June 29, 2006

Why I love Berkeley

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 4:10 PM

Sure, this is completely futile, but that's part of the charm:

With overwhelming support from Berkeley residents, the Berkeley City Council unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday night to be the first jurisdiction in the United States to let the public vote for the President's impeachment. The measure will appear on the Nov. 7 ballot, at a cost of about $10,000.

The measure alleges that the administration violated the Constitution with illegal domestic spying, justified the Iraq war with fraudulent claims and illegally tortured citizens. San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Cruz and dozens of other cities have already passed council resolutions urging impeachment but none has gone as far as Berkeley.


Critics may be right that this is not terribly productive, but it sure will be fun to punch "yes" on this in November. On the other hand, who knows how my vote will actually get recorded—we use Diebold touch-screen voting machines.

Personal Advice from the Internet

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 3:36 PM

I had been debating whether to fly out to Connecticut this summer to visit friends, and if I do so, whether to take some extra time to tour New York City. Fortunately the internet came to the rescue with a trio of relevant posts:


Needless to say, after reading these my decision was much easier...

June 27, 2006

Sleater-Kinney retire

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 4:44 PM

Or rather, go on "indefinite hiatus". As I've mentioned before, this was the band that got me into indie rock, so it's especially sad news.

I'm now really glad I decided to see them instead of Bloc Party at Coachella. (I also saw them play last year at the Warfield.)

sleater-kinney

Permalink | Tags: Music

Emigration [Open Thread]

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 4:32 PM

This completes my backlog of books to review, so now I need to read some more. Fortunately, there are a number of intriguing suggestions left from the summer reading thread...

Cory Doctorow: Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town: I read Cory Doctorow pretty regularly on Boing Boing, but I hadn't tried his fiction before. This one looked appealingly surreal, with a protagonist whose parents are a mountain and a washing machine, so I picked it up. The plot is straightforward: Alan is trying to fit into society despite his bizarre origins, but is being stalked by his murderous, undead brother. This provides the motivation for a study of weirdness and dealing with outsider status that forms the larger theme of the book. (I have much more to say on this topic but I intend to put it in a separate post.) There are also a couple of subplots, one of them being a charming love story, and the other being an unnecessary geek-out involving free wi-fi in Toronto, during which the characters frequently seem to be talking in Cory Doctorow's Boing Boing voice. The main story was very entertaining, however, and led to some further thoughts which I'll hopefully get around to posting. I'll also mention that the book is available for free download in a variety of formats at Cory Doctorow's website. (I bought a physical copy, because like Alan I enjoy having actual books on my shelf.) Rating: 3.5/5

Camera Obscura: Let's Get Out Of This Country: This CD makes me want to dance. It's not remotely dance rock in the sense of, say, Ladytron—in fact it's indie pop from Glasgow, and that other Glasgow band Belle & Sebastian is a much more apt comparison—but I could definitely practice some of my recently-learned ballroom steps to a few of these songs. The cleverly-named "Tears for Affairs" is suitable for cha-cha, and "The False Contender" is a waltz. The album as a whole has a fun, light feel; although there are no truly spectacular tracks that beg to be put on repeat, it's a nice CD to play all the way through, and you'll be left with a calm feeling afterwards. Rating: 3.5/5

June 26, 2006

Nomenclature of the godless [corrected]

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 8:13 PM

There's been some recent discussion on various blogs of the notion that the term "Brights" be used to describe atheists, agnostics, etc. This was coined by Daniel Dennett Paul Geisert and Mynga Futrell, and promoted by Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins, among others. I was going to write a post about how lame this is, but Kieran Healy already said it a while ago.

The problem isn't that "Bright" is arrogant, but that it's really dorky. Kieran is put in mind of the Comic Book Guy but I think a more apt Simpsons reference is to Martin Prince. There's a kind of earnest, optimistic cluelessness about the idea that's just asking to get beaten up by Nelson. I'm with PZ Myers, who is just fine with "atheist". Even if it is associated with some particular obnoxious individuals, "atheist" has force and seriousness that "Bright" is sorely lacking.

Permalink | Tags: Atheism

Recent inattentiveness

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 4:38 PM

I was already kicking myself for missing Built To Spill's three San Francisco shows last weekend, only remembering to check for tickets once they had all sold out. Then Saturday night I stopped by the lab to change some batteries, and I heard the sounds of a concert at UC Berkeley's Greek Theater. I didn't know there was a show tonight, I wonder who's playing?. By the time I got to Birge Hall I was close enough to hear the music, and when the singer came on I thought he sounded familiar...

...a half second later I recognized the voice as Thom Yorke.

I managed to miss not only Built To Spill, but also Radiohead playing at my place of employment last weekend. I really need to watch the concert listings more closely...

June 23, 2006

Friday Random 10: Dangerzone ahead

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 5:21 PM

This one is obviously meant to be a divination, given the explicit appearance of two of the major arcana.

  1. The Covering: Low, "Pissing"
  2. The Crossing: The Afghan Whigs, "Fountain And Fairfax"
  3. The Crown: Neutral Milk Hotel, "The Fool"
  4. The Root: The Flaming Lips, "What Is The Light?"
  5. The Past: Teenage Fanclub, "Satan"
  6. The Future: Clor, "Dangerzone"
  7. The Questioner: Bloc Party, "Hidden Track (Remix)"
  8. The House: R.E.M., "Find The River"
  9. The Inside: Bright Eyes, "Devil In The Details"
  10. The Outcome: Animal Collective, "Turn Into Something"
Here's the key. This is perhaps the most straightforward iPod tarot reading I've ever seen. Even the instrumental tracks in The Crown and The Crossing are helpfully named after actual tarot cards (assuming one takes "Satan" to represent the card of The Devil). The Covering, The Future, and The Outcome are especially direct in their lyrics, with the last track clearly pointing towards an impending transformation. Excellent, hopefully I'll develop a cool mutant power.

The best song in the set is "Fountain and Fairfax", although its relevance is less clear than some of the others.

Angel, forever
Don't you promise me what you cannot deliver
Angel, together
I'll be waiting for you on Fountain and Fairfax

That intersection exists in Los Angeles, but I don't know whether that's the city the Afghan Whigs had in mind...

Google Reader test drive

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 2:43 PM

I'm trying out Google Reader after having used Sage for a while now. I like reading blogs by RSS but I have a strict list of requirements for an RSS reader:

  1. It must run in Firefox.

That's it. I've tried some standalone programs but I hate switching windows every time I want to read a full post. So for a while it was Sage, which is a Firefox extension that sits in the sidebar, but Sage has some weird idiosyncracies and annoyances, like occasionally forgetting to check feeds until the cache is cleared (especially BoingBoing's for some reason) or misinterpreting links so that they go to the local hard drive instead of the appropriate web server. At least the Export OPML feature worked, making the switch to Google Reader nearly instantaneous.

I tend to read blogs from different computers depending on whether I am at home or in the lab, so it's actually extremely useful to have a single aggregator I can access from both places. I didn't realize how valuable this was until I tried it. (Bloglines would be the other obvious choice for this, and I'd be curious to know how it compares with Google Reader.) The major downside to this approach is having to wait on the aggregator site to query feeds, as opposed to being able to query them directly and get immediate updates.

A minor complaint about Google Reader: The interface, while clean and simple, is difficult to scan for interesting items. All posts are mixed into one column regardless of their source, while most readers I've used in the past separate them by blog. When I have a lot of updates to read (usually in the morning, since the east coast bloggers have been going for three hours), I'm used to clicking on the blogs I'm most interested in first as a way of sorting through the large quantity of updates. Presumably I could do something with labels to separate out the top tier of blogs I read, but it still feels weird. On the other hand, Google Reader does show the post author prominently—Sage would not display this at all, which was immensely confusing for certain group blogs. (Sometimes I would make a game of guessing which blogger had posted each post.)

A side effect of the switch is that my self-imposed limit on RSS subscriptions has been removed. I used to control my blog reading by not adding so many items that I needed to scroll in the Sage pane to see them all, so the number of blogs I kept up with was limited by the size of my Firefox window. Now my subscription list isn't visible, so I can just keep adding feeds without encountering any psychological barrier (until I wake up Monday morning to 500 unread posts).

Anyway, I think I'll continue using Google Reader for a while, and see how it goes.

June 22, 2006

Books that resonate

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 11:46 PM

After I wrote my review of Norwegian Wood it occurred to me that I could extend it to a discussion thread. We've already discussed Great American Novels, but for this one put questions of literary merit aside (as well as questions of American-ness) and instead think about books that seemed to contain part of your own essence. Books that, because of characters or setting or writing style, captured some element you find in yourself. What book would you give someone to help them understand you better? In short, what books resonate with you? I've already said Norwegian Wood was this way for me, now I want to hear your picks.

This topic could easily be extended other media as well: movies, music, art...

Permalink | Tags: Books

June 21, 2006

But where's "November Rain"?

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 3:09 PM

Pitchfork hits YouTube and comes back with 100 Awesome Music Videos. Well, some of them are awesome and some are "awesome" (David Hasselhoff covering "Hooked on a Feeling", for example). I watched "To Here Knows When" (My Bloody Valentine) and "Sugarcube" (Yo La Tengo) immediately, those being two of my favorite songs—the former looks like the song for a nice synaesthetic effect, and the latter is just hilarious. Also, the Decemberists' "16 Military Wives" video is worthwhile (I saw it a while ago). Later on I'm going to go through and watch a bunch more of these.

Popular culture no longer applies to them

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 2:07 PM

Top of the Pops has been canceled. What will Art Brut do now?

June 20, 2006

Strongly recommended [Open Thread]

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 10:25 PM

I spent the weekend with a mild cold, which still persists. The worst part isn't the physical symptoms, but the sense that my brain is fogged up, which led to an interesting series of careless mistakes in the lab yesterday. (Fortunately I didn't break anything.) On the other hand, my illness gave me a good excuse to spend the weekend with my new video game purchase.

New Super Mario Bros.: It's really good to have a new side-scrolling Super Mario Bros. game. Of course, the 3D installments Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine are both outstanding games, but the 2D platformers have their own character that is revived in this DS edition. This was the game that sold me on the DS and so far it has not been a disappointment; it's a worthy addition to the series. Previous games managed either solid level design with some attendant repetitiveness (Super Mario World), or quirkiness but with an uneven feel (Super Mario Bros. 3). This game manages to find a happy medium in which the levels are distinctive but well-balanced. One aspect imported from the Super Mario 64-style is an appeal to my obsessive completist instinct: I haven't been able to leave a world without collecting all the star coins and opening secret exits. Fortunately these tasks are challenging enough to be interesting but not so much as to be frustrating. I'm now halfway through World 7 and some of the star coins are pretty deviously placed; it remains to be seen how much longer I make it before I give up on completeness and make a run for the end of the game. Rating: 4.5/5

Haruki Murakami: Norwegian Wood: I mentioned this book in an earlier entry, but I want to give it a proper review. One of the things I like about Murakami is his extensive use of surrealism, but this book was different in that there was no surrealism at all; in fact it is the most straightforward and accessible of all of his writings. Despite the lack of this distinctive element I enjoyed it as a beautifully written and resonant love story. Murakami's protagonists are typically introverts, but Toru Watanabe particularly so, and much of the book concerns his sense of isolation and his search for connection to others. So it's not hard to see why I identified with this character, although to a lesser extent I saw parts of myself in each of the characters. (In fact, it's tempting to say "If you want to understand me, read this book," but Toru and the others are also different from me in various respects, so it might just confuse the issue.) This book also made me realize how unfamiliar I am with The Beatles: the song that's referenced in the title was central (so naturally I went and listened to it) and many of their other songs are mentioned as well. It'll be a few years before I get to '60s music in my ongoing survey, but maybe I should remedy my ignorance sooner than that. Rating: 4/5

Islands: Return to the Sea: I was skeptical of this band with their insular-themed name and lyrics and calypso-tinged music, but this turns out to be one of the best albums so far this year. In fact the calypso elements combine with guitars (and strings and horns) to create terrific pop songs that are sometimes light-hearted and sometimes epic. The best songs come at the beginning: "Swans (Life after Death)", "Humans", and "Don't Call Me Whitney, Bobby" are all top-notch. and "Rough Gem" comes in just behind the first three in quality. After an instrumental track there's a slight departure in style with "Where There's A Will There's A Whalebone", which adds a dash of hip-hop with mixed results. "Jogging Gorgeous Summer" is beautiful, and "Volcanoes" is fun; the last couple of tracks after this aren't as exciting, but only because what came before was so good. This is a great album for these warm summer days; buy it and take it to the beach. Rating: 4.5/5

Vaporware watch: The Duke Nukem Forever list

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 4:09 PM

If you read Kotaku this is last week's news, but someone has compiled an amusing list of things that have happened since Duke Nukem Forever was announced. (For the non-gamers in the audience, this is a PC game that was announced nine years ago and is still in development.) They start with video games (75 Mega Man games, I assume that counts remakes) and proceed to more general categories, e.g.:

Movies that were filmed, released in theatres, and have made it to DVD:

  • All three Star Wars prequels.
  • The entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, with extended editions.
  • Every Pixar movie aside from Toy Story.
  • Three (possibly four) James Bond films.
  • Every movie, animation, and video game from The Matrix series.
Also note the occasional liberal bias. ("The national minimum wage has remained $5.15.")

Publication: Quantum theory of three-junction flux qubit with non-negligible loop inductance: Towards scalability

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 11:37 AM

Here's the latest publication on Clarke group qubit research, which appeared in Physical Review B at the end of May. Normally I give a non-technical explanation in these posts, but this paper is entirely devoted to working out gory technical details. It essentially goes through how to calculate a priori the properties of the flux qubits that I've written about previously. This calculation had been done for "small" qubit loops—small being defined in terms of the loop inductance but corresponding to a few microns on a side—our qubits are much larger than this (100 microns) and so we needed to figure out the more general solution.

The vast majority of the work in this paper was done by T. L. Robertson; my primary contribution was checking the math and the Mathematica code.

Quantum theory of three-junction flux qubit with non-negligible loop inductance: Towards scalability

T. L. Robertson, B. L. T. Plourde, P. A. Reichardt, T. Hime, C.-E. Wu, and John Clarke
Phys. Rev. B 73, 174526 (2006)

The three-junction flux qubit (quantum bit) consists of three Josephson junctions connected in series on a superconducting loop. We present a numerical treatment of this device for the general case in which the ratio betaQ of the geometrical inductance of the loop to the kinetic inductance of the Josephson junctions is not necessarily negligible. Relatively large geometric inductances allow the flux through each qubit to be controlled independently with on-chip bias lines, an essential consideration for scalability. We derive the three-dimensional potential in terms of the macroscopic degrees of freedom, and include the possible effects of asymmetry among the junctions and of stray capacitance associated with them. To find solutions of the Hamiltonian, we use basis functions consisting of the product of two plane wave states and a harmonic oscillator eigenfunction to compute the energy levels and eigenfunctions of the qubit numerically. We present calculated energy levels for the relevant range of betaQ. As betaQ is increased beyond 0.5, the tunnel splitting between the ground and first excited states decreases rapidly, and the device becomes progressively less useful as a qubit.

June 19, 2006

Quantum wiki

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 5:44 PM

Via Mason, some guys at Caltech have set up a quantum information wiki intended for the research community. I added a page for myself, a stub page for the Clarke group, and updated their list of blogs to include this page and Mixed States. At the moment there's not much there from the solid state angle, so I may be back to contribute a bit more.

June 16, 2006

Shyness and reward

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 2:00 PM

Tyler Cowen notes an fMRI study of shyness, which found that:

Shy children... showed two to three times more activity in their striatum, which is associated with reward, than outgoing children, the team reports in the 14 June issue of the Journal of Neuroscience. "Up until now, people thought that [shyness] was mostly related to avoidance of social situations," says co-author and child psychiatrist Monique Ernst. "Here we showed that shy children have increased activity in the reward system of the brain as well."

It's not clear what this means, although the PI for the study speculates: "One interpretation is that extremely shy children have an increased sensitivity to many types of stimuli--both frightening and rewarding." Now, my natural impulse is to wonder whether this is true about me (as an extremely shy person), but it's not obvious, for the simple reason that I don't have any direct experience of anyone else's internal sensitivity to success or failure. On the other hand, I've noticed lately a tendency for my mind to inflate the importance of trivial social interactions if they have a sense of success or failure about them. (For example, individual conversations that were particularly comfortable or awkward.) But I think everyone does this to some degree—we all obsess over embarrassing moments even if they were totally inconsequential. (Dave Barry once wrote a column on this.)

Regardless of whether this is really a hallmark of shyness, one thing that I've found useful in my efforts to be less shy has been to take a very analytical look at my past interactions and try to put them in the proper perspective. So instead of getting worked up about a particular conversation that went really well or really poorly, I'll realize that it was basically an unremarkable event either way. The end result (when this works) is that I stop seeing every interaction as the latest major test of my social skills, and this removes some of the attendant anxiety.

June 15, 2006

Site goes up, site goes down

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 1:01 AM

I apologize for the increasingly frequent site outages. The network infrastructure in this building isn't so good, and if this persists I'm going to look into moving the blog to a different host (probably something easy like Typepad).

Permalink | Tags: Website

June 14, 2006

Planetary infestations

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 3:58 PM

Stephen Hawking proposes that humans need to begin colonizing other planets in order to ensure the survival of the species. Now, I don't normally approve of beating up a man in a wheelchair, but I definitely enjoyed the verbal thrashing delivered to Hawking by Chris Clarke:

Let’s say you had a horrible cockroach infestation, and the bugs were trashing your house, spreading filth and eating the bindings of your irreplaceable antique books and breeding profligately and an electrician came to you one day and told you that they were eating your circuit breaker insulation, and you needed to do something about it or your house would burn down.

I don’t know about you, but my first reaction would not be to put a bunch of roaches in a Tupperware container and then release them into a neighbor’s house so that the species would live on.

We are the problem here.


The whole post is definitely worth reading.

Incarnations [Open Thread]

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 2:01 PM

First: Today's Dinosaur Comics strip is excellent.

I have several books to review but I'll do one per week to spread them out a bit.

John Burdett: Bangkok 8: I don't read a lot of mystery novels, so I'm trying to remember what led me to pick this one up. I think it was an Amazon recommendation. The novel is set in Bangkok's 8th precinct and revolves around a U.S. Marine who is killed by snakes that were planted in his car. (Snakes In A Car!) Ultimately I found the mystery aspect less compelling than the novel as a cultural study; the city of Bangkok is a rich and interesting setting, and the protagonist, a devout Buddhist working in a thoroughly corrupt police force, was a nice twist on the usual detective hero. This was a detective who saw everything in terms of Buddhist mysticism, detecting the past incarnations of the souls he encountered, and for much of the novel it's an open question whether he really has some supernatural insight or if this is just the way he sees the world. In the end this question is settled somewhat more definitively than some of the central plot points. Rating: 3.5/5

Ellen Allien & Apparat: Orchestra of Bubbles: This is some very good German techno, taut and ominous, evocative of alien landscapes or city lights viewed from far off. It's a fairly coherent album, good for playing all the way through late at night. "Metric" is one of the standout tracks. Rating: 4/5

June 13, 2006

Helium is the sweetest of the noble gases.

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 4:12 PM

Slate worries about the dangers of helium. Yes, innocent, inert helium. Apparently, you might pass out and hit your head on something. Maybe next Slate will do an article on the threat of the liquid phase, on the grounds that it's really cold. I once took a spray of liquid helium full in the face—it was cool and refreshing!

Politics roundup: flightsuit optional

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 2:45 PM

I think my brain is still in vacation mode, since I haven't been able to come up with any deep thoughts for the blog. I have a bunch of stuff to review which I'll try to post tonight. Meanwhile, I haven't done a political post for a while, so here are a few items.

  • Abu Musab al-Zarqawi killed. Better late than never, I suppose. The Bush administration let this guy operate as long as he was politically useful for drumming up support for the Iraq war. From The Atlantic:
    During my time in Jordan, I asked a number of officials what they considered to be the most curious aspect of the relationship between the U.S. and al-Zarqawi, other than the fact that the Bush administration had inflated him.

    One of them said, “The six times you could have killed Zarqawi, and you didn’t.”

    When Powell addressed the United Nations, he discussed the Ansar al-Islam camp near Khurmal, in northern Kurdistan, which he claimed was producing ricin and where al-Zarqawi was then based. On at least three occasions, between mid-2002 and the invasion of Iraq the following March, the Pentagon presented plans to the White House to destroy the Khurmal camp, according to a report published by TheWall Street Journal in October 2004. The White House either declined or simply ignored the request.


  • Bush's visit to Baghdad. Meaningless political theater, like the "Mission Accomplished" flightsuit stunt. This is just about the only thing Bush is good at. I'm not holding my breath for any changes in Iraq policy.
  • No frog march for Karl Rove. Disappointing; as Josh Marshall points out, we all know by now that Rove did leak Plame's identity.
  • The California primary. I normally try to pay attention to primaries, but I think I would have slept through this even if I hadn't been in Mexico at the time.

Anything else I should have mentioned?

June 12, 2006

Cabo Photos

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 4:08 PM

A few photos from my Cabo San Lucas trip are up. Uncharacteristically for my photos, there are some people in some of these. (They would be my relatives.) The full photoset is here.

rocks (close)

June 9, 2006

Weather Downgrade

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 9:53 PM

I have returned from Mexico, where I was so lazy as to not even open my computer the entire time, hence the lack of blogging. I went from a hot, clear day in Cabo San Lucas to a fogged-in and chilly Berkeley; often what happens is that I'll return to much better weather than I had on vacation, but not this time.

I tried to post from the Phoenix airport (which had free wi-fi) but was prevented from doing so by a problem with the network switch in my office in Berkeley. Fortunately I did get the chance to delete the 45 spam comments that had accumulated just before the site went down.

I like to take Murakami with me when I travel internationally; for Japan it was Sputnik Sweetheart and for Italy it was Kafka on the Shore. This time it was Norwegian Wood, which I finished this morning. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle remains my favorite of his novels, but Norwegian Wood is the one that most resonated with me; I saw a lot of myself in the main character and parts of me in many of the other characters, too. Anyway, I always thought people who initiate conversations with strangers on the BART are weird, but today I joined their ranks. A woman sat down next to me and opened a book. I glanced over from my own book (I had moved on to Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town by Cory Doctorow), read one line of dialogue, and recognized it as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. So I had to take off my earbuds and tell her that it was one of my Favorite Books Ever. (Her favorite Murakami novel, as it turns out, is Norwegian Wood.) Maybe some of that extraversion from the paternal side of my family rubbed off on me this week.

So, since I've been completely out of touch for five days: what did I miss?

June 4, 2006

A noise in his head [Open Thread]

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 12:23 AM

I'm off to Cabo San Lucas today, so here's an open thread. I'll be back Friday, but I expect to have some form of internet access at the hotel so I may check in here. My poolside reading list: Sheri S. Tepper, Grass (80% complete); Jon Burdett, Bangkok 8 (50% complete); Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood; Cory Doctorow, Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town. (I will also note that the bookstore I went to yesterday was very good at not having specific titles recommended in the summer reading thread, despite having other books by the same authors.) Double music review this week due to the absence of one last week.

Snow Patrol: Eyes Open: I was disappointed in this album on first listen—it's not as good as their previous full-length Final Straw, and doesn't have any track as good as "Run" or "Chocolate". But after hearing it a few more times I realized that it's still pretty good. Most of the songs are clean-sounding, heartfelt anthems, more in the style of "Run" than "Tiny Little Fractures". Occasionally this gets boring ("You Could Be Happy") but most of the time it works. "Set The Fire To The Third Bar" is one that worked better than most. Rating: 3.5/5

Art Brut: Bang Bang Rock & Roll: As I noted when I saw them at Coachella, this is a very funny band. Somewhere between the Hold Steady and Monty Python, the band features excellent rock instrumentation beneath lyrics half-sung and half-spoken with goofy sincerity by Eddie Argos. The opening track, "Formed a Band", declares, "Look at us! We formed a band!" and announces their intention to appear on Top of the Pops; this latter becomes something of a recurring theme. I can identify with the character in "My Little Brother" who has "just discovered rock and roll", and in "Good Weekend" the singer's glee at having a new girlfriend is infectious. ("I've seen her naked—twice!") It's tough to pick a favorite track here, but I might go with "18,000 Lira" which describes a group of inept bank robbers preparing for a heist. I'd heard the album was good when it was only available as an import, but I held off for the U.S. version which included three new tracks: among them, "Really Bad Weekend" is one of the best songs on the record. Rating: 4/5

June 3, 2006

Best Search Requests of May 2006

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 6:48 PM

Search queries that led to this site last month in bold, editorial comments in italics.

  • material on topic of its better to lead in hell than to serve in heaven
    Looks like Damien is researching his term paper.
  • images that give you an erection
    This is very strange way to search for porn.
  • how much wine can i bring into the state of connecticut
    An important consideration when passing through customs at the New York/Connecticut border.
  • ninja in literature
    The first appearance of ninjas in English literature is credited to Shakespeare. Macbeth: "Is this a shuriken I see before me?"
  • caltech students introverted and nerdy
    I'm surprised Google didn't just respond with "Yes."
  • clinton got a blowjob bush is giving one
    Maybe this accounts for the 29% of people who still approve of his job performance.
  • voting between george bush and grog
    Arrr! The true pirate always votes for grog!

I think the last one is my favorite. 460 searches for "gazebo" last month.

Band names: good, bad, and ugly

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 4:04 PM

I keep forgetting to link this: The Onion A.V. Club list of Worst Band Names, and an accompanying list of band names that are so-bad-they're-awesome. These are actual bands and not an Onion parody. I recognize at least one local band (The Fucking Ocean), but my favorite name on the second list is "Mariospeedwagon" (who also appear to be a Bay Area band).

I have always thought that El Diablo Robotico (a phrase that appeared in an episode of Angel) would be a great name for a band.

Permalink | Tags: Lists, Music

June 2, 2006

Friday Random 10: A Summer Wasting

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 2:08 PM

I'd like to make a real post today but given the number of things I need to do (getting ready for a trip to Mexico on Sunday) I may not get around to it. In the meantime, here are the next ten songs to play on my iPod:

  1. Belle & Sebastian, "A Summer Wasting"
  2. The Reindeer Section, "Where I Fall"
  3. Yo La Tengo, "Sugarcube"
  4. Get Him Eat Him, "Separate States"
  5. Yo La Tengo, "Double Dare"
  6. Autechre, "Ipacial Section"
  7. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, "And I'm Aching"
  8. My Bloody Valentine, "Several Girls Galore"
  9. Sleater-Kinney, "Rollercoaster"
  10. Belle & Sebastian, "Act Of The Apostle II"

The best song in this set is definitely "Sugarcube":

Try to be more assured, try to be more right there
Try to be less uptight, try to be more aware
Whatever you want from me, is what I want to do for you
Sweeter than a drop of blood from a sugarcube

June 1, 2006

Thoughts on the way to lab

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 11:29 AM

Spotted no fewer than six U-Haul trucks on a half-mile stretch of Oxford St. Must be moving day.

I was having problems with my iPod for a while but got it working again. It was eerie to walk into a Jamba Juice, take off my headphones, and discover that the song I was just listening to was also playing on the store's speakers. (It was Mylo's "Drop The Pressure".)