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Saturday, October 30
Going back to my whole anti-war thing from yesterday, one particularly disturbing thing about the recently discovered Osama bin Laden video is that, in some ways, his position doesn't seem to be that much different from that of many American leaders, or, for that matter, leaders in many (and possibly most) other countries.

"God knows that it had not occurred to our mind to attack the towers, but after our patience ran out and we saw the injustice and inflexibility of the American-Israeli alliance toward our people in Palestine and Lebanon, this came to my mind. The incidents that affected me directly go back to 1982 and afterward, when America allowed Israelis to invade Lebanon, with the help of the American 6th Fleet."

So, if you're pissed off at the American government, you attack innocent people in the World Trade Center. And if you're pissed off about Al Qaeda, you attack innocent people in the Middle East. It also helps if people on your OWN side die in the process. The fact that someone lives in the same general proximity as someone you hate is reason enough to have them killed. Am I interpreting the warmongers' mentality correctly here? It also seems to be the case that everyone sees someone else as the aggressor, so they attack that aggressor, and then become aggressors to the people they just attacked. Talk about a vicious circle.

Now, I'm not saying that it would solve all our problems if we just had the leaders fight each other without involving their citizens. It would be a nice start, perhaps, but, unfortunately, things just aren't that simple. I'm also not saying that I don't see any difference between the American government and terrorist groups like Al Qaeda. I AM saying, however, that using war and tit-for-tat retaliation as the primary means to settle disputes pretty much guarantees that the cycle is never going to end.

On a lighter note, I'm hoping to be able to finish assembling my pirate costume tonight.

So, tonight, Beth, Dorothea, and I went on the same haunted hayride that Beth and I had been on in both 2002 and 2003. It was fun, and a lot of it was the same as it was in the previous two years, but there were a few differences. For instance, the guy in the witch's cauldron who had previously danced to Eminem's "The Real Slim Shady" had switched to Michael Jackson's "Bad." They also added a dance by stripping skeletons, which was amusing, but went on a little too long. The peeing skeletons were exactly the same as they had been before, though.

After the hayride, we went out to eat at Friday's. Now, Beth and Dorothea are watching Candyman, but since I just saw that not too long ago at the Monster-Mania Convention, I'm on the computer writing this entry, rather than watching it with them.

I need to get my car's oil changed soon.

Oh, and I got this quiz from sarah:

You're Ontario. You like comraderie and will do
whatever you can to fit in with your desired
crowd. You may even be very exclusive in who
you associate with. Money and status means a
lot to you. But try not to let those desires
rule your life.

What Canadian Province Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Friday, October 29
The lawsuit against Bill O'Reilly was settled out of court. That's too bad, not only because I wanted to hear the tapes that allegedly exist, but because I wanted him exposed for the jerky pervert he is. I'm not sure whether the fact that the plaintiff was willing to settle out of court means there was some kind of dirty work on O'Reilly's part (which wouldn't surprise me), or he really was innocent of these particular charges. I mean, I still suspect he was guilty, but O'Reilly is such a freak that it would be easy to level false charges against him and have people believe them. You know, kind of like Michael Jackson. (Whatever happened to that suit against him, anyway?)

On an unrelated (or maybe partially related in some way, but I can't think of a transition) note, I've been thinking about my anti-war stance. Not in regards to the war in Iraq in particular, but just to war in general. There might have been certain situations where going to war was the only immediately visible solution, or the lesser of two or more evil courses of action. I have to wonder, though, if this sometimes means people aren't thinking hard enough. I mean, sure, I can't always think of a viable alternative to war, but it isn't my job to come up with one, either. Aren't our elected officials theoretically supposed to be smarter than me? Isn't that supposed to be at least part of why they're running the government, and I'm not? The fact that these supposedly skilled officials can't come up with any better way to solve problems than the ancient notion of "might makes right" strikes me as rather pathetic, not to mention disturbing.

Wednesday, October 27
I bought some stamps last week, and they've since totally vanished. I probably dropped them in the mail slot with the stuff I was mailing, or something stupid like that. Which essentially means I threw away $7, or something like that. Hopefully they'll turn up at some point, but I wouldn't count on it.

Speaking of postal matters, I finished reading Going Postal. Overall, I think the later Discworld books are a lot more detailed, but less laugh-out-loud funny. I was amused by Bloody Stupid Johnson's letter-sorting machine, for which Johnson changed the value of pi to be exactly three. There was also a professor at Unseen University who had taken an Early Death package, which strikes me as quite similar to Hotblack Desiato's spending a year dead for tax reasons in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I guess there are quite a few similarities in the humor used by Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams, though.

It's kind of odd that the Discworld had the Clacks, basically an optical telegraph system that bears some similarities to the modern Internet, before they had postage stamps. I guess that kind of thing can be explained by Thief of Time, though. Pratchett does a good job at explaining how modern technologies, or fantastic equivalents thereof, show up in a fantasy world. I do think the series has definitely gotten more modern over time. Sure, there are still vampires, dwarfs, and trolls. Going Postal also introduces a wild banshee, who is very different from the civilized Ixolite from Reaper Man. I get the idea, however, that The Colour of Magic was largely an attempt to create a world where science and nature are governed by ridiculous superstitious notions (the world is carried on the back of a turtle, lightning is caused during battles between the gods, cameras and watches are operated by demons). While there are still some instances of such things in the more recent books, the general feel is more organized and realistic. While earlier books had the Discworld's inhabitants actively fighting off malls, movies, and rock music, more recent introductions like newspapers and Clacks towers not only stick around, but play large parts in later additions to the series. The main villain in Going Postal isn't an evil wizard or demon, but an unscrupulous businessman. I'm hardly saying anything that hasn't been said by plenty of other people about the way the Discworld series has developed, though. I think it's good that the world is broad enough to be able to fit both madcap comic fantasy AND stories about newspapers, armies, and the postal service.

My next book to read is Lemony Snicket's The Grim Grotto. So far, I've finished the first three chapters.

Monday, October 25
Philosophical Question of the Day: When your so-called "free time" is occupied largely with certain self-imposed obligations, even if these are FUN obligations, can it truly be considered free?

Okay, I guess the answer is yes. Still, though, it often seems like I almost force myself to do certain things on the Internet every day I'm online for a significant amount of time. I read all my e-mail (including mailing list stuff), write a journal entry, read other people's journals, and check a few Web-based forums. Of course, the whole reason I do these things is that they're fun for me, but I'll sometimes do them even when I'm not really in the mood. On the other hand, if I didn't structure my free time like this, I'd probably get bored. So it's not necessarily a bad thing, but it sometimes makes me feel like I have considerably less free time than I really do.

I really should spend more of my time looking for jobs, but that's just so frustrating for me. I've had so little luck in this respect that applying often strikes me as more trouble than it's worth. On the other hand, I DID get both of my current jobs around this time of year in 2002 and 2003, so maybe my time has come. I do have some résumés to send out. I also need to get a costume together for Halloween, and get a birthday present for my sister.

For anyone who's asked for a mix CD, they're coming along. I've actually finished Colleen's. I wish I knew how to make CD covers.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that Saturday was Weird Al's forty-fifth birthday. So I guess I'll mention it now. Happy belated birthday, Al.

Sunday, October 24
Yesterday, Beth and I went to Clementon Park for Hallo-Screams. They had a haunted train ride and mansion, and we went to both. There was a long wait for the train, and I'm not entirely sure why, since there were a lot of seats that they didn't bother using. I guess they would it would be too hard for the people in costumes to scare an entire long train of people. There was also a part where the passengers got off the train to walk down a haunted trail, and that might have been too difficult to manage with more than a few people. The haunted mansion had a lot of disorienting flashing lights, and one room where it felt like cobwebs were getting in your hair. I always admire the artistry that goes into haunted attractions. Incidentally, it seems to be an official rule that every haunted hayride or walk has to have at least one guy with a chainsaw. I guess The Texas Chainsaw Massacre set a trend in this respect, or something.

Clementon Park also has a new roller coaster, the Tsunami. This is a wooden coaster, with a large drop and a lot of parts where the track runs sideways. It's kind of rough, but a lot of fun. We ended up riding it three times with hardly any waiting. Indeed, only the haunted attractions really had any wait at all. We were able to get on pretty much every other ride almost immediately.

All the amusement park visits I've made as of late remind me how, when I was a kid, I used to design my own theme parks. I'm sure they weren't actually practical by real standards, but I tended to go into detail, drawing maps and even going so far as naming the parking lots and picnic groves. I remember coming up with ideas for parks based on Alice in Wonderland, mythology, computer games, and (as you might have guessed) the Oz books. Actually, there were plans for an Oz theme park at one point, but it would have been based more on the MGM movie than on the books. That would probably have made it a bigger draw than my park would have been. On the other hand, I don't know that their idea to build it in Kansas would have made it much of a draw. I think the idea for the Oz park has been pretty much abandoned anyway, for several reasons. There's some information on it here, if anyone's interested. (I doubt anyone is, but it doesn't hurt to put in the link, does it?)

Anyway, after Beth and I got back from Clementon Park, we watched Halloween 4. It was pretty good, but the second one is my favorite out of the ones I've seen. (For what it's worth, I've seen the first four, but the third one doesn't really count, since it's not part of the Michael Myers storyline. Since there are eight of them now, I've actually seen less than half of the movies with Myers, so I guess my opinion doesn't really count for much.) The fourth one really didn't show that much actual violence on screen.

