Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Something About The Human Condition

This is one of the first things I ever blogged:
This week (in The Stranger) there's a two page spread, consisting entirely of type that appears to be about .000016 point Times New Roman, from (a man who) appears to have, in the past, claimed to be the reincarnation of Christ....(He's) not on the same plane of existence as I, whereas he's clearly got a lot on his mind and has gone to great lengths to say it, whether anybody else is listening or not (though probably orders of magnitude more people are reading his thoughts than are reading mine these days). (Apparently in the process of writing this entry I have been possessed by the parenthetical-comment making spirit of David Foster Wallace. Sorry about that). (Have you seen that David Foster Wallace wrote a book about infinity? It's like irony is dead. Or something that's like irony, only with more footnoted digressions). I can't understand his symbolism, or metaphors, or what his personal shame is, or what he thinks mine is. But what really is the difference between this Manifesto-Man and somebody else with a lot on their mind, say David Foster Wallace?
It turns out that difference was that he was dying of brain cancer.

UPDATE: Searching for info on this guy (who co-founded Seattle's Essential Baking Company), I found a forum discussion of one of the ads he put into the Stranger. Some highlights:
sickbadthing: Fuck the crazy shit he puts in the ads... has anyone had that fucking bread? The Rosemary Diamante is awesome fucking bread. The FUCKING BREAD IS AMAZING. I just want to talk about the fucking bread, guys. It's good, okay? Gosh.
Violet_DaGrinder: Yeah, I don't care if Osama Bin Fucking Laden were making it, that Rosemary Diamante? That's some good fucking bread. If the beautiful salt on that bread is made from evaporating Jesus's tears, then that's some tasty, tasty pain. On some fucking fantastic bread.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Little Round Mirrors

Three Songs played on the Canterbury Jukebox, Seattle WA, 09/06/2007:
"Dear Prudence"—The Beatles, The Beatles
"Waiting Room"—Fugazi, Thirteen Songs.
"Everybody Wants To Rule The World"—Tears For Fears, Songs From The Big Chair

I first moved to Seattle eleven years ago. A contingent of my friends from high school had attended the University Of Washington and remained in the city after graduation--we had lots in common in high school but less after college, a trend which continues to this day. I miss them, but this tends to be the way of ones life, I find.

We used to have Sunday brunch at The Canterbury on 15th. It was a smoke-filled dive bar at the time with terrible short-order food, but it was the only place in Seattle you could go with a group that varied in size from five to fifteen and find seats on a Sunday morning. If the brunch group had a ringleader (as it was in high school), it was Josh Rosenfeld. I met Josh when I was fifteen, after he moved to Bellingham from Telluride, and he was absolutely the coolest person I had ever met. He wore untucked dress shirts, ties, and big sneakers. He had huge blond curly hair, and he knew about all the cool indie music there was (Josh is now the head of Barsuk Records, so his coolness is another trend which continues to this day).

Josh also played bass in a band called This Busy Monster, and the first time I saw them play they opened for the band fronted by Sean Nelson, another brunch attendee, called Harvey Danger. I don't go out to see bands much any more (not that I am old or infirm or anything...I dunno, I guess the high school crowd was the one who put me on to good local bands, and I don't see them much), but I did then, and thereafter any time Harvey Danger played I went and saw them. They put out a record. A DJ on KNDD started playing one of the songs, "Flagpole Sitta," some stuff happened, some other stuff happened, and so on.

I had a point about life here, but now I don't know what it was. It was something about listening to the song that shares a title with this post (off the third Harvey Danger album which you can download for free by going here), in which it seems that being part of a band that suddenly broke absolutely huge and came tumbling back down to earth just as suddenly was simultaneously the best and worst thing that ever happened to him. It was something about going to Canterbury again, which is kind of a nice place to hang out now that there's no smoking indoors in Washington State. I think it might be that I'm firmly in my mid-thirties now, and my three-song playlist on the Canterbury jukebox last Thursday is as cool as I ever was, and as cool as I'll ever be.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Modern World Is An Insane Place, Part 47

If for some reason you're not on the Amazon Mechanical Turk mailing list, you're probably not aware that right now you could be helping look for Steve Fossett, the American aviator who went missing somewhere over Nevada last week.

As of this writing there are a little over 130,000 unexamined satellite photos of Nevada uploaded to Mechanical Turk, and more appear to be coming from Geo Eye at about the same rate that people are working on them. I just went through about 20 of them, and so far my impression is that Nevada contains a lot of nothing.

That you can search for a pilot missing over Nevada from your desk is pretty insane already. What, to me, is more insane was the one sentence uttered at our weekly operations meeting this morning. We look at graphs to see how our services are performing, and a fellow engineer pointed to a particular point on a particular graph and said, "...and this spike here is from people looking for Steve Fossett."

And there you a nutshell: a rather monumental confluence of information, technology, and zeitgeist conveniently translated into one easily digestible data point. We now return you to your regularly scheduled modern life, already in progress.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

But Maybe I'm Wrong

It dawned on me this morning that Fred Thompson is going to be the next President of the United States.

And then, in lieu of re-living the 80's all over again, I will be forced to shoot myself.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Rant of An Aging Hipster

The Gadflies spent Saturday at the Bumbershoot Music Festival in order to see Crowded House, who opened this year's mainstage festivities. Mainstage at Bumbershoot is a high-school football stadium, with the stage in one end zone. We camped out at the stage an hour before the show started and stood through Crowded House (who rocked), a half hour of setup, and then The Shins (who did not).

Also, apparently I'm old now.

At the beginning of Crowded House's set, the pit (such as it was) was dead. This I could understand—it was the first show of the day, people were standing around waiting around for awhile, and Crowded House's fans are generally our age or older. Crowded House also has 20 years of experience playing large venues, and they soon got the crowd into it. Their set ended, and as we sort of expected, the crowd shifted around a little bit but nobody really went anywhere, as The Shins were coming on in thirty minutes.

Except apparently that's not what happened. I looked down at the Bumbershoot guide in my hand, and looked up again, and all of a sudden we exceeded the age demographic of the crowd by a good 15 years. It was as if, as mtg said, we were in a cartoon room, and they had flipped the floor over so that you were in the same place but with totally different furniture.

(Here I should offer up something about, you know, the nature of people who want to stand at the front of the stage versus the (sane) people who sit 500 yards away in the stands watching from a safe distance. In our recent trip to the UK, mtg and I took an overnight bus from Edinburgh to London; we reached the station and absolutely everyone else on the same bus was college student-aged, they being the only demographic that weighed the economic cost of staying over a night in London or Edinburgh greater than the extreme discomfort of braving seven hours sitting upright in a moving bus. In summary, the Gadflies are kind of crazy people.)

In fact I was kind of excited, because I had not been in a good racous crowd since I went to see Basement Jaxx with Glenn Simpson at the Showbox, and that was a long time ago. mtg was somewhat less excited as she could no longer see and was suffering some claustrophobia, but being that I was now the biggest person in the audience, I was able to maintain a little space for us. The opening synth roll of "Sleeping Lessons" began as the Shins walked out on stage, people cheered, it was all very exciting. "Sleeping Lessons" is the perfect song to open a concert because it has this great moment where the song blows up from ambient into big crunching guitar rock, so I was expecting the crowd of 16-year-olds to do the same thing...

...and they didn't. They just stood there. Then the Shins proceeded to play their show managing to not interact with the audience in any way, such that the audience continued to pretty much just stand there. Moreover they played a set that, excepting an admittedly awesome cover of Pink Floyd's Breathe, was technically perfect but not discernibly different from listening to a Shins CD at home. Eventually, some excitement occurred when some spry members of the youth of America started crowd surfing, and here arrives my next complaint.

ATTENTION YOUTH OF AMERICA: If you are holding up part of the body of a crowd-surfer, DO NOT BODILY SHOVE THE PERSON FORWARD. You have to support him or her until you are sure the next person ahead of you (or behind you or to the side of you, depending on which direction the crowd-surfing flow is going) is ready to receive him or her. CARRY--DO NOT PUSH. That is all.

In conclusion, I would like to say that when I was a lad, if somebody wasn't carted out of the pit in a stretcher, it meant that a shitty band was playing. Also, I walked to school in the snow uphill both ways, and we respected our elders. No, wait...not respected. Held them in deep and profound contempt. That was it.