The Highways and Byways of the Stratosphere

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Saturday, January 31
 
How many people do you think would fit on the back of an elephant? It doesn't have to be an exactly accurate figure, but I sort of want an idea for when I write about characters riding Kabumpo in my Oz novel.


 
My Sims game just totally stopped working. It kept freezing up when I tried to start it. The only solution I could think of was uninstalling and reinstalling it, but the dumbasses who made the game decided you could only uninstall the whole thing, rather than just individual expansion packs, and I don't have the first few discs here with me. So now I won't be able to play the game for a while, which is annoying. After I've been playing it for a while, I can never think of anything else to do.


Friday, January 30
 
I really haven't accomplished anything today. I played The Sims a lot, and washed the dishes. I should probably get something to eat soon. Maybe I'll also work on my Oz manuscript at some point.


Thursday, January 29
 
Looking at that map in my last post gives me the impression that I need to go to Rhode Island at some point, so as to get rid of that one tiny speck of green. I don't know what I'd do there, though.

Anyway, I got two CDs in the mail from Amazon. One is the Minus Five's I Don't Know Who I Am, which is a pretty cool album. "Queen's Head" is probably my favorite so far, but a few other tracks also stand out. "I Don't Want To Fuck Off Anymore," despite what you might think from the title, is actually a pretty catchy number. It seems to be one of those songs where the music doesn't exactly go with the lyrics. "Tunnel Of Lungs" is another good song, and "Disaster Nurse Fang" is really weird. Based on early reactions, I think this album is actually a little stronger than Down with Wilco. The other CD is Rasputina's Lost and Found Sound Volume 2, which I bought for Beth. It's an EP of cover songs, and I think they were done really well, especially the version of "Bad Moon Rising" that's on there.

I've been playing The Sims, but I really haven't been doing anything with Studio Town or getting famous, which strikes me as kind of complicated and time-consuming with little reward. I'll probably get back to it at some point, though.


Wednesday, January 28
 


create your own visited states map


 
They played some teenybopper band's cover of "Grazing In The Grass" on Radio Disney. Isn't that song about pot? Or is that just my misinterpretation of the word "grass"? Regardless, you have to hand it to Radio Disney. How else would I ever have found out that Hilary Duff sometimes has bad hair days?

On a related note, while walking by the Abercrombie store at the King of Prussia Mall, I noticed that they were playing Mandy Moore's cover of "Senses Working Overtime." The original would have been better, of course, but it would have been wasted on that store's clientele. Since the only actual XTC songs I've heard played in stores were "Thanks For Christmas" and "King For A Day," it's kind of cool that they played "Senses Working Overtime" at all, though.


Tuesday, January 27
 
I'm at work. I was kind of hoping it would be cancelled today, but I wouldn't have gotten paid then, so I guess I'm glad it wasn't. I just hope the roads aren't too bad when I drive back tonight.


Monday, January 26
 
Here are two minor TV-related observations:

1. I guess Dr. Marvin Monroe isn't really dead after all. His appearance in the latest Simpsons episode was weird but amusing (and probably amusing BECAUSE it was so weird).
2. Is it just me, or does Simon Cowell's telling every other American Idol contestant that they're "possibly the worst singer in the world" kind of weaken the insult? I mean, there are plenty of horrible singers, but they can't ALL be the worst, can they?


Sunday, January 25
 
Wow, some people on a mailing list I'm on are such drama queens. "MY IDEAS ARE BEING SQUELCHED! I'M BEING ATTACKED! WAH WAH WAH!" Granted, it's only a few people, and people who seem to have some psychological issues unrelated to the topic of the forum at that, but it's still ridiculous.


 
The building with the vending machines is all locked up. That's annoying. I'm kind of thirsty.


Saturday, January 24
 
I'm sick of cold and snow and ice. How much longer is this winter going to last? I guess it'll probably last about the normal length, but that's always too long.


Friday, January 23
 
My great grandmother died the other day. I never really knew her that well, but it's still sad. The funeral will be in Baltimore on Monday, but I don't know whether I'll go down there for it. It depends on the weather.

Today has been fairly uneventful so far. I volunteered at Longwood Gardens for an hour and a half. I would have liked to have stayed longer, but, as usual, there wasn't that much to do. After that, I went to Borders for a little while, but I didn't buy anything there, and then I had lunch/dinner (my meals often tend to be at irregular times) at Denny's. The waitress acted surprised that I knew what I wanted as soon as I sat down, but I had decided I wanted a Breakfast Dagwood before I got there, and I really didn't want to sit around and wait for very long, since I was all alone with nothing to do.


