Thursday, July 21, 2016

Breezes In The Danger Garden

Back in April I posted pictures of Leslie's carnivorous plants thriving in her garden. I called it the Danger Garden.  Dangerous only if you're an insect.

Here's a plant that didn't make that post.  It's called a Rainbow Plant, very small and delicate and gorgeous.  But still a carnivore.

I also shot lots of video.  I was fascinated by the plants swaying in the wind.  I spliced the least unsteady video segments into a sequence, rather at random, and began adding music.

Before long I had to put the project aside, only one third complete, in favor of real work.

I returned to the project several weeks ago and, to be honest, I didn't like what I heard.  The music was way too busy for aimlessly bobbing plants.  So I started decomposing - moving things around, adding silence, cutting things out, thinning the herd.  (Or should I say 'thinning the heard'?)

Then, using the time-honored musical technique called Cut and Paste, I expanded what remained to the necessary length.  After some tucks and tweaks, adjustments and embellishments, fiddling and fixing, and finally a lot of random transpositions both vertical and horizontal, I made the music fit the video.

"Good enough," I exclaimed to no one in particular.  "Not your best work," I told myself in the mirror the next morning.

So here it is, Breezes In The Danger Garden, by David Ocker (© 2016 by David Ocker 395 seconds.)  It's good enough.  Just click it to play it:

I could have spent hours more doing tucking and tweaking on Breezes in the Danger Garden and it would have remained, in my opinion, only good enough.

The issue here is my opinion.

I've been thinking a lot lately about the opinions I form of my own work.  That's because self-evaluation is the only evaluation I get.  No one else tries to understand or explain what I do.  Fair enough.

The final product, my actual music, however it sounds, might be great art -- although it probably isn't.  And how would I know one way or the other?

You'd think by now I'd have an instinct or a set of tools for evaluating the quality of music, developed over decades of writing, hearing and thinking about music.    This is different than knowing what I like and what I don't like; I know that subjectively.  My likes change over time.  Knowing what's good or bad ought to be more objective, right?  Permanent.  Something others agree on.

So here's the problem: I no longer trust my ability to distinguish good from bad, even in my own music.  Especially in my own music.  That's why, when I read about the notion of illusory superiority it made sense to me.  The idea grabbed me and wouldn't let go.

Simply stated, it made me realize that I believe I'm a better composer than I actually am.  A kind of self-protective mechanism.  I guess it prevents me from getting depressed.  In other words, a useful delusion.  And, based on what the Internet tells me, many people in our society display this tendency in all sorts of ways.

Now it's not my job, as the writer of an ego blog like Mixed Meters, to explain issues of pop psychology to you.  You could just do a Google search for "illusory superiority".  Then you can read what other people have written and I won't need to try to explain it.  And you won't need to try to understand it.

Meanwhile I've concluded that the notion that I think I'm better at my endeavors than I actually am probably applies to all my creative pursuits.  And if you've read this post to the very end, it probably applies to you too.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed Breezes in the Danger Garden.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Collected Selfies

Lacking the time to create a blog post at the high standards you expect, I've created one at the low standards you also expect.  Yes, it's an exhaustive compendium of pictures I've taken of myself.

The Hairline Selfie

The Nonet Selfie

The Out-of-focus Selfie

The Across-Colorado-Boulevard Selfie

The Selfie in Judy's Sunglasses

Six Failed Selfies with Dr. Pyewacket 

The Two-headed Selfie

The Television Selfie

Click any of my selfies for a larger selfie.
More than you wanted to know about selfies.
And then there's THIS POST with my extremely long video selfie.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Mixed Meters Predicts The 2016 Election

Warning - if you don't like the F-word permanently incorporated into the presumed Republican candidate's name you might want to start your own blog.

Blonde woman slaps Donald Fucking Trump and says "Fuck You, Trump!"

Mixed Meters has a short history of predicting the political silly season.  I'm always wrong.  That won't stop me from trying again.

With their combined negative polling near 100%, the general election between Hillary and Donald Fucking Trump will be the most negative ever.   As Election Day approaches all advertising will be negative and none of it will be accurate.  On CNN Reince Preibus will claim that lying is perfectly acceptable in Presidential elections.  No one will contradict him.

Both vice-president candidates will be white, male, Protestant politicians almost unknown outside their home state.  In fact both will be from the same state or maybe adjacent states.  Both will make  Dan Quayle look over-qualified.

There will be campaign violence - lots of it - much more than 1968.  Baton-wielding cops will fire tear gas at Occupy Wall Street and at Black Lives Matter.  Someone who appears to be transgender (but isn't) will be beaten up while trying to take a shit.  

Michael de Adder cartoon - Donald Fucking Trump being shit out of a Republican elephant

Expect at least one fatality during this election cycle - some innocent person will die during a protest. 

At the conventions both parties will have ugly platform fights: Republicans will obsess over gay wedding cakes and Democrats will argue about Israeli fascists.

At one point, everyone in the media - nutcases and reasonable pundits alike (although I admit it's sometimes hard to tell them apart) - will start to agree on some one thing.  No, I don't know what it will be.  This common wisdom will emerge the same way everyone said that Donald Fucking Trump would never get nominated.  Once again everyone will be proven wrong.

Something Ted Nugent says will lead the news cycle for several days. Also Jorge Ramos.

Donald Fucking Trump will turn his campaign into a reality television show with behind the scenes cameras following his every move and showing off-the-cuff exchanges with his supporters.  A nightly broadcast hosted by Sarah Palin and Ben Carson.  Donald Fucking Trump will claim he is winning because the show gets high ratings.

Donald Fucking Trump's head with the face of Alfred E. Newman

Donald Fucking Trump, trying not to sound like a bigot, will simply allow the Democratic campaign advertising to remind his vile racist followers that he too is a vile racist.  In spite of this he will accidentally keep insulting women and minorities almost every time he speaks.  His supporters will love him all the more for it.

Hillary will deny ever changing her political positions but then abandon her recent pivot to the political right when she eventually realizes that she needs Bernie Sanders' help.  Therefore, late in the campaign, she will desperately re-pivot to the left, talking incessantly about free college tuition.  (It is too much to hope that "re-pivot" will become a generally known term.)

Conflicts in Syria, Libya and Iraq will drop out of the news because ISIS leaders will be afraid of affecting the U.S. elections.  Kim Jong-un, however, will keep launching satellites and missiles and saying provocative things leading Donald Fucking Trump to display a large prop red button which he will symbolically press to show his willingness to launch missiles at North Korea.   He will offer to travel to Russia during the campaign.  When Putin politely declines, he will offer to travel to Israel.  Sheldon Adelson will politely decline.

Wall painting of Vladimir Putin and Donald Fucking Trump kissing

The October Surprise: Someone will discover sex tapes for both Donald Fucking Trump and Hillary Clinton.  Except Hillary's will be a fake edited by James O'Keefe.  The size of Donald Fucking Trump's penis will not be revealed in the video.  Donald Fucking Trump's hairdresser, however, will tell all in a TMZ interview.

Donald Fucking Trump will talk incessantly about Bill Clinton's sex life, comparing him repeatedly to Anthony Weiner.  In the final Presidential debate Donald Fucking Trump will tell Hillary that no woman could ever be qualified to be President and her too-polite response will cause a drop in her poll numbers.

Donald Fucking Trump will finally release one year of tax returns less than a week before election day.  His true net worth will be pegged at two billion, his income about $100 million, his tax rate at less that 5% and he gives virtually nothing to any charity except Planned Parenthood.
Diffee Cartoon Quit saying 'President Trump' You're spookin' the horses.
So, who will win . . .

The final result will be very close - there will be no big sweeps or political mandates in 2016.  It's going to be a nail-biter.

If Donald Fucking Trump finds his A game by:
  • figuring out how to act Presidential while constantly demeaning the Clintons, 
  • using social media creatively and 
  • managing to not say anything really really stupid 
and Hillary turns in a lackluster performance by:
  • not getting her supporters excited, 
  • getting indicted for email, 
  • raising obscene amounts of money from big banks and criminal felons and 
  • acting like a restrained, thoughtful, conventional boring politician  
then Donald Fucking Trump will be our next president.  

Electing Donald Fucking Trump as president would be very bad.  He is a spoiled rich kid for whom the word affluenza fits perfectly.  I passionately want Donald Fucking Trump to lose.  He is the most worst candidate, so bad that even Hillary is a far better choice.

You can take very little solace in the fact that I'm always wrong about these things.  Maybe the fear that he actually can win will motivate all of us to go out there and make sure he loses.  

Friday, May 27, 2016

Mixed Meters Endorses Bernie

Mixed Meters (i.e. me, David Ocker) commends you to vote for Bernie Sanders in the California Democratic Party Primary next month.

I am assuming, of course, that you live in this state and are registered as a Democrat or as NPP ("No Party Preference").  (There are a bunch of other states who have yet to vote.  If you live in one of those, I commend you to vote for him there as well.)

There are two reasons I make this recommendation.  Both of them have really pissed me off.

First, Bernie has repeatedly demonstrated that he actually believes things which I also believe; things about economic equality, ending the endless war, reforming politics and investing in people's futures.

Second, he has brought millions of voters - many of them young - into the electoral process and gotten them excited about those ideas.  Their numbers and excitement demonstrate that his ideas might well be viable public policy someday.

Before Bernie I had naturally assumed that in this election, like in almost every previous one, there would be no candidate who actually reflected my political beliefs.  And even if there were, that candidate would have no chance.

Bernie came along and proved me wrong - forcing me to support him in spite of my utter distaste of politics as usual.  How annoying is that?  My fleeting moment of hope - now dashed by Bernie's likely loss of the Democratic nomination - gives me the right to be pissed.

Yeah, it's true, Bernie has no chance of winning the Democratic nomination, although at the moment polls are all over the map.   I suppose he still has a chance of winning in California just like I have a chance of winning the lottery.  Winning anything, even this one large battle in the nearly completed nomination war, would be a huge accomplishment for his supporters to celebrate.

So, on June 7, I'm going to have a rare opportunity in American politics.  I'm actually going to get to vote FOR someone who, if he  became President, would promote ideas I believe in.  In this one election I'm not going to be voting against someone.  First  time since 1972.

Eventually, I can only hope that some real social liberal candidate wins office someday and she can begin the even-harder-than-getting-elected job of changing the laws, the society and the hearts and minds of the people.

A vote for Bernie on June 7 will send a message to that as yet nameless candidate of the future that there are voters who support her ideas: we are out here and we will vote if given something to believe in.

The pictures of homemade Bernie signs were all taken in Pasadena except the Post No Bills graffiti which was near USC.  The two girls with signs were near a voter registration table.  I asked a nearby supervising adult for permission to take their picture, but I still felt as though I should obscure their faces.

Here is an 2008 Mixed Meters post showing homemade Obama for President signs.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Recent Pet Pictures

Mixed Meters' Three Readers are saying "What? Three posts in four days?"

Yeah, I try to do three posts a month and if I put it off until the end I need to work fast. To prove to you that quality drops when the deadline looms, I'm offering some pictures of our pets.

You may remember that about this time last year we adopted a little black kitten who was stranded in the bushes near our home. We named him Dr. Pyewacket.  You can see his baby pictures here or some from last summer here.

Here are three recent pictures of Dr. Pyewacket on various couches.

Dr. Pyewacket eyeing me suspiciously from the couch

Dr. Pyewacket yawning on the couch in front of a window

Dr. Pyewacket on the back of the couch, yawning and arching his back while Leslie reads her Kindle

Our other two cats Spackle Puss and her twin brother Crackle Pop came to us in the summer of 2006.  See their baby pictures here.  (I'm impressed that the video links in that post still work.)

I'm happy to report that The Ackles are in good health and have accepted Pyewacket into the family pretty much.  (Crackle is in the top photo.)

Crackle Pop the cat sitting on the floor

Spackle Puss the cat on a chair in front of a hat

The remaining four-legged family member is Chowderhead, the big red dog.  Here's Leslie holding Chowder's legs up.  If you look closely you can see that he is erect in more ways than one.  (Click on any picture for enlargement.)

Leslie holding the legs of Chowderhead the dog

In the 2007 post Dog's Balls and Elizabethan Collars you can see Chowder's penis before he was "fixed".  Since Chowder was about a year old when we adopted him he too is about 10 years old.  He's doing pretty well for an old dog.  Maybe it's time to try teaching him a new trick.

You can see all Mixed Meters posts labeled Dogs or Cats.
You can see all Mixed Meters posts labeled Last Day of the Month.

Hooray - I've done three postings this month.  The deadline is my friend once again.

Friday, April 29, 2016

From The Danger Garden

Spring is a nice time in Southern California.  Like Springs everywhere plants here begin to grow again.  And so it is with Leslie's collection of carnivorous plants.  We call them CPs for short.  She has a lot of CPs in her garden.  It's a dangerous place to be if you're an insect.

(Click on any picture for better viewing.)

Saracennia plants in Leslie Harris' garden

In the winter she cuts these little insect-meat eaters back and we wait for new shoots to sprout out in the brighter sun and higher temperatures.  Or maybe we wait for new sprouts to shoot out.  This year has not disappointed.  In fact it's been downright amazing.  I have taken many photographs.

Saracennia plants in Leslie Harris' garden

Leslie grows multiple varieties of Saracennia, commonly known as Pitcher Plants.  These bad boys trap their unsuspecting little buggers in tall horn-like pitchers.  The pitchers have a cap on them giving them the profile of a large animal with its mouth open.

Saracennia plants in Leslie Harris' garden

Saracennia plants in Leslie Harris' garden

The different varieties are colored with combinations of green and red and white.  There are colored veins of great intricacy.  And little hairs that help ensnare dinner.

Saracennia plants in Leslie Harris' garden

Saracennia plants in Leslie Harris' garden

Before the pitchers form, they send out thin stalks with a round bulb on the end.  This becomes the flower with droopy petals.

Saracennia plants in Leslie Harris' garden

Saracennia plants in Leslie Harris' garden

Saracennia plants in Leslie Harris' garden

Saracennia plants in Leslie Harris' garden

The plants send out flat stalks which slowly open into the pitchers.  Then they just spend the rest of the year waiting for food to fly right in.

Saracennia plants in Leslie Harris' garden

Saracennia plants in Leslie Harris' garden

Saracennia plants in Leslie Harris' garden

Saracennia plants in Leslie Harris' garden

Leslie has many other varieties of CPs.  Here are a few pictures of Sundews.  This guys full name is Drosera capensis.  Sundews catch their food using little balls of stickum from which a hapless six-legger can't escape.  Clever.

Drosera plants in Leslie Harris' garden

Drosera plants in Leslie Harris' garden

Here's a drosera flower stalk with delicate purple flowers.  Apparently there's a good reason CPs have tall flower stalks.  They need to trick insects into pollinating them.  If the flowers are too close to the parts of the plant which catch the insects, pollination won't happen.  Once the plant sex is over, however, the insect is back on the menu.

Drosera flowerstalk in Leslie Harris' garden

Other Mixed Meters posts in which carnivorous plants play a role.
Freud Was Wrong About the Cigar
Carnivorous Plants (with pictures of many different types of CPs)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Floating Minion

So I was walking down Fair Oaks Avenue in Pasadena one day and I noticed something floating aimlessly in the sky near a cellphone tower.  At first I thought it might be a distant helicopter.  Then I realized . . .

It was a balloon in the shape of a minion - those goggley-eyed yellow twinkie-shaped sidekicks from some heart-warming animated movie or other.  Because it was filled with helium it floated aimlessly on the air currents.  Helpless.  We can all relate to that.

Somewhere, I surmised, there was a small child who was disconsolate - bawling his or her little eyes out and being told by its parent that they had been told not to let go of the string and no I'm not going to buy you another one.  Easy to relate to that as well.

Google reveals that minions are not to be confused with minyans.  It would take 10 minions to have a minion minyan.  Try Googling "anti-semitic minion" and you'll find some people with strange ideas who are not amused by minions.  One has to wonder if every possible word is paired with the adjective "anti-semitic" somewhere on the Internet.

Anyway . . . as this particular mylar minion meandered past I captured it on video. You can see some trees and traffic lights and a few birds.  Those are the San Gabriel mountains in the distance.  After a minute and a half the poor thing passed out of sight for good.  No doubt it eventually was caught on some electrical lines and caused a power outage; one last bit of evil - and an honorable death - for the floating minion balloon..  I've added some aimless floating music to its aimless bobbing and weaving.  Enjoy.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Toy Drum (Summer 1953)

Few people remember that I began my musical career as a percussionist.  In fact, even I had forgotten this fact until just recently.

I was reminded of this when I had a pile of old family home movies converted to video.  These date from the late 40s, when my father must have purchased a 16mm camera, to the early 60s, when - given my absence in the action - I must have been old enough to be entrusted with the role of cameraman.

If these videos prove anything, it's that I am descended from a long line of cinematographically challenged ancestors.  Exposure is random and framing is laughable.  There are countless shots of people without heads.  Also occasionally heads without bodies.  No sound of course.  Lots of classic home-movie embarrassed movement.

Here's a photo of one of thsee film reels and the box it came in - this one is labeled only "Summer 1953".    It says Kodachrome Daylight Type Double 8mm Magazine - which held a whopping 25 feet of film.

The transferred video has 3 minutes and 48 seconds of nostalgic action.  I appear the most often - making me the nearly 2-year old star.  Well, I was cute, wasn't I?  There are also shots of my parents, my Grandmother and Great Aunt Kate, my uncles Ben and Carl and Carl's wife, my Aunt Esther.  (I had two Aunt Esthers.  How many did you have?)

Fear not, brave Mixed Meters reader.  I am not posting the entire video for you to endure.  I have excerpted a few scenes.  The first is an unusually high quality shot of  me with my parents outside their apartment in Sioux City Iowa.   Here's a still.

(The brick apartment building and the wooden one behind it are still visible in Google maps.  Pan the street view shot to the left and you can see my eventual high school - complete with stone turrets - up the slight hill.)

The other shots in this following video show me with what was apparently my first musical instrument - a cute little toy drum and cymbal combo supported by a neck strap.  And I appear to be having a great time banging away at it.  Yes, I was the center of attention when I was hitting that drum.  Ah, lost youth.  Cute and talented!

In the last scene you'll notice a huge drop in video quality.  It was very underexposed, almost solid black.  I adjusted it as best I could because I wanted to include the final frame of the film - my father, looking plaintively at the camera and covering his ear with his hand, as if to say "Take the drum away from the boy, please."   Or maybe he was unhappy being pigeonholed in conversation by my Uncle Carl, whose suit-coated wrist can just barely be seen.

Oh.  I also added some music and titles to the video in a futile attempt to enhance the home movie experience.  You should prepare yourself in coming blog posts for more blasts like this one from my early history and even pre-history.

Here's an early MM post about my Mother and Ronald Reagan - and her last pack of cigarettes.
Here's an MM post called My Mother, My Worm.
Music in Sioux City, Iowa?  Here's a post called Me and Mahler, Me and Iowa (there's a picture of me and my Dad)
You could also read Forty Years in California - there's another pic of me with my Father.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Most Iconic Image of California

Quick! Pick an image you think best portrays "Southern California."  We're looking for a single shot that says it all.

You might have chosen the Hollywood sign.  Or maybe an inviting, curvaceous, nearly-nude young woman sitting on a pristine sandy beach while hunky guys surf near their Woody, which is parked in the distance.  Or a self-involved conspicuously aging big shot lawyer (or businessman or actor) with Donald Trump colored hair obliviously driving an expensive car, ignoring stop lights and pedestrians, and talking on a cell phone.

If you're a Republican (yes, we still have a few of those in California) maybe you think a picture of Ronald Reagan orating in front of the Stars and Stripes still says everything which needs to be said, all in a single picture.

Okay, not many Republicans read Mixed Meters, so that last one was a just a joke.  And the other images are only imaginary; they don't really exist except in the movies.  And movies, I'm sad to report, are not even close to being real.  Even Ronald Reagan knew that.

I've known for many years exactly which image I would pick to epitomize life in SoCal.  Just recently I had my first chance to actually take a decent photo of the object in question.  The locale was a new light-rail station in Azusa.

While I admit that this object may not be unique to this area, it reeks of cheap theme parks or cheesy B-movie special effects.  Both of those say 'Southern California' quite well.

This thing imitates nature.  It does that very badly.  It might be better to say that it defies nature.  It employs all the architectural panache of a sleazy strip mall, another Southern Cal speciality.

Its purpose is to whitewash essential infrastructure, hiding it from our consciousness behind a facade which is always in plain sight.

We find this thing acceptable, I guess, because it facilitates our modern lifestyle.  It's high-tech.  It brings people together.  It gives a strong signal to all the idiots with bad hair color who text while driving.

Have you guessed it yet?

Yes, it's a cell phone tower disguised as a palm tree.   Welcome to the silly side of SoCal.

I wonder what, exactly, they were thinking in Azusa when they approved this.  Maybe: "We need to put up a tall cell tower so people can Instagram and Twitter.  Let's disguise it to look like a cheap plastic palm tree and, after a while, maybe no one will notice that's it's not real."

Cell phone towers apparently go hand in hand with palm trees around here.  I've found two cell phone tower and palm tree combos close to my home in Pasadena, about 20 miles from Azusa.

The first shows a cell phone tower disguised as a . . . cell phone tower.  It's not really a disguise but it is ugly.  It's near a palm.  It's also right behind a super sleazy strip mall.

In the second one the horribly thick flag pole is the cell tower.  It's nestled amid palms in front of a church.  The little hut in the foreground holds electronic equipment.  I guess Ronald Reagan was giving a speech elsewhere when I snapped that picture.

Personally, I think neither of these offer that much improvement over the fake palm tree.  Looking at these things is the aesthetic price we all pay to keep your smart phone connected anyplace you go.

Just imagine what beautiful or curious or bizarre sculptures which could be built to beautify cell phone towers.   Modern sculpture might be too controversial.  How about a giraffe?  Maybe a 50-foot tyrannosaurus rex?  (Note the proximity of palm trees.)

We could make our cell phone towers into huge sculptures of our famous citizens and civic leaders.   Such huge human forms have a tradition already.  They're called Muffler Men.  Cities could honor their leading citizens by turning them into cell phone towers.

Maybe a sculpture of Will Rogers holding a lariat looking back at us while we text?  Gracie Allen?  Tom Bradley?  Cezar Chavez?  Sally Ride came from Southern California.  Dr. Dre?  Cal Worthington?

And, in reality, all of them would be hiding cell phone antennae for our personal convenience.

God forbid, Ronald Reagan could become a huge plastic immovable object, gracing our skyline somewhere, his guts filled with electronics, spewing an endless stream of tweets and Facebook posts, saying things that others people wrote but doing it with great feeling and empathy.  Republicans could make pilgrimages.

Now, that is a single picture which would speak volumes about Southern California.

Maybe it would even be too much information.

They have cell phone towers disguised as palm trees in other states too, apparently.  Here's 25 pictures of cell phone towers disguised as all sorts of things.

Most palm trees are not native to California.  Neither are most of the people.  Here's a California palm history. (palmistry?)