Just for the heck of it: Agnes Moorehead

Posted in Picture du jour on January 21st, 2007 by bill

Just in case you doubted…

Posted in Dancing about architecture on January 15th, 2007 by bill
that Simon Cowell is a flaming jackass (and there's no reason why you should, but still):
LOS ANGELES, Jan 11 (Reuters Life!) - Don't expect to see Bob Dylan joining the celebrities on "American Idol" anytime soon. One of the show's judges, Simon Cowell, says he has never bought a Dylan record because he "bores me to tears." The British pop impresario says in the February issue of Playboy that he would "plug my ears and run in the other direction" if he were to see a 21-year-old Dylan singing "Blowin' in the Wind." Cowell, 47, is not known for holding back when it comes to issuing verdicts on the wannabe stars who flock to the top-rated talent show. Last season, he said a female contestant was so fat that the stage should be enlarged, and he suggested that another hopeful should shave his beard and wear a dress. On the other hand, he told Playboy that inaugural champ Kelly Clarkson is "a young Aretha Franklin," and he much preferred her music to Dylan's.

Possibly the geekiest thing I’ve ever seen

Posted in Whatever Else on January 12th, 2007 by bill
Sci-Fi Haiku

John Lennon orders tacos

Posted in Picture du jour, Something about the Beatles on January 11th, 2007 by bill

Dancing with the Elders

Posted in Dancing about architecture on January 4th, 2007 by bill
200px-WoweeZowee.jpgTee_Pavement wizard large Today I've been listening to Matador Records' deluxe reissue of the third — and arguably best — Pavement album, the aptly titled Wowee Zowee. I tend to have mixed feelings about these reissues, because of that voice in my head that says "Well here you are again, pinhead, paying good money for an album you already own." But damn, you get a lot for your 14 bucks here. First off, Wowee Zowee itself, spiffy-sounding but still a riddle wrapped in an enigma all these years later. Then 32 bonus tracks, which is, you know, a lot of music. They're not all gold (Soundz), but the perverse logic that guided Malkmus, Stairs and co. at the time dictated that they must bury their catchiest songs ("Easily Fooled," "Give It a Day," "Kris-Kraft") on B-sides and EPs. Those are all here, along with a Schoolhouse Rock cover ("No More Kings") and the mighty "Gangsters and Pranksters," which contains the timeless couplet "Gangsters treat their ladies right/While pranksters curse their chickless plight." The whole thing comes wrapped up in a groovy package with an informative and nice-smelling booklet. My only complaint is that the back-cover cartoon with the wizard exclaiming "Pavement ist Rad!" is nowhere to be found here, and that's just wrong. Anyway, I figured this gave me an excuse to bust out my own sort of bonus track, this previously unpublished review from 1995. . . Pavement, Wowee Zowee Pavement found itself in a quandary at the beginning of 1995, having achieved somewhat of a commercial breakthrough with 1994’s Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. They clearly lived in fear and dread of the kind of massive success that would alienate their cult fan base, as evidenced by a willfully obnoxious Tonight Show butchery of their sort-of-hit single “Cut Your Hair.” At the same time, their music harbored a fiercely persistent pop tumor that could not easily be excised without killing the patient. Wowee Zowee is their resolution of this paradox. It takes a careful, calculated step backward from the brink of mass acceptance without resorting to mere antisocial noisemongering (Steve Albini does not produce). The 18-song album is frontloaded with slow, dark, mellow songs, with the exception of the single “Rattled by the Rush,” itself a lurching, goofy, Zeppelinesque piece unlikely to turn up in MTV’s “Buzz Bin” anytime soon. Then it starts jumping around wildly, from punk rock to pseudo-country to gothic drone to pseudo-funk to art-rock epic. But you know what? It works. By loosening their grip on the reins, Pavement has allowed their sound to grow organically in numerous new directions without sacrificing that underlying whatever-it-is that makes them Pavement. They have always been and continue to be a guitar band, but new instruments (piano, theremin, pedal steel, cello) are mixed in artfully. Whatever genre they seem to be dabbling in is Pavementized, tamed and made to serve the whole. The whole affair feels loose, unhurried and even jolly, in pleasant contrast to the legion of cookie-cutter Tortured Artists who currently litter the rock landscape. If Crooked Rain was Pavement’s Abbey Road (and it was, believe me), this is their White Album: sprawling, self-indulgent, stylistically incoherent, brilliant. What’s more, Pavement seems, perhaps inadvertently, to have discovered the secret of Time Control. At sixty minutes the album, if listened to straight through, seems more or less eternal. (If you don’t like it, this would be a bad thing; if you do, it’s like a bottomless jar of cookies.) A short song (take for instance “Black Out,” 2:10) feels two or three times as long as it actually is; when they do write a truly long song (“Half a Canyon,” 6:08), it feels positively symphonic in scope. This could have practical application in the future, perhaps replacing suspended animation in interstellar travel. Earlier in 1995 Might magazine’s Paul Tullis named Pavement “World’s Greatest Rock Band,” and I have to go along with him, perhaps modifying the title to “The Last Great Rock Band.” Over the last few years the genre's champions have been disappearing all across the spectrum, from the Pixies to the Grateful Dead. Only quixotic contrarians like Malkmus and friends still think rock is worth saving, and they themselves would never admit as much; but, miraculously, they have done it, at least for now.