Thursday, January 22
 
I finished reading two stories today. The first was The Wee Free Men, Terry Pratchett's young adult novel about a witch-in-training and the Nac Mac Feegle, who was introduced in Carpe Jugulum. I liked this book quite a bit better than Pratchett's last Discworld book for younger readers, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, probably partially because The Wee Free Men contained more familiar concepts and characters from the main Discworld series, including the Queen of the Elves from Lords and Ladies and a brief cameo by Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg. I don't believe Death appeared at all, though, which is odd for a Discworld story.

The other story was "The Silver Jug," which was in The Salt Sorcerer of Oz and Other Stories, a collection of Eric Shanower's short Oz fiction. I had read all of the book's other stories (including the title one) in Oz-Story and Oziana, but "The Silver Jug" had only been published as an unfinished story, for which readers were urged to send in endings. I actually wrote a hastily done and really lousy ending for it. The two endings that were chosen as winners were pretty good, but Shanower's own ending is much better than either one. I liked the back story of Dragonspeck and Yvar, and the meta-humor when Amanda and Louise thought they might be characters in a book was a clever touch. I do think it was rather odd for Glinda to give Amanda an item she knew so little about in order to test her, though.


 
I had a disturbing dream last night, where I learned that both Dave Barry and Frank Black had died. I don't remember how the former died, but I believe the death had taken place last year. As for Frank, at first I heard it was a suicide, and then that it was a motorcycle accident (he was riding with Joey Santiago). I don't think I totally believed that either of these people had died, but I was quite upset.


Wednesday, January 21
 
I took the music nerd test (I got the link from sarah), and my score was:

38.4058% - Major Music Nerd

Perhaps I erred slightly on the side of wanting to get a higher score. I wasn't really sure what entails "collecting"; I don't consider myself a CD collector, but I have over 100 CDs, and that was the first sub-option under "I collect CDs," so I said I did that. And I'm not at all ashamed to admit that I like old-school video game music, so...yeah.


 
When I was shelving books today, I noticed one that disturbed me. It was called something like Homosexuality: A Freedom Too Far, and was shelved next to books about masochism. I read the dust jacket flap, and it said something about how homosexuality being removed from the list of psychological disorders was a political move that hurt gay rights in the long run. There was also some garbage about how homosexuality could be treated, allowing gays to live normal lives with women and children who love them. I'm paraphrasing, but what it said was frighteningly close to that. The even scarier part is that the fact that I was shelving this book apparently means someone had checked it out. I'm just hoping that they were reading it in order to debunk it, or that they needed an alternate point of view for some paper they were writing.


 
Sometimes I feel like I'm a very boring person.

I really need to get back to work on my Oz manuscript. I've written a lot of it, but the story hasn't really gone much of anywhere. If it's ever published (yeah, right), quite a bit will probably need to be cut out.

Those two things don't have anything to do with each other. Hopefully, anyway.


Tuesday, January 20
 
A discussion that seems to come up on a lot of forums in which I've taken part is that of whether it's better for something you like to be remain obscure or become popular. On the one hand, there can be a sense of satisfaction in liking something that's essentially a hidden treasure, and that only you and a select few others truly appreciate. Having a fairly obscure interest in common can also be a good way to meet like-minded people, although it certainly doesn't always work; there's pretty much always going to be someone annoying who likes any particular thing you do, no matter how obscure or unpopular. On the other side of the argument, if you like something, it's natural to want other people to like it as well. If you really think a particular band or book or whatever is excellent, you might well believe that it SHOULD be famous, and that the creators should be recognized for their genius. Both sides of this argument have some merit, and, in my mind, a lot of it comes down to HOW the particular thing would become popular. If a lot more similarly-minded people become awared of this thing, and it becomes fairly popular that way, I'd say that's generally a good thing, although it has some drawbacks. For instance, in terms of bands, there's the issue of popularity resulting in more crowded, less intimate concerts. Still, at least these new fans are liking the band (or whatever; I'm mostly thinking of bands and music here, but I want to keep my rant fairly general here) for what it is. I think what really irritates fans is when they see a good ol' sellout taking place. That's a term that tends to be thrown around where it isn't entirely appropriate; I don't think having a song played in a car commercial is selling out, although I DO have to say that some car advertisers seem to choose rather odd songs for their commercials. I don't even think making some changes to appeal to a larger audience is necessarily bad, but changing TOO much can result in losing what was unique, and what attracted people to a particular thing in the first place.

