Tuesday, January 30, 2007

With the announcement of Oscar contenders, the recent Gilded Globule awards, there is one thing that's been bugging me: The movie "Babel" is persistently pronounced as "babble." My cursory look tells me that it's not an incorrect pronunciation but doesn't it make sense to pronounce "Bable" as "bay-bel" so as to distinguish it from "babble," which is, after all, a word in and of itself. One can babble and many people babbling can lead to a babel. At least that's how I read the definitions.
Don't even start me on the pronunciation of "flaccid!" (It's properly "flak-sid" if you haven't been digging into your Websters of late.)

Do Not Settle For Pets That Suck
Use Petflix!

OK, so the title is longer than the post. Sue me.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Checking the Mike Cross website, I see that he's going to do a show at the Birchmere in mid February. Woot! I won't have to drive to Georgia this time. Anyone care to join me?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Not Something I'm Prone To Blog About
Wrestling. Rather, modern American "professional" wrestling. And I'm not really going to get into wrestling per se. I just want to mention a couple of professional wrestlers. Dave "The Animal" Bautista and John Cena. I don't care about their "ring careers" but both have a great deal of charisma. Just as Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson transcended wrestling and has made a decent career for himself as an actor, I think both Bautista and Cena have the style and intelligence to make it in entertainment beyond the exposition that is wrestling. Anything that gets they away from the malignant promoter Vince McMahon is a good thing. Cena is currently in Subway ads with Jared Fogle. I think he does a good job.
Even if you don't care about professional wrestling, take a look at these two guys sometime and see if you don't find that they have something more than the rest of the rasslin' crowd.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

