We’ve got mail for you


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The best-laid schemes of mice and men

First, make a plan

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Before Photoshop…

…there was Gil Elvgren, the king of pin-ups. And just like Photoshop, he didn’t always succeed in making girls prettier: Gil Elvgren’s Real Life References.

Another bit of Laurie

It’s like chocolate and bacon. No, it’s like kittens and boobs. No, it’s like Grannies and Obama. Anyway, it’s one very good thing combined with another. It’s Hugh Laurie and the Blues!

The album, “Let Them Talk”, will be released in May – here’s one of the songs to look forward to:

I wonder whether this will also be on it:

Music: meh.

The BBC lets you assess your musicality in a quite extensive test (Registration required). It was fun but my results are a bit strange:

I got 98% in “Musical Perception” even though I got all of the genre matching snippets wrong. I mean, literally all of them. 15 out of 18 in the “match the beat” section and moderate results in the “tap the beat” test. 12/12 in melody memory was enough to still arrive at 98% overall…so I guess everybody who’s not deaf is a Beethoven for the BBC. Very nice of them.

Now for the bad part of the test: my “emotional connection”, “enthusiasm” and “curiosity” scores are dismal – 1%, 1% and 2%, respectively. Doesn’t that sound terrible? I have to admit it’s true, I just don’t like music that much. I love my Christmas present though.

(I wonder whether there are people who get the reverse – 1% in perception, 99% in enthusiasm. They are probably very lonely. UPDATE: I think I found one!)

Choo chooooo!

Their rail system may not live up to European standards, but boy, Americans really are obsessed with trains. You know what causes this love? It’s not an extensive network, it’s not high speed, it’s not accurate timing, it’s not working A/Cs, it’s: Horns, or, to use the technical term, choo choooo! Listen to this Amtrak train passing trough Oakland on its way to or from Berkeley. We can hear them every day where we live. In fact, I can hear one right now!

There’s a whole genre of American music that consists of train imitation. Start out with this very simple, very skilfull example from 1926 –  if you’re DeFord Bailey, you don’t need more than a harp:

Choo-choo and rhythm can be done in many different ways, here’s some of my favorites:

Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues is missing the Choo-choo, but it has great rhythm and gangsta lyrics to make up for that (“I shot a man in Reno / Just to watch him die”). Can you imagine this train stopping because there’s some ice or snow on the tracks? I don’t think so! Johnny Cash really Had a Thing About Trains, liked Riding The Rail, wanted you to Come Along And Ride This Train,  whether it’s the Bible Train or the Orange Blossom Special (that one is a typical imitation including choo and rhythm) – and finished it up with the very sad Let The Train Blow Her Whistle.

I also like the Mystery Train:

Bob Dylan’s wonderful version of the Freight Train Blues:

And the Chattanooga Choo Choo:

Wikipedia offers this extensive (but not complete) list of train songs. It’s missing the only German train song that I can think of (maybe for the better)…the other one is of course a cover version of the aforementioned Chattanooga. The lack of train music is probably due to the fact that German trains don’t choo-chooo. Maybe the Deutsche Bahn should invest in some decent horns?

Fry and Laurie, reunited

Head of The State

In honor of my upcoming visit to Warshingten (that’s how they pronounce it on NPR!), here’s a West Coast original:

hard in the paint: To approach a problem, obstacle, or challenge with supreme confidence of success through a commitment to use all facilities available to one’s self to achieve a goal. The term has etymological roots in the basketball parlance that describes an attempt to score in the crowded and highly contested area directly under and immediately adjacent to the raised hoop on a basketball court, or “painted” area. Shot attempts in this area are traditionally only successful when made with a strong conviction to score, skill, overpowering strength, or a combination thereof (i.d. “going hard”). (Urban Dictionary)

Cue the East Coast copy:

Both definitely NSFW and possibly offensive. Context. More context.

This is why I love YouTube:

“After tramping 70km through Nki National Park in the congo basin rainforest in Cameroon, we stayed the night at the Baka pygmy village on the outskirts of the park. One of villagers, Pierre, was our guide. The next day they performed some traditional music for me. They were infatuated with the videos i took. It was an amazing experience…..To get to this village (…) required a two day squishy hot bus trip then a 5 hour drive in a landrover. We had to hire someone just to chainsaw through the trees that constantly fall across the small road.”


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