hereticalphysicist
Friday, December 31, 2004
  Happy New Year

Looks like New York City's ball just descended. He he.
 

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Wednesday, December 29, 2004
  Imagine You Had Some Talent

(This was written with a lot of input from Mike, so he gets some credit.)

Sorry for the long delay in posting. Mike's computer crashed last week, and it took about 5 days to get it back up again. Even though it's been reformatted about 3 times, it still freezes everytime you do something, like move the mouse.

But I don't want to bitch about this computer. I want to talk about another travesty.

Today I heard a cover of "Imagine" on the radio. I think A Perfect Circle did it, but I don't know. I just know that when I heard it, I felt like my ears were being scraped against a cheese grater. This is disappointing. I've never been a big fan of A Perfect Circle myself. I always thought they were a watered down version of what I consider heavy metal bliss, Tool. But still, out of band loyalty, I just decided not to listen to them and believe in my heart that they were good instead of confirming for a fact that they're not.

Anyway, a cover of "Imagine" is hard to do, I think. A quick check of The Covers Project revealed that "Imagine" has been covered by Blues Traveler, Shudder to Think, Elton John, Gerry & the Pacemakers, Tracie Spencer, Ray Charles, Angie Aparo, Smoke City, Roger Whittaker, Our Lady Peace, Persuasions, Tori Amos, Joan Baez, Neil Young, David Bowie, Bon Jovi, Ritchie Havens, Eva Cassidy, Dave Matthews Band, Live, Queen, Diana Ross, Alex Parks, and Styx. Just kidding about that last one. That's a lot of people covering a song that, if I were a musician, I wouldn't even approach. There's a sacredness to it. Those words coming out of any mouth but John Lennon's sound absolutely absurd. They sound absurd coming from John Lennon, but when he sings them, I believe.

It takes a lot of balls to cover the Beatles, or any other monumental band. I feel like the best thing to do is to make it your own song instead of capitalizing on the genius of the original songwriters. Let's say a certain set of lyrics, a certain melody can be expressed in any number of ways, and whether or not these lyrics or melodies are a success depends on the first band to seize upon the idea. Sometimes the first band fails. Take "Danny's Song," by Loggins and Messina and was later covered by Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. The original song is the stuff of grocery store soundtracks, but the cover makes it, well, a little less annoying. Bad example. How about "Hotel California"? I think the Dude expressed it best when he said, "I hate the fucking Eagles." The Gypsy King's version is so good, it makes you wonder how that song could ever have been bad. This policy of making the song your own, however, is especially important when the original recording is already a classic. How do you make a good thing better? Grandaddy did it with "Revolution." Richard Cheese did it with "Baby Got Back." It takes a lot of guts to believe that your band is actually good enough to bring any new life to a golden oldie. How much internal dispute must have occured when someone in the Scissor Sisters proposed a dance cover of "Comfortably Numb"? A risky choice, but a good one.

In other music news, I heard a rumor a while ago that Ted Leo was getting married. I can't seem to remember where I heard it, so maybe I dreamed it. Can anyone confirm it? If this is true, then my heart is breaking. Quick, I need a new rock star crush. Okay, he's not a rock star yet, but does Mike Garcia from Hello Nurse count?
 

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Thursday, December 23, 2004
  The Egoist

Last Saturday night, Mike and I went out for drinks at a bar that was pretty empty for a Saturday night. A few patrons were huddled around the bar, and no one was on the dancefloor. That changed when a group of three men entered the bar. One of them held a video camera, the other held a digital camera, and the third headed out to the dance floor where he started break-dancing--badly. The cameraman was saying things like, "Work it, baby!" and "Yeah, that's what I like." Oblivious to the stares and snickers of the other patrons, the guy started pole dancing, absolutely making love to the camera. Then the three men left.

