Jenny’s Blog (from Moscow!)

Posted in Life, Random on August 31st, 2009 by Tom

I just wanted to take a quick second here to lend a shout-out to a close friend of mine, Jenny Jalack, and her blog! It sortof embarrasses me to see her flowing, insightful prose crop up every few days on her blog, The Global Flapjack, when all I can do here is give you periodic tidbits of new music and political rantings.

The pictures really help, and its a blog worth reading for the style alone. That aside, the content for the next few months will be especially fascinating as Jenny acclimates to living in Moscow, Russia, of all places!

Check it out.
I highly recommend.

He Was Our Kennedy

Posted in Politics on August 26th, 2009 by Tom

kennedyI’m not going to spend a whole lot of time getting to deep into Ted Kennedy nostalgia, because that would be a little disingenuous. The guy has been a figure in political life since the 1960s, and I’ve only really been paying attention to such things for the past five years. If I had a favorite Kennedy though, it would probably have been Edward. It’s pretty easy for people in my parents generation to relate to Robert or John, and particularly our grandparents for John, but who did we have?

Camelot was more or less over well before I was even born. Ted Kennedy is as close to that as a lot of us ever got, and now that he has passed away, I think it’s really over. Sure, Kennedy Kids are scattered throughout the American political system, but he was that last, final, clinging thread to that earlier age that has now snapped and is closed forever.

Certainly, his life was not without controversy: the scandal involving his automobile accident at Chappaquiddick, his bitter primary struggle with Carter in 1980, and a multitude of substance-abuse related incidents; in spite of that, he persevered through it all and remained relevant to the legislative stage. No small feat to combat so much negative press and still emerge from it all with the dominating image being that of a dedicated public servant.

It was the funniest thing, last night, turning on the TV. Allison had wanted to finish watching an episode of Countdown that had started at 12 AM CST. She left her house at 12:15, and we turned the TV on at around 12:30. On the screen was an image of Ted Kennedy. I remember walking into the kitchen, commenting that I hated it when they would show B-Roll of him, because it always scared me for a second because…

“-because you think he’s died,” Allison finished for me. I sat down, and saw they were showing footage of young Ted Kennedy too. We both realized in that moment what we were watching, and it was an eerie moment I’ll not soon forget.

Certainly Kennedy leaves a huge legacy behind for his surviving family, and a huge void in the United States Senate. I hope that his dedication to his causes will galvanize Congress to make meaningful, well-reasoned reforms to healthcare, in the fashion that Kennedy would have were he well enough to do it himself. I’ll sign off with his most famous quotation:

“For all those whose cares have been our concern,
the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives,
and the dream shall never die.”

Three Years Down

Posted in Life, Maintenance on August 14th, 2009 by Tom

[Saying that takes me back to my Brak Blog days!]

We’ve come a long way since the inaugural of Schrödinger’s. This year’s birthday is especially salient given the recent and drastic changes the blog has witnessed. We are now what I’ve long understood to be a “real blog.” The content has a focus, and audience, which is more than I could ever say on its behalf before. Almost on a whim, I decided to throw off the final trappings what this blog used to be and morph it into a more ideal aggregation of news, music, and general commentary on life.

I did a little history-searching, and found the original blog: Braker. Oh man, just reading this, oh my god! I talk about pointing a gun at my driver’s ed instructor of all people?! The dude just wanted to teach me to drive! Where did I get off, I don’t know. Those early stages were rough though. I had no idea what I was doing, and blogging was a really new medium. Next up is The Brak Blog. Here I tried to tighten the screws a bit, and got accustomed to a paid hosting system as opposed to the free services. The funny thing is, in talking about “what worked” in my retrospective on Brak Blog, we have abandoned almost everything that was successful about that format. Schrödinger’s has been an extension of that, but slowly it has progressed and transformed in increments to achieve its current form.

Finally forsaking the song titles, I think, is what did it. Instead of placing undue emphasis on needing to write an entry that fit the song I wanted to share with people, I just started writing a music blog. Which I should have done a long, long time ago. By parsing that with the intermediate rant on politics and my nerd forays about anime or Firefox, I think the blog has finally reached a good equilibrium. I know this because posting rate has skyrocketed. Not just quantity, but quality too has gone up with more to talk about than meandering anecdotes. These changes have increased our visibility, and in turn we have people checking back more often, reading more posts, and even commenting sometimes!

