The Den of Ubiquity
Thursday, January 31, 2002:
It's Cold As Hell
I confess to being, in general, a clockwatcher at work. I don't like work and I do as little of it as I can get away with. (Though see below.) This is only mitigated by my reluctance to interrupt a tape that I'm in the middle of listening to, so sometimes I'll stay an extra ten or fifteen minutes to do that. But when I can manage it, I will adhere scrupulously to the time I am supposed to be at work, and no longer.
It also helps to know of activities that can guiltlessly be considered part of your "workday" but are not actually work. Going to the bathroom, for instance. Surely they can't begrudge you the time to do that. I often bring a book for the longer sessions. Having non-work-related conversations...with your boss/supervisor. They can't expect you to work when they're talking to you, right?
Blogging, of course, I can only do guiltily, but so far they haven't found out.
Last night we decided that it was time to institute a few measures designed to increase our income and minimize our outgo a little bit. We are not thrifty people by nature, I'm afraid, so our outgo has been exceeding our income for a while now. Bad habits accumulated, or gleefully re-embraced, when Nicole was getting advances on her books. But that's slowed down substantially. Could start up again at any time, but we can't count on that. Nothing's actually brought in any post-advance royalties yet. But her last three books all came out in 2001, so it's a bit soon to expect that.
Income-increase measure #1 means, unfortunately, my working longer days. I've been working six-hour days, 9:00-3:30 with a half hour for lunch, since my last "raise", but I was also given the option of a corresponding salary increase for the same time. At the time I wanted my time more, but now it's swung the other way. So effective next month(which is to say, tomorrow), I'm here until 4:30 again.
Other measures include little things like Nicole sending in some delayed prescription receipts in to Blue Cross for reimbursement, and checking with her parents about some inheritance money that should be through probate by now. Maybe I should send out another short story or two.*
And to cut down on expenses, we'll try to eat out less, delay buying new kitchen chairs for another few months(since I did buy the CD burner, still feeling flush from the Christmas money), and possibly cutting down on our cable. The only TV shows we watch regularly right now are on basic cable--"Friends", "The West Wing", and "24". If Space would get the new Babylon 5 series, then I'd want to keep it, but it's just not worth it as it is. Currently we're spending $40/month on cable, half of that for three tiers of cable(I can't remember which is which)that we rarely watch. $20/month may not seem like much, but it's a start. I mean, that's a pack of diapers right there. Or a couple of books.
There was a letter in the most recent issue of Locus that I heartily agree with, someone deploring the fact that some books are no longer being released in mass-market paperback. Maybe hardcovers, or trade paperbacks, are appropriate for people who don't buy that many books, but we buy lots of books. We've got thousands of books, the majority in mass-market. We wouldn't even have space for them if we had them in hardcover, and they would have cost thousands of dollars more.
Right now a mass-market paperback is about $10, a trade paperback about $20, and a hardcover getting up to $40-$50. (All Canadian funds, of course.) So there's a big difference.
But Tor books, to name one, has not issued several of its books in mass-market at all. We bought three or four in trade paperback because we did like them, and we wanted to support the authors, but it's not a habit we're going to get into. It seems like price-gouging on the publishers' part, eliminating the cheapest way to buy a book.
Of course, I don't know if a publisher makes any money on a mass-market paperback, but that isn't my problem, is it? The publishing industry has issues galore. All I want, as a consumer, is for the books I want to buy not being effectively doubled in price. Not that I want publishers to go bankrupt, either, but I think the industry is heading for a shakeup anyway.
So until then I'll take advantage of the library. They're pretty reliable that way. I put in a purchase request for Harry Potter & The Order of The Phoenix, so that maybe I'll end up in the first hundred people on the request list when it actually comes out. Hey, it worked for Winter's Heart...
626. Joe Jackson: Heart of Ice
This is from Joe Jackson's "Body & Soul" album. I still don't know the exact term for this kind of song, but it starts with a single instrument and gradually adds more as the song proceeds. Vocals are the last thing to be added, so the song is an instrumental for most of its length, and fairly upbeat-sounding one too, until you come to the lyrics: "Take a knife/Cut out this heart of ice/Hold it high/Walk into the sun". A nice contrast there.
625. Elton John: Rocket Man(I Think It's Gonna Be A Long, Long Time)
Well, this song is a bona fide classic, from one of Elton John's best early albums, "Honky Chateau", so I don't have to say too much more about it here.
Sixty zippers were quickly picked from the woven jute bag.
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Wednesday, January 30, 2002:
There's A Razor's Edge That I've Lost Somewhere
Last night I woke up at 4:20 and could not get back to sleep, because of a killer snot lurking in my left nasal passages that refused to allow free breathing in any non-upright position, and was insusceptible to normal expulsionary methods. So I had to breathe through my mouth, which did not do much for my already-beleaguered throat. Eventually Nicole told me to get to sleep or get up, so I got up about 5:30 and went downstairs. I could have elected to try to sleep on the futon, but it looked too cold, so instead(yes, that was much warmer)I went on my computer. I also did some reading in The Skystone(mostly while running a virus check and other such low-interaction high-CPU functions), and I might get it done sooner than I thought. Maybe not tomorrow, but it's hard to say. I've only got 170 pages left, a little over a quarter of the book.
Oh, yeah, I stayed home sick today. When Nicole got up with Simon at 7:45, I came upstairs to have breakfast, being ravenously hungry and all, and then went back to bed, where I stayed, with brief interruptions, until about 12:30. I remember that I used to have a rule, back when there were no kids, to always get up and dressed before noon. I guess that now I'm entitled for some leeway. Hopefully I've caught up on my sleep now. I even got to bed at a reasonably decent hour last night, because "24" wasn't on, I guess because American TV stations consider it unpatriotic to put anything anyone wants to watch up against the State of the Onion Address, and they don't give it to the Canadians either.
I also actually did some writing last night! Yesterday I had gotten done one big chunk of Lorenai stuff I wanted to do, which had been dominating my evenings for a while, and I actually had some ideas for what to write next in "Evangeline", which came to me as I was driving home, so it was fated. I can't remember how much I wrote last time, and forgot to check, but after a little less than an hour laste night I'm now at about 2300 words. Not like I'm planning to do any tonight, of course, but I sent out a plea for research help to the SF Canada mailing list and maybe I'll find some actually useful books about how circus life really is in reasonably modern times. Or something. Anyone out there reading this who has some idea about helpful circus books or other information is also encouraged to respond. If you happened to be a trapeze artist in the past ten years, that would be even more helpful.
Here beginneth another semi-didactic rant of sorts.
The English language is a funny thing, especially in the way that we cavalierly take long words from other languages, throw away the meaningful parts, and use a shortened form. I've been etymologically aware for a long time now, so that kind of thing bugs me. For instance, take "pro vs. con". You've all seen the joke "progress is the opposite of Congress". But the fact is that "pro" and "con" do not mean opposite things. "Pro" is from the Latin meaning "for", and "con" is from the Latin meaning..."with". The opposite of "pro" is "contra", not "con", but it got shortened because two syllables is hard to say, and you lose the symmetry is you say "pro vs. contra". But that's what it is. "Com" is another form of "con" used before m's and b's, as in "communication". I don't know if it's a military usage or not, but certainly in SF I've seen "comm" often used to refer to the communications system. Well, you've just tossed away most of the meaning of your word and kept only a prefix, but whatever.
There are more insidious ones, though. The one I was thinking about today was "helicopter". Anyone out there have the slightest idea about the origin of that word? It's obviously not a word of particularly classical origin, since helicopters have only been around since the Renaissance or so.* But it is definitely of Greek roots. Can you even disassociate it into the two words it's formed from? Yes, you in the back. "Heli" and "copter"? Ah, the first one is from "helios", the sun, is that it? And what do helicopters have to do with the sun?
All right, I'll let you off the hook. The division occurs between "helico" and "pter". "Helico" is a combining form of "helix", or spiral, screw-thread, whatever you want to call it. And "pter"? Oh, c'mon, you say. That's not a word. Like in that Jack Handey thing where he says "mankind" comes from "manki" and "nd". Well, my linguistically-challenged readers, the Greeks had no problem with beginning many words with "p" and another consonant that we wouldn't. They gave us "psyche" and "pneumon" and "pterodactyl". Does that last one look familiar? Means "wing-finger". So "pter" is the root of the Greek word meaning "wing". Helix-wing. Get it? And if you say "copter", than you've lost about half your meaning.
Now another common one, almost unprecedently so in recent years, and maybe we have William Gibson to blame for that. You've seen the common combining form "cyber-" which seems to connote something do with computers or something, right? Or the Internet, or whatever. That comes from a word with a single Greek root in it, and that root has nothing to do with computers, because, again, computers weren't invented until the 18th century or so. The key here is the word "cybernetic", from which "cyber" has been back-formed, though what people thought the "netic" was, I don't know. We just divide our syllables that way, between the two consonants. The root to that word is "kybernos"(or possible "kybernes", not sure of the exact declension), meaning "steersman". "Cybernetics" was originally the study of using computers to "steer" things remotely, I suspect. Then there's also "cyborg", which barely preserves enough etymological information for anyone to work with.
Do other languages do this? Maybe it's just English, with its insatiable hunger for new words, and its impatience with saying anything longer than two syllables if it can be avoided. It doesn't sound like a problem German would have, for instance. And French has got regulatory bodies to keep the language from changing too quickly(at least in France; Quebec is on its own). But there's probably some other language that does something of the sort. But it's still a little bit bothersome to the purist in me.
On to the latest entry in my Top-750 song countdown:
628. Pete Townshend: Let My Love Open The Door
I might've said already that I never got much into The Who, but I like Pete Townshend's solo stuff. This is from his first solo album, "Empty Glass", and I might even remember it from when it came out, even though I wasn't heavily into music at the time. It's almost completely synthesizer-driven(almost said "synth", but then was mindful of my own rant above--oh, the shame!), with a sparkling brightness to it that underscores the hopeful offer of the song's lyrics.
