Monday, September 16, 2019

Cactus Flower

Today is the fourteenth anniversary of Mixed Meters.  Feeble yay.

To celebrate, here's a picture of a cactus flower.


Now, a quiz: How is a cactus flower like this blog?

Answer: a cactus doesn't often get new flowers and this blog doesn't often get new posts.

My very first post in 2005 addressed the issue of infrequent posting.  Here's the whole thing:



In which David fails to find an interesting first comment



Every new adventure begins with the words "Why am I doing this?" It would be so much easier not to bother trying new things.

If you, future person reading these words, discover that this blog hasn't changed in months . . . years . . . then you'll know I couldn't find a good answer for the question.

My philosophy will be . . . keep it short.


Fascinating, huh?

And here's another quiz question for you, O Future-Person-reading-these-words: Why am I doing this? 

Please write your answers on a postcard and send them to the comment section.  The winner receives a four year stay at the Trump property of their choice, no expenses paid.

Finally . . .
In celebration of Mixed Meters' august September anniversary I created a video from my cactus flower picture.

The video is entitled Cactus Flower.  The picture above is the only visual component.  If you watch very closely you might notice some slight changes as time passes.

I suggest watching at the largest size and highest resolution available to you.


Cactus Flower © 2019 David Ocker - 190 seconds.




If you enjoyed the music, you might also like these pieces.

Quiz question #3:  How were the visual transformations done?  Answer: Deep Dream Generator.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Kumquats

This post is to celebrate our excellent kumquat harvest.

An uncertain number of years ago, maybe 25 or so, Leslie bought me a kumquat tree because she had discovered that I liked them.  For roughly half those years Kumquat Tree lived in a big pot.   Then we replanted it in the ground next to our driveway.

The tree went through some difficult years until we discovered that it needs lots of water.  More water did the trick and we started getting a lot more fruit.  This last winter was very wet rain-wise in Pasadena.  Our kumquat harvest was exemplary.  This picture shows about 40 pounds worth, about 75% of the total haul.


The English name "kumquat" derives from the Cantonese gām-gwāt 金橘, literally meaning "golden orange" or "golden tangerine".  Kumquats are apparently symbols of good luck in China.  I was told by our friend Richard that the name can be translated as "orange fortune".  Or something.


Are you wondering what we did with all those little kumquats?  Leslie took them to her friend and colleague Regina who supervised the production of kumquat/orange marmalade.  Here's the after picture.


Good stuff.  Thanks Regina.

I created a video showing the piles of these little bursts of citrus, often in extreme closeup, before they met their jellied fate.  You'll see Leslie's hands doing the washing.

TRIGGER WARNING: if you find that exposure to bright orange color disturbs you, please use caution.


Kumquats © 2019 David Ocker - 176 seconds.  (I suggest that you use hi-definition mode if you can.)




Here's a link to my previous MM post concerning Kumquat Martinis.  (I drink my martinis considerably less dry these days.)

Here's a link to a post at the blog The Indigenous Bartender with a recipe for Kumquat Marmalade Martinis.  Gonna try it once I get some Triple Sec.

And here's an LA Times article about making candied kumquats for cocktails.  (I couldn't try this because we used up all our kumquats, so I'm posting the link as a reminder during our next kumquat harvest.)


Friday, January 04, 2019

Pet Pictures

Back during the B.E. posting an occasional picture of your pet was essential.  "What's the B.E.?" I hear you ask.  It was "The Blog Era."

The B.E.is long gone, killed off by Social Media.  S.M. makes posting pictures of your pets much easier.  Actually, anything you could do on a blog is easier with S.M.  You just need to sell your soul by sharing your personal data.  And also spend time looking at ads.

Chowderhead the dog behind the gate

Today, in a 'glorious' homage to the B.E., I present more than a few pictures of our pets.  (Click them to see enlargements.)  We will begin with Chowderhead.

Chowderhead the dog on wet driveway

Chowderhead is our dog.  He's old for a big dog.  We got him in 2007 when we figured he was about one year old.  That makes him twelve now.  (Read a little about his origin story here.)

