Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Why You Should Never, Never, Never Buy a Cal Flame BBQ, Cal Spas Spa, or Any Other Cal Spas Product

Located in Pomona, California, a few years ago Cal Spas decided to move beyond just making crappy above-ground spas, and into the lucrative world of manufacturing crappy barbecues and barbecue islands. Thus was birthed the excrement known as Cal Flame and Cal Flame BBQs. I was unfortunate enough to receive one of their little crap-mobiles with the purchase of our house, and it's been nothing but headaches ever since.

Somehow these idiots managed to put the gas shutoff valve behind a concrete wall. Nice job, fools—now if I need to make any repairs, I can choose either to shut off the gas main (a major pain in the ass) or I can daisy chain gas pressure regulators on top of each other (easy but stupid).

Beyond that, though, the gas valve system on a Cal Flame BBQ is so poorly designed that it constantly suffers from seal breaks that lead to gas leaks and excessive heating of the knobs. I know this because I once touched one of said knobs when the BBQ was supposedly off. It was, but the gas was still coming from the valve, and continued to burn. Ever try touching 900 °F stainless steel? I have—trust me, it leads to second-degree burns, at best.

But does Cal Flame care? Nope. They sent me to some dealer in Spokane who supposedly bought the BBQ from them. Funny thing is, that dealer hasn't sold Cal Flame for 14 years, and the BBQ was manufactured 10 years ago. Liars. Oh, the main reason the dealer in Spokane no longer sells Cal Flame products? Terrible customer service, and also trying to pass the buck onto dealers, even for manufacturing defects.

And finally, my BBQ was one of the first defective POS's off the assembly line, so to get people hot and bothered, Cal Flame offered a lifetime warranty. A lifetime warranty that, by the way, is completely worthless if ownership is transferred.

Even today, Cal Spas touts on its website that it offers an " Industry Leading 10 Year Warranty" on its spas:

Funny thing is, even for its top-of-the-line Genesis
model, the lifetime warranty is nullified if ownership is transferred:

Come to think of it, that's not actually very funny at all. At least we know that people never sell their houses, right? Either that, or Cal Spas
is being a little crafty with what it touts and what it actually delivers on. Cal Spas, apparently, likes to hide behind smoke and mirrors.

So, in summary, don't ever buy a product from Cal Spas, Cal Flame, or any of their other terrible little companies. They are grifters and charlatans.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Equal Time for All Candidates

Just because I frequently shred Apple for its paternalistic and frequently mind-bogglingly idiotic design decisions, doesn't mean I think Microsoft, Lenovo, etc., are any better (in this realm, only Alienware, Google, and Amazon are even worth mentioning). It's just that when one charges a premium for something, you expect a bit more, and Apple rarely delivers on that promise, while also dropping support for any Apple product that reaches the ripe old age of, oh, one-year plus.

Anyway, to be fair, let's take a look at this nice fail by Microsoft. At about 0:12, Mac guy questions whether the Microsoft guy can plug anything into his computer (isn't it odd that neither of these companies seems to have had a female spokesperson for their computers, ever?). Microsoft boy replies that his little piece of plastic has "a USB, Mini DisplayPort, plug away."

Beyond being terrible grammar, this is 2014, not 2004, time traveler boy. Bragging about having a two whole ports on a computer (granted, a tablet) is laughable at best. It's the whole multivalve engine thing all over again (a few years ago, a car company touted its newest model's multivalve engine in several commercials. Which is super impressive until you realize that a car engine with a single cylinder is, de facto, a multivalve engine (a combustion-engine cylinder needs two valves in order to operate).

Hey, guess what? My $200 Kindle Fire has a USB port and . . . wait for it . . . a freaking HDMI port. Oh, wait, so does my phone. And the phone owned by that woman over there. And pretty much every smartphone in existence. Which would you rather have, a Mini DisplayPort or an HDMI port? Yeah, I thought so. Try again, Microsoft.


So—the New Um? Nonwords, Misused Words, and Actual Words You Should Never Use, Part 7 in a Recurring but Randomly Timed Series

So is almost never a word with which to properly begin a sentence, this sentence being one of the few exceptional examples. If for no other reason than to prevent the incredible teeth gnashing it causes me every time I listen to humans speak, I would love to see it stop. Worse yet, from time to time I have started to see it creeping into actual writing. Bizarre.

The end.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Nonwords (and Misused Words) and Words You Should Never Use, Part 6 in a Recurring but Randomly Timed Series

Semi: half of something; e.g., a semicircle is half a circle.

Bi: two of something; e.g., a bicycle has two wheels.

Semimonthly means twice a month; bimonthly means once every two month. The same applies to semi- and biweekly, and most similar constructions, except annual.

Which leads us to one of those super-annoying exceptions of English usage—biannual means twice a year just like semiannual does, rather than once every two years. Why? Probably because the established word for once every two years, biennial, came on the scene about 266 years before biannual did. It also doesn't help that the two words sound very much alike. My advice: don't use either—instead say or write "once every two years" or "twice a year" to avoid confusion.

People always seem to get "semi" and "bi" wrong in the other cases as well. How do you remember which is correct? Semicircle and bicycle—think of those two things and you should be golden.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Happy Guy Fawkes Day!

