the movie, that could be making it more difficult for others to have their thoughts be either reinforced or refuted. They would be left with nothing but the strength of their convictions and their self-esteem to support their thoughts.

(Egad, but that could seem like I'm being an asshole, might it not?)

However, perhaps I have enough confidence in people to believe they can handle this subtle challenge. On the other hand, people may simply think I'm completely full of shit. And the beauty of that: Such a thought is one people would support on their own, without me having to assuage their egos with confirmation that I'm full of shit.

It's their thought, and it doesn't matter whether anyone else agrees or disagrees with it.

Perhaps I've provided them a moment completely absent of the typical external validation. Perhaps I've merely wasted everyone's time.

Either way, would it not only ruin everything if I actually told you what I thought?

Perhaps I have too much respect for the world to do that. Or am I just being an asshole?

(Come now. It easily could be both; those are not mutually exclusive.)


However, I should be clear: If I were to offer a review, it definitely would not be a bad one.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Song lyrics du jour

Once I had my heroes
Once I had my dreams
But all of that is changed now
They've turned things inside out
The truth is not so comfortable, no

- Mission of Burma, "That's When I Reach For My Revolver"

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Blasted from the past

A little over two years ago, I took the picture featured in this post from a little over two years ago. And back then I was still in the habit of occasionally uploading some shots to my flickr page. That, sadly, has not been updated since last June--because they wouldn't let me upload more without paying for a premium account.

Then today I get a message from Schmap telling me that the photo in question has been "short-listed" for inclusion in their upcoming Los Angeles guide.

It wouldn't pay anything, of course, but I would get a photo credit, and a link to my flickr page, so there would be some potential publicity. For a website I'm not actively maintaining.

So, apparently, all the pictures I've been posting on the photo site and the aminus3 community over the past two years haven't been as worthwhile, because they've only been seen by, you know, regular people, not editors of map websites.

If only I'd realized that sooner.

Eh, I'll probably okay allowing the Schmap people use it. I can pretend to be a published photographer while maintaining my amateur status.

Of course, given that it was merely short-listed and not definite, I've probably jinxed the whole thing by mentioning it now.

This must be why I'm not a professional photographer; I can't keep it to myself.


Again, I state the obvious: No matter how much we declare one day in April to ostensibly honor the earth, the earth itself doesn't care.

That's not suggesting we shouldn't promote so-called environmentalism and support the "green" movement, but it's not because we're destroying the hunk of rock below our feet; it is because the environment is what supports our species, and the more we screw it up the less likely we are to survive.

But the earth? It will continue to orbit the sun, whether we recycle or drive hybrids or use canvas bags to carry our groceries. It's just that we won't.

Our motives are entirely selfish. That doesn't make them bad, but let's not delude ourselves that our motives are otherwise.

Environmentalism is really humanism, except "humanism" was already taken.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

This is useless

This post on J's Indie/Rock Mayhem site (yes, from several weeks ago--what? is there a time limit?) more or less inspired the following glib mind-dump on the topic. That does not make him liable in a court of law, however.


Artists create art. Critics and art historians give that art names and categorize them into movements.

Whether the "movement" is still "moving" is up to the critics, but an artist who seeks to satisfy the critics is ceasing to produce art. It may receive accolades and may even be commercially viable, and it's perfectly acceptable to do that (everybody's gotta eat); however, the best that output can achieve is approximating art.

Or at least that's what thinking in lofty, ethereal terms about art affords me the opportunity to believe.


It has been alleged that the public doesn't want true innovation in its entertainment; they want the same thing they're comfortable with, the same thing they've seen/heard/read before. And thinking in terms of "entertainment" only, that's probably true to at least a certain degree, or at least in certain cases. I don't think it's quite that simplistic, but upon analysis little is as simplistic as pithy generalizations would make it out to be. (That's what pithy generalizations seek to do, but it should be tacitly understood that they almost always fail.)


A distinction must be made between entertainment and art. Art may be entertaining, and some entertainment may be artistic, but that's only a subset of the two that happens to coincide.

And as that statement is a pithy generalization, it is not necessarily true. However, it is not false.


I'd argue that entertainment requires at least a modicum of innovation. It's not that people want a lot of innovation—they don't—but at least a tweak on the familiar is necessary to keep it interesting. The appearance of the familiar is necessary, to be certain, but even the casual fan will eventually grow weary of the identical.


