Thursday, January 29, 2009

ShamWow

Last month, I went to a Christmas party where they were doing this secret Santa gift exchange thing; everyone brings a small wrapped gift and puts it under the tree, then people pick gifts in random order. When my number came up, I attempted to use my psychic materialism powers to sniff out the very best gift. I opened the bag that the spirits guided me to, and inside were...two pieces of cloth.

I didn't really know anyone at this party, but suddenly a room full of strangers were screaming the word "SHAMWOW!" at me. I thought maybe I'd stumbled into a cult who developed their own freakish language, in which "shamwow" means "you got a shitty gift." Then someone poured their drink all over the floor. "Shamwow," he grunted, pointing at the spilled booze like an astronaut trying to communicate with a mildly retarded alien race. I spread one of the cloths over the spill, wiped it away, and like magic, the floor was clean.

In case you don't already know, this is ShamWow:



Yeah, it's a piece of cloth, but just try to watch that video without wanting to run out to Germany and buy one.

Fast forward to today. My elbow knocks my coffee cup, and there's coffee all over my brand new wireless keyboard. At first I'm very angry at my elbow, but then, like a choir of angels, I hear the voices of fifty strangers screaming "SHAMWOW!" Instantly, the situation goes from horrible accident to exciting opportunity to test out my new ShamWow. I whip it out of the drawer, and the coffee runs away before the ShamWow can even get close.

It made me say "WOW."

Or at least, it absorbed more coffee than many paper towels would. My keyboard is probably still fucked.

I should probably also get the Slap Chop:



Remember kids: boring tuna, boring life.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Look at This Photograph. Every Time I Do It Makes Me Laugh.

There are times when I wish technology would just hurry up and invent a camera that we install in our eyes, and that can be activated with a thought. Every day, I see things that I wish could instantly be recorded somewhere other than in my fleeting memory; gorgeous snippets of life that are worth sharing with the world or revisiting later. But it would be either impractical or embarrassing to whip out a camera, so they are lost in the flow of time.

Picture this:

A sidewalk covered in snow. Two sets of tracks come toward the camera; human boot prints, and a dog's tiny footprints. At the bottom of the photo are a pair of boots in mid-step, and a snowy dog's head; the dog is walking on the human tracks, and the human is walking on the dog tracks, but in the opposite direction. The caption underneath reads "The Walk Home".

It'd be nicer if you saw it. But dude, it was too cold to remove my mittens.



Ah but here's Willow all covered in snow and too much fur. We're working on a new trick where I say "shake", and she does her dog shake to get all the snow off. This is useful so she splashes wet snow all over the place before coming inside (plus it's just really cute).



Monday, January 26, 2009

Someday, Somehow, Gonna Make it Alright But Not Right Now

The final line of Mayor Anne Marie "Too Many Names" DeCicco-Best's state of the city address, after discussing the challenges London faces, was the following:

London - the city that will be.

What?

Here are some alternative tag lines that mean the same thing.
  • London - the city that sucks ass now but might be OK someday.
  • London - please return in 20 years.
  • London - pretty much not even a city.

It's almost as bad as some U.S. state slogans. Wisconsin - "Stay just a little bit longer" (please?); "Oklahoma is OK" ; Louisiana - "Come as you are. Leave different" (i.e., this state will fuck you up good).

I hope DeCicco-Best isn't failing to see the forest for the trees in the place formerly known as the Forest City. London has its problems, but overall I think it's pretty OK.

PRO TIP: Hope for the future doesn't require implicit derogation of the present.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Anne Hathaway is Hideous

Especially without eyebrows



I will not sleep for days. When I do, I will wake up screaming, this picture still searing on the retina of my mind's eye.

(From Hot Chicks With No Eyebrows.)

See also.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Trailer Park Boys Community Service Variety Tour, Centinnial Hall, London Ontario

I was sad to hear that the Trailer Park Boys would be done after one more TV special and a movie. But their departure from TV has also resulted in a live tour of the country, dubbed the Community Service Variety Show. They came to London on Wednesday, and it was an awesome show. The idea is that the Boys are forced to put on a stage show as community service for yet another crime, and the entire thing is done in character, transitioning smoothly from the TV show itself. It truly is a variety show, with everything from the regular comedy of the boys interacting to music to a random parody of stage hypnotism.

It was pretty incredible seeing Ricky, Bubbles and Julian up there on stage, in real life, after watching them on TV all these years. They should do this with other TV shows. Like maybe a Grey's Anatomy show where they all act like assholes to each other, cry, freak out and see dead people, then screw up a surgery live on stage.

Here are pictures. I took some myself, but they mostly looked like man-shaped blobs, so these are stolen from Nick.


The boys



Ricky, and Bubbles as The Green Bastard



Fake Cory and Trevor from the audience, helping with joint rolling competition



Ricky letting the airplane vents suck out his smoke


And some videos:


Bubbles singing Liquor and Whores



The audience singing Liquor and Whores



Conky, the drunk/high audience screaming for his destruction, and Ricky picking up joints thrown on stage


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Barack to the Future

"We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. All this we will do."


