Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Squeeky Holidays

From here.
Thanks to Torlando H. and David S. for the paperwork!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Joy of Ex(cel)*

Here comes a real nerd confession.

I hate to say it, but sometimes it feels really good to get a nice spreadsheet going. I've somehow become "the guy who knows a lot about Excel" among the Japanese 201 T.A.s, and honestly, I must say, it feels pretty good to known as a person with these skills.

We do some pretty cool stuff with our spreadsheet, not just tracking grades, but having it calculate percentages, and percentages of percentages of their total grades, having the spreadsheet automatically drop their lowest two scores, fun stuff like that. I like copying formulas. I like using "Paste Special." I like formatting the number of decimal places that are to be displayed. It's just fun. But I didn't always feel this way. Oh no.

I used to HATE Excel. Back when I worked at HappiCo, (now-defunct Indiana-based Japanese automotive parts supplier that had a horrible, ironic name) the Japanese guys I worked with loved Excel. They would brag about how they were black belts in Excel. They actually had cards they carried around showing that they had passed this certain level of Excel certification. I thought this was weird, and this is probably what initially made me weary of spreadsheets. I was all like "It's just a bunch of numbers, who cares?"

The thing is, for them, spreadsheets were for so much more than just numbers. Spreadsheets were a way of life. The Japanese guys at HappiCo would use Excel for things that had nothing to do with numbers. They would use it to make flowcharts, to make signs telling people not to do stuff, for birthday cards for their daughters, whatever. As a creative type, this annoyed/amused me to no end. In my mind I tried to develop theories as to how this related to Japanese culture.

"They like things that can fit into compartments." "They like the columns and rows because it reminds them of the small apartments they live in." "The compartments are regular, like the syllables** in their language." "They like rules that don't have exceptions, just like their language." "All of the cells react to each other in harmony, it fits in well with their notion of wa (和)."

Anyway, I carried this distant philosophical curiosity/actual disdain for spreadsheets with me up until I started teaching Japanese here at IU. A few years earlier, I had a few positive run-ins with numbers, such as using numbers to learn about acoustics in audio recording, using numbers in Max/MSP, using numbers to count how many bananas I had, etc. It was learning Max/MSP in particular that really turned me on to the power of number manipulation, there was something about it that jived with the way that I think. So when it came time to work with the spreadsheets, I decided to think of it as being like Max/MSP, and it kind of made it fun. Instead of patch cord lines, you would just refer to a cell's number to link it up. Instead of objects, you just write some formula that tells it what to do. Suddenly, I was starting to feel the magic of spreadsheets.

You know how when you learned math in high school and they told you that the parenthesis mean "do me first." And then everyone laughed because the teacher just said "do me." Well, it turns out that parenthesis stuff is actually important. You say "I'll never have to use this stuff in real life" but then it turns out that you do! It's totally classic.

So now I am left loving spreadsheets, partly because people tell me I'm good at them, and partly because I actually feel like I am good at them. They are quite handy. But does this mean that I have become one of them? Am I a total square? Luckily the answer to these questions has been manifest in several internet-famous forms in the last couple of months. Spreadsheets have been experiencing a real renaissance of cool (or is it just a naissance?). There's art made with Excel, an AC/DC video done in Excel, a Thanksgiving calculator spreadsheet, or you can even do cellular automata on a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet is really getting the rock star treatment. It's ok.

* And I use the word Excel to mean all spreadsheets, the same way that Kleenex refers to all facial tissue or ProTools is used to refer to all recording software.

** I know, I know, they're not syllables, they're mora.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Homecomings LP is Done Done Done


At long last, the covers for my LP platter are done. If you don't know, this is my solo jam, and it really jams. It's called Homecomings, both the project name and the record name. I'm proud of how this record looks and sounds. If you saw me play in Germany over the summer, then you may have purchased one that had a hand-drawn cover, in which case you win. The remaining 70 or so are screened in patriotic red, white, and blue. Thanks to Luke for doing those. (But not too much thanks, yet. Please do finish the rest, dude.) A lot of the records are already spoken for, but if you'd like to purchase one, you probably can. I'll probably put a few out at TD's and Landlocked if they are still letting people do that.

Sing Homecomings. This is the website.

Now let's suppose you don't have a record player. Or you want it on the portable mp3 format. You can download it here.

Here are a few sneakz:

"Towers and Trash"

"There's Still Steam"

"Oh, And I Thought I Was a Warrior But Without You I Feel So Defeated"

"White Lines"


Also, thanks to Brigid Hallahan née Hendricks for the shirt I am wearing in the picture above. It's still a fave.

Did I use née correctly? I'm kind of nervous, it's my first time.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Winter Warmth House Shows

Played a show last night, here's 30 seconds of it, taken from this guy's camera phone. If you like seeing things in the normal way, tilt your head to the right. If not, watch as is.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Come Back! We Can't Let This Vending Machine Defeat You

Down in the vending lounge of Ballantine Hall, I'm waiting behind this fellow who is buying something from the candy machine. I am here to spend one of my last two dollars from my $21 allotment I have allowed myself for attempting the Food Stamp Challenge this week. I forgot to bring my candy that I bought from the grocery store, so I figured what the heck, I still have two dollars, why not spend 80 cents of this fortune on a candy bar.

So the man in front of me makes his selection and then makes a frustrated moan, because an unfortunate-but-not-completely-unavoidable scenario in the vending machine world has just taken place. Yep.

The coil didn't spin enough to make his Skittles drop down.

But here's what is totally weird - the guy just gives up. He starts to walk away, with his Skittles just hanging there on the coil. It looks pretty shakable to me. I've certainly shaken my share of vending machines (but more about that later*).

This guy appears to be a grad student (I'm guessing the English dept.) in his late-to-mid-30's or so. Not your typical Skittles buyer.

He seems to have ceded defeat. The man has given up. He throws his arms up in disgust, and is about to walk away.

Now, I don't feel like a man's man very often. I rarely feel like a proactive dude's dude, but the way this guy was giving up was just really not okay to me. Unacceptable. This was a perfectly good pack of Skittles. I had to step in. You can't just leave those Skittles there. Someone could just come and take them!

"Hey, wait, I think we can get those Skittles" I said to the man as he tried to escape the scene.

I put my hands on the machine. I sized up the beast, assessing the vending machine's height, width, and girth. This was very doable. I shook it. The bag of Skittles were already pretty much hanging by a thread. I shook like a violent soccer hooligan. And down they came. Victory.

The man reached in, grabbed his Skittles, and then just kind of walked away. He didn't say thank you, and it turns out he really didn't have to. I didn't have too much time to think it was weird of him, because this time feeling like a total warrior was its own reward.

For those of you who know my history well, you probably saw this footnote coming from a mile away:
*The act of shaking a vending machine to get a lodged item loose is something that occupies considerable cognitive real estate in my mind, because my high school friend Fumiko Chino was trapped under a vending machine before school one day. She was trying to help someone get their candy out, and she shook the machine too hard, it fell on her, she was not seriously injured. Naturally, stories like this are the things that American high school** gossip gold are made of, and this incident was propagated to mythical proportions within about an hour of its taking place. If my highly selective memory serves me, the machine tipped over onto her, and Amber VonErdmannsdorf (sp?) ran to Mr. Meister's room, and Mr. Meister came back and lifted the machine off of her. The next day there were large brackets affixed to the vending machine that held it to the wall behind it. It was now unshakable. If your candy didn't spin out, you were screwed.

Surprisingly enough, Fumiko's incident has not deterred me from fighting for my vending machine purchases. It actually made me more interested in shaking vending machines. Odd, I know. Maybe it's because it's the closest I ever actually get to Raging Against the Machine.

