Hello, readers faithful enough to keep checking a blog that isn't there for some reason. We've been moving to a new server, and there have been difficulties. But thanks to Rose and her indefatigable efforts to install the swank new version of Movable Type, we have, at the very least, protoblogs. The archives should be back soon. Until then, here's something to think about the next time you hear someone complain about modern art, "My four-year-old could do that!"
I may be out of the habit of checking McSweeney's every day, but Jon isn't, and his watchful eye prevented me from missing the latest from Tim Carvell (also a contributor to the new Daily Show book, which looks pretty damn funny). My suggestion: wouldn't The Towering Inferno be improved if it were entirely performed by Muppets? On fire?
Remember those heady days of ten days ago, when we all enjoyed exploring the world of Boy Scout Merit Badges together? Well, it's time to relive those days, except in a girlier fashion, as we examine Girl Scout Interest Project Awards. The Girl Scouts' naming system seems a little more focus-grouped than that of the Boy Scouts:
A World of Understanding
All About Birds
Build a Better Future
Cookies and Dough
Digging Through the Past
Do You Get the Message?
Dollars and Sense
Exploring the Net
The Food Connection
From Fitness to Fashion
From Shore to Sea
From Stress to Success
Games for Life
Generations Hand in Hand
Inventions and Inquiry
Invitation to the Dance
It's About Time
The Lure of Language
Math, Maps, and More
On a High Note
On the Court
On the Playing Field
Once Upon a Story
Paddle, Pole, and Roll
The Play's the Thing
Understanding Yourself and Others
Why in the World?
Writing for Real
Your Best Defense
It just all seems kinda...condescending. Why not "Cycling" instead of "Rolling Along"? Why not "Self Defense" instead of "Your Best Defense"? Why must they all sound like headlines from Seventeen?
Fellow music dorks in my readership will probably already know that Allmusic.com redesigned its interface not so long ago. I'm used to websites deciding that a whole year of having the same design makes them seem dull or something, apparently building on the assumption that the Internet has completely demolished the attention span of the world's population. What they don't understand is that people who get their information from the Internet are the sort of people who memorize keyboard shortcuts so they don't have to waste time using pulldown menus -- at least, that's my broad generalization, and I'm sticking to it. It's true for me, anyway, and that's all that matters.
What this means is that every time a site redesigns itself, I have to relearn how to use the site. If it's a site I visit with any regularity, I've built up a lot of habits. So my initial response to any redesign is always negative. That's why I've waited a while before deciding exactly how I feel about the new AllMusic site. And how I feel about it is this: If it were a flaming suppository filled with poison, Satan would hesitate (for fear of being too cruel) to stick it up anyone's ass except Hitler's.
Perhaps I exaggerate. But I really do hate it. Here is one reason why.
When I tell the AllMusic search engine to look for an album entitled "You Forgot It in People", one might think the sensible thing to do would be to deliver me to the page that contains a review of that album, instead of bringing me to a search page which suggests that perhaps I am looking for the album "You Forgot It in People", or maybe "With Young People in Mind", or "Got Live if You Want It", or -- who knows -- "Canada: Songs of the Inuit People". Hmmm. I wonder which of those is the album I'm looking for. Thanks for your help, AllMusic.
Andrew over at Songs to Wear Pants To took one of my song suggestions: "Pick up the last CD you listened to, and write a song whose title consists of two of the song titles on that CD strung together." I have a guess as to which CD he was listening to. (Sigur Ros?)
My morning commute is entirely free of religious crazies preaching the gospel to the undercaffeinated. I generally consider this a blessing, but it does mean that I never get to witness interactions as entertaining as this one.
(Via Boing Boing.)
One Cargo article that I was recently called upon to copyedit was a page of candles, with the fragrance of each candle briefly described. One candle's scent had been characterized as "potent jasmine" and something or other. The editor in chief had struck out "potent", saying it had too much of a negative connotation, and asked for a new word. A later editor had replaced it with "redolent".
Firstly, I think "redolent" has a much more negative connotation than "potent", which sounds pretty positive to me. If it had been "impotent jasmine", I could see the objection. (I assume he was trying to avoid giving the sense that the candle was too stinky.) But "redolent"? Emily and I had a discussion about the change where I said...well, "redolent" means "aromatic". Aren't all these candles redolent? If it's redolent, that just means it smells like something. What is a candle supposed to smell like if not something that smells like something?
Happily, the editor in chief agreed with us. We ended up going with "concentrated". See the outcome of this and other sagas in the holiday issue of Cargo.
Trip points me to a page that features the lyrics of the U.S.'s 50 official state songs. He recommends "Maryland My Maryland", which he describes as perhaps "the violentest state song ever" (sung to the tune of "O Tannenbaum"):
The despot's heel is on thy shore,
Maryland, My Maryland!
His torch is at thy temple door,
Maryland, My Maryland!
Avenge the patriotic gore
That flecked the streets of Baltimore,
And be the battle queen of yore,
Maryland! My Maryland!
Gore! Flecking the streets! It's like a George Romero movie, for crying out loud. Except better, because it features the line "Huzza! She spurns the Northern scum!", which was conspicuously absent from Night of the Living Dead.
Alaska's state song stands out from the crowd because it is not actually about the state; it's about the flag. I guess they ran out of nice things to say about Alaska itself ("It has a sky...and lakes...and there was all that gold, huh?") and just threw up their hands.
The fellow who wrote Mississippi's song really liked the chorus he came up with. So much so that the song ended up featuring one verse and five choruses. Daring!
New York is really taking a hit to its urbane reputation with this song.
Connecticut, meanwhile, has taken an unusual tack vis-a-vis making sure as many people as possible actually remember its official song.
Is it just me, or do the last two verses of Louisiana's "You Are My Sunshine" seem kind of tacked on?
Anyway...there are lots of songs, and I've looked at less than half of them. If you find anything amusing, please add it to the comments. Or if you're sick of official state songs, you might try these instead.
Well, it's been just over a week in my new post as a copyeditor at Cargo, so I feel like I should share some anecdotes from the copy trenches. But are there any that will not bore the rest of the world stiff?
Hmmmm. That's a toughie.
I can say that Prada made our life somewhat difficult by having made a new perfume that has no name. When you've got a two-page spread of new fragrances, it can become a subject of much debate, figuring out how to refer to an untitled perfume. What did we decide? Oh, that part isn't interesting. The fact that we had to decide is, though...perhaps.
But it's all been pretty pleasant and uneventful so far. If anything as scandalous as this is going on, I'm certainly not privy to it.
One of my favorite bands, Life in a Blender, finally has a website. They're still working on it, but it's there. If you're trying to find it again later without the help of my blog, remember: dot net, dot net, dot net. Dot com will give you this.
At the Cargo office today, one of the editors asked Emily and me if we had seen the cufflink article -- or so it sounded to us, since one of the pages Emily recently proofread was a photo spread of cufflinks. But then he clarified: no, not the cufflink article, the puffling article.
Well, that just raised more questions.
Pufflings, it turns out, are baby puffins. And apparently there is a tradition in Iceland of rescuing those baby puffins when they get confused by the city lights and bonk their tiny heads into buildings.
I assume you want to read more, because, come on, baby puffins. The Wall Street Journal, which printed the article, is a subscription site, but fortunately Google has a cached version.
From Amazon's description of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Pet Psychic Communication" (I know, I know -- what other kind of guide to pet psychic communication is there?):
A professional animal communicator and pet psychic explores the wisdom, healing power, and sacred bond between humans and their four-legged companions. With client stories of psychic experiences and at-home exercises, Debbie McGillivray shows readers how to have a psychic conversation with their pet, help an animal with its emotional scars and fears, connect psychically with a lost pet, learn to scan a pet for pain, and communicate with a pet that has passed on.
Coming soon: "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Telekinesis".
To learn more about Ms. McGillivray (who I like to call "The Horse Thinkerer"), visit FAQ. (Best question: "Will my animal give away any personal secrets?")
Rose spotted a New York Times article today about another, not-as-traumatic-as-the-one-Peter-Gabriel-wrote-a-song-about-but-still-fairly-traumatic experiment conducted by Stanley Milgram. (In case you don't know all about the traumatic one, you can read about it here.) The experiment was on a subject Rose has had quite a bit of experience with: asking people for a seat on the subway.
