jelly bean staying power (how could you NOT uka-boo?)

13 Jalal 168 B.E. (Baha’i Calendar)
Soundtrack in my head:  Shonen Knife, “On Top Of The World”

I always find it fascinating to see which musical groups have staying power and which ones don’t.  The ones that do often surprise me.  Perhaps the last band I would have ever imagined lasting thirty years is a Japanese punk-pop band called Shonen Knife.  I first heard their song “Twist Barbie” in 1986, and they sounded like Hello Kitty trying to imitate the Ramones. However, they were actually formed in 1981, which means that they have been around for thirty years now. Below is another video from about 1986.


Their roots are solidly punk and indie rock, pretty much completely ignoring the J-Pop movement that was developing the same time they were.  But I don’t think that even Johnny Rotten could have imagined the rather warped directions that three Japanese women would take the punk rock genre.  Their career has been characterized by exuberant and positive songs–frequently in broken English–about subjects such as jelly beans, fruit loops, pot scrubbers, insect collections, and banana chips.  Yet combined with a buzzsaw guitar and drums that would make any punk rocker want to pogo, the music is infectious.  Prominent alternative rock bands in the late 80’s and early 90’s were among their biggest fans.. (They wrote a rather exuberant song called “Redd Kross,” an alt rock band in the late 80’s, and the L.A. band returned the favor by writing a song called “Shonen Knife.”) One of their biggest fans was Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, and Shonen Knife opened for them on one of their tours. 

In the mid 90’s, on “If I Were A Carpenter,” an alt-rock tribute to The Carpenters, they did a cover of “On Top Of The World.”  I’m not sure how Karen Carpenter would feel about the song, but in my view it is the Best. Cover. Version. Of. Any. Song. Ever.  In the video below, you can see that despite thirty years and some personnel changes (founding member Naoko Yamano is the only one remaining from the original trio), they have not lost their edge.



8 Jalal 168 B.E. (Baha’i calendar)
Soundtrack in my head: Johnny Cash, “Redemption Song”

Some musings on the eve of Sarah Palin’s visit to Madison…

During a time of economic insecurity, immigrants and state workers are targeted as scapegoats while those responsible for the financial collapse remain free from prosecution. Deep-pocketed special interests can now spend unlimited amounts of money on political TV ads without revealing who’s footing the bill. 

In recent weeks, I’ve found myself wondering more and more…

What would Joe Strummer do?


welcome to windows. can i interest you in a happy meal?

6 Jalal 168 B.E. (Baha’i Era)
Soundtrack in my head:  Zero 7, “In The Waiting Line”

I have been a happy Ubuntu Linux user for two and a half years–ever since I nuked Windows out of frustration and replaced it with Ubuntu on my desktop computer

But there are a few things that haven’t been exactly accessible to me on Linux that are accessible on Windows.  The first thing I really miss is Ocean.  It has been a key tool for me for creating Baha’i devotions.  For a while, I was able to make the program workable on Ubuntu through the program Wine, but it’s just not working for me anymore.  Another Baha’i-related piece of software is the Baha’i calendar app through Yahoo Widgets, which, unfortunately, is not compatible with Ubuntu.  I think this is the best Baha’i calendar ever made–whether paper or electronic version.

Shortly after I got accepted into graduate school, I realized that I would need a new laptop.  The Asus EeePc that I’d had for nearly three years was one of the first netbooks ever, but it had only 512 MB of RAM and 4 GB of memory.  I got frustrated with the Linux system Asus had put on there–it’s a cousin to Ubuntu but not as nice.  But I had great difficulty even installing Ubuntu’s netbook version because it still took up too much memory.  I explored other Linux operating systems, finally settling for Peppermint, which, while nice, would still be inadequate for my needs as a student.

So I did some research and found that the best buy out there was–believe it or not–the Asus EeePC.  But instead of the 700 series model I had, I got something in the 1000 series.  For the same price I paid for my original Asus EeePC not even three years ago, I got something with a larger screen and keyboard, 1 GB of RAM upgradable to 2 GB, and 250 GB of storage.  Huge difference–it’s even more powerful than my souped up desktop computer.

I got my new laptop a few weeks ago, and it came with Windows 7 Starter.  Logging into Windows 7 first time was, well, an experience.   First of all, it took much longer to boot up.  I was used to the 1-2 minute boot-ups on Ubuntu. I hadn’t realized just how much Ubuntu had spoiled me.  I felt like I’d just walked into McDonald’s after being spoiled for years by Bob’s (Organic) Bad Breath Burger at the Weary Traveler

First of all, I couldn’t change the wallpaper–I had to settle for the Windows sky blue motif with their logo in the middle.  And when going into sleep mode my laptop did exactly the opposite of sleeping–it started playing this rather obnoxious music that would almost certainly embarrass me if I were in a classroom.  I’m sure I can change it if I really want to, but it bothered me that this was the default.  It also gave me a free trial with some firewall software and anti-virus software, both of which kept on giving me these messages saying that something was wrong and it was because this or that needed updating and I never was quite sure whether it was actually working at all. Java auto-notification kept asking me for permission to do something.  There were also icons for apps that I really didn’t want, including the Times Reader and eBay.  I tried to log into Microsoft Word and I was informed that I could either download it for x amount of dollars, or I could use a free version that would have ads in it.  I downloaded Open Office instead, and ditched the firewall and anti-virus software for AVG.

My intention from day one was to establish a dual boot between Windows and Ubuntu, and I finally had it set up this past weekend. Now I have the dual boot installed so I can have the best of both worlds–use Ubuntu for my regular needs and Windows if I absolutely must. 

the smell of wood smoke on the clothes is back

14 Baha 168 B.E. (Baha’i Calendar)
Soundtrack in my head:  Nick Drake, “One Of These Things First”

Tonight I looked outside my bedroom window and saw a familiar orange glow in our backyard that I hadn’t seen in several months.  Yes, it was true–two housemates had brought out the fire pit and had started our first backyard fire of the year. 

When I first moved to Madison, I was surprised by the fact that it is legal to build fires on one’s own property.  Wood fires were an indulgence that was prohibited due to pollution concerns when I lived in Chicago.  Yet, shortly after I moved into this neighborhood, I remember seeing a huge bonfire on the front lawn of a neighbor two blocks down and thinking to myself, “That can’t be legal.”  But while Madison has air quality concerns of its own, they pale in comparison to the Chicago area.

When we re-started this co-op house a couple of years ago, one of the first purchases we made was a backyard fire pit.  Our house didn’t have very much in savings at the time, but when one of our housemates saw a fire pit on sale for about $100, we knew we couldn’t turn it down.  It’s an odd looking thing–it looks like a cross between a Weber grill and a witches’ kettle, except elevated maybe about three or four inches above the ground. 

I guess it’s a rite of spring like baseball, but a bit more cozy. It was nice to step outside and watch my friends’ faces flicker in the firelight as we talked.  They grilled some brats and wieners. which always taste better grilled.  While it’s not easy to see many stars in this part of Madison, I can make out some of them like the Big and Little Dippers, and it’s more than I what I could usually see in Chicago.  At one point I actually saw a huge shooting star light up the sky. 

I had already partially changed into my pajamas and was wearing my pajama bottoms when I went outside.  They now smell of smoke, as does my jacket, so my sheets will be smelling smoky tonight.  Not a bad way to fall asleep…