** I have gradually come to the conclusion that American high school is about the closest most of us will come to an actual battlefield in our lifetimes. And my high school wasn't even that bad! It was mostly brainy Asian and Indian kids. Apparently, it's not actually as much like a battlefield at highs schools in other countries.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving at the Dixon Domicile

Oh, my talented family!

Violins: Brother Greg (L), Cousin Reuben (R)
Viola: Dad Paul
Cello: Uncle Paul
Contrabass: Mom Barbara

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Request to My Friends in Japan

Money is no object. Send me this:


Having been a huge fan of Pepsi Japan's previous genteihin* Pepsi Cucumber Ice, I realize that when it comes to stuff like this, even the ideas that sound the worst on paper are sometimes the best taste adventures. That being said, Pepsi and yogurt, why not? Bring it on.

* 限定品 - Limited-edition products. In Japan, they love to sell stuff for a while and then not sell it, all the while telling you they're only selling it for a while. It's like what McDonald's does with the McRib, but times twenty.

Fun Job

My job writing for the MAKE: Blog has been especially fun lately. They've got me writing about these kits from Gakken, a company in Japan that makes kits and other toys that are supposed to help you learn about science.

So the first thing I did was a write-up about their phonograph that records onto regular-ol' plastic cups. Check it:

You can read the whole thing here.

If anyone else happens to have one of these cup recorders out there, I would be interested in trading cup recordings with you. I'm getting pretty sick of these cups that are all just recordings of my own voice! I can only sing like an opera man for so long.

Also, I think I'll take this home for Thanksgiving, I'm sure my relatives would get a real kick out of this, and I'm sure they'd have some more interesting ideas for songs to sing besides "I've Been Working on the Railroad." Who knows, my mom might even spring for a fresh pack of plastic cups. So far I've just been taking cups from the IMU.

Anyway, they also sent me a vacuum tube radio kit and a tea-serving robot from Gakken, so I'll have to do those next. Yeah, my life is hard!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Seriously, Who DOES This?



Sorry about the caps lock, and sorry about the picture. Yeah, I know this is gross, but seriously, who DOES this? What kind of person is that ridiculously germophobic and wasteful? I saw this with my own eyes, and was so disgusted/amazed that I had to take a picture of it. I can count at least TWELVE layers of toilet paper on this toilet seat. This is clearly not the work of someone who poops outside of their own house very often, because it looks like it took about twenty minutes just to set up, and most people can't wait that long. The more I think about this scenario, the stranger it gets, because there's something very emergency about this scene, but also something very calculated.

I imagine some (literally) anally retentive dude, possibly wearing rubber gloves, trying incredibly hard to keep the "turtle's head" in check while making sure every inch of this toilet seat is covered and then covered again. He finally cautiously sits down, the whole time saying "Ew, ew, ew, ew, ew!" The results, although pixelated here, speak for themselves. Then he leaves his little masterpiece for the rest of the world to see.

Later, some other dude comes in and pees on this fellow's toilet paper sculpture. You can see it there near the top.

I mean, seriously, I'm no doctor, but I'm pretty sure there are like zero diseases that you can catch from a toilet seat. The concept of toilet seat covers grosses me out infinitely more than the thought of the non-existent cooties you might get from a toilet seat. Case in point:


Sick. And wasteful. And just weird.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

RjDj, an iPhone App You Can Actually "Go LEGO" With

Warning: Nerd content below.

I've been messing around with making PD patches that play in the RjDj iPhone app, and I wrote a little how-to about it on MAKE. It's fun because you can use touchscreen input and accelerometer data to control the patches, so that allows for a few new ways of interacting with PD patches even if you can't use the regular GUI (instead, you're limited to one simple JPG).

My article explains how to add additional RjDj scenes (using SSH via jailbreak), how to make the scenes play on a regular computer (since they're really just PD patches), how to modify existing scenes, and how to make your own scenes.

There really hasn't been anything for the iPhone that has captured my imagination quite like this one. When I said that you can actually "go LEGO" with this thing in the title of this entry, what I mean is that you are actually allowed a huge number of creative possibilities within the PD patches that you can make and run on RjDj. The objects in PD are like LEGOs, and you can really go buck with the possibilities. You can make a little car, or you can make a whole city. You're allowed to use as many objects as you want, as long as they don't crash your iPhone.

Anyway, here's a little demo of one thing I've done to run on RjDj:

If you saw me on tour on Germany this summer, this might seem familiar, since I used a similar sort of patch (although done in Max/MSP) to create a kind of sonic backdrop to the songs I was playing. Now I don't have to carry around a laptop to get a similar vibe, so that is nice.

Monday, November 10, 2008

An Old Family Picture

4863.jpg, originally uploaded by bivAb.

Found on my cousin David's Flickr page.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Beardo - I Was One of Them


Link to the video. I haven't watched it with sound yet, but I do remember getting a kick out of that fellow's haircuts. People were clearly torn between two feelings:

  1. I want to get my haircut by this famous indie rock singer.
  2. He is going to give me the worst haircut of my entire life.
It was pretty funny. The look on my face suggests that I am saying to myself "Oh geeez." I also appear to be kind of concerned. I look a lot like my dad in that one.

P.S. Whatever, Pitchfork is so vanilla.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Men Together

Men Together

In case you were wanting to check it out, here's the Men Together Flickr page.

Original photo.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Always Last

Why am I only just now finding out that Bernie Mac is dead?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Heron - "Smiling Ladies"

"Smiling Ladies" by Heron, from their eponymous debut, 1970.

I just dig this song in a very deep way.

Chances of being used in a future Wes Anderson movie: Moderately High.

Thanks go to Patrick Hohlweck for introducing this song to me, and then for not getting too fed up when I wanted to listed to it ten times in a row in the car.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My Tips on Voting Like a Middle-Class White Liberal "Thinking Person"

So you might have gone to the polls all ready to vote for the president, only to have your buzz killed by the fact that there's all these other boxes that you also have to check while you're there. The further along you get, the more local it gets, and unfortunately, I would venture to say that most people of my generation don't know who these people are and what they stand for. Even if you vote straight ticket, there are still all these random names of people running for school board, county coroner, etc., and they don't list party affiliation. What do you do? Here you are, expecting yourself to feel all awesome for participating for the right team in the democratic process, only to have your moment of triumph harshed by the sobering realization that you don't know jack about local politics. You spent all this time hating on Sarah Palin when you could have been informing yourself about who would make a good county commissioner. What's a This American Life fan to do?

I've made it simple. Here are my rules for avoiding voting for an a-hole, without actually doing an research.

#1. Pick the one that isn't Republican.
#2. Think hard. Have you seen any of these names on a bumper sticker on an SUV? If so, avoid.
#3. A-holes often have a-hole names. Sometimes you can just tell. Say the name to yourself, try to envision the type of person who might have such a name, then in your mind try to shake hands with the person that you have imagined. Is the handshake "gooey"? Does s/he smell like a leather jacket? If the name looks it belongs on a country club roster, move right along to the other options.
#4. If you can't tell, go ahead and pick the name that sounds diverse. Diversity comes in many flavors: female, African-American, Jewish, Hispanic, Asian, middle-eastern. In that order. If the name "sounds gay" you are welcome to go with that one as well.
#5. If all the above suggestions have failed, try to pick people with the same last names as people you were once friends with.

That is all.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Girl Think About What You Write B4 You Publish Stupid

I love the Indiana Daily Student, but yesterday I felt like the luckiest guy in the world because when I sat down to eat at the Union, someone had left some spot-on commentary about this article, scrawled on the side with what appears to be a dull #2 pencil. And no, the scan didn't get cut off, it actually ends with the word "stupid."


In case you haven't seen the video she's talking about (I know I hadn't!) it is here. Good thing I voted before I saw this video, otherwise I would have been totally confused into maybe not voting because of this video. Will I Am has a lot of pull in my life, you know.

Also from the IDS:

Six Songs, October 13th, 2008

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Whose Hummus?

