June 29, 2007

Culture is dead! Long live culture!

Yet again, today's post comes from a recent NPR story, this one about an Andrew Keen's new book The Cult of the Amateur: how today's internet is killing our culture.

The interview was fascinating - you can listen here - was fascinating, and not just because the author's got a fabulous British accent.

Keen's first lengthy statement, in response to a question asking "let's make sure we're all on the same page here...overall, just give us a brief description of the problem you have with this interactive version of the web"...
My problem is that [Web 2.0] fundamentally undermines the authority of mainstream media. We are seeing two things going on simultaneously: the rise of this user-generated content which is unreliable and often corrupt and a crisis in professional journalism, professional recorded music, newspapers, radio stations, television, and publishing. And that is the core of our culture. Once we undermine the authority and expertise and professionalism of mainstream media, all we have is opinion, chaos, a cacophany of amateurs.
This is an isssue that I have been considering for a fair while now: the move from professional creation of news, media, and entertainment to a society where all entertainment and news is created equally and amateurly, challenging us to sort through so much dreck to find any kernel of wisdom or quality news. The increasing volume of information out there, with a corresponding withering of, to quote Keen, the wisdom of the professional frightens me because the sheer volume of crap out there will likely make it tougher and tougher to find what matters, what is important.

In a professional culture, the ratio of signal to noise is managable. We know that some of what we see and hear is without merit, but so much of it is with merit that we can trust our media by default, knowing that the incidents of untrustworthiness are few and far between enough that they will be brought to our attention when the are found.

In an amateur culture, however, the signal to noise ratio shifts drastically in favor of the noise, meaning that we must, by default, distrust our media, hoping to find the tiny amounts of worthwhileness that rise above the miasma.

But how will we find that?

Who will point out what is good, what is worthy, what is trustable if the only people I hear from are people whom I trust no more than I do myself?

If I am the news media (I've already begun blogging. What's to stop me from newsblogging?), then why would I trust the words of someone else's news? I know my biases. I know when I'm stretching the truth. I know when I'm talking without a lot of facts to back up my opinions. How do I know that the other people talking back to me aren't doing the same?

I look forward to reading Keen's book, and I continue to wait for 2014.

June 28, 2007

If you're living on earth, then enjoy Living on Earth

I love NPR, in case you hadn't noticed. I mean that I love it to the point that I get probably 80+% of my news from its dulcet radio tones.

I love turning on WVXU at any time and catching a show that is going to teach me something about my world, something that I probably didn't know. It might be Morning Edition on the way to school or Fresh Air on the way home, Talk of the Nation a little later in the evening or Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me on a Sunday afternoon, This American Life on a Saturday or Diane Rehm's less than dulcet tones in the middle of the day. I am going to end that hour smarter than I began it.

And this past weekend was no different.

I was out of town, catching my NPR fix on WFPL. There I got a dose of Living on Earth, a weekly environmentally-themed program. I learned about the phasing out of metal coat hangers, an environmental challenge that I had never before considered; home wind farms, something that The Girl and I have considered a few times; and the EPA's embarassing heal dragging on testing pesticides for possible hormone disruption in humans.

And so much of the programming on NPR is available in full streaming or downloadable audio - or in transcript form. Their job is to inform us, so they're thrilled to give their content away free. After all, if they get you to their website from a simple web story, you're hooked and interested in something new.

It's wonderful.

If you haven't tuned in to NPR, please give it a try.

If you love NPR already, remember to give them a donation.

If you already donate, buy something.

This radio resource is too valuable to squander.

June 27, 2007

Top five returning

It's been a long, long while since I dropped my top five movies...five times in a day...

My favorite movies about reality tv...
  1. The Truman Show
  2. Quiz Show
  3. Natural Born Killers
  4. Running Man
  5. Yeah, I'm stumped on another one. If anybody can help me, I'd be appreciative.
My favorite James Bond movies...
  1. Casino Royale
  2. Goldfinger
  3. Diamonds are Forever
  4. From Russia With Love
  5. On Her Majesty's Secret Service
My favorite John Cusack movies...
  1. Grosse Point Blank
  2. High Fidelity
  3. Better Off Dead
  4. The Thin Red Line
  5. Bob Roberts
  6. The Ice Harvest
  7. Stand By Me
  8. Say Anything
  9. The Grifters
  10. Fat Man & Little Boy
  11. Eight Men Out
  12. Must Love Dogs
  13. The Sure Thing
  14. (there were too many to stop at five...sorry...)
My favorite movie musicals (note: I haven't seen lots of the nominated films, and I discounted any cartoons.)
  1. The Muppet Movie
  2. Moulin Rouge
  3. White Christmas/Holiday Inn (They're the same as far as I'm concerned.)
  4. Chicago
  5. Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
  6. Honorable mentions to: Fame; South Park:Bigger, Longer, & Uncut; Viva Las Vegas; Grease
Favorite films nominate for Best Picture Oscars in the 2000s...
  1. Lost in Translation
  2. Fellowship of the Ring
  3. Traffic
  4. Moulin Rouge
  5. Brokeback Mountain
  6. Honorable mentions to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Gosford Park; Return of the King; Munich; Capote; Good Night, and Good Luck

June 26, 2007

In honor of...#7...

