Blue Men in Red State

We went to the Blue Man Group concert last night - fun times had by all... crappy telephone picture captures all, and at the same time, nothing.

We sat next to an older dude and his wife, who had the requisite yellow squishy ear plugs in even before the show started.

For those who care, Blue Man has been around for a long time - I first read about them when they were a local theater phenomenon in, I think, Chicago. Their show was a lot more "variety" oriented then, as opposed to the drumming fun that it is today. They did a lot with paint blown from the mouth, and liquids of other types as well... much of the audience went home wet. Very much the visual arts show indeed... this was in about 1992-93... since then they have become more of a franchise commodity, with a permanent show in Las Vegas, along with touring shows as well. Interestingly, the audition process to get on the show has a lot to do with body type and head shape. I wouldn't make it on either of those limitations - I am my own Blue Man Group. Fans of the (now cancelled) TV show Arrested Development will get a chuckle out of the very mention of Blue Men...

Anyway, it was a LOT of fun. One lady went home with a Chinese take-out box full of about 30 "used" marshmallows as a reward for agreeing to have her credit card charged with $4000 to purchase the home study course of "How to be a rock Mega-Star."

Thanks to ThatOneWife for getting the tickets for our birthdays...



How Did The Salt Lake Tribune Get It So Wrong?

I read with astonishment on Sunday morning the Tribune's endorsement of Orrin Hatch over Pete Ashdown. They endorsed him with apologies, and caveats, and with embarrassment. But they did indeed endorse him.

read the article here....

In part, it states, "Regular readers of this newspaper's editorials know that The Tribune Editorial Board is often critical of Utah's senior senator over issues ranging from his pro-administration positions on Iraq, tax cuts and Big Pharma-friendly Medicare reform, to blocking FDA oversight of the nutritional supplement industry, to changing the Constitution to criminalize flag-burning, to rank partisanship in vetting nominees to the federal judiciary, etc.,

“Suffice to say that a complete list of Hatch's negatives might exceed this space, especially if it included some of Hatch's more outrageous statements on public policy issues such as citing author Michael Crichton as an authority on the science of global warming, or suggesting that House Republicans' failure to act on former Rep. Mark Foley's sexually explicit e-mails to congressional pages may be attributable to their desire not to appear homophobic.”

Needless to say, I’m astonished… their entire reason for the endorsement seems to be boiled down to the idea that we need our fair share of the unfair and burdensome pork that is available to us from an influence-wielding public official. They're willing to overlook the GLARING idocy of the status quo that has come to mean overspend without oversight, etc.

They should have taken the more courageous stand of endorsing governmental change and transparent accountability that Ashdown stands for – that is better for the long term health of our government, and the futures of our children’s financial burdens.

This alone is a ringing cry for the need to change how committee appointments are handled. If the only way to become a powerful committee chairperson is to sell your soul, and all your state's human, financial, and land assets, there's something wrong with the system.

The Tribune has just signed on to perpetuate the broken system. It's time for term limits, campaign finance reform, and a lottery system for committee appointments. Not to mention a lottery system for the state of Utah, but that's another conversation for another day.

Shame on you, Tribune. Did you have too much to drink while meeting with the KSL editorial board?


Some Friday randomness:

1. Never Kiss A Monkey. Just sayin - you make the call.

2. Why dogs bite people - again.

3. It's no secret that I'm an architecture GEEK. One of the interesting places I get my geek on is on the TV and at movies - okay two places. Shut up and listen. Read, I mean.

I wrote a while ago about the TV set for last year's version of "24". In particular, the set that was meant to be the presidential retreat in California. It was a MAGNIFICENT representation of Mid Century Modern. (yes, I'm too lazy to go link up the post. Again, shut up. Do a search for "architecture" on this blog page, and you'll find it, along with a few other gems.) The set and its designer got a fair amount of press in design circles for the work, and it was well-deserved.

And one can hardly argue with the house in the Harrison Ford movie, "Firewall".

The house in "The House of Sand and Fog" was pretty nice as well.

There are MANY others also. And if you like the very contemporary, cold lines of gray cement, look no further than Michael Keaton in "White Noise". Or, if you prefer, the newly remodeled digs of the infamous Florida plastic surgeon Christian Troy on Nip/Tuck. I like the other house better, Sean McNamara's, that is, although we never really see much of it. Their offices are decorated in lovely Mid Century Modern furniture as well, Pavilion chairs, etc. Lots of Art Glass as well.

One of the most recent sightings of Frank Lloyd Wright can be found in the lovely Prairie style home of the mayor in the new TV series Jericho. It's an OBVIOUS hat-tip to those who appreciate that style, complete with an art-glass wall decoration above the fireplace that appears in the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust catalog.

A nice send-up to architecture nerds like me all over the place.

Have you noticed any others? Or am I the only dork out there? (Rhetorical, thanks.)

So there's the round-up for today. Ha' Det Godt!!


