August 29, 2005

Now That's What I Call Music

LITTLE DID I KNOW that when I took part in the latest "meme" floating about the blogosphere, I would realize just how frickin' lucky I am to have escaped my hometown of Kalamazoo, Mich. Based on the music popular at the time I graduated from high school, I have a strong suspicion that staying in Kalamazoo after graduation would have been nightmarish.

But first, the meme. To take part, one must first go to musicoutfitters.com and enter the year in which they graduated high school into the search box. Doing so provides one with a list of the top 100 songs during that particular year. Then, one is to bold the songs which one likes, strikethrough the songs one detests, and underline one's favorite. Neutral songs can be ignored.

Here is my list, from the year 1994:

1. The Sign, Ace Of Base
2. I Swear, All-4-One
3. I'll Make Love To You, Boyz II Men
4. The Power Of Love, Celine Dion
5. Hero, Mariah Carey
6. Stay (I Missed You), Lisa Loeb and Nine Stories
7. Breathe Again, Toni Braxton
8. All For Love, Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart and Sting
9. All That She Wants, Ace Of Base
10. Don't Turn Around, Ace Of Base

No, I'm not continuing. No. 11, if you really must know, is some forgotten R. Kelly song. No. 15 was some awful John (No Cougar) Mellencamp duet, while the performer of Song No. 23 was none other than Jon Secada. Jon Secada. I mean, Gad.

Yet it gets worse. One might think that Underappreciated Talent would be found on the lower rungs of the list, things being what they are in the musical world. Yet one would be wrong. For No. 32 is Michael Bolton's hideous "Said I Loved You -- But I Lied." No. 38 is "I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)," from Meat Loaf. No. 68 is Aerosmith's "Crazy," and you'd be amazed at what shows up at No. 72. No. 86 is a crummy Phil "I Left My Cool Back with Genesis" Collins song.

I mean, this list is so frickin' bad that my favorite song is -- I'm sorry, I can't go on.

Anyway, in all honesty, I suppose I can only guess at what my life would have been like had I stayed in Kalamazoo. Still, though -- with these songs as the societal soundtrack, if you will, I have a feeling it would've turned out badly, at least for a few years.

(via Sheila)

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:36 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 26, 2005

A Point of Order --

I'VE DECIDED that out of all the songs performed in human history, the song most deserving of having its vocal tracks re-recorded with silence is Europe's "The Final Countdown." I mean, come on.

What? No, no, that was all. I'd heard it on the radio going to work yesterday, and the lyrics got stuck in my head, and I was annoyed that a perfectly good and upbeat synthesizer/drum-machine melody got ruined thanks to some of the most pathetic vocals I've heard in my life.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:29 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

North Korea Update

FOR THOSE READERS who subscribe to the Financial Times -- sadly, I am not such a person -- you might be interested in checking out some journal entries their Seoul correspondent wrote while on assignment in Pyongyang.

Also worthy of note is this report from Pyongyang. Apparently, the Dear Leader turned up in public recently.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:14 AM | TrackBack

Extreme!

THE U.S. MILITARY has developed a working prototype for an aircraft-based laser weapon. According to the Reuters news service, the system should eventually be powerful enough to knock enemy missiles out of the sky. It should be ready by 2007.

Now this is cool. Aside from the engineering and practical advances that could come from this innovation, we're going to have lasers on our aircraft, and only a half-century since the concept really began going in science fiction. We might not have a moon base, video phones or flying cars yet, but at least we've got one honest-to-God 21st century innovation in the works. I salute the good, fine people at DARPA on their success, and look forward to hearing more about such advances.

You know, like the Death Star superlaser.

(via Capitalist Lion)

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:33 AM | TrackBack

August 24, 2005

Diagnosis: "Baseball Heaven"

BOSTON 3, Kansas City 1.
TORONTO 9, New York Yankees 0.

I know tonight's games aren't over yet ... and I know this is tempting fate ... but I'm definitely psyched when all goes well with Major League Baseball. We'll see if Cleveland can improve and Oakland holds on.

Go Sox! Go Sox! Go Sox!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:16 PM | TrackBack

Diagnosis: "Poor Bastard"

I KNOW THAT life can often throw a wrench into even the most carefully laid out plans and dreams. However, whatever twists and turns life will throw my way, I take solace in knowing I won't have had it as bad as this guy:

A Sacramento man was killed early Sunday in Palm Desert after he was run over by a golf cart driven by a man who was allegedly drunk.

Jeffrey G. Seley, 29, was pronounced dead at about 2:14 a.m. Sunday at Eisenhower Memorial Hospital in Rancho Mirage, according to a Riverside County coroner's report....

... The driver, Darrin Michael O'Connor, 20, of Westminster, is charged with one count each of driving under the influence and vehicular manslaughter, said Cpl. Dennis Gutierrez, a spokesman for the sheriff's department...

... Exactly how the men got onto the golf course, what they were doing there just after midnight and who notified authorities was not immediately available.

UPDATE, Friday 10:02 AM: The Sacramento Bee has more on this story, particularly in terms of background.

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August 20, 2005

It Must Be Autumn

BACK IN 1961, then-FCC Chairman Newton Minow famously declared to the National Association of Broadcasters that television was a "vast wasteland." Here's the crux of Mr Minow's speech to the Association:

When television is good, nothing--not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers, nothing -- is better. But when television is bad, nothing is worse.

I invite you to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air and stay there without a book, magazine, newspaper, profit and-loss sheet or rating book to distract you--and keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that you will observe a vast wasteland.

You will see a procession of game shows, violence, audience-participation shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western badmen, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence and cartoons. And, endlessly, commercials -- many screaming, cajoling and offending. And most of all, boredom. True, you will see a few things you will enjoy. But they will be very, very few. And if you think I exaggerate, try it.

"And most of all, boredom." Now that is a line. Still quite true, too.

Today, though, I am glad to report that I will not be bored while watching television, and I plan to watch until the broadcasters sign off. For not only do I have all the sports broadcasts -- baseball! football! basketball! -- I could ever want at my disposal, AMC is also showing three James Bond movies throughout the day.

This can only mean it is autumn. I only watch a little television for most of the year, but during fall there are few things more enjoyable than the cool weather and cool TV. You can't go wrong with news all week and sports all weekend. Could one ask for anything better?

I mean, aside from an a la carte ordering system via cable, so I wouldn't have to pay for Lifetime and all the other stations I never watch. But that's another post entirely. In the meantime, I plan to sit back and enjoy James Bond and the Red Sox.

----------------------

* Mr Minow's words are even more impressive when one considers the man was only 35 when he said them, and as such wasn't "square" or otherwise representative of an older generation of Americans. (Mr Minow went on to become an accomplished lawyer, and I believe he still practices today).

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:29 PM | TrackBack

I've Seen Fire, and I've Seen Rain

IT'S BEEN A BUSY past few weeks up here in New Hampshire. Gad. Did I mention there was another fire at my building? Don't worry -- everyone and everything is all right, and it was a tiny, run-of-the-mill nothing-to-it fire (Just like the last one). But God, there was drama for a little bit!

OK, so dig this. It's 3:15 a.m. on a weeknight. The fire alarm suddenly went off, and woke me from a perfectly sound sleep. Somewhat annoyed, I got up and went about getting dressed. Having been through this routine before, I knew the only folks who could shut off the alarm system were firemen. Therefore, I knew I would have to leave the building, and I was not about to do so without getting properly dressed. (It can be a long and unpleasant wait outside sometimes).

So, as I was putting on my work clothes from the day before, I smelled a faint bit of smoke. As I went out into the hall, I noticed the smoke smell was a bit stronger, but I didn't think too much of it. Then I went outside and joined my neighbors, and did what apartment-dwellers do when their building's on fire: wander around the structure and try to find the blaze. After finding it, my neighbors moved their cars (cleverly, I was parked away from the building).

Of course, it was the apartment next to mine which had the fire. You could see puffs of smoke coming out of a vent, and it seemed like there was smoke in the back bedroom. Then, my Hero Neighbor who lives downstairs noticed it, as you can see in this dramatization:

HERO NEIGHBOR: Hey! That guy's not out of his apartment yet!
ME: Shit!

The next thing I knew, I was following my Hero Neighbor back into the burning building ... smoke-filled building ... building in which a tad of smoke was present, but which was still really foul smelling and bad for my sinuses.

When I first mentioned this story at work, everyone seemed very impressed, but I do need to reiterate to everyone that I was and still am embarrassed about my barely-adequate performance during this whole episode. I wasted two or three good minutes standing around like a dumbass, and it was only the selfless action of my Hero Neighbor which jogged me into following his lead.

Anyway, we went back into the building, and the smoke was more noticeable when we reached my floor. We began pounding on the door to the apartment next to mine and shouting; no luck. After 30 seconds of pounding, I went out to tell folks to alert the complex manager, while my Hero Neighbor kept banging against the door.

A minute later -- it could have only been a minute -- I went back inside. The manager had been notified and was on his way, but my Hero Neighbor had succeeded in rousting the man inside the apartment next to mine. After that, I did one last check of the building, pounding on doors and shouting and what not.

Now, you have to understand that the whole episode had gone on for several minutes at this point. The fire alarm system in my building is so loud that it could serve as a backup trumpet on Judgment Day. There was lots of moving about, shouting, and general alarm on the part of residents. One could easily smell smoke in the building, at least I thought. So you would have thought people would have FLED THE AREA AT THE EARLIEST OPPORTUNITY.

As I'm on the basement floor, pounding on doors and what not, a couple in one of the apartments opens the door and asks, "Is there really a fire?"

Honestly, this was the first time I'd screamed in like -- I don't know, a long time -- but in tone and volume, my shout in the affirmative was on par with that from a memorable scene in "Ghostbusters." ("Ray, when someone asks you if you're a god, you say YES!")

Anyway. I screamed at them, they disappeared back inside the apartment, and reappeared 10 seconds later. I then calmly informed them of the situation and made sure they got out of the building. As they left, the firefighters arrived.

As it turned out, it was not much of a fire to put out, if it even ever got to that point. I later learned the guy who lives next door to me works late, and he had come home from work tired. He apparently fell asleep as his dinner was cooking on the stove. That's something that can happen to anyone, I guess -- but the whole episode reinforced to me how important it is to keep an eye on the stove while cooking, to say nothing of leaving the building when the fire alarm sounds.

As for the rain -- well, that happened just this Thursday. Basically, there was a tiny water leak from the apartment above me and it caused a small drip through a hole in the ceiling above my shower. No big deal, but cause for consternation and annoyance.

It was worth it, though. For one thing, I'm getting my bathroom repainted. Plus, when I spoke with Simon from Jersey about it, he expressed his sympathies and suggested the title for this very entry, which I thought both clever and fitting. Lord knows when the cold wind blows, it'll turn your head around.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 01:15 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 16, 2005

Behold the Power of Markets

Dear God! It's Carrot Top! Run! RUN!

WANT A MOUSE PAD? -- In a mad rush to secure a limited number of four-year-old iBook computers, stampeding consumers in Richmond, Va., let nothing get in their way this morning -- particularly children and the elderly.

WHEN THE RAPTURE COMES, I hope I'm not in Richmond.

I mean, if people are going to run riot for the chance to purchase $50 laptop computers, I'd hate to be in town when something really serious happens. Indeed, according to the Associated Press, the consumers' laptop frenzy was so intense that people were thrown to the ground, beaten with a folding chair and worse.

Here's what the Associated Press wrote about the horror:

An estimated 5,500 people turned out at the Richmond International Raceway in hopes of getting their hands on one of the 4-year-old Apple iBooks. The Henrico County school system was selling 1,000 of the computers to county residents. New iBooks cost between $999 and $1,299.

Officials opened the gates at 7 a.m., but some already had been waiting since 1:30 a.m. When the gates opened, it became a terrifying mob scene.

People threw themselves forward, screaming and pushing each other. A little girl’s stroller was crushed in the stampede. Witnesses said an elderly man was thrown to the pavement, and someone in a car tried to drive his way through the crowd.

Seventeen people suffered minor injuries, with four requiring hospital treatment, Henrico County Battalion Chief Steve Wood said. There were no arrests and the iBooks sold out by 1 p.m.

As readers know, today's rampage was in no way unique. There have been other incidents involving stampedes at commercial locales, e.g. during pre-Christmas shopping on "Black Friday."

Still, I'm sure that folks in Richmond will be asking a lot of questions in the wake of this affair. Leaving aside minor queries such as, "What's happened to our sense of community?" and "Dear God, 17 people got hurt over laptop computers?", Richmond residents may question why the sale was handled in the manner it was.

After all, the Henrico County authorities could have easily cleared more than the $50,000 they grossed from today's sale. That's evident in the disconnect between how many people showed up and how many computers they had on hand. If the price had been increased to $75, they probably would have still sold all of the machines, and people might even have jumped at the chance to buy at $100, $125 or $150. Even if the authorities had fallen short of equilibrium, they could have easily disposed of the excess through selling cheaply to charities or something. But by establishing an incredibly low fixed price for a scarce good, the authorities inevitably created an artificial shortage for the laptops.

It also might have helped if they'd handed out vouchers or something as people arrived at the distribution point. But that is a discussion for those closer to the incident. For more on this -- including a photo slideshow of the day's events -- visit the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:11 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack