Thursday, February 28, 2013

Album Capsules--Matmos


The Marriage of True Minds


What a fun experimental electronic album.  If you like the music, that's the first adjective you're prone to think of: fun.  In a nutshell, these guys started an experiment.  In it, they tried to communicate their intentions in this album telepathically to their subjects.  Then the subjects reports what they were thinking about.  The end result?  A bunch of the subjects were thinking about triangles.  So they made the album with this info, and they included vocals of the subjects reporting what they were seeing.  And then they made track two, named "Very Large Green Triangles."  That song is below.  It's freaky, but give it time.  The beats don't start for a while.  What a great--fun--idea for an album.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Album Capsules--Atoms for Peace and Iceage

Atoms for Peace



Thom Yorke's new band and new album!  If Thom Yorke released an album of Thom Yorke having an asthma attack, I'd probably give it 75/100.  And so you probably think that at 84/100, Amok isn't exactly hot shit.  I guess you're right, but it's still fun nevertheless.  It has Flea on bass.  It has Flea on bass.  It's so unbelievable to me that I have to say it twice.  I can't imagine two musicians who seem more different.  But Flea breathes the most life into the album, especially on the middle tracks.  "Dropped" sounds like the best--and most upbeat--song that Amok has to offer.  The clip below is only 30 seconds of it.  I wonder how fun they would be to see live.


You're Nothing


Punk music that sounds as messy and chaotic as if it were made by Danish teenagers, because it was made by Danish teenagers.  "Messy" and "chaotic" are compliments.  "Ecstasy," below, is the album opener.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Album Capsules--Jamie Lidell

Jamie Lidell

Jamie Lidell


This album is what you get if you go to your local karaoke bar on Jamiroquai night.  Or if you want to see the first person voted off of the Jamiroquai Edition of American Idol.  Or if you happen to bump into Jamiroquai himself, after he's taken a whole lot of drugs, and you ask him to sing something, and he just starts rocking out in the street, except it isn't Jamiroquai, it's just a drunk guy wearing a hat that looks like a snowshoe and who is trying to moonwalk, and uh oh, he's holding up traffic, blocking two lanes at once somehow, and here come the cops. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Album Capsules--Broadcast


Berberian Sound Studio

Broadcast's most recent album after the death of its lead singer Trish Keenan is a soundtrack for a horror movie with 39 songs in slightly more than 37 minutes.  You get goblin screams, people chattering incoherently, ominous organ music--haunting, sometimes campy, stuff.  With most of the tracks lasting about a minute, you get a real variety.  On a practical note, this album seems like a minefield of kooky diversionary tracks to add between songs on a fun mix CD.  Or you could put a CD player in the wall of a neighbor you hate and play this CD on endless repeat, just loud enough for him to hear, just quiet enough for him to wonder if the music is playing inside his head.  If he goes crazy, bonus points for you, master plotter.  Check out the spookiness below.

Album Capsules--Nick Cave, Foals

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds

Push the Sky Away


Listeners will probably spend more time looking at the cover than listening to the album, but it's a mellow, bluesy effort by Nick Cave, devoid of carnies and other freakshow characters that once populated his earlier albums.  Instead, on the tremendous "Higgs Boson Blues," we hear Nick Cave referencing Hannah Montana of all people.  Solid album.  Much closer to his best than to his worst.


Holy Fire


I don't know what it is about this album.  It feels like it's been supersized by the producers so that the music can fit into arenas, at the expense of sounding so polished, with layers and layers of sound, that somehow the emotion got edited out.  "My Number" is pretty fun to listen to a couple of times.  Aside from that, Holy Fire sounds well-made but cold.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thank You, World, for Guy Fieri

I should preface this post by admitting that I know very little about Guy Fieri.  Is he a TV personality who likes to cook, or a cook who spazzes out enough to qualify as a TV personality?  I don't watch TV, in large part because I don't have one.  But back when I did have one, I would occasionally scroll through the channels and see Guy Fieri, whose personality seemed to be the equivalent of a screaming 320-pound woman wearing nothing but a pink neon shower curtain and skateboarding, both arms pinwheeling, down a narrow sidewalk toward me at 30 miles per hour.  My method of leaping into the nearest alleyway?  A quick change of the channel.

0.4 seconds of his red moon face, spiky dyed white hair, and mouth perpetually open--see pic--seemed to be enough for the month.

It turns out that I'm not alone.  Not too long ago, the New York Times, a paper not exactly known for its humor, reviewed one of Guy's shitty restaurants, and that would have been funny enough in itself, if I didn't also learn in the same yahoo article that some funny dude somewhere managed to buy the website domain that has the same name as Guy's American Kitchen & Bar and put up a freaking hilarious parody menu.

I will leave it to you to tour the menu for your personal favorite, but here's mine:

Superbowl Bash Bro-det $37.95

A bidet jammed to the brim with bubbling, overflowing Velveeta over a hidden layer of hamburger-fisted pig skins and a generous sprinkling of Dirty South Couch Crumbs.  The bidet is an MP3 player that plays Smash Mouth while you eat.  Serves one.

