Archive for April, 2007

Regional Variations

Monday, April 30th, 2007

I’m writing this here because I cannot find this particular version of it anywhere else on the web. I’ve found many, many variations on the theme, but this is the one I grew up with:

Suzy had a sailboat.
The sailboat had a bell.
Suzy went to heaven, the sailboat went to
hello operator, give me number 9.
If you disconnect me, I’ll kick you in the
Behind the ‘frigerator, there lay a piece of glass.
Suzy sat on top of it, and cut her little
Ask me no more questions, I’ll tell you no more lies.
The boys are in the girls room, playing with their
Flies are in the city, the bees are in the park.
Suzy is with her boyfriend, kissing in the dark.

I’m continually fascinated by playground rhymes and urban legends and how they change slightly from person to person, region to region. Today I was reminded of a rhyme that never made it to my school, but of which Nelly wrote his own version in “Country Grammar.” I remember hearing it in the movie Big, and was glad to find it transcribed at IMDb.com:

The space goes down, down baby, down, down the roller coaster. Sweet, sweet baby, sweet, sweet, don’t let me go. Shimmy, shimmy, cocoa pop. Shimmy, shimmy, rock. Shimmy, shimmy, cocoa pop. Shimmy, shimmy, rock. I met a girlfriend – a triscuit. She said, a triscuit – a biscuit. Ice cream, soda pop, vanilla on the top. Ooh, Shelly’s out, walking down the street, ten times a week. I read it. I said it. I stole my momma’s credit. I’m cool. I’m hot. Sock me in the stomach three more times.

Humble to be an American

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

I finally got off my duff and made some t-shirts and bumper stickers at CafePress.com. The statement is “Humble to be an American” because I’m really sick of this whole “Proud to be an American” and “Power of Pride” thing I see on bumper stickers. I’m tired of pride. It’s supposed to be a sin. Fat lot of good it’s done us thus far. I may add some more designs later about “Fighting for Responsibility,” because everyone seems to really get caught up in the idea of Fighting for Freedom but few seem to remember that freedom demands responsibility. Here’s my store address:

www.cafepress.com/humbleamerican

Buy some stuff! I only marked it up for a $1 profit. Let me know if you think I should make buttons and mugs, etc.

You Just Never Know, Redux

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

As if to underline my “you never know” statement about the Virginia Tech[1] shooter, along comes a story about some weirdness at the Dallas Press Club, where recently departed President Elizabeth Albanese turns out to be the center of a scandal involving potentially nonexistant awards judges, a history of mental illness and an interstate rap sheet.

I have worked with Elizabeth for the last three years on the website for the annual Katie Awards, honoring excellence in regional journalism and media. She was one of the better clients I’ve worked for; she always seemed to keep a lot of plates spinning without complaint or error. She was always pleasant and positive and appreciative. I never would have suspected that she might commit fraud. The article is long and informative, so I’ll leave that up to you to read. Suffice it to say that it looks like she’ll be in a heap of trouble and the Katie Awards may be devalued right out of existence.

You just never know.

1.) Notice I didn’t say “VT,” because I keep reading that as “Vermont” when I see it, and suddenly in my mind the pastoral tranquility of Vermont is shattered by more random violence.

Thought for the Day

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

“I’m not interested in being pegged down with narrow definitions. I’m not interested in defining anything too closely. As soon as one defines, one limits. I don’t want to limit what King Crimson is. I’d rather use some vague terms and let you do the thinking. ”

- Robert Fripp

Leave it to guitar sensei Fripp to crystallize an important concept in understanding anything: to define is to limit. I had never quite considered that.

And I see on Fripp’s blog a statement echoing my recent bit on Frank Zappa:

“The attitude that life owes us something, if not everything, encourages life to thwart our endeavours.”

A Pack Rat Finds a Friend

Sunday, April 22nd, 2007

“I kept stealing the phone books. Because I thought I may never be back in this city…I want to have a souvenir from Phoenix. And I used to go through the phone books and I would look at all the names and I’d go, “All these people…and they live in Phoneix…I’m never going to meet these people. I have to take a piece of them with me.” And my bag broke one day and it was always because of those phone books.”

