Josh Hornik Blog

« April 2005 | Main | June 2005 »

May 30, 2005

My Favorite Music -- Statistically Proven

I have finally finished rating every one of the more than 7000 songs that are on my iPod (yes, I admit to obsessive iPod usage). After giving every song a rating from 1 to 5 stars.

1 star: something I really never want to hear, like a stupid spoken intro (very popular on rap albums) or a Christmas song that I only want to hear at Christmastime, or a really terrible 80's song I got for my comprehensive 80's mix. Example: Me So Horny, by 2 Live Crew.
2 stars: a song I don't really like by an artist I probably like. Something boring, or in many cases when a hard rock artist gets a little too hard. Or your average crappy 80's song. Example: Mary Queen of Arkansas, by Bruce Springsteen.
3 stars: good but not great. The majority of the songs. Example: Ants Marching, by Dave Matthews Band.
4 stars: a really good song. One that I'll always like to hear. Example: Billy Liar, by The Decemberists. (There are 1599 of these.)
5 stars: the best of the best. The songs I won't always want to hear, because they're so good, if I listened to them all the time, they'd lose their power. Example: Purple Rain, by Prince. (Only 486 songs make this cut -- 6.6% of the songs.)

Now that my songs are all rated, I can tell for sure who my favorite musicians are, just by counting who has the most top-rated (4's and 5's) songs. So, here is the list of my official favorite bands and artists, with one standout 5-starrer by each:

1. Bob Dylan -- No surprise there. Of course, when you have 40 CD's by the guy, you get a lot of good songs... (Buckets of Rain)
2. Los Lobos -- Great in English or in Spanish. And this doesn't even include all the great Latin Playboys and Los Super Seven songs. (I Got Loaded)
3. U2 -- I am a sucker for power ballads like One and Bad and With or Without You. (Stay - Faraway, So Close)
4. Aretha Franklin -- And she easily wins for highest percentage of great songs. Almost every one of her songs is 4 or 5 stars. (Dr. Feelgood - Love is a Serious Business)
5. Smashing Pumpkins -- Plus there are a few Zwan songs I love, too. (Set the Ray to Jerry)
6. Midnight Oil -- Helped by a live album with amazing renditions of all their best songs. (Dreamworld)
7. Frank Sinatra -- If I knew how to ballroom dance, I'd dance to nothing but Sinatra. (All The Way)
8. The Rolling Stones -- I have a feeling they will be moving up, as I've only recently realized just how great their whole catalog is and need to buy all the rest. (Dead Flowers)
9. Tom Waits -- You have to be in the right mood, but if you are, there's no one better. (The Piano Has Been Drinking)
10. Joe Jackson -- Surprised he snuck into the Top Ten, but I guess it's because every single song on Look Sharp is 4 or higher. (Is She Really Going Out With Him)

Special mention to Paul Simon because his solo stuff and his Simon and Garfunkel stuff were tied for #12, so put them together and he'd be my second favorite. Sting also would be top 5 if I put together his solo songs and Police songs.

Also just missing the top ten: James Brown, Ben Folds (w/ and w/o the Five), Indigo Girls, Bob Marley, Dave Matthews (w/ and w/o the Band), Elvis Presley, Led Zeppelin, Shawn Colvin, The Beatles, and Suzanne Vega.
Rising fast, after just a few albums: The Decemberists and Kings of Convenience.

Posted by JoshHornik at 03:16 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 27, 2005

Star Wars Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith

It won't come as any surprise to anyone when I agree with the majority of the reviews for Revenge of the Sith that it is a huge success. It's hard to imagine a more satisfying ending to the prequel trilogy and lead-in to the original Star Wars movies. (OK, a holographic cameo by Liam Neeson as the late Qui-Gon Jin would have been nice.) A clear sign of how well George Lucas connected the six movies was the instant desire I had to go back and watch the end of Return of the Jedi again after seeing Sith. Having just watched Anakin make his fall to the Dark Side and become Darth Vader, I couldn't wait to go back and, in that context, see the scene in Episode 6 when Darth Vader rebukes the Dark Side, becomes Anakin again and, indeed, fulfills the prophecy of the prequel trilogy.

I am sure that scene would take on a lot more power after seeing the new movie. Anakin's suicidal request for Luke to remove his Darth Vader helmet is much more meaningful after the emotional build-up to the events that lead to Anakin's putting on the helmet in the first place. In fact, this movie is the most emotionally powerful of all six Star Wars movies. The conflict caused by Anakin's fall, in everyone from his pregnant wife to his mentor Obi-Wan to Anakin himself, is the stuff good movies are made of. And the acting in this movie rises above the last two -- Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman do start off wooden again, but as the stakes are raised, so is their acting, thankfully. Ewan MacGregor is, and has been, consistently great.

