Friday, October 31, 2008


As I post this, it's possible that someone could be worried about getting a citation from the L.A.P.D. for using (or even just having) Silly String. (Yes, Silly String--that liquid propelled from aerosol cans that forms thin strands of resin.) Signs posted in Hollywood suggest that today and through noon Saturday it's ticket-able offense in that part of town.

Some might look at that and think it's silly to ban Silly String (especially only for one 36-hour period a year), but let's be clear: I'm not saying the ban is silly. I'm saying the sign is saying that the ban is silly.

Allow me to elaborate.

Right at the top the "$ 1,000.00 FINE" text is placed in quotes:(We'll overlook the closing quote being the same typographical symbol as the opening quote. Perhaps they have limited characters available at wherever these signs are printed. Probably not, but let's overlook nonetheless.)

It would seem perhaps the intent was to emphasize the magnitude of the check one would have to write (or one's parents would have to write) if cited. Generally speaking, making the text bold or italicized would be the better way to do that, but let's grant that such formatting may not be possible with the typesetting for these signs.

So what would be the next best thing? Make the characters bigger? Yes. Oh wait. They already did that.

Let's review the rules for quotations mark usage from our friends at Overthinking Everything to see if any of them might explain this:
1. To cite the name of an article from a magazine or newspaper.
There's no attribution to any publication originally printing this, so that doesn't apply.
2. To indicate a direct quotation.
There's no attribution to anyone saying this, so that's also unlikely.
3. To set off words that are deemed special.
Well, that seems likely, but let's not be too hasty.
4. To express dialogue between characters in a story.
I, uh, suppose this could be some extremely experimental fiction, but even I am reluctant to believe that.
5. To indicate irony.
Ding ding! We have a winner. They're like air quotes when speaking, to reinforce sarcasm. So it's suggesting (ahem) penalty is a one-thousand dollar fine (wink-wink).

However, from a single instance it's difficult to draw any conclusion. Let's move on to the fine print:Here the word "ILLEGAL" gets the irony treatment--which, I have to say, would undermine the impact of the capitalized term, were it not for the fact that we've already dismissed the size of the fine as just kidding around, so clearly it's not really illegal.

So it appears that not only did the person who composed this sign knew exactly how to employ ironic quotation marks, he or she was being consistent with their usage. Thus, this is something of an inside joke for those who can appreciate the sardonic tone the quotes indicate.

Who knew the city had such a sense of humor?

I will concede it is entirely likely that those who might be inclined to cover the streets with the difficult-to-clean resin at Halloween celebrations would fail to grasp the humor on the signs and think that the law is real, and the perceived threat of having to fork over a grand might prevent them from using it anyway. However, those of us who are "in the know"* are keenly aware that there's no actual threat. (We choose to not use Silly String because it's juvenile and we understand the hideous mess it makes, and further we grasp that it's our tax dollars that would have to go toward cleaning it.) It's possible that the sign could be working on multiple levels.

However, if some year the city decides to remove the irony and start issuing these citations for real (and collecting those thousands of dollars), they should take some of that money and get sign-making technology that allows for other formatting (bold, italics, underlining), just so there's no confusion. But as long as apparently they're limited to only quotes, I guess this "Los Angeles Municipal Code 56.02" will remain only more silliness in Hollywood.


* The quotes here indicate a common expression, which is akin to something someone said, but without specific attribution. It is entirely possible that they are not being used properly, but they seemed like a good idea at the time.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

What I am

Last year I reminisced about spending Halloween 2003 in Beijing, but the year before that I posted shots of my gruesome punker zombie costume that I wore to a party. And the year before that I told the story of how my neck wound makeup left people at work disquieted. (The year before that I wasn't really posting very much yet.)

And here's a shot of my zombie pirate amalgamation from 2005:
(Egad, we were fond of that neck wound makeup. And check out that chest hair--the scariest part of the outfit.)

So in what grotesque sartorial direction will I go this Halloween?
(Aaaaaaaah! Look at that poorly knotted tie!)

For those who don't recognize it, let's zoom in on a couple key spots on the costume:

Get it? (I look more like John Hodgman than Justin Long.)

I'm sure everyone at work will be happy there's no zombie element to it.


