Thursday, July 31, 2008


"Man. Logical explanations keep letting me down!!"

See what I mean?

The Olympics and the Antikythera mechanism

From National Geographic:
Though many of its functions remain mysterious, previous research found that the device tracked and displayed the date, a 19-year calendar, and the positions of the sun and moon.

The mechanism even predicted eclipses—though with limited accuracy—using an 18-year eclipse cycle, called the Saros cycle, that was known to Babylonian astronomers centuries before the mechanism was built.

Now members of an international collaboration called the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project have used high-resolution 3-D scans to examine "slices" of the mechanism's 82 fragments.

The scans allowed the team to read previously hidden text inscriptions that showed an unexpected feature: a dial for tracking the timing of the Panhellenic games.
I blogged about the Antikythera mechanism before. For many years it's purpose was unknown, but more modern technology has enable researchers to start figuring it out. The more they discover, the more fascinating it becomes.

Today's rips

I know I mentioned it several days ago already, but I finally got around to ripping Zen Arcade today. You might be scratching your head over the other one.

Well, if you really want all the details, you can look up "Reagan Youth" at Wikipedia. They did not use these images to promote racism, in fact, they used images like this as a means of irony and satire. A dub of this very short (EP) record was tucked away at the end of side 1 of the Zen Arcade tape, because long ago when I made that tape I wanted it somewhere for easy access, just in case, but it wasn't big enough to take up a tape of its own. Back when I bought it, there was no one in the store who could give me any information about it, not even the manager apparently. Back in the 80s I think I knew what was in that Hastings better than anyone who worked there. And yet, they wouldn't hire me even though I applied several times. I remember once I was in there and an older lady, not the generation that you normally saw looking for music in a Hastings, asked one of the drones if they had Handel's Messiah. The drone wiped a gob of spittle from his chin and answered, "Is that a group, or what?" (Note: The spittle incident was added for dramatic effect--otherwise this is a true story). Egads. I showed her which section it was in. "Do you work here?" she asked. "No," I said, "I just hang out here a lot so there will be someone here who knows what the heck is going on." But I digress.

Literally decades went by and I occasionally thought about this record (I hesitate to call it an "album"), and the same questions kept coming to my mind. One: Who the heck were they? Two: How in the heck did they ever manage to cut a record? This record is punk. Nothing else. And not really very good punk, like, say, the Sex Pistols. But apparently they were quite popular in the punk scene, which I observed only as a mildly interested outsider. So now that we have the internet and Wikipedia, I know who they were and how they managed to cut a record. Yet still, one question remains: How in the heck did their record ever end up in a Hastings in Seguin, Texas?

And it was the only one. After I bought it, it was never replaced.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Lost Zombies

Our goal at Lost Zombies is to gather definitive proof that zombies are real and to compile that proof into a feature length documentary film. We are asking the general public to assist us by submitting any proof of zombies they may have. We believe as a community we can educate the world’s population of the reality of zombies and the potential, if not, imminent zombie apocalypse.
Heh heh. Just kidding.
You’re expected to suspend your disbelief while in the public areas. What the hell does that mean? It means, for example, that when you are in an outbreak area you are expected to behave as though the information in that area is factual. We realize some of you don’t believe in zombies and you think this site is a silly place to have some fun. Fine. But please behave as though it is real and maybe, just maybe, when you realize the truth, all this role playing might just save your life. Beware the zombie outbreak.
Lost Zombies is "A Community Generated Zombie Documentary." And they have some cool stickers.

I can think of several places where those would be perfect.

I must recommend this

Dinosaur Comics.

Encouraging, because it shows that one doesn't need to be an artist to create a comic strip. Discouraging, because it shows that one must still write all those clever words.

I've been reading this since Strange in San Antonio linked to it a while back, and it never fails to crack me up.

Utterly bizarre

Readers of this blog are probably not aware (and probably don't care) that some people in Georgia claim to have a dead Bigfoot in their freezer (they say it was shot with a .30-06). They've been claiming that they will show proof that the creature exists, but they keep delaying their date of revelation (right now it's September 1--I think originally it was supposed to be August 1).

A lot of people in the cryptozoo world have been calling them on it. If they have something, why not show it and prove it? Their answer has been to reply with personal attacks against those who publicly doubt them.

And now they have pretty much hit the wall of extremity. They held a book-burning and effigy-burning, replete with profanity and "homophobic attacks."

Those of us who have been following this story are still waiting, still trying to figure out what the heck they're really up to. My question is: why? What could they possibly gain by making false claims to have a Bigfoot body and then slandering authors who have written books on the subject? It doesn't make sense.

P.S. One of them is a Georgia "Only One."

Anyway, Cryptomundo has the scoop, and video.

Something is terribly wrong

The body is made from food and placed on an operating table, much as though in a hospital. You can "operate" anyway and anywhere you want by cutting open the body and eating what you find inside. The body will actually bleed as you cut it and the intestines and organs inside are completely editable [sic]. It's a banquet of Cannibalism. [via Oddee]
Terribly wrong. Not because they eat a faux-body with faux-organs and faux-blood. No.

What's terribly wrong is that we live in a world where it is just fine to show photos of people eating a fake body that contains fake internal organs and leaks fake blood. It's just fine to show a gaping, bloody hole in the fake body with the fake guts spilling out and happy people smiling as they eat it--and yet, the fake female genitalia can't be shown. It must be pixelated, lest anyone be shocked and outraged upon the display of fake genitalia.

Carnage, albeit fake carnage, is perfectly permissible. Yet a clear depiction of undamaged although fake genitals is forbidden. I suppose if they had already eaten that part (out!) so it was no longer recognizable, the pixelization wouldn't be necessary.

I don't get it.

Last night's work

"Only Time Will Tell" by Asia is what I referred to as The Big Synthesizer Hook of 1982. It was just about impossible to walk into the dorm that year without hearing it floating from a room somewhere. Either that or "Thriller."

Steve Vai is another of those musicians who I don't have enough of in my collection. I apologize. All I have is this one (Passion and Warfare), and a record of Flex-Able. Passion was on a recommendation from a co-worker whose opinions regarding music I mostly respected. He also recommended a Slayer tape, which I bought, and I think he missed the boat on that one. Although the actual purchase was interesting, because the store wouldn't sell it to anyone less than 17 years old. I guess it was rated "R" or something. I got carded before I could buy it. I was 27 at the time, so it amused me greatly.

I didn't buy the Asia album until many years after it had dropped off the radar. My college room-mate had it. It got played on the radio all the time. Heck, just about every third room had this album in it when I was in college, so I didn't see much point in buying my own copy. I got it years later, more or less for nostalgic reasons. Also the good synthesizer work.

Seeing rocks

It is understood by the Zen mind that the senses cannot grasp reality from one viewpoint. For example, the Zen garden at Ryōanji, a Zen temple near Kyoto, appears as a few rocks and some sand. The garden begins to make some sense when you realize that from your vantage point you cannot quite see all the rocks. You might also notice that you are picking out only the rocks to look at. Is not all that sand just as important? What if it were all rocks? Would you be trying as hard to see all the rocks?

—from The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi
Many years ago I went through a phase of reading numerous books on Zen, for whatever that's worth. I read Five Rings several years before that. My paperback copy has pages yellowed with age, and was printed in 1982. This may have been one of the first books I read with the deliberate intention of reshaping my own mind, changing how I viewed the world and how my thought processes worked. One of the first things I did when unboxing books from the house move was stacking certain books in a special shelf, and this is one of the books that goes on that shelf (along with the Illuminatus! trilogy), which may give you a rough idea of the kinds of books that shelf holds.