From The Slush Pile
No, that's not a comment on the weather. It's the slush pile of paper and software boxes and manuals and correspondence hanging fire on my desk. What has floated to the top today, like a light, loafy relative of Mr. Hankey. Did you really need to click that link? Oh fer lack of pop culture knowledge! Anyway, the poo that popped is a clipping I took form the newspaper late last October. It's an AP story so it's fecal heritage is well earned. The headline: "Security council voting continues - Oil generosity keeps countries faithful to Chavez."
I'll give you the lede to set up the situation since I've let so much time pass since clipping this: "Voting resumes today to fill a two-year term on the U.N. Security Council with Venezuela's fading hopes buttressed by a number of countries that have benefited from President Hugo Chavez' (sic) oil-funded largesse." The US was supporting Guatemala against Venezuela for the position. The point of the article is to list a number of projects the Venezuelan government is putting up money for which is endearing Central and South American governments to Herr Chavez. The leading example is a "state-of-the-art transplant unit" at a Uruguayan hospital for which the Venzies are ponying up $20 million. This, according to the article, is why "(o)ne of the Chavez backers may be Uruguay." Get that? May be. Pure conjecture on the part of the AP reporter presented as factual reporting. Not anything new for the AP but let's look at a few more projects.
$260 million financing for Jamaican highway repaving, $12 million for housing as well as asphalt, fuel storage tanks and university housing for Dominica in a deal that sees Venezuelan help with airport construction to "boost tourism." Yeah. Because tourists come to tiny nations because their airports are just spectacular. Sorry. Can't help the snark sometimes.
Now, the Uruguayans didn't get just the money for the transplant unit but since their leftist president Tabare Vazquez was elected in March 2005, they got some $400 million from Chavez. And this is what the AP wants us to believe may be buying Uruguayan loyalty to Chavez. And it may for all I know. I don't begrudge Venezuela's fuehrer giving as much aid as he wants. What fries me about this is first, the editorializing of the AP in a news story. Secondly, it reads like a propaganda piece for Venezuela with all the good works that are being done on its dime. And finally, what's even more germane to the story is the single mention that "(t)he United States, for its part, has allocated more than $3 billion in aid to Latin American and the Caribbean in the last two years though there is no evidence that recipients have been pressured to vote for Guatemala."
(strangulated invective) The US gives massive amounts of money, multiples of what Venezuela gives and doesn't put any pressure on the beggar nations to act in concert with us. And, apparently, many act against us. Chavez, on the other hand, spreads his pesos around to buy the fealty of the beggar nations. And, per the article, seems to get it.
The United States seems to be uniquely crippled in the world that any time we are giving aid, it is never conditioned on the recipient showing any form of gratitude that matters. But a tin-horn dictator who is destroying his own country's infrastructure to get the money to buy foreign influence gets the votes of the recipients of his gifts. It's not right either way. Time for the US to re-think foreign aid. And I say this as the son of a US Foreign Service officer.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Snow Day!
Despite all the trauma and trouble of snow in the DC area, I am delighted that winter has finally decided to make itself known. Unfortunately the icy, snow-covered streets on Sunday as the snow was falling meant that traffic was in max creep mode. I was on the road for a bit more than an hours and made it to apoint that I should reach in about half that time. And the traffic was a furball on the Beltway so I threw in the towl on getting over to the Cooldog show. Darn. I hope my show cost can be credited to me for a future show.
But that meant I could watch some Niffle. And even though I kvetched about the games, the Colts-Pats game was a classic. And I watched another disc of Netflix Galactica. Said show returning to the broadcast slate on the SciFi channel. Oh freaking my gawd! Great, no, incredible new ep. This show just gets better and better. I'll do a post on it in the not-too-long from now because I'm starting to have some ideas about plot points that are cropping up. I will say this though, it looks like they've taken the Lucy Lawless Cylon out of the mix. Which is too bad. She has never been more gorgeous than as the D'anna character. Lucy Flawless more like it. I am a sci-fi fan generally but "Battlestar" is turning into the best iteration of a series since "Babylon 5." Higher praise I can not dish out.
And one other thing must be said, Tricia Helfer as the Cylon "Six" or "Caprica" is just mind-blowingly gorgeous and sexy beyond belief. And she has recently posed topless (only - at least of the pics I've seen) for Playboy. And yet, and yet, she's sexier clothed on Galactica. The topless pictures show her as over-madeup and too plastic. Strange what can happen to a beautiful woman.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Lack Of Posting
Will continue for a couple few more days. Stuff is ongoing and I am behinder than I should be. Saturday - trip to the guitar store. Sunday - Cooldog show. Good times. Good times.
In the meantime: eat something tasty, pet a pooch, take a nap, buy something shiny (I'd suggest a new guitar but you may not share my madness), tell someone you love him or her, play a game, rent a movie, pop some popcorn (especially kettle corn -mMMmmm!), put real butter on your toast tomorrow morning, drink a white soda (like Sprite) for a change.
I'm not suggesting you do all of these, just one or maybe two. Enjoy your life just a little bit.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Never Much Cared For Her Myself
Except for the movie "The Mask." But now Cameron Diaz seems to be angling for the role of the Joker in some future Batman re-make. Click the link if you're brave.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Nothing Like A Blue Guitar
Specifically, a PRS Matteo Blue 513 Rosewood. I've been informed that Paul Reed Smith is going to stop making Brazilian rosewood necks (not the fretboard, the neck itself) so this should become a collector's guitar. Not to mention that PRS may not be making quilt tops as well. So Peg might already be a collector's item too.
Here is the PRS page on the 513 Rosewood. I love the stylized bird inlays on the 513's neck. It's just a pretty, pretty guitar.
UPDATE: Don't bother to follow that first link. The guitar has been sold so its info on the Intarwebnet has been dropped down the memory hole. Just click the PRS page link to see a fine example.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