Happy Halloween.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fun with the sample ballot

In the official sample ballot sent by the state (or the county, or whichever branch handles it specifically) it includes the arguments for and against each of the local measures. (For the state measures, those are handled in the larger voter information packet.) I admit I'm not entirely sure who gets designated as the ones to compose the text that appears in the booklet, but I'm pretty sure that the content of these arguments is completely up to those offering the arguments. I presume the text is not altered in any way when the text is typeset by those preparing the sample ballots for printing.

I would imagine that when these arguments and counterarguments are constructed by these groups who either oppose or support the initiative in question that some thought and effort is put into crafting them to be persuasive. This text may be the only thing that some voters see to use as the basis for their vote, so it's undoubtedly in the best interest of those who feel so strongly about seeing the initiative pass or be rejected that what ends up in the booklet be as accurate as possible.

In the argument against a city measure, attributed to an individual identified as part of the city's taxpayers association, the opponent seeks to prevent the voters from approving a bond that would cost them hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes over the next decade and to stop the "reckless spending" of the city government.

In the next-to-last paragraph the text features a sentence noting the city is "currently at its' spending limit."

Yes, that is exactly how it appears in the booklet.

For those who didn't catch it (and because I didn't interrupt the flow of the text with "[sic]" to distinguish what wasn't my error), when making "it" possessive (as was the case here), one simply appends "s" ("its"); as with the possessive of all pronouns, there is no apostrophe. (There is an apostrophe in the contraction of "it is"—but that appears in the middle ("it's") to denote the dropped letter.)

Of course, we could give the benefit of the doubt and suggest this could be an error of the typesetting, and that those who composed the text knew that "its" never has an apostrophe at the end under any grammatical circumstances. However, in the all-important last paragraph, the text implores the voters to "tell the city it needs to prioritize its' [sic] spending" by voting no on the measure.

Okay, I suppose it could be a coincidence that the typesetter goofed again. It's not outside the realm of possibility. But were I asked to place a wager I'd put money on the explanation being that the taxpayers group hires no proofreaders.

Perhaps they're going for that ignorant vote. (Sadly, that is a rather effective strategy.)


Of course, it is entirely likely that I am in a minority in this. Not only am I perhaps in an uncommon position of knowing the proper punctuation of "its" (i.e., none at all), I am perhaps one of an even smaller group: those who bothered to read the information booklet for a mere city-level measure.

The worst part: I spent all this time dwelling on this error in the text rather than getting any idea whether I support or oppose the measure itself. I still don't know if I'll vote for it or against it.

I have to believe that's not what the person(s) who wrote this argument had in mind when they threw that superfluous apostrophe in there.


I'd offer my proofreading services were it not for two things: 1) they haven't asked, and 2) these instances provide me with material.

Probably more the second one.

Hey, I'm just being honest.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Poop 8

More riffing on the topic from this earlier post:

The proponents of California's Proposition 8 have further raised the bar in the commercials, alleging that the failure to pass the ban on same-sex marriage would lead to lawsuits against the state and churches losing their tax-exempt status (and the aforementioned teaching of same sex unions to school children without any parental input). They don't mention in the ads how the one leads to the other*, but it's not like explanations have any part of any commercial, whether it's for floor polish or for using the state to codify one's intolerance; they're just about convincing the concerned that the situation can be cleaned up simply by following what the ad says.

If they were smart, the proponents would figure out some way to imply that banning same-sex marriage is good for the environment. The "green" movement is the bandwagon on which everyone is jumping these days.

It's no worse than anything else they're saying.


Having read the voter information guide (the one sent out to everyone), the argument in favor of Prop. 8 focuses largely on how a similar initiative received a majority of the vote in 2000, and how that was overturned by "activist judges" in defiance of the will of the people.

Their thesis is that if a majority of people disagree with the notion that a minority who wants to be treated the same as that majority—not better, just the same—that the will of the majority should dictate that the law treats that minority differently.

They claim that same-sex unions carry the same benefits as marriage, but they want "marriage" to be kept separate.

Separate but equal. Hmm… that has a familiar ring to it. Where have I heard that before?


We certainly wouldn't want children getting the idea that it's okay for a person to marry the person he or she loves most in the world. Most of them will never find true love anyway, and will end up settling for some pale imitation; no point in getting their hopes up in their youth.

That would be irresponsible.


Paying attention is depressing.


* The fear is that if churches refuse to conduct same-sex wedding ceremonies they could be sued for that.

