Irrational Exuberance

Things about which I have become unexpectedly enthusiastic:

Typing of the Dead: Though a lifelong and perhaps intractable hunt-and-peck typist, I occasionally resolve to teach myself touch-typing once and for all; it was during one of these misguided bouts of self-improvement that I picked up The Typing of the Dead. I don’t know what idiot at Take2 Interactive thought that combining an ultra-violent zombie-killing bloodfest with an “edutainment” typing tutorial was a good idea, but I hope he was well-compensated because this is pretty much the best stupid game ever. It’s exactly the same as the popular House of the Dead shoot-em-up, but you enter the infested residence armed with a keyboard instead of a pistol and blow the monsters into gibblets by typing the words and phrases flashed on the screen. So dumb, but I can’t stop playing.

Bitter:Sweet: I can’t listen to The Mating Game, the first single from Bitter:Sweet’s debut album, and not wish I were wearing a tuxedo, sipping a martini, and carrying a Walther PPK in a shoulder holster. And that song is no abberation, the whole album is steeped in that frosty, lounge sound (listen to “Dirty Laundry” if you need further proof). Something incredible will have to come out in the next four months to prevent this from being my favorite album of the year. And hey, Seattlites: they’re coming to Bumbershoot.

Pandora Internet Radio: Here’s how Pandora works. You tell it an artist or song you like; it pulls tracks with similar styles from its database, adds them to your playlist, and streams the feed to you as a customized radio station. I’d dabbled with Pandora a few times in the past but never really saw the point: why not just listen to a radio station you enjoy instead of building one from scratch? But then I plugged the aforementioned Bitter:Sweet in there and discovered a host of similar bands. It’s more of a super-sophisticated recommendation engine than a radio station, but I’ve found an astounding amount of great music using it. If you decide to register, you check out my dy Mix.

Chow Mein: Did I somehow never eat chow mein my first 34 years of life? It was like a revelation when I had it a few months ago, and I’ve been shoveling it into my maw non-stop ever since.

The Best of Youth: Netflix was insistent in suggesting The Best of Youth, putting a shooting star aside the title and giving it permanent slot atop my recommendation page. I was skeptical: you see my five star ratings for “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Barton Fink” and think I’m going to enjoy a six-hour Italian soap opera? I eventually ordered the film just to get Netflix to shut up about it, and, oh my, it’s sublime. Covering over 40 years in the life of a single family, this is one of the most robust and rewarding DVDs I’ve watched in a spell.

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32 comments.

  1. Ha! I just discovered pandora this week. I am reborn, my ears are alive, and I am wasting phenomenal amounts of time screwing around with genre alchemy. So much fun.

  2. The first time I played typing of the dead was in an arcade in Kanazawa. It is much harder when you are typing in a language you don’t understand.

    http://www.darrylbraaten.com/pictures/japan/DCP_0772.JPG

  3. If you haven’t yet, try Judy Fu’s Snappy Dragon on Roosevelt. Their homemade chow mein noodles (make sure you request the homemade noodles) are my addiction. I sometimes believe they are better the next day, after being re-heated.

    Plus, it’s called Judy Fu’s Snappy Dragon. Not just a Snappy Dragon, nor Judy Fu’s. How can you not go to a restaurant called Judy Fu’s Snappy Dragon? Are there non-snappy dragons? Does Judy own any of them?

  4. Funny, I just discovered chow mein as well. Have you tried Kau Kau BBQ in the I-District? I recommend the pork chow mein. Delicious.

  5. I played this in Hong Kong at the arcade. Nutty.

    http://flickr.com/photos/capndesign/53601769/

  6. Sweet Mother of Mercy, Thank you for the Pandora link! This is the coolest thing I’ve seen on the Internet in quite a long time. I foresee much listening pleasure ahead.

  7. Also a coincidence for me – I recently rediscovered Pandora as well. Unfortunately, after working on five stations for two weeks, I still haven’t come across any music that I really like. But then, I’m the weirdo listening to Indonesian girl pop and Polish film soundtracks. Pandora doesn’t have anything like that yet.

  8. I don’t know about Bitter:Sweet, I can relate to the tuxedo/martini/WaltherPPK thing (I actually own a Walther PPK) but Bitter:Sweet is simply derivative, and I would feel like (even MORE like) a poseur listening to it. No, give me the real thing: John Barry.

  9. Be careful with Pandora.

    You think it’s your friend. and then, inexplicably it turns on you. Going from playing morcheeba and wilco one day, to New Kids on the Block and Paula Abdul the next.

  10. Glad to see another “Best of Youth” fan.

  11. If you like Bitter:Sweet check out Nicola Conte. He does the same sorta fake-bond-coctail-jazz-bossanove stuff instrumentally with equal aplomb. Try “Bossa Per Due”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicola_Conte

  12. If you like Bitter:Sweet check out Nicola Conte. He does the same sorta fake-bond-coctail-jazz-bossanove stuff instrumentally with equal aplomb. Try “Bossa Per Due”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicola_Conte

  13. for all you pandora fans check out last.fm (http://www.last.fm/), similar but different in a good way

  14. $119 for a gimmicky little game that teaches typing?! You’ve got to be freaking kidding me!

