Friday, January 31, 2003

Dr. Apostrophe X unleashes his next creation

It seems that all I needed to stimulate my musical creativity was an alter ego and some free software. This next track off of "Sins of Omission" was sequenced in the free Muzys program you can get if you pick up any copy of Computer Music with a CD rom attached. The sounds are all free, too, most of the instruments are on that same CD (the 404 sampler for the rhodes, the SR202 for the drums, Crystal for the synth). The weird chanting thing is, of course, Audionerdz' "Delay Lama" VSTi (it's probably the cutest VSTi out there as there's this little Tibetan lama animation that sings along to your playing). The only thing on the track that I didn't get for free was a couple of audio drum loops, but I could've just as easily used free ones.

So there you have it... completely free music (less the two hours or so it took me to make the track).

Dr.'X: "Thursday Morning at the Robotics Factory" -- .mp3 format, right-click save as to download or click to stream.
So if you've been watching "The Surreal Life" on Thursday nights on the WB then you'll know it's the reality show that has Hammer (the rapper-turned-preacher), Emmanuel Lewis (Webster!), Vince Neil (from Motley Crue), Corey Feldman (Goonies), Brande Roderick (Baywatch), Gabrielle Carteris (Beverly Hills 90210), and Jerri Manthey (Survivor II) all living in the same house and going on wacky adventures each day. That's the thing about the show: they plan out some really neat stuff for the gang to do (last time they had to put together a talent show) and only spring it on them the day of in the form of a tabloid left on the front porch.

The fourth episode aired tonight and if you've watched any WB at all this week (like maybe last night's nice episode of Angel?) then you'll know that this was the episode where they go to Vegas and get in all sorts of trouble: Hammer, Corey, and Emmanuel go to Fatburger, the ladies go to a male strip club (Cateris leaves in disgust), and Vince Neil gets drunker and drunker and swears up a storm.

But that was just the first 15 minutes. The previews gave no indication of what would happen next. After their rowdy Saturday night in Vegas the crew was back on the bus and headed back to LA in time for... church? Yep. After a discussion in the bus about how long it's been since everyone there has been to church and how often the folks their pray (Vince Neil hadn't prayed, he said, since he lost his four-year-old daughter to cancer) it was into the predominantly African-American First AME church where Rev. Hammer gave a sermon. He brought a blessing down on Vince Neil and there was not a dry eye in the place. Seriously, to hear Hammer talking about Jesus and then see Vince Neil who 10 minutes prior (in TV time) was drinking and swearing because the bus went the wrong way almost break into tears (along with all of the other surreal lifers) and then later admit that he'd resumed prayer and have it all be on TV, much less on the WB, much less on a reality show on the WB... well, after the male strippers it was all a little jarring. I don't know how much of it was set up and how much of it was "real" (we'll probably have to wait for the DVDs and their context-granting out-takes), but it sure played "real", in any case.

One thing is clear from watching the show, however: you could do a lot worse than to have Hammer as a father and Gabrielle Cateris as a mother. If nothing else, you'd be an excellent dancer.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

Victor's Job-Hunting Tip, #1

Always look your best!

Always Look Your Best!
Self-confidence is very important. Even if all you are doing is "just" surfing for jobs on-line, looking your best is key!
Zoomp! There it is!

This freaky neuvau outfit also makes a great (tiled) desktop pattern. It's very blue.

From Zorak.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Does anyone remember the name of Stan Friedberg's son? The one who used to sell Encylopedia Britannicas? You know... he "scored an A" on his Space report in that TV commercial? It wasn't Victor Friedberg, was it?
Spider-Man's Greatest Bible Adventures

Sacreligious, probably, but artfully done.
Okay, my new techno DJ name has been slightly modified to:

Dr. Apostrophe X
(or Dr.'X for short)

I'm un-trademarking my former techno DJ name "Dr. Apostrophe" so anyone can use that if they want.

The first song off of Dr.'X's first LP ("Sins of Omission", thanks to whomever suggested that name... I wanna say it was RC but I blame him for everything ;) is the already posted Xtreme Unction.
Tony of "I Am Always Right" 'blog (and when are Toni and Tone' going to get in on the 'blog action, I ask you?) has a nice commentary on the state of the union address (notice I didn't capitalize that... I'm too tired to capitalize). I say nice because his comments are similar to the ones Mayize and I were shooting back and forth to each other as we watched it on the tiny MSNBC video feed at work. We were eerily aligned in our takes on most of what Bush had to say only I think she's a bit more pro fuel-cell than I am -- though I should say that when they can make a 250-to-300bhp hyrdogen-powered car that is also big, black, and shiny, I will be first in line for the new technologies -- assuming that I'm one of the people Bush thinks he can both find a job for and then have keep most of their tax money, of course.

We also disagreed on the whole African eugenic project thing, as well.

I was starting to get a little sleepy towards the end, though, so I missed all the sabre rattling. I'm glad Bush realizes that if he insists on going after Saddam then it's definitely "time to get Il" (I'm going to copyright that phrase by the way, despite the typographical unfortunateness of having a capital I and a lower-case l paired together like that, so if you use it, you have to pay me eight cents).

It'll be a few days before I can read Joe Sobran's response to the state of the Union (I'm slightly less tired now) address, but this piece from the end of last month pretty much sums up my fears about Bush and North Korea.

Hopefully that situation gets resolved peacfully and the whole region doesn't wind up "Il-in'".

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

US Government Printing Office: Ben's Guide to U.S. Government for Kids

Since I'll be unemployed next week, I wonder if this tells me where I can get some of that tasty government cheese (which I actually hear makes the best grilled-cheese sandwich).
Park in a Pack: Traveling Education Kit

This looks kind of neat. I wonder what other sorts of things the National Parks Service could put into a pack...
Ultimate Shopper: Modifying your club card

Help this gentleman raise up an army of Safeway-shopping clones!
ABC News - 02/08/02 : Global warming causes giant squid blowout

"Australian scientists say global warming is turning the world's squid into much larger creatures, with huge appetites and fast breeding cycles."

Giant Squid Blowout would be a great name for a band, I think.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Robots

Pete seems to be a sentient being after my own heart and I wish him all the success in the world in this endeavour. Given the way human beings treat other human beings we're definitely going to need a set of guidelines already in place when the first artificial intelligences are created. The ASPCR seems to be leading the charge in establishing such guidelines, though at this point there seems to have been more success in creating cool line-art illustrations of Robots than in drafting actual guidelines.

"It is the intent of the ASPCR to raise the awareness of the general public about the issues involved with Creating Intelligences. This includes discussing the moral and ethical implications of bringing Sentient Artificial Beings into this world, and the responsibilities that comes with such Creation."

And there are important distinctions made:

"The ASPCR is not concerned with non-aware, non-intelligent machina, regardless of how well they simulate human emotions, reactions, or intelligence. Battlebots are free to battle, car assembly robots are free to work 24 hours a day, and you can smash your toy robot as many times as you like. The ASPCR is concerned only with preparing a set of ethical guidelines in anticipation of the advent of actual intelligence and self-awareness in artificial constructs."

Of course the stickiest of the sticky questions remain: can an artificial intelligence ever actually be realized and if it ever were would we be able to recognize it as a self-aware intelligence?
Misleading news headline:

Yahoo! News: Libraries Can't Afford New Potter Books

Which means that many libraries can't afford more than several hundred copies of the new book. However the story does have one unintentinally funny bit about "the Clinton library":

In Clinton, Wis., population about 2,000, the public library expects up to 100 requests for the new book. Meanwhile, the library's budget has been cut by double digits.

Double-digits? So, what, that's like $10?

"Getting the Potter book means not getting something else," says Clinton library director Michelle Dennis, who said she won't be buying any children's nonfiction this year, including a set of encyclopedias she had hoped to order.

Um, some of us have to make decisions about what we're going to get and usually that means not getting anything else. It's a part of life, called "choices". Those of us who have to work for our money and can't just have it taken from other folks and given to us live with this sad reality every day. We're going to be struggling to pay for one Harry Potter book, much less 100 copies of it.

I'm again one of Justin Katz' "Songs You Should Know". This time it's for "The Video Store Song" which definitely seems to be one of the more popular tracks off of Robot Love, appearing on mix tapes across the country. The recommendation comes with a request to divulge more "making of" info. So, if you've ever wanted a frightening look into the creative process read on:

Before Jackie and I were married, this would be around March or April of ought-zero, I found myself giving up my apartment and moving in with my parents for a few months. In order to pass the nights after work (I worked, and still do work, until next Tuesday when I'm laid-off, until 10 pm) I would stop in at the local video store in Ann Arbor and rent a movie or two to watch that night. I watched some good flicks (one about an old Chinese magician who wants a young boy as an assistant but gets a young girl... foreign-film-type hilarity ensues) and some not so good (like "Plunkett and McLaine", I think, which featured Liv Tyler which is good but was otherwise rotten). I also dreamed of putting together the album which would become Robot Love (many was the night when I fell asleep with the magazine advert for the Novation Nova virtual analogue synth underneath my pillow). This was around the time when something called "DVD" was making it's first forays into the market and the video store was still very much the VIDEO store.

