Nah, it's too big. I'll probably never do it. But in case anyone else wants to...
518. Eurythmics: Right By Your Side
This used to be my least favourite song on "Touch", actually, but I've obviously gotten to like it better now, and it's held up better for me than "Here Comes The Rain Again", in fact. It's totally out of keeping with the tone of the rest of the album, but rhythmically it's more interesting.
517. Weird Al Yankovic: One More Minute
One of my favourites of his non-parody songs, from "Dare To Be Stupid", a doo-wop breakup song with lots of vitriol. (It took me years to get the "self-service pumps" line.)
I want this man to go away now. --Kate Bush, "Houdini"
The other day they had this interesting game on there called "The Vinyl Hunter". I almost phoned in for it, actually, though I was in my car and would've had to pull over to do it, and by the time I had a chance someone else had phoned. Anyway, the way it works is this: There's a few shelves of records at the station, and the caller directs one of the hosts, by picking numbers, to select a particular record from the shelf. (They are presumably not arranged alphabetically or anything, that would make it too easy.) Then the caller picks a track from the album, they play it, and the caller has to guess the name of the group, or album, or song, or something, I wasn't sure. If they do, they get $10 and a CJSR T-shirt.
The guy who phoned in on Wednesday didn't get it, and I wouldn't have either(had I picked all the same numbers)--it was a band called the Ophelias, from 1987, and frankly I didn't care much for them. I don't know if I'd do very well at identifying college radio records, you see, unless it was something really common like Talking Heads, or I fluked onto Go Four 3 or Mark Korven or something.
I would love to see that record library, though. Just to covet.
Speaking of coveting, I got a couple of pretty good library CDs to listen to this week.
The first one was Terry Radigan's album "Radigan". Apparently she used to be with a band called Grace Pool, which suffered by constant comparisons to 10,000 Maniacs. I don't remember how she ended up on my list of people to look for, but I'm glad she did, because this album is great. It's slightly country-tinged, but not very far. She does a cover version of Greg Garing's "My Love Is Real", which I already think is a great song, and the rest of the album is fairly variegated. I've only listened to it once, so I can't give it much better of a description than that, but let me recommend it to people who think they may know where I'm coming from.
The other one was Joydrop's "Metasexual". There's a song from Joydrop's most recent album that MIX 96 has been playing recently, and I liked it, but in my own unfathomable way I requested their older album from the library. When I was listening to the first song, "Fizz", I was very disappointed, because it was fairly cacophonous, but after a while I started to get into it more. They are very Garbage-like(though since Garbage has changed their sound now, the niche may be open), but in a good way, because hey, I like Garbage. Now I'll have to put in a request for their newer album and see if they're following Garbage's career path.
Of my own albums, I've been listening to the tapecase that has all my D's, and a few of my C's and E's. This means going through most of my Depeche Mode(except for "Speak & Spell", which I have on vinyl, and "Ultra" which I have on CD). It still hangs together pretty well. Though I am annoyed anew every time at the fact that "Music For The Masses" and "Black Celebration" both have much longer second sides than first sides. I don't like to fast-forward my tapes that much, because I believe it isn't good for them, so I just have to sit there and listen to silence. Maybe I should make copies of them(just to safeguard the quality of the originals, of course)without the big gap in the middle. Or get them on CD(once they wear out).
But what was really standing out for me yesterday was Elvis Costello's "All This Useless Beauty". It's taken me a while to get into, but it's chock full of some of his best songs. I like some of his other later albums, like "Spike" and "Mighty Like A Rose", but this one is really growing on me. I haven't quite gotten to the point of knowing all the songs, but I almost want to listen to it again, even if it disrupts my sequence. But who will know, right? Besides you, of course, but who are you to judge me? (Right now you're puzzled at why on earth you should care if I want to listen to one of my own albums more frequently than once every two years, aren't you? Yeah, well, compulsive, you know.) In fact, I could put it on right now, couldn't I? Why? 'Cause I'm a maaadmaaan...
This week at work was a little bit eventful, because apparently last weekend someone started using a security hole in our email server to send out thousands, if not millions, of spam messages. When we got it shut down, there were over half a million messages queued up on our server, and just deleting them took almost an hour.
So we ended up temporarily a blacklisted node, until we could prove to...somebody, I'm not sure, whoever maintains the spamsite blacklists, I guess...that we had closed the security hole. And we don't even have a Microsoft email server, either! Well, I guess nobody's immune, unless you write your own and keep your security holes to yourself. Or don't connect to the network, but who can stand for that these days?
Then the server itself was glitching yesterday, in such a way that every half hour or so every computer on the network that tried any kind of file operation--even writing to the local hard drive, which by rights shouldn't involve the network at all, should it?--would hang for several minutes before recovering. Very annoying. Today it seems to be back to normal.
