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March 26th, 2015

09:39 pm - A Conversation with President Obama and The Wire Creator David Simon

If you didn't know, I think The Wire is the best show ever and I highly recommend watching it even though you won't know what's going on for the first several hours. Also, you may be aware that I have very little respect for anyone who's sold themselves out to such a monstrous degree that they're able to be a successful national politician. I certainly wouldn't vote for such a person.

It's pretty crazy that Obama is talking with David Simon, especially about his feelings on the drug war. Simon's thoughts on this have always gone against the president, or at least the Democratic Party (not to mention the Republican Party). Simon even titles his blog "The Audacity Of Despair" in response to Obama's book The Audacity Of Hope. Simon does put his support behind the Democrats, reasoning that they're closer to his views than the Republicans are. I'm always disappointed when highly intelligent people I respect (David Simon is literally a genius) say that, because it's so foolish. Under that reasoning there is nothing so awful that the Democrats can't do it, as long as the Republicans do something slightly worse. Further, if they know you're going to support them no matter what they do, it would be stupid of them to listen to anything you say... not that they're not stupid sometimes.

Anyway, the craziest thing about this conversation is how Obama is pretty much agreeing with everything Simon says, even though it's in opposition to his administration's policies. I'd prefer to see Simon yell at him for leading a corrupt institution, but that's not going to happen. I guess the idea is that the president can't just do whatever he wants; instead he has to take his cues from what the people want. That is how a republic is supposed to work even though we forget that most of the time.
Current Music: DK7 - Where's The Fun

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February 14th, 2015

01:47 pm - Thoughts on Ocarina Of Time
Well, I finally beat Ocarina Of Time. For whatever reason I thought I'd start playing Nintendo 64 games on my computer. It's strange how the emulators work really well except that the way the controls are set up is terrible and makes it difficult to play N64 games with a regular computer setup. The controller has a little joypad that goes in at least 8 directions, and most of the games require the ability to move at varying speeds. However, the emulators are set up so that you can only have four directions and if you want to change how fast you're going you have to pause the game and open a menu. I don't know why they so utterly failed at this. It's infuriating! I shake my fist at these foolish emulator programmers.

Anyway, I got this thing, which pretends to be an N64 controller but it plugs into your computer. Unsurprisingly, since it was so cheap, it doesn't work great. The joystick moves in every direction and it detects slower speeds but not very well. I still end up having to go into the menu to move at the right speed.

When I was a kid I loved playing the Zelda games. I was eagerly waiting for the Ocarina game to come out but it took them forever, and by the time it was released (1998) I wasn't visiting my father anymore and the Nintendo 64 was at his house. I finally got the play the game in college when my roommate had it; I think I got about halfway through. Later, I played it on my computer. I don't remember being too frustrated by the limited control; maybe I was using a different emulator. I should look into that. I remember thinking I'd reached the final battle so there was no need to continue, but that can't be right because I have absolutely no memory of the later parts of the game. Maybe there was some other reason I stopped, and maybe it was a different game I'd given up on at the end. Memory is weird.

There's nothing enjoyable to me about fighting bosses in these games. It's just an obstacle that prevents me from continuing the game. Actually, I feel that way about the dungeons in general. I never really enjoy them but I guess there's a feeling of accomplishment when I'm able to put them behind me. Back to bosses, I don't think there was any benefit to continuing the game once I got to the final confrontation. It's just a bunch of annoying, and then what do I get? An end to the story? The story is crap. It's pretty much the same story as Mario 64 but more complicated, except that Princess Zelda actually takes part in things and Princess Peach or Toadstool or whatever does nothing. Her only contribution is a cake. Presumably, most of the work in that is done by her mushroom servants.

These games are basically monarchist. It's kind of strange.

I was surprised at how annoying Ocarina Of Time was, even beyond the fact that it was hard to control. Maybe I'm just getting annoyed by everything as I get older. I think the second most annoying thing in the game was how things wouldn't stay dead. I'd spend forever killing some bats or eyeball monsters or whatever, then I'd leave the room and come back and there they were again! Argh.

The most annoying thing is, of course, Navi the helper fairy. She is legendary for her annoyingness. You're walking around trying to figure something out and she says "Hey! Listen!" and if you choose to listen she tells you something completely unhelpful. Shut up, Navi. Shut up.

Most of the characters in the game are ridiculous and say ridiculous things. I assume/hope that this is because it was translated hastily and the original Japanese version actually made sense. It's still pretty weird that sometimes the people in the game are telling you about what buttons to push but I guess that's the best way to explain things, even if it interferes with the "link" between you and the player character.

Next I will try Majora's Mask, the Zelda game that followed Ocarina Of Time. I haven't played it at all but I hear it's very good.
Current Music: Ekh, yablochko!

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December 13th, 2014

09:12 pm - Creepy Singing Android Heads

kotra was showing me this and I noticed YouTube has a pencil icon among the various sharing icons so I thought I'd click that and share this with LiveJournal. It's horrifying and hilarious at the same time!
Current Mood: free

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November 30th, 2014

06:13 am - Oh. Hi, LiveJournal.
I forgot to post my latest bass videos here. This is more habit than anything because anyone who's interested in these can find them elsewhere.

This one is an actual cover instead of playing along with a track. The original song is just vocals.

Here is an indie rock song. I don't think I did a good job on this.

Here is a folk metal song. I think I did a good job on this.

My swaying back and forth (due to my balance issues due to my inner ear issues) makes YouTube think my videos are shaky even though my camera is stuck to a tripod. If I remember I usually force myself to stand still because the swaying looks kinda weird, though no one has commented on it. Maybe it actually makes the videos more interesting.

I used to write stuff in here every day but now I'm writing stuff every day on Ello, which is like LiveJournal but it's new and no one I know uses it as far as I know. If you're interested in my dumb/smart thoughts you can go look me up there as Mandaliet. Also if you want to join I can give you an invitation because I'm POWERFUL.
Current Mood: abgekratzt vom Pflasterstein
Current Music: Arcade Fire - Reflektor

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October 18th, 2014

02:10 pm - One of those mix things again
Hi, I made one of those mix things again, and I even made a video so you can listen to it. Awesome great!

The track list:
01 The Music Machine - Talk Talk
02 The Residents - Love Leaks Out
03 Einstürzende Neubauten - Armenia
04 Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds - Higgs Boson Blues
05 In Extremo - Gaukler
06 Wye Oak - Glory
07 John Vanderslice - Up Above The Sea
08 My Brightest Diamond - High Low Middle
09 Edmund Welles - Vector
10 Mike Doughty feat. Jay Boogie and Andrew "Scrap" Livingston - To See The Sun Come Down
11 Laibach - Eat Liver!
12 Leningrad - Nadoel
13 St. Vincent - Digital Witness
14 Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Subway
15 Gogol Bordello - Amen
16 Antemasque - Drown All Your Witches
17 The Mars Volta - Desperate Graves
18 At The Drive-In - Cosmonaut
19 Jack White - Lazaretto
20 Pixies - Bagboy

The video:


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August 25th, 2014

09:36 am - I should write about my trip to Canada. Okay, here's me doing that.
We've got one of those deals where I'm exhausted but I can't sleep, so maybe I'll be (even) less coherent than usual. Let's find out together! It seems I have especial trouble getting to sleep when the sun is coming up, so it seems my sleeping disorders do not completely ignore the time of day, but it would be easier to deal with if they just went against it full throttle instead of leaving a little behind. Anyway,

On Saturday, the one before the one we just had, we went to Canada, kotra-the-roommate and I did. We rode a Bolt Bus, which is a service that runs through the Pacific Northwest for super cheap if you get tickets way in advance. They advertise extra legroom but that's a goddamn lie. My knees touched the seat in front of me. I don't think they should advertise legroom if I end up with zero room, even if I am tall. There was a whole lot more room when I rode on the Amtrak train, so in the future if I do something like this I will prefer the train, although it doesn't go to Canada.

The trip was from Portland to Vancouver (which is confusing because there's a Vancouver right next to Portland. How about some originality when we name places?) Here is a photograph of a map. When we got to Seattle they let us off for 45 minutes so we wandered around a little. Seattle has dragons. Also, this hotel isn't in good shape but that's fine.

Then we made our way up to the border crossing where we had to get off the bus and wait in line and talk to officials. They interviewed the two of us together and we are both strange so I think that's why they found us suspicious. They told us to go back to another area where we were interrogated by another guy. He asked us where we were going and we said we were going to Vancouver to meet some friends from Australia. He asked us how we knew them and we said it was an online game, but he wanted more information so kotra was very embarrassed to tell him about Furcadia. I think he's kind of being a jerk to be embarrassed about explaining what Furcadia is. It's just an online thing where people talk to each other; there's no need to get into more detail than that, and it's not like we do anything on there that we should be embarrassed by anyway. Anyway, the border guy asked us a lot about our income, and he found it surprising that I've been out of work for a long time, as if every human adult is required to have a job, which seems awfully stifling. Maybe it's a Canadian thing. The guy seemed to imply that we shouldn't be able to afford this trip, which is silly. Well, he eventually let us go. The bus driver said that now that we're in their database it'll probably be difficult again if we go to Canada. Fun.