If ever there was a science guy who has used the medium of television (and more recently the magical interweb) to promote both himself and science, that science guy would have to be Steve Spangler.

Spangler was a classroom teacher for a dozen years but has now moved on to be the Director of the National Hands-on Science Institute in Denver and a consultant for the Littleton Public Schools near Denver.

And he is the current media scientist darling, and rightfully so.

Spangler's media savvy and affable personality - as well as his regular appearances on local morning shows and national network shows - has sent him into a decent amount of fame, particularly among the science teacher community. Spangler has even begun to parlay that into marketing science products in his name.

Spangler maintains a blog where he points out interesting science things, though the blog isn't all that interesting as he knows he's fully in the public eye. Luckily that same website has a large repository of experiments from Steve...

Snacks4theBrain! 51 - weird vocal science...

Gravity Defied Goo Video...

His mentos & diet coke compilation...

From Donald Duck to Barry White...

Hydrogen and Oxygen...

Pop Rocks science...

Make Your Own Bubbling Lava Lamp...

Bernouli's Principle...

Instant Worms...

Go check out more yourself...

June 25, 2007

Wii are thoroughly amused

So I finally broke down and bought into my first game console since Sega hockey was rockin'ly cool back in the early 90's...

I...make that we (The Girl was seriously involved in this purchase, too)...bought a Nintendo Wii.

There are all sorts of logical reasons for us to have bought a Wii:
  • There are these little people who visit from time to time and like to play things.
  • It's a social kind of thing where The Girl and I can both play at the same time.
  • It doesn't take up much room there on top of the DVD player.
But the biggest reason that that I played a Wii at a friend's house just after school let out, and it was fun.

So we sunk in a few hundred bucks - gotta get that second controller and a couple of extra games, doncha know - on not much more than a whim, and after visiting a dozen stores over a three or four day tour of West Chester and Mason, we got a Wii.

And it's a blast.

The weirdness of not having the more traditional video game controller (with it's ever-increasing number of buttons) is such a cool novelty that playing a Wii is amazingly different from playing any game system before it. The controller slips on your wrist, and you do whatever motion you want the character on the screen to perform. If you want to swing a golf club (my best is even par over nine holes), you move the controller like it's the grip of the club. If you want to swing a tennis racket, you just swing the controller like it's the racket handle. Very cool.

Now I just have to get the girl good enough at Wii tennis that it's a match between the two of us.

June 24, 2007

In honor of...#6...

I'm away on vacation and will posting infrequently for a few days...enjoy this belch of postings until then...

Some of the finest of the media scientists come to their time in the spotlight from the magic of being science educators. Lee Marek, for example, is (or maybe was) a chemistry teacher in Naperville, IL, near Fermi Labs ourside Chicago.

Marek has won numerous awards as a teacher, but at this point, he's mostly headed beyond the classroom and become a bit of a celebrity in the science teacher world. He's been on David Letterman - usually with his students, sometimes without -at least four times that I can count (#1...#2...#3...#4), though sadly video is a bit hard to come by - and what I was able to find is pretty small format stuff.

Marek also has videotaped a number of his most impressive demos and posted them online as well - though in a Real Player format.

And, most impressively, Marek just might be the guy to discover the mentos / diet coke geyser.

June 23, 2007

Meandering through the miasma

In wandering through the blogsphere of late, here are the things that have entertained me...

June 22, 2007

In honor of...#5...

And this, then, is how far we've sunk with some of the new scientists in the media, the British show Brainiac.

The premise is simple: they take some scientific conept, find how it explains something in real life, and they blow up a caravan.

At least they nearly always blow up a caravan.

They're much more about the explosions and much less about the science - not that they ignore the science entirely, just that they lean more toward explosive stuff.

They do have an online collection of videos, but here are some housed on other sites.

Alkali metals in water...

How to beat the crane game...

Racing fireworks...

Touching an electric fence...

Thermite explosion...

Paint can in a microwave...

A big egg in a microwave...

The dangers of nylon...

How to make Doner Kebabs (?)...

Playing blackjack against a monkey...

Making ice cream...

Helium's effects on wind instruments...

Back yard cannons...

Colour words...

June 21, 2007

A moment of seriousness

I'm pretty much a shill here...

I understand the seriousness of the issue, and the blankness of arguing which row we're in doesn't make a lick of sense.

So I'm throwing my hat into the ring and doing like the end of this video asks me to do.

June 20, 2007

In honor of...#4...

