26 October 2016

The Potters: Harry, Albus and Ginny
This morning's annual checkup with my doctor went well - or so I think. The lab results on my blood come in tomorrow. I had a pertussis booster shot two years ago, so if, God forbid, the new Clark grandson arriving in December gets whooping cough, it won't be from me! Also, the doc suggested I quit taking the statin I'm on for a month to see if it doesn't improve my memory. (My wife claims I'm doing odd word substitutions in conversation. Maybe it's the onset of Alzheimer's.)

So those are my personal health details. Is there anything else I need to post to the Internet? I think not.

I started watching The Pacific (2010) again, this time in Blu-Ray. Calling it "gritty"doesn't half describe it! It is easily as good as Band of Brothers (2001) - in fact, I find points of superiority. It is, after all, about the United States Marine Corps! I understand there's a work afoot by Spielberg and Hanks for a similar HBO series about the Air Force in World War II... Masters of the Air, no release date announced. I look forward to watching it. And then, to complete their World War II coverage, they need to do one about the U.S. Navy. And then... the Coast Guard? The USO? The Andrews Sisters? Betty Grable?

Welcome back, Potter: My current book is Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, by J.K. Rowling and others. It's a play, not a novel - and so far I get the feeling she should have let well enough alone with that franchise. So far I'm underwhelmed.

Last night's Berlin Philharmonic concert:

Bernd Alois Zimmerman: Symphony in one movement - Not only have I never heard this work, I've never heard of Bernd Alois Zimmerman. This piece is... well... okay. It didn't really interest me much. As it's an atonal work (with no recognizable key signatures) it seemed more like a series of tonal effects more than any kind of a narrative or progression. Perhaps I'm getting too used to Haydn's formal sonata allegro structures in those Paris and London Symphonies I'm listening to. At any rate it didn't do much for me. Henri Dutilleux seems to write more successfully in this style.

25 October 2016

I think I mentioned that I had a convertible top problem with my VW, that is, a little sliding door wasn't sliding open when the top came down, causing a potential for splintered plastic. I isolated the problem to a broken steel braided wire. It took a lot of effort to get to the works - I had to remove the rear seat and the back side panel. 

So... yesterday I went to the VW Parts desk to ask how much the replacement part was. $80 for two, and it's not at all clear to me that what they were offering was the right part! I then wondered, WWAD (What Would Avery Do)?, Avery being my mechanically skilled pal who works on cars a lot. I went to Home Depot, bought $6 worth of picture hanging wire and reused the ball socket part, and made a replacement part. It works fine. I celebrated by getting myself an ice cream cone. 

If you make a habit of rewarding yourself for life's little victories you'll live longer, I'm convinced. 

The part the guy tried to sell me was called a "Bowden cable," and I therefore learned a new term. A Bowden cable is a type of flexible cable used to transmit mechanical force or energy by the movement of an inner cable relative to a hollow outer cable housing. I didn't know that. Did you?

I think I also wrote that I developed a system of using my Canon DSLR to make .mp4 files from YouTube videos and anything I can show on my television. (I'm working on a video to show Burbankers at a book sale and slideshow on 11/30.) Well, as it turns out there's a far easier way - use software that converts a YouTube address into a .mp4 file. It works great and is much faster, and so now I have good videos to edit together for the show. 

Yesterday I painted trim in the lavender guest bedroom in my house. I can only stand painting trim for about an hour or so. I have more left to do. 

Last night's Berlin Philharmonic concert: 

George Enescu: Romanian Rhapsody #1 - I don't know what to write about this one. It's very tuneful and popular. 
Gabriel Faure - Pavane - I don't know what to write about this one, either. It's very tuneful and popular. 

If there were any doubts about the Beatles being the greatest rock and roll band, ever, here is Exhibit A in the argument that they were: Footage from an Australian concert from 1964. Somehow I've managed to have never seen this before. The lads give a polished performance which is made all the more surprising by the fact that they usually couldn't hear themselves play over the girls screaming, on-stage monitor technology being primitive in 1964. John plays a great guitar solo in "You Can't Do That," but unfortunately you can't see it because the camera was looking elsewhere. But, wow, they sound great! 

I learned a new word yesterday: "snowclone." From wikipedia: "A typical example snowclone is the phrase 'grey is the new black' (a form of the template 'X is the new Y,' in which 'X' and 'Y' may be replaced with different words or phrases—for example, 'Orange is the New Black' or even 'comedy is the new rock 'n' roll')." My wife's favorite snowclone: "Sitting is the new smoking." 

24 October 2016

I didn't do yard sales this past Saturday morning. It was cold and blustery and it had rained a little so I figured there wouldn't be many - if any at all. Besides, I needed to drive into Maryland to meet with a friend to drive to Frederick to see another friend who has started hospice care. We did that and, as I expected, it was a sad occasion. But I'm glad I went.

On Friday night I watched the Ron Howard Beatles documentary The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years (2016). It was good, but it didn't really provide anything over and above what Paul, George and Ringo already did in the 1990's Anthology series. Still, they cleaned up and colorized some old black and white footage of the Beatles in 1964 that looked really, really good. (There's a song or two and the press conference at the JFK Airport that looked amazing.) If I were a producer this is the direction I would head: find old black and white Beatles performance films and videos, clean 'em up, bring them up to modern standards and colorize them (and provide black and white originals). There has got to be a market for that.

I also watched the newest installment in the James Bond series, Spectre (2015). It was... good. Not as good as Skyfall (2012) but about as good as Casino Royale (2006). I got the distinct impression that it represented the end of Daniel Craig's tour in the role, but, no, he has signed on to do a fifth Bond film.

(Hey. How come I've never seen the 48 minute 1954 Casino Royale with Barry Nelson as James Bond? Hm. Well, it's on YouTube so I can.)

My wife and I tried watching the initial episode of the series American Horror Story, but, no, it was way too sexually explicit for us so we tuned out.

Under advisement of a friend, we started watching Detectorists (2014), a British comedy about two guys doing metal detecting in Essex, hoping to find another Saxon horde. It's a very understated and low key comedy, but I'm enjoying it. It stars Mackenzie Crook, who has a face that can only be described as a character actor's. It also stars Toby Jones, whom I remember from a notable appearance in a Doctor Who episode, "Dream Lord." Both are well cast as misfits in this series.

The people at "What's New in Burbank" did a Lost Burbank spot advertising our November slideshow - cool!

I'm now reading Saipan: Suicide Island by Guy Gabaldon (1926-2006). Galbadon was a Marine who is credited with capturing over one thousand Japanese prisoners - by himself! He'd actually take off by himself and bring back prisoners... 800 on one occasion! He has an amazing story to tell. Despite the fact that his commanding officer put him in for a Congressional Medal of Honor, he was initially awarded a Silver Star medal which was later upgraded to a Navy Cross when the Marine Corps realized it had under-awarded him, probably due to an anti-Hispanic bias. The Department of Defense is now doing a review to determine if he should be getting a posthumous MoH. I'm guessing that he eventually will. What he did certainly compares to what other Medal of Honor recipients have done.

And the week begins.

21 October 2016

N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov
I donated blood yesterday and, happily, the guy who stuck me got the vein on the first try. The day's little blessing.

As I lounged there I became somewhat morbid and wondered: what is it like to slowly bleed to death? Isn't that merely growing weak and falling asleep? That would have to be more humane than death by electrocution, I would think. The average person has about 1 1/2 gallons of blood; I read somewhere on the Internet (so it must be true) that losing about 40% of that is fatal. 40% of 1 1/2 gallons is 4.8 pints. So the state executioner draws between 5 and 6 pints of blood. Not only does the state execute a criminal in a humane fashion, but the local blood bank gets a donation! (Assuming that the blood is acceptable, of course.) Well, okay, I can see certain media problems and inevitable complaints with what I propose...

Yesterday I was sitting at a red light in a car and wondering about the connection between the color red and a sense of alarm, or urgency. Whenever we want to catch a person's attention we use red. Fire engines are red, so are warning signs. Why is this? Are we genetically hard-wired in this way because our blood is red, and when we see it a part of our brain urges us to take action of some kind?

Anyway, I always get tired after donating blood and yesterday was no exception - when I got home I dozed off three times, heavily. I always take a nap after work, but this is unusual. And then, forgetting about the restriction against doing any heavy lifting for 24 hours, I helped my son move a couple of refrigerators.

Yesterday I watched my little grandsons take part in soccer practice... it's fun watching them kick the ball and then run after it. They look so cute! I suspect both of them are going to be interested in sports - that being the case, some of my retirement is going to be spent at my grandsons' games, I think. And that's fine.

Last night I watched the Berlin Philharmonic play:

Sergei Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini - This is a favorite. The famous XVIII variation never fails to raise goosebumps. Were you to meet Sergei Rachmaninoff you would hardly guess that such a stern and imposing man could write something so unabashedly romantic and heart string-tugging as this. Igor Stravinsky called him "A six and a half foot scowl." Do a Google image search on him and find a photo of him doing an unequivocal smile. Go ahead. I know of only one.

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade - I have listened to this piece countless times since I was sixteen, but last night I heard the Berliners do the most brilliant, lucid and moving performance of this piece, ever. The conductor was a Russian, Tugan Sokhiev. The first chair violinist, who gets to play the voice of Scheherazade, was also wonderful. My favorite part of this piece is the very end, where the violin maintains a very high note while the basses play the Scheherazade theme under it. Rimsky-Korsakov was a master orchestrator who devised many wonderful effects, but this simple bit of string writing is one of his masterpieces.

Yesterday the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office official photographer (I didn't know we had one) took photos of me and another guy for an upcoming trade journal article; my two year project just finished up successfully. I saw the photos this morning. Ugh. I am now at the age where looking at myself makes me cringe.

Tomorrow is going to be a trial... a friend and I are visiting a mutual friend who is going into hospice care. And I need to finish a room painting I've begun, and do a repair on my VW convertible. (I've put it off because it's been too warm in the garage this past week.)

But you should have a great weekend!

20 October 2016

The Final Presidential Debate: my wife decided to watch it. I wasted my time "reading" a book upstairs (see paragraphs below). Hillary Clinton's shill and piercing voice came all the way from the basement to nearly the upper bedroom. I have never heard so many lies uttered in so raucous a manner. If she wins it's going to be a long, long four years. (But then, I had Clinton Fatigue back in the Nineties.)

Last night I read The Lincoln Hypothesis: A Modern-day Abolitionist Investigates the Possible Connection between Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and Abraham Lincoln by Timothy Ballard. Well, that is, I started to read it. What happened was that I got so annoyed with the tone and content of the piece (too many exclamation points and sentences beginning "You see...") that after a chapter or two I went into scan mode and finished it that way. In a word, it's awful. Historical claptrap. It has as a main premise that Abraham Lincoln read the copy of the Book of Mormon he checked out for eight months from the Library of Congress and acted upon it - or was influenced by it - to a mystical degree to become inspired to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. There is no evidence for this, none at all. Lincoln never mentioned reading the book. The Lincoln Hypothesis is primarily a book to excite gullible Mormons. My review is here.

One interesting assertion, reportedly by a Park Service ranger to the author, was that, after reading it, one of the Confederate generals (Gen. Longstreet) ate Gen. Lee's celebrated Special Order #191, which gave the various locations of elements of the Army of Northern Virginia. (When Union Gen. McClellan received a lost copy of it he pounced - or pounced as much as a slow mover like McClellan could pounce.) I have seen a paper copy of this order on display. It is extremely unlikely that anybody in the Confederate Army ate his copy. This notion comes from Gen. Longstreet's autobiography; the exact phrasing is, "The copy sent to me was carefully read, then used as some persons use a little cut of tobacco, to be assured that others could not have the benefit of its contents." But such suspicion is beyond the purview of Ballard's book... the work is highly credulous. With his scholarship, anything goes.

I also watched some of a New Musical Express Poll Winners concert from 1965 on YouTube. The performers I saw were Freddie and the Dreamers, Herman's Hermits, the Moody Blues, the Kinks, the Animals and, at the end, the Beatles. What a show! They always got drowned out by the sounds of screams, but the fact is that the Beatles were a terrific act onstage. Very polished, lots of energy, very musical. "I Feel Fine" and "Ticket to Ride" were great - a British Invasion masterclass. I have always been a Beatles fan and always will be. Some generations can be characterized by their music: the G.I. Generation had Big Band, mine had the Beatles.

Elvis may have been King, Bruce Springsteen may have been the Boss and Frank Sinatra may have been the Chairman of the Board. But the Beatles were the Beatles.

Lost Burbank is doing well... according to the publisher we have sold 800 copies in pre-sale and 300 more are being printed.

I donate blood today; I hope the phlebotomist doesn't have to move the needle around to find the vein once it's inserted... I hate that. But I'm growing used to it.

19 October 2016

Robert Schumann in 1850
I'm having a slight problem with the convertible top mechanism on my VW - specifically, a small sliding plastic trim panel that's supposed to move as the top goes up and down - so last night I removed the back seat from the car in order to remove the rear panels so I can see behind them to fix the problem. Only, it doesn't look like that will help. I may just end up immobilizing the trim, which causes a slight aesthetic issue. I need to spend more time on this... in a cooler garage! (It was a warm day yesterday and another is to follow today.)

The engineers at Volkswagen use bolts that I have never seen used elsewhere: you need a twelve pointed "triple square" bit to remove them. A Torx won't work? How annoying!

My standards for horror anthologies are pretty low, but last night I'm pretty sure a new bottom limit was reached. The film in question was a dreadful production on Amazon Prime entitled Terrortory (2016). (I give the producers credit for a unique film title.) It was filmed somewhere in Maryland. The acting is bad and the plots are lame. Young people muck about in the woods (at one point considerable car traffic can be heard so these are not remote woods) and are menaced by (1) A guy with a empty plastic pumpkin head as a head, (2) A murderous clown, (3) A leering, semi-naked vamp and (4) a drone. That's right, a drone. I'm not sure if this is the very first film to utilize a drone as an instrument of terror, but there it is. The traditional linking story for these tales was unmemorable. Dead of Night (1945) is in no danger of being displaced as my all-time favorite horror anthology.

Last night's Berlin Philharmonic streaming archived performance was Schumann's Symphony #3 "Rhenish." I am becoming fond of this piece... this is a symphony in the Romantic style. It is tuneful, well-wrought and easy to like. Poor Schumann! He had mental problems and ended his days in an asylum, dying at age 46.

I think I'll skip tonight's presidential debate. I find these depressing. It's the third match up of the Loudmouthed Clown versus the Criminal Crone; no matter which one is deemed to have won, the nation will lose.

18 October 2016

Last night we finished watching Bosch season two on Amazon Prime. It was quite good, but I preferred season one. There are items of plot that are being set up for season 3, which airs next year.

Yesterday I was playing around with my Canon EOS 60D DSLR in high resolution video mode, trying to record a comedy song about Burbank from the Animaniacs off my television set. I was able to get a good visual file, but for some reason it took me more than an hour to figure out how to pipe the sound from the set to the camera via the microphone jack. (I could easily do it with the microphone on the camera body and ambient sound - but I'm never happy with the quality of that.) It seemed that none of the outputs on the back of my receiver had a good audio signal, so I took it off the headphone jack. That worked. I think. I edit it later today. My goal is to produce a two minute bit of video for a Burbankia slideshow.

Anyway, I learned how to do it, so now I can produce a video file with good audio from anything I can display on my television set.

My wife and I ate out for her birthday last night; afterwards we parked atop the top floor of a Shirlington parking garage in an attempt to watch the Antares rocket launch at 7:40 PM from NASA's facility on Wallops Island in Virginia, 107 miles away. The press had publicized it, saying that it would be visible from Washington D.C. We couldn't see it - at least I couldn't. Cari thought she saw a light in the guy as we were driving home but I had to keep my eyes on the road.

I added some photos to Burbankia:

Eat Burbank Baked Beans, canned in Burbank. A long time ago. To be served with Burbank Brown Bread, which adds "enchantment." People don't use the word enchantment in advertising any more, which is probably good.

Here are some politically incorrect, culturally appropriating John Burroughs High School Indians - a cheer squad from that benighted era of the 1950s. Did you ever hear, some years back, about the Native American-friendly organization that created a fictional school mascot the "Fightin' Whities?" The thing sort of backfired: Fightin' Whities wear sold like hotcakes with no recorded white person complaint. From wikipedia: "The team sold enough shirts that they were eventually able to endow a sizable scholarship fund for Native American students at Northern Colorado. In 2003, the team donated $100,000 to the University of Northern Colorado's UNC Foundation, which included $79,000 designated for the 'Fightin' Whites Minority Scholarship.'" If I were insulted by all this, would it matter?

1967 Parade in Burbank - When Burbank has a parade, Mickey Mouse is the Grand Marshall. And Goofy comes along. And they ride in a really nice Lincoln Continental convertible.

17 October 2016

Happy birthday Cari! We are dining out, but I'm not sure where just yet.

My Lost Burbank co-author Mike attended the Burbank Local Authors book selling and signing event in town on Saturday; he did well. According to the lady in charge we were the best selling authors there. One guy showed up at the door, and when a librarian attempted to give him an event promotional bag he said, "No thanks. I'm just here to buy Lost Burbank." So... it was encouraging. More of these events are coming at the end of November/beginning of December and I'll be out there to do them.

Battle of Hastings 950 article with photos. I'm not sure which is worse: navy blue wool on a humid summer day or chain mail, at any time.

Over the weekend I finally finished that Paul McCartney book and am now reading Odd Man Out by F.L. Green. I like it so far, but I suspect that I'm going to think the Carol Reed movie was better. It's one of my twenty or so favorite films. Now that I've mentioned it, let's listen to the doom-laden and solemn title music. If you are unfamiliar with the movie at all, listening to this you just know things will not turn out well. (And they don't.)

We're making our way through Bosch season two. It's quite good, but I liked season one better. I envy Bosch his McIntosh MC-240 tube amp he plays his jazz albums through. Those things were manufactured between 1960 and 1969, but are still worth thousands of dollars.

Did you see the promotional video for the new Lego Beatles Yellow Submarine? This is an attractive video, but I kept wondering "Where is the Beatles music?" I suppose rights, estates, lawyers, contractual agreements, etc. prevent its use, but it seems incomplete without the music. And I've been looking at the various press releases about this set and it seems to me there's a story that is not being told. Did Paul, Ringo, Yoko and Olivia sign off on this or is it that United Artists and not Apple has the rights for a Yellow Submarine toy? Did the Beatles approve of their Lego likenesses, or was that signed away when they approved of their 1968 animated movie likenesses? Hm.

Would I like a Beatles Yellow Submarine set? Yes, I think I would.

14 October 2016

On the Hastings battlefield, 2011
950 years ago on this day in 1066 five to thirteen thousand Anglo-Saxons, under the leadership of Harold II of England, formed a shield wall and, for most of the day, stood off attacks by seven to twelve thousand Normans under the leadership of Duke William "the Bastard" of Normandy.

The shield wall did not prevail, Harold was killed, and the decisive Norman victory led to William "the Conqueror" being crowned as William I, King of England. The event is known to history as the Battle of Hastings - despite the fact that it didn't take place in Hastings, but seven miles away at a site known today, fittingly, as Battle.

My son and I visited the place in 2011 - photos start here. It was one of the notable days of my entire life because I've always wanted to see the place. There was a time, when I was a teenager newly fascinated with English history, that I used to pore over the accounts of this battle and fervently wished that Harold had prevailed. Alas! Teenagers are natural romantics. A good British newspaper article, "King Harold the Great? How history might have changed if the English had won at the Battle of Hastings," is here.

When you visit the place, you can find the spot where tradition claims King Harold died. But is it valid? I have my doubts. The problem is that it's all the way over on the Saxon left wing as the line is presented to us nowadays. If you are leading thousands of men on foot arrayed in a line, wouldn't you naturally put yourself more in the middle of the line for command and control purposes? Lately there have been doubts voiced by investigators.

The site is curious for other reasons. Normally, when you visit a museum on a battlefield you find a museum case full of corroded metal dug up from the surrounding fields. But there is none of that at the 1066 battlefield. Actually, battle artifacts are non existent. What's more, so are skeletons. Some people wonder if the battle actually took place at the site claimed for it. I'm one of these.

The battle of Hastings, and the events leading up to it, are famously described in a tapestry known as the Bayeux Tapestry. But did you know that there was a reproduction of the work made during Victorian times on display in Reading, England? I didn't! My own reproduction of a section of the Bayeux Tapestry - Edouard and Westminster - is being made by a kind friend even as we speak... but I'll describe that some other time. 

Another century, another war: "Don't Let's Be Beastly to the Germans" by Noel Coward, a funny World War II song. Yes, let's don't. I've never heard it before; it was mentioned in the Paul McCartney book I'm reading. 

I'm at the chapter - "Japanese Jailbird" - where Paul got arrested for marijuana possession in Japan in 1980. Paul McCartney, history's most successful songwriter, sitting on a mat on the floor of a ten by fourteen foot cell facing the distinct possibility of seven years imprisonment with hard labor. The Japanese didn't fool around with drug laws back then, yeah, yeah, yeah. 

Big doin's in town tomorrow, the "town" being Burbank, CA. It's the annual Burbank Library Local Authors Showcase, and my co-author Mike is going to be sitting at a table signing and selling copies of Lost Burbank. Wish I could be there, but I'll be doing this same thing with him in late November/early December. 

A nice sunny day is forecast for tomorrow, so I'll be doing yard sales. 

Have a great weekend!

13 October 2016

Cari and I finished watching season one of Bosch last night - it's a detective series on Amazon Prime. Yesterday I mentioned that my daughter recommended it to me, but I misremembered. T'was my boon friend Avery who told me about it. It's excellent... the high definition nighttime shots of L.A. are wonderful. But I'm giving myself away as a noirhead. The more velvety black visual content there is in crime movies and media the happier we are.

Actually (a word to begin sentences that's in vogue with my grandson Gibson) actually, I have read that the very best way to watch old black and white films is via the old school shining of light through developed film stock. That is, in a movie theater. A childhood friend of mine is a projectionist at the UCLA Film School - he once told me that whenever they do an original nitrate film showing of an old film noir, producers and directors come out of the woodwork in Hollywood to see it. I'd love to see, say, The Asphalt Jungle (1950), Raw Deal (1948) or The Big Combo (1955) this way.

Speaking of The Big Combo, it's been a sometime project of mine for the past 16 years (!) to get some professional musical ensemble to come up with a good performing version of David Raksin's wonderfully old-fashioned and evocative theme music. (Which you can hear here.) It's my favorite set of notes in all of film noir - but I have blogged about this before. A German who runs a student jazz ensemble came up with an arrangement a few years ago and I got a recorded performance from him, but it's very... student in performance quality. Last night, watching some Berlin Philharmonic interviews, I learned of the John Wilson Orchestra. This is an ensemble which specializes in adaptations of MGM movie music. John Wilson is a British musician who listens to old scores and, bar by bar, reproduces the arrangements for orchestra. Clearly, this is a fellow I need to make contact with! He might be the one to bring Raksin's music to the concert hall.

I am halfway through Philip Norman's book about Paul McCartney; I'm at the sad part where the Beatles are breaking up and their finances with Apple and various music publishing firms are in shambles. It's painful to read. Thanks to ATV, Michael Jackson and Sony, Paul McCartney does not own any of the Beatles music he wrote. (He does get performance royalties, however.) But! He is working on regaining his ownership via a 1976 law. It'll cost him hundreds of millions of dollars - but he's Paul McCartney. When Jerry "When you're hot, you're hot and when you're not, you're not" Reed once heard that Paul was back on the tour touring he reportedly said, "On the road? Man, if I were Paul McCartney I would buy the road!"

As it turns out, it's not just the rights to music that others own, it's also archival footage. From a relevant Internet article: "It's not just The Beatles music catalogue that can come under fire for use in commercials... it's every moment of the band members' respective lives. One interesting example was a recent campaign for Citroën, a French car manufacturer. The opening of the commercial features what appears to be archival footage of an interview with John Lennon. He discusses a common theme: copycats in rock 'n' roll and how true artists should do their own thing, with the connection obviously being that Citroën's vehicles defy convention. Beatles fans took up arms however when it came to light that Lennon may not have spoken those exact words, and regardless of what he said, the voice on the commercial was that of a voiceover actor. Who would be indecent enough to suggest replacing the voice of John Lennon in a commercial? Turned out his wife, Yoko Ono, gave her approval for the move."

As the bumper sticker says, "Still pissed at Yoko."

This article is somewhat suspect, however, as it claims that the song, "When I'm Sixty Four" was written by John Lennon. Anyone who knows a thing about John Lennon knows that this was Paul's song. Lennon would not - could not - write a song like that.

12 October 2016

Calling Dr. Dramaturge!
We finished watching season two of Turn: Washington's Spies last night. Since only the first two seasons are available on Netflix, this is all we'll be watching until they add more. It's a four season show. I'm fine with the break... my wife is a bigger fan of this show than I am. It plays way too fast and loose with American Revolutionary War history for me.

Never watch a historical drama or period piece with a historical reenactor; we tear them apart. Case in point: my wife and I started watching, but did not finish, the 1993 coming of age comedy Dazed and Confused. It's set in a high school in May, 1976. It's all well and good until a kid shows up in class wearing a KISS tee shirt emblazoned with the design to their Rock and Roll Over album cover. Wait... that's the album with the song "Calling Dr. Love" on it. I remember that song from late 1976/early 1977. Wikipedia confirms that I was right: the album was released in November 1976. A tee shirt with that album design in May 1976 is an anachronism. And so it goes. I'm sure there are others - this is, after all, my era - but I haven't finished watching the movie.

Lately I've been watching the Amazon Prime detective drama Bosch, which is set in Los Angeles in the current day. Knowing of my love for film noir, my daughter Julie recommended it to me. So I watched the pilot and got drawn in. I'm about 75% done with season 1. Some of the high resolution aerial photography of Los Angeles is stunning, plus it helps that I know or have visited most of the locations.

Last night, one of the locations in Bosch was set in the Silver Lake district - I lived there as a boy. Of course, it has changed greatly from the early Sixties... the house we lived in is no longer standing and hasn't for nearly five decades! There's no indication that there ever used to be a house there. Just my memories.

John Lennon's Sardonyx guitar. Weird-looking thing...

I'm at the Summer 1967 point in that Philip Norman Paul McCartney biography I'm reading - nearly half way. It's a thick book.

I posted a new article to Burbankia yesterday: Burbank's Ever Lovin' Light, about the television show The Midnight Special, and how I forgot to include same in the chapter about music in my Lost Burbank book. Grrrrr. My editor said that kind of thing always happens with writers and that it drives them (I guess now I can write "us") crazy.

11 October 2016

Harpers Ferry from the Maryland Heights Overlook
No yard sale trip this past, jet-laggy Saturday morning - it rained. I preferred to loiter about indoors that morning.

I was expecting to start doing work in the laundry room, but that didn't happen. And I didn't even get the paint to re-do the lavender bedroom, my other main home improvement project in the cards. Instead - we went to the Tyson's Corner Mall, "Where the stores are." I bought a blue paisley tie at Nordstrom and got a couple of cologne samples.

On Sunday I taught the older men at church, based on this talk. I think it was well received - I'm never sure. At any rate, the only guy I could see falling asleep was aged 90+, so he gets a pass. When you are 90+ you can do or say anything you want.

Yesterday, for Columbus Day on a whim, I drove to Harpers Ferry in West By God Virginia and toured around in some of the restored stores and bookshop, and climbed up to the Maryland Heights Overlook. (PHOTOS.) Here's a video of the watch store and general store, and here's a video at the overlook. Getting to the overlook was tiring. It was a 2.8 mile (one-way) uphill hike which took me about 55 minutes. I stayed a half hour and it took about 45 minutes to hike back to town. I had last made this jaunt during a Boy Scout camporee in 1991, when I was 35. It was a lot easier than making it again at age 60! But I did it... I'm pretty sure my father couldn't have at that age. Or age 50, come to think of it. I woke up thinking I'd be really sore this morning, but, no. I guess I'm still in better shape than I think. Superior French-Canadian genetics.

Speaking of Dad, I got an interesting Facebook message Saturday night. There's a place where Facebook messages from people who aren't registered as your "friends" get stored - I was unaware of it. So I was looking at 1, 2, 3 and 4 year old messages I didn't know existed! One was from a woman who, at age 17 back in 1983, used to serve my Dad ice cream at the local Baskin-Robbins in Burbank. She is now 50! I recall this girl: she was somewhat messy and had ice cream on her smock. But Dad introduced her to me as his pal. She wrote that she remembered him well: wearing a red cardigan and asking for a single scoop of pralines and cream, in a cup. He talked to her about his Lockheed days. She and the others there were quite sad when she had learned that he died. I found myself thinking about this all weekend long.

More Idaho videos:

Shopping and Eating with Jay and Birdie! - This was at Boise's nicer shopping district, the "Meridian." It's an uninteresting place with boring stores... all female-centric: clothes, home stuff, Pilates, salons, stationary. They might as well hang male-repellent strips from the lampposts.

Birdie and Jay on Saturday - Duplos and Patton's Third Army. (I had watched Patton the night before.)

Birdie and Jay on Sunday - Feeling a distinct sense of cabin fever we visited the Anne Frank Memorial (the white liberal epicenter of Boise), the library and an ice cream place.

Freak Alley Gallery, Boise, ID - While my wife and daughter were shopping at the West Elm store downtown, I was in the wildly-painted alley behind the store shooting this video!

Meeting at the Salt Lake City Airport - This was a close call. It almost didn't happen. There was a major accident that shut down a section of I-15, the main drag thereabouts. But, fortunately, we got to see my father-in-law, daughter and granddaughter in a Starbucks at the airport. Hooray!

One of the Nordstrom samples I got was Tom Ford Ombre Leather 16. It's... okay. It's a lighter version of Tuscan Leather, which I wear. As I have quickly scent-neutralizing skin, this stuff doesn't last as long as TL on me. So if it's the same price, why buy it? For Tom Ford cost I expect more Wow Factor.

7 October 2016

These are pretty awful, by the way. 
Back to work - blah. But it's a Friday before a three day weekend. Those are... not tense.

On the plane back to Virginia I saw the newest Star Trek movie, Star Trek Beyond (2016). It was... okay. It featured an inevitable mannish alien woman with racing stripes on her face and the visual confirmation that Sulu is gay. They have to find a new Ensign Chekov (Burbanker Anton Yelchin, who played the role, died this year in a car accident.) All in all it was sort of a big budget TV episode. I give it a B-. But at least it was an improvement over the last installment, with Eggs Benedict Cummerbundbatch as a needlessly and badly resurrected Khan.

I also started watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) on the plane. Meh at best; I'm not sure I'll finish watching that one.

Annnndddd... last night we watched the first half of The Dark Knight Rises, the 2012 Batman film. It's even more "Meh" than the Captain America flick. It features the most visually lackluster-looking Gotham City ever, and a dull story line. No zing to this one at all. I suppose we'll finish watching it. Perhaps not.

Hey, Hollywood! Time to start making films not about comic book characters, maybe?

Idaho videos:

Kimberley Lane Townhouses - I was really impressed with these. Who expected a Southern California-in-the-Seventies vibe from homes lined up along the Boise River? I didn't. Only about $350K each! Retire there? Well.. perhaps. I can see it. But we have more homework to do.

With Birdie and Jay! - Book reading, shoes, posing, Duplos...

Playground and the Grocery Store - We spent a lot of grandparent time with these two!

Mega Bloks Knockdown - It's a family tradition. First time with Mega Bloks, though.

At the Nature Center and the Temple - Boise has an impressive free Nature Center...

...more to come.

My publisher tells us that we have pre-sold more than 600 copies of Lost Burbank and that they're going to print more copies than planned before it's even released! Ann Coulter says that the average non-fiction book sells about 5,000 copies - I wonder if we'll reach that mark...

While I was in Idaho, Mike arranged for a book signing at Burbank's very cool Autobooks-Aerobooks store. It coincides with the Saturday morning car show held there which Jay Leno frequents. I hope he appears! Maybe he'll buy a copy. We also have a book signing/slideshow arranged at the public library. Another at the Burbank Barnes and Noble is still to be arranged, as is one at the Burbank Historical Society. With his usual fine sense of occasion Mike is calling this The Lost Burbank World Tour, Hahahaha! It starts at the end of November and runs into the first week of December. I'm hoping to fit a day at Disneyland into it.

I am now reading Philip Norman's new 818-page Paul McCartney: The Life. It's his companion work to John Lennon: The Life which I read some years back and enjoyed. So expect some blog entries about Macca in upcoming days.

Re. politics - My Maryland resident friend Don Tracey has a great quote: "The way I show I am not a mindless party voter is to vote Republican while I am alive as I will surely be voting Democrat when I am dead." Hahahahaha!

Left! Right! Debate Night! A Bad Lip Reading version of the last Presidential debate. I love these...

The weekend... it's supposed to rain tomorrow, so I haven't much expectations of yard sales. I'm going to start some home improvement. What, exactly, I'm not sure yet. The laundry room?

Have a great weekend!

6 October 2016

We're back from Boise, Idaho! It was a great trip... PHOTOS HERE.

I have finished off this album, so if you looked at it before, look again. There's new stuff. It was great seeing my daughter's family there and my father-in-law and daughter and granddaughter during a layover in Salt Lake City. (Which nearly didn't happen due to a chemical spill that shut down I-15.) But Providence smiled upon us and we all got to meet anyway.

Also, while in Idaho I saw a key-wound Volkswagen. VIDEO.

More videos coming - lots more - but right now I have to get the cars running. We dropped the VW at the shop last night at Midnight, and I have to get a battery for the Hyundai today. And run lots of errands (Groceries, dry cleaning, prescriptions, pick up inter-library loan CDs, etc.)

It's been a kind of comedy finding somebody who could take me to the auto parts store. I tried five different friends to no avail. The neighbor next door - her car isn't working, and the lady across the street isn't answering her door! Finally I got a call back.

27 September 2016

I watched all of the Great Debate last night. In short, it was an ordeal. Donald Trump is inarticulate and Hillary Clinton is shrill and pantomimes the least convincing smile in politics.

As an IT (Information Technology) professional I would have jumped at Hillary gassing on about the importance of cybersecurity. The Federal government spends billions of dollars yearly in cybersecurity personnel, equipment and software to shore up our national computer security; it was undone when the then Secretary of State Clinton processed classified e-mail on her home-grown server. (She then went on to cover up, evade and lie about it in the usual Clintonian fashion.) It wasn't a "mistake" as she claimed last night - it was criminal, and the only reason she wasn't charged and jailed as others have been for the same thing was due to a thoroughly politicized Federal Bureau of Investigation. This would have presented a great opportunity for Trump to pledge to get party politics out of federal agencies - but he didn't think to do that.

The Trump supporters will claim that he won the debate, and the mainstream "media" - who always bat for Hillary - will publicize that she won. (The Clinton News Network, no surprise here, claims she won.) IT people like me will scream about the lost opportunity to point out that Hillary has no credibility with cybersecurity. And I suppose many Americans tuned in to see if Hillary would pass out or have another extended coughing fit; the fact that she didn't is something of a triumph for her side. She didn't have an onstage collapse! We won! 

I can't wait to see the Bad Lip Reading version of the debate; I loved the Romney vs. Obama one.

Perhaps the most embarrassing thing about the debate was this: "According to CBS New York reporter Tony Aiello, a sign inside of the student center at Hofstra reads, 'Trigger warning: The event conducted just beyond this sign may contain triggering and/or sensitive material. Sexual violence, sexual assault, and abuse are some topics mentioned within this event. If you feel triggered, please know there are resources to help you.' That's right, a "trigger warning" for those poor, sensitive little college snowflakes. Can you imagine what classes must be like at Hofstra? Eggshells 101, Eggshells 201, Advanced Eggshells 305, Senior Eggshells Seminar 505, etc.

Hey, for my generation, Trigger was a horse.

But stop and think about it for a minute: "Sexual violence, sexual assault, and abuse are some topics mentioned within this event." Oh? Did Trump assault somebody? Do they know something we don't? Is there something that... oh... wait... that's right, her husband is Bill Clinton. Also, Hillary Clinton's name was spelled "Hilary" on the commemorative tickets. "A spokesman for the Commission on Presidential Debates said the mistake happened only on commemorative tickets and not on official ones. ... The spokesman declined to say who produced the commemorative tickets." Surely not Hofstra.

My claim is that I watched all of the debate, but at about the 95 minute point of this supposedly 90 minute debate I tuned out and put on the Berlin Philharmonic. I first tried an avant-garde piece by Edgard Varese, but quickly went elsewhere to look for a relief from the sound of jagged political rhetoric. I found it in the elegance and perfection of Franz Joseph Haydn's 80th Symphony. Percy Grainger's In a Nutshell - a work I have never heard - was an excellent follow up. Ahhhh.

I have maintained for decades that, in some mysterious way I cannot explain, classical concert music makes my life far better than it would be without it. I know this to be true. I listen to lots of other types of music (rock, jazz, bluegrass, country, electronic, western, folk, ancient), but it's only symphonic concert music that does the trick. I wonder why.

A major life decision has been reached! My next phone shall be an Apple iPhone 6s, 32 GB. I don't need a 7. Now I need to decide whether I want a 6s or the larger Plus, but I think the smaller 6s will be fine. It's somewhat bigger than my present 5s, which I find adequate. I am wary of fitting a larger iPhone in my pocket.

No blog updates for a week or so, probably, quelle dommage. I'm taking a break. Full explanation later.

26 September 2016

"Off the Maine Coast," Samuel Colman, 1870
As it turned out we did go to the Virginia State Fair on Saturday; it was fun! (Seven minute video here.) Lots of walking in warm weather.

A friend of ours told us that state fairs are junk food heaven, and she was right: I bought a jumbo corn dog. It tasted better than the ones you buy commercially. I passed on the fried Oreo, however. The pecan and blueberry pies that won first and second place in the display cases were not very impressive looking... Cari thinks she'll submit her own pies for next year. She thinks she stands a good chance and, based upon decades of dining experience, I think so, too.

It appears that the Virginia State Fair is definitely Trump Country. Right wing stuff everywhere. There was a booth for the Democratic Party of Virginia... but it was very lonely indeed. And now I finally know where all those urinating Calvin stickers that I see on trucks come from.  

On Sunday I had to repair the lawn mower. It would fire up, run for a second or two, then stop. After trying a number of things I finally concluded that the problem was contaminated gasoline, and emptied the tank and replaced the gas. Yes, indeed... the old gas looked the color of light beer. New gas is a slightly opaque, grayish color. After a few pulls on the starter and pressurizing the gas with my mouth over the gas tank filler hole (!) to get it into the carburetor, it ran fine.

We hung up our new print on canvas over the living room, a Hudson River School painting of the Maine coast by Samuel Colman. It looks great! Cari has always wanted one of these in the house.  

I finished painting the downstairs bedroom and we hung new arrangements of pictures on the walls... it now looks fresher, cleaner and uncluttered. Nothing like a new coat of paint! The next home improvement project is replacing the cabinets in the laundry room and giving that a fresh coat of paint, too. That's in October. In November I repaint an upstairs bedroom we call the lavender room (we painted it that color for our youngest daughter when we moved into the house in 1997). Fall months are traditionally painting months for me.

Good news from Burbank! My pal Mike visited the Barnes and Noble in town to see if he could arrange an authors signing session for Lost Burbank, and the manager was very supportive. Turns out they have already pre-ordered books! So it looks like will be the third book signing session, along with the library and Historical Society.

Look how adorable my baby granddaughter Ruby is!  

23 September 2016

Happy 99th birthday, El Santo!
Last night I did some more painting in the basement guest bedroom - I just have the closet interior to do now. When I paint I blast Kraftwerk's Tour de France Soundtracks CD on the stereo in the adjacent room. Okay. Tired of that. Time to select something else. I'm picking up a couple of Joni Mitchell CDs as inter-library loans tonight... perhaps those. "The Jungle Line," a song on The Hissing of Summer Lawns (1975), features the warrior drums of the Burundi - that should sound good digitally remastered. Bra-rum-pa-bum-pa-bum-pa-bum-pa-bum-pa-bum-pa-bum.

I tried to listen to some more movements of Olivier Messiaen's Turangalîla-Symphonie last night... but I fell asleep. Clearly, this piece isn't making much of an impression on me. Not like Shostakovitch's Tenth did last week, anyway. And those ondes Martenot parts are about as subtle as a rhino horn up the back side. I'm sure that the instrument sounded novel and exciting in 1949, but now it just sounds... kind of goofy. The problem is that modern listeners have had decades of listening to good and bad synthesizer music, and that's conditioned us. (Well - it has me because I'm a child of the 1970's, the synthesizer's heyday.)

Take another early electronic instrument, the Theramin. When one hears it now one thinks of suspenseful parts in old movies (thanks largely to Miklos Rozsa, who pioneered the instrument in film scores). Or the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations" from 1967.

And then there's the Flexitone (not an electronic instrument), which makes a sound much like a musical saw. Aram Khachaturian scored for one in his Piano Concerto - which I greatly enjoy - but nowadays conductors usually forgo the use of this oddball instrument. While it sounds exotic it must also be admitted that it also sounds somewhat intrusive.

The moral of all this being, if you are a composer be careful when introducing new and innovative sounds to the symphony orchestra!

(None of this seems to apply to the Celesta, which produces a tinkling, bell-like sound. When Tchaikovsky was first introduced to it he knew he had to feature it in a piece before Rimsky-Korsakov heard one and scored for it, so he orchestrated his "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" in the Nutcracker ballet for the instrument - and celesta players haven't looked back since. The Berlin Phil often wheels out their Schiedmayer celesta for pieces which call for it, which happens rather often.)

And then we return to... Kraftwerk, whom my son and I saw in concert last month. What are those cunning Germans doing at those plinths and what kind of synthesizers are they using? A partial answer is here.

Oh - wait - the topic at hand is classical concert music, not electronic pop. Sorry.

Changing the subject entirely, my grandsons Gibson and Hudson visited on Wednesday while Dad was managing a Cub Scout Bear Den at church. So we fed them and told stories in the "tent" - the highlight of the week. (My YouTube video is somewhat long at just over seven minutes, but twenty years from now their parents will be very happy I took it.)

Aesop... his stories are over 2,500 years old, but they still fascinate.

That's it for today, then. The weekend forecast is nice... we're planning to go to the Virginia State Fair tomorrow.

Have a great weekend!

22 September 2016

My current book is Thomas B. Costain's The Last Love, which is an old-fashioned (1963) historical novel. It describes Napoleon's time on the island St. Helena. I think I read it back in 1973 or 1973 when my dreamy gal pal Angela was obsessed with Napoleon Bonaparte; I seem to recall the book cover. It fills out the Costain section of my bookshelf. Thomas B. Costain, of course, wrote The Pageant of England, a four volume series about the Plantagenet kings of England that I was obsessed with when I was fifteen. He consequently became a favorite writer.

Here's my complete Making Sense of the Digital Age presentation, about scrapbooking.

Last night's Berlin Philharmonic concert was involved with modern pieces:

John Adams: Scheherazade.2 - Every orchestra knows and can play Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade; it is in what's called the Standard Repertoire and pretty much has been since it premiered in 1888. It's a lovely piece of music and a favorite of mine, just as Rimsky is a favorite composer. The part at the end when the violin (representing Scheherazade) maintains that very high note while the orchestra moves through the ending chords is incredibly beautiful. So my interest was piqued by John Adams like-titled piece, a clear reference to the earlier work.

The theme of the work - what would a modern day Scheherazade be like? - couldn't be more politically correct or feminist. (A New York Times piece gives you the full flavor of it.) It's an answer to male brutality and this Scheherazade, in the current Amazon heroine movie style, is empowered, spunky, courageous, beautiful, capable, brave, intelligent and strong-willed. Gee, aren't all women? Giving some preparatory comments before the performance, Adams made reference to the woman's assault by "True Believers" (THOSE HORRIBLE RELIGIOUS PEOPLE), bearded males and other Deplorables, blah, blah, blah. But there's more - and I could see this one coming - Scheherazade may be a lesbian: "In his comments, Mr. Adams suggested that in the second movement, 'A Long Desire (Love Scene),' his heroine’s romantic interest could possibly be another woman. 'Who knows?' he said." In the NYT piece Adams also slights that awful well-known hater of women Rush Limbaugh - clearly, the composer is one of those dreary California Libs. But! I was prepared to consider the piece on purely musical terms, so I listened.

I made it through the first movement and quit. There isn't a melody anywhere and the violin part, far from elegiac as the NYT claims, is harsh and unpleasant. (Scheherazade, it seems, is somewhat bitchy.) Perhaps I'll listen to the other movements some other time. But, in general, I think I'm done with John Adams' music. I didn't care for his Fearful Symmetries, and his Harmonielehre, which I heard last weekend, was just plain boring. When it comes to the moderns I think I'll stick with Ives, Berg, Penderecki, Weill, Stravinsky, Crumb and Schoenberg. And, for the sake of my pal Avery, Karl-Birger Blomdahl.

And Olivier Messiaen, maybe. I listened to the first three movements of his ten movement Turangalîla-Symphonie last night. (The piece lasts about an hour and a half.) I was introduced to it via a mention in a Robert Greenberg survey of classical music - he called it a modern masterpiece - and have always wanted to hear it. This piece features parts for a instrument called a ondes Martenot, which is a sort of forerunner of a synthesizer. It makes swoopy sounds that cause me to recall the oddball sounds in one of P.D.Q. Bach's humorous concert music parodies, which is unfortunate. (It's a bit like watching a very serious epic movie set in medieval England and thinking of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.) So far, so good... but I find myself hankering for a Haydn symphony.

As far as classical music is concerned I fear I may be labelled a rube in eschewing what seems like academia or political propaganda. Well, no matter. I likes wot I likes.

21 September 2016

Sir Simon Rattle: Hair of the highest order.
Last night we watched another episode of Turn: George Washington's Spies - we're making our way through the second season. This production is like a camera crew landed in the midst of a Revolutionary War reenactment, replaced the reenactors with real actors and gave everyone a dramatic script. The filming locations are all in and around Richmond, VA - the outdoor sequences look great! And why they decided to make Robert Rogers a Scot, I do not know.

We're also watching the IT Crowd; my wife hasn't seen any of these.

I still have some painting work to do in the extra bedroom... the closet. I suspect the last time it was painted was in 1985 when the house was built. Anyway, it needs some fresh paint. Last night I had a dream about maintenance activities piling up faster than I could take care of them; I'm clearly feeling pressured.

That presentation I did last week, "Making Sense of the Digital Age," is here. Videos were taken: Introduction. Longer version. Wow, I look awful in presentations...

Last night I made the mistake of listening to Sibelius' First symphony, second movement. Now the music is buzzing around in my head relentlessly. I also watched the Berlin Phil perform Sibelius' Seventh Symphony - what a remarkable work! It's in C major but it certainly doesn't sound like C major. And it's light years away from his first symphony in terms of tonality and form...

I got started on all this Sibelius because I listened to an hour long interview of Sir Simon Rattle and a Finn discussing the composer and his works. What a fascinating world a conductor inhabits! It requires musicology, scholarship and artistry of the highest order. I think it's my dream career but I know I do not possess the mental prowess to accomplish it.

I certainly do not possess the hair.

20 September 2016

Clifton Fadiman, friend of cheese, inventor of words
Did you know that a "turophile" is a connoisseur of cheese? That's what my word-a-day calendar tells me today, anyway. The "phile" part I get, it's from Greek and means "friend of." "Turo?" I don't recognize that at all. So I checked the online Oxford English Dictionary at oed.com. Guess what? No entry for "turophile." Uh-oh. The OED is definitive. Or is supposed to be.

The back of the calendar page, probably for the benefit of skeptics like me, has this: "From an irregular formation of the Greek word for cheese, tyros, plus the English -phile, (meaning lover") ... "turophile" first named cheese aficionados as early as 1938. It was in the 1950s, however, that the term really caught the attention of the American public, when Clifton Fadiman (writer, editor and former radio host) introduced "turophile" to readers of his eloquent musings about cheese."

Ah, I see what's happening here. It's an American term that the OED has refused to grant the dignity of word status. Upstart Americans. Clifton who?

Now that I am a PUBLISHED AUTHOR I shall have to have my image struck a la Mr. Fadiman, surrounded by piles of books displaying my superior literary attainments. But here's the thing: I'll make them all Mad magazine paperbacks... hahahaha!

Last night's Berlin Philharmonic concert had a decidedly Iberian air:

Joaquin Rodrigo: Concierto Aranjuez - A piece for guitar (Spanish acoustic guitar, not Fender Strat and Marshall stack) and orchestra, this piece is considered the very pinnacle of Spanish concert music. And no doubt about it, it is a very beautiful piece. The guitar parts are virtuosic, and the heart of the piece - the adagio - is well-known and loved. So much so that the Chrysler Corporation ripped it off in the Seventies to sell Cordobas, the car with the "rich Corinthian leather" that Ricardo "Khan" Montalbán cooed about. Surely, this was the most famous car ad, ever. (I blogged about it two years ago.)

(If go to the YouTube link check out my comment from two years ago: "Yes, it was a fine day when I was invited to Senior Montalban's mountaintop estate. After a fine Mexican food meal prepared by his graceful wife Rosalie, he invited me to ride his Cordoba with him to the ocean overlook, where he confessed he often mused upon the Spanish presence in the Americas. The Adagio from Albeniz' Concierto de Aranjuez played on his stereo. As he spoke in his mellifluous measured tones, I sensed his regard for his heritage - and for the Corinthian peasants who produced the fine leather for the seats in his car (available at a most pleasant price). It was a memorable occasion." I got ten thumb's ups for that literary gem.)

Wait! Joaquin Rodrigo died in 1999! He could have owned a Chrysler Cordoba! But did he? (It's a sure bet he didn't drive it - he was blind.) Alas, there is no indication of this on the Internet. I bet he was turo-ed off, however, about Chrysler using his music for a commercial.

I know what you are thinking, "If Rodrigo was blind, how did he compose on paper?" He wrote his compositions in Braille, which was transcribed for publication.

Manuel de Falla: The Three Cornered Hat - A very vividly-colored piece. It starts off with a bang: a soprano, dressed in a scarlet gown, sings a few lines of Spanish and the orchestra claps their hands rhythmically and shouts "Hey! Hey! Hey!" You don't see that in Berlin, Germany very often. The concert-goers were much amused, and murmured. The conductor, Juanjo Mena, is a fiery Spanish fellow who hopped and danced on his platform as the mood took him. As he is now the BBC Philharmonic's chief conductor he is taking some Latin spirit to that cold climate. A very fun performance.

Last night I watched a special entitled The Man Who Killed Richard III, the man being Rhys ap Thomas, a Welsh knight. Having read about English history on and off since 1971, I had never known that the fellow who dealt Richard III his death blow was ever identified. Wikipedia gives the source of this assertion: "...The king was unhorsed and surrounded. The poet Guto'r Glyn implies that Rhys himself was responsible for killing Richard, possibly with a poll axe. Referring to Richard's emblem of a boar, the poet writes that Rhys "killed the boar, shaved his head" ("Lladd y baedd, eilliodd ei ben"). However, this may only mean that one of Rhys's Welsh halberdiers killed the king, since the Burgundian chronicler Jean Molinet says that a Welshman struck the death-blow with a halberd." Hmmm.

The fun part: seeing great numbers of English War of the Roses reenactors in this production, I texted my English pal Anthony and asked if he was in this. (He does medieval reenacting.) Yes, he was - but he doesn't appear in the finished product. A pity.

19 September 2016

John Adams. (The composer, not the 18th C. Patriot) 
Here's my yard sale video from Saturday. As you can see, all I bought was a DVD of Midnight Special performances. The Midnight Special was, of course, a pop musical concert series which aired on NBC-TV from 1972 to 1981. It was filmed in the NBC Studios in Burbank. And why didn't I remember to include mention of his in the musical chapter in Lost Burbank? GRRRRR.

Speaking of Lost Burbank, a promotional kit from the publisher arrived in the mail over the weekend: posters, business cards, "autographed copy" stickers, etc. Nice, but... we need them in California. I may have to mail them to my co-author's house.

I baked another cake, this time a spice cake with a caramel frosting. It's a bit puzzling because it's a cake that tastes like a pumpkin pie (as my grandson announced last night). Not a 100% success. It's good, but a bit odd. I must have had spice cake when I was a kid. I don't know... I just had a yen.

As promised, I did some painting in the spare basement bedroom. I'm nearly done - I ran out of paint. I have to buy another gallon today to finish. McCormick Paint Cool Platinum, aka Builder Beige!

My trip to Burbank in November is going to be a bit different: I canceled my reservation at the Safari Inn and am trying a stay with a family as an Air BnB reservation for about half the price. This house is in the flight path south of the Burbank Airport, but planes are not allowed to take off prior to 7 AM or after 11 PM. I'm renting a wing of a house but all I really need is a bedroom and a bath.

I finished Heinlein's Starship Troopers. It wasn't at all what I expected it to be. As it covers military doctrine a lot I'm wondering if it's on the U.S. Marine Corps Commandant's Reading List. (Time passes.) No, it's not. Perhaps it ought to be.

Now I'm reading a book about how to create a Family Trust in order to avoid having our kids go through the probate process. We may want to do this.

Over the weekend I've been listening to Shostakovitch's Symphony #10 while painting. I am really coming to like that work. It has a mysterious quality in common with his 15th Symphony, my favorite work by that composer. On Saturday my wife and I watched a live feed from the Berlin Philharmonic Hall. They streamed John Adams conducting his Harmonierehre from 1985. We were not impressed. Adams is a composer known for minimalist works, and Harmonierehre is a piece in the minimalist style. At times I felt myself thinking, "Okay, John, you can use another note now!"

The weekend was over way too quickly.

16 September 2016

My five author's copies of Lost Burbank arrived yesterday in the mail and so now it's official: I am now a published author! I suppose considering the countless hours I have spent in libraries and reading books all my life it was inevitable.

These books are somewhat heftier than I thought they would be... five of them weigh just over five pounds. We're having 200 of them shipped to California for book signings - you do the math. I am happy to note that the editor made about 98% of my corrections - he missed a couple of minor ones that, probably, nobody but my wife will catch. It's nettlesome, but, that's the publishing industry, I guess. I haven't double checked the footnotes yet. The publisher's house style is to put them at the end; I intended them for the bottom of the page. Consequently I removed some. I hope the numbering still makes sense.

Last night's Berlin Philharmonic concert:

Frederick Delius: Brigg Fair. This is an adapted English folk song from 1907, and is quite pretty. I have a few CDs of Delius music and I like it. His Florida Suite is a favorite.

Dmitri Shostakovitch, Symphony #10: A major work from 1953 and one I've kind of avoided. I needn't have - this is a very accessible and easy to like work. It avoids the painful, strident tone of the Fifth ("a Soviet artist’s creative response to justified criticism") - I find that one very hard to listen to. The Tenth is by no means a happy or peaceful work, but it is a very interesting one. The second movement is celebrated because it is martial, harsh and brutal; Shostakovitch has stated that it is a musical portrait of Joseph Stalin, who died the year the symphony was premiered. From the book Testimony: "I did depict Stalin in my next symphony, the Tenth. I wrote it right after Stalin's death and no one has yet guessed what the symphony is about. It's about Stalin and the Stalin years. The second part, the scherzo, is a musical portrait of Stalin, roughly speaking. Of course, there are many other things in it, but that's the basis." This is disputed, however, often by perverse left wing academics who can't stand for communism or totalitarianism to come under criticism - the nitwits.

The third movement, a nocturne, is a sneaky sort of reference to a musical student with whom Shostakovitch fell in love. It's quite nice.

Ah, Friday. My only plans for the weekend are to paint a basement bedroom. And yard sale - toujours yard sales.

Have a great weekend!

15 September 2016

Jay in May.
Happy birthday grandson Jay Hofer! Two years old today! A Face Time conversation will take place tonight...

My lesson for the church women went well last night; I understand there is a video somewhere. If and when I find it I'll post a link here, in case you decide you can't exist without seeing it.

Last night I finished watching Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015). It was okay. It's hard for me to generate much enthusiasm for comic book movies these days... I suspect my all-time favorite comic book film was the very first Spider Man (2002) movie, which seems to have been especially well made and likable. Other than that it's been kind of same-o same-o. Frankly, I find the animated television shows like Batman: the Animated Series (1992) and Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2008) a lot more fun than the movies, which all seem to be overblown and tedious. I keep wondering if the entertainment industry will produce a decent CGI version of the Metal Men, or the Legion of Super-Heroes, but I'm not holding my breath nor do I care greatly.

Well, this took me a bit by surprise: Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers has a lot of philosophical discussions about civics in it. I was expecting a straight-ahead science-fiction novel, but no. There's more to it than that. In the society of this book, only citizens who have served in the military can vote. My friend Don votes, "My standards are low. I'd like voting restricted to citizens and those still alive." Exactly.

The Coolest Lunchboxes Through the Ages. I had the 1957 Red Barn lunchbox in Kindergarten, I think. I like that 1935 Mickey Mouse one. I may have had this Supercar one (I loved Supercar), but I forget. The Disney Schoolbus was popular...

Arrrggghhhh. Is it only Thursday?

14 September 2016

I'm about half way through The Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015); this being a two hour and twenty minute film it overstays its welcome, which is a general fault with films of this type. (Comic book movies.) Other than that, it's okay. I think it's better than the first Avengers film I saw, what I remember of it. But for me there seems to be more entertainment value in Bad Lip Sync Redneck Avengers: Tulsa Nights.

I've also been working my way through Turn: Washington's Spies, the AMC series about, as the title suggests, George Washington's spies. The actor who plays George Washington, Ian Kahn, is excellent. He has real gravity and charisma in the role - when he's in a scene in that production he dominates it. He reminds me of Charlton Heston in that way.

And, surprise, Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers isn't just a good science-fiction novel, it's also an excellent war/military novel. It's less of a sci-fi work than a military genre work with sci-fi trappings. Reading it causes me to wonder: was Heinlein ever in a branch of the military? Indeed! From wikipedia: "He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland with the class of 1929 and went on to serve as an officer in the Navy. ... Heinlein also served aboard the destroyer USS Roper in 1933 and 1934, reaching the rank of lieutenant. In 1934, Heinlein was discharged from the Navy due to pulmonary tuberculosis."

I sent off a check to cover 100 copies of Lost Burbank; my co-author, mike, is buying another 100 copies. These are at an author's discount - we then sell them for more, and my literary financial empire begins. (Heavy sarcasm, there... unless your name is Clive Cussler or Stephen King or something like that, you will not make a killing writing limited distribution books. But you do get to call yourself a "published author.")

(Interesting factoids from Ann Coulter, who knows a thing or two about it: The average nonfiction book sells 5,000 copies; the average New York Times bestseller sells 30,000 copies.)

Tonight I'm giving three classes/lectures for the women in my church, "Simplifying Life in the Digital Age," about preserving photographic and video memories. Well... I don't know what they intended but that's the sort of thing I plan to talk about. As it turns out, I'm something of an expert on the subject since I have 36 years of paper scrapbooks which have been scanned into digital files, put on DVDs and given to the kids; over 111 hours of family videos (originally on VHS and 8mm tapes converted into files) and put on YouTube and over 800 newer family videos, also put onto YouTube. All of this material is accessible on the Internet on PCs, laptops, tablets or smart phones and backed up on hard drive and optical media.

My main message, despite the "digital age" title of the lecture, is Get your memories on paper. Why? Isn't doing things purely with computer files easier? Yes... but it's almost certainly not as permanent. I have original paper photographs that are over a hundred and twenty years old. (I am thinking of a circa 1888 image of my grandfather at age four or so.) Do we have any assurance that any of our digital media will be retrievable in a hundred and twenty years, given format and media changes? Will .jpgs still be around? Will a CD or a DVD still give up its data? Moot points!

(And yes, I understand that digital media needs to be kept "fresh," that is, transferred to newer forms of storage as technology changes. Some of my genealogical data first existed on archival form as 6" floppy disks in the 1980s.)

I hope it goes well. I tried to make my slide show as visually interesting as possible. Perhaps I'll post it somewhere when I'm done...

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