I bought it new, and read it when I bought it. Twenty-six years on now, and it may be time to read it again.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The frog with selective hearing

At Mysterytopia:
A new study found that the frogs have selective hearing, enabling them to listen to the high frequency range when the low frequency background noise of rushing water is too intense for them to pick out the calls of potential mates or rivals. The frogs do this by opening and closing canals in their eardrums called Eustachian tubes to adjust the range their ears are sensitive to.


"In all textbooks on sound communication and hearing in frogs, it is plainly stated that the Eustachian tubes are permanently open!" The discovery, described in this week's issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may help researchers design better hearing aids for humans that can hone in on important frequency ranges.
A cool discovery, for the "we don't know as much as we think we do" category. But I am compelled once again to point out that the correct phrase is "home in on," not "hone in on."

Today's rip

One of my old favorites. I know the Furs themselves didn't particularly care for this album, since it was too "commercial." I like it anyway. A lot of rock bands use horns in various ways, but often the horn only provides a solo through a bridge or fade-out, or perhaps it's the horn that gives a song its hook. I like this album because the horns are more than just a catchy accent or a (perhaps gratuitous) solo; they are incorporated into the overall big sound.

I know the Furs used horns in the same way on earlier albums, but it's on this one that they really nail it, in my opinion.

Next up: the album (by a different group) that provided The Big Synthesizer Hook of 1982. Take a guess, if you want.

Any excuse not to think

SatNav danger revealed: Navigation device blamed for causing 300,000 crashes -
About 300,000 motorists have crashed because of a satnav, the Mirror has found.

Around 1.5 million drivers have suddenly veered dangerously or illegally in busy traffic while following its directions.

And five million have been sent the wrong way down a one-way street.

Katie Shephard of safety charity Brake warned lives were in danger and said: "Anyone buying a satnav must consider whether they can be safe on the road."

Campaigners fear many of the the 14 million users put lives in peril by slavishly following their instructions and also neglecting road safety.

One in 10 drivers with a satnav says following its instructions made them take a dangerous or illegal turn.

Twice as many blame the gadget for making them hesitate on a busy road and lose track of road traffic.

More than one in 50 - almost 300,000 drivers - say it has caused or nearly caused an accident.

Maggie Game of insurance giant Direct Line, which carried out the survey for the Mirror, warned: "If a satnav gives you an instruction that is likely to endanger other road users, ignore it.
I was not aware that satnavs held a gun to a driver's head and made them do anything.


via Wired

NYT declares the death of the cassette

With Say So Long to an Old Companion:
Cassettes have limped along for some time, partly because of their usefulness in recording conversations or making a tape of favorite songs, say, for a girlfriend. But sales of portable tape players, which peaked at 18 million in 1994, sank to 480,000 in 2007, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. The group predicts that sales will taper to 86,000 in 2012.

“I bet you would be hard pressed to find a household in the U.S. that doesn’t have at least a couple cassette tapes hanging around,” said Shawn DuBravac, an economist with the Consumer Electronics Association. Even if publishers of music and audio books stopped using cassettes entirely, people would still shop for tape players because of “the huge libraries of legacy content consumers have kept,” he said.

As long as people keep mix tapes from a high-school sweetheart up in the attic, Mr. DuBravac said, there will still be the urge to hear them. “People have a tremendous amount of installed content and an innate curiosity when coming across a box of tapes to say, ‘Hey, what’s on these?’ ” he said.
I'm surprised they hung on as long as they did.

Monday, July 28, 2008

On boredom

The word boredom did not enter the language until the eighteenth century. No one knows its etymology. One guess is that bore may derive from the French verb bourrer, to stuff.

Question: Why was there no such word before the eighteenth century?
(a) Was it because people were not bored before the eighteenth century? (But wasn't Caligula bored?)
(b) Was it because people were bored but didn't have a word for it?
(c) Was it because people were too busy trying to stay alive to get bored? (But what about the idle English royalty and noblemen?)
(d) Is it because there is a special sense in which for the past two or three hundred years the self has perceived itself as a leftover which cannot be accounted for by its own objective view of the world and that in spite of an ever heightened self-consciousness, increased leisure, ever more access to cultural and recreational facilities, ever more instruction on self-help, self-growth, self-enrichment, the self feels ever more imprisoned in itself--no, worse than imprisoned because a prisoner at least knows he is imprisoned and sets store by the freedom awaiting him and the world to be open, when in fact the self is not and it is not--a state of affairs which has to be called something besides imprisonment--e.g., boredom. Boredom is the self being stuffed with itself.
(e) Is it because of a loss of sovereignty in which the self yields up plenary claims to every sector of the world to the respective experts and claimants of these sectors, and that such a surrender leads to an impoverishment which must be called by some other name, e.g., boredom?
(f) Is it because the self first had the means of understanding itself through myth, albeit incorrectly, later understood itself through religion as a creature of God, and now has the means of understanding the Cosmos through positive science but not itself because the self cannot be grasped by positive science, and that therefore the self can perceive itself only as a ghost in a machine? How else can a ghost feel otherwise toward a machine than bored?

--from Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book by Walker Percy
I am not a "self-help book" kind of person. But then this is not really a self-help book. I like it because it's one of those books that presents a lot of questions, but no answers. You have to provide the answers yourself. Somewhere along the line, you might learn to think about things in a different way. Life changing? No. But entertaining and perhaps at least a little enlightening? Yes.

I'm gunning for the Buddha

Eureka! Hard to believe that a 20-year-old tape dub still sounds this good. I had some good equipment back then, and it seems that I really knew what I was doing.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Offered without comment

Article here.

via BobG

Church shootings

The Copycat Effect reports that there were two church shootings. Just a couple of more examples for your "yes, I do have a good reason" files.

All caught up

I still had four albums that I had recorded in the past few days, but had not yet broken them up into individual tracks and tagged them. So, I caught up with that today.

Already talked about Hüsker Dü. In the Court of the Crimson King is the only King Crimson album I have. I got that one because my college room-mate had a very old and battered LP of it, so eventually I bought a newer print of the LP. A fantastic album, in my opinion, but then a lot of people say that. "Epitaph" from side 1 is one of my favorite songs. "The fate of all mankind I see/Is in the hands of fools." Yep, that about sums it up. Greg Lake does a much better job working for someone else--as he does on this album--rather than being solo. When he goes out on his own, he can write some remarkably stupid lyrics.

The Psychedelic Furs...hmmm...I'm trying to recall exactly how I got into them. I think I bought the first one unheard. The first one for me would have been Midnight to Midnight when it was released in 1987. I think I had a read about it in a magazine, probably Musician (I never subscribed to Rolling Stone). The writer had talked about how they incorporated horns into their sound on this album, that was what had interested me. It's still one of my favorite albums. From there I went mostly back to their earlier stuff, which is very different, but still pleasing to my ear for its punkishness (when I'm in that kind of mood). One reason I like the Furs is because they started out as punks who eventually became real musicians by sheer force of willpower. Their bass player chose bass in the beginning because it only has four strings so he thought it would be easier to play. Heh. So he said in a magazine interview I read many years ago. I used to use that line on a bassist I knew just to yank his chain.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Roll for SAN

Up until this moment I had never even thought about Cthulhu's crotch. Pardon me if I begin to gibber mindlessly.

via Under Vhoorl's Shadow

The Songs of Benedikt-Beuren

In 1803 a scroll of medieval poems was discovered in the German province of Bavaria among the debris of the secularized monastery of Benedikt-Beuren ("BURANA").

