Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Guy on a buffalo

Two Americana greats, with accompanying video of the guy on the buffalo. I laffed.

Bears, Indians and Such

Orphans, Cougars and Whatnot

Go ask Alice--

Steve Simels of the awesome blog PowerPop found and posted this gem.

It's Grace Slick's original vocal track from White Rabbit, unaccompanied. It starts around thirty seconds in, after the introduction (which you can't hear) so be prepared for the silence.  Early in the morning, which this is, I can't read very well and I read this as being the 'uncompressed' vocal track and wondered vaguely how much compression there was in 1966, and whether that's something Jefferson Airplane would have indulged in.

Simels thinks Jefferson Airplane have a pre-echo of punk rock, but on this evidence I have to disagree. It sounds like 1966 - I can hear the icy purity of Sandy Denny (of Fairport Convention) but each line seems to end with a warm, Germanic inflection that reminds me of Nico. I can't tell if Slick is doing this on purpose, or if it her own style.

I know someone who can't listen to female vocals. Listening to this outpouring of power and dynamics, I have no idea why.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Kills: Kissy Kissy (Acoustic live)

I can't figure out a way to rip this video, so the best I can do is show it to everyone.

The Kills, singing Kissy Kissy on a rumpled bed somewhere in rock and roll ville.


Death Penalty

So, as long as your skin color isn't white, it's okay for Georgia to kill you on suspicion you're a bad guy. They don't need to *prove* it, because it's up to you to prove you are innocent. I know that's not what it says in the law, but that's what it said in this case. Websites have taken down the assertion, but they always leave a trace.

You shouldn't have to prove you are innocent. The law says they have to prove you are guilty. Maybe that seems like nitpicking, but in a couple of days they are going to kill Troy Davis because he couldn't prove he was innocent.

Could you "prove" your innocence if the weight of the state was thrown against you, some day when they needed a perp? I couldn't. I'd be hard pressed to prove what I did 24 hours ago yesterday, never mind a year ago.

It's not a good idea to give the state the right to kill you. They might not always use their powers for good.

Interwebz, health and privacy.

Google+ just went from private to beta...or so I'm told. I joyfully went over there to sign up with my real name...because they're big on real names...with my other email address. After about 30 screens I just gave up. It's not worth it. Why do they want to know all that stuff about me, and how do I keep it separate from anything else?

My company, a big health care firm, recently told me they were going to 'push' 'Gazelle' to my 'BlackBerry', a program that puts all my health records on line - for easier access, of course. And that was the same day I signed up for a $100 discount on my health care next year* if I filled in a questionnaire which I subsequently learned 'may' be shared with my insurance company. Am I really going to tell my employer and my health insurance company how much I drink, smoke, exercise and eat? I don't fucking think so. The tobacco questions were legally binding too, so I did answer them honestly. (I don't smoke, so it's easy to tell the truth.) Insurance companies drop you for any tiny thing they don't like. Why the hell should I tell them my eating habits for $100? My employer, you crazy.

I don't want my health records on line. I'm happy with them in big paper binders at my doctor's office. I trust my doctor (marginally). I don't want Google learning my real name and attempting to reconcile it with everything it finds on line (including Gazelle). It's bad enough it tracks this blog and this name everywhere. Watching my name pop up at the bottom of every news article I read because the comments sections is primed to accept my contribution is eerie enough. I've never signed up for Facebook and I never will. Employers now routinely ask for the Facebook name and password during job interviews. No fucking thanks. At least I can say with a straight face I don't got one.

You know, a couple of years ago, I insisted we get a static IP so I didn't have to convince the bank I was me every time I logged on. I think it's about time we went back to a dynamic one. Everyone I meet in real life knows who I am. You guys know who I am. I don't need Google following me around like a spaniel, or my company, or worse my health insurance, vacuuming up all the information I post on line.

*Health care this year - about $2000 from me and about $7000 from my company. Not exactly rock bottom as it is.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Scott Wade's dirty car pictures.

Writing art in dust on unwashed cars here.

