April 2008 Archives
I almost made it all the way through Evelyn Waugh's Sword of Honour. I really tried but I have to admit to just losing interest in the adventures of Guy Crouchback after about 600 pages (out of 800). Originally published as three book, this long novel follows the life of Crouchback, beginning just before the start of World War 2. It finds Crouchback in his mid-30s, hanging out at the ancestral Italian summer villa. He decides to "make something of himself" and goes back to England to enlist.
He originally finds it hard to fit in somewhere, but eventually joins an infantry group. The book follows his (mis)adventures through training, getting shipped to Europe just before Dunkirk, getting shipped to North Africa, and then off to Crete. In each case, he just sort of misses the interesting bits. He gets to Dunkirk in time to retreat, to North Africa in time to get sent back for a misunderstanding and Crete in time for the evacuation.
In the beginning, it was a lot of fun. Waugh's wry commentary on the class-conscious society of the 1940s, even with the war clouds building, is quite amusing. Crouchback reminded me a little of Forrest Gump or, maybe even closer, Chance from Being There, as he just sort floats through life, observing, and getting peripherally involved in weird plots. But the detachment got to me after about 600 pages, and so I just gave up.
Strange that this would be one of Richard Dawkins' top five novels of all time, as Crouchback is a devout and practicing Catholic, with religion playing a fairly prominent role in the book. Perhaps it would have been easier to take, reading it one book at a time, but as an entire course, Sword of Honour was too much for me.
Redzilla's recent posting about her lawn had me thinking about my lawn, which is a mess, despite my tearing it up last summer and starting from scratch. It looked good for about a month but now it is merely a mud patch with tufts of grass. Not that I'm a perfectionist, or even believe in the monoculture of a "good" lawn, but I'd like my kids to be able to play on it!
Anyway, a little humor to take my mind off the pain:
GOD: Francis, you know all about gardens and nature. What in The world is going on down there in the USA? What happened to the Dandelions, violets, thistle and stuff I started eons ago? I had a Perfect, no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, Withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of Songbirds.
I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But all I see are These green rectangles.
ST. FRANCIS: It's the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers "weeds" and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.
GOD: Grass? But it's so boring. It's not colorful. It doesn't attract butterflies, birds and bees, only grubs and sod worms. It's Temperamental with temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass Growing there?
ST. FRANCIS: Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and Poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.
GOD: The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow Really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.
ST. FRANCIS: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it, sometimes twice a week.
GOD: They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?
ST. FRANCIS: Not exactly Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.
GOD: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?
ST. FRANCIS: No, sir -- just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.
GOD: Now, let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will Grow. And when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?
ST. FRANCIS: Yes, sir.
GOD: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and Saves them a lot of work.
ST. FRANCIS: You aren't going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.
GOD: What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stoke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in The spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and Protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves form compost to Enhance the soil. It's a natural circle of life.
ST. FRANCIS: You'd better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great Piles and pay to have them hauled away.
GOD: No. What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the Winter and to keep the soil moist and loose?
ST. FRANCIS: After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy Something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in Place of the leaves.
GOD: And where do they get this mulch?
ST. FRANCIS: They cut down trees and grind them up to make the Mulch.
GOD: Enough! I don't want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you're in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us Tonight?
ST. CATHERINE: "Dumb and Dumber," Lord. It's a real stupid movie about -
GOD: Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.
|6||1||El Perro del Mar|
|2||Dead Can Dance|
Hoping to make the El Perro show next month. Read a DcD refrence on Twitter and so got into them again. And you can't listen to "There She Goes" just once! Lissa is going to be at Passim's tomorrow night and showed up in the Globe Entertainment section. Downloaded an Ommadawn remaster, so Oldfield is back on the list.
According to Joshua Allen, the "perfect pop song" is two minutes and forty two seconds long. And he uses one of my all time favorite songs, one I consider a serious contender for Perfect Pop Song, "There She Goes" by the La's. I loved the line about the song:
When “There She Goes” is over, I guarantee absolutely no one in the room goes: “Jesus, finally.”
