Thursday, April 27, 2006

At The Movies: Parte Dos

A little less than a year ago, I wrote a post about influential films and how their "greatness" often escaped me. I feel pretty much the same way now as then, although I would argue I've become both more open minded and slightly better at interpreting symbolism, hidden meaning, and nuance (emphasis on the word "slightly.") There's still a long way to go, however. I'm still the recipient of loud gasps from friends. I've heard, "Oh my God. You've never seen '_____'?" more times than I care to remember. I've still got the old Netflix account and am regularly adding classics to the queue so that one day, I too can be considered a film buff. But... man, is this a time consuming process.

Allow me to (yet again) rip a page out of Yesterday, the site made reference to a list posted on Roger Ebert's website by film critic Jim Emerson. Titled 'The 102 Movies You Must See Before...' it lists those films that "you just kind of figure everybody ought to have seen in order to have any sort of informed discussion about movies. They're the common cultural currency of our time, the basic cinematic texts that everyone should know, at minimum, to be somewhat 'movie-literate.'"

Seems innocent enough, don't it? I mean, if everyone should have seen these films, the list can't be too intimidating, right? Nay, it most certainly can be. See for yourself.

The list in question (in alphabetical order, with asterisks next to those films that I've seen):
You can look them up on if you're unfamiliar with any of them

2001: A Space Odyssey
The 400 Blows
8 1/2
Aguirre, the Wrath of God
* Alien
All About Eve
Annie Hall
* Apocalypse Now
* Bambi
* The Battleship Potemkin
The Best Years of Our Lives
The Big Red One
The Bicycle Thief
The Big Sleep
* Blade Runner
* Blue Velvet
Bonnie and Clyde
Bringing Up Baby
* Casablanca
Un Chien Andalou
Children of Paradise / Les Enfants du Paradis
* Chinatown
* Citizen Kane
A Clockwork Orange
* The Crying Game
The Day the Earth Stood Still
Days of Heaven
Dirty Harry
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
* Do the Right Thing
* La Dolce Vita
* Double Indemnity
* Dr. Strangelove
Duck Soup
* E.T. -- The Extra-Terrestrial
Easy Rider
* The Empire Strikes Back
* The Exorcist
* Fargo
* Fight Club
The General
* The Godfather, The Godfather, Part II
* Gone With the Wind
* GoodFellas
* The Graduate
A Hard Day's Night
It's a Gift
* It's a Wonderful Life
* Jaws
The Lady Eve
* Lawrence of Arabia
* M
Mad Max 2 / The Road Warrior
* The Maltese Falcon
The Manchurian Candidate
* Modern Times
* Monty Python and the Holy Grail
* The Night of the Hunter
Night of the Living Dead
* North by Northwest
* Nosferatu
On the Waterfront
Once Upon a Time in the West
Out of the Past
Pink Flamingos
* Psycho
* Pulp Fiction
* Rear Window
Rebel Without a Cause
Red River
The Rules of the Game
The Scarlet Empress
* Schindler's List
The Searchers
* The Seven Samurai
* Singin' in the Rain
Some Like It Hot
A Star Is Born
* A Streetcar Named Desire
* Sunset Boulevard
* Taxi Driver
* The Third Man
Tokyo Story
* Touch of Evil
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Trouble in Paradise
* Vertigo
West Side Story
The Wild Bunch
* The Wizard of Oz

If my count is correct, I've only seen 47 of the 102 films listed. So, fine... slap a dunce cap on my head and send me to the corner - but not before I take exception to this list. First, he listed The Godfather & The Godfather II as one entry, which is blasphemous in itself. They're two separate films after all. Secondly, I (and would argue most average folk) haven't even heard of a number of these titles. The Searchers? Tokyo Story? The Scarlet Empress? Not even the great Netflix carries the last one. Lastly... where's Trainspotting? You can put Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior on the list but Trainspotting is absent?

Alright, that last one is certainly a stretch. But if this list is correct (and it would appear to have Ebert's blessing, so damn, that's as close to perfection as you can get) then I'm watching all the wrong films. Screw it. Ignorance is bliss. Next up: Spiderman. Later.

P.S. Any of you film buffs seen them all?

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Murky Words Music Mix #1: Vocals That Don't Suck

I need to apologize in advance here. I try hard not to get on my soapbox when music is concerned. After all, one man's trash is another mans treasure... but this time I simply can't help myself. I was heading home from work on Friday, flipping radio channels, when I came across this song (entitled 'Download This Song' by MC Lars and featuring Jarret Reddick of Bowling For Soup. 30 second snippet provided by I don't dare post the entire song. It could cause hemorrhages.)

