Monday, July 31, 2006

A Few Things

Monday evening quickies...

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Special Relationship, Yesterday and Today.

Mr. Churchill is credited with coining the phrase "A Special Relationship" to describe the cooperation of the United States and the British Empire against the tyranny of the Nazis and the communists. Good to know that the special relationship continues today.

Vivaldi-Fitty Mashup Video

Speaking of making new art out of old stuff, I like this remix of Vivaldi & Fitty Cent.

Art-Made-From-Trash Exhibit at Hammond, IN Rest Stop

So if any of you happen to be passing by the Indiana Welcome Center in Hammond, right off of I-94, you have to stop and check out the Lake County Solid Waste Management District's temporary exhibit, From Trash to Treasure.

There's a ton of cool stuff, all of which was destined for the junkyard but was salvaged and made into art -- A vertical tractor, a quilt made of vintage band/concert T-shirts, a giant fish made of CDs, jewelry made of silverware, etc. The ♥G♥ and I stopped there on the way to Michigan, and we liked it a lot. (They also have something kind of like Chicago's Cows on Parade, called the County Seats Project.) Anyhow, this thing had material from artists such as those you can find here, here, and here. Good place to stop to stretch and walk around for a few minutes once you get through the bullshit traffic on I-94. (Amazing... every single time I take that route, there's at least an hour of sitting in traffic on the Illinois side, but as soon as you pass over the Indiana border, you're free and clear.)

Friday, July 28, 2006

Bella Rossa NOTM Interview

OK, my aforementioned interview with Bella Rossa is up at her site. Check it out! (I suppose I shouldn't have made a big deal about not wanting to hurt anybody's feelings the same week I wrote about Jack Valenti. Oh well.)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Vamps; New Yorker Article; Capt. America

Having one of my favorite meals -- Leftover spaghetti with lots of Parmesan Cheese but no sauce, and raspberry juice to drink. Tomorrow I am taking the day off work and we'll be driving up to Michigan to go to my high school 20th reunion. Meanwhile...

  • A&LD listed a good New Yorker article on Wikipedia. Excerpt: What can be said for an encyclopedia that is sometimes right, sometimes wrong, and sometimes illiterate? When I showed the Harvard philosopher Hilary Putnam his entry, he was surprised to find it as good as the one in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. He was flabbergasted when he learned how Wikipedia worked. “Obviously, this was the work of experts,” he said. In the nineteen-sixties, William F. Buckley, Jr., said that he would sooner “live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University.” On Wikipedia, he might finally have his wish. How was his page? Essentially on target, he said. All the same, Buckley added, he would prefer that those anonymous two thousand souls govern, and leave the encyclopedia writing to the experts.
  • Here's an excellent essay on Captain America. And this is one of the reasons that I just love Stan Lee: When the original Avengers decided it was time for them to all go their separate ways, Captain America was chosen to lead the NEW team, one composed of three former criminals who now sought to make up for their past crimes: Hawkeye (formerly an Iron Man villain), Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch (both former members of Magneto’s Brotherhood of Mutants). Stan Lee loosely referred to this group of “Cap’s Kooky Quartet.”

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Valenti on the VCR

I came across this interesting passage from page 110 of J.D. Lasica's book this afternoon at lunch: In the late 1970s and early '80s, Universal City Studios and Walt Disney Productions sued Sony, trying to stop the sale of VCRs. Hollywood claimed VCRs violated federal law by letting viewers time-shift programming and build home libraries of videotaped movies without the copyright owners' permission. Jack Valenti famously told Congress in 1982, "The VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston Strangler is to the woman home alone." What a short-sighted dick.

I found the transcript of that testimony, for which he brought a bunch of Hollywood bigwigs (including Clint Eastwood) with him to testify in front of a House judiciary sub-committee. Extended excerpt:

Mr. VALENTI. And 6 out of 10 films do not retrieve their total investment period. Now, what are you going to do right on top of that? There is going to be a VCR avalanche. Exports of VCR's from Japan totaled 2.57 million units in 1981. No. 2, the United States is the biggest market. No. 3, February 1982, which is the latest data, shows the imports to the United States are up 57 percent over 1981. This is more than a tidal wave. It is more than an avalanche. It is here.

Now, that is where the problem is. You take the high risk, which means we must go by the aftermarkets to recoup our investments. If those aftermarkets are decimated, shrunken, collapsed because of what I am going to be explaining to you in a minute, because of the fact that the VCR is stripping those things clean, those markets clean of our profit potential, you are going to have devastation in this marketplace.

Now, is this all? Is it going to get any bigger? Well, I assure you it is. Here is the weekly Variety, Wednesday, March 10. Head1ine, "Sony Sees $400 Billion Global Electronics Business by the Decade's End," $400 billion by the decade's end. In 1981, Mr. Chairman, this United States had a $5.3 billion trade deficit with Japan on electronic equipment alone. We are going to bleed and bleed and hemorrhage, unless this Congress at least protects one industry that is able to retrieve a surplus balance of trade and whose total future depends on its protection from the savagery and the ravages of this machine.

Now, the question comes, well, all right, what is wrong with the VCR. One of the Japanese lobbyists, Mr. Ferris, has said that the VCR -- well, if I am saying something wrong, forgive me. I don't know. He certainly is not MGM's lobbyist. That is for sure. He has said that the VCR is the greatest friend that the American film producer ever had.

I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone.

The VCR avalanche, I told you about that. Now, what about the VCR owners. Now, from here on out, Mr. Chairman, I am going to be speaking about a survey done by the Media Statistics Inc., which is a prestigious firm out of Silver Spring, Md. We, meaning the MPAA, did not commission this survey. We bought it after it was done when we heard about it. So, this was not a case -- we have commissioned a lot of things, but this is not one of them.

Now, I want to tell you about it because I think it is absolutely fascinating. This survey was taken in October 1981. It is the newest and freshest data available. Here is what it says. Median income of a VCR owner is between $35,000 and $50,000 a year. Not a lot of what we call today the truly needy are buying these machines. One-third of all the owners have incomes of more than $50,000. Now, here is the next one: 87 percent, 86.8 percent of all these owners erase or skip commercials. I have here, Mr. Chairman, if you are not aware of how this works -- this is Panasonic. This is a little remote control device that you use on machines. It has on here channel, rewind, stop, fast forward, pause, fast advance, slow, up, down, and visual search, either going left or right. (Note: Oooooooh! Woooow!)

Now, let me tell you what Sony says about this thing. These are not my words. They are right straight from McCann Erickson, whom you will hear from tomorrow, who is the advertising agency for Sony and here is what they say. They advertise a variable beta scan feature that lets you adjust the speed at which you can view the tape from 5 times up to 20 times the normal speed.

Now, what does that mean, Mr. Chairman? It means that when you are playing back a recording, which you made 2 days or whenever -- you are playing it back. You are sitting in your home in your easy chair and here comes the commercial and it is right in the middle of a Clint Eastwood film and you don't want to be interrupted. So, what do you do? You pop this beta scan and a 1-minute commercial disappears in 2 seconds.

The rest goes on to show what a short-sighted control-freak whiny-ass he was and is.

Blog Puzzle; Bella Rossa Interview; Academic Bloggers; H.S. Reunion; Repo & Sympathy

Several things recently:
  • Puzzle Fantastica has me totally intrigued. I love stuff like this!
  • The other day, Bella Rossa was kind enough to ask me to participate in one of her interviews of other bloggers. Keep an eye out for the interview next week sometime.
  • Here are seven academic bloggers commenting on the recent controversy surrounding U. of M. historian Juan Cole being denied a position at Yale. I'm going to add them to the blogroll (the four who are not already there, that is).
  • Should be some interesting goings-on (and dredging up of any unresolved adolescence issues) at my high school class's 20th reunion this weekend, which The ♥G♥ and I will be driving up to on Friday. Now that I finally have a laptop, maybe I'll bring it along and blog from the hotel (if it has Wi-Fi).
  • The other day I watched Repo Man for the first time in years, and I hadn't realized that it featured the character that was (ostensibly) the basis for Napoleon Dynamite. If you want to see a movie that makes Repo seem like a three-act summer blockbuster script, check out Jean-Luc Godard's Sympathy for the Devil, which featured interesting footage of the Stones recording cut in with experimental performance-piece footage of The Revolution unfolding. No offense to J-Go., but I'm a Truffaut man, and I have to say I liked Repo better.

Monday, July 24, 2006

DJ Mei-Lwun; Sufjan; Dean; Hitch

Several items:

Saturday, July 22, 2006

A Few More Things...

And as long as I'm sitting here...

  • Via Kottke, this is a great article about how Allied statisticians were able to figure out the number of German tanks produced each month based on the serial numbers of captured tanks.
  • While searching for a cool pic of a Panzer tank, I found a good history site... Lone Sentry, which describes its content as "Photos, Articles, and Research on the European Theater in World War II."
  • Here are rare photos of President Lincoln.

