Month: September 2012


A medley including Dog Breath, Uncle Meat, and Building a Girl.

St. Paul Civic Center, 1974. Courtesy of YourArf.

Register to Vote

Something I have addressed before: Zappa was cynical as fuck about our political system and our two major parties, but he was still a huge advocate of voting.

If you're not registered to vote, register to vote. The deadline is October 6 in the earliest states; check your local listings.

Even if you can't find a Presidential candidate you want to vote for in either major party -- believe me, I can relate --, even if you can't find one in a third party -- hell, I can relate to that too --, there's other shit to vote for. Maybe there's someone you'd like for a representative, either federal or state. Maybe there's a ballot measure deciding funding for your local teachers, firefighters, and police. Maybe you have a disgusting, racist monster of a sheriff who is pissing your county's money away pursuing frivolous lawsuits of his own and paying off not-so-frivolous lawsuits against him, and you should vote for whoever's running against that odious piece of slime. You know, hypothetically speaking. Paul Penzone 2012.

You Can Teach 'Em to Hate the Things You Hate

My cousin just explained to me that the reason Obama wants to destroy America is because a long time ago his dad told him America was bad.

He's about six years old.

I find this sincerely disquieting.

On the other hand, I am fairly confident that my little brother's first complete sentence was "Ronald Reagan is a fucking asshole," so I imagine my aunt was just as bothered by the horrible things her brother was teaching his children in those days.

(For the record, I told him that I don't think Obama is a bad person or trying to destroy America, I simply think that he is doing what he thinks is right and making lots of mistakes. And added that I don't like Romney very much either and don't intend to vote for either one of them.)

Mr. Green Genes Medley

Son of Mr. Green Genes, King Kong, Chunga's Revenge. Armadillo World Headquarters, Texas, 1973. And isn't "Armadillo World Headquarters" the perfect name for a venue for Frank Zappa to play in?

Courtesy, once again, of tomtiddler1. This guy is amazing.

Rellenos and Republicans

Still can't quite get this beer batter thing right. 4:1 ratio of beer to flour is just runny liquid; 2:1 is pancake mix again. I'm thinking maybe next time I won't mix the flour in, I'll just dunk the chili in the beer and egg and then roll it in the flour.

I really do love that the Senate Conservatives Fund decided to say, "Hey, remember that guy who said that really offensive thing that made our entire party look bad who we said we wouldn't give any money to? Let's give him three hundred grand and see what happens." and he immediately turned around and said more crazy misogynistic shit.

First of all: instant karma is the best kind of karma. After all, if you wait an hour before you whack your dog on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper, he will not make any connection between what he did wrong and the fact that you are punishing him. This way, even the dimmest conservative organization can't possibly help but think "I just made a huge mistake."

Second: It's always better to see right-wing organizations throw their money down a bottomless pit than contribute it to races where it might actually help their candidate. (Like all that money Sheldon Adelson threw at Newt Gingrich. You know, for a casino magnate he's really pretty terrible at predicting odds.)

And speaking of candidates who they could have helped, that brings us to #3: this is actually hurting other candidates who they've endorsed in close Senate races. The Dems in Massachusetts are calling for Scott Brown to give their donation back and they're going to try to hang it around his neck until the election.

(Now, in point of fact, I don't especially dislike Scott Brown; I think he may very well be the only Republican left in the Senate who might actually be willing to compromise to get laws passed. And I wouldn't be devastated if he were reelected. Nor do I want him to lose his seat because I care unduly about the numbers game -- the Democrats couldn't pass shit when they had 59 seats plus Lieberman; there's really not a hell of a lot of difference between 45 Democrats and 60 Democrats, thanks to the automatic filibuster.

But Elizabeth Warren is legitimately my single favorite person running for office this election, and I would love to see her win, not because she's a Democrat but because she's Elizabeth Warren.)

Playing: Decided to take a crack at Soul Blazer. So far it's pretty neat!

The Eyebrows

Dweezil discusses the sounds on Over-Nite Sensation and Apostrophe.

From the Eagle Visions Classic Albums DVD, available at Amazon.

