June 29, 2004

UberTraining, My Droogs

A few years ago, when the Dot-Com bubble burst, Training budgets were the first things to go in IT shops, followed closely by the Christmas Party. My job was no exception. Even training for a new job entirely (from Business Analyst to Software Developer), I hardly received any training. When I asked about it, I got those three letters that make IT people cringe: CBT.

Essentially, CBT's (Computer-Based Training) are just like watching a PowerPoint slideshow, only twice as dull and not nearly as cool. And that's saying a lot. They are made to give the rudimentary understanding of a topic in a purely scribble-down-and-regurgitate-in-five-minutes fashion.

Anyway, while you're "on the bench", waiting for an assignment, these CBT's are the only company-approved method of spending your time, so you have no choice but watch the lot of them. After a week of nothing but CBT's, I typed up a request for a new chair. I included a picture of the chair used in "A Clockwork Orange", specifically pointing out the gadgets that forcefully kept your eyelids open. Since my manager at the time had the sense of humor of room-temperature cole slaw, I decided not to send the e-mail.

Now I'm dealing with the flip side of that: I'm being over-trained. I'm learning Java from 4-6 PM two nights a week, and I'm taking a class during regular hours this week on the new hyper-technical (XML/XSL/HTML/ASP/JSP/JavaScript/Servlet) software platform that my company bought last year. In addition, I'm on-call for a client's "Go-Live" conversion, without having dealt with this client at all before. No customer knowledge, they just handed me a phone, told me to answer it if it rang over the weekend. Lovely.

Should I retain anything from this month of UberTraining, those memories will have to be strong, for the amount of cheap beer that I'm going to attempt to kill them with. Survival of the fittest, I say.

June 25, 2004

LinkNews Digest [6/25/04]

Spiderman, with a Hint of Curry

America's Web-slinger, following the trend of tech jobs, is about to be outsourced to India. The series will be spun off to "Spider-Man India," which promises a Peter Parker that has more local lavor:
Spider-Man India interweaves the local customs, culture and mystery of modern India, with an eye to making Spider-Man’s mythology more relevant to this particular audience. Readers of this series will not see the familiar Peter Parker of Queens under the classic Spider-Man mask, but rather a new hero – a young, Indian boy named Pavitr Prabhakar. As Spider-Man, Pavitr leaps around rickshaws and scooters in Indian streets, while swinging from monuments such as the Gateway of India and the Taj Mahal.

Mumbai’s (Bombay’s) first web-swinging superhero will be joined by a reinterpretation of the classic Spider-Man villain, the Green Goblin -- reinvented as a Rakshasa, an Indian mythological demon.

“We feel this is one of the most exciting and unique projects in comic history,” said Gotham Entertainment Group

CEO Sharad Devarajan. “Unlike traditional translations of American comics, Spider-Man India will become the first-ever ‘transcreation,’ where we reinvent the origin of a Western property like Spider-Man so that he is an Indian boy in Mumbai and dealing with local problems and challenges.”

Link

Polly Wanna Rock and Roll!

Parrots repeat anything you teach them to, and they don't talk back or ask for raises. It was only a matter of time before one froned a Death Metal band. Enter "HateBeak":
Face-crushing guitars, head-pounding drums, bass so low it’ll make you vacate your bowels, and vocals so scorching, so extreme, they can’t be human. They’re not. This death metal outfit with a parrot for a singer takes your head off with two stabs to the throat. That’s right, a parrot for a singer, coming at you without mercy, Hatebeak pecks your eyes out and assaults your ears in a flurry of pummeling riffs and grey feathers that leaves you lying in a pool of blood begging for more. The first metal band in history with an avian vocalist!
Link (via BoingBoing.net)

Student Forced to Write Apology in His Blood

The boy was taken to the staff room of the school in Fukuoka City, southern Japan, after being caught asleep during a lesson. The 40-year-old male teacher handed the boy a box-cutter and paper and told him to write an apology in blood.

Other teachers in the staff room did not notice what was happening, Dan said. He said the boy was back in school, and neither he nor his parents had asked to switch teachers. The teacher involved is expected to resume classes in a few days, Dan said.
God bless the Japanese, if for no other reason, than to provide America with a stark contrast of culture.
    If this happened in America:
  1. The kid would have mouthed off the the teacher, saying it was their fault he fell asleep
  2. The kid would have sliced up everything in the teacher's lounge with the box-cutter, claiming it was the teacher's fault for giving him the knife
  3. The teacher would be sacked on the spot, and the kid would be transferred immediately
  4. This incident would have caused a nationwide uproar, resulting in the removal of any metal cutting implements from all schools, with the exception of a single pair of left-handed kindergarten safety scissors (since they never work to begin with).


