May 31, 2011

Till The Bridge You Will Need Be Form'd

A NOISELESS, PATIENT SPIDER
       
      A noiseless, patient spider,
      I mark'd, where, on a little promontory, it stood, isolated;
      Mark'd how, to explore the vacant, vast surrounding,
      It launch'd forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself;
      Ever unreeling them--ever tirelessly speeding them.
       
      And you, O my Soul, where you stand,
      Surrounded, surrounded, in measureless oceans of space,
      Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing,--seeking the spheres, to connect them;
      Till the bridge you will need, be form'd--till the ductile anchor hold;
      Till the gossamer thread you fling, catch somewhere, O my Soul. 
       
       
      Walt Whitman
      May 31, 1819-- March 26, 1892

A Heart And A Hand And The Love For A Band

There's a marvelous piece in Salon today about how well Treme draws characters who are immersed in the creative process.  Musicians and cooks, gifted and passable.  Artists.  Creators.  People who can't not do what they do.

Some of them have all the talent in the world, but no stage of their own upon which to perform their magic.  (Innovative chef Janette loses her restaurant just when she finally starts to get some recognition for her work.  I feel ya, sister.)

Some of them simply aren't much good.  (I really love Davis' continuing attempts to produce a coherent musical offering of his own, fashioned from his remarkably catholic tastes.  The result always sucks, but he's passionate.  We all know that guy.) 

Some of them have to adapt to pay the bills.  (Antoine Batiste: My kind of school music teacher.)


Is it OK to cook in someone else's kitchen, to supplement the income from your club dates with a day job at the elementary school?  Sure.  Keeping options alive, keeping skills sharp--can't argue with that.

The tricky part--oh, there's always a tricky part!--is finding an acceptable balance between selling your skills and forgetting who you are, creatively. 

What causes us to call something previously unimagined into existence?


What are we willing to give, and what do we expect to gain, in pursuit of a vision?

I really should be packing up my office, but I actually stuck something new on my wall recently: "You don't become great by trying to be great.  You become great by wanting to do something, and then doing it so hard that you become great in the process."

There's nothing to do when the drive is there except to chase after it.  If you're willing to work hard for no money and no glory...  well, that's still no guarantee that you're going to create anything interesting.  But maybe you get to bring something worthwhile--yes, even great--into the world.
 
And maybe you fail. 

But if you stay focused on your actual goal, don't worry to much about bruising egos of people who have nothing to do with the actual project, and maybe even fall in with a group of equally driven, stubborn, romantic/stupid souls...  well.  Interesting things happen.

May 29, 2011

The Nicest Thing Anyone Has Said About Ahnold In WEEKS...

Thirteen years in the world of broadcasting make me know I should be tut-tutting...  but my inner thirteen year old is too busy giggling.

Five Songs: The Things You Think Are Useless, I Can't Understand

Five Songs is an occasional SMLTS feature consisting of thematically-grouped lists of five songs that I like and feel like finding an excuse to post. This is not the result of a scientific poll.  This is not a critical argument, or anything that takes much work. THIS IS A LAZY STRUCTURAL GIMMICK. Nevertheless, you will probably have your own High Fidelity-style arguments with all of these lists. Go on with your bad self.

Without elaborating further, here are a few songs that are stuck in my head these days...


1.)  Steely Dan, "Reelin' In The Years"

Your everlasting summer, you can see it fading fast
So you grab a piece of something that you think is going to last
You wouldn't know a diamond if you held it in your hand
The things you think are precious, I can't understand

(You need to watch this, if only to see a VERY YOUNG Bill Cosby at the beginning!)


2.) Richard Swift, "The Original Thought"


It was original
It was original thought
You wanted something so bad then you killed the very thing that you got

(Just skip to :40 on this video.  Sorry, it's wobbly.)



3.) Bruce Springsteen, "You'll Be Comin' Down"

Easy street, a quick buck and true lies
Smiles as thin as those dusky blue skies
A silver plate of pearls my golden child
It's all yours at least for a little while...


You'll be comin' down now baby
You'll be coming down
What goes around, it comes around and
You'll be comin' down



4.) The Cynics, "Revenge"
I found out living is the best revenge
I found out living is the best revenge
You find some people they are not your friends
I found out living is...



5.)  Rufus Wainwright, covering Leonard Cohen's "Everybody Knows"
(Annoyingly, embedding has been disabled.  Feh.  Here's a link.  Kind of a lame video, but the music is uninterrupted.)

I've already posted the original, not coincidentally...  but I really like this version, and some things are just too on-point to be neglected in the name of variety.


Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That's how it goes
Everybody knows


A Song I Know Well

Once upon a time in Pittsburgh, there was a very special group of people.  For generations, their work was the very best.  They succeeded where anyone would be entitled to expect they'd fail.

Plunked down in the middle of the city, in an ill-maintained building that they nevertheless loved, they were part of an institution that nurtured minds, thrived upon artistic expression, and launched careers for many of its own in myriad fields of endeavor.

A tight-knit group, proudly part of a signature community asset, its veterans were uncommonly loyal to the cause.  These were and are exceptional people.  Not because they are rich (they're not), not because they are well-connected (generally not, except to each other), but because they are genuinely committed to the better human impulses.

Despite making a remarkable success of extremely unpromising material circumstances, the institution-- respected as part of Pittsburgh's very identity--was endangered.  Shunted from their banged-up but beloved old building, the group was moved to smaller, also banged-up quarters.  For this, they were expected to be grateful.

Their spirit persisted.  Their determination was indisputable.  Their grace in dealing with the foreshortening of their existence is remarkable.

Students, faculty, and alumni of Schenley High School: You will not be forgotten.

May 27, 2011

Grinning Uncontrollably: I'll Take "Things You're About To Be Doing" For $200, Alex.

Lots going on...  I have many and varied irons in the fires I'm putting out (or something like that).  Never fear, I'm still here, still snarky, and--busy though I am--YES I did see the trailer for the new Muppet movie and YES I'm so excited that I may actually transmogrify into an endearingly bug-eyed pile of felt.

This is even better.

This may be the BEST THING EVER.

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May 24, 2011

So Now Tracy Jordan Has To Shoot For A CEGOT?



It gets better.  Look at the contact email--they've registered stayclassy.org.

And the event will be in San Diego.

I'm enjoying this WAY too much.

May 23, 2011

If Only Fracking As A Concept Was As Hilarious As The Word Itself

Newspapers are upset about a piece of legislation that would put an end to many of those required public notices in the classified ads.  I'm too sad about what this says about the state of print media to even snark about it. 

****
Ever had Vietnamese coffee?  Oooh.  You should*.  I'm normally a black-with-no-sugar kinda gal**, but anything--anything!--is better with sweetened condensed milk***. 
*You should.
**Because I have used all the sugar in the house on baked goods.
***This is demonstrably untrue but was fun to write.

****

Best birthday gift ever:
It lights up!  And makes a proper whirring noise!





That's right: I own a sonic screwdriver.  (Hey, it even matches my lightsaber!  Geek chic, friends.)





****
SMLTS gets real stabby when people write off New Orleans.  SMLTS is also fed up with stupid people wielding power stupidly.  SMLTS likes Andres Douany's take on NOLA a whole, whole lot. 

****
Ladies and gentlemen: "The Fracking Song":
“What the frack is going on with all this fracking going on?
“I think we need some facts to come to light
“I know we want our energy but nothing ever comes for free
“I think my water’s on fire tonight …”

A Year Of Our Lives

Because I am well used to academic bureaucracy, I'm not as amused as I might be by the fact that I ordered my official undergraduate transcript, only to mail it back to the same institution.  This is not even the fourteenth craziest thing that an institution of higher learning has compelled me to do in the last few months.

But, yes, other than making sure that my letters of recommendation get submitted by the first of June, my grad school application is done.   

It was utterly amazing to me how quickly my personal statement came together.  Of course, between this blog and a blizzard of cover letters, I've been doing practically nothing lately but write about where I am in my life and career.  (CLIFFS NOTES VERSION: I am now ready to save the world and am attempting to view the trauma of the last few months as my origin story.  This is the actual reason the Wonder Woman reboot was ditched: The job's taken, sweetie.) 
   
I started to read The Best Year Of Their Lives yesterday.  I'm maybe not sold on the concept that 1948 was THE pivotal year for JFK, LBJ, and Nixon--and the multi-page comparison of Richard Nixon and Lana Turner was a stretch, to say the least--but it's nevertheless fascinating to look at a moment in time in which these dissimilar but intertwined men were all only partially formed as political entities.  If there's one thing history teaches you, it's that we can only control our choices, not our circumstances--and that our range of choices is itself often unappealing.  It all seems so much grander when that sort of bargain is set in the halls of Congress, but we all face gray-shaded decisions.  Nobody else gets to pick your identity.  Nobody else gets to form your character.

(By the bye, it's often forgotten that ol' Lyndon's fortune came from radio.  Pretty shady stuff.  We do not live in uniquely sullied times.) 
 
I don't know what the future holds, but I know who I am.  All considering, I'd rather have a mirror than a crystal ball.

