Monday, August 08, 2005

Doing it and doing it and doing it

A question posted in THE NEW YORK TIMES by the proprietors of an Ad Agency:

I'm a subscriber to your (Newspaper) in Devonport, a seaside suburb of Auckland, New Zealand. With your wide readership in the U.S. ad industry, I thought you'd be better placed than anyone to help us with a phenomenon we have noticed that involves your compatriots.

We appreciate that the name of our agency, the Department of Doing, is a little quirky and helps us get noticed in an industry where everyone craves attention. But here's the rub. Our premises are on the top floor of a 19th-century shop in Devonport and we have a "Department of Doing" sign outside. We always expected the odd inquiry out of curiosity but fully 60 percent of the people who climb our steep stairs to ask, "So, what does the Department of Doing do, exactly?" are American.

We now have a visitors' book and this comment would be typical: "Fascinated by name - had to come up!" Visitors sign themselves from Chesapeake Bay, San Diego and many other U.S. destinations.

We spend a lot of time talking to our American friends and they are all very charming. But could you throw some light on their overrepresentation as investigative stair-climbers? Is your nation more curious than others? Are Americans bolder, "not backward about coming forward," as my mum would put it? Rest assured that tea, cake and a convivial chat will always be on order for our American guests.

Ghost Cycle in Seattle

Pam's post on famous and nonfamous reminded me to check out the site that is listed on eerie white bikes with red printed signs that are dotted around Seattle. See picture & mission statement here.

I've seen three bikes so far, in areas where there are many bicyclists & bad traffic patterns converge and have wondered what the story was behind the bikes. There's something that hits home for me about memorials for stricken bicyclists, as I used to make my living riding a bike in Washington, D.C. (memorialized here by an old friend of a friend). The main reason I quit was because the idea of getting hit by a "any day now" was too oppressive. So, after two years, I gave up riding.

Ghost cycle, cool project.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Wiki this

Hey all,

Too long an absence makes for a rusty start. However, I'm still surfing & have rounded out my collection of my latest, favorite technology.

Here's a description from the source:

"Wiki is in Ward's original description: The simplest online database that could possibly work.

Wiki is a piece of server software that allows users to freely create and edit Web page content using any Web browser. Wiki supports hyperlinks and has a simple text syntax for creating new pages and crosslinks between internal pages on the fly."

The beauty of a combined websource is in it's diversity. My current favorites are the Wikinews site, Wikipedia & Wikiquote, but there's heaps more.

My favorite cartoon has a wiki of it's own, as well as the site with the php code I use to build my photo galleries. There are folks using wiki's for journals and folks building wiki's for their communities, for productivity sites and, of course, for niche interests. You can even make your own.

I watched a monster, time-lapsed movie about folks entering news on the London blasts, made by a guy who is pointing out the intersection of culture & media on the web. I remember being up that morning & marveling over the news announcing that a "power-surge" had stopped several trains in London. Shortly after, the bus in Tavistock blew and it was more obvious that it was a coordinated attack. The video isn't the coolest thing, but it is refreshing to have an option, media-wise, when all hell breaks loose.

Check out wiki's folks & do tell if you've made one.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Happy Software Story

Have you tried Total Recorder? Really, you should.

The standard version is an $11.95 download which went quickly, even on my elderly dial-up. Total Recorder will record whatever audio passes through the sound card of your computer.

I'm using it right now to record an old THIS AMERICAN LIFE from 1997. There's all sorts of great audio on the web, of course. The BBC, NPR. And music of course. Forget ordinary old file swapping, how about recording a chunk of YFM's streaming broadcast "Playing the best mix of original, Urban South African music and international artists." Amazing commercials and The Morning Zoo format from very far away.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Hate It Or Love It

I'm slowly returning to the wider world at the end of a school term and reviewing all the chunks of information I've emailed myself to look at later.

An interesting set of tips in the NYT regarding a set of guidelines for conducting an honest argument between two entrenched sides:

1. Hate something for its failings, not its successes.
Simple idea, tough for me to execute. What I take away from this is that it's okay to find fault with, say, Paris Hilton for being a vacuous twerp but not because she has a successful television show.

2. No condemning something until you've tried it.
I hate the city of Phoenix which is peculiar considering that I've never been, never come close to going, don't personally know of anything bad that happened in Phoenix to any of my loved ones, etc.

3. Execution Matters
See John Kerry. Bless his heart but there were so many apologists insisting that he was NOT chilly, distant, aloof, etc. etc. It's a losing battle to convince someone that her experience using a product or a service (I suppose a presidential candidate is both) is not frustrating but actually delightful.

skipping number four for a moment...

5. Consider that they may have a point
from the original: Neither side's members should be allowed to cover their ears and sing "Blah blah blah!" at the top of their lungs when they hear an argument that could rock their worldview. As long as the points are factual, fair and substantive, you should consider them.

I thought this was such a nice list of guidelines that I removed them from their original context which was a David Pogue essay that laid out the ground rules for Windows vs. Mac conversations (number four is "Don't make grandiose purchasing plans by guessing on technology's future"-sound advice, perhaps, but not quite as readily adaptable to other arguments.)

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Consider Yourself

A few days ago, I'm talking to a person about doing some work for them. This person is well-off, white, has an expensive home with an expensive view in an expensive neighborhood. This person made their money in corporate America and then left to make a living in a more new age (do we still use that term?) focused pursuit. And, in conversation about this person's ideas, they said this: "I'm like Rosa Parks."

If you ever watched Sports Night, Aaron Sorkin's brilliantly written TV show that died way too soon, you might remember the scene where Issac says to Dan that "no well-to-do young white man will ever get anywhere with him by comparing himself to Rosa Parks."

To deal with my feelings about my interaction with this person, when I got home I decided to find out who else had compared themselves to the woman who refused to go to the back of the bus. Here's what I came up with:

Ted Nugent: Nugent wanted to legalize dove hunting in Michigan and called himself "Rosa Parks with a 12 gauge."

Terrell Owens: A football player who made a brouhaha because he wanted to work as a free agent.

Lars Larson
: A conservative talk show host who thought the request by Southern Oregon University to leave his handgun at home while particpating in an on campus forum violated his civil rights.

Jack Kevorkian: The infamous Dr. Death who portrays himelf as fighting for a cause - legalized euthanasia.

Ahmed Omar Abul Ali: The Virginia Muslim charged with conspiring to assassinate President Bush.

Edward Forchian: A guy who's says that US marijuana laws are unconstitutional.

I thought it was interesting that all the people I found comparing themselves to Rosa Parks were men. The women I found had been compared to Rosa Parks by their peers or by an outside group; they hadn't drawn the comparison themselves.

I find the whole thing very presumptuous. I thought that history decided who was a leader and who was a prophet. But I have been wrong before. At this point, I want to issue a broad disclaimer about what a flawed human I am. I also want to veer off in to a tirade about humility and the lack thereof in our current society and government. Because I'm just like Al Franken. But also, I'm like a Trappist nun, so I'll shut up now.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Weddings, Afternoons, and Paul Rucker

Currently playing: III-Paul Rucker (released album, but nfs, for whatever reason).
Smells like sunshine, don't it? I spent this afternoon (Thursday) speaking with an old friend from my days in Pittsburgh, Kavita. She's getting married about a year from now, to a Providence speechwriter/pizza tosser turned med student. They're having a hybrid Catholic/South Indian wedding. I already asked the brazenly gauche question: is the Indian version like in Monsoon Wedding? Answer: no, that is North Indian, and the ceremonies are quite different. She was the only person that I look back and feel was missing from our ceremony 4 years ago (don't even get me into a conversation about who should have been left off the invitation list).

Now playing: Spanish Root - D'angelo
In my ideal world, weddings would be like amped up dinner parties - ritual, food, friends, toasts, a raising of the spirits. Having witnessed and heard about others' weddings since our date, I am coming to realize that this is not a common phenomenon. It's hard to tread the thin line of serious ritual and uplifting celebration, particularly when so much cultural baggage is built into the details of the Western wedding ceremony.

Now playing: She's My Baby - Fats Domino
I'm bringing all of this up as Stephen's wedding is right around the corner, but also as this is the season for these things, this kind of attitude is one I'd like to foster for the next few months. Having Drew and Alex in town kicked off this feeling. It's close to the solstice and so our energy level is at its height. We try to create stories in the summer that sustain us through winter. It's weddings, beach trips, frisbee in the park, playing music together in fields. NOT watching cable - not cocooning. :)

Now playing: Beautifully Absurd - Prince Paul featuring Ellington Felton and K'Alyn
Leaving one of the other Blind Shoemakers' houses last night, I talked with the uke player about having an artichoke party - dipping the leaves in butter, scraping off the meat with our teeth. Feel free to invite yourself. I hope to see all of you many times in the next few months with as many serious celebrations as we can muster.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Sleepless in Seattle

Up last night until 4am after feeling a combo of irkedness and exhilaration - the former from dipshits at work, the latter from the Blind Shoemakers, or whatever we're calling our ragtag band of oddball musicians that show up Wednesday nights to drink wine, eat rice, and sing Beefheartian spirituals. For some reason, I thought that catching up on blogs would calm me down. I find that reading blogs tends to set back my ability to process information or feel at ease. Information now has a lower overload threshold, and in our apocalyptic? just another day? times, I feel needy for it in the same way Stephen does for cable.

