This blog is still alive, just in semi-hibernation.
When I want to write something longer than a tweet about something other than math or sci-fi, here is where I'll write it.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Dumbass Design™: Cordyceps Fungi

In the latest installment of Dumbass Design™, we take a look at yet another living thing featured on the great new nature show Planet Earth. The ant here with the white eyes and the weird central antenna growing out of the top of its head is a formerly living thing. It has been eaten from the inside out by a cordyceps fungus. The fungus eats every part of the bug except for the exoskeleton, turning its victim into a cross between a statue and a dandelion. This corpse can explode with a very small jostle, and once it explodes it can infect other ants who touch it.

There are several types of cordyceps fungi, and each only develops a taste for a single species of insect. The first level of Dumbass Design™ is that the fungi can be so successful that they will wipe out their entire food supply, killing every insect of their particular species flavor in a territory. Eating all the food in an area so that your species will starve to death after your generation is gone is not the best plan for a living organism. Kinda goes against that whole Lion King™ Circle of Life idea.

The second level of Dumbass Design™ are the fungi that attack ants. Ants who have been infected show symptoms, shaking and unable to walk. Other ants of their species are smart enough to detect this, and will carry the infected ant away from the rest of the colony to die alone, where the time bomb corpse won't spread the fungus past the lone doomed victim.

What Dumbass thought up cordyceps fungi? Or did it just randomly evolve into this high risk, low reward strategy for continuing its species?

Friday, June 29, 2007

10 Perfect Pop Songs

I could take today's post as a chance to comment on the news of the day, but the news of the day is so relentlessly bad on so many fronts, I decided to spend the time talking about things I really like. Instead of a Random 10 from my iPod, here's a list of 10 Perfect Pop Songs, examples of the songwriting (and recording) craft that produced absolute gems.

Three Little Maids from School by Gilbert and Sullivan, from The Mikado. If you saw Topsy Turvy, you know some of the stories from the original production of this play, which was then and still is one of G&S beloved works. I heard an apocryphal story that when this song was first performed, the crowd went ape and stopped the show with applause, forcing the performers to do the song a total of three times. I've looked for confirmation of this story on the 'net, but haven't found it yet. Still, it's fun to think of an audience of Victorian theatregoers being turned into the Teletubbies by this spritely tune.

Where or When by Jerome Kern. Of all the highly regarded writers of Broadway tunes, Kern is the earliest. nearly a generation older than Berlin, Gershwin, Porter and others. Where or When is a great example of craftsmanship given a particular limitation. The song was written for an actor who didn't have a very large vocal range. The whole tune builds very simply to a crescendo, but all the notes are close to each other on the scale, and some passages have the singer singing the same note for almost an entire bar. (The smile you were smiling you were smiling then...) You don't have to know this to love this song, but it makes it more lovable when you do.

Sugar Rose by Fats Waller. I've made no secret of my love for Fats Waller. As songwriter, musician and performer combined, he is at the very top of my list for the 20th Century, even beating out the next songwriter on this list by a smidge.

If you've listened to many of Waller's performances, there's a little figure he throws into his piano solos in many of his tunes. It sounds like Waller the performer is trying to help Waller the composer find a good home for this little two bar tune. The good home it finally found is as the first line of Sugar Rose. (I found a rose among the blossoms, where the cotton grows.)

There are a lot of great songwriters who are also accomplished musicians, of course, but what puts Fats at the top of my list is how easily he writes and performs happy tunes. For me, many happy tunes are also sappy tunes, but Fats is having so much fun himself, throwing away little witty gems, both verbally and musically, there's nothing sickly sweet about him. He had the persona of a clown, but for me there's nothing degrading about it. I don't feel manipulated into being happy listening to Fats Waller. I just feel happy.


I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good) by Duke Ellington. I have two different recordings of this song on iTunes, one recorded by Ella Fitzgerald, accompanied by Ellington and his orchestra, and the other a remarkable reworking of the song by Nina Simone, who was also a pianist as well as a singer. (She often took Ellington's music as a departure point and created something very different.) Like Where or When, the melody is as simple as can be, but in this case it feels like Ellington wrote it with the full intention that the simplicity was just a starting point for a great singer to make the song her or his own. (Guys sing this sometimes, but it's a gal tune for the most part.)

Never treats me sweet and gentle, the way he should.
I've got it bad and that ain't good.




