Saturday, January 30, 2010

Lovecraftian stained glass art

This and more at Under Vhoorl's Shadow.

The Flaming Dragon

We worked on my son's pinewood derby racer today.

ADDENDUM: Since I was not in Scouts as a kid,* I didn't know anything about pinewood derby racing. I gave myself a crash course by studying everything available at Hobby Lobby and reading all the instructions and descriptions on the boxes and labels. It would have been cheaper to buy a everything-in-one-box kit, but I thought the car bodies were too "finished" looking. It was a little more work for him to have to construct it from several different packages. The whole shebang cost me about $21, and I could have spent a lot more than that if I really wanted to get fancy. Astounding.

*Someone tried to organize it one summer, and for a few months I was in Webelos. But whoever the organizer was, he/she didn't know what they were doing, and it kind of fell apart. But I still have my old Handbook.

Info bleg

Can anyone recommend a decent printer/scanner that has reliable cartridges that will work as they actually should and not constantly stop working for no good reason?

Also, it can't be an HP. I will never buy one of those worthless pieces of $#@! again.

P.S. Thanks for the link, James!

UPDATE: After adding the P.S. above...
Sometimes I think the internet is making fun of me.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Night Video: Desoto Jones - "Giant Magnets"

Another track from an Amazon sampler of the past year that I like. The video isn't much, just some shots of them goofing around and doing a sound check or something. But the music is there.

The shadow

So at 10:40 this morning I came to a pause and noticed I was casting this rather stark shadow. I was still wearing my trench coat at the time.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Cthulhu: Venture Brothers variation

Just thought I'd post a couple screen caps from a recent Venture Brothers rerun. The flaming guy has opened a gate to Hell, and this thing comes through. Now of course, Cthulhu is not (as far as I know) a denizen of Hell, but the homage is clear.

The flaming guy is the first one to die. The one who opens the gate to Hell is always the first to die. It's basic Black Magic 101.

I needed that

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Impressive

Wired Science has a photoshopped picture demonstrating the size of the Tunguska asteroid crater in relation to the pyramids and the Sphinx. Yikes.

Assuming, of course, that it was an asteroid, and not...something else.

Bad news for the haggis black market

US to lift 21-year ban on haggis:
Smuggled and bootlegged, it has been the cause of transatlantic tensions for more than two decades. But after 21 years in exile, the haggis is to be allowed back into the United States.
I didn't even know importation was illegal.  But then, it's not the kind of topic that usually arises in everyday conversation.

Monday, January 25, 2010

It's a mystery, so far...

I am getting a lot of hits on my post about the Medieval Music album by The Jaye Consort, but none of them show a referring link. Most of the hits are from outside the U.S. Someone must have linked to it, but why no referring link on any of the hits? Weird.

It menas you're gonna die

Scorpions to retire

From their website:
While we were working on our album these past few months, we could literally feel how powerful and creative our work was – and how much fun we were still having, in the process. But there was also something else: We want to end the Scorpion’s extraordinary career on a high note. We are extremely grateful for the fact that we still have the same passion for music we’ve always had since the beginning. This is why, especially now, we agree we have reached the end of the road. We finish our career with an album we consider to be one of the best we have ever recorded and with a tour that will start in our home country Germany and take us to five different continents over the next few years.

We want you, our fans, to be the first to know about this. Thank you for your never-ending support throughout the years!
Although I didn''t follow them closely through the years, they are one of the first of the harder-rock groups that I began listening to way back when, and their Love at First Sting album was one of the first CDs I ever bought (I already had the LP at the time). Their "Still Loving You" is one of the greatest power ballads ever written, imho.

Thanks for the music, guys.

Garish


Well, it's her car so she can paint it any color she wants...


...but man, that is one ugly Mustang.

Surreptitiously photographed at the Valero at Castroville Rd. and Gen. McMullen.