Or at least I choose to believe so. On occasion.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

It's burbling

For fans of me blathering on about how different camera settings change the same shot, you can see the origins of what's above in this post on the useless photo site.

All or nothing

The use of popular songs in commercials is a common advertising practice. That's been going on for years, and I imagine will continue as long as there are both popular songs and advertising. Associating a product with a song in undoubtedly one of the most effective ways to convey a message in 30 seconds; it takes advantage of everything the song has already built up in the mind of the viewer.

Okay, enough with that obvious introduction.

This is not a complaint about the co-opting of art for commercial purposes. As I just noted, it works. Any objection on my part would reveal more envy of not having created something that could be co-opted than any devotion to artistic integrity.

This is not wistfully lamenting how I can't believe songs from my youth are included in ads now. That would merely be revealing me having blithely ignored that fact that I'm not young any more. (Which to a great extent I have been blithely ignoring, but that's not pertinent here.)

So what is this? Well, allow me to direct you to a couple specific examples of commercials guilty of what specifically draws my ire:
A recent Hampton ad uses "With a Little Help from My Friends".
And a Chevy campaign not surprisingly uses "American Pie".

Unless one stops to think about it, what these do that's different than other commercials with songs in them may not be apparent. I, of course, can't help but think about it (and because you've read this far, I may as well elaborate for the benefit of those who are not thusly afflicted).

The Hampton spot has a re-recorded version of the song featuring these lyrics:
What would you do if I sang out of tune?
Would you stand up and walk out on me?
Lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song
And I'll try not to sing out of key
Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends
Yeah, I'm gonna try with a little help from my friends
Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends
With a little help from my friends

For those who don't know the Fab Four off the top of their head that well, the corresponding portion of the original song has these lyrics:
What would you think if I sang out of tune?
Would you stand up and walk out on me?
Lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song
And I'll try not to sing out of key
Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm, I get high with a little help from my friends
Mm, gonna try with a little help from my friends

That's right. They didn't want to include "I get high" in their commercial so they re-configure the chorus to simply skip over that line, even though it need not be interpreted as alluding to drug use (but yeah, it probably would).

Let's move on to the Chevy ad. It features only part of the chorus of Don McLean's opus:
Bye-bye, Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee
But the levee was dry

The reference to "Chevy" makes it pretty obvious as to why they wanted to use the song; I'm sure the only delay in their using it was how long before they could get the rights to it. But let's look at the entire chorus, just in case you don't recall it:
Bye-bye, Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee
But the levee was dry
And good old boys were drinkin' whiskey and rye
Singin' "This'll be the day that I die
"This'll be the day that I die"

Okay. I get it. That second half of the chorus is not necessarily what would seem the most upbeat words ever sung, alluding to drinking and death. (Of course, they didn't prevent the song from becoming a huge hit--even at over 8 minutes long.) However, that's where the song goes immediately after the portion that's looped over and over for the commercial.

And that's what it is: The selectively chose just the parts of the songs they wanted and pretended the other part doesn't exist, simply by virtue of leaving it out. But because I know and like the songs, I know what those parts are, and rather than paying attention to the sales pitch in the voice-over I am dwelling on what they did to re-configure the art for their commerce. I am not left with a pleasant association but find myself even less inclined to stay at a Hampton hotel or buy a Chevrolet.

I am not suggesting that most people are like me, by the way. I am not saying I fail to grasp why they did what they did, nor that it is necessarily ineffective in a general sense.

However, I think that if a company is choosing to get the rights to a song to use in support of their product or service, that company must accept the song as it is. If some part of the song that makes them want to use it doesn't fit in with their vision, they should find another song. It strikes me as a fair compromise between maintaining the artistic integrity of the music and the needs of the company to sell whatever they have to sell.

With all the regulations that the FCC imposes, is it too much to ask that they intercede in this? Generally I don't go for government intervention, but with all they've done to help Corporate America, can't they step in on the part of the artists?

Or at least force them to go with a not-yet-that-popular song and get the artist to just re-record the damn thing with overtly adapted lyrics, as Outback did with an Of Montreal song. Then all pretense of integrity is abandoned by both parties.

