Archive for 2009

Let’s Make a Video

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

I bought a copy of Adobe Premiere Elements (just $80 with rebate) because I had an idea for a video to Spiraling’s “The Future” (Please buy the album now). The song is about all the things we were promised about the future that still have yet to be delivered. Initially I thought I was going to have to cut amongst several old sci-fi serials on file at the Prelinger Archives[1], but I found one video that had everything I need. Fittingly, it was from New York’s 1964 World’s Fair, perhaps the single saddest and least accurate depiction of the future man has yet devised. Here’s my video.

On a related note, as we approach 2010, we will once again pass through a threshold of science fiction movie disappointment (we haven’t even made it to Jupiter!) much the way we did when we passed 2001. The next scheduled Disappointment Threshold for me will be when we reach 2015, the year of Back to the Future II, and we won’t even have hoverboards to show for it.

1.) I have previously plumbed the depths of the Prelinger to make a video for Jeff Buckley’s “Be Your Husband.”

What About Oyster Guy?

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

Maybe we can make this a new shorthand argument against climate change deniers: “What about oyster guy?

Megan at From the Archives explains in a post from 2008 that’s only now making the rounds thanks to Ezra Klein. She cites this guy as an example of the thousands of uncelebrated scientists-on-the-ground who gather data every day:

If it is all a conspiracy and nothing is happening, how do denialists conceive of these guys? Do they think these monotonous nerds who talk in jargon (don’t take that the wrong way. I’m sexually attracted to every one of them.) are making it up to promote the conspiracy? Like, they spend the morning thinking up esoteric ways of measuring wave energy by sand lost at different gauges around the state, and the afternoon faking their data so they can please Al Gore? They’ve done this now for ten years and they plan to make an entire career out of making up the detailed groundwork for fake climate change? All of them? On nothing? Imagine the secret conferences they must hold to synchronize their stories and settle on an allowable variance between the made-up river data, the made-up precipitation data and the made-up ocean data. Besides the groupies, WHAT FOR?

Apparently there was a specific instance of oyster research that Megan refers to that made Ezra use the term “oyster guy” for easier reference. Can we build a meme snowball? Pass it on: “What about oyster guy?”

UPDATE: If you didn’t believe Google is updating in real-time, note that my site is now #6 in Google for “What about Oyster Guy?”

Jaden, Caden, Jayden, Kaden

Monday, December 7th, 2009

As someone with an unusual name, I suspect I’m more sensitive than most to the topic of baby names. So when I hear the latest trendy made-up baby names, I cringe inwardly. The sensation is not unlike hearing someone beat a frying pan with a wrench.

Baby names are a unique part of language in that they are almost entirely connotative in nature. To be sure, names have denotative histories, but these often have little bearing on the naming of a particular child. I wasn’t named Colter because of any predilection for tending to horses. Instead, baby names are built on a tangled mass of personal associations and cultural reference points. Certain baby names achieve permanence while others ascend and descend in popularity over time. Caden and Jaden apparently popped into existence at roughly the same time: 1994.

Baby names are chosen almost exclusively on extremely subjective “coolness” or “prettiness” factors[1], and maybe I’m wrong but recently we as a society seem to have reached a tipping point where we are so susceptible to trends that we’re actively making up baby names and finding ever more esoteric ways of spelling common names[2] in a misguided effort to brand our children as unique.

To wit, I give you the Social Security Administration’s list of the top 1,000 baby names of the ’00s and the curious case of the “-dens”.

On the boy list alone we have:

54 Jayden
93 Jaden
95 Brayden
261 Jaiden
113 Caden
120 Kaden
168 Braden
281 Kayden
259 Cayden
956 Zayden

Now, “Braden” and “Brayden” are variants of actual Gaelic names, so I have no quarrel with them (good job, Jenny, you chose the real one!). In fact, I should make the disclaimer that I have no rational argument whatsoever against any of these made-up names. All I can say is that when I hear “Jaden” or “Caden” some strange, completely irrational part of my brain becomes unhinged[3]. I don’t know why; I can only give you my suspicions. My primary suspicion is that I apparently have some serious reservations about making up baby names that sound like other names. My secondary suspicion is that I wince at parents’ foolhardy attempts to be original, yet just safe enough that they don’t go overboard and name their child something truly bizarre like Apple or Tuesday.

