Sunday, August 31, 2008

on the human race.

Today, I competed in The Human Race. Not only was it a fun thing to do (and it will continue to be so, as we watch the results continue to pour in) but it's a uniquely 21st century thing to be able to do. Consider:

Today, a bunch of strangers ran in a race against each other all around the world. There was no official start time, there was no official course. There was no registration cost, per se, barring the cost of the equipment, which you didn't actually need, as with most races. There were no boundaries. And, coolest of all, we get to see these things develop.

As I'm writing this, I'm beginning to acknowledge that maybe this could have happened before now. But it wouldn't have been the same. It would have taken intense preparation, and would have yielded much less instantaneous results, obviously. So, yeah, I'm willing to acknowledge that perhaps it's not the most unique thing in the world, but to me it's a manifestation of how the Internet is changing the world - making things better. It's a great indication of where we're going, and I'm perfectly willing to take the ride.

Continue to check the results of the race here and look for more cool things of this nature from all kinds of companies. If you're really interested in tracking how these sorts of things spread in our digital world, follow the tracks of one of my new obsessions = checking the Twitter feed for mentions of "Nike Plus Human Race" from today, a great way to see some of the overlap between two groups that we might otherwise think of as disparate.

Friday, August 29, 2008

on green chili or cheese "extra".




Let's not imagine that only big, important businesses misuse the quotation marks. Oh, no. This also happens to the little guy, who's just trying to make a living downtown, selling burritos to drunk folks. Good stuff. You should have seen the rampant misuse of apostrophes, as well. Hah.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

on hidden tracks.

In preparation for this entry, I checked Wikipedia, as per my usual approach to writing something where I don't want to come off like a jackass. I have to admit that I was semi-surprised to find an official entry for 'Hidden Tracks' on Wikipedia but then, I guess I shouldn't have been. Everything's on there. However, reading the entry really left me pretty unsatisfied. That entry doesn't talk about any of the memorable hidden tracks from my childhood! (Except for Endless, Nameless, but everyone knows about that. What's the fun in writing about that?) So then I started thinking...maybe what I'm talking about is different?

I love hidden tracks, in general. I like the idea behind them, and I like the creativity (I guess that should be in quotes, cuz it's not always the case) that it takes to include them on a certain work of art. However, what I think that I'm realizing is that what I love more than hidden tracks is this battle (this tug-of-war is a better phrase) between musician and listener. I like the fact that there's some kind of relationship, even if it used to be one-sided and they included this joke at the end of the disc, but never really got to see the results. (This, again, is something that I'll take up more at a later date and relates to that never-actually-delivered-but-always-promised entry on the nature of communication and how MySpace is, actually the devil, but damn do those young kids love it. But I digress...) That's not so much the case anymore, seeing as most bands that actually know anything about the technology that's running the world now and give more than two shits about their fans do everything they can to get in touch with those fans, but that's how it was when I was young: we had to just hope and pray that the band we worshiped at the feet of had actually meant what we thought. We had no way of knowing. Unless we got on the fan mail listing, which was iffy at best.

Regardless, I love the ways in which they used to interact. And so, in thinking about this entry over the last couple days and weeks, it stirred in me some powerful memories. When I was in 8th grade, at the end of the year, my class took a trip to Washington, D.C. This trip was extremely memorable for me for several reasons, many of which center around music. It was around this precise time that Soundgarden's Down on the Upside was released. I'll never forget the excitement associated with that album. Of course, we were pre-hipsters, so we were all immediately dismissive of the actual music contained on the disc, claiming that Superunknown and Badmotorfinger especially were far superior.

But the main excitement over this disc was not over the music itself (which, BTW, I've since come to love a lot. I'm a sucker for that grunge sound, what can I say?) but over a rumor that rapidly spread once the first person bought the disc: there was a hidden track on this disc! And it was different and unique! Instead of putting it at the end of the music, this track was hidden on the other side of the CD! We were psyched, and everyone bought the CD so they could flip it over in their Walkmans, obviously to no avail, ultimately. If you've seen the CD, this might not seem a ridiculous claim to you, I mean, it does look weird, but it doesn't look like anything that would play via a CD player. Only middle school students could fall for this (and to be honest, I have no idea how this rumor even started. But let me tell you, honestly and truthfully, this rumor took hold, man. People were dead-convinced they could make this work) and so we did, and felt burned, but we didn't forget it.