* * *

Aside from that, Quincy is moving along at a steady pace.  The most recent chapter is about double the length of most of the other chapters; I will not be keeping that up.  Anyhoo, he will soon be seeing a psychiatrist, an idea endorsed by the poll on the right side of this blog but also an idea that I was already planning on doing anyway.  I mentioned before that I should be adding to the Quincy story twice weekly, on Thursdays and Saturdays or thereabouts, and that remains the plan.

New music has also been quite good these first two months.  So far, it is safe to say that Jan-Feb 2013 is kicking the shit out the new releases of Jan-Feb 2012.

Due to the Islamic world's choice to make Friday a holy day, my weekend begins now.  Unfortunately, the Islamic world also considers Sunday to be a working day, so while you're relaxing, I'll be hypnotizing (i.e., teaching) chickens (i.e., students).

Monday, February 18, 2013

Ideas for Quincy

I'm thinking Quincy will be done around Chapter 50--but really, it feels silly to label those short passages as "chapters."  Should be done just as I'm finishing the semester this June.  Anyhoo, I have a plan for Quincy, I have an ending, but I also have lots of wiggle room between the Jeopardy! segments and the section that I consider "the beginning of the end."

Some tangents I'm on the fence about.  I made those into a survey that you can see to the right of this post.   ------------------------------------- this a way ------------------------------>

You can choose multiple answers.  Anyway, your feedback is much appreciated.  (A variation of this poll is also on the Quincy blog.)

Or, if you have a suggestion of your own, add it to the comment section.  Maybe you sense that Quincy is headed somewhere that I'm not yet aware of.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Do I Have to Read the Book?

I just got an email from a student which basically asked, "Do we have to read the book?"  This is by far the most common question that students ask me at the beginning of each semester.

Here is the answer that I will never give them.

Dear Student,

Thank you for your query.  No, of course you do not have to read the book.  It does not need to be studied in order to prepare you for class or to deepen your understanding of the material.  Studying the book, an outdated practice engaged in by our cave-dwelling ancestors back in 1988, when I was an undergraduate student studying books in a cave, is not the reason that the book was written, that the university purchased the book in bulk, and that copies of these book currently sit on bookstore shelves in the university.

Still, the book does serve many useful purposes in our fast-moving post-literacy world.  The book serves the role of a cushion, if your chair is too hard or you backside too bony.  If you like to study in a park, placing the book upon your Powerpoint slides keeps them from blowing away.  Carrying the book around town has the added benefit of making you appear to be intelligent.  If you like to eat paper, your book's 655 pages can satisfy a full month of cravings.  Placed atop of the head as you traverse your bedroom, the book can improve your posture.  If you find yourself in prison, opening the book and taping it around your midsection can prevent you from being shivved by another inmate.  (See The Wire.)  Furthermore, the book can act as a helmet while bike riding, at the admitted expense of reduced peripheral vision and comfort.  The book can prop a door open.  Setting it upon the gas pedal of your car provides for a makeshift cruise control.  It can stop most bullets (unless you have eaten it).  Because it can cause bruise-free pain, the book can be used with immunity to beat a younger sibling.  It can also be used as toilet paper in a pinch, but not if you also plan to use it as a mouthguard to prevent the grinding of teeth.  In short, the book is a multipurpose wonder.  You would be wasting your time and greatly reducing the utility of the book by doing something as elementary as reading it.

Yours Truly,

Saturday, February 16, 2013

2013 Music So Far

Good year in music so far.  And Thom Yorke (of Radiohead) has a new album coming out at the end of the month with a band called Atoms for Peace.  That plus My Bloody Valentine in one month--delicious.

Foxygen--We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic (88/100)

My Bloody Valentine--MBV (87/100)

Yo La Tengo--Fade (85/100)

Wooden Wand--Blood Oaths of the New Blues (83/100)

Autechre--Exai (82/100)

Nosaj Thing--Home (81/100)

Grouper--The Man Who Died in His Boat (81/100)

Parquet Courts--Light Up Gold (80/100)

Jim James--Regions of Light and Sound of God (80/100)

Indians--Somewhere Else (79/100)

Mountains--Centralia (78/100)

Local Natives--Hummingbird (78/100)

Ex Cops--True Hallucinations (77/100)

Toro Y Moi--Anything in Return (77/100)

Night Beds--Country Sleep (74/100)

A$AP Rocky--Long.Live.A$AP (72/100)

California X--California X (70/100)

Four Tet--0181 (70/100)

Pantha du Prince & The Bell Laboratory--Elements of Light (67/100)

Widowspeak--Almanac (67/100)

Jacco Gardner--Cabinet of Curiosities (66/100)

Frightened Rabbit--Pedestrian Verse (66/100)

Brokeback--Brokeback and the Black Rock (57/100)

Everything Everything--Arc (46/100)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Album Capsules--Autechre




Hearing a knock at your door, you answer it to see a half-dozen robots standing on your porch.  They push past you into your living room, lugging synthesizers, laptops, and drum machines, and immediately start jamming in front of your flatscreen.  The robots are trying to play dance music.  They're trying to get jazzy on your ass.  They're skipping from genre to genre before your eyes, their RAM maxed out.  But the sound that comes out of them isn't anything like jazz or dance music.  It's Exai, by Autechre.  This album is music as it sounds to robots, and as such, it is fairly wonderful.  I guess we humans would call it experimental techno.  "Jatevee C" below.

