ok MOVE.

Despite the qualms of other Andy and the challenging criticism of Brian ("Do you even have enough posts to bother categorizing?" he asks), I'm movin' on over, to Wordpress.com, because of the things I've outlined already, and because I'm slightly paranoid about Google running my entire life, and I'd like to not have all my internet eggs in one internet basket.

So, I reveal to you: nah pop, no style. All the same nonsense you find here, just a little different looking, and with a tiny smile up in the upper righthand corner. Update your links/RSS feed readers/general tendencies, dear readers! Thanks kindly!


sayonara to blogger?

I'm considering migrating.

I started a Wordpress.com blog to get a feel for how the interface works as opposed to on blogger, and in a lot of ways (especially front-endwise) Wordpress wins out. Most importantly, I'm interested in categorizing, which in the past I didn't feel too strongly about. So far as I've ever been able to tell, that's not an option here. Also, with Wordpress, you can create separate pages (like an "about me" page, for example) that aren't posts but are static pages you can link to in your sidebar.

A couple big drawbacks to Wordpress (at least the free Wordpress.com blogs -- obviously if you used Wordpress code to blog on your own server you could circumvent the issue): lack of template control (you can't access and change the html code behind your template) and, as a result, the inability to install a Statcounter tracker. I like to be able to tweak things in html -- maybe it's just me nerding out, or, more likely, it's just me being a control freak. I like that I took a black Blogger template and made it dark blue, and tooled with fonts and such to personalize my template some. I don't really see any reason why people can't be trusted to do that if they so desire. I understand wanting to make it easy to do as much as possible with your blog without much coding knowledge, but I'm at a loss as to what the issue with allowing people to toy with the code when they want is.

Statcounter doesn't work with Wordpress because you need to embed the java code into your template, and since you can't edit the html code, or even use html tags in most of the fields you can alter, in Wordpress, you're out of luck. But, the resourceful folks at Sitemeter came up with a way to install their tracker on a Wordpress.com blog without having to insert html code. Rack one up for them. But they're still way in the hole based on the fact that their interface is awful and I'd much rather be using Statcounter.

I'm leaning right now toward switching over, but give me a day or two. Consider this fair warning to get your fingers warmed up; you may have to adjust your RSS feeds and LIVE BOOKMARKS soon.


sugary drink of the summer

You know it's gross, but you know you love it anyway. Its ingredients list looks like it could just as easily be that of Lemon Fresh Pine Sol. But you drink it, and guess what? It's tasty. And you think about being young and running around in your backyard in Wilkinsburg, and you generally feel okay.


someone must have slandered judy and mary . . .

It just so happens that right now I'm working on re-reading The Trial, and enjoying it more than I did when my Kafka professor was breathing down my neck, demanding that I work the German word "verkehr" somewhere into my commentary on each piece I read. And it just so happens that this story is hitting the news outlets here right now: Two workers at federal cafeterias suspended for reasons unclear. Imagine losing your job suddenly because the feds say you're "unsuitable," based on a record check from somewhere far off, and not getting an answer as to what exactly makes you "unsuitable." It's not quite Steve Kurtz caliber stuff, but it's unsettling nonetheless.


my name is not susan

As promised: I just finished Susan Sontag's Regarding the Pain of Others, an exploration of the role of photography and images in war and the way war is percieved. It was published in 2003, her last book before she died in 2004.

There's a lot of history and rehashing that wasn't horribly exciting to me but that might make it a good book for someone just starting to become interested in media criticism and the like. There are a few point that I thought were more important and more useful, though. A notable passage:

People don't become inured to what they are shown -- if that's the right way to describe what happens -- because of the quantity of images dumped on them. It is passivity that dulls feeling. The states described as apathy, moral or emotional anesthesia, are full of feelings; the feelings are rage and frustration. But if we consider what emotions would be desirable, it seems too simple to elect sympathy. [ . . .] So far as we feel sympathy, we feel we are not accomplices to what caused the suffering. Our sympathy proclaims our innocence as well as our impotence.1

An especially interesting aspect of the book, though, is that despite its content, there are only two images contained: an etching from the Goya series that she mentions throughout and a photo of Sontag herself, posing next to a wall, in the "About the Author" corner of the jacket. I'm always curious about how people discussing writing and media texts handle knowing that as they write, their text is interacting with the texts they explore. Sontag, in this case, seemingly takes a somewhat removed approach to discussing photography, choosing to describe in detail the photos she is looking at rather than to publish the photos in the book for the reader to see.