Which I admit is entirely possible. I'm sure there may be at least one gay or lesbian couple who'd just want to fuck with a church, and have plenty of money for attorney fees.

However, given that the marriages are presently legal, one wonders what is holding them back from suing now.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Phoning it in

I noticed this as a headline on the Yahoo front page: "Survey: A third of U.S. workers admit calling in fake sick days."

What does this indicate about our nation's workforce?

A third of U.S. workers are too stupid to lie when surveyed about faking calling in sick.

Ba-dump-chik! Thank you. I do two shows on Sunday. Tip your servers--they're working hard out there. (And they don't get sick pay so they don't call in sick.)


The story reveals that these results are based on surveying around 10,000 individuals (nearly 3,400 hiring managers and under 6,900 full-time workers). In a country of over 305 million, that fraction of a percent (about .003, if my math is correct) represents all of us.

However, there's a key problem with that extrapolation. They don't represent most Americans, for one simple reason: Most Americans don't bother replying to surveys.

Therefore, the real conclusion: A third of people who like to respond to surveys will admit to feigning illness to get out of working.

Which, I will admit, is brave, considering how lousy the economy is; now would not be a good time to get fired for pretending to be sick.

So, revised conclusion: A third of people who like to respond to surveys don't really need their jobs (perhaps because they have trust funds and were merely working as a lark).

It's all about knowing how to interpret the data.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Drawing the lines

In last week's episode of The Girls Next Door, the girls decided to give Hef something special for his 82nd birthday: chocolate body parts. And yes, it's the body parts that would be of most interest to him.

(Also available here on YouTube.)

Because E! re-runs their shows with such frequency I came across this same episode several times while flipping through the channels. (And really, that's more a statement on how poor the pickings were on other channels such that I'd have to be looking for something to watch than it is about E! re-running their shows over and over.) I never sat and watched it all the way through, but between those instances I saw most of the episode, and certain scenes more than once.

In particular, what intrigued me was the censoring standards that they had to abide.

Obviously, on a show about three women who live at the Playboy Mansion*, there are moments of nudity where particular body parts are pixelated to obscure them on screen. And if you watched the embedded video above, you saw this done with breasts and buttocks on the girls as they allowed the molds for the chocolate pieces to the readied.

However, when the actual chocolate breasts and butt and vagina were made from the molds, those very anatomically accurate edibles could be shown on air with no pixelation whatsoever.

That was a bit surprising, but okay, it appeared that representations of body parts were not subject to the same censorship rules as the corresponding actual body parts.

Later in the episode, the group goes to Las Vegas for Hef's birthday celebration. In the afternoon they check into their colossal suite, and Hef is shown wearing a big foam hand, which presumably is birthday-related. However, rather than having the index finger extended in a "birthdays are #1" way, it appeared to have a different digit up (with more of a "screw birthdays" message).

And it was pixelated.

I know that showing the extended middle finger is considered offensive on American television and is generally blurred out, but this was not Hef sticking up his actual finger but a ridiculously exaggerated representation of the finger.

So, from this we can only discern the standards for censorship are: Nudity is fine if it's made by a fancy chocolatier, but there's no circumstance where the middle finger can be shown. Apparently, that gesture could offend someone who a short while earlier had no problem with seeing chocolate labia.

Okey-dokey. Let's all keep in mind that's where the line is.

Of course, although there's been plenty of previous cases of middle fingers on screen for the folks in Standards and Practices to cite as precedents, it's entirely likely that this is the first time that they've run into chocolate genitalia.

It will be interesting to see what happens the next time it happens. If it ever does.

Let's not hold our collective breath on that.


(I say: If you're relying on "reality" TV for cheap nudity, just have the decency to go find real porn.)


* Or at least who lived there at the time this was filmed.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Yucking it up

For my readers who wish a bit of break from... reading, I'll alert you that I've completed posting on the photo site the shots from last month's trip in Joshua Tree. Click over if you'd like to have a look.

Friday, October 17, 2008

It's not the end

I wasn't sure whether to write some thoughts on the Angels recent playoff demise (winning more games than any other team this season and a favorite to go to the World Series, then a pathetic performance in the Division Series against the Red Sox) or to write about politics, and I realized it's kind of the same thing: events that get one's hopes up but almost cannot avoid disappointing when all is said and done.

You can say that's jaded and cynical, and I'd allow myself an extraordinarily juvenile moment to reply: No shit, Sherlock.