I'm guessing that almost nobody out there has heard of Dr. Lewellyn Heard. I'll admit that I hadn't before I stumbled upon this video. Continuing to look at media scientists, I present you with probably the first media scientist:

Dr. Heard's Amazing Fire Magic newsreel...

June 19, 2007

Make your day a little better...say hey!

I'm digging on the new series of BP ads...they're catchy; they present a cute, clean image of BP (deserved or not); and the artwork's got a nice little style to it...check 'em...

The first one I saw...it's the Elvis guy and, in fact, all the little green and gold guys (plus the one line singing dog) that sold me...

And the second one I saw...little kids driving cars, always safe...

Another one with slightly thinner scrubbing guys...

BP has even put out animations from their website showing just how the scrubber guys would help your car...

And they've even got outtakes for the animated series of commericals...
That last bit kinda makes me wonder...

I'm a sucker for pretty advertising...

June 18, 2007

In honor of...#3...

Next we come to Bill Nye, master of ceremonies at Nye labs.

Bill is the first of the media scientists since Mr. Wizard whose background actually includes a degree in science. Nye's show Bill Nye the Science Guy has been a favorite in my classroom for a number of years now, but I'm nudging it toward retirement as the segments are starting to show their age. Next up, I'll need to check out The Eyes of Nye, his new show.

Some clips of the mack daddy Nye himself...

the classic show intro...

An interview with Bill Nye...

Bill Nye - from The Eye of Nye - explains astrology...

Bill Nye talks about Pluto...

Bill Nye bugs Samuel L Jackson...

Bill retells the Three Little Pigs...

The Atomic Saloon...

The science granny balance challenge...

Tickle Me Meteorite...

Friction Finger...

"Blood Stream" - a parody of "Love Shack"...


"Smells Like Air Pressure"...

The Eyes of Nye episode about race (part 1)...
...and part 2...and part 3...

June 17, 2007

At Joey's request

I'm hooked into the PLCH's weekly emails telling me what's new at the library in various categories (I've signed up for general, music, and teen new stuff), and I tend to request an item or two every couple of weeks. This, then, is how I stumbled upon The Wild Trees by Richard Preston, a story of the first (according to Preston, at least) scientists to explore the canpoies of the redwood forests in California and Oregon.

Preston's book - and abridged version of which I listened to (didn't know it was gonna be abridged, another lesson for me to pay close attention before grabbing an audio book) - follows the stories of three or four different scientists as they meander their way to lives of Redwood study, eventually climbing their way together into the canopy in search of - depending on the scientist - the tallest redwood in the world, a thorough understanding of the redwood forest, or understandings of how lichens and redwoods interact.

The book held my interest, coming together as the climbers/scientists finally came together about 3/4 of the way through the book and head into the trees together. The early parts of the book were a bit disjointed, however, as Preseton was telling tales of three separate individuals, not - and this could have been a fault of the abridgement - weaving them together or even suggesting whether they would eventually be woven together. And the final part of the book - Preston's own tale of climbing into the redwoods with Steve Sillett and his climbing crew - didn't fit with the rest of the book's third-person narrator tone.

But I find myself almost desperate to go see the redwoods for myself. I know, however, that I would never be able to see the redoowd groves that are described in the books because if I - a fairly unfit, utterly inexperienced person - were able to get to those hidden groves, then the groves would be on the verge of destruction.

It's an interesting connundrum - wanting to see unspoiled, virgin forest but knowing that the moment I can see such sights, that they're already headed for destruction.

I recommend reading the unabridged tale of Preston and Sillett's journeys into the redwood forest. The abridged version left me wanting more...

Two more reviews here: #1 & #2...and the New Yorker article from which the book grew...

Roger Federer got pasted in the final of Roland Garros, and after a couple of sets and a return to lifelessness from the best tennis player on the planet, my attention span began to wander a bit. Flipping around through my nine channels (gotta love my no-cable, no-dish household, eh?) I stumbled across Small Soldiers, an action/aci-fi film from 1998 that passed by my radar quick as a blink, never catching my interest long enough to actually merit.

Turns out the the movie's not all that bad.

Sure, it never quite knows whether it's going to aim high - making tons of pop culture references that the adults watching will probably get but that will head over the tops of the little kids who might be drawn in by the "kid befriends talking/living toy" storyline - or low - centering the plot on a ninth-grade main character whose parents don't trust him and whose crush on the female lead (Kirstin Dunst, looking much cuter here than she has since) is unrequited because she only dates older guys and giving the main character an innocent friend in the peace-loving toy come to life. The movie is too violent for small kids but never quite old enough for the older kids.