Whose Hummus?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Hey, Does This Thing Work? or Communism Rocks!

Late-night musics, ideas for a frozen world, an iced-over New York City.


It's Spelled "Dickensian"?!?! Huh.

All this time I had only heard the word "Dickensian" spoken but had never seen it spelled until now. If you asked me yesterday how to spell this word, I think I would have guessed "DeKensian" or something. In the process of adjectivizing this proper noun, the emphasis ended up on the wrong syllable. Consequently, I didn't really know what this word meant until now either, and of course seeing it in print immediately clued me in to its meaning. I always just kind assumed from context that it meant something kind of old and impoverished.

This explains why Michael Showalter uses the word Dickensian to describe one of the alternate names for restless leg syndrome, "sewing machine foot."

Now I know what I'm going to say when a Mad Lib asks for an adjective. I used to always just say "poopy," but now I have something really good.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

About the Song "Blues Subtitled No Sense of Wonder" by Gastr del Sol


The first time I heard the song "Blues Subtitled No Sense of Wonder" by Gastr del Sol I was completely and utterly blown away. It left this lingering surreal feeling for the entire rest of the day.

This time I'm writing about just one song. I don't really know if I have a favorite song, but when people ask me if I do, I usually just go ahead and say that it's this one, because no song has ever felt so singularly powerful and overwhelming.

The song starts off not unlike a lot of other Gastr del Sol songs, you get the sense that this song might be a little like "The Relay" or another piano-as-vehicle Gastr del Sol song. And that alone was fine, because I love it when David Grubbs plays the piano in that cryptic, slowly understated style. He slips in and out of scale in a way that makes my brain feel as if it is being fed a balanced, nutritious meal. It's really nice. So the song goes on.

All of the early first three minutes of the song kind of drone and flicker along, until out of nowhere this strange building starts to pick up, as if the song up until that point is just a guy sleeping, and then suddenly some beam comes and sucks him out of his bed and into the air like an alien abduction. I am surely missing the point with this analong, but I think it's safe to say that the main thing that anyone remembers about that song is when this "launch" occurs. At 2:55, everything comes in so big and throbbing, harmonized vocals, some kind of organ, the persistent faint electronic blipping in the background, the horns, the gurgling synth bass, the intensely vibrato'd strings, and the piano - the piano playing pretty much the same as it was at the beginning of the song, but given new context by the pedal tone of the synth bass and the strings that sound like blood flowing out of a slit wrist. It's a very intense song. When I heard this part of this song, I thought to myself "This must be what it feels like to be on heroin." As if the pain and joy of the entire world was contained in the beautiful experience I was having right at that moment, but it was neither sad nor happy, just magnificent in its being.

This surprise ends with an organ solo. A very strange organ solo. It sounds like they invited some guy who just really wants to rock out, like someone from the Saturday Night Live band was invited to come in and take an organ solo. I guess it's a surprise inside a surprise.

Like most of Gastr del Sol's songs, the lyrics, when taken from a traditional view of "song" they make about zero sense:

most blues are subtitled
either no sense of wonder
or no sense of scale
for example, there's a routine, subtitled I have no idea how long
subtitled I don't care how long, subtitled why not untitled
I have dozens of titles

Hmmm... Taken out of context, they make no sense, but when viewed from the lens of the rest of Gastr del Sol's work, it is actually relatively heavy and emotional. It's as if a person you knew to be autistic his whole life one day just broke out of that shell and just really leveled with you: It was still kind of coldly cryptic, but you could find so much life even with so little to go from. Perhaps this is why this album marks the beginning of the end of Gastr del Sol. Until Camofleur, Gastr del Sol might as well have been being making music that was obscure on purpose. It was music for people who knew a lot about music, kind of a meta-music that spoke to the guy in your town who only listened to bands nobody had heard of (it's important to note that they accomplished this in the era before the internet, when a wide knowledge of music was not simply a matter of how many "similar artists" you could download and fit on your hard drive, music was about discovery in a much more meaningful, social sense). You see, Camofleur, despite being weird, was a relatively pop record. More about this pop business later.*

What I thinks helped shape my experience of hearing this song was the fact that I heard it out of context from the rest of the record. For many months I only had access to this one song. It was not prefaced by the pretty cool song "The Seasons Reverse" and it certainly was not followed up by the supreme boner-killer known as "Black Horse" (I am about 100% sure this song was Grubbs' idea, to quote Werner Herzog in Julien Donkey Boy when he hears his son's poem at the dinner table, "I think I hate it").

"Blues Subtitled No Sense of Wonder" ends even more quietly than it begins (are those wind chimes I hear at the end?), with a refreshingly crowd-pleasing major lift, but in the wake of Gastr del Sol, we are to realize that this is pretty much the last of that truly grand, mysterious David Grubbs style of piano playing.

*It comes as no surprise that Grubbs and O'Rourke's solo work after Camoufleur both represent more pop manifestations of themselves, although the execution of their newfound freedoms came across in distinctly different ways.

The Thicket, David Grubbs' first major post-Gastr offering was not bad, but just about completely forgetable. Nobody has talked about this record since the year after it came out. It was just so incredibly white, in a way that only a grad student could like. The worst thing about this album was probably the lyrics. The abstract words that once went well with the weird fragments of Gastr del Sol now just sounded like the most boring guy in the world trying to find a rhyme. I know I may be sounding harsh here, but it was as if someone had taken all of the things that I liked about David Grubbs and turned them off, leaving only some weird professor in his place. And the person who had turned these things off was Grubbs himself. Yikes. No piano! I loved his piano. Ever heard of a record called Arise Therefore? He even made Will Oldham sound brilliant and dangerous with his piano notes, solidifying Oldham's standing as a voice to be taken seriously, at a very crucial time in his career.

The rest of David Grubbs' work after that? I don't know. There was that album after that, whatever it was called, the one with all the puns in it, but again, it was just too normal, too academic, too boring. Don't get me wrong. I think that David Grubbs is absolutely brilliant. He is in part responsible for some of the smartest, weirdest, and coolest sounds I have ever heard, and I don't know if he looks back at that stuff and thinks it's immature, but I'm afraid the dude will never be the same again.

In my opinion, unlike The Thicket, Eureka by Jim O'Rourke was brilliant, it was a revelation because it was good, and because O'Rourkes solo work up until that point, while vast and extensive, had been far from pop, it was more like book reports on the smartest, most serious musicians of the past 100 years. That's why hearing Eureka was such a (for lack of a better term) "eureka" moment. It's name was so refreshingly unironic. Eureka was smart, listenable, weird, and funny. It was so powerful because it was like seeing Stravinksy singing showtunes: In my mind, an integral part of the whole experience of listening to Eureka was that the pop contained therein could not be separated from the context of the man behind it.

It appeared as though O'Rourke had done something more revolutionary than the sum of his most obscure, challenging work by making something so beautifully personal and listenable, until he kept doing it, with records that became less and less fresh as the pop contrast to his avant-garde roots became less of a surprise (Halfway to a Threeway, and whatever that classic rock-ish one after that was) and more just like regular music.

Perhaps that is why Jim O'Rourke identifies with Japan. His transparency in music shares many parallels with Japan's approach to what the rest of the world has to offer. Jim O'Rourke is just as much a curator as he is a musical immitator, in the same way that Japan inhales foreign culture, industry, and science with a voracious appetite: Immitating it while disregarding what the rest of the world has declared associations and mutual exclusives. Why can't an avant-noise guy make a perfect pop record? Why can't you put put natto on spaghetti? Regardless of how they do adopt foreign ideas, what comes out is distinctly Japanese, and in the same respect, regardless of what type of music Jim O'Rourke makes, there's a competence and sophistication to it that is so distinctly and undeniably Jim O'Rourke. Now he lives in Tokyo, has pretty much given up on music so that he can concentrate on making films. I'm sure that his movies will exude the same distinct flavor that can be found in all the music projects he worked on.

