Thursday, November 29, 2012

Pirate Bay

This year or so I have been downloading albums from pirate bay like it is my second job.  I am filling my laptop and external hard drive with as much music as I can.  It has really been fun.  Not only have I been recapturing old albums that I used to enjoy as a kid or back during college days, but I've also been keeping up with lots of new indie releases.  In short: great hobby.

But I don't pretend that it's not illegal.  I mean, I don't offer any excuses for my behavior.  I want music, and I don't want to pay for it.  I won't rationalize it in any way.

The funny part for me is seeing the excuses of other pirate bay users.  These users seem to be saying, "I'm not illegally downloading.  Not really.  You see, I'm downloading this album because of _________________" (insert lame explanation into the blank)

For example:

In the comments section for Stereolab's discography:

"I lost a lot of my Stereolab CD's in a Fire Thanks!!!"  --moonkin99

Fit that one under the "fire exception" to the applicable international copyright law.  Good to go, solid citizen.  By the way, nobody believes you.  Also, you're anonymous.  Why are you taking steps to protect an anonymous identity on the internet?

Just type "Thanks" and search for Yo La Tengo.  They're a better band anyway.

Under Pink Floyd's discography, penelopesis has this to say:

"Thank god I can replace my Dark Side and Wall after the flood."

 Uh, do you mean the flood of bullshit that you just typed?

Robberies, earthquakes.  You get the idea.  If they're going to type BS to justify themselves, then I'd much rather that they get a bit more creative.

"Thanks for uploading all of those Queen albums!  It's been hell for me trying to tape my albums back together after the most recent termite attack."

"Props on uploading the new MGMT album so fast.  I was in line to buy it on its release date.  Picked it up, paid my money, and handed it to my little sister, who swallowed it whole.  It did NOT come out intact on the other end, and the wait was torture (for both of us)."

Just my two cents.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

November Goal Update

Well, last month I set an optimistic goal for myself: To write fiction for 50 hours.  I was actually ahead of pace, completing 33-plus hours on October 20th or so, completing two long-ish chapters of what seems to be a very long story, when I got hit with food poisoning.  Never felt so weak in my life.  Lay in bed for three days.

After that, I didn't return to the goal.  It seemed too unlikely to complete by the end of October.  Turns out, I haven't returned to that story.  Perhaps I will start again soon.  I hope so.

Anyhoo, my November goal seemed just as difficult to me: No alcohol for the entire month of November.  I had a couple of cranky days during the first week of November, but I'm not sure whether that was the result of the non-drinking or a bad day or just moodiness.  After that first week, I scarcely noticed that I wasn't having a beer while watching Homeland, or blogging, or playing Plants vs. Zombies, and doing any of the other things that wastes my evenings.

So here I am, November 28th, and I have almost completed my goal.  Feel pretty good about it.  I have long been a habitual drinker.  I think I do it for three reasons: It feels good; it relaxes me; and I have a habit-forming personality.

But part of me wondered if it had become a problem for me.

Would I get the shakes?  Insomnia?  Think about booze all the time?

Nope, nope, nope.  I just developed a new habit: to not drink.

The only day that was a challenge for me was Thanksgiving.  I went to a Thanksgiving party thrown by a friend, and everyone was drinking.  I nursed a Coke or two before it was time to go.  But that was tough.  However, I think it would've been tough not to drink in that situation for almost anyone.

Considering how easy this goal has been for me, I feel really good about myself in this regard.  It is nice to come to such a pleasant self-realization.

Also, the idea of setting 30-day goals seems like a helpful one.

In this case, I think that I will leave the 30-day goal as a 30-day goal.  What I mean is, I think I'm having a beer once December first rolls around.  At midnight.

Having a beer to celebrate a month of sobriety?  Seems fitting.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Stalin Sings the Blues

Oh oh whoa whoa whoa, oh oh whoa whoa,

Stalin can't find love in any old place

No, no, oh no.

Stalin's looking all over the place

No love for Stalin.

