Friday, July 31, 2009

Riff of the Day: Vital Signs (Rush)

This is the final cut on Rush's 'Moving Pictures' disc and a high point for Geddy Lee's bass tone.

The verse bass riff is one of the toughest to play if your left hand is weak. You need a solid, strong pinkie on this one, unless you cheat by stretching your ring finger to hit the 8th-fret notes:

___Cm _____Ab________Cm
___e e e e e e e e___e e e e e e e e

This is a good one for building strength and dexterity in that left hand. Hold your index finger across all four strings at the 5th fret (you can cheat by just fretting across the D and G strings, but you'll strengthen that finger by working it harder). Your middle and pinkie fingers do all the work.

Pic of the Day: Dinosaur Creation Land

A few years ago, evolution-denier Kent "Gawd Sez I Don't Hafta Pay No Taxes!" Hovind got 10 years in prison for not paying taxes for his employees--nearly half a million bucks' worth of taxes.

On July 30, a court ruled that nine properties that Jailbird Hovind's little "creation" museum, Dinosaur Adventure Land, can be seized by the Feds to be sold to pay off what the tax-cheatin', creation-preachin' Hovind owes. I'd link to the story itself, but the Pensacola News Urinal only keeps them up a few days--then charges you for access to older stories. Here's the Pharyngula Science Blog link instead.

Here are a few pics of the "theme park"--beginning with an aerial view as captured in Google Earth, then a few shots of the frontage on Palafox Street. I've got a DVD capture from a dying camcorder I took with me on a visit, and I'm hoping to get some usable pics from that as well.

As a bonus, there's a pic for his loving supporters to pin up: FREE KENT!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

And something GOOD happened on this day...

...On July 29, 1974, Neil Peart joined Rush.

I didn't want to focus just on the darkness.

Song of the Day: Afterimage (Rush)

Second track on their "Grace Under Pressure" album. This song usually comes to mind when I want to mark the passing of someone; it's appropriate, since Neil Peart wrote the lyrics in reaction to the death of close friend Robbie Whelan. It's a bittersweet song, with flashes from Peart's memories of his friend, and it fits well with the overall dark timbre of the album.

With that in mind, I dedicate this one to Jim Barrett and Dr. John Britton. (Updated to include video link)

Remembering a Good Man: Jim Barrett

On this day in 1994, Paul Hill walked up to a pickup truck in the driveway of a Pensacola clinic and killed Jim Barrett and Dr. John Britton with a shotgun.

I stood in a parking lot across the street with some of the other clinic escorts (Jim was one of ours) for a few hours. The bodies were laid out and covered with sheets while the crime scene guys did their thing.

I never met Dr. Britton; he was one of the volunteers who stepped up when David Gunn was murdered barely a year before.

Jim was a good guy, a sort of grandfather figure. He's buried at Arlington:

I'm gonna hoist a drink in his honor sometime today and hope that someday crazy religious douchebags will no longer exist.

And for the rest of us, if you know a guy like Jim, buy him a drink.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Riff of the Day: "Rush," John Rutsey, and John Bonham

Time for a little comparison of John Bonham's massive drumbeat in Led Zep's "The Immigrant Song" versus a few songs from the debut self-titled Rush album.

I've been listening to "Rush" for maybe 20 years. I think I found it in the bargain bin at a truck stop. I really didn't like it at first, given that my first Rush album was "Moving Pictures." It's easily the most un-Rush-like of all their works. A big part of their sound and style comes from drummer/lyricist Neil Peart, who introduced fantasy, science and science fiction, literature, mythology and psychology as themes for songs and entire albums. Through Peart, Rush quickly got a rep as the "thinking man's rock band."

"Rush," on the other hand, had a guy named John Rutsey as the drummer. Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson shared lyric- and songwriting duties on such songs as "Need Some Love":

I'm runnin' here, I'm runnin' there, I'm lookin' for a girl
'Cause there's nothin' I need there's nothin' I want more in the whole wide world
Well, I need it quick and I need it now, before I start to fade away
That's why I'm searching, that's why I'm lookin' each and every day.