Hardy Grilling

Those who truly know me know that there is no day too nasty to make me NOT agree to grill something.

In fact, I have a little new year's eve tradition of grilling a honkin' Porterhouse, with all the fixins after the kiddies have eaten their din-din.

Nothin better than a nice hot steak, all the fixins, bottle of good wine, and kids doin' their own thing. Elsewhere.

I'm just sayin.

Showing her womanly bits

Cinder has no sense of modesty whatsoever. This is her version of snuggling on the bed. She likes to jump up at any point in time, but mostly when there are humans on it. She'll grab whatever is close, socks, shoes, towels, whatever, and make herself at home on a pillow. Sometimes she gets it wrong and ends up in the upside-down position.

A Name That Keeps Popping Up:

I've been reading the Sting autobiography. Because I like him. I saw the Police live in the fall of 1981. It was my second or third big rock concert. When we left the concert, ears ringing, we went to a midnight viewing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and threw our toast. But I digress.

In the book, Sting talks about early influences when he was playing jazz in the area where he was born. He notes that at that time, in the late 60's and early 70's, that area was pretty insulated, and nobody of note ever came there. That changed when he went to a concert at the college by Jimi Hendrix. To Sting, the world had just changed from black and white, to color. I can only imagine. But I digress. Again.

One of the other early performances he saw was a jazz combo that included one Chick Corea. And therein lies the title of this post. Chick Corea has been a keyboard player for a long time. He came and played a concert at the same college where Jimi Hendrix had played only a year or two earlier. Sting notes that this was as cathartic an experience for him as Hendrix was at the time. I have heard Corea music for many years, always on the outskirts of my usual listening. I always seem to put him in the same category as Pat Matheny: Somewhat inaccessible to the general listening public. The result of music in this category, in my view, is that most of us listen to that stuff, and think, what the hell was that...? But that's okay. It's very complex and cerebral. Not exactly hum-along-with-it music. Some would call it noise, and unfortunately, many people categorize most jazz music the same was as a result.

Then I was searching around HDNet's programming for the next two weeks (because several of the concerts I had recorded on the TIVO got erased when we were taping the US Open tennis stuff.... bummer...) I digress, for the third time.

Anyway, as I was searching around I noted a program called Chick Corea Duets: Bobby McFerrin. So I programmed it and looked forward to seeing what those two would come up with. It was very interesting, and I quite enjoyed it.

Further along in Sting's book, he notes being influenced by what Miles Davis was doing in the days between his Bebop stage and the Cool stage. The Seminal recording in this area is Bitches Brew. It represents the flagship of the jazz/fusion era. The album is interesting, and for most people, will fall into that Chick Corea/Pat Matheny category of cacophonous noise that demands the front of your mind, not the back. Sting notes that he was introduced to Miles around this time. He was known as Sting by then. Interestingly, Chick Corea plays on this album as well. Go figure. There are 7 songs on a 2-disc set. With the exception of only one song, they are all more than 11 minutes long, with the longest clocking in at 27 minutes.

Sting had a funny anecdote about that meeting: When the two met, Davis asked him if he could speak French. He replied that he could. Davis handed Sting a piece of paper and asked him to translate it for him. Davis then put him in a vocal booth in the studio, and told him that when he pointed to him, he should yell into the mic what he wrote on the paper. Apparently it was quite crude, and never made it onto the album. Instead, at the end of the last song on the album, Feio, Davis himself is heard talking the song out in a more lighthearted way.

Thought you'd be interested - sorry if you weren't. I will refund the little bits and bytes you used to download this page if you like.


Einstein at the wheel

So, Ford Motor Co released the news earlier this week that they had LOST about 5 Billion dollars... Billion with a "B"... in the most recent operating quarter.

The new CEO stated that they needed to "Find a new strategy."

Nice one, Sherlock.

Here's a strategy: How bout hiring some designers with a clue.

Just sayin.


Ashdown Press Release - No Utah Water Grab

This arrived in my office moments ago....

October 24, 2006
Brett Garner
Office: (801) 983-7383
Cell: (801) 573-4759


Ashdown Pledges to Stop Nevada Water Grab

SALT LAKE CITY, UT--After visiting Callao, Utah last night, Democratic US Senate candidate Pete Ashdown pledged to stand up against the attempts by the Southern Nevada Water Authority to pump water from the Snake Valley aquifer. Ashdown agreed with residents the SNWA's plan amounts to a "water grab" and that "Las Vegas needs to learn to conserve." The visit to Callao bookended Ashdown's travels throughout Utah during his 21 month campaign for the US Senate. Ashdown has visited places in Utah not visited by a major party candidate for statewide office in decades, such as: Manila, Bicknell, Tridell, Beaver, East Carbon, Green River, among others. Ashdown noted that in many of these places longtime residents cannot recall his opponent ever visiting the area.

