Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Thursday Quiz LXVI

The Thursday Quiz! wishes you a very happy new year!

This season, the Thursday Quiz is a sequence game. Arrange the ten items in the proper sequence!

Remember always the Fundamental Rules of the Thursday Quiz:

1. The Thursday Quiz is a POP quiz. No research, Googling, Wikiing, or use of reference books. Violators will lose their internet privileges. All of them. Permanently.
2. As long as you made it this far, you might as well play. It's not all about winning, you know. It's about using your knowledge and reason and making an educated guess. C'mon! It'll be fun!
Atomic Numbers

List these elements in order, from the smallest to the largest atomic number.

A: Carbon

B: Einsteinium

C: Helium

D: Hydrogen

E: Iodine

F: Iron

G: Lead

H: Lithium

I: Oxygen

J: Silicon

Post your answers in the comments.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Gender Eschews

I was driving to a football game recently with the lamented former blogger Chuckdaddy, and he confessed to me that he can't get out of a grocery store without calling Mrs. Chuckdaddy "at least once" to check up on the details of what he is supposed to be shopping for. I think I surprised both of us with my reaction. "When I see guys at the grocery store calling home on their cell phones," I told him, "I think to myself, 'that's not a real man."

Now that probably sounds like pretty big talk from a boy quilter with a certificate in Women's Studies who wrote songs for his cat. Yet having had something like that fall out of my mouth has made me think about what you might, if you wanted, call the "masculine virtues." You know, things like bravery, like owning up ("manning up"?) to responsibilities. Like decisiveness – that’s the one that seems comically violated by calls home from the supermarket – or acceptance of hardship, respect for the physical world, and protection, when possible, of those weaker than oneself.

Eventually, of course, I realized that these "masculine virtues" are really just the "grown-up virtues." They are qualities to be admired in anyone, regardless of the configuration of their reproductive equipment. Presumably they've been appropriated by us dudes as "masculine" the same way we scored all of the inexpensive, comfortable clothing. So yes, I realize that I am being more than usual of a buffoon here. But I didn't let that epiphany get in the way of continuing with this post.

Unmanly Things

So, whether it makes any real sense to deem something "unmanly," it's certainly a reaction I have from time to time. I feel it most, strangely, for men who bitch about their wives. That sounds preachy, I know, like I'm trying to line up adult masculinity with a personal code of values ("voting Republican isn't manly!" "Environmentalism is a MAN's issue!" "Real men read the L&TM5K"). But when I worked a few years ago with two men who spent much of the day bagging on their respective wives, my gut reaction was that they were pathetic little boys. Which is not to say it's a crime to be unhappy in a marriage, but come on -- you owe enough loyalty to your immediate family not to talk them down in public, don't you? Get with the show, lads.

It's hard not to bring one's own aesthetic to bear on the question, too. Prima facie, I have to admit a ingrained tendency to think that crying at a Hollywood romance is unmanly behavior, unbecoming of an adult male. The same with exhibiting an excessive interest in Olympic figure skating, wearing pink pants, or allowing one's partner to decorate the common areas of the home with hearts and frills without making some kind of equal-but-opposite imprint of one's own personality. But this is all just silly cultural programming. Or is it?

Complaint is very often an unmanly behavior in my book. It certainly is at odds with the "masculine virtues", after all, suggesting an unwillingness to endure hardship and often a reluctance to take on responsibilities. Often, though, I am rather at odds with the culture on this point. For many, nothing could be more macho than griping about referees, or taxes, or the other drivers on the road. But what I hear in those complaints -- when it's not me doing the complaining, anyway -- is poor sportsmanship (sportspersonship?), unwillingness to support the larger community that makes the accumulation of wealth possible in the first place, and an inability to remember one's own many errors of judgment behind the wheel. And I always want to say, "dude, don't be such a goddam WUSS!!!" But I don't, because I might get beat up.

Unmanliest of all? Complaining about service. When a man kvetches about how he was treated by some minimum wage clerk, waitress, cashier, barista, ticket taker, or housekeeper, I always feel kind of humiliated for him. Because, you know, who the hell cares if the waiter gave you the respect you felt due? How fragile is you, anyway? Learn to endure, my brother!

And one last one: In Dominion, Matthew Scully suggests that it is unmanly to privilege your petty appetites over your morality. To think that the way foie gras is made is horrifying, for instance, but to keep eating it because you find it delicious: to Scully, that's unmanly. The idea is just tossed out as an aside in the book, but I've found it a bit haunting when I make the dozen everyday choices between my ethics and my convenience. 'Cause I think he's got a point.