Anyway, I was renting a lot of movies and the struggle soon became: what do I want to watch assuming, as was the case in ought-zero, all the Hollywood films are CRAP. I wound up renting a lot of old movies (like Hitchcock's "The Rope") but mostly a lot of small, independent foreign films like, uh, "Tinseltown" which I remember enjoying but probably wouldn't so much today and something about a composer who couldn't write music anymore (seriously, watching movies at 2am after 10 hours of work every night for four months is a good way to blend them all together). What struck me was that after you'd burned through the more obvious titles at the video store, you were forced with choosing from a bunch of stuff you didn't know much about. But you had to choose something or your night alone in the spare bedroom of the parents' house -- which didn't have broadcast TV in that room -- would be pretty much a wash. You were, to paraphrase Sartre, condemned to choose. So it was while leaving the Video Store one cold April evening when the refrain "I don't know what it's called but it's small and independent and it's gonna take some time to find" popped into my head. I tried to stifle it because it sounded a bit like the breakdown from Aerosmith's "Walk This Way". But eventually it turned into a song.

Now, about recording the song itself. I bought a $200 microphone. Okay, I'll admit that. But it's a good microphone (a Rode NT-1 condenser microphone, made in Australia) and it's what I use exclusively unto this day. "The Video Store Song" was the first song on which I used this microphone (the other two songs with vocals on the Robot Love album which I recorded before I got the Rode, which were "Sarah's Lullabye" and "Cacophonie" were recorded using the Shure SM-58 dynamic mic). The song itself began with the unique bassline (which is a combination of two different patches off of the unpopular yet so, so awesome Roland JX-305 Groovebox/keyboard synth). The vocals weren't really working out so I bought a bottle of that TGI Friday's brand mudslide mix at Krogers and drank a few of those before I recorded the vocals and that worked out okay (note that the chorus has slightly different intonations).

Oh! The chorus!!! Yes! That bears a very close resemblence to another Victor Lams classic. See, I told my good buddy at work, Kevin (who is thanked properly in the liner notes of the album) about my idea for a song, that going into the video store is a manifestation of the classic existential crisis: you are condemned to choose a video -- and he said "There's too damn many in here?" quoting, of course, my classic song, available on my site, "It's Too Damn Muggy In Here" (because it was, in my apartment in Hillsdale, way back in July, 1997). I said "ha!" and kept that as the chorus. This caused the lead vocalist of Au Revoir Borealis to ask me "Does this mean that 'It's Too Damn Muggy In Here' is done for good?" and I believe that it would be.

Heh. Writing music is fun. You need to drink and smoke to do it properly, though. Cut out either one of those things and it becomes well near impossible.

Monday, January 27, 2003

"Just because you're floating doesn't mean you haven't drowned."

--They Might Be Giants, "Dark and Metric"
The cutest set of Tarot Cards you've ever seen.

Disclaimer: Yes, it's divination and that's bad, very, very bad, but it's oh-so adorable, too.

The site that forces you into the unfortuante position of having to decide which is better: Tom Servo and Crow or Statler and Waldorf.

Make sure that you go to preferences and make sure you want the comparisons paired (instead of random -- the link above should have this set for you already) otherwise you'll be choosing between the Lincoln Continental and Everquest.
Triangle and Robert's tribute (after a sort) to Infocom games.

I have to read more of Triangle and Robert. This one is rather funny.
The Onion | Kim Jong Il Unfolds Into Giant Robot

Every so often The Onion proves it can be funny. Nicely done, lads!
Note to self: never, ever eat any cheese coming out of New Zealand.
Clergy, Concientious Objectors, and (potential) Reality TV Stars.
Dave's Blog

It's a question of faith, ultimately, and as for me and my house, we choose to believe that this is really his 'blog.

Link via Kat Lively.

Sunday, January 26, 2003

Free Music

Okay, so one great source of frustration in my life has been somewhat abated. Today we went to the new Subway in town (three blocks from our house!) to get some Sunday Special and I decided to stop in at the Bookshoppe on the park because they usually have some cool music magazines from the UK. I picked up a recent issue of Computer Music which came with a CD stocked with cool, free software: a slew of VSTi and even their exclusive "Muzys" loop-sequencing product. What I liked about this free program is that it uses the ASIO driver on my sound card wheras SONAR does not (not until this Friday when v2.2 is released). So I was FINALLY ABLE TO PLAY ALL MY VSTi WITHOUT ANY PERCEIVABLE LATENCY!!!! What a victory this was for me. I was so grateful to this free program that I instantly sat down and recorded a fine downtempo song which you may now download.

Right-click to download "Xtreme Unction" (2.5MB) or click to play.

Apparently this software can also do a bunch with .wav loops, but this song here is 100% sequenced VSTi. The program ran for a good 2 hours on my Windows 98SE PC before crashing at which point when I reloaded the software all of my SampleTank programs had been unset and I had to reconfigure them all. Ergh. Apparently it does this with SampleTank everytime you quit and restart. Oh well. That synth line, by the way, is a stock program on Green Oak's free Crystal synth. Lawmaker Proposes "Choose Death" Auto Tag As Alternative

I like this guy. He's got moxie.
CDStreet: 911 September 11, The Album

Respectfully submitted, 911 The Album "is a crystal clear musical storied account of the events as they unfolded on that tragic day." Could 911, The Musical or 911, The Board Game be far behind?

Anyway, you can read detailed descriptions of what each of the tracks is supposed to represent here.

The next song "Mile of Runway leads Anywhere" is dedicated to the unsuspecting flight attendants and demonstrates their happy state of being before boarding their ill fated craft. Of particular interest is the message highlighting the randomness of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. The way the female flight attendant calls out from towards the end of the song is rather eerie.

Howzit sound? Dunno.. haven't listened to any of the tracks yet. I'm not a huge fan of goth music, anyway. I mean, I'm all for concept albums -- my first album, The Laissez Affair (home-recorded in the first week or two of January, 1996, I think, and only available on cassette. You can check out two of the tracks, "Vegetari 7/4" and "The Laissez Affair (Largo)" on my homepage), was a concept album -- but unless they're donating the proceeds to charity this strikes me as a little opportunistic.

Anyway, if you want a free copy of the 911 CD, head over to cdstreet using either one of the links above and be one of the first 20 to review the album to get a copy of the album (don't know how you're supposed to review it before you listen to it, but there you go). So far only 2 people have posted reviews: "As a Pilot I listened to this CD and just listened and listened."

Saturday, January 25, 2003 EBay sued for alleged online slander; Buyer says ‘feedback’ comments damaged his reputation

"Get a life, dude!"
If you're looking for a good game to play with your spouse, I can recommend Harry Potter: The Chamber of Secrets for the GameCube (and it's out on just about every other platform, too). The graphic work in this game, particularly the characters and textures on the environments is really jaw-dropping. The music and sound (my justification for getting the game) aren't bad either. So it's good even if you're not a big Harry fan (which we're not... we've got nothing against the lad, just haven't gotten around to reading the books or watching the second movie or buying that vibrating broomstick yet). Anyway, it's a good spouse game because Harry never dies or gets ripped to shreds by a pack of zombies. Instead, Harry merely faints (or gets knocked by a big spiky ball screaming into a bottomless pit, but I digress) and has to begin that particular room over.

Since we're not big Harry fans we weren't prepared for the really dark turn the game just took. While running around Hogwarts collecting jelly-beans (I guess they're called Bernie Mac's Nasty Flava Beans or something in the Harry Potter universe and apparently Harry Potter is a big enough celebrity there that he can get away with shooting statues and vases with his wand or rummaging through other people's desks and claiming all the beans that he finds as his own) we heard a creepy snake voice coming out of nowhere talking about how he wanted to "rip" and "tear" us. And I'm sure, for the sake of the story, there's some sense in which that could be taken in any way other than the psychotic sex-offender sense but we haven't gotten far enough into the story yet to learn what that might be.

Still, riding the broomstick and chucking gnomes is a lot of fun. TV Influences Babies' Behavior; One-Year-Olds Use Television for Emotional Cues

Verrrry interesting....

Friday, January 24, 2003

CDStreet: The German Art Students

"GAS is a 4-piece rock and roll band from Madison, WI. Our goal is to seriously rock without taking ourselves too seriously. We like to have fun at the expense of civil war reenactors, figure skating judges, and Dick Clark, but we only kid because we love."

The Civil War Reenactor song is pretty cute. "You bring the Monitor, and I'll bring the Merrimac, Civil War reenactor. You drink the wiskey and I'll cut your leg off, Civil War reenactor." Heh.

You can also check out The GAS HQ page for more sound samples.
Dig Tony's "I Am Always Right" 'blog. Interesting, humorous, and nicely formatted, too.
In other news, I either have gout or spiders are eating my feet. I don't know enough about either to be able to determine which it is.
That Rolling Stone article, the one mentioned on Drudge Report yesterday, actually got published. This is pretty messed up. Only a true devotee of the culture of death would think, much less tell a reporter, that getting the deadly HIV would be "the most erotic thing I can imagine."

On the same tip, explains how folks, mostly moms and newborns, in Africa even remotely suspected of having AIDS (and over there that term, AIDS, encompasses pretty much any infectuous disease, from malaria on down) are being actively euthanized by US-funded toxic "anti-AIDS" drugs. Morbidly enough, that's one way to get rid of the epidemic: kill anyone who's infected. But there's also another name for that... genocide.

