Friday, December 30, 2011

Highlights - King's Cup Elephant Polo 2011 at Anantara Hua Hin Resort & Spa

Elephant polo? Why not? But I'd hate to be the one cleaning up the field.

The only way to take rejection

Little Baby Micah reacts in a unique way to his Dad's job rejection letter.

I think I'll try that next time. Now all I need is a baby.

Big Bang Theory gifs: a belated Christmas hug!

"I want you to appreciate my frog, actually."
"Ah, wishy-wish."

(Note to Howard. Stop drinking so much.)

Mad Men gifs: I think it moved!

Geez I get mad about this. I finally gather up some truly foxy Don Draper/Jon Hamm gifs gleaned from the first four seasons of Mad Men, then find out only three of them will post here, most of them not too good.

Well, except for that first one.

Don Draper is what you'd call a good-smelling man. You know the type, you can just tell.

Harrison Ford: definitely a good-smelling man. Maybe just a touch too much cologne, but nice-smelling hair, he uses something good on it or else he just has nice-smelling hair. Just the right amount of body hair, too.

Cary Grant: Whatever men used then. He took care of himself, knew how to fill a tux.

Harold Lloyd: Of course! Lemon verbena, the rest just "him".

George Clooney: Need I say more?

Unfortunately, there are also the bad-smelling men.

Matthew McConaughey (or however you spell it): He just reeks, like a skunk. He has admitted he doesn't use deodorant and seems proud of it, though his co-stars have complained about him.

Brad Pitt: His name says it all.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman: He looks like he never washes his hair. Or other things.

Oh, enough of all that crap. *WHEN* is Season 5 of Mad Men going to start? IS it going to start? It was supposed to begin in July, for Christ's sake. JULY. That was, let me see, months ago. Then Matthew Weiner (who doesn't take pictures of his anatomy and Tweet them to his six girl friends, that's the other guy), the prima donna creator of the show, got in a major spat with the network, AMC. I think it was over commercials and having to cut a character (!?) in order to fit in more ads.

This is stupid! All they'd have to do is talk faster! And we can't afford any more leakage. They already cut Sal Romano, whose story line was finally starting to heat up after being on simmer for four years. Then he was unceremoniously dumped.

Enough about gays, I guess: the ones Don called "you people".

I was also getting very interested in pre-teen Sally, Don and Betty's daughter. She was born at the same time I was, and through her child's perception is experiencing the turbulence of the '60s (Cuban missile crisis, Kennedy assassination, Beatles on Ed Sullivan for the first time - on my tenth birthday, by the way).

She has come a long way from running around with a plastic dry cleaning bag over her head. At the end of Season 4 she was seeing a psychiatrist for masturbating at a sleepover while watching Ilya Kuryakin on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (I was a Napoleon Solo girl, myself.)

They'd better not send her away to Switzerland to deal with the embarrassment.

The thing is. . . I have this awful, queasy feeling that the show is over. There has been nothing to promote Season 5 that I've seen, except a  marathon of the first four seasons which AMC is showing at 3:00 in the morning on Sundays.

That's when they show "remastered" Three Stooges episodes from the 1940s. If there is an inverse to prime time, this is it.                                                                        

It's better than nothing, however, so 'm recording and watching them all again. I'm watching them, even though this may be the 5th or 6th time I've seen them. This has never happened to me before. I just love this show, love everything about it because so far it hasn't been even a little bit predictable or boring.

But what if it never comes back? The whole thing is so mushy. The word on the internet - which we've never been able to depend on up to now - is that it'll be back in March. MARCH?? It was February a couple minutes ago, and before that, January. And September. And. . . How can things go backwards like this?

This show has a huge fan base (or had), but the public has a very short attention span, which means it's probably already haemorrhaging viewers. It'll be a hard job to pull those numbers back up again, and if they can't, it'll be sayonara for good. Matthew Weiner will have effectively committed television suicide.

I have the DVD sets of the first four seasons. I am ashamed to admit (oh all right, I'm not) that I bought the fourth season before it officially came out. Bought it cheap from a suspicious-looking video outfit that was promptly closed down, with a forbidding-looking Homeland Security announcement appearing where the home page used to be. It went on and on about theft and fines and jail terms. Let's hope they don't catch up with me. Honest, I thought this was just a sneak preview! Never mind that it's a direct transfer from TV, with the AMC logo in the corner.

