Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Does anyone watch sitcoms anymore?

Well, I for one did like this episode. I don't think ever woke up with a pineapple that I couldn't figure out where it came from but there were some times when I did just wonder how I managed to make it home.

Does anyone watch sitcoms anymore?


I'm good at inexplicably getting hooked on random TV shows. Sometimes I stick with it, sometimes I get bored quickly, but I happened to catch How I Met Your Mother a while back, and now watch it every week. The only real sitcom I can stand (aside from Arrested Development, but that hardly counts.) Everyone I know thinks I'm batshit insane for liking it as much as I do, but I honestly think it's great. I like the concept, the characters and the actors who play them (A collection of "that guys" from the last 20 years..."Doogie", "Band-Camp Girl" and "The Boyfriend from Freaks and Geeks" are three of the 5 main characters, Bob Saget does the voiceover and "Winnie Cooper" was in this weeks episode...not bad.)

Maybe I'm a sucker for New York stories...But this show just works. I swear. The last episode played out like a Pinter play. See, the whole series is based on this guy in the future telling his kids about his single life leading up to how he met their mother. This week, he was telling a story of how he blacked out one night, and woke up the next morning with a strange woman and a pineapple in his room. Pieces of the night all got filled in by various friends the next morning who cover different patches of the night. I thought it was actually brilliant. I mean, it's still a network sitcom, but it is so much better than everything else out there. Anyone else with me on this?


Thursday, November 24, 2005

Stove Top Stuffing Creator died

Well, it seems like this is current but it's not. It is 11 days old. The only reason why this of course gets press is because it's Thanksgiving.

I'm sure that there is some reader out there reading this and thinking back to some childhood memories.

Of course we could be just pushing up our shoulders and tilting our heads to the side like someone else we know. If I could only get a screen capture...

Ruth M. Siems created Stove Top stuffing
The New York Times
November 23, 2005

Ruth M. Siems, a retired home economist whose best-known innovation will make its appearance, welcome or otherwise, in millions of homes Thursday on Thanksgiving, died Nov. 13 at her home in Newburgh, Ind. Siems, an inventor of Stove Top stuffing, was 74.

The cause was a heart attack, according to the Warrick County coroner's office in Boonville.

Siems spent more than three decades on the staff of General Foods, which introduced the Stove Top brand in 1972. Today, Kraft Foods, which now owns the brand, sells about 60 million boxes of it at Thanksgiving, a company spokeswoman said.

Prepared in five minutes on the stove or in the microwave, Stove Top stuffing comes in a range of flavors, including turkey, chicken, beef and sourdough.

Ruth Miriam Siems was born in Evansville on Feb. 20, 1931. Siems earned an undergraduate degree in home economics from Purdue University in 1953, and after graduation, she took a job at the General Foods plant in Evansville, where she worked on flours and cake mixes. She moved to the company's technical center in Tarrytown, N.Y., not long afterward. Siems retired in 1985.

Hopefully you can raise a fork or spoon to pay some respects to the creator...


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Tom Cruise: Trapped in the Closet

Tom Cruise: Trapped in the Closet

When Tom Cruise is Trapped in the Closet, there's only one man to call: R. Kelly, of course.


Watch the hilarious South Park clip here.


Monday, November 21, 2005

WLTW First For Christmas

I knew something was up when I walked into Famiglia's on Friday for dinner and heard "Noel." It was confirmed for me this morning when I stopped at the deli and heard "Wonderful Christmastime" by Paul McCartney. My worst fears were confirmed: WLTW flipped to their "All-Christmas" format on Friday.

November 18th.

5 weeks before Christmas.

The reason they flipped so early has to do with ratings - the Arbitron Fall Ratings book is in its last phase, and if WLTW picks up enough listeners, it'll reflect in the fall book (and thus positively enhance their advertising opportunities).

But listen, people - it's still too damn early for Christmas music. And I love Christmas music. I seriously love it. And when the time is right, I listen to it non-stop. But here's what I think:

1) Christmas music, at the very earliest, can start the day after Thanksgiving.
2) In the interests of good taste, radio stations should wait until December 1st, when you can actually say that Christmas is "this month."

There is something just so wrong for me about hearing Christmas music before I'm ready. I literally plug my ears so I don't have to hear it. Thankfully, I don't go into retail stores often (although I was in Brookstone last Wednesday and heard Sinatra doing the Xmas tunes - case in point), and I can listen to whatever I want at work.

But many businesses default to WLTW because they know it's going to be white-bread, safe music for their employees and customers. So many are being forced to listen to this stuff before it's really time! I wonder how many of them have switched to a different station...and if so, where have they gone? WPLJ? JACK?

I predict that PLJ will flip either on or the day after Thanksgiving. JACK will stick with its current format, as will 102.7, in the hopes of catching those who are sick to death of Christmas music.

And I'll continue listening to WNYC....until sometime in December, when I'll finally give up and listen to lots of Christmas music.

But not today.

Music Trifecta

Since this blog owner tends to be more musically oriented, I try to find items to put up items that reflect music but usually come up short.

