Friday, May 30, 2008

Friday robot blogging

Pixar's next animated star will be a robot named "Wall-E."

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Catch ya on the flip-flop

We're off on a four-day road trip, letting our freak flag fly.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

First concert

There's seems to be a meme going around that induces bloggers to post the group they first saw in concert. Besides some pathetic agape-love christian rock and some very excellent live jazz I saw courtesy of my parents in the seventies, my first real concert was The Dixie Dregs, 1981, in an old movie theatre in Petaluma, California. Steve Morse, their guitar player, went on to join Deep Purple. There's not much of The DD on YouTube, but here they are in 1978. Is it worth mentioning that I was sharing a big bag of weed with a group of friends, and that my memory is very hazy? I remember the stage colors, bright pinks and reds, most of all.

Wow, no wonder I never made it to a Day on the Green.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Last day of school

BB had his last day of kindergarten today. He's now officially in first grade. He is kind of ho hum and excited at the same time. He's grown so much this past year (we're already moving into size 7 clothes) that he seems surprisingly wise and old at this point. I don't remember being quite so self-possessed in first grade. In any case, camp starts tomorrow, with lots of outside play and a trip to the city pool. But the end of the school year is also bittersweet. His very best friend this year, who came over and smoked us all recently at Lego Star Wars, is leaving. His other two best friends this year have turned out to be a couple of girls, which really makes us feel good. He's got lots of boy energy, but this proves that what we see as his kindness and solicitousness is working for him. These two girls took a real shine to him.

When we picked up LB this evening he was sucking on a stone in his mouth. Daycare folks, I wanted to say, stones aren't good in my kid's mouth. The two teachers were excited about his galloping skills and his sit down on the "potty," however, so I guess their priorities are in the right place. It was raining at pick up time, and the boys claimed the two umbrellas. I threw LB's sweatshirt over my head, which turned out to be quite hilarious. Dad -- always good for a laugh.

"Commercial intent"

Why I hate Microsoft, edition ad infinitum. From Salon's Machinist blog:

Microsoft has announced that it is shutting down Live Search Books and Live Search Academic, two search engines that aimed to index scholarly works that are often difficult to find online. The company is also ceasing its ambitious effort to digitize library books, a project that it had long promoted as an alternative to Google's own such efforts.

The company says it "recognizes" that closing these services will "come as disappointing news" to publishers and Web searchers. And yet Microsoft says it must shut them down anyway, because letting people search through books and academic journals no longer fits into the company's business strategy.

What's that new strategy? Microsoft wants to help people who have "high commercial intent."

I am not making that up. Satya Nadella, the company's vice president for search, actually uses those words. Microsoft would simply prefer to build search engine just for people looking to buy stuff.

As usual, Microsoft's strategy seems short sighted. Google runs the no-profit features, like Google Scholar, because those same people (e.g., students with some discretionary funds) come back to Google when they're looking to spend money. As the happy architect of certain obscure searches, I'm glad it works for them.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Going well

It's been an excellent three-day weekend so far. AO began Saturday with big ambitions, but we've ended up puttering around the house, doing yard work and modest kid oriented things, like going to the library. We've got a big family and friends event coming up next weekend, which will mean driving four or five hours and staying in a hotel. So I'm glad we've been relaxed. The weather has been great; we bbq'd last night, ate outside; the kids stayed up late. Even better is seeing the dog really bonding with the boys, especially Little Boy. LB likes to tell the dog things, read to him, and generally treat him like a buddy. The new fenced-in backyard has helped. The dog also sleeps in BB's room until we're ready to go to bed, so he helps keep BB company. (Dogs give a little more than cats, in my humble opinion.) It all helps because BB is at a stage where he wants to go to sleep with the door wide open. The last day of kindergarten is tomorrow. We've already signed BB up for the library's summer reading program.

Big breath . . . things are going well today.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Spahn Ranch

Sunday disco edition. Madonna's "Swim" covered by Spahn Ranch.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Devendra Banhart

Covering "Summertime." Includes dancing hippie in boxer shorts.

Friday, May 23, 2008


Did Hillary Clinton just say today that she should stay in the race because Obama might be assassinated? How else does one interpret the following?

