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.

Chinese Nerd Power

The most amazing thing happens at 3:36.

He makes the robots, and then he names them after himself! This one's called Mr. Woo number 5! Seriously though, these robots are pretty amazing considering they are made of trash. If my future children ever ask for Lego Mindstorms for Christmas, I am going to just show them this video and then give them a pile of broken hairdryers. Someday they will thank me.

The World is Made For Me

Mike Watt has a podcast called The Watt from Pedro Show. For the latest hefty installment, Mike Watt and Jim O'Rourke discuss Japanese grammar, play some songs, talk about film, and share embarrassing childhood music stories. 96k mp3.

What can I say, Jim O'Rourke is ridiculously interesting. I have always been a huge fan, ever since I heard Gastr Del Sol, then Bad Timing, then Eureka, then a thousand of his improv records, then the million records he produced for Stereolab, Smog, US Maple, and many other cool bands (although it was interesting to find out that the reason he worked on so many of those early Drag City-related Chicago releases was because he worked FOR FREE). Listening to him talk, it is really wonderful because he is just so unabashedly uncool. He "shoots the moon" with uncoolness so much that he is actually really cool. Despite what I consider to be astounding life accomplishments, he just sounds so humble and unconcerned with being cool. Although it seems like a huge loss that HE ISN'T EVEN DOING MUSIC ANYMORE, I think it is really commendable that he is dropping everything because he always wanted to learn Japanese and because he wants to start doing film.

The timing of this coming out is really interesting to me because when we were in Texas, Andrew pulled out the Bad Timing LP from my brother's record collection and asked us "what is this?" so we put it on and Andrew ended up really liking it and I too remembered how much I liked that album and how I listened to it and nothing else over and over again on a trip to Lawrence Kansas once. Andrew asked what Jim O'Rourke was doing right now, and I said that I had heard he was living in Japan and concetrating on doing film, but I didn't really know for sure. Then this wonderful gift of a podcast falls into my path.

Here's what I think is happening: Having listened to The Secret audio book on the way home from Texas, the "Law of Attraction" has really been kicking in. I have been wanting delicious talk radio type stuff to listen to, in addition to thinking about Jim O'Rourke. And then it happens! Ask and ye shall receive! Coincidence? Yeah, probably. But hey. We listened to The Secret for probably four hours, and it ended up being a little too much for our puny minds to take. Apparently Oprah plugged this book/movie/whatever, but I would be interested in knowing why. It was mostly interesting, and occasionally new age to the point of being hilarious.

But back to this podcast. It is great. It gives you plenty of content, this one clocking in at around three hours. I felt like this one was made just for me, because it is all so tasty and interesting. Great job. I am done being a fanboy for one day.

What Next?

Just saw a video for a cover of the Smiths song Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before on Mexican MTV. By some clown named Mark Ronson. Probably one of the most horrible things I have ever heard/seen. I'm not sure which is more disturbing, this video or that scene in City of God when the little kid gets shot in the foot. Soooooo bad.

See for yourself. I can't stand to embed this.

Parabéns pra Você

First off, excuse my weird punctuation and typing. I am on a computer in Mexico City and some of the keys are not where they should be. For example, to make the @ sign, I have to hit Alt + 6 + 4. It is wild. This should also explains the lack of contractions.

Today is my wonderful sister Liz's birthday. My sister thinks that I don't ever mention her to my friends.. The reason behind this is because once Liz met my roommate Hector and when Hector said he was from Bloomington, they made the connection that he was my roommate and she was my sister. Then Hector said something like, "Gee, that's weird, I don't think Mike ever mentioned that he had a sister. I mean, I knew he had a brother, but I had no idea that he had a sister." That's classic Hector tact for you. Thanks man. In my defense, I will say that the only reason Hector knew I had a brother was because he came with his wife to visit Bloomington and they stayed at the house. But, anyway, Liz thinks that I keep her a secret or something, but I am out to prove that theory false. Besides, if Liz were as vocal about her opinions of Frank Zappa as my brother Greg is, her notoriety might be a little bit better established among the people I know. That is a joke. About three people will get it.

Liz has a MySpace account, but her name is Super Trading Post. I am told by Megan D. that Super Trading post is some kind of radio thing that they do on a radio station up in the Lafayette area where you say for example that you have a bunch of bails of hay that you need to get rid of, and that you are open to trades for said bail of hay and then you leave your contact info. Sort of like a radio-based Craigslist for people in the Tippecanoe County area. The reason Liz uses a fake name on her MySpace account is because she is a high school teacher, and she said that she doesn't want any of her students finding out anything personal about her on the internet. Fair enough. If I were in high school these days, I can say with a fair degree of certainy that I would be clowning my English teacher's profile if I knew one existed.