Link (CNN)

Coffin Customizations

Yes, the whole shrink-wrap grpahics craze need not stop with public transportation. You can now get your own custom coffin, with your choice of Sports, Religions or Artistic themes. You can even have a little Joke if you like. (Thanks to Sam for the link)

Guide to Holywood Blogs

With the sudden onset of the RANCE phenomenon ("IS he REALLY an A-List actor? If so, who is he?"), The Onion's AV Club presents HollyBlog: The guide to Celebrity Bloggers. This week: Fred Durst, Gillian Anderson, Al Roker, Melanie Griffith and Billy Corgan. ("Rance" is not listed, since his identity is still a mystery.

Britain's Red Phone Booth Becoming Endangered

Due to increased mobile phone use and a gradual introduction of newer models, these symbols of culture are slowly being phased out. However, collectors and afficionados can still secure one for their own personal collection.
For 2,200 pounds (3,300 eu, USD$4,000), Internet business "British Bits" will sell you a complete K6 box, restored and stripped of its fittings, ideal for use -- the website suggests -- as a shower cubicle or even a modest-sized home bar.

"Mostly people like them as garden ornaments," a spokeswoman for the firm, based in Surrey, southern England, said of its customers. "But we even set down one in a NATO bunker."
LINK (AFP-UK)

Bloggers Seek Access to Political Conventions

In a move to improve the average blogger's journalistic credibility, some of them are requesting full press credentials and access to the big-ticket conventions.
Democrats say they'll offer media credentials to a handful of bloggers. The Republicans say they've yet to decide what to do about them -- credentialing deadlines passed with no announcement on whether bloggers could even apply.

Republican spokesman Leonardo Alcivar said details are still being worked out, but some analysts believe the party is wary of bloggers, who tend to be less predictable than mainstream journalists.
...
More than 50 bloggers met last Tuesday's deadline to apply for the Democratic National Convention credentials, of which an undetermined number will be selected based on originality, readership level and professionalism, said convention spokeswoman Lina Garcia.

She said the Democrats consider blogs important for engaging younger voters and expanding journalism to the citizenry. But that won't make the credentialing easy.
Link (CNN)

Radio(drum)head

Not really news, but cool. MP3: Radiohead's "Paranoid Android" played by UMass Front Percussion Ensemble.

Christ on the Antenna

The world needs Cell Tower Antennas, and lots of them. The only problem? the things are an eyesore, and as such, unwelcome in suburban areas. The solution: Decorated antennas, disguised as trees or even Crucifixes:
"Different authorities always request ways to make the masts look nicer," said Josef Skuk, manager of the Austrian company Industrieanlageabau. So Skuk's company started disguising their masts to look like full-grown trees.

The latter crosses the line for some congregations, who are not willing to see Christ on a cross, with antennae sticking out here and there. The mayor of Schwabhausen, in deeply Catholic Bavaria, has come out against such an antenna in his village church. Mobile phone companies are hesitant as well.

LINK (Must-See picture)

The New Beatles Video

...but not really. It's a flashy ..uh, Flash animation with rotoscoped images, set to their "I Feel Fine" song. Incredible stuff.

June 24, 2004

All Kinds of Blood-suckers

Sam is a friend at work, and I usually stop in to catch up with him every week or so. Today the topic was the Stephen King "Salem's Lot" TV movie remake that TNT did. Apparently it was bad.

"People said the problem was that their vampires were too normal, to coherent and reasoning," said Sam, "so they'd talk to their victims a lot, saying 'look, it's still the same old me, I'm just a vampire now,'"

"Conversationally, Kind of like they're confessing that they've switched political parties or something?" I asked.

"Right"

"I see. I guess becoming a vampire IS rather like becoming a Republican: 'I'm still your uncle, only now I sustain myself on the blood of others'? Works both ways."

Grate Expectations

At choir practice last night, we dropped off Matthew in the nursery as usual, and headed into the adjoining room to sing. Halfway into the practice, I hear a very clear "Dada?" from the hall. Melissa and I recognized it as Matthew's voice, and she went to the hallway to find him. I figured he opened the nursery door and got out.

But Melissa couldn't find him. She ran up and down the hall, hearing him there but not seeing him, until she traced the voice down... to the A/C vent, and saw him on the other side.

