Tuesday, October 25, 2011

With Love and Squalor

Oh hello there, I didn't see you come in.

Hope everyone is having a nice autumn. I presume it's better now that you have Goldblum burned into your retinas. My fall has been pretty chill, not too much new in the Life department. Been working on grad school apps. Moved in with three cool dudes at the top of Mt Olympus (I shit you not). Perpetually surrounded by clouds, we sit on our collective butt watch obscene amounts of Battlestar Gallactica. It's great. Also, I've been stocking up on authentic San Francisco experiences -- felt my first real earthquake the other day AND it was a two parter- 4.0 and 2.5. Then I saw Craig from Craigslist walking down the street because apparently we share a neighborhood. But that's all. So I guess it's about time to pump out another prepackaged bundle of associative memories to the Spotify cloud. This particular bundle was requested by Miss Natalia so I kept electro to a minimum. (Eh, I was in a broody grooves mood anyway.) Some newies, mostly oldies. Because my laptop is currently inpatient somewhere around Dell headquarters, this mix is only available streaming for now. Yeah, after two years of touching various metals to the side of my computer in lieu of a power button, I finally decided it was time to cash in on my warranty. Imagine! Anyhow, without further ado: For Nat--

With Love and Squalor
 Spotify / Grooveshark (boooo, incomplete)
1. Lifeboat (Instrumental) - Nathaniel Merriweather, Lovage, Dan the Automator
2. Power (feat. Danny Brown and Despot) - Das Racist
3. Parade - Justice
4. Rabbit In Your Headlights - UNKLE, Thom Yorke
5. Singin' In The Rain - Mint Royale
6. Oh Lord - Foxy Shazam
7. A Pretty Girl is Like - The Magnetic Fields
8. Tuff Ghost - The Unicorns
9. Foxes Mate For Life - Born Ruffians [Guest track contributed by Chris Johnson, "for your gaylist"]
10. Strangers on a Train - Nathaniel Merriweather, Kid Koala, Lovage et. al.
11. Daydreamin' (feat. Jill Scott) - Lupe Fiasco
12. Undiscovered First - Feist
13. This Momentary - Delphic
14. Weatherpeople (Instrumental) - RJD2
15. Phosphene Dream - The Black Angels
16. I'm A Goner - Souljaboy, Andrew W.K., Matt & Kim
17. Soundtracks & Come Backs - Goldfish
18. Experiment Number Six - Lemon Jelly
19. A Fifth of Beethoven - DJ Daddy Ray Z

Tangential Note: If you haven't read Salinger's Nine Stories (Title Reference), please do. You can't let negative associations Catcher in the Rye infect his other work. (Am I inside your head or what?)

Completely unrelated note: If you ever find yourself needing Photoshop on a computer where it's not installed- Pixlr is a ridiculously legit alternative. Spread the word!

Monday, October 17, 2011


(more like LEAK-a-licious, am I right? oh so right)

So listening through a few times I'm actually happily surprised. Maybe the early-released singles had lowered my expectations a few hundred kliks but in all the honesty, this album isn't half bad. It's solid. And precious. While any songs standing alone may be pretty weak, as a unit it allows you to appreciate this sophomore album for what it is: a little quest. Venturing off from Hard House roots, exploring and breaking through new sound ground.

<< Don't worry, I'll post links as YouTube catches up to the rest of the internet. Current favorite is Parade, so that'll be first on The List >>

Obviously, you can't go into this album expecting another Cross. Everything they've put out since A Cross the Universe has indicated they were heading in this new direction. Like glamrockers from the future nostalgic for the early 80's, there's just .... something in those epic orchestral synth chords. Their Dior Homme set (aka Planisphere) and remix of Let Love Rule were probably the most noticeable steps in the transition. The release of Civilization and Audio Video Disco were just confirmation.

So in the end, f you're still stuck on zee old Joostees, don't even bother. Go listen to some SebastiAn. That dude ROCKS HARD. He'll fill that hole in your heart right up. I think Total is the most cohesive bundle he's put out to date but I'm probably biased because I'm hands down obsessed! with that shit.