So Stalin sets out for the nearest park,

And under the trees--could it be?

Sitting on a bench?  Yes it could,

Stalin found a woman.

"Здравствуйте!"  Stalin says and salutes,

and the lady gives a crotch shot with the toe of her boot.

Now sitting on the floor, sac inflamed, Stalin manages to say,

"Lady, I was greeting you in the mother tongue, okay?"

She says, "Buy me lunch, we'll call it even."

Yeah, yeah, whoa whoa whoa, yeah yeah, whoa whoa.

Stalin's . . . got . . . a . . . woman.

Stalin runs off home to make himself preeeeesentable.

Then he takes his new lady to the nicest,



most colorful,

most sophisticated,

expensive place he can find.

Maybe tonight is Stalin's lucky night.

Woman on Stalin's arm.  Next for Stalin:

Organize an army.

But first . . . dinner.

Lady sniffs, lady moves from one foot to the other.

Stalin is disconcerted, oh yeah, oh no, oh yeah.

Lady says, "KFC?"

Lady says, "Are you sure you can afford it?"

Stalin says, "Ouch."

Lady says, "And what's with the uniform, general?"

So Stalin puts on his evil face.

Oh yeah, his evil face, baaaaaby.

It's a face just like his happy face,

Or his serious face,

Or his mask of concentration,

Or his sleepytime face,

Or his constipated face,

Can a face be constipated?

Oh, I don't know, oh no, oh no.

Or his hungry face,

Or his execution face,

Or his goofytime face.

And the lady says, "Go get me a bucket of the crispy."

And Stalin doesn't know what that means.

No no no.

Stalin doesn't know what that means.

So Stalin, oh yeah yeah, Stalin,

Stalin decides to kill her.

So Stalin puts on his murdertime face.

His worst one yet.

His most frightening,



Lady says, "What are you looking at?"

Says, "I'm getting hungry."

Stalin says, "Here's your bucket."

He's being ironical--oh yeah, ironical,

But Stalin doesn't know what that means.

And he isn't really being ironical,

But he wouldn't know that anyway, oh no no.

Maybe ironical isn't even a word.

Wish I knew, I've got no clue,

Got to Google it,

But no time to Google it,

Because we're singing this song.

So he reaches for her throat--

And her eyes go buggy,

And then, oh then, yeah yeah oh no,

Oh no no no,

She does something,

That makes Comrade Stalin

Think in Russian.

She grabs his glorious, dictatorial

Shock of hair,

No, not his hair,

Oh yeah, his hair,

And pulls, oh she pulls it,

And she pulls it,

All the way, oh yeah,

All the way out.

And she's sitting there,


With a handful of hair,

And a bucket of the crispy.

And Stalin reaches for her throat,

But she's got her other hand,

Oh her other hand,

On his man parts.

And when she twists, Stalin's scream

Oh his scream

It becomes slightly--oh not so slightly--


It's a higher pitch, yeah oh yeah

And shriek-y.

Then the lady takes the bucket

And runs--oh ho yeah she runs.

No woman for Stalin.

Say goodbye, yeah oh yeah,

Say bu-bye, Stalin.

Oh oh whoa whoa whoa, oh oh whoa whoa,

Stalin can't find love in any old place

No, no, oh no.

Stalin's looking all over the place

No love for Stalin.

--"No Love for Stalin," from Stalin's new album, Stalin Sings the Blues (Columbia Records, 2012)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Food I Want to Eat When I Get Back Home

I'm finished with UAE for good and returning to the States in early July 2013.

I've returned home twice so far for summer vacation, and each time I had a craving for something ridiculous that I couldn't get in the UAE.

First time, I wanted Cap'n Crunch with red crunch berries--something that I hadn't eaten since childhood.  So why I would suddenly be craving it was beyond me.

To my shock and horror, I found out that Cap'n Crunch with red crunch berries no longer exists as I had once known it.

The new version looks like this:

Wtf?  Blue?  Purple?  Green?

