Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Best New-to-Me Music of 2008

Yesterday my friend Jeffrey blogged his favorite music of 2008. He inspired me to finally blog something. Here goes.

These are things I liked in 2008. I'm sure some of them will end up being from before 2008, since I'm about as far from hip as is possible. Also, some of this is probably supposed to be lame, or only appeal to one particular group to which I don't necessarily belong, or whatever. Again, I'm not hip; I just buy what I like. Feel free to let me know how much this bothers you in the comments.

I was going to make this a list of everything I bought in 2008, since certainly that wouldn't be much of a list... but it turns out Amazon's MP3 Download system was very effective on me. I bought quite a bit this year, probably coming pretty close to the most I've ever spent on music. Kudos, Amazon.

Anyhoo, without further ado:

10. The Reminder by Feist
As you might notice going through this list, if it's in a commercial, there's a good chance I like it. It isn't that I like it because it's in a commercial; I'm a DVR addict, and usually don't realize the stuff I buy is in commercials until after I've bought it. It's just that, apparently, the kind of music people think is good for selling stuff seems to be the music I like. I know that makes me lame, but I don't care.

Feist definitely falls into that category. Her video for "1234" was a piece of single-shot coolness that bought her a long-running iPod commercial. I think I managed to see that video before finally buying the album... on Amazon, so suck it Apple!

9. Oracular Spectacular by MGMT
Something about MGMT music just makes me happy. I think it's that it sounds like they're having fun playing their songs. Or maybe it's the association with the Rock-afire Explosion YouTube videos, like the one I linked above.

8. Carnavas by Silversun Pickups
I don't get the 10 seconds of interference at the end of "Well Thought Out Twinkles," but I love absolutely everything else about this album.

7. The It Girl by Sleeper
I think this is the oldest album on my list, but I had to include it. I don't remember how I randomly stumbled on Sleeper years ago, but I fell in love with them. Last week, I found out they had an album in-between the two I owned already. I don't know how I missed it, but I had to buy it.

6. Vampire Weekend by Vampire Weekend
They have a song about the Oxford comma (aka the serial comma), of which I am a huge advocate. Sure, they imply that I'm somehow strange for advocating Oxford commas, but their music is awesome enough that I got over their dismissiveness.

5. "Yes We Can" by will.i.am, etc
This one made the list even though, as far as I know, it isn't on any album (if you know of an album that has it, let me know; will.i.am deserves to get some cash from me for putting this together, since I've listened to it about a billion times). This video/song/speech explains in four and a half minutes why I was willing to devote so much time to getting that guy elected. The speech is beautiful, moving, and informative. Listen to it; he isn't just saying we want some glittering generality of "change" like his critics always claimed. He lays out, of course in broad brushstrokes in this few minutes, but still with a fair amount of specifics what it is we're working for. Together, we can continue to strive toward a more perfect union. Beautiful.

4. XO by Elliott Smith
I've listened to "Miss Misery" from the Good Will Hunting soundtrack many, many, many times while feeling down, and something about its sad beauty always cheered me back up. For some reason, I had never though to buy anything else buy Elliott Smith until this year. Sadly, I can't buy anything new; Elliott killed himself (probably; there's still some speculation that foul play was involved) in 2003.

3. Where Tradition Meets Tomorrow by Jonathan Coulton
The best thing about Rock Band is the new music it introduces me to. I really should have heard of Jonathan Coulton before "Still Alive" and "Skullcrusher Mountain" made it into Rock Band, but somehow I'd missed him. I've begun to rectify that with this album and the two versions of "Still Alive" from the Orange Box Soundtrack. He has a friggin' song about the Mandelbrot Set. How could I possibly not love that?

2. Costello Music by The Fratellis
Apparently the Fratellis had a song or three in commercials. Somehow I missed that until after a bartender friend played them at his bar. I went home that night and downloaded their album on iTunes; it wasn't on Amazon, so I installed iTunes and set up my iTunes Store account, because I had to own that album. Their music is just so fun.

1. Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (Soundtrack) by Various Artists
If you have not yet watched Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, go do so right now. I love everything about this thing. I'd heard some buzz about it before it came out, but I never expected the music to be as complex and interesting as it turned out to be. And it stars Barney Stinson, Mal, and that Guild geek chick. Could it possibly be more awesome? I don't think so.

Honorable Mention 1: "MyHope" by sweetafton23
For some reason she doesn't have an mp3 of this available yet, so I can't listen to this easily enough on repeat to figure out if I'd still love it... but I really don't have enough ukelele in my playlist. Mostly I love that people can just do this now, putting out music without a studio, let alone a label. Good stuff. Now let me give you money for your mp3!

