Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Mitch Benn Raps Macbeth

The audio on this is awful, but it's spectacular anyway.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


I subscribe to the Sunday New York Times. It's huge, and it contains two items that interest me especially--the Magazine (on a good weekend about half the articles interest me) and the Book Review, which I'd read from one end to the other every single week if I only had the discipline.

Sometimes I don't have the discipline to finish either one of them off. I have a good novel going, or I have (gasp--say it's not so!) a social life. Sometimes I have that kind of Saturday date that inspires swoony flashbacks over my Sunday morning cup of tea. Sometimes I am seduced by the siren call of the television (especially now that Captain Jack is seducing my DVR regularly on Saturday nights--those blue eyes, those sure hands, and the ever-more-elusive glow of an actual script...). Let's just say that sometimes the Book Reviews pile up.

I know there's trouble when my Tivo stops responding to my commands. It has nothing to do with the Tivo--the Tivo would be happy to obey me if only it knew my mind--but it doesn't know its orders, because they can't be transmitted from my remote to its little command center through the dense pile of newsprint on my coffee table. This happened a few weeks ago, but somehow I wasn't inspired to make a dent in the pile of reading material. It continued to accrue until this weekend I had to raise the remote above my shoulder to make the Tivo do anything. It was time for drastic action.

I have read all weekend long. A new paper arrived this morning, and I read that, too. I have a paper grocery bag full of newsprint, and now I am taking it outside. As an added bonus, I am going to dust the coffee table. And I'm going to watch my Amazon Unbox movie, because now the Tivo will know that that's what I want to do. And so I'm safe from procrastination for...oh, a whole day, at least!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

What's the Protocol?

For the past 3 hours there have been clothes in every washer and dryer in the basement. Now, I'm a reasonable person. I'm down with forgetting your laundry. I'm totally cool with falling asleep for a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon. But it's 8:00, and I'm pretty damn sure that whoever left the clothes has actually gone out for the evening.

Am I allowed to remove their stuff from the dryer? I'll fold it and try to find a clean place to put it. Would it be upsetting to them if I actually dried their wet load of clothes? Because mildewed clothes are pretty disgusting, and you know, it's been a while since I did any random acts of kindness. But will it creep them out? Will they, like, attack me when I come home if they see that I've had my paws all over their undergarments or whatever else they left?

Seriously. I need to wash my bathmats and they won't dry by tomorrow unless I wash them soon. And I have an enormous pile of laundry to finish, too. And it's just mean to leave your stuff there all night long.

Yeah, I think in about fifteen minutes I'm going to go down there and fold their damn clothes so I can get on with my life. In the meantime, I'm just going to continue playing all my Netflix movies. Rock on, Bill Nighy, because I will never, ever get tired of you.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Samsung is Not My Friend

My new Samsung phone drops calls. Seriously, out of every three calls I make, it drops one (thanks, Samsung SGH A707).

And my new Samsung TV has a blinky sad pixel. Grrrrrrrrrrr.

A Coma Can Be Entertaining

If I asked you to read a book about a guy in a coma, you probably wouldn't be interested, but I have to tell you that The Coma was a pretty good read. Alex Garland's idea of what it would be like to be in a coma is more entertaining than some novelists' concepts of what it's like to be awake, and the woodcuts illustrating the book (by the novelist's father, Nicholas Garland) add to the surreal quality of many of the best passages.

It's a speed read (obviously, since my last post was about finishing Esme Lennox only two days ago), but some of its effects will definitely stick with me--notably a lingering paranoia about how bad my memory is....

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Damn You, Edith Wharton

So I finished a couple of books this week. The first one was Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville, and I loved it. It wasn't an easy read (a good thing, mostly). I'll admit I found Mieville overfond of the word "troglodytic." (And why not, after all--it's a terrific word.) And it was satisfying, but not quite satisfying enough. If you're a reader, you know what I mean. It's good stuff, it's just not up there with the best I ever had. It's not like I'm on saying, "Bring me everything this man has ever written, and be quick about it!" I'm not scouring the internet for stories he wrote at summer camp. (Don't ask me if I've ever found a story that one of my favorite writers wrote at summer camp. Because you already know the answer.) I'll pick up another one of his books the next time I indulge my book fetish, and maybe one of them will light the fire that's dying inside me. For now, my addiction is merely controlled, not sated. Perdido Street Station is better than methadone, but it's not the stuff that could only make you happier if it killed you, because then you wouldn't have to live with the disappointment. Dear God, people, is that too much to ask?

The second book also came tantalizingly close to satisfying my craving. I should have known the delicious thrill would be short-lived when I saw the Edith Wharton quotation on page 1, but I was sucked in by "The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox." Oh, yes. Maggie O'Farrell has the power. If only she would use it for good instead of evil. I was enthralled, fascinated, so rapt on the subway that I ignored a tall boy in Buddy Holly glasses who wanted to flirt with me. And then I got to the end. I wanted to throw the book across the room. Usually, that's a good thing. But not when you're on the last page. I mean, Thomas Hardy had the decency to make you throw the book across the room and then scramble to retrieve it from under the dresser, cursing yourself for not having thrown it with the bookmark wedged firmly up to its spine so that you could IMMEDIATELY read the next chapter. What's the point of making you want to throw the book at the wall at the END? I ask you?

Then again, plenty of people like Edith Wharton. Esme Lennox may be your kind of gal.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Bad Thing To Discover on Monday Morning

Just in case you managed to drag your ass out of bed and decide you weren't sick today, you can always go to and while away a few hours untangling network diagrams. (It doesn't sound like it will suck you in, does it? Yeah, go ahead and click it.)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Possibly the Best Ad for Internet Dating

Something else I found cruising the Information Aesthetics website:

Internet Wanderings

Tonight I watched "Stranger Than Fiction" again, for the first time since I saw it in the theater. After several hours of film-related googling, I'm aware that many Christians have used the movie as a springboard for a discussion of divine predestination, but personally I saw it as an existential manifesto. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to. The film has a rich cultural heritage in movies, literature, and philosophy, and it's hard for me to imagine a more satisfying 113 minutes.

The DVD includes a terrific featurette on the creation of the "GUI" that Harold uses to measure, understand, and interact with his world. (The conceit is that we can see illustrations of Harold's thought process as he compulsively counts brush strokes, notes angles and quantities, and visualizes spatial relationships.) The GUI is an inspired part of the movie that helps us get into Harold's head and understand both the comfort and the overwhelming detail that we find there. The fellas who designed it thought about it...a lot. In one scene, they make the point that a lot of geeks are compulsive truth-tellers, which, let's face it, is funny 'cos it's true.

Harold's wristwatch, by contrast, makes broad, qualitative observations (it sees the pretty girl Harold ought to be looking at, and it thinks the way he knots his tie makes his neck look fat--it nicely represents all the things that Harold has repressed under his sea of calculated observations). The story has to do with how the watch transcends its purpose and becomes the hero of its little life, and how Harold manages to stop compulsively measuring things for ten seconds and have a life before he dies (how Garp of him). Harold and his wristwatch are my heroes.

Don't even ask me what I googled to get here, but my fascination with the GUI led me to this site, which is fascinated with visual representations of information. There were dozens of wacky and interesting things here, but one that I think is my new home page is the Newsmap. Granted, no graphical representation is going to make the "news" that we spend money when we're feeling blue any more earth-shattering, but I still really like it.