Aliens Buzz Chicago

Posted in Whatever Else on January 2nd, 2007 by bill
In a suspiciously underreported story, it appears that extraterrestrials were up to some shenanigans at Chicago's O'Hare Airport on November 7th. The following article from yesterday's Chicago Tribune — which I am reproducing here in its entirety because I fear the Men in Black will make it disappear — describes a "mysterious elliptical-shaped craft" whose curious behavior was witnessed by numerous United Airlines employees. Will 2007, the 60th anniversary of the Roswell Incident, be the year the aliens finally come out into the open? Probably not. But it'd be cooler if they did.

In the sky! A bird? A plane? A ... UFO? by Jon Hilkevitch Published January 1, 2007 It sounds like a tired joke — but a group of airline employees insist they are in earnest, and they are upset that neither their bosses nor the government will take them seriously. A flying saucerlike object hovered low over O'Hare International Airport for several minutes before bolting through thick clouds with such intense energy that it left an eerie hole in overcast skies, said some United Airlines employees who observed the phenomenon. Was it an alien spaceship? A weather balloon lost in the airspace over the world's second-busiest airport? A top-secret military craft? Or simply a reflection from lights that played a trick on the eyes? Officials at United professed no knowledge of the Nov. 7 event—which was reported to the airline by as many as a dozen of its own workers—when the Tribune started asking questions recently. But the Federal Aviation Administration said its air traffic control tower at O'Hare did receive a call from a United supervisor asking if controllers had spotted a mysterious elliptical-shaped craft sitting motionless over Concourse C of the United terminal. No controllers saw the object, and a preliminary check of radar found nothing out of the ordinary, FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory said. The FAA is not conducting a further investigation, Cory said. The theory is the sighting was caused by a "weather phenomenon," she said. The UFO report has sparked some chuckles among controllers in O'Hare tower. "To fly 7 million light years to O'Hare and then have to turn around and go home because your gate was occupied is simply unacceptable," said O'Hare controller and union official Craig Burzych. Some of the witnesses, interviewed by the Tribune, said they are upset that neither the government nor the airline is probing the incident. Whatever the object was, it could have interfered with O'Hare's radar and other equipment, and even created a collision risk, they said. The Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (the term that extraterrestrial-watchers nowadays prefer over Unidentified Flying Object) was first seen by a United ramp worker who was directing back a United plane at Gate C17, according to an account the worker provided to the National UFO Reporting Center. The sighting occurred during daylight, about 4:30 p.m., just before sunset. All the witnesses said the object was dark gray and well defined in the overcast skies. They said the craft, estimated by different accounts to be 6 feet to 24 feet in diameter, did not display any lights. Some said it looked like a rotating Frisbee, while others said it did not appear to be spinning. All agreed the object made no noise and it was at a fixed position in the sky, just below the 1,900-foot cloud deck, until shooting off into the clouds. Witnesses shaken by sighting "I tend to be scientific by nature, and I don't understand why aliens would hover over a busy airport," said a United mechanic who was in the cockpit of a Boeing 777 that he was taxiing to a maintenance hangar when he observed the metallic-looking object above Gate C17. "But I know that what I saw and what a lot of other people saw stood out very clearly, and it definitely was not an [Earth] aircraft," the mechanic said. One United employee appeared emotionally shaken by the sighting and "experienced some religious issues" over it, one co-worker said. A United manager said he ran outside his office in Concourse B after hearing the report about the sighting on an internal airline radio frequency. "I stood outside in the gate area not knowing what to think, just trying to figure out what it was," he said. "I knew no one would make a false call like that. But if somebody was bouncing a weather balloon or something else over O'Hare, we had to stop it because it was in very close proximity to our flight operations." Some joke, others research The