Monday, October 24, 2005

Along Came Jim Dandy

File Under: Random updates from the life of Mark

I've got a midterm wednesday and instead of studying, I'm updating my blog and watching "How I Met Your Mother." BTW I'm digging Neil Patrick Harris on this show. Seems like he's finally recovered from the stigma of being Doogie Howser. Gotta love procrastination.

Let see...the little sister came to visit over the weekend. I think we all had a good time, even though I did make her do a shot of tequila friday night. I took her on a de facto campus tour which turned into us going to the MSU/NU football game. We bought tickets from some scalper. Face value of $46 each and we paid $45 for two. It was right around kickoff time (12:00) and a word of advice: if you are purchasing tickets from a scalper, the value decreases once the game begins. The scalper's mentality turns from "lets see how much I can get for these" to "I need money...anything is better then nothing." The tickets were not together, but we did sit together. Unfortunately MSU decided to pretty much not show up and NU routed them...something like 52-14. Ugh. So what a couple of weeks ago looked like a promising season has suddenly turned ugly Such is the life of an MSU football fan.

Looks like I'm still on the Victoria's Secret mailing list. I peered into my's always fun when you see something in there. It makes you feel special. Then when you realize its: 1) a bill, 2) junk mail, 3) something unimportant the moment suddenly turns sour. So yeah, the lone item in my mailbox is the current VS promotional item -- a free Very Sexy for Her 2 spray (.25 oz size) plus (gotta love this) $5 off any bra. At least I have someone that can hopefully use it this time around -- not that Kelly didn't use it...but to me that can use it. So this perfume...rather this Eau de Parfum is called "Very Sexy for Her 2." Two logical conclusions come from this: one that this is the second installment in the VSfH series. This is the updated, more trendy version of the spray. Second, since this is called Very Sexy for Her it would infer that there is a Very Sexy for HIM. Seriously, what guy would 1) buy something for himself at VS, or 2) buy something for HIMSELF at VS. Of course the witty & observant individual would comment that while technically a guy may be buying something for his girl at VS, it really is for him. Although it would be interesting if VS started a men's line of stuff. You would need some good marketing people to pull that one off.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

There Goes the Fear Again

So last night I worked at the Lansing Jaycees Haunted House. People who know me understand how busy my life is and wonder how I manage to fit something else in. Well this was one of my few free nights and so I decided to put some time in, and I had a good time. The attendence was pretty ho hum, but it is still 2 weeks before Halloween. Anyway I was part of the "Electric Chair" room. Basically I was dressed in black (hey, anyone remember my pseudo-goth days?) and I had a black head cover on that showed only my eyes and mouth. There was a button on the chair that, when pressed, set off a lound buzzer and a strobe light. I would then act like I was getting electrocuted. It took me awhile to perfect my role. I started out by yelling things like "please save me, I didn't do it" or "you kids look just like the onces I killed by slitting their throats" and then hitting the button. I realized I got a better effect if I just sat there motionless, in a slumped position. I could hear people say "is he real?" or "he's gonna do something." Then I would wait until the last possible second and hit the buzzer and writhe around. That worked a lot better. I definitely enjoyed scaring the crap out of people. I worked in tandem with a guy who was in a "spook spot." Basically these are hidden doors where workers can jump in front of/behind the "victims." There was a scare spot in the rear of my room so once the victims went past, the monster would walk up behind them and get them. We had a nice little team going. I am quite sore today, however, from banging my body on the wooden chair. My elbows and my external occipital protuberance (bump on the rear of the skull just above where the neck starts) are especially sore. But hey, no pain no gain, right?

So I'm walking down Grand River the other day. I pass the purveyors of trendy college-chic known as Urban Outfitters. There is an empty storefront next too it and it is plastered with posters saying "Coming Soon: American Apparel." I let out a collective "Ugh." I first became aware of their existence through a link on Pitchfork. Being somewhat of a t-shirt junkie, I was curious. I went to their site and my first impression was "all you sell are solid colored shirts/pants/underwear." I was highly unimpressed. Then I read this (make sure to read the comments) by Mr. Alex Blogg. I have a link to his blog, but I'm not sure which of you read it on a regular basis. Anyway, I enjoyed his commentary on AA and their "mission." He also did his version of one of their ads. Apparently they are also opening a store on Coventry. Can we do something to stop these guys? Seriously though, I feel like printing out about 1000 copies of Mr. Blagg's opinion and doing one of the following: posting them in the near vicinity of the store; hand them out out to people leaving/entering the store; or going into the store and "accidently" dropping them all over the store.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

I'm Swimming Through the Stereo

Zen and the Art of the Mix Tape

Rob: The making of a great compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do and takes ages longer than it might seem. You gotta kick off with a killer, to grab attention. Then you got to take it up a notch, but you don't wanna blow your wad, so then you got to cool it off a notch. There are a lot of rules.

And that qoute is from one of my favorite movies, the 2000 masterpiece starring John Cusack, High Fidelity. I've been thinking about this post for quite awhile and finally decided to put said words to print.

Courtesy of my favorite online reference source, here is some history on the mixtape.

When I bought my first computer back in the summer of '97, it was just prior to the MP3/CD/DVD burner revolution. MP3s were practically unknown, CD Burners were only for the few bourgeoisie who could afford one, and DVDs were just coming into the marketplace. That said, I did not get my first CD burner until August of aught-four when I bought my sleek new laptop. Having a CD burner I actually got to be able to make mix-CDs. As I have made various mixes throughout the past year for both myself and others, I have realized that making a mix CD is a definite fine art.

The Songs
When making a mix, the songs are the meat. They provide the substance and will convey the message you are trying to send. All of the mixes I have made have some sort of meaning. Whether it is making a CD to get me pumped to run a send to someone across the sea I've never met...or making a sweet-ass 80s mix, each song must serve a purpose. It is exteremely difficult to make a good mix with some shitty filler music. CDs hold around 74 minutes of music. That is a lot of songs. Most of the professionals (i.e. the guys that you hear on the radio) rarely use all 74 minutes. Most CDs don't even go a full hour. That said, the home mix-maker feels not only inclined, but it is a duty to fill up the whole CD. Not only do you need a lot of songs, but you need upwards of 15-20 songs that have both significance and meaning to the theme of the mix.

I am a personal believer in themes when it comes to making a mix. I find it particularly hard and honestly, the quality is bad, when various songs are thrown together that seem to have no connection. Having a theme doesn't mean you need to stick to similar sounds & genres. No. But you need the glue that holds your meat together. OK, perhaps that is not the most accurate metaphor, but my readership is an intelligent one and gets the idea. The theme is that glue. Whether it is a "Names Named" mix where each song title is a person's name aka "Alison, Kate, Wendell Gee, King Nothing...etc" or a all songs that contain a similar word (World is a good one for that), a them is not only needed but really required in order to have a valid mix.

Song Order
Once the songs are determined the next order of business is the song order. This may be even more crucial then the actual songs themselves. You need a song order that flows from one song to the next. You are always going to have sections that move from loud to soft and from slow to fast. These sections are where you need to pay careful attention. The song order will make or break your mix CD. After I have my songs selected, I will pine for hours listening to the last 30 seconds of one song and the first 30 of the next to make sure I have a good transistion. For the hard-core musicphiles out there, knowing the keys of the songs will ensure smooth and elegant transitions. A lot of people like to make the mix top-heavy where the first couple songs are "the best" and the last songs get lost. That is a no-no. You need to order the songs so that the mix ebbs and flows. When you realize how hard it is to actually order the songs you will appreciate the fact that bands pay careful attention to song order and spend copious amounts of time to perfect it.

Two of my all-time favorite transitions come from, who else, R.E.M. From their 1988 output, Green, the song The Wrong Child* (probably one of their least favorite songs amongst their hardcore fans) comes before Orange Crush (one of their more favorite songs). At the end of The Wrong Child, Michael Stipe holds onto an innocent plea of "it's Okayyyyyy" while an acoustic guitar backs him. This follows with a moment of quiet leading into the snare-drum intro into the hard-rocker Orange Crush. Likewise on their 1998 LP (and debut as a trio) the song Hope leads into At My Most Beautiful. The last minute or so of Hope is an instrumental mess of building noise and dissonance. At the last second the noise releases, reverberates for a split second leading to the quiet piano intro of At My Most Beautiful. Two styles: soft to loud and loud to soft are both described here. In the context of their respective albums and songs, it takes the whole experience a step higher.

The Reason
Ahh yes and so we've come to why you are making said mix. Some of the reasons for a mix: participation in a mix-CD trade; a party mix; a road trip mix; maybe you want to give someone (a friend, family member) exposure to other styles of music; and of course one of the most popular reasons to make a mix is for that special someone in your life. Whatever the reason, I've thought about the songs that have 1) been given to me on a mix and 2) I have given to others on a mix. And this has gotten me thinking:

If someone puts a song on a mix for me, am I allowed to put it on a mix for someone else?
and the corollary:
If I put a song on a mix for someone, does that forbid me from putting that song on another mix for someone else?

Are songs that are shared between people effectively contracts between the two parties or are they just an entity of the public domain that anyone can share and can be shared by many peoples? I have broken the 2nd part of my corollary. I did it without even thinking about it. But then it got me thinking about my own style of making mixes -- to include at least one song I've had on other mixes as a way to overlap them. Now that just makes my corollary invalid, but I'm just stating questions & opinon here. By no means are these rules set in stone. Just thoughts I've had.

As a reward for those that have made it this far, I'll leave you with two links from Tiny Mix Tapes. OK, that's officially three, but who's counting. The first is an article entitled "Music Snobbery in the Dating World." The second is to their Automatic Mix Tapes Generator. Readers can submit topics to be covered and others will provide a written mix of songs for that compilation. It is a fun read for both the topics people submit and the songs on the mixes. It updates every couple of days.

So the next time you do a mix, think about what you are doing. It is a true art form. Each song has meaning and where that song occurs in the mix gives it enhanced meaning. Go forth and make good mixes!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Do You Really Want to Live Forever?

The sweet words of the German group Alphaville. You can check out their website here.

Hope you made it to the "new" site. Welcome. Shalom. Willkommen. Bienvenue. Recepcion.

I recently made an aquaintence. We were doing the whole "asking questions about each other" thing -- age, where we're from, etc. Girl is 22....ok....has some kids....plural....she is quite many?....FOUR! I stopped asking questions as I was afraid of the answers I would get. Seriously. I just don't wanna know.

So I caught some of SNL last night. Jon Heder of Napolean Dynamite fame hosted. I couldn't help but thinking about how type-cast Heder will be. Yeah ND is a funny film and has become an instant cult classic movie, but I feel bad for the guy. Foreve he will be known as Napolean Dynamite. I'm sure he's a good actor but he may be suffering from Stiffler (Sean William Scott) syndrome where every role is has is some amalgamated version of the character he is famous for. Although I'm thinking that Heder is a far superior actor then Scott. Even if Heder takes a dramatic turn I see this happening:
Scene: Sebastian is consolling David (Heder) after David learns of his ex-girlfriend's behavior post-breakup
Sebastian: So what are you gonna do?
Audience then yells in Rocky Horror fashion, "whatever I feel like I wanna do! Gosh!"

Of course Heder is still young and has a promising career ahead of him. I still see him in 50 years in an old-folks home and guys coming up and saying "Gimme some of your tots." After years and years of enduring this and being a good sport, Heder goes postal at the old-folks home. Speaking of ND, I think Uncle Rico doesn't get as much respect in quoting the movie. Here is a paraphrase of his lines loosely based on my life:
How much you wanna bet I can jump over them backstroke flags?...Yeah...If coach would've put me on that relay we would've made state...No doubt. No doubt in my mind.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Don't You Cry Tonight

Reminder: this sunday the url of MOL will change to

Tuesday I set a new personal record that I am not particularly proud of. Because of my actions/words/etc I made, count 'em, 4 different people cry. The List:

One of my swimmer's
Parent of a swimmer

I coach/instruct a group of 15 or so novice swimmers. MSU runs a learn-to-swim program and after they matriculate through the program and they are still interested in the sport, they come to me and join the "Beginning Competitive Swimming" program. My skill level ranges from very raw & beginner swimmers to much more experienced swimmers who understand interval training and I can push harder. One of the benefits from particicpating in sports is learning valuable life skills. Sports have taught me how to set goals, self-motivate myself to achieve these goals, and be responsible for my actions. Aside from the health & performance benefits, I want my athletes to learn these other skills as well. I have one swimmer, for argument's sake we'll call him Che. Side note: I watched The Motorcycle Diaries last night. A very good and enjoyable movie. My limited knowledge of Che Guevara is that he was a Cuban Revolutionary and that lots of people like his image, but don't necessarily have knowledge of his dubious actions.

Back to my swimmer. Che is 11 years old and constantly runs late. He is also the "King of Excuses." Whenever I ask him about something he always offers a rationale as to why he messed up. I have mentioned to him numerous times in the past about his tardiness and asked him if he could try to get here a little earlier. Last week he showed up a good 10 minutes late and I said to him, "Che, next week if you come late you will not be able to swim." Luckily I wrote it down in my notebook for tuesday's practice, or I will have forgot. Needless to say Che arrives a good 10 minutes late. I ask him if he rememebers what I told him and of course he does not. I tell him that he is not swimming today and he again gives me an excuse. I explained to him the concept of arriving on time and perhaps he needs to leave earlier so he can make it here on time. The kid is 11 and I feel this is an age where one needs to start learning self-responsibility. I could see the tears starting to form in his eyes as I was talking to him. I did not see him cry per se, but I'm pretty sure he did in the locker room. I felt bad and do not enjoy being the bad guy in anyway, but Che needed to learn a lesson. My worst fear was that I would never see him again. Well thursday rolls around and who is not only on time but early? Mr. Che! I told him I was proud of him and hopefully this was the start of some new behavior from him.

This was the first time I've ever kicked someone out of practice/not permitted them to swim. Then about 10 minutes later another swimmer shows up -- this is my 5-year old. He mom asks if it is ok for her to still swim. This is right after I did not permit Che to swim. Here I am thinking "OK, you just told one kid they could not swim because they are late, but you are going to let someone else who has arrived later swim?" I told the mother in a somewhat grumpy tone that yes she can swim today. She's 5-years old, I'm not going to kick a 5-year old out. On the same token I had minutes ago set a standard and in my mind I'm sending dual messages like "if swimmer A comes late they can't swim, but it's ok for swimmer B to come late and swim?" I felt very...compromised. Later on I chatted with the mother (during practice which is not a particularly good idea) and she explained that 5YO would always be late on tuesdays. I mentioned if it would be possible for 5YO to come in on wed/thur instead of tue/thur? I told her I would think about the situation and get back to her. Honestly, I do not like kids coming in late. I feel that it gets harder for them to get incoporated into the practice and usually I have a plan for the day based on the personnel I have. A swimmer shows up late and it wrinkles things up a bit and sets off my equilibrium. Also, a 5YO doing two 1.5 hour workouts a week? I want no part in contributing to her hating the sport in 10 years.

So thursday rolls around, Che shows up on time and I'm in a good mood (like most thursdays for some reason). My boss (and member of my thesis committee) shows up and asks why she had a mother of a swimmer in her office crying. I'm like "oh no." And I explained what exactly had happened on tuesday. If it had been any other day then when I told Che he could not have swam, I would have been grumpy, but would have 5YO swim and would have said nothing. It was just on that day and that situation and things became a bit unraveled. Now mother is most likely pulling 5YO out of the program -- I will be making a phone call today to kiss some ass, clear up the situation, and hopefully get 5YO back. Speaking of 5YO swimmers, my sister tells me my neice is becoming quite the swimmer -- Uncle Mark certainly likes that to her. Keep up the good work Madelyn.

Since one of my on-going dreams (along with Rock Star) is to become a swim coach, I figure I'll have to deal with these situations at some point. But it's never fun. I think that is why I want to work with older kids. They understand that if I kick them out of practice, it's nothing personal, they just screwed up. I know that is one area I am weak in -- being emotionally supportive. If a kid (any age) is going to come up to me and start crying, I find it hard to say "there there, it is ok." It is not my personality type. Thats why I either need to really improve here or have people on my staff who can do that. But the more I face situations like these, the better I'll become in dealing with the situations and know how to handle all the circumstances.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Flesh You So Fancifully Fry

There is nothing quite like retroactive blogging, ya know?

As a reminder, this sunday I will be changing MOL's url to -- be sure to change your links & bookmarks accordingly.

So monday I was walking back from class and had the chance to pass by a protest that PETA, (this PETA, not this PETA) was doing. Having nothing to do with their organization I denied any opportunity for them to give me their "literature." Just after the fact I thought to myself, "Now self, you should say something praising all the virtues of red meat." This is because one of the by-products of the PETA campaign is to endorse a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle. Like always, I kicked myself for not speaking up.

Fast-forward to today. Again I'm walking back from class and again I go through this war-zone. Additionally, there was an artice in the paper regarding these protests. The PETA group is using large, blown-up images of animal cruelty and comparing these conditions to slavery. Apparently this is not a wise analogy to make as a number of Black students are offended (rightfully so) and suggest that they [PETA] have no right to make this analogy. Seeing my opportunity ahead of me, I go balls-into enemy territory. Even as I was having a cell phone conversation with my sister, this did not deter the mighty force of the PETA protestor. I was quickly offered a card to take with me. I polietly declined and verbally suggested my preference to cooked animal product. This was their outer ring defense; I got by unscathed but was continuing on through the belly of the beast. Gaining momentum, and confidence, I quickly pulled out the big guns. Using my vocal skills which I honed through years of cheering at swim meets, I rightfully (and loudly!) extolled the virtues of such things as bloody steaks and seasoned beef and all things meat. The enemy was caught off guard and had no defense prepared. I had survived my trip through the gaunlet and raised my head a little higher as I continued my journey back to my dorm.