When we got to Vancouver the first Canadian we encountered apologized, which I found amusing, because stereotypes. We were very tired and it took us a while to figure out Vancouver's public transit. They have sky trains! Trains in the sky! We got to our hotel room and we were surprised by how good it was. The hotel wasn't very good communicating with us; they'd told us we had one king-sized bed, and when I asked the manager if we could have a cot or something he was very confused and said we had a room with two queen-sized beds. Also, on their website their slogan is "Your Slogan Here" and it still advertises their availability for the 2010 Olympics. Anyway, it was a good room, and it even had a kitchen with a little stove and an oven and a microwave and dishes. However, there were a few ants, and the bathroom sink was a little clogged, so it's not like it was perfect or anything.

In the morning we met Vijay and Janet in person for the first time. Vijay grew up in Maine then moved to Australia to be with Janet after they met on Furcadia, which was about 10 years ago... so you see, these things do work out! ...well, sometimes. Not usually. Anyway, Vijay's friend in Australia was from Vancouver, and then he moved back to Vancouver, and then Vijay came to Vancouver to attend his wedding, and since Vancouver is sort of near here he said we should come to Vancouver so we could hang out and stuff, so that's why we went to Vancouver.

We went to a restaurant and ate things, then we went to the Museum of Anthropology and looked at things, such as this thing and this thing and these things and this thing and this thing. There was stuff from all kinds of different cultures, but there was a focus on First Nations, which I guess is what you call Native Americans when you're not trying to pretend your country wasn't built on genocide. I think that sentence has the right amount of negatives but I'm tired. Genocide is a huge negative so it's hard to tell, I guess.

That night we played poker in our hotel room and Vijay brought some pie with whipped cream, but he forgot the whipped cream in the refrigerator. The next day we went to the city of Victoria because our friend Rose lives there so I suggested we hang out because I thought there was a ferry directly from Vancouver to Victoria. Victoria is the capital of British Columbia and it's on Vancouver Island, which is an entirely separate place from the city of Vancouver, which is confusing, dammit. There are no bridges because the islanders are goofy, so we rode a large ferry. It was a much bigger hassle than I expected. We had to drive out to the bay, but first Vijay had to return the whipped cream, and we arrived just too late to get the ferry we wanted. Thus we had to wait an hour. Then the ferry ride was 90 minutes, and I was in a foul mood because the promised wi-fi wasn't working so I couldn't tell Rose when we'd be there. Once we got off at the terminal, the wi-fi worked fine... except I couldn't connect to the kik messenger, which I had installed specifically so I could communicate with people in Canada where I had no cell phone coverage. Fortunately she was checking her e-mail so we let her know what was up, while we waited for the bus. Once that arrived half an hour later it took about 45 minutes to bring us to the city of Victoria.

We met Rose at the museum of something or other; Vijay and Janet checked that out while the rest of us walked around the island. First we went to a restaurant and then we got on a water taxi to see some house boats and some other house boats. Then we wandered around some more but we didn't have enough time to see what we wanted to see. We went back to the city and hung around on the lawn of the capital building. Then it was time to leave so we met up with Vijay and Janet and bade farewell to Rose and... waited for a bus again. Then once we got back to the ferry terminal we were just too late to catch the 7 o'clock ferry... and they'd cancelled the 8 o'clock ferry, so we had to hang around the terminal for 2 hours. The doors to the terminal kept opening and closing on their own, which I found very amusing, so I made a video of it. What larks.

On the ride back I tried some poutine. I didn't really understand it. It was kind of boring.

The next day we played some games, specifically Dominion and Settlers Of Catan. We play those online a lot so it was nice to do them in person. Then it was time to go so we got on another Bolt bus. At the border crossing the American border people barely seemed to notice us; I just answered a few questions and then put my luggage through the X-ray machine and I was on my way. There was at least one person who was detained a little while, though. They were looking through someone's luggage and we didn't leave until much later than we were supposed to. We only got about 20 minutes in Seattle this time, but since I knew we'd have time off I let slfcllednowhere know and she came and met us and we talked for a little while and then we got back on the bus, and then we came home, and that's all I wrote.
Current Music: They Might Be Giants - O, Do Not Forsake Me

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July 27th, 2014

01:18 am - Lots of words about my recent bass videos
Hi. I did this:

I used to like System Of A Down a lot, but then I was kind of turned off by their ridiculousness. However, I revisited their album Toxicity recently and I couldn't deny that it was great, no matter how embarrassing that might be. Listening to it I thought: Hmm, maybe it would be fun to learn to play some of these songs on bass. Then I saw the design of the record and it had arrows on it, which would be perfect for remembering when to come in, and there was no longer any question: I had to get the record and learn the whole album.

The record was pretty hard to get. They're not selling on eBay for less than $50, even used. I looked around and found a British seller that had it listed at $22, so I felt lucky... but then when I ordered it they charged $35. Apparently they said $ but they meant £. I should have filed a complaint or something but I don't like to deal with these things. At least I still got a deal... although I'm sort of wondering if it's a bootleg. I know people make bootlegs of vinyl records but I'm not sure if it could fool the average vinyl user. The whole thing is pretty cheaply made. Also, it's full of typos: Rick Rubin has become Rick Ruben and Serj Tankian is now Seaj Tankian. This must have been typed by someone who only had something hard to read to look at and didn't know anything about the band (or Rick Rubin and his beard). However, if this is an unauthorized copy, I don't think there would be any typing involved because they'd just make a photocopy, right? It's probably just an extremely cheap but authorized version. Maybe someone goofed up and sent the cheap people an early version of the label, which had been corrected for the official pressings. It's a mystery!

The hardest part about this was that it hurt. I've always avoided playing with a pick, but I was given a bag full of them and it's good to know how to play in different ways. Also, these songs are too fast for my fingers alone. Anyway, I was probably doing something wrong because after playing for about an hour my index finger would hurt like hell. Maybe I was playing too hard, although this stuff demands to be played heavily. Maybe I'm not supposed to keep my unused fingers tucked in like that. I heard that when you pluck with your fingers you should keep the remaining fingers in, so I learned to do it that way... but it seems that when you play with a pick, you are supposed to let the extra fingers fly free.

I decided not to use my camera for this video and use my computer's webcam instead, because I could watch myself in full screen. It's much lower quality but there is a big benefit to actually being able to see everything I'm doing. I always try to make my videos visually interesting although I don't know if anyone really cares. Another benefit to this was supposed to be that it would be a lot easier to deal with because the video and audio were being recorded into the same file... but that didn't turn out to be the case at all. There was some sort of weird glitch that made me lose a few seconds, and also it made the audio not match up with the video for some horrible reason. (I made several test videos but of course this didn't happen until I made the final one.) After lots of irritated fiddling about, I solved this by dividing the video into two parts and saving each audio track separately, then I tried various speeds to slow it down (I think I finally settled on -.04%) until it all lined up, then I put it all back together. What a pain.

I discovered that if I play a 33⅓ RPM record at 45 RPM, I can just play the bass parts a string higher than normal and it's almost in tune so that's fun. It's actually a good exercise to play something like this too fast, because then you're in the mindset of it being faster than it is so if you don't quite play it fast enough you're still doing well. Yeah so I made another video where I try to play along with the first song at 45 RPM and I'm mostly able to keep up:

While I'm at it, here are 2 XTC songs I recorded last month:

I also made a video of me playing a very long game of Civilization V that I haven't uploaded yet. It's 12 and a half hours. I like making videos that people only watch the beginnings of, I guess.
Current Music: See, I know.

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July 2nd, 2014

07:49 pm - On Google being upfront about its evil
I changed my cell phone carrier from T-Mobile to Virgin, so now I can use 3G networks to connect my phone to the Internet when I'm not at home, which is great. Addendum that belongs in the previous sentence but I don't feel like figuring out how to put there: I refer, of course, to their cheapest plans.

I installed Google's app. It acts as kind of a cross between a servant and a spy: It anticipates my needs but it does so by collecting intelligence in nefarious ways. The other day I was using my computer to look up a location on Google Maps, then later when I looked at my phone I saw that the app was telling me how to get there on the bus. Okay, that's helpful, but kind of creepy.

Then yesterday it told me that I'd walked a total of 2 hours in June.

Is that supposed to freak me out? 'cause that's kinda freaky. ("Oh, you don't have to do what we say, of course. By the way, how are your children? I hear little Timmy just started kindergarten.") I actually have several different feelings about it. For one thing, it's kind of nice that they're being so honest. Now instead of wondering if our phones are tracking us, we know they are, so we'll be sure to remove our batteries whenever we do something we don't want law enforcement to know about.

