Monday, December 31, 2007

Highly Recommended: Infinite Solutions

I somehow stumbled upon a video by a fellow named Mark Erickson of Infinite Solutions claiming to be a how-to on setting your YouTube subscriptions to upload automatically as a podcast in iTunes. I mean, who wouldn't want that, right? You subscribe to the tag "weekendatbernies" in YouTube and whenever someone uploads new video with that tag, whoot, there it is on your iPod ready for the giggle party every time you sync up. When the video started rolling, I first thought "Wow this guy is a hopeless nerd" but I kept on watching because I really did think it was a cool idea, and besides, everyone knows that hopeless nerds make the best YouTube how-to videos.

So, I followed the instructions and it definitely did not work. Then I started to think about it and realized that there was no logical reason why it should work, given the steps he outlines (How would YouTube communicate updates to iTunes? Isn't YouTube Flash video the wrong format for an iPod? Hasn't YouTube been actively preventing users from saving video content? I've tried scraping updates from YouTube before, and it didn't work at all.). I looked at some of the comments on the video (there were like 1,700 of them), and it was full of people either claiming that it really does in fact work, or being pissed because they thought the video was a hoax.

After viewing the other videos by Infinite Solutions, I soon realized that the whole series was in fact a joke, albeit an elaborate and articulate one. The most representative example of the absurdity/genius of it all would have to be this video on how to prepare your computer for daylight savings:

If you go here you can see all of his videos. They are pretty damn funny, but what's weird is that while they are all kind of out there, sometimes he really cleverly plays on the desires of the nerd set, posting fake how-to videos for things that a lot of people have probably wished did exist (I mean, turning YouTube subscriptions into a podcast that loads onto your iPod would be pretty sweet, right?). The most classic example of his ability to clown on the dreams of internet geeks would be his how-to on procuring a "Google TV" invite:

On this one, I actually kind of felt bad for unsuspecting viewers because in addition to being somewhat believable, he makes the fictional Google TV seem so cool that people would actually want to try and do this, logging in and out of their Gmail accounts 11 times just trying to get it to work. It's a prank that borders on Andy Kaufman-style brilliance, the way he gets the fake website to look so Google-esque, the way that he blends weird reality with plausible fiction (Loco Google, for example, is real). It's wickedly clever, at least once you stop trying to actually get it to work and start being in on the joke, anyway.

I don't know... I haven't laughed this hard at one person's YouTube videos since discovering Ronald Jenkees (another YouTuber [<-- did I really just use that word?] who bends reality in a way that is distinctly Web 2.0). Thank you, Mark Erickson! Once it had all settled in, I went back and left a comment on the YouTube podcast video. I said "thanks man, this totally works." It felt good to be in on the joke.

I saw Juno today. It was as good as I suspected. Michael Cera has really cornered the market for awkward teenage boy roles in movies, of which it seems like there have been many lately. It begs a chicken vs. the egg type question though: Which came first, Michael Cera, or roles in movies that seem perfect for him? Perhaps his existence as an actor has caused writers to write movies just so he can be in them. I will go on record as saying this about Juno: Kimya Dawson overload! Demasiado! I'm sure Plan-It-X fans across the nation are getting a huge kick out of being able to clearly hear Paul Baribeau's name sung out in the middle of a major motion picture, but here's what I really want to know: When she sings "I never met a Tobey that I didn't like" do you think that she might be talking about Matt and Erin? What this really means for many people is that liking Kimya Dawson will soon become kind of like that moment when your uncle or whoever tries to add you as a friend on what up until that moment was the cool new social networking site: It's just not the same anymore.

I had a good time watching this movie, but I found myself laughing at things that nobody else in the theater seemed to think were very funny. Like when she is yelling at Jason Bateman and she says "Oh yeah, and by the way, I bought a Sonic Youth album, and it was just a bunch of noise!" It's strange to hear your own laugh, your own voice echoing off the walls of a movie theater. It's like "Whoa, does my laugh really sound that weird?" "Are there really no other Sonic Youth fans in the theater?" Maybe there were, but they were serious fans who had taken offense at her seemingly naive comment, thinking "How can she say that? She obviously didn't listen to Sister."

I also let out a hearty laugh solo when Jason Bateman said that his band opened up for the Melvins in Chicago. I know that it wasn't supposed to be funny, but I just think they are a cool band, and I guess laughing made more sense than being all like "Whoo! Yeah! The Melvins!"

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Holy Crap, Master of Puppets is Good

Just listened to it again for the first time in a few years. It's really hard to believe that this album was made by the clowns that you see in Some Kind of Monster. Of course, I guess it all goes to show what the missing ingredient truly is:


Dear Cliff Burton,
Tengo una pregunta. Which made you turn in your grave more, Load or Re-Load?
You rocked the bell-bottoms long before they came back into style.
Thanks for "Orion."


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

No, I Really Don't Think So

Saw this at the store the other day.

Um, No

I wonder how many kids are crying this morning because their parents followed this wacko suggestion.

Hannah Montana fashion dolls are gone. How about some MOON SHOES?

So kids are crying. Not so much because they got Moon Shoes instead of a fashion doll, but because they just realized that their parents are idiots.



Monday, December 24, 2007

A Movie So Full of Family Awkwardness I Had to Watch it in Two Parts

So I finally saw the second half of The Family Stone. I had watched about half of it during pizza break at band practice a few weeks ago. When I was at the video store with my mom, I decided to pick it up so that I could see how things ended up. I guess what I really noticed is that you never really get to know Claire Danes' character like you want to (I felt this way throughout the My So-Called Life series as well though, so maybe it's just me). And it seemed weird that she ended up with that one guy because he seemed like kind of a chaz. I mean, yeah, he did say that he wanted to go back to that monastery and stuff, but still, even like Steven Segal and dudes like that say that they want to go to monasteries. Jared said that he was at one point really attracted to Amy from this movie. I mean, she did wear a Dinosaur Jr shirt. But that EMT guy didn't really seem like her type. I wanted her to be with someone cooler, like Luke Wilson, but he was her brother, so that's a no-go, huh. I guess what I really wondered was how Luke Wilson could fall for that gross woman from Sex in the City like he did. Yeah, I mean she did let loose once she had some booze in her, but she still just seemed a little too lame for him. In the end everything is cool, I guess. That's supposed to be the main theme of the movie. Everything works out, everything is cool. For me, the main theme of the movie was "can't that person do better?" Maybe I am missing the point entirely.

One thing that I thought was funny was that when we were watching it at band practice, someone said that you could tell that the mom was liberal because she had those Liberal Mom Glasses. Those are totally the glasses my mom has. I talked politics a little bit with my mom yesterday. She said that she is pushing for Obama. She said she just doesn't really like Hillary. Just doesn't like her. She also jokingly added "and plus, Oprah likes Obama." Hmmm. Just how kidding was she?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Machine for Packing Cabbage

Every once in a while it's fun to see what searches have led people to check out the blog here. For example, today:

where search traffic comes from

  • "Brenna Lee Roth," I can understand that one, I guess I talked bad about her dad not showing up to Plan 9 that one time. What can I say, it was hugely disappointing. I hope when people google Brenna Lee Roth, they find out the truth.
  • "Jordan Catalano music" is really a treat, it's good to know that people still think of Jared Leto as what he truly was and in my mind always will be: the dreamy grunge dude from My So-Called Life. P.S., his real-life band is still about the worst thing ever.
  • "Curly fingernails." Also an honor. Those things are creepy!
  • "Really good palindromes" is the very first hit on Google! My classmates from 10th grade math class would be so proud of me. We used to rock some serious palindromes. Cecily Edwards, Ursula Eagly, Francisco Cutter, if you find this while you are ego-surfing one day (you all have incredibly googleable [maiden] names), then this one's for you!
  • The Xuxa one is not really that noteworthy, since it's a site-specific search, but is still pretty cool, I guess. I never really really wrote about Xuxa relating to Christmas songs, but I will now: Xuxa Christmas, Xuxa Christmas, Xuxa Christmas, Xuxa Christmas, Xuxa Christmas!
  • But the one I am most proud of is "machine for packing cabbage hesser." This one came up because a while back I wrote about my math teacher, the resourceful and mathematically talented Mr. Hesser. I can only hope that he has invented a machine for packing cabbage, and while ego-surfing for sweet hits about his invention he came across my little blurb about how I was reminded of his math teaching while watching an interview with Stephen Colbert. Congratulations, Mr. Hesser, your cabbage packing machine has truly revolutionized the cabbage packing industry!

"Doing The Most Good"?

It's a video.

