Friday 4.5.7

May 4, 2007

Here I go again, with the end-of-week shuffle action . . .

  1. Weezer — “My Name is Jonas”
    I keep thinking I like Pinkerton better than the blue album, until I actually go back and listen to the blue album again. The cleverness and dreadful melancholy of Pinkerton will always have a place in my heart, but as soon as the opening notes of “Jonas” come in, I immediately forget all that crap and brace myself for an album of unapologetic rocking.
  2. Sublime — “By the Rivers of Babylon”
    What can I say, I’m a sucker for acoustic guitars and soulful harmonies.
  3. Pink Floyd — “Brain Damage (live)”
    The only thing that was capable of making Dark Side better was rerecording it in front of a live studio audience. Studio audiences suck when they’re perfunctorily reacting to cues in the form of signs that say Applause or some such, but when they’re legitimately enjoying the experience they can have an immensely positive effect, and that’s just one of the reasons why Pulse is so good.
  4. Unbelievable Truth — “Home Again”
    Even for somebody as hopelessly obsessed with mopey British bands as I am, this is a goddamn sleeping pill of boring crap.
  5. Django Reinhardt — “Belleville”
    Django and a clarinet: what more do you really need?
  6. Beer is Bad — “Poo”
    Have you ever seen that episode of That 70s Show where they set up a tape recorder before getting high, to archive all their pot-induced wit and wisdom for posterity? This was a similar idea, and I have to say it didn’t come out much better in real life than it did on TV.
  7. Eels — “The Stars Shine in the Sky Tonight”
    It’s one of the closing songs on a double-album, and it sounds like it — for better and for worse.
  8. Feeder — “Radioman”
    I bought this album because the title (Yesterday Went Too Soon) summed up how I was feeling at that particular moment (January 2 or 3, 2000). Also because it was in the bargain bin and only cost $2. Then I found out it’s actually quite a good album as well, and this song in particular entered heavy rotation on my mp3 player, which had a whopping 64MB capacity. Oh, to be young again . . .
  9. Badly Wooden Head — “After the Party”
    Fucker had two whole albums recorded already by the time he was my age. Sure, they’re “uplifting as a trainwreck”, but more importantly they’re good. Meanwhile I’m lucky if I can pull off one decent song a year.
  10. Manu Chao — “Malegria”
    The entire album Clandestino is too good for words, but honestly this is one of my least favourite songs on it.
  11. Starsailor — “Talk Her Down”
    Starsailor always walk a fine line between exhilarating and unlistenable, mostly because of their singer’s delivery, which is usually implausibly earnest and shamelessly maudlin, while somehow being even breathier than Matt Bellamy’s. It can be a lot to take, but in small doses it’s often very nice, and this song has a strong enough melody that it isn’t completely overshadowed by the giant sign saying “LOOK HOW SENSITIVE I AM, IS THIS NOT HEARTBREAKING?”

Friday shuffle

April 6, 2007

One of those things that “bloggers” do, I guess… this is what came up when I put my mp3 player on ‘shuffle’. I’ve taken the liberty of writing briefly about each song as well, rather than just providing a list.

