Saturday, July 10, 2004


If you care, I just updated the list of articles I have written for Isthmus newspaper. It's over there on the right. I have innovatively put the list in (gasp) reverse chronological order.

The list is about a quarter of the work I've done for Isthmus, which only puts articles about selected topics--e.g., music and film--up on the web. So for the moment, little of my writing for the newspaper about theater, television, nightlife, books, comedy, computers and politics is available on the global worldwide Internet superhighway. Which is probably just as well.

Friday, July 09, 2004

The cause

Roger Ebert's review of what sounds like a sad new documentary by Austrian actor Maximilian Schell got me thinking about his appearance in one of my very favorite movies, Disney's The Black Hole. In what is basically a sci-fi remake of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Schell plays a mad scientist and space explorer who lobotomizes the crew of his spaceship, aboard which he lives in lonely splendor. A team that includes Robert Forster and Ernest Borgnine is sent to investigate what happened to Schell's ship. As they learn, he has parked next to a black hole, which he plans to explore.

Schell's performance is a hammy delight; he really wraps himself around the pseudo-scientific inanities of the screenplay. My favorite Schell line comes as he gazes at the black hole through a huge window and says something like, "There must be cause for all this...but what is the cause...of that cause..."

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Promo the showmo

Brady raised a good point when he commented on my last-minute blog promoting last night's World's Greatest Lovers show. In case you missed it, what he said was something along the lines of: a little lead time next time, Burns.

So here's the Crystal Corner's Tuesday schedule for the rest of the summer.


Freakin' and geekin'

I got tired of laboriously clicking and clicking to visit my favorite blogs, so I wrote a program that opens them all at once in separate windows. It gets the URLs from a text file that lists the blogs I read, one per line.

If you'd like to try the program, which I have dubbed Readblog, you can download it here, and a sample text file is here. You should put the program and text file in the same folder.

Disclaimers: Readblog uses Internet Explorer, so if you don't like that browser, don't run Readblog. Also, I've only tested Readblog in Windows XP. Finally, I'm not wearing any underwear.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Love, Wisconsin style

Don't forget, the World's Greatest Lovers, my new cover band with Scott Beardsley and Chris Boeger of the Hometown Sweethearts, have a show tonight at the Crystal Corner. There's lots new to hear, including tunes by Michael Jackson and Alanis Morisette. Also, you can check out my new electric guitar (thanks, Carl!) and perhaps show me how to play it.

Showtime: 9:30
Cover: $3
Dancing: Mandatory
Sex with the band: Anyway you want it, that's the way you need it
Good word

"At something more than 100 beats a minute, 'Another Brick [In the Wall, Pt. 2]' is very near disco, and the driving rhythms here introduced will be returned to periodically throughout [Pink Floyd's 1979 album] The Wall both overtly and as a subtle basso obbligato. The choice of a popular dance form to carry the burden of the album's call-to-arms is an imaginative and successful one--as if Beethoven had chosen the minuet as the vehicle for his funeral march in the Eroica symphony."

--Christian Williams, "Behind 'The Wall'--A Rock Odyssey With A Menacing Message," The Washington Post, April 6, 1980
Phun phact

Did you know Alexander Hamilton was illegitimate? His parents were not married. He was known to deny this. That's all I gleaned from Ron Chernow's Alexander Hamilton, though I hoped to learn more.

Let me explain. The night before last, I finished a book. That's always a satisfying feeling. Then I gazed at the stack from the library to see what was next. The Chernow beckoned, all 738 pages of it, so I happily snuggled up at bedtime with a Founding Father. People--OK, op-ed columnists--can't stop talking about this book, and I was curious to see for myself whether it is all that.

Just to be safe, yesterday I checked my account on the public library's web site to see when the book is due. Answer: today. And someone has recalled it, so I can't keep it. I'll have to wait till another time to learn more about Hamilton's bastardy.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Fight the power

Every so often there's a torrent of horrendous press about some piece of Microsoft software, and in the wake I often try out some highly touted alternative.

At first I like the alternative, and especially I like the way using alternative software makes me feel: smug and vaguely transgressive. Then I notice the alternative software has problems. Then I notice it's terrible. Then I switch back to the Microsoft product. This cycle usually runs its course in a day or less.

The alternative I most recently tried and rejected is Mozilla's Firefox browser. An alternative browser seems like a great idea, mostly because hackers and crackers and virus writers and cyber-ne'er-do-wells love to target Microsoft's Internet Explorer. I was especially nervous about recent reports of malicious code that steals your login information when you use Internet Explorer to access certain banking web sites.

At first I thought Firefox was great. Then I noticed it wasn't handling Adobe Acrobat files very well. Then I noticed that Java didn't work at all, so I installed Sun's Java package, which seems buggy (perhaps because my computer has an off-brand processor). Finally I was disturbed by the way Firefox randomly scrolls around in certain documents, especially the main page of

In the end I decided the alternative wasn't worth the trouble, even if using the Microsoft product means worrying about online banditry. I switched back to Internet Explorer.

Other alternative products I've tried include Sun's clunky StarOffice word processor, a disappointing recent version of Netscape, and the poor consumer version of Linux that came preinstalled on my PC.

Sigh. Monopolies wouldn't be so bad if they gave you better choices.
Good word

"Susan was showing me the sights because she wanted me to say Yes--it had somehow slipped her mind that this was the only word in a freelance writer's vocabulary."

--James Marcus, Amazonia: Five Years at the Epicenter of the Juggernaut

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Good word

"Black, white, Puerto Rican
Everybody just a-freakin'"

--Prince, "Uptown"