A Weekend of Football
Holy cow. Watching the Niffle makes me long for the Aussie Rules season to start up again. But that's my tsooris and no one else's. I watched a good deal of the playoff games this weekend and made the mistake of reading the noisepaper while listening to the Baldymore Ravens on thie local radio station. E-yuk! I've never heard a worse case of homer syndrome in broadcasting. I was not opposed to the Ravens before listening to the game but now I am delighted at their loss.
I am actually spoiled for football radio. The Redskins (a team I not only don't love but inactively dislike) for years had great quarterback Sonny Jurgenson, great linebacker Sam Huff and long-time local sportscaster Frank Herzog doing their radio broadcasts. They were undoubtedly Redskins fans but they were so good, so honest in their game work that they were a pleasure to listen to. It didn't hurt that they seemed to have an easy camaraderie in the booth. A truly great booth team. It is a significant mark against Redskins owner Little Danny Snyder (short man's syndrome anyone?) that he kicked them to the curb.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Some Off-Season Thoughts For The Deck Farm
I'm already planning the expansion of the Deck Farm from three EarthBoxes with the addition of a couple of knock-off boxes made out of Wally-Mart containers. But I'm also considering one of these "greenhouses" as I think it might give me as much as another three weeks of growing season. I'm planning on ordering plants only this year - not growing from seeds, so I'm a bit dependent on the date the growers ship live plants for my start date. But with the little greenhouse, I could probably get some more early growth and perhaps another two weeks as the weather cools off. We shall see.
Still and all, $60 for a deck-sized tubular-steel and PVC greenhouse.... Seems like a deal. Plans as they stand are for four tomato plants, more hot peppers, more green peppers and a vegetable to be named later. Cukes, beans and peas are the leading candidates at the moment. I'd love to hear suggestions for good container-grown veg from the peanut gallery.

Friday, January 12, 2007

A Loss
I've just been informed that the original Pug of War, Spike has passed away at the ripe old age of 16. He had a long run for a little dog and I will remember him always. He was a great guy and wonderful doggie friend. You'd never imagine how much you can love a snuffling, snorty little curl-tailed beast until you open your home to one.
Here is the old grey fellow proving that the whole world is a bed for a pug.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Again With the iPhone?
Oy! Vat is it witchew kids and your shiny new things? Always the new things. You got no respect for tradition.
Sorry. I was channeling there. I didn't mean to disparage the shiny new thing that Apple, Inc. (not Apple Computer, Inc. anymore) has brought forth upon the face of this great land. I was watching the Macworld keynote address from my favorite reality-field distortion provider Steve Jobs when I drank the Kool-Ade. It's kool all right. I'm no more planning to drop the cash on this device than I was when I forced the Enigmatic Misanthrope into a fit of pirate speak (see comments on the post below). But what it does and the way it does it is just fantastic. I'm not going to laundry list the features, odds are you've seen reporting on it by now. But what knocks me out is the face of the thing. One solid sheet of polycarbonate plastic. Polycarbonate has high impact resistance but low scratch resistance so let's hope the iPhone (if Cisco agrees) has some world class anti-scratch coating.
With all the gee-whizzery, I can only imagine that there's one technological breakthrough that will make the thing perfect: transparent aluminum. I know Steve can do if he really, really REALLY wants it. Let's all clap for Tinkerbell, henh?

Ch-ch-ch-changes. I've been sucking up the Bottlestar Glugactica divids so fast from Netflix that I got ahead of my "2 at a time, 4 per month" membership. Bugger. So I've now upped to the "2 at a time, unlimited" membership for just a few dollars more. We'll see how it all works out but since BG is coming back this weekend, I need to get the second half of season two assimilated (am I mixing space robot metaphors?) soonest.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Good Stuff
I was wander the echoing, cavernous halls of my local Costco today as I got loaded on such staples as milk, eggs, paper products and pepper. Pepper? Pepper. I was down to one smallish McCormick container of already ground pepper in the kitchen. I'm not a fan of already ground pepper as I think pepper is like coffee- best used as close to being ground as possible. But I've also inherited my mother's Scots nature and abhor throwing things away. So I've been using the ground pepper.
Nonetheless, I was looking for red pepper flakes in the spices section of Costco and saw a giant, discount-sized jar of Tellichery peppercorns. They were slightly more expensive than the same sized jar of regular peppercorns so I plumped for the difference. Brought it home. Opened it up to fill the pepper grinder. Mmmmm! The perfume of those peppercorns is intense and wonderful. I'll put the ground pepper aside now for cooking purposes and will be grinding Tellichery pepper onto my food for the rest of my fool life. I highly recommend them. Didn't find the red pepper flakes though. I guess the regular grocery store for that.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

