Friday, April 28, 2006

Who's the Fish That Gets All the Chicks? SHAD!

Anybody interested in going to this on Sunday?

Let's go and enjoy a beautiful day!

UPDATE: Mike I stepped up and went to the Shad festival with me and boy did it pay off! We learned about Shad, ate some delicious pickled Shad, watched Native American dancing and then Mike got over-involved in a Little League game and ended up in fist fight with two 12-year-olds.

Digital Camera Bleg

The Misanthrope is preparing for another trip to Europe in May. On this journey, the business segment of the trip (Monaco, Geneva and London) will be bookended by visits to my English friend Pete in Sevilla and my older, nicer brother in Kyiv.

Since I've never been to Sevilla or Kyiv and because I want as many pictures of my beloved nephews as I can get, I want to buy a digital camera.

I'm soliciting suggestions. I am willing to spend a little to get something nice.

Everybody Have Fun Tonight. Everybody Wayne Coyne Tonight

Last night "The Flaming Lips - Fearless Freaks" arrived via the good people at Netflix. If you ever feel down, rent this film and you will feel like dancing by the end. I've always liked the band and have been vaguely aware that they were around forever before they broke through in the 90s, but this film made me want to move to Oklahoma City and hang with Wayne Coyne all day long.

Coyne is a type that I think most of us know. He makes things happen and he has a special knack for getting people involved. Watching him, I realize how much people want to be part of something fun and interesting. But I don't think the band would be as interesting if that were it.

The most revealing parts of the film were two segments where Coyne talks about his experiences with death and near-death. In the first segment, he recounts how, as a teenager, he was the victim of a robbery at the Long John Silver's restaurant where he worked to support the nascent Lips. Despite his jolly manner in recounting the tale, it is clear that the event, where he was told to lie down on the floor by the armed robbers, left a lasting impression on him. The second segment involves the death of his father. I won't go into details, but both these segments reveal a plain sense of humanity and love of life that, for me, is at the core of why the Lips music can be so attractive. As one fan says, listening to "Race for the Cure" makes you feel like you can do anything and be anything because it is so uplifting.

It may be a while before I send this one back to Netflix.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

United 93

It opens this Friday and I find that I want to see it and I don't know why. I am troubled that there is something pornographic about my desire to see it.

After 9/11, I went through a period where I sought out, on the Internet, the worst of the worst video from the twin towers, but I think I understand why I did this. Having stood at the corner of Liberty and Church and watched the second plane hit the south tower, having run from the falling debris and burning jet fuel, having watched from my apartment window as people leapt and then tumbled down the sides of the building, having watched the south tower fall while turning to run from it, I sought out those images again because I don't think I could believe what I saw for real, with my own eyes, when I was standing there.

My then-girlfriend was very worried about this, but, interestingly, her parents, who are both well-respected psychiatrists, were not so surprised. Nor was her father surprised when I said, "no" when he asked if, given the choice, I could go back and leave my apartment 20 minutes earlier that day so that I would have seen nothing. I couldn't lie. As horrifying as it was, it was also the most intense experience of my life and I can't deny it. He understood.

But I don't understand why I want see United 93. I had no connection to that event. It does not confirm anything that was too shocking to process for me at first. I didn't find out about the whole thing until well after the event. On the ground on lower Broadway, people were telling me that 10-12 planes were in the air. We expected another one to drop at any time.

So, I can't understand why I am interested in seeing the movie. I can't think of a time when I have ever questioned my motives about going to see a film.

What you guys thinking about the film?

All You Do With Me Is Talk, Talk

This story about research that appears to show that birds can learn "grammar" was of particular interest to me because I am currently reading Nicholas Wade's new book on the prehistory of mankind, "Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors." One of the points that Wade hammers home is that no matter how many words we claim to have taught primates in sign language (and he is skeptical of many of the claims of large vocabularies), what they know cannot be termed "language" because there is no grammar or syntax. He notes that certain chimps have different sounds to indicate attacks by predators from the air or the ground, but, again, this is not language because it cannot be re-arranged to convey different meanings in the way that human languages can.