Cynicism is not admirable by any means, but it has never let me down like blind optimism. I'm just saying.

The only time the Angels failed to let me down in the post-season was in 2002 when they somehow harnessed the power of the "rally monkey" (a brilliant albeit inexplicable marketing ploy) to win the World Series. To this day, the only reason I think that happened was because I had absolutely no belief that they could win; they'd broken my sports heart 16 years earlier, when I was in the stadium to witness the moment when they were one strike away from going to the Series and blew it, and from that moment on I had no faith in them.

And in anticipation of your question: This season, with as well as they did before the playoffs, I did start to think they were almost a lock to go to the Series (where they'd lose to the Cubs—go ahead and laugh; it's funny). Am I to blame for their poor showing against Boston? Let's not be ridiculous. I don't have that level of influence over the universe (at least, dear goodness, I certainly hope not), but I have noticed that me getting my hopes up (or, more specifically in this case, taking as likely the outcome of an event) tends to result in the outcome being the opposite of what I was expecting.

I know how ludicrous that sounds. Believe me, I do. I admit this with no small level of trepidation. Again, I'm not saying it's me who's making these things happen; I'm saying I've noticed a pattern, and one where's it's entirely possible—likely, even—it's mere coincidence. Nothing would make me happier than to see this pattern end, but obviously, I dare not get any sort of hope up about that happening.

Please don't try to convince me otherwise, okay? I assure you it won't work.

Which brings us to the upcoming election. (Why? Because I have no better segue.) As I have already intimated (or perhaps even out-and-out stated) I plan to vote for Obama. Listening to what I've heard from him over the past year he seems to represent me better than what McCain has become (and e-fucking-gad Sarah Palin is a...). I'm not going to contribute to Obama's campaign or put a sign up in my front yard, but I do plan to cast my ballot for him next month.

It boils down to this: I do not forget that he's still a politician.

He has to be.

I can support him without deifying him. And frankly, I worry about the people who have done so. It's not that I don't think he'll win (I try to have no expectation one way or another—which should be a comfort to Obama supporters, given what I mentioned about the Angels above); I just think if he becomes president, he'll simply prove to be… well, president.

In that scenario, I see it this way: When it's all said and done, the history books may state he was a very good president, but there's little chance that with these sort of lofty expectations beforehand that when he is perceived as simply returning to earth that it won't be seem a disappointment to those who placed him upon that pedestal.

"Change" is merely a modest variation on the political status quo, and that's as much as we can possibly handle. The opposite the "same thing" is not change; it's an armed coup d'etat. And no matter how bad our government is, I for one don't need that much of an overhaul.

In any case, one thing is certain: Barack Obama will not let me down.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

How it is

(Given that there's still a few hours left here in the Pacific time zone I can still get this in.)

In honor of Oscar Wilde's birthday, I offer this quote from A Woman of No Importance:

"The secret of life is to appreciate the pleasure of being terribly, terribly deceived."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Proposition 8 on this November's California ballot is eliciting quite a clash of commercials. It's yet another attempt to ban same-sex marriage (after the last try was overturned by the state supreme court), and that's as politically volatile as it always is.

The opponents suggest that it's fine for those who are uncertain about whether they support gay marriages to be uncertain, but ask whether those people believe our laws should treat people differently.

They make it a question of fairness.

The proponents concoct a scenario where an elementary school child comes home, with story book in hand, and gleefully declares how in school she learned that "a prince can marry a prince," or that she can grow up and "marry a princess." They allege that this will be taught to children with parents having no opportunity to object.

They make it a matter of parents' rights.

Of course, their ad has an obvious flaw.

No, not that.

This is California, part of the United States. We do not have royalty in this country. However, traditionally princes and princesses were married off for political or economic gain, not for love. No king is going to want to marry off his princess daughter to another woman—especially to some American commoner! There's no benefit for his kingdom in that.

Granted, these people probably don't want history taught to their children either.

Presumably it was good enough for those people to not learn anything.


One does fail to see the logical connection between banning the act of same-sex marriage to keep it from being taught rather than simply banning the teaching of same-sex marriage without specific parental consent.

Ah, but one doubts logic has any place in American politics.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Give up life as a bad mistake

A short while ago I was flipping around the channels and came across a segment on the CBS Morning Show about affordable and "green-friendly" interior design, where the designer mostly suggested replacing most of the appliances and the flooring and the counters, etc. This struck me as an ambitious suggestion given the present state of the economy, but hey, what do I know?