Elenore by The Turtles. Jumping ahead a few decades and switching styles, we have The Turtles' second best known song, Elenore. They recorded Battle of the Bands at a time when concept albums were all the rage, and their concept was that each song was recorded by a different band, though it was always the same five mooks you see on the album cover. This song is a great exercise is building on a simple verse-chorus-verse-chorus pattern, adding ideas in the second installment, with great mix of starting quiet and getting all bombastic. With only two times through the song, the big ending is a bit of a surprise. For me, I want to hear more when it's over. I often go back and listen again.

Also, the song rhymes etcetra with betta'. I'm guessing you lyricists out there among my readers didn't do that this week. Kinda wish you did, don't you?

I Want You Back by the Jackson 5. Look at these guys, will ya? Perfect teeth, perfect Afros and a perfect pop song right out of the gate. Padre Mickey is of the opinion that I Want You Back is a perfect pop tune ruined by too many options in the recording studio; he hates when they add the strings. But even he would agree it is a textbook example of the hook building art. There's the bass line hook. There's the Morse code guitar hook. There's Michael screaming his little heart out Oh, baby, give me one more chance and his brothers answering back to show you that I love you. The song gets broken down to a little guitar figure in the middle and gets built back up. It's genius.

And look at that happy little kid in the middle of the picture! What could go wrong?

Oh, yeah, I forgot for a second. Sorry.

American Squirm by Nick Lowe. Just to show that hook building is not an art only practiced by American blacks, I include American Squirm on this list. While the tip-top of my favorite modern songwriters' list are Tom Waits and Elvis Costello, I have immense respect for Nick Lowe. When I hear a song by Waits or Costello, I think "I could never have written that." When I hear a Nick Lowe tune, I often think, "I could have written that, but Nick beat me to it." This sumbitch beat me to a whole passel of great songs.

Nick's song What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love and Understanding was on the soundtrack album for that Whitney Houston-Kevin Costner movie The Bodyguard. Nick made a boatload of money for songwriting credits, and used it to get out of his big record company contract and find a little label who will let him record the songs he wants to record. Good on ya, Nick!

Raspberry Beret by Prince. While I don't own as many Prince albums as I own Elvis Costello or Tom Waits albums, I am not blind to the fact that Prince is one amazing songwriter. Lots of people have recorded his stuff. Before The Wonders of Science had enough original material to play a whole set, we sang Please Please Me by The Beatles, Burning Airlines Give You So Much More by Brian Eno and When You Were Mine by Prince.

Like many Prince songs, this one is about meeting a cute girl and having sex with her. Like many Prince songs, every instruments' part is brilliantly well thought out. What puts Raspberry Beret over the top for me are these rhymes at the beginning of the song that explain racism perfectly without banging you over the head.

I was working part time in a five-and-dime
My boss was Mr. McGee
He told me several times that he didn't like my kind
'Cause I was a bit 2 leisurely

And then Prince sees the girl and they go off somewhere and have sex. He hasn't forgotten what's important.

Strangers When We Meet by David Bowie. I put in this picture of the more mature Bowie because Strangers When We Meet is from one of the albums he recorded in the nineties, Outside. He takes a few well known hooks from other places, inlcuding the bass line figure from Gimme Some Lovin' and mixes it with the bass from Time is Tight, slows it down and puts it all into this great song about the regret and eventual relief of a jilted lover thinking back on an affair gone bad. I like the album very much, but it isn't all pop; there's a lot of weird experimental stuff and spoken word mixes. He ends this unusual story telling mix with this song, which stands very well on its own.

Bowie had a string of albums that I didn't find very interesting in the 1980's, but he did a great job of reinventing himself once again. Also, my sister Jenny was once at a dinner party with him and said he was a lovely person with excellent conversational skills. I'm happy to hear this.




Let Down by Radiohead. This is another great piece of work in the recording studio, a perfectly crafted collection of parts. It's a song about waiting in an airport lounge, fantasizing about growing wings and being able to fly without all the mundane crap. There's also a part of the fantasy about a plane crash. The lyrics are unusual for a perfect pop song, I'll grant you, but I promise it still belongs on the list.

Well, I have been a Chatty Cathy today, haven't I?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Free Speech does NOT equal money, pinheads!


The Supreme Court decided these kids don't have the right to hold up this poster.

It used to be that free speech did not allow you to shout "Fire!" in a crowded theater. Now, free speech does not allow you to tell a joke if five pinheads with gavels shoved up their asses don't get that joke.