The Callao town hall meeting was organized by Callao residents Cecil and Annette Garland, a rancher and school teacher, respectively. The Garlands, who led the fight against the MX missile project in the 1980s, have asked for help to stop what they call "an impending hydrological disaster" if the pumping starts. "We don't have any water to spare, and to take the water we have would kill this valley."

While the residents also asked questions about the Iraq war, energy independence, ethics in government, immigration, and other issues, the "make or break issue" was the water grab. Ashdown affirmed: "I think the [US Geological Survey] study needs go forward, but it will probably confirm the obvious." Ashdown also stated that this is an example of his conservative philosophy of government: "We need to conserve the Callao way of life; keeping the aquifer full conserves water and conserves the way of life." In the question it was noted that Hatch has not come out against the SNWA plan, "Even with Orrin Hatch's seniority, he's not really working for the people of Utah. He's working for media interests in California, for oil interests out of state, for pharmaceuticals of which there are none in Utah. We need somebody there that is from Utah, working with Utah, dealing with Utah, and I know I can do that."

Ashdown noted how he will bring up this and other rural issue in the future debates with Senator Hatch, including tonight's on Salt Lake City's Downtown, broadcast live on KUTV.

Odd stuff on my hard drive

Starting a new thing here... Odd Stuff On My Hard Drive... every little bit, I'll go through and post something that lives on my hard drive, for your entertainment, or your derision, whichever you choose.

Today's offering: Wynton Marsalis plays Cherokee. This guy rocks. Enjoy:


Randoms, from a professional randomer

Some randomness for you all. I've been buried at work recently and haven't been able to post at my usual breakneck speed. Okay, maybe not so much breakneck as simply "regularly", but you get the idea:

1. recent music reviews:

Barenaked Ladies - Barenaked We Are: this is different from the previous offering from these guys. ThatOneWife got me listening to them more than I had in the past, and when we see them here in Salt Lake next month, it will be the second time for me, but about the fourth for her, I believe. The album is good, filled with more harmony and less 100MPH lyrics that have been the hallmark here. A good listen. They seem to be heading into adult contemporary, as opposed to top 40.

Bob Dylan - Modern Times: Better than I thought it would be. Good production values, good music, good lyrics (which you can actually understand), and a good album all around.

Diana Krall - From This Moment On: A great album, getting back to her bread and butter: jazz standards. She is expecting twins before the end of the year with her husband Elvis Costello, so one wonders how "treasured" this album should be for her fans. It's got the usual great piano work, good arrangements, great vocal work. It's just good.

Elton John - The Captain and the Kid: This was a return to the early collaborator, Bernie Taupin. This partnership produced some of the greatest pop/rock music of the 20th century. There are some who assign EJ to the group of touring geriatrics who are no longer relevant to current critical music. But since he's branched out into musical theater and film, sucessfully, I don't consider him irrelevant, but this album was not as good as I thought it would be. the Vast majority of people on the radio these days could take a lesson at his feet. Or three lessons, for some, because they just won't get it the first time around.

Oscar Peterson Trio with Stan Getz - The Silver Album: This is a standard Jazz album that should be in any collection. With Ray Brown, Stan Getz, Herb Ellis, Ocar Peterson, it was released in 1989 and is a timeless recording of great jazz standards.

2. The CEO and CFO of Costco have elected to tell the Board of Directors to not bother with their yearly bonuses this year. They were under investigation with regard to the stock option dating issues that have come under scrutiny lately. However, no impropriety was found, and no action was taken. But since there was an investigation, the two decided that they would forego the bonuses as a show of good company citizenship. The bonuses were scheduled to be $200,000 and $80,000. Which begs the question: with good citizens like this, why are you shopping at Sam's Club? Just sayin'.

3. Did you know that Sting was a member of the band in London for the opening of Tim Rice's and Andrew Lloyd Weber's first production run of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat? I didn't think so. But it's true. He was hired at 60 pounds per week for a scheduled run of 6 weeks. The run was extended several times, each time selling out faster than the last. Needless to say, I am enjoying Sting's autobiography. I got it for my birthday a few weeks ago.

4. This is, I believe, the best use for lawn gnomes: Turd Burgling.

Just sayin.


One Thing They Forgot...

I've waited for a little bit to comment on this, although I did mention the general idea a while back, when I was talking about Denver's arts/cultural superiority.

So, now that I've had time to stew, and have been otherwise engaged anyway, here is what I think of The Church's plan for the new downtown:


We've all seen the lovely renderings....


Okay, not so much "yawn" as, they GOT IT WRONG.

What's wrong with this picture? go ahead, think on it, I'll wait right here...

go ahead...



Here's a hint: at the Big Unveiling, the Church's spokesperson stated that "we are excited to reintroduce the 24/7 life back into downtown Salt Lake City." Look at the renderings again. Get it yet?

2 things:
1. Who are they trying to attract to the downtown area?
2. What do they expect these people to DO down there?

