Sunday, July 30, 2006

In which David finishes a Space Opera

No, nothing that I wrote - especially not any music. It's about a book - my most recent soporific and a very exciting soporific too.

The Algebraist by one of my very favorite authors Iain Banks. (click the picture for larger size)

Or is he called Iain M. Banks? Yep, he publishes under two names - with the middle M. and without - to denote whether he's writing science fiction or not. Here's his home page. Let him explain it.

A few years ago Leslie brought home one of Banks' science fiction works, Excession, which I devoured. It's about a world where machines are very intelligent and powerful, a common Banksian theme.

Since then I've read every one of his books that I know of (except the newest Dead Air). I have an entire shelf devoted only to his novels. Banks is a versatile and capable author, pretty much unknown in the U.S.

The Algebraist takes place mostly in Ulubis, a distant planetary system, which faces invasion by a horrendously evil villain with a fleet of deadly space ships. Hoping for some inside information that will save them, the inept, bureaucratic rulers of Ulubis send the bookish hero on a quest to find . . . a book (what else).
He goes to a large gas planet (think of Jupiter) which is populated by Dwellers, an ancient species with a billion year life span. Our hero spends most of the story traveling about in a one-person space ship (think of a high tech mobile coffin with mechanical arms). Dwellers don't organize their libraries very well (think of my CD collection) and the critical information has been misplaced.
Yes, that is the exciting premise of The Algebraist.

I couldn't put it down.


von Daniken Chichen Itza stone rocketship (c) 2004 David OckerA picture I took of the Rocket Ship of the Gods at Chichen Itza Mexico.

Van Daniken has a Theme Park (in English via BabelFish or in German)

For more information about the science fiction genre called Space Opera click here for Wikipedia.

A composer named David Bass has written an actual musical "Space Opera" based on the first Star Wars movie, (known as "Episode Four, the New Math.") Click to see the cast in costume. Cute.

L. Ron Hubbard, the science fiction author who could have become a God, made the term Space Opera into a religious tenet. Click here.


Short commercials for the Sci-Fi network: a Superhero Grandmother and a balloon dog.
Here is another balloon video (not science fiction but most men will enjoy it.)
Here is a German commercial (not science fiction and most men will be disappointed)
Here is Stunt City 7:45 a.m. (very highly recommended if you like action movies)

A Star Trek parody (in Finnish): Star Wreck, In the Pirkinning (click here) which "... begins with Captain James B. Pirk of the starship Kickstart shipwrecked on the 21st century Earth with his crew ..." (I've only watched the trailer, no time for the full length movie yet.)

A Star Wars Fan Movie, IMPS: The Relentless (click here). Imagine COPS, the television show, on the planet Tatooine following a squad of Imperial Storm Troopers as they work an average day on the job.

truck with Ice-9 sign Vonnegut Cats Cradle (c) 2006 David OckerClick on the Ice-Nine truck (seen in Alhambra CA) for a larger picture. An ice-related Sci-Fi Network commercial.


STAR WARS: The IPO (Imperial Philharmonic Orchestra, Darth Vader music director) in concert.

DAVID'S RECENT SOPORIFICS ("books read before bed")
The Merchant of Prato - (click here or here. )
Umberto Eco - Baudolino (click here)
One Market Under God (click here)
50's Japanese Murder Mystery with electronic music (click here)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Guitar as Icon

All pictures taken in Pasadena California.

The lovely main entrance to Guitar Center, an annoyingly frenetic place.
Advertising for Budweiser in my local liquor store, Mission Liquor
The stage door of a theater at a local high school - McKinley High?
Old Pasadena - street musician and large black Mickey Mouse sculpture playing a Guitar Duet
Click on the last picture for an enlargement. I had to Photoshop this one heavily to make the large black-plastic Mickey Mouse with the Strat and the amp visible through the reflection on the window.

I gave the player my spare change and asked if I could take his picture. He just glared at me.

Here's video of a Mastercard commercial that continues today's theme

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Make Like a Tree and . . .

Say hello to two of my neighborhood trees.

Tree looks like a puppy (c) Copyright 2006 David Ocker

Tree looks like a fish (c) Copyright 2006 David Ocker

Say hello to some trees from far away

Pictures of Plants

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

30 Second Spots - Jihadist Boogie

Pasadena CA - parking garage covered in ivy and golf storeclick here to hear Jihadist Boogie.

Once I decided to call this a "boogie" (which it isn't) I needed to think of something that probably has never had a boogie named after it. I looked down at some newspapers and on the cover of the New York Times was a story about some bad Jihadist - or other.

This is the piece that asks the question "If a bomb explodes in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make any sound?"

Copyright © June 15, 2006 by David Ocker - 59 seconds

Know Your Enemy Department:
Here's a political video advertisement entitled "Democracy vs. Jihad" (produced by something called "Vote To Be Free Dot Com"). An ugly-voiced announcer explains how Democratic Lawyer Senators are on the side of the jihadists and urges us to make sure our "next vote is the right vote".

