Linkdump from Facebook 2

Here’s some dumping from Facebook onto my blog.  (Warning: very long!)  (This is the 2nd installment. See the first linkdump)



Retired high school teacher warns colleges of the generation who were educated under the "No Child Left Behind" obsession with tests.

Desmogblog reports that Tobacco and Oil Billionaires were responsible for creating the website for the first Tea Party.

BLOOMBERG POLL: Only 6% of Americans surveyed answered correctly that the "federal deficit is getting smaller." 62% WRONGLY said that the deficit is getting bigger and 28% WRONGLY said it is staying the same.

In 2005, 76% of Texas voters voted to ban same-sex marriage. This is a reminder of the ugly bigotry which pervades Texas and the cynical politicians who took advantage of it. This vote makes me embarrassed to be a Texan… What I wrote about the issue right after the election: "We have defined our state in terms of intolerance. We have shown to the world that the only things we tolerate apparently are unprecedented incarceration rates, inequities in educational expenditures and underfunded health programs."

(After a Tea Party conservative raises the spectre of Polygamy, I make this remark): Polygamy is a frequent bogeyman used by SSM opponents to scare people. (IIRC, no STATE has ever allowed polygamy although some territories allowed it before becoming a state). I think it would be hard for you to demonstrate that the slippery slope to polygamy starts with protecting the rights of gay people to have formal monogamous relationships. The States (and implicitly the feds) have decided that polygamy is not a valid family structure. This prohibition is universal and nondiscriminatory. I am willing for the sake of argument to consider the possibility that a state might legalize polygamy, but that hasn’t happened yet… By the way, an argument might be made that polygamy DOES threaten monogamous marriage — mainly because if one person marries another without knowing that the other is already married, that could result in harm. I would assume that any state sanctioned polygamy would have to include the requirement that any person getting married would have to disclose to the partner that he is also married to someone else). I do not believe that pro-polygamy laws would prima facie be unconstitutional, so if Vermont wants to pass a pro-polygamy law, maybe we’d have to consider it. But my limited imagination makes me unable to imagine a scenario where a state would legalize polygamy.

ROBERT REICH: Allowing more legal immigrants into the US would solve the looming Medicare and Social Security problem.

Voting turnout rates in apartments is 25% — compared to 45% for home dwellers. (according to  political analyst Chuck Kuffner)

I am in a state of shock that sequestration finally happened and now even seems to be the normal state of affairs. Can’t Congress do anything? (I posted this on FB at the beginning of March. How naïve I was to believe that Congress would certainly solve it by month’s end!)

Here’s a 6 minute video about wealth inequality that has been making its way around  the Net. QUOTE: "The top 1% of Americans have more wealth that what 9 out of 10 Americans say that the top 20% of Americans SHOULD have. " Paul Solman did a good news report about this in 2011 (transcript here)

ECONOMIST EMMANUEL SAENZ: Between 2009-2011, earnings of the top 1% grew by 11.2%; earnings of the other 99 percent declined by 0.4 percent.

Here’s a a good list of pundits with questionable conflicts of interest. Started by Yasha Levine & Mark Ames of Exiled Magazine. (For something less snarky, see Sourcewatch). Example:

REGARDING MEGAN MCCARDLE: In 2003, McArdle attacked economist James Galbraith as "paranoiac" and critic Eric Alterman as "nuts" for suggesting that the Iraq war could cost $2 trillion. McArdle declared the Iraq War "is not going to run us several trillion dollars (though even if it did, that would work out to less than 0.1% of GDP over the next 20 years.)…But making up ridiculous numbers in order to support your predisposition isn’t helpful — and when the war doesn’t cost us $2t, people are going to remember that the next time you talk about the costs of a program you don’t like." In 2008, Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz calculated that the Iraq war cost at least $3 trillion.

Country singer Mindy McCready killed herself. Another victim of gun violence.  (I should report that many gun nuts assaulted this post. Here’s some of my commentary this 4 word post—note I am concurrently writing a post about this topic).