So I checked my ripped collection in Amarok to see what I had. Given some small variation in ripping (my "There She Goes" clocked in at 2:43), I searched in my Collection tab of Amarok using "length:>160 length:<164" for the search terms, and I came up with:
Three of my favorite songs from the 4 CD "Children of Nuggets":
One of my favorite Cure songs:
An excellent Gram Parsons song, covered by Sheryl Crow and Emmylou Harris:
All in all, a filter that turns out pretty well, I'd say.
I declare shenanigans on the wild turkey that was trying to cross the road in front of me this morning. Listen, you may be one of the dumbest creatures on God's Green Earth, but that's no excuse for lollygagging across the road, while there are people who need to get home and/or work. If my cell phone camera wasn't the worst one ever invented, I would have gotten your mugshot to broadcast around the world!
Quote for your day:
The very existence of flamethrowers proves that sometime, somewhere,
someone said to themselves, “You know, I want to set those people over
there on fire, but I’m just not close enough to get the job done.” -- George Carlin
Things I Loathe
- Having to call all the parents of my soccer team to tell them the practice field has moved yet again, as I can't trust them to check their email every couple of days.
- Interminable soccer board meetings, where we argue incessantly over minutia.
- Sore knees
- Finding eleven months of tax records, but desperately needing that twelfth month
- Watching hockey in standard definition. I guess I shouldn't complain too much, as at least they televised the NCAA finals, but once you watch hockey in hi-def, you don't want to go back.
- Listening to the US Presidential candidates prostrate themselves before the electorate, trying to prove they believe in imaginary fairies more than the other ones. Obama's "clinging to guns and religion" comment is one of the most rational thing any of them have said all campaign season, yet he can't scramble away from it fast enough.
Things I Love
- Coaching my girls in soccer. Last season was the first season one of them played without me, and while it was an interesting change in point of view, I'm glad to be back in the saddle again.
- Those first beautiful days of Spring. I've always said those are the hardest ones to stay focused when you are working from home.
- Playoff hockey
- Overtime Playoff hockey
- A sweet one timer from the faceoff dot that wins an overtime playoff hockey game for your underdog Black & Golds. That feeling is why I'm glad I am a sports fan.
- Watching one of your local Division One hockey teams finally win the championship game, after losing the previous two years. The Boston College Eagles made it easy to watch this year, as they just rolled in both games they played in the Frozen Four.
- The Car Talk Credits; "Head of Working Mother Support Group - Erasmus B. Dragon" indeed!
- Following Web bread crumbs to discover gold:
- Listening to Bess Rogers, hoping to get to see her next week
- Finding about her and Jen's crazy insane podcast, Once More with Feeling. "Cheese And Despair" - great potential band name
- Noticing the podcast comes from Gcast.com, a free Podcasting hosting site. Look for my "Cheese and Despair" podcast soon!
- Seeing they are affiliated with GarageBand.com, so begin prowling around there
- Checking out the folk section and finding a sort-of local artist named Llissa Schneckenburger, a fiddler and folksinger who, as my friend says, must be good with a name like that! And is! And she has a new CD available today!
A couple Shenanigans from my lunch time errands, in the blessed spring sunshine:
- To the doofus who banged a U-ey right in front of me, in order to cut into the middle of a clearly marked funeral procession.
- To all those pedestrians who refuse to walk the extra 10 feet to get to a crosswalk, preferring instead to dart out from between two parked cars
I've been a sporadic user of Twitter for a while now but I really didn't get into it. I would go through some phases of using it, but they were fairly short bursts, and prone to long lapses of quiet.
But lately I've been using it more. I installed TwitterFox (although I don't remember when!) and happened to notice it in my status bar. And it works very nicely, giving me an interface that I can understand (the Twitter home page had me a little confused - what can I say, I'm easily confused). Although lately it has been giving me trouble, as the popup window is appearing underneath web content on some pages, which is annoying.
So I've started "tweeting" a bit more. And it has actually paid off over the past couple of days, with some great information appearing.
First up was the notice from jamiei about Google App Engine, which is a way to leverage Google technological muscle to create web apps. Very nice looking, even if I can't crack the beta team. You can download the SDK and play with it locally until they open it up a little more. Here's an excellent hands on quickie tutorial for using it.