That's all for today, gentlemen.


Wednesday Weigh-In

Well, according to the old scale, 206, right on plan. But according to the fancy new "accurate to within .2 pounds" scale that I actually asked for and got for Christmas, 208.0. Careful what you ask for.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Great Movies: "McCabe & Mrs. Miller"

McCabe & Mrs. Miller
Robert Altman, 1971

McCabe & Mrs. Miller is a Western, more or less, but it reverses all of the usual conventions of the genre. Start with the setting: instead of the sun-baked prairie, McCabe is set in damp, dripping forests in the mountains of the Washington Territory. The hero, such as he is, doesn't strap on his guns to take on the bad guys who have been terrorizing the town; he straps on his guns because he's being hunted down by hired goons from a company that wants his mineral rights. The final shootout doesn't happen on Main Street according to some oddly gentlemanly set of rules ("draw!"); the participants, much more sensibly, shoot each other in the back from hiding. So all in all, it's a very gloomy but somewhat more satisfying story of the old West than you usually get on film.

The name of the town is "Presbyterian Church," and in the opening scenes the only building close to completion is the Presbyterian church. The rest of the town gets built as the movie progresses -- you can watch it gradually expand from a campsite to a bona fide little village -- but that church still sits there unfinished throughout, its construction forgotten what with all the moneymaking and the bad doings to be done in the rest of the town. It's a nice piece of symbolism, subtler than it sounds.

Plot: McCabe, a gambler, arrives in town. He wins some money at poker, and uses it to buy three floozies with whom to start a squalid little tent brothel. Mrs. Miller, an entrepreneurial prostitute, shows up and convinces him that her help, he can run a more profitable operation. That works pretty well until the mining company develops an interest in the area, and then things take a decided turn for the worse.

Visuals: Evocatively gloomy. The gradual emergence of the town out of the woods is particularly fine, and the interiors, all raw wood and makeshift decoration, have a charming apparent authenticity to them. It's worth mentioning that I had no clue, while watching this film, when it was made. Altman captured the look of the 1900s so well that very little of the early 1970s intrudes.

Dialog: Ebert makes the point that in an Altman film the individual lines of dialog often don't matter so much as the mood or feel of the setting. That's certainly true here. Except for a few specifics, such as the hero's inept negotiations with the mining company, you could watch this movie with the sound off and still understand pretty much everything that happened.

Prognosis: McCabe & Mrs. Miller is good stuff. Unless you have a specific dislike for historical drama, I'd recommend it pretty highly.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Monday Quiz LVI

Art of the Sixteenth Century

This might be a hard one, so you've got six chances to make five again this week.

1. This is the ______________.

2. This tryptich is called The Garden of ______________. It's by _____________.

3. These two paintings are both by _______________.

4. These two paintings are both by ___________________.

5. These two paintings are both by _______________.

6. This painting, by Hans Holbein, takes its common name from the occupation of the two men pictured in it. What is its name?

Submit your answers in the comments.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Weekend Flashback: Brazzaville vs. Burgerville.

[OK, we're coming back from Christmas Break nice and easy, with the first of a very occasional series of "Weekend Flashbacks," lightly editted blasts from the blog past. Originally appearing on August 2, 2007, this silly item has always been one of my favorite posts ever. I have a hard time justifying that opinion, but there you go.]


Do you ever do that thing where you see or hear one word with your eyes or ears, but a different word goes into your head? Sure you do, everybody does. I'm just not articulating it very well.

(In fact, there should be a word for this phenomenon. I encourage you to suggest a word for it in the comments.)

Anyway, whenever I see a sign for the Pacific Northwest fast food chain "Burgerville," my brain thinks "Brazzaville." I know. I'm a freak. But whatever. I have created and will now share with you this guide to distinguishing between the two:

Faceoff: Brazzaville versus Burgerville

The Basics:

Brazzaville: Capital city of the Republic of Congo, population 1.5 million.
Burgerville: Chain of fast food restaurants in Oregon and Southwest Washington, with 43 stores.

Founded by:

Brazzaville: The French Explorer Pierre Savoignan de Brazza, in 1880.
Burgerville: Entrepreneur George Propstra, in 1961.


Brazzaville: “Unite' - Travail – Progress.”
Burgerville: “Choose fresh, local, sustainable; choose Burgerville.”

Under the Shadow of:

Brazzaville: Congo/Zaire’s capital Kinshasa, five times as large and directly across the Congo River.
Burgerville: McDonalds, Burger King, and other national fast food chains.

