Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Unreleased Neutral Milk Hotel Songs

In the course of my daily surfing, I ran across something especially interesting. The creator of Shannon's Arty Arty apparently lived in the same house as the now reclusive Jeff Mangum. To make a long story short (the long version is worth it though), she ended up in possession of some demos Jeff had recorded, and she has made three of them available for dowload on the site. (via My Old Kentucky Blog)

UPDATE: NeutralMilkHotel.org has another one.

UPDATE the second: I was so excited upon seeing this, I totally missed the song at My Old Kentucky Blog. You Ain't No Picasso also has one. If I keep this up, most of my daily music blog reading will be represented in this post.

NP: "Weekly Strategy Team Status Meeting" - The Action Items

Georgia's Annual Ten-Commandments-a-Thon

Grabbing Sand provides a nice summary of certain of Georgia's lawmakers' annual push to figure out a way to allow the Ten Commandments to be posted in courtrooms across the state. The post provides a short history of this effort, some explication, and a killer punch line.

NP: "Secret Broadcast #1" - The Earlies

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Geology of the Genesis Flood

The Institute for Creation Research is at it again--this time with a paper purporting to explain the tectonics of the Genesis flood. They are trying to take something that on it's face looks like science, in this case geology, and subvert to serve their ends. By avoiding biology and their evolution bogeyman, the thinking is that they side step any "Scopes" references and get one step closer to having their a priori wordview accepted as a posteriori science.

The thing is, geology as a scientific discipline is just as rigorous as biology (ask any of the geologists I used to work with). One of the bedrock principles of modern geology is the principle of uniformitarianism, which, simply stated, posits that the same processes that shaped the earth occurred then as they do now. This principle, when first elucidated in the 19th century was just as controversial as Darwin's theory, even though it is basic common sense. Occam's razor and all that.

Now if things occur in the past the way they now, that sort of rules out the flood doesn't it (not too mention a total absence of evidence in the archeological record). I mean, where did all the water (and resulting sediment) go? Did both miraculously dissappear into thin air. I don't see much of that happening today, do you? The only thing miraculously dissappearing is sanity.

In fact, the only thing in geology that would get them any closer (and only a very little bit at that) is the tectonically destroyed historical continent Pangaea, but that would open the door to the geological and palentological concept of time that they so detest because it allows the amount of time evolution would require--way more than the biblical 6,000 years.

Now naysayers of science would counter that the story of the flood spans so many cultures that it must be true--universalizing what was originally a local legend into a universal truth. Think about it, if the Tigris and Euprhates river valley experienced a 500-year flood, it certainly would have seemed like the end of the world to that localized population, and would be long remembered. The fact that other cultures have similar stories doesn't matter a whit. Most human civilizations began in flood plains. Floods happen in flood plains. Ergo, every once of these early civilzations probably experienced such a flood separately, and (to underscore my point) at different times.

The story of the flood serves a useful moral purpose in the building of religion, but I wouldn't advise using it as a meteorological report, much less geology.

UPDATE: Well, the Kansas School Board has gone and done it. They've redefined science so that it no longer is limited to the search for natural explanations of phenomena (Webster's be damned).

Maybe we should revisit this definition as well:
su·per·sti·tion. Pronunciation: "sü-p&r-'sti-sh&n. Etymology: Middle English supersticion, from Middle French, from Latin superstition-, superstitio, from superstit-, superstes standing over (as witness or survivor), from super- + stare to stand
1 a : a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation b : an irrational abject attitude of mind toward the supernatural, nature, or God resulting from superstition
2 : a notion maintained despite evidence to the contrary
To make it:
su·per·sti·tion. See science.
The theory of Intelligent Falling is set to take off now. Gravity, like evolution, is only a theory after all. With 61,100 Google hits, it must be onto something.

