Saturday, January 31, 2009

Bon Jovi's faces seen vs. faces rocked, ca. 1986: two views

Some time in 1986, Jon Bon Jovi sat down at his desk and penned these lyrics, which became part of the song "Wanted Dead or Alive": "I walk these streets, a loaded six string on my back / I play for keeps, cause I might not make it back / I been everywhere, still I'm standing tall / I've seen a million faces and I've rocked them all."  The last line of that stanza is what concerns us here.  It is clearly a bold claim no matter how one interprets it, but what exactly is Mr. Bon Jovi saying here?  

The statement is bipartite, containing two claims: (a) I've seen a million faces and (b) I've rocked them all.  I identify two basic hermeneutical possibilities.

(1) First is the "plain sense" reading: JBJ has literally seen one million faces, and of the one million faces he has seen, he has rocked all of them.  This is probably the most audacious interpretation of the statement, as it posits a 1:1 faces seen to faces [seen and] rocked ratio.  For this to be true, every face belonging to the set "faces seen by Jon Bon Jovi" also belongs to the set "faces rocked by Jon Bon Jovi."  Such a reading could, however, account for a specific context in which the faces were seen, reducing the set size and making the statement somewhat more reasonable. Perhaps the 1,000,000 faces seen refers only to faces seen by Mr. Bon Jovi in concert audiences.  Even so, this is an audacious claim.

(2) Second is a more nuanced, but less audacious interpretation of the statement: Jon Bon Jovi has (b) rocked 1,000,000 faces, and the previous claim (a) refers only to the faces rocked by Bon Jovi.  In other words, Mr. Bon Jovi is claiming not a 1:1 seen:rocked ratio, but a total of 1,000,000 faces [seen and] rocked, with the actual number of faces seen being higher than 1,000,000 and the ratio thus being somewhat higher than 1:1.

In order to resolve this quesiton, we will have to rely on estimates to establish a realistic upper boundary of faces rocked by JBJ.  

At the time this song was written, Bon Jovi had not gone on a national tour.  Clearly the claim to have seen and rocked a million faces is not so bold post-Slippery When Wet, as the accompanying tour included 163 gigs.  The band would only have to average an attendance of 6,135 rocked faces per show, at a time when the Slippery When Wet LP was selling millions and millions of copies.  (Bon Jovi's 2/8/87 stop in Austin, for instance, was at the Erwin Center, capacity 16,755.)  

However, in 1986, Bon Jovi had performed primarily in New Jersey.  JBJ learned to play guitar in 1975, at age 13.  That means Jon had 11 years of face-rocking under his belt when Wanted Dead or Alive was written.  That means he would have to average 90,909 faces rocked per year, or 1,748 faces per week.  How likely is this?  Let's take a look at his pre-Bon Jovi bands and recordings to determine.
  • Raze: This is JBJ's first band, formed at age 13 while attending an all-boys Catholic school.  I would generously estimate that his band rocked 100 faces during its maximum estimated three-year tenure.
  • Atlantic City Expressway: JBJ's second band, a "12-piece cover band named ... after the New Jersey highway," formed at age 16.  We would need to know what style of covers they were performing for an accurate estimate, but Wikipedia says they played New Jersey clubs.  Estimated faces rocked in the band's approximately two-year tenure: up to 2,080 (20 faces per gig x 1 gig per weekend x 2 years)  
  • John Bongiovi and the Wild Ones: JBJ's third band, formed sometime in his late teens.  Style not listed in Wikipedia.  Opened for "known" New Jersey acts.  Estimated faces rocked in three-year tenure: up to 7,800 (50 faces per gig x 1 gig per weekend x 3 years)
  • "Bon Jovi" (self-titled album) + "Runaway" single: 1984.  These recordings can only account for a previously undocumented set, namely faces unseen by JBJ yet still rocked by him, but we can use them to establish an upper boundary of maximum faces rocked in this period.  500,000 copies of "Bon Jovi" sold before 2/4/86 [updated -- see below].  It's not clear how many were sold in the 1984-1986 window, but for our purposes, we will count all sales as potential faces to been seen AND rocked by JBJ.
  • "7800° Fahrenheit": 1985.  Bon Jovi's poorly-received (outside of Japan) sophomore effort.  I can't find any proper sales numbers, but all signs point to it selling badly.  It seems likely that initial sales were far fewer than the 500,000 of the previous album, but in the interests of establishing an upper boundary of faces rocked, I'm going to assume that the fan base expanded by 500,000 or so during 1985, due to continued airplay, sales of the "Bon Jovi" LP, and even some sales of 7800°.
Totaled up, that gives us an upper boundary of 1,009,865 faces rocked.  Subtracting a few for faces unseen by JBJ in concert due to obstructions, we arrive at a number startlingly close to 1,000,000 but not significantly larger.  This evidence points to the likelihood that view (1), the "plain sense" reading of JBJ bipartite statment is the correct one.  It seems that Mr. Bon Jovi is, in fact, claiming a 1:1 faces seen:faces rocked ratio.

Sources: Wikipedia
Thanks to my collegues Mark Beebe and Nick Johnson for their assistance with this monograph.
A note to the haters: I wrote this over a single lunch break, while you were probably watching an episode of The Gilmore Girls, so suck it.

