Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Charlie Brown Specials made in the 90s Which Were Never Aired

Every year, the end of October marks the beginning of Charlie Brown special season. Starting with1966's 'It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown', the networks trot out both the well-known specials like the award-winning 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' and lesser-known specials like 'Lucy must be traded, Charlie Brown' and 'He's A Bully, Charlie Brown', which are used to pad out the one-hour time slots. Specials like the too tied to the 80's 'It's Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown' are no longer shown, for obvious reasons.

There were actually several specials created during the 90s which were never aired, for reasons we'll discuss here. An incomplete list follows.

He's A Troll, Charlie Brown (1994) - When Charlie Brown discovers the newsgroup alt.support.childhood-hairloss, he at first is encouraged to find a community of people who can relate to his problems without being judgemental. Things quickly turn sour with the appearance of a troll on the newsgroup who mocks the 'bald blockheads'.

Why it was shelved: not enough people in focus groups were aware of Usenet at the time. Further, it was feared that the special might encourage people to behave irresponsibly on the new medium of the Internet.

It's A Black Thing, Charlie Brown, You Wouldn't Understand It (1991) - There's a new kid in school, the afrocentric 'Joe Militant' (voice: Professor Griff of Public Enemy). Franklin moves out of his peripheral token role and is the focus of this episode, as his self-esteem is boosted greatly by the study of the history and culture of his people.

Why it was shelved: Although it was considered well-done, apparently nobody involved in the production was aware of Professor Griff's infamous comment that 'Jews are responsible for the majority of the wickedness in the world' until shortly before it was to be aired.

I Did Not Have Sexual Relations With That Woman, Charlie Brown (1998) - Peppermint Patty, who had resigned herself to being a D- student for the rest of her life, suddenly finds both her grades and outlook on life improved when a new teacher takes a special interest in her. But is the teacher interested in more than just her mind?

Why it was shelved: This special was not shelved so much for the subject matter, as several child psychologists who got a chance to see it agreed it dealt with a delicate subject in a careful and appropriate manner, but rather was a victim of bad timing as Bill Clinton uttered the now-famous phrase at the beginning of the Lewinsky scandal.

No Blood For Oil, Charlie Brown (1991) - The Persian Gulf War has everybody in the Peanuts gang taking sides, with Linus and Sally in favor of peace, and Lucy and Violet rallying to 'Support the Troops', but wishy-washy Charlie Brown can't make up his mind as to where he stands.

Why it was shelved: In stark contrast to Gulf War II, Gulf War I was over quickly, and by the time production was completed, America was back to 'Homey Don't Play That' and other frivolous concerns.

It Just Isn't Music, Charlie Brown (1993) - Inspired by Riot Grrrl bands like Bratmobile and Bikini Kill, Lucy, Violet, and the Little Red-Haired Girl (who is never shown, but is the drummer in the group) form their own band, Dog Germs. This sends Schroeder spiraling into depression and bitterness, as Dog Germs becomes very popular, but his hard work and dedication to Beethoven are ignored.

Why it was shelved: It was generally felt that this episode was too dark, even in the angst-and-depression soaked world of Charlie Brown.

You're Worth a Million on Paper, Charlie Brown (1999) - The whole gang gets rich beyond their wildest dreams when they join Lucy's Internet Start-up, coldHardCash.com, a 'cash portal' which nobody really understands or can explain. The fact that nobody knows any programming languages is not a problem, as Linus is very good at getting venture capitalists to put money behind the idea. Meanwhile, Snoopy day-trades his way to such wealth that he is able to afford a doghouse that actually does fly.

Why it was shelved: Nobody really asked Charles Schulz what he thought of this idea until very late in production. It is said that the usually peaceful and patient Schulz broke a hockey stick over Bill Melendez's head on hearing about a special that reduced his creations to 'soul-less, greedy, materialistic twits'.

There were many other specials like this, reminding us that for every fully-realized creative effort, there are thousands of scrapped or failed efforts. So the moral is of this posting is: stay in school.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

2007: Favorite Shit and Least Favorite Shit

This is highly unorganized, as fits my current brain state. Has this ever happened to you? 'Brain Age' only for Nintendo DS. Train your brain in minutes a day!

Note, the shit mentioned within may not have been released or created in 2007, but rather was enjoyed or reviled in 2007.

Favorite Shit:

CD: Aesop Rock - None Shall Pass: I slept on Aes for far too long. I admit, I've listened to this a million times and still don't understand some of what he's saying, but he's got a gift for rhyme construction and a delivery that does the rhymes justice. El-P shows up a couple of times, and much as El-P has rhyming skills I'd rather hear him over one of Blockhead's beats (as on this album) than one of his solo gloom and doom beats.

CD: Oh No - Dr. No's Oxperiments: Madlib's little brother puts together instrumental hip-hop using psychadelic music from Turkey, India, and various other non US and UK locales.

CD: Os Mutantes Live at Barbicon 2006: Sergio and Arnaldo and a great band w/ Zelia Duncan filling in for Rita Lee, who apparently now is some sort of Oprah like figure in Brazil. It's nothing like the times I saw the Beach Boys with my parents in the 80s and just felt sad for everyone involved. This album is suffused with joy (except the Lucifer song).

CD: Madlib: Shades of Blue: re-mixes of jazz greats for people with short attention spans like myself. It actually did get me interested in the music of Andrew Hill and Horace Silver. Generally just extremely pleasant to listen too.

Film: No Country for Old Men: Depicts Texas as a bleak washed-out white trash hellhole, just like I always pictured it. The killer in the movie is an unforgettable character, extremely cold, yet someone Stephen Covey would probably
consider a Highly Effective Person

Food: Burritos at Laughing Planet: I hope this place stays around forever

Food: Esan Thai: Soon they'll have a liquor license, too

Food: Limestone Grill: Expensive, but that food is good. Chef Tad has mad skills in the kitchen.

Place: Limerick, Ireland: The IT industry is strong, Ireland is clearly doing well, the people there are great, and the natural beauty of the Cliffs of Moher is in easy driving distance.

Place: Reykjavik, Iceland: It's like no other place in the world. It's like the Moon. The Apollo guys even used it as a fill-in for the Moon. Also apparently the place rates highly for happy people.

Software: SQL Server 2005: The only Microsoft product I like anymore, except maybe Windows Server, which you obviously need to run this.

Software: ActiveState Python: Programming can be fun, without being reduced to some laughable VB-esque toy.

The Graphic Novels of Joe Sacco
The Graphic Novels of Chris Ware
The Graphic Novels of James Sturm
The Graphic Novel Section at the Monroe County Library

The Wonderlab - Aside from an occasional impedance mismatch in terms of what my daughter and I want to do there (for example, I maybe want to spend a lot longer at the table where you can create stop-motion animation than she does), this place is great fun for the youngsters.

Least Favorite Shit:

Dell Laptops - slow as fuck. clunky. stink of corporate genericity.

Dell Computers in General - I just see the logo and want to break something

Windows Technology Reality - a million possibilities for developers, but the admins will never let you roll it out b/c they don't have the staff to support it, or some bullshit like that. Choose LAMP, children! Choose the Amazon EC2 and S3 APIs!

Overhead paging systems - What the fuck is this, M*A*S*H? Only instead of just Radar O'Reilly, every asshole in the building with a voice, fingers, and a malignant sense of self-importance gets to get on the mic.

Arthritis - I really loved running, once.

Next time I remember which books I read this year.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


I especially like how he rhymed 'djlfjlkjdslkjirt' with 'Run-DMC shirt'

Still processing this one.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Your One-Stop Shop for Responses to "Atheism is a religion"

I have stolen these from a thread over at Doc Bushwell's:

Atheism is a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby.

Atheism is a religion the way off is a television channel.

Claiming that atheism is a religion is like claiming that not smoking crack is a form of drug addiction.

Atheism is a religion the way good health is a disease.

Claiming that atheism is a religion is like claiming that an empty glass is a drink.

Atheism is a religion the way not breathing is an alternative lifestyle.

Claiming that atheism is a religion is like claiming that baldness is a hairstyle.

and the best one, of course, is:

Atheism is a religion the way not eating is a kind of sandwich.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

I wish all Teddy Bears were named Muhammad

Back in 2006, the world didn't know how to act when a firestorm erupted over some cartoons in a right-wing Danish newspaper. Currently, people are freaking out in Sudan because a teacher allowed her students to name a Teddy Bear Muhammad.

In a show of solidarity w/ Ms. Gibbons (the teacher in question), and because I haven't posted a greasemonkey script for a while, below you will find a greasemonkey script that gives EVERY TEDDY BEAR ON THE WWW the name Muhammed. Above, a screenshot illustrates that there is a big community of TBNM collectors on eBay.

