Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Other Football

This isn't a post about Arsenal's 1-1 draw with Tottenham this morning, even though I could go on and on about how each half was a different game and if the squad that played most of the second half had started it, they probably would have won.

Instead, it's about how much the game has grown in the U.S. After the game, I went to get my hair cut at my usual barbershop, but this time I was wearing my Arsenal jersey. As soon as I had taken off my sweatshirt, one of the barber's said, "Hey, Jerry, there's an Arsenal fan down here." And the two of them (the younger two of the four barbers) began giving me a bit of a hard time.

Now Peachtree Battle barbershop is in the middle of college football country in Atlanta ("How 'bout them Dawgs" and all that), but they knew enough to know about Arsenal's struggle's this year. Heck, I was shocked they even recognized the jersey. If soccer has made into this barbershop, it's a lot farther along than many in the media would have you believe.

Of course I asked them who they supported. Their reply?

Wait for it.

Chelsea of course. (I asked if they were Yankees fans too, but they just laughed it off.)

Friday, October 28, 2005

Friday Music Report

According the my profile, I listened to the following musical artists the most in the last week:
  1. Broken Social Scene (20 listens)
  2. Immaculate Machine (11)
  3. The Clash (9)
  4. Bloc Party (7)
  5. Sigur Rós (7)
  6. The Wedding Present (6)
  7. The New Pornographers (6)
  8. Death Cab for Cutie (6)
  9. Blur (6)
  10. Mission of Burma (5)
Broken Social Scene tops the list because I've been exploring their new, self-titled LP. You Forgot It in People is one of my favorite albums of the last couple years. I'm trying hard to like the new one as much. It just seems so much, well, messier and chaotic. Sometimes three muddle vocalists is not a substitute for one. It's still a pretty good album, just not as good as their previous effort.

In other musical news, I'm still pretty bummed that I missed The National last Saturday night at the Earl--damn cold.

NP: "Mondo Bongo" - Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros

Thursday, October 27, 2005

ChiSox End 88 Years of Frustration

As most everyone in North America knows by now, the Chicago White Sox won their first world series in 88 years last night, so no link is required. But I wanted to take this opportunity to congratulate the team and the fans. And to Ozzie Guillen, who I always enjoyed as a player. I was lucky enough to see him play in Atlanta toward the end of his career and I always like the pure joy he brought to the game. He was a nice change from the rest of the very business-like Braves.

As a Red Sox fan, I know exactly what you are feeling right now White Sox fans. Enjoy it. You'll still be pinching yourself for weeks.

NP: "The Present" - Bloc Party

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Chaucerian Shaft

Something dirty? A lost fragment of the Canterbury Tales? Nope. Just song lyrics. Ya damne righte!
"Wha be tha blake prevy lawe
That bene wantoun too alle tha feres?
Ya damne righte!

Wha be tha carl tha riske is hals wolt
Fro is allye leve?
Konne ye?"

Now this is why Al Gore invented the Internets. Read the whole thing. (via Mefi)

NP: "A Million Miles" - The Wedding Present

Monday, October 24, 2005

Time's 100 Books Again (Sort Of)

Like an alcoholic to whiskey, I can't help but come back to this topic again and again and again. This time, though, there's a twist. The Morning News has collected a bunch of one-star reviews of these books from Amazon.

Some of these are absolutely hilarious. My favorite is for Gravity's Rainbow:
“When one contrasts Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five with this book, it’s like comparing an Olympic sprinter with an obese man running for the bus with a hot dog in one hand and a soda in the other.”

As far as it goes, I think this review is accurate, but it really misses the point of the sprawling genius of the book. Go check out the rest. (via kottke)

NP: "Fun to Be Happy" - Love Tractor

Friday, October 21, 2005

Jarvis Cocker Sings Again

But it's not, sadly, in a Pulp reunion. This time, he's contributing a song to the next Harry Potter soundtrack for the next Harry Potter movie. Oddly, I think it's probably a good match.

For the moment, the song is available for download. So, if any of you have been missing Mr. Cocker's voice ever since Pulp decided to call it quits (or if Relaxed Muscle isn't for you), head on over there to check it out.