These lyrics, written primarily in Latin, were determined to be the work of renegade monks and wandering poets of the 13th Century. Their words captured a lost world of rebels and dropouts of the medieval clergy; hard lovers, drinkers, on the move, celebrating existence rather than living the meditative, celibate, cloistered life of the monastery.

In 1935 German comoser Carl Orff re-discovered the poems. Impressed with their meaning and rhythm he composed a catata utilizing the centuries old verses. He transformed the writings into invocations and profane chants accompanied by numerous instruments and magical representations.

--from the liner notes of Carmina Burana
Recorded in 1983, but I didn't find this tape until several years later. At the time I had never heard of Carmina Burana. I was only thinking, hey, something by Ray Manzarek, I'll buy it. What's left of the sticky label on the box looks like the kind of sticker Hastings used to use back in the 80s.

Well, Carmina Burana is a re-interpretation of ancient songs and poems by Carl Orff, and this Carmina Burana is another step of re-re-interpretation by Ray Manzarek, previously of the Doors. Interesting, and I think 'twould be more interesting still if I had an English interpretation of the lyrics.

The sound quality is still amazingly good for a 25-year-old cassette.

Ask, and it shall be given: Carmina Burana with English translation. Here is "O Fortune."
O Fortune, like the moon of ever changing state, you are always waxing or waning; hateful life now is brutal, now pampers our feelings with its game; poverty, power, it melts them like ice.

Fate, savage and empty, you are a turning wheel, your position is uncertain, your favour is idle and always likely to disappear; covered in shadows and veiled you bear upon me too; now my back is naked through the sport of your wickedness.

The chance of prosperity and of virtue is not now mine; whether willing or not, a man is always liable for Fortune's service. At this hour without delay touch the strings! Because through luck she lays low the brave, all join with me in lamentation!


This is the kind of thing I've been looking for. I still have some things to smooth out, and I still need to rearrange the sidebars. I wanted to get the main column on the left and both sidebars on the right. Is it too garish? Are there any problems loading it?

The other H.P. Lovecraft

When was it that I read there was a group called H.P. Lovecraft? I don't remember. But if I recall correctly, it would have been more than 20 years ago and I went to Sundance Records in San Marcos to ask about them. They didn't have any of their albums in stock, but, the guy said, "I can probably find you one." I also seem to remember him warning me that it might be a little more expensive than the usual LP because of its vintage and relative scarcity. But it couldn't have been too expensive, because I did end up buying it.

So, is their self-titled first album from 1967 really weird and horrific and all that? No. H.P. Lovecraft were an acid rock band but was formed by people with roots in folk, and their skills (especially their vocals) are a little more polished than some of the other acid groups who were really punk before punk was called punk. (This was cool, because back then I was sort of half-assedly collecting psychedelic rock albums--and even bought a book on the subject). This was their first album, and it's made up mostly of covers. But the arrangements are quite original. There's an oddly syncopated version of "Let's Get Together" that sounds like the rhythms may be at least a little non-Euclidian. It also has a version of "Wayfaring Stranger" that has some unusual vocal harmonies. This is one of my favorite old folksongs/spirituals/whatever, and sometimes when I sing it to myself I've been hearing this harmony in my head, having forgotten where I originally heard it. So it was a nice surprise to hear those notes and remember where they came from.

There's one song on this album based on an HPL story: "The White Ship." It runs an epic 6:30+, back when three minutes was considered long for a song. They did four albums all told, but the record store guy couldn't find any of the others back then. I never really bothered to hunt for any of them later on.

Instrumentation is typical for the era and genre: guitars, drums, an organ. A harpsichord is also used for "The White Ship," unless my ears are deceiving me.

Friday, July 25, 2008

I did not know this

Got an email from Amazon since I've purchased an mp3 or two from them. I learned that they have a lot of songs free for download. Most of the artists I've never heard of, but in the queue right now are "Take A Break Guys" from A Swingin' Christmas by Brian Setzer and "Paralyzed" from Body of Song by Bob Mould.

Mould was another member of Hüsker Dü. Ostensibly the "leader," (guitar and vocals) because he wrote most of the songs and therefore sang lead most of the time. Grant Hart was the drummer (and occasional vocalist) but could also play keyboards some, but back when they were a group (the third member was bassist Greg Norton), the record label didn't think keys were good for their "image," so they didn't let them record much that included piano or organ. Hart's Intolerance that I digitized yesterday has plenty of organ.

Hüsker Dü was one of my favorite bands back in the 80s. They never got so-called "mainstream popular," and they didn't play the kind of music that made it onto many radio stations back then. You know what I mean. I think maybe KISS in S.A. played a couple of their songs way back when. I got to know them via a co-worker who was big fan.

Anywho, Mould went on to form the group Sugar after Hüsker Dü broke up. I never got any Sugar albums, but I do have two of his solo albums. I like them both. I was pleased to discover my old cassette of Hüsker's Metal Circus when I was going through tapes the other day, but somehow I apparently managed to lose the original box with the cover photo. I'll have to check my records again, but I don't think I ever acquired Candy Apple Gray. I do have Zen Arcade (double LP), New Day Rising (LP), Flip Your Wig (LP), and Warehouse: Songs and Stories (CD). Until I just now checked their discography, I had never heard of their first LP Everything Falls Apart. Huh. The only two Mould solo albums I have are Workbook and Black Sheets of Rain. I remember a brief period of working at the pizza restaurant back when Rain came out, and everyone who worked in the kitchen was "cool." I brought in a jambox that played CDs and we listened to that album over and over. No bland, mainstream pop music for a few months, miraculously.

UPDATE: "Take a Break Guys" is an instrumental version of "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen." From the Brian Setzer Orchestra, with lots of improvisation and screaming guitar.

Turns-ons include...

Eating brains, lumbering on the beach, and eating brains.

Did I mention brains?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tron humor!

At xkcd.

The staggering butterfly

Time passed, quite a lot of time. I stuck a cigarette in my mouth but didn't light it. The Good Humor man went by in his little blue and white wagon, playing Turkey in the Straw on his music box. A large black and gold butterfly fishtailed in and landed on a hydrangea bush almost at my elbow, moved its wings slowly up and down a few times, then took off heavily and staggered away through the motionless hot scented air.
--from The High Window by Raymond Chandler
In trying to keep up my practice of book-blogging on the other blog which will soon be defunct, here's another quote from Raymond Chandler. A few paragraphs before this one there was a strange word I had never seen before and had to look up: deodar, which means "A tall cedar (Cedrus deodara) native to the Himalaya Mountains and having drooping branches and dark bluish-green leaves, often with white, light green, or yellow new growth in cultivars." [Free Dictionary]. The High Window starts out with Marlowe describing the hot, oppressive atmosphere of the day. The butterfly taking off heavily and staggering away is a perfect accent for the surroundings and the weather he was describing.

And what is it with Turkey in the Straw and ice cream trucks? A universal phenomenon, apparently. Remember The Believers? I don't think it was that song that the ice cream truck was playing at the beginning of that movie, but when I heard that music and saw that truck creeping over the hill I got a serious case of the shivers. That was the scariest part of that whole movie.

I think this is also the story in which Chandler (as Marlowe) describes a woman as having "a face like a bucket of mud." That's one of my favorite descriptions of all time. Short, succinct and unusual, yet you know immediately what he's talking about. It's another line that I've always remembered.

