Saturday, February 28, 2009

A quick note

Check out this PhotoshopDisasters: AT&T: Whoops. It took me about two minutes to figure out the problem. If somebody didn't get fired over that, it's a wonder.

UPDATE: And the really funny part is that some of the commenters, with their smug attitudes of faux-boredom, talk about tiny flaws that are really a matter of taste and nothing else, because they've completely overlooked the obvious. Hilarious.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Interesting hits

A few interesting search hits today. One from someone at the IRS looking for how to build a PVC target stand, one from someone at Ford Motor Company (the Ford Motor Company in Michigan) on the Texas CHL shooting test, and one from someone at OSHA looking for information on how to adjust the sights on a Walther P-22.

Successful vinyl rippage has commenced

Or should I say, recommenced, since I've done it before with the old turntable. The new one is the Audio-Technica AT-LP2D Stereo USB Turntable, to quote the full name. It cost around $80 plus about $23 shipping.

This is not a snooty audiophile turntable. But it makes music just fine and I think it's going to serve my purposes quite well.

I did a lot of comment reading on Amazon (which is where I ordered it from) on various turntables in my affordability range, so I'll try and remember the reasons I chose this one.

It has both USB and conventional RCA outputs. It also has a built-in switchable pre-amp for the RCA outputs, so you can connect it to a stereo with a PHONO input or to a jambox or something with either AUX or LINE inputs.

It outputs on the USB and RCA outputs simultaneously. This is great for me, because now I can actually listen to the record while I record it.

Another good point: it has a dust cover. This may sound stupid, and it is, but a lot of these new model USB turntables do not come with a dust cover. So when you're playing a record on them, your precious vinyl is exposed to the open air and everything that floats in it. This is a fate almost too horrible for me to contemplate.

One bad point: it can't play 78's. I do have a few of those stashed somewhere, but I don't foresee ever wanting to rip them. If I do, there's still the old old stereo in the living room, if I can get it to work.

This is an automatic turntable. You put the record in, then press the "start" button and it does all the rest. Same goes for the "stop" button. There's also a lift/lower button for the stylus. So far the up/down operation is very smooth, and when auto-starting the needle drops right where it's supposed to--not just grazing the outer edge of the record like my old turntable always did.

I've ripped only one record so far, but the turntable didn't arrive until late and I've been busy with other things. I ordered a record cleaning kit from another place which hasn't arrived yet, and I had some qualms about playing this record without dusting it first--something that I've been compulsive about since I bought my first turntable and cleaning kit (now gone) from Radio Shack way back in the early 80s. But this record (Ultravox Vienna) has been played only once before, when I taped it, and this is the first time it has come out of its sleeve since then. I'll probably devote a post to the album itself later.

It also came with some software, but I was already planning on using my existing software so I just stashed it with my other installation discs. Let's see...Audacity and Cakewalk's Pyro. I downloaded and played around with Audacity once, but I prefer Goldwave.

Cables included are a USB cable, of course, plus some 1/8-inch stereo plug to dual-RCA plugs as an adaptor in case your audio device's stereo input is a 1/8-inch jack instead of the usual RCA jacks. One thing: the RCA cables that are hard-wired into the turntable are quite short, so you have to put the turntable right next to or on top of the stereo. For me, it just meant that I had to move my printer to another part of the desk so I could put the turntable where the printer used to be. Now I have a turntable on my left, and a stack of records on the floor to my right. On the other hand, the USB cable looks like a 4-footer.

Unfortunately I have to work tomorrow, and then do some other stuff after that, so I won't be able to dive into a full day of records as soon as I'd like to. But this is definitely going to be fun.

Music Video: "Eldorado to the Moon"

Michael Nesmith - "Eldorado to the Moon"

Since YouTube has suddenly cracked down on downloading even low-res versions of their videos, and have made it impossible for someone like me to view any videos, this is probably the last one I'll ever post. So thanks a lot, YouTube, you elitist bastards. I'll never link to or mention you again, and once these two video posts scroll off the front page, I'm going to delete them. ---- ---.

A long time ago, it seems, there were some musical radio programs that came on every week that I enjoyed. So I would tape them and then listen to the tapes several times throughout the week until the next show rolled around. It was very convenient because they all aired on Saturday night or Sunday. If I heard a song that I particularly liked, and especially if I thought it was a song that I had very little likelihood of hearing on the radio again, I would transfer it to a keeper tape. One of these programs was called "Sunday Night Session," which I believe still airs Sunday nights on KSTX (the local public radio station). This program focuses on "Texas music," that is, music made by someone who was born in, or lives in, or at least is based in Texas. And that is the only qualification, so there was still a wide variety of music played.

Eldorado to the Moon (by Nesmith--who was born and grew up in Texas) is one of those that I liked immediately and put it on a keeper tape. I came across the tape a while back and ripped it to mp3, so the sound quality is not CD-quality, but it's still good. It has more of that jukebox-in-the-corner-of-the-oldest-Dairy-Queen-in-town kind of sound. So I looked it up on YouTube and found this very cool video. In the general process of reading about Nesmith, I found that he was an early pioneer of using videos to promote songs, and his work was largely responsible for the creation of MTV. (Note to everyone less than 20 years old: MTV used to show nothing but music videos, 24 hours a day. That's what that old Dire Straits song is about. They weren't singing "I want my MTV" because they wanted to see The Real World).

I haven't been able to ascertain exactly when this song was recorded or released, but it was included on the 1989 album The Newer Stuff. So give it a watch/listen.

How about that

I just made a cursory search through the record collection hunting for my two Ultravox records, which I've decided I wanted to rip a.s.a.p. because I used to really enjoy listening to them and my dub tapes of them have disappeared. Of course they were all the way at the end of the last shelf. However, I did discover a couple of things.

I do have Deep Purple In Rock in the original gatefold jacket! Not just the picture disc. I didn't remember that.

Also, I have a lot more Thin Lizzy records than I thought I did.

And it's no wonder I was never entirely comfortable around my mother-in-law. She owned too many Cher records.

And Elvis. Holy... Wow. All those Elvis records. Good grief.

Good things come to those who blog

A gaping hole in my 80s collection has now been filled. Thanks, Vinnie!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A totally whimsical collection of 70s singles

Some odds & ends singles that I downloaded from a file-sharing service back in the olden days. Not meant to be even a representative example of the 1970s, it's just some stuff that I downloaded. Note: I was just a kid when most of these came out, and they don't trigger strong memories like the 80s stuff does.

Arlo Guthrie - City of New Orleans
When I was a kid I thought this was a Johnny Cash song.

Bob Dylan - Early Morning Rain
One of my favorite Dylan songs.

B.W. Stevenson - My Maria
One of those cowpop dipsticks did a version of this a few years ago that totally sucked and I needed to hear the original again to restore my faith in humanity.

Cheap Trick - Surrender
My favorite Cheap Trick song. In fact, it's probably the only Cheap Trick song I can identify. Sometimes I sing the chorus to my kids. It amuses them.

Commodores - Sail On
I love this song. I don't have any of their albums.

