Friday, October 10, 2008

Hello, I'm Zombie Cash

It says "Johnny Cash spoofs Elvis, throws out back" if you can't see it.

It probably wouldn't have killed CNN to mention that that link was for archived footage.

Because otherwise, Mr. Johnny Cash spent his one and presumably only chance to walk once more amongst the living doing something, um, unexpected?

If I were a Zombie Johnny Cash, I'd re-record every song as a zombie tribute to myself. "Five Feet High and Braaains," "Get Rhythm while you get the braaaaaains," "It Ain't Me, Braaaaains"... ... I could go on, but that's enough.

Monday, July 14, 2008

One more than three, one less than five

If this doesn't give you even the slightest hint of a shit-eating grin, you're a heartless monster.

There, I said it.

Additional note: clearly, Feist is a highly advanced white woman.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Will heaven have room for all his stuff?

George Carlin, RIP. Goddamn that's a shame.

If you've been trying to surf blogs at the office and been thwarted by a ton of NSFW George Carlin videos, well, I don't care, I'm making it worse:

"Stuff" isn't necessarily the funniest Carlin skit, but I have a distinct memory of my little brother discovering George Carlin and, in his continuing efforts to spread joy for others, happily reading a transcript of this skit to the entire family.

Gotta love the universal appeal of a vulgar, cranky old man.

Have you noticed that their stuff is shit and your shit is stuff?

Classic. He'll be missed.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Weekend reading wrap-up

This is what happens when it rains all weekend.

The following things I read over the weekend gave me a serious case of the grins:

Diamonds on Demand: I've read several articles about this over the years, and I'm convinced lab-grown diamonds are just about the coolest thing ever.

Using very secretive methods (there are a few competing methods from a handful of manufacturers), these guys can make diamonds out of (half-) literally thin air. The basic processes have been around for 50-odd years, but now they can make flawless gems (not just industrial-grade!) of almost any cut, clarity, color, and carat in a matter of weeks instead of, ya know, billions of years.

And they can be BETTER than diamonds from the ground. They can make-to-order diamonds of any color, shape, thickness, electrical properties, composition... The Carnegie Institution's Geophysical Lab has already grown probably the world's hardest known substance in a type of lab-grown diamond that's harder than any known geothermal diamond. It broke the scale. The scale was made of diamonds.

That is just awesome.

How awesome?

With a cheap, ready supply of diamonds, engineers hope to make everything from higher-powered lasers to more durable power grids. They foresee razor-thin computers, wristwatch-size cellphones and digital recording devices that would let you hold thousands of movies in the palm of your hand. "People associate the word diamond with something singular, a stone or a gem," says Jim Davidson, an electrical engineering professor at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. "But the real utility is going to be the fact that you can deposit diamond as a layer, making possible mass production and having implications for every technology in electronics."

How about an iPod that can hold all the collective knowledge of the world? That awesome.

Unless you're De Beers. This is very bad news for De Beers, who have profited handsomly from (a) convincing the world that diamonds are rarer than they truly are; (b) lowering the supply of diamonds artificially by convincing everyone to keep their diamonds off the market -- they're "forever," haven't you heard?; (c) that whole blood diamond thing. They're fighting this lab diamond thing tooth and nail.

Money quote:

The problem for the producers is that even though diamonds are not all that rare, people believe they are, so their price is substantially inflated.

Once people realize that manufactured diamonds are indistinguishable from the real thing, he said, that could change.

So they dismissively call these lab-grown diamonds 'synthetic diamonds' in an effort to lower their status to that of, say, cubic zirconia or ice cubes. But there's nothing synthetic about these diamonds: they're compressed carbon with all the sparkle sparkle and hardness and all that. They're diamonds, no 'synthetic' about it.

My brother's girlfriend, bless her heart, has always said she'd be happy with a cubic zirconia. Why? They sparkle more than diamonds, they're clearer than all but the best diamonds, and you can get a Brobdingnagian rock for pennies on the diamond (sorry!). What's not to like?

