Archive for May, 2006

Near miss

Riding my bicycle today, I had my nearest ever brush with personal disaster. A car nearly hit me. Then it did hit another car. I thought the second car might hit me after the collision. I came away completely unharmed.

I was riding on a Bike St. Louis route just a few blocks from where I live. It was a hot Memorial Day about 4:00 to 4:30 PM. As I was passing through an intersection, I saw a black car, a Mitsubishi, I think, heading toward me. It had come from the opposite direction, and the driver was attempting a left turn. It was a case of the common failure to yield the right of way while making a left turn. The driver, a young woman, might have slowed down to avoid me. I definitely pedaled hard to avoid being hit.

I had a vivid understanding of the events that followed with no way to alter them. After the black car missed me, I had this feeling that another accident was happening. It was. The turning car then collided with a white Nissan traveling in the same direction I was. I am not sure whether I saw the impact. Immediately after the collision, I heard the white car behind me, and it sounded too close. I continued pedaling hard, worried that the white car would hit me after being knocked off course by the black car. Once I knew the white car had stopped, I pulled my bicycle to the curb and onto the sidewalk.

When I walked back to the white car, I saw a middle aged woman at the wheel with a man in the passenger seat. They both looked shaken and had their hands on their chests. They told me they were fine. I looked back to the black car. Its driver was a young woman, roughly college age. She had another woman and a man in her car, both about her age. I am not sure who was riding up front and who was in the back. They were all uninjured, too. The black car was in the middle of the intersection with its front dangling to the side by a few shreds. Some fluid, most likely from the radiator, dripped onto the pavement.

The two drivers argued briefly. The white car driver said that she had a green light. She did. She seemed to have thought wrongly that the black car had entered the intersection by crossing against a red light rather than by attempting a left turn. The black car driver said that she had a green light. While she did have a green light, she did not have the right of way. Her defensiveness bothered me.

A man in a black SUV that looked like a cube also witnessed the accident. He had pulled to the curb just ahead of where I did. He told the white car passengers that he had called the police, and a patrol car arrived within a few minutes. Another man working outside nearby walked over and gave his name and address to the male passenger from the white car. The police officer had the black car driver move her vehicle from the intersection. It died the first time she tried to start it, and it sounded bad. My guess is that her radiator fan was hitting something. Both the cube driver and I told the police officer what had happened. The cube driver left a business card with the white car male passenger. I think he initially handed it to the policeman who then passed it on. I wrote my contact information on the other side of the business card. I know about people who lie following accidents. The black car driver already had talked in a misleading way about having a green light. I wanted to make sure that the victims could call on me for a witness if necessary. The white car passenger thanked me, and I rode away.

I wish I had stayed behind to verify that the black car driver received a citation. Her bad driving caused a wreck, and she came close to hitting me. Immediately after, I wished I had spoken to her. Now my feelings are mixed. It probably is better that I did not because I would have made matters worse. She did not apologize to me or even acknowledge me after almost hitting me. It made me unhappy, and it still does. She seemed quite upset. Her female passenger had an arm around her, and I think the driver was crying. It looked selfish to me. She disputed the white car driver immediately after wronging her. She did nothing toward me. Then she cried.

I noticed after how quickly I took a side. The white car passengers had been wronged, and I wanted to make sure justice was served to help them. After it happened, I felt like I had to walk back to check on the people and then make sure that the events were recorded correctly. I knew none of the other people involved, though, and I learned nothing about them of any substance following the wreck. I wonder whether I can see the police report to learn more details.

I also felt that I had to act because I was a bicyclist. The woman in the black car who caused the accident either failed to see me or thought she could make the turn anyway. I have experienced both behaviors while riding. Some drivers are not watchful. Other drivers have definitely seen me and decided they could drive without regard for me. I wish I could know what her thoughts were.

I narrowly avoided having my Memorial Day ruined. The people in the white car were not so fortunate, and the passenger said so. I imagine that the black car driver ruined her own Memorial Day.


