Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Neocons at the Beach

My Neocon step-sister-in-law, let’s call her Elsa, told me she would not talk about politics this year. I said I’d love to hear what she had to say and would give her 15 minutes to talk uninterrupted by me. With an air of self-assuredness, she said she did not want to scare me. I said I knew what she would say anyway because I’ve been reading The Weekly Standard. She said, “What I’ve been parroting.” Yep.

I doubt she’s been reading what I parrot.

I wondered what she thinks would scare me. Last summer she told me, “Syria is useless. They should be bombed into glass.” Could it get more scary than that? It can get equally scary, at least. Here’s what came up over dinner one night.

Elsa was talking about the movie Parenthood in which a mother complains that she is having to police her son who is suspected of doing drugs. “I was at Woodstock for Chrissakes,” the mother says.

My family members all agreed it was a great line. Then Dad had to go into his standard line about Woodstock which is that the U.S. Army had to fly in portalets because there was no place for all those people to go to the bathroom. “People talk about peace and love,” my dad said, ”and here, it takes the Army to save them from disease. These people were just tramping around in mud. They had to have been miserable. You know, I was at Haight-Ashbury in the late 60’s, and most of the people I saw there looked pretty sullen.”

Elsa’s husband said, “They [the Army] should have dropped a bomb on them.”

Elsa piped up, “I know. These Bohemians are so . . .” she trailed off here, but I can imagine she meant that so-called Bohemians are self-righteous, or PC, or something like that. “I mean, I’m sorry,” she said, making her usual vague admission that she could be offending someone somewhere while presuming that everyone in the room agrees with her.

I tried to make a stand. “Well, if you’d dropped a bomb on them, you would have killed Jimi Hendrix, Ravi Shankar.” I could not think of any more. Those are the only musicians I could name who I were at Woodstock. I don’t really know jack about Woodstock, actually.

“But they all died anyway,” Elsa’s husband said.

I had no response to that. I wish I had said, “Okay, who else is going to die anyway that we can go ahead and kill now?” Sounds like a good case for abortion if I ever saw one, Honk!

Did I mention that Elsa's husband is a surgeon?

I did think about bringing up another issue. While the Neocons would like to bomb the unsanitary Bohemians, following their urging our country has bombed Baghdad into un-sanitation. Why doesn’t our army drop a few portalets there? Instead of setting up those concrete barriers, they could make a wall of portalets. Kill two birds with one stone. Then, insurgents and merchants alike, wishing they could access the neighboring neighborhood, could at least pause to relieve themselves in a manner befitting American constructions workers. But I did not mention this because we were not talking about the war, and I don’t bring it up around family -- someone else needs to bring it up first.

Later that day, I was helping Dad grill salmon outdoors. Elsa was nearby. We heard an ice cream truck go by playing Swan Lake, and I said, “It’s playing Tchaikovsky. There’s something wrong with that.”

Elsa said, “Yeah. I can imagine Tchaikovsky coming from a music box--”

“--a nice music box,” I said,

“--yeah,” she said. “But not some Slav in an ice cream truck.”

Some Slav? Where did that come from? Okay, to be fair, many service jobs like that of grocery clerk on the island are filled by European teenagers on some kind of summer work arrangement. The island has no permanent residents, no indigenous teenagers to take those summer jobs. I’ve met Poles and Czechs in the grocery store, so I guess there are some Slavs somewhere.

Sounds like she presumes superiority to Slavs though. This makes me sorry I even presumed my own superiority to ice cream truck drivers and their listeners who do not know who wrote that tune. I mean, heck, I don’t know who wrote the circus music it normally plays.

Here is what I did say to her. “Well, it was March Slav, so it was okay.”

07 - March Slav - BTTB

Dad said, “Is that the tune that goes Daaaa, Daa Da Da Dummmm?” He can sing. He used to sing and act in community theater. He played Nanki Poo in The Mikado and Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man. Most of this was before I was born.

“That’s it,” I said.

“Oh, I didn’t get the reference,” Elsa said.

For the moment I had superiority over her.

Her own ethnic heritage is Irish. And she’s Catholic. Would there ever be “some Irishman in an ice cream truck”? It would be far more appropriate to talk about Irishmen in Irish Pubs, institutions which seem to be spreading according to some social ink-blot theory in the centers of some American towns including my own. We have at least 3 Irish pubs in the downtown area. One local blogger has discovered the master plan to set aside a whole block downtown for the Irish, a true Green Zone, if you will. Maybe someone should start Irish Pubs in the real Green Zone. They can invent a new mixed drink called The Mortar. There are already Car Bombs.

Maybe Irish pubs are like kudzu or the Nile perch -- they grow better outside their natural habitat.

If I were to open a bar, I’d call it the Non-Irish Pub. I would not exclude Irish any more than an Irish pub excludes non-Irish. It’s just that, you know, non-Irish has a certain flair, a certain atmosphere that everyone can enjoy. You get a waiter or bartender who has a non-Irish accent, you feel like it’s a special occasion. Americans who spent a semester abroad enjoying the hospitality of the friendly people outside Ireland get a little feeling of nostalgia. A non-Irish pub is just a place, you know, where folks in the community can gather and have a drink, let off some steam. Its something that all people, Tartars, Hittites, Turks, Druze can relate to.

You know, I’m really sorry I talked a little smack about an ice cream truck playing Tchaikovsky. Let them play freaking Berg’s violin concerto, for crying in a bucket. I don’t care who’s driving, be it a Jew or Serb. Heck, bring on the Mongols. I’m all about the hordes, as long as they’re bringing ice cream.

Continue . . .

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Glen Kertz on Fox News' Happy Hour

Now we're cooking with gas, pun intended. Get Fox News behind this. Then follows the Heartland with its arid space, its Texas and New Mexico ranchers who are possibly fed up with rising cattle feed costs and may want to turn some land toward something new. Hell, I bet the Bush ranch in Crawford Texas puts in an algae farm someday.

Glen Kertz of Valcent Products, already on the Elrond Hubbard algae watchlist, does his spiel for the fox on Fox News' Happy Hour. There's a serious video/audio synch problem here, so you'll have to bear with that.

Continue . . .

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Close Encounter

For an instant, as I reached the top of a swell on a boogie board, I could see a distance of about 3 wavelengths farther out, maybe 30 yards. A body and dorsal fin, its tip far higher in the air than I, was in mid-arch above the water. How had this creature sneaked so close? I normally see such bodies from a great distance. But here I was aware of its fishness (though I know it’s a mammal), its potential to thrash with that solid fuselage of muscle and knock a jaw out of joint, it’s solid thickness that could have easily upended the wave kayaker nearby without even noticing him. Sun glistened on its wet back while its fin and underside were in shadow. It looked brown rather than gray or blue. I exclaimed and raised myself as high as I could on the board, but only one other appeared farther out, its back barely breaking the surface.

Dolphins are like elementary particles. They flash into appearance in a spot, then are gone again. You have to skip your gaze far ahead of that spot and hope you are looking at where they are if they appear again.

I called out to the wave kayaker. “Was that between you and me?” I said. He said he thought so. He said lots had just passed right by his boat. “I wasn’t too comfortable with that,” he said.

It's too bad girlfriend Svetx was not there to be so close to her totem animal. She's taken me out to look at dolphins many times and places already.

These dolphins did not reappear. They did not stay to protect us. They were Coast Guard dolphins merely spot-checking for shark terrorists. They had a whole coast to roam, and they were on the move, linearly, their invisible path removing them from sight though they had hardly passed us.

Continue . . .

Friday, June 6, 2008

Introducing the Elrond Hubbard Name That Beat Challenge

This is the kind of thing I think about while driving. In this particular song, what beat (1 or 2 or 3 or 4 or some off-beat in between) does this first drum hit fall upon? The following audio clip is the first 2 seconds of the song. In it, you hear a "UFO descending" sound followed by the exact drum hit that I'm talking about:

This interests me because of the funny syncopation that follows in the song's introduction. This is a rock song with a strong infusion of 80's pop-electronica, a form that definitely has a worthy niche in the great realm of all music in my opinion, especially when used so humorously, as you may agree from hearing a little more of the song:

Can you tell what beat that first drum hit falls upon, just from listening to this short clip? I could not; I need to hear more of the song. By the way, those sampled words you hear are "Y'all still want me to come with you?" spoken by a famous voice out of rock history. You might prefer to deduce what beat the word "Y'all" falls upon.

If you're like me, to figure out what beat that first drum falls upon, you'll need to hear the whole introduction. It's in the following clip. I can not easily tell where any beat is until the guitars kick in fully in the final 1/3 of the following clip. There, it is pretty easy to tap one's foot and count out the beats. But to figure out where that first drum hit falls, way back at the very beginning of the song, you have to count backwards (while repeatedly playing the intro forward). Don't try this as I do, which is while trying not to run into deer.

As you repeatedly play this and try to count the beats, something that could throw you off is the loud drum roll that just precedes the entry of the guitars in the intro clip you just heard:

As far as I can tell, no extra beats are added, and none taken away, to create the syncopated entrance of this drum roll. It just starts on a funny off-beat, that's all. And I have not bothered to figure out what off-beat either! So as you listen and count, when this off-beat drum roll appears, just hold on tight and keep counting, don't waver.

As an aside, and perhaps a complication, I love the syncopation of the bass drum in this portion of the intro:

But back to the original question, which is, what beat does that very first drum hit fall upon? Here, again, is the whole intro, for your study:

You can answer in the comments.

After all this, you might ask what song this is. As your reward for accepting this challenge, go here to hear it, and view its video, in its entirety. A lot of fans of this band hated when they went all "80's" on us and brought in this electronica element. But I love them for doing this. I think it's pretty darn funny. I also love the syncopation in Sleeping Bag and My Head's in Mississippi.

Continue . . .

Monday, June 2, 2008

Becoming Less of a Mere Dream

Please view this video of the algae incubators installed by GreenFuels Technologies at Arizona Public Service Company's Redhawk Power Generating Station, a natural gas burning power plant that creates electricity for 250,000 homes. Algae is grown in water and CO2 produced as a byproduct of natural gas burning. The algae produces crude oil which can be refined and used as fuel; starches from the algae can be made into ethanol; and the remaining algal mass can be incorporated into food.

Last October I took a tour of the bioDiesel refinery in Pittsboro, NC. They take leftover fat from a nearby chicken processing plant and turn it into Diesel fuel which they sell wholesale at market price. It's fantastic. It is not making them rich, though it does seem to be a viable business. Speaking to the larger issues of our nation's energy problems, the guide said that really, there is probably not enough waste fat and grease in this country to save us from our dependency on foreign oil or the world from our production of CO2.

Naturally, I asked the guide what he thought about algae farming as a source of crude oil. He said that algae has been everyone's dream, that lots of companies have been turning out press releases but nothing ever seems to come of it.

It's no secret to readers of this blog what a dreamer I am about algae farming. In a past post, I wrote about the press releases on this particular algae experiment. So, I'm especially glad when evidence of real progress emerges.

Continue . . .