So I thought celebrate Liz's birthday with an embarrassing story about her, but nothing really comes to mind at the moment. I will say this, while it's on my mind: When Liz was a member of that Columbia House 12 tapes for one penny deal, she got some really influential tapes that I ended up being really into and sometimes kind of  appropriating. For example, the Pump up the Volume soundtrack. This tape is like the monolith that brought me out of being a heavy metal guitar shredder and into being a fan of alternative indie rock music, whatever you want to call it. Another crucial musical Rosetta Stone for me, it introduced me to Sonic Youth, Soundgarden (back when they were like REALLY GOOD, seriously, don't even think about "Black Hole Sun," as far as I am concerned, a completely different band made that song), a Bad Brains + Henry Rollins collaboration covering "Kick Out the Jams" by the MC5 (how historically loaded is that?), The Pixies, Cowboy Junkies, Leonard Cohen, and that weird song by Peter Murphy. This tape was pretty mega for a young 14-year-old metalhead like me. In some ways, I am pretty sure that I can directly attribute this tape to getting my first girlfriend. I will explain that on another day. Today it's about Lizardo.

I mentioned that Liz is a high school teacher, but what I didn't mention is that she teaches at the high school that all of the Dixon kids went to. She hangs out with teachers we once had. She is on a first name basis with some of the most intimidating and ridiculous teachers of our high school careers. I think that is so cool.

Liz has done well for herself. She has a master's degree and a very good job and owns a nice house on a very crucial corner in Lafayette, Indiana. She oversees the very sweet school newspaper, helps musical bad boy Jeffrey Sterns put on the high school musical (well before it was cool, you know after Disney legitimized the genre of high school musicals with their smash hit High School Musical, perhaps you have seen it) and is involved in a million other things that she probably doesn't even tell me about because being busy doing good is just normal everyday life for her. She plays a mean cello (teaches lessons too) and can play pretty much any song from the LDS Hymnal on piano.

Oh yeah, and I have heard that she started a blog, although I haven't seen any entries there yet. Once she gets started, I am sure that it will be impecably literate and funny.

OK, here's a cool story about Liz. One summer we were living in the basement at Grandma and Grandpa Hart's house and Cousin Sarah and Liz went to see Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure at the dollar theater around the time when that movie first came out. Something about this movie really jived with them, because they ended really getting into a groove, and they went to see Bill and Ted like five more times in the period of about a week, if I remember correctly. Liz and Sarah could quote that movie like no others. They probably still can. Liz and Sarah remain like BFF to this very day, and I am pretty sure that their mutual affinity for Bill S. Preston and Ted Theodore Logan Esq. has a lot to do with that.

Back when Liz and I were in orchestra together in high school, we had this kind of nemesis family that was also in the orchestra, and each of their children were of the same age and same sex, corresponding all the way down to Greg. They were the notorious Rao family. Liz's counterpart was Malini, mine was Karthik, and Greg's was Sid. It was quite the feud, if you could call it that. They were all very talented violinists, so they held their own, but I always thought it was so funny that their kids and ours lined up so perfectly in terms of gender and age, but yet clashed so seriously when it came to ideology (if you could even call what high school kids have ideology). Sometimes having a feud can be a lot of fun. I can finally say "peace" to the Rao family. I'm sure they are all rich doctors or something now. I'll google that and get back to you. They have incredibly Googlable names, that is for sure.

Wow, that paragraph really had no point. I just got a kick out of mentioning the Rao family.

Anyway, it's been good having Liz as a sister, because it seems like the older we get, the more that we actually seem to "get" each other, and that is great. We share a lot of the same friends and get kicks out of a lot of the same things. I'm blessed that she is my sister and I hope you have a great and special day, hermana! 

One Thirsty Cat

Thirsty Cat

I Kind of Feel Sorry for Nickels - Monetary Heavy Metal

I kind of feel sorry for nickels. They are kind of husky and not worth very much for being so thick. The dime, on the other hand, is a sleek and efficient coin that packs a monetary punch despite its deceptively diminutive size. I forget which European country it is, but in one of them I recall that they didn't mess around with the Euro cents, and instead rounded everything up to the nearest 5th cent. I can see the value in this, although I realize that advocating a similar stance in the United States would make the nickel the new penny, and I'm not sure how I feel about that.