Honorable Mention 2: "Keeping the Dream Alive" by M√ľnchener Freiheit
I still can't find an mp3 of this (in English, at least), but I actually bought two somewhat crappy covers of it earlier this year when somehow it randomly came to mind. God I love this song. I have listened to this one on repeat (back in the early 90s), but it's not at all new to me; it's just something I dug up when I realized YouTube would let me do so. Thank you, YouTube!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Why I'm Both Happy and Pissed about Warren

Background: Obama picked a homophobic prick named Rick Warren* to invoke the sky giant at his inauguration. Rick Warren is the stereotypical evangelical asswhipe, who, for example, thinks that, if we allow gay marriage, we have to also allow incestuous marriages and pedophiliac marriages. 'Cuz, you know, homosexuality is exactly the same as incest and pedophelia in his eyes.

People are very pissed that Obama has invited such a jackass to his inauguration. There are certainly reasons to be pissed, but there are also reasons not to be.

1. Obama is able to use this outrage as cover to say things like this:
It is no secret that I am an advocate for gay and lesbian Americans.
Without this controversy, there's little reason for Obama to make such a statement, which, btw, is something no president-elect has ever said before.

2. The coverage is all about what a jackass Warren is. Some Americans knew before all this that Warren was a dumbass. Now, a larger percentage have heard about the quote comparing gay marriage, incest, and pedophilia. The coverage is making sure he continues to appeal only to the intolerant jerks that he already appealed to.

3. This is going to work on some percentage of people. Idiots who agree with everything Obama says other than the "fact" that he's Muslim can say, "Oh, if an evangelical idiot like me invokes God for him, I guess he must not be Muslim." Maybe they can leave the idiotic side of their personality behind and vote for the stuff that matters, and maybe they can even listen to Obama and learn something.

4. It's the part of the inauguration where they ask the sky giant to pay attention, and Obama picked someone who he does not agree with. In other words, Obama doesn't give a shit what the sky giant thinks. He's doing this for politics, and the religious side of it doesn't factor into his decision. That's great.

All that said, Warren is a big pile of idiocy. He was a big supporter of Prop 8, which was already a kick in the teeth to LGBTs on election day (I mean, it was also a kick in the teeth to those of us who think that kind of thing is evil, but not as directly aimed as it was at the LGBT community). So I can see how this makes people continue to think they aren't wanted. 

But here's the other part of all of this: it is our job in this play to be pissed off. Numbers 1-3 rely on as much of the left being pissed off about this pick for a meaningless post as possible. So, fuck Warren. And dammit Obama, why did you pick someone so bad that I'm considering digging through the Urban Dictionary to find an insult scathing enough to fit him. You should have picked someone who didn't matter at all.

* People keep calling this fucktard "Reverend" Warren. Fuck that. Reverend means "worthy of reverence." Why do we still use that term for idiots who clearly aren't worthy of reverence? Tell ya what, if people will agree to refer to people who work in education as "The Brilliant Jon Harmon," for example, perhaps I'll start calling these jerks "Reverends."

Monday, December 15, 2008

Today's Shared Google Reader Items, 12/15

I haven't done one of these recaps since Friday, but it doesn't look like I shared too much over the weekend, so this shouldn't be too huge.

Science and Medicine:
Software and the Internets:
Politics:

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Christmas with Woodrow Wilson

I just learned something interesting from last night's Rachel Maddow Show

The election of 1916 was very close. It took several days to figure out whether Democratic incumbent Woodrow Wilson had won, or if he'd lost to Republican Charles Evan Hughes. During this period of doubt, Wilson sent a letter to his Secretary of State, informing him of the following:
  • If Hughes won, Wilson would immediately name Hughes as his Secretary of State, and push through his confirmation.
  • Wilson and his VP, Thomas R. Marshall, would immediately resign.
  • Being third in line, Hughes would immediately become President, cutting out the lame duck phase.
Bush should really, really consider this. I want my bike.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Today's Shared Google Reader Items, 12/12

I skipped yesterday, so there will probably be quite a few shared items here. So, without further ado...

Hardware:
Astronomy:
Politics:
Science:
Zombies:
  • Holy crap, it's Zombie Friday again already! The third one is hilarious. The first is pretty funny, but just wrong. The second is awesome but I didn't re-watch 'cuz I'd already seen, and the fourth is way too long.
Software and the Internets:
As always, comment on these or any other shared items (or items you'd like to share with the rest of us) below.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Interlude: Trivia at Pluckers

I've long been a trivia addict. In the last few months, some friends and I have started attended pub quiz trivia at Pluckers Wing Bar, a local Austin wing chain/bar. The trivia is normal pub quiz rules, in this case a $50 gift card for the first place team after 8 rounds of 10-12 questions each, each round with a theme (TV, TV theme songs, movies, sports, etc).

However, Pluckers has a special way to break a tie: the wing-off, with a member of each tied team racing to eat five of their "Fire in the Hole" wings. I tried a batch early in the night to see if I'd be up for it, but decided they were the kind of thing you want to take slow.

My teammate Phil was up for the challenge when we tied, though. Here he is gloving up to begin the wing-off, already looking forward to the beer he'll drink triumphantly when he wins.

Pluckers serves these extraordinarily hot wings drowned under the sauce. Clearly they didn't pay attention during Saturday morning cartoons when they were a kid. I believe this stuff qualifies as "goop."

