What could Apple buy with $100 billion?

In less than an hour, Apple is holding a conference call with the press to announce plans for its vast stockpile of cash, currently approaching $100 billion. What could they do with all of that money?

The most likely (and boring) suggestion is that they’ll start paying dividends to their shareholders. Bolder predictions include buying one of the cellular carriers (can you imagine Apple owning AT&T?) or possibly even Google. (OK, I don’t think I’ve actually seen that one, but I think they could do it.) Or, if they were Dr. Evil, they could hold the entire world ransom.

But let’s have a little fun, shall we? Here are some other things they could buy with $100 billion:

  • A large supreme pizza for every person on earth
  • A new stadium or arena for every team in the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL
  • The entire GDP of Morocco
  • 500,000,000 iPod touches (“iPods touch”?)
  • Over 41,000 of the most expensive car on earth
  • 6,200,000 of the most popular car

Or, they could just give every person in America $320.93. Or pay off 0.64% of the national debt.

December(ists) in March

The Hazards of LoveI’m having a serious Decemberists fest this week, having just purchased their new song cycle/rock opera/concept album/tour de force, The Hazards of Love, a week early thanks to iTunes. On Tuesday I debated buying it now or waiting for the CD, and now I can’t imagine not having bought it.

It’s one of those albums that just seems so perfect, so essential, that I already can’t imagine the musical world without it, and I can scarcely even imagine wanting to listen to anything else. The last time I felt this way about an album was… well, let’s see: when I first heard The Decemberists’ last album, The Crane Wife. (And I even have documented evidence to prove it.)

Well, I loved The Crane Wife, but The Hazards of Love blows it out of the water. If The Crane Wife was the best album since OK Computer, then Hazards has to be the best album since… oh, I don’t know, let’s go for the obvious comparison: The Dark Side of the Moon. I’m not sure if, in this era, an album can possibly leave the kind of indelible impression on our musical culture that Pink Floyd’s masterpiece did in 1973, but you can’t fault The Decemberists for being born a generation too late.

The band performed the new album in its entirety on Wednesday night at SXSW, and it was broadcast live on a handful of NPR stations around the country, including The Current here in Minneapolis. I didn’t get to hear it live, but no matter — you can download the whole thing for free on the All Songs Considered podcast.

Listening to the live version, two things struck me: one specific moment and one general observation. The specific moment is some d-bag in the audience, in the middle of the show, calling for “Valerie Plame.” Sure, that’s a great song, but they’re right in the middle of a freakin’ song cycle, idiot! The general observation: the band’s prog-loving keyboardist, Jenny Conlee, cranked the synths to 11 in concert. Sweet.

Looks like I’m a “Very Us Artist”

The Very Us ArtistsParticipating in the 2008 RPM Challenge was great for a lot of reasons. I got fired up to produce what I think is my best solo album so far. I learned about some great online resources for musicians like Kunaki and INDISTR. I met some cool people along the way.

But perhaps the most exciting thing to come of it is that I’ve discovered the Very Us Artists, a loose collective of musicians and visual artists who collaborate to produce a brand new, “various artists” (get it?) album every few months around a shared concept. There’s some tremendous talent involved, and it’s a wonderfully welcoming environment. The upshot of all of this is that I have recorded a track to be included on the next Very Us Artists album, The Future Is Now. It’s a very cool concept (which, of course, I had to twist in my own way), and I am really looking forward to seeing and hearing what my co-conspirators have come up with. Stay tuned for more!

Reflections on Spring, in the Year 2003

Part I: The Fictionalized Account

Andy awoke with a start. His head was throbbing violently and his limbs were curled awkwardly about his abdomen. What had happened?

It must have been some kind of chemical attack. Andy, disoriented and in pain, struggled to his feet and surveyed the vast, empty landscape surrounding him. The harsh light from above made the entire world look like a blank, white void.

Andy spotted Carl a short distance away. He was lying, motionless, doubled-over. Andy moved as quickly as he could, struggling to coordinate his cloudy mind and malfunctioning legs.

Was Carl dead? There was no time to find out.

One thing was clear to Andy: survival depended on getting out of there, and fast. He tried but found himself too weakened by the chemicals coursing through his body to lift Carl, so as a last resort he fastened Carl to his leg and began to drag the heavy, motionless body behind him.

Andy spotted a large metallic object ahead, and determined it was their best chance for shelter. He made off in the direction of the object as quickly as he could in his present state, but just as he reached it, a huge, unfathomably strange arm reached out from above and lifted the object, moving it away and leaving Andy and Carl, once again, defenseless and exposed.

Part II: Wednesday Morning in the Kitchen

Spring has returned to the Atlanta area, and with it, the other inhabitants of our kitchen… ants.

It is fascinating to watch spring make its first tentative steps in February. Weeks of cold, drizzly days and frosted-over nights break abruptly with a balmy, sunny day. Almost invariably on such a day I will notice an ant or two has come to explore the kitchen countertop, but by nightfall the temperature dips below 32 degrees and the ants disappear again to wherever it is they go (assuming they are still alive at all).

And then, it hits. Suddenly, the nighttime lows are not below freezing anymore. I don’t arrive at my car in the morning to find a thin layer of frost to melt or scrape away. It’s not long before the crocuses, long-disappeared over the fall and winter, sprout once again from amidst the pine bark and bloom.

That’s when the throngs arrive. As abruptly as the crocuses reappear, so do the ants. Scores of them. Long queues of them marching across the countertop single-file. Until I finally just can’t take it anymore and I head to Kroger for some ant baits.

The baits I got this year are a different brand than I’ve used before. I can’t really tell if they’re less or more effective. Maybe they are more cruel and torturous than the old brand. Maybe they just weren’t meant to be placed on the countertops. All I know is, I have never seen the dead and dying, writhing ants under the effect of whatever’s inside those little black deathtraps before.

This morning I went to the kitchen to prepare my coffee, and I noticed a strange, sad, oddly compelling sight. One ant, apparently in some deal of pain itself, but still mobile, had somehow attached one of its deceased (or nearly so) brothers to its hind leg and almost appeared to be attempting to drag it to safety beneath the large metal cup-thing (what would you call that, anyway?) that we keep our cooking utensils in.

Not entirely sure I wanted these poisoned ants to die in close proximity to our cooking implements, I moved the cup a few inches away. The dragging ant stopped for a moment, apparently trying to determine what to do next, and eventually began once again to drag its compatriot toward the cup. Normally my first instinct when I see ants on the counter is to squish them or send in the blitzkrieg of Windex and paper towels, but I felt some remorse for my usual merciless assaults upon the citizens of the ant community. I let the ants be, and went about my business.