I did get to leave work early on Tuesday, though, because at 4:00 our friendly neighbourhood consultant and network expert came over to shut down the server and tinker with it, or something. I really don't care about that crap any more. Did I really want to become a system administrator at one point? You can keep it.
Norton AntiVirus is still sometimes doing its thing where it hangs downloading some messages and refuses to proceed. Can I find any mention of this documented anywhere? No. Their website doesn't appear to support the antiquated 2000 version of its software anymore, and I don't really feel like shelling out to upgrade right now. I can still log into POP directly and delete the spam.
Sometimes it's perfectly normal messages, with no unnatural content of any kind, that it has trouble with. I can't figure it out. I'm trying setting its "Bloodhound" level(which can supposedly detect previously unknown viruses)as low as I can, and we'll see if that helps. If I look at them in POP and I can't see a problem with them, then I just turn off virus checking temporarily and download them. I should keep track of them and send them in to Norton...except they'll probably just tell me to upgrade.
Continuing the countdown of my 750 favourite songs(as tabulated last year sometime):
520. The Stranglers: No Mercy
This was the first song I heard from the Stranglers, and I didn't find out about their more punkish days for a while. I still like it a lot, and most of the "Aural Sculpture" album, but I still have a soft spot for this song.
519. A-Ha: Early Morning
This is from A-Ha's fourth album, "East of The Sun West of The Moon"; the single from the album was a cover of Carole King's "Crying In The Rain", but this song is much better. It strikes a balance between the pop keyboards of their first album and the more rock sound of their second.
At the Cult of Pain meeting on Saturday, I passed out copies of "Delta City"; attendance was rather good, so maybe a few people will have read it by next time. There are a few people who can get very busy and not have time, though. I got a few more comments on my novel from Sue, but that was pretty much it.
The daughter and grandson of Mari, who was hosting, showed up near the end. The grandson, who just turned two, is named Perrin. Yes, apparently the daughter and her husband are Robert Jordan fans. (Apparently, I just checked this out on the net, the title of the tenth Wheel of Time book is to be Crossroads of Twilight, and should be out in November. I wonder if the library will let me put in a request record yet?)
The best we could come up with for a writing assignment for next time was "Harry Potter slash". Now I don't know how serious that is, but I'm not necessarily planning on doing it... I just think it's an interesting idea. I'm sure there's already some out there, though.
Tonight we played Mah Jongg with Darren and Bohdana. Their daughter Sophia is about four months old now, so not very coordinated, but able to hold her head up and more or less look at people. After a year or more of Simon being fairly mobile it's easy to forget that it takes them a while to get that way. We will need to get back into practice. I'm sure it won't be that difficult. We still have to work out the new details of how it'll work with two parents and two children.
We still haven't settled the name issue. "Luke" is still leading for boys, but some initial progress on "Victoria" for a girl was derailed by the fact that we couldn't decide on the short form--Nicole preferred "Torey", and I "Tori". Neither of us thinks much of "Vicki" and its ilk. I still like "Tegan"...but it might be over the border into unusual names. "Simon" is not common, but everybody has heard of it and it's not that outre; ideally we'd like to achieve this with the second child's name as well. With our luck it won't be a girl either, and we'll have wasted all that effort.
Still reading Generations instead of Burying The Shadow. I'm into the Civil War Cycle, so about halfway through the listing of American generations, but not halfway into the book.
Rereading the earlier sections have clarified some things for me about Howe & Strauss's theory. They say that each generation has a "peer personality" of a given type, and with given characteristics...but it is obviously not inevitable that every member of the generation have all those characteristics. In fact, there are probably quite a few who don't fit the profile at all--but they are aware that they don't fit in. If you're a Boomer and you never had a "sixties" experience, then you're conscious of having missed out on one. If you're a Silent and you never had a midlife crisis, ditto.
I thought it was interesting...everyone seems to think, as a result, however indirect, of Gail Sheehy's book Passages, that you're "supposed" to have a midlife crisis. But really it's only part of the lifecycle of an Adaptive generation, like the Silent, so Boomers and Gen-Xers and the like can't count on one. It may be used to describe a similar phenomenon, but it's not the same thing at all. The Adaptive midlife crisis comes of growing up overprotected under the conformist wing of an older Civic generation(like the G.I.'s), overprotected, married with children early, and then throwing it all away(or getting the urge to)about the same time the younger Idealist generation(like the Boomers)are throwing off the shackles of Civic conformism. And the result of it is broken marriages and underprotected Reactive(like Gen-Xers)children.
Anyway, I don't feel like a stereotypical Gen-Xer--I'm not an intellectual underachiever, I'm not a risk-taker, I'm not a get-rich-quick enthusiast. But I do share the culture, I do have a fairly cynical nature, I don't believe in politics, I think grand ideological causes are overrated, etc. I've already mentioned that I don't think that simple solutions are necessarily right.
