Sunday, September 30, 2007

The most wonderful time of the year

Ah, yes: it's that time of year again. October. Baseball playoff time. My favorite month. Bring on the drama!

Okay, so the Astros aren't going this year. But you know who else isn't going? The New York Mets, thanks to the biggest collapse in the history of Major League Baseball, leaving the door open for the Phillies (who managed to actually man up and walk through it, for the first time in fourteen years). And the collapse wouldn't have been as grand and hilarious if not for today's theatrics: the Mets needed to win to clinch the division, so they sent out Tom Glavine, their Hall of Fame-bound, 300 game winner to the hill...and he gives up seven runs in the first inning. He gets one guy out. One. The Marlins load the bases, and Glavine hits the batter. The batter being the opposing team's pitcher. (It was the first -- and I'm sure Glavine hopes the last -- time he had ever hit a pitcher. Ever.) Glorious!

And tomorrow we get a prologue to the postseason glory, as the Padres have to play a one-game playoff with the Rockies to determine the NL Wild Card. Like the Mets, the Pads could've clinched with a win today, but they let the Brewers dump eleven runs on them, so no dice.

Over in the AL, it's the annual battle for the right to try to beat the Motherfucking Yankees. The Indians get first crack at it, and here's hoping for a repeat of the Pinstripes' performance last year.

So who's going to win everything? What's my prediction? Well, I'm an awful prognosticator, but I'll stick my neck out here: the Angels. I base this on...nothing at all. A guess.

A more worthwhile guessing game: how many points under .200 will Alex Rodriguez's postseason batting average be? I say 24.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

List of the week: the best of Lost


To celebrate the three-year anniversary of the tragic demise of Oceanic Flight 815 -- September 22, 2004 -- here we have my eight favorite moments of Lost, thus far. (Spoilers are friggin' everywhere here, should you care -- fair warning.)

1. The rattlesnake in the mailbox.
("Through the Looking Glass" -- Episode 3.22) I've raved (endlessly) about the flash-forward ending of the third season, and it's for good reason -- those few minutes inverted the show and redefined everything. And it also provided some astounding narrative gymnastics: the current storylines all somehow became more suspenseful with a view of the future. Who was in the casket? Who else got off the island? Why does Jack need to get back? Who does Kate need to "get back" to? Perhaps one of the greatest cliffhangers ever written.

2. Purely hypothetical.
("The Whole Truth" -- Episode 2.16) Michael Emerson was originally signed only to appear in three episodes for a mini-arc in season two. But how could they lose an actor this electrifying? Jack and Locke have kept poor Henry Gale locked in their vault for days, thinking him a spy for the Others; he claims he's nothing but a poor, stranded balloonist. Offering him a measure of trust, they let him out and hand him a bowl of cereal. Gale then "innocently" mentions the map he drew in secret for Sayid and Ana Lucia -- "You guys really have some trust issues," he mumbles at Jack and Locke's surprise. But then his eyes gleam, and he pontificates on what he would do if he was "one of them." "I'd draw a map to a real secluded place," he says, voice dripping with cool menace. "Good place for a trap -- an ambush. And when your friends got there, a bunch of my people would be waiting for them. Then they'd use them to trade for me." His audacity hangs in the air for a few moments as Jack and Locke stare at him in horror. He chuckles off the bad vibe by saying, "Guess it's a good thing I'm not one of them, huh?" Dropping into total nonchalance again, he gestures to his cereal bowl: "You guys got any milk?" And then, BAM -- Lost title card, episode over, see you next week. Emerson's chilling read of what is on paper a fairly ordinary monologue is all the more stunning for the twisted mind game it plays with the audience. Is it any wonder this guy was promoted to the regular cast and found himself with an Emmy nomination a year later?

3. "Guys...that's not just a bear..."
("Pilot, Part 2" -- Episode 1.02) If you're going to do a show all about weird, inexplicable shit, it's best to get started right away. And while the unseen monster in the pilot was suitable to that purpose, it's somehow not quite weird enough -- it's so out-of-the-blue that it's almost expected. But not to fear -- the writers know exactly what they're doing. And so it is that, is the second half of the pilot, Sawyer guns down a bear. Yes, a bear, wandering around this tropical island. The uncomfortable feeling for both the characters and the audience when they see that it's not just a bear, but a polar bear, is a lesson in narrative cognitive dissonance.

4. Does this count as a Stephen King reference?
("The Glass Ballerina" -- Episode 3.02) Michael Emerson strikes again. Ben's endless series of mind games became a mainstay of the third season, and we see them at work here in classic form. He offers Jack a deal -- do what I ask and I'll get you home -- and is declined, because Jack doesn't believe he can follow through. "You're stuck here just like we are," he says. So Ben offers evidence of their contact with the outside world: he rattles off a few current events, like the results of that year's presidential election, and the passing of Christopher Reeve..."And the Boston Red Sox won the World Series." Jack breaks apart with laughter, of course...until Ben flicks on the VCR and shows him the footage. The look on Jack's face -- the look of a man whose world has been spun counterclockwise -- combined with Ben's repeated offer (performed again with genius by Emerson) counts as another terrific cliffhanger. (And is it odd that, after three seasons, the Red Sox winning the Series is still the strangest, most inexplicable thing to happen on this show?)

5. Despite all my rage, I am still just a rat in a cage.
("?" -- Episode 2.21) Back in the real world, John Locke worked in a meaningless job at a box company. He was paralyzed. He was ridiculed. He was useless. But on the island, he became a man transformed. He could walk, he could hunt -- he could live the meaningful life he'd always wanted. And when he found the Swan, and the all-important button within, he thought he'd found his purpose. But a trip into the Pearl station with Eko throws everything into chaos -- a training video there reveals the button and the Swan to be nothing more than a purposeless psychological experiment, long since abandoned. Locke's existential horror is profound: he's once again became a meaningless drone, doing a meaningless job. Though the tape was later proved -- in spectacular fashion -- to be a lie, Locke still hasn't quite recovered from the shock.

6. The fine art of staying out of the way.
("Do No Harm" -- Episode 1.20) Oh, Charlie -- he means well. When Claire goes into labor with only clueless Kate to help her, Charlie responds to her anguished screams by trying to run in and help. But Jin -- wise and knowing, even if he can't speak to his buddy -- holds Charlie back with a smile and a shake of the head. It's hilarious, and one of the more touching character moments in a series full of them.

7. The great and terrible.
("The Man Behind the Curtain" -- Episode 3.20) The name Jacob is thrown around only a few times in the third season, which only adds to its mystique -- a rarely-mentioned, never-seen Other, superior even to Ben. So when Locke demands that Ben take him to see Jacob, the suspense is palpable. And boy, does it pay off: the few minutes the pair spends inside Jacob's cabin are disorienting, terrifying, and spellbinding. Evil voices, fire, telekinesis -- the audience is as breathless as Ben and Locke when they finally escape. "What was that?" Locke asks. Ben responds simply, "That...was Jacob." I can't wait for the answers to follow.

8. In medias res.
("Pilot, Part 1" -- Episode 1.01) You should always start with a bang. And so does Lost, beginning with the horrific aftermath of a plane crash. Jack races through the wreckage, saving lives and watching others end. There's no time to learn names or properly introduce characters -- we're too confused to remember, anyway. And so we meet our setting and cast exactly as they do: on the fly, in a panic, with no preconceptions. The show begins with a question mark; the rest of the story is the answer.

Givin' me, givin' me the shivers

The Dave Matthews Band setlist tonight, for their concert at the Woodlands:
  1. Pantala Naga Pampa/Rapunzel. (Best opening song(s) ever. And "Rapunzel" was actually played at a tempo somewhat near the studio version, as opposed to the lethargic drone of the Listener Supported take.)
  2. Everyday.
  3. Cornbread. (A new song, previously heard on the Dave and Tim Radio City set. It works much, much better in a full-band context.)
  4. You Might Die Trying. (About thirty times better than the tepid studio version.)
  5. Eh Hee. (Repeat everything I said about "Cornbread.")
  6. You Never Know.
  7. Dancing Nancies. (Hey, they played Steve's song. Is it churlish to be disappointed they didn't play mine?)
  8. Anyone Seen the Bridge/Too Much. ("Bridge" is usually the, um, bridge between "So Much to Say" and "Too Much." It sounds weird without the first song, but it still works, especially with the hilarious stop-time intro.)
  9. Bartender. (They brought out Robert Earle Keane's banjo player to assist them on this song, and he promptly blew the band off the stage with a solo that lasted about nine minutes. That's how it's done.)
  10. Grey Street. (I'm pretty sure they cut out a verse. But hey -- it's "Grey Street.")
  11. Fool to Think. (Ick. Every silver lining has a dark cloud, huh? Hey, at least it wasn't "Sleep to Dream Her." And it gave me a chance to sit down.)
  12. The Dreaming Tree. (Holy shit!)
  13. What Would You Say?
  14. Louisiana Bayou. (The transformation this song undergoes from the bouncy studio version to the ferocious beast it becomes live is truly astounding.)
  15. Ants Marching. (Complete with the awesome extended intro.)
  16. Encore: Two Step. (Well, if your encore is only going to be one song, you might as well make it thirteen minutes long.)
The setlist looks short on paper, but don't be fooled -- they played for a legit three full hours. Rather than putting two or three "jammy" songs, as per usual, every song suddenly became an excuse for virtuosity.