But I enjoyed it. The film never takes itself too seriously, peppering itself with loads of entertaining actors in smaller parts (Jay Mohr, David Cross, Dennis Leary, Phil Hartman, Kevin Dunn, Christina Ricci's voice, Sarah Michelle Geller's voice), having the bad guy toys (far more interesting, by the by, than the good guy toys) voiced by a reunited cast of The Dirty Dozen and the good guys by the cast of This is Spinal Tap, and throwing reason to the wind as they begin talking about EMPs to kill the toys in the long run.

Most of the reviews that I've found seem to look at this not for adults, not for kids, light-weight tone as a negative, but I liked it, especially since I skimmed through the trivia section on imbd.com.

It's an enjoyable bit of fluff...certainly worth catching if it's on tv on a Saturday afternoon.

I groove to the Cassandra Cain version of Batgirl, and Kicking Assassins continues with the character's development from just another Bat-sidekick into a young woman capable of doing a bit of detective work on her own, someboyd who deserves to be given Bludhaven (in ye old days when that town existed, anyway) as her town to protect. She buys into the town by steering a bit of Bruce's cash into a deserving coffee shop just around the corner from her new Batcave, makes friends with the locals, scams into a new informant, racks off the Penguin, and earns a contract on her life from the Terminator.

It's a fun read and one that continues to let Cassandra develop, showing us further glimpses into her childhood and a past that she both embraces and refutes. Her fighting prowess is not diminished, and we see her both studious side (in defeating the Brotherhood of Evil) and her instinctive side (during the fight with the Terminator and the Ravager).

She's a great character, and I've been sorry to see her head into the darkness - apparently, at least - post One Year Later. I'm hoping that DC hasn't sold her down the river just yet.

If this is truly Superman in the Eighties, then it was an era of change as well as boredom.


This collection grabs some of the - supposedly - best single-issue Superman stories of the decade and lumps them together with some commentary from Super-editor NAME!!!!! between the tales. We get to see Lois as a more modern woman, living for her career but shattered when she finds the news story that Superman and Wonder Woman were a romantic item (something that happened for about a second in the eighties - I remember, I had the comic). We get to see a few old timey imaginary tales like "What if Superman Had Never Existed?" and a then dead Pa Kent coming back to life via the intervention of time-travelling space aliens.

Then we get some new, post-Crisis stories that show Superman in his mullet phase. It wasn't exactly a highlight of the era. The '80's Superman - if this volume is the only indication - wasn't much to pay attention to.

I'm surprised at how tough it is for me to read single-issue stories at this point. I've been trained by more recent graphic novels to expect story arcs that span at least a half-dozen issues. It's the rare single-issue story that can hold my attention at this point. I need a little bit of development. Here, instead, everything is neatly tied up in thirty or so pages.

And that's the same problem I had with Batman: Detective by Paul Dini. In an online interview, Dini discusses his wish to return to the simplicity of single-issue detective stories that he remembers from years gone by.

In this volume, and under Dini's helm, we get stories that begina nd are wrapped up within the scope of a single issue. For the most part, the stories just don't have enough substance to hold my interest for the full issue. The first one - introducing a new villian, Facade - isn't bad, and the impressionistic artwork gives it point for style, but I knew going in that everything was going to be tied up neatly before the issue was done, and I felt the impending tidy resolution up ahead throughout the whole issue.

That feeling - of impending resolution - weakens the entirety of the volume as Dini's story-telling doesn't hold up in this short format. It's a little odd, really, since he's one of the major architects of the outstanding run of DC cartoons - most of which were single-episode stories.

The re-introduction of the Riddler here as a private investigator trading on his fame and costume is an interesting development, and the final issue in the trade - Robin kidnapped by the Joker and taken for a joy ride - works amazingly well, but on the whole, the trade is a forgettable one. These aren't going to be the stories to inspire the next generation of Batman readers or writers.

Just because a series passes over single-issue stories doesn't mean it's full of classic literature, though, as proven by Green Lantern Corps: To Be a Lantern. The revived Green Lantern Corps series is taking its charge - to tell the stories of the entire frickin' GL Corps - seriously. This series must have a twenty or so characters, each with their own problems and motivations, all of which the writers are trying to explain and give us reason to care about.

It's too much.

I don't care that one lantern needs to explore her need to save people...another wants to procreate...another is abandoning his partner...another is a huge planet who's being pretty much used some sort of psycho-analyst for all the other GLs...aanother who's a big, dumb bruiser...another who's an administrative jerk...another who's...I forget...

It's too much.

And it's boring...

Plus the artwork's nothing special, either.

Gimme an interesting main character and a supporting cast. Don't give me an ensemble of characters, none of whom is fully-realized, all of whom are one-dimensional characters.

I finally got around to reading Marvel's Civil War TPB, collecting the seven main issues from their super-, mega-crossover event of the century. I haven't, of course, worked through the hundreds of tie-in issues, but I doubt I ever will. There are seemingly a hundred thousand comics that have something to do with Civil War, and I think therein lies the problem.

The seven-issue main series of Civil War plays off very much as disjointed episodes that are tired together by tales told in other series, series that I haven't read. Without knowing whatever's going on over there, I felt like I was missing major blocks of the story.

For example, there's some sort of prison in another dimension where the captured heroes are thrown, but that concept - even with the final, inevitable prison break-out - is barely touched upon in their main series. There are dozens of such moments, events on which the entire story seems to turn but that take up a half a page here, events that probably took full issues (or more) to tell when told in the regular ongoing series. With a super-mega-duper-crossover like this, the story has to be so huge, so monumental, so important that there's no way that it can be fully told in a half dozen (or a dozen, by which point it's dragged on too long) issues. But to get the whole story would require a reader to invest hundreds of hours, thousands of dollars, and countless synapses to the tale.

It's the rare crossover that works as a story and makes substantive changes in the universe of the characters. DC and Marvel have both been rolling out a crossover a year for decades now (at least as far back as Crisis on Infinite Earths - possibly the best of the event stories), and few enough of them have lived up to the hype.

This one comes close, however, until the ending. The set-up works - inexperienced heroes bight off more than they can chew when one of the bad guys they're trying to catch blows up and kills hundreds of civilians, including children. The government responds to citizenry outcry and pushes legislation to require all heroes to register with the government in order to operate. Heroes split sides in favor or against the required registration.

The logic behind the whole thing - Reed Richards sees the current state of affairs leading to chaos and sees the registration act as a way to ensure peace for decades; Tony Stark works with Richards, Namor, Black Blot, Dr Strange, & Prof X to plan how to deal with the uncertainty of the world; the aliance falls apart; a number of heroes decide to fight registration.

The middle even holds as things escalate and build to an inevitable throw down, made even larger by the large cocnentration of anti-registration forces.

And then comes the final throw down and the crap-out ending that isn't really and ending. It's a stop. The whole thing builds to a conclusion and then doesn't offer that conclusion. Neither side wins. One of the sides just quits.


It's not an ending; it's a lead in to a different crossover event.

Crap...total crap...

And the entire premise is better done in Kingdom Come

And here's one of the hundreds of crossovers to Civil War: Fantastic Four.

This volume begins to put together some of the missing pieces in terms of how Reed Richards's actions affected the members of Marvel's First Family. The relationship between Reed & Sue has been a pretty rock solid one in the Marvel history, and this distrust, this mystery, this dishonesty by Reed makes for an effective emotional schism between the two characters and in the faith that the other two members hold in the parental figures of the family. The issue where Reed lays out his entire calculations as to the social calculus of Civil War - to a former foe of his, the Thinker, rather than to his wife - is an excellent summation of this distrust.

The trials of Ben Gimm in hoping to avoid choosing sides makes for an excellent entry into Civil War and provides an effective everyman option of simply leaving the country rather than choosing sides to fight against - no matter which side he would choose - friends. Plus it gives us a chance to see some hilarious heroes from France - parodies like les Heroes de Paris.

If I could read every part of Civil War, it might be an excellent crossover story. I don't know that I have that kind of effort in me, though.

Then there's DC's various ongoing crossovers (that've been going for like three years it seems). It started with Infinite Crisis which I still haven't read through and has lead into 52 - fifty-two weekly comics to, according to the official website, tell the story of a year without Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman but not a year without heroes.

The series weaves together four storylines - the Question/Montoya, Ralph Digby, Booster Gold, and Steel - back and forth, rarely letting them connect yet. Surprisingly, the mysteriously slow revelations actually works for me. While things do move along at a fairly slow pace, there are enough steps forward that the slow pace didn't bother me.

The artwork is a bit of hit or miss, admittedly, as the series uses four rotating artists to draw the series. This works decently well, though, as the anthology series doesn't seem to require a consistent art style.

This volume collects issues one through thirteen, and it has me hooked enough to at least follow along when the other collections come to my local B&N.

Talk about hit or miss, we get Cassadaga the newest album from Bright Eyes.
Bright Eyes or Connor Oberst has been putting out hit or miss albums for a few years now, the sorts of products that would be better served with a solid editing than with the laissez faire, g'hed and put forth whatever you want publishing that he's been given. Each album has marvelous songs but include a number of other songs that play into Oberst's penchanct for indulgance.

On this album, the highlights are a little more numerous - "Four Winds", "If the Brakeman Turns My Way", "Soul Singer in a Session Band", in particular are reminescent of the best of Ryan Adams, a modern country rock auteur, but the album isn't a purely country rock one as many tracks drift more toward the downer territory bordering almost on emo.

Cassadaga does have its high points, and it is more focused than many of Bright Eyes' previous releases, suggesting that Oberst may yet put out the marvelous album that he's been threatening.

I feel a little out of my depth in reviewing From the Plantation to the Penitentiary by Wynton Marsalis. I'm so inexperienced in the jazz genre that I don't feel qualified to thoroughly critique the disc.

