Friday, July 25, 2008

Booker Bobblehead

Apparently, I live with a Real Live Bobbledog. He wags so hard that he bobbles. Listen carefully, he comes with sound effects.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I Know I'm Not the Only One

Who is terrified of children. In fact, I know quite a few people (I won't mention any names here, to protect the innocent) who actively dislike children. So it was much to my relief and internet amazement when Mick O sent me to this page. Thank you, thank you very much. (And for the record, my # was 15. But I think I exaggerated, because in reality I'd run far far away.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Mixtape vs Playlists: Triumph of the Old

Recently, I made a playlist for a friend and then burned it to CD. The playlist was too long for one CD, so it ended up being 3 CD's long. The CDs, when played in his computer, did not have the song titles, artists, or albums encoded, so I had to go back and match up all the songs to the now numerically titled songs (which hadn't burned in any particular order) and manually type them back in. This was annoying, frustrating, and tedious. More annoying was that making a CD had become as easy as organizing my iPod into highest rated songs so that 5-starred songs appeared at the top, and scrolling through them and dragging the songs that I thought my friend would like and might sound OK together into a playlist and then pressing "burn CD." There was no fun in this process.

I used to LOVE making tapes. I use the past tense not because I don't like to make them anymore but because I don't do it anymore. I made tapes all the time, starting at about age 11 or 12. There are different kinds of tapes, and my first ones were the basic- tape-your-favorite-songs-off-the-radio-so-you-can-listen-to-them-over-and-over- kind. I listened to cheesy, awful, really, hip hop and r&b music then, and I just loved the ballady music of Mariah Carey, TLC, Toni Tone Tony, etc. I loved to sit in front of the radio on my little black boom box hoping that one of the Top 40 songs that were played at least once an hour would come on and I'd rush to push the play and record buttons simultaneously in time to get the first notes on the tape, and sit there anxiously so I didn't miss hitting stop before the obnoxious DJ's came on, or a commercial interrupted the music. There was lots of rewinding and fastforwarding and rerecording in this kind of taping.

Then, there were the pre-planned tapes, calculated down to the second to fit just right on a 60 or 90 minute tape. It was no good to have to flip the tape in the middle of a song, so 30 and 45 minute sides (or mini playlists, if you will) had to be constructed in advance, or if I really felt like living on the wild side, on the fly. I carried around a few short songs in my head that could be used in a pinch to fill dead space at the end of sides. (I remember using Simon and Garfunkel's "Cecilia" quite frequently- 2'14" if I remember right?) I made lots of these tapes, in mood themes, mostly. There were sad tapes, angry tapes, friendship tapes, etc.

Then came the later years of mixtapes, and the REAL theme tapes. I have a couple "road trip" tapes, designed for cross country trips. I have tapes about houses, tapes about animals, etc. They're great. I remember entertaining two kids I was babysitting playing "find the animal" in my animal-themed take. They would scream with glee on hearing "crow" or "horse" or "dog" in the same way my heart would jump hearing an animal themed song and writing it down for inclusion on the tape later. This is a tape I recently rediscovered in the car (I downsized my tape collection as the computer can't play tapes, obviously, but kept some of the best ones), from 2000.

I don't remember making the tape, but I do remember listening to it. It's called "Crowd Pleasers," and it's intended to make people cheerful while listening to it. The tape works, at least for me. It also demonstrates some of the flaws and good things about my tape making skills. Complete playlist (some of the songs are on the backside of the tape cover, which is not pictured):

Video Killed the Radio Star: Presidents of the USA
Money (That's What I Want): Flying Lizards
YMCA: Village People
I Get Knocked Down: Chumbawumba
Holiday: Madonna
Closer to Fine: Indigo Girls
I'm a Disco Dancer: Fatboy Slim
We're Going to Ibiza: Venga Boys
Life During Wartime: Talking Heads
Shiny Happy People: REM
Body Rock: Moby