databases of various UFO-watching groups are full of accounts filed by pilots about sightings of unknown aircraft and anomalies that affected navigational equipment onboard planes. Whether any of the UFO incidents are real or merely the result of individual perceptions, some experts say the events pose a potential safety risk to pilots and their passengers. "There have been documented cases where safety appears to have been implicated, and more and more we are coming to the point of view that we are dealing with an intelligent phenomenon," said Richard Haines, science director at the National Aviation Reporting Center on Anomalous Phenomena, a private agency. "We must be proactive before an aircraft goes down," said Haines, a former chief of the Space Human Factors Office at NASA's Ames Research Center. Haines is investigating the O'Hare incident. He said he has determined that no weather balloons were launched in the vicinity of O'Hare on Nov. 7. "It's absurd that the military would be conducting aerial test flights" near the airport, Haines said. All the witnesses to the O'Hare event, who included at least several pilots, said they are certain based on the disc's appearance and flight characteristics that it was not an airplane, helicopter, weather balloon or any other craft known to man. United denies UFO report They're not sure what was hanging out for several minutes in the restricted airspace, but they are upset that no one in power has taken the matter seriously. A United spokeswoman said there is no record of the UFO report. She said United officials do not recall discussion of any such incident. "There's nothing in the duty manager log, which is used to report unusual incidents," said United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy. "I checked around. There's no record of anything." The pilots of the United plane being directed back from Gate C17 also were notified by United personnel of the sighting, and one of the pilots reportedly opened a windscreen in the cockpit to get a better view of the object estimated to be hovering 1,500 feet above the ground. The object was seen to suddenly accelerate straight up through the solid overcast skies, which the FAA reported had 1,900-foot cloud ceilings at the time. "It was like somebody punched a hole in the sky," said one United employee. Witnesses said they had a hard time visually tracking the object as it streaked through the dense clouds. It left behind an open hole of clear air in the cloud layer, the witnesses said, adding that the hole disappeared within a few minutes. The United employees interviewed by the Tribune spoke on condition of anonymity. Some said they were interviewed by United officials and instructed to write reports and draw pictures of what they observed, and that they were advised by United officials to refrain from speaking about what they saw. Federal agency backtracks Like United, the FAA originally told the Tribune that it had no information on the alleged UFO sighting. But the federal agency quickly reversed its position after the newspaper filed a Freedom of Information Act request. An internal FAA review of air-traffic communications tapes, a step toward complying with the Tribune request, turned up the call by the United supervisor to an FAA manager in the airport tower, Cory said. Cory said the weather might have factored into what the witnesses thought they saw. "Our theory on this is that it was a weather phenomenon," she said. "That night was a perfect atmospheric condition in terms of low [cloud] ceiling and a lot of airport lights. When the lights shine up into the clouds, sometimes you can see funny things. That's our take on it." Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune

The Return of Kelly Leak

Posted in Moving pictures on January 1st, 2007 by bill
kellyamanda.jpg A young Jackie Earle Haley and (sigh) Tatum O'Neal.

I don't necessarily want to take credit for the miraculous resurrection of Jackie Earle Haley. But. I would like to point out that I wrote a bit about Haley, more or less at random, back in July 2005. At the time, he was just beginning a comeback that has now become full-blown, with talk of an OscarRRR nomination for his role in Little Children. Probably just a coincidence, but can you say with full 100% confidence that all this would have happened if I hadn't been moved by my viewing of Breaking Away to wonder what the hell ever happened to J.E.H.? No, you can't. There are forces at work here larger than Jackie or myself. For more info about the comeback, check out this article and the accompanying interview on SF Gate.