UPDATE: Please see the comments section for a well-argued alternative view, presented by no less an authority than noted arenarockologist and frequent commenter elcaballo.  While I'm highly impressed with his research, I still maintain that the numbers I have established here are an effective estimate for the upper boundary of faces rocked.  I could be persuaded otherwise by the tour metrics for the Ratt tour if I had them, but an individual show -- even a large one -- shouldn't move the upper boundary of faces rocked AND seen by much, considering that I was already counting every person who bought the "Bon Jovi" album as a potential face in the crowd at a Bon Jovi show.  In fact, my greatest insecurity about my estimates is that there weren't enough Bon Jovi shows for all album buyers to have seen JBJ and thus had their faces rocked AND seen by him, and the information provided by elcaballo allays these fears somewhat.  

As to the hypothesis that JBJ was just being hyperbolic, my esteemed colleague undermines that notion by suggesting that JBJ has seen and rocked well in excess of 1,000,000 faces.  If that were true, JBJ claim's would be an understatement -- the opposite of hyperbole.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Confessions of an ad writer

Recently I heard a radio spot for McDonald's espresso drinks called "Confessions of an Ex-Hipster."  (Apparently it's been on the airwaves for quite a while.)  This is more or less what it says, for those who haven't heard it: 
I like espresso coffee, so the other day I put on a scratchy turtleneck and went to a coffee shop. Pretty soon I was into French films, independent music, and not bathing. 
But then I discovered McDonald's McCafe [or something] and I'm already back to watching football, wearing khakis, and even high-fiving my friends.
This ad is so confused that I don't even know what to say about it.  I suppose, as advertising, its goal is not to be accurate, but to play on the consumer's perceptions in order to maintain the McDonald's brand identity.  The target demographic is young white folks (our narrator sounds like one) who perceive football, khakis, and high-fives as normal and perhaps who have some animosity towards normal coffee shops, coupled with an insatiable urge to drink pressure-brewed coffee beverages despite their crippling self-doubt.  The kind of people for whom Starbucks is apparently too edgy.  

But seriously, how long has it been since turtlenecks were associated with hipsters?  40 years?  Maybe the target demographic is people who are still mad about those damned beatnicks.  Beatnicks wore khakis, though, so maybe not.

Apparently this confusion about hipsters is more common than I thought, though, as Baby recently sent me this quote from a blog she reads:
On our way home we saw a car stuck in a parking lot and JB stopped to talk with the driver. He offered to give him a tow, but dude was driving a lowered PT Cruiser (too low for tire chains) with a custom lowered bumper, so the tow chain couldn’t be hooked on. How you like your goofy too-low-for-speed-bumps ride NOW, hipster?
Hmm ... so hipsters are people who drive lowered PT Cruisers.  Actually, that's incorrect.  In case anybody out there needs to know, this is what a real hipster looks like: 

See the difference?  Yes, there are similarities, but this man is clearly wearing those hideous glasses and boring sweater ironically.  Same with the cat, I think.  Or wait, maybe that guy is just really socially awkward and the people up above are REALLY INTENSE hipsters.  Shit, now I'm confused.  

Thursday, January 29, 2009

An warning

When the sign pictured below first appeared on the corkboard near our condo, I thought little of it.  The sign says that somebody is stealing clothes from washers.  That's no problem for Baby and me, because although we don't have a dryer, we actually do have a washing machine in our home.  Our clothes are safe.

Or so I thought.   

Last night I was carrying a basket of wet clothes into the laundry room when I saw him -- the LAUNDRY THIEF!  Dressed head to toe in sopping wet horizontal stripes, he was picking through a pile of damp jeans, looking for something his size.  Normally I would have assumed the best and just mumbled a salutation to a fellow late-night launderer, but the words of the flyer were ringing in my subconcious mind, and I was indeed on "the watch out" for any suspicious behavior.  

Suddenly, I heard a heart-rending screech: "FREEZE MOTHERFUCKER!" and was shocked to hear that the voice was my own!  The THIEF, as startled as I was by the expletive, dropped a pair of Wranglers and made a run for it -- directly towards me, as I was blocking the exit.  Thinking quickly, I heaved the basket of laundry towards him, hitting the perpetrator square in the chest.  As he scrambled to regain his balance, I simultaneously grabbed my cell phone (to call 9-1-1, naturally, as one does in such situations) and threw open one of the lower dryers, the door gouging him in the shin.  He fell forward, his feet taken out from under him.  With the perp on the ground, I pounced knees-first, pinning him.

"Whyyyyyy?" he wheezed as I dialed.  

"CRAM A SOCK IN IT, BITCH!" I screamed, involuntarily.  I regained my composure when I heard the 9-1-1 operator on the line.  "Yes, I'd like to report a robbery in progress."

The THIEF was moaning softly under my knees, as if he were trying to say something.  I moved my head closer to his face.

"I ... was ... just ... doing ... my ... darksss," he hissed.

"Tell that to the jur-AAAAAAGHHHHHH!" I screamed, my quip interrupted as he threw a pile of dryer lint into my eyes.  He shrugged me off his back and once again scrambled towards the door.  Through the teary haze, I was just barely able to grab the edge of a steel folding table and pull it down, catching the exit door and slamming it shut.  "Where the FUCK do you think you're going?"

"Not to jail, asshole!  I'll die before I go back there!" he screamed as he frantically tried to push the table out of the way.  I picked my phone off the ground.  "Hello, dispatcher?  Please send the SWAT team to the following address ..."  Realizing he was trapped, the LAUNDRY THIEF turned on me.  

"If I die, you're coming with me!"  He reached behind a dryer and ripped out the gas line.  "Hang up the phone or I light this match!  Don't think I won't do it man, I've got two strikes already!"  In one hand he held the hissing metal hose.  In the other a matchhead, squeezed between his middle finger and thumb, pressed against the matchbook.  If the THIEF literally snapped, the whole place would turn into a raging fireball.  The room was filling with foul-smelling gas, and I knew I didn't have much to bargain with, so I put the phone down.

