I think they’ve got pretty much all of them…

From Slate.com, a great list (including videos!) of…

The Best Songs About Sweets and Desserts

Some of my favorites?

There are others I enjoy tremendously, but instead of posting them all, you can check them out for yourself.

Before I go, however, let me offer one final song.  I think this is the most clever one regarding the topic at hand as George Harrison manages to list just about every individual candy in a box while cleverly noted what will happen when you eat too many sweets…

Spidey news…

Call me cynical, call me tired, but I just can’t get all that excited over the “new” casting of Tom Holland for the role of Peter Parker/Spider-Man in film…


If there’s a superhero franchise that is in real danger of being over-exposed, I believe it to be this one.  In very short order we had three films with Tobey Maguire (all of which were hugely financially successful though most audiences panned the third and last film in that series) followed by a re-booting and two films with Andrew Garfield (unfortunately for him and the people behind that two-film set, the second film soured Sony on continueing down that particular pathway).

So now we have a new Spider-Man, one that will somehow cross-over into the Avengers movie while remaining at Sony.

Ho hum.

Don’t get me wrong, there was a time I would have killed to see a high budget Spider-Man film on the screen.  But once it finally happened with Tobey Maguire, I found myself curiously unimpressed with the whole venture.  Many site his second Spider-Man film to be one of the all time best super-hero films ever made but for some reason it didn’t grab me like so many others and I wound up thinking it was at best only an “ok” feature.  And this is coming from a big fan of director Sam Raimi (absolutely love the Evil Dead series!)!!

As for the Garfield iteration, I suspect the lingering bad feelings I had with the Raimi/Maguire Spider-Man films turned me off of the whole re-booting concept.  While I applauded the return of the mechanical web shooters (I really didn’t like the Maguire/Raimi concept of “organic” webshooters), seeing yet again a Spider-Man origin story and a new set of “first adventures” of the character felt more like a chore than entertainment.

Before you think my feelings only extend to Spider-Man, know that I had very similar feelings when I finally got to see Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns, a film that some critics sang high praises to but for me was a colossal bore…an almost scene for scene/theme for theme remake of Richard Donner’s original Superman but without any of the sense of wonder or fun.

There always exists the danger that audiences might have their “fill” of the superhero genre and this big tent pole features and their equally big investment dollars may finally reach their critical mass.

The superhero genre has had something of a charmed life in recent years despite some bumps in the road, but a couple more “terrible” (in the eyes of audiences) superhero films might just tire audiences of these features and we may *gasp* one day have a summer without a single superhero film.

I know, I know, this is heretic talk, but there you have it.

As with so many things…we’ll see!

A bill of goods…

A couple of days ago I wrote about how Beats headphones were made to appear “heavier” by inserting a few metal pieces into the devices (the metal pieces had absolutely nothing to do with the material that actually made the headphones work).  The reason for this was to deceive customers into thinking that heavier somehow equals better quality when test results indicate the Beats headphones are overpriced and underwhelming.

As obnoxious as it was to find this out, this may well be even more obnoxious:  It turns out candidates for various offices have turned to a “Rent a Crowd” company to fill up their events/speeches.  Why?  Obviously to make it look like whatever rally/speech they’re currently doing look more well attended and, hopefully, will look better in the evening news:


…and it pains me to say this but: Is this really where we’re headed?  Is everything out there, every business and/or sales pitch, some kind of con?

I suppose its always been that way.  We advertise ourselves and/or our products and this makes more and more people see them and, hopefully, consider buying/electing them.

The ends, in these cases, justify the means.

If as a candidate for whatever office you want you have to rent a crowd to get yourself some traction, you hope that it leads to getting actual crowds interested in your candidacy later on.

Similarly, if you have a product you’re trying to sell and you create a TV commercial for it, you inevitably hire actors to show how much they like said product in the hopes that it will sell all the better.

And so it goes.


Researchers have found that…

Listening to Heavy Metal Music May Actually Make You Calmer

…at least according to a study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

While studies like this have to be taken with at least a small grain of salt (there must be some exceptions to the rules, as there usually are), I’m not entirely surprised by the results of this study.

