Wednesday, December 31, 2008

David's Favorite Things of 2008

A Mixed Meters tradition now in its third year. Read about 2007 & 2006. Remember, this is not about what was new in 2008, only about what was new TO ME.

1. The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon. First time in my life I've ever finished a novel and immediately flipped back to page one to read it again, cover to cover. An elegantly written, noirish alternate-history murder mystery about a loser Jewish police detective named Meyer Landsman whose supervisor is his ex-wife. (I'd like to start the rumor that Meyer will be played by Mel Gibson in the projected Coen Brothers movie.)

Chinese Garden Medallian - Huntington Gardens
2. The Zappa Album by Ensemble Ambrosius. Yes, a CD of music by Frank Zappa performed by an early music ensemble. Seven Finnish musicians who get the coveted "thinking outside the box" award for this one. Released in 2000 after Frank's death. Try to imagine him saying "The lute needs to be louder to balance the oboe da caccia."

Battered Nissan Hubcap
3. Keybreeze. A free computer utility that will make Windows more friendly to 10-fingered users. If you're a good typist and are lumbered with a Bill Gates' OS, stop reading this post now and go install Keybreeze.

Red Eye Reduction - Target logo
4. Bodum Double-Walled Insulated Glassware Delicate, yes. But they'll keep your cold drinks cold fantastically long, even sitting under hot desk lamps and near computer monitors, like mine do. They keep warm things warm longer too - just not as well.

5. Omron HJ-112 Pocket Pedometer I'll write more about this next month. But for now, suffice it to say, this pedometer actually works even while flopping around in my pocket. I didn't think that was possible.

Abstract Sidewalk Panel
6. Young J. Edgar, Hoover, the Red Scare, and the Assault on Civil Liberties, by Kenneth D. Ackerman.

Hole in the Curb
7. The Rest Is Noise, by Alex Ross

Another Brick Wall
8. The shrimp burrito at La Estrella, on Orange Grove Blvd. in Pasadena

Purple Water Pistol
9. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay another novel by Michael Chabon which I wouldn't have read if #1 (above) hadn't been so good. Glad I did. You'll like it too, especially if you like comic books - which I don't.

Sticker on Walk Don't walk Sign
10. Matter by Iain M. Banks. In my world, a new science fiction novel by Iain M. Banks is always cause for rejoicing. This one, about an artificial planet with concentric levels each home to a different species (just like in an apartment building), too. I wrote about another Banks' novel here.

Banana Tree
Bonus Item: My worst waste of time of 2008 - I couldn't finish it. This Is Your Brain on Music by Daniel J. Levitin.

The pictures in this post: shots I liked which aren't good enough for Mixed Messages. Still, I couldn't bring myself to toss them. They enlarge if you tickle them with your mouse.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Under Bridges

The rain leaves, the wind comes. It gets clear. Leslie and I take Chowderhead walking in the Lower Arroyo Seco Natural Park (satellite picture). We pass under the Colorado Street Bridge and the 134 Freeway Bridge, designed with complimentary arches which are reflected in pools of water. Pictures are taken.

Colorado Street Bridge from distance Pasadena CA
arches of Colorado Street Bridge and 134 Freeway brdige Pasadena CA
Colorado Street Bridge side view from underneath Pasadena CA
134 Freeway Bridge reflected in water Pasadena CA
Colorado Street Bridge from below composite shot Pasadena CA
Click any picture to enlarge it, especially the last one.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Stalking the Christmas Penguin 2

Click here to read the first Stalking the Christmas Penguin. It discusses the geographic illiteracy of Americans and answers the question of why God invented wars.

Christmas Penguin yard lights
Christmas penguins have appeared in this post, entitled Christmas in October (which includes talk about table grapes). This other post, mostly about Starbucks Christmas music, has a penguin picture too and here's yet another post where you can listen to a MM Christmas 30 Second Spot while looking at Christmas penguins. (Note - MM Christmas music is not recommended for people who actually like Christmas.)

All those posts will explain why my chain is yanked by Christmas penguins. This is especially true when they're shown with polar bears or igloos.

Inflatable Christmas Penguin on Igloo
Christmas Penguin & Polar Bear on box
Christmas Penguins with Polar Bear in Igloo and sign saying North Pole
Over just 3 seasons of Christmas penguin watching they've rapidly ascended the ladder of seasonal success. Even Stats, a staid Pasadena holiday decoration store, where I could find no penguins last year, had a beautiful, almost antique penguin sculpture in its main window this year. The penguin has arrived.

Christmas Penguin in Stats Window
Leslie has gotten on the Penguin bandwagon, eagerly pointing them out to me in stores and along residential streets. She seems disappointed if I don't want to bother taking another penguin photo, so I humor her. She wanted me to take this towel shot:

Christmas Penguin towels
And we have Christmas penguins in our house for the first time. We created this one together. It's made out of refrigerator magnets. (Click here to see past magnet art.)

Refrigerator Magnet Christmas Penguin
I also placed a sticker of three penguins next to the Viewsonic logo of three finches on my computer monitor.

Viewsonic Finches and Christmas Penguins
Here are a couple more Christmas penguin stickers. Ivy the cat likes to chew on them.

Christmas Penguin Sticker
Christmas Penguin Sticker
You can see a whole gallery of my Christmas penguin pictures here.

Here's a defunct blog entitled Penguins and Polar Bears Don't Mix.

Penguin Warehouse.

Here's two paragraphs of a 1999 article about Christmas penguins.

A Penguin duet plays Mixed Meters favorite Christmas tune:


Friday, December 19, 2008

Snow on High Ground

Southern California is generally thought to be place with no weather - and many of us are quite happy about that. We see pictures of snowstorms in other parts of the country and we laugh. (Well, I do. But not in a mean way, of course.)

Still, it does occasionally snow on the mountains overlooking our little polluted piece of paradise. And the novelty of that prompts me to take pictures. The first picture, taken earlier this month, shows a distant snow-capped mountain and two palm trees. (I reckon the mountain is about 20 or 25 miles away; the two palms were across the street.)

The second picture is a panoramic shot of Mount Wilson, directly above Pasadena, taken after this week's storm. The snow level was about 2000 feet. The icicle-like things sticking up from the ridgeline are television and radio antennas which beam insidious advertising and popular culture directly into the brains of unsuspecting Californians. It's a really BIG picture. Click it to see just how big.

The last picture is as close-up a shot of the antennae as my pocket point-'n-shoot will allow. They look to be covered in ice. Actually, you can click any of the pictures.

Here's another Mount Wilson picture I took a while ago when there was no weather. Click it to go to my Flickr Picture Pages.Mount Wilson Scene from Pasadena new camera

Friday, December 12, 2008

One Note Open Sleigh

A 30 second spot based on a familiar holiday tune. The melody is reduced to bare bones or less, a small nubbin, smelly and harsh to the touch. It's disrespectful and not in the holiday spirit. In other words, what you expect from Mixed Meters about this time of year.

Click here to hear One Note Open Sleigh 
Copyright (c) 2008 David Ocker -- 38 Seconds

Want more Mixed Meters holiday music mash? How about Jingle Bills or Jungle Bells and Jingle Bulls or Until the Alligators Knock Him Down or And Pretend That It's A Circus Clown. Nothing uplifting here.

The last two titles are references to the song Winter Wonderland. Read a deconstruction of the lyrics in the post Winter Wonderland Diagnosis for Murder! at the blog Surrealpolitic for surreal times.

The picture (click for full size) STOCKING STUFFERS
Left to right :
  • A Christmas Penguin skating
  • A Yellow Rubber Duck in a Santa Hat (or is it a jaunticed walrus?)
  • A Christmas Tree
  • A Snowman
  • Some Jingle Bells

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Music Not To Pay Attention To By

In the tradition of unhelpfully named pieces of music such as This Is Not The Title and This Is Not The Title EITHER, here is Music Not To Pay Attention To By.

I can suggest two equally valid ways to enjoy this piece:
  • You can listen without paying attention.
  • You can pay attention without listening.
The second is probably more Zen, but then I know nothing about Zen.

Copyright (c) 2008 by David Ocker 113 seconds

I found the Dean Martin record cover via the picture website This Isn't Happiness. (highly recommended). They found it here. I found This Isn't Happiness via Eric Peterson. You can hear and watch Marty Robbins sing My Woman, My Woman, My Wife here. (his intro is the best part. No wait, his shirt is the best part.)

Music to Suffer By - the image came from here. Read about the singer here. Listen to it here. (Recommended for Florence Foster Jenkins fans.)

Who says Mixed Meters doesn't bring you fine music?

Don't understand this post? Remember, Mixed Meters puts non sequiturs in their correct order.

Non sequitur Tags: . . .

Friday, December 05, 2008

Economy of Motion

Tim Mangan, Orange County's music critc, posted this link to a performance of Ravel's Bolero by Orchestre de Paris under the direction of Christoph Eschenbach who uses the least amount of motion possible to conduct an orchestra. Almost none.

There's not much for a conductor to do in that piece. It's more like Eschenbach is supervising or maybe leading telepathically. Raised eyebows, twitches, head snaps and his clenched jaw muscles are all he needs. He finally does wave his arms. You can guess when. It seems that he manages to attract a lot of attention by not moving.

The video is in two parts. Listen for little variations by the bassoonist and the tenor player.

It reminded me of this short clip of Pierre Boulez leading a bit of Debussy's Nocturnes looking a bit like private security guard. Or maybe a Secret Service Agent without his earpiece. Or a character in the movie Men In Black.

And that clip reminds me of another clip posted to MM years ago.

And that reminded me of this:

Stiff Conductor Tags: . . . . . . . . . . . .

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Queen of the Night lubricant

Classical music sells product - in this case the Queen of the Night aria by Mozart and a feminine lubricant.

Read an article by Tom Serivce in The Guardian here. I found it via Arts Journal. This ad will appear on US television after hell freezes over, which is to say - never. This group posted the video online.

For a video of a young boy singing the same music very well, go to the MM post Prince of the Night

Other MM posts about classical music selling stuff on television are here (Mozart's Requiem sells shoes) and here (Dies Irae sells shoes).

Lubricant Tags: . . . . . .