"Bong Hits 4 Jesus" is a good joke, a great punk rock, piss off old people joke. The handwritten, didn't really think about how to space the letters banner makes it even funnier.

I have been funny at times, but I don't think I've ever put together four words as funny as "Bong Hits 4 Jesus". When The Wonders of Science put out our first record in the 1980's, we decided to stick on bright orange labels that said "CONTAINS NO SATANIC MESSAGES". This was before Tipper Gore shoved the whole Advisory Label stuff down our throats. That was a pretty good joke. The labels were much more popular than the record, to be honest. But "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" is funnier.

Of course, The Supreme Court also decided to extend the worst court decision of the late 20th Century, the idea that money equals free speech and the restriction of campaign contributions (read bribes) is unconstitutional. The great writer A.J. Liebling once said "Freedom of the press is limited to those who own one." Now, freedom of speech has been put on the same class based unequal footing.

We tend to canonize the Founding Fathers in this country, but we shouldn't forget that they were ruling class guys. They just wanted to make sure that other ruling class jerks couldn't screw with them the way King George had tried to screw with them, and in writing the Constitution, their "don't tread on me" view of the world was extended to everyone they considered citizens. The great progress of this nation is the expansion of the definition of citizen. The great flaw was the expansion of the definition of person, where a corporation had the rights of a person, though the responsibilities of personhood are nearly impossible for a corporation to meet. Corporations have never had to meet the standards of citizenship, and in this day and age, they almost revel in not meeting those standards.

We need to get back on an equal footing, folks. We need to organize and raise hell and make it as hard as possible for the government to continue screwing with us. I don't want to be considered a "corrupter of youth" (didn't go well for Socrates), but if it takes Bong Hits 4 Jesus to wake this country up, then let's all get together at 4:20 in the parking lot and light that sucker up.

Praise Jesus, dude!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Another Actress I Love

Here is a nice picture of Sandra Oh. Sometimes she dresses all girly on the red carpet, but other times like this she dresses like somebody who is just hangin' out, bein' cool and, oh yeah, is expected to show up at movie premiere or something.

Sandra Oh is adorable. I'm very glad to see her career is taking off, though I haven't seen all the stuff she has been in. I first saw her on the HBO comedy Arli$$, which was about a scumbag sports agent, though I repeat myself. On the show, she plays Rita, the office manager for the sports agent and the only character that has any morals whatsoever. Besides being likable and pretty, she showed she's a good comic actress. I have seen Sideways, which I didn't like very much, but that wasn't her fault. I haven't seen Under the Tuscan Sun or Grey's Anatomy. The first one was a little too chick flicky for me, and I've never watched any medical drama for very long.


Sandra Oh has also been in several small budget Canadian films, especially early in her career. Last Night is a movie about how people will spend the last few hours on earth before a meteor hits. If it were an American film, someone would be in a space ship, going to intercept the meteor and blow it up. You may infer that this shows some fundamental difference in the mentality of Americans vs. Canadians. I will not stop you from reaching this conclusion.

I liked Last Night. I think it's my favorite film Sandra Oh has been in, and as I stated earlier, I love Sandra Oh, though not in a make a shrine in my bedroom and plan to stalk her sort of way. I'm either too busy or too lazy for that sort of thing.

Matty Boy says check it out.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Hatin' On Commercials: Vol. 1

Welcome to a new semi-regular feature here at Lotsa 'Splainin', one I call Hatin' On Commercials. You might say, "But Matty Boy! It's too easy! Everyone hates commercials." Here I beg to differ. Some commercials are funny. Some tell a good story. Some look nice. This might sound crazy, but some actually inform me about goods and services that I might be interested in buying. (The last one is weird, I'll grant you that. Your mileage may vary.)

But some commercials really suck at a deep down level. I will be deconstructing these types of commercials. (Note: Deconstruction is like 'splainin', only Frenchie style.)

Sadly, for my first two examples, I can't find copies of these ads on the 'net, so I will have to 'splain the ads before 'splainin' why they suck.


The first ad I really hate right now is for the Ford Escape Hybrid. The idea is that people buy sedans because they get good gas mileage, but sedans are boring. Ford will now sell you a hybrid SUV, which is cool because SUVs are exciting.

First off, Ford, sedans are not boring. You make sedans, remember? People don't "settle" for a sedan. They buy sedans because a sedan fits their lifestyle. Some sedans are very nice. You can get a cheap sedan with almost no features if that's all you can afford, but you can also get a very tricked out, pimped up ride in a sedan.