The world will never know if McCready would still be alive if there wasn’t a gun nearby. Unfortunately though, when there is a suicide by a loved one, that increases the chances that you yourself will try suicide….. One TV doctor said, ""When I heard she was struggling, I did reach out to her and urged her to go to take care of herself, get in a facility if she felt she needed," said Pinsky, who hosts his own program on CNN’s sister network HLN. Her biggest fear was the stigma of doing so and what people would think if she, God forbid, took care of herself. And this to me is the most distressing part of this story. She is a lovely woman, we have lost her, and it didn’t have to go down like this."

To lower suicide rates, keep suicidal people away from guns.

I had not intended to start a political discussion here, merely to make the banal observation that this suicide was caused by a gun. However, because of the interest, perhaps I should address these things.

First, policymakers and critics focus on the wrong question. Instead of focusing on the macro question of whether there should be gun control laws, they should be focused on a more basic question, Does having a gun in a household increase suicide and murder rates more than not having a gun? In other words, if you are a parent, do the benefits of having a gun to protect your household from an outsider outweigh the harm of having an increased risk of suicide or murder being committed by a family member? In the case of the McCready family, the risks outweighed the benefits. I think every parent of a mentally disturbed child who later goes on to kill someone honestly believes that the gun he or she bought would never be used for malicious reasons.

These gun-owning parents may honestly believe that gun ownership reduces risk, but does the objective evidence bear out this belief? I will not challenge your right to own a gun for reasons of protections, but I personally would find it incompatible with being a good parent. I would never allow cigarettes or guns in a household I was a parent of. It seems like an unnecessary risk. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t maintain that guns deserve credit for some results and NOT deserve blame for other results. All results need to be considered – no exceptions.

Here’s some good research on gun ownership and suicide. These are all from peer-reviewed studies (mainly medical journals). Particularly noteworthy was the study that rates of suicidal tendencies among gun owners is not substantially different from nongun owners. But the likelihood of success when that population does try is higher. From the NYT article cited above: "Guns are used in more than half of all suicide fatalities, but account for just 1 percent of all self-harm injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms, a rough proxy for suicide attempts, Dr. Miller said. Overdoses, which account for about 80 percent of suicide attempts, are responsible for just 14 percent of fatalities."

In the case of the country singer, the biggest risk factor was not gun ownership (many mentally stable people own guns), but her history of depression and addiction and her history of suicide attempts. (She tried overdoses, but none of them worked, but using a gun finally worked). Also, knowing somebody who committed suicide is also a huge red flag because it impairs the coping skills of survivors. Mindy was lucky enough to have access to mental care, but apparently she was not supervised closely enough.

The most mysterious thing about this is why her latest boyfriend killed himself. Was he a basket case or what? I’ve seen no good explanation or even a guess about why this happened. I’m just speculating, but without any clear indication of motive, I wonder whether it could have been just an impulsive act? If so, availability of a gun to do the deed might have played a role. Availability certainly plays a role. As the NYT reported, "In a 2001 study of 13- to 34-year-olds in Houston who had attempted suicide but were saved by medical intervention, researchers from the C.D.C. found that, for more than two-thirds of them, the time that elapsed between deciding to act and taking action was an hour or less. The key to reducing fatalities, experts say, is to block access to lethal means when the suicidal feeling spikes."

If Mindy (and especially her boyfriend) didn’t have guns around, they would still be alive. Sure, both people probably could have found a way to commit suicide, but the question is: was this an impulsive act whose motive might have faded after a good night’s sleep? Or was it something dependent on easy access to a tool to execute the deed? My guess (and I am definitely speculating wildly) is that the boyfriend’s act was impulsive and therefore avoidable (because he didn’t have a history of mental illness or violence) but that Mindy’s act was mainly a copycat way of grieving/commemorating her boyfriend’s death (in which case she would have eventually found a way). Again, I really have no idea! I’m just guessing!

From the NYT Article cited above.