I know how to keep myself between the drops...

I was going to digitize the Grant Hart tape next, but then I saw another tape on the stack that I haven't heard in years and had to rip it.
I was never a big Stray Cats fan. But then I didn't dislike them, either. I don't have any of their albums, but every now and then I think I should get them just for kicks.

I think I probably bought this LP in 1986 because it was being played at the record store I was haunting at that time. Either that or I had seen the video on MTV (back when they didn't suck so bad). It's the only Brian Setzer album I have, and once again, I keep thinking I should get some of his "Orchestra" albums, because I like everything I've heard by him. He does a really cool guitar version of that Christmas classic "Sleigh Ride." I had downloaded an mp3 of it once, but that was one of the files I lost in the crash a couple of years ago.

The Knife Feels Like Justice is another of those albums that I can easily say is one of my favorites, regardless of genre. There might be a couple of not-quite-so-strong songs on it, but it's still a great album, overall.

I think Brian Setzer doesn't get as much credit as he should. It seems like a lot of people I've known just sort of dismissed him as "that Stray Cats guy." Their mistake.


Well, I hope no one else had to spend 4 1/2 hours getting drenched today. It was hard to believe, but it actually got worse right after I finished. It wouldn't really have mattered. I couldn't have gotten wetter if I'd been dunked in the creek. We lost an hour this morning because we had to have a "meeting." I hate meetings. We lose an hour to get 30 seconds worth of information. It was good information, though. We're getting about a $20 increase in our gas allowance.

Next album up for digitizing:
A Grant Hart solo album. He used to be one of Hüsker Dü. I only have the cassette. If I had the LP, it would be worth something. Currently going for $50 used at Amazon. Even the used cassettes are bringing around $10.

Zatarain's jambalaya with Holmes Smokehouse pecan-smoked sausage for supper tonight.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Random 10

Just because I haven't done it in a while. Load the entire My Music folder in Winamp, randomize, and here's the first 10.

David Parsons -- They Come
Cake -- You Part the Waters
Robert Miles -- Fable (club version)
Choir of the Moine et Moniales -- Dicite Pusillanimes (Communion of the Third Sunday)
Stevie Nicks -- Long Way To Go
R.E.M. -- King of the Road
Edie Brickell & New Bohemians -- Keep Coming Back
Suzanne Vega -- Pilgrimage
Husker Du -- Up In the Air
Louis Armstrong -- St. Louis Blues

I really enjoyed the cooler temperatures today. This is the first day this week that I haven't had to fight falling asleep by 8:00 PM. I'll probably get rained on tomorrow, though.

%^&* it

I'm just going to keep the current template. I'll be rolling some old posts from the other blog into this one, dating them with the original post dates. So if you're reading this via RSS, you might see some older dated posts show up. Otherwise, you probably won't notice anything. I'm going to have to clean up the sidebars some, though.

Your News IQ

The Pew Research Center has an online News IQ Test. I scored 91%, missing 1 out of 12. As usual, they didn't tell me which one I missed. I think compulsive bloggers and blog readers will probably tend to score higher on this than the average shmuck.

Get it on a shirt has band geek hero t-shirts. They even have a cowbell.


Mental Floss has 10 Weird Ways to Predict the Future. I prefer #5. Tyromancy doesn't work too well around here, since we tend to eat our medium before anyone can predict anything.

[Swagomancy! Get it?]

I didn't dream it

Last night I went to sleep watching a documentary about the Roman Empire on the History Channel. Something momentarily almost snapped me out of my lethargy. I remember thinking something like, "what? wow! is it...I'll look it up in the morning."

So I looked it up. From Peter Weller's bio at imdb.
He teaches a literature and fine arts class at Syracuse University. He can be seen on The History Channel's new documentary on Roman engineering.

He holds a master's degree in Roman and Renaissance art and is working toward a Ph.D. One of Syracuse University's most popular professors.
He is also a jazz pianist and trumpeter, and he graduated from Alamo Heights HS!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Another nothing post

I'm going to delete the book blog and roll all its contents over into this one, and continue with my book-related blogging as I have been, but on this blog. I'm working on a new template. So, probably not much will be going on here until I get the template hacked out.

The oldest known "vampire" grave

A 4,000-year-old grave has been unearthed at an archaeological dig in Bohemia that looks like whoever buried him thought he was a vampire:
During their explorations, archaeolgists in charge of the dig found the grave of a man whose skeleton showed the unmistakable tell-tale signs that his community had believed him to be a vampire and carried out certain specific rituals designed to keep the corpse in its grave after death.

On opening the grave, which was set well apart from others nearby, the archaeologists found that the skeleton had been weighted down to prevent it returning to haunt the living.

The only people in Europe to carry out such rituals on suspected vampires were the ancient Irish. The Irish kingdom of Dalriada stretched from present-day Northern Ireland into western Scotland.

Radko Sedlacek, the curator of the East Bohemia, Museum said: "Fearing that he might return from the grave, the dead man was sent on his final journey weighed down with a huge stone on his chest and another one on his head. Only the bodies of people believed to be vampires were given such treatment."
So the vampire myths and the necessary measures to deal with them were already firmly established four thousand years ago.

Monday, July 21, 2008


I've had Weather Underground as my start-up page for a long time, like years, and this is the first time I've ever seen them note the name of a hurricane in the forecast.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Saxophone Songs

I made a quick run through my mp3 collection and picked out some songs to start the collection.

Quarterflash -- Harden My Heart
Gerry Rafferty -- Baker Street
Dan Fogelberg -- Same Old Lang Syne
Frozen Ghost -- Should I See
Kate Bush -- The Saxophone Song
Nena -- ? (Question Mark Song)
Alan Parsons Project -- Don't Answer Me
Styx -- Why Me?

I know Styx has some other songs with a sax part, but that's the only one I could remember offhand. Psychedelic Furs also have at least a few, but I don't have them all converted to mp3 yet. I know that one of the Hawkwind guys played sax, but I don't think their sax is all that prominent. Everything tends to meld together into a sort of single, cohesive big sound with them. And then of course there's Captain Beefheart. I have a CD of "Trout Mask Replica," but boy, it's been a while since I listened to it.

The collection I'm aiming for are pop songs (or rock, or perhaps even country) that have a sax part. Suggestions are welcome. I'm sure I have some that I've forgotten about.

Busy weekend...

I have been busy digitizing some old cassettes. They still sound good and it's nice to hear them again after so long. In order, above:

1. Kitaro -- Astral Voyage
2. Hawkwind -- Choose Your Masques
3. Hawkwind -- The Xenon Codex
4. Hawkwind -- Anthology Vol. I
5. Hawkwind -- Anthology Vol. II
6. Hawkwind -- Anthology Vol. III

Next in line are Kitaro India and Chuck Mangione Feels So Good.

I also did a few Alan Parsons Project albums during this past week. One of my favorite songs, regardless of group or genre, is Alan Parsons' "Don't Answer Me." I can listen to it over and over again.

If you believe in the power magic,
I can change your mind
And if you need to believe in someone,
Turn and look behind
When we were living in a dream world,
Clouds got in the way
We gave it up in a moment of madness
And threw it all away

Don't answer me, don't break the silence
Don't let me win
Don't answer me, stay on your island
Don't let me in

Run away and hide from everyone
Can you change the things we've said and done?

If you believe in the power of magic,
It's all a fantasy
So if you need to believe in someone,
Just pretend it's me
It ain't enough that we meet as strangers
I can't set you free
So will you turn your back forever on what you mean to me?