Currently reading:
Brad DeLong (former undersecretary of the Treasury during Clinton administration)
Get Religion (what it sounds like: coherent analysis of religion in the press)
Scobleizer (Microsoft kool-aid drinker with a mind to improve the technology, or at least the marketing)
Mark A. R. Kleiman (public policy professor at UCLA)
Free Republic (a behind the scenes look at who the press thinks steers our elections, the self-satisfied red-staters)
along with liberal helpings of Kos and Yglesias.

Then there's the MP3 blogs. I have over 24 hours of music downloaded at this point. It's a nervous habit at this point, like picking my nose. These things are better than anything Napster could have come up with. I could care less about podcasting - these blogs are great because they act as a filter for the matrix of music hiding in the wires. Quality rather than quantity. There's a review of everything posted, and they graciously pull down tracks 7-10 days later. Much of it is unreleased, like the Diplo "Favela on Blast" mix of Brazilian mash-up MCs, and 95% of my acquisitions I love, unlike the catalogs of Napster addicts I've observed. I won't give you a list, as I tend to wander aimlessly via sidebar nav links, but a good start is Greensboro-based Honey, Where You Been So Long or Dakar-based Benn loxo du taccu.

Here it is 1am, and I'm listening to a download of Bigga Bush's (Rockers Hifi) recent online radio mix. Samba, dub/dancehall, string-laden old skool, and nu-jazz beats (currently sounding like a remix of Mia Doi Todd's Manzanita). I'm never going to sleep again.

PS - I almost forgot - on the subject of MP3 blogs, M.Matos of the Village Voice/Seattle Weekly recently gave a paper at the EMP pop conference on the evolution of the Apache break/sample in hip-hop. Oliver Wang responds with a somewhat extensive posting of Apache-based tunes.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Visitors and Guests

In response to my complaints of guilt paralysis and the dread of energy draining apologies about blogging and email replies, a friend said, "don't apologize." So I won't.

now playing: Karmacoma - Massive Attack (no joke!)

I worked off a lack of response to an email from Drew about my planned MP3 player purchase by hosting he and his partner Alex for the weekend, and whipping up a comfort dinner of beef stew, mashed potatoes, and pineapple upside-down cake from a new recipe. This after a long walkabout (7 or 8 miles) in Ballard, taking in Sunset Hill, Golden Gardens, Market Street, and 17th Ave. My doggies were whupped. I've really missed hosting folks for short/long weekends, mooch tours, etc., so consider yourself invited.

now playing: unknown Nigerian Rap - unknown artist

Andrew brought along a promo cdcast that Jeff Chang (Quannum) handed out in Chicago at a reading for his latest book, "Can't Stop, Won't Stop." An

It didn't start so well. Clive played some dancehall tunes, ones guaranteed to rock any yard dance. Like any proud DJ, he wanted to stamp his personality onto his playlist. But this was the Bronx. They wanted the breaks. So, like any good DJ, he gave the people what they wanted, and dropped some soul and funk bombs. Now they were packing the room. There was a new energy. DJ Kool Herc took the mic and carried the crowd higher.

"All people would hear is his voice coming out from the speakers," Cindy says. "And we didn't have no money for a strobe light. So what we had was this guy named Mike. When Herc would say, 'Okay, Mike! Mike with the lights!', Mike flicked the light switch. He got paid for that."

The cdcast (I don't know what else to call it, a combo of music mix and documentary voiceover) showcased some classic dub and dancehall along with early 80s hiphop I didn't recognize (at least on first listen). Lots of great music and opening our home to guests. Always greater dividends than effort expended.

now playing: Coppers - Dr. Israel with Rancid

In completely unrelated news, I just finished reading Alice Walkers' Temple of My Familiar. Best book I've read since Pamuk's Black Book in 2002. Please check it out when you're done with your current reading selection. Magical realism without being psychedelic.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Literary Fortunes

Here: Click it!

and here is my favorite:
Diplomacy is saying 'Nice doggy'
until you can find a rock.
Lucky # 1,9,20,29,40,43
Will Rogers

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Management Training, Anyone?

(Following Lillian's format)

I've been looking around for work for the past few weeks. Now that I'm done (I found a nice meaty project where I can walk to the main office, only have to cross the bridge for meetings, and will work primarily at home) I wanted to share five unbelievable things that people said to me as I sat in their guest chairs while they scribbled notes on my resume.

5. Oh, I never meet my deadlines. I'm always totally scrambling at the last minute. (Way to set an example, team lead!)

4. Our team never completes anything on time. Seems like they always move the target right at the end and we're tied up until Thanksgiving. (Your upper management rules!)

3. This is the worst building I've ever worked in. We all say that the feng shui here is totally messed up. Look at it, it's all pointy and slanty and bad. (I can hardly wait to spend 8 hours a day here!)

2. I like to do spot checks on my employee's work so I can see what they're up to. Also, I like to keep them close where I can see them. (It's nice that we're all grown-up professionals that trust each other to do their jobs, isn't it?)

And the #1 interview busting remark:

1. I can't promise I won't micromanage you. (Wow. I'm speechless!)

As an aside, I understand that you might not have a lot of time to read my resume, and also, that many resumes do not tell you what that person has done. Mine, however, is quite specific on what I've done and what I know how to do. If you point to my resume and ask "Tell me about what you did at XYZ Co.", that is an excellent indicator that you have not read my resume. In which case, why are you interviewing me?

Also, can anyone please elaborate on the thinking behind those "Tell me about a time..." and "How do you respond to..." and "Give me three words that describe..." questions. Because during my entire working life, I have never, ever, ever been asked to do any of those things.

I didn't used to hate looking for work.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

AFA tells me this...

Just got this from the virulant American Family Association. It's a list of liberal agenda items - I've added some context to their list:

Here is the agenda the liberals want to achieve. They want Senators to filibuster any judicial nominee who will not support this agenda.
  1. Approval of homosexual marriage (or just not killing or wounding or discriminating against homosexuals)
  2. Legalizing euthanasia (or just letting folks determine whether or not they want to be kept alive with medical intervention)
  3. Banning prayer in school (or being non-demoninational about it, recognize other religions, etc.)
  4. Banning the public display of the Ten Commandments (or adding displays for other religions in the U.S.)
  5. Banning the Pledge of Allegiancen (I didn't sign up for this...)
  6. Basing our laws on the laws of other nations (didn't sign up for this)
  7. Maintaining abortion on demand (yup, got me there)
  8. Forcing the Boy Scouts and similar organizations (including churches) to place homosexuals in positions of leadership (dear lord)
  9. Complete protection for all kinds of pornography (um...)
  10. Creating hate crimes laws to punish those who believe homosexuality is wrong (if they kill people)
  11. Denigrating Christianity to a secondary status (that there is a perspective issue)
  12. Making secularism the only legitimate religion (that's an ox, you moron)

Anybody got anything to add?

Saturday, April 02, 2005

I only want to see you praying in the papal reign/Papal reign, papal reign

I don't mean to sneer at catholicism or the pontiff but rather at the media coverage.

"Is the mood any different in St. Peter's Square?" Yeah, everybody was sad but now they're doing The Wave.

"We're going to continue looking at the pope, particularly his relationship to the Catholic church." As opposed to what, his relationship to General Motors?

I realize that these folks are having to make-do on an ad-lib basis...they are going live and they have to fill that air with something, anything. But they babble on and on and people get annoyed and then journalists wonder, yet again "why aren't we appreciated???"

In more important news, go Illinois!

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Wedding Ring Enscription

Many of you know that I'm going to be getting married in the next two months. Amy and I are on our way to marital bliss beginning May 15th. Despite my best efforts to shower her with compliments - she still expects me to come up with an enscription for our wedding rings. She is, of course, expecting the declaration to be heartfelt immediately sending warm fuzzies to even the biggest and baddest alpha males. My problem is that I would prefer to keep it light - make it a joke.

Last night, I told her that if she kept harrassing me about the enscription then I am going to put, "Together Forever, Like Run DMC." That's when I decided - I need a list of great enscriptions and she can choose the one she wants... There are plenty of inside jokes that we share - the next one isn't going to need much explanation, except to say that we discuss bowel movements already, "It's Not Easy Being Your Green Dookie Ball." And of course, there are the enscriptions that have a little story... Whenever my father used to see adults acting like complete asses, he used to say, "See that, they weren't beaten enough as a child." This should give you a good idea to my father's parenting techniques. My enscription would read, "You Weren't Beaten Enough As A Child, But I'm Going to Correct The Oversight." Fake sentimentality is always humorous - start off strong and then deliver the punchline, "You Complete Me, But I Am Perfectly Satisfied With My Incompletion."

Geez, the pressure on me to be the perfect fiancee and husband might be too much. How can I live up to this Gone With The Wind standard of romantic. Flowers and hallmark cards for every occasion, an unlimited source of unique compliments for each new day, ughhhhh... Who wants perfection when you can be happy with less? Wow, that sounds like another enscription...