627. Suzanne Vega: Neighbourhood Girls
Another one from Suzanne Vega's first and self-titled album, this one the closing track, with an energetic rhythm guitar line running underneath mostly spoken lyrics about a "neighbourhood girl", whatever that means, who, well, has problems
Two men in a Yugo were arrested following last night's push-by shooting.
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Tuesday, January 29, 2002:
At Home With New Arrangements
I know I don't put up too many links here, but here's a couple I wanted my wife to see:
Newsweek's Oscar Round Table, which was actually just a cool discussion barely mentioning the awards, featuring Nicole Kidman, Naomi Watts, Will Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Billy Bob Thornton & Sissy Spacek.
Hogwarts School, one of many online, I'm sure, but this one has a Sorting Hat. I apparently would end up as a Ravenclaw, which would be just fine with me. Those Gryffindors are overrated, anyway.
Just had a listen to the "Great Expectations" soundtrack. (Another Ethan Hawke movie...I swear, it's just a coincidence.) It's a pretty good collection of songs, I'd have to say, and will probably go on my wishlist at some point. I was most impressed with the Lauren Christy song--I'd never heard of her before, but she's got that post-Alanis sound that I tend to like. It was amusing listening to the last track, "Besame Mucho" by Cesaria Evora(which is a song I've only heard before in the Spike Jones parody version), because I swear I could recognize the opening of "Stairway To Heaven" in it.
I'm making moderately decent progress through The Skystone, though I do doubt I'll finish it this month, it being over 600 pages. It's interesting, being more heavily Roman so far than the Mary Stewart Arthurian books I've been reading. Everyone's got their own angle on Arthur, which is why there are so bloody many Arthurian series, not to mention that people will buy the things. I don't read them lightly. Either they have to recast Morgan Le Fay as some well-meaning but totally misunderstood priestess of nature, or they have to eliminate all magic entirely by showing Merlin to have merely been clever(these tend be more pure historical, and I'm betting Jack Whyte will go into this category), or they want to explore the Lancelot-Guinevere-Arthur love triangle, or whatever. I can't fathom the motivations for the thing myself.
I've probably already mentioned Richard Monaco's earthy Parsifal trilogy, where Merlin and Arthur and all that were merely minor characters. I didn't get all the way through the fourth book, where Morgan Le Fay showed up... And "Camelot 3000", a science-fictional comic series revisiting the mythos without trying too hard to retell the same plot over again.
It looks like I have still not been readded to the Ultimate Journal Challenge, despite my resubmission. While I have not followed this up through email, I can't help but feel a little bit annoyed. The most likely reason I can think of for being dropped off the list is that Lynda decided that my blog-style journal format was unsuitable. There are some vague indications under her guidelines that that might be the case, and Ferra says she was rejected for that reason. However, I had already been on there for a week or two before I was dropped. If I was dropped for bad format, could I not have been notified?
If that is in fact the case, too, I feel like I'm being discriminated against for my choice of journaling tool. I happened across Blogger by chance, but now I've been using it for several months, and I don't feel like switching. Does this make me less a journaler than someone who's on Diaryland(oh, wait, that's a "hive site"), or who sets up their own site? Admittedly, there are times when I chafe at Blogger's restrictions, like not being able to put the most recent posts at the bottom instead of at the top, but when it comes right down to it it's nice 'n' easy.
Admittedly, Lynda probably has to do a bit of work herself to keep this list maintained, since I don't think she has an automated program to do it. But I've seen her list of daily journalers, and it's only a dozen or so. I check that many every day myself, and I can tell whether they've been updated that day or not, despite their variety of formats.
Enough speculation. I'll send her a message through diarist.net and hopefully we can work this out.
But still, I wonder why there seems to be this big gap between "bloggers" and "journalers"(or "diarists" or whatever they may call themselves collectively). Admittedly, people who do nothing but post interesting web links are different from people who write about their personal lives and thoughts. But there is a bit of a continuum there. I mostly journal(despite my Blogger home), but I do post links from time to time(see above). Somebody like Zannah(see sidebar)mostly posts links, but she has multiple journals as well. Ferra doesn't post a lot of links, but her blog entries are usually shorter than journal entries.
Maybe Blogger needs to be more accommodating to journaler-oriented templates, where you can put one entry per page if you want to. Okay, it looks like you can have only one entry on the main page, but you still can only archive weekly or monthly.
I'm sure some people would say that if you are really serious about your journal, you should have your own site, run it off Movable Type or something, do your own design, etc. I reject the assertion that, to prove how dedicated I am to doing something, I should set about doing things only marginally related to that thing. I just want to write stuff and post it; the rest of it doesn't interest me nearly as much. I gave up on putting Linux on my computer because it was turning into too much work just getting it to work. I wanted it to be working; I didn't want to have to tinker with it. So now I have Cygwin and I can run Unix on my computer with much less effort. I have Blogger working right now. Unless it collapses(or starts charging*), why should I bother changing it just because of how it may affect other people's perceptions?
You know, as I sit here listening to "Girl You Know It's True", I just can't understand what the whole big deal with Milli Vanilli was. You had some musicians who were creating the music, and you had some people pretending to perform it. And what did they do? They gave them a Grammy, and then when they discovered that the supposed performers weren't the ones who made the music in the first place, they gave the Grammy to nobody! Does that mean that the reason they gave out the award had something to do with the dreadlocked guys who turned out to have nothing to do with the music? If they had nothing to do with the music, then don't give it to them, but give it to the people who did. I sincerely hope that those musicians got a hell of a lot more money than the dreadlockers, and have gone on to their own successful music careers(though perhaps not trumpeting their former project, because, let's face it, they did allow other people to pretend to be them). But if I hadn't ever seen the dreadlockers, I would be evaluating the music as music, and not caring that I might have been deceived about its origins.
Of course, a lot of people didn't like Milli Vanilli, and that's fine. I think they're okay, nothing spectacular, but okay, at least up there with other pop bands of the era.
Or then there's that "scandal" that apparently erupted when it was "revealed" that Natalie Imbruglia did not write her hit song "Torn". So what? Lots of people don't write the songs they sing. Maybe it's just the post-Alanis female singers that are supposed to be writing to reveal their deep inner thoughts and secrets and all that, and so she betrayed that perception. Again, so what? Maybe we are mostly past the days when the singer has to have a certain amount of singing talent(of a certain type)and so an un-gifted songwriter would need to find a mouthpiece, but that doesn't mean that every singer has to sing only words e has written emself. It's just considered unhip, apparently.
Nicole's sister Sharna told us a story about a women from a warmer climate who was working at the same place she was. (I've forgotten some of the details here, so I will omit them with no loss of generality.) Anyway, she(the warmer-climate woman, whom I will call Beatrice just to make it easier to refer to her)took her car in to the shop the first winter she was living in Canada, because she was driving it one cold morning and noticed that there was weird white smoke coming out of it, and it had never done that before.
Once the mechanics got up off the floor where they had been rolling around laughing, they informed her that, in the same way that steam condenses into a visible cloud when hitting cooler air, or you can see your breath in frosty weather, the exhaust of a car is also visible when it's cold out.
It can get especially bad when it gets down below -20 C. Once in Grande Prairie, when it was -30 C for a week or more at a time, people would just get into the habit of never turning off their car if they were stopping someplace for less than an hour, if they couldn't plug it in. One three-act play I was in("Noises Off", if you want to know), people would go out at second intermission and start their cars. So it actually started to get smoggy there after a few days. (You can also get something called "ice fog" in really cold temperatures, too, which is just like normal water vapor fog except colder.)
Right now in Edmonton, still being around -20 C(unless it's warmed up since I got to work, which is not impossible; it's supposed to get warmer this week), you can certainly notice that a car generates more exhaust when it is accelerating. Being the second car at an intersection often means that while the person in front of you is gunning their motor and heading off, you have to wait a few seconds for the huge smoke-screen they've just generated to dissipate enough for you to see where you're going. And the person behind you is probably having the same problem.
It does make pollution a little more visible, though. If you're careful not to assume that just because you can see it it's pollution. A large portion of exhaust is actually water vapour, for instance, and steam by itself is not that much of a pollutant.
Down for the count:
630. Robert Plant: Sixes And Sevens
I didn't know when I first heard Robert Plant(which was probably with the song "Little By Little" from the same album, "Shaken 'N' Stirred", as this one)that he was the singer for Led Zeppelin. I only had the vaguest idea at the time what Zep sounded like. But I did end up liking this album a lot, and still do. It's another album where it's hard to pick out individual songs, but this one, the last on the album, is a slow and thoughtful number where Plant's vocals are restrained until close to the end.
629. Hair: Easy To Be Hard
Another song from the musical "Hair", this one a bit more of your standard musical fare, but still touching. The singer laments about how people "who care about strangers" can be so cruel to people they actually know well.
All leads roam to Rhodes.
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Monday, January 28, 2002:
It Had A Pretty Ring
So today was the big ultrasound. A lot of driving around, my coming home for lunch, having a quick warmed-up leftover hamburger, then off to drop Simon at my grandma's, a few minutes of transition time, and then going to the actual medical lab. Whereupon I got to sit in the waiting room for a while, and Nicole got cold jelly smeared on her abdomen while she was wearing a skimpy hospital-gown thing. Sounds kinky, doesn't it? Anyway, we had forgotten that I would only be there for a little while, so I unfortunately forgot my book and had to read a magazine. I opted for "Macleans", the "Canadian weekly newsmagazine", and some of it was actually interesting, though the best thing I learned from the entire issue was from the bestseller list at the book(a couple of months out of date), which is that Oliver Sacks has a new book out.
