Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (12/30/2009)

Even More Exclamation Points Edition!

Oh noes! Looks like Obama has lost the has-been rocker vote!

Wow, somebody actually had something intelligent to say about Tiger Woods!

Bizarro nails 2012!

Five possible scenarios for our future climate: bad, badder, badderer, baddererer, and badderererst!

The Adventures of Leonard McCoy, Space Doctor (no. 4)


"Bones, can you save him?"

Follow the adventures of Leonard McCoy, Space Doctor, as he explores the far reaches of space (and my house... and my backyard... and my kids' toy boxes) with his friends Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. Every Wednesday and Friday, right here at ToTryANewSword.com.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Good reads/Random Cool Sites (12/28/2009)

The Onion says pretty much all anyone needs to say about "young-Earth creationism": Sumerians Look On In Confusion As God Creates World.

Worldometers: world statistics updated in real time.

Ask a Nobel laureate.

Tragic baby in a bunny suit.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Tragic, epic, Benny Hill

I can't stop playing with these.

They work great on movie trailers, such as:

Napolean Dynamite,

And Twilight,

And Pocahontas.

Also on music videos, such as:

Lady Gaga,

And Fergie.

And they work especially well on babies.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Adventures of Leonard McCoy, Space Doctor (no. 3)


"There appears to have been a transporter malfunction, Captain."

Follow the adventures of Leonard McCoy, Space Doctor, as he explores the far reaches of space (and my house... and my backyard... and my kids' toy boxes) with his friends Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. Every Wednesday and Friday, right here at ToTryANewSword.com.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Good reads/Random Cool Sites (12/22/2009)

People Won't Read Something That Long on the Internet Edition.

It pains me to say so, but Drew Western might be right about Obama. Might be. I've underestimated him before.

James Cameron: Man of Extremes.

Roger Ebert's best films of 2009.

Bad Beatles covers

Because it's Tuesday.

William Shatner, "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"



A Large Foreign Sailor, "Let It Be"



Telly Savalas, "Something"



Cathy Berberian, "I Want to Hold Your Hand"



Tiny Tim, "Nowhere Man"



Madame St. Onge, "Something"


Monday, December 21, 2009

If the Earth had rings

If the Earth had rings, it might look like this. (Discussion here.)



And a Uranus joke:
"Is it true that Uranus has rings?"
"I don't know."
"Show me Uranus, and I'll check."

Thank you. Thank you very much. I'll be here all week.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (12/20/2009)

All Funny Edition.

texts from last night. How many of these are real? Dunno, but they're funny (as well as not safe for work/children/prudes).

Why Jesus shouldn't dive.

Sketchy Santas.

The Geek Map.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Adventures of Leonard McCoy, Space Doctor (no. 2)


"I'm picking up some unusual energy readings."

Follow the adventures of Leonard McCoy, Space Doctor, as he explores the far reaches of space (and my house... and my backyard... and my kids' toy boxes) with his friends Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. Every Wednesday and Friday, right here at ToTryANewSword.com.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My plastic brain?

In the department of "Man, that sounds like me," John Elder Robison writes,

Plasticity is the brain’s ability to form new paths. You might say it’s an essential component of learning any new skill. For example, when you learn the way up the stairs and down the hall to your room, you are using plasticity to make a path in your brain that tells your legs what to do to go from the front door to your nest.

The scientists in the TMS lab believe unusual plasticity is the reason I can learn things so fast. There have been many times that I’ve focused intently on some bit of arcana and become an expert so quickly that other people thought it was unbelievable.

That's me exactly. I don't really know if "brain plasticity" has anything to do with it, but several times in my life, in no more than a month or two I've mastered topical knowledge equal to (or surpassing) what other people have spent years learning. But this is me also:

But I’m afraid it’s not the whole story. Sure, if I get fascinated by something I devour all I can about my new interest overnight, but there are plenty of topics that don’t interest me much, and plasticity does not help me one bit if I have to study them. Is plasticity a kind of fair weather friend, something that only helps with things I like?

And maybe this is also me:

...scientists at the lab attribute much of my learning ability to plasticity. At the same time, they blame my social blindness in part on plasticity too. ...

Neurotypical people might have one path in their heads to recognize facial expressions. By the time they grow up, that path is well worn and familiar. People with high plasticity (referring to me) might have a hundred paths, or a thousand, and they are all smaller. So plasticity has put a lot more options inside our heads, but they are so complex that they don’t run fast like an NT person. The result – a social disability.

Again, I don't know if the theory is correct, but I'll give you an example from my experience that seems to fit it: waving at people. I see my neighbor outside every couple of weeks or so, and she's a nice lady, so she always waves at me. I'm pretty sure that when something like that happens with neurotypical people, they simply react: "Waved at by acquaintance -> Wave back." Simple.

But in my case, I don't seem to have a "Waved at -> Wave back" path in my brain. Instead, my reaction is a process something like this: "Waved at -> That's my neighbor -> She's waving -> When waved at, one should wave back -> Wave back." No single step takes a long time, but it takes a while to get through all of them, and in about half of these encounters my neighbor has already looked away by the time I wave back. Fortunately, she's a nice lady, so she hasn't stopped waving.

Does that mean that my reaction is jumping around through a bunch of different brain paths, and that's what makes it take so long? I don't know. It's an intriguing idea, and it seems like it would fit.

I can do better at waving in some cases, namely when I get used to waving at a specific person under specific circumstances. Could that mean that I've somehow managed to "groove" a brain path through repetition? Again, I don't know, but it seems to fit.

For example, when I pick up my daughter from kindergarten, her teacher, Eric, almost always waves at me. After three months, I've gotten pretty used to it, so the process goes something like this: "That's Eric -> He'll probably wave at me -> Waved at -> Wave back." Usually I manage to complete that process in a fairly timely way, before he looks away. Once in a while, I actually manage to wave first.

At least, that's what happens if I see Eric before he waves at me. If he waves at the same time I see him, it throws off my timing, and I might not wave before he looks away.

Sometimes, it's not easy being me.

