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Uncertain Principles

Physics, Politics, Pop Culture

Friday, July 23, 2004

Scientist Skip Day

Like my fellow science bloggers PZ Myers and Sean Carroll, I'll be leaving town for a little while. Unlike them, however, it's not for any scientifically valuable purpose, so you won't get any guest-blogging while I'm gone. And, of course, I'll only be gone for the weekend, to get together with some college friends in New Orleans (not my first choice for the end of July). I'll be back next week, probably with a wicked hangover...

This'll be the first field test of my spiffy new iPod. I'm up to just about 3,000 songs, adding up to just under 8 days of tunes. That ought to get me through the weekend...

Posted at 1:01 PM | link | follow-ups | no comments

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Essential Pop CD's

The discussion following my earlier post about Alex Ross's list of essential classical CD's got me thinking about what a similar list for pop music would look like. This is, of course, a completely objective process, with no possibility for variation or individual bias.

The highly artificial constraints placed on the problem are as follows: 1) Albums and single-artist collections only, 2) Currently available albums and collections only (as determined by a quick look at Amazon), 3) As broad a list of artists, style-wise, as possible (within the confines of rock and rock-based pop-- rap and hip-hop need a different list, by somebody other than me), 4) An attempt made to select artists who can be connected to other artists, either by direct influence or stylistic similarity, and 5) An attempt to limit things to reasonably priced collections of reasonable length (i.e., no box sets). Also, I'm limiting this to ten records, in keeping with tradition.

This will probably get me jumped on hard by a dozen people, but it's something to do while I work my way through ripping the "H" part of my collection into MP3 format (2148 songs, 5.7 days, 11.18 GB and counting...).

I won't attempt to pretend that this is a really comprehensive list. Omissions that are worthy of comment: 1) Elvis. Yeah, well, you can't have everything, and I'm not that big a fan. 2) Anything from the last ten years. The jury's still out on a lot of this stuff, and I deliberately went more for historically influential bands, figuring that they can be connected to newer stuff easily enough. Another route would be to use new albums to introduce older pop music, which would probably make another fun blog post. Some other time. 3) Any band involving a woman. Yeah, that's a tough one. I'd love to work a female artist in there somewhere, but I don't see anybody I'd like to replace. 4) Vanilla Ice. You'll just have to try to cope as best you can, Mike.

Anyway, that's the first list I came up with. If you have complaints or corrections, well, you know where the comments are.

Posted at 9:04 PM | link | follow-ups | 25 comments

Monday, July 19, 2004

Calmly and Coolly Shooting Yourself in the Foot

Boing Boing has a post about John Cornyn, and better yet, they have the Daily Show graphic used in the story. For those not up on the story, Cornyn reportedly said, while talking about gay marriage:

It does not affect your daily life very much if your neighbor marries a box turtle, but that does not mean it is right...Now you must raise you children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife.

Which is mind-blowingly stupid, but then Texan politicians say idiotic things in public all the time, particularly about cultural issues, so it wouldn't really rate a comment (not even for the graphic of a guy screwing a turtle), were it not for the correction added at a later date. This comes via Andrew Sullivan, who quotes Cornyn's press secretary explaining that:

"For what it's worth, Sen. Cornyn did not, in his speech to the Heritage Foundation, use the 'box turtles' quote. The Post was given a copy of remarks 'as prepared,' but Sen. Cornyn did not like that passage, and did not use it. The Post, which did not attend the speech, reported the quote nonetheless. Sen. Cornyn said that he did not think that statement appropriate, that's why he didn't use it.

The really amazing thing about this is, that doesn't really make the whole thing seem better in my mind. I'd actually have an easier time understanding the remark if it were an ad-lib in response to a question. If that were the case, it just comes off as vaguely addled.

Instead, we find out that this was a prepared remark, put into the speech well in advance of the actual event. That means that some political staffers and speechwriters, sitting around at leisure, in the heat of no particular moment, felt that the comparison between gay marriage and box-turtle sodomy was an appropriate simile for a public speech.

Explained that way, I think this quote says less about Sen. Cornyn's attitude toward gay marriage than it does about his attitude toward massive drug abuse among his political staff.

Posted at 2:38 PM | link | follow-ups | 6 comments

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