Christians are welcome to use this script to name all teddy bears on the World Wide Web Jesus, Rastafarians may use it to name all teddy bears Jah, and Satanists may use it to name all teddy bears Satan. Jews may use it to name teddy bears Moses or Sandy Koufax, jazz fans can use it to name all teddy bears 'Trane, the possibilities are endless, really.

The script:

// ==UserScript==
// @name TBNM
// @namespace none
// @description gives all teddy bears on the WWW the name 'Mohammed'
// @include *
// @version 1.0
// @homepage redacted
// ==/UserScript==
(function() {
var bad = [], good = [], modifiers = [];
// Terms are listed as comma separated couples of words, in the form
// "Censored Word": "replacement"
// [Place custom word list below]

"teddy bear(s?)(?! named M.hamm.d)":"Teddy Bear$1 Named Muhammad",

// [End of custom word list]
}, "gi");
// END CONFIGURATION (don't touch anything below, unless you know what you're doing...
function populate(replacements, flags) {
var word, modPos, mod;
for(var key in replacements) {
if((modPos = key.indexOf("/")) > -1) {
mod = key.substring(modPos + 1);
word = key.substring(0, modPos);
} else {
mod = "";
word = key;
bad.push(new RegExp(word, flags));

// this function does the replacements
function sanitize(s, noContext, notredirect) {

for (var j = 0; j < s =" s.replace(bad[j]," title =" sanitize(document.title," textnodes =" document.evaluate(" i =" 0;" node =" textnodes.snapshotItem(i);" data =" sanitize(node.data,">

More about Greasemonkey

You have to use Firefox for this to work. Sorry.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Chris Ware delivers more body-blows of depression

I read Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid on Earth a couple years ago, having seen excerpts in various cities' alternative weeklies. It was a thing of beauty, very well done, dense and deep, but also profoundly sad, being full of parental abandonment and alienation and so on. Somehow I soldiered through. Later I read Quimby The Mouse. What the fuck was going on with the cat's head the mouse wheeled around in the little wagon?

After that I just couldn't bear to read anything by Ware, because it was all so very, very sad. I had also encountered some of his 'doing this is miserable work, I hate it' material in a comic compilation (McSweeney's Issue 13) which put me off. It was not exactly Vince Neil griping about groupies and sub-par craft services table spreads, but still...you don't have to mentally re-live the placing of every slab by slaves to appreciate the pyramids ('they didn't have Alleve then...'). You don't have to almost die from heroin addiction and come back to enjoy the work of Iggy Pop. You don't have to personally get shot to pieces and then drown on Omaha Beach to enjoy a bar-b-q on Memorial Day. It's clear Ware has immense talent, and he's not laying about resting on his laurels, but forgive me for wanting more art and less artist in this case.

Later I encountered an essay he'd written about Frank King (Gasoline Alley) in a Drawn & Quarterly comp, which introduced a collection of King's strips that completely changed my view of what Gasoline Alley was all about (what it had been about was it was one of the old people strips I always skipped on the comics pages). It turns out Grampaw's comics were beautifully illustrated (these were Sunday strips, with the color) aimless celebrations of the world around us as it underwent great changes (the characters also underwent changes, as King allowed them to age, unlike the Family Circle kids who will keep on adorably fucking up the English language until Bil Keane gives up the ghost). Some of the strips were quite inventive and even experimental, as in a strip where the world is inverted and Skeezix lives below the surface of the lake. So, again, if you fall victim to assuming the old comics were all knuckle-dragging Bazooka Joe efforts, well, aren't you ignorant?

I felt I was ready to take on The ACME Novelty Library 'Report To Shareholders' a couple weeks ago, and I picked it up at the Monroe County Public Library, which has a really great graphic novel section. It sat on the table with the pile of books I'm currently not reading. Eventually I dove in.

Some have complained that it's very difficult to read, and it kind of is, as it's full of old style kid comic-book type ads with very small print, featuring headers like 'YOU CAN NOW MAKE MORE MONEY', 'Break into SURGERY', and 'Other Men have Read and Profited from this FREE Book About LUST'. Some pages have 10x the number of words you'd find on the page of a novel, PLUS all of the painstakingly drawn panels (and Ware doesn't miss the opportunity to point out that the comic book artist has to do 10x the work of a novelist, who can describe a scene with a few choice phrases). The thing is, nobody ever read those ads in the old comic books, so nothing's stopping the reader from plowing ahead, picking the eye-catching title here and there. Further, the densest page doesn't come close to some of the printing mayhem to be found in the novel 'House Of Leaves' (or, for that matter, the no-one has read this book, not even the author: 'Only Revolutions').

Jimmy Corrigan is in this book, as is a hapless wage-slave from the future, and Quimby, and the slow-witted and not-at-all-loved-by-Dad 'Big Tex', but the most engaging story line follows toy (mostly action figures) collectors Rusty Brown, his pushover friend Chalky White, who Rusty takes advantage of throughout the book, and the more minor character Putty Grey. Alert readers will spot Ware's 'COLLECTORS: A Guide', which describes general principles and the six basic types of collectors (among them: 'the Reparationist, who is in search of those items long ago thrown away, either by an irate parent or, sometimes, even oneself, in a regretted brusque urge toward speedy maturation').

Such collectors are, too be generous, not so well understood, and to not be generous, are despised as pathological examples of wildly misdirected obsessiveness. It would have been easy to have been repulsed by the characters, but I found myself very much drawn into their story. When Rusty, a middle-aged man living with his mother who mistreats what's probably his only friend discovers his mother threw away his collection of antique cereal boxes, I was surprised to find myself genuinely feeling sad, commiserating with him as he sat on his bed clutching his toy Kermit the Frog (reminding me of my childhood love of the Muppets, and of Jim Henson's death ).

Chalky gravitates toward church and family normalcy, and could easily have become a 2d caricature of the weird fear-driven herd patriotism following 9-11, but then there's his profound love for his daughter, Brittany (Oh my God, they named her Brittany), who's deep in teen angst, and drifting away. A particularly inspired strip shows Chalky writing one of those contemptible Christmas Family Update Letters while, in parallel, Brittany tearfully recounts the year's major developments in her diary. Sad, so very, very sad! (But also kind of funny.)

After reading the ACME Novelty Library, I read 'Pizzeria Kamikaze' by Israeli artists Etgar Keret and Asaf Hanuka. It's about an afterlife for suicides. It felt like light reading somehow, even though it was all black-and-white and about people running around with holes in their heads or, in the case of the suicide bomber bartender, parts of their faces missing. There's even a bit of an upbeat ending. Joy!

I am not sure what graphic novel I will take on next, but it might be a while before I can recover and go back to Ware's work (which I nonetheless recommend and hope he continues to put out, as painful as it is for him).

Sunday, November 18, 2007

ChatterBlocker: A Great Idea if this was 1978

I read blogs like Lifehacker and others of their ilk, chock full of their Hints from Heloise, Bottom Line Personal hints for the not-yet-elderly.

I profoundly, deeply, viscerally hate the sound of workplace chatter. In Indianapolis, when I was outside at lunch or the beginning/ends of days, sometimes I'd hear a train braking, and it made an extended whining sound that it seemed would never end, and I'd think 'this is actually much better and more interesting than listening to my cube-neighbor on the phone with a salesweasel'. The biggest laugh from 'Office Space' for me: "CORPorate accounts payable, Nina speaking. JUST a MOment... CORPorate accounts payable, Nina speaking...etc" Workplace chatter may yet drive me to a Kaczynski Kabin in Montana.

So when I heard about ChatterBlocker, I was eager to give it a whirl. The idea behind ChatterBlocker is that it reduces the sound of workplace conversations using various forms of preferred noise: flowing water, chimes, bells, jumbled up voices.

Some companies make white-noise generators which are hardware solutions to the problem. There are also the noise-canceling headphones from Bose. I have a set, and they suck because they DON'T cancel out the sounds of people talking.

I downloaded it, and it sat on my computer for a couple weeks (I fail G'ing T's D). I finally tried it yesterday, first trying a pre-set involving water flowing. Instead of being relaxed, it made me tense, and it was hard to stay in my seat because I felt like a nearby toilet needed to have its handle jiggled.

Other presets featured male or female voices, saying random things. This one was disturbing because I have eavesdropping tendencies, which is part of the reason workplace chatter vexes me so. Hearing this jumbled, sliced and diced chatter, I couldn't help but try to extract meaning from it, only to fail and be frustrated.

