Thursday, December 29, 2005

Further adventures in brilliant lyricism

"And if I show you my dark side,
will you still hold me, tonight?
And if I open my heart to your,
show you my weak side, what would you do?"

-- Roger Waters
The Final Cut

Crap, crap, crap

So, it’s technically Friday, because it’s past midnight, and I’m up, with a burning desire to write, so the Random 10 is coming at you right now, in the third blog post of the evening. Because something is wrong with me.

There is no song #0 tonight, because I already had my entire playlist on shuffle, so I’m starting with the first song that plays after 12:00.

I’m also in a slightly more introspective mood than usual, so look for some commentary on how these songs reflect on my current state of mind, and less frivolous crap from me.

The road to hell is paved with frivolity. And cobblestones. And maple syrup.

  1. Eagles – New Kid In Town – A live version. I’m a halfways fan of the Eagles – some of their stuff is fantastic, some is just kind of average. This is, I think, among the average, and so it sadly inspires no introspection.

  2. Sinead O’Connor – I Want to be Loved By You – It’s funny. I don’t directly recognize the song, but it certainly *sounds* like an oldie, and even though it’s a modern take, it’s orchestrated like an oldie. As much as her political views kind of sent some people running in the 90s, you can’t deny that O’Connor has a helluva voice. And there is probably few feelings as universal as the desire for someone else – someone specific – to love us.

  3. Erasure – Sometimes (Mix) – I actually used to enjoy these kind of dance-y remixes, but now they’re just kind of annoying. And it’s not that I was more prone to dance when I was younger. I was never prone to dancing. I’m tempted to quote something from the song, to aid in my introspectiveness, but this particular remix has almost no lyrics, so the quotate is lacking. As is the introspectionage. Woah, and then this thing just completely segues into a different song, with more lyrics than the song actually included in the title. My brain hurts.

  4. They Might Be Giants – Mammal – Ow, a crappy, low quality, live version. Still, you can’t go wrong with lyrics like, “Mammal, mammal, their names are called, they raise a paw…” Yeah, okay, so TMBG is kind of an acquired taste.

  5. Jan Wayne meets Lena – Total Eclipse of My Heart – After speaking of my general distaste for annoying dance music (barring, of course, “Man, It’s So Loud in Here” by TMBG, which is a satire of annoying dance music) here comes this. An annoying dance version of a legitimately beautiful song. “Every now and then I get a little bit nervous that the best of all the years have gone by.” – Probably one of the saddest and most true sentiments contained in modern music.

  6. Evanescence – Taking Over Me – This sounds like it’s from one of the bootleg albums I downloaded of their earlier songs and demo tracks. Along with Sinead, you can’t deny that Amy Lee has an amazingly powerful voice. Lyrically some of their material seems a little overly simplistic, but their “My Tourniquet” manages to be a powerful look at someone terrified of the great beyond after suicide.

  7. Nirvana – Drain You – An early demo of a song I’m not familiar with, so very little introspection to come from this one. What’s wrong with this playlist tonight? I think it must’ve burned through all the introspection between 11:30 and 12:00.

  8. Dayna Manning – Miracle – Don’t know where this song came from, but it has the same kind of late-90s-post-rock-folk sensibilities that might remind you of Jewel. And it’s also mostly uninspiring. Okay, it’s official, any attempts at letting my playlist guide me into introspection are now officially over and dead.

  9. Natalie Imbruglia – Wishing You Were Here – To completely avoid any attempt at introspection, I’ll simply say that my introduction to Natalie Imbruglia came courtesy of PCXL magazine (kind of a cross between PC Gamer and Maxim magazines) and their inclination to show pictures of scantily-clad pop-culture personalities. Like Ms. Imbruglia. I miss you, PCXL. Rest easy.

  10. Mike Oldfield – Landfall – From the album “Tres Lunas” which is the album that, indirectly, broke my brand new DVD player. Which is a memory that makes me cry. Stupid JVC tech support.

And so there we go. A Friday Random 10, on Friday, though much less introspection than was originally intended. I was up for it. This night had the feeling of the kind of night when my random playlist just hit every song perfectly, matching mood word for word. But that feeling, it would seem, was wrong. Maybe it was just gas.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Right things for wrong reasons, and wrong things for right reasons.

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

And cobblestones, as I like to say.