We call her a "keeper."

Next up, I continue to love long-exposure light effects.

Sleeping Beauty - City lights / Music video from Benjamin Taft on Vimeo.

Next: How's The Weather? Here's a little waste of time: it pulls your location from your IP address (assuming you're not behind a firewall), automatically gives you the weather, and pulls a full-screen picture from Flickr based on some keywords in the forecast. There are worse ways to waste time online.

Next: THIS is Natalie Portman's boyfriend? She just shot up to the very top of my 'laminated 5' list for it-could-happen reasons alone.

Next: these guys performed in front of surveillance cameras, then used the British equivalent of the Freedom of Information Act to request the footage and make a video. That's just inspired:

Next: The Love Guru takes in a pathetic $14M. Waaah.

“The Love Guru” placed fourth at the weekend box office in a serious embarrassment for Mr. Myers, who had spent years perfecting his new screen character, a love counselor named Pitka, only to be rejected by the critics and audience alike.

He spend YEARS perfecting the character? I doubt that. "Horny guru mugs for camera" takes years? I just did it in 5 words.

Next: Ex-Girlfriend Don't Want To Talk To You No More, New European Boyfriend Reports: The Onion is brilliant, as always. Their writing proves, as always, that humor is in the details:

Although no answers have been provided to your flabbergasted stutterings following the announcement, 17 hours of careful overanalysis did uncover several new, emasculating details from within the one-and-a-half-minute conversation. It is now believed that the olive-skinned baron and multiple- vineyard owner who relayed the message is currently living with and possibly married to the woman you once tried to impress by wearing a belt.

You have also been able to deduce, without the aid of visual confirmation, that Norsten's new European boyfriend was dressed in flowing white linen pants and rustic kidskin loafers, and is, at this very moment, slowly consuming a perfectly ripened orange.

Lil' Wayne is number 1! Hell and yes. The new album is great, but my favorite Lil Wayne song is this one from Tha Carter II, as performed on Leno

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Next: The Call of Booty: How about some sonnets and haikus in text message format? You're welcome.

Next: The olympics are going to be difficult to watch now. I picked up Mario Kart for a little bit this weekend and was quickly reminded why I quit playing single player in the first place: that damn Blue Shell. What's the point of winning if the AI is going to smack me with a blue shell every 30 seconds? Screw that.

Also, Four Brothers was on USA, so I got my weekly regiment of Mark Wahlberg revenge movies, this time with a side of Dre from Outkast. Sweet. Like every Mark Wahlberg movie, well, it's better than it deserves to be.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Phoning-it-in Friday

Although I have about a half dozen blog posts half written, I just can't find the energy to finish them right now.

As a mea culpa, enjoy the sublime, mesmerizing absurdity of Flight of the Conchords' "Ladies of the World":

Monday, June 09, 2008

How to use GPS to lead your compatriots to certain death

As if Garmin wasn't screwed enough with today's announcement of a GPS-enabled, half-price iPhone.

Maybe I'm reading this commercial wrong, but are they implying that Napoleon led his army to catastropic near-annihilation in Russia with the steady guidance of a Garmin system?

"Is it really negative 40 degrees? Are they destroying all sources of food?! Sacrebleu! Let's go home!"

"Go straight to Moscow"

"OK. Onward!"

If they wanted to make a "ha ha short driver doesn't need to see with GPS!" joke, why not ALF? He's short and funny! And fuzzy!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Hard drive manufacturers: bite me

Dear hard drive manufacturers of the world:

When will you stop lying to everyone?

Case in point: I just bought a 320 GB hard drive to replace the 120 GB one in my computer.

This is what I get when I plug it in:

Hmm, that new hard drive certainly isn't 320GB. In what bizarro universe does 297=320?

What about that 500 GB external hard drive I got last month? Nope, 465.

