Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Random Acts of Quesionable Music Taste.

Regularly in The Onion's AV Club, they get famous people to hit random on their iPod and comment on the first 5 tracks that come up. Since no other hugely popular web magazine is going to ask me to do that, I decided that this one could. So, here you go, 5 random tracks on my iPod.

1. A Good Man is Easy to Kill
ARTIST: Beulah
ALBUM: The Coast is Never Clear.

Despite the negative song and album title, this is a really fun, unpretentious band, with lots of trumpets and normal guys singing songs. I prefer the their album When the Heartstrings Break, but this one's good, too.

ARTIST: The Pixies

Weird, got a death thing going on here. This is a weird song from the classic Pixies album. The Pixies were my favorite band all through high school. Even then, I was puzzled as to why they would write a songs about the Old Testament story of David killing Bathsheba's husband Uriah. I guess because ol' Frank's dad was a minister, and he seems to like writing about dark tragedies in an oddly comic way.

3. Kamera
ALBUM: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

Well, this is proving to be a pretty safe random test. Who can complain about Wilco? "Which apples belong and which ones don't" is a really nice line.

4. Olde Tyme Waves
ARTIST: Elf Power
ALBUM: A Dream in Sound.

Elf Power is a great old Athens band, who seem to like the Velvet Underground, like myself... but maybe they don't like the same things about VU that I do. Meaning, sometimes they get into artsy weird territory that's a little boring to me. This is a fun song though, and there's some great tracks on this album.

5. Ezekiel Bread
ARTIST: Half-Handed Cloud
ALBUM: Thy is a Word and Feet Need Lamps

This is a great band, mostly one guy who plays a lot of the instruments. He kind of falls in between Danielson Famile's intentional playful ugliness and Sufjan Steven's intricate, pretty songwriting. This album is pretty good, if you're just listening to them for the first time I would go with Halos & Lassos.

Well, that was pretty painless. But kind of fun. Try it yourself in the comments section!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Mother Teresa had doubts?

Could it be that she was human, like every other Christian who ever lived?

It's nice how we like to deify someone and make them the standard of perfect goodness, then get shocked when we find out that they're not actually supernatural. Mother Theresa never presented herself as a perfect person. (That would have been an awkward ceremony, methinks.) She just spent her life helping others and we did the rest. So, it's a little absurd for someone quoted in the article to use the word "hypocrisy", even though the article itself seems to want to shy away from that thought.

If you don't have doubts or dry spells as a Christian, I'd say something's not right. It's the people that go on and on about their super-tight relationship with God that you have to watch. I'm definitely sorry to hear about her personal struggles, but it's clear she wasn't talking about doubt that God exists, but puzzlement over why she couldn't feel his love tangibly like she had in the past. I think all Christians can relate to that at some point in their lives. Heck, we all even doubt God's existance sometimes. Someone once said, "If there's no room for doubt, then there's no room for us." We have no way to tell what was going on in her heart, but either way, I'm sure she's not having that problem where she is now.

That said, I will say that the photo on Time's cover reminded me of a quote from Mystery Science Theater's Crow T. Robot:

"Mother Theresa called... she HATES you!"

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Big Ears, Bad Listener

The new trend in children's programming is to have the character on the show talk to your child and ask them questions as if they were in the room with you. It works on the assumption that your child is either an idiot or recently transported here from the 17h century. I'm not sure, but I think it started with Dora the Slow-Talking-Redundant-Explorer.There's a whole lot of this going on:

DORA: What color is an apple?

(Unbelieveably long pause.)

DORA: That's right, RED! And where do they grow?

(Excruciatingly long pause. Dora blinks. Her monkey's eyebrows may move slightly, but that's optional.)

DORA: On trees! That's right!

Apparently super long pauses save you some cash in the scripting AND animation phase.

How did we come to this? What ever happened to storylines like "Run, Vanity Smurf, or Gargamel will crush you and seal your soul forever into his evil satanic jar!" or even "Gummy Bears, let's unite and save our village from the famine... and molten lava!" Those were exciting times.

I can only assume the foray into boredom is intended to pass children's television off as an educational tool. For example, those announcements at the beginning of all Noggin shows that go like this: "Wow Wow Wubzy teaches preschoolers about interpersonal dynamics, abstract problem solving, foreign diplomacy and the subtle and appropriate use of symbolism." Really? Well, Wubzy take it from here, I'm going to check my email and see you kids when it's time for you to write your dissertation.

