Monday, December 05, 2016

Pictured and Not Pictured: An Incomplete Photographic Record of a Trip to France and London

Once upon a time, this was a travel blog. It's been a while, but since we recently took our biggest trip in a while, I thought it should be again, if only briefly. (And yes, these are the same photos and descriptions I posted on Facebook. If you saw them there, you can probably skip this.)

Thursday, February 25, 2016

American Idol S1E1: The Kellyening

If you're not watching the current we-swear-this-is-the-final-season of American Idol, there's something you need to know: They are really, really into Kelly Clarkson. To hear her discussed on the current show, you would think she is some sort of combination of God and Beyonce, and it is a testament to the great power and wisdom of Idol that they immediately seized on her talent and presented her like a gift to the world.

In fact, the winner of the first season was basically presented as cannon fodder for the first several episodes, to the point where I don't even remember what she sang for her Top 30 song. I guess we'll find out together.


0:06 Second visible appearance of Kelly Clarkson on the show! Still have not heard her speak or sing.

0:07 Justin is here too!

0:53 I just want to take a moment and talk about how young Ryan Seacrest looks here, compared to his appearance on the current season. I mean, yes, I know, I looked younger in 2002 too, and I may have also owned that shirt, but the dude hasn't aged so much as transmogrified. I seriously think that part of the deal for buying Dick Clark's production company was that he had to take on some sort of curse, and now the eldrich forces are slowly turning him into Mr. Clark. Meanwhile, trapped somewhere in a garret, Brian Dunkleman grows ever younger. . .

3:58 Alexis Lopez, seventeen years old and rocking a look that's half jailbait/half elderly-lounge-singer. She sings "I Will Survive" because of course she does.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

All the Things that Happened on S1E4 of American Idol: Group 1 Results Show

0:11 Opening credits.

0:43 Ryan and Brian are both wearing khakis.

2:04 Paula tries to deliver a zinger, fails badly.

4:23 I am reasonably confident that Ryan is NOT wearing a pukka shell necklace.

8:03 Tamyra Gray is the first person put through to the next round.

10:38 "Weakest Link" joke.

13:26 Ryan Starr gets the second spot in the top 10.

16:18 Jim Verraros is the third finalist. There are over four minutes left in the show.

17:38 Everyone in the finalist chairs is wearing a choker. 2002!

20:01 End credits.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Not-Exactly-Live-Blogging American Idol S1E3: Top 30 Group 1

And now, into the depths we go. This is it, the opening of public voting, as the 30 who were put through from Hollywood-Pasadena Week are narrowed down to however many we end up with. I can't be sure, but I suspect that this may have been when I started caring deeply about the voting results.

1:21 Explanation time! It's 10 singers to elimination, 9 from voting and the judge's wildcard. This would be much less fun if my memory was better.

1:30 It looks like they're holding this in the lobby of a Ramada Inn conference center.

2:59 Paula seems to have had a new face installed here. I don't think it took.

3:55 Reminder that calls are toll-free "unless you use a cell phone" and no number for texting votes. Was 2002 really that long ago?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Not-Exactly-Live-Blogging American Idol Season 1 Episode 2: Not-Exactly-Hollywood Week

The first ever "Hollywood" Week was held in Pasadena, which is at least somewhat closer to being Hollywood than Anaheim is to being Los Angeles, so they're already one up on a certain major league baseball team.

Personally, I never cared much for Hollywood week, wherever it was located. There were rarely any memorable performances, and the way the challenges are set up, if you tried to do them for a sociology experiment, someone from your institution's Human Subjects committee would come and have a very stern talk with you. But at least in the first season it all took place over one episode, rather than the bloated, ratings-chasing deathmarch it would become in later years.

(I'm pretty sure I really liked this show, but reading that last paragraph over again I'm not so sure. Perhaps this is just an elaborate trick I'm playing on myself.)

Anyway, on with the show.

0:12 We open with a recap of the bad singers from last week, just in case you haven't gotten enough of the idea that there are people who have no talent for singing, but try anyway.

03:24 First performer sings Aretha, first criticism from Simon is that she's too fat to be a star. We're off to a great start.

03:46 "I don't believe that if Aretha entered this competition, she would win it." I'm not sure if I should be sorry or relieved that Twitter didn't exist for this episode. (Bear in mind, folks: This is the first singer we see. This is what they wanted to lead with.)

05:47 A stab at justifying making the contestants work overnight is made, as being something they might have to do in the music business. Personally, I think they only rented the building for three days.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Not-Exactly-Live-Blogging: American Idol Season 1, Episode 1

There was a time in my life when I was very into American Idol. I mean, quite into it. On the road trip for which this blog was founded, I chose at least one overnight stop based on needing to be in my motel room in time to watch it. I think I may have even voted a couple of times. I'm not going to admit that I saw "From Justin to Kelly" in the theater, because who would admit to that? (Okay, I did. But at least I'll protect the privacy of the person I saw it with.*) I haven't watched it in a while, because you don't always keep loving the things you loved when you were twenty-five, but I've always maintained some affection for the show. So, when they announced that this was going to be the last season, I decided to check back in, for old time's sake. And maybe the nostalgia is getting to me, because after watching the first couple of episodes, I got that old, early-2000's urge to start blogging again.

But I'm not going to blog the current season. There are plenty of people doing that who are more interesting about it than I am (I particularly recommend Michael Slezak at TVLine and Dave Holmes at Vulture). And I'm finding it difficult to summon enough emotion about these made-for-TV children to say anything more than "that was okay" and "that was less okay, but whatever, kids these days." So, instead, I thought I would look to the past, and blog about the first season, as long as nobody pulls the low-res clips on YouTube that are the only way I've found to watch it.

Let's start at the very begining:

Episode 1: June 11, 2002

0:02 We open with Ryan Seacrest and Brian Dunkleman introducing the show against a dark background, that lights up to reveal the Kodak Theater. I have to wonder: In this moment, what did Mr. Dunkleman think his future would hold? Did he believe that this was going to be the opportunity that would open the door to bigger and brighter things, to hosting red carpets and Rockin' New Year's Eve, and producing a multi-million-dollar reality TV franchise based on a fifth-string socialite with a sex tape? Or did he, even then, recognize the unstoppable force of ambition to his left, and already feel the icy grip of irrelevance closing around him?

Or maybe he was just happy to have the paycheck. Hard to say.

0:33 Original opening credits music, complete with cheesy CGI figures. Even after all this time, I still get a little frisson of excitement hearing it.

1:28 It is explained that this is based on a British show. The hope is that it will be at least as successful.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Welcome to Unseasonable Farm

Motto: "Why not plant potatoes in October?"

Pictured but not visible: Recently sprouted parsnips.
The favas are doing okay, but the peas are going to need some better support after the storm.

Tiiimberrrr-peeaaas
Probably the last pepper harvest, though, unless we get a run of warm weather.

Not that I'm being smug or anything. Okay, maybe a little smug.
And, unfortunately, the pickling cucumbers aren't going to be ready in time for New Years.

I wasn't kidding about the unseasonable thing.
Stay tuned for further adventures in planting things with no regard to the printed instructions.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Thanks Be To Cat

As we prepare for this holiday season, let us not forget what it is truly about: Sending your cat to board at a place where they take vaguely seasonal pictures of him, and apparently give him a collar.

What do you want from me?

Monday, December 01, 2014

Items Available For Purchase, Possibly As Gifts

As I believe I have mentioned in this space a few times before, I have a store on Zazzle, where various items are for sale with designs I produced from pre-1923* sheet music covers. If you bought one of them, I would get some money, which would be pretty cool.

This is the one that started it all, because I wanted a poster of this design and couldn't find one. I bought the sheet music on Ebay and had it scanned at a place in Berkeley that usually does much more artistic stuff, and then cleaned it up a bit in GIMP.** I think it turned out okay:

 

Then I learned how to do about three more things in GIMP and pulled out just the bear, and put it on a shirt:

 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Lessons From A First Day of Run-Commuting

Multitasking in the Key of Ow

It seemed like a good idea at the time. The ferry terminal is only about three miles from my house, which is a doable but long walk. Taking the ferry home is nice, but it means that I don't have time to work out in the gym at work. So the solution was obvious: I should run home from the ferry.

According to the internet*, run-commuting is actually a thing, though most of the people who do it seem to be either serious racers or British. I am neither, but I thought I'd go ahead and try it anyway.

So I bought myself a backpack, broke my shoes out of their cushy life on the treadmill and elliptical, and on Monday I gave it a shot. It went okay, but there were a few things I learned, which I thought I should share.

1. When packing your backpack, do not load the keys, wallet and phone into the main compartment, where they will slide to the bottom and slam repeatedly into the small of your back.

2. Speaking of backpacks, you are going to have to cinch that sucker tight. Get it so most of the weight is supported by the waist-strap and try not to wonder if you look more like a bunch of sausages or a trussed chicken.

3. Despite its name, the MacBook Air does, in fact, have noticeable mass.

4. People are going to look at you like you're doing something weird. They are right.

5. Running outdoors with a pack engages certain sets of muscles that had thought they had retired to a life of leisure, and they will wake up cranky and confused. Calm them with regular offerings of ibuprofen.

6. When you get home, you can totally have a piece of chocolate. Maybe two.


*Motto: "Anything you can think of has already been done, and there is an official organization with fifteen pages of bylaws and a splinter group."