Finally, an 'advanced' mode is like ACID: the early 90's ambient edition. The user can choose various soothing instruments and sounds (some plucked string instrument, bells, blocks clacking together, etc) and mix them together in search of the magic recipe for relaxation. It's a lot of work, going through all the permutations. Fortunately, a lot of people have been working on this problem going back at least to 1978, the year Brian Eno released Ambient One: Music for Airports. That airports are still profoundly miserable, noisy places (even the 'Admiral Lounge' areas can get overly crowded to the point where it takes a lot of complementary booze to cancel out a room-full of Junior Achievers on cell phones, and children failing to be entertained by the big-screen TV) is a testimonial to the ambition and audacity Eno must have had to have even taken on the project.

While I was conducting these experiments, my wife was in the other room, and she made some remark along the lines of 'WTF is that noise?'. On hearing what the fuck it was, she agreed that it somehow managed to create rather than relieve tension.

At this point I remembered actually I do have Aphex Twin's 'Selected Ambient Works Vol 2' on my iPod, along with several albums by The Orb (there's a new, 'deluxe' version of U.F. Orb out there now btw). So apparently what I need to do is group these tracks together as a playlist w/ iTunes, then listen to my iPod on the failing-to-cancel noise headphones (earbuds fail blocking out outside noise).

If an iPod and 90's ambient music is not at your disposal, you can always call in sick and work from home when the noise gets to be too much. Maybe a plumber can help you hack your toilet into a nice ambient noise generator. Good luck submitting that expense report.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

For Sunday: A reading from the book of Miles Davis

Open your Autobiography of Miles Davis (with Quincy Troupe) to p 380, please, for 'The Dinner at The White House with Ronald Reagan and Ray Charles'.

At the table where I was sitting, a politician's wife said some silly shit about jazz, like 'Are we supporting the art form just because it's from here in this country, and is it art in it's truest form, or are we just being blase and ignoring jazz b/c it comes from here and not from Europe, and it comes from black people?'

This came from out of the blue. I don't like questions like that because they're just questions from someone who's trying to sound intelligent, when in fact they don't give a damn about it. I looked at her and said, 'What is it? Jazz time or something? Why you ask me some shit like that?'

So she said, 'Well, you're a jazz musician, aren't you?'

So I said, 'I'm a musician, that's all'.

'Well then, you're a musician, you play music...'

'Do you really want to knew why jazz music isn't given the credit in this country?'

She said, 'Yes, I do.'

'Jazz is ignored here b/c the white man likes to win everything. White people like to see other white people win just like you do and they can't win when it comes to jazz and the blues b/c black people created this. And so when we play in Europe, white people over there appreciate us b/c they know who did what and they will admit it, but most white Americans won't.'

She looked at me and turned all red and shit, and then she said 'Well, what have you done that's so important in your life? Why are you here?'

Now, I just hate shit like this coming from someone who is ignorant,but who wants to be hip and has forced you into a situation where you're talking to them in this manner. She brought this on herself. So then I said, 'Well, I've changed music 5 or 6 times, so I guess that's what I've done and I guess I don't believe in playing just white compositions.' I looked at her real cold and said, 'Now, tell me what have you done of any importance other than be white, and that ain't important to me, so tell me what your claim to fame is'.

She started to twitch and everything around her mouth. She couldn't even talk she was so mad. There was a silence so thick you could cut it with a knife. Here this woman was supposedly from the hippest echelons of society talking like a fool. Man, it was depressing.

Ray Charles was up there sitting with President Reagan, and the president was looking around to see how to act. I felt sorry for him. Reagan just looked embarassed.

Man, they should have written down something hip for him to say, but they ain't got nobody hip nowhere around him. Just a bunch of sorry motherfuckers with plastic smiles, acting all proper and shit.
A reading from the book of Miles.

In which I tell people more successful than myself what to do

This is a brief one:

Patton Oswalt - Please license your 'I'm going to fill your hoo-ha with goof juice' routine to Gilbert Gottfried. Maybe get somebody to do an animated short with him providing the voice. Comedy Gold!

Quentin Tarantino - In a future film, make sure there's a graphic torture scene where the background music is 'The Rockafella Skank' by Fatboy Slim (aka 'Right About Now, the Funk Soul Brother'). In a year or two, it will have the forgotten or, if remembered, remembered disdainfully status 'Stuck in The Middle With You' had when you made 'Reservoir Dogs'.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

If you've read the title, you've pretty much read the book.

Here are some great books I found while wandering about on Amazon. They seem to be geared toward people without a lot of time for reading. Today's entry is also geared toward those people.

Religion of Peace?: Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn't (Hardcover)

by Robert Spencer

In his pre-teen years he won fame as the author of: My Dad can Beat Up Your Dad: My Dad Played Football in High School and Yours Didn't

Indoctrination U:The Left's War Against Academic Freedom (Hardcover)
by David Horowitz (Author)

I was a Physics major, and I bitterly recall liberal professors trying to suppress wave-particle duality, so this one hits home.

Camelot and the Cultural Revolution: How the Assassination of John F. Kennedy Shattered American Liberalism (Hardcover)
by James Piereson (Author)

On the other hand, it gave 40-year-old white guys in living in their parents' basement something relatively harmless to occupy their time, so look on the bright side.

War Crimes: The Left's Campaign to Destroy Our Military and Lose the War on Terror (Hardcover)
by Robert "Buzz" Patterson (Author)

That Michael Moore sure does scare the bejeezus out of guys named "Buzz". I envy his paranormal powers in this arena.

Freedomnomics: Why the Free Market Works and Other Half-Baked Theories Don't (Hardcover)
by John R. Lott Jr. (Author)

John R. Lott Jr. was clearly inspired by Freakonomics' title and cover art. He promises to show:' Why the controversial assertions made in the trendy book Freakonomics are almost entirely wrong', but the market has spoken, John R. Lott Jr., and you fail it (Freedomnomics is at #4736 on Amazon's sales list at this writing, Freakonomics is #107).

The Tyranny of Tolerance: A Sitting Judge Breaks the Code of Silence to Expose the Liberal Judicial Assault (Hardcover)
by Robert H. Jr Dierker (Author)

I think we all know what timid souls lawyers and judges are, and how difficult it is to get them to speak out about things that are important to them. I'm glad one of these judges was able to came out of his shell.

Nanny State: How Food Fascists, Teetotaling Do-Gooders, Priggish Moralists, and other Boneheaded Bureaucrats are Turning America into a Nation of Children (Hardcover)
by David Harsanyi (Author)

I can see that you're upset, David. Thanks for using your words.

And this one is kind of the War and Peace of the bunch:

Outrage: How Illegal Immigration, the United Nations, Congressional Ripoffs, Student Loan Overcharges, Tobacco Companies, Trade Protection, and Drug Companies Are Ripping Us Off . . . And (Hardcover)
by Dick Morris (Author), Eileen Mcgann (Author)

...and.....you're pissed off because you bought the iPhone the day it came out and then the price dropped? What? We'll have to wait until the next book cover for the answer.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

An assortment of randomness before returning to telling you how to live your life

The Jaco Pastorius 2-CD comp 'Punk Jazz' had got to be the most misnamed album ever. Jaco was great and all, but this album is about as punk as the Scooby-Doo episode where Scrappy wears the Devo hat. Most of it is like 'Jaco sits in with Johnny Carson's Tonight Show Old White Guy Jazz Band'. Oy. Thank god this was a library thing. Just get the Weather Report albums he played on.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Desmond Dekker comp I picked up was wonderful. In the 60s ska was really great, and ever since then it's been a long horrible slide toward the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and punky McSka bullshit.

The cafeteria at the branch in Ireland is AWESOME! Tandoori chicken the first day we were there. Thank God I wasn't paying though, with the US dollar to Euro conversion now a bowl of soup works out to $12 or something.

Ireland in general is great. Except for the clueless fucktards who stumble on my 'Fun Facts About Limerick' entry from last year and fail to get it and get all righteously indignant. We all know, people are the same wherever you go, there is good and bad, woo-hoo, in everyone.

We all might have to go to Ireland or Denmark to work on our big global project. Otherwise all day it's 'how do I print this, help my aunt pick out a laptop, blah blah blah hello I'm stupid.' How are we supposed to get anything done with all that noise? Do I ask the marketing people how to write a listing when I sell something on E-Bay? The folks in Ireland and Denmark can come to the US, a big worker exchange thing.

I guess it's OK the Cubs fucked up again. I think more people have lived and died since they last won the World Series than lived and died before it (population explosion and all that).

I really can't imagine ever working in Indianapolis ever again. Bloomington is so much better. I'd have to develop a crack or gambling addiction and need the money really bad. And now Bitch Daniels in bed with that 'Cha-Cha' search engine guy. That Cha-Cha search engine is more of an embarassment to Hoosiers than that Jim Jones motherfucker who had the cult and made people drink the Kool-Aid. WTF. You might as well start your own Internet as go up against Google. Google owns you!