Dr. Milgram set out to try it himself. But when he approached his first seated passenger, he found himself frozen.
"The words seemed lodged in my trachea and would simply not emerge," he said in the interview.
Retreating, he berated himself: 'What kind of craven coward are you?"
A few unsuccessful tries later, he managed to choke out a request.
"Taking the man's seat, I was overwhelmed by the need to behave in a way that would justify my request," he said. "My head sank between my knees, and I could feel my face blanching. I was not role-playing. I actually felt as if I were going to perish."
Back before Rose was receiving treatment for what turned out to be rheumatoid arthritis, she was unable to stand up on the subway, and often had to ask people for seats. She was never refused, though many people pretended not to hear her. The whole process was much easier when she had her cane with her, because then she could just ask for a seat, and look meaningfully at the cane, and people would get up without needing further explanation as to why a healthy-looking young purple-haired woman needed a seat more than they did.
She didn't experience the discomfort that Milgram's students did, but then, she actually needed a seat. It's presumably much harder to ask someone to give up their seat for science.
It's a little random, but so are most of my interests. Here is a list of Boy Scout merit badges introduced after 1980 (not counting one whose names were merely changed):
Handicapped Awareness (1980-1984) (replaced by Handicap Awareness, then Disabilities Awareness)
American Labor (1987)
Graphic Arts (1987)
Auto Mechanics (1992)
Crime Prevention (1996)
Some other merit badges of note:
Atomic Energy (1963)
Personal Management (1972)
Pulp and Paper (1972)
Truck Transportation (1973)
No longer offered:
Cement Work (1927-1952)
Clerk (1910-11) (renamed the less grim "Business")
No longer offered, but ripe for reinstatement:
Stalking (1911-1952) (formerly called "Stalker")
The Swift Boat Liars for Truth commercial may be reprehensible, but at least it lends itself to parody pretty easily.
Pleasure Boat Captains for Truth contends that Bush, despite his efforts to depict himself as a reformed hard drinker, was actually a big lightweight.
Rowboat Veterans for Truth debunks the "heroism" of George Washington.
Sadly, Cheerleaders for Truth has exceeded its allotted bandwidth, so no news on the question of whether George W. Bush really earned a varsity letter in cheerleading at Yale.
And perhaps most controversial of all, we have G.I. Joe Veterans for Truth (mostly controversial because you'll have to sit through a Salon Day Pass ad to read the article).
(Thanks to Jon for the "Rowboat Veterans" link.)
Pitchfork reports that six tracks from Brian Wilson's upcoming "Smile" album (and if that phrase is this exciting to me, I can't imagine how exciting it is to someone who has actually been waiting since the time it was supposed to come out in the first place) are available for streaming here. Go, and feel the love.
(If you enjoy bad art, you will certainly want to buy their book.)
Debby points out a website that is the home of prosthetically-foreheaded proselytizing, Klingons for Christ.
Oy. My second day at work, and 45 minutes after heading out to the train station, I was still waiting for an F train. Or at least an F train I could fit on. I probably would've even gotten on the E train that appeared for no good reason, if it hadn't been jam-packed. (An E train? At Fort Hamilton Parkway? And then a D train appeared on the opposite platform. Mysterious.) And all the time I'm thinking, goddamn it, this is just the lamest excuse for lateness to have on my second day of a new job.
Of course -- as I learned once I gave up on the F train and walked 15 minutes to the semi-nearby Q station and listened to two cell phone messages from my boss, Emily, who was having similar train angst not so far away in Park Slope -- pretty much the whole subway system was screwed up. (My Q train wasn't even going to go into Manhattan at all, but changed its mind en route.) Apparently it's Frances's fault.
In case anyone is actually reading the web on this fine Labor Day weekend, you might want to check out this article about a Rock, Paper, Scissors tournament.
(Previous Rock, Paper, Scissors-related entry here.)
Boy, the Mormon church really doesn't want kids to masturbate. Apparently they believe "Masturbation is a sinful habit that robs one of the Spirit and creates guilt and emotional stress." Well, yeah -- it creates guilt if you tell people it's sinful.