Thursday haiku: dichotomy

false dichotomy.
anarchy and chaos aren't
the alternatives.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Adventures of Leonard McCoy, Space Doctor (no. 1)

Follow the adventures of Leonard McCoy, Space Doctor, as he explores the far reaches of space (and my house... and my backyard... and my kids' toy boxes) with his friends Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. Every Wednesday and Friday, right here at ToTryANewSword.com.


"I'm a doctor, not a bricklayer!"

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Happy in Paraguay

This is the funniest video ever. Seriously. Well, not seriously, because it's funny -- aww, you know what I mean. (Language may not be safe for work/children/prudes.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (12/10/2009)

Josh Marshall asks hard questions about climate change.

Atlas Chugged: The Ayn Rand Drinking Game.

Hitler on the evidence for chiropractic (language not safe for work/children/prudes).

College football rivalry games bring out the best in people (language not safe for work/children/prudes).

Thursday haiku: again

i write and proud i
wait but so few people read
yet again i write

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (12/8/2009)

Sometimes "FAIL" means "worked too well," as with this Christmas decoration.

Eric Snider's rejected "New Moon" screenplay.

"Ask Richard" at the Friendly Atheist has become my favorite advice column. Usually when I say an advice columnist is good, I mean that s/he says what I would have. (Usually it's just common sense.) But Richard always gives much better advice than I could. As with this one: "Atheist Despairs for Love and Respect from Her Mormon Family."

From the New Yorker:
When the Christmas tree pops up in literature, it often does so at moments of great emotional importance. Yet the work it appears in is not always the best-known of an author's oeuvre, much as a Christmas album put out by a famous singer is seldom the work he'd stake his reputation on. Nevertheless, both Christmas albums and Christmas writings can be sweet—confections, to be placed on the tongue and allowed to melt slowly over the season until, on New Year's day, they fade away entirely, forgotten for the next eleven months. All the more reason, then, to play the classics while we can.

The unreliable author: Why Stephenie Meyer is accidentally a great writer (sort of)

Many writers try to capture the voice of an adolescent protagonist. Few of them succeed. Most of them sound like what they are: adults trying to sound like teenagers, and failing. In a few cases, in the best first-person coming-of-age novels, the authors manage to capture an authentic teenage voice.

Besides this authentic voice, however, these great novels have another thing in common: their protagonists are unusually sensitive, idealistic, mature, and/or intelligent. Simply put, they're a lot smarter -- or rather, a lot deeper -- than the average teenager.

And I suspect there's a simple reason for that: their authors are also deeper in certain ways than the average person. One of the reasons those authors can write so well is that they have much more than the ordinary amount of insight into themselves and into other people. They understand human nature so well.

Thus, even when great writers capture an authentic adolescent voice, their protagonists understand the world around them far better than most adolescents do. Even so, they remain adolescents. They don't know everything; they still have things to learn. And great writers know this. They understand their protagonists completely. They know what their protagonists know, and perhaps even more importantly, they know what their protagonists don't know.

Of course, this seems like an obvious point, but it is crucial to understanding the success of Twilight and why Stephenie Meyer is a great writer, but only "sort of," and only accidentally at that.

Because where Meyer is indeed great is in the way she captures an authentic adolescent voice: Bella Swan. Bella's voice is as true as that of any teen or child in American literature. I say that without qualification. At least in Twilight (the only one of the books I've read so far), Bella is just as real as Huck Finn, Holden Caulfield, Scout Finch, Josh Arnold, Reuven Malter, or any other protagonist in a great coming-of-age novel. She is completely authentic in her own way.

But this is not by Meyer's design. As I've said before (and as many other people have noted), in Twilight Meyer actually seems to believe she's telling a story about an intelligent, grounded, and mature girl whose self-esteem is a bit low, not a girl who is strikingly immature, melodramatic, shallow, and narcissistic. Bella constantly complains, blushes, stumbles, faints, gets tongue-tied around the opposite sex, feels embarrassed about being seen with her parents, freaks out when people look at her, and obsesses over a boy she hardly knows because he has bronze hair and golden eyes, yet every other character in the book seems to consider her mature and intelligent.

In other words, Meyer fails miserably at one of the things that the authors of truly great coming-of-age novels all do. She fails utterly at knowing her protagonist and especially at "knowing what her protagonist doesn't know." Nobody in the book realizes that Bella is immature, melodramatic, shallow, and narcissistic because Meyer doesn't realize it either.

Ironically, though, that is Twilight's greatest strength. Because think about what it's like to be an adolescent. I don't mean one of the unusually sensitive, idealistic, mature, and/or intelligent protagonists typical of a great coming-of-age novel, but just an ordinary, everyday teenager. To the extent one can generalize, "immature, melodramatic, shallow, and narcissistic" seems like a pretty reasonable description.

And lacking the unusually keen insight of truly great authors, Meyer doesn't realize that that's who Bella is. But that failure actually serves to make Bella's voice more authentic. Because typically immature, melodramatic, shallow, and narcissistic teens never realize that they are immature, melodramatic, shallow, and narcissistic. In fact, they always think that they are mature, deep, and intelligent. So Meyer's lack of insight actually causes her to accidentally capture that aspect of teenage psychology perfectly.

Indeed, almost everything that's bad about Meyer's writing makes Bella's voice more authentic. The one- and two-dimensional characters who can easily be summed up in short mocking descriptive phrases (e.g., Carlisle The Wise Leader, Esme The Motherly One, Alice The Nice One)? This reflects a typically narcissistic way of seeing the world that many teenagers have, in which people are defined solely by their roles relative to oneself: Parent, Teacher, Friend's Parent, etc. (Hence the disconcerted feeling that can arise when adolescents are somehow made to think of those people in different roles, the "Ewww!" at the thought of teachers having sex lives, for example.)

The purple prose, never having Bella "open the window and look out into the darkness" when she can have her "throw open the window and look into the night, her eyes scanning the darkness, the impenetrable shadows of the trees"? Adolescent love of melodrama.

And the odd values expressed in Twilight, the equating of beauty with goodness, and lack of beauty with badness or at least lack of any real importance, the extreme focus on romantic love as if it were the most valuable thing in the world, worth ignoring friends and deceiving family over, the viewing of unhealthy stalker-like behavior as proof of True Love? Well, how much more adolescent, how much more immature, melodramatic, shallow, and narcissistic can one get?