Chowderhead the dog and hexagonal tile floor

More gray hairs.  Moves more slowly.  Deterioration of hearing.  Sleeps a lot more.  Overweight.  Those things all describe me.  Also the dog.  Still, we're both doing pretty well for our ages.  We both have health insurance.

Chowderhead the dog on floor with rear leg extended

Chowderhead did have a recent medical issue, a hematoma in his left ear.  We took him to the vet  who said he had to wear the collar for a week.  At the end of the week he had totally reduced the collar to plastic shards.

Chowderhead the dog wearing his ruff, or collar

Chowderhead hates the vet.  He hates the vet so much he growls a lot and, when the doctors try to touch him, he vibrates with fear like a cellphone.  They make him wear a muzzle when he visits lest he bite.  Otherwise leatherwear is not really his thing.

Chowderhead the dog wearing a leather muzzle

His thing is sleeping in the backyard.  He is king of the backyard.

Chowderhead the dog sleeping on the grass

Most certainly Chowderhead's most remarkable appendage is his tail.  Here's a little video of 'The Tail' in action.





Mixed Meters' one remaining reader will remember that we also have three cats.  They rarely gather for a group photo unless food is involved.

Our three cats, clockwise from top: Doctor Pyewacket, Spackle Puss and Crackle Pop

The two gray and white cats are twins.  Spackle Puss is the smaller one; she has white stripes on the back of her ears.  Her brother, Crackle Pop, has a tabby stripe tail and a white spot on his back.  Like the dog, they're about twelve years old.  Here's their origin story.

2 cats on stairs: Spackle Puss (L) and Crackle Pop (R)




We'll start with pictures of Crackle.  There isn't much to say about Crackle.

Crackle Pop, the cat

Crackle isn't very friendly to strangers.  He hides when there are visitors.  Otherwise he's a great cat who likes getting petted and doesn't often make a mess.  He likes to climb on my lap but he can never get comfortable up there.

Crackle Pop, the cat, wants up on my lap

In the following picture you can see a cow poster hanging in my office.  It was given to me by a composer named John Adams.  It's the cover of his Gnarly Buttons album.  He autographed it for me, accidentally finishing the tail end of his signature on the wall itself.  Then the signature faded.  However the mark on the wall remains.  Later he returned and signed the poster again, twice, in indelible ink.

Crackle Pop, the cat, in front of John Adams' Gnarly Buttons album poster

While Donald Trump's dislike of dogs is well known, I've never read anything about his feeling towards felines.  You can search almost five million words he has spoken at this website.  I couldn't find a single reference to 'cat' or 'kitty' or 'feline'.  'Pussy' gets a few hits.

Crackle Pop, the cat, on the stairs





The second pussy on our list is named Spackle.  Spell check does not know the word Spackle; it underlines every occurrence as a possible misspelling.  There's much more to tell you about Spackle than about her brother.

Spackle Puss, the cat, on my desk

Spackle has an incredibly sharp tongue.  We know this because she likes to lick people's bare skin.  When she really gets into her licking it can be very painful for the human.  We don't know why she does this.

Spackle Puss, the cat, yawning

Another annoying thing is that she drools a lot.  After she sits on your lap you'll find a damp spot on your leg.  Yuch.

Spackle Puss, the cat, wishing she were outside hunting birds

Spackle is an extremely vocal cat.  While underfoot in the kitchen she repeats - in cat language -  "Give me some of that." over and over.  It's gotten to the point that she'll beg anytime a human walks into the kitchen.  This happens whether food is present or not.  Then she runs excitedly from one side of the room to the other.  And she runs back.  She does these little cat sprints over and over again.

Spackle Puss, the cat, looking cute on the back of a chair

When dinner time finally rolls around she eats voraciously.  And yet somehow she is still a super thin kitty, just skin and bones.  Her skinniness is actually worrying.  At least we've gotten her to stop vomiting her dinner in unexpected places.

Spackle Puss, the cat, on the stairs

Although Chowderhead and Crackle and Spackle are all approximately the same chronological age, they are different ages relative to their species.  I've seen charts which suggest that Chowder, compared to human lifespan, is in his 'late seventies'.  The gray cats, compared to humans, are, oh, about mid-sixties.  By coincidence, I'm in my mid-sixties as well.

