Monthly Archives: September 2005

Arcane Gazebo goes mobile, thanks to Google

If you have a mobile phone with a browser, you may know that Google will translate your search results into mobile-readable WML. I discovered yesterday that they’ve improved this service, adding text formatting and form capability. This relieves me of the need to put together a WML version of this blog.
How to read Arcane Gazebo on a WML-capable mobile phone: Go to google.com and search for arcane gazebo. Follow the link on the first result. It actually looks pretty good (on my Motorola V551), blockquotes and italics are preserved, and posting comments should work (I haven’t tried it yet myself).

New Pornographers concert report

The show last night was terrific, of course. However, the fact that indie-rock audiences don’t dance is sort of lame. When I have an oscillation amplitude that’s above the median, and I’m not moving my feet, something’s wrong. (I was really just sort of nodding my head rhythmically.)
The New Pornographers played a pretty long set and managed to hit all the songs I wanted to hear. There was also an unusual level of onstage banter (mainly between Carl Newman and Neko Case) that was pretty entertaining. At the beginning of the first encore they spent about ten minutes just joking around and playing the opening riffs to various highly recognizable songs. (Back in Black and Smells Like Teen Spirit were a couple that I remember.)
The opening bands were Immaculate Machine and Destroyer, the former of which was quite good primarily due to Kathryn Calder on keyboards and vocals. She plays in the New Pornographers as well, apparently since Twin Cinema. Destroyer was less interesting (and didn’t destroy anything).
Oh yeah: Nobody cheered at “Going to 16th and Valencia” in Twin Cinema. Possibly because it’s a bit difficult to tell that those are the lyrics.

Use It Tonight

In preparation for tonight’s show, I’m currently listening to the entire catalog of The New Pornographers, except for the iTMS bonus track to Twin Cinema since I bought the album on CD. Grr. Anyway, if you’re familiar with the band you know that the lyrics, while intelligible, are pretty opaque and it’s never clear exactly what the songs are about. This isn’t really a problem, but it was nice to discover that the official Matador site actually explains the songs. Sort of.

Sing Me Spanish Techno”: In which Newman tries to write a song with a ton of parts and an asymmetrical structure but still a pop song through and through. And succeeds. Title inspired by his girlfriend Amy, and, as he was reading Joseph Campbell’s “Hero With A Thousand Faces” while writing it, “there are some veiled references about the hero’s journey and different myths, bullshit like that.”

Ok, it isn’t exactly a scholarly exegesis. But I do have a couple of new to-do items: play “Star Bodies” backwards, and watch for this tonight:

Twin Cinema“: Newman updated this Electric Version-era tune with new lyrics referencing his part-time home San Francisco, hoping that “San Franciscans will hoot and holler at the ’16th and Valencia’ line when we play it live.”

DeLay! Indicted!

DeLay indicted, will step aside as majority leader
WASHINGTON (AP) — A Texas grand jury on Wednesday charged Rep. Tom DeLay and two political associates with conspiracy in a campaign finance scheme, forcing the House majority leader to temporarily relinquish his post.
DeLay’s attorney Steve Brittain said DeLay was accused of a criminal conspiracy along with two associates, John Colyandro, former executive director of a Texas political action committee formed by DeLay, and Jim Ellis, who heads DeLay’s national political committee.
“I have notified the speaker that I will temporarily step aside from my position as majority leader pursuant to rules of the House Republican Conference and the actions of the Travis County district attorney today,” DeLay said.

I honestly didn’t think it would happen—I figured DeLay was untouchably powerful.

Harmonica Solo [Open Thread]

Looks like another busy week for me; I may not get the chance to post roadtrip pictures until the weekend (or later). (“Busy” in this instance entails things like seeing The New Pornographers in concert and going to the opening of Serenity.)
Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, Vol. 1: My brother got me watching these while on the road. This is of course Cartoon Network’s show detailing the exploits of former superhero Birdman, who has become a lawyer representing various other Hanna-Barbera characters. One episode has the Scooby-Doo gang fighting marijuana charges, while another has Fred Flintstone as a Mafia don, complete with a Bedrock-style parody of the Sopranos opening. The episodes are consistently hilarious, not just from the parodic aspects but from absurdist twists and lightning-fast sight gags. As an added bonus, The Daily Show’s Stephen Colbert does some of the voices.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: Howl: I had a number of reasons to be skeptical of this album: I thought their previous effort, Take Them On, On Their Own, was mediocre; I kept seeing mixed reviews of Howl; and of course for them to call the album Howl is a bit pretentious. But, it’s actually really good! It’s a total departure from their previous sound (which was rock in the manner of Jesus and Mary Chain) to an acoustic blend of folk, blues, and gospel styles. Yes, the lyrics are mostly (in the words of one reviewer) “prison and Jesus”, and yes, one song features a harmonica solo. But it’s all really well-done, and the new sound suits the band much better than their old one. “Ain’t No Easy Way” alone is probably worth the price of the album.
Howl’s album cover is designed to look like an old LP cover (complete with a meaningless “Side 1/Side 2″ division). Unfortunately, this artwork is marred by a big ugly copyright notice informing the buyer that, when inserted into a Windows machine, the CD would only be playable by the accursed Windows Media Player. I discovered this only after I had paid for the CD and was quite annoyed until I put it in my computer and learned that I had inadvertently defeated the copy-protection by having CD Autoplay turned off. Then it was just kind of funny.
I have a backlog of music to review so maybe I’ll do another music post later in the week.

Shyness and serotonin

Via Marginal Revolution, Time magazine reports on some recent research into shyness. Apparently a genetic component has been located:

As part of Battaglia’s study, he collected saliva samples from his 49 subjects and analyzed their DNA, looking for something that might further explain his results. The shy children, he found, had one or two shorter copies of a gene that codes for the flow of the brain chemical serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in anxiety, depression and other mood states. Battaglia’s lab is not the only one to have linked this gene to shyness, and while nobody pretends it’s the entire answer, most researchers believe it at least plays a role. “People who carry the short variant of the gene are, in general, a little more shy and reactive to stress,” says psychiatrist Michael Meaney of McGill University in Montreal, who just completed a two-year study of timidity and stress.

Something I’ve never been entirely clear on is, what is the relationship between shyness and mood states like depression and anxiety? Maybe this is still an open question, but they seem to be linked in some way. I guess in a sense shyness is a kind of anxiety, but shy behavior has a very different character from an anxiety attack.

I Have Returned

Arrived in Oakland this morning, after which I ate lunch, took a nap, and then went running. It turns out that running 14 miles, after spending a week (mostly) sitting in a car and eating fast food, is a difficult and painful experience. I did discover that Tilden Park actually has a lot of rabbits but they only come out around sunset. Unfortunately, that’s also when swarms of gnats congest the airspace above the trail.
This week I’ll attempt to resume regular blogging. I also have a ton of pictures, mostly taken from cliffs in Arizona, to sort through and post.