And so it was when, a mere four months later, when R.E.M. released their disc New Adventures in Hi-Fi the rumor took hold again. By this point, we were older and wiser, much more versed in what CD's look like and what would be necessary for them to play the oh-so-coveted other side! Again, if you've seen the actual disc, you'll know that this was quite the progression. However, all our progression was for naught - there was no track hidden on the other side of the CD. In researching for this article, I found no mention of a CD that was ever released with one, in fact. What a missed opportunity! Whatever band would have been smart enough to do so would have ignited a fury that would have followed that band through hell or high water. That's the kind of loyalty that money can't buy, folks.

So...how did this all start? Well, I swear to God that I have the most genuine memory of a hidden image of the guys in the band the Toadies under the black CD tray of Rubberneck that used to come standard in all CD cases, before they started getting all clear and see-through and amazing. But scouring Google leads to no results for "toadies rubberneck hidden image" - what's up with that? Of course, we all remember the infamous map hidden underneath Weezer's best disc, Pinkerton. Is that were all these crazy memories are coming from?

Could be. Or I could just be psyched that I'll finally get to play the other side of a CD...even if it is in a different format. As a last note, this is obviously why I love ARG's like NIN did for Year Zero and will defend those albums until my dying breath. It ultimately doesn't even matter to me if the music is any good; the experience is something that I'll never forget, and that improves not just the music, but my memory of the album, which is, perhaps, even more important.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

on getting scooped.

Joe Biden has been announced as the Vice-Presidential pick of Barack Obama. And while my feelings on Joe Biden are really neither here nor there (he's no Joe Lieberman, the choice of which made me seriously re-consider voting for Al Gore in 2000, ultimately resulting in my literally holding my nose while making my selection, but he's also not Mark Warner or any other semi-unsafe choice that I was kind of hoping Barack would have the balls to choose) I think the main thing here is a lesson in how not to run what's being billed as an innovative campaign.

Y'all might remember that I was just extolling the virtues of this campaign when they announced that they were going to directly address the choice of Vice-President via text message. It was a bold step, something appropriate for this campaign, the next logical step, sure, but something that we'd expect from a future-leaning leftist, who was bragging about how in-touch with the common people he and his campaign were and are. I was a big fan of it.

But as days went by, on and on, and the Convention in Denver loomed ever closer, people, not just people I know, but people the country over, started to wonder: when was this announcement actually going to come? Then Obama had to go and brag to the mainstream news that he'd made his pick - but he wasn't going to tell us yet. Poor choice. Once that word was out, I'm sure they were focusing 99.99% of their political desks energies on getting that info...

And of course it worked. Check the Twitter stream from Friday night for references to Biden. When the AP broke the news, CNN's headline changed at least 3 times in the 5 minutes that I was refreshing the page while bowling. First it was, "AP Reports..." then it was "Obama's VP to be Announced Saturday..." and finally it was "Obama's VP: Biden..." This was about 11 P.M. Mountain time.

I got the official text from Obama's campaign at 2 A.M. That means that it took the campaign three hours to decide, "Well, the news has been leaked, we should just get the official word out there." That, to me, is disappointing, because what it means most of all is that they didn't have a plan for this. They didn't expect the word to be leaked? When they were all over the news bragging about how they'd made their decision, called the people it's not going to be, scheduled events, etc.? That's not impossible to believe, but it does say bad things to me about the reality of a campaign that claims to be so ear-to-the-ground, so technologically involved. Bad news bears.

So, I guess the final word here is that I'll have a little analysis of what the Biden choice means at a later date, but for now, I'm very disappointed in the fact that this campaign claims it speaks to the people, but got scooped by the biggest news organization! Certainly there's no inherent shame there, I mean, that is the job of this organization, but take a step up, be pro-active! Prove all these people who have had faith in your campaign right!