Maybe downtown Indianapolis would be OK if I really had to, but lord god almighty the North Side and Carmel is an abomination and insult to all that is good and human. The center of the evil is the Cheesecake Factory, where the portions are large enough to feed entire villages in developing countries. I think they film the restaurant employees throwing the food down the garbage disposal and then ship the footage to Robert Mugabe who shows it to his imprisoned and starving enemies, for that extra level of evil. It's NOT a nice place. Even that town I lived in in New Jersey was much better. No matter how much you grow up and don't want to listen to hardcore anymore, some yuppies just still disgust you.

This was a writing technique that involved not slowing down to Google things.

Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation still sounds really good. I played it for my daughter the other day. She didn't complain, but hasn't asked to hear it again, either. It's cool how Lee and Thurston spent their lives in an alternate guitar universe, developing a style that didn't really have much to do with rock guitar playing as the world knew it (let's make it sound like the song explodes, then the film is played backwards) and actually sounded horrible to quite a lot of people, but I could still listen to that again and again, nearly 20 years later.

I'm buying an Apple laptop soon. I am so very done with Dell. 'Shut down the company and distribute the money to the shareholders', indeed.

The End

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Make Your Life Better: 6 Ways To Achieve As A Knowledge Worker In The Web 2.0 Economy

We have all been there: staying up 3 days in a row trying to force Websphere or BEA or ASP.NET or Python or PHP or Ruby-on-Rails to do what thousands of existing websites already do with AJAX and CSS and XML and so on, but with that little twist in design or business plan that ensures we will not be sued, or that we, unlike the creators of the other 999 web sites, will turn a profit. We have lost spouses and significant others, been written out of wills, found the decomposed remains of forgotten and neglected pets under piles of laundry. We have eaten Hot Pockets. We know it could be better. That's why we're here.

1) Stop writing code.

Just stop it. There is already enough code in the world. Almost all of it is very, very bad. Everybody writes code. True, everybody shits, too, but the plumbing industry is much more mature than the software industry. If you must stay in software development, take some existing code and shuffle it around a bit. Make the error messages more pithy. That sort of thing.

2) Devote at least 20% of your time to evaluating Life Improvement Strategies.

There are many of these floating around. Many, many blogs like Lifehacker, Dumb Little Man,
and Zen Habits present great life-improvement strategies and tactics. There's lots of software to help you put together to-do lists, identify patterns in grocery shopping that correlate with peaks and valleys in your mood and sexual potency, and determine whether that special somebody has DNA that complements yours well, or you should cut your losses now and move on. 20% might not be enough, but if you can achieve this you'll feel the satisfaction and pride of achievement, which might motivate you to put in the extra 5-10%. When you've reached this level, start writing your own life-improvement blog, because there really can never be too many of those.

3) Stop following professional sports, or pretending to

Pretending to is worse than doing it. Really, it is a big waste of time, unless you are betting on it, and then it's a big waste of money, too. And $7 for a fucking hot dog, what the fuck is that? What is this, Iceland?

4) Build your post-apocalyptic survival community

In the event of an civilization-shattering emergency or extinction level event, you will NOT make it on your own, Ayn Rand. Cultivate friends with diverse and complementary skills: sharpshooting, hunting, trapping, hide-tanning, identifying edible plants, hand-to-hand combat, interrogation techniques, purifying urine into drinking water, installation and maintenance of solar power systems.

This is far more important than establishing a good retirement savings plan, yet nearly nobody does it. After the bombs have gone off, it will be too late. You'll be like one of those people who has their first child when they're 50. You don't want to be like that. Speaking of which, this is an area where kids come in handy, and can really start to pull their own weight.

5) Eat less

By restricting your caloric intake to P.O.W./hunger strike levels, you will extend your life span. This has been proven in many studies involving rats. All that extra life span will give you more time to de-clutter your work-space, become debt-free, visualize the completion of big projects, yadda yadda yadda, blah blah blah.

6) Exercise more

Magazines like Men's Health can help you here. Men's Health is particularly good as while nothing is more boring or painful than abdominal exercises, every month they present a new plan to achieve washboard abs. If you are still bored after exploring the rich variety of ab workouts Men's Health has shared with flabby men throughout the years, maybe it's really just that you are a boring person.


I hope you've found this entry helpful and that it enriches your life. More importantly, I hope in the event of accidental nuclear holocaust you don't find yourself imprisoned by cannibals who use your limbs for meat, like in that Cormac McCarthy book, The Road. I did not read The Road, and Nick Hornby in a recent column has assured me that I don't want to. Oprah put the book in her book club, ensuring many uneasy nights and much psychological scarring for countless Moms and Grandmas across our great land, but gods bless that Nick Hornby, he's one of the good guys. Even hearing about the stuff in that book second-hand creeps me out and fills me with gut wrenching despair, the kind of despair only a mind-blankingly intense ab workout will banish.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

What's Going On In Iceland

I was only in Iceland for 4 days, yet I find myself saying 'in Iceland they do this' or 'in Iceland it's like that' like I went to school or worked on a fishing boat there or such. I did enjoy the brief time I spent there, and it did feel like being on another planet when we left the city to check out the glaciers, so it made an impact. Also, I didn't try rotten shark while there, so there are no bad smell-related memories (the strongest kind, supposedly) to detract from the good visual and taste memories.

Anyhow, w/ the US $ only worth 62 ISK (vs. 67 when I was there a couple months ago), I will need to save up some money before I go back. Of course, as Auður Ösp reports in her one fish no bike blog, with unemployment below 1%, employers have been reduced to begging customers to work for them, so there's that option. Or, if I were feeling ambitious, I could push for our company to open a subsidiary there, but they have got Japan and China on the brain these days.

Iceland's Sigur Ros is the subject of a documentary called 'Heima'. The trailer is heavy on footage of Reykjavik and some beautiful Icelandic scenery. You can certainly find worse ways to spend 5 minutes on the internet. Yes, the lead singer's hair is a bit reminiscent of SCTV's Ed Grimley, that's very observant of you.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Flying over Greenland - a welcome distraction from in-flight movies

The highlight of yesterday's flight back from Ireland was the 30 minutes or so where we flew over the southern tip of Greenland. It was like flying over a new planet, looking for signs of life (some of the icebergs looked a bit like boats, and I saw what looked like a town, but was probably seeing things as the 'town' was surrounded by a whole lot of nothing. Did a plane drop some crates of supplies in every couple of weeks perhaps?)

I took many, many pictures, with somebody else's camera (travelling w/ many people, almost all of whom took their cameras with them, I didn't bother to take my own and thus got to experience everything at the time it was happening rather than having to wait until it was up on flickr). One I get a hold of the better ones I'll put them up, in the meantime check out this grainy, postage-stamp sized video a guy put up on you tube: here. This one, though the camera work suggests the guy was sharing the plane with several thizzing squirrels, is also nice.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Where2 fails it and other stuff from our trip to Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill

A co-worker and I spent a week in Raleigh, which was cool overall. In an effort to mitigate tedium we tried out a different restaurant every night, but we were amazed at how often Google or our GPS system (where2) sent us to a place that was no longer in business, for example:

MVP Sports Bar (colleague is football-obsessed.)

2 Bar-B-Q places (Bar-B-Q and Ribs (?), Cooper's (in a seemingly dodgy part of town, first of all, and devoid of any signs of life when we got there)).

Some Indian restaurant w/ 'Sitar' in the name (fortunately 'Bombay Kitchen' was close by and made for a very satisfactory plan B).

On Wednesday we tried out NC-style BBQ at Smithfield's Chicken in Wake Forest (recommended by a classmate from the area). NC-style BBQ is vinegar-based, it's not the sticky, messy, but transcendantly delicious BBQ I was used to. It was good for what it was, but I'm not a convert; I still prefer the tomato-based approach. Anyways, since we were in Wake Forest we decided to check out the Wake Forest campus. The Where2 computer voice lady directed us to the center of a really beautiful little town, past a seminary we at first thought was the campus. We arrived at our destination to find a plaque marking the place where the Wake Forest campus WAS, before it moved to Winston-Salem in 1956. D'oh!