The key is that he's not just creating an artwork, but the artwork changes over time, as dust settles and rain softens.


When I was a little kid, dinosaurs were totally cool.  After Jurassic Park, they were sick. But now I learn they are far beyond cool. They actually look like this.

Yes, they are giant furry man-eating chickens on acid with extreme prejudice.

It turns out that they've always had fluffy feathers, which is why they now have flight feathers. The crow or turkey vulture or parakeet watching you right now is a dinosaur. I kind of knew it by how they cocked their head when they looked at me, but now science has something to back that up.

Wired has a lovely article detailing the recent finds: dinosaur feathers in amber. The picture above is by Lida Xing as quoted in their article.

The Raconteurs, MI Fest, September 17th 2011

Alas I could not fly to the opposite side of the country to see the legendary Raconteurs in concert at MI Fest yesterday. But I've heard about five accounts of their show and the verdict was they ROCKED.

Here is a most extraordinary version of Your Blue Veins.

Does Jack really plant one on Dean Fertita as they leave the stage? With his wife watching from the other side too?

A less snoggy view of Your Blue Veins.

Broken Boy Soldier.

Consoler of the Lonely

It's great to see these guys back in action. I've never seen the Raconteurs but now I'm desperate to do so. Hope the informal tour continues.

Edit: Here's Level.

Little Jack is the coolest person ever.

Astounding stuff.

Red dot

From, who are too cool to watermark their jokes but I forgive them.

Business Cat:

Monday, September 12, 2011

Morning Doves

Here's a picture I took at at an eatery early morning Monday. This young couple came in to order breakfast and sit by the window.  While they waited for the food, they looked, not at each other, and not at the view, such as it was, but only at their cell phones. It struck me as the inverse of Edward Hopper's Nighthawks - it's day instead of night, natural light swamps the electric light, the figures are in relief rather than lit, the waiter is not central, but absent, the viewpoint  is looking out instead of looking in, and the characters are not loners engaged in picking up strangers, but friends ignoring each other while taking comfort in their closeness. And there is a door.

It's a cell phone picture. (What do you think *I* was reading while waiting for breakfast?) The resolution on the BlackBerry is terrible and most things come out the color of a mudflow with rainbow glitter sprinkled over it. In this case it's performed very well, although I admit I have adjusted the color balance in Photoshop. I may continue to adjust it as it's not quite perfect. Also, I do know about the Rule of Thirds - Photoshop even gave me a grid dividing this into ninths (unasked) when I cropped it. I ignored the tetchy critter.

The Kills, House of Blues, San Diego September 11, 2011

Saw the Kills last night and they are shaping up to be one of my top favorite bands. There's something about Jamie's guitar that seems to mine a well of...uh...plumb a vein of? some deep rock structures so that everything he plays seems seminal even though at the shortest count, fifty years of rock have already passed...uh...under the bridge. (Metaphors are deserting me.) Listening to Kissy Kissy, I seem to hear every rock riff I ever enjoyed inside the sparse guitar-and-drum-machine arrangement, and song after song can summon up the Kills' odd mixture of nostalgia and shock of the new.  Recently, they've added a Mellotron, and for some reason, they can now sound like New Order at its finest, even though I'm not convinced New Order ever had a Mellotron.

They are also very danceable.

They move a lot, and so not a single picture of the Kills last night from my cellphone is worth posting. But I will anyway, as a block of text is very intimidating.

Suffice to say Alison Mosshart's new pink hair is a shock to those of us who envied her thick, straight black locks, but it works beautifully on stage where it's a colorful centerpiece to the duo's kinetic act.  Jamie was craggy and masculine as usual, machine-gunning the faithful at the barrier with his guitar and generally appearing to have fun.

I'm feeling a bit ranty about support acts though. Yesterday we had two. Why on earth would any concert goer need more than 33% of a support act, never mind 200%? What are they actually for?