"You win, asshole.  Now get the fuck out of here before you kill us both, you crazy bastard."  The thief dropped the matches and smashed a window with his elbow.  He slipped into the bitter cold night, running off to find another laundry room to burgle.

I turned the gas valve off, put my clothes in a dryer, and fished in my pockets for quarters.  $1.25 a load?  Now that's robbery.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The song Craig has stuck in his head

You found it.*  Another shocking admission from a man with no shame!

In other news, this week continues to be the busiest of my working life.

* (See here for an explanation.)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Five songs about other songs

Baby and the girls and I (and the dog) went to Houston via Beaumont this weekend for a baby shower. As usual on road trips, I listened to shitty country radio on the way. I can't help it; I'm drawn to shit like a dog is drawn to cat shit. Except I don't eat country music and then lick people. Anyway, we heard a real jewel called "All Summer Long." It's about listening to "Sweet Home Alabama" whilst experimenting with drugs and casual sex. It is truly awful. When I got home and looked it up, I found out that my respect for Kid Rock could actually be decreased, as it turns out he is responsible for this radio turd. If it was by say, Kenny Chesney, I would have thought "hey, that sucked, but at least he was trying something," but Kid Rock, as a rapper of sorts, should have known better than to waste a Warren Zevon sample on a song about a Lynyrd Skynyrd song. And it's getting played on country radio. The only thing that could make me happy about this is if I could find a YouTube link of a German calling himself Snake der Cowboy teaching me to line dance to the song. What's that you say?

2. "Summer Rain" by Johnny Rivers. I love Johnny Rivers, sincerely. I think he's awesome. This song, however, is pretty bad. It mentions how "everybody kept on playing Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," which could be referring to the song or the album, I guess. Since "Summer Rain" itself sucks, I guess the quality of the song might be improved if we knew which song, specifically, everybody kept on playing. If it was "With a Little Help from my Friends," that must have been a terrible summer and therefore "Summer Rain" is bad. If it was "A Day in the Life," on the other hand, that would have been cool. However, listening to it again, I think the song is referring to the title track of Sgt. Pepper's, due to the little guitar riff that accompanies Johnny's mention of the song in question. C+, solid drums though.

UPDATE: I just noticed that there's a reference to "A Day in the Life" around 2:56 -- the swelling string crescendo.  Damn it, that's got to make it at least a B-.

3. "Hey Baby (They're Playing our Song)" by the Buckinghams. This one doesn't really count since it's not clearly about a specific song, but I wanted to mention it because how trippy would it be if you fell in love with your sweetheart while listening to this song? Your song would forever have to be "Hey Baby (They Playing our Song)," and that would be so weird, because your song would be, like, about having "a song," and whooaaa.

4. "Running Down a Dream" by Tom Petty. "I had the radio on, I was driving / The trees went by, me and Del were singing / Little Runaway, I was flying." When I was in high school somebody told me that every Tom Petty song had a drug reference in it. In this song, it was his mention of "flying." I have an alternate theory: every Tom Petty song has a Del Shannon reference in it. I'm pretty sure my theory is wrong.

5. "Tribute" by Tenacious D. As Jack Black and Kyle Gass make abundantly clear, this is not the greatest song in the world -- it is just a tribute to "Stairway to Heaven." The fact that they never mention Stairway by name makes this song the winner. Also, Pete from 30 Rock is in the video, playing a shiny demon.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Our Commander-in-freak / SXSW 2009 band names

I don't normally like embedded YouTube links on my blog, but this one is irresistible:

I know Obama promised he was going to bring more transparency to the White House but I didn't think it would include such, ah, personal details.

I've been looking at the list of bands supposedly coming to SXSW this year.  It's always a good chance to read hundreds of names that have no meaning to me because I have no idea who 99% of them are, and in most cases the name of the band tells you nothing about them.  For instance, what does awesomely-named DANANANANAYKROYD sound like?  And does giving your band the shittiest name possible -- The Devil Wears Prada -- reflect self-detached irony or just a lack of creativity?  

Certain readers will be pleased to note a relative lack of woodland-themed names (Eagle Winged Palace and Hot Panda being among the exceptions), but at least I know exactly what to expect from those bands.  Listen to their Myspace songs and you will not be surprised to find out that Hot Panda is somewhere between Fleet Foxes and Animal Collective.  Midnight Peacocks, on the other hand, are somewhat different, as I was expecting a mix of Midnite Vultures-era Beck and Christian singer-songwriter Charlie Peacock.  Sabbath Crow is also, surprisingly, not a metal band that does Sheryl Crow covers.  

Speaking of bad animal names, TacocaT so far has the highest quality-of-music to quality-of-name ratio of the bands I've checked out from that list, and they definitely have the best song about a urinary tract infection.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The lamb is in the cage

Today, as with the rest of this week, I have been working feverishly to keep up.  Why is it then that it is in my few moments of rest -- and also when I happen to be watching something incredibly embarassing on YouTube -- that important people always walk into my office?

A coworker stopped in (while I was watching this again -- what the hell is wrong with me?*) to ask some questions and mentioned to Mustafa, who has a Ph.D. in anthropology, that she's going into a graduate anthropology program.  He says (as he does to almost everything) "Ohhhhh wow.  Oh wow, wow, wow" and goes on to tell her how exciting that is.  I guess it's good that Mustafa doesn't regret spending years and years, studying late, missing his kids growing up, doing the research and fieldwork necessary to get his doctorate so that he could go on to become a profoundly incompetent IT guy, but I have to say that if I was that coworker I would be running -- RUNNING -- away from anthropology after that endorsement.