Then I tweet-complained earlier this morning that my Amarok had stopped downloading cover images. I figured it was my fault, because I had recently gone through "version hell" trying to get a libCurl update to work. libCurl is often used by programs to get web information, and I just figured I broke Amarok solving my update problem.
But nightrose came to my rescue just a few minutes later, pointing out a blog post by Seb, an Amarok developer, explaining that an Amazon API change broke Amarok's album cover download and it will be fixed in the next upgrade. Yay for instant help!
So maybe Twitter can actually be useful, rather than just another distraction. But I will not turn on audio notification of new tweets. Nope, I just won't do that...
Unusual week this week in the Loathe and Love lists - I don't usually have some many things to Loathe.
Things I Loathe
- Having to fix badly written source code. How hard could it be to use an 'else if'?
- The often long hard battle getting the kids to bed. We're all tired enough as it is, why can't they just brush their teeth and go to bed nicely when asked?
- Rainy days with highs near 40F (4C)
- Getting micromanaged
- People who give me their email address and then never check it
- Having my favorite coffee bean (Ethiopian Yirgacheffe) be out of stock for the first time in years
Things I Love
- Calling home while driving home and talking to the girls. They continue to amaze me.
- Beautiful spring days, perfect for Opening Day and a World Series ring ceremony
- Turning rainy spring days into boardgaming days
- Lotus cars, even before Bond blew up a Lotus Esprit, breaking my heart
- Demon Days by Gorillaz
Just saw this commercial on the NCAA championship. Too funny.
A favorite from the March 2007 set in the Stereogum collection. I've really become attracted to these Swedish singers!
My weekend viewing was pretty light. Friday night, I watched Rushmore, a Netflix movie I had been putting off watching. One of those movies I'm not sure how it got on my list, or even how
it ever percolated to the top. Movies about high school angst do nothing for me.
But while waiting for the girls to finish their swim class, I was flipping through a magazine. It was some supplement magazine put out by Wired, and it was all about movies. And in it was a very interesting list (who doesn't love lists?) of the 50 best movie soundtracks of all time. My Google-fu fails me on finding this list, but suffice to say that Rushmore was on it, and pretty high up too. So I was spurred on to give it a viewing.
And I liked it. It was wacky enough to overcome my natural dislike of movies that celebrate high school angst. Telling the story of a natural born slacker who looks for corners to cut and things to do besides schoolwork, who falls in love with a teacher, competes with Bill Murray for her attention, finds out the truth of the maxim "Revenge is a dish best served cold", and comes to settle into his own life, Rushmore does a good job of keeping you off balance. And the fact it had the beautiful Olivia Williams (sadly underutilized in films since), didn't hurt either.
But it did involve too much high schooler pathos at times. I'm sorry, but to be honest, my high school years just weren't that bad, and I have no urge to relive someone else's horrible times there. I was involved in enough sports and academic stuff to blend well enough with both the geeks and the athletes. Sure, I had my heart broken a few times, but not so that it scarred me for life. And while the times weren't too bad, they were neither the high point nor the low point of my life, and so I'm just not interested in revisiting them. Sure, the old "if I knew then what I know now" would kick in, and yes I did have a big crush on one of my high school teachers like Max Fischer did, but they are mostly times well served by warm over memories.
Rushmore was rescued by the completely believable performances by Jason Schwartzman as the geeky, gawky Max Fischer, and the aforementioned Bill Murray and Olivia Williams, as well as by the superb soundtrack. Some great songs were in there, from all over the map, but the new wave / grunge metal was the best. I really liked the last song, "Ooh La La" by the Faces and Rod Stewart (speaking of "wish that I knew what I know now when I was younger"!). So, all in all, it was well worth watching, even if you don't like "coming of age" movies.
Thanks to a pointer from zosa, we have our free book for today:
This book is an ad-supported PDF, where you get little contextual text ads that show up to the left of the actual pages. The author will get paid based upon the "click throughs", and seeing the ads is entirely an opt-in kind of thing. The ads don't seem to show up on my Linux box, but I guess if it isn't the latest and greatest Adobe version, then you don't see them at all. Which is unfortunate, because I'd like to support the experiment.
Anyway, as zosa says, it's an excellent compendium of 200 True Films, a genre I really enjoy. I'm looking forward to perusing it!