Seriously, it was all I could do to not stop the car and scream, "Enough!" I mean, just listen to the vocals in that chorus, or even the preceding white boy rap. It's terrible. How old is this guy? Seven? Are you sure? My elementary school chorus sounded more distinguished than that, and unfortunately such lead vocals have become commonplace in the rather disturbing trend that is "alternative radio" in the past ten years. Need more examples? You won't have to look very hard. Here's a little something from Blink-182. Oh, and why don't we stick with the random numbers theme and add a little Sum-41. Haven't had enough yet? Fine. Here's some Simple Plan.

Arggh!!! When the hell did Weird Al Yankovic become a top notch vocalist that others should aspire to? Seriously, if you release a "legitimate" song, and the vocals are bad enough to make it sound like it should be a parody of another song, then it's probably time to find another lead singer.

I know, I know. I sound like a grumpy old man bitching about "those kids and their music these days." But is it really too much to ask to find a lead singer who means business? The voice doesn't even have to be all that good, but actually giving a shit helps. The sad part is that, for the most part, the songs featured in those clips are all GOOD songs - or at least they have the potential to be - but when you have a lead singer that blurts out lyrics as if were singing along to Saturday morning cartoons, they're ruined.

Whatever. I'm going to stop bitching now because clearly these musicians have an audience. Record sales alone indicate that. Also, I can't sing any better than these guys can so there's an element of hypocrisy here that I'm feeling a little ashamed of. But, in an effort to convince myself that vocals are still an important part of song creation, I'm announcing, here and now, the first ever Murky Words Music Mix. The theme for this mix is quite simply, "Good Vocals." To follow are songs (no snippets this time - these are the real deal, folks) from some of my favorite crooners, or bands with good crooners in them. In some cases, the voice is simply magnificent, like something out of heaven. Other times, they're clearly coming from hell, but as mentioned before, the voice is so distinct, or they're sung with such emotion, that you can tell the singer clearly means business and cares about their craft.

This is not a "best of" compilation, or even a fair representation of all the good vocalists out there. It's simply a bunch of songs I like with singers who can sing. Download and enjoy. (Oh, by the way, I've had some of these songs available up on the sidebar before, but they're good enough to warrant posting again. Also, you better download 'em quickly. These will be coming down VERY soon - we're talking like a day or two.) Here we go:

Sufjan Stevens - Jacksonville: What can I say about Mr. Stevens that I haven't said before? This is off of his Illinois album, and honestly, there are better examples of his vocal prowess on this recording. But, I've posted all those tunes before and I figured I'd throw you a little something new this time. The album? Yes, as I've said before it's phenomenal. Buy It.

Garbage - The Trick Is To Keep Breathing: You're sick of me babbling about Shirley Manson, how she's Venus incarnate, how she'll be my future wife, how we'll have eighteen children and retire to her native Scotland. It gets tiresome, I know. But, I assure you, my obsession is certainly not just skin deep. The woman can sing. This is one of my favorite tunes from the band (which also happens to be very un-Garbage like.) Besides, it's not a mix if Shirley isn't featured somewhere. Buy It - or face my wrath.

Alice In Chains - Would?: There was a time when I wanted to be Layne Staley. As he died from a heroin overdose a couple years ago, it's safe to say that's no longer the case. But man, could the guy belt 'em out. I'm sure most of you are familiar with this tune from either the Singles soundtrack or the Alice In Chains 'Dirt' album, which really threw them onto the national landscape. This tune is a big reason why. Buy It.

Chris Isaak - 5:15: This is same guy who sang that "Wicked Game" song back in the early 90's and who all the women fuss and fawn over. This particular tune came off his follow-up San Francisco Days album, which I thought was pretty good but which most reviewers panned. Whatever - the guy has a good voice, and I'm masculine enough to admit it. Really, I am. Buy It.

Nat King Cole - Sweet Lorraine: Nat, Nat, Nat. One of the most underrated popular musicians of the last 100 years. I hadn't really heard much of him (other than that posthumous duet of 'Unforgettable' he "did" with his daughter that now features as the "Bride Dances with Father" dance at every wedding imaginable) until I started hosting a jazz radio show in college. Since that time, he's been one of my favorites. This song reminds me of a lazy summer day. Or maybe it simply reminds me of an old Country Time Lemonade commercial... which always pictured images of lazy summer days. Buy It.

Led Zeppelin - In My Time Of Dying: Classic Band. Classic Tune. Fine - this tune is known more for the instrumentals than the vocals but still, you can't go wrong with Robert Plant - even if he did need to wash his hair more often. Buy It.

Tribe - Jakpot: Former Boston band from the late 80's and early 90's that was absolutely ADORED by the local populace, but never did much outside of it. They released two major label albums that both did poorly (although why their first one did is beyond me.) I might very well have bestowed lead singer Janet Lavalley the enviable title of "future wife" instead of Shirley Manson if the band had stayed together. This tune, in addition to superb vocals, is a great example of how to slowly build a song up before letting it explode. Go 'head, Janet. (Miss Lavalley if you're nasty.) Buy it (also check out the additional download available in the

Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart: A perfect example of how a lead singer with a bad voice can still make it work. Ian Curtis' voice is... well... unique, shall we say. Yet, you'd be hard pressed to find someone better able to channel their energy and emotion into their singing enough to compensate for whatever vocal talents they may have lacked. This is their token "pop" song. Shame he had to go and kill himself with such a promising career ahead of him. And no, I can't wait for the Joy Division movie to be released. Buy It.

