With the exceptions of George Martin, Quincy Jones and Glyn Johns, arguably no other recording producer is as quite a household name as Alan Parsons. (And only Parsons has been namechecked by Austin Powers’ nemesis, Dr. Evil!) Starting at age 18, Parsons began working in EMI’s legendary Abbey Road Studios in 1967 before going on to engineer the Beatles’ classic album of the same name and numerous other projects. His career as a staff engineer at EMI culminated in his engineering Pink Floyd’s epochal 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon, which remained on the Billboard charts for an astonishing 741 weeks, a phenomenal achievement for what had been prior to its release a band that defined the phrase “cult hit.” In terms of its variety and musical craftsmanship, the album was arguably the high point of Pink Floyd, but its success was in no small part due to the crystalline three dimensional sound that Parsons’ engineering brought to the product.
Only in the 1970s could a recording engineer launch a successful career as a rock frontman, but give Parsons credit for perfect timing – he parleyed his industry connections and his key role in Dark Side of the Moon’s smash success into a lengthy record deal with Arista Records, fronting and producing his own Alan Parsons Project band. The Alan Parsons Project itself enjoyed several best-selling albums and arena tours. But Parsons never stopped producing other artists, working in the years since Dark Side with Al Stewart, The Hollies, and other artists.
In 2010 Parsons released his three-DVD box set titled The Art & Science of Sound Recording and narrated by actor-director-musician Billy Bob Thornton. Recently an accompanying book version of that DVD, co-authored by Parsons and Julian Colbeck (also an old hand in the music industry), was issued by veteran music publishing house Hal Leonard.
The How-To Guide for Recording a Complete Rock Band
For anyone interested in recording a rock or pop group, in conditions ranging from their garage or basement to a professional music studio, this is a must-read book, filled with useful tips on how to record all of the primary components of a popular group including the drum kit, bass, electric guitar, keyboard, and vocalists. In both group form playing all together, and then afterwards in the form of solo overdubs to bring a song closer to perfection.
While Parsons is the primary voice in the book, he’s joined by such veteran studio luminaries as drummer Simon Phillips, bassists Carole Kaye and Nathan East, and former Doobie Brothers vocalist Michael McDonald, and fellow producer Jack Douglas, who bring their own recording tips and anecdotes to the book. The book concludes with an excellent chapter on recovering from studio disasters, ranging from tape machines unspooling to a comparable 21st-century terror, hard drive crashes.
When the Boston-based Izotope audio software company released the first iteration of their RX program in the fall of 2007, it was a revelation in digital audio cleaning applications. It allowed hum, hiss, and background noises to be removed with much fewer artifacts than before, and it allowed the user to drill down to a seemingly granular level to remove tiny imperfections in WAV, QuickTime, MP3 and other commonly used digital audio formats.
I used it extensively when I was producing PJ Media’s Sirius-XM radio show, which coincidentally debuted nearly simultaneously with RX, and ran until the end of 2010. Both on the XM show and podcasts in the years since, I’ve found RX particularly useful for removing hum and hiss from telephone recordings, making it an extremely useful tool on prerecorded radio shows and podcasts.
From the start, what made RX unique was its ability to zoom into a particular region of audio. The ability to splice a small portion of audio has been possible since the earliest days of analog audio tape in the 1940s. And digital audio workstations have allowed for tight digital editing since their initial launch in the 1980s. But however tight the edit, these have almost always involved the entire audio spectrum. (Picture a piece of audio tape being spliced by a razorblade; the process is replicated digitally on a DAW.) But RX allows for focusing on tiny portions of the audio spectrum, in much the same way that Photoshop and numerous other photo editing software allows for the user to zoom tightly into just a few pixels.
This makes RX particularly versatile. Because the program can zero in on specific frequency regions, it’s easy to remove plosives such as popped-Ps from recordings and reduce or mute breath sounds, making RX an excellent post-production tool for both spoken and sung vocals. RX’s ability to both copy and paste and sample small portions of surrounding audio makes it very easy replace digital dropouts. I also found it extremely useful to clean up less than pristine music tracks I made in my digital audio workstation, such as background noise in lead vocals, or the grit, dirt and hum that accompany many distorted electric guitar recordings. (Not the grit and dirt from the actual solo, which we like, the stuff lurking in-between the notes when the guitarist isn’t playing.)
In May of this year, when I returned to California after videotaping the Duranty Awards for PJM and the New Criterion, and listened to the audio, I noticed most of the journalists speaking had unconsciously tapped the heavy framed award certificates they were holding against the note-stand of the podium, producing many repeated loud audible thumps on the audio track. Using RX, I was able to go in and either eliminate or minimize many of these these thumps, making it a much smoother experience for the viewers, particularly for those watching the video while wearing headphones.
One of the hallmarks of great pop songs, recorded or live, are great harmony vocals. While non-melodic rap and death metal are often largely exempt from this artistry, just about all classic pop music is known for its harmonies, from Motown, country music and folk, to the Beach Boys and the Beatles. Even in hard rock, plenty of numbers by The Who and The Rolling Stones have great backing vocals behind the gruff bluesy belting of Roger Daltrey and Mick Jagger, respectively. Harmony vocals add polish to a recording or performance, and they add a subtle (sometimes not so subtle) ingratiating element to them as well: Hey, multiple people are singing along with the lead singer. Maybe I should join in and sing along as well, while listening at home, in the car, or in the audience!
In the past though, the solo performer who plays out in bars and coffeehouses armed with only his or her guitar, or the songwriter recording demos for his band in a spare room have historically been at a distinct disadvantage to a full ensemble until recent years. In 2007, the Canadian firm of TC-Helicon debuted their VoiceLive unit; currently, it’s on its third iteration. As one of those aforementioned persons recording demos on a digital audio workstation (DAW) in his den, I’ve been frustrated by the limitations of only having my (not so great) voice to work with, and have looked for ways to augment it electronically. So when I saw the demo of the VoiceLive 3 unit at Sweetwater, I knew I had to add it to my sonic arsenal:
Of course, what goes into the VoiceLive 3 will determine what comes out of it; it won’t turn you into Kate Bush or Steve Winwood overnight. But as the many demos of the VoiceLive 3 and previous VoiceLive units uploaded to YouTube by TC-Helicon attest, with a little practice, the units do a very good job of turning decent singers into one person choirs, and decent singers with lush harmonies behind them sound that much better.