Oo, I need some love! I said I need some love!
Oo, yes I need some love...this feelin' I can't rise above!
Yeah, yeah!

Well I been hustlin' here, I been hustlin' there, I been searchin' for about a week
And I started feelin' this strange sensation--my knees have started gettin' weak!
Well I need what keeps a young man alive--I'm sayin' I need it now
I'm gonna get my message across to you somewhere and somehow!

If this had been my intro to them, I probably wouldn't have gone any further. The guitar and bass chops are solid and as impressive as anything from their later efforts, but I tend to prefer something less hormonal in my lyrics. Yeah, yeah, I know, I know, it's "Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll"--but sex and drugs are way overrated. Actually, so is most Rock 'n' Roll, now that I think of it.

Years went by, interest waned, until a couple of years ago when I was listening-without-listening to the album on my iPod. I heard something in Rutsey's drumming that I hadn't paid attention to before: in several songs, he's playing an almost complete lift of Bonham's drum track from the main verse part of Zep's "Immigrant Song."

"Immigrant Song"

h_h |||
snr |.---q---.---q---|.---q---.---q---|
kck |||

A period is a rest--for clarity, I'm just leaving it at that.

The first song I noticed Rutsey's "lifting" in was:

"Before and After" (track 6)--main verses

h_h |e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-|e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-|
snr |.---q---.---q---|.---q---.---q---|
kck |||

He's slowed it down and it playing a straight-8th on the high-hat, but there's that Bonham bass drum thumping out from the back of the stage!

...then I heard it in this one:
"What You're Doing" (track 5)--main verses

h_h |e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-|e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-|
snr |.---q---.---q---|.---q---.---q---|
kck |||

Again, Rutsey's playing it note-for-note on everything but the high-hat, just like the previous song (Bonham was running a 16th-note pattern with a skip).

Then I noticed it one night while I was learning the bass line for a really good Bluesy song:

"Here Again" (track 4)
slow, triplet 16ths

h_h |e--e--e--e--e--e--e--e--|e--e--e--e--e--e--e--e--|
snr |.-----q-----.-----q-----|.-----q-----.-----q-----|
kck |||

Hope I got that right. Music notation isn't my first language, and if things go very far past straight 8th notes I get lost. Kind of funny, me wanting to put little riffs up for review.

Anyway, for this one, Rutsey slowed the pattern down almost to a crawl, but now he's running triplet 16ths (blues, eh?) and giving the Bonham bass a little swing. I'd really rather he'd kept this one and done something different for the other two songs.

So here I am, listening to the album while I put this writeup together, and damned if I don't hear the Bonham beat again as the main riff in the verses and choruses of the final cut, "Working Man". I've never noticed that until now! It's slowed down almost as much as for "Here Again," but played straight like in the other two examples.

Sheesh. Almost the entire second half of the CD:
Finding My Way
Need Some Love
Take a Friend
* Here Again
* What You're Doing
In The Mood
* Before & After
* Working Man

...but the cassette version was arranged this way:

Finding My Way
* What You're Doing
In The Mood
* Working Man

* Before and After
Need Some Love
Take a Friend
* Here Again

Much more spread-out, much less obvious. This riff's the foundation for the entire Zep song--the guitar and bass follow the bass drum. Very distinctive, and something that shouldn't be lifted for more than one song on an album--and even then, not for the whole freaking SONG. Rutsey was a competent drummer; I'm disappointed--and amused--that he did four out of eight this way.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Clip of the Day: Happy 40th to Apollo 11!

In honor of Armstrong & Aldrin walking on the moon and thereby becoming two of the coolest achievers to ever piss off the moon-landings-were-faked crowd, here's the second-coolest thing Buzz Aldrin ever did:

Granted, Buzz didn't clock the guy all that hard, but still....

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Pic of the Day: Welcome to Pensacola! CHOOSE! (click to enlarge)

It never surprises me anymore, the utter certainty and arrogance of crazy religious folks and their black-and-white approach to life. I suppose it makes them comfortable, being able to distill all of reality's shades of gray down to either-or choices, even though the rest of us know better.