A little background from the BBC, for those who are interested. The government-sponsored conspiracy theory is likely bogus, but this article gives a good overview nonetheless.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Go, Go, Godzilla

Mastodon / Gojira

The Fox Theater, Pomona, California
October 17, 2014

by Brent D. Tharp

Gojira at the Fox Theater in Pomona, California, October 17, 2014

This review was originally to be of Mastodon’s show at the Fox Theater in Pomona. But you know how it goes—sometimes you’re pumped up like a peacock on prom night, only to discover that your date has strep throat, is suffering from a bad case of the clap, and is simultaneously dating the entire lacrosse team. Or, in Mastodon’s case, that you have a seriously bad sound guy.

I even proferred him a helpful note after the first song, informing said sound guru that the levels were so high that Mastodon sounded like incoherent white noise. Even at the top of the house, it was impossible to make out anything the band played. The volume came down shortly after the start of the set, but the incompetence did not. During one number, guitarist Brent Hinds used a slide, but when put to the strings, the feedback compared unfavorably to a screeching hyena in heat. After getting a thumbs-up from the sound guy, Hinds put the slide back on the strings, only to be assaulted by further earsplitting feedback. He finally turned his palms up, the universal symbol for “WTF?” and opted to play without the slide. So much for solid sound engineering for a national touring act.

This debacle was somewhat reminiscent of the Rob Zombie show in San Bernardino last year, wherein the guy running the board failed to inform the band that the house sound was dead and that only the monitors were live. So incompetent was he that the band rolled right through to another song before they were finally informed that the sound was out. Hope that was some killer ganja, dude.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes, I was going to review Mastodon, so here goes. Mastodon played. They were loud. They may have been good, or bad, but I don’t know, because their sound guy totally blew. The end.

But is it my adoring fans’ fault that Mastodon’s sound guy committed a fail of epic proportions? I say no, my friends, it is not. Therefore, I bring you ... Gojira. For the uninitiated, Gojira is Japanese for Godzilla, which is what the band were originally called. Apparently, some other band already had the name Godzilla, so this creative foursome took the next logical step and found a foreign-language equivalent.

One quick note: this review is a bit atypical of my music writing, as I won’t be reviewing songs individually but only the show overall. As a result, I'll be covering this in less detail and more for overall "feel," and the piece is much shorter than most (probably to the relief of many). Hey, don't blame the player, blame the soundboard.

Gojira at the Fox Theater in Pomona, California, October 17, 2014

On this particular night, opening for Mastodon, Gojira were less like Godzilla and more like a four-headed Cerberus ascending to earth from the fiery, mucky marsh of the Styx, bringing hell and damnation to the delight of all in attendance.

Following this ascension from the gates of hell (to clarify, Gojira do not actually hail from Hades; they are from Ondres, France), Gojira thrashed, strutted, gutted, assaulted, and controlled their audience from start to finish, never letting up as they pounded relentlessly through their set. Lead singer Joe Duplantier easily traversed the transom from melodious pitch-perfect phrases to primally guttural throat-wrenching growls and spats. Guitarists Christian Andreu and Jean-Michel Labadie were in sync throughout, and showed versatility in playing both loose and tight as the set list and audience required.

As the tension of the set increased, Gojira played on like a musical Tesla (the inventor, not the band), pushing the audience to an emotional crescendo, comprising a vast human venturi of sweat and emotion. Technical musical prowess was tempered by restraint, and the audience stayed in step with the changes throughout the set, a sign that fans were completely and emotionally connected with the band.

Not to give short shrift to drummer Mario Duplantier, but there’s little to say, really—he is one of the most technically proficient drummers in the world, and equally gifted creatively. He pounded and tiptoed through the lens separating timing and creativity, excelling at both.

All in all, Gojira were impressive, and more than made up for the musical debacle that would follow. Not that Gojira need a defining baseline to their music, but to call their music “intelligent metal,” or the band “the French Black Sabbath,” would not be in error.

A visual display of Gojira fans' rabidity

Gojira, the Fox Theater, Pomona, CA, October 17, 2014

1. Explosia
2. The Axe
3. The Heaviest Matter of the Universe
4. Backbone
5. Love
6. L'Enfant Sauvage
7. Toxic Garbage Island
8. Vacuity

Additional photos:
Gojira at the Fox Theater in Pomona, California, October 17, 2014 (photo by Andrew Stuart)
Gojira at the Fox Theater in Pomona, California, October 17, 2014 (photo by Andrew Stuart)

Gojira, the Fox Theater, Pomona, CA, October 17, 2014 (photo by Andrew Stuart)


My Completely Biased 10-Second TV Show Reviews

1950 - 60 Television and lamp (5980295871)

Forever (ABC)—A blatant rip-off of the existing TV show Bones and of one of the main premises in the book Forever, this piece of mediocrity also suffers from completely transparent plots, hack writing, and science and human behavior that are barely believable at times. By the way, the novel Forever is one of the best ever written, in my not-so-humble opinion.

Manhattan (WGN America)—A show about the Manhattan Project, it's a cross between nighttime soap opera and science drama, but manages to work in some odd way. The science, even if it's completely made up, is believable, as are the actions of the main characters, who are well drawn.

Mind Games (ABC)—Though a solid entry, this show about geniuses who help to persuade and dissuade people by use of mental–emotional techniques never developed an audience and was canceled by ABC due to its abject stupidity (and low ratings), though it continues in Japan. With Christian Slater and Steve Zahn, this one has a solid cast, great acting, and quirky, unique plot ideas. Sometimes its supposedly smart characters say things that no smart person would ever say, or make grammatical or pronunciation errors that are egregiously wrong, but those times are rare.