Or get them to make me forget. Believe me, if I could get this out of my brain, I happily would.


Perhaps I just need to get high on some whiskey and rye.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Song lyrics du jour

No one in the world ever gets what they wants
And that is beautiful
Everybody dies frustrated and sad
And that is beautiful

- They Might Be Giants, "Don't Let's Start"

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

High tech

I saw a TV commercial this evening for a new mini-van where one of the touted features that comes standard is... a six-CD-changer.

Compact discs. People still listen to those? Really?

Obviously they're shooting for that still-doesn't-have-an-iPod demographic.

Remain seated, please

From the More-than-you-need-to-know-about-Doug department, with a warning that the following does reference natural bodily functions (that everyone does):

I've shared a bathroom with women most of my life. As a teen it was with my sister, and when I first moved out on my own my first roommate was a girlfriend. From that I developed the habit of putting the toilet seat down when I'm done with my business.

It's not that this makes me better than other men who aren't thusly inclined. I'm just admitting that I was conditioned early on to do this, and it's become something I don't even think about. I feel neither pride nor shame about it; it's just what I do.

Most of the time, at least.

A recent night I woke up in the wee hours of the morning, with the world still very dark, and had to answer the call. I got out of bed and strode the few steps to the bathroom. Enough light came in through the window to allow me to identify the toilet without turning on the light, and I had no desire to expose my eyes to that level of brightness, so I made my way to the toilet in the relative dark.

I started to sit down to pee so I wouldn't have to focus on aiming. (At that hour I could care less about seeming emasculated.) And as my hand grasped the side of the bowl I realized that the seat was up. Apparently I'd failed to follow my habit when last I urinated.

So I stopped my sitting action, stood up, turned and put the seat down. I then resumed the sitting, and proceeded with the task at hand.

I don't mean to sound dismissive of what women have been telling me most of my life, but I have to say: It wasn't difficult, even without full cognition, to identify the difference between the seat up and the seat down.

Just like when I'm walking through a darkened room I will reach my hand in front of me to detect any object before walking into it, feeling for the existence of the toilet seat before attempting to sit on it, even though I almost always would have it down anyway, just struck me as being in my best interest.

Even one such as myself who's good about this sort of thing can slip up. It's not an attempt to pull a prank on anyone; it's a slip.

All I'm saying is: I'll continue to put the seat down, but it strikes me as prudent for both sexes to verify that the seat's down prior to putting the posterior in its proximity.

If you do it enough, you'll make a habit of it.


And now, some more on this topic (not that anyone wants to or needs to know)...

Upon reflection (during that tilde), it has occurred to me that despite having been conditioned to put the seat down (to such a degree that it's usually unconscious behavior) I have never actually investigated why the onus was on men to accept responsibility for putting the seat down. At no point when the women who requested I put the seat down have I ever stopped and asked why they couldn't put it down.

This is because, even in my teens, I was not a complete idiot. And just to be clear: I am not asking now. (I am still not a complete idiot. A partial idiot, sure, but not a complete one.)

I certainly understood the importance of lifting the seat before I urinated standing up; neither of us want that. However, with the seat always down when either of us enters the bathroom, that obligates me to lift it over half the time I go in. Would a proper compromise not be that the woman exert the effort to put the seat down half the time?

That's a rhetorical question. Don't answer. The point here is not to persuade any women that they should stop training men to put the seat down. Nor am I suggesting men should argue when the women request the seat be put down. (Men, it's not standing up for yourself. It's actively making your life more difficult for an insignificant reason. You earn far more brownie points—yeesh, that term takes on a whole different connotation in this scenario, doesn't it?—for doing it than any benefit of delusion of self-assertion will grant if you fight over this.)

Even though I've never asked—and, I repeat, I'm not asking now—logically there must be a reason why women have issue with putting the seat down themselves. I could speculate about what the reason is (and I imagine the conclusion would be somewhere in the "it looks nicer if company drops by" area), but to do so would be folly undertaken only by a complete idiot. As we have already established I am not a complete (only partial) idiot, I shan't speculate thusly.

Were I not a partial idiot, I would have refrained from even mentioning what I have above. Clearly it implied some things about women that are less than complimentary, although I merely wished to highlight some of the quirks of the situation. And in a pathetic attempt to save my butt, I will offer this sincere belief (in the form of an overly glib generalization): Men, left to our own devices, will eventually screw everything up; women are the only hope for our species.