In unrelated news, my Older Daughter With No Pseudonym is in a phase where she makes up lots of songs and demands that Baby and I listen to them.  The fact that Older Daughter's eyes well up with tears everytime she sings makes the experience even more charming.  Here is a song she made up last night: "The lamb is in the cage, the lamb is in the cage / The farmer, the farmer, the farmer / The farmer is looking for her / Where is the lamb, where is the lamb, where is the lamb / The farmer, the farmer, the farmer" etc.  These songs really don't ever end.  She'll get distracted after a few minutes usually but then she'll pick it up again when she thinks of it, usually with revised lyrics.

* In my defense, I was pumped up after reading this story.  

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thursday, please don't be a bastard

Yesterday was awful.  Well, work was at least.  The rest of the day wasn't so bad.  But at work I had the kind of day where I want to catalog everything that went wrong.  Dear readers, be aware that it is out of respect for you that I refrain from this litany.  Things I can usually depend on failed.  I had Voltaic Crusher* stuck in my head, specifically the line "I am a flaw, I'm a mistake / I'm faulty, I always break."  (Not self-applied.  I blame Mustafa when computers break, not me.)

But today will be good to me, I just know it.  The fact that I have misplaced the only known copy of a certain key again will be no hindrance to the goodness of today.  I have already verified that I am not autistic, so that's a good start.  Also, Mustafa is taking off early today and the cedar pollen count is down to a mere 205 grains/m^3 from the unfathomable 3,617 of sometime last week.  Anyway, I have to go now and explain to a professor that I have locked her new computer in a closet that nobody has a key for.  Toodles.

* of Montreal, of course.  That ukelele version is the only one I could find online -- enjoy it 

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Overheard and observed in my office

Today is the first day of classes for the spring semester, so the undergraduates are back.  Back with their UGGs -- and there are a lot of UGGs out there.  Puke.

Anyway, here are my choice quotes for today:
Undergraduate in UGGs: Is the computer lab open?
Me (imaginary, Ally McBeal style): Despite the fact that the door is open, the lights are on, there are 40 computers in there powered up and waiting for somebody
 to use them, and the big sign that says the lab is open, no.  No it's not.
Me (real life): Yes.

Mustafa (on the phone): I have eyeball hurting a lot.  In both eyeballs.

Grad student who has seen me in white briefs: Can you make the classroom computer upstairs stream video for the inauguration five minutes from now?

I have also had the privelige to observe Mustafa looking up the word "fetish" on  It's good to be back in the swing of things.

Monday, January 19, 2009

On hipsters

Which could probably also be the title of this blog. Today I saw a 40ish overweight woman on my bus. Stringy hair, unflattering plastic-frame glasses, high-waisted jeans, a well-worn hoodie. In other words, she could have been a hipster, if she were younger and probably thinner.* It made me wonder how the line between hipster and homeless (or just fringe) is so clear despite the elements of the aesthetic being pretty damned similar at times. I also wonder if there will be a point when I stop looking like a shabbily-dressed hipsteroid and start looking like a member of the leisured indigent class. Only time will tell, although I probably won't know until I start getting handed change at bus stops. As if to make my point, there was a similarly-dresed woman on the bus who was young and thin. She, however, had dreadlocks, and thus was also excluded from any meaningful definition of hipster. Actually, that doesn't make my point at all. I guess I don't really have a point. I just want to see a hipster that really, really looks homeless.

There is this one homeless guy who goes to my church. He doesn't look like a hipster at all -- he's 61 years old and wears baggy sweatpants and sleeveless shirts all the time (he once made fun of Baby for going to the "yuppie" Goodwill) -- but at the Christmas bazaar, he put on a tight blazer with a hand-painted picture on the back and it was like he was magically transformed into a hip, jaded gallery owner or something. That made me really happy. Then he told me all about rosin-baked potatoes and a mystical Hobart-brand machine called the Rozzlebake, but that's a story for another time.

* I realize that there are lots of 40-year-old hipsters and overweight hipsters, but we're dealing with generalities here. Also, I realize that I'm far from being the first person to make this observation, so suck it.


In the comments, Will asks why one can't homeless and a hipster.  The causes of homelessness and hipsterism are manifold, but I think it comes down to this: most hipsters are middle-class, and there is a certain social safety net that comes with that.  Homelessness can generally be prevented by such a network, except in some cases of mental instability or severe addiction.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Back from San Antonio

With this rad owl:

See what you missed by not getting your souvenir requests in on time?  And to answer elcaballo's question: yes, we would have also taken requests for party tricks or novelties.

The vacation was great.  Amazing food, (wild mushrooms with polenta and goat cheese in a red wine reduction sauce from Boudro's) a great hotel, and very little responsibility.  Strongly recommended.  A++++ would buy from again.  The Riverwalk itself is a mixture of real natural beauty, dubious history (the Alamo as a "SHRINE TO TEXAS FREEDOM"), and timeless and outdated design.  Very fun trip though.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Vacation! of sorts

First the first time ever, Baby and I are going to leave the kids with a sitter and skip town tomorrow.  The babysitter is Baby's mom, and our destination is beautiful San Antonio, Texas.  We're staying at fancy new hotel on the Riverwalk.  We wanted to stay at a fancy old hotel, but they wouldn't do a single-night reservation.  So it's not a long trip, but it will be great and hopefully I will no longer feel like the used-up husk of a man when we return.  If anybody wants souvenirs, now's the time to ask.