The generational cycle has a built-in spot for a "secular crisis", which according to the Howe & Strauss theories(as expounded in Generations and The Fourth Turning)should come sometime around 2020, give or take a decade. It doesn't look like September 11th is necessarily that crisis, then. And it really doesn't seem to be. If it were really a secular crisis constellation(that is, a given arrangement of generations in certain phases of life), then you'd have Boomers in elderhood, Gen-Xers in midlife, and Millennials in rising adulthood, which hasn't happened yet. The current constellation is one behind that, and is closer to the state when the U.S. was in World War I. The Boomers are not yet united behind a "holy crusade"(if those aren't terribly unfortunate words to use)the way that happened for World War II, or the American Revolution.
But hopefully it won't turn out like the American Civil War, where they were in a constellation much like ours but the Idealist generation in midlife at the time brought things to a head and the crisis traumatized pretty much everybody. I don't think that the "War On Terror" has things in quite that state yet. If there are other terrorist attacks, then it might come closer... So what is actually going to happen for the next secular crisis I can't guess, whether it'll be a continuation of the current world events or something totally different. But when it comes, then the United States will be more unified and more committed than it is now. Which could be pretty scary. Hang on to your hats, and befriend your neighbours. (In The Fourth Turning, they note that in a crisis era, it's a good idea not to seem like an outsider in your community. We may be out of luck there.)
Counting down just a little bit more...ooh, yeah, just a little bit more...
524. The Pogues: Fiesta
In some ways this is an odd moment on the "If I Should Fall From Grace With God" album--the Pogues, who seemed a quintessential Irish bar band, doing a Spanish bar song. But somehow it works, probably because of the incredible horn section that accompanies them, and the irresistible singalong chorus.
523. Neil Diamond: Play Me
I confess to being a Neil Diamond fan from way back--I liked songs like "Crunchy Granola Suite" and "Porcupine Pie" as a kid, though it was years before I found out who sang them. This is one of his sweeter ballads, from his album "Moods", and while the string accompaniment might not have aged well, it's got a nice Spanish guitar bridge, and Neil's voice has rarely been better suited to his material. You just have to excuse his use of the word "brang".
If you can't beat your computer at chess, try kickboxing.
Courtesy of cyborgirl, something called Lost In Translation, that takes the input phrase and translates it back and forth between languages until it becomes incomprehensible. My favourite so far is "Whole number still that connects much the tin", which started out as "All may yet be very well". It's prepositions and homonyms that fool it, I guess.
And courtesy of Zannah's /usr/bin/girl, we have Omniglot, a page for all the world's different writing systems, alphabets and syllabaries and logographic and anything else. It's got fictional scripts designed for video games, movies, and by Tolkien; it's got Georgian, the world's greatest alphabet, and scads more. Scad after scad after scad. I always wanted to do a book of this stuff, but now I guess that would be redundant! Visit it often.
Another round of the Blogger Insider, this one from Crystal at www.crystallyn.com. Her answers to my questions should appear on her site sometime in the next week or so...
1. What were the last three luxury purchases you made(i.e. CD's, books, chocolates, etc)?
Books? Luxury? I challenge the categorization. I have a quote somewhere in my copious tagline file which says, "Literature is a luxury. Fiction is a necessity." I haven't bought any literature in a while, only fiction. Same deal for music, I would think.
On the other hand, since I have such huge collections of both books and music, it could be considered a luxury to buy more. So, in that spirit, the last CD I bought was Alanis Morissette's new one, "Under Rug Swept", listening to which I think might have helped "Delta City" move to its conclusion. I will probably always associate its penultimate sections with that CD, anyway.
The last new books I bought would be Angry Lead Skies by Glen Cook and The Spheres of Heaven by Charles Sheffield. We bought chocolate bars a couple of days ago after supper, but not "chocolates" chocolates. I generally can't stand them anyway.
We will soon be booking hotels just outside of Windsor, Ontario for my brother's wedding this August; that and the airline tickets might be considered "luxuries" as well. After all, we could have taken the bus and camped out.
2. What was the closest brush with death that you have ever had?
Man, I really don't remember one. I was in one traffic accident where I rear-ended a guy and got rear-ended by the guy behind me, but it didn't feel like a brush with death. Mind you, I did cross the traffic island after I got hit, and if there had been any oncoming traffic...or if I hadn't started braking quite as early, or.... I did also once get bumped by a bus as it was turning a corner, as I was standing on the edge of the curb, but just by the middle section of it, so it wasn't that alarming. I guess the car accident'll have to do.
3. What daily habit would you consider to be your most enjoyable?
A daily habit? That's a good question. Weekdays, I watch "Friends" reruns, and I listen to tapes of my favourite music in the car and sing along with them, but I do neither on the weekend. It's just not as much fun listening to my music when I'm at home, because then I'm too easily distracted and miss songs. In the car it's not a problem. (That reminds me...I was going to listen to "Beautiful Garbage" again before I took it back to the library, and see if it struck me better on a second hearing. I'll put that in now.)
4. Which of the four word stories is your favorite and/or has received the most attention--good or bad?
The "Abrasive Skunk" story seems to be the one most hit by search engines, because of the strategically positioned word "slut". My favourite would have to be "The New Paranoia Album", I think, or "Slit". (I think I answered that part of the question recently on the April Hour-A-Day Dare web site, somewhere in the comments, not that it would be easy to find or anything...) Attention? Well, I brought several of them to the Cult of Pain for critiquing, but I can't remember which of them received the most positive or negative critiques. I don't tend to hear much from people who read them on my web site, if any, so I'd have to cast my mind back to when I originally posted them on talk.bizarre. I think "The Ambush" was the most positively-received there, as one of the few that actually had a punchline.
5. Which blood relative has been the most influential in your life and why?
A tough one. I'm not that close to a lot of my family, so it's pretty much down to my brother or my parents, or conceivably a grandparent. My mother was very strongly behind my being treated as a "gifted child" in school, and that certianly influenced my life a fair bit, not always in a good way, but it is certainly much different than if, say, I'd been two grades further back in school.
My brother almost served as a counterexample to me for years--not that I think that he did stupid things or anything, but everytime I saw how he lived I knew for sure that I didn't want to do that. If you're reading this, Steve, don't take that the wrong way. We're just different people. He did introduce me to a lot of music that I love now, and not a few books as well. (Though since I read much more quickly than he does, I like to think that that goes more the other way.)
Oh, there is Simon, of course; he's certainly been influential in my past couple of years, mostly by reducing my free time...*
6. What is the best and the worst thing about being married to another writer?
Worst? Do I have to answer that? My wife reads this, you know.* No, perhaps it's just a bit intimidating because she is so dedicated to it, and she just accomplishes so much that sometimes I wonder if it's worth it. But having finished my own novel now(and now a novella, too), that's not as big of an issue. When we first starting dating, I was a little bit cowed by it, though. Oh, and sometimes I confess to being a bit reluctant when she wants me to read a section of her work that she's revised and tell her if I like it better than it was before. (How do I know?) And since she writes full time, we don't have a reliable second income coming in.
Best? Well, we understand the time requirements of writing. I like to do things by myself on my computer, and she can give me the time for that while she's writing. And if I'm actually writing myself, I get a bit more slack...though if that gets more common, I'm sure she'll get less impressed by it.* And she is an accomplished critiquer, if I do need someone to take a look at something quickly.
7. What was the most embarassing (at least in looking back now) fashion trend you followed or piece of clothing you owned back in the 80s?
I don't know if it was in the 80's or not, but I did love my velour shirts. That was junior high school...yeah, that would have been the 80's. Actually, if they come back into fashion for guys I might start wearing them again. Not those particular shirts--no way they'd still fit me, if they hadn't disintegrated by now--but other ones. I was never much of a fashion trend-follower.
8. Have you ever been contacted by any of the people that you listed that you would like to hear from? Or have you ever been "found" through the Net by other blasts from the past?
Yes, I have been contacted by some of them, but I leave them up there because we never establish regular contact; in most cases I was more eager to hear from them than they were from me. If they even remember me at all.* And a few other high school classmates have found me, since I occasionally succumb to the temptation to sign up at one of those Classmates web sites.
9. What is the one dream that sticks out as being the most vivid for you throughout your life?
Most of the vivid ones I had, I turned into stories, like "The Cherry Grove"(which is probably not online, since I got it for-real-published in OnSpec), "Mysterious Ways", or that "Mercury Poisoning" one I wrote and swear I posted but can't find anymore.
10. When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Probably a scientist; Isaac Asimov was my hero for many years. It depends on how "little" you get, of course. Probably an astronaut at some point, too, though my eyesight probably ruled that out for me.
At work today I was doing mostly design work on the next version of our product, which I am really bad at and find mind-numbing as all hell. And Edna insisted I start learning UML--that's "Universal Modelling Language". You know what? It's not a language! It's just a way of making a bunch of diagrams! Glorified flowcharts! They call it a "diagramming language", but that's crap. This is just pseudocode for right-brained non-verbal people. I'm not really one of those. I promise.
I am really not looking forward to the next version, have to start over again at the bottom of the learning curve with Java, try to figure out multi-tier architecture, and all that crap. Not to mention Oracle. Can't we just stick with our Visual Basic and Microsoft Access and become obsolescent?
Oh, well, as long as they don't need any real work done...
I think the thing with "Beautiful Garbage" is that they have changed their sound a fair bit. They're more melodic, and songs like "Cherry Lips(Go Baby Go!)" and "Can't Cry These Tears" are almost, I don't know, Lesley Gore or Phil Spector or something. The first track, "Shut Your Mouth", is the only one I've heard so far that sounds like the first album at all.
