Strange Brouhaha

Monday, December 31, 2007

Oh, and by the way...

Happy New Year!

Strange Brouhaha: The Year In Review

It's the traditional time for year-end recaps, what with it being New Year's Eve and all, and I figured that I wouldn't buck tradition. 2007 was an up-and-down year for the whole world...but I'm not sure exactly how that would be different from any other year.

The problem, of course, is that since I lead a fairly unremarkable life, there's not a lot to recap!

In March, I fractured my spine when I slipped on some ice. I'm happy to report that it's pretty much all healed up; I've been reading through my archives and remembering what it was like to have to walk so slowly all the time and to be in so much pain. It wasn't fun.

In May, I was promoted at work. I have very few words of wisdom on this subject, although I do like what I had to say in October about my first job.

In June, I participated in and "won" ScriptFrenzy. This year, ScriptFrenzy is moving to April. I'll be ready. (They're also moving from a word-count goal to a page-count goal. We'll see how that goes.)

In November, my iBook G4 died. It turns out that my promise to never buy another Macintosh only lasted a few months, but that's okay. I recovered everything I needed to recover from the dead machine. No, I'm still not doing regular backups.

In December, we got Rock Band for Christmas and have been having a blast. My complaint? Two complaints, actually--first, my guitar broke and I'll be taking advantage of the warranty replacement, and second, the microphone doesn't fit into a standard mic stand, so I can't sing and play guitar or drums at the same time.

And...that's really it. My excuse (at least this year) is that my activity was severely curtailed by my back injury. But the truth is that I lead a fairly quiet life, and that's the way I like it.

Sports note: don't forget the Sugar Bowl tomorrow--the University of Hawaii plays Georgia. Go Warriors! (The BCS, by the way, should be called the "Not Everyone Is Eligible for the Bowl Championship" series.)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Recommend a book!

One of my Christmas gifts this year was a gift card for Barnes & Noble. I realize that the good thing about a gift card is that you don't have to rush right out and spend it, and that I could wait for the perfect thing to come around, but I thought I'd solicit some suggestions.

So...have you read a good book lately? Is there anything you'd recommend? I'll take any suggestions, whether you think I might have read them or not.

There are absolutely no guidelines. I'm interested in anything good--fiction or nonfiction, any genre, any subject.

On a completely unrelated note, Josh pointed out David Lee Roth's bluegrass-flavored Van Halen covers. Here's one:

It doesn't really work for me. The band is incredible--I'll have to look these guys up and listen to some of their bluegrass work. But Dave...I think I've said this before, but David Lee Roth only works in the context of Van Halen, and Van Halen only works with David Lee Roth. This version of "Jump" just makes it painfully obvious; Dave isn't really changing his delivery--he's still got that arena-filling voice, he's still being Diamond Dave, and it doesn't fit at all.

Oh, and if you hit YouTube, and you search for "David Lee Roth bluegrass" and you watch one of the live performances, you'll momentarily wonder what Carson Kressley is doing singing Van Halen tunes, but that's Dave. (Seriously...I thought it was Carson, body language and all. See if you can find the Boston Pops performance.)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip.

I woke up this morning to see a little puddle in front of our fireplace. Actually, it wasn't so little, and since we don't use the fireplace, there was a lot of stuff sitting in front of it--all soaked.

Water is not pouring in, but the drips are pretty steady and the pans are filling up. Remind me again why we live in Wisconsin...

Fortunately, this is the first time this has happened to us, so I'm hopeful that this is a "nearly three feet of snow this month" problem and not a new "you will get this whenever it snows or rains" problem. I'm also hopeful that it's something that our condo association will have to bear the burden of fixing, but we'll see.

I'm fairly happy with the performance of our home so far this winter. We've had a ton of snow and intermittent bouts of warm weather to melt the snow--this can cause a lot of problems with leaks and drainage and stuff. So while it's true that I wish this wasn't happening, at least it's taken this long to show up.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

Happy Winter Holiday Season!

We're busy playing Rock Band.