Dr. Bronner's Magic Soapbox is finally out on DVD. I have placed my order and it should be here sometime this week. I'll be having a screening party pretty soon, so be on the lookout for that announcement. Seriously, it is going to rock nards.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Caveman Movie Review: Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine

Computer beats the world chess champion at chess.
The computer was made by IBM.
Do they even make computers anymore?
The computer is programmed by a Chinese guy.
Weird automaton chess player looks like the fortune-telling machine that turns the little kid turn into Tom Hanks in Big.
Kasparov thinks IBM was cheating.
Like maybe they had a real person helping the computer.
He's a sore loser, but I kind of understand.
When he lost that game, it was like his soul was also defeated.
Dude totally lost his groove.
Maybe chess really is just a game that can be won through calculable parameters.
Or maybe we just like beating Soviets.
Show me a computer that can dance better than Baryshnikov!
Then I will be impressed.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

At Last, I Felt Like I Was Sitting at the Cool Table

Sometimes I eat lunch at the Indiana Memorial Union. A few times I have noticed that in the cafeteria by the Pizza Hut there is sometimes someone playing guitar and singing on a very small stage while everyone is eating lunch. There's just a guy, playing guitar and singing, and they pump the songs over the speakers over by Burger King and also all the way over by Sugar and Spice. When I have seen these dudes playing, it always kind of reminded me of what my version of hell might be like. Playing acoustic songs in a noisy cafeteria where pretty much nobody is paying attention and in the distance a woman with a Christmas tree hat works the register, ringing people up for Pizza Hut, sandwiches, and $1.69 bottles of Diet Coke. The song ends, nobody cares. It invokes a horror that many musicians are familiar with: insignificance coupled with total embarrassment.

Last night Mike Adams informed us that he was going to be that guy, the guy who plays at the Union during lunch time. He said that he was getting paid $50 to do it. I said that although $50 was a lot of money for less than an hour's work, I didn't think it was not enough for me to put myself through that kind of torture. I commended him on his bravery, especially since he knew what he was getting into, having experienced previous Dude With Guitar at the Union Lunch Concert Series (yes, apparently it is a series) concerts, and expounding to the uninitiated on how horrible it is for those involved. Sucks for the person playing, and also seems to suck for the people who accidentally sit near the "stage" when they get their burrito. It's just an odd, awkward clash of two worlds, the world of the singer-songwriter and the world of College Lunch.

So I went to see him play. When I first got there, the stage was set up, but there was nobody on it. I went somewhere and came back. When I came back, Mike Adams was there, looking like a lamb at the slaughter. There were a lot of people in front of the stage, but they were not there because of the stage, they were there because they wanted a place where they could sit down and eat their lunch.

I told him I was going to go do something and then come back when he was set up. The torture in the air was tangible. I fled like that pudgy white neighbor kid on The Cosby Show. What was that kid's name? Tobey or something?

On the way back to check and see how things were going, I apparently walked right past Jared Cheek as he was calling my name. Eventually I heard him, and he let me cut in line at Burger King. We got our food and walked over by Pizza hut where Mike was now playing. There were a bunch of my friends and cool people who had come out to see him, and we all sat down near each other and talked. We clapped when Mike's songs were over, which felt like a small triumph because every time I had seen someone play there before, there was nothing but awkward pain and the dull roar of college lunch when the songs ended.

It was weird. As I sat there, I felt like I was in high school and that I was sitting at the cool table or something. It didn't feel as crushingly awful as it had when I had seen other people play there before. When we clapped, it felt like it meant something. Mike's music was the backdrop to these funny conversations that people were having. Yes, we were eating lunch, but we were also brought together by a common friend, a friend who was about to be $50 richer. Justin Vollmar even said that he was thinking he might like to play there as well. I mean, after all, it is $50, and if you close your eyes, most of the sorostitutes actually do disappear. Sure, there was a young black fellow who yelled "Play Soulja Boy!" twice. Sure, there were people right in front of the stage who were facing the complete opposite direction, probably wondering to themselves why there's never enough marinara that comes with the breadsticks. All I know is that for me, it ended up being a good lunch experience.



Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Last Christmas, 1997

Just a minute ago I heard a non-Wham! version of "Last Christmas" at the grocery store, and it reminded me of the first time I heard this song:

It was December of 1997, I was in Hofu, Japan. It was my second Christmas away from the United States and away from my family, although I had been away for just a few months over a year. Me and Aaron "Kubiak" Anderson (dude I hope you Google yourself and find this, I love you man!) were at the church before English conversation club, and we found a videotape labeled "Christmas Videos" in one of the closets. Being starved for entertainment, and being in the Christmas spirit as much as one possibly can be in Japan, we totally popped it into the VHS machine. Lo and behold, it was a videotape that contained only one video, the video for "Last Christmas" by Wham! I had never actually heard this song before, but the christmassy vibe that this video brought upon our poor little gaijin souls was simply phenomenal. We just kept watching this video over and over again. Rewinding, watching, rewinding, watching. Turns out "Christmas Videos" was a bit of a misnomer because there was only one video on it. You do have to keep in mind, however, that the person who wrote that's native language doesn't even have plurals, so it's kind of like whatever, ya know.

This video though, this video! What happens in this video is so awesomely strange when you compare it with what the lyrics are talking about. Here we have a bunch of (obviously fake) heterosexual European 80's couples meeting up in the mountains for some good times. They go skiing, they decorate the tree, all that stuff, but our protagonist, Mr. George Michael, and this homegirl with a sweet perm have some serious back issues/sexual tension that they need to deal with, especially since they both with other people. Is she the woman that he gave his heart to last Christmas? Kubiak and I wondered out loud. What does the bedazzled piece of jewelry at 2:40 have to do with anything? Is this a physical symbol of his heart? We see a flashback to what we can only assume is last Christmas, the two of them frolicking in the snow, being sweet. What could have gone wrong? He gave her his heart, but then what does she do? She goes and gives it away, the very next day! Unbelievable. It's kind of no wonder George Michael now gets arrested for soliciting sex from state troopers at rest stops. A diss like that might just make a man turn on women all together.

The video ends, and they both walk away with their new gf/bfs. No real resolution, no closure, just the worst kind of lingering ski lodge weirdness. Just like life, I guess.

I guess I really can't begin to describe the feeling that repeated viewings of this video brought into our missionary hearts. It was the weirdest thing. Who had made this videotape? Why was it in the church closet? Why had we found it? Was this what Christmas miracles look like in Japan?

We later found out that "Last Christmas" is like the most popular Christmas song in Japan. Not "Jingle Bells," not "Silver Bells," not "Santa Clause is Coming to Town. No. "Last Christmas" is king of the Christmas songs in Japan. I think I understand why.

Watch. Discover the true meaning of Japanese Christmas.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Arroz, A Rose

carlos quitarrez

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Teenage Woodoworking, Celebrity Divorces

There's a bunch of stuff from my childhood in my parents' basement. While I was there I went and uncovered this sweet piece of luthiery:


It's fretless electric guitar. I made it when I was 14 or 15, I think. I got a boy scout merit badge out of it. So the fretless part of it can be viewed in two ways, either as a sign of my early weirdness or my early laziness. After all, leaving off the frets is one way to make sure that you don't have to worry about measuring them correctly. But, it's also pretty weird to want a fretless guitar. It's strange to think that I was able to wire it up the pickup, the tone knob, and the toggle switch and all that back in the day. I feel like it is a strange coincidence that this thing has re-appeared in my life right now. I guess it's time to make some wicked tracks with fretless guitar or something.

In other, more important news, I woke up to find this:


Does anyone else find this to be kind of surreal? What about Brooke's career? Hulk! You're too old to be wresting anymore! You guys can't let this happen. Linda, what would you do without Hulk? What? What?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Give Thanks

It has been a very pleasant Thanksgiving here with the family. I have been thinking a lot about hometowns lately, partly because I've been writing some words for this Prayer Breakfast demo thing, and most of the songs have parts about a hometown. There is something really nice about being away and then coming back to the place where your family is, where you hang out with people who knew you a long time ago, be it family or old friends. It's nice. My family is wonderful, I really am blessed to such wonderful people so close to me. I guess this leads into the mandatory Thanksgiving thanks list. Here goes!

I am thankful for:

  • good health
  • a wonderful, loving family
  • interesting, talented, and kind friends
  • a life that is fulfilling and meaningful and full of options
  • the freedom to do what I want (most of the time, and even when it's not something I want to be doing, it is usually something that is good to be doing nonetheless)
  • still feeling thirsty for knowledge (for example, sometimes I feel so happy when I have to go to the bathroom, because I know that I will be able to sit down and read)
  • having enough free time to feel like I am in control of my life
  • having the ability to sit down and do something with music every day
  • knowing that I'll finish my doctorate soon enough
  • not really having to worry about money
  • opportunities
  • feeling full of faith
  • not feeling tired all the time
  • feeling less nervous
  • having lots of people who I know will really listen to me
  • not making car payments anymore
  • not having to buy a new computer anytime soon
  • sometimes having some good ideas
  • the talents I've been given
  • the challenges I have faced
  • the ability to better understand my weaknesses
  • good food and the time to prepare it
  • a nice place to live
  • the surprises that keep happening
  • the ability to learn from life's experiences
  • the ability to see the good in people
  • the ability to think positively
  • knowing that I don't understand it all
  • travel
  • the many opportunities and experiences that I have had that have shaped my life
  • being here
It has really been a nice day. It's been kind of strange, when I am home here and there are kids running around, it kind of reminds me of those scenes they sometimes have in movies where people get these visions of joy, like at the end of Raising Arizona, when H.I. McDunnough has just given back Nathan Jr. and he is having a vision of his future family and that weird music is playing in the background. It's been kind of like that, to see that maybe this is what it's really all about, about sharing and coming together, the young and old, telling some jokes, playing some music, eating some food, and feeling love in a way that is easily understood.