Crunch berries are red.  Anyway, I bought a box and ate half of it, and then my craving was finished.  In my opinion, they fucked them up real bad.

The second time I returned to the states, I wanted to eat a bunch of hard-shell taco supremes from Taco Bell.

That craving lasted for about an hour after arrival.  I went straight from the airport to the nearest Taco Bell and ordered . . . and waited a full twenty minutes for them to make four tacos on their assembly line.  By the time I had them in front of me, I already regretted ordering them.

This time around, I anticipate a brand new craving.  Round Table pizza.  The King Arthur Supreme.

It is my favorite pizza of all time.  Unfortunately, I think Round Table restaurants are only open on the west coast.  So I might have to take a trip out to see my brother in Oakland to get this craving out of the way.

Of course, once I arrive in the states, I'll immediately start craving falafel.  But that should be easier to get over.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Speaking Interview with Arab Student

My friend recently took part in the following speaking interview with an Arab student.

Q: Describe an important event in history.

A: I hate history.  Arab people don’t like history.

Q: Doesn’t history have some importance in the world?

A: Yes.

Q: Is there any kind of problem about Arab people not wanting to learn history?

A: Yes.

Q: Why not try to fix it?

A: It’s impossible.

Q: Isn't there any famous person in history that you can think of?

A: Yes.  Hitler.

Q: Okay.  Tell me about Hitler.

A: We learned about him in school.  We learned he was a good man.  A powerful man.

Q: Did they also teach you that he killed millions of people?

A: Yes.  But he was a strong man.

Q: Do you think killing of millions of people is a good thing?

A: No.

Q: Okay.  Your test is finished.

A: It’s finished?

Q: It’s finished.

A: I can go?

Q: Yes.  Please go.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

More Midterms--Brief

Another example.  After my last post, I gave one last set of midterms.  I gave advance warning.  I said, "I can see the future.  Many of you will ask questions.  Your question will be, 'How do I solve this?'  I am telling you in advance that I cannot answer those questions.  I will shrug and walk away."

Anyhoo, after this mini-speech, a student rolls in late.  She starts taking the midterm.  Meanwhile, students are repeatedly asking me how to solve questions, and I am repeatedly shrugging and walking away.

I give students warnings when there are 40, 30, 20, and 10 minutes left.  Then I vocally announce when five minutes and one minute are left.

Finally, thankfully, time is up.  I say, "Time's up!  I need your midterms now."

I walk around the room.  Nobody seems to want to give up their midterm.  They just continue working.  Before, I used to just grab it.

Nowadays, I just say, "You want to keep it?  Okay.  Write a zero for your grade and put it on your bedroom wall."  Or something like that.  Then they run up behind me and beg me to take it.

I should've done that with the late student.  My problem was that I had collected everyone else's test and I was hungry.  I came up to her and held out my hand.

She said, "I am not finished," without looking at me.  She continued working.

This should not have surprised me.  In their minds, the teacher is the servant.  You could explain to them how silly this idea is in the following way:

(A) I tell you to do work --> (B) You then do the work --> (C) Based on the work you do, I give you a grade --> (D) If your work is not satisfactory, I force you to come back and take the course again --> (E) You sure sound like a servant to me, fucktard

But logic is as rare here as a snowstorm.

So, when the late student tried to continue working on her midterm, I reached out and grabbed the edge of it.  She gripped it with her other hand and started maniacally circling various words (none of the circled words were part of any answer.  They were words like "The" and "Your name.")  I gave the paper a tug.  She held on tighter.  She had officially announced Tug o War, and I was game.  I started to pull the midterm away from her, slowly and forcefully.  Her pencil, which was still on the paper, drew a long line across her work.  She looked up at me in shock.

"You are finished," I whispered to her.

Then I had the best lunch I've eaten all week.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


It's midterm time again in the UAE.  This semester, I am teaching an introductory class in microeconomics.

