• The State of Affairs

    It’s hard to have negative thoughts when you’d had such a great weekend.I spent all day Saturday at Six Flags with friends, with even the 100 degree heat proving little deterrent to feeling free of responsibility and consequently, elated. Then I spent a couple of hours silently watching a musician I so greatly admire sing songs that I most greatly enjoy; complaints notwithstanding, Ms. Apple.Sunday, I woke up relatively early to head to the residence of yet another musician I admire, to do something I enjoy very much: make music, or at the very least, something akin to music. For lunch, my cohorts and I made turkey burgers with organic lettuce (purchased accidentally) and a two dollar tomato (outrageous!). They weren’t delicious but then again, not many things are. Soon, I had to leave, to watch Fiona Apple again!The drive to Santa Barbara was thankfully uneventful though I did get scoped by somebody’s parents as I picked them up, most likely to assure themselves I could easily be picked up from a police line-up, should the need arise.I felt great, as I always do when driving away from home.On arriving to Santa Barbara, we watched a soccer game, got inspired, and proceeded to kick a ball amongst ourselves ‘till it was time for the concert; it (the concert) turned out great. Then we kicked the ball around a bit more. Then, we went to Denny’s; a fitting close to any weekend of mine.The tired drive home was occupied trying to maintain an intense enough conversation to stay awake but avoid delving into saying complete nonsense. Did I succeed? I sincerely hope not. Nonsense is always an entertaining endeavor unto itself and occasionally more meaningful than those things we venture to say with meaning.To avoid further tangents, I’ll cut myself off here.Ja.

  • Ms. Fiona Apple at The Greek (a biased pseudo review)

    I just spent a few hours sitting not ten feet away from a tired-looking Fiona Apple. I was close enough to see her ham-fisted but efficient self-taught piano playing in all its glory, along with the bulging veins that line that back of her hands when she slams down each chord. I watched her struggle through the first couple of songs, her voice sounding like it was being ripped to shreds, in a beautiful sounding but unforgiving Greek Theater. She broke into one of her most demanding songs, “Shadowboxer”, with all the intention in the world, but by the end of it she was down to nothing but screaming. As you read this, take note that there are moments when I worship this woman.

    The third song saw her getting up from the piano and up to the mike for “Limp” and it was better. When the bridge came, she curled up behind the piano, out of view, while the band displayed their collective chops, finally returning for an angry outro.

    Then came “Sleep To Dream”, a favorite of mine, perfectly executed. Angry but contained. Then, a song I never thought I’d get to see her perform live, “The Way Things Are”; by the end of it, I remembered why I was there. When Fiona Apple hits the stage, she is like a preacher on fast forward; her arms flail in reproach of unseen demons and her body shakes with self-reproach and frustration. I may be a fool, but I believe her. Every song she sings, every time she sings it: it means something to her. For that, she earns my price of admission.

    Before “Tymps (The Sick in the Head song)”, she launched into the following diatribe, and I paraphrase:

    “I don’t eat meat but if I did, when I went out hunting, after I killed what I was hunting, I’d bring it home for a few days just to make sure it was dead. Just to be sure, because apparently I don’t know when something is dead!”

    Then she gave the crowd a dark look with those guilty eyes and launched into a frenetic but successful performance. (Those that are familiar with both the song and her life will tangentially understand what she meant. Maybe… she is a little cuckoo.)

    Singer/songwriter David Garza joined her onstage to lend a haunting Spanish guitar track to “Sullen Girl”, something “we’ve never done in public before” and the best song of the night. The last third of the show was great, with an excellent band hitting their stride (of special note is the meticulous drummer, who’s name always slips my mind). It isn’t hard to put on a great show with such great material; just don’t make us wait another six years to see the more of it, Ms. Apple.

    I will be attending tomorrow night’s concert in Santa Barbara and hope to see an even better show. Finger’s crossed!

  • My family comes together (for the World Cup)

    My family is not particularly close. It’s not that we don’t much care for each other, it’s that we actually don’t particularly much care for each other; a subtle but vital difference. Most of the things we have in common are the result of living in the same house and as such don’t serve as suitable material to bond over. We are actually of varying and opposite opinions on a wide range of subjects; discussions are more than likely to end badly. So we keep to ourselves so that we may be perfectly polite and well-mannered when unavoidable encounters pop-up, as they are bound to.