“My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. I don’t understand it,” Mrs. Clinton said, dismissing the idea of dropping out. Link

What's even worse, if as she claimed later she didn't mean it "that" way, is how utterly stupid the remark is. Tone deaf, insensitive, solipsistic, scary.

Party play list II

Second set of ten songs for the play list.

11. Ball of Confusion, The Temptations
12. Yer Blues, John Lennon
13. California Dreamin', Eddie Hazel
14. Hey Mama, Wild Tchoupitoulas
15. Mama Soul, Soul Survivors
16. Son of a Preacher Man, Dusty Springfield
17. Tell the Lie, The Bellrays
18. Don't Call Her No Tramp, Betty Davis
19. I'll Take You There, Staple Singers
20. Lean Lanky Daddy, Little Annie

The next ten moves to some disco. We'll see tomorrow, perhaps.

Friday robot blogging

Tattoo edition.

Sweet Linda Divine

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Hitler memed

Hilarious, reflexive take on web 2.0 and all the other LOL Hitler parodies. An angry Hitler: "I'm a GODDAMNED MEME." The footage is from Downfall. My other favorite is Hitler Plans Burning Man.

A screaming (but defeated) Hitler adds gravity to the frivolity of self-produced web content, but deflates Hitler with web 2.0's ultimate weapon -- frivolity, of course.

Party play list

First ten songs of a playlist I'm creating for my father-in-law's retirement party (rented hall, big bash).

1. Nuki Suki, Little Richard
2. The Girl Can't Help It, Little Richard
3. I'll Say It Again, Sweet Linda Divine
4. You Got What You Wanted, Ike & Tina Turner
5. Stagger Lee, Ike & Tina Turner
6. Everybody's Gotta Live, Love
7. A Little Less Conversation, Elvis Presley
8. Night Owl Blues, Lovin' Spoonful
9. Miss You, Rolling Stones
10. Sympathy for the Devil, Rolling Stones

Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

Doncha just love rock n' roll?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Gang of Four

"He'd Send in the Army" - 1981


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The day TV died

Matthew Yglesias offers an excellent perspective on the current media environment.

we're seeing the emergence of a bifurcated media landscape and political conversation. People over a certain age exist in a universe where it's almost as if the web doesn't exist and things like the nightly news, the daily paper, and the cable networks are utterly dominant. For people below a certain age, the nightly news is totally irrelevant, the daily paper is primarily a website, and things like blogs and web videos matter a great deal.

As he observes, in 1960 Nixon dominated the old technology (radio) and Kennedy the new (TV). Obama today?

Kool & the Gang

Continuing the "gang" theme . . . Celebrate, you all.

Happy mask

Tired of reality? Frog Design brings you a unique escape from the danger and nastiness of life -- a mask, "an augmented reality device", to filter out the bad.

"In a troubling future, these augmented reality devices would offer a new dimension - a virtual layer that could be used to 're-skin' the troubling outside world. A boundary between the wearer and the world around him, the device would become a sort of visual drug, used to make the world appear a better place – even if just for a moment. The device itself acts as a mask between the user and the outside world, expressing the internality of the human-device interaction. It offers a physical distinction between those moving in the real world and those who are 'plugged in' to their private dimensions, the world as they wish to see it.

"The visual design casts the mask as a lifestyle product of the future, as it plays with a glaring, exaggerated coolness of the wearer. It gives an almost robotic appearance, and suggests a diversion from what we define today as 'normal' physical human interaction." Link.

What's best about this description of the mask is the leading-edge jargon. For example, I just love the sound of "the internality of the human-device interaction." I want me some of those.

Monday, May 19, 2008

One nation under surveillance

Are you on the list? Are you one of the 8 million (or more) Americans who will be "detained" in the event of marshal law? Could you be on "Main Core"?

According to a senior government official who served with high-level security clearances in five administrations, "There exists a database of Americans, who, often for the slightest and most trivial reason, are considered unfriendly, and who, in a time of panic, might be incarcerated. The database can identify and locate perceived 'enemies of the state' almost instantaneously." He and other sources tell Radar that the database is sometimes referred to by the code name Main Core. One knowledgeable source claims that 8 million Americans are now listed in Main Core as potentially suspect. In the event of a national emergency, these people could be subject to everything from heightened surveillance and tracking to direct questioning and possibly even detention. Link

Purity Ball

Thank goodness I have sons. I'll never need to promise “before God to cover my daughter as her authority and protection in the area of purity” at a "purity ball."