Michael M. on May 29th 2006 in General

Break between sets

“Did You Hear John Hurt?,” a song by Tom Paxton and maybe Dave Van Ronk, made curious about the cellar, the place mentioned in the song where the singer went to hear Mississippi John Hurt. A query led me to this page with a funny quote.

“I think Mississippi John Hurt put more music in the walls than anybody else,” Sam mused. “I remember his second night in New York. He had just been rediscovered. He was right in the middle of a song and he walked off stage. The place was packed. I thought he was sick or something and I ran up to him. He said, ‘I just had to take a pee!'”

Hurt seems to have been quite a charming and funny man. His influence escaped me until just a year or two ago. Since then, I have been completely enamored. John Sebastian took the name of his band the Lovin’ Spoonful from the lyrics of Hurt’s “Coffee Blues.” Sebastian is on a DVD I got for Christmas with Happy Traum teaching several Hurt tunes. I have enjoyed the parts I have watched so far. Traum mentions the Village Gaslight, the official name of the cellar venue also called the Gaslight Café, on this page. Former Gaslight proprietor Sam Hood reminisces about Hurt in a bonus on the DVD.

My YouTube search turned up three great videos. Hurt was indeed charming. I wish I could see his appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. The last two videos linked are from Rainbow Quest, an old television show hosted by Pete Seeger. The last has “Goodnight, Irene,” taking me back to a Thacker Mountain Radio that closed with the same song. Judging from the query results, Rainbow Quest must have been a fantastic show. I just wish they were not quite so proud of the DVDs. I found another thing to admire in the Seeger’s Wikipedia entry.

“Plagiarism is the basis of all culture.” Seeger quoting his father.

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Michael M. on May 28th 2006 in General, Music

Galapagos and Hocus Pocus

I found this post on Digg just a day after finishing Galápagos. I dove into Hocus Pocus after it and finished yesterday. I was already a confirmed fan of Kurt Vonnegut. The two are far too similar, and they rank well below his best work. Both use retrospective narration by Vietnam War veterans and involve societal unrest. Both overflow with Vonnegut’s curmudgeonly views on human abuses of the environment, one another and decency on the whole. While Galápagos is science fiction, Hocus Pocus is not. The two novels have their differences, but I should have read other things between them.

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Michael M. on May 27th 2006 in General

Never learn

The Perfect Mark” by Mitchell Zuckoff in a recent New Yorker chronicles a 419 scam experience. A post on Digg led me to it. The story reminded me of an important lesson. Learning and good sense are much rarer than many of us would like to think.

Despite everything, he insisted that he still believed he had been dealing with the real Maryam and Mohammed Abacha. “I think they were legitimately trying to use me and my resources to get their funds out of Nigeria into a safe place where they could have access to them,” he said. Worley wasn’t sure whom to blame for the bad checks, though Nduka was suspect. “Somehow there was a buyoff, a payoff, or something that went on there, and then it got switched to the point where I was then dealing with fraudsters,” he said.

When I asked Worley what he wished he had done differently, he didn’t answer directly. Instead, he spoke about hoping that the Abachas would get back in touch with him. However, before they could resume work on the multimillion-dollar transfer, he expected them to send the six hundred thousand dollars that he needs for restitution.

“What if they sent you a check?” Barbara demanded. “Would you put it in the bank to see if it cleared again?”


“John!” she said.

“I don’t know,” Worley said finally, sounding defeated. “I have to have time to think about what I would do in that situation.”

“My husband is naïve,” she explained to me. “He trusts people.”

There is even a music video.

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Michael M. on May 27th 2006 in General

Charles Eames

I went to the Missouri History Museum Tuesday evening. Even though I probably had seen it before, I had failed to notice the exhibit on Charles Eames. I blogged about the Powers of Ten before. He is from Saint Louis. He even went to WashU. His interests in modern architecture led to his dismissal. Design Within Reach sells furniture designed by Charles and Ray Eames. With the new Studio so nearby, it is fun to ponder his time here.

