Sunday, December 31, 2006

Certain Days are Better than Other Days (U2)

Language: Greek

Many, many years ago, I read something about Seasonal Affective Disorder, probably in some Christian self-help book belonging to my parents, and thought, wow, it would be kind of cool to know when life was going to suck ahead of time; I wonder if I have better and worse seasons like that too. And so I started keeping a diary, supplemented by ratings for each day on a zero to four scale.1

7,268 days later, I can pretty conclusively say that I don't have SAD. Or if I do, it's not winter SAD, at least (late spring to mid summer, April to July, seems to be the worst time for me). But even so, I can confirm that U2 is correct here. Some days are, in fact, better than other days.

And certain years, also, are better than other years. Which is the real motivation for doing this song at this time: 2006 is almost over, which means revising the spreadsheets again. And the above picture is more or less how things have been shaping up for me since 1987: high and red is good, low and blue is bad.

All the numbers are not yet in for 2006, obviously. But whatever today winds up being like, 2006 is still going to land about there on the graph: not as bad as 19972, but worse than everything else, even 2005, which wasn't exactly my best year either.

Will 2007 be an improvement? [shrug] Odds are. But then, that was also true last New Year's, and it didn't quite work out that way. So. Cross your fingers.


1 Originally this was a one-to-four scale; I went back years later and retroactively changed some days when it occurred to me that symmetry kind of demanded an odd number of possible rankings. Which is why it's zero to four instead of one to five. A similar historical-accident kind of thing made zero good and four bad, which is sort of the opposite of what everybody assumes and makes graphing marginally more complicated than it really had to be.

21997 was frakking miserable. 2005 and 2006 haven't actually seemed all that awful while in progress, but 1997 was a monster.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Certain days are lands, certain days are leaky;
certain days come clean, and other days are sneaky.
Certain days take less, but most take days --
a certain slipping via your fingers above the floor.

Certain days are fast, but most days are rapid;
certain days you use more force than is essential.
Some days fall on us precisely;
certain days are better than other days.

Certain days add above it all,
and you aren't taking enough. What
is better than certain other days?

Certain days are sleepy, other days untidy,
certain days you cannot stand to view the puppy.
They are better than your other skin.

Certain days you wake up complaining, with those.
Certain days are wetting sunny wishes.
Certain days are sulky, certain days have a grin,
and certain days have ruffians, and they will leave you inside.

Certain days hear your voice
in another place;
other days are certainly better than that.

Certain days are honest, certain days are not,
the days are grateful because you have that certainty.
Certain days, you wake up in the army,
and certain days it is an enemy.

She is working certain days; you are lazy, most days.
That baby is feeling certain days.
Looking for the Jesus, and the mother ,
it's better than what the others said. Certain days,
certain days, they are better than the other days.

Certain days hear your voice
in another place;
other days are certainly better than that.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Sweet Dreams of the Dreams (Make This) (Eurythmics)

Language: Russian

Ummmmkay. Well. So there's this guy, Peter Watts, who writes science fiction. And I wouldn't have found out about him, except that Pharyngula linked to a page of his a while back about vampires.

The page was a clever Power-Pointish presentation about vampire physiology, origins, etc., which is actually brilliant. Not brilliant so much for being well thought-out biologically (though it more or less is), but brilliant for matching the tone and style of this sort of scientific presentation. And I highly recommend watching it, because it's carefully thought-through and elaborate and tonally-perfect. Plus, some of us think physiology lectures are cool in and of themselves.

So, my interest piqued, I looked around his site at basically everything else, and decided, okay, this guy knows how to build worlds in a way that meets or exceeds my exacting standards, and he's got his novels on-line, for free, so what the hell, let's give him a chance and read the book even though science fiction isn't really, "Battlestar Galactica" notwithstanding, my thing.

So I read Blindsight, which is the book for which the Power Point presentation is relevant. And . . . I think a lot of the reason why I don't read much science fiction is that when I do, I'm always interested in the wrong things. Watts is wanting me to think about the nature of consciousness and alien intelligences and the shape and function of the ship, and I'm more interested in the mundane stuff. I want to have long, digressive conversations between crew members completely unrelated to the business at hand. I want the characters to be charming and funny and clever and, you know, personable2. Distinct. Which he does lay out, more than once, the way in which each character is different, physically and mentally, from a standard-issue twentieth-century person. But they all have a tendency to talk kind of the same way, and the characters never really progress beyond their functions on the ship: I know what they look like, and what their job is, but I'm never especially intimate with any of them except the narrator, and so by the time the carnage starts3, I don't feel particularly bad about any of the characters potentially dying: I've never made a connection with any of them, really, despite trying to the whole time I've been reading.

