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Posted in Pop Culture, Smiler on October 31st 2004 by Randy Reichardt

:: I’m still very much enjoying what Boston accomplished last Wednesday. Red Sox Nation will never be the same. It so wonderful that they won the World Series. I’m going to savour this win for a long, long time. Check out these front pages from local and regional newspapers after the Sox WS victory last week.

:: I haven’t exercised now since late August, and I feel like a total slug. I hope to return to the cross-trainer this week. I also need to clean up my diet, an ongoing, never-ending story. I ate some butterscotch ice cream tonight, then tossed the remainder of it into the garbage can in my driveway.

:: The fallout from the Ashlee Simpson fiasco on SNL on Oct 23 continues. Last night’s episode skewed her repeatedly, in sketches, on Weekend Update, and in Kate Winslet’s opening monologue. Leslie Stahl of 60 Minutes was onsite the night of her blunder, working on a story about Canadian ex-pat Lorne Michaels, who produces SNL. The story includes a picture of Simpson, walking past Stahl and clutching her throat, in tears after she walked off the stage during rehearsal. The picture almost makes me feel sorry for her. A portion of Stahl’s report, which can be viewed for free from this page. I have to give Simpson credit for this, however. She did tell MTV that she thinks it’s silly that so many are concerned about her snafu given everything else that’s going on in the world. Fair enough, but at the same time, she’s another in a string of bland, manufactured pop stars. If this is what the music industry is offering the public, it doesn’t surprise me that the industry itself is in turmoil. My other question is: whatinhell was Michaels doing booking her in the first place?

:: Saw the movie, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘N’ Roll Generation Saved Hollywood, on DVD this weekend. The movie is based on Peter Biskind’s book of the same name, and is a documentary about 1970s maverick filmmakers, including Coppola, Scorsese, Lucas, Spielberg, Schrader, Bogdanovich, Hopper, Jaglom, and more. Directors are not exclusively featured, actors and actresses, producers, cinematographers, editors, producers, are also included in the discussion. Equally fascinating is the 2nd disc, which includes an addition 100 minutes of interviews, ending with comments, all unflattering, from many who were mentioned in the book, including Peter Bart and Paul Schrader. The clips end with Biskind describing how the book began, examples of how he was able to interview subjects such as William Friedkin and Spielberg, and finally, responding to criticisms from his subjects. A fascinating piece.

Biskind followed this book with another examination of the movie industry: Down and Dirty Pictures : Miramax, Sundance, and the Rise of Independent Film. I haven’t read either title yet.

Sleep, Data….Sleep

Posted in Books, Film, Music, Pop Culture on October 8th 2004 by Randy Reichardt

:: I’m in Winnipeg. My cousin Barbara’s wedding is tomorrow (Oct 9th, not the 7th). Tonight is a dinner at Tony and Claire‘s house, a veritable feast of Dutch-Indonesian culinary delights, including Nasi Goreng and rijstaffel. Claire notes here that she is cooking for 17 (or 18), and the ensemble tonight includes a number of her friend as well. The edible hedgehog is a durian, resembling some kind of mutated pineapple thingee.

I’ve been sleeping and/or napping a lot here. Probably my body trying to catch up on days weeks months years of lost sleep. I took my folks to see Fahrenheit 9/11 last night. Michael Moore has two new books out, one being The Official Fahrenheit 9/11 Reader, the other being a collection of letters sent to him from soldiers, entitled Will They Ever Trust Us Again?. The latter has received mostly positive reviews on the Amazon site, but the most telling has to be the one written by Andrew Balthazor, an Iraqi war vet, whose writing appears in the book.

:: Speaking of Amazon, I ordered four items today: this, this, this and this. Speaking of this, there is a good interview with and write-up on Paul Westerberg on the CNN site. And another 70s band is reuniting. When the hell is Wang Chung getting back together, dammit!

There seems to be a pop culture explosion of late, of stuff that I’d like to have. I need another nap.

Funny Names, Funny Words

Posted in Miscellaneous, Pop Culture on May 15th 2004 by Randy Reichardt

:: steely who? the original band names, lists some of the names that Becker and Fagen considered for a band name, before settling on Steely Dan. As if! My favorites are Thunderhurl and Hard Donut. This is most likely another brilliant parody by Walter Becker, who writes the most colourful parody and satire pieces for his band’s web site.

:: Allison (friend at work) told me about The Word Spy: “This Web site is devoted to lexpionage, the sleuthing of new words and phrases. These aren’t “stunt words” or “sniglets,” but new terms that have appeared multiple times in newspapers, magazines, books, Web sites, and other recorded sources.” The full list is here, along with the Top 100, as measured by page views. Some words and phrases, like metrosexual, jump the shark, google, NIMBY, flashmob, and blog (duh), you will or may recognize.

Among those I’d not seen before, these are some of my favorites:

  • wrap rage: n. Extreme anger caused by product packaging that is difficult to open or manipulate. Also: wrapping rage.
  • time porn: n. Television shows and other media that portray characters as having excessive amounts of spare time.
  • butt call: n. An unintended phone call placed by sitting on one’s cell phone.
  • batmobiling: pp. Putting up emotional defenses when a relationship becomes too intimate.
  • cankle: n. A thick ankle, particularly one that appears to be a continuation of the calf
  • himbo: n. A man who is good-looking, but unintelligent or superficial. (NOTE: This one reminds me of LOMBARD, from the William Gibson novel, Pattern Recognition, which means: lots of money, but a real dickhead.)
  • yestersol: n. One Mars day ago.
  • quarterlife crisis: n. Feelings of confusion, anxiety, and self-doubt experienced by some people in their twenties, especially after completing their education

:: Regarding my previous post about our provincial leader plagiarizing sources on a term paper, Keith, speaking from experiences as a teacher working overseas, offers a few thoughts on the subject of web theft.

Law & Order: More Cowbells

Posted in Music, Pop Culture, Television on April 28th 2004 by Randy Reichardt

:: It is another late night. I am very restless. Just finished a lovely phone call with a good friend in Florida; it’s nice to visit on the phone, with someone who lives far away and talk about whatever. Tomorrow I am driving to Jasper to attend the ALC, where I am co-presenting a session on blogs with Geoff.

:: This is hilarious: Cindi posted a link to The Cowbell Project, a growing database of songs that feature a cowbell. Inspiration for this idea seems to have come from the infamous and brilliant SNL parody of Behind The Music, about the recording of Blue Öyster Cult‘s Don’t Fear The Reaper, which featured Christopher Walken as a high-powered record producer encouraging Will Farrell Will Farrell to play with more passion, advising him that “I need more cowbell

:: Last night’s episode of Law & Order: SVU starred Marlee Matlin as a researcher who is put on trial for helping someone commit suicide. While being interrogated, she tells Detective Munch that she “has a blog”. What fascinated me was no further explanation is offered in this scene, i.e., neither Munch nor Tutuola asks, “what’s a blog?”

It’s another small piece of evidence that blogs have entered the mainstream of pop culture, and the term “blog” has entered the vernacular. The episode authors decided that spending airtime having Matlin’s character explain blogs to the detectives wasn’t warranted – fans of the show would understand, or ignore the reference.

Speaking of Law & Order and blogs, The Ledger is a blog devoted primarily to the flagship series at the moment. The site’s creator is working on writing “detailed summaries for each of the 320 (and counting) episodes of the original series.” When this is completed, he’ll turn his “the 170 episodes of SVU and Criminal Intent I haven’t written about yet.” He’s written summaries of at least 170 episodes from the original series so far. Having started in December 2003, that’s a lot of work in a short period of time.

Jerry Orbach is leaving the original series :-(, but he will be appearing in the third spinoff, Law & Order: Trial by Jury., hopefully as Lenny Briscoe. The Gothamist was there when he filmed his final L&O scenes. Also referenced is this amusing article on being addicted to All Things Law & Order.

Ghosts in the (Indentity) Machine, and Being Out of It

Posted in Pop Culture on April 23rd 2004 by Randy Reichardt

:: The previous entry about graphics makes reference to a problem I am having on my home machine. My web hosting service, Blogomania, provides a very nifty control panel feature, which includes an option to prevent other web sites from linking directly to files on my site, thus using my bandwidth. The problem is, when I activate it, it works fine for all URLs assigned to my web site, on any computer I’ve tried, except the machine in my house, my primary computer! I’ve played with the settings, and Keith offered a few suggestions, but in the end, I chose to disable it, while waiting for advice from the Blogomania helpdesk.

I’ve had my Dell Dimension 4400 for two years, and it has given me few headaches. Like the one described above, the problems seem to be endemic to my machine, and can’t be replicated elsewhere, making it hard to determine what causes them. At 2 years of age, I can sense that it has already jumped the shark, and is past its prime. Given the speed at which computers supercede themselves, its prime, most likely, was for a very short period in 2002. My Intel processor is 1.56GHz – the chips in the new Dell computers run between 2.8 and 3Ghz. However, my old 4400 is going to get a lot more use before it retires to the Home for Wayward Computers, sometime later this decade.