At one point there were five men and one boy in this little waiting room(separate from the main waiting room out front), all of whose wifes/sisters/mothers were being scanned in some way. (Which didn't involve X-rays or MRI, which were done in the basement instead of on the second floor, to guard against radiating innocent passersby.) One guy went out and then came back in to announce that he was having a boy, though I'm sure he didn't know anyone there any more than I did.
Finally it was my turn to go in, and I did. I remember at Simon's ultrasound he kept running away, so we couldn't get a good look at him. This baby was a little more cooperative, so at one point I was able to see the whole thing--head, spine, body, arms, and legs. No sexual organs yet, though. We've decided we don't particularly care whether we find out or not; with Simon we didn't until he was actually born. I would certainly like a girl, though. And knowing the sex in advance would help narrow down the name selection process a bit. We have a much harder time agreeing on girls' names. They wanted to get a better view of some of the organs, though, so they're going to try again in a few weeks, and maybe there will be something to see, or not see, then.
Then we went to pick up Simon, who got to skip his nap today because of the timing of the appointment, spending some time visiting my grandma as well, and then, joy oh joy, got to go grocery shopping right away. Oh, and we also stopped at the bank, because Nicole had a U.S. funds cheque to deposit, bless the weak loonie. (That is to say, the exchange rate is very good when transfering from U.S. to Canadian dollars.) It's from the purchase of one of her earlier novels by an e-book publisher, so we'll see what happens with that. Still, we got the money now.
Simon was asleep when we got to the grocery store, so unfortunately we had to wake him up, because we weren't going to carry snoozy-boy the whole way through the store, and he obviously wouldn't sit up by himself in the cart. Also, having already sacrificed most of the afternoon, we didn't mind the prospect of him going to bed an hour early.
Tonight we watched "Practical Magic". I am unable to leave the video store without taking at least two movies, and that doesn't count the children's movies we get for Simon and the Bugs Bunny collections we get for me. And we try very, very hard not to get more than one movie which has to be watched in the next two days, because that's just too much pressure. So we'd already gotten "What's The Worst That Could Happen?"(starting at the end of the alphabet in the New Releases), and couldn't find anything else we were both interested in for the whole rest of the section that was a five-day or one-week rental. So we had to go into the Older Movies, and eventually happened upon "Practical Magic", which was on both of our "maybe" lists when it originally came out. I hadn't heard particularly good things about it, but we thought what the heck.
We did end up actually watching the whole thing right through tonight, when often these days we'll watch half of a movie one night and then the other half some other night before we have to return it, if we don't just abandon it completely as we did "Citizen Kane". Of course, with Simon not having his nap as usual, we got to start a little after 8:00, which helped a bit.
Anyway, it was a very slow-starting movie, and it took a long time for any actual plot to show up. And then it had to rely on the main characters doing very stupid things, at which point I started to lose sympathy for them. And Mr. Main Romantic Interest showed up about two-thirds of the way through. The pacing of the movie was all wrong. And let's face it, there was one too many chick-flick moments. So maybe that's my problem with it. Maybe most women watching this movie will understand exactly what these characters were thinking when they did their dumbest things. Nicole is not that kind of a woman. She doesn't get chick-flicks, and she hates characters doing stupid things to advance the plot.
Nicole Kidman(the other Nicole)was much better in "The Others". Sandra Bullock I don't have any recommendations for, because I haven't seen in her in any roles that seem to warrant a lot of respect.
I am listening to the "Hamlet" soundtrack right now...the one for the Ethan Hawke version, anyway, which I haven't seen. But last time I was browsing at random for CDs in the library I started in the Movie Soundtrack rack, so there you are. It looked interesting, and so far I like it except for the Birthday Party track. I love Nick Cave's "Murder Ballads" album, and his version of "In The Ghetto", but by and large I can't stand his Birthday Party stuff. Sorry, Steve.
This morning when I woke up I remembered having vivid dreams of going to Limegirl's site and finding several new posts, which had been inexplicably held up in Blogger, and some of which said nice things about me and my blog. I was half-convinced that I would find them there this morning, but alas, it was only a dream.
And now the countdown, before I go to bed:
632. Pat Benatar: Suburban King
A spare(and I mean "minimalist", not "surplus" or "extra")track from her "Tropico" album about the joys of unemployment in the 80's. I've gotten it stuck in my head for hours at a time.
631. The Frantics: You Scare The S**t Out of Me
A rare comedy song that actually kind of works as an actual song. Often the humour and the music fight with each other and both come out half-assed, but this one they work together to tell the tragic story of lovers kept apart by one's pathological fear of the other.
Did you notice the world is remade with every blink? --billbill
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Sunday, January 27, 2002:
Once In A While You Get In My Way
Still only two people have signed my guestbook. And one of them was Quincunx, which is ego-boosting but a bit redundant because I know he reads this(maybe I should quote his comments somewhere as promotional material...*), so really only one of the people who wandered across this blog has signed in. Though kacroon did put in a comment, at least, thank you.
My sore throat is not feeling as bad today as it did yesterday, so I may still go in to work tomorrow. If I don't, though, that might simplify our schedule, which involves dropping Simon off at my grandma's while we go to Nicole's ultrasound. But I have had so goddamn many sick days I'm really sick and tired* of it. I can probably handle a half-day.
Nicole read "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" to Simon this morning. And all day(well, at frequent intervals throughout the day)he's been running around saying "Lippity, lippity, not very fast", which is a direct quote from the story. It is the weirdest thing he could have picked up to start saying, so Nicole and I love it and are reinforcing it through laughter. Watch, we'll be calling him "Lippity" for years to come. Especially once he starts getting a little "lippity". ("Don't talk back to your mother like that!") Almost as good as a few days ago when he woke up from his nap shortly after I got home, and I asked him if he was groggy. "Simon not groggy!" he said indignantly. "Daddy groggy!"
I am not doing some things I should be doing right now. I am still not doing any writing on "Evangeline", and trying to tell myself that a lack of research information on modern circus culture should not be holding me back. Oh, for it to be November again! I am also not cleaning the cat's litterbox. I am a very bad litterbox-cleaner, which may be why our cat does not like me as well as it does Nicole. (She has lots of perfectly valid reasons not to like Simon at the moment.) Not like Nicole cleans the litterbox at all, but then she doesn't change garbages unless she has to either, and in any event she's pregnant right now so it's actually considered a medically bad idea to put her in the vicinity of cat feces. And lest you think I'm putting Nicole down, she does cook when I absolutely refuse to, and she puts up with me and Simon, so she's angelic enough.
Friday night we watched "What's The Worst That Could Happen?" Nicole was eager to see it because she's become a big fan of Donald Westlake's Dortmunder books. Which is all Spider Robinson's fault, because he pushed them in his books, and so I picked up a remaindered copy of Drowned Hopes... Anyway. The movie was pretty much half Donald Westlake and half Martin Lawrence. Martin Lawrence is patently not Dortmunder, so they didn't even try, but Danny De Vito was quite close to the Dortmunder antagonist. The fruity burglary detective, though, was a real hoot, as well as De Vito's personal assistant(played by Glenne Headly--maybe I'll finally figure out who she is now), in love with him and giving him advice through the oddest set of non-Tarot cards I've seen. I mean, they were illustrated in exact Rider-Waite fashion, but none of the cards she used were actual Tarot. Oh, well, it's better than "The Lovers" or "Death" showing up in hackneyed fashion. (Though "The Tower" would probably have been appropriate.)
I started reading the Linda Smith book today, and am almost done. It's okay, a quick read if nothing else, but then it's a YA book, so that's to be expected. Next up is probably Jack Whyte's The Skystone, since Trish has recommended that series to me. Hopefully it's not too close to The Hollow Hills, since I understand it's also Arthurian. As long as it's better than The Mists of Avalon.*
Simon and I watched "The Bugs Bunny Road Runner Movie" today. It was better than I remembered it; mostly the bits linking the cartoons weren't too annoying. At least one of the cartoons was very slightly different, one scene removed, and the Road Runner section was a whole collection of cartoons intercut with each other, so you would get one scene of the catapult, then the Batman outfit, then another one of the catapult, the Rocket Sled, the Earthquake Pills, etc. They did the one delayed-effect one, too, where Wile E. sets up the big metal wall to spring up out of the road, and then it doesn't go off...until right at the end of the cartoon, when he's racing along with Leg Muscle Vitamin-enhanced speed, burning up the road behind him. That was classic. Simon mostly enjoyed it, especially the Daffy Duck as Robin Hood one, but if Bugs or Daffy weren't in a particular cartoon, then he asked where they were. And he wouldn't sit still. Some cartoon movies will mesmerize him, but I guess those are more Disney fare and less slapstick cartoon humour.
On to the countdown...
634. Alan Parsons Project:The Voice
From their "I Robot" album comes this nice little synthesized slice of paranoia. Not much more I can think of to say about that.
633. Soul Asylum:99%
This song is from "Grave Dancers Union", Soul Asylum's breakthrough album with "Black Gold" and "Runaway Train" and all that. But despite my usual aversion to noise-heavy songs, I was drawn to this raucous number about loving somebody almost all of the time... In that context, it makes sense to have it a noisy song, though it would be interesting to hear a creditable acoustic version of this sometime. As such, if I were ever to become a recording artist(which doesn't seem that likely to happen), this is high on my list of songs I'd like to cover.