She relayed this to me, almost laughing, but I was legitimately worried. I'm reading "Ender's Shadow" by Orson Scott Card, where a boy gets around secretly by squeezing through the air ducts. So when I heard that Matthew was in the vent, I imagined the worst.

"Dada!" he laughed as I came into view. He was safe, on the other side of a pass-through grate on the bottom of the wall. He was still safe in the nursery, he just found a nice little window at his level, where he could see me in the next room.

June 23, 2004

Cancellations

Talk about a down year. Within days of one another, summer mainstays Comdex and Lollapalooza have cancelled this year's shows.

Comdex line:

The San Francisco-based company said it will postpone the show indefinitely so that it can work to "reshape the event with the cooperation of information technology industry leaders." MediaLive has established a Comdex Advisory Board that includes representatives from major IT companies to help determine how the show can best meet the future needs of the industry.


Lollapalooza's Statement:
Organizers of the show, which originally came to life in 1991, said they would have lost millions if the tour went ahead as scheduled. Headliners were to include Morrissey, the Flaming Lips, the String Cheese Incident and the Pixies, with the bands performing over the course of two days. The tour was to kick off July 14 in Auburn, Wash., and more than 30 shows in 16 cities -- including a local stop at Merriweather Post Pavilion on Aug. 12 and 13 -- were slated.

"I'm in utter disbelief that a concert of this stature, with the most exciting lineup I've seen in years, did not galvanize ticket sales," said Mark Geiger, co-founder of the tour, in a press release. "I'm surprised, given the great bands and the reduced ticket prices, that we didn't have enough sales to sustain the tour."


June 22, 2004

Lessons Learning

My company finally re-classified me this week. I'm officially a "C/S Developer I" instead of a "Business Analyst II", which is only fitting, seeing as I've been doing programming exclusively since 2002. It's fitting to do it now, because I'm learning Java in a very accelerated manner.

Because we're a bit short staffed of Java Developers, I've already been given a Java programming assignment for a client, building an SQL Text parser. It's taken a lot of trial and error to get the nuances of the language down, but I built a pretty robust parser in ten days. Then today I get the news that the client changed their mind, and wants something totally different now. Keeping me on my toes if nothing else.

For extra-curricular activities, I'm working up a couple of new web sites for Ron's employer, Draftech. We could use the extra money to pay down some bills and prepare for Christmas. Not just for the gifts, My side of the family is getting together for Christmas in L.A. this year, our first since 1996. We figured that my brother's home in LA was roughly halfway between Hawaii and Georgia, so we'll get a couple of hotel rooms and set up the tree in Rob's apartment. It will be great to have the family together again.

Speaking of Rob, he has now totally abandoned his original plan to not like children. He was dead set to hate them since he was one himself, but he's since taken baby steps back (no pun intended). First, he really liked Matthew. Didn't hurt that Matthew was so enamoured with him. But Matthew didn't smell bad, keep Rob up all night crying, or bite him, as he expected. In fact, Rob took to him so much that he VOLUNTEERED to push the little guy in the stroller while he and Melissa were at the mall.

They've got along famously ever since. Rob even sent Matthew a Gap shirt a few weeks ago. So he and Matthew are friends, and Rob's main job is now teaching high school kids. He openly admits to loving the job. So between the two, his teenage blood-oath to me, that "he would not ever have kids, or even deal with them, because Ferarri's only have two seats", is now null and void.

June 21, 2004

Today IS Space History

As often as "One for the History Books" is misused, today actually is one. Today, The badly-named SpaceShipOne became the first privately-funded spacecraft to reach orbit.

At 10:51 ET, Mike Melvill ignited the rocket engines and piloted SpaceShipOne into the blackness of space. His trajectory took him more than 100 kilometers, or 62 miles, above Earth's surface, according to Scaled Composites flight officials.

"It was a mind-blowing experience, it really was -- absolutely an awesome thing," Melvill said after landing. "The colors were pretty staggering. From up there, it's almost a religious experience."

Melvill said once he reached weightlessness, he opened a bag of M&M's in the cockpit that floated around for three minutes while the ship sailed high above California.
The pilot should get his check from the M & M's company within the week.

Bush to Cause Nationwide Depression

Bush's new Drug Plan initiative is looking to sell anti-depressants to elementary school kids on up. Link for Full Text

Did it ever occur to him that HE might be the major source of depression in the United States?

June 18, 2004

Link News Digest [6/18/2004]

I have decided to change my format and publish a weekly list of news and other links, instead of publishing them with other posts. Let me know if this format works better.

Survivor + INXS = $$

80's pop juggernaut INXS, who lost their frontman a few years back, has signed Mark Burnett ("Survivor") to create a reality show to find replacement singer. Buddy Craig (That 80's Band frontman) is looking for the application as I sit here..

Suspected "Half-Life 2" Code Thieves Arrested

If you're a gamer like me, and you were just as blown away with the original Half Life game, this crime was an atrocity on par with kidnapping young Jonathan Lipnicki before he could film "Jerry Maguire".
"Within a few days of the announcement of the break-in, the online gaming community had tracked down those involved," Newell said. "It was extraordinary to watch how quickly and how cleverly gamers were able to unravel what are traditionally unsolvable problems for law enforcement related to this kind of cybercrime."
Hell hath no fury like a gamer told "the ship date is being pushed back."
Link

Origami Cradle

Those Japanese, they can fold paper and make anything. Cranes, flowers, and now PDA Docking Cradles. Looks interesting, but Smoky the Bear told me never to have heat-producing electrical devices next to paper products. (Translation by BabelFish)

iTunes Pirate Radio

Want to put the screws to the RIAA, but still keep your hip, fashionable iPod Mini? Well the good folks at EnGadget.com have found a way to turn the friendly, pastel-colored device into your own pirate radio station. Given, it's a very limited range radio station, but you can advertise it to surrounding motorists with a bumper sticker. (Good idea, but it needs a good name, like "iPirate" or "ayeTunes".)

Catholic Church outsourcing Prayers to India

American, as well as Canadian and European churches, are sending Mass intentions, or requests for services like those to remember deceased relatives and thanksgiving prayers, to clergy in India. About 2 percent of India's more than one billion people are Christians, most of them Catholics.

In Kerala, a state on the southwestern coast with one of the largest concentrations of Christians in India, churches often receive intentions from overseas. The Masses are conducted in Malayalam, the native language. The intention - often a prayer for the repose of the soul of a deceased relative, or for a sick family member, thanksgiving for a favor received, or a prayer offering for a newborn - is announced at Mass.

LINK (Login Req'd)
via BoingBoing.net

Plagiarist Student Sues University

A Kent University Student has turned the tables on the administration, by suing the university for negligence.
"I hold my hands up. I did plagiarise. I never dreamt it was a problem. I can see there is evidence I have gone against the rules, but they have taken all my money for three years and pulled me up the day before I finished. If they had pulled me up with my first essay at the beginning and warned me of the problems and consequences, it would be fair enough. But all my essays were handed back with good marks and no one spotted it."
The student should clearly be the victor in the case, lest we rob the world of a future Enron executive.
Link

Berners-Lee honored with award

Finally, we have Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web. Anyone reading this owes him a debt of gratitude. He could have patented the idea and tried to make money off it, but he wisely decided to leave it free, to spur its wide usage. just over a decade later, it has revolutionized communications and business as we know it. The internet has become the steam engine of of our era, a laying the foundation for bringing the world closer together. Tim was just presented with a $1.2 Million cash award for his ground-breaking research and contribution to the Internet. Seems only fitting.

June 17, 2004

Escape from Alpharetta

I tried to catch a movie after work with some friends this week, and was reminded why I moved out of Alpharetta. Although I left at 6:00 and I only needed to drive two exits down, I almost missed a 7:00 movie because of the traffic.

I'm sure the city planners never imagined Alpharetta like it is now. Tracing back the history of the place 15 or years, it was probably a small, one-stoplight town with no ambitions to become a major draw. It was too far north of the city to be important, and it was only accessible by State Road 400, which is whittled down to just two lanes either way as it reaches Alpharetta city limits.

Then something went wrong.

Maybe a few owners decided to sell out their chicken farms and move to Utah to become Mormons. Some developers cleared out the land and built "Splendor Acres at the Glen - Luxury homes from the mid 500's" in their place. It was probably a hard sell, since the nearest gas station and grocery store was Sue Dean's KWik Fill, a good 10 miles away. So the developers decided that in order to sell these homes, they needed a strip mall with a Publix grocery store and a name-brand gas station. A few years later, this scheme panned out, and Splendor Acres was full of high-end yuppies, longing for a quiet retreat away from their jobs in Marietta.

Seeing how this first batch of developers made money hand-over-fist, the idea of upscale suburbs in Alpharetta catches like wildfire. Then came the clincher: The North Point Mall. Once an upscale mall with a food court is built, office buildings come springing up around it like hangers-on to new rap artist. Soon, everyone who's anyone in the technology world has a prominent office park in Alpharetta, and it became known as "The Technology Corridor."