Crosby, Stills and Nash - Southern Cross
I have a few of their albums, but not the one with this song on it.

Dave Mason - We Just Disagree
Did I dream it, or did Alice Cooper cover this song once on The Muppet Show?

Dobie Gray - Drift Away
Is there anyone who does not like to sing along with this song? If there is, I...I...don't want to know about it.

Elton John - Your Song
Later I converted the greatest hits cassette with this song to mp3. If I had to pick a favorite song of his, I guess this would be it.

Gary Wright - Dreamweaver
I have a Gary Wright album, but it's not this one.

Gordon Lightfoot - Early Morning Rain
The day I went searching for Dylan's original, I found this version also. I also have the Peter, Paul & Mary version in another folder. Maybe this is really a 60s song. I don't know, it isn't that important to me.

Gordon Lightfoot - The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
After snagging the two versions of Early Morning Rain, I thought, hey, what about "Edmund Fitzgerald?" I had to play "Sundown" about 12,708 times in high school band, and I hope never to hear it again.

Head East - Never Been Any Reason, Since You've Been Gone
Did they have any other hits besides these two? I really like the way they use the Moog synthesizer.

Holy Modal Rounders - Euphoria
I had read about this group, and I kept trying to find stuff by them so I could hear for myself. This was the only thing I ever came up with. I guess I'll have to buy something, if I can find anything.

Mott the Hoople - All the Way from Memphis, Honaloochie Boogie, Roll Away the Stone
One day I was missing my lost greatest hits cassette and grabbed these three.

Rainbow - Since You've Been Gone
So I would have both versions.

Ricky Nelson - Garden Party
I'm not sure why I downloaded this. I think I had just read something about all the people he mentioned in it, and I wanted to hear it again.

Stealers Wheel - Stuck in the Middle with You
Just another one that I downloaded on a whim.

Van Morrison - Brown Eyed Girl, Tupelo Honey
I have the Tupelo Honey record. I grabbed these two one day when I wanted to hear them again but didn't have a way of playing any records.


I haven't been in the mood much lately to write about anything but music, retreating back into my greatest source of enjoyment while the world crumbles. With the turntable arriving soon (tomorrow, according to UPS), I'll be heavily involved in going through old records and discovering a lot of stuff that has mysteriously appeared in the collection during my turntable-less interregnum. I had largely stopped buying records, mostly because my biggest sources of used, cheap records have disappeared, but my wife is always picking up the odd record or two at flea markets and yard sales, and when her mother passed away a few years ago she took custody of that record collection. And there is some stuff in there that I would never have imagined my mother-in-law listening to.

I was thinking to myself recently that back when I was buying most of these records, there were so many that I bought just because they looked like they might be good, and I had no idea what they would really sound like. Back then, there was no internet, no Wikipedia, no, etc., and there was really no way to find out any more information about those artists other than whatever happened to be in the liner notes. So I'm looking forward to learning stuff about all those people whose music became part of my life long ago, but who I know nothing else about.

A flower

I took this photo of this pretty blue flower today in Alamo Heights, and I think it came out quite well for a cellphone pic. Anybody know what it is?

Forgotten Albums

Another cool website I recently discovered is Forgotten Albums. Well-written and humorous reviews on all kinds of albums that have been lost to history (some deservedly so). Also frequently included are sample songs so you can hear it for yourself. I have a feeling I'm going to get lost in their archives for a while.

P.S. Read this, for example.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Crystal Gayle - All-Time Greatest Hits

Tell me no secrets, tell me some lies
Give me no reasons, give me alibis
Tell me you love me and don't let me cry
Say anything but don't say goodbye

Sometimes you gotta get back to your roots. Growing up as I did, listening to my parents' music, I was, shall we say, quite dissatisfied with a lot of it. But not all. I pretty much bailed out of "country" music when the 80s rolled around, mostly because it wasn't country anymore. But many of the singers from my childhood still have their places in my collection.

Crystal Gayle is one of those. All-Time Greatest Hits is a compilation from 1990, but the newest song on here is from 1979. In that year I turned 15, and about that time I would have considered her not only one of my favorite singers, but also extremely hot. I had at least one of her cassettes back then, but it wore out a long time ago. I picked this one up from a clearance bin several years ago.

It's the kind of music that reminds me of hot summer nights, eating watermelon and homemade ice cream on the front porch with an assortment of cousins, aunts and uncles; lying in the dark with my radio on, the volume down low so no one else could hear it, lost in my own private world, and drifting off to sleep with her voice in my head. I had a friend who really liked her too, and her music always reminds me of him, and of us asking each other at school: Hey, have you heard the new Crystal Gayle song yet?

Jaguar in Arizona

A jaguar was captured southwest of Tucson this week during an Arizona Game and Fish Department research study. The study was actually aimed at monitoring black bear and mountain lion habitats.

The male cat has been fitted with a satellite tracking collar and released. The collar will provide biologists with location updates every few hours and it is hopeful that this data will provide information on a little-studied population segment of this species. This is the first time in the U.S. that a jaguar has been able to be followed in this manner.
Jaguars are, of course, native to North America. But it was once believed that they were extinct in the United States. I would not be surprised if this one had wandered up from Mexico.

Original article here, via Cryptomundo.

UPDATE: Sad news in an update from Cryptomundo.

Look for what seems out of place

Peter Murphy: Cuts You Up (1990)

Just to see if I can embed a video here without blowing something up. If there's a video I really want to see, I use to download a low-res version of it, since the high-res versions are too big. And since I mentioned this song a few days ago, I wanted to see the video again.

Brer originally showed me this video many years ago, long before YouTube, when the best we could do was tape it from MTV.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Something off the shelf

I have a lot of records that I just don't know where they came from. Either I bought them but don't remember it, or my wife picked them up at some flea market or yard sale, or someone gave them to me, who knows. This one is one my wife picked up somewhere, because I had to clone her name off the cover. I don't think this is music. I think it's a bunch of short educational stories read by the Captain. It's one I've never listened to, but I will as soon as possible.

It's on the way...

I have ordered a turntable. More details when it arrives.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Album: First Quest - The Music

1985. D&D was so popular you could buy polyhedron dice at 7-11 at the same time you picked up your daily 2-liter Mountain Dew. The Dragonlance saga was in full swing--no wait, maybe that came a little later. It doesn't matter, because the same people who thought Dragonlance was great fantasy literature probably also thought this was great music. [Click on all graphics for much larger versions.]

I mentioned Dragonlance because the artwork for the album was obviously done by the same person who did the cover art for those books. Oh, here it is: Jeff Easley. Okay, apparently some people got together and had this wonderful idea to make an AD&D adventure and put music to it!!!

Starting in the land of Gorrim, our band of brave adventurers journey through the Fenial Fields into the Gnome Lands...

By the way, is there any PC race more worthless than the Gnome? Once I played a one-off game in which the DM said that somebody needed to play an illusionist (for some reason I've forgotten) so I said, "Okay, I'll do it, but only if I can play a Gnome illusionist/thief." I kept that character sheet along with all the notes I'd collected during the game for years, just so I could prove that someone, somewhere had been stupid enough (myself, in this case) to actually play a Gnome illusionist/thief. But I digress.