Second off, Ford, SUVs are not exciting. Almost no one really takes them off road. They are cars for soccer moms, the station wagons of the 21st Century. Some people buy SUVs because the SUV fits their lifestyle, but some of these vehicles are just WAY too big for any practical use, and all they really say is "I'm a jerk and I can (sort of) afford this very wasteful land based boat. Screw you, other drivers! And screw the environment too!"

Ford, notice how Toyota has been doing really well over the past few years, and you and the other Detroit Dinosaurs have been sucking? Notice how they make hybrids and you make hybrid SUVs? Think those two facts might be related?

Next up is an ad for Round Table's Steak and Bacon Pizza. The ad takes place in the board room of a competitor. The boss is old, bald, fat and greedy, seated at the head of a huge conference room table. His underlings are showing him Round Table's new pizza. When they finish their presentation, he says "Steak and bacon!", then falls backward out of the frame, then we see his feet. The underlings gather around him, seen from his point of view lying flat on the ground, and one of the creepy minions says "Dibs on his office."

Terrific ad, Round Table. Great joke. Excellent idea to remind people that your product makes people fat and eventually kills them.

This is just one example of fast food ads for meals that really go out of their way to load up on fat and calories. My tagline for any of these is always: "Because America just isn't fat enough."

Monday, June 25, 2007

Cabinet Action Figures: Collect 'Em All!

When was the last time I said something nice about George W. Bush? Let's see, was it... never? That long ago, hmm?

Well, mark down June 25, 2007 on your calendar, then.

Say what you will about the Commander guy, but when he takes a photo, he looks like a living, breathing human being, not something made out of molded plastic to be posed awkwardly on a shelf.

The same cannot be said of the people who were also in this picture taken last month. From left to right we have Energy Deputy Secretary Clay Sell, Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, YouKnowWho, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson and Agricultural Secretary Mike Johanns.

Of course, it's easy to find the Mary Peters and Mike Johanns action figures, since they actually are cabinet members. Getting the deputy secretaries and sub cabinet department chiefs is a more challenging task, and only undertaken by true collectors.

Hey! New flags! Denmark! Now I just need Norway to collect my all Scandinavia bonus!


And Kuwait! From somebody official, no less! Things are really looking up!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Livin' Large: Shorty Style

What impresses the ladies? Li'l E knows it's the clothes and the ride. It's hard to have a ride when you are one year old, even as the leader of the East Side Toddlerz, so Li'l E concentrates on the clothes.

Does it work? What do you think? He's sippin' on the juice (no gin) and he's GOT the girlies. The girlies LOVES them some Li'l E.

Yeah, BayBEE!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Do you want to see second prize? Second prize is steak knives.

What's third prize? Third prize is you're fired!

Many years ago, I saw the original Broadway cast version of Glengarry Glen Ross when the tour stopped in San Francisco. These were Mamet's people: Joe Mantegna, Robert Prosky, J.T. Walsh, Mike Nussbaum (who sounded so much like my salesman Uncle Bill it was eerie when I closed my eyes). It was a great time in the theater for me.

Several years later, the movie version was made. Written by Mamet, but not directed by him. Unfairly or not, I compared the people I saw on stage to the people on the screen, and I thought the stage version superior. The only major change was the addition of a scene, a motivational speech by a character played by Alec Baldwin.

Over the years, I have had a chance to see the film version again, especially on IFC with no editing and no commercial interruptions. The movie is very good. The scene with Baldwin is freaking genius. One of the things that makes it genius is that you get to see Alec Baldwin make Ed Harris his bitch. Think about Harris' career. He is almost always the manly man, the guy in charge, sometimes in a violent way, but more often by force of will. He played John Glenn, for pity's sake! Baldwin bitch slaps him hard, and he takes it.

Who's the rest of the cast? Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alan Arkin, Kevin Spacey and Jonathan Pryce.

Matty Boy says check it out.

And, oh yeah. Coffee is for closers.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Best supporting marmot

You may have already seen this, the best five seconds of video ever put on the Internets, but if not, you can watch now and thank me later.



Okay, now you can thank me.

My sister Karla and I have been trying to come up with the perfect caption for this brilliant dramatic moment. You are encouraged to leave your ideas in the comments.

Several 'Splainin's at once


There are four orders of reptiles. Crocodiles get an order, bunched in with your alligators, your camians, the occasional gavial and what have you.


Then we gots the turtles, best known for recording Happy Together.