There's just one problem. While Office Park developers kept the Parking Spaces-to-Square Footage ratio within reasonable limits, Civil Engineers failed to take into consideration what would happen when the residents of all these parking spaces tried to leave at the same time. Let's say for argument's sake, 5:00 PM on a weekday.

Now remember that the GA 400 "choke point", where becomes two lanes each way, is still at the south end of Alpharetta. However, the office parks have spread up to McFarland Rd, five exits north of that. Figure in that 3/4 of workers that commute to Alpharetta go south to get home, usually far enough that GA 400 is the most direct route, and you start to get the point. Every afternoon is another lesson in Physics that two bodies can't occupy the same physical space at the same time. And every afternoon, without fail, a few jerks still try to test that theory. Their failures make things even worse.

The streets in Alpharetta near the exits, as well as running parallel to 400, are effectively gridlocked from 3:30 until 7 every afternoon. City engineers have done their best to add lanes and tweak light timings, but it's all in vain without an expansion to 400, which the DOT swears will never happen.

Here's where I came in. When I got my first job out of college, my new wife and I signed a lease on an apartment just south of the company's new campus on Windward Parkway. "It's only two miles to work," I thought, "How convenient!" Little did I know that it would take me roughly an hour to traverse both of those miles.

The lengthy commute was caused by two factors: First, the only way home was by North Point Parkway, which is "The Strip" in Alpharetta. Two lanes each way, connecting the North Point Mall and all the outlying office parks to all five exits to 400 in the city. Add to that the fact that my secondary street is also a traffic bottleneck. This is because some brilliant civil engineer decided to put a school on EACH END of the road, and place five sprawling subdivisions, an apartment complex and one group of townhomes in the middle, with no other way in or out. I spent that hour each day, each way, praying for his untimely, and hopefully painful, demise.

It was two years before we were able to get the money together to buy our first house. When that happy day arrived, we started from my workplace in Alpharetta and drove outwards in search of something we could afford. We did quite a lot of driving. We kept driving until we reached Flowery Branch, a small outlying town just short of Gainesville.

I have to add that last bit because everyone seems to squint thoughtfully when I say the name of my town. It's certainly an amusing name, second only to "Stump Sound, North Carolina" (bitrhplace of my mother-in-law) for sheer southern creativity. Short of being the birthplace of the "Porterhouse" Steak, nothing good has ever come out of Flowery Branch.

I say this in full knowledge that the Atlanta Falcons training camp is just down the road.

Co-workers often ask me about living so far out, how I can live with the commute. Yes, it's 30 miles to the office now instead of two, but it only takes me 45 minutes to drive to work now, instead of an hour. It actually takes me less time to drive 30 miles across neglected 2-lane roads and over the Buford Dam to Flowery Branch, than it did to drive two miles within the city of Alpharetta.

Nothing lasts forever, though. Last year, a Publix shopping center was built on the corner, with a Blockbuster opening shortly after. This year, they're replacing the 4-way stop with an expanded intersection. We already have the Mall of Georgia a few exits down. Billboards off 985 now advertise new luxury subdivisions with names like "Apple Pie Ridge" and "Sterling on the Lake".

Improbable as it may seem, Flowery Branch looks to be on it's way to becoming another Alpharetta. Sounds silly, but so did another inaccessible city that was too far north of the metro area. I've learned my lesson, though. I'll be long gone by the time people start commuting TO Flowery Branch for work, instead of from it.

Dark Riddick

I caught a showing of "The Chronicles of Riddick" with Justin on Wednesday. Being a fan of the original ("Pitch Black"), I was totally into this movie. But as I watched it, something was nagging in the back of my head, some strange sense of "Deja View" -- I'd already seen this before. It took me most of yesterday to figure it out. Oddly enough, "Riddick" shares a lot of traits with "The Dark Crystal".

Yes, I know one is a sci-fi summer action fest and the other one a children's fantasy by Jim Henson & Co, but one after another, I found striking similarities. (I remembered a lot more about "The Dark Crystal" because Mel was studying up for her interview with it's comceptual artist, Brian Froud.)



