And you can’t escape unoriginality with baby names. My sister thought she was being a little on the creative side when she named her kids Emily and Austin. Turns out those were two of the most popular names in the mid 90′s. Indeed, Emily reigns as the #1 name for girls in the 00′s. There must be some strange mass-consciousness gravitation that can only be escaped by going whole hog and naming your child Dweezil.

An entirely connotative universe of baby names leads us here. Logically, denotatively, Apple is just as sensible a name to have as Summer or Autumn[4]. It’s all about establishing a precedent, really. Someone has to go out there and make it safe to name your kid Humphrey or Orson. Maybe someday Caden will be as commonplace as Heather was for girls born in the 70′s. I wonder if I’ll still cringe at the dissonance.

Epilogue: Shortly after posting this I decided to look up “Caden” in Wikipedia. There is a very small town in France called Caden. The particular region of France? Brittany. Apparently all the terrible baby names are being generated by a cabal of evildoers in Northwestern France.

1.) Or family history, but there are limits. There are very few Engleberts and Waldos left in the world for solid cultural reasons.

2.) Britney, Brittany, Britany, Brittainy…will the madness never end!??

3.) If you really want to drive me bananas, remind me that Britney Spears named a child “Jaden James.”

4.) Why is it no one names their kid Winter? I’ve known Springs, Summers and Autumns, but no Winters.

Spiraling

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Attention Music Lovers: My favorite band in the world is now selling its albums for $5 each, just in time for the holidays. If you don’t already own Transmitter or Time Travel Made Easy, then either I haven’t pestered you enough about Spiraling, or you’ve been reluctant to spend money. Now there’s no excuse. 5 dollars.

If I could buy one album from the last 10 years for everyone I know, that album would be Transmitter by Spiraling. I can’t say enough great things about this band. I have a hard time describing their sound: keyboard-led power pop with great songs, lyrics, arrangements, vocal harmonies, drum parts. Just look at my Last.fm page. They are the band I listen to most. The next runner-up is more than halfway down the scale.

Maybe it’s just because the band speaks to me as a musician and music nerd; maybe you won’t enjoy them as much as I do. They’re an independent rock band with great pop hooks but they aren’t anyone’s “buzz” band. Pitchfork probably wouldn’t like them. Prog fans may find them too poppy while pop fans may find them too proggy. But those are the bands I tend to like most.

I remember the first time I heard them. Jamie made me a CD-R of Transmitter and shortly afterward I bought a real copy. I pestered Chris King at Sticky Fingerz to give them gigs, and I got their CD to the Riverfest booking people, who gave them a choice slot opening for Live back in 2006. They’re actually a big reason I moved to New York – they were some of the first friends I had up here, and I’ve been delighted to have seen just about every show they’ve played up here in the last two years.

Buy a CD. If you don’t like it, I’ll buy it from you next time I see you.

Gaaaa

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

Let me know if you find anything buggy on the site – I only just now noticed that Comments were turned off on the previous post. And we’ve had some server outages lately as well, so sorry about that.

In other news – I saw Big Star!