Well, once in a while I find something like Micheal Jackson, Baile de Yoda, Madonna on a horse, Steve Winwood at Bowery Ballroom, Van Halen doing a Rockstar: Van Halen, Kanye West speaking out off prompter about hurricane victims after speaking out against gay bias in rap, to the K&K Mimes... well damn... I guess I do get a good cross section of music. I just don't write as passionately about it as Jason does.

Anyways, I have couple additions to my musical posts, a pair of Chinese students do an entertaining Back Street Boys lip sync. As I watched it I realized the the guy on the left is wearing a cast. Was he hurt as in a karaoke assault? All I could think about was the young man killed in the Philippines a while back for not singing "My Way" by Frank Sinatra the way another patron wanted him to. Well, it apparently is quite common.

The song seems to drive many drunken men to commit anything from slight physical injuries to homicide, reports said.
Is that irony? or serendipity? I mean the song is "My Way" originated by the Chairman of the Board himself, Frank Sinatra. He's the epitome of doing things your own way.

Next is an interesting side line, those of us that play video games know this format quite well. It's been used in the Grand Theft Auto trilogy and Burnout 3: Takedown to help create the atmosphere of driving in your car and listening to the radio. Even Axl Rose got in the act during the last GTA: San Andreas, which you can listen to at the GTA: San Andreas soundtrack player neatly looking like an Alpine pull out stereo on KDST channel 4 on the preset.

Well, here is someone who actually did some interesting parodies. Think Spinal Tap but motorheads, no wait, gear heads maybe better since I'm not talking about the band. Tappets, with Rufus Leaking spinning the songs on your radio, start with track 1 and enjoy a good rendition of Losing My Religion with a decent Stipe sound alike, right down to Squeezebox and Rufus signing off.

Track 1: Losing My Transmission - 4:09 - 4.76MB
Track 2: TR-Man - 3:19 - 3.80MB
Track 3: Smoke From The Dashboard - 5:09 - 5.90MB
Track 4: Rust In The Tin - 3:55 - 4.48MB
Track 5: Gearbox - 2:42 - 3.10MB

Of course sometimes you just want to make them stop singing and pound someone's head with the back of a book.

Friday, November 18, 2005

...on a stick.

Next Tuesday sees a new-ish release from my beloved Barenaked Ladies, in a format that (to my knowledge) has not been utilized by a mainstream band before.

In case you can't read it above, Barenaked on a Stick is a reusable, 128 MB USB flash drive, featuring: a re-release of BNL's last album, Barenaked For The Holidays in mp3 format,as well as additional content such as live songs and ad-libs, a demo of "Aluminum" (from Everything To Everyone), and some video/photo content. You can erase the drive and re-use it as many times as you like. The price is $30.

I give BNL and their management major kudos for thinking outside the box - and for being adults and trusting consumers by directly giving them mp3s, without the copy-protection. (I suppose there's the possibility of DRM, but I highly doubt it.)

I have mixed feelings about the product. It doesn't work for me as a flash drive, because most 128 MB, USB flash drives are half the price. Plus, if I were to buy a flash drive, I wouldn't buy anything smaller than 512 MB or 1 GB. And I have most of the the holiday album, anyway. However, for me, it works because:

1) The content past the holiday album is just enoughto justify my purchase. I don't have the live tracks (and while I do have some of them in previous live versions, I do believe that their performances just get more solid as they continue touring). And the ad-libs are probably worth the price alone - anybody who's attended a BNL show knows that the ad-libs are what make the experience so much better than just a normal concert. I'll be curious to see how many are included. I'll never use the photos or buddy icons, but I'll probably enjoy the behind-the-scenes video...despite the fact that this kind of content is usually given away for free.

2) While I don't need a 128 MB, USB flash drive, I will definitely find use for it, especially since I don't own a USB flash drive already.

Let's put it this way: if this release was on a CD, I wouldn't be buying it. I'd probably just wait to get the additional content by some "other" means.

I've been waffling over the "will it sell" question for the past few weeks. It treads a line that may not justify the price point for many. Hardcore, completist schmucks fans like me will most likely buy it, because it has some additional material. In the grand scheme of things, how many of us are there, in relation to the people that show up at concerts and buy the studio albums? Fans who already have the album and don't need to own everything aren't going to be interested. Plus, I'd say that even slightly casual fans who weren't interested in buying Barenaked for the Holidays aren't going to be interested now. And then you have the fans who are bit older and probably don't know what the hell to do with a flash drive. I'd guess this is a small number at best when talking about BNL fans, but you never know.

Any thoughts? I can guarantee that anybody who reads this blog won't be buying it, even if they're BNL fans - they just don't care that much to own it. Is it that simple? Will that be the general consensus?

Chuck Norris always makes it to Oregon before you

Z sent me a pretty funny forward, featuring 29 facts about the prowess of Chuck Norris. On the web, I found many more. Here are the Top 30 Facts about Chuck Norris, and if you go here, you can continually reload to get many random facts.

Contrary to popular belief, Chuck Norris, and not space, is the final frontier.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Jason, Thank you for being a friend.

I bet none of you knew Jason wrote the theme song from the Golden Girls.

Image hosted by

Tell me that's not Jason with a big shaggy beard. I realize it's hard to picture Jason with a beard, or facial hair of any kind, but there it is baby. That's Jason...with a beard. ROCK!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Mask of Paris Hilton

Paris Hilton Facial

Her pose doesn't change at all... not even the slightest.