Riddick Vs. The Dark Crystal
RiddickThe Dark Crystal
The hero is the Last(?) member of a Race thought to be extinct:
Furions

Gelflings
Bad Guys destroyed this race because an Ancient Prophecy suggests a member of this race will destroy the Bad Guys:CheckCheck
The Bad Guys wear skeletons for headgear:
Necromunga

Skeksis
Good Guys live in a peaceful, earth-toned paradise: Helion Primeum... "Mystic City"?
Bad Guys send out evil minions from their black castle:
Necropolis

Castle of the Crystal
Bad Guys put captured civilians into bondage to...:Convert themDrain their Essence
Wise Old Woman provides some history on the bad guys, guidance for the hero:
Aereon (Judi Dench)

Aughra (Muppet Hag)
Our Hero later teams up with a girl named...
Kyra

Kira
Fledgling Bad Guy attempts to overthrow the Bad Guy Leader, using the Hero as a diversion:
Uaako (LotR's Karl Urban)

The Skeksi who goes "MMmmmmm"
Weird Minions of the Bad Guys provide clues to Hero's location:Freaky Scuba DudesCrystal Bats
In the Final battle, Hero's girl dies heroically, tossing pointy thing to the Hero:Kira and the DaggerKeira & the Shard
Hero triumphs by plunging the Pointy Thing into...:
Bad Guy Leader's Head

The Crystal


Pretty scary, no?


June 10, 2004

AJC Guest Columnist

Woohoo! I'm published! My UGA Name article has been published in the Gwinnett Opinions section of today's Atlanta Journal Constitution, and on AJC.com. (I got a nice plug for SiriusGraphics.com on my by-line too!)

Today, The AJC. Tomorrow, the WORLD!! Bwahahaha!

The Return of Fastball

One of my favorite rock bands has a new record deal! I was browsing the New Music section of iTunes, and I saw the name "Fastball" on a listing. Could it be? Yes! Fastball has a new album called "Keep Your Wig On"!



To be sure, I went to their website, and sure enough, www.FastballMusic.com has been updated! Last time I went there, it still had their tour dates on the "Ride the Light" tour 2001. It was sad. After the first disc, I picked up their second album, The Harsh Light of Day, in 2000. It was the best rock album that I'd heard in years, but it was under-promoted by Hollywood records, and didn't do so well. They pretty much fell off the planet, to my dismay. There was a spark of hope last year, when Melissa got us tickets to an acoustic show that Fastball was doing at the Red Light Cafe, as a birthday gift. Unfortunately, the show was cancelled, and there were no other performances listed anywhere.

Anyway, the guys have themselves a new contract with a smaller record company now, and they're on a small promotional tour for the album. I can't say enough good stuff about these guys, they're probably the most original rock band I've ever heard, and easily the best modern rock band today. If you've never heard them, save for the single "The Way", I'd definitely pick up The Harsh Light of Day and see where it takes you.

June 08, 2004

Let the Adware Beware

I spent half of yesterday and most of today trying to rid myself of some nasty Adware that some web site exposed me to. Frustrating as hell, since a few of them have hidden programs that actually re-install the Adware if it sees it's gone. Surfing the web in 2004 is like being a swinging single in the mid-70's: You have to be wary of some of the places you go, and install some protection, otherwise you could get a nasty virus. If you've never heard of Adware or Spyware and you browse the internet, do yourself a favor and download Spybot Search & Destroy or Ad-Aware. You'll be surprised with how many malicious and sneaky things get in under your computer's radar.

June 07, 2004

Convention Hangover

My wife has returned been returned to me, after a 2-week loan to the Mythic Journeys conference. She's a bit frazzled from it all, but making the acquaintance of Alan Lee (Illustrator, Lord of the Rings") and Peter S. Beagle (Author, "The Last Unicorn"), made it very worth it. In her absence, our son and I have been able to spend some quality man-bonding time. Specifically, ordering a pizza and watching "Daffy Duck's Fantastic Island" on HBO.

Saturday Night, a group of us attended the "Lord of the Rings Symphony", conducted by Howard Shore himself, and featuring a video montage of Alan Lee's conceptual sketches of the story. It was an excellent production: The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra & Chorus were great, and the Sound Technicians were incredible, making the concert sound every bit as good as the CD. The only drawback was the theater itself.

For those of you not familiar, the Woodruff Arts Center is this whitewashed monstrosity that was probably designed from the nightmare journal of Frank Lloyd Wright. In the attempt to be multi-purpose, this theater has accomplished being just as ugly and unusable to any purpose. The building and lobby appear to be modern, but once inside the theater, you get the impression that you are in a restored theater from The Great Depression. Or maybe you feel a great depression once you are inside the theater, either way, it's not pretty.

Anyway, the night was capped off by Melissa introducing me to Mr. Alan Lee himself. "You're a lucky man," he said to me, with a nod to Melissa. Don't I know it. I thanked him, and kept myself from saying anymore. My history talking to important people has not been good.