And then our brave adventurers travel through the Hobgoblin Kingdom, encountering a minimum of 250 Hobgoblins along the way. Yes, I said two hundred fifty.

Go ahead and click that last graphic and take a look at some of it. Note especially the suggested characters at lower left. A 15th level Paladin?! Ye gads.

And eventually, if our brave adventurers survive that horde of a minimum of 250 Hobgoblins, they come to the dungeon part, where lurks a minimum of 2 red dragons, a lich and his horde of undead, various and sundry assorted demons and daemons, spiders (gigantic) and Charon.

Yes, Charon. That Charon.

And here are the notes for the dungeon part. Go ahead and click. It is inevitable that eventually, some crazed Googler will come across this and want all these details, so I uploaded large versions that you should be able to print and use.

I almost forgot about the music. The music on this album is all instrumental and electronic. I like electronic music, but this is not particularly good electronic music. It's not especially bad, though. At best, I would say it's especially mediocre. It is intended to provide atmosphere for the various parts of the adventure, and here is the full track list.

Record 1, Side 1:
The Quest Begins
The Bloodguard (everyone who has read The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant may now feel free to sigh heavily in exasperation)
The Sorcerer's Apprentice (you may sigh again now, if it helps)
The Caravan
The Heroes Ride Out

Record 1, Side 2:
The River of Souls
The Gates of Hell

Record 2, Side 1:
The Living Dead (the same music as from the Living Dead movies)
Wandering Monsters
The Hall of Spiders
The Dragon Passages
The Room of Pools

Record 2, Side 2:
The Lost Caves
In the Sorcerer's Cave
The Summoning
The Crystal Chalice
The Return of Light
The Aftermath

The purpose of the game is to find the Crystal Chalice, which must be used somehow to defeat the "old gods," who are apparently the enemy (aren't they always?).

The best thing about the album are the brief bits of narration, which takes place between the musical tracks to move the story along, and was provided by the great Valentine Dyall, who has one of the greatest evil voices of all time. And to me, he will always be the Black Guardian from the Key to Time series during the Tom Baker era of Doctor Who. He passed away not long after recording this narration. It must have been one of the last things he ever did.

I bought this new and played it one time, to record it on cassette, so the vinyl is still in at least very good condition. Total running time is about 78 minutes, minus the narration, which probably adds only about 2 or 3 minutes more.

The musicians who made this album are still around, I think. I can't find much of any information on this album as a whole anywhere on the internet, but Googling their names individually turns up some stuff. The musicians are: Phil Thornton, Denis Haines, Dave Miller, Steve Parsons, Barrie Guard and G.P. Hall. The tracks are mostly the work of one of them working solo, although there are a couple of tracks in which Thornton and Miller worked together.

One of the few things that I did find on this album is that it is "quite rare," but I have no idea if it's really worth anything. If you chance across one and you're a D&Der, or you used to be, it might be nice to have as a curiosity, but I wouldn't recommend buying it just for the music.

UPDATE: I am slowly working on uploading some of these tracks to YouTube. You can hear them by going to my YouTube channel and looking through the video list.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

An album that--perhaps--deserves obscurity

This is the composite I was working on yesterday. I had to piece together four different scans to get the full cover. You can still see the seams but so what. Anyone else ever seen this before? Some cursory internet research tells me that it is now "quite rare." But would anyone actually want to collect it? I doubt it.

UPDATE: Click here for the full review.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Free Stax Sampler from Amazon

Here's a cool, but small, sampler of some Stax hits that Amazon is offering. Includes "The Walkin' Blues" by Lightnin' Hopkins, "Wonderful" and "Buns O' Plenty" by Isaac Hayes, and "Driving Wheel" by Albert King.

LP Cover Lover

Here's a cool site: LP Cover Lover. A big collection of old LP covers, blog-style. Thanks to a commenter at my other blog, who pointed me to this:

And I've spent a few hours trying to figure out the best way to make composite scans of albums covers since my scanner is too small to do a full LP cover. I must get a turntable!

Friday, February 20, 2009

A semi-random collection of 80s singles

This is a post I've thought about writing several times, and always blew it off. Back in ye olden days when I used a p2p file-sharing service, I downloaded some this & that 80s songs that I put in their own folder (I also have a folder of some random 70s songs that I might write about sometime). Some of these songs I got tired of hearing back then, but now I enjoy hearing them now and then, if they pop up in Winamp's shuffle play. Italics means I would like to have the CD that includes the song, or at least a "greatest hits" compilation that includes it. Bold means I have the record, but not the CD.

Big Country - In a Big Country
This is one I never got tired of hearing. Never did buy it, though. It always reminds me of the student center at ACU.

Blondie - Heart of Glass, The Tide is High
I could see a "Blondie's Greatest Hits" in my collection. Back in the 80s, I thought Debbie Harry was totally hot.

Buggles - Video Killed the Radio Star
Actually I have a cassette of this one. I wrote about them recently, as you may remember.

Cyndi Lauper - All Through the Night
My sister had her first record. I thought she was pretty cool, too.

Dexy's Midnight Runners - Come On Eileen
This song is enough for my collection. Another song that I heard often on the college radio station at ACU.

Eurythmics - Here Comes the Rain Again, Sweet Dreams are Made of This
These records were pretty lame, in my opinion, except for the radio hits.

Gary Numan - Cars
I would like to hear some of his other stuff. I think I would probably like it.

Gerry Rafferty - Baker Street
I also have that Stealers Wheel (Stuck in the Middle with You) hit in my 70s folder.

Golden Earring - Twilight Zone
I might be interested in their other stuff if someone made a good case for them.

Hooters - All You Zombies, And We Danced, Where Did the Children Go
My sister saw them in concert once and bought me a t-shirt, but it has gone to t-shirt heaven by now, I suppose. I wouldn't mind getting a decent compilation.

J. Geils Band - No Anchovies, Please
I hate anchovies, and this is just an epic story. I never was a huge fan of them, but a greatest hits wouldn't be out of place.

Joe Jackson - Is She Really Going Out with Him
I really would like to find a good compilation of his. He wrote some clever songs, and I think he wasn't more successful because his songs weren't quite as "hooky" as many other songs of the time.

Journey - Don't Stop Believing, Stone in Love
No, this is all the Journey I need. I used to have the cassette of Escape. It's gone now. These songs always remind me of our senior trip.

Kajagoogoo - Too Shy
One song is plenty Kajagoogoo for me. Another one that reminds me of ACU.

Kim Karnes - Betty Davis Eyes
I used to know someone who was a huge Kim Karnes fan, and could go on and on about all her stuff that didn't get played on the radio all the time. So I wouldn't mind getting a compilation just so I could hear for myself. This song always gives me flashbacks of the parking lot outside the band hall in high school.

M - Pop Muzik
This was a song that a whole lot of people thought, and still think, it seems, was Devo. But it wasn't. I'm pretty sure this was their only album.

Madness - Our House
I really liked this song back then, and wouldn't mind getting some of their stuff now. Reminds me of watching Friday Night Videos at ACU.

Men at Work - Down Under
I would still like to get this, or perhaps a compilation, on CD. My favorite of theirs is "Be Good, Johnny," but I was never able to download it.

Men Without Hats - Safety Dance
I think this song is enough, unless someone wants to convince me otherwise. The Weird Al parody is good, too (he put the lyrics from the Brady Bunch theme song to the tune of Safety Dance).

Mike & the Mechanics - Silent Running
This is still an awesome song, and in fact may be more awesome now than it was back then.

Mr. Mister - Kyrie, Take These Broken Wings
I could see myself getting something by them for the collection.

Nena - 99 Red Balloons
Yes, I would still like to get this on CD, because my record is kind of scratched up. Bought it second-hand.

Pat Benatar - Shadows of the Night, We Belong
I was never a big Pat Benatar fan, but I really like these two songs. I have one of her other albums which didn't impress me much.

Peter Murphy - Cuts You Up
Still one of my favorite songs, and the video was really cool.

Quarterflash - Harden My Heart
Another song that reminds me of high school, but did they do anything else that's really worth hearing? I don't know. Someone tell me.

Tommy Tutone - 867-5309
For ironic purposes only.

Wang Chung - Everybody Have Fun Tonight
Same as above.

One song that I looked for over and over again but was never able to find was "I Ran So Far Away" by A Flock of Seagulls. Lack of it is leaving a gaping hole in my semi-random 80s singles collection. I might have to buy it from Amazon. My sister had the cassette of that album. That was the only catchy song on the whole thing. The rest of it was totally lame.

NOTE: There is no Thomas Dolby or Falco in my collection, and there never will be.

Any thoughts? Comments? Memories triggered?

International Pipe-Smoking Day

Read all about it at the International Pipe Smoking Day website.
Today’s hectic environment almost dictates that we run on full efficiency, have total involvement in our work, our families and in every aspect of what we do to survive and achieve in a world set at high speed. With ever-changing values it is the intent that The International Pipe-Smoking Day will allow us, the Brothers and Sisters of the Briar to step back and appreciate our rich historical value. For pipe-smokers and pipe-smoking everywhere the day will be emblematic of our shared values, history, traditions, and aspirations.
Smoke 'em if you got 'em. Except for those so-called "pipe tobacco" cigarillos. Those don't count. In fact, I think Feb 20 is also Kick Someone's Ass for Smoking a Peach-Flavored Cigarillo Day.

Pride and Predator

Sir Elton John is to make a sci-fi horror film where aliens wreak havoc on a Jane Austen-style period drama.


Furnish, who tied the knot with Sir Elton in 2005, promised the film would drop an "alien into the middle of a costume drama, where he stalks and slashes to horrific effect".
G-d help us all, they're serious.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

I think I would like this book...

In The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America author Julian Montague has created an elaborate classification system of abandoned shopping carts, accompanied by photographic documentation of actual stray cart sightings. These sightings include bucolically littered locations such as the Niagara River Gorge (where many a cart has been pushed to its untimely death) and mundane settings that look suspiciously like a suburb near you.

Working in the naturalist's tradition, the photographs depict the diversity of the phenomenon and carry a surprising emotional charge; readers inevitably begin to see these carts as human, at times poignant in their abandoned, decrepit state, hilariously incapacitated, or ingeniously co-opted. The result is at once rigorous and absurd, enabling the layperson to identify and classify their own cart spottings based on the situation in which they were found.
I don't know how many times in the course of my job so far I have been given occasion to think: Why did they leave it here?! I can understand why someone might want to steal a shopping cart, but some of the places I have found them abandoned just have me flummoxed. Sometimes I think they must have been left there when the nearest grocery was a Food City on the edge of what was then "town," and when the area got developed they just built the neighborhood around it.

via Oddee

Bad tapes

I made another pass through my cassette shelves, a futile search, I knew, but man, it bugs me that that other Skinny Puppy tape has vanished. I'll have to wait until I can get a new turntable to hear those records again. I did come across some dub tapes made by a co-worker.

I knew this guy once. He's one of those people I wish I had never met, except that I did buy a really cool CD from him once of a group who I probably never would have gotten into otherwise. But man, that guy was a colossal jerk.

He was constantly trying to pass himself off as a music snob. The more I witnessed his utter jerkdom, the more I became convinced that he listened to stuff that he thought made him look smart, and that he had never really developed his own sense of musical taste. He listened to a lot of Frank Zappa. One day he persuaded me to give him a few blank tapes and he made me these dub tapes from some of his old Zappa records.

They totally suck. Not because they are of Frank Zappa, but because the dude didn't know what he was doing. If I ever created bootleg tapes that sounded that bad, I would burn them and scatter the ashes randomly across seven counties before I ever admitted to being that incompetent. I would never have given them to anyone and told him to give it a listen. The music is almost buried by the rumble. It's just terrible. And I don't even try to pass myself off as a music snob. Well, almost never. Only when someone mentions Kenny G.

I wish I had never learned that word...

Oh, the horror...the horror of...the mooseknuckle.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

That is what I'd truly like to be-ee-ee...

Saw this today refueling at the Exxon at Fair Ave. and IH-37. And might I say, that sucker is quite huge.

P.S. That's my pickup's hood in the foreground of the last picture.

P.P.S. A few years ago, before I had a camera phone, I saw the Wild Thornberrys' Comvee at the convenience store. That one really amazed me, that they had actually created a real vehicle that looked like that thing. I was astounded.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Deep Purple In Rock

This was the album that originally introduced me to Deep Purple. My first-year college room-mate had a very battered and scratched up record of this, and since we often played each other's records, one day I was going through his stack and put this one on. "Child in Time" hooked me immediately. As I've said before, this is still one of my favorite pieces and back then the creepy and ominous organ music really spoke to me.

A couple of years later I came across a picture disk of this album and bought it. I don't remember exactly where. It doesn't seem like quite the kind of thing I would find at Hastings, but I may have found it at Sundance Records. It has some fairly cool cover art, a visual parody of the band being carved into Mt. Rushmore. Unfortunately, my picture disk was packaged only in a transparent sleeve, so I don't have any of the odd and humorous liner notes, which I sometimes used to quote on occasion. The only one I still remember (although one can probably find them on the internet somewhere) was one that I used to quote when one of the ditzy teenyboppers who worked at Mr. Gatti's back in the 80s did something stupid or funny: "It takes all your local groupie."

This was the first album to feature the famous "Mark II" lineup: Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillian, Roger Glover, Jon Lord and Ian Paice. This was generally considered to be the best, or at least the most popular version of Deep Purple. The album is still a quintessential example of 70s-era hard rock, for whatever that's worth. It's still one of my favorites.

Monday, February 16, 2009

TV Tropes

Here's a site that I got lost in for a little while this morning and only broke it off because I had to leave for work: TV Tropes.
Tropes are devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members' minds and expectations. On the whole, tropes are not clichés. The word clichéd means "stereotyped and trite". In other words, dull and uninteresting. We are not looking for dull and uninteresting entries. We are here to recognize tropes and play with them, not to make fun of them.