Giving midterms to Emirati students is sort of . . . interesting.  These are people who are ultra privileged and have never had to work a day in their lives.  Honestly.  This is one of those places where that cliche is the truth.  I have surveyed my classes.  I have asked the question, "By a show of hands, how many of you have had a job?"  No one has ever raised a hand.

Also, they have maids.  It is standard for Emirati families to have at least one maid.  So in addition to never working, these kids have also never learned to cook or clean up after themselves.  Just wandering the campus, I see empty wrappers and cups all over the place.  These things aren't being cleaned up because maids aren't allowed on campus.

One student told me a story once about visiting a family in California.  The husband and wife told her, "We've got to leave you alone for a while, so go ahead and make yourself breakfast.  Eggs are in the fridge." The suggestion stunned her.  At 22, and she didn't know how to fry an egg.

Can't one learn how to fry an egg simply by watching an egg being fried on a cartoon?  What's the difficulty? Crack the egg.  Put it in a frying pan.  Turn on the gas.

Ah, I see.  They wouldn't know to add butter to the pan from a cartoon.  Point taken.

There's also the gas problem.  If it's old school, you'd have to light the burner.  Okay, there's more to it than I thought.  The kid could've burned the house down.

Anyhoo, I guess that's enough setup.  Okay, so I hand the midterms out.  The students--according to a recent study, Emiratis read three pages per year--look at the midterm.  Then they start working.  Before ten minutes have passed, a student will raise her hand.  I'll wander over, already knowing what she's going to say.

"How do I solve this?" she will ask, pointing at a problem.

"I can't help you now."

"Why?" she will ask, with curiosity that seems genuine.

"Because it is a midterm.  Students don't get help on midterms."

And away I will walk, only to see another student raise her hand and ask the same question in a different way.

The best part is this: When I tell them that I won't help them, they give me an accusing look, as if I should feel bad because they don't know the answer.

Expats here say that once Emiratis get a job, they never actually do it.  They just take sick days or sit in their office playing computer games and texting one another.  The way they are raised, I wonder how the result could be any different.

* * *

In other news, I am keeping up with my goal of not drinking alcohol this month.  On Days 2 and 3, I felt kind of cranky.  Other than that, I haven't noticed any side effects.  This could be a really easy month goal wise.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

I Talk to Google Images, Which Responds with Pics

Hi, how are you today?

Oh.  That's quite detailed.  Did you vote for Romney?

Are you being racist or ironic?  I have relatives in Arkansas who would agree with you.

That's a relief.  What is the meaning of life?

Let me get this straight.  The meaning of life is . . . the ladies?

That's quite insightful.  And just moments ago, I thought you were a card-carrying member of the klan.

Whoa.  Relax.  You must be fun at parties.

Don't take this the wrong way, but it is not easy to talk with you.

Have you considered medicating yourself?

Ah, no pills.  Pills are bad.  Are you a Scientologist?

That's not going to happen to you.  Sometimes, medication helps.  I recommend it . . . for you.

If you want it legalized, voting Democrat is your best bet.  Not an easy choice for a klansman who is miserable because Romney lost.

Okay, then.  I'll be back when you're mood isn't so dark.

Band Wars--More Matchups

Well, here's to the Democrats absolutely destroying the Party of Almost Dead White Guys this year.  The best part is that the Republican party doesn't seem to realize that it is, indeed, dying.  In the recent election, not a single person under the age of 94 voted Republican.  That's right, everyone else voted Democrat.  I saw that on the Internet somewhere.

And now, with politics out of the way, we move on to another round of band wars.

Once we finish these two matchups, we'll officially have reviewed half of the albums competing this time around.

Anyhoo, in matchup #1 we pit

Guided by Voices, Class Clown Spots a UFO

Pitchfork review; Allmusic review


Twin Shadow, Confess

Pitchfork review; Allmusic review

These two bands--and albums--are different in so many ways.  Guided by Voices has a rougher, garage sound.  At its worst, their albums sound like they were recorded poorly, so that the album sounds like it was recorded on a tape deck.  (With Bee Thousand, their best album, maybe it was.)  This album sounds cleaner than many of their previous ones.  Aside from that, GBV's sound is fairly standard indie rock.

Here's the best song from this album, the title track:

Then you have Twin Shadow.  Confess is one of the slickest sounding albums that I have ever heard.  He imitates eighties musicians.  Now, according to and, this imitation--and the slickness of his music--are both a good thing.  Here's "Five Seconds."  I think you'll see what I mean.

I don't know.  What do you think?  Because my feeling is that although GBV's album is far from one of their best--yes, this is another group that peaked in a past decade--this album by Twin Shadow is absolute crap . . . unless you want to use it as an example of bad music, in which case it provides an excellent example.  The video for "Five Seconds" above is about the only thing in the world that seems more annoying than listening to the song "Five Seconds."  Twin Shadow took all of the pop eighties music he could get his hands on.  With it, he crafted more pop eighties tunes.  My question: Who the fuck wants to hear pop eighties tunes?  If the answer is a guilty yes, then why not buy Prince's greatest hits?  You'll be far better off.

But who am I?  Not a music reviewer, surely.  I'm probably wrong, and the pros are probably right.

Still, Band Wars belongs to me.  Even though the other reviewers label Twin Shadow's Confess as "Best New Music," I'm sticking with Guided by Voices.

So far, this was the weakest of all of the matchups.

In another pairing, we see

Bob Mould, Silver Age

Pitchfork review; Allmusic review

going up against

DIIV, Oshin

Pitchfork review; Allmusic review

Bob Mould has been around for a long time.  A long, long time.  He's making solo albums these days, but if you enjoy Silver Age, which is quite good, then I recommend that you go back and start looking into his earlier band named Husker Du.  They pumped out a lot of good, harder rocking indie tunes.

Silver Age is really not much different.  Many of the songs are excellent.  It's a relief to hear a band rocking out as much as this one does, in light of the recent trend of whispery, almost apologetic indie albums clogging up the Innerwebs.

For example, try "The Descent."

Then there's DIIV's Oshin.  As I was listening to this album, I kept wondering, Where have I heard these songs before?  I couldn't figure it out, and it was driving me nuts.  Then finally it hit me: they sound just like Real Estate (except not as good).  You know the sound.  Summery guitar-jangling tunes with mellow vocals and the slightest--or strongest--hint of surf music.  Music to play for car trips, picnics, or general flights of nostalgia.  Here's "Doused."

The music-review websites would have this appear to be a tough choice.  Allmusic favors Bob Mould; Pitchfork gives its stronger review to DIIV.

In this case, I'm siding with Allmusic.  After I checked out Silver Age, I immediately hopped online and started downloading the old Husker Du albums that I hadn't yet listened to.  I thought, How could I have forgotten about this guy?  Which I suppose was part of his goal in releasing his new album.

As for DIIV, the album is pretty good.  Just not as good as anything Bob Mould would ever put out.

And now for the updated brackets:

So, halfway done with the first round.  Looking forward to the next set of matchups, I'm excited about seeing if the Walkmen, one of my favorite bands, can advance.  I also get the feeling looking at the as-yet-untested bands that the right side of both brackets above seem significantly better than the bands on the left side.  In particular, the bottom right section of the lower bracket above seems far and away the strongest.  Four Tet, Grizzly Bear, Matthew Dear, and Hot Chip are all indie powerhouses.  All four are strong contenders to win the competition, yet they're all stuck in the same section, so obviously only one of those bands can get through the first two rounds.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Forum Fun

Logged on to Hannity Forums today for the first time.

For those who are not aware of Hannity, he's a talking head on Fox News, which is only a news channel in the minds of rightwing nutbags.

Anyhoo, I figured it might be fun.  I started off with a new post.  The post was titled, "Does Anyone Honestly Think that Romney Is Favored to Win the Election?"

An honest question, I thought.

The response?  Pure vitriol.

It was fairly fantastic.

Before I knew it, I was banned.  For life.