Which means I was a bad reader. Watts points to the breathtaking philosophical space opera taking place on the stage, and I'm back in the control room talking to the guy in charge of the lights about his pets, and where he grew up, and we're discovering that we had the same third-grade teacher, and I only look back at the stage when the explosions begin.

So, Mr. Watts, if you're reading this: it's not you, it's me. But we can still be friends --

I'd still recommend the book to people. Those more accustomed to science fiction as traditionally practiced will no doubt like Blindsight just fine. And in fairness, I think I have probably been somewhat ruined for reading sci-fi by all the sci-fi viewing I've done: this would possibly work just fine for me as a movie. I may yet try one of the other books, reading more slowly, to see if that helps. But so far, the Power Point is the best thing I've seen.


1"FizerPharm: Trust. Profit. Deniability.", e.g.

2Some of them are not un-charming, exactly. And the reader's way into the story is via a character that the others don't especially trust or like, so they don't have much reason to try to ingratiate themselves to him. Which means, they don't have much reason to try to ingratiate themselves to you, the reader, either. Which might be an unavoidable structural flaw.

3I think this can't count as a spoiler, because what sci-fi books don't have carnage?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

This will be made sweet:
is it necessary to contradict me?
Peace moves me, and seven seas –
each one is looking for something.
Some of them want to use you;
some of them, they want utilized by you.
To get some from them, they want to misuse you;
some of them, they want to be misused.

(You hold up your head,
you hold up your head;
moving further.)

Saturday, December 23, 2006

I Will be Domestic, for They Have Been Born (Bing Crosby)

Language: Italian

There's considerably more to this song, but I figured I didn't have to do all the lyrics if I didn't want to, especially if I was pretty sure I had never heard most of them.

I don't know if this was really written by Bing Crosby. Doubtful. But I'm a little pressed for time, and don't, frankly, really care all that much either.

The last couple days at work have been pretty miserable. People are mean, impatient, whiny, exceptionally stupid, rude, oblivious, demanding, short-fused, and just all-around miserable to be anywhere near, at this time of year, and I hate all of you. Yes, all of you.

Christmas can bite me.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I will be domestic, for they've been born;
You can count on me.
I pray it has snow and mistletoe,
and that the tree is present.

The will finds its eve: they've been born
where the love-light is tipsy.
I will be domestic, for they've been born,
if only in my dreams.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Saturn (Stevie Wonder)

Language: Russian

The last of the Planets Trilogy comes from Stevie Wonder, who is known to Babelfish as "Stevie Interest." At least, in Russian he is.

I don't know the original song, though, you know. It's Stevie Wonder. Probably the song is just fine. Of more interest to me at the moment are the lyrics here. I doubt Saturn's as hospitable as he says, but it's not like I wouldn't be willing to go check it out, on the off chance. 'Cause Earth mostly makes me sad.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Packing my bags, to go away
to the place where there's pure air, Saturn.
Will there be any feeling as we sit by people and observe them to die?
(Is this your road? What is war? We don't make our wars.)
We place all our things back
on Saturn.
Will anyone hold on to such feelings, and thereby make crimes?

Principles won't be in you; you speak
in any direction. You are the things which you make.
For your peace not to arrive soon,
all the large people learned about the end times.
Is it possible to purchase -- or sell -- truth and happiness, exactly?
Why are you people such cold ones? Say it to me.

I walk back to Saturn where everything incandesces in the ring:
rainbow, moonbeams and orange snow.
On Saturn, people
live in order to be 205!
Going back to Saturn, where people smile
(the reason we learned to fly automobiles
on Saturn)
in order to live exactly to our natural maximum.

They came here many times
earlier, to find your strategy: "war will be the peace."
Helplessly killing people, women and children:
they do not know they die for us. Even
they cannot trust you, when you assume
the gun and Bible in your hand, with
a cold expression. And your statements on
the side! "Give us our wants, or we will destroy."

I walk back to Saturn where everything incandesces in the ring:
rainbow, moonbeams and orange snow.
On Saturn, people
live in order to be 205!
Going back to Saturn, where people smile
(the reason we learned to fly automobiles
on Saturn)
in order to live exactly to our natural maximum.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Mongoloid (Devo)

Language: German

When I was very little, like pre-third grade, my family attended a little Lutheran church where one of the parishoners had a son about my age (I think slightly older) with Down's Syndrome. I remember being unclear about what this "Down's Syndrome" thing was all about: among other things, I had trouble figuring out whether it was desirable or undesirable, and I think there was also confusion about whether it was voluntary. Mainly I remember my Mom talking to people about it a lot, and being told that when this boy did stuff that I found annoying (I don't remember what things), I should just ignore it, or get away, or deal with it in some fashion other than getting angry.

Which is probably where the confusion about desirable / undesirable came from, actually.

And then there was some renewed confusion, later, when Mom put an aspirin bottle insert about Reye's syndrome up on the inside of the bathroom door. To my six- or seven-year-old mind, a syndrome was a syndrome, and so I quickly reached the conclusion that Eddie (this was the boy's name, Eddie) had come to be the way he was because he'd taken aspirin, and was scared to death of taking aspirin myself.

One hopes that Eddie's out there somewhere, bringing home the bacon, though I guess it's statistically unlikely.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Mongoloid, he was mongoloid,
which is luckier than you and I were.
Mongoloid, he was mongoloid
and it determined what could be seen.
Mongoloid, he was a mongoloid,
one chromosome too much.
Mongoloid, he was that mongoloid,
and it determined what could be seen.

And he carried a hat, and had a job,
and he got the bacon to the house,
so, didn't anybody know
that he was mongoloid? Mongoloid:
his friends notionless.
Mongoloid was, mongoloid he was,
nobody was even interested.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Butterfly Flies (Machines of Loving Grace)

Language: Portuguese

I don't know if this one counts as "pop" for our purposes or not. I pretty much never see anything about the Machines of Loving Grace anywhere anymore; I don't know what this means. Wikipedia says they broke up in 1997. But still. People still talk about Elastica from time to time, and they aren't the same band they used to be either.1

Anyway. So the actual song is some of your basic home-use kind of cynicism, dilute 10:1 with water for cleaning, do not mix with other attitudes, etc. Which when this song was current and popular and everything, was more or less the degree of cynicism I found appealing. Plus it's energetic and does the soft-loud-soft thing like everybody did in the 90s, and I like the electronic stuff, and it's pretty tightly-produced, so, you know, whatever.

In the years since, cynicism has continued to be appealing to me, mainly because the main alternative is so obviously wrong2. And I don't think it's wrong or bad or depressing to stop and consider, every once in a while, whether one is expecting too much from other people. But even so. I'm mellowing out in my old age, I guess, what with having found a husband I trust. And it's not unpleasant.


1Wikipedia says a band of that name still exists, but the line-up hasn't been the original one since 1997.

2Like, maybe if you dance like nobody's watching, you're pretty much guaranteeing that everybody's going to be watching. If you love like you've never been hurt, then you're loving in the exact same way that got you hurt previously -- this seem smart to you? Small groups of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world for the better, true, but it does not necessarily follow that every group of same actually does change the world, or that it's for the better if they do. Sometimes, God actually does give a person more to cope with than they can bear, and then they go crazy or kill themselves or do awful things to other people. Etc.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

You cannot place the faith in material things:
the material things, they will fail you.
A hurricane provoked a butterfly; the wings of
its conspirators are betrayed.

Don't you put the faith in human beings:
human beings are the unreliable ones.
Don't place faith in human beings,
of human beings, or in the wing of the butterfly.

You cannot place faith in a new regimen of
fascists; that will kill the faith.
A hurricane provoked a butterfly; the wings of
its conspirators are betrayed.


I know that that deep interior burning has something.
That has something, inside of this puncture.

(Today I will pursue the dragon into the night
for its fruits: you'll know them.)

Don't place the faith,
don't place the faith.
When I, myself, decide to live in my mind,
the heart dies.
The superior mothers in the sky --
the heart dies,
the data of the heart dies.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Pluto (Bjork)

Language: French

Well okay. Um. Switching over to the new improved super-duper fantastico version of Blogger, which means lots of rearrangement of things and cleaning-up of spreadsheets and so forth. This seemed like an appropriate song for that.

Speculation on the internet is that this song is about getting drunk. There are some good arguments to be made for this. On the other hand, the video leads me to different conclusions. I don't know what the video is, you know, about, but I know it's a little disturbing.

Bjork always has the best videos.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Excuse me,
but I just must
burst --
burst this body
in addition to an ego.

Oooooh (x4)

I'm new,
tomorrow will
be a little tired, but new.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Brides of Neptune (Cracker)

Language: German

Hi all. I know I've been slacking. Really it's just that various other hobbies are competing for my time, most notably the houseplant hobby / obsession. I'm sure it will get better eventually, but in the meantime, I have to say that it is nice to have some green things around, as the weather gets colder. Possibly I don't need seventy-seven green things. But still.

Meanwhile, there are a couple new items I'd like to direct your attention to, in the links: The Misadventures of Hello Cthulhu, though it seems to be, like Babelpop!, somewhat sporadically updated, is charming and funny and downright adorable and you should check it out as soon as possible. Unless you already knew about it. In which case, you should check it out whenever you get around to it.

The other one is Shemp Duchamp's "This is the New That." It's a lot easier to just go and look at it and figure out what it is than it is to continue reading my attempt to explain it, but it's basically a listing of the various combinations of the "The New Black" snowclone. I don't know how Shemp finds them, but in any case, it's sort of disorientingly amusing, or amusingly disorienting, to read through them.

Oh, and, I Babelfished a song, too.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

She says that this is my film;
thus, you will do what I explain to you.
In Bali, she mixes up a gift –
you keep a hunted ape.

Brides of the cross, and Neptune's water,
get us your sons, and get your daughters for them.
I don't leave thee deep in the blue sea;
I'll take you to the house.

I tried to date one first;
she buys the first assistant's pot.
This mysterious charge
is still protected by apes.

[a x 4]

The brides of Neptune,
the brides of Neptune,

the brides of Neptune,
protected by the apes.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Alison (Elvis Costello)

Language: Russian

Sorry. I've been slacking a bit lately.

I have two dreadful secrets to confess along with this song: one, I actually like Jay McInerney.1 Which this song gets quoted in Story of My Life, is why the association, and the main character's name there is Allison.

Two, I actually like the show "Medium." (lately on NBC Wednesdays at 8 PM Central) Which is not like me. I mean, it's yet another cop show2, which is bad, but it gets around this most of the time by trying to be an entirely different cop show every week (the "Monkeyheads" episode blew me away, as did the one where Allison gets "I Will Survive" stuck in her head), plus there's some really well-imagined stuff in there about how being a crime psychic would effect one's home life. Some marvelously-written arguments, funny bits, TV children who have personalities: it's a well-written show about a completely absurd premise3. Much like "Buffy: the Vampire Slayer." Or "Dead Like Me." Or "Veronica Mars." Or etc. I think "Medium" has actually bumped off "House" for a spot in my top five current TV shows.4


1Or at least I like some Jay McInerney. His earlier stuff, though I could do without Ransom. Bright Lights, Big City is really good, Michael J. Fox movie or no, and Story of My Life is probably even better than that. I re-read BLBC and SOML semi-regularly. Whether I still like Jay McInerney as an oeuvre or not, I don't know. And I never knew whether I liked him personally, of course, but I always suspected that I didn't.

2I liked "CSI" when I first saw it. Hell, I even liked "CSI: Miami" and "CSI: New York" to some degree or another. But, first, somebody needs to sit down the executives at CBS and read them the story of the goose that laid golden eggs, 'cause I think they've missed the point. And second, the longer these have gone on, the more bizarre and gruesome they have to be to "top" what prior episodes have done, and at some point it's just like, you think to yourself, well, I could watch several people be horribly tortured, mutilated and killed for the sake of that bit of relief at the end of the show when justice is served, or I could watch a "Blossom" marathon.

3No, I do not believe in psychics.

4It's a competitive field, with "Dead Like Me," "Battlestar Galactica," "Medium," "Lost," "Metalocalypse," "Robot Chicken," "Veronica Mars," "Eureka," "House," and "The Office" all competing from week to week. Fortunately, several of these are bound to be on hiatus or in repeats at any given time, so there are only ever about five real contenders anyway.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Oh, girl, it's so funny to see you afterward, so "in order."
You understood the road with me, and you look
unimpressed. That's you.
But I heard that you prevented my small friend
from taking off your party dress.
I am not too sentimental to get
those valentines sticky, as others are.
I don't know if you're loving someone, which is the reason
I know this won't only be mine.

Alison, I know this peace will be killing you.
Oh truly, Alison is my purpose.

See that you obtain a husband now. Kindly
leave your dear fingers lying in the wedding cake. (She did?)
You used to hold them correctly in your hand.
I bet you accepted everything; I was what you could accept.
Sometimes I desire that I could stop you from speaking,
when I hear you speaking silly things.
I think someone outside high society assumed that's better: more to
reason, it's what I can't stand. You saw that road.

Alison, I know this peace will be killing you.
Oh truly, Alison is my purpose.
Truly my purpose.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (Hugh Martin, Ralph Blane)

Esther asks Tootie where Willis isLanguage: Greek

Wikipedia has an entry on all the drafts this song went through, with an eyebrow raisingly dark
“early draft”, (1) complete with Old Testament God threatening to muck things up for you and an “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” caliber opener: “Have yourself a merry little Christmas / It may be your last.”