EDIT: Vindication! Via this CNN Political Ticker post you can even see that the Obama campaign themselves acknowledges the fact that they got scooped. I'm still of the firm belief that they wouldn't have gotten to that point if they hadn't tried to have their cake and eat it too.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

on dinosaur comics.

I know it's lazy blogging, but I feel like I would be cheating the millions of readers of this blog if I didn't put some Dinosaur Comics in your life. It's on the blogroll down there to the right, but some of y'all might have never clicked on the link. And the comic today is just too good to go without. (As most [if not all] of them are.) Check it out on a regular basis, get a good laugh.

years from now folks will have forgotten ever saying "you just got schooled" and the pun in my last panel will seem really forced and weird. THIS I PREDICT

Ah, crap. Because of the small size of Blogger's default scheme (which I use) and the huge size of the Dinosaur Comics comic (because of its awesomeness), it's not really showing up in a readable format. Well, just click through. It's worth it.

Oh, and always read the alternate text. Always.

Monday, August 18, 2008

on everything that happens will happen today.

David Byrne and Brian Eno are putting out a new album. It's dropping today from Topspsin, where I applied for a job that I knew I wouldn't get. These guys are really working on changing the model, and they're doing a damn good job with it. You can stream the album here on my site, thanks to their innovations, and you can pick up the album at their site, in a variety of options. This is a great day.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

on matt taibbi.

Seen below is a copy of the letter that I just sent Rolling Stone magazine:

Seriously, this has got to stop. Taibbi's gone off the deep end. In the last couple elections, people could blame Ralph Nader for taking votes away from the Democratic base. Taibbi (with his last two articles -"Candidates For Sale" and "Without A Prayer" [the most egregious offender where he actually comes off as a John McCain fan based on his zealous hatred of all things religious]) has transformed into that scapegoat. He's failing to see the forest for the trees!

The two articles that I'm referencing can be found on their site, at Without A Prayer's link here for the chronologically-first appearing vitriol-spewing, while the most-recent Candidates For Sale can be found here. I want to be clear that I'm no Democratic Party lock-stepper and I find some of the points Taibbi makes to be good ones (esp. in regard to the atrocity of our country being a two-party system and the winnowing gap between those two parties!) but it has to be said that he's officially gone off the deep end. Taibbi's transformed from an activist to a zealot - he's ranting and raving so hard that he's actually going to end up turning people away from either voting at all or the Democratic party in particular. How can this be a good thing?

Matt Taibbi got his first big break (at least insofar as mainstream attention) with an article ridiculing the upcoming death of Pope John Paul II. When he projected his inner Thompson into the 2004 election, the result was Spanking the Donkey - a book that's largely enjoyable if a bit revelatory insofar as the hatred that he would inevitably sink into.

That work, however, has nothing compared to the stuff he's doing today. While the system marches on, completely uncaring about Matt Taibbi, he is raging against every single facet. If the last two article are any indication, his rage will continue to grow at even the simplest perceived slight: if Barack Obama wins the election and doesn't single-handedly stop global warming, expect an article from Taibbi taking Obama to task for failing to be Superman. If, God forbid, John McCain wins, expect either Taibbi's head to explode (and yes, I mean that literally) with rage, or, in the shocker of the century, Taibbi to finally realize that there's a President who hates religion just as much as him, and to convert to Republicanism in a bid to win a position in McCain's Cabinet.

There's a fine line to walk when one is constantly angry or trying to make a mockery of something or attempting to follow in the footsteps of any giant. Gonzo Journalism in and of itself is a study in contradictions. However, to say that Taibbi is the carrier of that flag, now that Thompson's passed...well...I think Thompson would be disappointed. I think that Taibbi's gone over that line. He's no longer walking it, he's no longer toeing it, he's simply fallen over the edge. And that's a shame.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

link of the day.

Grab this App for your iPhone quick! while it's free and you'll be able to stream your music collection to your phone at all times. Sweet!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

on jocking jay-z.

So, Jigga dropped his new single the other day and it's hot. The beat is banging, the hook is ill, and the verses are...just all right. Y'all know I'm on the Jay-Z train, but even I won't front and say these lyrics are the best of all time.