  15. I *heart* Netflix and I’m now adding this to my queue..

  16. Darn. I’m listening to Pandora.com after hearing John Moe’s interview with the founder a couple of weeks ago. I thought I was ahead of dy, but foiled again.

    Has somebody done this with flickr? That would make a cool screensaver.

    Oh, and try the google flight simulator at
    http://www.isoma.net/games/goggles.html

    Has anyone else gotten hooked on podcasts via Juice at
    http://juicereceiver.sourceforge.net/? That’s where I was listening to John Moe about pandora.com.

  17. Darn. I’m listening to Pandora.com after hearing John Moe’s interview with the founder a couple of weeks ago. I thought I was ahead of dy, but foiled again.

    Has somebody done this with flickr? That would make a cool screensaver.

    Oh, and try the google flight simulator at
    http://www.isoma.net/games/goggles.html

    Has anyone else gotten hooked on podcasts via Juice at
    http://juicereceiver.sourceforge.net/? That’s where I was listening to John Moe about pandora.com.

  18. Actually I dislike Pandora intensely – it assumes that all listeners only like pop, rock, jazz, blues and country – when I tried it a few months ago, no real classical music, onlt crossover crap like Josh Grobin. big old thumbs down from me.

  19. Incidentally, this game is mentioned in the current Harper’s cover story:

    http://www.harpers.org/MostRecentCover.html

  20. Oooh, I didn’t learn to type until I started chatting daily with my old webmaster. Are you making your own chow mein now? I like Black Pearl’s a lot, and I am loving Rocking Wok in Wallingford lately. Can’t get enough.

  21. Okay, I have a confession. I made a Lyle Lovett station on Pandora. When I think of LL, I don’t think country, I think he’s Folk, *almost*, and so when I want to hear Lyle on Pandora I have to remain hypervigilant and give a thumbs down to songs like “She thinks my tractor’s sexy.” Just saying… be careful who you plug in there, sometimes IT’S JUST NOT WORTH IT!!

  22. I took touch typing waaaay back in high school, where they were still using the old-style typewriters. When we got to the end of a line, we had to take a hand off of the keyboard and smack the platten back to the left hand side of the paper. Oh, what we wouldn’t have given for a return key! I was taking a speed test one day, and when I took my hand off the keyboard to smack the platten, I put it back down on the wrong row and didn’t notice. I did this three times in a row. Since typing speed is calulated by words per minute minus the number of typing mistakes, I wound up with a negative typing speed.

  23. Jiminy Christmas! Pandora Internet Radio, where have you been all my life!
    I’ve been messing around with it for less then 15 minutes and have discovered recordings by two of my favorite artists that I didn’t know exsisted and learned about two other artists I had never heard before who I already know I’ll be listening to again.
    Amazing.
    I think I’ll have Chow Mein for lunch….

  24. Anyone who wishes to talk about Pandora or share your stations, a few of us have created a board over at http://pandora-forum.com/ . I find Pandora stations improve quite a bit with lots of feedback (thumbs up and down) and focus (use specific songs instead of artists for the seeds). dy Mix does seem to genereate a fairly consistent stream of minor-key, synth-based alt-pop, though.

    Yes, Pandora does not cover all genres equally well, but there is certainly interesting material in there waiting to be found. It led me to the cello driven metal (!) of Apocalyptica, and the Seventies Pagan folk-rock of Comus. I listen to Pandora throughout the workday.

  25. Fit inot that tux while you still can! I must warn you, Mr. Baldwin, the Walther is only useful for gunfights that occur in elevators.

    Chow mein is natures way of easing you off the planet. Now that you’ve reproduced, you develope a taste for carbs. Don’t worry, it’s relatively painless.

  26. Yes! Killing typewriters! I recently returned from a small city in Japan and I played this game a few times in one of the game centres there. Should I have felt self-conscious? I never saw anyone else play it!

    With you on Pandora.

    For the hell of it, I just ordered Best of Youth from zip.ca

    Cheers!

  27. Bitter:Sweet sounds great.. check out Goldfrapp for a cool similar sound but a little more laid back

  28. I heard Best of Youth was excellent, even with the length. Your recommendation makes me want to see it now.

    Typing of the Dead came out on the Dreamcast, didn’t it? I need some more games. I just got Seaman, though. That is a supremely strange game.

  29. I found a free working demo of Typing of the Dead (it’s at http://www.3dgamers.com/ if anybody’s interested. You do have to register though.). This could be the thing that finally inspires me to stop punishing my keyboard.

    By the way, anybody who gives Barton Fink five stars is OK in my book. I’ve just added Best of Youth to the old Netflicks queue.

  30. If you like bitter:sweet maybe you ought to give “Supreme beings of leisure” a go.

  31. this bitter:sweet album is good. have you heard Feist , Let it Die. Oh man, soooooooooooo good.

  32. I tried Pandora and didn’t really like it – I would just like to chime in with commenter above, and recommend last.fm — it seems to me to be better for eclectic stuff, and doesn’t Pandora have a subscription fee? It used to anyhow.