More seriously, I think it's the responsibility of every parent, of both sons and daughters, to model responsible, honest, and respectful romantic relationships. The sad thing about abstinence pledges, or the pledges of fathers to protect their daughters "from 'hook-up' culture," are that they outsource a parent's responsibility. Would these fathers need the big production of a ball if they were simply straightforward and available for their daughters? Most of them probably work too damn much to even know if their daughter is out fucking around (the ball costs $10,000), much less have the time to communicate frequently. They are examples of parenting failures.

Jorge Ben

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Look ma . . .

Big boy rode his bike for the first time today without training wheels. It wasn't easy. He tends to get caught up in all the extraneous details, like wind speed, the angle of the sun, and how the bike's pedals seem to have a mind of their own. But he made it several times around the park's basketball court. Both AO and I took turns shouting and running along with him. But finally we left him alone to try to sort things out and when I came back and gave him a simple shove he took off. He really does need to figure things out for himself. Otherwise he'll always have something or someone to blame for his failure.

We video chatted later with his aunt and uncle in California, which was fun. LB quickly lost interest, but BB stuck around for the whole chat. He likes to look at himself in the inset window.

James Gang

The James Gang (Joe Walsh) play "The Bomber." An excellent jam. There's an "American" sound to this song, whether it was there when recorded or now so many years later. Perhaps it's the marshal sound of the snare drum (which, oddly enough, seems to be based on Ravel's "Bolero"). Or the guitar's tragically optimistic sound. Or maybe it's these strange lyrics:

A closet queen, the busstop's dream, she wants to shake my hand
I don't want to be there, she decides she can
It's Apple Dan, he's just the man to pick fruit off your branches
I can't sleep, and we can't keep this cattle on my ranches
Oh, yeah

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Sugar Hill Gang

"Rapper's Delight," 1979. Old skool.

Friday, May 16, 2008


"What Can't I Touch It?"

Using the Constitution

AO and I watched the second-to-last episode of HBO's John Adams miniseries last night. If you like costume dramas and history, the series is for you. We've enjoyed it, even though the American colonial period isn't exactly the hippest subject these days. The show captures the complexities of establishing and living in accordance with a constitution. Constitutions can be powerful instruments for good, as yesterday's gay-marriage ruling in California demonstrates.

“In view of the substance and significance of the fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship,” Chief Justice George wrote, “the California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples.”

My kind of monks

This NYT story about a buddhist couple who are never apart has a weird kind of appeal to me. The celibate part would be too hard, I think, but what an interesting way to pursue a spiritual practice. You must continually submit your will to another.

TEN years ago, Michael Roach and Christie McNally, Buddhist teachers with a growing following in the United States and abroad, took vows never to separate, night or day.

By “never part,” they did not mean only their hearts or spirits. They meant their bodies as well. And they gave themselves a range of about 15 feet.

If they cannot be seated near each other on a plane, they do not get on. When she uses an airport restroom, he stands outside the door. And when they are here at home in their yurt in the Arizona desert, which has neither running water nor electricity, and he is inspired by an idea in the middle of the night, she rises from their bed and follows him to their office 100 yards down the road, so he can work.

It puts the intimacy of living with a spouse, two kids, two cats, and a dog into a little perspective.

Friday robot blogging

The Love Robots.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Without opposable thumbs

The new dog managed to zip open a lunch box and consume most of the PBJ therein. He likes us so much he took the sandwich to eat on our bed. There's little doubt that he's happy living at our house.

Media moves left?

I realize that cable news' (namely MSNBC') newfound interest in a left-wing perspective is motivated by a cynical desire for profits. But it's hard not to applaud Keith Olbermann's apoplectic take down of George Bush's abstention from golf "for the sake of the troops."

While you were away

This is a blurry cell phone photo, but if you look closely you can see a forklift moving a car. Apparently, the car was in the way of a big tent crew. Imagine coming back and seeing a big party tent where your car used to be. Imagine looking underneath your car and seeing a crushed exhaust system.


Funny juxtaposition on NPR this morning.