Don't answer me, don't break the silence
Don't let me win
Don't answer me, stay on your island
Don't let me in

Run away and hide from everyone
Can you change the things we've said and done?

If I ever get around to creating a mix collection of pop songs with a prominent saxophone part, it will be there.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Not much motivation today to say anything profound. That reminds me.

I watched the edited-for-TV version of one of those Resident Evil movies on the Sci-Fi channel a few days ago. You know, I get a real kick out of watching R-rated movies that have been edited for TV. The Die Hard movies are especially hilarious. I noticed they were showing Blue Velvet on the Chiller channel this past week; I can't imagine how they edited it ("Here's to forks, Frank!"). Okay, maybe I can imagine it a little. Anyway, in the Resident Evil movie the word of the day was "motivate." As in, "You motivators better get your motivatin' guns outta my face!" Oh man, it cracked me up. The first time it happened I had to rewind a few seconds and play it again just to make sure I heard it right.

Today I worked a volunteer Saturday. There's this really sleazy-looking run-down apartment, two apartments actually, but one is either vacant or without water, there's only one meter there now anyway. It's on Castroville Road just down from the intersection with General McMullen. As I was reading the meter, I heard someone shout, "What, or should I say who, the hell are you?!" I snapped back with "What?" I couldn't believe what I had just heard. "I SAID, WHAT, OR SHOULD I SAY WHO, THE HELL ARE YOU?!"

So I told him. I don't think my tone of voice was especially polite, but my immediate reaction was that this was a goon who really should be beaten to a bloody pulp. So you know when someone is acting tough and they get a legitimate answer for which they have no reply, so they glare at you really hard to make you think you're about to get your ass kicked? That's what he did. I guess my wearing a work uniform and ID badge and carrying a meter hook and a handheld computer wasn't good enough for him.

So I laughed. I laughed as I walked away, glanced back once to see him still glaring, and laughed again. The goon kept staring at me as I crossed the street and got a drink of Gatorade, and kept watching me until I was out of sight on the next street.

I finished up right across the street from him, and he came out and stared at me again as I loaded up my stuff in my pickup. Then I sat there and carefully packed my pipe. He could see me doing something in my lap as I sat in my truck, which I'm sure drove him even crazier. I grinned at him around my pipe as I drove away.

We have an instruction code that we can put in the handheld that says "CUSTOMER IS IRATE." Today was yet another time when I wished we had a code that says, "CUSTOMER IS A TOTAL SH*THEAD."

Otherwise, a good day though. About 3 1/4 hours of actual work for 8 hours of overtime. And I only had to fight two loose street dogs, which is pretty good for that part of town. Then I zipped up to a tire shop a couple blocks up General McMullen to get a tire patched. Their service was great, even for a little tire shop. One of their guys was at my truck almost before I had stopped. I don't remember the name of the place, but it's the only tire shop I know of in that stretch of the road, between Castroville and Commerce. I recommend it if you ever have a flat in that neck of the woods.

Ghost Towns

Oddee has a some info and poignant photos of 10 Most Amazing Ghost Towns. The above photo is from Kolmanskop, which is being reclaimed by the Namibian desert where it was built 100 years ago as a diamond-mining town. This photo strikes me as being both sad and beautiful, like an unfinished painting by Dalí. Doesn't it?

Also interesting was the city of Kowloon, which was abandoned by both the Chinese and British governments, and apparently taken over by squatters. It became a wretched hive of scum and villainy until it was torn down in 1993 by China and Britain.

Ground Control to Major Tom

Fortean Times has a fascinating article about two Italian radio enthusiasts who may have recorded the deaths of some early Russian cosmonauts. Go read Lost in Space:
There are those who believe that somewhere in the vast blackness of space, about nine billion miles from the Sun, the first human is about to cross the boundary of our Solar System into interstellar space. His body, perfectly preserved, is frozen at –270 degrees C (–454ºF); his tiny capsule has been silently sailing away from the Earth at 18,000 mph (29,000km/h) for the last 45 years. He is the original lost cosmonaut, whose rocket went up and, instead of coming back down, just kept on going.

It is the ultimate in Cold War legends: that at the dawn of the Space Age, in the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s, the Soviet Union had two space programmes, one a public programme, the other a ‘black’ one, in which far more daring and sometimes downright suicidal missions were attempted. It was assumed that Russia’s Black Ops, if they existed at all, would remain secret forever.

The ‘Lost Cosmonauts’ debate has been reawakened thanks to a new investigation into the efforts of two ingenious, radio-mad young Italian brothers who, starting in 1957, hacked into both Russia’s and NASA’s space programmes – so effect­ively that the Russians, it seems, may have wanted them dead.
There is still a lot of speculation, but it is fascinating, nonetheless.

Commentary on Dagon by Fred Chappell

Does anyone besides me think this book sucks? I don't mean it sucks in a good way, by being a book that's so bad it's fun to read. I mean a book that totally and completely, without any equivocation, sucks. In fact, I'm going to have to create a brand new category and this book is going to be first thing to go in it: BOOKS THAT SUCK.

"A novel of blinding terror." Pffft! It should say, "A novel of unimaginably stupifying boredom." Except I don't have to imagine it. I read it.

Here's what happens:

This guy marries this woman he has the hots for, because she totally dominates him and that's the kind of sex he's always wanted but never had. Once they're married, the sex stops, for him anyway. But still he sticks around like a total wuss, even though she's messing around with some other guy right in front of him, on the slight chance that someday she may deign to once again perhaps have sex with him. Maybe. Yes, he sticks around, although the woman treats him like **** and is a flat-chested, chinless fish-face. No offense to flat-chested, chinless, fish-faced women who by the way aren't entirely technically human and who just might have been born in an obscure town on the coast of Massachusetts, but come on, my disbelief can be suspended only so far. So anyway, eventually he goes totally bat-spit insane.

There. Now you don't have to read it. You may feel free to thank me.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Interesting book

I just did a crosspost on both of my other blogs about an online book that looks to be quite interesting, called All About Tobacco. Written by a tobacco industry insider and published in 1970. It includes information about how tobacco is handled, processed and flavored; how pipes, cigarettes and cigars are made, and other stuff. Some of the manufacturing information might be dated by now; I'm sure technology has changed since then.

Anyway, check it out if you think it might be of interest, here or here.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Politics: 'twas ever thus

Some of the customs and attitudes of the times also operated to the advantage of the gentry in elections. The practice of treating the voters excluded a poor man from candidacy for the simple reason that he could not afford to buy meat and drink for the voters in the large quantities that were expected. Samuel Overton of Hanover County estimated that his expenses for two elections amounted to £75.25. George Washington spent about £25 on each of two elections, over £39 on another, and approximately £50 on a fourth. These were large amounts for that day—several times more than enough to buy the house and land of the voter who barely met the minimum franchise requirements. The custom of giving expensive treats also implied that candidates were wealthy and that they lived with the open-handed, lavish generosity of gentlemen. If a poor man scraped up enough money to stand an election and attempted to treat the voters like a gentleman, his performance was more likely to excite ridicule or pity than respect.

—from American Revolutionaries in the Making by Charles S. Sydnor
Not much has changed, it seems.

A different Roth

Does anyone reading this blog have any of these albums? Just curious. Bought the one on the left first, upon hearing it being played in a record store. I don't remember which store, but I know it wasn't one of my usual hangouts. I think it was at a mall in S.A. Picked up the other two a few weeks later when I came across them in one of my usual hangouts (either Hastings in Seguin or Sundance in San Marcos--or possibly Hastings in San Marcos).

