23 November 2008

PC Magazine to Cease Print Publication

The internet continues its relentless borging of all forms of human communication. I'm a little sad the PCMag is ceasing print publication, because I hung on every issue when I first got into computers, which at one time were exotic and exciting. They're still a little exciting to me, but then, I find wristwatches exciting. Anyway, print media is in steep decline and I would not be suprised to see print journals almost cease to exist in my lifetime. It's all economics.

22 November 2008

The Funky Dane Goes Country

Can't get enough of Thomas the Funky Dane, one of YouTube's star bassists. Here he is with Bonnie Raitt's biggest hit (or only hit, or maybe her only song, not sure).

21 November 2008

"We Blew It": A Republican Obituary

Conservative pundit P.J. O'Rourke, never short of words, has nevertheless let it all out in this fantastic post-mortem of the Republican Party's spectacular self-immolation. I now consider myself an independent caucusing with the Dems (makes me sound like Joe Lieberman, blech), and I am very enthusiastic about Obama, but I would love to return to the GOP. Or better, I would like it to return to me. I agree (most people would) with O'Rourke that the GOP is utterly lost, and this is a magnificent mea culpa. Read it all, but here is a snippet:

    Where was the meum and the tuum in our shakedown of Washington lobbyists? It took a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives 40 years--from 1954 to 1994--to get that corrupt and arrogant. And we managed it in just 12. (Who says Republicans don't have much on the ball?) Our attitude toward immigration has been repulsive. Are we not pro-life? Are not immigrants alive? Unfortunately, no, a lot of them aren't after attempting to cross our borders. Conservative immigration policies are as stupid as conservative attitudes are gross. Fence the border and give a huge boost to the Mexican ladder industry. Put the National Guard on the Rio Grande and know that U.S. troops are standing between you and yard care. George W. Bush, at his most beneficent, said if illegal immigrants wanted citizenship they would have to do three things: Pay taxes, learn English, and work in a meaningful job. Bush doesn't meet two out of three of those qualifications.

20 November 2008

An Anti-Frailty Pill for Seniors?

A real holy grail for medical researchers is to find a way to safely restore the declining levels of growth hormones that attend aging. Dropping levels of testosterone and HGH result in a decrease of muscle mass, which can result in frailty among the elderly. This in turn leads to loss of mobility and independence, as well as to accidents (falls) and to other health issues. Muscle mass and mobility can be maintained or restored through physical training, but most people won't do it.

If this research continues to be successful, there may be a "muscle pill" in our future.

    Researchers at the University of Virginia Health System report that a daily single oral dose of an investigational drug, MK-677, increased muscle mass in the arms and legs of healthy older adults without serious side effects, suggesting that it may prove safe and effective in reducing age-related frailty. Published in the November 4, 2008 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, the study showed that levels of growth hormone (GH) and of insulin-like growth factor I (IGF- I) in seniors who took MK-677 increased to those found in healthy young adults. The drug restored 20 percent of muscle mass loss associated with normal aging.
Read more here.

19 November 2008

Obama's Use of Complete Sentences Stirs Controversy

I know I'm, uh, you know, it just ain't right. Dang it. From Andy Borowitz:

    In the first two weeks since the election, President-elect Barack Obama has broken with a tradition established over the past eight years through his controversial use of complete sentences, political observers say.

    Millions of Americans who watched Mr. Obama's appearance on CBS's 60 Minutes on Sunday witnessed the president-elect's unorthodox verbal tick, which had Mr. Obama employing grammatically correct sentences virtually every time he opened his mouth.

    But Mr. Obama's decision to use complete sentences in his public pronouncements carries with it certain risks, since after the last eight years many Americans may find his odd speaking style jarring.

    According to presidential historian Davis Logsdon of the University of Minnesota, some Americans might find it "alienating" to have a president who speaks English as if it were his first language.

    "Every time Obama opens his mouth, his subjects and verbs are in agreement," says Mr. Logsdon. "If he keeps it up, he is running the risk of sounding like an elitist."

    The historian said that if Mr. Obama insists on using complete sentences in his speeches, the public may find itself saying, "Okay, subject, predicate, subject predicate -- we get it, stop showing off."

    The president-elect's stubborn insistence on using complete sentences has already attracted a rebuke from one of his harshest critics, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska.

    "Talking with complete sentences there and also too talking in a way that ordinary Americans like Joe the Plumber and Tito the Builder can't really do there, I think needing to do that isn't tapping into what Americans are needing also," she said.

18 November 2008

Scientists Prove that Kevin Bacon Is Key to Understanding the Cosmos

I've long subscribed to the philosophy of the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, who is a lesser philosopher than Francis Bacon but a way better actor. This theory, originating with Bacon (Kevin, not Francis), is that any actor can be linked through his or her film roles to Kevin Bacon. Bacon's original quip was that he'd worked with with every actor in Hollywood, or with someone who had. The link isn't always that close, but the Oracle of Bacon has rigorously tested the theory and found that only 12% of 800,000 actors in the IMDB cannot be linked to Kevin Bacon.

So, as an utterly random example, I go to the Oracle and type in "Rosemary Clooney," whom I cannot imagine being linked to Bacon in any immediate way. But it turns out she worked with Mark Jeffery Miller in the Radioland Murders (1994), who worked with Kevin Bacon in Death Sentence (2007). Eerie.

