Friday, April 03, 2009

Scooter, Bowie/Mercury and Lambert

New subtitle inspired by Scooter's Lions' work -- and by Bowie/Queen via Adam Lambert (in a way) who's a fan of both of them and needs to sing a 1982 song on Tuesday. (Did I mention that I'm obsessed?) Under Pressure fills the bill. Or, you idiom-policers, is it "fits the bill"?

For Michael

Begging the question from Mona Charen:

My children have started to become exacting grammarians. David, 15, is driven nearly crazy every time someone misuses the expression “beg the question.” It’s a good thing he is away on a band trip this week and didn’t catch a CNN report on the morning news. A story on the financial situation was phrased like this: “This begs the question: What happened to the TARP money?”

If David had been watching, he would have scowled at the screen and, voice raised, corrected the reporter. “It doesn’t ‘beg’ the question. It presents or suggests or poses the question. To beg the question is to avoid or circumvent it!” David is mostly right. “Beg the question” is widely misused. Michael Quinion of World Wide Words responded to a reader who asked whether it was ever correct to use the meaning David disdains. His answer is comprehensive. “You can easily find examples of the sense you quote, which is used just as though one might say ‘prompt the question’ or ‘forces one to ask’ . . . This meaning of the phrase seems to have grown up because people have turned for a model to other phrases in beg, especially the well-known I beg to differ, where beg is a fossil verb that actually used to mean ‘humbly submit.’ But the way we use beg to differ these days makes beg the question look the same as ‘wish to ask.’ It doesn’t — or at least, it didn’t. . . . The meaning you give is . . . gaining ground, and one or two recent dictionaries claim that it is now acceptable — the New Oxford Dictionary of English, for example, says it is ‘widely accepted in modern standard English.’ I wouldn’t go so far myself."


Thursday, April 02, 2009

Texas Lions Camp

Off tomorrow for a weekend at the Texas Lions Camp (for physically disabled, hearing/vision impaired, and diabetic children from the State of Texas, regardless of race, religion, or national origin) doing work to get the camp ready for the summer.

These kids get free trips to camp and the testimonials will make you weep.

Remember that even in these hard times we need to pick a group and help ‘til it hurts. I know I’ll be hurting on Monday.

All these worlds are yours except Europa

Geek post of the day.

The Great Red Spot is shrinking according to UC Berkely (per CNN).

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Postmodern Brutalism is Shovel Ready

The White House has approved using $116 million in federal stimulus money to pay for a long-delayed federal courthouse for downtown Austin, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett said Tuesday (per the American Statesman).

Little picture and discussion here and bigger picture here. Gah.

Do It Now!

As the last guy on the planet without a cell phone but also as one who is up at 6:00 a.m. checking my news and op-ed sites, I have to agree with Kathleen Parker this morning and wonder how much this technology has been driving our national “do something and do it now” mentality:

The phrase "too much information," a now-cliched talk-to-the-hand deflection, isn't just a gentle whack at someone who tells you more than you want to know about his Cialis experience. It's a toxic asset that exhausts our cognitive resources while making the nonsensical seem significant.

In 2006, the world produced 161 exabytes (an exabyte is 1 quintillion bytes) of digital data, according to Columbia Journalism Review. Put in perspective, that's 3 million times the information contained in all the books ever written. By next year, the number is expected to reach 988 exabytes.

How can CJR possibly track that?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Adam Lambert

I think I'm the only American Idol watcher blogging here, so I hesitate to post about it. But I'm obsessed. I can't get enough of Adam Lambert, one of the contestants on Idol this season. There are a few things that interest me about him. Most importantly, he can seriously sing and by that I mean he's both trained and gifted. Beautiful tone to his voice, spectacular control, a sense of rhythm, and a range that is a wonder to behold. He's a tenor contraltino, which means he's got notes on the top of his range that he can sing in his chest voice (without resorting to falsetto) that typical tenors can't get to and it also means that he can operate near the top of his range with facility. And when he goes into falsetto, he can do it full-voiced which sounds like screeching to some people, but those of us who grew up with singers like Geddy Lee, Steve Perry, Robert Plant, and Axl Rose will find that tone to be a pleasant reminder of the days when rockers were supposed to sound scary enough that your parents didn't want to listen to them.

Stylistically, he can sing anything. He can sing quietly and beautifully: Irish-tenor style singing an aria from Brigadoon and covering a Five for Fighting ballad. And then he can get glammed up and let it rip, like these numbers from The Zodiac Show: Singer #3 singing LedZep's Black Dog and Crawl Thru Fire.

He's got intangibles too. He's competitive; he likes challenge; he's old enough (now 27) to have a well-developed sense of self; he's been working at music long enough to know what he wants to do and to have soaked up lots of influences; his dad was a DJ back when DJs were trying NOT to scratch the vinyl, so he spent a lot of time as a tyke soaking up music from the 70s; he's creative; he's smart; he's into the style-aspect of being a star; he's tall and strong (and I admit that's weirdly appealing to me because it seems unusual in singers and makes for more powerful stage-prowling); he notices and appreciates bravery in artists; he's got perfect pitch or a supremely well-trained ear.

He gave a signature Idol performance two weeks ago, singing Ring of Fire arranged with Middle-Eastern influences. Lots of people hated it, but I loved it. It was a little odd the first time you heard it because one's brain was simultaneously playing Cash's version and the two didn't go so well together. But if you watch it back a time or two (or a 100), you can focus on what Adam is doing and I found it stunningly fabulous. (It's not completely original; Dilana Robichaux sang ROF in this vein on Rockstar INXS a few years ago.) Frankly, it suits the lyrics a lot better than Cash's mariachi band.