So what was going on? Beat's me. The guy was pretty good looking, so I thought this was maybe a modeling shoot. However, modeling shoots wouldn't require a video camera, and the digital camera definitely wasn't good enough quality to capture good photos in that light. Perhaps they were filming a commercial for the bar. But this guy was the only person on the dance floor, and doesn't a bar want to advertise itself as THE place to be? I definitely wouldn't want to go to a bar where people dance like that. Nevermind I probably dance like that.

So beyond those two scenarios, I've got nothing. Any ideas?

Also, visit this person's blog for a chilling account of trying to vote in this year's election.
 

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Saturday, December 18, 2004
  My Crusade

Every day, between 3 and 4 pm, a group of kids race down the alley behind my apartment. When they reach my apartment, one of them takes a running leap and bangs on my bedroom window. This has been happening since we moved in. I race to the window after it happens, but the kids are always gone by the time I get there. I've listened, and they only bang my window--why are they singling my apartment out? Perhaps because my apartment is about in the middle of the stretch of apartments--it's just convenient. Perhaps they can see the snowglobes I have lined up on my windowsill, and they hope that if they hit the window hard enough, the globes will fall off. They've certainly tried their hardest to do it. One day they hit the window so hard, the entire house shook. Now, in September there was an earthquake, and that didn't even make the china rattle!

I've thought about putting up a note telling them that if I catch them I'm going to rip out their knuckles, but that would probably just fuel their antics. Like in the movie Tommy Boy: Chris Farley takes his father's sailboat out to the middle of a lake, at which point the wind dies and he's stuck out there. A group of punk teenagers gather on the shore and heckle him, and all he can do is stand up and yell at them because there's no wind to get back to the shore to kick their asses. This is what they want--a screaming fat man. They just do it for a reaction.

I've also thought about waiting at the end of the alley. But what am I going to do then? Rough up an 11-year-old? I think kids sue these days.

It's was Mike's idea to spread something across the bottom of the window so it'll get all over their hands. He suggested crazy Glue, but it'll dry too quickly, and I wouldn't want some kid's hand glued to my window anyway. So instead we're trying corn syrup. It's clear, but even if the kids noticed the film, they wouldn't bang on the window, and that would accomplish my goal. If we spread it on around 3, it probably won't be dry by the time the kids get out of Dork Practice or whatever. When 3:30 rolls around, I bet some bugs will be stuck to the syrup too. So the kids run down the alley, one of them jumps up and lays a hand on my window. The hand sticks for a second, then--schtiiiiik--the hand peels off. His hand is covered with who knows what kind of nasty substance, and a few dead bugs to boot. Hopefully they'll learn their lesson. It'll totally be worth having to clean that stuff off the window afterwards. Unless, the next day, I find a flaming bag of poop outside my door...
 

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Tuesday, December 14, 2004
  Check Into Cash

Scene 1: A woman stands at a grocery checkout. When faced with the bill, she says out loud, despairingly, "Oh, no, my paycheck won't cover this! How am I going to get money to pay for it?" A man standing behind her in line says, "Try Check Into Cash. They can give you an advance on your next paycheck up to $500." A woman standing behind him overhears and adds, "It's the best way to get instant cash!"

Scene 2: A woman stands at the counter of an auto retailer. She cries, "Oh, no, my paycheck will never cover the mechanic's repairs! How am I going to pay for this?" The scene ends before some helpful stranger can tell her about Check Into Cash, so I hope things turned out all right for her.

Scene 3: A white old lady (age and race are relevant here) approaches a black woman holding her baby (also black) and says, "My checking account is too low. I can't get what we need." The black woman says, "Try Check Into Cash!"

Now, after I saw this commercial, I remarked that it's ridiculous how far advertisers will go to promote racial diversity in their commercials, even creating social situations which are unlikely. Because, really, I'm not being a racist here--go stand in a grocery store for a half hour, anywhere, and tell me if you see an old lady and a younger black woman with her son in a group together. Perhaps the old lady was ahead of her time, and against all odds, fell in love and married a black man, so this woman is her daughter. Perhaps the black woman is the old lady's nurse. Okay, okay, perhaps they're friends. A likelier explanation is that this commercial is also a plug for Fox's new reality show, Granny Swap. But I say that, as unfortunate as it is, you just don't often see that kind of combination of people. Old ladies hang out with old ladies, and when they hang out with younger ladies, they're usually related. Obviously in the commercial the black woman and the old lady are together--the old lady says, "I can't get what WE need." So she's buying groceries for the lot of them.

