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Saturday, June 19, 2004

Re: Previous posts about the passing of a friend: Clyde is the fine specimen on the left. Cookie and Bingo are the others.

Posted by Hello

The Past is Prologue or In the End, We're All Just Waiting for the Recycling Dudes: My first tech-related newspaper story back in, er, 1984, was about a machine that was going to change the world. Some guy who wore bow ties on dress shirts with the sleeves rolled up told me all about it. Twenty years later, I found this just sitting on the sidewalk, waiting for the recycling dues.

Posted by Hello

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

In the three years he'd been a vet, Mark was pretty sure he hadn't yet seen it all but was pretty well on the way. Standing in front of him was the person who was going to convince Mark that today, he'd seen it all.

"What's really important for the script is that the monkeys --" said J. Michael Donnelly, a petite man wearing what Mark assumed was supposed to be au currant movie-maker garb because everything was black. Donnelly had called after one of Mark's sisters, who "worked in Hollywood" recommended the director call her older brother for advice on some scenes for a movie about to go into production.

"Chimps. Chimpanzees," Mark blurted, his nose wrinkling and his brows furrowed. "You said you wanted a monkey like 'Cheetah.' Cheetah was a chimpanzee. An ape. Not a monkey. Curious George? Chimpanzee."

"Chimps, yes, right," Donnelly said. "Anyhow it's really important that they really look they, you know, smoke. Not like monk-, er, chimps who are pretending to smoke."

"And so you want me to give you pointers on how to train a chimp to look like a 'natural' smoker, is that it?" Mark said, looking directly at Donnelly.

"Exactamente," Donnelly said, exaggerating every single syllable in that way that gringos do when they're pretending to speak Spainish.

Mark turned and walked out of his small office and into reception area of the shared office. It was past 8 p.m., long after closing. Donnelly had insisted on coming by at 7:30. Mark couldn't figure out why the guy needed to come by. Didn't they have assistants do this sort of thing. Young, female assistants.

Donnelly followed him, stopping occasionally to look back down the hall towards the examining rooms, then double-timing to catch up with Mark.

"Well, to create a 'natural smoker' out of a chimp, you'd have to give him or her plenty of cigarettes, a source of flame and let him or her smoke a lot, get them hooked," Mark said without turning around as he took off his white vet smock and hung it on the door knob of his small office. "Pretty much like how we humans get hooked and look so 'natural' while we smoke."

"Really? How long do you think it would take for you to get a couple of them hooked?" Donnelly said, squinting one eye and tilting his head back while looking at Mark.

"I beg your pardon," Mark said.
"How long would it take you to get me two chimps who look like they've been hitting sticks for a long time?" Donnelly said.

"Like humans, probably two to three packs but I'm not going to help you," Mark said, sitting at this desk and proceeding to undock his notebook computer in what he hoped was an obvious indication that he was leaving. But he couldn't help himself.
"Why do you want smoking chimps, let alone 'natural-looking' smoking chimps?"

Instead of refusing to answer or archly saying it didn't matter, Donnelly grew still.
"It serves the story," he said.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Down-tempo country? Hillbilly ambient? Some of the possible genres I was coming up with to describe this band to my wife and friends. To my surprise, neither my wife nor my friends were particularly compelled to see/listen the band.

So, hitting the road solo I drove up to the Fillmore last night to check ''em out. This was my first time seeing them live, though I have most of their studio output in plastic or in files on various computers.

I'm glad I did. Kurt Wagner's lyrics and voice have always entertained me. The band, on the other hand, blew me away. First off, any band with 5 guitarists that doesn't make my head hurt after five songs gets my seal of approval. The guitarists -- two electric guitarists, one guy who alternates between pedal steel and electric, an acoustic player (who also plays baritone sax) and Warner with an electric-acoustic -- play in these amazingly spacious arrangements that not only twang but also squawk and honk via generous use of wah-wah pedals and other effects. (They alternate between these very quiet, down-tempo songs and then break into these loping lightly Southern-fried instrumentals.) Terrifically subtle drummer and bass player along with very tasty and strong keyboards.

Then there's Wagner. He wears a baseball hat, Buddy Holly glasses and sits while playing and singing and delivers his lyrics in an oddly compelling voice somewhere between a baritone and a tenor. And he's the author of some of the most wonderfully twisted and visual lyrics I've heard. A sample from "I Hate Candy":

"And I hate candy
But I like rain
And I like substance
To tickle my brain
And I'd like to see you
And I'd like to say
that I can't wait
To see you today
Wheres my little trouble girl?
Theres no real trouble girl
Cmon cmon cmon..."

And ya' know what, two hours of very good music for $20? Live music can still be exhilarating, fun and reasonably priced, people. Check some out. Lambchop, los lobos, your buddy's weekend band. Anything. Just keep supporting live music.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

My work co-hort, Allen, sends me an item about a Spanish broadcast news show in which the newscasters are naked. Decline and fall of Western Civilization? Nah. And I hope the signs of the fall are a little more, I don't know, foreboding?

As lame as naked newscasters might sound to some, we should be happy to know that U.S. businesses aren't falling behind in the how-much-dumb-money-can-we-get-from-people-desperate-for-any-kind-of-diversion sweepstakes.
Check it out

I just got off the phone with an LA Times reporter asking my opinion about SprintPCS's new mobile content program: the Spot
The Spot is a "reality" image/text show for your mobile phone. So, if I understand the concept properly, I pay $3.95 for what amounts to a hi-tech slide show sent to my mobile phone, about bartenders and their social circles? Thank God it's going to be serialized so they can build up multi-layered, nuanced story lines. Character development is so hard in old-school art forms like, say, literature. How difficult it must be for the mobile-phone-slide-show medium! My hat's off to the creative geniuses behind the "Spot," but the real kudos must go to the sales person for "The Spot" who pitched this nonsense -- and got somebody to actually buy it. Let's not forget the bold risk-takers who make the content deals at SprintPCS. Wow.

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