This is all very exciting, and I’m going to continue pursuing this idea of a “real blog” with conviction. I stood by idly in high school as the blog format evolved around me, content to just do with it what I wanted, and continued to ignore that trend well through this current effort. But I’m tired of the damn thing just being a vehicle for stories that aren’t that funny to begin with, and really just became amalgamations of stuff I did. That’s not interesting in a general sense. Commentary on music, politics, and technology, however, has an audience.

The true test will be if I can keep this up during school. This summer is encouraging though. Even if post rate drops to half its present frequency, that’s still multiple posts a week, something that would have once seemed impossible. WordPress makes a lot of this possible, with stuff being so easy to add to posts, move around, and include multimedia aspects. Things have changed here at Schrödinger’s. I think for the better.

Thus, I just thought you should know you’re looking at Schrödinger’s Blog: 3.0. I’ll continue to get the site acclimated to the new changes, and I still have a few layout tweaks in store. In a few months, I’m going to submit to Hype, which I’ve said before is a big goal of mine, that also would serve as a good motivating factor to keep it up.

All this has got me thinking about what I’m going to do in another year. The Brak Blog was always a four-year-mission, but I left this current project a little ambiguous. Another change, or should we stick it out? We’d certainly be in the market for an overhaul, either way. But that’s a ways off, yet.

For now: Happy Birthday, dear blog.
It’s fitting that we should celebrate your growth in content as well as years on the same day.

Health Care’s Got Me Worked Up

Posted in Politics on August 13th, 2009 by Tom

assMan. Sometimes it just seems like this world is going to pieces.

If you’ve watched the news at all, you know it’s a jungle out there. The debate on health care reform has reached fever pitch, with angry protesters decrying “death panels,” “socialism,” and finally, my favorite, “I want my America back.” Oh geez. In the waning months of my time here at the BC REU program, mostly as a result of my relocation to sleeping on the living room couch, but also because it’s important: I’ve started tuning in almost nightly to MSNBC’s battery of cable news shows. Beginning with Hardball, on to Countdown, and finally sometimes The Rachel Maddow Show, I sit there and soak in thew news.

Sure: MSNBC has its slant; I’ll give you that. Chris Matthews gets a little absurd at times, but I think he means well enough. Olbermann and Maddow, however, I really admire. They’re as close as you can get on cable news to actual ‘reporting’ with regular fact-checks, debunking, and sources. The added bonus is that they call out insanity and absurdity when they see it. Sure, it carries a liberal flavor, but I know that going into it (I also maintain that such a ‘bias’ is more correct). In spite of that, I’ve found it fascinating to watch this slugfest over health care evolve. Morbid, perhaps, to watch the political dialog degraded into shouting matches, but informative nonetheless.

A few main points I want to throw out here:

Conservatives Have Finally Jumped the Shark
I am really surprised that it’s gone this bad. Sarah Palin’s rhetoric of “death panels” is the ultimate low so far. Right or wrong, that woman has a responsibility to the people she speaks to, and using words like that only scares them. She half-assed some retraction after the fact, but the damaged has already been done.

Next: Glen Beck calling the president a “racist with a deep-seated hatred of white people”… Yes: white people like his mother, grandparents, and all those millions of white people that voted for him. To continue to argue that this man has even a shred of credibility is beyond the bounds of the possible. Olbermann mentioned tonight that many large companies (Proctor and Gamble, Geico, and Men’s Warehouse to name a few) have removed their advertising from slots during Beck’s program. Good for corporate America: they may be profit-driven, but way to wake up and smell the crazy.

Finally: Health Care Extremists take it too far. Swastikas slapped up on a Georgia congressman’s office sign, Senator’s hung in effigy, death threats, guns being brought to town halls. Geez. Kinda makes you miss the Birthers, no? They were insane in an adorable-old-senile-grandparent kindof way; this is less cute and more oh-geez-somebody-is-going-to-get-their-ass-shot type of situation. Now, I know that this is a tiny, tiny group of people doing these incredibly inappropriate things. By no means is this a reasonable litmus for the rest of the health care opposition.