But back to Gastr del Sol. I think what we have here is a classic tale of why two great minds often can't work together for very long. They had their good moments together in Gastr del Sol, but ultimately, they were just too strong of forces to work together for too long. It would be like if Yasujiro Ozu and Federico Fellini were forced to make movies together. They might make some really awesome stuff, but you could be sure that it would not last. Sadly the role of the visionary is usually fulfilled by just one person, and the rest must have the capacity to either follow or withhold their own visions. Whether or not that is a good thing seems to be an eternal question, but what is certain among those who have seen it is that the force of creative direction is too strong to keep people together, at least for Americans.

Until the next group of musicians too momentarily young and idealistic to realize they are too smart for each other comes along, we are left with glimpses like this, small moments when the elements combine in beautiful, mysterious bliss.

USA: Still #1 in... What?

So I was just talking to my friends David and Jennie Orr about the US economy, and I asked what the US was number one at anymore. What does the US export to the rest of the world? What do we sell more of to other countries than we buy from other countries? What does the US make that the rest of the world wants? I guess that's one thing that has been good about Obama's speeches, is that he realizes that the new global economy is not the same as the old one, and that the US could quite possibly get left in the dust, which is why he is focused on education that is designed to be able to compete in the global economy.

Here's how I see it: We will not be able to compete in traditional manufacturing industries on a global level anymore at all. There are just too many other places where it's cheaper to get most things made. If the natural resources can be found near China or the necessary parts can be shipped cheaply to China, they're going to get those jobs. You cannot compete with a billion people willing to work for very low wages. Sad, but true. Or is it?

With the spread of globalization, it's just fundamentally not the same game. Yes, lots of people are out of jobs as a result of this change, but the global corporate economy has made an irreversible change, it's not really going to come back. Nobody thinks that the US is going to return to kick butt as an auto manufacturer (at least, in the traditional, gas-powered sense), yet people talk about keeping jobs in the United States, but the truth is that the jobs that have left will not come back, and people had better have a pretty good idea of what sorts of jobs can be made that have staying power here at home. And that's where I think B.O. (whoa, his initials are B.O.!) gets it right, is that if the US doesn't get cracking in the New Energy industry, the post-oil industry, whatever you want to call it, we will get left sorely behind.

But hey, for the sake of a pep talk, let's identify what game we DO still have.
So in what areas does the US still kick butt?

  • Basketball. We are still pretty good at this. And maybe baseball too. Maybe.
  • Rappers. We've still got some good ones, I guess. But the rest of the world is gaining on us. To expand this idea, I guess you could say that general popular culture is a major export. Musicians, writers, some artists, some academics, and some other peddlers in the idea trade still have some impact, but that is starting to change as well.
  • Movies. Regardless of their quality, we make a lot of movies. And people watch them, even in other countries.
  • Computer operating systems. We've got Microsoft. Like it or not, it's still on most of the world's computers. But aside from software, which is a relatively fluid idea that can be copyrighted and sold (or more likely, copied) throughout the world, the real problem is that a large portion of the hardware is not produced here in the US. We've got Apple, with their iPods, and their gain in the personal computer market, but pretty much nothing that they design is made in the US. It all says "designed in California" but it is certainly made in China, bringing a considerable amount of money to the top people at Apple, but providing jobs for a few of the billion people in China. Contributes to the trade defecit, what else is new.
  • Science. Sort of. We don't even have a large hadron collider though.
  • Space program. I guess, but I mean, even China has one now.
  • Oh, I got one: Broadway musicals. But that's kind of like American football, ya know. It really only exists here.
  • The medical and pharmaceutical industries. Sure, we have some good stuff, but not everyone can use them.
  • Two words: Will Smith.
  • Another two: Mariah Carey.
  • This sort of goes with exporting culture, but I also think we export our version of the English language. But, we can't make nay money off of this because people get on Napster or Friendster or whatever and download and steal it, for free! We have GOT to copyright our accent or something.
  • Oh, how could I forget: Fast food! And other junky snacks.
  • Making cars. Just kidding.
  • Google. We've got Google. Those colorful, rollerblading, Segway-riding, free-delicious-food-eating brainiac billionaires over in CA. Let's hope they don't relocate. Or more importantly, let's hope California doesn't declare independence from the rest of the US. So let's say this:
  • We have California (for the time being). What's to keep them from succeeding from the rest of the US and taking Schwartzeneggar as their president? I mean, seriously. If you think about it, the rest of the US (with the possible exception of New York, maybe Chicago) is kind of dragging California down. California's political and economicl ideology is way more progressive than the rest of the US, and frankly, I think they might be getting sick of us. Is it a surprise that it says "Designed in California. Assembled in China" on the back of your iPod? Designed in California, not the United States. They're just getting a head start on the succession.
  • So more generally, we have the Silicon Valley and everything associated with it. Again, while ideas are exported throughout the world, the hardware that acts as a platform for these ideas is increasingly manufactured elsewhere.
  • I think we still make microchips here, maybe?
  • Weapons. Bombs. Airplanes. When it comes to military spending, we are number one. Yikes.
  • We can't even win at competetive eating anymore.
  • We're good at making prisons. And TV shows about hunks who break out of them!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Mark-It Failure

Another piece of art for ya.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Mental Environment: Never Free of Suggestion, But Still Kinda Fun

I was talking today about how much I like going to the grocery store, even though when it comes right down to it, the whole experience is engineered so that products will scream at you, typically encouraging you to purchase things you don't need. I would say that on any given trip to the grocery store, I purchase less than 1% of the total items that are offered to me, and I rarely make decisions that aren't in accordance with the many lessons I learned from going to the Jewel grocery store with my dad on Saturday mornings every week for about six years as a child. Buy generic when quality is negligible, buy larger quantities for less if you are sure you will use it all, buy with specific meals in mind, make your shopping decisions premeditated, have a list, etc. I have always said that if you want to get to know the culture of a group of people, visit their grocery stores. That's one of my old quotes.

I also really like ads. In a way, grocery stores are like just big rooms full of ads. Ads don't usually talk me into buying anything, but I'm always kind of entertained by what they seem to think people want. For example, it tickles me to see ads for labor-saving inventions in which the people doing it the old way are having a real heck of a time. For example, in the commercial for that thing that quickly coils your garden hose for you, there's this guy who is just having the hardest time ever coiling his garden hose. The announcer says in that one voice (and it is one voice, just like Don LaFontaine [RIP] was the only voice in the game for movie trailers) that says "Tired of pulling and untangling to get your garden hose coiled?" And the guy is like having the world's hardest time getting his hose in order. He's making this face like "surely there must be a better way!" You know the routine. The form of these commercials are about as automatic to Americans as the form of a knock-knock joke.

But I try to watch TV like a sociologist. Taking this intellectualist stance makes me feel way less guilty about watching bad TV all the time. Here's my analysis:

These ads attempt to create a need by greatly exaggerating the difficulty of what is usually a trouble-free task. Places like SkyMall base their entire business on products like this (don't get me started on SkyMall, I'm in the process of creating a whole blog devoted just to the celebration of the triumphs in ad copy found within this masterpiece of despair/catalogging).

But what has really been getting me going lately has been a few original ads that I have seen posted in windows around Bloomington.

Exhibit A:


If you live in the US and aren't a Republican, it doesn't get much better than this. A joke wrapped within an innuendo cuddled inside another joke. In fact, regardless of political affiliation, I think it's brilliant simply because it implies that they are so sick of people coming in asking whether or not people have the Sarah Palin frame (I always thought it was frames, but I guess the professionals at Optiks would know best when to pluralize this word). Truth be told, it's quite possible that nobody has asked for the S.P. frames, but they went ahead and ordered a bunch and now they want to let people know by making it seem like they get asked about them a million times a day. I love it.