"And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account--to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day--because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government."


"For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus--and non-believers."


"To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist."


These words, coming out of the mouth of the new president of the United States today, are refreshing. But they shouldn't be. These things - the importance of science and technology, government transparency, acknowledgment of atheism, and willingness to make peace with former enemies - their value should be self evident to any good person with half a brain. I suppose when half a brain is all the head of state has contained for the last eight years, even the most trite ideas seem like revelations. But that doesn't diminish their value, and let's hope that Obama is as good at carrying out these ideas as he is at talking about them.

I leave you with this:





Sunday, January 18, 2009

Book Review: This is Your Brain on Music, by Daniel J. Levitin

Before I begin, let me just say right off that I enjoyed reading this book a whole lot and I heartily recommend it. The following harsh criticism is partly because I care enough to wish it was just a bit better, and partly because its subject matter falls in my own area of expertise (psychology), so I'm bound to be nitpicky.

This is Your Brain on Music explores the science behind music, drawing from the latest research in psychology and neuroscience to explore various facets of creating and listening to it. After reviewing some basic information about music and music theory (most of which was new to me), Levitin begins describing the science behind topics such as categorization of music, the role of emotion in music, and musical expertise.

My first beef with the book is in its accuracy. Vague hypotheses and tentative research findings are often presented as established fact. However, this is to be expected in any science book written for a popular audience (again, me being a nitpicky psychologist). But there are other little errors. Levitin briefly mentions that Canadian psychologist Glenn Schellenberg was an original member of the popular 80s band Martha and the Muffins. However, a bit of Googling reveals that Schellenberg seems to have only played a guest role on a later album of theirs.

This only caught my attention because I'm currently running a study that Schellenberg kindly provided some audio files for. And speaking of name dropping, Levitin devotes many words to telling us how many famous people he has chilled with. At one point, he suddenly goes from talking about the role of the cerebellum in music to an elaborate tale of how he attended conferences with all his scientist heroes and even met Watson and Crick. This autobiographical stuff is interesting enough, but it ruins the flow - the rhythm, if you will - of the scientific stuff when the two are carelessly mashed together.

This haphazard organization is also exemplified in the book's final chapter. During a discussion of music's primary role in human evolution that is finally starting to lead somewhere, Levitin suddenly jumps to a vague hypothesis about mirror neurons fueling cultural evolution, then jumps again to a rambling, repetitive paragraph that pretty much says "humans live in groups" 5 times in 5 slightly different ways, and then, the book ends. No real final thought; no paragraph even trying to tie the preceding chapters together, just a random stopping point when he ran out of facts and anecdotes to throw onto the page.

Did I mention I liked this book? While it may be a disorganized collection of facts about music, each fact is fascinating on its own and well worth reading about. We often fail to think very much about the music we listen to for hours out of each day, and This is Your Brain on music, while it could use improvement, is an eye opening exploration of the deeper layers of the magical human experience that is music.


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Side note: In this post, I wondered about the underlying reason for certain musical conventions. For example, why do minor chords sounds sad? Is it arbitrary and cultural? Or is there a more concrete reason? This book answers some of those questions. Long story short, like usual, it's both. The laws of physics are responsible for some combinations of sounds going well together, but arbitrary choices and conventions also play a large role. E.g., apparently not every culture thinks minor chords sound sad. Interesting stuff.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Wrestle With Jimmy

In the new movie THE WRESTLER IN THEATRES JANUARY 23rd1, everyone is talking about the big comeback of two of the film's lead actors. They have been out of the spotlight for years, but are back making a splash both on and off the big screen. I am talking, of course, about Marisa Tomei's boobs.

I have fond memories from Tomei's heyday in the early 90s; masturbating furiously to My Cousin Vinny (and developing a brief but tumultuous Joe Pesci fetish); then, seeing the poster for Untamed Heart (which is, seriously, about Christian Slater having a baboon's heart), hinting at Tomei's boobs' debut, but ultimately being disappointed. But now, she's playing a stripper in The Wrestler (WHICH IS IN THEATRES JANUARY 23rd OMG1), and my childhood dreams have come true.

Since I am clearly a feminist, I am very happy to see a woman over the age of 40 whipping out her funbags and still being excruciatingly hot. Her golden globes were even nominated for a Golden Globe. Surely a victory for boobs women everywhere.

INCOMING TRANSMISSION: I HAVE JUST BEEN INFORMED THAT THE WRESTLER IS IN THEATRES JANUARY 23rd BUT YOU CAN GO BITTORRENT IT RIGHT NOW GO SEE IT OMGWTF1

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1FULL DISCLOSURE NOTICE: I'm totally getting paid to write about The Wrestler. This may explain why you are seeing so many posts about the movie around the blogosphere. Not a bad idea; people just fast forward through TV ads on their DVR nowadays, so they're more likely to pay attention to a blog post from someone they (used to) trust.