It's within a band's rights to change, though, but I'm also within my rights to stop liking them if they do. Actually, it's not that bad an album, it just doesn't sound like a Garbage album. Man, "Drive You Home" is like a ballad with rhythm guitar. It's like they're moving the opposite trajectory from Everything But The Girl.
Downing the count once again:
526. Billy Joel: The Night Is Still Young
From his "Greatest Hits Vol. 2" album, though I mostly recall it from the video. At the time I liked his other "new greatest hit", "You're Only Human(Second Wind)", better, but this one has aged better, with wistful lyrics more appropriate to my current age, I guess. One thing I like, on a technical leve, is how the verses are sung in two parallel vocal lines an octave apart.
525. Kate Bush: Get Out of My House
This used to be one of my favourite tracks on "The Dreaming", but it's slid down a bit in recent years. She played just a few too many tricks with the vocals on this one, with important words in the lyrics put into weird voices and distorted a bit too far, so they're hard to follow. And that whole bit at the end with the mule--what the heck is that about? But it's still interesting, and occasionally quite powerful.
'This bouquet's missing a flower,' Tom said lackadaisically.
1. What caused your last case of psuedo-road rage?
There's so many, it's hard to pick just one...I mean, I can get annoyed just at someone in a pickup going 80 km/h in a 60 km/h zone. I feel a fiendish joy every time somebody pulls out from behind me to pass because I'm going the speed limit and eventually has to pull back in behind me, or(even better), behind someone further back. But I digress.
Let's go with the guy in the traffic circle. Some of you may not be familiar with traffic circles, because I know they're not everywhere, but I don't know where they are where they aren't. In Britain I believe they're called "roundabouts", but I think traffic circles tend to be larger, several times the size of a normal intersection. There's two lanes that go around, an inner and an outer lane, and a number of streets going in and out. If you're just going a short way through the traffic circle, you're supposed to take the outer lane, and exit either on the first or second street after you enter. Otherwise you take the inner lane. If you're in the outer lane, you're supposed to yield to anyone in the inner lane, because otherwise they could get trapped indefinitely. You are supposed to signal "in"(leftward, since we go around them counterclockwise)until you get to the street you want to turn on, and then signal "out"(rightward) to let everyone know that you're turning.
Unfortunately, there seems to be little agreement as to when precisely you're supposed to signal out. Do you signal just after you could possibly have exited for the previous street? A little earlier(which is ambiguous)? Or a little later? I confess that I sometimes pick "a little later", but not "a lot later". When you're going in the outside lane, the best strategy is to wait until there is nobody approaching in the inner lane that might be turning out just in front of you. Of course, some drivers don't possess the kind of patience that will let them do that in rush-hour traffic.
There are two traffic circles that I pass through every day, one on the way to work and one on the different route I take home. So one day I'm coming home, and I enter the traffic circle(after waiting my turn). I take the inner lane, because I want to turn left a few blocks after my exit, and pass the first street, signaling in. I see a guy there waiting to enter the outer lane. Just as I start to signal out, he enters the traffic circle. And(can you see this coming? Have I foreshadowed it strongly enough?)he seems to think that I am not exiting at that street, because as I start to turn out he keeps going in the lane beside me. Only the fact that I was already watching him kept us from a collision. I slammed on my brakes and was too off-guard to think of honking my horn, as would doubtless have been appropriate.
What annoyed me was that he assumed that I had the same criteria for signaling out that he did. I never assume that--I would have preferred to wait, in his case, for the guy to pass rather than assuming he was continuing further on. And, if I had entered the traffic circle, I would not have assumed he was not going to turn out in front of me; I would have yielded to him. Did he not see my signal light? Did he think I didn't have time to turn out? Did he think I would be so crass as to signal between two exits without the intention to exit at the second one of them? Was he even paying attention to me, or did he think I had become irrelevant to him?
Well, if we had crashed, it would have been a total bummer, of course, but it would have been his driver's side hitting my passenger's side, so I would have likely been okay, while he would have taken the consequences of his own actions. And it would clearly have been his fault for failing to yield. That would have been my only consolation.
It seems to me(and, of course, I could be wrong, since it hasn't happened)that if I was in an accident, the other driver was hurt, and the accident was his fault, then I would not feel at all guilty. There are a lot of drivers out there who take shortcuts, make bad assumptions, and only escape having accidents more frequently than they do because the usual traffic conditions make them feel safe. I could have an accident every morning if I slammed on my brakes at the right moment, and I'm sure most of my readers(who drive)could say the same thing. If not, let me know where you live and I'll put it on my list of places to live.
Whoa, that turned into a rant. I haven't had a driving rant in a while, I guess. Well, back to the Mission:
2. Tell me about one of your favorite television shows that was cancelled (past or present).
It would have to be "Twin Peaks". No contest there.