Exhibit B:


This one requires a little bit more pop culture history than the last one. Bear with me though, the payoff is immense. The name Michael Winslow alone might not ring a bell for most Americans, but when you call him "the guy who made the funny mouth noises in the Police Academy movies," you get an overwhelming amount of "Ohhhh yeah!"s from people over the age of 25. Well, he has had a small surge of renaissance-ironique (just made that term up, probably not real French, but I think that it describes a very specific thing that seems to be happening lately) with his recent appearance in a Geico auto insurance commercial. No idea what he has been doing in the past fifteen years leading up to that Geico commercial, but the fact remains: Dude makes some incredible noises, using just his mouth. Apparently he is funny, because he's coming to Bloomington for three days, to kick off the opening of Bloomington's first full-time comedy club, The Funny Bone.

I'm kind of jazzed that there's a comedy club opening up in Bloomington. I've always enjoyed comedy albums, although I've never really been to an actual standup show (unless you could this one time when my Sunday school teacher Paul Baltes did his routine at the church youth conference, it was somewhat controversial because there were fart jokes). I've been listening to the Michael Ian Black disc as well as the new Mitch Hedberg posthumous release, and I must say, these comedy albums merit repeated listenings. This comedy is really good stuff.

The Funny Bone has the distinction of being named a name so obvious that as soon as you hear its name, you are pretty much sure that there are at least five other comedy establishments with the same name in existance.* (Google it, it's especially unfortunate that one of the other Funny Bones is in Bloomington, IL instead of Bloomington, IN.) But they have a real bang-up schedule planned. We've got Michael Winslow, then Christian Finnegan from Best Week Ever (I truly do love that show), and then... (drumroll please) - Dustin Diamond, a.k.a. Screech from Saved by the Bell, a.k.a. Dustin Diamond, the sleezeball who did porn and acted like a complete fool on a couple of reality TV shows. The Funny Bone will also being starting an open mic night, and I hope to see local funnyman Dave Segedy test out his comedic stylings there. Heck, I might even try and put something together, how bad could it be? Just you wait and see.

I will defintely be there to see Michael Winslow, because he is the living master of a craft that may soon be extinct. Plus, he just seemed like such a cool guy in those Police Academy movies. Screech, not a chance, Christian Finnegan, maybe.

* Kind of like if someone told you their heavy metal band's name was Doomsday or something. Instead of saying "cool!" my first reaction would more likely be "Wait, are you sure that name's not already taken?"

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Tampopo! I watched this movie again tonight for the first time in many years, and it's still as brilliant of a movie as I had remembered.

This time I think that I was most impressed by the small subplot where the man comes rushing home to find his wife on her deathbed, and he commands her to arise and make dinner. She somehow stumbles to her feet, makes her way to the kitchen, and somehow makes dinner while looking like a bit of a zombie. The kids set the table, and the husband, the doctor, and the nurse all look on in amazement as she brings the food to the table. The family serves themselves and they begin to eat, and the mother collapses, the doctor proclaims her dead, and everyone starts crying. Then the dad insists that his children all keep eating, because this was their mother's last meal, and they had to eat it while it was still hot. The picture of people crying while trying to eat is really stunning. A powerful feeling is conveyed in this scene.

My old favorite part used to be this:
I mean, just look at how enormous that ice cream cone looks in his little hand!

When the man, after going to the dentist to get an abscess removed from his tooth, gets an ice cream at the park where he meets a very young boy wearing a sign around his neck that says "I am being raised on natural foods, please don't feed me anything sweet or any junk food."

The man hands the boy the ice cream cone, and the boy seems to hesitantly pump his hand with a confused sense of excitement. Finally, the little boy really digs in, smothering his face with ice cream, and the moment is the gastronomical equivalent of Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit. This boy has left bliss, and now knows the difference between good and evil foods. It is truly a wonderful moment in food cinema.

For some reason I seemed to remember the movie ending with the yakuza guy telling his girl about the legendary yam-filled boar intestines, but I was surprised to see that the movie actually ends with a very long shot of a baby breast feeding in the sunlight. Man's obsession with food comes full circle. I truly like that.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Monsieur Mo Rio - "Promenade" Video

There will be more about this Moritz fellow and Monsieur Mo Rio later, but for now, enjoy 1:44 of odd and pretty:

P.S. My high school promenade was nothing like this.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

More Bizzare Search Hits - Googlooping Ammo

traffic source 8.31

Oh, the search-based hits keep getting better and better. For the sake of Googlooping, here's a review:

  • Puerto Ricans with knives. Like the ones in West Side Story perhaps?
  • Hannah Montana Dolls. Those things are hard to find, kind of like Cabbage Patch Kids during the Christmas shopping season of 1984, or was it 1985.
  • Who is Juice Williams? I have no idea, but Dave Chappelle was just on TV just a few hours ago talking about how black people don't know what juice is. Black folks, all they want is purple drink. Oh, that funny man, Dave Chappelle.
  • Theo Huxtable. Remember when his family gave him one heck of a reality check when he said he was just going to be a model when he grew up? Is it messed up that (even as a kid) I kind of enjoyed seeing his naive dreams of being a model get crushed?


Now I don't know about y'all, but when I want to get to this blog (which is like all the time), all I do is type in "f" and then "u" at the top where the URL goes and the rest comes up. Pretty cool, huh? F. U.!


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Guitar Store Attitude - "What's a Five String Bass For?"

I don't think that there is any place on earth that is more full of unspoken dismissiveness and 'tude than a store that specializes in electric guitars.* The guys working there tend to be mad that their band isn't more famous, and as a result, the more they actually know about guitars, the more it makes them resent other people who play guitars. This might not apply to you, if you work at a guitar store and happen to be reading this. But I'm going to go ahead and bet that you know what I'm talking about. Anyway...

I don't go to guitar stores very often, but yesterday I went to a local independently-owned guitar shop with a friend of mine. He was buying guitar strings, and I picked up an acoustic and thought to myself "What can I play that these guys aren't totally sick of?" Then it hit me, the beginning of "Happy Days" by Jim O'Rourke. For those of you who don't know, it's just one note (the lowest note on a guitar), and then another note, an octave higher, back and forth, over and over again, played at a kind of dirge-like pace for about four minutes. It's quite a sinister sound, let me tell you. This guitar part is not hard to play. It's completely delusional to think that I was impressing anybody with this riff, except perhaps only if I was impressing them with my great taste. They probably hated it.

He got done buying the strings, and then I put the guitar down, and we went in the back of the shop to look at the electric guitars for sale. We got to the bass guitars, and just then the same guy that rang up my buddy for the guitar strings, he asks us if he can help us with anything, or maybe he asked if we had any questions about anything, because seemingly out of nowhere, this comes out of my mouth:

Me: What's a five-string bass for?
(the guy's like... Is this actually happening? Does this guy actually not know what the fifth string on a five-string does?)
Him: It has lower notes.
Me: How many?

He just looked at me like I was from another planet. I just looked at him. I tried as hard as I could to keep a straight face, and I held out for what felt like an eternity. Then I just laughed and said I was just playing. He looked really pissed. I don't think I will ever be able to go there again. Oh well.

Just in case you were wondering about the answer to my second question, the answer is five. There are five additional lower notes that you can play on a five-string that you can't get on a regular four-string bass. Dare I say it? - When you think of it that way, it kind of almost makes that fifth string seem not even really worth it.

*Except maybe the Apple Store.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Day at the Zoo

Chillin' with my dogs.
And a baby.
More important:


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Noogin' B.G.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Untapped Humor Potential

You know how sometimes you can go through life not noticing that something is totally hilarious?

It never occurred to me that the Japanese word for "mouth" is hilarious to Americans. Today, I was teaching my Upward Bound students parts of the body, and when we got to mouth, they just lost it. The word is kuchi. Yep, it's pronounced like that. I just looked at the chalkboard and thought "Oh yeah, that's a lot like cootchie." Or however that word is spelled.

Then I really did something awkward. I said "Well, you shouldn't have any trouble remembering that one then" meaning that the absurdity of the mouth/cootchie connection plus the sheer cognitive weight of the word "cootchie" should cement it in their memories. But they were all like "Uh, what's that supposed to mean?!" At that point, I realized I had no way of recovering, and probably switched into some awkward form of damage control.

They also really got a kick out of the word ashi which isn't actually pronounced like "ashy" but they kept saying it like that and laughing anyway. I don't fully get the "ashy" thing, maybe I should look it up on Urban Dictionary or something.

OK. Now I get it. Ashy. Who knew dry skin could be such a big deal.

Large, Very Public TV Watching


On the corner of Kirkwood and College there is a swank second-story apartment above Talbot's with a very large, modern TV that is often very visible from the street as I walk home. Whoever lives there is probably male, since "dude sports" seem make a large portion of this person's TV viewing. I mean, I suppose it could be one of those fake women who exist only in TV commercials who are both totally hot and love to watch football just like dudes do. But I really don't think so. Sure, there are women who watch sports. But not like that. It's a weird fantasy though, someone who acts just like you, except she has long blonde hair, boobs, and vagina.

Anyway, it's not always just sports on the huge TV at this apartment. Sometimes it's bad reality TV (wait, is there any other kind?), sometimes it's action movies. Thing is though, everytime I walk past, I think that if I lived there, I wouldn't put the TV in a place where it was so visible from the outside. Nobody needs to see that I happen to be watching Rock of Love because nothing else is on. Nobody needs to see me watching whimsical documentaries about various types eccentric people (my favorite genre). Good or bad, I'd just be a tad weirded out by it.

This guy though, he probably thinks it's awesome. He wants people to see his awesome TV and he wants people to think he is awesome. He wants them to wish that they could hang out at his expensive apartment. BUT Y'KNOW WHAT? That's cool, because he is just playing his role in the symboitic relationship between people who think they are cool/hooked up and people who think they are smart/creative. Neither of the two could exist without the other.

He gets his awesome TV, I get something to blog about. Everyone is happy.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

I'm a Bad Plastic Surgeon

More Googlegänger fun. I'm a (sometimes) bad plastic surgeon in Amarillo, TX. [via]:

I had plastic surgery done by this doctor. He left me dented in quite a few places. I recommend using someone else in Amarillo if considering plastic surgery. Michael Dixon did not do as he promised. He said he would do whatever it took to make me happy and he did not. He tried to fix the bad surgery but it was even worse after the second time. He wanted to try again but I refused. He also did a breast aug at the same time and it was not the correcft size I had asked for. He offered me a very small refund if I would sign a paper holding him NOT responsible for the damage but I refused.
Here we have another buster out to ruin the good Mike Dixon name. Dude, stop messing up people's faces and breasts. It's bad for the 'gänger community as a whole.

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Milk's Shaped Wrong! Waaaaaa!


Ain't that America... From the NYT, emphasis by yours truly:

“When we brought in the new milk, we were asking for feedback,” said Heather Mayo, vice president for merchandising at Sam’s Club, a division of Wal-Mart. “And they’re saying, ‘Why’s it in a square jug? Why’s it different? I want the same milk. What happened to my old milk?’

Mary Tilton tried to educate the public a few days ago as she stood at a Sam’s Club in North Canton, about 50 miles south of Cleveland, luring shoppers with chocolate chip cookies and milk as she showed them how to pour from the new jugs.

“Just tilt it slowly and pour slowly,” Ms. Tilton said to passing customers as she talked about the jugs’ environmental benefits and cost savings. Instead of picking up the jug, as most people tend to do, she kept it on a table and gently tipped it toward a cup.

Mike Compston, who owns a dairy in Yerington, Nev., described the pouring technique in a telephone interview as a “rock-and-pour instead of a lift-and-tip.”

Demonstrations are but one of several ways Sam’s Club is advocating the containers. Signs in the aisle laud their cost savings and “better fridge fit.”

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Sometimes a Monkey is Just a Monkey

I don't usually write about politics, but I really think this is interesting. The blogosphere has been up in arms about a Japanese cell phone commercial featuring a monkey that co-opts Barack Obama's campaign of "change." Check it:

Sure, the initial reaction to that should be "Yikes, an ad relating Barack Obama to a monkey?" But it's not actually that simple. First off, the company uses the same monkey as its mascot in other ads. Second, people like Barack Obama in Japan, and so using his "change" campaign is a natural connection. And third, and most importantly, Japan does not have a history of associating black people with monkeys. They don't have a history of associating black people with any kind of animal, simply because they don't really have much of a history with black people at all.

Yes, of course, it is an unfortunate pairing of innuendos, but I mean, c'mon. Not racist.

I guess what is offensive about all of the sensationalist blog/media coverage of this commercial is this: America, being a country that once did very screwed up things in relation to black people and the way that they were depicted, finds it in its heart to try so hard to rectify their past depiction of blacks as monkeys that they seek to remove even accidental depiction of blacks as monkeys in a commercial made in a culture that does not hold any association with blacks and monkeys. Monkeys mean something different in Japan, something that has nothing to do with black people.

All of this offense at the ad comes from the presumptuous standpoint that America's standards of political correctness (standards which are an awkward attempt to somehow magically right the past wrongdoings of the nation) are the basis by which all culture everywhere should be judged. But why judge this commercial? Why take offense when there is no offense intended and nobody who the commercial was intended for would even make the connection?

Congratulations to Japan, for not having a culture in which black people were at one point depicted as monkeys. Want to talk about real racism in Japan? Let's talk about their treatment of Chinese and Koreans. Sorry it's not as sensational or bizarre, easy, or interesting as a commercial that uses a monkey to imitate an Obama campaign. The American media's response to this is just kind of whiney and a waste of political resources. This is not real racism, and it does nothing for the cause of equality to police culture in this witch-hunt sort of way.

I think this entitled, crybaby for the sake of crying attitude is summed up by CNN's coverage of this scuttle:

So, to the English-speakers living in Japan in the CNN video, I can't help but just think about all the other things that are worthy of real activism. Statements like "People's minds should be more open as world citizens" really just imply that the rest of the world should somehow magically be more familiar with the intricacies of the U.S.'s oppressive history. It's culturally egocentric and seems to be narrow-mindedly searching for offense when any sort of background knowledge about the culture of Japan or the company that made this commercial would prove that offensive behavior is absent.

Also, not to be a dick, but saying "It was totally insensitive to the cross-cultural faux-pas that it represented" is pretty much circular and meaningless. A faux-pas is exactly that, an insensitivity or mistake that is not at first perceived by the person who has done it. Why would you be sensitive to it? What this sentence really means: "It is a faux-pas." And that's fine. Faux pas? Definitely. Racist? C'mooooonnn.

And to the dude from Temple: Puh-leez. Santa's reindeer are probably incredibly offensive to someone somewhere, but Christmas will continue to be unoffensive. Because it's part of the "international canon," which what you really mean is the Western discourse. It's basically like saying this: "Note to the world: You are now subject to the US's arbitrary, post-hoc rules of eracism. We won't tell you what is offensive, because it's embarrassing. But when it's wrong, we'll be sure and make a huge deal about it."

The company's mascot is a monkey. Nobody in Japan linked it to Obama. The ad could not conceivably be created out of malicious intent, so being offense toward this ad is completely misdirected.

Unlike the U.S., Japan's economic success is not founded on the forced labor of African slaves. So let them enjoy their monkeys. Seriously. Come. On.

agrees with me, sort of.