But seriously...if there is a single cliche that lives, unmarred, close to my heart, it is that one. The idea that we, as fallable human beings, can fuck things up beyond belief in trying to do something good and decent seems very real and very true and very accurate. Hitler, for example, probably had the best of intentions. And thus was his road to hell paved.

Of course, the road to hell is not always paved with genocide. Finding a wallet on the street and taking the cash to feed your family, however hungry they might be, when the money isn't yours, is just as valid an example of how the road to hell is paved.

Of course, if my family was starving, I'd probably take the money. So would most of us.

This is why the cliche strikes such a chord in me. Not because it implies that we're all somehow damned in trying to do something good, but because the struggle to be good people, the struggle to be human, is not something played out only in the largest battlefields, but something played out in the mundane. It is a struggle we face every day, in the minutest details of life. And I believe that very, very much.

It's not what we do when everyone is watching that matters the most. It's what we do when no one else is around. It's what we choose to do when we know that no one else is watching, that is the ultimate judge of our character.

A friend of mine did something stupid recently, and it's not a road to hell kind of stupid, but it's similar, because hew as doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. Or maybe it was the wrong thing for the right reasons.

Either way, it was dumb.

Not to say that I couldn't understand why he did it. I could. In a way, I think I understood it better than a lot would, and I wouldn't even go so far as to say that I wouldn't have done it myself if I had been in his shoes.

But I wasn't in his shoes. And it's so much easier to judge someone else's life than it is to judge your own. And so I can sit here and say that he's a fucking idiot, because it's his life and not mine, and I don't have to live it, or live with the choices made.

But sometimes the road to hell is a figurative one. Sometimes we face our own damnation while we're still alive. Sometimes -- in fact, more often than not, I think -- we suffer for our crimes, no matter how good the intentions, while we still walk among the living.

Hold on to nothing

I've had a tough time lately with songs getting stuck in my head for no good reason. Maybe I'm cursed because I missed last week's Random 10, or maybe I've been sleeping badly and my unconscious is using random musical picks to sort out all its issues.

Whatever the case, I found myself Tori Amos' "Space Dog" tune stuck in my head for most of the afternoon, which was kind of weird, and out of the blue, as I hadn't thought of the song or the album it was on ("Under the Pink" if you're not familiar with either) in years.

So, hoping to purge myself of the melody, I loaded the song up and gave it a listen. Musically, it's great fun to listen to, but to be perfectly honest, I've never really got what the song was about. Though, admitedly, I've never really put much effort into studying it.

And besides, it's actuallynot that song that's bugging me now.

While I had my media list up, I decided to fire up some of the other songs from the "Under the Pink" album because, as I said before, I hadn't heard it in awhile. So I started with the first song, "Pretty Good Year" and continued to browse the web while the music played.

And then, out of the blue, came a line that I had completely forgotten about, but which leapt immediately back into my memory upon hearing it.

"Hold onto nothing as fast as you can."

And while the "Space Dog" tune is still tinkling away in the back of my brain, it's those words that have been at the front of it since this afternoon.

I've always thought there was something beautiful and tragic about those words. Something desperately futile. No, not desperately futile, but a desperate struggle towards futility, if that's any clearer.

It seems to me that "Hold Onto Nothing" needs to be a title of something -- a short story, or a novel, or a play, or, well, *something*. Anything. It's been doing its little dance in the front of my brain for most of the day, and I haven't figured out what it should be quite yet, and I'm not hopeful that I'll stumble upon it anytime soon. But there's something there, that meshes wonderfully with where my head is right now. "Hold Onto Nothing" -- tragedy, yes, but if it can somehow be held onto, then at least it's *something* to hold on to.

Someone asked me a few weeks backwhat sort of tone I was looking for in the "Welcome to the Monkey House" exit music, because I was stressing out about what it should be. And my answer was, "Cautiously optimistic."

The hope, perhaps even the belief, that things will improve. But an unwillingness to actually put any money it. Because as much as good things happen from time to time, they happen all to infrequently.

It's funny to think about the line "Hold onto nothing" as being close to where my head is at right now, because I don't actually have any idea where my head is at right now. In fact, in some ways I feel completely lost, like I've stumbled into an entirely new country, an entirely new world, and I don't know if the natives are friendly or just waiting for the chance to carve out my spleen and have a feast.

Which reminds me of another lyric, actually, from Oingo Boingo's "Lost Like This."

"I've never been lost like this, but I wouldn't be happy anywhere else."