At least they admit "It is not physically harmful unless practiced in the extreme." I wonder what kind of extreme masturbation they're thinking of.
Anyway, here are some choice bits of advice from "Steps in Overcoming Masturbation", with commentary.
Be assured that you can be cured of your difficulty. Many have been, both male and female, and you can be also if you determine that it must be so.
If you truly make up your mind that you will be cured, then you will have the strength to resist any tendencies which you may have and any temptations which may come to you. After you have made this decision, then observe the following specific guidelines.
1. Never touch the intimate parts of your body except during normal toilet processes. Avoid being alone as much as possible. Find good company and stay in this good company.
2. If you are associated with other persons having this same problem, you must break off their friendship. Never associate with other people having the same weakness. Don't suppose that two of you will quit together, you never will. You must get away from people of that kind. Just to be in their presence will keep your problem foremost in your mind. The problem must be taken out of your mind for that is where it really exists. Your mind must be on other and more wholesome things.
Okay, here's something that Mormons apparently don't know: when I was a hormone-addled teenager constantly on the lookout for porn or any reasonable facsimiles thereof, I didn't really spend a lot of time talking about masturbation with my friends. Or, to the best of my recollection, any time. I really don't think the hypothetical kids this article is targeted to have to worry about associating with other kids who masturbate, because the simple act of asking someone, "Do you masturbate? Because if you do, I can't hang out with you," is quite likely to make the person asked the question quite motivated to avoid the asker without any external assistance.
3. When you bathe, do not admire yourself in a mirror. Never stay in the bath more than five or six minutes -- just long enough to bathe and dry and dress and then get out of the bathroom into a room where you will have some member of your family present.
Let me tell you, it sure as hell wasn't seeing my own body in a mirror that was turning me on during puberty.
4. When in bed, if that is where you have your problem for the most part, dress yourself for the night so securely that you cannot easily touch your vital parts, and so that it would be difficult and time consuming for you to remove those clothes. By the time you started to remove protective clothing you would have sufficiently controlled your thinking that the temptation would leave you.
I suggest a nice pair of pantyhose.
5. If the temptation seems overpowering while you are in bed, get out of bed and go into the kitchen and fix yourself a snack, even if it is in the middle of the night, and even if you are not hungry, and despite your fears of gaining weight. The purpose behind this suggestion is that you get your mind on something else. You are the subject of your thoughts, so to speak.
This is so psychologically healthy, I don't know where to start.
6. Never read pornographic material. Never read about your problem. Keep it out of mind. Remember -- "First a thought, then an act." The thought pattern must be changed. You must not allow this problem to remain in your mind. When you accomplish that, you soon will be free of the act.
This one seems a little obvious. It's not like the Mormon church is pro-pornography, as long as it doesn't make you want to masturbate. "If looking at Penthouse makes you think impure thoughts, try Honcho instead -- perhaps that will fail to stimulate you."
Also, as Rose points out, "Never read about your problem? Isn't this about your problem?"
7. Put wholesome thoughts into your mind at all times. Read good books -- Church books -- Scriptures -- Sermons of the Brethren. Make a daily habit of reading at least one chapter of Scripture, preferably from one of the four Gospels in the New Testament, or the Book of Mormon. The four Gospels -- Matthew, Mark, Luke and John -- above anything else in the Bible can be helpful because of their uplifting qualities.
Skip the parts about Mary Magdalene, though.
8. Pray. But when you pray, don't pray about this problem, for that will tend to keep it in your mind more than ever. Pray for faith, pray for understanding of the Scriptures, pray for the Missionaries, the General Authorities, your friends, your families, but keep the problem out of your mind by not mentioning it ever -- not in conversation with others, not in your prayers. Keep it out of your mind!
Whatever you do, do not think of that girl who sits across the aisle from you in chemistry class, slowly taking off her shirt and undoing her bra, as she lustfully licks her lips. Do not think about it!
To help in planning an effective program to overcome the problem a brief explanation is given of how the reproductive organs in a young man function.