Then again, maybe these new Justice tracks will fill a hole you didn't even know you had. That one hole that requires equal parts Alan Parsons Project and Ratatat, slightly reminiscent of Daft Punk.

What can I say, these musical heart holes are oddly specific.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Lucid Dreams

It's official, I'm addicted to making playlists.
That, or my tendency to obsess over a limited number of songs easily lends itself to documentation. Whatever. Either way, this one's an attempt to capture the experience of  wandering around SF in the summertime. Overall, pretty upbeat and chill, ranging from delightfully quirky to full-on strange. Definitely recommending you whip out a solid pair of headphones-- tracks like Cornelius' Mic Check and Franz Ferdinand's Lucid Dreams are infinitely improved with legit acoustics. Also, if there's any way you can absorb these tunes while laying in the grass bonding with rapidly shifting cloud formations, it's preferrable. Trust me.

Stream on Spotify or Grooveshark / DL on le Dbox
1. 7th Street - Chinese Man Records
2. Nights Off - Siriusmo
3. (My 1st) Big Break - Cut Chemist
4. Tetra - SebastiAn
5. Ladyflash - The Go! Team
6. Life Coach - Fang Island
7. Summer of All Dead Souls - ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead
8. Winter That's All - Fol Chen
9. Royksopp Forever - Royksopp
10. Forever Lost - Pretty Lights
11. Bad Idea - Siriusmo
12. Rolling Nectarine - Hooray for Earth
13. Vision One - Royksopp
14. Run Run Run - Phoenix
15. Lucid Dreams - Franz Ferdinand
16. Youthless - Beck
17. Mic Check - Cornelius
18. Of The Mountains - Dan Deacon
19. High School Art Class - Pretty Lights

Album art: cropped Gustavo Peña painting
[Check out the rest of his work, this man's a boss.]

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Show me the way to the best Whisky Bar

So up until last night my ability to distinguish between types of whiskey was limited to how much I hated myself after doing a shot. Obviously, this attitude was part of the problem. Whisky is the pretty much the definition of a sippin' drink and when imbibed correctly OHMYGODISITDELICIOUS.

Anyhow, the point of this post is to gush about the Nihon Whisky Lounge (and to get Alabama Song stuck in your head. Just a little). Not only do they have a ridiculous (entire wall of) selection, expert bartenders and delicious drinks- but it's super chill atmosphere, even on a Saturday night. We sat comfortably at the bar and had the full attention of the 'Lead Mixologist' for a good two hours. Tim and I quickly located a stack of the bar's business cards and used them to send him doodles, poems, and gracious messages. 
He set most of them up against the front row of display bottles, which made us very happy 

Last night's setlist 
Drink one: Green Man Tea (scotch, green tea liquor, pineapple juice, lime juice)
Drink two: Blood & Sand (scotch, cherry brandy, fresh squeezed orange juice)
Drink three: Healthy pour of Kilchoman. (i said GODDAMN)
Drink four: Cablegram (scotch, fresh muddled ginger and lemon)

A nice classy cherry on top of a wonderful evening - they recommend you drink a glass of water per drink served, which not only extends the lifespan general cognitive capacities but also allows you to appreciate what you're drinking. Novel concept, I know.

I really need to make a habit of documenting these adventures in #drinksperimentation. Blogging is already an exercise in external memory dumps, may as well make it a platform to easily access crazy recipes for inevitable future thirsty times.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Strictly Electronic

It recently came to my attention that my significant other isn't familiar with a fuckton of the music I hold dear, namely key players in the world of electronica. This is unacceptable and must be remedied. Solution: PLAYLIST TIME! While I can't claim this is even remotely close to a History Of  or even Comprehensive Introduction to Techno,  I can put together a fun mixtape of songs and artists that were essential in developing my own personal appreciation of genre.

Because it turned out so long, I've divided into two movements. The songs are pretty much grouped by artist and somewhat organized by subgenre (...as defined by me). PART ONE starts off with Ed Banger bros and moves through artists based on what I consider to be incestuous remix relationships. It stays mostly within the confines of  minimalist, experimental house, if that's even a thing. PART TWO explores the more lyrical, danceable, psychadelic and poppy sides of electronica. So basically, everything else. It even has some dips into trance, drumNbass and triphop. God this was fun to make. A most productive trip down memory lane. Enjoy!

Listen on Grooveshark, Spotify or Download from Dropbox



Illustration by So Me.

HEADS UP: For the life of me, I can't find any of The Chemical Brothers on Grooveshark, so sadface. Also, in the zipfile version, the Lemon Jelly tracks aren't obeying my requested changes in their ID3 tags. They are supposed to be songs 63 and 64-- down with the triphop, out of electrohouse territory.

Lastly, no post about electronica is complete without a flowchart. Eventually I have plans to map out the artists featured in this mix based on their country of origin, remix connections and general subgenre tendencies. But that's a good amount of effort and research I'll reserve for another day. Til then, you get this classic:

Yell at me for leaving your favorites out, I dare you. Some crucial dudes only had tiny roles because I believe their contribution to be universally acknowledged (yeah, I'm looking at YOU DPunk) and this lesson in techno was getting pretty lengthy as it was. But there are people I may have legitmately forgotten and I'm never opposed to expanding my music library -TEACH ME. This way I can have them all in the same thread. Actually I'll go ahead and start: "UHH...KRAFTWERK???"

And in case you need moaaarrrr, have some RELATED POSTS:

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Ticket to Plagiarize

A friend of mine was casually blasting the new Mother Mother album the other day. It's quite good. But that's not what made it memorable. It was the fact that THIS particular song struck me as so eerily familiar:

You feel an almost intimate connection with the melody, yes? As if you'd heard it hundreds of times before. An impressive accomplishment for an artist, yet I was skeptical. The album is too new for me to have heard it at a party and glitches in the Matrix tend to be more blatant.
Then it hit me:

(specifically, 2 minutes and 47 seconds in)

Now I know. there are all kinds of arguments to be made here. "There is no such thing as a creative thought," you say. "It's not stealing if it's an homage," you say. "Stop putting words in my mouth, I honestly don't care enough to have an opinion," you say. Well I agree. On all counts. Call it what you will-- allusions, samples, references, tips-of-the-hat-- unoriginal ideas saturate every type of media and they aren't always a crutch. They can add dimension and support and are sometimes necessary in framing new thoughts.

But seriously guys? That's the same song. Go write your own chorus.

Monday, May 2, 2011

All's Splendid on the Western Front

Trying to summarize and compile my first month of Being A Real Person Faraway From Home is making me realize that I've gotten some absurdly lucky breaks. From finding an apartment across the street from Golden Gate Park, to landing a job on Haight Street in a bustling local market, to absorbing a fantastic group of solid friends... It's starting to get surreal. Usually I can blame my positive spirit on my deceptively rose-tinted glasses or the fact that I bleed eternal optimism, but I'm pretty sure these scenarios are due to circumchance and impeccable (albeit completely unintentional) timing.

Anyhow, this is as far as I plan to babble excitedly about the beauties of synchronicity. I'm thinking about slicing up my stories/memories into a three part series, lumping experiences into the categories that best capture the spirit of my cali adventures (...also life): PARKS, DRINKING, and MUSICAL ACCOMPANIMENT. It's probably not going to be a very well-spaced series, seeing as I just drank a buttload of coffee but it's definitely too much to squish into one post without boring the bejeezus out of my wonderful Greader friends.

TL;DR - Still Reaganing! Will actually update something of substance soon.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Houston, you're perfect please don't change a thing.

It's nothing personal. I still love you and I always will. (how? let me count the ways! without rhyming!) Your skyline. Your cumulus clouds. Your summer that lasts from early March until November. Your ridiculous spaghetti webs of highways. The fact you can drive 45 minutes away (at 60mph) from downtown and still be within city limits. You know what? I don't even care your traffic runs from 7am to 7pm - driving around at 3am is where it's at. Down Allen Parkway. Or through Montrose. Or in The Heights. Also your Rice University rocks for bajillions of reasons but ultimately: 2 pubs and a 24 hour library? BAM. Your exhaustive list of restaurants that are open awesomely late. Your young yet impressive music festival and your burgeoning concert scene.Your obscenely cheap housing market and remarkable standard of living. Your resistance to the plague of unemployment. Did I mention the weather? Because yea, the weather fucking rocks. Also you pretty much house all of my extended family and friends, so that's a plus.
Despite all of this, it's time for me to move on and go be my own person in different city for awhile. But seriously, no hard feelings. I will defend your clogged highways, dense humidity, and blood-boiling summers til the very end. 'Cause it's worth it.

Lastly, anyone who's ever driven down Allen Parkway at night knows it's imbued with mystical powers. Today's playlist is brought to you by songs that I like to skip ahead to whenever I find myself on it: they are guaranteed to make you feel invincible if played in tune to the road's epic curves (trust me, this is based on extensive mixed cd testing. Results may vary on other streets).

Supermoves - Overseer
Mausam and Escape - A.R. Rahman
Phantom Pt II (Boys Noize Remix) - Justice
Power - Kanye West
Rock is Dead - Marilyn Manson
E Pro - Beck
Born Free - MIA
Clint Eastwood - Gorillaz
Come Down on Me - Lemon Jelly
Fuckin' in the bushes - Oasis
Halfway Home - TV on the Radio
Rhinestone Eyes - Gorillaz
Ledmonton - Clues
Party Hard - Andrew W.K
Wake Up - Rage Against The Machine
The Parachute Ending - Birdy Nam Nam

and with that, Grooveshark wins the funnest-way-to-make playlists award. *pours one out for Seeqpod* yea, I used the word funnest.
image cred: me! being a creeper on the mandell bridge over 59.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Things I learned today

Do not take Nyquil in daylight. You might think you just really want to sleep but I guarantee at some point you will need critical thinking (and/or conversation) skills and you'll be at a complete loss.

Why even bother folding your clothes into a suitcase?
They're just going to return it to you with everything wrinkled, ruffled and smashed in on itself. I mean yes, SAFETY, but I spent obscene amounts of time meticulously organizing it. ALL IN VAIN (#firstworldproblems, I know) On the bright side, I now have a reasonable excuse to look like a homeless person - I was having trouble coming up with a good one on my own.

Everything works out. Usually. And jesuschrist people, beiing mean to the workers at baggage claim doesn't accomplish anything. I don't understand how some of us think that yelling or threatening magically makes suitcases appear any faster. You just gotta smile, nod and hope for the best. One of my bags was lost but now it is found! See? Everything works out in the end. Now I can go back to seeing the world as muppets

Pete and Pete is pretty much a show about pedophiles. Or at least, Little Pete has a habit of befriending lonely middle aged men. Sorry about tarnishing your childhood memories, but someone had to say it.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Late night brain splatters

On constellations and an ethnocentric interpretation of science
How crazy is it that ancient Greeks were able to map out stars by weaving mythological narratives out of what was, for all intents and purposes, a massive game of connect-the-dots? Seems like their science was more about patience and imagination than anything else. (Though they were definitely onto something-- imposing semantic significance is super effective way to store information. Plus it's useful in discerning cardinal directions. But I digress.) Makes you wonder in what ways we've infused our culture into the documentation of modern scientific discoveries. Because we definitely do. The existence of Americium, Californium, Berkelium and Einsteinium on the periodic table are just the tip of the iceberg. Honestly, I'm pretty excited to see which of our theories/assumptions/models will be deemed arbitrary by people-of-the future. Basically any chaotic or quantum system, yea? also binomial nomenclature. On second thought, that's a can-o-worms I am not fit to be opening.

If you haven't heard The King of Limbs yet, fortheloveofgod stop reading this and go do that now.
I know I can't compete with the billions of reviews about Radiohead's new album that've been thrust into the interwebs over the past few weeks, however, I can recommend that you give the album a good listen in the shower. Particularly the song Feral. It's phenomenal. But if you're impatient and don't feel like waiting for your monthly cleansing, here, appreciate this deliciously trippy visual interpretation of the song by Steven Murashige.

He recommends "Lights off, HD on, Play loud." I second this.

*Cue that one Phantom Planet song everyone knows*
Heads up dudes, I'm finally following through  two years worth of blog posts and moving to the West Coast! This is going to be quite an adventure and I can't wait to bore you with details! Til then, listen to this way cheerier Phantom Planet song. Or check out Aaron Diaz (of Dresden Codak)'s tumblr where he explains and explores some theory supporting aesthetically strong comics. OR watch this incredible rap battle between Abraham Lincoln and Chuck Norris. Those are your only three options.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Buy My Paintings (PLEASE) Part Deux

Hey-o friends!

First off, thank you all for your kind words. Seriously, your support has meant a lot and I really appreciate it :)
"Caffeine" 10x14in

That said... Guess what time is? Time for me to beg you to fund my funemployment in exchange for paint splatters! wheeee! So if you want a painting, email me: cristina dot tortarolo at gmail and we can talk specs.
[For people who requested something last summer that I wasn't able to get to: I'm really really sorry- ended up getting a job and running out of time. If you're still interested let me know, I just don't want to make any assumptions.]

"Get In" 16x20in
While I started out mostly doing characters from movies I think I'm finally ready to move away from that. But whatever, who am I kidding, I'll do pretty much anything :3 Lately I've been illustrating quotes and that's been really fun. (You can check out past stuff here) Also anything from graffiti is fair game.
"Auguries of Innocence" graffiti
If you have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what you'll want we can chat and figure something out. I'm just. that. desperate. :)
"Sound and Fury" graffiti
Rough estimate-wise, I'm thinking a $10 base + $5/hour. So depending on size and the complexity of the image it'll probably fall somewhere in these ranges:
~50in^2 $20-30
~100in^2 $40-50
~200in^2 $100-120
This is definitely something we can talk about more in depth via email per individual case. Just throwing around some general numbers.

"Doors of Perception" 8x16in
Lastly, I've decided to set up shop on Etsy, so that's where I'll be posting anything random that doesn't get sold. Heads up.

Thanks dudes! Much love,

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Exploring the Default Mode Network

Hans Berger, inventor of the electroencephalogram was one of the first people to theorize that the brain remains perpetually active, even across a wide variety of mental states. Whether we are awake, sleeping, focused or daydreaming our brain is always hard at work. Obviously there are key differences between these states both physically and subjectively. But how do these differences translate into brain activity? Recent fMRI investigations have shown consistent patterns of activations in people's brains when they are awake (but resting) and this has been deemed the "Default Mode" or "Resting State" network. This animation explores some relevant theories theories its activations and potential applications of the research.

The whole project took about 4 months to complete. Of course, I blame my snail's pace on whichever task-positive networks failed to inhibit default mode connectivity (teehee really bad neuro humor). That and the fact that this was my first full length frame-by-frame animation! But seriously, that's why the audio is so terrible. If anyone knows how to export a Flash CS4 file and retain decent audio quality I'm all ears (my Google-fu has failed me).

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Thank God for the Catfish

Heed the tagline. Don't let anyone tell you what it is.
I solemnly swear that all mind-vomit in this post has been edited down to strictly spoiler-free content (except for the part where Snape kills Dumbledore). Then again, if you're one of those people who insist on stalking IMDB or Wikipedia before investing time in a movie you'll probably still enjoy it. The "twist" they advertise can be seen from a mile away and it's still difficult to prepare for how emotionally affecting it's going to be. Here, have a trailer: 

Despite what those clips might lead you to believe, the film relies on a lot more than suspense to keep your attention. I think what makes this documentary particularly compelling is its execution and its sincerity. Somehow they've managed to capture our generation's intimate and unbelievably complex relationship with technology. From dissecting the hyperrealistic nature of our online interactions to exposing how the internet has become a fundamental tool in the way we conceptualize and define what's real. Seriously, this film is like an American Beauty for Millennials. And hands down, the best part is that they don't even openly discuss it. I'm a big fan of subtlety; I tend to appreciate movies more when they develop a theme or message without addressing it in a long preachy monologue. 

Of course, following in the footsteps of every mindfuckumentary ever been made, the first and most pressing question on everyone's mind remains, "Wait, so was that actually real?" Let me answer your question with another question, "Does it fucking matter?"  If this film is fake -- as in, staged or scripted, contrived-- the the writers are brilliant. If it's real? It is the single most unsettling thing I've seen in quite a while. So whether you like your cinema verite or PoMo, I submit Catfish as a masterpiece.

Plus, after you finish watching, dear reader, we should chat about it! Like how movie itself is a ******* (meta as shit, yea?). And how ******* ***** it is that the ****** ****** was ******. Also, confession: I can actually relate to that. I've **** * **** ******* used to ***** ********** *****. But that's a whole 'nother story.
See? No spoilers. I promised.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Now, due to a construct in my mind

That makes these songs and their lyrics,
Symbolic of my entire existence.
It becomes important for me,
To make a playlist.*

Inspired by Nat, I've compiled a list of songs that were written for and/or about me. Basically, tunes that either perfectly capture what the voice in my head wishes it could say or somehow describe my life experiences with eerie accuracy. Not to be confused with my "Favorite Songs Ever Ever Ever" playlist, which is coming soon. And this, kids, is what I do after midnight.

Also here's the designated coverart and tracklist with blurbs so I can look back at this post in 20 years and giggle. Oh, life.

Mr. Mastodon Farm- Cake Because everyone's attributed life-shattering significance to random external events at some point in their life, right? God, we're weird.
Breathe - Anna Nalick Honestly the best advice I've ever gotten from the radio.
Do You Realize??? - The Flaming Lips "The sun doesn't go down /It's just an illusion caused by the world spinning round"
Wraith Pinned to the Mist and Other Games- Of Montreal Oh hi there, blogname!
Winter Wonderland - Animal Collective Exposing ridiculousness of existential denial.
Why Do I Keep Counting? - The Killers Good question.
Trouble with Dreams- Eels "You never know when to hold on or when to let go. "
Dinosaur- Whitey A refreshing take on the circle of life.
Apartment Story - The National *Happy sigh* It just is.
Flagpole Sitta - Harvey Danger "Hear the voices in my head / I sweartogod it sounds like they're snoring"
Like a Rolling Stone - Bob Dylan Psh. No blurb necessary.
Rock N' Roll Lifestyle - Cake. Way to make me self conscious about loving concerts, CAKE.
Time to Pretend - MGMT I love every single thing about this song. 
Feel Good Hit of the Summer - Queens of the Stone Age Or Fall. Or Spring. JUSTKIDDINGGUYS
Never Be Alone - Simian deliciously depressing song about friendship #1
All My Friends - LCD Soundsystem deliciously depressing song about friendship #2
Butterflies and Hurricanes - Muse "Your time is now." (Also +10 for chaos theory reference)
The Past is a Grotesque Animal - Of Montreal "At least I author my own disaster" (Even though Kevin Barnes authored the sentiment)
C'mere - Interpol Yup.
Tear You Apart- She Wants Revenge Yup.
Change your Mind - The Killers Also, yup.
Romeo and Juliet- Dire Straits "Yeah, I used to have a scene with him." 
Conquest- White Stripes bwahahaha. 
Red Flags and Long Nights - She Wants Revenge "You can rent a space inside my mind / at least until the price becomes too high"
Waters of Nazareth - Justice Shh. It doesn't need words, it speaks the language of my soul.

*to the tune of Mr. Mastodon Farm
**image from I LEGO NY

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I've Measured Out My Life in Coffee Pots

Fellow Caffeine Addicts, this is a note for you. I'd like propose an quasi-experiment based purely on information gleaned from a Futurama episode . We will be utilizing qualitative methods so if you want to participate, I will expect serious field notes of experiences and observations. Here's a rundown of the procedure:
Step 1: Drink 100 cups of coffee in a 24 hour period. (YouTube user incrediblydownfallen recommends you accomplish this to the tune of a Dethklok song and I am inclined to agree)

Step 2: Observe and document the phenomenological effects on time perception. You don't have to set your house/workplace on fire, but hey let's just face facts, it can only make things more interesting.

Allright, who's down? I've already started supersaturating my bloodstream with delicious Colombian-Dark-Roast goodness ...FOR SCIENCE! *twitch*

edit: Oh wait, just in case I'm legally obligated to write this somewhere, "Seriously though guys, I'm not actually advocating you drink yourself to death by means of heart explosion. Be responsible. No more than 63...64 cups a day. Anything more is just reckless."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Surprise! Scientists lie too.

As you may have heard, the British Medical Journal is publishing an investigative series looking into the 1998 study that originally connected vaccines with autism. On top of the first author Andrew Wakefield being concurrently involved in a lawsuit against vaccine companies (helloooo conflict of interest) there is also evidence of his team completely misrepresenting data in the results. Despite this and the fact that the original publisher retracted the paper last May, the National Autism Association has issued a press release stating that the BMJ investigation is "Yet Another Attempt to Thwart Vaccine Safety Research." So there's that.

Even though I empathize with the confused public (and worried parents), my first reaction is to point out Hey, maybe this is what happens when you listen to A PLAYBOY BUNNY ON OPRAH over SCIENTISTS. But don't worry, my second reaction kicks in quickly enough: if it weren't for certain scientists lying in the first place, this wouldn't even be an issue. Ugh. Moral of the story, kids: Trust no one.
In the immortal words of Michael Crichton:

"Fraud in science is not rare, and it's not limited to fringe players. The most respected researchers and institutions have been caught with faked data. Even Francis Collins, the head of NIH's Human Genome Project, was listed as co-author on five faked papers that had to be withdrawn.

The ultimate lesson is that science isn't special- at least not anymore. Maybe back when Einstein talked to Niels Bohr, and there were only a few dozen important workers in every field. But there are now three million researchers in America. It's no longer a calling, it's a career. Science is as corruptible a human activity as any other. Its practitioners aren't saints, they're human beings, and they do what human beings do- lie, cheat, steal from one another, sue, hide data, fake data, overstate their own importance, and denigrate opposing views unfairly. That's human nature. It isn't going to change."

Well said, my love.
So what can we learn from this ongoing scandal? Every perspective deserves a healthy dose of skepticism. Not to say that conspiracy theories are the only answer. I still wholeheartedly believe that following the standardized procedure of the scientific method is an effective way to observe and speculate on environmental truth. But it's not perfect and never will be.
... womp womp.

Post-script siderant:
Call it a side-effect of too much academia, Wikipedia or I don't know, the pursuit of truth, but I'm getting increasingly frustrated with all these Major. News. Outlets. not including an easy access to references (links go to relevant articles from CNN, USAToday and NPR.org, respectively). Example: How can USA Today even be allowed to write the sentence "The study has long since been debunked and dismissed by the scientific community, which points to 14 independent studies that have failed to find any link between vaccines and autism." without actually citing these 14 studies?! Seriously? Come on, guys. You don't even have to go through the immeasurable trouble it must take you to find a link, just give me plaintext citation--information you should already have-- so that I, the eager-to-be-informed reader can look it up myself. Thanks.

[Top image from here]
[Crichton excerpt lifted from his novel Next / borrowed from an old xanga post,  emphasis mine.]
[GodDAMN I rock at citations. Seriously, every one of these links is useful (except this one). Take that, NEWS]

Come with me if you want to live

The Super n00b Guide to Fixing Your Computer or: Safe Mode is No Way to Live, My Friend

It's no secret that I live life on the edge *wink* . When it comes to the great, dark expanses of the internet I tend to pass my time stomping along the thin line separating safe-but-foolish and well-now-you're-just-being-reckless. Of course given my risky life choices, I've come to terms with the fact that I have to put up with the occasional infection *doublewink*. I don't get them often, and usually the symptoms are easily treated with good ol' system restore back to a safe point. However, for some reason, the last two great meltdowns of my computer have refused me that option. So, I thought I'd put together a little guide for Future Me (and Potential Readers) so that I can remember what to do when the first line of attack fails. Note to all of my computer savvy friends: PLEASE don't hesitate to correct me if (...when) I say something stupid.

The last three or so problems I've had with my computer have been the sudden appearance of "Antivirus" applications insisting that I use them cure my computer of its contracted afflictions. Obviously, do not click or in any way acknowledge these programs. How do you know if it's fake? You should know what security programs you have installed and hopefully a) They know how to properly spell words and b) you can recognize the application on sight (is it bad that I won't trust something completely written in Verdana?) Again, assuming you can't system restore, boot in Safe mode (with networking) and get ready to strike.

First, GOOGLE THAT SHIT. Chances are, there are other people in the world that have been affected by this same virus/spyware/adware/whathaveyou. Which means someone smarter and more capable may have already fixed it. Word. This should go unsaid, but be cautious whose advice you listen to- people telling you to download suspicious software to fix something probably don't have your best interest in mind.

Second, go into msconfig and look through the programs that are starting up with your computer. Disable anything that looks sketchy (within reason). Unfortunately, this became very frustrating for me since the location listed for said sketchtastic files didn't actually exist in my computer (searching with windows explorer OR command prompt). But hey, disable away.

Third, gather your battalions. The champion of this round was Malwarebytes. It was the final, deadly blow to those sneaky trojans. But before that, I used Spybot-Search and Destroy, which also found infected files (possibly other latent problems. You're welcome, Future Me). For whatever reason, this most recent infection rendered Trend Micro, Avast! and AVG completely useless. But multiple lines of attack are always a good idea. So see whatever works for you (Ooo Frittata, that's cure-a-licious!) Though, do note that if you have a lot of pirated software *cough* don't use Microsoft's Malicious Software Removal Tool because uhm... I've heard it does bad things to your entire workflow. And life in general.

Fourth, pester your IT friends. I put this one last because no one likes being "THAT GUY/gal" that everyone turns to for help. But you never know, sometimes they have the human insight that Google lacks (...for now). Start off with "Yes, I have tried turning it on and off again , and here is a detailed explanation of what I have done so far." Then, no matter the result, buy them a beer (I owe you a keg, Mister Kyle, mostly for listening to me complain so much. But also for helping a sistah out.)

There. Hooray for regaining sound! and a resolution better than 800x600! Plus now Me-in-6-Months will have a compilation of fun links to turn to when the self-aware Skynet sends another brigade of trojans to infect my innocent system. That's how you get viruses, right? Definitely not through porn or pirated software. Nope.

Monday, January 3, 2011

It's way too late to be this locked inside ourselves

Something that has always boggled my mind is the concept of revenge. Not that I don't understand why it exists, it's probably just as much biologically hardwired as love or fear. Retaliation is a reflex, an instinct. And hey, sometimes it's justified. People can suck. We have the potential to be stupendously awful to each other. But what I don't get is how we can let vengeance completely overrun our lives, or how people can think it's an effective method for dealing with social conflicts. If movie subplots are any indication of the human condition, it's a pretty serious issue (that or I watch too much Tarantino). Maybe I should be more specific, I'm not talking war-crimes proportions, I mean day-to-day interactions with friends, significant others and coworkers. I don't think I'm alone in saying that I can hold a mad grudge. But why? Since when do grudges ever change anything? They just make you angry and bitter and that doesn't solve shit. Ever.

"Forgive and forget" is an aphorism for the lazy, life and relationships are definitely more complicated than that. Yet, time and experience have only shown me that whether or not it's right, it's the healthiest option. We all deal with getting hurt in different ways, but at least for me, I'm starting realizing that just letting go is the only way to actually move on. Holding grudges makes you sufferVengeance continues the cycle of hurt and christ, it's not like we need any more of that in the mix. Everyone makes mistakes and everyone deserves to be happy. No exceptions.  

Whew. That's my cheesy/preachy realization of the day. Parents and elementary school teachers should be proud, it only took 20-some-odd years** for all those lessons to sink in. 

On the flipside, sometimes I wonder if this laid-back attitude is what makes people feel they can get away with hurting me in the first place. Valid question. Luckily for me, I'm armed with the delusion of perpetual optimism. So bring it on, world!

**plus a fun day in the park, plus Interpol on repeat. Recipe for maturity?