Ulrich ("Uli") Jon Roth was a member of the early-ish Scorpions, but his music and his personal life were both moving in a different direction from the Scorpions, so he went out on his own.

I was going through some old tapes of mine today and found some of my dub cassettes that I always listened to instead of playing the records. I decided there's still a lot of good stuff left in the collection, and I've been listening to see if the tapes held up well enough to justify digitizing. So far, all three of these are still very good quality. The old Fuji CrO2 cassettes have real staying power. I don't think I ever wore one out.

I have to hunt down a turntable before I can start digitizing records again. So for now, I'm just trying all my old tapes first.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Music and mathmatics

At Seed magazine, The Shape of Music:
Roughly 2,500 years ago, Pythagoras observed that objects, such as the anvils he purportedly studied, produced harmonious sounds while vibrating at frequencies in simple whole-number ratios.

More complex ratios gave rise to more dissonant sounds, which indicated that human beings were unconsciously sensitive to mathematical relationships inherent in nature. By showing that the world could be described mathematically, Pythagoras not only provided an important inspiration for physics, but he also discovered a particular affinity between mathematics and music--one that Gottfried Leibniz was to invoke centuries later when he described music as the "unknowing exercise of our mathematical faculties."
Fascinating reading if you are into music, or math, or both.

Jade earrings and broken hearts

She was wearing a pair of long jade earrings. They were nice earrings and had probably cost a couple of hundred dollars. She wasn't wearing anything else.

I knelt down and squinted along the nap of the rug to the front door. I thought I could see two parallel grooves pointing that way, as though heels had dragged. Whoever had done it had meant business. Dead men are heavier than broken hearts.

—excerpts from The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
I had a long, hard day yesterday (it was one of those days when San Antonio was as squishy as a rotten avocado) and didn't spend much computer time when I got home. So today I'll throw in two quotes instead of one. I like quote #1 for everything it leaves out. Quote #2 is a fine example of how Chandler interjects philosophical-sounding descriptions almost off-hand, while his protagonist (Marlowe) is smack in the middle of a murder scene. Dead men are heavier than broken hearts. I love that sentence. The imagery, the rhythm of the words—it's perfect.

Give Me Liberty update

I received the DVD today, and the short feature Give Me Liberty is indeed included on it. I was going to post a couple of screen caps but it has some kind of copy-protection, I assume, because my computer doesn't even recognize its existence. I guess it's a good thing I have a real DVD player and don't just use my computer to watch DVDs.

For details see previous post here. Reference also the original post at The War On Guns.

My recommendation: Buy it. Now.

The Charge of the Light Brigade DVD

Monday, July 14, 2008

Troubling solar trends

From Watts Up With That?
From the “I hope to God they are flat wrong department”, here is the abstract of a short paper on recent solar trends by William Livingston and Matthew Penn of the National Solar Observatory in Tucson.
Follow the above link for excerpts and discussion. The full paper is here.

What would be the ultimate result of such a drastic reduction in sunspots? Ice age time! I say we'd better hope global warming cancels it out.

But then some other scientists say it's nothing to worry about.

On Conspiracies

"Conspiracy mythology is a cop-out...a way of evading our responsibility for history."

—Robert Shea

"I am profoundly suspicious about all conspiracy theories, including my own, because conspiracy buffs tend to forget the difference between a plausible argument and a real proof. Or between a legal proof, a proof in the behavioral sciences, a proof in physics, a mathematical or logical proof, or a parody of any of the above."

—Robert Anton Wilson

As quoted in The Illuminoids by Neal Wilgus.
I especially like Shea's more succinct statement. It is one of those "pernicious truths"—a favorite phrase of mine which came from Shea's and Wilson's Illuminatus! trilogy. I don't know exactly what they meant—if they meant anything at all—by that phrase, but to me it means a truth that most people refuse to agree with. But when they do finally agree with it, it changes their perspective on how they view the world. And even when they don't agree with it, it still lurks in the background of their mind, niggling away at them, slowly chewing away tiny bits of the foundation of their reality grid.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Just finished We the Living. I feel like I've accomplished something. Next up: Anthem. (Which I've read once before). This book has been so discussed and over-discussed that I doubt I can add anything new, but I'll likely make a few comments after I've had a chance to recover.

Robert Anton Wilson on Stupidity

There are two kinds of stupidity exemplified in most books about the Illuminati. There is the stupidity of the credulous conspiracy-monger, true child of the witch-hunter of yore, who will accuse anyone and everyone on the basis of wild hypothesis and unsupported inference, with no care for the elementary rules of civil courtesy or that famous Commandment which urges that we not bear false witness against our neighbor. This is an old and most murderous kind of stupidity and is the chief destroyer of innocents throughout history.

But there is also the stupidity of the True Believer in the revealed visions of the Establishment press, the Establishment universities, the Establishment "experts." This is the stupidity of those who believe all American science is represented in the Scientific American; that all the news that's fit to print really will be fond in the New York Times; that the little magazines, the underground presses and the minority parties in politics and philosophy are always wild-eyed kooks or unreliable fanatics. In fact, as a little open-minded investigation will convince anyone who stops parroting official consensus-reality and starts looking around independently, the current Establishment is like any other Establishment in history. It ignores, defames or persecutes really important ideas as often as the Victorian Establishment did, or the 18th Century Establishment, or the Holy Inquisition, or any other group that has enough power to shut up or drown out the signals it does not want to receive.

—Robert Anton Wilson in the Introduction to The Illuminoids by Neal Wilgus
Now that vacation is over, I'll have to post the (more or less) daily excerpt earlier in the day, rather than waiting until late at night and choosing one by the mood of the day. I didn't want to have more than three books in progress at one time, but I felt the urge to read something a little more "fun" and I saw The Illuminoids on the shelf. Another book that I purchased years ago from either Loompanics or Amok, I've read it before and it's an enjoyable and balanced book that looks at conspiracy theories without trying to propose or advocate any of them. I think it's a very good book for anyone interested in strangenesses or conspiracies, but who doesn't necessarily buy into them.


Who says books themselves can't be the butts of jokes focus of humor? Certainly not me!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

They should all be keelhauled

From BBC:
Richard Smith and Sharon Cooper from Stone in Staffordshire have postponed Morgan's sixth birthday while they await the outcome of their application.

Permission is required to fly anything other than national flags, a Stafford Borough Council spokesman said.

After a complaint the family were told they were in breach of planning laws.

The couple have paid £75 for the application.

"I wanted to show my friends the flag but now I've got to take my flag down and I'm sad," Morgan told BBC News.
The flag in question:

So congratulations to both the Staffordshire Borough Council and the complaining neighbors. You just taught a six-year-old boy why he should hate your overbearing, pompous nannyism. Maybe this will stop him from growing up to be just another serf.

Is it still throbbing?

Optical illusion. But does it look like this graphic is throbbing to anyone else? Man, I think I'm getting motion sickness just looking at it.

The plants

The plants filled the place, a forest of them, with nasty meaty leaves and stalks like the newly washed fingers of dead men.
—from The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
I thought I'd post something other than Charles Fort tonight, so when I checked my notebook it reminded me that the Commonplace Book's most recent incarnation actually began several months ago as I was re-reading my Chandler collection.

Raymond Chandler is one of my favorite authors. His books are like good music that you never tire of listening to or good art that you never tire of seeing—you never get tired of reading it.