Acid Trip: ABBA On Mars

ABBA @ Mars

For some reasons I'm left with the image of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew Meet Dracula with Paul Williams singing some 70's song that I cannot recall. I want to say Paul Anka's Bad Blood for some reason...

"A Little Beam Of Light"

This really lends itself to Down With Snark more than Plagiarist, but I just can’t resist.

Every once in a while, the New York Times does an article where there is plenty of opportunity for maximum snark, but they don’t take the bait. Instead, they write the article completely straight-faced, and leave the snark to idiot bloggers like me.

But even I don’t have to write it. The snark is just so obvious that to articulate it would be a waste of time. I’m still going to make some comments, though.

The article in question is titled “Nicole Richie, Famous for Her Fame, and Now for a Book.” The article covers Richie at a recent signing of her latest “novel,” supposedly fiction, but…well, nevermind. The whole article is a great (yet chilling) read, but here are my favorite passages:

Ms. Richie said that in the past she had been approached to write an advice book and an autobiography, but that she chose fiction because a novel allowed her the freedom to both edit and embellish her personal tale. "The Truth About Diamonds" (Regan Books) tells the story of a popular Hollywood socialite named Chloe Parker, who is the adopted daughter of a music star and his glamorous wife. Parker takes drugs, runs with a posse of wealthy brats and parties hard at all of the hottest nightclubs. She also stars in a reality series with a friend, who quickly turns into an enemy.

So let me get this straight: the thing that makes it fiction is the fact that the names are changed? Because, other than that, I'd bet that it’s exactly her story.

I stand corrected: there is at least one paragraph that definitely includes some opinionated comments, italcs/bold mine:

In this thinly veiled roman à clef, which Ms. Richie said she wrote herself, more than a few characters bear a startling resemblance to people in her real life. Parker, she admitted, is based on her before her stint in rehab for a heroin addiction, and DJ Ray on her fiancé, Adam Goldberg (known professionally as DJ AM), right down to the gastric bypass surgery. There is even a character called Nicole Richie. (Step aside, Jonathan Safran Foer.)

Oooh, and my favorite part of all:

Ms. Richie, however, rejected any suggestion that Ms. Hilton was the inspiration for the character of Simone Westlake, a vapid opportunist who invites Parker to be her co-host on the reality series. "Simone was leggy and tall," she writes, "though no one knows exactly how tall because she'd never been seen out of pumps since puberty ... not even in her night-vision skin flicks, filmed strictly for private use, of course."

"It's not her," Ms. Richie insisted. "I've come across many people in my life that are like that."

I concur. I, too, have come across many reality co-hosts who have filmed raccoon-style pornos.

There are other passages that will send chills up your spine, such as when Nicole denies she has an eating disorder and is referred to as a “fashion icon in the making” by an editor at Teen Vogue. Oh, and father Lionel has a “pride attack” at the book-signing.

Decide for yourself whether Nicole’s living a healthy lifestyle. I love Hollywood!


Monday, November 14, 2005

What A Fool Believes...For You.

So by this point, it's well established that I'm a nut for What A Fool Believes. My last post about the song illustrated that point.

I have good news:


It sounds pretty good, I think, and my wife is ready to kill me.

I did realize, though after the fact, that it was kind of obnoxious for me to spend so much time speaking of the virtues of What A Fool Believes without letting others hear the song. Some, like JT, wrote me and let me know it was in their head...but presumably, not on their stereo/computer/mp3 players. Some, like my brother, were more like, "oh yeah, I was gonna read that post, but there were a lot of words" and didn't know what song I was talking about anyway.

So here, for a limited time, here is the magnificent What A Fool Believes. I know it's by The Doobie Brothers - I changed the ID3 tag to be "Michael McDonald feat. The Doobie Brothers" because, well, it's true.

You're welcome.

Borat in trouble with Kazakhstan Government

Kazakh govt threatens to take comedian to court
Mon Nov 14, 2005 1:41

(Reuters) - Kazakhstan's Foreign Ministry threatened legal action on Monday against comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, who wins laughs by portraying the central Asian state as a country populated by drunks who enjoy cow-punching as a sport.

Baron Cohen, who portrays a spoof Kazakh television presenter Borat in his "Da Ali G Show", has won fame ridiculing Kazakhstan, the world's ninth largest country yet still little known to many in the West.

Baron Cohen appears to have drawn official Kazakh ire after he hosted the annual MTV Europe Music Awards show in Lisbon earlier this month as Borat, who arrived in an Air Kazakh propeller plane controlled by a one-eyed pilot clutching a vodka bottle.

"We do not rule out that Mr. Cohen is serving someone's political order designed to present Kazakhstan and its people in a derogatory way," Kazakh Foreign Ministry spokesman Yerzhan Ashykbayev told a news briefing.

"We reserve the right to any legal action to prevent new pranks of the kind." He declined to elaborate.

Cohen's earlier jokes about the Central Asian state include claims that the people would shoot a dog and then have a party,
and that local wine was made from fermented horse urine.

"We view Mr. Cohen's behaviour at the MTV Europe Music Awards as utterly unacceptable, being a concoction of bad taste and ill manners which is completely incompatible with ethics and civilised behaviour," Ashykbayev said.


Friday, November 11, 2005

SONY-BMG part duex: Electric Boogaloo

A few items regarding the SONY-BMG dealie, I don't think it was my plagarizing that brought this all to a head, but it's gotten lots of techie press lately, not mainstream press. Why is that? Aren't the average consumer the person who should know about this???

Read about what has to say about it... basically, DRM this, Sony!

Electronic Frontier Foundation ;found some astonishing fine print. For example, if you lose the original CD or it's stolen, you lose the right to any digital copies you've made. You can't keep your music on computers at work. You must delete your songs if you move out of the country or if you file for bankruptcy. The list goes on and on. As for the artists whose names have been sullied by their association with the root kit, it seems that at least some of them didn't give permission to Sony to use the backdoor DRM technology and want no part of it.

Sony decided to pull the technology because supposedly hackers were using the file name structure to spoof entry and cause the malicious issues that people are complaining about.

"As a precautionary measure, Sony BMG is temporarily suspending the manufacture of CDs containing XCP technology," it said in a statement. The decision follows the discovery on Thursday of the first virus that uses Sony BMG's CD copy-protection software to hide on PCs and wreak havoc.

A hacker had mass-mailed e-mail with an attachment, which when clicked on installs malware. The malware hides by using Sony BMG software that is also hidden -- the software would have already been installed on a computer when consumers played Sony's copy-protected music CDs.

apparently because of all this... a class action suit was filed.

Suit labels Sony root of cyber evil
By Jesse Noyes
Friday, November 11, 2005
Celine Dion never seemed so dangerous.

A class action lawsuit filed in a California court against Sony BMG alleges the music publisher included hidden software on a number of music CDs capable of wiping out users’ information and crippling their computers.
The suit, which was filed on Nov. 1 by Alexander William Guevara, claims CDs containing Sony’s new XCP2 anti-piracy program can damage users’ computers. The software, called a "rootkit," automatically installs on computers with Microsoft’s Windows program and hides deep in the computer where it can monitor activity and cause system crashes.
Sony didn’t inform customers that its CDs contained the "rootkit" and it can’t be removed without damaging the infected computer, the suit charges.
Guevara’s lawyer, Alan Himmelfarb, could not be reached for comment.
To date 20 Sony-issued discs have been found with the controversial software, including Celine Dion’s "On ne Change Pas," Switchfoot’s "Nothing is Sound" and Neil Diamond’s "12 Songs."
"Sony BMG is selling music fans a bum set of goods," said Jason Schultz, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation – a San Francisco digital rights organization currently collecting complaints from consumers to bring a case against Sony.
A Sony spokesman didn’t return calls yesterday.
Sony’s software is "totally invisible to the user," said Yankee Group analyst Nintin Gupta. "That’s just wrong. Sony should not be doing that."
"Rootkit" software has quickly become a favorite with hackers to send out viruses. Just yesterday a computer security company in Europe identified a virus using Sony’s piracy protection, according to a Reuters report.
Reportedly another lawsuit aimed at Sony is likely to come this week in New York.

It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry

Good luck riding the subway this weekend: 18 out of 19 major subway lines will be under construction. I bet you’re wondering which line will remain unscathed? The M. Thank goodness, because gosh, I DON’T KNOW WHAT I WOULD DO WITHOUT THE M.

Lamentably, Hallo Berlin, the “Wurst” German food in my neighborhood, closed a few months ago, but I am happy to report that the Hallo Berlin vending cart won the First Ever Vendy award!

I’ve been obsessed with the New Yorker caption contest. Check out this week’s contest here and hurry! You have two days to email a caption.
Sadly, “Arrested Development” is no longer.

In other sad news, famous photographer Lord Lichfield died this morning. See some of his work here.


Twin Peaks-obsessed

I remember being a big fan of Twin Peaks when it aired in the early 1990s, but I forgot how much of a fan I really was. Observe, this list of The Books Of Twin Peaks.

There are 8 books listed (including one audiobook). Out of the 8, I owned 5 - and I read at least one of them in the bookstore, knowing it was worth a quick glance, but not worth buying.

I owned "The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer" (a chilling read, at least when I was 13), "The Twin Peaks Tapes of Agent Cooper" (relatively boring), "Twin Peaks: Behind The Scenes" (I remember absolutely nothing about this book), "Welcome To Twin Peaks," (this book sucked balls), and the sheet music for the theme song (sounded okay on piano, but needed synth).

All I can think of is: where the hell did I put all this stuff? I probably threw it out, which is a shame because I bet I could get a pretty penny for all of it. What a shame.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Stupid complicated televisions

I've been holding off on buying a new television for ages now because the technologies keep changing, and I just can't keep up. (Even the "Home Theater For Dummies" book I bought is way outdated at this point.) I was intrigued when I saw an article entitled "Don't Make These 5 HDTV Mistakes," and now I'm even more confused than I was before.

And the comments just make it worse.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Are You Infected by Sony-BMG's Rootkit?

Okay now this is just unconcionable. If you are an individual and create such an application it's considered malicious software and labeled as a virus or malware. Someone sent me a link from boingboing and I looked up the EFF site to verify and that's the link here.

I'm glad that I don't buy CDs anymore and haven't bought any in close to a decade. A while back I thought the music industry can shove it for trying to shovel crap in my direction, I never thought it would reach this level of crap. I'm very surprised that they are able to get away with such underhanded practices. I'm sure that if someone figures out how to disable it at the code level and not just via disabling autorun they will claim DMCA and hide behind that.

Are You Infected by Sony-BMG's Rootkit?

November 09, 2005

As we've mentioned before, Sony-BMG has been using copy-protection technology called XCP in its recent CDs. You insert your CD into your Windows PC, click "agree" in the pop up window, and the CD automatically installs software that uses rootkit techniques to cloak itself from you. Sony-BMG has released a "patch" that supposedly "uncloaks" the XCP software, but it creates new problems.

But how do you know whether you've been infected? It turns out Sony-BMG has deployed XCP on a number of titles, in variety of musical genres, on several of its wholly-owned labels.

EFF has confirmed the presence of XCP on the following titles (each has a data session, easily read on a Macintosh, that includes a file called "VERSION.DAT" that announces what version of XCP it is using). If you have one of these CDs, and you have a Windows PC (Macs are totally immune, as usual), you may have caught the XCP bug.

Trey Anastasio, Shine (Columbia)
Celine Dion, On ne Change Pas (Epic)
Neil Diamond, 12 Songs (Columbia)
Our Lady Peace, Healthy in Paranoid Times (Columbia)
Chris Botti, To Love Again (Columbia)
Van Zant, Get Right with the Man (Columbia)
Switchfoot, Nothing is Sound (Columbia)
The Coral, The Invisible Invasion (Columbia)
Acceptance, Phantoms (Columbia)
Susie Suh, Susie Suh (Epic)
Amerie, Touch (Columbia)
Life of Agony, Broken Valley (Epic)
Horace Silver Quintet, Silver's Blue (Epic Legacy)
Gerry Mulligan, Jeru (Columbia Legacy)
Dexter Gordon, Manhattan Symphonie (Columbia Legacy)
The Bad Plus, Suspicious Activity (Columbia)
The Dead 60s, The Dead 60s (Epic)
Dion, The Essential Dion (Columbia Legacy)
Natasha Bedingfield, Unwritten (Epic)
Ricky Martin, Life (Columbia) (labeled as XCP, but, oddly, our disc had no protection)

Several other Sony-BMG CDs are protected with a different copy-protection technology, sourced from SunnComm, including:

My Morning Jacket, Z
Santana, All That I Am
Sarah McLachlan, Bloom Remix Album

This is not a complete list. So how do you recognize other XCP-laden CDs in the wild?

Tip-off #1: on the front of the CD, at the left-most edge, in the transparent "spine", you'll see "CONTENT PROTECTED" along with the IFPI copy-protection logo. A few photos make this clearer.

Tip-off #2: on the back of the CD, on the bottom or right side, there will be a "Compatible with" disclosure box. Along with compatibility information, the box also includes a URL where you can get help. The URL has a telltale admission buried in it: That lets you know that XCP is on this disc (discs protected with SunnComm have a different URL that includes "sunncomm").

If you haven't been infected yet, to protect yourself from XCP in the future, disable "autorun" on your Windows PC. Once you have done so, however, these CDs may not be accessible under Windows unless you have specialized ripping software installed; these CDs are encoded in a way that intentionally confuses standard Windows CD drivers. For a smarter audio grabber for Windows, you may want to consider using Exact Audio Copy, which reportedly can read these CDs if you have turned off autorun and avoided infection by XCP.


No it's not price gouging...Okay then what is it?

Okay... so the Oil companies are in front of Congress and they say (while not under oath) that it's not price gouging, it's all in line with other industries...

ummm $25 BILLION dollars in the July-September quarter. Just the ONE quarter????!??!?!?!! WTF? That is more than small countries and most of the Nasdaq companies combined...

Oil company executives defend profits in appearance before U.S. Congress
Josef Hebert
Canadian Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - The chiefs of five major oil companies defended the industry's huge profits Wednesday at a U.S. Senate hearing where they were exhorted to explain prices and assure customers they're not being gouged.

There is a "growing suspicion that oil companies are taking unfair advantage," Sen. Pete Domenici, (R-N.M.), said, opening the hearing in a packed committee room.

"The oil companies owe the American people an explanation," he declared.

Lee Raymond, chairman of Exxon Mobil Corp., said he recognizes that high gasoline prices "have put a strain on Americans' household budgets" but he defended his company's huge profits, saying petroleum earnings "go up and down" from year to year.

ExxonMobil, the worlds' largest privately owned oil company, earned nearly $10 billion US in the third quarter. Raymond was joined at the witness table by the chief executives of Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BPAmerica and Shell Oil USA.

Together the companies earned more than $25 billion in profits in the July-September quarter as the price of crude oil hit $70 a barrel and gasoline surged to record levels after the disruptions of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Raymond said the profits are in line with other industries when earnings are compared to the industry's enormous revenues.

But senators pressed Raymond to explain why in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina some ExxonMobil gas station operators complained the company had raised the wholesale price of its gas by 24 cents a gallon in 24 hours. Is that not price gouging? they asked.

Raymond said he could not confirm the specific price increase, but that ExxonMobil had issued a directive in response to the storm disruptions "to minimize the increase in price while at the same time recognizing if we kept the price too low we would quickly run out (of fuel) at the service stations."

"It was a tough balancing act," said Raymond, who said it was not price gouging.

Democrats had wanted the executives to testify under oath, but Republicans rejected the idea. "If I were a witness I would demand to be put under oath," said Sen. Daniel Inouye, (D-Hawaii). The soaring prices have sent shivers through a Congress worried about political fallout.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), made the issue personal, noting that the executives were reaping multimillion-dollar bonuses on top of multimillion-dollar salaries as "working people struggle" to pay for gasoline and face the spectre of soaring home heating bills this winter. "Your sacrifice appears to be nothing," Boxer told the executives.

read more here...


The Introspective Sensititivity of "Baby Got Back"

This has already been blogged to death by many others, but it only came across my iPod (via a podcast) this morning. Musician Jonathan Coulton has recorded a fantastic cover of Sir Mix-A-Lot's masterpiece, "Baby Got Back." It's right here. Let me know what you think.

Once you're done with that one, check out some of his others on his song page. I'm partial to "First of May" (not exactly SFW - think of Tenacious D but a lil' more sensitive) , "Someone Is Crazy" (this could be a BNL song) and "Brand New Sucker." He's got a great voice, fantastic instrumentation and sharp harmonies. I'll definitely be checking out more.

I commend him for using the honor system - offering his songs for free, and then asking people to buy if they like them. So if you like what he's done to Mr. Mix-A-Lot's hit, pay the man.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

More links

It's a slow day today.

Not as good as Numa Numa, but I have to admit that I cracked up at about 1:36. "I Want It That Way"

Two signs that the apocalypse is near: Harold Ramis wants Ben Stiller for Ghostbusters 3, and Lindsay Lohan is going to be doing a movie about Mark David Chapman, Lennon's killer. I hope she's playing Ringo.

I wasn't a big Transformers fan, but I know some of you were, so here are Five Things You Probably Didn't Know About The Transformers Movie.

As if one post about Genesis wasn't enough, here comes news that Phil Collins would be open to a Genesis reunion. Here's a great quote:
I'm happy to sit behind the drums and let Peter (Gabriel) be the singer. If (a reunion) happens, I'll be there. If it doesn't happen ... it would just be because there are too many things in the way.
Really? If it doesn't happen, it'd be because there are too many things in the way? That's almost as lame as your comment on current political events:

Collins said he wasn't afraid in Israel, where Israeli-Palestinian violence has raged for more than five years, although attacks have largely decreased during the past year since a February truce. He performed in Lebanon a day earlier.

"I wish it wasn't like this," Collins said of the conflict. "I sit and watch stuff on the television, I think, 'Why, why, why.'"

Why, why, why indeed! Thanks, Phil.

John Lennon: The New York Years

2005_11_artsdylan.jpgLast month a book visually and textually depicting Lennon's New York City years came out, coinciding with the 25th anniversary of his death and the 65th anniversary of his birth. We've been meaning to mention this book, but we're still trying to watch the rest of Dylan's No Direction Home and got a little sidetracked.

Most photographs in the book were never before published, and all of them were taken by the world's best rock & roll photographer, as well as Lennon's friend, Bob Gruen. John Lennon: The New York Years brings both Lennon and Gruen's lives in New York more into focus (pun totally intended) for the reader. Today Paper Magazine's David Hershkovits interviewed Gruen on his blog to get even more insight.

David Hershkovits: How did he relate to living in New York City. You said he didn’t want to run around but…

Bob Gruen: Well, he did at the beginning. He wanted to everywhere all at once. He enjoyed New York very much. He said if he lived in the time of Rome he would want to be in Rome. He said New York was similar in the sense that it was the center of the world, certainly the center of the creative world. That’s where he wanted to be in the center. The reason I picked the [John wearing a] New York City t-shirt picture when there was a memorial in Central Park after John died was because John enjoyed living in New York and he was proud to be a New Yorker and that’s why I took the picture in the first place. I think of New York as the place where John lived, not really as the place where John died.

Gruen's work is always on display for viewing and for purchase at the Morrisson Hotel Gallery at 124 Spring Street.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Nickel Creek Covers Britney

Here's an mp3, as well as video, of Nickel Creek covering Britney Spears' "Toxic."

I'm overjoyed because, unsurprisingly, they do a kick-ass cover.

I'm pissed because I've had "Toxic" on my "songs we have to cover" list for about a year now. I was going to definitely put it in a lower key, though. Props to Thile for the falsetto.

Now it's just gonna look like I'm copying.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Plagiarist Links

Speaking of Thriller, it must be awesome to hang in Lexington, KY on Halloween. Every year on Halloween, they block off the streets and recreate the famous video. Video of the event can be found on this page.

Oh, kids these days! This wacky one created a 30,000 calorie, $47 sandwich and ate it in one sitting. Pictures here. (There's a more detailed link out there, but apparently the link also tries to install some stuff on your computer, so I'm sticking with this one.) We're all thinking the same thing, aren't we?

Every time I think about getting a PC, something reminds me of why I'm using a Mac. (Caution: ultra, ultra geeky)

I can't believe they're making a big deal about this. Anybody who doesn't understand Brown's correspondence doesn't understand the nature and culture of e-mail.

Having trouble sleeping? If it's because it's too goddamn bright in your room, I highly recommend a sleep mask from Dream Essentials. It's better than any sleep mask I've ever owned and does a really good job of keeping the light out. The key, I think, is in the padding underneath the eyes. Use code E97X5Y before 11/24/05 to get 15% off. (I receive no kickbacks from this, I just really dig their sleep mask.)

You know, I don't even care what this lawsuit is about. Mike Love is a dick. End of story.

Have a good weekend!

Crazy on Craigslist: Secure, Undisclosed Pull-Out Couch

$800/month to sleep on someone's sofa???

Crazy on Craigslist: Secure, Undisclosed Pull-Out Couch
Friday, November 04, 2005, by Jeremy

With the holidays around the corner, the vacation rentals market will be heating up - a great chance to make some money off the starry-eyed visitors soon to be arriving at our shores. Thinking of charging $200 a night for a bed in the city? How about $200/week for a pull-out couch in a living room, no doubt leaving more money to spend at Bloomie's, of course. This craigslisted apartment has:

* Fully functioning kitchen
* DVD player/VCR
* Pull Out Couch
* high speed wireless internet
* Linens
But where - dear wi-fi friend - is it located? "this is in or around Manhattan" is all the listing says.

Somewhere on this island of 1.5 million souls, a brave little sofa waits for you. To tell you where exactly would ruin the holiday magic.
· $200/ week for pull out couch in livingroom [Craigslist]

[Photo via Flickr. May not represent actual couch for rent.]

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Thriller Revisited

After watching the newest episode of Yacht Rock yesterday, I was inspired to give Thriller a full listen again. Obviously I've heard the hits countless times, but this was the first time I gave the entire album my complete attention in over 20 years.

In one of the bonus tracks on the Special Edition, Quincy Jones says that Thriller "hit everyone from 8 to 70." I was 6 years old when I got my Thriller cassette - most likely shortly after my birthday on May 16, 1983, when Michael Jackson performed "Billie Jean" and introduced the country to the moonwalk on the Motown 25 television special. I don't specifically remember receiving it, but I remember playing the hell out of it everywhere I went - my room, the car, relatives' stereos. Anywhere I could listen to Thriller, I listened to Thriller.

While listening to it this morning, I was immediately brought back to that time in my life - when I would listen to both sides of that tape in one sitting, often singing and dancing along. I was genuinely surprised at how well the album holds up. But I don't know why I'm surprised. It's not like it sold as many copies as it did for reasons related to hype or publicity: Michael Jackson had sold an impressive amount of records with his previous release, Off The Wall (over 7 million), but by no means was he the icon he is today, and this was before the time where hype could carry record sales (at least through the first week). Thriller sold 51 million copies simply because it was a great fucking album.

With Quincy Jones producing, Thriller was an amalgam of so many different musical genres: songs like "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)" and "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" were funky, "The Girl Is Mine" was soft rock, "Beat It" was rock (mainly due to an unreal Eddie Van Halen guitar solo), and "Human Nature" was yacht rock (what do you expect - it was written by the guys from Toto). I can't even figure out what category "Thriller" itself falls into.

Startling to me was the fact that, of the nine tracks on the album, seven were Top Ten hits. SEVEN! Here's the track list:
Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'
Baby Be Mine
The Girl Is Mine
Beat It
Billie Jean
Human Nature
P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)
The Lady In My Life
The only ones I couldn't sing off the top of my head were "Baby Be Mine" and "The Lady In My Life," and I remembered them the instant I heard them again. "Baby Be Mine" is a fantastic track that deserved to be a hit - catchy, with smooth vocals (both lead and backing) from MJ. "The Lady In My Life" is the only weak link on the album, and even so, it's only due to its company. It's a schmaltzy ballad that can't compete with the others.

Obviously the biggest hits from the album were the three in the middle. Maybe it's because they've been played ad nauseum, but I find myself much more drawn to the lesser hits (and I use "lesser" with a heaping of salt). "P.Y.T." is an unbelievably infectious and funky record with a ripping bass line, a breakdown in the middle (complete with synthesized voices and grunts), a call-and-response immediately following, and tons of joyous backing vocals and other synthesized chirps. "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" is a get-the-hell-off-your-ass-and-dance opener. And I don't know how they wound up with the "mama say, mama sa, mama coo sa" chant, but it's so seamless that it doesn't even matter.

"The Girl Is Mine" is a simple Paul McCartney/MJ duet, and those chords are just beautiful. Ditto on the "Human Nature" chords, which is probably the most melodic track on the album. Well done, Porcaro brothers. (Jesus, "Human Nature" has a wiki! I found it while trying to identify who sings the falsetto "why" in the song. Still haven't figured it out. I don't think it's MJ.)

At 7 years old, way before I heard and understood any true "concept albums" like Tommy, Quadrophenia or SMiLE, I detected (or invented) some overlying theme in a number of the songs and their sequence on Thriller. To me (again, at 7), "Billie Jean" was about MJ being in a dangerous relationship, and choosing to end it. "Human Nature" was his lament over losing the girl and trying to get over the loss. In "P.Y.T.", he gets back with the girl - this is his joyous celebration of that moment - and "The Lady In My Life" is obviously the content, happy ending. I don't know how or why I came up with this concept at age 7, but it's a shame that my analytic abilities have only spiraled downhill since then.

The Special Edition features a number of additional tracks. Nothing earth-shattering, but if you don't have Thriller at all, might as well get the SE. The demo for "Billie Jean" is nothing special - you can hear some of the trademark sounds, but it's just a very rough version at this point. "Someone In The Dark" was recorded for The E.T. Storybook but was caught up in record label red tape for years. "Carousel" is some weirdo track about falling in love with a carny. It's good enough, but was left off because it didn't fit the overall feel of the album. The only reason I feel bad about this is that it was written by Michael Sembello, and he probably could have used the royalties.

The best bonus tracks are the interviews with Quincy Jones, who reveals the backstory behind "Billie Jean" (MJ found a woman in sunglasses lounging by his pool, who insisted she had twins, and MJ was the father of one of them), getting EVH for the "Beat It" solo (EVH cursed him out and hung up on him three times, thinking it was a prank call) and how "Human Nature" was more of an accident than anything else (David Paich from Toto submitted two demos for MJ, but taped them over a previous tape that Steve Porcaro had used for recording. After the two demos, Q heard a leftover snippet of "Human Nature." Paich must be still reeling from this one.)

Finally, there are some outtakes of Vincent Price recording his now-famous "Thriller" spoken poetry. The best part is the juxtaposition of Price with MJ's high-pitched, feminine speaking voice.

While re-listening to Thriller, the hardest thing for me to wrap my head around is the thought that, to borrow an overused phrase, Michael Jackson really used to be about the music. His career began a gradual downhill spiral since Thriller, but in 1982, Michael Jackson was just a young man trying to break free from his famous childhood group and become a successful solo artist. His songwriting skills, his voice, his outlook - all at the peak. It's so hard to believe that the first thing we most likely think of when we hear his name has nothing to do with this amazing record at all.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Depressing MIDI and Rubix Repair

Check out Depressing Classic Rock MIDIs. Here you can listen to mindblowing renditions of Terry Jacks’ "Seasons in the Sun" as well as Eric Clapton’s "Layla" (the latter of which I actually enjoy).

Has everyone been watching VH1’s "I Love the 80s 3D?" Bliss.

On a related note: Rubix Repair Guide!

SynthMania: Famous Sounds

I have so much respect for those who truly know how to take advantage of a synthesizer. I don't imagine it's terribly difficult once you get the hang of it, but it's the getting the hang of it that's the difficulty. I bought a Korg X2 in 1994 and still have not used it to its proper capacity. In fact, I've really only used it as a makeshift piano/organ in concert situations. It's capable of so much more, but my problem was that I could never find someone willing to teach me how to use it. The instructional video was good up to a point, and then jumped to a highly advanced level without describing how it got there. I'd love to learn how to properly use a synthesizer/sequencer - I imagine it would open up my performance opportunities.

Anyhoo, I came across this excellent page of Famous Synth Sounds. This page is treasure for music geeks. The descriptions are great, but the quick-loading mp3 samples are even better. My favorites are the TR-808 cowbell (this thing is pissing all over Faith), the Funky Drummer, (admittedly not a synth sound but a drum loop, thanks DWS) and the loop of '89 (although I remember this best from "Don't Forget My Number" by Milli Vanilli).

The link to the Alesis Ion eventually leads to this mp3 sample (1.7 MB) which features all the classic synth sounds the author created with the Ion. There are a number of sounds in here, I can recognize most of them:

Sound 1: Rush song, I'm forgetting the name...Tom Sawyer?
Sound 2: Bad version of Baba O'Riley
Sound 3: Pretty good version of Won't Get Fooled Again
Sound 4: No clue, but it's Moog-y so maybe ELP?
Sound 5: Jump by VH, obviously
Sound 6: Separate Ways, Worlds Apart by Journey...ROCK!
Sound 7: Fooling Yourself by Styx
Sound 8: No clue.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Celebs Under the Knife

Celebs Under the Knife

Jennifer Morrison

Sunday, October 23, 2005

You know there’s something very wrong when Botox, breast implants, nose jobs and tummy tucks have come to be the fashionable norm.
Rate Celeb's Surgery
Just take a look at today’s hottest celebs – young and old – and try to tell us they haven’t had (or at least considered) getting something done. Party girl Tara Reid’s had a boob job. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen both look like they’ve had work done to their noses.
So does Tori Spelling, who also looks to have had a couple boobs jobs over the years. Busty Baywatch babe Pamela Anderson’s gone from a healthy B-cup, to double-Ds, and then back to a C cup (or so she says). And have you checked out Hilary Duff’s smile lately? She recently had veneers put on, but problem is her teeth are so big she can hardly speak.
We wish we could forget about the discoloured King of Pop Michael Jackson, who has gone from being a black man to a very pale white man, and has had enough nose jobs to keep a plastic surgeon on his payroll for years. Wacko Jacko even gives pop diva Cher a run for her money when it comes to huge changes. What kind of work has she not undergone? We hear she’s had a nose job, liposuctions, tummy tuck, butt-lift, face-lift, breast enlargement, nose job(s), cheek implants… Oh yeah, didn’t she have some ribs removed? Scary stuff.