Scorpion (CBS)—Though the show has been panned by quite a few critics based on thin plots and too much science talk (i.e., the characters are accurately smart, and most critics are [accurately] stupid, thus making a mismatch of epic cerebral proportions), I find the whole thing enjoyable, and if anything, the characters are actually believable despite the critical reception. The plots are a little weak, but since 99% of plots in all TV shows and movies are, who really cares? I know I don't; I like the people, and the acting is solid.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Thomas Edison—Loser

Current Wars

Particularly enlightening is the section on "Edison's publicity campaign," for those who may not have believed me in the past that Edison electrocuted dogs, cats, and other animals to somehow demonstrate that DC power was safer, rather than that he was merely an abysmal failure as a human being.


Friday, October 31, 2014

Glaring Grammatical Gaffes in the Media, Part 800-and-Something

This poll could be found on the Riverside Press-Enterprise's website recently:

I have no opinion about this question, and really, who cares? But I do know this: it's doubtful that this writer will be nominated for a Pulitzer any time soon.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Fear and Loathing in the City of Angels

Last Saturday night, my friend Jim and I ventured to LA to see Sasquatch at El Cid. If you are unfamiliar with Sasquatch (not the big hairy beast, but the big hairy ROCK beast), shame on you! Get caught up now:

Smoke Signal video release story

Before I get too carried away with the awesomeness and ΓΌber coolness that is Sasquatch (and by the way, did Uber really have to choose a name with an umlauted letter? Stupidifying the world, I suppose), I'll get on with the story. The show and album review will be coming soon enough to this same bat channel.

Anyway, I needed some new batteries for my recorder, so we went to the place where people always buy batteries: the liquor store on the corner. I sort of thought that batteries might be a big seller there, but the clerk indicated that most of their sales fell into the "dime-store hooch" category. Who knew?

Walking back to the club, admiring the cyclone wire surrounding a decrepit old building just a block or two from where we planned our illegal jaywalking attempt, Jim heard the familiar scrape–scrape of badly bearing'ed skateboard wheels slicing through the grit of an LA sidewalk. Always gentlemen to a fault, we slid to the side to let our new friend cruise by. A rat-haired tike of about 35 years, and looking a bit worse for wear, he turned and said thanks as he rolled through—and promptly face-planted into the dirt to the right of his skateboarder arterial. 

We thought he might be dead, but he was just stunned (the alcohol may have broken the fall). We helped him up, and then he decided we were new friends for life, which seemed a bit personal for us. Then he asked us if we believed in God. 


"Nope. Not me either."  

"Wow. Both of you, huh? Well, God's everywhere, you know? Always looking out for us."

"That seems to be working out pretty well for you so far."

He looked bewildered, then high-fived each of us.

"See you guys again soon."

We scurried across the street to the venue, like rats in an attic. Halloween comes early in LA, you know. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Overpaid Chump Forced to Chat

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Wednesday was ordered to testify in the reinstatement hearing for former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice by former federal judge Barbara S. Jones, the arbiter in the case. The hearing will take place on Nov. 5 and 6.

Well ... that couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Why I Consider Most Sportswriters and Sports Announcers to Be Relatively Lame

A lot of people love to tell me why they believe something that I've said or written is wrong (despite their sad lack of comprehension), but oddly enough, I have yet to have anyone argue with the title above.

Exhibit 1 in said position of advocacy:

I suppose technically this buffoon is right. Well, actually, no he isn't. If he states that the Giants had home field advantage for the World Series, he can't then pile on with "it didn't matter, they beat the Tigers 4–zip." "It didn't matter" is an implied "but." They were expected to win if they had home field advantage, and whether they won 4–0 or 4–3 doesn't matter. His argument makes sense only if the Giants didn't have home field advantage. Winning 4–0 is an expansion of the point that the Giants won the that World Series, not the yes–no of whether they won, so it needs an expansionary argument like "they had home field advantage, but went beyond the expected outcome and won the Series decisively, on the road and at home, 4–0."

See how that works? Probably not. Whatever.


How NOT to Apologize

This dude totally cracks me up with his ineptitude and "sincerity."

At Least They're Consistent

Albertsons may not know when to use apostrophes, but at least it's consistent, misspelling the same word in triplicate. And of course there's Albertsons's name, which uses no apostrophe despite the fact that the owners's last name is Albertson. Succumbing to the reading needs of the lowest common denominator, no doubt.

Hey Man, Nice Shot

John: "Dude, this virus is pretty vicious. It seems like it pretty much kills anyone who gets it."

Bob: "Nah, it's just that these West Africans have compromised immune systems."

Betty: "Yeah, Bob's totally right. Look at us—we've been around this virus for a while now, and we're not dead."

Voice of Reason: "Yet."

Leaked WHO Report Reveals That Organization Failed to Eradicate Ebola When It Had the Chance (oops)

But let's not be haters on the WHO. Look at its concerned and transparent response:

WHO response to internal Ebola document leaked to media

18 October 2014
A WHO internal document recently obtained by some media outlets was the first draft of a small team documenting the chronology of the Ebola outbreak events for future review. This document has not yet been fact-checked or reviewed by WHO staff involved in the initial response to Ebola, and is part of an on-going analysis of our response.
WHO will not do interviews or explain details on this document until it is completed. WHO believes in transparency and accountability and will release this review when it is fact-checked. For now, WHO's focus is to obtain the resources needed to successfully fight this Ebola outbreak.
A full review and analysis of global responses to this, the largest-ever Ebola outbreak in history, will be completed and made public once the outbreak is under control. We are a public health organization and our focus right now must be to stop this outbreak and save lives. We cannot divert our limited resources from the urgent response to do a detailed analysis of the past response. That review will come, but only after this outbreak is over.
That makes sense. You've done such a great job so far. 

P.S. WHO, you might want to add "that was" after the word "document" in your news release title so that people know what the hell you are trying to say. Or maybe your response was leaked. Who knows?


The Hidden Social Costs of Stupidity

Now would be a good time to drop stupid people in forests and see if they can make it out.

And a brief note on history for the stupid among us: Isis the goddess existed way before ISIS the terrorist organization. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Let Me Hyp-Motize You—Nonwords and Words You Should Never Use, Part 5 in a Recurring but Randomly Timed Series

hypnotize = a word

hypmotize = not a word (even my crappy Apple spellcheck agrees, which is somewhat of a rarity)

Given that I write educational curricula and encourage students not to believe something just because some authority (me) said so, I'll toss some other verification into the ring.

First out of the box, we have Garner's Modern American Usage, Third Edition, which has this to say about the matter:

No discussion would be complete, however, without consulting the standard-bearer for all such matters, Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition: 

See an m anywhere in the pronunciation? Nope? Neither do I.

Sure, I know the Violent Femmes pronounced it with the M sound in "Add It Up," but really, who takes grammar and pronunciation lessons from bands?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Nonwords (and Misused Words) and Words You Should Never Use, Part 4 in a Recurring but Randomly Timed Series

Okay, I'll admit that this one is really about misused words, not nonwords; I just wanted to keep the series going.

Hold on tight as we now descend into the world of urban slang. Which is a bit surprising, when one considers the contrary definitions of urban and urbane.

Anyway, I often find myself receiving dirty looks, especially in mixed company, when I use the word hooch (or its alternate, hootch). To save you some time, here's the definition from Merriam-Webster:

hooch; slang: alcoholic liquor especially when inferior, obtained illicitly, or made surreptitiously

(By the way, it also means a thatched-roof hut, especially in Asia, but I've never used it that way, and who really cares?)

The problem is that people often confuse hooch with cooch, partly because of the term hootchie mama. Regardless, using hootch as a shortened form of hootchie mama should not cause looks-of-death, should it?

Which brings us to ... cooch.  A word that Merriam-Webster's unabridged dictionary thinks is a dance. Apparently, M-W is a bit above all this "urban" stuff. As is Collins and Webster's New World (odd since they all list the other C word). So we turn now to the venerable Online Slang Dictionary for help:

cooch: the female genitalia

Ex 1: She wasn't wearing any underwear. You can see her cooch in this picture.
Ex 2: That was one nasty cooch.

Ah, I feel better now that we cleared that whole thing up, don't you?

So the next time I say hooch, just remember ... I'm talking about some nasty liquor, not your woman's nasty. Get it? Got it? Good. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

We Already Know That Apple's Autocorrect Blows. But What If Its Ad Agency Taught Our Kids English?

You'd get this lovely quote:

"The camera on the new iPhones are better than ever."

Wow. What, run out of money while shooting this? Or do you really employ people who are complete morons to write your ad copy?


One Other Thing ...

You forgot one reason why Philip Rivers is so much better now: Norv Turner (an "offensive genius"—offensive, yes; genius, no) completely sucked as a head coach. Really, what is with the Norv Turner lovefest? I tell people I don't even know to fuck off all the time, yet people working in sports, who know sports, give Norv Turner, finally exposed for his coaching mediocrity, a free pass? I don't get it.

PS Chargers now 5-1 under Mike McCoy. Scoreboard. And that's all I have to say on that subject.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Today, We Lose Another Victim to THE MAN

Before you read this whole convoluted marketing excuse for wimpiness, let me translate: "We tried, but we got cockblocked and bitchslapped by the big music labels and the ghost of Steve Jobs aka iTunes, so now we are finally going to give up for real. Thanks but keep paying a monthly fee toward the purchase of music from a gutted catalog consisting of pretty much nothing. Cheers."

Nice spin, though; I was impressed by the sheer audacity of it.

Changes to eMusic’s Catalog of Music

Dear Member,
Since its inception, eMusic has been committed to serving serious music collectors who are unbound by genre or the latest trend. We built the business in 1998 on DRM-free mp3s and a heartfelt mission to provide independent music enthusiasts with the best music, editorial content and album reviews around. Over the years, the eMusic brand became synonymous with independent music.
When we introduced a vastly expanded library of music in 2009, the experience on the site changed. Our catalog became more a reflection of mainstream trends than a true discovery experience rooted in music from emerging artists and labels. We moved away from our core values as a business and diluted what made the eMusic experience special.
So, in an effort to dedicate the brand once again to its original mission, eMusic is renewing its commitment to independent music and to promoting its musicians, bands and labels. As a result, beginning today, we will be exiting the mainstream music business and offering exclusively independent music. Further, in the coming weeks and months, it is our aim to build upon our existing library and provide you with the most extensive catalog of independent music in the world.
There will be no change to your plan, and we will not be making any changes to our album or track prices.
Our goal has always been to provide music enthusiasts and tastemakers with the best music and discovery experience possible, thanks to our industry-leading editorial content and reviews. With these changes, we are crystal clear on what we can and want to offer: a world-class discovery service built around the most comprehensive catalog of independent music.
We truly value your membership, and are committed to providing you with the best experience possible. Thank you for supporting us, and for supporting independent music.
The eMusic Team

One of These Things Is Not Like the Others

Though I do find the imagined vision of sailors on the Edmund Fitzgerald singing Ace of Spades as said ship sinks oddly entertaining. Yeah, I'm a bastard. Whatever.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

When Logic Fails

For the most part, sportswriters are not beacons of logic in an otherwise dark and fallacious world, as evidenced by this little bit from a recent CBS8 sports story

"The Chargers are 3 and 1 and that's the most important stat of all. My only concern is the running game that doesn't exist. And with the NFL's best rushing defense coming to town next weekend dressed in Jets uniforms, it's probably not getting better anytime soon. So in the meantime, let's hope Rivers and Liuget can keep spinning those familiar tunes that never grow old." 

Notwithstanding the terrible music analogy, if the Chargers's record is the most important stat of all, shouldn't the "only" concern be what will happen when the Chargers have to play a great pass-defense team? Since the Chargers rushing game is (was) nonexistent, facing a great rush-defense team is irrelevant, as it will have little if any effect since the Chargers have almost no rushing yards since losing their top backs, and aren't winning games by rushing. 

Now, if the pending opponent has a great pass defense, the Chargers may have something to fear (disregarding that they've already faced and dismantled some solid pass defenses). 

Such a concern (the rushing game) also pales behind such concerns as losing both the first- and second-string centers or having to move virtually every player on the offensive line in order to compensate for the sheer number of Bolts injuries thus far this season.  

Of course, my own greatest concern is that the CBS8 sports anchor pronounces jaguar as jag-wire, which I find incredibly annoying. At least we only (so far) play the Jaguars once this season. 

I try to keep such things in perspective, however. Some comedian long ago decided that it would be funny to combine the words sports and writer, not realizing that in most cases such use really would be funny, and ironic as well. 


Now, from the Weather Desk, We Bring You . . . Bad Abbreviation

It's a funny thing, 10 News San Diego. I've always thought that the abbreviation for Wednesday is Wed. But hey, what do I know? Maybe the threat of showers will continue every Wednesday for the rest of eternity. Now that is some forecasting skill.

Friday, October 3, 2014

People Unclear on the Concept—the Meme That Refuses to Die

In the words of famed writer and poet laureate Rodney King, "Can we all get along?"

Ah . . . no. That would require the monumental and mentally taxing task of actually thinking before spewing, something humans frequently seem incapable of doing.

Take, for instance, Guardian writer Dom Lawson, who chose to assume that a music video featuring female dancers twerking must be sexist by default. Silly me—I thought the black-and-white knee-jerk thinking of the lazy-thinking political-correctness crowd had died out in the 1990s. While simultaneously praising Mastodon for being an "ostensibly bright bunch and very much not from the heavy metal old school" and damning them for ostensibly "lampooning the silly black women," he fails to see the irony of his own statements while trying, and failing, to connect the dots.

What irony? Let's start with the fact that the dancers in the video are a mix of several races—hmmm. Is calling them "silly black women" a way of playing the race card, or do you think only black women are silly? Just askin'. More? Okay—the reference to "a tune the size of Cthulhu's balls" and the "lampooning" quote above taken in its entirety are further examples. What, those examples don't count and I'm taking them out of context? Exactly. Now we may get somewhere. Also, didn't Metallica use that whole Lovecraft and Cthulhu thing like 30 years ago? Might want to update your reference material to something more original.

But most damning is this profound observation, dripping with the syrupy ironic goo that bubbles in the bloodstreams of select male archetypes: "Neither is this video excused from being tarred with the sexist brush because a proportion of women immersed in alternative culture have decided that it’s OK." Wow, dude. I guess women really are dumb, especially dancers in the alternative culture. Who cares what women have to say, especially those fringy ones in the "alternative" culture, whatever the hell that is. I'll make sure that I advance women's and human rights by ignoring or discounting anything such women have to say. I'll also ignore what actual dancers in the video had to say about it. I shudder just contemplating what I would do if you weren't here to tell me what to think, and to define sexism for the rest of us.

As for connecting the dots, the article gives hip-hop artists a pass by noting that the really smart ones don't have videos portraying women as sex objects. Uh, okay—let me know when you've watched your first hip-hop video. Second, it entirely ignores the other important and historically much more sexist element of hip-hop music: lyrics. Not that I expected much from a writer whose entire musical range seems to span from Led Zeppelin to My Morning Jacket. It's just that a music writer typically doesn't embark on flights of rhetorical fancy when not knowing jack about the genre used as the reference point. More to the point, the video itself is pretty consistent with the assertions and quotes in this rebuttal article posted on Loudwire.

Similarly, one would be hard-pressed to formulate a cogent argument that the dancing cheerleaders in Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" video represent some sort of sexist motif. Yet it's not a stretch to see analogous characteristics of the women in these two videos, once one moves beyond a fixation on ass and starts using the ol' noggin. Perhaps the Guardian is still living in the past, like The Crusades past, where men popped every time they saw a flash of female skin.