    This changes for about a month every four years when the FIFA World Cup finals start. Suddenly a wide range of material becomes available for discussion: favorites, final scores, bad calls by referees and coaches, rumors, physical properties of the official ball (including elasticity and hardness), best goal, upcoming games, hot women in the stands, and on a related note, the Brazilian Samba dancers who we have been privy to seeing live on a few occasions, political implications of Mexico’s victory over Iran, etc.

    The fact that we (yes, you) are the only idiots that call the game Soccer and reserve the term Football for a game in which the ball is kicked into an upside down goalpost a couple of times per game in a desperate attempt to gain a few lousy extra points is bound to come up.

    We watch, we cheer, we bond.

    After the national team lost 3-0 to Czech Republic last week, I had a particular observation to share and a prediction to go with it. Before the game came on I switched to Univision (the local Spanish station), which I feel has the superior commentators. There was one distinct difference about this game than those before it. When referring to the U.S. team they said “our team”. The players were “our boys” and the coach, “our coach”. The pre-game host even waved a USA jersey at some point.

    Tired of those proceedings, with the game still a few minutes away, I flipped to ESPN. They use the familiar talking-heads approach to pre-game commentary, with a couple of the usual suspects plus one Women’s World Cup winner from the US team who’s name I can’t recall and a uber-annoying retired MLS/US player, Erik Winalda. These guys stiffly refer to our national team as the “U.S.” and can’t summon up an ounce of emotion. What are they so serious about? Compare them to the guys over at the BBC who work themselves up into a frenzy before, during, and after any English national game (and, let’s face it, the British aren’t particularly known for getting worked up over anything). You could argue that this is technically a “newscast” and should be unbiased and fair but I’d laugh in your face; first, for thinking that the news is unbiased and fair, and second, for calling a futbol (sorry, soccer) game news. You don’t have to cheer them on during the broadcast, ESPN, but at least admit those guys out there have some relation to you. The rest of you (born and adopted Americans) shut up and cheer for our team! If you truly don’t care or can’t be bothered by it, fine; but if you are going to watch the Cup, please allow yourself to get excited. This is a truly international competition at the highest level (I'm sorry, the World Series!? What world is that? The World of North America minus Mexico?).

    The prediction I had and will probably not see tested this time around is this: if the U.S. team would miraculously (and I do mean miraculously) get past the group games and somehow past the Round of Sixteen, everybody and their mother will also miraculously become a soccer fanatic. Oh, how fast you jump bandwagons, America.

    Oh, and watch the game on Univision; you might not understand most of it, but nobody misses:


    As a last minute comment, I am convinced that the US cheering section has the best-looking women despite the previously mentioned Brazilian Samba dancers. At least we have that going for us.

    See you soon,Ja.

    Please report anything weird with the redesign with a comment below.

  • Things Suck

    Finding it increasingly difficult to finish (ok, let’s be honest, start) writing anything worthwhile to post, I’m decided to the take the time-honored shortcut of relying on other people’s content instead. In short, I’m going to become the billionth website to post short-sighted, biased, egotistic reviews.Sticking to the pejorative nature which comes to easily to me, after much mulling, I’ve come up with a rating system to use in these reviews. Breaking with the five star tradition, I’ll be working under the assumption that most every book, movie, band, TV show, etc., is actually abhorrent, atrocious, awful, base, beastly, contemptible, deplorable, despicable, detestable, disgusting, execrable, foul, grim, hateful, heinous, hellish, horrible, loathsome, lousy, nauseating, obnoxious, odious, offensive, repellent, reprehensible, repugnant, repulsive, revolting, rotten, sleazeball, terrible, very bad, vile, and wretched. Mainly, everything sucks. As such, I’m not going to try to determine how good something is but rather, how much it sucks:

    Meter of Contemptibleness

    Everybody involved in this project and both their immediate and extended families should be summarily executed lest they breed further.(This rating should be rather rare, as I will typically avoid movies directed by Uwe Boll)

    This work must have at least one vaguely redeeming quality such as gratuitous violence, full frontal nudity, or a guest appearance by Chuck Norris.

    This is the usual shit that corporate America manufactures in bulk. Most of its failings are probably due to over eager market research or an executive producer’s insistence on including giant mechanical spiders. It sucks. It’ll make you sick, but it won’t kill you.