But Bella realizes none of this, of course. An "unreliable narrator" is


...a first-person narrator that for some reason has a compromised point-of-view. In all stories with a first-person narrator, the narrator serves as a filter for the events. What the narrator does not know or observe cannot be explained to the reader. Usually, however, the reader trusts that the narrator is knowledgeable and truthful enough to give them an accurate representation of the story. In the case of an unreliable narrator (sometimes called a fallible narrator), the reader has reason not to trust what the narrator is saying.

It's a fairly common literary device. Indeed, it's one that's been used in great American coming-of-age novels. Huck Finn (because of his age, his prejudices, and his good nature), Holden Caulfield (because of his idealism and his almost-craziness), and Scout Finch (because of her age) are all unreliable narrators to some degree.

But the use of an unreliable narrator as a literary device presupposes the author's intent. It presupposes, again, that the author knows what the narrator knows and what the narrator doesn't know. It presupposes that the author intentionally uses that knowledge to tell us something by letting us fill in the blanks in the narrator's knowledge.

But that is decidedly not the case with Stephenie Meyer and Twilight. Bella is indeed an unreliable narrator -- she doesn't see herself as she is -- but not because Meyer wants her to be. She's unreliable because Meyer doesn't see her as she is either. Meyer doesn't realize that there are any blanks to be filled in. Rather than creating a classic unreliable narrator, Stephenie Meyer has become an unreliable author.

And that's what makes her a great writer (sort of). Meyer captures an adolescent voice with a truly brilliant degree of authenticity, but she does it accidentally, with everything that makes her a truly bad writer making her even better at capturing that voice.

And that, I think, is the real reason Twilight has such deep appeal. The people who love the book so much are primarily immature, melodramatic, shallow, and narcissistic adolescent girls who recognize themselves in Bella's voice; women who have outgrown their own formerly immature, melodramatic, shallow, and narcissistic past selves and nostalgically recognize the voice of who they once were; and women who have never really outgrown those selves (including, one supposes, Meyer herself) and recognize a younger version of who they still are.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Good reads/Random Cool Sites (12/07/2009)

i can haz new moon?

How to be a hero to the neighborhood children.

Time magazine will pay freelancers promptly -- if they pay for the privilege. Matt Bors has a better idea.

Mandelbulb: 3D Mandelbrot sets.

'80s Music Monday: New Order

New Order was my absolute favorite band during the '80s. A few others came close, but they were number one.

They were the successor to Joy Division. After Ian Curtis committed suicide, the band decided to continue under a new name. Their first single, "Ceremony," was actually written by Curtis, but was never fully completed by Joy Division.

Their new sound added more synthesizer, but remained gloomy but melodic, if lacking the tone of desperation that Curtis had brought. But they quickly evolved into a more upbeat and danceable sound, although their lyrics remained thoughtful and deadly serious. They became hugely influential, especially in techno but also in dance-rock. The Killers, for example, are named after a New Order lyric.

What I loved about them was the combination of the danceable music -- synth-pop with guitar, with the bass often playing melody (like the Who) and keyboards playing the bassline (like the Doors) -- combined with the lyrics. I found lyrics like these from "True Faith"

I used to think that the day would never come
I'd see the light in the shade of the morning sun
My morning sun is the drug that brings me near
To the childhood I lost replaced by fear
I used to think that the day would never come
That my life would depend on the morning sun

or these from "Blue Monday"

How does it feel to treat me like you do?
When you've laid your hands upon me
And told me who you are
I thought I was mistaken
I thought I heard your words
Tell me, how do I feel
Tell me now, How do I feel

deeply resonant.

Here's five from New Order.

"Ceremony" (1981)



"Blue Monday '88" (1983/1988)
This is a Quincy Jones remix from 1988. I don't like it quite as much as the single or the Substance version, but it's still great.



"Perfect Kiss" (1985)
Rumor has it that this song is about Ian Curtis, but I don't think that's ever been officially confirmed. This is a unique version recorded for the video.



"Bizarre Love Triangle" (1986)



"True Faith" (1987)
A beautiful song with a very strange but compelling video.


Sunday, December 06, 2009

Good reads/Random Cool Sites (12/6/09)

Phil Plaitt at Bad Astronomy has a very intelligent, calm, and reasonable post about "Climategate." I agree with what he says.

Super Emo Friends.

Victory Science in Afghanistan.

Steel Panther: "Death to All but Metal" (language not safe for work/children/prudes. Seriously. I'm not kidding.)

Beat kuri's Quiz Score: American Revolution

The American Revolution Center commissioned the first national survey to assess adult knowledge of the American Revolution. The results show that an alarming 83 percent of Americans failed a basic test on knowledge of the American Revolution and the principles that have united all Americans. Results also revealed that 90 percent of Americans think that knowledge of the American Revolution and its principles is very important, and that 89 percent of Americans expected to pass a test on basic knowledge of the American Revolution, but scored an average of 44 percent.

I don't find that surprising, unfortunately.

Here's the quiz.

My result:

You got 10 of 10 possible points.
Your score: 100%
You have knowledge!

Yes. yes, I do.

(h/t: Little Green Footballs)

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (12/2/2009)

Major rightwing blogger quits the right (thus earning a spot in my blogroll).

Porn = no big deal? (h/t: Main Street Plaza).

Jesus burned my eyeballs.

Obama is only the second black president. Richard Pryor was the first.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Well, that was kind of pointless

So, um, congratulations if you did well at National Novel Writing Month. I didn't. I didn't find it motivating at all after the first couple of days. Not only that, but whenever I felt like writing something else, I'd think, "I better work on my NaNoWriMo instead," but I wouldn't work on that either, so I'd end up writing nothing at all. OTOH, I did think about my story a little more, I wrote a little, and I came up with a couple of good ideas, so I guess there is that.

Anyway, I suspect I'm not alone, because when I googled "nanowrimo fail," it came up with 833,000 hits. lol. Or, sigh.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, Americans and resident aliens!

Happy Thursday, everyone else!

