Tuesday, July 31, 2007

How's Your House?

This video by Ian Hunter is one of several promoting the New Orleans Musician's Relief Fund. All proceeds from album sales go to helping musicians displaced by Hurricane Katrina.


Now that I have an iPod, I've found it interesting to track the stuff that I keep coming back to over and over. So, here's my list, the ten songs that keep recirculating:

1. Stiff Little Fingers -- Suspect Device. This might be the greatest punk song of all time. Every note shreds, the vocals are a desperate scream, and the whole thing seems somehow empowering.

2. Drive-By Truckers -- Gravity's Gone. This is the perfect pop tune: achy, knowing, smart, nostalgic. I fucking love this song. Cooley rules.

3. Russian Circles -- Carpe. Metal for smart people, background music for a massacre, whatever. The way this song builds and shifts is brilliant.

4. Glenn Gould -- Bach's Goldberg Variations. OK, that's a bunch of music, but I return to it over and over again because it clears my head and gives me faith in the fact that people can create universal beauty.

5. Minutemen -- Jesus and Tequila. As clear a statement of purpose as I need.

6. Dexateens -- Neil Armstrong. Stupid, happy pop that makes me smile.

7. Eels -- Bus Stop Boxer. Cathartic, eleegaic electronica that seems to reach out and encompass the world.

8. Godspeed You Black Emperor! -- Terrible Canyons of Static. The beginning, middle, and end of every thirty minute drive. I wish I could tell you why I like this so much. It just tugs at me.

9. Lucero -- Watch It Burn. Chunka-chunka guitars, with just the right amount of sneering. Sincere, knowing, and catchy. Actually, this whole record trips my trigger.

10. Shane MacGowan and the Popes -- Danny Boy. Yeah, that song. I cry every time. I want it played at my funeral.

What're y'all listening to?

Friday, July 27, 2007


Best cover of Iron Maiden's "The Trooper" EVAR!!!!!1!!!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Damn! Now I Hafta Be Smart Again!

Alabama's favorite libertarian gubernatorial candidate gave me a shout-out on her blog today, so I'm expecting whopping double-digit pageloads (no offense, Loretta) as curious folks check the blog out, read a few of my moronic dribblings about videogames, and never come back. For those who got here via my recent comment at Docs Political Parlor, there's lotsa stuff in the archive that goes into almost physically painful detail about my experience with Shelby County and its stellar and effective law enforcement community. Check it out, some of it's even funny.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Indie Rock: How To Age Clumsily

Listen up, 25-year-olds. Ima drop da knowledge bout what's fidna happen to y'all in the next 15 years (musical-taste-wise):

Next five years: Bands get lamer. Nobody's doing anything interesting. Old bands you liked in high school and college have broken up, except for the sell-outs, who still cough up a good song or two. That ex who listened to jazz wasn't so bad, except for the heroin. You get some Miles Davis.

Subsequent five years: All this shit sucks. Everything everyone else knows about popular music is wrong, wrong, wrong. You know -- you have perspective. You get some Bach, but you don't play it around your friends.

The meteor of age 40 strikes planet You: Maybe the music of the past few years hasn't been THAT bad. Younger people seem to like it. Maybe there's some of it you didn't hear that doesn't totally suck. You are adrift. Tastes have irrevocably shifted, and you are No Longer Cool. You try, you struggle, you fail. Some of the stuff you hear is, in fact, good music, but it's derivative: it echoes the stuff you liked twenty years ago.

You sigh, and listen to The Book of Knots.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Demonstrable Results Of Becoming Irate

Before she got sick, my mom subscribed to everything. Magazines great and small, specialty coffee, catalogs, sweepstakes, the whole rich panoply of American junk mail spewed forth from her mailbox six days a week. I've spent the past year trying to get out from under that deluge, and I've been reasonably successful. Usually a "cancel my account" note dropped in the payment envelope suffices, and though I did have to go a couple of rounds with some particularly pernicious and weaselly magazine subscription services, on the whole it hasn't been that hard to stop the crap cavalcade.

Except for that damned coffee company. For months I wrote "CANCEL MY ACCOUNT" in big red letters on the bills. I marked all their deliveries "Return To Sender" and dropped them back off at the post office. I called customer service and got friendly, perky people to assure me that the account was cancelled and to provide me with cancellation numbers that subsequent friendly, perky people claimed not to be able to recognize. Still the packages came.