I doubt that Sontag and FSG didn't have enough money to pay for the rights to the images; it's much more likely it was an editorial decision on her part. Perhaps to cut down on distraction from the text? It's possible that Sontag thought that a reader would be too busy with the photos to join her in thinking critically about what the photos are doing. But if they were present, they might also act as concrete examples of what she discusses, and in fact give the reader a better grasp on the ideas she's putting forward.

She discusses briefly in part 9 of the book the importance of context for photographs -- how the format (and location) of the images profoundly effect the way in which they're interpreted. She posits that perhaps images of gravity are better suited to be published "ina book, where one can lok privately, linger over the pictures, without talking." Then she quickly recognizes the main flaw of the medium: "[s]till, at some moment the book will be closed." She ends up postulating that perhaps, even though it's somewhat outmoded, the best medium for commemorating horrors such as war and keeping the lessons learned clear in our minds is actually a written or filmed narrative, and that a single image in almost every case can't be expected to do the job. Perhaps true, but at the same time she doesn't take into account the fact that in order to experience a narrative, one has to either be literate, buy and stick with a book, or, in the case of a film, have the time and interest to watch a film about the subject.

She doesn't offer a lot in the way of solutions, but she does tweak and question her own earlier positions from "On Photography." She brings interesting questions to the table, though she doesn't necessarily offer (satisfactory) solutions to most. Reccommended to get you thinking, especially if you're not particularly engrained in this sort of theory already.

1. Something that bothers me a bit about her writing here is her use of "they," as if she herself isn't part of the human race that deals with this problem. That's the kind of nonsense that turns so many people off from hearing what academics have to say. Maybe it's a matter of trying to remove herself from the writing (to "not say 'I'")? Regardless, I'd rather she use "I."


comic strip relief

I'm gonna get to an actual serious post about what I'm reading and about media criticism and stuff, but before I do that I feel the need for a quick newspaper comic rundown, because it's been a while, and if you don't pay as close attention as I do you might miss the amazing things that have been happening, especially today.

Things of import:

1. The Family Circus: Today's strip finds Jeffy on his tricycle in the back yard, Daddy gently admonishing him to "Remember! No faster than 55 miles an hour on that vehicle." Jeffy's witty rejoinder: "But in the house there's no speed limit. Right, Daddy?"

This is one of the particular breed of "Family Circus" strip that I like best: the type with no clear pun, no clear punchline, just a complete non-sequitur. If every "Family Circus" was like this, I'd no longer feel such a longing for Zippy every day.

On the other hand, I also enjoy those strips like this one, with a clear social commentary:

I bet the people who bellyache consistently about "Doonesbury" and "The Boondocks" belonging on the editorial page and not the comics page didn't even THINK to write a letter suggesting that we banish "The Family Circus" to page B-9 despite this cartoon's obvious references to the insidiousness of guerilla marketing and its critique of the loss of innocence in modern capitalist society.

Neither did I, or I would have. It's over a week gone by now, so at this point I should probably not even bother.

2. Mary Worth: Mary has of late been apparently stalked by a creepy man with a mustache, who today introduced himself as "Aldo Kelrastat," clearly a name that was conceived of by a huge fan of willing suspension of disbelief. To be fair, Jeff Cory is out of town "on business," the legitimacy of which is currently in doubt if you follow the completely obvious cues that the authors use to clue you into dramatic irony, so I say, go for it, Mary; just make Aldo do something about that molestache first.

3. Most importanly, a strip not usually on my list of comics to look at daily, but one that made my day today: The Born Loser:

The "listen to a seashell/your echo/whatever and hear something that you didn't expect" archetype is one that's quite washed up in the context of the Born Loser, who has all of three or four gags total that he recycles each week, but this one made me laugh out loud for several minutes. Good job, Art and Chip. Now I guess you'll go back to stupid "precocious Hurricane Hattie" jokes.


stream of consciousness stuff for real:

Yesterday I went with the parents to my sister's house for dinner. I played "baseball" with my dad and three-year-old nephew. What that entails is me pitching, my dad hitting, and the little one yelling "STRIKE TWO!" after every pitch, no matter what the outcome was. Also, in this version of the game, the umpire stands behind the pitcher. I made the mistake of protesting that in fact the umpire stands behind the batter, and was told "but not in baseball!"

Speaking of baseball, apparently poor Bob Uecker has a stalker. The article does a good job of pointing out the sheer absurdity of the matter, with lines like:

Who the heck would stalk Bob Uecker?


In late 2005, Ladd sent Uecker a letter asking him to meet with her to discuss "projects." A later letter said the project was "in fact you."

I now have a backup pickup line ("Hey, would you like to help me work on this project? The project is in fact you!") to use in case my current selection ("How would you feel if I posted a Missed Connection about you on Craigslist tomorrow?") doesn't pan out well.

And speaking of the internet, check out this thing that was brought to my attention the other day: www.fitday.com. It allows you to keep track of all your nutrition throughout the day, and calculates different aspects of your intake, kind of like Statcounter but for your body instead of your blog. I'm all about manipulating data lately. And also all about eating better than I have been. And I'm all about getting more/better exercise, and it keeps track of that too. So it's a good deal.

AND, speaking of Statcounter and blogs, happy birthday to my blog today! It is one year old. You can send your presents for it c/o me.


some days are diamonds, some days are rocks

While we're on the subject of things I liked ten years ago that I like still/again: I really like Tom Petty. In a nostalgic way to an extent, but also in a "that dude writes some great songs" way. My sister and I were o b s e s s e d with "Full Moon Fever" circa the mid 1990's, and I still like those tunes a bunch, but my current Big Thing is the song "Walls," from the She's the One soundtrack. Track it down and listen to it. Email me and I'll Yousendit to you. It's mind-blowing in its complexity of production and its simplicity of songwriting -- it's brought me close to tears a couple times when my friend Joel has covered it with just an acoustic guitar for his solo act -- it's actually pretty chilling.

In special news that's really quite mundane, my band is playing a show tomorrow night (I guess technically TONIGHT? Monday, the 3rd) at Roboto. It's with Conversions (Chris Strunk of Crucial Unit's band from Boston, not to be mistaken for cnvrsns), a band called Capsule, and Brainhandle. Good times will be done.

Guapo were really good tonight at Garfield Artworks, as were Zombi. It was pretty steamy inside, and I left to go out for air a little bit before Guapo finished, but it was a tough decision because they were intensely exciting and hey, they're from England, who knows when they'll be back (that's not to be confused with "these guys are from England and who gives a shit").

Also, since the last time I updated (a friggin' WEEK ago) (a long, intense friggin' WEEK ago), I talked about dreams, I leave you with this: last night's nearly 12-hour sleeping pill sleep involved one dream in which I ate a Wendy's chicken sandwich and wasn't sure how I felt about it, and ended on a dream in which it was late on a Sunday night and I was frantic about getting to bed soon so I would be able to get up in the morning, and E* and I were eating peanuts and cupcakes and A* was talking about people at length. Then I woke up and felt exhausted.


i am just a dreamer, and you are just a dream

While it is bedtime, the current plan is to get down to business, at least a little, on a mixtape for a long-distance pal. My main challenge right now is to resist the urge to weigh it down completely with cheesy '70s rock, the like of which I've been rocking almost exclusively lately (with the notable exception of the Old Time Relijun albums I got a month ago).

I'll give you a couple dreams I had this weekend, as relayed to a friend via email earlier. The preponderance of crash-and-burn dreams recently has been alarming but more exciting than anything; I'll take most any dream I can remember, and it sure beats the spider hallucination.