So, in summary: More people coming to appreciate something obscure: Good. Selling out: Bad. That's really pretty obvious, isn't it?


Monday, January 19
 
Someone on the alt.music.tmbg newsgroup brought this to my attention. It's a pretty funny piece from Weird Al.

And, to continue my trend of ranting about things no one seems to care about, why would you make a cover band that only covers songs by one other band or artist? Isn't that rather limiting?

I guess that's all I have to say for now.


Sunday, January 18
 
I've been thinking about two things recently:

1. Is it just me, or are there a lot of pushy parents around nowadays? You know, the kinds who force their daughters into dancing lessons and their sons into sports as soon as they (the kids, that is) can walk, and then pile all kinds of other extracurricular activities on top of that. I'm not saying that I have anything against kids participating in a variety of activities, just that I think it's really overkill with some people, and it seems to be getting worse. Children DO need some free time, don't they? Besides, shouldn't the parents let the KIDS decide what activities they want to do?

2. I'm not a fan of MP3-only releases by bands. That's not to say I haven't bought a few, namely the They Might Be Giants releases from eMusic (Long Tall Weekend, the "Working Undercover For The Man" EP, and TMBG Unlimited). I almost certainly would have bought these same things if they had been released on regular CDs, though. While downloading songs is easy, convenient, and usually relatively cheap, I still prefer going out and buying albums in a tangible format. Maybe it's partially because I'm one of those losers who actually reads liner notes. That's not to mention that MP3-only releases are isolating those who: a) don't have computers, b) don't have credit cards, and/or c) live in certain parts of the world where these MP3 releases aren't available. I'm not saying that it's wrong to release albums on MP3, as there ARE advantages to it, and I have a few burned CDs full of stuff I downloaded from eMusic, and I probably won't buy the CDs. My point is that I don't think anything should ONLY be released on MP3s, at least not until technology has reached the point where it's cheaper and easier to utilize them.


Saturday, January 17
 
There was just a big rush of women checking out children's books. I wonder what THAT was all about. Probably something to do with some class.


 
I'm at work. I just got finished stamping the library's name on a bunch of bound journals. Talk about busywork! Oh, well.


Friday, January 16
 
I volunteered at Longwood Gardens again today, and then did some shopping in Delaware. I didn't buy myself anything (aside from lunch at Chick-Fil-A), though. I think I'm at a point where there are a lot of things (mostly CDs, but a few books and video games as well) I sort of want, but nothing I really, really want, and it's easier to justify spending money on the latter. That's not to mention that quite a few things I want are out of print and/or generally hard to find. I guess that's what I get for liking stuff that's non-mainstream and not that new. I tend to find myself envying people who buy, like, twenty CDs at once; I wish I had the money to afford to do that, and that there was that much I wanted in one place.

Speaking of CD stores, I've found that I prefer CDs to be arranged in categories as broad as possible. I don't shop for music by genre. Most of what I buy would probably be considered alternative pop/rock, or something like that, but there can be some ambiguity there. A music store near my old school had an "alternative" section, and another one called something like "pop" or "rock," and I wasn't always sure where to look for any one particular thing, and I don't know that the staff always knew where to put things, either. There were, for instance, Moxy Früvous albums in both sections (apparently only You Will Go to the Moon is considered "alternative"). I'd say that, as a general rule, "alternative" music IS pop/rock (pretty much the same thing nowadays), and putting it in its own section just complicates matters. I guess I can see putting stuff like country or rap in separate sections, but what about stuff that can be considered "alt-country," or "rock-rap," or any of the cross-genre labels that have been in vogue as of late? Oh, and I prefer everything, no matter how obscure, just being in alphabetical order, rather than having the "Miscellaneous [insert letter here]" sections, although if the store isn't any good at alphabetizing (which seems to be the case with some stores, especially places like Circuit City), it doesn't really matter that much.


Thursday, January 15
 
My windshield wiper blade broke again. This was the second time in less than a month. I don't know whether the guy did a bad job replacing it last time, or it would have broken anyway, but the fact that it's the same wiper makes me suspicious.


 
Poetry
You are Poetry.
You are often the most emotional of the arts. You
are introverted, in that you tend to let people
come to you rather than trying to get their
attention. You get along well with Music and
Literature.


What form of art are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

I'm not really a big poetry fan. Some of it is all right, but I think I'm more into simple verse than complicated, artistic stuff.


