Bob Dylan has achieved a great many things over a very long career, including winning an Oscar. This is the song that did it: a tune written for Curtis Hanson's adaptation of Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys.
Last week, Springsteen revisited his bandana-and-jeans look to remake Born To Run with Fallon, this time as a topical dig on New Jersey governor Chris Christie's widening scandal of political vindictiveness. I don't know what Fallon has planned when he takes over the Tonight Show in a few weeks, but I hope he brings over his knack for parodies, and getting stars to poke fun at themselves and their best-known work.
The Waitresses' Christmas Wrapping is one of my very favourite Christmas songs; it's no surprise I picked it for the very first seasonal mix CD I made for family and friends, a tradition that's run every year since 2000. I was intrigued to find this interview on the NME website with Chris Butler, who wrote the song ... especially to hear his regrets about the line "most of '81 passed along those lines."
When Stephen Colbert appeared to have been brushed off by the notoriously camera-shy Daft Punk, he started dancing to Get Lucky in front of his audience ... and then a whole performance opened up. For some time, he had been enlisting the help of visiting or nearby celebrities, from Bryan Cranston (in rollerskates!) to Jeff Bridges to ... Henry Kissinger. It's one of the best chuckles of 2013.
We have some favourite movies in our house that get hauled out before and especially after Christmas. Familiarity doesn't breed contempt; with a few of them, it's hard to even count how many times they've been seen.
I don't get the annual love affair with Christmas sweaters, particularly the made-to-be-over-the-top kind that get pulled out at Christmas. The closest thing I have is a machine-knit sweater with a white-on-red colour. Oh well!
This is a tune we played on the Morning Show last week. Enjoy your eggnog!
The Polyphonic Spree released a cover of John Lennon's Christmas classic in 2005; last year, they dusted it off for a holiday-themed album, Holidaydream, and released this animated video to go with it.
[This is the text of my Surf’s Up column, published in the St. John's Telegram on Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013.]
It’s the little tools in life that make things zippier and better. Think about the bottle opener: just a piece of metal, but one twist and pop! Or think about your favourite shortcut while you’re driving: it may not necessarily be life-changing, but once you know it, there’s no going back to the longer path.
Your online life is the same … although there may yet be tips you don’t know. Here are some handy things I’ve gleaned over the years and am always glad to share.
The all-time Chrome time-saver
If you’re a Chrome user, you automatically have a powerful shortcut out of the gate. A while back I was working with a colleague on a story; when he opened new tab on Chrome, he typed in the address for Google to so he could get a search started.
There’s no need to do this at all! Your address bar (also known as your URL bar) doubles as a query box for Google in its own right, which means rather than bringing up Google, you can just type in the search terms themselves. Since Chrome is a Google product, it makes sense they want you to use their engine as quickly and as often as possible.
Quote me on it
I’ve mentioned this before, but the best way to get closer to the information you want to find on Google (or Bing, if you must) is to group proper names and phrases with quotation marks. “Danny Williams,” for instance, will get you web pages about the former premier rather than many other pages that contain both names somewhere in what can be a large array of text. Both names, after all, are quite common. Multiple groupings, each with quotation marks, will make your search even more targetted.
If you’re trying to find something specific and you know where it ought to be, take advantage of what’s called an “inurl” search. For instance, let’s say you know the information you’re looking for is on the provincial government’s website. Typing inurl:gov.nl (note that there are no spaces on either side of the colon) will help refine your search; all you need with it are the right keywords.
Use your tabs
A while back, I was visiting a friend when I noticed her screen was, well, an unholy mess. She had the habit of launching a new version of her browser when she wanted to look something up without disturbing what she already was doing. All those different windows made things unwieldy and ultimately stressful.
It’s way easier to use tabs, but I’ve noticed a lack of knowledge about them. Tabs are critical for keeping your onscreen work tidy and efficient, because you’re working from one window, not many. To open a tab in Chrome, for instance, click on the little grey box on the upper-right corner or hit Ctrl-T (command-T, if you’re a Mac-head like me). With Firefox, Safari and Explorer, it’s a Plus symbol along the top. You can keep multiple tabs open at once, which is great for managing web-based email, popular sites, shared documents and so on.
