Thursday, November 29, 2007

OPB Sucks

Longtime readers may remember last summer's sparkling, insightful analysis of how public radio sucks. In that article, I shared this constructive criticism of my hometown affiliate, Oregon Public Broadcasting:
Many individual public radio stations produce solid local content, or curate unusual or interesting content. I happen to listen, for my sins, to Oregon Public Broadcasting, which does neither well and thus especially sucks.
Fellow residents of the Beaver State naturally rose up with one voice to defend their own. Except that they didn't. "OPB does suck absolute balls," observed MyDogIsChelsea. "It's truly inexcusable. I don't even know why they bother."

Now, perhaps some of you out there in Blogland, particularly those of you who don't endure OPB on a daily basis, are thinking "Gosh, M5K and MyDog are just smug little radio snobs. I'm sure that this Oregon Public Broadcasting is a fine institution. They should just chill."

Well, here's the OPB monthly newsletter that arrived here at Castle5000 yesterday:

Case closed.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Thursday Quiz XIII

Call the Men of Science! It's

The (perhaps rather difficult) Thursday Quiz!

The Thursday Quiz is, as always, a "Is It or Isn't It" game. From the list of twelve items, your job is to determine whether each IS or ISN'T a true example of the week's category.

Remember always the most fundamental rule of the cosmos:

No research, Googling, Wikiing, or use of reference books. The Thursday Quiz is a POP quiz. Violators will have their names erased by fire from the great Book of Days.
This Week's Category will get your feet back on the ground!

The Laws of Physics

There are surprisingly few basic physical laws of the universe. Some of the following are among those laws. The others are gibberish.

1. Bacon's Dictum: An object in motion will tend to increase in temperature proportionally to its rate of acceleration.

2. Boyle's Law: For a fixed amount of gas kept at a fixed temperature, pressure and volume are inversely proportional.

3. Conservation of Energy: The total amount of energy in any closed system remains constant, although it may change forms.

4. Einstein's Theory of Relativity: The speed of light changes relative to the position, direction, and velocity of the observer.

5. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle: Measurements of position and momentum taken in several identical copies of a system in a given state will each vary according to a probability distribution characteristic of the system's state.

6. Kepler's First Law of Planetary Motion: The orbit of every planet is an ellipse with the sun at one of the foci.

7. Newton's First Law of Motion: An object will remain at rest, or will continue to move at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by a force.

8. Newton's Second Law of Motion: Acceleration is determined solely by the force acting on an object, and is not related to its mass.

9. Newton's Third Law of Motion: For every force acting on an object, the object will exert an equal, yet opposite, force.

10. Newton's Theory of Universal Gravitation: Every mass attracts every other mass by a force proportional to the product of the two masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.

11. Plank's Formula: Decay of mass is proportional to the square of the amount of radiation energy focused upon it.

12. Second Law of Thermodynamics: The entropy of an system will tend to increase over time.

Submit your answers in the only fashion allowed by the matrix within which we operate. Then, have a fabulous Thursday.

The Crisis of the Satisfied

This is not exactly a fresh observation, but like many people I am having a hard time in recent years producing the annual Christmas wish list. My family practices a vigorous -- some might say "excessive" -- Christmas gift exchange, and of course it is only fair to give people an idea of what might be appreciated. The problem, of course, is that we've all reached enough of a comfortable level of grown-up success that when we want something in the reasonable $20-$80 gift range, we generally just buy it. In other words, shy of such big-ticket items as "a canoe and a place to store it" or "to live free of a mortgage," I've pretty much got everything I want. Which is great! Don't get me wrong! But this list....

Books aren't bad, I guess. Coffee table books, anyway. Regular old books for reading, I can just get from the library anyway, though, so what's the point.

Music used to be a big wish list item, but now if I want a recording I just get it. Time to appreciate music is a bigger bottleneck than money to purchase it.

Clothes... well, I really prefer to dress myself, is the thing.

Yard and home improvement tools... I pretty much already have all of those.

Really cool old stuff dug up at some estate sale or thrift shop? Sure, that's probably the best. But how do you put that on a list?

So, here's my plea to you the reader: can you suggest anything I might want? Any new gadget that will make my life easier, or more importantly more fun? Any must-have work of art, literature, or bric-a-brac that would make me happier? Help me out.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Little Shameless Provincialism

Like many cities, Portland is sometimes claimed to have the highest suicide rate in the U.S., and as with most of those other cities the claim is bogus. (That kind of data is only aggregated at the state level anyway, but since you are asking: Alaska. Far and away.)

Still, when you are entering the darkest two months of the year and our trademarked sullen clouds are banked from here to the four green-grey horizons, it's not a hard story to believe.

So it's mostly to lift my own spirits, and only secondarily to bait the readership, that today I'm going on a provincial spree. It's the Truth as I see it. It's michael5000's five favorite things about Portland. Not necessarily the MOST favorite. Just five that come to mind.

1. The Outdoors Thing. Five months out of the year, Portland lures you outdoors with leaf-dappled sunlight, warm breezes, gentle sunshine, gloriously long days, and short warm nights. You are firmly encouraged to develop your outdoors interests, be it hiking or kayaking or cycling or, I don't know, ultimate frisbee or something. Plus, there's lots of outdoors to get out in. Walkable neighborhoods, big parks, and a huge variety of town, rural, and natural environments within an hour's drive all beckon you out of your room. It makes for a population that is, on balance, in slightly better shape, has a little more spring in its step, and has a kind of wholesomeness that comes from frequent exposure to big trees and running water.