Best of 2009: A Mix Disc via YouTube

Saturday, November 14th, 2009

I’ve been making mix CDs of my favorite songs from 2009 for some people lately, and I’ve come to realize that nearly all of the songs are available on YouTube in some shape or form. I should note that while most of these are songs that debuted in 2009, some of them are simply songs I discovered for myself in 2009. So here is my personal chart of Top 15 tunes from 2009:

1. All I Know is Tonight – Jaga Jazzist

2. This Is for the Better Days – (Band of) Bees

3. Marrow – St. Vincent

4. Cannibal Resource – Dirty Projectors

5. Shake Me Like a Monkey – Dave Matthews Band

6. Love Letter to Japan – The Bird and the Bee

7. Microburst Alert – OSI

8. Carry Me Ohio – Sun Kil Moon

9. Ooh You Hurt Me So – Clare and the Reasons

10. Down the Drain – Chickenfoot

11. The St. Valentines Day Massacre – Starling Electric

12. Stadsvandringar – Dungen

13. Hallmark – Mike Keneally

14. A Crimson Grail – Rhys Chatham (featuring me and 199 other guitarists at Lincoln Center’s Out of Doors Festival)

15. What to Do – OK Go (on handbells)

And as a bonus, an awesome video of Robert Plant jamming with friends on “Calling to You” featuring my friend Tom on keys.

Noticing Things

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

I know I’m not a New Yorker yet because I still notice things that no one else seems to.

  • I’ve found USB flash drives on two separate occasions. The first one was a few months ago. I found an email address inside one of the documents, and sent a message, but never got a reply. The second one I found yesterday. I Googled the owner’s name and connected with her on Facebook[1]. I got it back to her last night.
  • Leaving the office a few weeks ago, I saw a large Post-It note attached to the bottom of a lady’s purse. I walked along with the hastily moving crowd of folks, figuring someone would mention it to her. No one did, so I had to. She was relieved; the note contained important info she would likely have lost had I not intervened.
  • Also a few weeks ago I found a debit card at the E train turnstile. I thought about announcing to the riders that Mr. Lopez had left behind a personal item at the turnstile, but wasn’t sure if that was the best course of action, so I just called the number on the back to tell them it had been found. It had already been reported lost.

1.) Something that would have been impossible just a few years ago.

Recent Videos

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

Here are a few brief videos of things I’ve done and seen in the last few weeks.

“Home”

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

All year I’ve been saying that by October I’d have some clearer idea about whether or not I would stay in New York. Here we are halfway through October and I’m still at an impasse. For me, Little Rock and New York are essentially the same in terms of net appeal. There are things each has that the other does not. I guess my only option is to give it more time and see if something comes up to pull me strongly in one direction or the other.

That said, I had a great time being back in Arkansas. I caught up with a few friends, had a small family reunion at my uncle’s birthday gathering, and attended a wedding (Jessie and Tiffany’s pictures are better than mine).

One side effect of being stuck on where I belong is that I haven’t been motivated to write or play guitar much. Limbo does not lend itself to creativity. Most days when I get home from work I just watch a DVD and goof off on the web[1]. I haven’t even gotten much reading done.

As of tomorrow I will have been working at American Express for one year. I don’t want to procrastinate on a decision, because time is moving ever faster these days. One thing I can say is that I should stick with the job until I’ve paid off the heating/cooling unit that Trey had installed earlier this year. I’ve got a few more thousand to go on my Amex card to do that. Then I’d like to have something saved up for travel if/when I move back, so really, I’m going to put off a decision until early next year.

1.) I actually spent an hour or so last night looking at photos of streetlights, traffic lights and power lines. I find this level of esoterica endlessly fascinating. I think I’m becoming addicted to information.

For Everything We Gain, We Lose Something

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

So my division has moved up to the 43rd floor, and the views are amazing. But my new cubicle is half the size of my old one. Contractors are assigned smaller cubes because the assumption is they work part-time, but I’m a full-time contractor, so we’ve put in a request to move me to a larger space. There’s an empty one right across from me. I’m thinking of moving in and seeing if anybody cares.

I’m also excited to have a new computer whose processing speed doesn’t make we want to drill rusty nails through my eyelids, even if it is a smaller laptop. I can now run Photoshop, Excel, Firefox and Lotus Notes at the same time without generating memory leaks or “virtual memory is too low” messages. I’m glad I saw the slow demise coming; it took almost two months to get the new computer delivered.