On Thursday I made my 15-years-too-late pilgrimage to Chapel Hill, a capital of indie-rock goodness in the early 90's (Polvo, Superchunk, etc, etc). As Steely Dan says, those days are gone forever, over a long time ago, but they did still have several Polvo CDs at Schoolkids records. I bought a Thee Hypnotics (early 90's Stooge-Hendrix rock) CD for $3, the new Cinematic Orchestra CD, and the new Aesop Rock CD. This signalled to the clerk either a) I have diverse musical tastes or b) I have an shakily ill-defined personality as these choices cancel each other out. Anyhow. My colleague was not much into the Schoolkids Records scene, but is a good guy and let me do the aimless shelf perusal thing for a bit, and took the opportunity to check in w/ his mother, I think (he was speaking Gujarati during the call).

The campus was really nice, just crawling with attractive, seemingly bigger-than-average young people. Bigger as in taller, as in scaled up in all dimensions. Half the kids had cell-phones to their ears, which looks weird to somebody who graduated from college 17 years ago. Some juggling club had a tight-rope strung between two trees. A guy fell off, the boingy sound of the rope followed by the thud as he hit the ground (he was OK, folks). The campus is really beautiful (the non-people part, too).

We ate at 'top of the hill', a brewpub establishment 3 stories up, with an outdoor eating area overlooking Franklin Street. When we got there the football coach was doing the live show college football and basketball coaches at all schools do, hosted by a guy with a voice identical to every other host of one of these shows in every town everywhere in the USA. 'Top Of The Hill' was another classmate recommendation. UNC seemed really cool and gave me a sense of optimism about America's young people, cell phones notwithstanding, or maybe that was the beer at Top Of The Hill (colleague consumed one beer and drove).

A couple other things we learned (aside from how to leverage SQL Server for yr BI needs) in our week in Raleigh:

  • Seemingly 90% of the people in Raleigh are in some branch of the military, or were at one time.
  • Downtown Raleigh seems eerily abandoned. You could fire a cannnon down the street and not hit anyone.
  • I have no idea what Research Triangle Park looks like, even after driving through it. It's obscured by trees, unlike Silicon Valley, the place too busy to give a shit what it looks like.
  • Like everywhere, when you go out to lunch in Raleigh you overhear computer-related conversations all around you. It's pretty boring. People need to get hobbies, in Raleigh and really everywhere. You'd think they could relive their military days of flying helicopters and blowing shit up. It would be more entertaining for people in the vicinity to hear about that sort of thing.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

In Raleigh, NC This Week

I am in the land of 1000 Universities (+ Research Triangle Park) this week for training.

The trip down went well, aside from the Rental Car place. When we tried to save a couple bucks by not upgrading to a Charger, they threatened to put us in a PT Cruiser. Neither of us has a uterus and grandchildren, so we caved in and upgraded to the Charger (also, the Charger is black). They also tried to nickle-and-dime us on several other things. I hate people.

Anyhow we are here and there's wireless in the hotel and and the training is in the hotel (we won't be using the cool black car that much). It is an industrial park kind of place, but with a lot of trees hiding all the bleakness and grayness that industrial parks in Indiana just flaunt like it's the milkshake that brings all the drones to the yard or something. We ate at a place that was pretty nice, but I'm kind of embarassed to even say the name (it was not Bennigan'z at least).

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Learn French from Kool Moe Dee

Thanks to the BNN for this one.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

People need to take this shit seriously, I broke this story months ago

Back in May I wrote about 'True Hip Hop Facts', including this one:
MF Doom is actually 5 people who take turns wearing the mask for performances and 'featuring' appearances on other peoples' records.
Now, some people thought that was just some jokey material I made up because I was bored, but look at this article posted August 24 on the Paste magazine site: 'MF Doom imposters perform shows?' It seems somebody way too skinny to be the real Doom took the stage at a performance at the Independent in San Francisco for about 20 minutes, did some lip-synching, and left, much to the crowd's dismay and general rage. They dispersed to WiFi hotspots and hit the message boards to spread the word. Byron Crawford, for example, calls him 'The Gallagher Too' of rap, which, well done Byron Crawford, everybody else went for the obvious Milli Vanilli comparison, and you dug a bit deeper. (Gallagher Too is Gallagher's brother, who also does the same watermelon-oriented act). 'Dan' on the SF Weekly blog gave this account:

...lots of signs pointed to the fact that we all got hustled by Doom. Prior to the show, all independent employees (and signs posted) were adamant about no pictures whatsoever. Standard practice in itself, but never have I seen a place go out of their way to enforce. in retrospect this leads me to believe that the club had advance knowledge of this shady event. In typical doom fashion, he appears on stage roughly 2 hours after the opening act completed. He comes out looking blatantly skinnier (and shorter) to any die hard doom fan. In fact, my first comment to my buddy before I knew what was going down was: "Wow…that doesn't even look like Doom!" He comes out to Benzie box (off of DangerDoom) and no one can hear him as it sounds like his mic is off, (or he's not actually saying anything). All we could hear was his hype man. Even this didn't immediately set off a flag, because sometimes there can be sound issues obviously. After the song completes, he goes right into another song, also inaudible. this is when I started to raise my eyebrows. At every Doom show I've attended, where he's "actually" performed, he has always addressed the crowd and interacted. In fact, one of the best parts of his shows, in my opinion, are his interactions and mannerisms up on stage. unparalleled even, in my 15 years as a hip hop live show attendee. None of this is present. He's just walking back and forth on stage with no visual excitement…just rapper hands. So after 3 songs of this, I go up to the sound guy and let him know that no one in the audience can hear Doom, and ask him if he's aware. Here is his direct response to me: "Yea, I know you guys can't hear him. It's not Doom, and the guy who is up there is lip synching" My response was something to the effect of "yea right…who would do that to his fans?" Especially in the era of illegal downloads…how can he expect to keep a following large enough to pay his bills without a strong stage show? not to mention the legality behind the situation…I mean, if I could personally sue Mr.. dumile, I would. I'd love to get the G back that I spent just to see his sorry ass. I digress. So I go to the bar to cool my nerves, by this time he's muting his way through his 4th song. About halfway through the song, homeboy walks off stage. Done. No words to the crowd, no "peace out," no nothing. Boo's rained down. I had never seen anything like it before. And we're talking about an underground legend here, not just the 7pm opening act from the local high school. Then they told us show was over. that and I couldn't get my money back. The worst part about this is maybe Doom's signature trait: his mask. It provides the perfect alibi for him…no one can really prove any of this, because he hides behind that thing. If I didn't get hustled myself, I would almost respect his game. It's pretty brilliant. But now, as I've been doing more research into this, I've found that he pulled the same thing in LA a couple of nights earlier, and again with Scratch magazine for a photo shoot. To further raise suspicions, he was also a no show for the Rock the Bells show. (him and Nas: the only reasons why I actually made the trip). Magazines, I can understand, but the people who buy his music? The fans that have followed him since KMD? The fans that to date have supported his every move. The ones that travel hundreds of miles to see him? that is MAJOR disrespect. I still can't even believe it.

Please keep me posted on this if you are able. I WAS one of Doom's biggest fan, and now, all I just feel like he spit in my face. We all got hustled that night. Especially me and my girlfriend who spent some hard earned cash just to see him in California, because he didn't schedule anything in the NW. I have legal counsel here in Portland, and have actually already started to explore what kind of options I may have for legal action. Any information (including Independent OR Doom management contact info) you can provide to me would be a tremendous help. Thank you for helping expose this debacle. It needs to be prevented from happening again. Let me know if there's anything else I can provide you.
If the real Doom was watching cartoons and smoking a blunt in NYC while all this was going down, that makes him a great prankster at least. It's punk rock, a great rock-n-roll swindle for our times ('Ever had the feeling you've been ripped off', and all that).

Some people in the forums are filled with doubt that the person they saw when they saw Doom months or years ago was really Doom. Others wonder if Doom died and the Doom organization is trying to keep the meal ticket going for a while.

I continue for now to think Doom is brilliant. 'Operation: Doomsday' is a classic, even if it's built around uncleared and strangely lightweight samples. His lyrics are among the funniest and most interesting in hip-hop, and his story before this was one of an artist making an unexpected comeback after a tragedy (the death of his brother and fellow KMD member Sub-Roc, killed in a car accident at 20) and years of obscurity. Anyhow we shall watch and see. I hope Doom's OK and that's the end of the pranks on the fans.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Passive Leech of Entertainment Product: Amusements Free and Otherwise to Mitigate my Sufferations

Thank Jah for the library. They don't have the coffee drinks you can get at Borders, but the whole 'Free Books' thing feels revolutionary, in a somebody from the publishing industry is going to sue me for using it. Due to my tragically ravaged attention span I've been going for graphic novels lately, and picked up both Embroideries and Chicken And Plums by Marjane Satrapi. Embroideries revolves around a group of Iranian women spanning 3 generations telling really personal stories about their run-ins with men both Iranian and Western, mostly sexual in nature, and at the end you find out the title means something completely different from what you'd originally thought. In Chicken and Plums heartbroken tar player Nasser Ali decides to die, and succeeds. Very sad, and it also contains unconventional parenting tips which require finding a source of opium. Persepolis was made into a movie, but I have no idea when it's coming out. 'Sometime in 2007' says the site. Well, who knows, I guess we can't have Americans loving Iranians and developing crushes on Marjane Satrapi if Cheney is itching to bomb Iran, as the song by John McCain goes, so maybe it won't come out too soon, which would be a shame. Ah well, those of us brought up through nun-run Catholic schools can relate, some things are universal.