When I pointed this out to Mike, he said I was misinterpreting the commercial. According to him, the old lady, like the woman in the first scene, was relating her problem to a complete stranger, and the "we" was in the editorial sense, the royal "we." I say that this interpretation is not obvious. First of all, the old lady APPROACHES the black woman. In the first scene, the woman did not turn around and share her problems with the strangers--they just overheard her. It's much less likely for this old lady to just walk up to a complete stranger and tell her she can't afford groceries than it is for these three people (baby included) to be out shopping together. Mike says in the artificial reality of the commercial, this is possible. But before this scene, the artificial reality set up by the writers had not been so different from our own. It's much less a stretch of reality for the old woman and the black lady to be shopping together than it is for the old lady to WALK UP to a stranger and say, "I can't get what we need." Also, within the boundaries of the commercial, "we" here obviously refers to anyone else in this scene. Ask a grammar teacher, and she'll agree with me.

Now let's put ourselves in the minds of the writers. To them, the gender, race, and age of the characters aren't important. They're writing general scenes that illustrate how useful the product is. The characters in the script are probably named WOMAN 1, OLDER WOMAN, MAN. So after the script is written, some casting director will basically just toss actors from all kinds of backgrounds into the scene, so no demographic group will be offended and so the commercials will appeal to all types of people. As long as there are enough different types of people in one scene, they don't care whether or not the social relationships make any sense at all. So in the script for the third scene, an old lady, a younger woman, and a baby are at the grocery store and the old lady is in charge of the finances for the group. I guess it's pretty weird that the old woman is paying anyway, but I guess that's an example of the "artificial reality" Mike was talking about.

Now, this wasn't really supposed to be an observation on race relations or anything like that. It was basically to show that my interpretation of the commercial--that the women know each other and are shopping as a group--is right. Mike is wrong.
 

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Saturday, December 11, 2004
  Love Buzz

Mike recently bought himself the Nirvana box set, to my delight. Boy, it takes me back. I feel like 13 all over again. It came with a DVD of sessions, starting back in 1987. While a part of my brain is set against foolish, romantic, teenage notions, my heart still breaks a little when I see Kurt.

I was 13 when Nirvana was introduced to me. Ronnie had come to visit his grandmother for the summer--she lived in the same apartment complex as my mother and I. I didn't really know the grandma; she was a cloistered old biddy. Just, one day there was a new kid at the swingset, spiky hair, big shoes. He quickly joined our scappy neighborhood band of kids. Eventually, summer boredom got the better of us, and then we were "going together." One miserable West Virginia July day, as we melted into the tarmac, Ronnie sang to me, "Would you believe me when I tell you, you are the queen of my heart?" To be honest, I wasn't terribly moved by the whole thing, but it was still pretty smooth for a 12-year-old. At his urgings I bought one of my first rock albums (a tape actually): Bleach. Then began a passion that far outlasted the love that Ronnie and I shared. At the end of the summer, Ronnie went home, but his legacy lives on.
 

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Friday, December 10, 2004
  Orientalism, again

I was having a discussion with Mike earlier tonight about new Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, and how he will probably have a positive influence on events in that region, provided that he isn't killed first. While it's unlikely that he'll be assassinated, the very fact that Mike mentioned it prompted me to observe that politics in the Middle East just seemed so..."uncivilized." It was then that I realized that I was sounding a little bit like a 19th century British man. This wasn't so much a moment of clarity as another reminder of the relevance of orientalism today.