Inside the VoiceLive3 is massive amount of sophisticated electronics to generate its harmonies, which it cues off of a guitar plugged into it, a MIDI-equipped keyboard, or a backing track from an iPod or other miniplug-equipped music player. Or the song’s key can be set manually, and the VoiceLive 3 will do its best to guess the harmonies. On the outside of the unit, the VoiceLive3 has a metal case and multiple footswitch buttons to trigger harmonies on and off, along with other functions such as delay, reverb, and doubling, plus a built-in guitar tuner. And there’s a rotating dial to sift through the units many presets. The rear of the unit contains multiple inputs and outputs including a combined XLR and ¼” mono input for the lead vocal, stereo XLR outputs, MIDI in- and outputs, guitar inputs and outputs, and a miniplug input designed to allow backing tracks to be played from an iPod. So it’s possible to use the VoiceLive 3 even if you don’t play an instrument.
One Saturday night in late September, after photoshopping Roger L. Simon into William Shatner’s Star Trek uniform (don’t try this at home kids…), I watched the Criterion Collection Blu-Ray of A Night to Remember, the great 1958 British retelling of the Titanic disaster. The one that featured a cast of grownups rather than Leo and Kate romping around amid a backdrop of a zillion extras.
After seeing James Cameron’s teen romance-meets disaster movie take on Titanic on the big screen in 1997, I remember saying to my wife as we left the theater that I wanted to see Lawrence of Arabia again for the next film we watch. Why, she asked? Because it’s all desert, no water.
I had seen plenty of YouTube clips of A Night to Remember, but this was the first time I had watched it all in sequence. While A Night to Remember is over an hour shorter than Cameron’s mammoth production, and watching it on a 55-inch TV instead of a 70-foot multiplex screen, I felt similarly wiped out afterwards. I poked around Amazon Prime on the Roku box for something that was as least like A Night to Remember as possible. I ended up watching a segment of Firing Line from 1981, in which William F. Buckley interviewed Tom Wolfe on his then-new book, From Bauhaus To Our House.
But even there — because I’m me, and this is what I do — my brain was trying to work out the connections. Mr. Guggenheim, whose daughter would found the modernist museum that bears the family name, went down with the ship along with his valet, after uttering the famous quote, “We’ve dressed up in our best and are prepared to go down like gentlemen.”
The sinking of the Titanic is universally seen as foreshadowing the horrors of World War I. (“WORLD’S LARGEST METAPHOR HITS ICE-BERG,” recalls the classic Onion headline.) That’s implicit on screen in A Night to Remember as well, of course. As L.A.-based film critic John Patterson wrote in his 2012 retrospective on the 1958 film in the leftwing London Guardian, where he notes that Eric Ambler, the film’s screenwriter was “by then an ex-Marxist,” with what sounds like a trace of tacit disappointment:
His heroes and villains, cowards and charlatans, are spread evenly across the social spectrum [in A Night to Remember], but he emphasises the numbing and mindless social deference of 1912 to a 1958 audience for whom a good many of those assumptions were still firmly in place, although their erosion was already under way. Ambler can sense a foretaste of the Somme in these events, a whole social order upended, quite literally, just as Scott’s failed Antarctic expedition, the other great British debacle of 1912, tolled the death knell for the cult of the English Gentleman Amateur.
And as Wolfe mentioned in From Bauhaus to Our House, and during his interview with Buckley, modern art and modern architecture grew out of the horrors of World War I and its aftermath. The rubble of WWI, the blood-stained trenches, and the rapid ascension of various forms of socialism all made the “Start From Zero” mindset of the Weimar Republic’s Bauhaus possible. History? The past? Tradition? It should all be tossed into the Atlantic, along with all those stuffy old toffs who went down with the ship dressed in their best.
“Texas teen Ethan Couch gets 10 years’ probation for driving drunk, killing 4,” CNN reported yesterday:
To the families of the victims, Ethan Couch was a killer on the road, a drunken teenage driver who caused a crash that left four people dead.
To the defense, the youth is himself a victim — of “affluenza,” according to one psychologist — the product of wealthy, privileged parents who never set limits for the boy.
To a judge, who sentenced Couch to 10 years’ probation but no jail time, he’s a defendant in need of treatment.
The decision disappointed prosecutors and stunned victims’ family members, who say they feel that Couch got off too easy. Prosecutors had asked for the maximum of 20 years behind bars.
Yesterday’s CNN.com article was a good basic, just the facts, ma’am piece of reporting. Perhaps because it’s Friday the 13th, a follow up article CNN ran today gets caught up in a serious case of the stupids, literally asking in the headline, “‘Affluenza’: Is it real?”
Is “affluenza” real? Or is it a way for coddled children and adolescents to evade consequences for their actions?
Not surprisingly, “affluenza” does not appear in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, the “psychiatric Bible.”
Here’s what I found with about two minutes worth of Googling, but which isn’t referenced in the above CNN article. According to Wikipedia, “Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic is a 2001 anti-consumerist book by John de Graaf, environmental scientist David Wann, and economist Thomas H. Naylor:”
Viewing consumerism (with its accompanying overwork and dissatisfaction) as a deliberately spread disease, the book consists of three parts — symptoms, origins, and treatment. Affluenza is described as “a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more”.
The book was considered one of the eight best non-fiction books of the year by Detroit Free Press, and copies were given to every freshman by two universities. Amazon.com lists 38 books citing it. The book was highly recommended for academic and public libraries by M. Bay from Indiana University in Library Journal. The Idaho State University has focused its Book Reading Project 2007 on the book.