It's not good to get so addicted. It has something to do with my generation, and Sally, and the sex, and the booze, and the smoking. And with Peggy Olson, who has evolved like crazy throughout the four seasons, from mousy junior secretary to unwitting expectant mother to guilt-ridden lapsed Catholic to chicly-dressed, full-fledged copywriter with a quasi-beatnik girl friend who reminds me of Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory (but that's another post).

Don is on the cusp of marrying a gorgeous young secretary, someone he barely knows, mainly because she is willing to overlook his shady past and accept him the way he is. Never is there any mention of what HE intends to bring to the relationship, simply because it doesn't occur to him. She meets his needs, or is supposed to. His needs are: sex; complete erasure of his past; sex. That's why she's there. And with his kids, she's (in his words) Maria von Trapp: or, more likely, Mary Poppins.

Oh, we all have to see how this works out! Don's "secret" life is all over the place now, completely worn out like Sal Romano's secret crush on metrosexual Ken Cosgrove. So that story line will have to be discarded, unless there's more "trouble" later over that ersatz purple heart. I think they've squeezed this lemon long enough.

I wonder sometimes if this whole thing is just a ploy to titillate fans, to make them wait and wait and wait, like Betty Draper waiting for an orgasm. But it won't work. No matter how good this show is, and I happen to think it's the best thing I've ever seen, waiting isn't the viewing public's strong suit.

                                          (Whoaaaaaawwwww. Excuse me.)

Mad Men has already spawned some washed-out imitators like Pan Am and The Playboy Club (which lasted two episodes: take that, Hugh, and get back in your wheelchair). I tried to watch Pan Am because of Christina Ricci, who was an absolute genius in the two Addams Family movies. But as a "stew", she's a bust. The woman in the first episode who runs away just as her wedding is starting is so-o-o-o lame, as she sits in her friend's revving car ("What'll you do?" "I know! I'll become a Pan Am stewardess!" No kidding, that's really what she says.)

Watered-down Weiner isn't working very well. We need the real thing. We need a man who somehow smells good in spite of excessive tobacco and alcohol, who actually looks good in those stupid hats they wore. We need that time machine, that ache from an old wound (as Don once defined "nostalgia": it was when he brilliantly named an ordinary slide projector the Kodac Carousel! How do they ever get permission to do these things?)

Take me back, Don. It was all a mistake, there was never any conflict. I don't care what you've done; I don't care how many women you've snorched. All is forgiven. I need you.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

"Oh, fxxx!" The first recorded naughty word

OK then, we already covered this Volta Labs business, but I just made a discovery on the "official" site (, which was originally set up to transcribe those famous Au clair de la lune recordings made by (blahblahblah) Martinville. You know, that French guy from 1860 who wrapped lamp-blackened paper around a cylinder, shouted into it ("Wheeeeee-hawken!"), and put it away because he didn't know how to play it back. 

Like anything that has been sealed into a drawer and considered useless for 132 years, the Volta Labs recordings are equally fascinating. Making you wonder if this whole thing is like an archaeological dig, with dozens or hundreds of other fascinating failed or semi-successful experimental sound recordings out there waiting to be newly-deciphered by computer.

This disc is obviously the prototype of a CD, previously unplayable and thought to be relatively unimportant. After all that Au Clair business, however, everyone was scrambling to get their discs, cylinders and ancient clay jars played back for public consumption. (No kidding, some people think spinning clay water jars somehow picked up the voices of Adam and Eve. For details, watch William Shatner's Weird or What?)

These experimental Volta discs were stashed in a locked drawer in the Smithsonian somewhere, along with Lincoln's DNA and other weird-or-what stuff. Someone has conveniently transcribed the words, some of which are kind of garbled. The person reciting Mary Had a Little Lamb (probably a sendup of Edison's supposed "first words" on a tin foil cylinder) keeps on interrupting the flow, first by what sounds like an elephant in the studio (poor elephant!), or someone forcefully blowing his nose.

The feeling is that something keeps going wrong with the sound equipment, though our narrator soldiers on. But keep on listening. According to, when the guy says, "Oh, no!" he's not really saying "oh, no!" at all. In fact, this is the first known obscene remark in recorded history.

