There was a pile of CDs on the giveaway table today, among which was a promo copy of the latest from New Order, "Waiting for the Sirens' Call." I haven't been especially impressed with what I've heard of it, although it's been trumpeted all over the place as a return to form, blah blah blah. It sounded like New-Order-by-the-numbers to me when I listened to the audio stream they had online for a while. But then I heard the single playing while Rose and I were shopping one day, and man, in the context of "I am in a store and even though I am perforce somewhat engaged in what I'm doing, there is something essentially boring about the whole thing and it would be great if a catchy song were playing", it is a great single. So we'll see if I feel more enthusiastic when I relisten to the CD.
But the main reason I'm blogging about it is because I notice that promo CDs are getting a lot tighter on the security. The label reads:
PLEASE NOTE: This CD has been individually watermarked. That means that there is a serial number, traceable to an individual (you), embedded in the music. The watermark is not changed or destroyed by extracting clips of the music, or by using any compression technology such as MP3. This security measure allows us to trace any individual leaks, in the unlikely event that they occur, and protect the rights of the artist. The sound quality of the audio playback is not affected. The CD should not be copied, left with any third party or heard by any other party. Thanks in advance for your understanding. Enjoy!
Well, I'm sure that kept the CD off the file sharing networks, aren't you? I just love the "you" at the end of "traceable to an individual (you)". In my mind's ear I hear that being said by Dana Carvey's Church Lady, with a quick point of the index finger at the end. The "Enjoy!" at the very end is also amusing, kind of like: "Don't put your elbows on the table or chew with your mouth open or use the wrong fork or speak before being spoken to or spit anything into your napkin or reach across the table or drip on the tablecloth; now enjoy your dinner!"
Furthermore, apparently Warner Brothers thinks that we never assign articles to outside reporters here. When they say it can't be left to any third party, there can be no misunderstanding about who the first party (or would it be the second party? Not sure) is, because the CD says right on it: "THIS CD BELONGS TO", followed by the name of our entertainment editor. The CD also has some other warnings on it, in case it should become separated from its case:
Use, reproduction, transmission and distribution of this CD and the music on it is subject to an agreement set forth on the original package in which this CD was provided. This CD and the music on it are not to be used, reproduced, transmitted or distributed except as provided in that agreement.
But just to make sure you know what the deal is, and in case you are unable or unwilling to look at the CD case, it recaps the whole set of rules all over again, albeit reworded slightly for some reason:
This CD has been individually watermarked with a unique identification number embedded in the music. This number is traceable directly to the authorized recipient (you), which allows us to identify the source of any unauthorized copies or other reproduction of the music contained on this CD. The watermark is not changed or destroyed by extracting clips of the music, or by using any compression technology such as MP3. The sound quality of the audio playback is not affected. This CD is intended to be listened to solely by the intended recipient (you) and no portion of its contents may be copied or reproduced in any manner, nor made available to any third party (whether by means of streaming, so-called "peer-to-peer" networks or otherwise). This CD should not be played in a computer.
So many questions. Is it just that it shouldn't be played in a computer, or is it impossible to play in a computer? Should I not play it in my computer because it will fuck my computer up in some secret way? We may never know, because I sure as hell ain't about to try to rip this bad boy. And, what, is there no Chicago Manual of Style over there at Warner Brothers? Not only am I seeing a distinct lack of serial commas, Chicago clearly says on page 293 (of the 15th edition), "A word or phrase preceded by so-called should not be enclosed in quotation marks. The expression itself indicates irony or doubt." (Of course, it's obvious editorializing to place "so-called" before the phrase "peer-to-peer networks" in the first place -- since they are, in fact, properly called that -- but that's WB's prerogative.)
Also, do you agree that the two parenthetical instances of "you" in this warning are not as punchy as the one in the previous one? Here they sound like they're actually clarifying something, whereas in the other one, it clearly read as a threat. And it also feels surprisingly lax here -- if you're reading it, you must be the intended recipient!
Awww, I'm the intended recipient! I feel thoroughly welcomed! Thank you, Warner Brothers, for deigning to allow magazines to publicize your recordings for you.
I have been remiss in my reportage, but it's never too late to make up for it. (At least, it's never too late until someone I know personally blogs about it first.) And so I am pleased to report that fellow National Puzzlers' League member (and Holy Tango blurber) Will Shortz has won the "love him for his brains" division of Gawker's "Hotties of the New York Times" contest. Will was not nominated in the "love him for his body" division; if you would like to wax enthusiastic about Will's physique in protest, please avail yourself of the comments.
Finally, O.J. is brought to justice. (Also: unflattering photo!)
Some newspapers have opted to pull yesterday's and today's "Doonesbury" because Trudeau refers to Karl Rove in the two strips as "Turd Blossom" (which is one of Bush's nicknames for Rove). Hey, if it was inoffensive enough for Time magazine (see paragraph five), it should be inoffensive enough for just about anyone, I say.
Saturday was a very concerty day. First I went to Summerstage in Central Park with the main goal of seeing Jane Siberry play; I was also interested in Martha Wainwright and Betty...except that I had heard wrong and the middle act was Tracy Bonham, not Martha Wainwright. Since I didn't know either one very well at all other than having heard that they were pretty good, this didn't make much difference to me. And in the end, Tracy Bonham gave my favorite performance of the three acts.
Jane Siberry, well, you know, I love Jane Siberry, and love the way her songs fill me with a sensation of perfect longing -- but even though her extra-chatty onstage persona in charming in an isn't-she-adorably-eccentric way, I really want her to, you know, stop talking and actually sing a song at some point. (I also wouldn't have minded some more uptempo numbers, but Jane's never exactly been the rocking out type.) Betty was afflicted by the same problem, although in the form of the three singers having a tendency toward long jokey intros and too much banter. You know what I mean, right? They interact with the audience in that chatty, superficially-subversive-but-essentially-wholesome way that only queer-friendly folk-rock bands can. (Their songs really are ungodly catchy, though. I bought their Christmas CD, since I need new fodder for my holiday mix CD series.)
So even though all three acts played for the same amount of time, it felt like Tracy's set was longer because she just played more. She got on with it! And she rocked, especially on an awesome whirling-dervish-friendly violin-and-hand-drum rendition of Kelis's "Milkshake". I may have a new rock star crush.
After the concert, I had just enough to time to get to Park Slope and grab a couple of pizza slices before seeing Brian Dewan play at Barbes. John Keen opened with a ragtime piano set (really quite good), and then Brian followed up with his usual array of accordion, zither, and autoharp songs. In addition to various and sundry favorites old and recent ("Loathsome Idols", a cover of "Jimmy Carter Says Yes", "Sick Day"), he performed a few numbers entirely new to me, closing the show with "Brain Surgery Without Anesthesia" -- an audio-collage-cum-performance-piece depicting the thought processes of a patient who is having his brain poked and having random memories stimulated -- and a barbershop trio performance of a Beatles song. (John Keen and Brian's cousin Leon Dewan were the other two in the trio.) The song? "Revolution #9". Brilliant.
It's really been quite a week for Sean Delonas, lame editorial cartoonist for the New York Post. Let's see what stories he deemed most important over the past seven days.
For Monday he drew no cartoon. On Tuesday, the most important news item was a New York Post contest. (Although...if the Post meant the city, why did they build the extra-wide bed in the middle of their office?) On Wednesday, what could be more important than Bush's pick for a Supreme Court nominee? Why, Jude Law of course. The Jude Law saga was so complex and nuanced, in fact, that one single editorial cartoon could not capture all its complexities and nuances, so Mr. Delonas followed up on Thursday with this cartoon (although a close inspection will reveal a nod to one other news item of the day: a painting of James Doohan being beamed up to heaven, truly another testament to the ingenuity and originality that is Sean Delonas). On Friday, our cartoonist's eye turned to international matters and terrorism in London with a cartoon apparently intended to convey the controversial message that terrorists have attacked the London Underground (and that British people have bad teeth). Brave stances both.
