Tuesday, April 29, 2008

People Be All Pushin' the Envelope on the Concept of 100%

I was watching this one cooking contest/reality TV show, where these three bungling chefs were promising that they would do better so that they wouldn't get eliminated by the cranky British host/judge. You know the show I'm talking about? It's pretty much indistinguishable from the rest of television, but whatever.

Anyway, the first guy faces the judge and commits to giving 110% in the kitchen from now on.

As junior high school graduates, we all know that 100% is the maximum. 100%. That means everything. Every part of the whole thing. It means everything, but we live in a very extreme world, and I don't know if you noticed, but everything is just not enough anymore. So people started saying 110% to refer to trying really extra super hard at things that are actually not mathematically quantifiable - things like being a chef on a reality TV show, for example.

So the one guy, he said he was going to give 110%.

Then the next guy comes up to talk this fake a-hole host/judge dude. This guy gets an idea. He is going to mathematically one-up the guy before him. Why not, right? If you can throw around one magical and imaginary mathematical value, why not another one - one of higher imaginary value.

You see, he commits to give 125%. He will give 125% in the kitchen from now on. Wow.

Yup, 110%, the beloved value of sportscasters and youth athletics coaches throughout America had just been made completely obsolete.

Now what happens next is a very intense moment for me. There are three guys who have to report to this idiot judge/host guy, so there's one more guy left. The question on everyone's mind at this point is this:

Is he going to "go there"?

It's quite intense. He is caught in the middle of an arms proliferation battle, except the 'arms' in this case are conceptually impossible values, escalating at the speed of reality TV. Is he going to say that he will commit to giving a value larger that 125% in the kitchen from now on? To not do so would be letting the other guys win, but... It's dangerous, it's completely uncharted territory. They show the guy on camera, he clearly seems to be weighing his words. Could the very fabric of the universe be destroyed if he says the he will give more that 125%? Has a value higher than 125% ever even been thought of? What would that even be? 135%?... 200%?!?!?!

My heart was pounding.

The guy, he faces the judge, and he just says something like "Iiiiiiiiii'm not so good with percentages, but all I can tell you is that I'll do my best."

Point being: He did look like a chump, but he might have actually saved the world from imploding on itself.

He might have gotten voted off the show. I forget.

That One Cash vs. Credit Commerical = A Lie.

You know that one commercial where it's like this hip cafeteria and there all these people just zipping along paying for their food with credit cards all quick, and then this one "total jerk" pays with cash and like, time stops, the line comes to a halt, and everything is totally logjammed?

It is a lie.

At least, it is a lie in the world that I live in. I just got through waiting in a line that was comically the opposite of the scenario that this commercial depicts. Cash? Ok, here's your change, here ya go, thanks, see ya. Card? Swipe. Cashier waits, as if to make it seem as obvious as possible that she is annoyed by the fact that she has to wait, she smacks her gum, rolls her eyes, rests her head on her hand. People next in line be all like "Can I pay while we're waiting for her card to go through?" The cashier's like "nuh-uh." And then finally, to save the day, a junky little receipt comes buzzing out of a junky little printer. Transaction complete!

I mean, I'm sure that it depends on the location, but cards are still slow and everybody knows it.
Who are they trying to fool? Cash is cool. Cash is fast. Cash leaves no trace. Cash is universally less annoying in pretty much 98% of the real-world transactions I can think of.

Plus, I just like paying with cash (and I like getting paid in cash). It just feels classy. It makes me feel like my money is dangerous. Did this legal tender come from a drug deal or a landscaping job? Did this bill come from a metal briefcase or from a ziplock baggie under his bed? It's mysterious and nice.

It's also really fun to have a bunch of one dollar bills because then you can make a joke about working as a stripper, even if it isn't true. When someone sees you with a large stack of one dollar bills, this joke works, EVERY SINGLE TIME. I think it might actually be the only joke that NEVER gets old. The more unlikely you are to actually work as a stripper, the better, especially if the person who hears the joke might have to touch the money later.