Then the egghead scientists lump together lizards, snakes and glass lizards, also known as worm lizards, all together in one order. (Note: the worm lizards are as creepy as they look here. Some are eyeless and look like worms, but they are warm blooded and have vertebra and aren't snakes, for some egghead scientist reason.)


And all by his nearly extinct lonesome, we have the tuatara, a very lizard looking critter now found only on a few islands off the coast of New Zealand, 'cause the Maori on the main islands of New Zealand thought that Tuatara McNuggets were just too tasty. Scientists say the tuatara deserves an order of its own because it has different teeth and its hipbone is shaped differently and it might be better classified as a true descendent of the dinosaurs, but the real reason is that the other lizards just don't like tuataras very much.

Added to these fun facts to know and tell is news from yesterday. Vice President Cheney doesn't have to answer to Congress, or so he says, because he's not actually part of the executive branch of government. You know, the one that is headed up by the President.

Some pundits are saying Cheney is declaring himself a fourth branch of government. I think we should look into the possibility that he is declaring himself the fifth order of reptile.

And with that, it's time for the Random 10.

Walk Right Back Everly Brothers
Way Down In The Hole Clarence Fountain & The Blind Boys Of Alabama
Goldfinger Shirley Bassey
Birdhouse In Your Soul They Might Be Giants
You Always Hurt The One You Love The Mills Brothers
Unmarked Helicopters Soul Coughing
True Love Never Runs Smooth Gene Pitney
Strange Ones Supergrass
Take It With Me Anne Sophie Von Otter
Sulky Girl Elvis Costello

Tom Waits, a great favorite here at Lotsa 'Splainin', makes two phantom appearances here this week, as the songwriter of both Way Down In The Hole and Take It With Me.

Elvis Costello not only gets on as a performer, but he is also the producer of the pop album that operatic singer Anne Sophie Von Otter recorded.

Gene Pitney and The Everly Brothers are a gentle reminder that however cool I think I am, I did grow up in the '60s and I was a nerdy white boy from the suburbs.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Separated at Birth, Vol. 2


This is Amy Winehouse, a singer from the U.K. who has a new album out. I've seen the videos for a few of her songs, including You Know I'm No Good, a dirge-like tune in which she calmly explains that she is going to sleep with an old boyfriend or two, though it won't make her feel any better. The latest song climbing the charts is a perkier offering entitled Rehab, which has this lyric at the beginning of the chorus:

They tried to make me go to rehab, I said no, no, no.



This is Devil Girl, a creation of the famous cartoonist R. Crumb. She was first introduced back in the 1970's, where she was the girlfriend of Mr. Natural for a short time, but also hooked up with other characters in Crumb's universe. It never ended well. Her likeness was used in the past few years on the label for Devil Girl Choco-Bar, which sets a high standard for truth in advertising.

The late comedian Richard Jeni has one of my favorite observations on dating. "At least Charles Manson has the decency to look crazy from the moment you meet him."

Not to contradict Mr. Jeni, but sometimes both men and women will walk into a situation when the danger signs are clearly marked and flashing red.

Still, that girl Amy seems nice. I wonder if she's seeing anybody?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Double Dose of The Decider!



We think of Washington as a place of paralysis, but bills still do get through Congress and the President then signs some of them into law. (I know; I saw it on Schoolhouse Rock.) This one pictured, signed on Monday, is called the Native American Ownership Opportunity Act of 2007.

I don't want to tip my hand, but I've been thinking about owning a Native American. Nothing flashy, not a full-blooded Cherokee or anything, maybe a Chippewa or a private label Pottawatamee.

I bet there's gonna be a ton of federal paperwork.

And I'm also dipping into the George W. Bushisms one a day calendar for this gem from July 22, 2001.

"I know what I believe. I will continue to articulate what I believe, and what I believe - I believe what I believe is right."

No need to parse this. We all recognize this as a standard statement in the international language of UnreadBookReportese.

What makes it comedy gold: the word articulate.

Thanks, Mr. President. I couldn't have made this post without you.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

As Daffy Duck might say, "pronoun trouble."

Hello to the Czechs! Yesterday's movie review captured your interest.


Howdy to the kiwis! Nice to have you on board.


For today's sermon, I take as my text this quote from Our President I found on my George W. Bushisms daily calendar, which he said on February 5, 2001.

"I confirmed to the prime minister that we appreciate our friendship."