I have read many authors. But there are still only a handful that have made me sincerely wish I could write like they did: Tolkien, Lovecraft, Philip K. Dick, Theodore Sturgeon, and Raymond Chandler.

Bass Pro Shops

Well, it was fun. Their big fish tank was pretty impressive. I was impressed with the size of that shovelhead catfish (a.k.a. yellowcat, flathead, etc.). That sucker was pretty big. Their alligator gar...well, someone had told me how enormously huge it is, so I was expecting to see a real monster. No lie: my dad and I caught one about a foot and a half longer than that one on a trot-line once--in the San Miguel Creek in Atascosa County. That was one of the very few times when I felt actual fear when fishing. It was cool that they had three different kinds of gar in there so I could point out the differences to my kids.

We split up for a minute and my son and I walked through the "Fine Guns" room. The guy in there asked if there was anything I wanted to look at. Heh. I wanted to say: "Do I look like I can afford to even get a greasy fingerprint on one of these guns?"

I noticed they had the PT-1911 for $569. I pointed it out to my wife as the next pistol I wanted to get if I can ever afford a new pistol again. She said, "Well, I did already enter you in their Glock giveaway." I noticed they had one Para-Ord for around $700, which seems oddly inexpensive for that brand, to me.

I asked a guy at the archery counter if they cut arrows, and they do. My dad gave me some a while back that need to be cut because they're too long for my bow. The place where I used to get it done went out of business. I might head back there before Christmas and buy bows for the kids. They've been bugging me about bows a lot lately.

So that's about it. The only bad part was, of course, construction. The Camp Bullis crossover was closed down for construction, and there was such a massive backup of detoured traffic that it took us 40 minutes to get back around on to IH10 after we left Chik-Fil-A.

Oh yeah, black powder stuff. I noticed they didn't have any real black powder, but they had four different brands of substitutes. The GOEX brand substitute actually has F numbers like real black powder. I suppose next time I need some I'll get some of the GOEX stuff. I'm never buying Pyrodex again unless I absolutely have to.

I was amused that they had black powder revolvers with complete starter kits included hanging on racks in transparent plastic packaging just like they were selling mp3 players or something.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Nothing much again

I have succeeded well in my vacation goal of doing almost nothing.

Today we finally moved The Last Big Thing since we moved into the new house: an enormous dresser that belonged to my late mother-in-law which was stored at my great-grandfather-in-law's house. We had to borrow my brother-in-law's trailer to move it; it wouldn't fit in the back of my pickup.

I was wondering if I'd still be able to handle a trailer. I had remarked to my dad once that I was afraid I would lose my ability to back a trailer from lack of practice; he said it was something I'd never forget. I think he may be right. My dad has the opinion that no one really knows how to drive unless they can drive a stick shift and back a trailer.

But the trailer went right where I wanted it to go, and when we finished and I put it back where I had found it, I saw that the trailer hitch was only about an inch and a half off from where it was when I hooked up. I think that's about close enough.

So now we finally got rid of the last few boxes and bags of clothes that had been crammed in the closet. All of my t-shirts are now either hanging in the closet or folded and put in a drawer. I even found my old long-sleeved black "evil sorcerer" t-shirt that I bought at a headshop in San Marcos at least 20 years ago--although at the time I was naive enough not to realize it was more than a t-shirt store. I do remember thinking it strange that the cashier kept all his money in a zipper bag instead of a cash register. Also he said "man" a lot. That shirt is still almost like new because I've worn it only a few times at Halloween.

I think tomorrow we're going to head way across to the other side of S.A. and visit Bass Pro Shops. I've heard there's some fun stuff there besides just browsing and/or shopping. I know it will pain me, because I'll see things I wish I could buy but can't, but still, I think it will be fun.

I also hung two mirrors and a hat rack today. The hat rack will be for my caps. So far only one cap is on it: the Alamo cap I bought Monday at the Alamo gift shop. I wanted to get a nice cap for special occasions. Yes, around here we have work caps that we are willing to get sweaty and dirty, and "dress" caps to wear when we want to look nice. I need to get a couple more dress caps, and see if I can hunt down my missing work cap. I wore it just a few days ago, and it seems to have vanished.

I didn't get much reading done today because I was going through some old videotapes and trying to find movies that I knew I had taped once but couldn't find. I couldn't find The Return of the King, nor several Harry Potter movies that should be here somewhere. However, I did find a tape of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Interesting because it was taped back when AMC didn't show commercials. Also found Snow Day, a kid's movie made by Nickleodeon with one of my favorites, Chris Elliot, as the villain. Also found my tape of The Crow (the original), and my complete collection of The Young Ones that I taped from BBC America with the commercials edited out.

That reminds me. With all the book-handling I've done lately, I haven't seen Neil's Book of the Dead. But as usual, it's gotta be around here somewhere...

Arsenic and sarcasm

Now, one of our Intermediatist principles, to start with, is that so far from positive, in the aspect of Homogeneousness, are all substances, that, at least in what is called an elementary sense, anything can be found anywhere. Mahogany logs on the coast of Greenland; bugs of a valley on the top of Mt. Blanc; atheists at a prayer meeting; ice in India. For instance, chemical analysis can reveal that almost any dead man was poisoned with arsenic, we'll say, because there is no stomach without some iron, lead, tin, gold, arsenic in it and of it—which, of course, in a broader sense, doesn't matter much, because a certain number of persons must, as a restraining influence, be executed for murder every year; and, if detectives aren't able to really detect anything, illusion of their success is all that is necessary, and it is very honorable to give up one's life for society as a whole.
—from The Book of the Damned by Charles Fort

This paragraph is a good example of Fort's method: a circuitous route to make his point, some quick examples, a brief digression or two along the way and a heavy layer of sarcasm to make sure you're paying attention.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I prefer flanging, myself

Oddee has 10 Most Bizarre Musical Instruments:
The frequency and combinations at which a participant interacts with her sensors can not only escalate her moans to a full scream but also apply additional audio effects such as delays, slicers and reverbs. These sensors are then fed into a i/o controller board that communicates with custom software written in Max/Msp. All software processing is done inside a mac-mini hidden in a small box near her feet. This box also houses her speakers.
I only quoted that part to make you click the link. The other instruments are less titillating but no less (perhaps more) fascinating.

Due to the photo (and the video too, I suppose) of the first, er..."instrument," this post is NSFW.

Charles Fort on Knowledge

In the topography of intellection, I should say that what we call knowledge is ignorance surrounded by laughter.
—from The Book of the Damned by Charles Fort
I will try to post an excerpt per day if I am able. Some of the excerpts that I note in my "commonplace book" are more quote-worthy than others. I skipped over two others just now, before I came to this one. I suppose I'll use the others on days when I can't find something more clever.

Fort had a clever wit, but not so much rapier as cudgel. His response to those he chose to disagree with was not so much a skewer as it was an avalanche. He didn't seem to hold very high regard for "authorized journalists," or "authorized scientists" either.

Shocking, shocking I say!

Minn. teen charged with offering his vote on eBay - Yahoo! News:
University of Minnesota student Max P. Sanders, 19, was charged with a felony Thursday in Hennepin County District Court after allegedly asking for a minimum of $10 in exchange for voting for the bidder's preferred candidate.

"Good luck!" Sanders wrote under the eBay handle zepdrummer612. "You're (sic) country depends on You!"

Sanders was charged with one count of bribery, treating and soliciting under an 1893 state law that makes it a crime to offer to buy or sell a vote.