Everyone knows someone who is totally "cards only." We all know these people. They like to order stuff from catalogs. You might be one of these people. I'm going to go ahead and say it anyway: These people are kind of annoying. Get some cash! You will spend it! We live in America, it's OK, you're not going to get pick-pocketed at the market or nothin. Getting cash from an ATM is inconvenient? Guess what, so is wanting to go somewhere with your friends and then being all like "Oh wait, they don't take cards there, let's go somewhere else." Want to buy a tamale from a street vendor? You better get with it, dude. Your friends will hate you that much less the next time you can actually pay for a Sprite at the vending machine by yourself.

Anyway, I wish I could find that commercial on YouTube or something. It is really unbelievable. I wanted to yell at the screen when I saw it, because it is just such a lie. I mean, when you pay with a card, sometimes you even have to enter a PIN or sign a piece of paper! Who do they think we are?

UPDATE:
Aaaaaaaaand here's the video! Cousin Sarah to the rescue! Hooray.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

"The Final Countdown" Sheet Music For Trumpet

final countdown sheet music

I don't know how this happened, but it did, and I am so in love with it. If you have come here looking for trumpet sheet music for "The Final Countdown" by Europe, you have come to the right place. Not so much because you will find it here, but because you, my friend, are awesome. And I want to talk to you.

First off, let me thank you for playing the trumpet. Good instrument choice. Let me also thank you for not playing ska. There's a genre that will never go back to what it once was. It's too complicated at this point. Nope, you aren't looking for ska, you're looking for something greater. Something more majestic. "The Final Countdown" is a song with a power that will never be matched in a song again.

It's from Sweden!

Think about it. Is there any other song on the planet that makes you feel the way that "The Final Countdown" does? No way, forget about it. Impossible. We all know that.

What's great about your visit is that you in your wide-eyed trumpet optimism think that the horn-like sound in this song is actually a horn. It's not. Our friend, nickname "Wiki," tells us:

The song is based on an old keyboard riff that vocalist Joey Tempest composed as early as around 198182, on a Korg Polysix keyboard that he borrowed from keyboardist Mic Michaeli. The synth riff used in the recording was performed on a Roland JX-8P.
But hey. I say go for it. Make it your own. It's probably better with a real trumpet. As a matter of fact, what the heck, once I figure what the staff for trumpet looks like (what is it, treble cleff? paging my sister-in-law...), I will transcribe and post the trumpet sheet music for "The Final Countdown." But you must promise me that you will send me a video of your performance of that talent show, marching band performance, or wherever it might be that you are performing this arrangement. I'll post 'em here, on the internet's premiere repository for "The Final Countdown" trumpet sheet music. I am not interested in any other kind of trumpet sheet music. Life is too short for other trumpet sheet musics. It's "The Final Countdown" or nothing.

Seriously though, this song sends chills down my spine. Yeah, I mean it's funny because it was Gob's theme song on Arrested Development, it experienced a well-deserved renaissance due to that, but even before Gob I always liked this song, and did it at karaoke whenever possible. The hopeless nerdiness of its sci-fi lyrics combined with the infectious beat and that wonderful synth pad (trans-continental code across the land for latent homosexuality) make it completely unique and absolutely unforgettable. I don't think I'm the only one who remembers exactly where he was the first time he heard this song. As I said before, there has not been and most likely never will be another song like it. So jam it. On the trumpet.

How a search for this hallowed term brought anyone here to this page I know not, but when I see a need, I seek to fill it.

Your friend,

-Mike

Thursday, April 17, 2008

You Might Be an Old School Internet User If...