It’s been nothing more than a “hunch” of mine for a while, but I’ve felt that people have to balance their lives in some way.  If you work in a job that involves meeting and conversing with many people, I’ve wondered if in your free time you tend to want to do the opposite and be on your own in a quiet setting with as few people around you as possible.

In my life, this is certainly the case.

Another bit of anecdotal evidence: I enjoy listening to Howard Stern’s radio show, particularly for the in depth interviews he snags out of various celebrities.  For those who have never heard his show, it is essentially a four plus hour long party (one that at times gets quite raunchy) with him at the center of it and various characters and personalities around him.

Listening to him, one might be forgiven for assuming that in his free time Mr. Stern would continue the “good times”.  You would think his showmanship would have to extend to after hours, and he must be the type of person who loves going to parties and hanging around with friends and having fun.  Yet whenever Mr. Stern talks about his free time, he notes how he wants to be alone.  He has stated on many occasions that he doesn’t like going out and wants to get to bed early.  His latest hobby, in fact, is watercolor painting!  Listening to him talk about his free time, one gets the feeling it runs directly opposite to his radio work.

And so we return to the topic of Heavy Metal Music.  Perhaps those that listen to it get their emotions revved while listening to it and that, in a way, uses the emotions up and allows them to be more “steady” afterwards.

An interesting, if not earth shaking, bit of information, if proven true.

Amusing…in a sad way…

P. T. Barnum’s famous line regarding “There’s a sucker born every minute” resonates even today, especially whenever I see a company selling (sometimes a little too well) a product to the masses I may find not worthy of anyone’s time or money.

Don’t get me wrong: In the great supermarket that is this world, there are plenty of genuinely excellent products worth seeking out and buying.  Yet there are times I can’t help but shake my head in wonder when some item becomes “hot” and I just know said product is not worthy of acclaim or attention.

Understand, I’m not some kind of supergenius who uses his x-ray vision to determine what’s good or what sucks.  Quite the contrary, my opinion often comes down to experiencing said product(s) (yes, after stupidly spending money on them) and coming to the conclusion that they do indeed suck.

Which brings me to this article, concerning the Beats headphones:

How Beats Tricks You Into Thinking It Is A Premium Product

This one, as they say, is really personal.

A couple of years ago Target was having their annual Black Friday sale following Thanksgiving and my daughters were both really, really, reaaaaaally obsessed with getting their hands on the “heavily discounted” Beats headphones.  In the end, the wife and I wound up paying something like $100 for each pair of headphones and that wound up being part of their Christmas presents for that year.

I was dubious of such expensive headphones but the girls insisted they were great and that the sale was awesome: “They’re normally priced at over $200!!!” they proclaimed.

Curious to see how these very expensive headphones sounded, after the girls got them I decided to give them a try.  Now, I have a pretty big head (insert appropriate jokes here) and immediately found the headphones were too small.  Not only didn’t they wrap themselves well around my head, the earpiece was also small and, after using them only for a few seconds, I actually felt pain from having pinched ears.

Having said all that, the headphone size didn’t matter all that much: My daughters’ heads (thank the Gods) aren’t as big as mine and they claimed the headphones fit them fine.

So I turned my attention to what was the ultimate proof as to whether these headphones were worth their very high (even discounted!) price: How did they sound?

To that end, I was shocked to find how ordinary they sounded.

For the past three years I used a $20 pair of Sony headphones and, to my shock and horror, the five times more expensive Beats headphones were not only more uncomfortable to wear but they sounded just about the same as my very inexpensive Sony headphones…maybe even a little worse!

My daughters, bless ’em, soon realized they, like many other teens across America and the world, were suckered in by the hype that was the Beats machine.  Not three months after getting the headphones, my eldest daughter’s pair broke (the wire connecting the device to your music player frayed).  She no longer cared to get a new wire (Priced, I believe over $20) and instead was happy to spend that $20 on a newer pair of Sony headphones like the one I was using.  She’s been happy with them ever since.

My younger daughter still uses her Beats headphones now and again, but if hers should fail, I doubt she’ll want to spend as much as she did for another pair and will likely opt for those less expensive Sony models as well.

Which brings us back to the article linked above.  It shows that part of the showmanship in selling Beats headphones is to give them some weight/heft.  It makes the client holding them think something along the lines that the added weight proves there’s more quality equipment inside the headphones.

Turns out that’s a sham.