NP: "Forbidden City" - Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Weekly Music Report

OK, so I'm a day late. I spent yesterday recovering from the amount of food I ate on Thanksgiving day. But, without further ado, here were the top 10 musical artists for me last week according to Last.fm:
  1. LCD Soundsytem
  2. The Spinto Band
  3. Echo & the Bunnymen
  4. The Wedding Present
  5. Wilco
  6. 22-20s
  7. Steve Earle
  8. Nada Surf
  9. The Velvet Underground
  10. Lou Reed

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Anniversary

Looking back at my archives, I see that my first entries on this, my third incarnation of a blog, occurred a year ago today. My previous attempts either evolved from a blog to a full-on employment search support site or just faded due to my lack of time. My initial entries here were actually the cream of the crop (scotch) from a previous incarnation.

Over the last year, I created 176 posts, averaging a post every two days or so over this time. My posting frequency has increased lately though. I started with one or two regular readers, now I have between 40 and 50 daily readers if StatCounter's count of returning visitors can be believed (and the trend lines are looking good). I've also moved from blogspot to my own domain (update those links).

I had no idea this experiment would last this time around. I started blogging to brush off my writing skills when I wasn't doing much copywriting. My topics were all over the map in the beginning, since I just wanted to keep my writing muscles exercised. Since then, its purpose has evolved a bit to provide more commentary, and a few central topics have emerged. Also, I seem to sense a nascent community here as well (even though its numbers are still small).

Overall, I guess I'll stick around since this whole blogging thing has become rather central to my week (if not day). And since I've always thought anniversaries and birthdays are great times to look ahead as much as you look back, it's a good time for some goals. With that in mind, here are some things I'm thinking about for the coming months:
  • More St. Mary's posts as I have time to edit and revise my current notes (on the idea of mountains, blue-ridge geology, and southern appalachain flora and fauna)
  • A year-end music report (c'mon, you know you love lists)
  • More posts, more frequently
  • A migration from Blogger to WordPress, so I can begin to tag and categorize my posts (anyone have tips and tricks?)
  • Design tweaks based on the migration (nothing too radical I promise)
  • Expanded permanent content
  • I may even add ads, or is that just a horrible idea?
Have a happy Thanksgiving break everyone.

NP: "Ihop" - Luna

NPR Podcasts

For those of you with iTunes, I highly recommend checking out some of NPR's podcasts. NPR offers a lot of these. You can browse them now, or subscribe through the Apple Music Store in iTunes.

Currently, I'm listening to today's NPR Story of the Day podcast about hunger among the working poor in Smyth Country, Virginia. Sadly, I'm familiar with many parts of this story. I never wanted growing up, but I remember food drives, especially around the holidays, and my Dad working for the Hunters for the Hungry.

To totally change a depressing subject, NPR's all song's considered is also very good.

Housekeeping: Google Analytics

Google Analytics, their new web statistics service, launched last week. I currently use StatCounter, and I've been pretty happy with the data that they provide with their free service. However, I thought I would give Google a go at as well. If any of you are interested, and want a gmail account to make it a bit easier, just drop me a line.

I installed the code here last week, but only began receiving reports today (a lag time that I was none too happy about). The data that Google gives me though, seems like it's an improvement on the other free services (StatCounter, Sitemeter). So for now, I'll run both, see which one I end up liking the best, and report back.

NP: "Russian Autumn Heart" - The Church

Friday, November 18, 2005

Roy Keane Leaves Manchester United

This is shocking. I'm not a United fan by any stretch of the imagination, but this caught me entirely off guard. He was their captain and the enforcer in the midfield. More than that, Roy Keane has been the rock upon which ManU has built its success. Despite his temper and his contentious relationship with manager Sir Alex Ferguson, I find it hard to believe he's just walking away from the club afer 12 years (an eternity in sports). In his time with the club, ManU has been the most successful team in England. Their dominance has only recently waned with the rise of Arsenal and more lately, Chelsea. It's only fitting that he's leaving ManU the same year that Viera left Arsenal given the contentious, physical battles they've participated in against one another over the years.

I can't imagine he's completely done though. He's only 34 and has a couple of years left in him. I wonder where he's off to now. First, the big spenders. Chelsea, while they can afford him, doesn't need yet another midfielder. The thought of him at Arsenal is laughable. And he really doesn't fit the mold of a Real Madrid midfielder.

Here's a thought. Why not Wigan. They are currently second in the premiere league, which no one, including me, expected. I'm sure he could help them stay up this year. My best guess, however, is that he'll end up in green hoops with Celtic.