Last night, I had an Oz-related dream, somehow involving Ojo's family. I don't remember much about that, though. The part I do remember was when there were two rhinoceroses on the lawn, and then a black rhino came along and drove the other two away. At second glance, though, the rhino became an elephant, and then was revealed to actually be a Shlagamore, a giant with two bodies, two heads, and a lot of arms. Even in the dream I thought this monster would be good to incorporate into a story. I'm a lot better at coming up with ideas than at actually sitting down and writing stories, though. I really do need to finish my Oz manuscript at some point, although I don't think the Shlagamore is going to show up in that one.

Finally, on my drive back from Beth's, I was flipping through the radio channels, and I came across a This American Life piece where Sarah Vowell talked about a Fastbacks superfan named Scott Lee. This guy knew obscure details about the songs that the band members themselves didn't know, which really doesn't surprise me much. That was pretty cool to hear. Incidentally, Ms. Vowell pronounced Kurt Bloch's last name like "block," which I guess makes sense, although I always mentally pronounced it in the German fashion. I guess five years of German classes will do that to you.

Saturday, October 23
Yeah, I know I just posted recently, but I thought of a few more things I wanted to say.

Is it too much to ask that the Internet actually work the way it's supposed to? Just recently, I ended up posting the same comment eight or so times to a livejournal. And Hotmail, which had actually been working all right in the past few days, decided to reverse my messages again. It was easily fixed, but I don't know if the problem will happen again. I certainly wouldn't doubt it.

Speaking of the Internet, can anyone explain the appeal of Friendster and similar services? I mean, I'm on there, but all I've ever done was add people I already knew from elsewhere. Other people seem to love it, though, so I wonder if I'm missing something. As far as meeting people goes, it strikes me as much less effective than livejournal, or, for that matter, just an old-fashioned mailing list. At least in those places you can find out more about a person than what can be found in a brief list of interests and other people they know. Maybe the Friendster appeal is more of a collecting thing than an actually-meeting-people thing. I don't know.

By the way, I'm not a big fan of the fall. I'm usually kind of depressed around this time of year. The cold weather and shorter days probably have something to do with that. I didn't realize how cold it was going to be yesterday, and I ended up walking around Great Adventure in just a T-shirt and sweatshirt (on my upper regions, that is; I'm not implying that I wasn't wearing pants {g}), which wasn't very comfortable. Cold weather requires too much preparation just to go outside.

Okay, let's see here. On Thursday night, Beth and I watched The People vs. Larry Flynt, which was pretty good. I wonder how close the events portrayed were to those in Flynt's actual life, though.

On Friday, we went to Great Adventure for Fright Fest. This was our last visit of the year. I'm not sure whether or not we'll get season passes for next year, but we very well might. The new roller coaster opening up last year is supposed to be the biggest in the world, or something like that. Anyway, the lines for most of the rides weren't bad at all, although they got worse as the day went on. The longest line was the one for Medusa, and that was about two hours or so before closing time. They were having technical difficulties with one of the cars for the Runaway Train right before we were going to ride it, so we ended up having to leave, which sucked. I did get to ride the Batman side of the Batman and Robin roller coaster for the first time. I think I actually like the Robin side better, but I'm glad I finally got to ride the other side. We were considering going on the haunted hayride, but the line was really long and barely moving, so we decided not to.

Today, we're planning on continuing our amusement park adventures with a trip to Clementon Park. We got free passes last time we went there, because the new roller coaster wasn't running. It should be running this time.

Oh, and last night I had a dream that I bought a bunch of Final Fantasy games at some used video game dealer for only $30. The only problem was that I didn't have a PlayStation to play them on.

Thursday, October 21
I begin this entry with some good and bad news about Camper Van Beethoven. The good news is that I heard an edited version of "51-7" on WXPN. I've also heard that the band recorded a session on the World Café, but I don't think it's been scheduled to air as of yet. The bad news is that the band's gear was stolen when they were in Montreal. The thieves cut into the trailer to steal the gear. Why anyone would go through all that trouble to get something that's of more value to the band than to anyone else is beyond me, but I guess that's one reason why I'm not a criminal.

Moving on to someone who probably could be a criminal, I read that Bush says Kerry's health care program would result in "big government," yet another term that Republicans like to throw around. Of course, Bush, as someone who increased government spending and size, is probably the last person who should be talking about this, but that goes back to the hypocritical thing I mentioned a few posts ago, I guess. The thing is, I'm sure a lot of parts of the United States government are overstaffed and overfunded. Certain functions of government need MORE money and people devoted to them, though, and I think health care is among them. After all, if people are sick or injured, what good are most other government programs going to do them? I believe the government needs to be restructured, and get its priorities in order. But I don't see the problem as big government as such, but rather as wasteful and disorganized government.

Finally, Beth dug into her collection of Halloween tapes last night, and pulled out the Halloween episode of Family Matters with the bank robbery, and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. One thing I noticed about Great Pumpkin was how padded out it was, what with the endless Snoopy vs. the Red Baron sequences. Now, I'm sure some people actually LIKE these sequences, but the excuse to put them in the Halloween special was rather flimsy. A Charlie Brown Christmas didn't seem padded at all. Why was it so much harder to stay on track with Halloween than with Christmas?

Wednesday, October 20
I must be a glutton for punishment, because I actually listened to a little bit of Rush Limbaugh yesterday on my way to work. In addition to something about how chocolate doughnuts help him regain his voice when he has a cold, and how the NAACP is giving out crack for votes, Rush replied to some caller asking about how the country could become more unified. Rush's answer was that the country didn't need to be unified, and how it was "the Left" that kept talking about unity. Who is it who's constantly saying that nobody should criticize the President, though? I don't have any hard numbers on the matter, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it isn't the Democrats. And wasn't it this same President who was applauded for saying he was "a uniter, not a divider" (in stark contrast to his supposed hero, if we're to believe Matthew 10:34-36), and was applauded for it by his supporters? I don't know for sure that Rush ever conveyed those opinions, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to find out that he did. But I shouldn't be surprised. This is coming from the type of people who accuse "the Left" of supporting panaceas (in a Xerox shop or otherwise), when Bush is proposing community college and tort reform as magical cures. Then we have Bush saying that Kerry is using "scare tactics," when he and Cheney are going around telling people that electing Kerry will make a terrorist attack on the United States more likely. And do you ever get the impression that the homophobes who are always yakking about the "gay agenda" are the ones who ACTUALLY have the agenda? Now, I don't want to stereotype all conservatives, or imply that people like Dubya and Rush speak for all of them (although it might not be entirely unfair to stereotype Limbaugh's fans, since calling yourself a "dittohead" suggests that you don't WANT to be seen as an individual), but certain parts of "the Right" seem to have more than their fair share of pots who call kettles black. I also don't know that ALL Democrats and Leftists are all that liberal, but I do get the general impression that "the Left" is more willing to tolerate dissent and recognize that there aren't always easy answers than "the Right," where the prevailing opinion at least appears to be that they're right, and everyone who doesn't agree with them is wrong.

I also got a Gmail account yesterday. I've heard about the security concerns with Gmail, but just having the account can't hurt anything, can it? I might end up using it as a backup e-mail system, at least for messages that aren't of a particularly private nature.

Monday, October 18
I saw a few seconds of a Bush speech, and he mentioned Kerry forgetting Poland again. Doesn't he know he's just adding fuel to a running Internet gag? {g}

I see that this page has links to the reviews of the two newest Fuzzy Warbles CDs on my blog. That's pretty cool.

Okay, I've had the chance to listen to both discs of Frank Black Francis, the newest Frank Black release, and I have some thoughts on it.

The first CD is made up of early demos of Pixies songs. They're just Frank with an acoustic guitar, and they're fairly rough, with Frank occasionally making vocal notes like "I'm singing the bass player's part" and "There's supposed to be a scream here." He also sings some short instrumental lines on "I've Been Tired," and the opening drum part to "Oh My Golly," which is amusing. The quality is surprisingly good, with "Isla De Encanta" actualy sounding a lot like the finished version. I wouldn't recommend these demos to anyone who isn't already familar with the songs, but for those of us who enjoy hearing how a song developed, they're nice to have. It's also the first real release of the song "Boom Chickaboom."

The second disc is, well, pretty darned weird. It's a CD of slow, stripped-down versions of Pixies songs, with brass and other musical effects added by the Two Pale Boys. Since I think a large part of what most people like about the Pixies is the relentless energy of their songs, a lot of these slowed-down versions come off as rather unsatisfying. I'm not very fond of the versions of "Nimrod's Son" and "Monkey Gone To Heaven," and the worst of all is the last track, an incredibly long take on "Planet Of Sound." While I like the faux-country guitar at the beginning of "Planet," the rest of the song is very repetitive. I sometimes get the feeling that repetition is a common crutch for people remixing or reworking songs. I guess it's fine when you're doing a remix of a song for, say, a dance club, where no one likely to pay any attention to the lyrics anyway, but it doesn't make for stuff that's much fun to listen to at home. And this take on "Planet" is certainly not a dance mix. On the other hand, I like the effects that are added to some of the songs, like the synthesized bells in "Levitate Me," and the fake violin on "Into The White." I also think the slow, brassy versions of "Velouria" and "Holiday Song" work pretty well, even if they're nowhere near as good as the originals.

I don't think I'll be listening to either disc of this release all that much, but it's an interesting concept, and good to have for when I might be in the mood for demos or weird reworkings.