First off - we're not talking about a 24/7 lifestyle for the downtown area here. More like 24/6. Or more like 16/6.


And if you happen to find something to do, you better make sure it fits with the "free-speech" policies that now exist on "The Plaza" because those are the same rules that now will apply over the few-block property. Restaurants/shops won't be open on Sunday either, if they're on the property.

Great, there's shopping. Tell me, pray, what will be THERE that isn't already closer to MY HOUSE? Why would I go THERE to shop at Nordstrom or whatever? Oh, right, there's still Utah Wollen Mills. Great.

There's a TON of mall space, sit space, chill space, personal reflection space. But there's NO ENTERTAINMENT. How many Sbarro's and Chick-Fil-A's can you fit in a space this big?

Just a little hint - if you want to attract a "24/7" lifestyle, you need to have bonafide entertainment. Theater, concert music, small venue music, restaurants and BARS where people can hear music they care about, and generally BE ENTERTAINED. One of my biggest pet peeves about this place is that there are too few places where one can go to hear good music with a good meal. There is support - every time the GAM foundation holds a concert, it is virtually sold out, and there is great support for the Salt Lake City Jazz festival, so much so, that they are attracting some pretty big names to it every summer.

We have two EXCELLENT big bands here in Salt Lake that only get to play two or three times a year, because they don't get asked to play anywhere else.

Okay, so Jazz isn't your thing.

But that goes for other kinds of music too. The Venue opened in the space that was "almost" occupied by the House Of Blues. They attract good acts as well, if that's your thing. But that's about it for downtown, besides two or three other smaller venues for music. But wouldn't it be nice to have some GOOD dining with music, of any type? Wouldn't it be nice to have a good club scene going on downtown? The Port O Call is getting tired. How bout a national-level comedy club? Oh, right, we don't laugh here.

People don't open clubs there, because they are no sooner open (or licences applied for) than they are regulated out of business. We need a new Zephyr Club, while we're at it.

We need an Arts district. We need more galleries, we need more places where good art is displayed. And I'm not talking about paintings of Moroni. They have their place, and that will certainly be well-represented here, make no mistake.

We need to have these things as a part of our culture and society.

What we don't need is another stucco-and-stone clad behemoth sitting downtown, which will certainly rot over time. The stunning lack of architectural creativity in this state is astonishing and baffling. (should we go with a stucco color more to the orange, or to the tan?) Gimme a break. If they are trying to attract the younger urbanite population to live downtown, they should have something for them to do. Same goes for the older-ish folks, just barely having kicked the kids out, looking for a less-complicated lifestyle, closer-in to things, fewer headaches with property maintenance, finally a more sophisticated lifestyle, etc.

Do they think these people are just going to be okay with having nothing to do on Sunday afternoon? Or after the movie on Saturday night for that matter?

I'm just sayin.

That vacuous sucking sound you hear is a vacuous sucking sound.


What kind of voter are you?

Historically, people vote using one of two different ideologies. People are either values/issues voters, those who vote for people who believe in the same values as they do. Or they vote from an "approval" standpoint.

This is not to say that issues voters don't sometimes turn into approval voters, but by and large, those who are adamant about their values/issues being represented in an elected official can't stomach the idea of casting a 'dis-approval" vote for their incumbent, by voting for the other guy.

This is particularly interesting here in Utah, as well as other areas of the country, where the values-based candidate has spoken loud and clear since about 1994. Specifically in Utah, the "values-based" voting machine has meant for decades now that you vote party-line Republican, regardless of past performance. Period.

I believe this very policy, whether unspoken or not, has led us as a nation to the point we are today. The Republican party has set itself apart for a long time as the "traditional family values" party, at times donning the vest of Christianity, Evangelism, etc. This has worked well, because the party "values" mandate that you should "vote for those who believe as you do" has appealed to many people for a long time. they want our nation to be the world leader in moral conservatism. If we don't do it, who will? And if we don't do it, just how low will the world sink as a result of our abdication of these Christian values?

Up til now they have had to bear almost no accountability for actions taken, because they have worn this vest as an overriding set of standards. They pin their values on the vest like souvenir Olympics pins. It's highly advertised, and loudly touted. No values-based voters have been interested in voting (approving/disapproving) based on results achieved, but rather, they have toed the party line, because they are told that the values-based politician is who we should have in office, not the other guy - at all costs. They'll protect our national society from beginning the slide down that old, slippery slope of moral decay.

But now, the cost is getting pretty high - literally and figuratively. The party that has put itself in office on the ruse that they are the ones in the race (no pun intended) who have the high morals, values, etc, has failed to provide results that benefit anyone in any real purport. The result of this has been that the political party in power has failed to realize that there are consequences for poor performance.

