Saturday, December 24, 2011

Dylan Ratigan Hits It On The Head

It's what I've been saying for years. One party is just as corrupt as the other. A systemic sweeping change will have to take place across the entire political spectrum if America is ever going to regain its moral conscience and once again become a republic for all and not just the crooks running the store.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Gobekli Tepe - Thousands of years Before Stonehenge and Sumer

Warning: The above movie is loaded with nonsensical narative, as is typical of the History channel.

Gobekli Tepe is right now the most fascinating archeological site on the planet, and like most of them, it’s in Turkey. By far the most interesting aspect of this site is its age—nearly 12,000 years old—making it many thousands of years older than Stonehenge, the Sphinx, and everything in the Mesopotamian Valley.

It’s appears to have been built by people of a hunter/gatherer culture and predates what we typically think of as civilized peoples. Until now it has always been assumed that it took great civilized societies to build such structures, so this discovery has completely changed the history books.

This was built even before any kind of metal tools had been invented, so it was all done with stone tools, yet there are elaborate carvings on most of the pillars ( as high as 19-feet and weighing several tons) which are laid out in several concentric circles over the hillside. So far less than an acre has been excavated, and that only represents about 5% of the site.

Not one tool has been found at Gobekli Tepe so far, nor has there been any evidence of people having ever lived at the site, therefore, it’s assumed to most likely to have been a place of worship. Over 100,000 animal bones have been uncovered, so it may have been a place of burnt offerings. Oddly, while the animal bones represent the typical animal population in Turkey (60% of the bones are from gazelles) the animals carved on the pillars are mostly things one wouldn’t eat but would consider scary and dangerous like lions, snakes, scorpions and so on. Some of the animals on the pillars are not even indigenous to Turkey. This is truly facinating.

Also check out the Smithsonian's Article about Gobekli Tepe.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Hear The Voice Of Harpo Marx!

Man, I've been looking for this forever. I knew there was at least one recording of Harpo talking. I finally found it on YouTube. In fact two of them. In the first one he says to the man next to him, "You've got to do the talk now", and at the end he leans into the mic and says, "Honk, honk," but you also get to see him dressed nice and without his wig.

In the second one, we get to hear him talk a bit, but it's audio only, so we can't see him. He has the voice of a leading man. I can see why it might not work in a comedy though, so it was probably better that he stayed a mime. His son, by the way, introduces the clip. His name is Bill Marx.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Project Finished! (Painted My Truck)

Boy do I love it when I’m done with a project that takes me weeks of spare time to do and it actually doesn’t come out horrible. Thus is the case with painting my old Dodge Dakota truck. I inherited this beast when my dad died last year. If you ever see one of these early 90s trucks on the road, you’ll probably notice that half the paint is gone from it. Dodge had some kind of problem with either the paint or the primer for a year or two on Dakotas back then, and it was flaking off in no time.

This truck has 200,000 miles on it. It leaks oil pretty bad too. Obviously I wasn’t going to spend a lot of money on a fancy paintjob for an old truck that I just use as a backup to my newer Ram. I looked around on the idiotnet while contemplating ways to paint it myself as inexpensively as possible and found the answer on YouTube. I found a number of videos that showed guys painting vehicles themselves with a foam roller and Rustoleum oil based enamel paint. This is the same paint they put in spray cans, and you’ll use the spray cans too for hard to get places. The thing with foam rollers is that it puts paint on very smooth. If you take your time and do it right it looks like it’s been sprayed. You could spray the vehicle just as well, but you really need a garage to do that where the wind will be kept out. It also takes longer because you can’t thin the paint when it’s in a spray can, thus it takes longer to dry between coats. I only have a carport, so a foam roller seemed like the way to go. Since at least half the paint was gone from the truck, I put on a quart of white primer first. Then nearly three quarts of white gloss paint (4-coats). I also had some rust holes in one side that I had to fiberglass and putty over, so this took me a while longer than it would have if it had just been a straight-up paintjob.

I just took the tape and newspaper off today. It still needs to be polished, but I think it looks pretty darn good. I took it over to my sister’s house today, and she didn’t even recognize it. I’m not going to clear coat it because it sits out in the sun every day, so the clear coat would flake off or get chalky in just a few years.

You can see my Ram (with the ladders on it) shuddering in the background, wondering if it’s next!

Here’s the video I watched to learn how to do this:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Yamaha G-250S Classical Guitar

The guitar enthusiast market has just started opening up to old Yamaha guitars during the past couple of years. This would include many of their acoustic and electric guitars produced from the 1960s through at least the early 1980s. I personally started talking up what great electrics they had in the Weddington and SA2000 guitars around ten years ago and have watched their prices on the used market triple since then. They now regularly go for over $1,500 dollars.

Yamaha red label steel strings acoustics (noted by a red label in the soundhole) from the 60s to early 70s, often referred to as a poor man’s Martin, used to sell used for around $100 to $200 just three or four years ago. They’ve been steadily creeping up since then, and several models now go for $400 to $600. I have no doubts that the prices on them will double again in the next couple of years. They’re just terrific sounding guitars and are worth every bit of it and then some.

A couple of their classical guitars produced during the 60s are already going for nearly $2,000. Frankly, I think the price is unjustified for those. I’ve heard a couple of nice ones from that era, but none that would justify that price. It wasn’t until the 70s that Yamaha started producing some extremely good classical guitars that were also inexpensive and are still a real bargain today. The better 70s models had solid spruce tops with laminated rosewood backs and sides. Necks were generally made from nato or mahogany. The lower priced models had solid cedar tops. And any honest builder will tell you that it simply doesn’t matter whether or not the back and sides are laminated. Laminated backs and sides tend to sound the exact same as solid wood and some will argue that they’re stronger and will last longer. D'Aquisto used laminated backs and sides for nearly all his famous archtop jazz guitars because he said it was easier to get good consistancy of woods in laminates. The back and sides of a guitar contribute very little to an acoustic guitar’s tone. (The one exception is cypress which produces a sound with very little mids.) They’re just there to form an anchor for the top and neck and also to produce an air chamber to push the sound out. They don’t really vibrate at all. For instance, Taylor makes a line of guitars: 214, 314, 414 etc. right up to 914, all utilizing spruce tops but with backs and sides from several different kinds of wood from mahogany to rosewood, and they all sound so much alike that most days you would be very hard-pressed to tell the difference between any of them. (I own one.) But as far as laminates go, think of it like this: If you were ever in an old building made of cinder blocks (including the inside walls) that had solid wood floors and thin wood paneling on the walls, was there anything about walking into that room that would make you think that the paneling had cinder blocks behind it? Nope. You would never even know if someone hadn't told you. The sound of cinder block is not reflected in any way. It's the same with laminated guitar backs and sides. It doesn't matter what's on the other side of that laminated wall. And the laminate itself is thicker than most people think. There are a handful of guitar makers in the $5000+ range that use laminated backs and sides by the way for the same reason D'Aquisto did.