Yesterday we had Mini Mansions. I've seen them before, supporting the Dead Weather, and quite liked them then. They have a Beatlesque way with words and harmonies that is completely charming, though Heart of Glass appears to have mutated since then to lose the great slide guitar. I'd be happy to pay $5 to hear them in a bar or something.  Their main drawback, in my view, is that they don't have a drummer. Their lead singer plays a snare drum and a floor tom, standing up while singing. However, his job is to go "BANG!" on a drum whenever he feels a "bang" is the noise the music needs. This is all very well, but the drummer-as-timekeeper concept is entirely missing and it makes me feel like I'm at a rehearsal where the drummer couldn't be bothered to turn up. I imagine there are drummers out there who would like the gig, and the singer would be able to go "BANG" when he felt like it even afterwards, so what's the downside in hiring one?

The other support act was Eleanor Friedberger. She had a vigorous musical style that seemed very 80's Valley. She was dressed in standard Lesbian chic - blue shirt and pants, natural hair and natural skin, and a big, big, green guitar. Her singer-songwriter style made us wonder why she'd brought a band - a workmanlike drummer (hey Mini Mansions, there's your chance!) and a bassist and guitarist, both with really boring, non-rock'n'roll hair - since they didn't seem to add anything to it. By happenstance, they stayed still long enough for me to get a picture.

A name for them formed immediately - Tom Patty Smith and the Heartbreakers - and nothing they did made me think they'd improved on the 80's originals.  However, my feet began to hurt so much from standing that I was close to the point of demanding human sacrifices when they fortuitously left the stage.  I totally wanted to go home and read a book. My appetite for rock and roll had been ground off to a nub (uh, metaphors haven't recovered yet). So much for support acts being "warm up" bands.

So, once again, what is a support act for? If it's to get me ready to rock'n'roll, these two weren't it. I'd prefer a decent DJ with 45 minutes of great dance tunes to loosen me up than two hours of derivative post-rock. Oceangal said she'd like something like a comedian, to get us out of ourselves and ready for the headlining act. Is the point to break new music the headlining act really likes? I had no sense that was the case yesterday. And if people want to break new music there has to be a way of doing it that doesn't lead to me to wanting to buy voodoo dolls of them and sticking pins into them. Is it simply to sell more drinks before the headliners come on? I think you might have something there.  Give me a two drink minimum cover charge then, man, so I don't have to stand up two hours on a crowded dancefloor before the Kills come on.

Frankly at my time of life, my ideal concert-going experience would be to have Pegasus whisk me off in my favorite armchair and deposit me at the barrier approximately one drink before the headliners come on.



Sunday, September 11, 2011

New ponds for old, rebuilding pond part 2

Go to part one.

Once the fountain was placed, we started the water. The little blue shark has been in the fountain bowl for years. We found it under the silt and put it back in again. We're hoping that the moss will come back to life once it's been rewetted for a bit.

We had to cut the plants back drastically. But basically, Jimmy likes it.

So that's a positive result.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

New ponds for old, rebuilding a pond part 1

In about 2001, we dug a hole in a planter in the atrium, and put in a hard-shell pond liner. We filled it with water, put ferns around the outside, put a fountain in it, and presto, a lovely white-noisemaker for sleeping purposes and a refuge for our iguanas.

That one's of Jimmy, in about 2007.

The hard shell pond liner was guaranteed to last ten years, or fifteen years or something. And it was in a planter - not subject to earth movements, giant pointy stones or tree roots. Nevertheless, this year it began leaking. This was a big problem. The fountain was just about maneuverable when we were forty. Now it's too heavy. Draining the liner and inspecting it showed numerous tiny splits in the plastic, of unknown origin. We taped them over with pond repair sticky patches and refilled.

Bingo! For two months. Then it started leaking again. Miserable fish. Algae covered atrium. Roots growing in drain.

We called the manufacturers who said they still had that model and it would be $60, but since they no longer had any California dealership arrangements, it turned out shipping would be $400. We were too British and polite to mention the warranty thing.

So, we had to 'repair' the hard pond liner by overlaying it with a flexible pond  liner. Last week we bought a flexible pond liner that people use to drape over shaped ponds in the ground. Our assignment - to line our hard liner. First we had to disassemble the fountain and haul it out with a block and tackle. Luckily STB understands pulleys. I 'did it' in physics but never actually pulleyed anything.