If they can get us to put the toilet seat down today, perhaps tomorrow they'll keep us from killing each other.


Let me have it in the comments, ladies.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Rocked by the vote

Full disclosure: I admit I am not one who follows politics with the same zeal as some people. I get a fair amount of my political news from seeing it lampooned on The Daily Show. The most debate I tend to see is on the Bill Maher show.

However, even from that and the bits of "real" news I come across, I have noticed there are pundits who are claiming that having both Obama and Clinton still vying for the nomination while the Republicans have wrapped it up is destroying the Democratic party's chances for a victory in November. Having two viable candidates is apparently awful.

Having the preferences of the voters where the primary in their state comes later in the election year (at this point, thanks to a quick search: Pennsylvania, Indiana, North Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky, Oregon, Montana, South Dakota—also, Guam and Puerto Rico) be factored into the decision made at the convention rather than simply be irrelevant (because one front-runner has already accumulated the requisite amount to capture the nomination before they get to vote) is tantamount to handing the general election to McCain. How dare the votes in the smaller states actually matter? How is that democratic?

And why is the lack of a presumptive nominee for the Democrats allowing the Republicans to have such an easy time of it? It seems because the public—oh, who are we kidding?—because the media can focus on him.

Of course, if the media cannot focus on only Clinton or only Obama, it would seem that neither can the Republicans. Lacking a specific opponent for their campaign conceivably doubles the effort that those trying to get McCain elected must put into trying to figure out how to slander—er, discredit—the other side. And somehow try to do without seeming either sexist or racist.

Yep, that's definitely a slam dunk for the GOP.

But hey, what do I know? I'm not on appearing on those Sunday morning shows on TV.


I find amusing the irony of California moving up its primary date to the so-called Super Tuesday because in the past, when generally a front-runner had emerged in both parties by its later date, the highest populated state was not a "player" in the game but then this year the game actually ran long, and had the date stayed what it used to be California (in June), it might be the key to the whole thing for the Democrats.

Instead, all the pundits are putting that on Pennsylvania. Or Indiana. Until those don't pan out, and then undoubtedly it will be on Oregon.

Personally, I hope it comes down to Guam. They have 9 delegates!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Orange moon

You may recall back in February I mentioned shooting the lunar eclipse. And today I finally got around to do what I do (minor software enhancement, deciding which shot are share-able) for that event, and have posted them (with the tale of the shoot) over on the photo site.

(Patience is implicitly required for readers of this site.)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Mas blossom

Again with the photo blog stuff. Again with flowers blooming on trees. But now at night! That's different, right?

(In the absence of evidence to the contrary, I'm calling these cherry blossoms.)

Anyway, give it a look-see if you have a moment.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Yeah, here you go

If you can't be interesting, at least be succinct.


I thought that about a week ago and now I'm resorting to putting that previous line on the blahg here in a desperate attempt to put something up that approximates being clever (even though clearly it is not). This is because I have succumbed to the notion that it's more important to appear to be updating the site regularly than to only update intermittently when I have something genuinely worthwhile.

[Insert joke about how under that criterion I'd still be waiting to post the first thing.]

I am predictable, if nothing else.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Pulped it

Something to which I should have devoted more attention during the tail end of a recent ride home (but only vaguely followed a little while still having my headphones on):

A young man, probably in his 20's, came walking down the aisle of the train, saying aloud how it's good to have a relationship with God. No one seated in the car gave any acknowledgment of his statement. He wandered back away for a while but eventually re-appeared, and began reciting his message again.

An older gentleman in an orange sweatshirt and blue Denver Broncos cap started to speak back to the young man. The two stayed at least 10 feet apart, as the young man stood in the front area of the car and the gentleman remained in his seat, so they spoke loud enough to hear.

The gentleman did not accost him or tell him to shut up; at no point was there any yelling, nor any confrontational tone. The gentleman even quoted the Bible a couple of times. And what he did, ultimately, was to point out that the young man was merely spouting dogma rather than describing a genuine relationship with God. However, he did it without belittling the young man (well, without overtly belittling him); he posed some questions, such as asking if the young man knew the difference between a pastor and a minister. (I didn't hear whether the young man answered that well or not, but I do recall that he did appear to struggle a bit when having to go "off book," as it were.) The gentleman's tone was not condescending; he sought only to get the young man to really think about the words he was espousing.