From 1994 to present. In no particular order of oldness:

  • You loved searching the 'net with Webcrawler. And you even used Lycos sometimes too.
  • You posted some ridiculous stuff on Prodigy, CompuServe, or AOL one night at a sleepover at your friend's house.
  • You think you were actually the first person to write about a given topic on the internet. (For example, I still maintain that I was the first person ever to write about Lynda Barry on the internet.)
  • You took advantage of those 1,000 free hours of AOL.
  • You did Napster on dialup, only to have some song ruined when your mom picked up the phone.
  • You later used Napster with blazing ethernet speed from your dorm room and "went buck." You and everyone like you took up 90% of your school's bandwidth with that stuff.
  • You got an IM from someone on Napster about June Panic.
  • You got sued by Metallica.
  • You had a profile on MakeOutClub.
  • You can't help but think you hear that AOL Instant Messenger sound every time you hear R. Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet."
  • You got real freaked out about that email tax rumor and signed the petition.
  • You made a homepage that was hosted on your college's server (bonus points if you were only allowed 1MB of server space or less and still made it "better than any of the crap out there today").
  • You rocked dialup.
  • You rocked a text-only browser via dialup.
  • You eventually later rocked Netscape or Mosaic.
  • You tried out eWorld. You maybe forgot to cancel your subscription, got charged.
  • You left the computer going overnight to download an MPEG of some movie trailer.
  • You ever made a webpage that said "Best if viewed in Internet Explorer Version (whatever)." People used to say stuff like this about IE's superiority with such a smug sense of superiority that it made me want to punch their website in the face. Alas, it's pretty obvious that the test of time has revealed Internet Explorer to be the George W. Bush of web browsers, so I guess the joke is on them.
  • You ever met up IRL with someone from a Telnet chatroom.
  • You have ever "fingered" someone without ever actually touching them. (Telnet, dude.)
  • You were part of a webring. And it felt good.
  • You had the guys at the Bad Art website draw you an MS Paint picture of Lisa Loeb.
  • You sent away for your free Intrrr Nrrrd patch. It never came.
  • You found some pretty cool stuff in GopherSpace.
  • You had a GeoCities page.
  • That GeoCities page had a repeated graphic as the background that made your text real hard to read.
  • You had some real cryptic URL.
  • You remember when Hotmail was HoTMaiL. You thought it was cool that email could be checked on a browser. Weird.
  • You actually used the term "netizen" without being sarcastic.
  • You had a list of bookmarks that dropped all the way down to the bottom of the screen.
  • You ever had an "Under Construction" banner on your page.*
  • You coded all your homepage's HTML by hand.
  • You used the blink tag.
  • You posted a 10-second 8-bit .AU file of your favorite Boy's Life song on your homepage. It was a huge webspace sacrifice, but it was so cool.
  • You marveled at transparent .GIFs.
  • Your mind was blown by how small .JPGs are compared to TIFFs.
  • You were pretty much sure you would never be able to afford a scanner.
  • You waited for two minutes for PhotoShop to load up on the fastest computer on campus.
  • You went buck downloading fonts this one time at the computer lab. One of them was the Grunge Font. You saved it onto one of floppy discs in your collection.
  • You tried to get your Aldus PageMaker files to turn into webpages.
  • You loved Bob Nanna's blog. Or that list he made of every movie he watched for a year.
  • You always kept a copy of Stuffit Expander on a floppy in your backpack just in case.
  • You contemplated going halvsies with your friend to buy a 100MB Zip disc.
  • You had a Friendster account.
  • You got made fun of by a kid in high school for having a Friendster account when "MySpace is clearly better."
  • You remember when it was called THEFacebook.com.
I'm sure I'm missing some. Feel free to add others. I'm pretty much void of internet clichés from 1996-98, since I was in Japan at the time. Any help filling in gaps there would be appreciated. I'm sure there was some like super-important stuff that happened then.

*This one is really interesting, because the new update-based paradigm, in which the internet is all about updates, and when a site is assumed to not be a static entity, then it allows for the notion of something being "under construction" to really seem like a quaint little joke. Things are no longer under construction. Instead, being in a state of flux is now a desirable thing that keeps people coming back to the website. I mean, I guess it makes sense that everyone thought so small when the internet first came out. What did we have as examples of what good media was supposed to look like? Books, magazines, newspapers. These are all things that are done once and then never done again. What so many people didn't see is that the real power in the internet was that you could change things around easily, you can add things easily, and that simply having a website was not enough, that if you wanted to keep people coming back, you had to offer new content for their eyes. Oh how silly we were!