The wiki is called "TV Tropes" because that is where we started. Over the course of a few years, our scope has crept out to include other media. Tropes transcend television. They exist in life, as we will be quick to tell you. Since a lot of art, especially the popular arts, does its best to reflect life, tropes are likely to show up everywhere. Right, so what is a "wiki"? A wiki is a web site where any user can create new pages, edit existing pages, link between pages, and search the site. You can even edit this page, if you wish. This may seem strange, but it can be an extremely powerful and flexible way to take notes, collaborate and work on the web.

We are not Wikipedia. We're a buttload more informal. There Is No Such Thing As Notability, and no citations are needed. If your entry cannot gather any evidence by the Wiki Magic, it will just wither and die. Until then, though, it will be available through the Main Tropes Index. We encourage breezy language and original thought (and won't object to the occasional snarky comment, either).
Fun and informative. Thanks to Brer.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Some enjoyable reading regarding music

I enjoy reading other's people thoughts on the music they like, even if I'm not familiar with it, and even if I don't agree with them about how good it is. I'm always willing to admit that maybe I missed something and I'll always give it a second chance.

Except for Kenny G.

Albatross, who I've linked to several times at his blog called Strange in San Antonio, has another blog in which he writes on other general subjects called Painted Ocean. Lately at Painted Ocean he has been writing about the albums he's collected from one of his favorite bands: Iron Maiden. I don't have any of their albums, but his writing has made me think I need to correct that soon. You can click the link above and just start reading, or go to the beginning and work your way forward.

Heh. It reminds me of something back when I was in college, taking a Music Literature course at SWTSU (as it was called then). Our prof was a great guy who was wildly enthusiastic about his subject, and when our final exam came up, he had each of us submit three questions. He was going to read them all and consider including a few of them on the test. I submitted two serious questions, which I don't remember, but my third question was strictly for humorous effect, and went something like, "Discuss the historical ramifications of baroque and classical music being recorded by contemporary heavy metal bands." He laughed so hard that there were tears in his eyes. That was kind of a tough course. A big part of the final was the prof playing drop the needle. We had this big boxed set of records that covered music throughout history which we had to become very familiar with. During the last test, he would drop the needle on a record and play about 15 seconds or so of music. We had to correctly identify the piece and the composer (if known). I'll probably write more about that collection when I get a new turntable and start converting my records. I don't have any way to listen to it again right now.

Anyway, I'll take this opportunity to link to two other bloggers who I read regularly, and who also often share their enthusiasm for music: BobG at Near the Salty City and the Pistolero at Live from the (upper) Texas Gulf Coast.

Free mp3 album: Real World Amazon Sampler

Today's work was converting a few more old cassettes to mp3, and I'm beginning to seriously consider now buying a USB turntable so I can get to work on my vinyl collection.

Anyway, time to recommend another free mp3 album download from Amazon. This one's called the Real World Amazon Sampler, a 2009 release that is a collection of world music.

World music? Yes, that particular appellation has always bothered me a little, because it has a ring of political correctness and it means a lot more than it says. But it's essentially a genre created for pop music from everywhere in the world except the Official West (western Europe, the United States and Canada too, I guess, although Celtic music is allowed, as is Native American, I suppose). But, a genre provides a marketing tool, and this genre allows them to slap together a wide variety of musical styles and call it an album, which I'm all for. And this is a good one.

I could see myself collecting some music from some of the artists on this album, like the duo/group Joi. I like to get a little into that trance stuff if it's well done and doesn't sound like someone repetitively throwing roofing nails at a chalkboard. There is one group from the U.S. on here, The Blind Boys of Alabama, who make the cut because they do gospel and aren't considered pop (I suppose), and at least one Brit who makes the cut because he's Peter Gabriel.

Eleven tracks for a total of about 49 minutes, and you can get it free when it's worth paying for.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Somewhere, Nikola is smiling

And probably thinking, I told you so.
THE FIRST WIRELESS POWERING SYSTEM to market is an inductive device, much like the one Tesla saw in his dreams, but a lot smaller. It looks like a mouse pad and can send power through the air, over a distance of up to a few inches. A powered coil inside that pad creates a magnetic field, which as Faraday predicted, induces current to flow through a small secondary coil that's built into any portable device, such as a flashlight, a phone or a BlackBerry. The electrical current that then flows in that secondary coil charges the device's onboard rechargeable battery. (That iPhone in your pocket has yet to be outfitted with this tiny coil, but, as we'll see, a number of companies are about to introduce products that are.)

The practical benefit of this approach is huge. You can drop any number of devices on the charging pad, and they will recharge -- wirelessly. No more tangle of power cables or jumble of charging stations. What's more, because you are invisible to the magnetic fields created by the system, no electricity will flow into you if you stray between device and pad. Nor are there any exposed "hot" metal connections. And the pads are smart: Their built-in coils are driven by integrated circuits, which know if the device sitting on them is authorized to receive power, or if it needs power at all. So you won't charge your car keys. Or overcharge your flashlight.
Read the whole thing.  It's not only a fascinating subject, but is well-written.  Read it all the way to the end.

Well, how about that...

Lance Armstrong is a nannyist.

Shove it, Lance. You've been hanging around that socialist cesspool of Austin too long.
A poll released Thursday shows that 68 percent of Texans favor such a ban.
Wow, impressive, unless you read the rest, which goes:
Baselice & Associates was hired by Smoke-Free Texas, a group supporting the smoking ban, to conduct the survey of 601 registered voters.
So actually, 68% of these 601 people they selected to poll are in favor. Baselice & Associates is an Austin company (scroll to the bottom). And I bet these 601 registered voters represent a broad cross-section of the Texas populace as a whole.

Sure they do.

via KurtP

I am doing my first official pipe tobacco review

I got a sample from a place called Bennington Tobacconist in Boca Raton, FL and a form to fill out on various aspects of what I think of it. So far, not bad, and if I was a bigger fan of latakia I'd be all for it. A very nice medium latakia English blend that I wouldn't hesitate to put in my cellar if I liked latakia enough to do that. But I tend more toward the Perique-heavy blends these days, and have for several years now.

What's the name of the blend? I don't know. It's only labeled "TEST #4." I guess they didn't want any kind of identification to bias the reviews.

Big sample, too, about 1 1/2 ounces. The way I smoke latakia, I could seal this in a Mason jar and it would last me for years.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Mieka Pauley - Elijah Drop Your Gun

If I were a painter, I'd give a steady gaze
To a saint with open eyes, watching what her life was spent to save
But I'm not a painter, I don't know any saints
The only ones I saw were done in someone else's paint

Your white angels still fly
On the breath we spent on the prayers we cried
On the path to where heaven lay
You left us to God when you turned away

"Someday I'll get tired of listening to music," he said, "and then I'll wonder why I spent so much money on all this stuff."

"Tired of music?!" I exclaimed. "I might as well get tired of breathing!"