Chet Baker - Time After Time: Yet another heroin addicted musician - this one with a golden voice. Chet Baker would record an album, inject the royalties into his veins, go to jail for a few years and then go back and do it all over again upon his release. His longevity was simply mind-boggling given the seriousness of his addiction. Anyway, I don't know why I'm focusing on his drug habit so much. Just listen to the man's voice. Buy it.

Bessie Smith - Yes Indeed He Do!: WHAT a set of pipes on this woman. Nothing here but some great old timey blues. The lyrics, even in this day and age, would be considered risqu
é. Take a listen to one of her boxed sets sometime. You'll be thoroughly impressed. Buy it.

And just for the hell of it:

Iggy Pop - The Passenger: This song does not have great vocals. Trust me, Iggy Pop was nothing stellar. But this is a great tune and I thought you might like to hear it as it was originally recorded - as opposed to what it sounded like after MC Lars butchered it with his sample in the song I linked to above. Buy it.

So, there's the first ever Murky Words Music Mix. Will there be more? Don't know. We'll have to see how popular it is. Further, this took a damn good amount of time to put together and I'll have to see if another one is in me. But in the meantime, I hope you enjoy the songs that are available now and feel free to agree/disagree in the comments. Later folks.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Special Guest Stars Include...

Hey, good news. I am no longer creatively challeneged. I am, however, short on time. But, promise you a post today, I did, and deliver a post today, I will. It just won't be the post I thought it was going to be. No, that one will have to wait until tomorrow (it requires some organization and a little time to put together.) So, while I apologize for not having a long diatribe for you this Saturday, I brought along some people to help keep you entertained while I go out and run some errands. I think you probably know these guys. They certainly know you and are anxious to say hello again after a long absence. So, without further ado:

Murky Words today is brought to you by...

The Wrong Seven Dwarves

("Proud" and "Cheerful" had me on the floor. Which wrong dwarf would you be? As much as I'd like to say otherwise, I know - without question - that my friends would not let me say anything other than "Angry.")

The Letter I...

(I had completely forgotten about this hippie folk song skit. I remember being confused and slightly scared at three years old when I first saw it (the melody can be a bit menacing at times), but now I think it's just phenomenal. What do you think Msrs. Henson & Co. were trying to tell us with this little sketch? Read between the lines. Capital "I" = Capital "Me"? I, I, I, I, I. We're all too selfish and caught up in the primping and polishing of our own egos to pay attention to anyone else??? Also, were we supposed to have taken a bong hit before we could have fully appreciated this sketch? At three years old?

Nah.... they just wanted to teach us about the capital letter "I")

and The Number 8...

(That's some classic Sesame Street right there. Love the way Lefty shushes Ernie when he yells out about the octopus legs. Side note: Were Bert & Ernie gay? Also, I remember hearing some apocryphal story from some idiot in junior high school that "pretty soon Ernie will die of AIDS." No joke. We all believed it too. I mean, why not? Everyone was scared shitless about the disease at the time. It was the PC, snob disease du jour, and Sesame Street was all about increased understanding and tolerance. Made sense to me anyway...)

Come back tomor...

Ah, what the hell. Here's two more. If you can't remember these two than you had a thoroughly deprived childhood, my friend. I don't know what to tell you.


Special thanks to for pointing me in the right direction and for hosting the files.

And that's Murky Words for today, folks. Tune in tomorrow for some more fun and sensory overload. Today brought you the video... what do you think tomorrow will bring?

Gee... that's a tough one.


Friday, April 21, 2006

Finger Drumming Bliss

Look, I could sit here and write a post about how I've got nothing to say, but I've done that before and it's proven to be a boring read. And besides, it isn't true. I do have a few things to say, actually.
  1. Happy weekend (Yay!!) Go get drunk, high, arrested, or laid. If none of those seem like fun/safe options then may I suggest sleeping in, watching your favorite movie, reading a good book, listening to your favorite album or laying around in the sunshine should your region be blessed enough to receive some.
  2. Come back tomorrow - maybe in the afternoon sometime. I should be much more inspired then. Work, of all things, got in the way today and managed to suppress any "creative energies" I may/may not have been feeling. Sorry... but it happens from time to time. Have to kick the muse to the curb and tell her to come back when things aren't so busy. Probably should apologize to her, too. I was a little rude. I imagine she's pissed...
Here - play this in the meantime. Mahjongg 3D. Yeah, it's the game you know and love. Yeah, it's addicting, and hell yeah it's got a groovy soundtrack. Rock on, groove cats. Tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Comment Craziness

Sorry folks... I guess I got some 'splainin to do.

"What about?" you ask.

"The comments" say I.

For the past two plus weeks I've been thinking to myself, 'Good Christ, the people reading this are nothing but a bunch of bored-at-work drones. No comments! I'm dull, but I'm not this dull. Heathens.'

My thoughts, it would appear, were quite unfounded. I should've been thinking something like this, 'You know what, Eric? You're an idiot. A complete and utter dumbass. Really. Has it ever occurred to you to stop and think for a second before you judge others for their actions (or lack thereof?) No, of course not. And now you look like a fool. A handsome fool, but a fool, nonetheless. I say to you.. er me, Eat Crow, Senor! Eat Crow.'

Yes, I must call myself out. Here's what happened. Not long ago, I started receiving random "comment spam" on the blog. I'd write a post about how I'm going to update more often and not on Tuesday or Friday blah, blah, blah. You know, the usual nonsense I spew forth in an effort to throw a dog a bone. Couple of hours later, I'd receive some comment from some user named eg68jh78hre8n3 who wrote something having nothing to do with the post. Usually it would be something along the lines of, "Hey! Very Nice! Check out my degree programs online! You can earn extra cash!" To which I said, "Fuck off, chump!"

Or at least I thought I did... Thinking I was doing us all a favor and getting the better of the spammers, I went into the Blogger settings and, without reading any directions or notices as to what it might actually do (my father would be so proud), selected the "Moderate Comments" function. I figured with a name like "Moderate Comments" you couldn't go wrong.

What I expected to be able to do as a result of choosing that option was to edit people's comments as they're posted. So, if someone decided to write me "hate spam," which is certainly not out of the realm of possibility (in fact it's happened before) I could merely go in and snip out the offending words or delete the post entirely. What actually ocurred was something completely different. Instead of allowing me to edit other people's comments (really dictatorial when you think about it, which is probably why I liked it) it threw everyone's comments into a holding cell of sorts, where they would await my review, and hope desperately for my green light to be published. In other words you write the comment, it goes to it's holding cell, I read it and decide whether or not I like it and if so, I hit the 'Publish' button which then posts the comment to the blog.

Like I said before however, I didn't bother to read how this thing actually worked so I had know idea that this "holding cell" even existed. I found out about it today, quite by accident, when I was about to change something on the sidebar and hit the wrong button instead. So worry not, my good subjects, comments that once were lost have now been found! Hallelujah! They have risen! Better yet, so you don't have to go scouring through all the posts to read them (now that they've finally been published), I'm going to post them all below, starting with the oldest and working our way up to today. If you're really bored, you can try and figure out which comment goes with which post, but to be honest, I'm too lazy to bother figuring that out myself and including it. So without further ado:

03/31/2006 12:34:04 PM
Anonymous said...
"I don't count this as a blog post. Although I am grateful for Hapland 3..."

04/01/2006 01:11:03 PM
Chris said...
"That game is great. "There is 30 levels". I'm hooked. Got to level 5 and had to turn it off for a while as a precaution.

No sidebar reading for me. I'm only reading your posts through the feed."

04/09/2006 09:42:53 PM
E.A.P. said...
"Follow these "sleep hygiene" rules:
-no caffeine after 12 noon
-go to sleep at the same time every night (no matter how hard that may be).
-wake up at the same time every morning.
-Use your bed only for sleep and sex (no reading, TV or surfing the web)
-try to develop a ritual (shower then warm milk then 20 minutes of reading in living room) to follow every night.
-It may be helpful to help "reset" your clock with something like Ambien or Sonata (perscription sleep aids) for 10 days. Call your sister or your PCP for this request.

After about 10-14 days you will be sleeping like a baby. Your internal clock will be readjusted and you will have little trouble. Of course, if you are in a noisy environment then the earplugs can't hurt....except I find them irritating enough that they make it even more difficult for me to sleep...."

04/12/2006 11:20:45 PM
Tim said...
"A very good friend of mine is a Swede who learned English in Birmingham and Baton Rouge. The Swedish-Southern accent is doubtlessly the craziest I've heard, and most unimitable."

04/13/2006 11:17:23 AM
Anonymous said...
"I also was deemed to be 25% Dixie, which I find hahd to believe. I'm guessing that the creators of this exam are from somewhere in GA and feel everyone should be at least 1/4 "down home".

04/14/2006 03:33:33 AM
Anonymous said...
"You suck, you foul-mouthed blaspheming cretin! I've got a good mind to go up to that "Beantown", or should I say "Farttown" (because beans make you fart) you love so much and kick your ass. "OoooOOOoooHHHhh... I can't sleep. Whine Whine Whine... my car is in the shop. Boo Hoo... The Red Sux lost." Here's a tip. Shut your mouth and go shit in your hat. I can't read this crap anymore."


