Thursday, December 09, 2004

Brave new world

My new cell phone lifestyle means, among other things, that I no longer use my Cli�, the Sony-made handheld computer I bought a couple of years ago. It's about time: for all that I like it, the Cli� is getting a little battered and finicky. Ereck loves to play Scrabble on it, though, so it can contentedly retire to that use.

I'm able to jettison the Cli� because my phone lets me keep track of contacts and appointments. That wouldn't mean much if I weren't able to synchronize the phone with Outlook, but happily the phone has an infrared port for just this purpose. So I bought an infrared adapter for my computer and, after much fiddling, got the devices talking to each other.

I hit a snag when it turned out that the phone can hold only 500 contacts, and my Outlook count was approaching 1,000. Lots of these were not relevant, however, like the number of an automobile glass shop on the South Side of Chicago whose services I needed ten years ago. So I winnowed down my list.

Another thing I can do is load my phone with ringtones. These are MIDI files, those tinny approximations of pop songs that are endlessly available on the Internet. I have long loathed MIDI files that play, unbidden, when I visit certain web sites, but what with my new cell phone lifestyle, MIDI files are my new best friend. What song currently plays when I get a call? "We Like To Party," natch.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Good word

"I feel great and I look great."

--Backstreet Boy A.J. Mclean, upon leaving rehab in 2001
Eye candy

Last night I went to the budget cinema and finally caught up with a film that has long been on my list, the science fiction epic Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. I'm glad I didn't wait for the DVD. The movie is gorgeous, and its computer-generated imagery looked great on the big screen (even at the budget cinema, where someone seems to have thrown food at the big screen).

Set in 1939, Sky Captain is about scary, giant robots that attack New York and other cities around the world. No one can vanquish the robots except Joe "Sky Captain" Sullivan (Jude Law), a mercenary gadget freak who goes everywhere in a beautiful Flying Tiger plane. Sullivan and his old flame, journalist Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow), fly all over creation looking for whoever is running the machines.

It's a pretty thin plot. Some critics have complained about that, and also about the silly dialogue, but I was so delighted by the sheer spectacle that I hardly noticed.

Writer and director Kerry Conran must, like me, be a transportation buff, because his characters get around in all kinds of interesting ways. The movie opens with the sight of an airship docking at the top of the Empire State Building, and there also is a giant airborne aircraft carrier suspended on propellers (it's commanded by Angelina Jolie, who wears a jaunty eyepatch), as well as planes that fly underwater, not to mention that Flying Tiger.

I love the malevolent robots, which fly like planes (and sometimes like birds) until they land and start killin' people and smashin' stuff. Fabulous.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Good grief

Tonight at 7:00 Central time, ABC airs the 1965 special "A Charlie Brown Christmas." The show still moves me. There is a lot of silence, rare in kids' animation, and the soundtrack by Vince Guaraldi is a stunner; the sad, slow waltz "Christmas Time Is Here" is probably my favorite Christmas song.
International affairs

Two years ago I was busking on State Street, and someone slipped a Canadian $20 bill into my hat. I carried it with me for two years, not certain what to do with it. But during a layover at Midway airport last week I noticed a tiny booth that offered currency-exchange services. (It was a proper currency exchange, not one of those Chicago currency exchanges where you can buy a bus pass.) I figured I had held onto to the twenty long enough, so I exchanged it.

Granted, the dollar being what it is these days, it is not the best time to swap currencies. Also, the bank exacted a $3 service charge. The whole thing was ridiculous, but I did walk away with twelve smackeroos, American, plus change. I spent it on breakfast.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Apropos of my list of music videos (I forgot two important ones, BTW: the Tubes' "She's a Beauty" and Aldo Nova's "Fantasy"), it occurs to me: 'tis pity the Internet does not have a comprehensive database of music videos along the lines of the Internet Movie Database, or, or the Internet Broadway Database (or, for that matter,, not only a fine e-commerce site but also a great reference work for information about books).

Someone enterprising, please get on that.

That reminds me of another idea I had for a web site. (Remember when simply having an idea for a web site could make you a zillionaire?) I'm a great lover of songs, and I'm also a great lover of Google because, among other reasons, it helps me identify songs based on fragmentary information. Type in a snippet of lyrics, and voila: there's the song. It's like magic.

But what if I can't remember any words? What if all I remember is a melody? It could be an instrumental, or a classical work, or one of those pop tunes that doesn't have much of a hook. I suppose I could hum the melody to everyone I know and hope that someone identifies it.

But why can't I hum the song into a computer and let the Internet identify it?

So that's my idea: Google for Melodies. Someone enterprising, please get on that too.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Them was the good old days

Because I am insane, I made a list of videos I remember from MTV's earliest days. My family didn't get cable until a few months after MTV first started airing in August 1981, so I may have missed a few important clips. I have arbitarily cut off the list sometime in the spring of 1983 for reasons that are so subjective they could not possibly matter to you.

Please feel free to contribute.

.38 Special
Caught Up In You
Hold on Loosely
Adams, Brian
Cuts Like a Knife
Run to You
Ant, Adam
Ant Music
Heat of the Moment
Only Time Will Tell
It Ain't What You Do
Really Sayin' Something
Basil, Toni
Beatles, The
Love Me Do
Benatar, Pat
You Better Run
Blue Oyster Cult
Burnin' For You
Bow Wow Wow
I Want Candy
Bowie, David
Ashes to Ashes
Buggles, The
Plastic Age
Video Killed the Radio Star
Carnes, Kim
Draw of the Cards
Cars, The
Shake It Up
Since You're Gone
Cheap Trick
If You Want My Love
She's Tight
My Girl
Clash, The
Rock the Casbah
Collins, Phil
In the Air Tonight
Costello, Elvis
Oliver's Army
Cougar, John
Hurts So Good
Jack and Diane
Crenshaw, Marshall
Someday, Someway
Whenever You're On My Mind
Crosby Stills and Nash
Southern Cross
Daltrey, Roger
Free Me
Love Without Anger
Through Being Cool
Whip It
Dexy's Midnight Runners
Come On Eileen
Dire Straits
Dolby, Thomas
She Blinded Me With Science
Doors, The
Touch Me
Duran Duran
Hungry Like the Wolf
Planet Earth
Easton, Sheena
For Your Eyes Only
Fagen, Donald
New Frontier
Fleetwood Mac
Hold Me
Flock of Seagulls, A
I Ran
No Reply At All
Haircut 100
Love Plus One
Hall and Oates
Private Eyes
Harrison, George
All Those Years Ago
Hendrix, Jimi
Human League
Don�t You Want Me
Iris, Donnie
Love is Like a Rock
Sweet Merilee
Iron Maiden
Run to the Hills
J. Geils Band
Freeze Frame
Love Stinks
Jackson, Joe
Breaking Us in Two
Steppin' Out
Jefferson Starship
Jett, Joan
Crimson and Clover
I Love Rock and Roll
Joel, Billy
Johansen, David
We Gotta Get Out of This Place/Don't Bring Me Down/It's My Life
John, Elton
Still Standing
Jones, Grace
Demolition Man
Joplin, Janis
Tell Mama
Judas Priest
Hot Rockin'
Kinks, The
I Love It Loud
Lewis, Huey
Do You Believe in Love
Hope You Love Me Like You Say You Do
Working For a Living
Loggins, Kenny
I'm All Right
Workin' for the Weekend
House of Fun
One Step Beyond
Our House
McCartney, Paul
Ebony and Ivory
Take It Away
Miller, Steve
Missing Persons
Destination Unknown
Motels, The
Only the Lonely
Musical Youth
Pass the Dutchie
Newton-John, Olivia
Nicks, Stevie
Stop Draggin' My Heart Around
Numan, Gary
Palmer, Robert
Parsons, Alan
Eye in the Sky
Petty, Tom
You Got Lucky
Plant, Robert
Big Log
In the Mood
Police, The
Don't Stand So Close to Me
Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
Invisible Sun
Spirits in the Material World
Pretenders, The
Brass in Pocket
Tattooed Love Boys
Under Pressure
Reed, Lou
Rolling Stones, The
Going to a Go Go
Hang Fire
Start Me Up
Time is on My Side
Waiting on a Friend
Tom Sawyer
On the Loose
Hold On
Specials, The
A Message to You Rudy
Split Enz
Six Months in a Leaky Boat
Springfield, Rick
Don't Talk to Strangers
Springsteen, Bruce
Atlantic City
Black Coffee In Bed
Stray Cats
Rock this Town
Stray Cat Strut
Mr. Roboto
Too Much Time on My Hands
Talking Heads
Once in a Lifetime
Taylor, James
Used to Be Her Town
Thoroughgood, George
Bad to the Bone
Tom Tom Club
Genius Of Love
Townshend, Pete
Face Dances Pt. 2
Rough Boys
Tubes, The
Talk to You Later
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Van Halen
Oh, Pretty Woman
Vapors, The
Turning Japanese
Wall of Voodoo
Mexican Radio
Who, The
Another Tricky Day
Don't Let Go the Coat
Eminence Front
You Better You Bet
Wright, Gary
Really Wanna Know You
Senses Working Overtime

Night flight

We took the red-eye back from San Francisco. This was mostly because the flight was cheap, but also because I get a little thrill every time I say the words we took the red-eye. The plane took off at about 11:30 p.m. Pacific time, and it was 5:00 a.m. Central time when we stepped onto solid ground on the South Side of Chicago.

The flight was completely full, which surprised me. Who wants to take the red-eye? Except that as my friend Ben in San Francisco pointed out, all the flights are full these days.

Ereck and I were apprehensive about the overnight flight. In the end, however, we agreed that it was an unmitigated success, because we slept the whole way, as did everyone else. This was no mean feat for me, since I'm the world's lightest sleeper, but the plane was completely silent and almost completely dark. I awakened only once mid-flight, when we hit some turbulence, and then again when word from the flight deck came that we were getting ready to land.

I was up from then on, and I sleepily gazed at the tiny television screens that were silently showing, of all things, the video for "Easy Lover," the 1986 hit by Philip Bailey and Phil Collins. The plane was shuddering violently at this point, and as I watched Bailey and Collins mouth the words ("She's an easy lover / She'll get a hold on you, believe it"), I thought: what if this is the last thing I see before I die?