But cop it regardless, because we all know that when Jay spits, it's bound to be good. His albums are consistently great. This one's going to be called The Blueprint 3 and will be produced mainly, if not solely, by Kanye West. I can seriously think of almost no better news. I'm psyched!

But the real best thing about this song...? It'll get people back into Run-DMC! The hook is jacked from a classic track off Raising Hell and if you don't know...now you know! (And don't accuse him of biting again. It's acknowledged! I mean, unles you don't get it when he says, "Whose house?")

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

on texting for change.

The announcement came Sunday on e-mail and was being reported early Monday: you can sign up to have Barack Obama's team text message you the Vice-Presidential choice. It'll happen before the convention in Denver, which is on August 25 (BTW, we've talked about going...anyone still interested?) which leaves only a bit of time.

If you haven't already signed up over at Obama's cool site you really should. Not only is his campaign a different sort of one, but they're fully utilizing tools that people like Howard Dean only dreamed about when he started tapping into the so-called netroots.

I've said this before and I'll continue to claim it, but it really is astonishing and breath-taking to have a candidate like this in my lifetime. I was truly worried that we'd never get one, that America, as a whole, was kind of over this whole sort of thing. And I know there's been bad things happeneing with the campaign lately (or not so lately) but I have faith. Faith that this guy is smart. Faith that he knows what it takes to win and is willing to do that...for now. Faith that the same things that drove him to the same kind of experimentation (not just the drug use that everyone fixates upon, but the social, governmental and personal) that many of my friends (and myself!) have gone through will carry him through this election, perhaps winded, but ultimately in a position to do more good.

So go ahead; buy in! Text 'VP' to 62262 to keep yourself in the loop. You can also sign up via e-mail at his site and I would encourage you to do so, one or the other, or both. This is a new kind of message, being delivered in a new (not to say innovative, I'm actually surprised it took them so long to capitalize on this sort of semi-invasion) way; you owe it to yourself to have some good stories to tell about this election where we have the possibility to actually affect some real change. Be a part of it.

Monday, August 11, 2008

on dreams.

Last week Brother Two texted me to tell me that he had had a dream the last night wherein he met Xzibit and they were talking about Aaron McGruder. Yeah, bizarre, right?

Anyone who knows me well knows that I'm pretty fascinated by dreams. I love the movie Strange Days and I've been known to question lil' Andy when (how soon) we'd be able to have toys like they do in that movie; when will we be able to record dreams (and/or even reality) and play it back as a realistic experience? How trippy would that be? Additionally, how much of a job market would then arise for the power of luicd dreaming? To be able to control these incredible events that other people could, subsequently, experience? It'd be superhuman!

Back in high school, when I was dating a girl who fantasized at that time of becoming a poet (but now is a lawyer...how's that for poetic justice?), she gave me a book called 10,000 Dreams Interpreted. It's a pretty cheese-tastic book, filled with the type of crap you'd expect from a New Age-y title like that, but it definitely made a mark on me. Whenever I hear about crazy dreams or, is more likely the case, have one myself, I consult the book. However, between the time of my hearing about, or experiencing, the dream, and looking it up in the book, I've usually thought about the dream a lot. I've usually settled on a meaning for myself. And so, when I read the vague allusions in the Dream Book, I'm almost always unhappy with those 'answers'.

When I hear about interesting dreams (and, to be honest, they're almost all interesting to me), I always ask, "Hm, what do you think that says about you?" I think these things are incredible reflections of our subconsciousness. I think they're manifestations of something that we want but we're afraid (for various reasons) to verbalize. And, somtimes, I think they're just nonsense, signals that have gotten crossed from various sources over the course of the day. But, no matter what, I think they're always worth thinking about.

The next time you have an insanely crazy dream, share it with someone! The more voices that you encounter when it comes to any various subject, the more likely you are to hear something that makes sense regarding that thing. Keep in mind, however, that just like the dreams themselves, sometimes all that talk will just translate to noise. No one knows you better than you.

