SONGS I LOVE: “Disorder”

Last night I watched Grant Gee’s 2007 film Joy Division, a documentary about the influential band from Manchester, England.

I really enjoyed the film… in fact, I like it better than Control, another Joy Division film from 2007. While Control is a great film, it focuses on lead singer Ian Curtis because it is based on Touching from a Distance, his wife’s autobiographical account of their marriage. As a result, Control has a few blatantly obvious biases and factual errors. For example, according to Control, Ian Curtis wrote “She’s Lost Control” shortly after his first epileptic seizure. In reality, Curtis wrote the song months before the seizure as a tribute to an epileptic girl he encountered whilst working with the disabled at the Manpower Services Commission in Manchester. Control also shows the band playing “Transmission” on their first TV appearance instead of correct song, “Shadowplay”.

Anyway, whilst watching the movie last night, I was completely taken in by a brief montage which features a bunch of artsy 8mm shots of 1970s Manchester – grimy, rotting, crumbling, depressing – over which “Disorder” is played. I’d completely forgotten how much I love that song.

Unlike, say, the music of The Jam (another band I love, but who’s music is firmly set in the 1970s), Joy Division’s music seems timeless. “Disorder” could have been recorded in 1978… 1988… 1998… or even in 2008.

Then there’s the style of the band, and by that I don’t mean their “fashion”, but how the music is. Joy Division were as “tight” a band as you could ask for, but each instrument seems to be doing it’s own thing. Unlike a child’s music box (where every individual piece is dedicated to the task of making music), Joy Division sounds like a machine built for a completely different purpose that just happens to sound like music. Each instrument floats in its own aether… and then the hollow, haunting voice of Ian Curtis kicks in… and it makes something that doesn’t sound like any band before or since.

Do yourself a favor: turn off the TV and turn down the lights. Get rid of all the distractions, then dig out your headphones and listen to this:


Important “My Yahoo RSS” Issue

Hi folks!

If you have headlines on your My Yahoo! page and you use this site’s main RSS feed address (, you might have noticed that the headlines are several days behind. I do not know why this is, but I do know how to fix it: use the site’s Feedburner address instead:

Note that this applies only to people that are have added the main feed address to their My Yahoo! pages. The “regular” RSS feed seems to be working just fine with Outlook 2007 and Internet Explorer and Firefox’s built-in RSS readers, so it appears that the problem has something to do with Yahoo! reading my site’s feed.

I’ll let you know if I find a fix.

The Joy of Legalese

Have you ever wondered why certain legal terms come “packaged” in seemingly redundant pairs? For example, why is it “cease and desist”? Shouldn’t ceasing be good enough? Or how about “null and void”? Aren’t they basically the same thing?

The use of these odd phrases dates back to the Norman invasion of England. The conquering Normans spoke an early version of French, while the conquered Anglo-Saxons spoke an early form of English. All legal matters and courtroom proceedings were initially carried out in a mixture of French and Latin, which would be incomprehensible to the average Anglo-Saxon.

To prevent miscommunication, the British legal system thus become “bilingual”. So phrases like “breaking and entering” (English\French), “fit and proper” (English\French), “lands and tenements” (English\French) and “will and testament” (English\Latin) were born out of the necessity for two people speaking different languages to communicate.

In time, of course, these “legal couplets” became a style all on their own, and phrases like “let and hindrance” and “have and hold” came into the language, even though both words in each couplet are fully English.

Continue reading “The Joy of Legalese”

Mad Men: “The New Girl”

Mad Men is a funny ol’ show. I went outside for a smoke after last night’s episode, and I thought about how little “action” there was in this episode. Nevertheless, I was amazed at how much “stuff” was crammed in this single episode. And the more I thought about it, the more “stuff” I remembered. This episode reminded me of one of the “slow” episodes of Lost, but at the same time there was an entire season of “Lost answers” crammed into this one episode.

The episode begins with Pete and Trudy visiting a fertility doctor. Pete seems to be going along with it, but as the doctor probes him mentally, it becomes apparent that Pete isn’t ready to be a father. Things weigh on him. The Bomb. The economy. The world in general. It all makes Pete anxious, and I’m pretty sure that his concerns are real, and not something made up for the doctor’s amusement. I did love Pete’s response to the doctor asking him to talk to the nurse about scheduling a time when he can give a semen sample: “whenever she’s free…”

Back at the office, Joan shows off her new engagement ring, and Bobbie Barrett calls Don wanting to “party” because she’s just sold the Grin and Barrett pilot (aside: I like how Joan closed the door to Don’s office after putting Bobbie on hold. She’s a good secretary).