The testes in your body are continually producing hundreds of millions of reproductive cells call spermatozoa. These are moved up a tube called the vas deferens to a place called the ampulla where they are mixed with fluids from two membranous pouches called seminal vesicles and the prostate gland. The resultant fluid is called semen. When the seminal vesicles are full a signal is sent to the central nervous system indicating they are ready to be emptied. The rate at which the filling takes place varies greatly from one person to another, depending on such things as diet, exercise, state of health, etc. For some it may be several times a week, for others twice a month and for others, hardly ever.
Obviously the implication is that if you pray enough, you may be one of the lucky ones whose seminal vesicles only fill up once every ten years or so.
Be outgoing and friendly. Force yourself to be with others and learn to enjoy working and talking to them. Use principles of developing friendships found in books such as How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
But don't make friends with sexy people, unless you can influence them to stop being sexy. Unless they masturbate, in which case you must stop being friends with them.
Make a pocket calendar for a month on a small card. Carry it with you, but show it to no one. If you have a lapse of self control, color the day black. Your goal will be to have no black days. The calendar becomes a strong visual reminder of self control and should be looked at when you are tempted to add another black day. Keep your calendar up until you have at least three clear months.
If you have two lapses of self-control, color the day red. For three or more lapses, color the day pink. If any of the lapses are really great, draw a star or exclamation point after the date.
In the field of psychotherapy there is a very effective technique called aversion therapy. When we associate or think of something very distasteful with something which has been pleasurable, but undesirable, the distasteful thought and feeling will begin to cancel out that which was pleasurable. If you associate something very distasteful with your loss of self-control it will help you to stop the act. For example, if you are tempted to masturbate, think of having to bathe in a tub of worms, and eating several of them as you do the act.
And I used to wonder how people develop odd fetishes.
In very severe cases it may be necessary to tie a hand to the bed frame with a tie in order that the habit of masturbating in a semi-sleep condition can be broken. This can also be accomplished by wearing several layers of clothing which would be difficult to remove while half asleep.
I don't understand how this is supposed to work. Wouldn't one hand still be free? Who's going to tie your other hand? Your mom? I have to say, let us look at these two options, and determine which is more likely to screw a teenage boy up:
- Having his mother tie him to the bed to prevent him from masturbating
I think we can all agree it's the latter, and not merely because it opens a boy up to teasing from his fellow Mormons along the lines of, "Ha ha! You're tempted, and your mom ties you up funny!"
Do not let yourself return to any past habit or attitude patterns which were part of your problem. Satan never gives up. Be calmly and confidently on guard. Keep a positive mental attitude. You can win this fight! The joy and strength you will feel when you do will give your whole life a radiant and spiritual glow of satisfaction and fulfillment.
Or what the rest of us call "unbearable smugness".
Anyway, good luck with the masturbation prevention plan, Mormons! Just keep sending those missionaries to New York, and we'll keep on hosting events where women take their shirts off.
You can thank Jenny for sending me this squickifying image in the first place, of a man setting the world record for snorting milk up his nose and squirting it out of his eye. Who knew that was even possible, much less that there is a world record for it??
More importantly, does this mysterious nose-to-eye passage mean that this guy can breathe through his eyes? Because that would be awesome. I can see him trying to get into the Superfriends now: "My superpower is the ability to freak people the hell out in swimming pools by keeping only my eyes above water for hours at a time." "Oh...make him Aquaman's sidekick."
So I checked in on Travis Morrison's home page on Monday, as I do every week or two to see if there are any updates about tour info or his new CD, and I was shocked to see that he was playing a solo acoustic-guitar-and-nothin'-else show in our fair city on Tuesday, and I hadn't heard anything about it! Am I not on your mailing list, Travis? What's the deal?
Anyway, Rose and I saw that the next time he was due in town, he'd have a full band in tow, and while we totally want to see that, we also wanted to see his acoustic set, because we had heard it was very silly and filled with loopy covers (a la his version of Ludacris's "What's Your Fantasy?"). So we went to the show, despite having no particular interest in seeing either of the acts following Travis (the Hold Steady and the Wrens).