Think about it this way: if you were the board of directors for any mid- to large-sized multi-national corporation, would you hire ANYONE who currently has authority to speak for the actions of government today? Anyone? I wouldn't. Not even a little bit, and here's why. To a very large extent, this country's affairs are a business. Sure there are policies based in moral judgments, etc, but on the whole, this country is probably one of the biggest corporations on earth. As a member of the board of directors, you VOTE on the performance of those who have accountability to perform certain actions in the corporation's name. As a board of directors, you are an "approval" voter, a "results" voter. You don't care what the CEO says he will do, says he likes, says the corporation SHOULD do - you vote on what he does and how well he does it.

If you are person who is religious here in Utah, you are, by percentages, LDS, and you have been taught about the unrighteous dominion of those who perceive they have a little authority. So the questions here are several:

1. Do the values-based voters now have a leg to stand on with regard to having put the Republican Party in power?
2. Will the previously values-based voters now be able to conscious an approval-based vote this time around? Many I know will indeed do just that. Will enough though?
3. Will it be enough to sway the power in DC back into a balanced situation?
4. And, more philosophically, should strict values-based voting be as heavily marked as it has been in the past?
5. And here's the kicker - does a vote for a democrat mean you cast your vote for Satan and his minions?

I don't think that philosophy has served us well. We are a split land on most moral issues because of the way these issues are handled, and there doesn't seem to be a good way to reconcile what is going on right now on most of those issues. They have taken energy and oxygen out of Washington, on a world-wide stage. The values voters feel that THEIR version of a particular value or moral stance should be thrust upon as all, for our own good. The result will soon be a puritan society with no color or variance whatsoever. But we'll all be saved. Does anyone really think that's a good idea?

None of these people would not make it in the MAILROOM of my fictitious corporation. They should all be forced to work at Walmart.


The day of the year when PEOPLE make the rules:

This is tragic in a way, until you realize that people who dress their animals up for Halloween are really taking back the control that is lost on the other 364 days per year.

On all those other days, it's the animals that make the rules: they choose where to poop, pee, sleep, when to eat, where to lay, etc. And we all dutifully pick it all up, clean up after them, while they stare at us, as if to say, "yeah, pick that POOP up, beeyotch."

So, then on the one day of the year, it's the humans who make the rules. We dress them up and look at them as if to say, "Yeah, wear THAT to the party, beeyotch."

You go, girl.

What $11.11 looks like:

It looked different when it was in the ash-tray of my car.

And yes, that's $3.06 in pennies alone.

This was precipitated by something this week:

Every Tuesday ThatOneWife drives my car to work instead of hers. This past Tuesday, several in her office decided that Thai would be a good lunch, and they fled the office, some of them in MY car.

On their way back to their office, some of the passengers quipped that there was a lot of change in there, and wondered if they should bring some of those penny stacking sleeve thingies for us to put the change in.

So this inspired me to clear out the ash tray - and yes, I counted it out. Other non-monetary items there were 2 gum wrappers and three bus fuse covers from under the dash.

Why should you care? Well, you shouldn't. I certainly don't.

Welcome to DayCare Mortgage...

Every once in a while we get somebody who comes into the office and thinks it's okay to bring their little hellions children with them. This time, they were accompanied by a little Chihuahua named COCO. COCO is young and has a bladder problem.

So after settling in, these small people and their small dog, decided it might be fun to play with the office phones. This is after spilling water-cooler water, eating all but two donuts, and subsequently getting chocolate fingers on the wall, etc. etc.....

As the adrenaline was ramping up on the phone fun, I quietly picked up the phone, hit the intercom button, and said, in my mean halloween voice, "If you don't stop playing with the phones, the big bad man will eat your little dog for lunch." I replaced the phone without anyone seeing me, and went back to work.

It's quiet now.


Happy Birthday Old Man

Today happens to be Luciano Pavarotti's birthday.

When I was 17, I fancied myself to be the "next Pavarotti" - but I thought he'd be dead by now...


he is certainly the world's most celebrated male opera singer, probably of all time. He is now an icon. He doesn't appear in a whole season's productions anymore, but rather, sings concerts and holds audience on a more minited basis. He turns 71 today, and his voice is characteristic of what tenors "should sound like". He's lauded in equal parts for his power and his interptretation.

Anyway, at the time, I was so convinced that this was the way I was going to go, that I made my parents replace my fillings to the new (then) white ones, and then at 18, I got braces.

I was singing in the local Opera company chorus in my senior year of high school, and I was studying with a couple of people whom I have mentioned here before. I thought I had the world by the tail then.

Anyway, I came to my senses, and headed off in the direction of being a school teacher. Didn't end up there either though.

So here I am.

The quote of the day: "Dude, the hatch, blew off... your... underwear..."

I hate when that happens.

A grievous error....

... has been made. When I published my list, I forgot to include Angie Harmon.

My bad.

Error corrected.


The Mortgage Times...

New Mortgage regulations are out

This post, along with the last one, here
are brought to you by your favorite mortgage moron, me. I forgot to add a laughable picture of some unfortunate, unsuspecting individual on the last post.