2. The Indoors Thing. Five months out of the year, Portland politely suggests you retreat indoors from short, grey days and cool, wet nights. It doesn't ever really GET cold, but it FEELS cold, and so you pretty much need to get an indoor hobby. It engenders a city of coffee shops, of alternative movie theaters, of rock clubs, and of a performing arts scene disproportionate to the population. Portlanders spend the winter on the creative arts, making stuff and doing stuff, or reading books from our outstanding public library or our legendary bookstore. It makes for a population that is, on balance, a little better-read, a little quirkier and a little more creative, and has a little bit of the manic energy you would expect from survivors of chronic cabin fever. It's cool.

3. The Garden Thing. Primo soil, sun-drenched summers, and mild winters combine to make Portland a town where the challenge is not getting something to grow -- it's keeping your plants under control. But if they get away from you, no big deal. You can just plow everything under and start again. It makes people neighborly. Also, it makes things purty.

4. Bridges. It's fun just to list 'em. The green cathedral of St. John's in the north; then, the soaring, silver-arched Fremont; the pragmatic rust-red Broadway; the squat, gothic Steel; the flat, wide functionality of the Burnside; the machine-age Morrison; the Hawthorne, a sweet Norman Rockwell painting of a bridge; the Marquam, that much maligned ribbon in the sky: the high, spindly Ross Island clad in baby blue; and in the south the ricketty, narrow death trap of the Sellwood.

[edit: check out today's Wikipedia picture of the day!]

5. Houses. People in Portland love old houses, and so does the state planning code. Do we still have bland hateful sprawl out on the edges? Sure we do. But also have vital, thriving neighborhoods in the city's heart. You know what people call "inner-city problems" in Portland? Gentrification, that's what. And if you are going to have a problem....

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Portland, Oregon, or Portland, Maine?
A: Give me a goddam break.

Q: You said "five months" and "five months."
A: The other two months are transitional.

Q: The things that you have mentioned do not interest me.
A: I should have said, we now have more breweries than any other city in the world.

Q: Gardening? Isn't that just for little old ladies?
A: Not in Portland. In Portland you could put your big dog in the back of your big truck after a full morning of snowboarding, listen to loud indie rock all the way back to town, watch a football game at a brew pub, and then go home and tend your roses. It's cool.

Q: Could I watch a basketball game, instead?
A: Of course.

Q: What about baseball?
A: We're not so much into that.

Q: How dare you minimize the horrors of gentrification!
A: On the whole, I feel that gentrification is a positive social force. This goes beyond its obvious and profound benefits for a city's basic housing stock. Gentrification usually acts to diffuse poverty through a wide area, and prevents any given part of a city from becoming a chronically impovershed poverty trap for everyone who lives there. It encourages investment in low-income neighborhoods. The idea that it breaks up community networks of support was always pretty specious, and more so now that communication costs are approaching zero. Sure, nobody wants to lose the lease on their place. It's a real drag. But foes of gentrification want to make their sentimentality into your social issue.

Q: You sound defensive.
A: Nah. It's just a different way of thinking about things than most people are used to.

Q: Do you realize that Seattle is not a part of Portland?
A: Oh, it's you again.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Monday Quiz IV


1. Where is this?

2. What country is this?

3. What country is this?

4. What country is this?

5. What's the basic pattern shown here?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Weekend Notebook

Isn't Football a Fun Game?

Would any of you college football fans care to know what it feels like to go, in a week, from national title contention to -- I am not making this up -- having your fourth-string quarterback brought off the field with an injury?

No, I thought you wouldn't.

Eh, it could be worse. I could be one of the quarterbacks.

How's Your Health?

Six days later, I seem to be out of the woods.

Mrs.5000, however, is a different story. She spent much of the morning engrossed in the book shown at right. This afternoon, she took to bed and has been sleeping fitfully with a low grade fever.

Since she is not a football fan, I suspect that her illness is of occult origin. If any of you old X-Files fans have any advice for me, I'm listening.

Turning to Sports...

Before Mrs.5000's mind was captured by the mysteries of The Great Pyramid, we played a game of Scrabble last night in which we combined for 820 points. 423 - 397. That's got to be some kind of record, for us anyway. In fact, I know it is, since I, um, keep meticulous records. But you could have already guessed this about me.

Online Music....

Pandora added a classical library this week to their free online music service! And it is surprisingly broad and quirky. I'm in music-streaming heaven. With the station-mixing feature, I can get consecutive selections from my stations that specialize in the various rock musics, plus electronica, old country, soul, hiphop, folk.... and now string quartets, concerti, symphonies, etc. It's like the radio station I've always dreamed of. Bliss!

Comments on Comments

Comments from The Favorite Bands, 2007

OK, I've made it my business to bring home the music that a few of you suggested, such as additional Andrew Bird, Art Brut, Voxtrot, etc. The verdict -- too early to tell. It takes me a long time to assimilate stuff, these days. I'm sure I'll love it by the time everyone else has forgotten about it.

I'm afraid I still like Mike Doughty.

Comments from The Monday Quiz III

There has been a bit of a dust-up on the topic of just how darn easy The Monday Quiz III was. Anyone who doesn't know about the Sistine Chapel, it was argued, is either still in elementary school or has lived in a cave all their life.

Don't get me wrong, the Sistine Chapel was an intentional near-gimme. But, since I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have recognized the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel -- or any other painting outside of The Last Supper and The Mona Lisa -- at my graduation from high school, I thought this might be overstated.

Now me, I had a fairly minimal basic education. Niece #3, on the other hand, recently graduated from one of the best elementary schools in Washington state, and she won something like four of six of their "Most Annoyingly Bright Student" awards. Sent the Sistine Chapel image from Monday, she was asked to identify it, its location, and painter. Her response was: I don’t know the answers to any of your questions, but my mom does. She is being most infernal, and isn’t telling me them.

I have not yet been able to find a cave hermit so that I can complete this investigation.

Comments from Do The Collapse

To address fingerstothebone's forcefully stated concerns, here's Yoyo the LOLcat!!!