- Cameron Crowe

That’s a quotation from the Almost Famous director’s commentary. It encapsulates the near-overwhelming sensation I get whenever I land in or drive through a large city. I’m continually fascinated by how enormous this country is. But I’m not nutty enough to steal phone books. I have to draw the line somewhere.

Virginia Tech from a Distance

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

So, another rampage in the US by a heavily armed nerd. Like Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris before him, Cho Seung-hui has been described as an outcast, someone who apparently held a significant grudge against the upper caste of his social environment. The pundits, like the rest of us, are trying to figure out what causes this sort of thing, what are the warning signs, how can we prevent this in the future? Is there a causal connection between the video games and the music and the movies and this aberrant behavior?

I think the truth is, you never really know. You can look at a guy’s life and point to particulars and try to connect the dots and run the numbers, but lots of equations start with nerd + violent games + heavy metal, and thus far only a handful have equaled multiple homicide. From my group of friends, that equation has equaled doctor, lawyer, and cheese specialist/film editor (or whatever the hell Flounder is up to these days).

You can look for outward signs, but our interior lives are our private universes and most people probably have things they’ll never tell another living soul, ever. Even blogs only hint at people’s secrets. If you happened upon a typically nerdy blog entry like this, you’d never guess the author was a confessed rapist, murderer and would-be cannibal.

We’re just going to have to deal with the fact that sometimes there’s nothing you can do. Sometimes there are no signs. Sometimes people just crack.

Russian History Drinks, Goes Home

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

Russian billionaire Boris Berezovsky has been quoted as saying he intends to finance the overthrow of President Vladimir Putin. He admits to having spent $50 million on the Ukrainian “Orange Revolution” of 2004. He expects the coming revolution will cost him around half a billion dollars.

Pause for a moment to consider that Russia spent much of the early 20th century having to contend with working-class proletariat revolutionaries, and now at the dawn of the 21st century it has to deal with a billionaire. What can we glean from this? The irony runs deep. It tells us that capitalism has worked for some folks in Russia, and while communism is fairly well dead in the former Soviet Republics, the people may yet be freed from the ruling iron fist of Putin by a member of the super-bourgeoisie.

While we’re on the subject of Russian history, check out these amazing propaganda posters from various phases of Russia’s history.

“Technorati Tags” by Deon Camplin

Monday, April 16th, 2007

Got this lovely thing back from a client’s email broadcast. I like the bookends particularly:

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February, january december related blog best.
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Aguilera march, february january, december related blog best.
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Most and sexy raialicia keysalicia diazcarmen zeta, miliandrew.
Comments jack chuck yellow car?

I also think “aialicia keysalicia diazcarmen zeta” would make a great chant or cheer.

Get to Know Alan Turing

Sunday, April 15th, 2007

I was watching a C-SPAN2 video of Richard Dawkins (who by the way will be at the Clinton School of Public Service a week from this Thursday), and he mentioned in passing that Alan Turing, the father of modern computer science, was a homosexual who was arrested for having an “indecent” relationship. He was stripped of his security clearance, and died two years later of an apparent suicide. Not only did this man develop one of the first designs for a stored-program computer, he was also a brilliant cryptographer and, by breaking the toughest German codes, arguably did more to defeat the Germans than anyone else in England.

So it goes.

And as an FYI, the next time you have to read a little graphic and fill out a text field to log into a website, you’re using what’s called a CAPTCHA, a rather inelegant acronym for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.” While it’s quite different from a conventional Turing Test, it is nonetheless just another small way that Alan Turing lives on in our daily lives.

Spam Poetry Treasue Trove

Saturday, April 14th, 2007

For the latest developments in Artificial Creativity (as opposed to Artificial Intelligence), check out this blog, which was an actual blog that moved here some time ago and then apparently had its address snatched up by spammers. It’s packed with all the latest in bot-syntax jibba jabba. I’m so glad I no longer have to hunt through my Junk Mail at the office for gems like “Gosh, one ingenuous horse gift adventurously hurt by means of a tolerant constipation,” especially since we’ve installed a great spam filter at the server level, so I don’t really get much spam at all anymore.