  1. Ratatat — “Everest”
    I loves me my Ratatat, I do, but the best part of a Ratatat song is always the ending, when they suddenly change around the beat you were grooving to and turn it into something bigger than the whole world and suddenly you find yourself stomping on the gas pedal or gyrating your entire body against a big heap of sand, depending on the particulars of your circumstances at the time. This song doesn’t do that, so while it’s quite nice it’s middling at best in the Ratatat canon.
  2. The Beatles — “Paperback Writer”
    Great song. But man oh man how I loathe the early days of stereo. I’m sure that, at the time, it was all kinds of cool to be able to play around with different channels at all, but there’s absolutely no reason to put every instrument hard left or hard right. It sounds terrible and it’s very difficult to listen to.
  3. Elliott Brood — “President”
    Elliott Brood are the original “death-country” band, but this song has too much country and not enough death. Anyone can play banjo (though admittedly the Brood do play it quite mean), but when I listen to these guys I want to hear some screaming too. That’s why I like Tin Type better than Ambassador.
  4. Mew — “156”
    As with every Mew song, this one requires multiple careful listens to get to the bottom of. As with most Mew songs, this one is well worth the trouble.
  5. Evan Dando — “My Idea”
    A nice enough twist on the standard wistful post–break-up song; he doesn’t necessarily want to get back together, he just wants people to think it was his idea.
  6. Sublime — “5446 That’s My Number / Ball and Chain”
    Dear lord I’d forgotten how goddamn bass-heavy Sublime mixed their early stuff.
  7. Miles Davis — “Freddie Freeloader”
    I like
  8. The Jimi Hendrix Experience — “House Burning Down”
    See “Lucy”, below, regarding “…the worst excesses of 60s psychedelia”, and know that I was not talking about this song (some other songs on Electric Ladyland, though…). The intro is certainly all kinds of trippy and effects-laden, and is definitely an artifact of its time, but it’s also the work of a master craftsman with unsurpassed familiarity with the tools at his disposal. And the rest of the song ain’t half bad either.
  9. Men at Work — “Who Can It Be Now?”
    Probably the best song ever written about having an unknown somebody at one’s door. Not only is it incredibly catchy, the lyrics are brilliant as well. I can’t explain why lines like “If he hears, he’ll knock all day / I’ll be trapped, and here I’ll have to stay” appeal to me so much, but they do.
  10. Carole King — “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?”
    Don’t get me wrong: Carole wrote a lot of very very good songs, and this is one of them. She just wasn’t the best performer. When she lets herself go, she’s phenomenal, but most of the time you can hear the timidity and trepidation.
  11. The Beatles — “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”
    My opinions about this song, both positive and negative, are very similar to my opinions about the Simpsons episode where Homer gets a job with Hank Scorpio. Taken on its own merit, that episode is a masterwork: full of hilarity, an instant classic, and since become constantly referenced in the vernacular. In a broader context, though, it opened the floodgates for a storm of derivative, self-indulgent, self-referential crap to follow. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that episode was when The Simpsons jumped the shark. Continuity had never been important, but with this episode it just flew out the window, never to return again. And they’d had celebrity voices before, but I feel like this episode was the beginning of the revolving-door celebrity cavalcade that the series has been reduced to. “Lucy”, on the other hand, merely paved the way for the worst excesses of 60s psychedelia and other such crap, and lent the entire genre an undeserved air of legitimacy. I can’t decide which is a graver sin.

Places I’ve been

January 14, 2007
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  • Places I've lived
  • Places I've visited
  • Places I've had a layover or changed flights

15 Things

December 12, 2005

This particular blog-meme is rather less obnoxious than most, since it’s completely free-form. Without further ado, I present 15 things about me and books.

  1. The last book I was assigned to read for class that I actually bothered to read was The Great Gatsby for Mr Sullivan’s American Literature class in the 11th grade. I had intended to just skim the first few chapters so I’d be able to fake my way through the in-class discussions we’d have, but I found myself completely transfixed and unable to put the book down until I finished it.
  2. My approach to books is similar to park ranger advice for wilderness areas—I take only words, and I try to avoid leaving even fingerprints. I don’t like creased spines, dog-eared pages, or wrinkly spots from a sweaty palmprint; and I absolutely cannot stand people who underline passages or, God forbid, lick their grubby fingers every time they turn the page.

    Oddly enough, though, I don’t mind if a book gets a bit mangled or bent from being crammed into an overstuffed backpack or a jacket pocket that doesn’t quite fit, nor do I mind buying used books that exhibit every kind of normal wear and tear.