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Television - The Downfall To My Existance

I hate those cursed bastards at Time Warner Cable - they coerced me into giving my life over to the bright glow of my 32" television. I still remember receiving my first bill from those devils, $29.95 and suddenly my soul was gone. The programming isn't that great, but all it takes is one good show out of a hundred to flush thirty minutes of your life down the tube.

I originally got cable to see basketball games (NBA and NCAA) - basketball is an obsession I can live with... but of course, cable sucked me into much more. Most mornings begin with an unhealthy dose of SportsCenter. Hey, I'm eating my cereal - the entertainment value in most cereals is low, except maybe Rice Krispies. Snap, Crackle, Pop, Rice Krispies. Who doesn't love that theme song? Usually I watch between 10-15 minutes of SportsCenter and catch the worst 15 minutes of the show (all the best stuff occurs at the beginning). Special K and banana with a little steroid talk and basketball highlights on the side.

After a grueling day at the office (haha), I need a little "zone out" time. Time for my mind to turn into mush and listen to some sports "experts" discuss the day in sports. Mike Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser battle it out on ESPN in a show called PTI, Pardon The Interuption. The show is like a timed sports version of Crossfire. A one-minute discussion occurs between the hosts on subjects like Kobe's selfishness, steroid usage, the Virginia coaching job, and the NBA's MVP race (Nash better win...). 30 minutes of time daily - flushed.

Next up at 6PM, on Court TV they show NYPD Blue reruns. What can I say - I'm a fan. The show ran for 12 years so there are a few episodes I've missed. For me, it doesn't matter whether Detective Sipowicz's partner is David Caruso, Jimmy Smits, Ricky Schroder, or Zach Morris (oops, I mean Mark Paul Gosselaar). I watch them all - enjoying every minute the cops brow beat some unsuspecting rapist. One hour of time daily - flushed.

Most normal people turn the television off at this point... It's time to do something worthwhile with their time like reading a book, working out at the gym, eating, something else, anything... Not me, The Daily Show is on next. Yes it's reruns from the previous day, but I can't stay up until 11PM on a work night. Sarcasm and irony run amok as Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert, and the rest of the gang run through the daily news. Highlights include the God machine, Bush's sack size (that's right, nut sack), and anytime Bush says something stupid (usually daily). 30 minutes of time daily - flushed.

7:30 is terrible unless basketball starts early. During this time I flip through my fifty-four stations searching for satisfaction and all I can find is Hollywood Tonight or Cosby Show reruns. Oh, damnit - it's 7:30 I'd better fix dinner fast. 8:00 is rolling up fast - full of television potential. AMC movies, TNT broadcasting the NBA, ESPN has the NIT basketball championship, or movie selections from Comedy Central, FX, or USA. If not, I've got my three netflix movies to watch. Two hours - flushed.

Ten o'clock to eleven o'clock is a tricky time. I'm left pondering bed time or watching the end of some horrifically poor basketball game. Basketball it is... 30 minutes - flushed.

My biggest problem, and I have a few to choose from, is not my weakness of character, boredom with life, or those bastards at basic cable. None of those things make me push the Power button on the remote control. Habit... I am a creature of habit and obsession. If I see a show once and like it - I have to see them all just to prove that I like it. Casual viewing is not in my vocabulary. Most of my life is cornered by obsessions... Basketball began my obsessiveness - playing morning, day, and night. Then, hip-hop music followed in my highschool years and the film fixation came in college when my favorite video store ran a special deal (one movie a day for a month at $25).

I'm going to beat this obsession however, because it leaves me with no satisfaction. There is nothing redeeming about knowing the plot for every NYPD Blue episode, remembering every ironic line Jon Stewart says, or seeing every game winning basket in the NCAA tournament. This is my AA meeting, people - I'm admitting I have a problem. Now, I'm going to fight to beat this damn thing. BE STRONG. Tell those jackasses to stick that $29.95 up their ass. Three obsessions is enough for any man. I'm reminded of an Aesop Rock song called Basic Cable:

"plug it in, turn it on, prop me up against the couch
lights out, I ain't ever gonna have to leave my house
satellite dish, get up on my wish list, turn me to a tyrant
let my clean spirit dissolve through the appliance
plug it in, turn it on, be my mother when she's gone, great
wipe the spittle off my chinny-chin during the breaks
if I gotta go blind I'mma do it for the love of all television kind
and that's fine, and that's fine..."

It's no longer fine with me. Cancel my cable - PLEASE...

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Road To The Final Four Is A Bumpy One...

Now that the final four is here, it's time to re-evaluate my time spent on the couch wholly committed to the one goal of watching so much damn basketball that I make myself physically ill. And while that goal has not been entirely achieved other secondary goals have emerged. The timing of bathroom breaks has to completely coincide with television timeouts, sandwiches must be created during halftime and/or between games, and the completion of chores is off limits during game time. Priorities - trash can be taken out any time, but a West Virginia game winner happens in the moment - I like to call it Steve's Moment Of Basketball Zen. Loud yells occur during and a moment of silent contemplation after. Let the games begin - mmm...

The opening day of March Madness went fairly close to how the "experts" thought it might - close games, few upsets, and the first and second seeds rolling. Then, zang - day 2 began and my bracket was promptly scrapped and I was left in a furious fit of rage at my own stupidity. When Syracuse lost, I was confident that my bracket was ruined... However, Kansas felt the need to supply a confirmation by losing in the first round to Bucknell in the biggest upset ever. Wayne Simien's "I wish my name was Christian Laettner" turnaround jumper barely caught the front iron single-handedly ruining all hopes of a bracket victory. I had those evil bastards in the finals... and, like that, it was over. However, that wasn't enough - Oklahoma folded to a mediocre Utah team, Connecticut played its worst game of the year against NC State, Louisville smashed an overrated Georgia Tech team, and Michigan State rolled on despite looking pedestrian all year long.

Forget all of those teams for a moment and lets get to the second best game of the tournament - Wake vs. West Virginia fighting to get to the Sweet 16. Wake led the entire game by about 10 points, but at the 5 minute mark West Virginia came alive. Both teams shot a ridiculously high percentage, but every field goal by Wake was answered with a three by WVU. Suddenly, this February bubble team became the spoiler of the tournament and ran through double overtime to defeat the otherwise final four bound Wake Forest. Mike Gansey came up big for the Mountaineers. He scored 10 points during regulation and then 19 points during the two overtime periods. There were so many clutch shots in this game - it really seemed like a crime to have somebody lose. Downey hit some ridiculous game tying shots for Wake and everytime Gansey touched the ball it was automatic points. Six starters fouled out and the other four all had four fouls. One more overtime and we would have seen the two team's walk-ons battle it out for the win.

Just when I thought that game couldn't be topped the regional finals became the only quality television CBS has shown this year. Three out of the four games went into overtime and two of the games featured the biggest comebacks ever in the NCAA tournament. First off, the West Virginia vs. Lousiville game featured a 20-point comeback for Pitino's boys. WVU came out and hit a ridiculous 10 three-pointers in the first half. Luckily, Pitino grew a brain at halftime and took Louisville out of its ridiculous 2-3 zone and pulled a miracle comeback with future NBA star Francisco Garcia fouled out on the bench. The game went into overtime, but the conclusion had already been decided in the last five minutes of regulation with Louisville's remarkable turnaround.

How can that be topped you ask? Illinois had the damn answer. The Arizona and Illinois matchup promised to be one of the tournament highlights. Arizona played its best basketball of the year in the first half and 15 minutes of the second half - running up a lead of 15 points by shooting an absurd 57% for the game. Illinois looked like they were going to be run out of the gym and then, Arizona stopped scoring. In the final three minutes, Illinois cut a 14-point lead to 3. Arizona has the ball with 25 seconds inbounding and the play goes all wrong. Illinois steals the ball, passes to the amazing Deron Williams who hits a beautiful wide open three. The overtime featured some more great plays from both teams, but again the momentum swing in the final minutes was too much for Arizona to overcome. Many are calling this the greatest game they have ever seen - I'm in no position to argue.

After UNC slid past a fiesty Wisconsin team - Michigan State and Kentucky went to war. Michigan State led the whole game, but after a few slow down possessions in the closing minutes by MSU (why do smart coaches do this?) - Kentucky got back in this one. With Kentucky down by 3 points and 12 seconds to go - Kentucky squeezed off two missed three point attempts, but the third was truly magical. Sparks pumped a three-pointer that hit off the rim, then backboard, then rim again before falling through the hoop. The play was in-time, but the referees spent ten minutes reviewing the play to see if Spark's big toe was on the line. The television blew up the camera shot and played it back 15 to 20 times and the evidence was inconclusive. Overtime, bitchez... Kentucky had this one won in the first overtime as MSU was completely demoralized, but Kentucky's point guard didn't get off a shot in the final seconds forcing the second overtime. Kentucky's players looked spent and MSU stole this game to get into the final four as a five seed.
The argument on ESPN's Pardon The Interuption was whether this is the greatest weekend ever for college basketball. Mike Wilbon, ESPN analyst and sportswriter, had to go all the way back to 1981 to even have a comparison (three number one seeds lost in one weekend that year). The road to the final four was wonderfully unpredictable as always, even with the two top teams advancing (Illinois and North Carolina). There are so many great stories to follow this weekend - Illinois' quest for a one loss season culminating in a national championship, Roy Williams' quest for his first national championship, Mike Izzo's best ever win percentage in the NCAA tournament and fourth final four in ten years, and Pitino's return to the final four with his third different team (which has never been done before). One thing is for certain, you don't want me picking the winners. Just for the record - I had Illinois to win at the beginning of this tournament. Those poor bastards don't have a chance. Sandwich creation, timed bathroom breaks, and the glowing light from the television awaits. Steve's Moment Of Zen is almost here...