Sure makes the resale value on that piece of property look high, doesn't it?

School wasn't this bad...

...but I don't blame this guy at all for not going to his 25th high school reunion. He says, "I don't think that my experience was particularly unusual. I know a lot of people who had it worse."

But what he faced was:
--a guy broke his fingers just because he wanted to know what it sounded like. School admin tried to shrug it off.
--a different guy poured a swastika in gasoline on the street in front of Mark's house, then lit it.

Holy crap! I never had troubles like that. I was a standard sort of nerd kid, got my share of bullies, but never anything like that.

The worst bullying I got was from a punk into intimidation. Let's call him "Darren." I'm pretty sure that was it, and not "Bill" or "Billy" or "Mac" or "Buddy"--and he was plain ugly to me. There's only one encounter I even remember, and even then it's only because of my own reaction.

See, Darren the tough guy came into the restroom while I was standing at a urinal. It was just before the bell, Health class, pretty cool teacher. Darren took up the second urinal to my left and started his business. He opened his pie-hole and said something in Bullyish, the rough equivalent of "How's your day, pal?" or "Such exemplary weather, I should think, eh what?" but it comes out more like, "I'm gonna kick your farking ass after school."

I replied to him in his own language with, "Indeed, the sky is quite the shade of blue, my good man." which roughly translates to English as "Go fark yourself."

He reached out right-handed and punched me upside the face.

I repeated myself, in case he'd misconstrued.

He reached out right-handed and punched me upside the face.

At this point I did the only thing I could do: I peed on him.

Now, I'd love to play this off the way a cat would--"I meant to to that."

I wish it had been a cool, calculated slow-motion maneuver like a gangster tearing the ribbon off the long roses box, then reaching in and throwing the box aside while bringing his Thompson machine gun up and spraying the other guy from hat-brim to shoe-leather, emptying the magazine and remorselessly watching the guy twitch in his final throes, dead long before he hits the pavement.

Yeah, it'd have been VERY satisfying to have beaten the crap out of him, but I was never a fighter. In my mind's-eye view of the aftermath, I see a soggy Darren trying to explain how his shirt and jeans got soaked.

I don't know if he had to do a wardrobe change that morning. All I know is that he never bothered me again.

Proud to be a Dog Snob!

I've been watching the "Storm Chasers" marathon on Discovery all day (instead of working on the car). At one point there was a commercial with one of those horrible little "purse dog" creatures.

After waiting more than 10 minutes for AT&T's crappy Internet service to load the Blog page, I can finally extoll the virtues of a Proper Dog.

The "Proper Dog"--if I were to have a dog--would be a trained German Shepherd, mostly because of one we had when I was younger than toddler age. While men were walking on the Moon, we had a police-trained Shepherd named Queen. I vaguely remember that she was black and as big as a Clydesdale. She was in a big fenced pen in the back yard.

Neighborhood kids would piss her off by walking past and dragging sticks on the fence.

My sister at some point picked up a stick to throw...and Queen just stared at her and growled, obviously meaning, "You put that down right now, nice and slow, and I'll let you live."

I picked up a stick. No reaction. I sat there next to the dog and bonked her on the head with that stick--tap, tap, tap--and she just looked put-upon: "*sigh*...Kids."

Some other time, she was in the house. My grandmother came over to babysit so Mom could go out and get away from us kids for the evening. Mom had a quick errand to run first...and when she came back, my Grandmother was still standing in the same spot, with Queen providing helpful growls.

I wish I could remember her better. She sounds like a hell of a dog.

So no, no contemptible chihoo-a-hoo-as, no yappers, no screech-dogs like that long-haired miniature freak my neighbor has. That's not a dog. Well, not a Proper Dog.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

She robbed me!

...of a good story. The car gave me 28 days of trouble-free running, then on the 29th day, she told me she wasn't going anywhere.

Over the next few days I poked around, testing stuff. Spark's okay. Engine's turning over. Got gas. Should start.

Got gas?

Well, why does the gas tank sound empty when I thump it? See, this would have been a good story: "I checked this, I checked that...and it was... (dramatic pause) ...out of gas."