We watched a couple of movies the other night. First up was The Bourne Identity. I had seen it before, although not in hi-def. When Best Buy was offering up a "buy one get one free" and it included the HD-DVD versions of the first two Bourne movies, I snatched them up. I really enjoyed The Bourne Supremacy, even despite the shaky camera work, so I was hoping that the HD-DVD version of the first one would be equally sparkling.
And it was an excellent audio/visual treat. Not quite as frantic as Supremacy, but still really good action movie. The car chases were solid, especially the one through Paris in the mini. It held up very well, and now I really want to go back and re-read the novel.
The second movie was a Netflix rental, something that had been sitting around for a while - the standard DVD movie Once, an indie sensation when it came out in 2006. And what a wonderful movie it really was - a nicely romantic, yet real life feeling movie. There are often no easy answers when it comes to matters of the heart and this movie didn't take the easy way out, leaving things messy.
The story is pretty straight forward - "Guy" is a busker on the streets of Dublin, living at home as a "Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy", whose girlfriend left him for London. Girl comes up to him and tells him encouraging things about his songs. But despite her own complications, she gets him to a weekend long recording session, where things work out well. And life goes on.
The main actors, Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, are both pretty much first time actors and really nailed the parts. Director / writer John Carney caught lightning in a bottle with these two and the movie has a great feel about it. Glen and Markéta are obviously comfortable with themselves and, in one of the commentaries, Carney talked about having old band mate Hansard write some songs of a movie he only had partially sketched out in his head. But the more he thought about it the more it became obvious that Hansard was his actor too, and, serendipitously enough, Hansard had a good friend in Markéta who was both a Czech immigrant and a piano player, exactly what Carney was looking for. And she really nailed the part, being both vulnerable and strong at the same time.
My biggest complaint is that, for some reason, the movie has an R rating (in the US, R is for 18 and over only). I can't even begin to imagine why it would have generated an R. The "f-bomb" is dropped a few times, but that is the only thing that could possibly have done it. There's no sex, no violence, just a great, touching, honest story being told, often in song. I was thinking it would be a good movie for my girls to see, as it also does a great job of showcasing the creative process, as both the Guy and the Girl work on the songs. I think it would help get them more fired up on their piano play. I'm truly baffled as to its rating, other than to agree with the feeling in the ratings documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated, which said that indie films were graded on a much tougher scale than big budget titles.
But you should see Once. No, it isn't a "chick flick". Just a realistic portrayal of two people and how they can affect the lives of each other.
Show us a great April Fools' Day joke.
Today's "Woot Off"....
The best practical joke I've ever been involved with was when I was working on Ultima Underworld. We put a special file on the head honcho's computer and checked for that file in the code. If we found the file, we would periodically, and for a very short time, swap the palette (this was in the days of 256 color games) to some hideous orange and purples. So every now and then, we hear yelps from his office to come quick and see what just happened! Of course, by the time we got there, the palette had swapped back and nothing could be traced.
I'm not sure if we ever let him onto the joke. The code for the check of MSDOS.SYS is probably still there!
|2||Rodrigo y Gabriela|
|5||Nine Inch Nails|
|6||Death Cab for Cutie|
|6||Burning Star Core|
Been listening to my new The Clean Anthology that I bought on Amazon MP3. And this doesn't even count the listens I've done in the car. And RyG made it back to the top. And a few more Laura Veirs, although it looks like I'm going to be out of town the night she is in town, so I won't make her concert. And still listening to the wonderful Ghost stuff from NiN. The others? Stereogum "pollution":-)
Things I Loathe
- Forgetting to mail back my Netflix movie for days, even weeks, after I watched it
- A computer without a reset button
- Pointless remakes of Hollywood classics. Please Madonna, leave Casablanca alone!
Things I Love
- Going skiing with my girls. It is a tremendous experience for me and I think they enjoy the hell out of themselves too.
- As a hockey goalie, making a solid pad save on a slapshot from the faceoff dot. It's remarkable what the body can do well before you could even think to do it - square up to the shooter and I just know where the shot is going. Go into the butterfly, kick the shot out, and get back up before I even realize what just happened.
- Finding a "New and Revised" edition of a favorite cocktail book, esp. one that was originally ruined when "Ida Know" spilled glitter glue into its pages