Let's rewind to meeting Sean Astin (Sam from "Lord of the Rings," Mikey from "The Goonies") In London last year: After he autographed a 8x10 glossy to Melissa, I went to thank him. "You've just made my wife a very happy man," is what came out of my mouth.

Sean grinned and squinted. "Did you just tell me that I just made your wife a happy MAN?"

I realized that it was true. My mind raced to find an escape, some witty rebuttal that would make him forget the unfortunate slip-up, but there was no way out of that one. I grinned, shook my head and said "You know, I probably did," and walked off.

So needless to say, I kept my lips buttoned when addressing Alan Lee.



In Other News, The Atlanta Journal Constitution will be running my "UGA-What's in a Name?" article in a Guest Columnist spot on Thursday or Sunday. The only picture I had of myself to submit was the one on my work ID. It was taken in 1998, and was a bit faded and blurry, but I did my best to Photoshop it into mediocrity.

June 04, 2004

Car Salesman-in-Chief

As I've posted a few times, I find that the opinions of those outside the US should be sought whenever possible, to gather different perspectives. Specifically, of one Vaughan Nash of Northamptonshire, England. I've reprinted his musings on the upcoming Presidential Election in November:

...which brings me back to George W., the man who was told Caesarians were dangerous and ordered an immediate attack on Caesaria. Will he get in again with a more satisfactory majority or will it be John Kerry? I've applied my usual test here, it's the ' would I buy a car from this person' test.

Bush, yes. You know it's going to start every time and keep on going even if it isn't the latest fashion and looks suspiciously like the Bush mark 1 model, with a strangely familiar management system.

Kerry, possibly, but I would want to look very closely at the HP agreement,and yes also the small print, and then there's the tyres and the engine and the bodywork, and of course the service record. This car salesman sounds like he's just saying what everyone wants to hear and selling the car.

From where I'm sitting anyhow.

Which is on my arse.

June 03, 2004

The Prisoner of Alka-Selzer

Melissa is stressed to the hilt this week being a reporter/photographer/guest liason/taxi driver for the Mythic Journeys conference. I miss her, and we all pray for her sanity amidst the chaos, but I'm sure she'll have a lot of great stories to tell once it's over. For now, though, she's probably getting an ulcer.

Most of my contact with her is in frantic cell phone calls. It's all "Chris, can you see if TheOneRing.net has posted this story yet" or "Hey, can you get me the number for a Vietnamese Restaurant near the Hyatt? Brian Froud's feeling peckish" or "Quick, what gets bile and blood stains out of carpeting?"

I told her to try club soda and hung up before she could explain.

The practical upshot of this is that she wasn't able to take advantage of the Preview Screening passes to "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkeban" last night. Justin and I went in her place, and he wrote up a great review of it on "Movie Criticism for the Retarded" (likely the worst name for a web site, now that "MyGastricBypass.com" has been shut down for violations of the Geneva Treaty).

*WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS!!* Read it, but don't say I didn't warn you. And don't believe what he says about me and the girls sitting next to us.

June 02, 2004

The Making of Me

Every magazine interview with a famous musician starts with the question of their musical influences. While I am a student of music, I became interested in the idea of personality influences; characters and people that have had an effect on you. So in our next installment of "Getting to Know Chris", we delve into the various people, real or imaginary, that have shaped the person that I am.

My Influences Through the Years
(in mostly chronological order)

Ernie on Sesame Street. Ernie was the funny puppet. I wished to be fuzzy and orange in those days. I even owned an Izod shirt just like his. Of course, I eventually came to realize that Ernie and Bert were essentially puppet versions of "Jack & Will", but is that so wrong? In my teens, my first DJ Mash-up was Ernie's "Rubber Duckie" song with "Pump Up The Volume" by M.A.R.R.S.

Bowser from "Sha Na Na". He was the funny singer. I loved when he'd do the gooseneck thing with his arm when they sang "Goodnight Sweetheart." Also, I wished to sing all those cool low notes. Heck, even Ani DiFranco wanted to be him.

Barry Manilow. Let me explain. There was only easy listening stations on the radios in my house when I was little. Given the choices, Barry was my favorite. I reportedly sang a rendition of "I Can't Smile Without You" for my great grandmother for her birthday. Mom said that it had nothing to do with her death a few weeks later.

Kermit the Frog. He was the nice guy, trying to hold together all the chaos on The Muppet Show. That was me with my friends. I was more a magnet for chaos than a direct creator of it. I was always the idea guy, the Social Director, the spokesman when we got in trouble.