"And it's 'Tom, do this.' 'Tom, do that.' 'Tom, don't do that.'" --Tom Waits
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Saturday, January 26, 2002:
They Watched Like Spies
It feels like I am coming down with yet. Another. Sore throat. I am soooooo tired of these things, and being sick in general. I had a brief interval of health, but now that seems to be coming to an end again. Our house must just be a hotbed of bacteria and viruses, which is doubtless exacerbated by our slovely cleaning habits. Maybe I should start wearing a surgical mask around the house.*
We just got back from visiting with Darren & Bohdana, who are back up for the weekend. They are living in Red Deer while Darren is teaching there(until April), but are keeping their townhouse here as well, just not as fully stocked. Sophia is just over a month old now, so still not very interactive, except with her mother, of course. We played Mah Jongg, four hands of it at least. Leo, a friend of Darren's who is our usual fourth, couldn't make it so Bohdana played, though she's not as familiar with the game and usually content to stay on the sidelines. I burned some Frantics CDs for Darren, since he's also a fan, and borrowed from him(well, from Bohdana, really)a CD of Russian classical music which we listened to and I found quite striking.
This morning we made our usual library trip; I ended up buying a booksale copy of Women In Love by D.H. Lawrence, having decided to see for myself if he's as bad as people who have to read him for English courses say he is. I think I've read two of his short stories--"The Rocking Horse Winner" of course, and another one that escapes me. I also picked up Naked Came The Manatee, I think it was called, which looked very interesting, as a one-chapter-each collaboration between about a dozen Floridian authors, including Elmore Leonard, Dave Barry, and Carl Hiaasen. We'll see when I get a chance to read it, of course.
I finished Ascending just before we went out. The book was most notable for the singular voice of the narrator, Oar, the most distinctive since Steven Brust's historian Paarfi. (Not strictly the narrator, but he still had a way of insinuating his voice between the author and the story.) Next will probably be the third in Linda Smith's Freyan trilogy, which title always escapes me. Linda was part of the writer's club in Grande Prairie, the WriteOns, which was much less formal and organized than the Cult of Pain. Well, in some cases more formal, because it had an actual bank account with money in it, and a definite scheduled time every month, but less organized because the roster of attendees constantly changed, many of them weren't very good at all, and the only comments you got were after reading your story out loud. But that was The Way They'd Done It for years.
Oh, and I bought myself a new winter coat. It's really been overdue, since my old coat was a Zellers cheapie and started falling apart almost right away, but I was determined to get some wear out of it. The zipper has been broken practically the whole time, so I fastened it with snaps. The hood was held on by incredibly weak snaps and was often hanging by only one. And there was an inside pocket(an absolute requirement, because I love to put my keys there), but repeated gloved extrications had ripped a huge whole(already mended once)in the lining beside it.
So now I have a bright blue jacket which is apparently suitable for snowboarding, though the odds of that ever happening are pretty slim. I should have bought it a size larger, but it is possible to undo the zipper from the bottom so that I can, for instance, sit down, which is often useful.
And since I am feeling sick, I will leave it there for now. Countdown to follow.
636. The Rheostatics: Aliens(Christmas 1988)
The Rheostatics are a weird little Canadian band, who I only really like on their "Melville" album, which I believe is their second. Martin Tielli can't sing very well, and their melodies and lyrics are often a little, or very much, off-kilter. This song is the story of aliens who come down to Earth and kidnap a woman, impregnate her, and all that...though one of the aliens actually falls in love with her.
635. Skydiggers: Leslie
The Skydiggers are another Canadian band, who I saw open for The Grapes of Wrath at one concert in Edmonton. On the album this is a quiet number, mostly vocals with one or two quiet guitars, but in concert the drummer got up and clapped the rhythm in front of a microphone, and then at the end of the song he and the vocalist did a perfect clapping game. So I really liked that version better, but this one is a bit more low and menacing.
Nothing could be further from the truth than fear itself. --billbill
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Friday, January 25, 2002:
This Blackboard Lacks A Piece of Chalk
Yesterday there was a news item that Peter Gzowski was very ill and had gone into the hospital; now, today, he's dead.
Those of you from south of the border(or across the great pond, or down under)are saying, "Who?" So, yes, he was a Canadian celebrity. A radio celebrity. He hosted a show called "Morningside" for three hours every weekday morning(go figure)on CBC radio.
For those of you in countries without nationally subsidized broadcasting, let me fill you in on CBC. CBC is indeed subsidized by the government, and there are certainly Canadians out there who think that this is totally unfair, to have to compete with it, especially with Canadian content regulations in place to keep them from fighting back with rebroadcast American programming. But CBC is one of the great unifying forces in the country. Everybody, no matter where they are in the country, can listen to CBC radio or watch CBC television. (Okay, maybe not on Axel Heiberg island, but there probably isn't anyone up there except seals and polar bears.)
Admittedly, in the last few decades there have come to be alternatives. Satellite dishes are now widespread, so even rural areas like Hawk Hills can get other stations. Nicole remembers when CBC was the only choice...well, there was a radio station in Peace River, but they only got CBC for TV.
Anyway, I was generally into my own music and didn't listen to the radio much(I had MuchMusic at home, of course), but one summer I was working at a sign shop in Grande Prairie as part of a Hire-A-Student program, and they had CBC on all day, every day. So I got to hear a lot of "Morningside". And Peter Gzowski was great. He interviewed interesting people, he had a wonderful broadcast voice, and it was in general a positive experience. (More so than the phone-in opinion show they had on at noon hour. But then I hate phone-in opinion shows and their ilk.)
So I am sad that he's dead. He retired from broadcasting several years ago, and he was 67 years old, but he was nonetheless a great Canadian, and he will be missed.
I had a weird dream last night, which is nothing unusual, but I remembered it pretty well this morning, so, in the tradition of people everywhere who remember their dreams, I will now share it with you.
I was with two other guys, whom I vaguely associate in my mind with Jim(from "Jim's Journal")two former roommates, Tony and Steve. Tony had hatched a plan to steal stuff from this company he used to work for, apparently under an assumed name. (I remember distinctly that "Gaos" was the surname they had for him.) I was supposed to go into the building and, if anyone challenged me, claim that I was a friend of Mr. Gaos and he had suggested I find a job here. Dream logic did not explain why "Mr. Gaos"'s name would be an entree, when obviously Tony was annoyed enough at the company that he wanted to steal from them. Apparently all the ill will was on his side. (There are obvious parallels with my Vectoron experience in my mind. Is that in my Dramatis Personae yet?)
Anyway, I went into the building and up to the second floor, and was swiftly addressed by someone who wanted to know who I was. I told my story, and was immediately introduced to an executive-type who was affable enough, and was not turned off by the name Gaos. I immediately felt guilty about planning to steal from them, so I made my excuses and left. When I found Tony & Steve again, he was disgusted that I hadn't followed through with the plan. "I just wanted you to get some credit cards and stuff," he said. "Not big industrial secrets or anything." But I refused to have anything more to do with it.
That's all I can remember; I either woke up or segued into another dream or deeper sleep at that point.
Last night I taped the movie "Groundhog Day", which was shown on a Canadian cable channel. It's one of my all-time favourite movies, and I am looking forward to watching it again. I will try to hold off until next Saturday, though, of course.
With our VCR troubles, I didn't use the VCR timer, so I just started it recording and kept going. From the TV listings, it looks like I probably also got "Porky's", which may be another Canadian phenomenon. Let's just say that when I was in junior high school, it was the movie that all the boys wanted to see or claim they saw. "Raunchy" is the word that I associated with it in my head. I'm somewhat curious to see what all the fuss was about. Probably nothing.
We will probably go rent movies this weekend, really this time. We usually end up getting more movies than we can comfortably watch, especially if they're ones we don't want to watch while Simon's there, which is to say either during naptime or after he goes to bed. We'll probably get something for him, too. Maybe more Warner Bros. cartoons.
Still doing those Oracle courses. I can't help but be amused by the little diagrams where it shows you how to "alias" columns so you can refer to them by another name. That apparently gives the columns cheap sunglasses to wear so that you can't recognize them.
I still think it's pretty stupid, though, to have a "topic" which consists of one screen of introduction, two screens of instruction, and one screen of conclusion which sums up what you learned in those two screens of instruction. Especially when the instruction screens are lettered in the same font they use on TV when they want people with 8-inch screens to be able to read what's on a computer monitor ten feet away from the camera.
It is amazing the level of sophistication in those SQL*Plus commands, though. I mean, you can edit your SQL statements using advanced text-editing commands like those pioneered in EDLIN.COM, fifteen years ago in MS-DOS version 2! Or, if you wish, you can actually bring up an external text editor like Notepad and use its even more advanced text-editing features, now with Mouse!
Skipping the "Friday Five" this week, because of its two questions about perfume. Couldn't care less if I smell nice. As long as I don't pong like a rutting goat.
I will mention, in regard to "smells that I like that others might consider weird"...pipe tobacco, which may be because my Dad smoked a pipe many years ago, and gasoline, and a lot of other hydrocarbon-related smells that other people seem to find unpleasant. Smells that I can't stomach? Perm fluid, for sure. Also watermelon-flavoured chewing gum. (Okay, there's one thing from the 80's that I didn't like.)
Continuing the countdown of my top 750 songs:
638. Stewart Copeland & Stan Ridgway: Don't Box Me In
This song, from the "Rumblefish" soundtrack, and probably features the first post-Wall of Voodoo recording of Stan Ridgway, the voice of "Mexican Radio" and so much else since. Copeland probably did the rest of the soundtrack too, but it's Ridgway one notices here, with his distinctive voice and off-kilter lyrics.
637. Side By Side By Sondheim: The Boy From...
Another song from that revue of Stephen Sondheim songs, this one a little story in itself, actually a running joke about a boy from a Spanish town with an incredible long name. If I had to reproduce it from memory, I think it would come out as "Tacaremba Latumba Del Fuego Santa Malica Sacateca Slohonto Del Solicruz", but I could be wrong. At the end of the song, to complete the joke, he moves to(deep breath) Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyll-llantysiliogogogoch.
(Actually, I just checked, and according to the lyrics posted here, he's actually from:
TACAREMBO LA TUMBE DEL FUEGO SANTA MALIPAS ZATATECAS LA JUNTA DEL SOL Y CRUZ
So I didn't do too bad. And it sounds perhaps more Uruguay than Spain.)
When you have sour cream every problem looks like a potato.
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Thursday, January 24, 2002:
This Is The Breath, This Is The Kiss
I finally finished working on the pipe-estimating takeoff form I've been working on for a couple of weeks now. If you don't understand what exactly I was working on, that's okay. Now it's time to do some training, trying to learn some things about Oracle because my Java training wasn't getting anywhere. I'm doing these "preassessment" tests right now to see what I know and what I don't. Some of it is annoying because it's very picky about case, for instance--keywords in all upper case, field names in all lower case--and it's looking for specific answers, even if there's more than one way to do something. There are other parts that I know how to do in Microsoft Access SQL, but I don't know how to do in the Oracle dialect...yet. I can see that screwing me up many times in the future.
There's only so much of that stuff I can do at a time before my eyes glaze over and I have to do something else for a few minutes--blog, or read someone else's(Jaffo's back! Yay!), or play Minesweeper or something.
I've often wondered if it would be possible to have a Minesweeper tournmanent or something. It would be tricky because of the highly random nature of the game. Your first click is totally blind, so you could hit a mine and there you go. You'd need a certain number of tries, but even then you could hit mines every time. Maybe a minimum time before that particular game would count. To be most fair, it would have to be "Duplicate Minesweeper", where everyone got the same maps. Except that that wouldn't work well if one person hit a mine and had to go on to the next map... Oh, and there are also some situations where it is impossible to tell, from the information you have, where the mines are. You've got a 50% chance of finding them, and that's all there is to it. How can you factor that in? So this is probably why there aren't Minesweeper tournaments. Probably a good thing, because my performance tends to vary wildly. Still I've gotten the Expert level in 146 seconds, at least once, so there.
I've been seeing a lot of 80's-bashing in the last few days, partly because of "That 80's Show" coming out, but also locally because A Flock of Seagulls and Platinum Blonde are playing in town on the weekend. One person in the paper wrote something like "Everybody knows that the 80's were devoid of culture." He goes on to list several exceptions, of course.
Look, people, let's get one thing straight. When I was in high school everybody knew that the 70's were devoid of culture. I mean, disco, bell-bottoms, leisure suits? John Travolta movies? Yeah, it sucked the whole way through.
I don't hear people saying that anymore. Remember "Pulp Fiction"? "Boogie Nights"? And, of course, "That 70's Show"? The 70's are cool now.
So in every decade you will hear people trashing the decades that came before it. It will happen. It does not mean that those decades actually sucked, or that every decade before the present sucked, because in ten or fifteen years people will be remembering how the 00's(whatever people decide to call them)sucked.
Let's even leave aside for now the fact that nothing changes nicely at decade boundaries except for decades. "The Sixties" extended until at least 1973, as far as I can tell. "Eighties Pop"...well, New Wave didn't last much further than 1985, even in Canada, and the kind of pop that followed that went on until at least 1993. The Spice Girls didn't reach back as far as some people thought. I know that when music stations start having "90's retro weekends" they'll play a lot of grunge, the same way "80's retro weekends" played a lot of new wave. But the music of a decade has always been more varied than that.
See, the thing is that at any given time there will always be something that you hate. It's just that during certain parts of your life, those things will bother you more. I can ignore the Backstreet Boys right now, but I was in school I might find them intolerable. And ten years later I'd say, "Man, I hated the 90's. The Backstreet Boys, man, they sucked." Ignoring the fact that I happened to love, say, The Chemical Brothers or Oasis or whatever.
So maybe everyone who was there can agree that there was something about the 80's that sucked. Though I personally am having trouble thinking of them, and maybe this is why this gripes my butt so much. I liked a lot of 80's music, from almost every genre. I remember when rap was Run DMC instead of Public Enemy or Puff Daddy or Eminem, when metal was Iron Maiden or Judas Priest instead of Soundgarden or Staind or Fear Factory. You may have noticed that there's a lot of 80's music in my countdown, and I don't apologize for that. I know that there's lots of great music made before and since, but somehow what I've been listening to for fifteen years is what sticks with me. And even if I don't like it as much, I can sing along with an InXS album better than I can with Alanis Morissette yet.
Speaking of the devil's countdown:
640. The Beautiful South: You Play Glockenspiel, I'll Play Drums
I haven't quite figured out what this song is about yet, but I couldn't resist the title, and the singalong chorus. "You break fingers, I'll break thumbs...you do English, I'll do sums..." Musically a bit more interesting than many Beautiful South songs, though the lyrics are, I'm sure, as acerbic as ever. From their third album, "0898".
639. Bob Geldof: Thinking Voyager 2 Type Things
From Sir Bob's second album, "The Vegetarians of Love", this song is a rumination on mortality and life and other things which does indeed mention Voyager 2 once or twice, over top of a mostly acoustic-guitar/mandolin type background which keeps bubbling under with a regular ostinato. Contains the great line, "I'm thinking about mortality; I'm thinking it's a cheap price to pay for existence."
And just to prove my point above, both of these songs are from the 1990's. Ha! Okay, 1992 and 1990, but still.
It might rain money. It might rain love.
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Wednesday, January 23, 2002:
Glad To Know You
Just a quick one to announce that I have actually added guestbook links to my site. If you wandered onto this site by accident, searching for Chaz Jankel lyrics(I really didn't know he was so popular), clicking through BlogSnob(almost typed that with a "t"...), or just sitting in Medicine Hat specifically searching for me(yes, I saw that--so who the heck are you?), then please sign and let me know how you happened across the site, who you are, if I suck, etc. And let me know if there's too many annoying popups or anything, and I'll switch guestbook sites. I just picked this one at random, so I'm not too attached to it. Although I do recommend Popup Killer(too lazy to get the actual HREF right now)in any case. Oh, and also let me know if the things just friggin' don't work, or if they look ugly. Thanks, y'all.
Hmmm. Looks like the first guestbook site I found was a load of crap. Let's try this one instead.
Verily the dark ex-Jew quit Zionism, preferring the cabala.
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Making Me The Lucky One
Nothing just shoveling snow in -22 C weather in the morning and then discovering that the car was not plugged in. Luckily, it started anyway, despite its ten-year checkup being due this year. Maybe all that money we spent on it last year is paying off. (For those of you who don't know, like New Zealanders for instance--what you plug in is the engine block heater, not the car itself.)
Simon was a little bit sick and feverish yesterday, but as of this morning seemed to be doing better. For the first time, the cell phone saw actual use in combat conditions--Nicole called me on the way home, though I wasn't one of those people who talks while driving. I drove for another five minutes or so until I got to the Safeway, since I suspected that it would be Nicole asking me to pick something up on the way home. In this case, it was some more Baby Tylenol, because of the sickness thing.
They must be doing medicine better than they did when I was a kid, because Simon thinks medicine is "nummy". One of his pretend games is giving medicine to Daddy, Mommy, himself, and any stuffed animals that happen to be around. It's always "nummy" and makes you "feel better". Sometimes he's just so trusting. Marg, from the Cult of Pain, thinks that becoming comfortable with taking medicine(and vitamins--Simon's got the chewable fruit-flavoured kind)in childhood can lead to drug use in later years, though I of course do not think that anything like that has so simple a cause. No, it'll be more likely his parents spending all their time in front of their computers and/or reading books which will cause him to do things like that to get attention. Which means maybe more shoplifting than drug abuse. Optimistic parent, aren't I?
It's an odd phenomenon, somehow, when you root for some underdog company to fight the Evil Empire(if any), or just overwhelming odds, and then if they do and become successful, you find out that they are also the Evil Empire.
It happened with MuchMusic, for instance, which started as this feisty little Canadian video station with a very down-to-earth and generally chummy feel to it, and more importantly, they played videos. Now, years, later, I can't watch them for more than ten minutes at a time. They dominate the Canadian music scene, they have a spinoff station, and both are starting to suffer from the MTV syndrome of "less music, more music-oriented shows and stuff that makes the exec look better because they're doing real programming, not just popping videos, especially at prime time when people who just want to kick back and watch a few videos are able to watch". What, me bitter?
It used to be that MuchMusic had an hour of specialty programming a day--though that day was mostly one six-hour block, and later an eight-hour block, repeated to fill all 24. I liked to check out the new videos, I liked the countdown, I liked the all-request show, I skipped the heavy metal show, and sometimes I liked the "City Limits" "alternative"(though of course they didn't call it that back then)show as well. And there was a half-hour, at most, "Spotlight" on some artist, which I was often interested in as well. And the rest of the time is what they now call "Videoflow", just playing videos with no particular agenda.
Nowadays, everybody's got at least two hours worth of videos, so Spotlights became spotty or drawn-out affairs, and specialty programming is three or four hours a day, mostly at primetime, like I said.
Other underdogs-cum-Evil Empires? Well, Marvel Comics--at least they portrayed themselves as underdogs to DC when I was reading them(I remember some disdainful remark to the effect that "if DC needs money, then Big Daddy Warnerbucks will bail them out"). But somehow when there were eighteen X-comics coming out, they became the Evil Empire again, while DC was hip and cool again. And now both are Evil Empire compared to the virtuous self-publishers. But at least Marvel was having financial troubles a while ago. Me, I'll just dive back into my old X-Men comics and reminisce.
Or TSR, original makers of Dungeons & Dragons. More or less the same track, including their current total subsumption under Wizards of The Coast.
There are probably people out there who were like that about Microsoft, hoping that they would win out against the oppressive Evil Empire of Apple.
It all just goes to show that it doesn't pay to become too successful. Because the people who liked you before will hate you later.