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Michael M. on May 27th 2006 in General

Science education

This recent article in The New York Times about science education refers to Freeman Hrabowski III. As president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Hrabowski has led the development of innovative program of science education. I heard him speak at the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Lecture, and I had the chance to interact with him personally following it. One of the student from the program there is now a few years behind me here. I have few ideas about how to advance the cause of scientific education or even rigorous education in general, but I am happy to see this success.

Update May 28: This story on /. on related matters has some thoughtful and informative comments.

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Michael M. on May 27th 2006 in General

Crazy Nokia

Watching Phone Scoop‘s video tour of the Nokia N80, I could not help but be captured by “Crazy,” the song played to demonstrate the audio capabilities. Gnarls Barkley, the group behind the song, pairs The Grey Album creator Danger Mouse with ATL Dungeon Family soulster Cee-Lo Green. It should be blaring from windows all around you now and throughout the summer. Their page on MySpace has audio and video.

Cee-Lo has exquisite pitch choice and control. Live clips show that he has real chops. From a now disappeared article in the Los Angeles Times,

on which Cee-Lo channels Al Green’s falsetto and Sam Cooke’s pitch control atop an analog hip-hop groove

This article in the Observer makes a little dig at fellow Dungeon member André Benjamin.

Now the Mouse Man has a new muse – Green, aka 31-year-old Thomas Calloway, formerly of the Atlanta-based rap group, the Goodie Mob. Heavy and bald with buggy eyes and a raspy laugh, Cee-Lo also has a rich soul tenor, a voice that Andre 3000 of OutKast must envy.

I actually like 3000’s singing. I suspect Cee-Lo’s style influenced him. Cee-Lo sings very far forward in his mouth. It works for him.

Waxy Links pointed me to a YouTube video of their performance on Conan. It also suggested a possible connection to Towel Day.

I would not put Towel Day past them. The employment of geeky English humor by musicians coming from hip hop is a good sign. So is Gnarls Barkley’s cover of “Gone Daddy Gone.” Borrowing and crossover, staples of good art, are big elements in our media age that copyright law cannot kill.

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Michael M. on May 27th 2006 in General, Music, Recorded


Robot Wisdom picked up Frogger rewritten in Flash from Digg. It is good gaming.

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Michael M. on May 27th 2006 in General

STL searching

Google Trends shows the temporal and geographic characteristics for searches. This post at the Commonspace blog has funny comments about favorite STL searches. This post at Blog Saint Louis also covers it.

Saint Louis is first in baseball. This place is wild about the Cardinals, and the fever is catching. The Missouri History Museum has an exhibit about the recently destroyed Busch Stadium. If I lived elsewhere, I would be cynical about the game. I lived in Houston, and although I went to games, the Astros never took with me. I am an ignorant fan, but I want the Cardinals to win. STL is also first in poop.

I wanted to find some Mississippi firsts. Jackson wins in catfish, Welty and magnolia. I would like to find more.

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Michael M. on May 25th 2006 in General

Take me home

This article in The New York Times is about the loss of population from West Virginia. This expatriate Mississippian understands.

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Michael M. on May 21st 2006 in General

Whitney music box

Whitney music box is amazing. I found it via this post on Digg. This post by its maker explains it. I have not bought into music of the spheres, but many of them are strangely satisfying.

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Michael M. on May 15th 2006 in General, Music

Backwards Stairway

Waxy Links has pointers to backwards video and forwards video of someone singing “Stairway to Heaven” backwards. Led Zeppelin is one of my standby favorite bands. It is a funny take on the backmasking stories.

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Michael M. on May 10th 2006 in General, Music, Recorded

RAS syndrome

RAS syndrome is the funniest Wikipedia entry I have encountered in a long time. I enjoy TLAs.

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Michael M. on May 9th 2006 in General

Colbert video removed and reposted

A Comedian’s Riff on Bush Prompts an E-Spat” in The New York Times tells how the previously blogged videos on YouTube were removed. I do not understand why C-SPAN should limit distribution of its content. Here is the official statement. Evidently, C-SPAN cut an exclusive deal with Google Video. The video is available there now.