Apparently Bush is ahead in the polls again. Why anyone except maybe the richest people in the country would want to vote for him is beyond me, but I guess some Americans still buy the "Bush is the only one who can protect you from terrorists!" nonsense.

Anyway, as I indicated I was going to do in my last post, I met up with my dad and his wife Barbara yesterday after work, and we went out to eat at an Italian restaurant. I had a pizza, and cheesecake for dessert. After dinner, I saw the van in which they drove up from New Mexico, and met their dogs, Graham and Lizzie.

While waiting for my dad to make it to dinner, I finished reading A Hat Full of Sky, Terry Pratchett's third young adult Discworld novel. It's a direct sequel to The Wee Free Men, and I probably liked it better than that or The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. Hat tells about Tiffany Aching's training to become a witch. It elaborates upon the lives and duties of Discworld witches, and, as in Lords and Ladies, there are some younger witches arguing with how the more traditional ones do things. Unlike L&L, though, this book doesn't see the argument primarily from the viewpoint of the older witches. As with many recent Discworld books, an established character (Granny Weatherwax, in this case) has an important role, but we see her mostly through the eyes of new characters.

I found the hiver, a magical being that takes over living beings' minds and gives them what they think they want, to be an interesting creation, and its defeat was cleverly done. Some amusing ideas in the book included Miss Level's two bodies and the plants with natural writing on them (explained in the Author's Note as a parody on the Doctrine of Signatures). And XTC fans might be interested in knowing that the Discworld's chalk country has its own equivalent of the Uffington White Horse, which appears on the cover of English Settlement.

After finishing Hat, I read the second chapter of Going Postal. So far, I can't see why Colleen thinks Stanley is similar to me.

Saturday, October 16
I played a bit of Paper Mario 2 at GameStop today. It was pretty fun, although I'm sure it would be better if I really knew what was going on. The demos of games like that often leave out some necessary back story. I didn't buy anything at the store, although there were a few things I wouldn't mind having. Maybe it's time to add some more stuff to my Amazon wish list.

So, I've had a chance to listen to New Roman Times, the new Camper Van Beethoven album, a few times. I don't think I'll do a song-by-song review (not just now, anyway), but I do have some thoughts on the record.

First of all, I really do like the title, which is a clever play on words, especially in the current age of fonts becoming known to the general public. It's a concept album, telling the story of a soldier from an alternate Texas that's a republic separate from the United States. That's what I've gathered from various articles on the album, anyway. The parallel universe thing isn't really described in the liner notes, although there are short descriptions of each song that explain how they fit into the general story. Fortunately, I don't think it's necessary to know the story to enjoy the songs. There's a mention in "New Roman Times" about Las Vegas being a province in the Republic of California, which makes more sense if you know about the concept, but since when do Camper songs have to make sense?

One thing that struck me about this album was the amount of explicit drug references. I mean, I got the impression that the band members did drugs, but I don't recall their being mentioned so often on previous CVB albums. I see that as more of a Cracker kind of thing. I guess that's not really a good or a bad thing, although my personal anti-drug stance makes me a little bit uneasy when listening to songs about drugs. I realize that I don't have to agree with the songs I like, though, and it isn't like the songs are exactly ADVOCATING drugs, anyway.

Anyway, the song that really stands out for me, as a person who tends to go for the catchy, energetic stuff first, is "Militia Song." I'd heard the demo back when it was called "Unabomber Song," and I thought it was good then, but it's even better (and faster) now. I've seen it suggested that the name of the song was changed so it wouldn't be such an obvious reference to Ted Kaczynski. For what it's worth, Kaczynski really DID "study mathematics at Berkeley." He was an associate professor there for a short time. Anyway, I have to give CVB credit for coming up with such a fun song about an insane mail bomber.

"51-7," "That Gum You Like Is Back In Style," and "Might Makes Right" are other early favorites of mine. As is typical for a CVB album, there are several instrumentals, the best of which (both in terms of the title and the actual music) is "R 'n' R Uzbekistan." It's very reminiscent of some of the band's earliest instrumentals, and would have fit quite well on Telephone Free Landslide Victory. I will say that the album is somewhat front-loaded, as far as the easily accessible songs go. There's more weird experimental stuff towards the end, including a cover of a minimalist song called "Come Out," which I don't really like that much. I'll probably come to appreciate these songs more as time goes on, though. Anyway, "Hippy Chix," with a violin part somewhat similar to that in "Pictures Of Matchstick Men," is a catchy song that's near the end of the album, and "Hey Brother" is a good way to end the whole thing.

David Lowery must be very fond of the phrase "cigarettes and carrot juice." It was the opening line of Cracker's "Big Dipper," and now it serves the same purpose in "The Long Plastic Hallway." It was also the title of CVB's box set.

While parts of New Roman Times will take some getting used to, it's a very good album overall, ranking right up there with their earlier work. Certainly quite a feat for a band that hadn't released an album together in fifteen years or so.

1. Beth and I were supposed to either go to Clementon Park or on a haunted hayride last night, but they were both closed because of rain, which sucks.

2. We did watch Motel Hello, a movie from 1980 starring Rory Calhoun, the guy who's always standing and walking. It wasn't a great piece of cinema by any means, but it was amusing in its own way, which is really all I look for in randomly chosen horror movies. Some parts didn't make much sense, like the one girl's ridiculous mood changes. If you want a film that includes a chainsaw duel where one of the fighters is wearing a pig mask, though, Motel Hell is for you!

3. I finally got that extra cell phone and Button-Bright of Oz mailed.

4. On Family Radio, they said something about how you can demonstrate that the Bible is true by quoting scripture. Isn't that kind of circular?

5. I took yet another quiz.

You are Fluffy Mackerel Pudding!! You somehow
manage to combine seafood and dessert into your
wonderfully fluffy world. We should all be as
tolerant of New Taste Sensations. And of
big-yolked eggs.

What Weight Watchers recipe card from 1974 are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Friday, October 15
Last night, I went to see Camper Van Beethoven at the TLA in Philadelphia. This was where someone sprayed David Lowery with Mace at a concert last year. Fortunately, nothing like that happened this time. Near the beginning of CVB's set, some people were shouting, "No Mace!" or something along those lines. I think the band might have preferred not to be reminded of that at all, but oh well.

I was hoping there wouldn't be an opener, since there wasn't one last time. As it turned out, though, there were TWO openers. The TLA seems to like to have multiple openers, for some reason. The first one was a Philadelphia band called Cordalene, whom I had earlier seen open for Sloan at the same venue. I wasn't thrilled by them that time, and I wasn't this time either, but at least their microphones worked last night. The second opener was another Philly band, Dr. Dog. They weren't that great, but they WERE better than I had expected from their name, so that's something. Pretty much all I can remember about them was that one of the band members had put a teabag in a bottle of water, and it (the bag) broke. He said the resulting mixture was like mud. Also, their drummer used Cordalene's drum set.

CVB came onstage at around 10:45, and played for about an hour and 45 minutes. I was right up near the stage, close enough to look at the setlist, which I did a few times. They followed the setlist exactly, although the encores weren't written on it. There were some technical difficulties during the set. It seemed like the instruments had been turned up too much and the microphones not enough, because the vocals were hard to hear during the first few songs. Of course, David was the only one singing on most of those songs, and he was on the opposite side of the stage from where I was standing (I was close to Jonathan Segel and Victor Krummenacher), so that might have had something to do with it. It wasn't as bad during later songs, but I'm not sure whether they did some adjusting, or I just got used to it. There were only five band members on stage this time, while I think there were six last time. There was no keyboard player, but Jonathan did fulfill keyboard duties on a few songs.

Here's what they played (not necessarily in order, but probably pretty close to it):

R 'n' R Uzbekistan
Turquoise Jewelry--No horn players were present, so Jonathan played the horn parts on his violin.
Eye Of Fatima (both parts)
51-7--This worked better as a live song than I thought it would. It was powerful and energetic once the louder part kicked in.
All Her Favorite Fruit
Sweethearts--I've started appreciating this song more since Ronald Reagan died. Is that wrong?
Hippy Chix
That Gum You Like Is Back In Style
Might Makes Right
Militia Song--One of my favorites from the new album. It's really catchy, and I'm glad they played it live. I think David messed up his lines at the very beginning, but I couldn't tell for sure.
Ambiguity Song--If only they had followed this with "Axe Murderer Song," they could have done the full complement of CVB songs with "Song" in the titles.
L'Aguardiente--One of the band's longest and most intricate instrumentals
Take The Skinheads Bowling--This was on the setlist as "Skin," and I couldn't figure out which song was meant until they started playing it. I should have been able to guess, since I think they play this one at every show.
White Riot--A Clash cover. Victor's bass amplifier apparently blew out during this number.
Shut Us Down--David introduced this by saying that it was appropriate, since Victor's amp had been shut down during "Riot." They did have a backup amp, fortunately.
One Of These Days
The History Of Utah
The Day That Lassie Went To The Moon--During this song, Jonathan was trying to get his keyboard to work, but it didn't. He ended up playing the guitar. I'm not sure if he was going to play the keyboard on "Lassie," though, or if he was just getting it ready for a later song.
Club Med Sucks--Without the "Opi Rides Again" introduction
Pictures Of Matchstick Men--The last song of the regular set
Interstellar Overdrive--Jonathan played both keyboard and guitar on this one.

I don't think there was as much between-song banter as last time, but there was some. A guy in the audience was jumping around, making weird hand motions, and otherwise acting high. Victor asked if they still sold ecstasy in Philadelphia, and then David introduced the guy as the interpreter for the deaf.

There weren't as many instrumentals in the setlist as last time, but that's probably largely just because the set was shorter. They did play five instrumentals ("Uzbekistan," "Waka," "Fatima Part 2," "L'Aguardiente," and "Interstellar"), which is kind of a lot. Not that I mind, since CVB's instrumentals tend to be good.

I expected them to play a lot of songs from the new album, and they ended up doing five of them. They fit in well with the old songs, though. The band also played a good amount of earlier stuff, although there were only two songs from the third album ("Utah" and "Shut Us Down"), and none from the second. I think these were the two albums that were out of print for the longest. Coincidence? I don't know.

At the merchandise table, I bought a "CVB Revolutionary Manifesto 2004" T-shirt, and a copy of In the Mouth of the Crocodile: Live in Seattle. I also got a free poster, which I got Jonathan, Victor, and David to sign. All I said to them was "thank you," and I'm not sure David even heard that, since he was talking to someone else at the time. Oh, well. I do have to wonder whether, when musicians talk to someone for a long period of time, it's because the fan takes the initiative, or because the musician likes them better than other people. I'm always nervous around musicians, although I have managed to get autographs from a few.

Overall, it was a great show. I'd definitely recommend that any CVB fans who might be reading this see them if they come to your area. A review of their new album will probably be coming soon. (I'm listening to it right now.)

Thursday, October 14
So, I've now watched all three presidential debates. I finally got to see the infamous "Want some wood?" incident, and hear about "battling green eyeshades." Other favorite Bush-isms from the second debate included "These aren't makeup numbers" and his mention of support for a "hydrogen-generated automobile." Bush apparently wants Supreme Court Justices who will interpret the Constitution without taking their own opinions into account? (Um, how can you interpret something without having an opinion on it? And, for that matter, what does the Pledge of Allegiance have to do with the Constitution?) He also said that the world would be better off if Saddam were still in power. And was he winking to someone after talking about Medicare, or was that just a blink or a nervous twitch?

In the interest of fairness (or, more accurately, just because it amused me), I'm also going to mention a Kerry slip-up from the third debate. He said something like, "It's against the law to hire immigrants illegally." No, really? {g}

I thought both candidates talked about God too much. At least Kerry seems to understand the concept of separation of church and state, though. Bush, for all his talk about how people should be respected whether or not they believe in "the Almighty," is clearly using his religion to shape his policies on gay marriage and abortion. When Kerry talked in the second debate about how he couldn't base national abortion policies on his own religious beliefs, Bush said something about how he had trouble deciphering it. What an idiot. It was while answering the same question that Bush tried to reduce abortion to a simple yes or no issue. I agree with Kerry that it isn't that simple. That's another problem I have with Bush-style conservatives. They want to reduce everything to simple black-and-white issues. Saddam is bad. Abortion is bad. America is good. Jesus is good.

Along the same lines, "liberal" is apparently a bad word, while "competitive" is good. Funny, since I think pretty much the opposite.

According to Bush, if you don't have a job, you should go to community college. Well, guess what? I have Master's degree, and, while I like the jobs I have, I'm not making a living wage. Plenty of other people with Bachelor's degrees or better are out of work. And Bush thinks people are suddenly going to get jobs with only an Associate's? Besides, that's only half the issue. What about blue-collar workers, or people seeking working in other fields that don't require a college education? Is Bush doing anything to improve their conditions, raise their wages, or help the unemployed ones to find new jobs? Not as far as I know. College is not a magical ticket to employment, and Bush doesn't seem to realize that. I guess it's just part of his utter disregard for anyone who isn't rich.

Bush's thoughts on health care are pretty much the same way. We can't have government-sponsored health care, because that would lower the quality. Well, hey, I guess that's a possibility for the people who can afford top-quality health care now, but what about those of us who don't have ANY health care at all? The ability to choose your own doctor or insurance plan doesn't do much good when you can't afford any of them. And his statement about the American health care system being the envy of the rest of the world is total bullshit. I've heard it's better in most of Europe, and I don't believe the garbage Bush is trying to feed us about Canada using harmful drugs from Third World nations. I'd be willing to bet that most Americans would only benefit from universal health care. But no, that would be SOCIALISM, which would result in Stalin coming back to life and taking over, or something.

And, as a final note, what's with Bush constantly repeating that we've captured or destroyed 75% of Al Qaeda? How does he know that? Isn't it a SECRET organization? Something tells me fuzzy math and "makeup numbers" are at work here.

Wednesday, October 13
I love it when I get spoof eBay messages sent to e-mail addresses that aren't connected to eBay accounts. Well, I don't actually LOVE it, but, you know, it's kind of amusing how pathetic they are.

So, last night, Beth, Dorothea, and I watched Hellraiser (the first one), which I had never seen before. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't that great, either. I kind of thought that not much happened in it. True, there were demons and murders and instances of horrible torture, but, I don't know, it seemed a little slow-paced or something. I guess I might have seen it differently if I'd seen it back in the eighties, though. The puzzle box and Cenobites were pretty cool, but they seemed to be fairly easy to defeat. Incidentally, I don't think Pinhead was even given a name in the movie. The credits just identified him as "Lead Cenobite."

I'm planning on watching the debate tonight, as well as the parts of the last debate that I missed the first time. Expect some comments on that in the near future. (My prediction: Bush will come off as a narrow-minded, hypocritical idiot, and will repeat himself a lot. {g}) Also expect comments on the two albums I bought yesterday, and on tomorrow's Camper Van Beethoven concert.

I wrote this entry yesterday, but I didn't get the chance to post it until now. It begins with a quiz result.

Take the quiz: "What Kind of Soul Do You Retain?"

You have a very warm and loving aura about your soul and believe in the virtues of Love. To you, there is a bright side to everything! You are the polar opposite of the Dark soul.

Another quiz where a lot of the questions didn't really have ANY answers that fit me. That one question on abortion, in particular, seemed a bit narrow in terms of the options you could choose. Oh, well. I don't know that I believe in souls anyway, at least in the literal sense. I guess that's a good result, though, even if it's not particularly accurate.

Yesterday, part of the Schuylkill Expressway was closed due to an accident, and I had to take a long, slow detour. I guess it's kind of selfish to be annoyed by stuff like this when I'm lucky enough to avoid the accident itself. Still, it would be nice if the police would set up more efficient detours. At least this time I could just follow all the other cars. There have been other times when the cops just waved me (or someone else I was with) off the road, without giving any indication as to where to go.

After finally making it to Beth's house, the two of us watched Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh. It wasn't as good as the first one, but I liked the extra explanation for the Candyman story. They even revealed his real name, although I can't remember what it was. Unfortunately, after the Monster-Mania Convention, I have trouble seeing Tony Todd without thinking of his complaints about the 2000 presidential election.

Today, after dropping Beth off at school, I went to Best Buy and purchased the new Camper Van Beethoven and Frank Black records. I haven't had a chance to listen to them yet, though. (It's times like these when I wish my car had a CD player.) I'll probably listen at some point tomorrow. I definitely want to hear the CVB album before the concert on Thursday, even though I already know quite a few of the songs form demo versions on the Internets. By the way, I had a coupon for Best Buy that expired yesterday, a day before these two albums came out. Isn't that always the way?

After buying the CDs, I went to Sbarro to get a slice of pizza and a soda, but I didn't have enough cash to pay for the drink. That was kind of embarrassing, but no big deal, since I was able to get something to drink at Wawa later. Then I went to work, and that pretty much brings us up to date.

Monday, October 11
Happy Columbus Day! I remember back in elementary school when we used to get this day off, and then they suddenly stopped giving it to us. What's with that?

Far-Left Liberal
Where do you fall on the liberal - conservative political spectrum? (United States)

brought to you by Quizilla

I'm not too surprised by this result. I'm not sure I agree with the description, though. I mean, there are certainly intolerant left-wingers out there. Some people who might qualify include those who put fake bumper stickers on Hummers and Escalades that say something like, "THIS VEHICLE WASTES GAS" or whatever, and the hippies who harass the cashiers at McDonald's for working for a company that destroys the rain forest (someone mentioned such people on 's journal about a week ago). I don't do these things, though. Overall, it's hard to be tolerant of someone who makes a point of being intolerant to others, but I don't deny them the right to express their views.

I think the first question in the quiz was on the death penalty, and I guess I'm not necessarily on the far left here, because I think it should be allowed in some cases. I think you should be as sure as possible that the person actually did it before killing them, though. I don't support making people suffer on death row, either. Also, like Al Franken, I can see both sides of the affirmative action issue, although I said I was in favor of it. I guess that the Left generally allows for more differing opinions, though, which is why they call us "liberals" (using "liberal" in the dictionary sense of "tolerant and broad-minded," not the Republican sense of "godless monsters who want to kill babies, institute a 100% income tax, and destroy the fabric of society").

Maybe my next entry will deal with something other than politics. Don't count on it, though. {g}

Sunday, October 10
For all you readers in the Philadelphia area and certain parts of Maryland, WXPN put out their list of the top 885 songs of all time. I remember when they were talking about this, but I didn't actually listen to the broadcast. For what it's worth, I'm not sure why every list has to be "the greatest [whatever]s of all time," especially when it's obviously biased in favor of recent songs. I mean, how many songs on the list are from before the latter half of the twentieth century? Not that I listen to much music from prior to that time either, and, indeed, if I were listing my personal favorite songs, they'd probably be primarily from an even narrower period of time. But the song form was certainly around before then, and I don't say my personal favorites are representative of "the greatest songs of all time," either. Oh, well. I guess exaggeration sells, or something. Anyway, I'm glad to see three songs by the Pixies (songs 806, 709, and 361), three by Tori Amos (752, 490, and 220), and one by XTC (670). Granted, the XTC song they chose was "Dear God," and I would probably have to say that, if that's your favorite XTC song, you haven't listened to enough by the band. Still, I'm glad they showed up.

I can assume that the prevalence of folky singer-songwriter stuff on WXPN explains why, for instance, there are five Dar Williams songs on the list (859, 858, 812, 789, and 375). Not that I have anything against Dar, mind you (and I know a few people on my friends list are fans of hers), but I'm not sure she's all that well-known to the general public. That Los Lonely Boys song that they play the crap out of on that station is also on there (722). Maybe I'm biased because I don't think that song is that great, but didn't that song come out less than a year ago? Isn't it a bit early to be declaring it one of the greatest of all time?

I'm not sure how even ONE Dave Matthews song made the list, let alone four (392, 380, 324, 266, 205), as well as one by his even more boring clone John Mayer (580). There are a lot of artists that I don't like but I can see why other people do. The popularity of Matthews and Mayer, on the other hand, seems inexplicable to me.

A few other songs on which I thought I should comment:


I was never a big fan of BNL. I have Gordon, but that's it. Pretty much everyone I know who IS a BNL fan talks about how much they've gone downhill recently, though, so I guess it's cool that their one showing on this list is a song from when they were actually good (and that has members of Moxy Früvous doing backing vocals).


Several Talking Heads songs made the list, but this is a personal favorite of mine, so it's cool to see it there.


Like the Ken Stringfellow/Jon Auer Posies? I like that band, but I've never heard this song, nor can I find any information on it. Is it misattributed, or what?


Okay, so there's at least one song from the thirties in the list. There are probably more that I just didn't recognize as being from that time period. Didn't this take third place in somebody's list of the top songs of the twentieth century? It didn't fare anywhere near as well here.


This was the only Queen song on the list, for some reason. I really would have expected more.


Heh, "Simon Garfunkel." Wasn't this on a recent list of the WORST songs ever? Not that I agreed with its presence there. It's one of my favorite Simon and Garfunkel songs.

I bought a fruit and cream variety pack of instant oatmeal yesterday. Today, I opened it, and found a packet of raisins and spice in there. Weird. It's a good thing I actually LIKE that flavor.

In other news, I find it interesting how the current election season seems to have gotten a lot of people to gain an interest in politics. I've never been the most political person myself, having voted maybe a quarter of the times I was allowed. (Most of that was because I never bothered to look up how to get an absentee ballot at school, though. I'm sure I would have voted if I'd known how to do that. If it's any consolation, I would have voted for the guy who won anyway in the 1996 presidential election.) I'm actually making a point of watching the debates and such, even though I already know who I'm going to vote for on the presidential ticket. The thing is, despite all the anti-Bush sentiment, I'm worried that he's going to win, whether by fair means or foul. In addition to the conservative base, he also has the support of the people who actually buy the "Democrats can't protect you from terrorists!" nonsense that he and Cheney are feeding the American public. And I certainly wouldn't put it past them to cheat again. Now, if Bush DOES get re-elected, I don't think it'll be the end of the world, and I'm not likely to move to Canada. In fact, I don't think any of the people who have threatened to leave the country will actually do so, unless they were seriously considering it anyway and Bush being re-elected is just the final straw. I don't think Kerry is the Messiah who's going to save the United States, either, although I fail to see how anyone can like him LESS than Bush. But just look at how much of a mess Bush has been able to make in a mere four years. I shudder to think what his administration is capable of in another four. I want to convince myself that it doesn't matter much for the average citizen, and that the Constitution and system of checks and balances will stop Bush and his governmental followers from doing anything REALLY bad, but who knows? The current government seems to know how to use fear to get around those little nuisances that the founders of the country introduced. So yeah, I'm concerned about this election will turn out. I hope I get my absentee ballot soon.

Saturday, October 9
All the recent presidential election stuff has gotten me thinking about politics in general. The idea behind a republic, that people elect leaders to represent them, is kind of ridiculous when you think about it. We're supposed to assume that, once these guys get into the government, they're going to do what we want, and not what THEY want. I mean, I understand that, if they don't do what the majority of the voters (or the majority of the electoral college, in the case of the President) want, they won't be re-elected. The problem is, while the next guy who gets voted in might not be as bad, they're probably still not going to do what I, as a citizen supposedly being represented by this leader, want. So do I think we should go to a direct democracy, where everybody votes on every issue? This is probably more logistically possible than it was back in the days of the Founding Fathers, but I still don't think it would work too well. We need SOMEONE to represent the country (or state, or whatever) when dealing with the rest of the world. Besides, a lot of people are stupid, and do we really want these stupid people contributing directly to the decision-making process? Well, maybe. I mean, ideally, that's what a democracy is, right? The idea still makes me kind of uncomfortable, though. Maybe if people thought their votes actually mattered, they'd be more likely to do research into the issues, but there's certainly no guarantee of that. For that matter, while I don't consider myself stupid (who does? {g}), I'm not knowledgeable about everything that's going on in the country and the world. There are many areas in which I don't trust the government, but I suppose they at least keep things running smoothly. Of course, that's pretty similar to the people who said Mussolini made the trains run on time, so I don't know. I guess that, ideally, I'd vote for someone who holds my opinions, but is a better statesman and more intelligent in dealing with problems, but I can't recall seeing anyone like that running for office. Maybe more frequent elections and a gradual (not overnight, obviously) end to the two-party system (and the party system in general, for that matter) would help. And, while it's not strictly related, the electoral college needs to go.

I was thinking of putting in Winston Churchill's quote about democracy being a bad form of government, but still the best one we had. The thing is, a Google search gave several versions of the quote, so I'm not sure what the right one is. Or maybe he said the same thing in different ways on different occasions. I don't know.

Have I been making too many entries as of late?

1. You know, I think Tori Amos' song "Happy Workers" could totally have been an XTC song. There's just something XTC-ish about it. Sort of akin to "Across This Antheap" and "Day In Day Out," maybe.

2. I had a dream last night that I was driving down the turnpike while sitting in the passenger seat. Not something I would recommend, even in a dream.

3. I got a free sample of the Schick Quattro. It really DOES seem to provide a closer shave than my triple blade razor. I have to wonder how many blades they'll be able to put on a razor, though. Is there some kind of upper limit?

4. I also got the label to send back that phone I don't need. Of course, I got it AFTER the post office closed, and I won't be able to get to an open post office until Tuesday at the earliest. No big deal, though. I should probably mail out Button-Bright of Oz while I'm there.

5. I was all set to go out to Best Buy and use a coupon to buy a Game Boy Advance, but then I noticed that the coupon wasn't good for video game hardware. I remember that, back when I worked at the toy store, I couldn't use my employee discount on video game systems either. Something about the stores selling them at cost, or something like that. So I guess it makes sense, but I'm still annoyed. I probably will buy one in the near future anyway, but no point making a special trip when I'm not even going to save any money.

6. Now HERE'S a quiz result I can live with:

You rule. in 15 years, you won't be as known as you
are now, but most of the people that will know
you then will like you (or else I'll beat them
with a stick). You're nice to listen to.

What band from the 80s are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Expect another entry from me in the near future, regarding politics in general (not Bush/Kerry-specific stuff). I just wanted to get these unrelated things out there.

Friday, October 8
I watched part of tonight's debate. I'll probably have some more comments after I watch the rest (Beth taped it), but I have a few things to say now:

  • The format of the debate reminded me of a combination of a daytime talk show and a class at school. I remember having to submit questions for speakers. There was one time in graduate school when I forgot to come up with questions. I think that counted as a zero for an assignment, which was unfortunate, but now that class is over with, so who cares?

  • Kerry didn't get off to a particularly good start by saying that he supported the Patriot Act and No Child Left Behind. Granted, he DID say he had problems with how they were implemented, but I thought they were considered to be bad ideas in general. Then again, I've never actually read either of those acts, so I guess I don't know for sure. Maybe I need to do some more research.

  • More questions on Iraq meant more opportunities for the candidates to repeat themselves. I'm not sure why they were accepted. I thought the foreign policy angle was dealt with in the last debate, and they were going to talk about something else this time. I DID like one quote from Kerry, when he asked how we could go after other countries for trying to obtain nuclear weapons when the Bush administration was working on a new nuclear device of its own. That's always puzzled me in general, though. "WE can have nuclear weapons, but YOU can't." I'm just not comfortable with the attitude that the American government in general seems to have, where they feel they're better than any other country, and can MAKE rules, but don't have to FOLLOW them. The Bush administration is particularly bad in that respect, but they're hardly alone. I guess I'm more comfortable with the United States being a superpower than I would with some other countries in that position, but why do we have to have a superpower at all?

  • Did Bush say "Internets," or did I mishear that because I expected him to say something stupid? I know he referred to "the Bush Plan."

In other news, there's a skunk wandering around my neighborhood. I saw it crossing the street the other day, and smelled it a few times.

Oh, and does anyone know how to remove things from the startup menu? I have Windows ME, and I'm probably the only person who does anymore, but it's probably pretty similar with other versions of Windows.

Thursday, October 7
This morning, there was some story on AOL about Saddam Hussein's motivations, based on the recent interrogation of the former dictator. According to the article, he wanted to create a legacy, catch up with Iran in the weapons department, and go against the United States whenever he could. It did not, however, made him sound like he was an immediate threat to the country. He WANTED to create weapons of mass destruction, since Iran had them, but the indication seems to be that he didn't actually have any.

Anyway, after dropping Beth off at school today, I went to Pizza Hut for the lunch buffet. I got there at 1:15, and the buffet closed at 1:30, so they weren't as quick about refilling it as they generally are earlier in the day. At one point, they had very little other than thin crust pizza, which, while it isn't bad, seems kind of pointless. It just strikes me as somehow wrong to go to Pizza Hut and not get pan pizza. I did have a good lunch, though, and I even ate a salad, which doesn't sound so crazy in and of itself, but perhaps it would sound more so if you realized that I'm not a big fan of salads.

Yesterday, I took this quiz, which I got from sarah's blog.

Indie Kid.

Which Subculture Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Really, I didn't have a particularly accurate answer for most of the questions. The first one listed a bunch of bands, but I hadn't heard more than two or three songs by most of them, if that. I mean, I have an idea of what the Cure and the Sex Pistols sound like, but even in those cases I don't think I've heard very many of their actual songs. I guess I'm just not up on my subcultures. {g}

Wednesday, October 6
At the library yesterday, I happened to come across an issue of Wired with a cover story involving intelligent design, the newest form of oxymoronic "creation science." What I really have to wonder about, in regards to creationism, is these people see evolution as such a threat, to the extent that they would deliberately lie and misrepresent in order to promote their alternative. Is the origin of species really that important to Christianity? The creation of the world takes up only a small portion of the Bible, is written in a sketchy manner, and seems to be largely unrelated to Jesus' teachings or self-sacrifice. I can see how the notion that man is an animal undercuts the human-centered view of the Bible, but is it THAT important?

On an unrelated note, the next Simpsons Halloween special is scheduled to air an entire week after Halloween. I thought the fact that it aired a few days after Halloween last year was bad enough. I mean, we all know FOX sucks, but can't they at least make an OCCASIONAL scheduling decision that actually makes sense?

Finally, I watched the vice presidential debates last night. I think it was appropriate that, when the two candidates were introduced, Cheney was basically scowling, while Edwards smiled affably at the camera. Edwards was definitely more personable, and I preferred what he said (which isn't too surprising, as the two of them basically held the same positions as their running mates). Cheney didn't come off as much of an idiot as Bush did in the earlier debates, though. I thought both candidates frequently went off the topic and didn't address the actual question, or they addressed the question only AFTER talking about something else for more than half their allotted time. Also, I noticed a certain sequence of events playing out at least twice:

1. Cheney says something negative about Kerry's or Edwards' record.
2. Edwards flips it on him, by pointing out something equally or more negative about Cheney's record.
3. Cheney doesn't address Edwards' charges, instead simply saying, "I think Mr. Edwards' record speaks for itself."

There was at least one time where Edwards neglected to answer a charge from Cheney, when I think he should have. It was when the two men were discussing taxes, and Cheney said that Kerry and Edwards would support tax increases that would hurt small businesses. I had previously heard this same idea expressed in a pro-Bush radio ad. I'm inclined to think the charge isn't accurate, but I don't recall Edwards saying anything about it. Hopefully Kerry will, if the issue comes up again in the presidential debate on economics. I'm all for higher taxes on millionaires and huge corporations, but I can see how a charge of being against small business could hurt the Kerry campaign.

As with Kerry, I think Edwards took a more moderate stance on issues than I might have liked, but at least he was on the right track. For instance, it bugged me that Edwards said that he and Kerry supported the outdated notion that marriage could only be between a man and a woman. Kerry and Edwards are also always talking about the middle class, and, while the middle class is important and tends to get screwed over nowadays, they seem to be neglecting the LOWER class. I think the ultimate goal should be abolishing the class structure entirely, but I can see why a candidate today can't get up and say that. I guess it's sort of the same way with the gay marriage thing, in that so many people oppose it today that a candidate can't necessarily come out totally in favor of it. Still, I do wish we had a candidate who at least thought that gay marriages COULD be possible at some point. I suppose this is one of those cases where the "lesser of two evils" idea kicks in.

Tuesday, October 5
Sorry about posting the same thing eighty times. When I tried posting, I kept getting a "document contains no data" error message, so I tried again. What I didn't realize was that it actually WAS posting every time the document contained no data. So I ended up with a bunch of identical entries. I think I've fixed the problem now, though, and hopefully I'll have something real to say in the near future. Maybe about the vice presidential debates tonight.

EDIT: I guess the "document contains no data" thing was partially responsible for the multiple posts, since I got the same error message when posting this for the first time, and it also showed up a bunch of times.

Monday, October 4
I did a little bit of research into the International Criminal Court issue that Bush brought up during the debates, and it looks like the main reason the United States didn't join was that it could be "used for frivolous or politically motivated prosecution of American troops" [1]. While I can see that this would be a concern, Bush's position still doesn't sit too well with me, because it seems too much like his typical "America is always right! We can't be bothered paying attention to what those lesser countries think!" attitude. It seems to me that the more appropriate approach would be to try to reform the ICC, rather than avoiding it altogether.

Last night, Beth made me watch the two-part series finalé to Full House. Michelle falls off a horse, and the resulting trauma makes her grow up to be an anorexic cokehead. Okay, she actually just loses her memory in an unrealistic and unconvincing manner. Besides, to be fair, I guess it's only half of Michelle that becomes drugged-up and anorexic (not that the other half looks all that healthy either), which might explain why she was only in rehab for half the recommended time.

Anyway, here are my thoughts on Volume 6 of Andy Partridge's Fuzzy Warbles project.

The Laugh Track—A track of Andy cracking up during the “Omnibus” recording session. Kind of interesting to have, but not exactly something you’d want to listen to over and over again.

The Stinking Rich Song—This was one of the songs that Andy wrote for the animated James and the Giant Peach film. I forget why they weren’t used, but I think it might have had to do with money or something. I’ve seen the movie, but I really don’t remember any of the songs that Randy Newman did for it. I would have preferred Andy’s songs, but then, I guess that goes without saying. This one has Andy doing the voices of James’s two evil aunts, which is pretty amusing to hear, but he claims it hurt his throat. Not too surprising, really.

I Can’t Tell What Truth Is Anymore—I like the lyrics to this Nonsuch-era demo. The music is good, too, but I especially enjoy lyrics like, “Is the world still round and flat, like our grimey bathroom mat?”

Candle Dance—Another ambient kind of thing, written for a film.

The Tiny Circus Of Life—A nice little song, with some cool circus music and sounds. As Andy admits, it’s sort of similar to “Dear Madam Barnum” in theme.

The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul—A demo of what I usually consider to best the weakest track on Skylarking. Oh, well. It’s still nice to have, and since I think Skylarking might be my favorite album of all time, even the worst song certainly isn’t bad.

In My Hand—This is a cover of a song written by a friend of Andy’s. It’s actually a really good song. Not very Andy-ish, but something I think I would like even if he weren’t singing it.

Difficult Age--The point of this one seems to be that EVERY age is difficult. The music is kind of repetitive and not too interesting, but it's an interesting idea for a song.

Pink Thing--I've always liked this semi-dirty but fun song, which can also be heard on Oranges and Lemons. The demo is rough-sounding, and not as light and airy as the finished version. The liner notes include the sentence, "Of course being more of an upright member of society these days, if I spot a [double entendre] in my lyrics I whip it out immediately." Ah, Andy, you and your dirty yet genteel manner.

Shaking Skin House--An idea for a song that eventually developed into "Merely A Man." A "shaking skin house," by the way, is a person. I generally find these really rough ideas to be more interesting than the almost-the-finished-product demos that pervade much of the Warbles discs.

Bike Ride To The Moon--A slower version of the Dukes of Stratosphear song. The Man in the Moon has a goofier voice in this demo. Incidentally, if I may get pedantic for a minute, one thing I've always wondered about in the lyrics of this one is the line "And I might be a positive boon." Isn't a boon ALWAYS positive? {g}

My Love Explodes--Much like the previous track, this is rougher, slower, and less psycedelicized the version that ended up

Omnibus--Introduced in a silly faux-Bulgarian voice. For some reason, the introduction appears at the end of "My Love Explodes," but since it mentions an Omnibus, I assume it's supposed to introduce this track. Mostly the same as the finished version, but with a few different euphemisms.

Across The Antheap--Andy calls this rough demo "swampy." I can definitely see where he's coming from.

Across This Antheap--It's interesting when a rough demo is followed by a more developed version of the same song. This was done with "I'm The Man Who Murdered Love" on Homegrown, and it's done much the same way here. This is quite similar to the album version. I don't think it ended up being this long, but that's probably largely because the percussive ending was cut out.

Human Alchemy--The ending of this song awfully long on the album, but I think it might be even longer here. As much as I love XTC, I think they sometimes have a problem deciding when to end a song.

Moonlit Drive--This is a pretty neat little instrumental, but I don't have much else to say about it.

Prince Of Orange--I used to have an MP3 of this song, but, while I'm pretty sure it was the same recording, it didn't include the second half. I know it was on a CD that Andy did for the Hello Recording Club. Did that version include anything beyond "causing fanfare to those listening, now" and the keyboard solo? Anyway, this is a bright-sounding song, which makes me wonder why Andy cries at the end. I'm not alone in wondering that, though. He himself writes, "As for the crying, where did that come from?"

End Of The Pier--Andy admits that this is similar to "Seagulls Screaming Kiss Her, Kiss Her," although I think this is probably catchier and less chaotic. Not that I don't like "Seagulls," but the cacophony is part of the point of that one, and this has more of a bright carnival sound, complete with sound effects. "It's raining on the beach" in "Seagulls," while is sounds pretty sunny here. As with Volume 5, one of the best songs on the CD was saved for last.

I guess my only real complaint about the Warbles project, aside from the exorbitant cost of the individual CDs, is one I could also make about Homespun and Homegrown. Too many of the demos are just slightly less polished versions of album tracks. They're still nice to hear, especially when looking for slight changes in lyrics or music, but not something you'd want to listen to all that often, when you can just play the actual albums. Really rough demos, like the skiffle version of "Dear God" on Volume 5, or the separate songs ("The Pot Won't Hold Our Love" and "Everything Decays") on Homegrown that were eventually combined to form "The Wheel and The Maypole," while not usually all that great musically, tend to be more interesting.

Overall, though, I think the Warbles CDs are a good idea, and probably the closest we'll get to new XTC for some time. I kind of wish more bands would do something along the same lines. For instance, a few CDs of They Might Be Giants demos and rarities would be nice to have. I guess that was kind of what they did with TMBG Unlimited, but I'm sure the Johns have enough other stuff in the vaults to bring out some stuff on actual CDs, and without all the ultimately unnecessary "previews" of Mink Car and No! tracks. (And no, TMBG doing a similar project isn't an original idea of mine, but I forget who suggested it initially. Someone on the newsgroup, I think.)

[1] SOURCE: Edith M. Lederer. "Many Oppose U.S. Peacekeeper Exemptions." Associated Press Online, 21 May 2004.

Sunday, October 3
I called AT&T again today, and they informed me that it was the last day I could have cancelled the number for the superfluous phone that I never used, or even took out of the box. I probably could have argued with them that I had never used it and therefore should not have been charged for it, but I guess it's still good that I called them today, so as to avoid the hassle. I hope they actually DO cancel the number. Maybe I'll check tonight before leaving work. I'm getting pretty fed up with them overall. They send me a phone I didn't ask for, and then make it a pain in the ass to get rid of it.

Anyway, here's my track-by-track review of Volume 5 of Fuzzy Warbles, the set of demos done by Andy Partridge, once-and-hopefully-future band leader of XTC.

Welcome To Volume 5—A little theme song for the disc. Not necessarily a great theme song, but not bad either, and I like theme songs in general.

Young Cleopatra—This is a pretty cool little song, with a bouncy rhythm and good music and lyrics. Some of the same themes as in “Playground,” I suppose.

I Defy You Gravity—I agree with Andy that the best lyric in the song is “Isaac Newton’s annoyed with me.” Otherwise, not bad at all, but not great as far as Andy-penned songs go. Some of the lyrics remind me of those to “Rocket From A Bottle.”

Ice Jet Kiss—A nice little instrumental (well, there’s a vocal part, but it isn’t made up of actual words), originally written for Wonderfalls, but not used.

Broomstick Rhythm—This is a pretty catchy song, really. I don’t really have much else to say about it, but I do like it.

Earn Enough For Us—Pretty similar to the finished version from Skylarking, but not quite as polished, and without the backing vocals or Dave Gregory’s excellent guitar parts. Still, if I hadn’t heard the finished version first, I’d still think this was a really cool song. I do think it’s interesting that Andy decided to edit out a line about what he would buy for a boy and a girl baby (rings and a truck, respectively). Maybe he thought it came off as kind of sexist. Or maybe I’m reading too much into it.

Dear God—Identified as the “Skiffle Version,” this is a rough demo of the song, with some of the lyrics just mumbled.

Crocodile—Like many of the demos of songs that made it to albums, this is pretty similar to the finished version, but without some of the little touches that made the final product so cool. Lyrically, I noticed that Andy hadn’t written in the “scene three lying (through his back teeth)” pun yet.

Motorcycle Landscape—Kind of an unusual song for Andy. I mean, it’s clearly an Andy song, and I guess I can see a touch of other distorted songs like “Reign Of Blows,” but it’s still not something that I’d typically expect from him. Not a favorite of mine, but I do like the chorus.

Rook—Good song, but not much different from the Nonsuch version. Andy claims that it made him cry.

Don’t You Ever Dare Call Me Chickenhead—The title comes from a British comic with a chicken-headed supervillain. A kind of amusing and cheap-sounding keyboard-driven song.

Mermaid Smiled—Just the tune and the word “smiled,” making it essentially an instrumental version of the finished track.

Aqua Deum—A sea-themed instrumental. Pretty good, but not really great or anything.

Me And The Wind—Less energy or enthusiasm than in the finished version, but the flute is already there. Andy writes that he bought the flute for his wife, and decided to use it on a song.

Smalltown—I’ve always liked this song a lot. “Sunday Sunday,” one of my favorite Blur songs, has always reminded me of it. Again, not too different from the finished album version, but one the lyrics mentions a “brand new catalogue rayon nightie,” which becomes a NYLON nightie on The Big Express, adding a touch of alliteration. Oh, and the line “next you’ll be telling me it’s 1990” just seems amusing to me, listening to it in 2004.

Blue Overall—Not one of my favorite XTC songs, but it’s still pretty good, and it’s cool to have this earlier version. I notice that the blue dog used to be a blue baby.

Red Brick Dream—A fairly rough demo of a Big Express B-side. The lyrics printed in the liner notes are actually the ones to the finished version, not this demo. And is “rooves” a word? {g}

Jacob’s Ladder—A minimalistic, ambient kind of thing. I’m not generally into ambient music, but it’s okay for what it is. Sort of like “Frost Circus,” but not as melodic.

My Land Is Burning—Now THIS is cool. An anti-government song with an old-fashioned, bell-heavy arrangement. Possibly my favorite of the otherwise unreleased songs on this disc.

The Volume 6 review should be coming in the next day or so. In the meantime, check out this e-card promoting the upcoming Camper Van Beethoven album. Only nine more days before it hits store shelves!

Saturday, October 2
Today, my mom and I went out and met my Uncle Tim and Aunt Jann at Ollie's, which is some kind of discount outlet type of store with a mascot who looks like a weird caricature of Albert Einstein. I didn't get anything there, but if I'd wanted to, most of it WAS pretty cheap. After that, we went to Borders, where I read the first chapter of Going Postal. Yes, it was a Discworld book with chapters. Pretty weird, huh? Anyway, I still have that book on reserve from the library, and I just picked up A Hat Full of Sky today, so I have my Pratchett reading cut out for me in the near future. After Borders, we went to the mall and ate at the food court. I had some chicken teriyaki with lo mein noodles, which was pretty good. Then we went to the Halloween store where my sister works. I ended up buying some kind of cheap dragon claw cup for myself, and a skull for Beth. I'd promised her one some time ago, so I decided to finally make good on that promise. So, yeah, my day wasn't too exciting or anything, but it was nice to see my uncle and aunt again.

I forgot to mention this before, but on Thursday night (I think it was Thursday night, anyway), I had a dream that there was a road that was apparently named after me, although there was no reason in the dream why that would have been the case. I think the road went to Great Adventure, but it had a different name on the part with the amusement park. Beth and I were going to drive down the road named after me, but it went in the wrong direction and we couldn't get on, or something like that. The exit for the road was also the one to take to visit Stephin Merritt's house. So, yeah, a pretty weird dream.

I'll hopefully have my review of the new Fuzzy Warbles CDs up soon. I want to listen to them a few more times and read the liner notes first.

So, as I said in my last post, I watched Friday's presidential debates. I think pretty much everyone expected Bush to come off as an idiot, and he did not disappoint. (Well, I guess he disappointed if you were hoping he would wise up all of a sudden, but no such luck.) I could talk about how he didn't answer questions and kept repeating himself, but the main thing that struck me was how he insisted that a good leader could never change his mind. This really strikes me as exemplifying the typical conservative position, i.e., stick to your guns even if you're proven wrong repeatedly. I guess the corollary of that, at least for Bush himself, is that, when you finally realize you're wrong, you keep the same position but change the reasoning for it. You know, like how there were no weapons of mass destruction or links to Al Qaeda in Iraq, but the war was still good, because we're better off with Saddam. Never mind that that isn't the reason the Bush administration gave for going to war in the first place. The scary thing is that I think this philosophy is fairly common. I mean, hey, no one wants to be wrong. I'm sure I've occasionally argued a position I knew I ultimately couldn't support. But do we really want a president who puts people's lives on the line for such a position, and thinks changing your mind is just about the worst sin a person can commit? (Never mind that, for all his baseless "flip-flopping" attacks on Kerry, Bush seemed to change his mind WITHIN THE DEBATE on some issues, like when he asked Kerry how he was going to pay for something without raising taxes, and then talked about how he planned to spend more money on something else. I don't remember the exact details, but hey, what's a hardcore conservative if not a hypocrite?)

Another thing that struck me was Bush's comment about he refused to let the United States join the International Criminal Court. Now, I don't know all the details about the court (maybe I should look it up next time I go to work), so I can't really tell you where I stand on Bush's decision. The rationale he presented at the debate, however, showed an obnoxiously nationalistic stance. He seemed to be saying that we shouldn't have to be subject to the rules of those stupid foreign countries, because America is always right. Those weren't the exact words he used, of course, but that was the impression he gave. Along those lines, I did like that Kerry put a good deal of emphasis on forging alliances, instead of going at our counter-terrorism efforts unilaterally. I guess it's possible that other countries won't WANT to become our allies, even with a new administration in charge, but I do think it's important to try. I don't think Bush considers the possibility that, if other countries (aside from the United Kingdom, since I think Tony Blair would support America in just about anything) think something is a bad idea, maybe it really is. He really buys into the "might makes right" philosophy, and I'm not so fond of that.

I guess the thing with Kerry is that, while he doesn't really go as far as I'd like on certain issues, I think his moderate approach will at least get the country back on the right track. Besides, maybe it's the way to deal with certain issues facing us today. For instance, while my gut feeling is that I want the American troops out of Iraq right now, I see why that might not be the best solution at this point.

And just a few more things before I post this entry:

1. As I said in my last post, I got the two new Fuzzy Warbles discs, but still no news about the digital download. I guess I'll try e-mailing Ape again, and hope they reply this time. The thing is, while I want the download, I'm not sure I'm willing to go beyond e-mail to ask about it, since that would presumably require paying the cost of postage or a phone call to England.

2. AT&T STILL hasn't sent my label to mail back the extra phone. I guess I should try calling them again, and ask if I can just drop it off at a store or something. I might wait a few more days, though. I really don't want to have to talk to them again, but I also don't want them to start charging me for this phone I didn't want and haven't even taken out of the box.

3. I need a haircut.

4. I'm still having that same problem with Hotmail reversing my messages.

Friday, October 1
I begin this post with another anecdote from Family Radio. Some guy who called in said he had read the Bible a few times, but didn't really understand it. Later, he got brain damage, and started enjoying Family Radio, and understanding the Bible exactly. I'll let this speak for itself, and go on to the main point of the message, the They Might Be Giants show that Beth and I saw at the TLA in Philadelphia.

We got to the TLA about half an hour before the show started, which meant we didn't get a really good spot, but we didn't get a really terrible spot, either. We were pretty much in the middle of the floor. It was certainly a better view at the Prospect Park show, albeit not as comfortable, since we had to stand up the whole time (which is typical for TMBG concerts). The opener was Corn Mo. This was the third time we had seen him, and he played mostly the same songs as the other two times. I still enjoyed them, though, and the fact that I still liked them after the initial weirdness value had worn off is a good sign. He did do one song that he hadn't before, something about Hershey's Miniatures. It was dedicated to TDK, who was attending his 101st TMBG show. I actually can't remember exactly how many shows I've attended. Somewhere more than ten and less than twenty. Maybe in the neighborhood of fifteen, but maybe not. I could probably work it out, but I'm not sure why I'd bother, since I doubt I'll ever see 101 shows and have Corn Mo dedicate a song to me. I've been to enough TMBG shows to start getting irritated at some of the songs they play constantly despite the fact they're not that good, but I'm nowhere close to the "I go to every show, and consider it a badge of honor!" or "I'm totally sick of TMBG, yet I still go to concerts for some reason" categories. Anyway, Corn Mo was chattier at this show than he was at Celebrate Brooklyn, telling his usual amusing stories, including one about accidentally leaving his friend at a rest stop on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, because the friend hadn't told anyone he was going to use the bathroom. In his speech during his cover of "We Are The Champions," he included a bit on how, when he was playing the accordion with the circus, he would play Game Boy on the bus, because that was part of his job; and how he would look at the girls changing before the show, and he would pretend he wasn't looking, but he really WAS looking, because THAT was part of his job. Very entertaining stuff.

After Corn Mo, we waited a long, long time for the roadies to set up the stage for TMBG. The thing is, this made no sense. All Corn Mo had was an accordion and a cymbal pedal. They could easily have set up TMBG's stuff before doors, and have Corn Mo play in front of it. Of course, the venue probably would have made them wait between sets anyway. Why, I really don't know. I think just about anyone would prefer it if they kept things moving. Does anyone know why they don't?

I haven't seen a setlist posted for the show yet. Usually there's a setlist posted to the newsgroup by the time I get back from the concert. I'm not sure what's keeping the obsessive types from posting one this time. Maybe they all immediately went up to New York for tonight's show. So this review isn't going to be in order right now, and a few songs might be missing, but if anyone DOES post a setlist, I'll edit it accordingly.

What they played included:

Experimental Film
New York City--I actually preferred them doing this one early in the set. I'm kind of tired of hearing it live, but if they HAVE to do it, getting it over with early on is a good idea. Bands often seem to save their "we play this every single time" songs for the encore, and I'd kind of rather have them end with something a little more unusual, to end on a high note. Maybe that's just because I'm a hardcore TMBG fan, though; my opinion might be different with a band where I don't know a lot of the songs. And this show really DID end with a song they don't play all the time, as you'll soon see. Now, where was I? Oh, yeah. Stay out of my booze!
Meet James Ensor--I've heard them play this one at four different concerts, at least, yet I never expect it. I guess that's good, really.
TLA venue song--Pretty much every show this tour has included a song tailor-made for the venue, and this show was no exception. The TLA song was an eighties-style thing, with John Flansburgh repeating, "How do you spell TLA?" and John Linnell singing the verses. I couldn't make out most of the lyrics to the verses, but the song as a whole was great. By the way, the Johns said that the venue songs don't really have titles. I would suppose it's reasonable to simply refer to them by the names of the venues themselves, though.
Ana Ng--Flans brought back the chorus of the TLA song for the bridge.
Memo To Human Resources
Doctor Worm--With the confetti cannon
The Famous Polka--This is always a good live song, but I do wish they'd sing the lyrics occasionally.
Letterbox--I forgot about this when trying to remember what the band had played. I'm not sure why, since it's a really cool song. I used to think of it as sort of the introduction to "Whistling In The Dark," an early favorite of mine among the Flood songs, but I later came to appreciate it on its own strong merits.
Thunderbird--The first time I've heard this one live, since I missed the shows where they were first playing it back in 1999 or so, and they've just recently brought it back.
Particle Man--Corn Mo joined in to play a second accordion part on this one. He apparently has been doing this at most of the shows on this tour, but he didn't at Celebrate Brooklyn, even though he was there. I have no idea why. They played the Dallas theme song to introduce him, which I found pretty amusing. He and Linnell did a LONG accordion solo. While Linnell was obviously the leader, Corn Mo looked like he was doing more actual playing.
Damn Good Times
James K. Polk
Bastard Wants To Hit Me--The Johns made up an elaborate story about how the saxophone sample was actually been played just off-stage by Tina Turner's hideously deformed sax player.
She's An Angel
Birdhouse In Your Soul
Alphabet Of Nations--The first time I'd heard this. Pretty simple concept, but still a good song, with "West Xylophone" cleverly used for W and X.
Clap Your Hands
No One Knows My Plan--Flans said they usually had a dance contest during this song, but since the place was so crowded, they would have a spelling bee instead.
Boss Of Me--I hadn't heard this one in a while. Of course, I haven't watched Malcolm in the Middle in a while, either, but I think the last time I did, they might have only used the "life is unfair" clip. Anyway, this was only the thirty second version, rather than the full three-minute one.
Robot Parade--This started out with just the Johns, and then brought in the band. Flans included his "Give me an R! Give me another R! Give me another R! What's that spell?" bit, which was the third spelling joke in the show. Kind of a running gag, I suppose, but perhaps not intentionally so.
Fingertips--Flans did the Optimus Prime bit during the "I'm having a heart attack" Fingertip.
Violin--Featuring The Wave, and Nathan searching for his umbrella that had fallen on the floor, and which he had brought because he THOUGHT it was supposed to rain, but it really didn't.
The End Of The Tour--The second time I'd heard this one live. A good way to end the show, for obvious reasons, but also just a really good song overall.

Overall, a really fun show. Even the songs I'd heard numerous times before were pretty fun. I'm not sure whether that was just my mood at the time or what. It did help that they didn't play any of the overplayed and obnoxiously drawn-out songs, like "She's Actual Size" or "Istanbul." (Okay, they did do the really long accordion solo in "Particle Man," but that was the first time I'd heard it, and most things like that are pretty good the first time.) Oh, and by the way, they said they'd be coming back sometime next year. I don't know whether that meant "back to Philadelphia" or just "back on the road," but I hope it puts the fears of the "TMBG must be breaking up for good!" doom-and-gloom prophets to rest. They're just taking a well-deserved break.

After the show, Beth and I split the cost of Corn Mo's CD, The Magic Is You, and got him to autograph it, which was pretty cool. They were selling the Future Soundtrack for America for $20, when it was only $12 at Borders. I wasn't planning on buying it at the show anyway, but I think the higher prices is kind of weird, considering that: 1) you'd think it would be more expensive at a retail outlet, and 2) it seems like something where all the proceeds are supposedly going to charity would cost about the same amount everywhere. Oh, well.

Outside the venue, we met John and Amy in person, which was cool. They were nice people. After talking to them for a while, we went back to Beth's house and watched the presidential debates, which she had taped. I have a few things to say about them, but I think I'll save them for another post. Expect that in the near future. Also expect some comments on the two new Fuzzy Warbles discs, which I got today.