Jack Tripper from "Three's Company" (John Ritter). This guy was my idol. I wanted to be Jack Tripper when I grew up: Live in an apartment with a blonde AND a brunette, and be all suave with the ladies. He clinched it for me, I was going to be a comedian. Later, when I found I couldn't come up with my own material, I decided on just becoming a humor hobbyist.

"Face" from "The A-Team" (Dirk Benedict). The logical amalgam of Kermit's organizational ability with more dry, subtle humor than Jack Tripper. Plus, he had that charm to pull off the Team's con jobs.

That guy from "Greatest American Hero" (William Katt) If I was a superhero, I figured that this would be me: Amazing superpowers, but I lost the instructions, so it's all dumb luck if I succeed. Plus, there was a shortage of blond superheroes in the mid-80's.

Mikey from "The Goonies" (Sean Astin). This was the first movie that I saw in the theateres twice. I bought the VHS, watched it on TV any time it came on, and even bought the Nintendo Game (which I beat in a weekend). If Mikey could be the leader of an adventure like this, and overcome his athsma, I could surely overcome those clunky plastic glasses and braces.

Jam Master Jay from RUN DMC. I was heavy into the hip hop scene in the late 80's and even bought a custom DJ setup with turntables & a mixer. I was so cool with my big headphones with a microphone attached! I was top of my game, the absolute BEST DJ... in Dublin, Ohio... at my middle school... who was white. I even adopted a pseudo-DJ name from Jam Master Jay. My brother jokingly called me "Cassette Master Chris" one day, and it stuck. I still use "CMC" as a nickname to this day.

Javert from Les Miserables (Terrence Mann). My circle of friends was into singing and theater, culminating in "Les Miz." I knew that musical backwards & forwards before the year was out. The only part for a Bass was Javert, played by Terrence Mann on the Broadway Cast recording. He had this cool bass slide down to a really low note that was too cool. I practiced the run until I could actually hit it. After a while, I tried to make the musical a bit cooler by accompanying it with my Drum Machine. I called it "Les Mix." Truth be told, it was worse than a double-feature of Ishtar and Gigli, but my friends sucked it up and told me they liked it. THAT, true believers, is real friendship right there.

Barry Carl from Rockapella. *Poof* My previous wish to sing low like Bowser was granted by the genie of puberty! With my Theater days behind me, and my singing career stared in "B Natural" as a Bass, Barry Carl was the epitome of cool, testosterone-ridden bass singing. B Natural led me into my years with the UGA Accidentals. I met him a few years ago and told him that he was the reason I started singing A Cappella. He replied, "I'm so sorry."

Denis Leary. My freshman year at UGA, I absolutely wore out his "No Cure for Cancer" tape, and quoted him so much that I literally had NO original material for a year and a half. God, I must have been annoying. Justin and I one got into a duel, seeing who could perform his rant in the middle of Denis' "A**hole" song without dropping a word. I still remember that rant, and I've forgotten how to perform CPR. Priorities, man.

Chandler Bing from Friends (Matthew Perry) Please, could I BE any more like Chandler? Goofy, always cracking bad jokes, and ends up married to a great woman in the end.

Fox Mulder from "The X-Files" (David Duchovny). He looked cool in a trenchcoat, was generally reserved, but would occasionally crack some funny jokes. Generally respected, but misunderstood. This was how I saw myself after graduation. I'm sure that I'm not the only one who considered the FBI as a vocation becasue of this show. Watching the X-Files was the cornerstone of a relationship once. I wasn't obsessed with the series, but it became the most enjoyable part of our time together. Needless to say, we broke up pretty quick.

Dr. Dorian on "Scrubs" (Zach Braff). JD and the Janitor on Scrubs have a comedic rivalry that has not been seen since Seinfeld and Neuman. Also, he reacts to stress with humor, just like I do. Given, he's funnier, but he has a staff of well-paid writers, and this one-man show is working pro bono. (I also see that he shares my birthday.)



There. Now I hope that you have a bit more insight into what makes me tick. If you know me, I'm sure that you probably now can pick out some behaviors of mine that belong to these characters and/or people. To quote the movie 'Parenthood', "Great, I'm an Amalgam!"

To be fair, Mom, Dad, Brother and God did their part too, but the average reader is less likely to know my parents or sibling. Plus, their influences are too large to put a fine point on. It's like one of those shape-finder games that you find on children's menus: You try in vain to find the rectangle in a picture, not realizing that the picture itself is a rectangle.