Many of the above memories are related to the times I had freshman year at Purdue with Chris Foresman. He's the one who pointed me to The Beginner's Guide to HTML and got me started making bad web pages. Props to him, he is now a famous Apple webster. He hangs with The Woz like all the time, I heard.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Phrase "If You Igonore It, It Goes Away" Found to Actually Work on the Internet

Most things in life don't go away if you ignore them. They just get worse.

But it turns out that this rule is not true of pretentious, blogbuzz-bloated gossipy payola-esque music sites on the internet. I found that if you ask it to leave, it will.

For a while I had a few of these jerk sites on my RSS reader. It's probably pretty easy to guess what they were. Some of them are held in high regard as the "authority" on the soundtrack to hipster life. They would constantly be updated with "news" about music (90% of which I do not listen to and do not enjoy) that their perceived demographic is supposed to like. In some strange act of masochism, I would read this news to see what was going on in "the world of music." In a strange way, it was sometimes kind of reassuring, to see that safe, mediocre music (with the help of the right publicist) could get a lot of hype. This makes it easier for all musicians to dream, even the mediocre ones.

After realizing that I was just kind of grossed out by these sites, one day I just decided to delete it from my feeds. I don't usually do that, I mean I don't mind seeing that Perez Hilton or Craft Magazine blog or Digg or Best Week Ever have filled up to the Bloglines maximum of 200 and (like the library you checked out a book from but then somehow lost) will probably never be returned to again - out of guilt, apathy, and being totally overwhelmed/not caring. These feeds go peacefully unread. NBD.

The excess of the internet information flow is kind of a given, it doesn't really bother me when it comes to celebrity gossip, amazing knitted pandas, or internet LOLz. But seeing that bloated verbal/graphic waste in music kind of makes me just feel gross. I know that music is not sacred ground, it's a product of consumption just like everything else, but it "cheeses me off" in a way that other publicist/marketing-bourne information garbage does not.

Anyway, so I deleted these things from my life. And guess what? Now I never think about it. Luckily I don't really hang out with people who buzz about buzz-worthy bands and stuff like that, so it's effectively gone. It worked.

Even listening to the local college radio station is a more pleasant experience. As much as people dog on stations (or rather, the impressionable DJ's) like WIUX for mirroring and hanging on to the every word of the sites that I used to hate so much, I find it hard to hate college radio because at least it presents music at face value, as music. It's sounds - not pictures, not news, not tour dates, not amazing stories about where they recorded their last album, not things that are supposed to seem cool or funny, not free (or is it?) advertising and announcements about buzzy bands. When you hear the song on the radio, it's one song at a time, music as music, and you either feel the song or you think it sucks, and your decision is based simply on that, not on the band's picture or their massive tour announcement or the references who else likes their stuff or what other bands they sound like.

I wished it away, and it really has gone away. I have no idea who is a cool band anymore. It's ok. If you ignore it long enough, gross media really can go away. It's nice to know that we really can shape our mental landscapes after all.

Friday, April 11, 2008

emoamigo@aol.com

critterguys025

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Night Shopping - Primal Peace, Good Soundtrack

processing transps023My mental powers are at their peak when I am pushing a shopping cart.

There's something primally satisfying about getting food. After all, for many years getting food was the prime objective of most humans. For some it still is. For those of us living in the post hunter-gatherer lifestyle, we don't know what to do with ourselves, so when we are getting food, regardless of how contrived our way of getting it is, it feels right.