Let's parse this sentence, shall we? It is a complete sentence. It's got a subject and a verb. In fact, there are two subjects and two verbs, one pair before the word that and one pair after and they both agree. Still, it's like one of those SAT questions where you are asked to find the error, or a sentence you have to correct for someone who speaks English as a second language.

"I confirmed to the prime minister" translates fairly as "He asked and I told him." It's the "we appreciate our friendship" part that then gets a little shaky. With all the languages I know, which includes a little Spanish, Italian, French and German, there are major problems with first person plural pronouns. When I say "we"or "our", is the listener included in the group? If I use these pronouns twice in a sentence, am I referring to the exact same group of people each time?
If "our" means "the United States' and Canada's", then "we" should mean "the United States and Canada", which means the Decider was telling Chrétien not only how the U.S. feels about them, but also how they feel about us. If we look at this picture where Chrétien grooms Bush like a lower dominance monkey, maybe that is really what he meant. Maybe Bush meant "we" to mean "the people of the United States", which is a possibility, but then the second use of a pronoun causes confusion, since it's hard not to include Canada in the phrase "our friendship".

It's not a political statement to say that George W. Bush has trouble with the English language. His dad could wander around in a sentence for many a happy minute without ever getting a subject and a verb to meet, but with W. the problems are more about awkward usage that conveys double meanings and gaffes that make it look like English is his second language, like "Is our children learning?"

Here's my hypothesis. The drugs cooked his brain a little. I take as another example, and a far worse one, Ozzy Osbourne. Ozzy had a reality TV show earlier this decade, and the difficulty in understanding him became a national joke. On the other hand, there is a movie from 1988 called The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years, and Ozzy is interviewed at length and is much more lucid than he is some fifteen years later.

Please note: I'm not saying that Bush's drug use was on a par with Ozzy's. I think it's a much milder version of the same problem. Also, there are plenty of stories of Bush's early education difficulties prior to his romance with alcohol and other substances. He may have inherited some of his odd brain wiring from his dad, and his less than stellar record in school due to laziness and a sense of entitlement also didn't help, but I think you have to add in the drugs to get the full package that creates a guy who can fill a one-a-day calendar with authenticated quotes that make him look stupid seven ways from Sunday.

Monday, June 18, 2007

I Put On Pants For This!!!

There are a lot of interesting looking independent films being released right now and most of them are foreign. My film going circle of friends got together yesterday to see Once, a movie that centers on the two characters shown here, played by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová. He plays a street musician who also works in his dad's vacuum cleaner repair shop. She's a recent Czech immigrant to Dublin who lives in a small apartment with her mom and her two year old daughter. The movie is about the music they write, both separately and together.

The movie was made on a tiny budget of about $140,000. There's a crane shot at the end and my friends and I joked that must have cost $70 grand all by itself. The movie is a surprise because all the places where you think there will be a plot point, there isn't. It's not about what you think it's about, unless you think it's about the music.

Hansard played guitar in The Commitments all those many years ago and formed a band called The Frames. He met Irglová for real on a trip to Prague and they made an album called The Swell Season. I hadn't heard their music before, but the high note he likes to hit reminds me a little of Radiohead. The music is very simply produced and I liked it. You can go to this website to decide for yourself.

I had a lot of reasons to like this film outside of the fact that it's a nice time at the movies. Ms. Irglová kind of looks and sounds a little like one of the best math students I ever had, a young woman from Romania named Theodora Dordea. My band, The Wonders of Science, spent some time in a recording studio, and the scenes of the recording reminded me of those old days, most especially the scene about whether the recording session should be finished at 4 a.m. and the idea that we should listen to the tape in the car on crappy speakers.

Matty Boy says check it out. Nice little movie. A great antidote to the multimillion dollar roller coaster rides now playing at the local googleplex.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

El Decider becomes El 'Splainer

Howdy! Or hola! Nice to see you this morning. Let's get to pray and then let's eat.

Some Republicans don't like the Hispanics, but I do. Karl 'splained it to me, and I decided he was right. That's what I do. I decide. Sometimes I 'splain, but only when Karl isn't here. He's better at the 'splainin'.


It's natural for Hispanics to become Republicans. For one, you are easily frightened. Let me show you.

La Migra!

Heh, heh... where did everybody go? Heh, heh. Seriously, where are the busboys?

You might think that's bad, but to be a Republican voter right now, actually it's really good.


Also, you love Jesus. That's important for being a Republican. You love Jesus so much, you even name your kids Jesus. Some Americans think that's kinda funny. I think it's kinda nice. You don't name them Mohammad. That's good.

