Saturday, February 26, 2005


Liz would like me to point out that she has always liked the Scissor Sisters' song "Take Your Mama Out." It's her favorite song on the album. She enjoyed every minute of their performance on "SNL."

Friday, February 25, 2005

Simpson or celebrity? You be the judge

(parenthetical remarks) posted this comparison of two Simpsons characters to a celebrity couple. You'll have to check the link to see who's who.

I love the Internet.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Coping with the end of "Star Trek:Enterprise"

Check out Your Weekly Eye Opener for some survival tips.

I especially like "Take this as a sign to finally grow up and become pathologically obsessed with a professional sports team instead." And, of course, "Publish a devastating social critique on a world without “Star Trek” in your 'Captain’s Blog.' "

Monday, February 21, 2005

Recent additions to our CD library

We've been busy music shoppers in the past few weeks. Here's a quick rundown of our new purchases.

Coldplay -- Parachutes and A Rush of Blood to the Head

I can't believe I didn't discover Coldplay until the latter half of 2004. I had heard some of their songs before, like "Clocks," but I wasn't really aware of how great their music was until "Don't Panic" appeared on the soundtrack to Garden State. Liz played the soundtrack a few times for me and I borrowed the CDs to give their entire repertoire a try. When "The Scientist" started up, four songs into Rush, I was hooked. Their music is mellow, plaintive, yet melodic and colorful. I'm still shocked that I like them so much -- while I will always love classical music both bombastic and relaxing, I'm a hard rock guy at heart. Coldplay is a long way from hard rock, but I love it anyway.

Green Day -- American Idiot

I haven't bought a Green Day album since Dookie ten years ago. But we were intrigued when this album got so many excellent reviews, many of them comparing it favorably with Tommy. When you make a claim like that, you've got my attention. I've listened to the album twice and I still don't have any idea what the rock opera is about, but the music is fantastic. Green Day still rock like it's 1994, and in their case that's a good thing. I wouldn't have thought a punk band was capable of musical storytelling of this magnitude, and I'm pleasantly surprised to be wrong.

Scissor Sisters -- Scissor Sisters

Liz bought this album, not me, but I'm quickly becoming a fan of this band too. When I first heard "Take Your Momma Out," Liz said they were way too new and hip for old folks like us. Then they appeared on "Saturday Night Live" a few months back, and while we weren't any more impressed with that song on the show, they wowed us both with their disco/Bee Gees cover of Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb." As many others have noted, they sound much like early Elton John, but they play a variety of styles on their debut album. I'm not sure how to classify them. I'd like to call them pop, but there's some rock and dance in there too. I listen to the album, thinking that I'm not going to like most of the songs, but more and more of them are growing on me.

George Gershwin -- Rhapsody in Blue, An American in Paris, Piano Concerto

We were in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn a few weeks ago for an afternoon and evening of gallery hopping and dinner with friends. After dinner a few of us stopped by an indie CD store on the recommendation of one of our friends. Since my tastes run toward the mainstream, I don't usually expect to find much music I'd pay for. They had a small selection of classical CDs, which I perused just out of habit. So I was pleased to find the three Gershwin pieces on one CD, performed by Michael Tilson Thomas, Garrick Ohlsson, and the San Francisco Symphony. I've been looking for years for a recording of these three works all on one CD; usually I'd find two but not all three. I especially like the Rhapsody in Blue on this disc. The liner notes point out that many recordings of the Rhapsody treat it like a Rachmaninoff concerto, full of late Romantic influences, with a giant orchestra and a pianist pounding out the chords like he's fighting with the instrument. This version cuts back on the musicians and restores the jazzy feeling of the piece. Even though I like giant Romantic recordings, this one is a refreshing, spirited change of pace.

At the same store I also found a used copy of Led Zeppelin III, which isn't their best album, but I needed it to fill out my collection. Although I do like "Since I've Been Loving You" and "That's the Way."

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Gates in Central Park

Liz and I went to see Christo's "The Gates" art exhibit in Central Park on Sunday. I'm not sure what to make of it. I like it, but I'm not sure it means anything. Even if you think it's a silly idea, it's only up for sixteen days, and it's worth checking out.

"The Gates" do make for some excellent pictures. Mine are posted under the photos link on the right. I'm especially fond of the first one.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

USATODAY on podcasting

USATODAY finally published their article on the growing popularity of podcasting. Dawn and Drew mentioned that the newspaper reporter sat in on their show a few weeks back, so it's about time the article finally appeared in print. I guess that means the hipness of podcasting just took a hit. When the New York Times gets around to it in the Circuits section, that's when we'll know it's over for good.