Which, I guess, is kind of a stretch, because I wouldn't say that I'm particularly happy in this place, wherever it is, but the funny thing is that I wouldn't say that I'm particularly unhappy either. Not particularly bitter or jaded or cynical. Not particularly much of anything, either, really. I just kind

I've been thinking a lot about fragments in the last few days, because I'm thinking of cobbling together a bunch of chunks of my other writing into a series of monologues for a one act play, and after some struggling with a prospective title, I think "Fragments" is what I've finally ended up on. Which is appropriate, because I had, at one time, considered using the same title on any collection of short stories I might eventually publish. Because most of my stories -- and, in their own way, shorter selections from those stories or novels -- kind of come off like fragments. Like little pieces of someone's life that you can peek into for a few minutes, or a few hours.

But I've been thinking about fragments in relation to life in general as well. Thinking about how, as much as some people like to say that it's the journey and not the destination, it's just as true that sometimes it's the little pit stops along the way too. That it's not really about getting from point A to point B, nor is really about how you get from point A to point B, but rather everything that happens along the way, whether or not you ever actually get to point B.

It's these little moment, the little memories, the fragments, that make up a life. The little things that seem so insignificant when they're happening, but suddenly come to mean everything six months or a year or 10 years down the road.

God, this post is all over the map. Probably in part because I haven't posted in so long, but just as likely that my brain has been playing ping pong with a 1,000 different ideas for the last few days. My vacation has turned in to "God, it's nice to have nothing to do," to "Well, there's nothing to do, so let's think about every bloody thing under the sun, in an effort to make sense of it all."

Thanks, brain. I owe's ya one.

I guess I'm also all over the map because, to get back to the reason I started this in the first place, I'm trying to fumble my way around the idea of "Hold onto nothing," to figure out exactly what it means to me, and how I might use it something. I still don't think I have an answer, exactly, but at this point, maybe I have more fuel for the fires of thought.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Random 10 on Friday! Yay! Also Crap!

The only really troubling thing about getting the Random 10 done on Friday (unless I do it at work, where my playlist is considerably smaller) is that it kind of implies that the person doing the Random 10 has no plans on a Friday night. So let’s just pretend I wrote this last night, and through a series of complicated algorithms, managed to ensure that it wouldn’t show up on the blog until today. Whad’ya say?

  1. Apocalyptica – Hope – I’ve been stressed out lately because I haven’t known exactly what to do with the exit music for “Welcome to the Monkey House” but after downloading some Apocalyptica last week, after hearing a coworker playing a few tracks, I think I might finally have that problem solved. I’m not 100% sold on it quite yet, but it’s sitting about 97%, so that’s not too bad.

  2. Pink Floyd – Moonhead – And more Floyd, after last week’s unequalled “three tracks in one night” performance. Though to be honest, I don’t know this song, or where it’s from, but I’m guessing my 18 CD rarity collection which I have yet to listen to in its entirety.

  3. Roger Waters – Shine On You Crazy Diamond – From his “In The Flesh Tour” of 2000, which I was lucky enough to catch in Washington (had to travel a few miles further because the goof didn’t stop in Vancouver). If you ever get the chance to see a show at The Gorge in Washington, please do. It is, hands down, the most spectacular concert venue I’ve ever seen.

  4. The Offspring – Have You Ever – I think they must win the award for fewest songs on playlist, compared to number of times appeared on playlist. Or, I guess, they would if there was such an award.

  5. Depeche Mode – Sister of Night – This song came right at the end of my Depeche Mode period, on an album that I picked up as an afterthought, at a pawn shop, and then promptly lost. Still, this is probably the only song on the album that did anything for me – I remember being so struck with it the first time I heard it that I replayed it three or four times.

  6. Nirvana Marigold – Apparently a rarity, so I’m guessing it’s from a rarity collection that I downloaded and never listened to.

  7. Pink Floyd – Cluster One – And we now have *two* Pink Floyd tracks on this week’s Random 10, a strong showing, but not quite up to last week’s appearances. From “The Division Bell” which was an improvement over “Momentary Lapse of Reason” but, I must confess, still not fantastic to my ears, as I am, and will always be, a lover of the Roger Waters era Pink Floyd.

  8. Peter Gabriel – Signal to Noise – Hands down the best song from his last album, “Up.” One of the best of songs of his career, in my opinion. This one taken from his live album, of which the name currently escapes me.