Comments on The Great Movies: All About Eve

I got some love for my recent Guided By Voices content, and that inspired me to upload the scruffy little cover of "Fair Touching" that I made to test out my new concertina last spring. Listen with love in your heart, as it is but a junky home recording. Also, I do not know how to play concertina.

Here it is. It made me sad I haven't been doing any home recording recently. Too much time blogging, I suppose.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Great Movies: "All About Eve"

At the Movies with Michael5000

Curious about "The Great Movies" concept? Look here.


All About Eve
Joseph Mankiewicz (1950)

Frankly, All About Eve seems more of a good movie than a great movie. I say this with fear in my heart, though. All About Eve is famous (among old movie people) for its crackling wit and its devastating sly humor. I have seen it described as "the smartest movie ever made." This raises a question of terrifying implications: What if I missed the best jokes? What if this movie is too smart for a lummox like me to fully appreciate?

Well, it's certainly possible. Roger Ebert is a lot smarter, and knows a hell of a lot more about movies, than me. But it's my blog. Me, I admired the assured skills of a primo cast who seem to be enjoying their work. They got off some great lines. The ending, as well as the entire premise, effectively combined that particular American dream of a young person seeking celebrity with a mild horror-movie creepiness. And if the film all but offers up its own feminist critique, I'm disinclined to scold a 60 year old movie for social backwardness. Basically, you've got a very solid film here. One of The Good Movies.

Plot: A Broadway star befriends a wide-eyed girl from the country, who then embarks on a cold-blooded attempt to commandeer her life. Hijinks ensue. People say lots of witty things and, as in real life, are very funny when they are drunk.

Dialogue: Sparkling, in that mannered way of actors from the black-and-white era, when everyone sounded like they just got back from three years in England and were feeling frightfully earnest.

Visuals: There are a few exceptionally well-composed scenes. The two that involve young women trying on their idols' dresses are particularly memorable; the dresses all but become characters for the length of the scene.

Prognosis: Recommended for people who like old movies, are into "the Theater," or who think Bette Davis is awesome. She really is something, in this movie.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Do the Collapse

So, a weird thing happened last night. I collapsed. Or fainted. I'm not sure which word is better. I get grief either way.

Michael5000: I fainted a couple of times last night. It was kind of scary.
Mrs. ChuckDaddy: You WHAT? You FAINTED? What are you, a Victorian woman? Was your corset too tight?

Michael5000: I collapsed a couple of times last night. It was kind of scary.
Heatherbee: What do you mean? You fainted?
Michael 5000: Yeah, I guess so.
Heatherbee: So women "faint," but men "collapse." Hmph.

So, yeah, I wake up in the middle of the night to take a leak, and then I feel kind of queasy, and then I'm laying on my back in a lake of cat water and cat crunchies and everything that I dragged off the bathroom shelves on the way down. So, that was kind of trippy. Mrs.5000, showing up immediately afterwards, was treated to the sight of me getting to my feet, getting out half of a sentence, and then doing a face plant on the hallway floor.

It all sounds very dramatic, and we didn't hesitate to hie my ass to the emergency room, but it turns out that this kind of thing happens all the damn time. "I get an average of one of these a night," said the kindly ER doc. "It happens to a lot of people, but you probably shouldn't have to worry about it happening again." (and, lest this sound kind of perfunctory, I should say that it was after a couple hours of observation and bloodwork to rule out the shittier causes of fainting).

Nothing like a good collapse, though, to make you feel OLD OLD OLD!!! At least it wasn't a hip.

I thought about y'all when I was at the hospital. I thought, "It's a shame that Mrs.5000 didn't take the time to pack a camera. A picture of my hooked up to the IV would really give a blog post about this a snappy edge."

(I should maybe clarify that Mrs. ChuckDaddy and Heatherbee are AWESOME friends and were making me laugh pretty hard in the above conversations. They are the furthest thing from jerks.)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Monday Quiz III

Famous Paintings

1. Who painted this?

2. Where is this painting located?

3. Who created this piece?

4. What is the name of this triptych?

5. Can you give me either the painter or approximate title of either of these paintings?

OK, then. Answers in a comment, of course.

Note: The Thursday Quiz will not be held this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Favorite Bands 2007, part two

My "Penultimate Ten" Favorite Bands were covered last Friday.

The Top Ten!

...favorite bands of michael5000, at this particular point in time. Here goes.

Blue Scholars -- Representin' hip-hop on The Top Ten, Blue Scholars hail from the far northern edge of Greater Portland, a suburb called "Seattle." Hands down the smartest raps I've heard, incorporating a horn section over the beats for a fine, fine melodic complexity.

the Books -- Brainy duo from one of those big East Coast cities scrounge around for old reel to reel tapes, home movies, and other sources of thrift-shop found sounds. Put together with beats and electronically modified cello and guitar, it becomes not only trippy and (often) beautiful and interesting, but downright MUSICAL. Which is good, with music.

the Decemberists -- Critics of the Decemberists might argue that mock Edwardian ballads, lyrics that anticipate the "FreeRice" phenomenon, and prolific use of accordian and hurdy-gurdy are BAD things. But they are wrong. The Decemberists ouvre is music by, for, and about dorks, and we all know that dork is the new cool.

Mike Doughty -- Why is Mike Doughty not a household name? It's not like he's pitching to a niche audience. His music is pretty much strightahead rock, albeit with enough melodic and rhythmic inventiveness to keep it highly interesting. Acessible to the masses and the cogniscenti alike. The lyrics are very high in smartitude, which I'm sure you've gathered is big for me. "Haughty Melodic" is one of the best albums ever. Check out a live recording if you can find one; the man dishes out some AWESOME stage patter.