There was a pause.

"When I get tired of music, I'll be dead," I added. "But I won't really be tired of it--I'll just be listening to the music of the spheres, man, the spheres!" And we laughed.

Later I admitted that I might get tired of listening "to all this rock stuff" someday, but when I did, I would just listen to more jazz, classical and new age.

Two out of three so far. I haven't been able to delve too deeply into classical, except into the general oeuvres (hee hee) of Beethoven, Mozart, et. al. Although I prefer the baroque (Bach) to classical, in general.

Twenty years ago this album would have meant a lot more to me, I think. But that was long ago, and I have followed many strange highroads since then, and music like this doesn't have the same impact on me that it would have twenty years ago.

All that said, Mieka Pauley has an amazing, sleek, throaty, smoky voice, which she uses to great effect, and she has some good things to say. She is someone who we should be hearing more from in the future, if there is any justice at all in the universe. And right now you can download her 2007 album Elijah Drop Your Gun for free from Amazon, so there's really no excuse not to have it.

The things you gotta go through, part 2

So I recorded an hour's worth of 80s hits from Sirius last night. Now I remember why I used to refer to the 80s as The Decade When All the Music Sucked. Good grief. Got two decent songs: Cyndi Lauper's "All Through the Night" and Men at Work's "Down Under." The rest of the hour was pretty much throw-away, although I did keep a few other pieces for irony's sake, like that one song by Wang Chung. You know the one. It's the only one they had.

Today I suddenly noticed that GoldWave is able to open *.avi files. It just ignores all the video information and opens the audio so you can do anything you want to it, just like any old *.wav, *.mp3, or whatever. That did streamline the process somewhat.


Everywhere I turn, there is Krull. Freakin' Krull. Also known as The Lamest Fantasy Movie of All Time. Constantly running on some movie channel.

Being flogged at Wal-Mart.

And yet, and yet...

I wake up this morning with one image in my head: that of a monstrous three-bladed sword from which the pommel detaches to form a dagger, and oh yeah, the outside two blades can be shot like steel sword blades of flying death.

Because steel sword blades of flying death are exactly what they are.

There was also a secondary image of Matt Houston using a haunch of beef as a cudgel.

And yet, and yet...

When I go to Netflix and type in The Sword and the Sorcerer, it isn't available. But wait, says the search page, based on your interest in this movie, you may enjoy...

Krull. I'm telling you, if it weren't for Liam Neeson's part as "sidekick eating meat," that movie wouldn't even be worth watching.

It's the urea thing

India to launch cow urine as soft drink:
Does your Pepsi lack pep? Is your Coke not the real thing? India's Hindu nationalist movement apparently has the answer: a new soft drink made from cow urine.

The bovine brew is in the final stages of development by the Cow Protection Department of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), India's biggest and oldest Hindu nationalist group, according to the man who makes it.

Om Prakash, the head of the department, said the drink – called "gau jal", or "cow water" – in Sanskrit was undergoing laboratory tests and would be launched "very soon, maybe by the end of this year".

"Don't worry, it won't smell like urine and will be tasty too," he told The Times from his headquarters in Hardwar, one of four holy cities on the River Ganges. "Its USP will be that it's going to be very healthy. It won't be like carbonated drinks and would be devoid of any toxins."

Never underestimate the power of ignorant people in large groups

Read all about it at: Scholars and Rogues » Banks forced to take bailout money they don’t want or need.

Although, I don't know how he missed the obvious, which was finally pointed out by commenter #6: control. If we give you money, we get to say how you operate. The recent example that Ride Fast uses of Wells Fargo being reamed for providing a Vegas vacation for some employees as a bonus shows one way it works. An event that was likely scheduled way before all this started is portrayed by the government as a wasteful use of bailout money, when they didn't want or need the bailout money in the first place, and their employees got this bonus for doing a good job.

Gov't says: Look at these terrible banks wasting your money like that!!! The ignorant are turned more against the banks and more in favor of gov't control.

Read this by commenter #6.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The things you gotta go through to bootleg a few songs these days...

I had this bright idea that I would freshen up my already bloated mp3 collection by capturing a few songs from some of the Sirius channels on DishNetwork now and then.

The good news is: it worked. That bad news is: the whole process took me a lot longer than I thought it would.

Ah well. Perhaps with practice I will get better and faster at it. Also, I picked probably the hardest station to bootleg from: SPA (new age). Figuring out where one piece ends and the next one begins can be somewhat tricky with that genre (hee hee--I can't use that word without giggling--although it's not nearly as funny as oeuvre (hee hee)). I'll try the 80s channel next, because I know cutting those songs into discrete tracks will be something I can just about do in my sleep.

Not much going on here the past few days because my wife has been off work, and I don't do much computer time when she's home. Also I've had a hard few days at work and have been dog-tired when I get home. Today was much easier. I have been doing some downloading, which doesn't require my presence at the computer once I get it started. Got a new album that sounds quite promising and I'll comment on it a.s.a.p.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Just found this website called Smugopedia - Pretend you know better.
Smugopedia is a collection of slightly controversial opinions about a variety of subjects. We offer you the chance to buy a fleeting sense of self-satisfaction at the small cost of alienating your friends and loved ones.
It looks fairly amusing at first glance and I will certainly have to check it out in more depth later. A sample entry from the front page:
The original 1985 BBC movie about C. S. Lewis' life, Shadowlands, is more subtly directed and nuanced than the 1993 movie. And unlike Anthony Hopkins, Joss Ackland actually looks like C.S. Lewis.
You can vote on if you agree or disagree with each entry. I'll have to give it a heh for now, and read it more later.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


It's a "toilet float," it's a "sump," it's a "toilet tank float ball," it's a "ball-shaped thing with something sticking out of it."

Don't be afraid to say it, Des Moines Register, it's a perfectly legitimate word.


via War On Guns

Monday, February 09, 2009

Deep Purple - Powerhouse

Wow, I have several drafts saved now just to remind myself of the albums I want to say something about, and I wasn't sure which one I wanted to write about today, but I just converted another Deep Purple (In Rock) album so I thought I'd go back and cover this one first, even though it was released later.

Powerhouse is a sort of this & that album that was released in 1977, but consists of older stuff. I would not recommend it for someone who is not already a confirmed Deep Purple fan. I picked it up somewhere back in the 80s when I would buy anything of theirs that I happened to see in a record store. By the way, it looks like this one is currently out of print, and is not available on CD. Amazon doesn't have a picture of it in their link, so here's a picture of the jacket.

Track #1 is "Painted Horse," a studio outtake (a song that didn't make onto the album) from Who Do We Think We Are recorded in July 1972. This one has something unusual for a DP song: a prominent harmonica part. I don't know who's playing it, though. My record is in my vinyl archive in another room, and I don't feel like digging it out to uncover this kind of detail. Maybe later.

Track #2 is a live version of "Hush," from the ill-fated Concerto for Group and Orchestra, recorded in September 1969. Read all the details at the link if you want. A DVD of this concert was released not all that long ago, which I might have to try and hunt down.