  3. I used to be a voracious reader, but I stopped around the time I went to college. Or, equivalently, I stopped around the time I switched to contact lenses.
  4. For some reason I decided to read the unabridged version of Stephen King’s The Stand a few months ago. The most lasting impression I was left with was that the book was very very long. That, and I didn’t like the supernatural mumbo-jumbo stuff near the end very much. I liked it better when it was just the stories of people trying to deal with an awful situation.
  5. I have started many more books than I have finished. I’m not counting those books whose first pages I’ve read in a bookstore or a library, just the ones I’ve bought or borrowed with every intention of reading the whole way through. Off the top of my head, some books I’m theoretically in the middle of include:
    • The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Salman Rushdie.
    • Something Happened, Joseph Heller.
    • Võõras (L’Étranger), Albert Camus.
    • Popmuusika a la Vittula, Mikael Niemi.
    • Necessary Illusions, Noam Chomsky.
    • Notes from Underground, Fyodor Dostoevsky.
    • Rehepapp, Andres Kivirähk.
    • Ma armastasin sakslast, A. H. Tammsaare.
  6. On a related topic, while there are a number of books whose opening lines I remember (or remember the gist of), I can only think of one ending line that has really stuck with me:

    The extra three were for leap years.

    It’s from Solzhenitsyn‘s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

  7. I’ve read more books in Piers Anthony’s Xanth series than I care to admit.
  8. I’ve read Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series from beginning to end three times now.
  9. The most worthless book I’ve read is probably either Hederick the Theocrat or a Harlequin romance novel whose title may have been The Daddy Dilemma.
  10. I wish more books were printed on bible paper.
  11. My favorite book of all time is probably Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach. I must have read it 100 times in elementary school.
  12. Three more bits of very important formative reading:
    • Zoobooks.
    • D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths.
    • Anything and everything to do with dinosaurs.
  13. My least favorite book of all time is the textbook for a feedback control systems course I took. Not only did I loathe the class and despise the professor, I hated every aspect of the physical book itself. It was poorly written and organized, and the index was short and useless to the point of being downright insulting. There were few examples in the text, and many of the examples that were provided had typographical or mathematical errors in them. The book was not available used and cost significantly more than our other engineering texts, which were expensive enough to begin with. Its dimensions were such that, if left to its own devices for even an instant, it would flip to a different page or just close on you altogether. I could go on.
  14. It blows my mind to think of what tasks like typesetting, pagination, indexing, revising, and picture printing entailed before computers.
  15. The last book I read was Richard Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene, which I recommend wholeheartedly for much more than just the genesis of the meme-meme. The case studies of peculiar organisms are invariably fascinating, and Dawkins talks shit about the Pope at one point, more or less.

Well, here’s a poke at you

October 21, 2005


  • Why in God’s name does such a thing exist? And why can’t I turn away?
  • Let me tell you, it feels terrible to take a brand-new $100 DVD burner and immediately start hacking bits of plastic off of it before you can even test whether it works. Can you say “goodbye warranty”? At least it seems to function properly, damn laptops and their nonstandard faceplate/opening/crevice designs.
  • The last 3 or 4 times I’ve been to Wal-Mart, I’ve purchased a $6 wristwatch while there. I think I have some kind of disease. But I also have a lot of wristwatches.

Song of the Moment: «Radio/Video» — System of a Down

Suur vanker, tähekogu

October 17, 2005

Yeah. Here it goes.

  • Driving across Africa.
  • Freeciv. (And Netgear™ products.)
  • “Viina võtta”, and Jägermeister.
  • Protokoll.
  • Hansel and Gretel.
  • Haircuts.
  • Potatoes — lots and lots of potatoes.
  • To the Windows Explorer design team: I can see why you thought it was a good idea to add “Sort by Album/Artist/etc” functionality to directories full of music files, but for heaven’s sake why did you eliminate the “date modified” option?
  • Naked men, sweating together in the pitch dark.
  • Credit-card debt.
  • Minor-laid.
  • Plugs that work, and pots that don’t crackle.
  • Following the signs at the airport, only to end up right back in the exact same place thirty seconds later.
  • And, of course, Suur Vanker.

