Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Recently I found myself in two classes that made me giggle. Yesterday I was in a presentation about how to present to large groups, and all I wanted to do was point out how much pressure there was on the presenter to "Open Strongly, Engage Her Audience, etc." Everyone else was just half asleep, half listening. The presenter even made a joke about her curious situation, but no one really reacted. Then this morning I was in a class teaching us how two separate roles within the company ought to communicate, the nature of their relationship, etc. I thought it would be solely in lecture format, but, Surprise! we broke into small groups to discuss the common problems that arise while working in small groups. I made a few wise cracks in the beginning like, "I sure have noticed that not being prepared for a group meeting is a big mistake that makes communicating in small groups difficult," but nobody seemed to care. None of this is overwhelmingly funny.

It also reminded me of trying to find meaning in life through the act of living. Never overwhelmingly conclusive.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

pure evil

" ... the giant isopod has one of the most repulsive forms in the animal kingdom to humans. This is thought by psychologists to be due to its many legs, exaggerated exoskeleton, large compound eyes, and foul odor that it obtains through a life underwater. Because of this, giant isopods are rarely found in the human media, and are even less often used as pets."

Monday, November 24, 2008

worst person ever

who's the worst person ever?

no it's not george bush. it's not even hitler! it's thomas midgley, jr. who dat?

he was a chemical engineer, born in 1889, who worked for GM. his boss was charles kettering, who told him to find stuff that would help out with their cars. so thomas went up and invented "ethyl", which was really gasoline with tetra-ethyl lead added to it - leaded gasoline. this led to lead in the air everywhere, poisoning babies and puppies and kittens worldwide, and killing off the environment. way to go, jerkface.

GM loved him so much they asked him to find a chemical to use as refrigerant for their household appliances. lo and behold, he found a compound that did just that - dichlorodifluoromethane, a chlorinated fluorocarbon, aka CFC. thomas called it "freon". GM put it in everything, and now thomas's nefarious plan to destroy the earth forever was underway.

karma's a bitch, though, and that IDIOT thomas contracted polio. because the disease disabled him, thomas invented a system of ropes and pulleys to help people lift him in and out of bed. turning out to be a true thomas midgley, jr. invention, he found himself entangled in the ropes and pulleys one day, and he strangled himself.

the dude who put lead in gasoline and CFCs in the air was killed by his own final invention

how fitting

(bonus environmental tragedy by clicking the picture!)

My head is full of facts

Since lists are all the rage right now, here's some things I've learned while watching one of my favorite TV shows during its 6th season, QI (Quite Interesting):

A vampire bat is most likely to bite your big toe

A park ranger called Roy Sullivan was struck by lightning 7 times in his life, then died by committing suicide with a shotgun

Corn flakes were originally used to discourage masturbation. John Harvey Kellogg was deeply against the practice.

The Paris sewers (which line up exactly with the streets above) are cleaned by massive balls, which are pushed by jets of water.

Fainting goats help protect flocks of sheep by allowing the rest of the flock to escape from predators like wolves, whilst it is eaten. (click the picture, its so worth it to see these goats in action)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Things I Googled for while watching Sixteen Candles alone

1. What happens when guys take birth control pills
2. How come I don't know anyone that looks like Molly Ringwald is it an 80s thing or what
3. Isn't it bizarre that the Asian guy in Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle really likes Sixteen Candles despite the incredibly offensive and unfunny Asian character featured in it as comic relief
4. High school was never like Sixteen Candles
5. Sixteen Candles sucks
6. Number of single women in New York City
7. Big boobies

Chinese Democracy

For 15 years the best thing about Axl Rose's pet project was the name. The ambivalence created by titling a mysterious album Chinese Democracy was priceless. If someone asked, "What do you think of Chinese Democracy?" You could answer in a number of ways that would be equally applicable to the political system and the hard rock enigma. For example:

Asker: What do you think of Chinese Democracy?
Answerer: Oh, I don't think it will ever happen.

Asker: What do you think of Chinese Democracy?
Answerer: I think it would be a mistake.

Asker: What do you think of Chinese Democracy?
Answerer: I'm not sure if the people are ready for it.

Asker: What do you think of Chinese Democracy?
Answerer: In a country with a population of 1.3 billion people a democratic political system built on a Western model of checks and balances could create chaos and actually negatively impact social and economic growth.

That said, we all knew that Axl chose the name for aesthetics and irony more than for the sake of political convictions. After all, he's a rock star whose claim to fame is 1980s excess and obsessive tendencies. If the man has any strong feelings about foreign policy, they are probably more focused on trade arrangements with Colombia than on human rights violations and freedom of speech in China. In a past interview, Axl himself admitted, "It could also just be like an ironic statement. I don't know, I just like the sound of it."

Regardless of the motive behind the name, and the motive behind the album, it's finally here. I've been listening to the title track for the last couple days, and I just finished listening to the entire album. First of all, I have to say that this is an impressively coherent effort for something that has taken seventeen years and at least five guitarists to produce. You can't just listen to the single, you MUST listen to the album.

That said, there are a couple of standout tracks. The first track, "Chinese Democracy" is like an announcement: Rock is back, deal with it. The guitar stabs into an incomprehensible sea of babbling Chinese as if Axl is telling everyone to shut up and listen to what he has to say. I agree with other critics in saying that it's not exactly clear what the message of the lyrics is: it's something between a personal meta-narrative about the process of making the album and typical rock and roll drivel about love lost and found. He does make a few references to China, but it's unclear what the point is.

Clocking in at 6:41, "There Was a Time" is the first track that made me think, "Damn, now there's a rock song." There are a lot of people out there who are saying that without Slash it isn't a GNR album. I say they're wrong. This is as much Guns N Roses as "Sweet Child Of Mine" and "Welcome to the Jungle." And it's a hell of a lot better than any of the trash that Slash released with Velvet Revolver.

"Catcher in the Rye" is a track that's going to get a lot of attention. Most of the attention will come from the title and analysis of how Axl relates to Holden Caulfield. Personally, I have always found the superficial reading of Catcher in the Rye as a tale of adolescent angst to be the most convincing. Given the frustration that must have either come from or gone into the 17 year production of this album, I think the connection here is pretty obvious. It's a good song, but not the strongest on the record.

There are also a number of piano propelled tracks that conjur up allusions to "November Rain." If you listen to this album from start to finish and still think that the lack of Slash diminishes the GNR characteristics of this album, then you are either not listening or you are in denial. If nothing else, tell yourself that Axl set out to prove he could make a GNR album without the iconic guitarist in the top hat.

I prefer a different analysis though. I think that the album is stronger without Slash. While Slash is a great guitar player, he has a very distinctive style of amped up meandering blues-rock. I love to listen to it. As Regina Spektor says of "November Rain," "that solo's awfully long, but it's a great refrain." He played great sing-along solos, but you always had something of an idea of what they would sound like. On this album, Axl uses riffs and solos from at least five different guitarists recorded over the course of almost two decades. It's amazing that he put together such a tight album from such a mess, and one of the best things it has to offer is diversity in guitar playing.

On the whole, I am very impressed by Chinese Democracy. While I will admit up front that I was predisposed to think positively of it because I found the hype highly enjoyable, I will also say that I was originally in the "it's not GNR without Slash" camp. Color me converted. This album rocks, and definitely counts as Guns N Roses. In the spirit of the title, I say grab this album however you can - legally or otherwise. No matter what, definitely go out and listen to it.

Then send copies to your friends in China, where it's officially banned. Maybe they'll get the right idea (the right idea: Rock and Roll is fing sweet, and censorship is bullshit).