 
Stupid snow. At least there wasn't that much of it.

I was thinking recently about how the whole Death Row thing doesn't make much sense. I don't really know that much about it, but I've heard that some people are there for years. Now, I'm not totally sure how I feel about the death penalty in and of itself. I understand that innocent people are sometimes executed, and I think that's definitely something that should be avoided. I guess the old saying about letting guilty people go free rather than making innocent people suffer applies here. On the other hand, if it's known for sure that someone is guilty of murder, why waste money and resources keeping them alive if they're just going to be killed anyway? I tend to think that, if someone feels remorse, they'd rather just die than have to live with what they've done. In the (possibly more frequent) cases where the killer feels no remorse, is this really someone who needs to keep living? Really, I think it might be more cruel and unusual (well, maybe not so much unusual) to keep someone on Death Row than just to execute them right away. But that's just not how the American justice system works.

Forgive me if the above paragraph is stupid. I usually avoid politics for a reason.


Wednesday, January 14
 
This wasn't a particularly good quiz. Oh, well.

Toadstool
Toadstool


Which Super Mario RPG character are you?
brought to you by Quizilla


 
I ended up oversleeping a bit this morning, and ended up signing on to Q&A NJ about ten minutes late. I stayed on for an extra ten minutes at the end, though, so I guess it balances out.

I've been playing The Sims again as of late. I'm trying to get one of my characters to climb the fame ladder, but in order to get any farther, she has to make two famous friends. You can invite celebrities over to your house, but the interactions with them are different (no tickling or backrubs, apparently), and, based one the one example I've seen, they seem to dislike the vast majority of them. The Superstar expansion pack apparently also makes people get out of the hot tub for no apparent reason, which is annoying, since that's the main way I've had my Sims make friends in the past. I actually think the newest expansion pack, Makin' Magic, might be more fun. I guess magic items in a game that was originally supposed to simulate ordinary life is kind of a weird concept, but I'm a nerd who pretends that some of my characters are wizards anyway, so this would be a way to make that more convincing. I glanced at a strategy guide in EB Games, and apparently you have to mix various spell components together to do magic, like it's The Secret of Evermore or something. (Does anyone else remember that game?)


 

discover what candy you are @ quiz me


I've never actually had Lemonheads, and I don't think I want to.


Tuesday, January 13
 
I'm at work now, and I'll be here until 4 or 5. I probably shouldn't have agreed to work today (I wasn't originally on the schedule), but I said I could without really thinking about it, so now I'm stuck here. It's not that I mind working, just that it results in some other inconveniences. Oh, well. There's nothing I can do about it now.

Yesterday, Beth and I went up to New York City for the They Might Be Giants show at Joe's Pub. We met erin in North Jersey, and took the PATH into the city. Before the show, we went to some store that sells cute stuff (I forget what it was called), Wendy's, and Kmart. Then we met Stephanie at the pub, and went inside for the show, which was fun. They played pretty much the same set that they did the last time we saw them, but it was cool to hear stuff like "Metal Detector," "Mr. Me," and "Stalk Of Wheat" again. I'm still not a big fan of their Beach Boys cover, "Caroline, No," though. While I have nothing against the Beach Boys, and I think they have some good songs, I sometimes think they get a little too much credit, especially from other musicians. It's like, in order to be a musician, you have to cover at least one Beach Boys song, and think Pet Sounds is the greatest album ever. Speaking of musicians who might get too much credit, does Mark Pender get a lot of applause just because he's on TV, or is he really a super-awesome trumpet player? I guess I don't really know enough about the trumpet to judge, but I don't recall Jim O'Connor ever getting anywhere near as much attention. Oh, and I think I said this last time I went to a Joe's Pub show, but forcing customers to buy drinks when they've already paid a fairly high price just to get into the show is Not Cool. Beth actually had the idea that they should raise the cover charge and give everyone a free drink, so that the drink becomes more of a bonus than a hidden fee, and I thought that was a good idea.

After the show, we went to eat a Japanese restaurant. I had some kind of dish that consisted of shrimp, chicken, egg, and vegetables in noodle soup. I wasn't sure how an egg would taste in a soup like that, and I can tell you it ended up tasting like you might expect, which is to say: weird. The rest of the soup was good, though. I didn't try any sushi, but maybe I should someday. Beth liked hers, but Beth likes a wider variety of food than I do.