Like blogging, I don't see podcasting disappearing anytime soon. As with anything else on the Internet, the real trick is figuring out how to make money doing it. Dawn and Drew have included advertisers in their podcast by reading promos at the end of the show and once by putting the advertiser's name in the MP3 file's ID tag (so it scrolled across the screen of my player instead of "Dawn and Drew Show"). But other podcasts just exist for the fun of it, without ads. Even Leo Laporte's Tech Guy podcasts are just edits of his radio show with all the ads removed. I'm sure we'll see more professional shows with real ads on the Internet soon enough. But for now, I like the amateurish quality of these shows. It's exciting to witness the beginnings of a new communications medium.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

The Baroque Cycle is ended

I finally finished The System of the World last night, after nearly five months of reading. I would have finished it much sooner if I'd decided to haul it back and forth to work last fall, but instead I kept it at home and only took it on trips to Mississippi and New Orleans. Only in the last few weeks have I shlepped it to work as I grew closer to the end of the book. As Neal Stephenson can be described as "heavy reading," my next few books will be much shorter and lighter.

Of all of Stephenson's books, TSOTW had the best ending. Even his fans complain that his books end abruptly and unsatisfyingly. I can't say that TSOTW has an Earth-shattering ending that will blow your mind, but it does bring the trilogy to a worthy conclusion while leaving room for future exploration of these characters, their ancestors, or their offspring. Of the three books in the trilogy, The Confusion might be my favorite, as it's chock full of adventure and excitement. But all three books are excellent, and I look forward to re-reading them in years to come. I also need to re-read Cryptonomicon, as many of the names and places in the trilogy come up again in that book. And his books are just damn good fun to read, whether it's the first time or the fifth. I can't wait to read whatever his next book will be. But having spent the past 18 months reading almost nothing but Neal Stephenson, I need to take a break from him for a while. Next up on my reading list is I'm With Stupid by Gene Weingarten and Gina Barreca. It's non-fiction and significantly easier to carry to and from work.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Easy listening

After using my iRiver MP3 player on my commute and at the gym for several months, I can understand why the iPod's shuffle feature is so damn popular. While I love being able to pick and choose anything from my music collection any time I want, in practice it's difficult for me to decide what to listen to for 30 minutes. I'm notoriously indecisive, so having all of my albums available all the time is actually a problem for me. My MP3 player does have a shuffle mode, but it's inferior to the iPod's version (one of the drawbacks to my iRiver player vs. the iPod). So I pick and choose from shorter albums or classical music that's suitable for the subway. I find myself listening to lots of Bach and Bob Dylan. I can't really go wrong with either one.

The other problem is that when I'm at work, I have a similar dilemma. I may have large chunks of time to listen to longer albums or symphonies, or I might get phone calls or stuck in meetings, thus breaking up those great 80-minute Bruckner symphonies. Until January I listened to at my desk, so I always had classical music on tap. But WQXR just changed their Internet streaming provider to AOL radio, so I can't listen for hours at a time anymore. And with the departure of Drake & Zeke from the radio, I'm left without any of my old Internet radio standbys.

Lately I've been listening to podcasts. For those who don't know what all those kids are into, podcasts are short radio-like programs that you can listen to on your PC or iPod. With the right software and the magic of the Internet, new shows automatically download to your PC and sync to your MP3 player. There's a wide selection of shows on nearly any subject over at Podcast Alley. Some of the ones I listen to, like the Dawn & Drew Show, are just people sitting in their living rooms talking about whatever is on their minds. Others, like the Rock & Roll Geek Show or the Engadget podcast, are on specific subjects. And a few are MP3 versions of broadcast radio shows. For example, this week I discovered the Raven 'n Blues podcast, an MP3 version of a weekly blues radio show in the UK. Most of these shows are between 30 and 60 minutes, perfect for my commute. I get to sample new music, learn more about what's going on with technology, or just listen to another married couple bitch about how cold it is in Wisconsin. Podcasting could be to talk radio what blogging might be to print media. And like my interest in blogging, I've considered making my own podcast, though the problem with that idea is that I have nothing of interest to talk about. And there's a steeper startup curve to podcasting (microphones, software, audio editing skills) than there is for blogging. For now, I'll stick to listening, but maybe in a few months or a year I'll be ready to start talking to my three readers. Aside from the occasional phone call, that is.