The American coin system is kind of weird in other ways as well. In addition to the disregard of the correspondence between coin size and value, we have weird names for them. The name "quarter" makes sense because it is a quarter of a dollar, but the dime, nickel, and penny are really just arbitrary nicknames for coins that don't exist in other nations or languages. Although a U.S. coin for 50 cents is most commonly called a 50 cent piece, it would sound totally weird if someone asked you if they could borrow a "ten cent piece" or a "one cent piece." Them's called dimes and pennies, weirdo. I recognized the peculiarity of this phenomenon once while teaching an English lesson in Japan. In Japan, for example, they're just called "ten yen coin" etc. and coins are widely used from values of less than a cent all the way up to 500 yen, or roughly five dollars. So anything from a penny to five dollars is coin territory. There are no bills for anything below the equivalent of ten dollars. A pocket full of change can easily be the equivalent of like fifteen dollars. This coin-centered monetary system could be part of the reason that Japan is notorious for its vending machines that sell everything from noodles to used panties. They don't have to mess around with picky bill acceptor things. I mean, let's face it, those things are a pain in the butt. You have to feed it a crispy bill or else stand there and fiddle with the corners of your bill until it meets the standards of the bill changer.

So what's up with America's reluctance to embrace the dollar coin or even the 50 cent piece? When I paid a toll with a five dollar bill the other day, I got both a Susan B. Anthony dollar coin as well as a Sacajawea dollar coin, and I must say I was rather amped. Despite the post office's best attempts to get these dollar coins out there in circulation, they don't really seem to be catching on with people. Will the whole coin thing be rendered irrelevant when debit cards take over the land? Things seem to be headed that way. People already use debit cards to pay for a pack of gum at the convenience store, and it seems like you can use cards to pay for more things all the time. I guess I'm not yet completely comfortable with money becoming just a number that the bank keeps track of somehow, and maybe that's why I like coins. Their tangibility, their stackability, and their visual appeal (caveman like shiny metal), it speaks to the pirate in me.

P.S. The 1986-1988 albums of Xuxa (like Raffi, but Brazilian, spaced-themed, and sluttier) are back in my life in a big way, thanks to brother Greg's wicked CD collection. I'm a Baixinho til death.

Caveman Movie Review: Dr. Bronner's Magic Soapbox

Hell yes!
This is a good one.
D o c u m e ntary about crazy soap genius,
Self-proclaimed rabbi, also Einstein's nephew.
Escaped a mental institution, invented magic soap.
Writes crazy philosophy stuff on soap bottle label,
For example,"Spaceship earth."
His son was in orphanages, foster homes,
But is somehow a huge fan.
Now he travels around giving away magic soap.
His son, he meets this hippie dude.
At first we laughed real hard at him.
Because he was such a tool.
But then hippie plays piano,
And we were like "whoa."
Seriously, whoa.
Is it perfect that we saw this movie on Haight?
A few blocks from Ashbury.
And afterwards went straight to the hippie convenience store,
And bought bottles of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap?
In my zeal, I tried to brush my teeth with it.
Bad idea.
It does not taste as good as it smells.
But seriously.
Best d o c u m e n tary I've seen this year.

PS, why is myspace filtering out the word "dockumentary" (only spelled correctly)?
Every time I tried to type it, it comes up as this "..ary."
Bogus. Bogus. Bogus.
Time to switch.

Caveman Movie Review: Loose Change

Narrator sounds like the "Boom Goes the Dynamite" guy
The Pentagon is actually made of sugar cubes
9-11 was a hoax
Facts dutifully checked via Wikipedia
Lots of internet screenshots
Lots of Google Maps zoom-ins
Some pretty cool computer models of airplanes
Confirmed my suspicions that Osama is actually just a pretty chill dude
Just look at a picture of him
He seems very relaxed
Conspiracies are funner to believe
One hour and twenty minutes of explosions

Dear Kobayashi-San

Dear Kobayashi-San
You were defeated by an American
On our equivalent of Cinco de Mayo
And vommed into your hands
And then tried to eat it
But whatever man
Your name is still synonymous with competitive eating
And although Kobayashi is the third most common last name in Japan
(It means "Little Forest")
Any person with the last name Kobayashi who visits America
Will have to explain that they aren't related to you, Takeru
And that they do in fact have a gag reflex
And that Joey Chestnut did not steal their family's honor
That alone is a HUGE accomplishment
Besides, you had arthritis of the jaw

Funnyman Cheek Strikes Again!