Now, the mainstream media has an abysmal record in science reporting, so I will have to track down the Nature article to see what the actual experiment was, but it would be fascinating to learn that non-primates have a linguistic ability that non-human primates do not. Hauser himself points to a possible explanation, when he notes that the studies he has done with primates have been structured to see if they recognize grammar, not to try to train them to understand it.

Monday, April 24, 2006

She Has the Power to Make Her Evil Take Its Course

Maggie is Satan.

On Friday, I woke up in the middle of the night because I was soaking wet with sweat. The only problem was that it wasn't sweat.

Turns out that Maggie had jumped up on the bed, sidled over to me and let loose a torrent of pee.

These are the times that try a man's love of his dog.

UPDATE: I thought I would add a little list of some of the highlights of Her Satanic Majesty's Four Years and Six Months (as of tomorrow) on this Earth:

1. Got hot spot from scratching tick too hard. Needed antibiotics and collar for a week
2. Ate three books of matches in one sitting
3. Ate 27-year-old's underwear
4. Ate entire year's worth of Heartguard medicine in one sitting. Vomited all over my rug.
5. Got kennel cough. Needed 10 days of antibiotics.
6. Got ear infection. Needed 5 days of ear cleaning and antibiotics
7. Got hot spot from scratching tick too hard. Needed antibiotics and collar for a week
8. Ate irreplaceable pictures of my parents.
9. Got infection...down there. Needed medicine applied twice a day. (I let her suffer on this one. NO WAY was I putting on that medicine.)
10. Ruined 27-year-old's beaded shirt.
11. Destroyed 27-year-old's Gucci sunglasses.
12. Ate/Chewed (_Insert Piece of Plastic Here_)

Other than that, she's the best.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Nylon Yngwie

This is pretty hilarious.

The only thing I can't figure is why he is playing to a heavy metal backing track!

(I will not be covering "Flight of the Bumble Bee" on the classical recording.)

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Dilemma of Nuclear

This was a very interesting week. Patrick Moore, one of the founders of Greenpeace, which was founded on the basis of opposition to nuclear power, among other things, came out and said that he now believes that nuclear power may be the energy source that can save our planet from climate change and environmental disaster.

This is an incredibly commendable bit of intellectual honesty on his part. I cannot even imagine the anger that he is going to receive for making this statement, but that just makes it all the more heroic that he was willing to do it.

Often, we get backed into our positions so strongly that it becomes difficult to change our minds. I have to admire a guy who looks at something he protested so fervently with clear eyes and was willing to change his mind.

I also cannot believe that it is a mere coincidence that after Moore's editorial appeared in the Washington Post, Greenpeace just happened to release a report that stated that deaths from Chernobyl are likely to be much larger (perhaps an order of magnitude larger) than "official" estimates. With that in mind, further kudos to Moore for noting in his article that the causes behind Chernobyl are not problems with nuclear power itself, but with poor design and poor management.

I am a huge proponent of alternative energies. I spent a lot of time looking at solar power after my friend installed panels on his roof in LA. This led to looking at wind power as well. They are wonderful technologies, but Moore concludes what I concluded: they are not solutions to dependable, high-quality energy needs. I think they are very valuable in a decentralized model, where they help to reduce demand when they can, but for a large-scale solution, nuclear still seems to be the best bet.

First Amendment

Most political discussions through personal blogs veer pretty quickly into the zany, but once in a while the zaniness leads to a lot of interesting thoughts and discussions.

Yesterday, Chris, Tony and I were debating a recent student protest where the students blocked access to military recruiters on a university campus. When condemning this protest, Tony argued that the military has a right to "freedom of speech." Chris immediately countered that the military has no right to "freedom of speech" because that concept is centered in the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights only apply to individuals. I disagreed with Chris because I can find no language that states that branches of the government are prohibited from bringing suit under the First Amendment. As a matter of course, branches of the government bring suit under the Constitituion from time to time and the court must adjudicate. So, technically, there's nothing to prevent it (at least according to legal friends I have asked).

But it's kind of a zany argument because it would be hard to imagine a scenario where the military would have standing to bring a suit. All of the individuals in the military could easily have standing as they are all covered, but as an entity, it would be kind of odd for the military to end up as the party to a suit. A number of wacky scenarios were posited.