What he's really saying is "oh, fuck!"

As with any other ambiguous sound, you don't hear it until you know what you are listening for. But it's definitely there, recorded for posterity, then hidden under the sands of time, or in some dusty locked drawer in the Smithsonian.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

William Shatner Loblaws commercial

Keep it Gay by William Shatner

This is the best I can do!

Rocket Man by William Shatner

Ay ay ay ay! I just deleted about four posts because the accompanying videos wouldn't play. Some restriction or other, but I hope this one does, bad quality or not. I'm tired of going over the reasons why I'm posting this - something about a six-year-old William Shatner roast on Comedy Network I sat through last night, paralyzed by too much sugar, and how unfunny most of it was. But this made me laugh my ass off! The thing that's weird is, no one in the audience laughed at the time (1978, some sort of SciFi/SF/SyFy awards). Shatner was between gigs here: post-Trek, pre-T. J. Hooker, in the black hole during which he did Loblaws commercials and appeared on the Mike Dougas Show singing Keep it Gay, supposedly from The Producers (though I don't remember it, do you?) I can't post that one either, unless I dredge up one with no restrictions.  Anyway, this is the short version, goddamn it.

Tiny angels, Christmas angels (some of them not so tiny)

                                       Part II of "Copy the Penguin!"

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Chopin and Piltdown Man: just a coincidence? I DON'T THINK SO!

(Blogger's note. For a couple of decades now, there has been a rumor, theory, whatever, that SOMEONE out there owns a recording of Frederic Chopin playing his famous Minute Waltz in about 1845, long before the official first recordings in the 1880s. I heard the thing on the radio some 20 years ago, and the announcer was skeptical, comparing it to the world's most famous anthropological hoax, Piltdown Man. This consisted of a human skull made to look old with sandpaper, with an ape jaw wired on with twist ties from Baggies or something.

 The "truth" about the Minute Waltz recording came out when someone exposed a classical music magazine for perpetrating the hoax to titillate their readers (the recording was included in every issue, though how they fit that giant glass cylinder in there is anybody's guess). It was released on April 1, but does that mean anything? Was it really a case of time travel? What about these Leon Scott de-Whatever recordings made out of sooty paper? We're supposed to believe THAT?? Anyway, this article is excerpted from a Polish music newsletter, about the only source I can find on this strange phenomenon. Though undated, it probably came out in the late 1980s. Do I sense a coverup here? Does this belong on William Shatner's Weird or What? What do you think?)

While doing construction work in France,
workers dug up an old metal box. Inside the box
they found a near faded letter and a glass cylinder.
Not knowing what they had found, they turned
it over to a local historian who was able to make
out the writing. What he discovered was
The letter was written by one Hippolyte Sot, resident
of the area in the 1840s. The letter described the
techniques he had devised to record audio sounds
using a glass cylinder. It went on to say that despite
his efforts he was unable to obtain any interest nor
recognition for his work. He therefore buried the
details of this invention in the metal box along with
one sample recording. The recording was none other
FREDERICK CHOPIN playing his own Waltz in
D flat major!

The magazine says that the recording was made
about 20 years earlier the those created by Leon
Scott, the person normally attributed with the
invention of audio recording. It also gives additional
detail about the inventor and how the information
was retrieved from the glass cylinder. And what's
particularly interesting is that H. Sot had NOT
invented a playback technique, and it took 20th
century technology to recover the audio
information recorded on the cylinder.

To get all the details, get a copy of the latest issue
of CLASSIC CD magazine. And yes, the CD included
with the magazine includes the recording. Its the only
recording of Frederich Chopin, and he displays some
pretty fantastic playing ability.
That the text above is a hoax you may find out from
the following rebuttal:

"The recording of Chopin performing the "Minute
Waltz" is a now world-famous musical hoax that
was equisitely executed by the editors of a music
magazine devoted to reviews of classical CD's about
four-or-five years ago. To be precise, the hoax
appeared on a CD that was sent as a free gift to
all subscribers of the magazine, arriving with the April
issue on April 1.