In response to my Flickr request for mega-LOL captions for this picture, the wonderful Jared Cheek has really struck gold:

Potential Internet Gold


Caveman Movie Review: Factory Girl

Rich girl moves to big city, wants to meet Andy Warhol.
She meets Andy Warhol, he things she's stunning.
They hang out, she gets famous.
They do fabulous stuff like all the time.
She meets Bob Dylan, they make out, he drives motorcycle into lake.
Things start to be not-so-fabulous with Andy – gay, but jealous.
Bob Dylan marries other girl, Andy rubs it in her face.
Bob Dylan looks like Dylan from 90210 - Coincidence?
Nico is cooler now.
Girl loses all her money, is addicted to drugs, isn't so pretty anymore.
She ODs, Andy is like "whatever."
I kinda wanted to punch him.
But his mom seemed really cool.
Jimmy Fallon is in this.

If It's Really You, Then Answer This Question:

Sometimes when I'm on instant messenger I pretend to not believe that people are who they say they are. I'll say, "No, I don't think it's you. Some Russian has phished into your account and is pretending to be you so that they can find out my important secrets." It's a likely scenario, as I am privy to a lot of valuable secret information. Anyway, it's kind of fun to play this game, because you get to ask the person a question that only you and the other real person would know the answer to, and in doing so you realize that you have shared some unique experiences with that person, something that nobody else in the world is in on. Think of all the people you know, and think of a question that you might ask someone posing as them (either online or better yet, in some sci-fi scenario in which there is a possibility that a perpetrator is wearing some kind of suit that looks and sounds just like your friend) to make sure that they are who they really are. Did you think of it? Isn't that cool? Doesn't your world seem important?

Is this really me posting this blog, or someone who has hacked into Mike's account? If you want, ask me a question that only I would know.

Spirit Friend Kai


*According to the Reiyukai websites in English, they say it means "Spiritual-Friendship-Association." Not quite the meaning I had mind based on those three characters, but I guess they are more entitled to cull meaning from it than I am. Also, there doesn't seem to be any talk of communication with "spirit friends" on these websites, although the woman who I met who used to practice this religion seemed to make it seem like that was something that most people experienced. Maybe they are just getting with the times, trying to be less into ghosts and stuff. Booooring.

Also, to clarify the meaning of the last sentence, the rapper Mos Def is not my spirit friend. Not that he doesn't have a good spirit, but I don't think he's dead yet. Not that you have to be physically dead to be a spirit friend, (at least by my definition) but I just don't know the dude on either level. Yet. The youth of America have told me that "mos def" can also be used as a short way of saying "most definitely."

OMG! That Is Like Sooooo Easy!

so eeasy!

Like, doi... I am so getting a free iPhone.

Dont' they know I was there to see 8-Mile on like opening night?

eminem alf

A Good Board Game Is Like a Classical Gas

board games005

Oops. I spelled "social" wrong.

Produce: Are You Responsible Enough?

Buying produce is a committment. Are you adult enough to make sure that if you buy a cucumber you will actually eat it before it goes bad? Sometimes produce can really be a huge commitment. Especially parsley and cilantro. You know I love parsley. Parsley costs like 50 cents for a bunch that is more than I would ever know what to do with. I am constantly throwing the stuff away, I just cannot eat it fast enough, and I consider myself to be a real parsley fan. Maybe I need some parsley-eating roommates.

Same thing with Spinach.

Do you ever wonder if people realize what it is they are doing, if at some point in their lives it occurs to them that "I have become that guy?" For example, do bag ladies realize they are bag ladies only shortly after stealing a shopping cart because they just have too many bags to carry by hand? And then you just kind of accept it? You say to yourself, "I always sort of wondered how people become bag ladies. Now I get it!" Men across America are saying to themselves "I always wondered how middle-aged men become such boring a-holes, but like, now I get it." "I always wondered why someone would need a restraining order, but now I get it." "I always wondered why people live in gated communities, but now I get it." You get it.

You Play The Drums And I Will Play The Trumpet


Sorry for the s-word, but nothing else really seemed right there.