More on the elusive Banksy

Remember the "Banksy" post?

It seems that Mr. Pitt likes the Banksy too. He was at a gala Banksy show recently where he purchased several works of spray paint.

Banksy, of course, was NOT there.

New Crap Over at Mortgage Times:

The Bond Report September 25th 2006

National Association of Realtors Report

Clearing Up Closing Costs

Housing Bubble: Did the Media Do Enough?

What is an "Exotic Hybrid Mortgage"?

Utah Real Estate Market Data

Kiplingers Gets It Mostly Wrong

How to get a free meal down at the Panda Esspresss...

First, go sleep under a viaduct for about three weeks.

Second, get really badly drunk every single day - this will dull your sense of personal space and propriety. It'll come in handy today.

Third, get a pair of pants so dirty they could probably stand up in the corner by themselves. It's a bonus if they REALLY smell like urine.

Fourth, get yourself in line in front of ThatOneGuy, and start asking for samples of everything in the store. Make sure you speak in what seems to be a foreign language, but it's really the result of all those consecutive drunk days.

Take all the time you like, talking to everyone around you, but having trouble understanding what the hispanic and/or oriental ladies are saying to you from behind the counter.

If you take long enough, I'll probably end up buying you something, just to get the line moving again.

I think I need a bottle brush for my nostrils.

I'm just sayin'.

To Sleep, Perchance to dream....

I had a dream the other night, the cast of which consisted in equal parts exclusively of people from Veronica Mars, and The OC.

Not quite sure what that means, but there you are.

I'm odd. That's what it means.

I mentioned a while ago that I like art, and have a particular interest in art crimes. (I'm too lazy to go back and link up the post - trust me, I said that.)

Anyway, the reason I find art crimes fascinating has to do with Provenance. This is the process of establishing the authenticity of a particular work of art, along with its own unique ownership trail. It's interesting, because an art thief not only has to come up with a plan to steal the work of art, but he also has to come up with a way to justify his possession of it when he tries to sell it.

Some art theft is "contract" work, where a private person pays someone to steal a particular desired piece of art to be placed in his personal and private collection. A person who contracts for this service pays dearly, and his only motivation is to HAVE the art, rather than to PROFIT from its eventual sale.

Anyway, I was thinking about all this a day or two ago, and then I heard an NPR story about "Funerary Violinists". How do these two things connect, you may ask...

I had never heard of a genre called Funerary Violinists. Odd, I thought, as I had once considered a career in musicology. This is not to say that I know everything there is to know about everything, but I would have thought I might have heard of this somewhere before. But I hadn't, so I listened with interest.

An old dude named Rohan Kriwaczek wrote a book called An Incomplete History of the Art of the Funerary Violin. He claimed that funerary violin is a previously unknown musical genre that was virtually extinguished by the mid-19th century in the Great Funerary Purges, said to be ordered by the Vatican.

But as first reported in The New York Times, violin dealers, string-instrument publications and other experts say there is no evidence of the funerary violin genre, forgotten or otherwise.

The author claimed to belong to a secret guild of Funerary Violinists, and claimed it as the oldest continuing guild in the world. He was establishing provenance for this entire genre of music, claiming it was still flourishing, while being forgotten at the same time.

Despite the questions of authenticity, the book's U.S. publisher, Overlook Press, still plans to release the book, which includes pictures of legendary funerary violin composers like Hieronymous Gratchenfleiss, musical scores and information on the Guild of Funerary Violinists.

Peter Mayer, the publisher of Overlook Press, bought the manuscript. Even though he had doubts about the authenticity of the material, he was hooked.

Turns out to have been a hoax, illustrating the fact, again, that to claim some object (in this case, a forgotten musical genre), is one thing, and its provenance can prove to be its undoing.

Author Kriwaczek issued a statement Thursday, in which he writes that to call his work a hoax is to misunderstand his intentions. He says he wanted to "expand the notion of musical composition to encompass the creation of an entire artistic genre, with its necessary accompanying history, mythology, philosophy, social function, etc."

And he notes that as a funerary violinist himself, he has performed at more than 50 funerals throughout southeast England.

You can hear some HAUNTING violin work at the link I gave up there. As well as read an excerpt from the book, to be published. Incidentally, the book, yet to arrive on shelves, is categorized in the "music history" section of both Barnes and Noble, and Borders.

And for an utterly FASCINATING read, check out the story of John Myatt and John Drewe here. I find this a MOST compelling story. The movie rights have been optioned, but I don't remember by whom.


Dear Blog: Since I don't have time to entertain you today, have a joke, on me:

Two old ladies, Mabel and Maude, are outside their nursing home, having a drink and a smoke, when it starts to rain.

Mabel pulls out a condom, cuts off the end, puts it over her cigarette, and continues smoking.

"What the hell is that?" asks Maude.

"A condom," replies Mabel. "This way my cigarette doesn't get wet."