Naturally, the book was quickly adopted into a similarly-titled “documentary,” which aired on PBS that same year, before an even more punitive critic of capitalism really made his mark on American society on 9/11. Here’s a link to the PBS Webpage accompanying the show, which, foreshadowing the expert government coding the Obamacare Website, looks all the world like a 2001-era Geocities page:
Af-flu-en-za n. 1. The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses. 2. An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by dogged pursuit of the American Dream. 3. An unsustainable addiction to economic growth. 4. A television program that could change your life.
Affluenza is a one-hour television special that explores the high social and environmental costs of materialism and overconsumption. Here you can learn more about the show, get an Affluenza diagnosis and check out resources for treatment. Don’t miss our Teacher’s Guide, available only on this Web site.
The “diagnosis” from the network is of course the usual attempt by PBS to guilt their viewers over excessive levels of consumption, complete with shots at President Reagan and the economic revival of the 1980s. (Funny how Bill Clinton wasn’t similarly chided for presiding over the go-go ’90s.)
It was likely around that same time that Rush Limbaugh produced a parody ad, proffering his radio show as the cure for Affluenza. I wonder how many people who heard the ad, which often filled station breaks in the online version of his radio show — and may very well be still in service to this day:
(Click here for direct link to audio, if player isn’t visible.)
Jonah Goldberg once wrote that “Liberals are geniuses at unleashing social panics because A) it never occurs to them that their motives are anything but pure and B) because they are almost exclusively focused on short term tactics. And yet they are invariably shocked when these moral frenzies come back to bite them.”
If there’s any justice in this world — and there isn’t, as you’re about to see — the victims will bankrupt them with wrongful death suits. The ask right now is $20 million. Beyond that, the lesson for parents (wealthy parents, at least — the poor are screwed here, as usual) is to work hard at turning your child into the most privileged, entitled A-hole possible. If you fail and he somehow turns out to be a decent person and then ends up running someone over, well, then he might have to do time.
The far left invented the term “Affluenza” to goof on free markets and free choices of consumer consumption. They shouldn’t be too surprised an enterprising trial lawyer ran with the idea, Chewbacca Defense-style, and used it to successfully, albeit disgustingly, if the facts of the case are as CNN presents them, get his client off the hook, at least temporarily.
In his upcoming book, The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself, Glenn Reynolds looks at one possible solution to the hash that state-run schools have made of the education process and quips, “as a friend pointed out, nobody ever got shot or knocked up at online school.”
It’s true, gun violence isn’t much of a concern at online schools — by real or imagined firearms. In “Quivering in Place,” Mark Steyn spots a “schoolboy suspended for bringing an imaginary weapon to school:”
A fifth grader in Pennsylvania has been suspended for shooting an imaginary arrow at a classmate. The 10-year-old also faces possible expulsion.
The Rutherford Institute, which is defending Johnny Jones, says he was told he violated the school’s zero tolerance policy on weapons.
Little Johnny had, in fact, zero weapons, but that’s no reason for imaginary educator John Horton not to destroy the l’il tyke’s life:
Principal John Horton contacted Ms. Jones soon thereafter in order to inform her that Johnny’s behavior was a serious offense that could result in expulsion under the school’s weapons policy.
It would be interesting to fire an imaginary arrow at Principal Horton’s crotch and see whether he hops around howling in agony. But, for the students terrorized by this insanity, these stories are not funny: A man who’d do such a thing really shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near children.
The rise of “political correctness” in the late ’80s was a desperate effort by far left academia to stem the tide of a Reagan dominated decade, which makes the concept of Orwellian thought crime — usually centered around the idea of hurt “feelings” — inevitable. But can’t even brain-dead educators see how awful it looks to dispatch a fifth grader to Room 101?
In the previous post, I quoted Wired magazine founder Louis Rossetto telling Nick Gillespie of Reason, “In its death throes, the megastate is going to make a lot of mess.”
Perhaps the same could said about Big Education, as well.
Yet another attempt by our 1930s-era cargo cult administration to go Barack to the Future, as spotted by Richard Epstein at the Hoover Institute:
This past week in Washington DC, the President made a speech about the state of the economy and about his determination to reform it. But much as things change, so they remain the same. A great deal of what he said there was reminiscent of a major address he gave two years ago on economic policy before a friendly audience in Osawatomie, Kansas. The President there talked with dizzying rapidity about the lost greatness of America’s past, and his plans to restore that greatness in the future. It’s worth revisiting some of the basic themes of his speech since they obviously continue to inform his policy decisions today.
As is common in speeches that romanticize history to advocate change, Obama’s address contained an unforgivable level of jingoistic nationalism: He claimed, “It was here in America that the most productive workers, the most innovative companies turned out the best products on Earth…. Today, we’re still home to the world’s most productive workers. We’re still home to the world’s most innovative companies.”
No one, not even the United States, can be that good. In fact, our present national status will only become worse if we do not understand that the American position has eroded from its glory days, in part because of the very policies that the President champions as the solution to our issues. But where to begin? The President manages to pack so many economic and historical falsehoods into his speech that it is nearly impossible to take them all on at the same time.
“A rehash of failed progressive policies will not return the United States to greatness,” and while I was tempted to quote that last sentence and snark, “talk about breaking news from 2009,” the reason why the cycle won’t be broken anytime soon is that it’s not policy — it’s religion. Or as Derek Hunter writes at Townhall, “In Government We Trust” is most assuredly “The Progressive Religion:”
What has happened is Democrats’ previously uncheckable lies are now fully checkable. It’s real now. You can’t keep your doctor or insurance, no matter how much you like them. And this hurts in the wallet – a lot. Now that we know this does not qualify as a practical solution, certainly not to health care anyway, Democrats –with all the credibility of a used-Pinto salesman – now embrace “morality” as the reason to embrace Obamacare.
In a column reeking of desperation on par with a kid hoping for a unicorn under his Christmas tree, the Washington Post’s Ryan Cooper complied a list of reasons “Why millennials will come around on Obamacare.” Aside from a desperate lack of understanding of health policy and how people work, the second reason Cooper lists stands out. He writes, “Going without health insurance is morally wrong.”