Sunday, June 29, 2008

Oh, City Life

And now, a return to form with a late-night blog entry. Here goes:

What a weird week it has been! When my friend Jerry Atwood was in high school, his senior year they decided to get senior shirts made that said "What a long, strange trip it has been," you know, like the Grateful Dead thing. Anyway, he didn't like this idea, and wrote a letter to the school newspaper. Long story short, he was suspended for bring a stun gun to school because he was afraid that a bunch of jocks were going to beat him up. To hear him tell this story is a real treat.

Some moments just feel totally cosmic. Not like it's always a good thing, but that the balances of the universe have evened out, and you get what you have coming to you, good or bad. Let me explain:

The day after my birthday, I went to Indianapolis to meet my parents at an Italian restaurant downtown. My aunt Helen was there and so was Grandpa Dixon. My dad had just returned from Brazil, and he was going to be traveling with Helen and Grandpa to a family reunion in New Hampshire. Grandpa got to talking about how he had met Doris, my grandmother, and he said that when he first met her, he thought that he didn't stand a chance against all the other guys who were vying for her attention, but that for some reason he just decided to go for it, and the rest is history. The cosmic alliteration of Dwight and Doris Dixon was sufficient, and they found it in themselves to not pass this tradition of alliteration to all of their children, (although now that I think about it, it may have seemed like they were headed down that path at first, because their first child was named Deanna).

Grandpa is quite hard of hearing at his age, and speaks quite loudly. As he was telling his story (and his voice was carrying), I wondered if the people sitting in the neighboring booths were listening in on what he was saying as well. "Is it possible that they are finding this interesting at all?" Would I want to listen to the stories of someone else's grandpa? In my heart, I want to say yes, but I really can't be sure. What if that person's grandpa was Noam Chomsky? Is James Lipton a grandpa? These are things that I wonder. I really do not like James Lipton. I bet he is a creepy grandpa.

On the way home from this restaurant, I ran out of gas. I walked about .5 miles to buy a gas can and fill it up. My state of mind as I made that walk was one I will never forget. As I walked slowly and cars whizzed by so fast, I couldn't help but think that it was my own negligence that had landed me in this predicament. "E" means empty. Don't think you know how much further below "E" it's supposed to go. I had put off getting gas, and now it had come back to get me. I had really been "nipped in the butt."* <- more on this below! At the gas station, the woman at the counter said that they had been selling more gas cans than they ever had before. She said "It might be expensive, but that doesn't mean you don't still have to fill your car up." All throughout high school, the notion of ending up a gas station attendant was thrown around by teachers as a threat for those who didn't take school seriously. "Sure, you can drop out of high school, if you don't mind working at a gas station for the rest of your life." It worked. I studied, not for the desire for any sort of greatness, but from the fear of ending up working at a gas station. But this woman at the gas station, she knew what was up. Without flat-out saying it in so many works, she knew that the laws of thermodynamics that run an engine are as unchanging as the balance of the universe. Maybe she knew it from seeing so many other people screw up, or maybe she knew it because she had been there before.

You'd think by my 31st birthday I would know this, but I guess I'm still trying to figure it out. Nip it in the bud, they say. Make it right early on.

*Speaking of "nip it in the bud," here's some wonderfully recursive irony: At a meeting for work the other day, one of the supervisors kept saying "nip it on the butt" in contexts that suggested that she really meant "nip it in the bud." However, this malapropism was not nipped in the bud early enough, causing her to continue using it about three times throughout the meeting.

In her defense though, I will say that "nipping something on the butt" is perhaps a more culturally tangible phrase than its predecessor. If you were nipped in the butt by something, like a dog (dogs are the only things I have heard of that nip, but maybe that's just me) then you would probably not do it again. If a problem was quickly nipped on the butt, it is unlikely that it would happen again (although they disagree here).

What's great about the evolution of oral language is that it does whatever the hell it wants, there's no stopping it, even with prescriptive grammar. Words mean whatever people believe them to mean, and as long as that meaning is shared, the word embodies that form of reality. Whoa dude, I know, yeah.

Last Sunday, on the day of my b-day, I drew a comic, but by the time I got around to thinking of posting it, it seemed completely inappropriate, wrong. Maybe I'll sneak it in later.

In closing:



Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Lunchtime Battles

I'm sitting in the Indiana University Student Union, eating my lunch, reading a magazine, and I can't help but notice that the two guys across from me seem to be discussing some really interesting, next-level stuff. Something that seemed to a mix of computer programming, geometry, and visual cognition. They dropped terms like "data packets," "recursion," and talked about how the past 50 years of computer programming might have been going at it the wrong way all along. The professor several times said to his grad student "Wait, slow down, I don't think I really get what you're saying." The student said "Maybe I'm not explaining this properly." The student had ideas that the professor didn't seem to get. There was no sense of rank between the two of them. They seemed genuinely interested in what they were doing, as if what they were talking about might actually be the most interesting thing in the world at that moment.

A man emptying the trashcan walks up to me and says "Is today Thursday?" Today is Wednesday. I tell him this. He says "Crud, I thought today was payday."

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Respect the D.A.D.

I tried to call my dad for Father's Day, but then my mom reminded me that my dad is in Brazil right now. I sent him an email, but I'll have to admit that I did miss hearing his voice today.

Happy Father's Day, P.D. I hope you know how much we love you. Thanks for the good genes. Aside from those bumpy spots on the backs of my arms and that hiccuping thing, I really can't complain.

Is it still like this down in Brazil?

My Dad, in Brazil

I really love the look on my dad's face in this picture. What a handsome and cool guy.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Spoon Collection is Straining Your Relationship? Facebook's "Ceci n'est pas une pipe"

Is it just me, or does anyone else get this weird spoon collection ad when they log on to Facebook? For me, the ad on the left of the page is usually something seemingly based on my "personal" data, an ad that is weirdly targeted to whatever their fuzzy logic determines my demographic to be, something like "find hot single over-30 women in your area." I just logged in to the 'book right now, and it gives me an ad for Nike shoes. I do love shoes! Spoon collections though, that's what gets me.

Is this the new generation of ads? Is absurdity the only way to catch people's eyes anymore? Is this the "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" of the internet era? I didn't click on it because I don't want them to think that it's working. I don't want to fall for their trick. It's just a more sophisticated version of too-easy-to-be-true "Which one of these people is Brad Pitt?" banner ads that they use on other more visually-assaulting websites. That being said, as a social networking site, Facebook has kind of a shady history of not being discreet with people's info, so I'm a bit skeptical (funny coming from the guy who once posted his entire passport info on the interweb), but now I kind of regret not clicking, although I'm pretty confident that the results would be expectedly disappointing. A Google search of "let your friend know that his spoon collection is straining your relationship" (in quotes, of course) only reveals other people puzzled by this ad.

I guess what it comes down to is that it's not actually about catching people's eyes anymore, since all it takes is a set of boobs or an annoying animated graphic to do that. These days it's about clicks, and I guess that's what makes this ad theoretically effective, because people are like "WTF?" and then boom, they're trying to get to the bottom of this mystery, mission accomplished for the web ad people.

But forget about that, here's what's more important:

Andrea Rosen was just on VH1 again. Jackpot! This time she was talking about how "I totally lost my V" to "More Than Words" by Extreme. This confirms that Andrea Rosen is my ultimate celebrity crush.* And, I mean, come on, she's not really even that big of a celebrity. Yet. There was that yogurt commercial, and there was her neighbor role on Stella, and she was Michael Showalter's roommate, but yeah... To me she is the star of stars. Oh Andrea, why does it have to be this way? This will probably show up on her Google Alert, so I might as well include a personalized message. OK, here goes: Andrea. Seriously. Quit frontin'. I'll gladly be your house husband while you bring home the VH1 bucks. I want your witty commentary about everything, all the time. You could roll your eyes at me and make spot-on hilarious comments about the way I make dinner or pay the electric bill or whatever. With you, every dish washing session could be the Best Dish Washing Session Ever. Top 20 Everyday Moments of the 2000's.