  9. Linkin Park – Session – WTF? Haven’t I dumped these guys from my hard drive…oh, wait, I actually like this song.

  10. Pink Floyd – The Committee Part 8 – And we have a third PF song for the second week in a row. And it’s one I don’t recognize. Whee!

  11. Elton John – Candle in the Wind (1997 Tribute to Diana) – Wow, what a song to end on. This song (well, not *this* song, but the single off Elton’s Australian live album) was the first single I ever bought. And I adored this song. And while I can’t debate the gesture made in this song, it has always seemed kind of tacky to me.

  12. Sarah McLachlan – Full of Grace – I just happened to queue up the next track while I was saving and posting this, and this song came up, and…well, I just had to add it to the random 10, or 11, or, in this case, 12. Because this song is just too goddamn fantastic. “Pulled down by the undertow; I never thought I could feel so low; Oh darkness, I feel like letting go” – who, among us, hasn’t felt like that a time or two in the past? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Good night everyone!

Monday, December 12, 2005

I thought we were done with this crap being late

So, okay, yeah, it’s late again. The funny thing is that I was up late enough on Thursday night that I *almost* decided to do it right then, just after midnight. Guess I should have. I mean, I can’t actually think of any reason that the “Random 10” absolutely must be done on Friday, except that it’s the day that has been chosen for this particular meme (which, by the way, is a word I hate – if I ever use it here again, you have permission to leave a really nasty comment).

  1. Oingo Boingo – Can’t See (Useless) – I haven’t had much Boingo material pop-up in during the Random 10 so far, and I got tired of waiting for fate to take care of the problem. A nice little song from what would prove to be the band’s last studio album.

  2. Lita Ford – Close My Eyes Forever – I think I downloaded this off Usenet one day, when I was overwhelmed by a very bizarre sense of 80s power ballad nostalgia. Not a feeling that hits me very often. Though, thankfully, not as bad as 90s power ballads…

  3. Nine Inch Nails – Reptile – Though it’s from the brilliant “The Downward Spiral” this song has never really done a whole lot for me. It works just fine within the context of the album, as a whole, but to listen to it on its own is just…meh.

  4. Amanda Marshall – Trust Me (This is Love) – Can’t say I have the foggiest idea where this track came from, though from the looks of my playlist, I apparently have the whole album.

  5. Pink Floyd – Mother – This particular version is from “The Wall (Under Construction)” which is actually the very early, still in development, demo version of The Wall. It’s a weird thing to listen to just recreationally, but if you’re a fan of the band, or a fan of the album, it’s interesting to hear it in this state.

  6. Roxette – Anyone – Hm, I don’t listen to their stuff much, but I guess I should admit that Roxette is a bit of a 90s-music guilty pleasure for me. Except for their phase as creator of mandatory radio-play ballads for bad romantic comedies (a title the stole, I believe, from Bryan Adams).

  7. The Statler Brothers – Pictures – I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but the Statlers were actually one of the first bands I ever heard, off a four-record set my dad. I listened to their stuff for years as a kid, and then tracked down every single song I could remember a few years ago when I was struck by a powerful nostalgia for it. And unlike many things experienced as an adult, I still love this stuff as much as ever did as a kid. Interestingly, a lot of their songs (this one included) seem to involve lists, a trait common to another band I would fall in love with years later – Pink Floyd.

  8. Linkin Park – High Voltage – Note to self, you *really* must clean out your MP3 folder someday soon.

  9. Sarah McLachlan – Black & White – Is it just me, or do most of Sarah’s songs – barring a few exceptions – sound eerily the same. Not necessarily in a bad way, I guess, because they sound good. But just…you know, similar.

  10. Pink Floyd – Stay – Third mention of the Floyd in one Random 10. Is that a record? Likely. I must confess that I’m not quite as familiar with this one as some of their others, as it’s from an album I’ve not spent much time listening too. But even unfamiliar Floyd is still Floyd.

  11. Enigma – Responsorium I – Perhaps not as fond of them (him?) as I once was, I still must confess that most of the work Enigma has done has been mildly interesting at being a little bit off from the norm, yet appealing enough to not alienate its audience.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Something is the gravy the devil makes...

I'm feeling off tonight. Roaming around the house without direction. Tried to sit at the computer for awhile, but that didn't do anything for me. Tried to watch a movie for awhile, but that stopped being interesting after an hour. Back to the computer for a quick e-mail, but now I feel just as directionless sitting here.