Then we had to drape the flexible liner over the hard shell pond liner and fill it slowly, ensuring that the folds in the material went where we wanted them, rather than where the weight of the water put them.  The plants growing around the shell are very aggressive, so we had to tuck the flexible liner right underneath the lip of the hard liner.  I still think that the ferns will get under it, so I guess we'll have to clean it out occasionally.

Once it's all tucked in, we left it to condition for a week. And then the effort of craning the hardware back in occurred.

Click to go to part 2

Baby Gecko

A change from Baby Ruthless, at least. I found this baby gecko outside my house in the middle of the night. What was I doing up in the middle of the night? I have no idea. For scale, he's sitting next to the 1/2" of grout between a 12" Saltillo tile and the white stucco wall. He looks to be three or four days old.

A couple of days later I was up in the middle of the night - same reason - and his dad was there instead.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Alison Mosshart: What a Wonderful World

This is proof that Alison Mosshart and Baby Ruthless are two different people. Alison has covered the granddad-beloved smarm-fest What a Wonderful World. If Baby Ruthless had a solo single I'm sure it would be called something like I Claw My Way Into Your Frozen Grave And Consume Your Soul (Baby).

It's quite nice, isn't it?
Although, I guess, it was for the TV show Sons of Anarchy, which I bet isn't a reality show about people who rescue baby rabbits or anything.

Monday, September 05, 2011

These little piggies went back to the start...

The following is an ad. If you can overcome cynicism long enough to watch it until its final frames when the sponsor's name appears, I think you'll be able to concentrate on kvelling over the marvelous animation.

The soundtrack is Willie Nelson covering Coldplay's The Scientist, although I have to say I couldn't tell his treatment from theirs. The theme is a farmer moving from traditional to intensive farming methods, and after a while realizing no-one is benefiting - himself, his customers or his livestock - and so he goes back to the start. The commentariat at YouTube is particularly scathing about this ad, as getting emotional over this little fictional story doesn't actually mean you're doing anything about factory farming, but I reckon as long as you bear that in mind while watching, no harm done.

And the animation, by London's Johnny Kelly, is as I said, superb. There's a making-of video available here [link partially broken]. It really is stop motion, using molded and even three-d printed characters arranged on a long, long table so the video looks like one extended tracking shot. It works perfectly with the song. Logically, a linear tracking shot implies time passing as well as geographical space passing, and by definition you can't get 'back to the start', but in this treatment, the story is told in such a way that the time paradox adds to the experience rather than nullifying it. Nice video.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Sunspots in OC

And it was off to Orange County Museum of Art today to see the last day of the Alexander Calder and Contemporary Art Exhibition, Form, Balance, Joy.

OCMA is in central OC,  near Fashion Island, so driving around there entails spotting Maseratis, Lamborghinis and Ferraris. If you only have a Porsche, you're non-U. My Hyundai (Hyundai Hyundai's his name) doesn't even register. Inside the museum we toured the Calder exhibition and then went to the closing day artist's talk, which didn't feature Calder of course (that would be table tapping) but a young artist called Jason Middlebrook and an itinerant astronomer called Bob Noss.  (STB called him a street astronomer, which is a great name and possibly the official title for this kind of guy - he had set up a telescope outside for us all to look at eruptions on the sun.) Middlebrook told us about his Calder-influenced art - he does a lot of mobiles, though unlike Calder's thin-sprung sheet iron, Middlebrook tends to go for organic pendulums, driftwood or dumpster wood. Bob gave a gosh-wow tour of the solar system which did indeed wow most of the audience, who had presumably come here for the art but stayed for the science. They then all asked Difficult Questions like "What is gravity?" and "If the universe is expanding, what is it expanding into?" Bob fielded them without difficulty, tempting me to ask, "If light travels one light year a year, and that galaxy you talked about is a million light years away, how come we can see it since the Creation is only 6,000 years old and the light hasn't gotten here yet?" I didn't, though. Orange County is only 1/3 fundie and so the audience might have spotted me as a troll. I expect Bob can answer that pretty smoothly, anyway. Astronomers all over the world learn to deal with lunatics early on, as an infallible sign of lunacy is discovering the Secret of the Universe, such as Einstein Was Wrong, and the walls of observatories are literally papered with the letters people write.

Eventually someone asked about gravity, and after Bob had explained it, this presented a chance for Middlebrook to leap in and actually talk about his art, as after all, mobiles are all about gravity. And his other pieces are boards - raw wood boards, painted - that leaned against walls, taking the characteristics, as he explained, of both mobiles, which are subject to gravity, and paintings, which are confined to flat walls.  Afterwards we finished touring the exhibition. I think most people are familiar with Alexander Calder, and the show didn't exactly shatter one's expectations, although there was more recycling of used materials in the pieces (both Calder and modern) than I'd expected and the cards that explain things pointed this out repeatedly. I noticed that those perforated-leaf steaming trivets came up a lot in the modern pieces and broken tail-lights came up in Calder's - and many people are familiar with the tin can Bird, 1952, one of the most joyful of all pieces of art (pictured above).

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Black Mahal, Orange County Great Park

Last night we went to Orange County Great Park, home of the World's Most Boring Balloon Trip, to see Bhangra band Black Mahal play their fusion of funk, hip-hop and traditional Punjabi music (with a little reggae on the side).

Led by traditional singer and dhol player Ustad Lal Sing Bhatt, augmented by bass, drums, saxophone and trumpet, they are a party mixture of P-Funk, Public Enemy (if PE had had their great uncle on vocals) and as STB pointed out, classical-era Gong. They taught us some Indian dance moves but we must have been too crappy at it for them to actually teach us a whole dance.

Lots of fun.

Lick My...

The internet is all a to speak...over the fact that Jack White produced a single with Inane Clown Posse singing. The record seems to have been a joke based on the fact that Mozart (for it his he) made beautiful music, but in this case called it something naughty. Here it is. Judge for yourself.

Ha ha! Oh, wait, wrong video. That was the same joke done better twenty-seven years ago. In fact, I'm not going to link directly to the JW single. No point in encouraging people.

I feel a little sorry for ICP. From the recent interviews it seems Jack called them over, gave them the hilarious joke to sing and then kicked them out.

"He explained to us the song was basically called 'Lick My Ass,' and we went, 'Ah, figures. 'Lick My Ass' featuring ICP,' " the Detroit rap duo's Violent J tells "We like to think there's more of a method to our madness. We don't just do songs with a dumb name. But once (White) explained to us how (Mozart) had a sense of humor and everything, and we saw how excited (White) was about it, that got us fired up, and we really got into it." From Billboard.
But it was definitely a collaboration. I like [B-Side] "Mountain Girl" a lot better than the ["Lick Me in the Arse"], myself. It was more ICP's feel. We were kinda hoping they'd go with that as a single, but it's cool. The more I hear ["Lick Me in the Arse"], the more I dig it.
But as far as things we woulda done--like stacked our vocals or doubled our vocals--they weren't having that shit. This is garage-rock style. You go off, one-take style. From Village Voice.
When they were finished recording, White played them some of the material he'd been working on, including songs with Tom Jones and Detroit rapper Black Milk. J returned the favor by playing White some of "The Mighty Death Pop," "but he just did not seem interested," J says. "He was real nice about it, super cool, but it was kind of like look-at-your-watch, let's go." From Detroit News. [Link broken and Detroit News apparently too cool to have it archived at the Wayback Machine]

Thanks to Mike in comments for bringing this up, and to Kali, who found all the articles about the single (but is unlikely to agree with my conclusion. Or Mike's either.)

And thanks to Spinal Tap for "Lick My Love Pump" (Nigel was always my fave rock musician.)

OK, I relent. Here's the trailer to the ICP version, which ends up with the text telling you which URL to use to  "hear it in it's entirety".  That really is a very Third Man Grocers' Apos'trophe. Well done.


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