Friday, January 22, 2010

More this and that and a video link

Rough day. I got jumped by a large politically incorrect dog that broke through a back fence and came at me while I was in an alley. Fortunately, it wasn't really that dedicated to a real attack and ran as soon as I took the fight to it. Still, I got a huge jolt of adrenalin and once it wore off I was shaky for quite some time afterwards. I'm pretty sure my invective outburst raised the ambient temperature at least 5 degrees in a 10-yard radius. On the more positive side, according to my notes (I keep a small notebook to help me remember) the first time I ever did that route it was raining and it took me well over 6 hours to do it. Egad, what a horrible day that was. Today I did it in only 3¼ hours. Unfortunately, the split route that I had with it was worse. My notes say that the one time I did the full route it took 4 hours. Today I did the first half and it took 2½ hours. Whoever got the last half today had it easy. It has way too much walking up and down West Commerce and Buena Vista. I guess this was karma getting even with me for having it exceptionally easy on Wednesday and Thursday.

I had to attend a 2-hour "confict resolution for field workers" class this week, also. What a waste of time.

In my opinion, January is far too early for 80-degree weather.

Sony are collectively a bunch of idiots. What do they gain by prohibiting "their" artists' videos from being embedded? Nothing. What do they lose? A truckload of free advertising when a video goes viral. Anyway, here's a cool video I checked out this week by a group called Lordi. This song was part of The End Records Free Sampler of various styles of "metal" which I downloaded some time ago but which is no longer available. It has become one of my favorite samplers and most of it is included in my construction-in-progress favorites list. Click to go to YouTube and view Would You Love a Monsterman by Lordi: a romantic horror story in 3¼ minutes.

In case you haven't noticed, I'm stealing BobG's shtick.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Yeah...

I think this is the best search hit I've ever had.

LOLworthy

Some weapons are not meant to be used at close range.

No, thanks, I prefer coffee that will DESTROY THE WORLD!!!

Taken last October while I was getting gas at a Valero. By the way, has anyone ever had a cup of convenience store coffee that was NOT completely horrible? Because I haven't.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Consummate snark



Make no mistake: I don't believe the system works anymore. It is broken beyond any semblance of repair. But Brown's win in MA just gives rise to too great an opportunity for blowing raspberries. So...pffffth!

via Samizdata

Monday, January 18, 2010

More inconsequential stuff

The kids went to an all-day birthday party today, or actual double-birthday party and I was alone for several hours, which these days feels quite strange and it seems I don't always know what to do with myself. I watched a few movies that I had recorded and wanted to catch up on and took a really long, heavy nap that must be the last of the weekend's "sickishness" wearing off.

Started trying to listen more critically to some of the recent downloads. I meant to post a video as is more or less usual last Friday but I think my weariness from working that day made me forget. So here it is. This is from a sampler of Australian rock that I recently downloaded, and was apparently produced by the Queensland government, which to me seems kind of odd, but there you go. Drawn From Bees call themselves progressive rock, though they don't really sound like the kind of prog-rock I'm more used to hearing (Rush, Yes, Marillion, etc.). Nice vocal harmonies, though, even though I have no idea what the song is about--if anything. The lead singer's hair style looks about 25 years out-of-date, but what the hey. I like the music.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Cats and dogs

I've seen several different links to the UT study about cats and dogs, which I haven't read in its entirety because I consider comparing humans to animals to be about as relevant as comparing humans to drinking glasses*; however, The Lovecraft News Network points out that in his 1926 essay Cats and Dogs, H.P. Lovecraft had already said almost exactly what the UT scientists have just confirmed through scientific tests(!).

Anyway, follow the link for the essay in case you need to add it to your "stuff Lovecraft wrote that probably isn't in very many books" collection.

*For the record, I like both cats and dogs, but for different purposes. I have a cat personality and am a glass tumbler.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Cold

I got totally rained on yesterday, as local readers probably can easily assume already. Working in the cold isn't bad if you're dressed for it. Working in cold, windy rain is completely different. I still haven't found any gear that will keep me very dry for an extended period (like yesterday: at least 6 hours) in non-stop rain.

One of the problems yesterday is that I could never get warmed up. If you've ever had to keep up a fairly high level of activity in the cold you'll know what I mean--but your muscles never get warmed up and you have to keep struggling against cold muscles constantly. It's terrible.

So, even though I slept like a dead rock last night, I'm still pretty much exhausted today and--as I expected--awakened this morning feeling sick. No, you can't catch a "cold" from being cold, you only get "cold-like symptoms." Somehow that isn't much of a comfort.

Last night we watched Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. I got to hear my daughter tell me how the movie is nothing like the book. Exactly like I would have done. Must be raising her right.

Monday, January 11, 2010

It's true, you know...


I have been wholly lacking in the will or inspiration lately to post anything. This pic was inspired by a graphic of similar nature I saw earlier today featuring Keifer Sutherland as one of The Lost Boys (note: add to Netflix queue--the kids haven't seen it yet).

The Nosferatu DVD was interesting. It came with three soundtracks: one by The Silent Orchestra, which sounded all electronic to me. The second was some guy playing the organ which seems more period-appropriate and I think provides a better atmosphere. The third had commentary by somebody whose name I forgot. I haven't listened to the commentary yet, but took measures so that I could listen to it in the future. Also included was some background info on the places in which the movie was filmed, many of which still look almost the same today as they did during filming.

By the way, we caught The Goonies on one of the movie channels not long ago. A seminal 80s film that I had never seen before. We all thoroughly enjoyed it. My son will watch just about anything that has pirates in it.

The graphic above is, of course, an illustration of the Croglin Vampire by Les Edwards. For me, this is one of the best vampire pictures ever produced. It closely adheres to the description of the monster from the first story I ever read about it, while also--I think--obviously finding inspiration from Max Schreck's portrayal.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Saturday, January 09, 2010

"Their precious Hockey Stick"

Cold wars at Samizdata.net:
Meanwhile, the AGW debate has arrived at the same position that the Cold War argument had arrived at in or around about 1970 to 1980. An informed minority of pro-economic-progress critics had won the academic argument against the pro-economic-derangement academics, and word of this victory was spreading. And a particular thing that happened then is starting to happen now, which is that even intelligent layman critics of the John Redwood (and Brian Micklethwait) variety are starting to understand the details of the argument better than even the very smartest of the pro-derangement scientists, of the sort who are still advising governments, or who are still receiving and still trying still to believe this advice. It's not that these "experts" were born stupid, nor that they are now ignorant. Nor is Ed Miliband stupid, even if, what with all the other things on his mind, I suspect him of still being fairly ignorant. The climate science "experts" still know far more mere facts about this debate than John Redwood does, or than I do. It is simply that these people have now said - and nailed their egos to - too many stupid things, too many non-facts, and there is now no sensible way out for them. It's what these "experts" still insist on saying they know, but that clearly ain't so, that is hanging them all out to dry. The science, they keep saying, still, is settled. In their dreams.

I remember when I and my fellow anti-Marxists began correcting self-declared Marxists, who suddenly found themselves as a result on the theoretical defensive, about what Karl Marx himself had actually said. Communism is fine in theory, they then said, retreating hurriedly, but it just didn't work quite so well in practice. No, said we, pressing forward some more, a theory that doesn't work "in practice" is called an untrue theory, a bad theory, and anyone who persists in following it is stupid, and by and by: evil. And so on. So it is now with AGW.

Weather report

Overnight low of 15 at my house. If it wasn't for that $#@! global warming, it might get really cold here!

Friday, January 08, 2010

"Vatican reveals secret archives"

Vatican reveals Secret Archives - Telegraph
The Holy See’s archives contain scrolls, parchments and leather-bound volumes with correspondence dating back more than 1,000 years.

High-quality reproductions of 105 documents, 19 of which have never been seen before in public, have now been published in a book. The Vatican Secret Archives features a papal letter to Hitler, an entreaty to Rome written on birch bark by a tribe of North American Indians, and a plea from Mary Queen of Scots.

The book documents the Roman Catholic Church’s often hostile dealings with the world of science and the arts, including documents from the heresy trial against Galileo and correspondence exchanged with Erasmus, Voltaire and Mozart. It also reveals the Church’s relations with princes and potentates in countries far beyond its dominion.

In a letter dated 1246 from Grand Khan Guyuk to Pope Innocent IV, Genghis Khan’s grandson demands that the pontiff travel to central Asia in person – with all of his “kings” in tow – to “pay service and homage to us” as an act of “submission”, threatening that otherwise “you shall be our enemy”.
But still no mention of that certain accursed tome.

Friday Night Video: Blitzen Trapper - "Furr"



Some neo-folk quite reminiscent of The Byrds and that ilk. Recently added it to my favorites list.

They screwed up

Via Collecting Vinyl Records:
Former Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page has hailed a new range of Royal Mail stamps featuring classic British album covers.

The set of ten stamps, which entered circulation on January 7, features iconic album covers including Blur's 'Parklife', The Clash's 'London Calling' and Led Zeppelin's 'IV'.

Speaking at the launch of the stamps at London's Rough Trade West, Page revealed the irony behind Led Zeppelin's iconic 'IV' album cover.

"Almost 40 years after the album came out, nobody knows the old man who featured on the cover, nor the artist who painted him," he said. "That sort of sums up what we wanted to achieve with the album cover, which has remained both anonymous and enigmatic at the same time."

The full list of stamps featured in the series is:

Blur - 'Parklife'
Coldplay - 'A Rush of Blood to the Head'
David Bowie - 'The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars'
Led Zeppelin - 'IV'
Mike Oldfield - 'Tubular Bells'
New Order - 'Power, Corruption And Lies'
Pink Floyd - 'The Division Bell'
Primal Scream - 'Screamadelica'
The Clash - 'London Calling'
The Rolling Stones - 'Let It Bleed'
Pardon the French, but WTF? Out of all the Pink Floyd album covers that would have made awesome postage stamps, they picked The Division Bell? That isn't even real Pink Floyd. What a crock.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Well, I guess I oughta post something...

I got lucky today and had a route that was all motor...so I wasn't exposed to the weather as much as if I'd had a regular foot route. It was still cold. Looks like tomorrow the wind isn't supposed to be quite so bad; maybe that will help.

I've started downloading a lot of free stuff from Amazon again, getting some interesting and cool stuff with lots of "world" music included.

Those of you who are familiar with my wonts and movie-watching tendencies may be surprised to learn that I have never seen Nosferatu--not for lack of trying. Long, long ago I tried to order the VHS from somewhere (before the internet) only to be told it was permanently out of stock(?!). I have tried to record it from various movie channels a few times--and every time something went wrong and I didn't get it. If everything goes as planned, that will be remedied tomorrow when the DVD arrives from Netflix. Following that will come two other versions with different styles of modern musical soundtracks.

Unless something else happens...

UPDATE: The weather was quite bracing. I felt painfully cold until about 8:00 AM, by 8:30 I felt quite comfortable. Note: For you northerners who want to tell me that I haven't felt real cold, actually I believe I have. The coldest cold I ever experienced was when I was truck driving in North Dakota and the temp was about -20 with the chill factor considerably below that. That night I slept while my trainer drove, and when I stepped out of the truck the next morning (about 10 hours drive southeast of our previous stop) it was 20 above zero. I had the curious sensation of feeling "warm" in 20-degree weather. "If this keeps up," I told him, "I'm gonna have to strip down to my t-shirt."

Note to self...

Dress warm. Fill Thermos with coffee.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Today

Today we buried my uncle, that is, my father's brother. This was my fourth time to have the honor of serving as a pallbearer, all four times for members of that family. After the funeral in Floresville, we traveled way out to Fairview Cemetery for the interment.

Fairview is a small country cemetery in the area of the old community of Saspamco. An odd name for a town, perhaps..it was named after the San Antonio Sewer Pipe Manufacturing Company, which used the red clay found in the area for manufacturing pipes. The town was occupied mostly by employees of the company, and way back when it had its own school.

There isn't much left now except for a few tiny churches and cemeteries. Although "enjoy" may not be the right word, I do enjoy, in a sense, visiting such old country cemeteries.

Today I stood over this very tombstone, contemplating thoughtlessly for a few minutes before we left.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Unusual bumper sticker

I saw a bumper sticker today that read:

SO MANY CATS
SO FEW RECIPES

Sunday, January 03, 2010

That time again...


So it comes that time again when everyone must reflect upon the year past and look forward to the year yet to come. Personally, the demarcation of time from one year to the next seems to me an arbitrary and artificial boundary that is essentially meaningless. But when everyone around you accepts the illusion, it's hard to completely ignore it.

I do have some half-formed resolutions for the coming year, but like wishes, resolutions are best kept secret lest they lose their power. I will say one thing that I'm not going to do.

I'm not going out of my way to improve or otherwise draw in more readers to this blog, because it just isn't that important to me anymore. You can expect more of the same, at about the same frequency of posting as always. Maybe less. Maybe not.

Had some time to waste yesterday so I took my son to Bullfrog Books--our local used book store. He picked up a kid's art book on "How to Draw Pirates" and I found both volumes of the Robert R. McCammon's Speaks the Nightbird. I have not read everything he's ever written, but I have read several of his books, starting with Usher's Passing back in the 80s which made a huge impression on me--it is a sort of update on the modern-day heirs of the House of Usher and tells what "really" happened to the Ushers of Poe's original story. It falls firmly into the horror genre. Most of his books are horror or fiction with a strong horror element. Several years later I read his Boy's Life, which has only a little real horror involved but is mostly the tale of a boy growing up in a small town and it left me with tears in my eyes. A few years later when I read it again, the impact had not lessened. Let's see...I've also read his Mystery Walk which is a good book but not as strong as the other two. I also have The Wolf's Hour (a story about a "good" werewolf during WWII who hunts and kills Nazis) but have not read it yet--it was the only of his books I have that I had not yet read, and was loathe to read it because then I wouldn't have anything else "new" by him. I really need to just go ahead and order all of his stuff that I don't have, because I'm sure I'll enjoy them all. He is one of those writers who makes me wish I could write like him. I made a small start on Speaks the Nightbird last night, and here's one of those descriptions of atmospheres that really caught my eye.
It had been a joyful day for frogs and mudhens. For the human breed, however, the low gray clouds and chill rain coiled chains around the soul. By the calendar the month of May should by all rights and predictions be charitable if not merry, but this May had entered like a grim-lipped miser pinching out candles in church.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

10 more albums #68


Dinah Washington - Dinah '62 (1962, CD)
Gunter Hampel - Spirits (1971, mp3 download)
Nina Hagen - Nunsexmonkrock (1982, LP)
Eurythmics - Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) (1983, LP)
The Dream Academy - The Dream Academy (1985, LP)
Various Artists:
- Buddha Lounge Sampler (2009, mp3 download)
- Nacional Records Sampler (2009, mp3 download)
- Pi Recordings Sampler (2009, mp3 download)
- Veterans Day Honor (2009, mp3 download)
- Verve Vault Presents (2009, mp3 download)

I mentioned before that I had ripped a couple of old, battered Dinah Washington LPs from my late mother-in-law's collection. Dinah '62 is one of her more pop-oriented records, as opposed to some other more jazzier-oriented recordings she did. It doesn't matter which genre this particular album gets pigeon-holed into--I have fallen in love with her voice. I got this one from yourmusic.com not long ago, and am still looking around for good collections of her jazzier stuff.

The Gunter Hampel album was downloaded from Kathleen Loves Music. This is another "free jazz" album, recorded quite primitively according to Fred Seibert's notes. I must admit the free jazz doesn't appeal to me as much as the more mainstream stuff. However, I am liking this one quite a lot. Hampel plays piano, flute, vibrafon (the German spelling of "vibraphone," I assume) and bass clarinet. The two other members of his trio are Perry Robinson on clarinet and Jeanne Lee on vocals, and I think most of the appeal of this music comes from Lee's vocalise.

With Nina Hagen, we come yet again to another instance when I wish I knew what happened to my old Rolling Stone Record Guide, because I'm certain it was the brief and scathing "review" in that book that prompted me to go out and buy one of her records. This one was the biggest hit for her in the United States, and probably the only one that a store like Hastings ever carried. Hagen is a German vegetarian anti-communist operatically trained punk rocker who turned Christian who is--shall we say--"interested" in UFOs. Her music must be heard--it can't be described. She has an extremely broad vocal range and can sing like an angel or a demon. A perfect rip on this one except for track 8 which has one soft pop that I couldn't clear out.

The Eurythmics record was part of one of those "10-records-for-a-penny" deals with some record club in the early 80s. I liked their radio hits, but back in '83 I thought everything else on this record was leaning heavily toward the lame, and my opinion these days has softened only a little. Now I also like another one on here titled "Jennifer." Mostly this is just fit for background music, however, I also really like Annie Lennox's voice. Not a completely perfect rip on this one but pretty close.

I bought The Dream Academy album because of that one hit single which I'm sure you already know. I also bought it on the strength of an interview I read with them, probably in Musician magazine way back when.

The remaining five are all free downloads from Amazon.com, two of which I've already written about.

The Buddha Lounge sampler is a collection of new age/trance/mood music. Perfectly fine, if you like that kind of thing, but nothing that really stands out.

The Nacional Records sampler surprised me, because I didn't expect to like it much. Overall I gave it only a 2, but it gets 6 out of 20 for notable artists, with two tracks (rap) that are only worth deleting. Music is in both Spanish and English, with a wide variety of styles encompassing alt rock, reggaeton, hip-hop, rap, techno and chill. Artists/groups worth mentioning are Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, Aterciopelados, Bomba Estereo, Hello Seahorse!, Juana Molina and Sara Valenzuela.

The Verve Vault collection is really good. I gave it 7 out of 7 for notable artists and an overall 3.6. The music is jazz/rhythm & blues. Artists are Ella Fitzgerald, Astrud Gilberto, Billie Holiday, Antonio Carlos Jobim (an instrumental), the Charlie Parker Quintet (another instrumental), Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington. It's still available but no longer free, and currently sits at a sales rank of 1409 in their mp3 downloads.



Album count: 690.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Friday Night Video: Stroke 9 - Little Black Backpack


Stroke 9 is, I suppose, thought of mostly as a 90s band. Wikipedia puts them in the alt rock genre. Many things happened during the 90s to cause my interests to wander away from feverishly keeping up with rock music,* and this is a band I missed. I only noticed them recently because a couple of their songs were pre-loaded on the mp3 player I bought this past April.

Cool video. The self-deprecating visual punchline knocks it up a few points on my list.

*The biggest, perhaps, was that I got married. But also quite significant is that most of the new stuff I heard on the radio just sucked.

Pizza Pi

This post at Not Always Right reminded me of something from when I worked at a pizza place many years ago.

Someone called to order a pizza, and I answered the phone. It went something roughly like this:

Him: "How big is your medium pizza?"

Me: "The medium is 12 inches across."

Him: "And how big is the large?"

Me: "The large is 15 inches across."

Him: "So how much more pizza is that?"

Me (thinking): Is this guy serious?

Me (aloud): "One moment, sir."

I grabbed the calculator and once again cursed it for not being a "real" calculator--"real" to me meaning a scientific calculator with parenthesis function--and after several seconds spoke again.

Me: "About 63 square inches."

Him (laughing): "And how do you figure that?"

Me: "The area of a circle is pi times the radius squared, so 3.141592654 times 7.5 squared minus pi times 6 squared gives me the difference between the two pizzas."

Him: "Okay...but it's 3 inches bigger, right?"

Me: (pause) "...Right." While thinking: He needed me to confirm that the difference between 12 and 15 is 3?

Him: "I better take the large, then."