Song of the Moment: «Suur Vanker» Laagri Laul.

This pasture is green

October 4, 2005

In short:

  • It rained last night, so we weren’t able to waterproof the deck today as we’d hoped. Perhaps soon we’ll get a chance to go down and try again.
  • The DVD recorder seems to work as advertised, and I guess now we can start archiving the Daily Show on shiny plastic discs instead of black-matte cartridges full of shiny plastic tape. Oh, and making backup copies of all those hilarious, embarrassing, and/or boring home videos.
  • Mandy Patinkin guest-starred on a Law & Order today. Will his star ever stop rising?

Song of the Moment: «Robot Theme Song» — Aquabats

Return of the Idiotlist

August 3, 2005

In honor of finally picking up the piece of paper yesterday that I occasionally struggled so hard to earn, and in honor of the fact that my parents evidently started subscribing to Harper’s while I was away, comes an idiotlist that’s designed to rip off the style of Harper’s justifiably famous Index. I suppose this is just thinly-(or non-)veiled bragging. But here it goes.

  • Number of final exam essay questions answered in haiku: 1
  • Number of final exams slept through: 2
  • Average grade received for courses where the final exam was slept through: B
  • Ratio of F grades received to semesters on the scholastic honors list: 3:4
  • Final cumulative GPA: 3.4
  • Minimum number of classes or exams attended still drunk from the night before: 15
  • Number of ADoM victories: 3
  • Number of explicit references made to Pink Floyd lyrics in papers on topics not pertaining to Pink Floyd: 2
  • Months elapsed between fulfillment of all graduation requirements and degree being formally granted: 10
  • Number of those months spent in Estonia: 9
  • Number of courses taken with Professor Alan Wolf: 1.5
  • Number taken with Professor Jesse Wolf: 3

They’re turning us into monsters

July 10, 2005

So it’s come to this: in little more than 32 hours I’m scheduled to be on an airplane heading to Warsaw. Tomorrow, I need to do the following:

  • Finalize moving out, which includes
    • …atoning for the fact that I’ve essentially been squatting here for a while, as my lease expired at the end of June
    • …finishing packing
    • …bringing a few hundred empty bottles to the recycling place for the deposits, or letting some homeless guy strike paydirt
    • …probably mopping my floor and stuff because it’s absolutely disgusting
  • Mail some stuff to myself, since everything doesn’t appear to fit in my suitcases
  • Buy last-minute gifts and such for people, including Meie Mees CDs, and leather-bound blank books
  • Get my ass to Tallinn
  • Figure out what I’m going to do until the airport opens in the morning
  • Say goodbye to all the people I managed to put off saying goodbye to
  • Kick myself for leaving absolutely everything to the last possible instant as always
  • EDIT: Return a library book

And here I am, posting on the internet instead of doing anything productive. Go me!

I’m not dead yet

August 24, 2004

Since you last heard from me, I sat in traffic, got to the airport, went through check-in procedures and such, stood in line for a while, discovered that the seven-letter answer to “Coach seat lack” is not actually “LEGROOM”, found out that Miracle is just as lame and melodramatic as I’d anticipated, learned that the smoking lounge of the international terminal at Helsinki’s airport is one of the most horrifying places in the world, arrived in Tallinn, found out my luggage was still in New York, saw some relatives for a bit, made my way to Tartu, checked into Raatuse 22-440, Tartu 51009, slept for twelve hours, and attended some orientation stuff at Tartu likool. Then I went to an internet cafe. Pictures will presumably follow as soon as I get my own computer somehow internetized. I hope the airport gives me my bags soon, so I don’t have to wear these clothes for a fourth day.

Song of the Moment: Some song I heard on the radio in Helsinki. I didn’t catch the name but they kept saying ‘We’re renegades’ (NOT renegades of funk).

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