Saturday, January 31, 2009

Magic On the Mall With Obama

It was special being on the National Mall for the inauguration of Barack Obama. I remember being down there in 2001 for George W. Bush's swearing-in and it was easy to get pretty close, with a paltry 400,000 or so people in attendance.

Figuring it would be silly to mess around with the ticketed crowds near the Capitol, I rode my bike down 16th Street (very few cars, just people waiting for buses), had a leisurely breakfast with friends, and walked down to the west side of the Mall (opposite of the Capitol). We walked around the Vietnam Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and settled in at some jumbotrons near the WWII Memorial. The inauguration planners were really smart in placing the big screens along the length of the 20+ block Mall.

The crowds were manageable, yet still impressively huge in number. An overall joyous feeling, the aura of relief for the end of eight catastrophic years for the country, was palpable. People were so happy. Everyone's face was glowing, like all our troubles were about to be lifted. Supposedly there were no, zero, nada arrests on the entire Mall. Obama's words were magic. A great moment to be alive.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Gotta Love Redbird Fans

That's really all that needs to be said.

Courtesy of Deadspin - a great sports blog.

Communicating Climate Change

When journalists and climate scientists speak with each other—usually over the telephone concerning a specific story the reporter is working on, or at a professional conference—their discussions generally involve a particular research project or matters related directly to climate change and climate change science. Seldom do they discuss at any length issues related to the communication of climate change information—either that from the scientist to the media or from the media to the public.

A new book, based on a unique series of meetings between those two groups, which took place between 2003 and 2007, provides some of the collective wisdom of that effort. Published by the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting, a non-profit journalism organization based at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography, Communicating on Climate Change: An Essential Resource for Journalists, Scientists, and Educators is a great primer for anybody new to the beat, to the lab, or to the general effort to better explain the scientific facts underpinning one of the most pressing and far-reaching issues of our time.

“Frustration was the impetus behind the workshops that form the basis of this book,” writes author Bud Ward, a longtime environmental journalist and educator who runs the Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media. He and Anthony Socci, a senior communications fellow at the American Meteorological Society, organized and directed the five-year project, which was funded by the National Science Foundation.

Ward, who was recently named 2009 Climate Communicator of the Year by George Mason University, offers a point-by-point list of ways that journalists, scientists, and institutions can better convey information to each other and to the public at large. It’s a long list, comprising solutions for those with resources to burn and those operating on shoestring budgets.

The 3-minute interview: Paul Mackie

In the category of ruthless self-promotion: This was my favorite interview ever with, ah hem, yours truly. (And Wiener Sausage: The Musical!'s co-writer Dan Sullivan.) By one of my favorite journalists, Leah Fabel of the Washington Examiner.

Map data ©2009 Tele Atlas - Terms of Use
WASHINGTON, July 10, 2008 - Five years ago, music man Paul Mackie and playwright Dan Sullivan had a wild barroom dream of producing a musical. Today, it has morphed into some sort of reality called “Wiener Sausage: The Musical!,” a soon-to-be cult classic to premiere Saturday night as part of D.C.’s Capital Fringe Festival. For a complete list of showtimes, go to or

“Wiener Sausage” is an intriguing title, but what’s it about?

Very hard to explain. It’s about everything and nothing. There’s an overwhelming philosophical message conveyed through a comedy about sex scandals, politics, war, death, secret societies, megastores, the media, the environment and the Apocalypse.

How did it come to be?

We were debating the pronunciation of the word smock, the thing you wear. So we Googled it and found a link to Dr. Uwe Schmock’s paper on Brownian motion in wiener sausage pathways — it was a serious math theory. That was the moment of revelation when we named the master mad scientist Professor Schmock and he created the Wiener Sausage Derivative, which could account for the entire map of the history of time.

Do you have a favorite lyric from the show?

Washington Monument, Eiffel Tower. Conductors of super love power.”

Are you doing this for love or money?

We’re doing this for the love of art and of sausage, but we’ll take your money for the sake of art.

What do you hope people get out of the experience?

We want their stomachs to hurt from laughing so hard, and from eating all of the hot dogs that Chief Ike’s will be selling. [“Wiener Sausage” will be performed at Chief Ike’s Mambo Room at 1725 Columbia Road NW.] We’ll also be selling souvenir pint mugs to drink from during the show.

One: that the mainstream media stops [doing a bad job]. Two: that politics stops being corrupt. Three: that true love always wins in the end.

Wiener Sausage: The Musical! Getting Cold?

Yes, the buns have chilled a little since the heat generated by last summer's world premiere of Wiener Sausage: The Musical! The musical comedy, co-written by myself and ingenue Dan Sullivan, is expected to make a tour of various cities throughout the U.S. But Dan and I have to stop being lazy, hire an agent, and get the ball rolling again.

Professor Doctor Ewing Schmock will rise again!

Alien Rock Landing From New Zealand

I've been catching up on early episodes of HBO's Flight of the Conchords. Stupid yet sly humor based on a couple of lovable New Zealander rockers living in New York. Their manager, Murray, is hilariously hapless. And they have one groupie, who's actually a stalker. The songs/music videos are the best part of a show that has bursts of funniness alongside stretches of slowness.

This interview with one of the show's creators ran recently on NPR's Fresh Air. The segment features "Business Time," which was also on my Best of 2008 music mix that I make for friends and family every winter. The album is well worth getting.

Sample dialogue:
Murray: [To Jemaine] I've told you. When you are in a band, you don't get with your bandmate's girlfriend. Past or present.
Jemaine: Yes, well, thanks for that.
Murray: You get a love triangle, you know, a Fleetwood Mac situation. Although there was four of them, so more of a love square. But you know, no-one gets on.
Jemaine: Ok, I see.
Murray: Mind you, they did make some of their best music back then.
Bret: Rumours
Murray: No. No, it's all true.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

On Top of Spaghetti

This is a new song for my next album of kids' music.

Here We Go Steelers

OK, earlier this week I was thinking it wouldn't be that bad if the Arizona Flock won this Sunday's Super Bowl. That's because I grew up in St. Louis when the Cardinals played there. My deep love for the franchise has welled up during this incredible playoff run.

But as the weekend nears, I'm getting jacked up about another Steelers' SB appearance, and the chance to gain a record sixth win in that game. I became a Steelers' fan because the St. Louis Cardinals were almost unwatchable during most years. And Lambert, Swann, Stallworth, Bradshaw, Franco and the rest were so amazing. How could anybody not be a fan of the blue-collar football played year-in and year-out by Pittsburgh? 

My heart is already pounding in anticipation for this game. And my heart belongs to the Steelers.

Newspapers As 501(c)(3)s?

From the op-ed page of today's New York Times:

"By endowing our most valued sources of news we would free them from the strictures of an obsolete business model and offer them a permanent place in society, like that of America’s colleges and universities. Endowments would transform newspapers into unshakable fixtures of American life, with greater stability and enhanced independence that would allow them to serve the public good more effectively."

Warriors ... Come Out to Play

A new comic book series based on the classic movie The Warriors. Preview a copy here.

Joan Rivers Is Made of Plastic Surgery

Men Are Stupid . . . And They Like Big Boobs: A Woman's Guide to Beauty Through Plastic Surgery (Kindle Edition)

by Joan Rivers (Author), Valerie Frankel (Author)

For whatever reasons (I was trying to gain some insight on the so-called fairer sex, I suppose), this book seemed worthy of glancing through. Joan Rivers is pretty ridiculously funny. This book is not that. It’s a total self-help guide for navigating the fun and regularly scheduled world of plastic surgery.

Maybe it’s my baby face, but this book stinks, and I mercifully deleted the free sample from my Kindle after reading about 10 mind-numbing pages (about the same amount of time it takes Joan to numb her nose before applying yet another layer of petroleum-based materials).

On the bright side, I’m really getting into Nip/Tuck lately.

James Howard Kunstler's Apocalypto Nation

World Made by Hand: A Novel (Kindle Edition)
by James Howard Kunstler (Author)

Seems to be a poor man’s Cormac McCarthy. Post-apocalyptic story that borders on preachy but also pretty scary vision of a climate that has finally spit out humans. LA and DC have been obliterated, but the protagonists in Upstate New York live in a world without journalists, so nobody really knows what is actually happening even as much as 5 miles away.

I read the first chapter and may continue this book at some point. Kunstler’s also got an entertaining and crotchety blog called Clusterfuck Nation, where he rails on current events.