Now in hindsight, it is easy for those who never
heard the CD or read the accompanying "historical"
material to laugh at the obvious falsity of the "
discovery." However, this hoax was so meticulously
researched (it was based on a great deal of esoteric
historical evidence that was in fact true)--and the
recording itself was so brilliantly faked--that many
musicians and musical experts were taken in, at least
initially. I first heard the recording broadcast on the
radio on the day it appeared. It introduced with great
fanfare by an announcer who read about 15 minutes
worth of the liner notes, and who called the recording
"the musical equivalent of the discovery of the tomb
of King Tutankamen."

Was I fooled? Absolutely! The original recording was
not claimed to have been made on a cylinder. The
basis of the hoax was Sot's experiments in recording
sound on disks of glass covered with smoke.

His experiments were amazing for their time. He
understood the relationship of sound to the wavy
lines traced on smoked glass with a diaphragm
and a cactus needle. And evidently it was he who
first came up with the idea of inscribing sound on a
rotating disc--decades before Emil Berliner and
Charles Cros were to patent their techniques.
However, Sot never got beyond the inscribing
stage; he could not figure out a way to play back
the vibrations he had inscribed on the smoked glass

The magazine's hoax took it from there, claiming
that Sot had buried one of his smoke-covered disks
in a sealed glass container in the hope that some day
in the future science would have by then figured out
a way to play back his precious vibrations. They
claimed that the container had been recovered
during a subway excavation at Nohant-sur-Seine
(near Georges Sand's chateau), and that the sound
had been reproduced and transfered by a prestigious
French national scientific laboratory using optical
lasers and digital conversion techniques.

Moreover, Sot was indeed a neighbor and
acquaintance of Georges Sand during the period of
her long affair (menage) with Chopin. What could be
more natural than for him to have prevailed upon one
of the world's two most famous living pianists who
just happened to be living next door to play a little

something for posterity?

The recording is absolutely fabulous!. First, what
little musical sound that is audible is almost entirely
covered by a loud continual banging, crashing, gritty
surface noise of a kind one has never heard before--
ostensibly the pits in the surface of the glass disk. Far
in the distance, one can barely hear the tiny but very
clear sound of a piano, playing the Minute Waltz from
start to finish (in the correct key, of course.)

The most amazing thing about the performance is the
tempo--which is insanely fast. Indeed, the piece is
played in less than a minute. (BTW, I have read--
elsewhere--that the only pianist to have ever
recorded the Minute Waltz in a minute was Liberace
--even though the French word "Minute" did not here
refer to a minute, but rather 'minute' as in small.)
In any event, it is indeed humanly possible to play
the piece at that speed. And if not Chopin, who then?"

NOTE: This news item was submitted to us by Dr.
Barbara Milewski, a noted Chopin specialist, in
response to a request from one of our readers who
thought that an original chopin CD may actually exist.

(Editor's note. It does. But due to the fact that it's recorded on a
large pepperoni pizza at the bottom of my freezer, it has proven
to be extremely difficult to play back.)

Paging Dr. Frankenstein: The Volta Labs recordings

They just keep on unearthing these unearthly sounds from the past, recorded on everything from warm candle wax to mucilage applied to cereal box cardboard. Of course we know all about that Au Clair de la Lune breakthrough going back to 1860, a "recording" etched on soot-covered paper with a stylus and never intended to be played back. But nowadays it seems we can play back anything. It's like Pogo: Albert the Alligator would open a closet door, bellow "Wheeeee-hawken" or something like that, slam the door, then next time anyone opened the closet his voice would come booming out again.

I love the name VOLTA LABS: it reminds me of old Frankenstein movies and mad scientists with their hair all fuzzed up. Sudden explosions and weird sounds from who-knows-where. "He's ali-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-ive!!", and all that. Well, you have to admit these voices from the past do seem to be raising the dead.

For some reason early sound creeps me out way more than early photography/movies. We hear in the womb, long before we can see. Alfred Hitchcock once famously said that the shower scene in Psycho was terrifying mainly because of the relentlessly repeated sound of the knife entering Janet Leigh's flesh. Not to mention the shriek, shriek, shriek, shriek, shriek of the sound track.

I have no doubt they're going to keep finding these things now, old discs and stuff locked away in dusty drawers that no one paid any attention to before. Scientists are notorious for being competitive. "My discovery is better than your discovery, nyahh nyahh nyahh." The Volta Labs recordings weren't done earlier than the Au Clair de la Lune stuff (more like 1880), but they're still significant for representing the endless experiments these fellows had to go through to try to get it right.

As soon as somebody did, who knows who, some lackey who was paid 50 cents a week, Edison snarfed it up and got it patented under his name the same day. Which is how he became the Greatest Inventor in Human History.

Funny how many of these early technological researchers were French. Going back to the Montgolfier brothers and their hot air balloons, which enabled "man" to fly long before the good-ol' American Wright brothers, we had the Lumiere brothers and Georges Melies doing all sorts of phantasmagorical things with early film. And Eduard-Leon Scott de Martinville (whose name would fill a whole disc back then), singing the third verse of Au Clair de la Lune in a wavery, creepy voice that could be played at two speeds, both of them unsettling.

I always think these things are hoaxes. In fact, I had a lot of doubt about Martinville because I couldn't see any physical evidence that computers had extracted that sound from what amounted to an old piece of tar paper that had been folded up in a drawer for 150 years.

Twenty years ago or thereabouts, I heard about a hoax perpetrated on the readers of a classical music magazine. I even heard the recording myself: a CD transcript of "Chopin playing the minute waltz", recorded in 1840 or thereabouts on a revolving drum and stylus. On black sooty paper. Just like the Au Clair thing. It'd been buried in the fellow's garden somewhere, then unearthed during construction in Paris. At some point someone saw the catalogue number on the disc: 123456hahaha, and the jig was up.

People still don't get the fact that "minute" refers to the other meaning of minute: small. Miniature. Petite. NOT played in a minute, like Liberace with the big vulgar clock ticking audibly away on the side of his piano. With either the clock slowed down, or the piece vastly abridged.

Pretty soon you'll be able to snatch atoms out of the air and play them back like fireflies. It's all going too fast for me. But I like to see how all this started, and I love it when I find something like this. Volta Labs! Paging Dr. Frankenstein.

It's alive! It's ali-i-i-i-i-i-ve!

This thing looks like it was recorded on a circular saw that had seen too much hard use. The only good thing about it is its brevity. But just what the hell were these guys trying to do?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Obituary Blues (short fiction)

Late December. Maybe it wasn’t the best time of year to be looking for this. But after her mother-in-law’s death at the first of the month, something happened to her that she didn’t expect: she began to be curious about her own mother, who was about the same age.

To say that there was family estrangement was like saying the Titanic had a bit of a leak. It had gone on for years, but over time the smoking ruins seemed to be farther and farther behind her.

Over forty years, her husband’s family became her family. And she was welcomed in. His mother became her Mum: honest, practical, funny, and in her own no-nonsense way, accepting and loving.

When she died at age 96, a peaceful death that almost anyone would envy, it caused a strange reaction in her. She wondered where her own Mum was. Meaning, the one who’d given birth to her and raised her with sublime indifference while favoring her eldest two siblings.

All through her childhood she had been haunted by the feeling that her parents had not wanted her, that she had been a mistake, someone they were ashamed of and would rather not have around. Later, her feelings of estrangement were vigorously denied and shouted down as “wrong”. It simply did not happen. She had wonderful parents. What was wrong with her? She had to stop feeling this way, now. This was true of most of her feelings, which apparently she was not allowed to have.

Then there was Garth, her older brother, a brilliant person who became more and more odd as years went by. He ended up on the streets of Toronto, a schizophrenic, and died tragically young in a fire. 

Garth had been the only one who had listened. But then, there was something wrong with him too, something the family just couldn’t acknowledge or forgive.

It probably wasn’t a good idea to google her mother’s name, particularly since her obituary immediately sprang up like a ghost from the grave.

Remembering her Mum-in-law’s gracious, inclusive obituary, she wasn’t expecting it to be anything like that. But she couldn’t in her wildest dreams have imagined  what she now saw in front of her.

She read it.

She read it again. Then, again.

She wasn’t in it.

Wasn’t there, wasn’t there at all, no nor any of her kin (no husband, no kids, no grandkids): so apparently she had never been born, never been raised, didn’t in fact exist at all.

But that wasn’t the worst of it. Garth wasn’t there! Garth had been stricken from the record as well. Photoshopped. Edited out.

One wonders how anyone can possess the ruthlessness to pretend that two of their children never existed. Perhaps her elder sister had written this (but certainly not against her mother’s wishes), and surgically removed Garth just to devastate and wound her further. Her two oldest siblings were proudly mentioned, along with “two grandchildren” (though she really had four) and no great-grandchildren (nicely negating the four of them, too).

She could not think of one single thing Garth had done in his whole life to intentionally hurt the family. For that matter, her own attempts to try to explain the abuse that had nearly destroyed her had been completely subverted, turned around, and treated like a mean-spirited attack on them with absolutely no grounds: a pack of lies told to deliberately damage and destroy them.

I did it just to make them feel horrible, she thought. I was like that, wasn’t I? Vindictive, hurtful, a destroyer of family happiness and harmony. It was intentional meanness, complete fabrication. I was the perpetrator of horrible, unforgiveable abuse.

If even one of them had taken maybe one minute, one second to listen to me and try to understand, would my frantic efforts have escalated the way they did?

When everything is turned upside-down like that, and inside-out, it can make you feel a little crazy. To say the least.  It was a craziness that took a devastating toll.

And now. . . now, well, it looks like that particular problem is neatly solved because I’m not even here!  But Garth makes me feel so much worse. The only thing he ever did to the family was to be ill, with an illness that surely must have been caused by the twisted reality of a family who lived in its own little universe of truth and lies. In a moment of rare vulnerability, I remember my sister once said, “Garth went crazy for all of us.” What had happened to that tiny crack of openness to the truth? Why did it slam shut with such vehemence?

I always suspected my parents were ashamed of him, ashamed of his illness and of what became of him, and secretly wished he would just disappear. And now their most fervent wish had come true. If you can pretend the problematic elements in your family never existed, if you can apply an eraser to the parts of it you are uncomfortable with, it’s ultimate power, kind of like God: bringing people into the world; taking them away again.

An obituary is a public life-record, an attempt to encapsulate many decades into a single paragraph. My family must have a very strange notion of economy of expression.

There is NOTHING my children could do to make me erase them like this: if my son were an axe-murderer serving a life sentence, if he had accused me of being a heroin addict or a whore, if he had attacked me and hurt me in the worst way he could think of, I would never pretend he had never existed, never erase him from the permanent record of my life.

Because he is my son.

She looked at her mother-in-law’s obituary again, wondering if there was such a thing as Providence, after all. It was just possible. She had been thrown out of the family – no, unmade! – but landed safely in another family where that kind of insanity didn’t exist.  No, not “landed”, but walked out of one, and into the other. Of her own free will.

Copy the penguin!

Let's copy the penguin!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Be thou my vision

I looked for a long time for this one! I went through innumerable YouTube videos of this hymn, many of them excruciating. It wasn’t just the bad amateur sound quality, which was jarring enough, but the arrangements, most of them syrupy and overdone, with those godawful flutes like in thatTitanic song.

“Celtic” has been completely deformed in the last couple of decades. An example is that stuff you see on PBS. This kind of music was NEVER meant to be sudsy and sentimental. Listen to real Irish music sometime, with that dark urgent drumbeat, the edgy ancient-sounding pipes with a hint of English horn in them.

This arrangement by Phillip Stopford is tender and melancholy (Irish!), the arrangement unhurried and uncluttered, devoid of disco or other gimmicks to twist it around and "update" it. The flute is REAL flute. I love the lack of unnecessary adornment or hokiness. And it’s beautifully conducted, sung by the Belfast Cathedral Youth Choir. Youth! They pust most "adult" choirs to shame.

So, until I can find a decent arrangement with real Irish pipes, I’ll take this one. (The shots of Belfast Cathedral are a nice addition.)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Miracle on Rae Street

Only at this time of year can you get away with this kind of display! This incredible light show blazes in my neighborhood every Christmas on Rae Street, Port Coquitlam, collecting donations for various charities.

If you think it's all a little too much, especially as you approach the house nearly blinded by the brightness, just try taking children there. It becomes a whole different scene.

That's not a real Santa, though you'd never know it by the kids' reaction. And he moves!

The display includes an incredible array of figures: Rudolph, Frosty, various Disney characters, and just about every other Christmas figure ever known, all lit up like brilliant candles in the dark.