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Michael M. on May 9th 2006 in General

Folk dance

As part of the Folk School band, I played Sunday night at the Monday Club for the Childgrove Country Dancers. It was great. Many people turned out to play, and the floor was packed with dancers. The Folk School band only plays there once a year. I hope I find other opportunities to perform.

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Michael M. on May 9th 2006 in General, Live, Music

Bobby Lounge on NPR tomorrow

I had planned to post again about hometown barrelhouse pianist Bobby Lounge next week. A former art student of his posted about him on her blog. His new CD Ten Foot Woman is coming out, and and he will perform at Jazz Fest. There would have been news. As it stands, I have not received the CD yet, and he will not play until Saturday. Newer news led me to post now. I must be on the Bobby Lounge email list because I received email from his producer John Preble, also proprietor of the UCM Museum, to inform fans that NPR will feature him tomorrow afternoon, Friday, May 5, 2006. I presume that he will be on All Things Considered. Tune in.

Update May 5: I got home, and Ten Foot Woman was in my mailbox. I turned on the radio, and I heard Bobby Lounge. All Things Considered closed with him. The segment is now available. I am listening to the new album, and it is more great stuff. I also found this page promoting a performance earlier this year. Dub Brock is his real name. He teaches art at Southwest Mississippi Community College. Adam Burke should have pronounced “McComb” better. Bobby Lounge killed.

Update May 7: The Times-Picayune published “The Reluctant Star” Saturday. I am looking for reviews of his Jazz Fest performance.

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Michael M. on May 4th 2006 in General, Music, Recorded

Guitar gadget

The LightSnake, recently reviewed in The New York Times, looks like a fun new guitar gadget. I play more folk music now, but I still plug in once in a while. It has a 1/4″ plug on one side and a USB connector on the other. The cable houses an amplifier and an analog-to-digital converter. While the review claims $70, it can be found for $40. A little more searching revealed that there are other products on the market. The JamLab looks similar, and there probably are more. They should be good for using regular electric instruments with GarageBand and similar software.

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Michael M. on May 4th 2006 in General, Music

ASCII from above

ASCII Maps is cool. Thanks go to Waxy Links. It made Digg, too.

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Michael M. on May 3rd 2006 in General

Stephen Colbert: Great satirist or greatest satirist?

Watch Stephen Colbert‘s appearance at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner on YouTube as part 1, part 2 and part 3. As many sites on the web have noted, coverage by Elisabeth Bumiller in The New York Times does not mention Colbert, nor do several other reports. These stories often do mention Bush’s own skit. It was pretty good. This post on Boing Boing turned up some useful links. I forgot how I first found out about this event.

I have no insight that has not been hashed out elsewhere on the web. I liked one discussion about whether Colbert’s act was funny. Did it bomb? I certainly was more amazed than amused by it, but the question is silly. To steal an idea I read somewhere else (found later), “A Modest Proposal” did not make me giggle, either.

Update May 3: “After Press Dinner, the Blogosphere Is Alive With the Sound of Colbert Chatter” came out in The New York Times. It contains plenty of dull discussion about how funny Colbert was. Mary Matalin got in a dig at Colbert’s creativity.

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Michael M. on May 2nd 2006 in General

Local crime

This post on ABB caught my attention. A teacher in the Metro East nearly murdered a high school student from another school. This story in the Post-Dispatch has more details.

The accounts mention Sam Shelton’s web presence, so I did some looking. He has a profile on MySpace located via this post. This post of his is now drawing many comments. He posted several comments on this profile. I found this post from one friend. Another friend had two posts, and I found this post by yet another friend. Another post another person casts him in a worse light. Shelton was a local professional wrestler. This post has more links than I can provide about Shelton.

It is sad and strange. The whole story seems very sordid. I hope the girl recovers. I notice how stunned everyone connected to the assailant and the victim are. The crime is horrifying.

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Michael M. on May 2nd 2006 in General

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