Now, I have nothing against vegetariansvegans. I don't necessarily agree with their eating habits, but I know plenty of vegans and don't think any less of them. What I have a problem with is extreme demonstrations like the one going on in this example. Does it ever cross the minds of these people (not just PETA, but all protestors like this), that maybe these graphic images and analogies that are stretching the truth, are a bit ineffective There are certainly better ways to go about getting your message across and in a much more civil way. Well it is PETA. IMHO, once this world is free of all the incruelty and rights-violations that go on with humans (hey China, are you reading this), well then we can move onto animals. From my perspective, these people would much rather save animal lives then human lives. That is all fine and dandy, but we should all really worry about our own kind first, because when it comes down to it, a single human's life is far more important then any animal's life.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

A Public Service Announcement

An announcement from yours truly at MOL:
On Sunday October 9, 2005 I will be changing the url to this-here blog. I haven't decided what it will ultimately be but it will be something along the lines of or or Comments/feedback are appreciated. Once I determine what I will publish as I will let you all know so you can change your bookmarks & links accordingly.

By the way, my friend Ms. Alicia Kendig has started a blog. Be sure to check it out.

No Dark Sarcasm

Circa 1997

I was a freshman undergraduate. The advent of the Internet and personal computing was upon us. My sister had received her baccalaureate degree the previous spring. When she entered school in the fall of 1993, computers were not something that were required of students attending university. Fast-foward 4 years as I am entering my undergraduate career and not only are computers everywhere, every student is expected to bring one to campus with them. I arrived on campus as a wide-eyed uncynical 18-year old and my computer was outfitted so I could reap all the benefits of a 24-hr high-speed internet connection. At this time most people were only familiar with AOL and the unfortuneness that is dial-up. This was the toddler years of the Internet: MP3s had just started to arrive, google still meant 10^100, and Windows 95 crashed seemingly daily.

Part of the undergraduate experience is keep in touch with (or falling in touch with) friends from high school. Email helped with this as we would all send out mass-emails to proclaim the virtues of our respective schools & to coordinate social events when we were in town. Shortly into that year, AOL released a little piece of software called AIM. Users of AOL always had the ability to message with other users ("Instant Messaging" for those of the less-saavy tech persuasion), but AIM extended this use across the Internet. I quickly downloaded the program and encouraged all my friends to as I expanded my Buddy List. One of the perks/pains of AIM was choosing a suitable screen name. You wanted it to reflect who you were but at the same time have some fun with it. This led to many a sweet-folloy-of-youth as people chose names that sounded good at the time but now scream out "what was I thinking?" Stuff like "spartanstud97."

My two best buddies, we'll call them "Brian" and "John," each downloaded AIM so we could chat and catch-up. Many a deep and philisophical debate happened in these conversations -- such as establishment of the cuteness factor and the vortex. One of the hardest things to understand while communicating strictly through the written word is tone. Even if you are fully following a conversation, one is never entirely sure of how the words are intended. This is especially important in the case of sarcasm. When IMing with someone it can be very difficult to figure out if someone is being sarcastic or not. In a spurt of creative wisdom the three of us decided that to help in our conversations we would use that underutilized punctuation symbol the tilde (~) to represent sarcasm. This was a revelation! Our IM conversations were so much easier to follow and in some sort of little-way we felt like we were setting a precedent.

A couple weeks ago I had an IM conversation with a friend and I brought up this idea of using the tilde to denote sarcasm. It had been years since I had done this, but felt like sharing my wisdom. I figured it was our little thing and thought nothing of it. The other night I came home from work and began this post. unfortunately the site was down for maintenance so I was unable to do my post. In the meantime, I decided to do a little research on our friend the tilde. So I went to the definitive source of everything, Wikipedia and looked up tilde to figure out what it is truly used for. If you read the whole entry you will find the following sentence:

"The tilde is also used in instant messaging and other online chat communities, to indicate sarcasm."

I stopped. WHAT? That was OUR thing. Seriously. I'm not trying to take credit for it, but the three of us figured it out on our own 8 years ago. As far as we're concerned, this is the first recorded instance of the tilde to denote sarcasm. Maybe its a case of Newton and Leibniz discovering the bases of Calculus independently of each other...but now in my eyes I have helped to set an Internet Precedent.