Paul the Octopus, and the like

Nice World Cup final. My only regret is that when Iniesta scored and the Spanish team began celebrating, the producers didn’t cut to a split-screen view of Paul the Octopus being deliriously mobbed by other octopii in recognition of his prefect record of prognostication. (Above: artist’s conception of what this might have looked like, using a still from the Japanese TV series Gimmie Gimmie Octopus.)

In other news: my wife and kid are out of town this week on another mom-and-little-tyke retreat, giving me a chance to recover from the vicious case of Dad Back ™ I contracted during the previous family-filled weekend that involved picking my kid up roughly 200 times. As of Friday evening, I was moving around like a mummy, to the point that my visiting older relatives were raptly warning me about oncoming disk problems and writing down URLs of recommended back pain therapy tip sites. Fast-forward to today, and – presto – it’s all better. (Although I’m still probably in for a world of disk problems).

For those of you without kids, I liken the situation to this: imagine that you’re going about your normal business at home, making coffee, doing Sudoku puzzles, whatever… and virtually every minute, a 30-pound bowling ball is rolling across the floor and its your job to make sure that the bowling ball doesn’t crash into anything. And so you’re constantly grabbing the bowling ball in awkward positions while also handling coffee filters and lucky Soduku pencils or whatever. Also, you have to imagine that the bowling ball is conveniently greased up and often tries to wriggle out of your grasp, and you start to get the picture.

I would tell you more, but I just back from the dentist where I received a mammoth shot of novocaine that’s starting to creep up into my brain and numb various frontal lobes. I feel like the writer in this great recent piece by Oliver Sacks who suffered a stroke and suddenly lost all ability to read but bizarrely retained the ability to write fluently. He just couldn’t read anything he wrote… weird.

Second Banana All Stars

We interrupt this blog for a bilious, snarky rant…

I see Ray Manzarek, the former Doors’ keyboardist, is back at it again. Yesterday, as I walked through the metro, I was confronted with this:

OK, first: can we please all agree to let 30s socialist propaganda poster style die a richly-deserved death and rest in peace? Shepherd Fairey had a nice run with the Obama Hope poster (so potent was it, in fact, that the incresingly right-tilting AP threatened to sue him for copyright infringement in the most ridiculous lawsuit ever, apparently fearing a spate of galvanized left wing politicians), but that poster was about five times better than anything else he’s ever done, and the whole style was already tired out when he did it. It’s a great aesthetic to start from so as long as you add something new to the mix, but in and of itself, the life has simply been beaten out of it in recent years. Another recent culprit– this Bernal Heights poster that JohnnyO posted:

It’s not cool anymore, people. We killed it. Let’s just let it go…

Second: why must God take from us Joe Strummer and Joey Ramone, but leave Ray Manzarek to wander the earth and haunt us with his self-aggrandizing nostalgia? I notice that in recent interview clips with the guy, he’s managed to tone down his act and come across as a benevolent elder statesman of counterculture… but he doesn’t fool me. Back when the Oliver Stone movie was coming out, he was constantly giving interviews that fulfilled every possible stereotype of self-congratulatory Baby Boomer exceptionalism. (Even in his more toned-down current incarnation, note how he still slathers all this over-the-top religious hyperbole on his description of meeting Jim Morrison for first time).

The only time I’ve ever liked Manzarek was in the Doors movie, when he wasn’t really Ray Manzarek but rather Kyle Maclachlan (aka Agent Cooper, aka most un-rock-n-roll male lead of our generation) playing Ray Manzarek in one of the strangest and most compelling casting decisions in recent memory:

I once had the idea of assembling a supergroup of all the annoying self-promoting second-and-third bananas in rock music culture who were riding on the coattails of someone more talented at the time but now take an inordinate amount of credit for things and basically try to pass themselves off as self-appointed spokesmen for their generation. The lineup could include:

Keyboards- Ray Manzarek

Drums- Dennis Love, Beach Boys (widely reviled, was conniving and underhanded in his dealings with Brian Wilson… plus made a pass at my friend’s sister once and then said, ‘You know who I am, don’t you?’ when rebuffed).

Vocals: Grace Slick? I don’t know enough about all the sordid intricacies of Jefferson Airplane to say for sure, but she seems like a good candidate.

Bass and guitar I’m still working on. Bass is a tough one, because bass players tend to be unassuming types. Noel Redding would have been absolutely perfect, but he’s by all accounts a super nice, humble guy, so that doesn’t work. Sting is a rare example of the outspoken jackass bass player, but he’s too much of the primary banana in his projects. Somewhere in between those two…


Lately I’m getting more and more emails that contain a quick line of conciliatory auto-blather at the bottom like this:

Is this a new “thing”? (Yes, I’m squinting and making quote-mark signs in the air right now). What could possibly be the value in this? Imagine extending this same convention to spoken conversation:

“Hey, I’m ordering food– you guys want anything? Please do not hesitate to ask me if there are any questions or queries regarding the preceding question.”

“No, Dan– we’re fine.”

“Alright, back in a few minutes then. Please do not hesitate to ask me if there are–”


Summer Babe

For all the bitching and kvetching that I do about Prague during the late winter, man it’s hard to beat this place in the spring and summer months. Above is the view this morning on the way to teach class at 8am. This week is part of the fortnightly stretch where god turns the color knob on the apple blossom trees to ‘fluffy pink’.

Speaking of improved weather, I was happy to discover yesterday that ‘summer’ produces the following unexpectedly solid playlist in my iTunes (as always, click for larger image):