April 12, 2003 Header
April 2003 - Belmont Park - Mission Beach

Blatant Plea for Sympathy

Tomorrow I’m getting a root canal.

Wish me luck.

And next week?

Another root canal!

My life’s so exciting!

Speaking of Free

Saturday is Free Comic Book Day

And Leah and I saw the film Raising Victor Vargas the other day, for free. It’s a little foulmouthed, but altogether the message is really cool. It’s about a kid, and his brother and sister and the Grandmother who raised him, growing up in the city. Worth a visit if you like small, funny, bawdy, independent movies.

Free Cone, Gotten

So on my lunch hour I got my Free cone.

Flavor choice? Oatmeal Cookie Chunk … in the sugar cone of course. Verdict? Tasty.

Not sure how much my 0.7 mile each way walked it off though.

Quote of the day:

Have a magnificent Monday!

The Coaster driver this morning:

There may be something about driving a train, or riding in trains that makes one want to make affirmations and be philosophical. Blogging does that too maybe. So, like, do have a magnificent Monday.

Randy Newman

Today I’m enjoying Randy Newman. I can’t exactly remember when I first picked up the Randy Newman box set, but I believe it was right after Jennifer left me. I’ve been listening to Newman for a year or so now, and I believe him to be a genius.

I distinctly remember asking fellow coworkers and friends whether I should get obsessed with Randy Newman or Warren Zevon. In the end I decided on Newman.

Here’s a citation from last June, where I quote Bleeding all over the place – a lament for a lover or wife who has cheated and left. So we know at the very least I started in June 2002.

In that time I’ve come to really appreciate Newman. His voice astonishes. He’s an artist who can ably sing songs sung by truly odious characters. One of his best songs, Sail Away is a song sung to a would-be slave about how great America is:

Ain’t no lions or tigers, ain’t no mamba snake
Just the sweet watermelon and the buckwheat cake
Ev’rybody is as happy as a man can be
Climb aboard, little wog, sail away with me

Sail away
Sail away
We will cross the mighty ocean into Charleston Bay
Sail away-sail away
We will cross the mighty ocean into Charleston Bay

He’s also astonishingly funny. Political Science is in the voice of the put-upon USA, deciding the best thing is just to be done with it and bomb everybody:

Asia’s crowded and Europe’s too old
Africa is far too hot
And Canada’s too cold
And South America stole our name
Let’s drop the big one
There’ll be no one left to blame us

We’ll save Australia
Don’t wanna hurt no kangaroo
We’ll build an All American amusement park there
They got surfin’, too

In addition to pithy, smartass lyrics, the man is a real musician, well, at least he composes in the format where most people hear classical music — the movies! He’s done scores for The Natural, Ragtime, Parenthood, and many others. Check out his imdb page – James and the Giant Peach, Toy Story, wow! Even I hadn’t any idea he was involved with so many films.

So now you’re skeptical. You’re thinking, “isn’t this the same guy who wrote ‘I will go sailing no more’ and ‘Short People’ and ‘I love L.A.’ — this guy’s nothing but a novelty-song writer!

I respectfully disagree. Songs like Dixie Flyer, God’s Song, Real Emotional Girl show an artist who can tap into subjects and depth. I do think his best work is in a voice that’s peculiar. He inhabits these characters and shows a bit of their humanity, as well as their faults. He’s fearless in that way, unafraid to include racial epithets and the rawest slang to make his characters come alive. His work is really challenging, and makes me uncomfortable often. I certainly would not want my headphones to come out at work and have to explain why I have a song with these lyrics playing:

We’re rednecks, rednecks
And we don’t know our ass from a hole in the ground
We’re rednecks, we’re rednecks
And we’re keeping the niggers down

That’s from Rednecks. And yes, it’s quite a shocking song. It was released in 1974, 30 years ago. The song of course talks about a bald-faced racism of some Southerners, but also points out that the North is not much better, blacks are free, but only to a point:

Yes he’s free to be put in a cage
In Harlem in New York City
And he’s free to be put in a cage in the South-Side of Chicago
And the West-Side
And he’s free to be put in a cage in Hough in Cleveland
And he’s free to be put in a cage in East St. Louis
And he’s free to be put in a cage in Fillmore in San Francisco
And he’s free to be put in a cage in Roxbury in Boston
They’re gatherin’ ’em up from miles around
Keepin’ the niggers down

I really like the way that Newman seems to be trying to get us to have a laugh at the ignorance of these fools “Hustlin’ ’round Atlanta in their alligator shoes” – then switches it around on the listener, as if to say, “Oh, you think you’re enlightened do you? Well here’s your own treatment of your fellow man, jack”

The thing is, it’s not a protest song, and how could it be. With a chorus that includes the “N” word, it’s hardly radio-friendly. It’s the voice of an artist with a unique and ambiguous point of view. He simply paints portraits of the world as he sees it, and lets the cards fall where they may. How about another song, another pleasant sounding ballad/lament: I want you to hurt like I do, which includes a sad truth about how so often we wish ill on others, perhaps not because we are bad, but because often we ourselves are not happy:

If I had one wish
One dream I knew would come true
I’d want to speak to all the people of the world
I’d get up there, I’d get up there on that platform
First I’d sing a song or two you know I would
Then I’ll tell you what I’d do
I’d talk to the people and I’d say
“It’s a rough rough world, it’s a tough tough world
Well, you know
And things don’t always, things don’t always go the way we plan
But there’s one thing, one thing we all have in common
And it’s something everyone can understand
All over the world sing along

I just want you to hurt like I do
I just want you to hurt like I do
I just want you to hurt like I do
Honest I do, honest I do, honest I do”

And on the other end of the spectrum, here’s a song called “Laugh and Be Happy”

laugh and be happy
don’t you ever wear a frown
don’t let the bastards grind you down
laugh and be happy
it’s a simple thing to do
believe in your dreams and
your dreams will come through for you

Which contains such a great section I have to include it:

now the country that we’re living in
you mean the good old usa?
thats right!
has never been about keeping you out
it’s about inviting you in and letting you pay

so laugh and be happy
don’t you ever wear a frown
get back up on your feet whenever they knock you down

And that’s I guess the great thing about being a fan of artists with careers of a great length. There’s a richness about having had a great deal of time to live life and make songs. Frank Zappa is an obvious parallel artist for me, having had a 30 year career as well. Newman is still alive and producing records, too.

If this has piqued your interest in Randy Newman, I encourage you to check out the The Randy Newman Homepage, which has an extensive biography, including more information about the controversies surrounding some of Newman’s songs.

Oh yeah:

TAIKONAUT! I love that. (see previous post).

India, China, Space Race

How the heck does Bruce Sterling find such interesting takes on topics? Oh, yeah, he’s educated and awake to the world. I love that guy. Here’s a quote.

China has openly declared its desire to colonize the moon. The world’s most populous nation is unlikely to build lunar settlements, but that’s not the point. China’s motive lies not in constructing a lunar Hong Kong, but rather in luring India into a loud public competition. Later this year, if all goes as planned, China will become the third country to send a citizen into space. An orbiting taikonaut will be even more impressive if American shuttles are stuck in their hangars while the misnamed International Space Station limps along with a skeleton crew.

As Russia once did, China has a strong technical advantage. It already owns a chunk of the commercial space-launch business. But India has a decent shot at victory as well. It doesn’t have China’s manufacturing know-how, but it’s rapidly becoming the world’s software back office.

Who will become top dog in South Asia? That’s an open question, and there aren’t many good ways to answer short of a useless massacre. A space race offers a good solution. It’s a symbolic tournament that tests competing political and economic systems to their limit.

A decade after the end of the Cold War, good old-fashioned space programs still matter. Not for exploration’s sake, but to settle new cold wars. If you doubt it, imagine this scenario: It’s 2029, and a lunar mission lands at Tranquillity Base. A crew of heroic young Indians – or Chinese – quietly folds and puts away America’s 60-year-old flag. If the world saw that on television, wouldn’t the gesture be worth tens of billions of rupees or yuan? Of course it would.

Revisiting Tranquility Base would be something else.

MovableType’s EULA, does it stand up?

Tim Swanson has some interesting thoughts on MT‘s EULA (End User License Agreement). I always wondered about that. It’s one of the reasons I’ve avoided MT, frankly. I would prefer more control over software. And if you intended to make money with MT, you would be going outside the typical use. Does that include tips, as in paypal or Amazon tips? Many questions.

More links and a few thoughts.

I like being able to read on the bus. I’m currently reading John Kennedy Poole’s A Confederacy of Dunces – very funny so far. I also occasionally print out longer articles and read them. This is a very cool aspect of public transport. I defy you to read current news in your car. Hee.

Then again, one listens to more radio in a car than on a bus. I suppose I could get a walkman though.

No dazzling insights today. Gotta head to work.

Unfinished Blog Entry (Written on The Coaster The Other Day)

Easter was pretty good. I spent most of the weekend with Leah and her kids. Leah and I went to a little park in San Marcos and chilled out. It was great, and I even kicked some hacky sack with her two middle kids. The day was beautiful.

I had planned to borrow a truck for the weekend from a good friend of mine, but was dismayed to note, a bit too late in the process, that said truck was not an automatic transmission.

I think, perhaps, under duress I could summon my powers of driving technique and drive a straight transmission, but my confidence level is low. I’ve always hoped for a “straight transmission simulator” I could use to grow my confidence level. Alas, the practice I’ve had driving stick has been minimal.

So, no car.

So Easter morning, which was sprinkled with lovely Easter Bunny hats courtesy Leah and Me) and a lovely breakfast. Leah and her kids went to Easter services and I got on a bus, bound south for Crawford Holiday Activities. It took a while, but eventually I got far enough south that my Aunt was easily able to pick me up.

On the way I got some strange news about a mutual acquaintance, about which I really can’t say anything here, but suffice to say that fidelity and loyalty abused is a terrible thing. I feel for those who have been made to play the cuckold.

I played ping pong with various cousins, kids, my uncle — very good time, and I was able to not embarrass myself too badly with poor play. I’m surprisingly proud of my performance. I also threw a nerf football around with my cuz (he’s 15) whose form with a football is an order of magnitude better than mine (he plays both football and baseball) … his exhortations to “throw it like a tomahawk” were well intended, but no closer to my frame of reference than “throw it like a football.” Continuing the theme of game-play, we played a game called Phase 10, a card game with Uno like cards and rules like a mush of Yahtzee and Rummy. That seems rather promising.

I had also played “poker” with Leah and her kids on Friday night – and enjoyed it much, though it was poker modulated by rules to make it more “fun.”

This is I think poker is only poker when there are real stakes (e.g.: things of value, usually money), otherwise the game really doesn’t have the necessary impetus to work. I believe it was in a David Mamet essay where I read that poker is not a game of chance, or a simple card game, it’s a game specifically about playing against the wills of other human beings. Bluffs and raises are not inherent in games of skill or chance, they are about human manipulation.

This entry is unfinished, and will remain so.

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