Sunday, August 29, 2004

A'well We're Movin' on Up! 

Candleblog has moved. The redesign is complete (well, close enough). We have a new look and a (slightly) different address, but we're the same old Candleblog in all other respects. Our new home is here (http://www.candleboy.com/candleblog/). Please update your bookmarks and if you are a blogger or other webmaster who links to us, please update your links. It's a simple matter of replacing "we" with "candle" before the "blog" in the url. Thanks.

I hope you will enjoy Candleblog 2.0. We have eshewed Blogger and Haloscan (thanks for the ride, guys) in favor of the more robust and dense Geeklog engine.

I would like to thank Matty the Greek (and, by extension, Satan) for helping me during the set-up phase of the new site (he recently switched to Geeklog too, so we were blog nerds together). I'd also like to thank Flameape for helping me with the new logo design, and Candlebloggers Spine, Ntodd and Danz for their input.

If you are a regular Candleblog reader, I encourage you to sign up for an account at the new Candleblog--it's free, as anonymous as you would like, and allows you to post comments using your screen-name. You don't have to sign up to post comments, but they will be "anonymous" if you don't.

Now, for a trip down memory lane, take a look at our first Blogger page, which is still up. Click through the various iterations of the blog to get a sense of our progression. Has it really only been five months?

Incidentally, that is why I'm making this move now. Blogger was sufficient for most of my blogging needs, but I knew an upgrade was inevitable and Geeklog has a great search feature and other advances that I knew I would want to make use of down the road. Now that I'm sure I will continue blogging for the foreseeable future (and that it's not just a passing fad), I want to be in a place that I can grow into, not grow out of.

Enjoy the new space, stop by often, leave lots of comments. Candleblog is dead. Long live Candleblog!
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Friday, August 27, 2004

Estimates Quiz 

From Metafilter: a quiz that requires only *rough* answers. I'm ashamed to say I only got a score of 26%. Find it here. But dang! I really don't know the number of petrol stations in the UK, but I was damn close.

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Hyperbolic frottage 

On August 18, Dan blogged:

How long will it take a rare phrase to show up in a google search? I'm going to post this at 11:45am. I think the first reader to find this post as a result of the google search on "Hyperbolic frottage you dirty devil underpants" should win some kind of prize. Bill, tell our readers what they'll win! ... Bill? ... Bill...?

To which Bill replied:

The winner will win a videotape of a live, broadcast in Burlington, VT, one-hour episode of Welcome to Reality in which Dan will say the winners full name at least 50 times during the episode. He will not simply say the name 50 times in a row, he will seemlessly integrate the name into whatever the show is about that night.

To which I say:

I'm ready for my seamless integration, Mr. DeMille. Google has spoken!

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Car Talk 

My 1991 Subaru Legacy bit the dust yesterday. Tranny's shot. Now I'm going to take out a home-equity loan and buy a new (used) car. I want something fuel-efficient, compact, and low-maintenance. Can spend $5-8K. I'm thinking Honda--I've always loved Hondas--but I thought I'd ask for ideas here (why not?). Anyone had any noteworthy personal experience with a used car in that price range?

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"Let's turn a corner, any corner" 

Portlander/Deaner/Democratic activist Joyce McGreevy has a very funny piece in Salon today--a special preview of George Bush's upcoming speech at the RNC. Choice bits:

Read the whole thing. And subscribe to Salon while you're at it--it's been a while since I heard any rumors of Salon's demise, but I'm sure they could still use the support.

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progressive talking points 

Holy shit, read this interview with Linguistics professor George Lakoff--a very smart and articulate man. Then go pick a fight with a conservative.

EXERPT:
One of the values that Democrats seemed to drop into every sentence of the Convention was "strength." How is that part of the progressive canon?

You have to fight strength with strength. That's straight out of "Moral Politics": the strict father has to be strong, but the nurturant parent must also be strong. However, I don't think the Democrats did a good job of defining what the difference is in Kerry's kind of strength, because they refused to use the word "weak" in reference to Bush. They wanted to have a completely positive campaign — which it isn't anyway — but they didn't want to say that Bush has made the country weaker. The issue of weakness awakens the stereotype of liberals, so instead they said, "Look, we just want America to be stronger."

But "stronger" doesn't necessarily imply weak. They could have talked more directly about all the ways Bush has weakened the country. When they have a case to be made on the basis of a pattern of behavior, they don't tend to use a grammar that really nails the message, like "We're weaker in education, and here's why. We're weaker in security, and here's why." You could write this argument in half a page. The Democrats aren't there yet, by any means.

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Thursday, August 26, 2004

Borat vs. The World 

For more scoop on Borat's Impact on the current socio-political scene, take a peek at this:

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/showbiz/articles/12693700?source=Daily%20Mail

If folks were hip enough to know who Sasha Baron Cohen is, or smart enough to research who he was before he interviewed him, the world would be a safer place--but the show would not be near as funny!