Or maybe they just missed the subtle symbolism at the start of the video, where a metaphorical Adam picks the apple from the Tree of Knowledge. Funny, I always thought Eve was the one who picked the apple. Oh, you missed that? Oops.

Almost forgot the money shot (really, you expected more from me with the low-lying fruit of the title "Motherload" just begging for a pun?):

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Non-Nonwords and Words You Should Use Whenever Possible, Preferably in a Work Setting, Part 3 in a Recurring but Randomly Timed Series

Psyche; thought you were getting another "nonword" post, huh? Sometimes awesome new words are so admirably perfect, one must do a 180; thus, this post on two new words you should use often and loudly (okay, well wanksta isn't really that new, but it still drips of awesomeness):

wanksta – noun – a person who acts or dresses like a gangster but who is not involved in crime. Origin – 20th century, from wannabe + gangsta, phonetic rendering of gangster; also influenced by wanker. [Collins English Dictionary]

adorkable – adjective – socially inept or unfashionable in a charming or endearing way. Origin – 21st century, from adorable + dork; also influenced by social media and the television series New Girl. [Collins news article from the Guardian]


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Nonwords and Words You Should Never Use, Part 2 in a Recurring but Randomly Timed Series

Okay, technically today's object of derision is a word, but because (1) the way it is used in this example is so horrendous, and (2) said use is endorsed by one of the largest, most patronizing know-it-all companies in the world, it just seems like the thing to do.

Exhibit 1 supporting our charge of ginormous crime against grammar and usage worldwide:

First some history. The word hopefully is often maligned by the word police. The word hope is a noun or verb depending on its use, while hopeful is an adjective. Ending in -ly, hopefully is an adverb, but what exactly does it modify?

If used in a technical sense, there are few verbs that hopefully can actually modify, because most of them refer back to the subject due to syntax, and the correct word in those cases is hopeful, not hopefully, e.g.:

"Hopefully, I swung the bat." If you were hoping for a hit, then hopeful is the word, not hopefully. If you were wondering whether you swung the bat, then this sentence only makes sense if you were hit in the head by the bat, thus causing amnesia, because otherwise you already know the answer to the question.

If someone else says this to you, however, using you instead of I, then by usage we know that the speaker means that not only is there a question of whether you swung the bat, but also the use of hopefully instead of a more neutral interrogatory word means that the speaker hopes that you actually did swing the bat. In this sense, hopefully stands in for it is hoped, I hope, and similar phrasings.

The word police would argue that the latter alternatives should be used instead, but through common usage we know what the speaker means, and the alternatives are either stilted or overly direct compared to hopefully, which is a less confrontational way of saying the same thing. For the record, I've never had a problem with hopefully in its more common usage, regardless of what the word police have to say about it (not that I wouldn't edit it out depending on the style sheet, but that's another matter entirely).

One usage, however, is completely and absolutely wrong. Remember above, that someone speaking in the first-person generally can't use hopefully because hopeful works instead? It's also because in a first-person context, hopeful is nearly always a state of being, as in "I am hopeful." Saying "I am hopefully . . ." gets us back to the alternative problem addressed above—it only makes sense if you don't actually know the answer, as in "Hopefully, I am not sick" or "I am hopefully not sick," both of which are subjunctive in nature.

And again, many would argue that "I hope" would work as well and is more correct, but whatever. The point is that the song in the commercial bugs the living hell out of me. Beyond the fact that it's the kind of syrupy, stupid, badly written and played song that you (hopefully) forget a few hours later, it has a glaring grammatical error: the use of hopefully to indicate a state of being in the first person.

The line "I'm feeling hopefully" is only outdone in the next with "I'm feeling quite hopefully," which adds a modifier to an already terrible grammatical error. Technically, this might actually make sense—that is, if the singer just got out of a mental ward and is coming down from Prozac, in which case the actual meaning is "I'm feeling, hopefully" [comma mine]. Unfortunately, however, the overall context tells us that's unlikely to be true, and the second use, with quite before hopefully, dooms that possible interpretation, since a person can't "feel quite, hopefully":

How you feeling today, Bob? 
Well, Jen, I'm feeling quite. 
Oh, quite what? 
Nothing more, just quite. 
Uh, okay. 

That some bohemian singer in San Francisco apparently didn't pass eighth-grade English is hardly the worst thing in the world (other than when this commercial comes on and then grates on my nerves for the next 20 minutes if I don't change the channel fast enough). No, the abomination is that this is an Apple commercial, supposedly vetted by a major ad agency and the company itself. But somehow, some way, this poor usage, which would warrant an F on a homework assignment, has the tacit endorsement of a major corporation and its brain-dead agency, who have managed to drop the collective IQ, or annoy the bejesus out of, millions of innocents.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Nonwords and Words You Should Never Use, a Daily Feature

Let's get something straight right off—when I say daily, I mean whenever I feel like it.

Okay, with that out of the way, today's nonword is . . . incentivize, and as a bonus, its root nonword, incent. Both are made-up words for people who can't figure out how to use incentive in a sentence, or who can't come up with a different word altogether.

Just a few words of advice—if you can't discern how to use a certain term, the best alternative is almost never "use a word that doesn't really exist in its place."

Monday, June 30, 2014

A Better Mousetrap—a Spiderbait Review


Spiderbait LP

Reviewed by Brent D. Tharp

Oh musical gods, why hast ye forsaken me? Once, long ago, in a place where only vinyl and 8-track tapes existed, a band’s first album was titled using the band’s name, i.e., eponymously. That’s how we got BreadBoston, [The] Chicago [Transit Authority], [Fresh] Cream, Supertramp, Buckingham Nicks . . . well, you get the idea. Chicago and Cream may have gone a little overboard on the whole put-your-band’s-name-in-the-title-of-every-album thing, but I’m not knocking it—marketing and branding are as important for bands as they are for any business.

In recent years, however, bands suddenly started releasing self-titled albums as their third, fourth, fifth, or gazillionth album (and in the process sliced a dagger through the heart of the catchphrase self-titled debut). Since I have no warm and fuzzy feelings toward corporate music executives, I’m going to chalk this up to some A&R guys deciding, randomly and after a few martinis, that “henceforth no debut album shall be named after its band.” And that was the end of that.

That’s how we get debut albums with bizarre titles like Teenage Thunderbolt Anarchy or Best of [insert name of obnoxious band here] before they release any music, and while still publicly unknown (the Sex Pistols notwithstanding). Still, none of this explains how a band could (1) think the name Fun would be catchy and popular, rather than simply dorky and unimaginative; and (2) be perplexed that no one noticed their existence for so long. Oh well.

So let us not wonder, though we might, why Spiderbait named their eighth album Spiderbait. Maybe record execs ordained it so from on high, or maybe the band were just tired. Kidding aside, going for a simple album title after a nine-year absence may indicate a new maturity level for band members, or perhaps a back-to-basics approach to song making. But since I’m just guessing, it could also be sunspots.

Spiderbait? Yes, grasshopper. Spiderbait are one of Australia’s most popular bands, perhaps following AC/DC, Little River Band, Midnight Oil, Men at Work, and the Angels. Rick Springfield I’m not so sure about.

Spiderbait—Not too serious (left to right: Whitt; Kram; Janet)

Spiderbait even had a #1 smash in Australia with what sounds like an adrenaline- or amphetamine-fueled cover of “Black Betty.” The hit was no anomaly—it was part-and-parcel a representative Spiderbait song by the time the band were done with it. I say that because I’m not about to go through a summary of Spiderbait’s first seven albums. All I’ll say is that the songs are mostly stripped down with raw humor throughout, and lyrics you likely won’t hear anywhere else. I’ve never been a fan of genres, but to help you out, one of the corporate category factories refers to Spiderbait’s music as “thrash pop,” whatever the hell that is. In addition to that completely unhelpful label, this review takes numerous liberties in comparing Spiderbait to other bands with which the reader may be familiar—fair warning.

“Straight Through the Sun” is a hard driving, raging opener with strong tough percussion. Spiderbait’s recognizable fuzzy pedal effects are immediately apparent, never quite subsumed by Kram’s tight, pressure-laden vocals and pounding snare. The song is a great opener, and also the first single released from the album. The atmosphere of the song is techno because of the fuzziness, including some filtering of the vocals, but also has the raw sound of garage rock owing to the intensity of the instrumental part of the song. So you don’t think the song was recorded in a garage, however, Spiderbait shot the video for this song on a beach somewhere (methinks Australia, as that’s the obvious supposition).

“It’s Beautiful” (also released as a single) would seem a jarring change in tone, especially with English’s lilting vocals, but is not a surprising choice given Spiderbait’s sometimes eccentric approach to song organization. A song about how our little planet is attractive in spite of (and because of) its grittiness and imperfections, the song has some nice transitions, and its emotion and complexity build throughout. The official video for this one tells the story quite nicely, and emphasizes that one’s environment is less important than the company one keeps. The unofficial video has a similar message, but is shot with a completely different style and different content.  It should be noted that the lyrical content of this one is extremely metaphorical (intentionally or otherwise), and its message could be interpreted contrapositively if one were so inclined.

“Miss the Boat,” continuing the garage rock theme for a bit, has a quick guitar slide before launching into a driving, staccato (well, as staccato as Spiderbait can get) guitar intro that transitions back into familiar fuzziness. The lyrics and harmony on this one are killer, with Kram’s down-and-dirty vocal styling nicely offset by English’s syrupy sweetness. Some memorable lines include the first: "I take pride in missin’ the boat, I don’t wanna be a sailor," and later, “Take heed to what I say, don’t go out in the water / Take pride in missin’ the boat, you gotta climb your mountain with your own rope.” With a running time of 5:13, not only is this tune the longest on the album, but it’s also unusually long by Spiderbait standards. It has a one-minute intro, and the final chorus is buffered by a 1:00+ extended bridge rolling into a guitar solo and a 1:10 outro that fades out with a blistering improvisational guitar–drum sequence.

“Supersonic” is another lilting song with English singing lead. It opens with a raw acoustic guitar lead-in followed by English’s nearly a cappella vocals, which are later backed by a fairly infectious instrumental base (keys and/or slide guitar, as well as a relentless muted snare)—all of this serves to accent and echo English’s haunting vocals. We get a stronger understanding of just how much range English has on this song, more so than on “It’s Beautiful.” Kram plays aggressively on this one, but the percussion is muted perfectly so that it creates a sonic base for English, rather than competing.  The fade-out includes the sound of a jet engine spinning up. The song is pretty dreamy, but a nice little break before what comes next.