Sunday, January 11
 
I didn't care that much for tonight's Simpsons episode, mostly because I found killing off the cats to be rather mean-spirited and pointless. The main plot was okay, but nothing spectacular. The funniest part was probably Homer's dream about being killed by a robot at the Academy Awards, or maybe Dr. Hibbert's Kool and the Gang air freshener.


 
I read Beth's blog entry about wanting to make friends, and I guess I'm in much the same situation. The thing is, though, that being largely alone doesn't bother me as much as it used to. When I was in college, everyone else seemed to have friends, and while I hung around with people, going to the cafeteria with them and such, I never really felt that close to anyone. The fact that other people around me seemed to have more friends than I did, and hence to be happier than I was, made me jealous. Nowadays, I don't see as many people hanging out with their friends, so I don't feel as much need to compare myself to others in this respect, so I just don't think of it all that much. Besides, I have Beth, and I'm very close to her. I do sometimes find myself wishing I could meet new people, but I have no idea how to go about it, in either the online or the offline world. I guess the most success I had meeting people was on the TMBG off-topic list, which is where I met Beth, as well as Colleen and Jamal, whom I've actually met and hung around with, and several other people I've never met in person, but I still communicate with online. But I didn't join that list with the express intention of making friends; that was a pleasant but unexpected outcome. I'm not the kind of person who feels comfortable going somewhere or doing something (on the Internet or otherwise) just to meet people. I'm signed up for Friendster, but the only people I've communicated with through that were ones I already knew. Besides, I'm too shy, scared, and worried to just start talking to someone I don't know. To get technical about it, I guess I don't want to MEET new people; rather, I'd like to already KNOW more people than I do now, but I realize that's not possible. Like I said, my inability to make friends hasn't bothered me much as of late, but I sometimes feel that it would be nice to have more people to talk to.


 
Cold weather sucks. One of the water pipes at home froze, and now there's no hot water upstairs. Good thing I'm not going to be there for a little while.

Yesterday, I won Dragon Warrior Monsters. Well, pretty much, anyway, in that I won the Starry Night Tournament. There's still some more to the game, apparently, but I guess I can technically say I won it. I believe that Terry, the hero of the game, is also the main character in Dragon Warrior VI. I wish they'd bring the fourth and fifth Dragon Quest (as it's known in Japan) games to the States, preferably for PC, or maybe GameBoy Advance (I don't have one of those, but translations of those games for the system might be the necessary catalyst for my buying one).

I'm also pretty much done reading the TMBG off-topic list archives, which I starting doing back in November. Reading through all of those old posts was generally interesting and enjoyable, if time-consuming. There were a LOT of posts (I'm talking hundreds every month, and sometimes over 1000) for about a year, between the summers of 1999 and 2000. In the fall of 2000, however, posts became MUCH more sporadic. This coincides somewhat with when blogging became a big thing, and people blogging what they might otherwise have sent to the list was probably a major factor in its demise, albeit not the only one. I'm still somewhat surprised by how rapidly it became such a high-traffic forum, and how briefly this period of high traffic actually lasted. It's definitely a list that lived fast and died young, as the old saying goes.


Saturday, January 10
 
Well, I got my car tuned up and my hair cut, and I bought some new pants at Kmart. I guess I'm in pretty good shape. I also went with my mom and brother to see Big Fish, which I thought was good, if kind of sad at the end. The father's story about knowing how he was going to die reminded me of the Stavromula Beta bit from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. My mom said that she thought the fighting tree was a Wizard of Oz reference, but I'm not sure about that. It didn't really make me think of it, and there have been fighting trees in other stories.

Anyway, for your reading pleasure (or lack thereof, perhaps), here are some types of people I just can't understand:

People who purposely buy overpriced stuff for "status" reasons. Maybe it's mostly because I'm not rich, but plenty of other non-rich people do some things of the sort, like high school kids getting clothes from the trendy stores at the mall instead of, say, Kmart (buying pants at Kmart today was what actually made me think of this) or Wal-Mart. I guess I've just been brought up to be a bargain hunter, for the most part. Now, there are some things that are only cheap because they're crappy, and I can see paying a few extra dollars for something if it's supporting a business that can't afford to sell things as cheaply as a store like Wal-Mart. (I'll buy things at Wal-Mart, and the prices are generally good, but I really don't support their "let's bankrupt the competition" business practices.) It's the "this is better simply because it's more expensive" kind of philosophy I really don't get.