Earlimart -- Earlimart is all about making interesting sounds and noises; music is sonic by definition, but with Earlimart you are always in the presence of experiments in sound. It has been exciting to watch the songs that the sounds are attached to get stronger and more fully realized with each record. On a good day, Earlimart sounds like redemption. (Here's a brief concert write-up from September.)

Jim's Big Ego -- The best introduction to JBE might be the way I originally bumped into them -- an old "All Things Considered" piece on internet music distribution. Three talented, smart, funny guys from Boston make smart, funny, and sometimes surprisingly touching songs. It's you basic drums/guitar/bass lineup, but the drumming is SCORCHING funky, and that has made all the difference.

Mountain Goats -- If you don't know about the Mountain Goats, GO! Now! Find a copy of the Sunset Tree! Stop Reading! Now!

If you know about the Mountain Goats and don't think they belong on a top ten list, there's no much I could say to convince you.

If you are reading this thinking, "Yeah! I love the Mountain Goats!" I suggest you go put on some Mountain Goats. Why not make your day better?

Jennifer O'Connor -- Her record "Over the Mountain, Across the Valley and Back to the Stars" came out of nowhere and kicked my ass. I know nothing about this girl, except that I fell in love with her album at first listen. It's a rare and beautiful thing. Smart lyrics and life and loss and relationships and such, but in a good way, with a smoky voice, an aggressive acoustic guitar, and a drum kit that sounds like rifle fire.

Rilo Kiley -- Smart, sexy, dark, funky, spare, grim, lush, cryptic, vulnerable, weird, and, how to put it: rockin'. The non plus ultra of Los Angeles rock. (Here's a brief concert write-up from September.)

The Thermals -- The second smartest band in Rock City Portland marry an aggressive garage punk with some of the most eloquent lyrics currently out there. These meditations on religion and culture can be hard to hear under all of the sheer noise (not to mention the stoopid title of their second album, "Fuckin' A"). The band seems to be moving towards a less abrasive attack and a slightly cleaner – though not TOO much cleaner – production, putting the songs themselves front and center, where they can more than take care of themselves.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

L&TM5K at 100

It's the 100th post!!!

In celebration of this TOTALLY auspicious occasion, The Life and Times of Michael5000 will be giving away -- that's right, GIVING AWAY -- an appropriate prize!!!

Well, no. Not THAT appropriate. Actually, what I'll be giving away is TRIPLE THE LOVE.

That's right. For everyone who comments on this post before 6 p.m. PST Friday, I will leave THREE comments on your blog within the next two weeks. And not crappy little "nice post!" comments, either. No way. I'll be giving real comments, and they are going to be upbeat, encouraging, and insightful.

Q: You already comment on my blog, all the time. The last thing I want is to encourage you.
A: No problem! You may optionally request I stay off your blog for two weeks, instead!

Q: This is the first time I've ever looked at your blog, and it's totally stupid and I'm never coming back again.
A: No problem! Triple the love!

Q: I don't even have a blog.
A: If you start a blog in the future, simply remind me that you left a comment during this promotion. I will deliver three comments to your fledgling blog when it needs them most!

Q: You totally stole this idea.
A: True! But I can't remember who from.

Offer good on one comment per participant. Tell your friends! Tell your neighbors! Tell your lonely blog friends who yearn for higher comment counts!


Meanwhile, we've got

Our Gold Star winner this week is collecting her first star ever, which will look good with the MQII exclamation point in her trophy case. No doubt she'll dedicate this win to her Shakespeare prof. From the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, our champion this week is Allie!

From beautiful Portland, Oregon, City of Roses, a quiz regular since the beginning, she'll kick your ass on the ultimate frisbee field or on the Scrabble board, and she is going home with her first Silver Star this week: MyDogIs Chelsea!

From postindustrial upstate New York, a man who needs very little introduction, the 166th greatest crossword puzzle solver in the universe and The Man To Beat in the Thursday Quiz, Rex Parker takes the Blue Star.

And, representing the three very same places, albeit in a different order, we have no fewer than three Green Stars going out this week, to Mrs. 5000, Sandy, and Jessica.

Congrats all around!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Thursday Quiz XII

Hail, Calliope! It's

The Thursday Quiz!

The Thursday Quiz is, as always, a "Is It or Isn't It" game. From the list of twelve items, your job is to determine whether each IS or ISN'T a true example of the week's category.

Remember always what makes us human:

No research, Googling, Wikiing, or use of reference books. The Thursday Quiz is a POP quiz. Violators will have their names erased by fire from the great Book of Days.
This Week's Category will start your Thursday off right!

Famous First Lines

The following are the opening lines of well-known novels. But, have I listed them with the correct novel? That's where you come in.

1. Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights

I have just returned from a visit to my landlord--the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with. This is certainly a beautiful country! In all England, I do not believe that I could have fixed on a situation so completely removed from the stir of society.

2. Umberto Eco, Name of the Rose

riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.

3. F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since. "Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had.

4. Alex Haley, Roots

The drought had lasted now for ten million years, and the reign of the terrible lizards had long since ended. Here on the Equator, in the continent which would one day be known as Africa, the battle for existence had reached a new climax of ferocity, and the victor was not yet in sight.

5.Joseph Heller, Catch-22

You are about to begin reading Joseph Heller's new novel, Catch-22.

6. Franz Kafka, The Trial

Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested.

7. Jack London, Call of the Wild

Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.

8. Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

9. George Orwell, 1984

Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.

10. Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past (Swann's Way)

In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.

11. Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy

I wish either my father or my mother, or indeed both of them, as they were in duty both equally bound to it, had minded what they were about when they begot me; had they duly considered how much depended upon what they were then doing; that not only the production of a rational Being was concerned in it, but that possibly the happy formation and temperature of his body, perhaps his genius and the very cast of his mind; and, for aught they knew to the contrary, even the fortunes of his whole house might take their turn from the humours and dispositions which were then uppermost: Had they duly weighed and considered all this, and proceeded accordingly, I am verily persuaded I should have made a quite different figure in the world, from that, in which the reader is likely to see me.

12. Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

Submit your answers in the form of a comment. Then, have a fabulous Thursday.

Intermediate Scrabble Strategy: A Helpful Little Primer

Q: Why Intermediate?
A: ‘Cause I’m an intermediate player. I can’t give expert advice. Those people are nuts.

Q: Wow, this is pretty esoteric, even for THIS blog.
A: Whatever.

I: First Things First: Basic Scrabble Strategy

1. Scrabble is not a word game. Oh, sure, it’s a fun game for people who like words. And, I hope you never lose your appreciation of cool and interesting words as a nice adjunct of the game. If you persist in trying to come up with the most interesting, innovative, or esoteric word, that’s your choice. But, you are going to lose. Badly. Always.

2. Scrabble is a game of spatial relations. What really matters in this game is where you put your tiles in relation to (a) the bonus squares, and (b) other words.
Bonus Squares. When I was a little kid, I thought it was smart to put low-scoring letters on the letter bonus squares, because that made them less worthless. I almost had it right.

Listen: double and triple letter squares double and triple the value of a letter. Double and triple word squares double and triple the value of the whole word. These are not bonuses you can afford NOT to have. Here's a general principle for you: Every word you play should either be on a word bonus or have a high-scoring letter on a letter bonus, unless there is a damn good reason why not.

Other Words. Why would you want the points from one word, when you could have the points from two or more words? You should always be looking for opportunities to modify the words that are on the board to your own advantage. This is what makes the four S’s so very, very precious. More precious than gold. Stick an S on the end of most nouns or verbs, and you’ve got a perfectly legit word; meanwhile, you are running a new word with an S in it perpendicular to the one you just modified. Sweet. D’s and R’s are good for this, too.

3. Scrabble is a two-player game. It’s a fine three- or four-player pastime. But two things happen when you pull more than two chairs up to the table. First – and this can be shown mathematically – the luck factor goes up enormously. With every additional player, there are fewer turns to sort out the statistical noise of tile selection and board placement. So, whereas the two player game is almost a pure game of skill, four-player Scrabble is all but a game of chance.

Second – learned through much experience – the winner in four-player Scrabble is not likely to be the best player. It is likely to be the person who plays immediately after the weakest player, who constantly sets her up for killer plays (see #1, below). So, enjoy multi-player Scrabble, but don’t get too concerned about the score, which is basically meaningless.

Several years ago now, I made a quilt Scrabble board. The letters are pieces of juvenile fabric, bonded to little scraps of wood. It's fully playable. WHAT!?! WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT FOR?!?

II. OK, Now Let’s Get Intermediate

1. Never give your opponent the red squares. For to do so is suicide. If you make it easy for your opponent to use one of the eight triple word bonuses, you are essentially saying “OK, I took one turn, now you take three!” If she’s got some high-value letters, you may have just handed her the game. General Principle: Never make it easy for your opponent to get to the triple word bonus, unless you have a damn good reason for doing so.

2. Exchange your letters. If you’ve got crap on your rack, trade it in. It’s better than playing just one or two tiles, after which you will likely still have crap. It’s better than playing some weakass 9-point word that gives your opponent access to bonus squares. Remember, you can hang on to good letters (never turn in an S or a blank!) and exchange the others.

3. Know thy two-letter words. To have the most flexibility in where you can place your words, you need to know the list of allowable two-letter words. Many of these are frankly bullshit words (“xi,” “em,” “ti,” “ed”). Get over it. To be honest, it took me many years to get over the ridiculousness of the list and just start using them. But, it has made the game more fun, and me a more competitive player.

Why does knowing the two-letter words make you more flexible in word placement? Well, it simply opens up more “hooks” that you can hang a new word on. I’ll let MyDogIsChelsea show you with an extreme example.

4. Mind the leave. The leave is what is left in your hand after you’ve played your word. Often times, it is worth it to play a word that is worth four or five points less, if it leaves better letters in your hand. Partly, this is just to combat the accumulation of crap letters – if you are holding three I’s, a big priority is for you to play a word with at least one, preferably two I’s in it.

More importantly, you always want to be grooming your rack towards playing bingos. Bingos (which are when you play all seven letters) are worth a 50 point bonus, which is very often enough to make the difference in a game. At the Intermediate Level, Scrabble is largely all about the bingos.

So, if you’ve got E, R, S in your rack, you should be looking at the rest of your letters to see if you can make a seven- or eight-letter word out of them. If not, you might want to hang on to them, to see if you can put together a bingo next turn. Similarly, I N G is a powerful combo. In general, the letters in the (bogus) word “starline” are said to be the ones that are easiest to combine into a bingo, although I like O’s as well. So, all other things being equal – or, if it’s just a matter of a few points – err on the side of keeping those letters in your leave.

III: Want to play?

I love this game. If you want to play, I do too. Get the "Scrabulous" ap on Facebook, find me (or Email me, whatever), and challenge me!

Mrs.5000 celebrates a triumph. The paper she is holding says "438." Yoyo the Cat probably helped.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Great Movies: The "Up" Movies

The "Up" Movies: 7 Up, Seven Plus 7, 21 Up, 28 Up, 35 Up, 42 Up, and 49 Up.

Michael Apted, mostly (1964-present)

The "Up" Movies are certainly great movies, as documentary movies, but they are really in a conceptual category all their own. They are different from anything else ever made. The first of them, "7 Up," was a television documentary in which a group seven year old children were asked questions about their lives and futures. Every seven years since, the same people have been revisited and asked some of the same questions, and some new ones as well.