Joy: Simon and Garfunkel
Baby, I'm in the Mood: Bob Dylan
Date Rape: Sublime
Wowie Zowie: Frank Zappa
I Kissed a Girl: Jill Sobule
The Sweetest Thing: U2
At My Most Beautiful: REM
I Wish You Wouldn't Say That- Talking Heads
All I Wanna Do- Sheryl Crow
Beautiful Stranger- Madonna
Lovely Day: Bill Withers
Shame on You: Indigo Girls

Pluses: This is generally a very good tape. It's cheery, which means it achieved it's crowd pleasing goal (if the crowd is me) and most of the songs are known to other people which means the crowd isn't just me. The mood of the tape makes you want to roll down the windows, if you're driving, and sing aloud at the top of your lungs. On the other hand, it has multiple songs by the same artist too many times (something I try to avoid) and in the middle of the sing-along mood comes the "I'm a Disco Dancer" song, a great song, in theory but totally mood spoiling for this tape. These are things that you have to think about when you are making a tape, as fast forward and rewinding is a lot more complicated than hitting "next" on iTunes, or even on a CD player. I miss tapes. I miss making tapes. More nostalgia coming soon.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

themacinator is famous, AGAIN and Bad News

themacinator has been famous before. themacinator is famous again. However, I do not want to be famous in this way. Because my boyfriend, Joe Blanton, is gone. It's true, he's kind of sucked lately. It's also true that my story about him kind of sucked, and it's true that I was considering making him my ex-boyfriend. However, I didn't mean they should trade him! I just meant that maybe there was a newer, younger, (better) pitcher on the A's that I could date....

Just saying, I prefer anonymity.

Rachel Howard: the lost night

Lately, I'm skipping the alphabetical reading thing in favor of the "pick any unread book of my shelf that sounds interesting" reading thing. Sometimes it's a miss, sometimes it's a hit. Rachel Howard's "the lost night" was definitely a hit. Howard's dad is murdered in their house when she is about 10 years old, in rural Central California, and "the lost night" is the story of Howard's life of not-coping an coping with this beyond-traumatic event.

Your dad getting murdered is bad enough. Having already gone through 2 stepmoms and a stepdad, moving through bad parts of Merced and Fresno, knowing your step parents and maybe parents are abusing drugs, and feeling responsible for making your way in the world makes the murder of your dad, who happens to be the light in your life, even harder, Howard writes. As young Rachel's life falls apart, her defenses grow higher, and she is forced to play tough kid around her nasty stepdad. It's not till many icky relationships with men, a few serious breakdowns, and a move to a beach-town later that she's finally able to start the reconstructing of what went wrong a decade before, and how to make her life right in the present.

Part is what is satisfying about this book is Howard's ability to leave her search for the truth ambiguous. As she talks to her family members (and former family members) she uncovers more details and clarity about what happened on the night of her dad's death and the events leading up to and around that day that help fill in gaps and truths surrounding her cloudy and inaccurate memory. But she does not fool herself or the readers into thinking that she is going to "solve" any crime or find a killer. Her goal is to put herself back together, and help to find peace. The book is more real, and poignant because of this authentic ambiguity.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Stoner: John Williams

Ironically, this is the best book I've read in awhile. John Williams' Stoner is a low-key book: quiet, understated, and unassuming, but I could not put it down, and could not stop thinking about the story. Written in 1965, "Stoner" is the story of Willim Stoner, a Missouri farmboy turned English university professor, and his quiet, troubled life. The prose is so moving, yet patient, and thoughtful, that it feels autobiographical, or that Williams has managed to capture Stoner's voice perfectly.

Stoner is born at the turn of the century into a rural farm family and believes he will live out his life there with his traditional, detached family. He goes to college on a program to teach him new rural science, and does just enough to get by without learning much of anything, and toiling away to earn his keep with a lazy family who treats him like a servant. When he takes an English class with a cruel but passionate professor, his life changes, and he knows he can't go back to farming. Soon, he meets a bizarre, sheltered, and perhaps disturbed young lady and plunges into married life. Life with Edith is never what it should be, and though Stoner shares a few years of bliss with his young daughter, Grace, Edith is a cruel and calculating woman. She uses Grace as a weapon against Stoner, and soon Stoner is all alone in his own house, banished to smaller and smaller worlds. Even his University is soon foreign to him, the Chair of the English department finds ways to make his life miserable.