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Ain't nothin but a Gmail, baby... 

I've been using Gmail for about a month. It's a damn good service, and I can't imagine why anyone would want to stick with Hotmail or Yahoo, other than the inconvenience of announcing an address change. I'm considering switching to Gmail as my main address, because I'm getting tired of managing my different accounts. I won't go into all the fine points of Gmail, but here's the short version:

- emails organized by threads instead of one long list
- good address book into which you can import CSV files
- keyboard shortcuts (unusual for Web-based email)
- 1 GB storage

Why am I telling you this? Because I have five Gmail invitations available for Candleblog readers or team members. Contact me at jonathanfine at gmail dot com. For a short time, these invitations were selling for a hundred bucks on eBay, which is stupid. Now they're everywhere, even though Gmail is still in beta and hasn't been released to the public yet.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Tricks of the trade 

Several bloggers have been mentioning this today and I was going to skip it, but it's too compelling to pass up. Below I have excerpted some of the trades most relevant to specific Candleblog readers:
Proofreader

If you’re reading too fast, your brain can “correct” typos, preventing you from catching them. That’s why it’s sometimes a good idea to read a page upside-down. It forces you to pay closer attention to individual words out of context, and you can’t race through pages too fast.

Technical Support

When helping someone fix their computer over the phone, and you want them to see if all the cables are plugged in correctly, don’t ask, “Have you checked to see if the cable is plugged in?” because the customer will always say, “Of course I did, do you think I’m a moron?” Instead say, “Remove the cable, blow the dust out of the connector, and plug it back in.” The customer will most likely reply, “Hey, it’s working now—I guess that dust really builds up in there!”

Waitress

When you realize you have forgotten to submit an order to the kitchen, go to the table and mournfully say, “Did you just hear that crash?” Nine times out of 10, the customers not only will say “yes,” but actually will believe they just heard a noise of some sort. You can then sigh sadly, and say, “Unfortunately, that was the chef dropping your food,” and then scurry back to the kitchen to hand in the neglected order.

Photographer

When taking family portraits that include a dog, don’t use the dog’s name or say “doggie, doggie” to get its attention, because it might trot over to you. Instead, call out “kitty, kitty, kitty.” The dog will perk up and look around for a cat, and you can get a great shot if you time it right.

Graphic Designer

If you have a client who is unable to approve a proposed design without putting her stamp on it, just put an obvious error in the proposal: a logo that’s too large, a font that’s too small, or a few judiciously seeded typos. The client requests the change and feels she’s done her part—and your design, which was perfect all along, sails through to approval.

Actor

Every actor eventually is called upon to act drunk. Most do this by slurring their speech, stumbling around, and perhaps drooling a bit. This is what a freshman drama teacher calls “indicating.” A better way to appear drunk is to act very, very sober. Walk very carefully, and try not to let anyone see that you’re inebriated. This is much more subtle and will register on a level the audience won’t immediately recognize.

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No comment. 


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Ntodd takes a purty pi'ture of the Moon 


The Moon and Antares last night
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Why Y2K Was So Disappointing 

Articles like this one from Weekend Magazine in 1961 hyped the idea of the near future so much that those of us who were lucky enough to actually experience The Year 2000 were totally let down by the boring sameness of it all. "Where the hell is my jetpack and ray gun?" was the question in the back of every nerd's mind on January 1st, The Year 2000.

Excerpt:
Doors will open automatically, and clothing will be put away by remote control. The heating and cooling systems will be built into the furniture and rugs.

You'll have a home control room - an electronics centre, where messages will be recorded when you're away from home. This will play back when you return, and also give you up-to-the minute world news, and transcribe your latest mail.

You'll have wall-to-wall global TV, an indoor swimming pool, TV-telephones and room-to-room TV. Press a button and you can change the décor of a room.

The status symbol of the year 2000 will be the home computer help, which will help mother tend the children, cook the meals and issue reminders of appointments.

Cooking will be in solar ovens with microwave controls. Garbage will be refrigerated, and pressed into fertiliser pellets.
Apparently in The Year 2000 we will all still inhabit the same gender roles and social castes. I guess they didn't interview Philip K. Dick for this article.

Interestingly, things being small wasn't prognosticated. The idea of an entire room of your house being devoted to electronics and messaging seems off-the-chart inefficient. I guess the miniaturization of electronics hadn't really started in 1961. Plus, big things were still impressive then--hence "wall-to-wall global TV," etc. My favorite prediction: "Rocket belts will increase a man's stride to 30 feet." I'm not sure they fully thought through the environmental implications of that one. One prediction seems downright quaint: "Mail and newspapers will be reproduced instantly anywhere in the world by facsimile." Okay, yup, they nailed that one.

via Backwards City
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Tuesday, August 24, 2004

The Whacks of Life 

Parents Divided Over Practice of 'Hot Saucing' as a Form of Discipline
Aug. 24, 2004 — The practice of "hot saucing" a child's tongue as a method of discipline may seem cruel to some parents, but those who regularly use the punishment say it teaches their charges valuable and long-lasting lessons.

Lisa Whelchel, who played Blair on the popular 1980s TV series Facts of Life, is an advocate and practitioner of "hot saucing." Whelchel, the author of Creative Correction: Extraordinary Ideas for Everyday Discipline, says the practice worked for her children when other disciplinary actions did not. ...

Whelchel said hot saucing works better than traditional spanking when it comes to offenses related to the child's mouth.

"It's a logical consequence. If you cause somebody pain, either by the words you say by lying and not being a trustworthy person or by biting, this is a logical consequence. It's your mouth that's the offender," she said.

Oh, I don't know, Blair. I like a traditional spanking. I was never hot sauced as a child, but I was miracle whipped from time to time. It wasn't until my mother's health-nut girlfriend tried to make me eat a piece of tofu birthday cake that I fully grasped the culinary consequences of bad behavior.



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Land of the Home: Bush never heard of 1st amendment 

President Bush said on Monday that political advertisements run by a
broad swath of independent groups should be stopped...

From this article at the NY Times (may require registration - use bugmenot)


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Monday, August 23, 2004

Something new... 

Small changes here at Candleblog. Please note our sidebar has been slightly revamped, and Blogger is now offering a google search function of the site. Try it out and let me know what you think. I wish there were more design options other than color, but that is where it goes and I can't seem to move it. I'd love to add it to my sidebar instead of where it is, but whatever. Thoughts?
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Okay, I know none of you care, but... 

...I must post this link to a piece of Decemberists news at Pitchfork Media. Below are the dates of their upcoming tour.
09-04 Bend, OR - Les Schwab Amphitheater (w/The Pixies)
09-09 Seattle, WA - Neumos (w/Xiu Xiu, The Gossip, Deerhoof, The Punks)
09-10 Portland, OR - Roseland Theater (w/Xiu Xiu, The Gossip, Deerhoof)
09-11 Olympia, WA - Eagle's Hall (w/Deerhoof, Mecca Normal, Xiu Xiu)
09-21 Madison, WI - Luther's Blues *
09-22 Champaign, IL - High Dive *
09-23 Grand Rapids, MI - Calvin Coolidge *
09-24 Cleveland, OH - Beechland Ballroom *
09-25 Clinton, NY - Hamilton College *
09-26 Baltimore, MD - Recher Theater *
09-27 New York, NY - Webster Hall *
09-28 Northampton, MA - Pearl St. *
10-13 New York, NY - Bowery Ballroom (CMJ) *
10-14 Burlington, VT - Club Metronome *
10-15 Portland, ME - Big Easy *
10-16 Hoboken, NJ - Maxwell's *
10-17 Columbus, OH - Little Brother's
10-18 Galesburg, IL - Knox College *
10-19 St Louis, MO - Blueberry Hills Duck Room *
10-20 Columbia, MO - Blue Note *
10-21 Lawrence, KS - Jackpot *
10-22 Norman, OK - Opolis *
10-23 Colorado Springs, CO - 32 Bleu *
10-24 Boulder, CO - Fox Theater *

* with Norfolk & Western
(/fanboy rant)
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Anti-semitic British TV 

There's been a bit of an uproar lately over a Channel 4 TV show featuring a Kazakhstani journalist named Borat who, on a recent episode of his show, sang an anti-semitic song called "Throw the Jew Down the Well." The song was sung in a mid-western American bar and the lyrics included: "Throw the Jew down the well so my country can be free. You must grab him by the horns, then we have a big party." The American bar patrons were shown singing happily along with Borat. Channel 4 has received several complaints and may be penalized for the broadcast. The kicker is that "Borat" is actually British comedian Sasha Baron Cohen, who also portrays the famous character, Ali G, and is himself, Jewish.



Go here for the whole story. Then make sure you watch every single episode of Da Ali G Show on HBO--it's brilliant.
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iPod sHopping 

I'm officially in the market for an iPod with iTrip. I know there are some non-Apple alternatives that are just as good or better than the iPod and Gizmodo today has this thing listed, which looks pretty sweet too. Not available in the US yet but maybe by the time I'm ready to plunk down some cash it will be. Anyone out there have some advise or personal experience with portable mp3 players?
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Relativity: not so relative after all? 

Since that first observation, the “Allais effect”, as it is now called, has confounded physicists. If the effect is real, it could indicate a hitherto unperceived flaw in General Relativity—the current explanation of how gravity works.

That would be a bombshell—and an ironic one, since it was observations taken during a solar eclipse (of the way that light is bent when it passes close to the sun) which established General Relativity in the first place. So attempts to duplicate Dr Allais's observation are important. However, they have had mixed success, leading sceptics to question whether there was anything to be explained. Now Chris Duif, a researcher at the Delft University of Technology, in the Netherlands, has reviewed the evidence. According to a paper he has just posted on arXiv.org, an online publication archive, the effect is real, unexplained, and could be linked to another anomaly involving a pair of American spacecraft.
Read more...

via geekpress
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Saturday, August 21, 2004

Garden State 

We went to go see Garden State tonight. Below is my official review.

The Only Living Boy in New Jersey

Remember the good old days of American independent film, when Quentin Tarantino and Jim Jarmusch reigned supreme? Wry post-modernism was the dominant paradigm. The characters that populated indy films in the 90s were sarcastic smart-asses who saw everything in their worlds through a "been there, done that" filter. It seemed like every piece of dialogue was a comment on something, or a comment on a comment on something. If you could take the conversation between Quentin Tarantino and Todd Field in 1994's Sleep With Me--about how the subtext of Top Gun is really about homosexuality--and bronze it, you would have a perfect representation of the state of American independent film in the 1990s: detached, too clever for it's own good, ironic.

In the last few years though (insert obligatory 9/11 reference here), indy films have started to move away from that model and the new crop of auteurs is embracing a more honest, sincere, and courageous paradigm. P. T. Anderson's Punch Drunk Love, Sophia Coppola's Lost in Translation and Michel Gondry's recent Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind are some excellent examples of what I'm talking about--films that despite being extremely hip (in fact, these films arguably define currently hip cinema), still deal with real human emotion and interaction without masking it behind detached boredom and "coolness." These films are essentially romantic comedies, but re-invented and stripped of the cliched "chick-flick" sentimentality and manipulated weepiness that has defined that genre for so long.

Zack Braff's directorial debut, Garden State, continues the trend toward this New Sincerity in indy filmmaking, and in fact the film is in some ways about this very transformation.

At the beginning of Garden State, Andrew Largeman (played by Braff) is so detached, he is virtually catatonic. The opening shot of the film cleverly depicts his association with the world. It's the interior of a jetliner during a crash. People are screaming and praying and freaking out all around him as he sits, staring at nothing in particular, and casually lifts his hand to adjust the flow of air from those little nozzles in the overhead panel. This is how he pictures himself: completely unaffected by the world that affects everyone else.

When Largeman leaves California to attend his mother's funeral in New Jersey, he also leaves behind his intense regimen of psychological medications--lithium, Prozac, Paxil, etc. Over the course of the next several days, and with the help of his new friend/love interest, Sam (Natalie Portman), he slowly becomes a feeling, thinking human being again--capable of grieving his mother's loss, falling in love, and forgiving his distant and difficult father.

Garden State is a lovely and charming film. The performances are first-rate and Braff has proven himself a skilled director. He is adept at creating a certain contemplative mood through the use of slow motion and time-lapsed cinematography and music. Music--the music in this film deserves an entire review unto itself. The soundtrack is the the musical equivalent of modern indy filmmaking--New Sincerity pop: The Shins, Iron and Wine, Nick Drake, Paul Simon. The soundtrack album is sure to be a huge hit.

The comedy in the film is dry and occasionally very funny, but a few scenes seem tacked on--as if Braff had been compiling a lot of little funny moments in his notebook and wanted to include as many of them as he could. Most of them worked, fortunately, but added little to the film's theme/story and I hope he hasn't used up his whole bag of tricks on his first film--he'll have nothing left for his next one.

Similarly, there were some show-off shots that likewise seemed superfluous (many of these are in the film's trailer--it's a great trailer!). For instance, at Largeman's mother's wake, a friend of the family insists that he try on a shirt she has made for him. She explains that she used the same material Largeman's mother had used when she redecorated the hall bathroom. Cut to a shot of an expressionless Largeman standing in a loud, green shirt in front of a wall bearing the identical pattern. The shot got a chuckle from the audience, but I'm not sure it was worth the trouble of the laborious set-up.

My biggest problem with Garden State is the ending. I don't want to ruin any surprises, so I'll just say that the last two scenes of the film are fundamentally different in tone and style from the rest of it. Add to this a straight-from-the-desk-of-Nora-Ephron cliched romantic comedy final beat, and I was left leaving the theater somewhat dissatisfied. This caveat should in no way be taken as a condemnation. I just felt like an otherwise superb first feature was marred by a merely-okay conclusion.

I have been eagerly waiting for the release of Garden State since January and my expectations were pretty high. That the film didn't let me down is a testament to its charm and grace. Go see it. Pay full price.
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