June 30, 2009

Our stupidly litigious society

A man recently sued the Oakland A's for sex discrimination because of their Mother's Day promotion.

His view was that the giving of floppy hats to the first 7500 women in attendance was a clear act of sex discrimination.

So he sued...and won...a $510,000 class action settlement on behalf of the men in the crowd.

We live in a stupidly and ridiculously litigious society, folks.

June 29, 2009

The whole of The Story

We live in a time of media dominated by the thirty second story, the ten second soundbite, the quick teaser followed up by a minute of coverage including a clip and a couple of quotes.

That's why the in depth exploration of The Story on NPR is so wonderfully refreshing.

The hour-long show focuses on two stories each day, each taking up roughly half of the hour. The stories aren't about anybody famous, not about anyone that you've ever even maybe heard of. Instead, they're the stories of regular folks who have had something interesting happen to them.

One last week was about a young man who grew up in Warrenville, IL and was deported to Mexico when he was arrested for a drug offense at the age of eighteen. He is the child of two legal immigrants. His sister is a US citizen. His paperwork was just never filled out when he came across at the age of one. He has been sent 'home' to a country the he's never known to speak a language he doesn't know, and he's not allowed to see his family for five years.

At thirty seconds, his story would be an interesting glimpse.

At half an hour, in his own words, his story is heart-wrenching.

If your local NPR station doesn't carry The Story, it's also available as a daily podcast.

June 26, 2009

A snapshot...

Amongst the wanderings around Washington DC today, The Girl and I saw a trumpet player giving a very mournful rendition of "I'll Be There".

Kind of sad...

The randomness

Just because I'm gone to DC doesn't mean you can't stumble upon some fun...
  • Customized My Little Ponies - the Dynamic Duo are the best
  • Beatles Trivia - just because they're entertaining
  • Double Feature - outstanding and illegal - a site that tells you waht movies start just after the movie you want to see ends so you can make it a double feature
  • Movie Madness - the same thing but a little less graphical and a little more efficient...see multiple movies for one admission price.
  • iRuler.net - in case you need an online ruler. I'm hoping it's correctly sized.
  • Smarties Hero - in case your game system shuts down
  • Handbell Hero - enjoy the Christmas, folks

June 24, 2009

Stopping by Rallys

Enjoy some rally racing today, everybody.

June 23, 2009

Some tips for would-be-conquerers

From Peter Anspach, one hundred tips on how to be a successful evil overlord...

#26 - No matter how attractive certain members of the rebellion are, there is probably someone just as attractive which is not desperate to kill me. Therefore, I will think twice before ordering a prisoner sent to my bed chamber.

#30 - All bumbling conjurers, clumsy squires, no-talent bards, and cowardly thieves in the land will be preemptively put to death. My foes will surely give up and abandon their quest if they have no source of comic relief.

#56 - My Legion of Terror will be trained in basic marksmanship. Any who cannot learn to hit a man-sized target at 10 meters will be used for target practice.

#84 - I will not have captives of one sex guarded by members of the opposite sex.

June 22, 2009

And like a prom dress...

I am off.

The Girl and I are - by now - hanging in our nation's capital, visiting the Smithsonian, checking out the FDR memorial, visiting with Einstein, and trying the supposed best steak in the DC area.

We've got three ball games lined up - in DC, in Philly, and in Baltimore.

We've got signed letters to let us each grab books from the Library of Congress.

And, best of all, we're doing it all without ever touching a steering wheel.

Amtrak from the Queen City at 3:30 in the morning across Ohio, WV, and VA to the capital, then regional trains to Philly and Baltimore and back.

Photos will, of course, follow when we get back into town in early July.

'Til then, I've got a bunch of posts lined up, but I won't be replying to any comments until I get back.

June 19, 2009

Great voices

Malcolm McDowell

Morgan Freeman

Kenneth Branagh

James Earl Jones

Al Pacino

Derek Jacobi

June 18, 2009


Can anybody explain to me how this works?

I'm feeling a bit of CGI with a wire having been removed, but I could be wrong.

To boldly go...

The red matter couldn't be contained by whatever stupid...