So long, suckers!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

On of Montreal

As you can see from some of my recent links, I've gotten into* of Montreal lately.  I've been exposed to their music quite a bit in the past but never liked them.  Baby bought "Skeletal Lamping" (their newest album) shortly after it came out, and I thought it was good but not really memorable.  But right now I'm listening to "Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer," and it's wonderful.**  I expected of Montreal to be really pretentious for a variety of reasons (gratuitous mythological references, frontman wearing makeup, band name starting with a preposition), but I'm finding the lyrics charming and even sincere.  Kudos to of Montreal for making music that doesn't suck.  As C. Montgomery Burns says: "I don't know much about art, but I know what I hate -- and I don't hate this."

Enjoy this picture of of Montreal's setlist for their recent Austin show, courtesy of my acquaintances at  Note the annotations, such as "centaur fruit orgy" and "voltron."

* Bonus prepositions for the fans: aboard, aside, atop, onto

** As usual, I'm two years behind, but at least I'm not in a sad '90s cul-de-sac with regards to indie rock.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Ricardo Gonzalo Pedro Montalbán Merino is dead at age 88.
Good night, sweet prince.  I hope he will be resurrected into a new body like Spock was, and that God will not shoot him with lasers like he did Kirk.

An open letter

Dear Guy In A Smartcar Singing Loudly Along to Kate Nash With The Windows Rolled Down,

You might not be as cool as you think you are.


Lazlo Hollyfeld

My incompetent co-worker, pt. 2

Part two in an infinite series. Lately, Mustafa has been getting pretty passive-aggressive (although he doesn't eat sweets of any kind, so I don't think he is the pudding thief or writer of the P.S. note). Last week I asked him to call in some warranty work on four computers with bad motherboards in the lab next to my office. (Dell's strong point is their business-level warranty support, not necessarily their quality control.*) A few days later, I asked him about it again. Then, this morning -- with one day left before the semester starts (he's taking Friday off) -- he informs me that he was waiting for me to tell him which computers need new motherboards. How about the ones that won't turn on, dipshit?

I'm going to one-up him, though. I'm going to do the most passive-aggressive thing ever and never say anything to him or anybody else about how retarded he is. I'm just going to blog about it. Take that, Mustafa!

In the midst of this nincompoopery, I am still reminded of the benefits of state employment: low expectations, great benefits, lots of vacation, low pay, and drinking on lunch break. Yes, that's right, I'm going to the Crown and Anchor pub with some fellow university friends for lunch. Glorious! They have a great veggie burger there.

Anyway, a clarification about my commute yesterday, since frequent antagonist and noted dickweed elcaballo had a question about it. What happened is this: I forgot my ID, which I need to ride the bus. So, I walked to the bus, got on, realized I didn't have my ID, got off at the next stop, walked home, drove my older daughter to school, waited for her school to open, drove to the bus stop (with Baby and Alia**, who took the car), and got on the bus again to go to work.

* And I'm pretty pissed off at Dell for this shit.

** That would be my younger daughter. Thanks for the suggestions, elcaballo.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Facile update

My recent mention of Daft Punk (as vocoder users par excellence) has prompted no less an authority than frequent commenter and apparent dance music afficianado elcaballo to speculate that I am stuck in a "sad 90's cul-de-sac" with regards to "facile" dance music (notwithstanding my link to in that post to Black Moth Super Rainbow and my somewhat embarassing but well-established interest in the mashup genre). Well, sirs and madams, allow me to be very clear: my involvement with the IDM band Sad 90's Cul-de-Sac aside (not to be confused with emo side project Cul-de-Sad), I make no pretense of expertise in the area of dance music. I am a pupil, my commenters are the teachers.

Oh, and thanks for formally welcoming me to 2009, dickweed.


Elcaballo responds in the comments section but, as usual, is all over the place. He may need to lay off the Goldschlager for a while, as the flakes appear to be impairing his ability to construct a cogent argument. I would deconstruct his "arguments" (such as they are), but I am afraid that if I use the words "facile electronic dance music" one more time, I will start to get some unwanted Google traffic. I will have to be content simply noting that it is elcaballo's mom who is, in fact, facile.

Still not ready

Good Lord, transportation this morning has been a cluster foxtrot (as my coworker Vince used to say). Let it suffice to say that I left the house the first time at around 7:30 and didn't get to work until 9:40. Also lots of ear-shattering happy/sad screaming from Younger Child With No Pseudonym As Of Yet. Actually, I'll say one more thing about it: walking (5 min) -> bus (1 min) -> walking (10 min) -> driving (15 min) -> bus (30 min) -> walking (5 min). But I am enjoying the book I'm reading right now. I'm thinking about teaching a class on it at my church.
Work is absurdly busy. I have two songs stuck in my head, fighting to be the top earworm of the day. "Heimdalsgate Like A Promethean Curse" (of Montreal -- great video) and "My Body is a Cage" (Arcade Fire). I think we can all relate to that of Montreal video.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Not ready

Mustafa is currently speaking to me. SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP. He just won't stop talking. There is nothing I can do about it except keep typing and nodding.
I have never shared Garfield's hatred for Mondays, but today is exceptionally loathsome. I have a veritable shitload of work to do, no motivation, my arms feel like they're going to fall off, and it was too cold to ride my bike this morning. (I have to draw the line somewhere, and 32 degrees seemed like a good enough place.) My "to do" list only has six items on it, but each one is worse than all the rest of them. It's a riddle, wrapped in a paradox, wrapped in a shit sandwich. Or something.