Homophobes. How does it hurt a straight person for someone else to be gay? Yeah, I know some people say they hate homosexuality for religious reasons (and often add in some bullshit about how they don't hate gay PEOPLE, just the ACT of being gay, which is an immoral choice, and blah blah blah), but, even if they turn out to be right about this (which is highly unlikely, but who knows what God thinks, if He exists at all?), why do they worry so much about people they don't like ending up in Hell?

Really competitive people. SOME level of competition is natural, but isn't thinking you have to be better than other people to have any self-worth kind of pathetic?

I was thinking of saying something about people being really obsessed with sports, but I probably have plenty of obsessions that sports fans wouldn't understand. Then again, I don't think riots have ever broken out over Oz books.

I'm sure I'll come up with more types of people to add to this list later on, but that's all I can think of just now.


Friday, January 9
 
I took this survey.

Your Results:

1. Your ideal theoretical candidate. (100%)
2. Green Party Candidate (94%)
3. Socialist Candidate (84%)
4. Clark, Retired General Wesley K., AR - Democrat (72%)
5. Moseley-Braun, Former Senator Carol, IL - Democrat (71%)
6. Dean, Gov. Howard, VT - Democrat (70%)
7. Kucinich, Rep. Dennis, OH - Democrat (70%)
8. Sharpton, Reverend Al - Democrat (63%)
9. Edwards, Senator John, NC - Democrat (59%)
10. Gephardt, Rep. Dick, MO - Democrat (59%)
11. Kerry, Senator John, MA - Democrat (57%)
12. LaRouche, Lyndon H. Jr. - Democrat (38%)
13. Lieberman, Senator Joe, CT - Democrat (36%)
14. Libertarian Candidate (19%)
15. Bush, President George W. - Republican (12%)
16. Phillips, Howard - Constitution (11%)


 
So, let's see. Last night, I went out to eat at Friday's with Beth and her cousin Mark. We had bad service and they were out of the dessert that Beth wanted, but it was still pretty fun. I later had a dream that was going to volunteer at some place near a Pizza Hut. I'm not sure exactly what the place was, but I seem to recall seeing some sign about its being a wild bird center, which might have been inspired by the fact that Meyer from the off-topic list is planning on working at one (or might have already started by this point). Anyway, there was a lot of tall grass near the Pizza Hut, and I was trying to drive through it with Beth, and my car kept getting stuck and turning around and stuff. By the time I made it to the Pizza Hut, the lady I was supposed to meet had left long ago. After that, Beth wanted us to walk down some side street, but then she remembered she’d left her dog Dewey in the car.

Speaking of volunteering, I did some cataloging today at Longwood Gardens. It was pretty easy and enjoyable, except for the few times when a record didn’t exist. I’m hoping it will come in handy in a later job that actually pays something, and Longwood Gardens is a nice place to work. After I was done volunteering, I got some pizza (not at Pizza Hut, though; there are none of those in my area, since the local franchise went bankrupt) and went to a record store, where I bought a few singles that were in the discount bin (Tori Amos’ “Raspberry Swirl,” Blur’s “Tender,” and XTC’s “I’m The Man Who Murdered Love”), as well as Gentleman’s Blues, a Cracker album I didn’t have yet. Oh, and I heard XTC on the radio (specifically, “Earn Enough For Us” on WXPN), so that was cool.


Thursday, January 8
 
I spent a little time playing my Pokémon from Pokémon Yellow in Beth's copy of Pokémon Stadium. (Hmm, did I overuse the word "Pokémon" in that last sentence?) In the gym battles, I beat Brock easily, but was creamed by Misty. Maybe I'll try again later. Anyway, it's neat to see the Pokémon battle with better graphics and animation. The Stadium version of Kadabra is always holding a spoon, and it falls on him when he gets knocked out. As far as the mini-games in Stadium, that one with the Rattatas jumping over hurdles annoys me. Beth is good at that one, but I suck at it. I'm pretty good with the Clefairy one, which involves memorizing patterns, but I still don't like it much. The sushi-eating one is just weird.

I still need to get my hair cut. I hate getting haircuts. I haven't gotten a good one in two years or so.


Wednesday, January 7
 
I just beat Super Mario RPG. I had gotten stuck fighting Exor a few months ago, but I finally was able to defeat him today, and it only took me a couple of tries to beat Smithy, the final bad guy. The ending was kind of short, but we got to see most of the game's major characters again, which was cool. The credits were accompanied by a parade (with rather poorer graphics than the rest of the game, for some reason), led by Luigi, in his only appearance in the game. I'm not sure Super Mario RPG was all that popular, what with its not being a traditional Mario game, yet having relatively simple gameplay and plotting compared to many other RPGs. Besides, there was an abudance of corny jokes. As someone who likes both Mario games and RPGs, but isn't especially good at the former (and probably not even the latter, compared to many RPG fans), and who appreciates the occasional corny joke, I have to say that I enjoyed it overall.