Although this setup certainly appeals to my enthusiasm for large scale arbitrary projects, it accomplishes something more important as well. For anyone curious about what human life is like, these movies offer the best chance available to immerse yourself in real lives that you are not personally involved in. The effect, emotionally and intellectually, is simply rivetting. In focussing on the everyday, the films and their often reluctant subjects achieve something awesome and heroic.

Plot: Children grow to adulthood and middle-age. They change, but in some ways they stay the same. Their humanity is revealed.

Visuals: Documentary footage. Indifferent, but often surprisingly memorable.

Dialogue: Spontaneous. Often funny, revealing, profound. But not always.

Prognosis: The Up films are probably not for everyone, but there's a fairly good chance that you will think they are the most meaningful films you've ever seen. You really ought to at least give them a try.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Monday Quiz II

The Monday Quiz II

Biblical Events in Art

1. Who is this?

2. What is this?

3. Who's the guy on the throne, and what did he just say?

4. What's happening here?

5. Who is the guy in red, and what's he up to?

Submit your answers in the form of a comment.

Friday, November 9, 2007

The Favorite Bands 2007, part one.

So, a lot of people ask me, they say, "michael5000, what kind of rock music do you enjoy listening to?"

Well, not really of course. But the new mission statement says I need to write more about music, so my hands are kind of tied here. Today kicks off a two-part series on

My 20 Favorite Bands, 2007!

To be clear what I'm talking about -- and, just as a sidebar, it's a sad state of affairs to reach the age when "my favorite bands" is a phrase requiring clarification -- I'm not going to rehearse the long back-history of my historical favorite groups. (Briefly: They Might Be Giants in grad school, R.E.M. in college, U2/Talking Heads in high school, whoever did "Convoy" and "The Hustle" in early childhood.) Nor am I going to try to discuss the current bands that are breaking just this year. As I've discussed elsewhere, I'm waaay too old to work on that kind of time scale. These are just the bands that I happen to be listening to a lot this year, or more specifically this fall. To younger readers, most of the bands under discussion will seem "old," and you will just have to take my word for it that, considering my age, I am one groovy hepcat.

This Week: The Penultimate Ten!

The Arcade Fire -- Holy Freaking Cow, what a stunning first album! And what a... a... perfectly adequate second album! OK, I'm a little disappointed with the sophomore effort, but these spunky Montrealians (?) certainly know how to put together a song. Lamentably, I have not yet been able to score a ticket to one of their legendary live shows.

Andrew Bird -- This guy has been around for a while, but is a relatively new discovery for me. That's awesome, because it means I get to explore his back catalog at my leisure and won't have to wait around for a new record. He's dark, smart, funny, and probably a little nuts, all of which scores points with me. His music is energetic yet subdued, emotive yet distanced.... what is it that they say about writing about music?

Eels -- Genuinely pretty songs about how it sucks when everyone you love dies on you and you can't keep your shit together, interspersed with dark, disturbing ditties about hope and redemption. Mr. E has made speculation about his mental health part of the act, and good for him. We should all get so much mileage from our issues.

Felina's Arrow -- Two women (whom Mrs.5000 & I happen to know, not that this would in any way affect my judgment) who do a high-energy coffee shop sort of act. Poeina is operatically trained, Felicia multitasks between a scorching lead guitar and bass, and the harmonies are unconventional and niiiiice. They improv whole songs from audience cues, which sounds gimmicky but is actually very cool. They are currently wandering around the American West; go say hi if they come to your town.

Robyn Hitchcock -- The godfather of odd quirky pop songs that don't really make much sense, except they really do, except they don't, really. You either think he's a genius, or you don't get it at all. I think he's a genius, except I don't, really. Except I do, really.

Guided By Voices -- This legendary Ohio band's lyrics made no more sense than a Robyn Hitchcock song, except they did, except no. It's poetry, people! Kind of. The best thing about GBV was that they rocked. Hard. Hard rock by drunk smart people, for drunk smart people.

Mates of State -- Big juicy keyboards and big thumping drums and odd boy/girl harmonies, and that's all. Sounds kind of spare, but Mates of State are damned noisy, and that's the point. Their songs don't really make any sense, and I mean it this time. But didn't I just say that the noise is the point?

Math and Physics Club -- Five bright, dorky kids from Seattle make really pretty mid-tempo rock songs about how bittersweet it is being a bright, dorky kid, what with all of the love and stuff. The guitar sound is so warm you can heat your house with it.

Sprites -- Odd, peppy pop songs about everyday life as a shy 30ish slackerish indie rock sort of person. Lightweight, nerdy, and not exactly a showcase of raw musical talent, this stuff is nevertheless wildly infectious and fun.

Tulleycraft -- Upbeat, quirky pop songs by smart people with more musical imagination than musical talent, but in a good way. Very funny lyrics, largely about being an upbeat, quirky indie pop musician, with backup harmonies that are just pure sugar. Guilty pleasures are the best, no? Well, maybe not the best. But awfully nice.

Your Turn

You are encouraged to rebut with such traditional pleasantries as "I concur; Robyn Hitchcock (for instance) rocks!" Or, it is also acceptable to cut loose with a riposte along the lines of "au contraire, mon frere; Andrew Bird sucks!" Suggestions as to what I should be listening to instead are especially encouraged.

Next Friday: The Top Ten!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Week in Review

The first Monday Quiz happened:

The street party celebrating the new Monday Quiz.

g's exclamation point....

Rex formally rejected his consolation semicolon......

Everybody started donating FreeRice.

michael5000 and d idly wondered if there was any such thing as a "game about Jesus."

And Blythe took the gold star in the Thursday Quiz!

FingerstotheBone took the silver and Karin took the blue.