Album Capsules--Frightened Rabbit

Frightened Rabbit

Pedestrian Verse


Scottish indie band makes a few quirky-cool albums, gets picked up by a major label, and produces Pedestrian Verse.  Add polish, lots of polish, as well as anthemic choruses and a stadium-sized sound.  Subtract the quirky.  What you're left with is an album that has been surprisingly well-reviewed despite a collection of sterile tunes drained of emotion.  Still, this album is designed to contain hits, and it probably does.  It's just not the sort of album you'll think about listening to after you've owned it for a week or two.  There will always be something better to choose.  "Dead Now" is probably the pick of the litter.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Daytime Living

Finished my first week of classes, the first of which began at 8 a.m. each morning for the last four mornings.  For me, that means waking up at 6:20 in order to get ready, make sure I get a taxi, and tell the driver the best way to navigate the morning rush to the university.  My hours aren't entirely switched around yet, because I find myself, old-man style, getting cranky and tired at 4 p.m.

But then I discovered the wonders of afternoon beer.  Afternoon beer makes the light a little less bright.  In fact, it makes everything a little bit less, which seems to be a pretty good life strategy.

I started each of my classes telling the same story about a pregnant woman who lost her child due to the negligence of a hospital.  The economic point: almost everything can end up having a monetary value under the law.  For pain, you get cash.  For suffering, cash.  Even for a lost baby, a big pile of cash.

Anyhoo, I have classes that are entirely male, and on the other side of campus, behind walls that surround them and keep them away from the male students, I have classes that are entirely female.  I tell the story to the women, and I can see that the story is having an effect on them.  The mood is somber, serious, and, better yet, they are paying attention.

The story works! I tell myself.  Then I walk over to the men's side of campus and tell the same story to them.

As a group, they are smiling, snickering, and joking to each other.  "Tell her to have another baby," one of them says, as if his comment has "solved" the problem and the discussion is over.  I wanted to walk out of the room and lock the door and, like a James Bond villain, I wanted to push the magic button that would slowly fill the airtight room with water.  And I wanted to watch.

As the students realized that there would be no escape and that death would be the only outcome, I would announce over an intercom, "I'll just tell your parents to have another baby."

I told you I get cranky in the afternoons.

Anyhoo, there's a new Quincy chapter called "A Very Quincy Valentines Day" ready for your viewing pleasure on the other blog.  Being busier now, I imagine that I'll be putting up a couple of episodes per week, Thursday-ish and Saturday-ish.  In any case, enjoy!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Album Capsules--Night Beds

Night Beds

Country Sleep


Dude living in his car finally manages to scrounge up enough cash to rent a house previously owned by Johnny Cash on the outskirts of Nashville, where he records this album.  He's got a really good voice.  Acoustic guitar, strings, and a guy who sounds like Andrew Bird, sans Bird's excellent whistling and inventiveness, singing about heartbreak.  It's an album that is mellow and inviting and as short as this review.  "22" below.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Album Capsules--Jim James

Jim James

Regions of Light and Sound of God


I look at that album cover and I think that Jim James is either floating through space looking for the light of God, or else he's too dizzy from the club's strobelights to find the bar.  Judging by the album title, I'm guessing the former.  Another rocker on a godhunt.  In this solo album by the frontman for My Morning Jacket, you get some of the soaring vocals that he used to make in his early albums--when he would record his songs in a grain silo, I believe--and you also get strong religious overtones in song titles like "God's Love to Deliver," which ends up sounding like an otherworldly fairytale, more haunting than godly.  The best song is probably "A New Life" below.  It's a good, albeit serious album.  You get the feeling that if you're hanging out with Jim James, it's best not to run a joke past the guy.  He'd probably just be staring at you blankly after you delivered the punchline.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Early Morning Riser

I have been awake at 6 a.m. the last two days.  It is inhumane.  It's bright all day long.  I do not like it.

It is now 8:41 p.m. and I am about to go to bed.  Where is the time and place for beer?

As for the grrouchie gambling idea, how about a "grrouchie thinks" bet starting off with one of these:

How many seconds can grrouchie dig a finger into his nostril up to the second knuckle in front of his woman before grrouchie thinks that she'll tell him to knock it off?

I start the bidding at 2 seconds.

Or, how many simultaneous fart/belches can grrouchie pull off in front of her before grrouchie thinks that she'll kick him out of the house?  (He must be smiling as he does it.)

I'm starting this one at 3.

Or, grrouchie informs her that now that he's debt free, he has decided to enroll in mime school in Paris and that classes start in April.  How many days does grrouchie think it will take her to dump him?

I bid 0 days, 6 hours.

Better ideas for "grrouchie thinks" bets?  Any takers who want to bid higher on either of these bets?  Comment away.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Album Capsules--Jacco Gardner

Jacco Gardner

Cabinet of Curiosities


Playing psychedelia that sounds like it's straight from the late sixties, Jacco Gardner seems to be trying to out-Barrett Syd Barrett, the heart of Pink Floyd till he went loony from LSD.  Because Barrett immediately springs to mind when listening to this album, Jacco's music suffers doubly with tracks that sound too similar but also don't sound imaginative enough.  After playing this, you'll probably find yourself craving some real psychedelia.  Might I recommend Piper at the Gates of Dawn?

"I've got a bike,
You can ride it if you like,
It's got a basket
A bell that rings
And things to make it look good
I'd give it to you if I could
But I borrowed it.

You're the kind of girl that fits in with my world
I'll give you anything
Everything if you want things." --"Bike," Pink Floyd

Meanwhile, the girl in the song is running like hell in the other direction.  Now that's the kind of crazy that psychedelia needs.  Too bad Syd went nuts.  Or maybe he was nuts when he arrived.  Anyhoo, here's Jacco's "Help Me Out."

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Day the Russian Tried to Go Postal

I guess I should start by saying that maybe the title is inaccurate.  What I mean is, at the time I was not familiar enough with the Russian language to be sure if this guy was actually speaking Russian.  And even if he was speaking Russian, he could've been Ukrainian, Uzbek, etc.  But let's just say for simplicity's sake that the main character in this story was Russian.

And this photo?  I don't think that actor is Russian either.  But he seems to capture the spirit of the story.  So there he is.  In fact, he looks like a number of Russians I've met.  He's got two of the major qualities: slicked-back hair and exposed chest hair.

On to the story: I used to play chess.  Lots of chess.  I think a fair guess is that I played chess for six hours per day, every day, for at least eighteen months from my sophomore year to my junior year of college.

As white, I played king pawn.  As black, I played the Najdorf Sicilian against king-pawn openings and the Dutch Leningrad against queen pawn openings.  Being able to say that with a straight face made me quite the chess nerd.

I had books.  Lots of books.  I had a 600-page book dedicated solely to endgames.  You know, a king versus a king and a pawn?  I would read chapters about that situation.  And I would enjoy myself.

Over that period, I played in a number of chess tournaments in Sacramento, San Francisco, and Oakland, and I built up a decent-but-not-fantastic USCF rating in the low 1800s, which made me an "A" player.  But in chess, an A is not an A.  With 2000 being the bottom-rung ranking for an expert, I was just a decent player, and I'm pretty sure that an expert rating would have taken another few years to reach.

So I started playing lots of chess, a whole lot, at the local senior citizen's center in Sacramento.  They would meet twice a week at about six p.m., and they'd play through till ten or so.  Now, whatever picture you have in your mind?  Forget it.  Because there weren't any senior citizens there.

Instead, there were college kids like me and Russians in their forties and fifties.  And yes, at least one of those Russians resembled the actor pictured above.

So what do college kids and aging Russians tend to do?  We played chess.  Speed chess.  We'd set the clock at five minutes per side, and we would finish our games within ten minutes.  We'd stage little tournaments, with bragging rights as the sole prize for the winner.

The Russians tended to be supremely crafty fuckers, always playing to trick you.  The college kids tried to play by the book.  For the Russians, there was no book.

Now, I'm not sure if you've played chess or watched chessplayers playing chess before, but if they're in a serious game, they tend to lose track of the world around them.  For example, I remember numerous times playing speed chess with a friend of mine.  We would start at, say, four in the afternoon.  Suddenly, we would finish our thirtieth game and notice that it was nighttime.  And that we were starving.

And weren't there a bunch of people hanging around when we started playing?

Where did everybody go?

So in the senior citizen's center one night, two Russians had been matched up in a single-elimination tournament that we were playing that night.  And they were speaking in Russian.  Angry Russian.  And when their game finished, the loser stood up and bolted from the room.

Meanwhile, the rest of us were playing.  Not more than ten minutes passed before the angry Russian--the loser--pushed the door opened and began yelling--again, in Russian.  With a pistol in his hand.

I was sitting maybe fifteen feet away, and I was in the middle of a game.  And the clock was ticking.

What happened next, in my mind, defined chessplayers as a species.

The group of us looked up from our games.

We saw a Russian with a gun shouting angrily.

And we ignored him.  We just resumed playing.

Another Russian player--one who wasn't playing at the moment--quickly approached Gun-Totin' Russian, put his hand on the barrel and lowered the gun, and appeared to speak words of admonishment.  Both left the room then, apparently to go for a walk (or to go have a bottle).

I don't think it occurred to anyone playing at the time that they had basically weighed (1) potential danger to their lives against (2) winning their game, and everyone had chosen winning.

In other words, losing was more horrible to us--all of us, we were unanimous--than being in the same room with an angry, shouting, gun-toting Russian.