In Praise of Famous Women
Every now and again I come upon an actress or a woman who has achieved some measure of fame and am struck at how wonderfully and beautifully she has aged. The most recent example is Kathy Garver who played "Cissy" on "Family Affair" back in the late 60s, early 70s. She was a lovely young lady back then but her picture on her bio page shows that her beauty has not diminished after the passage of years. I'll be discreet enough to not mention her age (which is easy enough to find online) but I will profess my great admiration for her graceful beauty.
In talking with a friend the other day, I mentioned how impressed I was with Ms. Garver (one of the weekly magazines in my newspaper had a "where are they now" letter about her which led to my Googling her for a current picture). He then made a remark along the lines of, "Oh, they all have lots of plastic surgery." That may be true but it really doesn't matter. Ms. Garver's face retains the look she had all those years ago and her smile is absolutely brilliant. If she decided to have work done, it was done very, very well and I congratulate her on a good decision.
I think it's one of life's little grace notes to stumble on something like this. An actress to whom I really paid little heed and then to find she's been successful and just as beautiful now as she was then. Ms. Garver, or Mrs. Travis if you prefer, I salute you!
UPDATE: I sent Ms. Garver an e-mail asking that she might cast a glance the way of this post and I got a very nice e-mail in return. I am now and will forever be a devoted fan of Kathy Garver. It goes to show that there are good people in show business.
Son Of A ...
Apple's new iPhone is, as usual for Apple, way cool (link goes to an easily digestible post on The Unofficial Apple Weblog). But for all its gee-whizzery (and there is much I want in that phone), I can not bring myself to drop $500 or $600 on a phone when having to spend the $$ for a two-year service agreement. Apple has done other cool stuff this year but it's not so thunderously computer related as to make me want to rush out and buy. Unlike the iPod Nano which induced the single most intense case of geek lust in me I have ever experienced. And I still love that thing.
Home digital media is evolving at a rapid pace and I think the introduction of Apple TV (a wireless media box that will play iTunes media over your home big-ass TV) is probably a good product because so many people are comfortable with iTunes that the learning curve is nigh-unto flat. Apple engineers are smart people. Microsoft users will have more trouble migrating to the Vista OS than iTunes users (PC and Mac) will have integrating the Apple TV into their home media setup. And not too bad a buy at $300. I'm still too wedded to divids to be terribly interested in dropping those ducats though.
Is It Really Wrong?
I found a copy of Sakamoto Kyu's wonderful song "Ue o muite arukĊ" (which is better known as "Sukiyaki" in English) online here in mp3 form. Which is good because iTunes does not have the original available for sale. I have to learn the lyrics and the Wikipedia page is a good place to start. Sakamoto has a wonderful, clean expressive voice. I won't go into detail about the song; it's all on the Wikipedia page if you're interested.
Amazon has a couple of Sakamoto's discs but I probably should just get the $7 disc of "Billboard Top Pop Hits: 1963." At some point, I will feel guilty about grabbing a free mp3 but for a more than 40 year old song from an artist who passed away tragically in 1985, my nabbing one song seems a rather minor thing.
So, to answer my question, yes. It is wrong. But it is a deminimis transgression and one that can be rectified.

Monday, January 08, 2007

So Sick
That would be me. I'm not ill - just so sick of a radio ad that I could spit. The ad is for, as I recall, free credit reports and it is set up as a "how to pick up chicks" ad. The moron tells how he used the other moron's "program" to get better credit so he could buy a car and a boat and now "chicks dig me." Women - are you not insulted by this? The ad basically says that women are only interested in the trappings of material wealth. That is, women's affection can be purchased. So these people have in essence just called women whores.
It's not like men should think they're any better. According to the ad, men are so awful that they can't attract women without using a falsified aura of prosperity.
This ad just turns my stomach. It's one of those that just gets worse and worse with every hearing. I could put a bullet through the radio were I not so fond of the Bose Wave system. See ladies, a Bose Wave radio, trappings of wealth. Don't you want me now? Bleagh!