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Who thought a month could be such a short amount of time?

As a kid, 1 afternoon alone used to be endless. Now it's three weeks before I realize any time has passed. Someone please wake me tomorrow when I'm dead. I dumped my entire being into work for a couple of months to try to prove that career even means anything in the new millennium. I'm ready to start posting again, in the midst of my heaviest work week ever - if only because sleep dep limits logical thinking. I'll try to break it into smaller tales rather than make an Iliad of it. Expect more this afternoon and tomorrow.

Shout outs: Bro! Fiancee! Wifings! Drew! Pam! GB! Constance! Wes!

Obligatory current music selection: "Agony of Lafitte" - Spoon

Friday, March 11, 2005

Surrender to the Pod

So I found out this morning that one of my favorite public radio stations (KCRW) is podcasting a show by one of my favorite people (Harry Shearer). I've got a MP3 player because, duh, I'm a walking cliche of my demographic - I don't eat red meat, I work in technology, I'm blue state, blah blah blah. Anyway, here's what I'm wondering and here's what I think you at Hard to Get know:

What software should I download to start carrying Harry Shearer around with me on my neighborhood walk?

Also, if This American Life starts podcasting, I will just die of joy.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Finding your totem animal

context: totem animals are a fanciful concept, chosen to reflect some part of ourselves we must project to see. One of my favorite, personal totems is the octopus. Intelligent, covert, capable of fading at will to virtual invisibility, this insanely vulnerable invertibrate pulses through the sea. The paradox of the apparant power of the larger of these beasts & the obvious vulnerability are often the focus of meditations I do.

So, here's a story: Jason comes home the other night & excitedly tells me about a date he wants to set up with me. He's been talking to a co-worker, who recommended scuba diving, in the Puget Sound. I'm a bit shocked, having a fear of water, however temporary & certainly a fear of sealife. He's dying to tell me more & starts talking about the octopi in the Puget Sound & how we can see giant octopi, but should probably go at night, there will be sharks, the water is murky, etc...

He's always very excited to go to the very limits to get me to what my heart's desire. Which scares the hell out of me. Generally, I figure out a way to join him, his ideas are typically spot on. He also takes offense if I reject his cool ideas for reasons of safety, assuming I have some kind of trust issue.

It's likely that I'll go scuba diving, but I'll prep first. The moral of the story is contained in the joke below (My husband is from North Carolina):

What are a redneck's last words?
"Hey Y'all, watch this"

Thursday, February 24, 2005

En Espanol, Por Favor

Hot on the heels of Sinical's Hip-Hop list comes my addition to the Pam's Europop Picks: Miguel Bose's Velvetina. There are a few video clips but I can't seem to find any MP3 downloads. This could be for one of two reasons:

1. I can't locate the link.
2. The lable is Time Warner and the tracks are locked down.

Still, I love the heavy beats and sweet sound of this stuff. I find it, well, sexy is the word that comes to mind.

Hip-Hop Recommendations...

I'm not sure this is exactly blog material or not... However, for the one or two people on here who actually listen to hip-hop this might actually be interesting. Let me preface this by saying - my brother called last night and asked for music recommendations and I was completely unprepared. Unprepared? My life centers around the dream that somebody asks me for music recommendations, and it never happens. Finally, the dream becomes a reality and I'm unprepared - what kind of shit is that?

1) Murs - 3:16 The Ninth Edition

An absolute favorite from last year, Murs finally comes through with an album that doesn't just show his potential. 9th Wonder of Little Brother fame, representing NC, comes through with his best beats and Murs absolutely kills it with an EP that touches on love & sex, lost friends & revenge, race issues in hip-hop, and a funny story of a local stick-up gone bad. That's a lot to cover in 10 tracks. For those that are unfamiliar with 9th - he looks, acts, and makes beats just like Pete Rock. Upcoming projects for 9th include: his first solo album featuring everybody and their mama, Big Pooh (just released), another Murs, new Little Brother, a Buckshot (of Black Moon) album, and a Jean Grae album (which has already been leaked - supposed to be stellar). There is a reason this producer has become the busiest in the business...

2) Madvillain (MF Doom and Madlib) - Madvillainy

It took me six months to warm up to this album, but I'm on fire now. The best (yes, best) Madlib production ever, and Doom comes with the crazy, hip vocal stylings. If those marbles are ever surgically removed from Doom's mouth, he might have to look for a new career. Many music magazines have picked this as album of the year and while I would like to agree with that assessment, Murs and Masta Ace would disagree. For those that are a fan of Doom, he has a lot of projects coming up including an album with Danger Mouse called Danger Doom, a new KMD album, Lil Sci and MF Doom project, and a rumored Ghostface Killah/Doom project. Madlib has a busy year planned as well - two new mix cds just dropped (one hip-hop and one funk) called Mind Fusion Volumes 1 & 2, the highly anticipated Medaphor (highly anticipated by me anyway) project, and the most talked about project of the year - Percee P's triumphant return on Stones Throw.

3)Masta Ace - A Long Hot Summer

I'm embarrassed to say that I haven't listened to or bought this album yet... One of the oldest rappers in the game is also one of the most creative - the album is one continuous story. He begins this story as a prequel to his Disposable Arts album from last year, which was also one continuous story. Really nice to see the former Juice Crew emcee dropping quality material. Practically every hip-hop fan I know has this album in the top 3 from last year. Masta Ace is re-releasing Disposable Arts in a couple of months, but after that - he's done. He might do some guest appearances here and there, but this is his curtain call. And unlike Jay-Z, I actually believe this might be the end of a great career.

4)De La Soul - Grind Date

The veterans make a triumphant return, finally. There are still a few cuts that need to be cut and some R&B vocals that are straight wack, but this is still top 10 material for those kids from Long Island (oops, I mean adults). Plus, it's hard to bitch and complain when they put out the song of the year with Rock.Co.Kane Flow (w/Doom). Now, when are we going to get that promised Art Official Intelligence V.3?

5)Lyrics Born - Later That Day

This isn't making anybody's list, but it's making mine... Besides a three or four track lapse in the middle, this album buries everything I've listened to this year. He sings, he raps, he gets funky, and he puts out an album that redefines funk in hip-hop. Quannum continues to release quality and people continue to ignore them... I don't get it. Now can we get another Poets Of Rhythm album from you, because Amy Sue needs something new to dance to...

6)Oh No - Disrupt

Stones Throw misses sometimes (like that unlistenable trash, Jaylib), but it's not often. Madlib's younger brother drops one of the best albums this year... I'm not going to argue that Oh No is the next Nas on the mic, but he has a good flow, better than average lyrics, and the best beats of the year (excluding his brother's Madvillainy project). If you like his production on here - also check the Kazi album and his mix cd The Disrupt Chronicles, which has most (if not all) the songs he has produced for other groups during the last couple of years.

7)Haiku D'Tat - Coup De Theatre

Nobody would argue that this is Acey, Abby, or Mikah's best material, but it's solid and completely different than everything else that is being dropped. To me, this is a more accessible Freestyle Fellowship project - think Temptations, only much better.

8)Roots - The Tipping Point

This is another album that took a couple of months to grow on me. As long as you aren't expecting another Illadelph, Do You Want More, or Things Fall Apart - this will be a welcomed edition to your headphones.

Other stuff that I have been listening to and would recommend:
Danger Mouse & Jemini - Ghetto Pop Life (stellar beats/mediocre raps)
DJ Shadow - In Tune And On Time (live album from a date in the UK - fabulous)
Nas - Stillmatic (best album since his return to dominance)
MF Doom - MM...Food (absolutely hypnotic...)
Little Brother - The Listening (if you liked Tribe back in '92, it's hard for me to imagine you disliking this...)
Edan - Primitive Plus (I slept on this for so long - late 80's beats coupled with an updated style of rhyme)

New stuff to keep an eye out for:
Perceptionist - Black Dialogue (Akrobatik is mediocre, but hey, the other emcee is Mr. Lif - automatically dope)
Aesop Rock - Fast Cars, Danger, Fire, And Knives EP (complete 5 album lyric book for the obsessive fan)
Sir Menelik - Cyclops 4000: The Einstein Rosen Bridge (all the old material from his Rawkus days - I've been waiting for this album since '96 when he dropped So Intelligent w/Kool Keith)
Edan - Beauty And The Beat

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


As I write this, I feel the self-conscious and the cliche "liberal" creeping around. I think that there's a lot more to the current political situation than conspiratorial "big-money"manipulating the puppet strings of our political process to advance corporatist agendas. However, the link I read tonite via Brad DeLong's blog was a nice reappraisal of fascism in the 21st century and the miniscule elements lacking to call the right wing "brown shirts." An excerpt:

... [E]ach national variant of fascism draws its legitimacy, as we shall see, not from some universal scripture but from what it considers the most authentic elements of its own community identity. Religion, for example, would certainly play a much larger role in an authentic fascism in the United States than in the first European fascisms, which were pagan for contingent historical reasons.