Although Don claims to be working, he eventually meets her at Sardi’s. He orders drinks and food for the couple, then spies Rachel Menken (now Katz). We meet Rachel’s new husband, Tilden, and find out that Menken’s is now with “Grey”, a rival advertising firm. It was a short exchange, but we learned a lot here. Don seemed to be more excited about seeing Rachel then she did him. In fact, she was downright frosty to Don. Whatever happened between those two wasn’t good. In fact, it was bad enough for Rachel to leave for a new firm. So… does that rule out Rachel as one of the people that Don sent the O’Hara book to?

Bobbie then suggests that they go out to her beach house on Long Island. She wants to feel “the cold sand on my back” and the “the surf pounding behind us”. Don and Bobbie keep the party going in the car on the way there, passing a whiskey bottle back and forth between them. Bobbie distracts Don with a kiss… which causes him to have a pretty bad accident. Don subsequently gets locked up for DUI, being over New York’s limit of .15! He needs $150 to pay the fine and get himself out of jail. Unfortunately, he only has $63 on him. He calls someone to help him out:

It’s PEGGY! She’s so awesome! She arrives with $110, then offers to put Bobbie up for the next couple of days (Bobbie got a black eye in the accident, and doesn’t want to have to explain it to Jimmy). Peggy even offers to pick up Bobbie’s clothes from the dry cleaners so she’ll have something to wear, and drive Don to the airport so he can rent a car. Damn! If I’m ever an executive like Don, I want a Peggy Olson in my office!

At home, Don sneaks in the house, only to find Betty waiting up for him in bed. She’s pretty pissed, but when Don explains that he was in an accident, has high blood pressure, and thinks that the booze and pills might have had an adverse reaction which contributed to the wreck… well, Betty goes crazy with worry. It’s the last thing that Don needs at the moment. He tells Betty that he “didn’t want to worry you”. Betty says that he could have at least called him. Frankly, I agree. Dude, your wife is HOT… what the hell is wrong with you?

At the office, the males are in heat because of Don’s new secretary:

When it comes to Mad Men, I usually check a few resources before typing up these things. One is the TV Squad recap. Another is the DVD Talk TV forum. The last is the “Café Society” section of the Straight Dope Message Board. In all of those places, male commenters seemed to drool all over Jane… and frankly, I don’t get it. Joan is way hotter than Jane, and Peggy could be too (Elizabeth Moss is one of those girls that can be really pretty or really average, depending on her makeup and dress). Oh well… different strokes and all that…

Continue reading “Mad Men: “The New Girl””

SONGS I LOVE: “Starlett Johanssen”

The TeenagersSo yesterday, Lisa and I went to a friend’s house for a cook-out. It started out innocently enough, with Calvin cooking up burgers, dogs, and pork chops on the grill while the rest of us drank a few beers or wine or what have you.

After dinner, though, things rapidly went downhill. The guys retired to the living room to do tequila shots and watch the Steelers\Vikings preseason game, while the girls (and Regis!) hung out on the porch playing a slightly drunken version of Apples to Apples. After the football game was over, the boys retired to the porch, where we all had more tequila shots and played another round of Apples to Apples.

On the way home, Lisa decided that she was hungry, so she asked me to stop by the local Taco Bell so she could get a Taco Salad. While waiting in line at the drive-thru, a song came on my iPod that I’d played for her a couple dozen times before. Only, for some reason, she really latched on to one line of the song this time:

When I noticed for Jared Leto
I felt sad for 30 seconds

“Wait – was he singing about Jared Leto?”, Lisa asked.

I couldn’t help but giggle. I’d played the song I don’t know how many times, and she’d apparently never listed to the lyrics before. I started the song over again:

I know you’re born in ’84
Half Polish, half Danish
You started at 8 on Broadway
You’re a star

You don’t believe in monogamy
I’m not jealous Scarlett will you marry me
All you’ve got you can like it
But what I am you will love it

Lisa was still confused… which is understandable, since The Teenagers are from France and don’t pronounce things exactly as an English speaker would expect. I told her that the song was about Scarlett Johanssen. She got that, but had no idea why they were talking about Jared Leto, who is one of the three male celebrities that Lisa absolutely adores (the others are Johnny Depp and Edward Norton, if you’re interested).

I kept giggling, ‘cos apparently Lisa had no idea that Jared Leto and Scarlett Johanssen dated a few years ago.

“He dated her?”, she kept asking.

I kept giggling and asked her if I could get her a 4 year-old copy of People magazine to verify that yes, the two actually dated.

“He dated that bitch?”
“Yes, honey. He dated that bitch!”
“Well… I hate her.”

So I guess Lisa’s new nickname for Scarlett Johanssen is “that fucking bitch”.

Enjoy the song:


Blame Heidi!

With football season just around the corner, I thought you might get a kick out of this story. Many older sports fans are intimately familiar with the story of the “Heidi Game”. People my age have heard about it for years, but weren’t around when it happened and don’t know all the details. Younger fans might never have heard this tale at all… and it’s a good one!

On November 17, 1968, at approximately 6:58pm Eastern US time, Jim Turner of the New York Jets kicked a field goal to take a 32-29 lead over the Oakland Raiders. With only 65 seconds left in the contest, Turner’s field goal normally would have been enough to seal the game for the Jets. But this wasn’t a normal game.

Oakland returned the Jets kickoff to their own 23 yard line. On the first play from scrimmage, Oakland quarterback Daryle Lamonica threw a 20 yard pass to receiver Charlie Smith, and a 15-yard facemask penalty on the Jets Mike D’Amato put the ball on the Jets’ 43 yard line. On the next play, Lamonica hit Smith again on a short pass, which Smith then ran in 43 yards for a touchdown. The Raiders now led 36-32. On the ensuing kickoff, Jets kick returner Earl Christy muffed the catch at his own 10 yard line. The ball rolled to the Jets 2, where Oakland’s Preston Ridlehuber recovered it and ran it in for the game’s last score with 33 seconds left.

Oakland scored 14 points in 32 seconds, and ended up winning the game 43-32. The only problem was that no one east of the Rocky Mountains actually saw the end of game. And for that you can blame Heidi.

You see, NBC had a contract with Timex where the watch company would sponsor a made-for-TV movie based on the story of a young girl who lived with her grandfather in the Swiss Alps. The contract stated that the movie would air on November 17, 1968 between the hours of 7pm and 9pm in each market.

Continue reading “Blame Heidi!”

Those Crazy Italians!

Ever wonder why Italian-Americans pronounce mozzarella as “muzzarell”, prosciutto as “pro-SHOOT”, calzones as “cal-ZONEs” and pasta e fagioli as “pasta fasul”?

It seems that the “official” Italian dialect comes from Florence, where people do, in fact, pronounce prosciutto as “pro-SHOOT-toe” and pasta e fagioli as “PAH-stah eh faj-YOH-lee”. However, most of the Italians that migrated to the United States came from southern Italy, where the alternate pronounciations you often hear in The Sopranos and Martin Scorsese films are common.

This article from the New York Times is really worth the read and will further clear up the mystery.

Steal Microsoft Office!

A while back, Microsoft offered “The Ultimate Steal” – a fully copy of Office 2007 Ultimate (retail price $680) to college students for the low, low price of $59.99. With the fall semester right around the corner, Microsoft has brought the deal back: just click here to get the full details. All you need to get the downloadable software is an email address with an .edu extension and a credit card.

If you’ve already graduated from college, don’t fret: most college alumni associations offer their alums a free .edu address if requested. Check out your alumni assocaition’s website for more details. Once you get your alumni .edu address, head back to Microsoft’s site to order the software.

Georgia Tech Scores!

The latest US News and World Report college rankings are out, and Georgia Tech is once again at or near the top in most engineering fields. Here’s how the school ranks in the various disciplines:

Aerospace Engineering: #2
Biomedical Engineering: #3
Civil Engineering: #5
Computer Engineering: #6
Electrical Engineering: #5
Environmental Engineering: #6
Industrial Engineering: #1
Materials Engineering: #9
Mechanical Engineering: #4
Overall Best Undergraduate Engineering Program: #5

And just for kicks – and you knew this was coming… Georgia Tech ranks as the #35 school overall in the rankings… while that damn farm school in Athens keeps piling on the weak sauce at #58. I guess the UGA student body is just too tired from slopping the hogs to hit the books!

Two Last Things…

Two last stories to round out the week:

Someone hacked in to RedHat and stole the digital keys the company used to sign their distributions. Oooops! This is a colossal fuck-up of the highest order for a major OS company. It may not mean much to you, but my jaw hit the floor when I read the linked story. Even though I don’t use Linux, it’s still absolutely shocking.

In other news, Swingtown might be headed to cable. It seems that CBS executives really like the show, but just can’t keep it on the Tiffany Network with the ratings it gets. So they’re trying hard to sell it to a cable network. The show was originally supposed to air on Showtime, but was later hacked to fit broadcast TV standards on CBS. Keep your fingers crossed, folks! It’s not without problems, but Swingtown has really grown on me this summer. It’s a good show that deserves to live.