How can I not consider that a victory?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Republicans and Other Oddities

It's election time again, and by all reasonable accounts Obama is going to roll fairly comfortably to a second term.  I use the words "all reasonable accounts" because there are quite a number of editorial writers and pundits who have been claiming as recently as yesterday either (1) that the race is a toss-up, a claim which has no evidence in reality, or (2) that Romney will win on Tuesday the 6th, a statement that reflects either anger with reality, insanity, or a type of stupidity that considers facts to be opinions.


My Claim: There is a sun in the sky.

Nutbag's Response: In your opinion.

This last type of stupidity comes up in poker fairly often, by the way.  A bad player calls a turn triple-pot overshove with nothing but four to a flush.  Jack high sooted.  And that bad player thinks, "There are two outcomes.  I win or I lose.  One of the two will happen.  Therefore, I'm 50-50."  Of course we dismiss this player as an idiot and hope to play with him as much as possible.  Perhaps not surprisingly, a full half-dozen Republican pundits who published editorials last week are that player.  Yes, that's the role that the Republicans have assumed for 2012: a moron with a draw.

Because at least two stats guys who have been studying the election, the economy, the polls, and a variety of other factors affecting this election have pegged Obama as an 83 percent favorite--about 5 to 1, close to the odds of that bad player winning after calling a turn shove with nothing but a flush draw.

Will he win?  Or, to ask the question another way: Do dumbasses occasionally hit their draws?

Maybe!  Anything can happen, of course.  Millions of people can suddenly change their minds and their votes.  90 percent of the polls can be fundamentally flawed.  Millions of likely voters responding to the polls might be playing an elaborate April Fools Day joke, even though we're half a year from that month.

Nate Silver, a stats guy who studied baseball and now studies elections for the New York Times, recently called out one of his naysayers about this very topic.  In a nutshell, it went like this:

Nate Silver: Obama is about a 70 percent favorite to win the election.  [This was last week; now his odds are up to 83%]

Dumbass Republican: Nate Silver is full of it.  The race is a tossup.

Nate Silver: If you really think that the race is a tossup, I'll bet you $1,000 at even money that Obama will win.  Whoever wins can donate the winnings to the charity of their choice.

Dumbass Republican: [sound of crickets].

Now, I don't normally make political comments on this blog, but recent events have made it irresistible.  At Romney rallies, the dumbass Republicans continually shout "USA! USA! USA!" during any significant pause in the speech.

Think about that.  They are essentially saying that the side of the Democrats are not for the USA.  Because you don't see the "USA!" chant at Obama rallies.  There's a reason for this.  Democrats in large part are sensible people.  Republicans, on the other hand, think that Democrats are socialists and are therefore un-American.

The alternatives are worse.  Shock Alert: Racism continues to exist in our country.  But let's put ourselves in the shoes of a racist.  Which party is he overwhelmingly likely to be a member of?  Hint: It probably isn't the party that put a black man in office.

I could go on, but my point is clear.  By and large, many Republicans are, uh, unappealing people.  That's about as nice as I can put it.

So this year, after the election, I am going to celebrate (83 percent of the time).  I am going to immediately fly back home and set up a booth outside the nearest gun shop in one of the more hillbilly-rich southern states.  It will be a Peanuts-style booth--nothing special.  And above my booth will be a sign that reads:

Will Lick Tears from Republican Faces

No Charge

Unless the flush draw hits.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

I Have a Conversation with Google Images about Halloween

I type "Halloween" into google images.

In response to what it shows me, I type my first thought.  "Evil pumpkin."

I type, "Pumpkin's gonna kill me."

"I always hated Lucy."

"Not that Lucy.  The other one."

"Wild shit.  Cigarette hangover?  Whoa."

"Justin fucking Bieber."

"Are you fucking kidding me?"

"I try to talk about Halloween and you pull this shit?"

"Better.  Still, I am talking to a shitty website that responds with pictures."


"Right.  Does every conversation have to come back to hot chicks?"