(Just kidding, folks. That last one was a fake. Just making sure y'all were still awake.)

04/15/2006 10:13:41 PM
Sean says...
"That's awesome! I might just have to do the same. Been wanting one of these for a long time now. Good deal. Save that extra $30 for some music..."

04/17/2006 03:23:51 PM
Anonymous says...
"Does Tom know his son is on the internet??? This does breech confidentiality, you know!!! And you know how much he loves that!!!"

04/18/2006 02:56:43 PM
Eric says...
"Now hold on. What's the real breech of confidentiality here? The fact that I posted a picture of a baby who happens to be named Colin (of which there are literally hundreds?) Or the fact that that you took it one step further and decided to mention that his father's name was Tom?

Think before you speak, dear sister."

nd there you have it, my good fellows. The comments, fully restored in all their glory. Rest assured, I don't plan on making a mistake like this again. Although... I don't plan on reading instructions anytime soon either, so a repeat performance is entirely possible. In either case, feel free to comment to your hearts content and, for now at least, the masses will hear you. Have a good one, groove cats.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Effective Organization for Lazy Ass Slobs

I'm writing this post today, a Thursday, because on last weeks "Insomnia" post I mentioned that I'd gotten into the habit of posting only on Tuesday and Friday and that more posts were in order. It would be rather hypocritical of me not to follow through, although I'll let you know that I'm taking valuable time out of my lunch break to type this up. So... appreciate it, damnit.

Because there's nothing new or exciting going on in my life at the moment, today's post is going to be one of those "Eric's Excellent Exhortation's" type deals. Or, in simpler terms, it's going to read like an advertisement for two things that I think are really neat. Actually, I think one of these things is really neat. The other I haven't played around with much but it definitely has potential, which is where we might as well start off.

Have I mentioned how much I love Google? I love Google. They steal other peoples ideas, make them web based, tweak them a little, usually improve upon them (although that's debatable), throw a big bright "Google" stamp on it and then stick it in Beta mode for the next eight years or so, and in doing so, make you feel like you're King Shit because you're allowed to use it. I mean, after all, only the select few can/will use a "beta." They did this with Gmail, which in my mind happens to be the best web based email out there at the moment (and which I'm going to consolidate all my emails to in the near future, so get ready friends and family, the "My E-Mail address has changed! Please make a note of it!" email will be coming fairly soon. Don't you go ignoring it now, slacker.) They did it with Google Maps. Now they're doing it with Google Calendar.

Although I haven't used this thing all that much it looks pretty nifty. The layout is much like you would see in any calendar application (ie. Microsoft Outlook) except it's entirely web based. Users are allowed to add events from within the program or through Web sites that use the feature. So in the future, you may be searching your local "events and happenings" section online and if you see an event that you'd like to go to, you can merely click "Add to my Google Calendar" and have it show up (assuming of course, the designers of the site you're visiting allow for that function. Google has made it very easy for them to do so.) It can also import calendar items from other programs, such as Outlook or iCal, and it allows you to share your calendar (or just specific events) with other users of the service. Lastly, you can create event reminders and invitations (a la Evite) and send them to anyone with an email address. Even the usual bitching about privacy whenever Google releases a new tool seems to be minimal, as the default settings for Calendar are all set to private unless otherwise changed. However, don't blame me if the token "federal, state and local authorities" bust down your door and haul you away for crimes against the state because you happened to schedule a date with a known traffic violator. I said it was neat, not safe (although there's no reason to think that it isn't - at least not yet.) Anyway, there's lots more and if you're interested you can read about it here - or just click the link above and try it for yourself. Pretty neat. Lots of nice little pop up balloons. Whee!

My second neato item is something I'm admittedly about a year late on, but it still no less remarkable. Because my roommate and I both have laptops we have a wireless network at home. While a fantastic setup, we were limited by the fact that the router (which disperses the wireless signal to our laptops) was old technology so we were neither getting the speed, nor the reliability that we could have been. While bored at work the other day, I was surfing the Apple "special deals" website (scroll all the way to the bottom) and ran into some great prices on refurbished models of their latest router, the Airport Express. Don't let the cheesy name fool you. This device is the coolest thing since... well shit, I don't know... the coolest thing since pickles. Not only does it act as a 802.11(g) router (that means really fast for those of you unfamiliar with the jargon), but it also will hook up to my home stereo and (wirelessly, of course) play over the stereo speakers anything I can play in Itunes, whether that be something in my music library, a podcast, an online radio station, you name it. If Itunes can play it, the Airport Express will play it over my home stereo system. Ah... but that's not all. It ALSO has a USB printer port on it, so that I can take any printer, hook it up to the airport, and my roommate and I (and anyone else using our network) can print wirelessly to that printer. Oh, and the thing is only slightly bigger than an iPod. In short, we have a wireless router, print server and digital music server that's about the size of a walkman and just about $100. Yowzas.

And there's my latest techie review post thingie. I'd imagine these types of posts induce massive yawns from the majority of you, but too bad. I happen to work with this shit for a living, so you'll get stuck with this from time to time. Just be thankful you got something to read on a Thursday, pal. And... hey that's a decent idea... Maybe I'll start scheduling my blog posts in the calendar...

Whoa - what am I thinking? That means I'd actually have to write. We know what to say to Jose about that, don't we? Thought so. See you folks.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Hey yo Chahlie! Y'all listen up, hear?

Every so often, I toy with the idea of writing a post phonetically, the idea being that the post reads as if it were being spoken out loud by someone with an accent. I'd thought about doing that today, but opted not to because really, there's just too much room for confusion. That, and I don't particularly trust myself to do so just yet. After all, how can you convey an accent in writing if you don't have one when you speak?

Oh... who am I kidding? The issue isn't that I have no accent. It's that I've had too many of them. I have no idea what normal everyday speaking English is anymore, and whether or not I'm a good example (Remember, we're talking accent here - not word usage. Were the latter to be the case, I'd fail miserably. Potty mouth times ten.) Come with me on a voyage back to yesteryear, won't you?

It would be reasonable to assume that the two greatest influences on my current speaking voice would be those two towering pillars of strength and support, Ma and Pa (little joke there - only The Waltons say 'Ma & Pa.' There's no set rule for Bostonians. Some say Ma. Some say Dad. I say Mom & Dad, although within the past ten years I've occasionally called my Dad, 'Pops' because it sounds retro and cool. He just chuckles and shakes his head. Next year I'll switch to 'Daddy-O.') My father has no accent to speak of. Growing up in smallish town Pennsylvania, his environment was heavily influenced by the Amish and other such boring folk who didn't do much, other than drive horse drawn wagons and knit. It's reflected in their accent. Often referred to as "Pennsylvania Dutch", it's this weird sort of German influenced English that isn't so much a distinct sound as it is a distinct choice of words. They have weird expressions. For example, "My off is all" means "My vacation is now complete." Go figure. To hear my Dad speak though, is to hear the sound of middle America - i.e. what many would consider "normal."

My mother (who I hope is not reading this) has a Boston accent on most days. It's not over the top by any means, and she can tone it down a bit when she needs to, but by and lahge, it's noticeable - especially when she's drinking Cutty Sahk in the pahk with an aahdvahk.

(Note: I feel the need to clarify just what exactly a Boston accent is before we go any further. It has been misrepresented in TV and film for way too long and most people think it sounds completely different than the way it actually does. This is due in large part to the Kennedy's. The Kennedy accent is not a Boston accent. The Kennedy accent is a Kennedy accent. No one in Boston but the Kennedy's actually speaks that way, yet they've shamefully been allowed to set the example. I'm not quite sure where they got it to tell you the truth. It sounds like it might have been a Boston accent at one point, but over the years has been corrupted by shady political practices, excessive alcohol consumption, and weekend road trips off of island bridges. Most actors, when they're trying to speak Bostonese, seem to be trying (and failing) to emulate the way the Kennedy's speak, as opposed to the average Bostonian. As a result Bostonians, as they're portrayed in most of TV and film, sound more like New Yorkers. Personally, I can think of little that's more insulting.

Put simply, the letter "r" is missing where it's normally pronounced with the exception of places where it sounds like it does in the word "red" or "pronounce." There's more to it than that of course, but that is, without doubt, the defining characteristic. The only film I've ever seen where the accent was correct was 'Good Will Hunting' and even then it was butchered in certain places. Robin Williams tears it to shreds. Ben Affleck is so-so. Matt Damon nails it. The BEST example of it in that film was by the judge who sentenced Matt Damon's character to prison about a half-hour into the film. You only hear him for about 30 seconds but that little snippet is pure perfection. So, if you're watching the news and you hear some Kennedy yapping away, feel free to mutter the word "fraud" under your breath and change the channel. Now you know the real scoop. Back to the post.)

You would think then, that my siblings and I would all have very slight Boston accents. Not so. That happens to be the case with my brother, although you'd have to strain yourself to hear it. Neither of my sisters have any accent whatsoever. They've done well. I... well, I'm not sure what I have. Early on I used to have a very very slight accent, but I was so aware of it I would often overcompensate and sound like an overenunciating dork. Seriously. Think of your 8th grade English professor with the bow tie and the spring in his step. I probably sounded like a pre-pubescent version of him. This was exacerbated one Christmas season when I had seen 'It's A Wonderful Life' like 80,000 times and I, unbelievably, decided that Jimmy Stewart sounded cool... so I tried to emulate him. ("Well of course I like her, she's a peach!" or "Seen your wife?!? I've been to your house a hund'erd times!!!") As I hit my formative years however, I became much more influenced by what was prevalent in the popular culture. I (very briefly... and embarrasingly) went through my Ebonics phase back when BBD, Digital Underground & Ice-T were all the rage. Thank God I quickly realized how foolish I sounded. Then when I turned 16 and took my first job, I found myself working among people with horrifically thick Boston accents. So, there I was, a green 16 year old kid, sounding like George Bailey meets Ice Cube and surrounded by people named Ralphie and Cheryl (pronounced SHEH - RULL) from "down the prawjects" and "Oak Squayuh." I know what your thinking, and yes, you're damn right I took a ribbing from them. So much so, that I decided it necessary to reinstiute my Boston accent in an effort to gain acceptance from my coworkers. Again, I overcompensated, and most of my family and friends were simply dumbfounded. What the hell? Where did this accent come from that wasn't there before?