Track #3 is another live one, an extended (nearly 13 minutes) instrumental called "Wring that Neck." This one is also from the Concerto for Group and Orchestra of September 1969. Lots of good organ work by Jon Lord on this one. Everyone who plays an instrument takes turns at the front, with some passages of Lord and Ritchie Blackmore (lead guitar) mimicking each other.

Track #4 is one more from the Concerto, a live version of one of my favorites, "Child in Time." This one is especially interesting in that it gives a glimpse of song development. Jon Lord has a prominent organ part on this song, and it sounds in this version like he's still working out all the kinks and isn't exactly sure of how he wants to play it. After subtracting the introduction and applause, it clocks in at about a minute and a half longer (total time about 11:40) than the studio version that was released on In Rock the following year.

Track #5 is another live one, "Black Night," from the Made in Japan album recorded live in August 1972.

Track #6 is another studio outtake called "Cry Free," from the In Rock sessions recorded in January 1970.

A solid album overall, with some filling-in-the-holes for those of us who weren't lucky enough to score a record of the Concerto.

Wrap your head around this...

Some Stimulus Facts:
But you don’t need to look at country-sized numbers to get a sense of just how much of your money Congress is talking about spending. Let’s imagine that it was your job to spend this stimulus money. If you started right now and spent a million dollars every day until you had spent the principle amount of the Stimulus Bill ($825 billion) today, you would spend your last penny on June 19, 4395. Well, you wouldn’t. Your descendants 82 generations from now would finish the job you started.

I’ll bring it even closer to home. If someone had started spending a million dollars a day starting on January 1, 1 AD, they would still have over $138 billion dollars left and a little over 380 more years to go.
And yeah, this is the kind of money--your money and my money--that our blessed leaders are throwing around with hardly a second thought.

via Billy Beck

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Juan Romero...

Got off easy.

Jimmy Smith - Stay Loose

I did know that Jimmy Smith sometimes sang because I'd heard a couple of his songs on local jazz station KRTU. Stay Loose is the tenth Jimmy Smith album to become part of my collection, but the first to come into my possession that features him on vocals.

Stay Loose is sort of like two mini-albums put together. Tracks 1, 2, 3 and 5 are the pieces on which Smith sings. How would I describe his voice? Well, it's pretty much a baritone, with a sort of gruff growliness at the beginning of most phrases and an understated vibrato toward the end. He can carry a tune, but he is vastly more proficient as an organist.

These four tracks previously mentioned are more or less bluesy jazz, or jazzy blues, with the organ coming through only in limited parts--the focus being more on the song than the instrument. These tracks are unusual from what I'm used to hearing when it comes to Jimmy Smith. They include full horn (trumpet and trombone) and reed sections, guitar, bass, a percussionist and a drummer, and even credit an arranger/conductor. They are a big band in sound and in fact, consisting of 15 members not counting the conductor. Bright, brassy stuff, with the horns punctuating the vocals. This is rhythm & blues before it was shortened to R&B and became just another brand of pop-for-annoying-your-parents.

Tracks 4, 6 and 7 are more typical for what I've come to expect from Smith. A five-member combo with Smith on organ, Stanley Turrentine on tenor sax, Phil Upchurch on guitar, Jimmy Merritt on bass and Grady Tate on drums.

All seven tracks were recorded on January 29, 1968.

I got this CD from, which has numerous albums by Smith, and I still have many more in my queue yet to come. If you like jazz, if you like the Hammond organ, you won't go wrong with this one. I'm reviewing this one because I just got it today, but I should get around to reviewing more of them as time goes by.

For the Googler from the Netherlands...

Alan Skidmore played the sax on "The Saxophone Song" by Kate Bush.

From the liner notes.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Everything talks on Living Island

I have been revisiting my childhood lately by watching this. Remember it? How I would love to go back in time and poke around their sets. What a totally surrealistic trip that would be.

When I was five years old, H.R. Pufnstuf was my favorite show. I watched it every Saturday morning with near religious fervor, if a 5-year-old can have near religious fervor. I still have a record of songs from the show that I got as a member of the fan club (my mother signed me up). Someday soon I'll have to drag it out and post some jacket scans as evidence.

I'm sure my dedication to the show as a small child had some lasting impact on me. I'm just not sure exactly what that impact was. But if you've ever read anything on this blog that made you think, man, what happened to that guy when he was a kid, this may have been what happened.

I think I'll have to hunt down Lidsville next.


Until proven innocent:
The U.S. government maintains a list of about a million names of suspected terrorists that is crosschecked with passenger names ahead of airline boarding. The list has been dogged for years by sloppy name matches that have ensnared innocent travelers, children, prominent politicians and government officials, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' secretary of education and all men named David Nelson.

Under the new plan, approved late Tuesday 413-3, innocent victims of the terrorist watchlist must prove to the Department of Homeland Security, through an undetermined appeals process, that they are not terrorists. They would then get their names put on what the legislation calls the "Comprehensive Cleared List."

Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

Yeah: Breakfast!


Book review: 1776 by David McCullough

A book review worth reading at The Absurd Good News Network.
And this begs the question: why hasn't the story , the real story, ever been told in all the glory and horror that it deserves?

My theory is that the heart of the average member of the Powers That Be is much more in line with the priggish ruling Tories, and the average Founding Father with his patriotic and libertarian zeal would be considered a religious whack-job militia man.

Gratuitous Package Art


I just leared a new word

I was aware of the concept/phenomenon, I just didn't know the word: Nomenklatura.

UPDATE: But apparently I have not yet learned how to spell "learned."

Hellsing close-up study: Order 01 - Weapons

Firearms play a big role in this anime, especially when it comes to the two pistols used by Alucard. In this first episode, we see only his first pistol, a custom-made semi-automatic .454 Casull. Warning: spoilers ahead. Click on all images for a larger version.

This is the only time in the first episode that we see his pistol in full. It is supposed to be very large and powerful. Most of the shots we see of it are very tight close-ups that show only a part of it at a time. It is usually shown by the camera panning across its length, or the camera remains stationary while the gun is drawn through the field of view.

At the very beginning we get to see the gun being assembled. Here the recoil spring and guide rod are being inserted into the slide.

Just after that, the slide is assembled onto the frame. This is a stationary shot with the slide running through the field of view.

A glimpse of the middle part of the slide, showing the gun's nomenclature.

Another brief glimpse of a loaded magazine. From this shot we can see that the cartridges are not exactly like your typical .454 Casull, which is a rimmed cartridge. This shows us a rimless cartridge, from which we can assume that the ammunition is a custom-made "auto-mag" version.

Another stationary shot gives us the magazine being inserted.

Here is another stationary shot that shows the gun being drawn. The camera points at this spot while the entire pistol is drawn through the field of view.

A single bullet rifles through the air in slow motion.

And a single shell bounces onto the floor, leaving a thin trail of smoke in its wake.

Had enough? As I work my way through the series, I might be posting more like this, and I'll be paying close attention to the various weapons used, if I can get some really good close-up shots of them.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Hellsing close-up faces study: Order 01 - Alucard part 3

One last collection of very tight close-ups of Alucard from the first episode, all but one from the final fight scene in which he is no longer wearing his shades. Warning: spoilers ahead.