It takes a bit of meta-analysis, but I think we could all use a little more of that. And thinking about what's happened, reflecting on your day, on your true emotional state regarding what's happened and what's happening...well, that's important. People in general would benefit if they did it with more regularity. Dont' be afraid of real thinking; this isn't high school anymore, the smart kids don't get punished. Think about the authenticity of any given situation.

Ugh. This got away from what I wanted it to really be about. It turned into a screed on popularity vs. thinking, which isn't the point. The point is this: dreams are interesting, at least to me. I'd encourage us all to think about them a little more. Spend a bit of that time in the shower in the mornings thinking about what that last dream really meant. It's worth it.

Friday, August 8, 2008

on i "hate" my yellow teeth.




Just to prove that it's not only my city engaging in this ridiculous over-use of quotation marks, I screen grabbed this the other day on ESPN.com while I was reading about one of Team USA's victories. I'm thinking I'll be making the quotation marks thing a Friday thing, seeing as blogging tends to slack a little bit for me on the weekends anyway; might as well end the week on a funny note. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

on woxy.

Woxy.com is an Internet radio station that I believe I've mentioned on here at least once previously. It's extremely worth your time to click that link, head on over, and listen to the station for a while. Every once in a blue moon, I'll forget my iPod at home while I'm working and it's only Woxy that's saved my life at those times. They play a great range of music and I've departed every single listening experience with at least one band that I'm interested in checking out. The reason I like them more than Pandora? Well, I really don't have one... Other than to say this: I like the idea that there's humans over at Woxy who are interested in music, in the way we relate to it, and the way it relates to us. I like that experience. I like the broad variety. I like that I don't love every song. Pandora is great, don't get me wrong, but I always feel cheap after I listen to my custom-station over there. It's fun, but it's not...authentic. That's just to me.

This could easily have been a link of the day post, with how short it's turning out to be, but I don't have that much more to say. Other than to share this quick personal anecdote regarding Woxy and why I'm posting on them now:

I was listening to the station the other day at work, and I heard a song from one of their Lounge Sets - specifically the National. I immediately fell in love with the particular version of the song that they played and I knew that I had to have it. I set about to scouring the site to see if there was someone I could get in touch with regarding buying that particular version. Upon my examination of the site, I found this backlog of all the Lounge Sets where you're able to download the songs! Good enough on its own, but when I went to write them a quick e-mail, congratulating them on being in the right place insofar as digital media goes and availability, etc. I really just thought it'd be one of those little pieces that you get that make you feel good. But lo and behold, a mere eleven minutes later I had a personalized response from the Program Director of the station!

It just reminds me of the olden days (which I wasn't even, in fact, around for) when things seemed a little more connected. I'll never get that from Pandora.

Monday, August 4, 2008

on the iPhone 2.0.

No, I do not ever for any reason stand in ridiculously long lines for over-hyped products. But I am, in fact, the reluctant owner of a first gen iPhone and, thus, have been playing with the 2.0 update since it hit the streets. And I have nothing but complaints.

First of all, when I was first theorizing (incorrectly, obviously) about the update, I had something completely different in mind than did the folks at Apple. I mean, besides the obvious need for picture messaging in something that bills itself as the next generation of mobile device I guess I was picturing something more along the lines of a hardware update. This is partially my fault for not really being nerd-smart in this way, but I've certainly been doing my part to rectify that problem since then. However, there are some basic things that I think could be made a lot better with some simple software re-ups. And, yes, before anyone says so, I know that what this really means is that I should be further educating myself and just write these programs myself. I just don't have the time or desire to do so yet...I'd rather just complain.

Here, then, a list:

A better calendar! This is the sort of thing that really should be intuitive to the sort of people that I expect to be populating the Apple establishment. When I plug a contact's birthday into their contact information, it should auto-sync over to the Calendar (which should obviously be synced with my computer as well) and should automatically set some sort of reminder (via the alarm? the calendar itself?) when that day hits. This is something that my Sidekick didn't have, but that I've heard the Blackberry, or at least the Treo, does, and I would fully expect the so-called geniuses over in Cupertino to have thought about.

