Matt Brundage

Archive for the 'humor' category

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Matt’s first law of aural exhibitionism

reel to reel tape deck The propensity of a person to play back recorded sound in public and unsolicited (for instance, in a store, at the park, or while in the presence of a captive audience such as on the subway) is inversely proportional to the generally-accepted listenability of the music being played and the quality of both the source and the playback equipment.

What this means is that for every kind soul who plays, for instance, Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Brandenburg Concerto #4 In G (Allegro)”, “Flamenco Sketches” from Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, or take your pick from The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, you have literally thousands of people playing lowest common denominator, dynamically-compressed, Auto-Tuned r&b/pop. And no, the teeming masses are not lugging around their vintage reel-to-reel tape decks, tube amps, and Focal Sopras in makeshift portable configurations; they’re playing back low quality MP3s using the tiny, tinny-sounding, $2.67 speakers that came integrated into their cheap carrier-subsidized smartphones.

Friday, 16 April 2010

The futility of criticism

I’ve recently come to the realization that most criticism is ultimately futile, and for a variety of reasons:

You may face obstinacy

Some people just don’t take criticism well. The evidence is there: just take a look at their kindergarten report cards. Unfortunately, the types of people who exhibit brash, offensive, or inconsiderate behavior are also the types of people who will pay no heed to your remonstrances — however well-intentioned.

You risk looking like a stuck-up snoot

Say a friend or co-worker is cracking wise on topics generally considered to be scatological or prurient. What do you do? Indicating that certain conversation is “beneath you” will only make you come across as a holier-than-thou prude. And you also run the risk of being a hypocrite if you someday tolerate — or worse, make — similar comments.

You may be wrong

When attempting to correct someone, there’s always that hint of doubt that your advice is incorrect, inappropriate for that particular person, or could possibly be incorrect in the future.

You won’t be giving the person the benefit of the doubt

Giving someone the benefit of the doubt is actually easy in traffic situations. If someone cuts you off or comes too close, perhaps he didn’t see you, or perhaps he has a higher tolerance than you do for shorter distances between vehicles. If the car ahead of you is traveling below the speed limit or exhibiting inappropriate lane-changing behavior, then perhaps the driver is inexperienced, has low vision, is experiencing an acute illness, is bereaved, or some combination of the above.

However, giving a person the benefit of the doubt can lead to careless assumptions about a person’s intelligence, or lack thereof: “Why does that lady keep bumping into me on the train, and not even apologize?” Perhaps certain motor skills are still too advanced for her small brain.

You may be overlooking cultural differences

Case in point: the mullet factor. Hispanic men are generally exempt from the “no mullets” rule and any criticism relating to mullets.

You may push someone over the edge

Any criticism on your part may be taken the wrong way and you could wind up being the contributing factor to someone’s early demise.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Political conventional wisdom

How do politicians acquire nicknames that are often inaccurate, or, at worst, downright wrong? Take, for instance, the Kennedy clan. They are frequently referred to as a “dynasty” or as “American royalty”. What makes JFK’s presidency “royal”, but, say, Woodrow Wilson’s or George H.W. Bush’s presidency not royal? Speaking of which, if titles such as “dynastic” or “royal” should be bestowed upon an American political family, it should be the Bushes, as they have served in executive positions for roughly 2.5 times as long as the Kennedys (26 years vs. 10.5 years). And I am including Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s tenure in this equation, which is indeed generous of me.

And why is Barack Obama always referred to as a “rock star”? I have never heard him sing or play any kind of musical instrument. As far as I know, he has yet to release any songs. Furthermore, isn’t the typical rock star the last kind of person that one would want in the most important executive office in the land? The only thing Obama has in common with the typical rock star is the narcissism. Oh, and the cocaine use.

And why was Ted Kennedy known as a liberal lion? It was obvious that he was a liberal, but what about the lion, an animal known for a powerful libido and a ferocious appetite for raw flesh? Furthermore, people didn’t go around calling Jesse Helms a “conservative caribou” or a “Republican rabbit.” What gives?

And why-oh-why was Bill Clinton the first black president? Was it because of his saxophone playing, as Toni Morrison asserts? That musical ability alone would make Clinton much more deserving of the “rock star” moniker than Obama. And if Clinton truly was the first black president, then what of Obama’s supposed historicity?