Anyone able to talk about how the right wing has assembled the disparate elements of Libertarian militiamen and Evangelical Christians into a voting critical mass? The political ideologies seem contradictory.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

So what?

You know what's getting on my nerves lately? I'm gonna tell you. It's this: The flap about the "Bush Tapes." You know what I have to say about the Bush Tapes? Big fucking deal.

So W. might have smoked a little weed. Is this at ALL surprising from a Skull and Bones mediocre frat boy who was already known for doing blow and getting hammered and going for a drive?

So W. made some vaguely disparaging remarks about homosexuals. Once again, like this is a surprise from a guy who wanted to amend the Constitution to outlaw gay marriage?

There's just not enough here to grab on to. Is this because I'm already so outraged about the things that have come out of the "President's" mouth in the present that I don't give one good goddam about what he might have said in the past? I've heard excerpts from the Johnson tapes and the Nixon tapes, now there was some nasty stuff. But anything I've come across from the W. tapes just leaves me apathetic.

The media I'm seeing is really hyping this release of information like it's full of shocking surprises. But as far as I've seen, there's no there there. My inner paranoid freak makes me wonder if this administration isn't a player in this. "We gotta give them something so it looks like there's still a shred of independent reporting out there."

Monday, February 21, 2005

The Death of The Duke and the End of an Era

As you will all no doubt quickly learn, Hunter S. Thompson committed suicide last night. All I can do is express my sorrow. Thompson was a fount of creativity and restless energy as well as a champion of the far left. He was very outspoken and proactive about politics and injustice. Even in you disagreed with his stance on a subject, you had to admit that his methods were extremely effective and his voice was always heard. He was a unique man, but I think he could describe himself better than anyone: "There he goes. One of God's own prototypes. Some kind of high powered mutant never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die." - Raoul Duke watching Dr. Gonzo leave in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

He will be missed.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Naming conventions

So, I missed the autocomplete when I typed in "hardto" & came up with a search result. This one caught my eye, a Rick James tune with the same name, you know, of the blog here.

The name for this blog here, was Drew's idea. When I asked for the reason, he said that he liked the idea of being "hard to get" and it's multiple connotations. Jump in if I'm wrong here, Drew. Not sure what other connotations folks get, if you know what I mean.

Having Rick James in the mix kinda warms my heart. It reminds me of sweaty Forestville nights dancing The Freak to P-Funk, Rick James and the Commodores (think, Brick House). Those were some of the most confusing, murky years of my life, but dancing is the blessing I got from it all. Not being afraid or unable to dance to me is more lifesaving than knowing how to swim, for example.

Ah, Forestville. Drew's been there with me. We even stayed at my childhood home. It felt like I was walking him through one of my paintings... through veiled memories and tangible presence. It's just a government suburb, outside of DC, but no one's childhood is limited by geography these days... take a look at where I grew up, I circled the shool I attended through 6th grade:

I walked over a bridge to get to school, you can see the little path near the bottom left of the circle. Before I went, I think I was four, my brother & I were walking around & playing in the creek. I remember feeling impatient to go to school. There were a few mornings I spent, catching minnows and frogs, near the bridge - while kids ambled across in school clothes, with books in hand. I thought they were so fancy!

In elementary school, we were more likely to dance to Baby Come Back then anything as rowdy as RJ - Hard to get, hmmm?

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Under My Thumb

The folks at 43 Folders had a clever idea-Google "rules of thumb" and see what comes up.

They found rules of thumb for flirting, evaluating a pet store, building a church (balconies? not hot) and selling remote controls.

We all have personal rules of thumb, of course. For instance:

-If Ice Cube is in it, I won't be renting it
-Brown clothes in my wardrobe are too much hassle
-Buy the canned tomatoes; the ones in the produce section will just break your heart.

These are fine but they aren't a system, they're just ad hoc ideas. But I know within me, there are rules, rules I follow, some I've developed and some I've borrowed and many of them make systems.

Between the time I started typing this post and now, I went back to the posting at 43 folders. There are many comments from readers including this helpful hint:

If a helicopter is bigger than your thumb held at arm's length, you can bring it down with ground fire.

For any of you who are too distracted by the concept of "the rule of thumb" because you are busy thinking about how the phrase "rule of thumb" refers to an old law requiring men to restrict themselves to beating women with a rod no greater in diameter to their own thumbs, this site claims that story is bogus. The site goes on to say that, per the O.E.D., "rule of thumb" has been used at least 300 years to refer to any method of measurement or technique of estimation derived from experience rather than science.

Y tu?

Dr. Gonzo finds a way to enjoy golf

I would probably be a dues-paying member of the NRA if they marketed themselves a little differently. Depp does a better H. Thompson, but Murray's imitation is satisfying in its own flawed way.

In Northwest news, we seem to be too swamped to go house shopping, plan vacations, exercise, or watch movies. However, we will be going to a birthday party tonite. I'll be playing the harmonium, the German/Indian equivalent of the accordion. Nothing like a good drone to calm the addled mind.

Obligatory music note: currently playing Hubbard/Peterson's version of "All Blues," from Face to Face.

Monday, February 14, 2005

The truth about love

Happy Valentine's day everybody!

I have spent the day putting hearts on all my powerpoints & finding out what folks are doing for their celebrations. We hope to do some decorating. I'm getting stencils of hearts & spray paint. We're bringing cameras.

Some thoughts on love:

My father-in-law loaned us a book on Shackleton, early in our relationship - along with the admonishment that "marriage is hard"...

Here's from Rumi:

Love has taken away my practices
and filled me with poetry.

I had to clap and sing.
I used to be a respectable and chaste and stable,
but who can stand in this strong wind
and remember those things?

A mountain keeps an echo deep inside itself.
That's how I hold your voice.

I am scrap wood thrown in your fire,
and quickly reduced to smoke.

Here's a Neruda thing:
The Table

"...The World
is a table
engulfed in honey and smoke,
smothered by apples and blood.
The table is already set,
and we know the truth
as soon as we are called:
whether we're called to war or to dinner
we will have to choose sides,
have to know
how we'll dress
to sit at the long table,
whether we'll wear the pants of hate
or the shirt of love, freshly laundered.
It's time to decide.
they're calling:
boys and girls,
let's eat!"

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Jimmy Smith, R.I.P. 1928-2005

When one thinks of an organist, it's generally either their favorite blue hair from church or it's Jimmy Smith. I don't have enough comprehensive knowledge of the Hammond to know if he was the best, but he definitely was the icon for those into tone-heavy hard bop. If you're in that morbid "I shoulda bought more when he was alive, but I'll settle for buying some now" state, I recommend Root Down or a live Tokyo session called The Master (with Kenny Burrell). The latter has some terrific vocalizings underneath a few of the tracks that really add to the grit without losing the butter. The Cat and The Preacher are pretty good releases too.

If you have been thinking about how organ forms the foundation of what we call American Soul, I recommend checking out Jimmy McGriff with Les McCann, Ray Charles' Genius+Soul=Jazz, Dr. Lonnie Smith live anywhere you can (his studio albums don't do him justice and are generally turban-free), Booker T's work on Green Onions and backing up O. Redding and Bill Withers. If you wanna wander off into that nether region of Jamaican-American condiment Drew posted on earlier, check out the late Jackie Mittoo, a tremendous Reggae Hammond player from the 70s heyday. He does some straight-ahead soul organ work, along with some wonderfully dubby updates of 70s chestnuts like "Summer Breeze." Outsider jazz artist John Medeski typically does his best work on the Clavinet, but has worked with John Zorn on the Hammond in a few projects (including a terrific Electric Masada ensemble).

Saturday, February 05, 2005

How's Your News?

Journalists spend a lot of time worrying about the decline of print journalism. What this really means, of course, is that print is evolving, not dying. In a world where the act of knitting can become hot, hot, hot, it seems premature to declare the death of journalism that you read yourself rather than having someone else read it to you.

One piece of the evolution is the end of objectivity. Chris Anderson describes objectivity as a product of scarcity. If a community has very few sources of information (a paper, a few television channels, a radio station or two) then those sources are obliged to be objective, if only from a business standpoint. In contrast to the U.S., English newspapers have always been national, not local. Papers distinguish themselves by taking sides.

Since news is now a commodity, Anderson suggests that aggregators differentiate themselves in the marketplace not just via opinion and partisanship but through sensibility and worldview. He breaks down the difference like this..."sensibility" would be The New Yorker, Maxim and MTV-if you are this kind of person, you'll like this kind of information. "Worldview" is more like a lens for viewing the world, often expressed as an "-ism"...enviromentalism, libertarianism, etc.

This seems intuitively correct. A mass media produces "Happy Days" while narrowcasting can produce "Straight Eye for the Queer Guy"; why should news be any different? Make a liberal FOX News, an enviromental Rush Limbaugh, etc.