I'm in the middle of 'Petropolis' by Anya Ulinich, part of the young-writers-from-the-ex-Soviet-Union-whose-novels-have-Jewish-protagonists genre I became enamored of after reading Gary Shteyngart's 'Absurdistan', which simultaneously portrayed the ex-USSR as a highly depressing hopeless place and managed to be very funny. Similarly, Ulinich's novel leavens the absurdity and hopelessness with some much-needed humor, and I am battling my attention span limitations to make my way through it.

I also got the graphic novel version of Malcolm X's biography, which looked cool, but I haven't started it.

There has been much listening to podcasts lately, including exploration of 'dubstep', which seemed promising having 'Dub' in the name, and I've decided I like it well enough, although the genre is totally unsuited to the mp3 and the iPod. It seems like something that must be listened to in a dark room with the bass loud enough to throw off your heart's rhythm. Dubstep.fm's podcast is good though long (2+ hours), and actually there's a good Dubstep DJ in Indianapolis, DJ Shiva. Her set was noticeably better than the other DJs on that episode, anyway.

Also good is the Blentcast, which delves into the grime thing I was aware of but not so much into until hearing it in this context. Sick Girls from Germany did a recent set starting with that 'My Neck, My Back' song and wrapping things up w/ Lady SOV's 'Hoodie', which led me to buy 'Public Warning' by SOV on iTunes. I'm not about to go out to catch a 2-song SOV set, but the album is great and the price was nice. I fear a Lindsay Lohan future for Louise Harman, though. What the hell is wrong with you people? Why must you destroy people who make a life of music, like Lady SOV and Nasser Ali? To hell with all y'all.

Friday, August 17, 2007

My Job gave me ADD: in which I admit to watching 'The Flavor Flav Roast' + MORE!

When I was younger I thought it'd be cool to be the guy who knew stuff, that people went to with their questions about stuff. I could not have been more wrong. So far the highlight of my professional life involved holing up in a little office in the basement of a Mega-Pharma's HQ, probably getting accidentally irradiated and exposed to antibiotics floating around, cranking out code at a furious pace. Those were happy times. Now if I get 10 minutes to think about the same thing without an interruption, it's like I took a vacation to fucking Disneyland and they were giving out Vicodin on the monorail. Not that I have a Vicodin habit. That would be wrong.

I watched 'The Flavor Flav Roast' the other day. I remember being very obsessive about Public Enemy starting around the time of 'Do The Right Thing'. In the car, we listened to 'Fight the Power', and occasionally another song. The album 'Nation Of Millions' was also great, hooking us white boys with the Slayer sample in 'She Watch Channel Zero ?!??!?!' and somehow entering our minds and altering them until we thought the abrasive air-raid siren noise of 'Rebel Without A Pause' was really wonderful music. Flavor Flav had an essential role of adding a modicum of levity to the proceedings, without which everything would have collapsed under the weight of taking itself entirely too seriously (scientists call this the prog-rock effect).

Unfortunately even around that time Flav did not seem overburdened with self-awareness. In an interview he described his role as being 'the guy who breaks it down for the man on the street' as opposed to 'the guy who says "YEAHHH BOYEEEEEE!"'. At the live show we saw during Black Expo one year (the same concert where Trouble T-Roy of Heavy D and The Boyz died after a tragic fall from the upper levels of Market Square Arena, which is now a Parking Lot), Flav gave a rambling speech about the media being out to get us and stay in school. He also did the 'Yeah Boyeeeee!' bit.

The Roast was star-studded, mostly with 1993 stars. Peers Ice T and Snoop Dogg were there, some tiny comic named 'Katt Williams' (?) was there as host. There were several white boy comedians including Patton Oswalt, Jimmy Kimmel, Carrot Top(?) and some guys I've never heard of, and a white woman comic named Lisa Lampanelli(?).

Things got off to a shaky start with the Pimprechaun laying into my man Patton Oswalt, one of my favorite comedians, mainly because Patton is an atheist and doesn't really make a secret about it. He (Katt(?)) was making jokes supposedly, but was having a hard time hiding the fact that he pretty much wanted to tie Oswalt to the stake and light him up, ruling out 'Ratatouille II' (which would be a shame, I liked that movie). P.O. took this in stride and later got his licks in against 12 ounce mouse when it was his turn.

Actually there was many a good insult joke lobbed about that night, although I felt guilty about laughing, kind of like I felt guilty watching Flav on 'Surreal Life' and later 'Strange Love' (I tuned out completely by the time 'Flavor Of Love' came around.) 'Ice T's so old, the first thing he bought with his record money was his freedom' some white guy with an Italian name said. 'Why are you wearing that clock? You haven't had to be anywhere for 13 years!' Lampanelli asked. 'Chuck D. couldn't be here tonight. The D. is for dignity' said somebody else (it doesn't really matter who. I'll never see most of those people again).

Everybody ended with 'aw man I'm just kidding you're great' and a hug for Flav, wearing a comical gold crown (kings lose crowns, but teachers stay intelligent, KRS-One once observed). When Flav got his turn he lobbed a couple of insults of his own, singling out the comedian with the stubble (he's Bennigan'z) for the harshest abuse: 'I'm giving you a rap name: old ugly bastard! Your jokes were racist, straight up, simple and plain, mother-fuck you and John Wayne!' he cried, quoting the aforementioned 'Fight The Power'. Bennigan'z shouted something back, which I couldn't make out.

So that was the Flavor Flav Roast. I feel bad for Flav. He was out there in the 80's and early 90's doing his thing, trying to set a good example, and everything went to hell. Public Enemy's DJ, the enigmatic 'Terminator X' (he only speaks with his hands) last I heard was an ostrich farmer in South Carolina, good honest practical work, but all you hear about or see is Flavor Flav's televised trainwrecks.

I picked up a CD today: 'Dr. No's Oxperiment' by a guy named 'Oh No', who's actually MadLib's brother. It's good instrumental hip-hop, in the vein of Jay Dilla's 'Donuts', only in this case he goes for really out-of-the-way samples (psych from Turkey, Lebanon, Greece and Italy) instead of the over-fished breakbeats we've heard plenty of times by now. Recommended!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Learning about Learning LSL in Second Life

The Second Life backlash is in full effect, thanks in part to an article in Wired (How Madison Avenue is Wasting Millions on a Deserted Second Life) by Frank Rose, a journalist who made the shocking discovery that people don't want to spend their free time exploring the 'Coke Pavilion' or the 'Quaker Oats Hall Of Dietary Fiber' or other marketing efforts in this new space.

Further, the article implies that the companies that've sprung up to build these spaces for marketeers for stodgy companies that want to be cool might be taking advantage of misplaced enthusiasm. Sort of like the web design houses and professionals that took advantage of all the suckers wanting to get in on the irrationally exhuberant Web boom of the 90's, which I seem to recall Wired Magazine being around for. They weren't around for the California Gold Rush, where the people selling the pickaxes and such were the only ones making money, but they sure milked that analogy for all it was worth then, especially as things started to really turn to shit.

But I'm not here to defend SL, Wagner James Au will do that at New World Notes. This entry is about LSL, the Linden Scripting Language, and if it's true that SL is abandoned, you can probably find a nice quiet place to do some experimenting with building 3-D shit and then giving it functionality, which is one of the fun 'anything is possible' aspects to SL that people like Frank Rose are missing when they aren't missing their own reflection in a mirror.

Anyhow, with LSL basic programming (not necessarily BASIC programming) skillz are handy, but not necessarily required. It is not the prettiest language around. 'The New Hampshire Coder In Linden Lab's Court' calls it 'JavaScript after a lobotomy'. And it's true, it is not going to support large-scale development efforts. However, for some quick fun with 3-D graphics without having to blow the dust off your C++ book, it works nicely.

The LSL Portal is an obvious starting point (it's also an item in the help menu). The 'Scripting Guide' also under the Help Menu will be valuable as a reference (what are the arguments to that function?, that sort of thing), but as an intro, it's not so great. In fact, the intro caused me to completely lose interest in the idea of doing anything with LSL for months, until it crossed my mind again.