The French Connection:

Brazzaville: Capital of French Equatorial Africa until independence in 1960.
Burgerville: Sweet Potato and Yukon Gold French Fries are always big sellers.


Nabemba Tower, tallest skyscraper in Central Africa.
Burgerville: “Last Burgerville for 24,700 Miles!” billboards.

Natural Resource Use:

Brazzaville: Major port for natural resources of the Congo Basin, including rubber, timber, and agricultural products.
Burgerville: Makes major fuss about using fresh regional ingredients, including beef, dairy products, fruits, and vegetables.

Recent Problems:

Brazzaville: Unrest in the 1990s caused thousands of civilian deaths and sent refugees streaming out of the city.
Burgerville: Planned expansions into Central Oregon and Seattle markets have apparently been postponed.


Brazzaville: Underdeveloped social and physical infrastructure; unemployment; poverty.
Burgerville: Annoying oldies music; half-hearted 50s diner theme.


Brazzaville: Congo's economic prospects remain largely dependent on the country's ability to establish political stability and democratic rule.
Burgerville: Whether Burgerville's regional popularity will allow it to compete against much larger competitors, with their buying power and economies of scale, only the future can tell.

There. I hope that helped.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Break 2008

Gentle Readers! It is Solstice! Today is less than one second shorter than yesterday was, and tomorrow is going to be a whopping four seconds longer than today! (in the City of Roses. Adjust appropriately for your locality. This site might help.

So, in celebration of the inevitable turn of the seasons, it's time for the L&TM5K to put its feet up for a week. Hell, maybe even two. We'll see how I feel.

Castle5000 is decked out in holiday style for Christmas, the seasonal celebration of our people, and there are lights, a festooned tree, and little bulbs on the fichus plant in the dining room. The good crèche is on the mantle, and the emergency backup crèche, a cheap plastic dealie that was my late grandfather’s, is up in the guestroom. The latter has proven alarmingly inviting from attack by Caliban, our living cat. He has swatted a camel and sent the Virgin Mary flying with his tail, but so far we have managed to keep the Baby Jesus from harm. It seems like that would be bad Christmas karma.

So happy holidays to you, whichever ones you subscribe to! No Quizzes this week! Instead, I leave you with this Holiday vignette!

The Holiday Vignette

In the office. Michael5000 happens on some people who are talking about Santa Claus. A coworker who grew up in equatorial Africa asks him a question.

Coworker (joking): Do you believe in Santa Claus?

michael5000: No, I never did believe in Santa Claus. I thought the whole idea was crazy.

Coworker: There was a guy in my high school who believed that Santa Claus was killed in the Second World War.

m5k: OK, that’s weird.

Coworker: We thought so too.


Coworker: It’s always weird seeing Santa Claus in Africa.

m5k: Why?

Coworker: Because he always wears the same, the same….

m5k: He’s overdressed!

Coworker: Right.

m5k: Unless maybe he was on the peak of Kilamanjaro.

Coworker: Yes, that’s true.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Over the Ground Lies a Mantle of White

This is going to mean NOTHING to those of you who live in Cleveland, Pennsylvania, New York, and all those other East Coast places to which our dominant American cultural references ("white Christmas," indeed) pertain....

but it is snowing like MAD in the City of Roses. Easily the most snow Castle5000 has seen since it became Castle5000. It's quite beautiful! And inconvenient!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Great Movies: "Last Year in Marienbad"

Last Year at Marienbad
Alain Resnais, 1961

This is one of those highly stylized European films where emotionally flattened interactions take place at a languid pace in surreal settings. In these movies, telling a coherent story takes a back seat to style, mood, and image. Proponents of such films celebrate their broadening of ideas about what cinema can achieve, what it can be. Others find them insufferable. I think both viewpoints are basically correct.

Plot: At an excruciatingly posh resort hotel, a man tries to convince a woman that they had an affair the previous year. It is possible that he is telling the truth, or that he is making it all up. It is also possible that he raped her last year, or that he died last year and is now a ghost. It sounds like a more interesting puzzle than it actually is.

Visuals: Magnificently shot in black and white, with lots of memorable images.

Dialog: In French with subtitles, underlain by interminable pipe organ music.

Prognosis: I don't see any particular reason for you to subject yourself to this one.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Thursday Quiz LXV

The Thursday Quiz!

This season, the Thursday Quiz is a sequence game. Arrange the ten items in the proper sequence!