It's an annoying trend, and I'm proud to say my 2 year old is not falling for it.

The other day, Mickey Mouse casually strolled onto the screen and asked Robin, "Do you want to go inside my clubhouse?"

"NO!" She promptly yelled.

"Ok, here we go!" said Mickey, as the music kicked in.

"I SAID NO, MICKEY MOUSE!" Robin yelled, full of righteous anger.

I love that kid.

Stuff I'm listening to lately, Pt 1

Here's a random spattering of stuff I'm listening to right now. I have an emusic subscription, which is great for trying new stuff that you wouldn't just go out and buy, especially smaller bands that you might not hear about otherwise.

That said, my first selection is from the well-known but often underrated Kinks. Released in 1971, Muswell Hillbillies is the Kinks' foray into the world of alt-country; in fact, it's apparently credited as being an early example of that style of music. It's definitely a country-themed album, with lots of acoustic-based rockers. Ray Davies distinct brand of catchy songwriting is something I've admired since I was a kid and there's some really fun songs on this album.

However, there are a number of tracks that are really annoying (ones where Ray adopts a "character voice" or that feature a New Orleans Jazz-style backing ensemble grate the most). I think that's probably what's kept this album from become the well-known classic it could have been, with a little editing. "20th Century Man", "Holloway Jail", "Mountain Woman", "Muswell Hillbilly" and "Complicated Life" make a nice little EP, though, if you take them out and put them on a separate playlist, which I've done. Like on The Village Green Preservation Society (a great album, considered by some to be the Kinks' Pet Sounds), the songs are mostly about how lame modern life is compared to the glorified old days. I can sympathize. Check out some selected lines from 20th Century Man:

"This is the twentieth century/too much aggravation/it's the age of insanity/What has become of the green pleasant fields of Jerusalem"


"You keep all your smart modern writers/Give me William Shakespeare/You keep all your smart modern painters/I'll take Rembrandt, Titian, Da Vinci and Gainsborough"

one more:

"We gotta get out of here/we gotta find a solution/I'm a twentieth century man but I don't want to die here"

I like when he says in that last line that he doesn't want to die in the 20th Century. But he's clearly not talking about living until the 21st Century because he's fondly remembering the past the entire song. So, I can only assume he wants to build a time machine of some sort, which, of course, is awesome.

Anyway, if you like the Kinks, subtext about time travel, and a little bit of twang check out Muswell Hillbillies.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Problem with Rain Guards.

If that title doesn't get you excited to read this post, I don't know what will.

When I bought my truck several years ago, a friend of mine pointed out that it had rain guards. "Those are kind of hick-ish," he said. I evaluated them and decided that I needed them because I didn't have AC, and would have to roll my window down when it was raining.

Well, I have a new name for them. Spider Hiders.

Spiders were kind of annoying when I lived in Georgia. So I took my family and moved to North Carolina, only to discover there were 10 times the amount of spiders there than in Georgia. Not satisfied with my spider per inch ratio, I then took my family to Austin, where there is a spider of consequential size on every existing molecule. Perfect.

And speaking of perfect, it turns out that Rain Guards are the perfect place to be a horrifying spider. Here's how it works. A spider or ten crawls into my rain guard during the night. The next morning I get into my car, roll the windows down (no AC) and head to work. Spiders feel the wind, crawl into the roof of my car and drop promptly into my lap.

I'd like to say I welcome these terrifying visitors with a calm "oh!" and escort them safely out the window. That's pretty much what happens, except I also drive into the median screaming and flailing like a banshee having a seizure. My thought is usually that I'll die in a flaming wreck, and everyone will be left wondering why I drove off the overpass into the aquifer below. Meanwhile the spider slinks away unscathed and possibly in my pant leg.

It took me a while to realize the rain guards were causing my spider problem, so now in the mornings I check the guards first. If I see a spider, I usually leave the window up long enough for the wind to blow it away on the interstate. (If you're curious, the average spider can hold on at up to 70mph on a windy day. But higher than that, not so much.) Yesterday, however, I looked into the guard and saw just a couple of tiny legs in the corner. "Wow," I thought, "that spider really tucked himself up in there, he must have ridden with me before."

