Archive for December, 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.