"Where did you get it?" asks Maude.

"You can get them at any drugstore," says Mabel.

The next day, Maude hobble herself into the local drugstore and tells the pharmacist that she wants a box of condoms.

The pharmacist, obviously embarrassed, looks at Maude kind of strangely (she is, after all, over 80 years old), but very delicately asks what brand of condom she prefers.

"Doesn't matter, Sonny," says Maude, "as long as it fits on a Camel."

And that's when the pharmacist fainted.


Something for you to do:

What do you expect....

...from a guy named Lemuel???

That's pretty messed up, right there, folks.

Random thoughts on the homogenization of our society

If that's a word... but anyway.

I was thinking about that post yesterday.. the one about Walmart, and it got me thinking about how our society as a whole has succumbed to existence at the lowest common denominator.

Think about this:

In the early- to middle-20th century, our nation underwent a mini industrial revolution. It was War time, with the Two Great Wars. Prior to that time, all machined items, whether they were parts for farm equipment, logging equipment, whatever, were pretty much produced as one-off, one of a kind items. Henry Ford then moved us to the next step, by putting automobile manufacturing onto an assembly line system, where parts were mass-produced and installed in the same place and same way on every vehicle.

Many of our forbears were factory workers. Props to RiveterGirl, whose Colorado rock band is named after Rosie The Riveter, an icon of that time.

Then it was war-time, and the great majority of those workers went to war. To fight mostly hand-to-hand combat. Now, I'm not taking anything away from today's servicemen, but holy crap, can you imagine the courage THAT took??!! I digress.

Anyway, all those factories were turned over to production of war-time needs. Munitions, military vehicles, airplanes, etc. Daylight Savings was implimented then (and should be abolished now). But I digress again. Sorry.

Then, when they all came back, they had the GI bill that allowed them to buy a home.

At the same time, the nation's homebuilders had taken this production line format over to building homes in a hurry, for $7000, because they needed to. California was a great example of this, where there were great massive communities cranked up almost overnight, because the homes were all the same, and the workers knew what they were doing. Right angles, straight lines. Boxes. This has spurred the trades' specialization to this day - you have drywall guys, stucco guys, brick masons, HVAC, roofing, etc.

The nation quickly filled up with homes that were all the same. The only individuality between them was whether you wanted it garage-left, or garage-right. There was a standard set of acceptable designs: Bungalow - LR/Kitchen one side, MBR/2nd BR other side, bathroom in the middle, Split Level - Main Kitchen/LR, bedrooms up, more living down, and Two-Story, with its cousin, the Split-Entry - Kitchen/LR main, Bedrooms up, unfinished down. Take a look around your neighborhood today, even if you live in a new community, you'll see that this hasn't changed much over time.

Up until this time, Architects reigned supreme, because most homes were designed by them on a one-off basis, or at least a very few of the same designs built in disparate areas. There were MANY residential architects then. Many of them famous to this day. The last great age of "the residential architect for the everyday" ended in the middle 50's and early 60's, when homebuilders went with three, four or five designs, and built the great preponderance of the nation's homes we still live in today.

This month's Dwell Magazine has a short but interesting article about Frank Lloyd Wright, of whom, if you know me or have read here for a while, I am a fan. He built about 90 homes in the 50's, his most productive decade for private residences. MOST of those homes are still owned and lived in by the original owners. What does that say about those people?

1. They were young, and went against the early homogenization of the nation's residential trends.
2. They were more well-off than the regular folk.

While number 1 is true, as witnessed by the fact that many are still in the homes today, 65 years later, number two isn't necessarily so. There was a story about one of those owners who had to wait 7 years to be able to save up the money to be able to engage Wright on a home design for them.

What those people were, however, was willing to go against the homogeneous societal trends and insist on some individuality in their home. Sure, we'd all love to live at Fallingwater, an iconic American home - who wouldn't? I'd give my left nut to live in ANY wright house. But you don't have to have one of those in mind in order to engage an architect either.

I don't know for sure, but I am betting that there are fewer residential acrchitects per capita today than there were 75 years ago. By the same token I am betting that there are fewer homes designed by architects built today than then. And I'm not talking about these huge Garage Mahals, or starter-castles, either. You don't have to build a huge behemoth in order to instill some individuality in your abode. I am willing to bet that there are architects out there who would jump all over the chance to design a home that costs $150,000 - $200,000 these days.

You will say yes, but there are economic factors at play here - things are different now than they were then. Companies make it easier today to work with them, and get your home cranked out in three months, looking just like everyone else's. But that's really the entire point of this post isn't it?? We accept what is easy as the only way to go - we've gotten lazy in what we expect from a service provider, be it our DSL service, our home builder, our grocer.

You have to buy a lot now, get your design approved, etc. It's harder to do it yourself. It's more expensive, you say.

