Monday, February 28, 2011

Tal Wilkenfeld

You don't see many female bass players to begin with, but there are few, male or female, that play with as much enthusiasm, skill, and technique as Australian born Tal Wilkenfeld. She was so certain of pursuing a music career that she dropped out of school to come to America and study jazz when she was 16. I watched her become a world-wide phenom playing with Jeff Beck a few years ago at around 20 or so years of age. (I believe she's 24 now). Here she is with Beck at the Crossroads Music Festival-2007. Her solo starts less than a minute and a half in:

Here they are at The Fillmore in New York a couple of years later playing a rather unusual bass duet:

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Rally 7471 Portable Hand Generator

People are going to think I'm starting a sales blog or something if I keep posting stuff like this, but I thought this was really a neat little item. This is a generator made by Rally. Its internal battery can be charged up by plugging it into a wall outlet, or it actually has a hand crank on it which will charge it too. Why you can't find other hand crank generators for sale is beyond me because the technology is very old for doing this. They had hand crank generators in use during WWII. The unit has a 140 Watt power inverter and a regular 110 plug outlet, so you can power virtually any 110 appliance with it. It also has a USB port for charging things like cell-phones or camcorder batteries.

And it has a built-in air compressor for inflating flat tires or rubber rafts, a 12 volt outlet and jumper cables for jump starting your car, and an LED flashlight (LEDs are easy on power). This would of course be a Godsend on camping trips among other things. It takes three minutes of pulling the handle to charge the battery enough to jumpstart a car. It will run a typical laptop for an hour and a half on a full charge. (I imagine you'd probably have to crank it all day for that though). What more could you ask for? Let's hope the battery is replaceable (unlike most electric generators). It cost a hundred bucks. I haven't seen it for sale in stores, so you'll probably have to order it from Amazon etc.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Lewis and Clark's Girandoni Air Rifle

I'm not into guns at all, but I just happened to stumble across this video last night and thought it was really interesting. Who knew they even had airguns nearly 300 years ago, let alone great ones? It's also interesting the way Lewis and Clark performed demonstrations of it everywhere they went so that the Indians never attacked them. I always wondered how they managed to trek all the way across the country without getting killed by Indians.

Here's another video showing a replica of that same rifle being fired.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Mother Of All Dreams

Friday night, well actually Saturday morning not long before I woke-up, I had a dream of a large white circle of light. I think I had been in the light, and the light was the place of all knowledge, it was the place everyone strives to be at whether they know it or not. It's the cause and source of all things unknowable and unspeakable past, present, and future that each of us longs for but have no way of expressing—the cause of CS Lewis' sehnsucht. I knew at once that God was a person (because he has knowledge), a place (a circle in this case), and a thing, (light). I experienced the ALL that is in all. And I knew it. I knew it with everything in me. And yet... I could remember nothing of it. It was so frustrating. And yet, I was so full of peace because even though I couldn't remember anything that happened there, I know that, for at least a moment, I had been perfectly content. I knew that all my questions had been answered even if I could no longer remember the questions or the answers either one.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Movies To See Before You Die

The Magnificent Seven
A Day At The Races
A Night At The Opera
How Green Was My Valley (The best movie ever!)
Captains Courageous
Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
Waking Life
Yankee Doodle Dandy
Spirited Away
Iron Giant
The Endurance (documentary)
Saints And Soldiers
The Best Years Of Our Lives
It's A Wonderful Life
Red River
Rio Bravo
Gaslight (either version)
2001: A Space Odyssey
Gunga Din
The Secret Garden
Wings Of Desire
Faraway, So Close! (sequel to above)
The African Queen
The Front Page
Saving Private Ryan
The Great Escape
The Bridge On The River Kwai
Stalag 17 (yes, guys like escape movies!)
The Magnificent Ambersons
To Kill A Mockingbird
The Quiet Man
To Have and Have Not
Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
Witness for the Prosecution (another Charles Laughton film)
King's Row
The Day the Earth Stood Still
The Flying Deuces
Block-Heads (yes, that's TWO Laurel and Hardy movies now)!
Breaking Away (liked the TV series too)
The Good Earth (Muni couldn't act, but it was still great)
Les Miserables
The Snow Walker
The Enchanted Cottage
All the "Thin Man" Movies (William Powell and Myrna Loy were the best screen couple of all-time)

What Am I Reading?