* The first exposure I had to celebrity crushes was my 5th grade teacher Mr. Mugg, who claimed that if MacGyver appeared at her doorstep and asked her to run away with him, that she would immediately leave her husband and children with zero hesitation. I always wondered if she would truly follow through on this claim, it puzzled my young mind. And I was a huuuuge MacGyver fan.

Rube Goldberg 2008 Video: "We've Got Medieval Going On"

I was lucky enough to go to Purdue's annual Rube Goldberg Contest in West Lafayette this year, and my pics that I posted on the MAKE blog even got picked up by those jerks at the warring nerd havens Gizmodo and Engadget. Anyway, I was there with the Nineteenth State Collective crew, and we made this little video ditty. And yes, the youngster with the fake beard who you see there in the preview background does get interviewed.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Thursday, June 05, 2008

An Example of Nice Japanese Stationery

This is a letter that was sent to me on my mission, I would guess in 1997. It's from Kitano Yoko. I really appreciate the handwriting on this one. When I was home in Lafayette yesterday, I went up to the attic to get a few boxes of my stuff, because my parents are trying to clear some space up there now that the stuff from my grandpa's house arrived. I found a box that had every letter that I received while I was on my mission.

There were so many letters from my family (especially from mom, probably hundreds), letters from friends (such as: Jerry Atwood, Fumiko and Hazuki Chino, Jade and Lauren Yoho, Craig Sopata, Jaimee Reifer, Shannon Swartz, Melanie Craig [who despite breaking my heart my freshman year of college, wrote me 17 times while I was in Japan], Celeste Peterson, Mark Ertmer, Ursula Eagly, Malisa Hopson, Becca Hopson, Ryan Stahl, and Brian Strahl). One thing that seeing all these letters made me realize is that email is a substandard means of communication when it comes to the nostalgic quality of these letters. The feeling of getting letters, touching letters, even smelling letters, seeing someone's handwriting, etc., is just beyond compare. They are so beautiful, and it's so wonderful to hold something on your hands that is from ten years ago.

Letters were all I had, there was no phone, (pretty much) no email, no texties. It's funny to see just the one side of these conversations, since all I have is the letters I received. I sometimes struggle to remember what I could have written to these people.

I could write a book about these letters, and expound upon the meanings behind what these people wrote to me, the stories behind their lives, the meaningfulness of everything and anything, their words still living on pieces of paper. The globe, the world still felt huge, the bigness of it all, and the sincerity of all the friendships and times that were shared, it's all such a precious and beautiful thing to have been a part of.

I could spent a year writing about these letters. Maybe that is what I'll do. It makes me feel really lucky to read these words that people have written. It makes me feel incredibly loved. Thanks to the writers of the letters. Your handwriting meant a lot to a lonely mohinder.

Sunday, June 01, 2008



Natto-zushi, before the roll.

I know what you're thinking... It's not dirty: It's brown rice. What can I say, I'm a hippie. And I did trim the edge of that nori, I know it's too long. It was good stuff, even though I had to resort to using the stray packets of leftover soy sauce that were in the silverware drawer when my "real" bottle of soy sauce ran out.

I was always kind of mad at whoever kept putting those condiment packets in the silverware drawer (Hector, probably), but within the past week they have really paid off. I used to think "Seriously, who will actually use this Taco Bell mild sauce later?" and more than anything, I was just kind of confused as to why the silverware drawer was the place to store these items (because where I come from, they are kept in the butter compartment of the fridge, which makes even less sense, but whatever). Wouldn't you know it, this week I was beautifully saved (TWICE!), first by some ketchup packets (I somehow found myself with some lonely french fries that needed ketchup, and the cold ketchup in the fridge seemed all wrong to me at the time, my palate demanded room temperature ketchup), and then also by the aforementioned soy sauce, so it just goes to show that sometimes if you don't at first understand something, you just gotta have faith, faith, faith. (Cue George Michael Music). The meaning will be revealed to you my friend, in the most profound and meaningful way. Ketchup for your lonely fries, soy sauce for your pretentious sushi rolls.

There is harmony in the universe once again.

Friday, May 30, 2008

The DIA's Weird Mural

Denver Airport Creepy Mural
F.G.E.O.T.P. correspondent Maggie Paino delivers the goods with this snap from that creepy Freemason mural at the Denver Airport. Word on the street is there are more where this came from. Freemason meeting ground for the new world order of reptilians or not, the DIA is one of the most weirdly decorated airports out there.

Wee Wee See?

Wee Wee See
There's some urban legends show on the Discovery Channel right now, and they just debunked that one myth about there being a chemical in pools that will turn urine red.

I guess I never really questioned that legend, but it certainly makes sense that it isn't true. If it has been mentioned on a TV show though, it might as well be true, right? This legend was immortalized in the "Splashdown" episode of The Adventures of Pete and Pete, where the chemical was called "Wee-Wee See" (<- the whole episode is there on Google Video!) and it was manufactured by the ubiquitous Krebstar brand. But here's the thing. What this TV program said was that although this legend is false, we all benefit from the fact that children still believe this story because it keeps them from peeing in the pool. Basically what they are saying is "Let's keep it that way" and I think I might just agree with them. There are worse things that can get be deposited in a pool (Baby Ruth, anyone?) but I'd rather just not think about the pee in there, ya know. Like Santa Claus, a little lie that can scare little kids into being good might not be such a bad thang.* Wee Wee See

*Speaking of the word "thang" I once worked with a guy whose name was Thang. He was from like Laos or Vietnam or something. This was at the height of this word's popularity. We all got a real kick out of embedding his name into simple little jokes that were spoken in honkified Snoop Dog parlance.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Recently Viewed Movies

So, school is out and movie-watching is in. I'm not sick of it yet, so I've been "feeding" my "brain" with a steady stream of movies via my revived Karagarga* account and a free month of Netflix.

My five word reviews:

  • The Lives of Others -80's East Germany totally sucked.
  • My Kid Could Paint That - Dad helped? Genre bogus anyway!
  • The White Diamond - Gotta love intense German men.
  • Paris, je t'aime - Even bad ones over quickly.
  • Baby Mama - Your friends: Wingspan and Banjo.
  • Ironman - Big budget, boring experience = meh...
  • American Teen - Warsaw, Indiana felt very important.
  • Triumph of the Nerds pt. 1 - Young Jobs resembles Tim Kinsella.
  • Down and Derby - Pat Morita barely in it.
  • That new Indiana Jones - Spoiler alert: There are aliens.
  • 10 MPH - Dude rides Segway long distances.
So yeah, I signed up for Netflix. At least for the first free month (thanks K.V.!). I'm trying to get as many movies in as possible during that time, and then I might bump down to a cheaper plan or cancel, depending on what I think. You can add me as a friend there of you want, I am like such a loser on there right now, I'm like the new kid at school or something. Have pity on me. Have any good recommendations? I only have 50 movies in my cue (most are Northern Exposure season 3 and Dr. Katz discs, so help me out here).

*A word about Karagarga, it is a "private bittorrent community specializing in arthouse, alternative, cult and classic movies" and it's so wonderfully snobby that they once revoked someone's account for uploading High Fidelity. And that is why I love it. Sure, Tommy Boy is one of my favorite movies, but Karagarga has more weird and interesting indie movies from around the world than I would ever be able to watch in a whole lifetime, and their downloads are ridiculously fast. When I watch my computer as movies are downloading from there, I think to myself "I didn't know that my internet was capable of going this fast," like, whole 1.4 GB movies in 20 minutes, etc. Getting an account on this site was more trouble than applying for college (for example, I had to write an essay explaining what I could bring to the community, etc.), but it has been totally worth it. Snobbery has very high standards, and that is why I love Karagarga.