Until they didn't.

Last November, I thought they had gotten the message. The packages of Hazelnut Dream and French Roast Very Special ceased. Cool, I thought.

Then today, I come back from running errands and there's a big fucking box from the coffee company on the front porch. "Welcome to [Shitty Coffee Company I Refuse To Advertise For]!" said the big letters on the box. Attached, of course, was an invoice. Now, I know for a fact that I have personally gotten the mail out of the mailbox every single day since I've been taking care of mom. I have to; that's the only way the bills get paid. And I know for a fact that I have gleefully fed to the paper shredder every single beseeching piece of promotional material from Shitty Coffee Company since we canceled the account.

So this company is obviously hallucinating if it thinks anyone at this address ordered this crap.

I get on the horn to customer service and within moments of connecting to an actual human being (a lengthy but tedious process I shan't dwell on here) I am catapulted into full-blown, vein-in-the-temple-throbbing, shouting rage. It went something like this, but with more swearing and exclamation points:

No, I don't want to add to my order. I want to send this Shitty Coffee back to you, at your expense, and have you never contact me again. I will remain on the phone with you until you, or your boss, or your boss' boss makes this happen. No, like I said, I do not want to CHANGE my order. I do not have an order, and I should not have an account. I am not paying for your Shitty Coffee, young lady, and I'm sorry if I'm yelling but your company's idea of customer service is Chinese water torture and I refuse to have anything else to do with you and raising my voice, I've found, is a convenient way of adding emphasis.

No, I do not wish to keep the free coffee-maker. In fact, I wish to glass you in the face with the free coffee-maker. No, I'm sorry, that's not true, I understand you are simply a representative for a larger entity that needs to be glassed in the face.

Long story short, I got another confirmation number, her name, her boss' name, and other information that will prove useless when they send me a second notice next month. But that is then; and now, my rage expended, basking in the almost post-orgasmic euphoria of a customer-service-induced hissy-fit, I think I'll go take a nap.

And I'm totally keeping the coffee-maker.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Armchair Astronomy

When you've finished correcting Wikipedia and you've done your time in the virtual sweatshop of Amazon's Mechanical Turk, take a few minutes out of your day to do some deep-space astronomy by helping the good folks at Galaxy Zoo classify some galaxies.

There's millions of pictures of them, and humans are better than computers at classifying them. So if we all pitch in and do a few, we can get them all sorted. The site walks you through a five-minute tutorial showing you how to sort out the images, then you just click through them. Pretty easy, kinda dull, but then you realize that the chances are good that the picutre you're looking at is of an object in the universe probably never before seen by human eyes.

That's cool.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Grow Pot? You're A Terrorist!

According to the US "drug czar", pot growers in northern California are violent criminal terrorists who "wouldn't hesitate to help other terrorists get ino the country with the aim of causing mass casualties". Meanwhile, it appears that 4 months before the September 11th attacks, the Bush adminstration gave the Taliban 43 million dollars because they said something dramatic about cutting opium production, all the while doing precisely the opposite.

I propose that northern California pot growers make some sort of public announcement about how much Jesus hates weed. The ensuing torrent of cash from the Bush administration should guarantee bumper crops for years to come. Because nobody makes rational public policy decisions like a bunch of misguided, self-righteous, willfully ignorant assholes.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


I know. It's my own damn fault for taking a tiny little Cormorant into 0.0 space. I figured I'd take a peek, turn tail, and warp back. No chance. Webbed and ganked within 5 seconds, the ship going kablooey well before I could even get her turned. Didn't get a shot off. I was dead before I could target lock.

Now THAT'S humiliating.

So, needless to say, I've sworn eternal revenge etc etc etc. Ship was insured, clone up-to-date, so all I really lost was the million isk or so it'll take to kit out a new cormorant and the time it'll take to fly around buying all those modules and getting back to the right side of the freaking universe. In other words, a few minutes of curiosity lost me about three or four days of game progress. Eve is harsh.

But I SO look forward to dealing out that kind of grief to other players in the months to come.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Bad Week For Rich Kids (The Ones On Pills, That Is)

First Al Gore III and now Brandon Scrushy.