I usually go shopping every week, and going to the grocery store for me gives a concentrated and euphoric dose of security and accomplishment, all without any of the actual struggle involved in getting the food. I know, I know, we all work hard to get money to buy the food, but we do stuff that doesn't have anything directly related to making food-getting happen. That's why the grocery store is so weird, because it gives us a feeling that we maybe aren't physiologically deserving of. Like crying over a TV show, or feeling safe because someone lied to you and told you that the tent that you just bought is bear-proof. It's B.S., but hey, whatever works.

recepit024

Lately I have found myself being really attracted to the music they play at grocery stores. I know that you are probably thinking about how grocery stores are classic examples of social engineering, and how they are refined down to the smallest detail to monetize on the customers who visit. And yes, that is true, certainly. But let's just for a moment assume that this is not a bad thing. What other experience in your life is examined so scientifically, with your own sense of peace in mind? What other institutions so calculatedly play on attending to the unfulfilled primal desires of the human spirit? Besides football, TV, and video games?

When I walk through the store, my mind is filled with incredible, deep, powerful thoughts. Irony coexists with sincerity, confusion begets true understanding.

I always enjoyed the character Murray in Don DeLillo's White Noise because he is depicted as being really fascinated by grocery stores. I read this book for the second time two summers ago, and although I don't remember exactly what Murray liked so much about grocery stores, I feel that I strongly relate to his fascination with grocery stores. It's a good book. I like it. Whenever I sign up for the new social networking sites or whatever, I put that one down, because I really remember liking more than other fiction books.

Whenever I go to a new country, the first thing I want to check out is their grocery stores. I want to see how these people really live. I want to see what products they choose to buy, to see what they choose to define themselves, and how the manufacturers and consumers participate in a symbiotic cycle of consumption and production. One is dead without the other, but have they always really existed?

You know that cliché about how the alien from outer space goes "take me to your leader"? When I am an alien in another country, I just want to say "take me to your grocery stores." In a way it's kind of the same thing. Our grocery stores are public officials that have been elected by our dollars. They represent us, whether we like it or not. They were rightfully elected, and without us they could not exist.

Is it a surprise that Wal-Mart acts so much like the American government? The only people we can to blame for the success of this creation is ourselves.

But still, there is something so strangely weightless about being in a grocery store at night. There is something reassuring about knowing that you can get that feeling any time of the day. Whenever you want. Tonight is the first night of the year in my mind when the evening has brought a coolness to an otherwise warm day. There is no other feeling quite like walking into an American grocery store on a summer evening. To walk into that air conditioning, to feel the condensation on your skin go cold so suddenly, to smell the fresh peels on the bananas, and the smell of melon rind, everything is properly lit, it is so surreal, it's like walking on a cloud.

At night quiet people restock the shelves. They realize they are in your way, and move their stuff willingly.

The quest of the caveman was for so long to get food. We have transformed the act of getting food (what was once the very quest of human existence) into a streamlined sensory cush ride, and honestly, it feels pretty good. Perhaps that is why it is there that my thoughts take abstract turns to subjects usually suited for those who have the privilege of dreaming. And I don't mean dreaming like what happens when you sleep, but dreaming as in thinking of things that are on a higher plane that where you currently reside. Let me explain.

If you're reading this, you probably have some free time on your hands. No diss, it just means that you are afforded the luxury of being able to do exactly what you want. Not that reading this is exactly what you wish you could be doing at this moment, but you have the freedom to kick around the internet, check up on friends, find stuff that's interesting, whatever. Taken to the extreme, this can mean that you have the potential to dream, and to do something about that dream. I generally like to hang around creative people who do creative things, and so these people are in a sense dream-chasers. I would hope to include myself in this category. I think that I take the process of getting ideas, loving those ideas until they are lovable, and making them happen pretty seriously.

For me this sense of freedom to dream comes from having both the free time to devote to fostering ambition and the ability (and it is a privilege, I know) to not worry about my basic needs of food, shelter, emotional health, etc. I think this is why what happens at the grocery store is so strangely powerful - Although I rarely actually worry about my ability to get food, I think that going through the motions of procuring delicious products still does something powerful to me.

Freed of a completely unsubstantiated (yet biologically still present) primal fear of starvation, I feel like I am on top of the world, finally able to kick the mysteries of life around in my head. That freedom (combined with some REO Speedwagon on the speakers) makes for an incredible feeling.


P.S. I just realized that the blog entry before this was also about going to the store. Coincidence? Hardly!