The other story of note about him is that he's gay or bi. Idol has had a history of being squeamish about dealing with the sexual preference of their gay stars. Clay Aiken didn't come out for several years after his Idol days. Adam is out, though, more or less. There are pictures of him kissing a guy on the internet, there's video of him performing in a cabaret where he mentions that kissing a female Wicked costar was not his preference, and he's been interviewed about it in recent weeks and answered something like, "I am who I am; I have nothing to hide" without exactly declaring who he is. The tricky thing for Adam is that he employs this smoldering sensuality quality and it's making girls melt for him. If he's not bi and he doesn't really come out, then he's got a little bit of a perpetrating-a-fraud problem. Maybe nothing much will come of it, but I'm curious to see how he and Idol handle it.

I'm also interested to watch him make song choices on Idol. He'll have to give performances that appeal to the masses (if he wants to win) while staying true to his own musical and artistic sensibilities. His very tame Tracks of My Tears was a big hit last week, but he won't be satisfied doing something like that all the time. I'm genuinely looking forward to hearing what he's up to tonight.

Update 3/31/09: He sang Play That Funky Music White Boy. I think maybe he's trying to get thrown off so he won't be stuck with the Idol recording contract.

Panic Time


Since C and I's trip to the UK is coming up on Thursday, our plan for last weekend was to start getting things together. I had a list of things to take care of....

UK money...check
enough cat food ... check
make sure we had enough prescription medication...check
reconfirm hotel/b&b/car rental...check
maps and guidebooks...check
calling credit card companies...check
making copies of passport info pages...check

And, for some reason, while making copies of our passports, I happened to look at mine. And that is when I noticed that my passport had an expiration date of....Feb 2009.

After looking at that page for a couple of minutes, then pacing around the house using every combination of cuss-words I could come up with, I tried to figure how, and/or if, I could get a renewal before Thursday.

I got to the State Dept internet site and of course, no people to talk to over weekends. What I did find was that if it was possible, I had to go to a regional passport office, the closest to me being in Houston. There were forms to fill out, pictures to get taken, travel documentation to round up, flights to/from Houston (I love SW Airlines) to book, additional ID to track down. I found some blog entries of people in my situation and read their horror stories about spending hours or days trying to get a renewal this quickly. But, the good news was, it sounded like it was possible. So, on late Sunday afternoon, I flew to Houston.


On the State Dept website, it talked about setting up an appointment for an expedited expired passport renewal. I made one, not knowing if you had to or not. Mine was set for 10am, but based upon things I had read over the weekend, I decided it would be best to be at the office when they opened at 8am. 8:15, not open. 8:30, not open. People who had 8 and 8:30 appointments were getting upset that the office wasn't open yet (the reason...they were having a meeting). Finally, at 8:45, they let us in. The first thing that became obvious once we got to the office was that if you didn't have an appointment, you weren't seeing anyone. The website didn't say this. The automatic phone system didn't say this...the signs and the security people in the office, however, were very quick to tell you this small, yet important fact. I was in line to check in for about 15 minutes or so, then got a number and was told to wait until my number was called. This person couldn't tell me how long that might be and when I asked if I would be able to get my passport before my trip, wouldn't say yes or no. Just said the person who called me would let me know that. Another 30 or so minutes went by and my number was called. Went to the window, handed over my stuff, then was told how much I had to pay for this expedited service ( but I knew the cost based on the website). Before I paid, I asked if this meant that I would have my passport before my trip. This person would only say.."it should be ready by 2:30 today". I got a receipt and a form that said that my passport would be ready at 2:30 and to come back to pick it up, but not before 2:30. I decided to stay downtown, try to hook up with some ex-coworkers for lunch (which I did) and then go back at 2:30 to get my passport, then head to the airport to catch my 7pm flight back to Dallas.

(On a side note, I had no idea until reading the State Dept website and blogs that many countries will not let you in even if you have a valid passport for the duration of your trip if it will expire in a certain amount of months. For instance, Israel will not allow you entry if your passport will expire within 6 months. There is a rather large list of countries that do this, with dates ranging from 6 months, to 3 months, 1 month. So a piece of advice, other than making sure your passport hasn't expired, if it's close to, check the rules of entry for the place(s) you are traveling to to ensure they will let you in.)


I show up at the appointed time (not before) and was rather surprised to see how many folks were there before me. Many more than were in line in front of me that morning. I took that as not a very good sign. Got in line, went to the window and was told..."not ready yet". So, I waited. 2:45...many names called, not mine. 3:00, many more names called, not mine. 3:15, the doors to the passport office were closed and no one allowed in; again, not a good sign. 3:30, many names called, even people I recognized as being in line behind me, but not mine. I'm not getting a good feeling and am thinking I'll have to stay overnight and come back on Tuesday when....yes, my name is called!! 5 minutes later, valid passport in hand, I'm off to the airport to see if I can get an earlier flight, which I do ( I love SW Airlines) and am home by 6:30. And in a much better frame of mind....

All-in-all, not a horrible experience by any means. And actually, when thinking about it last night, to be able to get a passport renewal in a day in this post-9/11 time is pretty amazing I think. So our trip is back on and I'm back today taking care of the remaining things on my "to-do" list.