“Yes, many may find another method,” said Catherine Barber, director of the Harvard center’s Means Matter public health education campaign, “but will it kill them?” …Citing statistics from emergency rooms and death certificates, she said, “Nearly everything they substitute will have lower odds of killing them, sometimes dramatically so.” Reducing access to lethal means has worked in other countries. An intervention in Israel preventing soldiers from taking their guns home on weekend leave, a time when many soldiers’ suicides occurred, helped reduce the suicide rate among them by 40 percent. " Later on: " In a 2001 study of 13- to 34-year-olds in Houston who had attempted suicide but were saved by medical intervention, researchers from the C.D.C. found that, for more than two-thirds of them, the time that elapsed between deciding to act and taking action was an hour or less. The key to reducing fatalities, experts say, is to block access to lethal means when the suicidal feeling spikes. "

Let me summarize: If an adult wants to keep a gun in the house out of some subjective sense of empowerment, that’s their prerogative and constitutional right. If an adult wants to use a gun to commit suicide, I guess that’s the individual prerogative as well (although the state and survivors ends up having to take care of the aftermath). But if you believe that keeping a gun in a US household has no effect on the likelihood or the success rate of suicide rates by household members, you’re seriously fooling yourself.

I read a fascinating study about suicides at the Golden Gate bridge and other bridges, and there is strong evidence that putting barriers removes any impulse to do it. Apparently, the opportunity does evoke the inclination in people not normally prone to suicide. It’s a no-brainer to put up barriers on bridges and buildings when practical and inexpensive. The subway question is a genuine concern. Lots of people jump in front of trains or subways, and there really is no practical way to stop that.

In 1995 the suicide rate in Russia was 45 per 100,000 people. (That was 50% higher than the country with the highest rate, South Korea). That’s unbelievable and the sad legacy of communism. South Korea and Russia have much higher suicide rates than the US for reasons that have little to do with gun control or gun availability. I think it could be shown that presence of guns is a risk factor for suicide, but it certainly is not the primary risk factor. (In the case of Mindy McCready, the biggest risk factor was not guns but 1)her history of depression and 2)the fact that her boyfriend did it recently and she was unsupervised.

SURVEY: Nearly half of the 1,200 Texas voters polled, or a member of the polled person’s family, own at least one gun, results showed. Out of those who say they own a gun, 19 percent said they and their families own one firearm, 44 percent said they own 2-5, 20 percent said they own more than five guns, and the rest chose “prefer not to say.” (Doing the math, 10% of Texas voters in the poll say they have more than 5 guns in their household….)

Climate Change Science/Technology

Here on average is what Texans use to power their houses (as of 2011): Coal/lignite: 39%, Natural Gas: 40%, Nuclear 10.6%, Renewable Energy 8.8%, Other 0.7%

Number of minutes in CNN news coverage given to climate change during the last three months of the US election: 23 minutes. Number of minutes in CNN coverage given to the Carnival "poop ship" in a single 24 hour period: 758 minutes!

Here’s Bill Gates bookshelf about energy books. Actually I’ve read and reviewed better climate change books than Gates did.

This eye-catching 2 minute vid makes the case that carbon polluters are refusing to pay for their pollution, and so everyone else is left to foot the bill. Related: World Bank study shows that the US subsidizes fossil fuels significantly more than any other country …$502 billion in subsidies.

Someone suggested that the symbol for climate change should not be the polar bear, but the map of Bangladesh, the country which is expected to suffer its worst effects. It’s half the US population, the size of Iowa which already has 6 million climate refugees… I’ve always felt that the thing that oil companies have to fear most is a transnational lawsuit by a 12 year Bengali girl who through no fault of her own (or her government) has to live in a homeland likely to be ruined by climate change…

I assumed that there are not enough charging stations in my neighborhood to make it convenient to have an electric car. As it turns out, there’s a public charging station a mile from my house and a high power fast charging station 2-3 miles away.  Related: Some guide to buying an electric car.

Here’s a good 5 minute video summarizing what we know about permafrost and climate change. In a nutshell: permafrost will start releasing GHG after a 1.5 C temperature increase from pre-industrial levels. (we are currently .6 or .8 degrees C above pre-industrial levels).