Better notes! This is a long-standing complaint, but it's valid. The notes section of an iPhone (ya know, a pretty important function for anyone who's using this as an all-in-one device) don't update via the syncing through iTunes. What kind of crap is that? People gaga over the iPhone and Apple in general always talk about how, "it just works." Thus far, less than half of my Apple devices have "just work"ed. And, to be honest, other than the MacBook and the first iPod I got, none of them "just work"ed all that well. The always-backed-up (isn't that cool?) aspect of the iPhone may be intriguing to someone who's never owned a smart phone before, but my Sidekick was entirely backed up on the web, via T-Mobile's servers. Not only that, but it backed up everything on the phone - notes, e-mail, contacts...everything. How novel.

Better Safari! The concept of having the "real web" on a phone was a cool one when the iPhone first debuted. But beyond that, the browser could use some tweaks. Seriously. Why can't it load a page when I'm not looking at that page? Because Apple thinks Edge (okay, they've gone over to G3 now, but I don't have that...) is that fast? Don't be ridiculous! We're multi-taskers if we've bought an iPhone! Let the pages load while I click the home button and go into my e-mail via another button and then click the home button, check my texts, then click the home button, and, finally, come back to check on the (hopefully) fully loaded page. (Can you sense another back hand coming up?) And speaking of, Jesus, I know the one-button cool-look is all part of the Apple sensibility, but you know what I really liked about my Sidekick? The ability to hit different button combinations and jump instantly to a sub-menu without having to browse through the home screen. What a waste of time. Also, I really thought that someone in the 2.0 update would have come up with a skin that we could put on top of the Safari browser to make it do cool things. One cool thing in particular had me thinking that if no one else did it, I might (and I still might): how about a shake-to-refresh function? Surely that wouldn't be that hard to code, right? Oh right, it probably would be, because we need access to the hardware in order to make such a change. Yet another reason I'm going to dump my AT&T contract at first chance and go with an Android device.

Finally, the 2.0 specific App Store. It's very cool. I've found some fun stuff. But for the most part (okay, for the entire part) it's all software. And, again, I acknowledge that this was my own fault: I thought it would be on a higher level. But insofar as the software, let's talk about that: Super Monkey Ball is cool. Sure. But why would I pay ten dollars for that when Cube Runner is available for free and does essentially the same thing? (Which is show off the acceleromator. Good for them.) Pandora kicks ass, but the music identifiers that I've found have all failed all the tests that I've put them to. And some have been as basic as holding it up to my car's speakers when a pop tune is on the radio. Boo. 2.0 fails just as much, if not more for the vaunted promise, as 1.0. I'm psyched that I was able to distinguish my Work and Personal accounts and that my APS mail is now being pushed to my iPhone, but guess what? I'd worked around that silly bunch of nonsense by having my Gmail account fetch the APS mail and then just feed it all to the iPhone. So Google even beat Apple at it's own game, as long as people were smart enough to realize that Google wouldn't let them down the way Apple had.

This is all in addition to the long list of already-acknowledged ridiculous things about the iPhone: no copy and paste, the recessed headphones (in 1.0 only), the lack of flash, the high prices of the plan, etc. I really don't want to come across like a whiny upper class heights kid. I love the fact that I was able to afford an iPhone. I love the fact that it's out there, encouraging other phone makers to push the envelope on what they could have and should have been doing all along. And I love the fact that, once again, Apple did it all their way. However, in this area, they're wrong. They need to open up. Which is why I'll be voting for Android as soon as it drops. I'm a fan of being in charge of my own stuff. I don't need someone telling me, "You're not as smart as me, so I'm going to control all of this." That's downright un-American.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

on "helps" you save gas.

Reader contributions to this section (and any section!) of TRLS are always welcome, but part of me wonders if this one isn't so much an inappropriate use of quotation marks as it is someone at Brake Masters just trying to be funny. Like, yeah, we've read that this is probably a gas-saving myth, but we're going to perpetuate it. Very nice.

Friday, August 1, 2008

link of the day.

Today it's not so much a link as it is a video. This is apparently Big Boi's new single, from his upcoming album and it's positively inspiring. I'm glad that I get to live in a time when there's this tangible excitement surrounding a political candidate. I honestly wasn't sure if we'd get one for my generation.