Long story long, by the time I got to college and started doing airchecks for the college radio station and listening to how I sounded, I found myself so distraught over this amalgamation of accents that I was spewing forth (which basically sounded like a Canadian who'd spent a lot of time in Buffalo) that I decided to scrap everything and try again. I took a Voice & Articluation class (which was actually required at my college) and started paying very close attention to how I was forming my words, to the point where I would stop and start again if I noticed myself mispronouncing certain things. I found, believe it or not, that you can change your accent if you want to and that there definitely comes a point where, if you're consistent enough, it becomes second nature. As an added bonus, you never really "forget" your previous accents so you can break them out when necessary. For example, I find it useful to use the Boston accent any time I decide to visit Jimmy's Cod Shack for a haddock plate (which is to say never) or when yelling at the right honorable gentleman from Billerica who has nearly missed clipping my vehicle as he cuts me off in traffic (which is to say too often.) It is NEVER useful for me to break out the Ebonics accent. Ever. Glad we cleared that up. I have never really been completely comfortable with my speaking voice, but it's at a point now where I'm happy enough and, for the most part, I've stopped caring.

Now, this might come as a shock you (it certainly did me), but I am 24% Dixie. Really. What exactly Dixie is defined as I'm not sure, but I just took the "Are you a Yankee or a Rebel?" test and discovered that, lo and behold, I've apparently got a smidgen of Southern twang. I remain skeptical. The results must be thrown out of whack by my recent trip to Texas. Further, the test told me that I was a "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and regardless of what ANYONE says, I will never identify as a Yankee. A northerner, maybe. Yankee, never.

Still, I'm confused. 24% is a lot. That's almost 1/4th!!! The last thing I need to do is incorporate a new dialect, wonderful as it is, into my repertoire. I mean, crap, I wouldn't even know where to properly use the words "y'all" or "grits" 2% of the time, much less 24% But, as Popeye says, I am what I am... so either I'll have to start saying things like 'Hold up, feller. Watch out for that there kudzu!'... or I'm going to have to retake the test. I'll give it about a week to let the after effects of Houston wear off, and then I'll see where I stand. Until then, I'll keep my mouth shut.

I'll leave you with a link I found which is somewhat related, although not really. The Simplified Spelling Society has compiled a list of short poems which show the absurdity of the English language and how words that look the same are pronounced differently. Looking at some of them, it's easy to see why English is considered among the most difficult 2nd languages to learn. An excerpt from my favorite:

When the English tongue we speak.
Why is break not rhymed with freak?
Will you tell me why it's true
We say sew but likewise few?
And the maker of the verse,
Cannot rhyme his horse with worse?
Beard is not the same as heard
Cord is different from word.
Cow is cow but low is low
Shoe is never rhymed with foe."


Friday, April 07, 2006

Dude, Your Sheep Suck

Ick. I seem to have fallen into the very noticeable and predictable habit of posting something late on Tuesday night and then again on Friday afternoon. How very boring, and clearly not up to my potential. I guess more posts are in order then.

Moving on. I've only been back from vacation for about a month and I already feel like I need another one. But, worry not. I'm not going to get on my soapbox and whine. I'm just a worn out insomniac. The bags under my eyes (always constant - they seem to be family trait) are much more pronounced. I'm more quick to irritate (which should scare a lot of you who know how easy that is on a normal day), I feel sluggish, and I'm constantly yawning. In fact, I've had to correct about four misspellings in this post already, due to yawns and a poor attention span.

So, I'm soliciting advice from any of you who might have some decent remedies. I should preface this by saying I'm familiar with a bunch of them already. Warm milk, herbal tea, meditation, swift kick to the head... I've tried many of them. My current experiment is some sort of homeopathic 'Sound Sleep' pill found at Whole Foods, which I've taken for the past three nights. My initial thoughts are that I've been swindled. After about a half hour I'll fall asleep only to wake up at around 3 or 4 and have some sort of sleep/toss & turn mix until 7:15 when I (should) wake up. Maybe these things are like valium and they need to "build up" in your system, but I don't think so. More likely, I think I've bought a bottle of water filled filled gelcaps.

I won't buy those heavy duty, over the counter, drug-riddled things you can get at CVS because they scare me, so the next thing I think I'm going to try are earplugs. Part of what contributes to this current bout of insomnia is that I'm a light sleeper and I happen to live in a fairly loud environment. My roommate often wakes up before I do and I invariably hear him as he showers (thankfully he's stopped singing) or prepares breakfast or whatever. Further, one of my bedroom windows is right next to the rear porch and there's this pigeon that has decided to make that the rafters his um... love nest. Every damn morning - at the first light of dawn, mind you, which usually happens around 5:00 AM - I'm abruptly awoken to the sounds of... well, you know... pigeon cooing and all that crap, and it lasts for HOURS. Honestly, I'd be more than happy to pull a Hannibal Lecter and run the thing through with a butter knife but if I did so, I'd probably have to find another place to live, seeing as my roommate (who doubles as my landlord) is a card carrying member of PETA. Plus, it's not a nice thing to do. We all share this Earth together and all that jazz... I may go and have a word with him about his need to constantly take a dump on the porch, but I won't kill him. I'll just have to ignore him, and hopefully the earplugs will help me do that.

I'm glad it's the weekend so that, if anything, I can at least attempt to sleep past the time I would normally get up, but sometimes even that is fruitless. I lay in bed and do my best Al Pacino in Insomnia imitation (by the way, that movie was terrible. Skip it if you haven't seen it and go with the original version instead. I liked it much better although I can't be too sure because I, irony of ironies, fell asleep at the end. No joke.) I figure if the earplugs don't help, my last resort is to get out of bed and read every post I've written in the last month or so. If THAT doesn't work, it's time to call in a doctor or start doing sleep studies... or something. But now, it's late on Friday afternoon, I'm yawning incessantly, and I can't think of anything interesting or funny to write. I think I'll close here and bid you a fond adieu. In light of my current absence of humor , I'll leave you with an audio clip I found floating around the Internet. Taken from what I can only guess is a BBC radio broadcast, these two proper English gentlemen provide a great way to end your Friday. Although it's kind of hard to tell, I'm pretty sure they're talking about cricket. Talk about a subject that will put you to sleep.

Goodnight folks. Sweet Dreams.

Download: Legover

P.S. Oh FINE. Because it's appropriate (and I only just now thought of it), an extra download for your Friday. Here is the dance club classic Insomnia by Faithless. This song was huge among the ravers and club rats back in the mid to late 90's when I was in college. Brings back very fond, yet very hazy, memories. If you watched MTV at all back then, you'll probably recognize it. Enjoy.

Download: Faithless - Insomnia

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

We're Doomed

Hi folks.

Just popping in briefly during a break in class to tell you that the end is nigh.

"Aha!" you say, "it would appear that the sense of doom and foreboding I've had all week was premonition. I'm glad I surfed over to Murky Words so Eric can give me the REAL scoop."

Yes, that's correct. Tomorrow (April 5th) at 1:02 AM (and three seconds) it will be exactly 01:02:03:04:05:06. See? This graphic courtesy of makes it look even neater (neater? more neat? wicked cool? whatever....)

(Isn't that cool? Reminds me of the album cover of The Police's 'Ghost In The Machine'... um... I guess it also reminds me of an alarm clock, but 'Ghost In The Machine' has more cachet.)

Although I don't know what tragedy will befall us when the 3rd second chimes on the second minute of the 1st hour on the 5th day of the 4th month in the two thousand and sixth year of the common era, but I'm sure if you did a little research on the web you could find some wacko doomsday nutball who could spell it all out for you. There's bound to be some significance between the time/date and our impending doom.

Of course, being that it's now 7:45 PM and the cataclysmic event is due to happen in a little over four hours from now, most of you will probably be dead by the time you're reading this (assuming you're reading this at work - and no, if you read this, there probably isn't much difference between your alive self and your dead self. That's why nobody said anything when you walked in the door.) If that's the case, you have my most sincere apologies. Hopefully your life was well lived and you met some neat people along the way. Sorry -
I would have warned you earlier, but this damned class... it's taking up all of my time. But don't you worry, I'll walk the dog and collect the mail while you're gone.

Of course, you're probably thinking that's a load of hooey. If the world ended, that would mean I'm dead too which would make mail collection and pet watching a near impossibility. Nay, nay Nostradamus! Not so fast! Haven't you remembered that I'm the devil and as such, I get to take advantage of this thing called immortality? Well, you should be very grateful because it means the blog posts and the downloadable mp3's will continue - at least for the near future. Right now though, I have to go back to class and learn how to create a subquery with an aggregate function. It's true what they say... that Lucifer is kinda dumb. Toodles.

P.S. By the way, I'm VERY excited that baseball season is upon us again and that the Red Sox are back in my life... er, death... life. Just an FYI - the Boston Nine are exempt from armageddon. They got dispensation because they have to go out and win the World Series again. The Yankees though... they've already been sent straight to hell.