Dire Threats

I am the admin for an email group that has over 1400 people. The listserv is set up to automatically take people off if they send a message with UNSUBSCRIBE in the subject line.

The unsubscription process is appended to every message that is sent. In addition, I have huge header that says, "Don't reply to the sender of this message. Follow instructions at the bottom of this email to be taken off this list". Despite all that, I often get personal requests from people to be taken off. Then I have to remind them that they should follow the instructions. Most people understand, but then you have the occasional idiot. I got this message after my gentle reminder:

TAke my name off the list
or I will email you 100 times a day


So for he has sent about 20 messages. What kind of asshole can you be? You don't read your mail. You can't understand instructions. And then you act like a terrorist. Thank God for filters.

This sort of stuff sickens me to the stomach. The internet gives the trampled soul a voice, provides courage to cowards, and takes away all responsibility from communication.

Another Thanksgiving

How do you know it's Thanksgiving in Ann Arbor?
You can find parking on the street and its free!

I started this year's White Thanksgiving in an ironic sort of way - by meeting at a Starbucks with my running group and then running 7 miles. Ironic, because in a way it represented the best and worst of Thanksgiving. Wonderful tradition with commercialization seeping into whatever cracks it can find.

Another fun Thanksgiving tradition is to hear Arlo Guthrie on the Classic Rock station singing Alice's restaurant. If you have about half hour to spare, then you should listen to this song which is part ballad, part protest song, and part about taking out the garbage.
Watch on You Tube.

The worst of Thanksgiving is the Black Friday doorbuster sales. If you are part of that madness then more power to you, but I was on the sidelines last night. Gawking is more fun, less expensive and, more importantly, keeps you warm and comfy. We drove around to Best Buy and Circuit City to look at the poor souls waiting in line. With the temperature in the 20s, it could not have been much fun except for the Bearclaw Company chaps who were selling them coffee. The line stretched around the block and it was easy to see the Black Friday pros from the amateurs. The pros were in the first 10, had a tent and a generator, yes a generator! The amateurs with just a cap, gloves and a jacket will need to have their bodies thawed in the morning with a blowtorch.

Check this documentary.

Presidential Pardon

Look who got a presidential pardon.

I am thinking of names...
Lucky and Break
Gobble and Gable

Los Angeles Guitar Quartet

Last week I saw Caetano Veloso in concert at the Hill. The Brazilian Bob Dylan had unfortunately decided to go electric this time. The show was nice, but the energy was low since most of the crowd, like me, had showed up expecting the more soulful Brazilian acoustic melodies. While the electric stuff was great, when Veloso played his acoustic stuff unaccompanied you could feel that the music was at another level.

Yesterday's show by the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet (LAGQ) at Rackham was packed. There would be no singing and the auditorium is perfect for such acoustic performances. The guitar is a sort of bastard child among instruments when it comes to classical music. It is often considered not to be pure enough to make it on the symphonic concert stage. You notice that many classical guitarists have this chip on their shoulder, Andres Torres Segovia included. The LAGQ has done a great job rearranging a lot of classical music that is mainly for strings for the four guitars and it's a job well done. Yesterday's Brandenburg Concert No.6 by Bach was a perfect example.

But, they also have tremendous range in their repertoire as they played samba/bossa-nova music from Brazil, Celtic-inspired compositions and Spanish flamenco from Manuel Falla and music by a Russian composer who never went to Spain - Rimsy-Korsakov. The Korsakov piece was in lieu of the Hungarian Rhapsody by Liszt which they played a few years ago in Ann Arbor. What's really beautiful is to see, for a change, four guitars not dueling with each other on the stage but playing together to create one voice.

It is a vicious cycle, not many composers really write for the guitar and hence there isn't much 'classical' specifically for the guitar. It is therefore quite commendable that the LAGQ, while not composers themselves, have managed to inspire a couple of composers to write music for them.

Since UMS has decided to focus on guitarist this season there will be a lot of guitar gods passing through in the next few months, including Leo Kottke and the Assad brothers.

OSU 14, Mich 3; me - below zero

Today was 'The Game'. The most famous rivalry in football stretching back 102 years - Michigan versus Ohio State. If there was a list of the most boring states in the country, Ohio would rank in the top five, along with New Jersey. That is one of the reasons Michigan fans give for hating Ohio and the Ohio State team in particular. Ohio is the real middle America, and no surprise that this state has given America seven presidents and decides presidential elections. The American Midwest in known for a lot things and among them is the fanatic appeal of football. A totally perverse game according to me. Not only do they play with an egg-shaped ball, and hardly ever kick the ball, but also the fact that a great football day is when the weather is most foul.

Today, Saturday was most foul. Almost freezing. Grey, windy, and raining. This was my last chance to see a Mich-OSU game in the Big House and I felt, despite my little interest, I must pay my respects, at least once, to the holiest Michigan traditions. They say you can't graduate till you know the Fight song (I am working on both!). I had friend who came all the way from California to watch. He has my sympathies. It was tremendous let-down for what was promised to be a great showdown. Not only was the game low-scoring, but also was super boring with nothing much happening for close to four hours. Unlike soccer, the game is mostly abrupt, with each play lasting less than few tens of seconds.

In any case, I doubt that 112,000 people really show up for the football. Football Saturdays are just another good excuse to get drunk before noon and talk trash about opposing teams. It is one of the beauties of America to create an entire supporting subculture on almost anything that is done by more than a dozen people. A lot of things about football Saturday are not not about football at all. The tailgate, the BBQ, etc. This culture is what I enjoy the most - the feeling of being walking towards the stadium and being sucked into another world. I like to hear the guy outside the IMSB building who raps extempore on way to the stadium. The smell of the hot-dogs on the grill. The martial march of the sea of yellow shirts. The drunk undergrads with the ridiculous face-paint, the trash-talkers and over-priced pizza slices.

In the stands, the guy behind me decided to streak onto the field. He got down to his undies and was trying to persuade others around him to get naked. Given the general boredom it might have happened, perhaps on a warm sunny day. Soon he decided that the twin problems of getting arrested and getting hypothermia with no supporting nudists was not worth it.

For all the pre-game hype, freezing to see Michigan held to a total yardage, less than length of the field, wasn't worth it. I could have been toasting in the comfort of home. But, then you have no stories to tell.

Agony is the Mother of Invention

This might sound familiar to all those, like me, who have to travel monkey-class on planes. There is waiting and more waiting. Waiting to get in the plane, waiting to get out of the plane, waiting to get your measly half-cup of orange juice. The worst undoubtedly is waiting for access to the toilet.
For the ten rows of business class, 6*2=12 people there were two toilets. The other two, at the back of the plane was shared by 30*6=180. One can make a fair assumption that the micturation needs of both classes are same, unless they are serving something very different up there (I have never had the opportunity to find out). Given this skewed ratio, the lines are much longer in monkey class.
Can this process be made more effective? These are areas, according to me, where market economics are not applied enough. Now even airline peanuts are not free. If every extra convenience is charged - like extra baggage, or meals on planes - they should also introduce an option to pay $10 extra to have a FAST PASS to the bathroom which gives you the right to skip over every other person in line who does not hold a similar FAST PASS. The airlines will not only make money this way, but will also save some as the really risk-averse and cheap will not drink anything and take the chance on dehydration than suffer the agony of waiting in line.

Till that is implemented a work around is to go is right after they have served drinks, when the lines are short or non-existent. If you wait for about half an hour, then you might have to really exercise some more self-control and wait even longer.