Thursday haiku: whatever

indifferent, i
would say 'whatever' if i
cared enough to talk

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The best (?) anti - gay rights quote ever

From Utah state senator Chris Buttars:

"I meet with the gays here and there and they were in my house two weeks ago. I don't mind gays, but I don't want them stuffing it in my throat all the time and especially in my kid's face," said Buttars.

Um...

Thursday haiku: stone

her tears wet my face
like rain on cold stone, falling,
leaving only stone

Monday, November 16, 2009

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (11/16/2009)

All exclamation marks edition!

You realize, of course, that this means war!

Not many people can make depression funny, but Eric Snider can!

Britain's burgeoning ex-Islamist movement!

Why gay marriage, getting high, and going to Cuba will soon be legal!

What I love about YouTube

I like YouTube because it has fun videos on it. I enjoy "Charlie the Unicorn bit my finger" or whatever as much as the next person. But that's not why I love YouTube.

I love it because you can read a book that describes a life-changing moment -- watching Patti Smith play "Land" and, especially, cover Hendrix's "Hey Joe" on The Old Grey Whistle Test, a performance that

was brilliant. It was soul stirring, it was magical, it was everything that you ever hoped you'd witness, every time you paid your money and went to see another new group. Chills down the spine, goose pimples on the arm, tears in your eyes. Fuck whatever was on the show tonight, fuck whatever local nonsense the music papers were hyping this week, and fuck the modern literary world's aversion to hyperbolic cliche. Because this was it. This was the future.

You can read that, and then you can find that performance and watch it. You can read something like this:

There had to be some kind of alternative to living in the same run-down housing as your parents grew up in, to working the same dismal job as your grandfather worked, and to eating the same flavorless food every dull, featureless day. But when you turned on the radio, what did you get? The same music you'd been hearing every day for years without end....

Then you heard Patti Smith and you knew there was some alternative, there was some relief. Listening to her was like watching palaces fall and old documents burn, cities collapsing in great clouds of rubble, and an entire way of life being put to the sword. But it was not murder, it was a mercy killing, and, once the dust had settled, they would be rebuilt and replaced, by something new, by something that we created, the youth of the day, the kids on the street.... "Hey Joe" was the demolition crew. We were the builders who would move in once it was finished.

And then you can watch it:



Until YouTube, until 2005, just four years ago, that was impossible. You'd read the book and you'd think, "I wonder what it was like?" and that would be the end of it. But no more. Thanks to YouTube. That's what I love about it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (11/12/2009)

The Fast Times at Ridgemont High class has its 30-year reunion. (I went to elementary school with the two guys in the photo.)

Why health care reform is constitutional (and a technical version). h/t: Ezra Klein

On misguided nostalgia for Bush's style over substance

A moving account of what it's like to be gay and Mormon. And an excommunicant. And married to another man. And to still believe in the church.

Thursday haiku: pure sunshine

there is sunshine in
my soul today. hate, like pure
sunshine, in my soul.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (11/11/2009)

Do businesses hate their employees? Yes.

Marine reservist beats Greek Orthodox priest with tire iron because he thinks he's a terrorist. The beard and caftan will do it every time.

how to write badly well: Learn about syllepsis, then refuse to stop employing it

Atheist bus ads and billboards: a compilation

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (11/8/2009)

Reasons to be cheerful, despite Prop 8 and Question 1: support for same-sex marriage has declined since 2003 - 2004 in only one state (Utah -- go figure). More importantly, age is the strongest correlate for supporting same-sex marriage or not. The younger a person is, the more likely s/he is to support same-sex marriage. In the 18 - 29 age bracket, over 50 percent support gay marriage in all but 12 states. More states have 60+ percent support than have under-50 percent support. Barring some sort of unforeseen ginormous backlash, it's only a matter of time until this demographic replaces older anti - marriage equality elders in sufficient numbers to legalize same-sex marriage. (Of course, that won't help the people who've already been waiting for decades. But still.)

A very interesting article about the nature of the swine flu and flu in general

I like girls who play rough, but there's such a thing as taking it too far

A bigot is just a bigot, not necessarily an awful human being.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Jon Stewart on the conspiracy against Glenn Beck's internal organs

I have a hard time understanding how anybody can take one of these guys seriously. (And I don't mean the one on the comedy channel.)

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The 11/3 Project
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

(h/t: Tom the Dancing Bug)

Monday, November 02, 2009

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (11/2/2009)

The surprising beauty of portraits on gravestones.

A beautiful, sad, memoir about male and female Mormon missionaries in Taiwan. (h/t: Letters from a broad).

I can totally relate to this post by John Elder Robison. I absolutely cannot do the "smile on command" thing either (or figure out the proper spacing from other people). That's why I use this picture as my "official" one. That's not my best smile, but it's definitely my best someone's-taking-my-picture-so-I-must-smile smile. It's the best smile I can produce in that situation.

And, appropriately enough, I suppose, Christopher Walken performs Lady Gaga's "Poker Face"

Sunday, November 01, 2009

First sentence

Here's the first sentence for my NaNoWriMo novel:

In a hole in a ceiling there lived a Ninja.

Only 49,990 words to go. (w00t?)

Friday, October 30, 2009

The bestest Halloween article in the history of the universe

...most of the candy sold during this season has been dedicated and prayed over by witches.

I do not buy candy during the Halloween season. Curses are sent through the tricks and treats of the innocent whether they get it by going door to door or by purchasing it from the local grocery store. The demons cannot tell the difference.

That's a quote from a 100-percent, I kid you not, serious article about how Christians should view Halloween. The article was reproduced on Pat Robertson's website, but it's so insanely goofy that even they took it down with no explanation.

Some more highlights:

The word "holiday" means "holy day." But there is nothing holy about Halloween. The root word of Halloween is "hallow," which means "holy, consecrated and set apart for service." If this holiday is hallowed, whose service is it set apart for? The answer to that question is very easy—Lucifer's! [I'm disappointed. She missed a good chance to say, "Could it be... Satan?!"]
...
The key word in discussing Halloween is "dedicated." It is dedicated to darkness and is an accursed season. During Halloween, time-released curses are always loosed. A time-released curse is a period that has been set aside to release demonic activity and to ensnare souls in great measure.
...
Halloween is much more than a holiday filled with fun and tricks or treats. It is a time for the gathering of evil that masquerades behind the fictitious characters of Dracula, werewolves, mummies and witches on brooms. The truth is that these demons that have been presented as scary cartoons actually exist. I have prayed for witches who are addicted to drinking blood and howling at the moon.