As the article points out, the extra weight is caused by nothing more than a few unnecessary metal pieces inserted into the headphones’ inner parts.

Simple as that.

For shame, people.

American Gods to become Cable TV series…

Yesterday, this bit of news came out:

Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” Novel Lands Series Greenlight At Starz

Now, at the risk of sounding incredibly petty (and jealous), I have only one question: Why?

In general, I like Neil Gaiman’s writing.  He first gained notice in the wake of fellow comic-book writer Alan Moore’s ascent in the late 1980’s and specifically for his work on the Sandman comic.  Mr. Gaiman would actually follow Alan Moore’s tenure on MarvelMan (retitled Miracleman later on), a book that featured a British version of Captain Marvel (the Shazam! variety) and which was one of the early works of Mr. Moore to explore the “real world” implications -both good and very bad- of a superpowered being living among us.

When he finished the Sandman series, Mr. Gaiman began writing novels and one of the first ones he did was American Gods.

At the time of its release, I was eager to read more of Mr. Gaiman’s work.  So I picked up American Gods and read it and…

Taste, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder.  There are those who absolutely love the novel and I’m not going to rip anyone for what they like/dislike.  After all, I’m one of the very few people out there who actively hated Guardians of the Galaxy while everyone else made it one of the biggest, most beloved hits of last summer.

If that last statement doesn’t clue you into my feelings regarding American Gods, nothing will.  But I’ll say this much: So turned off was I by the novel that I’ve had a very hard time looking in on anything Mr. Gaiman has done since, and this is coming from someone who until that time was really into his work.

As I said, there are those who love the novel and are looking forward to the series.  Perhaps I’ll give it a try and see if maybe I missed out on something when I originally read the book.

We’ll see.

I know I promised…

…but here’s one more really fascinating article regarding self-driving cars.  Written by Matt Windsor for UAB News, it focuses on a truly interesting question regarding this technology:

Will Your Self-Driving Car Be Programmed to Kill You?

Ok, the headline may seem…cheesy, but the ideas explored are actually very serious: What if we reach a point where self-driving cars are the norm and a situation arises where the car has to choose between saving you or other(s)?

The gist of the article is contained in this paragraph (I have put in bold what I consider the most important question raised):

Google’s cars can already handle real-world hazards, such as cars’ suddenly swerving in front of them. But in some situations, a crash is unavoidable. (In fact, Google’s cars have been in dozens of minor accidents, all of which the company blames on human drivers.) How will a Google car, or an ultra-safe Volvo, be programmed to handle a no-win situation — a blown tire, perhaps — where it must choose between swerving into oncoming traffic or steering directly into a retaining wall? The computers will certainly be fast enough to make a reasoned judgment within milliseconds. They would have time to scan the cars ahead and identify the one most likely to survive a collision, for example, or the one with the most other humans inside. But should they be programmed to make the decision that is best for their owners? Or the choice that does the least harm — even if that means choosing to slam into a retaining wall to avoid hitting an oncoming school bus? Who will make that call, and how will they decide?

Certainly this is not a small consideration and will no doubt be a source of great debate in the years to come.

Having read about how the self-driving cars operate, my understanding is they are very slow and careful, essentially “granny”-drivers and therefore, at least in city settings, would find very, very few examples where they might face a “serious” collision.  On the other hand, there are those who speculate that highway driving will allow self-driving cars to operate at speeds far in excess of the speed limit and that self-driving vehicles might form a “chain” of cars not unlike a train to move along highways.  The possibility for something going very wrong in a high speed situation is obviously raised.

Then again, the point may become mute: There are those who theorize the day that self-driving cars become a reality, “human” drivers and cars will be limited to driving only in certain areas.  Some have even speculated that human driving might become outlawed entirely on public roads.  Before you think this is the rise of some kind of automotive fascism, one must also realize that if self-driving cars are successful, people will likely welcome the technology.  All that time you spend driving could instead be devoted to watching TV, reading the newspaper or a book, or talking with friends on your phone.

Further, if it becomes the norm that no one actually drives themselves and, assuming any software glitches are accounted for and taken care of, self-driving cars may be put into a collision situations only on the smallest of occasions.

At least one hopes that becomes the case!

Regardless, the article is a fascinating look into yet another facet of what I’m increasingly certain will be the future of personal travel.