Thankfully, Mustafa just now had to make one of his many daily trips to the post office, so I have a momentary reprieve from his droning. I guess I should get to work on this shit. Oh wait -- a phone call from a professor who cannot understand how to type a web address into her browser, nor does she understand what the words "address," "browser," or really even "web" mean in this context. I guess I should do that first. Shit.


I've actually ended up spending my whole morning moving ancient computer equipment so that I can have some office space renovated. The good news, of course, is that I'm getting a new office very soon. But I also received this ALARMING EMAIL from a professor:

I am reporting a suspected "FRAUD' on the [webmail].--Some entity is obviously trying to gain access to my [ID] and password. Today when I tried to log in to[webmail] I noticed the log in page looked differrent. A box appeared, that was entitled "HOARD". When it asked me for my [ID] and password I exited the site immediately and did not enter it. If you recall, a short time ago a message was sent to [faculty] warning them of FRAUD of this nature.

(Links added by me. Extraneous quotations marks -- sadly -- original.)

Wanted for questioning: Hordak

In case anybody is wondering, Horde is actually the name of my school's webmail program. Nothing malicious going on here.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Design tips from Kanye West

I recently stumbled upon Kanye West's blog. He actually seems like a pretty normal person. The tone is that of a 16-year-old girl's livejournal. He mostly writes about how his albums are selling, posts remixes and songs from other musicians (including stuff like Hot Chip and Peter, Bjorn, and John),* and links to products he likes (and even The Onion sometimes).
One of this recurrent features, apparently, is posting pictures (he takes?) of hot women, often scantily clad, always with the caption "WHERE ARE YOU YEEZY???" You would think this was just a lark for him, but apparently he takes it very seriously (link is not safe for work):

So, yeah. The composition is mad important. Remember that when placing speech bubbles on pictures of nearly-naked women.

* One of Kanye's readers comments: "I thought BJORN was a swan lady..."

Friday, January 9, 2009

On vocoder abuse

The vocoder* is a powerful tool. But much like Spiderman's abilities, with the great power of the vocoder comes great responsibility. Use of the vocoder is not to be entered into lightly or unadvisedly, but reverently, deliberately, and in accordance with the purposes for which it was instituted by God. The vocoder is properly used to make the human voice sound beautiful, like the voice of a robotic angel. When it is abused or neglected, it is an affront to nature.

The human ear -- though the ability can become warped -- is tuned to hear the difference between the just and proper use of the vocoder and the egregious misuse to which it is so often subjected. Can you not hear that Zapp is good? Does not "I Wanna Be Your Man"** stir in one's heart feelings of the love between a man and his beloved? Does not "Computer Love" do the same, but replacing the word "beloved" with "Tandy?" Conversely, does not Lil Wayne's "Showtime" sound like a shitty, shitty trainwreck? Listen to your heart, Mr. Carter! The vocoder is not to be misused! You are walking a perilous path in the company of vocoder abusers like Cher, T-Pain, and even Bob Schnieder. Walk the narrow path, the path of Zapp, ELO, and Daft Punk.***

* I am using the term loosely to include any sort of modulated vocal effect, including talk boxes and Auto-Tune.

** Yes, I know I've linked to this song before. If you don't want to listen to it, try this instead.

*** And before anybody says anything about "facile electronic dance music," s/he should "STFU," as the kids say.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The joys of office life

This post really belongs on, but since they won't publish it for some reason (Twice I've submitted it! Twice!) I'm forced to put it here instead.

Upon walking into a breakroom at work several months ago, I found the following display:

Nothing remarkable on first glance. There are six notes posted in the approximately 70 square feet of this room. Let's have a look at them, shall we? First, we'll start with the white one on the fridge.

Hmm ... pretty passive-aggressive, but nothing crazy. I do like the pedantic tone, though. Kudos for that. But what's that yellow note to the left?

Ah-ha! This is a jackpot! Here is the painstakingly transcribed text rejected by the assholes at

Attention Pudding Thief:

It is wrong to steal. Maybe you thought, "Hey, it's just one pudding cup." Maybe you thought, "Hey, this has probably been here for a while." Maybe you thought, Hey, no one's watching."

Well, maybe if you thought for even one second about the questionable ethics of your action, you would have come to the realization that even stealing one pudding cup is wrong.

Also: maybe you would have thought, "Hey, someone put this pudding cup in the fridge because they plan on eating it later on today."

But hey, maybe you can't read. Not even this note. That would actually explain a lot and make me feel much better about my pudding situation. Because there is a clearly taped sign to the door of the fridge. It says don't steal other people's food.

Please comply in the future.

Oh, this is glorious! My favorite part -- and there are lots of contenders -- is the phrase "my pudding situation." I like to imagine that the note's writer thought a lot about his/her pudding situation. I can imagine some sleepless nights being caused by the P.S., as it would surely be known in the note writer's scrawled late-night journal entries.

And ... as if that note wasn't enough, there are two more pertaining to the P.S.! First, on the cabinet above and to the right of the microwave:

This. This! This is a masterstroke of passive aggression. I don't even know what to say. How can this possibly be bested? Well, what's in the donations box?

Help yourself to these goodies indeed! (That's a bag of Celestial Seasonings' "Madagascar Vanilla Red" whatever the hell that is.) I do have to admit that there was a candy cane in the box that I ate.