Spackle Puss, the cat, on oval table

Pets don't have any idea how old they are.  I think I might enjoy not knowing how old I am.  Unfortunately we humans have calendars to keep track of these things.  For an excellent description of the invention of the calendar I suggest you listen to The Adventures of Greggery Peccary by Frank Zappa.

Spackle Puss, the cat, on the back of a chair




By any measure the youngest member of our household is Doctor Pyewacket, the black kitten which Leslie found in the bushes near our house.  Pyewacket will be four years old this spring.  This cat on the fence post is not Doctor Pyewacket.

A feral black cat on a fence

That fence cat is probably one of Pye's distant cousins, a member of the same feral clowder of cats to which we think Pyewacket traces his ancestry.  HERE is the real Doctor Pyewacket sitting on the floor.    (Yeah, I had to look up the word 'clowder'.)

Doctor Pyewacket, the cat, on the floor

The good doctor recently had serious health issues in the form of blocked urinary tract.  He nearly died.  After multiple visits to the the kitty hospital his condition mysteriously improved just about the time the vet suggested surgically removing his penis.

Doctor Pyewacket, the cat, in a blue medical collar

Penectomies are never the preferred option for billions of male humans worldwide.  I, for one, wince just hearing the suggestion, even when it isn't me being considered as the patient.  The subject of penises has come up several times during Mixed Meters' varied history.  Read all about them here.

Doctor Pyewacket, the cat, with shaved legs

We presume that Pyewacket spent the first few weeks of his life out in the wilds of suburban Pasasdena.  Since then we've confined him indoors - safely away from predatory coyotes and unable to predate on cute little birdies.  Spackle and Crackle have never been outside a single day in their entire lives.  Or, for that matter, even for a few minutes.  (Yeah, predate is not really a real word.)

Doctor Pyewacket, the cat, looking out window with lace curtains and outside bushes

Poor Doctor Pyewacket is pretty much at the bottom of the feline pecking order in our little cat trio.  Maybe it should be called "scratching order"?  In any case, old skinny Spackle can send young virile Pyewacket running off with one swipe of her paw.

Doctor Pyewacket, the cat, on a table looking up

Shooting pictures of Pyewacket is difficult.  All black cats are hard to photograph.  Or maybe not.  Maybe I'm just not a great photographer.  Maybe shooting pictures of black cats is really easy.  Or maybe I don't have good enough equipment.  Yes, that's it.  That must be the problem - I have been given inadequate tools.

Doctor Pyewacket, the cat, looking intently out a window

Blaming inadequate results on something or someone else is becoming common in the U.S. these days.  If good stuff happens, sure, that was us doing that.  We'll happily take credit for the good stuff.  When bad stuff hits the fan - find someone to blame.  In fact, maybe "Blame Them" should replace "e pluribus unum" as our national motto.  It's shorter and easier to remember.

Doctor Pyewacket, the cat, shown as a shadow behind a curtain

Recently a complete stranger came up to me and said she thought that I looked like Marlon Brando.  She asked whether I was told that often.  Looking at this picture of Doctor Pyewacket holding on to my shoulder for dear life, I think I look more like Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.  Now there's someone who deserves a lot of blame for America's current impasses.

Doctor Pyewacket, the cat, looking terrified, on the shoulder of a Mitch McConnell impersonator

I will say that Mitch does have more hair than I do.  I wonder if he owns a cat.

Mitch McConnell, a turtle impersonator and majority leader of the US Senate, who is an even bigger threat to American Democracy than Donald Fucking Tr-mp.  A very dangerous and evil person

Friday, January 05, 2018

Jingle Bells Dementia Test

It's a tradition at Mixed Meters, part of our yearly war on Christmas (and on all the other solstice holidays as well).  Yes, it's a piece of music based on Jingle Bells.


Jingle Bells Dementia Test © 2017 David Ocker - 335 seconds

This season's offering takes inspiration from a test for senile cognition.  It's a real medical test.  Now that I've reached a "certain age" this test has been added to my yearly physical. 

