Monthly Archives: December 2006

On seeing the 100% perfect t-shirt

I was reading wigu when something improbable happened: I actually noticed a banner ad. (My brain’s banner ad filter has been extremely good since about 1997.) It was an ad for t-shirt shop Seibei, and the reason I noticed it is that it had a list of topics which included “Murakami”. Of course this was Haruki Murakami, one of my favorite writers (as opposed to pulp novelist Ryu Murakami). Sadly, the shirt in question doesn’t appeal to me—I guess I’m not that fond of sandwiches.
The shirt is a reference to the (very) short story, “On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning”, which can be found online and which you should all read. It can also be found in the collection The Elephant Vanishes. He’s got a new collection of short stories out, which I haven’t picked up yet (because it’s still in hardcover), but I’m looking forward to it.
There was an interview with Murakami recently in the Wall Street Journal (via JSpur), but I’m pretty sure it’s behind their subscription wall so I can’t link to it.
In conclusion, better Murakami t-shirts are needed.
UPDATE: Here’s the WSJ piece, thanks again to JSpur.

Chasing Butterflies [Open Thread]

The 2006 CD is ready! Distribution will begin this week in the Bay Area and continue through my holiday travels. I’ll post the list of songs sometime this week. Meanwhile, we continue with our regularly scheduled reviews:
Deja Vu: This is a thriller with a touch of sci-fi, as Denzel Washington plays a detective investigating a terrorist attack with the help of a secret government time machine. It’s not terribly profound, and one should not think too hard about the consistency of the time-travel logic, but it’s a reasonably fun ride with plenty of explosions and shootouts and car chases. Rating: 3/5
Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan: Ballad of the Broken Seas: Isobel Campbell, formerly of Belle & Sebastian, is not the person I’d look to for a great Americana record, seeing as she’s Scottish. Nevertheless, that is what she’s produced here in collaboration with grunge veteran Mark Lanegan. Campbell provides a soft and ghostly voice which is nicely complemented by Lanegan’s deep growl. But both are nearly upstaged by the acoustic instrumentation, which is beautiful. Most of the tracks were written by Campbell; highlights are “Black Mountain”, “Deus Ibi Est” (despite the bad pronunciation of the Latin lyrics), and “Honey Child What Can I Do?” which was my runner-up for the Best Romantic Song of 2006. My favorite song, however, is the dark “Revolver” which was written by Lanegan. There’s also a cover of “Ramblin’ Man” which is a bit cheesy, and is only saved by Campbell’s whispered vocals. Several of these tracks are available on MySpace, and two of them are downloadable. (The version of “Revolver” here is different from the one on the album, however.) Rating: 4/5

Friday Non-Random 10: Miscellaneous Song Awards, 2006

It’s December and therefore time for lots of meaningless best-of-year lists. I’ve started putting together the CD with my favorite songs of the year, and will probably post that list at the end of next week. (Really great songs that are released this month will be included in next year’s list.) Meanwhile, I want to acknowledge some songs that may not make it onto the CD, but deserve special recognition in a particular category. Some of these categories will likely return next year, but some will be one-shots. I’ve added links to songs that the artists have made available online.
Pirate Song of the Year, awarded back in September to the best song about pirates:
“Selling the Wind” by Pretty Girls Make Graves
Best Romantic Song, for the song that turns me into a hopeless romantic for three minutes:
“Jogging Gorgeous Summer” by Islands
Best Breakup Song, to balance out the Best Romantic Song:
“Tears for Affairs” by Camera Obscura
Best Bilingual Song, for the ultimate in impenetrable lyrics:
“New Years” by Asobi Seksu (English and Japanese) [mp3 download]
[Dishonorable mention to Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan for “Deus Ibi Est”, in which they employ Latin but pronounce it like French.]
Best Protest Song, in a year with plenty to protest:
“Parade” by Pretty Girls Make Graves [MySpace stream]
Best Religious Song, because religion sometimes does inspire greatness:
“Act of the Apostle Part I” by Belle & Sebastian
Best Irreligious Song, because blasphemy is usually more fun:
“Here’s Your Future” by the Thermals [mp3 download]
Best Apocalyptic Song, for when it feels like the end of the world:
“Volcanoes” by Islands [MySpace stream]
Best Bonus Track, where too many are just lame filler:
“Really Bad Weekend” by Art Brut
Arrested Development Memorial Award for Multilayered and Allusive Lyrics, for when I need to listen to your previous band’s catalog to understand the song:
“Swans (Life After Death)” by Islands
Tune in next week for the best songs of the year! In the meantime, dispute my choices above or create your own categories in the comments.