I also think it's nice of them to provide that information... but it can't be right. I assume they know I'm walking instead of riding in a car or bus or train because of my speed, but do they count when I wander around in the store? I'm sure I was in the store for more than 2 hours last month. It's a big store. Then of course there's all the pacing I do in my apartment, which makes me worry I'm annoying the downstairs neighbors.

I would be embarrassed to be accused of only walking 2 hours in a month but my knee is all stupid so there.
Current Music: At The Drive-In - Catacombs

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May 15th, 2014

06:47 am - Obviously a troll
This is basically a Twitter complaint that's too long for me to coherently express on Twitter. I won't let that stop me from complaining!

One of the things about Internet discussions that irritates me is the readiness to accuse someone of trolling—that they don't believe what they're saying, they're just doing it for a reaction. It gets pretty ridiculous at times. If someone states an opinion you find ridiculous, you can just say that person is a troll, because obviously no one would really believe what that person is saying.

Isn't that, like, extremely naïve? Lots of people have genuinely ridiculous opinions. It's part of being human. If you think that no one would genuinely believe something—anything—that you think is insane, you have a rather childlike understanding of human nature. It must be nice.

Of course, there are actual trolls out there, ruining Internet discourse. Without their psychopathic games maybe we could have discussions without immediately distrusting everyone. They're actively making the world a worse place and they should hate themselves for it, although presumably they already hated themselves before engaging in this activity. I think the sad truth is that a lot of people respect these psychopaths for their ability to manipulate others. To call someone out for trolling might be an effort to show off how smart you are, that you can't fall into their clever traps so they should respect you, because you apparently want the respect of pond scum.

(To be clear, I don't think of them as pond scum, but under the rules of a society where certain people are seen that way, shouldn't those be among them? I could challenge this notion but that would be a separate essay because I'm not a skilled enough writer to present both these ideas at once. I don't think we should hate people for their mental illnesses, but I also don't think we should encourage the bad behavior resulting from them.)

I see "don't feed the trolls" as enablement. It puts the onus on regular people to change how they behave, instead of the ones who are making things more difficult for us. (I don't like thinking in terms of "us vs. them" so... shame on me, but, again, I don't know how else to complain about it.) If they get us to overreact and look silly, then... they've won? They get to laugh at us and feel superior? So what? We haven't lost anything. However, if they get us to change how we act, to mistrust everyone, to avoid talking about how we really feel, to lazily and naïvely reject anything out of the ordinary as trolling... well, then we've lost a lot.
Current Mood: ranty

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April 12th, 2014

04:53 pm - I made another mix CD, along with a video. Zounds!
The track list:
1. Queen - Another One Bites The Dust
2. Arcade Fire - We Exist
3. John Vanderslice - The Savage Jaw
4. St. Vincent - Birth In Reverse
5. Primus - Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers
6. Mike Doughty - Mr. Bitterness
7. Gogol Bordello - Lost Innocent World
8. Leningrad - Lyubit Nash Narod
9. The White Stripes - Little Room
10. The Mars Volta - Wax Simulacra
11. Oomph! - Deine Eltern
12. Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds - Push The Sky Away
13. Das Ich - Des Satans neue Kleider
14. Einstürzende Neubauten - Vanadium-I-Ching
15. They Might Be Giants - Take Out the Trash
16. Pixies - What Goes Boom
17. Antemasque - Hangin' In The Lurch
18. Serj Tankian - Harakiri
19. In Extremo - Stalker
20. Rammstein - Führe mich
21. Laibach - Love On The Beat

The video:


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March 31st, 2014

10:13 pm - various thoughts
Tusk by Fleetwood Mac is apparently a very popular song, but I've only heard it on the pilot episode of The Americans. It's 3 and a half minutes long but in the show it's extended over an 8-minute segment and used really well. The Americans is a pretty great show. It's part of my recent interest in Cold War spy stories, along with the novels of John Le Carré. Season 2 is airing now but I'm doing that thing where I watch the DVDs of the previous season in the middle of the current season because I didn't get on the library's hold list soon enough to get them earlier. I like to refresh my memory before a new season comes on, and also I like DVD features. Unfortunately this set only has one commentary track, but it could be worse: some of them don't have any! It seems that not many people like commentary tracks as much as I do, because they're becoming increasingly rare.

Now I will complain about computers. The version of Skype that comes with Windows 8 is an abomination. There are many annoying things about it but the thing that bugs me the most is how I keep getting messages from people when I'm not on because it makes them think I'm on because it's a jerk. Also, my laptop's space bar is a jerk. It doesn't react when I hit it on the edges, and my preferred typing method puts my thumb on the edge of the space bar. I just realized that I probably subconsciously do this because I don't want to put my hands over the track pad, but I guess I have to put my hands over the track pad and risk accidental clicking ifIwanttoavoidthishappening.

My knee is much better lately, so to balance that out I injured my ankle. Yesterday kotra and I went down to the river and I stood in front of it and lipsynched very slowly. This is for the They Might Be Giants video contest that I'm not going to win, but it's fun to make videos. Rather, it's satisfying to have made them. The process of making them is usually unpleasant, especially in this case because when we were on our way back I was very tiredly going down the steps of the transit center and they had wet newspapers all over them and I slipped and fell spectacularly. My ankle took the brunt of it. It didn't hurt a whole lot at first but I gather that's usually how it goes. Later, it did hurt a whole lot. I managed to get to sleep and when I woke up it didn't hurt at all, but it's still not quite right, but I'm sure it'll get better soon enough. I recently got some documents from the state's health care thing but I haven't gone through them yet because I'm sure I'll be disappointed at my continued inability to see someone about my various health problems. Still, upon reflection, I think I'm mostly an optimist because I'm so frequently disappointed.
Current Mood: the one where I write run-on sentences
Current Music: Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds - We No Who U R

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February 20th, 2014

05:58 pm - Yesterday, and how it sucked
I want to write in here more than I do, and complaining about things makes you feel better about them and/or lets you organize your thoughts so as to make them potentially not happen again... so I will complain in here about how yesterday sucked.

I don't think I can tell this in order so I will start in medias res and get to the main thing. The scene: A bus stop in southeast Portland. A large bearded man calls the city's TransitTracker service and inputs the stop ID. "It'll be here in 3 minutes," he announces. "That's what it told me every time I checked," I tell him. However, the bus actually will arrive about 3 minutes from then. It will be 7:45, and I started waiting at 7:00.

I hate waiting for the bus. I'd rather ride the bus for 30 minutes than wait for it for 10. A decade ago (was that really a decade ago?) when I would take the Greyhound from northwestern Pennsylvania to Michigan's forefinger, I found the 3-hour layovers in Detroit and Lansing hard to bear, but riding in the buses for that long was nothing. I guess it feels like I'm actually doing something when I'm in a moving vehicle, even though there's not really a difference.

At around 6:50 I left the plasma center and took the 72 bus 5 blocks south so I could get on the 14 bus, which would take me to a spot 5 blocks from the library, which closed at 8:00. (I could have walked to the stop but TransitTracker said that the 72 was going to arrive in 1 minute, so I thought, oh, how lucky I am.) I got to the 14's bus stop and texted the stop ID to TransitTracker, which sent me a text back saying that the 14 would get there in 30 minutes. That was a long time to wait, and I was cold, so I thought "Screw that!" and went to retrace my path by waiting for the 72 going north, which would require an additional bus afterwards but oh well. At the 72 stop they had no stop ID listed, which was annoying, but the 72 is usually pretty frequent. I waited in the bus shelter with a urine-smelling man who seemed to be either suffering from schizophrenia or enjoying it. (I wish our society worked so that I could just call up some service and say, "There's a man here who smells schizophrenic; can you come pick him up and give him a bath and some new clothes and a psych evaluation and maybe a place to stay?" I hope my levity about mental illness doesn't contribute to its stigma.)

After 10 minutes I was getting impatient and I realized I knew the stop ID for the stop several stops ahead, so I put that in. It said it would get there in 11 minutes, which probably meant 8 for that stop. That meant I could wait a total of almost 20 minutes for the 72 going north and then wait however long it would take for the 15 going west... or I could wait the alleged 20 more minutes for the 14 to show up. I walked back to the 14 stop and waited and waited. I was cold, partly because of my choice of jacket. In the afternoon when I'd left it seemed like I could wear my thin jacket, which I prefer because I can just stuff it in my backpack instead of having to carry my coat around. When I got off the bus before entering the plasma center it was raining heavily. Thanks to the Pacific Northwest's weather I keep an umbrella in my backpack, but I only had a block to go so I didn't think it was necessary. How I was wrong! After the plasmapheresis I unstuffed my jacket from my backpack and it was still pretty damp. This made waiting in the cold much worse, and when I got home I discovered I had a moderate cough. It's mostly over now though.

Another contributor to my coldness was the plasma-removing process, which often leaves one feeling cold. When I tell people that this is how I earn enough money to eat too much, they sometimes react as if I'm doing something terrible to myself. Well, I'd feel a whole lot worse if I had a job, like the guy I was waiting for the 14 with. He said he'd worked a full day after only being able to sleep for 20 minutes, because his roommates had been fighting, or maybe it was because his roommate had been fighting with him. He'd had a much worse day than I had, and he would probably continue to have them. His cap was blue with a yellow asterisk so that might mean he works at Walmart. Everyone I've known who works at Walmart has been miserable, almost as miserable as the people I've known who were working to get Ph.D.s. In this economy I'm sure there are lots of people doing both.

To recap, I was on the bus at 7:45 and the library closed at 8:00 and I was cold and anxious, not knowing how long the bus ride would take. I was still on it until 7:57. Fortunately the bus driver opened the doors at the light instead of making us wait until the bus stop, which would have meant I would have to wait for the light a second time. Could I get to the library in 3 minutes? I didn't know, but I refused to give up. I ran. I hadn't run in years. I was surprisingly not terrible at it but I probably looked stupid. I couldn't keep up the pace for the whole 5 blocks so some of it was just fast walking. I got to the library at 8:01. I was right behind a young woman who was walking very slowly, so maybe that's why she was late. The librarian at the door told her quietly that the library was closed (so why did she need to be so quiet?) so she left, and then I was next and I asked if I could just go in and get my holds. They let me do that, so hooray for them. I went and got my DVDs of In A World... and season 1 of Breaking Bad and season 4 of Treme (how quickly they released the last season after it aired!) and hurried to the checkout machine and then hurried outside to... wait for more buses.

Most of the time I'm glad I don't have to rely on a car but... well, you can see where this is going. At least I don't have to depend on these buses for something important like a job.

When I got home kotra was there, which is rare because he usually stays in his office forever. We watched the first episode of Breaking Bad and it was good (but season 1 only has 7 episodes. What madness is that? Does Vince Gilligan think he's British? Does he affect an accent in his private life?). I keep hearing that Breaking Bad is one of the best TV shows ever. I wanted to wait until it had finished airing to start watching it, because I don't like having to wait a week between episodes and months between seasons. Unfortunately a lot of people had the same idea, so it took a long time for the first season to arrive at the library. This was part of why I was so adamant to get to the library. However, there wasn't really a good reason I couldn't just cancel my plans and try again later. I'm just stubborn when it comes to being prevented from doing things. I try to make sure that if I fail, I fail because of my own stupid self, not because of things I have little control over. I don't believe in or against God but it makes things easier to feel that The Universe is sometimes there to tell you what to do, such as "it's not time to go to the library today, just go home and try again later". I don't want to listen to that. I do think it's a little narcissistic to think that there's a force controlling the universe and it's rearranging stuff to make things affect me personally, but it often seems that way.

That's a lot of stuff I've written so far but I haven't gotten to the thing that sucks the most: my knee. It's been acting weird for years, and a year ago I stepped at a bad angle and it dislocated and I couldn't get it back in place for hours. Since then it's been hurting when I put pressure on it, so I've been trying to keep it straightish and lean on my left leg when I use stairs and stuff. The running I did last night made it a whole lot worse. Now I get pain whenever I move my right leg at all. I'm sure this will die down after a few days. It's one of the many things I'll have to get looked at if I'm ever allowed to see a doctor. I haven't heard back from Cover Oregon (the local implementation of the Affordable Care Act, AKA Barackcarab) but I only sent the forms in a few weeks ago so that's my fault.

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January 14th, 2014

01:24 am - New computer
My mother, having, in my estimation, overestimated the value of things of mine lost in last year's fire, none of which I was probably going to see again anyway, contributed a comma to my bank account. Translation: I got a bunch of money. I tried to be wise with it, but it's amazing how quickly "I should get a good belt and some socks that only have one hole each" turns into "I will probably die if I don't get these albums on vinyl". This probably fits well with some Republicans' thesis that poor people shouldn't be allowed to have money.

The main thing I got was a new laptop—although its accompanying literature insists that it's not actually meant to be held on the lap. My current laptop was bought two and a half years ago and I've been waiting for it to fall apart (so far the already-crappy speakers have broken and the DVD drive completely let itself go) and I've been wondering how I could get a new one if that happened. I think it was good to take this opportunity to get it. I was probably wrong!

The new one is an HP Envy 15. The old one is an HP Pavilion g6. (I appear to have brand loyalty.) They're both pretty much the same size but the new one is thinner. Here they are chillaxing together.

New One has a number pad, which is cool because I missed having a number pad... but for some reason there's no light to tell me when the num lock is on, which doesn't make any damn sense at all. There's also not really an insert key, but there are ways to input an insert. I'm really enjoying the fingerprint reader; I like how I can rub my finger against it and it recognizes me. It's convenient because I don't have to type in a password to log in to Windows.

Windows is 8.1. I've heard a lot of complaining from people using Windows 8 but it doesn't bother me much. I just gotta figure out different ways to do stuff, though I admit that is pretty annoying. The Help is really sucky, and I almost never find what I'm looking for from it.

I paid extra for a better display, so now everything is smaller. One of the things I hated about the old computer was how messed up the viewing angles were; if you're not looking at it straight on, the colors get all stupid. Kotra the roommate's computer looks fine no matter what angle you're at, so I know that it's not absolutely necessary for the display to suck like that. My new computer's display does still have the angle problem, but it's not nearly as bad as the old one. Video on this computer looks a whole lot better too.

I'm very disappointed by the battery life. It was advertised as 7 hours, which made me giddy. However, it's not any better than my old computer, which conks out after 2 hours of Civilization V (which, by the way, runs well on here; it barely ran on the old computer, which didn't stop me from playing it all the damn time). When it's not doing graphic-heavy stuff like that, it lasts for about 4 hours, which is also disappointing. Maybe I've been feeding them substandard electricity.

Anyway, to summarize: Yay, mostly.

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January 7th, 2014

08:05 am - Comedians Who Have Blocked Me On Twitter
Well, there have been two. I think that's enough for a LiveJournal entry where I complain about people who won't see this. At least, I hope none of them come across this, because that would be uncomfortable.

In case there are people reading this who don't know how Twitter works: Blocking is a feature where, if you feel like you're being harassed by someone, you no longer see what they say to you. Also, they can no longer see your tweets on their timeline. Briefly, Twitter changed it so that if you blocked someone they wouldn't know, but they quickly changed it back because that was an improvement. If you're the developer of a popular piece of software, you can only make negative changes to it, or so I gather.

Anyway, Kevin Pollak. I had never really noticed him before but then I came across his chat show and I found it enjoyable, so I became A Fan Of Kevin Pollak. Then he blocked me, which effectively forced me to stop being A Fan Of Kevin Pollak. Actually, it took me a few weeks to notice I wasn't seeing anything by him, so I must not have been a very big fan. I went to his page and it said I was blocked and my reaction was basically "What? Wait... How could... what?"

I figured out he'd blocked me after I made a joke to his friend Samm Levine, who had retweeted it. Maybe Pollak thought I was insulting Levine so that's why he deemed me worthy of blocking... but that doesn't make sense, because my joke ("Samm Levine is a hilarious person who doesn't search Twitter for his own name") certainly doesn't seem like an insult to me. I mean, the second part was obviously not true but is "not hilarious" a harassment-level insult? You'd think a comedian would understand how jokes work. It's hard to know how to take this because I don't know how much he remembered about me. I assume most famous people on Twitter don't keep track of most of the people who say stuff to them, but I was involved in his chat show. I talked to people in the chat show chat room and I submitted questions to be asked to the interviewees. A few times they picked my questions so he had to stumble over my backwards Twitter name because I never expected it would need to be pronounced. Maybe the whole chat show production team secretly hated me so he saw me getting retweeted and thought, "Oh, this asshole. I should get around to blocking him." Probably not. He probably just saw my joke and assumed it must have been an attack on his friend so he was compelled to remove me from the list of people who liked him, because when it comes to alienating your supporters it's better to be sorry than sorry.

The other comedian is Demetri Martin. A few days ago he joked that his New Year's resolution was 1024 x 768. It's a funny joke but it's kind of obvious and I've seen several people make it. A few of his followers responded that they were disappointed in how unoriginal he was. I think that's a pretty unreasonable thing to say to someone. However, his response was much more unreasonable; he followed this with a tweet claiming he was being bombarded by people saying they hated him for making that joke. (Both tweets have since been deleted... or maybe I'm making all this up!) This was obviously not true, and I searched Twitter for the replies he was getting, because I had nothing better to do because I'm a loser with no life and am therefore the lowest form of human, or so I gather. Anyway, no one had said anything resembling "I hate you". This irritated me, and when I get irritated I either say things I regret or I just stay irritated for a long time; regret is much easier to deal with. What I said was "Comedians: the most oversensitive people in the world." I didn't think it was that bad, but he blocked me.

This one doesn't really bother me, aside from an initial feeling of "How can you do this to me? Don't you know I'm kind?" In my defense, I realize as soon as I think that that I'm being stupid. I wasn't really that into Demetri Martin or his Twitter feed (the person who pretended to be him in the days before verified accounts was much more fun, if much less funny) and he's just being a fool, misusing Twitter's anti-harassment tool to stomp on some random person.

It's true, though: Comedians tend to be ridiculously sensitive. They freak out at even the lightest negative feedback. It's strange because so much comedy revolves around being a jerk (though this definitely doesn't apply to Demetri Martin), and yet when someone else enters that realm of general jerkitude they lose their minds. It's like they think they have a monopoly on cruelty, and they should stay out of the kitchen because they can't handle the heat, and therefore, not being in the kitchen, they can't both have their cake and eat it, and other boring crap like that. I'm thinking especially of Daniel Tosh, who about a year ago was making some rape jokes and a woman in the audience got upset about it, so he freaked out and said it would be funny if that woman were raped. A lot of people were angry at him for it, obviously, but many of his fellow comedians defended him, saying he was the real victim. "How can you object to a comedian saying objectionable things? Why are you so mean?" they seemed to say.

A lot of the comedians I follow on Twitter are terrible at Twitter. They don't even want to be there; if it weren't so great for promotion they would stay away from it and continue making jokes about how only hipsters use Twitter. I'm frequently annoyed to see them complain about the things their followers say to them, and presumably they often deliberately misconstrue what is being said like in the case of Demetri Martin. It seems they don't want you to say anything to them that isn't hyperbolically sycophantic and therefore useless. If that's the case then they shouldn't look at their replies. It's impossible to tell how they will react, anyway. If you say something to one person they might not care; if you say it to another, they might think it's funny; and if you say it to a third person, they might think you want them to die. I've even seen people get angry at fans for being nice to them in the wrong way. To be safe, it's best to never say anything on Twitter to people you don't know.

At least, I should stop talking so much to people who don't know me. As it is I barely talk to them at all, but it's been repeatedly made clear to me that this is still too much. Sometimes I'll tweet something innocuous to someone I like and they'll respond as if I was insulting them, which kind of freaks me out. I don't know why they misconstrue me so easily. I don't think it's my tone. Maybe my picture makes me look like I'm angry at everyone. Maybe everyone just assumes that everything said to them on Twitter is an insult they don't deserve. I know I sometimes think I'm being insulted on Twitter but then I think about it for a few seconds and realize that's not how I should take it.

Anyway, as I was saying, it's ridiculous to complain about how hard it is to be so successful that you have lots of followers. You might as well complain about how terrible it is to be rich.

Of course there are terrible people who like to abuse others, but these oversensitive comedians think that everyone who gives negative feedback just wants to hurt them. Therefore they must want to surround themselves with yes men and women, which seems terrible for creativity. If everyone says that what you're doing is perfect then how can you keep trying to be good? I always hear about duplicitous Hollywood agents, but if these kinds of people can only handle positive feedback, then an honest agent will get fired right away. Recently I watched this video where Kevin Smith talks about working with Prince. Prince's handlers explained to Kevin Smith that you can't tell Prince he can't suddenly get a camel at 3 AM. This sounds like the logical end to never listening to "no" for most of your life.

I wish those last few paragraphs flowed together more smoothly but I don't know how to do it! Maybe one day I'll be really good at writing and then I'll become successful with lots of fans and then I'll understand what it's like to be liked too much. Now I'm just a sub-regular nonfamous person so it would be stupid to think I know what that's like.

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December 31st, 2013

12:56 pm - Treme
One of my favorite shows, HBO's Treme (rhymes with "sashay"), ended Sunday night. It gets its name from the Tremé neighborhood of New Orleans, where jazz was supposedly invented. The show follows a handful (think really huge hands) of New Orleans residents as they recover from Hurricane Katrina.

I was interested in the show because it was co-created by David Simon, who also created The Wire, my favorite show. The Wire has become really popular among cable TV aficionados, but a lot of them were disappointed by Treme, with its slower pace and relatively few murders. David Simon is interested in portraying "the real" as he calls it, and while The Wire was startlingly real compared to almost every other TV show, Treme was even more so. It's somewhere between fiction and documentary, full of authentic details and local celebrities playing themselves, as well as actors playing characters inspired by real people.

An example: There's a radio DJ in New Orleans named Davis Rogan. On Treme, Steve Zahn (taking a break from appearing in terrible comedies) plays a DJ named Davis McAlary. The two Davises have a lot in common but Steve Zahn's character is his own person, or so I've heard.

Here is an autobiographical, obscenitastic (I'm saying there's a lot of swearing) song Davis Rogan recorded:

and here is a recreation of that song's recording on Treme from Davis McAlary's perspective, along with all the musicians who were on the original recording, including Davis Rogan himself on keys:

There was a lot of music performance like that on the show. Some people complained that it made the show boring, but I always found it really enjoyable, even if most of it wasn't the kind of music I'm into. Maybe you have to be the type of person who enjoys playing instruments to really get into that. There was also a lot of behind-the-scenes restaurant drama, mostly written by famous chef Anthony Bourdain. I can't imagine eating much at fancy restaurants even if I could afford it, but all that stuff was interesting to me as well. All the food they show manages to look delicious. I wonder what sort of camera trickery they use for this because it looks like just regular close-ups. Maybe it's the lighting. I'm sure it really is delicious but normal filming techniques wouldn't bring that out as well.

I also enjoyed Robert Alman's movies The Company and Prêt à Porter even though I don't have the slightest interest in ballet or fashion. Altman was an obvious influence on Treme.

The last season was only 5 episodes, after the previous three seasons had 10 or 11 each. This is because the show had low viewership, so HBO didn't think it would be good to keep giving them lots of money for a full season. It sucks but I guess we're lucky to have this final half-season. I wish the show could go on forever, although David Simon says they only had enough to naturally keep it going for four seasons anyway. What an odd guy, that David Simon, ending a story when it ends instead of keeping it going as long as it's profitable like most TV creators.

I feel like HBO was downright mean about it though, with the way they aired the finale on December 29 when few people watch TV, and how there wasn't a lot of promotion for the show. (I bet that even if you're somewhat familiar with HBO you didn't know about Treme, or at least that it was just airing its last episodes... I mean, other than me talking about it.) I don't know what the deal is with DVD releases too. It would be great if they put they DVDs out earlier so that we could refresh our memories in time for a new season, but usually a season of TV is released on DVD a month before the next season starts. For Treme it was more like two weeks before, so even though I got on the library's wait list quickly I still ended up rewatching season 3 as season 4 aired. I guess it's kind of a promotion to say "here's the last season of this show! and the new one is coming soon as well!" but that's kind of annoying. Anyway, I feel like the marketing people at HBO went beyond indifference towards a low-rated show and wanted to grind it into the ground even more.

At least now that the show is over I can stop getting outraged whenever the Emmy nominations are announced. Like The Wire, Treme is pretty much ignored by them even though the show is undeniably excellent. (Deny it, I dare you!) Khandi Alexander's performances are amazing. Maybe Claire Danes is better but they still should be on the Best Actress list together. I guess the Emmys don't want to give attention to "the real"; I suppose they prefer "reality TV". Of course, these awards are bullshit anyway. Jethro Tull won a Grammy in the heavy metal category. Henry Kissinger won a Nobel peace prize.

Well, in summation: Treme is a great show and you should check it out and you probably won't like it.
Current Music: y'all can't fire me 'cause I quit

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December 2nd, 2013

08:06 pm - non-fun post
Hi, I made some more bass videos, so I'm posting them everywhere. I worry this is annoying to people who aren't interested in them, which is most people. Oh well. Yesterday I played bass until I felt sick, trying to get takes that I wouldn't be embarrassed to put online. The results are acceptable but nowhere near as good as what I was trying to do. Oh well.

I think it's weird when people make these videos and their heads are cut off, but that's what the 16:9 ratio is best for when dealing with a long instrument. Also, my hair was looking stupid. Therefore my head is cut off in some of these, but I forgot that focusing on the instrument also requires focusing on my terrifying man boobs. At least, they're terrifying to me.

This is basically the centerpiece. It took me three damn months to be able to play it this well, and it's not even all the way there. The main issue is the sixteenth notes. Eight sixteenth notes at 130 beats per minute is no big deal. However, this has 48 in a row several times. It is very difficult! At first I wanted to do it an octave lower on my thick B string, but that wasn't happening... and then I realized I could mostly do it at the right octave on my thinner A string. This approach really messed up my fingertips, to the point where it's hard to use my computer's touch pad with my pointer or middle finger. I wish I had a camera that took good macro photos so I could show the world how much I suffer for my art. (I am being facetious.) I kind of want to stop playing bass for a few months so my fingers go back to normal, but that wouldn't be good.

This is from the new Arcade Fire album that was released a few weeks ago and which I am loving. When I heard Flashbulb Eyes I thought, "Oh, I have to learn how to play this!" Then when I heard the next song I thought, "Oh, I should learn that one too!"

One of my older friends, who is actually interested in my bass videos, is really into funk. He often talks about the funk bands he likes, so I thought I'd learn to play a song by one of them.

Bass guitar wasn't the same in 1967, so I did sort of a modern take on this one. It almost felt like playing a punk song. Maybe Captain Beefheart is proto-punk. Maybe I should learn a punk song and discover it's totally different.

Here's the requisite TMBG song. I learn one of these for every batch. A lot of their songs, at least the ones written by John Linnell, have interesting bass lines. I'm not sure if he writes the bass lines or has the bass player come up with something that fits. This song was surprisingly complicated during the choruses. I learned about half of it then got sick of it, so I ended up repeating a lot. It still works. slfcllednowhere gave me a red TMBG sticker so I put it on my bass, but the most logical place to put it is also the part that's covered up by my right hand, so that's too bad.

While I'm here, let me throw some opinions at you. I read this column by Ted Rall with interest. There's a lot I disagree with Ted Rall on: for instance, I don't think political correctness has really existed since around 1995. Now it only exists as an insult useful for ignoring someone's opinions, such as, "You don't think I should say that people from Africa are genetically inferior? Why, you are no better than those awful politically correct people from long ago!" Also, it annoys me when people use some fantastical number like 99.99% to mean "a lot", because numbers sound powerful but they don't actually care about numbers. Another thing I disagree with Ted Rall on is his apparent idea that it's okay to post half sentences to Twitter, and also to repost the same links twice in a row, so that most of what's on his Twitter feed is meaningless. Maybe he posts everything through Facebook and hasn't looked at Twitter in years. I don't know why I felt the need to include that in my overlong diatribe. Oh well.

Anyway, I mostly agree with that column that I linked to a while ago. It feeds into my growing suspicion that the Internet is a net negative. It's brought lots of good things (especially for someone like me for whom in-person socializing can be painful) but, I fear, it has brought many more bad things. It enhances our freedom of expression, but as Ted Rall points out, our mob mentality often scales that back entirely. The sad thing is that most people don't really care a lot about freedom. They may care about their own freedom but that's not likely to stay what it is. To continue with my earlier example, I do think that people with opinions I find abhorrent should be allowed to express them, because freedom must be complete. (Still, there are lots of people to whom "I think you're wrong!" sounds like "I think you shouldn't be allowed to say that!")

Back to mob mentality: On the Internet, the only thing that matters is Fun. Truth is boring and uncool, because it's so full of Not Fun. Thus, anyone for whom truth is important is likely to be ignored. (I don't mean to suggest that this is why people find me boring.) One of the most Fun things on the Internet is to take part in a mob. We tell ourselves we have good, moral reasons for our mobs, but that has little to do with it. One reason I oppose violence even in self defense is that you can convince yourself anything is in self defense. (Example: "We want their land... and they're resentful of us for it! This means we must defend ourselves by attacking them and taking their land." This has been going on since at least the Roman Empire.) The only important thing about Internet mobs is that they're Fun. Beating someone up is Fun, especially when you've told yourself that they're Goliath and you're David... but if you're boring enough to really think about this you'll realize that you're ten thousand Davids versus their one Goliath.

This is why I keep railing against Anonymous. They used to inspire blinding rage in me, but now they merely make me feel a little nauseous, so I'm improving. Whatever my irrational reaction to them, however, I still think they're quite obviously evil. They exist to break stuff and hurt people, because that's their idea of Fun, because they're ill. Unfortunately, Internet social groups have taken this sociopathy as an inspiration instead of opposing the notion that we should be allowed to hurt whomever we feel like. When they started out, their activities involved harassing whoever would get them the best reaction, such as feminists or suicidal teenagers or the Church of Scientology. Then they discovered they could break more and bigger stuff if they got the support of activists, and now every activist looks like an extra from V For Vendetta. This must mean that their formative years of beating up feminists and trying to convince people to kill themselves have nothing to do with them now, and they're no longer lying trolls, and you should believe anything and everything they say because they're in hiding and you don't know who they are. Also, I think I'm going to join the KKK because they're not racist anymore because they said they're not so that means it's true. Please quote that out of context and have the Internet beat me up.

If you know someone enjoys trolling and yet you still believe anything they say, well, I'm sorry but you're just not a smart person.

This was really hard to write, because of that thing where it's almost impossible for me to express complicated thoughts in words, and also because I kept making typos and I hate making typos, but I'm sick of giving up on writing things.
Current Mood: Eurythmics - Sweet Dreams

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November 22nd, 2013

05:40 am - mix again
Hi, I made another mix. What is on it? This is:

1. John Vanderslice - Trance Manual (4:44)
2. Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds - Do You Love Me (5:53)
3. Einstuerzende Neubauten - Nagorny Karabach (4:25)
4. My Brightest Diamond - Be Brave (4:09)
5. Rammstein - Seemann (4:48)
6. Primus - Southbound Pachyderm (6:21)
7. The Mars Volta - Empty Vessels Make The Loudest Sound (6:42)
8. The Dandy Warhols - You Were The Last High (4:44)
9. Sufjan Stevens - Vesuvius (5:21)
10. The Residents - Honey Bear (4:08)
11. 10,000 Maniacs - Eden (4:09)
12. Arcade Fire - My Body Is A Cage (4:47)
13. Peter Gabriel - Mercy Street (6:22)
14. Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds - Do You Love Me? (Part 2) (6:03)
15. Phil Ochs - No More Songs (4:19)

I also went through the trouble of making a video out of it again, even though probably no one is going to listen to the whole thing. The last one got 76 views, which I guess in itself is not terrible, but according to YouTube's analytics no one got through it all. Actually, I don't completely trust YouTube's analytics so maybe that's not true. Perhaps I should not be surprised that no one wants to listen to so much music on YouTube, but I was expecting that all the names in the description would lead many more searchers to the video. Oh well.

Anyway, video.

I came up with this mix a month ago and then I forgot about it. It sort of fell together by accident. I was listening to Mercy Street and thinking about how amazing the song is, and then I was thinking of other songs that have a similar feeling: slow, atmospheric, lots of reverb and vocal harmony.

I think this one of my best mixes but there's a lot I'm not sure about. I'm using lots of songs I've put in mixes before, which I usually try to avoid. Maybe it's a bit much to have two mixes that give 12 minutes to Nick Cave And His Bad Seeds, but those two songs just slay me especially when there are lots of other songs between them. Also, it seems kind of tacky to use "No More Songs" as an epilogue, even if everything about that song lends it to finality. Also, I don't think the 10,000 Maniacs song really fits. Also, I wanted to replace My Body Is A Cage with a song from Arcade Fire's latest album (which I've been digging the hell out of; I think it's their best album by far) but none of them worked. It's probably best to not keep picking at it and just go with the instincts I had a month ago.

I have a secret desire—or at least it should be a secret—to make my own covers of these songs. They would have crappy vocals and no drums and would suck in general and no one would listen to them all, but it would be a good exercise. I will surely not do this.
Current Music: Arcade Fire - Afterlife

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October 19th, 2013

02:01 pm - games I've been playing lately
...but first I must tell you about the new old records I've bought. You find this very interesting! The other day I went back to the record store on 2nd Avenue that's called 2nd Avenue Records—what an exciting name. Social anxiety is particularly strong for me when I'm in a store because I feel like I'm being watched (so I don't steal anything) and judged (because of my poor taste in music, at least according to what I worry the store's employees think) so I don't like to go to these places, but I like having records and they have cheap ones there. First I tried to remember what my favorite bands are and see what records of theirs were there. I wasn't even looking for Einstürzende Neubauten but there actually were several records from them, which was a surprise. My wallet was plumper than usual so I considered getting a used copy of The Wall for $12, but I ended up deciding on some of the especially cheap ones in the bins which I spent a while looking through. There was another in the "Funk & Wagnalls Family Library of Great Music" series, this one being the Ninth Symphony of Antonín Dvořák (thanks, copy and paste) which is a whole lot more interesting than my previously acquired Schubert; I guess I prefer my symphonies to be more modern. Also I thought I should get Fleetwood Mac's annoyingly untitled album from 1975. The only song on there I'm familiar with is Rhiannon, which I think is where my cousin's name comes from (and now people keep accidentally calling her Rihanna). Overall the album seems pretty boring but I've only listened to it once and first impressions are worthless to me, especially when it comes to music. The other record I got was U2's The Joshua Tree, because kotra said it was his favorite and it was only $2. The guy at the counter seemed to be taken aback that that was the price on it. It seems nearly redundant to own that album because I've been hearing half its songs on the radio constantly for most of my life. I almost got a cheap copy of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and I regret not picking it up because I feel like The Beatles were the beginning of modern music (once they burst from their boy band cocoon) but I hardly ever listen to them on purpose. I should probably be getting into Chuck Berry.

Now I'm going to finally stop talking about music and get to the subject of this post, which is games. Whenever I listen to John Vanderslice's latest album, Dagger Beach, it makes me think of Dwarf Fortress. This is because I started listening to Dagger Beach while playing Dwarf Fortress. It's weird how those associations assemble like that. Even now when I listen to some Nirvana songs I'm reminded of a video game I played when I was 13. Also, whenever I listen to recently discovered funk band Average White Band, my mind is flooded with thoughts of Dominion, which I discuss further below.

Dwarf Fortress is more like a job than a game. It involves telling a bunch of dwarves what to do, such as mining and making things and killing creatures and trading. It's very difficult to figure out, and also it doesn't come with any graphics; everything is represented by various ASCII characters and symbols. I don't think I would have been able to play it that way, but fortunately there are people who make tile sets to replace those characters with little graphics. Unfortunately that makes the text portions lose their punctuation, so they're hard to read, but at least they're not especially important. I was playing this game for a few months but then I lost interest. Somehow when my dwarves kept getting killed by goblins it was more interesting than when they lived in a place that didn't have goblin raids (and I thought it was just a joke that death was referred to as "fun" on the Dwarf Fortress wiki). When I had dozens of dwarves who weren't being killed and had to be kept alive and fed and occupied, it just became a slog. Most of the game involved looking through menus and selecting things from lists. Also, it's hard to keep track of dwarves when they have the dwarf-sounding names that were randomly assigned (and occasionally contained a graphic tile) so I spent a while coming up with names for them. I wanted to keep them organized based on the wave of immigrants they came with, so for example when 10 dwarves showed up at my chalk doorstep I'd name them after TV shows, and then when 30 arrived I'd give them the names of states.

Another game I've been playing is Legend Of The Green Dragon, an extremely simple browser game modeled on Legend Of The Red Dragon, one of the first games you could play online. I sign on twice a day and I'm not sure why, since there's not much to it. It's very similar to Kingdom Of Loathing, which I played for many years before getting tired of it (and its attitude; they're really not kidding about the "loathing", and too much of other people's loathing is really not good). So far I've slain the green dragon 5 times and I'm disappointed at how long it's taking me to get to the 6th.

Dominion is a card game that's been adapted on the computer. Earlier I was playing it with my friend Vijay on a game platform called Brettspielwelt, which means "board game world"; a lot of these new games are designed by Germans. Then the game was removed from BSW, and about a year later it reappeared on a game site called Goko. This version of the game is a whole lot better than the BSW version. It looks much better and it also makes sense. The game depends a lot on the properties of actual cards and decks, so it's hard to understand over the computer. I mostly play this against AI players, who are way too good at the game and make me feel dumb.

Of course, as anyone who has me on their Steam friends list can attest, the game I play most often is Civilization V. Partly this is because it gives my brain something to occupy itself with when I listen to podcasts (I can't manage to mul-tit-ask when I'm listening to someone talk; if I read something I can only pay attention to the thing I'm reading). Also it's good for devouring time when I'm waiting at the plasma center, though my computer's battery sucks and it usually shuts down before I'm done donating, depending on how long the wait is. Mostly, though, I just love this game. Sometimes I get tired of it but the desire to play always comes back. I recently got the Brave New World expansion (I wonder if Shakespeare had any inkling that that phrase would be one of the best remembered of his plays) and it makes the game even more enjoyable. It includes the Reformation policy where you can further enhance your religion, and one of the options allows your missionaries to make a barbarian unit join your civilization just by standing next to them. This is crazy powerful and I'm surprised they added something so crazy powerful. (Adjectives are adverbs now.) It gives you all the units you could possibly need, and it also makes missionaries invincible. If only the missionaries had the "explore" function they'd be the best scouts ever.
Current Music: Average White Band - Schoolboy Crush

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September 24th, 2013

07:55 am - old British miniseries I have watched, and also Primus
I've been trying to write this for a very long time! In fact, it's gone so long that I have another record to talk about. I got Primus's recent vinyl reissue of their 1991 album Sailing The Seas Of Cheese (here is a picture). There was a small chance it would be yellow vinyl, but alas, I got the standard one. Also, I was disappointed in the packaging; the record itself came in a cheap plastic sleeve that obviously isn't meant to last long, so I imagine I'll soon be putting it directly in the... thing I entirely forgot the name of. Case? Well anyway, I shouldn't be surprised since it was only $25. It did also have a 1-page lyric sheet that was obviously copied from the original release and consists of the lyrics written in cursive, presumably by Les Claypool. (When I was a kid I would look at my parents' copy of Pink Floyd's The Wall and it also had cursive lyrics that I couldn't begin to decipher (which was probably a good thing) so maybe this is in homage to that.) The lyrics to Jerry Was A Racecar Driver are missing the last word, "pole", so the lyric sheet informs us that he wrapped himself around a telephone. I wonder if that was an error on the original album or if they accidentally lobbed it off for the reissue.

I downloaded a scan of a book of transcriptions of the songs of the album because I want to learn to play it on bass, but holy poop, it is some insanity. Maybe 2 or 3 of the songs would take me less than forever to learn. Maybe I can't even learn it, because it involves popping and slapping. I tried to learn Higher Ground by Red Hot Chili Peppers, which mostly consists of popping and slapping, because kotra said it would be cool if I learned to do that. I was learning to do it and really enjoying it too (let me add for the sake of pathos that I hardly ever enjoy anything anymore) but, somehow, it's too loud even without amplification. The other night it was about 2 AM and I was in the living room playing with headphones on and kotra was asleep in his room at the other end of the apartment. I was having a blast learning the song and then suddenly kotra was there yelling at me to stop learning the song that he wanted me to learn. This made me very sad, and then it made me very angry. I might be completely unjustified in being angry because I woke him up and that's not the thing to do, and also he's usually the nicest person in the world, and also he lets me live here, but holy shit, I can't handle being treated like an inconsiderate asshole when I do my best to be considerate, and he knows I wouldn't intentionally wake him up. It made me sad because I hate being a nuisance but it seems I'm destined to be one no matter what I do. It made me even more sad because I realized I couldn't learn slap bass anymore. Thanks to my messed up sleeping, half the time I'm awake when he's asleep or otherwise around and it won't do to repeatedly go for a week without practicing. I actually felt a profound sense of loss from knowing that I couldn't finish learning the song, which just means that my emotions are all screwed up. Feelings are stupid. They should go away.

Sudden change of mood! Lately I've been watching BBC miniseries from long ago. This wasn't intentional; they just happen to have adapted a lot of books I'm interested in. Most recently was 1976's I, Claudius, based on the 1934 novel by Robert Graves, based on Roman history. I was curious about it after listening to The History Of Rome and hearing that iClavdivs (as I like to call it because I'm silly) was regarded as the best miniseries the BBC put out. Well, I didn't think it was that great. It was good enough, with masterful performances by Patrick Stewart and Patrick Stewart's hair, as well as John Hurt who was hilarious as Caligula but I didn't always know if it was supposed to be hilarious, and then of course there was Derek Jacobi as Claudius, but he's not as well known. Great performance though.

The story of Claudius is reminiscent of that of George VI, recently portrayed in The King's Speech (why do I italicize movie titles and not TV show titles? I don't know, that's just how it is!). It's not known what exactly Claudius's affliction was, but he at least had a stutter and a limp. He grew up in the royal family (which was pretending it wasn't the royal family) but no one thought he'd be the emperor until unexpected things happened. Well, what happened was that his nephew Caligula made a huge mess of everything and then when he was killed the army basically put Claudius in charge, thinking they could control him due to his unearned reputation for being stupid. This kind of reminds me of Game Of Thrones and the young, cruel king Joffrey and his dwarf uncle Tyrion, who is thought of as the joke of the family. Maybe the story of Claudius was an influence on George R. R. Martin's.

The story pretty much takes takes off right after the end of the HBO series Rome from a few years ago. The producers of Rome are now attempting to get their own version of iClavdivs going, which would be pretty damn awesome.

I shouldn't hold this against it but I was really distracted by how bad the makeup was. 35 years after Citizen Kane and 9 years before Back To The Future, their attempts to make young people look like old people just resulted in them looking like Muppets. Well, they did a decent job with Livia but with everyone else it was awful. Maybe good makeup just wasn't in the BBC's budget.

Here's a silly trailer, complete with Spanish subtitles. Yo, Claudio!

Another BBC miniseries I saw that had Patrick Stewart in a small role (so small he didn't say anything, which was probably for the best since he was supposed to be playing a Russian) was Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy from 1979. It was based on John Le Carré's novel which was also the basis for the recent movie with Gary Oldman which was the reason I was interested in the first adaptation. Maybe I'll read the book too! Probably not.

The miniseries starred Alec Guinness as George Smiley, making the character's name much more appropriate than Gary Oldman did (though I thought Oldman did a better job of it). Even though I'd seen the movie, the miniseries was still full of surprises for me, thanks to my terrible memory, and also the movie was a little hard to follow. If I hadn't been familiar with what John Hurt (oh, him again) looked like, I would have been completely lost, because his character being around signified that the scene was a flashback. It's interesting that they basically told the same story in the 2-hour movie as they did in the 5-hour miniseries, though of course they did it differently. For example, the scene where an undercover agent is revealed and shot takes place in a forest in the miniseries, while in the film it's in a crowded street in Budapest. In the film, one of the Hungarian agents shoots at the British spy and misses... but his bullet ends up right in the brain of a young mother who's nursing her baby. This really disturbed me and stood out as the most memorable thing about the film even though it had nothing to do with the plot. It's one of many examples of how almost inhumanly uncaring the spies are; this element wasn't in the miniseries and I don't know if it was one of the things John le Carré wanted to comment on.

I ended up talking more about the movie than the miniseries. Hmm. Well, here's the scene between Alec Guinness and Patrick Stewart, but perhaps you'd rather think of them as Obi-Wan and Picard and they're on the Holodeck or something.

Ian Richardson was in that miniseries and he was also the lead of another one I saw, House Of Cards from 1990. Netflix has an Americanized version of that (both based on a book) which I watched and found to be decent, so out of curiosity I checked out the earlier one. They're very different. It's interesting how Ian Richardson was 56 when that was made and Kevin Spacey is 54 now, yet Richardson looked a lot older. Maybe it's something about how modern American movie stars are more concerned with looking youthful. They both play Francis the whip. That is, their characters keep the other members of Parliament/Congress in line with the party, but they're extremely smart (as a whip?) and are able to manipulate their colleagues to get themselves more power. In the US version his last name is Underwood but originally it was Urquhart, which is a damned strange collection of letters and I'm glad I at least got to learn how it was pronounced.

Well, so, my verdict is that the UK version of House Of Cards was pretty good. Here's a video.

There's a bit of a contrast between House Of Cards and the others, because those were made in the 70s. It's interesting to note the differences. There was plenty of sex and swearing and cocaine in the later series. Also, the older ones required their actors to speak in the ultra-proper BBC accent that real people didn't speak, except maybe the Queen, if she's real. At least this is appropriate for British people pretending to be Romans and Russians and stuff.

Oh yeah, Russians. The last one I wanted to talk about was War And Peace from 1972. I endured the book so it only seems right to also endure an adaptation of it. This one starred Anthony Hopkins and a bunch of other people I'd never heard of before. It was 20 episodes and not particularly engaging so I had to borrow it from the library twice. This one also had a problem with aging actors but they didn't do a whole lot with makeup. The actors did a fine job, especially the actress who played Natasha, who nailed the childlikeness required of her in the early episodes as well as the maturity in the later episodes, but it looked pretty damn weird to see 30-year-olds acting like teenagers.

I couldn't find many short clips on YouTube. Here's Napoleon saying stuff.

If I've interested you in any of these, they've all been uploaded to YouTube, so you can hunt those down and consume them.
Current Music: Primus - Is It Luck?

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August 30th, 2013

04:06 pm - New video. Also, new and old records.
Here sits my LiveJournal, making me feel guilty about not filling it with boring writing that very few people will read. I want to write a massive entry about the entertainments I've been consuming lately, but it would be better to split it up into three separate large entries. Here's the first!

Here's one of those videos I make where I play bass along with a recording. This time it's the whole album Doolittle by (The) Pixies. It's an extremely influential album and also I happen to like it a lot. Back when I finished college and returned to my mom's house in the middle of nowhere, I was given a terrible car whose brakes didn't work right. At least it had a cassette player, so I could listen to my sister's Doolittle cassette that I'd found in the house's general music trove. Anyway, that's one reason I like the album so much: It was there.

One big benefit of playing along with a record is that I can know when to start playing if there are no other instruments or vocals to tell me. I just have to remember what the label looks like. On the first side of the Doolittle record there's a big 6 on the edge of the label, so for example I remembered that on Here Comes Your Man the bass comes in when the 6 hits the 6 o'clock position. (There are actually a few songs that start with the 6 at 6, so either that's a remarkable coincidence or it's common to think of record labels as clocks.)

However, a major drawback at least with my record player is that it doesn't play them at the right speed. With my previous bass-record video of Replicant I thought They Might Be Giants had just decided to record the song out of tune for some reason, but working with Doolittle I realized that I was out of tune with that too. I made a recording of Debaser and it lasted for 2:50 when the song is supposed to last 2:55, so according to math that means it's playing at 103%. To compensate I tuned my bass guitar up a little, but I hope if I do another one of these I can figure out how to slow the record player down without breaking it. I guess that's one problem with record players: you don't know if they're playing at the right speed unless they come with one of those strobe things.

The video was, as usual, very frustrating to make. First I had to get a good angle so you could see the guitar and my face and the record player, and that took for gosh darn ever because I didn't know an angle wouldn't work until I'd moved everything around and studied my camera's crappy viewer without getting my head in the way. (I should take a trip to Eastern Europe and bring back a cinematographer.) When I'd finally gotten a decentish angle (I wish I could have had the record bigger) I started playing and I did pretty well, then about a minute before I was done with the first side the gosh damned battery on my god darned camera ran out. When I'd started it, the battery indicator indicated that the battery was full, so whoever designed that battery indicator is a jerk. Well, after that I could never quite play it as well, so that's pretty disappointing, but overall I did okay. My timing on some songs, especially the second one, is embarrassingly bad, but other stuff's all right.

Well, so now I'll write about the records I've acquired lately.

audesapere gave me several great records because she's great, and also they were given to her by her ex-boyfriend, and also she doesn't have record player. Hooray for friends' exes, at least occasionally. This is also how I got my distortion pedal: it belonged to my roommate's sister's ex and then I ended up with it. The record I got that I enjoy the most is The Hazards Of Love by The Decemberists. I used to like The Decemberists many years ago but then for some reason I lost interest in them and Colin Meloy's vocal affectations. This one is a rock opera with guest vocalists so that probably has something to do with it. I think I also like it when albums are structured that way, with recurring themes and motifs, and I think I just said the same thing twice.

When I grow up I'm going to write a rock opera called Stop Being A Jerk, You Jerk, and it will convince all the jerks to stop being jerks.

I also got two releases from The Mountain Goats: Black Pear Tree, a 6-song EP with Kaki King that's pretty good, and The Life Of The World To Come, which is okay, but it's mauve with black flecks and that looks really cool. Unfortunately, both of these have something that irritates me: their speed. They're 12" discs but, unlike every other 12" disc I've encountered, they need to be played at 45 RPM. Well, that's fine and all, but it doesn't say anywhere that you're supposed to play it at 45 RPM, which is just obnoxious. Presumably everyone who gets their first Mountain Goats record, unless they've talked about it with other people, will at first play then at 33⅓ RPM and gradually they will wonder if it's supposed to sound like that. Eventually they'll realize they've been tricked and return to their record players and change the speed and start the record over again. From this I can conclude that John Darnielle hates people who listen to records and wants to punish them. What a jerk, that John Darnielle. He should listen to that rock opera I wrote when I grew up.

Well, now I'm just being goofy.

I also got a complication compilation called Record Store Day 2010, which has 16 songs by 15 artists I've never heard of and Kelis. It's fun but confusing, because each side is about 28 minutes long and I thought the limit was 22½ minutes per side. I guess they're fitting more on by lowering the quality. Quality will never be much of a concern to me since I can't afford an awesome stereo system and also I'm hearing impaired.

I also got some old records when slfcllednowhere came to visit and we went with her audiophilic friend Ant to a record store. They had bins full of used records for 99¢ each, so naturally almost none of it interested me. I ended up with a live Rolling Stones record from 1970 called "Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!" It stood out from the rest for being a thing that many modern people have heard of; there was even a David Sedaris story about his Greek grandmother that used the title. I think the title basically means "Show me your tits!" and appropriately the goofy album cover shows one of the band members wearing a T-shirt with a picture of tits on it, which may have been a bit of sneakiness but probably not since album covers in the 70s had tits on them all the time. Even the Pixies album Surfer Rosa from 1988 had some tits on the cover.

The store had a few classical records but most of them were part of the "Funk & Wagnalls Family Library of Great Music", so I guess someone had the whole set and sold them for very little money. I always want to listen to more symphonic music so I picked up Schubert's intriguingly titled Unfinished Symphony. It's good stuff, but somehow it all feels a little silly, all these musicians recreating something thought up a long time ago by a dead guy. Also, I wish they'd pick a dynamic and stick with it. Whatever volume I pick is eventually either too quiet or too loud. Maybe I've been listening to rock music too much.
Current Mood: goofy
Current Music: Schubert - Unfinished Symphony

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