But if the opposition wants to be taken seriously, they need to speak up. And when I say “speak up” I don’t mean “shout.” Certainly I can respect an impassioned individual standing up for what they believe in, but I can’t respect some idiot (YES, they are idiots) who simply screams to be heard. If you’re so upset you could blow a gasket, do it in the privacy of your own home. Once you’ve got that taken care of, read for heaven’s sake. If, instead, we were watching clips of people citing portions of the bills in livid sparring with representatives wherein the congresspeople were left dumbfounded by their accusers, wouldn’t that be a hell of a lot more impressive?

You don’t just get to yell “socialism” and have that count as a legitimate critique. (Me? I don’t really even think that’s a dirty or offensive word, and so it would be effectively useless if I were the one being shouted at. We know this blog post essentially renders such a point moot, but still…) I’d also like to hear such critics propose alternatives. If the current ideas are so bad, then the opposition movements, the organizations behind them, as well as the senators they have holding up the process need to put forth a better idea. As crazy and imposing as they seem, these people have put zero real offense on the board.

Democrats Have Dropped the Ball; Seem Unaware of Their Position
First, you’ve got to admit the Democrats have a pretty rough spot: Four committees in the United States Congress have now passed health care legislation:

-House Education and Labor Committee
-House Energy and Commerce Committee
-Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee
-Senate Finance Committee

They aren’t the same; eventually they’ll be cut down, hacked up, and synthesized into a single uber-bill that will represent an amalgamation of the four. But for the moment, they’re just all kindof floating around. Thus, it makes it hard to defend a plan, bill, or system of care that hasn’t even been enumerated yet. The president is being pretty lenient in letting the Democrats do whatever they need to in order to get their bills out of committee. This flexibility comes at a price though, because it makes him look like he has no idea what he wants out of this damn mess.

We should have known this would happen though. The legislative process is no great mystery. All of these steps are normal, and are progressing as they should… The notion that this was going to get done before the recess was overly optimistic, especially in light of the desired amount of “bi-partisan-ness” that the Dems seem to want on this thing. News Flash: You can’t have your cake and eat it too. The terms “bipartisan support” and “quick passage” might as well be mutually exclusive, and somebody in the White House should know this.

‘Bipartisan’ Should Have Worked
Seriously, it should have. Health Care: people should have it. DONE! Not so much. And at the first sign of resistance on this one, the Democrats should have pulled the ripcord and thrown the Republicans out of the airplane. Game over. Obama won, with a mandate no less. I saw a man yelling at poor Arlen Specter, bless his double-crossing-hide (all love, Al!), complaining that this was all moving ‘so gosh darn quickly! What in the sam hill is all the rush about?!’ I paraphrase slightly, but his argument was a temporal one. While, on the one hand, the before-recess goal might have been a little lofty, this argument is stupid.

One of the things we frequently hear the government railed for is that they “don’t really do anything but bureaucracy.” Now that the controlling party is DOING THINGS though, they’re getting in trouble. Sorry, kids, but that’s just the way it goes. When you win, and the voters of this nation hand you the reigns, you do what they elected you to do: Stuff. In this case, that Stuff is Democrat-flavored. Complain all you want, but that’s the way this is going to work.

So Democrats: You Have to Do Stuff.
You just gotta. Were I you, make it clear that the Republican’s have certain select points at which to provide requests, demand compromises, and hear their voices heard. Once that’s happened, it’s Go Time. Don’t look back. You do what you can to include everyone, but at the point that they’re slapping you across the face, that’s it. They lost. You won. Do what you have to do.

And For God’s Sake, Include the Public Option
Otherwise there will end up being no point to all this madness. That’s the litmus by which I’ll judge the success or failure of Democrats on this is if they have the brains and the stones to push through the public option in the face of widespread opposition. If Americans are all really that upset, they’ll pick new people at the midterms, and that’s the way it goes. If they’re really hacked, they’ll even repeal the damn thing. FINE. That’s the way this contraption is supposed to work. [Even in the face of taking a hit on this, Dems shouldn’t fear: GOP fails to capitalize; fails to calm their radicals; fails to provide alternatives; etc.]