But what do we really mean by our "right" to "freedom of speech." It is certainly not a positive right to have our message heard. It is only a negative right, the right to NOT have the government outlaw speech.

In the example we were debating, the question arises whether or not the government has a positive right to have its message heard (i.e., have recruiters on campus be free from protests that frustrate their mission). The ruling I noted, U.S. vs. O'Brien, seems to indicate that the government does have a positive right to have its message heard when protests would interfere with its duties under the Articles of the Constitution. Think of it as a kind of First Amendment in reverse - the people shall make no protest that infringes on the right of the government to perform its duties under the Articles of the Constitution.

Now, this is all hypothetical as the students are not being charged and they are not asserting First Amendment rights violations for themselves, but it does seem to locate a positive freedom of speech right for the government in the Articles themselves, not the Bill of Rights. In other words, the government has certain rights to take action to make its message known in the face of opposition from citizens.

What was even more interesting was the U.S. vs. O'Brien has become a precedent for two very interesting threads of constitutional thought. First of all, it has become a strong base for arguments against, for example, flag burning, because one can argue that burning the flag does not meet the O'Brien standard of preventing the functioning of the government. Second, the Court found in O'Brien that it didn't matter that the law was passed with the clear intent of squashing anti-war protest because the government's right to raise an army was being impaired. That's kind of an amazing statement, if you think about it.

I thought that was kind of interesting. Thanks to Grubzilla and others for their legal comments. As always, caveats that I am not a lawyer and I am relying on information provided by outside experts.

Gratuitous Dogblogging

Uh oh.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Plus ca change...

Oh boy, did this ever sound familiar to me. Yale in 1991 was very much like Brown in 2001. The minute anybody dared to suggest an opposing viewpoint to the prevailing (left) political attitude, it was "fascist, racist, homophobe, etc., etc., etc." I remember so many ridiculous moments from that time, but the common thread was always the shutting off of any debate by immediately branding the person on the conservative side of the spectrum as some kind of moral monster for even thinking such thoughts. The arguments were rarely, if ever engaged.

When I think about my politics, I sometimes wonder if I wasn't simply driven towards the right but sheer revulsion at the exclusive Groupthink that dominated the university when I was there. It's depressing to see that so little has changed, at least in the Ivy League.

Separated at Birth?

Tony, Tony's Awe-Inspiring Mullet and the delightful Mrs. Alva on their wedding day in 1996:

Tony's Long Lost Brother??

Monday, April 17, 2006

And So It Continues

The person who is writing my horoscope for Yahoo! is clearly hitting the pipe a little too hard.


Whether you've just developed a new mime routine and today's the day you get to show it off at the Annual Mime Convention, or you've got something a little louder lined up, you're going to have a blast. You're doing one of your favorite things: performing. And the audience is eating it up. The mimes are pretending to clap! The concert members are going wild! The public wants more! More! More!

Nobody won the previous contest to interpret this horoscope (mostly because the contestants were all married or men), but the best interpretation, once again, wins dinner and dancing with the guitarist fromm Microdot.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


I love my horoscope and never fail to read it. In fact, I plan most of my life based on what it says.

This morning, my horoscope was, perhaps, the most bizarre I have ever seen:


Have you just had the best possible idea of all time (perhaps) for how to promote your family-owned and -run veterinary clinic? Does it involve donning a cat suit and talking to executives at children's television programs? Or is it more of a sketch to invite the cameras into the clinic for a kind of real-world animal TV series? Whatever your idea is, it's great. And your instincts about how to get it going are right on. So put on that cat suit, already!

Contest in the comments section for the best interpretation of this horoscope and how I should act on it. Winner gets, as always, dinner and dancing with the guitarist from Microdot.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Boy, Did Chrispy Ever Steer Me Right

Seems his view of the Studio Projects C1 is shared by many.

I'm afraid I only have limited experience with it because I am still waiting on Digidesign to come out with a dual binary version of ProTools. Once that comes out, I am ready to roll.

I'm also starting to feel new songs percolate, so I also want ProTools around to make demos on my Mac.

Will It Suck?