George Lucas probably still gets ripped for bad dialogue, but I'm sure his direction will be under-appreciated. In a wide-ranging story, with important events taking place simultaneously across the galaxy, Lucas does a great job of maintaining the pacing, the excitement, and the emotion. In fact, there are several places where his intercutting between the various momentous events successfully contrasts the events and increases the impact. The simultaneous births of Luke and Leia and of the familiar black-suited Darth Vader brings to mind the baptism/massacre scenes at the end of The Godfather (and if you want to rip off any scene in a movie ever, that would be the one, wouldn't it?)

In addition to direction and editing, Lucas may have finally fully realized his vision of entirely-digital moviemaking. The special effects here are truly incredible, innovative, cutting edge, and at the same time, perfectly realistic. Yoda feels entirely real and reveals every bit as much emotion as Gollum or any other digital character ever has.

As a psycho Star Wars fan, I can nitpick, however. If your name was Padme Amidala and your husband's name was Anakin, do you really think you would choose the name "Luke"? Didn't Leia say she knew her mother in Return of the Jedi? If Bail Organa only asks for C-3PO's memory to be erased, why does R2-D2 seem so clueless in Episodes 4-6? With all the incredible technology in this galaxy far far away, how come they still can't ever get a clear static-free signal when communicating by hologram?

However, we do get to see the future of Cirque Du Soleil, and Anakin is so bad-ass when he turns evil, and I'm told that if you look closely, for a split-second you can see the Millenium Falcon flying by. That's worth the price of admission right there.

Now, how long must George Lucas continue to claim he won't make Episodes 7, 8, and 9? No one believes you. Now get to work, George.

Posted by JoshHornik at 02:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 24, 2005

Asashoryu ZENSHO! (15-0!)

Final report from the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament in Tokyo:

Asashoryu won the tournament on day 14 and finished the job on day 15. 15 straight wins. His 4th undefeated tournament. His 4th championship in a row. His 12th championship in his career. He is (by the numbers, at least) one of the greatest Yokozunas of all time. (I'm sure they're debating the quality of his competition in Japan. It's definitely not as high as what Takanohana faced 10 years ago.)

The runner-up was komusubi Kotomitsuki, who won his last 12 and finished 13-2. He also picked up the Technique Prize. And the talk has already begun about his chances of becoming an Ozeki.

Speaking of Ozekis, Tochiazuma lost on the last day to Asashoryu, but finished 12-3. Chiyotaikai limped in with 4 losses in a row, but his 10-5 record keeps him at Ozeki for another couple tournaments, at least.

Sekiwake Hakuho won 7 of 9 after a slow start, to end up 9-6. Now he can put together 2 great tournaments in the next 2 and get promoted to Ozeki.

Koto'oshu finished 10-5 and has a chance to get promoted to Komusubi next tournament.

Takamisakari finished 2-2, to get to 5 wins. Ama lost 4 of his last 6 to drop to 8-7. Kyokushuzan finished 2-2, but still ended up 12-3 and picked up a Fighting Spirit prize. And young wrestler Kotoshogiku won his last 8 to finish 10-5.

Turned out to be a pretty good tournament, but hopefully there will be a little more competition for Asashoryu in the next tournament in July.

Posted by JoshHornik at 04:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 19, 2005

More domination -- day 12

Quick update:
Asashoryu continues to dominate. On day 11, he practically knocked Koto'oshu (a big guy, the tallest wrestler in Sumo) out of the ring with one shoulder hit. Koto'oshu was left dazed with blood pouring from a cut under his eye. Yesterday, he won again to go to 12-0.

And he now leads the tournament by 2 with only 3 days left, because both Chiyotaikai and Kyokushuzan lost. Chiyotaikai lost to Koto'oshu, so I guess he recovered from the beating Asashoryu gave him. And Kyokushuzan lost to Kotomitsuki, who joined the tie for 2nd at 10-2.

Meanwhile, Hakuho won his 6th in a row to go to 8-4 and assure his 7th straight winning record since joining the top level of Sumo. Should actually be a match when he faces Asashoryu tomorrow.

12-0: Asashoryu
10-2: Tochiazuma, Chiyotaikai, Kotomitsuki, Kyokushuzan
8-4: Hakuho, Koto'oshu, Ama (another little Mongolian who I like)
4-8: Takamisakari

Posted by JoshHornik at 07:57 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 17, 2005

Shoulder injury? What shoulder injury?