Some even view the air-dropping of condoms on the African people (tell me how a condom is supposed to stop the spread of malaria) as genocide: get the people, mostly native Africans who pose a threat by their numbers to whatever World-Bank imposed dictator is running the show at the moment, into a panic about "AIDS" and then keep them from breeding. All funded with your tax dollars, of course.

Others criticise the Church for not doing "more" (read: air-dropping condoms) to stop the AIDS epidemic (despite the fact that well over a quarter of all AIDS patients worldwide are in Catholic hospitals) but it seems to me that the Church is the only institution that wants these people kept alive.
Bishop challenges Davis on abortion

Reader Joseph passes along this story and wonders: could Granholm, here in Michigan, be next?

Actually, the first few weeks of Granholm's governorship have been fairly entertaining. The first thing she did upon entering office was slash the education budget (the democrats had, not surprisingly, demonized previous governor Engler and Republican candidate Posthumous for doing the exact same thing). The teachers' unions were, of course, shocked and scandalized but I bet it won't slack their support of Granholm one bit (Granholm knows this). And then there's the whole Wayne County Executive/Democratic Party Fundraising scandal (which, like all Democratic Party scandals involves, no joke, a 40-year-old married lawyer having sex with a 19-year-old girl he met at the dry-cleaners, whom he made an intern, and whom he asked to lie to the FBI when they came asking all these questions about a fundraising database. To her credit, she did not lie) -- Granholm's not looking like she's going to be coming out of that one completely clean. And then there was the (reported, I didn't actually hear of this firsthand) silent march through her neighbourhood (her family is from Canada) last night on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

It would not surprise me one bit to see Bishop Mengeling in Lansing follow in Bishop William Weigand's (bless him!) footsteps, particularly after the instruction from the Vatican on the responsibilities of Catholics in public office was made public last week.
That '70s Site

Britain passes along a site of Celebrity Portraits from the 1970s!

Maria Muldaur (portrait #13) has never looked so scary. And I would never have imagined Ralph Nader (portrait #14) would ever hold a gun. And who knew Martin Mull (portrait #48) once had such golden locks? G. Gordon Liddy (#161) apparently had hair at one time, too. My favorites? #17 of course. Though #80 and #103 aren't bad. #123 is bad, but cool. But it's obviously #134 that gets my top vote.

Hit the "Random" button really quickly and you'll think you're having a flashback.
"The most frightening moment in movies this year...." -- The LA Times

Yeah... I'd believe that.

Thursday, January 23, 2003

Nell Carter, Rest In Peace.
Well, it took 23 hours, but I beat Metroid: Prime. I have to admit that the reason it took so long was because I was enjoying my time on Tallon IV so much and I wanted to find as many of the hidden items as possible (I know I missed two missle expansions and possibly an energy pack). The final boss (Metroid Prime) was scary but not that tough. And, just as in the first Metroid game, Samus takes off her helmet at the end (still blonde). Having played all the way through it (and most games I don't wind up playing all the way through) I have to say it's an outstanding game and nearly worth playing just for the sound design alone. Fun stuff.
Quelle Damage!

Greg Popcak on the controversy over at Blogs4God yesterday. I wasn't aware at all of this controversy, despite playing some small part in it -- I don't have time most days to visit Blogs4God, but it's not a bad group 'blog by any means: to paraphrase Groucho Marx, I wouldn't mind belonging to any club that boasts Kat Lively as a member. Okay, so that's not even remotely in the spirit of the original Groucho quote, but it was Kat's courageous post which sparked the whole controversy. But then, Kat's been demonstrating that courage thing quite a bit lately.

I do appreciate Greg's inclusion of the Tony Campolo quote from Christianity Today magazine: "People all over the world are starving to death and most of you don't give a shit. What's worse, most of you are more upset that I just said, 'shit,' than that people all over the world are starving to death."

As Greg says in his post, that just about sums things up.

And this is the point at which, in posting this, I began to read all of the reaction comments to the original Blogs4God post

Okay: let's get one thing straight. The target of the posters was never intended to be any woman or any unborn baby who's been victimized by the horror of abortion. The whole point of the posters was to wage a sort of tongue-in-cheek counter-propaganda assualt on PP who was running their own poster contest at the time (and the very fact that PP would encourage teenagers to participate in a propaganda contest promoting murder should be the thing everyone finds most offensive here, not the satirical response to the contest -- as Greg Popcak points out).

That said, Jordan Cooper is obviously not a big fan of Walker Percy or Evelyn Waugh. It's called "satire" and it is in the dictionary.

I did enjoy much of Irene's post but I, personally, don't find anything wrong with playing the "beat your adversary at their own game" game. The only caveat, of course, is that if you're going to play this particular game you better make sure you have a reasonable chance of winning and also the desire to do what it takes to win. In this instance, we measure the effectiveness and worth of satirical propaganda by its honesty. Can you be honest and turn that light of truth upon your subject? And do it reasonably well? If you can, then you have what it takes to beat your target at their own game.

And, judging from the response, it seems that the posters were truthful enough.

Whoa. Deja vu. Er, anyway...

Greater issue: If Christianity, or rather Christians, have lost their sense of humor and their sense of perspective as this post from Blogs4God moderator Dean Peters would seem to indicate, then Christianity is doomed, clear and simple. I thank my dad for not only keeping me Catholic but also for keeping loads of Percy, Waugh, Doc Johnson, Chesterton, Wodehouse, Belloc, and Dostoyevski around the house when I was growing up.

Crap. I'm going to need to do a post about the legitimacy of satire and how, in this postmodern, post-Christian, cynical age it's the most effective form of rhetoric we have, aren't I? And I did so much have other plans for the weekend.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Introducing the V-Synth from Roland.

That "clunk" sound you just heard was me fainting and hitting my head on the desk on my way down.
New Action Figures Smell Like Poop

If you didn't like the Garbage Pail Kids, don't read that story. Rather, pray for any parent sufficiently wimpy or stupid to buy their kids Stink Blasters.
New Scientist: Ink-jet printing creates tubes of living tissue

Mironov became interested when Thomas Boland of Clemson University, also in South Carolina, told Mironov how he could print biomaterials using modified ink-jet printers.

The printers are adapted by washing out the ink cartridges and refilling them with suspensions of, say, cells. The software that controls the viscosity, electrical resistances and temperature of the printing fluids is reprogrammed and the feed systems altered.

What's probably creepiest of all is that it sounds like they're using off-the-shelf printers and ink cartridges with only minimal modifications (like, say, filling empty ink-jet cartridges with living cells). Why is this scary? Consider what teenagers can already do with an ink-jet printer -- especially things which get them in trouble with the US Treasury department. I really never ever want to come home and find that my kids are printing off reams and reams of living tissue.
Melodyhound - Tune Recognition and Search

Cool idea. Too bad it doesn't really work. Contests: Stockhausen Composition Contest

You know, sometimes you can suck all the fun out of a composition contest, such as this. Scroll down to "General Instructions" to see what I mean. If you can figure those rules out, drop me an email because I sure can't.
Jen Speaks

Shouldn't that be Jen Writes?
NTI - Minirator

Really annoy your co-workers no matter which platform you us with this virtual test-tone generator (click on the Virtual MR1 image at the bottom of the page). You can download this for your MAC or PC or just run it as a Flash application.

It's beep-a-licious!
I 'blogged the Evolution Robotics homepage a few months ago when they were selling their ER1 robot (the one you build around your laptop) but I'm 'blogging them again because they have a new robot:

Evolution Robotics: ER2 Showcase Robot

It's cute and you can program it, among other means, by showing it special "BotLogic" cards. It seems that in Evolution's case, at least, the future of robotics lies in how well they can recognize images.
If you use Windows, chances are your registry is pretty cluttered with things you don't need anymore. I've learned of a new freeware registry cleaning program and it's pretty good. It's not completely idiot-proof so there's still a chance you could mess up your system, but it does seem to hold your hand quite a bit and tell you what can and what cannot be safely removed (and it automatically makes a backup, too). And it has an automatic registry cleaner utility (in the Tools->Registry Cleanup->Do Them All pulldown) which simplifies things quite a bit. I use Norton Systemworks on a regular basis but this program, RegCleaner found about 60 program entries and about 100 other miscellaneous entries which I could safely delete that Systemworks wasn't even telling me about. So check it out: it's free and it will make your Windows PC happier.
Po' boy Joe Millionaire makes more than me, for what it's worth. And that's not even counting whatever sort of family money he has. I didn't buy the whole premise of Joe Millionaire from the very first commercial I saw. Everything about the advertised premise of the show, and its star, flew in the face of my experience: no one who is 28 and that healthy (and that male and that white) makes $19,000 a year. It's just a fact of life. Now at the supermarket I see a whole front page spread devoted to all of his secrets (he's gay -- which seems to be a favorite of the tabloids these days, he's rich, he's a cannabal, whatever). Anyway, I saw the last 10 minutes of the most recent episode and, yeah, if this guy is a "construction worker" who's making $19,000/yr than he obviously is going to be getting a visit from an agent of the IRS.

Just shows to go ya that there is nothing more fake and unreal than reality TV. And I can't believe I spent a whole post on Joe Millionaire. Ugh. I need a shower.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

WorldNetDaily: Penn & Teller ridicule Christ's crucifixion

I guess they're off my Christmas card list for sure now.
Here is that bit on the Envoy! Encore! 'blog from the (self-proclaimed) Office of Justice and Peace of the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon, which Mel mentions in the comments section to a post below. Ugh, ugh, and ugh. Fortunately something new is coming tomorrow (according to Envoy! Encore! -- love that logo, by the way... maybe I'll get myself a professional logo for et cetera one of these days) which sounds kind of cool. If it materializes, I'll 'blog it here... or you can just go read Envoy! Encore!

Thanks, Mel!
Audacity: Free (er, "Open Source") audio editor program for Linux, Mac, and Windows. Looks pretty cool. I'll have to get this and play with it this weekend.

I doubt it'll replace Sound Forge anytime soon, of course, but it still looks pretty cool.
Agnula: We have met the future of computer-based music production, and it is free.

Unfortunately, it seems to also be a long ways off (in terms of competing directly with Mac and PC-based DAW software).
Rod Dreher on Roe v. Wade & Religion on National Review Online

In a way it's hard for me to believe that his description of the First Unitarian church service was not satire. But then, in a much more sad way, I realize that our own Catholic Church here in Plymouth made no mention of Roe v. Wade at all (we only just prayed for "an end to all armed conflict everywhere" and then "for our troops"). We Catholics better get organized and mobilized, is all I can say... seems like the Unitartians are way, way, way ahead of us.
Goodness! He really does have a hook!
Have we got a cake for you...

In case you were dying to see what the VeggieTales (TM) cake looked like, wonder no more:

main cake

This was the main cake. Marbelized chocolate. Very tasty. The figures on top of the cake are plastic and may not be eaten.

Bob cake

This was the "satellite" Bob cake, which depicts Bob the Tomato seconds before being quartered with a sharp chef's knife.

On a somewhat philosophic note, looking at these pictures now I realize just what a great tragedy it was that this cake was never used for its intended birthday party (the party which never happened). It's a work of art and yet was never appreciated as it should've been. The artisan actualized themself in this cake and its true potential was never realized. Yes, you may say it's just a cake, but consider what it stands for, what it means... for all of us.

"VeggieTales" is a registered trademark of Big Idea Productions. Cake was baked and decorated by "U Take The Cake" of Plymouth, MI.

As I crawl out of my bottle of Kaopectate and survey the ruined landscape I once again return to 'blogging.

A couple of things so far: Justin Katz has a new 'vlog (I meant to do another 'plog last weekend but, you see, that would've been impossible given the circumstances) and Greg Popcak disses Signs.


I'm not going to get into a highly technical explanation of what was wrong, per se, with Greg's "review" but I will say this, it wasn't mouth-to-mouth at all at the end that saved Morgan, it was that shot of epinephrine Mel gives him as Merril comes running out of the house (if there's one thing you can never fault Night for, it's doing his medical homework -- what I call the "WebMD Factor": reportedly he'll call his mom, who is a doctor, from the set while he's shooting to make sure he's got things right). And also, if I saw an alien in my living room I'd be hard pressed to remember to do anything without some divine intervention -- except stand there and maybe soil myself. But the point is that a lack of faith can blind us even to the very obvious and that sometimes it takes that reminder from beyond to get us to see what's right in front of us (including that baseball bat hanging on the wall). To quote from Blues Brothers 2000: "The Lord works in mysterious ways, Buster."

Greg, like many critics, takes this movie to be about the aliens, which it's not. The movie could just have easily been about a talking bunny rabbit, the darling of Merril and the kids (those that see signs) and the bane of Mel's existence (the one who doesn't see signs). And, gradually, the talking bunny rabbit could coax Mel back towards faith ("You just gotta have faith, Rev'rund! It's hop-hop-riffic!"). A little silly, perhaps, but the point is that the theme of the movie would've been exactly the same. The only problem with using the talking bunny instead of the aliens is that a) the movie would not nearly have been as good or as popular and b) there'd still be people who watch the movie and then say "The bunny looked fake" or "I don't buy the ending. Did Mel really need his dead wife to tell him that the way to win the bunny's heart was through his fond affection for greens?"

PS. I thought the whole water motif was wonderful. The whole "baptism" thing aside, it gave that girl some truly adorable things to say.

Monday, January 20, 2003

Thanks to everyone's prayers and wellwishes! 'Xander is now feeling much better (his fever finally broke). Whatever virus he had, though, has taken up residence in my belly.... Ugh. So much for the big MLK-day party. I'll be back blogging in a bit.

Sunday, January 19, 2003

For one brief moment today I was in real danger of actually getting something done.
Lies, Damned Lies, and even Damnder Lies "Top Ten Car Movies"

Okay, there's no written law that says you have to include "The French Connection" or "Ronin" or "The Blues Brothers" on your list of "Top Ten Car Movies" so what's not totally inexcusable is that left these off their list. What is totally inexcusable is that left these essential car movies off their list while including "xXx" (retch!), "Thelma & Louise" (double-retch!), and "The Love Bug" (fine if you love Buddy Hackett, but otherwise triple-retch!). Oh, and then of course they go and put "Bullitt" at number 1 because they think that will make them cool. Sorry posers, but if you include a Herbie movie (and I don't care if it is the one with David Tomlinson in it) on your list of Top 10 Car Movies you have abdicated any claim to coolness.

The way I see it, this is just one more reason to really hate

We watched "Barbershop" tonight and I enjoyed it immensely. Cedric the Entertainer (especially his hair in this movie) is my new hero. I loved all the subplots and character dyads (particularly nice was the resolution of the conflict between the college-educated African-American barber and the uneducated white "black wannabe" barber, though the poetic chunky West African character and his love interest provided a nice subplot, too). This is one of those movies where the absense of a strong story structure (though there is a story, of course) actually works to the movie's benefit, letting the strong performances and characterizations take center stage. It's also quite a funny movie. Also refreshing was the PG-13-rated language (particularly telling is that the only utterance of the f-word comes right before the words "Jesse Jackson", hence, one would assume, Jackson's failed efforts to get that line removed from the DVD version).

Steven Greydanus never got around to reviewing this movie, but Crisis magazine's Terry Teachout enjoyed it (in his particularly erudite review which is not yet available on Crisis' website -- maybe next month) so you'll have to take my word for it: check it out.

Overall, our trip to the video store this week did not disappoint. All three movies were good, though I liked "Barbershop" better than the movie about the divine secretions of the old ladies. And I will probably watch "Barbershop" a second time before I watch "Signs" again but that's only an indication as to which was a more enjoyable movie-night experience, not which I consider to be a "better" movie with more "haunting moments". "Signs" was pretty much a continuous 106-minute haunting moment, which makes it something you just want to pull all of the shelf (assuming you buy it) when you need that particular kind of tummy-punch.

Saturday, January 18, 2003

Sick kid

Well, it turns out that when a baby runs a fever for more than 24 hours and all that infant's tylenol does is just reduce the temperature for a little while before it spikes back up again and then if the baby throws up it turns out it's not just teething, it's a stomach virus. I spent most of today holding a sick kid (so sick that his birthday party had to be cancelled... what does one do with an entire Veggie Tales sheet cake, originally intended for 24 hungry family members?) and so I got none of things done today which I had planned to do. But, I'm very satisfied with the day I had.

Okay, finally saw it. This movie is perfect. There is no way in which it could be improved. It is complete, whole. I think it's possibly the best film made in any of the genres of suspense, drama, or, um, the genre of projecting images onto screens. I'm not going to talk about it because you've all already seen it and know how good it is. Talk smack about this movie and I will be forced to beat you down, though. I think I liked it so much because I couldn't pin down what sort of movie it was going to be (answer: none of the above) and because it played on absolutely every one of my fears (things on the roof, things coming in through windows, things that you see reflected in a mirror or screen, things outside that you can't see, but they can see you, never having a shotgun handy when you need one, etc.). Okay, so it didn't play on my other main fears of trees or wasps, but it did wig me out, big time. Let's see.. I jumped out of the couch a) when the dog barked, b) when the thing was on the roof, c) when Mel dropped the flashlight (the first time), d) the first time the kid pulled out the baby monitor (though I admit that I've been creeped out by baby monitors for as long as I can remember -- there is just something not right about a radio transmitter that's always transmitting, even when no one is in the room), and I'll stop there because these go all the way through q). And then of course I (spoiler alert!) cheered at the end when it all came together. And the movie looked and sounded good enough to eat, to boot (I have to admit, that James Netwon Howard guy can really score a picture). Plus it had, need I say it? MEL!!!!

I want to watch it again. Right now. But it's late (I already spent an hour watching the bonus footage on the DVD).

ps. In response to Mel's (not Gibson, I don't think?) comment below, asking about the merlot: all I know is that it came in a bottle and the bottle had a cork, which makes it already two steps above what we usually drink. Also, I recall that I had some crazy dreams last night which makes it a very fine merlot indeed.