Also, I got an addition to Wisconsin's largest collection of Hawaiiana--and it's strikingly similar to an idea that I had a few years ago, so I guess that one's off the table. It's called Honolulu Then and Now, a collection of pictures of Old Honolulu and current Honolulu, taken from similar angles. Very neat.

Monday, December 24, 2007

One Last Stab At Covers

I'm out of semi-wise things to say about covers. Really, I don't think I had that much to say about them in the first place; it's pretty obvious that really successful covers need to do one thing: transcend. Think about the really great covers and you'll know what I mean; in a lot of cases, people don't even know they're covers.

So I'll just throw a couple of songs at you and see if they stick.

First, here's Gipsy Kings' "Hotel California". I don't necessarily think it's the greatest cover song ever--it doesn't transcend the original, in my opinion--but since the song was used in "The Big Lebowski", the video uses footage from the movie. John Turturro as Jesus is worth the price of admission.

Second, because it's Insert Winter Holiday Here, here's one of my favorite versions of "Sleigh Ride." I suppose it doesn't really count as a cover, but oh well.

Finally, since we've had a lot of bluegrass-style covers, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Dolly Parton's version of Collective Soul's "Shine". (I was gonna put up her "Stairway", but I don't like it as much as this, and I couldn't find it on YouTube.) Like the Hayseed Dixie cover from the other day, Dolly and her band turn the song on its ear and put in some great instrumental breaks where there really weren't any.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Decider Is Stupid

I think what makes this image of George W. Bush at Karol Wojtyla's funeral funny--I came across it because a friend sent my in-laws a Christmas card with a similar image--is that I can totally believe that it actually happened.

Covers week: Convergence

I think covers work best when they bring something new to the song, as with yesterday's Keali'i Reichel piece, or when the cover band truly makes a song its own, as with The Gourds' "Gin & Juice". In The Gourds' case, they turned a fairly downtempo rap into a blizzard of bluegrass intensity--they made it a bluegrass song, not just a rap cover.

So here's another example of convergence, this time between bluegrass and metal. Convergence pieces really work best when you have a mismatch of some kind between the source and the original, when you take what I'll call a non-virtuoso piece and turn it into something completely different. Where I think they don't work is when you take an already virtuoso performance and try to match it in a different genre.

As an example, all of the samples I've heard of Iron Horse doing bluegrass-style Metallica covers really don't work for me. They just don't match the sheer power of Metallica, and Metallica really are (or were) virtuosi, so in the end I think that Iron Horse takes a wrong turn somewhere, just beacuse they're trying to match power, speed, intensity and virtuosity.

This video is different. I don't want to say too much about it, because I want you to have the joy that I did of trying to figure out what they're covering. The original is a classic, but this sort of transcends it. The band, Hayseed Dixie, adds something that was missing in the original: a great solo break. It makes all the difference in the world. Just like The Gourds did, Hayseed Dixie has turned their source material into a new song.

Here's a great video for the original tune, performed by a bunch of puppet-show Barbie dolls. The song is a legitimate classic, and the band is incredible--I don't want anyone to get the wrong impression from what I wrote above.

I am kind of surprised, though, that neither video exploits the iconic image of this particular band's lead singer, who has a distinct stance on stage.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Covers week continues

One of my favorite cover tunes is Keali'i Reichel's rendition of The Beatles' "In My Life". As with The Gourds' version of "Gin & Juice," I think that this brings something new to the song, an elegiac quality that isn't present in the more uptempo original.

Tribute bands are an interesting variation on the concept of doing covers. I'm not sure that I'd qualify The Fab Faux's version of "I am the Walrus" as a cover--because it's not precisely a cover. Or is it? Whatever it is, it's amazing. This is as close to the Beatles as we're going to get. Amazing stuff. (Thanks to Sir F. Crisp for pointing these guys out.)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Here's the definition of bravery

Let's say that you are walking next to a polluted waterway; let's call it the Ala Wai Canal. It's not the Cuyahoga River by any stretch, but it's infamous for being very, very dirty. People throw things into it, it's got a wide variety of dangerous bacteria in it, there was a nasty sewage spill in it in recent memory.

The Ala Wai is next to a relatively heavily-traveled road.

So there you are. Suddenly, a truck veers off the road and falls into the water, upside-down.

What do you do?

The definition of bravery: you jump into the Ala Wai.

As I was telling David today, I'd like to think that I'd do the right thing...but man, I don't know. It's the Ala Wai! I hope I wouldn't just say "Well...he's probably dead" and let someone else go check, but I can't honestly say that I'd just jump in.

That alone, as Captain Jeff Richards of HPD said, is worth a reward.

I guess it's a cover tunes week

The Wife sent me this video this morning of Dynamite Hack's cover of "Boyz In The Hood". It's good. The only problem with it is that for it to work at all, it needs the video, which turns the song into an ironic look at...well, at a whole bunch of things. Without the video, I don't think the song really has anything going for it. It's funny to hear once, but having heard it, I don't feel the need to listen to it again. It's just kind of dull.

Obligatory Warning: While the video itself doesn't really contain anything that's not safe for work or small kids, the song definitely does.

Contrast that with the big sensation from a few years ago, the Gourds' cover of "Gin and Juice." It's a high-energy song that works on its own. It's musically interesting (and the dude plays the hell out of his mandolin). I think it brings something to the song that Dynamite Hack doesn't bring to "Boyz". A certain je ne sais quoi, if you will, but I don't know what it is.

Warning: the video is homemade, and contains some imagery that would probably be considered unsafe for viewing at work or in the presence of small children. Also there's a picture of The Decider being sodomized. (You can just kind of glide over the guy miming playing the banjo during all the mandolin solos.) Uh, and the song itself is probably not something you'll want to blare over the PA.

(Endnote: for the rest of my life, I will wonder if I used the "je ne sais quoi" bit at the right time, or if I should have saved it. Or maybe I'll just overuse it the way I do everything else!)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Palate Cleanser

Pointed out by Sir F. Crisp, here's an Aussie version of a Beatles-themed "Stairway" cover. Apparently it's from 15 or so years ago.

I love it. Especially when they kick into "And as we wind on down the road".

Perhaps I don't understand the meaning of the word "great" (Updated)

VH1 is running a series called "The 100 Greatest Songs of the '90s." I learned all I needed to know when I flipped past it and they were telling us what was coming up after the break: "Love and Affection" by Nelson.


Of course, VH1 is being cagey and hasn't yet published the actual list, so I can't confirm that Nelson is on it. I surfed over to and had a peep at their page of videos for the bottom 20. Know what else is on the list? Sit down--I'm not responsible for you dying when you pass out and hit your head on the way to the floor.

"Rico Suave" by Gerardo.

"Gett Off" by Prince. (Sorry, Prince...this song is crap.)

"Achy Breaky Heart" by Billy Ray Cyrus.


Let me reiterate, since we're a few paragraphs into this thing by now, that this is a list called "The 100 Greatest Songs of the '90s." And that "Rico Suave" and "Achy Breaky Heart" are on it.

Has the world gone mad? Is there a definition of "great" that my dictionary doesn't have? Did I miss a memo somewhere?

The 16 videos that they have to represent the 20 songs at the bottom of the list are a tour through the world of crap and mediocrity. There are some good ones there--I happen to like the Paula Cole song, and the Cranberries song--but by and large this is utterly forgettable crap.

If you want a real head-scratcher, check out the list of songs that apparently weren't "great" enough to make the list. Highlights include Faith No More's "Epic", "Been Caught Stealing" by Jane's Addiction, "Gangsta's Paradise" by Coolio, The Black Crowes' "Hard To Handle", Seal's "Kiss From A Rose" and STP's "Interstate Love Song."

The hook for "Interstate Love Song" ALONE at least qualifies it for top 50, in my opinion. And it is by GOD better than "Rico Suave." (As of right now, they have posted some videos for 41-60, and, for example, "Interstate Love Song" could easily swap with the Shania Twain or Marky Mark tunes. Yes, I said Marky Mark.)