NP: "Underwear" - Pulp

Holidaze Mix

Just in time for the holidays, here's a small sampling of what I've been listening to lately. There's something here for everything from digesting prodigious amounts of turkey to wrapping presents.
  1. Grounds for Divorce - Wolf Parade
  2. Windsurfing Nation - Broken Social Scene
  3. They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back From The Dead!! Ahhhh! - Sujan Stevens
  4. Dark is Light Enough - The Duke Spirit
  5. Dead Man's Will - Iron & Wine and Calexico
  6. No Way Out - Immaculate Machine
  7. Marginal Over - Wilderness
  8. Love Will Tear Us Apart - José González
  9. Jumpers - Sleater Kinney
  10. Down Like Disco - The Dandy Warhols
  11. No Key No Plan - Okkervil River
  12. Soul Meets Body - Death Cab for Cutie
  13. Luno (Bloc Party vs. Death from Above) - Bloc Party
  14. Sing Me Spanish Techno - The New Pornographers
  15. Curtains Close - The Arctic Monkeys
Note: Any mp3s that are posted here are posted for a limited time only. Download first, listen later, save bandwidth. If you like anything you hear, go buy the album to support the artist (and keep me out of hot water).

Friday Music Report

According Last.fm, I listened to the following musical artists the most last week:
  1. Wolf Parade
  2. Swervedriver
  3. Echo & the Bunnymen
  4. The Clash
  5. The Wedding Present
  6. Stereolab
  7. Afghan Whigs
  8. Pulp
  9. The Charlatans UK
  10. Death Cab for Cutie
If Last.fm actually could read what I listened to on my iPod away from my computer, I'm sure that Broken Social Scene, The Stone Roses, The White Stripes, and The Spinto Band would have made the list since I listened to them while tooling around Michigan last weekend. Yeah, that White Stripes. What else am I going to listen to in Detroit? Ted Nugent? I think not.

NP: "Rag Doll" - Shots Fired

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Arctic Monkeys are Coming

Last seen on my Dog Days Mix, the Arctic Monkeys are now turning up in Salon, where Audiofile provides a concert review. If you don't have any idea what I'm talking about, hit the Dog Days Mix page and download one of their tracks.

NP: "Nightwaves" - VHS or Beta

Darts at The Usual®

Some character named Master Shakes has provided helpful power rankings for the darts players at The Usual® blog. I can't argue too much with my ranking. I can beat most of those above me on a given day, but consistency can be my hobgoblin. It all depends on how the bulls fall.

NP: "Daft Punk is Playing at My House" - LCD Soundsystem

World Cup Field Set

After yesterday's playoffs, all 32 nations have now qualified for the World Cup next year in Germany. Here's a list by region.

Africa
The big surprise here is the absence of Nigerian and Cameroon, who've acquitted themselves very well in the last few world cups.
  • Angola
  • Ghana (welcome back!)
  • Ivory Coast
  • Togo
  • Tunisia
Asia
This group shapes up according to form. No real surprises here, as Bahrain loses to Trinidad & Tobago in a playoff. I guess they didn't deserve five spots from Asia after all.
  • Iran
  • Japan
  • Saudi Arabia
  • South Korea
Europe
Always the largest contingent. I don't want to be around if Croatia ends up playing Serbia & Montenegro. Surprises? The lack of Ireland and Denmark, who had been qualifying regularly.
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • England
  • France
  • Germany (Hosts)
  • Italy
  • Netherlands
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Serbia & Montenegro
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Ukraine
North America
The group I know the most about obviously. The U.S. wins and qualifies earlier than they have during their modern run. I'd relish another game against Mexico on this stage. Congrats to the Soca Warriors.
  • Costa Rica
  • Mexico
  • Trinidad & Tobago (their first trip)
  • United States (finishing first in their region)
Oceania
This really surprises me. I thought Uruguay would take care of them without a problem. Welcome back anyway Socceroos.
  • Australia (after a 32 year drought)
South America
Losing that playoff has to hurt a bit. Argentina and Brazil are always favorites.
  • Argentina
  • Brazil
  • Ecuador
  • Paraguay
I'll wait until after the draw to figure out exactly where and when I'll be heading across the pond for a couple weeks next summer.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Ticketbastard

I just bought tickets to see the Drive-By Truckers next weekend at the Tabernacle. (Will I be seeing you there El Gray?)

The list price for the tickets? $25. A little pricey, but no problem; I bought two.

Now for the fun part. How in the holy hell does $25 x 2 = $70.35. It must be the new math.

First, U.S. customers are no longer allowed to pick up the tickets at will call when using Ticketmaster (no link for them). No, that would cost them a little bit of change. Instead, they charge $2.5o to deliver the damn tickets by e-mail for God's sake. Whatever happened to the Internet decreasing costs? I mean, sending an e-mail doesn't cost a thing over and above the connectivity costs they already have to pay. This is over and above the ridiculous service charge (now $6.75) they tack on as a hidden cost to every ticket they sell.

The cost of a damn ticket should be the cost of the damn ticket. How much of this goes to the artist and venue anyway? Probably not a hell of a lot. They're making money hand over fist on us poor fools because we have no alternative.

It's time to bust this monopoly up beyond all recognition.

NP: "Perfecting Loneliness" - Jets to Brazil

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Worst Album Covers of All Time

Our friends over at Pitchfork have compiled a snark-filled list of the worst albums covers of all time in their own inimitable way. My favorite:

Why is this one my favorite out of all those horrible, horrible choices? It's Corey Feldman... singing for God's sake. And the album art matches the shudder-inducing thought of what this must sound like.

I also have to love the inclusion of Dirty Work by the Rolling Stones. As old as they may be, they shouldn't be wearing such colors.

UPDATE: I fixed the image display problem. So now, I'll have Mr. Feldman on my site for all eternity (however long that is in Internet time).

UPDATE II: Head on over to Dilettante in Distress to check out her selections for worst album covers.

NP: "It's All Gonna Break" - Broken Social Scene

Monday, November 14, 2005

A 40 Degree Shift in Temperature

Around 40 degrees leaving Michigan, and almost 80 back in Atlanta. Normal posting should resume as soon as I remove my cold weather clothes.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The War on the Environment - A Momentary Cease Fire

Knowing full well that it will make no difference in the long run and that it's only a giveaway to oil companies, Republican leaders in the House temporarily abandoned the drive to open ANWR to drilling. They figured out that it was threatening the passage of a bill to cut spending, which may be in danger without the controversial provision anyway.

At least it's a start, even though we all know that they'll figure out a way to sneak it into another bill somewhere down the line. Hopefully, it will be off the table until that scary bunch is ousted.

NP: "Monday Morning" - The Church

Thursday Music Report

I know this is a bit early, but I'll be out of town starting early this evening (and probably not able to post), and I don't want to miss the one regular feature this place has. Without further ado, here are the musical artists I listened to most over the last week (Last.fm profile):
  1. Afghan Whigs
  2. The Futureheads
  3. Sufjan Stevens
  4. Spoon
  5. Neutral Milk Hotel
  6. The Arcade Fire
  7. The Editors
  8. Swervedriver
  9. The Hold Steady
  10. Rilo Kiley
I'm also working on a new autumn music mix for your listening enjoyment. I should have it ready by next friday, if not before. So, here's your last chance to take advantage of the Dog Days Mix.

NP: "Subzero Fun" - Autolux

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

One Red Paperclip

He trades it for something larger, and that for something even larger, until he turns that paper clip into a house. Watch his progress. (via boingboing)

NP: "Shoot You Down" - The Stone Roses

Top 50 Independent Films

Yet another list to debate. Empire Online has compiled a list of the top 50 independent films. Some of these seem a bit odd to me, since calling a film indie to me says almost as much about its subject matter as it does about how it was made. I realize this is misguided, but it is based on the independent films that I have seen (probably about two thirds of the list actually).

I'm sure there won't be much argument about their number 1 film (go ahead, you can guess without me even telling you). But, strangely, it has lost a bit of its bloom for me over the years. Two trick pony? Perhaps.