You are given three unrelated words to remember followed by a distracting task - in the doctor's office that would be drawing the face of an analog clock at ten minutes after eleven.  Then you are asked to recite those three words from memory.  If you can remember them you are declared compos mentis for yet another year.  Hooray, I've got my marbles.

In the case of Jingle Bells Dementia Test, the distracting task is watching my video and listening to my music.  Much more difficult.  The words flash on and off very quickly.  Please pay close attention if you want to score well on this test.

The video is a long sequence of two-second clips, each one excerpted from the videos I have shot over (nearly) an entire year.  That's right, two seconds from every video - the good ones, the bad ones, the outright mistakes.  For me the result is kind of a year-end highlight reel.  You should be so lucky.

Luckily for all of us, I lost my previous camera returning from Hawaii in April (thanks United Airlines).  That was before I could download the pictures of the trip to my computer.  Otherwise there would have been lots and lots of two-second clips of lava and ocean waves.  Later I bought a new point'n'shoot to carry around in my pocket.  A better one.

To make this piece even more absurd, the short clips are presented in exact chronological order.  There was no shuffling things around to make a better presentation.

The last clip, the Crow's Aria, is the only exception to the 2 second rule, although it does adhere to the chronology rule.  I shot it in mid-December - it was too good a finale to add anything after it.  The crow is presented exactly as it was recorded, without video or audio manipulation of any kind (except for the fade out).

You might notice a particular non-Jingle-Bells-y musical leitmotiv associated with certain appearances of crows in Jingle Bells Dementia Test.  You're probably familiar with the magical minah bird from old Warner Brothers cartoons (I watched them on TV as a kid).   If so you will understand the reference.  If not, watch this 1943 cartoon short.  Be aware, however, that thinking on political correctness was very different back then.  More info about the Minah Bird here.


Finally, we end our broadcast with a story about another kind of political correctness - the farcical War on Christmas, as imagined by the fools at Fox Nudes
“Jingle Bells,” one of the most well-known Christmas carols in the world, is now being called racist.    A Boston University theater professor claims the Christmas carol has a “problematic history” because it was originally performed to make fun of African Americans.
If you want to read the original paper click here.  If you want to read about the right-wing backlash directed at the author click here.

In case you're wondering, Felix Mendelssohn (author of the minah bird/crow motive) never heard Jingle Bells.  He died ten years before Jingle Bells was composed.  One wonders if Felix ever witnessed a performer in blackface.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Tossing My B,a,b,b,it,t Tubes

Something strange happened in our house last week.  It was this: I cleaned out a closet.  If you could see the inside of our closets you might think we were hoarders.  Maybe we are.

Anyway, in this one, now clean, closet (there are many others that need cleaning and plenty of drawers to boot), I found the tubes I often used to perform a solo clarinet piece entitled B,a,b,b,it,t by composer Donald Martino.  Written as a birthday present for his teacher, Milton Babbit, it is as much performance art as it is tuneless pointillistic atonality.

B,a,b,b,it,t requires "tubes" - also called "extensions" - which are to be periodically stuck into the end of the clarinet, extending the length of the instrument and thus creating pitches below the normal range.  Once the tube has served its purpose it is pulled out of the clarinet and unceremoniously dropped on the floor.   

I made my set of tubes from rolled-up cardboard and masking tape when I was a graduate student sometime between 1974 and 1976.  I had enough extra cardboard to make a carrying tube for them.

I gave up playing the clarinet in the nineties.  I stuck these B,a,b,b,it,t tubes, case and all, into the very closet where I found them last week.  Years had not been kind to them.  The masking tape had become dry and cracked.  Some of the tubes had been crushed.  The case was falling apart.  Briefly I wondered whether I could bequeath the set to some weird young clarinetist somewhere.  Don't be silly, I told myself.  Their uselessness was obvious.

I knew what I must do.  I had to throw them away.

But hold on . . . before I did that . . . I decided to take a picture of them.  This would soften the blow of tossing a sentimental useless artifact of my long gone personal musical history into the trash.  And I continued, (trying to soften the blow even more) I could write about this on Mixed Meters and post the picture and maybe thereby repurpose my damned old blog for which my interest has been waning.  Mixed Meters could become an archive of discarded relics of interest only to myself.  (This is not a completely new idea.)

Here's the picture of my tubes.


But hold on . . . maybe I could take it one step farther . . . why not add a recording of myself playing B,a,b,b,it,t?  It took me a while to locate and then a second while to digitize.  In this day and age you probably expect a video.  Alas, I gave up performing long before videos were just one click away.

Here's my audio version:

Listen to  Donald Martino, B,a,b,b,it,t for clarinet with extensions, performed by David Ocker, clarinet - June 29, 1980 at I.D.E.A. Studio, Santa Monica CA - 241 seconds

This performance was part of a solo clarinet recital, something I did a handful of times throughout my 20-year clarinet "career".  While I was at it I digitized the whole concert.  Not nearly so wince-inducing as I feared, although I was having my problems that night.   Here's another piece from the same concert:

Listen to  J.S. Bach, Chromatic Fantasy, arranged for solo clarinet by Gustave Langenus, performed by David Ocker, clarinet - June 29, 1980 at I.D.E.A. Studio, Santa Monica, CA - 369 seconds

But hold on . . . there was still more . . . my recital was reviewed by the Los Angeles Times.  Pretty damn amazing that the largest Southern California newspaper, back in the days when newspapers were actually important, would pay a music critic to visit a struggling second-floor dance studio above a Radio Shack to hear an unknown clarinetist play abstruse contemporary music without any accompaniment.  (Well, there was one piece where my friend Jimmy Hildebrandt played drums.)

And it was a good review overall.  So I modestly offer it, if you're curious.


Click on any picture to enlargen it.

But hold on . . . and this is the last time for holding on, I promise . . . there's an important personal issue to be dealt with here, one I'm having difficulty with.

What am I going to do with all this stuff?  Remember all those closets and drawers I mentioned?  There are a lot more memory laden items where those tubes came from.

There are my Mother's old family photo albums and piano music.  My 5-year old hand immortalized in chipped gold-painted plaster.  Tapes of my bar mitzvah, my high school band concerts, almost every one of my college recitals and a 24-hour environmental recording made outside my apartment just two blocks from the Hollywood freeway, starting at noon on December 31, 1979 (it was source material for a tape piece).   Pretty much every copy of every piece of music I've ever written and every recording ever made of them and every abstract drawing I've ever made and a sheaf of blackened manuscript paper with tens of thousands of random black scratches (from testing my ink pen before there were music notation programs).  There are boxes of old computer disks, programs plus useless data, together with the printed manuals along with the hard drives from every computer I've owned for over 20 years.  I'm guessing those drives have lots of important digital stuff I can't bear to part with on them as well.  There are old films (see below), videos, reel-to-reel tapes galore, and cassettes and CDs up the wazoo.  Old music programs, press releases, reviews (some of which only mention my name in passing) and printouts of downloaded articles I read once and thought I might want to return to.  Pretty much every book I've ever owned - many of which are still in boxes in the basement, unpacked since our last move 21 years ago.

I've hoarded all of this (and more) with the vague plan that I'd do something with it someday.  Most of it has memories - my memories.  I labor under the delusion that holding onto my memories is important.  I want to remember these things and I know my memory isn't what it used to be.  My brain, you know.

I'm ambivalent about spending a big chunk of my present life dealing with all these things.  It wasn't that great of a past - although it was okay, I guess.  I'm old enough now to know that I don't have forever yet to go.  In my best moods I still hope for two decades yet, but one never knows.  Cataloging all this crap is probably not a good use of my energies or my time.  If I can't bring myself to toss all of it, at least I can apologize to whomever will have do the tossing when I'm gone.

I saved it all for a reason - it was once meaningful to me.  I wouldn't have taken the picture of the tubes if they still had absolutely no value.  And, as long as there's an Internet, I'll be able to refresh my memory of them and of how hard they were to toss out.




Here's a short music video I did to an early home movie.  I was not quite 2 years old.