I heard about this show when it first came out, but didn't see it. I heard Julee Cruise's "Rockin' Back Inside Your Heart", and I had friends tell me about it(probably Jeremy, at the time), but I didn't actually see it until I was flipping channels one time. It was near the end of summer reruns, and they were playing the whole first season(which was only six episodes plus the pilot, I think), two hours a night; I think I started watching somewhere in the middle of the third episode, and it didn't take long until I was hooked. I got Nicole into it as well, and we watched the second season together. Then it went on "hiatus"... We went to see the "Fire Walk With Me" movie, which was pretty good(though from the shooting script I see that it could have been used as more of a linker into a potential third season). And it never came back.
I don't remember if I got to see the pilot and other early episodes again before it went into reruns on Bravo!'s "TV Too Good For TV" series. I watched it then two or three times through, and got most of it on tape(though I'm still missing a few episodes in the middle of season two, including Josie's death, and often don't watch it past that point).
What did I like about it? Well, I think I have a bit of a soap-opera buff in me, though I think an actual soap opera(except possibly "Charmed", which sounds more interesting)would bore me to tears. I like the interactions of a cast of characters in endless combinations, plot points that disappear for weeks and then return, and all that. It's why I used to read comic books, probably, and why I like the Robert Jordan series. I also liked the Agent Cooper character, and the gratuitous weirdness that happened from time to time. And the supernatural elements were very well done. I remember when the X-Files first came out, someone told me that if I liked Twin Peaks, I'd like that. But it wasn't anywhere near the same.
3. Have you ever gone online and pretended to be someone else? What's the story there?
Hmmm. Well, I did create a pseudonymous blog so I could rant about my job.... But generally I don't pretend to be other people online. I must think I'm interesting enough as it is. The only time I'd want to be someone else would be if I was doing something that I didn't want connected with me, and I don't have time for that kind of crap.
4. What was (is) one of your favorite Children's books?
Watership Down I've read many, many times--though not in years. I can't wait until I can start reading it to Simon. I may skip all the descriptions of foliage that start the first chapter. "The primroses are over" is not an opening sentence to kindle the imagination. But the epic tale of the rabbits' journey, of Hazel's cleverness and Bigwig's courage and all that, is stirring and inspiring.
5. Can you recommend a CD (tape or otherwise) for me to listen to on the drive home?
I can recommend dozens, if not hundreds. Let me limit myself to Shriekback's "Oil & Gold", They Might Be Giants' "Flood", and Tears For Fears' "Songs From The Big Chair"--one of the few albums that I think has to be listened to loud.
6. What is your online nickname and what is the story behind how you selected it?
I could take a shortcut here and just point you to the web page I already wrote about that, but I can paraphrase it here too. Basically, I read Janet Kagan's book Hellspark, loved it, and lent it to my brother Steve and his then-girlfriend Christa. Steve had been running a Dungeons & Dragons campaign, and Christa decided to start one up too. I had been too busy to join Steve's on a regular basis(playing a lot of NPC's instead), but I decided to join Christa's. I rolled up a character, a half-elf(as was my wont), and then tried to think of a name. Christa suggested "Alfvaen", from one of the characters in Hellspark. I thought it sounded good, so I used it.
I had tons of fun in Christa's campaign, where she played fast-and-loose with the rules and didn't let them get in the way of experiencing a good story, and the character of Alfvaen really developed, perhaps the closest to my own that I'd ever played. I do a lot of laconic fighters, usually, but Alfvaen was...well, quite Chandleresque, really, and I mean "Friends" rather than Raymond here. Long before the TV show ever came out, though. Maybe that's why I like Chandler so much, I just realized.
When I first signed on to a BBS in the fall of 1991, I picked the name "Waldo" on impulse(there was a Where's Waldo? book sitting near my computer), but later I changed it to "Alfvaen". Well, actually I meant to change it to "Sharkey", after listening to Laurie Anderson's "Sharkey's Day", but the sysop informed me that a rather unpopular character went by that name on several BBSes, so I went with "Alfvaen" instead. I also used it on alt.callahans, my first major foray into Usenet.
And, I don't know if I mentioned, "Delta City" is the story of what happened to Alfvaen before Christa's campaign. Several of the characters were created by her. I wish I knew what she was doing these days... I've considered changing the main character's name(in one draft I had "Fravaenolete", or "Vaen" for short), since it's my online alias, but you know, I don't think I will. If W.P. Kinsella can have the main character of Shoeless Joe named Ray Kinsella, then I can use "Alfvaen" in a story.
7. Ever been bitten or stung before (snake, wasp, dog, etc)?
Once when I was a kid I swatted at a fly that was buzzing near my head. It turned out to be a stingèd insect--I don't remember now whether it was a bee or wasp or what, but it had stripes and it had a sting. It hurt for a while, but eventually it got better. Yes, it's too long ago for me to remember details.
