Saturday, January 31, 2009

Larger Than Life

If you're like me, this picture instantly jogs your memory back to the moment in your childhood when you first picked up a copy of the Guinness Book of World Records. I found myself wondering whatever became of the world's heaviest twins a few days ago. It turns out that one of them (Billy) died several years before I even learned of their existence from injuries sustained while performing a motorcycle stunt. It turns out the brothers were minor celebrities in the 1970s, traveling the world with their tag-team wrestling and stunt show. Benny passed away in 2001 at the age of 54 from heart failure. These guys may eventually lose their world record, but I don't know if we'll ever see another set of corpulent twins gain such widespread notoriety.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Your Window To Weight Gain

You know those articles about the worst possible things you can order while dining out? I'm as addicted to those articles as many Americans are to the artery-clogging entrees being peddled by our beloved chain restaurants. Men's Health recently did an Academy Awards-style review, giving out a worst thing to eat award in 20 different categories. Chili's and On The Border each walked away with three awards. Chili's had the Worst Starter, Worst Chicken Entree, and Worst Dessert, while On The Border had the Worst Nachos, Worst Fish Entree, and Worst Salad. Of course, as bad as some of these dishes are, none of them are anywhere near as bad for you as the Bacon Explosion (assuming you eat the entire roll yourself).

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sporting Chance

I realize that season 3 of Mad Men isn't really on anyone's radar screen yet (and yes, it looks like season 3 is happening), but I wanted to go on record with this observation now, since I haven't heard anyone say anything about it yet. I find it really interesting that the show has never dealt with professional sports in any way. No one has ever left work early to go to the ballgame (I guess they're too busy having affairs) and there has never been any idle chatter around the water cooler about last night's game or last week's fight. I'm sure that this is deliberate (since every freakin' detail of the show is deliberate) and I'm guessing it is pretty accurate since professional sports weren't as a big of a deal back then and they were probably a bit too gauche for Sterling-Cooper men anyway, but if nothing else, Mad Men is about how the times, they are a-changin', so I'm guessing the subject is eventually going to be broached. I predict that they're going to go for a two-fer and cover race and sport at the same time with a story that includes one of the Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali vs. Sonny Liston fights.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I received a copy of the documentary film Musician for Christmas and I finally got around to watching it. As I mentioned before, it profiles Ken Vandermark, my favorite musician currently on the scene. The movie is shot in a very direct style; there are no interviews or narration. It begins with Vandermark alone in his basement composing and working through some writer's block and ends with concert footage of him playing a solo show at an art museum (or possibly an art gallery). In between, it's an unvarnished look at the day-to-day life of a musician operating well outside of the mainstream of commercial music. The entire film is summarized in the final scene. It begins with a close-up of him addressing the crowd, his humility and humanity on full display, before launching into a Japp Blonk-inspired solo. As he starts to play, the camera pans back to just beyond and above the audience, revealing the modest crowd. The camera holds that shot until the song ends, and the movie fades out with the applause. It shows the loneliness, sacrifice, humility, creativity, strength, and elation that the uncompromising artist must endure, posses, and hopefully, receive.

I've always felt that Vandermark was an amazingly humble artist. Every time I've seen him play, he always seems genuinely touched that people bothered to pay money to listen to his music. That humility is on display in Musician, and while a lot of it is just his personality, the occupation that he has chosen certainly reinforces his humility. As a fan of his music, I really enjoyed the concert segments and I also enjoyed the way that they were shot. The rehearsal segments were even more interesting, both for the behind the scenes look that they offered and for the insight they offered into Vandermark as a composer and bandleader.

Musician is obviously a must-see for fans of Vandermark's music, but it's also a movie for anyone who is interested in watching the creative process in action.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again

I finally finished reading Infinite Jest. I picked it up for the first time nearly eight years ago but didn't make it very far. I bought a copy nearly seven years ago and made it about a quarter of the way through before giving up again. I finally decided to give it a third try this past September, shortly after the death of its author, David Foster Wallace. I'm not afraid to stop reading a book that I no longer find interesting, so the fact that I made it through all 981 pages (and 97 pages of footnotes) means that it at least held my interest. It's an entertaining story filled with some of the most intriguing characters that I've ever encountered in literature. While I definitely enjoyed the book on a superficial level, especially in the middle portion where most of the characters had been developed but before it became clear that the story was not going to resolve itself in the end, I never really figured out what the story is actually about. After reading the book, the blurbs on the back cover sound plausible, but I certainly wouldn't have arrived at any of those conclusions on my own. I'm sure a lot of this my on fault; I probably should have been reading the book with a dictionary in hand since it had a lot of words I've never heard or seen in print (not to mention quite a bit of Québécois), and I ideally should have tried to finish it in less than four months since it's pretty hard to keep a story fresh in your mind spreading it out over such a long time. So while I agree with the pull quote from the Seattle Times on the front cover of my copy that proclaims Infinite Jest to be "surprisingly readable", don't kid yourself into thinking that you're going to get a lot out of this book without really committing to a serious study of it.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


I noticed that Taqueria Pacifica is now offering Narragansett Cranberry Ale on tap. I had never heard of this variety (it's not even mentioned on Narragansett's website), and the only evidence of it I can find online is this discussion on Beer Advocate (their servers appear to be down right now, so I haven't had a chance to read it). I didn't expect much, but I had to give it a try. It failed to live up to my admittedly low expectations. It's sort of a New England take on a Berliner Weisse mit Schuss (and tastes about as good). The cranberry flavor is so overwhelming that you can barely taste the beer. I'd advise steering clear of this brew, unless you consider yourself a connoisseur of wine coolers.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I recently decided to give Twitter a shot. In light of my recent sort-of rants against location-based meeting services and text messaging, my interest in Twitter may strike you as odd and/or hypocritical. When I first heard about Twitter, I was highly skeptical, but I've warmed up to it. Perhaps it was Shaq's Twitter account that did it for me. I don't expect to be tweeting all that often, but I thought it would be nice to have the option. Follow me if you're so inclined.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


When all of the 01.20.09 - Bush's Last Day swag started showing up a couple years ago, I got a little worried. I wasn't worried that Bush was going to amend the Constitution and run for a third term or declare himself President-for-Life or anything like that. I was worried that by tempting fate, we'd wind up trading Bush for someone even worse (President Rush Limbaugh, anyone?). History is full of examples where one bad leader was deposed only to be replaced by someone who was even worse. To be fair, most of those examples involve revolutions and coups d'état, not orderly changes of power after free and fair elections. Still, I'm glad that we managed to dodge that bullet. I suppose it's possible for Obama to turn out to be even worse than Bush, but I feel like it would require Obama to submit himself to some sort of new brain-altering technology that is unlikely to be developed within the next four years.

Monday, January 19, 2009

On Frozen Pond

How I managed to live this long and never play pond hockey is beyond me. After playing for about three hours on a frozen lake in New Hampshire last weekend, I'm incredibly sore and still coming down from the adrenaline rush.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A True Underdog Story

I learned of Dodgeball's demise today through the esteemed Will Leitch. In case you never heard of Dodgeball, it's a mobile social networking application that allows you to tell all of your friends (and their friends) where you are at any given time. If you remember this iPhone commercial demonstrating the Loopt application, it's kind of more primitive version of the same idea. I find both applications somewhat horrifying, and I don't necessarily think it's totally a generational thing. I can't imagine that the next generation's batch of introverted nerds is all that geeked about these apps, but I guess I could be wrong. I'm sure that eventually, applications like these are going to be commonplace and I'll eventually be forced to use one of them and may even enjoy it, but I'm remaining skeptical for now.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

New Zealand. Like Lord of the Rings

The Flight of the Conchords season 2 media blitz began in earnest todaty, with this spot on NPR and this interview with the A.V. Club. I'm still working through season 1 on DVD and don't have HBO, so I don't know when and if I'll get a chance to check out season 2. I like the show, but so far, I've liked the acting more than the music. Don't get me wrong, the videos are great and lyrics are hilarious, it's just that parody songs don't reach their full comedic potential until you have a chance to reference them in everyday life, and I haven't reach that point quite yet.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Glass Musuem

We went to the newly renovated RISD Museum today to check out the Dale Chihuly exhibit. Chihuly is a pioneer in the field of glass art, and most of the pieces on display in this exhibit were glass sculptures and installations. One of the challenges of modern art appreciation is dealing with all of the non-traditional media and structures used by contemporary artists. Paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts have been around forever and it's easier to comprehend modern approaches to these artistic traditions even when they veer into abstraction. When looking at works that use different forms and media, it's sometimes hard to figure out what you're looking at.

Chihuly's work seems to fall into the second category in that it's not a literal representation of the physical world and it's in a non-traditional medium (at least, for sculpture), but it's still quite accessible. All of the pieces in the exhibition were very organic; they either used or suggested natural forms, such as flowers, plants, and trees. If nothing else, his bold use of color gives most of his works a strong enough visceral appeal that a thorough study of 20th century art is not required to form an opinion about his works. In addition to the installations, the museum also had works from several of Chihuly's students and contemporaries on display. I really liked that and think it's a good idea for art exhibitions in general because it's a good way to see how artists influence each other.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Analyze This!

I installed Google Analytics on datajanitor in early 2008 because I thought it would be fun to see how many people were reading this blog, where they were coming from, and how they were getting here. Now that I have close to a year's worth of data, here are the results for 2008.

2,641 Visitors
3,797 Visits
5,378 Page Views

Most of the people who visited probably wound up here by accident, as the 80.35% bounce rate indicates. 77.93% of the visits came from the US, the remaining 22.07% of the visits were spread across 74 foreign countries. The UK came in second with 172 visits (4.53%). The most frequent non-English speaking country was Germany, who finished fourth overall with 111 visits (2.92%). 23 of the 74 foreign countries had only a single visit. Not surprisingly, Australia was the most frequent visitor in Oceania, finishing in 6th place overall with 35 visits (0.92%). The top visitor in Asia was The Philippines, who came in 8th overall with 14 visits (0.37%). In South America, Brazil was tops with 10 visits (0.26%), good enough for 14th overall. In another big shocker, South Africa was the top visitor in Africa, finishing in 32nd place overall with 4 visits (0.11%).

I had visitors from every state in the union. Three states only made a single visit (MT, MS, and WY). Excluding my home state of RI, CO was responsible for the most visits (thanks, Dusty). Once again excluding myself, the city of Boulder, CO had the most visits for any city and London, England was tops among all foreign cities.

The most viewed page in 2008 was this little gem that I posted way back in 2005, which was visited an astonishing 296 times. The most visited page that was posted in 2008 was this one, which was visited 157 times.

As far as search engine traffic goes, the top search term that brought people to this blog was alice at night, with 63 hits. A close second was joann sklarski, with 60 hits. 7 of the top 25 search terms are somehow related to the Sklarski sisters, Kirk Gibson, or Dave Rozema. It's pretty amazing that my blog has become something of a clearinghouse for information on the Sklarski sisters, seeing as I never actually wrote anything about them - all of the information about them is contained in comments on Honeymoon('s Over) in Vegas, my most viewed post.