Olbermann is the Man
I really love this guy. Countdown has been my recent addiction, and it reminded me of easily one of the funniest things I ever had the benefit to see on SNL. I’ll close with this to lighten the mood, lest I go crazy from Health Care Reform Stress…

Fantasies, Manners

Posted in Music on August 12th, 2009 by Tom

fantasiesI posted a little while ago that Boston’s Best Music Poll Concert had gotten me really excited to investigate a handful of artists. True to this, I caved the next weekend and picked up Metric’s Fantasies and Passion Pit’s Manners, the latter of which I nabbed for 8 bucks at Newbury Comics on Harvard Square, which was too good of a deal to pass up!

I’m gonna go with Metric’s album first, because that’s how they line up, lonely in my iTunes library (all my music is on my desktop, and so there are only about 3 CDs on my laptop!). It’s easy enough to just come out with it: this is a really well-crafted album. In their element, Metric’s electro-pop-girl-crooner bit works pretty well. Naked, the tracks might get a little dull and boring, but with the subtle beats behind them, the record goes pretty fast. ‘Help, I’m Alive’ is a perfect opening track, with all the tenants of a good single that get you excited to hear the rest of the record.

Normally, if you know my typical gripes, you know that I hate it when artists front-load their better material at the top of a record, and putting the single first is certainly an indicator of that; particularly when it is followed by the equally driving ‘Sick Muse‘. Imagine my surprise when I found two of the album’s best tracks, ‘Gold Gun Girls’ (which I posted an acoustic of from the BMP concert) and ‘Gimmie Sympathy’ back-to-back dead-center of the record! Both tracks are good in their own right, but they are a pretty powerful twosome that mark the peak of the record.

[ mp3 ♫ ]

The last three tracks blend a little together for me, but I never get bored or irritated enough to turn them off. I think that’s because even at their most mellow, anything on Fantasies can get you bobbing your head or tapping your foot, which is one of the highest complements I can give the record. My favorite track I found that I hadn’t heard before purchasing it is easily ‘Collect Call‘ with it’s slow build to a pretty dance-able chorus.

[ mp3 ♫ ]

mannersNext up is Manners! I also saw Passion Pit live, and against my better judgment that normally I do not warm up quite so well to the typical “indie-darling” group, decided to give their outlandish brand of electronic-aural-landscaping a go. I was not disappointed! This is some fantastic work right here, and they really do deserve a good chunk of the hype they’ve been getting on the blog circuit in the past few months.

Maybe the most fun about this record is that it’s hard for me to describe. I won’t go so far as to say it is genre-defining, but it certainly is different from the vast majority of my library. I’m happy to say that I eventually came around on ‘Sleepyhead’, which I really do enjoy in earnest now; it’s synthetic somehow-organized cacophony is masterfully executed. As before, ‘Little Secrets’ is still an explosive track everyone should hear.

What is most surprising about parts of this record is how clean-shaven it sounds in some places. ‘Let Your Love Grow Tall’ is a piano-driven affair that fits right in with something you’d have heard from Keane a few years ago (if the piano was hidden in a computer), and ‘Eyes as Candles‘ has a decided retro feel that I can’t quite identify. This other side to Passion Pit is decidedly different in tone, but every bit as heart-felt, when compared to their Bigger Songs (and by that I don’t mean popularity, but more abstractly in terms of the sound).

[ mp3 ♫ ]

As I type this, I feel like all my comparisons are failing to really capture the sound of Passion Pit. Maybe that’s by design, more than anything. I just lack the vocabulary of artists, which is OK. It’s new, refreshing, and worth your time. How about this: the track that best sums up Manners for me is called ‘Moth’s Wings

[ mp3 ♫ ]

So that rounds it out for now. If this handful of songs I have stuck in my head don’t get out soon, they might explode into a blog post, but other than that, this is it as far as Music From Boston goes. Beantown has been good to me on the musical front, and for that much, I am thankful!

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