Some Thoughts Not Keeping Me Awake At Night


I want it clear that I am not being kept awake at night by this thought. I have better things to steal my precious and sorely needed moments of rest from me. But I do have this thought coming. You know how the Voyager spacecraft have some gold-printed records with sounds of Earth, everything from children laughter to greetings from Jimmy Carter to Chuck Berry music, on them? Suppose it is ever picked up by aliens who figure out what the record is and the basics of how to play it. How do we keep them from playing the record backwards?

I know, I know, there’s supposed to be instructions on how to play it that we think aliens clever enough to grab a space probe will be able to work out. But I also know that humans are fantastically sucky at coming up with instructions for things. There’s packages of macaroni and cheese with instructions I find intolerable ambiguities in. Communicating how to set up and play a record to creatures with presumably no understanding of human norms? There’s no chance we’ve gotten that anywhere near right.

And all right, so it won’t be a big problem if a quarter-million years from now some aliens we don’t even know yet hear Chuck Berry backwards. And even if they play the record the right way around we won’t know that they won’t mishear things and come to Earth looking for more Chuck Barris. That’s at least something we get for the bother of being mortals.

Also, you know what? You could use a little Sparks in your life. Enjoy.

Advertisements

Those Mysteries, Eurovision Edition


I spent most of yesterday watching Twitter friends, none of whom know each other, talking about Eurovision. And that was fun. Since I wondered why Australia was in it I went to DuckDuckGo because yeah, I’m that kind of guy, and started asking the question. This led to this fine selection of autocompletes:

DuckDuckGo autocompletes for 'why is australia'.
Related queries: why is there France? Why is there Spain? And why am I here and why is there rain?
  • why is australia called the land down under
  • why is australia called oz
  • why is australia a continent
  • why is australia in eurovision 2015
  • why is australia not an island
  • why is australia dangerous
  • why is australia so expensive
  • why is australian dollar falling

I appreciate the joy of that sixth one particularly. Anyway, it seems that Australia was in Eurovision 2015 because everyone involved thought that would be nice. And then they were brought back in 2016 because everyone figured that worked out so well last time why not do it again? There are much worse reasons for everything everybody does.

My love mentioned getting the Eurovision question as an autocomplete after just entering “why is au” on Google. So I thought to try it on DuckDuckGo and while Eurovision didn’t turn up, “why is autonomy important” did. This suggests DuckDuckGo’s user base is much more likely than Google’s to be a bunch of Intro to Philosophy students cramming the night before finals.

DuckDuckGo autocompletes for 'why is au'.
I never heard of Austin and Ally so at least I’m not broken up over its ending. I had expected “Au the symbol for gold” to be on the list.

Also there’s people who had to look up why Australia would be called Oz, because apparently they’ve never said the word “Australia” aloud in their lives? I don’t know either.

When Do I Get To Sing _My Way_?


What’s playing at Karaoke Night:

  • Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, sung by the first person who got to pick anything, and also everyone else there.
  • R.E.M.’s It’s The End Of The World As We Know It, performed by someone who starts two bars late and has to give up about twenty percent of the words each verse to return to the chorus anywhere near on time.
  • Let It Go, from Frozen, performed by someone who loves the song but doesn’t realize that it’s awesome because it’s an incredibly hard song to perform.
  • Bill Joel’s Piano Man, sung by everybody when the person who had signed up for it is nowhere to be found when it’s their turn.
  • Weird Al’s Yoda, performed by someone horrified there isn’t anything by the Kinks in the catalogue somehow and trying to reconstruct the real words as best as possible in the circumstances, which include nerds crying out to do it “right” with the Weird Al version.
  • P F Sloan and Steve Barri’s Secret Agent Man, done by someone who figures if he’s loud enough about the key phrase “Secret Agent Man” it won’t matter that he sings it in a different, yet still previously unknown to humanity, key every time. This someone, dear reader, is me.
  • Wings’s With A Little Luck, performed by someone who forgets it has an instrumental break about as long as fourth grade in the middle and stands with wide-eyed terror through three-quarters of it before awkwardly trying to dance, and then remembers the fade-out is even longer still.
  • Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street, performed by someone who has pretty solid voice control and seems out of place in the proceedings.
  • Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire, unenthusiastically performed by someone who tries to use the close to say he wanted to do the Wall of Voodoo version, although this explanation gets lost underneath the DJ calling the next singer up.
  • Some Kinda Romanticky Gushy Ballad I Guess, from the closing credits to the film Any Given 80s Movie, Which You Could See Any Time, Day Or Night, In The 90s By Turning On Any Cable Channel Including The TV Listings, sung by someone mumbling so you can’t make out the words anyway, but the glurgey music alone brings back great memories.
  • A-Ha’s Take On Me, until it gets to the first “I’ll be gone” and the performer’s voice locks up at the high pitch, and she runs off stage and can’t be coaxed back up however much everyone promises it’s okay. Post-karaoke-night discussion focuses on whether that was a deliberate joke, and never reaches a definitive conclusion.
  • Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, sung by someone who came in late and also everyone else there.
  • Somebody or other’s Unintelligible Hip-Hop Song, performed by a most white guy who is neither hip nor hop, who possessed no idea this would require having a strong sense of cadence and rhythm, and also didn’t realize there were three spots where the verse uses the n-word, something he had failed to establish the necessary policy for well ahead of time.
  • Don McLean’s American Pie sung by a guy who realizes twenty minutes in that he’s still not even halfway through, though everyone feels great joining in the chorus.
  • Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing, performed by someone who picked it just to complain about the reference to South Detroit, also everyone else there.
  • Nena’s 99 Luftballoons, sung by someone who just assumed the karaoke machine had the English-language version. Live and learn, huh?
  • Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit without any inflection or change in tone, possibly by me because there’s no way of controlling what note my voice has chosen to sing in this time.
  • U2’s With Or Without You performed by Ron Mael of Sparks after he found, to his disappointment but not surprise, there isn’t anything of his in the karaoke catalogue.
  • Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs’ Little Red Riding Hood done about two octaves low so it sounds 226 percent more pervy than normal.
  • Any Given Indie Band’s Song With A Lot Of Whoa-oa-oa-oaaahoos In It, sung by someone using his pretty good voice to do it as if by Fozzie Bear for some terrible reason.
  • The Champs’ Tequila, by someone who figured this would be funny and had no idea everyone was going to groan like that when it was announced and now he’s stuck with it.
  • Let It Go, from Frozen, as sung by someone who either just came in or didn’t learn the lessons from earlier.
  • The Who’s Pinball Wizard, sung by someone snarking about how there hasn’t been pinball since 1982 and can’t be convinced to look over in the alcove where there’s like eight tables and six of them are even turned on. Seriously.
  • Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start The Fire, by someone who was sure she knew the lyrics, and then saw what the karaoke machine has, which was apparently transcribed by YouTube’s automated-worthless-closed-captioning. So the screen’s giving stuff like “Denny footfall rocky cockerel unsteamed chess team brook lamprey snotty beam” and now she has no idea what to do.
  • Duran Duran’s Hungry Like The Wolf, picked by someone who was thinking of Warren Zevon’s Werewolves of London because he wanted to do the wolf howl part, but recovers pretty well with the DO-do-do-DO-do-do-DO-do-do-DO-do-do-DO-do-doo part and doesn’t look too disappointed by the end of it all.
  • The Animals’ We Gotta Get Out Of This Place, sung by someone who once again just assumed he was the last person performing for the night and who is confident this will be funny when he finally is.
  • Queen’s We Are The Champions, picked by someone making way too big a deal over the Tigers beating the Rays 5-3 this early in the season.
  • George Michael’s Faith, by someone who didn’t realize how tricky the meter could be, but has a friend who jumps on on stage for the last third to guide her through safely.
  • The Theme To M*A*S*H, selected by someone who wanted to show off he knew the words to it, and wasn’t thinking how the karaoke machine was going to give him, and everybody else, the words to it anyway.
  • Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, which is just signing itself up to play at this point.

The October 2015 Scraps File – with NaNoWriMo donations


Here’s some writing I couldn’t make good use of in October. If you think you can, you’re welcome to it. NaNoWriMo participants especially welcome to these chunks!

  • I’d say the worst Star Trek continuity error of all time has to be in naming the captain. One episode it’s ‘Kirk’, next one it’s ‘Picard’, next one it’s ‘Janeway’, next episode it’s ‘Christopher’ in some scenes and ‘Kirk’ in others for crying out loud. Then some episode it’s ‘Jack McCoy’ or ‘Dean Pelton’ or something ridiculous like ‘Jack Aubrey’. And nobody even points this out, maybe out of embarrassment we let the producers get away with this. — Scrapped because I’ve really been making mischief on TrekBBS too much lately.
  • wonder what this movie would be like if John Harker were a character in it. — Left over from me snarking about the 1931 Dracula, which I actually liked although yeah, the Spanish-language version was mostly better.
  • I ask you to refer all questions to — Cut when I realized I didn’t have anyone it sounded plausibly like could get the question. I should’ve made up a name.
  • yeah, I was just wrong all down the line there and I’m sorry — Cut because I was right and you know it.
  • chicks dig metaphors, chicks dig, d-i-g, metaphors. — Taken with barely any attribution from the song “Metaphor” by the band Sparks. Should probably talk to Ron and Russell Mael before using this yourselves, because Ron wrote it and he seems like an interesting person to talk to. Paul McCartney impersonated him briefly in one video back in the 80s, but I forget which one.
  • Hieronymous Thump. — Created to sound like a Funny Name that isn’t actually funny and maybe I could’ve paired it with that refer-all-questions-to thing.
  • yes, i can do that, that’s no problem (14 instances) — Should have cut about twelve more instances and then I would probably be better off.

The Big Insecurity


Our pet rabbit, as seen outside in the yard.
Our pet rabbit, as seen outside in the yard.

“I can’t put food in your bowl if you don’t get out of the way,” I told our pet rabbit.

“This is more important,” he said back, and don’t think that was something I expected to hear him say. I’ve seen him judge getting food as more important than sleep, not going up the stairs, getting out of the pet carrier, and eating what he already has.

So I kneeled down to about his level and said, in my most sincere voice, “What’s wrong?”

He stood up on hindpaws and looked left and right, and in a soft voice said, “Am I big?”

I nodded. “You’re quite good at being big. You’re bigger than I was through fourth grade,” which is my normal hyperbolic answer, since he’s only actually bigger than I was through third grade, when I grew considerably thanks to discovering if I was quick about it I could have two bagels for breakfast, lunch, afterschool snack, and dessert.

“But that’s still big, right?”

“Oh, yes. Quite.” He’s a Flemish giant, a genre of rabbit that’s known to grow to as much as 26 feet long not counting ears and whiskers, although he is a smaller example of the breed.

He pushed his head into my hand. “And I’m not getting any smaller, right?”

For once I had a flash of this thing I think the humans call empathy and didn’t say he wasn’t going to start shrinking for another year or two. “Not a bit. You still are remarkably big.”

He dropped back down. “Then why didn’t he?”

“Why didn’t who what?”

“Why didn’t he remark?”

“Which he?”

“The one you had in to come make all that noise on the ceiling!” A couple months back we had some roofers come over. They replaced the nearly four square feet of perfectly good shingles we still had on the house, as well as a bunch of others that looked like someone had spilled a deck of cards into a nauseated food processor, and put on a bunch of new ones in a different color. From inside all you could really tell is there was a lot of noise from up top and then stuff being thrown into the driveways, which might have got us in trouble with the neighbors except they were going through a monthlong stretch of having just vanished. We still don’t know about that.

“The roofer? He only came in to talk about the work, give us an estimate. What did he do?”

“He didn’t remark! He didn’t say anything about how big I am!”

“Everybody who comes into the house mentions how big you are. I would’ve thought you’d be glad for a change in the conversation.”

“But he didn’t say anything! What if I’m not … big?”

I sat down so I could better pet his head, which he likes, and his back, which he supposes is better than nothing, most of the time. “But you are. You’re the biggest rabbit I’ve ever known personally. You’re big enough you could — ” and I thought better of mentioning how he could easily yoink the remote control off the coffee table if he really wanted, because I didn’t want to encourage that — “probably push me over if you tried. You’re so big we joke that the Sparks song `Big Boy’ is about you.” And that’s true, although the Sparks song is really more a chipper tune about the Biblical story of David and Goliath and I didn’t want to mention how Goliath probably didn’t care for how that story came out.

“But why didn’t he say anything?”

“Well, maybe he didn’t notice you. He was only in the living room a short — a little — a brief while, and he was thinking of shingles and maybe rain gutters at the time. That throws off your ability to notice rabbit bigness.”

“If he didn’t notice me how big can I be?”

“Aw, bigness isn’t any guarantee you’re going to be noticed. I’ve seen things many times your size that I never noticed,” and he looked at me the way he does when he suspects I’m imitating his chewing. “I mean until they were pointed out.”

“Would you tell me if I wasn’t big?”

I rubbed his ears. “I promise. Look, you wouldn’t be nearly so scary to squirrels if you weren’t big.”

He rubbed his chin on my knee and hopped off to nibble on some hay, apparently soothed. I left the room, crawling on my knees.

Statistics Saturday for a Monday: July 2014 on This Humor Blog


And now to return to the very funny question of how well-read I was in the month of July. The answer is very well indeed: I had my most popular month on record according to WordPress. My total number of page views climbed from June’s 495 to fully 704, the highest on record, and the number of unique viewers rose from 181 to a just plain enormous for me 332. I’m stunned. There’s three months since I started the humor blog that didn’t have 332 views total, never mind unique viewers. (The views-per-visitor dropped from 2.73 to 2.12, but that’s still respectable, suggesting most folks who stop in find at least something else worth reading.) By the end of July I’d gotten a total of 7,187 pages read.

The countries sending me the most readers the past month were the United States (562), Australia (34), the United Kingdom (32), and Canada (20). I got only a single reader each from Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Kuwait, Mexico, Oman, the Philippines. Indonesia and the Philippines were single-reader countries last month too. And India, which I worried about for sending me just one reader in May and June, found three people who could find me not perfectly repellant in the past thirty days. That’s not so good on a per capita basis as Portugal (two readers), but, really, it’s an honor just to be nominated.

The five most popular postings this past month were:

  1. Questions Inspired By Great Science Fiction Covers of the Past, which involves a lot of Lyndon Johnson.
  2. From The Technology Centers That Brought You Towels, about a patent pending notice I saw.
  3. Five Astounding Facts About Turbo, That Movie About A Snail in The Indianapolis 500, always liked.
  4. Statistics Saturday: My Reactions To Everything After It’s Been Read, letting you know how much I like being liked, or not being liked, as the case may be.
  5. Theme Park Flashing from the Dream World, my subconscious giving out advice again.

I should say, though, there’s 21 different posts which got at least ten viewers the past month, which I believe is a high but I didn’t track that before. This is just something else I can start neurotically following, isn’t it?

Some popular search terms bringing people here include:

  • “ron|russell mael”
  • charles boyce compu-toon
  • captain future block that kick
  • mark twain a medieval romance
  • can a snail race in the indy 500 (people have got to be looking this up as a lark)
  • transdimensional dream other worlds
  • melies films with spider

Dream World Tips: Brushes With Rock Fame


Have you ever had to put together one of those movies-in-the-park thing, where they set up a screen and a projector and sometime after the summer dusk sets in you show the kind of movie that attracts flocks of kids who take time out from their normal activities to run up to the projector and fiddle with the buttons? According to the crafty movies-in-the-park manager in my recent dream, that’s just fine. You have to set up an actual projector that handles the movie, and then put up a dummy right prominently in the middle where anybody can get at it. This one isn’t hooked up to anything, but if the film has any irregular things to it at all — like in the good old days of actual reels where there might be a momentary cut or something — it’s all right because the kids will figure their fiddling with the buttons caused the jump cut.

Apparently the crafty movies-in-the-park learned this trick from the years he spent organizing the shows for REO Speedwagon, who apparently couldn’t keep their hands off buttons either. This is almost certainly the closest brush with musical fame I’ve had in my own dreams, but I should point out that in the dreams of someone very close to me, I was doing pretty well with Russell Mael of Sparks.

From The Days of Sensurround


You maybe remember a while back I got to wondering about the 1977 disaster film Rollercoaster. There’s a scene near the end where they needed a rock band, and apparently the producers’ first hope was that they’d get Kiss to play the scenes. Somehow that didn’t happen, and they got Sparks instead, because Kiss and Sparks are very similar bands what with having two S’s and on K in both their names.

It turns out that according to somebody or other on the Internet Movie Database, which is the soundest citation possible not involving “forwarded in e-mail from your grandmom”, the producers also considered at some point having the Bay City Rollers perform. This is obviously a huge departure what with that band having only one S and no K’s to speak of, and makes me wonder if the producers even knew what they were looking for. It’s almost like they figured once they had roller coasters everything else would just fit, whatever letters they had. I don’t know.

An Embarrassing Clarification


My Dearly Beloved was reading over my little warning from the dream world, about racing whilst under-clad into Target to catch my father before he makes a terrible mistake about buying milk as the music of odd group Sparks plays on the public address system, and it turend out, didn’t understand something, so I felt I had to clarify. Yes, the dream happened as such.

But the important thing is: this wasn’t a humiliation dream, the kind where you go out in public and everyone starts laughing at you, or you realize you’re doing something that brings eternal and unending shame upon you, like misremembering which manufacturer produced the Intellivision game console. (None did. It simply appeared, from space, for a time, and then supplies stopped, which was fine because the unknown entities producing it also gave us the video game Frog Bog for which they should feel embarrassed.) No. Running through Target in nothing but underwear and maybe a T-shirt does not here produce embarrassment; it just produces a sense of frustration that people keep pointing this out to you, as if you weren’t aware, and as if the path to my father wasn’t going to take you through Men’s Wear (or, if you prefer, Women’s Wear) anyway so you could put on something sensible then if the milk situation didn’t require fast action.

I apologize to anyone who has, in the past couple days, found themselves in the parking lot of Target with my father sorting out the salad dressings and other contents of their car’s trunk-kitchen and raced in without enough clothes on and found themselves incorrectly embarrassed when they should be mildly irritated at others.

A Targeted Warning From The Dream World


According to my subconscious apparently this is an important problem, so, let me put the advice out for anyone who finds themselves in this situation:

If you ever find yourself with my father in the parking lot of Target, and we’re working out just which of the bottles of salad dressing in that little cubby-hole we used to use for storing compact discs back before everyone got over compact discs still have any salad dressing to speak of in there, and he goes in to buy new salad dressings, and you go around back to the trunk and discover the milk in his Toyota Something Or Other is not spoiled after all, despite how hot a day it’s been, plus there’s like a third of a bottle of light vinaigrette left and you need to rush in to warn my father about this, then, remember to put on some pants and a shirt. Even if you’re just rushing in through the pharmacy door to get word to him, people are going to pay more attention to your running through Target in your underpants with a carton of unspoiled milk than they are going to notice that the speaker system is playing songs from Sparks’s 1974 album Kimono My House.

I just hope we can all take a valuable lesson from this, and that is, to not put the vinaigrette in that weird cubby-hole underneath the stereo where nobody knows what’s supposed to go in but it accumulates old papers and unneeded receipts anyway, because it’ll spill all over the papers you don’t need.

CW Music


Almost none of you have heard me sing, and that’s a good thing. While I’m tolerably able to follow along most of the generally accepted words of a song if they’re written out for me ahead of time and can begin and end such words at approximately the right times, I have pretty much the same control over my pitch that a coal-fired locomotive engine has over its position. My voice will pick a note that’s the designated note for the song, even if it doesn’t appear anywhere in the actual song or possibly in all of recorded Western Civilization-informed music including those horrible atonal experiments made by pressing Moog synthesizers under piles of stones until they confessed to witchcraft. It might vary a little around that note as the song moves through its normal melody, but it won’t get more than maybe two-thirds of the way to the flat version of whatever note I started from.

So what I do instead is to hum along to a song, which besides meaning I don’t have to actually get the words right, means I don’t have to go to the trouble of opening my mouth any. But I have the same thing where I have one designated note for each song, and stick to that. What comes out is a tolerably timed “Hmm HMMM hm HMM Hmmm, Hmm HMMM hm HMMMMM, Hmmm Hm-mmm-MMM-MMMMM hmm HMMMMM-hmm-HMMMMmmmMMMM” [*]. It’s quite the monotone spectacle.

Anyway, all this is a way of saying I was stunned to get a special musical achievement award from the American Radio Relay League, the people who bring you ham radio, for my work in translating music into Morse Code. I’m flattered and I’d like to thank everyone who had a part in letting me achieve this, as soon as I think who that could really be.

[*] Original lyrics by Sparks, 1975.

Those Special Sparks


I got to go to a concert last week by Sparks. They’re a great pair, with wonderfully playful music and intricate lyrics and an odd sense of humor. Even better, they played one of the songs that they performed in their big-screen debut, the 70s thriller/disaster movie Rollercoaster, which is one of the nearly more than one big-screen movies about amusement park safety inspectors.

The thing with that movie is, really, what the heck was Sparks doing there? Why were they brought in as a band to play the opening day of a new amusement park instead of, say, a band that doesn’t have catchy tunes with accurate titles like “So I Bought The Mississippi River” or “Everybody’s Stupid (That’s For Sure)” or one about the guy who’s the stunt performer for Gone With The Wind and had to do that tumbling-down-the-long-staircase scene all day long but doesn’t really know what the movie is about? A band that would go on to record a musical titled The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman and write “Lighten Up, Morrissey”? Why did they want Sparks’s “Big Boy”, about David and Goliath, in their film?

Wikipedia as ever can explain without explaining, in that the movie makers had wanted to get Kiss, but couldn’t, and so went to Sparks. This implies one of two things, though: either they had a list of potential bands for the film in which Kiss and Sparks were grouped together — and then either the list was “1. Kiss. 2. Sparks” or else there was another band that fit on the list between those two — or else, when the Kiss deal fell through the movie producers wandered, forlorn, through the streets of Los Angeles, thinking of their imminent professional doom, until someone ran out from the record store, clutching a copy of Kimono My House, and shouting, “Mister Levinson! Mister Link! I’ve got it! I’ve got it!” And they went to the record store’s listening booth and looked at one another and said, “Yes, this is the band we need in Sensurround”? Neither way seems plausible, but something like that has to have happened.