Mr. Delonas took Saturday off. And then, today, we have this. Not sure what to think about this one. On the one hand, I do think that the random bag searches are kind of a dumb idea, but on the other hand, if this is supposed to be a cartoon in favor of racial profiling, well...racial profiling didn't do such a great job in London, did it?
So I was reading another article about the Valerie Plame business this morning, and I was thinking: okay. So...Judith Miller is going to jail because she wouldn't reveal the name of her source. Matthew Cooper is avoiding jail because his source, Karl Rove, released him from his pledge of confidentiality.
Explain to me why exactly Karl Rove would do this?
I am honestly curious to hear some theories, because the only reason I keep coming up with is the one my internal Fox Mulder keeps suggesting -- that Karl Rove is the less important of two people responsible for the leak, and Rove's falling on the knife.
Six things (special commemorative there-was-a-sign-on-the-subway-this-morning-about-how-all-backpacks-and-large-packages-are-now-subject-to-search edition).
(Via Boing Boing.)
Is this reviewer being funny, or is he seriously the last person on the planet to realize that maybe bands like Franz Ferdinand and the Killers and the Bravery, entertaining as they may be, are perhaps a teensy bit derivative of '80s new wave bands?
Because I have to leave work comparatively promptly today to meet up with my mix CD trading club (I'd point you to the mix, but Art of the Mix is down at the moment), I'm taking the day off from Six Things today -- in fact, I must confess, I'm thinking of lightening up on my update schedule in general, to stave off my inevitable burnout. Maybe three days a week instead of five.
But here is a possibly amusing, certainly mysterious thing I saw when I was at the airport two weeks ago, waiting to catch my flight to Los Angeles (and why didn't I blog about it sooner? Because I just found my note about it): a fellow wearing a T-shirt which read (on the back, affording me ample opportunity to transcribe without detection): "The continuous splitting into two is the Thotian principle." I find exactly one reference to this online, here. If anyone can help explain further, please do not restrain yourself.
Rose and I went to Barnes and Noble yesterday so she could stock up on books for her trip to Louisiana (her mother is having major surgery tomorrow). Our B&N membership card (which gives you a 10% discount on anything you buy) had expired, but Rose had gotten a postcard in the mail from them that said, "Bring in this card when you renew your membership and get an extra 10% off your purchase!" So, okay, we did that. Then, when I was looking at the receipt, I noticed the numbers looked a little odd. Why did it say that we had gotten a discount of $2.66 on a book costing $14.00, when 20% of $14.00 is $2.80? Then I figured it out: they had given us a 10% discount -- and then given us our additional 10% discount based on that amount. Which means we ended up getting a 19% discount overall, instead of a 20% discount. Which, you know, came out to a difference of less than a dollar, so it's not like we were going to bother complaining -- but it is a little skeevy on their part.
My friend Jon points out the Paint By Numbers puzzles on the new, extra-rudimentary Games magazine website are not presented in the most sensible fashion, since traditionally the point of such puzzles is that you don't know what they are until you fill in the grid.
I did a little Wikipedia detective work over the weekend. Read the details here.
Here are MP3s of the two songs I wrote for the NPL extravaganza: "Don't You Know Who I Am?" and "Nothing in the World". I would just like to say that I was very good when I recorded these: I totally restrained myself from getting complicated and trying to add harmony parts and drum tracks and whatnot, partly because I thought, no, the recordings should really reflect the way the songs sounded when I performed them live, but mostly because if I had done that, it would've taken me weeks to finish. (See the left-hand column of my main blog page if you'd like to listen to some of my non-puzzle-related songs, not all of which took me weeks to record, but I believe the ones that didn't are from back when I didn't have a day job.)