And here's the Times' review, in text instead of picture, so Google will find it the next time someone searches for Dark as a Dungeon by Christian Wolff.
Ocker in Solo Clarinet Recital
by John Henken 
July 1, 1980 
Los Angeles Times

A solo clarinet recital would seem to promise a surfeit of unadorned tootling.  But Sunday evening at the I.D.E.A. Studio in Santa Monica raconteur and clarinetist David Ocker carried it off nicely: a loose, intriguing program done with wit, spirit and abundant technical glitter.
Ocker opened vigorously with Stravinsky's Three Pieces (1919). Succinct, jazzy and with ample interpretive leeway, they represented a prevailing current.  Donald Martino's "A Set for Clarinet" (1954) is certainly in much the same mold, though more dependent on literal jazz formulations.  It was Ocker's interpretive stance, however, that provided the most common ground.  Both brash and beguiling, he played with marvelous fluency and expressive nuance.
It was the performance also that pulled through Robert Jacobs' "Inner Light" (1979), a piece with all the potential of "Bolero" for popular abuse.  With percussionist James Hildebrandt, Ocker kept the relentless rhythmic drive purposeful, the bluesy theme passionate but not unduly primitive.
After watching a man hold a black stick in h is mouth for a while, a air of surrealism can grip the watcher.  In "Several Unrelated Events" (1976) by John Steinmetz, this musical Dada effect becomes tangible.  Fortunately, Ocker is an actor with a nice sense of timing and "Events" emerged with humor and sparkle.
Martino's "B,A,B,B,IT,T" (1966), a musical birthday card for composer Milton Babbitt, exploits some improbable sounds produced by inserting paper tubes into the bell-less bore of the instrument.  Martin probably had more in mind, but Sunday, funny noises sufficed.
Also on the program was an arrangement of Bach's "Chromatic" Fantasy (stunning) and Fugue (ho-hum, with multiple Ockers on tape), and Christian Wolff's "Dark as a Dungeon" (1977), a mild exercise in pitch manipulation, particularly octave displacement.  Ocker served both well.
This extraordinary clarinetist also provided verbal annotation for the program.  "Mo's Vacation" (1978) by Frank Zappa made a nice story, but the piece proved to be routine atonal wandering, punctuated by Casbah riffs.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Tubas

Right now the world needs the occasional escape from politics.  What could be less political than . . . tubas?

Mixed Meters has given you tubas before.  Most prominently, way back in 2008, in the post Tubas on the Beach in Art and Advertising. which showed two actual print ads featuring scantily clad women sporting that most feminine of all instruments, the sousaphone (which is just a tuba bent differently).   About a year later we had the much more male oriented Tubas and the Federal Reserve.   Tubas can also be found in this post (scroll down).

Ever since then I've been collecting the occasional tuba photograph or cartoon just for today.  Click on any picture for an enlargement.  We begin with a series of tuba related comics by Gary Larson, creator of the Far Side.






No review of humorous tuba drawings should overlook Gerard Hoffnung.  Besides being a cartoonist, Hoffnung actually played the tuba.  The last panel shows a tubist walking his instrument on a leash across the opening measures of the solo part to the Vaughan Williams Tuba Concerto.  (Hands up all of you who actually knew there was a Vaughan Williams Tuba Concerto.)





Now the category called Women With Tubas, beginning with the most wholesome, a banner advertising our local music school.  Next, Mrs. Emma Peel (as played by Diana Rigg, both video and still) on The Avengers television series.  Then it gets kinky.






This cartoon, by Claude Serre, might be interest mainly to music copyists such as myself.  I guess that's the proper notation for "blatt" even in that altissimo register.


And finally - Tuba with Tentacles (a refrigerator magnet left over from a monthly hipster gathering at the Natural History Museum where Leslie works), Tuba as Ostrich and Wagner Tubas as Urinals.




A picture of a Wagner Tuba made into a lamp can be found a ways into this post.

Thanks to Mixed Meters' remaining reader, EricNP - who provided the video clip of Mrs. Peel, tubist.

Other MM posts with lots of pictures:
Half Grassed
Collected Selfies
Discarded Gloves
Tile Patterns
Camera Shake
Discarded Gloves
Facelike Part 1 - Part 2
Hidden Meanings
Branches Before Blue

Still here? Here's something political, about inequality, just so this post is not totally pointless.


And here's Johnathan Pie.  Outrage!