But I will say to you that financing is out there, people just don't know it - it can be about as economical as working with one of the major home-builders - and you will get 10 times the home, I promise.

You'll just have to be a little more pro-active in your thinking, and what you will agree to accept. You can get it done - it's a little more work, but you get back exponentially what you put in.

So, why do I ramble on about this stuff? Especially in connection with the Walmart post I wrote yesterday? It's because we as a society are so willing to accept what is put in front of us as the best thing for us. This is true whether it be where we live, where we shop, what we eat, how we travel. The individual is being stamped out of existence as we are all forced to do the same things, live in the same homes, shop at the same places, buying the same things as everyone else.

Where did our individuality go? Are we not creative anymore? Did we fall asleep somewhere along the way, and just decide that we should all live in the same thing, buy at the same store, eat the same things?

I don't think that's healthy for a society, and it shows in caricature, when we allow huge builders to build massive communities in our cities, or allow massive retailers to tell us what we will buy.

Resistence is futile - you will be assimilated. Now go back to your stucco 2500 square foot split level homes, nothing more to see here.

I'm just sayin'.

It Depends Upon How You Look At It.

Remember the image of Christ found on a tree in downtown SLC? Remember the miriad others all over the world? In the slice of toast? Well, you've been warned.


The Continuing Walmart Black Eye

It's no secret here that I despise WalMart, in any of its incarnations. Two items in the news today regarding this distressing visage that brings home the socio-economic mantra that "we are the society we create".

First item is from Apple. I like Apple. A lot. If you remember, I touted the announcement of the iTV set-top box as the "next" thing, or the Missing Link, or whatever. It is all of those. During Jobs' press conference/circus act, he also introduced the availability of Disney movies through the iTunes music store. Now we find out that there were supposed to be more studios on board at roll-out time.

Now the real story:

Walmart accounts for 40% of all hard copy DVD sales. That's A LOT. It's enough that movie studios don't want to piss off the monster named Wally. They don't even want to poke it with a sharp stick. Walmart demands that they be able to buy the DVDs at $17.00 per unit. When Walmart heard that Apple was going to sign studios to a deal where you could download a new-release movie for $14.95, they pooped down both legs.

This was an egregious affront to the deal that Walmart had with the studios, to buy DVDs at $17.00 a pop. Walmart saw its sales numbers going down and made a few phone calls to studios, telling them that if they were going to give Apple movies for $14.95, then Walmart was hereby demanding that they get to buy the DVDs at the same price, or face the simple fact that Walmart was going to cancel any and all purchase contracts from the studio for DVDs. Of course, this put the fear of God in the studios, because Walmart sells 40% of all DVD copies.

Studio orders go down by 40% in one swell foop.

So the studios make a little call to Steve over at Apple and tell them that they can't come out and play tomorrow after all, and well, we'll have to see if we are going to get on board with the iTunes music store thing.

Steve scratches head. Invitations are already out, the little finger sandwiches are already in the fridge. Somebody tells him that Walmart pissed on the party and he makes a little call over there... Walmart CLAIMS it wasn't really trying to manipulate the whole world economy, but steve sees right through that one. You see, DVDs only represent 2% of Walmart's revenues. They don't care whose party they spoil. The studios need them MUCH more than Walmart needs the studios. That's the way they like it.

Anyway, word has it that Apple and Walmart are in negotiations, and one possible deal that is rumored is one in which Walmart would get a share of iTunes download revenues in exchange for its willingness to sell iTunes digital download coupons.

Can you FREAKING believe that??!!! The corporate arrogance at Walmart is simply astonishing.

So, on to the other story: Today's copy of the New York Times ran an interesting story, one with which we are now familiar, about the way Walmart eats its own offspring like cocktail weenies. One employee strategy to combat this was to look at employee unionization. No problem, Walmart said, AND PROMPTLY CLOSED THE STORE IN QUESTION. No store, no union. Easy as that.

Walmart is famous for trimming, squeezing, and slashing supplier costs relentlessly. While the company would like the world to focus on the benefits derived from its low prices, it's hard to ignore how the nation’s largest private employer often grinds up its hourly workers in the same machine.

There are distressing signs that Walmart may be acting on many of the ideas outlined in an internal document — leaked last year — to rid its payroll of full-time and less-healthy employees who are more expensive for the company to retain. For instance, Steven Greenhouse and Michael Barbaro reported yesterday in The Times that employees at several Florida stores say that managers are barring older employees with back and leg problems from using stools they had sat on for years.

Other employees are complaining of sudden scheduling changes they say are skewed to chase out long-term employees, and wage caps that act as a disincentive for those longer-tenured workers. In a stunning deployment of corporate doublespeak, a memo to store managers describes the wage caps as a way to maintain “internally equitable pay levels.” It is true that if everyone is making the same everyday low wages, a perverse form of equality is established among them.

Walmart is a scourge on the face of this country's economy, and a pock mark on our nation on the international stage.

Poo award for this week.