Actually, probably the best intro I found was this tutorial at the Kansas Board of Regents. As most people in the other 49 states can imagine, I was really shocked to discover I could learn something from the state of Kansas, but this guide is a nice intro to many aspects of scripting (particles, objects rezzing other objects, commands via chat, 'physics', etc), with examples. Of course there are millions of scripts on the wiki, but it's nice to get the info in a tutorial format.

As far as tools go, aside from the editor inside the SL client, there's an Eclipse plugin for scripting, which could prove to be handy for some off-line editing. There's also an LSLEditor which gives the developer a very rudimentary framework for debugging, however, there's really no substitute for trying out scripts in the 3D environment where you can interact with the objects you are scripting.

Finally, a particularly good sample script (set of scripts actually) is the sailboat library. Sailing is popular in SL as it is not whiplash-fast, but still requires skill since you are at the mercy of SL weather patterns, and can't just point in the direction you want to go and accelerate. Anybody can take these scripts as a starting point for building a sailboat of their own. For an airborne version, you can build a balloon or dirigible with your mind, or create robots which do bizarre stunts, or fireworks and the like with llParticleSystem, or whatever. The 'build it yourself' nature of SL is as I mentioned earlier both a really cool (because there's a ton of potential, and people do make some cool stuff) and horribly aggravating (people make some really hokey shit - scientists call it the 'MySpace Effect') aspect of SL, something marketeers have not figured out how to tap into or incorporate into a marketing effort at all (to be fair, it's not a trivial problem, or somebody would have figured it out by now). Anyhow, have fun, just don't create grey goo, scripts that hassle people, or the like, nobody needs that.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Feel Good Hit of the Summer 2007

In '96 I took a job with a consulting company in South Jersey. I took it to get away from a job with a defense contractor that paid peanuts and caused untold grief as it was a pit of despair, fit only for masochists and people with psychology degrees.

I only stayed with the Jersey job for a couple of months, but that was long enough to know what 'Cracked Out' is referring to in their song 'Bennigan'z', a cross between Run-DMC's 'You Be Illin'' and Jeff Foxworthy's 'You might be a redneck' routine. Only in this case it's 'you might be a wanna-be Gotti boy'.

You got the highlights hair, barb-wire tattoo, You're Bennigan'z
You just bought the brand new Dave Matthew(s), You're Bennigan'z

You can see Rapzilla and MC Record Deal perform it here on MTV's 'the human giant show' (the actual performance doesn't happen until a couple minutes in).

So yeah, the job in New Jersey was straight Bennigan'z, I stayed in a Bennigan'z hotel (Hampton Inn) and ate at a Bennigan'z restaurant (Chili's). Bennigan'z sales guys decided my fate. (You can maybe get in on the ground floor on the Bennigan'z thing. At this writing, Google only brings back 1,100 results for 'Bennigan'z').

Back to Cracked Out. Lazy music reviewers sometimes say things like 'Kelly Clarkson could sing the phone book and I would listen'. Cracked Out spits the numbers from 1 to 100, and damn, that shit is dope. Kind of like DJ Shadow's 'The Numbers Song', but with more numbers. Another video here. This one has an ad at the beginning. Fuckin' MTV.

Here's what those Lebowski costumes were about:
  • The monkey with the napkin and spork represented the line 'you gotta feed the monkey'
  • The Irish caricature was a reference to when the guy in the VW thought the Dude was a 'brother shamus' (an Irish monk?)
  • The new piece of shit carrying the flashlight symbolized the line 'new shit has come to light'
  • The globe that beat on the guy inside w/ the hammer and axe was the 'world of pain'. He entered a world of pain, see?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

You see what happens, Larry? - Lebowski 'Fest '07 at Executive West in Louisville

Back when The Big Lebowski came out in 1998, I went to see it on its opening night with my now-wife and always-sister. All of us being big Coen brothers fans, we were eager to see their follow-up to 'Fargo' (it's a mistake, though, to compare/contrast 'Lebowski' with other Coen Brothers films in Lebowski fan circles. It is a self-contained entity), and were not in any way disappointed. Somewhat bewildered, and definitely amused, but not disappointed. The movie is a favorite, but both my wife and I (and I would guess the Coen brothers) were surprised to find that the movie sometime in the 9 years since then became a Cult Classic of Rocky Horror Picture Show proportions, inspiring a legion of dialog-quoting fans who attend conventions like last weekend's 6th annual Lebowski-fest in Louisville (if you missed it, there are fests in Scotland and England next month).

Tipped off to this development by our friend L., my wife and I along with another friend T. got tickets for this year's fest. I grew a goatee in a half-assed attempt to achieve dude-dom (the long blonde hair has been there since, well, 1998) and the 4 of us got in the Prius and went south. It was the second time in my life Louisville was a destination, and not a place to pass through (the last time: a 1981 trip to Churchill Downs with dad, who introduced my 11-year-old self to betting on horse races).

Our first stop in Louisville was 'Lilly's' for lunch. L., sharing our interest in finding good food, had made a reservation there. It is highly regarded, and a bit pricey. I had the Price Fixe(?) menu, featuring the Caprese salad (a summer staple), a warm Nicoise salad, and the Lemon Verbena ice cream for dessert. I admired a wall-spanning painting of various attractive and topless women on the way out.

Next stop was the 'Executive Inn West'. Inside, a sign welcomed X High School's 50th Reunion. 'John' at the desk informed us actually the Lebowski Fest crowd was at the Executive Inn, but we decided to stay at the West in the interest of getting sleep Saturday night, operating on the assumption that the 68-year-olds might party less hard. John had attended past fests, but unlike me, he married a woman who did not get 'The Big Lebowski', so his festing days were done.

After admiring the signed pictures of celebrities including Charlie Daniels and the Blues Brothers 2000 (featuring John Goodman, Walter Sobchak in The Big Lebowski), we went up to our rooms and made some White Russians (the Dude's drink of choice, though he sometimes refers to them as 'Caucasians'), then headed across the street for the 'Garden Party'.

The party was a great place to check out the costumes people had put together for the fest. By far, the character we saw most was Walter Sobchak. Pulling off Walter required having the right physique for the role, and a lot of guys were very life-like Walters. Following Walter in popularity was 'The Dude', and many guys with sunglasses and robes as well as goatees and long hair could be seen. Many women came as Maude, some taking a stab at the Valkyrie outfit Maude sports in a dream sequence. Several men in white suits and red shirts impersonated porn magnate Jackie Treehorn, and a few brave souls took on the role of Coen brothers stand-by and national treasure John Turturro's brief but memorable role in the film: the purple-jump-suit wearing, bowling-ball-licking convicted pederast "Jesus". You could, and we did, buy a bumper sticker reading "It don't matter to Jesus".

Some people had more conceptual costumes based on catch-phrases or dialog from the film. A guy wore a monkey mask and carried plastic eating utensils. His friend was dressed as an Irish stereotype. A young woman appeared to be dressed as a piece of shit with a 'NEW!' sign, and she carried a flashlight. A guy got inside a globe that had a hammer and ax that swung down at his head when he pulled some levers inside. Answers to what the hell these costumes meant in my next post.

We saw a couple guys wearing jellies, like the Dude sports at the beginning of the film when he's checking out milk at the grocery store. One was a pretty convincing Dude, and in fact was a returning champion 'best Dude'. His friend was going to dress up as Walter for the competition in the evening. We commented on another Dude's sweater, which resembled the one he's wearing when he has his run in with the sheriff, but were informed that the pattern and the color were all wrong, and champion Dude had a much more accurate sweater in his possession. 'We don't half-ass it' he said. I of course, half or even quarter-assed it. On the other hand, I wasn't wearing a sweater or robe in the middle of July. And really, wouldn't the Dude, as the laziest man in Los Angeles County, have half-assed it?

There was also music there. 'Lucky Pineapple' (I think) did a fun instrumental rock thing (dressed as Uli and the other nihilists' late 70's Kraftwerk-like band 'Autobahn'), and 'Th' Legendary Shack Shakers' brought us a hybrid of punk and rockabilly. The punk/rockabilly thing has been mined before, more than a few times (Elvis Hitler, Shockabilly, the Reverend Horton Heat, 'Jesus Built My Hot Rod', The Cramps, etc, etc) but in this case the lead-singer's (Col JD Wilkes) Johnny Rotten stage presence combined with the way he played the harmonica through one of those vintage mics that distorts the hell out of it lifted the band above the punk/rockabilly pack. He also sang into the distorto-mic at several points for that 'Jesus Built My Hot-rod' vocal sound.