I know some people are going to be like, "What the hell are you doing, recording other songs when we asked you to record MP3s of the songs from the NPL extravaganza?", but honestly, I was almost done with this song already. This was a collaboration between me and bassist Jim Wagner; he and I wrote and recorded the music way back in April 2004, and I wrote one verse and chorus's worth of lyrics and then got stuck. I added the second verse and bridge about three months ago, and finished the last verse this week. So what I'm saying is, the time spent on this song has not so much been impinging on current song projects. Anyway, here it is. It's called "Stop Bothering Me".
As previously mentioned, I was recently in L.A. for the National Puzzler's League convention, which featured a multi-puzzle extravaganza written by Dan Katz (aka Spelvin), me (aka Lunch Boy), and Dave Tuller (aka QED), presented below in pdf form for anyone who'd like to take a crack at it. It's called "The 30th Annual Sphinxie Awards" and was presented at the con in the format of an awards show, with (unwitting) presenters called up from the audience to perform presentations for such awards as Crossword of the Year, Logic Puzzle of the Year, and so forth. However, unlike regular awards shows, instead of announcing the winner of each award, each pair of presenters introduced a puzzle; solving that puzzle would give you the name of the award-winning puzzle. Once a team showed us that they knew the name of the award-winning puzzle, we gave that puzzle to them; solving that puzzle would reveal the name of the puzzle's (fictional) author. Throughout the evening, Dan and I performed two songs each (ostensibly the nominees for "Best Song"), which were also puzzles. I'll have MP3s of my songs available eventually [update: now, in fact!] (and hopefully Dan will have a chance to record his as well) [update: yes, he did!], but even though they are more entertaining in the sung-out-loud format, they can be solved from just the lyrics.
To recap: You get a bunch of puzzles. You use those puzzles to figure out the titles of other puzzles. You solve those other puzzles to figure out the authors of those puzzles.
The eventual goal is for you to figure out the winner of the Puzzler of the Year award; this can be determined with the answers you get from solving all the other puzzles in a fashion which you'll learn about later.
To play along at home, print out the six "first round" puzzles:
When you solve one or more of those puzzles, you can do one of two things. If you're feeling confident that your answer is correct (remember that you're looking for something that could be a puzzle title), go ahead and open the appropriate file (make sure the puzzle type matches first) and print it out. If you'd like to confirm your answer, you can e-mail me (f and then an underscore and then heaney and then an at symbol and then yahoo and then a dot and then com) or IM me (my AIM handle is francisheaney) and I'll confirm your answer if (or when) I'm online. Here are the six second-round puzzles:
Once you've found all six puzzle authors, you can download a transcript of the song lyrics and the Sphinxie Award selection process, which may be of assistance in determining the Puzzler of the Year:
If you think you know what to do to learn the Puzzler of the Year's identity, e-mail or IM me to confirm, and I'll tell you what happens next.
I hope you don't think that I've forgotten about the NY Post's hack editorial cartoonist Sean Delonas, because I haven't. He was merely on vacation! (And I have taken a certain amount of my mockery of him to the Radar ticker.) Anyway, today's cartoon is another gem:
We have here what seems to be a straightforward "gag" cartoon in which two meanings of the word "stock" are cleverly brought into play in the course of celebrating the fact that former Worldcom exec Bernie Ebbers, convicted of fraud, has gotten his due. But wait! What are we to make of the slovenly policeman in the lower right? Is Delonas delivering a critique of the law's behavior in this case? Is he saying that the dimwitted justice system has unthinkingly given Ebbers too harsh a sentence (as also suggested by the faint traces of bullets from a firing squad on the rear wall of the prison)? Or does he feel that the police cannot be trusted with the custodianship of Mr. Ebbers, when, for example, the policeman we see is so incompetent that he can't help getting jelly all over his face even though he is not eating a jelly doughnut. Truly, there is more going on here than meets the eye.
Someone asked to see the actual deposit envelope mentioned below, so they could judge the graphic design for themselves. As a fellow lover of geeking out on graphic design, I am only too happy to oblige.