I’ll give you a minute to let that sink in.
This pathetic attempt to manipulate the unthinking into an overwhelming sense of guilt that forces them to capitulate may work on those with fewer IQ points than fingers, but it won’t work on those with a third-grade education.
Cooper explains, “The only way insurance can work for everyone is if everyone is in the system so risk can be pooled. This one doesn’t carry much weight yet, since the system isn’t even operating. But as time passes, this will become an important norm — and for young people, the norm has outsized importance (older people already have a reason to get coverage; they get sick more easily). Getting insurance will be part of living in a decent society where everyone chips in when they can afford it, and free-riding is frowned upon — and over time, young people will come to see this as part of being a responsible citizen.”
Those 108 words are an incredibly inefficient way of rephrasing “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”
Cooper’s appeal wouldn’t be noteworthy were it a lone cactus in the desert, but it’s not.
Also this week the buffoonish Ed Schultz, MSNBC’s angry Fred Flintstone clone, mused about how God would feel about Obamacare. “I’ll tell you what I think God thinks of the Affordable Care Act. It’s a big amen!”
Not to be outdone in the office pool of idiocy, Charlie Brown’s illegitimate child, Chris Matthews, had an offering on this theme. Matthews temporarily snapped out of his loving gaze while interviewing the president Thursday and put the cherry on top of one of this planet’s worst displays of sycophantism to utter what was supposed to be a question: “You know, Mr. President, your — your remarks the other day on economic justice to me, as a Roman Catholic, was so resonant with what the Holy Father, Francis, has been saying. Talk about that common Judeo-Christian or, even further, Muslim background to the belief we have a social responsibility, a moral responsibility to look out for people who haven’t made it in this country.”
“Controversial House Democrat Alan Grayson lost $18 million as part of a criminal scheme run by a Virginia man that bilked more than 100 investors out of more than $35 million, according to federal court documents,” the Politico reports:
William Dean Chapman, 44, of Sterling, Va.,was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison on Friday. Chapman pled guilty to one count of wire fraud in May, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia, which oversaw the case.
Chapman was the founder and owner of Alexander Capital Markets. Customers would give their stock holdings to Chapman as collateral for loans. Chapman then improperly sold the stocks, despite assuring the customers that they would get back the full value of their holdings.
An unnamed elected official named “A.G.” was identified as having lost more than $18 million in what was essentially a Ponzi scheme run by Chapman.
After Chapman tried to withdraw his guilty plea at the last minute, federal prosecutors submitted a document that included Grayson’s name as part of their legal response to Chapman’s move.
“Don’t worry, Floridians. He’ll be much more careful with your money,” the American Glob quips.
Politico adds that “According to his most recent annual financial disclosure report on file with the House of Representatives, Grayson has a minimum of $22.8 million in assets, as well as at least $5 million in liabilities,” Based on the Politico article, I’m not sure if the net worth they quote is before or after losing $18 mil in a Ponzi scheme. In any case, just a reminder that being a raving and drooling anti-capitalist can be exceedingly beneficial to one’s net worth.
And Grayson reportedly being duped by a Ponzi scheme is very reminiscent of the reports of Bernie Madoff’s victims, many of whom were fellow elitist far left Obama supporters — and the president himself has much in common with Madoff:
Mr. Madoff, like Mr. Obama, only took money from rich people, fat cats, millionaires, evil private jet owners, those that can afford to get bilked. Both have account minimums, a status symbol used to create the illusion that only the select elite will be allowed to participate. In Obama’s case, it seems to be around $250,000 (for a couple, but only $125,000 for an individual filer) Madoff’s, reportedly, was a cool million.
Obama and Madoff both like to hob-knob with the rich, famous, and influential of society, maintaining social networks that would put Donald Trump to shame. Their legendary early results spread like a virus among the privileged few.
Madoff devastated charities that had trusted him for his legendary investment prowess. President Obama will devastate charities with his proposal to vanish charitable tax deductions for the well-healed.
The major difference? One is behind bars, and one is still actively employed, planning new types of schemes to solve such “perceived” problems as global warming and economic inequality. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Madoff and Obama both held prestigious positions, enhancing their credibility prior to their meteoric rise to power. Madoff was the head of the NASDAQ (now FINRA), Obama was a junior senator from the squeaky-clean State of Illinois. Everyone knows that if you can’t trust a Chicago politician, who can you trust?
That’s the burning question, isn’t it?
— Dave Levinthal (@davelevinthal) October 22, 2013
It is the second time the congressman has been the victim of a fraudulent investment scheme: He won $34 million after suing Derivium Capital, a company running pretty much the same scheme as Chapman. Grayson told the AP he invested with Chapman before he invested with Derivium, and hence he did not yet have any reason to view the investment as suspect.
How do you stumble into a Ponzi scheme twice?
“Chevy Volt doesn’t make 2014 list of fuel economy leaders,” the Washington Examiner reports:
The Department of Energy released its 2014 fuel economy guide, complete with a list of fuel economy leaders, and yet again, the Volt didn’t make the list.
In fact, the Volt — a compact car — doesn’t even perform as well by most metrics as some midsize plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, according to the guide.
The Volt gets 37 combined mpg (35 mpg city, 40 mpg highway) using premium gasoline. That’s better than most non plug-in vehicles, for sure. But compare that to the Honda Accord plug-in hybrid, which gets 46 combined miles on gasoline — with no mention of it being premium — and 47 mpg in the city and 46 mpg on the highway. Or the Toyota Prius, which gets 50 mpg combined (51 mpg city, 49 mpg highway).
With a starting price of $34,185 (before the $7,500 tax credit, $26,685 if you get the full credit), the Volt isn’t exactly cheap. Compare that to the Prius, which outperforms the Volt on most measures and has a starting price of $29,990 before the tax credit.
The Volt has a range of 344 miles with premium gasoline. Compared to the Ford Fusion plug-in (602 miles with regular gasoline), the Accord plug-in (561 miles with regular gasoline) and the Prius (530 miles with regular gasoline), and the Volt falls further behind.
Perhaps the Government Motors vehicle simply isn’t as hot as it seemed when it was first envisioned — on the other hand, it can on occasion, get too hot for the wrong reasons. If so, here’s news you can use from car blog, Jalopnik: “What To Do When Your Electric Car Catches On Fire: An Explainer.”
On the other hand, perhaps this California proposal might light up Chevy Volts — or at least their sales:
One longtime critic of federal transportation spending once concluded that it would be less expensive for the government to buy every new transit rider a Jaguar XJ8 than it would be to build certain new rail systems. Unfortunately, California officials may not have realized that the idea of buying people new cars wasn’t a serious proposal as much as a way to illustrate a point about excessive spending.
The California Air Resources Board is now embarking on a program that would help poor people buy energy-efficient vehicles. In one scenario posed by the agency, a “voucher” might even pay the full price for a Nissan Leaf, an electric car with an MSRP above $21,000, or for used cars with lower price tags.
Perhaps the state could even design a low-cost “people’s car” for the masses…
While the Onion once goofed on the “Insidious Worm [that] Makes Unauthorized Purchases When Computer User Is Drunk,” (a parody that anticipated the 2011 Anthony Weiner sexting scandal by a year), one late night Internet vice for me is to occasionally hit Google maps and check out the photos of my haunts growing up in South Jersey. Unfortunately, from time to time, the warm glow of nostalgia can transform itself into bad news – the other night, I discovered that Burlington’s Café Gallery restaurant closed late last month after a three decade run.
The restaurant took its name, and its concept, from having fine art from local painters (which could be purchased, of course) alongside its tables. And via its huge expanses of plate glass, offered diners an expansive view of the Delaware River. When my parents owned their retail store from 1977 through the late 1980s, they typically put in 13 hour days from Monday through Saturday, and then went out to dinner on Sunday night, alternating between several upscale local restaurants. Some of the fondest memories I have of dining at Café Gallery on Sunday nights was during the period in the late 1980s, I attended NYU; afterwards, my parents would drive me to the Clinton Ave. railroad station in Trenton, and I’d take Amtrak to Penn Station in New York to begin another week at NYU.
After I moved to California, and flew back to New Jersey several times a year starting in the late 1990s to visit my parents, Café Gallery served two purposes: Since it was only a few minutes from my parents’ home, Nina and I would often drive my parents there for dinner, until my father died in 2006, and I would have a certain amount of fun ordering something like escargot, just to get a rise out of my mom. (Snails? Yuck!) And when we needed to play hooky from visiting my parents, Nina and I would go there solo for a more relaxing meal.
In retrospect, the restaurant’s slightly steep entry steps from the sidewalk to its front door served as a marker for my parents’ aging – each time we went, it was always a little tougher for them to climb. In late 2011, when we last went there with my mother, then age 87, she climbed those steps exceedingly slowly and ponderously; not surprisingly, it was a fall down a short flight of steps from her living room to the garage that led to her being placed into hospice care in February of last year. And during that grim period, Nina and I had a few dinners there to collect our thoughts and take a welcome break for the horrors each day brought.
No links for such attention whoring, but you if you’d like to see what the modicum of fuss is about, click over to the Daily Caller’s Betsy Rothstein as she checks out “The Grey Lady’s Nip Slip,” complete with (slightly NSFW) photo:
You’d think these things would be reserved for HuffPost’s sideboob section or even a Daily Caller slideshow.
But no, this is The New York Times just a few days before Thanksgiving. There are other ways to depict the delicate subject matter of breast-cancer screening than boob shots in the world’s most respected newspaper, right?
And — unexpectedly! — the Times is reduced to pretending that it was all ever-so “unintentional:”
The above-the-fold front-page photo, by Israeli photographer Rina Castelnuovo, accompanies a story about Israeli women grappling with one of the world’s highest rates of breast cancer. It shows a woman’s torso replete with a Star of David tattoo, a lumpectomy scar, and, yes, a bit of areola…
Castelnuovo tells Daily Intelligencer that she didn’t set out to be provocative. “It was an unplanned moment,” she told us in an e-mail. “I was taking the young woman’s portrait and we were chatting about her cancer and the scars.” The inclusion of the areola, she said, was “not intentional.”
In precisely the same way that Martin Bashir’s scatology festival last week was an unplanned moment for NBC’s subsidiary network — which just happened to be pre-scripted and loaded into the teleprompter for their anchor to read. The Times’ front page is one of the most heavily edited and controlled news environments on the planet; nothing gets there by accident. Today’s train wreck was simply the Times‘ effort at recreating the controversy that Time-Warner-CNN-HBO hoped to build last year with Time magazine’s goofy breastfeeding cover — a desperate plea for attention by an ancient publication increasingly approaching irrelevance.
Cross-posted from Ed Driscoll’s blog
Britain, then: Lawrence of Arabia remakes the desert battlefield.
Britain, now? It’s raining “men deserts.”
“The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) reports that an increasing number of British children are growing up with hardly any male influence,” the Call Me Stormy Weblog notes. “In some areas, the problem has reached such high levels that they have been tabbed ‘men deserts,’ according to the report,” which aired on Britain’s Sky News channel:
Theodore Dalrymple and Peter Hitchens, call your office, as your writings over a decade ago on the collapse of British culture are yet again confirmed. Though am I the only one who cringes whenever the word “desert” is referenced outside of the aforementioned Lawrence of Arabia or other uses that involve large quantities of sand?
Would a news organization illustrate a story about female reproduction with an equivalent photo of a woman? http://t.co/gfdf1knxUA
— James Taranto (@jamestaranto) November 24, 2013
Bobby Parker was really only known for one song — but what a song. The guitar riff from 1961′s “Watch Your Step” was copied by the Beatles for “I Feel Fine,” and Jimmy Page for the intro and outro of “Moby Dick,” John Bonham’s drum solo on Led Zeppelin II and most of their live shows throughout the 1970s — and by lots of other British groups, including Deep Purple on a song called “Rat Bat Blue.”
Unfortunately, Parker, who died earlier this month at age 76, was virtually unknown to much of the American public:
Blues rock guitarist Bobby Parker, best known for his 1961 track Watch Your Step and credited as “the only musician the Beatles admitted to stealing from” has died at the age of 76, it’s been reported.
Bassist Anthony B Rucker, who often collaborated often with the pioneering artist, confirmed the news, saying: “It is with a heavy heart I thank you, Bobby, for all that you have done for me. I’m so glad I had one last chance to play with you a couple of weeks ago. See ya on the other side.”
Born in Louisiana and raised in Los Angeles, Robert Lee Parker’s first professional gig was with Otis Williams and the Charms in the 1950s, followed by stints with Bo Diddley, Sam Cooke, Chuck Berry and Little Richard.
Watch Your Step inspired the Beatles’ song I Feel Fine, with John Lennon once saying they’d used the riff “in various forms” throughout their career. Led Zeppelin made use of it in Moby Dick. The track was also covered by the Spencer Davis Group, Dr Feelgood and Carlos Santana, who once said: “Bobby inspired me to play guitar – he’s one of the few remaining guitarists who can pierce your heart and soothe your soul.”
In 2008 Parker reflected: “Watch Your Step was a culmination of blues rock guitar that nobody else had ever thought of. Mine was first. The United States was engulfed by Motown, but the whole world knew when I recorded Watch Your Step that I broke the brick wall of the sameness of Motown.”
In related news from the world of rock, Bo Diddley, who passed away at age 79 in 2008, proffers helpful tips for a long and successful life as a touring musician.
The New York Times brings you this great moment in responsible journalism. A warehouse owner in Queens repaints his own building to eliminate the layers of graffiti that had accumulated over the years. Naturally, the Times sides with the vandals:
The owner of a building in Queens used a crew of painters to work overnight and paint over graffiti on a warehouse in Long Island City, wiping clean a canvas that was used by thousands of artists over the years to transform an otherwise nondescript, abandoned brick building in a working-class neighbourhood into 5Pointz, a mecca for street artists from around the world. By morning, the work of some 1,500 artists had been wiped clean, the Brobdingnagian bubble letters and the colourful cartoons spray painted on the building’s brick walls all covered in a fresh coat of white paint. “We are supposed to be the vandals, but this is the biggest rag and disrespect in the history of graffiti,” said Marie Cecile Flageul, an unofficial curator for 5Pointz.
Blogger David Thompson, the author of the brilliant headline quoted above and the italicized portion of the Times article in block quote adds, “The moral of the story, gentlemen, is buy your own canvas.” One of his commentators notes another moral aspect to the story:
And it’s worth noting where the New York Times’ sympathy seems to lie. I suspect that anyone who’s had to repair their property after a visit from graffiti “artists” might take a less charitable view. Unless of course we’re supposed to believe that of the 1,500 sprayers and their various sobbing cheerleaders not one has ever sprayed someone else’s property, and that championing graffiti as an edgy art form doesn’t encourage more of it?
At an L.A. museum exhibit promoting the “artistic” “joys” of graffiti in 2011, City Journal’s Heather Mac Donald was ordered not to add a few additions of her own by the museum’s security guards. Similarly, it would be a fascinating thought experiment — and this is NOT an attempt to encourage such an effort — to find out how the Times would respond if someone fired up a can of Krylon on the walls of 620 8th Avenue.
But shed no tears, Gray Lady. With far left incoming mayor Bill de Blasio taking office in January, it’s only a matter of time before downtown Manhattan will once again have more graffiti than it knows what to do with.
And neither will you.
The other night I fast-forwarded through Logan’s Run on Amazon Prime. I’ve always enjoyed the film’s futuristic production design, not to mention sexy Jenny Agutter in her skimpy costumes, or the lack thereof. The film now has the added bonus of looking charmingly mid-‘70s retro, or “Zeerust,” at the folks at TV Tropes.org call this phenomenon. (They also have a page specifically devoted to Logan’s Run itself.)
But when watching most recently, I noticed a detail in the scene in which Agutter’s character makes her debut, the ramifications of which I had never paid attention to before:
First the guy whom Logan rejects, and then Agutter’s Jessica 6 character beam into Logan’s apartment. Which means that the domed city has a teleportation system, ala Star Trek’s transporter device. And presumably, it’s built into everyone’s apartment inside the film’s domed city. And given what it’s being used for (so that before calling it a night, Logan can unholster his blaster, IYKWIMAITYD), it’s so safe, readily accessible and easy to use, it’s the equivalent of today’s hot chat party lines, which are advertised on late-night TV reruns.
So if all of that is true, why on earth do they need the little domed two-person cars that shoot between the buildings through Plexiglas tubes, sort of like the monorail going through the Disneyworld hotel crossed with a bank’s pneumatic drive-through cylinder?
They. Have. Perfected. Teleportation.
MSNBC hired Baldwin knowing he was already guilty of hurling anti-gay hate speech at a reporter. Back in June, Baldwin not only used his Twitter account to hurl anti-gay slurs, he threatened the reporter and called on his Twitter followers to “straighten out this f**king little bitch.”
Almost all of the mainstream media gave Baldwin a total pass for his reprehensible behavior last June. In fact, afterwards he won a weekly show on MSNBC (which is currently collapsing in the ratings).
Maybe the media was exhausted after destroying cooking guru Paula Deen over something she said thirty years ago.
Nolte refers to Baldwin as an “actor,” but as I mentioned back in August, when the idea for Baldwin’s show was initially floated by NBC, if the former actor is going to host a talk show for NBC, then he’s now in the same profession as the photographers he loves to threaten and hurl abuse at — they’re both working journalists attempting to gather news and information and present them to the public. And why NBC would sanction any of their employees to behave in such a fashion is a curious double-standard — almost as big a double-standard as contractually allowing Al Sharpton to remain an activist while also playing the role of NBC anchorman.
Between’s Al Sharpton’s history of rabble-rousing, fabulism, and anti-Semitism, Baldwin’s hair-trigger homophobia, and the number of microphones Ed Schultz must ruin each week with his spittle-flecked invective, keeping a safe distance from all of NBC’s toxic anchors seems like rather sound advice these days — perhaps for members of both parties.
To my shame, and against my principles, I have occasionally agreed to appear on television, though even less frequently than I have been asked. I have found those who work for TV broadcasting companies to be the most disagreeable people that I have ever encountered. I far preferred the criminals whom I encountered in my work as a prison doctor, who were more honest and upright than TV people.
— Theodore Dalrymple, ‘Television is an Evil,” November 3rd, 2013.
According to Oxford University research psychologist Kevin Dutton, TV/media ranks among the top three professions with the most psychopathic personalities employed.
When you hear the word “psychopath,” you likely think of Norman Bates, Patrick Bateman or horror films, but it has a real definition: “Psychopathy is a personality disorder that has been variously described as characterized by shallow emotions (in particular reduced fear), stress tolerance, lacking empathy, coldheartedness, lacking guilt, egocentricity, superficial character, manipulativeness, irresponsibility, impulsivity, and antisocial behaviors such as parasitic lifestyle and criminality.”
With that in mind, TV/media apparently ranks #3 among Dutton’s top 10 professions containing the most psychopathic personalities:
— “TV/Media Ranks Among Top 3 Professions with Most Psychopathic Personalities,” headline, Mediaite, November 8th.
If you’re thinking about buying Season Six of Mad Men on DVD or Blu-Ray, and haven’t made your purchase, let my mistake weigh into your decision. I ordered my copy from Amazon without checking the bonus features, simply assuming that there would be commentary from producer Matthew Weiner, and others from the show, from both behind and in front of the cameras, because that had been the case on the DVDs for all five of the show’s previous seasons. And considering how chaotic this season has been, separate and apart from this past year being set in the chaos and horror of America in 1968, I was definitely looking forward to hearing what Weiner and others on the show were thinking with some of their creative choices.
As you may have surmised by now, no such luck. This is the first season of Mad Men to be issued on disc with no commentary whatsoever, with the exception of a couple of meager bonus features. A disc review site called We Got This Covered adds:
AMC and Lionsgate, in this week’s Blu-Ray release of the show’s sixth season, seem to have inexplicably given in to the diminishing levels of hype. Past Mad Men Blu-Ray and DVD releases were events, arriving with creative packaging (remember the cigarette-lighter case from Season One?), packed to the gills with extras (including one or more audio commentaries per episode), and delivering some of the very best audio and visual presentations available on the Blu-Ray format, for television or for film. Season Six, on the other hand, lands on Blu-Ray with an abject whimper, maintaining the same level of A/V perfection, but without any of the fantastic extra content that previously made these home video packages such an enticing proposition. There are no audio commentaries whatsoever. Nowhere on the set can viewers hear from a single member of the cast, nor from creator Matthew Weiner, nor from any of the show’s other writers and directors. At most, there is a conversation with the Production Designers and Art Directors, but that piece happens to be shockingly poorly produced.
In short, where Mad Men itself keeps upping its creative game year in and year out, AMC and Lionsgate have dumped it on to Blu-Ray with only a modicum of effort. As a result, this is the first time a Mad Men season has not been an immediate must-buy on home video, not because of the quality of the show itself, but because AMC and Lionsgate have chosen to do wrong by the fans.
Perhaps AMC and Lionsgate can make amends by issuing free downloadable commentaries, Rifftrax-style, to accompany the discs. As the above review notes, the picture quality is excellent, arguably sharper than the shows looked when aired on AMC HD on DirecTV. But given that they’ll likely be issued in streaming format on Netflix in a couple of months, I definitely feel cheated buying these discs without commentary tracks. If you were looking forward to hearing these as well, buyer beware.
Now is the time when we juxtapose, Small Dead Animals-style:
Upon learning in 1928 of T. S. Eliot’s conversion to Christianity, Virginia Woolf wrote to her sister:
I have had a most shameful and distressing interview with poor dear Tom Eliot, who may be called dead to us all from this day forward. He has become an Anglo-Catholic, believes in God and immortality, and goes to church. I was really shocked. A corpse would seem to me more credible than he is. I mean, there’s something obscene in a living person sitting by the fire and believing in God.
Flash-forward to the present day:
Orson Scott Card is monstrously homophobic; he’s racist; he advocates violence and lobbies against fundamental human rights and equates criticism of those stances with his own hate speech.
I would never, ever suggest that a student seek out his advice. I will not pay to see Ender’s Game; I will never buy another copy.
…Card is a monster who helped me learn to write, an author of hateful screed whose novels taught lonely, angry kids compassion and gave them their first sense of home. None of those things makes the others go away.
—Rachel Edidin, “Orson Scott Card: Mentor, Friend, Bigot,” Wired magazine.
“Lou Reed, Velvet Underground Leader and Rock Pioneer, Dead at 71,” Rolling Stone reports:
Lou Reed, a massively influential songwriter and guitarist who helped shape nearly fifty years of rock music, died today. The cause of his death has not yet been released, but Reed underwent a liver transplant in May.
With the Velvet Underground in the late Sixties, Reed fused street-level urgency with elements of European avant-garde music, marrying beauty and noise, while bringing a whole new lyrical honesty to rock & roll poetry. As a restlessly inventive solo artist, from the Seventies into the 2010s, he was chameleonic, thorny and unpredictable, challenging his fans at every turn. Glam, punk and alternative rock are all unthinkable without his revelatory example. “One chord is fine,” he once said, alluding to his bare-bones guitar style. “Two chords are pushing it. Three chords and you’re into jazz.”