Setting Up MikG on an Evo 4G

As recently noted, I finally joined the twenty-first century and got me a smartphone. It's an HTC Evo 4G, purchased from friend and Brontoforumgoer TA, and I'm rather enjoying it. But it was a bit of a pain to set up, and, as I am wont to do when I find myself banging my head against the wall over a technical problem, I'm inclined to write up a little howto. (My #2 most popular post is the one about filesyncing with Unison. And because I know you'll ask, the #1 post is the one about FF7 mods.)

The first hurdle was that the phone was running Cyanogenmod. (So, first of all, it was already rooted. This is not a rooting guide; my phone was already rooted when I got it.) Now, from all appearances Cyanogenmod is great -- but what TA and I didn't know is that you can't activate your phone with Cyanogenmod on it.

The guy at the Sprint store suggested I unroot the phone and restore it to factory default. As I found out from a helpful thread on XDA Developers, you do not have to unroot your phone to activate it. You do have to flash it with a Sense-based ROM. (Sense, BTW, is HTC's UI.)

I found several recommendations for Sense ROMs, many outdated (and many of those unavailable for download since MegaUpload's been taken down). One that is recent and still available, and which I saw recommendations for all over the place: MikG.

Now, guides to flashing your Android ROM are legion (here's one from Android Authority), and recovery software varies, so the exact menu options may be different from one to the next. But here are the basics:

Download the MikG ROM.

Copy it to your phone's SD card.
I actually found that I couldn't mount my phone as an external drive on any of my computers when it was booted to Cyanogenmod for some reason; fortunately I was able to mount it when I booted to recovery mode -- see next step. Copying the zipfile straight to the sdcard root is probably the easiest way to go -- at any rate, don't unzip it.

Boot to Recovery Mode.
If your phone is already rooted and already has a custom ROM, like mine did, then you've most likely already got a recovery boot enabled. Shut your phone down, then power it back on, holding the Power and Vol- buttons. From here the touchscreen won't work; you'll only have access to the Power button and the Volume rocker. The rocker moves the cursor up and down, and the power button operates like the Enter key.

Back up your shit.
There should be an option to back up your system. Do this, because you're about to wipe everything out and you're going to want to be able to restore if anything goes wrong.

Wipe userdata, cache, and dalvik cache.
Seriously, this is a necessary step; do not skip it or it will fuck everything else up. Just don't do anything stupid like wipe your SD card in the bargain; you need that.

Flash the ROM from zip. That'd be the zipfile you copied to the card earlier.

Troubleshooting: Kubuntu lies. I just couldn't get the thing to flash; I kept getting errors. I found that the zip's checksum on the SD card didn't match the one on my computer, I copied and tried over and over again and even reformatted the card -- long story short, don't trust Kubuntu when it says the file has finished copying or when it says it's safe to remove the device. I don't think it's a KDE problem per se since I had the same problem using Nautilus, but at any rate -- start the filecopy and then go do something else for a little bit; give it more than ample time to copy. Just in case. I did the same thing with the unmount -- after I'd let enough time pass that I was sure the file had copied, I clicked Unmount and then waited awhile just to make sure that had happened cleanly. Patient waiting and the file finally copied correctly; MikG installed and was running.

But I still had to actually activate the thing.

Rather than take another trip to the local Sprint store (which would likely have been easier and taken less time, in hindsight), I did it through the Sprint website.

The first bit's easy enough: assuming you've already got a Sprint phone, you just deactivate that and tell them to move your number over to the new phone. You'll need to enter a serial (which you have to remove the battery from your Evo to get at), and they'll send you an E-Mail.

Follow the instructions in the E-Mail, not the ones on the website. They are not the same and the ones on the website are incomplete.

The E-Mail looks something like this (I've redacted my personal information):

You may need to enter the following information in your new phone to complete the activation process:
6-digit programming code: [...]
MDN (Phone number): [...]
MSID (IMSI): [...]

If you are programming a used phone, look in the manual programming instructions for your steps. If you don't find the instructions to program a used phone, follow the steps below to clear or reset your phone to its factory settings. Important note: This will remove all personal information, including texts, pictures, contacts, applications, etc.

To program a used phone:

  1. On the dial pad, press ##786 followed by an additional # symbol
  2. Follow any on-screen prompts to Reset your phone
  3. Enter the 6-digit code
  4. Select Reset
  5. Confirm any on-screen Reset to default messages
  6. After the reset, press ## followed by the 6-digit code, followed by an additional # symbol (Example: ##123456#) Note: The last # entered will not show on the display

It's easy enough when you do it like that; my problem was that I followed the guide on the website. Which didn't quite work right.

Anyhow, hopefully I've saved somebody somewhere some trouble -- maybe it'll be my new #2 most popular post.

So far I've stuck with MikG, for a couple reasons. One is that Sprint's data plan is ridiculously overpriced and I'm tempted to jump ship to Virgin Mobile or some other Sprint reseller -- and it'd be nice to still have a Sense ROM on there so I can activate.

But another is that I'm really kinda digging the design of Sense. It's fast, it's straightforward, most of the built-in widgets are actually useful and the ones that aren't are easy to remove, and if you had asked me if someone would be able to convincingly pull off a smooth, intuitive seven-workspace layout on a damn phone screen I would have told you you were out of your mind -- but damned if they didn't do exactly that.

I'm a tinkerer by nature, so I may not stick with it. Maybe I'll switch back to Cyanogenmod. Maybe I'll fuck around and install Ice Cream Sandwich or Jelly Bean -- I'm not really that concerned about watching Netflix on my phone or using the front-facing camera, and Sprint doesn't even have 4G in my state.

Food for thought, anyhow.

You Kids Don't Know Grand Funk?

The wild shirtless lyrics of Mark Farner? The bong-rattling bass of Mel Schacher? The competent drumwork of Don Brewer?

Out To Get You, Zappa and Grank Funk Railroad. From the album Good Singin', Good Playin'.


Tooms is a great example of how an episode can be fucking brilliant even if it's riddled with plotholes.

First, there's Tooms himself. Last we saw him he was preparing himself a new nest. No reference to that, and indeed his psychologist doesn't even know about the nest thing and is legitimately curious when he sees him making strips of newspaper late in the episode.

Now look, I can totally see the shrink dismissing Mulder's accusations out of hand. I get that. But he should at least be aware of them. His reaction at the end of the episode shouldn't be "Oh, I didn't know you were interested in art"; it should be the slow and horrible realization that all that crazy shit Mulder was saying is actually true and this guy is about to eat his liver.

(Why Tooms is finally unable to resist the urge any longer at this moment? Plot convenience; no other reason.)

Plenty of other things like that throughout. Tooms travels through a sewer but then he hides in a closet and nobody notices the smell. The key to the mystery is a body he hid because it could prove his identity, which they ultimately do based on dental X-rays. So does he not ordinarily use his teeth when he rips people's livers out? Does he ordinarily use a knife or his fingernails or something and he just used his teeth on this guy for some unexplained reason? Was he in a hurry? If he was in a hurry, how did he manage to hide him in concrete? Were dental records even a typical crime investigation tool in the 1930's when this murder is said to have taken place? None of it makes a lick of sense.

And that he gets let out in the first place -- look, I don't care how fucking crazy Mulder's "he's 100 years old and can elongate his body" story sounds, the dude has a room full of serial killer trophies and tried to murder an FBI agent. Guys like that don't just get discharged after a few months.

I could go on -- his frameup of Mulder's pretty half-assed too, and there are any number of other false notes. But all of that? Fuck it. Because this is still a great episode. Tooms continues to be one of the greatest monsters in the entire run of X-Files. He, Mulder, Scully, and the supporting cast are all in truly fine form here. And the direction -- wonderful, creepy stuff, building toward a claustrophobic climax and brilliantly creative, satisfyingly violent resolution.

As far as mythology, this is the episode that introduces Assistant Director Walter Skinner -- essentially another government bureaucrat standing in Mulder and Scully's way and trying to shut down the X-Files, but played so ably by Mitch Pilleggi that he would later become a major character. Really, you can tell that by watching -- this guy is a one-off but Pilleggi is just so damn good that he turned into something else entirely.

And the Cigarette Smoking Man is back, hanging around Skinner's office, being sinister and not saying a word until he gets a single line at the end of the episode, Silent Bob-like. I think my favorite part is that Mulder and Scully never even acknowledge that he's there. There is no "Excuse me, but who the hell is that guy, anyway?" Hell, if you just saw this episode you could easily believe that he was a figment of Skinner's imagination.

So, in conclusion: Tooms is awesome, even if the script is really kind of a damn mess.