False alarm, I guess, on Asashoryu's shoulder injury. He has won easily twice since the injury. Yesterday he even pulled out the power move -- lifting the other guy (in this case the 392-pound Iwakiyama) off the ground and then pushing him out. 10-0 and rolling.

Meanwhile, Ozeki Chiyotaikai keeps winning, staying 1 back. Also, Kyokushuzan won again and is also 9-1. He called yesterday's match his best Sumo in his 13 year career.

Ozeki Tochiazuma stays close at 8-2, and Komusubi Kotomitsuki won his 7th in a row to go to 8-2 and keep hope alive.

And Hakuho won his 4th in a row and he's looking good again. Now 6-4 and looks like he'll hang onto his Sekiwake rank (and maybe even threaten Asashoryu when they go up against each other.)

10-0: Asashoryu
9-1: Chiyotaikai, Kyokushuzan
8-2: Tochiazuma, Kotomitsuki
7-3: Koto'oshu
6-4: Hakuho
3-7: Takamisakari

Posted by JoshHornik at 02:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 16, 2005

The Plot Against America by Philip Roth

I have always loved Philip Roth's books, but I have never been so in awe of his skill as a writer as I was reading The Plot Against America. This is a true master at the top of his game. It seems like every choice he made was the perfect choice and it reads so naturally that none of them seems like a conscious choice at all.

Told as if it is a true story from the author's past, involving events that happened to his family and him, the characters are so richly (and sympathetically) drawn that one wonders how much of each character is invented and how much is real.

(I have no idea if Philip Roth even has a brother, or what his parents names are. For all I know, the family in the book is made up entirely.) What is truly amazing is the fact that each character, even minor characters like the aunt and the rabbi she marries, has his own emotional arc that is both realistic and necessary for the overall theme of the book.

Beyond being a powerful personal story about a family in crisis, this is also a truly fascinating look at history. Imagining a wartime America in which Charles Lindbergh, aviation hero and real-life anti-semite, is elected president and subsequently pacts with Hitler's Germany to keep the US out of the war, Roth paints a frighteningly possible-seeming tale of fear and persecution for America's Jews. Although the events get out of hand awfully quickly at the end of the story, the build-up of tension from the point of view of one Jewish family in Newark is so expertly crafted, the final chapters read like a suspense thriller and the denouement is both satisfying and devastating.

Posted by JoshHornik at 05:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 15, 2005

Sumo - Day 8

Asashoryu keeps rolling, but he hurt his shoulder in the win yesterday. No word yet on how bad it is -- didn't look too serious, but you could tell he was hurting. His arm got yanked in a strange way as he threw Wakanosato out of the ring. Anyway, he's 8-0, assured of a winning record. It's the 4th tournament in a row he's won his first 8 and the 2nd time in his career he's done that 4 times in a row, which is a record.

He's all alone at the top, followed by Chiyotaikai and Kyokushuzan. Chiyotaikai just needs 1 win now to keep his Ozeki rank. Kyokushuzan is another Mongolian wrestler, not too big (312 lbs.), tons of skill -- tends to move up and down the ranks but can't stay at the top.

Kotonowaka won yesterday on his 37th birthday, and claims he can wrestle for 27 more years.

Katayama, who just got promoted to the top level of Sumo, is now 6-2.
And the white guys aren't doing so well this time. Roho and Kokkai are both 2-6, but Koto'oshu is 5-3 and Hakurozan is 2nd in the 2nd Sumo division at 6-2.

8-0: Asashoryu
7-1: Chiyotaikai, Kyokushuzan
6-2: Tochiazuma, Kotomitsuki, Katayama
4-4: Hakuho
3-5: Takamisakari

Posted by JoshHornik at 01:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 13, 2005

Sumo - day 6

Kaio won his 5th in a row 2 days ago, but apparently wrecked his back doing it and decided yesterday to drop out of the tournament. I guess they might as well give Asashoryu the trophy now.

Asashoryu is 6-0 now. His only competition will probably come from either Chiyotaikai at 5-1 or Tochiazuma at 4-2. The obligatory scrub, Tamakasuga, is also 6-0, but sooner or later, they'll make him face tough competition and then he'll lose. Hakuho clearly won't provide any competition -- he lost his 4th in a row to drop to 2-4.

This one could be over by day 12.

Posted by JoshHornik at 10:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 12, 2005

Summer Sumo tournament begins...

From Troy, MI, home of the band Stillwater, of "Fever Dog" fame, here is the Sumo report...