“Where’s the Baseline,” if for no other reason, appears to be in this exact spot on the album to make sure we don’t forget that this is, after all, a f——king rock album. It opens with some spoken word, then uncorks Kram like an evil spirit, frenetically singing to the whole wide world all at once. This is the kind of song that never seems to stop, then suddenly drops into a sort of Mott the Hoople-esque bridge at half speed, using just enough time for a quick drag on a giant burrito-sized reefer, before rolling back into the primary verse. Perhaps Kram needed a break midway through—this is the only song in which one can literally hear him drawing the oxygen he needs in order to belt this puppy out. The lyrics, though by no means especially original, are consistent with the head-pounding and ripping nature of this song: "I’ve been driving in my car, and I can hear there’s something missin’ —— oh where’s the baseline? / You’ve been low, you’ve been high, you’ve been preying on me all night." Gather your friends around, do some shots, and turn this mother up until your neighbors call the cops.

“I’m Not Your Slave” is a marked departure from most Spiderbait music. It has the vocal styling and tone of a Jack White song, with a guitar that sounds like it might be channeling the spirit of a now-retired guitar pedal once owned by Eddie Van Halen or Steve Vai. It also marks a departure from the initial hard–soft–hard pattern of the album, a trend that lasted an entire five songs. The lyrics on this one are pretty extraordinary (look ‘em up).

Spiderbait—Looking serious, but probably laughing inside

“Get Bent” is a ditty, that’s the most apt description I can summon. Kram doesn’t bother covering up any of his Aussie accent and sings in a lower register, nearly in spoken word. This song is reminiscent of the best Kinks songs (a more contemporary example would be Australian band the Cat Empire), and no wonder: Kram sounds a lot like Ray Davies here, and lyrically it sounds exactly like a song that Ray Davies would write. I might also note that the bass line on this one is pretty intense—I'm surprised that English wasn't knocked down by the reverb (come to think of it, I have no way of knowing that she wasn't).

“What You Get,” showcases English again, but this time in a driving punk song, albeit not as stripped down as most. Its punk status is helped by English’s wry delivery, but injured greatly by her ability to sing in tune. Near the end, the band go into a maniacal frenzy, and fade out that way.

“Freakazoid,” is a heavy, slogging maniacal beast roaming through the woods and trying to kill everyone in sight. It’s also instrumental—sadly, most beasts are capable of neither speech nor song. 

“Crazy Pants (Rockstar for a Night)” is a pleasant little slow roller about crazy pants, sneakers, dancing, and being a rockstar, pretty much in that order, and recalls the fun-loving Nickelback tune, “Rock Star.” Just kidding—it sounds nothing like the Nickelback song. Also, the song is mostly about kicking the ass of the poser in your life (feel free to find one in your own life, and play this song for same while you have the locks changed on your habitat).

“Mars” has lots of whispering in it.

“Reach for the Sky,” in some sort of twisted trick, is a gem that the band hid near the end of the album, perhaps as recompense for the preceding song consisting almost entirely of whispering. As I was listening to it, I had to stop writing and go to the outside bar, slamming my head against it until marble whorls were etched in relief on my forehead. This song could easily have come from an Ozzy Osbourne or Dio album. But it didn’t.

“The Sun Will Come Shining” is a Go-Go’s–sounding tune with the same happy message, except with stronger musicianship all the way around. Hey, I love the Go-Go’s as much as the next guy, but really, Kram can play him some mean drum, that’s all I’m saying.

“Goodbye” ties this opus together rather well.

All in all, despite some early cynicism, I must admit that the song choices for the album were excellent, and what appeared at first to be a quirky track order was actually quite cohesive. More than that, this album is impossible to define, showcasing an incredible amount of musical talent that crosses several genres fluidly and, for the most part, flawlessly.

Spiderbait LP track list
1.     Straight Through The Sun 3:56
2.     It’s Beautiful 3:40
3.     Miss The Boat 5:13
4.     Supersonic 4:33
5.     Where’s The Baseline 3:17
6.     I’m Not Your Slave 3:13
7.     Get Bent 3:01
8.     What You Get 3:33
9.     Freakazoid 1:38
10.   Crazy Pants (Rockstar For A Night) 3:40
11.    Mars 4:22
12.    Reach For The Sky 4:31
13.    The Sun Will Come Shining 2:37
14.    Goodbye 2:35

Total track time 49:49

Note: track times shown are from digital media, and may vary from those of other sources.

Players: Janet English—vocals, bass; Mark Maher—vocals, drums; Damian Whitty—guitars.

Label: Universal Music Australia Pty Ltd. (Mercury label for physical CD and vinyl).

Production: All tracks except “It’s Beautiful,” “Where’s the Baseline,” and “Crazy Pants” composed by Janet English, Mark Maher, and Damian Whitty. “It’s Beautiful” and “Crazy Pants” composed by Janet English, Mark Maher, Francois Tetaz, and Damian Whitty. “Where’s the Baseline” composed by Janet English, Dann Hume, Mark Maher, and Damian Whitty. Mastered by Joe LaPorta.

Management: Fiona Duncan.

Booking: Owen Orford at New World Artists;

Other: Released November 2013. Additional band information available at

The published review can also be found at Reviewer Magazine online.

This review may be freely distributed, provided that it is properly attributed and back-linked to this page.