Heartening, then, to see the “Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow” in the original Meet Me in St. Louis version, always my favorite line, and which omission and replacement by that “hang a shining star” nonsense I can now blame on Frank Sinatra.

All that said, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Jim Nabors
“shining star” version, and not because of “make the yuletide gay,” either (as I am no longer in junior high, NB), but because he holds out the word “bough” at the end for like nine measures but doesn’t actually resolve the word, so it comes out like, “Hang a shining star upon the highest baaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh.”

Also, when the song is over, I do my famous-in-some-circles Sergeant Carter impression and go, “Merry Christmas, Pyle.”

If you call me, I’ll do it for you, but until then you’ll have to muddle through somehow.

- Samanth.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Himself has one cheerful few Christmas.
You leave your heart to be light.
The following year, all our problems will be from the view.

Himself has one cheerful few Christmas.
It makes the homosexual yuletide.
It’s the following year that all our problems will be miles along.

Other time as in the old,
Golden days of dance floors,
Of friends of past that were dear in us.
Will neighbor be in us, still, a time?

Someday shortly all we will be together, if the fates allow.
Up to then, it will be supposed, we tangle somehow.
Thus, himself has one cheerful few Christmas now.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

(1) Update, a year later, almost to the day: the Wikipedia article has been Wikipedia'd into near-pointlessness, and I don't feel like fixing it right now. Interested parties are advised to read There's Something About Merry on the Entertainment Weekly site, which being almost a year old itself hopefully is here to stick around a bit. -SM

Friday, December 01, 2006

Rudolph, the Red-Smelled Reindeer (Gene Autry)

Language: French

So let's get seasonal already.

The store where I'm working switched over to Christmas music a week or so before Thanksgiving. I've never understood why people think that shoppers want to hear Christmas music at Christmas time in the first place, personally: it's one thing if you're listening to it because you want to listen to it, like if you throw on the Muppets Christmas album and get really stoned and make a night out of Miss Piggy singing "Fiiiiiiiiiiive! Golden! Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiings!" and eating potato chips. But it's something else to be subjected to it everywhere you go, with no escape, and this is particularly obnoxious for employees in such places. I am not, personally, down with the whole Baby Jesus thing. Even if I were, I am not a big fan of the music that goes along with the whole Baby Jesus thing. I like "Angels We Have Heard on High." I used to like "Silver Bells." And that's about it.

To make it worse, the songs we're hearing over and over again aren't standard versions of the songs: a few of them are, but mostly they're popped-up versions sung by famous people (I'm pretty sure I heard Cyndi Lauper a few weeks ago, though she's not resurfaced, so maybe I'm mistaken.). So it takes a little while for my brain to identify the songs as being Christmas music, but that doesn't help as much as you'd think it would, because my brain treats it like a game and actually focuses on the songs to some extent now. I get them stuck in my head, too. The Elvis Presley version of "Silver Bells" was in my head for hours last Friday after I left work. Nobody needs that.

Which, every co-worker seems to have his or her own personal bane. Mine is either Peggy Lee / "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" or an unknown song that sounds like maybe the Jackson 5. It's not one of the traditional Christmas songs: so far all I've been able to make out is the super-repetitive and earnest-sounding chorus, "it's going to be a VERy SPECial CHRISTmas, a VERy SPECial CHRISTmas." One of my co-workers is particularly tormented by the standard version of "Frosty the Snowman." Another co-worker reserves her special hatred for something she describes as "Burl Ives, set to techno," which I have no idea what she's talking about but it does sound truly dreadful.

It's worth noting, if there are any store owners reading this, that I have not heard one positive comment yet from any customers about the presence of the Christmas music. A few have commented negatively. Most seem not to notice. So if you decide to play Christmas music round the clock, keep in mind that mostly what you're doing is making your employees, and a few customers, mad at you. Nobody else gives a damn. People do like Christmas lights, though.

Anyway. So. Let's get seasonal, seasonal. I wanna get seasonal. Lemme hear your lobbies pop, your lobbies pop. Etc.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Rudolph, the red-smelled reindeer
had a very shiny nose.
And if you never see it,
you would even say that it is luminous.

All of the other reindeer
called him names, for the laughter, and
they never let poor Rudolph
join any reindeer play.

Then, one misty Christmas
took care of Santa. He came to indicate:
"Rudolph with your so-luminous nose,
don't you guide my sledge this evening?"

Then, all the reindeer liked it
while they shouted outside with joy,
"Rudolph the red-smelled reindeer,
the history will enter you downwards!"