This is a taste of the upcoming election. Be sure to check out the countdown to the explosion at the end to see why the Democrats haven't got a chance in November against vicious propaganda.

Note from the future (2011). Vote to be Free dot com has vanished from the web and the clip "Democracy vs. Jihad" will do the same when Google videos disappear.

Here's another clip from the same DVD (which is, alas, still available for purchase - not that I'm going to tell you where). This one is entitled Narco terrorists and Kim Jong Il - drug money, nuclear bombs. The ugly-voiced announcer is the same. He says:
If you take drugs, do everyone a favor. Get help. And stop financing narco-terrorists. Otherwise when a mushroom cloud rises in America, you'll know that you helped fund it.
Whoever is behind this message is espousing classic proto-fascism - asking every American to adopt an identical form of racism.

Explanation of 30 second spots

30 Second Spots

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Price of A (Lousy) Piano

This is a short news article from the Los Angeles Times, July 14, 2006:


The piano used in the film "Casablanca" -- the one on which Dooley Wilson played "As Time Goes By" -- will be onstage tonight and Saturday at the Hollywood Bowl for the "Mediterranean Blue: From Fireworks to Fado" concerts with conductor John Mauceri and the Hollywood Bowl orchestra.

Valued at more than $2.5 million and owned by Beverly Hills dentist Gary Milan, the salmon-colored piano will be played in the Suite from "Casablanca" by composer Max Steiner. As an insurance requirement, a security guard will be with the piano at the Bowl from delivery this morning until 8 a.m. pickup time on Sunday. -
From a Times Staff Writer

Here's the press release for these concerts. In my opinion, the only real reasons to go to the Hollywood bowl are a) to have a picnic or b) to watch fireworks. You can listen to music on a stereo system anywhere.

Here's a Casablanca Page which includes a video of the scene in question here. (As Time Goes By - at the bottom)

This piano is not even full size. For 2,500,000 dollars I think you should at least get yourself a decent sounding instrument with 88 keys. An identical piano which hadn't been blessed by being in Casablanca wouldn't cost 4 figures, let alone 7.

Click here for a Steinway & Sons page detailing the highest prices ever paid for one of their products. They argue that they make both the most expensive and the least expensive piano you can buy. They mean the same piano. It's an accounting trick which will appeal to people who need furniture.

Obviously I'm not the one who gets to decide what is valuable and what isn't.

Friday, July 14, 2006

In honor of Bastille Day

These are all video links.

A Very Strange French Song about Dogs (thanks to Music Thing)

A New Post-World Cup interpersonal French Tradition (thanks to Kill Ugly Radio)

Two French Television Commercials

Driving a Large Auto in France

A French gentleman holds the door for a lady.

And finally - two French Music Videos

French rock 'n roll band Golgoth 13 performs Magnetron - an actual instrumental! - clay animation of three Gumby-like dancers living on a Commodore 64.

News from the future (2011) This video is disappearing but you can find the Golgoth 13 website here (complete with retro-Commodore 64 fashion.)

Babylon Circus - this is a French Ska? band in performance - check out how the trumpet player does backup vocals

I took the picture of the truck at a Pasadena Farmer's Market - click to enlarge it.

This tree lives two doors from us.

On behalf my fellow citizens, I'd like to apologize for our silly collective behavior towards France. While we cherish independence, we find it difficult to be tolerant of others who might attempt to be independent of us.

Music Videos
Pictures of Plants

Monday, July 10, 2006

John Adams & John Coltrane

This picture is a bit of tree trunk against a blue sky, cropped and rotated 180°.

What do you see?

Composer John Adams' website has just been completely revised, rolling into a new century. Click here for Lot's of good stuff to read about his many pieces. The wonderful pictures are by Debbie O'Grady - John's wife. (Yes, I should be working instead of blogging.)

Maybe you're the sort of person who sees images while listening to music. If not, then this fantastic computer-generated abstract movie which visualizes John Coltrane's Giant Steps nearly note for note, is for you.

It's by Israeli artist and designer Michal Levy and it deserves the "prestigious" Docker Award - too bad I stopped giving them out. (Thanks to New Music Box for the link.)

I now return you to your previously scheduled web browsing.

Pictures of Plants
Music Video

Thursday, July 06, 2006

30 Second Spots - What Would Barbie Sing?

click here to hear What Would Barbie Sing?

It's a song in the format: verse, chorus, verse, chorus. Not like me at all to do that.

Copyright © July 3-7, 2006 by David Ocker - 53 seconds

Leslie suggested the words to the chorus.

What Would Barbie Sing?
I'm Barbie.
I'm Barbie
What would I sing for you?
Math is hard.
I'm sexy
And plastic,
And Christian through and through.
Math is hard.
Math is hard.

No, the vocals are not on this track. Do a good Barbie voice? Feel free to overdub and send it in.

WWBS? was inspired by this recent article in the Los Angeles Times. It tells about advertising composer Tena Clark (a resident of Pasadena California) as she works to create the perfect musical signature for Mattel's little dollie Barbie. It's called a Sonic Brand. No, not like they do to cattle, I hope.

Since L.A.Times articles disappear after a while, here are some quotes that made me laugh and shudder:

Would Barbie be three notes, or four? Would they cascade up or down?

"Someday a little girl will walk through a store with her parents, and she'll faintly hear a few notes, and will turn to her dad and say, 'I want a Barbie doll,' "

If Barbie were a song, what would she sound like?

... research on how the brain processes music made a case for why three- or four-note songs could sell millions of plastic dolls or hamburgers.

Procter & Gamble Co. has experimented with in-store motion sensors that play the Charmin toilet tissue jingle when shoppers pass by its shelves. Companies are working sonic brands into in-store music and other background sounds.

I can only remember ever writing one other actual song in my life. That was back in college. I'm pretty sure the music is forever lost, but I remember most of the words. Here they are:

The Musician's Alphabet

Alban Berg
Claude Debussy
Edwin Franko Goldman
Henricus Isaac
Jerome Kern
Leopold Mozart
Nicolai, Otto
Porter, Quincy
Richard Strauss
That's as much as I remember. I'm pretty sure Vladimir Ussachevsky didn't get included. Anyone know a composer with just one name beginning with T. Or with initials W.X., X.W., Y.Z. or Z.Y. ? (Each name in the lyrics links to Wikipedia.)

Video -a Gloria Estefan trailer (What? I'm a sucker for her album Mi Tierra . Tradicion, the song on this video, inspired a piece of mine called Two Minute Warning. It was the last piece I ever wrote for live performance. You can ignore the video on this video.)

Barbie has appeared in a previous Mixed Meters post. That one also includes advertising and religious subject matter. Virgins and Suicide. Click here.

Explanation of 30 second spots

30 Second Spots

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Selling Cable Television in Pasadena

Carpet One store with I Pooted Billboard for Cartoon Network Rosemead Avenue Pasadena July 5 2006 Click here for "I Pooted," the definition.

(Click on the pictures for enlargements.)

(Yes, Mixed Meters has stooped to running fart jokes.)

I Pooted Billboard for Cartoon Network Pasadena California Rosemead Blvd 210 Freeway July 5 2006Click here for "I Pooted," the video.

Another more explicit video with the same gaseous theme. (Would you believe a big dinosaur, a little dinosaur and a pig in a farting contest.)

Or revisit this "sterling" Mixed Meters post and scroll down to the video which features another farting pig and his hen friends.


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Pink Peugeot Pepper and Poodles

Leslie and I were in a Williams Sonoma store and came across these pink pepper mills. Leslie said "They remind me of cutesy-wootsey poodle kitsch."

They are manufactured by the Peugeot company. Did you know that Peugeot invented the pepper mill before it made autos? Neither did I. (Click here.)

Price: $85 - marked down to $40 but the website doesn't have pink ones. Do they provide pink in Pasadena only?

Here is some poodle kitsch. Not exactly what Leslie had in mind - but it does illustrate her point.

Click here see more poodle kitsch at DoWahDiddy (you could even purchase this "pink poodle nodder")

This perplexing video from Panasonic is perfect for a pink poodle post:
Mariko Takahaski's Fitness Video


Monday, July 03, 2006

30 Second Spots - Fang Man's Blues

click here to hear Fang Man's Blues

I saw this news article on the AMC New Music Box announcing that composer Fang Man had won an award.

I thought to myself "Fang Man! That's a great pseudonym for a rock 'n roll singer who is becoming a serious composer."

But it turned out Fang Man is a Chinese name and she is working her way up the "important composer" ladder. Here is Fang Man's website.

Then I thought "Fang Man needs her own blues. Fang Man's Blues!"

Don't get the joke? Click here, scroll down and listen to "Hangman's Blues" by Blind Lemon Jefferson. Yeah. I know. Sorry.

She'll probably be upset, huh? Even so, this piece is written in Fang Man's honor, but it has no reference that I'm aware of to her music. It certainly doesn't have anything to do with Hangman's Blues.

Copyright © June 29-30, 2006 by David Ocker - 42 seconds

Explanation of 30 second spots

Here's a Wikipedia entry on another "Fang Man".

30 Second Spots
Pictures of Plants (click on the picture for a close up)

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Trixie - the Independence Day Pig

Every year, composer Arthur Jarvinen and his lovely wife, cellist Lynn Angebrandt, host a Fourth of July barbecue at their home. The tradition is to roast a whole pig, Cuban style, under the watchful Cuban-descended eye of percussionist Robert Fernandez. Usually the pig is given the name of a famous Cuban. For some reason, this year's pig was named Trixie.

When Trixie was ready to eat Art called his lucky guests (including myself) to dinner using his simantron. Here's video of Art summoning us to pig out.

"What's a simantron?" Click here for Art's own explanation.

Problems with the embedded video? Try here. or (maybe) here

I accused Art of looking like the bearded Saddam Hussein. This is the face Art made to disapprove of my accusation.

I hope he'll still talk to me after this.

This is Art's Corkscrew.

This is a close up of Art's pants leg.

Go to Art's homepage by clicking this sentence.