I really don't know what to say about an article like that. It's hilarious, of course, but at the same time I find it rather sad. I wonder what it's like to live with so much fear and superstition that you can't even buy candy at certain times of the year -- much less display a pumpkin or stand next to a bonfire -- without worrying that you'll be attacked by demons. "The demon-haunted world" indeed.

(h/t: Friendly Atheist)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

When doctors say "Wow!"

I don't like impressing doctors. I hate it when they look at a swelling and say, "Wow, that's really big!" or at lab work and say, "Wow, that's really high!" or at a sprain and say, "Wow, look at all that bruising!" I don't want to hear any doctors I visit to say, "Wow!" I want them to play it cool. I want them to say things like, "Oh, that's nothing. I've seen a million just like that." Unless it's my urologist. He can say, "Wow, that's really big!" if he wants.

Thursday haiku: faint

faint, your microwave
beeps me awake. faint, days of
love before breakfast

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (10/28/2009)

"An official announcement by the Obama administration disclosing the reality of extraterrestrial life is imminent." Looking forward to it.

Imported European honeybees are helpless against giant predatory Japanese hornets. Thirty hornets can wipe out an entire hive of 30,000 bees in a few hours. But Japanese bees have evolved an unusual defense: they cook invading hornets.

More on concussions and football: "I don't want anyone to end up like me" (h/t: Ta-Nehisi Coates)

"The Fugitive," directed by Roman Polanski

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (10/27/09)

I love data edition:

A Pew study on marriage with a cool interactive map

Information Is Beautiful: all sorts of data, visualized

The Monkey Cage: links to and discussion of political science research

Don't believe the econometric hype?

NaNoWriMo

OK, I'm gonna do it. I'm going to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). What is NaNoWriMo?

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that's a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

I was thinking about using this to make some progress on my novel-not-in-progress, but technically that would be cheating, since you're supposed to start a new novel, and I have another project that I've been meaning to work on anyway.

So this is what I'll be working on: a Harry Potter parody called Harry Ninja and the Ninja's Stones. It's the story of an orphaned ninja named Harry Ninja, who enrolls at a boarding school for ninjas called the Warthog* School of Ninjutsu and Ninjary, where he studies subjects such as Infiltration, Sabotage, and Defense against the Pirate Arts.

I don't know if I'll actually get close to 50,000 words. I'm a painfully slow writer, and 50,000 words in a month is over 1,600 a day. That's an awful lot for me. But I'm going to give it a shot. I know a lot of you are writers too; I hope you'll consider giving it a try as well.

*School motto: "All the good animals were already taken."

Monday, October 26, 2009

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (10/26/2009)

What deconversion is like. Exactly what it's like. Egg-frakkin-zactly.

I'd often wondered why people plant those stupid inedible horse chestnut trees instead of trees with real, delicious, chestnuts. Now I know: American chestnut trees all died. Four billion of them. But maybe they're about to make a comeback.

Does exposure to civil war lead to violence in individuals' lives? Soccer players who come from countries with recent civil wars are more likely to get yellow and red cards in soccer (football). (h/t: The Monkey Cage)

TV Tropes. I've wasted hours there.

'80s Music Monday: Joy Division


I've been wanting to write about Joy Division from the first time I did '80s Monday, but I've been hesitant. For a simple reason really: Joy Division is one of the greatest bands ever -- not one of the greatest bands of a particular decade, one of the greatest bands ever -- and I'm afraid that I can't do them justice.

Joy Division formed in 1976 and only released one album before their lead singer and lyricist Ian Curtis committed suicide in 1980. They released another album shortly after Curtis died, and another a year later. After Curtis's death, the band reorganized as New Order (another great band, my absolute favorite during the '80s, who I'll write about next time).

When anyone talks about what made Joy Division great, it wasn't because of their musicianship. Their playing was adequate, no more. Ian Curtis, frankly, couldn't sing for shit. Musically, he was just awful. But that actually made him better than he would have been if he sounded "prettier."

Because what made Joy Division great were the music and the lyrics. They were beautiful... except when they were ugly. And when they were ugly, they were still beautiful, because they were ugly on purpose. And Curtis's limitations as a vocalist fit them perfectly. Ian Curtis couldn't sing, but oh how he could sing. His tortured voice conveyed the anguish of his lyrics in a way that struck deep and true. This was especially so on Closer, the album released after his death, which in effect was an album-length suicide note.

"Love Will Tear Us Apart" (1979)
When routine bites hard
And ambitions are low
And resentment rides high
But emotions won't grow
And we're changing our ways,
Taking different roads
Then love, love will tear us apart again
Love will tear us apart again

Why is the bedroom so cold
Turned away on your side?
Is my timing that flawed,
Our respect run so dry?
Yet there's still this appeal
That we've kept through our lives
Love, love will tear us apart again
Love, love will tear us apart again

Do you cry out in your sleep
All my failings expose?
Get a taste in my mouth
As desperation takes hold
Is it something so good
Just can't function no more?
When love, love will tear us apart again
Love, love will tear us apart again
Love, love will tear us apart again
Love, love will tear us apart again



"She's Lost Control" (1979)
Confusion in her eyes that says it all.
She's lost control.
And she's clinging to the nearest passer by,
She's lost control.
And she gave away the secrets of her past,
And said I've lost control again,
And a voice that told her when and where to act,
She said I've lost control again.

And she turned to me and took me by the hand and said,
I've lost control again.
And how I'll never know just why or understand,
She said I've lost control again.
And she screamed out kicking on her side and said,
I've lost control again.
And seized up on the floor, I thought she'd die.
She said I've lost control again.
She's lost control again.
She's lost control.
She's lost control again.
She's lost control.