Remember always the Fundamental Rules of the Thursday Quiz:

1. The Thursday Quiz is a POP quiz. No research, Googling, Wikiing, or use of eference books. Violators will lose their internet privileges. All of them. Permanently.
2. As long as you made it this far, you might as well play. It's not all about winning, you know. It's about using your knowledge and reason and making an educated guess. C'mon! It'll be fun!

Independence! Revolution!

Order the following episodes of nation-building from the earliest to the most recent.

A: African Independence -- In about a ten-year period, most of the modern African countries achieve independence.

B: American Independence -- The British colonies in North America declare themselves to be the United States, which depending on who you asked was either an independent country or a bunch of independent countries.

C: The Chinese Revolution -- Mao Tse-Tung (or Mao Zedong for you New School types) declares the communist People's Republic of China after many years of civil war.

D: Collapse of the USSR -- The Soviet Union breaks apart into Russia and fourteen other, smaller countries.

E: The Dutch Revolt -- The Netherlands become independent of the Spanish Empire after a protracted struggle.

F: Freedom From Portugal -- Following the Portuguese "Carnation Revolution," its overseas colonies (including Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, and Cape Verde) become independent countries.

G: The Glorious Revolution -- James II of England is overthrown by a coalition of Parliamentarians and the Dutch, signaling the end of absolute monarchy in Britain.

H: The Russian Revolution -- With Russian society disintegrating, an overthrow of the czar is followed a few month later by a takeover by the Communists, led by Lenin.

I: South American Independence -- Over a period of a few decades, the major Spanish colonies of South America win their independence on the battlefield, while Brazil achieves independence peacefully.

J: Unification of Germany -- After winning the Franco-Prussian war, the Prussian kingdom forges an "Empire" that unites dozens of previously small, independent German-speaking countries.

Post your answers in the comments.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Beethoven, Day 5

Happy Beethoven's Baptismal Day! And Hypothetically Possible Birthday! In any event, it's the last day of this year's Beethoven Countdown, the day we cover the mighty "Emperor" Concerto, the Piano Concerto #5.

Well, what can I say about the "Emperor"? First, I guess I'll take the unusual step of second-guessing the big guy and say that I don't like the introduction. Big chords punctuated with frilly piano runs, the whole thing seems a bit overblown and corny. Fortunately, it doesn't last very long, and soon we are off and running with a great, propulsive, rocking theme in the orchestra.

That theme is going to get elaborated a LOT -- at around twenty-one minutes long, the first movement of the Emperor is considerably longer than the complete concertos of, say, Beethoven's one-time teacher Haydn. Beethoven had lots of fans during his lifetime, to be sure, but there were also plenty of people who thought his works were not only jarring, but too damn long.

The slow movement is, well, pretty. I like it. There is a repeating passage that sounds a bit like "There's a Place for Us," and although obviously if there was any influencing going on it was Beethoven influencing Leonard Bernstein rather than the other way around, the coincidence lends some instant familiarity for the modern listener.

The final movement hits us with another contagious theme, a rising melody with a sweet little stutter-step in it. It feels at once a bit old-fashioned and rockin', and also pretty magnificent, which is not at all bad for a piece of music that is 199 years old.

Thanks for following along with this year's Beethoven Countdown!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Beethoven, Day 4

Happy Actual Probable Beethoven's Birthday!

We could do worse, despite my timing error, than to be spending it with the Piano Concerto #4. It is probably my favorite of the five.

For starters, I like the way it leaves the gate. In most concertos, certainly in most classical concertos, you get a minute or two of orchestral introduction before the soloist lets fly. In PC4, you start off with a few quiet chords played on the piano, and it takes awhile for the momentum to develop and for the full orchestra to get involved. It's very nice.

There's a quirky second movement, too, with an interplay between the orchestra and the piano that it is hard not to think of as conversational. The orchestra is brash, pedantic, authoritarian; the piano keeps answering its salvos with gentle, quiet responses. In the final movement, the piano takes the lead again with a theme that is pure joy when played by the soloist, and even the stuffy old orchestra seems to lossen up and have some fun with it.

Again, Happy Beethoven's Birthday! Don't forget to be iconoclastic!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Beethoven, Day 3 / The Monday Quiz LV

First, the Beethoven!

OK, here's a little Beethoven anecdote for you. Ludwig himself was the pianist at the Third Piano Concerto's debut, and of course he had a guy sitting next to him to turn the pages in the music. Except that guy later revealed that there was virtually nothing written on the piano score, except a few little notes and hieroglyphics. Beethoven had the piano part in his head, but hadn't ever written it down, so every once in a while he would just nod to his "helper" with a little smile so he would turn the page.

The Third Piano Concerto is less playful than the Second, yet not as dramatically stormy as the First. I hear it as a stately, serious piece, dignified but not at all offputting. Its introduction strikes a note of mystery that is developed throughout the first movement. Like the first two concertos, it has a stompin' final theme that moves the third movement right along.

Happy Probable Actual Beethoven's Birthday Eve!

Name That Country!





Was that hard? Here's an Extra Credit country.

Submit your answers in the comments.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Beethoven, Day 2

OK, so this year's countdown to Beethoven's Birthday is turning out to be a bit of a fiasco. Not only do I find that I don't know the pieces well enough to say much of significance about them but, hell, due to a calendar mixup, we're actually counting down to the day after Beethoven's Birthday. Beethoven's Birthday itself is, inconveniently, Tuesday. So I'm not sure what to do about that.


The Second Piano Concerto is an upbeat, jolly thing, full of good humor and pleasant melodies. It has less of the crash and thunder that you associate with the mature Beethoven, which actually makes sense when you find out that it was written at least three years before the Concerto #1 (the numbering is back-assward because they were published in a different order than they were written). You can just almost imagine #2 being written by Haydn at the end of his life, or Mozart if he'd made it a couple more years.

The overall tone of the piece reminds me of the Symphony #4, one of my favorite of the upbeat Beethoven symphonies. I wondered idly if they were written at close to the same time, but it says here that the PC2 was written "before 1793" and the S4 was written in 1806, so so much for that theory.

Reality check: this concerto was written when George Washington was the President of the United States of America. I'm not sure if that makes me feel like I listen to really old music, or like I live in a really young country.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Beethoven, Day 1

For the first day of this year's countdown to Beethoven's Birthday, we're grooving to the Piano Concerto #1.

Now last year we did the nine symphonies, pieces I've listened to both passively and actively all my life and which I know deep in my bones. These piano concerti, though -- I haven't listened to them nearly so much, so I don't have anything like the emotional connections that I have with the symphonies. I don't have a lot to SAY about them, necessarily. We're pretty much just listening together.

What I hear in the first concerto is another example of Beethoven's asteroid-like impact on the Haydn-Mozart Classical style. The style is still recognizable here, but it is rendered at a mighty scale. Beethoven's big dynamic shifts and surprising harmonic changes are much in evidence here, as are his relatively large orchestra and the simple length of the piece.

About the time where you would expect the first movement of a Classical concerto to wrap up, there's a false ending followed by a long slow section before things speed up again for the end of the movement. In other words, the first movement alone could reasonably pass as a Classical piano concerto!

The third movement is a rollicking number played first on the piano and then in the orchestra. It's a pretty feel-good conclusion, energetic, unchallenging, and with a memorable main theme

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Shameless Provincialism 2008

Holy Crap! It's the 400th Post!

Citizens of Rosaria! Let us stand together and recite the rosary of our beloved Bridgetown!

C'mon! You know you want to!

The Green Cathedral of the North that spans from Linnton to the Penninsula, the mighty St. Johns.

The great graceful arc of the Fremont holding Interstate 405 up to the sky.

The industrial rust-red of the Broadway.

The squat blank ancient magnificence of the Steel.

The Burnside, the vortex of the city poised between East and West, North and South.

The Morrison, flat, wide, efficient, and fast.

The beautiful Hawthorne, beloved of bicycles.

The modernist magnificence of the mighty Marquam.

The endless blue line of the Ross Island.

And to the south, the slender death-trap of the Sellwood.

...with apologies to anyone holding copyright on any of the images.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Thursday Quiz LXIV

The Thursday Quiz!

This season, the Thursday Quiz is a sequence game. Arrange the ten items in the proper sequence!

Remember always the Fundamental Rules of the Thursday Quiz:

1. The Thursday Quiz is a POP quiz. No research, Googling, Wikiing, or use of reference books. Violators will lose their internet privileges. All of them. Permanently.
2. As long as you made it this far, you might as well play. It's not all about winning, you know. It's about using your knowledge and reason and making an educated guess. C'mon! It'll be fun!
A Brief History of Art

Here are ten great works of art, or at least ten works that we would generally treat as works of art. Arrange them chronologically, in order of their creation.










