Friday Random 10: Moons Over Mars Edition

Last month we brought you the sad news that our brave Mars robot — Spirit — was stuck in some deep sand on the surface of Mars with little hope of escape. The poor guy is still trapped there, but was recently able to make even more history by taking this photograph of the twin moons of Phobos and Deimos orbiting the red planet:

As you can see from these images — the first time these moons have ever been photographed from the surface of Mars — Phobos and Deimos are plainly not made of cheese. Rather they are giant floating skulls — the remnants of a once-proud civilization of 5,000 foot tall space aliens. Just kidding. They were faked in a sound stage in Burbank.

The songs:

Brackett, WI — Bon Iver
Dominos — The Big Pink
Twilight Galaxy — Metric
Holidays in the Sun — Sex Pistols
I Won’t Be Found — The Tallest Man on Earth
On A Plain — Nirvana
Omaha — Counting Crows
Hank — Jay Bennett
Lines — Tapes N Tapes
Together — The Raconteurs

Bonus Video:

Out of the Blue — Julian Casablancas (Live at Le Grand Journal)

The Rules: The Friday Random 10 is exactly that — random. We open up our iTunes, set the thing on shuffle, and listen to 10 songs. We are not permitted to skip any out of embarrassment or fear of redundancy. Commenters are encouraged to post their own.

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In Soviet Russia, gum blows YOU into bubble!

A 25-year-old chemistry student from the Ukraine (OK so technically not Russia, but still with the Bond villain accents) died recently after lacing his own chewing gum with an explosive compound. He was working in his room when his parents heard a “loud pop” and rushed in to find him disfigured and near death:

It was reported that the student used to dip chewing gum into citric acid. Police also found another substance near the body.

The news agency said investigators believe the student may have confused the two substances and began chewing on gum that had been treated with the unidentified substance.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times — if you’re going to dip your chewing gum into chemicals before chewing it, you really have to be sure those chemicals aren’t going to blow your jaw clean off of your head. It’s like my advice just goes in one ear and out the other. Which reminds me — you should also refrain from putting explosive chemicals in your ears.

Student killed by exploding chewing gum [Telegraph]

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Don’t forget to watch one fat person get chosen over other fat people

Father Scott

Tonight marks the finale of The Biggest Loser, also known as the Paradise Lost of television.

Rather than ramble on about who’s going to win (Rudy) or who I want to win (Rudy), I’d like to introduce a one-time interactive Pax Arcana feature.

Keeping track of tears tonight would be both wasteful and pointless. The count will be staggering, because there is a live audience of other fat people who have been “inspired” by these fat people. So I provide no over/under — it’s off the board.

Rather, here is what we track: How many times does the wonderful Ali get sidetracked by an exuberant cast member who doesn’t realize that live TV requires carefully timed segments? We’ve all seen Ali try to wrest control of the program from these blubbering fools, and the results are always embarrassingly fun. Poor Ali. I have a shoulder you can cry on, Miss Sweeney. Two, in fact.

So the line is an ambitious 6.5 tonight. I think Danny alone could ramble past his due time at least 4 times. Let’s see how smooth Ali can keep this.

Enjoy the show, people. And if all this inspirational weight loss is a little too positive for you, you can always check this out to see a fat guy who fell off the wagon. (ht: Spackler)

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Friend of Pax Arcana publishes book, world rejoices

Father Scott

OK, “friend of Pax Arcana” is strong. I’m not sure Mitch Cote-Crosskill is even aware of us, even though we have linked to his ill-updated but amusing music blog Mitchfork in the past. Plus, Mitch has never met the actual Pax, just one of his yeomen (me).

Anyway, Mitch has published a novel called The Valedictorians, which he wrote in his first few years after graduating from our fine alma mater, the majestic Bates College.

I’ll let his Amazon product description tell the story:

The torch bearers of tomorrow are stumbling through the darkness. “The Valedictorians” is an unflinching look at a jaded generation desperately seeking direction. It tells the tale of Sam and Pete, two recently graduated best friends who exit college to enter the “real world” of 21st century America. A harsh adjustment ensues and, as they struggle to cope with crippling doubt and alienation, much about themselves and modern living is illuminated. The survival of each will hinge on how they adapt to the new challenges they face.

I haven’t read the final draft, but I did read his first draft and enjoyed the tale. Mitch is not a professional writer (this book is self-published through Mill City Press, for full disclosure), but he has a knack for writing an enjoyable story with relatable characters.

For those of you with connections to the northeast liberal arts college experience, you’ll recognize this story, particularly if you were friends with folks who truly blossomed in college and then struggled with the “real world” afterward. The emotions that the characters deal with — however, in the big scheme of things, trivial they might be — are real, and speak to the unrest that even the most educated folks feel.

The Valedictorians is available on Amazon (release date says January 1, 2010), or in person from the author himself, who is based in the Boston area. He’s even having a book signing party, which will consist of our college friends drinking slightly better beer than we drank in college, later this month.

I encourage you all to buy a copy. Hell, buy five. You’ve got Christmas presents to buy, after all. Grandma would love this book, especially the part where the main character nails his boss.

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Tiger gave everyone AIDS

OK, not that one.

