Tuesday, August 31, 2010

iPod Shuffle: Random?

I've put my iPhone's iPod on shuffle play for my bought music list and I'm finally learning that this mode, like the universe, isn't entirely random. Every morning when I fire up the iPod, I keep coming across music I heard just the other day. Yeah, yeah, I know, there's an algorithm at work that takes the number of my previous plays and factors them in some how with the current ones and when all the ciphering's done, a tune is spit out. It's supposed to please me, I suppose, but instead it leaves me scratching my head: I just want to work my way through the list in a random way. Why is that seemingly not possible?

I've long suspected there's an intelligence at work behind the scenes of my iPod. This is only more evidence that it's so.

Friday, August 27, 2010

More Ray Bradbury - On Video!

I can't figure out how to embed the video here so here's the link to Bradbury talking with is biographer Sam Weller.

Interesting for fans. Maybe non-fans, too.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Dylan Takes a Stand

Brother John sends along this link:
Bob Dylan is refusing to sell advanced tickets to an upcoming concert in a bid to tackle internet resellers and give fans an equal chance to catch him live.

Tickets for the folk singer's concert at The Warfield in San Francisco on Wednesday will be sold at the door. Fans will be permitted to line up at midday but will only be allowed to buy one ticket each, in cash.

The plan was established to prevent touts from purchasing large batches of tickets and selling them for an inflated cost online. It will also eliminate handling and processing fees.

Dylan's still a rebel, even in his codgerdom.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Change in the Weather

The weather folk promise a break in the skull-cracking heat wave we've been having for the last month or so. I've been doing my part: watering the lawn, washing the car. Both sure fire methods of brewing up a rainstorm.

Might be working. Take a look at the skies from yesterday evening:

The same view, Ansel Adams style:

We got no rain from those but at least it was a welcome change from the usual blazing skies of late August. We'll miss that in a few months but for now we've had enough, thank you very much.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Ray Bradbury Hates big Government

I'm late to the game on this - the Bradbury-hates-Big-Government meme's been floating around the conservative blogosphere for a few days now - but I had this marked to post so I might as well post it.

Hey, have you heard writer Ray Bradbury doesn't like big government? It's true:
“There is too much government today. We've got to remember the government should be by the people, of the people and for the people.”

The native of Waukegan, Ill., has never been shy about expressing himself -- he described President Clinton with a word that rhymes with "knithead" back in 2001-- nor is he timid about correcting people when it comes to his own perceived legacy. Bradbury chafes, for instance, at the description of his work as science fiction -- in the past he has pointed out that, to his mind, "Fahrenheit 451"is the only sci-fi book in his vast body of work -- and despite his passion for more national space projects, he is not technology obsessive by any means.

“We have too many cellphones. We've got too many Internets. We have got to get rid of those machines. We have too many machines now.”

Sounds like Bradbury's got the curmudgeon dial cranked to 11 - and, yeah, he's at odds with himself about wanting less government and having the government getting us to the moon and Mars but, well, there you are - but close readers of his work will notice this stance is nothing new. Take a look at his introduction to Fahrenheit 451 and you'll see an author railing against political correctness long before political correctness had sunken its fangs into our culture. He's a radical old man, that Bradbury, and I'm glad to see him still alive and kicking and grousing about one thing or another.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Books I'm Not Reading: The Sound and the Fury

At least I'm not reading a classic this time.

For the last few years we've driven through Mississippi to get to Florida and each time, on that highway south of Memphis headed towards Oxford, I've thought about William Faulkner. We've never had time to divert our path over to his home but it was enough to know I was traveling through the very country he wrote about and imagine how this land he wrote about had probably greatly changed. Would he recognize any of it if he were alive? (I know, I know, the joke is if Faulkner were alive he'd be trying to claw his way out of his casket. Hardy har.) I'd think I really need to go back and re-read some of his books - way back when, I'd managed to work my way through all of his available work and it might be high time to re-visit them.

Well, now's not that time it turns out. Sure, I'm a fool to have chosen The Sound and the Fury, one of his most challenging works, but I could've done harder: Absalom, Absalom is far more difficult though I'm not sure if it's any more rewarding. Maybe I should've gone with something more accessible. No, the problem isn't the difficulty of the book - I actually enjoy the notorious stream-of-conscious narrative of the idiot, Benjy, and have not trouble following the storyline; the problem is that I really don't care right now. I have other things I'd like to read and I've already been over this ground. Not that I don't want to go back; I just don't want to go back right now. Fifty or so pages was enough to convince me that there's nothing new here for me, though I envy the first time reader who manages to unlock the magic of this book and his others. Faulkner is an American treasure who deserves to be read but unless you're a college professor, or student, I don't see the need to re-visit him.

Still, it's a lovely right through Mississippi. If you haven't been, you really should go.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Mustang Brewing Co. Founder Finds Perseverance Pays Off

This gets more to the point of what I was talking about before: if we're going to make wine, or in this case, beer, in Oklahoma, let's use Oklahoma grown ingredients:
Last summer, Tim Schoelen was brewing beer out of his garage. Now he's selling it in 450 liquor stores and 80 restaurants across the country.

It would have been easy to dismiss Schoelen and his Oklahoma craft beer. In fact, many people did. After bottling just a few beers at a time from his garage, Schoelen would take them to bars and restaurants, asking managers to give his beer a try. He was turned away more times than he can count.

His persistence finally paid off when he met the manager at McNellie's in Oklahoma City who agreed to give Schoelen one tap handle at the bar and a "pint night."

Schoelen admittedly didn't know what he was getting into, but he sprung into action anyway. He went on Facebook and Twitter and created a website promoting his first pint night. He ordered nine kegs and offered a free pint to the first 200 people who showed up.

"And then I wondered if I even knew 200 people," he said. "I thought, 'Oh God, we're going to have so much leftover beer.' "

Not to fear. All 200 pints were gone in 12 minutes, and the nine kegs were floated in an hour and 15 minutes.

It was as good an opening as Schoelen could have expected.

Today, Mustang Brewing Co. makes three beers - its original Golden Ale, Amber Lager and Washita Wheat. In July, Washita Wheat beat more than 3,000 wheat beers in its category to win a silver medal at the World Beer Championships.

(Emphasis mine.)

Unmentioned in the article, but declaimed on the company's website, is the fact their award winning wheat beer is made with Oklahoma red wheat.

At the risk of becoming an ingredient Nazi, if you say you're an Oklahoma brewer, or wine-maker, maybe you should put something in your beer or wine that makes it uniquely Oklahoman. Beers and wines from well-known regions are well-known not because of the places in which they're created but from what they're created.

Anyway. . .

Good for the Mustang Brewing Company.

First Day of School Report: Success!

Unlike last year, Emily managed not to scandalize the school with her choice of fashion. Rachel dropped off Emily and her buddy and then reported to me that all was well. She'd shown Emily the ropes, introduced her around, and bade her farewell, so she had a good start. Some mixup about who was to pick her up in the afternoon - was she riding a bus or was Rachel going to get her? - but that was worked out and she finally got home without further incident. She says she likes her classes, likes her new friends, and thinks this'll be a good year. And, hey, as of today, she has straight A's! Not a bad start to the new school year.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

First Day of School, 2010

Like last year, this post'll mark the occasion of the first day of school only this time it's the first day of school for Emily alone. Not a lot to add other than to say things are the same yet different. No first-day for Rachel - she graduated and her plans won't take her to college - and Emily had a friend over to spend the night, which, not to put a too-fine point on it, is craaazy. It's just not done, old sport. But it was and is and that's the way things'll go today. Rachel has said she'll taken 'em in and so that's how it'll be played. My role? Make sure they get up in time so they'll have maximum primping opportunity. First impressions are lasting impressions, you know. Then I'm to stand back and let it happen.

Well, okay, I will. I'll just be over here sifting through these memories of all those other first days of school. They won't remember them, not for a while, not until they have kids of their own, but I'll have them available whenever they should ask. And won't that be a fine time?

Good luck this year, Emily. And thanks, Rachel, for pitching in. You guys handle it from here. I know you can.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Some Oklahoma Wine Grapes to Rot on Vines

Well, this is disappointing:
Harvest is under way at Oklahoma vineyards, but some grapes will be left to rot on the vine because of poor sales, growers said.

Mack Hayes quit watering some of his vines this summer when it became clear he wouldn't sell all his grapes to wineries.

"If you can't move them, there's no need to harvest them," said Hayes, owner of Ozark Grapes in Mayes County.

Andrew Snyder, president of the Oklahoma Grape Growers and Wine Makers Association, said about 50 tons of grapes will go to waste this year because most Oklahoma wineries are buying bulk wine or juice concentrate from out of state to bottle and sell here. That's worth about $312,500 in unproduced wine.

"It's cheaper to buy bulk wine from California and put it in a bottle than it is to grow grapes in Oklahoma and bottle true Oklahoma wine," Snyder said. "There are enough Oklahoma grapes out there. It's just a business model decision that many wineries are making."

So Oklahoma wine makers are making wine from grapes and juice. . . from somewhere else? Then what's the point of calling yourself an Oklahoma wine maker? Ho ho, because you're making wine in Oklahoma, I get it. But just because I'm a wine maker making wine in Oklahoma doesn't make me an Oklahoma wine maker. I'm an Oklahoman making California wine or wherever it is I get my juice.

I've been eager to tell people that Oklahoma has a burgeoning wine industry. Sure I get scanty looks but I point out that Oklahoma is really a good place to grow grapes. I'm confident we can make wine as good as anywhere else. And I'm even more sure we can, especially now that I learn we're using grapes from anywhere but here.

