Saturday, April 28, 2007

Musical Serendipity

Ages ago, at Anime Expo, I was sitting in the Anime Music Video contest, and there was a very clever, cute AMV called Anime Polka set to the song Polka Power!, by "Weird Al" Yankovic. Recently, as I've noted here, I tracked down the song and bought it, setting Renee off on an endless "Weird Al" trek. What I didn't know is what one of the particular snippets of music in that polka medley was from.

So here I was this evening, browsing various weblogs, when one pointed to a video some youngsters at some Web 2.0 company put together, where they lip-synched to a song called Flagpole Sitta, by Harvey Danger. And whattaya know, there they are, singing "I'm not sick, but I'm not well, and I'm so hot cause I'm in hell." Now that I've heard it again, I know that song, but for years, the only connection I had was Polka Power! (and Anime Polka).

If that was not enough, I was reading Metafilter and stumbled onto this thread. In it is described Stephen Sondheim's "favorite song" out of all his body of work. The pointer led to a rare piece of video footage of the 1976 Broadway musical Pacific Overtures, specifically, the performance of the song, "Someone In a Tree". I watched it, not knowing what to expect.

Now if you are not like me, you probably think musical theatre is some sort of aberration of the human mind, and avoid it, as so many people I know do. One comment on Metafilter illustrates this attitude: "Musical theater gives me an urge to break things." I can show you a thing or two you can break, buddy.

But for me, a well done musical is a gem of human achievement. Ten or twenty seconds into this video clip, I was enraptured. Now I wish there were some way to recover this entire video performance. But a comment on YouTube notes:

It's on a tape at the New York Public Library's special collections dept. The only copy in America, as far as I know. You can make an appointment to view it there if you're ever in NYC. I wish they'd get the rights and distribute that tape. This is the only footage I've ever seen from that original Broadway show.

Please, somebody (Criterion Collection?) get the rights to this, and restore it proper. I'll be there with money in hand!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Two Albums

I feel like I've dropped a couple of stitches here. Impulse buys, Internet freebies and such will just have to go unannounced. But I did get:

We Are Pilots - Shiny Toy Guns
Beggar's Banquet - Rolling Stones

Monday, April 23, 2007

Kitten Hunt

Just a quick note. Sunday we drove to Canby to look at kittens. Renee has asked for a kitten for her birthday, so we're trying to find one. The family in Canby has four, staying with the original mom and dad cat, so we thought that would be a good environment for healthy, happy kittens. They're still maybe three weeks from weaning off their mom, and pretty small. Renee was disappointed that they were not all immediately mobbing her.

We're tentatively going to visit again in three weeks, after the weaning, and I expect the kittens to be much more involved in the outside world then. But in the meantime, we'll keep looking elsewhere.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Ergo Proxy

I finally finished this series. I was not entirely sure I should. Around about episode 15, the narrative became unhinged, and only occasionally got back on track.

When I was a kid, one of the shows I really enjoyed was The Prisoner, starring Patrick McGoohan as a secret agent who has resigned only to discover that secret agents don't retire, they disappear. It was a unique, quirky series, but toward the end it became so quirky that even my then-plastic mind wondered if they had any idea where they were going. Ergo Proxy was guilty of this same derangement, only they started when they were only sixty percent done.

Now I've finished the final episode, and while it involved a lot of lecturing the audience, it tied up the loose threads, and even made some of the nuttier episodes harmonize with the whole. I could still have done without a few of the more dilatory intervals, but I'm mostly satisfied right now.

In the end, it's not up to the grade of better shows I've watched, like Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex (way, way better) or Speed Grapher (second tier, but still tons better).

Monday, April 9, 2007

Nassim Taleb

We cannot help being fooled by randomness. We're too impressionable. I was in London when the second terrorist attack happened and I automatically behaved like anyone else, ducking for safety. Then I realised that my biggest danger in London came from my jet lag and being used to traffic driving on the other side of the road. We should worry about preventable sources of death. I should worry more about how much sugar I put in my tea than whether I am going to be hit by terrorists. The key is not to try to stop being a fool, but to be aware of when it matters not to be a fool. If you can't do anything about a problem, it's a waste of time analysing it.

Just a quote, to remind me that he has a new book out, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. I really loved his first book, Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets, so I'm looking forward to this next one.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Black Lagoon: The Second Barrage

I finally finished this season of Black Lagoon. I think I've been holding off because it's one of my faves, and I know of no new third season.

In the course of the first season I had labelled it, pretty accurately, I think, as a B-team series. Simple writing, broadly entertaining characters, in short, a popcorn show, filling in for the deeper stuff like Ghost in the Shell.

But by the end of this second season, I have to say they stepped up the nuance and character development to an impressive degree. These are not nice people, but you begin to see a glimmer of how they arrived at where they are.

I hope there's a season three, even if it isn't for a couple of years...

Sunday, April 1, 2007