Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Little Boy (film)

I don't often blog about films, but I just watched this and thought it should easily win the Oscar for best picture of 2015. Sadly, given that humanity's state of devolution seems to be centered in Hollywood, I wouldn't count on it. But don't let that stop you from seeing it. Netflix has it available to stream right now, and I'm sure you can rent it anywhere. Here's a description of the movie copied from Google:
When auto mechanic James Busbee (Michael Rapaport) is sent to fight the Japanese during World War II, he leaves behind his wife (Emily Watson) and two sons, London (David Henrie) and Pepper (Jakob Salvati). Pepper feels his father's absence most keenly, and can't wait for him to return home. An encounter with a magician (Ben Chaplin) and advice from a priest (Tom Wilkinson) convince Pepper that the power to bring his dad back safely may be within himself and his actions.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

I Bought a Counterfeit Shure SM57 Microphone off eBay

I am so freakin' MADDD!!! Can't the Chinese find legit ways to make money? Every time you turn around some Chinaman is selling fake goods on eBay. And their counterfeits are very hard to disinguish from the real deal unless you know what to look for. They manufacturer and sell a LOT of musical oriented items. Microhones, guitars, and amplifiers are constantly counterfeited. I should have known better than to buy a mic off eBay. Some items you should just stay away from! As you can see, externally this mic looks just like any other SM-57.
But if you open it up you'll see that the wires are the wrong colors inside. They should be yellow and green. This one has blue and green.
Also, the counterfeiters use the same serial number on every box. (Every mic should have its own unique number.) Have a look at the serial number here. Then look at the picture below it. It comes from another post I found on the interweb from some guy who bought three of these counterfeit mics. All three have the same serial#, and mine is the same as his. The only difference between his boxes and mine is that his says Made in Mexico and mine says Made in China. (Shure probably has offices in both locations.)
I should be able to get my money back, but it may take Months while the case is in dispute. According to the retail sales page for the mic, this guy/gal has already sold 42 of them at $85 each. Here are some more pics of my microphone just so you can see how much it looks like a real SM-57. Once they get the wiring colors down, it's going to be next to imposible to tell the difference between the real ones and the fakes. And beneath the pictures of the mic I'll post a screen capture of my conversation with the Shure rep who confirmed my mic is a fake.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Rediscovering The Beatles Live 1964-65 at the New Musical Express

Just found this today thanks to a friend of mine. It made me feel like a kid all over again. The first clip is of The Beatles portion only of the New Musical Express (NME) Poll Winners' Concert in 1964. The second clip features all the bands that were among the most voted for as best band the following year, 1965. The Beatles play second to last in that one. (The Kinks play last, but they weren't meant to be the show finale--they simply arrived late.) There are a lot of good bands in the second clip, many you've probably forgotten about. For instance, Van Morrison's first band, THEM, from Ireland is there along with the Rolling Stones, The Searchers and others. Have fun.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Ever See a Polack Pine Tree?

The Crooked Forest

During the 1930s, a grove of around 400 trees was planted in the West Pomerania region of Poland that grew crooked. Today it's known as the Crooked Forest. To this day, no one knows why they grew this way. Some people have speculated that they were purposely bent by placing weighted objects on them in an attempt to grow crooked wood for certain wood working projects that required bent wood such as rocking chairs or boats. However, that's just a guess. What makes these trees even more mysterious is that another grove of around 200 trees was also planted during the 1930s in the Savoy Mountain State Forest of Berkshire, Massachusetts, and it too grew crooked.

Savoy's Crooked Forest

For some reason, the Savoy tree grove has disappeared today; however, at least one former ranger from the area insists they have not gone away, but instead have grown to such a height that you have to look up to see the bends that used to be near the ground in the old days.

Isn't it strange that two groves of trees, both planted during the 1930s in two different parts of the world would grow crooked like this? Weird.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Disability Update

Thanks to all those who sent up prayers for me. They worked! I not only start receiving disability benefits this month, but I got nearly 16K in back-pay. That was just enough to get me out of debt with a little leftover. I can't tell you how good it feels to be debt free! On top of it all, my book formatting business is doing really well and growing all the time now. At this rate, I may be off disability in just a couple of years. It sure is nice working from home. It's the kind of business I can do from anywhere in the world. All I need is a laptop and a satellite USB card. Who knows, maybe I'll save up and buy an RV and become one of those retirement RV people who roam the country. Okay, probably not. But it's nice to know I could if I wanted to! There's a lot to be said for being debt free and being able to work from your computer anywhere and anytime. It's very freeing. I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Going to the Disability Doctor Thursday

If you have time, say a prayer for me. Tomorrow morning at 9:30 A.M. I have to go to a doctor that Social Security uses to help determine disability benefits eligibility. My arthritis has progressed to the point where I can only stand for about 5 minutes at a time. The window cleaning business is quickly becoming a thing of the past. I’m down to working 2 hours per day, 3 days per week with it. My osteoarthritis is degenerative and has gotten MUCH worse this past year. (My X-rays show how it’s progressed, but I have to see this doctor anyway for some reason.) It’s still confined to my back at this point. My dad had to take early retirement for the same condition. His spread to his hips and knees very quickly. He needed to have them all replaced but settled for just the one hip that was hurting the worst. I’m praying that doesn’t happen to me! The more I stand on my feet and especially climb a ladder and reach up with a pole etc., the more damage it’s doing to the pads between my discs. I need to get out of this job before it’s down to bone on bone. Disability doesn’t pay much, but I’ll make about $10K with my book formatting business this year, and that’s just about the max amount I can make and draw disability at the same time. With the two together I can just make it. I’m hoping that within a few years I can go full-time with the new business, but in the meantime I need some help!

Several people have told me that hardly anyone gets approved for disability the first time they apply. In fact, a lady told me just the other day that her brother was denied the first time, and he had terminal cancer! I can only guess they figured his hadn’t progressed to the point where he couldn’t work anymore yet. If I get approved the first time through, I believe I can start drawing benefits in February, 2016. That will be just about perfect for me. Also, my medical care through the VA has been pretty bad overall. If I’m on disability, I should be able to get on Medicare Part B, and I think that will be a whole lot better. I can stay in the VA health care system and be on Medicare at the same time, so I don’t need the Part D drug coverage because the VA will pay for all drug costs.

I believe this is the best thing for me at this time. I don’t want to be one of those people who milk the system though. I hope to be on my own again in 2 to 3 years. . . well, unless my arthritis progresses to the point where I can’t even sit down without pain. Also, I need to get dieting seriously right now, and being away from my window business is the best way to do that. I lost a ton of weight back around 1990 when I was laid off from Kroger for nearly a year. I just went to the track every day and made losing weight my job! It was easy to keep focused on the goal when that was all I had to do. If I can get really skinny again, most, of not all, of the pain in my back may disappear altogether. At least for a few years. The arthritis may worsen to the point where no matter how skinny I get, it won’t help. But it may buy me several pain free years, maybe even until retirement. And it’s possible my arthritis will crawl to a stop at some point and never get much worse. That’s what I’m praying for. I hope that within the next two years I’ll have my life back. I’m only 56. I should have a lot of life left in me if I just have time to heal up!


Saturday, October 17, 2015

Chris Smither Live at Haddon Heights Park, NJ

Wonderfully recorded outdoor concert with the best singer/songwriter of all-time. I especially like the song he wrote from his seven year old daughter's questions about life at 21:45

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Good Movie on Sleep Paralysis

There's a movie on Netflix that came out last year on the subject of sleep paralysis that's very much worth watching. I don't seem to have it much anymore, but I went through a lot of this 15 years ago. What cured me? It sounds silly, but I noticed that in certain esoteric writings it was suggested that people who were trying to have an out of body experience during meditation should make sure the head of their bed was pointed north. (Something to do with the magnetic north and magnetic fields in your brain I guess.) I figured that if this would help people induce an OBE, then pointing your bed in a different direction might help stop them. My dad (who lived across town at the time) and I both had this problem of SP plus having nightmares. After checking with a compass, I found that both of us had our beds pointing north. I reoriented them to the east, and our problems pretty much went away for good. Strange, but true. The movie is called The Nightmare:

The Nightmare

Friday, July 31, 2015

The Savior of Country Music?

Mo Pitney is just 24. He wrote every song on his first album except one and if anybody could be called the "real deal," it's this guy. He's gonna be huge. Wait and see. By the way, that's his sister, Holly, singing backup with him on this first song. She has a twin brother too, and they often serve as his backup singers.

Clean Up On Aisle Five

Duct Tape and Jesus

Boy & A Girl Thing

I Met Merle Haggard Today

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Uninsured Man Pays $57K for Anti-Venom Drug At Mercy Hospital

I saw this on the news last night. A man got bitten by a copperhead. He had no insurance, so Mercy Hospital charged him whatever they darn well felt like. Just more proof that America's health care system is a joke and beyond repair.

News 4 Investigates: The hidden cost of medical care

This is the kind of thing that really makes me angry. If I were president, heads would roll.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Annual Anti-Atheism Rant

All of creation is nothing but random collisions of particles according to atheism. It can be nothing else without a mind at the bottom of the well. Life itself, animation, consciousness, the facade of intelligence, good and evil--all nothing but random collisions. There's a reason why nearly 65% of all scientists believe in a god or at least a higher power. They've actually bothered to think things through to the logical conclusion. Most atheists don't appear to have even begun to think about the ramifications of such a belief system as atheism. Do they not see how ridiculous it sounds saying that they don't believe in god and yet they think people can be "good?" There can be no goodness in the deterministic worldview. Atheists have no business ever calling anything good or bad, ugly or beautiful, right or wrong. If you're an atheist, you should never call the police if someone robs you or beats you or harms you in any way, because those things are just fine in the world of atheism where things just "are" and nothing has any meaning, let alone that of good and evil. Atheism is an ideology for people who do not wish to think. Rather than read Attenborough, you might try reading a more heady paper on the subject such as Chris Langon's Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe which carries out David Bohm's work in quantum potential and merges it with consciousness as the binding agent that unifies the forces of the universe.

Surely you all know the universe is still expanding, right? That same rapid expansion that caused the explosive force (particles banging into particles) at the beginning of the universe is still happening and will go on happening forever. Billions of photons alone pass through your body every second. And every time you take a step across the room, you take on an entirely new body, replacing every particle in it. Actually, you don't need to take any steps. The Earth turning on its axis will take the steps for you. So, not only are you taking on new particles constantly and losing the old ones, the new ones somehow know your age and will keep degrading instead of keeping you looking and feeling new. Wouldn't you expect a brand new set of particles to be fresh and young? How is it they take on the characteristics of older degraded particles when they begin to make up your body? How do they keep such exact shapes? Why does your nose always look like a nose (and the exact same nose) if your particles are always changing? Atoms are made up of mostly empty space. Your body is mostly made up of empty space. Electronic force fields keep all matter together, but how do those forces know to keep such an exact shape as every single person's nose and ears or every blade of grass? If the particles in your brain keep changing and being replaced from second to second, how are you able to reason and retain memories and trains of thought?

Science has never been able to answer the tough questions. It doesn't even try. It just gives names to various phenomena and moves on. Giving something a name does not explain it. Saying animals have instincts does not explain them. How can a Monarch butterfly fly to Mexico every winter to the exact same tree it's grandfather was born in when the young butterfly had never been there before and had never even known its grandfather? Calling such phenomena an "instinct" is an extreme oversimplification, but this is more often than not what science does. Many people like to think the world is somehow this amazing self made machine that just does all this incredible stuff by mere chance from those random collisions of particles when the fact is that it runs much more like a staggeringly elaborate program with very little left to chance. At the same time, there are things that do seem to go wrong from time to time that make little sense to any of us. Why do dumb animals feel pain? It doesn't seem fair. Why do major asteroids hit the Earth every 50 to 100 million years and wipe out most of the life forms? Yes, it's baffling. But that doesn't somehow nullify the fact that the majority of the time, this elaborate program of sorts works amazingly well and not at all like something left to chance. It works so well that the ancient Jews referred to it as the Book of Life, as though life itself were a written script. I don't think they were correct, but I can certainly understand the logic behind the analogy.

No one can say for sure that any person or religion has exactly the right notion of God. I think some, particularly Christianity and Hinduism, are closest to the facts of the matter. But whatever God is happens to be just as beyond our understanding as the mechanisms behind the forces of the universe. That's my opinion anyway. But as Socrates said, "I know nothing."

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Flash Computer Art

I haven't drawn in a long time, but I used to dabble in drawing on computer inside Flash. With Flash you're restricted to figures that are sort of cartoonish in nature, so there's no shading, but the neat thing about vector art is that it's completely scalable. You can zoom in as much as you like without losing any detail at all. (You won't be able to zoom in on these images without losing detail because I saved them as jpgs for uploading to Blogger.)

These were all drawn with a mouse by the way. I've tried using those Waco drawing tablet-pen devices and find them more frustrating than anything.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Steve Martin - Atheists Don't Have No Songs

This is hilarious. This is Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers. They've been together for quite a few years now. If you haven't seen them before, you should search through YouTube for some of their songs. They're not only funny but are very good musicians too.

Here they are doing Orange Blossom Special with a bit of King Tut at the end.

And here there are with another tune featuring their amazing fiddle player, Nicky Sanders, playing Auden's Train.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Best 60s Surf Band You Never Heard

The Jokers were a great Belgium instrumental group that played a lot of surf music but much more. They were on a par with The Ventures, and truth be known, they were probably a little bit better. The band formed in 1959, but it was when the great 15 year old guitarist, Ronny Sigo, joined the band in 1962 that things really took off. All of these guys were really young actually, but Ronny Sigo simply had no peer when it came to the 60s surf guitar sound. It's a shame that he's almost completely unknown outside of Belgium (and Japan) where he still performs as Ronny Sigo and The Jokers. (He's the only original member left.)

Something very original that Ronny Sigo did was his use of a volume pedal to do swells with. He was doing this extensively as far back as 1964 long before any other guitarist was using one or manipulating the knob on their guitar. What's more, he used it very melodically. (You can hear him using one in the video of Tabou listed below, but you never see it in the video since they're just faking it, playing along with a recording.)

They're playing Sabre Dance here circa 1964:

Here they are performing Hully Gully.

Here they play Tabou.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Berlin 1900 In Stunning Color Film

Hard to believe there was color footage this nice in 1900. It really makes you feel less removed from such long ago periods. You feel like you could have been there yourself walking down the street.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Affordable Dentistry?

Just got back from getting a filling at a place called Affordable Dentistry. They charged me $326 for a filling! Is this actually affordable dentistry? I know prices on everything keep going up every year, but this seems like plain old thievery to me for less than an hour’s work. My last dentist didn't charge half this, and he was able to retire at 45! I guess this new breed have set their sites on retiring at 30.

I’m fairly conservative, but health care is one area where I feel a certain affinity with democrats. Heath care agencies, insurance agencies, and personal injury lawyers have got the health care system so screwed up that it wouldn't bother me at all if the government stepped in and took it over. I’m tired of making boat payments for every crook in town.

Just hadda say it.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Anthony Doerr—All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel

If you're looking for something to read, a novel that will appeal to men and women both and of every age, this latest novel by Doerr is the best thing I've read since CS Lewis’ Till We Have Faces. It really is that good. All the Light We Cannot See is about three children growing up during WWII, a brother and sister from Germany who have grave misgivings about Germany waging war, and a blind French girl whose country is of course devastated by it. I read a lot of books and dislike the vast majority of modern novels. This one is truly exceptional. A great story told by what is perhaps the best wordsmith I've ever encountered. In fact, if you're an aspiring writer wanting to learn how to write, forget all those silly how-to books and just read this novel. If you can’t learn how to write, and write well, after reading this book, then give up. There’s no hope for you.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Pure Joy

Nobody has more fun playing American music than the Japanese. This is a terrific jug band called The Bigood!
In case you don't know this great old tune, here are the lyrics in English:
(Words & Music by Cliff Friend)

Way out west where men are men and women are very sweet,
That's where I wanna be...
That's where I'm gonna be.
Way out west just once again where happiness is complete,
There's just one thing I miss...
And it is this:

OH! gimme a horse, a great big horse, and gimme a buckaroo
And let me Wah-Hoo! Wah-Hoo! WAH-HOO!
OH! gimme a ranch, a big pair of pants, and gimme a stetson too,
And let me Wah-Hoo! Wah-Hoo! WAH-HOO!
Give me the wide o-pen spaces...
For I'm just like a prairie flower,
Growing wilder by the hour.
OH! gimme a moon, a prairie moon, and gimme a gal what's true,
And let me Wah-Hoo! Wah-Hoo! WAH-HOO!

OH! I never could sing a high class thing, good music I never knew,
But I can Wah-Hoo! Wah-Hoo! WAH-HOO!
OH! I never could dance, 'cause when I dance I ruin the lady's shoe,
But I can Wah-Hoo! Wah-Hoo! WAH-HOO!
It's just a gift from the prairie...
You shout it when a bad man jigs,
And it's very good for calling pigs.
I never could speak a word of Greek, I never could poop-poop-a-do,
But I can Wah-Hoo! Wah-Hoo! WAH-HOO!

OH! you open your mouth two feet wide, and take a big breath or two,
And then you Wah-Hoo! Wah-Hoo! WAH-HOO!
OH! you wiggle your toes and grit your teeth
Like Dangerous Dan McGrew
And then you Wah-Hoo! Wah-Hoo! WAH-HOO!
Be careful not to sing soprano;
And never Hi-de-hi-de-ho,
'Cause that don't go out in Idaho.
OH! buckle your belt and fix your hat,
And spit her out (noise) ka-chew!
And then you Wah-Hoo! Wah-Hoo! WAH-HOO!

Oh, what did Miss Cleopatra say to Antony when they met?
She hollered Wah-Hoo! Wah-Hoo! WAH-HOO!
Oh, what did that roaming Romeo yell to Miss Juliet?
He hollered Wah-Hoo! Wah-Hoo! WAH-HOO!
It started way back in Eden
And Eve was the cause, and it's no fib,
She wahooed Adam for a rib.
Oh, what did Miss Pocahontas yell the minute she saw John Smith?
She hollered Wah-Hoo! Wah-Hoo! WAH-HOO!

Oh, gimme the plains, the western plains, and a bottle of apple jack
And let me Wah-Hoo! Wah-Hoo! WAH-HOO!
Oh gimme a saloon, an old spittoon, and a package of chaw tobacc
And let me Wah-Hoo! Wah-Hoo! WAH-HOO!
Give me a gal from dear old Dallas,
And play a Texas Tommy dance
And I'll cut loose with a wild romance;
Oh, gimme a gat, a cowboy hat, a handkerchief red and blue,
And let me Wah-Hoo! Wah-Hoo! WAH-HOO!

Oh, gimme the plains, a pair of reins, and my boots and saddle too,
And let me Wah-Hoo! Wah-Hoo! WAH-HOO!
Oh, lemme get at...a lariat, as a steer comes into view,
And let me Wah-Hoo! Wah-Hoo! WAH-HOO!
Give me the wide open spaces,
Each time I see a sawdust bar,
I wanna be away out thar...
Oh, show me the pal who'll steal my gal, and hand me my .32
And let me Wah-Hoo! Wah-Hoo! WAH-HOO!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

I Have Asphyxiphobia

I have asphyxiphobia. There, I said it, and for some reason it's been very bad the past couple of months. I think I nearly had a panic attack a while back. I never had one before. If I owned a gun I might have shot myself. So there you have it. It comes and goes. It's been much better lately though.

I had a couple of bad experiences when I was a kid that left me without air until I nearly passed out. Those were probably the source of the phobia even though it only started hitting me a few years ago. When you're young you don't think about dying, but now that I'm in those prime heart attack years, I suddenly have this phobia that's hit me. I wrote a very short tidbit about it a couple of years ago (though in a veiled context) within a novelette where one of the characters was afraid that death might be a life after death state of never being able to breathe forever. Could the fires of a real Hell be any worse? I don't believe any of that though. Not really. It's mostly just dying from not being able to breathe that I worry about. Once I'm dead I honestly don't think it will be a problem.

Strange the fears we pick up later in life. A lot of people seem to do it. When we're young we're so fearless.