I came to this album via an NPR story about the disc, telling of Marsalis's attempts every decade or so to put his thoughts about the state of the nation in musical format. It's clear from the lyrics on a number of these tracks that Marsalis has some serious issues with where we're going as a nation. On songs like "Supercapitalism", "Where Y'All At?", and "Doin' Our Thing", Marsalis takes serious issue with not just the black community but the increasing focus on commerce and disjunction toward charity and serious issues among all of American people.

Marsalis's own website details a number of these themes as well as his use of such dissonant music and atonal lyrics. In all honesty, he does a better job of discussing the album's music than could I.

June 16, 2007

In honor of...#2...

Media scientist #2 is the great and glorious Beakman of Beakman's World.

Beakman wasn't the most scientific of the scientists we'll see in this series, but he certainly was one of the wackiest. His modus operandi was to come banging into the screen looking like a mutant love child of Kramer and some bad Albert Einstein parody, his female sidkick (Liza, Phoebe, or Josie depending on the year) and the giant rat Lester. Beakman would then answer, a la Dr. Science, viewer mail asking some scientific question. Beakman's answers, however, were far more scientific and a little wackier.

Again, there's some background info on Beakman, but we'll skip straight past that and into the clips today.

Beakman explains hair...

Beakman explains catalysts...

Beakman explains gas density...

Beakman explains why hitting a baseball is so hard...

June 15, 2007

Antioch is dead...long live Antioch


I remember chatting with Sully a while back on whether it's possible for a college to close its doors, and it looks like it's finally happening. Antioch is broke. They're gonna shut their doors - supposedly not for good - on July 1, 2008. Apparently the financial drag of $27K tuition a year with little state funding has finally taken its toll, and the mecca for political correctness is folding like a cheap suit.

Turns out - and I had no idea - that Antioch has seven campuses - including the home base of Yellow Springs. According to the admin, the remaining students will get to go to Antioch College McGregor, also in Yellow Springs to finish up with degrees.

I know a couple fo people who went to Antioch, and they said it was an interesting place, certainly one of a kind. I'll be sad to see an option taken off the board before everybody got a chance to at least look at it.

According to the official press release, though, they're "suspend[ing] operations...with the intention of reopening a state-of-the-art campus" in 2012. Right.....

June 14, 2007

In honor of...#1...

In honor of the passing of Mr. Wizard, I'll be taking a look at various great media scientists over the next little while...

Today, Dr. Science...

The good doctor can be found on NPR radio every couple of days answering listener mail and doling out science knowledge that certainly isn't exactly what I remember from my time learning science.

Of course, as his website tells, the good Doctor knows more than you do. He does, after all, have a masters degree...in science.

You can get a couple of the Doctor's answers on that same website.

You can also check the transcript to one of the Doctor's answers here.

Supposedly Dr. Science's real name isn't actually Dr. Science, but I don't believe those spurious claims.

And it appears that some people don't care for Dr. Science - hard as that may be to believe.

Admittedly, Dr. Science probably isn't the greatest media scientist, but he may be the most entertaining. We've still got Beakman, Bill Nye, and Dr. Heard coming. If anybody else can suggest a few others, I'll take care of those, too.

June 13, 2007

It is with much sadness...

It is with much sadness that I mention the passing of Don Herbert, our beloved Mr. Wizard and pay tribute to him via the magic of YouTube...

The 1980's intro that I remember...

Mr. Wizard on a very early Late Night with David Letterman...

Mr. Wizard tells us how to lower energy rates...

I'm kinda disappointed that these are the only Mr. Wizard clips that I can hunt down on the web. Such is the nature of the web, I guess, as the most useless of videos are available on YouTube, but the true classics drift from us.

Much sadness today...

June 12, 2007


So we went and tried crab legs a couple of nights ago.

That could've been a bad move.

I've spent most of my life eating protien sources that didn't look like they were ever alive.

Steak doesn't look like a cow. It's just a muscle.

Fish doesn't look like a fish. It's just a filet.

Turkey and chicken can kind of look like the live birds, but at least by the time I've gotten ahold of them, they haven't had feathers or beaks of feet or anything like that.

There was always enough distance between me and the original animal that I could claim that I wasn't killing the animals. They were already dead. There wasn't any moral culpability on my part. I was just picking up a bit of flesh that somebody else had butchered, throwing it on the grill, and chowing down.

And then came the crab legs.

Sure, the body was gone. The head wasn't around. The eyes had been picked out and thrown to the side for the seagulls to feast upon.

But the legs were intact.

I had to rip the legs apart section by section and pick out the meat.

To quote Robert Oppenheimer who quoted the Bhagavad Gita, "I am become death, the destroyer of worlds."

There is no stopping me from here.

Tomorrow night we got hunting for soft shell crabs - body and all, fried and thrown down on a plate, succulent and ready for spearing.

