Miscellaneous and Useless Information


[Avenue Q marquee at the Orpheum Theatre] Last Wednesday, I joined Jon and friends to go see Avenue Q at the Orpheum Theater in San Francisco. In case you haven’t heard of it, think Sesame Street meets South Park. A case of humans and Muppet-style puppets work through their 20- and 30-something angst, and sing about love, purpose, and Internet porn. (These videos of the original Broadway cast and the London cast are good introductions.) It was absolutely hilarious, and I thank Jon for noticing it was coming to town and grabbing the tickets.

Unfortunately, Avenue Q has already played its last date in San Francisco, but if you’re happen to coincide with the rest of their national tour — or you live in New York or London — go see it!

For me, the fun didn’t end on Wednesday. Last year, Avenue Q put out a book that looks to be as irreverent as the musical. I got it from HamiltonBook.com for 73% off (woohoo). I’ll probably also buy the soundtrack. And there are a ton of Avenue Q videos on YouTube. My favorites include the cast in a presidential debate (part 1, part 2, part 3) and exploring London (part 1, part 2 — not safe for work!). Also, Avenue Q meets Wicked, Fiddler on the Roof, and the boy band Take That. Remember “Back for Good”? I prefer the puppet version.

I’m taking advantage of Comedy Central’s allowing us to embed their videos. (This certainly won’t be the last time.) Here’s Matt Groening talking with Jon Stewart about The Simpsons Movie.

From the excessive hype department:

First, Aaron McGruder ends The Boondocks. Then Lynn Johnston puts For Better or For Worse on hiatus. And now Bill Amend is converting FoxTrot to a Sunday-only strip. Argh!

It’s amazing how much time you can sink watching videos online:

  • Robot Chicken is a satirical stop-motion animation show on Cartoon Network. For example, take a look at how the Emperor reacts when he finds out the Death Star was destroyed. (Thanks to Brian.)
  • Line Rider is a Flash-based game where a little guy goes sledding down the lines you draw on the screen. There are dozens of Line Rider videos online — some of the drawings get really elaborate. (Thanks to Bill Buxton.)
  • Here’s a “kinetic art movement” project by Tim Fort. It’s way more than dominos. (Thanks to Clemens.) Reminds me of the Honda “Cog” commercial.
  • See Sacha Baron Cohen (of Ali G and Borat fame) like you’ve never seen him before: normal.
  • I was intrigued by the music in the TV commercial for “Gears of War,” an Xbox 360 game. The song is “Mad World,” sung by Gary Jules for the movie Donnie Darko. And it turns out that the song is originally by Tears for Fears.
  • Another melancholy song: “Missing” by Everything but the Girl is one of my favorite songs from the 90s.

Maybe it’s because I’ve watched Time-Life’s Classic Soft Rock Collection infomercial one too many times, but when I was leaving for work today, Christopher Cross‘s “Ride Like the Wind” popped into my head, complete with backing vocals by Michael McDonald (“what a fool believes…).

So I got curious and did a Google search on “ride like the wind michael mcdonald”. And the third hit was an SCTV parody of Michael McDonald singing those lyrics (“such a long way to goooooooooooo…”) posted on YouTube. Really funny, and absolutely hilarious if you know who Christopher Cross and Michael McDonald are. If you don’t, well, you didn’t listen to enough yacht rock as a kid, did you?

And then to top it off, this week VH1 is counting down the 100 Greatest Songs of the ’80s. Take my breath away…

Weird Al’s lyrics for “White and Nerdy” [MTV music video] touches upon so many geeky characteristics, it’s uncanny. So I’ve created the White and Nerdy quiz so that you can see how you measure up.

[ ] Went to MIT
[ ] Played Dungeons and Dragons
[ ] Likes Escher
[ ] Drinks tea
[ ] Does not have spinning rims

You may have heard of Engrish.com, which showcases the bizarre ways English is often used to “look cool” in Japan and China. Well, two can play that game: Tian Tang was inspired by Engrish to set up Hanzi Smatter, which is dedicated to the bizarre ways Chinese characters are used to look cool in Western culture (especially tattoos, heh heh).

Jorge Cham did speak at Stanford after all, which was good for me since it made my drive a lot shorter (although I was prepared to drive up to Berkeley…). And his talk was one of the funniest I’ve ever been to. It was also packed; the Clark Center Auditorium was filled with guffawing grad students (along with a couple of brave professors and undergrads). Whenever he does his next speaking tour, I highly recommend it, especially for all you grad students and ex-grad students (however you became “ex”). [photos]

I'll take a day off if I have to: Jorge Cham, the creator of the comic strip Piled Higher and Deeper, is speaking at UC Berkeley on May 4. (For a while, he was also tentatively scheduled to speak at Stanford the next day, but that just disappeared from his web site.) It's the Dilbert of graduate school. If you've never been a grad student, it may not be that funny. But if you have, it is absolutely hilarious. Go on, procrastinate! You can't resist…

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