I understand the concept of controlling costs and wanting to make affordable wine but I also understand honesty and when a wine maker claims he's making Oklahoma wine, well, with this information, I'm no longer sure.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

All You Ever Wanted to Know About the Movie Shane

Leo Grin has another writes another series on movies over at Big Hollywood, this time on the movie, Shane. He starts with the creation of the story on which the movie is based:
Everyone, it would seem, has an idol — someone who looms large in one’s imagination, and whose example irrevocably changes the direction and purpose of one’s life.

For author Jack Schaefer (1907–1991), one such figure was Wilbur Daniel Steele, a then-popular but now-forgotten writer of the 1920s and ’30s. In his heyday, Steele won so many O. Henry awards (eleven in all) that he was eventually banned from the contest. “The best short story writer there has ever been,” Schaefer believed, ever thankful that Steele’s work had taught him at a young age that “Writing short stories is a craft” and that “Words are beautiful things.”

It just gets better from there.

Totalling 7 parts, the link above will take your to part 1 but, unfortunately, links to the other parts aren't available there. Go here and scroll down to the end for those links. Then get this movie in your Netflix queue.

(And here's another link to Grin's master class on Goldfinger. Another treat.)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Beer Update

Summer's wrapping up so I was looking for something to brew for the Fall. Choosing not be obvious - yes, yes, an Octoberfest and what I should be thinking about - I chose, instead, an India Pale Ale:

Haven't I already brewed and India Pale Ale? Why, yes, yes, I have. But this India Pale Ale is different! Different kit, an extra shot of maltodextrin per the beer supply shop guy's recommendation for some extra oomph, and dry hopping - adding hops a few days before bottling. So it's not quite the same. Yet it is. Bottom line: it'll do you just fine if you're stationed in the hot, outer fringes of the British Empire. Which is about how Oklahoma feels during the late summer.

Still time to brew up another batch of something appropriate for Fall. I'll likely go with the obvious - if you're looking for surprises, you've come to the wrong place - but we'll see.

Oh, and I notice it's been almost exactly a year since I've taken up this hobby. It's been neither a long nor a strange trip but it's been fun and that's why I started doing this in the first place.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Art of Manliness

I don't have a man cave but from the looks of some of these, I gotta get me one:
In reading about the lives of history’s great men, one thing I’ve noticed is that many of them had a place they could go to be alone with their thoughts. Some of these men had a study where they would retreat to think, read, and write. Others had a garage or workshop where they would tinker and experiment. But what all these rooms had in common was their sheer manliness. They were man spaces, places a man could call his own.

Here's Hemingway's writing space in Key West:

Of course, this is the restored, touristy version; whoever decorated it made sure the Hemingway icons were present: art, fishing, hunting. The reality was likely quite a bit different but isn't it lovely to think this was how things were?

A man could get quite a lot of writing in a space like this. Or if he didn't, he had no good excuse.

Snow Leopard Kittehs Are Cute!


One of the snow leopard cubs at the Oklahoma City Zoo.

(The photo is from AP. No way could I take a picture like that.)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ken Burns, Reality TV, Narrative

Andy Dehnart at Reality Blurred picks up on something the documentary-maker Ken Burns said in a speech recently about the purpose of narrative:
Narrative is a way that we all superimpose something over something that’s essentially chaotic. Narrative gives us comfort. It gives us a false sense of security, often. It abolishes demons and trauma, and so I think that story has a very complicated origin for all of us, and we all desire—part of the whole nuance, I think, of this film has to do with the fact that we so want to know who should be in and who should be out, who’s bad and who’s good, and we know from our own lives, and we know from the kinds of compromises, human compromises that we make in the interstitial moments of our own personal lives that so much of it we just have to accept this is just the way it is. You go to the ballpark and it rains, and that’s what happens. … You can’t abolish that chaos. That, in fact, the great, ultimate payoff of narrative is that it both superimposes order and also reminds us of how chaotic it is, and that’s the beauty.

Dehnart then extends this to reality TV - the appealing thing about reality TV are the narrative arcs - but I'd go even further and say that this is what fuels the human impulse to create art: the urge to establish order over chaos. Whether it's art, music, writing, dance - the art that appeals to us most is that which brings order to our chaotic world.

I'm a fan of reality TV - American Idol, America's Got Talent, The Amazing Race and, uh, The Bachelor(ette) - so I won't slag on your choice but if you're a fan, too, I suspect the appeal is the same: the narrative that creates a compelling story.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Ghost Writer - Movie Review

The Ghost Writer is an odd movie with big name stars and all the trappings of a well-made thriller that finally amount to, well, nothing really. A ghost writer is hired to help a former British Prime Minister write his memoirs after the previous Ghost has met an untimely and mysterious end. Go!