I finished Hunter's Oath, and I would like to say that it did pick up considerably before the end, in fact just after I lost blogged about it, more or less. This just goes to show that starting out with your characters' childhoods is a very dangerous pitfall, to be avoided at all costs unless you're Orson Scott Card and they are actually saving the world before puberty. Not sure when I'll go on to Hunter's Death, since except in rare instances I don't read series back-to-back.
No, next up will be Ascending by James Alan Gardner, fourth of his loosely-linked Festina Ramos series-- Expendable, Vigilant and Hunted. Ramos herself is only main character in the first, but she turns up in the others, and I doubt this one will be any different that way. I recommend all of his books as good SF and engaging writing. Go on, pick them up. You won't be sorry. Sure he's Canadian. So what?
Down with the Count!
642. Scott Merritt: Raise A Ship(For The Benefit of Clergy)
I've no idea whence the subtitle of this song comes--it's not in the lyrics, so it must be a side-comment. (I know there's a line about "Iscariot's got a microphone", anyway...) Scott Merritt's another Canadian musician, who put out a few pretty cool albums in the 80's. He's a bit more lyrically-oriented than I tend to like, but on this album, "Gravity Is Mutual", his music is plenty incisive, and this song has some great guitar work in it.
641. UHF: Lifting My Heart
UHF is a Canadian trio formed by Shari Ulrich, Bill Henderson(formerly of Chilliwack), Roy Forbes(apparently also known as Bim), and generally very effective. This song, from their second album, "UHF II", has Bim's bizarrely high-pitched vocals atop a stuttering guitar line, and is surprisingly effective.
You're so vain, I bet you think this tagline's about you
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Tuesday, January 22, 2002:
A Mood Ring We're Not Allowed To See
I was never what you would call an athletic person. I suspect that comes of being a "gifted child" and spending most of my school career being two years younger than the rest of my class. Until everyone topped out at puberty, that was a distinct disadvantage in Phys.Ed. and so it failed to give me much enthusiasm for it. We had a basketball hoop on one house, and I did try shooting baskets occasionally, but forget about football or baseball. And I was never any good at skating, so forget hockey too. Actually, I was also not bad at soccer. But not to the extent that I would do it in my precious spare time. I never minded swimming, but swimming lengths was just boring, so I never got into the habit of doing that either.
No, the only real athletic activity I did on a regular basis was cycling. And in the years before I got my driver's license, that was just practical. I could get from place to place(Grande Prairie wasn't that big)without needing a ride from my parents, at least in the summer--I was never sold on winter cycling. And while I still thought of myself as one of those 98-pound weaklings, I could still ride my bike through the bike paths on the Bear Creak ravine, up and down some pretty steep hills, without getting too tired or even having to get off and push my bike up the hills.
Then I moved to Edmonton, it took months for my bike to get shipped down at all, and then it promptly got stolen. I rode the bus or I drove(once I got married, since Nicole was the one with the car), and my stamina and fitness all went away. We have a couple of ten-speed bikes, but they're both pretty much in need of a complete overhaul--two flat tires, rusty chain, etc.--and I haven't been bothered to do it. Don't even know how much it would cost.
Sharna's storing her bike with us while she's in Ontario, and this summer I took it out a few times. I decided to start out--just start, mind you--by going once around the block, or at least the residential block next to us, which includes a small park. And I never accepted less than that as my minimum. Unfortunately, I was never put into the position of having to accept more than that either. One lap. Ten minutes at the most. And I was drenched in sweat, leg muscles rebelling, lungs heaving. So much for my plan to build up my stamina slowly. Admittedly, I rode as I always rode, in highest gear, because it always drove me crazy having to pedal any more times than I needed to. (Also, my 18-speed I had in high school had gear-shifting issues.) Actually, once or twice I even went down a gear or two, but it didn't help sufficiently.
Now I'm actually considering what I would have, in previous years, considered the height of futility--an exercise bike. No wind, no traffic, no mosquitos, controlled temperature, and I can stop at any time. Not right now, though, there's no space for it. And I'm certainly not going to consider joining a gym, because then I'd actually have to go out there and exercise. In Grande Prairie we lived in an apartment complex that had one right there. Maybe I shoulda went for it.
I have definitely been exhibiting signs of absent-mindedness in the past couple of years. Being a cerebral person, I've been trying to analyze it, and I think it is a sign of advancing age, or more accurately of misguided optimization.
The whole process of learning things, and learning to do things, sets up neural sequences(this is my term, I don't know the technical lingo)in the brain. Learning to print the letter "A" the first time is a laborious sequence of line going up, line going down, line across, and this is when you've gotten to the stage when "drawing a line" is a single action, not a complex arrangement of muscular movements. By the time you've "learned to write", writing the letter is a single action too. And it may be part of other larger actions, like writing your name, or other words. Actions get clumped together into larger and larger clusters. Writing my signature is at most two or three actions. Same principle with typing. Once you've mastered being able to put your fingers on the right keys, then you start clustering things together into words. I often find myself typing a common word instead of a similar, but less common one. And what is that? That's absent-mindedness.
In other words, what happens is that as you subsume more and more actions and activities into larger clusters, it becomes harder to execute them in different ways. You start driving to a new place that happens to be on your way to work, and you find yourself at work because that's part of a huge subroutine in your brain. Etc.
It's a bit alarming for me because I have never really been one for routines. One of my personal mottoes is "Be inconsistent, but don't do it all the time." Maybe that's one reason why I don't like working. I like my life to vary a little bit, though since it's not like I go out in the evening to see different people every night, I'm obviously not that demanding of that variance. If there is something that I do a lot, it's usually randomized or otherwise varying, like my music and my books. Repetitive tasks I often try to automate, like writing a quick Perl program to process Lorenai data or something...although that's only necessary if the data itself doesn't vary enough to interest me.
Well, it's definitely Real Winter now. Not only was there snow on the weekend, and occasional skiffs still coming down, but the temperature has plunged. -20 C is close to the high temperature for today, and yesterday wasn't much better. The tape deck in my car is starting to act up at low temperatures--actually, it's being doing it for weeks--so I've decided to just keep the radio on for a few more minutes until things warm up. This is usually an imposition for me, since I am severely allergic to radio morning shows, but the last couple of days have been okay. I got to hear new songs by Jewel(which sounds pretty good, actually)and the Barenaked Ladies, for instance.
I gassed up the car this morning at the self-serve place across from work(gas price: 45.3 cents/litre), since I decided it was better to do it while the car was warm from having driven across town, rather than starting the car up, warming it up for two minutes, then driving ten blocks and turning it off again. When I was leaving, the guy who had been in front of me at the cash register was sitting in his car trying to start it up, and it didn't start, and it didn't start, and it didn't start. I watched for a minute or so, but eventually my samaritan impulses were overcome by a lack of desire to get involved, to try to do the whole booster cable thing(which I've never been that good at), or to be even later getting to work.
I was relieved to note, when I was dropping a letter off at the mailbox before going in to work, that he did get it started, so I don't feel quite so guilty.
Actually, it's cold in the office today, too. My nose is cold, and my hands are freezing. It's really too bad that typing doesn't warm up your hands. Seems like it should, doesn't it? Maybe if my fingers were fatter and rubbed together. It's not quite as bad as when my computer was right next to the big windows in my office/cubicle. (It's got windows, but cubicle-style walls.) Then my hands froze even worse, so eventually I decided to move my computer. Also, in its current position nobody coming in to the office can sneak up behind me and see what's on my computer screen before I have a chance to hide it.*
644. They Might Be Giants: Absolutely Bill's Mood
This is one of the most striking songs on They Might Be Giants' self-titled first album, with dark synth-and-drum music and darker, paranoid lyrics.
643. Basia: Ordinary People
I love Basia's first album, "Time & Tide"; her second, "London Warsaw New York", was somewhat weaker, and her third, "The Sweetest Illusion", almost negligible. If I could take this song from the second album and switch it with "Prime Time TV" from the first album, then I could almost ditch the other two entirely. Well, not quite, but this is certainly the best song from "London Warsaw New York", with much edgier music and bittersweet lyrics about how everyone has feet of clay.
I wanted to marry a model, but I couldn't manage to put it together.
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Monday, January 21, 2002:
The Sky Looked The Other Way
I'm still reading Hunter's Oath, and it's a bit disappointing so far. I think I probably read about twenty pages on the weekend, but then I read less on the weekend because at home I have other things to do. If a book doesn't interest me, it mostly gets read at lunch at work.
Michelle West has done better with her later books. This one, the story is ostensibly focused around Stephen, a street urchin rescued and redeemed as a Huntbrother to the young Hunter-born Gilliam. But they're only eight at the beginning of the book, they're fourteen now, and almost all of the exciting scenes in the book involve other characters. We spend seventy pages following Evayne a'Nolan, who is a much more interesting, cryptic, and capable character, and then return to Stephen & Gilliam and everything slows down again. So her pacing definitely improved in later books.
Okay, read a little bit further, and now the kids are twenty-two and things are starting to pick up, because they've actually met Evayne(outside of dreams), but let's hope they start finding out what's going on real soon.
The latest library CD is "Black Noise" by FM. Now I don't know if this was just in Canada or not, but in the mid-80's FM had an album called "Contest" or something like that, with singles and videos for songs "Just Like You" and "Why Don't You Take It", which were fairly unassuming pop, except maybe for that weird guy with the Invisible Man bandaged face and the mandolin. This album, though, is totally different. It's like prog-rock meets new wave, sort of Emerson, Lake & Palmer or something, only not quite as bad. The vocals are way down in the mix, but with song titles like "Phasors[sic] On Stun", "Slaughter In Robot Village", and "Aldebaran", the lyrics seem to be pretty skiffy.
Nash the Slash was the guy with the bandaged face, by the way, and apparently his true identity, if any, was a closely-guarded secret. He had some solo releases that I remember, like a cover of "Dead Man's Curve" my brother had as a 7" single. So I can see why my brother Steve would have thought that "Contest" and its accompanying songs were a bit of a letdown. He's always seemed to be one of those people with "alternative" tastes, who will generally like music to the degree which he hasn't hard that kind of music before. These days he's mostly into classical, listening to CBC 2 and such. He did like the copy of Shriekback's "Naked Apes & Pond Life" I sent him, though.