Album Capsules--Grouper


The Man Who Died in His Boat


Grouper--not Groper, don't miss the u--is a one-woman band that plays ambient music with interweaving background vocals that only come to the forefront on the final track, "Living Room."  In fact, the vocals and instrumentation seem hesitant to assume control in any of these songs.  What you are left with are hazy, dreamy, whispers of songs that almost beg to be ignored by the listener.  Thus, good bedtime music, I suppose.  But when you're paying attention, you quickly notice the album's unmistakable beauty.  I guess it sounds like I don't like it.  I do.  Whether you like it depends on your taste for severely mellow music.

8 a.m.

This coming semester--my last! woo hoo!--I teach classes on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday at . . . 8 a.m.  As far back as I recall, I have never had to do anything as early as 8 a.m.  In fact, 8 a.m. is closer to my bedtime these days than my time to wake up.  Undergrad days were easy to schedule afternoon classes all the way through.  Law school had a few mandatory morning classes, but none as early as 8 a.m.  Even back in my elementary and high school days, classes started at 9.

I have slept through 8 a.m. for most of my life.  It has become so foreign to me that I can only refer to it in italics.

As for work, I've usually tended toward swing-shift--back when I made phone calls for the deaf, a job that deserves a post of its own--or graveyard, when I dealt craps at an Indian casino in Washington state (another blogworthy job).  Even as an attorney, I either set my own hours as a contract attorney (doing other attorneys' work) or at my own office, where I tended to roll in about noon.  When during an interview, a partner asked me what my hours should be at his law firm, I replied, "I'll start at noon."  That gave him pause; but he hired me.

Some lifestyle changes will be in order.  To get up at 6-6:30, I'll have to be in bed at 10-10:30 p.m., when I am normally having lunch.  I'll have to resist waking up in the middle of the night for dinner.

I'll be living an entirely different life.  One with sunlight.

At the beginning of each semester, an Iggy Pop lyric tends to creep--pop?--into my head right before I begin my first class:

Well, that's like hypnotizing chickens.

The lyric sounds right, but how does it apply?  Am I the hypnotist, or am I the chicken?

I think I have the answer.  I started as the hypnotist in 2010.  But somehow between then and now, I have become the chicken.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Hey, Let's Celebrate Canada! (For No Reason at All)

Dear Canada,

Hello.  You don't know me, but this blog post is a celebration of you.  Consider this moment to be on par with your life after a long hard day at work.  You come home drag-ass tired, open the door, and a bunch of people are standing around a cake hollering, "Happy Birthday!"

Except there's only one person--me--and it's not your birthday.  And I had to break your kitchen window to set up the big surprise.  And now you're saranwrapped to your sofa, with some holes cut into the wrap for your nostrils and eyes, because I can't have you calling the cops until the presentation is done.

Like most Americans, I've never visited you.  Nor do I intend to.  Nothing against you; it just doesn't occur to me.  I'm sure I'm missing out.

Sometimes I think about living in Vancouver, but that only occurs as the vaguest of notions whenever I'm annoyed with the current presidential administration.

Anyhoo, a simple search through google images--search terms: "Canadian wildlife"--reveals some nice pics.  Here they are.  Thanks, Canada.

And when I type "Canadian movies stars" into the same website, I get the following impressive list.  (Sorry, Canada, but your celebration involves you, me, your sofa, saran wrap, a cake that you can't eat till I leave--hope you like prune--and google images.)

You birthed Aquaman.  No, wait, he was Green Lantern.  Almost as good!

You are also responsible for this guy.
And her (what's her name again?):

And best of all, you . . . are . . . responsible . . . for . . . Estella Warren:

On the music front, thanks for Alannis Morissette, Drake, and Justin Bieber.  

Thanks for Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, and Elvis Presley--just kidding, he's ours.  Here's Neil Young instead.  Let's trade.  

So anyway, thanks, Canada.  I'll leave by the back door.  Wouldn't want your neighbors to see me.

P.S. Thanks for blocking the arctic wind.  

P.P.S.  But really, I like Canada.  

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Album Capsules--Indians


Somewhere Else


Pretty good for a first album.  This music evokes so many comparisons.  The lead singer sounds like a mix of Neil Young and Wayne Coyne from the Flaming Lips.  Sigur Ros comes to mind, as does M83.  Seems like normally if you mix a bunch of likable things--beer, pistachios, pizza, popcorn--you end up with trash.  In this case, you get a solid, mellow album.  I've played it a half-dozen times in the last week, and it definitely sounds like a grower.  "I Am Haunted" below.

Album Capsules--My Bloody Valentine

My Bloody Valentine



Well, here it is, My Bloody Valentine's next album, the first in 22 freaking years.  If you're not a fan of their last album, Loveless, you shouldn't be surprised.  It came out the same year as Nevermind and got subsumed under that album's overwhelming acclaim--even though Loveless was better.  So finally we have the follow up, which sounds in many ways just like Loveless did.  The better parts come when the wave of distorted guitar and keyboard sounds appear to be breaking apart.  This album seems like it wants to leap into chaos.  The not-so-wonderful parts are when you feel like a few of the tracks are Loveless rejects.  In any case, it's a very strong album, full of the band's patented beautiful ugliness.  To get an idea what I mean, check out "who sees you" below.  You might not love it right away, like I'm beginning to, but you certainly could hate it instantly.  This band engenders extreme opinions.  So far, this is the most noteworthy release of 2013.

Idea for Oddsmaking

M.Prosk made a comment recently which sounded like a solid idea.

in response to Your odds making sounds like fun, but I think maybe we could take this a step further. Maybe you could set a line on how many times grrouchie can leave the seat up in one month and keep his lady friend. Or, complete x amount of video games in one month and so on. What say you grrouch? Could we have a little fun with this?

Yes, sounds good.  And grrouch sounds like the perfect victim guinea pig participant.  I'm open to ideas, in addition to the ones given.  Grrouch, what's your favorite soda?  A monthly over/under could work.

Or a simple prop bet called "Grrouch thinks," which imitates the "Johnny Lodden Thinks" game, described below by wikipedia.

Lodden's name is associated with the game "Lodden Thinks" in which two bettors place bets on what a third party thinks the answer to a given question is. For example, the third party will be asked how old he thinks a particular person is or how much a particular item costs; before revealing his answer however, the two others will place bets on what they think the third party's answer will be. This game was invented during the World Series of Poker Europe when Phil Laak and Antonio Esfandiari played the game, with Johnny Lodden as the third party.

So that could work.  Player A says, "How many cans of mountain dew does grrouch think he'll drink during the next week?"

Then the bidding process begins.  Player B bids 4, Player A ups the bid to 6, B goes to 8--and then A stops the bidding (thereby taking "the under").  Then we ask Grrouch how many mountain dews he thinks he'll drink next week.  If he says, "Ten," then B wins (because he's got 8 or more).

I think I have that right.  Do I have that right?

Anyhoo, M.Prosk's comment led me to his profile, which led me to his blog, which I hadn't noticed before.  And the most recent post is about an eclectic variety of music (!!), some of which I'd heard--Hot Chip, Dan Deacon--and some of which I have to check out: Die Antwoord, DeadMau5, Pepe Deluxe, and Brazilian Girls.  So I've got some fun work cut out for me.

Aside from that, My Bloody Valentine released an album recently.  Their last album, Loveless, an instant classic, was released in 1991.  Yes, that's right, this band waited 22 years between albums.  And now I have a copy.  Tonight will hopefully be some fun listening.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Lose Five Years of Insanity

Skimming yahoo articles just now, I saw one that read "Lose Five Years of Insanity," and I immediately identified my first candidate: Colorado 2003-2008.  Then a second candidate popped up: the Sacramento-to-Uzbekistan period of 1994-1999.  For the bronze, we have my undergraduate years (and the year of unemployment that followed) in Davis, California: 1988-1993.

But then reality kicked in and I realized that the article title read "Lose Five Years Instantly" and was advertising an eye cream.

Just my luck.  I see an advertisement for a product that I actually want to buy, but it doesn't exist.

Well the results of the Superbowl are in, and it wasn't pretty.  All of my picks were wrong--every single one of them.  If you followed my advice, you bet every last dime on the game.  And that's your fault.

If you're truly busto, then I recommend enjoying the free things in life: libraries, parks, and sleeping under the stars.

As for the writing I planned to do during my week-long vacation this week, I have opted not to continue chapter 3 of the medieval fantasy story I was working on last October.  I'm going to continue it some other time.

Instead, I'm working on Quincy Capers again.  I found some of the old posts, retooled them, and put them up on another blog.

My goal this time is not to worry about a climax or plot development.  I'm just going to do vignettes of his life until I reach a certain number of episodes, and then I'll call it quits.  I'm not yet sure what number of episodes seems appropriate, but I'm sure I'll know that moment when I get there.

His story can be found at and the chapters are listed in chronological order in the blog archive (on the right side of the screen).

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Album Capsules--Four Tet

Four Tet



If you already like Four Tet, you know what you're getting--sort of.  In this case, instead of a dozen or so indie electronic tracks, you're getting one monster track that spans 38 minutes.  You'd think it is unified, but it isn't.  Over those 38 minutes, you get minute-sized slices of beats or melodies that never quite graduated to song-hood.  There's a lot of creativity here, but you probably have to be a fan of Four Tet to find it worthwhile.  

Album Capsules--Toro Y Moi

Toro Y Moi

Anything in Return


You're 28 years old and you just invited a bunch of friends and acquaintances over for your first party.  When they come through the door, an album like this is a good candidate for the album that you'll want to be playing--chill-out electronic R&B music.  It probably isn't going to be offensive to anyone, and you can use it to gauge what people really want to hear.  It's a good album.  It serves a purpose.  It's not dance music, so guests won't feel obligated to shake their ass without having gotten drunk first.  In short, it serves a second purpose.  If you're out clubbing or barhopping, it's good music to play on the way back from the club/bar.  I tried to think, Can this album serve a purpose?  Well, I can think of two.  I imagine this album will sell many, many copies.  "Say That" is below.