NP: "I'll Believe in Anything" - Wolf Parade

Monday, November 07, 2005

Top 100 Internet Moments

Because we like lists, and I remember a lot of these. I do think there are a few truly "Internet" moments he missed that merit inclusion.
Of course, these may just say really bad things about my surfing habits over the last 10 years. He does get bonus points of remembering Mahir though (I kiss you!). (via kottke)

UPDATE: Another missed moment from the comments:
UPDATE II: The organizers of the webby awards have also released a list of 10 Internet watersheds moments. So, I'll add Matt Drudge's part in the whole impeachment distraction to the list as well. I was probably just repressing it anyway.

NP: "Cigarettes" - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!

Vatican Supports Science

File this under surprising but welcome news. A Vatican cardinal said yesterday that the faithful should listen to what science has to offer, and warned that religion risks turning into ''fundamentalism" if it ignores scientific reason. They still remember being on the wrong side of Galileo.

He went on to point out that science in turn should listen to religion on certain things as well, citing the development of nuclear weapons as a chief example. I'm no Catholic, but the whole thing had me nodding my head. (Luckily, stem cells didn't come up in the article.)

As I've said before: Let science be science and religion be religion. Mixing them together, as the current crop of creationists try to do, cheapens both of them.

UPDATE: Found a link that actually worked.

NP: "Something Lost" - Long Pigs

The Boondocks

As some of you may know, I'm a big fan of Aaron MacGruder's comic, The Boondocks. It's part of my morning ritual. Caffeine, check. Boondocks, check. Doonesbury, check. Work? Oh yeah, I'd better get on that.

So I've been anticipating the TV show on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim for a while (warning: site takes a long time to load, but is has a neat comic panel interface). It's also been getting a lot of publicity on the sides of buses here in Atlanta, as well as a few billboards.

It finally premiered last night. First impressions? I liked it generally, but the voices will probably take some time to grow on me. They don't quite match what I hear in my head when I read the daily strip--except for Granddad, who was right on. MacGruder is pretty heavily involved with the show, so I'll trust his original vision will be presented, and I'll just have to adjust.

And yes, that was Ed Asner who provided the old, rich white guy's voice. He even looked like him a bit.

NP: "Carry the Zero" - Built to Spill

Friday, November 04, 2005

Become a Republican...

In 10 easy steps. So much for critical thought!

NP: "St. John the Gambler" - Townes Van Zandt

Inside John Peel's Record Box

This is only a little late for John Peel day. Apparently he kept a special record box of 142 singles, and The Times publishes a list of what was in the box.

I'm surprised by the relative, uhm, obscurity of most of the box's contents. I suppose I should be glad I knew about any of them because, let's face it, I'm no John Peel. Now, someone needs to collect mp3s for all these and set them free on the Internets.

UPDATE: The folks over at the I Love Music message board have undertaken the task of freeing these mp3s for the people. Go check it out.

NP: "Conversations" - The Posies

Friday Music Report

According to my Last.fm stats, here's the music I listened to the most last week:
  1. The Charlatans UK
  2. Swervedriver
  3. The Clash
  4. Wilco
  5. Death Cab for Cutie
  6. The Church
  7. The Dandy Warhols
  8. Ted Leo & the Pharmacists
  9. Beck
  10. Broken Social Scene
I'd say that's pretty representative.

NP: "Falling Away with You" - Muse

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Still Here

Work has turned into a bear this week, so just bear with me. Normal ramblings should resume shortly.

NP: "Eighties" - Killing Joke

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Branding States

Business Week has an interesting feature on how states try to brand themselves, from license plates to mottos to flags. It focuses quick a bit on Georgia's use of the peach, especially on the license plate. Strangely, the example plate they use hasn't been in use in Georgia for a number of years. Here a image of the current plate that's on my car--definitely an improvement from the airbrush, but still in keeping with the peach theme.

At least they didn't highlight the newest plate, which has been appearing slowly. Definitely not as cool as the previous one. Putting URLs on things is so 1998.

There's no mention of Georgia's flag either, but I suppose that's because it's changed so many times over the last few years. I suppose the partial nudity kept Virginia's flag out. "Virginia is for Lovers" got high marks as well.

NP: "OK Apartment" - The Oranges Band