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Little-known facts

Since moving to Silver Spring in 2005, I’ve walked approximately 1,568 miles to and from the Forest Glen Metro Station. That’s about 490 hours of walking.

conformation Despite my ardent Catholic faith, I have never been confirmed. This is even more astounding when you consider that the sacrament of confirmation is a prerequisite to the sacrament of marriage.

I’ve been using Quicken on a daily basis since October 1, 1993. I just recently persuaded Annie to join me and now she is all excited.

I’ve made 12,033 edits (and counting) to the English version of Wikipedia. An average of more than one edit per day since birth.

Circa 2001 or 2002, I was scrounging around in the music section of a used book store — trying to find an LP or 45 with the song “Go Away Little Girl” by Steve Lawrence. Randomly, I struck up a conversation with the man standing next to me; I got to telling him what I was trying to find. Turns out the man was Steve Lawrence’s cousin or something. The Odds! I was too astonished to react appropriately, so I muttered something cursory like, “oh, wow, that’s cool.” The mind boggles when I try to calculate the odds of something like that ever happening. To anyone. Ever again.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Bringing children into the world

It seems that people are always asking my wife and me when we’re going to have kids. The fact was, I never had an appropriately snarky answer; I’d always say something bland and inoffensive like “oh, I don’t know, two or three years perhaps.” From now on, this is my answer: I don’t want to bring children into a world in which Internet Explorer 6 still holds a statistically significant share of the browser market. The End.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

A hip hop translation

I thought that it might be a good linguistic exercise to translate a particularly catchy hip hop track from back in the day. Anyone hazard to guess the song and artists behind it? Here’s a clue to get you started: It was nominated for a Grammy Award. I’ve deliberately excluded lyrical clues such as promotional utterances of record labels and nicknames.

Ferraris and Jaguars are brands of automobiles known to signify certain levels of wealth — or, at the very least, a high marginal propensity to consume. Thus, possession of these types of cars enhances my persona, especially convertibles with their tops down. Driving one of these vehicles recklessly while simultaneously shouting that money is of no substantial consequence helps to bring home the point.

Rolls Royce is another brand of automobile known to signify wealth. They should be driven aggressively while wearing flashy rings. I like the windows slightly open, implying that, unlike the Ferraris and Jaguars in the aforementioned verse, drop top Rolls Royces should be avoided. Again, I shout that money is of no substantial consequence.

I have an aversion to material goods that do not “gleam”, perhaps showing a preference for freshly painted and waxed sheet metal; chrome; gold, silver, and other precious metals; diamonds, and other gems. Price is not taken into consideration when acquiring material goods that gleam. After all, money is of no substantial consequence.

Recent forays into philanthropy consist of contributing financially to friends who are in prison. When my friends come home from prison, new cars are waiting for them. Money is of no substantial consequence to me.

Join us in flaunting our material goods. We travel all around the world, spending our money.

I wear Rolex watches, another outward sign of my material wealth. I contribute financially to my friends’ girlfriends. Perhaps “girlfriend” is too polite a word to use in this context. In any case, the amount of money that I contribute shows how much I love and care for my friends and their significant others. Do not bother praising me for these selfless actions. My income comes from many sources. I paid $100,000 for this bracelet. [Approximately $132,600 in today’s dollars.] Was it foolish of me to have purchased such an expensive piece of jewelry? Consider this: the reflective qualities of said bracelet will cause eye strain. My gun is solid platinum. Even the bullets gleam with gems and/or precious metals. You will die. Unseasoned acquaintances want to join my circle of friends and perhaps benefit from my material wealth. While I am not wholly averse to forming such associations, I prefer that my true friends possess “old money” and that their bank accounts be large. Like mine. My bank account balance is $1,000,000. [Approximately $1,326,200 in today’s dollars.] I have so much money that it fills up the trunk of my car! When I arrive at parties and such, my full trunk of money must look daunting to the average person. This is basic. I have been a free-spender since before the one hundred-dollar bill underwent a major redesign in March 1996. We have a lot of money. Where are the people who have professed hatred toward us?

One of the many benefits of “living the life” is that I get to eat cake that is thicker than the typical middle-class cake. [It’s the pudding.] In addition to eating thick cake, I eat crab while watching women dance in a suggestive manner. I do big things. My music production skills enable obscure music groups to become well-known. I am like a large dog, but instead of wearing a demeaning chain, I have a necklace — and a matching bracelet to boot! My friends admit that I am an important person — the type of person with whom any group of people would like to associate. I’m the type of person who does things that others won’t do, or are incapable of doing. I am so hot that I am hotter than a candle. For the remaining portion of this verse, I will continue to promote myself by using hyperbole. Now I will drop a Barry Manilow reference. Also, I swing every night.

A fellow rapper cannot truly be recognized until:

  1. One million units of his album are shipped to retailers [Unit shipments are what the RIAA uses to determine Gold and Platinum album status.]
  2. He enters into a relationship with a woman who sings r&b
  3. Said r&b woman has all the qualities that one would expect of a typical woman in her situation

Take me, for example. I entered into a relationship with a woman after she first admired my necklace. All of my jewelry is light gray — mostly platinum. Life is like a roll of the dice. Let’s play!

Note to up-and-coming MCs: It doesn’t matter if your albums merely went gold [In the US, this means 500,000 units were shipped to retailers.] or if you wear Rolex watches with diamonds and/or other gems. To get to my level of wealth, you will have to do much more. In fact, take your paycheck and double it. That’s approximately what I make. The trouble lies in the quality of your rapping. I’m a man who likes Mercedes-Benz automobiles with leather, real wood grain, and a frame that is made out of platinum. Honest! I proclaim loudly that money is of no substantial consequence. My teeth gleam from gems that my orthodontist affixed with cement. In addition, both of my wrists gleam from the assorted pieces of jewelry that I wear, including rings, chains, and bracelets. We have it made, so to speak.

Money is of no substantial consequence.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Snobbery

I’m becoming more and more of a snob every day. (Well, at least according to Annie.) I’d rather call it “discriminating taste” — or in its simplest form, just a preference for one thing over another.

  • I try to avoid high fructose corn syrup and other artificial sweeteners, monosodium glutamate, partially hydrogenated oils (margarine), other “unnatural” fats, and needlessly processed food products with unpronounceable ingredients. Instead, I purchase “real”, “natural”, or “organic” whenever possible. I don’t mind paying a bit more for quality. For that, I am a food snob.
  • I won’t drink Merlot, Rosé (White Zinfandel), or wine that has been “embellished”. For that, I am a wine snob.
  • I am through with North American lagers. Instead, my gaze is fixed upon Ireland (Guinness) and Belgium (Chimay). For that, I am a beer snob.
  • I consume an enormous quantity of music, much of it esoteric. I typically get blank stares or polite nods when I try to describe my tastes to people. I value my vinyl records just as much as my CDs. I’m not the kind of music snob who categorizes his collection as classical, jazz, and “other”, but I am a snob nonetheless.
  • While my video collection is comparatively more mainstream than my music collection, certain “guidelines” still apply: Since the beginning of 2008, I have completely stopped purchasing DVDs and have moved on (without any hiccups) to Blu-ray. I’ve even been replacing my old DVDs with their Blu-ray versions. I will never stretch or crop the picture. I prefer to watch a film in its original, theatrical aspect ratio, whether that be 1.33:1, 1.85:1, 2.35:1, or any other variation. I cannot be happier that “Full-screen” DVDs are finally being phased out. I am frustrated with people who just don’t get it, especially those with capable widescreen televisions. For that, I am a film and video snob. In this regard, the label of snob may be warranted.
  • My requirements for church are becoming more and more specialized. While I’ve always been Catholic, my adherence to the “weekly requirement” hasn’t always been strict. And by that, I mean that, a few times a year, I would attend a non-Catholic church service and count that as my “weekly”. Never again. It’s even gotten to the point where I’m hesitant to attend a Novus Ordo Mass — especially if it’s in the vernacular; I need to hear the old Mass in Latin. For that, I am a church snob.
  • I’m a stickler for proper grammar usage — a great deal of my Wikipedia edits involve grammar corrections or diction in some form or another. I’ve corrected people in everyday conversation: I remember telling someone once that they had “split the infinitive.” Lately, I’ve been surprised at the frequency at which people use the word “less” when they really mean “fewer.” It boggles the mind. I have strong preferences toward the increased usage of both the serial comma and the subjunctive mood. For that, I am a grammar snob.

In addition, Annie says that I’m a snob in the following categories: cars, clothes, computers, paper shredders, razors, lamps, light bulbs, and books. That’s right. I’m officially a paper-shredder snob.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Subaru’s welcome party

I have mixed feelings about the quietly patriotic Subaru commercial, Welcome Party. Premise: a group of adventurers travel to the easternmost point of the United States every New Year’s Eve to whoop it up and watch the sunrise over the lonely Atlantic Ocean the following morning.

The first few seconds reveal a lighthouse just before dawn, flashing its light on the cold crashing waves. Studying this scene, one can plainly ascertain that this lighthouse is not the West Quoddy Head Lighthouse located at Quoddy Head State Park in Maine. So right off the bat, we have deception. The lighthouse depicted in the commercial cannot even be the easternmost lighthouse in the US.

Then, the narrator intones “it’s not easy getting to the easternmost point in the US…”, as if Maine State Route 189 were merely an unpaved Indian trail.

He continues, “There we are: the very first people to meet the new year.” Again, this is wrong on at least two levels. First, those immediately west of the International Date Line would technically be the first people to meet the new year. But even if we assume that the narrator meant the first people in the United States to meet the new year, it would still be incorrect, as the 1883 standardization of time zones means that huge swaths of the country now meet the new year simultaneously. People as far west as Indiana would meet the new year at the same time as these “Maine adventurers.” Furthermore, Quoddy Head may be the easternmost point in the lower 48 states, but Semisopochnoi Island, Alaska takes the cake for the easternmost point in all US territory, by longitude. The little bugger is actually in the eastern hemisphere!

The narrator goes on: “We like to think of ourselves as a welcome party.” Yeah, but the party happened five hours ago, in Greenwich, England.

The closing shot of the commercial shows a sunrise over what is conceivably Quoddy Head State Park, but now I’m not so sure. In actuality, Canada sort of ruins the view. [Map] [Image] You be the judge.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Mid-month roundup

…This is how I know that I’m a bad blogger: Last week, Annie, her two eldest sisters, and I spent a week out west, conquering the Grand Canyon, Sedona, and the open road, yet I have no blog post to show for it! During our stay, we averaged about 100 photos per day. An unwieldy photo gallery is forthcoming, I promise. And, perhaps, some quality commentary.

…Warren Buffett has given us the green light to start investing again; I’m hopeful that next week will be another solid rebuilding week for the Dow. I’ve sufficiently rationalized my “losses” thus far; I’m truly no longer affected by them. It’s all play money until you have to use it. As I focus the bulk of my investments in retirement accounts, a decreasing percentage of my portfolio hinges on the day-to-day rise and fall of stocks.

…Lately, I’ve been enamored by the work of one J.D. Roth, owner and writer of both Get Rich Slowly and Get Fit Slowly. Every day, I’m in awe at the consistent quality of his work. He’s introduced me to a number of related financial sites. With the wealth of good, free financial information available, it’s a wonder why anyone would choose to hire a financial advisor — unless, of course, one dislikes dealing with his financial situation. As for me, I revel in it. At times, I worry that I worry too much about money. I seriously wouldn’t mind getting randomly audited by the IRS. It would be a pleasant experience for me.

On a related note, sometimes I wish that I had significant consumer debt, only because it would be personally gratifying to pay it off. I’m intrigued by stories of people in debt, and the methods they use to overcome their debt and their bad habits. It would be an incredible feeling of accomplishment to eliminate, say, massive credit card debt. The source of your problems is literally subtracted out of existence.

…I was recently bestowed with a couple of quality “seasoned” laptops that my company had long since abandoned: a four-year-old IBM ThinkPad and a slightly older Dell Inspiron 8100. Both are steps up from my current notebook, a Windows 2000-era Dell that makes a grating grinding sound whenever it’s turned on. Oh, and the touchpad frustratingly registers false clicks at random.

…Some of my coworkers and I have just moved into a swing space, as our office area is being renovated. The problem is that it’s four floors below street level, in a secluded, bomb-proof room with no air flow — conditioned or otherwise. I keep telling myself that at least I’m not working in a uranium mine in Novosibirsk, Russia. I’m entertaining the idea of not shaving or otherwise grooming myself for the duration of our stay in the dungeon, as a quiet protest.

…I’m off to the Maryland Renaissance Festival later today, so I suppose that I will take in a couple of turkey legs and a significant amount of jerky. (Annie cannot resist the jerky vendor.) It will be good to be a part of such a large gathering of geeks. No swords allowed. :-(