Leroi Moore seemed a little out of it, but guest trumpeter (trumpetist?) Rawshawn Ross made up for that with his stylish blare. And the showy solos never became lost and boring -- even when they extended beyond the realm of sanity, they remained captivating and compelling. (They also provided welcome distraction from the couple behind me engaged in a solid bit of Relationship Drama. Apparently, he wasn't cheating on her, he just wasn't -- he'd never do that, he doesn't know what she's being so paranoid about. Hey, people, I realize that conversation is an important one in the life of your fun-but-doomed relationship, but why do you have to have it during "Bartender"?)

And guess what, kids? Dave can still sing. And you probably didn't know this, but Carter? He can play the drums a little bit.

But seriously -- what do I have to do to get you to play "Warehouse"?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Apparently, people are still making good music videos

This is "First Day of My Life" by Bright Eyes.

Monday, September 17, 2007

It goes without saying that I'm excited for this one

I mean, it's Paul Thomas Anderson. And the score is written by the guitarist from Radiohead. How could I not be excited?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Weekly iPod Shuffle: 9/16/07

(Sorry about the lack of consistent posts this last week; I've working hard on the second season of Veronica Mars, Half-Life 2, the next episode of Revolver [titled "Polyethylene (Part 1)"], an outline for a text-based video game about pirates on another planet, and stories for Hunter. Not a hundred percent sure about the order of completion, but I guessing Mars, outline, Revolver, Half-Life, Hunter.]

1. "I'll Stick Around," Foo Fighters
Our generation's version of Wings never really got better than their first two albums, did they? That's a real shame, considering how talented a drummer Dave Grohl is. (My rating: *****)

2. "Right Next Door to Hell," Guns N' Roses
This angry screed opens Use Your Illusion I. How angry is it, you ask? For no apparent reason, Axl lets loose a shrieking "Fuck you, bitch!" that drags the "you" out for almost fifteen seconds. 'Cause, see, he's angry. (Rating: ***)

3. "Someone Something," Spoon
Hey, it's your favorite part of the shuffle: this band you've probably never heard of is awesome, you should go buy the CD. In this case, the band is called Spoon. Oddly enough, their music is plastered all over Veronica Mars. Which is not a bad thing at all. (Rating: *****)

4. "Vienna," Billy Joel
This song features an accordion solo, which I wholeheartedly approve of. I think there should be more accordion in pop music. The only band I can think of that uses one regularly (other than Weird Al) is Counting Crows, and who takes them seriously? I mean, other than me? (Rating: *****)

5. "Limp," Fiona Apple
From the album with the hideously title. It's Fiona at her angriest and most ferocious: "It won't be long 'til you'll be lying limp in your own hands." The song is bloody fantastic, though. Remind me again why she isn't a worldwide superstar? Oh, right, she's insane. I remember now. (Rating: *****)

6. "People Just Love to Play with Words," Men at Work
Yes, I have a Men at Work album on my iPod. Actually, I have two. Not everything that came out during the '80s was throwaway crap, you know. A lot of it was, yes. But not everything. (Rating: *****)

7. "I'm Free," The Who
In Almost Famous, William's big sister leaves him all her albums. Attached to Tommy is a match and a note that says, "Listen to Tommy with a candle burning and you will see your entire future." Maybe if I listened to Tommy with a candle burning I might, ya know, like it. This song isn't bad, though. (Rating: ****)

8. "O Valencia!" The Decemberists
A passionate and tearjerking retelling of West Side Story (which is itself a retelling of Romeo and Juliet, of course) that's one of the best songs the Decemberists have yet recorded. Colin Meloy's voice is always superb, but it's in rare form here as he unfolds the tragic tale: the two lovers, members of rival gangs, are supposed to make their escape, but her sister rats them out. "All I heard was a shout of your brother calling me out/And you ran like a fool to my side/Well, the shot, it hit hard, and your frame went limp in my arms/And an oath of love was your dying cry....Oh, Valencia, with your blood getting cold on the ground/Valencia, and I swear to the stars, I'll burn this whole city down." Hmm? Oh,'s just...I have something in my eye.... (Rating: *****)

(That's actually a fan-made video, using band-supplied green-screen footage of themselves. It's much better than the actual video for the song.)

9. "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (live)," The Band
In last week's Hunter episode, Simon informed little Laura that the Band were "the band, the best band ever." After listening to this stunning version of their best song, it's hard to argue. (Rating: *****)

10. "Them That Got," Ben Folds
A live performance of a fragment of an old Ray Charles song. He promises the audience that he'll learn the rest someday. I hope he did, because the song is brilliant. (Rating: ****)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The self-fulfilling prophecy

Before I head off to work, one quick thing: Bush has apparently decided that he will follow the advice of General Petraeus and start withdrawing troops next year. Before you get too excited, he's only talking about bringing home 30,000 of them...which would bring us back to the level prior to the idiotic "surge" put into effect earlier this year.

And it's a big shock Bush is following Petraeus's advice, let me tell you. Especially considering Bush was saying the same things Petraeus said before Petraeus said it to Congress. And the White House wrote the friggin' report anyway. And furthermore, everything Petraeus said was bullshit to begin with.

How much longer until January 2009?

Harder, better, faster, stronger

Kanye West's new album, Graduation, dropped today. Thanks to the iTunes store, I was able to download it the very second it became available. I love the iTunes store.

I'd write a big long thing about the record, but I have other things to do (meaning work and stuff, totally not sitting on my ass playing Half-Life 2. I mean, what do you take me for?), so I'll just show you this image from my iTunes library:


In other words, it's really, really good. So I guess you should buy it, then. If you're into that kinda thing.

Man, if Pitchfork did reviews like this, I might take them seriously. (Though even they love Kanye.)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Oh, wait, they were serious?

Okay, this is a little disorienting. Apparently, they weren't kidding around when they said they were making a fourth Indiana Jones movie.
"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" will be in theaters May 22, 2008.

The title of the long-awaited fourth installment of the adventure series was announced by Shia LaBeouf, who co-stars with Ford in the film, at the MTV Video Music Awards in Las Vegas on Sunday.

The new Indy adventure, which is set in the 1950s, also stars Cate Blanchett, Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent and Karen Allen.
Goddammit. Why can't you just leave the franchises alone, please? I don't want another Indy movie. And hell, they found the friggin' Holy Grail in the last movie, what is there left to find?

Oh, and your title sucks.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Weekly iPod Shuffle: 9/9/07

1. "Falling for You," Weezer
From their best album, the underrated and little-heard masterpiece Pinkerton. It disappeared from view with the public because Rivers Cuomo decided to make a self-consciously uncommercial follow-up to the beloved "blue album" (hey, there's the Fleetwood Mac playbook again), and the result is an album buried in static, distortion and unpolished (and often off-key) vocals. Luckily, not even the raunchy sound can obscure the awesome songs beneath, and this one of the best. Some of the lyrics don't quite cohere, this being one of the tracks originally composed as part of a planned concept album based on Madame Butterfly, but it still rocks. (My rating: *****)

2. "Leave," Barenaked Ladies
All BNL albums feature Stephen Page and Ed Robertson sharing vocal duties, but Steve usually bares the brunt of the load (being the band's lead singer and all). Their US breakthrough album, Stunt, however, evens things almost equally. This is one of the songs sung by Ed, and is (allegedly) about him seeing the ghost of his deceased brother while on tour. As is the standard with the Ladies, you'd never know the song had such a dark genesis from the music itself, which is nice and shiny and features a wonderful "do do do do, do do do" sing-a-long chorus. (My rating: *****)

3. "With a Little Help from My Friends," The Beatles
On a recent episode of Storytellers, Ringo opened with a performance of this song (even though he didn't write it), saying that it had single-handedly allowed him to continue touring for forty years. And he's right -- I'd be willing to shell out for a ticket to hear Ringo sing "With a Little Help from My Friends." It's that good a song. (Rating: *****)

4. "Fight," The Tragically Hip
A grungy song about a frayed relationship. After a disagreement comes to a head, Gordie surrenders, but clears his motives first: "Do you think I bow how 'cause I think you're right, or 'cause I don't want to fight?" And while he's always been a great singer, this song features his wonderful voice especially well. (Rating: *****)

5. "White and Nerdy," "Weird Al" Yankovic
Just when I was thinking that Al was perhaps a little past his prime, he turns in this single, which became the biggest of his career. And it's one of his best parodies, turning quick phrases and funny lyrics with solid hip-hop skills. The only thing missing from his litany of nerdy touchstones (he picked up trivia mastery, Monty Python, D&D, the Renaissance Fair, bubble wrap, Wikipedia, and Star Trek) was World of Warcraft. But hey, the song is only three minutes long. (Rating: *****)

6. "Good Time (live)," Counting Crows
This is a smoky, jazzy-sounding live version that retains the unusual dynamics of the original. The verses and the choruses are both quiet and understated, but the guitar hook during the second half of the verse crashes in with a viciously distorted sound that vanishes as quickly as it arrived. Weird, but it's a great song. (Rating: ****)

7. "Am I Inside," Alice in Chains
This is from Sap, a five-track EP they released between albums. To expand their sound a little on this vaguely experimental record, they added a piano and brought in another Seattle native to sing backing vocals: Ann Wilson from Heart. If you're curious how she sounds harmonizing with Layne Staley's perpetually stoned moan, the answer can be found in your dictionary under "awesome." (Rating: *****)

8. "Mr. Blue Sky," Electric Light Orchestra
I don't know how or why this song became popular again over the last several years, but I'm not sorry it did. ELO isn't generally my cup of tea, but it's hard to dislike a song as this well-constructed and catchy as this one. It gets downright silly at the end, though. (Rating: *****)

9. "Hey Hey What Can I Do," Led Zeppelin
You know Hootie and the Blowfish covered this song? I've never heard their version, but I imagine it would be...interesting. (Rating: *****)

10. "Just Don't Give a Fuck," Eminem
I've waxed nostalgic about Em's heydey a few times before; no sense doing it again. Instead, I'll just provide some of his clever lyrics on display here: "I'm buzzin', Dirty Dozen, naughty rotten rhymer/Cursin' at you players worse than Marty Schottenheimer/You wacker than the motherfucker you bit your style from/You couldn't sell two copies if you pressed a double album....I'll diss your magazine and still won't get a weak review/I'll make your freak leave you, smell the Folgers crystals/This is a lyrical combat, gentlemen, hold your pistols/But I form like Voltron and blast you with my shoulder missiles....The looniest, spontaneous, sporadic/Impulsive thinker, compulsive drinker, addict/Half animal, half man/Dumpin' your dead body inside of a fuckin' trash can/With more holes than an afghan." Ah, the good ol' days. For some reason, though, my mom never got Eminem. Wonder why. (Rating: *****)

He's a real nowhere man, sitting in his nowhere land, making all his nowhere plans for nobody

The fourth season of Lost won't start for another five months, so it's sort of a dry spell as far as news for the show goes. The only things floating around are the announcement that the third season will be available on Blu-ray, and the release of the first complete trailer for the next-gen video game (both of which I'll be able to take advantage of once I get a PS3...unless I buy an XBox 360 instead...but that's a debate for another post).

But there is an interesting story in Chicago magazine about the show's originator, Jeffery Lieber. When an ABC executive's whim became an impassioned demand for a Castaway-like show about people stranded on a deserted island, Lieber was the shopworn screenwriter they turned to. And while they loved his original concepts, his first draft -- titled Nowhere -- was met with antipathy. His frantic rewrites did nothing to appease the suits, and the execs at Disney pitched the project to Alias creator J.J. Abrams. Of course, the rest of the story is well-known: Abrams decided what the show needed was a supernatural, mysterious sheen, co-wrote a brand-new pilot with Alias veteran Damon Lindelof, and then turned the show completely over to Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, who crafted it into a masterpiece of serial storytelling and the best television show of the last ten years.