This is a long-ass post but I have one other idea to pass along. Cass Sunstein thinks that all this fragmentation is a bad idea. "For democracy to work, people must be exposed to topics and ideas they would not have chosen in advance." says Sunstein.

The essay is, like everything he writes, sharp and well-reasoned. He ends it with this sentence:

The task for the future is to find ways to ensure that the Internet reduces, and does not increase, the risk of social fragmentation.

Fragmentation: hot or not?

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

That book meme

From Thought Dreams:

That Book Meme

  1. Grab the nearest book.
  2. Open the book to page 123.
  3. Find the fifth sentence.
  4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
  5. Don’t search around and look for the “coolest” book you can find. Do what’s actually next to you.

"Doubtless one leading reason why the world declines honoring us whalemen, is this: they think that, at best, our vocation amounts to a butchering sort of business; and that when actively engaged therein, we are surrounded by all manner of defilements." - Moby Dick by Herman Melville [yes, I'm currently reading the whale's tale right now]

Obligatory music note - currently playing: Hard Times (Stephen Foster) as sung by Mirah

The Cabinet National Library

I love this. I can't stop looking at it. I really can't.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Movie time...

Well, after a weekend of intense movie viewing - a little recap is necessary to keep it all straight in my head...

Intimate Strangers - This French film from director, Patrice Leconte, is similar to his previous film Man On The Train. Once again, he throws two unlikely characters into the same space and forces them to react. The premise for this film is that a woman goes to see a psychiatrist about marital problems, but mistakenly goes into the wrong office... She tells all of her intimate secrets to a tax consultant even after he reveals the truth. Like Man On The Train, the dialogue is impeccable, but the story is forgettable. Leconte appears to be satisfied with watching the two characters interact with very little "story." Not bad, but ultimately Man On The Train's characters are more intriguing, the story is less contrived, and there is more of a payoff at the end - go see Man On The Train instead.

Maria Full Of Grace - Colombian film that follows Maria Alvarez, an exploited drug "mule", that swallows plastic bags of drugs and smuggles them over the border. By now, most of you probably have heard that Catalina Sandino Moreno is nominated for an Academy Award for her role as Maria. The first half of the story is shot like a documentary and is shockingly moving, but the second half falls apart as the writer tries to find a way to conclude the story. Worth seeing because of the subject matter, but not a fully realized film.

Mean Creek - First time director, Jacob Aaron Estes scores with this story about 6 kids going boating and inviting the school's bully to give him a taste of his own medicine. Things go wrong (as they always do) and we are left wondering, what are they to do? The ending is dissatisfying and the kids initial decision is stupifying, but the film supplied more to think about than either of the two above...

United States Of Leland - Hands-down the best thing I've seen a while. Ryan Gosling does a fabulous job as the troubled youth that commits an unthinkable crime. Don Cheadle is perfect as the concerned/opportunistic teacher, Kevin Spacey nails the asshole father role, and Jena Malone is strong enough as the druggie girlfriend. RECOMMENDED.

Any other recommendations?

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Amazon Maps

Neat/anachronistic post by way of Metafilter: Amazon Maps. Starting in selected cities (lived in by over half of Hard To Get's posters), you can click through the A9 Yellow Pages, find the store/coffeehouse/restaurant location near you, then see a picture of it on the block.

Weird, I thought they stopped these quixotic kinds of projects back in '99 or '00. Here's a view of the local bakery, Larsens. You can walk up or down the street from there and see the Thai cafe or the Bible College. They missed the nearby Tully's by half a block. Course I hear the espresso kiosk in the PetCo parking lot makes good coffee too, but with belly shirts.

On the other end of the spectrum, I've quite enjoyed watching the open source knowledge projects get off the ground like Wikipedia and MusicBrainz. I haven't quite figured out how I want to participate in those - yet. If the momentum keeps up, it's a return to the participatory communities that existed pre-modernism (i.e. virtually building barns).

Obligatory music link: ~Scape records (links to listen to Deadbeat's release on the page). With my (and now many American's) hip-hop background, I find nu-dub to be the most consistently funky and unobtrusive headspace to be in, despite its often non-organic nature. Yet, I can't find this music in any American record stores, beyond random smatterings in small stores like Seattle's Wall of Sound. Do we need more House music? ~Scape is the brainchild of German Stefan Betke, and tends towards the clickity end of the dub spectrum, but the schweet elements are still in there. If only I didn't have to pay import prices.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


You're gonna dig this.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Cooking and Playlists

This last week, we've hosted a couple of dinners over at the house. Got me to thinking hard about technology, food, and changes in community rules over the last ten years.

On Saturday, we cooked for a couple of friends whose kitchen we helped demolish 2 weekends ago. Tangentially, I highly recommend this to anyone who has not done this before - sledgehammers should be wielded at least once in one's life. They are without said kitchen right now and are at the mercy of friends or strange dining establishments for their sustenance. As is my want, I test prepped a dish of Albondigas (Mexican meatball stew) earlier in the week. Our timing was still off the night of the actual event and they showed up early, so we stuffed the four of us in the kitchen for conversation lasting about an hour before eating. Christina is a professional firefighter and has a circadian rhythm that must march goosestep inside her body. Lillian had noticed her "sleep eye" (as opposed to "stink" or "evil eye") about 9:15. Jeannie is an electrician and weekend skier.

We spent some of dinner talking about how confusing it was to deal with friends that would together last minute get togethers via eVite or some other such service. "Why not pick up the phone?" They check their email every couple of days. I probably check mine 2-3 times per day. They often missed these invitations, and had no real reason to be online everyday like Lil and I did for work. On some level creating these blogs, emailing, or IMing has allowed us greater intimacy with friends who live out of state or even out of the country than with folks in town. It's so hard to see people physically any more. We don't have anyone within 15 blocks that I know on a personal level. Maybe this was the somewhat the same for my folks, but it's utterly different from my childhood, where there were always kids next door that we saw every day. Is that just adulthood, American adulthood or Urban American Adulthood?

We spent the dinner listening to a mix I created from music I had ripped on my laptop and quickly assembled and burned before their arrival (a great mix including Dixie Cups, Paul Rucker, Spoon, Eddie Bo, Mirah, and Gene Ammons) . My idea was that they would get to take the disc at the end of night. Indeed Christina, the resident MP3 fiend of the pair, was excited. Maybe this kind of technology was possible 5 years ago, but it was nowhere near usable for me until a year or so ago. Metadata and improvements in user interfaces have finally made it easy for my short attention span music obsession to find tangible results (with a half hour turnaround).

Same thing last night - our old buddy Richard stopped by for a dinner of beef stew and asparagus. God I love cooking for people! Whooda thought. Probably one of the first inklings I had of this was actually at Richard's place two or three Thanksgivings ago. Richard would yearly invite a dozen or more people over, and cook the whole damn thing in one of the smallest kitchens I've ever been in. Traditional turkey, stuffing from scratch, brussel sprouts, two or three decadent desserts. I was shocked at the level of thankfulness I felt in the company of non-blood relatives. Some of it was conversation, music, wine, and some tryptophan and carb overload. We used to stuff ourselves at Grandma's house, but never like that (particularly since she and Pawpaw were teetotalers). And at the end of this meal, there was no TV to escape into, just more good talking or dogs to play with. I was utterly envious of Richard's ability to draw these people into his home for a nice Taz session, and utterly thankful I could be one of those people. He poured so much love into his food and it permeated the room like an aroma.

I liked doing the same thing with my music mixes or simply deejaying when folks were around the house. Music's tough though, real-time deejaying only works when you're doing it and NOT being particularly social. Handing off mixtapes also has a way of feeling like throwing a hand into quicksand. Richard would finish prepping these meals and collapse with a grin in the middle of the room after dinner. Tangible and time-finite. So the 30-minute compilation-burn turnaround was a godsend. Now, "my creation" doesn't require any work during said conversation and cavorting. I lose the real-time reaction aspect, but that's turned out to be more of a blessing than a curse.

Meanwhile, Lillian and I are compiling a menu of things we're good at cooking (upon the suggestion of director Robert Rodriguez on a DVD special feature). That way, we can have staples around the house, and make food for friends on command. We've got quite a few meat dishes, but I'd love to get some ideas for vegetarian entrees. Not vegetables and not tofu (I know vegetarians with soybean allergies). Main dishes, but vegetarian without hippie [read: bland] anywhere in the description. Anyone got any ideas?

Anyway, what a lovely thing to have people over for dinner. One of the last excuses for being in the physical presence of known intimates.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Nazis. I hate those guys.

It's the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and here in central Europe, feelings are running very high. There's a thoughtful commentary in the Times on the recent scandalous walk-out by Saxon members of the National Party of Germany (NPD) during a moment of silence for the victims of the Holocaust.

There's no denying that Dresden was a bloodbath and that many innocent people lost their lives. I can't do the whole moral equivalency thing where you equate the bombing of Dresden with the millions of lost lives in Europe, Jewish and otherwise. They're all lost lives, ruined by Nazism.

