Miscellaneous and Useless Information

Art and music

This is the ultimate rickroll:


The British band LushLast night, an old song that I first heard in high school suddenly popped into my head. I didn’t know the name or any of the words, but I could distinctly hear in my mind the haunting melody and the clear singing but the indistinct lyrics. I also knew it was by the ’90s British band Lush.

So I went on a little quest: how could I figure out what that song was? Two iPhone apps sounded like they could help.

One of them is Shazam: hold up your phone to a recording of a song, and Shazam will figure out the song. It works well at weddings (American Boy by Estelle featuring Kanye West), bookstores (Midnight Sun by Ivy) and even while boarding airplanes (Taking You Home by Don Henley). But it doesn’t work if you don’t have a recording, so it wasn’t going to help in this case.

Another iPhone app, Midomi, is supposed to detect songs that are played on the radio or even hummed. But I’ve found that it doesn’t work as well as Shazam for recorded music, and when I tried humming the Lush song, it didn’t display any songs by Lush in its results.

So I tried something else: I went to Amazon and searched for Lush. Eventually I navigated to the Amazon MP3 store, where I could press one button and hear 30-second previews of virtually all of Lush’s songs. Finally, at #23, I heard it: For Love. And also thanks to the web, I finally figured out what the heck they were singing.

Some songs that have been circulating in my head over the past few weeks (not all at the same time, thankfully):

Just in time for the end of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month:

Secret Asian Man Secret Asian Man by Tak Toyoshima is a nationally syndicated comic strip (one of the few, if not only, by an Asian-American), that often deals with racial issues in the U.S. I first saw it in the Mercury News.

GeneYang-AmericanBornChinese-cover One book on my reading list is American Born Chinese [review], a highly regarded graphic novel by Gene Luen Yang, which won the 2007 Michael L. Printz Award for literary excellence in young adult literature. (So maybe I’m not in its primary target audience…) The author relates his experience growing up as an Asian-American through three different stories.

Fortune Cookie Chronicles Another book on my reading list is The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8. Lee. The author’s original purpose was to track down the origin of the fortune cookie, which is basically unknown in China, but the book broadens out into a general discussion of Chinese food in the U.S. Lee makes an amusing appearance on The Colbert Report to promote her book.

fortunecook-790146 There is also a film on the origin of the fortune cookie, The Killing of a Chinese Cookie by Derek Shimoda. It focuses more on the fortune cookie than on Chinese cuisine in general. I saw this movie at the San Francisco Asian American International Film Festival, and it’s thoroughly entertaining.

Asian-American comedians are hitting their stride, from 18 Mighty Mountain Warriors to the Kims of Comedy. I saw a bit by one of the “Kims”, Dr. Ken Jeong (who is also a real physician), about his previous girlfriend:

My last girlfriend: 5-foot-10 white woman. I’m a 5-4 Korean boy. Ok, we’re walking down the street, you’re not thinking, “What a cute couple.” You’re thinking, “Oh look, she’s got a tutor.”

Finally, Jeff Wong writes a column for SFGate covering Asians in pop culture, appropriate titled Asian Pop [archive]. In his latest column, he asks whether Asian-Americans in their thirties and older (e.g., me), obsessed with our depiction in movies, books, and TV, are fighting yesterday’s war. While traditional media are still important, teenagers and twenty-somethings are increasingly focused on other types of media, especially online. Have I become curmudgeonly already?

  • On my recent trip to Italy, the first two songs I heard in that country was Supernatural Superserious by R.E.M. and Love Song by Sarah Bareilles, in a taxi in Pisa. At first, I wondered if the cab driver was playing American music only to satisfy the tourists, until he started singing along to “Love Song.” On MTV Italy, R.E.M. got a lot of airplay, including a concert in Italy. They seem to be getting more attention in Europe than here (although I read the Berkeley concert today sold out in 10 minutes).
  • Another music video on MTV Italy caught my eye: Sweet Harmony by The Beloved from 1993. Besides the obviously eyebrow-raising nature of the video, the tune is pretty catchy…
  • Last weekend I went to a wedding, and the last song the DJ played was a beautiful version of Bryan Adam’s Heaven. I found out later that the cover I heard was the “Candlelight Remix” by DJ Sammy and Yanou featuring Do; their original cover was techno.
  • On Wednesday, I went to see The Cure in concert at the HP Pavilion in San Jose. I’m not a huge Cure fan, but they were quite amazing live, and they were cranking it: 37 songs in 3 hours. Their current lineup, without a keyboard, made for some interesting arrangements of songs like Lovesong.
  • And on Sunday, I’m going to see R.E.M. in concert in Berkeley!

Finally, today’s silly video. Turk from Scrubs brings the flava:

A few months ago I said I’d blog about the highlights I had gleaned from my friends’ blogs. Well, here they finally are:

  • For you Billy Joel fans, Here Comes Another Bubble.
  • Earlier this year, Conan O’Brien was in San Francisco for a week. Watch his visit to Intel (part 1, part 2) and you’ll be impressed with what he gets away with. And I bet Sam Wo Restaurant in Chinatown is getting a bump in business after Conan’s ad for the hole-in-the-wall.
  • Bustin’ out of the late ’70s, the pop band Dschinghis Khan seems to be Germany’s answer to the Village People. A video of their 1979 hit, “Moskau,” has become one of those odd Internet fads. To top it off, someone made a “translation” of the lyrics.
  • The Second Life hype is unreal. Leave it to the TV show The Office to deflate some of it. And the advertising firm DraftFCB announces their debut on Second Life by parodying it.
  • Kurt Thomas probably would have won the gold in gymnastics if the U.S. hadn’t boycotted the 1980 Olympics. To keep himself in the public eye, he starred in the movie Gymkata, one of his more ill-advised career moves. But it’s left us with gems such as a fight scene where the village well is conveniently shaped like a pommel horse.

My colleague Jeff clued me in to a singer-songwriter, Jonathan Coulton. His gentle voice and smooth delivery belie lyrics that are often twisted and bizarre. Good stuff. He has a good introduction to his music on his web site. I recommend “Code Monkey,” especially if you’re in the software industry. His music video, “Flickr,” shows the creative heights (or depths) one can achieve with Creative Commons.

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