BONUS: Does anybody love anybody anyway?
Well, to answer this question "no", you might have to be one of those people who fakes their way through all human interactions and thinks that everyone else is faking too. Whether that's sociopathy or psychopathy or autism or what, I don't know. Or you could be someone who makes the definition of "love" something so unrealistic that nobody could possibly live up to it. (I won't bother to define it, because that's how you get caught in that trap.)
I'm neither, so my answer to the above is: Yes. I don't believe in soulmates, since I don't believe in destiny, and therefore I don't believe that everybody will eventually find someone that they love. It's possible there are people(perhaps of the aforementioned categories)who will never love anybody; it's highly likely that there are people who can love more than one person at a time, though maybe not as many as some people would think.
Another musical theme pack:
Songs on one album which have the same title as a different album--Julian Cope's "World Shut Your Mouth"(from "Saint Julian"), Queen's "Sheer Heart Attack"(from "The Game", I think), and The Smithereens' "Especially For You"(from "Green Thoughts"). I'm sure there's more, but these are the obvious ones...and would make a diverse set of music anyway. Led Zeppelin's "Houses of The Holy", from "Physical Graffiti"--Eurythmics' "Revenge" from "In The Garden", one of the few that predates the same-titled album--Big Country's "The Crossing", from their "Wonderland" EP, probably also does.
I've also thought of doing a numerical pack, which feature a number in the title of the song. There are many "One" songs, and probably a fair number of "Two" songs as well, but let me see what I can come up with off the top of my head(okay, and with a little grepping of my music collection--see if you can tell which are which):
Harry Nilsson(or Three Dog Night, or Aimee Mann): One
Iron Maiden: Two Minutes To Midnight
The Commodores: Three Times A Lady
Led Zeppelin: Four Sticks
Mike Oldfield: Five Miles Out
ZZ Top: I Got The Six
REM: Seven Chinese Brothers
The Beatles: Eight Days A Week
The Suburbs: #9
A Chorus Line: Dance:10, Looks:3
Rupert Hine: Eleven Faces
Kim Stockwood: 12 Years Old
Big Audio Dynamite: V-13
Teena Marie: 14K
Depeche Mode: Little 15
Ringo Starr: You're Sixteen
Stevie Nicks: Edge of Seventeen
Skid Row: 18 And Life
Rolling Stones: 19th Nervous Breakdown
The Welfare $tarlets: Twenty Something
Alanis Morissette: 21 Things I Want In A Lover
Laurie Anderson: Example #22
Well, it looks like 23 is the first one I can't match(except for a Rowan Atkinson track from his "Live In Belfast" album, but that's comedy and doesn't count.) Past that, we can do:
Pink Floyd: Chapter 24
The Hooters: 25 Hours A Day
And then we bog down again.
Some larger numbers:
They Might Be Giants: 32 Footsteps
The Beautiful South: 36D
Joe Jackson: Forty Years
National Velvet: 68 Hours
But I should probably stop here.
Counting down still further:
528. Bruce Willis: Down In Hollywood
Yes, I know what you're saying. "Bruce Willis? He can't act, and he can't sing either! You suck!" Well, in my defense I have to say that this song was written by Ry Cooder, and Brucie has lots of help on it, and what about "The Sixth Sense", anyway? I have the record with the Ry Cooder version on it(I haven't checked to see if it was recorded before or after), and maybe I will like it better, but for now this one will do.
527. Ann Mortifee: Never Ending Search
Hey, these Ann Mortifees are clustered a bit close together, aren't they? I just did one a couple of days ago! Well, so what. This is also from "Born To Live", and seems to be a sort of Zen koan song with a good bassline, and a little bit of choice vocal work from Ms. Mortifee. Oh, yeah.
And I have already written about the surpassing accomplishment that was "Maroon", the most recent Barenaked Ladies album; I don't even know what Moxy Früvous are doing these days. Their album "Wood" has improved with later listens, but it still is a drop from "Bargainville", and their later decline is still pretty clear.
What made the difference between the fates of these two bands? Well, perhaps Moxy Früvous started to take themselves a bit too seriously. Perhaps the Barenaked Ladies toured more--I've heard them called the hardest-working band in Canada. I've seen both bands live, and both were good, but Barenaked Ladies were better. I'm not much of a judge of songwriting, but there's probably a big difference there as well. So Moxy Früvous will remain the band that didn't quite make it.
A couple of weeks ago I looked for the new Alanis Morissette album, "Under Rug Swept", at the library, but they didn't even have it in their catalogue. So I put in a purchase request for it, hoping that I would thus end up pretty early on the request list. And it came in for me on Saturday! That was a very fast turnaround time.