Why would coming up behind Titan hide...?

But if it's 129 years in the future, how could...?

How did Nero know where Spock's ship...?

But the ship came out next to the Golden Gate Bridge. How can it be in...?

Wait, how would they pick Kirk over all the...?

The comic up top sums by feelings about Star Trek pretty well.

The logic holes in Star Trek could fit a starship, heck a star destroyer, but it just doesn't matter. Every time I started to laugh about some inconsistency in the movie's logic, they hit us with another action sequence or plot turn that brought a smile to my face with a surprise appearance of the original Spock, a quote from the original series, a chucklesome one-liner, something.

The creative turn that allowed the franchise to relaunch itself works here without negating the original series and cast. This Star Trek is to the original as the Ultimate universe is to Marvel-616, a chance for new writers to restart the whole continuity, keeping the aspects they want to keep and throwing out all the plot dead-ends and blind corners that they'd backed themselves into.

Newbies are welcome to step right in, and little if any background knowledge is required of them. Hard core acolytes, on the other hand, are welcome to play in the new sandbox, and there are enough in jokes and references to keep them happy.

Go for this one, folks. It's a real corker.

June 17, 2009

Go Meat!

A couple of years ago, our cheer block at the basketball games used this as a cheer.

I kinda miss it.

June 16, 2009

Now with disc golf mode

You had me with the commercial staring SVP, but then you added in a disc golf mode and improved swing control with MotionPlus.

There goes the summer post DC trip, folks.

June 15, 2009

Our Year of Living Steakishly: May, Boi Na Braza

With the Best Man and his The Girl, we headed to Fountain Square for a night of Steakish Living, our first in the series to benefit from the company of another couple.

If you've not been to a Brazilian steak house - and we hadn't before this journey - you should know that it's certainly a different dining style than that of any other steakhouse that we've hit on our travels. There is no menu, no choice of sides, no need to ask for the meat cooked a certain way.

Instead, the sides and salads and antipasto are on a four-sided salad bar, free for the grazing. One side had typical salad fixings, another warm sides (sauteed mushrooms, whipped potatoes, black beans, cauliflower with cheese, soup), the third and fourth antipasto choices (roasted red peppers, asparagus, salami, cheeses). We were welcome to take in as many and as much of these as we wanted - at the beginning of our meal or throughout.

ChemGuy's choice from the four-sided salad bar

All of the starters were very tasty, the mushrooms and black beans, in particular. With so many sides - salads, sides, appetizers - none of us were able to sample all of the choices, but we each agreed that they were all solid choices with very few of them rising to a level of excellence. In general, we treated the opening course largely as something to be sampled lightly but not to be indulged in with any real gusto.

The meat was the thing, and we needed to save room.

The Best Man's choices from the same four-sided salad bar. Note the red octagon at the top left of the photo. That'll be relevant later.

Once the salad choices were done, we moved on to the meat course...courses...the endless meat course.

When we were ready to bring on the carne, we flipped our card from red to green. Once the green was showing, the gauchos who were wandering the churrascaria (I swear, I'm not making up these terms) immediately began stopping by the table. They brought by seventeen (the host told us the number, I certainly wasn't counting) different meat options:
  • bottom round
  • bacon-wrapped filet
  • bacon-wrapped chicken breast
  • garlic beef
  • prime rib
  • lamb
  • chicken legs
  • and a bunch of others that started to blend together
  • sausage
Seriously, the meat started to blend together pretty quickly. There was meat and meat and some meat.

After a while, we flipped back to the red to make the meat rain pause and took a few minutes to actually eat some of the carnage. With so many choices, The Girl and I began by simply accepting every meat offered to us, trying every style of meat. The Best Man, on the other hand, had been to Boi na Braza before and was a bit more selective, knowing which meats he enjoyed the most and which would simply be taking up much needed space on his plate.

Most of the meats came in smallish pieces, typically two or three ounces at a time, all served on large skewers and slid off onto our plates. I like my steak more closer to rare than medium, and the small sizes of the meat pieces seemed to keep this from happening. Instead, most of the meat - the beef, at least - more in a medium well level of doneness. Even the larger cuts, from which slices were cut and laid onto our plates, struggled to stay at even medium, and none of the meats had the rich crust that comes on an outstanding steak.