1. J* and I go to a roadside amusement type place where you ride a ride that's a cross between the Old Mill and the Log Jammer at Kennywood. Basically, you ride in a big canoe and it takes you up big hills then you go down the hills really fast into the water.

There's one part where it sends you catapulting across a break in the track and you JUMP THE SHARK (it was actually a killer whale) that's in a tank between the two parts of the track. Except our canoe missed and crashed right next to the tank, and crush Damon Che's drum kit, which was sitting there. No one got hurt, and I couldn't stop laughing about how we had just crashed into Damon Che's drum kit, then we sorta hung out and some dudes from bands that we have played with recently showed up and that was that.

2. I'm in Oakland on a Saturday, and these two news choppers fly overhead, then at some point become airplanes, and crash -- one into a field, one into the fourth floor of Hillman. I somehow know that no one is hurt, even though two airliners just crashed and people were actually jumping out of the second one. Everyone on the ground freaks and we're crouching on the ground and people are telling us what to do, and I start crying -- not because I'm worried about people being hurt or killed, but because I'm worried about the damage to our collection and the fact that I can't get the job I applied for if there's no fourth floor anymore.

I go to walk home and I think to call my mom and tell her I'm ok, and I have a bunch of messages from her on my Tracfone but it's freaking out and I can't get them all and I can't call her. G* and G* take me to go eat somewhere in Oakland.


i want a name when i lose

Total recall today brought to mind the day I was in the Builder's Square in the Braddock Hills Shopping Center with my dad, probably about 9 or 10 years old, and "Deacon Blues" was on the radio in the store, and it was the first time I paid attention to the song -- like, REALLY paid attention. I had heard this song plenty of times, on the oldies and easy listening stations. All of a sudden I realized there were lyrics here about drinking and driving and dying as a result. I was at once both scandalized and enamored; I referred to it for a time after that with my sister as "the drunk driving song."

At that point I got to the crux of what still appeals to me (and a lot of people) about Steely Dan. Beyond the obvious amazing hooks (see: "Reelin' in the Years," "My Old School"), there's a weird creepiness, a subversive vibe within the songs that doesn't usually make itself immediately apparent. Think about "Show Biz Kids," the tour de force on "Countdown to Ecstacy" that made it to 61 on the Billboard charts (higher than "My Old School, actually): it's a smooth partyish jam, but it criticizes the very coke party culture that made the Dan so big at the time. They go so far as to describe the spoiled rich party culture types they're skewing as having "the shapely bodies" and "the Steely Dan t-shirt" (and briefly lampoon themselves, hitting the "Reelin' in the Years" lick) (reminiscent of what The Beatles do with "She Loves You Yeah Yeah Yeah" in "All You Need is Love").

A lot of people can level the complaint that the Dan represent everything that was bad about rock in the '70s, everything that punk rebelled against. The recordings were overproduced, to be sure. The idea of being a "studio band" and not touring isn't very rock'n'roll -- but then, Steely Dan isn't/wasn't that rock'n'roll (they're more jazz-rock than anything). Whatever you want to call what they are, they're good at it, and they've never been completely complacent in the industry. ("Show Biz Kids" was the first single off of "Countdown," their second album and the follow-up to the album with "Dirty Work" and "Do it Again," and it had the line "Show biz kids makin movies of themselves/You know they don't give a fuck about anybody else" in it!)

I was still in when "Two Against Nature" came out in 1999 and won all those Grammies, then shortly after I became too damn punk to dig the Dan, then in 2001 I picked up a Punk Planet in which Lady Hopper discussed at length her love for the Dan and the Geto Boys, and she made enough good points that I again began to enjoy them.

Which brings me to today: they're playing at the ridiculous Post-Gazette Pavilion at the end of August, and even with the Skunk attending to important matters of national security, I'll probably go, and I'll probably like it, and I won't be embarrassed or think that I'm selling out my punk/rock'n'roll cred. It's not a guilty pleasure, it's an amazing band. Get into it.