January 30, 2010

There is a Wizard and He is Going to Kill You

Filed under: Music — Chris @ 4:43 pm

I just finished reading John Darnielle’s great 33⅓ book on Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality. This bit does a pretty good job of summing up the difference between metal I like and metal I can’t stand:

[Sabbath’s songs were] about witches and devils and wizards and corpses. But there were barely any stories. Not like in Rush songs where if there was a wizard, or whatever, there would be a whole story, like a Robert A. Heinlein book. […] Rush songs they all have big stories and lots of things happen and there is some big meaning. On the first Black Sabbath album, the whole story in the song will be like, “There is a wizard and he is going to kill you,” or “There is a devil and you are the sacrifice.”

It strikes me that this quality, implying a story rather than telling one, is exactly what I enjoy in Darnielle’s songs. Sometimes, you just get a sketch of one crucial moment, as in “Heights” from Nothing for Juice:

When the seashells crumbled in your hand,
You looked up at me.
And the sand shifting underneath your feet,
Softened for you and, incredibly,
The sun went through from the sky.
And I was certain I was going to cry.
But then you reached up and you reached out,
We’d been staring at the water all day.
And then you touched me.
You were golden.
You were giving the game away.

Sometimes you get an isolated scene, devoid of any real context, that speaks simply of powerful emotions, as in “Noche del Gaujolote”, collected on Bitter Melon Farm:

All the birds were sleeping in their perches,
The little wind, swaying birches.
And the North American wild turkey
That your father brought home
Woke up and came towards us.

And the moonlight and the turkey waking up.
And the night air and the moonlight on your skin.
And the moonlight and the turkey waking up.
And the quiet yard and the turkey and the moon.

Darnielle’s critical supporters probably prefer to associate him with Raymond Carver. But Ozzy’s probably just as good a place to start.


January 23, 2010

Iceland Report, Part 1: Reykjavik

Filed under: Not Tech, Travel — Chris @ 12:40 pm

Here we are, just five months since I got back from Iceland, and I’m already prepared to blog about it. First up, some random tips on vacationing in Reykjavik..

  • Be prepared for schizophrenic weather. I’m pretty sure not a day passed that it wasn’t sunny and warm and one point and chilly and wet at another, oftentimes alternating between the two several times through the day. (This was in August. Can’t vouch for the other 11 months of the year.)
  • I didn’t go to Iceland expecting to eat anything particularly delicious—what I expected was to choke down some rotted shark or dried herring—so I was very pleasantly surprised to discover the lamb “boat” sandwich, a delightful combination of thinly sliced grillled lamb, crispy fried onions, various pickles, and the mysterious hlölli sauce (some kind of jazzed-up mayonnaise). You can get these at Hlölla Bátar, right in the center of Reykjavik, or at any number of takeout joints all over the place and they’re always pretty damn good even when they’re not great.
  • Crispy fried onions! They should be on everything!
  • Despite the all-important Bill Clinton endorsement and long lines of tourists and relentless hype from the world media, I’m not sure I’m on board with Baejarins Beztu Pylsur. It’s just a pretty good hot dog, albeit with lots of tasty crispy fried onions.
  • Skip the whale meat. It tastes like environmental exploitation (i.e., chewy and gamey).
  • The Nauthólsvík geothermal beach in Reykjavik isn’t particularly well advertised in the tourist literature, because it is publicly owned and absolutely free of charge. It’s a bit of a pain to get to if you don’t (as we didn’t) figure out the municipal buses, but it’s not that big a deal and it’s worth a trip. Walk South from the BSI bus terminal around the airport. You’ll pass a ball field, a University dorm (or something), and a discouraging shipping container or two. (You could, if you like, go by way of Perlan, which would probably make more sense.) They have a changing room and showers at the beach, with bins for your clothes (no lockers). The beach surrounds a small geothermally heated lagoon—the water is cool to warmish and doesn’t get deeper than 4 or 5 feet. There’s a hot tub built into the beach that spills over into the lagoon, but that seems to be given over to the splashing children. The adults congregate in a long, shallow hotter hot tub up near the changing rooms (though there’s quite a bit of splashing up there too, to be honest).
  • A lot of Icelandic beer is light beer (2.5% alcohol or less)—I think light beer is all you can buy in grocery stores and certain cafes. If you want a real beer, it’s safer to order one of the widely available imported brands, e.g., Tuborg or Grolsch.

[UPDATE] Also, you might be wondering: is the Blue Lagoon a tourist trap? Is it worth the money? Yes and yes! You should go! It’s totally fun!

January 3, 2010

No handlers could be found for logger “bzr”

Filed under: Linux — Chris @ 6:25 pm

This usually just means you don’t have permission to write to the log. Sometimes it ends up belonging to root (maybe because I did sudo bzr in /etc using etckeeper?). Just do:

$ sudo chown $USER ~/.bzr.log
$ chmod 644 ~/.bzr.log

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