Admittedly, the endless supply of meat as well as the vast variety of available seared flesh was attractive, but Boi na Braza felt a bit like a higher quality CiCi's where the value was to be had in the quantity rather than the quality of the offerings.

The Best Man's plate of meat.

Somebody's meat plate.

Go Meat!
After taking down probably a pound of meat a piece, we had the foolishness to try out the dessert menu by splitting apiece of their caramel cheesecake, a dessert too large by half, especially at the end of an evening of gluttony.

To the rankings, steakish readers:
  • Appetizers/Dessert - 8 - The dessert seemed mass produced. The full salad bar made for a lot of options, many of which were very tasty.
  • Steak - 6 - The massive amount of meat and huge variety makes up for some of the middling quality, but not all of it.
  • Side dishes - 7 - see description of salad bar.
  • Atmosphere - 7 - Nothing special - nice decor but nothing special.
  • Cost - 4 - At $47 per person plus $8 for the dessert, it's slightly above the middle of the road cost.
  • Service - 8 - The lack of a traditional waiter made things tough to evaluate. The meat servers seemed to come from nowhere when the card was flipped to green. Drinks were never allowed to be low.
  • Minus 5 - It's not a steakhouse - period - end of story.
  • Total score - 35 (out of 60)
It's not a steakhouse.

I don't know if I'd mentioned that yet or not.

No big, single steak on my plate. No medium rare. No menu.

It's a buffet, a high quality buffet but a buffet none the less.

On to steakhouses in Washington, D.C for June.

June 12, 2009

Food stuffs

Things that have been sitting in the bookmarks for a while and all are waiting for the kitchen remodeling to be completed...I really want the kitchen remodeling to be finished.

June 11, 2009

Another to add to the list of "wanna see"

The first teaser for 9...

...the subsequent trailer...

...and the original short on which the movie is based...

June 10, 2009

The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac

This is not your grandpa's basketball book.

As they write in the Freedarko Manifesto at the beginning of the book...
We discount mere wins and losses

The Old Wisdom hold that Winning is the essential function of an NBA team. But we ask: Is there no such thing as a beautiful Loss? A noble Failure? A compelling Tran Wreck? The collapse of the 2000 Portland Trail Blazers in the fourth quarter of Game 7 was tragicomic and memorable; it confirms that Victory need not be the most prized outcome. We assert our right to be amused by non-Champions. Some of the most masterful moves to the basket yield not points and die a replayless death, excluded forever from the Kingdom of Highlight Posterity. These we reclaim in the name of the People.

We find rooting for the home team spiritually and emotionally limiting

In an age less advanced, man's allegiance was determined by proximity alone. Tribalism and peer pressure conspired to make the fan see only "us" and "them," no matter what genius wore the color of the enemy. We believe that these are the ways of provincials and fascists, and in this brave century man must stand on his own and open his fandom to new possibilities.


We embrace the primacy of the individual

The feelings of liberated fandom begin with Respect for the individual player. The League is strengthened by its most compelling Personalities, including: Players with inscrutable Superstitions; Players with genetically improbable Body Types; Players whose Emotional Baggage is visible during Play; and other Interesting Players: those whose time has yet to come, and those who, through no curse of their own, find themselves stranded on the margins of visibility.
This book is a celebration of the player, not the team. The Freedarko Collective would rather watch and appreciate a Kobe Bryant drive to the basket than see the same man hoist a trophy at the end of the current finals series because every drive, every move by Kobe reveals something about the man making the move. As they write about Kobe in his profile (the opener of the book):
He plays with unquenchable fire, skirting the fine line between craft and artistry. Once Bryant was a propulsive slasher with an uncommon mid-range game. Now, when he's met by a defender, the curtain rises on an interaction of frightening detail and determination. Only Tim Duncan is as adept at milking every single square inch of space in a precise, Terminator-like assessment of complex obstacles. But for Duncan, the action's near the basket, and the shots - aided by his height - tend to resolve into something fairly routine. Kobe, operating all over the floor, doesn't take the simple shot, throw up prayers, or gamble on his pride. He figures out how to to make the impossible shot viable, going out of his way to demonstrate his superiority. It's frustrating enough to see someone excel with no apparent effort; Kobe infuriates by working hard in an effortless manner.
The entire Kobe profile can be found online as a free excerpt.