Travis's set was great -- the deconstructed cover songs included Mary J. Blige's "Be Happy", 'Til Tuesday's "Voices Carry" (appropriately turned very dark and claustrophobic), Prince's "Erotic City", Matthew Wilder's "Break My Stride", Sophie B. Hawkins's "Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover", the aforementioned Ludacris cover, and a couple other things I didn't so much recognize and don't remember now. He also did two of his own songs, including three improvised verses in "Song for the Orca" based on animals called out from the audience. (The verse about penguins, to the best of my recollection: This song is for the penguin / Swimming underwater at 45 miles an hour / To escape from predators / I could use that.)
Since the first performer was who we had come to see, we then found ourselves in the odd position of wondering whether to bother staying for the other acts. The Wrens at least had some name recognition for me, since Pitchfork loves them to pieces, but I'd seen the tail end of a free concert they played at Williams College (when I was there for there for Williams's twice-yearly triviathon), and liked the first song I saw very much. The ones after that...seemed sort of like the answer to the musical question, "Hey! We're drunk and it's late -- should we play a well-rehearsed song or fuck around and maybe roll around on the floor?" So I had mixed feelings about them already.
There was that other band before them, though: the Hold Steady -- a band about which I knew only that they apparently were a band, given that their name appeared on my ticket. They were an odd combination of influences. The music was highly competent fist-in-the-air-style arena rock, and the vocals were...crazy shouted rants by a Peter Sellers lookalike simultaneously channeling Mark E. Smith, Johnny Rotten, and Fred Schneider. He was a twitchy, twitchy man, prone to breaking guitar strings, and fond of clapping his hands, though not necessarily on the beat. Surprisingly entertaining, honestly (especially when I could understand the lyrics), but the ongoing lack of any sort of vocal melody eventually got to me.
So then the Wrens came on, and things started out promisingly with a reverbed-out cover of Sinead O'Connor's "Black Boys on Mopeds", and a sad little piano ballad. Then they started to play the rock music, and things got a little tiresome. Like, you know -- the guy standing right behind our staked-out-early table on the balcony started SCREAMING, and the bass player got all rock star and started throwing his bass way up in the air, and then he did the same with a folding chair, which kind of smashed into the drum kit on the way down, earning him quite the glare from the drummer. I felt I could read the drummer's mind at that moment, "Yes, you are in a rock band, and yes, there are lots of screaming kids watching us right now, but could you chill the fuck out?" Said bass player also had this habit of EMPHATICALLY POINTING AT PEOPLE IN THE AUDIENCE. I put that detail in all caps because lowercase just doesn't capture the full attitude of his pointing style. At a couple points, he pointed right at our corner of the balcony, which made us feel a little odd -- like we should wave hello or something. The guy behind us loved the pointing, though. It made him jump up and down and up and down...which made him splash his beer on us. Hurrah. I leaned over to Rose and said, "So...they're fine."
"I could stay, or I could go," Rose replied.
"Well...let's stay for a couple more songs and see how we feel."
About thirty seconds later I decided I already knew how I felt. Headachy and bored. So we left. What can I say? Wrens, I'm glad all those people like your band. Maybe I would also like you in a situation where I have control over your volume level and I am not concerned that your bass player is going to end up accidentally leaving a gash in someone's forehead.
But you know what? It felt great to leave the concert early! Like, yeah, I saw the guy I came to see, it was awesome -- I don't need to stay to feel like I got my money's worth! I can just leave! Very liberating, honestly. Sort of like a tiny little act of rebellion. And isn't rebellion what rock and roll is all about?
John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants talks about coffee and lying to the audience.
We were doing a show in Brooklyn and we basically started grousing about how lame the audience was at the Stone Pony the night before. The reality is that the audience at the Stone Pony the night before was a fantastic audience by any measure. We were just trying to prod the Brooklyn audience into being better than they would if the idea of competition wasn't in the picture. It was basically a big lie.
The recording of the shows catches us in lies, which really bothers me. I enjoy the in the moment of it all. I mean, if you can't lie on stage, where can you lie?!
I was at the Brooklyn show, and I believe we were a good set of audience members! Did John Flansburgh turn around and badmouth us to the next audience? I feel cheap.