Update: Song gone from initial link. Try here.

NP: "Someone Something" - Spoon

Friday Music Report

According to, here are the ten musical artists I listened to most last week:
  1. The Clash (10 tracks)
  2. Nada Surf (9)
  3. The Charlatans UK (9)
  4. Echo & the Bunnymen (9)
  5. The Wedding Present (9)
  6. The Drive-By Truckers (8)
  7. The Jesus & Mary Chain (7)
  8. Spiderbait (7)
  9. Afghan Whigs (7)
  10. Death Cab for Cutie (7)
No one who knows me will be very surprised with that list. I'm sure that The New Pornographers and the National will be on next week's list, since they both have shows in Atlanta this week. The top track of the week was "Electricity" by Spiritualized with four plays.

NP: "A Certain Romance" - Arctic Monkeys

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Mike Luckovich's Blog

Pulitzer-winning editorial cartoonist for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Mike Luckovich, now has a blog. I think this is a good example of how mainstream or more traditional print journalism (or even other non-traditional bloggers such as corporate PR) can use blogging to engage with their community of readers.

Political cartoons, and political satire in general, inherently will cause some controversy because of their subject matter. Here, the cartoon itself and the pre-exisiting voting cabability is paired with comments and posts. By giving his readers a chance to comment directly, and engaging with them directly, Luckovich has the opportunity to explain himself, out idiots for just what they are, or otherwise just have fun with it.

For example, he's currently offering to pen a pro-Bush cartoon on a subject of his readers' choice, if they can find something they can still support about the President. (Not surprisingly, most of the Bush supporters ideas weren't pro-Bush, but anti-liberal, creationism-loving rants.)

NP: " Bank Holiday" - Blur

Say It Ain't So, Leo

In bad news for Braves fans everywhere, Leo Mazzone, who should the first pitching coach who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame, is apparently joining the Orioles. Apparently, the Orioles' new manager is one of his best friends from way back. He's been with the Braves organization since 1979, and I can't really imagine the Braves without him rocking on the bench.

What does this mean. Immediately, I'd have to guess that Atlanta's streak of 14 consecutive division titles ends right there. I really like the youth on the team, but pitching wins championships. Now, we'll see no more reclamation projects like John Thompson, Jaret Wright, and John Burkett. How much worse would Dan Kolb been without Leo?

On the other side, Mazzone won't have nearly the talent to work with in Baltimore, but if he can improve their picthing just a little, they should be able to contend with their offense alone.

At least he turned the Yankees down.

NP: "So. Central Rain" - R.E.M.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

New Blur EP?

According to NME, Blur could realease an aggressively laid back EP later this year. I've always enjoyed Blur's music, even if I do still miss Graham Coxon's guitars. Apparently Damon Albarn will be handling the guitar duties, which will limit it to three chords. Hence, laid back I'm guessing. I'll deftinitely give it listen since I was one of the few of my friends who enjoyed "Think Tank."

NP: "Grounds for Divorce" - Wolf Parade

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Time 100 Books Update

To update the post below. Here are my thoughts on the books I've read from Time's top 100 English language novels since 1923.
  1. All the King's Men, Robert Penn Warren - Definitely. One of the best and most enjoyable novels I've ever read, for the beginning of chapter 5 if nothing else.
  2. American Pastoral, Philip Roth - Typical Philip Roth in its style and probably as good as any of his works for inclusion on this list (maybe Goodbye, Columbus should be considered instead)
  3. An American Tragedy, Theodore Dreiser - Read this in my undergraduate class on the American Novel. It definitely seems much older than 1923 or maybe that's just me recollecting the feel of Thomas Hardy.
  4. Beloved, Toni Morrison - Fantastic book that deserves to be on this list.
  5. Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy - I'd probably have included Sutree or All the Pretty Horses instead of this one, and I'm not even that quesy about near-motiveless violence.
  6. Catch-22, Joseph Heller - A classic in all senses of the word. I wish Heller had written more books that are as brilliant as this.
  7. The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger - Doesn't everyone read this book in high school? I suppose the near cult-like status of the book and its reclusive author probably merit inclusion.
  8. A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess - A fresh dystopia for the Cold War.
  9. The Confessions of Nat Turner, William Styron - I'm a little surprised that this book made the list given the amount of controversy it stirred up when published. That said, I thought it was a very thought provoking and enjoyable read.
  10. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen - I enjoyed this book. I really did. But to put it on this list over Absalom, Absalom! or Underworld. You must be kidding. Talk to me in 40 years.
  11. The Crying of Lot 49, Thomas Pynchon - This one is a no brainer.
  12. Deliverance, James Dickey - This probably surprised a lot of folks, especially those who have only seen the movie, but it is quite a good novel in its own right.
  13. The French Lieutenant's Woman, John Fowles - Another book I was assigned to read in a British Novel class. I remember slogging through it and being ready to move on to another assignment, so my judgment shouldnt' be trusted.
  14. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck - Can you imagine 20th century American literature without Steinbeck. This is his best novel. Q.E.D.
  15. Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon - Somehow time has robbed me of the ability to read this. I read it right after I finished grad school, and I tried to re-read it again recently to no avail. I should dust off my brain I suppose, because this one also belongs.
  16. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald - Perhaps the perfect American Novel.
  17. Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace - A big, beautiful, sprawling, funny mess. Just like I like my novels.
  18. Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison - This book still leaves me in awe. It really opened my sheltered eyes and taught me to see in a way that I never thought possible.
  19. Light in August, William Faulkner - I suppose they had to include a Faulkner novel that was a little more accessible than The Sound and The Fury. It still probably deserves a spot (see below). Faulkner is an American literary giant.
  20. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov - Too many people misread this one, probably because of the movies. There's more here than repressed sexual titters and winking.
  21. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien - I admit that I'm a fan of this, and enjoyed the books and movies greatly. I also appreciate the sheer act of the imagination involved, but sometimes, well, Tolkien's prose can be, shall we say, a little florid. Remembering that their readers ranked this first a few years ago probably explains its presence.
  22. Money, Martin Amis - Amis the younger as his cynical, snarky best.
  23. The Moviegoer, Walker Percy - Probably one of my favorite novels of all time.
  24. Neuromancer, William Gibson - Uhh. You're kidding me right? I read this and enjoyed it for what it was. If you feel you need to have science fiction, where's more Philip K. Dick. This is only here because Gibson invented the term cyberspace.
  25. 1984, George Orwell - Neuromancer seems even more silly on this list since it's right next to this book
  26. On the Road, Jack Kerouac - The definitive novel of one of the major literary movements of the century. 'Nuff said.
  27. A Passage to India, E.M. Forster - Most people would probably have thought Howard's End or A Room with a View would be the Forster choice. In this case, I think the list is dead on.
  28. The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene - This one is always lurking on my "I have to reread that book" list.
  29. The Recognitions, William Gaddis - A confession. I haven't read this one fully through. Every time I try, life gets in the way, and this book required an investment of time. As far as I've gotten though, I can already say it belongs.
  30. Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut - The perfect companion to Catch-22.
  31. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson - What the hell? Another fun-to-read beach type book. Look, I enjoyed this, but Stephenson's style at times? Let's just he writes about women with all the depth of your average 10th grader.
  32. The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner - This has to be on the short list for greatest novel of all time. Others? Ulysses, 100 Years of Soliture, Don Quixote, The Brothers Karamazov, Moby Dick, Tristram Shandy, Great Expectations, and The Tin Drum (and I know I'm probably missing a few, mainly in French)
  33. The Sportswriter, Richard Ford - Great book, but I'm not sure it rises to this level. I'd always recommend it to anyone though.
  34. The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway - Easily Hemingway's best if not most satisfying book. The perfect example of his writing style outside of the short stories.
  35. Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston - Memo to old white dudes with bowties. This book belongs. Deal with it.
  36. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee - How could you not like a book that has Truman Capote as a character? I wish she had written more as well.
  37. To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf - File this one under appreciate more than I enjoy. I suppose I identify more with her portray Mr. Ramsay.
  38. Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller - And how, can this man write.
  39. White Noise, Don DeLillo - I can see why they chose this one from DeLillo's works, but Underworld deserved a nod as well. I mean, what other "important" post-Pyncheon American authors can you think of.
Okay, in my estimation, here are the main omissions from their list:
  1. Ulysses, James Joyce - This book would be number one if they pushed the date back by a year (or 23). The book wasn't even available in the U.S., where Time is published, until well within their time period (how long Time has been published).
  2. Absalom, Absalom! William Faulkner - This is one of Faulkner's big three and the perfect companion to The Sound and the Fury. It should be included from a technical standpoint alone.
  3. Look Homeward Angel, Thomas Wolfe - Has this novel fallen so far in critical esteem?
  4. Underworld, Don DeLillo - This out corrections The Corrections and is as good a literary history of the second half of the 20th century as I'm aware of. It makes a good bookend to Gravity's Rainbow.
  5. Still Life With Woodpecker, Tom Robbins - Okay, I'm kidding about this one, but I enjoyed it just as much as some of the other questionable inclusions.

The New Pornographers + Destroyer + Immaculate Machine

After a couple of aborted attempts during earlier visits to Atlanta, I finally saw the New Pornographers at the Variety Playhouse last night. So here's a brief review.

I'd been hearing bits and pieces about the first band of the evening, Immaculate Machine, and was very pleased when I arrived very early in their set. At first, the three-piece from was a little loose with the keyboards sort of dominating the rest of the music and the harmonies employed on most of the song, but they improved as the set went on. Once the levels were set, I enjoyed their music. They may have a bit of growing to do until they find their own true sound, they are off to a pretty good start. The songs where all three members--Brooke Gallupe (guitar), Kathryn Calder (keyboards), and Luke Kozlowski (drums)--harmonized most of the lyrics probably were my favorites. Their studio music has a little more polish than they showed onstage, and I've been enjoying their tunes all day. I'm sure the live versions will get even better over time as they ascend the card. Final analysis: I really enjoyed their set and even bought a CD (probably the highest praise in these days of online music).

I came to the next act, Destroyer, completely cold, having no idea what to expect. I had heard a good deal of buzz surrounding driving force Dan Bejar's music, but I really didn't have any idea what kind of sound was forthcoming. If first impressions are at all key in whether I like a band or not, I'd have to say I'll probably not buy much of their music. Of course, some of my favorite music is music that took a while to really grow on me, even if I didn't like it the first time around. The musicians were very solid, but sometimes Bejar's incantatory singing style was a bit offputting. On the balance, I think I ended up liking about half the songs they played. The only one that really sticks out in my mind as exceptional, however, was "City of Daughters."

Does anyone want to convince me that I'm off-base on my 50% estimate? I'm willing to give them a listen based on the songs he's written for The New Pornographers and the few songs I liked, but right now there's enough new music to keep me occupied and keep Destroyer on my back burner. Convince me!

To end the evening, The New Pornographers took the stage for a rare full-strength performance. Joining them was the newest pornographer Kathryn Calder (from Immaculate Machine) on keyboards. (Interesting aside: she's AC Newman's long lost niece.) Adding Dan Bejar (of Destroyer) to perform his songs as well made the evening a treat that many haven't seen, since Destroyer's schedule probably precludes their touring together very often. (He also seemed much more engaged for these songs than his own set.) I'm sure this issue will arise more and more frequently next year when Neko Case has a new album to support as well. While Calder's voice doesn't pack the sonic wallop of Case's, she could probably fill in admirably (though I'm very happy to have seen the band with Case).

With the addition of Calder and Bejar to the usual pornographers and sharing the drummer with Destroyer, the evening really had the feel of a big old BC family reunion taking place on the stage. And was that stage crowded at times (eight people performing on the smallish stage of the Variety). I'm sure they would have had more room at the Tabernacle, but they made out OK in the end.

As for the sound itself. Just what I expected--high energy power pop. The crowd was enthusiastic throughout. The crowd reached fever pitch a few songs in when Neko Case ripped through "Mass Romantic" and kept their energy throughout the show and both encores. All the songs where ably played, even with some new touches from the keyboards and the addition of another female voice, which Case quipped she'd been asking Santa for. The highlights for me had to be "Mass Romantic", and "Sing Me Spanish Techno", which opened their first encore.

For those of you not in Atlanta who may have to chance to catch them on tour this time around, I'd advise that you do it. It was quite a treat to hear songs they usually couldn't play in concert because of Bejar's absence ("Jackie Dressed in Cobras"), but I'm sure Neko Case will be making fewer appearances in the coming years as well, and you just have to hear that voice in this type of setting. Goosebumps I tell you.

NP: "Underwear" - Pulp

100 Best English language Novels from 1923

Time Magazine provides their list. I'm sure this list will be much debated, but I mean really, omitting Absalom, Absalom! You have to be kidding me. And why on earth did they choose 1923 as the starting point? Just to exclude Ulysses (1922)?

Even with the gnashing of teeth here, I've managed to read over a third of these (3538). Admittedly, most of them were for school--a by product of a master's degree in English.

Does anyone else note any glaring omissions?

NP: "Skyscapers" - Immaculate Machine

Friday, October 14, 2005

Deconstructing Left Behind

I've been meaning to write about this for awhile, and I suppose there's no time like the present. So, I'm going to take this opportunity to point all y'all over to Slactivist, who has taken on the unenviable task at close reading and deconstructing Left Behind in a regular series.

This series of posts has been going on for a while now, and I admire his dedication for continually making it through such dreck--all the while pointing out how very un-Christian some of the ideas espoused by the authors LaHaye and Jenkins (and presumably their followers) really are.

The series shines a light on some of the ideas that a growing population of professed conservative Christians hold, and we should all be made aware of them. Of course, he does indulge in a fair bit of fun at the expense of the very stilted writing style and weird plot devices found in the book as well.

Go give him a read.

NP: "
They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back From The Dead!! Ahhhh!" - Sufjan Stevens

Friday Music Report

According to my profile, I listened to the following musical artists the most over the last week:
  1. Neutral Milk Hotel
  2. The Clash
  3. Afghan Whigs
  4. Death Cab for Cutie
  5. Echo & the Bunnymen
  6. Swervedriver
  7. Spiderbait
  8. The Wedding Present
  9. The Charlatans UK
  10. Pond
It's good to see some new artists in this list. I suppose given the number of Clash and Charlatans songs I have in my music library, they'll always make the list, but it's still nice to see that I'm not totally in a rut.

NP: "Sucker M.F." - Wolfgang Press

Thursday, October 13, 2005

From the It's About Time Deparment

Movies + Beer = Goodness.

NP: "Hotel Womb" - The Church (Definitely a Desert Island Track)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Just in Time for Christmas

Here's a picture of a new video iPod (with a much larger screen), that was announced at the One More Thing event this morning! The new 60-gig will be also thinner than the current 20-gig model. I've been thinking it's time to upgrade. After all, my trusty 40-gig iPod is almost a whole year old, and they don't even make them anymore!

As part of the event, Apple also announced that select TV shows will be available from a new version of iTunes (including Lost). Gizmodo provides more information about the entire event.

UPDATE: Gizmodo is all over this. This post has better images of the iPod. Isn't that screen just awesome looking?

NP: "Nashville to Kentucky" - My Morning Jacket

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

R.E.M. Reunion

But they never broke up, you're saying. Well yes, and no. Bill Berry unfortunately had to leave the band, and to my ear they haven't been the same since. Well, apparently he rejoined the band for at least a night at a roadie's wedding. I guess Bill Berry got tired of that country life after all (at least for the night). (via Information Leafblower)

I need to get back up to Athens. It's been far too long.

NP: "My Little Underground" - The Jesus & Mary Chain

Monday, October 10, 2005


"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,

dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix..."
GrabbingSand has already totally scooped me on this one, but things like this are why I re-started this whole blogging thing. For those of you who don't have time to read his thoughts (and I'd recommend that you do), last Friday was the 50th anniversary of the first public reading of Howl by Allen Ginsberg. It must have dropped out the largely unassuming-looking and bespectled man's mouth like a figurative nuclear bomb that night. Really, even now, there is no substitute for reading it aloud.

Back when I still thought I wanted a life in Academia, I had to opportunity to meet Ginsberg. It was an odd occurrence. Ginsberg was at the school where I was pursuing my master's degree to read and sign books in the college bookstore. All the time he was there, he was squired around like royalty by certain members of the English faculty at the time. So much so, that we poor graduate students were, by and large, expressly uninvited to a party that was to be held in his honor.

Of course, some of us crashed the party anyway. Then what? a largely bemused Ginsberg is found in the kitchen avoiding most of the brouhaha. That is the image of him that I like to remember--that and the sunflower he drew in my copy of his collection wrapping around the word "Ah!". I was studying Blake at the time, so it was especially fortuitous.

All that said, I've long had a curious relationship with the Beat poets. Right away, I have to acknowledge their impact, but at the same time, by the time I was in my late twenties, laboring part time at their same craft, I'd gotten awfully tired of would-be poets and critics basing their poetics on poems that were by then a generation old.

There was no winning with some of my peers--either emulate them, good and bad, or get left in the cold. So, I began to tire of them altogether, and later, to actively be angry at some of them. Mostly, for their lack of craft and disdain for revision. However, this definitely does not extend to Ginsberg, merely some of his contemporaries and followers. Heck, even I'd admit they're a hard act to follow. And no one can deny the incredible impact that this poem, and Ginsberg's work as a whole, has had on American letters.

Go read the whole thing.

NP: "What Goes On" - Built to Spill

Friday, October 07, 2005

Google Feed Reader

Google just launched an RSS feed reader. Very cool. Maybe I'll transition from RSS Reader now since it has a number of annoying features. (via BoingBoing.)

UPDATE: I can't seem to get my feeds to import right now, and I'm certainly not going to re-enter them all. I'll update in the next couple of days to let you know if it's working or not.

UPDATE (II): Well, I still can't get it to import my feeds.opml file, but I managed to enter about a third of my regular reads yesterday. I've been playing with it this morning and it's pretty darn cool. Now I just have to find the time to enter the rest of the feeds I read regularly.

UPDATE (The Third): After a while, I've managed to get all my feeds entered into Google Reader. (Hint, use the search for content field to go directly to a source, tag it, and subscribe to it). I'm really liking the interface--so much so, I've already ditched RSS reader as my default. Seriously, I'd definitely advocate using Google Reader.

NP: "Got Carried Away" - The Trash Can Sinatras

Friday Music Report

Here are the artist's thatI've been listening to the most over the last week (according to
  1. Bloc Party - They're here because of the show the other week. Seeing a band live always makes me want to listen to them more.
  2. Neutral Milk Hotel - How on earth did I miss this until recently. Now I'm hearing In the Aeroplane Over the Seaeverywhere. Thanks again Vllack.
  3. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! - I can see some of their influences now. See above.
  4. Elf Power - Another recent addition to my library. I don't like this as much as Neutral Milk Hotel, but that's just a little bit unfair of a comparison isn't it?
  5. Echo & the Bunnymen - I'm really enjoying their new album, Siberia. It's not quite the rocker that Evergreenwas, but it's not quite the same mellow music they've been making in the interval either.
  6. Swervedriver - According to my referral logs, searching for "Swervedriver pics" has brought about 10 different people here. Strange.
  7. The Clash - Sometimes I forget how important reggae is to their sound. The comments to this post at Dilettante in Distress reminded me of that
  8. The Decemberists - I can hear a bit of Jeff Mangum in their music now too. With a little more Victorian literature of course.
  9. Stereolab - I really don't remember hearing them this much. Maybe that's because they make such good background music for writing and editing.
  10. Wilco - November 1 sees the release of Kicking Television (no link yet), a live album recorded last may. I'm looking forward to it.
The most played tracks of the week? Well, just about everything from In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. I must have listened to that about 10 times.