Well I had to phone her friend to state my case,
And say she's lost control again.
And she showed up all the errors and mistakes,
And said I've lost control again.
But she expressed herself in many different ways,
Until she lost control again.
And walked upon the edge of no escape,
And laughed I've lost control again.
She's lost control again.
She's lost control.
She's lost control again.
She's lost control.


"Dead Souls" (1979)
Someone take these dreams away,
That point me to another day,
A duel of personalities,
That stretch all true realities.

That keep calling me,
They keep calling me,
Keep on calling me,
They keep calling me.

Where figures from the past stand tall,
And mocking voices ring the halls.
Imperialistic house of prayer,
Conquistadors who took their share.

That keep calling me,
They keep calling me,
Keep on calling me,
They keep calling me.

Calling me, calling me, calling me, calling me.

They keep calling me,
Keep on calling me,
They keep calling me,
They keep calling me.



"Atrocity Exhibition" (1980)
Asylums with doors open wide,
Where people had paid to see inside,
For entertainment they watch his body twist
Behind his eyes he says, 'I still exist.'

This is the way, step inside.
This is the way, step inside.
This is the way, step inside.
This is the way, step inside.

In arenas he kills for a prize,
Wins a minute to add to his life.
But the sickness is drowned by cries for more,
Pray to God, make it quick, watch him fall.

This is the way, step inside.
This is the way, step inside.
This is the way, step inside.
This is the way, step inside.

This is the way.
This is the way.
This is the way.
This is the way.
This is the way, step inside.
This is the way, step inside.
This is the way, step inside.
This is the way, step inside.

You'll see the horrors of a faraway place,
Meet the architects of law face to face.
See mass murder on a scale you've never seen,
And all the ones who try hard to succeed.

This is the way, step inside.
This is the way, step inside.
This is the way, step inside.
This is the way, step inside.

And I picked on the whims of a thousand or more,
Still pursuing the path that's been buried for years,
All the dead wood from jungles and cities on fire,
Can't replace or relate, can't release or repair,
Take my hand and I'll show you what was and will be.


"The Eternal" (1980)
Procession moves on, the shouting is over,
Praise to the glory of loved ones now gone.
Talking aloud as they sit round their tables,
Scattering flowers washed down by the rain.
Stood by the gate at the foot of the garden,
Watching them pass like clouds in the sky,
Try to cry out in the heat of the moment,
Possessed by a fury that burns from inside.

Cry like a child, though these years make me older,
With children my time is so wastefully spent,
A burden to keep, though their inner communion,
Accept like a curse an unlucky deal.
Played by the gate at the foot of the garden,
My view stretches out from the fence to the wall,
No words could explain, no actions determine,
Just watching the trees and the leaves as they fall.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

One Sentence Movie Review: "Control"

Control (2007)
7/10

The story of Ian Curtis, the epileptic, suicidal frontman of the seminal post-punk band Joy Division is a fascinating one, and the movie is interesting, but I don't feel I understand him any better after watching this biopic.


Friday, October 23, 2009

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (10/23/2009)

To commemorate the release of Windows 7, Burger King Japan is selling the Windows 7 Whopper, a hamburger with seven quarter-pound patties. Two guys try to eat it.

I love I Love xkcd

Well, I suppose at least they were better than Limp Bizkit.

Looking for a new grill?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (10/18/2009)

Malcolm Gladwell asks, How different are football and dogfighting?

African Christians are torturing and murdering children accused of witchcraft.

Monkeys also fall into the "uncanny valley."

An interesting post (with pictures) about the new LDS section in Austria's Central Cemetary

Two out of three Republicans are completely nuts

[Updated with more relevant picture]

That's the conclusion I draw from a focus-group study published last week. I think everybody knew these ideas were out there (in more than one sense), but I certainly had no idea that so many Republicans -- almost two-thirds -- believe this stuff.

First, for any Republicans who want to dismiss this information out of hand, here's your reason: the study was conducted by Democratic strategist James Carville's consulting company.

For everyone else, yes, that's a reason to take the information with a grain of salt. However, this study is meant to provide Democrats with an understanding of Republican voters, so it would not really be in their interest to just make stuff up.

With those caveats, here's some of what almost two-thirds of Republican voters (nearly one-fifth of the electorate) apparently believe.

First and foremost, these conservative Republican voters believe Obama is deliberately and ruthlessly advancing a "secret agenda" to bankrupt our country and dramatically expand government control over all aspects of our daily lives. They view this effort in sweeping terms, and cast a successful Obama presidency as the destruction of the United States as it was conceived by our founders and developed over the past 200 years.

This concern combines with a profound sense of collective identity. In our conversations, it was striking how these voters constantly characterized themselves as part of a group of individuals who share a set of beliefs, a unique knowledge, and a commitment of opposition to Obama that sets them apart from the majority of the country. They readily identify themselves as a minority in this country – a minority whose values are mocked and attacked by a liberal media and class of elites. They also believe they possess a level of knowledge and understanding when it comes to politics and current events, one gained from a rejection of the mainstream media and an embrace of conservative media and pundits such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, which sets them apart even more. Further, they believe this position leaves them with a responsibility to spread the word, to educate those who do not share their insights, and to take back the country that they love. Their faith in this country and its ideals leave them confident that their numbers will grow, and that they will ultimately defeat Barack Obama and the shadowy forces driving his hidden agenda.

They also feel contempt for the Republican Party itself.

And yet remarkably, these voters had virtually nothing positive to say about the Republican Party. They see their own party as weak, old, and out of touch. They feel it has lost sight of conservative values and conservative voters and is in desperate need of new leadership. They identified a clear disconnect between ‘the people’ and ‘the politicians,’ which poses a growing threat to the party’s ability to challenge Democratic control in Washington. While they continue to defend George W. Bush personally, his presidency is an embarrassment to them and represents the culmination of a creeping betrayal of conservative values that started with the election of his father more than 20 years ago. The lionization of Ronald Reagan in these groups was as strong as we have seen for any political figure, as was the desperate desire for a new Reaganesque figure to lead them out of their current wilderness.

It's important to note, however, that those are the views of conservative Republicans. Conservative and conservative-leaning independents don't share those views.