I am not the pudding thief.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

"Furr" / Beyoncé updates / reader response

I stumbled upon the video for "Furr" today, and I liked it. However, it does not clarify anything about the lyrics at all. Here is the link. My wife said the video looks like a review of the Williamsburg Craft Fair retail booths for the last few years, what with the trains, boats, and woodland themes. I suppose that last sentence will mean something to somebody who reads this blog. I liked the part with the bee.

And I would be neglecting my duties as the proprietor of this blog if I didn't link to this Beyoncé/Fleet Foxes mashup from The Hood Internet.

Furthermore, I am compelled to draw attention to reader/beat doctor elcaballo's comment regarding New Balance shoes in hip hop. In the relentless pursuit of truth and amusement, I occasionally make errors. My statement that Beck's "Little Drum Machine Boy" had "the only shout out to New Balance shoes I've ever heard on a record" should have read as follows: "[the song has] got a fresh beat and partakes in the long tradition of shouts out to New Balance shoes in hip-hop." Thank you, elcaballo, for pointing out my error. You are still a royal dickweed.

Obstacles overcome

I did it. As of yesterday, I have succesfully (I think) used several pieces of gym equipment in front of God and everyone, including a bunch of jocks. Dave's inadvertent tip that there are pictures on the machines illustrating their use was particularly helpful. It was not as awkward as I thought, and I did not get any wedgies -- atomic or otherwise -- from any of my fellow gym patrons.

Wearing proper clothes was essential. I had to actually buy some white socks from the American Apparel next to my office; prior to yesterday morning, I had approximately 25 unique socks but not a single pair per se, by which I mean any two socks of the same approximate color, pattern, and length. This is normally not a problem since I always wear pants and rarely show both ankles at once so only the keenest of observers would notice that my socks don't match. But think about that: I had 25 unique socks, and only one of them was white. That's kind of amazing.

Anyway, I rode the bike thing again to make up for not riding this morning (it was raining). Then I did exercises I don't know the names of on three machines that I could not identify. I know that my arms and chest were exercised, though, since as I type this it feels like I couldn't lift a kitten over my head. I was using the lowest possible weight on all of them. This is the point that I wish certain aspects of my life could be like an 80's movie, because -- having overcome my fear of the gym and initial foibles -- there would definitely be a montage here, showing the retainer pin going in successively higher and higher weights until the end of the song, when I would be ready to ski the K2, beat the jocks in the talent contest, or do the Triple Lindy.

Okay, I'm going to shut up about it now.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Lil Wayne's "Mrs. Officer"

America's most popular vocal effect, Lil Wayne, has released a truly awful song. I am, of course, compelled to comment.

First off, congratulations are in order for Mr. Carter, seeing as how he's the first person ever to be referred to as "rapper of the year" by no less an authority than the New Yorker. (Take that, Young Jeezy!) Second, what exactly is wrong with Lil Wayne's voice? I haven't seen him using an artificial larynx but I can't otherwise explain why he sounds like a science fair robot. I suspect him of vocoder abuse, but that's a topic for another day. (If it is just a production effect, though, how hellish must his natural speaking voice be?)

The lyrics are almost too stupid to even discuss. Some of them are probably freestyled, but still inexcusably bad ("Ha Ha... And after we got done / I said lady what's ya number she said 911 / Haaa... emergency only"). Basically, the song is about Lil Wayne getting pulled over by a female cop who apparently has a weak spot for mentally deficient misogynists, with whom he develops a sexual relationship. The subject of the song is really Lil Wayne, however, and how awesome he believes himself to be. Bobby Valentino adds a much-needed touch of class with lines like "When I get up all in ya / We can hear the angels calling us" and "breakfast in bed turns to breakfast and head."

Lil Wayne either amuses himself greatly, as he fills out the beats with laughter in almost every single line, or he has the worst flow ever. Among the many gut-busters Wayne delights himself with are references to tight pants and the 1991 Rodney King beating. He needs to watch this video to see how it's done. Or, he could try not freestyling and actually writing non-retarded lyrics.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Back to work

Today was my first day back to work after two weeks of holiday vacation. The thing I was dreading most was talking to Mustafa, but he managed to make it 20 minutes without getting on my nerves. This was facilitated by the fact that the coffee place I go to when I wake up before Baby makes coffee is closed until classes start in two weeks. I have always hated coffee addiction humor (har har, Garfield needs his coffee), but seriously, what the fuck am I supposed to do?

My new year's resolution of sorts is to go to the gym. I said "every once in a while," but that's supposed to mean three or more times a week. So, today, for the first time since my freshman year of college, I went to the gym. First, I asked fitness expert Dave what kind of exercises somebody with the legs of a powerlifter and the upper body of a 10-year-old tuberculosis patient needs to do. (I've biked daily for about seven years, but never intentionally done any other kind of exercise.) Then, I replaced the Indian pop music on the iPod somebody left in my lab with own selections* and headed for the campus gym.

Walking into the gym, I already knew that I would be looked down upon for being a "January person" and because I was dressed vaguely like Judd Nelson in Breakfast Club instead of in proper workout attire. As soon as I entered the weightroom, however, I was totally cowed. I had no idea which machines I was supposed to use or how to use them anyway. I asked a staff member which machine makes the huge pectoral muscles, and even approached one of the devices she pointed at, but I knew there was no way I was going to screw with that thing for five minutes to figure out how it works in front of all these ... jocks. So I wussed out and rode on some kind of recumbent stationary bike for about 40 minutes. Not exactly the upper-body workout I was hoping for, but at least it made up for missing my bike ride this morning.