Speaking of songs from your world, when I was in Brooklyn a few weeks ago I was hanging out with old friend Rob Smith and he played me these songs that we recorded together at our house with J-Bo on bass back on '01. For some reason, I never retained a copy of this stuff (I think I didn't think it was that good at the time), so when I heard it again after all those years, it was a complete surprise to me. Apparently back then we had the time and resources to record almost whole albums that we would never play for anybody else. I hear it now and am reminded of good times hanging out with supportive friends. I remember graduating from college and having a big world ahead of me, thinking that what was going on where we were on the planet was pretty alright. Even if it's not great, it would be ours, and it could be theirs. And chances are it won't be completely terrible, right?

Early Father's Day Ideas:

My dad has always been very involved in my life. A noble man of integrity. A caring and compassionate person, full of interests, always trying to find something new in life, always refining and adding to his many talents.

But that isn't really the point of this story. I just remembered this today, completely unrelated to remembering that Father's Day is coming up.

Once, when I was about nine years old, I went to the pool with my family. My dad went to the dressing room with us, we put on our suits, showered, (state law requires this, you know), and frolicked in the pool with my mom, my brother and my sister. The whole family. While we were there we ran into Devon Vincent, who was somehow related to our neighbor, Mrs. Vincent. Devon was a kid from school, a year younger than I was. He started hanging out with us, and when we left the pool he left the pool with us. So we were taking off our swimsuits, changing our clothes, and Devon starts looking at this older man who was naked in the showers of the changing room. Devon then motions to us. He had discovered something that he wanted to share with the rest of the world.

He yelled to us "Hey, look at that guy's penis." I looked. He did have a very prominent penis. Devon yelled to other people. "Hey, look at that guy's penis!" The guy didn't seem to be noticing, he was just taking a shower, with his penis facing so Devon could see it. My dad kindly told Devon that he shouldn't bring attention to the man's penis. Devon stopped talking about it, but did not stop looking. To Devon, this penis was mythical, like it was a dragon, a unicorn, or a mermaid.

When we got outside, my mom and sister were waiting for us. I said "Tell her what Devon did" and dad didn't say anything, or if he did, he might have said "Oh, geez" or something. Then my mom asked what Devon did. Dad finally said something very proper, like "Well, there was a man taking a shower who who had a pretty large penis, and Devon kept telling people to look at it." To me, my dad never seemed to be phased by talking about embarrassing things. He is a strong and honest man.

My father and I were home teaching companions for a very long time. We always went, and I always enjoyed riding in the car with him to visit our families. We would listen to NPR, classical music, talk radio. We visited Mary Bird in the nursing home, the Harrington family on Sylvia street, and the Louks', who lived out in the country. I have already written about when their daughter Becky ran away from home and how worried they were, and how we held a fast in hopes that she would come home. There were a lot of times when I saw my dad in action, really living his religion, really giving his life for others, making sacrifices, doing things that maybe might not have been exactly what he wanted to do all the time. He was an example of a faithful man, a man of God.

All the time I see myself becoming more and more like my father in unexpected ways. I think every young man realizes this at some point. It's not a new thing, people have been telling me this for a long time. When my aunt saw me playing guitar while laying on my back, she said that I looked just like my dad, that not many people had the ability to play the guitar well while laying flat on their backs. Sometimes I get frustrated, and find myself reacting how my dad would, saying "Oh geez" or "what a mess." I find myself breathing heavily and deeply in certain situations, or making long, cliff-hanger pauses in my speech while I am trying in my mind to find the most eloquent way to explain something.

When I was a teenager my dad started making violin bows. When I was a freshman in college, my dad was on sabbatical from being a professor at the same university, and he was always home. He seemed to spend a lot of time making a guitar, although he was supposed to be doing research, writing, or something professorly. The fact that he was always home made it difficult to skip class. Not that I really wanted to skip class, but the fact that he would know if I was still home made it all the more encouraging to not skip class. It was good to know he was there. It was good to see that he was having fun, that he was doing what he wanted to do, and that he was developing new talents, trying new things.

I'll probably never completely understand how much of an influence he has had on me. But it's safe to say that I feel very lucky to have such a wonderful father to serve as an example and to help me through the peaks and valleys of life.

