Archive for January, 2011

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Let Me Tell You ’bout The Bird And The Bee

[ Comments Off ]Posted on January 31, 2011 by admin in Music

Monday, January 31st, 2011

And the flower and the tree. And the Hall. And the Oates. LA pop duo The Bird And The Bee cleverly make you think they’re just hipsters when in fact they are totally awesome pop geniuses.

One of the drawbacks of being an aging punk is that a lot of the cool stuff that aging hipsters are listening to manages to pass you by. I say “aging” hipsters, because I’d have a hard time believing actual hipster hipsters would fully grasp the inter-generational pop culture genius of LA songwriting duo The Bird and the Bee. I actually heard one of their Hall & Oates covers a while back, and gave it a resounding “meh”, because there have already been so many bands like Pizzicato Five or Nouvelle Vague that did the “listen to the funny naive way we play this song from two decades ago” thing so well. But now I know that the fact that I initially blew them off was simply that I wasn’t exposed to their Hall & Oates cover in the context of their greater oeuvre. Today a friend sent me a link to the video for their tune Polite Dance Song (also below). Not only did I kind of like the pondering Scandinavian Europopiness of the tune, the dancers in the video are AWESOME. The only thing I had any complaint about was the affected hipster indifference of singer/bassist Inara George and keyboardist Greg Kurstin. But I thought to myself “no band can do a video this awesome and not actually BE pretty awesome”, so I Iistened to more, and within in hour had succumbed and picked up their 2007 debut album The Bird & The Bee, 2009′s Ray Guns Are Not Just The Future, and last year’s Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall & John Oates. Although you may want to write them off as hipsters themselves, you simply can’t. They’re far too talented, and Inara George’s voice has the same kind of charm that Astrud Gilberto’s did; even when auto-tuned, it has a fragile confidence that suits the melodic wit of their songwriting perfectly. You also can’t really call someone a hipster if they really are hip, and I think The Bird and the Bee have proven they are. Partly with their own solid songwriting and performance skills, and partly with their brilliant joke that isn’t really a joke. Because in spite of Daryl Hall and John Oates’ respective “eternal mullet” and “porn-star mustache & perm” images, Hall & Oates WERE masters, and DO deserve a tribute. They’re probably amongst the most talented and definitely amongst the most overlooked songwriters of the last couple of decades. And The Bird and the Bee’s “Interpreting the Masters” mostly does them some justice, with the exception of a karaoke-like moment or two. And I think this article about John Oates’ guest appearance at one of their shows makes it clear that they have an appropriate level of respect for the hallowed pop ground they were exploring with their tribute. I look forward to seeing where they go with future releases; it would be nice to hear them stretch their wings a bit with something more “genuine”. Given the love for jazz standards that all their press material suggests brought them together in the first place, I’m sure they’ve been holding back on something in the interest of pop accessibility. In the meantime I’ll be enjoying their last few releases’ hooky, well-crafted, metahipster pop. Read the rest of this entry »

My Amazing New Seafood Weight Loss Diet

[ Comments Off ]Posted on January 30, 2011 by admin in Health & Wellness

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

I expect to lose at least ten pounds while I figure out what’s safe to eat. Like they say: Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. TEACH him how to fish, and he’ll decimate the edible fish populations by 2050.

Sorry Charlie. You’re not on the menu any more.

I think I discovered a great new weight loss program today. It’s based largely on carefully selected seafood. Perhaps you’re thinking “Duh, we all know the benefits of seafood as a healthier, leaner protein source, rich in Omega 3″, right? Well this is a fairly new approach. It’s based on selecting seafoods that aren’t tainted with Mercury or other toxins, and that aren’t in danger of extinction from overfishing. Today I was making a simple Niçoise salad, something I enjoy once in a while. I only occasionally use a fresh piece of tuna, so today, as I opened the can of moderately high-quality tuna, I realized I hadn’t checked on the imperiled state of tuna populations in a while, and thought “Wow. What if this were the last can of tuna I ever opened?” So I did a little research. And after about fifteen minutes, I realized that if I commit to a seafood-only diet, and wade through all the conflicting and poorly-coordinated information available about overfishing and toxins, I should lose about ten pounds before I have it all sorted out. I’m not going to offer any advice here, beyond suggesting you do some research of your own before you order that Striped Bass special the next time you go out to dinner. But I’ve rounded up some good start points if you want to learn about the health risks or sustainability of your favorite fish. One lengthy but fairly easy to review summary is the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s 2010 Culinary Chart of Alternatives. It lists what to avoid, alternatives for each item, and has little red asterisks to highlight the ones that are the ocean equivalent of eating paint chips for dinner. This chart assembled by the Environmental Defense Fund breaks down how often you might want to eat some PCB’s and/or Mercury, based on whether you’re a woman, a man, an older kid, or a younger kid. Like we said, if the waiter recommends the Wild Striped Bass, call the cops. He’s trying to kill you. There’s also a wealth of information about seafood on the NOAA Fisheries Service FishWatch site, but personally, I’d take any US government agency’s “safe to eat” advice with a grain of salt, especially regarding the impact of BP’s use of Corexit on gulf seafood. In spite of their claims of rigorous testing, they’re talking about less than 2,000 samples being tested for a rather limited number of contaminants, and simply can’t speak with authority on long term impact, it hasn’t been long enough! If you’re interested in the process they use, which includes sensory testing, i.e. fish-sniffing, check out A Step-By-Step Journey: How Gulf Seafood is Deemed “Safe”. I wonder what a tofu Niçoise would be like?

Bold Ideas For Re-Branding Michigan

[ 1 Comment ]Posted on January 29, 2011 by admin in Politics

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

Detroit is one of the most recognizable brands in the world, and Michigan has vast unexplored potential as a tourist destination, among other things, so we’ve come up with some bold new ideas for Michigan’s new governor.

Detroit is one of the most recognizable
brands in the world. It just needs a rethink.

In the corporatocracy that America has become, I’m much less concerned with a politician’s party affiliation; I’m well aware that it will only affect how pundits like Glenn Beck or Keith Olbermann will talk about them, not what kind of values they actually have. I know that if they’re a politician that plans to be around for a while, they’ll lie and pander to the public, and then turn around and suck up to corporate interests the first chance they get. Which is why I was a little enthused about the possibilities of Michigan’s new Republican governor, Rick Snyder. It may be just a coincidence that Michigan’s economy is in tatters after Democrat Jennifer Granholm’s eight years in office, but if I gave that idea credence, I’d have to entertain the notion that America’s economy being in tatters had nothing to do with the Bush administration, and that would just be too much logical fallacy for my feeble brain to handle. So as I said, I was at first a little enthused about Governor Snyder. But then I watched his State of the State presentation. I’m calling it a “presentation”, because I’m certainly not the first to take note of its corporate-speak, PowerPoint-like style. So Mr. Snyder, the first of my suggestions will pertain to your delivery, and on the top of the list is that accent of yours. If you’re going to be trying to lure out-of-state business, those nasal, ear-piercing vowels have gotta go. Hire a dialect coach if you need to, or appoint someone to do all the talking for you. Those speech patterns could have easily landed you a part in Fargo, but this isn’t North Dakota. Oh. Wait. I guess it might be nice if it were. Okay, never mind that allusion. You have different problems here, and the first of those is the people you have to inspire. If you’ve ever spent time in Michigan, you may have noticed that while you can almost get a Michigander to say “hi” in the summer, during the winter, the best you can expect when you say hello to a stranger is one raised eyebrow above squinty, snow-weary eyes. What Michiganders really need is an attitude adjustment. And I don’t mean the kind they’ve been getting at the sports bar on the day they pick up their unemployment check. They need some inspiration and pride. And what Michigan in general needs is some re-branding. Fortunately for you Mr. Snyder, you have one of the most powerful brands in the world at your disposal. Yes, I’m talking about Detroit. Go literally anywhere in the world and mention Detroit, and people will know what you’re talking about. They may step back a few feet until they’re sure you’re not going to shoot them or something, but they know the name. So that’s both your gift and your curse, Mr Governor. And this is supposed to be one of your strong points. Detroit is easily one of the most identifiable brands in the world. It just needs a little dusting off. Below are some ideas to get you rolling. I was going to do it in PowerPoint, but I think you need to wean yourself of that little crutch. As someone once said : “PowerPoint. Helping people who don’t know what they’re doing prove it since 1984″. Read the rest of this entry »

De-Nile Of Service: Can Governments Turn Off The Internet?

[ 1 Comment ]Posted on January 28, 2011 by admin in Technology

Friday, January 28th, 2011

The simple answer is “yes”, but Egypt’s unprecedented nationwide shutdown of internet access highlights a plethora of issues beyond whether or not Egyptians could watch Keyboard Cat videos on YouTube.

Want to shut down the internet?
There’s an app for that.