My dad asked me to say the blessing on the Thanksgiving meal. At first I was a little nervous because, you know, it's like public speaking. But then I remembered that it's more than just public speaking, it's me talking to God, speaking for all of us at the table (and the adjacent kids' table), giving thanks, and that I certainly had more than a few things to be thankful for. I opened my mouth, and what came out was pretty alright.

Yesterday, I started learning about cellular automata. Although I'm just kind of messing around with it, I feel like this is something that better helps me understand life, because it takes very simple rules and through those rules complex systems are generated and interact with each other and seem to teem with life, just like when Mr. Wizard put a drop of pond water under a microscope. Here's a video of some of my cellular automata creations. Although some kind of blippy techno-pop at first seemed like a more appropriate soundtrack choice, I think that I did the right thing by going with Xuxa.

Sometimes when I squint at this, I can just see a million swimming swimmies.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


pointing like guns

I don't remember the details, but someone, at some point in my life told me they went to a school where they were told this. I found this written on a sheet of paper in my Mormon purse the other day. My answer to this question? Hell no, I'd pull 'em, that's just stupid. I mean, come on. Come on.


unknown liquid

Sunday, November 18, 2007

After Life

the after life

Thursday, November 15, 2007

When I Go To Get My Shoes Shined, I Gotta Take Their Word*

I mean, having one of those plastic Wal-Mart chairs break under your weight is one thing, but this must have been pretty embarrassing. This bench is like cement or limestone or something.


*Title taken from the brilliant Weird Al song "Fat" of course.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

USA Today vs. New York Times

Let's see. One has good writing and relatively little sports coverage. The other has a funny graph every day.

*As part of IU's Student Newspaper Readership Program, every student can get a free copy of these newspapers by swiping their ID at these boxes dispersed around campus. After a couple months of careful review, this is my comparison of the two newspapers.

**One thing that is interesting about the NY Times is that I find myself actually enjoying the articles in the business section. Am I getting boringer, or am I just reading a better newspaper?


Monday, November 12, 2007

Weirdly Irrelevant

I have written before about weird Google results, and back when I was bloggin' on the 'Space, I was pretty amped to find out that somehow my profile was on the first page of results for searches for "stuffed animal pants." Well, you'd think that if you searched for "Fuller, go easy on the Pepsi" on Google you would get a rich list of hits relating to this wonderful moment in movie history, but instead you get a YTMND featuring Fuller as hit #1 (I guess I can understand that one) and what is #2? This very weblog that you are reading here. As much as I love attention, something isn't right about that. Underneath hit #2, the powers that be have deemed that my post comparing the YouTube guitar stylings of two Steve Vai devotees to be especially relevant to searches about Fuller going easy on the Pepsi. Huh? Doesn't that seem a like kind of a waste? Besides the name, this blog has nothing at all to do with the classic line that it takes its name from. Shame on you, Google! What about all the people looking for a discussion forum where they can talk about their favorite Home Alone quotes? Somethin' ain't right.

IMPORTANT update: My MySpace profile through some strange twist of fate is now hit #2 for searches for "stuffed animal pants." Can you believe this crap? It would be a dream come true if you could just click here and then on my hit. I really think we can make this happen. Sorry I am such a loser. LOL.

"Bad for Families"

At the store on Saturday egg nog was on sale for 50 cents, and it reminded me of another time when egg nog was on sale, and how it led to me meeting Birch Miller. It was the winter in either 2000 or 2001, probably 2001, since eggnog season had ended and it had gone one sale for good. I was at the big Kroger on College Mall road with Brigid Hendricks and we were near the checkout and she said "Oh, there's my friend Birch" and she pointed to this guy who had a whole bunch of eggnog. He said it was on sale so he was stocking up. We talked for a minute, and the conversation invariably turned to the topic of the new U-Scan self checkout system. Birch said "Don't use those, they're bad for families." I said "What?" and he said "They're bad for working families."

I don't really know why, but this phrase "bad for families" really left an impression in my mind. Whenever I saw Birch after that, I had to bring up the "bad for families" thing. If he was locking up his bike outside the Secret Sailor, I said to him "Don't do that, that's bad for families." Didn't really matter what it was, I would always bring it up. After a while I got the feeling that he didn't like me. But now we are pretty good friends, and I pretty much never bring up the "bad for families" thing.

U-Scan checkouts are everywhere. I still think they're kind of annoying.

Here is a picture of Birch's burning misspelled UITS ID badge.

Burning Birtch

I have no idea why egg nog is on sale, or why it is even available yet. Next to the regular eggnog, there was some pumpkin eggnog, obviously for Halloween I guess, but I'm not sure how that would taste. Has anyone out there tried it? Is it any good? It might go on sale soon. If it went to waste that would be bad for working families.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Double Caveman Movie Review!


A documentary about a guy who tries to visit every single Starbucks.
Dude is crazy.
Constantly jumping out of car, running into the middle of traffic.
I thought to myself, "He reminds me of one of the characters in Word Wars."
Then in the special features they show him at a Scrabble tournament.
For him, it's not about Starbucks, "It's about doing something different."
Still, he didn't look healthy.
Caffeine overload?
I loved pretty much every minute of this movie.

The Darjeeling Limited:

Jason Schwartzman always plays the same character.
But I guess so does Owen Wilson.
This was fun to watch though.
Wes Anderson is like pizza, even when it's bad, it's still pretty good.
I felt hate for all of the characters, every brother was a different brand of asshole.
Even their mom kinda bugged me.
But I guess we're all human.
And that's kind W.A.'s thing, lovable neurotics, jerks, etc.
Could have done without the heavy-handed baggage metaphor.
The funeral part was really cool though.
The part about their mom was kind of pointless.
But I guess that's why they went to India.
So they had to put it in or something.
Would watch again. But not pay for it.

My Book Report on Ben Stein's Lecture at IU

I never really had much of an opinion either way about Ben Stein, but the other day I saw a little card on my table when I was eating lunch that said that Ben Stein would be speaking for free at IU. The card said "yes, the guy from Ferris Bueller" and I thought that it sounded kind of fun but I realized that it was at the same time that I had band practice, so I wouldn't be able to go. Well, I found out that band practice was canceled while enjoying the rare treat of riding as a passenger in Torlando's car, and there was like 20 minutes before the lecture was supposed to start, so I had him drop me off at the auditorium and went in to see what it was all about. As I was sitting there, I remembered that I really don't know anything about Ben Stein, except that I kind of remember him being either really boring (as in Ferris Bueller) or a condescending a-hole (like on Win Ben Stein's money, or more recently, what I consider to possibly be the worst show in TV, America's Most Smartest Model [I do watch it]). I got a program, and it said that the event was sponsored by the College Republicans. Uh-oh! What had I gotten myself into? There was a bio of Mr. Stein, and I guess there is where things started to get a little more interesting for me. I didn't know that he holds a law degree, used to be a speech writer for Nixon, worked as an analyst on Wall Street, all of these things, before getting into show business.

Aside from kind of being a kiss-ass about how beautiful IU's campus is (I mean, yes, it is, but he went a little overboard in his praises), as soon as he started talking I was kind of into it. He's not nearly as monotone as he is on TV, that was the first thing I noticed. He seemed genuinely into talking about life.

He read off a long list of good ways that a person with otherwise plenty of opportunities can screw up their life. Here are some of the ones I can remember:
Blame other people for the bad things in your life.
Don't work hard, just wait for opportunities to fall into your lap.
Spend all your money as soon as you get it. No need to save.
Get drunk and be high a lot.
Don't be grateful for what you have. Complain instead.
Get into a relationship with someone with lots of problems and think that you will be the one who can change them.
Spend your time watching TV instead of doing productive things.
Treat those who are important to you badly.
Be jealous of people who have things that you don't.

Those are the only ones I can remember. What was most memorable about what he said was that through college and Columbia and law school at Yale, he felt that the place where he learned the most about the world was at the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program. He alluded to being high throughout most of his education, and during the Q&A session when a student suggested that he run for president, he said that his history with drugs and women pretty much immediately disqualified him from serving in that capacity. He also said that being president seemed like too much work, and that he has trouble getting up before 10AM in the morning. Awesome!

Although he said that he was a republican, he talked a lot about how much he didn't like what the party had become, and said that he related more with the republican party of the past, the one that can maybe still be found in small towns. To this, I thought "why not just not be a republican if it's not what you want it to be?" Oh well.