Researchers say they may have traced the origins of the AIDS virus to an ancient tiger that lived either thousands or millions of years ago:

It appears the virus took on a bit of a tiger’s genetic material, scientists say, and a remnant of that cat remains in the virus to this day. That tiger, in fact, may have bitten a monkey, setting off an evolution of the virus that ultimately led to its infection of humans.

If true, these findings should do much to exonerate the monkeys we’ve been blaming for AIDS this whole time. When reached for comment, one monkey said “I told you it wasn’t our fault you hairless assholes, now throw some more bananas in this cage before I throw shit at you. By the way, what exactly is a medical testing lab? Do I have to fill out a survey or something? What are you doing with that dentist drill?”

AIDS May Date Back to Ancient Tiger [HeathDay]

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The day the (free) music (almost) died

According to Wired, today marks the 10th anniversary of the music industry’s lawsuit against file-sharing site Napster.

You may remember that Napster’s defense in the suit, before laying down and playing dead, was that it did not give away copyrighted music — rather it provided a platform for users to share their own files with each other. The RIAA’s argument was that Napster was a bunch of fire demons with cloven feet who were sure to turn the nation’s children into gay communist ax murderers.

After suing Napster for everything it had, the RIAA turned its fire on Bertelsmann, the German media conglomerate that had loaned Napster money:

The lawsuits accused Bertelsmann of copyright infringement for propping up Napster financially with loans totaling $85 million. The lawsuits claimed the firm wanted “to preserve Napster’s user base for Bertelsmann’s own commercial advantage.”

At the time of the loans, Bertelsmann’s chairman, Thomas Middelhoff, explained that “Napster has pointed the way for a new direction for music distribution, and we believe it will form the basis of important and exciting new business models for the future of the music industry.”

Bertelsmann paid millions of dollars to settle the claims. The media concern agreed in 2006 to pay the world’s largest label, Universal Music Group, $60 million to settle the allegations. EMI got an undisclosed amount in 2007, and Warner Music Group settled that same year for $110 million.

The music industry has come a long way since the original Napster lawsuit. Not only has it recognized the promotional value of easily-copied digital music files, but it has engineered a successful shift in its core business model to compensate for the corresponding decline in CD sales.

Hahahaha, just kidding — they’ve been suing the shit out of college students and stay-at-home moms.

Oh, and stiffing the talent.

Witness the saga of Tim Quirk, bassist for Too Much Joy. Recently Warner Music sent Quirk a royalty statement that allegedly accounted for digital sales of the band’s music. The statement showed that Quirk’s band had earned a grand total of $62.47 over the prior five years (which was simply subtracted from the band’s “unrecouped” advances*). This is where Quirk’s day job helped him get to work:

Here’s the thing: I work at Rhapsody. I know what we pay Warner Bros. for every stream and download, and I can look up exactly how many plays and downloads we’ve paid them for each TMJ tune that Warner controls. Moreover, Warner Bros. knows this, as my gig at Rhapsody is the only reason I was able to get them to add my digital royalties to my statement in the first place. For years I’d been pestering the label, but I hadn’t gotten anywhere till I was on a panel with a reasonably big wig in Warner Music Group’s business affairs team about a year ago.

I knew that each online service was reporting every download, and every play, for every track, to thousands of labels (more labels, I’m guessing, than Warner has artists to report to). And I also knew that IODA was able to tell me exactly how much money my band earned the previous month from Amazon ($11.05), Verizon (74 cents), Nokia (11 cents), MySpace (4 sad cents) and many more. I didn’t understand why Warner wasn’t reporting similar information back to my band – and if they weren’t doing it for Too Much Joy, I assumed they weren’t doing it for other artists.

So a major player in the industry that spent years and millions attacking its own best customers has yet to build a reliable system for reporting to the artists how much they’re selling or not selling. Then when someone pesters them for real numbers, they sit on the request for a year and send him a half-assed statement that is clearly, indisputably wrong. And they know he’s a music industry insider, so they can’t possibly think they’ll get away with it.

In conclusion, the music industry is so hopelessly stupid it makes the newspaper industry look like Google. Oops. Bad choice of words?

Dec. 7, 1999: RIAA Sues Napster [Wired]

* Here is Quirk’s explanation of how advances and the concept of recouping works:

A word here about that unrecouped balance, for those uninitiated in the complex mechanics of major label accounting. While our royalty statement shows Too Much Joy in the red with Warner Bros. (now by only $395,214.71 after that $62.47 digital windfall), this doesn’t mean Warner “lost” nearly $400,000 on the band. That’s how much they spent on us, and we don’t see any royalty checks until it’s paid back, but it doesn’t get paid back out of the full price of every album sold. It gets paid back out of the band’s share of every album sold, which is roughly 10% of the retail price. So, using round numbers to make the math as easy as possible to understand, let’s say Warner Bros. spent something like $450,000 total on TMJ. If Warner sold 15,000 copies of each of the three TMJ records they released at a wholesale price of $10 each, they would have earned back the $450,000. But if those records were retailing for $15, TMJ would have only paid back $67,500, and our statement would show an unrecouped balance of $382,500.

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What do you say we make apple juice, and fax it to each other?

It’s such a simple idea. Take old episodes of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” and re-dub the actors’ lines based on what it looks like they’re saying. So simple, yet so giggly.

Via Warming Glow

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