Rex Parker nabbed a green, becoming the first person to have at least one of each color of star -- for the second time. (He had a gold, silver, and blue waaaay back before there WERE green stars!)

Let's see if this works:

To further the educational mission of the Thursday Quiz XI, I created this little supplementary learning exercise using the "Traveler IQ" app inside of Facebook. Bon Chance!

This Traveler IQ challenge is brought to you by the Web's Original Travel Blog

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Thursday Quiz XI

It's America's favorite weekly test of knowledge! It's

The Thursday Quiz!

The Thursday Quiz is, as always, a "Is It or Isn't It" game. From the list of twelve items, your job is to determine whether each IS or ISN'T a true example of the week's category.

Remember always the fundimental presupposition of international law:

No research, Googling, Wikiing, or use of reference books. The Thursday
Quiz is a POP quiz. Violators will be tried at The Hague.
This Week's Category will lure you off the farm with cultural and economic opportunities!

Really Big Cities

All of the following cities are in the world's largest 100. But, have I listed them in the right country? Aye, there's the rub.

1. Algiers, Libya
2. Casablanca, Portugal
3. Dhaka, China
4. Fortaleza, Brazil
5. Haerbin, China
6. Karachi, Pakistan
7. Khartoum, Sudan
8. Kinshasa, D.R. Congo (Zaire)
9. Lagos, Indonesia
10. Pune, India
11. Riyadh, Iran
12. Sao Paulo, Honduras

Submit your urbane answers in the form of a comment.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Overheard: Two Vignettes

I: In the Taqueria.

Two young women at a booth, pierced and tattooed, upbeat and pleasant, each with a small child.

Woman #1 lets her child talk on the cell phone.

Woman: Tell Daddy we're having lunch.

Child: We're havin' lunth.

Woman: Tell him we'll see him later.

Child: See you later!

Woman: Tell him you love him.

Child: I love you!

Woman: Tell him Jesus loves him.

Child: Jesus love you!

After a while, the child joins the other kid at the restaurant's video game, which is one of those boxing games with a joystick and a single button on which adolescent males pretend to beat the shit out of each other. They play with the controls as the moms gather their coats.

Woman: OK, kids, let's go.

Child #2: We're playing a game!

Woman: Well, it's time to go. (sees game) Besides, that's probably not a game I'd want you to be playing anyway.


Woman (abstracted, to no one in particular): It's certainly not a game about Jesus.

II. Tailgating

Outside a large football stadium, before the big game. A parade of student protesters go by, carrying signs and chanting. A sour middle-aged couple watches.

Woman: Everybody's got to have their different causes.

Man: Yep.

Woman: They've all got their thing. There's "global warming," there's the environmentalists, there's "climate change".....

Man: Huh.

And, in sports...

Have y'all checked out that FreeRice thing? It's getting pretty addictive. A certain member of the michael5000 household, whom I will not embarass by divulging her name, got to 50! Damn!

Also, I should confess to the world that regular L&TM5K commenter MyDogIsChelsea just finished destroying me in the Facebook "Scrabulous" online Scrabble game, 461-270. That's 461 - 270. Damn.

(Install Scrabulous and find me on FB! I obviously need more distractions!)

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Great Movies: "Ali: Fear Eats the Soul"

At the Movies with Michael5000

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul
Rainier Fassbinder (1974)

There are a million movies that could be described as "Romeo and Juliet with a twist," but in this one the twist is fairly extreme. Our star-crossed lovers are Elli, a 60ish German widow, and Ali, a 40ish Moroccan guest worker, and their Verona is working class Munich in the early 1970s.

Elli's peers, reared on Nazi ideology and traumatized by the slaughter, in their city, of the Israeli Olympic team by Arab operatives, are a radically xenophobic bunch. Against this grim social background, Elli and Ali play out their cards as best they can. The strength of the film is in its attention to psychological details. You often want to reach up into the screen and dope-slap one of the characters for making an obvious mistake that is going to wound the other, but the mistakes they make are the ones that real people make too, often repeatedly.

Plot: Love is a many-splendored thing. Two lonely people meet, then face a relentless flood of scorn, prejudice, and rejection. They do the best they can under the circumstances, which isn't always very good.

Visuals: Very spare, evocative, tending to emphasize the isolation of the characters.

Dialogue: Same thing. Very spare, evocative, tending to emphasize the isolation of the characters. With very little music in the soundtrack, the dialogue feels emotionally flattened, framed only by the sounds of footfalls and doors opening and closing.

Pro: Quite engrossing. Fassbinder holds your feet over the fire and really forces you to meditate on what they used to call "man's inhumanity to man."

Con: There's a good reason that most dramas introduce comic relief. Ali is only an hour and a half long, but it is so consistently pessimistic and grim that by the end you feel like you've been clubbed to death with sadness.

Prognosis: Recommended for depressive romantics, German students, and people wanting to do some good hard thinkin' about the psychology of racism and differentness.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Monday Quiz I

All right, listen up. As I explained on Friday, the new Monday Quiz is image-based, and not especially designed to be easy (although it might be. Depends on whether you know the answers.)

For those of you who respond well to extrinsic motivation, the reward structure is a little different too. Stars will remain the province of the Thursday Quiz. After experimenting with hearts, moons, clovers, and new blue diamonds, we have arrived on the reward for success in the Monday Quiz: the virtual exclamation point.

These will be given to the person, or persons, who get the most answer right. Got that? Person, or persons. Which means, in the Monday Quiz there is no premium for getting to the right answers first. You've got until at least 8 p.m. Pacific Time Monday.