Lieber is painted in the story as something of a tragic figure -- he was the genesis of the project, and created the bare bones of some of the characters, but it was taken from him and totally revamped. His name appears first in the "Created by" credit on every episode, but it's a credit he had to fight for, vigorously. Lieber bemoans his fate, noting with sadness that his work on Lost is clearly his best-known accomplishment, but he's responsible for of none its success, admitting, "I had nothing to do with it."

Personally, I think it's bullshit. Lieber's original concept for Nowhere had very, very little to do with the pilot Abrams and Lindelof wrote, aside from the basic premise (which came from an executive at ABC, not Lieber) and a few character archetypes (which were really pretty obvious choices, anyway -- who wouldn't have decided to put a pregnant woman and a drug addict on that island?).

And second, it's clear (at least to me) that his concept for the show wouldn't have worked. His pitch was for "ultrarealism" -- essentially, Lord of the Flies. Fine. And he makes it in clear in his script (fragments of which are including with the article) that the idea of being rescued would not be a plotpoint. So what does that leave? A story about finding food. A story about finding water. A story about the drug addict going sober. A story about the pregnant woman having her baby. And then? You go right for the Lord of the Flies playbook, with endless squabbling and violence between survivors. And you've got nothing else. That's not enough to carry a season, let alone an entire show.

Lost, on the other hand, improves upon Nowhere in every single respect. First, the pilot wisely begins in medias res, after the plane has already crashed. This not only throws the audience in with the characters -- confused, disoriented and (gasp) lost -- but sets up the entire theme of the show. If Lost is truly about one thing week after week, it's about discovery. Each episode is about uncovering a mystery, whether it be a mystery of the island, or of the plane crash, or of the history (or future!) of one of the characters. The flashback structure (created by Abrams and Lindelof) has become the backbone of the show, a backbone that Nowhere was missing.

And then there's the simple fact that you can't argue with success -- as I noted, Lost is the best television show of the last ten years. Lieber, by his own admission, is in no way responsible for that success...but that didn't stop him from fighting for and receiving a cut of the credit and, thus, the money. He receives royalties in "the low six figures" annually from Lost, and will get more once the show is syndicated. Meanwhile, Lindelof and Abrams get less money combined* and slave on the show week after week and have turned it into the exalted program it remains today.

So here's Lieber's beef, in a nutshell: He was paid to write a script. He wrote it. It sucked. ABC gave to it more talented writers. They created a masterful behemoth. Everyone gets money and awards. Lieber sues and gets on-screen credit (the first name in the credit). He also gets royalties every time the show airs, even though he hasn't contributed to anything that was even shot, let alone aired. And that credit has allowed him to get his foot in the door to greater career advancement.

Boo fucking hoo.

*The article says that Lieber gets 60 percent of that money, while Lindelof and Abrams share 40 percent. This is just the money for the "Created by" credit, though -- one would think Lindelof gets an additional salary from ABC for his role as executive producer, plus any royalties from credits for writing individual episodes.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Everybody tells you you pay for what you get

Update: that mouse is put together as well as its manual. It will be returned momentarily.

An interesting piece of information, the importance of which I really should have recognized at the time: when I pulled the box off the shelf, the mouse almost fell out of it, because the box was already open. I tried the others on the shelf, looking for one that hadn't already been opened, but they all had been.

Because they'd all been purchased and returned. Because the fucking thing doesn't work. Though, admittedly, I didn't use it on "the white desk."

Friday, September 07, 2007

Translation by CATS

I bought a cheapo wireless mouse at Wal-Mart today. No word on whether it will actually work or not -- it's got rechargeable batteries which need to charge for 12 hours before I use it for the first time. So I'm still waiting.

But it did provide me with an expected gift: the glorious User Manual*, which is a delight rarely experienced. My joy at English travesties in official settings is well-documented, and this little scrap of paper brings the goods like few others.

(*I say "User Manual" because they do, but it's really just a scrap of paper.)
Thank you for selecting this product! Your RF Wireless Rechargeable Optical Mouse uses a newly developed RF wireless technology 27MHz that replaces the traditional wired mouse. The receiver also can be used as a charger. So you need not worry about your battery will use out
And no, I didn't forget the period on the end of that sentence. They did.