I'm kind of tired, from being up too late last night. Kind of foggy from having one scotch too many last night (which likely wouldn't have happened if I hadn't stayed up too late).

I hate feeling like this. It feels almost like there's something I *should* be doing, but even if I could think of what it was, I doubt I'd have the energy to do it right now anyway. I don't even have the energy to write much of a blog post. In fact, I'm mostly just posting because I was sitting at my computer already, with no idea why or what I was going to do while I was sitting here.

I should write something. I should do a character design for "Spiffy the Chicken". I should dig up "Amityville" again and try to get the ball rolling on that. I should finish the middle of last year's NaNo novel. I should get back to work on this year's, so it actually gets finished. I should finish watching the commentary track on "Huckabees". I should read Monkey House again and start planning what I'm going to get people to read at the auditions. There are so many things I should be doing right now, but I have no ambition to do any of them.

I suck.

Back to wandering aimlessly.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

NaNo '06? WTF!?

Good lord, it's too early to be thinking about next year's National Novel Writing month, but that's exactly what I'm doing. What, exactly, is wrong with me?

The little joke I tossed out in my last column -- that writing about a guy who discovers on page one that he's dying, and promptly dies at the 50,000 word mark,r regardless of what else is happening -- is actually incredibly appealing to me. It will likely make for the worst, least satisfying, and ultimately anticlimactic climax I've ever written, but, most important, it'll be fun. Well, at least for me. And that's kind of the most important thing, to me.

I've even found a tasty little subplot to play with -- having the character purchase scratch and wins, obsessively. He'll drop $20.00 on them in the first chapter, thinking, hey, what does it matter if I burn my money on these stupid things, I'm dying anyway, and then will see how long he can go buying more with the winnings from his tickets. Which, thanks to the gods of literary fiction, will carry him through until the endof the book.

Again, a mostly meaningless idea, but something that would be fun to do, and give the character just one odd little tick that'll make him a little bit more fun to write, and hopefully a little bit more fun to read.

Although, really, instead of making plans for next year's NaNo, I really should focus on just getting this year's done. And then getting around to do the editing work on last year's novel, which is desperate need of some.

And please, don't even get me thinking about "The Amazingly True Adventures of Spiffy The Chicken" -- I have enough other projects on the go at the moment. Though, ironically, I'm sure that'll end up being the one that's actually completed first.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Holy crap, it's on time!

Okay, it’s past midnight, but just barely. And it’s not really tomorrow until I sleep anyway, so technically, this is still Friday, if you ask me, so nyah nyah, here’s the Friday Random 10. On Friday. For a bloody change.

  1. Carly Simon – You’re So Vain – This is my mad haxx0rzing song, because it’s number 1337 on my playlist. Which is how you spell “leet” or “elite” if you’re a mad haxx0rz with no basic English or grammar skills. Which, when you think of how cool most of those mad haxx0rz think they are, seems kind of strangely, wonderfully appropriate.

  2. Erasure – In the Hall of the Mountain King – For reasons I would be hard pressed to explain today, I was fairly into the electronic music of Erasure and Depeche Mode in the very early 90s. Tunes by either band still bring a smile of nostalgia to me, though this electronic take on classical piece is not exactly Erasure’s best moment, in my opinion. Speaking of Erasure, I always kind of got the sense that the leader singer danced very much like he had a fish in his trousers. Odd, to say the least.

  3. Moby – The Great Escape – I really like Moby in theory. When I hear his stuff – like now – I tend to think, “Hey, nifty, that’s really unique and creative and kind of pretty.” And yet I never go out of my way to listen to it. Ever. It’s like he manages to be really, really good, without actually being appealing. Which is probably a pretty good trick.

  4. Tori Amos – Bells for Her – Interesting piano sound in this song (assuming it is a piano – it sounds like one, but incredibly muted). From her second album, off which I absolutely adore the song “Yes, Anastasia,” which I now kind of wish had come up on the Random 10 instead of this one. Stupid random songs…

  5. Antonin Dvorak – Serenad i E-dur för stråkar (första satsen) – From my respectable collection of “In Classical Mood” albums. I’m actually a big fan of classical music, even if I don’t really know much about it. Like this song, for instance. Don’t know where it’s from, or why it’s significant. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever given it much of a listen before. It’s from the “Morning Mists” mood, and yeah, okay, I guess it sounds kind of…misty. I guess.

  6. The Orb – Any Colour You Like – Woohoo, a whacked out dance remix of Dark Side of the Moon. Strangely effective, even while be unappealing.

  7. Eurythmics – Would I Lie To You? – A song I’ve never really heard before, of a greatest hits album I probably downloaded for just a few songs. Oh well, it’s just hard drive space, right?

  8. Dire Straits – Romeo and Juliet (Live) – This one is funny, actually, because the song came up in conversation the other day when I was talking about wanting to use a musical take on Romeo and Juliet in the play I’m directing very shortly (Welcome to the Monkey House, if you’re interested – auditions are on Dec. 12 and 14 at the Studio Theatre in Glendale school, but I digress…). In actual fact I was referring to a Tchaikovsky piece.

  9. Sarah McLachlan – Vox – Ah, it’s moments like this that make the Random 10 so much fun. Stumbling upon a song that you absolutely adore, that you probably wouldn’t have manually loaded up any time in the foreseeable future.

  10. They Might Be Giants – Number Three – I love this song. “There’s only two songs in me, and I just wrote the third, don’t where I got the inspiration, or how I wrote the words…” Actually, I think I just love TMBG in general.

  11. John Travolta / Samuel L. Jackson – Personality Goes a Long Way – A conversation from the film Pulp Fiction, part of the Pulp Fiction Soundtrack. I used to think it was a great movie, but I’m beginning to think, in my age and wisdom, and Mr. Tarantino may be just a little overrated as a filmmaker.

Let me just say it again – Random 10, ON FREAKING TIME. Oh yeah!

New Keyboard - Day Two

The toughest part of any new keyboard – particularly if it’s an ergonomic one – is getting used to the slightly different layout of the keys. Which is what I’m currently going through with the new MS Natural Keyboard 4000 (or whatever it’s called).

Not to say that it’s not comfortable, it is. The space bar still seems to be giving a bit more resistance than I’d like, but I imagine my thumb will get used to it fairly quickly. But over and above little issues like that, the design of this keyboard feels like a very substantial change of previous natural keyboards – of which I’ve used three different generations. And it’s not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination. It’s actually quite comfortable, quite…well, natural, actually, in a lot of ways.

But it still feels kind of weird.

I’m disappointed that one of the primary reasons for my purchase is actually not going to pan out. Like I said in the last entry, one of the deciding factors for purchasing this new keyboard was that it was black, and would therefore better match my system. But that wasn’t the only reason. I was also looking forward to taking my previous keyboard, which was only a year old, and using it replace the keyboard on my work computer, which is four years old, and actually quite a grimy mess.

Unfortunately, my work PC – a very, very, very compact Dell computer – has no bloody PS2 port. And, of course, the keyboard I bought last year is a PS2 keboard.

So now I have a quite lovely, if one year old, Microsoft ergonomic keyboard and no home for it. Which is quite a disappointment.

And, gosh darn it, these quiet and slightly squishy keys are still kind of annoying. Why do they have to be so quiet and squishy? This keyboard would be almost perfect if it was just a little bit louder. Why is quieter always better? It’s not! It’s not, I tell you! Just look how hard it is to buy speakers without a subwoofer! Loud is good!

Stupid quiet keyboards.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Silly new toys.

So, in spite of the fact that I only just bought a new keyboard just about exactly a year ago, I just bought another new one. And I'd be lying if I tried to say that it wasn't, in part, because it was black and now better matches the rest of my computer set up (spiffy black mouse, spiffy black computer case).

I'm so far a little torn on the quality of the keyboard. The space bar seems a little troublesome to get down all the way, but that may improve as it gets worked in a little bit. The wrist rest is actually quite comfortable -- kind of a faux leather feel, slightly soft, slightly squishy. The forward and back buttons don't seem to work properly with Winamp, but maybe there'll be a patch for that sort of issue sometime in the future. And the little zoom switch thingy is actualy kind of cool -- something I'll probably get quite used to using in time, unlike the sideways scrolling on the new Microsoft mice.

The biggest downside is that the keys seem to be very, very quiet, which does make for a more relaxing atmosphere of work, is kind of a disappointment. I love big, heavy, noisy, clicky-clacks coming from my keyboard.

In spite of that, it *is* a comfortable keyboard, which is ultimately the most important thing. And it *is* spiffy and black, which is kind of the second most important thing, however ridiculously dorky that might be.