O.K. With no further ado, let's hit

The Monday Quiz I

which is on the topic of

20th Century History in Photographs

Here goes:

1. Where are we?

2. What just happened?

3. What doomed cause has this man just given his life for?

4. It's August, 1968. What's going on?

5. Who is this man? What are his circumstances?

And we're off! Submit your answers in the form of a comment.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Mission Statement, Revisited

The bigwigs at work are out of town working on the five-year "strategic planning" thing. They'll be looking at the mission statement and our actual operations, and then will try and reef the two more or less into alignment.

This made me think: after four months, maybe it's time for a little strategic planning of my own here at the L&TM5K. Maybe it's time to take a second look at this blog's own mission statement, in view of how day-to-day operations have actually evolved in the "real world," if you want to call it that.

So here we go. Welcome, dear reader, to

the L&TM5K Strategic Planning Retreat!

Assessment: Existing Mission Statement

Quirky Observations -- D+. I guess I don't observe things in as quirky a fashion as I thought I did. Besides, who am I, Jerry Seinfeld? Recommendation: omit from mission statement.

Rants About Popular Music -- C-. Despite occasional concert write-ups, on the whole there has been a disappointing failure to use the blog as a mechanism to expose self to new music. Recommendation: increase musical content.

Thoughts on State and Local Politics -- F. Couldn't even muster up election recommendations. (Measure 49, hell yes! Measure 50, whatever!) Unanticipated non-local readership discourages coverage of local issues. Recommendation: omit from mission statement.

Commonplace Adventures -- B. Have incorporated personal adventures without becoming diaristic. Character of Mrs.5000 has proven popular. Recommendation: have better adventures.

Assessment: Unanticipated Content

Quizzes -- Has become bread and butter of blog. Consistently generates high readership levels, at modest cost of alienating less competitive friends, family members, and readers. Recommendation: Highlight in new mission statement.

The Reading List -- Brought in large numbers of readers who left clever and well-informed comments. Failure to follow through in a timely fashion has created credibility problem. Recommendation: Finish The Brothers Karamazov while we are all still among the quick, for crying out loud.

The Great Movies -- Popularity varies by movie. Still, it's a good incentive to continue a cool project. Recommendation: Include in new mission statement.

Arty Stuff -- Seems popular enough with the Quiz crowd. Adds specious "cultured" aura to persona. Recommendation: Include in new mission statement.

College Football -- Basically reader poison. But it amuses me. Recommendation: Do not include in mission statement.

Boring Postcards -- Same as College Football, above.

Supplementary Consideration: Is it even worth the trouble?

Eh, of course not. But what the hell. Let's take it to January, and see how it's going.

Revised Mission Statement

The Life and Times of Michael5000 aims to be the internet's preeeminent
provider of difficult pop quizzes on arbitrary topics. It further seeks to
delight its community of creative, engaging, drop-dead sexy, and bracingly
intelligent readers with glib little posts about the creative arts and dork
culture generally, including but not limited to literature, film, the visual
arts, music, history, geography, and college football.

Good enough. Let's run it by legal, and head out for a beer.


Thursday, November 1, 2007

Contested Histories, Contested Futures

The Thursday Quiz X

The gentle L&TM5K readers know their linguistics, baby! It was one of those weeks when it was pretty brutal to miss a single question; five perfect submissions made for very little margin of error. Well, no margin of error, actually.
  • Defending champion Mrs. 5000 took the gold star.

  • Completing a sweep of the first ten Thursday Quizzes for the Parker household, Rex Parker returned to form to capture the silver.

  • Perennial Quiz contender Rebel brought home the blue.

  • Two green stars this week. One goes to Blythe, who now needs only a blue to complete her collection, and one to fingerstothebone, her first quiz star!

Congratulations to all competitors, and to all of you non-competitors too. In fact, if you are reading this sentence, I hereby declare you awesome.

The Trophy Case

I hope it's obvious that the giving of stars to a bunch of adults taking wildly arbitrary pop quizzes is not done with an entirely straight face. At the same time, it does seem to add a certain frisson to the whole experience, at least for some of us. So feel free to roll your eyes at this juncture. But, I think you should also join me in admiration of some of our more dominent Quizsters.

These are the people who have combined a startling wealth of knowledge, intuition, and reasoning ability with a certain, shall we say, tenacity in their internet habits, to earn three or more stars over the course of the first ten quizzes. Here is a rare glimpse inside their trophy cases.

{Sustained Applause}

Quizzes Future

As you may already know, the Thursday Quiz has been greenlighted (or perhaps greenlit) for a second season, and you'll be happy to know that ten more episodes are already in production.

We are also very excited here at headquarters about the new Monday Quiz! Taking a cue from the popularity of Thursday Quizzes VIII and X, the new Monday Quiz will be image-based. Instead of an is/isn't format, Monday will now be all about identification -- the operative question being "what is this a picture of?" With only five questions a week, though, Monday will continue to be quicker -- although not necessarily easier -- than Thursday.

And, there will now be virtual prizes on Monday as well as Thursday. More on that in three days -- be here bright and early for what we will, somewhat misleadingly, call The Monday Quiz I!

There. Do I have you all fired up?

Speaking of Fired Up!

BigBrother5000 has come through and produced ticket to the must-see game of the weekend: the #4 Oregon Ducks against the #6 Arizona State Sun Devils. And so I will have the great pleasure of being in Autzen Stadium this weekend to witness Oregon's victory, 35 - 17, against the overrated boys from Tempe.

So, those of you who missed my appearance on Clackamas County's government cable channel this morning -- what, you didn't watch it? -- perhaps you can catch me in crowd shots on the national feed. I'll have my game face on:

...except probably without the face paint.

The Thursday Quiz: a First-Season Outtake

Here it is, the infamous topic that was too pendantic, even for the Thursday Quiz.

Papal Names

1. Alexander
2. Benedict
4. Charles
5. Epiphany
6. Innocent
7. Joshua
8. Leo
9. Nicholas
10. Pius
11. Spiritus
12. Urban