The whole thing is written like this, you understand. Like the battery instructions -- or, rather, THE STEPS OF INSTALL BATTERY, which ask you to "Please prepare for two PCS new AAA (600mAH/1.2V) chargeable batteries".

I love this manual.
1.Radio frequency 27MHz,enjoy your freely wireless space
2.It has 256ID code, there is no interference even many mice being used at the same time
3.Automatically sleeping and manpower taking off dual functions, the battery life be prolonged
Seriously, what the fuck does #3 mean?

But the manual, in addition to being informative, is also helpful. For instance, in the section headed ATTENTION PLEASE, it suggests a way to preserve battery power: "You would better use the mouse on the white desk. In this way the batteries can used for a long time." Also, "The optical mouse will not work freely on so smooth desk, glass and any reflecting surface." But don't worry, "No need to check the digital connection within 10 seconds when change the batteries, if more than that please according to the above way to re-operate."

It's nice to know those Zero Wing translators can still find work.


Monday, September 03, 2007

Weekly iPod Shuffle: 9/2/07

1. "Possession," Sarah McLachlan
So here's an interesting story: McLachlan gets all these crazy letters from obsessed fans, right? She's creeped out. To cleanse her mind of the garbage, she writes a creepy pop song about the experience, called "Possession." It's written from a stalker's perspective, and features the type of whacked-out language you'd expect from such a person: "And I will be the one to hold you down/Kiss you so hard, I'll take your breath away/And after, I'd wipe away the tears/Just close your eyes, dear." So the song becomes a big hit, her first real success in America, and everyone's happy. Except one of her stalkers then sues her for royalties, claiming his letters were the basis for the song and she is using his intellectual property without permission. The Canadian legal system's head spontaneously combusts. Fortunately for them, the stalker committed suicide before the case could make it to a trial. (My rating: *****)

2. "Christmas at Ground Zero," "Weird Al" Yankovic
"Ground Zero" has a completely different definition in the American lexicon these days, but at the time Al recorded this song, it still referred to the site of a nuclear explosion. Surely, this is much funnier than the events of 9/11. (Actually, they seem to be, since this song is pretty funny.) (Rating: ****)

3. "Overkill," Colin Hay
As seen on Scrubs
. I actually prefer the original Men at Work version, but this one's great, too. (Rating: *****)

4. "Savoy Truffle," The Beatles
Man, the Beatles could turn anything into a pop masterpiece, couldn't they? George Harrison wrote this one about Eric Clapton's love of chocolate. This same album (the "white album") featured songs about pigs, children's playground equipment (that's what a "Helter Skelter" is, a slide), tiger hunters, and "Birthday," in which the title word is spoken roughly 258 times. (Rating: ****)

5. "Party Man," Peter Gabriel
An obscure rarity from Pete, co-written by Tori Amos. It was featured somewhat prominently in the movie Virtuosity, which featured Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Louise Fletcher, and Ken Shamrock. One of these is not like the others. (Of course, Shamrock only appears in one scene, in the background, out of focus, and has no dialogue. Which, I can tell you after years of watching him on WWF TV, is precisely his range as an actor.) (Rating: ****)

6. "No Rain," Blind Melon
You may remember this as being the video with the bee girl. This, unfortunately, is the sum total of Blind Melon's impact on the cultural consciousness, because frontman Shannon Hoon thereafter fell into the pit of drug addiction and stayed there until his overdose two years later. (Rating: *****)

7. "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)," Jimi Hendrix
How the hell has this not made it into a Guitar Hero game yet? I mean, they put friggin' "Spanish Castle Magic," of all songs, in the first game (without the vocals, for reasons known only to them). (Rating: *****)

8. "Emaline," Ben Folds Five
An anomaly -- this is the only Ben Folds Five song to feature a guitar. As such, it sounds very odd and out-of-place, even on their rarities collection, Naked Baby Photos. It works better live, when Ben plays it solo on piano. (Rating: ****)

