Thursday, July 31, 2008

Pasadena Towers

Ben of the sky is big in Pasadena posted this story about being confronted by a security guard for taking pictures of one of the lesser architectural "wonders" of Pasadena from a public place.

I dug through my messy unorganized files and found these shots of that same building. I never had trouble at that location - maybe because my pocket point and shoot is so small - but I've certainly had my encounters with people elsewhere who thought I shouldn't be taking pictures. (If you click a picture, it'll enlarge.)

Pasadena Towers 800 E Colorado Blvd Pasadena CA
Pasadena Towers 800 E Colorado Blvd Pasadena CA
Pasadena Towers 800 E Colorado Blvd Pasadena CA
This is what I call a "framing shot" - while I'm taking pictures at a location I try to find a sign to help me identify it later.

Pasadena Towers 800 E Colorado Blvd Pasadena CA
Google Street view has pictures all around this building. Start here.

Here's another picture I took of a small detail on the Green Street side of Pasadena Towers.

Here's my picture of the "Photography is prohibited" sign at Pinkberry in Old Pasadena.

Pasadena Tower Tags: . . . . . .

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

In the mood

In honor of Southern California's recent earthquake I'd like to present this video of Tex Beneke and the Glenn Miller Orchestra performing In the Mood. You're right, there's no logical connection between the two.

Watch for two wonderful moments.

The one - an aerial trick by the trombones. I wish the french horn player would do it too.

The other - a textbook example of how not to overuse a full string section.


Here's another video of In the mood which impresses me a lot more. (Even if they do occasionally move their hands in the wrong direction when imitating a trombone slide.)

Mood Tags: . . . . . .

Friday, July 25, 2008

Scene along the LA Freeways - from the backseat

I recently rode to the West Side in the backseat. I amused myself by snapping pictures of downtown Los Angeles from the moving car. Here's a few shots you don't often see during Hollywood movies and slow speed chases. (Click any picture for an enlargement.)

Scene along the Los Angeles Freeway (c) David OckerScene along the Los Angeles Freeway (c) David OckerScene along the Los Angeles Freeway (c) David OckerScene along the Los Angeles Freeway (c) David OckerOf course there are lots of big buildings to see - from far away and from up close.

Scene along the Los Angeles Freeway (c) David OckerScene along the Los Angeles Freeway (c) David OckerThey reflect upon one another.

Scene along the Los Angeles Freeway (c) David OckerAnd there's always graffiti. You see it on the barriers, on the public art, on your fellow travelers and on the tops of the buildings. Like any other graffiti, the names on the building tops change from time to time without reason - although they tend to remove the old names completely first rather than just crossing them out with spray paint.

Scene along the Los Angeles Freeway (c) David OckerScene along the Los Angeles Freeway (c) David OckerScene along the Los Angeles Freeway (c) David OckerScene along the Los Angeles Freeway (c) David Ocker
Graffiti Tags: . . . . . .

Monday, July 21, 2008

One GOLDBERG equals twelve ABBAs

A few days ago Leslie said "I want to see the Abba movie, Mama Mia!, this weekend." I agreed.

I once listened to one Abba album one time.

About ten years ago I happened upon Abba Gold Greatest Hits in Leslie's CD collection. I popped it into the player and was surprised that it didn't suck. In fact there was just enough musical interest for me to be surprised that I was enjoying it.

The important words in that last sentence were "just enough". If the disc had held any less musical interest for me, even the smallest smidgen, I would not have enjoyed it.

Abba Gold Greatest Hits may be one of the 40 best selling albums ever - but I decided there was no need for me to listen to it again for years and years to come.

Abba Gold Greatest Hits
In preparation for seeing the movie this weekend I hunted the album down, ripped it to my iPod and listened for a second time. The stupid lyrics, disco thumping and ancient synth sounds were still there. But I again discovered that each song had a couple small musical aspects - a chord change here, a little bit of counterpoint there - that kept my attention from wandering too far. One song, Money Money Money, even has a kind of mixed meter moment.

After this second listening I concluded that the album, in my subjective analysis, represents a quantum of musical interest: the minimum amount of musical content sufficient to hold my attention once per decade. I decided to name this measurement an ABBA. In other words Abba Gold Greatest Hits is now the reference standard representing one ABBA of musical interest.

ABBAs can be used as a measurement scale of musical interest, a way to compare the interest level of different musical works.

The bottom of the scale, zero ABBAs, would (of course) be represented by my Music In Hell list: for example Joni Mitchell or Willie Nelson.

