Sweet Spot #3

Posted in Audio transmissions on September 29th, 2009 by bill

The letter “I” seems to be very fertile ground, maybe because it is the land of ego, where human beings spend so much of their time. This week’s short (<20 min.) agglomeration of songs all have titles starting with the word “I’m.” The playlist is after the jump. Enjoy:


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Welcome to Mount Chia Pet, Mr. Obama

Posted in Whatever Else on September 24th, 2009 by bill

So, yes, President Obama has had some troubles lately. The debate over health care reform has been bitter and divisive, and the conflict he inherited in Afghanistan looks set to become a historic quagmire. But in one way, at least, Obama already ranks up there with our greatest and most beloved presidents: Like Abe Lincoln and Geo. Washington, he is now a Chia pet.


For a fun activity, try repeating “Barack Obama Chia Pet” to yourself nine or ten times. Or maybe sing it aloud to the tune of “Lovely Rita, Meter Maid.” Don’t do this in a crowded office, though, or you’ll make a spectacle of yourself.

Thought for today

Posted in Whatever Else on September 22nd, 2009 by bill

Autumn starts today, which is OK with me, because it is one of my top three seasons. In the Bay Area the differences between the seasons are pretty subtle anyway, having more to do with the length of the days than anything else. October and November are two of the nicer months, actually, so we’ve got that going for us.

Of course, if you believe that the world is going to end in December 2012, as specified by the Mayan calendar, that means we have exactly 13 seasons left: four falls and three each of spring, summer, and winter. Some people say that the world isn’t really going to end, just the world as we know it, marking a shift into some kind of new phase. Still others say that the whole thing is stupid, that it’s the Y2K of ancient mystical prophecies. Either way, we might as well enjoy these next couple years as much as we can, eh? What would be the harm?

Love & the Alien

Posted in Whatever Else on September 16th, 2009 by bill
The Alien and the spaceship passenger

The Alien and the spaceship passenger

I can’t claim to be much of an expert on Japanese politics, but I’ve noticed that big things are afoot there lately. Yukio Hatoyama of the Democratic Party of Japan takes office as Prime Minister today, marking only the second time in 54 years that the Liberal Democratic Party has not held the office. For an analogy, imagine that before Barack Obama was elected the Republicans had held the White House since 1954 except for one year in the 90s.

Hatoyama is an interesting cat. Both his father and his grandfather were bigwigs in the LDP, the party he just ousted from power, and he himself was an LDP member of Japan’s House of Representatives before jumping to the opposition. His educational background is as an engineer, but he is given to touchy-feely rhetoric about the importance of “love and fraternity” in politics.

Here’s an excerpt from Hatoyama’s recent editorial in the New York Times:
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Sweet Spot #2

Posted in Audio transmissions on September 15th, 2009 by bill

This picks up pretty much where the last one left off. As always, click “Read more” to see the playlist.


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Amy, Amy, Amy

Posted in Dancing about architecture, Somebody's birthday on September 14th, 2009 by bill
Amy Winehouse, before all the trouble started.

Amy Winehouse, before all the trouble started.

Today is the 26th birthday of the aptly named Amy Winehouse. This seems worth mentioning because there’s no guarantee she’s going to have a 27th, hell-bent as she is on self-destructing at an early age like her foremother Janis Joplin. This would secure her eternal street cred but would be a tremendous waste of talent. Amy not only possesses a freakish singing voice that had her sounding like the second coming of Dinah Washington at age 20 (despite the handicap of her Britishness), she can write songs, too. She is listed as the sole composer of stellar tunes like “Rehab” and “You Know I’m No Good.”

I recently bought Amy’s debut album, Frank, and was amazed to discover that she was actually pretty cute before she got heavily into drugs, tattoos, and excessive eye makeup. Truly, it’s a shame on many levels. Maybe it’s not too late. She could still pull out of it and end up living to a ripe old age, right? Right?

The Sex Lives of Primates

Posted in Read it in books on September 13th, 2009 by bill
That is one sexy ape. (Image courtesy Cecil Vortex.)

That is one sexy ape. (Image courtesy Cecil Vortex.)

Following up on the theme of the last post, I’d like to share with you some things I learned recently from a book called Men and Apes, a 1966 bestseller by Desmond Morris (author of The Naked Ape) and his wife Ramona. In truth, though loaded with facts and excellent pictures, this is a bit of a dry read. The most compelling parts have to do with the sex lives of the different apes and monkeys, which vary quite a bit. The descriptions are alternately instructive, curious, horrifying, and downright steamy. Here are a few excerpts organized by species:
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News Flash: Monkeys Like Metallica

Posted in Whatever Else on September 11th, 2009 by bill


Because I am interested in everything having to do with our cousins the monkeys and apes, I was fascinated by a recent piece on the Discovery News site entitled “Monkeys Appreciate Monkey Music and Metallica.” You can click the preceding link to read it for yourself, but allow me to excerpt the key parts here:

To create music with more monkey appeal, [cellist and author David] Teie composed pieces using specific features in the tamarin calls, manipulating rising or falling pitches and the duration of various sounds. The music was inspired by sounds the tamarins make to convey one of two messages: fear and friendly affiliation.

When the music was played to seven pairs of adult cotton-top tamarins housed at the University of Wisconsin, the monkeys became more anxious and jittery when they heard the fearful monkey music. They then calmed down, and sometimes even foraged, upon hearing the affiliation-based music.

Regular human music was also played to the monkeys, which predictably showed little response, except for a very surprising, calming response to the heavy metal band Metallica.

That last bit is perhaps the most surprising—not just that monkeys like Metallica, but that they find it relaxing. Perhaps another manifestation of the phenomenon that makes Ritalin calm down hyperactive kids? Some genius better get a grant to study this.

And here’s another news flash from the same site that just caught my eye:

Chimpanzees Empathize with Animated Apes

The Blue Soup

Posted in Read it in books, Something about the Beatles on September 9th, 2009 by bill


I was at the Red Cross today, feeling a little lightheaded as the blood ran out of my right arm, when I read the following passage in Kurt Vonnegut’s Happy Birthday, Wanda June:

HAROLD: America’s days of greatness are over. It has drunk the blue soup.

PENELOPE: Blue soup?

HAROLD: An Indian narcotic we were forced to drink. It put us in a haze — a honey-colored haze which was lavender around the edge. We laughed, we sang, we snoozed. When a bird called, we answered back. Every living thing was our brother or sister, we thought. Looseleaf stepped on a cockroach six inches long, and we cried. We had a funeral that went on for five days — for the cockroach. I sang “Oh Promise Me.” Can you imagine? Where the hell did I ever learn the words to “Oh Promise Me”? Looseleaf delivered a lecture on maintenance procedures for the hydraulic system of a B-36. All the time we were drinking more blue soup, more blue soup! Never stopped drinking blue soup. Blue soup all the time. We’d go out after food in that honey-colored haze, and everything that was edible had a penumbra of lavender.

PENELOPE: Sounds quite beautiful.

HAROLD: [Angered] Beautiful, you say? It wasn’t life, it wasn’t death, it wasn’t anything! Beautiful? Seven years gone — like that, like that! Seven years of silliness and random dreams! Seven years of nothingness, when there could have been so much!

And because one corner of my brain is devoted to the Beatles 24-7 these days, I thought immediately of Mr. Lennon:

Everybody seems to think I’m lazy
I don’t mind, I think they’re crazy
Running everywhere at such a speed
Till they find, there’s no need

Please don’t spoil my day
I’m miles away
And after all
I’m only sleeping

Yes, yes, the eternal question…drink the blue soup or face reality head-on. Lennon was a blue soup guy; Vonnegut’s character Harold Ryan is not, though it must be noted that he is more or less the villain of the piece. It’s a question most of us face every day, save those courageous few who have sworn off the stuff for good. The blue soup, mind you, isn’t necessarily a substance; it could be a comforting delusion or an unquestioned ideology. To see with clarity and deal with the consequences, this is no easy thing. In the future, I’d like to do more of it; at the moment, however, dreamland beckons.

Mind Bender

Posted in Audio transmissions, Something about the Beatles on September 8th, 2009 by bill

Today’s treat is a music mix I’m calling “Mind Bender,” which is what you’ll hear John Lennon say in the sample from the Beatles Anthology at the beginning. The playlist is after the jump, but here’s a hint: every other song is by the Beatles.


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