Nope. True, there was about a gallon and a half in the tank (and a small hole, which I didn't patch properly the first time). But after I patched the hole and threw in a few gallons...nope.

Fuel pump robbed me of a good punchline.

Song of the Day: Natural Science (Rush)

This is the last track on 1980's "Permanent Waves," in my top-five favorite albums. It weighs in at 9 minutes 16 seconds--the longest cut, and probably my favorite. This is Rush back when they were FUN to listen to and fun to play along with.

The first thing we hear is peaceful waves rippling onshore, gulls, and a shimmery acoustic guitar strumming behind Geddy Lee's vocals. After 90 seconds, Lifeson introduces a lively arpeggio before the bass and drums join in...then it is, as they say, "on." Very much a drum-driven song--Neil Peart's beating an aggressive WHACK out of the snare while staying machine-steady on the hi-hat and ride cymbals.

Lee and Alex Lifeson do their usual job of making technically-demanding bass and guitar parts sound easy and cool.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Pic of the Day: Typhoid Jenny

Not the best or coolest work I've done, but I've been chomping at the bit to do a picture mocking Jenny McCarthy and her abjectly idiotic--and DANGEROUS--obsession with vaccination.

This woman claims that vaccination gave her kid autism. She wants to warn people away from getting their children vaccinated and even admits that doing so will risk lives...yet it'll somehow be worth it.

It seems like she's mentioned in medical blogs weekly, having committed some new stupidity. The guys at White Coat Undergound and Respectful Insolence frequently launch masterful broadsides that make me despair of my own writing ability. Here's an excellent dissection of her at the latter blog.

She's also been the focus of several Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast segments.

So. Here's my own Flickr offering: Typhoid Jenny!

Spread it far and wide.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Karaoke With Number Two: Unchained Merody

Probably the only three amusing stories I've got of my brief purgatory with Two have to do with her love of karaoke.

Two had (maybe has--but I haven't seen her since December 29, 1996...but who's counting?)...anyway, Two had a good singing voice. I went with her a few times, sat at our table and wished I'd brought a book or something. I'm not much for the clubs or nightlife. Give me a book, dammit!

I missed out on some comedy gold, though, because of that. There's a Chinese restaurant in Tallahassee called Lucy Ho's. The guy who was running karaoke back in the day had a solid Asian accent, the whole Engrish "R" for "L" thing. He was cool, outgoing, knew how to work the crowd...and I never heard him singing the one time I went. Number Two did, though. It was a slow night and at one point he cued up "Unchained Melody."

Well..."Unchained Merody."

"Oh, my dahring...I rong to feer...your toucsshhhhhhhh..."

Man, I wish I'd been there.

Pic of the Day: It's a Cross, It's an Air Freshener!

Like Linus with his blanket, some folks apparently have to have religious trappings everywhere they go.

Are these things blessed at the factory in China? If so, is that before or after the crappy fragrance is added?

Is that real wood from the original cross?

This isn't quite as funny as the "odor-preventing"--but scented--air freshener on a nearby hook.

[Updated--original post pointed to a Flickr page instead of having the picture embedded.]

Thursday, July 9, 2009

How to Smack a Chickenhawk...

...with poetic style. Yeah, I'm a few years late, but this is what occurred to me to scribble about tonight.

I first became aware of a work by Oliver Wendell Holmes when I read John D. Billings' "Hard Tack and Coffee" last year. Billings didn't pull his punches in criticizing the cheerleaders who pushed hard for war against the South in the run-up to the bloody conflict--yet who mysteriously vanished or had important matters to attend to when their opportunity came to stand and fight. Billings quoted a poem in which Holmes questions the manhood of such men by comparing them to women, which was likely a powerful critique back in the 1860's, but it's dated for the same reason today. Women today can kick serious ass--and we should note that many of them are in the military, doing work our sweet little men of today are too cowardly to manage (8 minute video of manly Young Pubbies giving excuses for why they won't enlist to fight in Iraq). Give those same SLM's 20 years--they'll be pushing for a war they'd never fight in. I'd embed the video, but I'd rather keep attention on the poem:

"The Sweet Little Man."

Dedicated to the Stay-At-Home Rangers.

Now, while our soldiers are fighting our battles,
Each at his post to do all that he can,
Down among rebels and contraband chattels,
What are you doing, my sweet little man?

All the brave boys under canvas are sleeping,
All of them pressing to march with the van,
Far from the home where their sweethearts are weeping;
What are you waiting for, sweet little man?

You with the terrible warlike mustaches,
Fit for a colonel or chief of a clan,
You with the waist made for sword-belts and sashes,
Where are your shoulder-straps, sweet little man?

Bring him the buttonless garment of woman!
Cover his face lest it freckle and tan;
Muster the Apron-String Guards on the Common,
That is the corps for the sweet little man!

Give him for escort a file of young misses,
Each of them armed with a deadly rattan;
They shall defend him from laughter and hisses,
Aimed by low boys at the sweet little man.

All the fair maidens about him shall cluster,
Pluck the white feathers from bonnet and fan,
Make him a plume like a turkey-wing duster,--
That is the crest for the sweet little man!

Oh, but the Apron-String Guards are the fellows
Drilling each day since our troubles began,--
"Handle your walking-sticks!" "Shoulder umbrellas!"
That is the style for the sweet little man!

Have we a nation to save? In the first place
Saving ourselves is the sensible plan,--
Surely the spot where there's shooting's the worst place
Where I can stand, says the sweet little man.

Catch me confiding my person with strangers!
Think how the cowardly Bull-Runners ran!
In the brigade of the Stay-at-Home Rangers
Marches my corps, says the sweet little man.

Such was the stuff of the Malakoff-takers,
Such were the soldiers that scaled the Redan;
Truculent housemaids and bloodthirsty Quakers,
Brave not the wrath of the sweet little man!

Yield him the sidewalk, ye nursery maidens!
Sauve qui peut! Bridget, and right about! Ann;--
Fierce as a shark in a school of menhadens,
See him advancing, the sweet little man!

When the red flails of the battle-field's threshers
Beat out the continent's wheat from its bran,
While the wind scatters the chaffy seceshers,
What will become of our sweet little man?

When the brown soldiers come back from the borders,
How will he look while his features they scan?
How will he feel when he gets marching orders,
Signed by his lady love? sweet little man!

Fear not for him, though the rebels expect him,--
Life is too precious to shorten its span;
Woman her broomstick shall raise to protect him,
Will she not fight for the sweet little man?

Now then, nine cheers for the Stay-at-Home Ranger!
Blow the great fish-horn and beat the big pan!
First in the field that is farthest from danger,
Take your white-feather plume, sweet little man!

Pic of the Day: I Saw Elvis!

He was ridin' a bicycle near the Pensacola Civic Center on July 4th.

Apparently he's out of work; he was kind of thin, like maybe the jelly doughnuts and peanut butter and 'nanner sammiches aren't rolling in lately. He was carrying signs advertizing his "singing telegram" service.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

POTD: Alabama leaning to the Left!

Taken Feb. 18, 2006. Katrina made a direct hit right over Fort Pike in Louisiana, just west of the Louisiana-Missippi line. With a hurricane, the worst place to be is to the east of that line--and Mobile, Alabama caught a good bit of it in the teeth.

The U.S.S. Alabama (BB-60) has been on display in Mobile Bay since 1965. I have vague memories of a tour when I was less than 10 years old--just grey steel and a bad smell in the U.S.S. Drum submarine that used to be docked nearby.

I got this picture on the way back from a trip to Fort Gaines, at the entrance to Mobile Bay. When Katrina's storm surge er...surged up the bay out of the Gulf of Mexico, it gave the ship a nudge strong enough to tip it about 10 degrees to port. One of the gangways was bent up pretty badly and the planes in the nearby display field took some damage.

In the foreground are pilings and wreckage from--if I remember correctly--seafood restaurants that were simply washed away.

The cranes to either side of the ship might have been part of the effort to right the ship shortly after this pic was taken.