The top of the scale, arbitrarily set at twelve ABBAS, is equivalent to one GOLDBERG, represented by my very great interest in Bach's Goldberg Variations especially as played by Glenn Gould.

The ABBA scale is patterned after the scale of sound pressure, measured in Bels, which is commonly used by musicians. It is logarithmic. This means that one Bel or one ABBA represents a 10-fold increase. For day to day use deciABBAs (one tenth of an ABBA) will be more practical.

There you have it - Science Has Spoken! Bach's Goldberg Variations is one trillion times more interesting than Willie Nelson but only one hundred billion times more interesting than Abba Gold Greatest Hits.

By the way, the movie Mama Mia! didn't score any higher than the album - it held my interest, but no more, so it represents exactly one ABBA - and it additionally proves that ex-James Bond actors can't sing. QED.

ADDENDUM: Thanks to Palm Axis for the link to this fascinating video: (see comments).

Mama Mia! - Based On A True Story.

deciABBA Tags: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Mayor Resigns; Will Move to Italy to pursue opera career

This is an advertisement from today's LA Times, page A11, whose red ink is elsewhere in the news today. This ad is part of a series on successive pages each marred by a splotch of differently colored paint. Each is related to something Italian: ruins, scooters and opera.

Can you guess what is being sold to you? It has "uninhibited flavor".

Mayor Resigns; Will Move to Italy to pursue opera career
Click the picture to enlarge it. Then you can read the small print to at least find out who is selling something to you. The secret is revealed on the next page of the paper. My local branch doesn't seem to be participating in this product roll-out in favor of a different new product.

Here's another MM post featuring a musically themed beverage advertisement.

Here's another article about the Times' red ink. It has this quote:
The decline in advertising, fueled by a weak real estate market, has boosted the copy-to-ads ratio above the industry target of 50-50, giving readers more stories than they can digest

Opera Tags: . . . . . . . . . . . .

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Gloves in the Wild

Gloves are more photogenic than hats. These pictures were all taken in the natural habitat of the Pasadena wild glove.

Gloves in the Wild (c) David Ocker
Gloves in the Wild (c) David Ocker
Gloves in the Wild (c) David Ocker
Gloves in the Wild (c) David Ocker
Gloves in the Wild (c) David Ocker
Gloves in the Wild (c) David Ocker
Gloves in the Wild (c) David Ocker
Gloves in the Wild (c) David Ocker
Gloves in the Wild (c) David Ocker

Click any glove for an enlargement.

Glove Tags: . . .

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Did you know you can watch video on the Internet?

Chances are you knew that already. Here are some videos I've enjoyed. You might enjoy them too, maybe.

Leslie, a regular Mixed Meters reader, sent in this video from some old movie of film star Ann Miller dancing inthe middle of a very surreal, discorporated orchestra. A good example of how little CGI has really changed the movies.

The fine website Kill Ugly Radio posted a link to a video interview with Frank Zappa in seven parts. Interesting example of Frank's shear genius and mere opinion. In the last section, less than a minute long, Frank sends a message to people in the year 3000. Priceless. Very dark. Not to be missed.

Richard Emmet contributed this link to a Weird Al parody of Frank Zappa's music. Too long. Too many words. Funny if you already like Frank's songs.

WFMU's fine blog Beware the Blog ran this article about the films of Englishman Richard Massingham - short instructional pieces on such important topics as how to cross the street, how to use your hankerchief, and how not to spread germs.

But here at Mixed Meters we're partial to Watch Your Meters - a plea to conserve energy - very topical in 2008.

These remind me of films by Robert Benchley. For example, this one from 1928, in which Benchley lectures to a ladies club on The Sex Life of the Polyp. Many of Mixed Meters' readers are interested in hermaphroditic marine invertebrates. For the rest of you, how could anyone resist a movie with the line:
"You remember in our last lecture we took up the subject of emotional crises in fungi."

Video Tags: . . . . . . . . .

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Willie and Wynton

There's something new happening at Mixed Meters: I'm getting offers of free things, review copies, freebies, swag - if I write about them.

First there was a comp ticket to Bloggers Night at the Ojai Music Festival. I didn't go but I did write about it. You can listen to what I wrote here.

I accepted a copy of Kenneth D. Ackerman's excellent book YOUNG J. EDGAR: Hoover, the Red Scare, and the Assault on Civil Liberties. I am reading that now and will write about it.

But the most amazing (and least appropriate) offer was for "Willie Nelson Wynton Marsalis; Two Men With The Blues". which goes on sale July 8. Under normal circumstances I would have absolutely no intention of listening to this album. Read this Mixed Meters post to find out how Willie Nelson drove me to buy my iPod so I would NOT have to listen to him at Starbucks.

Willie Nelson Wynton Marsalis Two Men with the Blues
My first mistake was telling Leslie about the offer. "I want it," she said jumping up and down like a pogo stick, "Please get it." I said no, but I made a counter offer. "I'll get the album if you write the review."

Leslie demurred to this generous proposition, saying that her training as a marine invertebrate taxonomist didn't qualify her to pen music reviews. So I made my second mistake - I sweetened the deal.

"If I get it, and you listen to it,"
I offered, "then I'll record your reactions in a conversation and fashion those into a blog post." She agreed.

I wrote back to John Lavallo (of Takeout Marketing in New York) and after a while a review copy of WNWMTMWTB arrived. I listened to it and Leslie listened to it. Then one day I recorded our discussion about the album.

Please note: I listened to it first but I tried not to color Leslie's opinions by telling her what I thought. Once she did tell me what she thought she asked for my reactions which were recorded also. I transcribed my words as well.

What follows is a heavily edited transcript. No names have been changed to protect anyone. Leslie's words are in purple and mine in brown.

Willie Nelson Wynton Marsalis Two Men with the Blues
LH: It was pleasant and entertaining. It's good. I liked it but I was disappointed. I expected it to be great. Instead it sounds like a bunch of friends sitting around and jamming on a bunch of favorite tunes. It's not what I'd hoped it would be.

I would expect a live concert to be better than a studio recording because you would catch the interplay between all the musicians. On this album you can hear them laughing - they clearly enjoy playing together - but it's not better.

Willie Nelson is one my absolute favorites. Across the Borderline - I just listen to that over and over and over. Same for some of Wynton's stuff. The two of them both have music for moods when I want quiet, moods when I want energy, for dancing, for being happy or just layin' back. Even the cool jazz, intellectual - when I'm sitting and thinking.
DO: I can hear Wynton having a cool jazz, intellectual side. You'd have to show me Willie Nelson's cool intellecutal side.
LH. Willie Nelson has written and performed some standards of American pop music that can stand up with anything, with whoever you consider a master, people like Cole Porter. He started off as a guy in a suit - he wrote top songs for Patsy Cline.

It's a fun album. Willie's singing is ... casual. Just sittin' back. It's like he was sitting on his front porch with these guys, relaxed and easy - not caring if there are a couple wrong notes. Just playing. Just having fun.

The solos of everybody combined ... it's all easy stuff for them. There's no stretching here. Licks that you've heard over and over again. And they're combined in familiar ways. This album is a conversation with a dear friend, one you enjoy very much, but it's not one that's going to stay in your memory.
DO: So you thought Wynton and Willie were on the same wavelength when they were playing.
LH: They blended pretty well for the most part. Kind of a honky-tonk slash New Orleans slash whatever feel to it.
DO: It's billed as Two Men With The Blues.
LH. Sounds awfully cheery for the blues.
DO: It's a really bright shade of blue?
LH: Kind of a teal or an aquamarine.
Willie Nelson Wynton Marsalis Two Men with the BluesLeslie asks my opinion.
DO: It was a fine album but completely undistinguished - except for the fact that Willie's singing, his delivery of the songs, drags the whole thing completely into the mud. As long as he wasn't singing it was pleasant to listen to.

But whenever he was singing I was cringing physically. He seemed to be missing the notes, forgetting the words and not using the same tempo as everybody else. Maybe he's just old at this point, maybe he was tired that night, maybe he thinks that's the way the blues ought to be sung, maybe I just don't get it. But I couldn't deal with his vocal delivery. I would never listen again because of that.
LH: I think his delivery has always been laconic - in a good way. He does a lot with a little. Maybe this isn't the right backing to bring that out as it does in some of his other songs.
DO: If the phrasing that I heard on this album was the phrasing of his idiom, then it was not appropriate to this group of sidemen. In that sense, his singing and the instrumentalists weren't really speaking to each other.

When Willie played the occasional guitar solo I thought he was fine. If he had just shut up and played his guitar I would have been a whole lot happier.

That's what I thought -- if this had been the album they were playing in heavy rotation at Starbucks I probably wouldn't have had quite as negative a reaction.

Anything more to say before I turn the tape off?
LH: Thank you for getting it for me, honey. I like it.
This album has its own website,
Willie Nelson has his own website:
Wynton Marsalis has his own website:

Click this sentence to find blog reactions that are more positive.
I particularly like this review in Time - less than 75 words; not exactly a pan, but not a compliment either.

Two Men Tags: . . .