465=500? I love this math! I'm cutting my car payment and rent checks by 8-odd percent, post-haste!

Yes, I realize the technical cause of this: I know that a "bit" does not equal a "byte." Thus, the formatted drive is not as large as advertised. So what?! That's my point!

"But it IS 500 GB when it's not formatted for use..." I KNOW! That's not an excuse, that's mealy-mouthed technical gobbledy-gook. What good is an unformatted drive? It's useless, that's how good.

When your box says 500 GB in 144 pt 72 pt bold slab-serif, I think I could be forgiven for expecting it to hold 500 Giga-something-usefuls!

That damn pesky evidence

How long until we, as customers, finally call hard drive manufacturers on their lies? When everyone plugs in their first shiny 1000 GB drive to discover it only holds 920? That's a entire placeholder digit you've been robbed of!

It's a set percentage that you're losing every time, so it's only going to keep looking worse as drives get larger, gang.

(Side note: why, after 30 years, do we still not have one single hard drive format that works flawlessly on both a Mac and a Windows PC? Did someone not think that'd be useful?)

Is there any other product that can get away with this? Boxes of cereal and bags of chips come to mind, with their "Contents may have settled" (read: the bag is half empty) warnings.

Am I off my rocker? Is this not a big deal? Any other products that instantly become 8% less useful as soon as you want to use them? Let me know in the comments.

Another aside: I feel a little remorseful about using a picture of a Seagate drive box, because, discounting the capacity lie, their packaging is refreshing and, frankly, delightful. Scan their boxes when you're at the store next time. And check out their instruction manual:

Friday, June 06, 2008

Get ready for lazy economic theory was down today for anywhere from one to three hours, depending on who you ask.

I love Amazon, and I'm making an early prediction here: some journalist or blogger is going to look at their financials and blusteringly announce that the outage cost so many thousands of dollars per minute.

Their math? Take quarterly revenues. Divide by time. Done.

The problem?

I'm John Q. Internet Shopper. I want to buy a book on Amazon.

Oh, rats, Amazon is down. That's rare.

Do I decide I no longer want a book and never shop at Amazon again?

Or do I wait a few hours and try again later?

Then spend the money I was planning on spending anyway.

Net loss to Amazon? $0.

They might have lost a few impatient types that hopped over to Barnes and Noble or something, but I bet Amazon is going to come out of this ok.

You see this same logical fallacy in those chain letters about not buying gas on whatever day. That'll show the dastardly oil companies! ... until the next day when everybody buys the gas they would have bought anyway. Whoops.

Update 7:50 6/6/08: The Consumerist bit. They're saying about $17,000 per minute "lost." In fairness, the 120th or so commenter calls shennanigans on their math.

Update 7:52 6/6/08: I'm going to call this sort of thing 'retardnomics,' in honor of the chain letter analogy. I slay me.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The bravest movie review I've ever seen

I enjoy watching movies quite a bit, so, of course, I spend a good deal of time reading movie reviews. Through the powers of the series of tubes I can read hundreds of movie critics from all over the country, but over the years I've narrowed down my "must read" reviews to four sources. All of them present reviews that are mostly free of promotional material filler and almost all of them eschew numbers or star rankings. Read the damn prose review! Numbers are not opinions!

First up is Pajiba: Their tagline is "Snarky reviews for bitchy people." Accordingly, it's perfect for bitchy ol' me. I've been following them for years now, and their ever-growing roster of writers deliver some of the sharpest, funniest, and downright subversive critical reviews of movies, television, and (lately) books out there. All of their writers are extremely capable, but definitely read anything by webmaster Dustin Rowles and lead film critic Daniel Carlson. Rowles' contributes to the arts of hyperbole and snarkiness, whether skewering 27 Dresses or singing the praises of underrated films like Final Destination or Mission Impossible 3. Carlson is generally more thoughtful and does a good job of describing how it can feel to get swept up in a film, even if it ends up somewhat disappointing. See his reviews of Serenity, Spiderman 3, and No Country For Old Men to see what I'm talking about. I agree with Pajiba almost without fail. Call it ninety-eight percent.

Next up is Roger Ebert. Do I have to defend this? Although he's not as tack-sharp as he used to be, he's still quite prickly and comes armed with an encyclopedic knowledge of film culture and history. For the educational opportunities alone, each of his reviews (and his weekly Answer Man columns) are essential reads. I find myself agreeing with Ebert about eighty percent of the time.

For a quick hit, there's always the AV Club. The reviews are short and clever. I also agree with them maybe eighty percent.

Then, there's Stephanie Zacharek over at Salon. I find that I agree with her less often than the others here. Maybe 3 times out of 5, or 3 out of 4. That's splitting hairs. What makes her an essential read every week is how she approaches reviews from angles I never would have expected. In her review of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban she's bold enough to claim it's among the greatest fantasy films of all time; I'm with her there, especially the way she describes the poetry of the film. While other reviewers talked about how faithful it was to the book or whether kids would like it, Zacharek is on a totally different level of appreciation. She always approaches films with refreshingly open eyes.

And the review she posted today might just make her the most essential film critic out there. What review, you ask?

You Don't Mess With the Zohan

You read that right.

Go. Read. I'll still be here.

[taps foot]

I KNOW, RIGHT? How delightfully insane!

Allow me to summarize every other Zohan review you're going to read this weekend:
Idiots and frat boys like Adam Sandler. Adam Sandler seems nice enough, but, god, what a stupid premise for a movie. Rob Schneider is in it. Insert deserved snarky comment about how Rob Schneider owes his career to Adam Sandler. Talk about toilet humor. Talk about how thoroughly stupid this movie is. Maybe I cracked a grin, once, but no belly laughs. 1.5 stars.

There. I saved you the time of reading most reviews. I have another post in me about how most reviews seem to come off an interchangable Model-T assembly line, but that can wait. Back to Zacharek and Zohan.

Zacharek has the stones to... well, just look. Sit down. This goes places:

"You Don't Mess With the Zohan" -- in which Adam Sandler plays an Israeli counterterrorist commando whose big dream is to become a hairdresser -- is the movie "Munich" should have been. At the very least, it's got to be the first picture to use smelly-feet jokes as a means of parsing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


... there's nothing more offensive in "Zohan" than the sequence in "Munich" in which Eric Bana -- as a Mossad agent who's trying to escape the violence of his past -- makes love to his wife, as flashbacks of the murders of the Israeli Olympic team in 1972 in Munich run through his head. "Munich" was a fictionalized story set against a real-life backdrop of tragedy: Bana plays an agent assigned to avenge the kidnapping and murder of 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team by the Palestinian terrorist group Black September. In "Munich" -- its first half, at least -- Steven Spielberg attempts to wrestle with some morally ambiguous issues, particularly the question of whether violence is ever morally justified, or necessary. But Spielberg tiptoes up to the complexity of those issues only to pull back from the edge. And his conclusion -- "Violence begets violence" -- isn't particularly enlightening or deep.

"Don't Mess With the Zohan" is the braver movie, for the way Sandler uses throwaway humor in the service of a strong point of view. "Zohan" never even addresses the viability of violence as a solution. It posits, from the start, that the only way to solve this seemingly unsolvable conflict is by forging human connections. You can tsk-tsk Sandler's penchant for dumb, crass humor all you want, but there's some meaning behind his madness. Is there nothing more human, more humbling, than the idea of smelly feet?

Hole. E. Shit.

That, my friends, is what happens when you go into a movie with no preconceptions. That's bold, clever, and I can almost guarantee you you're not going to see any other review of Zohan quite like that.

So am I going to see Zohan? Not likely. I mean, Sandler comedies lost me after the dreck of Little Nicky. But I won't dismiss it immediately, which is what my gut reaction would have been.

So, mission accomplished, Miss Zacharek. I now think you're the single boldest mainstream film critic in America, and easily one of the most essential.

Am I crazy? Am I missing some essential critical voice? Who do you read? Let me know in the comments!

Update 6/6: A.O. Scott of the New York Times went there too in his surprisingly positive review. I may have jumped the gun on this one.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I might have a music addiction


So, you don't have to pay for music anymore.

OK, that's not news. Stay with me.

For a long time I had been relying on this Google search algorithm to find free music online. Replace "Judas Priest" (...shut up) in the quotes at the end with whatever band you're looking for and let Google do the heavy lifting for you.

Lately, though, that's gone to crap. Nothing but links to long-dead FTP sites and spam.

Then, today, I found It aggregates MP3 blogs, a class of blog that I understood to exist but, clearly, vastly underestimated. MP3 bloggers are, on the aggregate, crazy willing to save me some money.

Seriously. Give their blog search a try. Search for your favorite band or song on there. You can refine by album, artist, or song on the results screen to clear out some of the unrelated crap.

I'll wait. ...


I KNOW, RIGHT?! How hadn't I heard about this site before?

I seriously just "saved", what?, $50 bucks or so by scanning my long-neglected iTunes shopping cart, searching on for those same tracks, and relying on the kindness of strangers to get the MP3s that I otherwise would have paid a buck for.

Pretty much any major single from the past 60 years? It's out there for the taking. Especially if your tastes run indie.

This isn't going to save you if you're an album lover. But if you need to hear Steve Winwood's "Valerie" right this second? You're set.

The question no one asked: what did I download tonight? Be happy to tell you! It starts with a sampling from some upcoming and recent releases and then gets, um, less reputable... then swings back to this blog post with half of the Big Lebowski soundtrack. Shouldn't be hard to track down the MP3s yourself, but have some music videos while you're here. The Cloud Cult and Wisely ones (with Pam from The Office) are especially cool.

  • Cloud Cult - "Everybody Here is a Cloud"

  • My Morning Jacket - "Evil Urges"

  • Fleet Foxes - "White Winter Hymnal"

  • Fleet Foxes - "Ragged Wood"

  • Fleet Foxes - "Mykonos"

  • House of Pain - "Jump Around"

  • Mungo Jerry - "In The Summertime"

  • Hanson - "Mmm bop"

  • Loverboy - "Working for the Weekend"

  • Nena - "99 Luftballons"

  • Marc Cohn - "Walking in Memphis"

  • Wisely - "Through Any Window"

  • The Stranglers - "Golden Brown"

  • Deee-lite - "Groove Is In The Heart"

  • Donna Lews - "I Love You Always Forever"

  • Sonic Your - "Superstar" (Yes, the one from Juno)

  • Carpenters - "(They Long To Be) Close To You"

  • Peter Bjorn & John - "Young Folks"

  • Steve Winwood - "Valerie"

  • Mark Ronson f/ Amy Winehouse - "Valerie"

  • ? and the Mysterians - "96 Tears"

  • The Crests - "16 Candles"

  • The Commodores - "Three Times A Lady"

  • Paul Simon - "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover"

  • David Bowie - "TVC 15"

  • Dusty Springfield - "I Only Want To Be With You"

  • Harry Nilsson - "Everybody's Talkin"

  • Elvis Costello - "My Mood Swings"

  • The Gipsy Kings - "Hotel California"

  • Kenny Rogers & The First Edition - "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)"

  • Bob Dylan - "The Man in Me"

The lesson, as always: I'm hopeless. The Fleet Foxes and My Morning Jacket albums coming out in June sound like they're going to be really awesome.

And can I say a hearty "SCREW YOU!" to people that disable embedding of their videos on YouTube? What the hell is the point if I can't embed the damn music video?? How am I supposed to share Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up"?? Yes, that's the first time anyone's warned you about being Rickroll'd. You're welcome.