What sticks in my throat and infuriates me nearly beyond words is the blantant racism and sheer stupid insensivity of the NPD. I'm pretty sure no one stopping the NPD - or anyone else for that matter - from commemorating the bombing of Dresden. Hell, we all learned about Dresden in history class and I don't remember being taught that it was an event that glorified the allies and downplayed the loss of human lives. It was a firebombing. There was death and destruction everywhere. Yet the SPD can't acknowledge that Auschwitz, too, was a tragedy beyond description.

Neo-Nazism is on the rise in former Eastern Germany. In Saxony, the SPD got just over 9 percent of the vote. You could conclude that one in ten people you'd meet when walking the streets of modern Dresden supports the SPDs racist platform. This is terrifying. Combine this with the rhetoric coming out of Iran these days about the Zionist agenda (thank you Dick Cheney) and you end up with the world looking pretty scarey for this latke eating member of the tribe.

Friday, January 21, 2005

W.W.Chuck Klosterman.D?

I felt both a little bit spanked and intrigued when I read this in Esquire, excerpted below. An interesting counter to some of my feelings of late about the election, swearing in, etc.

Do you want to be happy? I suspect that you do. Well, here's the first step to happiness: Don't get pissed off that people who aren't you happen to think Paris Hilton is interesting and deserves to be on TV every other day; the fame surrounding Paris Hilton is not a reflection on your life (unless you want it to be). Don't get pissed off because the Yeah Yeah Yeahs aren't on the radio enough; you can buy the goddamn record and play "Maps" all goddamn day (if that's what you want). Don't get pissed off because people didn't vote the way you voted. You knew that the country was polarized, and you knew that half of America is more upset by gay people getting married than it is about starting a war under false pretenses. You always knew that many Americans worry more about God than they worry about the economy, and you always knew those same Americans assume you're insane for feeling otherwise (just as you find them insane for supporting a theocracy). You knew this was a democracy when you agreed to participate, so you knew this was how things might work out. So don't get pissed off over the fact that the way you feel about culture isn't some kind of universal consensus. Because if you do, you will end up feeling betrayed. And it will be your own fault. You will feel bad, and you will deserve it.

Now, it's quite possible you disagree with me on this issue. And if you do, I know what your argument is: You're thinking, But I'm idealistic. This is what people who want to inflict their values on other people always think; they think that there is some kind of romantic, respectable aura that insulates the inflexible, and that their disappointment with culture proves that they're trapped by their own intellect and good taste. Somehow they think their sense of betrayal gives them integrity. It does not. If you really have integrity—if you truly live by your ideals, and those ideals dictate how you engage with the world at large—you will never feel betrayed by culture. You will simply enjoy culture more. You won't necessarily start watching syndicated episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond , but you will find it interesting that certain people do. You won't suddenly agree that Amelie was a more emotive movie than Friday Night Lights , but you won't feel alienated and offended if every film critic you read tells you that it is. You will care, but you won't care.

You're not wrong, but neither is the rest of the world. And you need to accept that those two things aren't really connected.

Insightful or just bullying?

Red State sounds, international beats

Yesterday I went looking for CDs at the public library. In most public libraries, the approach to the collection seems based on what is inexpensive, more so than what would be good for the collection. This means that you might or not be able to find, say, some Duke Ellington. But you can probably find The Nylons.

I checked out STRICTLY THE BEST 19 which is a reggae collection, similar to those NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL MUSIC collections I see in stores and on TV. There's some good stuff and some peculiar stuff...I'm particularly fond of "Big Man, Little Youth" by Red Rat and Goofy. The whole song is two guys going back and forth about how a woman really prefers him, one because he is a big muscle guy, the other because he's skinny and cute.

However, the strangest is "Bush Wacked" by Josey Wales. The songs on here are all copyright 1997 so it's safe to think that it isn't about W. The song is a country and western song. It's not a bad fake-country song either. Growing up in East Tennessee I remember learning that hillbilly recordings by The Carter Family were played on radio stations whose signals reached Jamaica, therefore 1920s country music had an influence on Jamaican music.

I don't know enough about music to vouch for that. "Bush Wacked", however, is not influenced by country, it is country. Or at least it is country as much as Jimmy Buffet truly is calypso or whatever.

Every once in a while David Byrne or Paul Simon or Sting or (fill in your own list here) record something influenced by a non-North American culture. These don't get fully absorbed into the culture, they are novelty songs even if some of them are especially thoughtful novelty songs.

Somehow it hadn't occurred to me that this could happen in reverse. "Bush Wacked" is every bit as good a country song as Paul Simon's "Mother and Child Reunion" is a good reggae song.

As a white, American, guy I tend to forget that my culture isn't the main dish of the world. Sometimes my main dish is someone else's condiment.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

A House Divided

Now is a really good time to write to the president and remind him why you didn't vote for him. No, I mean right NOW. I'm just sayin, is all.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

What to do [the 2005 edition]

I recently loaded up a list of goals to a site that posts & lets you track your success, failure & the final value of accomplishment. The site is called 43 Things and is geek heavy (check out their zietgeist page if you think I'm fooling. Ex. #5, Learn Ruby [that's code folks, the latest code]). My goals are under the user name benne and are in no particular order.

The way I structure my goals has changed somewhat over the years. I didn't really start making goals until I was 22, late to the game I know, but prior to that I couldn't shake the idea that all I should focus on was the next thing. When I first started trying to figure out what engaged me, I had a template that I could fill in. It was like an excel sheet, with timelines on the top row & the intended group that the goals would affect, like this:

click for the whole picture.

Pretty heady stuff, plenty of options inside of those boxes. I enjoyed the fact that years after I made the goals from that first try, I had accomplished a lot of what I had set out to do (still working on that dynamic world peace for the next 100 years thing). Anyway, I'm hooked on the idea of charting a course for myself - but have largely abandoned the exercise of reminding myself that what I do has an effect on the world around me. That part I get.

Dune tunes

Hey kids. I have yet to meet a few of you though I say hello to all. Here's to meeting all of you someday. Well, as long as you're good folk. No more room for poopy people in this life, okay?

I was aurally introduced to a Albert Ayler a few days ago and have been pondering the effect this music has been having on me. I picture a vast open area out beyond ideas that is covered with sand dunes. I like to coat those dunes in my mind with a good dose of magic light and throw in a backdrop of a deep blue sky with just enough clouds for interest. This has been the the ironic land of peace where I have supplanted myself since hearing the music of Albert Ayler.

The music requires nearly all of my available energy to listen to. When I dedicate less of my attention I get upset with the music and imagine myself never listening to it again. Think of William Parker + Steve Reich, John Coltrane (during his period of modal exploration) + John Adams (who wrote Short Ride in a Fast Machine), or John Cage + Eminem.

Albert Ayler has enabled me to open myself to the vast open space of existence, as in the sand dune analogy, while grounding me in the fablulous world of all I am. Simply put, I am human. With that, I know that being a human also includes this vast open space called the imagination, where wonderful new things are born. Albert Ayler takes us into a world of imagination, yet demostrates the power focus can have on the experience.

Think about trying to meditate for the very first time with the breathing techniques common in Buddhism. At first, there is much going on in the mind and the practice is far from relaxing. Then you focus on one thing, breathing, in order to open up all other space in the mind. This is the approach Ayler seems to have in his music.

Interestingly enough, Ayler has an album titled "Music Is the Healing Force of the Universe." I'd recommend some of his other albums prior, but check out whatever you can.

See you on the dunes.

Math is hard

I made an idiot of myself on the internet yesterday. Okay, it's not like it's the first time someone has been an idiot on the internet and it certainly won't be the last, but I claimed something was basic math without actually paying attention to the, um, basic math. Homer said it best: Doh.

Math has always been really hard for me. I say that not in a whiney "Math is hard." voice, but in a "Damn, I just don't GET it." tone. I flunked geometry the first time and both algebra and chemistry found me totally flustered. It's like I'm the math equivelant of color blind. I opted out of the sciences early on, even though I'm fascinated with the natural world, because I couldn't do the math.

For this sorry state of affairs I blame two people. First on the list: my 7th grade geometry teacher. This pale woman with fuzzy blonde hair would stand in front of the classroom openly yawning during her geometry lectures. Under the yellowish glow of the flourescents, she failed to enlighten me one bit about the mysteries of Pythagoras or how to find a hypontenous. Meanwhile, I dozed open-eyed at my desk, wondering whether my teacher had turned transparent, so seemingly absent was she. And this was before the pot-smoking days.

The other person I blame is, naturally, my dad. My dad was a math teacher for much of his life before he became a technical professional, and lately, he's been teaching math again. I think, in retrospect, it must have driven him completely wild that I could not for the life of me get what "x" was. Nor did I care. Numbers, which were his bread and butter, totally bored me. When he tried to tutor me through algebra, it was cold war for the entire term.

I don't think I need therapy to get over my math trauma, after all, I'm a fairly highly functioning adult. (Okay, I get that there's such a thing as denial.) I do, sometimes wish I saw the pattern, though, that I cared what "x" is, that I could make my brain pay attention to the most simple of math problems. I wouldn't mind making myself out to be just slightly less of an idiot than every other idiot on the Web. If you're an idiot on the internet once, you're an idiot forever. It's simple math.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Roll Call

Ya know, I told myself I wouldn't leave another message today for the simple reason that it looks like I'm a slack ass with no work. Then, I reconsidered - most of ya'll already know that information and for those that don't, it's going to become rather obvious anyway. So between yahoo spades, checking the hip-hop message boards for new music, and looking at the new gossip on - I thought I'd introduce myself...