5 days already gone, but hey, you could have guessed the results so far anyway. Asashoryu is unbeaten at 5-0. Asashoryu is going for his 4th straight tournament win, on his way to maybe winning all 6 tournaments this year? Kaio is also 5-0, as well as the obligatory random scrub - in this case, Tamakasuga, at Maegashira #16.

The other Ozekis are doing well, too. Tochiazuma and Chiyotaikai (who needs 10 wins or else he loses his rank and would probably retire) are both 4-1.

The only news may be another poor tournament from Hakuho. He won his first 2, but has now lost 3 in a row.

Takamisakari is 2-3 and Mongolian "Sumo skill department store" (a much catchier nickname in Japanese) Kyokushuzan is 4-1.

Posted by JoshHornik at 08:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 09, 2005

Notes from Las Vegas

Spent the weekend in Las Vegas. You can't spend a couple days in Las Vegas without seeing and hearing some interesting things...

I was sitting at a blackjack table with a couple of guys from Holland. They spoke nothing but Dutch, except for a couple of words in English for the dealer. Until finally, when one of them left to do something else and the other one said "See you later, alligator." (Very funny in a Dutch accent.)

I must be getting bigger. Sat down at one table and the guy next to me asked if I work out, then asked for my advice on whether or not he should take steroids. Apparently, he has friends who've done it with good results. (My clearly expert advice was that he shouldn't take it, but I chose not to remind him that steroids are illegal.)

OK, say what you want about the French, but I was waiting for the next Bellagio fountain show next to a French couple, and the man decided to buy a flower for his girlfriend from a street vendor. When the woman protested with the cutest little pouty "Cheri" (yes, she actually called him Cheri), I have to admit part of me wanted to be French (OK, or at least date a French woman), too.

Stayed at a great hotel -- a Motel 6 just across the highway from the Strip. When I went out to my car Sunday morning, there was a police car in the parking lot and a very upset-looking couple. Then I looked at their green Mustang, 2 spots down from my car. At some point during the night, all 4 of the car's wheels had been removed, leaving the car propped on a broken plastic chair. Note to self: park under a lightpost next time.

All in all, a good trip -- great weather, saw the new casino, the Bellagio fountains, the Prince tribute band that plays at the cheesy Boardwalk casino, and played many songs on killer drumming game Drumscape (in the NY, NY arcade). Oh yeah, and was never down any money the whole trip and won over $600. (You could, too. I know the perfect book to learn how.)

Posted by JoshHornik at 11:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 06, 2005

Happy Birthday, Herbert Peduddy

Before there was a Reclining Pig. Before Owly the Inquisitive Owl. Before Socktopus. Before Kani-san, the Japanese Robot Crab, and Vampire Pig, and Black Cat. Before all of those (and just after Hood Wolf) there was HERBERT PEDUDDY, the doodle to end all doodles. Born of a scoliotic spine drawing in 6th grade science class, Herbert turns 23 years old on Sunday, May 8. Happy Birthday, old friend!Herbert Peduddy

Posted by JoshHornik at 03:34 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 03, 2005

Happy Anniversary to my arm

Today is the 1-year anniversary of "the accident". In which our hero, lightheaded from the joy of completing an early-morning workout, fell and did a swan dive into a non-tempered glass window.
Yeah, right, a few little pieces of tape will hold that together...

I celebrated by going for an early-morning run in those same once blood-soaked shoes. But, have no fear, since I'm so out of shape that I was in way too much pain to stretch after my run, there was no danger of repeating the deed. 1 year later, what have I learned? For starters, to stand away from the window when stretching.

The event still burns pretty brightly in my memory. I won't bore with the story all over again. Just a few highlight memories:

...thinking after I had fallen and crashed through the glass "hmm, I just broke a window. I wonder if I cut myself." ... the panic when I almost passed out in my room before calling the ambulance (I guess I instinctively knew that would be a very bad thing) ... subsequently, the feeling of safety and relief when the ambulance arrived and the paramedics sat me down and bandaged my arm ... the feel of blood dripping on the non-anesthetized part of my arm from out of the anesthetized wound while I sat in the ER ... the way my arm looked like Frankenstein's monster, half-stapled, half-stitched after ER and OR procedures ... and, finally, watching one of the 2-week old cuts slowly open up as the doctor cut the stitches out. (I'm still angry about that. It is one damned ugly scar.)

Well, enough about that. My left triceps has finally amost caught up to the right in strength and at some point I'll be used to the scars. Happy anniversary to me...

Posted by JoshHornik at 04:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack