Monday, December 31, 2012

My Ten Favorite Things About 2012

You see them a lot this time of year.  End of Year Lists.  Best Of Lists.  Worst Of Lists.  All Kinds of Yearly Lists.

I've always supposed that journalists, needing an easy column during the holidays, keep notebooks during the year, jotting down candidates for best or worst as they happen.  Then in mid-December they review the list, make a few editorial decisions, add some literary polish, check their spelling and get on with more important things, like drinking.

At least that's what I imagined journalists did.  I tried to come up with a personal Best Of List during recent Decembers but couldn't think of anything worthwhile.  My memory isn't what it used to be, as you well know.

This year I tried to keep a running list during the year.  Whenever something that generated a bit of my enthusiasm came up during 2012 I added it to a special file.  Then, last week, thinking it was time to polish off my own Best Of List for 2012 so I could get on with my drinking, I looked at the list.

Imagine my horror to discover that there were only five items on it.  And three of them were food products.  I guarantee you do not want to read about mini peppers or high fiber bread any more than I want to write about them.  You might have been somewhat interested to learn that Starbucks occasionally serves a decent cup of coffee.  Or read something funny.  Or discover some progressive political articles.

I probably would have added my new iPad as item number six. That's still four enthusiasms short of a minyan.  People who know me know that enthusiasm is not one of my strong personality traits.

That's when I came up with Plan B.   I'll tell you what Plan B is in a moment.

Plan B was this: write a 30 Second Spot entitled My Ten Favorite Things About 2012.  In other words, compose music with a misleading title.  That way I could avoid the problem entirely without having to even feign enthusiasm.

That's what I did.  Once I'd finished writing the music I slapped on a bit of random video.  Any correlation between this music or image and my actual ten favorite things from 2012 (assuming I even had ten favorite things, or even six) is totally in the mind of the beholder.  The beholder is you, Mr. or Ms. Beholder.

So behold.

My Ten Favorite Things About 2012 - © 2012 by David Ocker 39 Seconds

Back in the early years of Mixed Meters there was a B.O.L. tradition.  Try 2006 or 2007 or 2008.  I'm happy to discover that all but a few of those items still merit quantums of my enthusiasm.

Watch more of my music videos.

Listen to more of my 30 Second Spots.

"I wish you'd just tell me rather than try to engage my enthusiasm, because I haven't got one."  Marvin the Paranoid Android

B.O.L. Tags: . . . . . .

Monday, December 24, 2012

Autumn 2012 from The Seasons

(Listen while you read.)

Did you survive December 21, 2012?

That date was predicted by some to be the end of the world.  It had something to do with the Mayan calendar.

Today, three days later, it's safe to say that their predictions were off.  But off by how much?  As long as my personal life span is shorter than the earth's remaining time as a planet I don't much care when the world ends.  I hope to stay around quite a while longer.  Eventually, once I'm gone, you people are free to do whatever you want with the place.

This wasn't the first prediction of universal fire and brimstone.  It won't be the last.  As eminent a scientist as Sir Isaac Newton predicted that the world will end in the year 2060.  Some contemporary scientists have suggested that time will eventually just stop . . . billions of years from now.  Probably, in a few hundred years, their ideas will seem as kooky as Sir Isaac's ideas seem right now.

Meanwhile, the cycles of existence are still spinning.  Days, months and years just keep on coming, one after another.  We call these phenomena "time" and we are all forced to lived through them at exactly the same rate.  (Although I've discovered, quite subjectively, that listening to opera can slow time down quite a bit. And watching a televised presidential debate can stop it completely.)

One particular cycle of time which has become important to those of us here at Mixed Meters is the Season.   There are four seasons in an Earth year.  In most places on our planet seasons are marked by shifts in the patterns of daylight and weather.  This is a result, I'm told, of the globe's precarious tilt to one side.  Humans make big deals out of seasons.  They vary their sports, their clothing and their religious celebrations to accommodate them.

Here at Mixed Meters we've been celebrating seasonal change with my ongoing musical composition The Seasons.  Every day I compose a short bit of music - usually a few seconds, very rarely a whole minute.  These bits are played sequentially separated by silences of approximately 45 seconds, more or less.

At the end of every climatic season I post the recently completed musical season here.  Today's post marks number four in the series.  It's called Autumn 2012.  I started it the day after the last Equinox and completed in on this Winter Solstice, December 21, the day the world was supposed to end.  The world didn't end but Autumn 2012 did.

Click here to hear Autumn 2012 - © 2012 by David Ocker, 4091 seconds

Musically Autumn 2012 focuses on tonal harmony.  There are lots of simple chords.  Like some of its predecessors, there's also a new Garbage Day Periodicity (i.e. a weekly cycle).  Each Monday, which is the day I take the garbage out, I chose a new pitch center at random from the twelve possibilities.  I used that for one week of harmony.  As a result, at the end of Autumn 2012 you'll hear a twelve-tone row, the musical distillation of the entire season.

Here's news.  I've begun my fifth season.  I've called it Winter 2012 and it begins with the tone row from Autumn 2012.   I doubt Winter 2012 will be similar to the previous winter, Winter 2011.  If you check back in about three months you can find out what it's like for yourself.

Regular MM readers (all three of you) will remember that my seasons are intended to be played simultaneously.  They can also be combined with other music.  Any music is fine.  It's completely your decision how you use The Seasons.

However, because four seems to be a magic number of sorts for seasonal thinking and because seasons are cyclical (they repeat over and over and over again) one rather uninventive way of listening would be to start the four pieces of The Seasons simultaneously and let them each repeat over and over and over again.

Using a calculator and a list of prime numbers I calculated how long the four files would need before they completed one meta-cycle and returned to the identical synchronization with which they began.  The answer I came up with is 4,693,633.7 years.   Far less than that scientifically projected "end of time".

If you could travel 4,693,633.7 years into the past you'd be in the Zanclean geologic era, which began, I'm told, when water rushed from the Atlantic into the Mediterranean "basin" forming what we now know as the Mediterranean "sea".

What about 4,693,633.7 years from now?  Supposedly Africa and Europe will have merged so the Mediterranean will have disappeared, although Egypt's application to join the EU won't have been approved yet.   New species will have evolved.   I have serious doubts that human culture can last that long.  I have no doubt that I won't be around to find out if it does.

Do you have an interest in extended works of music?  In January the infuriatingly mis-spelled, pro-business Weird magazine published a list of long musical "songs", the longest of which lasts only 1.6 million years.  Here, with frightening disregard for their corporate copyright, is the chart which accompanied that article.

Cage's ASLSP has appeared in Mixed Meters previously.
You might enjoy a six-hour recording of Satie's Vexations.

Seasonal Tags: . . . . . .

Friday, December 21, 2012


As my contribution to home front morale in the continuing War Against Christmas this is the first of two musical offerings - the annual Mixed Meters composition based on the familiar pagan hymn Jingle Bells.

This 2012 opus is entitled Jinglemonics (a made-up word with no previous Google search results).  The title alludes to the prominent use of the band-pass filter which gives a general feeling of cheap electronica music.  Enjoy.

Click here to hear Jinglemonics - © 2012 by David Ocker, 247 seconds

And while I'm on the subject of Mixed Meters' Christmas Memes (starting in 2006), it does seem that the notion of Christmas Penguins is slowly starting to disappear.  Sure, I still notice them but they're not nearly so common as in previous years.

I found this set of used Christmas Penguin Salt and Pepper Shakers in a second hand store in San Juan Bautista California.  Just where you'd expect to find them.

Are you wondering what, 'xactly, a "Christmas Penguin" is?  Basically it is any depiction of a penguin in a scarf or winter hat especially if it's intended as a cute allusion to seasonal cold weather.  Extra points if the penguin is shown near a polar bear, igloo, moose, Santa Claus or other icon peculiar to the Northern Hemisphere.  It's a geography thing.

See bunches of previous Mixed Meters' Christmas Penguin pictures.

Harmonic Tags: . . . . . .

Monday, December 10, 2012

Bubala Please explains Hanukkah

The Hanukkah holiday is here. Hooray. I guess. Although this is one celebration which leaves me with some doubts:
  • Without any children to mollify who needs a substitute Christmas?
  • Is it really a good idea to celebrate religious wars?  Even ancient ones?
  • When it comes to the solstice lights, shouldn't the first thing we honor be the invention of electric lights? 
Did you say Hanukkah Grinch?  Yes, that would be me.

Here's a picture of some special pasta sold to help celebrate Hanukkah by (who else?) Bed Bath and Beyond.

At least they weren't selling matzoh.

I did enjoy reading a very even-handed appraisal of Hanukkah by Hilary Leila Krieger in the New York Times.  Here are her last few paragraphs:
While elevating Hanukkah does a lot of good for children’s morale, ignoring or sanitizing its historical basis does a great disservice to the Jewish past and present.

The original miracle of Hanukkah was that a committed band of people led a successful uprising against a much larger force, paving the way for Jewish independence and perhaps keeping Judaism itself from disappearing. It’s an amazing story, resonant with America’s own founding, that offers powerful lessons about standing up for one’s convictions and challenging those in power.

Many believe the rabbis in the Talmud recounted the miracle of the light alongside the military victory because they did not want to glorify war. That in itself is an important teaching, as are the holiday’s related messages of renewal, hope and turning away from darkness.

But it’s a story with dark chapters as well, including the Maccabean leaders’ religious zealotry, forced conversions and deadly attacks on their neighbors. These transgressions need to be grappled with. And that is precisely what the most important Jewish holidays do: Jews on Passover spill out wine from their glasses to acknowledge Egyptian suffering caused by the 10 plagues, and congregations at Rosh Hashana read and struggle with God’s order to Abraham to bind his son Isaac as a sacrifice.

If we’re going to magnify Hanukkah, we should do so because it offers the deeper meaning and opportunity for introspection that the major Jewish holidays provide.
Sadly, thinking like that just doesn't stand a chance against "eight nights of presents"!

This Hanukkah will be most memorable for me because of these two YouTube videos from Bubbala Please.

Our guides to celebrating the Festival of Lights are two gangsters, one Black, the other Latino (their names are Jaquann and Luis, played by Marcus Wayne and Rick Mancia).  In the first video they explain how to make latkes and then they show the proper way of decorating a Hanukkah bush.

Enjoy!  This is the sort of cross-cultural mash-up which makes America great!

But Be Warned - these videos are NSFW.  They contain many words that are definitely not derived from Hebrew or Yiddish.  Words like Motherfucker and Puto.  If you can handle those you're about to have a good laugh.  Even if you're another Hanukkah Grinch.

"Happy Hanukkah, Bitches"

Here's a previous Mixed Meters post with Hanukkah pictures taken at Bed Bath and Beyond.  (That year it was Hanukkah bears.)

A previous Mixed Meters post with a picture of Hanukkah matzoh.

Here's a previous Mixed Meters post about the word Fuck.

Menorah Tags: . . . . . . . . .

Friday, November 30, 2012

Camera Shake

It's like a short story in two scenes.

Scene 1 - after dark somewhere on the California freeway system.  A couple returns from a short vacation.  The man sits in the passenger seat while his wife drives.  He amuses himself by taking pictures of passing cars and trucks.  He is using the aging pont-n-shoot in his pocket.  He finds it difficult to hold the camera steady.

Scene 2 - the last day of the month.  The same man looks for some simple material to fulfill his quota of blog posts for the month.  Will he remember to remind readers that they can see enlargements of his pictures by clicking on them?

Shake Tags: . . . . . .

Monday, November 26, 2012

Going Coastal 2

Two posts ago I wrote about Leslie's and my twentieth wedding anniversary. A few days later we set off on a short vacation, driving up the California coast to the city of Monterey. That's where we had gone on our honeymoon in 1992.  This time we even stayed in the same hotel.

Naturally I took a lot of pictures. I used both the point-and-shoot in my pocket plus my new toy, an iPad Mini. I returned home with nearly 12 gigabytes of stills and video. Over the years I've learned that I must use new pictures in some project as soon as possible. Otherwise they'll never be seen again, ever.

I decided to edit a few seconds from each video clip into a short sequence using lots of quick cuts. I planned on a length of two minutes tops. Yeah, right. The final product, entitled Going Coastal 2, is nearly twelve minutes long.

Have you got the idea here?  This is a home video of our vacation. It consists entirely of photos of coastline, especially close-ups of the surf. You'll also see lots of animals that live in or around the ocean. Some of these critters were photographed in the wild, others were taken at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a place I highly recommend.

Going Coastal 2 begins with elephant seals hanging out near California Highway 1. There's a shot of Leslie feeding potato chips to fat little eager squirrels. Seagulls appear several times, including one which shamelessly takes a dump before flying off. A noisy herd of sea lions on a Monterey Bay jetty sing along with my music.  Storks fly overhead.

The animals from the aquarium are more interesting. There are lots of different fish plus a sea turtle. A couple anemones and a green coral introduce the jellys - maybe you'd call them "jellyfish".  These guys are strikingly beautiful and bizarre. A couple lobsters duke it out near an eel.  Next you'll see birds, featuring hyperactive puffins.  Pipefish, sea horses and sea dragons (both leafy and weedy) plus a few shrimp round out our bestiary.

The video ends with more surf. Leslie called the final shot 'apocalyptic' but in reality it's just the view out our hotel window. Very relaxing.  I was sad to leave so soon.  Maybe you can hear that in the music.

Going Coastal 2 © 2012 by David Ocker (700 seconds)

You could watch the original Going Coastal.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Post-Election Silly Season Wrap-Up

We in the U.S. had an election recently.  Roseanne Barr came in sixth.  The election went on forever and cost a fortune and won't make any change to our perennial governmental gridlock.  It did prove that the people who most appeared to be blowing smoke out of the their asses were actually doing just that.

Also there was a lot of lying.  Out and out prevarication.  Dissembling.  Other big words that mean not telling the truth.  So much lying that it was remarkable when someone actually did say something accurate and verifiable.

The Right wing lies came thick and fast.  They need to be put into categories, or maybe we should say, into binders:  "Romney's Victory", "Voter Fraud", "Religion" and "Female Reproductive Biology" got lied about often.  

Here are screen grabs of two Google search suggestions to complete the phrases "Obama is a ..." and "Romney is a ...".   Between them there are only three unassailable honest answers - "democrat" and "christian" for Obama, "mormon" for Romney.

One of the biggest sources of election falsehoods appeared right here at Mixed Meters in my post Lies, Damn Lies, Statistics and Politics.  As it turned out, my fanciful projections of how the contest would play out were just that - fanciful. 

From that point on I kept an informal list of election news stories I would have liked to predict.  There were plenty of crazy happenings that could have fit right into my list.  Most of them didn't get much media attention.  Today, with the horror of the election silly season still fresh in our minds and the next Presidential race barely begun, I think it's the perfect time to share the list.

Note: some of these are probably fraudulent.  I've not included anything I was sure was fake - but I offer no guarantees.  In time some of these links will disappear so enjoy them while you can.  I bet there are many more items I would have included had I known about them.

Hurricane Sandy

The Election

After the Election
The most embarrassing campaign moment:

And finally, as a personal note, I know they no longer matter, but I would still like to see Mitt Romney's tax returns.  I would like to know for sure whether Harry Reid was lying when he told us Romney didn't pay any taxes for ten years.

Prevarication Tags: . . . . . .

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Leslie and David's First Score

It's our first score.  Every American school child who ever studied the Gettysburg Address will understand.

Exactly twenty years ago today, on November 1, 1992, about 4 or 4:30 p.m., I married Leslie Harris. Best move I ever made. Love you honey.

We can always remember the year because it happened during the run-up to a Presidential election.  Ross Perot lost a few days later.  So did George Bush.

After the ceremony there was a party. We had spent months negotiating countless details with Leslie's mother Betty who financed the shindig.  She had been waiting a long time to have a wedding.  Everything came off really well.

Lots of pictures were taken that day - although not so many as might be taken now when everyone has digital cameras.   We have kept just one particular wedding picture on display for all twenty years.  It sits in a place of honor, on our chest of drawers in our bedroom in a cheap plastic holder.

Yep, it shows the two of us consummating our nuptials with cake, a chocolate cake covered in chocolate frosting.  It was delicious chocolate cake!

Sadly, neither of us got to taste much of it that night because each time we put our plate down, to fulfill some duty as Bride or Groom, the plate and portion of cake would be bussed away by the staff.  This happened repeatedly.

Also, we don't know who the third person in the picture is, the one behind the door.  Our best guess is she was one of the servers who plated the cake and then kept snatching it away from us.

The bakery which made the cake provided us with a fresh new top layer free of charge for our first anniversary.  We finally got to enjoy the cake then.

This anniversary marks the beginning of Leslie and David's Second Score - we should celebrate with some chocolate.  Twenty years from now, at the beginning of our third score, I promise to post more wedding pictures here on Mixed Meters.  I wonder who will be running for President then.  I wonder what kind of cameras we'll have.  I wonder if the bakery will give us a free chocolate cake.

Chocolate Tags: . . . . . . . . .

Monday, October 29, 2012

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blue Glove

When I encounter a lost glove while on my walks I usually stop to photograph it.  Here's a collection of snaps of lonely, abandoned gloves.  Ah, the stories they could tell.

These are 'found objects'.  I am showing them exactly as I encountered them.  I have no idea why there are so many blue ones.

You can click any picture for an enlargement.

Check out a similar Mixed Meters post from over 4 years ago entitled Gloves in the Wild.  In it I mention that gloves are more photogenic than hats.  Socks, which I see periodically, are not very interesting to photograph either.  Someday I would like to start shooting pictures of abandoned shoes, which - unlike gloves - sometimes appear in the wild in pairs.

Here's a bonus shot - but it's the same as one of the gloves shown above.  I have many more glove pictures.  I'll save those for another glove post.  These are all the blue ones I could find.

Other "blue" Mixed Meters posts:
Blue Doodles 
Branches Before Blue
A New Rhapsody in Blue

Thursday, October 25, 2012

More Musical Merchandise

Musical Marketing is a Mixed Meters Meme. No one else cares much.

This installment we begin with three drinkables:
  • a Chardonnay with a hint of Chant, 
  • the reverse of a 45 and 
  • a home brew with operatic overtones. 

Then there's:
  • a South Asian stringed instrument, 
  • a frittered lead singer and 
  • a symphony from Sienna.

(Click any picture if you need to examine the merchandise up close.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Che's Image

If you're a person who gets livid when confronted with pictures of Che Guevara, please, by all means, leave immediately. Possibly you'd prefer to read about a different murderer.

Mixed Meters has little interest in armed revolution, but I am very interested in THAT photo of Che Guevara, the one originally taken by Cuban photographer Alberto Korda and now used for just about any purpose imaginable, many of them completely, cravenly capitalistic.

Two previous Mixed Meters' posts have shown variations on the image.  First there was Che's Brand, a review of a book about the picture.  You can see Cherry Guevara candy and Che bubble bath.  Then there was A Combination of Jingle Bells and the Internationale which is the name of a piece I wrote which combines those two themes.  There you can check out the Che credit card and the Che Guevara Rolex ad.

I've been saving more Che images as I come across them.  A few good recent finds have prompted this post.

You can see two famous faces combined with the Che image, one is a composer and the other a muppet.  (I'm pretty sure Frank would not have been pleased but I don't really know what Oscar would say.  Probably that he's just trying to protect Big Bird from Mitt Romney.)

Korda's image seems to inspire artists.  Here are a couple of statuettes and a colorful vintage poster.  Then there's one done with nothing but dice.  It is so low-resolution that the star on the beret doesn't show.  (That would be a good one to click in order to view an enlargement.)

Che Guevara grew up in a middle-class background.  He gave up his privilege to fight for the poor, eventually accomplishing nothing and getting himself killed.  Still, curiously, he seems to speak to a a small slice of middle-class America.  Why else would they display this image?

Here's a cartoon which shows an Occupy protester, probably middle class, wearing the Korda image on a T-shirt as he is being confronted by real poverty right on Wall Street.  Chances are good that the protester is not going to give up his gadget, or much of anything, certainly not his life, to help this panhandler.

I took the last three pictures at random spots around Pasadena.  One shows Che on the back of a prosperous looking Nissan mini-van.  The others are of a small announcement pasted illegally in public spaces promoting a political meeting.  That was back in February 2011.

Remember, it's just an image, a graphic.  But it's one which can still push people's buttons.  The image has a meaning of its own, which, for most people, has long since been divorced from the actual story of the person shown or what he did or why.

Of course in this political silly season, many images (and countless words) are used repeatedly with no relationship to the original meanings.  The origins have been forgotten.  Only the emotions remain.  To bring them out all you have to do is push the button.

I found the two Occupy related images on Facebook.  The cartoon is by Glenn McCoy.  Most of the others came to my attention through the blog This Isn't Happiness although they originally came from here, here, here or here.  I got the Zappa/Che image from here (starting at 2'26").  You might be able to buy a Zappa/Che t-shirt here.  Find out about the organization behind the red and green stickers here.

Button Pushing Tags: . . . . . .