I liked it a fair bit on first listen on Saturday night, though "Hands Clean", which I'd already heard, was the only one that really struck me. While I was out on Sunday, I ended up buying my own copy, on impulse, and gave it another listen that night as well. I think it sounded even better the second time.
"Hands Clean" is somewhere in between "Unsent" and "You Oughta Know", and everyone is probably trying to guess who it's really about, if it is in fact autobiographical. And there's no reason to presume it's not, really. "Flinch" didn't work for me the first time through, as an acoustic number, but I warmed to it the second time. "Narcissus" I liked both times, and may be a good candidate for a single, if I'm a judge of these things and I'm usually not. (Well, not these days. I used to be much better.)
Sometimes I think that Alanis will end up being Canada's(or North America's)Sinéad O'Connor, but she seems to be a little bit more together than that. She does seem to draw on some of the same wells, though, but she's not quite as confrontational.
Have I mentioned how odd it is that a lot of Canadian female singers have the initials "A.M."? Anne Murray is the prototype, of course, but Alannah Myles, Alanis Morissette, Amanda Marshall...Ann Mortifee, too, though she never reached the same level of success, and I'm pretty sure she was born in South Africa. Of course, there are lots of counterexamples--Jann Arden, Lisa Lougheed, Celine Dion, Luba, Meryn Cadell, Joni Mitchell, Jane Siberry, Holly Cole, Loreena McKennitt, Sarah McLachlan, Shari Ulrich, Candi, Chantal Kreviazuk, Jennifer Warnes, Lorraine Segato, Sass Jordan, k.d. lang, Lee Aaron, Mae Moore, Nelly Furtado, Sue Medley, Lisa Dalbello...I could go on, but that's probably already too many.* Statistically it's probably a reasonable enough coincidence--remember that the odds of a randomly-chosen person having the initials "A.M." are not 1 in 26 squared.
Well, if one in a hundred people have the initials "A.M.", then what are the odds that five people out of the 27 listed above have them? I just read a bunch of books where they did this...but I think I'll have to check my Statistics textbook to remember just how. Ah, here it is. It's ((0.01)^5 * (0.99) ^ 22) * 27!/(5!)(22!). I knew it had those factorials in it somewhere. That works out to a probability of 6*10^-6, or about one in 150,000. Still, it happened.
Of course, where did I get that list of singers from? I went through my own personal musical collection and added all the female Canadian vocalists I could find. There are others I could have put in, like the country singers--Shania Twain, Michelle Wright, Carolyn Dawn Johnson--that almost doubles the probability, to 1.1*10^-5. There are many people I could have put in the list, but didn't--but I had to include all the A.M.'s because there was a pattern there. (Actually, I almost forgot Amanda Marshall, but I knew there was another one, just couldn't think of the name.) See, this is another instance of filtering. It's easy to construct a data set with the remarkable data, but the trick is to include all the unremarkable data, too.
And besides, even coincidences happen. If you have a whole bunch of one-in-a-million events, then odds are one out of every million of those will happen...and there are probably thousands of them every day. And even if twice as many happen on one day as probability would suggest, that doesn't mean that the probability is wrong.
One thing I remember in statistics class that sounds just wrong is what they call the Beta function. It's what you get if you subtract one random distribution from another one, more or less. It's more complicated than that, but this is just my vague characterization of it. To make it concrete, you've got two guys flipping coins, Ralph and Ed. They will both get approximately the same number of heads as tails...but if they each flip their coins at the same time and you keep track of who's ahead, it will almost always be one or the other. It makes a certain amount of sense--if Ralph gets ahead by five heads at one point because of a streak, then the odds of Ed getting more heads doesn't increase. So he will be likely to stay behind Ralph. And that's the Beta function. If "a" and "b" are random variables with the same mean and the same distribution, then "a-b" will include a Beta function...and will almost never be zero.
530. Blondie: Faces
"Autoamerican" is far and away my favourite Blondie album, and is certainly the one I'm most familiar with. This bluesy song is carried by Debbie Harry's sweeping vocals, telling the story of a homeless man in a very sentimental manner. I can see why fans of early Blondie wouldn't like this song, but I never said I was one of them...
529. Ann Mortifee: The Companion/Phoenix
You know, here's another meaningless coincidence--I had no idea that this song would come up on tonight's countdown when I wrote the above "A.M." entry. Odds there are about 1 in 50, because I've got eight Mortifee songs in the 750-song countdown. Anyway, this pair of songs, from "Born To Live", always seemed to inextricably linked in my head, so I take them together here. "The Companion" always reminded me of an old Star Trek episode...one where they found a man living with this alien energy symbiote. This song has a similar idea, but the Companion is a bit more sinister. And "Phoenix" seems to somehow be the story of that Companion itself, and its insatiable hunger for experience. I could be wrong, but then again maybe I'm not...
Miscellaneous is always the largest category. --Walter Slovotsky