Friday, January 17, 2003

One Down

Just watched The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and it is a very fine movie. Don't not see this movie because you think it's some dumb chick flick or something: it's a surprisingly complex and tender movie (with Sandra Bullock and Ashely Judd -- though of course the movie is really about the older Ya-Yas and there are quite a few funny bits). The male characters come of extremely well, too (James Gardner's character really is a saint, but an entirely believable one) -- which is really nice after the way guys are treated in most of these "women" movies (as abusive jackasses or dumb prizes). I really quite thoroughly enjoyed it. Jackie says it's nowhere near as moving as the book, but the movie works as a movie on its own merits which, by any standard, means it's a good adaptation.

So check it out, even if you don't have issues with your mother.
What's your Anti-Blog?
Steven Greydanus' review of The Hours pretty much sums up why it would be the belle of the Hollywood ball (there's more to find repulsive than just Nicole Kidman's prosthetic nose, it would seem).

You know it's a good week when has four or five new reviews posted on it. I think Greydanus enjoyed writing his review of Kangaroo Jack just a little too much.

As for me, I'm catching up with The Best of 2002. I still haven't seen Signs but that ends tonight: we just rented that, Secret Sisters of Andy Devine's Yo-Yo, and Barbershop. I can't wait to see all three.

CORRECTION: that second movie is actually Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. I'm only slightly less enthusiastic about seeing it now... even though I was really looking forward to a scene where Roy Rogers has to convince Andy that no matter how hungry he is, they still have to find the yo-yo before the Chyanne do.
I enjoyed The Barrister's glossary, featured over on his 'blog.

It reminded me a bit of Sobran's Cynosure, only funnier.
TV and Merlot Night wherein Victor drinks merlot and watches the television programs taped by Jackie over the past week

All four shows this week were winners. If you were considering watching any of these programs and hadn't yet, I can recommend all of them.

First up: The Surreal Life puts (MC) Hammer, Emmanuel Lewis (Webster), the lead singer from Motley Crue, the woman from Survivor, Corey Feldman, and a couple of other people in a house together. The espisode I saw (which aired tonight, Thursday, on the WB) was the one where they all visit a truck stop and then go camping. This show rocks. If you've ever wanted to see Webster get buried up to his neck in sand (in good fun, of course) or MC Hammer just rail on Corey Feldman for living in the past ("We live a blessed life, Corey! We get paid 13 million for our next record or movie and meanwhile there are people who can't afford to provide for their families!" "What? I never made 13 million dollars on any movie!!"), this is the show for you. The scene where Hammer and Corey Feldman try to pilot a row boat was just about the funniest thing I'd seen all week.

Next, The Jamie Kennedy Experiment. The funniest hidden camera show ever, mostly because it puts its host in every sketch. The "Gameshow with utterly confusing rules and then let's see how long it is before our mark contestant freaks out" sketch was one of the best ones to date. Catch it Thursdays on the WB.

Bernie Mac. Okay, I like the Bernie Mac show. I really like the show. It's always been funny and full of heart. This episode was funny, full of heart, and had the most positive portrayal of Catholic morality, theology, and clergy that I have ever seen on television. No joke. I don't have time to summarize the episode, but the one little boy terror even genuflected and made the sign of the cross in a Church... later on in the episode he made a confession, both to confess how rotten he'd been in the episode and also to demonstrate to his sister how she could empty her "sin cup" (she'd eaten an apple, after the family had set her up to fall so she'd stop lecturing them all on how sinful they are)! And it was funny, hilariously funny, and yet addressed the moral themes with respect. Start watching this show now (I think it's on Wednesdays on Fox) and you'll catch this episode in reruns. This is quite frankly the best episode of any sitcom I've ever seen. You have to be watching this show.

Cedric the Entertainer is hitting its stride, midway through its first season. It doesn't quite match Mr. Show in terms of post-modern sketch-comedy zaniness, but it's actually far funnier -- which, of course, means it's leaps and bounds ahead of SNL and MadTV. The charismatic and talented Cedric himself puts this show way, way over the top. It's on Wednesday nights on Fox.

All four shows are worth watching. And who says there's nothing good on Television? Well, I mean, Mark Shea says that, but one gets the feeling he's not watching the right shows. I have a feeling that if he'd seen this week's Bernie Mac, he'd be hooked for life.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

The Moog Cookbook homepage, unupdated since March 2000. - Your Vintage Synthesizer Resource

Pretty cool site. Check it out.
Digital Domain - CD Mastering, Replication, Digital Imaging & more...

'Blogging this so I'll be able to find the site again. My favorite article is the Honor Roll of Good-Sounding Pop CDs which rates good-sounding pop CDs on amount of db gain and whether or not, as you approach maximum loudness, there's any obvious artifacts or squashing due to compression. I'm a geek. Yes, I am a geek.
The folks at Cakewalk seem to have cooked up another great product: Cakewalk Project5 Soft Synth Workstation

Da-rool, da-rool. I sure hope I have an income by March.
The episode of Angel which aired last night rocked. Wesley is back with the good guys again, Lorne is as green as ever, everyone at Wolfram & Hart is dead, dead, dead (and zombies, now to boot!), and now rumor has it that Faith is going to be showing up soon. Even better news? The next five episodes are all new, too. I can't wait for Fox to start releasing the past seasons of Angel on DVD. Ever since that show began, and it helped that it began to air at the same time Buffy began its long slow march into mediocrity (though it's beginning to turn around this season -- Faith is popping up there, too, later this season), I've preferred it to Buffy.
"Madonna's new sound is electro-pop and bosses feel it's too over the top."

"They really liked what they heard and it's another example of Madonna reinventing herself. But the problem is that it's too avant garde to be a commercial success.

"She had used far too many electronic synthesisers on her voice and had morphed a lot of her vocals to sound like a robot. There was even a 12-minute long track."

This sounds, finally, like a Madonna record worth owning (and not just because she makes her voice sound like a robot). Unfortunately, thanks to Warner Bros., it's also the Madonna record we'll never hear (or it'll be the one dug up 20 years from now when it's no longer avant-garde but a mere curiousity). It almost makes you respect Prince for the middle-finger he delivered to Warner Bros. in the form of Chaos and Disorder (which, I believe, finally released him from his contract with Warner Bros.). I say "almost makes you respect Prince" because that record still cost the consumers $15 and a lot of fans (but not me, of course) wound up buying it. When someone huge like Madonna can't even get the record she wants made released because the label can't afford even one soft-seller -- no matter how progressive or adventurous -- it tells you that the record labels must really be hurting, financially.

Maybe it'll turn up on someday. And if anyone out there finds any songs from this anywhere online (or if you happen to be in Hong Kong and find it on the street), please let me know. I generally don't pirate mp3s, but if the label's not going to release it anyway....

Thanks to RC for the link, who suggests that Madonna may be taking a cue from my own electro-pop efforts. Well, I can't confirm or deny that, but she has expressed interest both in my robots and my puppets, but for who knows what insidious reason.
A comforting thought

But what they don't tell you is that each of the surgical tools left behind in people contains a tiny microchip which can be used to track you.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Check out the CIA's new Terrorist Busters Logo. It's even worse than that DARPA logo I 'blogged a while back.
Putting the married in "married priests" it's Rent A Priest dot com!, the home page of the "Celebacy Is The Issue (or "CITI", not to be confused with "SETI", "yeti", or "ziti") institution.

Who are we? We are Roman Catholic priests who have been called to join the people of our Church in the holiness of married life.

Get it? They're married.

Whom do we serve? With a growing number of Catholics no longer attending church, more than 70 percent by a recent survey, and the growing shortage of un-married parish priests, we married Roman Catholic Priest/couples are offering spiritual and sacramental ministry to people who ask for our help.

See... we're married.

Our ministries? Celibacy Is The Issue's mission is to provide the spiritual and sacramental ministry of married priests to Roman Catholics who feel distanced from their faith for whatever reason.

And, oh yes, by the way, we're married.

Whether or not one feels Catholic clergy should be allowed to marry or not, I'm sure everyone would agree (at least I hope they would) that no member of the clergy should make their married status, in itself, the be-all-and-end-all reason for the existence of their organization. Yet, if you look at the pictures and read their blurbs, that's precisely what CITI seems to be doing. You can find all sorts of information about priests who are married (and there are many appeals to tradition, though these don't seem -- judging from the photos -- to include those parts of tradition which contain norms for the traditional vestments required for celebrating Mass... apparently a pocket tee is sufficient) but very little about marriage.

Cart <- Horse. But, lest we forget, they are married. And they also take Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and American Express. Thanks, RC, for the link!
This looks nothing like Mark Shea.

And besides that, it's fatuous (and shoddy, cookie-cutter cartooning ta boot). Fatuous, but it demonstrates a point: rather than engage in a debate about sexual morality, for most folks (Jo included) it's far easier to just appeal to their appetites as the measure of all things.

Which is crap.

I don't know who Jo is, or Andy (these are the folks who've been commenting on Mark's 'blog, I guess) but perhaps it's time to bring in the puppet brigade on their irrational, unsubstantiated, ill-defined behinds....
Oft impressed, am I, at the wisdom of those who agree with me

I've been agreeing with Greg Popcak, nearly unequivocably, on a lot of issues recently: first on the coming war, and then on the Bush administration's less-than-impressive stand on abortion and now, finally, on the moral licitness of sex-toys.

We still disagree on Bernadette Farrell, however.