Obviously, this list was generated by people whose sole purpose is to have something to be snarky about; snark seems to be VH1's modus operandi for these "Greatest" shows. But come what definition of "great" does a person select "Rico Suave", or anything by Nelson, or even "Gett Off"?

Update 12/20/07: I have found the complete list and wow, are there some clunkers. But it turns out that in this case, there were no objective criteria for greatness. They should have called it "100 songs that people voted for" or something, because that's all it is. (Jesus..."No Diggity"? "Mr. Jones"? These are what people consider better than "Epic"?!)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

He's not directing, thank God.

I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that Peter Jackson is not directing "The Hobbit". Now maybe it's got a chance to be good.

We just have to hope that he hires a director who, unlike himself, will allow his actors to act rather than having computer graphics do all the heavy lifting. And who will have the courage to say, "No, I will not make a twelve-hour movie out of a 100-minute property, the way you did with 'King Kong.'"

I'll keep my fingers crossed that he's not going to write it either. The article hints that he's not, but I want confirmation.

Monday, December 17, 2007


If you have a day to waste, consider wasting it playing Onslaught. It's similar to Desktop Tower Defense--wave after wave of enemies comes flying at you, and you need to build up a weapons network that will stop them from reaching your base.

My best performance so far has gotten me through level 475 or so on the Easy skill level. Apparently, that's not very good, although it's good enough to "beat" Easy.

It's fun and mildly addictive. I don't want to know what happens if a person plays it at work. Probably nothing good.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Seriously. Madonna?

I have finally lost the final shreds of respect I had for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They've had some questionable inductions in the past--Miles Davis and Michael Jackson spring immediately to mind--but this one takes the cake.



Now, I don't have a serious problem with Madonna per se. She's certainly a groundbreaker. You can't deny that she's been successful at pretty much everything she's tried except acting. She's no Laurence Olivier. (She's not even Bob Olivier, who's playing Biff in "Death of a Salesman" out at the dinner theater on Route 30.)

I'm not sure what the reasoning behind inducting Miles was--that was a real head-scratcher--and I suppose you could make a stretch and include Michael Jackson on the merit of his work with his brothers. But Madonna's career has had nothing to do with rock at all. The Rock Hall mentions only that she's had lots of hits and #1 albums and is "ferociously original".

If Madonna is in the Hall, they might as well change the name, because it now has nothing to do with rock. They might as well induct Culture Club, also eligible for induction this year. Air Supply has been eligible for a while now--why not let them in? They'd be just as legitimate.



(Here's a list of past inductees. Who else shouldn't be there?)

Friday, December 14, 2007

I could go on...

...and on about how last year's election "miracle" has turned into spineless cowardice and rank capitulation.

Over at daily kos, which is worthwhile in spite of their treatment of our favorite lawyer, smintheus has taken care of it for me, urging us to stop the FISA sellout.

Aboriginal Mathematics

Over at noise to signal, David has posted a long-ish (for the Internet) but fascinating video about the use of fractals in African societies. The presenter talks about how the use of fractal geometry is widespread across the continent, in village designs and cultural relationships.

My favorite part is where he talks about the fence-maker and says that the fence's curve matches engineering tables. It's near the end.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Wer wusste?

Wer wusste? Sandra Bullock kann Deutsch--stark und selbstsicher!

Schau dir mal an--Deutscher Rap ist mit dem Englischen gleichartig! Gleichen Themen, gleicher Takt. Rap ist universal!

Also hier ist ein Medley aus "Wicked: Die Hexen von Oz". Ein Freund hat's uns gesendet--deshalb schreibe ich heute auf deutsch.

Ja ja, halt's Maul, mein Deutsch ist beschissen--leck mich! ;)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

You can run, you can hide, but they'll get you...


Apple Maggot Quarantine Area has a website!

Normally, I am a teetotaler

I do go out for a drink occasionally; the late playwriting group I belonged to was mostly an excuse to go have a beer or two every week, and I just had a good time drinking with a writer friend of mine last weekend (my poison: Sapphire and tonic; his: gimlets). But I am mostly a lightweight, which I suppose isn't a bad thing.

The thing that makes me wary of alcohol--apart from the fact that I don't enjoy being warm and flushed--is the same thing that makes me wary of coffee: if the only way you can drink the stuff is to mix it in with things that mask it, what's the point? Perhaps I'm missing something, but I've never really understood that.

However, I have stumbled across a pretty good drink that I had to try tonight. It's an apparently not-well-known concoction called a Gin Buck. It's 1:3:12 (or so) lemon juice, gin and ginger ale. I mixed myself one that was about 1:3:18, and it was quite tasty--the lemon juice and ginger ale go together remarkably well. The gin is barely an accent (it's a shot or a shot and a half), but it makes its presence known.

I still don't understand the point of mixed drinks...but this one was good.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Moving Day

I like today's Saturday 8 for the last question.

1. when was the last time you moved from one home to another? A few years ago, when we moved from our apartment near Hooters. I'm glad we don't move that often, and that we aren't planning to move for a long, long time. I don't like it. Of course, that last time we were moving from an apartment to a house, so that was good.

2. when was the last time you moved at work? Let's see, it must have been sometime in 2006. There was a big reshuffle, and a couple of people moved into window offices and I moved from a cubicle into the office I have now. I was glad to move. I like having a door.

3. have you ever had any problems with a hired mover? No. We used Two Men And A Truck both times we moved--from apartment to apartment, and from apartment to house. They were great. We would totally use them again.

4. one day at work, i was given less than 24 hours to move my desk. what was the shortest amount of time you've had to move in? In all of the cases where we've had to move, we've been fortunate enough to set the timetable. Even at Esker, we had plenty of notice when we moved office buildings, and at my current job, I was at the mercy of the Facilities people who had to set up my office, so I had a ton of time.

5. in your house, what would be the hardest item to move and why? My workbench, because it's bolted to the wall. (If/when we move out of this place, the workbench won't be coming.) The hardest item that we'd actually move...if we count the book collection as a single item, that would have to be it. I conservatively estimate it to be around five thousand volumes--that's enough of a "why" for me.

6. at your office/work, what would be the hardest item to move and why? Probably the dual LCD monitors, because they're the most fragile. Everything else is pretty sturdy.

7. if you had to move at work, describe your perfect office location (guinness taps optional!). This question is a little ambiguous. The perfect office location in our current building is the office just vacated by one of our top executives. It's a huge corner office with a beautiful view of the lake. I would love to have that office--but it's not going to happen. If, however, we're talking about where the company is located, then there's an office building within walking distance from my house that would be perfect. And it's for rent!

8. if you had to move your home, describe your perfect home location. good schools? pub withing staggering-home distance? I've thought about this a lot over the years. In general, Madison is a great location: we don't have natural disasters to worry about (apart from the rare possibility of a tornado), we're close to three big cities (Milwaukee, Chicago, and the Twin Cities) but far enough away that we have our own identity, we've got a university (which means that there are lots of intellectual opportunities). A lot of other benefits, too. I couldn't wish for a better place, even with the super cold winters and all of the snow. The only thing that makes me want to move, even a little bit, is that I've got a touch of residual paranoia about walking anywhere near ice, thanks to that fall I took back in March.

Now, community-wise, here's what I'd like to see: good schools, absolutely; a bookstore and grocery store; a good neighborhood bar (not a chain); a good restaurant (not a chain); all within walking distance. We have a bookstore and grocery store within walking distance, although we almost always drive. There is a bar and restaurant close by, but it's a chain--we live in a portion of town overrun with chains. Other requirements: good record store (yup); electronics store (yup); library (yup); professional baseball within an hour's drive (yup [technically, 80 minutes]); gas station (yup). The only thing that would make it all better is having my five-minute commute back!

Please stop. Please.

I am here tonight to beg two groups of writers to stop using two phrases.