In confronting the vampire priest, Alucard castigates him for being neither human nor a real vampire, but one of the artificially created freaks. Alucard seems to have an almost racist hatred for the freaks. I had said before that I thought I had found a pattern in that he is shown without his shades only during combat, but I was wrong. He sometimes appears without them when conversing with someone whom he implicity trusts: Integra Hellsing. But under most circumstances, if he isn't wearing the shades, prepare for blood to flow.

Here he is aiming his pistol at the vampire priest. I don't feel like going back to look at all the pictures now, but it seems to me that we never see his right eye, only his left. The right eye is always hidden by his hat, or his hair, or something. The exception to this is a few times when he was alone with Integra. It is only then that he appears without shades and we see both his eyes, the expression on his face almost friendly. I'll try to find a shot like this later on.

A very tight zoom on a single eye (his left), just before he shoots the vampire priest and Seras.

Once again, left eye only. He is making eye contact with Seras at this point.

Another very tight zoom on his very feral grin.

To finish, here is a tight zoom on the face of one of his monstrous forms: an eight-eyed dog. Again, only the left eye is clear. The right one is exposed but blurred. This shot is from the opening theme, we never see it during any actual episodes, although he does sometimes assume another monstrous form that is vaguely dog-like.

In the next and final installment (so far), I'll take a look at some close-ups of weapons and weapon-related items.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Unmitigated lies

Mexican Drug Cartels Armed to the Hilt, Threatening National Security:
They were armed to the teeth. Their arsenal ranged from semi-automatic rifles to rocket-propelled grenades. When the smoke finally cleared and the government had prevailed, Mexican federal agents captured 540 assault rifles, more than 500,000 rounds of ammunition, 150 grenades, 14 cartridges of dynamite, 98 fragmentation grenades, 67 bulletproof vests, seven Barrett .50-caliber sniper rifles and a Light Anti Tank (LAW) rocket.


This is modern Mexico, where the leaders of the powerful drug cartels are armed to the teeth with sophisticated weapons, many of which are smuggled over the border from the United States. It is with this array of superior weapons that drug cartels are threatening the very stability of their own country. And it's why America's outgoing CIA Director, Michael Hayden, says violence in Mexico will pose the second greatest threat to U.S. security next year, right after Al Qaeda.
The headline, at least, is true. They are armed to the teeth and they are threatening national security.

But if you really believe that these weapons are being purchased legally in the U.S. by "straw" purchasers and then smuggled across the border, I want you to try something.

I want you to go to the first gun store you see, and try to buy assault rifles, grenades, dynamite, and light anti-tank rockets.

But you might want to consult with your lawyer first.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Album: Meddle

Cloudless everyday you fall upon my waking eyes
inviting and inciting me to rise
And through the window in the wall
Come streaming in on sunlight wings
A million bright ambassadors of morning

And no-one sings me lullabies
And no-one makes me close my eyes
And so I throw the windows wide
And call to you across the sky

I think of Pink Floyd in five different eras, or phases.

The Syd Barrett Era:
The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
A Saucerful of Secrets

The Experimental Era/The Trying-to-Figure-Out-What-to-do-Without-Syd Era:
Atom Heart Mother
Obscured by Clouds

The Mainstream Era:
The Dark Side of the Moon
Wish You Were Here

The Wall Era:
The Wall

The Downfall Era/The Let-Us-Never-Speak-of-it-Again Era:
everything that came after The Wall

I suppose the casual rock fan is familiar with everything from Dark Side onwards, especially since anything older than that is apparently verboten on classic rock stations. In fact, I think the KZEP chronology of the universe begins in 1973.

However, there are a lot of forgotten gems from the Experimental Era, and I think that Meddle may be the best of the lot. Arguably, because the sheer scope of Ummagumma is hard to compete with. Since Obscured by Clouds is really a movie soundtrack, not just a straight-out album, it might be said that Meddle was the bridge into the Mainstream Era.

It might also be said that my whole idea of dividing their discography into discrete "eras" is nothing but a big load of guano. I would not argue with you if you said that.

Like many other groups, I discovered Pink Floyd late in their career, with The Wall, and had to work my way backwards from there. I don't remember exactly where or when I bought Meddle, but I do remember that it made a big impression on me, especially side 2.

If you have never heard Meddle (and since it seems most readers of this blog are Floyd fans, I think this quite unlikely), you really should give it a listen. Side 1 is somewhat rambling, opening with the essentially instrumental "One of These Days," which does have lyrics of a sort if you want to get technical. Lyrics and music for the other songs tend to be dreamy and floating, closing with a silly little blues number about a dog called "Seamus." The interesting thing about "Seamus" is that it sounds like they intentionally pitched the song to match the pitch of the dog howling in the background.

Side 2 is what really makes the album. A 23-minute mostly instrumental piece called "Echoes." A dedicated listener might notice echoes of "Echoes" rippling across genres into new age and ambient music years down the line. I think that this album, and especially this track, is much more influential than most people give it credit for.

It's a good one. If you're a Floyd fan and you don't have it, you should add it to your collection.

P.S. The piece "Echoes" is so strong in my mind that I originally mistitled this post.


I must confess, I have seriously curtailed my blog-reading lately. I just don't have time to read blogs, read real books, and write stuff. I'm not really interested in doing the linky-no-thinky stuff anymore, although I still do it now and then if it's something I think is really important or that I just want to keep a record of for my own reference.

If I'm reading your blog I'll try to leave a comment as often as possible just to show that I'm still paying attention.

I noticed this number this morning. That's the number of subscriptions to the RSS feed that Feedburner has detected. That's a new record. Thanks to everyone who thinks this blog is worth subscribing to.

Hellsing close-up faces study: Order 01 - Seras

Seras Victoria is something of an enigma. A very young, 20-something woman who somehow has become part of a special elite police squad, in which all her fellow officers are much more mature 30- to 40-something men. How did she become part of this squad? We're never told. Here are a collection of extreme close-ups from the first episode. Warning: spoilers ahead.

Caught by the vampire priest, and she is still not entirely sure of what is happening. In distress, we get a shot of her huge blue eyes. Seras is drawn like a typical young anime female: disproportionately large eyes, tousled hair, and breasts that threaten to pop the buttons of her uniform at the slightest provocation.

The same place, but a shot that shows her entire face instead of just her eyes. The vampire priest has her in a chokehold, she is dirty from fighting and running all day, and she's still trying to figure out if all this is real.

Moments later, she makes eye contact with Alucard. A new resolve now shows in her eyes, she has apparently figured out what Alucard is about to do and is already in agreement with him.

Alucard tells her he is going to shoot through her to kill the priest, and offers her the option of becoming a vampire rather than dying. She says yes, and closes her eyes.

Now she lies dying, her head supported by Alucard's hand, her face besmirched with her own splattered blood. This is the last time we see her blue eyes.

Next up, one more look at Alucard.