Obama in speech: We will make America one again, rising and falling together. We will take Washington by storm.
News reader: John McCain will be in Ohio today talking about reducing spending and violence in Iraq.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The day there was no news

Spliced clips of BBC news before the fade out.

Balloons in the bathroom

The two boys have started to work together to cause trouble. Yesterday morning, while I tried to brush Big Boy's teeth and comb his hair, Little Boy kept running in with a big bunch of balloons. This bunch of balloons is so big that once it was in the bathroom, it enveloped me, obscuring my vision and hindering movement. As usual, the bus is due any minute and I'm trying to get the kids to scurry. LB runs the bunch of balloons in and as I get tangled up in them the boys think it's hilarious. I impatiently push the balloons out of the bathroom. In comes LB with the balloons again. There's stress in my voice as I admonish LB about leaving the balloons outside the door, which makes BB laugh even harder. Get Daddy, he's thinking. I'm not really keeping track of LB as I push the balloons out, but he's giggling hard as he brings them back in again. "Shit!" I yell. Big laughter from my sons. The balloons go into a bedroom and I slam the door shut. Now, where were we?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Funny dad

Robert Downey Jr. recently delivered a moving tribute to his father, independent filmmaker Robert Downey Sr.:

Jr. turned to his dad, but his voice cracked and he couldn’t quite get out his sentence. “And so tonight … [long pause] I just want to honor my dad for being every inch the man I remember him to be and thank him.”

The applause swelled. Not an eye in the house was dry. Then Jr. turned the mike over to Sr., who stared at him blankly and deadpanned: “I’m not your father.”



Haunting, primitive surf music, 1964.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Lee Fields

Legendary soul singer. Song is "Honey Dove."


The best example of what it means to be a parent: Every time I clip my fingernails I also clip the nails of my two sons.

The task encompasses the loss of autonomy and intimacy that characterizes being a parent. What was once a private act (my own nails) is now public (others' nails). Clipping nails, though, also takes in the pleasure and sense of accomplishment that having children produces. They seem to feel particularly close to me as I clip their nails. And I'm proud of my well-groomed children.

Clipping nails also serves as the perfect metaphor for parenting. Done well it creates a well-served child; done with too much zeal or sloppily it causes injury and pain.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Albert Hoffman

Colbert eulogizes the discoverer of LSD.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Tripsichord Music Box

Obscure late sixties psych.

"Tripsichord Music Box (name shortened to 'Tripsichord' in 1970) were one of the Bay Area's most enigmatic and amazing bands. Despite being one of the least documented and least commercially successful of the San Francisco Sound family of groups under producer Matthew Katz' control, the music they left behind is quite stellar (1968-70)." Chocoreve

Friday, May 9, 2008

Friday robot blogging

Zeno bot

"Zeno is coming! He is the smartest and coolest robot yet! He has everything he needs to become your friend; he sees, hears, talks and remembers who you are. He even walks and performs amazing stunts. His face is soft like yours so he can show emotions, just like you – happy, sad, puzzled, and lots more. Operate him by himself and see a few of his antics, or let him link to your computer wirelessly so he can have complete conversations with you! Plus, if you use your computer to help Zeno connect to the internet, he can keep learning and growing smarter. He’ll even help you learn about the world around you."

JD Blackfoot - "Ultimate Prophecy"

sixties psychedelic garage.

Even Nixon didn't say white

From Peggy Noonan (whom I normally loath) on Hillary's comments yesterday.

White Americans? Hard-working white Americans? "Even Richard Nixon didn't say white," an Obama supporter said, "even with the Southern strategy."

To play the race card as Mrs. Clinton has, to highlight and encourage a sense that we are crudely divided as a nation, to make your argument a brute and cynical "the black guy can't win but the white girl can" is -- well, so vulgar, so cynical, so cold, that once again a Clinton is making us turn off the television in case the children walk by.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

What racism looks like

It's my Daily Kos moment here on the blog. I'm actually astounded by the depths now being plumbed by HIllary Clinton. How many ways is the message of Hillary's new stump speech absolutely unethical and wrong?

"Clinton said, 'I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on.' She cited an Associated Press article 'that found how Senator Obama's support among working, hardworking Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me.'"