I guess the next game I'll have to win is Dragon Warrior Monsters.


Tuesday, January 6
 
Beth and I volunteered at WHYY today. I'm going to do some cataloging at Longwood Gardens on Friday. It's good to be volunteering again, I guess.

I need to get a haircut and have my car tuned up soon. I should probably also buy some new pants.


Monday, January 5
 
Last night, I finished reading Terry Pratchett's Monstrous Regiment. I thought it was a good read, as is typical for Discworld books. It was nice to see a setting other than Ankh-Morpork. Borogravia had been mentioned before, and now we finally get to see what it's like. Nuggan, introduced, if I remember correctly, for a brief joke in The Last Hero, became a more major plot point for this new book. I liked the running gag of the Borogravian officers' names, and the twist ending was interesting. It actually reminded me slightly of The Fifth Elephant. I still haven't read The Wee Free Men, so maybe I should try to find that next.

Based on what I've heard so far, the Magnetic Fields' 69 Love Songs is really cool. I guess everyone else already knows that by now, though. I'm somewhat behind the times in getting into the Magnetic Fields. {g}


Sunday, January 4
 
Apparently, somebody actually drew a map of Springfield (the Simpsons' hometown, not one of many other towns with that name). I seem to recall hearing on the Season One DVD commentary that the staff had originally tried to work out a map of Springfield, but then decided it would work better if they didn't, or something like that. Many later jokes (one bridge being the only way out of town, West Springfield being three times the size of Texas, the entire town being moved five miles down the road) make accurately mapping Springfield just as impossible as locating it on a map of the United States, but these people still did a really good job. I like maps of imaginary places. By the way, does anyone else see this map as resembling Philadelphia somewhat? If you compare the Springfield River to the Schuylkill, Jebediah Springfield Park would be Fairmount Park, and Springfield University would be around where University City is. Maybe I'm just seeing these similarities because I'm more familiar with Philadelphia than with other cities, though.

Speaking of The Simpsons, tonight's episode wasn't one of the better ones this season overall, but I laughed at quite a few things, and that's mostly what the show is there for, isn't it? I used to have to listen to Raffi albums back when I worked at a toy store. They were pretty annoying, but not as oddly memorable as the "reggae for kids" CD, which featured "Rasta Row The Boat Ashore" and a reggae cover of the Beatles' "Goodbye Hello."


 
I just recently finished updating the New Jersey Administrative Code (by putting the relevant pages in binders, not by actually passing new laws), and now I should start writing up the reference statistics for the year in Excel. My job sure is exciting, isn't it? {g}


Saturday, January 3
 
So, I saw The Return of the King today. There are some spoilers in what follows, so if you're the kind of person who cares about that kind of thing and you haven't seen the movie and/or read the book, you might want to skip the part in between the asterisks.

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Overall, I thought it was probably the best of the trilogy, although, since they're all part of the same story, it might not make that much sense to rate it in that way. As in the other films, the scenery was excellent. The white city of Minas Tirith stood out as one of my favorite scenes, but I also liked Mordor and the Shire. I thought starting out the movie with Gollum's origin was a neat touch. I was looking forward to Shelob the giant spider's appearance in the LAST movie, since she had appeared in the second book, but I guess they figured that movie was long enough anyway, so she was in Return of the King instead, and I think she was pretty well-done. (By the way, I used to pronounce the spider's name as "Shell-ob" until I read somewhere that it was derived from "she" (as in "female") plus "lob" (an archaic word for "spider"), and the movie supported the "shee-lob" pronunciation.) A few more random observations:

1. I thought the cartoony technique of showing Frodo's footprints when he was invisible seemed a bit corny and out of place in the film, but I'm not sure how it could have been done any better.
2. Didn't Merry and Pippin grow abnormally tall for hobbits in the books, due to their drinking Entdraught? They remained typical hobbit size throughout the movies.
3. Wasn't the Steward of Gondor (Denethor?) a horrible father? "Son, I wish you had died, instead of your brother! Now I'm going to try to burn you alive!"
4. I kind of wish they'd kept in the part where Saruman had taken over the Shire, but I guess that would have made an already really long movie longer than anyone would want to sit through.
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Oh, and I heard Neko Case on the radio for the first time ever. Well, I'd heard the New Pornographers on the radio, but not just her. WHYY (where I'm going to volunteer on Tuesday) was doing some Hank Williams tribute, and they played her version of "Alone And Forsaken." It was cool.