News (for the most part) not related to self-driving cars…

Before we get to them (self-driving cars, that is), we’re seeing great strides in electric car production, with the Tesla Model 3 looking particularly impressive.

The article linked to below offers a rundown of features for the car, most impressive of which is its range (said to be around 250 miles per charge, which is equivalent to most gas powered vehicles) and a list price of $35,000, very reasonable given the new tech:


Oh, and it does have some self-driving features, too…

The Facts vs. David Brooks

I’m very much a “liberal” when it comes to political thought.  I also like to think myself level headed enough to analyze all types of information and, when something runs counter to my ideas/ideals, I hope to be intellectually honest enough to accept cold hard facts versus my own personal notions.  Because of this, I can listen to conservative talking heads and find something interesting in what they say…even if I may ultimately disagree with much of it.

Getting to the topic at hand, I generally enjoy David Brooks when he’s on TV.  Again, I may not agree with all (or even most) of his opinions, but he usually presents his material clearly and not without a good bit of wit and humor.

However, after reading David Zwieg’s article, The Facts vs. David Brooks, I’m finding it hard to justify whatever interest I had in listening to him in the first place.  You can read the article here:

The Facts vs. David Brooks

The upshot of the article is that in recent times Mr. Brooks has been quoted using a Gallup poll to make a point about today’s generation and their need to be “important” versus “humble”.  Mr. Brooks’ thesis first came to Mr. Zweig’s attention via a lecture delivered at 2001’s Aspen Ideas Festival, where Mr. Brooks stated…

“In 1950 the Gallup Organization asked high school seniors “Are you a very important person?” And in 1950, 12 percent of high school seniors said yes. They asked the same question again in 2006; this time it wasn’t 12 percent, it was 80 percent.”

In Mr. Brooks’ book The Road to Character, Mr. Zweig notes that Mr. Brooks wrote the following, which roughly follows what he stated in the lecture:

“In 1950, the Gallup Organization asked high school seniors if they considered themselves to be a very important person. At that point, 12 percent said yes. The same question was asked in 2005, and this time it wasn’t 12 percent who considered themselves very important, it was 80 percent.”

Ah, but note that the second study’s year changed from 2005 to 2006.  I know this is a very small change, but as you read Mr. Zweig’s article, you find this is but the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  For Mr. Zweig searches for the supposed Gallup study (big shocker: there is none) and eventually finds the actual study Mr. Brooks most likely quoted.  In the process he realizes that almost everything Mr. Brooks quoted about it is wrong.

To begin, the original statistics from the article Mr. Brooks most likely was talking about, Mr. Zweig finds, were not made in 1950 but in 1948 and 1954 with the subsequent data coming from 1989.  The questions in the study were asked to 14-16 year olds, not high school seniors.  Finally, the 1989 boys responded 80% to the question while the girls were at 77%.

I can understand if you think these differences aren’t all that and you may think Mr. Zweig is being a tad picky toward Mr. Brooks.

But consider this: Why are Mr. Brooks’ incorrect quotes so important to his thesis that today’s culture is not humble enough?

Because as incorrectly presented by him, Mr. Brooks is leading his audience down a nice easy path of his own making.  By following the logic of his incorrect statement, we are 1) meant to be impressed that we’re dealing with a prestigious poll by Gallup (hey, they wouldn’t lie, right?!) and 2) by thinking the years of the supposed poll are correct (ie a 1950 youth versus a 2005-6 youth) I get the feeling Mr. Brooks wants us to make the leap to say “Of course!.  Today’s generation is waaaaay too narcissistic!  They’re only interested in themselves and their cellphones and their selfies and…

…and the problem is that given the actual year of the subsequent poll, 1989, we cannot say this.  From a technological standpoint, the 1989 generation, when the internet was but a newborn on its baby steps (and smartphones were only a theory), is as relevant to today’s smartphone generation as it is to that of the 1950’s.

And suddenly we realize that Mr. Brooks’ “little” errors maybe weren’t so very little after all.  Why mention Gallup unless you’re trying to bring some prestige to your quote?  Why get the years so very wrong unless you are trying to point a finger at today’s generation?

Kudos to Mr. Zweig for investigating something others -even I- might have just take for granted.