Stoner is a convincing character through the still but epic prose. This is a keeper- one I may even come back to and reread.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Soy, Moobs, and Fake Meat

I eat a lot of soy. Recently, it came to my attention that there is a common belief that men fear soy products. Soy, they believe, can have harmful (side) effects because of estrogen contained in soy beans. I did not know this, nor did I fully believe this. Soy, harmful? It couldn't be!

So themacinator and a token male, soy-fearer, did a little research. If you google "soy effects on men," the top two results are quite revealing. The first website is from "," one of my new favorite websites. Here are some highlights from reliableanswers:

A 1994 study done in New Zealand revealed that, depending on age, potency of the product, and feeding methods, infants on soy formula might be consuming the equivalent of up to 10 contraceptive pills a day

And Our Men? A Half Helping of a Man?

What are phytoestrogens doing to the men? Researcher, W. David Kubiak reports that "...because female hormones or estrogen given to men in small quantities can quickly overwhelm androgen activity, and soy produces estrogen molecules in biologically significant amounts, it might be inferred that a steady diet of miso, tofu, soy sauce, and so on might not be best for leadership trainees or aspiring Lotharios (lovers)."

Now, the second article that comes up is from an equally reliable (yuk yuk) source, "SoyQuick, The Healthy Choice." Here is one of their take-home messages:

Because the average American is a meat-eater, we have a tendency to base our ideas of what is normal or optimal based on what occurs in meat-eaters. Of course, we know that for many things this is not true. For example, "normal" cholesterol levels-the levels typically seen in meat eaters-are too high for good health. The situation for testosterone may be similar. Judging these levels based on those that occur in people eating an unhealthy diet doesn't make sense.

Of course neither of these sites settled the debate between the vegetarian, female, soy-eater (themacinator) and my token eXtreme carnivore, male friend. In fact, we agreed on the fact that soy-eating-men are highly likely to develop man-boobs, which I have now learned are most often called "moobs."

However, in the end, I think themacinator won the day. Last night, we participated in a completely vegetarian, fake meat meal, full of soy products. No moobs were seen on exit. We ate at Lucky Creation in San Francisco, where there is not one meat product on the menu. We did, however, eat this:

Deliciously meatless. I anxiously await the growth of moobs.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Fair Warning

I have never been to the Alameda County Fair before. In fact, the Salinas Valley Fair in May was the first County fair I have ever been to, though it appears I forgot to blog about it. So I was inspired by dognerd's pictures a couple days ago to go to the fair and see what it was all about. Let's just say it put the Salinas fair to shame. There was about ten (twenty?) times the stuff, tons more food, way more people, more rides, etc. Everything cost more, and it was basically way more overwhelming.

One of the best things was the signs:

We found it slightly disturbing that they were jobs were available at the carnival, along with the prizes.

I learned that yes, there ARE pigs in Oakland, contrary to my claim that I'm a city girl, and livestock is foreign to me.

Like dognerd, I was intrigued by the fried ravioli. Unlike dognerd, I did not sample them.

I was bewildered by other fried foods. Really? Smoke on a stick? (Appears to be fried salami on a stick.) And if it's a normal hot dog, it's now a sausage on a bun.

Of course I had heard about fried everything. I had not, and still haven't, seen the fried oreos.

We also avoided the tacos in a bag, as well as the trans fat free foods. I mean, really, it was a fair!!

We chuckled at the misspellings.

We laughed at the horse facts, especially the fisting parties and the new knowledge that a pony is NOT a small horse. (Hay, even girls from Oakland know this!)

And of course, we stopped to enjoy the day-off-pooper-scooper-station that was Poop-Free.

We did not sit here, even though it was marked for sitting. It was just too weird.

And what happened to fairs being part of simpler times? AKA kids promote the strangest things.