Of course, I'm not the first one to make this observation, about how America is sort of the new England. Even before invading Iraq, America had been demonstrating its clear Imperialist intents for quite some while. Instead of colonization, America subjugated weak and developing nations through its strong involvement in the IMF. By agreeing to bail out struggling countries in times of economic crisis, the IMF effectively controls policy through the conditions placed on the bailouts. This money is, of course, in U.S. dollars, and since the United States is the only shareholder in the IMF with veto power, it has considerable say in which policies the IMF pushes.

Direct involvement in the Middle East has raised American Imperialism to a new level. And nowhere can our imperialist views be seen better but in the movies. Flight of the Phoenix has been a constant reminder of this emerging relationship between America and the Eastern "savages." A plane crashes in the Mongolian desert, and the surviving passengers have to battle warlike nomads. Okay, I know that it takes place in Mongolia, which really isn't the Middle East, but I'm pretty sure this is just a good general example of how America feels about the average non-white, non-American (or, hell, American) person, hereby to be known as the "other." Although, it seems pretty clear to me that if Hollywood had any balls at all, the enemies would be Iraq rebels, which would be much more appropriate, instead of Mongolian nomads (who stopped being scary after Kublai Khan a "stately pleasure dome" decreed). Well, at least they look more like the real enemy than the old standby, Nazis trying to kill the Pope.
 

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Monday, December 06, 2004
  Confession

Some people might be surprised by (or indifferent to) the fact that I'm a Republican. I don't think it's so surprising, really, although any negative effects being a Republican has on my character obviously aren't too pronounced. I find that being a hard-core pragmatist places my ideology a little right of the center, but still pretty close. Because being socially liberal seems like obviously the most practical decision--a repressed public usually isn't a productive one. But apart from these social issues, I'm definitely Republican. Mike asks me, "Why not just be Libertarian?" Well, I personally would rather belong to a party that has a little more influence. I also don't feel that my political affiliation has much to do with who I am--I'm not going to nitpick over labels, and I feel like going out of my way to clarify that I am a Libertarian instead of a Republican attaching too much importance to these labels. Of course, I'm contradicting myself by even talking about my being a Republican, but I don't care because otherwise I'd have nothing to blog about.

There are a lot of reasons I'm a Republican. People who have taken offense by my choice are usually satisfied with my reasons, which I feel compelled to give because I understand how this could reasonably change a person's entire view of me. Really, I'm only slightly offended by anti-Republican hostility. This, however, is not really a discussion why I am who I am. Basically, I was reading some news and I found a quote I liked and I wanted to preface it before I posted it here. I like the quote because it's about Republicans, and that brings me to a reason I am a Republican. Basically, they're a much more interesting party to follow. I eat up the gossip like it's celebrity trash. I love reading about Republicans. Most of it's bad news, so why would I want to be a part of this party? Mainly because the Republicans are so corrupt and reprehensible. I feel like if I wanted to go into politics, I should choose the party that desperately needs someone with a conscience, as opposed to leaving about one half of the power in America to scoundrels. I am drawn in by GOP loyalty, and I interpret it as a member's duty to maintain the respectability and ideology (nonsocial--I don't see how banning abortion really fits into the party's "states' rights" ideals) of the party, instead of abandoning it to the worst politicians.

Anyway, none of this really had much to do with the quote. I just thought it was a clever observation: "The liberal and conservative critiques of GOP corruption have always been interdependent. Take pork. If you like federal spending but dislike Republicans, you tend to criticize pork-barreling as an attempt to perpetuate incumbents' hold on office. Likewise, if you loathe government dollars but like Republicans, you attack pork projects as the abandonment of small-government principle."--From "Corrupt? Absolutely" by Chris Suellentrop
 

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Wednesday, December 01, 2004
  Nothing much new, except that Hello Nurse is my new favorite band ever.
 

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The story of how I became a very, very bad physicist. But not really.

Other People's Business

Mike (the boy)
Al
Al's portfolio (give her a job)
Christian
Jenny
Paul
Rod
Tia
Todd


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