Archive for October, 2006

Ultimate Halloween Playlist

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

I meant to get this up last night, but I suppose there’s still time….

I’ve got a lot of music in my ol’ iTunes Library — well approaching 3,000 songs — and in the spirit of the evening, I have assembled a short playlist of the very, very best creepy songs I’ve ever come across (but you probably haven’t).

The Poor Clares - Resurrected LoverFirst off, we have “Lover’s Last Chance”, by a little-known Celtic group from New Orleans called The Poor Clares. It starts off sounding just a bit cheesy, as the singer goes on about Halloween night and “werewolves a-howlin'”, but it quickly takes a turn for the dark, moving to a haunting ghost story and… well, give it a listen and tell me if it doesn’t give you the creeps.

The album is called Resurrected Lover, and though it may be a bit hard to find, it seems they pop up on eBay and the like from time to time. Get going in time for next year!

Kate Rusby - HourglassNext, off, and the only one you can get right now at the iTunes store, is I Am Stretched On Your Grave, as performed by Kate Rusby.

Creepiest. Song. Evar.

No, really. If Edgar Allan Poe had been a songwriter, this would have topped his greatest hits. It’s a traditional Celtic song (what is it with those Irish makin’ wit’ the creepy, anyway?), and it has been performed by others before, but this rendition really takes the cake, with a minimal rhythmic drive carrying you along down a very dark road. The only thing a bit odd about this song is that it is a woman singing what is lyrically clearly a man’s “role” in the story, but that’s easily ignored. it’s from her album Hourglass. Go get it! (link is above)

Third in the creepy list is yet another Celtic tune (funny, when I started this post I hadn’t realized the common source of these three songs — the sound of them is different enough that they are far from sounding alike!) called “She Moved Thro The Fair”. Finbar Wright - A Tribute to John McCormackThis one is performed by Finbar Wright (former member of Irish Tenors) on his album A Tribute to John McCormack. There are several versions of this song out there, but again, rendition means a lot when looking for the truly creepy song. The interesting thing about this one is that it can sneak up on you. It’s entirely possible to hear this one several times before it suddenly hits you what happens in it — the lyrics are clear but subtle, in a way sure to appeal to fans of ghost stories.

Okay, okay, okay I’ve got a bonus song for you. You’ve all hear this one, you just didn’t know how creepy it is.

First, it’s story time:

A man comes home late one night to find his wife murdered, lying in a spreading pool of her own blood. He actually catches the killer in the act! There is a struggle, during which he clearly sees the man’s face, but the man overpowers him and escapes into the night. The police never catch him.

Years pass. The man never really recovers from his wife’s horrible death, or the thought that he was so close to catching the bastard who did it. That face — those eyes — are seared into his memory.

Late one cold winter evening he is walking at night when he hears faint cries for help in the distance. He follows the voice, and comes to a frozen lake, where someone has broken through a thin patch in the ice. The man runs toward the lake, grabbing a fallen branch along the way that he can use to help the man trapped in the icy waters. He gets to the edge of the ice, and slowly starts to work his way out closer to the man struggling desperately for purchase on the slippery edge of the hole. Suddenly he stops.

He knows that face.

He knows intimately the face of the man in the water. He has seen it exactly once before and will never forget it. After standing there for a moment, he turns and walks the few feet back to the shore and drops the branch, then turns and sits down.

Now go listen to Phil Collin’s In the Air Tonight. It will never be the same song again.

Happy Halloween.

Update: I can’t believe I forgot Sting’s “Moon Over Bourbon Street”. Duh.

Just stay away from Kid Neopolitan’s parties.

Monday, October 30th, 2006

Lileks is in rare form this morning:

The entire mutant-as-a-metaphor was insulting, anyway â??if you know anything about kids you know that a teen with the ability to shoot fire out of his ears would not be shunned as a weirdo freak but elected class president on general principle: dude! Awesome! […]are we to believe that the majority of American parents reject their kids because they can levitate or cough up gold by the quart or exude perfectly formed Neapolitan Ice Cream bricks from their hindquarters? Far from persecuting them, theyâ??d get their own reality shows. Storm would be a TV meteorologist in New York. As for your morning commute, Iâ??ll see what I can do. Stay classy, Manhattan.

And then thereâ??s Wolverine – heâ??s Troubled and Frowny and Haunted, even though he appears to be a 35 year old man living in a high school with no job, surrounded by good-looking women, and able to kill whoever he wants without any sort of legal repercussions. You almost want some mutant to confront him in the kitchen some night: what you so mad about, anyway? You can heal from a gunshot to the head in six seconds and you got spikes coming out of your hands. Yeah, well, it hurts when the spikes come out. Oh really? I shoot liquid nitrogen everytime I pee. Thatâ??s my mutation. I go by the name of Holdit. Wanna switch?

There. That’s a nice start to a Monday morning. Unlike that bastard Jeff’s start-the-morning-off-with-a-math-brain-teaser post*.

* Okay, fine he posted it on Sunday. I read it Monday morning. Close enough.

The Limits of Disclosure

Monday, October 23rd, 2006

Jeff has written an impassioned post decrying the new law allowing the government to practice military tribunals as a means of trying captive terrorist suspects. He argues that government must have full disclosure in such things, as only public scrutiny can prevent corruption.

One of his commenters makes the point that we don’t make all the decisions. We don’t live in a democracy, we live in a representative democracy, which is to say that while we don’t make all the decisions, we pick representatives to make the decisions for us on the societal scale. We don’t know everything; we can’t know everything. Joe average does not have the ability to fully understand all the decisions government makes — and by that I mean “no single human being is capable of becoming expert enough to make informed decisions on all of this shit”. That’s why the smartest thing a good president can do is surround himself with intelligent people who are individually experts in all the little bits and pieces… and it’s his Full Time Job to deal with this stuff! If the government disclosed the fine details of every move it makes and asked the voters to decide every decision (i.e. “true democracy”) we would have a mass-scale case of “knowing just enough to be dangerous”.

As the saying goes: It’s not the best form of government, but it’s the best one so far.

That’s not saying that I would be happy for the government to have a carte blanche ability to conduct all the secret prosecutions it wants for whatever reasons it chooses, but unless Bush is seriously distorting the legislation (and the interviewer not calling him on it at all) he’s primarily talking about keeping certain information secret. One notable thing about the transcript Jeff links to is that Bush specifies, repeatedly, that he is talking about people “picked up on the battlefield”. We can’t have a public trial because during a trial certain information is revealed that must, for security purposes, be kept secret. We can’t talk about the precise interrogation methods (or the limits thereof) because if the enemy knows that, they can train specifically to resist the particular methods we’ve stupidly told them we use (and not have to worry about the ones they know we won’t use).

Heck, that would be a good strategery right there — make a public statement that we’ll never, ever, ever use Technique X, and then three days into an interrogation whip it out — the psychological value of making them believe that there are no rules (when in actuality, they’re just a bit different than what they think they are) would be high.

And before a bunch of you go all “But that means we could do anything!” on me… no it doesn’t. It means that the permitted techniques would be kept with certain boundaries, but that would not be totally public knowledge. Congress would know; the military would know; the President would know. Certain others would know (some contractors perhaps, civilians involved with the trial system, lawyers), and all of them would have to be bound by law not to disclose specifics (i.e. have security clearance).

I agree with Jeff’s overall statement — the government of a free society must be scrutinized, must be visible, to the public. He concedes that there are some things that must remain secret (nuclear secrets, for example), but says there is a line that must be crossed.

He and I simply disagree where that line is.1 I have no question that there are cases where we do not want what these people know made public to the world. There are cases where we do not want the specifics of the investigations against these people made public to the world. The danger that I think Jeff recognizes is that the definition of what must be kept secret can change, and that over time that definition will creep further and further, until it encompasses far too much. He is right in this regard — it is the nature of any government to claim more and more control over time. Nor am I a believer in absolute safety — in fact, to even attempt to reach such a goal is a guarantee of repression.

The ultimate question of this entire discussion is… “What is reasonable?” I think it is reasonable that, during a war, certain types of information must be kept secret. In World War II, one of our primary strategies was also our biggest secret: we were reading the Nazis’ mail2. The danger in the current situation is the nebulous nature of the war: half the political machine can’t define just who we’re at war with, and the other half doesn’t believe we’re at war at all!

So, when you can’t easily define a war or the enemy involved, how do we define when it is reasonable to act as one does in a war? And how do we pass a law that essentially says “in war, you can do these things normally proscribed” when you can’t define “war”?

And in an age when the enemy you know is unafraid of its own destruction so long as it can remake the world in its passing, and the traditional rules of warfare are simply leverage points to be twisted into weapons themselves, how can you not allow yourself to think beyond the box you’ve placed yourself in?

A difficult question to ponder, much less answer.

1: As you might guess from my tagline, I spend a good bit of time pondering just this type of question….
2: That is, we had cracked their secret codes and were listening in on their encrypted transmissions. Japs too.

Let’s Get Those Moroccan Bastards!!!

Tuesday, October 17th, 2006

It is still relatively common these days to hear people arguing that we should not be in Iraq because they had nothing to do with 9/11. In light of this, I thought it might be a good time to bring up one of the most eloquent and solid discussions I have ever come across as to why we are over there. Steven Den Beste, in his excellent 2003 essay Deadly Mushrooms, starts off with an interesting question:

[W]hy was it that the first nation that the US invaded in WWII was Morocco? Certainly the Moroccans had nothing to do with Pearl Harbor.
(more…)

Good and Evil

Friday, October 13th, 2006

Maynard writes:

With all the sensationalism and mudslinging and spinning, I had hoped that Saddam’s trial might prove something of a counterweight against the screams and bleats of those who deplore our move into Iraq. Reporting Saddam’s horrendous atrocities would remind the world of the evil we stand against, and restore some much-needed moral clarity. We (America, that is) may make mistakes and we’re certainly imperfect, but who can read this and deny that we’re the good guys?

It’s a damned good question, except… we already know the answer (though some refuse to admit it).

“Pay no attention to Saddam’s trial! Hey look over here! Abu Graib photos!” Sound like anybody we know?

Actually that’s a good idea. Let’s see the mainstream media do a report comparing Abu Graib under Saddam to Abu Graib under U.S. control.

It has *something* to do with joints….

Tuesday, October 10th, 2006

Ryan has a post insisting that Taco Bell’s new “Fourth Meal” campaign is aimed squarely at stoners with the munchies. I find myself forced to respectfully disagree.

I lived in Chicago for 8 years through my 20s. There was a taco joint across the street that was absolutely awesome. I used to eat there quite often, including at one or two in the morning from time to time. In fact, it was one of the main staples of my diet at the time.

It had nothing to do with drinking or getting stoned (as I do neither). It had a lot to do with being a complete and total night owl; if you’re gonna stay up until 2, that dinner you had at 6 just isn’t gonna cut it.

Actually, it was kind of funny when I started working for a band. I would come back from a gig at midnight or one in the morning, wearing a tux, and stop in for a taco or two. Got a lot of bemused looks from late-night college students.

Now I live in the burbs, and I would *kill* for a good taco joint. Taco Bell just doesn’t cut it.

(Oh, and that taco joint I loved so much? It was called… and I mean, literally, the name on the big sign over the door was… “Burrito Joint”. That just about sums it up.)

Our Unbiased Media

Sunday, October 8th, 2006

I just heard this on the radio:

According to a new poll, “51% of Americans suspect that the Republicans may have covered up” the Foley IM-sex scandal.

Well, gee, Mass Media, could you have possibly haved asked a more squishy, meaningless question? Do I suspect that they might have done something? Let’s see… “Do you suspect it’s within the realm of possbility that maybe the Republicans might have theoretically covered up the alleged scandal?” There. That ought to do it.

Hell, I would have answered “Yes” to that original question. Of course something might have happened!

The only question worth asking, (if you think polls are ever worth a damned, which they’re generally not), would be something like: “Do you believe the Republicans covered up the scandal?” Of course, if they’d asked that , the results wouldn’t sound as bad for conservatives….

Door Number 2!

Saturday, October 7th, 2006

I’ve been working on a project, which is part of the reason things have been so quiet around here lately.

This blog has been around for a few years now. I write about a lot of things, but every once in a while something would come to me that just forced me to dig up to my elbows into the guts of something so… geeky, so nerdy, so technically obtuse to all but those limited few who are actively interest in … whatever it is…, that I felt it just didn’t fit into the bounds of a generalized blog.

After a while, I thought it might be a good idea to just start a whole new blog — a home for such… such… nerdaphernalia. So…

I have a new blog, which I’ve dubbed “Nerdaphernalia”. The maiden post is already up, in which I discuss and offer for download an easy-to-use system for running multiple WordPress blogs on a single install.

You can find it here:
http://www.striderweb.com/nerdaphernalia

I do still have the “Geekery and Nerdaphernalia” category on this blog. As I figure it now, some things will still go here if they’re kind of neat tech but interesting to a general audience. The real die-hard tech, hacks, and the like will go in the other blog

Enjoy.

Casting Call

Sunday, October 1st, 2006

Somebody in Hollywood ought to make a movie starring Willem Dafoe and Robert De Niro.

Then they could advertise:

De Niro is da Hero
Defoe is da Foe.

That is all.

Update: …or maybe it’s better the other way around: “Defoe is da Hero; De Niro is da Foe”…