Yep, bring the redneck, Mason Dixon vote back home. The odd thing is that the exit polls on Tuesday showed that Obama's appeal to white voters had strengthened, if not with those without a college education. But acknowledging demographics is different than arguing that these "hardworking Americans" won't vote for a black man. She's been using this appeal in various ways for at least six weeks or so. I'm fed up. Fuck her and all the racist rednecks. Shouldn't the democratic party be trying to marginalize their asses rather than trying to "appeal" to them? They'll end up voting for McCain anyway, just like they voted for Bush. Hopefully, this really does spell the end of the Clinton "dynasty" and the end of those self-serving cowards of the Democratic Leadership Conference (DLC).

Indian Jewelry

"Swans." New single from their album Free Gold. Exquisite shoegaze.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

New Tattoo?

What to get? I've got a spiral high on my left arm. I'd like something that goes down a little further, either under my current arm tattoo or over on my right bicep.

Maybe something like this, but designed by AO.

I also like this.

Trapped in an Elevator

Haunting CCTV video of 41 hours in an elevator. The video accompanies a recent piece in the New Yorker.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Pretty Things

The Pretty Things were an English R & B band whose founding member once played with the Rolling Stones. In the late sixties The Pretty Things embraced psychedelia, coming out of the same scene as Atomic Rooster, which I posted Saturday. This is a small section from their rock opera "S. F. Sorrow." The album shared Pink Floyd's producer during the same era.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Foul-Mouthed Robot

I'm trying to create a video track for a song from Indian Jewelry, a distortion psych band I recently discovered. In the meantime, here's a foul-mouthed robot -- "Listen here, you motherfuckers" -- promoting their recent album, Free Gold. (The image is just something stupid I pulled off Google.)

Róisín Murphy

"The Truth." This is the song Róisín contributed to Handsome Boy Modeling School's 1999 album "So . . . How's Your Girl." The song also features J-Live.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The real power of robots

In the sci fi movie Minority Report, bug-like robots swarm into buildings to find a fugitive. This sequence may have anticipated a real nightmare. Monstrous robots and machines of the future may be more visually dramatic, but if you think about it they do not even come close to the dystopia of the swarm.

"BAE Systems will lead a team of scientists that will develop miniature robots to improve military situational awareness. The company signed a $38 million agreement with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory to lead an alliance of researchers and scientists from the Army, academia and industry."

"'The idea is that a variety of crawling or flying mini-droids will be produced, able to go into situations where human troops might fear to tread - caves, bunkers, mountains, hostile urban areas etc. The robo-bug army would then spy out targets and intel for human commanders to act upon.'"


Saturday, May 3, 2008

Atomic Rooster - 1971

The golden age of the big hair band.


I don't read many personal blogs, but one that I do read usually documents ongoing DIY projects, ranging from passive solar heat to database coding. The writer is a bit of a technological savant, but pretty down to earth. He works barefoot, for example, but at the same time he's listening to his own illegal, low-power FM station. One of his cars got totalled during a snowfall, and he's been scrapping it himself, saving items he might use in the future and recycling the rest. Here it is in its present condition. I would LOVE to have one of these out front.

Friday, May 2, 2008


There is so much to juggle around the house right now that I keep forgetting what I'm doing, creating even more chaos as I run to and fro. The problem is illustrated by Little Boy's activity this morning, as we scurried to get BB out to the bus on time. There we are, trying to get dressed and teeth brushed, and LB is taking ALL of his clothes out of his drawers, scattering them around his room. The dog was also getting into the act, picking through the clothes with tongue and teeth. Another mess to clean up. It would be different if I were in an office at work. There no one, presumably, would be coming in every night to trash the place.

We had a storm come through last night. The thunder was so intense that the house shook at one point, mimicking our recent earthquake. At one point I heard BB yelling out. I went to his room, where he was shivering in fear. He needed to go to the bathroom and wanted someone to help him "feel brave." It was a precious moment.

This morning, just as BB got on the bus, the heavens broke with a downpour. We weren't prepared so LB and I were soaked to our skin, making my morning even more hectic. We stripped down and dried off in the garage, then got dressed again. Another reminder that shit will happen.

Friday robot blogging

From an illustration for a paper on the Artificial Emotional Creature Project.