    At the very least, somebody attempted to infuse an ounce of decent content into this project. Rarely, it does work, but only long enough to make you angry. Don’t go out of your way to find it.

    Somebody did something right. Then they stuck their head up their ass and it was downhill from there. Despite the fact that this still sucks, it isn’t anywhere near atrocious. This rating, sadly, actually amounts to a recommendation.

    There has been a terrible mistake and somebody gave the go ahead on something that barely sucks. These are the projects that win awards, simply because they suck less that year than everything else. This is a glowing recommendation.


    There are three more, rare ratings. These reach into the plus side of things. Not only do they not suck at all, you might even consider them art. I’m always on the look out for these. Run, don’t walk, to experience these.

    Doesn't suck at all.

    Are you kidding me? Better than sliced bread.

    Holy Jesus, The Beatles are back.


    With all that being said, I’d like to clarify. I don’t go out looking for things that suck. They just pervade our culture. I’m always shuffling through the world’s card catalog for something new to experience, but it rarely proves to be worth the effort. I do my best to find the good stuff, but I err a substantially large amount of the time. And now, I’ll write about it.


    Another idea I had was to add dependency graphs to each review, something I’ve always wanted to see. Those familiar with *nix operating systems are probably familiar with dependencies: one program relies on another, which relies on another, which relies on this and that library, which relies on… You get the idea. It’s the expected result of open-sourced code; programmers build on previous work instead of reinventing the wheel.The truth is that pretty much any work of art relies on a incredible amount of previous art."Good artists copy. Great artists steal."-Pablo Picasso (attributed)So, when something I review has some obvious dependencies, I’ll include them. I’ll include some not so obvious one’s too, when I find them. And, thanks to the wonderful magic of the internet, sometimes I can link directly to some hopefully enlightening info.(I view the world as a series of interdependent layers. You can learn everything from a single point of reference… anyways)For example, a dependence graph for this post:


    Will post the first reviews later today or tomorrow.Ja.

  • Electrophoresis II and Indignant Responces

    As opposed to the gel whose picture I posted last week, this one is much more useful. If you’ve ever watched any sort of forensic investigation show (CSI, Cold Case, Without a Trace, Blah Blah Blah), much of the DNA “fingerprinting” they pretend to do is actually done using similar techniques to those we used to obtain the picture above. In the least technical terms, DNA is cut into pieces using enzymes. These pieces will migrate a particular distance depending on their weight. The map that results will be unique for a given individual (in practice, there is the possibility that this isn’t true and so many test runs with various enzymes are done). In this case, we are using bacterial plasmid DNA rather than eukaryotic linear DNA, but the basic concept still holds up.


    I’m going to set a bad precedent by responding to comments:Dan asked why the DNA glowed. Well, the DNA is stained using a phosphorescent dye before running the gel. We then place it on a bed of UV light and capture it on upper-spectrum sensitive Polaroid film. This isn’t the best way to flag the DNA strands and most forensic labs use radioactive isotopes; but having some idiot that can’t remember whether to incubate something for 20 or 40 minutes handling radioactive materials isn’t the best idea.Did you say smudge? Smudge? You’d think that before your discarded a technique, you’d at least learn it’s name. Blending, hrm sorry, smudging is the best way to achieve a smooth gradient with dry media (especially using pastels). I’m not very good at it yet (they might look like smudges) but it looks amazingly photorealistic when done correctly. Using different pencils to get your tones is something you have to do anyways. If you can really get a smooth tone change without blending, I’d like to see it (and I mean truly smooth). Of course, you might have meant cross-hatching, which looks completely different. Or, I might just be wrong. (I’ve never been a good artist, but grew up among what seemed like a million of them. I’ve seen the excellent, the good, the fair, and the very very bad. I’ve also learned that what one artist says is usually heresy to another one across the street.)I first used a wrapped piece of copy paper as a tortillion, but I bought a pair of blending stumps (about a buck). I also bought a bristol board pad ($3.50), 4H, 2B, 4B pencils ($0.75 each), and a pink eraser ($0.50). I already owned an HB pencil, a kneaded eraser, and some sandpaper. This stuff looks like it will last me forever (except the paper).I’m working on a new feature for the weekend. Though I might post shitty artwork earlier.Ja.

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