It’s all about the tops kids. It’s getting harder and harder to find good spruce from which to make guitar tops nowadays. On sub-$1,500 guitars the spruce tops are often made of wide grain that’s twisted and not terribly musical sounding. Not all spruce is equal. The good stuff is saved for guitars costing twice that. Classical guitars have often used both spruce and cedar for tops along with redwood now and then. Now we’re seeing many steel string guitars made with cedar too. The problem with cedar is that it simply isn’t as strong as spruce and has a tendency to crack over the years. This is especially problematic with the greater tension of steel strings. If you keep a watchful eye on Ebay you’ll quickly notice that most of the guitars listed with cracks have either cedar or koa tops.

Kids today often think they’re getting a bargain and a great guitar because it’s listed as being made with solid woods all around for under $1,500 when in reality many of these guitars have twisted grain spruce tops or weak cedar and koa. A guitar with laminated backs and sides that has a truly great spruce top will sound better and last much longer. Alhambra and Cordoba are making great headway in the new classical guitar marketplace with very good inexpensive guitars made just like this in the $1,000 range, but with mid quality spruce for the tops. We can do even better and for less money.

Yamaha, Yairi, and a handful of other manufactures were already making guitars with rosewood laminated backs and sides along with top grade spruce tops decades ago. They often had plastic saddles and nuts to reduce costs, but those are easily swapped out for bone etc. (I think tusq sounds better myself, and bone is very inconsistent depending on its density.) They’re abundant on the used market and also very inexpensive at this point. Really, really good classical guitars can be had for just a couple of hundred bucks if you know what to shop for.

This particular Yamaha you’re looking at is a 1977 G-250S (I believe the S stands for spruce). This was Yamaha’s second most expensive classical guitar between 1977 and 1981. It sold for $300 new back then (about the equivalent of $1,200 today). The G-255S was their flagship model and sold for $360. As near as I can tell the G-255S was made from the same woods except for a jacaranda bridge whereas the G-250S had a more traditional rosewood bridge. The G-255S models are so hard to find that I’ve only actually seen one. The G-250S models come up on Ebay and Craigslist regularly though and can be had at an astoundingly low price. I rescued this particular one from Craigslist in St. Louis for $100.

Take special note of the medium grained spruce and how silky it is. You just can’t find spruce of that quality anymore on a guitar costing less than $3,000.

I have a YouTube Video where you can hear how this guitar sounds stereo mic'ed with a pair of Oktava MK-012 mics.

Old Yamahas are a great deal children. Look for models made between 1977 — 81 starting with the letter G such as the G-235S, G-240, G-245S, G-250S, and G-255S. Those all had spruce tops, rosewood backs/sides, nato necks, ebony fretboards and are the cream of the crop in my opinion. They also had the longer concert scale size of 260mm with a 52mm nut width. Also, in 1981 they came out with the G-260S model which is essentially the same as the G-250S. They made those through 1984, and they're also very fine guitars. Here is a YouTube recording of the G-260S. In fact the next few YouTube recordings I'm going to list are all by the same gentleman who apparently collects these old Yamahas. I think you can immediately hear the consistency in how great these guitars sound.





Print advertisement for the G-255S

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Foundling Goes Home

The Foundling Goes Home is a romance for guitar and orchestra. I've not yet written the orchestrations for it, but I think it stands on its own as a solo piece quite well.

The title was inspired by the character, Shasta, in—The Horse And His Boy—a children's novel by CS Lewis and part of the Narnia collection.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

More Movies

Some pretty good movies I've seen during the past year or two:

Breaker Morant (Australian/British film)
Witness For The Prosecution (British, and one of the best movies ever made)
The Letter Never Sent (Russian; I mostly just liked the cinematography, but it’s worth watching just for that)
The Snow Walker
Time Limit (A very good Richard Widmark post -war film)
Stagecoach (The original with John Wayne)
The Final Cut (Robin Williams in a serious role)
The Train (Fantastic film with Burt Lancaster)
The Long Voyage Home (Another great John Wayne/John Ford film)
Seance on a Wet Afternoon (British)
The Threepenny Opera (British, not great, but not bad)
La Jetée (French)
Biography: Tom Selleck
They Shall Have Music
Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him?)
The Whales Of August
Star Trek VIII: First Contact
Dangerous Crossing
Seven Years in Tibet
The Comedian
Blackmail (Hitchcock’s first talky)
The Offence (British with Sean Connery)
Moby Dick (With Gregory Peck, and much better than the book)
Sting of Death (With Boris Karloff)
Lloyd's Of London (British)
Somewhere In The Night
Foreign Correspondent
The Woman In the Dunes (Japanese)

Movies I didn’t like:

Orpheus (French)
Pitfall (Japanese)
Ride In The Whirlwind
Map of The Human Heart
The Rules of the Game (French)
All My Friends Are Funeral Singers
Through a Glass Darkly (Bergman)
The League of Gentlemen (British)
Jigoku (Japanese)
When The Clock Strikes
Bagdad Café
Lord of War
Taxi Driver

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Good Time To Invest In Amazon Stock

Amazon stock went up 3-ticks today at the announcement of two new products and a cheaper price for the Kindle 3, all just in time for Christmas:

1) Kindle Fire - Basically an iPad with a smaller 7" screen for only $199.00. Supposedly a 10" screen model is in the works (price unknown). This can sort of be thought of as Kindle's version of the Color Nook. It has a backlight and a color screen; however, it's more of a tablet computer with a dual core processor, 8GB of storage (that's enough to store a movie on), and the ability to browse the web.