During Q&A nobody got tazed, which was good, and this one older woman got up, and she said "Will you, you know, do it for us Ben? Will you do the thing?" You ask, what thing? Ben Stein knew what she was talking about, and obliged: "Adams.... Adamowsky... Bueller..... Bueller.... Bueller?" The crowd went nuts. I thought that was kind of weird because I always thought of that as being "my generation"'s movie, although most of the audience seemed to be undergrads, therefore about ten years younger than I am, and they were totally feelin it.

Someone also asked if the models on America's Most Smartest Model are really as dumb as they seem on TV, his reply was something like "waaaaay dumber, trust me" and he proceeded to tell a story about how one of them could not name a single country that we fought against in WWII.

All in all, it was a pretty quality lecture, although it never ceases to amaze me how incompetent people sound when they get up at the mic to ask a question at Q&A time. Not to say that I wouldn't, because I would, pretty sure. But the anxiety and blundering in people's speech just seems to be so painfully universal. It's interesting.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Some Countries Pay a Lot of Taxes


Just something to think about.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Favorite song on David Shrigley's Worried Noodles: the one by Max Tundra. It's so weirdly brilliant! Strange like electronic music should be.
Favorite (well, only) album I own by Ben and Bruno: 100 Grim Reapers. This is ridiculously good!

UNICEF Kidz Er'where

As I was walking on campus, I saw what appeared to be a couple of kids in costume, trick or treating for UNICEF. There was a guardian supervising off in the distance, she seemed proud of the tikes. I could not resist their good costumes and positive attitudes of charity. They came up to me and I reached into my pocket and pulled out some change and gave it to them. Then another came up to me, "Trick or treat for UNICEF?" and I gave him some change too. After just two kids, I realized that I was now out of change as well as small bills. But I looked around and saw that there were actually tons of these UNICEF kids, all lined up in what appeared to be the exact same path I was headed in. I had given away all of my money, and the thought of having to explain to the upcoming kids that I gave all my money to that other kid dressed as an Ewok back there truly broke my heart. I mean, what kind of excuse is that? Would you buy that as a kid? (I know I wouldn't have: As a kid I generally held the belief that college kids were irresponsible, lazy, and disregarded oncoming traffic, since this is mostly what stuck out in my mind from listening to my parents talk). I wish I would have known that the little folks were going to be UNICEFing, I would have set aside a roll of quarters just for the occasion. By some miracle, I was able to get to my destination without breaking any UNICEF* hearts. The rest of the kids were always talking to someone else when I walked by. Christmas miracle? I would say more like a Halloween miracle, because after all, today is Halloween.

One of my students was dressed as a ninja. We had a test today, and when he came up to my desk to turn his test in, I pretended to karate chop him. At first he didn't get it, but a second later he laughed. I wonder if he forgot for a moment that he was dressed as a ninja.

*Next time you find yourself thinking that people are inherently evil and horrible, think of UNICEF trick or treaters. It reminds me that people really are all born good.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Life's Strange Song

spend your days

Friday, October 26, 2007

It's Friday And I Will Do Whatever I Want

It's 3:30 on a Friday, the weekend has officially begun, and so I kick things off by eating Kit Kat and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups in bed while listening to "Ode to Tile" by Rob Crow. Thank you, Benjamin Franklin or whoever it was, for having the foresight to allow us these freedoms. Here is a video of how it went down:

A member of the focus group pointed out to me that this is vain. Ohhh. Yeah.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Caveman Blog: I Thought He Said Corn Nation

2-day 1 of my sutdents stoood up in class to make an announcement and said that there was going to be a presentation on campus about Corn Nation, inviting everyone to go to Corn Nation. Corn nation? That topic corn has been on my mind, I thought in my head. I just posted a weblog of it even! It turns out he said porn nation, which is something different, but the guy doing it has been on Ophrah's Winfrey show and everything. I saw some people with porn nation shirts, I guess that is what that is for. I would be weird about wearing a porn nation shirt because some people might think you were all about it. It (this announcement) happened in the big lecture section, not the drill section, he stood up in front of like 80 people or something. Just looked it up. Their main question is they are asking is "How is my exposure to porn and our hypersexual media effecting me and my relationships?" Ron Jeremy is there too, on their website. Now it's confusing. It says he is a recovering sex addict. So is the guy hosting this thing at IU. Sounds like it could be interesting. Nov. 1st, 7PM. That's when I normally have practice with my new band (tentatively named Prayer Breakfast, we play songs that are pretty "all-American") but I might go anyway. Anyway, I always thought that this guy, my student, was a really nice guy, and I think that he is very courage-ey for making this announcement.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Fields of American Sweetness

(I wrote this over the summer when I was in Mexico. I don't think I ever posted it, but I just saw some footage for the movie King Corn, which seems to cover a lot of the same issues discussed here, so I looked up the file in my computer and decided to put it up. I had been reading about King Corn for a while, and I am excited to see this documentary)

I used to deliver newspapers to a man who some people believe is one of the most evil people to have been in power for the past twenty years. More about that later.

Lately I have been trying lots of new foods. Being in Mexico City for a while, and me being who I am, I am anxious to try all of food products that are in the world around me. This ranges from going to restaurants to snooping around in grocery stores to challenging the sketchiest of street vendor food, I want to do it all. It’s not hard to find a snack in Mexico City. Food is everywhere, and I have started to notice that it kind of shows. Although there aren’t very many obese Mexicans as far as I have noticed, there do seem to be quite a few “husky” adults. Although I don’t have any facts or figures on this, I can’t help but think that this is in part due to the immense popularity of American-style fast food and junk food. I went to the zoo today (bad idea) and was not completely surprised to see droves of zoo-goers eating McDonald’s and Domino’s Pizza at the official zoo food court. I would never say that the traditional Mexican diet has been low in fat, because that is certainly not the case, but I would venture to say that it is not traditionally as high in fat or sugar as the fast food and snack food imports that they now enjoy. Fat and sugar are not the only problems with American style fast food, as we all know that the quality of this food and the processing that goes into is of equal concern.

All of this then reminded me of a book that I read a few summers ago while I was on a band tour in Europe. The book was called Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World, and it was interesting to read about the ills of the American diet while seeing how they do it in Europe. I was enjoying some of the best meals of my entire life, eating rich, sugary and delicious food, but I just didn’t see overweight people like I did in the United States. Interestingly, this book that I was reading provided a clue as to what was different about the American diet which contributes to dietary epidemic which exists in the United States.

One point (and it is a controversial one because it deals with race) that the book makes is that the reason for the epidemic of obesity among blacks and Hispanics in the United States is because blacks and Hispanics is because people of these races are genetically predisposed to diets in which food is not guaranteed to be available. The author calls this the “starvation gene” or “thrifty gene” and notes that in terms of evolution, the metabolisms of people of these ethnicities are trained to store calories as soon as they are available because there was not always enough food available at regular intervals. Historically speaking, white people’s metabolisms are more accustomed to having more calories available and to not using them. This is what the book says, anyway. This alone doesn’t completely explain why this seems to be a problem that exists for blacks and Hispanics in the United States and not in other parts of the world. The book, however, offers another important clue as to what makes the US diet so adversely different: A little ingredient known as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). You’ve probably seen this ingredient in your favorite soda, or in a few other sweetened products that you have around the house. What is high fructose corn syrup? Is there really that much sweetness in corn? HFCS, it turns out, is one of the most unhealthy and prevalent ingredients out there in American food. So, you maybe you thought that soda contains sugar. It tastes sugary, it’s sweet, it can rot your teeth like sugar does. Well, soda used to contain sugar, until the secretary of agriculture of the United States, a man by the name of Earl Butz, aided the subsidization of corn production in the United States so that it could be turned into HFCS and offered to soft drink manufacturers as a cheaper alternative to cane sugar (which was largely imported from overseas). A higher demand for HFCS meant more money for American corn farmers. What could be wrong with that? Well, nothing, except that HFCS is way worse for the human body than any processed sugar ever was. In JAMA’s review of Fat Land, they put it this way: “Fructose is processed more rapidly and more efficiently than glucose; fructose catabolism leads to increased fatty acid synthesis and esterification and secretion of very low-density lipoprotein. Thus, we have ingested what can be viewed as fuel for a fat factory”. This also explains why type II diabetes (the acquired kind) is so prevalent in blacks and Hispanics who live in the United States. Not surprisingly, the conversion of the soft drink industry from sugar to HFCS corresponds with the sudden increase in cases of type II diabetes in the United States.

In my opinion, HFCS does not taste the same. It is not a mystery why Mexican Coca-Cola and kosher Coca-Cola (both of which are cane sugar-sweetened) go for extra monies on the black market, eBay, etc. in the US. Another interesting phenomenon is the popularity of Dublin Dr. Pepper from Dublin, Texas, which is a holdout to the original formulation that is still sweetened with cane sugar instead of HFCS. People in Texas seem to have a fanatical relationship with this soda, calling them simply “Dublins.” I’ve had one, and truth be told, you really can taste a difference. It’s no B.S. A can of HFCS-sweetened beverage just leaves me with a gross feeling.