RIP, Mr. Wizard

Yesterday Don Herbert, AKA Mr. Wizard died. I remember watching his show on Nickelodeon all the time. He would do all kinds of science experiments with kids, and I was always so jealous of the kids on that show. Once he made fireworks out of these chemicals, and he said that if you wanted to do this at home, you could get these chemicals at any chemical supply store, and so my mom tried to get the stuff so that we could do this experiment at home, and the people at the chemical supply store didn't have it, and our Purdue chemist friend Phil Low said that he couldn't give us this one chemical because it was a very dangerous carcinogen. But most of the tricks he did were things that you could try yourself using stuff you could find around the house or in your world. I remember how terrifying it was to see the life that was teeming in a drip of pond water when viewed from a microscope. Strange monstrous animals running into each other in an aquatic traffic jam. It rocked. Once he went to the top of a parking garage and had this really long drinking straw that extended down to a bottle of juice on the ground. He challenged a young volunteer to suck the juice up to the top of the parking garage. The kid could not do it. The weight of the juice itself kept building up in the straw, and the kid's sucking power was no match for the science working against him. It was awesome. No juice for that kid. Or what about the close-ups? I looked like a festering scab close up, but actually it was a strawberry. It looked like the claws of an evil robot, but actually it was the hook side of velcro. I still love close-ups. I could do close-ups all the live-long day.

Mr. Wizard. Don Herbert. He made a pen turn flimsy. He shattered a cold cold piece of rubber. He showed us that sound had a speed. He challenged kids to fold a piece of paper more than 8 times. Then he challenged them to cut a piece of paper so they could jump through it. He lit stuff on fire. He did science in his oven. He, like fellow Nickelodeon celeb Marc Summers, made sure kids wore safety glasses even for the most tame stuff. Don Herbert, rest in peace, knowing that "Many people have credited Mr. Wizard with their career choices in science or computers." The world is full of wonder. Science is everywhere. Kids are the future. He had the coolest job in the world. He had a very kind voice.

I thought that he seemed like a really nice man, a guy who would just invite neighborhood kids over to check out these science experiments he was doing. The format of the show made it seem like that. Once when he was blowing something up, this girl said "Wicked!" and it was the first time I had heard someone use that word like that. I thought it was sooooo funny.

But here is my real question:
What about that one kid though? The kid who talked like his teeth were glued together or something. What was that kid's deal?

Tay Zonday - Chocolate Rain

Every once in a while there is a song that will get into my head and it seeps into my consciousness at the most fundamental cognitive level possible, leaving me helplessly trying to exorcise it from my brain by singing it as much as possible. Well, it has happened again, and this time it is the song "Chocolate Rain" by Tay Zonday. I first heard of this because Moses, one of the guys I am touring with (the other day this girl was like, "look dude, why don't you go back to building your ark or whatever" and it was totally precious), he claims that he went to high school with Tay Zonday (although he says that Tay Zonday is actually not his real name. Catchy stage name? Hmm....). Check it, only if are ok with singing "chocolate raaaaain" every few minutes for the next couple of days:

You see what I mean? Wow. In case you didn't get it, he moves away from the microphone when he breathes. People have described him as a William Hung but with talent. He is shameless in the same way, but he can actually sing (and tickle the ivories too, snap!).

Today we are in Cambridge, MA. It turns out Noam Chomsky does not have office hours today. It's a bummer because we had some homework questions for him. It might have looked something like this. I don't know what it is, but there's something about hanging out with probably the smartest dude on the planet that would make me act like a 6-year-old trying to get attention when his parents have had guests over for dinner.

Next it's off to the big city for big adventures and big fashion. Williamsburg, here we come. Have your hipster hats ready. My khakis are coming to get you.

Musical Rosetta Stone: Heavy Vegetable’s “Radio”

In West Lafayette, IN there is a pretty cool record store called Von's. It's kind of a miracle that it's there. It is actually probably a little bit too cool for Lafayette, I wonder why it's there. Anyway, my brother and I would go there and buy CDs and records (Greg would actually later go on to work there, only to get dismissed for "being bad at math," but that is a sore subject so I won't go on about that). One day we were in there and there was a 7" by a band called Heavy Vegetable. Even at that time I think we both realized that a band name like that sounds like the name of a band that kids on a sitcom would make up, like what parents think that bands should be called, or what Kevin Arnold's band was called on The Wonder Years.* Despite the apparent minus point of their name, it seemed like a cool record because it was a picture disc, and on one side there was a picture of someone sticking their foot out the window of a car. We noticed that it was put out by Headhunter records, the label that put out albums by Creedle, a band from San Diego that we really liked. So one of us bought the 7" and we went home and listened to it. It contained the contagious song "Head Rush" on one side and some acoustic songs on the other. Being officially hooked, we then went and tried to find other music by Heavy Vegetable. We found the CD called Frisbee that had a dog catching a Frisbee on the cover. It was a really great CD, and not just because the songs were good. What was really genius about this album was that there was a song on the album called "Radio" and in the song the words talked about how they never listen to the radio because they don't play bands that they like. This song turned out to be a musical Rosetta Stone for my brother and I. Here we were, a couple of dudes living in the Midwest, looking for the next cool thing, and then this band gives us a really great song that basically maps out the best of music not played on the radio. It was as if an angel ascended from and heaven and hooked Bill and Ted up with some most bodacious tunes. Some of the artists we had heard of, but those that we hadn't heard of yet we sought out like gold prospectors who were looking for golden gold during the gold craze of the gold rush. Even ten years later, the bands included in this song have stood the test of time and are some of my favorites. We had just experienced a meta-song, a song about other songs. Bill and Ted were hooked up with a bunch of new stuff to check out.

But this wasn't the end of our musical recommendations from Heavy Vegetable.

You see, on one of their CDs, they listed their drummer's phone number. My brother has never really been afraid to talk to people who he has perceived as being "famous." So one night when I was gone Greg called up Manolo Turner of Heavy Vegetable and from the way he described it, had a very long, involved, and pleasant conversation. Invariably, Greg asked Manolo if there were any other suggestions that he might have for cool new music to listen to. Manolo said that on their last tour there was a tape that ruled their stereo, and that it was the new album by a band called Built to Spill. What kind of tape could possibly rule the stereo on a Heavy Vegetable tour? Did this mean that they didn't just sit around and listen to how awesome their own band is? What kind of album could this be? Well, we immediately went out and bought this album, which was curiously titled There's Nothing Wrong With Love. If you have heard this album, then you know that it is pure magic. We listened to it all summer and Greg even made up an additional vocal harmony to go with that part "I wanna see movies of my dreams" (you gotta hear it). It was truly a great album to listen to at the time. Still is. It was also around this time that we started hanging out with Mike Anderson, and we were surprised that he had already heard of Built to Spill and liked them a lot. Coincidentally, Mike Anderson would make us a mix tape that had the song "His Indie World" by Mary Lou Lord, a song that followed a similar band name-dropping format in which the character in the song bemoans her boyfriend's obsession with indie rock bands. She must have mentioned like one hundred bands, leaving the song as a sort of who's who of the indie world in 1996.

So back to Heavy Vegetable. Where are they now? An unstoppable talent, the singer for Heavy Vegetable,
Rob Crow
has gone on to play a major part in various musical projects including indie darlings Pinback and meta-metal maestros Goblin Cock. No word on Manolo Turner, I could try his number and see if he answers.


I never listen to the radio,
But if they want to play our stuff
that's o.k. with me.
and if they want to play my stuff
that's o.k. with me.
They don't play Slint on the radio
They don't play Sentridoh
They don't play Zappa
They don't play Beefheart
They don't play Can
They don't play The Residents
They don't even play
Renaldo and the Loaf
Velvet Underground
Bongo's Bass and Bob,
Wesley Willis, Stuccato Reeds,
The Shags
Sometimes they will play Devo. (Devo)

"Indie World"

I don't think I fit into his Indie world
Guided By Voices and Velocity Girl
Eric's Trip and Rocket Ship, Rancid and Rocket from The Crypt
Bikini Kill and Built to Spill, it's plain to see that I don't fit
He says my songs are too deep and gloomy
He wishes that I could be more like Jenny Toomey
Just give me my Joni my Nick Neil and Bob
You can keep your Tsunami, your Slant 6 and Smog

What's the story he says Butterglory
I say what's the news he says the Silver Jews
His heavenly hang-up is getting me down
And it's making me wonder why he's hanging around

Cause I don't fit into his Indie scene
Huggy Bear and Helium and Half-Japanese
Sebadoh and Sentridoh and Superchunk and I don't know
Doug and Lou and Calvin too and Kim and Kim and Kim and Kim
Yeah I'm stuck in the past and he's stuck on his four-track
But I can't get through to his one-track mind
I push play and record and a major chord
Maybe I'll win his heart this time
Maybe I'll win his heart this time

* My parents always thought I should be in a band called Crude Fiber. That name was just sooooooo clever to them.

** $4 to the person who can tell me who each of the four Kim's in "His Indie World" are. No cheating.