24 February 2017

As described yesterday I started Chapter 4 of Growing Up in Burbank, the chapter about crafts. I'm almost done with it - I think. I'm at 11,039 words, or about 28% done. Was there ever an author who so relentlessly used numbers to measure progress? I doubt it. I'm an engineer and I can't help it - I like quantities. It's funny... while I never liked math as a kid and was never good at it in school, I certainly use it a lot for personal reasons.

Last night we finished that Australian documentary about sugar, That Sugar Film (2014). I certainly got tired of looking at the protagonist's belly, and his cavorting around in his underpants. Geez - enough, already. And there was a totally unnecessary and stupid music video at the end. The important message, however, was that there seems to be healthy calories and unhealthy calories. I figured to lose weight you just exercise and remain under a calorie count every day (ignoring what kind of calories) - and that does work.

But the protagonist did an experiment and remained under about 2,200 calories a day intake with two different styles of eating: one was his normal low sugar/higher fat intake style and the other with foods that have sugar, more like a typical American diet. (Okay, more like a reduced American diet!) His blood chemistry went south with the higher sugar diet. I guess that was predictable.

So. I figure this morning's breakfast (a bowl of Post Honey Bunches of Oats with almonds in skim milk with two pieces of buttered toast and orange juice) gave me about 24 grams of sugar, or 5.7 teaspoons of sugar. The American Heart Association says men should have no more than 9 teaspoons of sugar a day. That leaves me with 3.3 teaspoons of sugar left for lunch and dinner.

Clearly, this ain't gonna work for me!

I am nearly at the end of the sad, pathetic reign of King John of England in my Plantagenets book. King John always provides professional historians with a challenge: since his reign was a textbook example of unmitigated failure, the challenge is to highlight some of the very few things he did right to try to give a balanced view of this maligned monarch (that's actually the title of a biography I own). So the author gamely cites King John's establishment of what could be said to be the start of the English (British) Navy. But... the problem there is that Alfred the Great also gets credited with that and he lived 400 years prior to John. Oh, I see: the start of the modern navy. Hmf.

Look, folks: King John was awful. One of the worst English kings ever. Right down there with Edward II and Richard II. A real bottom-runger.

Last night's Berlin Philharmonic concert:

Georg Friedrich Haas: Dark Dreams - This 24 minute orchestral piece was excellent. I liked it a lot. It was fitful, eerie and expressionistic, with all sorts of dynamic passages and fascinating instrumental effects. As I have written before, actually seeing the instrumentalists play during their parts is what makes the Digital Concert Hall so good. I'm going to hear this again!

Sir Edward Elgar: Introduction and Allegro for String Quartet and String Orchestra - Well! Where has this piece of music been all my life? I have blogged before about the incredible string tone produced by the Berlin Philharmonic; it is nowhere so magnificently on display as in this piece. Elgar wrote it to show off the capabilities of the very best instrumentalists, and this it does, wonderfully. I repeat: I am going to hear this again!

Weekend plans: church dance tomorrow night. I can't dance. Other than that, I don't know. Should I venture out Saturday morning to see if anybody is having a yard sale before my pal Jane and I send out the memo? Nah. Next month.

Have a great weekend!

23 February 2017

This stuff was EVIL.
The weather has been warm and pleasant this month - it looks like no snow in the foreseeable future. So far this winter we had one Saturday in January when we got perhaps an inch or two and another day when we got less than that. Last year we had a day of snow where we got 24 inches! Go figure.

Last night I finished watching the Berlin Philharmonic perform Porgy and Bess. For Sportin' Life's big final number, "There's a boat dat's leavin' soon for New York" (a show-stopping tune representing the seduction and corruption of Bess), Simon Rattle had the brass section stand and blast out the final parts... it was great!

If you are unfamiliar with the plot, at the end of the opera Porgy decides to go get her back: "Oh Lawd, I'm on my way."

I'm at the point in my Dan Jones Plantagenets book where the sons of Henry II - the Plantagenet Boys - declare unsuccessful war on their father. They would be successful later on, but this first rebellion would be stamped out. So far the prose is... okay. Jones is a capable historian but his writing does endear the way Thomas B. Costain's does.

Last night my wife and I started to watch That Sugar Film (2014), wherein an Australian with normally good eating habits consumes too much sugar (or, the usual American diet) to see what effect it has on his system: Deleterious. We're only half way through it. Part of it depicted an eighteen year old kid in Kentucky who had an awful set of teeth thanks to consuming way way way too much Mountain Dew. His teeth were such in such bad shape, with such infection, that the anesthetic couldn't work! So the production showed dental work with fully functioning nerve endings. Ouch.

Do the Dew.

I am now about 22% into Growing Up in Burbank. So far, all is well. This book is "flowing" nicely... I'm about to start Chapter Four, "The Crafts Fad," about the goofy things people did in the way of crafts and hobbies back in the 1960s and 1970s. I need to come up with a punchier chapter title if I can, however. "The Crafts Fad" is a sort of provisional title I came up with for the book proposal to the publisher. Hmmmm. "Swag Lamps and Macrame?" "Krazy Krafts?" (I like that one.) "Let's Go to Standard Brands?" "Fun With Plastic Resin?" Maybe one will suggest itself after I've written it.

My introduction to the chapter will be the rebar Christmas tree my mother made for the 1962 season. You read that correctly: a Christmas tree made out of steel rebar rods. She got the idea one year - why buy a tree? - to fashion a series of "U"-shaped rebar rods hung together concentrically on an axis, and then encircled by lengths of rebar. The rebar bits were held together by wire. The whole thing looked like a sort of bird cage, and was suspended from the ceiling in the corner of the living room (presumably from a strong joist), where we had corner windows - the better to display this space age masterpiece. Mom affixed Christmas tree lights at each point where the horizontal and vertical rebar met, and she hung ornaments in the square spaces formed by the rebar. The whole thing was then enwrapped with "angel hair," a gauzy white spun substance that, like raw fiberglass, was wicked to the touch. "Unique" didn't begin to describe our tree that year. Somehow we didn't get a photograph of it, which is a matter of enduring regret to me.

After the season was over Mom discarded our Jetsons Christmas tree in the back yard, where it served me as a play space ship. I remember how sharp the edges of the cut rebar was at the ends... it was a spacecraft one entered with extreme care. And getting the angel hair off of it was a nasty proposition, too. My hands were full of nasty microscopic slivers.

And there's my introduction to chapter four about crafts!

Back to the subject of angel hair: Why this stuff ever existed, I don't know. It wasn't especially decorative. Wrapping a Christmas tree in it made it look like a giant spider took up residence in the home. And while they did come out with a supposedly "non irritating" variation of it, as I recall, it was false advertising. My idea of hell is an angel hair sweater. But as bad as angel hair was, the very old-fashioned tinsel - the stuff commonly available before 1970, when the FDA banned it - had to be worse. It was lead! Read this article: "Don't lick the tinsel." Merry Christmas - hope you can have children someday.

22 February 2017

My current book: The Plantagenets by Dan Jones, a tattooed young historian who does presentations for British television. I'm told this book is a popular, one volume work on the subject of England's royal family of the Middle Ages. (The publisher suggests that this will appeal to fans of Game of Thrones, oh dear.) 

I spotted two errors in the preface: the author states that his history covers the period between 1254 and 1400 (he clearly means 1154, the accession of Henry II, the first Plantagenet king, to the throne) and a few paragraphs later he says 1254 and 1399. Wasn't there an editor at work at HarperCollins? 

I'm a little miffed. I was introduced to the subject of the Plantagenet family as a teenager by Thomas B. Costain's epic four volume series The Pageant of England: The Conquerors (1949), The Magnificent Century (1951), The Three Edwards (1958) and The Last Plantagenets (1962). It is detailed, scholarly and yet told with a born storyteller's skill - but Jones doesn't mention it at all in his bibliography. What's up with that? I really don't know how it's possible to write a book about the Plantagenets and ignore Costain...

Last night I watched a initially stylish and promising Mexican horror film, The Similars (2015), that quickly descended into silliness. Worst of all, at the end was a voice over that explained some of the plot points. Lame. My favorite Mexican horror film remains Santo y Blue Demon contra el doctor Frankenstein (1974).

Okay, I kid. I called that one out just because I liked the title. I really can't think of a Mexican horror film I really liked. 

The other night I watched a documentary about Australian stringed instrument players and their multi-million dollar instruments, Highly Strung (2015). I found it somewhat off-putting despite it being about a topic I'd naturally like. I'm not sure why. 

I'm also working my way through the Berlin Philharmonic's three hour performance of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess (1935). The South African choir used in this performance must be seen and heard to be believed - they are sensational. I read somewhere that in writing this opera Gershwin was influenced by Alban Berg's expressionist opera Wozzeck (1922), which I know rather well. This surprised me - Gershwin and Berg? - but I can hear some similarities. Certainly the main point of comparison is that both composers display a great deal of sympathy for the downtrodden and the heartbroken. "My Man's Gone Now," a show-stopping aria in Porgy, is just as stark and expressionist as anything in Wozzeck. I hear other similarities as well. 

Earlier this week I did a clever little improvement to the furniture that houses my stereo equipment. I found some scrap finished lumber from when I tore my media center apart to house my wide screen TV (it's IKEA flat pack furniture), and made a finished cover for a bin to hold various spare RCA cables out of sight. It looks quite good. Before that I made a couple of panels to protect and keep my turntable out of sight (and away from grandchildren) as well. The whole thing looks better now. 

Yesterday I bought a ten DVD set of Storybook International (1981) episodes, 65 in all. A local cable TV channel that specialized in international broadcasting used to play these and, in the 1990s, I watched them with the kids. As a series it's a more heartfelt and less snarky version of Shelly Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre. The production values are very good. They grew on me. So now I have a complete set to watch with grandchildren someday. 

21 February 2017

With the Comic Book Men, New Jersey, 2016
It can at last be told!

Last July me, my wife and son, 1966 Batman gloves in hand, drove to New Jersey to appear in an episode ("Bats Ahoy!") of AMC's The Comic Book Men. It aired Sunday night. The segment showing me and the Batman gloves is here; check it out before youtube takes it down. In order to appear on the show I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement which prevented me from announcing the fact that I was on the show until it aired; it also keeps me from disclosing any confidential information about the show which, I suppose, includes any back story of "the deal" you see thereupon. So I won't. As you watch the segment, however, just keep in mind it's television. And to quote Forrest Gump, that's all I have to say about that.

I think it's okay to show this photo; after we taped I requested and got a group shot for the family scrapbook. My wife and son, by the way, can be quickly seen in the backgrounds of some of the shots.

Call me One Take Wes; the segment went well and during the shot the producer told me, "I Heart You, Wes," which I suppose is the New Jersey variant of the Hollywood, "I Love You, Baby." I see I certainly gave them some interesting facial expressions! It was a hot day and the store wasn't especially well-air conditioned. I felt somewhat sweaty and uncomfortable during the shot but apparently that doesn't show and didn't affect my utter cinematic professionalism.

Heh.

I took some videos of my own over the weekend:

A Gunnar minute

Birdie sings

Gibson at the playground

Work on Growing Up in Burbank - my second book about my hometown - continues. I finished a draft for Chapter 2 last week. I am now about 6,500 words into a 40,000 word book, or about 16% finished. Not bad considering that I've only been at it for a little over a week and that I have until September to deliver the manuscript! As I wrote before, however, I want to turn it in early to try to get it published before Christmas.

I announced the second book on the appropriate Burbank-related Facebook pages and got a bunch of "likes." Pre-publicity doesn't hurt. And I see we now have ten amazon.com reviews for Lost Burbank. Nice, but I'd like a whole lot more. You cannot compel people to do this, however. Mike tells me that he's seeing copies of the book that we did not autograph at the local Barnes & Noble, which means they ordered more since December. Excellent.

That's all. You know what I am going to miss about work when I retire? Nothing at all.

17 February 2017

The Man Who Dresses Up Like His Ancestors
We dined at a Great American Restaurants eatery last night: Coastal Flats in Fairfax Commons, a place I sarcastically call a "high energy retail district."

I am now about halfway through that Lara Parker Dark Shadows book. It doesn't seem to have a very cohesive plot... it appears to be sensationalist episode after sensationalist episode and that's it. Good thing it's a fast read. Still... I do like the sequences where David, the sixteen year-old heir to Collinwood, is the primary protagonist. Good call. It's a fresh approach.

The Man Who Dresses Up Like His Ancestors (male or female). Wow. I'm speechless. I like genealogy, too, and I even did historical reenacting, but... well... this fellow takes it to the limit. It's cool that he has all those images, though. I envy him that.

The weekend! Tomorrow I get up early to go to the D.C. Temple and then... nothing is planned. I should do some more laundry room cabinet hanging work. And it's a three day weekend, I have Monday off (but my bride does not). It might be the Sarah and Pop-Pop Show (with Gibby, Huddy and Gunnar) or it may not.

Have a great weekend!

16 February 2017

I finished reading that detective novel set in Burbank yesterday. I found another geographical clunker: "Black-and-white units surrounded the Holiday Inn on Third and Angelo, in downtown Burbank, their lights flashing." In point of fact, the Burbank Holiday Inn (I have stayed there a number of times) is on the corner of San Fernando and Angeleno. Or you could say Tujunga and S. Ikea Way, or S. Ikea Way and Angeleno, or San Fernando and Tujunga. But not Third. This author really needed to consult a map.

The book itself wasn't bad, but his main character, Detective Sandra Cameron, was sort of a failed attempt at a protagonist. She seems more like a semi-hapless victim than a hero. My pal Bob Avery constructed a far more likely protagonist in Sim Greene, in his murder mystery Close-Hauled.

I got The Nancy Book by Joe Brainard via inter-library loan. Horrible. "From 1963 to 1978, Joe Brainard created more than 100 artworks that appropriated the classic comic strip character Nancy and sent her into a variety of astonishing situations." Astonishing isn't the word; pornographic is. This is going back immediately.

My current book: Wolf Moon Rising by Lara Parker. It's a supernatural novel by the strikingly blue-eyed actress who played Angelique in the 1966 television soap opera. I read her previous DS novel, and it was quite good. I'm not sure where this one is going, however, as she throws in a bewildering crop of supernatural characters in the opening pages: Barnabas and Julia (!) are vampires, Quentin is a werewolf, the reincarnated Angelique is a pot-smoking mother of a sixteen year-old witch who can float and surround herself with protective packs of coyotes. (One doesn't immediately think of coyotes in Maine, but apparently there are at least 12,000 there according to the state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.)

I think I've confessed in this blog that I had a crush on Lara Parker as a teenager. There have been other actresses who have played the character in other Dark Shadows productions (Lysette Anthony in 1991, Ivana Miličević in 2004, Eva Green in 2012), but none of them have equaled Lara Parker's bewitching presence. I mean, look at this. Or this. Or this. Or THIS. Mercy. The story is that when the producers called Parker in for a screen test she read her lines, and then gazed square at the camera and laughed viciously - yep, that's our witch! The enduring mystery to male teenage viewers of Dark Shadows is why Barnabas was so devoted to Josette DuPres when he had Angelique Bouchard throwing herself at him.

As much as I'd like to post Lara Parker's likeness as today's blog image, I cannot. Today's poster girl is Amy Winehouse, namely because my wife and I watched a documentary about her last night: Amy (2015). It was two thoroughly depressing hours. Amy Winehouse had talent - there is absolutely no doubt of that. I didn't know that in addition to being a singer she was also a guitarist and songwriter. I'm always more impressed when a singer has songwriting ability. But, wow, she had no impulse control whatsoever. I thought she died of ingesting horse tranquilizers but the coroner's verdict was that she died of alcohol poisoning. There were some images in this documentary that were just plain hard to watch. How sad.

I conclude with a link to my favorite Amy Winehouse song and video, "Our Day Will Come."

15 February 2017

See "GIBY" at top right.
My three grandsons (and their parents) came over for heart-shaped pizzas last night. My oldest grandson Gibson, who turns five in June, made me a Valentine's Day card that he signed, all by himself, "GIBY" (we often call him "Gibby"). I was very impressed and touched. He's growing up!

Afterwards we played some hands of Crazy Eights and Old Maid - I love playing Old Maid with kids because there are all sorts of tricks involved with getting the kid to pick the Old Maid from your hand. We also fired up the laser to put rotating red and green dots all over the room and looked at some plastic toy parts under a black light to watch them glow. Lots of fun! It's so true: If I had known what fun grandchildren are I'd have had them first! I will be very happy when I retire so I can trade in time spent with work associates for time spent with grandchildren.

Venus and Mars are in conjunction in the Western sky at night, have you noticed? Venus is very bright and Mars is dim and reddish, at about the 11 o'clock position from Venus. The cool thing is that I can activate the orrery dial on my Apple Watch (Apple calls it the "Astronomical" dial) and see how they are in conjunction; in other words, there is nearly a straight line between Earth, Mars and Venus on my watch face. (Go to the 2:00 point in this video.) I find it satisfying that my watch can show this.

Because I'm a nerd.

I'm nearly done with that set-in-Burbank mystery novel I'm reading. So far the author has spelled Glenoaks Boulevard three ways: "Glen Oaks," "GlenOaks" and "Glenoaks." Sheesh. The story itself is okay... but I'm not a huge fan of the murder mystery genre in literature so I'm not the best critic.

That's all. I noticed that I don't really want to do a blog update by the time Wednesday rolls around. I feel too beaten down in midweek.

Big news is imminent. Stay tuned. 

14 February 2017

Happy St. Valentine's Day! As is the case for all males, it's my favorite day of the year.

I finished watching the 1991 reboot Dark Shadows series last night. The penultimate episode contains a very strange court case wherein a woman is tried for witchcraft in 1790. It takes place in an ornate chamber with the heraldic crest of the King of Great Britain displayed on a wall and the judge wears a wig. Also, Trumbull's Declaration of Independence, painted c. 1819, is hung on the wall. Very farby, as we used to say in reenacting. But it caused me to wonder: when was the last witchcraft trial in the United States? Turns out, 1878 (!) - in Salem, Massachusetts (!!). Unsurprisingly, the judge threw the case out of court.

My current book is An Animated Death in Burbank, a murder mystery by Michael Joens. As the title suggests, it is set in Burbank. The body is found by the BPD in an office on Glen Oaks Boulevard (it's really "Glenoaks") and Toluca Lake, a section of Burbank, is described as being a quaint series of shops and restaurants nestled against the foothills of the Santa Monica mountains. It's really some distance from the foothills of the Hollywood Hills. Say, did the author ever visit Burbank? Or am I just being a nerd?

Yesterday, a fellow who presently lives in the Burbank house where in 1933 cowboy star Tom Bay was shot and killed (602 N. Lincoln St.; I also lived on Lincoln St.) posted to a Burbank Facebook page mentioning the fact. Mike and I have gruesome police photos of the corpse bleeding all over the bed that we naturally didn't use in our book Lost Burbank. I wonder if this fellow wants to see them? Ewwwwww. Think about that when going to bed.

I'm going to mine that USMC photo album one last time:

Erv's .44 Magnum Ruger - I did put hole in the top of the lead sleeve, Erv put the hole in the bottom. Or the other way around. I forget.

Me and my 1975 Fender Telecaster - People expect facial expressions like that when you play a guitar, whether you know how to play it or not. (I didn't.) That's a 1976 American-made Big Muff Pi fuzz box attached to it. The prices they are getting for those these days is unbelievable. When Jimi Hendrix played through one he sounded amazing. When I did it sounded like beer cans.

The Marine Corps authorized camouflage fatigues in 1977 and I got myself a set. I liked not having to tuck the top into my trousers. That fan behind me provided scant cooling in our barracks room on hot days. Note the US government generic box of something or another on the sink. And the ashtray! I wonder if Marines can smoke in the barracks anymore...

Carl - I forget this fellow's complete name, but he was a former Master Sergeant in the Corps and seemed as old as the hills. When this was taken he was probably only in his fifties. He was in charge of the cable installation crew. That never ever washed coffee cup he is holding was indescribable. In back of him is a framed picture of a little kid on a toilet with the slogan, "No job is complete until the paperwork is done." It was what one would call an industrial environment.

Corporal Wally and wife (out of focus) - Nice guy. Built like a linebacker. She was built like a sparrow. They were one of those they-look-like-brother-and-sister married couples. I wonder if they are still together. It's been about 41 years, now.

Me, waking up - My barracksmate saw my camera left on my desk and yelled at me to wake me up, then snapped this odd photo. (Yes, I napped with my boots on.) I haven't seen this image in 40 years!

Erv spits out wild persimmons - Serves him right for putting something into his mouth he found on the ground.

The guy Erv is talking to drives a... Ford Pinto! Hahahahaha!

13 February 2017

This is the kind of schizoid blog update I write when I'm distracted: 

McMansion architecture funnies - I had to look up the term "prairie muntin." I was unfamiliar with that one. Also good: McMansionHell.com. I had no idea that McMansions were also popular in Australia, but I could have guessed. Anywhere affluence meets bad taste you'll have McMansions.

On Saturday we met the grandsons and had burgers at the Burger Joint ("BGR"). Always fun.

Sunday.

I started the latest home improvement effort: new cabinets in the laundry room

Looks like my sweet little granddaughter Ruby took her first unassisted step over the weekend!




More Marine Corps images:



Zzzzzzz - It wasn't all work.

Erv works on a compressor - Did you know old fashioned telephone cables were pressurized with air? Yes. It's to keep the water out when cracks appear. The early cables had paper insulation, and when they got wet they created a massive short circuit among all the pairs. Then plastic cables came out and that problem largely went away.

Mike Everett plays guitar - This was a friend I made on my first duty station at Twentynine Palms; we both wound up at Camp Pendleton. He could really play that guitar. It was an Ovation with a plastic bowl which kept slipping off one's lap. It also had an aluminum neck. Horrible instrument.

Doug Sayler's Eye - My roommate/barracksmate. I made this for a clear plastic coffee mug he had that could accept a photograph. And here's Doug Sayler in his underwear. He's wearing one of those trendy 1970s digital watches, the kind where you had to depress a button to display the time in red LEDs. I was watching a 1973 James Bond film the other night; Roger Moore had one of these. Oooooh.

My pal Joe Klosterman solders a lead splice - It doesn't get any more old school than lead cables. I wonder if we're developing some kind of lingering health issues as a result of handling all that lead?

We got the cable truck stuck - And Joe sits way forward as weight in an attempt to get the rear wheels out of the rut. (Jumping up and down while Erv gunned the accelerator didn't work. There was also some shovel work.) I forget how we eventually got it freed. Maybe we had to call for help. I used to enjoy driving that big old International Harvester truck. We had a trick where we could switch the ignition off while running and switch it on again to make the accumulated gas fumes explode in the muffler and scare pedestrians to death. I did it once and burst the muffler!

A studious corporal. I forget his name.

10 February 2017

Last night I watched a colossally nerdy documentary about, mainly, modular analog synthesizers, entitled I Dream of Wires (2014).

I like electronic music about as much as anyone. Kraftwerk is a favorite band, and I own a copy of Morton Subotnick's Silver Apples of the Moon as well as Walter Carlos' Switched-On Bach. And I know a thing or two about the discussion/rivalry/mistrust between the keyboard-connected Moog camp and the non-keyboard, more abstract electronic music espoused by the Buchla camp. That being said, I found this document somewhat tedious. I have always found pure, abstract electronic music academic, austere and uninteresting. I think I figured out why last night.

There seems to be something in the human psyche that wants a narrative flow in art - this is why stories are so interesting to us. The desire is as old as cave paintings. I think, in a sense, we also demand some kind of narrative flow to music. This is why classical music, with the sonata-allegro form of exposition, development, modulation and coda, feels so natural. It tells a story by moving through the key signatures. We can't always describe what we hear, but we hear the narrative flow. (Modern popular song form - AABA - is just a simplified sonata-allegro form.) Music that just is, that doesn't really tell a story, is rather boring. And that bring us to the compulsive dial twiddlers. The proponents of modular analog synthesizer music in this documentary complained that abstract electronic music hasn't become mainstream - I think this is why. It also explains why dry, atonal music using the Twelve Tone system proved to be a musical dead end.

A few nights ago I watched the polar opposite of I Dream of Wires - Keith Richards: Under the Influence, a 2015 documentary about the famous Rolling Stones guitarist. I was expecting him to be an incoherent casualty of too many drugs and alcohol during the Sixties. Turns out he's articulate and interesting, with a respectable degree of musical sensitivity. It surprised me. But then, the fact that Keith Richards outlived the Monkees' Davy Jones surprised me, too. Looking back on it, what did I expect? The man is a multi-millionaire songwriter. Of course he's musical.

More Marine Corps images:

A Marine working on a splice case - I took way too many images like this. All those strong lines in black and white make this look like a photography class shot. Another example of the style.

We're having a party up here. Bring some beer! - When I look at this image now I think, GEEZ they're close to those power lines. This looks like a catastrophe waiting to happen. One wrong move with that umbrella and sizzle.

Truck rollover, April 1977 - One dewy morning Erv took too many compound angles with this truck on a hillside and rolled it. I think we did four or five complete tumbles before we came to a rest. Neither of us was injured much - part of Erv's arm got torn open and he needed stitches - but it was still a harrowing experience. I was cleaning broken windshield glass out of my ears for hours. Another image and another image.

Erv is annoyed with people using a telephone junction box as a trash can, or hitting a telephone junction box with a car. No respect for infrastructure on Camp Pendleton.

Switchboard operators - For a while, when they were short-handed, I worked as a telephone operator with these ladies. It got to be fun eventually, especially when guys called "0" and they got me. Nobody was expecting a male voice on the phone in those days. Some Marine: "You're male!" Me: "Wait, let me check (pause) Yep." Shirley MacTaggart, the lady in charge of the operators, became a friend.

Me and the tank - One day we were working at a rifle range when a tank rolled up. It stopped, a Marine popped out (you can just see his head under the turret), he said "Hi!," we offered him some coffee, and he asked if I'd like to try driving his tank. Well, of course I would! Turns out you steer a tank with your feet using differential pressure on the pedals. That one had an automatic transmission. It was easy! Sadly, he wouldn't let me fire the gun.

One Marine called us "the Gun-Totin'est Cable Crew in the Marine Corps," and so we were. Erv usually brought some weapon with us on the truck, and we were forever looking for excuses to fire them. Shotguns, too. And when we weren't shooting guns we were reading about them.

Have a great weekend!

9 February 2017

Marine Corps Style Maven
I saw an interesting document last night, The Russian Woodpecker (2015). The woodpecker in question was a nuisance 10 Hz signal blasted all over North America on the shortwave band by the Soviets between 1976 and 1989; it was associated with a ten megawatt over-the-horizon radar system signal ("Duga") which issued from a gigantic antenna array located within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in Ukraine.

The document stars a wild-eyed, supposedly irradiated fellow, named Fedor who claims that the Cherobyl radiation disaster was ordered by Moscow to hide the fact that the Duga didn't work and was a wasteful expenditure of rubles. As docs go, however, it was interesting - but then, I enjoy works about Numbers Stations.

After that I watched the Berlin Philharmonic play Franz Joseph Haydn's 95th Symphony, a textbook example of elegance and form in music. It is the only Haydn "London" symphony which does not begin with a (deceptive) slow introduction. When I was a teen getting started listening to classical music I dismissed Haydn because I was more interested in the modern composers with their daring dissonances and novel orchestrations. Now I see how short-sighted I was. Haydn was brilliant, and wrote music of a type that is unsurpassed 225 years after it was composed.

More commentary on old USMC photos:

An odd overhead shot of Sgt Simons preparing to climb a ladder to work on a cable. Erv and I had a water cooler on our truck, too, and used to stop at a place for ice before setting out on summer days. That long white pipe contained a tall rod with an electronic fitting at the top used to inductively "hear" signals sent out over cable pairs; it was used to identify breaks. Where the signal stopped was where your open circuit was.

There was a sort of European "battle village" located at Camp Pendleton as a training site: Castle, church, "Vambo." Back in the 1970s everyone figured that World War III would begin with Soviet tanks swarming down the Fulda Gap in Germany, hence the European mock village. "Vambo" was my alter-ego - I spray painted it everywhere. I recall a comment from my co-worker's annoyed boss: "Who is this 'Vambo?!?'" He kept mum and so did I.

A near-infrared photo of me and a nitrogen tank. We pressurized cables with nitrogen (it dried wet paper-insulated cable pairs) and then listened for air escaping from breaks with another type of listening device. Where you heard air whistling was where the break in the cable was. Infrared photography makes people look ghostly: Erv smoking an unfiltered Camel.

Andy Anderson, a civilian I worked with occasionally. Check out the 1970s Mountain Dew can. This was shot in the depot where we got supplies, run by a guy named Bill Countryman. Both were former Marines.

The Base Telephone area. Some of the junior enlisted men built a sort of patio/hang out spot among the shady trees up that hill you see in the background. It was an after hours beer drinking spot kept guarded from the officers and staff NCOs. You had to be cool to get an invite. As I was considered cool (despite the fact that I didn't smoke pot) I received an invitation. I felt highly honored, a sergeant sharing a can of Budweiser with the PFCs and Lance Corporals on the construction crew. The main Base Telephone building, set among characteristic California eucalyptus trees. Look at the Seventies cars!

One of my countless gag shots.

Corporal Tunney, a friend. He also owned a VW Super Beetle, except his had a sticker therein: "Gas, grass or ass - nobody rides for free!"

The Private of the Guard (Kathy Hewitt). We were on guard duty together for a month. I was attracted to her, but she had a steady boyfriend who outranked me. She was what one might call a hard luck gal, as I recall. She surfed and owned an Austin-Healy I probably couldn't fit into.

Corporal LuAnne Virkler, the prettiest gal in Base Telephone. We were all crazy about her.

Corporal Billy Murphy mans the radio. Billy was a nice guy, as I recall. All the Base Telephone people were "Oscar"; I was "Oscar-2-3." "Oscar-1" was the Base Telephone Officer. And because I was Oscar-2-3 I posed near this parking spot #23 in a parking structure next door to Tower Records in Hollywood. Those are Navy bell bottoms I'm wearing; I used to buy them at the hospital. Those and Converse sneakers and a M1965 field jacket (with rank attached) was my evening wear.

You are only young and stupid once.

8 February 2017

Thomas et Thomas au Groenland.
I am learning all sorts of arcane federal information in my retirement training.

For one thing, I should retire on the last day of the calendar year for tax and annuity reasons. (It maximizes my payout.) Also, if we plan to keep Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance - and I think we do - we need to seriously investigate signing up for Medicare Part B when I turn 65. Also, if I start my last year with the maximum amount of annual leave I can transfer across the year boundary and don't take any annual leave in my last year it will result in a nice lump sum of money upon separation. Also, Medicare Part D (the prescription benefit of the Bush Era) is not as good as FEHB (Federal Employees Health Benefit) so don't bother with it... stuff like that. Valuable info. More today and tomorrow.

The other night I watched a pointless and moderately entertaining French film entitled Journey To Greenland (2016), mainly because I find Greenland somewhat interesting. The plot: friends Thomas and Thomas, thirty-something actors living in Paris, decide to leave the city and visit one Thomas' father in a small village in Greenland and learn something of a culture foreign to them. The drama highlight of this production was a scene where the two Thomases have to rely upon a dodgy dial up modem to get Internet access so that they can fill out their French unemployment paperwork before the deadline; the entire town looks on behind them. Wow. Gripping. My favorite scene was a look inside a small Greenland grocery store/post office. Greenland has a stylish flag.

I posted a 1948 Burbank City annual report to Burbankia yesterday. The visual highlight? Guys throwing horseshoes, probably at the park (Vickroy) in which I used to spend considerable time as a child. Last time I was in town me and my pal Mike had lunch at a picnic bench there.

Last night I watched the Berlin Philharmonic play two pieces by Bela Bartok:

Divertimento for Strings - String tone is one of the glories of Western Civilization, and this piece takes full advantage of what the Berliners can do. I've known the piece for fifteen years or so but have never heard it by this orchestra. There were times when I was just amazed by the sonority of this work and ensemble... it sounds so good. Being Bartok it is not an example of lush, late Romantic string writing as might be written by, say, Tchaikovsky or Dvorak. No. It is rollicking, bumptious, mysterious, sometimes discordant and, over all, Hungarian. Excellent.

Hungarian Sketches - This is a work I've somehow managed to never hear before, but I shall no doubt be listening to it again. It's not a major work like the Concerto for Orchestra, but it is a very entertaining and pleasant piece.

More comments about photos I took while a Marine (1976-1978):

On our travels in Camp Pendleton my pal Joe and our civilian chief Erv came across a cliff that featured a huge, almost constant gust of wind roaring up the face thereof; one could almost use it to sail aloft. I took photos: one, two.

Camp Pendleton Base Telephone in the 1950s. Crusty-looking old school Marines... and some overweight Marines!

Self-portrait (In color) - I never could seem to get one I liked. I never smiled... maybe that's the problem.

Corporals Dunn and Ramirez. Our barracks was happily atop the third floor; I used to enjoy leaning on the railing, looking out and watching life go by.

Private Rankin. (I think she was a corporal; I don't know why she isn't wearing any rank insignia here.) I think she liked me but as she once scratched the finish on the door of my VW I was very annoyed with her.

Corporal Tarala in a central office - A friend of mine, nice guy. He taught me a technique that helped me to utilize momentum and thereby do far more pull-ups than I normally could.

Atop a ladder working on a splice case. I enjoyed this work - most of the time. It was fun being atop the ladder in the ladder truck. The shoveling deep holes I could do without.

More some other day.

7 February 2017

No update today. My morning schedule is somewhat different for the next three days; I'm taking Retirement Training at work. "Retirement training?" I can hear you ask, "You have to be trained for that?" Well, no. It's how to utilize the features of federal retirement, which can be quite complicated. This is training that, if you are not paying attention, you could lose some money! 

Au bientot.

6 February 2017

Me, c. 1977, Camp Pendleton, CA.
I spent some quality time with my new Epson V600 flatbed scanner over the weekend: I scanned no less than 366 negatives! That takes care of all of my negatives from the 1970s. I think I'll stop there for the time being.

A lot of these were taken while I was in the Marines, since that's when I discovered an interest in photography. (I bought my very first 35mm SLR and learned how to develop black and white negatives at the base photo shop.) I posted my new USMC negative scans to the bottom of this photo album.

Some comments:

For some reason I never got a print of this one. I guess because the color lab saw that it was somewhat blurry they didn't print it. It's a bit jarring to see a new photograph of oneself from 41 years ago, a skinny twenty year old. With hair. (A former Marine friend of mine, seeing this, said my hair length was unsat. I was an MOS 2813 telephone cable systems tech, not an 0311 grunt like he was. It was completely acceptable.)

This one was my one and only experiment with double exposure. (And I suppose I ought to clean up the image with Photoshop.) I took the first shot from the balcony of my barracks and then put the macro lens on and shot an image from a book (the goblin), lining him up about where I thought the horizon was. It's cool that his left fingers seem to be handing the cloud! Amateur's luck.

I bought one of those filters that turns points of light into stars and got this image of one of the many inlets at Camp Pendleton. 1976.

Those gray breadbox-looking things are electro-mechanical telephone switches. It was an old technology in 1976 when I took this photo of a civilian doing some soldering work, but that's mainly what we had at Camp Pendleton. I'm sure it has all been replaced by now with modern digital switching; that was just starting to get installed in 1978 when I got out of the Marines. This Marine sergeant is using a "buttinski" to listen in or make a call on a telephone line within a central office - and thereby hangs a tale. I was doing this, once, when I intercepted a call with a butt set that sounded very much like a drug deal going down from one of the hospital phone lines. I kept freaking out the callers by interjecting comments like, "Yeah, I'll take a few of those, too," and then they'd hang up. They kept repeating the call and I kept making comments. I'm sure they thought the very next thing to happen was going to be a squad of M.P.s knocking down their door. In retrospect I probably should have alerted the M.P.s, but I was really busy.  

There is a TON of wiring involved in a central office full of old style telephone switches. This is a bank of carbon lighting protectors - hundreds of them, each horizontal metal strip represents a copper wire pair. The red plastic protective covers designate "do not mess with these" lines: hospital lines, the commanding officer's lines, etc.

That's me chillin' atop that span of telephone cable. We used to have to do ridiculous acrobatics to fix telephone cables sometimes. Check out my civilian pal Erv atop a ladder, clowning around.

This guy was one of my roommates - he looks good but he was a colossal train wreck of a Marine. He had mental issues of some kind and was eventually medically discharged. He kept wearing medals to which he wasn't entitled and, I guess, had Tourette's Syndrome. Most of his communication was stuttering, swearing and stuttering some more. I don't know how he made it through boot camp.

More photo comments later this week...

This past weekend I had one of those truly memorable grandfather experiences: teaching my grandson Gibson how to play Old Maid. I'd put the Old Maid higher up in my hand holding the fanned cards to tempt him to take it, and sure enough, he did - just as his father (repeatedly) did when he was four or so. And then when I was about to take the Old Maid from Gibson's hand, he'd react with his facial expression and I'd take another card. (He hasn't yet learned the concept of the "poker face.") Hilarious! Hudson is a bit too young to play the game just yet. And I'll probably pull the same dirty rotten tricks on poor Gunnar in four or five years' time...

It's an unusual week at work: I have a three day seminar/training on preparing for retirement, a subject I am fully invested in!

3 February 2017

Doctor Dolittle and friend.
Earlier this week I mentioned the birth of Captain Russian in February 1967, fifty years ago. The other great thing that happened to me fifty years ago this month was the Newbery Award Book unit our teacher taught. We all had to select Newbery Award books to read and report upon.

Not fearing thick books - I was a book worm even as a ten year old - I selected The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting, written in 1922 and awarded in 1923; 364 pages. I am now re-reading it. In fact, I recall starting it on a Friday in February 1967, so I am also repeating that.

It was a revelation to me. I quickly got caught up in the world of the unpretentious little doctor who could talk to the animals, and eventually read the entire series of twelve books. Mom bought them for me at the Pickwick Bookstore on Hollywood Boulevard; I still have them! In retrospect you'd think that, because of this series, I would have developed an interest in animals or natural science, but no. I was mainly just interested in the stories and how well they were told. (Hugh Lofting's grammar and sentence construction cannot be improved upon.)

I especially recall gazing at the first illustration, by the author with splendid draftsmanship, of the boy Matthew Stubbins (who would later become the doctor's assistant) sitting on the river wall in Puddleby-on-the-Marsh, gazing at the ships heading down the river out to sea. It was an appealing image and caused me to also wonder what was out in the great wide world. I especially liked the clouds in the drawing.

My reading of the Doctor Dolittle book coincided with the major release of the 1967 film starring Rex Harrison, which was a colossal disappointment. As a ten year old I was not knowledgeable of or prepared for artistic license, and expected a film adaptation to follow the book. This one didn't. It was awful. The film's big musical number was "When I Look Into Your Eyes," which won an Academy Award for Best Song that year. In the film the doctor sings it to a seal, and I recall fidgeting uncomfortably through it. Horrible. (Diana Krall does a MUCH better job with it.)

The book is not politically correct. From wikipedia: "The original edition contains several derogatory terms for Africans that are removed from modern editions in certain countries. Some illustrations have also been removed." Indeed. I am reading it much more quickly than I did as a ten year old. I may be aging, but my powers to read a book quickly are intact.

Last night my bride and I had Chocolate Hazelnut ice cream at Baskin-Robbins, their flavor of the month for February. It's great! My wife is an especial fan and said that she hasn't had an ice cream that delicious since she last had Swiss Orange Chip at the late lamented Swensen's. (My favorite there was Chocolate Malt.)

I mentioned my Apple Watch earlier... I programmed it with some images. I like the fact that I can customize the dial face because it makes me feel like a watch designer. Here's a video. That's right: I have tarot card art mixed with Angel Moroni images. It's all art. Note especially the orrery function. Executing that mechanically costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Earlier this week I sent a 21 page proposal to my History Press publisher for another Burbank book, a follow up to Lost Burbank, the manuscript to be completed no later than September. The title for this one shall be Growing Up in Burbank: Boomer Memories from The Akron to Zodys. We shall see. The acquisitions editor seemed to be positive about it, but that's her job.

My Epson V600 flatbed scanner arrived from amazon.com... I can't wait to start scanning negatives with it. I wonder if there are any forgotten visual gems from the past among my slides. I took lots of black and white photos when I was in the Marines but didn't make prints of them all.

Yesterday I ate lunch at the dreary Hunan Chinese food joint across the street from where I work. It is interesting in that only males seem to eat there. Which is no endorsement! I sit there and report the comings and goings of people via text messaging with my daughter-in-law, who finds the whole concept of a males-only eatery funny. According to her, women coming in to pick up take out orders doesn't count, they have to sit down and eat. There were none yesterday.

I watched a performance of Bach's Third Brandenburg Concerto the other night, performed by members of the Berlin Philharmonic with none other than Herbert von Karajan at the harpsichord. It was technically flawless but absolutely joyless - the defining characteristic of the Berlin Phil under Karajan years. On the absolute other end of the scale I also watched the Berliners do a recent show for kids about travelling the world musically. It was fun, and while they performed the British music, horn player Sarah Willis - my favorite member of the Berlin Phil - waved a Union Jack.

A vintage animated Blatz Beer sign. From the late Fifties, I'd imagine. We had this one in our pool hall when I was a teen. I wonder how much it's worth now?

The weekend! We're going to a wedding reception tomorrow - probably see the grandsons - scan negatives - do some kind of home improvement - read.

Have a great weekend!

2 February 2017

The one on the left is apologetic. 
Happy Birthday Julie Hofer! My little girl is now thirty... Here's the inevitable comment: "It seems like just yesterday since we took her home from the hospital." But it does. That's the way time flows on this world, there's no getting away from it.

Last night we watched a funny comedy/documentary about Canada and Canadians, Being Canadian (2015). As Canadians are a naturally funny people (this was pointed out), it was excellent. I am happy to announce that unlike most Americans I know a thing or two about Canada - mainly because my mother's family is French-Canadian by way of New Hampshire. What are my Canadian creds? Her ancestors were among the first French in the new world, arriving in Canada in the 17th century. And I number among my relatives a Prime Minister, a Provincial (Quebec) Prime Minister, a Canadian Supreme Court Judge, an Arctic explorer, the Dionne Quintuplets, Celine Dion, a hockey Hall of Famer and the inventor of the snowmobile. Not bad, eh? Plus I love doughnuts.

A good friend of mine who also numbers Canadians in his family once claimed to me that there is no such thing as a "French-Canadian," but this is merely dismissive Anglophone-Canadian snobbery. In fact, let's discuss that.

I read all of Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables novels which are set on Prince Edward Island in the Canadian Maritimes. I know for a fact there are Canadians of French extraction on that island because that's where my grandfather Isaac Aucoin (dit Wedge) was born: Tignish, P.E.I., on the upper part of the island. The Aucoins, Gallants, Arsenaults, Bernards and associated families are based in the Maritimes. The island is full of French people! In fact, they owned the Île-du-Prince-Édouard before the English did. But you would never know this from reading the books save for one rather slighting reference to a French family on the island. It's dismissive.

And while the documentary last night did feature a section about Quebec - arguably the classiest part of the nation with the best food and the prettiest girls - and the separatist movement, the traits given to Canadians, as a whole, apply only to the Anglophone part of Canada, not the Francophone part. Have you ever heard of the Quebecois being referred to as "nice," or "apologetic," or conflicted about their national identity? Never. I think this Anglophone dismissiveness may be the ultimate source of the French Canadian separatist sentiment.

Well, that and the historical fact that the English and the French have never gotten along.

Even the documentary was dismissive. A viewer noted that the film had no captions of any sort, and so French-Canadians who do not speak English cannot enjoy the movie! Decidedly queer, given that the nation has two official languages.

I followed up this documentary with a viewing of Episode 1 Season 1 of The Murdoch Mysteries, some of which I caught while in Burbank last December. An intriguing show, it's just different enough from American-produced entertainment to be interesting to me - as is the case with other Canadian programs (SCTV; Bordertown; Eerie, Indiana).

How great is my Apple Watch? It can show newly-received videos of my granddaughter walking! Can your $5,000 Rolex do that?

I also watched some black and white 1967 Dark Shadows last night, where vampire Barnabas beats the kapok out of Willie for being disloyal. Later on Willie would adopt a sort of Mother Hen protectiveness about the vampire that provided the show with its oddest but most interesting continuing interpersonal relationship. It worked because John Karlen, the man who played Willie, was such a good actor, arguably, the best in the series. I thought so when I was thirteen and still think so.

1 February 2017

It is now February 2017, which means that Captain Russian is now fifty years old!

Who?

It started with one of the many overnight visits that my mother allowed my childhood pal Jimmy to have at our house. We used to be next door neighbors when I lived in the Silver Lake district of Los Angeles, but we parted when Mom moved us to Burbank in February 1965. Jimmy's family soon moved elsewhere in Los Angeles, finally landing in an apartment just behind Hollywood Boulevard near the Egyptian Theater - that fabled and exciting boulevard was our stomping grounds. As we were good friends our parents allowed us to see each other again for overnight visits at my house or his apartment.

In the February 1967 over-nighter visit we discovered that drawing our own comic books was fun. Jimmy was a natural talent in this respect; his artwork and stories far eclipsed mine in quality. Jimmy took his time drawing a comic whereas I got the cover started, began a story, became impatient, ended it abruptly and then began another. (I am cursed with a short attention span.) For me the attraction was in doing the covers and producing comic books quickly: production. For Jimmy it was telling and drawing a good story.

Anyway, I forget who developed the character, but we did a parody of Captain America we named Captain Russian (Russia being the arch foe of the United States, as it still is - if you listen to the Democrats, anyway). Problem was, however, our knowledge of World War II history was very sketchy, and we were uncertain of what sort of glyphs and heraldry a Captain Russian might wear. So we drew his costume with German swastikas rather than, say, hammers and sickles. Again, our limited information failed us, and we did not really draw German swastikas, we drew the ancient symbol that was backwards from the World War II German variation. It looks politically incorrect but it really isn't!

Despite his name Captain Russian was not an ethnic Russian. He was, in fact, an American named Steve Polders. (Captain America's G.I. identity was Steve Rogers, you see.) So there's the historical confusion: Captain Russian was a part of the U.S. Army wearing what we intended to be German swastikas but were instead ancient swastika glyphs. I once left a drawing of Captain Russian on my desk and my father came by and drew buildings with pointed Russian roofs in the background. This confused me. What was Dad on about?

One night at my big desk I drew a Captain Russian comic and Jimmy drew one. Oddly, they had the same plot: set in a U.S. Army camp, Captain Camouflage - a grotesque man with an enormous, gaping mouth and camouflaged teeth and tongue - ordered Captain Russian to camouflage a jeep, with predictably disastrous results. CR (which is what I called him for economy) got paint everywhere and got bawled out. I think in Jimmy story's an errant German fighter dive bombed them into oblivion, but in my story no such thing happened - I enjoyed drawing the character too much. I still have my Captain Russian comics (I ended up drawing 40 or so), but Jimmy lost his decades ago.

Captain America was a man of enormous willpower whose mantra was, "I can't fail! I must win! I must!" Captain Russian mirrored my own profound self-esteem issues as an eleven year old: "Oh, no! I can't win! I must fail!" Drawing him was therapeutic for me, as I was in fifth and sixth grade with an awful teacher I did not get along with. I eventually made her one of Captain Russian's super-powered enemies. That story is here: Captain Russian vs. Miss Johnson!

You can read some of my Captain Russian comics online: Captain Russian #2, Captain Russian Meets the Mafia (#41), Captain Russian #44, "War on Poland Hill," and Captain Russian and the Adventure of the Mummy Ring, drawn 31 years ago when I was a very bored adult in an endless government contracts class.

I still draw Captain Russian every now and then on a piece of paper when bored. He's sort of my trademark, alter ego or personal glyph. When I was in USMC boot camp I drew him on my last letter home just before graduation. Mom was worried that the Marines would brainwash me and turn me into... I don't know, a killer military storm trooper or something. She said that when she saw Captain Russian running across the last page of the letter brandishing his shield she knew all was well.

Happy fiftieth CR!

31 January 2017

Pete Townshend
...and the first month of the year is nearly toast. But it didn't go by quickly; it seemed to drag along.

I am about half way through Pete Townshend's autobiography, Who I Am. It's 1969. The Who has just recorded and released Tommy (at the time I thought it was called Tommy the Who) to worldwide acclaim, and followed that up with the Live at Leeds album. I credit Live at Leeds as much as anything for my partial hearing problems as I used to listen to it blasting in my VW Bug on the way to Camp Pendleton on the weekends. In retrospect Pete Townshend's guitar for the upper frequencies of my hearing was a poor tradeoff!

Speaking of hearing, I think my hearing aids need to be adjusted. I'm not at all sure I need the one on the right ear, and the one on the left ear seems to increase very high frequencies at the expense of frequencies just below this band. Well. I meet the audiologist in February and will bring this up. However, we had dinner with some friends Saturday night at a noisy restaurant and I heard the woman across the table from me very well - so there is an improvement under those circumstances at least! (There's a "Party" setting that I can activate from my iPhone that filters out general noise - it works quite well for noisy environments.)

Last night I snagged a spare piece of wood from the TV and stereo cabinet that I altered last year (I saved the scrap wood). I plan to make a Grandchild Barrier for my turntable to prevent having to buy another stylus anytime soon. Of course, a Lucite dust cover would be good, too, but those are much more difficult to fashion! (Those are $184 new.)

In regard to my grandchilden, last night I have determined that I am going to be a Board Game-Playing Grandfather. My parents never wanted to play board games with me, and so when my grandchildren want to I shall be the go to grandparent. To that end I bought a pack of Old Maid cards yesterday; I think Gibson is now old enough to play that game. (He likes playing Crazy Eights and Memory with me.) However, I learned that my wife beat me to the punch and had earlier bought a four pack set: Old Maid, Crazy Eights, Animal Rummy and Hearts - all based on 1950's and 1960's a Whitman designs. Cool! I need to learn how to play Animal Rummy and Hearts...

Hollywood (aka Burbank), as we once knew it, is over - And I won't use more than two hankies bemoaning the fact. The American entertainment industry hasn't produced anything even mildly interesting to me in I don't know how long, and the constantly moaning overpaid socialist celebrities have long since overstayed their welcome. If it weren't for the facts that the Hollywood working class - grips, cameramen, set dressers, production people and film editors - needed jobs I'd say bring on another writer's strike. But basic economics seems to be doing that on its own. Anyway, interesting article.

My wife likes to collect beach glass. She'd be overwhelmed with this place.

Some more Columbia Masterworks comments:

MS 6266, Beethoven - I've always felt that the Columbia graphic designers cheaped out with this one. Stock photo of Ormandy, stock photo of Napoleon, boom, we're done.

MS 6395, Sibelius - There is no greater credibility than this: Ormandy meets Sibelius at his home in Finland (an account of which appears as liner notes). Perfect.

MS 6549, Beethoven - Leonard Bernstein's bad hair day.

MS 6628, Mendelssohn - That is one wifty-looking woman...

MS 6812, Haydn - I hope they didn't damage the clock to make this cover art.

MS 6976, Mendelssohn - Simple but effective. I like how the text follows the shore.

30 January 2017

A cosmetic snow.
Weekends go by entirely too quickly.

We got about two inches of snow last night... just enough to make the tree branches look pretty but not enough to stick on the roads to cause problems. A beautifying snow. We haven't gotten much snow at all so far this winter: about an inch on the 7th and last night - that's it. I guess it's all going to come in February and March.

This weekend I worked on projects: I made a couple of extra table leafs (leaves?)* for the dining room table. We can now seat ten if need be. Also, we hung a couple of sconces over the fireplace - this required a visit to Ace Hardware to figure out how to do it. They didn't come with any apparent hanging method. On Saturday the grandsons visited and Gibson and I played some hands of Crazy Eights. I think I'm going to teach him how to play Old Maid next. (If they haven't renamed it for political correctness purposes.)

Videos:

Starbucks Friday Night - I like having hot chocolate at this one particular Starbucks.

Gunnar at three weeks/Hudson's eyebrow thing - We all laughed when Hudson introduced his new party trick to us!

Yesterday was my daughter-in-law's birthday, so we had the whole crew over last night for dinner and cake - very jolly.  When the kids come over we all put on Mexican wrestling masks and play superheroes. (The one Hudson is wearing in the foreground is Flash ("Flass") - Cari made it for Ethan as a Halloween costume back in about 1991!)

Cari and I sometimes eat at a little lunch place near where she works; it's run by a rather gruff former Army sergeant type. Other places would write, "Please put plates in tub," or something like that. His says, "Stop throwing away the plates"

I am now reading Who I Am, an autobiography by Pete Townshend of the Who. Every now and then I do some literary slumming and read a book about a rock star. So far so good.

More Columbia Masterworks Lps:

MS 6110, Rachmaninoff - I always wondered, why the Barnum and Bailey font?  (They use it in ML 5414 and  MS 6004, too.) It doesn't seem appropriate. I prefer this font, used in MS 6355, Elephant. It yells "Sixties" to me.

MS 6195, Vivaldi - They got this design from the famous Four Seasons restaurant in NYC! (Now, sadly, closed.)

MS 6193, Prokofiev - Again, I bet they shot this one somewhere in Central Park.

MS 6260, Ravel - If you like green then this is your album cover!

MS 6273, Boris - My wife thinks this one is funny. It's just opera makeup...

MS 6312, Tchaikovsky - This concert hall is in St. Petersburg. Look at those huge chandeliers!

MS 6457, Dances - Ormandy waves his arms around. More Elephant font.

Okay, that's all. Let's get this work week over with.

* Per Merriam-Webster's online dictionary either is a correct plural for the word leaf. There is no differentiation between the usages. The usage of the word for part of a table is that it is suggestive of a leaf. Hence, it follows the same usage.

27 January 2017

I had Recurring Dream #5A last night: I'm back at Brigham Young University as a bewildered new student, exploring the campus and being fascinated by the facility and students. Why do we have recurring dreams?

From science.howstuffworks.com (surely an authoritative source!): "Recurring dreams usually mean there is something in your life you've not acknowledged that is causing stress of some sort. The dream repeats because you have not corrected the problem. Another theory is that people who experience recurring dreams have some sort of trauma in their past they are trying to deal with. In this case, the dreams tend to lessen with time."

Hm. While it is true that getting my engineering degree at BYU remains the single most difficult thing I have ever done in my life, I feel no lingering waking life stress about it. And, yes, there was a period when I felt like, for various reasons, I was a sort of second class engineer, the fact is that I have made a good living by it for the last 32 years. So I'm past any feelings about self esteem. You are your own best dream analyst: I think the key here is that I'm walking around campus exploring a new place, not stressed in any way. It's just a dream about experiencing new things or a new place. I bet we all have these.

More season 2 Blandings last night, and a partial viewing of P.D.Q. Bach's filmed concert, P.D.Q. Bach in Houston: We have a problem! We saw him in concert in the early Eighties; he climbed down a rope from the upper tier to the stage then, too. But this Houston concert was released in 2006. Peter Schickele was born in 1935, which means that he was 71 when he went down that rope. Wow!

Peter Schickele is an interesting guy. Wikipedia says he graduated from Swarthmore College in 1957 with a degree in music and that he was the first student at Swarthmore, and the only student in his class, with a music degree. Later he graduated from the Julliard School of Music with an M.S. in musical composition. Well, I'm impressed! The list of his invented instruments is funny; I like, "...the 'proctophone' (a latex glove attached to a mouthpiece, and 'the less said about it, the better')." Also, "The überklavier or super piano, with a 15 octave keyboard ranging from sounds which only dogs can hear down to sounds which only whales can make, was invented in 1797 by Klarck Känt, a Munich pianomaker who demonstrated the instrument for P.D.Q." Hahahaha!

Time to visit my Columbia Masterworks Record Collection again...

MS 6062, Isaac Stern - at the top you can see a good example of the early stereo era graphics that announces that this Lp is in stereo, not mono. I've seen this banner used on cover art of recent CDs; apparently it's considered retro cool. Well - I think it is, too. (RCA's "Living Stereo" art is appealing as well. I like the arrow-blowing speakers.)

MS 6487, Bruno Walter - I think the people at Columbia knew that Bruno Walter's face wasn't going to sell any albums (see yesterday's blog), so the trick here was to format lettering in an attractive way. They succeeded. Also, you see the later, simpler stereo promotional design for "360 Sound."

MS 6603, Albeniz - I wonder how "Spain's Greatest Pianist" felt about the use of her head as a contrasty background for the titles...

M 31714, Copland - Another artist abuse is Aaron Copland's photo on this cover. Hey, Four Eyes! Were I he I'd be unhappy with this one. (Those look like Warby Parker frames, don't they?)

MS 7278, Berlioz - It's obvious that psychedelia arrived at Columbia. This 1968 recording cover art seems mind-expanding, or like one of those posters of the era meant to be illuminated by black light.

MS 7522, Saint-Saens - The marketing guys hit upon a dubious "Greatest Hits" approach to classical music (RCA did it, too), and so a series of these were issued. I have two, the other is Johann Strauss.

M 30579, Stravinsky - Columbia was fortunate to have signed Igor Stravinsky to do recordings of his works with the "Columbia Symphony Orchestra" (aka the New York Philharmonic, I think). This cover is a good study of the composer as conductor. MS 6987 shows Stravinsky as a young man, which is appropriate since the work here is his First Symphony, composed when he was 25. ML 6048 shows him as a dapper old man. In MS 7054 they went for the messy pen look. Finally, on M 31520, a Bernstein recording, his head looms over ancient - and nude - Russian peasants celebrating the Rites of Spring.

The weekend! I have no plans save finishing up some tasks and projects.

Have a great weekend!

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