Side note: (One of my favorite [although pretty unlikely] conspiracy theories has to do with the possibility that Coca-Cola’s disastrous switch to “new Coke” back in the 80’s was actually a way of masking the change in flavor from sugar to HFCS by temporarily removing original Coke from the market, and that they had intended to continue to produce “Coca-Cola Classic” all along, complete with supposed reports from Coke employees seeing “Classic” packaging in Coke factories even before New Coke was introduced to the market. I love this kind of conspiracy, but I kinda doubt it.)

So what’s the deal with delivering newspapers to an evil dude? Earl Butz used to be my neighbor, and I was his paper boy. He lived about a block away from us in West Lafayette, Indiana. My mother had told me that he used to be the secretary of agriculture, which when I was 10 years old or whatever didn’t seem like that big of a deal, but when his name came up in Fat Land, I was like “Well, how weird is that?” HFCS isn’t the only awesome ingredient that Mr. Butz had the distinction of introducing into the American diet. He is also responsible for bringing palm oil (another pretty cruddy ingredient) to a variety of snack foods (Bugles and low-quality chocolate [both chock full of palm oil] are delicious!).

But as is the case with most political arguments attacking the United States, the actions of our political leaders are ultimately the result of the total apathy of the people. In the case of horrible (in tastes as well as health) ingredients being introduced into our diets, Americans have been voting with their dollars, and for the most part, Americans have been voting “yes” for the garbage that the food industry has producing for us. How is the American diet different from the European diet? Many Americans simply don’t have a passion or even a real interest in the food that they eat. Americans are less and less involved in preparing their own foods, and therefore increasingly out of touch with what goes into the food they eat. Whether or not this apathy is a result of the fast food industry or whether the fast food industry came about as a result of America’s apathy about food is a circular argument: The fact remains, Americans eat bad food and continue to put up with it, because it's cheaper. Case in point: American cheese. First off, it’s not really cheese. Second, it is mostly oil and salt. Third, it’s not really orange. It’s colored that way with some crap called anatto. Our contribution to the world of cheese is such an embarrassment, symbolic of the many cases in which American "improvement" really just kind of blew it!

Anyway, you can check out some footage of the King Corn guys here. (P.s., is anyone else kind of weirded out by Xeni Jardin's delivery on Boing Boing TV?)

Also, I just remembered someone telling me that in Mexico, thanks to NAFTA, it's cheaper to buy American corn than it is to buy corn produced in Mexico. The price of US corn has a direct influence on the price of tortillas. Loco!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Redheaded Twins of Luck

Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday when I am done teaching my Japanese class on the 4th floor of the Geology Building, I walk to Woodburn Hall (home of the famously controversial mural depicting Indiana history which contains clansmen doing klanny things). Every time I make this walk I see two redheaded twins, brother and sister, walking together very closely, always laughing about something, kind of rolling their eyes about something, as if the class they just got out of was taught by an actual circus clown. They always seem to be in a really good mood, and they are always walking right next to each other. When twins of the same gender look alike, I simply think they look alike because they are supposed to look alike, after all they are twins. But I think that twins of different genders are way more interesting. They are interesting because they allow you to see what the true characteristics of gender are (it also always makes me wonder what I would look like if I had been born a girl, and then I inevitably think about how different my life would be if I had been a girl, then I inevitably think about what types of boys I would be into, and then it's just weird, I know). These twins that I always see, they just look so much alike despite being brother and sister. They both have short red hair, they both wear basically the same kinds of clothes, and they act like total BFF. Every time I see them, I kind of feel like it's a scene from a David Lynch movie or something. I literally see them every single time I make the walk from Geology to Memorial. I consider them to be a good luck charm, because they look so happy, and it touches my heart to see a brother and sister being such good friends. Are there other people who I also see every time I make this walk, but I don't recognize them because they aren't so twinny? Could be, but I don't think so. These twins are symbolic of something, I'm pretty sure.

I wish I could get a picture of them. Would it be weird to just get a snapshot one morning while they are walking? Um, yes. Of course. I won't do it. I guess it won't happen.

People I know who are twins:
Arnold Schwarzeneggar and Danny DeVito (well, I don't know them, but I saw their movie).
Jim Zespy has a twin brother named Jeff. Like Arnold and Danny, they do not look alike at all.
I guess that's it.

Famous twins in music:
It turns out that Kelley and Kim Deal are twins. I didn't know that.
Two of the three Bee-Gees are twins.
Matthey and Gunnar Nelson are twins. All this time I just thought they were brothers who looked a lot alike. Wow.
Those dudes from Blonde Redhead, of course.
The two sisters in Múm.

Famous twins from G.I. Joe:
Tomax and Xamot. When one gets hurt the other feels pain.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A World of You

world of you015

Crappy scan, I know.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

What Are The Odds?

The other night I was watching Stephen Colbert being interviewed on Larry King and he was talking about how a bunch of members of his family were killed in a plane crash when he was young, and Larry King asked him if that gave him a fear of flying, and Stephen Colbert replied saying that it made him less afraid of flying, because after all, what are the chances that airline tragedy would strike the same family twice?

I was thinking about that again today, and then I remembered my 8th grade math teacher, Mr. Hesser. Mr. Hesser was a big guy, he was the wrestling coach, and when he saw his beloved wrestlers walking down the hall, he would throw chalky erasers at them. This was kind of a big deal, because one wrestler in particular, Jimmy Gerovac, was pretty much always wearing black heavy metal shirts, and so a blast of chalkboard eraser dust represented a significant threat to his headbanger ethos.

Mr. Hesser had slicked hair and was always kind of sweaty. I remember thinking that he was a pretty good teacher, because he made math real, but he made math real by making fun of people who couldn't do math. Mr. Hesser (although he seemed to be kind of a country boy himself) in particular loved to make fun of dumb country folk and their inability to do math. He would talk about about how dumb country folk would actually hire him to come out and calculate how much grain would fit in their silos because they had no idea how to do it themselves. "I mean, anyone with an 8th grade education should know how to calculate the volume of a cylinder plus half a sphere of the same diameter, right?" Today, given about half and hour and the proper formulas, I think I could figure it out. I hope.

So what does this have to do with Stephen Colbert?

See, this one time, Mr. Hesser was making fun of dumb country people and he was talking about how most folks wouldn't buy lottery tickets at a gas station where someone has already won a bunch of money recently, because "ya know, what are the chances of someone winning in the same place?" he would say in an exaggerated drawl (on top of what I considered to be his already prominent Hoosier accent). He said they were stupid and superstitious because the chances of the next big lottery ticket being there are still as good as they would be anywhere else. When you roll a six on a die, what are the chances that you will roll a six again? One out of six. Same as the first time. The die doesn't remember where it was last. The chances of someone rolling a one and then a six are the same as someone rolling a six and then a six (1 in 36, right?). The chances of someone rolling three sixes in a row? The same as someone rolling, oh, say, a two, then a four and then a five. By this logic, Stephen Colbert is just as likely to die in a plane crash as anyone else, as each flight is a new roll of the die, unaware of previous statistics.

But. But. Here's the thing. According to this (pretty interesting), the average American's odds of dying in a plane crash in a lifetime are 1 in 5,051. So, if you think of it as a 5,051-sided die, then the odds of rolling the same number twice are 1 in 25,512,601. Pretty unlikely, right? But you can look at it two ways: The odds of one person dying in a plane crash are 1 in 5,051. The odds of a second related person dying also at a later point are still the same, but the odds that both things must happen are really low. But it's still just as likely to happen to a related person than it is to anyone else. The more I think about it, the more confused I become. Wait. This is kind of blowing my mind. Anyone care to step in? Am I totally wrong here?

I mean, his reaction to the question may have been a joke, I don't even know if his reaction was from the point of view of Stephen Colbert the person or Stephen Colbert the character (in which case, he might have been taking the anti-Hesser everyman's approach to probabilities for effect). If it's real, if thinking that way helps him fly the friendly skies, then that is ok. Regardless of the fact that it is statistically faulty logic, I think that there is something to be said for humans believing that a rare thing that has happened once will be even less likely to happen again. After something really bad has happened, I can recall saying to myself, "well, at least I can be pretty sure that things won't be that bad ever again" but it's actually not true! Luckily, the same rules apply for good things, so that's cool too, I guess.

OK mathletes. Prove to me that you aren't as dumb as the bumpkins Mr. Hesser made fun of:
There's a corn silo. It's 20 feet in diameter and perfectly cylindrical up until 35 feet, where it is topped by a half-sphere of the same diameter. How much corn (in square ft) can you fit in this darn thing? Show your work. First person to answer gets a prize. Super bonus points if you can tell me how much all that (dry) corn would weigh.