 
Don't let your children be exposed to the evils of homosexuality, liberalism, and free thought! Read the music reviews here before buying them a new album!

Seriously, while the conservative, homophobic, pro-marriage, anti-free-thought bias is obvious in these reviews, what I object to almost as much is that they apparently think kids are so stupid and impressionable as to take anything they hear in a song literally and seriously. Okay, so a lot of kids probably ARE that stupid, but still. Here's an excerpt from a review of Cracker's Forever:

A nonsensical song finds a man interested in a pot-smoking mermaid ("Brides of Neptune"). Closer to reality are references to marijuana and Tanqueray on "Strange." On that track, a guy visits a bar frequented by a gregarious homosexual known as "big, tall, gay Joey."

So what? hearing these songs is going to make you smoke pot and become gay? I'm a Cracker fan, and I've never done either. I've also never become a serial hammer murderer, despite liking the Beatles' "Maxwell's Silver Hammer," another song that these people object to. In their review of Dido's No Angel, they say, "The artist (who is single) fails to provide marital context on the morally ambiguous 'My Lover’s Gone,' 'Hunter' and 'All You Want.'" Um, what context do they have for even thinking these songs are supposed to be any more than fiction? (I don't know whether Dido's songs are autobiographical or not, but the reviewer's pointing out that she's single suggests that he assumes they are, apparently with no basis for doing so.) The A*Teens apparently covered Alice Cooper's "School's Out" (a ridiculous enough concept in and of itself), and the review says, "While it’s natural for kids to welcome summer vacation, a remake of Alice Cooper’s 'School’s Out' goes so far as to say, 'We might not come back at all . . . School’s out completely.'" Even if you agree with these people's postions (which I obviously don't), does anyone really think listening to these songs is going to turn people into gay junkie serial killers who drop out of school and have premarital sex?


Friday, January 2
 
So how did that Norwegian guy win the World Idol competition? I don't really remember him too well, but I don't recall being particularly impressed by him. Of course, I've never been a fan of U2, and he sang a U2 song. Then again, I've never been a Nirvana fan either, and I thought that Belgian (Was he Belgian? I can't remember for sure) or whatever singing the Nirvana song was pretty cool. That might have a lot to do with the fact that he did something different, though. People in those Idol competitions have a tendency to sing similar kinds of songs, usually easy-listening ballad type stuff. I know the one judge said the guy who won looked like a hobbit, so Beth and I figured that might be part of why he won, what with the current popularity of The Lord of the Rings.

Oh, and after dinner at some brewery restaurant tonight, I gave my dad and his wife and parents their presents. They seemed to like them.


 
Earlier tonight, Beth and I went out to eat at Chili's with my dad, his wife Barbara, and his parents. That was pretty fun. I hadn't seen my grandparents in a while. After that, they gave us some Christmas presents. I got some money from my grandparents, and a shirt, The Remains of Tom Lehrer (a box set containing all of Lehrer's recorded songs), and Eric Shanower's The Salt Sorcerer of Oz and Other Stories. I still need to give them their gifts, so I'll do that tomorrow.


Thursday, January 1
 
Beth got the new Mario Kart Double Dash GameCube game for Christmas, and it's a really cool game. The choice of drivers is pretty nice, and it's good to see Birdo getting some recognition. I have to wonder why Wart never appears in any games nowadays, though. Come on, he was the big boss in Super Mario Bros. 2, and then he just disappeared, letting Bowser take control of his henchmen? I think the worst choices of drivers, however, were Baby Mario and Luigi. While I've never played the games, I think that at least Baby Mario might have appeared in Mario Golf and Tennis, too. First of all, how is it possible for the brothers to appear both as babies AND adults? Wouldn't that cause a rip in the space-time continuum or something? Besides, the babies are annoying. Aren't there other small characters they could have used in their place? Maybe a Shyguy and a Ninji or something? Would a Ninji be able to drive a kart?

Oh, and those Kidz Bop CDs are just wrong. Thank you.


 
What do you think of the new colors? I'm wondering if I should change that light blue in the background, but I'm not sure what would be better.


 
Happy New Year!

I didn't do anything special for this New Year's Eve. It doesn't really feel like it should be a new year, anyway. Oh, well.