I couldn't find a stick long enough to ensure my skin wouldn't make spider contact, so I did what any PETA member confronted with the same situation would do: I grabbed the garden hose and started spraying into my rain guard at full blast. Suddenly the furry hand of a giant curled around the top of the rain guard. I'm not kidding, the spider was huge. Tarantula-esque in appearance. It looked something like this, if anyone can help me identify it. He ran over the top of the car to head for the other side's rain guards, and I sprayed him again. Eventually, I washed my entire car and convinced him to fall disgustingly down to my driveway. There was a pause, then we both started running back toward the truck. The spider was fast, but I was faster. I got in the truck and backed it down the driveway. I stopped to see if the spider was still there in the driveway but he wasn't. I could only assume he was attached to the bottom of my truck, Cape Fear style, ready to go to my work. I drove there as fast as I could.

My friend Jerry's going to help me figure out how to remove my rain guards sometime next week.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Movie Review: The King of Kong

This movie is really, really great. I highly recommend it. Even if you don't love Donkey Kong, it's one of the best documentaries you will ever see. I even forgot it was a documentary for a while and got sad because I realized that there might not be a happy Hollywood ending.

Billy Mitchell, video game world champion, is a really great villian, with some super great lines. As about 15 people gather around to watch a video tape of Billy playing a video game, he claims "Helen of Troy didn't get this much attention". Amazing. There's a picture of him above, hardily approving his own brand of hot sauce.

It also helps to have the best theater in the world a few miles from your house. I can never leave Austin because the Alamo Drafthouse is so great. Not only do they have the best popcorn, cheesesticks, hamburgers, and homemade chocolates, but they hooked an actual Donkey Kong game up to the screen and let people play while the audience cheered them on during the pre-show. Anyone who could make their game last for 5 minutes (which is actually hard to do) got to be entered for a chance to win the machine. It was great fun.

What if this was my car of choice?

That would be pretty funny, if all I drove was a purple '93 Prowler.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Movie Review: Miss Potter

Erin and I decided to try out the pay per view movies that are available on our DVR for the first time tonight. We had to choose between seven movies about people getting disemboweled or decapitated and about 10 involving killer puppets or Eddie Murphy dressed as Norbit. So we settled upon Miss Potter, which we thought might be a pleasant british comedy/drama.

We were wrong.

Miss Potter is the tale of one woman's decent into madness. Her name is Renee Zellweger. She has clearly gone insane.

How did this happen? Remember Jerry MacGuire, where it was like they found a real, actual person and put her on screen next to what was left of Tom Cruise? She seemed so personable and down to earth. Now she is a babbling madwoman whose squinty anxious twittering around the screen makes Mr. Bean look subtle and nuanced.

Not only that, but this time she drags Ewan MacGregor and Emily Watson with her. Together, they manage to act like no human has ever acted before. There's some good english actors in this, and they do nice work, but when any one of these characters get on screen it's like you're watching a really bad play that some crazy people who thought they were british made up. Ewan MacGregor looks like he should be hunting Dudley Do-right and tying Nell to some train tracks. Emily Watson and her forehead look like she's hoping to get the part of the Leader in the next Hulk movie. And all three of them look like they've just gotten out of a wind tunnel and ran in the extreme cold before getting on set. Did they even have a make up person? Did someone look through the lens at some point? I mean, I'm a ruddy complexion guy myself, but they've really reached new heights of splotchiness in this film.

Erin did point out that Ewan McObiewan should have gotten an oscar for being able to pretend like he was falling in love with Renee as she "said" the line: "I have more delightful friends, like Mrs. Puddleduck, the most stupid duck the world has ever known." He smiles lovingly, and she returns the favor by giving him a tender "I'm about to pull out a kitchen knife and start stabbing like crazy" look.

I'm sure the goal of the movie was not to make me cringe in terror when I see Peter Cottontail, or Turtle Squirelegs or whoever, but there you have it. There's even a scene where she literally starts to lose her mind and her drawings come to life and try to run away fom her as she tears the papers up, leaving only Peter Cottontail's jacket hanging on a post, with evil crows flying all around it. Really? That's what your Beatrix Potter movies going to do?

Oh well, at least after 24 hours it deletes from my DVR. If only my brain were so lucky.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

I have a blog.

It was hard to come up with a title for my blog. But I did it. Here were the rejects:

My Secret Internet Diary
The Amazing Internort
Settle for Wes
Blog Flume (taken)
Bloggles the Mind (taken)
I Tell You Things About Me
Words to Live Near


Blog In Your Eye.

I think I did okay, for all that.

So, welome to my Mind Grapes.