Imagine you woke up one morning and went to check your e-mail, and the internet was down. “Damn”, you think to yourself, “oh well, I’ll check it on my mobile phone and figure out the connection problem later”. Then you find your cell phone won’t get a connection. For many of us, we’d wonder if the world were ending. If you’ve ever left your phone somewhere in the middle of a busy day, you may know that panicked feeling, which you may or may not get over quickly, depending on your communication needs and personal psychology. Well, as you probably know by now, the entire country of Egypt woke up to that problem yesterday. No internet. No phone service. Especially as an outsider, you may think “Big deal. I never call Egypt or browse Egyptian websites anyway”. But it may not have occurred to you that even the US Embassy website was not available. Although it is now, presumably because according to this Netcraft query, they switched ISP’s today. And then of course, there’s commerce. If you know anything at all about modern business, you know that even convenience stores rely on internet connections, to process credit card purchases. Which would probably explain why the only Egyptian ISP that was still operating was NOOR Group, which not only hosts the Egyptian Stock Exchange, but also has some heavyweight global corporate clients. So how was Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak able to just “flick a switch” and shut off all these services? This MSNBC piece explains in plain English that in the case of Egypt, the government owns the ISP’s that provide all the networks that make the internet the internet. So he simply had to issue an order to shut things down. Whether they did it physically, by shutting down equipment, or digitally, by instructing the systems to process traffic differently, is largely irrelevant. They effectively shut down the internet and cellular communications in the country, forcing protesters to use what we might call the “Islamic Sneakernet”. Good old-fashioned person-to-person communication, fairly effectively transmitted via mosques, as this Wired piece suggests. So could the US government do the same thing in times of civil unrest? You bet. And frankly that kind of possibility is why – although I often get flak from friends about it – I KNOW I’m not crazy for constantly ranting about the evils of agency capture and the telecoms in America. Although there was a lot of hubbub last year about Obama being handed an “internet kill switch” with the “cybersecurity act”, this was simply not true. It was flat out, unquestionably bald-face lies, wrapped in the language of the moronic political blogosphere, which even infected tech blogs like the one just linked to. But it hardly matters if Obama were handed an “internet kill switch”; he already had one, as every president has since before the internet even existed, in the form of Title VII of the Communications Act of 1934. The internet needs the telecoms, and in national emergencies, the government controls the telecoms. And it’s worthy of note that even though we don’t specifically have an internet kill switch now, people politicians like Joe Lieberman want one bad. But regardless of all these hypothetical issues, shutting down the internet in reaction to the mass unrest in Egypt has highlighted a plethora of other issues. Economically, it could be catastrophic. US markets already took a plunge Friday, and worse repercussions may be expected on Monday. The events have also highlighted the US government’s awkward stance toward Egypt; they can hardly come down hard diplomatically, when they give Egypt billions in support annually and use Egypt as a favorite location to make prisoners disappear during an extraordinary rendition. And perhaps most importantly, given the American media’s shallow coverage of what’s happening in Egypt, the internet would have been a great way to get more meaningful coverage. By the way, as that article points out, you still can get some better coverage from Al Jazeera. And finally, the fact that a country can shut down its internet like this may provide a huge boost to the satellite internet business. Because although there are other ways to skirt an internet blackout, they require a rather high nerd quotient, as the PC World piece Get Internet Access When Your Government Shuts It Down makes abundantly evident.

Personalized Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas

[ 1 Comment ]Posted on January 27, 2011 by admin in Holidays

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Because you know, nothing says “personalized” like setting up a slave labor manufacturing facility in China and mass producing cheap gifts with customized messages on them.

If the passion is still there, the message
in the boxers should be loud and
clear without personalizing them.

Today I was searching for Valentine gift ideas on the web. Not that I have anyone to give them to this year or anything, I do this for YOU, because obviously, if you’re reading this, you’re someone who’s so unimaginative that you search the web for Valentine gifts. You NEED me. Which is why we have so many gift ideas for Valentine’s Day on the site. Anyway, you know how there are always those little suggestions at the bottom of the search results? Of course you do. I forgot. You’re the kind of person who searches the web for gift ideas. So two really caught my eye this year. One was “Valentine gift ideas for teacher”. At first I was all like “Oh. My. God. This whole thing with the sexy teacher love is really getting out of hand!”, imagining some 17 year old guy shopping for red teddies for his history teacher. Then it dawned on me that I’m a really sick person, and that it was actually pretty normal in grade school to give the teacher a Valentine, and that the current generation of soccer moms probably did this a lot as part of greasing the grade machine for their exhausted mommy-track children. The other search suggestion was intriguing though. It was “Personalized Valentine Gift”. Because you know, nothing says “personalized” like setting up a slave labor manufacturing facility in China and mass-producing cheap gifts with customized messages on them. So that’s what we’re bringing you today. Some money and labor saving tips for finding the perfect personalized Valentine gift. As opposed to those not personalized Valentine gifts that we’re always giving the only person we’ll ever love. Below are some strategies and gift ideas to get you going this Valentine’s Day. Read the rest of this entry »

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