Saturday, February 2, 2013


I read a great post on mudwig's blog yesterday called submentals, which describes his conversation with the title character.  The best lines were his response to the submental's "thinking outside the box" and also how he'd like to end the conversation, which turns out to be my own fantasy for ending a conversation with an idiot.  The video at the bottom called "Bullshit Man" is a 50-second gem.

In another part of the blogosphere, grrouchie recently managed the near-impossible feat of (1) reading 121 comic books during the month of January and (2) not losing his girlfriend in the process.  If we were at a racetrack and 121 Comics and Not Losing GF were horses in the daily double, a winning ticket would pay $417.30.

The Super Bowl is almost upon us.  As I've mentioned before in earlier blog posts, I know nearly nothing about the Ravens or the 49ers.  But in my opinion, the 49ers are a steal at -4.  Final score: 49ers 23, Ravens 13.

During the matchup, there will be:

Safeties: zero

Total Interceptions: 3

Total Rushing Touchdowns: 3

Total Penalties: 13

Total Passing Yards: 464

Total Rushing Yards: 217

All of these are absolute locks, unless you pay for the premium package, which is offered for a limited time only, in which case the final results will be:

49ers 44, Ravens 30

Safeties: 6

Total Interceptions: zero

Total Rushing Touchdowns: 8

Total Penalties: 2

Total Passing Yards: 862

Total Rushing Yards: 8

Yes, that's right.  Even though there will be only 8 total yards rushing combined for both teams, there will be 8 rushing touchdowns.  Once again, all of these picks are 100% locks.

Of course, if you opt for the diamond package, then the sure locks will be all of the picks for the premium package divided by 2 (as well as the final score: 49ers 22, Ravens 15).

And finally, the Nun-on-Crack package, on sale for a single cigarette, provides the winner with a final score of Ravens 92, 49ers 2.

I provide all of these absolute locks with a confidence level of 0.0043%.

Friday, February 1, 2013

A Piece of a Novel

Now that the fall semester is behind me and the spring semester begins on February 10th, I find myself with a week to waste, which is typically what I would do . . . waste it.  Laziness is like beer to me.  I keep reminding myself, however, of my monthly goal from last October: to write for 50 hours.  Turned out that food poisoning knocked me on my ass during the week leading up to Halloween, and so I was unable to finish my goal.  Then laziness and the rigors of the semester set in.  So I haven't done any fiction writing since October.

On the bright side, I did manage to finish a rough draft of the first two chapters.  And with a week to burn, I think that I can finish chapter 3 before I head back to classes.

All of this leads me to a question.  I create a game that is similar to poker at the beginning of chapter 2, and I was looking for some feedback.  To give you a bit of background, the setting is a medieval period on a place other than earth.  I begin with a society that values games, and chapter two starts off with one of the most popular games.  It's called "shills" and will obviously seem very similar to poker--actually a cross between NL holdem and Omaha.  However, I try to use different language to describe the game: for example, all in is a "death" play, the flop is called the "kick," etc.

Anyway, my biggest question is: Do you think that the language and description of the action will be confusing for an average reader (one who doesn't play poker)?  Sort of a difficult question, because most of my readers play poker.  Also, is the description of the strategy too simplistic--or simply wrong?  I wanted the scene to result in an uncommon decision that could only result from an advanced playing out-thinking himself.

Anyhoo, enough setup.  I'd appreciate any and all feedback.  Here goes:

*     *     *

An hour before dawn, Zevernester awoke to light tapping.  He sat up without delay, sleep still clouding his mind, and crossed the room to the door.  Never make royalty wait.  It was one of two firm rules that guided him.  As always, the boy slipped past him, made a beeline for the round table near the darkened window, and began to light candles.  Zev followed him, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.  He knew that he would have to shake the grogginess shortly or else find himself defeated in the first and second matches, an occurrence more and more common since the last red moon.  The throb in his jaw of a dying tooth helped push his dreams away.  If Zev had lacked confidence, he might have wondered whether his skills were deteriorating.  Shills, after all, had long been considered a young man’s game, perhaps because it rewarded aggression.  His victory in the harvest tournament had dispelled any doubts, however small, in his mind.  And he knew that the boy had improved vastly under his tutelage.
            After losing to Zev, the other players in Eb Vark’s court often muttered about the chancellor’s luck.  Zev had scoffed inwardly at such excuses.  Losers lost repeatedly for one reason—because they were idiots.  Luck is an excuse for failure.
            The boy twirled the deck between shuffles and began flicking each card from his fingertips so that it floated momentarily in the air.  Who is teaching him such silliness?  They were the cheap, flashy maneuvers of a card wit, and a poor one at that—perhaps Xavier, Duke Resnor’s youngest son.  Zev would soon correct these shows of ostentation.  Do not encourage your opponent to overestimate you.  Not a firm rule but a wise rule nevertheless.  Card wits tended to end up in alleyways, a red smile across their necks.  A king displaying such traits could begin the slow rot of dynasty.  The prince should intimidate with his playing ability, not his shuffling.
            Their coin stacks had remained untouched since yesterday when their game had been cut short.  Zev peered at the three cards he had been dealt.  Dwarf of waters, knight of islands, and maid of beasts.  The kick of four cards on the table helped him little.  Zev made a pass at the pot with a tiny bet that could mean anything—cobbles, a weak union, or a vice grip of a hand.  Nathanael pushed out a small stack of silver, quintupling his bet.  Overmuch.  Without hesitation Zev pushed his cards into the stash of discarded cards.  The second and third hands had the same result.  All the while, the chancellor made a show of watching Nathanael’s eyes, which showed the chancellor nothing, so that the boy averted his gaze.  Small victory achieved, Zev began to monitor unobserved the pulse beneath the boy’s ear.
            Nathanael continued to push his advantage, taking the next three hands with large bets.  Zev let him.  The young prince, unable to disguise his enthusiasm, seemed to sense a trampling afoot.  The seventh hand turned out to be the decisive one.  To even an amateur player, the kick would have seemed harmless, devoid of promise.  As before, Zev made a small bet; again, the boy raised too much.  The pulse beneath Nathanael’s ear seemed light and quick.  Zev increased the boy’s bet, tossing out three gold coins stamped with a whale leaping through waves.  The boy reraised yet again, committing two-thirds of his stack, a tower of gold.  Am I now fully awake?  Zev thought.  His tooth sent a jolt throughout his head.  He counted slowly to ten, announced “Death,” and pushed all of his silver, gold, and copper in front of him.
The prince did three things that pleased him.  His left hand clenched; he sighed; and the pulse beneath his ear disappeared.  “Tell me,” said Zev.
“More than half of my stack is in the pot,” he said.
“Two thirds.”
            “Even worse.”  Nathanael said, beginning to number his reasons.  “One, you know that I have no choice but to match you.  Two, I kicked a triple union.”
            “Strong kick,” Zev agreed.  He knew where Nathanael’s mind would wander and was pleased with its destination. 
            “A strong kick,” the boy agreed, “but a hand well within your expectation.  Three, the only possible reason that you would make a death play is if your hand beats my expected hands.” 
“All of your expected hands?” Zev said.  “You oversimplify.”
“You beat a flood,” Nathanael continued, ignoring him.  “A low rush fails.  A triple union loses by a fingernail.  Four, my large raises make me seem too eager.  You anticipate—nay, you know—that I must match.  You are hoping that I have a triple union, so that I will match your death play.  And lose.”
            “Unless I am larking.”
            “You are no fool.  No one larks when I must match.  I submit.”  He tossed his cards into the stash.
            To show or not?  Better to teach the boy now, the chancellor decided, rather than later.  He is ready.  Zev exposed his cards.  The prince stared at them, his mouth opening slightly.
“You were larking.”
“How could you be such a fool?”
He felt a flicker of annoyance.  Motionless, his face frozen despite the throbbing in his jaw, he wondered if the boy knew that similar words from a knight or even lesser royalty could lead them to an underground cell.  Especially a chancellor with a toothache.  Instead he said, “Reason it.”
The prince kept staring at the cards in disbelief.  He shook his head and said, “You had no reason.  It was my most advanced play.  It was brilliant.  Perhaps you are not fully awake.”
Zev began to collect the cards, sensing an end to the game.  Quit before you worsen your defeat.  If Nathanael had played one more hand, he would have inevitably made an ill-advised death play.  At least the boy knew when to stop.  Such restraint in a boy of fifteen years showed promise, but today Zev saw despair—anger?—clouding Nathanael’s eyes.
I was wrong.  The lesson was too soon.  He is not yet ready.
Zev set down the deck of cards.  “You have become an advanced player,” he said.  “Your recent victories prove it.”
“Unless you are coddling me.”
“You were almost champion of the harvest tournament.”
“Until I faced you.  My other opponents lost on purpose.  It is poor form to defeat a prince.”
“You played strongly anyway.”  Zev felt another flash of annoyance, in part because the boy’s words were true.  He seeks a challenge from everyone he sees, but his subjects already fear him—because he is the only son of Eb Vark.  “If I had made that death play against you a half moon past, you would have matched me in a heartbeat and started dancing around the room.”
“I never dance around the room.”
“And I never coddle.”  Zev stood, signaling an end to their play.
Nathanael remained seated.  “You say I would have matched you in the past.  In other words, I would have won when I was weaker.  How does an advanced player lose in a spot where a novice wins?”
“You assume that I would have given you the opportunity.  I avoid larking novices.”
Crossing to the door, Nathanael muttered, “Riddles.”  Before leaving, the prince added, “Tomorrow.”  A command.  Before, he had always asked for another predawn game, a request that Zev had always accepted.  The boy was gone before the chancellor could respond.  He noted the development with pride.  He is becoming a king before my eyes.  Eb Vark would be pleased to hear of his son’s improvement.