My mind is always making these movie connections, unconsciously, and when they bubble to the surface it tends to unnerve me. It's almost like insight into the foundational principles of cosmic sympathy, with the ley lines all leading Hollywood. For example, let's return to Rosemary Clooney, whom most would place far from the center of the cosmos. (Hold on, this gets a little complicated.)

Robert F. Kennedy was shot on June 5, 1968, in Los Angeles in the Ambassador Hotel's Embassy Room ballroom. Present was Rosemary Clooney, a close friend of Bobby Kennedy. Clooney was the mother of actor Miguel Ferrar. Miguel Ferrar and actor Jacob Vargas starred together in Traffic (2000). Jacob Vargas also had a minor role in Bobby (2006), a movie about the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. This relates Clooney and the almost unknown Mexican actor Vargas to each other in two different ways. Uncanny.

Back to Kevin Bacon's theory. (To give due credit, the general idea comes from the small world theory of Stanley Milgram, which more or less concluded that all people in the US are separated by only six degrees of removal.) Scientists are now discovering that there is some kind of "hidden metric space" beneath complex systems. Says the author of a recent article on this theory, "A vast majority of very different complex networks have similar shapes.  They have similar shapes not just for fun, but perhaps because they all evolved toward structures and shapes that maximize efficiency according to their main common function, and that function is communication." In other words, most systems grow in such a way that they are in fact closer to other things in that system than they appear on the surface. Insight into this hidden space could revolutionize the internet, medicine, and many other areas of technology and science. See here.

17 November 2008

The Perfect Painting

Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid are two Russian émigré artists who, booted out of their own country for subversion, undertook to test American tolerance as well. They devised a survey of artistic taste upon which they then based their rendition of the perfect painting, as based on public preferences. The result? Meh. As Louis Menand put it, "They set out to find the visual lowest common denominator, and the work they produced . . . is preposterous even as kitsch. It tells us as much about art as a single dish combining all the flavors people said they liked would tell us about cuisine." But surely it does not fail as satire. More results for other countries here.

15 November 2008

Some Sly Stone

The first of numberless YouTube vids to be posted here, mostly of bass players.

For obvious reasons.

14 November 2008

Fourteen Photography Masters

I used to be a real reader. I mean, I still read constantly, but I don't read for the aesthetic experience of it like I used to. Now I read for information, not for the experience of Truth. Music and the visual arts speak to me much more powerfully. With a few exceptions, I think all of these photos, which are just samples of the work of masters, are exceptionally good. I just makes me regret yet again that I didn't go to that Sebastião Salgado exhibit that came through here last year (doh!). Anyway, an Obama shot here, just 'cause I'm still so thrilled about the election.

A Bassic Photo

Bad title, bad photo, great basses. The new one is on the right.


Hurray for Economic Collapse!

Now I know that 14,000 Wall Street employees have lost or will lose their jobs this year, that pensions are evaporating, the US auto industry is verging on bankruptcy, etc., but I am so loving these low gas prices. I never thought gas would go below $3.00 a gallon again, but under $2.00? It's true. Here is the proof, direct from Sam's Club.

13 November 2008

TalkBass Post on My New Yamaha Bass

I posted a notice and mini review about my new bass on the TalkBass forums. I'm still really groovin' on it. No photos yet.

Top eBay Seller Surpasses 1M Positive Feedback

Someone recently described a colleague as an "eBay ninja." I secretly wished that had been applied to me. I don't know how good I am at eBaying (I've never been a seller), but eBay has completely changed the way I shop. I'd rather buy something on eBay or Amazon than from a store on my own street, however much that may hurt my local economy or the environment. Yes, a twinge of guilt. But for a savvy shopper, the potential savings is enormous. So I am glad, for all the bad said about it, that the Bay is still doing well and that that sellers are doing will on it. One million satisfied customers is nothing to sneeze at. Congrats Jack Sheng and employees!

Am I an Internet Hoaxster?

Let's see, unshaven man in shlumpy clothes, with thick glasses, hunched over a computer . . . check . . . sitting in study filled with books, papers, crates of computer parts, clothes and random junk . . . check . . .walls painted in bold colors, rugs for carpet, guitars (clearly unplayed) sitting in background . . . all check . . . Clearly I am the very portrait of an internet hoaxster. But what hoax am I perpetrating?

I'm Not Really a Big Nirvana Fan

But I have to say that the first time I heard Nevermind it really blew me away. So much angst, so perfectly set to music. I've always liked art with a dark edge, and grunge had it. I heard Pearl Jam's Ten that same year, from the same friend in the same apartment, and Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden, all about the same time. A Mennonite friend may have sent Alice in Chains my way (seriously), but Soundgarden I found on my own. It was, and is, grunge perfection. (I like Stone Temple Pilots more, but debate their grunge credentials . . . but that's another post.)

I named this blog on a whim, not really thinking of Nirvana at the time, but I did like the overtones of melancholy, madness, and drug-induced psychosis. Not because I suffer from them, but because they are at the root of so much human creativity. I'm too sane and content to be strikingly creative, but one can always dream. And lithium can produce strange dreams. So, to suit the name, I can at least guarantee you strangeness.