2) Kindle Touch - A new e-reader with a touch screen, very much like the Nook. It will sell for $99 with on-screen ads or $139 without ads. Why anyone would want a touch screen though is unfathomable to me.

3) Kindle 3 at a cheaper price as low as $79 with advertisements on-screen or $110 sans the ads.

Bigger news than all this might be India's announcement of a, get this—$35 tablet computer—aimed at the rural poor. It's called the Aakash (which means "sky"). It has a 7-inch touchscreen, 32GB of internal memory, 256MB of RAM, and two USB ports. The 2100mAh battery should last for two to three hours. Now India's children from the poorest segment of society can learn to be slackers too!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

"The Perfect High" by Shel Silverstein

I mostly remember Shel from his having written "A Boy Named Sue" that Johhny Cash had a hit with. But he wrote a ton of silly songs, poetry, and children's books, along with some very tawdry drug culture poems too like this one. There's a lot of dirty words in it, but boy is it funny. Shel's the only I guy I know who could give you a poem full of dirty words about a hippy cat looking for the perfect drug and still manage to give you a nice moral at the end. I also find him an enigma in that he was friends with Hugh Hefner and yet wrote nice clean children's books too. He was one strange hippy dude.

This poem is read by Shel's old friend Larry Moyer at the Sausalito Woman's Club.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Nicolas Cage is a Vampire!

That's the latest rumor, albeit a tongue-n-cheek one, that the owner of this photograph has started with this Ebay auction.

He says the following:

Original c.1870 carte de visite showing a man who looks exactly like Nick Cage. Personally, I believe it's him and that he is some sort of walking undead / vampire, et cetera, who quickens / reinvents himself once every 75 years or so. 150 years from now, he might be a politician, the leader of a cult, or a talk show host.

This is not a trick photo of any kind and has not been manipulated in Photoshop or any other graphics program. It's an original photo of a man who lived in Bristol, TN sometime around the Civil War.

I've had a lot of questions asking where I purchased this. As followers of my website know, I collect antique memorial photography - images of dead people - from the 1800s. This photo was found in the very back of album that contained an unusual number of Civil War era death portraits (which is why I purchased it). All of the other people in the album, living and dead, were identified by name - this man was not.

Photographer is Professor G.B. Smith. A contact of mine forwarded this interesting article (link) about the photographer, Smith. Turns out he was a confederate Civil War prisoner of war photographer.

Guaranteed to be an original 1860s-70s photograph and not a modern reproduction, copy or photo manipulation.

4" x 2.5".

He's asking one million dollars for the photograph, but you'll be happy to know that he'll accept the best offer he can get. He so far has declined 106 offers!

No, he probably won't even get a thousand for it, but you'd be surprised what some of his old photos sell for. He specializes in, get this, post mortem photographs before 1950. It seems that people used to dress up the dead in strange ways before first photographing them and then burrying them. Here's one that sold for $1,275.00 on Ebay:

Many of the 1,500 or so photos in his collection are from the 19th century and feature young children. People think we're living in strange days now, but believe me, humans have always been strange. Here are a few examples:

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sometimes You Just Gotsta Hear Some Doc Watson

This is one of the better renditions of "Summertime" you'll ever hear. I have what I think is a real nice arrangement of “Wayfaring Stranger” that has parts of Summertime incorporated into it (the two have very nearly the same melody). Unfortunately I can’t sing it. I should have married a girl that could sing.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Jeff Beck's Hot Rods

I saw this video a couple of years ago and neglected to favorite it. Darn if I could find it again. Then today I found it right off after typing "Jeff Beck" and Hot Rods into Google. Anyhow, this is about a 45 minute interview done at Beck's own home and garage, and you get to see every car he has in his collection and hear him talk about building them. You also get to see the elusive Mrs. Jeff Beck and her artwork, and she's quite good.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The H-1B Genius Visa

Physicist Michio Kaku speaks in very plain language as to how the H-1B Genius Visa is the only thing propping America up in the face of our pathetic educational system. If not for the fact that at least half of the geniuses in this country that create the technology we take for granted are actually here on visa from other countries, America would not enjoy its leadership status in the world. And as the good scientist points out, many of those geniuses here on visa have been going back to their countries and taking their technology with them. It's only a matter of time before America will be defeated and thoroughly brought down by high technology from abroad. Your grandchildren will very likely be living in a third world country one day without having to move.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Something About Isabella

I stumbled upon this girl today. Her name is Isabella Selder. There are only three YT videos of her. Two as a child and one as a nineteen year old. She's twenty one now and I can find nothing of her anywhere on the internet. Here she is at seven years of age playing some flamenco music. It's not terribly dificult for an adult, but for a child this age it's amazingly good.

I know that she's German, but you wouldn't know it listening to her sing "Yesterday."

Now here she is at nineteen playing a sonata by Paganini that's one of the most dificult peices I know of in the classical guitar repertoire, and playing it better than I've ever heard it played. From just this one piece of music I could almost say that she's already the best classical guitarist I've ever heard, providing she plays everything else as well. Why isn't she better known?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Social Conscious Sign Art

A feller by the name of Norm Magnusson makes these signs as a form of art, and apparently, because he claims they're art, the city can't (or maybe won't) stop him from putting them up around town. Read the story here.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Yahoo's Ridiculous 'Religious Section'

Twenty five stories on religion featured at Yahoo's 'Religious Section' today, and every one of them in the negative. Tells me all I need to know about these yahoos.

How To Cut-up a Chicken Like a Meat Cutter

The way a meat cutter cuts a chicken is a little different from restaurants where they typically leave the backbone on the breast and thighs. I was a meat cutter from 1978 to 1993. I left this video for a friend, but I hope someone else will get some use out of it.

By the way, I noticed that when watching this video in 360p, it tends to hang up around 4:45 in. Just click on the "360p" and you'll get a choice of other settings. The others don't hang up, and the higher the setting, the better the quality. You can go all the way up to full HD at 1080p! Looks great at full screen if you have the bandwidth for it.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Kary Mullis, John Bardeen, and the Invention of the Transistor

Kary Mullis, the chemist who won a Noble in 1993 for inventing PCR (it made the Human Genome Project possible), has a fun paper available at his site called: "Conversation With John Bardeen." Bardeen was the guy who invented the transistor, for which he was awarded the Noble Prize in physics back in 1956. (He actually won a second Noble during the early 70s for his theories on super-conductivity.) If you know anything about Mullis, he's interested in just about everything. One day in 1987, Mullis was reading about Bardeen when he realized that he was still alive and living in Carbondale, Illinois. He says the following:
On a long shot, I called Carbondale information for his number. It was listed. The phone number of the father of the Electronic Age was listed. The manager of our local Circuit City has an unlisted number. John Bardeen's wife answered and said "Yes, he's sitting here at the table", and put him on the phone without asking who was calling. I told him I wanted to talk to him about the invention of the transistor, was it a convenient time? Was he in a comfortable chair? He said fine, so we talked for about an hour. He never asked me who I was or why I wanted to talk.
I guess his paper won't interest just a whole lot of people, but I thought it was nice. You can read it here: Conversation With John Bardeen

You can also see a short documentary on Bardeen here:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Avira Anti-virus Software And Why You Should Uninstall It

No matter which one you choose, it seems every good, free anti-virus & anti-spyware program goes over to the dark side at some point and becomes unusable. Many of us used a combination of AVG-Free and Lavasoft's AdAware-free for years until both went sour and started using adverts and bundling useless software. After that, many of us went to Avira and SuperAntiSpyware. The latter is still a good spyware app, although it updates very slowly these days (it didn't always). But Avira has now began bundling an Toolbar with their products. In the past, Avira actually blocked this toolbar whenever anyone tried to pawn it off on you, considering it to be malware. And now they're actually partnering with it!

You can choose not to install the toolbar, but then you won't get use of Avira's WebGuard feature. Avira tries to instill fear in their users (and potential users) by making bold statements about this, making it look as though WebGuard is an essential feature that you shouldn't be without. Truth be told, it's a mostly useless feature that does nothing but slow both computer and web surfing performance. It's their sleazy tactics that have everybody up in arms. To which I can only say, "Bye-bye Avira."

I just downloaded Avast, which is getting good ratings presently. One thing I like about it is that it has a "gaming mode" that you can use when not surfing the web, but rather, are doing something with your computer that requires a lot of power such as gaming or using video and graphics programs. In Gaming Mode, Avast barely registers in system resources. Sounds like a real winner. I'll post a follow-up in a month or so.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Mont Saint-Michel

The 8th wonder of the world with the only Catholic Church I ever want to visit.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Roid Fever

Since the Roger Clemens trial (or mistrial as the case may be) is in the news, I wanted to say some things about steroids that you'll seldom hear.

Obviously roid fever has infiltrated nearly every sport for the past 20-years or more. Roids have been around (at least in the USA) since the 60s, but weren't used by much of anybody until the body builders started taking them in the 70s. But even then it was quite a different situation. Guys weren't using the massive amounts of the drug that they are today. They used it sparingly in those days. If you remember the big names in body building at the time—Schwarzenegger, Columbu, Oliva, Nubret, Zane, Ferrigno etc., they were much bigger than body builders that came before them, but they still were nowhere near the size of the guys we're seeing today. During the 70s, these guys were generally known for one or two predominant body parts. One guy was known for his big biceps, another for his legs, another for his back and so on. In fact, if you were to see any one of them just in silhouette, you would still know who they were. Today, every part of the body is massive. In silhouette, these guys all look the same.

In power lifting, we're seeing guys who are lifting incredible amounts compared to weight lifters in the pre-roid era. Paul Anderson was one of the very few lifters who could squat more than 600 pounds in those days. Okay, he could do WAY more, but that was Paul. Guys like him come along once every hundred or two hundred years. He was squatting 800 when his closest competitors were barely getting over 600. Today we see guys doing 800 to 900 all the time, a couple even managing 1,000 pounds. Very few guys could bench press more than 500 pounds before 1960. Today we see guys routinely doing over 750 and a couple over 800! This just shouldn't be. No amount of diet and exercise alone could generate that big an improvement. No how—no way. Roids have been a real game changer; no doubt about it.

Steroids create a great irony also in that they're great at helping the body to heal quickly, but they're also great at helping athletes tear the body up. Guys today have muscles that are easily capable of generating more power than the skeletal frame can handle. It's not torn muscles you see much of today in the gym. It's much more serious injuries like ligament and rotator cup damage. I must say that at my strongest (without juicing, thank you very much), when I was squatting and dead lifting 600 pounds, I often felt like my back was going to break, or my shoulders fall off. You can't imagine how the bones in your shoulders feel when they've got 600 pounds resting on them. A friend of mine at the gym used to look at me and say, "Man, that's stupid weight." He was right. Paul Anderson was different. He not only had massive muscle, he had massive, thick bones—one of the largest skeletal frames ever measured. 600 pounds for him was a walk in the park. I had no business lifting that kind of weight, and I would never do it again. Your body will generally tell you when it's had enough. Mine sure did. But guys on roids just don't seem to hear their bodies talking.

Aside from power lifters and body builders, all of whom seem to be taking drugs today, in other sports the guys to watch out for are the naturally thin ones. These are the guys who go to the gym and workout like hell for a year and still only manage to gain 5-pounds of muscle. When you see someone naturally thin like that all the sudden gain 30 or 40 pounds of muscle very quickly, you can bet he's juicing. But guys like me who can put on weight easily don't need steroids. While there are exceptions to the rule, generally speaking, if you can put on fat easily, you can put on muscle just as easily.

I understand why guys who are naturally thin feel a need to take a drug that will help them compete with bigger guys. After all, athletes are trying to keep their jobs. And lets be honest, if steroids were available a hundred years ago, athletes would have taken them then too. Athletes have always done crazy things to give them any edge they could get. Football players during the 40s and 50s often ate rocky mountain oysters with the notion that it would give them more strength. Paul Anderson actually used to go down to a local slaughter house and drink bull's blood for the same reason. These things probably didn't work, but it just shows what lengths they would go to. It's always been this way.

Now here's a notion I'd like to put out there. Steroids are most often rejected today by sports lovers because it's said that it gives the athlete an advantage over the others who aren't taking them. But what about those naturally skinny guys I mentioned earlier? Would it be wrong to say that steroids merely level the playing field for them? That would probably be true except for the fact that there are a large number of guys who are naturally strong that are juicing today too, so they'll always stay ahead of that skinny guy who's juicing.

Here's another thought to chew on: Isn't weight lifting itself an artificial advantage? Let's take steroids out of the picture a second. Now here we have two guys, one who can put on muscle easily and another who can't no matter how hard he tries. Wouldn't it then be an artificial advantage for the guy who can put on muscle easily? After all, he didn't come by those muscles naturally. He wasn't born with them. He had to workout to get them. By definition those muscles are not natural. But then enters a third guy, and this guy is one of those freaks of nature, a Bo Jackson who was born with 18" arms. He doesn't even need to workout to get muscles. Do you see anything fair in this? The first guy is skinny and can't put on muscle without steroids. The second guy can put on muscle easily by just working out. And a third guy has muscles without doing anything thing; he was born with them. The thing is, hardly anyone disputes the second guy working out so that he can gain enough muscle mass to compete with the guy who doesn't need to workout. Yet we're up in arms over the skinny guy using steroids to do the same thing.

Babe Ruth didn't need to lift weights in order to smash some of the farthest home runs ever recorded. Albert Pujols hits some long ones too, but he's put on around 35 pounds of muscle since he started weight training in 1998, and doing it steroid free. Sammy Sosa could hit homers with the best of them, but he was naturally slim and it took steroids for him to gain enough muscle to compete with the big boys. Is it hard to see why Sosa felt a need to take them? And if we take his awards away, should we also take away those of Pujols since it took weight lifting for him to get strong? Should only naturally strong guys like Babe Ruth be allowed to have muscle, hit home runs, and earn a living for his family doing it? Steroids really do level the playing field for the skinny guy sometimes. We say, "Yeah, but they're dangerous." Actually, it's been said by many physicians that if you find the right steroid for you, and take it in moderation, it can be a real wonder drug. So, if a guy like Sammy Sosa uses the right steroid in the right amounts, and it works like a wonder drug for him with little or no danger, then would it be okay for him to take them? And if steroids are unfair, how about vitamins? They've done wonders for me.

I really don't know the answer. I just don't think things are as cut & dry as people seem to think.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Cahokia Indian Art Show

My sister and I went to the Cahokia Indian Art Show yesterday. I videotaped the exhibits and made a little movie of it for my music channel at YouTube. The tune in the background is from my last CD but will also appear on my upcoming all acoustic CD. It's called "Flamenco Joe."

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Lost Patrol

Philip MacDonald wasn't the great writer his grandpa George was, but he was pretty decent. One of John Ford's early films (1934), The Lost Patrol, was based on one of Philip's novels called Patrol. Someone has posted it at YouTube now. You can see it here: The Lost Patrol

Monday, July 4, 2011

2012 Hoax

A good website for the loonie person in your life. I wish I could get my sister to surf over to this. (hint)

2012 Hoax

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Author Sex Quiz

I laughed and felt disgust simutaneously at this. If you go to the following link you'll find a quiz where you're supposed to figure out which of ten excerpts were written by men or women. After you hit the submit button, you'll find out which you got right or wrong. You'll also find out the identity of the authors. You may be surprised. The writing is so bad, I thought all the samples were by high school kids. Turns out they're all well-known modern authors. Is it any wonder normal humans can't find anything to read these days?

Author Sex Quiz

Friday, July 1, 2011

Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby

Here are two great renditions of the classic song. Both came out in 1944 and are decidedly different. I love 'em both!

Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters

Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five
(Jordan co-wrote the song and had the first hit record with it.)

Does Anyone Tell The Truth In Court Anymore?

First we have this incredibly stupid circus of Casey Anthony and family where it seems painfully obvious that she's lying, her father is lying, and her father's mistress is lying.

Then we have the case of Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn being accused of raping a hotel maid, and it's now come out that there's a lot of evidence that she made the whole thing up to try and sue him for money. However, it couldn't have happened to a bigger louse. This guy's gotten away with worse things than rape over the years. It's kind of fitting though that an immigrant crook from the ghetto should try to screw-over an immigrant crook from the country club.

It seems like people think nothing anymore of lying through their teeth after putting their hand on a bible and swearing by God to tell the truth. Who raised these people? A courtroom is the last place on earth you'll hear anyone tell the truth about anything.

Doesn't it seem sort of ironic that polygraph tests aren't allowed as court evidence even though they've been proven time and again to be at least 90% accurate, and yet your chances of having someone in the witness box tell the truth is what—maybe 50-50?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Poulan Pro Chainsaw

Sure guys rave about their 30 year old Stihls and Husqvarnas, but a cheap Poulan will last just as long if you take care of it. Mine's about 6 years old. I bought it used off Craigslist for only $50. The guy who owned it before me had already swapped the original 16" bar for an 18" Oregon. All it needed was a new chain. (Around $20.) Best $70 I ever spent. It still starts right up and runs all day. I cut a 30' maple into 2' logs in around 5-minutes yesterday. I used to have to do that kind of thing with an old fashioned tree-saw and it took me hours! Don't hesitate to buy a Poulan. There really are still a few good bargains in life.

Friday, June 24, 2011

"The Horse And His Boy" Inspired by Turkey's Fairy Chimneys?

I always thought it would be cool to carve out a home in one of the Fairy Chimneys in Turkey. I'm convinced that CS Lewis was inspired by these when he wrote of the "tombs" in The Horse And His Boy calling them, "...great masses of mouldering stone shaped like gigantic beehives, but a little narrower."

Here is the best web page on Turkey's Fairy Chimneys you will ever see.

Your First Good *** ?

If you have a hobby of any kind, it probably required some kind of item, utensil, tool etc. in order to make your hobby doable, and you'll never forget the joy of getting that thing whether it was your first real leather baseball mitt or maybe if you're a women it was more along the lines of your first sewing machine. But you never forget that first great one—whatever it was. And if you don't still have it, you probably do have a picture of it.

This was my first really good guitar. It was a Daion Heritage-78 that I bought brand new in 1979 for around $400. It was a dynamite guitar for the money, with a cedar top and made of solid woods all around. It even had wood binding. The only thing they skimped on was the bridge-plate which was made of a kind of plywood. It did indeed crack eventually (though I got many years out of it first!), and I had it replaced with a piece of solid maple. Frets Magazine used this very model for all their string and pickup tests over the years. Daion was a great company, and the first to come out with a truly affordable guitar for the working man that was still a great axe. I played this guitar for over 20-years until I actually wore big ruts in the fretboard!

I have a couple of short recordings I made with this particular guitar, although niether is great sonically (I didn't have the best microphone for acoustic back then), but this is the better sounding of the two. I must have recorded it around 1990 or so. The bass gets a little boomy in places, but it ain't terrible. I think you can still tell how nice these guitars sounded. This pice doesn't have a name. It was just an intro for another tune (which I chopped off at the end). So here you have it—"The Nameless Daion Guitar Song."

Flying In A Blue Dream

I had the most wonderful dream a couple of weeks ago. It took place in the evening, and everything was the most beautiful shade of blue, as though looking through blue-shaded sunglasses. I remember seeing that the north-western coast of California was crumbling away into the ocean—huge chunks of cliffs nearly a mile high (land is almost always mountainous in my dreams) were falling little by little. Then myself along with some other guy and a girl flew to Alaska in a helicopter (the girl was piloting). We were somehow going to save California by doing something there. When we got to the bay around Prince William Sound, us guys dropped into the water from an altitude of a couple hundred feet (would have killed us in the waking world), and I remember how wonderful it was sinking to the bottom of the bay and coming back up where everything looked so stunning in that blue night air. The water felt so nice, and everything seemed so utterly real for a dream. I began to swim for the shore to meet up with my comrade when I awoke, so I didn't get to see how we would save California. Darn! But it was about the nicest dream I ever had. Maybe it means there's hope for the world or something.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Things I Used To Do

I was looking through old photos tonight. I must have been looking for a fight. Once you're past fifty, photo albums become the enemy. Like I need a reminder that I'm not the man I used to be.

I once had a full-blown OBE just before I drifted off to sleep one night about ten years ago. I found myself walking down the hall of the Old Post Office building in St. Louis. I was following me. That is, I was following my doppelganger. The creature looked exactly like me except younger, thinner, and altogether better looking. He ducked into a bathroom with a very cool looking tile floor. I pursued. I was attempting to bruise my fist with his nose when I suddenly found myself back in my bed.

I've never met a younger, thinner, better looking doppelganger I liked.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The 'Judicial Insider Trading' of Justice Clarence Thomas and Wife 'Ginni'

Most people know I'm a moderate with conservative leanings politically, so I'm just as happy when crooks from either side of the isle are shown for what they are, and boy has this been the case with Justice Thomas lately. There's a very good article on his underhanded dealings at Scoop. Also, watch this video. Some good detective work here.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Can't Comment On Blogger Or See My Followers

Just a note to let my blogging friends know that there are several people having trouble with Blogger (and I'm one of them) not letting them stay logged in, so that when they click on someone else's blog they get logged out and it's impossible to comment on anyone's blog. I can't even comment on my own! I can leave new posts, but no comments.

Update: I found a way to stay logged in now although it's still not the best. Sign out of your dashboard. This will take you back to the sign in page. Sign back in, but this time make sure NOT to check that box that says "Stay signed in."

I don't know why, but many people have reported that if you uncheck that box, you'll be able to stay logged in so that you can commment on other people's blogs. Of course, whenever you shut down your browser it will meaning signing in all over again next time you want to comment on someone's blog.

Also, people who have this problem also will not be able to see their followers anymore. I can see that I have followers, but I can't see who they are.

If this is happening to you, there's a thread about it at Google's help forum here: Blogger Problems

Edited to say that I also can no longer see Facebook "Notes" on other people's Facebook accounts either if they have a lot of them. I'm guessing this is all due to a problem with the latest Java update.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Nesbitt's Orange Soda Pop

I don't know why I'm even posting this. I'm sure no one else will care, but I drank a ton of this stuff in high school. This and Whistle made the best orange soda ever, but Whistle didn't have cool commercials like this!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

"Till We Have Faces" St. Louis Stage Play

This is a review of the recent stage production of CS Lewis' story—Till We Have Faces—that played here a couple of weeks ago. I've never been to a play before but might have made an exception for this had I known it was running.

Friday, May 20, 2011

"To Say Goodbye Is To Die A Little"

The season finale of "Bluebloods" last Friday was excellent. One of the best episodes of a TV show I've ever seen. (You can still watch it on the CBS website as of this writing.) Frank Reagan's (Tom Selleck) son, Joe, was killed in the line of duty by some dirty cops. Toward the end of the episode, the Reagan family was visiting the graveyard, and Frank said the following while standing over his son's grave:

"But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid."

It's a quote from Raymond Chandler's novel—The Simple Art of Murder. Chandler wrote a lot of quotable lines. Some were very poignant—others were oft-times amusing. I thought it would be nice to share a few of my favorites.

"To say goodbye is to die a little." ~ The Long Goodbye

"From 30 feet away she looked like a lot of class. From 10 feet away she looked like something made up to be seen from 30 feet away." ~ The High Window

"The girl gave him a look which ought to have stuck at least four inches out of his back." ~ The Long Goodbye

"I'm all done with hating you. It's all washed out of me. I hate people hard, but I don't hate them very long." ~ The Lady in the Lake

Her eyes rounded. She was puzzled. She was thinking. I could see, even on that short acquaintance, that thinking was always going to be a bother to her." ~ The Big Sleep

"I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn't care who knew it." ~ The Big Sleep

"Chess is as elaborate a waste of human intelligence as you can find outside an advertising agency." ~ The Long Goodbye

"He snorted and hit me in the solar plexus. I bent over and took hold of the room with both hands and spun it. When I had it nicely spinning I gave it a full swing and hit myself on the back of the head with the floor." ~ Pearls Are a Nuisance

"It seemed like a nice neighborhood to have bad habits in." ~ The Big Sleep

"It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window." ~ Farewell, My Lovely

"She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket." ~ Farewell, My Lovely

"I sat down on the edge of a deep soft chair and looked at Mrs Regan. She was worth a stare. She was trouble." ~ The Big Sleep

"You're broke, eh?"
I been shaking two nickels together for a month, trying to get them to mate." ~ The Big Sleep

"Under the thinning fog the surf curled and creamed, almost without sound, like a thought trying to form itself on the edge of consciousness." ~ The Big Sleep

"...had my books been any worse I would not have been invited to Hollywood and if they had been any better I would not have come." ~ Unknown Article

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Used Books For Sale

I've got several books laying around that are either extra copies or books I have no interest in. I've got a seller's account at Amazon where I've had many of these listed for more than a year! I think I just have nine left, and I'd like to be rid of them. I don't have the shelf space. If anyone is interested, my storefront can be found here:

House Of Charles

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Jo Hamilton - "Winter Is Over" (live)

Live version from her first CD.

Chocolate Is Smart!

1. First of all, pick the number of times a week that you would like to have chocolate (between 1 and 10).

2. Multiply this number by 2.

3. Add 5.

4. Multiply that by 50.

5. If you've already had your birthday this year add 1761. If you haven't, add 1760.

6. Now subtract the four digit year that you were born (1972 etc.)

You should now have a three digit number. The first digit of this was your original number (i.e., how many times you want to have chocolate each week). The next two digits are your age.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Great Interview With Bob Love

Part 1

Part 2

Bob Love had the sweetest stroke I ever saw in the NBA. You could actually watch the seems spin on the ball with those high rainbow shots he did because he held the ball "just so" when he shot it every time. He's had a lot of hard luck in life actually. He talks here about meeting his father for the first time when he was 35 and the love he tried to show him. He also talks about his severe stuttering that actually got him sacked from the Bucks even though he was playing well. After leaving the NBA, that same stuttering problem kept him from finding employment, and he actually had to take a job as a busboy and dishwasher for quite a while. The owner of the restaurant did him a good turn though and paid for speech therapy classes which made it possible for Bob to get a job as Director of Community Affairs in 1993 with his old team—the Bulls. You'll notice that he still stammers, but he communicates much better than he used to. I had a severe stammering problem when I was a little boy, so I can relate a little bit.

Friday, May 6, 2011


Is anyone else sick to death of "Glee"? When it first came on I thought it wasn't a half bad show, at least for high school kids. Now it's become all about glorifying homosexuality. No sane parent would let their children watch this garbage at this point. They also had a homosexual wedding on some medical show the other night (Grey's Crapatomy maybe?). And every other TV show just has to have an episode featuring two women kissing. As if any sane man in the country thinks that's at all appealing. As far as I'm concerned, all this does is perpetuate mental illness among the masses, especially the children who believe everything you put on TV.

It's gotten beyond absurd. I'd write to my congressman and have him enact a law, but Mr. Costello is usually too busy suckin' down brewskies and cohorting with the local mobsters at Tim & Joes to be bothered.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Very Weird Cloud Thingy

You have to put this in full-screen and fast forward to around 43-seconds and watch the upper left portion of the clouds. This video is by a Christian guy I just met. He has no idea what it is either, but it's very strange.

Monday, April 25, 2011

"Woman in the Dunes"

I watched a Japanese movie from the early 60s over the weekend called "Woman in the Dunes" that was the most bizarre thing I've ever seen. It was chilling and the very definition of "strangeness" (as CS Lewis used the word). The film had a very otherworldly quality to it that was like watching a nightmare. I can't really say if it was good or bad, but everyone should see it just to see what strange really is.

It's about a man (a school teacher) who's an entomologist. During a lone expedition to the beach to collect sand beetles etc., he becomes a prisoner in a woman's hut that exists at the bottom of a deep sand pit. The sand itself has some otherworldly qualities to it. The woman has apparently been there all her life. We find at the end of the film that the man stays there at least seven years, and by the end of the movie, he becomes so acclimated to his surroundings that he doesn't seem to want to leave.

If there's a Hell, this movie is it.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Hilaire Belloc - "The Night"

I have some audio clips of Belloc singing his own songs at YouTube, and a man by the name of Jude Galbraith left a video response to it that's a choral work he wrote and sang all the parts to with the words taken from one of Belloc's poems--"The Night." He's got a style of vocalizing that's unlike anything I've ever heard. Check out some of his other songs too at his YouTube Channel.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Disturbing Trend In E-Publishing

In 2010 we saw for the first time that electronic downloads of books outsold hard copy books for the first time. That does not necessarily mean what it appears to on the surface however. E-publishers often sell very short works of fiction and poetry which traditional hard copy publishers wouldn't be able to make available because the cost involved in printing a hard copy of a short work would barely bring any profit. For instance, you couldn't very well sell a 10,000 word short story or essay for the same price as a 120,000 word novel, but the cost in putting together the print version of each wouldn't be much different. It's fairly easy however, and cost next to nothing, to make a work of any size available for electronic download. So by default, there are many more works available for download than there are for hard copy, and as such, there will be more works sold via downloads. But those downloads won't necessarily bring in more money for e-publishers.

Short works are in fact one of the good aspects to e-publishing. Let's say for instance, that you're a new writer of fiction. A short story through an e-publisher may be a good way to test the waters and see if anyone likes your work before committing to spending months, or even years, at hard work on a novel that no one will read. Also, starting your own e-publishing company is child's play, and there are times when self-publishing is actually the best way to go. For instance, if you have a popular website that focuses on a particular subject in which you have a fair amount of expertise, but you know there wouldn't be enough sales in writing a book about that subject for a print publication to take it on. Self-publishing can work in a situation like that where only a few hundred sales are expected. But other than these types of examples, a traditional publisher through a good agent is still the only road worth taking. The reason why involves a disturbing trend that e-publishing has brought about, and that trend involves a cesspool of sharks.

Many e-publishers will take just about anything you send them. It cost next to nothing to list books with online retailers. Some will even ask you to format your own book for them. They'll ask, no, demand, that you join some silly online network or mail-list, and then count on each of the authors in that network to become friendly enough to buy one another's books along with what family and real world friends the authors can badger into buying their books as well. Of course the author makes no money if what little profit they have goes into buying the books of their friends in the network. Many of the books may sell less than ten copies. But the publisher keeps the largest percentage of the profits, so all they have to do is publish as many books as they can to make a good profit. Instead of a handful of truly good authors selling thousands of books each, they'll have thousands of authors selling ten books each. They make a profit either way. The only one who really loses is the author. Actually, we may all lose in the end when we find the online book seller sites absolutely flooded with books, most of which never should have been written, let alone sold. It will become very difficult in coming years to find anything worth reading when you have to plow your way through mounds of sludge to find that one diamond in the electron stack.

I came across this posting in an online group by a women identified as Sandra who just had her book accepted by an e-publisher a few weeks prior:

Edits are coming along. But last night I realized 500 words into a scene, staring at white space, that most of an entire chapter was missing. Not just any chapter. THE CLIMAX CHAPTER, in ALL the copies I submitted to agents and publishers last January! ... Honestly, this is the confrontation with the head bad guy, the heroine in a potentially fatal position, the hero having to save her....of all scenes to go missing! ... I'm surprised it was accepted at all.
It was no surprise to me.

So how do you know if an e-publisher is one of the good ones?

Look online for posts by people saying they had a book rejected by them. Let's say the publisher is called ABC Publishing. Google something like "ABC Publishing rejected" or "rejected by ABC". If your search turns up empty, this is probably a publisher to avoid. And of course, be very leery of any publisher who demands that you to join any kind of online networking group. Look through their book catalog. Is it listed with Amazon? If so, Amazon has a service that allows you to browse through their books to see if you think you might like them before you buy anything. The publisher, however, can deny access. If a publishing house doesn't want perspective buyers to be able to browse books before they buy them, then there's a good chance they don't want you to know just how poor quality those books are. Don't go by excerpts. Almost any book can have at least a few well written paragraphs. And lastly, find out what kind of material the publisher asks you to send in for their consideration. Any reputable publisher will only want to see a few pages and/or a synopsis of the chapters, at least for the most part. If they say right up front to send them the entire MS, and especially if they ask you to format it to anything other than Courier, such as Georgia, Garamond, or any other popular font that e-publishing uses—this is a real danger sign.

E-publishing has a good purpose, but there are plenty of sharks in those waters too. Swimmers beware. You are your own best lifeguard.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Beach Boys A-Cappella "God Only Knows"

I remember when this song came out, The Beach Boys and The Beatles had a real friendly rivalry going, and after Lennon and McCartney first heard this song, they looked at each other and said, "How are we ever gonna top that?"

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Forest Park

I shot some video at Forest Park today. People can down St. Louis all they want (and half the time I'll join them), but if they did one thing right it was this wonderful park. I spend many weekends out here walking the 6-mile trail around the place.

It was too windy to get great footage today even on a tripod, but it isn't terrible.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Mafia President Trump?

Let's talk about just a few of Donald Trump's mob ties:

Phillip Wasserman - Trump uses Wasserman's company to promote free lunch seminars that are in reality high pressure sales pitches. Wasserman resigned from the Florida Bar rather than face disciplinary action. According to, "The Florida Supreme Court found him guilty of charging excessive fees, failure to act with diligence, improper trust-account maintenance and even paying a disciplinary fine with a bad check." Wasserman openly admits that many of his family members are involved with the Chicago Mob, but will say nothing of his own involvement.

Genovese Mafia Family - From a July 2001 Time Magazine article: "Even the currently troubled Donald Trump has allegedly paid his Genovese dues, perhaps unwittingly. Last month Trump took the stand in Manhattan's federal court to deny that he knowingly hired 200 illegal Polish aliens to demolish a building in Manhattan in 1980 to make way for his glittering Trump Tower. Members of Housewreckers Local 95, who also accuse their own president in the scheme, allege that Trump was able to avoid making payments that would now total $1 million (including interest) into the union's pension funds. % "You can bet there was a wise guy somewhere in the background," says an FBI specialist on the Genovese family. Says labor consultant Daniel Sullivan, an FBI source on the Mob who has testified in the case: "It's a classic Mob relationship. Trump or his people had to have a deal to get such a sweetheart contract."

Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno and Paul Castellano, both of the Gambino Mob - Wayne Barrett, political writer for the Village Voice named several crime families connected to Trump's building and real estate ventures in his 1991 book, _Trump: The Deals and the Downfall_, where he showed copies of numerous government documents and personal interviews backing his claims. Salerno and Castellano's S&A Concrete company was one that was used several times, including all the concrete used in the Trump Towers.

Roy Cohn - Well known lawyer to the mob has handled numerous suits for Trump over the years. Barrett claims Trump was like a son to Cohn.

John Cody - Boss of that same Gambino owned concrete company. Trump rented a condo to his girlfriend, and then after Cody went to prison, Trump tried to sue her for unpaid rent. That is, until she filed court papers accusing Trump of taking kickbacks from an architect working on her apartment. Trump settled out of court giving her a half million dollars.

Robert Hopkins - Lucchese crime family associate who ran the biggest illegal numbers operation in New York out of his Trump Tower condo, according to court records cited in the book.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Got Myself A Kindle Today

I'll probably leave a full review on my CM blog in the coming days. Right now I just want to say what a treat this thing is. I couldn't be much happier with it. It takes a good part of the day to figure out the majority of its functions, but it's very rewarding once you do. What sets it apart from other e-readers is that it has a tiny keypad so you can, not only highlight passages, but leave notations about them too. With all the free content at Gutenberg I should never run out of things to read.