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27Jun2012 1930: Future Past

Today on Monty's Behind the Curve, I've finally been introduced to the works of Neal Stephenson through The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer; Or, A Portrait of the Empress as a Young Woman. As a scifi novel it hit all the good tech beats; as a novel, it quit approximately three chapters before the proper resolution; but (as the wiki explains) viewed as a coming-of-age novel, I guess it covers the same swath of life as Oliver Twist. But Oliver ends with the montage "whatever-happened-to" that ties up everything neatly, while Diamond Age ends with the cliffhanger for a sequel that never appeared. I dunno, I guess I'll check out the rest of his stuff.

But not until I get through The Cat Who Walks Through Walls. I was almost certain I had read this before, as both a Heinlein fan and a Cat Who fan, but I surely would have remembered it. It's The Thin Man in space! A wacky super-scripted romp on the Moon! Why didn't anybody tell me sooner? All of my thumbs are up.

I never read Twilight and I will never read its bastard offspring 50 Shades of Grey, as I am in possession of testicles. But there's always room for some good old-fashioned Mystery Library Theater 3000. It's all fun and games until the pamphlets come out.

[Nick Waterhouse - Is That Clear] kicks off my Wednesday with a bang, catching that transformative sound between straight blues and rock 'n' roll. A medium band backs up his wailing guitar and -- wait, it's over already? Two and a half minutes? Damn.

[Kimbra - Settle Down] wants to get hitched, and she wants her proposal to be super-special. That's why she's convened this a capella group at the ping-pong parlor. Sorry lady, there's only room for one ping-pong beat in my life.

I don't even know how to describe [Yuna - Live Your Life]. I guess it falls under the wide umbrella of "pop", but it's not the overpowering diva pop that old white men think belongs on the radio. It's nearly monotone, it's backed by a five-second loop of wispy synth, and the lyrics are wafer-thin. I have to question why this even exists.

20Jun2012 1815: Personal Growth

Oooee, it's been a while since a strong storm rolled through Fargo while I was driving. For those who don't know, ten minutes of moderate rain in Fargo will start flooding the NDSU campus. Ten minutes of strong rain will start flooding underpasses. Twenty minutes of strong rain will start blocking main thoroughfares. It's not the city planners' fault, really; they're just working with what they've got.

Anyway, I had to take the long way around to get home today, and I count that as an indication of personal growth. Five years ago I probably would have bulled right through a flooded underpass. Five years ago I literally tried to float down a watery 7th Avenue, taking shelter far too late in a raised parking lot. And that's the story of how I killed my car's horn.

Enough of making adult decisions: talk me down from buying this wonderful piece of Portal fanart.

The Metric album continues to disappoint; perhaps this week's Rising Artists can salve my hurt? [Royalty - Bartender] is...not it. This is some sort of pop-glam-synth love song that evokes big hair and the golden age of MTV, as a lady with a lovely pop voice spews diva all over some Scorpions backing. It could score a Youtube supercut of Top Gun, but it doesn't belong on my playlist.

[Emeli Sandé - Where I Sleep] is the modern diva. She's trying to raise my consciousness here but I'm just not feeling it. I can't get into R&B chanteuses, but at least Emeli keeps it to just over two minutes.

[Cherri Bomb - Let It Go] has the misfortune of setting up their own comparison with a classic song. They mostly deliver, with some Hot Topical girl rock in the style of the Damones or Donnas. Is this a Damones-Donnas supergroup? I think it's time for the idea of the crassly commercial supergroup to come back.

13Jun2012 1030: Firestarter

My expectations have been suitably tempered, so tonight I'm going to carve out some time for Prometheus. It's apparently by turns laughably B and painfully just short of masterpiece. Fingers crossed that I can do more laughing than paining.

Last weekend's family vacation was the second smashing success in as many years. I didn't really get into the Mayan Apocalypse theme, not as much as I should have, but as a whirlwind tour of Winona MN it was quite lovely. I also recommend bunking up at the Alverna Center, a $50-per-night former nunnery that nobody seems to know about. They could stand to fix the projector in the great hall, but a bargain room in a good location is something you should write down and keep in a safe place. And unless it gets famous, you have very good odds that you'll have the run of the entire building.

And then! As unexpected as the vote for "Mayan apocalypse" was last year, our vote for next year's theme of "kebabs and Tron" is pretty much the best thing ever. Red peppers are obvious, but what's something blue I can put on a skewer?

Yeah, we could talk about Rising Artists this week, but Metric has a new album out! And it's...pretty good? Metric has always traded on a very distinct flavor of rock + electronica. I enjoy this flavor! But Synthetica seems to skew harder into the electronic and I can't quite get into it. There's no one song that I can latch on to and say "yeah" and nod my head. There's no Combat Baby or Gimme Sympathy for me here. I'll give it a few more listens, but if I'm not hooked by now I feel comfortable saying I won't find a standout single to soundtrack my summer.

06Jun2012 1900: Grooves

Today I saw a very nice and possibly CG-fake advertisement for a morphing touchscreen surface, where magic technology creates temporary bumps and ridges to simulate physical keys. That's great! That's some cool tech right there!

And then they use that tech to simulate a goddamn QWERTY keyboard. There is literally no reason that people creating a new interface meant to used by two thumbs or a single hand should be using QWERTY. STOP IT. I'd even accept that damnable T9 phonepad input; at least that is meant for thumbs. And I understand that Microsoft locked up what may be the best solution and has done absolutely nothing with it. But emphatically not QWERTY.

Still: not even the Enterprise had dynamic raised buttons. I hope that video is even half real.

No comic this weekend, as it is once again family party time.

[Patrick Watson - Into Giants] brings us a rather grating folksetto voice. He has Big Important Life Things to say, and the only way he can say them is through the worst tropes of 60s folk music. And oh god then there's a big brassy trumpet at the end. Go away, hippy.

I'm worried about the rest of this month; somebody at Amazon Music dropped acid and watched Yellow Submarine over the weekend. I can think of no reason to follow up the thin 60s folk of Patrick Watson with the slow 60s rock of [Father John Misty - Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings]. Complete with floating cartoon third eyes on the album art! Criminy.

[John Fullbright - Gawd Above] makes it abundantly clear what John thinks of Jehovah. He's going for a Creedence vibe, between his roughed-up voice and the guitar and the mistake of bringing in a rock organ late to the party. Not a great crop this week; maybe next week we'll get some songs from this century.