First: Gadget blog writers, please stop using the word "rocks" as a substitute for "has," as in "this USB hub rocks off switches" or "this setup rocks dual monitors". It's awful. It's bad enough that every damn person on "Project Runway" uses "rock" to mean "wore well," as in "The model rocked my outfit!" I don't need to have EVERY SINGLE REVIEW I read say that gadget X "rocks" feature Y. It's stupid.

Second: Food catalog writers, please stop using the word "decadent" as a substitute for "chocolate." I swear, I was looking at a food catalog today and it seemed like every single chocolate item description contained the word "decadent" or "decadence." We get it. It's chocolate. It's rich. Break out the Roget's and use another word.

I shall expect these changes to take effect immediately. HOP TO IT.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Bullet Time

In no particular order, tell 'em what's up, Rocky!

  • University of Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan is up for the Heisman Trophy and will be in New York on Saturday to lose the trophy to either Tim Tebow or Darren McFadden. If he didn't win the Heisman last year, he's sure not going to win it this year. It's the curse of the WAC.

  • Speaking of the curse of the WAC, Hawaii has hit the NCAA's glass ceiling. They could go 12-0 again next year and still not get any higher than number 10. It's all supposedly about "strength of schedule". The "major" conference teams like Michigan won't play Hawaii because they don't want to take the loss. I don't want to hear about strength of schedule; you play the teams that will play you.

  • I honestly do not understand people who can listen to Beavis' doublethink on the National Intelligence Estimate regarding Iran's nuclear program (example: The reports that says that Beavis is wrong, wrong, wrong proves that Beavis is right) and say "Yeah, makes perfect sense to me."

  • Of course, what do I expect? These are the same people who said that the fact that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction proved that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

  • Seriously. You could not make these people up. If you tried, no editor in the world would buy it. "Nobody is THAT stupid," the editors would say.

  • Let me add my voice to the chorus: The BCS division needs to move a playoff system, the eleven conference champions plus five at-large. The only drawback to this idea is that it would put a lot of "BCS experts" out of work. How do we know this will succeed? The other NCAA football divisions already do this, and the world has not ended.

  • No, really. Beavis just continues to amaze; every day a person wakes up and says "He cannot POSSIBLY get stupider" and he always manages to pull it out in the end.

  • I haven't talked about "Heroes" much this season. I enjoyed it--but man, Hiro is one cold S.O.B.

Finally, here's a video for my homies from way, way back. And for my sister and brother-in-law. CHECKERS AND POGO!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Six. Saturday. Et cetera.

Doing things that other people come up with is SO much easier than actually engaging my own brain! Here's The Saturday Six.

1. What is your favorite holiday song? "Sleigh Ride." Any version, by anyone. Second choice: Eric Cartman singing "O Holy Night." Third choice: Mel Torme with "The Christmas Song"--you know the one, it goes "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire...." The Nat King Cole version is fine, too, but you can't go wrong with The Velvet Fog.

2. What is your least favorite holiday song? One that I've developed an intense dislike to recently is the one by Dan Fogleburg. I forget the name of it, but it has basically nothing to do with Christmas--yet the holiday music channel on the radio plays it ALL THE TIME.

3. If you had to sing a holiday song Karaoke style at a Christmas party, which one would you choose, and why? As much as I love "Sleigh Ride," that would have to take second place to "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas." It's such a nice song, and it's a shame that people who don't understand it try to make it into a peppy, upbeat, happy song, which it really isn't.

4. Take the quiz: Which Christmas Carol are you? I refuse; it picks a random song, and that's just stupid. (The first one I got was "Jingle Bells." Others followed. Yawn.)

5. Does it bother you if you walk through a store that has signs that say “Happy Holidays?” No, why should it?

6. Does it bother you if you find that the same store has displays that mention Hanukkah and Kwanzaa by name, but make no specific mention of Christmas? I'd like to know in what Bill O'Reilly-fueled fantasy land this store exists. It bothers me a lot more that Beavis is still president of this country.