Monday, October 31, 2005
Another problem was they started at 6 p.m. The end at 9 p.m. What's the problem? Ah, here's the rub. At 7:30 p.m., they stop all the booths and jumpolines and food concessions and free thought (er, um maybe) to preach at everyone for half an hour. We got there about 6:30 p.m. and I was planning to leave no later than 8 p.m. So, we basically got an hour of fun in ... about half of which was eaten up waiting to slide down some silly freaking blow up slide.
If you share a nearby zipcode, stay away from Sherwood Baptist's Candy Fest.
A few places around town were holding Halloween events, but the largest and the one we attended was the "Boo at the Zoo." It's a meager-sized place and the event was okay. I felt a bit gipped having to pay $3 per person, but the kids had fun, so I guess that's what really mattered.
We met up with some friends from church there. They had these dancing monster things around the park. Well, one of our friend's kids walked right up behind this skeleton here and pushed some kind of button that collapsed his legs. It was hilarious. Funniest part of the evening.
Anyway, the kids got candy and we all had a decent time. The event started at 6:30ish, I believe, and we got there shortly after it started. There were already a few cars there. But when we were leaving, about an hour or so later, the lines to get into the place off the highway were backed up both north and southbound. It was horrible. We were very glad we got there when we did.
Last night was "trunk or treat" at my wife's church. Every Halloween the LDS churches have this. Not because they believe Halloween is evil, rather, it helps alleviate concerns over where the candy is coming from. People park in the church parking lot, open their trunks (some decorate) and hand out candy to the kids as they walk by from car to car. Pretty neat stuff, really.
At the zoo, both of my girls dressed as Disney characters. My oldest went as Sleeping Beauty, my youngest as Belle from Beauty and the Beast. Last night, my youngest did the same, but my oldest let me dress her up as a zombie.
Now, I'm kind of paranoid about putting pics of my children on the internet, so please pardon the extreme crops. I was pretty pleased with how the makeup came out so I'm kind of pimping her cool costume and her faith in her father's ability to do some cool stuff.
In this photo I'm trying to illustrate a facial wound. The problem is that my camera sucks, I didn't use fill flash and this was taken at the end of the night. It's kind of a neat effect, but earlier in the evening there was more dark make up around so it looked raw and bruised. It was neat.
The thing I was most proud of was probably the bruising around her throat. To get that cool effect, I rubbed a bunch of makeup on my left hand and put it on her throat to simulate a choking. It was a spur of the moment idea and I'm surprised it turned out so well. Loved it.
Overall, I was pretty pleased with how her makeup came out, even though I was having to use cheap crud. The facial wound was done with "scar skin" which I hate. It's like working with gum. Horrible. Had I planned better, I would have bought all liquid make up and plumber's putty for the wounds. The putty works better than anything.
So, there's Monday ... but instead of going "real" trick or treating, there's a Halloween event at a local Baptist church (a HUGE event) and we're going to that instead. No costumes 'cause the Baptists really do believe that Halloween is evil.
UPDATE: Apparently, slickdpdx is on the same wavelength. Zombies are the theme. Make sure to visit the sites as there is some great stuff there!
Saturday, October 29, 2005
Friday, October 28, 2005
My site is the #1 hit on Google for both half pica and pica distance search queries.
Pretty neat. If I do say so myself.
Now, how likely is it that someone's actually going to search for picas?
UPDATE: To burst my own meager bubble. I checked the search for "pica" and my blog is page 24. So, still a ways to go. Apparently, PICA is also an eating disorder.
Sometimes coincidence can be pretty funny and odd.
1993 was a pretty good year for music: The Breeders Last Splash, PJ Harvey’s Rid of Me (an essential album!), Tool Undertow (another essential album), Nirvana In Urtero, Cypress Hill Black Sunday, even Depeche Commode tried to rock it up some with Songs of Suck and Devotion.
It was a great, short era of music. Everything seemed so alive at that moment. Like you could do anything with a guitar and the right attitude about music. There was a lot of burgeoning experimentation among musical genres. Lalapalooza was still the concert event to wait for/attend.
The man and band the media put at the front of this … I hesitate to call it a revolution, I guess I’d prefer reawakening because the spirit is always there in the music … was Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. The ending to his story is sad and we all know it and I’m not going to dwell on it. Suffice to say that I got to see them during their last tour, but I really wasn’t going to see them.
To say that I wasn’t a Nirvana fan would be a lie. But today I feel like it’s a guilty pleasure. While there are a lot of folks out there who quickly turned their backs on the whole Seattle music scene after his death and the equally quick demise of grunge, I still love the music. I love all my old Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains and Mother Love Bone albums. There was something raw and articulate about they way they approached their music that I still love today.
In Dec. 1993, my wife (then fiancé) and I made the hour trek to the UNO Lakefront Arena in New Orleans to see Nirvana. The Breeders were the opening band. I admit that I was really going to see them. While Nirvana is still a guilty pleasure (and I’m not that big a fan any more), I am still in love with The Breeders. Anyone who be a part of such a great musical entity as The Pixies and then continue to put out great music in her own project is deserving of praise. Kim Deal has long been one of my favorite musicians.
Here is a copy of a ticket to the show. It’s not mine, but it’s from the same show. I had kept them for years, but I don’t know if I could even find it or if I threw it out or not. It’s a shame, in retrospect. The important thing to notice here is that only Nirvana is listed on the ticket, no other bands.
After securing my tickets (Damn you, Ticketmaster! Remember that angst?) and waiting for the day, we climbed into my 1965 Ford Custom 500 (oh yeah, there will be a story about the car some day) and drove. At some point during the drive we started talking about what bands were playing. Of course the headliner was locked in, and when I purchased the ticket, The Breeders were on the billboard, but I never heard anything more about them being on the billing. Plus, there was supposed to be a third band, but no one said anything about which band it was and we had no idea.
Worried that it was going to be some really bad band, we started talking about bad bands. My wife had lived in Europe a good portion of her childhood and had just come back from Greece before her senior year of high school. So, she was privy to the horror that is MTV Europe.
From what I’ve heard from her, and other folks since then, MTV Europe is some kind of conduit into the absolute worst music mankind can possibly produce. I was at a disadvantage. I had, up to this point, only lived in the States. My exposure to bad bands, while aplenty, was common. So, I pulled out the only ace I had in my deck -- Shonen Knife. I had seen them on that alternative show MTV used to run on Tuesday or Wednesday. Crap! I can’t remember the day.
For those of you how don’t know who Shonen Knife are (take a look at the photos) they are an all-girl Japanese band. They play punk pop, a la The Ramones, only much much worse. If you want to hear them, watch Cartoon Network some time and you will eventually hear them.
But back in ’93, there was no Cartoon Network and very few people knew who Shonen Knife were. From the little I saw of the video that night, long ago, the atonal nightmare that is Shonen Knife had forever been burned into that portion of the brain that attempts to make humor out of your most horrible experiences. We were both Ramones fans and laughed at the idea of Japanese girl punk.
We arrived at the arena. Got in and started making our way to our seats. No sooner had we walked through the doors into the balcony seating than I heard a strange, painful noise. I looked at the stage and turned to my fiancé. “No way! I said. It’s Shonen Knife!”
We made our way to our seats (left of the stage, not nosebleeds but way up there). Knife was funny. My memory is somewhat clouded by Rum and Coke, but I distinctly remember one number: “Merry, merry Christmas, happy, happy Christmas, merry, merry Christmas and Happy New Year!” sang in happy Japanese-girl voice over Ramones-style punk. I can’t remember ever laughing so hard at a concert. Too funny.
Of course, The Breeders and Nirvana put on inspired shows. It was a great evening. Good show. Great memory.
DISCLAIMER: None of these photos are mine. I found them all online, none of them had any copyright information on them, I assume them to be public domain. If I am mistaken, let me know and I'll yank one.
Now, I have been, am now, and will continue to be curious about a lot of things. But there are some things, regardless of how curious I might become, that have never nor will they ever cross my mind to do.
Good God this is wrong!
Thursday, October 27, 2005
This post from Dean's World relates just how far journalistic integrity has fallen. It seems that more and more, a journalist doesn't enter a situation to tell the story as it happens, but rather finds information to support preconceived notions that he already has.
It's sad state of affairs. People, I believe, tend to read things that enforce their beliefs. The News isn't supposed to do this. It's supposed to report events and avoid supposition. I beginning to wonder what is happening first, the polarization of the populace or the polarization of the media?
I will detail a little piece of memory from my extensive life travels. It may be a foreign country or somewhere right here in the U.S. It could be a couple of years ago or when I was five. Travel ... man. That's what's it's all about.
Today's installment: Northeastern Afghanistan
This post is photo heavy. This serves as both a warning and enticement. I'll size down the photos but you can click on them for larger images. This won't always be the case. Sometimes, I'll have no personal photos to share. And before anyone jumps up and says: "Does this violate security policy?" or some such ... these photos are over two years old and they were taken for the paper and many have been published.
Backstory, I was deployed to Afghanistan from late 2002 to mid-2003. I primarily worked as the editor of the theater newspaper (newsletter, really), but went out to cover stories on occasion. One such occasion was a trip to Fire Base Asadabad. All of my print journalists were female, and this was an infantry outpost. They didn't want any females there. One, they didn't really have the infrastructure there to support any (no real separate tents or showers) and two because a female pilot had been up there a couple of weeks prior and had proven to them it was a bad thing.
So, off I was. No more direction than: find stories. I came out of there with some really good ones, a lot of stuff that couldn't be printed and a better feel for the country I was in. I took away three lasting impressions: 1. Northeast Afghanistan is beautiful. It's not the barren desert terrain that the rest of the country is. 2. We will never succeed in freeing the people of that country from oppression until we free them from a drug-based economy. 3. Until a younger population that escapes the dogma of patriarchy arrives, this country will never pull itself out of the dark ages. If the patriarchy was benevolent, it wouldn't be bad, but they use it to perpetuate the abuse of women. It's horrible.
So, on to the photo show:
This is my obligatory burqa shot. One of the missions the U.S. military does, as part of a mission to reach out to local communities, is to send medical teams into surrounding villages. They can't do more than treat very topical kinds of things. Minor burns, cuts, ear aches, colds, etc. But it's a huge boon to our image there. It's hard emotionally, at times, as you will see in some of the upcoming shots.
These folks would stand in horribly long lines. It was a very common site to see children taking care of children. I know that girls got married at very young ages (11 was the youngest I had heard of while there) and you sometimes wondered if some of these young girls were already mothers or were taking care of siblings. In this shot here on the right, I sincerely hope it's a sibling. But I don't know.
Another problem that the U.S. forces faced was the fact the men would demand that they must be the first to be treated. The sheer amount of people that came out meant that if the military allowed this, no female or children would be seen. So, the civil affairs folks would usually work out some kind of compromise where they could get some kind of mix. Or maybe two different lines. But in the few MEDEVALs (medical evaluation) I went to, the men were still given priority. What happened at this one is that a translator, with a civil affairs guy would walk into the crowd and find the women and children that seemed to be most in need of urgent care and would slip them in front of the men. It was interesting.
Earlier I said it was difficult emotionally at times to go to these things. Well, this little girl put a tear in my eye. You can't see well in the photo (even if you enlarge it), but she has pretty bad burns on her left leg. I didn't wan't to take any shots of "gore" so I didn't get any closeups of the wound. But it was a scalding burn. The interpreter in this shot, on the left, explained to me that scalding burns are very common to children. Most homes have a pot-belly style stove that serves to heat there home and to cook on. When a child learns to walk, they will be temted to pull pans off the stove. Somtimes these pans will have boiling liquids in them. He didn't know if that's what happened to this girl, but he said that he would not have been surprised if that happned. He also said that he would not have been surprised if her father had simply thrown boiling water on her as a form of punishment. The interpreters never let us know who the fathers of the children were.
While the medics take care of the wounded, and the other soldiers provide security, civil affairs soldiers speak with villagers and try and make friends. Here, a civil affairs guy spent some time trying to teach some children how to play tic-tac-toe.
They wound up writing all kinds of things in the sand. I doubt these girls had this much fun in some time. I think that girl in the middle fell in love with Chet (the CA guy).
I guess these girls were going to collect water from the river. I hope it was for washing clothes or something and not for cooking or driking 'cause these river was filthy. I'd seen folks fishing, bathing, wading their animals in it ... I can only imagine what it's been used for. I know for a fact that many of the home surrounding the fire base had wells, so I'm eased by that knowledge.
It was hard to pick out a decent shot of the girls. All these shots of the roadside and such were taken from the passenger side of an up-armor HMMWV (identical to the one in front of us here on the right). So, while crossing terrain such as this, it's sometimes difficult to get the shot.
For the sake of Uzz (and anyone else into photography), I was shooting with a Kodak Digital Backed Nikon F5. It had a Nikkor 70-300 zoom lens. While I wish we had Nikon D1s (took much better photos and just as rugged) or the Fuji S1 Pro (GREAT PHOTOs, but not very rugged) this camera was very rugged. It survived the environment very well. I'm sure folks will argue with me about how well a Kodak's RAW file can be manipulated, etc. Well, I don't use RAW, I use JPEGs and EPSs for newspaper production. Give me high-quality JPEGs and a whole lot of storage and we're good. I also didn't like the Kodak menu system. It was difficult to switch from shooting outside to shooting under florescent lighting quickly -- something you have to do often in the military in a field environment. Just my 2 cents.
In the last two shots and this one, as I am shooting from the HMMWV, we are on our way to another CA event. We're going to sit in on a conference between two warlords and their people. We were also going to hand out aid packages -- coats and hygiene kits. In this photo you see the primary source of income for the country of Afghanistan -- the opium poppy. It's everywhere. I have so many pictures of poppy fields. It's one of, if not the major challenge to the U.S.: trying to convince the Afghan populace to get off of opium production and switch to consumer edible crops such as wheat, alfalfa, corn and others. They are making so much bank from opium they see no benefit to growing these kinds of crops.
I should also point out that most of these "farms" exist in a feudal state. A rich warlord owns all the land and leases out land to families to farm. They grow the opium and collect it for the warlord. The warlord makes much bank and lets the families live on his land and throws them a little money to live off of. Poor system.
This is just a quick illustration of the native beauty of this country. You don't think of this when you hear about Afghanistan, but it's there. Gorgeous, lush greens surrounded by rushing rivers.
Here, on the left, we finally arrived at our destination. Notice the UNICEF symbol on the canopies. Also notice the opium fields just off on the right. I have always loved the juxtaposition in this photo.
As an aside, at this event we ran into a local kid who was an opium addict. This was pretty rare because their culture looks down on it so hard. Addicts are usually dealt with quite harshly. We were told by the people around him that they wouldn't hang around him and that he was a very bad person.
I just through this photo in to prove what a sneaky bastard journalist I am. It's very ... very hard to get shots of women and girls in Afghan villages that are not near the larger cities like Kabul or Jalalabad. To get the pic, you have to be clever or quick or they will look away fast and cover themselves up. Fortunately, one of the neat tricks on these Kodaks is a removable viewfinder. So you can literally remove the top portion of the camera and look down on top like a medium-format camera. It was this trick I used to get this shot and a couple of others. This is actually a small school and the girls are waiting for class.
Lastly, a photo of me at the event. Those girls in the photo above are about 100 feet behind me in this photo.
We wound up leaving the event earlier than planned. The two warlords started to get a bit upset and talks started going downhill. The CA guys figured we'd better get out before they turned their hostilities toward foreigners. As had happened in the past.
Well, I hope you enjoyed today's inaugural Travel Thursday. I doubt I'll be doing any more war zone travel trips, but I felt the urge. Also, Mr. Bingley said something to me yesterday about an addict in the middle of an opium field so it sparked the idea. Thanks B.
Let me know what you think!
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
1. Event Horizon : I honestly don’t understand why this is a universally hated film. It’s one of my all-time favorites. I am a huge Clive Barker fan and this movie feels like a Baker novel on film – more so than any actual Barker movie. Funny that. This movie rocks. And it has a scene with someone’s eyes dug out of the sockets. It’s fantastic.
2. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy : While lots of critics didn’t pan this movie, I think that they, like me, are too big of a fan of Douglas Adams to have given it a poor review. Everyone I know doesn’t like this movie. But there is no way I cannot like it. Too big a fan and I liked the way they approached the movie. Plus, Sam Rockwell WAS Zaphod Beeblebrox.
3. Adaptation: Got some critical raves, but again, no one I know likes this movie. It’s another one of my all-time favs. I guess I like movies that mess with you. And I dig Charlie Kaufman.
4. Going Overboard: This movie is so amazingly bad. I mean, I admit that it is horrible. But I love it. Another so bad it’s so funny. Adam Sandler at his worst.
5. Punch Drunk Love: Another film that critics loved, but no one I’ve ever met (in person) liked it. Not a single person. Sheila likes it, but she doesn’t count because she likes all cool movies.
6. Car 54 Where Are You?: I know this is a bit of a stretch, but I really do like the movie. I never watched the TV series, so I had no preconceptions. I dig David Johansen and wish he’d had a bigger career.
7. Smokey and the Bandit Part 3: I fully admit that this movie is the poorest of the poor. But the Smokey and the Bandit films played a large role in my movie watching youth, so I enjoyed all of them. All of the Smokey’s and both Cannonball Runs.
8. The Postman: I fully understand why no one liked Waterworld. I mean, it effin sucked. But I don’t understand why no one liked this movie. It was long, but had a decent story and execution. Folks just lost all faith in Costner? I don’t know.
9. Tapeheads: I know very, very few people who have seen this movie. Those I know who have don’t tent to like it. Oh well, it’s hilarious. John Cusack and Tim Robbins just as their stars started to rise. This movie is so ‘80s. It’s a fun, funny watch.
10. Screwed: This movie is only barely watchable. I like Norm MacDonald. In fact, I’m pissed he’s not in more movies/TV.
Okay, so howsabout you?
1. Five things I plan to do before I die:
A. Actually save some some money.
B. Buy a house.
C. Take my entire family to Colorado for at least a visit.
D. Stick with a job long enough to retire.
E. Finish my Bachelors Degree.
2. Five things I can do:
A. Parent my two girls and my baby boy, pretty decently.
B. Write a story in newspaper style, edit said story and layout a damn newsaper. FAST.
D. Play guitar ... poorly
E. Grill anything
3. Five things I can't do:
A. Write a novel. I have tried, but can get no further than 6 or 7 chapters.
B. Watch another Michael Moore film.
C. Pass the Army PFT. Been out of the Army too long and have packed on the pounds.
D. Watch most Sean Penn movies.
E. Dislike Brad Pitt. I want to. I have wanted to for a long time. But every time I think he's going to piss me off in some new movie, he proves to me that he can act decently.
4. Five things that attract me to the opposite sex:
A. My wife's eyes
B. My wife's laugh
C. My wife's tolerance of me
D. My wife's care of our children
E. My wife's smile
5. Five things I say most often:
A. Dammit! (I speak it misspelled).
C. Do you think so?
D. Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh (as part of the the "Yes, I'm listening to you" litany to my wife)
E. NO! (to my children)
6. Five celebrity crushes:
A. Sean Yseult (bassist for Rock City Morgue and formerly for White Zombie)
B. Nina Gordon (co-founder of Veruca Salt, now a solo artist)
C. Jennifer Garner. Yeah, she's pregnant with Ben Affleck's two-headed love child. She's still hot.
D. Penelope Cruz
E. The Great Kat. Okay, she actually scares me to death, but she plays guitar so well, I crush on her just hearing it.
7. Five people I want to do this:
D. Rob B.
E. Ricardo Montalban -- I just want to read his take on things.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Keira: I must have a snog
By BECI WOOD
BRITISH beauty Keira Knightley has revealed she wants to have a clause written into her movie contracts - to ensure she always gets a snog with her leading man.
The brunette babe is currently working on Pirates Of The Caribbean 2; 3 alongside
Johnny Depp – but is disappointed she doesn't get to share a kiss with the US hunk.
When asked if she considered demanding a snog Keira told Company magazine: "I wish I'd thought of that, but, sadly, no.
"In five years' time I'll be like, 'I’m sorry, I need to be guaranteed a snog with my leading man. Write it into my contract!'"
So, silly, young actresses aside, if you had star power, if you were MOVIE ROYALTY, what kind of ludicrous clauses would you write into your contracts?
After giving this a little thought, I have come up with 5 things, in no particular order, that I would contractually require to be in a movie:
1. A year's supply of Spam. I think this speaks for itself. Sometimes you shoot in off-the-wall places and if something bad happens, I want to have provisions ready.
2. Regardless of movie type, I must deliver the following line at least once in a movie: "No, I have never been to Azerbaijan. But I have been to the moon." Preferably, I would like this to be said more than once, and the script has to be rewritten to make it make sense.
3. In the same vein as #2, my female lead must deliver the following line no less than five times in the movie, twice at the premiere and daily on the set: "You look really good in that clown suit." Again, the script writer must make it make sense in the context of the film. My personal assistant will take care of the other times.
4. A pet llama. Don't ask.
5. A pet koala bear for my llama. Okay, okay ... I've always wanted to see a koala bear ride a llama. I don't know if I'll keep this in the contract. I think after seeing it once I might change my mind. Ooh, maybe a midget and a tiger in the next one.
So, howsabout you?
I guess what I'm really trying to say here is that I don't have much to write about this morning and it's going to be a slow post day. So please, have a drink, leave a comment, discuss guitarists or something, and if you want traffic, get linked at Dean's World.
Monday, October 24, 2005
I was deployed to Afghanistan from late 2002 to mid-2003. While there, I got to do a lot of cool stuff, see some truly beautiful sites juxtaposed against the worst kind of poverty and suffering you could imagine. I saw oppression, repression and potential salvation. It's a country of glimmering pessimism and long memories.
My office was located on Bagram Air Base. We put out the daily newspaper. Sounds like a lot, but really it was a newsletter, about 8 - 12 pages and we took Sundays off. So, as with anything, after you do it for a month or so, it becomes old. You get faster at it, and suddenly you have to find other ways to occupy your mind.
Most of us had planned ahead to some degree and being Public Affairs had its benefits. We had broadcasters in our shop which meant we had TVs as part of our deployable equipment. One of my soldiers brought his X box and that was constantly played. We had books galore and I brought a crappy Ibanez G10 with me to plunk occasionally. I had actually bought a cheap $99 Epiphone Les Paul Junior Special specifically for this reason but liked it so much I took the $300 Ibanez. Wouldn't have mattered, it survived the trip well and I wound up giving the guitar to my brother for his birthday upon my return (after buying a "welcome home" present for myself in the form of a new guitar).
One of the problems with having TV in a "war zone" is that you get a lot of people who meander into your office. Now, lots of folks had TVs in their tents and they were starting to run cable out to the tent area (Armed Forces Network ran a link to their channels to us). It made getting things done difficult sometimes. Other times, it was an interesting way to meet new people. Some of the folks who stopped by rather often were the Chaplains and their assistants. Neat people generally.
A particular assistant got me into Madman comics. For the life of me I can't remember his full name (not that I'd give it here), but I do remember some interesting facts about him. His middle name was Yngvie and as we were both musicians, the fact that he shared a name (only a letter difference) with the most egotistical guitarist on the planet made for some interesting conversations.
About the same time that we are hanging out, the story about Yngwie Malmsteen verbally assaulting a passenger on an airplane in 1988 came out on the internet and in Maxim magazine. So, of course, we cut the clipping from the magazine and gave it to the young sergeant. From then on, every time he came into the office, we were afraid that he might "Unleash the Fookin' Fury." Too funny.
The coolest thing ever about being deployed is this sense of benevolence you have about giving crap away. You finish a book, you give it to someone else. You finish a video game, you give it to someone else. He happened to have some copies of Madman comics with him. We had discussed how I was into comics growing up. Next time he stopped by the office, he brings me like five copies of these comics.
Cool and snappy. Created and drawn by Mike Allred. The artwork is throwback. It's the kind of artwork you find on a Cramps or Gore Gore Girls album. It evokes images of Betty Page and leopard-skin prints. Elvis and hula girls. Art deco and pop art. All wrapped in a neat Frankenstein meets Einstein tale.
So, Sgt. Yngvie would come by. We'd talk comics, Johnny Cash and other music. As much as you appreciate talking with folks who share your opinion, I believe the real reason he stopped by my office so often was the fact that my youngest, newest soldier was a 19-year-old, fresh-faced female private first class who joined us in Afghanistan after we'd been there about two months. Just out of training and into a war zone. Not the coolest introduction to the Army, but it was baptism by fire and she did a stellar job.
Not only that, but I had three other women in my office and another female soldier broadcaster who worked down the hall. My Major and I had our hands full trying to keep an eye and ear open to all the goings on. To be honest, after a month or so, I stopped caring whether or not they were actually doing anything and was just happy I hadn't heard anything. If they were discreet, I was happy.
So, now any time I think about Madman, I think of unleashing the "fookin'" fury, passing the time talking about the man in black, beautiful landscapes full of opium poppies and grappa with the Italian Army. The last two are just gonna have to be subjects for future posts.
Sunday, October 23, 2005
Inspired by my post on The Reverend Horton Heat, I want to talk a little bit about Gretsch guitars. Guitarists are known to be particular about getting certain sounds. They attach themselves to certain pieces of equipment -- guitars, pedals, strings, amps, speakers, etc. Gretsch, every bit as much as Gibson and Fender, are responsible for a lot of those cool guitar sounds we grew up loving.
Some of the biggest names in guitar ever have played Gretsch: Chet Atkins, George Harrison, Bo Didley, Chris Cornell, Django Reinhardt, Neil Young, Brian Setzer among others. There's something cool, undeniably Gretsch about those Filtertron pickups. You can hear it in strumming, in the decay of those single notes. Sure, some guitars sound similar, but nothing sounds exactly like a Gretsch.
Founded, in 1872 by German-immigrant Friedrich Gretsch, the company started as a drum and banjo manufacturer in New York. They later added lutherie (guitar manufacturing) to their company and in the 1930s offered acoustic archtops and flat-top guitars. Their first amplified models, the "Electrified Spanish" guitar, appeared in 1940. The 1950s saw the introduction of well-received, though conservatively designed electric archtops.
It was in 1956 that Gretsch cut a marketing deal with Chet Atkins and created his "Country Gentleman" guitar.
UPDATE: I made the Country Gentleman picture a hyperlink to the full-size image. Click it to check out the tuners on this baby. I meant to mention this when I was originally writing this. Look at how cool those little art deco things are. It's a little touch, but the kind of cool thing Gretsch does on their instruments. For an example of where these tuners became popular, click here.
This guitar has moved on to Gibson. Unfortunately. Not that I personally have anything against Gibson as a company. In fact, I probably admire them more than any other American lutherie company. But they have had quality control issues. They acquired Epiphone and with the exception of the high-end models, Epiphone is now a manufacturer of low-end Gibson knock-offs. Gibson has also acquired Kramer and Steinberger and the quality of those instruments has declined extremely. It's cool that they try and make affordable instruments, but I wish they'd still offer the level of quality they offer under their own name.
This is not to say that the Country Gentleman is not a quality instrument under Gibson's helm. It is a fantastic instrument, it just doesn't have that same Gretsch kitschy cool. Oh well. I'll write more about Gibson another day.
Gretsch has had some amazingly cool players. Out of the list above, their most famous player must be George Harrison. While John Lennon was playing his huge Epiphone Emperor, Harrison knocked out some cool sounds on his Gretsch Duo Jet. Of course, all the Beatles played a variety of brands, the Gretsch Duo Jet is a mainstay of Harrison's sound. At least as much as Rickenbacker.
The modern Gretsch company has gone through some changes. It is now located in Savannah, Ga. (three hours down the road from me! I hope they give tours!), and their company was acquired by Fender Music Company in 2002. While this would normally spell the end of quality and manufacturing integrity for a company if Gibson had done it, Fender is known for letting their subsidiaries continue to produce their instruments at the same level of quality. They may cut into production levels, but the heart of a company generally remains the same. Fender acquired Jackson about the same time and if anything, quality has gone up for them.
I find this slice of Americana so interesting. When you think about the industrial background of America's youth, what images come to mind? I think about railroads and car manufacturers. Seldom did instrument makers enter my mind, but obviously they did their part to keep our economy going. And they more than did their part to ensure we produced some of the coolest music ever.
I got a heck of a lot of the information for this piece from The Guitar & Rock Equipment by Nick Freeth. If you've not seen it, check it out. And I didn't even talk about the coolness of the Bigsby vibrato unit. Some time in the future, I guess.
You happen to remember that war we're involved in? You know, the one where they said we were stopping WMDs and terrorists sponsors? Guess what, while we may not have found the WMDs originally thought (though there are many military folks who served there that will debate that), this just came out today:
U.N. Procurement Scandal: Ties to Saddam and Al Qaeda
...New details of how dark the scandal could prove to be have emerged from the private sale of IHC on June 3, 2005, just as the procurement scandal was about to break. It now appears that while doing business with the U.N., IHC had links both to Saddam Hussein’s old sanctions-busting networks, and to a Liechtenstein-based businessman, Engelbert Schreiber, Jr., known among other things for his ties to a figure designated by the U.N. itself as a financier of Al Qaeda.
Who does this surprise?
Saturday, October 22, 2005
Dallas, Deep Ellum, actually, is home to one of the best guitarists in music today, Jim Heath. Better known to the masses as The Reverend Horton Heat.
It's kind of silly how I've decided to pick these guys up again for the critical listen. Boston Market is using their Eat Steak song from their 1991 album Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em, in a new advertisement. I couldn't get the bit they play on the commercial out of my head so I needed to burn through some albums and flush my system with them again.
The first time I ever heard The Rev was in 1994. They played the UNO Arena, opening up for Soundgarden. There was another band, who played first, called UMI (from Australia, I believe). Oh, man UMI was bad, bad, bad, and didn't fit in with the rest of show. I'll get to The Rev in a moment, but Soundgarden also put on a surprisingly poor show. They were touring on their Superunknown album. It was amazingly well-received and the arena was full of teeny boppers who only knew Soundgaren for Black Hole Sun. It wasn't the crowd they wanted. At one point, just as guitarist Kim Thayil was about to break out into the fantastic solo for the song Superunknown, someone threw their flannel shirt onstage and it landed right on his guitar. Horrible. That pretty much was the mood of their entire set.
I felt so bad for them. I wanted a high energy show. The guys in the band were not enthusiastic at all and it was bad.
However, the middle band, The Reverend, was AWESOME! I had heard rockabilly before. I was really into punk. I had never before heard Punkabilly. They shocked me. Being a metal/punk/grunge bigot (at the time), it was kind of hard to understand why they were at this show. They really didn't fit the Soundgarden sound and they were heavily country influenced -- anathema to me at the time. But, seeing them play live, you couldn't deny their musical virtuosity and verve. They were great.
Unfortunately for me, I didn't go out and pick up any of their tapes. I didn't look into them any further ... UNTIL you flash forward about 4 or 5 years. I've joined the Army, pulled a 3-year tour in Okinawa and am now stationed in Arizona. Most of the pals I make there are of the skate punk, neo-swing, punk, bowling shirt wearing, former goth crowd. Now, not fully my scene, but I can understand them. And, I get introduced to some bands that I now dig, but at the time hadn't heard. One night, watching Drew Carey, I see The Reverend Horton Heat pop up -- "Oh, man," I thought. "I know them!"
Seeing them on the show was a catalyst. The next time I was over at one friend's place, I asked him if he had any of their albums. He had both It's Martini Time and Spaceheater. I absorbed them both and bought them myself. They were the only two albums of theirs I've owned until recently, but I have so much respect for them, Jim Heath especially.
Just look at him here plucking away on his Gretsch. It's awesome. He is so in his element playing live on a big Jazz-style guitar.
He's fast. He's adept. He's classy. The Rev may stick to pretty "normal" rockabilly style sound and scales, but he does it with his own feel. He throws in some odd notes and phrasing that makes it his own.
If you've never heard The Reverend Horton Heat, Shame on You! They are more than worthwhile. If you ever have the chance to see them live, you should.
And thanks to Boston Market for putting them into the front of my conscious mind:
Eat steak, eat steak eat a big ol' steer
Eat steak, eat steak do we have one dear?
Eat beef, eat beef it's a mighty good food
It's a grade A meal when I'm in the mood.
Cowpokes'll come from a near and far
When you throw a few rib-eyes on the fire
Roberto Duran ate two before a fight
'Cause it gave a lot of mighty men a lot of mighty might
Eat steak, eat steak eat a big ol' steer
Eat steak, eat steak do we have one dear?
Eat beef, eat beef it's a mighty good food
It's a grade A meal when I'm in the mood.
I thought that Christian Bale was inspired casting from the moment I heard he was cast. I didn't think much else of the rest of the cast. I mean, ever single actor in the movie is the kind of person you can depend on to deliver a solid performance, but I just didn't overthink it. I firmly thought it was a "Wait for the DVD" movie and now I wish I had seen it on the big screen.
*SOME MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD*
Every actor in this movie delivers a solid, excellent performance. I was so enthralled by everything. Ra's al Ghul was the perfect primary villain for the movie and Dr. Crane/Scarecrow was an excellent supplementary fare. The movie never drags (I don't think) and for the first time in any other Batman movie, Gotham finally actually looks like a real city and not s set.
Not to say that it's a perfect movie. There are a couple of drawbacks. While I think Bale was amazing as Wayne, the Batman suit needs a little work. He looked like a hunchback during a lot of the sequences. The how microwave emitter thing was a throwaway device (Hmm, so it only targets water, huh? What are people made up of like 60 percent?).
But what's cool about the imperfections is that you overlook them in the same way that you do in the comic books. Because this Batman movie, more so than ANY of its predecessors, feels like the comic book. Tim Burton's Batman movies were good and stylish but don't hold a candle to the sheer Batman feel of this movie. This movie wins hands down on feel, look, casting and script.
The real key to success, IMO, is that they followed the model that Spiderman set, and improved upon it. Very, very satisfied. Now, I wonder who's going to play the joker in the sequel?
Friday, October 21, 2005
That is not to say that you can’t change or modify your personality. But anyone with more than one child will tell you that children are born with distinct personalities.
How does this pertain to television? Bear with me.
My youngest daughter (middle child, aged 4) loves dolls. Barbies, Bratz (the so-called “Prostitots”), My Scene … whatever the doll de jour, she wants it. My oldest daughter (first child, aged 6) could care less. Unless her sister wants something -- then she latches on to it. The biggest difference, my 4-year-old will play with her dolls forever. My 6-year-old won’t. She’ll open the gift or whatever delivery method brings the doll to her and she’ll be very thankful. But after the initial gratitude, and maybe a short bit of playing with it, she just forgets about it. Or lets her sister play with it.
And they’ve always been this way. From the earliest stages, you could see my oldest was more interested in looking at things and trying to figure what was going on with something. Her sister, was more interested in picking things up and seeing what was going on with them that way. So it is with this in mind, that I observe their reactions to TV.
My 4-year-old sees a commercial. To her it is simple supply/demand economics. “Daddy. I want that My Scene doll! They have a new one. She’s got a red dress. Her hair is blonde. I really want the blonde one, but the brunette one … her name it Chloe,” ad nauseam. Imagine this coming at you with this cute little voice that still kind of articulates her Rs with a slight W sound. She’s amazingly excited and looks to you as the provider of not only her survival needs, but her doll dealer. I am the supplier, buyer, and, at times, I even have to prepare her product for her. Thanks TV.
But there are simple and various ways to deal with this. The first, and probably easiest, would be to ban her from TV until she leaves my house. While attractive, I’d have to listen to her whine. See above, where I described how cute and pleading she could be? Well, her whining is the equal and opposite reaction. So, usually I just tell her that she might get one for Christmas or her birthday. In fact, she’s stuck on the idea that she’s getting a My Scene doll for her birthday (in March) and not Christmas, regardless of how many times I tell her that Christmas is closer to now than her birthday.
For my 6-year-old, TV is a magic place where they sell miracle cures for being overweight, an exercise device will cure all your health problems and families are made all better because mom popped Brand X pie in the oven. She will see a commercial for a diet pill or something and then say, “Mommy/Daddy! That person just lost a lot of weight with that. We should buy that so you can too!”
It’s the naiveté that gets me. My 4-year-old already understands manipulation. She understands that subtlety of language and feelings. Not outright lying, but not fully coming forth with the truth. My 6-year-old does not. She does, however, understand complex abstract ideas, like simple relativity (not by that name, of course). She understands the idea that things can be different given different people’s points of views, etc. It’s amazing.
My 4-year-old will meld into a situation until she’s comfortable and then assert herself. My 6-year-old will blunder into a situation either situationally unaware with her notions of how to act and she won’t adapt. But she’s also emotional and isn’t strong enough to assert herself in a meaningful way. And I don’t see how what they watch on TV is helping any of this.
The magic is that they don’t have to put themselves into any magical world and think what they might do. It’s force fed to them. So, they watch TV. My youngest girl pinging around and dancing, etc. to the Winx Club and whatnot, my oldest watching intently. I wonder how much of it has an effect on who they now are and who they will become.
Good lord, I could go on forever. Suffice to say that both of them like books and I’m thinking that they’re going to be pushed more in our household.
So, you bold the movies you've seen and then you get some corned beef hash or something.
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension!
Back to the Future
Bride of Frankenstein
Brother From Another Planet
A Clockwork Orange
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
The Day The Earth Stood Still
Escape From New York
ET: The Extraterrestrial
Flash Gordon: Space Soldiers (serial)
The Fly (1985 version)
Ghost in the Shell
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 version)
Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior
On the Beach
Planet of the Apes (1968 version)
Solaris (1972 version)
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
The Stepford Wives
Terminator 2: Judgement Day
The Thing From Another World
Things to Come
28 Days Later
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
2001: A Space Odyssey
La Voyage Dans la Lune
War of the Worlds (1953 version)
I would add:
City of the Lost Children
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (more because of the utter coolness of it's previous incarnations as radio show, books, TV mini-series, and radio series again)
The Time Macine (1960 movie version)
There are others, this is what I can think of at the moment. I guess it's sad or something that I've seen almost all of these. Whatever. Suggest something better to do.
There is something remarkable about youth. You have time to invest when you have no real responsibility. And you seem to just absorb things and skills are sharpened quickly. Not quite so as you age and you split yourself into 80 different tracks of thought and action. So, anyway, I suck at playing guitar. But I still love it and there was a time I didn't think I sucked. At least not anywhere near as bad as now.
The first time I ever thought, "Hey, I'm getting pretty decent at this," was shortly after this album came out:
As a late '80s, early 90s metalhead, you looked forward to the "big guys" putting out new albums. Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, Iron Maiden, Suicidal Tendencies and SLAYER. Slayer were the heaviest, fastest guys around at the time. They didn't play the best, they weren't the best musicians, but they wrote very cool music. And Seasons in the Abyss is the culmination of years of work on their part. The band members said that this album combines the heaviness they always possessed with better melodies they had been trying to incorporate the previous two albums. This is not my favorite Slayer album. I actually think that one of those two previous albums -- Reign in Blood -- is their best, but this album will always be special to me.
A friend of mine got his hands on the tape shortly after it came out and I was able to get him to dub a copy for me. And then, over the course of one Saturday, I sat in my room with a walkman and my guitar and learned to play every single song on this album. In order.
I had a couple of issues here and there. I didn't do solos (still don't), but I nailed down all the rhythms. I stepped outside my idea of how to play certain ways and developed new skills so I could play at their speed.
One day. I dissected this album. It was great. From the punch-you-in-the face assault of War Ensemble to the eerily dissonant Dead Skin Mask, I pounded out these tunes on my piece of crap Quantum electric guitar. You can't even find this guitar on Google. It was so underground. You can find a review of their amps on Harmony Central.
I actually still have the guitar body but have no idea what happened to the neck. I currently trying to piece together some of my old parts to make this a working guitar again. Once I get the project back on track, I'll probably post pics of progress, etc.
Anyway ... I love this album because it's the first piece of music that gave me a huge sense of accomplishment. Not, "I learned a song" accomplishment, but "I learned their whole album" accomplishment. And for that, I thank you Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman.
He points out how many of them are obvious grabs at fast cash and that most are poorly written.
Will assesses that many folks out there don't read to expand their mind, but rather read to reinforce opinions they already hold. While I don't want this to be true, I see the obvious truth of it. However, I don't think I'll draw quite a wide swath of generalization. While people might not seek out alternative political matter, there is a lot of exposure to it through their choice of entertainment.
More importantly though, he brings up the subject of polarization and how you can see the split in Americans through politics. He sums up:
Polarization is real. In many ways, there are two Americas. And
it is evidenced by all the things people read (not just books). We could be
moving toward a country without any consensus media sources both sides of the
aisle can agree are trustworthy and fair and accurate.
However, I would argue that there are more than two Americas. Obviously there are the right and left, and the gulf is growing. But there is still a substantive middle for which these two parties fight. I would argue that there are three Americas. You have your right and left, but there is a center that is sold on the best policy, not on politcal ideology.
Fascinating post. Will is focused more on election ideology, but I found some of his supplementary POV amazing.
Thursday, October 20, 2005
|Cullen took the free ColorQuiz.com personality test!|
"Feels the existing circumstances are hostile and i..."
It's me. But I'm not quite a depressed or depressing as it goes into. I'm the "extra light" version of this description.
I live in a fictional world of spies and blonde women with ridiculous names, and I like to give people plenty of options. Although whether they're villainous is not optional.
And as James Bond Villians go, I was Elliot Carver.
Zack: I think this is supposed to be the new Willy Wonka. Although since no one saw that movie it's a safe bet this costume is just going to get you robbed and hit on by elderly guys in berets a lot.
Dr. Thorpe: There was more to Oscar Wilde than just his flamboyant dress and foppish manner. Like, for example, he also had droll witticisms, like "either that wallpaper goes, or I come up with another droll witticism."
Read the entire thing here.
Take the quiz: "Which Guitar Player Are You?"
You are John Petrucci! You are the lead guitarist for Dream Theater, one of the most underknown and underappreciated bands of the past 15 years. You are a pioneer to progressive rock, and an incredible musical composer. You have one of the widest scale ranges of all guitar players.
You're cautious, a bit paranoid. You left the scene for the suburban married life, but somehow, touble seems to follow you and piss on your mornings. You are quick to share your point of view, but have no problems with giving in to the requests of wives and wolves.
Take the What Pulp Fiction Character Are You? quiz.
What animal are you?
I finally got a cool one:
You're The Animals!
You're just a soul whose intentions are good. You are praying for some understanding, but somehow you seem to know already that it's not going to come through. You wouldn't have thought that a mere house could ruin your life, but now you don't even look forward to the sunrise anymore. With all this ruin, you think it might be time to go on some sort of tour. You've got to get out of this place, if it's the last thing you ever do.
Take the Animal Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.
Bush, Rove Redouble Efforts
Rovian-designed hurricane/weather machine proving unweildly with age
Washington, D.C - President Bush and Karl Rove are finding that hurricane Wilma may be a bit harder to direct and maintain than previous Gulf hellstorms.
"Yeah, Katrina was fairly easy to maintain power and direct," Rove said. "Of course as CRAWFORD ages, it gets harder for us to direct these things at minorities and blue voter pockets in red states.
CRAWFORD is the name of Rove's design and stands for Climate Rejecting Atmospheric Weather Forecaster/Redirector/Destructor.
What State are you?
Part of the old school, you like both historical sites and crazy amusement parks. You like saying the word Commonwealth but couldn't really explain the concept or how it applies to your life. You like five-sided shapes, five-cent pieces, and possibly anything else having to do with the number five. Every now and then, you discard chaff from yourself that you just don't feel you need. And since you've been wondering... yes, there is a Santa Claus.
Take the State Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.
Heheh. Mee so hawney.
Calmer and more staunchly independent than almost all those around you,
you have a long history of rising above adversity. Recent adversity has led to
questions about your sexual promiscuity and the threat of disease, but you still manage
to attract a number of tourists and admirers. And despite any setbacks, you can
really cook a good meal whenever it's called for. Good enough to make people
Take the Country Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid
Which historic general are you?
You scored 70 Wisdom, 58 Tactics, 58 Guts, and 48 Ruthlessness!
Leader of the Gauls, a chieftain of the Arverni. He was the leader of the great revolt against the Romans in 52 BC. Julius Caesar, upon hearing of the trouble, rushed to put it down. Vercingetorix was, however, an able leader and adopted the policy of retreating to heavy, natural fortifications and burning the Gallic towns to keep the Roman soldiers from living off the land. Caesar and his chief lieutenant Labienus lost in minor engagements, but when Vercingetorix shut himself up in Alesia and summoned all his Gallic allies to attack the besieging Romans, the true brilliance of Caesar appeared. He defeated the Gallic relieving force and took the fortress. Vercingetorix was captured and, after gracing Caesar's triumphal return to Rome, was put to death.
|My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:|
|Link: The Which Historic General Are You Test written by dasnyds on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test|