Weekend Update

Several interesting things:

  • Speaking of P&T, one of the benefits of having a laptop is that we can sit in bed and watch TV while I blog. We're watching Penn & Teller's Magic and Mystery Tour, featuring the boys taking us on a virtual tour of the magic traditions of China, Egypt, and India. So far so good! I don't think there are any projects or shows I've ever seen them work on that I have not enjoyed very much.

Starting to Paint House

Today The ♥G♥ and I worked on painting the front of the house. We did the trim, and I was in charge of the tall stuff like the overhang adjacent to the gutter. I had to kind of stretch in funny directions on the ladder to reach, which made me feel kind of like Michelangelo. Also like Michelangelo, I've almost got a ceiling design worked out something like the following:

Update: p.s. -- The ♥G♥ wants me to make sure to tell everybody that the Sistine adaptation was her idea. She's very creative!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Items of Interest

OK, the book room is coming together. The fiction is all in the order I want it -- not strict alpha, but close enough, and with concessions to book shape/size and available shelf real estate. It was cool, because I was able to put my hands on all my Mickey Spillane books all at once. Tonight I moved The ♥G♥'s computer desk in there and put it in front of the window and hooked up her puter. Now she can look out the window and see Junior. Junior is this five-year-old Mexican kid who lives across the street and always walks up and asks what ****** is. Junior is then given a brief synopsis of the item in question. He then asks "Why?". Given an answer, he again asks "Why?", ad infinitum.

A few things:

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Lebanese Musician Blogs About Current Events

Majikthise points to the blog of a Lebanese Jazz musician named Mazen Kerbaj. He seems to be keeping a sardonic view of things. He has a bunch of sketches he's drawn of things, and takes a progressive view on copyright issues. (English translations of Arabic and French captions on site.)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

28% Closed-Minded.

Didn't skew this one either... Interesting how the 28% Control Freak reciprocates the 72% Open Minded.

You Are 72% Open Minded

You are a very open minded person, but you're also well grounded.
Tolerant and flexible, you appreciate most lifestyles and viewpoints.
But you also know where you stand firm, and you can draw that line.
You're open to considering every possibility - but in the end, you stand true to yourself.

Not a Control Freak.

I swear, I didn't game this out to get a desired response:

You Are 28% Control Freak

You have achieved the perfect balance of control and letting go.
You tend to roll with whatever life brings, but you never get complacent.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Berkner & Zanes DVDs

Mr. Zanes and entourage.

I watched a couple of real good kids' music DVDs this weekend by Laurie Berkner and Dan Zanes. Everybody talks about how these two are royalty among under-10 hipsters, and they're right. Wikiparticles here and here. They're part of a trend discussed in this recent Salon article titled Kindie Rock, which appeals to 20ish/30ish parents and their kids. (Interesting to note: On the Berkner DVD, the Starbucks (as in coffee) brand is referenced in the fine print. Both have been marketed heavily in Starbucks stores, along with the Jazz, Blues, World Music, and Indy Rock that you can find there.) CSM reviews here. Salon excerpt: So what does the music actually sound like? It ranges from folksy balladry to faux-ska and proto-punk... ...Zanes' new album tends toward roots rock and charming folk tunes; Berkner's perky songs feature jangling guitars and piano that wouldn't be totally out of place on a Sufjan Stevens record. But like most kindie rock, their music has a special quality that somehow transcends the divide between music for children and music for adults. "Somewhere in-between those two extremes," says Zanes, "there's this whole world of music where everybody can be emotionally engaged and sometimes the songs might lean more toward the super-young people and sometimes they might lean more toward the grandparents.

Ms. Berkner and entourage.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

PSA for Darknets

Here's an awesome video put together by a guy named J.D. Lasica who wrote a book about Darknets, featuring AC/DC with special guest stars!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Stats; Effeneff; Cuantos; Tessellations

A few weekend things:

  • has a lot of insight of all those things you read in the news that get you all worked up. Excerpt: Since its founding in 1994, the non-profit, non-partisan Statistical Assessment Service (STATS) has become a much-valued resource on the use and abuse of science and statistics in the media. Our goals are to correct scientific misinformation in the media resulting from bad science, politics, or a simple lack of information or knowledge; and to act as a resource for journalists and policy makers on major scientific issues and controversies.

  • Attn. amateur Spanish speakers: Beware of this faux pas. I knew this well-meaning old guy with kind of a thick southern accent who was trying to talk to some Mexican kids and ended up asking them this same question.
  • Here's a cool site about tessellations. Here's another.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Isn't the Internet Great?

Via The Ziggurat of Doom, here's BBWW: The Fat Wonder Woman Blog. And here's the blog of the artiste behind BBWW:TFWWB, Jamar Nichols.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Good Things to Read / Listen to

Among the interesting things that have come my way lately:
  • Wired Magazine asks the question "What Kind of Genius Are You?" -- Excerpt: Picasso was a conceptual innovator. He broke with the past to invent a revolutionary style, Cubism, that jolted art in a new direction. His Demoiselles d’Avignon, regarded by critics as the most important painting of the past 100 years, appears in more art history textbooks than any other 20th-century piece. Picasso completed Demoiselles when he was 26. He lived into his nineties and produced many other well-known works, of course, but Galenson’s analysis shows that of all the Picassos that appear in textbooks, nearly 40 percent are those he completed before he turned 30. Cézanne was an experimental innovator. He progressed in fits and starts. Working endlessly to perfect his technique, he moved slowly toward a goal that he never fully understood. As a result, he bloomed late. The highest-priced Cézannes are paintings he made in the year he died, at age 67. Cézanne is well represented in art history textbooks; he’s the third-most-illustrated French artist of the 20th century. But of all his reproduced images, just 2 percent are from his twenties. Sixty percent were completed after he turned 50, and he painted more than one-third during his sixties.
  • Speaking of Wired, I'm looking forward to reading Chris Anderson's book The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More. Here's an interview with Mr. Anderson conducted by Instaspouses Glenn and Helen Reynolds.
  • Lots of good content at Space and Motion having to do with science, philosophy, and other stuff. Plus, a gift shop!
  • If you've never tried the BananaSlug search engine, give it a try sometime. They throw a random word into a Google search. It's really pretty cool!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Ladysmith & Sweet Honey Last Night

So last night The ♥G♥ scooped me up after work and we went to Ravinia to see Sweet Honey in the Rock and Ladysmith Black Mambazo. My blog-slacking friend Glenn and his lovely wife met us there. While there, he managed to not only break off his corkscrew in a bottle of wine, but also the corkscrew belonging to the people (perfect strangers) sitting on a blanket next to us. Don't ask.

One (of many) of Paul Simon's great contributions to late-20th Century pop music was introducing LBM to the American audience at large, via his perfect album Graceland. He, David Byrne (who started a record label dedicated to world music) and Peter Gabriel (who started another record label dedicated to world music) are the three rock musicians (if they can be so easily classified as such) whom I think we have the most to thank for the popularization of world music in the U.S. in the last 10-15 years. There are a number of other labels that specialize in world music, such as Putumayo, Mondo Melodia, and World Village, all of which are worth the attention of the interested.

Back to LBM specifically, check out the great documentary LBM: On Tip Toe on DVD.

Here they are singing:

Here they are singing with Big Bird and company (and no, it's not "F the Police"):

Hip-Hop Star Trek Clips

These clips I found on You Tube are great! Here are a bunch of Star Trek action figures doing Yo!-MTV-Cribsesque stuff. Quite amusing. All from Star Trek 2.0 on G4TV.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

More Items

Trying to get some more house chores done today, plus I might go to the library and post office later. But for now...

Sesame Street Sings NWA

This has been around for a while, but I want to see if I can get the YouTube thing to do what I want.

Friday, July 07, 2006


Several things to point out:
  • Bookworm points to the revised Myers-Briggs Personality Test. Excerpt: ENFJ: The Cult Leader -- ENFJs are big thinkers. They are extremely charismatic, and wish to offer the benefit of their wisdom to the world at large. They tend to see the grand scheme of things, and to be able to deduce connections between things that other people miss; these psychological personality traits are the result fo the fact that they are the Messiah.
  • I'm enjoying watching the Canadian satirical TV show The Newsroom. Very dry, laugh-trackless wit. Partway through season one right now, seasons two and three to follow.
  • Here's a Library Journal interview with the creators of Unshelved.
  • And here's the Muppet Wiki site. Lots of good stuff here, including the classic Caveman Ernie skit.

Who Ya Gonna Call?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Bangalore/Detroit; Album Art; WWII Movies; Crossword Doc.; Zorn on Getting a Life

Among the things that have crossed my path recently:

  • This is a fantastic article about the growing, vital urban life of Bangalore, India, as compared to the corrupt and nanny-state-oriented attitudes associated with my native Detroit.
  • Cool album cover art from artist Rafal Olbinski for the classical record label Opera D'Oro. I only like them because they're art, of course. Highbrow art.

