Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cyanide & Happiness

This blog is committed to posting any and all cartoons that quote Kurt Vonnegut. For the record, it is from the most excellent Slaughterhouse Five, and a more complete version is : . All time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is. Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I've said before, bugs in amber.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

1812 Overture

Tchaikovsky rocks! I've loved Light Classical music since I was a young teenager. Especially the stuff with droopy dreary violins - Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, and anyone named Strauss. .
I picked up this album for $1 at the used-record store. I have no idea who Bernard Haitink is (although he is listed at Wikipedia); but his Amsterdam Orchestra is up to the task.
This album appears to have been issued in 1973. Three Tchaikovsky opuses, with one common denominator - they all have at least a couple bars of the Russian national anthem incorporated into them. 49 minutes of great music. And a kewl album cover to boot.
The conversion was relatively painless. No skips, and only a few major scratches. I was fortunate to find jpegs of both the front and back covers on the Internet. I burned it to CD, and listened to it on the way to work a couple mornings last week. At 80 decibels, it gave me goosebumps. 9*/10.
Track listing : (01) Overture 1812, Op. 49 (15:51). (02) Slavonic March, Op. 31 (9:30). Francesca da Rimini, Op. 32 (24:08).

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Printer Woes

Something quick, as I'm having major issues with my printer this evening. It's about to get its butt tossed out the window.

Monday, September 27, 2010

How to score less than the 50th percentile

I actually witnessed something like this once. We were in high school, and everyone in my class was in the auditorium, taking the SAT's. I used to eat those tests up - it was just math and English. . So there I was, buzzing along, with a "I've got this test aced" high, when I chanced to look at the test paper of the guy in front of me. In fairness, this was somebody who had no intention of going to college. So a good SAT score meant nothing to him. And there he was, just making diagonal patterns with the dots down the page. And finishing in record time, I imagine. . It was at that point that I realized that merely scoring in the upper 50% on one's College Boards is really not that impressive.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Hills of Indiana - Lonnie Mack

Album : The Hills of Indiana (Elektra)
Artist : Lonnie Mack
Year LP Issued : 1971
Year CD Issued : 2003
Genre : Rock, Folk, Bluegrass, Blues, you name it
LP Length : approx. 42 minutes
Rating : 9*/10
Lonnie Mack is first and foremost a great blues guitarist. But back in the late 60's Elektra tried to present him as a rockabilly artist. The Hills Of Indiana was his third album for them. I don't think it sold worth a hoot, but Elektra did pitch it a bit by putting one of its tracks on a triple-LP album - The Garden Of Delights, which had just a poopload of great-but-unknown artists on it. One of these days I'll have to convert that as well.
What's To Like...
There is some great guitar work by Lonnie. He also shows off on the fiddle on Bill Monroe's Uncle Pen. The slow ballads and spirituals are good as well. Some of the songs are Mack-penned; but quite a few were written by others.
The Best of the Bunch...
Lay It Down (the track that Elektra put on GOD). Uncle Pen (there is no such thing as bad bluegrass). Asphalt Outlaw Hero (awesome guitar lick). The Man In Me (a Bob Dylan song, but I will always think of Al Kooper when I hear it). Three Angels (co-written and co-sung by Mack's friend, Don Nix).
Why Convert The LP...
Based on Lay It Down, I special-ordered this album in the early 70's. Then for some reason, I parted with it. Not rock-and-roll enough? Too country-ish? It's hard to remember.
Later on, I deeply regretted no longer having it. I watched for it for years at the used-LP shops, and finally found it a couple years ago. This disc is only in fair condition - lots of scratches, and one annoying skip that I finally circumvented. Still, it's great to hear it again, and I've been playing it a lot on the way to, and at, work. It has recently shown up as a CD on Amazon, but no one has yet written a review of it. I guess it still isn't selling.
Which is a shame, really, because The Hills Of Indiana is a great album from top to bottom. If you come across it, snatch it up. Nine Stars.
Complete Track Listing...
01. Ashpalt Outlaw Hero (3:02).
02. Florida (3:08).
03. Lay It Down (3:50).
04. The Hills Of Indiana (3:40).
05. Uncle Pen (1:48).
06. Bicycle Annie (5:10).
07. A Fine Way To Go (3:06).
08. Rings (3:10).
09. The Man In Me (3:09).
10. She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye (3:20).
11. All Good Things Will Come To Pass (3:27).
12. Three Angels (4:39).

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Sing-Along

It's the weekend, and today my three-months-after-going-off-blood-thinners follow-up UltraSound found that the DVT's haven't returned. That makes me want to sing along with Mr. George.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Trivia Thursday

The historical Alice Liddell is pictured below, and that is also the person for whom the galactic space-barge in Take Back Plenty (which I just finished reading) is named. .
So just who is/was Alice Liddell? (Answer in the comments)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Seems Like Old Times (Movie)

Seems Like Old Times
Genre : Comedy; Light Romance
Theater Release Date : 19 December 1980
DVD Release Date : 19 March 2002
Length : 100 minutes
MPAA Rating : PG
Overall Rating : 8*/10
  . Seems Like Old Times is a follow-up to the Hawn/Chase flick Foul Play.  Written by Neil Simon, it finds a schlep (Chevy Chase) falsely framed for a bank heist, and seeking refuge at his ex's (Goldie Hawn) house, as she hides him in various places from her now husband (Charles Grodin).  Madcap mania ensues.

What's To Like...
    It's laugh-out-loud funny, thanks mostly to Hawn's efforts, a good script, and a gaggle of gags and routines.  This is almost despite Chase (who's a great comic but can't act worth a lick); and Grodin (who received a "Razzie" nomination - for worst supporting actor - for this film).

   The slack is taken up by a jive-talking chauffeur (T.K. Carter) and a no-nonsense cook/maid (Yvonne Wilder).  Heck, even the half dozen dogs do a good job of acting, especially the Yorkie.  Harold Gould plays the judge and almost succeeds with his Groucho Marx routine.  He doesn't quite pull it off, but hey, who can, outside of Groucho.

    Goldie : "You just went through a stop sign!"
    T. K. : "I can't help it. I don't like to read when I drive."

   The performances by Chase and Grodin leave something to be desired, but the timing of the lines is perfect and I laughed throughout the movie.  I credit this to the director, Jay Sandrich.  In this day of "Dumber and Dumberer" comedies, it was a pleasant change to watch one where you were expected to use your brain a bit.

  . Ultimately, this is more like an hour-and-a-half SNL routine than a coherent story.  But there are zingers aplenty and ample antics, which more than make up for the somewhat tepid ending.  You won't find the meaning of life or love here, but you will be entertained.  That's all I ask of a film.  8 Stars.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Saying doesn't make it so

Here's the thing, teabaggers. Just because you say you're not bigoted doesn't mean you're not.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Fall Phoenix Concert Season

Autumn has arrived, and you know what that means. Decent acts once again will be showing up in concert. Here's the ones I'm contemplating attending.
. 02 October - Johnny and Edgar Winter
09 October - Its A Beautiful Day
early November - Elton John & Leon Russell
10 November - Andre Watts
13 November - Melanie ("Safka", not "C")
late November - Roger Waters and The Wall tour
. That's an awesome schedule.   And James McMurtry was here yesterday, and I didn't even know it. . We have our Elton John and Roger Waters tickets already.   Melanie and IABD are at a local blues bar, and will only cost $30 each.   Johnnny & Edgar are at the Celebrity Theater, which is always a good place for a concert.   And Andre Watts is in a class by himself.

  .I won't make all of these, but it's hard to say which ones I'll miss. Stay tuned.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Today be Talk Like A Pirate Day, me mateys! So batten down the hatches, hoist up the landlubbers, and download an MP3 file!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Terrorists who don't wash their hands

A couple weeks ago, I took my first plane trip in a while. It was just a short jaunt over to Fresno, but I've been away from the TSA Security insanity for far too long. . As I entered the security check-in area at Sky Harbor, I was pulled aside by a lady in uniform and ordered to extend my hand. She proceeded to swathe it three times with some sort of liquid, and I then had to put my hand over some sort of scanner. . It of course turned out negative, and I later found out from a frequent-flying colleague that it was looking for traces of bomb-making material on my hands. Lucky for me as a chemist that none of my company's chemicals are apparently on the no-no list. . Curiously, there was a guy entering the Security Zone right behind me. The uniform asked him if he was with me. "No," he answered (truthfully). "Okay, you can go," she said, and he moved along without incident. So... . Did I really look like a terrorist, or was a TSA lady just trying to justify her existence and randomly check anyone she didn't like? And what difference did it make whether the next guy was with me or not. Do terrorists only work alone? . In any event, I feel so much safer knowing that TSA is watching out for bomb-makers who don't wash their hands.

Friday, September 17, 2010

PS3 Controller for Adults

Greetings, fellow geezers! The kewlest game system right now is Play Station 3. But its controller (see below) is a bit more complicated than the one you used to use to play Duck Hunter and Mario Kart. So here is a quick primer, in geezer-speak, so that you can play all the neat PS3 games without embarrassing yourself. Too much. .Let's get started. See those two knobs at the bottom? They are both joysticks. The one on the left moves you. The one on the right moves your eyes. Try to remember which is which when Cthuhlu or some other monster is bearing down on you. . At the top left are four directional arrows. They're used for something, but who knows what? Ignore them. Your left thumb should be concentrating on that moves-you joystick. And your pointer finger..., well we'll get to it in a bit. . To their right are two buttons. One marked "Select"; the other marked "Start". Don't worry about these during gameplay. They're only used when you're trying to quit, save a game, or pause. Your character will be dead long before you think about one of those options. . Moving further to the right, we have four VERY IMPORTANT buttons. We'll call them "X", "O", "Triangle", and "Square". You use them for all sorts of vital things - switching weapons, conversing with other characters, jumping, casting spells, lighting lamps, and managing your inventory of loot, artifacts, money, etc. Who knows which does what. Who cares? You have no time to look at your controller when a gazillion Nazis are charging you. Just start pushing all of them as fast as your can. . So you think that's all the buttons, eh? Think again. Down the front of the controller (upwards from the triangle, for instance) are four more. These are for your pointing fingers. They are called "Left One", Left Two", "Right One", and "Right Two". The "two's" are below the "one's". These are also very important. They punch, kick, block, aim, and (most importantly) shoot your BFG. I think most times, Shoot is Right One. and Aim is Left One. Maybe. Maybe not. Try to figure out which one shoots as soon as you start the game. . So there you go. Counting up, you have two joysticks and fourteen (!!) buttons to keep track of. And we won't even tell you how pressing down on the left joystick makes your character crouch or crawl. Now get out there and kick some beastly butt. If you can figure out how to get from TV mode to PS3 mode.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Kewlness Factor

Some have it... .
...Some don't.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Kingston Trio - Here We Go Again

Genre : Classic Folk
Year : 1959
Number of Tracks : 12
Approximate Time : 29 minutes
Overall Rating : 7½*/10

. The Kingston Trio put out 4 (!) albums in 1959 (two were live albums), and Here We Go Again was the last of the quartet of releases. Twelve tracks, only one of which is more than 3 minutes long, and that one was only 3:03. You can buy HWGA as part of a "twofer" at Amazon. But where's the fun in that? I ripped my copy from a monaural LP, which had no skips and a remarkably small number of scratches for a half-century old piece of vinyl. . What's To Like... It doesn't contain any of their big hits, which is a plus to me. The only two tracks that make it to K3 Greatest Hits CD's are Across The Wide Missouri and A Worried Man. As always, there's a wide variety of songs - ballads, banjo-picking rags, spirituals, and humorous tunes. . IMHO, the best of the bunch are : Oleanna (a silly song about a worldwide hit of a song), E Inu Tatou E (a Tahitian drinking ditty, if Google is to be believed); and Goober Peas (a peppy little number about Confederate soldiers who prefer eating to fighting Yanks). . I'm gonzo about The Kingston Trio, so of course I liked Here We Go Again. My LP-to-CD conversion operation was on the fritz for a while; first due to software issues (Windoze-7 doesn't like every Windoze-XP program), and then hardware issues (the turntable decided to cut its sound volume by about 75%). But these have been resolved now, so expect more reviews of obscure and long-forgotten albums in the months to come. 7½ Stars.

Complete Track List : (01) Molly Dee. (02) Across The Wide Missouri. (03) Haul Away. (04) The Wanderer. (05) 'Round About The Mountain. (06) Oleanna. (07) The Unfortunate Miss Bailey. (08) San Miguel. (09) E Inu Tatou E. (10) A Rollin' Stone. (11) Goober Peas. (12) A Worried Man.

Monday, September 13, 2010

We're baaaackk!

Well, maybe not quite. The offense didn't score a touchdown; McNabb's quarterback rating was atrocious; the running game sucked; and we took three points off the scoreboard in exchange for a first down, then didn't get any points out of the drive. . Still, the more-talented Cowboys played worse than we did, and in the end my Redskins won 13-7. One win does not make a playoff-bound team, but even if we lose the next 15 games, we'll still come away knowing we split our two games with Dallas.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

RIP - Bent Larsen

Bent Larsen
Nationality : Danish
International Grandmaster
b. : 04 March 1935
d. : 09 September 2010
. Bent Larsen passed away last week in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He became a (Chess) International Grandmaster in 1956, and back in those days, that title meant something. . His best playing days were in the 1960's and 70's, back when I was breaking into chess. His opening repertoire was unique for a top-flight chessplayer in that it included a lot of offbeat and rarely-played lines. This made a major influence upon me, and affects my choices of openings even to this day. . Those openings, and his wide-open, risk-taking middle-game play, often flummoxed the legions of Russian grandmasters. Indeed, in those days, Larsen and a skinny American kid named Bobby Fischer were the only Western players that were a threat to beat up on the Soviet players. .
He was also a great annotator. I enjoyed reading his comments because he gave you real, honest remarks. If his opponent was outplaying him, he'd tell you. If he caught a lucky break, he'd admit it. Most annotators want you to believe their opponents just rolled over and begged for mercy. I'm sorry, Walter Browne. My opponents don't do that.
So God's team now consists of Bobby Fischer, Vassily Smyslov, and Bent Larsen. Look out for Heaven at the next Olympiad.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Will he or won't he?

We're down to the last day before the Pentecostal goofball in Florida decides whether to burn his Korans or not. He certainly has gotten his 15 minutes of fame. Thank goodness he has no idea what Twitter, Facebook, and blogs are.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

it's bad to burn Korans because...

Well, I see the Florida preacher nutjob has called off his Koran-burning session. It's hard to say whether this was all a tawdry publicity stunt (I'm leaning towards that theory), or if Terry Jones is simply batsh*t crazy. Hmm. I guess it could be both. . Frankly, Jones is not who I'm disappointed in. Nor the government, nor the FBI. Jones has a constitutional right to burn his Korans if he wants to. There's no law against it. . No, it's the rest of the church denominations, pastors, and churchgoers that leave me stunned. Does anyone think this was acceptable Christian behavior? The rest of the christian community should have led the way in denouncing this hatemonger. . Instead, we got weak, watered-down "Well, I don't think it's a good idea to be riling up them Muslims by burning their holy book." Wow. Where's the righteous outrage? Does any Christian really believe Jesus would approve this whack-job's actions? Talk about tacit complicity. . Of course, nowadays it's silly to think the church - any denomination - is in a WWJD mode of thinking. It's all about the money, it's all about the membership roles, and it's all about getting in bed with the Radical Right. Thinking like Jesus is bad for business. . Which is not to let the radical Muslims off the hook either. A jihad is no different than a Crusade. And a fatwa is no different than a Papal Edict or a Pentecostal "message from God". It's difficult to say which religion - Islam or Christianity - is working hardest at being the meanest and most hate-filled movement in the world. . And that's kinda sad when you think about it.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

RIP - Mike Edwards

Michael Edwards
b : 31 May 1948
d. : 03 September 2010
aka : Swami Deva Pramada
. He was the original cellist (1972) for the Electric Light Orchestra, appearing on four of their early albums. He also did some session work with Barclay James Harvest, one of the most underrated bands of all time. . According to Wikipedia, he put on a bizarre act with ELO - fingering the strings of the cello with an orange or a grapefruit, and eventually having his cello explode in a burst of pyrotechnics. After leaving ELO (1975), he changed his name to Swami Deva Pramada. . He was killed last Friday in a unlikely accident. While motoring down the road in England in his van, a 600-kg cylindrical bale of hay (that's more than a half-ton to us Yanks) rolled down a hillside and slammed into his vehicle. You can read CNN's article on it here. . I'm sure theists of various persuasions will come up with some mystical and inane explanations for this. For me, I'll simply mourn the passing of a one-of-a-kind artist. Playing a cello in a rock-&-roll band is strange enough; playing it with fruit is even more unique. Now I gotta go out and find an old DVD of ELO.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Monday, September 06, 2010

Mother Nature vs. Mankind

In the case of Mt. Vesuvius vs. Pompeii, put your money on Mother Nature.
Full review here.

Friday, September 03, 2010


Sad to say, the RIAA has been on a roll lately, shutting down a lot of the music file-swapping sites. And the ones that still remain are infested with viruses. . Which is kind of a good thing for me, since most of the music I like goes back to the days of vinyl, and I am set up to convert LP's to MP3 files, then burn them to CD's. And with about 3,000 albums, there's no shortage of music to convert.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

The ballad of Marcia Powell

Meet Marcia Powell. Not much of a looker, is she? Marcia was a local prostitute. Marcia also had some serious mental problems.
Because of her career choice, Marcia found herself in jail last May. In case you've never been in Phoenix in May, it can get rather hot. On this particular day, May 19th, 2010, it got up to 107°F.
At 11:00 AM on May 19th, Marcia told prison officials that she felt suicidal. The prison officials then did a curious thing - they locked Marcia in an outdoor cage to await being taken to a psychiatric facility.
The cage is normally used as a discipline tool for inmates who are outside and refuse to go back to their cells. Rather than confront said inmates, prison officials try to somehow lure the prisoner into one of these, and then "wait him/her out". It is hoped that the isolation and outside conditions will adjust the prisoner's attitude.
The prison's policy is to only allow a prisoner a maximum of 2 hours in these outside cages. On May 19, Marcia was kept there for four hours. She repeatedly asked for some water, and accounts vary as to whether she was given any. Marcia also asked to be allowed to go to the restroom, but was refused. Consequently, she defecated in the cage. One of the officers noted that she had soiled herself, but left her there anyway. Investigators later found feces underneath her fingernails and all over her back.
A prison sergeant saw Powell lose consciousness, but never reported that to supervisors, despite the fact that Powell said she was having trouble breathing.
After two hours, Marcia asked to be returned to her cell indoors. The request was denied. After four hours, Marcia Powell was dead.
The Department of Corrections recommended that seven corrections officers on duty that day be charged with negligent homicide. Yesterday, the Maricopa County Attorney's office decided not to do so. Do you think I'm making this up or exaggerating the story? You can read the Arizona Republic's article about it here.
So a woman is dead because she engaged in the oldest profession and told someone she felt suicidal. And a slew of goons who stupidly and/or callously caused her death are walking around Phoenix today with smirks on their faces.
The lesson here is this - if you run afoul of the law in Arizona, you better have lots of money t0 hire some good lawyers to get you out. If you're poor, female, with mental issues and without resources, the prison officials can basically kill you in a most foul and painful way, and get away with it.
Rest in peace, Marcia Powell. Even if nobody else gives a sh*t about what happened to you, I do.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss

Want to learn the seven words to make a woman love you? See the full review here.