Do you smell what the Phronk is cooking? It's delicious SELLING OUT. Say it ain't sooo-o-o-o-o.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Reviewed!

Holy shit, check out this incredibly kind review of my blog on Canadian Blog Friends. It's very cool to see my own stuff written about from an outside perspective and put in a larger context (e.g., being put in the "Southern Ontario social club" with the likes of Raymi and Dead Robot is quite flattering), since I usually just blab here as if I'm writing to myself.



And speaking of blog recognition and Raymi, congrats to her for winning Best Diarist in the 2008 Web Log Awards. She completely deserves it for putting herself out there in a wall of text and pictures every single day.



YAY BLOGGING.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Belittlification

When someone has been insulted or put down in some way, they often say "that [expletive] made me feel this big", and they put their fingers very close together to demonstrate that they feel about half a centimeter big. I have never understood this. Do people literally get the sensation that they have shrunken in size after being insulted? Or is it just a metaphor for feeling bad, with being small assumed to be a bad thing?

But that ain't right, because I have known plenty of small things that are very good, such as small dogs, small pieces of chocolate, hamsters, certain neurotransmitters, and Tom Cruise.

Maybe I just haven't been insulted enough to get the full brunt of this sensation. Next time you see me, please, let off a real zinger so I can go all Honey I Shrunk the Kids.1




1 Then kick your ass.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Ugly Surgery Cake

A friend recently fought through some very serious medical shit, and was thus able to live another year and celebrate his birthday. Here is the cake we made him.



The making-of.



It's surgery-themed. Not that other thing you're thinking it looks like. Pervert.



Yum yum, time to eat.



Note the authentic biohazard IV bag and tubes.

Thank Science we'll be celebrating many more birthdays after this one, complete with many more beautiful ugly cakes.

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BONUS! Here is another ugly cake that somebody else made.



More kitty litter cake pictures here. Thanks Debra for the link.

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See also: More ugly cakes.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Heroes

I think all of us have extraordinary mental powers in certain limited conditions. One of mine is the ability to remember which CDs in my collection are missing out of their cases. I realized this when I came across a pile of CDs, and was incredibly happy that I could go through this mental list in my head and check a few off. (Another former list member was Nirvana's Nevermind, which, for years, I was quite torn up about losing, but then one day opened the case and found it there, all scratched up and covered in coffee and paint stains).

These powers manifest differently for different people. I know several people who can produce an exact quote from The Simpsons to fit any situation, along with the entire plot of the episode the quote came from. Others can identify any of tens of thousands of songs from hearing only the first few seconds.

If only these Rain Man powers could be put toward something useful, then ... well, the world would be a much less interesting place. So screw that.


******


On a related note: I usually don't have any strong feelings about celebrities, but I truly dislike Jenny McCarthy. Her ignorant but loudly spouted beliefs about autism and vaccinations are literally killing people. She should go back to blabbing about psychic Indigo children from another dimension instead of pretending she's a doctor; at least then, people would be more apt to realize she is batshit insane.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Friday, January 02, 2009

2008 in Music (Again)

Since statistics are a big part of what I do for a living1, I can't get enough of the musical statistical goodness of Last.fm. Here are some more stats on top of my most listened-to albums.

Top 10 Artists

1. of Montreal

2. Nine Inch Nails

3. Sugababes (tie)

3. Coheed and Cambria (tie)

5. Weezer

6. Tegan and Sara

7. Spoon

8. The Fiery Furnaces (tie)

8. Death Cab for Cutie (tie)

10. M83

It's interesting how little overlap there is with my top 10 albums. It means I mostly listened to albums that didn't come out this year.

Then there is LastGraph, a service that graphs music listening in a visually pleasing form. Here is part of my graph for 2008:



It's chronological, with each line beginning a month (October, November, and December, here), and artists get a bigger blob the more they are played during that time.

I love how I can see my whole year in music reviewed. Above you can see the pinch when I got my new computer and wasn't recording song plays for a while. Earlier is an even bigger BC/Halifax vacation blackout. In November there's the giant ball of eclectic NaNoWriMo listening. There are depressing periods of sappy pre- and post- breakup/other disaster music.

If you care you can view the rest of the graph here.

Looking at the music I listened to, it's also interesting, as Sean pointed out, that a large proportion of the artists are influenced by or outright rip off the music of the 80s. M83, Neon Neon, Cut Copy, The Killers, Grand National, Chromeo, Ladytron, LCD Soundsystem, etc...all owe the 80s something for their sound. I don't know if this says more about the music industry or about me. Maybe some nostalgic longing brought on by the need to grow up.

But the past has passed, so it's time to look to the future. My New Years resolution is to continue being so incredibly awesome that I don't need any New Years resolutions.

Ok ok and maybe lose the 7 pounds that Wii Fit told me I gained over the holidays.

Happy 2009 everyone!




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1 IF YOU CALL THIS LIVING.