Archive for November, 2004

FluMist, Leonard Cohen and Curtis Mayfield

I received the FluMist vaccine today. There was extra vaccine after offering vaccinations to employees who see patients. The first session a few weeks ago, though, was packed with people in white coats. I decided to wait since it seemed more important that they get it than I. The session today was nearly empty, and there still was vaccine available. The experience was strange. The nurse squirted two little syringes of fluid into my nose, one for each nostril, and I felt it run down the back of my throat. I do not recall ever having another person squirt medicine or anything else into my nose. The taste was strange and a little sweet. It was not especially unpleasant, however, and I would recommend it to anyone who qualifies and can obtain it.

Some of the songs from the second round of borrowing CDs from the public library were excellent. Leonard Cohen‘s The Songs of Leonard Cohen was the best album of the lot. I had never quite appreciated his music in the past. The lyrics I saw quoted on the Internet were not great. The songs I found on the Internet were too stiff and not melodic enough. I played a few of the songs at the neuroscience retreat instead of watching a presidential debate. Compared to how I would write his songs if I could write his songs, they overflow with unanticipated extras. They pose some challenges because so many lines have an extra word or two, so many verses have an extra line or two and both often end on notes a small distance from what I expect. These strange musical choices have grown on me. He has a few excellent songs in Rise Up Singing, and my favorite KDHX radio show Suffragette City features him occasionally. The backing vocals on “So Long, Marianne” have a forced crescendo section that is wonderful, but also particular to a past era. The arrangements are sparse, especially considering how lush and thick most other albums I know from that period are. I want to learn more Leonard Cohen lyrics and guitar parts.

The other gem was People Get Ready: The Curtis Mayfield Story. In a Trival Pursuit pop culture game several weeks ago, my team got a question about an R&B singer who was paralyzed during a stage accident. I narrowed it down to Curtis Mayfield and one other singer before guessing the wrong one. Nobody else playing seemed to know Curtis Mayfield from Adam. I got someone to play “(Don’t Worry) If There’s a Hell Below, We’re All Going to Go” on the jukebox at the Schlafly Tap Room one time, and the opening lyrics caught the people who were listening way off guard. The same song was playing at a party earlier this year when the host quieted his guests to speak, and I shouted, “If there’s a hell below.” He was amused although he might have been the only other one. The first disc has the biggest hits with the Impressions and some of his early solo triumphs. The guitar parts, which I think he played, are delicate and minimal. A ringing note or chord is rare. The modulation on “People Get Ready” is terrific. The slang pronunciations in the early work, especially in contrast the the precision of the vocals, would bother me in many other cases, just not here. I also just like Curtis Mayfield for succeeding. He was nerdy looking. He suffered a great personal tragedy. He recorded his last album flat on his back to let gravity give him the voice he could no longer produce otherwise. It reminds me of Jimmie Rodgers catching his breath on a cot in the studio with a nurse supervising when he recorded his last album with advanced tuberculosis. Mayfield remained this insightful and successful man the whole way.

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Michael M. on November 29th 2004 in General, Music, Recorded

Automata and singing medical educators

I posted a couple of days ago about an article on automata I saw in the New York Times. Today, Slashdot has a story on the same collection. There is a good site with highlights.

There is a story on Boing Boing about Helen Davies, a professor at the UPenn School of Medicine who sings for her students. She sets her lyrics about microbiology to popular tunes. Arie Perry performs simlar songs here for several of his neuropathology lectures. “Lost my bearings in the dead of night.”

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Michael M. on November 29th 2004 in General, Live, Music

Battle for the Golden Egg

I went to the game between Ole Miss and Mississippi State again. The count of how many games I have attended is lost, but this game might have made 25. Both teams had bad years. It was a little hard to believe that both came into the game 3-7 because Ole Miss won convincingly.

An article on protective soccer headgear spurned some thoughts on protective wear. I play soccer, and I wear shin guards unless I forget them. I would be unlikely to wear headgear. Putting aside the open question of whether the headgear helps prevent injury, it seems excessive and expensive. I admit, though, that I play only pickup games that are not competitive, and I will hold back on a play to avoid a collision. Even playing cautiously, I have incurred plenty of shots to the head. Other players seem to see passing the ball over me as a better choice than it is when I defend. Due to some combination of closing very quickly and dodging very poorly, I went through a period of many shots to my face. None were ever bad. I never even got a bruise. Good players who play competitively in real leagues, however, seem to regularly incur concussions.

The article reminded me of helmets. Bicycle helmets, among other public health issues, is a popular topic of discussion with some friends. I question whether helmets are such a great idea. What severity and likelihood of injury merit wearing a protective gear? How likely is a head injury from biking compared to one from walking or from slipping in the shower? My largely unsuccessful attempt to gather statistics further confused the situation. Is distance or time the appropriate denominator for measuring accidents? Some of my bicycle rides replace walks to a certain destination, and accidents per mile would be appropriate. Other rides are exercise for an amount of time that I might have spent walking. Accidents per hour would be a good measure. Few people consider walking to be a hazardous enough activity for helmets. Is cycling? Being a conspiracy minded person, I wonder how much helmets are pushed by the companies making them and how easy it is to appeal to fear, especially when children are involved.

An article on automata caught my interest today. I would enjoy seeing some of them. They hold both artistic and technical appeal. The music boxes are favorites. I wish I knew a nearby place to see some of them.

On the subject of music, I played with GarageBand for a few minutes this morning. It was fun although I did not use it enough to create anything. The interaction between loops and free composition is clean. Connecting an instrument appears to be the cleanest, perhaps only, way to input notes from scratch, and I did not have one available. It would be an endlessly amusing toy if I could summon the necessary creativity and skill.

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Michael M. on November 27th 2004 in General

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to whoever happens to read this post today. My trip down to the Dirty has been good so far. We had good turkey for supper.

The family computer situation is good. I spent a little time Wednesday fulfilling my technical support family role. All the problems were small and manageable. Bringing my own wireless router home was a good decision, and access is quick. I no longer live the withdrawal days from high school and much of college when the Internet was almost unknown and definitely unavailable in small town America.

Driving home a day earlier than planned was a good decision even though it meant traveling at night for most of the trip. I drove around my hometown to see what is new. My family will watch the Battle for the Golden Egg this Saturday. Going will split my drive back into two almost even legs instead of one long day.

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Michael M. on November 25th 2004 in General


My thoughts drifted back to a story on All Things Considered about numbers stations that I heard earlier this month. Lost and Found Sound carried a very similar piece in 2000. These shortwave broadcasts consist of series of numbers. The best explanation is that home bases communicate with spies via these messages.

The Conet Project releases recordings of the broadcasts. They have a small following, including Wilco, the band whose name comes from radio talk for “will comply.” The album title Yankee Hotel Foxtrot comes from a shortwave broadcast. In my ignorance, I had thought the title came from Woody Guthrie when he was ill. I was wrong. Mermaid Avenue is the Guthrie album, and I obviously do not know Wilco well. Because Wilco borrowed from the Conet Project without permission, they had to pay royalties that revived the project when it was nearly dead.

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Michael M. on November 25th 2004 in General

Escalator to Mars and reunions

Burn a hole through the center of my mind. Let all the bad thoughts out.” A funny satirical protest happened recently at the University of Washington. Check out the photographs.

On a slightly related note, I did get to see Camper Van Beethoven earlier this fall. It was a delight. Since the band disbanded when I was in high school, I thought I never would see them. Then a reunion was announced, and I made it to a show this fall. The exact same statements describe the Pixies. The new Camper songs were good, but they mostly played their old songs. The Pixies only have one new song, and I do not remember hearing it at the concert.

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Michael M. on November 24th 2004 in General, Live, Music

Sensory substitution

New Tools to Help Patients Reclaim Damaged Senses” has some excellent accounts of using sensory substitution to cope with neurological deficits.

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Michael M. on November 23rd 2004 in General

Incredible children

I saw The Incredibles and noticed the theme of the exceptional versus mediocrity woven throughout about being special without giving it much further thought until reading “When Every Child Is Good Enough.” The article concerns the conflicting educational interests of children with particular talents with the call to educate everyone and the general ideas of competition and cooperation. I was happy to see Vonnegut‘s “Harrison Bergeron” in the article. A friend brought up some additional themes in the movie. It pits the Incredibles’ talents that come easily against the industriousness of Syndrome. The conflict can be seen as a battle between physical ability and ingenuity. Then the idea occurred to me that Syndrome represents technology and modernity while the Incredibles stand for rawer abilities and the past, a parallel to John Henry and many other stories.

I wonder about how best to address these conflicts within the framework of a good versus evil plot. Could the movie have expressed these multiple conflicts using other pairings within the movie? The two Incredible children have their conflicts. The boy wants to use his talent to stand out while Violet wants to hide her talents to fit in. The Incredible parents argue about the questions in the movie, and they argue about doing good acts when they break the law. In these cases, the conflicts are paired with gender in stereotypical ways.

The Incredibles is a much richer movie than I had realized. Now I want to see it again with these ideas in mind. It reminds me that I rarely talk during movies. While talking in the theater is offensive, it seems strange how silent people are when watching movies at home. I tend to talk about movies after they end, rarely using the powerful pause feature, and I think that approach is common. It would be fun to have a little party with the agreement ahead of time to pause often to talk. Maybe my experience with MythTV will retrain me to use the magic of pausing recorded entertainment.

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Michael M. on November 21st 2004 in General

Web junk

Working late makes me especially distractable. In my search for entertainment, I watched a fantastic movie of monkey fu found thanks to a friend.

Monkey Fu

Thinking that a site with one great video might have others, I came across Monkey vs. Robot.

Monkey vs. Robot

I read elsewhere that the song comes from James Kochalka Superstar. Considering how funny I think monkeys and robots are, this find is great.

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Michael M. on November 21st 2004 in General, Music, Recorded

Movie time, music time, work time

Tarnation was inventive and moving. It is largely a collage from old family photographs and movies put together very well. The background music is great. “Wichita Lineman” was a great choice for backing a Texas boyhood. The story is sad and compelling.

Ray, in contrast, was disappointing. The talent and drive of the man are portrayed without painting him as a saint or a demon. The flashback scenes were hokey, and the dialogue could have been much better. The actors too often declared their emotions and intents when their actions alone would have been sufficient and better.

I checked out CDs from the library for the first time. I grabbed the available Enrico Caruso albums. Each one has various arias, most recorded about a hundred years ago. So far, I only want to hear “La Donna e Mobile” and a few other tracks because they are most familiar. I hear an unabashed attempt to be powerful and direct that is terrific. Some new good shower songs must be on them, too.

A power outage is scheduled for this afternoon at work. On the good side, I am free to play frisbee this afternoon. The weather should be chilly, but I think we have enough people willing to play to have a good time. Not being able to start work until late in the afternoon probably will push my work late into the night and ruin my chances of going to the City Museum and seeing Inbred Redneck Alien Abduction.

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Michael M. on November 20th 2004 in General, Movies, Music, Recorded

Hello, world!

This message begins my venture into the blogosphere.

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Michael M. on November 16th 2004 in General

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.