On the other hand, Lou was smart enough to hire Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter to play on the 1973 tour that led to his brilliant Rock and Roll and Animal live album, and Wagner and Hunter could play. Their opening to Lou’s Velvet-era “Sweet Jane” is a brilliant piece of musicianship:
“Barack Obama is a Fabian socialist. I should know; I was raised by one,” Jerry Bowyer wrote at Forbes in a piece that was published on the day before the presidential election in 2008:
My Grandfather worked as a union machinist for Ingersoll Rand during the day. In the evenings he tended bar and read books. After his funeral, I went back home and started working my way through his library, starting with T.W. Arnold’s The Folklore of Capitalism. This was my introduction to the Fabian socialists.
Fabians believed in gradual nationalization of the economy through manipulation of the democratic process. Breaking away from the violent revolutionary socialists of their day, they thought that the only real way to effect “fundamental change” and “social justice” was through a mass movement of the working classes presided over by intellectual and cultural elites. Before TV it was stage plays, written by George Bernard Shaw and thousands of inferior “realist” playwrights dedicated to social change. John Cusack’s character in Woody Allen’s “Bullets Over Broadway” captures the movement rather well.
Arnold taught me to question everyone–my president, my priest and my parents. Well, almost everyone. I wasn’t supposed to question the Fabian intellectuals themselves. That’s the Fabian MO, relentless cultural and journalistic attacks on everything that is, and then a hard pitch for the hope of what might be.
That’s Obama’s world.
He’s telling the truth when he says that he doesn’t agree with Bill Ayers’ violent bombing tactics, but it’s a tactical disagreement. Why use dynamite when mass media and community organizing work so much better? Who needs Molotov when you’ve got Saul Alinski?
So here is the playbook: The left will identify, freeze, personalize and polarize an industry, probably health care. It will attempt to nationalize one-fifth of the U.S. economy through legislative action. They will focus, as Lenin did, on the “commanding heights” of the economy, not the little guy.
Read the whole thing; it was astonishingly prescient stuff. “You’ve heard of the bully pulpit, right? Well, then get ready, because you’re about to see the bully part,” Bowyer concluded.
But then, as Bowyer noted at the beginning of his article, we had seen it all before.
Past performance is no guarantee of future results:
“I think that no matter what you would propose they would go against it because their determination was to destroy this person,” Redford said of the “minority faction” in Washington versus President Obama.
“Well, I think whatever idea I would have had to make things work just wouldn’t have been accepted by this minority faction,” Redford responded when asked by CNN’s Nischelle Turner for his “advice” for Democrats and Republicans to work together. “They wanted, if it meant destroying the government, anything to keep him [Obama] from succeeding.”
— Robert Redford today on CNN.
George Stephanopoulos was so enthusiastic towards Robert Redford and his sympathetic new film about an ex-1960s radical that the actor enthused, “You ought to get on the marketing team!” The aging actor/director appeared on Tuesday’s Good Morning America and endorsed the violent actions of protest groups. Reminiscing on his own past, the liberal Hollywood star recounted, “When I was younger, I was very much aware of the movement. I was more than sympathetic, I was probably empathetic because I believed it was time for a change.”R
After Stephanopoulos wondered, “Even when you read about bombings,” Redford responded, “All of it. I knew that it was extreme and I guess movements have to be extreme to some degree.
— Robert Redford in April, promoting his recent pro-terrorism film The Company You Keep, with ex-Bill Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America.
Robert Redford was in Havana last month, not to score cigars but to screen his The Motorcycle Diaries for Cuban President Fidel Castro. The Motorcycle Diaries, which Redford produced, is based on the diaries Guevara wrote on a nine-month motorcycle trip through South America in 1952. Directed by Brazilian Walter Salles, it stars Gael Garcia Bernal (who moviegoers will remember from Y Tu Mama Tambien).
Guevara’s widow, Aleida March, attended the screening along with Guevara’s son and two daughters. The movie had its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January, where it received a standing ovation.
— The Baltimore Sun, March 7, 2004.
We think of William Randolph Hearst and the fictional Charles Foster Kane as media tycoons encasing themselves in living mausoleums as old men, but Johnny Carson was basically entombed the minute he was hired by NBC to replace Jack Parr as the host of the Tonight Show, except that we were invited to tune in and watch every night. As an audience, particularly during the blow-dried bell-bottom polyester lacuna of the 1970s, we were lucky Johnny was as cool as he was, a byproduct of the early 1960s Sinatra, JFK, Miles, Steve McQueen definition of cool, not the Brando/Fonzie primitive angry young greaser definition of the word. When Marshall McLuhan defined television as a cool medium in the mid-1960s, Johnny personified it – both cool and television. Especially the latter half of the equation.
Or as Kenneth Tynan wrote in his epic 22,000-word(!) 1978 New Yorker profile of Johnny Carson, “I once asked a bright young Manhattan journalist whether he could define in a single word what made television different from theatre or cinema. ‘For good or ill,” he said, ‘Carson.’”
But all transactions involve tradeoffs. While Johnny’s net worth soared as the most popular man on the most popular medium of the mid-20th century, Johnny paid a terrible personal price himself.
In her post yesterday on the new biography of Carson by Henry “Bombastic” Bushkin, his former business advisor and close friend, Kathy Shaidle mentions “Carson’s cool-warmth — that charming-yet-menacing mien — was always obvious to me, and I say that as an admirer of his abilities.”
Kathy mentions Carson and Bob Crane as defining the “cool-warm” personality, but wasn’t the grandfather of ”cool-warmth” Bing Crosby? Crosby displayed amiable warmth on the big screen, adopted a style of singing that let the microphone do the work, a much cooler style — though the word hadn’t been invented yet — than any other singer during the 1920s or ’30s, and in the process, became an international superstar who would go on to master live performing, records, radio, movies, and later, television, both as an actor and producer. (Bob Crane became famous on Hogan’s Heroes, a Bing Crosby production.) While not a macho figure, or a suave sophisticate like Cary Grant, Crosby lived out the cliche that “women wanted him and men wanted to be like him” — heaven knows my dad did — and yet, offscreen, Crosby was, according to his sons, the male equivalent of Joan Crawford in Mommy Dearest.
“Society will develop a new kind of servitude which covers the surface of society with a network of complicated rules, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate. It does not tyrannise but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.”
― Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1959).