Richard Wright 1943-2008

In the early 1970s, I was in high school, and attended my fair share of high school dances. When the time came for the cover band (yes, we used to have bands at dances, not DJs) to play the slow-dance-with-your-main-squeeze song, there was really only one choice. Us and Them, from Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon. To this day, I cannot hear that song without thinking fondly of those dances so long ago.

Richard Wright wrote the music for that song, and played the haunting, swirling keyboards on that track and countless other Floyd tracks. He was a brilliant musician who was treated rather shabbily later on in the Floyd saga, but he lives forever on that album (and quite a few others).

Richard died of cancer yesterday. David Gilmour had this to say: "He was gentle, unassuming and private but his soulful voice and playing were vital, magical components of our most recognized Pink Floyd sound, I have never played with anyone quite like him."

Thanks for the slow dances, Richard.

New York Times obituary


Open letter to Randall

Update: Some time after I wrote this rant, Randall went back and fixed the comic. A small victory for the Society for Spelling "Russell" Correctly. Yay!

The latest xkcd pushed one of my flame buttons:

Here's my responding post on the xkcd forum:

Re: "Fetishes" discussion

Post by bjimba on Wed Aug 27, 2008 1:01 am UTC

Et tu, Randall? Or should I say Randal?

95% of the people named Russell spell it with two L's, yet the rest of the world blindly goes on spelling it with one. What's up with that?

Leon Russell.
Bill Russell.
Rosalind Russell.
Gail Russell.
Kimberly Russell.
Jane Russell.
Ken Russell.
Kurt Russell.
Brian Russell. (He was my uncle. He was Potlatch the cook in "Charlie and the Lonesome Cougar".)
Lillian Russell.
Nipsey Russell.


I've been fighting this battle for 51 years. Can you tell?

Jim "bjimba" Russell. With two L's.

Of course, aside from that, I love the concept of this comic. After all, I am a B.S. in Math.


Latest "In Contempt"

Kevin Moore's web comic, In Contempt, is frequently brilliant, but every once in a while, he really hits it out of the park.


Beatles on the shuffle

Sometimes, I think my music shuffle is messing with my head.

My entire music library is on disk now, and my computer randomly shuffles through the tunes. I don't categorize anything other than by artist name. So, I assume the computer does not know that, say, John Lennon has any connection with the Beatles.

The last four songs have been:

  • The Beatles / Magical Mystery Tour
  • Paul McCartney / Coming up (live version, from All the Best)
  • John Lennon / Well well well (rehearsal version from a bootleg)
  • The Beatles / You really got a hold on me (live from Stockholm, from Anthology 1

I'm going to have to look into the Python random routine, which the moosic player uses.


Sydney, Australia

We're here.

I'm sending this via an internet kiosk in the hotel, so I'll write more when I get home.


Ira Tucker

It's a common belief that deaths that affect you "come in threes". Now, here's my third obituary post in a row.

Ira Tucker, lead singer of the Dixie Hummingbirds, died on June 24th. He joined the gospel group in 1938, when he was 13. Think about this -- he was with the same singing group for sixty years. The Dixie Hummingbirds were a very important influence on American music. Even if you know very little about gospel, you've heard this man's voice, probably due to this song:

Tucker's obituary in the New York Times


George Carlin

Back in the day, we used to listen to comedy albums. Really. In the pre-videotape days, we'd gather together at someone's house and just listen to Richard Pryor, Bill Cosby, Bob Newhart, Cheech and Chong, or the incomparable George Carlin. Toledo Window Box was one of my favorites.

You got 24 odds and ends, on a table. 23 of them fall off. Whaddaya got, an odd or an end?

Thanks for the laughs, George.



Roger Waters: It just came up on shuffle

I have most of my music collection digitized. From the vinyl LP's I purchased at Two Guys in the '70s to my latest CD's, they're all residing on /alt/media/music on my main server. So, I naturally randomly shuffle through the whole lot while I'm working/playing on the computer. What just came up was Roger Waters / "Who needs information", from the "Radio KAOS" album. I was forced by some subconscious process to turn the speakers up to 11.

"Radio KAOS" was probably considered a failure. I don't care. This is one of those albums that connected to my brain through some back-door direct connection, and I always consider it one of the most important albums of all time. (That, and Badfinger's "Say No More". Another commercial flop, by the way.)

No particular reason for posting this, other than the fact that it came up on my shuffle. I guess that if someone googles "Radio KAOS", that someone might end up here. Which would be cool.


Unread Books meme

I picked up this meme from Manamania. This is a list of the top 106 books marked as "unread" by LibraryThing users. Your task, if you pick up the meme, is to bold the ones you've read, italicize the ones you only read because you had to for school, and underline the ones you started but didn't finish.

  • Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
  • Anna Karenina
  • Crime and Punishment
  • Catch-22
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude
  • Wuthering Heights
  • The Silmarillion
  • Life of Pi : a novel
  • The Name of the Rose
  • Don Quixote
  • Moby Dick
  • Ulysses
  • Madame Bovary
  • The Odyssey
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Jane Eyre
  • The Tale of Two Cities
  • The Brothers Karamazov
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel
  • War and Peace
  • Vanity Fair
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife
  • The Iliad
  • Emma
  • The Blind Assassin
  • The Kite Runner
  • Mrs. Dalloway
  • Great Expectations
  • American Gods
  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
  • Atlas Shrugged
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
  • Memoirs of a Geisha
  • Middlesex
  • Quicksilver
  • Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
  • The Canterbury Tales
  • The Historian : a novel
  • A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
  • Love in the Time of Cholera
  • Brave New World
  • The Fountainhead
  • Foucault’s Pendulum
  • Middlemarch
  • Frankenstein
  • The Count of Monte Cristo
  • Dracula
  • A Clockwork Orange
  • Anansi Boys
  • The Once and Future King
  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • The Poisonwood Bible : a novel
  • 1984
  • Angels & Demons
  • Inferno
  • The Satanic Verses
  • Sense and Sensibility
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray
  • Mansfield Park
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  • To the Lighthouse
  • Tess of the D'Urbervilles
  • Oliver Twist
  • Gulliver’s Travels
  • Les Misérables
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
  • Dune
  • The Prince
  • The Sound and the Fury
  • Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
  • The God of Small Things
  • A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
  • Cryptonomicon
  • Neverwhere
  • A Confederacy of Dunces
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything
  • Dubliners
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being
  • Beloved
  • Slaughterhouse-five
  • The Scarlet Letter
  • Eats, Shoots & Leaves
  • The Mists of Avalon
  • Oryx and Crake
  • Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
  • Cloud Atlas
  • The Confusion
  • Lolita
  • Persuasion
  • Northanger Abbey
  • The Catcher in the Rye
  • On the Road
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  • Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values
  • The Aeneid
  • Watership Down
  • Gravity’s Rainbow
  • The Hobbit
  • In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
  • White Teeth
  • Treasure Island
  • David Copperfield

Note: At least two of those bolded books came from my subscriptions at dailylit.com. It's never too late.


Danny Federici

I'm sure you've heard by now that Danny Federici of the E Street Band died yesterday from melanoma. I add my condolences along with the rest of his fans to his family and friends.

I'm also sure many people will be pointing out their favorite Federici moments. Here's mine, and it has nothing to do with E Street. Listen to this 1996 track by Mark Lindsay (yes, Raider Mark). Danny's accordion on this song sets the perfect mood.

Mark Lindsay / Rouge on blue (1996)

PS: You can buy the Mark Lindsay CD "Video Dreams", where Danny plays Hammond organ as well as accordion, at marklindsay.com. It's really quite an extraordinary album.

History meme

[dad@porky ~]$ history | awk '{a[$2]++}END{for(i in a){print a[i] " " i}}' | sort -rn | head
95 ls
64 cd
23 vncviewer
19 vim
18 moosic
14 yaourt
14 mv
12 python
12 du
11 cat


The best baseball blog ever

The best baseball blog, at least for Yankees fans like me, is Peter Abraham's LoHud Yankees Blog. ("LoHud" means Lower Hudson Valley, tourist.) A perfect example of Pete's wit is his latest post: Ten people to avoid at the ballpark. Brilliant. I've met all ten of them.

Obama confronts the 800-pound gorilla

Barack Obama's speech on March 18 transcends the Presidential election. The issues he addresses, and the candor with which he addresses them, showed me that he cares more about our country and our world than he does about becoming President. Whether he wins or loses, this man is critical to our progress as a species.

Please, invest a half-hour of your life to watching this entire speech. Don't settle for soundbites or distillations from people who think they know what the important bits were or what they really mean. Sit yourself down and just watch the whole damn thing. Afterward, support whoever you want for President. But deal with what Obama says honestly.

This is straight talk, folks.


West Side Story

I've been given an amazing opportunity. I'm acting in a high school play at the age of 50.

I suppose a bit of explanation is in order. I live in the town of Nutley, New Jersey, and my kids are both in the public schools here. Both are artistically inclined, and have been involved in theatrical productions, bands, choirs, etc. I've also been participating in the local theatre productions -- I love to act, and the "town shows" sponsored by Nutley Parks and Recreation have given me a great outlet for my thespian inclinations. I've had the extraordinary pleasure of acting with each of my children in the town shows.

This year, Mike Cundari, the incredibly talented choirmaster at Nutley High School, decided to mount a production of "West Side Story". An incredibly difficult show to pull off, but the payoff is huge if the production clicks. The upside of a high school production of this show is that almost every part is age-appropriate -- Maria, Tony, Bernardo, Anita, et al are supposed to be high-school age. Even most of the adult parts are arguably young adults -- Krupke, Schrank, Glad Hand. The only genuine "old guy" is Doc. So, the director asked me to play Doc. I jumped at the chance. I've never done "West Side Story", and I absolutely love the show.

Thank God I said "yes". I cannot adequately describe how bloody talented this cast is. Most of these actors are people that I have known since they were small children. They are certainly not now. They are young men and women of enormous ability, who have taken this production to heights that I can scarcely believe. I am proud to be a part of this cast, and humbled by their talent and obvious dedication to the task.

If anyone from the cast happens to read my blog: Thank you. It's been an honor and a pleasure working with you, and we will kick some serious ass on Thursday.


SNL's done something funny

I can't remember the last time something from Saturday Night Live made me laugh out loud. This one did.


Congratulations, Herbie Hancock

Herbie Hancock won a surprising Album of the Year Grammy last night, with his marvelous River: The Joni Letters. Herbie has had a wonderful and eclectic career in jazz, from his early work with Miles Davis, through his electric jazz success with Rockit, to the present day. Other Hancock works of note: Watermelon Man, a staple of high school jazz bands everywhere (and rightly so), and his love note to George Gershwin, Gershwin's World.

If you want to get the Album of the Year, here's an Amazon link: River: The Joni Letters (with Bonus Tracks) - Amazon.com Exclusive

Herbie, you're the best.

Happy birthday, Charles Darwin, Abraham Lincoln

February 12. Birthday of Abraham Lincoln, one of the most extraordinary politicians in the history of the United States. To see how extraordinary, I heartily recommend Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, which documents how Lincoln built his cabinet with the very people who were his rivals for the Presidency. Obama and Clinton take note.

February 12. Birthday of Charles Darwin, the man who put science on the right track. Obviously, he wasn't correct in every detail, but don't let this derail you. His work is rightly venerated for pointing the way to a correct understanding of how we came to be. His birthday is now celebrated as Darwin Day, as explained at darwinday.org.


Yes, we can

Tired of negative campaign ads? Try a positive one for a change.

The New Jersey primary is this Tuesday. I would probably have voted for Chris Dodd, the hero of FISA, if he were still running. But I think I know which way I'm going now.

Get out and vote.


Awesome organist

At first, it looks like just another child doing just another recital piece, but it gets awesome quickly. Keep an eye on the bass line being played by her left foot.

Via Erik's Weblog.

Amazing Young Organ Player Rocks Out - Watch more free videos


Making the Electoral College irrelevant

Before I start, I should mention that using the word "irrelevant" always reminds me of Chico Marx. If you don't know why, you must go watch the greatest comedy of all time (imho).

Now, where were we? Ah, yes, making the Electoral College irrelevant. Obviously, someone had a brilliant idea some time ago, and for some reason, today is the first I'm hearing of it. You can go to nationalpopularvote.org for the full scoop, but here's the gist. The Electoral College method of electing a President is stupid, and Al Gore *should* have been President in 2000 since more people voted for him than for the Boob in Chief. However, to scrap the Electoral College, we need a Constitutional Amendment, which is a pain in the rump. However times two, there's a loophole waiting to be exploited. Each state can decide for itself how the electors it sends to the Electoral College should vote. Currently, they all say, "Whoever got more votes here in My State gets all our Electors". Suppose, instead, the State said, "Whoever got the most votes NATIONALLY gets all our Electors". Hmm.

Okay, the trick here is that if enough states (270 Electors worth, if memory serves) agree to do this, the President will be elected by the popular vote instead of the current idiocy. So far, only Maryland has committed to it, but here in New Jersey, we're awfully close to doing the same. This is a *brilliant* end-run around the Electoral College, and I really hope it works.


Facebook, Scoble and Russell's Law

The ubiquitous Robert Scoble was kicked off Facebook temporarily for screen scraping his friends' email addresses via an alpha test program from Plaxo. Like almost everything Robert does, this incident reverberated around the Internet, with bloggers expounding on whether Facebook or Scoble were "in the right". In particular, here's Jeff Jarvis' take called In Defense of Facebook. You should also read Is There A Conflict Between Open Social Graphs And Your Privacy? by Julian Sanchez at TechDirt.

In my opinion, both Jarvis and Sanchez are making the same basic mistake, although Sanchez attempts to talk his way out of it. The real problem with Facebook's attempt to control the data flow, and Jarvis' and Sanchez' belief that they have a right to control the data flow, is that it breaks Russell's Law. Russell's Law (which I made up, but has been holding up very well so far) states: You cannot encrypt past the intended recipient. It was originally coined to convey the impossibility of enforcing "for-your-eyes-only" emails via cryptography, but it applies to many situations. Like the impossibility of foolproof DRM-protected music. Now, here's another situation where it applies perfectly. You can't stop your Facebook friends from giving your email address to whomever they choose. You can make it temporarily tedious, but that's it.