Well, what I do know is this: The music playing softly under the segment. It was the guitar riff from the Smiths' "Headmaster Ritual" (looped). That is a very good arpeggio riff, so I'm not surprised it was co-opted for this purpose, but knowing what the song is about (cruelty in schools), it did take my attention away from what spending a bunch of money on energy-efficient appliances (which, apparently, includes flat-screen TVs).

Eh, the song does feature the line "I want to go home" so I suppose one could apply that to the topic of redesigning one's home. At least, as long as one overlooks lines like the opener: "Belligerent ghouls run Manchester schools," and the one I've quoted for the title of this post.

Ignorance continues to be blissful, and undoubtedly is what manufacturers of products that consumers may no longer be able to afford are counting on.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Mix tape, side B

[In the previous post I started ruminating on the mix tape. This post continues on that topic.]

Conceding that a playlist or mix CD is a contemporary equivalent to the mix tape, another aspect of the mix tape scenario that I think plays heavily into what makes one do it is being in one's teens or 20's, when one's passion about music tends to be the highest. It takes a certain level of delightful arrogance and non-jaded naiveté to want to turn others on to what one considers to be worthwhile tracks that these others probably would not discover on their own. It's essentially proselytizing but about music rather than about salvation (although when one is inclined to make these compilations, one probably considers the music to be salvation).

I find that as I progressed through my 30's and now into the onset of my 40's, I still have an active interest in music. I have an emusic subscription and download 100 songs a month. I still check out upcoming bands in what I download. However, I don't have the energy or inclination to try to get my friends to hear it like I did a couple decades ago.

And these days, if I wanted to turn someone on to a band, I wouldn't have to put their song on a CD along with a bunch of others; I'd simply send them a link to the band's MySpace page or some other place where they could stream the track.

Which is not at all the same.

That brings up another key difference. Not only has the medium for distribution changed from what was prevalent even ten years ago, but so has the opportunities bands have to get attention. Every one can have a website of some sort with relatively little cost. Thus it is not as much a matter of the make of the tape being one who seeks out the obscure to highlight it to the less-inclined-but-potentially-interested as it is getting the others to pay attention to these highlighted tracks apart from all the other distractions on the web.

(I should clarify that I am taking as a bit of a thesis the notion that mix tapes were more likely to be made by those whose musical tastes ran outside the mainstream, to a greater or lesser extent. It's way too convenient to declare that the "mainstream" has changed, but I do think there is a great deal of truth to the declaration, even without offering specific evidence. The world has changed, but it always has been changing and will continue to change; that much should not be a revelation to anyone, of any age.)

There was a time when underground artists were only written about in photocopied fanzines, and only played on small college radio stations. That is no longer the case. The web makes it all so much easier for bands to be heard and be written about now.

That's not a bad thing. It may not always be good, but it's not bad. To glorify the greater efforts of the past is to wallow in nostalgia and sublimate envy of how good the kids coming up these days have it.

I digress.


The other key element to a successful mix tape, as I noted yesterday, is finding a willing recipient. And by that I mean someone who is actively looking to be turned on to new bands.

I was such a person back when I was about 18 or 19.

A guy I worked with and occasionally hung out with was one who made a photocopied fanzine (such as I alluded to above) and who turned me on to a lot of the punk and post-punk and pre-alternative scene of the mid to late '80s. (Granted, this was back when Squeeze and XTC were way out of the mainstream. Not that they necessarily got to be household names, but their sound would be far more mainstream nowadays. The Police, too, were still cool back then. Granted, they seemed to have re-gained much of their punk cred now that enough time has passed, but they went through a period of being too big for that scene. As silly as it is to blame a band for becoming popular, yes. I digress.)

I soaked up the tapes he made for me. I became a big fan of many bands he turned me on to (most notably the Dickies, clown princes of the LA punk scene back in the '80s). The synchronicity of what he was putting out and what I was taking in truly was magical.

It didn't last, of course. He quit, and we lost touch. But it was okay, because I had blossomed into one who could find music on my own.

I never found anyone to be my apprentice when I was gung-ho on making tapes. People liked the tapes, certainly, but no one ever reacted the way I had when I was on the other side.

But someday I may have kids...


I must admit at this point that by the time my fiancée and I met the era of the mix tape was already over. I did give her a couple compilation CDs that I had already prepared (and which I had, with delightful arrogance, made copies of and given to a bunch of others), and although I did make some CDs specially for her after we were dating and she made one for me, but I don't recall making a mix for her as an initial salvo to try to win her heart.

However, musical compatibility was a very important element of me noticing her. In fact, it was a conversation we had where she alluded to having been a DJ at her college radio station and playing Frank Zappa when the frat boys would call up and want to hear Chumba Wumba's "Tub Thumping".

It wasn't that I was a huge Zappa fan; it was just that she knew who he was (outside of "Valley Girl") and how that likely indicated that she held similarly eclectic (a term which has lost all meaning now, yes) tastes in music, which was definitely something important to me.

And clearly something about that translated, because it's over five years and one engagement later. I'm not saying that was the only compatibility we shared, but it was the first one I could discern in a simple conversation. That was what transformed her from a girl to whom I was talking into a girl in whom I was interested.

Had I been still in my 20's, a mix tape (or, I suppose nowadays, a mix CD) undoubtedly would have been in order.

But clearly that's not always necessary.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Mix tape, side A

Recently I came across this blog, and in scrolling through older posts I saw one where the writer told the tale of a mix tape he made for his (now) wife that he made back when they were first dating (13 years ago). And by "mix tape" he meant not a euphemism for a mix disc or a playlist; he menat recording songs on an audio cassette. He meant having to spend hours figuring out which songs to include, having to re-record if he changed his mind about the sequencing, having to adjust the levels on the tape deck so the tracks were at a relatively uniform volume during playback, having to figure out how much room was left on the tape as it got down toward the end of the side. He meant writing out the song names on the insert card by hand.

Old school.

He mentioned this in regard to replicating the mix on a playlist for his wife's iPod for their anniversary. The task proved to be very easy for him, as he already had all but one of the songs on his iPod, and the one missing he simply downloaded through iTunes. (He need not go out and buy the whole album.) There was no manually adjusting the sound levels; the software took care of that automatically (although not necessarily as well). There was no pulling out records or CDs and cueing them up to the right track and pressing record on the tape deck. Arranging the tracks was simply dragging and dropping them on the computer screen. It took far less time than making the original tape.

It wasn't the same.

I have more or less lamented the same thing. As I noted in this previous post, I used to make mix tapes for people with great regularity when I was in my 20's. Not just for prospective girlfriends but for friends. And they were always a fair amount of thought and effort (not that they always turned out to be great, but...). Now technology makes it infinitely easier, but that seems to work against the inclination to do it. The writer on that blog noted the legal implications of giving copyrighted material to another that could make doing it "legally" an expensive proposition. (A cassette was not a format that allowed for easily transferring to other media, other than to another cassette. It was no less illegal, I suppose, but it didn't seem as bad.) And while I concede that point, I think it misses a key issue that changed the scenario.

MP3 players.

Sure, the Walkman allowed for listening to cassettes and then later to CDs, but carrying around any significant amount of music involved lugging around much more than just the player and headphones. The advent and popularity of the iPod and other such devices made having one's music—and a lot of one's music, not just one CD or tape's worth—available in one's pocket. Not only did that make the sight of white earbuds more ubiquitous, it also made it less important for people to listen to what someone else made for them.

For example: If you have a cassette player (be it portable or in a car or elsewhere), you are going to be more inclined to pop in a mix tape made by someone else and listen to it all the way through. Why? Because tapes aren't as easy to skip around. Yes, one can hit the fast-forward button, but it's often easier to just listen to the song you might skip if you could just press one button and go past. So you listen from one end to another. And maybe you never listen to the tape again, but at least you listened to it, in the order that the person who made it intended for you to hear it. Maybe you picked up on what theme they sought to achieve (and there's always a theme), but you listened.

Now, one could argue (and with merit) that the CD really changed the game; CD players had the random-access capability (jumping to any track without having to fast-forward or rewind), and could even play the songs on a disc in random order. However, we aren't talking about making a mix CD here; the technology of CD burning devices in computers was not common until around the time iPods gained popularity (not that they weren't around first—they were—but they were specialty items in computers until the early part of the first decade of the 21st century, when iPods came on the scene). Really—how many mix CDs did you get in the period after you stopped getting mix tapes and before you got an MP3 player?

It's not that one can't give songs (perhaps on a flash drive) to another, or even hook up another's iPod and fill it with specific songs in a playlist, but those songs are likely just some of hundreds of others the person has on the device.

The songs you carefully crafted in a particular order do not have focus; likely they aren't the only thing the person has to listen to for that period of time.

Of course, there is a significant flaw in my theory. It's not that mp3 players didn't change the way music was listened to; they most certainly did. It's that those good ol' days probably weren't that good.


When it came to those mix tapes, the reality was more likely that the recipient may or may not have listened to the tape all the way through even once, and if so, it may have been more out of politeness than due to finding the content to be compelling. Ultimately, the songs on the tape are ones that the maker of the tape likes (presumably ones liked very much), and ones that the listener may not be familiar with at all.

Something I've figured out over the years: There's only so much that the average person can handle when it comes to hearing songs one hasn't heard before. That's why a majority of what the radio plays consists of songs that are already popular, with new songs mixed in (and then played to death so they can become as familiar as the already-established ones); the typical listener needs the sorbet of known songs to cleanse the palette between courses of new songs.

Thus, a mix tape that is filled with songs that represent the maker is offered in the hopes of finding an atypical listener. It's fishing with highly specific bait; most of the time it's going to fail miserably, but if it succeeds, then a truly special fish has been caught*.

When it came to finding a mate, if one was "serious" about music, a mix tape was a remarkably effective litmus test for gauging compatibility. Not only did it say something if the recipient liked the songs (assuming that he or she was not already familiar with them), but the fact that he or she bothered to listen at all and was open to liking some of it proved auspicious. Anyone who listened intently was definitely interested in you. The tape was not merely a collection of tracks; it was insight into who you were.

And let us not forget the all-important tape cover. That very much was part of the package. The effort put into that could be almost as much as assembling the tape itself. The way the songs were listed (did they go down in columns or run across?), if there was a picture cut from a magazine and pasted onto the flap (and whether that picture held a meaning suggestive or ironic); all these elements contributed to the whole experience and offered even more insight into the maker of the tape. In fact, that may be the key difference between a mix tape and a playlist; on an iPod, it is just a bunch of songs, whether they're listened to exclusively and in order.

It's not the same at all with an iPod. Not that I don't enjoy having all that music available in my pocket, but it's not the same. Or at least, it's not the same as how I fancy it was.


To be continued (sort of)...

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Hey Judes

I may not be a marketing genius, but I grasp that the point of showing trailers for upcoming movies before the start of a movie in a theater should not only be to get those sitting in the seats to be aware of those pending films but to start establishing some anticipation for them.

Further, I can judge only by the noticing tendencies in the way movies are marketed that recognizing familiar actors is a big part of what they think appeals to potential viewers. Of course, that undoubtedly works best with "name" actors; with actors who are in that can't-think-of-their-name-but-seen-'em-before category, presumably it works more on a level of associating them with the tone of the movie and/or the character they portray.

And while I'm on this roll of conceding not being a so-called "expert" but having a fair amount of experience with seeing trailers before movies, I'll admit that I don't know exactly how a particular set of trailers get designated to be shown before a particular movie, but I have to imagine (with as big a part of the marketing campaign as those trailers for upcoming movies) that it is not left to random chance. Some effort must be put into not only trying to ensure that the trailer would likely appeal to the audience awaiting the movie to be shown but also into trying to not combine them with other trailers that could be distracting from their impact.

That said...

This afternoon while waiting for a showing of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist we sat through several trailers for upcoming movies.

First was a kind of screwball comedy starring Anne Hathaway called Bride Wars. As she was recently a Entertainment Weekly cover story for the just-opening Rachel Getting Married and was in the very popular The Devil Wears Prada, she would be considered a "name" for the purposes of this post. (She was also in the news because of what her former boyfriend did, but let's not digress to that here.)

Then was a thriller called The Uninvited featuring Elizabeth Banks (who, according to the search in imdb, is best known for her role as the randy Beth in The 40-Year-Old Virgin). And while I recognized her face, and even remembered she was portraying Laura Bush in the upcoming Oliver Stone film W. (which was also an EW cover), while I was sitting in the darkened theater I couldn't remember her name. (When I got home I looked it up.) Thus, for this post, she is not a "name" but she is a known quantity.

After another trailer I don't recall, came another one with Anne Hathaway, this time for a supernatural-tinged drama called Passengers. However, rather than being focused on the scenes in the trailer, I was thinking, Geez, is there any movie she's not in?

Oh, and yeah: She's hosting SNL tonight.

Then a trailer was shown, this one for a comedy with Paul Rudd and Sean William Scott titled Role Models, but which also prominently featured Elizabeth Banks. Again, I was thrown off a bit from the funny scenes being shown because she had just been the villain a few trailers earlier.

And I'm reminded (doing the "research" for this post) that she has the comedy Zack and Miri Make a Porno coming out at the end of the month.

So while I saw through the trailers, Anne and Elizabeth seemed as ubiquitous as Jude Law did back in 2004 (when I recall seeing multiple trailers before a single movie featuring the British actor). I'm not saying that's necessarily bad for them (especially for Elizabeth, who certainly deserves to get more into the "name" category), but I'm not sure that it's best for the individual films that were spotlighted in keeping them distinguished from one another.

Granted, this sequencing did get me to post something about it, so at least for me it proved more effective after the fact than it was in the moment, but I doubt everyone else in the theater (of from other showings throughout the weekend) will be doing so.

However, the ones who really should have been paying attention to this ubiquity should have been those in charge of promoting the films from the trailers shown other than the four I noted above. I do not remember them at all. Not even a little; the true distraction was that I couldn't get over seeing Anne and Elizabeth repeated and didn't pay much attention to any of the films that featured neither one.

You'd think the marketing departments of the film companies would stick an intern on monitoring that.


On a slightly related note: Given that Nick and Norah is an off-kilter romantic comedy (and an enjoyable one at that), what were all the thriller trailers doing before it?

Eh, perhaps they're supposed to run counter to the other trailers, and stand out for that reason.


The showing of Nick and Norah we attended wasn't even half full, so I doubt it will end up being #1 for the weekend box office. However, when we exited the movie complex, there was a long line for... Beverly Hills Chihuahua.

Which features neither Anne Hathaway nor Elizabeth Banks. Perhaps that's best for both that movie (so it's not associated with those possibly overexposed actresses) and for those actresses (so they're not associated with talking dogs).


(Yeah, this is what I'm posting about rather than the economy or the vice presidential debate--areas where I really have no expertise. Besides, that's what the rest of the blogosphere and media in general are for.)

Thursday, October 02, 2008


Hello, visitor to my humble site. Thank you for dropping by.

More than likely, you searched on the term "world's largest corndog" and had this post of mine from last July come up (second in the list). I say that based on analyzing my site meter over the past year, which shows that the term searched for most often which results in bringing visitors to my site is "world's largest corn dog"*. Statistically speaking, that post is my bread-and-butter (or, rather, my cornmeal-wrapped frankfurter and butter).

So, you'll notice that I have changed the title bar above to cater to my most likely visitor.

Never let it be said I don't give the people what they want.

* Interestingly, searching for "world's largest corn dog" (with "corn" and "dog" separated) causes my post to drop to the 12th listed (even though in the post I use the term "corn dog"--with the space--and not "corndog"; clearly there really is no rhyme or reason to Google). That means you had to scroll to the second page worth of results to find it. Thanks for clicking that far.


Speaking of bringing people to my site:

I also discovered by checking the site meter details of what sites referred visits to the blahg, I see that my recent post on serving jury duty got spotlighted on a site called Jury Experiences ("What really happens on juries").

I have no idea how they found me, nor did I get any indication from them that they were referencing my post, but such is the glory of the internet: Through no effort on my part, I inadvertently appealed to a very specific audience, who was able to locate me.

I'm not sure any visitors from that site are likely to come back, because that site seems to feature more items that put down jury duty, and my post made it seem not so bad, so it wasn't quite giving those people what they want.

Of course, as far as I can tell, the only way to know what the people want is to do whatever I was going to do and then discover after the fact that some people liked it. Or at least were willing to click on a link and take a quick glance.

So, in short, I really have no idea what people want. But on occasion I stumble upon it without intending to do so.

Which is perhaps how the creator of the world's largest corn dog came to invent that battered item that is so popular at state fairs (and of great interest in searches).

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

MOTO / What's the buzz?

North Carolina is in the South. South Dakota is in the North. West Virginia is in the East. No states have "East" in their name.


Take a break from all these words and go check out what's buzzing over at the useless photo site.