Looking at the current political debate, it was evident in our focus group discussions that the divide between conservative Republicans and even the most conservative-leaning independents remains very, very wide. Independents like those in our suburban Cleveland groups harbor doubts about Obama’s health care reform but are desperate to see some version of health care reform pass this year; the conservative Republicans view any health care reform as a victory for Obama and are militantly opposed. Asked about the issues of greatest importance to them in choosing a candidate for Congress, health care ranked sixth among the Republicans, below issues such as tax cuts, immigration, and a candidate’s personal values and faith; but for the independents, health care was number one.

The language they use further reflects this divide. Conservative Republicans fully embrace the "socialism" attacks on Obama and believe it is the best, most accurate way to describe him and his agenda. Independents largely dismiss these attacks as partisan rhetoric detracting from a legitimate debate about what many of them do see as excessive government control and spending.

Got that? Conservative Republicans think Obama is an evil socialist out to destroy the country.

There is no doubt in their minds that the ultimate goal of this strategy is to change our country to a socialist nation. In their minds, this is the key to truly understanding the Obama presidency and what is happening in our country today. Everything goes back to government control and Obama (aided by Democrats in Congress and the liberal media) seeking to systematically strip away individual rights and insert government into every aspect of our daily lives.

Conservative independents think he's a nice guy who's maybe moving too fast and spending too much.

By comparison, the independent voters expressed clear concerns about Obama - especially that he is doing "too much, too fast," that he is spending too much, that they do not understand his health care reforms, and that he does not have a clear plan for bringing jobs back to the US – some of which certainly touched on the conservative Republicans’ concerns. But they still fundamentally like and respect him on several levels and are very clearly rooting for him to succeed.
...
They see him as hard-working and committed to helping people, especially the "little people," and give him credit for tackling issues that were ignored for too long and for doing what he feels is best for the U.S. – a sharp contrast to the conservative Republicans who see him actively working against the interests of our country.

Really, you should read the whole thing to get a better sense of just how nutty these people's beliefs are.

I really don't know what to say about it. What does it mean for a country with a two-party system when one of the parties is full of crazy people, or to be kinder, people with crazy ideas?

It seems like this is very bad for the Republican Party -- it basically kills any chance of winning national elections. You might think I'd think that's a good thing, and of course in a sense I do, but not really. A sensible, pragmatic, sane (FFS) Republican Party is good for the country. But we don't seem to have one anymore.

Friday, October 16, 2009

I'm reading "Twilight," so you don't have to (ch. 18)

Our Story So Far

Here's my synopsis of Chapter 18 of Twilight, by Stephenie [sic] Meyer.

Chapter 18. The Hunt

Three Bad Vampires come out of the forest into the meadow where Bella is watching Edward and his Beautiful Sparkly Vampire family play Beautiful Sparkly Vampire baseball. The Bad Vampires aren't Beautiful and Sparkly, they're Scruffy. Their clothes are frayed, they have no shoes (WTF?), and the female Bad Scruffy Shoeless Vampire's hair is full of "leaves and debris from the woods." (Apparently, they have no combs either.)

Laurent, the Leader Of The Bad Scruffy Shoeless Vampires, is simultaneously olive-skinned and pale. He also has a French accent, but only "the slightest," so Stephenie [sic] Meyer doesn't need to try to reproduce it in the dialog. Victoria, the female Bad Scruffy Shoeless Vampire has red hair (with leaves in it) and shifty eyes. James, the other Bad Scruffy Shoeless Vampire is "nondescript" and "unobtrusive" and his eyes are "vigilant" though not shifty. (All this fading into the background, of course, will mean that he's the most important of the three. Mark my words.) For unexplained reasons, all three have "disturbing and sinister" burgundy-colored eyes instead of gold and black ones. And they crouch a lot.

Unlike the crouchy Bad Scruffy Shoeless Vampires, Carlisle The Wise Leader has an urbane stance. (No word on how wide it is.) He and Laurent The Leader Of The Bad Scruffy Shoeless Vampires talk. Laurent asks if they'll let them join in any vampire games. Carlisle The Wise Leader says maybe next time.

Carlisle The Wise Leader invites the Bad Scruffy Shoeless Vampires to the Beautiful Sparkly Vampire family's Beautiful Gloomy Mansion. The Bad Scruffy Shoeless Vampires are surprised to find that a) the Beautiful Sparkly Vampires live permanently in one place and b) have a house. (Most people would have surmised b as soon as they heard a, but these Bad Scruffy Shoeless Vampires seem just a tad slow on the uptake.)

Laurent moves his eyes appreciatively over Carlisle's refined appearance. (Laurent sometimes seems just a little too French if you ask me, know what I mean, wink-wink, nudge-nudge.)

They're all about to go, when the wind shifts, and James The Supposedly Unobtrusive But Really You Knew He's Going To Be The Most Important Bad Scruffy Shoeless Vampire catches Bella's delicious aroma. He lurches into a crouch, which makes Edward snarl, which makes Bella think, Ooh, scary! with chills that go not just down her spine, but from the crown of her head to the backs of her heels.

Laurent The Leader Of The Bad Scruffy Shoeless Vampires finally figures out that Bella is just a regular human and says, "You brought a snack?" (Credit where due, it's a good line -- the best in the book.) Carlisle The Wise leader says, "She's with us," and Laurent gives in and says it's cool, let's go see this permanent house of yours.

James The Extra-Bad Scruffy Shoeless Vampire Who Wants to Kill Bella (as he shall be known from now on) gives Laurent The Leader Of The Bad Scruffy Shoeless Vampires a "Dude, WTF!" look and then looks at Victoria The Female Bad Scruffy Shoeless Vampire With Leaves In Her Hair, which she responds to by being shifty-eyed some more.

They all leave. Edward, Emmett The Big One and Alice The Nice One go with Bella in the Monster Jeep. But Edward drives south, away from Forks. Bella says, Dude, where the hell are we going, and Edward says, Far away. Brave Sir Robin Edward has decided they should run away.

Bella stands up for herself for once and says, Take me home. She tries to unfasten her seat belt off-road harness, but of course the straps are too complicated for her. But just in case she eventually figures them out, Edward has Emmett The Big One secure her hands in his steely grasp.

Edward says, STFU and let me kidnap you in peace, bitch I have to do this, please be quiet. Bella says, If you do, my dad will call the FBI and your whole Beautiful Sparkly Vampire Family will have to run and hide. (I'm not real clear on why Bella's Dad wouldn't just call himself, since he's the Police Chief.)

Edward says, Whatever, we're good at running away. Bella says, I'm not worthy, and struggles violently, with total futility. Alice The Nice One says, Pull over a minute and let's talk this over. Edwards says, No way, James The Extra-Bad Scruffy Shoeless Vampire Who Wants to Kill Bella is a "Tracker." Everybody but Bella knows what that means. (I suspect that's a situation she finds herself in fairly often.)

A Tracker, we learn from the dialog, is a vampire that tracks people. (Apparently that means that instead of finding a person and eating them right away, the vampire lets them go and follows their trail and then eats them. Or something. Anyway, it's an excuse to have six more chapters instead of just having a big vampire fight, The End.)

Everybody argues with Edward, who keeps insisting on running away. Edward roars, hisses, snarls (blisteringly), and growls during the argument, but he loses anyway. He loses partly because Bella's Dad would be in danger, but mainly because Bella has come up with what everybody agrees is a great idea: she'll go home, tell her dad she hates him and is moving to Phoenix to live with her mom, and then she'll go to Phoenix. That will totally fool James The Extra-Bad Scruffy Shoeless Vampire Who Wants to Kill Bella, because he'll be sure that the one place Bella won't go is the place she tells everyone she's going. But just in case he does go to Phoenix, she won't actually live with her mom.

And only Alice The Nice One and Jasper The Other One will go to Phoenix with Bella. (Because when you have numerical superiority over an enemy, the only sensible thing to do is divide your forces so you won't outnumber them anymore. And by "sensible," I don't mean "sensible if you want to defeat the enemy," I mean "sensible if you want to drag things out for a few more chapters and put the heroine in greater jeopardy." And never mind that they just got done figuring out how to keep Bella's Dad out of danger and their plan puts Bella's Mom in danger instead.)

I'd forgotten how tired this book makes me.

(Check the pull-down menu under "Ongoing Series" in the left side-blog for more Twilight chapters.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mitt Romney and the uncanny valley

[Updated for greater clarity]
I finally figured out why I don't like Mitt Romney. It was something Andrew said that pointed me in the right direction. Writing about "heroes," he said:
...realistic people do have flaws. A person without at least some flaws hits that huge dip in the uncanny valley…we just know the person is close to being legitimate, but the one thing that he doesn’t get right sticks out.

I've certainly never thought of Mitt Romney as a hero (whatever that is), nor as a person without flaws. Far from it. But I've always felt that there's something "off" about the man, at least in his public persona. And thanks to Andrew, I've finally figured out why Romney creeps me out. To me, he's firmly ensconced in the "uncanny valley."

What is the uncanny valley? According to the font of all knowledge,

The uncanny valley hypothesis holds that when robots and other facsimiles of humans look and act almost like actual humans, it causes a response of revulsion among human observers. The "valley" in question is a dip in a proposed graph of the positivity of human reaction as a function of a robot's lifelikeness.

The graph looks like this:



In other words, people like dolls and robots and so on that look a little human, but not too human. When something looks very human but not fully human, it becomes creepy instead of endearing.

Which brings us to Romney. With his constant pandering, his willingness to say anything and claim it's a heartfelt belief in order to get elected, emphasized by his too-perfect hair, his too-perfect teeth, and the wooden stiffness of his persona, Romney comes across like a robot, a facsimile of a real person, an almost-human simulacrum. He is so plastic, so fake, so unreal, that he repulses me. He slips into the uncanny valley.

If an entity looks sufficiently nonhuman, its human characteristics will be noticeable, generating empathy. However, if the entity looks almost human, it will elicit our model of a human other and its detailed normative expectations. The nonhuman characteristics will be noticeable, giving the human viewer a sense of strangeness. In other words, a robot stuck inside the uncanny valley is no longer being judged by the standards of a robot doing a passable job at pretending to be human, but is instead being judged by the standards of a human doing a terrible job at acting like a normal person.

That's Mitt Romney in a nutshell. The "one thing he doesn't get right" is being human. He comes across like a robot trying to act like a normal human being and doing a bad job of it. And it gives me the creeps.

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (10/13/2009)

The most frightening logo of all time: the Catholic Church’s Archdiocesan Youth Commission (1973) (more creepy ads at HuffPo)

How to cook perfect boiled eggs

Passwords: How we should reinvent them

The Chrysler turbo encapsulator

Monday, October 12, 2009

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (10/12/2009)

My Parents Were Awesome. I expect to see my picture there sometime soon.

A Dalek made out of 480,000 matchsticks.

List of the world's ugliest buildings FAIL. Only problem is, most of the 15 buildings are quirky and interesting, not ugly. (h/t: Ezra Klein)

California: America's first failed state?

'80s Music Monday: Thompson Twins

The Thompson Twins were neither siblings nor even a duo; they were a trio. (This tended to cause confusion among causal music fans, many of whom assumed the two white people were twins and wondered who the black guy was.) They took their name from Thompson and Thompson, the detectives in the Tintin books.

They played fairly typical UK synth-pop, catchy dance tunes with thoughtful lyrics mostly about love. The Thompson Twins were pretty big for a few years, not just in the UK, but in the US as well. Musically, their best work came from 1982 through 1985, but they stayed popular for a few years after that before breaking up for good in 1993.

They were especially popular in dance clubs. During the mid to late '80s, you couldn't go to a club without hearing a Thompson Twins song. And they looked pretty cool -- not beautiful, but interesting -- so they got played on MTV a lot.

So here's four favorites by the Thompson Twins.

"Lies" (1983)



"Hold Me Now" (1984)
A very nice "I don't wanna break up" song.



"Love on Your Side" (1983)



"Lay Your Hands on Me" (1985)
This one's my favorite, mainly because I really love the lyrics: "When it almost seemed too much/I see your face/And sense the grace/And feel the magic in your touch." Everybody should have someone who makes them feel that way.