9. "Suffering Face," Elvis Costello
A bonus track on the King of America re-release. It's a simple vocal-and-acoustic-guitar arrangement, but the lyrics -- "You came in gentle as a lamb/And turned into a terror/And you left your love and other threats/In the steam fading on my bathroom mirror" -- are vintage Costello. You wouldn't know it from reading the liner notes, though: he credited all the songwriting on that album to his real name, Declan Patrick Aloysius MacManus (he actually added Aloysius to his legal name), and all the guitar playing is credited to the "L.H.C." -- the Little Hands of Concrete. He was in an odd frame of mind. (Rating: *****)

10. "What Makes You Think You're the One," Fleetwood Mac
So Fleetwood Mac makes Rumours, which sells about eighty bazillion copies and makes them all rich. Apparently, this pissed them off, so they returned to the studio and recorded Tusk, a deliberately un-Rumours double album that became infamous as a self-indulgent mess; it's the stereotypical disasterous follow-up record. Of course, all this ignores that Tusk is really, really good. (Rating: ****)

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Because it's there

Hey, it's another internet meme. Gotta love the laziness! (Stolen, as are all my memes, from Lucas. I can't even summon up the energy to steal from someone new.)

1. Have you ever been searched by the cops?
No. I had a police officer search my home for evidence pertaining to a burglary, but I don't think that's the same thing, since I was the one burgled and was under no suspicion.

2. Do you close your eyes on roller coasters?
Since the only way I'm getting on a roller coaster is if I'm dead, yes.

3. When was the last time you've been sledding?
I have never been sledding in my life.

4. Would you rather sleep with someone else, or alone?
With someone else. I just don't think they'd want to sleep with me -- what with the tossing and turning and pointy elbows. Also, I can't seem to sleep unless I've got a DVD running and playing at high volume; this might disturb my sleeping partner.

5. Do you believe in ghosts?
I don't believe in spooks.

6. Do you consider yourself creative?
If I didn't, starting a website devoted to my writing would be an odd undertaking.

7. Do you think O.J. killed his wife?
No. They'd been divorced for a few years.

8. Jennifer Aniston or Angelina Jolie?
Aniston. I've never understood the world's fascination with Angelina Jolie.

9. Can you honestly say you know ANYTHING about politics?
I know plenty about politics. For instance, did you know that many politicians lie? It's true. Ask me how a bill becomes a law.

10. Do you know how to play poker?
I learned poker from watching Star Trek: The Next Generation. So, no, not really.

11. Have you ever been awake for 48 hours straight?
No. Though during The Passion of the Christ it felt like it.

12. What's your favorite commercial?

13. Who was your first love?
A girl in California. I don't remember her name. Isn't that sad?

14. If you've driving in the middle of the night, and no one is around you, do you run a red light?
No. They have those cameras on the stoplights now.

15. Do you have a secret that no knows but you?
*A* secret? No.

16. Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees?
Considering the frequency with which I use the phrase "DIE, YANKEES, DIE!" in casual conversation, I'll go with the Sox.

17. Have you ever been ice skating?
Nope. I went roller skating, and decided that plummeting the temperature and replacing my wheels with razor-sharp cutting implements would not enhance the experience.

18. How often do you remember your dreams?
Not often. But the ones I do remember, I remember for the rest of my life, apparently. There are dreams I vividly remember from ten years ago, but I can't remember what I dreamt of last night.

19. What's the one thing on your mind?
My hat.

20. Do you always wear your seat belt?
No. Otherwise, getting out of the car would be a pain in the ass.

21. What talent do you wish you had?
The powers of the Q.

22. Do you like sushi?
I had sushi once, back in fifth grade. And I hated it. Hated, hated, hated it.

23. What do you wear to bed?
I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that, no matter the answer, it creates an unpleasant mental image I wouldn't force upon you, my loyal reader(s).

24. Do you truly hate anyone?
Yes, I do. I throw the word "hate" around a lot, but when it comes to true Hate, I level that weapon at just one person.

25. If you could sleep with one famous person, who would it be?
Scarlett Johansson.

26. Do you know anyone in jail?
I used to know someone in jail when I was living in Maryland, but I doubt he's still there. In jail, I mean.

27. What food do you find disgusting?
The stuff that's been congealing in my fridge for the last few months.

28. Have you ever made fun of your friends behind their backs?
Yes. But never to say anything I haven't already said directly to their face.

29. Have you ever been punched in the face?
Yes. Several times.

30. Do you believe in angels and demons?
I don't believe in spooks.