Manage your tabs
The problem with tabs, and I’m a prime offender here, is that it is very easy to have way too many open at one time. I’m guilty of the thinking that I may just need to refer to such-and-such later today, or “gee, I should read that later when I have spare time.” (No, Virginia, there is no spare time later.) So, I keep opening another tab, and another until … you guessed it: things might turn into digital molasses. Much more often, it just becomes much too confusing.
Keep your tabs to a minimum. To find things I once consulted, I’ve come to rely on my browser history, or I email things to myself with an explanatory note in the subject header, which makes finding it later a snap.
Back and forth
In a typical working session, I have about a dozen tabs or so open, which may sound like a lot, but each is actually related to a program I need to access quickly. To move around, I use keystrokes, and they’re as easy as pie and faster than a mouse. To move from one tab to the next, hit Ctrl-tab, or the control and tab keys simultaneously. That will move you to the right; if you need to move back one, it’s Ctrl-shift-tab. This will work with any browser, as will Ctrl-T for opening a new tab, and Ctrl-N for opening a new browser window altogether.
Save your wrist!
Speaking of keyboard shortcuts, one of the best things to do to protect your hands and wrists is to figure out the various ways to not use your mouse. Repeat, not. Using your mouse is a good thing, but relying on it entirely is not good for you, and the same goes for keyboard-only use. Find ways to complement each other so that your fingers are not endlessly repeating movements, or are curled for too long. To find some ideas, Google “best keyboard shortcuts” and the type of computer you’re using. They vary depending on the operating system.
"It always seems impossible until it's done." - Nelson Mandela
Mandela died today, at the age of 95. It was not unexpected; many media organizations were able to publish comprehensive obituaries online soon after his death was confirmed.
I didn't know very much at all about him when the song Free Nelson Mandela (as it was called here; it was simply called Nelson Mandela in the U.K. and elsewhere) was released in 1984 by the Special A.K.A., an offshoot of the Specials. Jerry Dammers wrote the song (and evidently got some details wrong, like the shoes too small to fit his feet) after attending an anti-apartheid rally the year before. Apartheid became a burning issue in the years that followed; this song helped fuelled awareness of a gross injustice, and indeed of Mandela himself. You don't see that very often with a pop song these days!
When Mandela was released in 1990, I was not necessarily surprised to see him with a raised fist in the air. I was surprised, though, to see how profoundly forgiving he was, and willing to move forward in hope rather than look back in anger and bitterness.
I bought Cruel to Be Kind in 1979, and I've been a fan (maybe admirer is the better word) of Nick Lowe since. He's reinvented himself over the years, which I guess you need to do to keep a career going. When I heard he had a Christmas album in the works, I was surprised, but intrigued; I had never thought of him, for instance, as the cynical musician looking for a way to extend his best-before date. At 64, Lowe is hardly expecting to hit the Top 40!
Our son told me about this video, a parody of the Harry Potter movies AND Law & Order. Nick actually was unaware of the TV series, as it went off the air three years ago, but he still found it funny. If you know the show (the doink-doink, the bad puns that the detectives make), it's even more of a smile.
"Well-meaning adults can easily destroy a child's love of reading: stop them reading what they enjoy, or give them worthy-but-dull books that you like, the 21st-century equivalents of Victorian 'improving' literature. You'll wind up with a generation convinced that reading is uncool and worse, unpleasant."
This is an excerpt from an essay by Neil Gaiman on why libraries matter and such things; it includes an argument on why parents should avoid interfering too much in the reading preferences of their children, and let them pursue what they want rather than eliminating choices (like comic books) and prescribing what they think is important. You can read the whole of it here.
Dot Dot Dot is Morse code for the letter 'S,' the full message Guglielmo Marconi claimed to have received atop Signal Hill in St. John's in 1901. It ushered in the age of telecommunications. My maternal grandfather worked as a telegraph operator for Canadian Marconi on Signal Hill for many years.
As well, I have a habit of overusing the ellipsis when I write ... as frequent readers might notice.