And yes, I was working on a punchline to bring Farrell, the war, Bush, and sex-toys together but, suffice it to say, it's not worth the extra time in Purgatory.
Everyone's linking to the Rod Dreher on Sex-Toy parties article so... what the heck.

Seriously, yes, it's a very scandalous thing (so don't read the article unless you want to learn a thing or two about sex-toys) and I think Rod has nailed the root cause right on the head:

There's a deeper malaise undergirding this, I think, and more than anything else it has to do with the media — cable TV, movies, magazines — and what it does to our frames of reference. Media completely screws up your idea of normal, and creates unrealistic expectations for what constitutes a meaningful and happy life.

And it's not just the media of course... a lot of this pressure comes from the expectations one has about their careers and what it takes to be happy. We see kids treated as possessions every day, something to be had for one's own amusement, so why not one's own body? Considering some of the people I've met in this area (suburban Detroit) and seen driving around in their SUVs, lock-jawed and angry, it's not such a stretch of the imagination that such meaningless lives would attempt to find anything at all to release themselves... mostly I think people turn to alcohol. When Jackie was working, we went to a party or two thrown by her boss, a thirty-something sorority girl (they actually served Jello shots at this party) and when everyone was liquored up they made their two-year-old son (only child) dance to "Car Wash" over and over again (cf. Flannery O'Connor's story, The River). But once alcohol loses it's numbing power (and let's face it, you want to be able to drive home from a party without either killing someone or being thrown in jail) there's not really any other place to go, chemically speaking, that's socially acceptable. What is socially acceptable, nowadays anyway, is sex-toys. So no great leap of faith is required to believe what Rod's talking about in his article.

The answer to all of this, of course, is to fill your life up with kids. They give you meaning, happiness, and precious little time to do anything else.
What I think everyone reading this really wants is a 132-page guide, written by Howard Scarr, as to how to program analogue synthesizers. Click on that link to find the page where you can download "Programming Analogue Synths" for free.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Slate has a fairly entertaining review of the People's Democratic Republic of North Korea's webpage.

It's a very entertaining webpage. Can't believe it's not a hoax, though. What webpage offers a translation in Esperanto?
Say whatever you want, but "drive-through" mastectomies do sound a lot more pleasant than "drive-by" mastectomies.

And of course, Lifetime doesn't really come out and say who exactly is going to pay for these longer hospital stays -- right now, of course the HMOs want people out the door as quickly as possible because, let's face it, very soon no employer will be able to afford to provide health insurance for their employees thanks to increasing costs of malpractice insurance among other things -- thank you very much trial lawyers. The fact that the petition has the support of a Congressperson though should be some indication to we taxpayers that the masts aren't the only thing what's going to be ectomized. It's a bad situation, I will agree: folks should stay in the hospital as long as they need to in order to recover from the staph infections they pick up there, but at some point health insurance becomes inaffordable for everyone, and that's no good either.
Thanks to Britain, who found it on the web, we now have access to the screenplay for "The Day The Clown Cried" the Jerry Lewis project which was never released, due to legal disputes between Lewis and the filmmakers. This movie, where Lewis plays a washed-up clown accidentally sent to Auschwitz because he was entertaining the children on the train bound there, has historically been cited as one of the worst movies ever, so bad that it is unintentionally funny and pages like this one have been erected in its memory because of its alleged badness.

Unfortunately, it's not so bad that it's hilariously funny (it actually reads a lot better than most of the screenplays that actually get bought, made into movies, and then put up on the web -- and it predates other comedian-in-a-concentration-camp movies "Jakob the Liar" and "Life is Beautiful" by a good 20-25 years) but it is worth a skim-through. And remember, as Ada says, "they can't take your talent away... That's your strongest force!"
Greg Popcak believes that this article proves the point he was trying to make last week about contemporary liturgical music (my argument was not against contemporary liturgical music, you might recall, but merely against bad contemporary liturgical music or contemporary liturgical music which, by any moral, philosophical, or aesthic standard is worse than the "traditional" liturgical music it's trying to replace).

Anyhoo: here's the relevant bit which Amy Welborn 'blogged:

"The focus of the praise is vertical," Turner said. "The focus is straight up - people singing to God. There's an intimacy in the lyrics and the approach to praise that really appeals to people who have grown up in today's culture."

Yes, that would be great: people singing upwards to God. But that's not what we see, rather hear, in our (Catholic, as I can only speak for that particular "worship experience") Churches every week. The point I was making is that we often sing downwards: God praises us for being His chosen people, a people of justice, wiping out oppression (as the little kids' choir sang this past Sunday), and I will raise you up on the last day or, alternately, we sing sideways: "We are a blah blah and something people, we are the people of God."

But our Church, in particular, stooped to new lows this past Sunday. Okay: we've got a guy who sings in our choir and he has very nice voice -- not a great voice, but a nice one. Somewhere along the way someone got the idea that a drum kit would make a great addition to our "worship experience". Only he's not a very good drum player (and I'll leave it at that). So I guess they figured, hey, the drums sound really bad, why don't we spend $1,000 on a couple of conga drums? With only two drums, it must be an easier instrument to play and sound better, right? Well, I don't want to say anything completely uncharitable (which could rhyme with "it totally ducked sonkey" or "it completely glue boats") so I'll let you draw your own conclusions about what a couple of conga drums played poorly sound like during Mass. As for me, I don't know what they sounded like because I had my fingers in my ears and was singing my own words to "River of Glory": the song which compares (favorably, I take it) Catholic teaching on the redemption to maple syrup with the inclusion of the memorable line, "Fountain of mercy, grace flowing free, streams of salvation, spilling with love from a tree!" (That exlamation point is in there at the end to express the congregation's feeling of excitement at the prospect of being swept away in a glorious river of Mrs. Butterworth's, probably). I'm sure that that's not the effect they were going for when they spent that money on drums (there are absolutely no Cubans in our congregation, I should mention) instead of on, oh, I don't know, a statue or something that would actually put a body in the mood for prayer or introspection. And the Tammy Wynette-esque arrangement of "Come to the Water" which followed sure as heck didn't help matters any.

NOTE: I should state for the record that I am not personally opposed to using a drum kit in the music during Mass: it's just a question of instrument placement. If you must use a drum kit during Mass, be sure that it is positioned away from the choir's microphones -- and yes, it's sad that most Churches, even the small ones like ours, have been "designed" such that even choirs of 20 or more members need to use microphones to be heard; bring back the rectangular box-shaped (and inexpensive) Churches of yesteryear, those great acoustical spaces with their wonderous early reflctions and endless reverberation and save the $60-100k you would've spent on that new Bose sound system for something else, like clothing the naked! Anyway, at near distances those microphones are great at picking up frequencies in the 4kHz range and higher, which is why the drum kit always sounds so harsh. No; from my reading in acoustical studies and vast experience on the subject, I can say with authority that the ideal placement for the drum kit is just outside of the sanctuary, past the entrance, and as far out into the Church parking lot as possible.

And lastly, no, that is not a picture of Greg Popcak in that article, playing the guitar. At least I don't think it is. The caption doesn't say it's Greg Popcak, let me just put it that way.
First Bugs Bunny and now the Hobbits

Mark Shea has a very good point when he says on HMS 'blog that to the way of thinking expressed in this article, "friendship is impossible. All relationships are sexualized."

Of course the simpler explanation is that when, in order to normalize your beliefs, you look back throughout history for the slightest indication that any of history's great individuals bought your ideology and come up wanting, the next logical step is to lay claim to fictional characters -- despite the fact that there is no textual evidence to support your claims. It's a question of legitimation and the very fact that you have to look to fictional characters to legitimize your beliefs (and especially if, even then, there's no evidence to support your claim) is some indication of a) how desparate one is to have their behavior normalized and b) how silly one is being.
Santa kicks butt

Okay, so it's after New Years, but scroll down that page for an awesome picture of a porcelain santa. Warning: site contains pictures of some freakin' awesome guns.

Monday, January 13, 2003

Game Audio Network Guild: Promoting Excellence in Interactive Audio

If I could pick any career whatsoever, I think developing music and audio for interactive entertainment would be my first choice. It's something I definitely get excited about, but I don't know if it's something I'd start hating after two years or not.
Instalanche indeed!

Thanks to a link on Instapundit, my little Plog was viewed 2,500 times (or so) over the weekend. That is insane. I guess folks just really like puppets, at least as much as I do. It'll probably be a while before I do another one, if I do another one, for two reasons: I'm not sure what downloading a 4MB file 2,500 in one weekend has done for my bandwith for the month (if you're reading this, then all is well for the moment) and because Randy Racooney was offered the lead in a pilot over the weekend and depeneding on how that goes may be unavailable for a while.

But thanks to everyone who's commented here over the past few days. I'll have quite a few links to add to my link page (and many more blogs to read!) over the next few days.

Friday, January 10, 2003


The wait is over. Plogging has arrived. What is plogging? In a word: undescribable. At least using words. It's still undescribable using images and sound, too, but unfortunately, such are the limits of the web. I have been forced, due to technical constraints (grrr!) to render my grand Plogging vision in video format (otherwise known as 'vlog' or 'video weblog' format. See Justin Katz's recent forays into this area for a good example of vlogging). And just as you cannot render a 4-dimensional object in 3-dimenstional space without some distortion, well, let's just say that the plog to vlog codec is not a lossless one.

But it is the future, nonetheless. So without further ado, I give you THE WORLD'S FIRST PLOG!

Click here for PLOG!

Right-clicking on the image above will allow you to download the high-bandwith version of the Plog and save it to your harddrive. Click on the links below if you just want to stream the Plog.

The World's First Plog, in streaming RealPlayer format, for broadband users
The World's First Plog, in streaming RealPlayer format, for dial-up users

Hopefully I'll have Windows Media and Quicktime versions available soon. Special thanks to the aforementioned Justin Katz for streaming assistance.

Update: A transcript of this event may be found here.
The first Plog is just moments away
The radical big thing is coming. Soon! :) Sorry for the delays.
The future of 'blogging begins today.

We're just a few short hours away from the next great leap forward in 'blogging. It should be up by 5pm EST so you can check it out before you leave work.
Deal Hudson: More Catholic Than The Pope!

Okay, he never really comes out and says this in his most recent e-letter, but he does seem to strongly question (or at least find "problematic" and "confusing") the Vatican's statement on the impeding war against Iraq. In fact, he has real problems with the Pope's cry for peace:

I understand the pope's concern. Now, more than ever, we should be praying for a peaceful resolution to the situation in Iraq. But we have to be ready to act if a peaceful settlement becomes impossible, and this is where my problem with the Vatican's statement comes in.

Uh... here's a peaceful solution: we leave. We go home, there's no war, Saddam goes back to whatever bit-rate pissant dictator antics he's been up to which have been harming very few people other than his own for the past dozen years, and we can start thinking seriously about what we're going to do with those nations which both hate us and possess the ability to lob a nuclear weapon into our backyard. Remember them?

Other problems I have with Deal's e-letter is that he seems to be turning the Vatican's concern about the war into a point solely about unilateralism vs. multilateralism and makes the matter not so much one of war vs. peace but of America's sovereignty vs. UN Rule. Granted, that's always an issue, but it's certainly not the issue here (mainly because America is strong enough, for now, to act no matter what the rest of the global community says). The issue is war vs. peace and the innocent lives which will be lost with no discernable, immediate threat to our nation having ever been established.

I would imagine you can find the entire e-letter text on another St. Blog's 'blog and I'll post a link to that whenever I find it. I don't want to clutter up this 'blog, however because of the huge things happening here tomorrow.

That's right: the next great evolutionary step of the 'blog begins here tomorrow. And if you thought it was vlogging or "video blogging" you are sadly mistaken... Vlogging is so... last week.

Prepare yourself for: PLOGGING.

Thursday, January 09, 2003

If you want twenty extra dollars in your pocket and ensure that the price of music stays pretty high, click here: CD MAP Settlement.

Of course, once you get a few layers into the form you learn that it's possible you get nothing:

The amount you will be paid will be based on the total number of claims filed, up to a maximum of $20 per claimant. Please note, however, that if the number of claims filed result in awards of less than $5, the Settlement Fund will revert to Cy Pres distribution. Cy Pres distribution means all Settlement Funds would be distributed to not-for-profit corporations and/or charitable organizations and/or governmental or public entities within your state, to be used for music-related purposes or programs.

In which case the record industry comes out looking like a hero because they're spending the settlement money they owe us on charities.
Electronica on MSN KidZ

Hey kids! "Being an electronica DJ is as easy as clicking and dragging!"

Of course the little flashlights you put on your glasses and the smart drinks and glow sticks never hurt, either.
The next great evolutionary leap forward for 'blogging will be unveiled on this very webpage tomorrow, sometime in the late afternoon, most likely.

And now you know.
I've been catching up on my reading at frequent commenter Ellyn vonHuben's Oblique House 'blog. I was going to link to the Decoration Only post because we ran into this with 'Xander a few weeks back: he loves Grover and my parents have -- had -- a Grover ornament (NOT A TOY) on their tree which the boy thought was better than any of the "real" toys he'd received. But then I also wanted to link to all of the other good posts there as well... Since it's proaby easier for you to just read them all straight down, just follow the link up there to Oblique House because it's all good.
Check out the me-oriented post at Man With Black Hat (dated January 8, 2003). Is that really me? Did I really say that? Gosh, my voice sounds so funny.

I do appreciate David's conclusions, though. On this we can all agree: "Take the time to live!!!"
A cat in the apartment was immaculately clean and well-fed.
Internet humor

A lot of these are so old they've got whiskers, but they're still pretty funny. Timeless, is the word, I believe. And it does make me nostalgic for the day when what I considered spam in my inbox was jokes and humorous mailings forwarded to me by my friends and not, well, not what I get now.

For all you lexiophiles (Lovers of Words):

1. A bicycle can't stand alone because it is two-tired.
2. What's the definition of a will? (It's a dead giveaway)
3. Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.
4. A backward poet writes inverse.
5. In a democracy, it's your vote that counts; in feudalism, it's your Count that votes.
6. She had a boyfriend with a wooden leg, but broke it off.
7. A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion.
8. If you don't pay your exorcist, you get repossessed.
9. With her marriage, she got a new name & a dress.
10. Show me a piano falling down a mineshaft & I'll show you A-flat minor.
11. When a clock is hungry it goes back for seconds.
12. The man who fell into an upholstery machine is fully- recovered.
13. A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blownapart.
14. You feel stuck with your debt if you can't budge it.
15. Local Area Network in Australia: the LAN down under.
16. He often broke into song because he couldn't find the key.
17. Every calendar's days are numbered.
18. Alot of money is tainted. 'taint yours & 'taint mine.
19. A boiled egg in the morning is hard to beat.
20. He had a photographic memory which was never developed.
21. A plateau is a high form of flattery.
22. The short fortune-teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.
23. Those who get too big for their britches will be exposed in the end.
24. When you've seen one shopping center you've seen a mall.
25. Those who jump off a Paris bridge are in Seine.
26. When an actress saw her first strands of gray hair she thought she'd dye.
27. Bakers trade bread recipes on a knead to know basis.
28. Santa's helpers are subordinate clauses.
29. Acupuncture is a jab well done.
30. Marathon runners with bad footwear suffer the agony of de feat.
And may perpetual waffles lie upon him.

This is indeed a sad day. Oolong the rabbit from Japan who for years thrilled millions of people around the world (myself, included) with his antics (usually involving balancing a waffle or something other than a waffle on his head) is dead.
I have yet to see any of the anti-SUV commercials whence CNN is showing clips, but I would suspect them to be motivated by nothing other than the worst kind of Envy. You can't afford to drive what your neighbor drives so instead you'll demonize them.

Now, I drive a 1995 Neon and I'd certainly feel safer with fewer SUVs (and semi trucks) on the road but I believe that folks have a right to drive whatever kind of car they want and can afford. If I don't want SUVs on the road, I won't buy one. I'm not going to join with those who say that they're supporting terrorists, though, because that tiny import most anti-SUV folks drive was brought to this country on a ship which used a whole heck of a lot more oil than any SUV will ever use.
RC points me to this entry on Mark Sullivan's 'blog, Ad Orientem, which contains video of David Haas and friends in concert (as well as some very nice commentary, through links!). I haven't seen the video today yet but check it out!
He'll get rid of dirt and grime and grease in just a minute

My musical grumblings garner a gregariously grand response from Greg Popcak here (part 6.1) und here (part 6.2).

I hopefully will have time to respond over the weekend (embodiment is more than mere sincerity, it is meaning itself -- to, at least for we mortal humans, life, the universe, and everything) but given Greg's comments I don't see how there could ever be any sort of objective criterion whereupon a piece of music would not be appropriate for Mass as again and again the appeal is made to the psychological response of those singing it (though scriptural correctness, I'm happy to see, is at least a consideration).

In absense of any clearly objective criteria, the music is often so bad that it drives some members of the congregation to distraction (and away from the psychologically pleasing experience for which Greg seems to be arguing). I usually am forced by the sheer banality of the music make up my own lyrics to the tunes. For example, for the insipid "Rain Down" which our music minister loves to play whenever it's raining outside (get it? Because it's raining and the song has "rain" in the title?) or there are kids in the choir (because they can make little hand-gestures like the falling rain), I sing these alternate words: "Raaaaaain down, Raaaaaain down, Raaaain down your fire and brimmstone. Raaaaaain down, Raaaaaain down, Raaaain down your fury and purrrrge us." (Though that song tends brings out the worst in me).

Anyway, the whole alienation argument runs both ways: you might be able to bring some folks in with ditties which wouldn't even have made the grade as advertisements for cleaning products 50 years ago (compare, in terms of musical and lyrical cohesiveness), the Mr. Clean jingle to, oh, I don't know, nearly anything written by Bernadette Farrell. In fact, let's compare the two of them right now, shall we?

First up, "Bread For The World" (opened up the OCP hymnal I borrowed at random and that's what was there) by Bernadette Farrell:

"Bread for the world: a word of hunger. Wine for all peoples: people who thirst.
May we who eat be bread for others. May we who drink pour out our love."

What's that about, huh? A world of hunger: HungerWorld? Who'd want to go there? And the bit about getting drunk and then "pouring out our love"? Where I come from that has quite a different meaning than the one Farrell intended (I hope). Ick. And is wine the best thing to give thirsty people, considering the dehydrating effects of alcoholic beverages? Or are we talking about the Eucharist here? If we are, then why are we who "eat" (eat what?) ourselves the bread for others? I thought the Lord was the Bread of Life? At best it's nonsense and at worst it's pantheistic blasphemy.

Now, on the other hand, the Mr. Clean jingle:

"Mr. Clean gets rid of dirt and grime and grease in just a minute,
Mr. Clean will clean your whole house and everything that’s in it!"

Unlike in the Farrell tune we get a clear, distinct, and immediate appreciation for who Mr. Clean is and why he is worthy of our consideration. Who among us hasn't experienced dirt and grime and grease and who wouldn't want to get rid of it as quickly as possible -- even within just a minute! So we know that Mr. Clean is powerful, but can he really relate to we mortals? Of course! He can clean our entire house -- Mr. Clean meets us within our own homes. Not only does he reach out to us in our homes, but he cleans them (and everything in it, including ourselves!). How great and wonderful are his works!

Honestly, if you're trying to communicate the fundamentals of faith and convert souls, which would you use: "Bread for the World" or the very effective and concise Mr. Clean jingle? All we, as Christians, need to do is convince the unwashed masses that "Mr. Clean" is really a syncretic, pre-converted pagan expression of the Lord (which he may very well be... he glows).

And not only that, but (stylistically speaking, now) note the clever rhyming of "minute" and "in it" in the Mr. Clean jingle. It bears mentioning that in "Bread for the World" the best rhymes Farrell can come up with are "there/care", "there/despair", and "greed/need" -- and that's not even counting the words that should rhyme (given the lyrical form Farrell herself has adopted), but don't quite: "peace/sleeps" and "life/pain". Though, to Farrell's credit, she didn't come up with some random, arbitrary meter (her meter still pales in comparison to the metric structure of the Mr. Clean jingle, of course) and then not stick with it (which is often indicated in liturgical music by a lot of notes in parenthesis or which you're supposed to sing or not sing depending on what verse you're on). No, you can keep your Bernadette Farrell. As for me, I'll keep humming the Clean.

Anyway, the point I was, uh, making in there, somewhere, was that given Greg's own criteria of worshipfulness, singability, liturgical correctness, et al., there's no reason why the Mr. Clean jingle wouldn't make a perfectly acceptible song -- and indeed a song far better, aesthetically and theologically speaking, than many we currently sing today! -- to sing during Mass; so long as we understand Jesus to be Mr. Clean which, given the leaps of poetic logic we're asked to make any given Sunday, is not so farfetched.
I'm only one page into the article by Michael Rose on Catholic Exchange where he defends his book against criticism from Crisis magazine, among others. I'm so confuzzled. I do think, though, that I'll be letting my subscription to Crisis lapse when it expires, though that may be due more to my unemployed status than anything else.

UPDATE: I've gotten feedback to the effect that I shouldn't let my Crisis magazine subscription lapse. I'm terrible about renewing magazines but maybe I'll go out of my way to renew Crisis: I do like their articles on music and the movies and Fr. Rutler is always enjoyable to read.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

The Japan Times Online: Scientists to undertake first magma drilling

You fools! You will only wake Lord Magmor with your foolish drilling! We will not be able to stop him this time!
BBspot - Fans Outraged at New Character in The Return of the King

I stole that link from Mark Shea but I figure that's okay because he's "borrowed" pretty much his entire schtick from that G.K. Chesterton guy and that Pope John Paul II fellow.
Now THIS is what I call a poem!

"Another reason why I don't keep a gun in the house" by Billy Collins
Let it be known: I am herein trademarking my new band/techno-DJ name:

Doctor Apostrophe

From this date no other band can use this name or I will sue them because this is my new name.
Of course, as good as Mr. Bling is, for all of your other bling needs be sure to check out - Pimp Hats Bling Suits Fro Wigs Costumes - "Get Your Pimp Gear Here"
Thanks to Kat Lively, the creepiness continues.

Want a bendy Benigni? Better get yourself over to a McDonalds soon. Though none of the characters look much like anything, really. I can't believe that they're accurate represenations of the characters in the film... unless the film was all done in stop-motion Bendy-mation. Which would rock.
Official Radio Hall of Fame Inductee List

Brtain writes: "Nothing says 'distinguished radio personalities' quite like a blood-encrusted microphone."

Yes, that is very creepy.
Welcome to Mr

Our business philosophy is simple: To provide our customers with the best product made by our expert gold teeth makers.
... This master of fine jewelry had been practicing since 1994, and now has mastered the art of teeth jewelry.

I admire Mr. Bling's concise vision statement. I do notice, however, that Mr. Bling has neither a jingle nor a cartoon mascot. Just a bunch of pictures of gold teeth (which look really creepy without mouths) on his website. Anyone wanna draw a picture of Mr. Bling and send it to me? I'll post it.

Meanwhile, I'm going to work on the Mr. Bling jingle: So we can have the chorus of happy singers sing: "To cover those unsightly chips and dings, just send $1,200 to Mr. Bling." And then a woman winks and says "He's BLING-tastic!" Yeah. Cool.

But I wonder what that white powder in the plastic bags in Mr. Bling's starter kit could be? I'm sure it's just plaster for the teeth molds. Right?

Thanks for the link! Yeah, you know who you are!

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

Oh, and I'm really jealous of Mayize today. That is all.
ps. That LEGO harpsicord below sounds pretty awesome. Like a dying Ravi Shankar hit by a bus. Anyway, be sure to check out the other LEGO sculptures on Henry Lim's homepage particularly the LEGO mosaics. There's a program out there, it seems, which takes any digital image and converts it into a template to let you know what bricks you'd need to build it: Pixelego. Cool, eh?
Regardless of which sort of music you like, I think we can all agree that anything would sound better played on a harpsichord made, save for the strings, entirely of LEGO bricks (100,000 of them!).
More on music...

Greg has some excellent points as to those things upon which we can agree but nevertheless subtly misses my point: the aesthetical argument, while it can be made, is not the argument I'm prepared to make.

If I had to make it, of course, and this is directed more towards the comments in the comment section of my previous post, I would maintain that yes, a group of poor performers performing a beautiful piece of music is a far more beautiful thing than a group of good performers performing a dreadful piece of music: because the potential of beauty, the approximation of the form, is there in the beautiful piece of music performed poorly wheras it can never be inherent in the poor piece of music, no matter how accurate its rendering. And plus, if you're God, which would you rather be worshipped with: you already know you're infinitely superior to the human beings and anything they can produce is going to be far less beautiful than what the Angels are singing to you 24/7 (or however they measure eternity up there) so wouldn't you rather have your creations at least attempt something intricately and complexy beautiful rather than just piddle around for the umpteenth time with "One Bread, One Body" (again: a song which reads a whole lot better as a recipe for witches' brew than it does an expression of the Eucharist)? Seriously: think about the Lord's feelings in all of this as HE'S the one we're supposed to be praising here.

So, while we, like the people in Plato's allegory of the cave, can never immediately grasp The Beautiful in the fulness of its form, we can nonetheless work to discern its shadow as accurately as possible. We ought to be focusing our energies on approximating The Beautiful as nearly as possible, not saying (and I don't take JB to be saying this, though others might) "well, I guess we'll never have it fully, so... here's something all of us can sing!" If that were the case Bach would've put away his organ (so to speak) and spent all of his time banging sticks together.

And towards John's comment: I don't think that we'd be cutting off entire generations of music from consideration. I merely think we should be focusing our limited energies (and music budgets) on the best of each generation. Beautiful liturgical music is being written at this very minute. You'd never know it, though, because beautiful liturgical music is not what OCP and GIA are selling. OCP and GIA have built their industry up by, as most folks do, selling to the lowest common denominator (which may work, for a while, when you're making certain forms of pop music but which must never be acceptible for liturgical music). If you want to hear beautiful liturgical music you either need to seek out a handful of Churches around the country which have decided not to support OCP and GIA and instead seek other arrangements (hee!) or buy a CD from Sony's classical record label (anything by Arvo Part comes to mind -- thanks, RC :). The good stuff will rise up above the dross but we must make sure we're giving it a chance and are not choking it out constantly with pap.

Lastly Greg's point ("Otherwise, if we write off all contemporary music, or even most of it, the folks that matter (music publishers) will simply continue to dismiss us as cranks, which will leave us muttering to ourselves in our sanctimonious little corners.") is circular. The folks that matter are most vehemently NOT the music publishers. The folks that matter are the people in the pews -- and I'm not talking about our preferences here: I'm talking about what is best for us. Once you've decided that you want better, more beautiful music, for heaven's sake write your music ministers, demand better music (or vote with your feet and wallets), and together let those who publish such dreck know on what you wish to spend your contributions. Writing off all contemporary music may be a little extreme but it sho'nuff sends a message to those who've built an industry out of recycling the worst kind of hippie ballads (the kind you don't even want to dance to or sing along with because they're just so damned lilly-assed) into "sacred" music.

But again, that's what I would say if I were prepared to make the argument from the standpoint of aesthetics, which I am not. My argument concerns the relationship of our bodies to musical meaning, and that's still coming up.

And I never claimed that Robot Love was sacred music. Most kids seem to like it, though. ;)