And if you love Jesus, I'll let you in on a little secret. I love Jesus and he loves me, so pretty soon, you'll love me like you love Jesus. It's kinda fun.


You don't like the gays. You call 'em Mary Cohns! I don't know this Mary Cohn woman, but it's clear you don't like her. That's okay. You'd like Mary Cheney, if you met her. Seriously, you have to like her. Her dad's Dick Cheney!

Hey, where did everybody go! Heh heh. No, you don't have to be frightened of Dick Cheney. I know it's a natural reaction.


And then, you have your culture. Your culture is an important part of American culture. Heck, some of you already call yourselves Latin Americans or Central Americans or South Americans. You think you're American already. That's sweet. Also kinda funny.

But you make great hot sauces. You should try this one on your juevos rancherosos. It's really good.




(Top picture from official White House website. All quotes completely made up. Recommendation of El Yucateco hot sauce an official Lotsa 'Splainin' 2 Do endorsement, but don't spend more than $2 a bottle. Go to your local Mexican supermarket for further details.)


Saturday, June 16, 2007

A Warning to the Parents of Babies

Here is a picture of Miss Evelyn Mobley and a white cat. Both of these creatures appear to be in the middle of a mutual fascination stare down. This picture was taken last year, when Miss Evelyn's attention span and interests were not as well developed as they are today.



This is the package for the DVD of a new BBC program for the babies called In the Night Garden, developed by the same creative people who brought us Teletubbies. Right now in the U.S., there is only a clip on You Tube and a video game version of available. If what I saw when last I was together with Miss Evelyn earlier this month is any indication, prepare for a planet of babies to be HYPmotized by these new characters. Miss Evelyn likes watching the computer, but when the video game or the video is on the screen, she L-O-V-E-S watching the computer. For her, it's much more fascinating than any old white cat.

There are more characters on In the Night Garden than there are on Teletubbies, but the love of simple repetition is much the same. The narrator is Derek Jacobi, so grownups too can marvel at one of the best trained voices in the world reading some of the silliest nonsense word poems ever written.

Now I have warned you, parents of babies. The rest is in your hands.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Multitasking Friday

First things first, I'd like to welcome Fran I Am to the blog buddies list. She is a regular commenter here and at Princess Sparkle Pony and has posted links both to this site and to essays of mine on The Smirking Chimp, and likewise accepted a tag after Padre Mickey tagged me. In the publishing business, the process of giving good reviews to people who have given good reviews to your book is called log rolling. I guess this is part of the reason we call this practice blog rolling.

Next up, a big hello to Portugal as part of the appreciation of readers from many lands.


Some folks recommended Napoleon Dynamite, the little teen comedy that did good business for a small budget film and launched lead actor John Heder's career. I saw it and liked it well enough, but as often happens for me when I see a movie that is good but not great, I am reminded of other films that covered similar themes, but that I thought did a better job. The other thing these films have in common with Napoleon Dynamite is that they are all from MTV Films.

The first movie, Election, is fairly well known, though it only did about one third the business of Napoleon Dynamite. It's really good. Reese Witherspoon gives a brilliant performance as an overachieving kid and Matthew Broderick is also terrific as her teacher who just doesn't like her very much. The movie is written and directed by Alexander Payne, who went on to do About Schmidt (which I didn't see) and Sideways. Of all the films mentioned in this post, Election would be my top pick.

A movie that can be compared more fairly to Napoleon Dynamite is Better Luck Tommorow, since both have tiny budgets and unknown casts. The story revolves around a group of Asian American high school students. Some are high achievers and some are goof offs, which is what I remember from high school so many years back. There's also a heist involved, which doesn't seem like a realistic plot point, but it makes for a nice switcheroo. Director Justin Lin has graduated to bigger budget movies like The Fast and the Furious:Tokyo Drift. I haven't seen it, because the ads make it look like it sucks and it's stupid. On the other hand, I can recommend Better Luck Tomorrow. Give it a try.

And as the last part of Multitasking Friday, it's the Random 10 from my iTunes. There is a non-random part to this one, which is it's all tunes from the era of punk and New Wave, though not all the songs fit in those categories.