:: A few days ago, I was startled to learn that someone was using a link to an image of me, from this site, as part of an Out-Of-Office Assistant message. More than a little concerned, I removed the image from my site, which was the picture of me with part of my face covered by a piece of paper. It was in the right hand column on my homepage. I’ve also removed the contents of the Personal page from my site, for the time being.

There is much talk of identity theft these days – criminals cloning one’s identity and then using it for illegal purposes. An article in today’s Edmonton Journal talks about “tombstone shopping”: a criminal searches for the death of a child, trying to find someone who was born in one Canadian province and died in another, because vital statistics are not shared between provinces. The criminal then applies for a birth certificate in the province in which the dead child was born. Using that documentation, a new individual can be resurrected on paper, and the information can be used to apply for credit cards, government documents, health care coverage, and so on. Our mail is also open to theft. There is credit card skimming, dumpster diving (for personal information), and social engineering.

I am not nor have ever been concerned about being located by someone trying to find me, just because I have a public web site. My home address and phone number are given on this site, and my phone number is unlisted anyway. Why am I not concerned? Even without a website, if someone wants to find me and they search my name on the web, the results will include a number of University of Alberta Libraries pages with information about me, including my name and office phone number. What’s important here is that if you are someone who doesn’t want to be found via a web search, don’t work for a public institution.

A number of friends from my past have discovered me via a web search, and it’s great to be back in touch with them again. As for my personal information page, it will be back when I have time to get to it, but scaled down somewhat from its first incarnation.

:: Out of it. I use that expression often. Betty Rollin wrote a great column about being out of it, about not being in the pop culture loop, and not caring about the consequences. It’s a refreshing look at not giving a rat’s ass about J-Lo, Donald Trump, or Friends:

I know who J.Lo is, but I don’t want to know. In fact, she is largely responsible for my new goal because I decided that something is wrong with my life if I know who she is or isn’t on the verge of marrying. And it’s not just J.Lo. It’s everyone in showbiz. I have nothing against them personally. I just feel my head can absorb just so much information and, now that I’m getting older, I’m pickier about what’s in there.

I’ve always been interested in All Things Pop Culture. But I have my limits. I hate the American/Canadian Idol phenomenon, the whole “star making machinery” bullshyte, and have never watched either program. I guess being a musician for 37 years makes me suspicious of people who think they can be instant rock stars. I have no use for Survivor, The Apprentice, The Bachelor, Fear Factor, and any other so-called reality show. I feel the same way about not wanting to know about the existence of these shows, as Rollin does about Jennifer Lopez’s relationship problems.

What Rollin describes in her column, the desire NOT to know about crap like The Apprentice or JLo, reminds me of the Zsa Zsa Gabor moment. In 1989, she was arrested for slapping a Beverly Hills policeman. When I read (or heard) about the incident, I thought, “Who gives a sh*t?” Why is this incident considered news? Why must I know this happened?

Rollin is dead on about cellphones:

I don’t have a cellphone. Perhaps, if I had a car, or a child, I’d have a cell. But I have neither and I don’t live in the jungle — there are public phones everywhere — and I don’t understand the people I see crossing the street against the light, phone to their ear, arranging a business deal or having a fight with someone who, in my opinion, they should remove from their lives.

I am still cell phone-challenged. This evening, while working out on a cross-training machine at the Y, I heard a voice next to me loud enough to be heard over the Pearl Jam CD in my headset. I turned to look, and the guy two machines over from me was talking on his cell while working out. Enough already.

Air America Radio – A Voice for the Left

Posted in Pop Culture on April 1st 2004 by Randy Reichardt

:: Air America Radio, the new alternative talk radio network, debuted this week in the USA in selected markets, including NYC, Minneapolis, Chicago, LA, and SF. On-air hosts include Al Franken, Janeane Garofolo, Randi Rhodes, and Chuck D of Public Enemy. Talk radio has been dominated by the Right for so long, one wonders why it took so long for the Left to finally wake up and provide an alternative.

For those outside the broadcast areas, and outside of the USA, a live connection using RealOne Player is available here.

:: I am volunteering for the Juno Awards this week, but not at the Big Event on Sunday night. Tomorrow from 1500-1900 hrs, I’ll be at City Hall, helping with an interactive electronic display. On Saturday night, I’m working 8:00 pm – 2:30 am (which means 3:30 am, because DST begins on Sunday morning at 2:00 am), at The Power Plant on campus, as a media contact. I should be significantly groggy for the rest of Sunday…