The gentleman did eventually go into a bit of detail about his issues with the situation. He had no disagreement with the message about having a personal relationship with God, but he did note having a problem with religion; religions were about rules to be followed blindly, and if others did not follow those rules it was declared that they were going to Hell. What about that was establishing a personal relationship with God?

This he used to explain why no one was listening to the young man. He even offered advice of a sort: He recommended that the young man work on his personal relationship with God, and get that ironed out before going out and talking about it with others.

When the young man's stop came, he couldn't get off the train fast enough. I don't think he even offered the cursory "God bless you" to the gentleman.

Not only did I more or less agree with the gentleman's thesis, I was delighted to see what amounted to the victory of intelligence over… well, I don't want to call it ignorance—that's not accurate. (Over the indoctrination?) It didn't get reduced to name-calling (at no point was "douche bag" uttered) or either side saying the other was "wrong"; it relied entirely on discourse rather than yelling.

I said nothing to the gentleman when I departed the train, because I didn't feel as though I'd participated enough to say anything, but I like to think that thinking about him here counts for something.


A personal relationship with God cannot be forced on others.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Bringing me the rock

A song just playing on the iPod recently was a free track downloaded from emusic called "Clumsy Sky" by a band called Girl in a Coma. It features a slow opening that kicked into an up-tempo 4/4 beat vaguely reminiscent of that area of rock between punk and new wave. I kind of likened it to the sound of Midnight Movies, probably in part due to the vocalist also being female (and because that's another newer artist that an old fart like me enjoyed). A less herky-jerky Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Some Buzzcocks at times. I found myself enjoying the song out of the nostalgic elements but also because it wasn't just aping the sound of a couple decades back. But here's the thing: I've listened several times, and I still have no idea what any of the lyrics are. It's not that the words are sung in some kind of early-R.E.M. mumble; they merely didn't stand out above the melody (namely the driving guitar riffs) and rhythm. And yet that didn't affect my enjoyment of the track in the slightest.

Why should that matter? I've thought of myself as appreciating songwriting. A semi-regular feature on the blahg here is Song lyrics du jour where I offer some lyrics from a song I heard that day (generally one from my collection) that struck me in some way (although without offering any explanation as to why they struck me or elaboration about the song/artist/or references therein). And here I'm just letting the rhythm take priority.

Ultimately what I like about music is that I don't have to justify why I like what I like. I'm not trying to convince anyone else that they should like what I like, nor am I trying to convince anyone that they should give a crap what I like. In the end, the only point of me noting what I like is to allow a shorthand for strangers to use such preferences as a way of gaging whether they are like or dislike me, based on whether they happen to like or dislike some of the same things.

Even that, in and of itself, is not really sufficient for anything. The only way to make a determination about whether another is like me because we both happen to enjoy, say, the same song, is to analyze why we like the song, and if we happen to like it for similar reasons, then that demonstrates a genuine similarity, rather than just a coincidental affinity.

However, as just noted, the whole point is to eschew analysis, so me mentioning likes serves no purpose other than to give us something to kill time pretending to discuss. Which, I suppose, all things considered, is not entirely pointless. Discussions can lead to us reaching some understanding of each other, which could reveal genuine similarities, and serve a greater purpose, whether it's consciously realized or not.

Obviously, I have a tendency toward over-analysis (although I prefer to think of it as deconstruction) in areas where words are involved (case in point: this entry right here). Perhaps that's the real joy of a driving beat and blazing riffs: They don't require analysis; either they rock or they don't, regardless of what the lyrics are. (And if the lyrics are good, all the better.)

If only I had a good band behind me, it wouldn't matter what nonsense I was writing here.


No, I'm not sure why you're still reading at this point either. Some things defy all analysis or comprehension.


A note to parents: There is very intermittent use of profanity here, and occasional instances of mature topics. By and large the stuff here is fine for children, but I would say that the tone and topics are such that they aren't likely to find it all that interesting.

Thanks for being responsible, and keeping track of what your kids do online.


For those who have been thirsty for more useless pictures, a bunch have been posted on the photo site.