Post your answers in the comments.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Dark Days in the Northern Hemisphere

OK, this post goes out to all of you Northern Hemisphere dwellers who are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder, or the winter blues, or who are just bummed out by finishing the day's work when it's already dark outside.


For tonight's sunset -- Wednesday's, that is -- will be the earliest of the year. If tomorrow, as you leave your office or classroom or factory or whatever it may be, or as you glance up after a long day of righteous labor in the home, if it seems just a tiny bit brighter than it was today -- that's 'cause it is.

But isn't the solstice still eleven days away?

Yes, it is. But the solstice, although it is the shortest day of the year, does not have the earliest sunset or the latest sunrise. The earliest sunset comes today, and then starts creeping later. By the 21st, the sunset is getting later exactly as fast as the sunrise is getting later, and thereafter starts to outpace it. By about January 3rd, the sunrise starts creeping earlier too, and before you know it it's spring.

But Why?

It's really hard to explain. It has to do with the fact that the Earth moves faster through the arc of its orbit this time of year, when it's closer to the sun, giving the cycle of day and night a little push forward. The pattern is reversed in June and July, when we are the furthest from the sun.

Can You Elaborate?

No. I can barely keep it straight in my own head, let alone articulate it clearly. You'll just have to roll with it.

[Photo taken via Google image from the Flickr site of someone named Alice Thelma, who presumably owns the copyright. I imagine it's the same Alice Thelma who has this blog of phenomenal Portland-at-night photos.]
Wednesday Weigh-In: 205 lbs, 2 below plan, not necessarily for great reasons but I'll take it.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Rocking Out With Aunt & Uncle5000

We took Niece #1 out to see the Decemberists on Thanksgiving Saturday. It was her first rock show. When I stop to think about what it would have been like to be taken to a rock show by MY aunts or uncles when I was 19, I marvel at what a patient and accommodating young woman Niece #1 is. She seemed to have a good time, in any event, cheering, buying a souvenir, and holding her cell phone toward the stage to taunt and/or share the experience with Niece #2, who was home in Alaska and allegedly jealous. [for background on the Nieces, the 5000s, and the Decemberists, see "A Decemberists Tale," August 2007]

Mrs.5000 and I have now seen the Decemberists four times, plus two of Colin Meloy's solo shows, and I can say with confidence that we've never seen them look so... um... tired. Well, they were at the end of a national tour and probably recovering from a lethargic turkey binge with their families just like the rest of us. They are solid enough professionals to produce high quality rock music even under these circumstances, however, and a supportive hometown crowd kept things lively.

The pleasant surprise of the night was the opening band, an act from here in the City of Roses called Loch Lomand. I had heard of them in the local press, and knew they were well-regarded, but had got the impression that they were some kind of crypto-Celtic band. They aren't.

Now, I confess that when an eight-person band strides onstage with one member clutching a viola and another a bass clarinet, I am already on their side. My hopes for groovy sonic textures were not disappointed, either, as the set featured flutes, a regular clarinet, a bowed saw, and one of those plastic tubes you swing over your head, all supporting lush vocal harmonies led by a male singer who ranges from a full falsetto to a robust shouting baritone. The songs were similarly quirky, lots of 3/4 time signatures and unusual structures, and yet none of the above so far away from the mainstream to be tiresome or inaccessible.

Often times a band with a complex sound has a hard time in the studio, so I bought their record (Paper The Walls) but kept my expectations low. But it's good! Quite good, actually.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Monday Quiz LIV

But first! Check out the new masthead! And favicon! They are the work of the fabulous MyDogIsChelsea, my spiritual blogmother, and the only person to respond so far to the Request for Bids I posted last weekend.

If you are working on, or thinking of working on, a submission of your own, don't be discouraged. Equally awesome mastheads might well be rotated with MyDog's effort. Be forewarned however that I am very fond of the favicon.

People sometimes ask me, they say, "michael5000, why do you say MyDogIsChelsea is your 'spiritual blogmother?'" Well, that would be because she mentored me both directly and by example into this business of gonzo self-publication. I am also mighty fond of the way she writes, and over the last year and whatever I have shamelessly tried to rip off her style on many occasions. So, it's an honor to have her version of "The Chariot of Venus" gracing the top of the page.

But enough of that. Let's bring on the Quiz!!!

with the usual apologies to the international contingent, it's...

The 1980s in the United States of America

1. What movies do these two posters advertise?

2. What is about to happen?

3. 1983's Operation "Urgent Fury" was the American invasion of __________ .

4. It's 1989. What just happened?

5. Who is this gentleman?

Submit your answers in the comments.