I've stolen this image from the website (which will go unmentioned here) instead of scanning in the full page ad that ran in the AAA magazine. I am horrified. This grotesque blob of kitsch is to "(h)elp make great strides in increasing breast cancer awareness...." Oh my aching Lord. If women with breast cancer were not suffering enough, now they are plagued by this warty excrescence on the face of good taste. And, of course, a "portion of the proceeds from the sale ... will be donated to help fight breast cancer." It's not specified what portion that is of course. One is left to wonder if this is like the episode of the Simpsons where Lisa is told something is being produced with "a percentage" of recycled content. When asked, the spokeswoman says, "Zero is a percent!"
I'm not saying the people who put this out are giving nothing to the fight against breast cancer but anyone concerned about the fight (or good taste) will be better served to just give the $20 cost directly to the American Cancer Society, or any number of other good anti-cancer organizations. Finally, the "sculptural shoe" is "removable." Why, oh why would anyone ever want to remove this hideous thing? The evil part of me wants the designer of this to actually get brea... No, I can't say that. I can come close to hoping for it. But I can't actually wish that on anyone.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

This weekend I rented a movie that was so bad.
How bad was it?
It was so bad that it could only be displayed in litterbox format.

Friday, January 05, 2007

I Want One
The good folks at thinkgeek.com have a radio-controlled toy that the eternal child in me is having a tantrum over: a "palmsize" RC helicopter. Link has a short video of the chopper buzzing around inside. It probably has a battery life of about a minute but it's just such a cool toy. I'll add that to my stupid-guy-things wishlist.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

What I'd Like To See
I want to see an Israeli Air Force version of "Top Gun." For the sole reason that I want the big hit song to be "Oy Vey to the Danger Zone." I wonder if Kenny Loggins would consider re-writing the lyrics.
Site Changes
The "longings" section of music I have ordered for myself is gone. Poof. If I have something musical to write about, I'll write about it. I won't clog up the sidebar with details of my CD purchases.
More importantly, I have moved the link to Gut Rumbles to its own "In Memoriam" section. It wasn't just the blogosphere that lost something real last year when we lost the dyspeptic wit of Rob Smith, the world at large lost a sometimes reluctant gentleman, a a straight shooter and a musician. We are the less for his loss and he deserves to have his listing under that heading. I hope I have no cause to move other links to that heading for a long, long time.
And as a final note on Rob, I'm so lucky to have met him before he passed. I only wish I could have been invited to the Crackerbox for that experience as well.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Year Thus Far
Wherein I try to put a little reverse English on the hanging curve of a mixed metaphor. Actually, my bum hip has been really been giving me grief and if not for the luck of timing, I'd have gotten nothing done this year a'tall. But today was better than the day before and that was better than the day before so tomorrow should be better still. Wish me luck as I embark on The Great Office Cleaning and Reorganization. And clear out quick notes to those I owe Christmas cards to as well.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Music Post I Didn't Get Around To Writing
As any long time reader of PoW knows, I am a big fan of Emm Gryner. Fan to the point I pre-ordered her latest (which has been lingering in the soon-to-be-gone "longings" section of the sidebar) disc "The Summer of High Hopes" which I have been listening to regularly ever since. It's terrific. Another total winner.
I am always left to wonder what drives the writing process, including the writing of music of course, and usually believe that there's something imagined out of autobiography that is the genesis of great art. Or inane blog posts for that matter but we're not talking about me here. And I believe that the naming of names matters as well. So my first surprise in this disc is that the name comes from a line in a song that doesn't share the title. Specifically: "The summer of high hopes/Brought tears of red merlot/ And the fact our love will never grow...." The song is titled "Merlot." This seems a bit of misdirection, as it were, from an artist who tends to be, let's say "elliptical" in her lyrics. The song that first drew me to her work, "Julia" on the "Science Fair" disc certainly seems to come out of her life but I really have no idea of what is actually is going on. But it's a beautiful song and has a very haunting lyric ("Julia, leave the dark alone/ Everyday is better than the last/
Julia, leave the dark alone/ Speak your mind 'cause this life's going fast").
It is dangerous to speculate but I'll take a stab at it. Emm is fairly recently married and my guess is that she and her husband might have been wanting to have a child which didn't happen. I hasten to say, that's an awful stretch but with the title and the beautiful but sad or regret-tinged songs, I feel lead to that conclusion. And a cursory Google search of her lyrics doesn't lead me to a place that has lyrics for the new disc online. Emm's site has been promising lyrics for a while and I wish I could link to them to take the burden off my typing. Let me just note a few of the song titles to support my supposition: "Girls Are Murder" (the first song), "All-time Low" (third) and "Sweet Destroyer" (11th and last). There is also a song called "Almighty Love" that can reasonably said to not fit my idea. It's so good that Bono, in November, said it was one of the songs in the last 20 years he wishes he'd written. I may not appreciate Bono's fevered politics but musically, that's high praise.
I'll present just one more lyric as justification of my idea. The very first line of "Girls Are Murder:" "It started when the daylight hit her open wound/How a season in this hell can kick you down/ Satellites start capturing your happy home/ But you feel alone enough/ to quote the killing moon tonight." That sounds awfully depressed or depressing but let me say - it's a gorgeous song. The melody, the musicianship, Emm's achingly beautiful voice. It's not alone. "Sweet Destroyer" is superb. "Almighty Love" - fantastic. As is "Blackwinged Bird" and "Black-eyed Blue Sky." I am tempted to say that the latter is my favorite of the disc. But I'm so enamored of all those I've mentioned, it's hard to single one out.
Let it not be said that my devotion is without some critical eye. "Queen of the Boys" and "See the Sea" both use the traditional "f-word" which doesn't thrill me, as its use often demonstrates a lack of originality more than emphasis. Plus to have this sweet, very feminine voice sing "Hurts like fuck I don't know why" ("See the Sea") is to me a startling incongruity. Her song. Her right to write. I'm just not a fan of the word so it jars me.
Bottom line - this is an amazing, great disc from an artist who is far under-known and under-appreciated. Even though she indulges in those traditional Canadian lefty tropes (the last line in the liner notes is "PLEASE do something everyday to help stop global warming XO Emm"), I really hope she gets the recognition she deserves.
On the other hand, those of us who pre-ordered also got a limited edition disc called "PVT" (read "Private") which is a re-make of her one major label issue 1998's "Public." Perhaps I am too accustomed to the songs as I know them but I am not much taken by this disc. I figure she needed to exorcise some demons after being dropped by a major label after one disc when she is a popular artist in Canada (and should be everywhere). So even though I don't care for it as much as her other work, I'm very glad to own it and I hope she's happier for having made it.
If you don't own any Emm and would like to start with her, begin with 2002's "Asianblue." It's very accessible, very pop-y for her. I'd hope it might get you started on owning a lot her work because she's a remarkable talent.
Damnably cute too but you should have expected that from me. Really.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Songs of PRaiSe
Here, at its starting bid, is just a sick good deal on a Hollowbody II with the Baggs piezo pickup (which mine doesn't have). The seller calls id a double 10 top but I would say that it's not exactly a 10 top - look at the detail picture of the body and the flame on the belly disappears. Yet other detail pics show the flaming does not fade out. Strange. I don't know what the reserve on this beauty is but any price below about $2,800 would be a steal. If I didn't already own an HBII, I would bid on this one.