After that it's a challenge to head into the world of lobster, staring at the helpless creatures in their little aquarium, choosing one, sentencing it to death, hearing his high-pitched screams as they are thrown into the boiling water, well on their way in their journey into my gullet.

After that, we find a farm that will let us butcher the cow, throw it onto a bed of hot coals, and tip into its tasty flesh with our bare hands and teeth, half-cooked, blood-drenched meat juices dripping down our mouths, mixing into my beard.

I am carnivore!

Top of the food chain!

All shall bow before my horrific appetites!

June 11, 2007

Help needed

I want this poster.

I know who designed it.

I even know the store that I think should sell it.

I've checked ebay.

And I can't find anywhere to buy the dang poster.

Anybody able to help me out?

June 10, 2007

Summertime...and the living is easy...

Okay, I'm putting this out there so I can maybe accomplish a few things this summer...

My Summer To-Do List
  • Redo storage in laundry room
  • Redo storage in garage
  • Get wireless speakers for computer & back porch
  • Trim trees around house
  • Finish quarter round in living room
  • Read Bill Simmons book
  • Redo edging for front tree bed
  • Redo edging for bed around front of house
  • Find out about decorative grass
  • Call Arco construction re: windows, gutters
  • Finish frisbee golf google map
  • Clean up HS website
  • Make webpage for every sport
  • Redo AP syllabus
  • Find out about picture rail for living room
  • Buy & install ceiling fans
  • Find out about compost heap & fence gate
  • Redo drainage in back yard
  • Replace fence rails
  • Take down rest of willow tree
  • Replace willow tree
  • Look into storage for all CDs
  • Buy Wabash polo shirt
  • Price & order 5K signs
  • Rework honors curriculum
From time to time this summer, I'll provide a bit of an update on how the projects are going.

'Cause I know you care.

June 9, 2007

Damn rotten op

Gotta love the anargram server...

Today's random top ten from the school iTunes:
  • "Traffic Jam" by Yonder Mountain String Band - seven minutes of live Yonder Mountain, my favorite kind of Yonder Mountain...this one isn't the one to bring the house down, but it's a decent enough framework from some instrumental noodling
  • "Factor-Label It, Baby" by Michael Offutt - yup, dorky chemistry music...I've got three or four cds of this guy's work on my school computer
  • "Human Touch" by Bruce Springsteen -
    Bruce put out a pair of discs at the same time when I was in high school: Human Touch and Lucky Town...they weren't too well received at the time, but they've aged surprisingly well...this one's nice, as are most of the songs on the album - not great stuff, but nice
  • "A Taste of Honey" by Jackie Gleason - instrumental bee-bop that everybody knows the tune to...no words from Jackie here, but his swing band was surprisingly popular...this is a classic...
  • "Your Love is My Rest" by Jimme Dale Gilmore - most people know this Texas twanger as Smoky from The Big Lebowski, but I know him as a hell of a singer of old standards and country swing music...this track's from One Endless Night, a more traditional disc that followed up his classic Braver Newer World...he's a hell of a singer with a unique voice...worth hunting down
  • "Help Me Mary" by Liz Phair - it's hard to find enough clean Liz to take into school, but I've managed it...this is from her brilliant Exile in Guyville album and launched her into a career that she would later pull back from for a bit before throwing herself into full pop-rock genre these past couple of albums...gimme early, vulgar, foul Liz over any of the later stuff...
  • "Mingus Eyes" by Richard Thompson - dark, dark stuff from Thompson here...excellent guitar workout, though...from possibly his best album as a solo artist - Mirror Blue...a little overproduced at times but still a great disc...and this one's held up well in concert the times I've seen him play it
  • "Bleed" by Collective Soul - the intro is a rip from The Who and the rest of the song's nothing but typical early 90's rock, but it works pretty well...very much of a period - the end of high school and start of college for me...it's a time I remember fondly, and this always makes me think of Tom Boofter's apartment...
  • "Knee 5" by Phillip Glass - now here we go with the freaky, freaky...atmospheric music from an opera called Einstein on the Beach in typical Glass style with droning, hypnotic tones rising and falling behind spoken words that are so fast and low in the mix that they're unintelligible...both of which are under a chorus of voices counting from one to four, one to six, one to eight, and repeating...halfway through, the track switches to what sounds like an old black man with forced upper-crust intonation telling a "story of love..."the oldest story in the book"...I love the entirety of the opera but know that for many people it would be torture...
  • "Sleepy Maggie" by Ashley MacIsaac - before he went crackers, headed into the ditch of celtic techno, and suffered some rather unfortunate rumors (none of which I've heard reported reliably, so I'm skipping the substance of the rumor), MacIsaac was a grunge fiddler from Cape Breton in Canada...this, his debut album as an adult rocked the celtic world hard and fast and with no relent...he was as electric in concert as on cd, but then he pulled back into Canada...