Name: Stephen Bennett (yeah, that Jason kid from the city with the Space Needle is my brother)

Age: 26 (but I don't act a day older than 25)

Headshot: Flat, floppy brown hair with a part down the middle to cover up the receding hair line (yeah, it's the best hairstyle I could come up with), deep-set hazel eyes with no dark circles (9 hours of sleep per night - don't tell me, I already know you're jealous), thin lips (think John Cusack thin, then reduce), giant schnaz (think Adrien Brody big, then increase), freckles (I'm not Opie Taylor, but I've got some), redneckesque beard (thin enough for people to suggest shaving - laziness prevails), ears that fit the face (which isn't a good thing).

Interests: Blatant Bush/Republican bashing, listening to independent hip-hop (and knowing all the latest gossip on who has been assasinated by one of Suge Knight's thugs this week), movie critiquing, discussing sports and the implications of Randy Moss' mooning on society as a whole, NBA basketball appreciater (I'm a minority on this one), ACC basketball complainer (why did they expand the league to let in VT and Miami, damnit), playing basketball (when it's not 15 fucking degrees outside), K&W eating (did you know, that I can get out of there for $4 when I eat a four vegetable meal), and enjoying Fox News for the simple reason that I can yell at the television for some reason other than sports.

Trademarks: Still saying, "bitchez" - even though the phrase is more played out than that Rick James line, rubbing on my beard and luring my listener into thinking I'm going to say something profound and then disappointing them with a conversation about Ashlee Simpson's horrendous singing at the USC game, acting like I have answers to life's questions and not having a clue, wearing cargo pants and Tim's in the middle of summer, and sporting the most faded baseball cap imagionable crooked (Jay Z style). And of course, Sinical is the sign off.

Signing off,

If America really was a Christian nation...

I hate having my first post on this blog (whatever the fuck that means) to be copied and pasted from a friend's e-mail. However, I haven't heard from my good friend David Hennessey in about 3 months and this e-mail seemed to be entirely appropriate for this group. Enjoy...

There is much talk today of America being a "Christian" nation, founded by Christians. Though this is historically inaccurate, the notion is so popular that it merits public attention. The Republican party considers itself the representative of the Christian moral majority. How does the rhetoric stack up with reality?

*disclaimer* I am not a Christian, but I believe very much in the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, as well as many of the other great teachers of the world. As such, this is written from the perspective of one who finds it ironic that the pacifist teachings of Jesus have been co-opted by the Republican party. I believe this is no different from the peaceful teachings of Mohammed being co-opted by the war mongers from the other side; same story, different nouns.

If America really was a Christian nation...

*) Foriegn policy would be dictated by love and a desire to help our fellow man, not paranoia & vengeance. We would certainly not have powerful "intelligence" agencies that operate entirely beyond the control of the people, accountable to no one. We would not empower these people to interfere in other democracies to assassinate elected leaders and install US-friendly dictators.

*) We would pool resources for the common good, such as health care and an end to poverty. This should be easy for the richest nation. Jesus quite explicitly said rich people would not exactly be welcome in his company, so everyone should be very happy to only take what they need & share the rest. We certainly wouldn't close homeless shelters to pay for the largest nuclear weapon stockpiles in the world, capable of blowing up the planet several hundred times over. (After all, you really only need to have enough weapons to do it once, ya know?) And we certainly wouldn't have the largest permanent war economy in the history of humankind, while being behind every single other industrial nation in the world in terms of social services. Is profit really the only possible cornerstone of community?

*) We would love, welcome, and seek to understand our neighbor -- even the gay ones. We would not pour over the Bible in a pathetic attempt to find out who it's "ok" to hate, then make special laws about those people. Our propoganda demonizes Islam for exactly the same thing.

*) We would seek peace at all costs. Aggressive action would be evil to us. Defensive action would be something we'd use with complete restraint, because responding to violence with violence has always resulted in an escalating cycle of bloodshed. History -- and Jesus -- have taught us that it never ends until people are willing to have peace, even if the personal cost is high. When Africa had it's revolution against apartheid, it was peaceful; "liberate the oppressed AND the oppressor" was the mantra. Contrast that with the never-ending war between the Palestinians and Israelis. We certainly wouldn't launch bloody "pre-emptive" wars on third-world countries, then become the oppressors & torturers out of some self-righteous cowboy delusion of spreading freedom with a gun. We'd be intelligent and pious enough to learn from history.

*) We would not all buy into the lie that you use a military to spread democracy, death to spread human rights, & war crimes to advance the cause of freedom. Instead, we would use our excessive riches to invade every country on Earth with unconditional help; food, text books, Internet access, materials to build homes, jobs, and everything else people need to empower themselves to be free. We would offer the better alternative -- not impose it through fear of death (which is, after all, the definition of terrorism). And we would do this for every country, not just the ones with oil. (Why is it that we only find "humanitarian" reasons to invade countries if they have petroleum, but claim it's none of our business if they don't? Why does invading oil-rich countries always some how make us "freer?")

*) When struck, we would turn the other cheek. This is at the basis of Jesus' doctrine of pacifism. We would not succumb to the petty desire for vengeance and blood lust. Instead of asking who we must kill after 9/11, we would be asking *why* it happened in the first place. Why do people hate us so much that they would willingly die to kill us? Are there reasons for this? Should we perhaps ask ourselves if it was wrong to force the Palestinians off their land, killing many in the process, causing several wars, and creating generations of apartheid as a result? Should we ask ourselves if it was wrong to sell WMDs to Saddam Hussein during the Reagan administration? Should we ask ourselves if we invited this when we armed, trained & funded Osama bin Laden to fight the "commies" during the Reagan years? Should we question why Bush Sr. reinstated the brutal-but-US-friendly dictator of Kuwait after the first Gulf War? Should we question our government's policy of providing funding to anti-Iranian terrorist groups? Strangely, none of this was debated prior to our President launching an unending war on a word. We did not question if 50 years of bloody oppression might have caused them to lash out at the first opportunity. Most Americans know very little about the past 50 years of history in the Middle East, and how America has been involved. Yet we're all so willing to "nuke the towel-heads." Wouldn't asking questions be a better place to start, rather than going out and buying flags and being extra-proud of ourselves?

*) We would love our enemy as we love ourselves. Since we do not imprison ourselves indefinitely without trial while torturing ourselves and declaring ourselves outside the protection of humanitarian law, we should not be doing this to our "enemy." We cannot claim the higher moral ground unless we're on it.

*) We would not base our trade economy on foriegn slave labor. If you buy clothes at the mall, you are probably unknowingly supporting slave-wage labor. In fact, almost anything you buy that was mass-produced was made in a sweatshop. This has become the norm, not the exception. It is no longer front-page news to find out that another American company has opened up shop in a country without human rights laws. Is it consistent with Christian values for the rich to exploit the poor? And yet, Walmart is one of the largest and most succesful insitutions on the planet.

*) We would not do business with people who oppress, enslave, torture, and murder. We certainly would not let the crown prince of Saudi Arabia own a large chunk of our economy. And we would be asking hard questions as to why our President is so close to so many oil-hoarding dictators.

*) We would not demand that our country be solely exempt from the International Court of Justice, nor would we demand that our nation be exempt from international treaties that keep peace & humanitarian law intact. Justice, peace & humanitarian law would actually be things we'd want to be the leaders in -- by example, not military demand.

*) We would not make greed & avarice the highest values of our land. We would not pretend not to see homeless people when we pass them, shivering in the streets. We would not begrudge them the 50 cents they ask for by telling ourselves they'd just spend it on booze. We would not have such rampant poverty that 1,000,000 children are homeless in our country.

If you're a Christian, and all this sounds like idealism to you, I have one question for you... What value does Christianity have to you if you don't believe it's teachings *really* apply? Being a Christian nation isn't about putting "under god" into the pledge. It's not about trying to outlaw abortion while ignoring every other issue. It's about the actions of that nation.

It's not just radical fundamentalist Islam that needs reform. Reactionary fundamentalist Christianity has waged far more carnage in the last few years than a rag-tag band of terrorists could ever hope to accomplish. More than 100,000 civillian Arabs have perished, and our President feels there is no need for accountability. America, Israel, and the Middle East are driving conflicts that threaten to engulf the world. Why is bloodshed characteristic of the monotheistic religions? And here at home, it is breeding bigotry and intolerance. It is now acceptable, even fashionable for our leaders to be open bigots. An honest appraisal of what America is really like today -- not 200 years ago, not during World War II, but *today* -- is long overdue.

Could it be that a "Christian nation," "Jewish nation," and "Muslim nation" are all equally bad ideas? Maybe we need to just have *nations*, where all the people are equal. Or better yet, maybe we should just have Earth, with all the people, and forget about the imaginary lines on the map. Those lines only exist because our ancestors were savage. Our religions all teach us that we've become better than those savages. It's time we started acting like it.

Thanks for reading this far...