NP: "Midnight" - Immaculate Machine

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Searchable Shakespeare

I can't pass this up. Everything and Nothing has a pretty complete post of links to sites where Shakespeare's works are fully searchable.

Now, you have no excuse for saying: "Alas poor Yorick, I knew him well."

NP: "Feel Flows [Van Basten Mix]" - The Charlatans UK Redesigns, one of my daily reads on the Internets, launched a redesigned website today. The editor also gives some further information about the new design.

Overall, I like the new design. The old one had begun to feel hopelessly, well, 1999. The ever increasing number of ads seemed to be shoehorned into a design that wasn't really ready to accommodate them. Hopefully, the new design won't suffer from some of the performance issues that I'd been noticing over the last few months.

NP: "Soft Revolution" - Stars

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Book Review: 1491

I’ve only just recently begun reading history books. I’m not sure why it took me this long to begin exploring the world of non-fiction writing; perhaps I just finally got a bit burnt out novels a little bit and needed a break. Most of my historical reading has been focused on ancient and medieval history—areas that have interested me from my high-school years forward. Ancient Rome and Greece provide such a rich backdrop of information and, despite all my studies, medieval Europe was just so darn foreign that I could usually find something in those areas to really get my attention.

The most recent book I’ve finished, however, represents a departure from this pattern, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbusby Charles C. Mann. While not an exhaustive historical study of the Americas before Columbus, it is a nice summary of some of the new thinking that is being coming from archeologists regarding the indigenous societies that existing before Columbus and the accompanying European diseases arrived to the Western Hemisphere in 1492.

Mann is not an historian or archeologist, nor does he pretend to be. He does, however, manage to distill some very complex arguments and controversies into a very readable account of the current state of thought about Indian societies, and how it completely differs from the accounts that most of us were taught in school.

Here are some highlights of the new information that he narrates. This list is not exhaustive, but only some of the more interesting areas to me:
  • One of the earliest civilizations arose independently in Peru, about the same time or only shorter after Sumer in the fertile crescent
  • Maize, which has no apparent genetic precursors may be one of humankinds more important inventions as a product of genetic engineering
  • Disease, notable smallpox, may have killed as many as 90 percent of the inhabitants of the Americas in the sixteenth and early seventeenth century—making the Americas much more inhabited that usually thought
There a lot more where that comes from, and while I’m not totally convinced about some of the information he brings to like, it definitely bears thinking about. For example, he posits that the idea of pristine wilderness in pre-Columbian America is a myth—that human beings had left an indelible mark on the landscape and that primeval forests faced by Thoreau and his contemporaries was in fact a result of the depopulation that occurred due to the appearance of the Europeans. I’m not sure I’m totally ready to get rid of my idea of wildness, but I am also comforted that a more complex and subtle view of this continent’s first inhabitants is beginning to gain some ground.

All and all, it was an entertaining read.

NP: "No More Sorry" - My Bloody Valentine

At Least It Isn't Georgia

Good Old Ten Commandments Roy Moore is running for Governor of Alabama. Apparently, he's been touring the nation with the inscribed rock that he was forced to remove from his former courtouse and showcasing it before large crowds.

The scary thing, by every account I've seen, is that he is very popular in Alabama, much as George Wallace was back in his day (despite his shifting opinions to match new cultural winds). I could easily see him winning first the Republican nomination and then the Governorship. Maybe Alabama has a soft spot for politician willing to say "screw you" to any outside authority, since the issues that drive these two are pretty well separated by history and nature. (I can't opine on the reasoning any more since Alabama does have higher SAT scores than Georgia.)

My Wallace comparision isn't totally off the cuff either. Joshua Green's profile of him in the Atlantic Monthly makes the same comparison, which could me very interesting electoral scenarios down the line if the good ex-judge decides to take his crusade nationwide.

NP: "Double Day"- Afghan Whigs