June 7, 2007

How to win at life

I'm generally grooving to WikiHow.com. They've got loads of fun stuff to teach each of us.

I guarantee that they've got something on there that you could learn...how to blacksmith...how to follow written instructions (which seems very odd to put in writing)...how to tell between downy and hairy woodpeckers...how to add bullet points to a WikiHow article...how to get free coffee at Starbucks..how to win Monopoly...how to beat anyone at any two-player game...how to cure and prevent getting itchy after a haircut...how to imagine what your new chat room friend might look like..

How to do darn near everything...

Except how to grow up...

Wait, nevermind..

June 6, 2007

Three new streams

Haven't picked up the new Richard Thompson cd just yet.

I imagine I will...just not yet...

But I have been lucky enough to stumble across a few hints as to what the album will sound like:It's good to live in the internet world...

June 5, 2007

More three-panel fun

Unsurprisingly, there's another three-panel comic out there that involves three identical panels with witty words.

Honestly, I'm okay with them as long as they're funny, and Partially Clips is funny, so I'm good with this one.

June 4, 2007


I am an absolute sucker for a nice table.

Good, solid, unadorned and absolutely gorgeous.

Something that shows off a classic piece of wood that has been beautifully finished and placed upon a set of pegs that aren't all that fancy.

Sometimes they're known as refectory tables, but even some of those can be too fancy for my tastes, and others just aren't right - they don't show any beauty. They're well made and workmanlike, but there's nothing special to them.

There's a huge difference among a plain, boring refectory table, a table that's overly adorned, and one that's simple and plain but attractive.

And then there's the work of George Nakashima one of whose tables is shown at the top of this post - a gorgeous, simple, perfect reflection of a table. No pretense, no unnecessary adornment, just one wonderful piece of wood set atop legs that don't detract from the top. In the one up top, Nakashima has added three butterfly pieces to hold the top together, but the butterflies are so marvelously made that they don't detract from the beauty of the piece - rather they somewhow enhance the piece.

I first learned about Nakashima's work last week when the girl and I bumbled upon a PBS program called Craft in America that spent a segment focusing on Nakashima's amazing work with tables.

Since then I've hunted down some more Nakashima resources:The last of those resources begins to look more at Nakashima's more naturalistic work, attempting to do as little work as possible on the tree section to be used for the table top.

I'll leave you with one of the most attractive of the natralistic pieces...

June 3, 2007

Just scratchng the surface

How cool would this be?

A table that looks like a video game table from the 80s (I remember them fondly from the local Pizza Hut in Charlestown Road, in particular) but that runs a full-powered, modern computer that you ineract with via a...well...it's not quite a touch screen from what I can tell, but it acts like one.

The surface has some version of wi-fi that allows you to drop files into the computer simply by placing the item on the surface of the table.

How very cool.

I would suggest, however, a tilting screen to let the computer replace your local TV, just tip the thing up and watch television, movies, YouTube and everything else on your coffee table.

I think I'm kinda am looking forward to the surface computer.

June 2, 2007

My head is spinning

I love Dubai...absolutely love it...

I imagine Dubai the way that I'm thinking many immigrants immagined the US in the early twentieth century - streets paved with gold; people wandering around in richly appointed attire, letting money drop from their pockets without any notice at all, their rich laughter filling sidewalk cafes all along the avenues; money flowing so freely that people just do stupid things with it because it's that of buy cartoonishly gigantic wallets.

I have, of course, no clue whatsoever whether any of this is real, and I would imagine that I'm blowing things way out of proportion, but some of their plans and buildings do make me wonder.

Today's example is the planned - I don't know if it's ever to be realized - spinning cactus plate building:

If you want to actually know any more about the reality of dubai, check any of the following sites:

June 1, 2007

What the hell, mate?


This is what fame gets you?

Mark Philippoussis - two time major tournament finalist, the former Scud Stud (it was the early 90's, we were desperate for nicknames, and Iraq was in the news, shut up), still professional tennis player - is on a reality show called Age of Love where the 30-yr-old Philippoussis has to choose from among twenty women, half of whom are twenty years old and half of whom are forty years old?

Jeezy Peezy, folks, this is the craptacular level to which we've sunk?

I thought the television of my childhood was total crap, but this entire reality trend has sunk to new and desperate lows.

It just has to stop.

Don't watch Survivor or Big Brother or American Idol or America's Next Top Model or The Osbournes or The Anna Nicole Show or Nick & Jessica or any other show that centers on "real people" being followed throughout their days or semi-famous people doing stupid things.

Instead, give me a good ol' entirely fabricate situation comedy.

I want scripts telling relatively attractive people what to say, who to date, when to laugh.

And I sure don't want to flip on the TV and see that a fomerly great athlete is whoring himself out like this.

It kind of bugs me, in case you couldn't tell.