Will I buy it anyway?


Friday, April 07, 2006

Around Here, We Just Call It "Chicken"

Next month, the Misanthrope is going to visit his older, nicer brother in Kyiv, where he lives with his wife and three sons. I'm looking forward to seeing my nephews and visiting the Ukraine for the first time. It looks like it should be a family-oriented, low-key time.

But wait!

In my mailbox this afternoon, I found a message saying that EIGHT lovely ladies had messages for me! And, just my luck, some of them live in the Ukraine!

Looks like this trip is going to have a totally new dimension.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

What the...???

Check out the title and plot of this episode from the animated Star Trek series that aired in the mid-1970s.

I Heart Chrispy

Spent a very nice evening at Smoke and Mirrors with Chrispy and George tonight. It's hard to believe I hadn't seen any of those guys since December. It took no time at all for me to sign up for George's new robot epic, which is sounding pretty good in "rough" demos. George's "roughs" crack me up. For most people, those are called "finished recordings." The guy likes his quality.

Chrispy was very kind and gave me the basics on mic placement for recording the classical guitar. With his guidance, I am not at all worried about the recording quality of the project.

The performances, on the other hand, are all up to me. That's going to be a lot of hard work, but I was reinvigorated tonight by Chrispy's advice.



Chrispy made reference on his blog to the issue of limiting liability for vaccine producers.

Coincidentally, I just ordered this book by Paul Offit, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania, about the history of the polio vaccine.

Back in the 1950s, the Cutter Company was one of five companies that produced the then-new polio vaccine, but it made some mistakes in manufacturing that allowed some batches to go out with live virus. Seventy thousand of the immunized developed some symptoms and 200 suffered some paralysis. 10 people died.

Cutter was sued and the trial produced a strange verdict. Although the trial found that Ctter had not been negligent in production, the judge instructed the jury that the company was liable for damages, even if it had not broken the law. This led to a theory of "absolute liability."

If you create an area where manufacturers can be found liable even if they did not act negligently, you are going to discourage vaccine production.

I'll have to provide a full report when the book arrives and I can dig through it.

Beelzebub is Lacing Up His Skates

Cynthia McKinney apologizes.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Put Me in Coach, I'm Ready to Flay

Mike Pressler, Head Coach for Duke's lacrosse team, has resigned.

Color me confused. What does the coach have to do with this? Was he at the party where the alleged assualt happened? I guess this is an honorable move, but I think it is a little silly. He's an athletic coach. I don't think he is responsible for the behavior of his players off the playing field. These aren't high school kids, they are adult students at one of the top ranked universities in the United States.

The freakier part of the story is the email sent by one of the players that was disclosed in a search:

Earlier Wednesday, authorities unsealed documents stating that hours after the alleged rape, a player apparently sent an e-mail saying he wanted to invite more strippers to his dorm room, kill them and skin them. It was not clear whether the message was serious or a joke.

You know, I have a fairly dark sense of humor and I wrote some dumb shit in college (although we didn't have email in my day), but WTF?? This is just bizarre. At last, we have a view into the warped mind of the steakhead lacrosse player.

Global Warming

I've found that this site is pretty good for addressing the scientific debate surrounding global warming (or "climate change," as it is now called).

I found it particularly helpful in addressing a recent column by George Will that cited articles from the 1970s claiming that we were in the grip of global cooling. Also, I found a debunking of the claim that there were computational errors in the "hockey stick" model of global temperature change.

There is no doubt that the site is of the opinion that there is sufficient scientific data to support the theory that human activity is contributing to an increase in the temperature of the earth. While that typically implies a certain political stance, the site restricts itself to references to the current scientific literature and generally avoids politically charged descriptions of human behavior.

Worth spending some time there, especially if you have some skepticism about global warming and would like a view of the current scientific thinking.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

My New Band

All I've got is the name, so far.

Flock of Beagles

No Justice! No Peace!!

Turns out that Hal the Coyote was "hogtied" when they were trying to tag him. They also taped his snout. He died at the hands of The Man.

I eagerly await the Peter Gabriel protest song.

April 2006
New York City, weather fine
It was business as usual
In Kennel 619
Oh, Hal