For those who like to read and who might be on the lookout for new material (actually most of the books I read are pretty old), I thought I'd write an occasional post now and then to update you on what I'm reading, so maybe you'll get some ideas.

I'm currently on the fourth and last book of Orson Scott Card's Ender series called Children Of The Mind. There aren't too many modern authors I can stomach, so beware of that. I've gotten into Card lately, but honestly he's not a very good writer, but he has some pretty good stories. Out of the Ender series, the first book was easily the best. It's called Ender's Game, and it's about a young American boy in the future who's chosen by the military to be groomed as one of several potential candidates to lead an army against the world's first alien invasion/attack. The book appeals to kids and adults alike, so it's an especially good story to read along with your children.

Before that I was re-reading a lot of CS Lewis stuff, but you probably know about his work, so I won't go into those books.

The only other modern author I can recommend besides Card is Susanna Clarke. She only has two books. One is a short story collection that's based around fairytales for adults. Hers are not the modern fairies of Walt Disney that are two inches high and prance around singing songs. Rather, hers are the old 18th and 19th story types where fairies are full grown adult sized creatures from another world that sometimes venture into ours (and vise versa), and who are usually up to no-good and have special powers. That book is called The Ladies of Grace Adieu, which I know sounds like a book for women, but it's really for anyone. Honestly, the stories in it are hit and miss. Her other book is an 800-page masterpiece called Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. This book is about two magicians who bring magic back to England after a long absence, and the consequences that follow from having done so when the two magicians, onetime friends, become enemies. I must warn you that the first 200-pages are very slow, and you'll wonder why you ever started to read it, but if you hang in there, it really takes off after those initial 200-pages, and by the time you get to the last 200-pages you'll want to read them in one setting because it's impossible to stop! What a great book!

I usually get good book recommendations from my longtime internet friend Ann. The two books I'll be reading next were suggested by her and are 20th century classics. The first is A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller. The other is The Cream Of The Jest by James Branch Cabell. Obviously I can't go into details about the books because I haven't read them yet, but Ann seldom misses with her picks, and she knows what I like, which is mostly sci-fi and fantasy with a mystical bent.

Other books I liked lately were Old House Of Fear by Russell Kirk. Kirk is of course the father of the modern conservative movement (I had the honor a while back of presenting his widow with a CD I sell of the known recordings of GK Chesterton), but he also wrote some fiction, and that is generally thought of as his best novel. I also liked most of The Holographic Universe by Michael Talbot. There are some fringe science moments in it that make me cringe, but overall it's a good assessment of David Bohm's physics theories and what phenomenon they might help explain. I disagreed with some of the logic, but was at least somewhat entertained by Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha. The novel is along the lines of Buddha's journey to enlightenment but slightly different.

Books to stay away from: Anything by Umberto Eco who's all style and no substance. And there are people who will hate me for saying this, but I hated both of Samuel Beckett's best known plays, Waiting For Godot (which should be called waiting for something intelligent to happen), and Happy Days.

I also read a book called The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Story To Screenplay). The story is of course by F. Scott Fitzgerald and is not much good at all. The screenplay based on the book is by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord and is actually much better, though still not terribly good either. (I also saw the movie, which was quite different from both, and was still underwhelmed). Basically, I just wanted to see how to write a screenplay, and it was good for learning to do that.

Net Neutrality Laws

This is all about greed. A cable or DSL company can elect to not allow subscriptions to Hulu (for instance) to go through to their ISP customers, but will allow subs to Netflix (or any other competitor) to get through, assuming the competitor is paying them to do so.

So, your ISP provider will partner with certain online broadcast companies. The internet TV revolution isn't going away, but the rules are certainly changing. Goodby to free content if this is the case.

I'm a moderate with conservative leanings, but I'd be all for net neutrality laws if they're properly implemented.

Incidentally, it's truly amazing to me how many people from Yahoo commenting on that story I linked to have no idea what it's about and are just blathering away about the government taking over the web or something. Just one more reason the common man should not be allowed to vote. Really, any of us who can't place in the top 2% of a standardized IQ test has no business voting for leaders. Everyone could still have some input by writing to their representatives, but I'm convinced that not just anyone should be allowed to vote.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Did Lara Logan Have It Coming?

You've probably heard by now that CBS reporter Lara Logan was raped and beaten for a half hour during the Egyptian victory celebration during the resignation of President Mubarak. Well maybe "beaten" is too strong a word. She's already been released from the hospital, so the beating couldn't have been too bad. And no details have been reported yet of the sexual assault. Was she actually raped or just groped a little and shoved around a bit? We just don’t know yet. Still, a little compassion is certainly in order. But how much?

Conservative commentator, Debbie Schlussel, wrote an article for her blog this week following Logan's incident titled: "Islam Fan Lara Logan Gets a Taste of Islam" in which she basically says that Logan had the sexual assault coming. She was of course quickly criticized for forging an attack of words against someone who had just been hospitalized after what may be a serious assault while showing no compassion to speak of.

I have to say, I've got mixed emotions about the whole ordeal myself. Logan has certainly ballyhooed the cause of Islam, and then got attacked by the very people whose victory she had just helped celebrate on TV. If the assault was brutal, then I certainly feel bad about that. But it's also hard not to ask, "What do you think of Islam now Ms. Logan?"

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Some Terrific New Movies at Hulu

I sent this email to a freind just now and thought it might make a worthwhile post here as well:

You might want to take a gander at Hulu when you get a chance. When you get there, click on the tab labeled "What's New", and after you get to that page, choose "Feature Films" from the "Video Type" category tab. They put up over six new pages full of new listings overnight, and for a change, at least half of them are very good to excellent. For instance they've got four new listings from Ingmar Bergman: The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, The Virgin Spring, and The Magician. I've been dying to see that last one for years. They've also got Lord of the Flies, Obsession, M, Hobson's Choice, Jigoku (a Japanese horror film from 1960 which features a doppelganger and is supposed to be quite good for the genre), My Life as a Dog, The League of Gentlemen (the original 1960 version), The Spirit of the Beehive, The 400 Blows, La Strada, The Lower Depths (original 1936 version), Europa, The Rules of the Game (an old French film that's supposed to be one of the best movies ever made), Richard III, Ugetsu (a Japanese movie from the 50s which is supposed to be one of the greats, and another that I haven't seen), Wings of Desire, (you're probably familiar with this one, but if you haven't seen it, you really should—it's better than the American remake), Cronos (another of the few horror movies that's supposed to be good, but which I haven't seen it), Seven Samurai, Ratcatcher, Black Orpheus, Breathless (the 1960 French film that started new wave cinema), The Four Feathers, Walkabout, and Diabolique (yet another French film). There are also about a half dozen new listings for some of Charlie Chaplin's best movies.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

CS Lewis: My Fellow Hater Of Politics

Whichever side of the political isle you're on nowadays, the nuts are running the institutions. This is something Lewis wrote about society and politics in Mere Christianity, and a better expression of my own feelings I could never hope to find.

That is the key to history. Terrific energy is expended—civilizations are built up—excellent institutions devised; but each time something goes wrong. Some fatal flaw always brings the selfish and cruel people to the top and it all slides back into misery and ruin. ... That is what Satan has done to humans. [N]othing but the courage and unselfishness of individuals is ever going to make any system work properly. It is easy enough to remove the particular kinds of graft or bullying that go on under the present system: but as long as men are twisters or bullies they will find some new way of carrying on the old game under the new system. You cannot make good men by law: and without good men you cannot have a good society. ~~CS Lewis

Friday, February 11, 2011

You Know You're Old When...

For you guys who are my age and suddenly find yourself wifeless (unless you were smart enough to have always been), at least you'll find the excuses women use not to go out with you are much better these days. Instead of, "I'm sorry, but I have to wash my hair tonight," it's, "Oh darn! That's the day I get my knee replaced."

Life is cruel I say! Someone just kill me already.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Paul McCartney - "Jenny Wren"

The stuff he's been writing the past five years or so just may be his best ever.