Gore got stopped while speeding: stupid. Scrushy had the Shelby County Goon Squad come crashing in. Dude. And he and his three friends had about 3000 pills. DUDE.

Maybe Daddy's friend Jesus can help, but I fucking doubt it.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Ladies And Gentlemen, We Are Floating In Space

Dear outside world,

I have started playing Eve Online. If you do not hear from me in weeks, please save me, and come prepared to hose the Cheez-Its off my bloated form and pry my eyeballs off the screen and my hands from the keyboard.

Eve has been described as a spreadsheet simulator with a near-vertical learning curve. It is true that if you get right down to it, the game could be played in Excel with a timer.

But it's real purty. And it's soothing. Much of the game involves doing absolutely nothing at all, a skill at which I excel. Figuring out a 7-jump trade route and then sitting back, clicking auto-pilot, and watching the scenery roll by is immensely satisfying. It's also convenient for me, as I'm simultaneously playing the game and keeping an eye on Mom. She likes looking at the planets going by, and I can park my ship in station and fix her lunch, take her for a walk, and get her cozy for an afternoon nap while I train a skill and my market orders tick down.

Did I mention there's a market? Yeah, and not just a go-repair-your-armor-and-buy- more-arrows-and-healing-potions market. The market is the heart of the game. Want to use rocket launchers? Go to the market and buy the skill, the launcher, and the rockets. Could be that a player made the launcher and the rockets. Could be that you notice that four jumps away, rockets are selling for a lot cheaper, so you go there, equip, fill your cargo hold, jump back, and sell the surplus at a profit. There's an escrow market, too, and an ersatz futures market. (NB: I don't really know what I'm talking about.) But some of the fun of the game is logistical. Buying low and selling high pleases the Scotsman/Jew/Chinese capitalist in me.

Of course, to get your goods to market, you might hafta jump through some pretty unpleasant places. Space in Eve is a) completely fucking huge and b) mostly dangerous. Security ranges from 1.0 to 0.0, with 1.0 being safe as houses and 0.0 the Wild Wild West.

Doesn't matter, right? I'm playing an MMO, where death is a minor hiccup, a matter of "resting" and repairing, right? Wrong. Eve ain't like that. In Eve, "you" are basically whichever ship you're in at the time. You can own as many as you please, and you can leave them scattered all over the universe. You get ganked, you lose your ship, your cargo, whatever modules were on the ship, and the respect of your friends. "You" float away in a tiny little escape pod.

That other players can target. And kill you dead.

Or not. Because they may be merciful, or you may (you should) have a clone. You hafta buy clones as you age in Eve, because they'll only hold so many skill points and skills=time. So death, which can come at ANY MOMENT, has grave consequnces. It's expensive, inconvenient, and embarrassing.

And it's clever, with all the good and bad connotations of that word. For instance, there are no levels or classes in Eve. There's just a skill-tree that's beyond complicated, that's interwoven with every single useable item and which (get this) you train ONE SKILL at a time. On a real-life tick-tick-tick TIMER. Like, to train Gunnery I may take fifteen minutes. To train Gunnery V? That may take a WEEK. Not an in-game, time-flashes-by week, a real 7-day, 168-hour week.

Well, that sounds stupid, doesn't it?

It isn't. It works, in several ways. It means you can be God of Rocket Launchers without spending six months getting to Level 40. But you won't be able to do much else. So it encourages cooperative play. Corps ("guilds" elsewhere) are a huge part of Eve, and struggle titanically for control of unclaimed star systems. Fleet actions involving 200 ships have happened.

And that's another cool thing. Eve Online is one world, there are no "shards". Every person in the world (excluding China, who get their own server for undoubtedly odious political reasons) plays in the same game space. You may log in one day and find that your normal gravy-train trade route is borked due to internecine corp warfare. It's not uncommon to flit through system, check the local channel, and see Cyrillic characters fillng the chat window. So because it's one world, what you do MATTERS. You could, theoretically, corner the market on livestock or narcotics. You could band with your corp buddies and go on a region-wide bloodbath. You could never leave the noob system you start in, do nothing but mine the asteroid belts, and grow extremely rich (and bored).

I'm reporting this like the game was released today; I know it's like five years old. But, I'm new to the party, so it all seems new to me.

Expect a bitchy mournful update when I lose my first battlecruiser to some 14-year-old.