May 21, 2011

I'd Better Not Get Raptured Before Dessert

Homemade Napoleon with real pastry cream.  Mmmm.

(Insert Universally Appropriate Caption For All New Yorker Cartoons)

I cannot adequately express how much I hate people who get their jollies by being rude to restaurant staff.  Absolutely the only more efficient way to attach a large, neon "I HAVE SMALL PRIVATES" sign to one's forehead is to pull the ol' "Don't you know who I am?" routine.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the state health secretary is never, ever going to be on my Christmas cookie delivery rounds.

Explanation of post title is here.  Logical extension of said theory to other comics is here and absolutely should not be missed.  Both links are best read at home.

Ready... Set... LOOT!!!!!

May 20, 2011

If You Buy Eugenie's Hat, Maybe You Can Get Combined Shipping?





The eBay auction for Princess Beatrice's hat continues apace...  with about two days to go, bidding is now past $81,000.  Really.  Quite the haul, even for a charity auction of a frankly (purposefully?) ludicrous artifact.  (By comparison, Joan's dress from the Mad Men episode with the lawnmower incident* went for $1324, also in a charity auction.  I'm going to guess that Mad Men will have a much longer pop culture half-life.)

I thoroughly enjoy the quotidian questions on the eBay listing, transcribed below for your browsing pleasure:

"Why is this hat different from all other hats?"
Q:  How many times has the hat been worn and does it have any marks on it?
A:  The Hat has been worn once (for the Royal Wedding) and does not have any marks on it.

Nevertheless, I'm pretty sure you won't be able to pass it off as new...
___
Q:  What is the size of the hat and how much does it weigh?
A:  The Hat's approximate dimensions are: Height - 29cm (at tallest point), Width - 23cm (at widest point), Depth - 9cm (not including headband) Weight:169g

In English measurements--how ironic--that's about 11" by 9" by 3.5", and roughly 6 ounces.  Without the headband.   Also, "The Hat"?  Capitalized?  Fo' shizzle?
___
Q:  There is no feedback on this eBay account. How can I be sure this seller can be trusted?
A:  This eBay account has been opened especially for The Little Bee Initiative and the sale of Princess Beatrice's Royal Wedding Hat. Both eBay for Charity (UK) and eBay Giving Works (USA) endorse this auction by placing banners with direct links on their pages as well as the eBay UK home page.

OK, let me assure you that we'd be counting the Secondmost silver should Beatrice drop by.  That said, I do actually believe this is legit...  but not because of assurances delivered through the same credible medium that promises you a free iPad if you shoot the duck.
___
Q:  How do I know the hat is authentic?
A:  The Hat will be sent from Buckingham Palace with a letter confirming that it was the Hat worn by Princess Beatrice at the Royal Wedding.

"Her Majesty offers her most sincere apologies for this manifestation of the problematic Bowes-Lyon gene pool; she had understandably assumed that this sort of thing was all behind the family after the passing of the Monster of Glamis."


Yep, it's official: Barry can make ANYTHING look cool.

REMEMBER THAT FOOTNOTE?  FROM THE FIRST PARAGRAPH?  WE WERE SO YOUNG THEN, SO YOUNG AND FOOLISH:
*If you have to ask...  just give in and start watching the show.  You won't regret it.  Even if you dislike well-crafted drama built around complex, believable adult characters--I'm lookin' at you, nation that has made "Two And A Half Men" a runaway success--it's always fun watching pretty people make morally questionable but undeniably enjoyable life choices.  Think of it as "Dallas" with a better wardrobe department.

The Actual Pregnant Ladies I Know Do Not Look This Pregnant




I swear by all that is holy--the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the Fountain of Chivas, yea! Verily! the Wholey's Lobster Phone--that this is not a maternity shirt

May 19, 2011

Fair Enough

Recently, I found a brass lamp on the shore at Moraine State Park.  As you do, I polished it to a high sheen.  Of course, my good housekeeping loosed a genie from inside the vessel, a kind genie with amazing shoes.  The genie offered me three wishes, reminding me that these had to be small, Moraine-sized wishes.

I said, Genie, I want slippers like yours, in Women's 11.  "Done!"  said the genie.

Wish number two.  How about mixing the magic of mint chocolate chip and cookies & cream ice creams?  Granted.  You're welcome.

Then the crucial third wish.  Genie, I said, how about making Guy Fieri go away, or at least learn to swallow his food before talking?

The genie granted the first half of my wish.  (But the shoes chafe.  Stupid low-rent genie.)

Live From The Floor With The Water Cooler...

A parking cone tree, waiting to be harvested.


If you hear something unusual on 90.5 FM today, never fear: We have NOT switched to a techno format.  That's just a jackhammer.

May 18, 2011

Noted.

Uh, is someone trying to drop a hint?  My birthday is also...

May 17, 2011

Sweet Liberty

Once again, a busy day. 

I walked over to my polling place first thing in the morning.  (I always vote early on the theory that I could be hit by a car, which has happened before, albeit not on Election Day.)  This is my third election since moving to Castle Secondmost, so I know where my polling place is now, but if I had any doubt, it would have been very hard to miss the masses of people handing out campaign literature.

Part of me is annoyed by the endless fliers, but I know from experience how miserable it is getting up at some ungodly hour of the morning so you can stand out in the rain and hand campaign literature to annoyed voters.  For similar reasons, I can't get too upset over brochures crammed in the handle of the front door or political phone calls (at least the ones with a real live human on the other end).

All of these acts are based in optimism for the eternally diseased, never finished, never fulfilled project we call democracy.  There is a practical idealism handed out with those glossy oversized postcards, a belief that there really is a reason for all of the hoopla, a commitment to doing something even if that something amounts to helping people fill their recycling bins.  There is amazing camaraderie among those in the trenches.  And, for the ones brave or dumb enough to spend their Election Day standing in cold drizzle, there are usually doughnuts.

Everybody who knows me at all knows that I'll do anything for a righteous cause, or pastry.  And that is why I started my tradition of bringing doughnuts to work after voting.  It just always felt like the right thing to do.

Barring some sort of serious, literal, canonization-worthy miracle, the last box of Election Day doughnuts entered the DUQ studios this morning.

In less weighty news, I submitted my application to GSPIA today.

May 16, 2011

Spare Parts And Broken Hearts

Neil Gaiman's ep of Doctor Who was as entertaining as you'd hope.  The Doctor finds himself on a planet of sorts, which is of a piece with a malevolent force ("House").  The terrain is populated by a few odd creatures who, as it turns out, are being kept semi-alive, running on borrowed time and used parts.  Or used time and borrowed parts.

The creatures are existing in temporary flesh bodies, but are actually the intelligence of TARDISes.  You see, it's not the box itself that's magic.  House only cares about the energy it can harvest from the machines; but the complex relationship between the vehicle and its consciousness and the space-time-continuum means that to dispatch the creatures immediately would impair House's ability to profit as much as possible from the physical properties of the vessel. 

House loses no time in dispensing with the poor creatures as soon as their usefulness has been outlived.  It gives The Doctor the illusion that there might be other Time Lords surviving.  It toys with The Doctor's companions, twisting their perceptions of what's going on around them so they alternately feel trapped, hopeless, and lost. 

Well, that's the sort of thing evil forces do.

The Doctor is crushed by the discovery that all the encouraging signs were hollow, and offers a warning to the evil force: “You gave me hope, and then you take it away. That’s enough to make anyone dangerous. God knows what it will do to me.”

House has destructive power, but no energy of its own, and limited ability to think through the consequences of its actions.  (Laziness from making the rules on its own planet all these years?)  It eventually finds destruction, largely as a result of its own arrogance, not without causing a great deal of collateral damage.

World's Most Unsurprising Disclaimer: "Not A Street-Legal Vehicle."

Hey, remember that "South Park" episode about "It"?


Hammacher Schlemmer suggests the Motorized Monocycle as a Father's Day gift.  (Why not a Mother's Day gift?  Because it is your mother's job to tell you to stay off this sort of thing.)

It travels up to 25 MPH, and "a brake... provides confident stops for riders up to 275 lbs."  At 276 pounds, your stops will be filled with confusion and self-doubt.  Also, you apparently can't steer it properly if you weigh less than 110 (but you could be a jockey, which seems like an altogether more practical endeavor).

The cost is $13,000--you'd think there would be free Super Saver shipping, but it'll cost you an extra $800 to get this miracle of modern manufacturing, this consummation of capricious capitalism to your door.

CONSUMER TIP: Your dad would prefer $14,000 worth of beer and ribs.

May 14, 2011

The Ladders Of History Extend Slowly, But Lean Towards Justice

Here is a brief guide to parking on Secondmost Street, according to our #2 neighbor, Tom:
1).  You may not park in front of Tom's house.
2).  Especially not on the curb, because that's degrading the concrete.
3).  As to why Tom's stoop is crumbling, shutupshutupshutup.
4).  Tom may park in front of your house.

Tom's the kind of sweetheart who calls the city on neighbors for minor code violations.  My sweet, dog-loving, hyper-social neighbor turns into a dark and stormy soul at his mention; to her, he is "Jackass Tom."  A stiff fine for parking on your own curb will do that to you.  He complained endlessly about our Dumpster when I had to replace the roof.  (I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if he tried to report us to the city, but we had proper permits.  Ha.)  And he wouldn't let my contractor use his gate to access my roof, which is the kind of small courtesy rowhouse residents really need to show one another.

Tom has a small fan club, consisting--as far as I can tell--of: Tom.

So, you can imagine the confusion brought by his sudden decision to be nice for the last week or two.

Happened again this morning.  Returning from the Strip, as I took down the bagged campaign literature hung from the decorative eagle*, I once again drew a friendly greeting from Tom.  He was talking to a man I didn't recognize, and I didn't think too much of it... until I glanced out the window to see the stranger getting in to a truck.  With a ladder on top.

Yes, children, Tom is getting work done on his house.

I can't wait.

May 13, 2011

Still Less Weird Than Princess Beatrice's Royal Wedding Hat

Coming home on the bus this evening, I saw a guy riding a bike in the opposite direction down Liberty.  This in and of itself was not remarkable.  The fact that he was riding a bike down Liberty while wearing a Devo energy dome, on the other hand, is remarkable.   (See? I just remarked upon it.)  I'm not entirely sure what sequence of events has to pass in your life to find yourself biking through rush hour traffic in a heavy rainstorm while dressed like a Mark Mothersbaugh impersonator.  There should TOTALLY be Mark Mothersbaugh impersonators in Vegas.  Preferably ordained clergy.  Anyway.  I may be rambling now.

The Rewards Of Good Citizenship

There's this weird critter called a "supervoter."  Supervoters are the total freaks who show up to vote even when it's an off-year primary for a judicial retention and a school board seat.

Who bothers, you ask?  Hi. 

And I can't say my concern has gone unnoticed.

This mail is all addressed to me, all from TODAY:

Ten pieces of lit.  TEN.  In one day.


While on the subject of political ephemera, I snapped a picture on the way to a birthday party recently.  I know nothing at all about this fellow other than he has possibly the worst conceivable surname for a school board candidate:

He's on a winning streak!


Let's leave it to the Two Gentleman Band--think the Frogtown Hollow Jubilee Jug Band grown up and gone bad-- to remove all remaining traces of gravitas from this post:
(Not entirely safe for work, unless your coworkers have a good sense of humor/bad hearing/poor grasp of double entendre.)

Writing's On The Wall, Ladder's 'Bout To Fall

I may enjoy the "digging one's own grave" metaphor more than the average bear...  but I think everyone who has ever felt a twinge of guilt about picking at the carcass of a dying retail outlet will enjoy this: AN OPEN LETTER TO CUSTOMERS SHOPPING THE LIQUIDATION SALE AT THE BOOKSTORE WHERE I WORK


***********************************************
 SLIGHTLY EMBARRASSING CONFESSION #1: I really, really want this bike very badly.  

a). I realize and do not care that this makes me inherently fluffy.  
b). I like to think it's girly enough to keep me from transforming into a pedestrian-plowing and or/red-light-running jerk.
c). I would totally put a basket on the front.  See §1a.
***********************************************
SLIGHTLY EMBARRASSING CONFESSION #2:
I do enjoy a well-constructed casual game, especially if it involves some satisfyingly time-lapsed virtual urban planning or zombies.  Put 'em together and... well...  I was up until 2AM Wednesday night playing Rebuilder.  Nothing disastrous seems to cure me of my stupid desire to improve the world, so why would a dumb ol' zombie apocalypse get in the way?  (You win the game when you've restored enough order to ratify a Constitution.  This is THE NERDIEST THING EVER, and I ADORE IT.)
***********************************************
Hey, the farmers' markets are open again!  (I skipped Bloomfield yesterday--normally would have braved the downpour, but I'd forgotten an umbrella and by the time I returned to Castle Secondmost I was practically sliding out of my sandals and also had Betty Boop hair.)  Anyway.  Nice article here about making the most of farmers markets.  GINORMOUS list of markets in the region--all the way out to Fayette and Somerset and West Virginia--here.  Best thing to do with a bunch of delicious fresh spearmint here.
***********************************************
Finally, in honor of Friday the 13th AND Stevie Wonder's birthday (seriously, it is!):

May 11, 2011

SURPRISE!!!!

The Port Authority is adjusting 19 routes next month.  But wait, it's not what you think!  For the most part, they're adding service.  (I hear horror stories about the P1 and P2... yinz guys are finally due for some relief!)

A complete list of the changes is up on the PAT website. 

It's Not Whining If It's "Media Criticism."

  • If you get a chance, I highly recommend a visit to pop-up bookstore Fleeting Pages.  (I went on Sunday, and scored a copy of Justin Hopper's Public Record, which is every bit as weird and poetic and beautiful as you'd hope a handmade, illustrated book of century-old police blotters would be.)  I'm sad the Borders is gone--sorry, no doctrinaire anti-chain manifesto is forthcoming here--but it's really lovely to see something small and alive crop up in its place, like the vegetation that sprouts after a forest fire.  They're only open for about a month, so...go!

  • Of a decidedly less indie bent--but still rather whimsical, in its way--Pop-Up Magazine.  Anyone in NYC tonight, go and report back.  They explicitly promise not to bombard you with subscription cards.   


  • Okay, Denton.  We gotta talk. Consider this an intervention.  We were hoping this problem would work itself out over time, but we're worried about you, dude.  Step back and take a look at yourself.  Please, please...  it's time to get yourself cleaned up.  We thought you'd learned from the Sploid incident--I hate to even bring it up, but hey, it's time to face difficult truths.  Today is the first day of the rest of your--OK, enough with the cute stuff, JUST GIVE IN AND DUMP THIS CLUNKY REDESIGN ALREADY.

May 10, 2011

SMLTS Turns One Today!

A year ago, as another birthday approached and career darkness loomed, I was having a wee bit of a midlife crisis.  (An early one, I hasten to add, but we're definitely in the middle third of the ol' actuarial table here.)  I thought of buying a sports car, but I couldn't afford one.  (Or drive.)

Given the available options, the most constructive ego-validation option was to be as amusing a human being as possible.  And so, Second Most Likely To Succeed was born.

There's a wonderful bit in Manhattan in which the Woody Allen character dictates a list of the things that make life worth living.  I have to say, there's a fair bit of crossover between my list and Woody's...  Groucho Marx, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra....  Admittedly, I don't care about baseball, and I like dating grownups.  But anywho.

In its way, SMLTS is my own running list of what defines a worthwhile life.  And my list includes the utter magnificence of the Wholey's Lobster Phone.  Advantage: HBB.



Seize any and all excuses to eat cake.

Improbably enough, people seem to like this weird little mishmash we call SMLTS.  If life gets in the way and I don't post anything in a day or two, I start to get nervous emails from friends.  I appear to have an actual, non-spambot reader in Russia (Hi!).  I've had my material quoted back to me more than once.
  
For an endeavor fueled by existential terror, it's been a remarkably entertaining ride.  I've learned a lot, shared a lot, written a lot of deeply silly jokes, sent out a few mosquito tones along the way...  and I don't intend to stop anytime soon.

Happy first birthday, SMLTS.  And thanks from the bottom of my bruised yet defiantly snarky heart to you, Dear Reader.

May 7, 2011

Spam Spam Spam Spam SPAAAAAM Wonderful Spam!!!!









Yeah, I saw Dream Execution at Metropol when I was in college...  No question, their self-titled first album rocked--dare I say RAWKED???--but once you see them live, it kind of unmasks the magic wrought by the production process.

Good drummer, though.  

May 6, 2011

Friday News Roundup: Or, The SMLTS Mental Note To Buy Ice, Mint Sprigs

  • So, some beloved institutions are doomed, but thank God the Kentucky Derby is going on as scheduled.  SMLTS will be rooting for Twice The Appeal, 'cause the jockey atop Twice The Appeal will be Calvin Borel.  (Think James Carville, albeit much more bijou and a wee smidge saner.)  SMLTS believes that Calvin Borel could win the Derby atop a fricking sheep, while talking on the Lobster Phone.  SMLTS might actually believe that's what happened, depending on how many juleps are consumed in Castle Secondmost tomorrow.
  • As you survey the oddly quiet wasteland tonight, as tumbleweeds cross the horizon (Yes!  In Pennsylvania!)...  you'll wonder where they went, the geeks.  They are all at ThorAll of them.  It will be as if Kari Byron and Christina Hendricks were appearing at a comic book convention with the guy who played Chewbacca and also Joss Whedon.  If someone destroyed every movie theater in the world tonight, nobody would ever buy twenty-sided dice ever again.
  • Sure, I'm active, a nonsmoker, and way smaller than I was this time last year.  Nevertheless, I'm totally doomed.  Especially now that it's allergy season.

Here Are Tea Leaves. Brew As You Will.

Read the whole thing on the DUQ News blog:

Representatives of "Jazz Lives in Pittsburgh," a group of jazz fans, educators and performers met with officials of Essential Public Media Thursday to discuss the future of jazz on 90.5 FM in Pittsburgh....  Jazz Lives in Pittsburgh Chairman Evan Pattak says he met with Marco Cardamone and Lee Ferraro, the board chair and general manager of WYEP respectively. ... Pattak says he was told that there would be jazz but there was not a commitment to jazz on the main channel of 90.5.  "I can't say that. They indicated that some jazz would be part of the package. They also indicated they're exploring different technologies as a delivery system."
...
Pattak says they recognize that new ownership might want to change the programming which currently features more than 100 hours of jazz per week. So, he says they suggested 6 hours of jazz per day on the main 90.5 channel but received no commitment but that EPM would take it under advisement.

Weekend Reading Material, Anyone?

The paperwork to transfer the license for 90.5 FM to Essential Public Media has been filed with the FCC.  You can take a look at it here.  (The meat is in the links at the end of the page.)

I do want to stress that THIS IS PUBLICLY AVAILABLE INFORMATION.  Anyone who knows where to look can find this on the FCC website.  Just doing my bit to encourage an informed citizenry.

Rainy Day Lobsters #12 & 35

Longtime SMLTS readers are aware that I have a somewhat unhealthy fixation upon the Wholey's Lobster Phone.  But...  it's a phone THAT IS ALSO A LOBSTER.

This is the only city in the world in which I have a chance of seeming normal.

If you only watch one YouTube video featuring a crustacean-based telecommunications device this week, let it be this one!

May 5, 2011

Don't Much Care For The New Staples Slogan

Snits And Giggles

For some reason, I elected not to publish the post I wrote on Sunday afternoon about laughing in the face of a serious subject...  and I'm glad, since that turned out to be a much more timely topic than I had any way to anticipate.  Almost immediately after the announcement of Bin Laden's death, the jokes started, closely followed by uncomfortable parsing of exactly what sort of reaction was allowed to decent folk under the circumstances.

I thought, as I often do, about Groucho Marx.

Groucho was dark, the kind of dark that comes from having a deep and complete belief in the value of human decency accompanied by a deep and perpetual disappointment in how humanity, as a whole, approaches fulfilling that promise.  If your only concept of the man boils down to funny glasses with attached plastic mustache, get yourself some Duck Soup like, now.  (Do not start with Cocoanuts.)

Visiting Germany in 1958, Groucho did the only thing one can properly do atop Hitler's bunker:  A vigorous, albeit joyless, two-minute-long version of the Charleston.  ("Not much satisfaction," Marx later allowed, "after he killed six million Jews.")
 
God knows it didn't right any wrongs, but it makes me really proud as a human being to know that Groucho Marx danced on Hitler's grave. 

There's a distinction between that act and gloating.  It was irreverence rather than chest-thumping.  It was the attempt to find some balm in being alive and oneself, having outlasted unrepentant evil, fully aware that others did not. 

Gearing way down, the near-universal experience of laughing through difficult experiences bears consideration.

A few weeks ago, amid a varied and exciting smorgasbord of stressors, I went to lunch with a couple of friends.  And you know what we ended up laughing about?  A dead cat.  Or, more precisely, the fact that one of us had been driving around all day with a dead cat in the car.

Let me stress this first: Dead cats are not funny.  Really.  Crazy cat lady here.  I am second to none in my love of the Furball American community.  But when everything in the world is going wrong and then you find yourself driving around with a boxed dead cat...  oh dear God.  In times of profound stress, there's likely to be some element of the experience that is not merely bad or unhappy or inconvenient, but also in some way surreal, strange, or illogical.  THAT'S what's funny: Life's absurdity doesn't stop to let you sob undisturbed.

There will always be people who are offended by any given instance of laughter, because it is too soon, too close to the bone, too risque, too tasteless, too much.  This stops arguably inappropriate laughter about as effectively as cement sidewalks stop weeds... and aren't the leaf-filled cracks in a sidewalk tremendous evidence that life finds a way?

An old family story--it's too much like my people to not be true--holds that one of my relatives was, literally, late for his own funeral.  (The body went on the wrong train.)  I don't doubt for a moment that the family was laughing heartily.  I don't doubt for a moment that some fussbudget was tut-tutting from a distance.

Whether absorbing a small, routine tragedy or facing unimaginable evil, humanity's great self-defense mechanism is the ability to take serious things not completely seriously.  You may get hurt--you will get hurt, at some point--if you laugh, love, or learn to ride a bike.  But the wounded sensitivities and the bruised egos and the skinned knees heal, leaving us wiser and better able to balance.

And it's all in the balance.  It's only natural to be relieved when bad things happen to bad people.  Honoring the persistence of human decency is a distinct impulse from bloodlust. 

Laugh.  Dance on the bunker.  Just remember that we're supposed to be enjoying the fact that we're better, kinder, more peaceful people than our enemies.

May 4, 2011

Being A Post Of Miscellany


  • I'm convinced this is the story that would have been ruling the local news cycle were it not for the wee kerfuffle in Pakistan.  Am selfishly very glad I don't have to hear much more about this sad mess.

  • Really interesting stuff here on use of social media to wind down a brand and/or counteract inaccurate rumors of imminent demise.  You can become a Facebook fan of the Zune, according to the article.  Also, the Zune is apparently not really being discontinued?  Huh.  I wonder if you an become a fan of the Edsel on Facebook?  --type type type-- Weirdly, no.  (You CAN become a fan of Princess Beatrice's Ridiculous Royal Wedding Hat.) 

    May 2, 2011

    Information, Please

    Essential Public Media (EPM) has signed an Asset Purchase Agreement with Duquesne University for the station currently known as WDUQ.

    What does this mean?  Well, basically, this is where you stick the flag to mark the beginning of the FCC's involvement...  EPM will file documents with the Feds "shortly."  There will be a 30-day public comment period.  All told, the process could last several months.

    Another reason the Internet is a very cool thing: The FCC documents will be available for the public to view.

    There Goes My Admirably Measured Reaction...

    Today In "Oh Hell No": Beard Review Board Edition

    Dear Jon Hamm,

    All we're going to say is that it took us a while to break Jon Stewart, but once that goatee left, it never returned.

    Best,
    SMLTS, on behalf of the Beard Review Board

    Osama Bin Laden Is Still Dead

    Early-morning blogging is like drunk dialing: You say things you really mean, but probably should phrase more felicitously.  So it's a relief to read over my Bin Laden post from 12:30 AM to find my foot still blissfully far away from my mouth.

    When you live cattycorner from an elementary school, there's normally an awful lot of noise between, say, 7:30 and 8:00 AM.  But not this morning.  Especially striking when you realize that none of those kids shared the Earth with the World Trade Center.

    It's a strange day, no doubt.

    Where To Begin?

    Osama Bin Laden is dead.  Not from kidney failure, or Marfan's, or any of the other things we all pretty much figured would get him.  Killed by Americans in a firefight, the way nobody really expected was going to happen after all these years.

    See what I could have missed if I'd neglected to check Facebook after Treme?

    So much to say...  so much of it in cliches.  Karma's a bitch.  Not the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning.  The law of unintended consequences.

    There's a lot of cheering on Facebook right now--at least two of my high school friends have posted that Toby Keith video about red white and blue boots up y'all's ass or whatever.  A lot of "USA, USA..."

    And I'm glad the bastard is dead.

    But I find myself unable to enjoy the moment.  Let's not pretend that this is an uncomplicated act.  It's not like the terrorists are all going to decide that there's no reason to keep the league going now that the coach is dead.  Extremists find martyrs motivating.  Blah blah blah.

    For me, the emotional catharsis isn't there.  The kind of evil this man perpetrated cannot be erased or mitigated much by his own extermination.  I can't look at the last ten years, or September 11 itself, and say that all of that is in any real way wiped out by Bin Laden's death.

    I'm glad Osama Bin Laden is dead.  I'm not sure if it really changes the situation much.

    May 1, 2011

    Lack Of Information Is No Reason To Refrain From Blogging

    So, a quick update this evening...  tomorrow, I'm going back to my for-now-normal schedule after having used up my vacation days just barely in the nick of time.  (I had to use or lose 15 days by May 1.  Oh, and it is MAY 1, if you're keeping track.)

    No update yet on the position for which I had the second interview.  I think it went well, and there were some encouraging details in the way the conversation went...  but I'm far from being the only professional beggar in the world.  We shall see what we shall see.

    And for very positive lack of news, I continue to be absolutely thrilled every time it rains and Castle Secondmost fails to leak.  Gutters, how I love ya how I love ya.

    Three Completely Random Silly Things




























    (via Criggo)

    Grace Notes

    Unfortunately, I don't get down to the South Side much anymore, but I'm awfully happy to be on the email list for Pittsburgh Guitars.  The deal of the week is something of an afterthought; the bulk of the message is usually a highly entertaining and informative musing on guitars, pop music, the history of guitars and/or pop music--and usually something about the Beatles.  In short, 'tis a missive from my kind of people.

    Anyway, when my work computer crashed earlier this year, I wasn't upset about losing most of my archived email, but I was absolutely crushed about losing my archive of Pittsburgh Guitars emails.  (Now THAT is a credit to a marketing effort!)   But now there's a complete archive online!  Yay, Internet!