I went to the bank after work today to make a deposit, put my checks in the envelope, flipped it over to fill in the amount of the deposit on the back -- and there was a big red X there. It's no longer necessary for you to fill in the deposit amount! it proclaimed, as if I would be excited to hear this.
This doesn't seem like an especially savvy way of improving ATM efficiency. It's true that the pens in ATM vestibules often don't work, but if I haven't endorsed my checks yet, not having to fill in a tiny form on the back of an envelope doesn't make a difference in my pen-having needs. But that's only one issue, and not one that came up today -- I had already signed both of my checks. Instead, I had the problem of remembering what my total deposit was. The two amounts were simple enough to add up in my head, so I didn't have to write them down to do the math. And I didn't write it on the back of the envelope either, so dissuaded was I by the BIG RED X telling me to keep away. It wasn't until the ATM asked me how much my deposit was that I thought, oh, crap, how much was it again?
Not brilliant product design. I'd be curious to see how many people end up writing on the envelopes anyway.
You know I love to go on about stupid crayon colors, but up until now my crayon commentary has been solely centered on Crayola and the poor custodianship by the current Crayola administration of their crayon-naming heritage. So it's my pleasure to branch out briefly and point you to this list of colors found in the box of "school quality" Mr. T Crayons.
So it turns out that Holy Tango, by virtue of having been chosen as a BookSense pick, is eligible for a Quill award, in the Humor category -- which is, I note, the last category they list. And I'm the last book in the Humor list! (Oh, you don't see me? Try the second page.) Yeah, I'm feeling pretty good about my chances for being one of the five books that will make the Quill award shortlist. Oh, that's right, Complete Cartoons of the New Yorker, you are going down.
The shortlist is chosen by a whole bunch of booksellers and librarians, who can each pick one book to nominate in each category. One! Hope they're all stocking me on their shelves, so they can at least look me over before they vote. If any of my readers know any big-shot librarians or booksellers, feel free to drop my name in their presence at every possible opportunity. Or, if you are yourself a Quill voter, remember: a vote for me is a vote for infinite joy for everyone in the world.
Six Things will return on Tuesday.
Well, I'm back from L.A. Thanks again to my awesome guests Rose, Joe Perna, and Zole for keeping things going in my absence. I hope to write extensively about the puzzle convention at some point in the near future -- where extensively means "about 900 words that are interesting enough to the general public that someone will pay me to have written them", but if that doesn't work out, you can certainly expect to see what I came up with posted here.
The short version: A good convention. Running Saturday night's puzzle extravaganza was fun but stressful. (And if you'd like to try solving it yourself, it will be posted here in full later this week.) I ran a few rounds of a new game I made up, and the people who played it enjoyed it a lot, so that was good. (Eric Berlin posted a write-up of the rules and a few samples, thus saving me from having to type all that up myself; I've been calling it Clustergories, but I'm open to suggestions.) And it was nice to catch up with friends, although there were, of course, people I don't see often enough who I somehow managed to keep missing all week. But I guess there's always next year.
Check it the hell out! It's another Six Things guest strip, this time by Zole, of Death to the Extremist.
Another guest-blog stint today; thought some readers here might
enjoy not mind my musing on crosswords and running.
Chatting with Dean Olsher about crosswords recently reminded me that yes, in fact, I do like solving crosswords, and why hadn't I been doing that lately? For the past few years the pattern has been that I'll do one here or there if a friend's constructed something nifty for the Times or the Sun, and then I'll binge-solve for a few weeks in advance of the Stamford tournament. This erratic solving means that I'm not actually very fast, but if I just keep filling in the grid I generally finish even quite difficult puzzles.
A couple of weeks ago when Francis and I ran a 5-mile race, I got to thinking about perfomance and competence, and how my self-perception varies greatly, depending on whether I compare myself to an average person on the street, or to a person who's chosen to train and compete.