Written by lefty and talented writer Robert Harris (brother-in-law to one of my favorite writers, Bruce Hornby), the movie hits all the left-wing talking points about the war on terror. How horrible it is that terrorists are questioned intently enough to spill valuable information. The main character, a thinly disguised Tony Blair of sorts, gives his approval to such awfulness and so, of course, must be evil but he does make a good point: if he had his way, he'd have two lines at airports, one that led to plane checked out based on information obtained from terrorists and the other not. Which would you put your children on? The Ghost doesn't answer.

It all comes down to some vague CIA machinations and if the true got out, it would be unmitigated disaster and so people must die. If only the CIA were so effective. Without the killing people part, I mean.

As I said, the movie sports some big name stars - you mean Eli Wallach is still alive? - who probably clamored over themselves to work with the pervert and rapist Roman Polanski who directs, I grudgingly admit, with a sure hand. Strangely, I actually enjoyed this movie, despite the many reasons not to. At least it was earnest in its wrong-headedness, and skillful, and those are traits to be admired. And we only spent a buck on it at Redbox so I can enjoy a small sense of smugness.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Ballistics - Book Review

I thoroughly enjoyed Ballistics, Billy Collins' latest collection of poetry, but then I'm a superfan so that shouldn't come as any surprise. More delightful, wryly funny, gently-observed, forgiving poems by the former Poet Laureate of the United States.

It's hard to pick a favorite but let's go with the last one of the book:


Go, little book,
out of this house and into the world.

carriage made of paper rolling toward town
bearing a single passenger
beyond the reach of this jittery pen
far from the desk and nosy gooseneck lamp.

It is time to decamp,
put on a jacket and venture outside
time to be regarded by other eyes,
bound to be held in foreign hands.

So off you go, infant of the brain,
with a wave and some bits of fatherly advice:

stay out as long as you like,
don't bother to call or write,
and talk to as many strangers as you can.

"Nosey gooseneck lamp." Love it.

What else can I say about Collins that I haven't already said? Nothing, I suppose, so I'll just leave you with a high recommendation for this book or any others he's written.

Disney Blog

I have some online friends who are in the Public Relations business and they've recently been knocking around the ideas of what special challenges there are out there for PR folk. Imagine working in the PR department for BP during their disastrous oil spill this past Spring and this Summer. A textbook case.

Social media is proving to be a massively effective tool in their toolkit for getting their clients' message out. Blogs, Facebook, Twitter.

The Disney PR department has started a blog and like all things Disney, it's just about perfect. The commenters, though, seem like "plants" but I haven't tested them to be sure so I'm just guessing. The posters seem as enthusiastic about all things Disney and always able to answer questions or make points that dovetail nicely with the latest Disney talking points. The posters are good, and I'm not just saying that because I'm a willing member of the Disney cult. No, really.

Still, I'm sure my PR friends can't help but look on with envy at this perfect-storm of a post:
Eight turtles injured by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico have begun their rehabilitation at Walt Disney World Resort under the care of our animal experts.

Late last week, Disney’s Animal Programs research scientist and veterinarian Dr. Andy Stamper transported the six endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles — among the most endangered species of sea turtles in the world — and two green sea turtles from the Florida Panhandle to our facilities here at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Engineers and water science expert have converted a backstage area into a temporary rehabilitation facility – setting up salt-water pools capable of housing up to 35 sea turtles.

Disney. They care about wildlife.

Oh, and ticket prices are going up.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Just Ignore Those Black Helicopters

I was home the other day meeting the garage door repair man. The black helicopters were following me around again. What'd I do this time?

(Actually, there were three separate military helicopters, obviously heading out to somewhere they needed to head out to. Nothing to worry about here. Besides, I was wearing my aluminum foil cap and no mind-reading rays can penetrate that.)

Sci-fi legend Ray Bradbury on God, 'monsters and angels'

Via Althouse, Ray Bradbury waxes poetic about a few things, not the least of which is God:
Bradbury, who turns 90 this month, says he will sometimes open one of his books late at night and cry out thanks to God.

"I sit there and cry because I haven't done any of this," he told Sam Weller, his biographer and friend. "It's a God-given thing, and I'm so grateful, so, so grateful. The best description of my career as a writer is, 'At play in the fields of the Lord.'

It's a good interview - it must've really irked the CNN interviewer to learn that Bradbury spends his days watching Fox News - though for a fan like me, there's nothing new here. But Bradbury's biographer has a new book out and so does Bradbury so he's newsworthy and that's a good thing. We're not always aware of giants walking among us so we should take note, especially when they have some positive things to say about God and faith.

Summer Heat

I'd say it's hot:

That's Emily in the mirror, smiling. It'll take more than a few days of 100 plus temperatures to bring her down.