Scram, Shrimps

workin on012

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Each Life

each life

Also, I've been having a good time doing stuff in Max/MSP again. I finally got an idea I had been kicking around for a while to work. I would like to go on record as saying that although it is corny and can be used for horrible purposes, I think that Band-in-a-Box is one of the most interesting pieces of music software on the market. Yes, it is terrible, but it also terribly clever, and the developers of this software are perfectly fine with the fact that this is not at all related to any other music software out there. Instead of sweating the small stuff, it deals with the generality of music that is based on basic chords (and a lot of music falls into this category). It treats the units of music completely differently than any other music program that I can think of. There is not even an option of tweaking the minutia of individual notes. The basic unit is the chord, the chord is what the software understands. What has recently really got me thinking is how in its newer versions, Band-in-a-Box can now generate songs for you simply by telling it what genre you want the song to be in. It generates the chord changes and will even write a melody to go over them. As if that wasn't enough, it will generate a solo to go over those chords, too. You've basically got an original corny little ditty on your hands, without really doing anything. Generative! And, if you're not sure what to name it, the software will even do that for you (sample song titles: Insipid Top, Understanding Lester). Awesome, right? Well, anyone who has heard it knows that it is actually pretty cheesy (general MIDI is partly to blame here, for sure), but what is cool is that it actually does what it says it does, in a pretty impressive way. When I watch it do what it does, I can't help but think, "OK, this is spitting out chords based on the chord transition probabilities associated with the genre." It does some genres better than others (if it is Bassanova you seek, look no further!), but it really got me thinking about generating my own chord transition probabilities, and using those for hopefully less-corny purposes.

That's where my Max/MSP idea was born. The idea is pretty basic: play some chords, the thing starts to mimic your chord style and play itself, as it is doing that, you play "solos" over your chords, and it generates separate probabilities for what notes you would most likely play over certain chords. If all goes well, you have "sampled" a bit of your playing style, and it can be brought to life with Markov chains based on your probabilities, leaving you to be able to jump around on stage or whatever you want to do as your computer brain backup band jams as you have taught it. The thing I made looks like this:

chord trans prob

There's still a lot that needs to be done with it (like a sense of rhythm, for example), but I'm happy that by now I know how to attack the rest of what needs to be done, and I have a basic concept that does what I want it to. The notion of processing chords as chunks of data in Max seemed so impossible for a long time because I was approaching it the wrong way.

Don't we all wish that what we learn in one area can be extrapolated to apply to all other areas of life? Sometimes I think that it's starting to happen, and it's a great feeling. Thanks, life!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

"Your Mom Has a Blog"

Three days ago this email came:
your mom

I had actually discovered this a few days earlier when I was looking at cousin Sarah's blog, because it said that there was a comment there from someone with my mom's name. Fantastic at 55, it is called. I wonder if she plans on changing the name of her blog with every birthday, or if maybe the 55 refers to something else, like her favorite speed to drive at, or a channel on TV that makes her feel fantastic when she is watching it.

Although she hasn't been at it long, I always knew she is a good writer and likes to tell stories, so I guess that makes her predisposed to being a good blogger. Indeed, she pulls it off with wit, introspection, and spirit. I'm learning a few new things about her as well. For example: One day she would like to play tennis in heaven (although she isn't sure that's where she's headed, I really think she is good enough to get in there), there are two years of her married life she would like to forget (I need to remember to ask her what years those are), and she sometimes feels two inches tall after thinking bad things about kids who are terminally ill (well, it's not that simple, just read for yourself).

Let me call your attention to the email message above, to the Google ads. Once again, the all-knowing "sponsored links" Google ads that were generated as a result of the is email are eerily pertinent and pretty funny. We have "Stop the Bad Behavior" (I know, I know, I am trying), "Why Mommy is a Democrat" (duh.) "Understanding Gen Y" (what's a LOLcat?) and "dying orphans" (apparently, mom likes to give them the stink-eye on airplanes). Go Google. Sometimes your measures of pertinence are oddly spot-on. Sometimes those short text ads really do read like haiku.

In other news, I think I have finally gotten to the bottom of how to do a Markov-based chord transition analysis and generation in Max/MSP, I had a great time at the corn maze in Loogootee, IN, and Jared Cheek gave me a CD of TV gameshow songs that is INCEDIBLE! More on that stuff later.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

True Guitar Heroes

Here I go again, writing about stupid guitar solos!

When I was in the 7th grade I was really into shredding on the guitar, and so I sought out the best shredding guitar music that was available to me in West Lafayette, IN. Luckily, I was born at just the right time, because by the time I was 12 years old, "totally shredding" in a rock and roll song has become about the coolest thing a guitar player could possible do. Then I discovered from Guitar Magazine that there were people who made entire albums that were all guitar solos. I bought an album by this dude named Steve Vai. I remember I would listen to the song "For The Love of God" by Steve Vai on cassette and just totally get the chills. I remember thinking that in addition to being a face-meltingly shredding song, it was a really intense and passionate song as well. Now I just think it's kind of funny. I mean, don't get me wrong, the guitar playing on this song alone is enough to make you weep, but seeing people play this song on YouTube is a special kind of comedy (and tragedy?). It's kind of endearing that people would really go to the trouble of learning and memorizing this song note-for-note. Granted, it is kind of considered the holy grail of shredding by most people who know about that stuff, but it turns out that knowing all of the licks and being able to play them is not necessarily all there is to it. Look at the following two videos. Which one of these young hispanic men would you say does a better job (both in therms of technical proficiency and manly passion) playing this song?

I have my opinion, but I would like to hear yours.

The whole scene of shredding other people's songs in front of a webcam in your mom's living room and putting it up on YouTube is something I could see myself getting a little bit more into. But it appears as though this scene is dominated by dudes from Mexico and Brazil, specifically. What is it about these countries that allows them to bring up such fine shredders? I really don't think that young shredders like this could exist in this capacity in the United States (although I would be delighted if they were to show up at my doorstep and prove me wrong!), simply because Americans are too lazy to try really hard at something that isn't even that cool anymore. If these fellows had been born in the U.S., they would probably be really into creating mash-ups or playing Halo or liking Pitchfork bands or some other activity that is kind of obvious and unexceptional, and when you think about it that way, it just seems like so awesome that these shredders exist against what seem like insurmountable odds to a gringo like me. I think it takes a predominantly Catholic, slightly-richer-than-the-average third-world country to raise these special guitar stars. The elements collide, the stars align, a young man notices a discarded Joe Satriani album on the street as he is walking home from classical guitar lessons and picks it up. The cycle continues, the miracle lives on!

Whoa, time for bed!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

We're Natto Gonna Take It

My history with the sketchy-yet-iresistable fermented soybean product known as natto:

My first exposure to this wonderbean product was when I was in Japan the first time. A fellow missionary thought it would be funny to feed me a pack of natto since he had some sitting around in the fridge and he knew that natto is considered pretty much universally to be the most controversial food in Japan, the food some Japanese people can't stand, and that pretty much all foreigners are weirded out by. He pulled out the pack, mixed it up for me, and handed it over. Although it looked weird, I tried it. At first I thought it tasted a lot like Vegemite. To his surprise, I was actually not really grossed out and finished the whole package. It turns out he too was a natto fan, and claimed that he was trying to turn me on to it, adding that "old dudes here in Japan eat that stuff every day and live to be over 100" -a statement which actually has some amount of validity, it turns out.

Let me explain where all this sudden natto-mania comes from. It comes as only a slight coincidence that I bought a bunch of natto at the local Asian market yesterday, since two days ago it was announced that they have discovered what the function of the appendix is, and that it is used to store gut bacteria and re-introduce it in into the digestive tract if it should wiped out by a disease like dysentery. Isn't that great? All my life I have been hearing about how they don't know what the purpose of the appendix is, that it's just some evolutionary leftover from when we were eating bark and twigs, and now people actually know what it did/still does. Sweet. Although I'm not sure if it's clear that the stuff in natto promotes healthy digestion (coincidentally, the commercial for the Activia 2-Week Challenge just came on, and that stuff claims to be "clinically proven," so I guess it's not b.s.), it's no secret that the word "probiotic" has been getting a lot of buzz lately, and studies have shown that natto has beneficial probiotic effects. Regardless of whether of not all this probiotics hype is scientifically true or not, anything that tastes this weird and looks this gnarly and doesn't kill you must be good for you, right?

So as I was roaming the aisles of the mostly-Korean Saraga Asian market yesterday, I was kind of surprised to see about 15 different varieties of Japanese natto in the freezer section. Although they didn't have any brands I was familiar with, natto generally has classy packaging, so I decided to pick up a few, with the goal of someday testing each kind of natto that they sell there in hopes of finding the best kind.