Can you spot the real scientist (reprinted from Slashdot):

GOOFUS has a PhD.
GALLANT has a PhD in a field unrelated to his research.
GOOFUS gets little respect as a scientist outside the scientific community.
GALLANT gets little respect as a scientist inside the scientific community.
GOOFUS drives a beat-up old car.
GALLANT drives a BMW unless his chauffeur is driving.
GOOFUS wears street clothes to work, maybe a lab suit on occasion.
GALLANT wears three piece suits at all times.
GOOFUS is employed by a "university", a "hospital", or a "laboratory".
GALLANT is employed by a "Coalition", an "Institute", an "Association", a "Foundation", a "Council", or a "White House".
GOOFUS earns $30000 per year unless they cut his funding.
GALLANT earns $200000 per year but makes his real money from speaking fees.
GOOFUS lives anywhere in the country.
GALLANT lives in a wealthy area near Washington DC, but may have additional homes elsewhere.
GOOFUS may sometimes be filmed standing in front of big melting icebergs.
GALLANT may be filmed sitting in front of a bookcase or standing behind a podium at a $2000 per plate fundraiser, although there may be ice melting in his drink.
GOOFUS is a dues-paying member of several scientific grassroots organizations.
GALLANT is on the payroll of several scientific astroturf organizations.
GOOFUS gets summoned for jury duty but is never picked as a juror.
GALLANT claims "the jury is still out" on evolution or global warming, since he considers himself to be on the jury.
GOOFUS maintains the world is five billion years old.
GALLANT isn’t really saying, but creationists distribute his pamphlets all the time.
GOOFUS claims the world is warming as a direct result of human activity.
GALLANT either claims that climate change doesn’t exist, or if it does, that humans have nothing to do with it.
GOOFUS and his graduate students do the dirty work of collecting raw data and looking for conclusions to be drawn from it.
GALLANT does the dirty work of discrediting GOOFUS by manipulating his data in Excel with statistically invalid techniques.
GOOFUS writes scientific papers and grant proposals.
GALLANT writes the nation’s environmental legislation and a column for the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page.
GOOFUS draws scientific conclusions from the data he collects that usually come out in agreement with the scientific consensus.
GALLANT paints the scientific consensus as being entirely political in nature and enjoys comparing himself to Galileo.
GOOFUS is heavily trained to be a skeptic and to treat information from all sources with a skeptical mind.
GALLANT is heavily marketed as a skeptic but reserves his skepticism for GOOFUS.
GOOFUS isn’t paid much attention by the press since his opinions are commonplace among scientists.
GALLANT holds maverick opinions for a scientist which keeps him busy running from one balanced talk show to the next.
GOOFUS has no PR skills.
GALLANT leverages his PR experience all the time, although he has access to paid PR staff.
GOOFUS claims the sky is falling and we have to take painful steps to reduce CO2 emissions now.
GALLANT claims the free market will take care of it and recommends solving the problem by conning Zimbabwe out of their pollution credits.
GOOFUS advises his kids not to go into science.
GALLANT advises the president.

  Here’s a recent jump in atmospheric CO2. The biggest single year jump in CO2 levels won’t translate to temperature increase for another 30-40 years. That means in 2040-2050 people will wonder what the hell people in 2013 were thinking.

Here’s a great graphic about climate change and CO2. So great I copied a copy of the graphic onto my own website.

CLIMATE SCIENTIST JAMES HANSEN: If we burn even a substantial fraction of the fossil fuels, we guarantee there’s going to be unstoppable changes in the climate of the earth.. We’re going to leave a situation for young people and future generations that they may have no way to deal with.

This is really good news. Up until recently, Apple’s data centers had a terrible environmental record. Apple was one of the last of the IT giants to go green on web hosting.

Climate sensitivity was covered in a long Economist article. Joe Romm gives a detailed response. Although Romm is a little polemical, all of his points are basically right. There is a tendency even in highbrow business news reporting to report that the problem ain’t as bad as originally as thought. Here’s a better and more detailed explanation by a climate scientist.

Techy Stuff

Printer cartridges have a lot less ink than they used to.

A technical author notices that Google News is excluding a LOT of news sources. As a result, Google News is practically useless for everything pertaining to news….

"When I type in "Catalonia", Google says there are 83 news items. When I ask Google to show me "all 83 news sources", it gives me a list of only 16. You can try this at home. Down at the bottom of the page, Google has a little disclaimer that says it omits some entries that are "very similar to those already displayed". And this is probably not the right time to discuss wire services and the sad fact that a single mediocre story with no byline about a small, new far away country might be reproduced verbatim, with no fact chacking, in 80 or so American newspapers. But I digress. But if you click "repeat the search with omitted results included" Google still only displays 25 items. There is no way to see all 83."

I tried doing what she suggested. Google News said there were 13 news sources about Catalonia, but it decided to show me only 2.

Don’t you love it how online statements for credit cards never seem to show the interest fees — only the transactions (The interest fees can only be found in those pesky PDF files)…

Call me annoyed, but I just noticed that my blog no longer comes up on top of search results for my name. Instead the linkedin profile appears as #1. Stupid #$##$$ SEO @#@#@# change in algorithms! Looking on the bright side, I am still beating out the Nagle Law firm, Rob Nagle the country singer, Robert Nagle (the "Irish Indiana Jones"), Robert Nagle (the Hollywood Stuntman) and Robby Nagle, the European gay porn star.

I have noticed that Google is definitely not showing the love for bloggers anymore. Often they are conveniently “hiding” search results from my blog that I know should ONLY land on my blog.

I shudder whenever I see it, but I always found the phrase "kernel panic" to be hilarious… Looks like MC Frontalot already did a song about it.

Here’s a brilliant math tutorial/meditation by Vi Hart about the 12 days of Christmas. Also: here’s her mathematical complaint about Sponge Bob, Number Games,  , and LOTS of other rapid discussions on mathematical and biological and musical concepts. Here’s her website ;  she’s now working at Khan Academy.

SXSW may have peaked, and that is probably not a bad thing.  My favorite comment:

"After last year, and based upon the last three years I’ve gone, I decided never again to attend the Interactive portion. Not only does SXSW control all the hotels in town during those three weeks, it is impossible to go anywhere nearby unless you walk, and never mind trying to park even a few miles away. It is nothing but thousands of hipsters staring down at a device, walking around inside, sitting on the floor, during a panel and presentations, or even in front of a urinal. The same thing is going on outside waiting in a line, or walking down the sidewalk. Everyone is so disconnected with the event itself and focused on their device, their rudeness is embarrassing and annoying. imagine attending a panel but spending the time on your laptop and phone. Sorry, not my idea of an enriching experience."

MY RESPONSE: Just how is that different from how it has been in EVERY PREVIOUS YEAR?" FYI: I stopped going from 2010 on….. Obviously, the downfall of SXSW must have occurred as a result of my decision not to attend. Or maybe it started when SXSW started letting people vote on panels. Once people became able to marshal marketing/social media tools to encourage people to vote for their panel, suddenly there was an influx of panels about social media and marketing….

Here’s a silly 4 min comic sketch about a party where you get to meet Facebook, Google, Reddit, etc. Pretty clever….

Pop Culture

QUESTION: Is it possible to stay friends with an ex? ANSWER: Mostly no. Unless both of you are part of a sitcom with 6 seasons left. (stolen from QUORA)

Here’s the magic trick which Penn and Teller says stumped them the most. Some magician posted the complete solution here. It will blow your mind! Other solutions for the Penn & Teller Fool Us Show  are here.

"Before Nixon fell, …all American puns rhymed perfectly and snappily, as if the whole country were a Cole Porter musical.” (More).

On Facebook: God has received 527,000 likes. "The Devil" has received 726,000 likes. C’mon people. Fulfill your moral and religious obligations by saying you LIKE God!

"THREE’S COMPANY" HUMOR: In March 2001, after being notified by a viewer, Nick at Nite quickly edited an episode ("The Charming Stranger") where John Ritter’s scrotum skin was briefly visible through the bottom of a pair of blue boxer shorts. The most famous quip about this issue was uttered by John Ritter, who told the New York Observer when they asked him about the controversy: "I’ve requested that Nickelodeon air both versions, edited and unedited, because sometimes you feel like a nut, and sometimes you don’t.. (found on Wikipedia).

Boingboing uncovered a new “lost” pilot episode with different female actors. Part 1 and Part 2.

KING OF THE HILL HUMOR: HANK: I thought you were busy teaching girls to blow up basketballs. When did this turn into a desire to ruin wrestling? PEGGY: Oh, give me a break. I don’t see how having a girl on the team would ruin it. Did a woman judge ruin the Supreme Court?
HANK: Yes, and that woman’s name was Earl Warren.

If there is one Star Trek species I’d like to meet, it would be the Sheliak species. (See "Ensign of Command" TNG Episode 3×02). If you have already watched this episode (Spoiler Alert), you will LOVE watching this video excerpt again.

People may scoff at Star Trek Voyager, but the Projections episode (in season 2) poses a great ontological conundrum: if you are the Emergency Medical Technician on the holodeck, how could you differentiate between Metaspace and Virtual Space (and the world of dreams, etc)? Not by perceptions, but simply by searching for logical contradictions within each competing reality until only one remains…

Jeri Ryan (the actress who played the Borg on Star Trek) divorced her politician husband because he wanted her to frequent sex clubs. As a result, her husband (who had been heavily favored to win the Illinois race for US Senate) resigned, providing an opportunity for a virtual unknown to run for Senate. The name of that "virtual unknown" was Barack Obama. So you can argue that Obama’s ascendance to power was a result of the Borg’s machinations to assimilate Planet Earth. . Of course, a true Borg would never file for divorce…. (Incidentally, Jack Ryan, Jeri’s ex-husband was a Republican).

Speaking of Borgs,there’s a great and hilarious female character in the short-lived sitcom Better Off Ted played by Portia de Rossi. Rossi played Ted’s boss; she was domineering, uncaring and capable of occasional great feats. She’s a combination of Mr. Burns (from the Simpsons) and Seven of Nine; too bad she didn’t win an Emmy.

Movie Critic Mike Barrett makes some good off-the-wall observations about Argo.  QUESTION ASKED OF TONY MENDEZ (THE SPY WHO INSPIRED THE MOVIE "ARGO") "What does it take to be a good spy?" ANSWER: "Deadly Boring!" (Here is Tony Mendez’s declassified memoir on the CIA site and here is a lengthy Wired article about it).

There is a classic TNG episode on the "Is this real or is this the holodeck" theme where at the end — after everything is wrapped up, Barclay says, "End program" and there was a tense pause — and I seriously wondered what was going to happen… (That’s the famous Moriarty episode aka "Ship in a Bottle" in Season 6)

Believe it or not, I watched two Speed Racer episodes last weekend. I never was a huge fan of this show, but while watching again, I was struck by the quality of the writing and voices. This episode (Pt 1 and Pt 2)  were very psychological — I appreciate it more as an adult than a child…. If this 2 part episode doesn’t freak you out, also check out "The Race Against the Mammoth" episode…

David Dylan Thomas asks: Why are there no slavery films by black directors?

11 Points shares 11 Random Observations from my trip to the Oscars.  Also, here’s a great and funny read about the much lampooned Snow White musical number at the Oscars 24 years ago.  BTW, my last 3 predictions for Best Picture have proven correct… 3 for 3!

"These anti-drunk driving ad campaigns are not going to work. People are still going to drink and drive no matter what." This is a classic example of the "Nirvana fallacy."

Here’s the secrets to every single sitcom romantic comedy. If these secrets became better known, TV (and Hollywood itself) might cease to exist. NOTE: Romantic Story Arcs on TV and Romantic Story Arcs in Meatspace may not overlap…

Strange tale of an Iranian English prof who was mistaken for a political martyr. It’s a good example of how one false fact can be distributed and multiplied and syndicated practically everywhere.

Here’s a good rundown of creationist arguments and responses.  Such a site reminds a person how useful online collaboration can be for gathering and organizing information. Here’s another site that does this.

My favorite neologism: Lucky Duckies. Wikipedia quotes a WSJ intern’s offer to his boss:

I will spend a year as a Wall Street Journal editor, while one lucky editor will spend a year in my underpaid shoes. I will receive an editor’s salary, and suffer the outrage of paying federal income tax on that salary. The fortunate editor, on the other hand, will enjoy a relatively small federal income tax burden, as well as these other perks of near poverty: the gustatory delights of a diet rich in black beans, pinto beans, navy beans, chickpeas and, for a little variety, lentils; the thrill of scrambling to pay the rent or make the mortgage; the salutary effects of having no paid sick days; the slow satisfaction of saving up for months for a trip to the dentist; and the civic pride of knowing that, even as a lucky ducky, you still pay a third or more of your gross income in income taxes, payroll taxes, sales taxes and property taxes

Literary/Capsule Reviews

DAVID GELERNTER: "The internet’s insatiable demand for words creates global deflation in the value of words. The internet’s capacity to distribute words near-instantly means that, with no lag-time between writing and publication, publication and worldwide availability, pressure builds on the writer to produce more. Global deflation in the value of words creates pressure, in turn, to downplay or eliminate editing and self-editing. When I tell my students not to turn in first-drafts, I sometimes have to explain, nowadays, what a first draft is."

STEFAN ZWEIG: "Art still exists to give shape to multiple ways of being…"

Here’s a great (but woefully incomplete) guide to literary culture in about 30 cities. Amazingly, I don’t see anything written about Houston though….

EDWARD HOAGLAND: Aesop would perk his ears, pick up a pen at this thicket of still current figures of speech. But what he, Aristotle, Linnaeus, Darwin, Emerson, Kipling would make of what’s going on should give us pause. I don’t mean whether they would like e-mail and “the cloud” so much as the price in demolitions paid, the dramatis personae wiped out. Even Isaac Newton, sitting in his apple orchard, might wonder, “what have you done with the birds?” — was it a fair trade? Will Robert Frost be the last great poet to notice that leaves are gold before they’re green? And his beloved stars; where are they? Would Newton need to fly to Australia or the Andes to gaze at them as before — and feel the magic of the plane was worth it? So much of creation has gone up in smoke to produce glass skyscrapers flocks fly into, superhighways, on-demand electronics, seven billion people in flabbergasting densities, that it’s anybody’s guess what these luminaries would say. Would they prefer what used to be called “God’s green earth?”


Monk Turner and Alanna Lin win the Happy Birthday song contest. I wrote a long interview with Monk Turner and even about the Happy Birthday song contest. Although I’m delighted that Turner won, I thought some other songs entered in the contest were better.

Live performance  by Potap and Nastiya of a fun Ukrainian pop song which has been spinning in my head all day. I can’t think of any equivalent boy-girl upbeat rap-singing duo in US music. I don’t know hip-hop or rap very well, but the only good successful duos I can think of are 2 females or 2 males, and the male duo song seem too angry or vulgar to really have any musicality. In that respect, Potap and Nastiya have a real unique sound. (Maybe there’s something coming out in the High School Musical generation, I don’t know….) (Here’s another example of their upbeat rap).

Robin Daggers’ song "PS I love you" is a good song, but it’s no "Let’s Go to the Mall."

Delighted to hear that the makers of Sifl & Olly Show have started producing new episodes. It’s now a  6 minute show that reviews videogames. Here’s a typical episode and a hilarious NSFW song to promote the new show. BTW, Sifl and Olly creator Liam Lynch has also written a lot of rock parody songs and just cool songs in general. (See: United States of Whatever).

This cool & goofy 70s soul classic song by the Dramatics  is hipper than hip, uplifting, proto-disco with slight gospel overtones. Haven’t decided whether the best place to hear it would be in a church or in a disco.

"He plays tricks, begins with kicks
So beware, my brothers and sisters.
Next thing that you know, you gotta Jones… Look out!
Here comes the pusher."

Here’s on youtube is the full concert which Selena did in San Antonio in 1991 when she was 19 years old.  (Open in new window to see playlist properly). This is her great San Antonio concert — right when her career was taking off. (Among Selena’s rabid fans — and I count myself among one of them) — this was during Selena’s "cow costume" period of her career. The dress is both hideous and eye-catching, and I think she pulls it off — as only Selena would). BTW, Selena was killed March 31, 1995. (Here’s an earlier post I did about her Youtube footage).

Related: Here is an amazing & powerful 30 minute documentary about the making of Gregory Nava’s classic Selena film — told 10 years later by the cast and Selena’s own family members.Some remarkable details from the vid: The father never learned until the script was written that it was Selena — not Chris Perez — who suggested they elope. Although most family members were there for the shooting, Chris never did — except for one scene where he did a tricky guitar solo scene.

Here’s an early gem from the Throwing Muses. When I asked Kristin Hersch about this song after a Houston concert, she said she had written it when she was 17. It’s a very angsty song, but Hersch has done several versions, each with a different mood. Eventually, the song made its way into the song Shark.

In this 8 minute mindless & frenetic 90’s techno remix, there is a dizzying "wow" moment — you’ll know it when it hits….. Bonus points if you can guess what the singer wants. Related: Weird Al’s This Song’s Just Six Words Long.

Lately I’ve become enamored of a peppy Swedish electronic band called Komeda. Here’s one of their 90s hits. Here’s another peppy hit from a later album. They definitely have a jazzy Stereolab sound with a little Rock Lobster thrown in. Although they sing in English, I’m flipping over "Pop På Svenska Pop Pa Svenska & Plan 714 Till”, an early album sung entirely in Swedish.

I’m absolutely enchanted by John Williams’ Close Encounters soundtrack. Here’s the complete playlist – note, you must open  in a new browser window). Lots of Debussy-like melodies. Just spectacular! It was a real scandal that this score didn’t win the Oscar for best score. Instead it was beaten by some brash score for an indie sci fi flick called "Star Wars"… written by somebody named "John Williams".

I’ve become a recent convert to RDIO, an online music streamer. Basically free, with unlimited desktop streaming for $5 a month. Good for previewing albums before deciding if to buy them.

Looking for 90 minutes of relaxing pulsating music? Here’s a long electronic piece by lectronic composer MAD73751. It is soothing, complex, interesting but not too distracting. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve returned to this piece during fits of insomnia or moments where I need to eliminate distraction.

I have been buying “Big Boxes” from Amazon consisting of 8+ hours of classical music digital files. Generally  good quality though variable. The price varies. It starts out as 99 cents, and then after that initial period it goes to 3 or 10 dollars. So far I have bought Big Bach Box, Bigger Bach Box,  Big Mozart Box, Big Schubert Box, Big Beethoven Box, Big Baroque Box, Big Vivaldi Box, Big Handel Box, Big Mahler Box, Big Gustav Leonhardt Box, Debussy Ride of the Masters,  Mozart’s Best Operas. I’ve also downloaded the “Haydn Symphonies” and am eagerly awaiting the Big Haydn Box which should be upon us in the next week or two.

Musician: "by my calculation it would take songwriting royalties for roughly 312,000 plays on Pandora to earn us the profit of one– one– LP sale."

Here’s a 1995 Cantonese song by Sammi Cheng which I heard LONG LONG ago and finally found on youtube. It slowly goes and goes and then it hits the jackpot near the end. It’s a really wow — golly, did she just do that? kind of song.

Here’s the most bizarre & amazing cover song I have ever heard. This Austin psychedelic 60s garage band is a Precursor to Devo and B-52s. Rock away! Rock away!

Here’s a great article comparing the music cloud services. I’ll add my two cents: Amazon Cloud only accept unmatched music files in mp3 or m4a – not OGG format. Second, Amazon Cloud doesn’t allow uploads of music files which are UTF/non-Roman alphabet. Outrageous!

RIP Norma Zentano, Houston Latin Jazz performer.

SXSW: The New Torrents are here!

Speaking of Mindy McCready, I wasn’t that familiar with her music, but last night on Rdio I listened to her latest album which was beautiful. The irony of being in the arts is that when you make your best work, the world rarely notices..


Something totally bizarre. Stepped on a mustard packet in my apartment, and it squirted onto my wall 5 feet away. PS, does anyone know how to remove mustard stains from a painted wall?

As nutty as it sounds, I just passed on my bike a shirtless Jesus carrying a giant wooden cross on the sidewalk. Occasionally, when the cross swung too far onto the Westheimer road, cars would have to swerve away. I realize that it was a "happening," but still it was disconcerting to see him on the extremely busy Westheimer street.







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