Penny Stock Spam: Who falls for this?

The New York Times had an article yesterday about the recent surge in spam volume (which I’d definitely noticed, although Gmail and Thunderbird catch almost all of it). The article reports that the most profitable form of spam is penny stock advertisements:

Many of the messages in the latest spam wave promote penny stocks — part of a scheme that antispam researchers call the “pump and dump.” Spammers buy the inexpensive stock of an obscure company and send out messages hyping it. They sell their shares when the gullible masses respond and snap up the stock. No links to Web sites are needed in the messages.
Though the scam sounds obvious, a joint study by researchers at Purdue University and Oxford University this summer found that spam stock cons work. Enough recipients buy the stock that spammers can make a 5 percent to 6 percent return in two days, the study concluded.

I get lots of these messages myself, so this must be correct. But still: I know there’s a lot of stupidity in the world, but who are these people dumb enough to actually buy stocks based on e-mail recommendations from strangers? And how are they able to tie their own shoes? Could anything be more obviously a scam?

Gazebo. Arcane Gazebo. [Open Thread]

I meant to post this, like, a week ago. This may be the first December where my posting frequency goes up when I go on vacation. Anyway, I’m going to overuse the 4 rating again in this set of reviews.
Happy Feet: There is no truth whatsoever to the vicious rumor that I saw Happy Feet.
Casino Royale: By now, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will have heard reports that this new start for the Bond franchise is really good. And I agree—not just a great Bond movie, but a great spy movie in general. It’s gritty and a big step away from the excesses of the Pierce Brosnan films. Casino Royale is a sort of Bond origin-story, which begins with his earning the 007 rank, and shows how he developed into the character we’re familiar with. Daniel Craig does a great job playing this unpolished Bond—later we were debating in lab the merits of the various Bond actors, and were only arguing over the #3 slot after an easy consensus on Connery and Craig as the two best. (The sentence “I like Timothy Dalton” was uttered without being intended as a Buffy reference.) Anyway, this is the best Bond film in years. My only complaint is that it is a bit too long, at nearly two and a half hours, but for most of this time it’s pretty gripping. Rating: 4/5
Arrested Development – Season Three: On the other hand, my only complaint about this is that it’s too short, because Fox canceled the show halfway through the season. This prompts the writers to step up the self-referential humor another notch, with embedded pleas to viewers and other networks to save the series, as well as digs at their competition (Desperate Housewives). Once again there are a few revelations that are foreshadowed in ways that make a second viewing rewarding. Although the second season is the show’s peak, it ends on a very strong note. Rating: 4/5
The Decemberists: The Crane Wife: This could be the Decemberists’ best album, at least the equal of Picaresque and maybe a little better. Although it doesn’t have standout tracks on the level of “The Mariner’s Revenge Song”, it’s much more coherent and has a more professional sound (maybe the result of their move to a major label). There are a couple of epic tracks: “The Island”, which has some really excellent sections during its 12 minute extent, and “The Crane Wife 1 & 2″, which is fairly good all the way through. I find that I prefer some of the shorter tracks, though: “O Valencia!” is especially good, as well as the final track “Sons and Daughters” which is a little brighter than the others. A stream of the former track, along with “Summersong”, is available on their website. Rating: 4/5