The down of continuing count:
646. Howard Jones: Hide & Seek
I first heard this song in its "long version" on the "Action Replay" EP of rarities and remixes, but it originally comes from "Human's Lib", and generally I can't tell the difference between the two versions, so I will consider them equally here. Pretty much all synth with a little bit of heartbeat-like drumbeat in the background. The lyrics tell a story of the creator of the universe who, after creation was done, decided to play a game where e split into eir component parts and then tried to find emself, which, while I don't believe in a creator, I think is a pretty cool idea. (Gender-neutral pronouns mine, courtesy of Ackanomic; Howard alternated he and she as appropriate.)
645. Ann Mortifee: On Hearing of Lorie
Ann Mortifee is a women born in South Africa who later moved to Canada. I saw her perform in Grande Prairie, and she may even have come there more than once. She has a wonderful soaring soprano voice, which is of course not generally enough to make for decent music, but she usually had cool lyrics as well, often with mystical or fantastical themes. This song, from her folkier first album, "Baptism", was a bit more straightforward, a bitter lament for the death of a friend.
This is *NOT FUN*. I've had fun before, and this *ISN'T IT*.
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Sunday, January 20, 2002:
One of Many Who Would Like To Be Your Friend
Today we were treated to all kinds of interesting antics from Simon, so most of this entry will doubtless be devoted to them. In the "suddenly I can see him go off to college" category, he wanted to sing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star", which is not unusual in and of itself, except that he wanted to sing it all by himself. Well, sing is of course too strong a term, but he does know all the words now, more or less, and can recite them with a little prompting.
In the "where did he get that?" category, I was lying down on my stomach and he was playing in, on and around me(which I sometimes do because it requires little to no effort on my part, and more on his). Now Nicole has shown him the "I've got your nose!" game, and it's not that uncommon for him to be taking the nose from one of his stuffed animals and giving it to another one, or from me to Nicole, or whatever. But today he took my head, prompting me to shout, "Give me back my head, Simon!" After that, he decided that there were buttons on my body, which he then pressed. This led to his question, "What does the yellow button do?" I said, "Press it and find out." He concluded "Yellow button makes Simon dance!", because when he "pressed the button" he started to dance. It also proved that the red button made Simon jump over me, the green button made Simon fall over me, and the blue button made Simon stick out his tongue.
He also decided he wanted to watch a movie this afternoon. His new favourite book is Curious George Goes To A Movie, which may account for this. So we sat on the couch and prepared for the movie. Simon tried to turn on the movie remote-control style, but we told him this wouldn't work in a real theatre. When asked what the movie was about, Simon said, "Bats and caves!" Which, of course, is the subject of the only real movie we've taken him to, that IMAX one a few weeks ago.
His latest joke, by the way, is "Uncle Mommy? Uncle Daddy? Uncle Sharna?"
He did skip his nap again, though.
I have practically given up on "The Sims: Hot Date" until they come out with a patch. Two or three times it's crashed for me downtown, and I still have the one Sim paralyzed by an aborted cuddle. On Saturday when I tried to play it it took close to ten minutes to load, which is much longer than it's ever taken before. There are also the recurrent problems where it comes up with no sound, which it also did under "Livin' Large", or crashes if I try to switch neighbourhoods more than once. Maxis has, in the style of most software companies these days, made it next to impossible to actually submit bug reports to them. They have "tech chats" scheduled conveniently for times when I am mostly at work, so I haven't yet managed to participate in one. And I'm not about to call their actual phone support line. I'm not that desperate.
Of course, maybe I need a faster computer, or more memory, or maybe I just need to reformat and reinstall everything, but I'm too scared that it won't work if I do that. The memory of two years ago on Remembrance Day when I installed Red Hat Linux and couldn't boot to Windows for weeks is still too fresh. (If only I'd gone in to work that day...no, then I would've just done it on a weekend or something.)
And other things seem to be happening from time to time. Every week or so I notice that some common file type has had its icon changed to something weird, and I have to go and fix it. Virus, or just Windows going flaky?
Just thought you'd like to know that while I keep seeing people moaning about losing their blog/journal entries and saying, "Next time, I'm going to write it all out in Notepad first and then post it..."--well, I do that. Wordpad, as if that makes much difference. Since Blogger screwed up on my posts in the first couple of days, it developed into a habit early. At work I use "blogtemp.txt", but at home I just open Wordpad and save it as "document.txt", in the "My Documents" folder yet.
So, ha! Next time you lose a post to the ephemerality of the web and the unreliability of its nodes(I wrote "unreality" the first time, but we'll leave philosophical questions for later), know that somewhere I am laughing.
Right now I'm listening to, and finally taping, George Harrison's "All Things Must Pass". Just started Side 3. Looks like there might be either scratches or food stains across the boundary of two tracks. I hope not, but if so, well, I can always look for them on the Net, right?
Counting down some more:
648. Love & Rockets: Haunted When The Minutes Drag
A song from their first album, "Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven", that captures quite well the feeling of being temporarily deprived of the company of someone you would rather be around all the time, every waking hour of every day. Nice rhythm guitar, too.
647. The Smithereens: Behind The Wall of Sleep
Didn't I just do the Smithereens? Another song from "Especially For You", this one about being obsessed with some chick playing in a band. You heard this one, Quincunx, or was that just coincidence? A heavier and darker feeling than "Strangers When We Meet".
Who's been sleeping in my porridge?
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Saturday, January 19, 2002:
Great Big Heads
Nicole has jewelry issues, because it seems that she is allergic to any of the things that people tend to place in their jewelry to make it less expensive than pure gold. Anything metal in contact with her skin, in fact, leaves a rash--metal studs on her jeans, non-gold earrings, watchbands. For years she had a plastic Swatch watch, which was ideal because it had no metal parts on the surface. She kept turning the white plastic watchbands green because of other skin chemistry characteristics, though.
It's not that hard to find watches that are not metal...except of course for the battery cover on the back. No good. With a little more work, you can find watches that aren't metal...except for the little dial you use to wind it. Still no good, because it ends up rubbing against her arm just above her wrist, and then there's a rash.
The latest solution has been a watch which does not go on the wrist--a cute little ladybug that straps to a belt loop. That was okay, although sometimes the clip would sneak up and give her a little rash on her belly, and some of her pants, like for instance her maternity pants, didn't have belt loops, so she had nowhere to clip it.
Cut to a couple of days ago. I had just put a load of laundry in the dryer(which had, of course, already gone through the washer), and after a few minutes noticed that there was a distinct loud rattling sound. Several minutes later, I suddenly wondered what it was, and after a swift search found a very hot, and somewhat steamy, non-functioning, ladybug watch.
Hopefully these things can be fixed, or replaced...although it wasn't an easy thing to find in the first place. Oh, well. Otherwise she'll just have to ask me the time whenever we've left the house. At home she has clocks.
Nicole has been trying to say Grace at supper every night, which she usually didn't bother with when it was just her and me. But now it's for Simon's benefit, you see. The only part he's figured out is touching his forehead and saying "Amen". But every once in a while he starts going on about "Huddyfoot". Huddyfoot? Huh?
Then it clicked. This is Simon-dialect for "Holy spirit". "Sp" > "f", you see.
So don't blame me if some time in one of my stories I have some weird Morlock-type post-holocaust far-future degenerate society who worship the god "Huddyfoot".
It actually snowed here today, in quantity. Nicole and Simon shoveled the driveway while I tried to sleep in, and eventually gave up. Well, Simon had a tiny shovel he got for Christmas, and was not generally a big help, but he has fun. He gets his serious face because he knows he'd doing Real Work, and Helping. Which is a change from throwing tantrums and refusing to take his nap, other features of the day. Anyway, the snow. Right. Lots of snow right now is mostly good, because we need more snow in Alberta to keep us from being Forest Fire Capital of the World in the summer. Winter snow = summer moisture. Of course, in the city, winter snow = icy roads, at least until the snowplows come and clear them off. Hopefully they'll still have plenty of money left in the snowplot account. Grande Prairie, which gets a lot more, kept going seriously overbudget on snowplowing. They've probably got six-foot-high drifts piled beside the main streets already.
The bedtime ritual keeps getting longer and longer. We started out just reciting "Jabberwocky" for him. Now to even get him upstairs, we have to play this game where one of us stays on the stairs, he throws down one of his stuffed animals(Pink Panther, usually)and we throw it back to him. This is shriekingly funny, and woe betide us if we skip it. But a few days ago we also started singing "London Bridge" to keep him from writhing around while we changed him into his pajamas, and now he wants that every night as well. So far we are holding firm. And then he wants to play this game with the alphabet wall hanging our friend and Cult of Pain emerita Cheryl Merkel made for him(which we call, oddly enough, the "alphabet game"), which is part of the naptime ritual. But no more, I say thee! We shall not be driven back yet further!
My sleep deficit is catching up with me; I'm seriously considering going to bed at 9:30 tonight. Last night I stayed up until 11:00 watching South Park. I had the urge to watch it. And it was one I hadn't seen(the one with the cult, and the Super Best Friends), and it was really funny. I could've laughed myself silly at the "Super Best Friends" stuff, because I actually did used to watch "Super Friends" every Saturday morning. Especially with Moses--I loved the "Jewbilee" episode with Moses; that was one of my all-time favourites. And the bit where Stan & Kyle with shaved heads(and thus visually indistinguishable)get confused about whose line is whose. Kenny doesn't speak at all while he's head-shaved and unmuffled, which is a bit of a disappointment, but it does make the ending of the movie that much more special.