Sorry, no contest. I'm pretty sure that's a cactus.

Monday, April 07, 2008


A month or two back I saw a special on the History Channel called Life After People, where it speculated about what would happen if suddenly humans ceased to be on the planet. And the gist of the two hours was this: Nature would thrive and eventually tear down all traces of our societies. Other than the species that have come to rely on us, pretty much the rest of the planet would be fine.

Climate change. Perhaps it's just the earth's way of dealing with a dangerous species that's running rampant on its surface, on the verge of destroying itself but not quite fast enough.

Just a thought.


Hey, hey, I listen to you pray
As if some help will come
Hey, hey, She will dance on our graves
When we are dead and gone
- New Model Army, "White Coats"

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Saying what she meant

Last weekend I posted a link to alert the readers about new pictures having been posted on the useless photo site. Blithely I quipped that the first person to identify what kind of tree was featured in the accompanying picture would win a prize, and in the small print below I noted that prize would be a post praising the knowledge of the person in question.

Within a day I got a comment with an answer. The commenter said the tree was a white cherry tree. Not "I think maybe it's a white cherry tree," but a simple and confident "white cherry tree."

I left a joking comment in response lamenting the offer, and advising the winner to stay tuned; I hadn't promised it would be done by a particular time.

The commenter then wrote back that she was flummoxed that she was correct.

And here's the deal with that: I have no idea if "white cherry tree" is, in fact, accurate or not. Five minutes of research neither confirmed nor refuted it, but that's not the point. What it boils down to is this: The blahg does not strive to be accurate. Frankly, as long as it's not egregiously inaccurate, I'm perfectly comfortable with that. Hell, even egregious inaccuracy I can live with. If you are coming here for definitive, authoritative information about any subject other than whatever I have blathered on about, you are heavily advised to stop that.

Now, to be clear: It is entirely possible that on occasion any information noted here is accurate; I'm not striving to be inaccurate, mind you. However, I'm more than willing to give the benefit of the doubt to information I'm provided and to pass that along, with the caveat that I'm not claiming it as genuinely accurate but merely as seeming accurate, with the distinct possibility of being genuinely accurate.

That probably rings of Stephen Colbert's "truthiness"; while I'm not stealing the notion from him, I fully concede it is pretty much the same.

Accuracy is ultimately a truth arrived at by consensus. And until someone leaves a comment that leads me to believe the tree is other than a white cherry tree, then that is what I'll consider to be an approximation of accuracy.

Also, what's important on the blahg is the readership (such as it is) participating whenever it strikes their collective fancy (or even individual fancies). I could have just as easily noted than anyone leaving a comment that even attempts a guess will get mentioned in a post.

The "winner" not only participated, but did so in a convincing fashion. And thus she has demonstrated wisdom that is worth praising. It's not necessary to be the best; it's merely sufficient to be better than the other participants.

Granted, at present there are no other participants, but let's not dwell on that.

Thus, it is with sincere appreciation that I spotlight here that Jenji rocks.

I heartily recommend everyone go and check out her blog. I would do so even had she not answered theoretically accurately (I have added it to the links on my site already), but given her participation in my questionable contest, I recommend it doubly so.

(Hmm. It probably would have been more praising to have mentioned her up front, rather than after all that ruminating on the nature of participation. I'm really not good at this.)


(Note: By reading this you rock as well, just not as much as if you had replied to that post.)

Thursday, April 03, 2008


When recently I had to fly back east, upon my arrival I was asked how my trip was. I said it okay because it was uneventful. I didn't get stopped at the security checkpoint, there wasn't much turbulence, I made my connecting flight, my luggage was not lost.

However, I think with my next trip those criteria will be replaced by this when answering such a query: It was okay, because the airline was still in business when I got to the airport.


It could always be worse.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Song lyrics du jour

And I feel so bad and wonderful
And I think it's unmistakable
That I don't know what I'm doing

- Sand Rubies, "Hangman in the Noose"

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Song lyrics du jour

Things are bad but they could get better
And I'm just waiting to see which way they go

- Thelonious Monster, "Lena Horne Still Sings Stormy Weather"

No foolin'

Happy new year to my readers who celebrate the Julian calendar. (Keep stickin' it to Pope Gregory XIII.)