When I tell my friends that I ran a 5-mile race, or that Tuesday I ran twice around Prospect Park (7 miles), they are astounded, and tell me that they can't even run a single mile. When I tell people I go to the crossword tournament, they often laugh nervously and admit that they get stuck on Monday and Tuesday puzzles. If I compare myself to these folks, I am an Olympian! A genius! I rule!
Then I go to the race, and I run my 12:19 miles and finish in 1:03, and I look at the race results, and I realize that of the 1680 people who ran the race, only a hundred of them were slower than I was. The last time I "competed" at Stamford? Only about thirty finished behind me. Out of the National Puzzler's League members who competed, I was, you guessed it, Dead Fucking Last.
I don't have an inspirational point to make about tortoises and hares, or a heartwarming anecdote about finding zen calm by taking longer to cover the distance around the park (or squares in a grid). It's more that I find it interesting to sit with both pieces of information; both things are true. I am competent. I am slow. With practice, at both things, I'll certainly get faster, but I will still be slow compared to those who are fast.
For more about running, you can visit me at Miles of Yarn, and I might even talk about crosswords from time to time, if I continue with my current "get into shape" program. If you're eager for crossword talk, go play in Dean's blog.
Another guest Six Things from Joe Perna!
In addition to Rose doing some guest blogging this week while I am in L.A., we also have guest cartoons (thanks to Joe Perna of Duck and Monkey)! Sweet.
Many regular Heaneyland! readers will be in Los Angeles this week with Francis, trying hard to enjoy whatever it is that passes for entertainment on The Other Coast, biding their time until the National Puzzlers' League convention actually starts. But what about the rest of us? What will we do without Six Things to make us laugh? Without subway rants to make us shake our fists at the villainous nature of humanity?
I'm here to help. However, I can't draw, so that's out. And ranting about the subway is something that Francis has really perfected; I wouldn't want to just mimic him. I know! I'll rant, but about a completely new topic. Yes, that will do nicely.
As Francis has mentioned, we've both been running. I started doing this seriously a few months before he did, and I've been logging a lot more miles than he has, and one effect has been that I've been losing weight steadily since last fall. "That's great!" you say. Yes, of course, it's great, except when it is totally frustrating in stupid unforeseeable ways.
Winter passed into spring here in NYC, and the calendar said that things would be warming up, so I never bothered to buy any new cold-weather clothing. The calendar LIED. April was chilly, but I didn't mind wearing baggy sweaters because I'd be getting rid of them soon. Then it was May and it was still Really Fucking Cold. Like, in the 50s. Regularly. For the highs. I couldn't take it anymore, and I went out to buy some new clothes. I knew precisely what I wanted: a hoodie sweatshirt, not too heavy, without any logos or writing on it, that I could wear under a denim jacket. What was I thinking? It was May. I was fucked.
I looked EVERYWHERE. No one still had anything the least bit like a hoodie sweatshirt. Everyone had little slutty spaghetti-strap tank tops. (Which I'm supposed to wear how? With a bra? Without a bra? Good lord.) I gave up. I really was just fucked; even though the highs were in the 50s in NYC, store buyers had ordered their clothes months before, and so in the stores it was summer, and that was that. I found an acceptable jacket at a second-hand store, and I made do with my baggy-ass sweaters. The weather started to warm up right at the beginning of June.
That would have been the end of the story: my resigned withdrawl from the hunt; the eventual onset of summer. BUT NO! Since my weight has settled out a bit, I've been doing some browsing in stores the last couple of weeks, and I am being taunted by the Hive Mind of Fashion, Summer 2005 Edition: every goddamn place I look in on has got hooded sweatshirts as part of their summer collections! This is not a weird thing where they're stocking fall clothing in July; these are cute hoodies, in mid-weight cotton fabrics, with no logos or writing on them, in a dozen summery colors. J. Crew has them. H&M has them. Old Navy. FUCKERS.
I suppose I should buy one, but I am so damned irritated that I haven't been able to bring myself to the task.
When I'm not filling in for Francis, I can be found at my regular blog, Miles of Yarn. Where I hardly ever rant.