After checking out the Shack Shakers and loading up on 'Achiever' t-shirts, stickers and various other souvenirs, we headed into town for dinner. I had a nice corn-dog at the Garden Party, but nobody else went for a corn dog, so my travelling companions were hungry.

While walking along Bardstown Street, we ignored the 'B' in the window when we passed the 'Cafe 360', focusing instead on the sight and smell of Indian food on one of the outdoor tables. The 360 refers to the fact that although Indian food is featured and the owners (and the intimidating guy who sat on the hood of a car making sure nobody dined and dashed) are of Indian descent, they have pretty much every kind of food on the menu, including Philly Cheesesteaks, which T. opted for. I had the Tandoori Chicken. Everything BUT the Philly Cheesesteak involved what looked like the 'Mixed Asian Frozen Vegetables' assortment. Everybody had beer. The table next to us had a hookah brought out to them, so we had to inquire about that. 'It's not that good' the waitress informed us. I'm not sure if she meant there was no weed in it, or what. We didn't see her again, so she was probably in a back room getting the coffee is for closers lecture. Anyhow, monkey see, monkey do, we had to try it out for ourselves. Apparently this is something the youngsters have been doing for a couple years now, and with us 30-plus types trying it out, it's probably safe to say the fad is over now. We opted not to go for 'Strawberry' flavored tobacco, and chose 'Cappuccino' instead. Yes, we did. The strange thing about it was how mild it was. I guess I didn't get as much college bong experience as I should have. It did smell very nice, and the taste was interesting.

On our return we went to Executive Strike and Spare. It was after dark, so we all were honoring Walter's rule about 'not rolling on Shabbos'. The lanes were crowded, but it was more fun checking out everyone's costumes and partaking of the White Russians, scooped out of huge bucket-like containers. After 4 or 5 of these, I got an opportunity to bowl, with predictable results.

The costume competition happened, and we talked to the Jelly-wearing dude we had met earlier, now dressed as Walter. He was a convincing Walter, but did not win. He was particularly proud of the fact that his Folger's coffee can had a BLUE lid, like the one in the movie (the cans ordinarily have clear lids). While he was going on about this, none of us pointed out that Walter in the movie did not have a metal stud in his lip, like he did.

There was a bowl-off between the best Walter, Maude, Dude and Jesus for the coveted Publisher-Clearing-House sized check for 69 cents (like the one the Dude writes for a carton of milk). Walter won.

The celebrity guest was Jim Hoosier, aka 'Liam O'Brien', Jesus' bowling partner. He is a semi-regular at the fests. At previous fests, Jeff Bridges has appeared and played a song with his band, and David Huddleston once shouted 'The Bums Lost!' at a Fest for the adoring crowd.

We wandered back to the hotel after midnight and the last call for White Russians (down to 2-for-1 in an effort to unload them, but I had reached White Russian saturation by then), got some sleep and headed for home the next day. All in all, much fun was had, and I really need to watch that movie again now.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Shrek tried to kill my daughter

There are a couple of things you can depend on with a Mike Myers movie: you'll get characters with funny accents, you won't be made uncomfortable by jokes that are not already familiar to you, and the movie will be accompanied by a marketing and merchandising blitz that sucks the oxygen right out of the atmosphere.

Such is the case with 'Shrek the Third', released 2 months ago. Shrek is everywhere. Shrek in the U.S. is like Kims Il-Sung and Jong-Il in North Korea. Shrek is like Saddam Hussein in pre-2003 Iraq, or Austin Powers in 1999 U.S.A. So when my daughter was given a Shrek fishing pole for her birthday, I didn't really think anything of it. It makes sense, a Shrek fishing pole. I am admittedly pretty sick of Shrek and his Donkey, but the 'Kid proof design lets you spend more time having fun and less time untangling line!' So where's the harm?

Then I read the back of the package and found this ominous message:

WARNING: This product contains a chemical known to the state of California to cause cancer, birth defects, and other reproductive harm.

The bit about California was especially mystifying. If we were to get in the car and head west, would we unlock the cancer-and birth-defect causing powers of the fishing pole by crossing the border? Is California trying to show off that they know something the hicks in the other 49 don't? It's especially worrisome as DreamWorks, who brought us Shrek, is based in California. So they are knowingly subjecting non-Californian kids to some toxic death compound.

The item itself, like all items that are sold in the U.S., was made in China, the nation that recently brought us poison pet food (although they then applied the same punitive tactics they use against people who think maybe democracy just might be a nice thing to the guy who sold us the poison food, and executed him).

To point the finger at China is probably letting DreamWorks off too easily. Why attach their name to toys that California knows are unsafe? It raises a lot of questions. What kind of marketing tie-ins can we expect with Shrek 4? Shrek-brand menthols? Crack Pipes featuring Donkey? The merchandising folks really need to be reeled in.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

I'm happy to report I am rabies free

I just finished reading Rant by Chuck Pahlihalinukanukaluau. It was perhaps in some ways a mistake, given my hypochondriac ways, as the title character is a venom-addicted redneck who spreads rabies to the masses (a superspreader - patient-zero is an obsolete term). Chuck P. being a writer who does his homework (most writers do their homework, but the proliferation of books by people who never should have written books like Sean Hannity and Shaq, and the festering cess-pools of blogs by graphomaniacal opinionated jerks has diluted the quality of the term 'writer'), the reader is treated to all the essential details about the effects of rabies, and he throws in info about other deadly diseases and plagues on top.

The 'Party Crashing' business in the book makes one think of a guy pitching a movie ('It's like 'Fight Club', but WITH CARS'), and throughout I couldn't help but think, yeah, sure, you feel alive in that moment when your car hits another, and then you get 40+ years of your lower back killing you. It's entirely unglamorous if you screw it up and don't manage to obliterate yourself, James Dean style. I am old and risk-averse, though, so fuck what I think. Did I like the book? Yes. SPOILER ALERT: Chuck does some interesting and unexpected things over the course of the book. END OF SPOILER ALERT.

The book has made me paranoid about my cats or insects in the house giving me a horrible illness, but I've been paranoid about my cats ever since reading about how Toxoplasma from cats can make people...paranoid.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Book lust: The Codex Seraphinianus

The Believer is not merely a magazine, to me it also serves the role of a cool friend who tells me about music, books, etc I would never have known about otherwise. You can't really put a price on it, but they did, and I subscribe. I'm not really as sad and lonely as that makes me sound, honest. The point is, I love that magazine.

In a recent issue there was an article about the Codex Seraphinianus, a surreal and puzzling book by the Italian artist Luigi Serafini. Today, in general use, 'surreal' means something horrible you don't believe is happening. 'Being in a car crash, it was so surreal.' 'September 11, that was just surreal.' 'Spending the morning on the phone with tech support, it was surreal'. But this is surreal in the original artistic sense of something being mind-bending bewildering, art that defies rationality or understanding. According to wikipedia, surrealism is a movement that oh, I'm just playing, I'm not going to quote wikipedia here.

The CODEX is an encyclopedia for an imaginary world, complete with an entirely made-up language (which no-one has managed to figure out in the 25 years since it first came out) and base-21 (fingers, toes, and nose?) number system. But this imaginary world is not full of elves and hobbits and magic jewelry. A couple doing the beast with two backs thing morphs into an alligator. Strange mushroom-headed individuals fit skeletons with skins hanging from hooks. Trees uproot themselves and swim across lakes. A special bowl can be plugged into the wall, and it will chew your food, so you can drink it thru a straw. And, a personal favorite, on the signal, capsules walking around on human legs burst open to reveal...angry leopards.

Some nice person scanned the entire thing and put the pictures on flickr, but I wanted to see it for myself. Pictures on computer monitors can suck. They are small, they lack detail. One doesn't feel the paper or the weight of the book. If you read things on the computer, you are cheating yourself, unless it's a rinky-dink blog or such.

I first checked with IU's Lilly Library, the place in Bloomington to go if you're looking for rare books. The helpful person I spoke with told me they didn't have the book, and actually, no library in Indiana had it. That was not too surprising, as the book is rare and has a tendency to disappear from libraries. Copies can go for $300-$500. The guy told me I could probably get it through an inter-library loan, so I called the Monroe County Public Library, and they found a copy in the library of a college in Tennessee (I won't say which one, don't want any of my Tennesseean readers ripping off the library to make a few bucks on eBay).

Last week, I got an email notice that the book was in, so I grabbed it and was immediately glad I'd gone through the trouble. I saw many thing's I'd missed in the reprinted pictures and the flickr images I'd seen. Flipping pages is much smoother than pointing and clicking (the lack of comprehensible page numbers makes navigation tricky, but there is a bit of logic to the way the book's laid out). Leisurely flipping through the pages and taking in the sometimes mind-blowing images has been fun.