Tomorrow, I'm bringing clothes so I can "dress out" for "gym," as they say (in fact, I will be wearing my original Saint Andrew's gym shirt from junior high), and I will try to actually use one of the upper body machines. I will look highly retarded, and I will probably be laughed at and maybe even wedgied, but it will be the first real step on my road to beefcake.

* Arcade Fire's Funeral and Yo La Tengo's I am not Afraid of You and I will Beat Your Ass. Arcade Fire makes some great workout music -- I was kind of disappointed when I thought my exercise routine was going to end before the disco breakdown in "Wake Up."

Saturday, January 3, 2009

On "Furr"

I, like many people of my marketing demographic (hipsteroids), enjoy the song Furr by Blitzen Trapper. It is rather silly but enjoyable nonetheless.* The lyrics**, however, are inscrutable.*** If the song is supposed to be an allegory or fable, it utterly fails to convey any kind of coherent point.

The verses and bridge tell this story: a 17-year-old wanders into the woods and turns into a wolf, which he seems to really like. Then, five years later, he meets a (presumably human) girl and raises a family with her on a farm. At some point after that, he "quickly" turns back into a human, but he doesn't really seem to fit in. I am going to assume the story is supposed to be a fable or allegory, because it doesn't really make sense when taken at face value -- for instance, how does a wolf tend to a farm, and what kind of crops does a wolf grow anyway? So maybe the message is as simple as this: the speaker/wolfman doesn't fit in in society. We can all relate to that, I suppose.

But the chorus throws the whole thing into confusion by seeming to offer an interpretive key or moral lesson or something. Here it is: "You can wear your fur like a river on fire, but you better be sure if you're makin' God a liar. I'm a rattlesnake, babe, I'm like fuel on a fire. So if you're gonna get made, don't be afraid of what you've learned." What follows is my best honest attempt at understanding the message of this song.

A river on fire is essentially unaffected by the fire. The river itself is not changed. So whatever one's "fur" is, one can choose not to let it change their core being. BUT one must be careful not to "make God a liar" by denying one's essence. Is that suggesting that the fur/fire could be more central than the one's essence/the river? But our speaker/wolfman is now a rattlesnake (whatever), comparable to fuel on a fire. So ... he is capable of making one's fire stronger (but is destroyed in the process)? That means he personally can effect a change in "your" exterior expression, which "you" are to possibly consider as more important than your essence? And then I have no clue what "if you're gonna get made" etc. could possibly mean.

Anyway, the lyrics of this song are interesting, but I can't think of an interpretation that makes even a tiny bit of sense.

* I think the song's production will "age" terribly, with the artificially-thickened vocals and woodsy sound effects. If you're reading this blog from the year 2014 or later, please confirm in the comments section.

** By the way, have I mentioned how much I hate improperly transcribed lyrics? How fucking stupid do you have to be to think "droned into the words" makes more sense than "drove into the woods" in a song that is largely about living in the fucking woods?

*** People get really irrational when you insult music they like, especially if they know the musicians involved. So, if you are a huge Blitzen Trapper fan or friend of the band, please take no stock in my banal ramblings. I could never write a song as good as Furr.

Friday, January 2, 2009

14 Questions

I got this from frequent commenter Christie's blog. (I really like her answer to #3, by the way.)

1. Character in a Wes Anderson film you most relate to: Max Fischer, you wee spotty fuck
2. What is/are your favourite plant(s)? None, but my least favorite pollen is live oak. I do like a good sweet potato, for eating.
3. What fills you with dread? Usually a dread syringe.
4. Most influential creative person in your life? Creativity is for sucks. Mockery is where it's at.
5. Do you like cats better than dogs or vice versa? Why? I didn't really like Vice Versa, so I'm going to have to go with Cats Better Than Dogs, by default. Sounds like something I'd like.
6. What was the first thing you ever wanted to be? Why? Real estate appraiser. Seriously. Because my dad was one. All I knew was that they drove around and took a lot of pictures, and when I went with them they gave me ice cream.

7. What’s the best ice cream-truck song you’ve ever heard? This question is the reason I filled out this questionnaire. I just found out the name of the song is Music Box Dancer and the truck drives around Highland Park. I made up my own words for the song before I knew the name: "Everyone knows that Juancho's in town / and the ice cream is free when Juancho's around" (repeat ad infinitum, or until your wife starts threatening you).
8. What is your favourite song by Simon & Garfunkel? I can really get into "Bridge Over Troubled Water" in a melodramatic way. I also really like the bass harmonica in "The Boxer."
9. What is your stripper/pornstar name? (Name of your first pet + name of the first street you lived on): Flash Bamford
10. Do you have collections (deliberate or inadvertent)? I had a box of junk cameras but I gave it away. I don't like having useless stuff, but it does often find its way to me. As lame as this is, I do have several coffee mugs stolen from work. My favorite says "Be All God Wants You to Be" and it has a butterfly on it.
11. Do you prefer rainy weather or sunny weather? Why? BOOOOORING.
12. Favourite TV show theme song that is over 10 years old? 60 Minutes.
13. Favourite breakfast meal? Either Malt-O or oat.
14. Best record you’ve bought recently: I bought a music box for my daughter that plays "My Old Kentucky Home," but no records lately.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Hooray 2009!

You're going to be much better than that bastard 2008, I can already tell.

In 2009, I plan to attempt to amuse my friends with close readings of pop songs, mention Beyoncé conspicuously every once in a while -- or constantly, whatever -- and continue to celebrate inanity.

Also, I'm going to go to the gym every once in a while.

Happy new year, everybody! Remember: champagne is a hell of a hangover. Stick with hard liquor and you'll be golden.