Whole Wide World Wreckless Eric
Don’t Let’s Start They Might Be Giants
Roam The B-52s
American Squirm Nick Lowe
I Think We’re Alone Now Lene Lovich
Would I Lie to You? Eurythmics
Cult of Personality Living Colour
Tempted Squeeze
I’ve Been To Memphis Lyle Lovett
Hide Your Tears The Social Club

As for "the obscure", both Wreckless Eric and Lene Lovich recorded on the great British label Stiff Records. Whole Wide World was featured prominently in last year's movie Stranger Than Fiction, which starred Will Farrell, Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

In regards to the truly obscure, The Social Club is a band from San Jose. Their only album was produced by my buddy Padre Mickey. Hide Your Tears is a really good tune, with influences from early R.E.M. and The Jam, or at least that's what I hear. Thanks to Padre Mickey for putting it on a CD for me earlier this year.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Dumbass Design™: The Blind Salamander

If you watched the great new nature series Planet Earth, now being re-run on Animal Planet on Wednesday nights, you might recall the story about the blind salamanders in the underwater aquifers of Texas. Caves with no light still produce life, where the main nutrient for the critters stuck in the cave is bat guano. It's easy for us to think... ick, but life does what it has to.

So in a cave with no light, we get blind salamanders, which as you can see have no eyes. Is that an example of Dumbass Design™? I think it qualifies if you realize that the salamanders do have eye sockets. Why would the genius designer of all living critters give animals without eyes a place for those non-existent eyes to be? Could these salamanders have evolved from critters with eyes that used to live in an environment that did have light? No, that's just what evil secular progressives want you to believe.

Also, I have a new post on Smirking Chimp about the pinheads who whine about the media not telling us "The Good News From Iraq", which is a confused idea created by the fact that Americans haven't really seen a war since 1865.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Putting Words in Babies' Mouths


The person in the center of this picture is Calvin, Son of Josh. The person on the TV with his head cut off is one of The Wiggles. Calvin loves him some Wiggles. The person in the Hawaiian shirt with his head cut off is Michael, father of Josh. Michael is my older brother, and as of today is one year older than he was yesterday.

Calvin can talk up a storm, but not in a language known to anyone else. If he could complete a sentence in English, I'm sure that today he would say, "Happy Birthday, Grandpa Michael, and many happy returns."

Calvin did love carrying the ukulele around that last month when the family got together on the birthday of his great grandpa, which I discussed in an earlier post. Calvin's dad is a musician, as is his grandfather and his great grandfather. I'm not sayin' Calvin is destined to be Eric Clapton in twenty years time.

I'm just sayin'.

And in conclusion, happy birthday to my brother, Michael Macrae.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Tagged by Padre Mickey once again

Once again, Padre Mickey has been tagged to spread a meme, and he tagged me in response. Here is what I am tasked to do.

1. I have to post these rules before I give you the facts.
2. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names. (You’re not the boss of me!)
5. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.


A. I won $25,550 on JEOPARDY! in 1985. To answer the most asked questions, a) No I don’t have any of the money left and b) Alex Trebek seemed like a decent guy to me.


B. Also in the 1980’s, I wrote video games for Atari, Activision, Electronic Arts and other companies. My favorite game that I wrote was Zenji.



C. I used to be in a band called The Wonders Of Science. I sang and played the synthesizer. I wrote a lot of the tunes, as did Padre Mickey, the guy what tagged me.

D. When I was a little kid, the first song I wrote was called Baby Baboon. It went like this:

Baby Baboon, buh-buh-Baby Baboon,
Buh-buh-Baby Baboon, buh-buh-Baby Baboon!
Baby Baboon, buh-buh-Baby Baboon,
Buh-buh-Baby Ba-boon boon boon!

Yes, I was influenced by Stephen Sondheim, though I also appreciated the world weary wordplay of Lorenz Hart. (If I do say so myself, the tune was really catchy; had I used it as a video game theme, the entire world might be humming Baby Baboon to this day, though they wouldn’t know there were actually lyrics.)

E. I’m not gay, but I am queer. This picture explains my oddness to some extent.


F. I love playing board games, which are much more social than video games.

G. My caffeine delivery system is Diet Pepsi. Gots to have my Diet Pepsi.



H. With 15 tetrahedron shaped simplices, I constructed a 3-dimensional surface in 4-dimensional space that is not homeomorphic to a 4-dimensional sphere. That’s the minimum number that will do the job. I drew the graph that corresponds to this, where each dot represents a tetrahedron and a line between two dots means the tetrahedrons they represent share a triangular face.

Just sayin’.

I can't seriously tag eight other bloggers, but I can tag my blog buddies SFMike, Dr. Monkerstein and Fran, who posts on a diary on Daily Kos under the name Lente Festina. You have been warned.