What can I say? This stuff is weird, but you know what, it is really good. I had forgotten how much I liked eating natto, but after one bite I was immediately transported back to Tenri, Japan two summers ago, and the many delicious natto breakfasts that I enjoyed at Sukiya for the low price of 270 yen (about $2.50). Every time I ate this meal, I remember thinking to myself "this might very well be the most delicious and nutritious breakfast on the planet." I've been reading up on how to make your own natto at home, but I think that might be taking things a little bit too far. I've been making my own kimchi lately ever since Sue Anne loaned me a book about it, and that has been kind of fun, but I think I'll take it easy and just keep buying different kinds of natto from Saraga until I find one that I really like. It's only about $2 for three packs, so I guess it's not really that important that I make it myself. (With the kimchi thing, it started innocently, I promise. I knew that I had some cabbage that I needed to get rid of, and so I thought I would borrow the book and turn an already-wilting half head of cabbage into something edible, but before I knew it, I was headed to the store to buy a new head of a specific kind of cabbage and a bunch of other stuff as well. Oh well, as I have said here before, a possible title for my autobiography might be "The Curse of Being Interested in Too Many Things.")

Like a lot of weird foods, natto came about by accident. Soybeans used to be stored in straw bags, and straw naturally contains the bacteria that turns soybeans into natto, so it was just a matter of time before they had some natto on their hands. I guess they just decided to go ahead and eat it, and the rest is history. I love that story.

P.S. I'm going to just go ahead and say it: I predict that bacteria is going to be like a huge deal in 2008. Bacteria will be the new TiVo, or something.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Akon Round

What Would You Do In This Situation?


Although this invite is pretty much the best thing to happen to me on Facebook yet, I'm not quite sure how to respond.

Love ya Greg!

Background: HoboWars is an online role playing game in which you play the role of a hobo. You fight against other hobos and pick up cool hobo stuff like shopping carts. My brother and a bunch of his friends are like majorly into this game. The other interesting thing about this game is that it the actual gameplay is really primitive, like it leaves a lot to the imagination. There aren't really a lot of graphics, it seems to be mostly text. Also, I heard that this game originated in Australia. The perplexing reasons for this game's popularity are why I find it to be so interesting, although I have never played it. Greg is so into HoboWars that it is rumored that he must tend to his hobo before he kisses his wife goodnight, and that sometimes he wakes up in the middle of the night just to move his hobo. Sounds like internet crack to me. And now to make matters worse, it's somehow it's been mashed up into a Facebook application. I guess this is why all these nerd writers are predicting that Facebook is going to take over the internet.

You, Me, And the Rest of the World

Amidst all of the Ronald Jenkees mania that has been going around lately, I would have to say that this video is the true gem of his collection. It's like a very Kentucky Mr. Rogers meets Herbie Hancock. When I am feeling down, I watch this one, and on one of two levels, it always cheers me up.

And of course, just in case you haven't seen it yet, WHO WANTS TO PLAY BALDERDASH!? BALDERDASH!

Also, after carefully viewing all of Ronald's videos, I think Ronald and his roommates might be Mormon. There is an important clue as to why I think that in this video. Can you find what it is?

Also also, after thinking long and hard about this, I really do think that the Ronald Jenkees persona is all an elaborate joke, or that he may actually be like that, but that he is kind of hamming it up so that he can get more internet famous. It's hard though, because when it's really funny, I have to wonder: if this were really planned, could anyone actually be that brilliant? What throws me for a loop is that sometimes his videos aren't very funny, he's just talking about how he installed Ubuntu on his laptop or whatever. His renegade pluralization of proper nouns (ie. "YouTubes," "Googles") is very funny but it seems kind of impossible that someone would actually make those kind of mistakes. The mystery continues.

That being said, I was thinking of inviting him to play a show in Bloomington, since he isn't too far away? Would y'all come or what?

My Picks From Today’s New York Times

Here's pretty much all you need to know:



Caveman Movie Review: Old Joy

Will Oldham is in this.
He calls up his old friend to go camping.
His friend has a pregnant wife, friend is starting to be responsible.
But they go camping.
Will Oldham is still just a dude, no ties, going bald, seems afraid, smokes weed.
He has this theory about physics that doesn't make any sense.
They go to a hot spring, you can see their wally-wallies for a second.
Will gives his buddy a massage while he's soaking.
For a moment I thought it was going to get Brokeback.
Then they go back to town.
Will Oldham gives a guy some change.
The movie ends.
Man, it was slow, but the characters seemed so familiar.
This music is like a drunk Early Day Miners, I thought.
Turns out it was Yo La Tengo.

MAN-datory Military Service,

When I was on tour with my band in Europe two summers ago, the guy who booked our tour suggested that we not drive ourselves, and found three drivers, all German dudes, who would take turns navigating the European highways and generally babysitting us. The first was the wonderfully funny Andre Springer, the second was the amazingly calm Daniel Dutsky, and the third was a young buck named Patrick who spoke pretty much perfect English with a slight California accent, because he had gone to some of high school in Las Vegas. So convincing was his English, that when he did speak German it was really surprising to us. You couldn't help but think "how did that surfer get so good at German?" Patrick alluded to the fact that he had just gotten out of some form of public service, and we also found out that he had learned to drive stick shift just weeks before he met up with us, solely for the purpose of being able to drive us on the tour. It was just a tad rough at first, but he sure did get the hang of it!

When i asked Patrick about what he did for his mandatory public service to the German government, he told this story:

gay brigade

At first I did not believe this story. I tried looking up more information about it on the internet, and my searches for "German gay military" found nothing, so I held off on finishing the comic because it seemed pretty possible that the gay army brigade thing was a rumor. Then one day I was talking to a dreadlocked-pseudo-hippie German guy at the hostel I was staying at in Mexico City, and I luckily remembered to get a fact check about this curious piece of information. Sure enough, the dreadlocked German said that it was real (to his dismay as well, as he also had considered pulling the gay card to get out of military service), and so I now felt like I was cleared to finish the comic and scan it and stuff.

* Not that I am trying to stereotype what gay men look like in my depiction of the gay brigade, but as you may be able to see, I sort of wrote the comic in red pen and then didn't come back to it until months later, at which point after much internal struggle, I had determined that the "best" way to clearly depict a gay division of the German army was, in fact, to pull out all the stops and use every stereotype available. That's what you do in the world of comics, I am told. Do they look gay enough?

** A better title for the name of this hypothetical sitcom or reality show would be most welcome. Help me, please.

How I Am Going To Hang Out With Werner Herzog (Long Shot):

I've never really known too much about Henry Rollins, except that he is Mike Anderson's least favorite singer of Black Flag, and that The Rollins Band had a minor hit in the mid-90's with that song "Liar." I guess I just assumed that he is kind of a big deal because he has a talk show and had Werner Herzog as a guest on it once.

(At 4:04 you get to hear him say "cash money." It's great.)

Well, it turns out that Henry Rollins has a radio show, and he played a Rapider Than Horsepower song on it and wrote this:


Looks like we won't ever achieve our dream of playing a show at the Video Music Awards or Grammies. Thanks Henry! Still, this very slight brush with something that is actually nothing like fame got my delusional imagination going, and I envisioned an elaborate scenario that brings me one step closer to hanging out with Werner Herzog.

Here's how I see it going down: Let's say that Rollins makes mixtapes for Herzog, you know, like all the time. He puts the Beatbox Song on a tape, and Herzog listens to it and says in his brilliant cadence "I truly like this guy." He casts Mike Anderson as the sole giant in his next all-midget movie, and I get to hang out on the set. When I am introduced to him, all I can think to do is ask him what it was like being the dad in Julien Donkey Boy. It's incredibly embarrassing, but at least it provides some kind of closure.

The Thumping Soundtrack of Human Life


My Friends Used To Throw Some Pretty Sweet Dinner Parties

And I had some pretty dorktastic hair.

And what on earth were we drinking?


High school was so nightmarishly awesome (in the truest, non-Bill and Ted sense of the word "awesome"). The other day I did the calculations, and here's what I came up with: I would repeat high school again for $240,000. Like, if there were some reality show where they made adults repeat high school and they asked me how much it would cost to get me repeat all four years, that would be my price. I figure the work would at least be easier this time around. Or would it? That's kind of the premise of the show. Sure, making friends would be awkward and difficult and you have to wake up kind of early, but you get to do whatever you want during study hall, and it's all over by around 3pm. If I could do it all over, I would have taken more wood shop and vocational classes. I sometimes wish I knew a trade. You know what they call electricians in Australia? Sparkies. Yeah, pretty cool-sounding, huh? Being a sparky sounds like a pretty cool gig. It might not get you invited to fancy dinner parties, but you will always have a job with a good title.

Barbecue Sauce All Over Your Face

Our souls are so alive, so moving, so breathing!
Like that one Enya song, I just have to say:
"How can I keep from singing?"

New And Profound Depths of Disappointment - The DLR Story

I should have known it was too good to be true when I heard that Ron Jeremy was going to be there too. At that point it just seemed impossible. Yesterday David Lee Roth was supposed to make an appearance at Plan Nine Video here in Bloomington, IN. What actually transpired brought me to new and profound depths of disappointment, so far down, in fact, that it was as if the disappointment spedometer on the dashboard of life had gone all the way around, and it was actually somehow kind of awesome.

Let me explain.

So, about a week ago, through my various channels of information (stuff written on bathroom walls, stuff I overheard strangers say at parties, notes passed to me in study hall, etc.) I started hearing that David Lee Roth was coming to Bloomington, and he would be signing autographs at the Plan Nine video store. I pretty much believed it for two reasons: First, I had heard rumors that DLR was born here. Second, I had seen these posters for a horror movie festival happening here in town, and one of the featured guests was someone named Brenna Lee Roth, so I figured she was related to Diamond Dave.

Maybe it's because of the culture of irony that we live in, or maybe it's because it was the coolest thing going on at 6PM that day, but it seemed like everyone was talking about going to see David Lee Roth and how sweet it was going to be. Not that I ever really heard of people being that into him before this, his name never really came up in conversation before that, but I think that I (like most people) consider him to be an essential ingredient to the original Van Halen lineup that never really was the same after he was dismissed (Sammy Hagar? come onnnnn). DLR: A rock star kicked out of his band for being too big of a rock star. It's weird, I know. He was the essential ingredient, but it was an ingredient that did not do well on its own (kind of like chewing on just a lime by itself, but can you imagine Mexican food without it? [wait, I can, it's called La Charreada]) as anyone who has heard his solo records would probably tell you (Not even Steve Vai could help him. Wait, did Steve Vai help any band he was in after Zappa? Right.).

Anyway, things started getting weird when the news filtered in that Ron Jeremy would be there as well. Why would Ron Jeremy be there? Is Ron Jeremy's daughter in town too? Was Ron Jeremy born here? I was kind of worried that the appearance of Ron Jeremy would prompt a bunch of chazzes to show up, but I guess it didn't really matter, because neither DLR or Ron Jeremy showed up. Something about being in an interview for CNN in Indianapolis? They got caught in a combine accident? The reasons for their absence were colorful and varied.

The mighty Dave Walter was there, trying his best to keep people from rioting as he broke the news:
Bummed People

Nobody showed up to sign autographs except tattooed daughter Brenna Lee Roth, accompanied by her small entourage of dudes who looked like they worked in the horror and/or porn industry. She sat at a table in the back of the store, with two stacks of photos, one clothed, one nude, and awkwardly exchanged pleasantries with the few people who seemed interested in the consolation prize of meeting David Lee Roth's daughter. There were rumors that she had talked a lot about her "awesome rack" in an interview on a local radio station earlier that day, but the relative truth of that statement seemed to be a topic of lively debate among those in attendance. On the table there was a single photograph of DLR with his daughter. Dave looked like a dad. He has short hair now, he was wearing a sensible shirt. Hardly the man showcased here.

The awkwardness in the room was palpable. People were left holding their DLR solo LPs, but also not tying to make it seem like DLR was the only reason they came out. Brenna didn't need to have her feelings hurt more than we can assume they already are. <-- Actually, apparently she does, see Lucy's comment about this.

Poor Jon

At some point I realized that I was disappointed about something that really didn't matter that much to me. I mean, I was looking forward to it just to have something to look forward to. I had told my friends from out of town that I was going to see David Lee Roth at a video store. It would have been cool if David Lee Roth was there spitting tequila on people and jumping off of stuff, but in all honesty, if he had been anything else but completely ridiculous, it might have just been kind of a bummer. It was more the act of getting excited that took the place of actual excitement. I guess that's the meta world that we live in. Getting excited about getting excited, being disappointed only because you were so excited about that excitement. Know what I mean?

I have really got to go. My free food radar is going bonkers!

Very Low Acronym Standards

I mean, come on. Just don't do an acronym if it's going to be like this. I mean, come on. This is really a stretch.


Highly Recommended: The Peanut Butter Solution

First, the trailer:

Interested? Of course you are.

Then watch THE WHOLE THING here:

Your mind will surely be blown!


Musical Guilty Pleasure Confession 1

I'm just going to go ahead and say it.

Last week I was up in Chicago recording Raccoo-oo-oon at Nathan Cook's new studio (the studio doesn't have a name yet, and just when he thought he had decided upon the name "Strange Wool" he Googled it and promptly decided against it). On the way to and from Chicago, I had a pile of CD's that I had found in a box that I had left in James Mann's garage for a year (approximately one year longer than I told him the boxes would be there). I was glad to see some of them, but I was not glad to see most of them. You see, I used to do CD reviews for this online zine called Action Attack Helicopter, and they gave me a lot of CD's and I was kind of a mean reviewer. I liked being the mean reviewer, and it wasn't like I tried to be mean on purpose, it was just that we for the most part got a lot of crappy CD's to review. Sometimes they were good, (that Figurine CD for example) but for the most part it was either really bad or just unexceptional to the point of me just kind of wondering why people would put so much effort into making that kind of music. Point being, I have piles of CD's that I should probably just get rid of because I never listen to them.

All of this negativity is going to really surprise you when you read what I am about to write. So, in this pile of CD's there were a few that I was really glad to see, they were CD's that I had purchased at one point or another, and I got giddy when I saw that they still existed. The wheat among the chaff? Mostly stand up comedy CDs, by Woody Allen (classic!), Bill Cosby (classy!), and David Cross (obvious). There were some music CDs in there as well though, and what I found was pretty sweet. You see, there was a period in my life when I bought every Tori Amos album that came out. This was not a very long period, but it was long enough to establish a pretty serious guilty pleasure. What I had in my hands as I embarked for Chicago were Tori's second and third albums, Under the Pink and Boys for Pele. What a ride it was.

Let me explain.

Back when I was high school, I saw her video Silent All These Years on MTV. The chorus featured the 6th to flat7th chord progression, so I was kind of impressed right there. This this cool guy in my study hall, Matt McConnell sometimes wore on of her shirts, so I thought there might be something there. My aunt had her CD Little Earthquakes, so I borrowed it, and thought it was pretty good. My impression (and this law has proven to true throughout the ages) was that one third of her songs are incredibly good, and then the rest of the stuff is either kind of weird, trying to be a radio hit ("Cornflake Girl" anyone?), or just annoying. But in baseball as well as music, .333 is a pretty good batting average, when you consider what you get.

Other people who are not fans of her music have said this, and I would have to agree, but the number one thing that keeps people from liking her music is not her music, but her legion of annoying fans. Generally, I would tend to agree, there's a certain j'ne se quois about the die-hard Tori fan that rubs me the wrong way, but there are plenty of other artists with horrible fans who I am somehow willing to look past. Wilco, for example. Or The Locust.

So as I was driving, I put in these two magical CD's (you do know that she claims that her songs come to her in the form of fairies, right?). What happened next is that I would listen to the first few seconds of each song, and I could pretty much instantly remember if I liked the song or not. When it was one that I remembered liking, it was like a stampede of wild memory horses. Pretty cool.

So, here it is, my play-by-play list of songs from Under the Pink and Boys for Pele that I think are great.

Under the Pink:
Pretty Good Year <-- Good, emo.
Baker Baker <-- I really "feel" this one.
Cloud On My Tongue <-- "Leave me with your Borneo" What? Exactly!
Space Dog <-- Weird, interesting.
Yes, Anastasia <-- Epic! It should actually count as two songs.

That's 5 out of 12. Slightly better than one third, actually (although Baker Baker almost didn't make the cut [too many bad rhymes]).

What we see here is Tori Amos setting the stage for coming out as being totally crazy. There are traces of it in Little Earthquakes, a few hints here and there in Under the Pink. What comes next with Boys for Pele is a tour-de-force of a "I can do whatever I want because my legions of fans will eat it up and because my songs come to me in the form of faeries" kind of album. The picture of Tori breast feeding the piglet on the inside of the CD should be as good a hint as any. And again, one third of the time, it really works:

Father Lucifer <-- Brilliant! Wow! Scarier than Marilyn Manson could ever try to be.
Marianne <-- Very pretty! "Tuna robber, little blubber in my igloo yeah" What? Exactly!
Hey Jupiter <--Actually, now I'm not so sure. Oh well. Too late.
Way Down <-- Sure it's only like a minute long, but it is very good minute.
Agent Orange <--Same as above!
Putting the Damage On <-- I am a sucker for some good horn arrangements.

That's 5 out of 18. Kind of close to 33%. I don't know if it's nostalgia or what, but I just could not stop listening to the aforementioned songs in the car. There you have it. Rediscovering these albums has kind of left me with a dilemma: Should I follow up on her catalog after this point? If it's bad, I don't want to ruin what I consider to be a good impression. Sort of like how I wish that I had never listened to Metallica after their fourth album. I wish someone had took me aside and said "This is where it ends for you. Cherish what you have, and do not let that ass-clown Bob Rock destroy your image of the perfect heavy metal band." That, of course, did not happen, but I would like it if there is somebody out there who can point me in the right direction to (based on my assessment of albums 2 and 3) tell me if it would be a good idea for me to listen to her stuff after this. I just don't want to get hurt again, the way I did when I heard the Metallica black album. Somebody please set me straight.

The Top 1/3rd. Listen for yourself. Then feel free to leave a comment on how incredibly wrong I am.

More musical confessions to come. This is fun.