In exploring and celebrating each player as an individual instead of within the context of his team, this book presents an entirely different view of the players - Gilbert Arenas, LeBron James, Tim Duncan, Joe Smith, Ron Artest, and a dozen others - celebrating them for all their flaws and shortcomings as well as their talents.

The book's writing is outstanding and hilarious and surprisingly insightful.

In addition to the words, we're treated to marvelous graphics of each player - showing his various moods throughout a typical play - see below for an image of LeBron on a drive - as well as beautifully designed presentations of some rather odd statistics for each player - how closely Tim Duncan's numbers fit the Fibonacci series, for example.

This book actually has me intrigued to see some of these players when the NBA season rolls around next falls - something that certainly isn't an easy task.

June 9, 2009

Making up for lost time

Because it's Natalie Portman, it's Sesame Street, and even though I could see the gag coming, it's still funny.

Zack Morris is back!


One of seven men to have won all four grand slams.

One of two men to have won grand slams on clay, grass, and hard courts.

One of two men to have fourteen grand slam championships.

Currently the holder of two of the last three grand slam titles - after his career peak.

The self-proclaimed favorite headed into Wimbledon.

Made the semifinals of twenty (and counting) consecutive grand slam semifinals (double the previous record).

He is the GOAT.

June 8, 2009

The digital revolution

A couple of weeks ago, I caught the video for the White Rabbits on Late Night.

If you were in my classroom for the next few days after that, I'm sure you remember because I played the song "Percussion Gun" pretty constantly.

I'd played the YouTube video a few dozen times over, and I wanted to hear more. My first instinct was to open up iTunes and see if I could buy the song.

No popping open the library website...

No asking students if anybody has the cd to borrow...

No checking their website.

Straight to iTunes to buy the cd.

Because iTunes has made it easy and legal and relatively cheap, I was willing to buy the entire album sight unseen, something that would have been anathema to me even a year ago. I didn't, but my first instinct certainly was to do such.

I've always been a cautious music buyer, purchasing albums in only two situations - a small cadre of my favorite artists (at various times, Neil Young, Wilco, Lyle Lovett, the Beasties, John Mellencamp, etc) put out something new or I'd borrowed and heard almost an entire album from a not yet established band (they need the cash and the promotional love) and enjoyed about 75%+ of the album.

Most of the rest of the new music I would get, I got by checking out the cd and grabbing the one...two...eight songs that I liked from the album. Sure, it wasis illegal, but I justified it in my head that in any of a half dozen ways (it's only a little illegal...they've already got a bunch of money...I go to their concerts anyway...the record company would just get most of the money...it's easy). I still do all of that, sure, but my first instinct now if just to pop open iTunes and pay for the music.

The music people have clearly won with me, at least.

I've gone from being willing to steal the music - not quite to the extent of Napster and Limewire, but steal it none the less, I know - to being willing to give them my money because they've made it so frickin' easy.

This is a musical revolution the likes of which I've certainly never known in my lifetime. I was born in the era of the 8-track, came of age at the dawn of the cassette, and became a music consumer in the time of the cd. Of those, only the cassette could have possibly scared the music industry in the same way that the switch to music without a physical housing has done. They knew that once the cassette came into being, the power for people to copy - and even chop up and rearrange - their music had been unleashed and the record companies would never again be the same for it.

The cd revolution swung the other way, favoring the music companies because the cd was static, unyielding, and pricier. There was no way - for a decade, anyway - for us to take music from a cd, maintain the cd-quality sound, and do anything to alter the package. You bought the album, you might loan out the full cd, but you couldn't make a mix cd. You couldn't copy a cd onto another cd. Onto a cassette? Sure, but that wasn't the point. Cds were cooler - better sound, more durable packaging, neater and shinier than cassettes.

But then came the digital revolution. We could take music from cd without losing any bit of sound quality, save it to our computers, make new cds or send the music out through the ether to any of a half million of our closest friends with almost no effort at all.

And the music industry was screwed...and scared...and angry.

They started to sue. Every transgression was viewed as grand larceny, a single event of file sharing was accused of being tantamount to stealing the entire album masters and was prosecuted in the same way.

...until a few industrious souls found ways to let the freedom of the music stay but to let those of us who would rather do the right thing, rather do the legal thing simply pay for that freedom.

At first there were hiccups - drm and Apple's instance on the AAC formatting being the most painful - but I feel I'm fairly safe to say that those hiccups have largely been passed by, and we're ready to rock the digital music world.

We've got hard drives large enough to back up thousands and thousands of songs. The sound quality is outstanding. The music is portable on tiny players and in our cars.

Viva la digital, folks.

June 3, 2009

Check your head

There's been a whole bunch of new tunes in m'world recently, and I've been remiss in mentioning it to you.

Lily Allen - It's Not Me, It's You

It's not as much fun as the first album, admittedly, but it's not a bad second effort. Where Alright, Still was a mixture of three, four, and five star songs on my iTunes, this one's a whole bunch of fours without either the threes or fives.

Allen continues to be a hilarious writer whose choice of producer seems to have a fairly strong influence on the musical mood of the tune - Mark Ronson's highlights from the first disc are lacking here - and she turns her sharp tongue on some of the same old targets here - old boyfriends, in particular. But she also branches out some and - oddly - sounds almost more mature at times.

At this rate, she may actually turn into a reliable pop singer rather than an immature flame out - something I certainly wouldn't have guaranteed after her first album.

Daft Punk - Alive 2007

Well, I certainly didn't expect that.

I grabbed this one because of the "Daft Hands" video and planned to just grab the one song and send back the rest of the stupid techno kraut disc.

First off, this is a live disc. I know, I should've gotten that from the title. I just wasn't paying attention. Library catalog says song on disc. Reserve disc. I'm like an automaton sometimes.

Then, there's the fact that the disc is awesome.

This is everything that I need dance/techno to be. It's got the driving, somewhat repetitive beats that are a must. But where Girl Talk takes the chance to throw in every single reference, sample, snapshot, high hat, one-word-quote, and drumb beat, Daft Punk stick with a single theme and explore its many variations. Daft Punk plays the game more like a classical composer initiating a theme and bringing that back throughout the composition, fading in and out on the tune but never leaving the theme entirely behind.

With this recording being a single, seamless concert recording, it also lets the duo show off their skills as djs letting the excitement ebb and flow, building to multiple crescendos throughout the recording but never falling dramatically, never crashing away with mixes and fades that don't work.

This should be a tutorial for every dance club dj.

And now I just want to check out their previous live effort, Alive 1997.

U2 - No Line on the Horizon

Man, the reviews on this one have been all over the place...
...from The Onion - U2 might try to pass Horizon off as atmospheric, but it’s really just a grab bag of underdeveloped ideas that never seemed to command the band’s full attention.

from Hot Press - No Line On The Horizon is a mature, tender, reflective record of great musical variety, depth and beauty that could only have been made by four people who’ve experienced just about everything that life can throw at you

from NOW Magazine - The problems that litter No Line fall into two categories: mind-numbing blandness on the part of the band or embarrassing, face-palm-inducing vocal choices by Bono.

from Mojo - The result is a collage of several kinds of classic U2 album, one that has the beauty of their panoramic '80s Eno/Lanois recordings plus the synthetic experimentation and dalliances with pop merriment which revolutionized the band's modus operandi from "Achtung Baby" onwards.
Man, I don't know that I'd go to either of the extremes (masterpiece or piece of crap), but I safely say that I think it's far closer to the masterpiece side of things, and I'm thinking that we're going to have to start looking at U2 in the conversation of "Greatest Band Ever" because very few bands have been as productive at as high a level and with as much success in so many different styles as have the lads from Dublin.

The opening stanza from AllMusic's review is very telling of the band's releases:
A rock & roll open secret: U2 care very much about what other people say about them. Ever since they hit the big time in 1987 with The Joshua Tree, every album is a response to the last — rather, a response to the response, a way to correct the mistakes of the last album: Achtung Baby erased the roots rock experiment Rattle and Hum, All That You Can't Leave Behind straightened out the fumbling Pop, and 2009's No Line on the Horizon is a riposte to the suggestion they played it too safe on 2004's How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. After recording two new cuts with Rick Rubin for the '06 compilation U218 and flirting with will.i.am, U2 reunited with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois (here billed as "Danny" for some reason), who not only produced The Joshua Tree but pointed the group toward aural architecture on The Unforgettable Fire. Much like All That You Can't and Atomic Bomb, which were largely recorded with their first producer, Steve Lillywhite, this is a return to the familiar for U2, but where their Lillywhite LPs are characterized by muscle, the Eno/Lanois records are where the band take risks, and so it is here that U2 attempts to recapture that spacy, mysterious atmosphere of The Unforgettable Fire and then take it further.
This album does harken most closely back to the feeling of The Unforgettable Fire but through a very different lens, coming more than two decades after that album. I'm all down with the feelings of Unforgettable Fire; it was a hell of an album.

This one is, too.

The highlights for me all come in the first half of the album as the pace slows and the wanderings increase on what would be the second side - shout out to the old folks in the crowd (Calen, um...Calen).

This isn't Joshua Tree where it's spectacular from start to finish or even All That You Can't Leave Behind that found the band in arena rock mode again and finding themselves in the crosshairs of pop culture. This is the band trying to answer the charges of How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb where they'd stayed on the straight and narrow center stripe for two straight albums.

And they can still make a hell of an album by taking a left turn...even when we should've expected it.

Mark Ronson - Version

I don't know the original versions of the songs that Mark Ronson covers on this album, and from what I can tell in reading some of the reviews, that might be a good thing. A number of the reviews comment on how Ronson's production - as far as I know, his voice is never heard on the album as he has produced the tracks and written the music but brought in singers to man the vocals - has taken the originals and turned them on their heads, often entirely changing the feeling and meaning entirely.

I'm okay with that because he's made a blast of an album. From start to finish, the disc is fun, definitively British, pop fun. There are horns and beats and touches of reggae and ska and soul. It's a blast, man.

Beastie Boys - Check Your Head (remastered)

It's a completist disease that I have.

Unless you're desperate for a full disc of b sides from this third Beastie album, steer clear of this one.

Me, I'm all down with it.

Heck, I'm the nutcase who even torrented Best of Grand Royal just to get my hands on as much Beastie stuff as I can.

Talking Heads - Sand in the Vaseline - Popular Favorites 1976-1992

I could've probably named a half dozen Talking Heads songs - "Wild, Wild Life", "Burning Down the House", "Take Me to the River", "Psycho Killer", "Once in a Lifetime". I might've even managed "And She Was" and "Road to Nowhere", but I would've been tapping into some serious brain cell storage space to go even that deep.

Because of this, my discovery that nearly every song on both discs of Sand in the Vaseline was a great find left me moderately and pleasantly surprised. "Girlfriend is Better" and "This Must be the Place" by themselves would have been worth the price of admission.

The first three songs on disc one weren't a great opening for me, leaning much too far into the arthouse scene of early seventies NYC, but once the songs became tuneful - around "Psycho Killer" on the listing - everything fell perfectly into place with wry lyrics, world beat influenced music, and David Byrne's rangy and unconventional voice diving into and out of any sort of reasonable range.

Another strong buy recommendation. Good week or month for music in my place.

Wilco - Wilco (the live album preview)

Now this one's a little odd. It's a compilation from the people at OneThirtyBPM of live versions of as many songs from the forthcoming Wilco (the album) - which, of course, includes "Wilco (the song)". None of these songs have yet been released in any official capacity yet, and these are probably working versions of the songs, somewhat different, perhaps, than the final versions that will appear on the album when it's released in a couple of weeks.

Listening to these versions does whet my appetite for new Wilco, but it also puts the new songs out in versions that Wilco may not necessarily want to be the first versions that people get of the songs.

This is for fans only, but I do particularly enjoy the Colbert Report version of "Wilco (the song)", "I'll Fight", and "Sunny Feeling"

Green Day - 21st Century Breakdown

Most of you reading this blog probably know that I consider American Idiot to be the best major label album of the decade so far - at least the best of the ones I've heard - admittedly a fairly limited selection.

When I saw Rolling Stone write that 21st Century Breakdown is even better, so masterful and confident it makes Idiot seem like a warm-up, I was fully, totally, and absolutely hooked and sold.

I will say that I feel Rolling Stone oversold Breakdown. It's a good album, a very good album showing a band trying to recapture the spirit of their previous album while also allowing themselves to stretch beyond the act of simple replication.

Before I get to any more of the review, I have a confession to admit:
I have absolutely no idea what the stories behind American Idiot or 21st Century Breakdown are...none at all.
Most of the time, I listen to the sound of the music not to the lyrics. The words are there, the words matter - especially when they're clever or funny (Lyle Lovett, Randy Newman) - and for many songs I can sing along hitting about 2/3 of the words correctly. But I rarely pay attention to what the words are actually saying, and I've never taken the time to listen through American Idiot with the goal of getting the full and total story. I just don't care. If I wanted to know the story, I'd read the words in a booklet.

Because of that, much of Idiot and Breakdown are probably lost on me. From the reviews that I've read, the story arc of Breakdown is more cohesive, more concrete when compared to Idiot's impressionistic, symbolic protagonists' journey, but I don't care. I don't know who St Jimmy or Whatshername or Jesus of Suburbia are or if they're the same people or not.

And I don't care.

I care that from the opening strains of "American Idiot" through to the closing strains of "Whatshername", I was grabbed and taken on a hell of a ride. Every song has hooks that are among the finest of Green Day's hook-laden career. These are hits with words that mean something. Their audience was huge, the album's sales massive more because they songs rocked than because the words were about Bush and the album was a return of the rock opera format.

And Breakdown doesn't have the same hooks.

It might be a 'better' album, a 'greater' album, a more complex album, but I don't like it as much. It shows that Green Day's reach continues to spread farther and wider, that they have something to say and want to make sure that their music is complex enough to convey the nuances of their words. Their tempo changes are admirable - in the middle of "Before the Lobotomy"'s and "21 Guns"'s titular lines, for example. "Last Night on Earth"'s underlying, almost reversed keyboard warble echos Sgt Pepper-era Beatles. The klezmer sounds on "Peacemaker" are unlike anything I've heard on a Green Day album before.

But I don't enjoy this album as much as I did Idiot.

When I'm in a bad mood and want to vent, when I'm in a mood to rock out, I put on American Idiot, and I can't see myself doing the same with 21st Century Breakdown even though it might be the 'better' album.

June 2, 2009

It's all about the worm

Check out Amazing Super Powers to find out what I'm talking about.

June 1, 2009

Mapping the fallen

Google Earth is phenomenal and is much, much more than its online cousin, Google Maps.

The biggest advantage to Google Earth is that it allows people to create their own layers, gathering data and tying it to physical locations, allowing people to view information in it's geographical context. You can create tours for people to take, record images of your favorite places, or you can Map The Fallen.

Sean of the Google Outreach Team (?) has spent the past four years creating a comprehensive, self-updating layer for Google Maps showing every coalition casualty in Iraq and Afghanistan since the US began fighting there in 2001.

For each casualty, an icon appears, allowing you to click and open up the full information on the fallen soldier - the date and location of their passing, their hometown, and their picture. With another click then, you can head to that soldier's hometown to see others who grew up with the young man or woman and who also lost their lives.

When more than one soldier died in a location, their icons are displayed in a growing arc. It's frightening to see the huge spiral of icons surrounding places like Baghdad.

I'll admit, though, that I headed directly for Barwanah, Iraq to find Chris.

Separately, I'd like to point out that this is an amazing piece of code writing and a phenomenal example of how data can be presented in revolutionary and affecting ways. The web has, yet again, blown my mind.