According to a criminal complaint, the Minnesota secretary of state's office learned about the offering on the Web site and told prosecutors. Investigators sent a subpoena to eBay and got information that led to Sanders.

The student told investigators he made the eBay posting, adding, "That was a joke. It's no longer listed," according to the complaint.

"We take it very seriously. Fundamentally, we believe it is wrong to sell your vote," said John Aiken, a spokesman for the office. "There are people that have died for this country for our right to vote, and to take something that lightly, to say, 'I can be bought.'

"It's a real shame," he said. "I can imagine the conversations being held in American Legion Clubs and VFWs about whether this is a joke or not."

The scarcely used law had its heyday in the 1920s, when many people sold their votes in exchange for liquor, Assistant County Attorney Pat Diamond said.

"There are two things going on here in terms of why it's a crime," he said. "One is the notion that elections should be a contest of ideas and not of pocketbooks — at least not in the sense of straight-out 'I can buy your vote.' The second notion is that everybody gets one vote, and you don't get to buy another one."
Yes, our founding fathers would be shocked, a mere 19-year-old who didn't own any land, voting! Horrendous and unimaginable!

But as for selling his vote, eh, standard procedure.

As I've learned recently while reading American Revolutionaries in the Making, many of our Founding Fathers made it a routine practice to buy and sell votes. Sometimes with currency, sometimes with alcohol, sometimes with influence and promises. But the system of voting in this country was corrupted from its very foundation. Don't believe it? Read the book.

Shocking, shocking I say!

Minn. teen charged with offering his vote on eBay - Yahoo! News:
University of Minnesota student Max P. Sanders, 19, was charged with a felony Thursday in Hennepin County District Court after allegedly asking for a minimum of $10 in exchange for voting for the bidder's preferred candidate.

"Good luck!" Sanders wrote under the eBay handle zepdrummer612. "You're (sic) country depends on You!"

Sanders was charged with one count of bribery, treating and soliciting under an 1893 state law that makes it a crime to offer to buy or sell a vote.

According to a criminal complaint, the Minnesota secretary of state's office learned about the offering on the Web site and told prosecutors. Investigators sent a subpoena to eBay and got information that led to Sanders.

The student told investigators he made the eBay posting, adding, "That was a joke. It's no longer listed," according to the complaint.

"We take it very seriously. Fundamentally, we believe it is wrong to sell your vote," said John Aiken, a spokesman for the office. "There are people that have died for this country for our right to vote, and to take something that lightly, to say, 'I can be bought.'

"It's a real shame," he said. "I can imagine the conversations being held in American Legion Clubs and VFWs about whether this is a joke or not."

The scarcely used law had its heyday in the 1920s, when many people sold their votes in exchange for liquor, Assistant County Attorney Pat Diamond said.

"There are two things going on here in terms of why it's a crime," he said. "One is the notion that elections should be a contest of ideas and not of pocketbooks — at least not in the sense of straight-out 'I can buy your vote.' The second notion is that everybody gets one vote, and you don't get to buy another one."
Yes, our founding fathers would be shocked, a mere 19-year-old who didn't own any land, voting! Horrendous and unimaginable!

But as for selling his vote, eh, standard procedure.

As I've learned recently while reading American Revolutionaries in the Making, many of our Founding Fathers made it a routine practice to buy and sell votes. Sometimes with currency, sometimes with alcohol, sometimes with influence and promises. But the system of voting in this country was corrupted from its very foundation. Don't believe it? Read the book.


"Writing about music is like dancing about architecture."

I don't know who said that, but it's a quote I've always remembered. It was brought to mind today when I discovered another CD I had missed when doing some ripping recently: Pink Floyd's Atom Heart Mother.

This album always reminds me of something from when I was attending college at what was then Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas.

A Momentary Lapse of Reason had recently been released, and the so-called music critic of the school's newspaper wrote a "critique" of it. First he said that he had listening to this album only once, while at a friend's house during a party(!?). Then he went on to mention two previous albums. One he called "Medal", which it isn't, it's Meddle. Then he said the title track took up all of Side 1. No such thing. The track to which he was referring is actually titled "Echoes," and it takes up all of Side 2. Then he referred to "Adam Heart's Mother." He was so obviously and egregiously ignorant that I never read another word he wrote again.

This album holds a special place in my heart because of the final track: "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast."

Letters to Middle Earth

Builder discovers priceless Tolkien postcard:
A demolition man stripping a fireplace from the former home of "The Lord of the Rings" author J.R.R. Tolkien stumbled across a postcard to the writer dated 1968, and hopes to sell it for a small fortune.

Stephen Malton, who runs Prodem Demolition in Bournemouth on the south English coast, was working in the house in the nearby town of Poole before it was bulldozed to make way for a new construction project.

"Before we demolish a house we do an internal strip out," Malton said Tuesday.

"One of the main features was a fireplace, and upon removing that we came across three postcards. The third one was a postcard dated 1968 and addressed to J.R.R. Tolkien."

Malton said research on the Internet suggested that the carved wooden fireplace with marble inlay, a feature of the house when Tolkien lived there from 1968 to 1972, was already worth up to $250,000.

"To tie in both the fireplace and the postcard, we are talking about a price of around $500,000 for the combined pair," the 42-year-old told Reuters by telephone.
This paragraph has the ring of stupidity:
Tolkien had achieved fame by the time he moved to Poole in 1968. His epic "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, already popular before the hugely successful film adaptations appeared, was published in 1954-55.
Yeah, by...oh...several decades.

They think the postcard might have been sent by Lin Carter.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


I've been using to replace some of my old classic rock LPs with CDs. I had all the old Rush albums on vinyl, but wanted digital copies. Today I received Grace Under Pressure. I remember when I first got the LP I wasn't terribly impressed with it. But I like it more and more as time goes by. It's now among my favorite Rush albums.

There was something odd, though. I was able to get every one I wanted via Caress of Steel!--except for one: Power Windows. It seems very strange to me that they don't have it in their catalog. I think I'll buy it as an mp3 download from Amazon. It'll take a while to download, but what the hey.

I should clarify that when I said "all" I really meant all their studio albums. I'm not really that big on repackaged compilations or live albums. I will buy compilations if it's for someone I'm interested in but don't have all their individual studio albums yet. And I might buy a live album if it has something on it that wasn't released on any other album.

Still to come: Rush, Caress of Steel, and Signals. I thought I already had Signals on CD, but in going through my collection when I was ripping them I realized I didn't have it.

My first Rush album was 2112. Purchased in 1982 while in college.

Smarter than the Party

"But what I'd like you to answer is this: why do you think you are entitled to your own thoughts? Against those of the majority of your Collective? Or is the majority's will sufficient for you, Comrade Taganov? Or is Comrade Taganov becoming an individualist?"


"It's all right with me, Comrade Taganov. I have nothing more to say. Just a little advice, from a friend: remember that the speech has made it plain what awaits those who think themselves smarter than the Party."
--from We the Living by Ayn Rand
Although I am on vacation this week, I have not really done any extra reading, being more focused on being entirely without focus. However, I did make a big dent in We the Living today. I will be glad to finish this book. In its pages is an invaluable lesson on the evils of collectivism, but it is so depressing.

On the lighter side, my son discovered a heavily condensed children's version of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court which struck him as interesting, and I've been reading to him from it before bedtime. It's still a little beyond his reading level. My daughter found my old battered copy of Harriet the Spy last night. When we moved into our new house, we put one shelf in the hallway between their rooms and crammed it with children's books. I have many books that I bought in years past with the thought, I might have a kid someday who will want to read this.