Things to be thankful for

Holidays are handy things because they give you a chance to get caught up on everything you’ve fallen behind on. Part of my holiday todo list includes posting an update to my blog, of course!

Books and other piles of words

I’ve been reading Neil Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle (a three volume prequel to Cryptonomicon) aloud to Susan in the evenings. We’re about half way through the second volume and loving it. I finished reading R. A. Lafferty’s Past Master recently as well. My quest to obtain and read the entire series of Neil R. Jones Professor Jameson stories is proceeding slowly. All of the stories are out of print, many since they originally appeared in the pulps in the 1930s. I’ve managed to obtain copies of about 20 of them so far. The sad news that Jack Williamson has died means I’ll probably be tracking down and reading a few of his out of print books soon.

C Programming
Between the recent burst of mod_virgule work and the DPRG group robot project, I’ve been doing a lot more C programming lately. It’s nice to work on things that are fun for a change. And even fun things result in an occasional patch for something more important. Both projects need to get moved into a Subversion archive. I’ve only been on the user end of Subversion until now, so this will be another interesting learning experience. I’ve completed the basic installation and started playing around with the configuration and web interface.

Jihad Jerry and the Evil Doers

Gerald V. Casale has a new CD out. He’s calling the band Jihad Jerry and the Evil Doers and the CD is titled Mine is not a Holy War. Who else is on the CD? Let’s see, there’s Bob Mothersbaugh, Josh Freese, and, yes, Mark Mothersbaugh. If that seems suspiciously familiar, it should. This is essentially a new Devo CD. Mark Mothersbaugh co-wrote a few tracks but doesn’t provide any vocals. The sound and the subject matter is very Devo-like. They’re not happy about Bush, SUVs, and other forms of stupidity. The lyrics are full of Devo-like mixed metaphors and devolved wisdom like, “remember, you look through your glasses but the rest of the world looks at them.” Recommended.

If the ancient Krell had guitar solos, they’d sound like this

Susan and I saw Devo perform last night at the Fair Park bandshell in Dallas. It was the first time Devo had played Dallas in 16 years. They only play a few shows a year due to their TV and movie soundtrack work. The Psychadelic Furs (Pretty in Pink and one or two other 80s hits) opened for Devo. An even more obscure, one hit wonder band called When in Rome opened for the Psychadelic Furs. The first band started at 8pm and Devo didn’t actually start until about 10:45pm. But they were worth the wait. We got the pre-show briefing from General Boy on the big video screen and then the band marched out in their classic yellow hazmat suits and red energy domes. Quite a few of the audience members were wearing the cheap plastic knockoff energy domes. I’m proud to say I have a real energy dome from the 1980s. (but you don’t wear a priceless antique like that to a live show!)

Unlike a lot of 80s bands who look tired and old compared to how they looked when they were new, Devo still has it. They play with as much energy as modern punk bands, and they put on a show second to none. The audio clarity was suprisingly good for a live show. A few songs in, about midway through Uncontrollable Urge, Mothersbaugh starting rippping off his own and then the other’s hazmat suits, revealing black T-shirts more appropriate to the 100+ degree Texas weather. He hurled their energy domes into the audience. In fact, they seemed to be hurling Devo debris into the audience throughout most of the show. Energy domes, torn pieces of hazmat suits, guitar picks, Devo action figures, hundreds of little bouncy balls of some sort. They played for about two hours and most of the material was from their first two albums; the late 70s, pre-Whip It, pre-new wave stuff with the raw punk-like sound. They played a few songs from Freedom of Choice including, of course, Whip It, which many people identify with the band. They opened with That’s Good, the only song they played from one of the later synth-heavy albums.

Several of the songs had evolved (devolved?) over the years from the sound on the original recording. Some of the guitar solos were spectacular in that they sounded completely unlike guitar solos one usually hears. True to Devo style, they sounded completely unlike sounds one is accustomed to hearing come from guitars at all. If you’ve never heard Devo, there are still a few live shows left on this year’s tour. Some years they only play one or two live events so if you get the chance, take it.

We Are Not DEVO

The CD of the week is We Are Not DEVO on the centipede records label. It’s a tribute to Devo’s music by a lot of cool bands whose members grew up listening to Devo. Among the more interesting selections, you’ll find Uncontrollable Urge played by SNFU, Don Knotts Overdrive performing Snowball, and a bizarre Spanish version of Mongoloid (El Mongoloido) done by Possum Dixon. Other bands on the CD include The Aquabats, Voodoo Glow Skulls, The Vandals, Jughead’s Revenge, Lagwagon, and One Hit Wonder. This really brings back the memories of the good ol’ days when we used to listen to real music, not that mamby pamby stuff they play on the radio these days. So, buy it, throw it on the CD player at your office, put down your keyboard for a few minutes, and Pogo with a friend.