Phil attacked the wings with style. He chose to go one-handed when one of his opponent's gloves ripped.

Unfortunately, his opponent used two hands, and kicked Phil's ass... winning the third-place $15 that we had tied for.

Phil finished the wings anyway, and came to regret it. He didn't even finish the beer.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Today's Shared Google Reader Items, 12/10

I'm sleepy, but that doesn't mean I won't get today's shared Google Reader items out of the way before drifting off to early sleep.

Austin:
  • Yesterday it hit 80 during the day in Austin, then snowed at night:
  • In other Austin news, a teacher in Austin sent an angry letter to a charity that gives away Linux laptops, chiding the charity for fraudulently telling children the software was free, when "No software is free and spreading that misconception is harmful." For those who aren't sure, yes, Linux and other free and open-source software really is free. The teacher is an idiot. Also, Ubuntu is awesome and way easier to use than Windows, and I really need to start using it on more than just my backup desktop.
Technology:
The Internets:
  • Google has published it's year-end zeitgeist round-up. My personal favorite is the large number of international top-tens which include "google" as a search term on google.
  • This image "evolution" system is fairly cool, but, after running it for a bit, I found it did what the weak version I wrote several years ago in Javascript did: it bloats and bloats, and starts to take over your memory. I'm still hoping to borrow from their idea (which, in turn, borrows from someone else's idea) to get my version up soonish, but I still think Flash would be a much faster way to go.
Politics:
That's it for today. As always, comment below!

Coming tomorrow: A blog about something else, with photos!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Today's Shared Google Reader Items, 12/9

Holy crap, I haven't done this since last Thursday. These are my favorite Google Reader shared items in that timespan.

Zombies:
Politics:
Science:
  • This article was entitled "Scientists Achive Mental Body-Swapping," but it's about getting people to essentially think as if they're in another body. It's not nearly as sci-fi cool as I thought it must not possibly be.
Technology:
  • The summary of this article about Hawaii's plan for a state-wide electric car network on Slashdot annoyed me. An electric car grid encourages/allows more efficient power generation; it takes the power generation step out of the car, so you can do whatever it takes to make the power generation clean on a statewide basis. It doesn't rule out wind and solar, it just puts that step in a centralized place.
  • I'm very annoyed that I didn't hear about/see the 3D NFL broadcast.
Biology:
  • There's some evidence that the herpes simplex virus (the virus that causes cold sores, among other things) causes Alzheimer's. It would be awesome if this pans out and leads to treatment and/or a cure.
Atheism:
  • Techskeptic (via Pharyngula) has a list of Atheist/secular charities. I've often wanted something like this myself, so it's nice that someone else compiled it for me.
The Internets and other Computeriness:
Programming (but the first one is awesome, Libby):
  • This evolutionary algorithm to create the Mona Lisa is stunningly amazingly awesome. It dovetails with something I've wanted to do, and might inspire me to finally get that project moving.
  • Google has announced Google native client, which promises to put code written for x86 processors onto the web. That's very, very cool, and opens up all kinds of possibilities.
Finally, uncategorized, I shared this old video of "Keeping the Dream Alive" by Munchener Freiheit (huh, I always thought the band was just "Freiheit"), because I missed it and randomly searched to see if it was on YouTube... and it was. Enjoy. Or, ya know, don't, if you don't like cheesy music. In any case, comment below.



Saturday, December 06, 2008

Blogless

No blog today, probably no blog tomorrow. Too much to catch up on.

Instead... puppies!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Today's Shared Google Reader Items, 12/4

It's time to play catch-up on my Google Reader Shared Items.

Technology:
Computers and the Internets:
  • I think this "friend connect" thing is neat. I haven't decided for sure yet, though.
  • A Windows download lets you search your photos by filters like "snow" or "yellow." I wish someone would make something like this for online books and such. It'd let you find a page of an electronic book the same way you remember/scan for a page in a print (text)book.
Politics:
Science:
As always, comment about these or anything else below.

12/3/2008ish

No blog today. Or is there??

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Today's Shared Google Reader Items, 12/2

Another day, another couple dozen shared Google Reader items. Here are my favorites.

The Internets:
  • Microsoft's Live image search now lets you find images similar to other images. That's potentially quite useful.
  • A new browser-based OS is on the way. I like. I think we're at the point that computers could be ubiquitous; you should have a computer or three in your kitchen for checking recipes, for example, and one by your window for things like identifying birds in your feeder. Super-light-weight OSes (geared toward super-low-power computers) are a big step in that direction.
  • Apple now recommends that Mac users install antivirus software. I have to congratulate Apple. That means they're finally getting popular enough that people bother writing viruses for them. It's sad that they can't claim that they're more secure anymore just because nobody bothered to write viruses before, but that's the price of popularity.
Education?:
Politics:
Those are the highlights from today. As always, comment below.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Today's Shared Google Reader Items, 12/1

I'm going to try to get back up to daily (or more) posts, at least 'til Newtonmas or so. So, without further ado, here are today's shared Google Reader items.

Life:
The Internets:
Biology: