Thursday, April 30, 2009

Following Up

Master of Muppets.

Best comment: "Yea, this video is an insult to Animal...he's a million times better than Lars Ulrich.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


From the Wall Street Journal article on Obama's big investigation into Monday's boneheaded photo shoot over New York harbor:

Despite the cost of an Air Force One flight, both White House and Air Force officials said the flyover also served as a routine training mission, allowing the 747's pilots to log sufficient flight hours.

"The crew on these aircraft have to maintain their proficiency," said Gary Strasburg, an Air Force spokesman.

Wow.  I mean, just, wow.  

That has to be the most ridiculous justification I can imagine for this stupid stunt.  I cannot even begin to think what proficiency requirements call for dicking around in a 747 at 1,500 feet over New York harbor.  There are certainly none that I have seen.

I fly through that airspace all the time (with a clearance from Newark Tower) and you just never see big jets at that altitude in that area.  This is the kind of thing that PR hacks throw out because they know that very few people know enough to challenge them.  I am flabbergasted.

Passed Down Through The Years

A few weeks ago, I saw a documentary called "Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills."  It was a pretty frightening documentary about the prosecution of three teenagers for the grisly murders of three small children in West Memphis, Arkansas.  It was made for HBO in 1996, but if you haven't seen it, I recommend it.

One of the central issues in the film and the trial is the fact that the three boys love Metallica and were generally somewhat alienated teenage boys.  They wore a lot of black t-shirts and jeans and one of them sported a black trench coat, although the events in the film pre-date the Columbine Massacre so there was no baggage attached to that item of clothing yet.  The soundtrack to the film features two Metallica songs, "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" and "Orion."

I confess I have never listened to Metallica.  I remember my cousin Mike wearing a Master of Puppets t-shirt at Thanksgiving in 1987, which caused some consternation among the adults.  After college, I remember the video on MTV for "One," but I was not a big fan of thrash and I remember being pretty annoyed by "Nothing Else Matters" and "Enter Sandman" playing every ten seconds a few years later.

At any rate, I decided to check out Master of Puppets after seeing the film and I've got to say it's a great record, particularly "Battery" and "Disposable Heroes."  So, I've been listening to it quite a bit on my runs.  (This year's planned event is a marathon, Philly or New York, something I've been meaning to scratch of the "To Do" list for years now.)  

Kirk Hammett's guitar playing has some very impressive moments on the record, although I confess that I find most metal solos pretty boring.  Still, he manages to put some fresh ideas into his playing and there was a moment in "Welcome Home (Sanatarium)" that brought huge smile to my face.  It's impossible to know, but I am virtually certain that Hammett is quoting the end of Steve Hackett's guitar solo from "The Knife" on Genesis Live.  The quote happens at 2:25 of the Metallica song.

I recognize the phrase because (a) I always thought it was a very cool lick and (b) I quoted it myself on the Moneyshot song "Bliss" in 2000.  If I'm right, I think it's hilarious that this thing pops up in the most unusual places.  I'd love to ask Kirk Hammett if that's where he got the lick.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Swine Flu - What You Can Do To Stay Safe

From reader Grubzilla:

1) Wash your hands frequently
2) If you feel sick, work from home and talk to a doctor
3) Don't let your kids do this until the outbreak is over:

Play safe and stay safe.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Back in the Saddle Again

Fell off the radar for a while there in a flurry of activity and some travel.  I had been hoping to post on some of the things I'd been doing, but it's started to pile up so much that I don't know if I'm going to be able to do a post for everything.  So, here's the summary of Misanthropic activity

1) Trip to Chicago - Went there for a friend's 40th birthday and I was just blown away.  Chicago is an amazing city with an incredible architectural heritage.  I spent a blissful (if cold) Sunday afternoon walking around and enjoying the magnificent early skyscrapers.  A truly remarkable place and, being a native New Yorker, I am a world-class snob when it comes to cities.  Not too many memories of the evenings there, however, as the weekend was incredibly gin-soaked.

2) Trip to New Orleans - More a of mixed feeling towards NOLA.  The French Quarter is just a horrific frat-boy cesspit and if I never have to spend any time there again I will not be sad.  That being said, the warehouse district had some insanely good restaurants and our Saturday afternoon in a beer garden in the Garden District with a table covered with newspaper and freshly cooked crawdads was probably the highlight of 2009 so far.  Also, casinos are consistently the most depressing places I have ever been.

3) Jazz - Lost a little steam on the jazz guitar front as work got very busy, but suddenly regained the desire in the last few weeks and had a simultaneous breakthrough.  I had been frustrated that it was all sounding a bit "Ramada Inn Lounge," but my teacher gave me some great harmonic tools and things have started to get better.  Also, I've come to realize that my tastes in jazz fall more on the Bill Evans side of the line (if there is one).  Jazz is kind of like a mash-up between the swing and soul of the blues and the complexity and harmonic breadth of modern classical music.  The blues never really moved me, but the gorgeous, harmonically rich playing of guys like Evans really reaches me.  Also, I've discovered how much I love Thelonious Monk.  The poor Scottish Lass is getting tired of hearing me whistle his tunes all day.  If any bassists, drummers or piano players are interested in getting together to explore some standards, give me a shout.