Continuing the countdown of my 750 favourite songs:
650. Alan Parsons Project: La Sagrada Familia
The Alan Parsons Project is highly uneven, with some okay songs and albums, but a fair bit of lame pop as well. For some reason, perhaps its bombast and majesty, I like this song, an extra-long one from the "Gaudi" album. It's sort of about the cathedral that the architect Gaudi designed in Barcelona, which will probably never be completed, apparently because of its sheer size.
649. Talking Heads: Making Flippy Floppy
"Speaking In Tongues" has never really been my favourite album, though in general it's okay. I like the chorus of this song, though, which puts it a little bit further above the rest.
Coming around 'e gonna take my heartbeat --Happy Rhodes, "Runners"
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Friday, January 18, 2002:
Give Me No Peace
Quincunx did it, so I'm going to do it as well--the Friday Five, that is.
1. Where do you have your browser start page set to?
At work, I have it set to www.msn.ca, which is nice and safe for work-related purposes if I bring it up.
At home, I have it set to my home page, though since 90% of the time I just go straight here, maybe I should change it.
2. What are your favourite news sites?
Since I start at msn.ca, I usually just check that out. It's got links to CBC pages as well as "MSNBC". That's just for casual browsing; if I want to actually research a story in detail(like I did on September 11th), I go to news.blogger.com, which is faster and has a few more different sources. And from there, the Guardian seemed to have the best stories.
3. Favourite search engine?
If I'm searching for sites on a particular topic, I go to Yahoo, usually yahoo.ca. For text searches, I've recently switched from Altavista to Google. (Should I be putting in hyperlinks? Ah, screw it. If you can't find them yourself, I can't help you.)
4. When did you first get online?
Ah, the juicy question. I was first given access to the Net in the summer of 1991--well, actually, in May--when I started to work for the Canadian Network for Space Research as part of a summer research grant. They kept me on for another year after that, too. However, I didn't actually discover I was online until I got curious about this program called Newsgrazer(we were all on NeXT workstations)and checked out rec.games.hack, because I was heavily into nethack at the time. Curiosity led me to other groups, and I was swiftly drawn to alt.callahans, and more slowly to other groups like talk.bizarre and alt.pub.dragons-inn. I know that I arrived in alt.callahans in early February 1992, somewhere around the 6th-8th.
I had been on Fidonet before then, on BBSes like The Slan Shack. My friend Jeremy and I got our first modem, a 2400-baud powerhouse, in lieu of going to an antiquated computer lab for a programming assignment, probably in our fourth year, fall 1990. Soon we were exploring the realms of BBSdom. But that's not what most people think of when they hear "online". Fidonet exchanged messages and files purely over phone lines, with no permanent connection or anything resembling the Web.
5. How do you plan to spend your weekend?
This weekend I would like to spend some time frittering it away. A little bit of shopping, a little bit of doing dishes, maybe even a little bit of house-cleaning before Sue & Karen come over to tell me what they really thought of my book. Maybe we'll watch that short film "Evirati" we taped from Bravo which has Alex Zahara in it. I could call my Mom.
My wife and I are slobs, really, and Simon hasn't helped matters much. We sometimes have to restrain ourselves from breaking into giggle-fits when we go over to other people's houses and they apologize for the extreme mess. Usually, their house in an "extreme mess" is cleaner than our house after we've spent all day cleaning. And you know what? We don't care. I can't remember if Nicole ever manifested that "nesting instinct" thing during her last pregnancy, but that'll be about the most cleaning either of us will ever do when we're not actually moving out.
This week has actually gone by quickly; I've been consistently amazed at how late in the week it is, with the possible exception of Monday. "24", "West Wing", and "Friends" all had new episodes, and last night's "Friends" may have been the funniest new episode we'd seen in a long time. Or maybe we were just in a good mood. We actually watched a "Frasier" rerun before that, since Nicole had made popcorn and watching TV while eating popcorn seemed like the thing to do. Sort of like Jeremy and I would always have to watch hockey while we were eating pizza, even though I never watched hockey at any other time. If there was no hockey, "The Raccoons" would do in a pinch.
Currently listening to "Freak Out!" by Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention, which I think I might have listened to once many, many years ago. I remember seeing it in my brother's room, and I know Jeremy had a copy too, but I don't know which one. Jeremy would sometimes sing excerpts "It Can't Happen Here" and "Wowie Zowie", but my favourite was "Help, I'm A Rock". Anyway, I think it's held up over time, and I kinda like it. My wife would hate it, though. She's not much into experimental music. I can get her to flee the room by putting on Pink Floyd's "Ummagumma", or Jon Hassell, or even Jane Siberry.
I often find myself holding to strict capitalization rules in places where it really doesn't matter, where case is not significant. For instance, I capitalize all my SQL keywords, even when it means extra work, and if it's not capitalized right I go back and fix it. Same thing with my Lorenai orders. Neither of them cares. And I've noticed recently that with matched HTML tags, like bold, I will almost always type <B> and </b>--the first in upper case, the second in lower case. Just another case of a small hobgoblin, I guess.
Either I'm having a concentrated wave of nostalgia, or I just hit a patch of really good music.
For the past few weeks I've been listening to my first sixty Assorted tapes, most of them recorded from 1985-1987, with a few scattered ones containing songs from the early 90's as well. Currently I'm on "Assorted, Tape 25", and am really enjoying it. It does have a copy of "Golden Boy" by Godley & Creme, which is my favourite song ever, but I also found myself intensely enjoying "The Sweetest Taboo" by Sade, "Silent Running" by Mike & The Mechanics, and even "Do They Know It's Christmas" by BandAid. (Those ensembly charity songs were always the most fun when trying to identify all the singers as they came in, but even that never gave me the slightest affection for "We Are The World".) "The Sweetest Taboo" has a great rhythm line, and Sade's voice has rarely been better, and "Silent Running"(with which I always understood there was a movie associated)was a great song about how to survive and resist in the face of oppression.
Maybe it's just rare that I actually listen to songs on these older tapes; they have become so familiar that it's easy to put them into the background. Often when I'm thinking of favourite songs, it's the newer ones that I haven't heard so many times that stick out for me, or the album tracks as opposed to the singles. But when I actually go back and listen, especially after a few years have gone by and they can sound fresh again, they are simultaneously new and familiar.
And speaking of favourite songs, here's more of that countdown madness:
652. Georgia Satellites: Every Picture Tells A Story
I suspect that this is a cover version of a Rod Stewart song, back from his first album before everybody thought he sucked, but this is the version I've heard, from the Georgia Satellites' first, self-titled album. It doesn't have a chorus to speak of, just verse after verse and then the title in a coda, so it gets points for the unusual song structure as well as the song's story itself.
651. Black: Sweetest Smile
This song was on both "Wonderful Life" and "Comedy", for some reason. Colin Vearncombe, the lead singer, has a wonderfully deep and expressive voice; in this song he mostly holds it back until emotion breaks forth once near the end.
Never the experiment, always the control.
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Thursday, January 17, 2002:
No Guts, No Blood, No Brains At All
I've been listening to Weird Al Yankovic for a long time, since his first album came out, and I barely recognized the songs he was parodying. Robert Christgau dismissed him as "the Mad Magazine of music", but be that as it may, I still like him. He's been doing his thing for twenty years now, and I think that's a good thing.
One little bit of personal cleverness, which I am probably not the first person to realize, is how on almost every album since his second one, he's had a song which is not intended to parody a particular song, but an entire artist's sound. The first one I noticed was "Dog Eat Dog", from his album "Polka Party", which sounded uncannily like the Talking Heads, at least at some stages of their career(probably "Speaking In Tongues", mostly). I didn't notice his earlier "Mr. Popeil", a total B-52's pastiche, from the second album, because it was years before I ever heard much from the B-52's' first couple of albums. (When I did figure it out, I felt incredibly stupid, but I had always thought that was a weird song...) Similarly, "You Make Me", on "Even Worse", was based on Oingo Boingo; "The Biggest Ball of Twine In Minnesota", from the "UHF" soundtrack album, has a very Harry Chapin-like feel(stealing part of the melody line from "Twenty Thousand Pounds of Bananas", even), and "Dare To Be Stupid" from the album of the same name was obviously a Devo parody(quite clear from the video). After that I'm not as sure about the targets: "Talk Soup" from "ALapalooza" makes me think of Peter Gabriel, "Trigger Happy" from "Off The Deep End" could be Beach Boys, but it could be any other beach-pop group as well; "Everything You Know Is Wrong" from "Bad Hair Day" seems to echo They Might Be Giants. From "Running With Scissors", I'm not sure, but the musical bits of "Albuquerque" have a familiar sound to them that I just can't place.
For some reason I'm not showing up on the Ultimate Journaler Challenge page anymore. Have I been somehow disqualified and not been informed? Perhaps one of those days when I updated after what might have been midnight in another time zone appeared to count as a missed day, if there's some kind of automated script, or an inattentative human inspector. Or it could just be a mistake. I will have to clear this up, because I have been posting every day since December 28th, and dammit, I want some credit!
The promised countdown entry:
654. Shriekback: My Spine(Is The Bassline)
A track from "Care", Shriekback's first full-length album, and nicely dark dance-funky as the title might imply. I used to think that Barry Andrews was Shriekback's sole vocalist, but recently I discovered Carl Marsh did vocals until at least "Oil & Gold", so I don't know which one was singing on this song, since obviously I can't tell them apart. Anyway, "Care" is not my favourite Shriekback album, and the songs tend to blend together a bit for me, but this one struck me last time I listened to it, anyway.
653. REM: Lightnin' Hopkins
"Document" is one of my favourite REM albums, and not because of the hit singles from it or anything. I have the vague idea that this song's title is a reference to a blues guitarist or something, but the song itself is fairly blistering and has nifty drums.
Conform, go crazy, or become a writer.
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