I Think It's An Advantage
I was reading Joe Sherlock's most excellent blog (The View Through The Windshield over in the "links" section - you should be checking him out every weekday doncha know?) when he mentioned "stay(ing) up to watch the ball fall and see Dick Clark." I think a Left Coast life could be a real advantage on NYE. You watch the New York celebration, sip your champagne and then go to sleep thereby saving three late night hours. Sweet.

The Post Wherein Inconsequential Things Are Enumerated
The first of the year is a good time to change things. Apart from opening the new calendars, I put a new brush head on my Sonicare toothbrush, a new water filter in my coffeepot and changed the wiper blades on my car. Those are the six month things. I also put new batteries in the smoke detectors despite those who say that's a six month thing, I change them out yearly.
I also got something new from my friend the Guitar Nazi with whom I spent NYE. And his family of course. I got guitar strap locks. I have had exactly one instance of a guitar slipping the strap but that's one too many. And that's despite PRS using an oversized strap button. The strap locks are pretty freakin' cool. I'll have the locking buttons on all the guitars by the end of the month. I also got a beautifully cleaned guitar.
Once again, happy new year to y'all. If anyone out there with artistic talent wants to make an image for me, I'd like a cartoon sort of gnu wearing a tie-dyed Tee shirt and a headband. This would then be a card with the caption "Hippy Gnu Year!"
And the one other little thing. My Outback is 60 miles from turning over the 100,000 mile mark. I would have preferred to have it happen today but I never got out of the house. So, tomorrow, I gas up and drive around and flip the odo. I am strangely happy.