4) Trip to North Carolina - I went to visit my older, nicer brother (ONB) and my awesome nephews.  I flew myself down and back, which was an adventure.  On the trip down, I climbed into the clouds about 30 seconds after takeoff and didn't see anything but grey for four hours until I descended into the Salisbury airport.  ONB and I took the two oldest nephews to Raleigh to see their first NHL hockey game and, much more importantly, their first New York Rangers game.  It was pretty weird watching professional hockey in North Carolina.  The fans were incredibly quiet throughout.  I tried to get things going by screaming "Potvin Sucks!" a few times, but the only people who got riled up were fellow New Yorkers.  I refrained from "Buy a Porsche Hextall" out of respect for the little ones.  On the drive to and from the arena, we listened to Iron Maiden and Led Zeppelin on my oldest nephew's iPod.  The torch is passed and the cycle begins anew.  Also, the fingers on my left hand almost went numb from playing Rock Band for hours.

On the way back, I had a somewhat frightening but also educational experience.  It was the day after a huge storm had moved through the mid-Atlantic states.  I was flying northeast, towards Richmond, at 7,000 feet.  I started to notice that I was pitching the plane up and losing airspeed to maintain altitude.  Soon, I was adding power and was pitching up nearly 10 degrees just to hold altitude.  I was considering declaring an emergency and finding a nearby airport at which to land because I was convinced that I was on the cusp of engine failure.  It was then that I heard pilots around the region reporting to ATC that they were experiencing significant downdrafts and having the same problems maintaining altitude.  The was an enormous low over New Jersey and it was sucking all the air around it into the center, like a drain.  At Richmond, I was at the edge of it.  This continued for a while, but it eventually stopped around Delaware.  On the flip side, I would sometimes experience huge updrafts that had me 4 degrees nose down with the power reduced and still doing 170 knots of groundspeed (incredible for a Cessna 182).  It was a hairy trip.  Around Cape May, ATC forced me to descend (I was on an IFR flight plan) and I flew the last hour of the trip at 5,000 - right in the middle of a craptacular layer of clouds.  I love flying, but I was getting tossed around in there and I couldn't wait to get on the ground.  When I got home, I poured myself a generous 11:45 in the morning.

4) Obama/Geithner/Etc. - Don't even get me started.  Just have a look at this (from noted right-wing nutjob front The Washington Post) and tell me that you think this a "New Era of Responsibility."  I'm sure our kids will thank us for the unbelievable level of debt Obama intends to saddle them with.  Hopey Changemas!  Also, is it just me or can you almost hear Chavez, Castro and Ahmadinejad chortling silently as they listen to Obama play nice and expect them to give him something for it.  Welcome Back, Carter. [BONUS: Can you really believe that the Swine Flu has returned for the Second Coming of Carter?  It's just too wonderful a coincidence to go unremarked.]

5) MagDog - The chemo was not working, so it was looking like the time had come for the last ditch approach - radiation.  We went to the vet and they did a scan to see what they could do.  The problem with radiation is, of course, the damage to surrounding tissue.  Things are more precise these days, but the larger the tumor, the greater the potential for damage.  So, it was looking bleak and I was getting prepared for the worst.  The vet suggested a surgery to debulk the tumor would increase the chances at efficient tumor kill from radiation and also reduce the exposure of healthy tissue to side effect.  After consultation, the surgeon told me that they could do a minimally invasive procedure to remove some of the tumor, although there appeared to be parts of the tumor that were not treatable with surgery.  We went forward.  In an amazing turn of events, the surgeon reported that when she got into the chest cavity, the tumor was only attached to the pericardium by a tiny, 1 cm stalk.  As a result, we was able to simply cut it off at the base and remove 95% of the mass.  This isn't a cure, by any stretch, but it does greatly improve the odds for successful radiation treatment.  Keep your fingers crossed that we can drive that final bit into remission.  Thankfully, MagDog is otherwise totally healthy with perfectly normal heart and lung function.

6) Summer - I'm planning to decamp to the beach for the summer starting just before Memorial Day.  

7) Netflix recommendations:
a) Summer Heights High - Dark humor like the UK version of The Office.  Helps to have a woman who lived in Australia for 10 years at your side when watching for some translation
b) The Staircase - Documentary on a North Carolina murder trial.  It will shake you.
c) Murder on a Sunday Morning - Documentary on a Florida murder trial.  Also riveting.

8) My Bizarre Obsession with Ghost Hunters - On the fateful weekend when Scottish Lass broke her ankle, she and I were sitting in the hotel room and we stumbled upon a very creepy show about a group of "paranormal" investigators at an abandoned mining camp in the West.  We thought this was "Ghost Hunters" and it scared the bejesus out of us, so we put some Ghost Hunters DVDs in our Netflix queue.  It turns out that the show we saw was something different (it was actually "Ghost Adventures") because it was nothing like the Sci-Fi Network show, but that didn't stop me from developing a slightly deranged love of Ghost Hunters.  Now, I should be clear that (a) I think the show is just entertainment although (b) I did have an apartment in New York years back that seemed to have a ghost.  What I love about the show, however, is the incredible earnestness with which the TAPS team says things like, "One of the theories is that an entity, when it wants to manifest, has to draw energy from the surrounding atmosphere."  Ah yes.  I believe that theory came out of the pioneering work of Max Planck?  Or was it Rutherford at Cambridge?  So much science.

And that's the appeal of the show.  The team, to their credit, does tend to find perfectly natural explanations for all manner of phenomena.  But their skepticism founders when they start talking about "science."  They use some of the equipment and terminology of science, but they have no idea what most of it means or what it is used for.  It reminds me of the opening allegory in "After Virtue," by Alisdair MacIntyre, where he posits a post-science world where men are trying to re-create science without fully understanding the original meaning and intent of the terms.  And yet, I cannot stop watching the show.  Scottish Lass is getting concerned because I spend so much time laughing at the "reasoning" in Ghost Hunters, but the show is both so good-natured and hilariously earnest that I have come to feel real affection for the guys on the team.  (Not Brian, though, he's just a jerk.)

So, that's the update.