  • I watched two WWII movies on DVD in the past few days -- The Longest Day, which has been one of my favorite films for years. (I love the choreography of the whole thing, which in its own way was a tribute to the organization that went into the actual D-Day.) There are lots of good extras including a commentary by the only survivor from among the four directors, Englishman Ken Annakin. (A George Lucas influence, I am led to understand.) Also, lots of stuff featuring Darryl F. Zanuck, detailing his struggles to get the thing made. The other one was a very different kind of war movie -- Beach Red, which was made in 1968 and showed a group of Marines taking part in the invasion of one of the islands in the Pacific. Every time something significant happened (a character was about to be exposed to danger, or shot someone, or did something brave or cowardly) we either heard or saw a voiceover or flashback, akin to the thought-bubble device used in comic strips. And, when characters (both American and Japanese) got killed, the film would abruptly cut to a photo montage of that character's childhood and family life leading up to the point of their death, with images moving so rapidly that it only takes a few seconds. Very interesting way to do a war movie, and you ought to check it out.

  • This afternoon, The ♥G♥ and I went to see the new film Wordplay, about the phenomenon of the crossword puzzle (and the phenomenon of the cruciverbalist) and the competitions related thereto. Excellent movie if you're into that sort of thing. Let me do some digging around in the basement (which is now the temporary repository for much of the archival material previously housed in the junk room) and see if I can find the NYT crossword puzzle from Election Day, 1996, which may be the cleverest crossword I have ever encountered. I told her about it on the way over, and said that I hoped they mentioned it. Partway through the movie, none other than Bill Clinton himself explained his own reaction to that same puzzle and talked about how much he enjoyed it. I'm going to try and find my copy of the original, after which I will see if I can represent its cleverness accurately.
  • Bad news (or maybe not) for my friend SSMW (aka Getalife Girl), whom I think is on a roadtrip right now. Looks like Eric Zorn has passed judgment on the phrase "Get a Life" as follows: "Get a life!"--translation, "Go devote your energies to something real and productive!" -- may well be useful advice to science fiction cultists, but very few of us are entitled to dispense it with scorn, given the way we spend our leisure time... ...Telling him [a letter-to-the-editor writer] to "get a life" reveals such a paucity of wit, lack of imagination and inability to offer a reasoned response that I was moved, on the spot, to announce a new rule of engagement: "In any debate, the first person to hurl the insult, `get a life!' is the loser." Ouch. However, the good news for SSMW -- when Mr. Zorn tried to immortalize this rule on Wikipedia, he was prevented from doing so, due to it being deemed a "vanity entry." Developments to follow as they unfold.

Happy Fourth

Happy Birthday, Calvin Coolidge!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Chickens, Bugs, Other Things

This weekend we watched a couple of very entertaining documentaries -- The Natural History of the Chicken, which, rather than being historical in the way that the book Cod: a Biography of the Fish That Changed the World was, just kind of profiled a variety of chicken enthusiasts; and Microcosmos, which was an extremely beautiful and well-photographed look at the teeny-tiny world of bugs.

A few other things:

Ohhh Yeahhhhhh

This brief post coming courtesy of my brand-new high-speed wirelessly connected laptop. Sweet!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Happy Dominion Day, and Other Recent Events

First of all, happy Dominion Day to our neighbors to the north.

Meanwhile, down here south of the border, I finally took the plunge and got a kick-ass HP Pavillion laptop with all sorts of doodads. I have to register an account on our new DSL service, and then it should be ready to go wireless (fingers crossed). So, I am blogging for the last (or one of the last) times on dial-up.

After I picked up my new toy, I took The ♥G♥ out for a drink and a desert at a cool seafood restaurant near our river. The bar overlooks the river, and we got to do some people watching, and also check out the quackozilliacs. (Quackozilliacs = Ducks.)

A few things to point towards:
  • This is an excellent, comprehensive guide for understanding the numbering and color-coding systems associated with Vitaphone / Warner Bros. cartoons.
  • About a year ago, I posted this about my thoughts on the whole F(f)lag amendment thing. Word Munger has a more concise response to the oddly familiar Senate vote from last week. What nonsense.
  • Here's an example of why I'm glad I don't live in Iran. Those judiciary guys are assholes! Excerpt: ...In Iran however, the minimum age for the death penalty is 15 years for males, and 9, yes nine years for females (Iranian civil code, Article 1210). Although there is no record of girls that young being executed, the fact that the law opens for this speaks clearly about what kind regime Iran is.