Sunday, November 27, 2011

New blog:
Geometric Decorations

I have started a new blog titled Geometric Decorations. The idea started with the geometric pieces I have been using for tessellations over the past few months. Now, instead of making a pattern, taking a picture then dismantling it, I am going to create pieces.  Another difference is that I am going to paint the pieces myself so I have a choice of colors.  To the left is the third piece I've made, sub-titled The Lucky Die Roll and given as a gift to my good friend Jodi Soares.  I have a copy of the game Robo Rally with hand painted pieces Jodi made, a prized possession. I can only hope she is half as happy now with this as I am with her work all these years later.

I'm going to add Geometric Decorations to my blog buddy list, so if you like these pieces you can click on the link when it climbs to the top of the list, which it will every time I complete a piece.  My idea is that the pieces I make this year will either be gifts for friends or pieces for my personal collection.  If I'm happy with the work at the end on the month, I will make more for sale to the general public.

Let me note that the pictures I have on this new blog will be very large so people can click on the bigger size to get a better view.  This means it will load slowly, so be warned.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The most popular single thing I've added to the Web.

Last year, the song Ghost Riders in the Sky was on heavy rotation in my brain, so I went over to iTunes to plunk down 99 cents to get a version.  I listened to several choices, including Vaughn Monroe, Johnny Cash and Dick Dale, but the one that really impressed me was an early version by Burl Ives.  I did a little research and discovered his recording of the song in February 1949 was the first available to the public,  released about a month before Vaughn Monroe's version with his band The Moon Men became a huge hit. (Stan Jones wrote the tune in 1948.)

I went over to the You Tubes and saw that this version wasn't available. I played around with the iMovie software and put the song into a very simplistic video format, the tune as the soundtrack over still pictures being moved like Ken Burns sometimes does in his documentaries.

In 14 months, there have been over 100,000 visits to the song, 91 comments, the overwhelming majority positive, 634 likes and 1 dislike.

To put 100,000 visits in perspective, a new Maru video can get that in a week. Over the past 14 months, this blog has had over 200,000 visits and the silly gossip blog has had over 600,000 hits. Comparing a single YouTube song to a blog is apples and oranges, because I've posted hundreds of things here over the same time period, while there is only one reason to visit the recording.

If you haven't heard it yet, here is the link to YouTube.  If you like the song, I think you'll like this version, very simple and sparse and very well done by Burl as a solo artist, just his voice and his acoustic guitar.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Complex football for November, both real and imaginary.

I promised to get back to my readers, assuming the species still exists, about the prospects for the local football franchises come early December. It's late November and I can confirm what I thought to be the case in early October. 

This could be the year. 

The 49ers are not mathematically a lock to be in the playoffs yet, but they are statistically a lock. They could still have a massive collapse and one of the teams in their division could catch fire. Because I am a cautious person, I will say the chance of a Niner collapse is remote but possible. I just can't see any team in their division starting to play well enough to catch them. The most likely 49er outcome is breezing to the division title and at least one home playoff game in January. In other words, the brie eating, chardonnay drinking 49er fans get to be as smug as they were in the heyday. 

The Raiders are not as clear a lock, but they are on top of their division and playing well. They have real hope of making the playoffs here in late November, instead of their recent pattern of sucking and making their fans miserable.

Doesn't suck to be a Bay Area football fan.
And then there are the Mutant Mercenaries, my fantasy football team. From 1-4 in early October to 7-4 now, in second place due to favorable tiebreakers.

The bad news is the next game is against my brother Michael's team, Cruel Dave, top of the league and on a ten game win streak since I traded Aaron Rodgers to him. (I swear to Lenny, it looked like a good idea at the time.)  If I lose, I can wave goodbye to second place with only one week left.  On the other hand, the chance to make the playoffs looks solid.

Still, the moral of this story is simple.

Winning football, real or fantasy, feels pretty good.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

It's mighty quiet.

If you haven't seen the protest against the chancellor of UC Davis, click on this video.

Hard to believe they could get a crowd of people that young to hold it together so well. The chancellor has to know her humiliation has circled the globe several times by now.

The politically expedient action at the state level in California is to leave taxes alone and raise fees.  This is a slowly boiling pot that is now destroying the chance for the middle class to get a quality education for their kids without going into massive debt.  Of all the goals of the Occupy Wall Street crowd, keeping public education a viable and reasonably priced option is nearest and dearest to my heart, in part because I had the chance to get just such an education and in part because I work in public higher education.

There needs to be a massive shake-up in the UC system.  I don't know who can force her to quit if anyone, but if it's the regents or the governor, it's time for them to do the right thing if she is unwilling.  The upper echelons at UC Berkeley need to be removed as well.

New blog buddy.
One I have known for a good long time.

My dad, the gosh darned pater familias, has started a blog of his own called The Middle American Party. The self-described Lincoln Republican (completely unfair title, he never voted for Lincoln) believes it's time for a third party more to the middle.  His first goal is balancing the budget and after that, he wants national health care and free education through college or trade school for all citizens.

If you want to read what he thinks in his own words, you can click on the link above.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fall Dance Party 2011

Get This Party Started Pink
Burning Down the House Talking Heads
Secret Agent Man Johnny Rivers
Can't Stop Killing You Kirsty MacColl
Dust My Broom Elmore James
Lady Marmalade Labelle
Ranking Full Stop The English Beat
I Wish Stevie Wonder
Valerie Amy Winehouse
Pata Pata Myriam Makeba
Be Thankful for What You've Got Portrait
1999 Prince
Fall began nearly two months ago and I just get around to the Fall Dance Party.  Work has me busier than a pair of jumper cables at a funeral.  It's a strong selection this season, music from the 60s through to modern day.  There are some slow dances with Amy and Portrait, but also a lot of songs where the Padre Mickey Rule could be invoked, where a list is terminated because it's not going to get any better.  I for one wouldn't dream of getting up on stage after Miss Patti or Stevie or Myriam, but the party continues to the end, when Prince gives us a finale.
I wouldn't go on stage after the Purple One either, for that matter.

Get on up and dance if you feel like it.  That's kind of the point.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Bun in the Oven Alert™!
Wait, which blog is this again?

Oh, yeah, this is my regular blog, not the silly gossip blog.

But this is not silly gossip!  My adorable niece Holly and her handsome husband Cleavon are expecting their first child in the spring, late April or early May.  She's doing just dandy so far and reports no particular odd cravings, except that burritos are off the menu for a while.

Best wishes to all concerned.  Usually when I write that sentence on the other blog, I am completely not concerned, but this time I definitely count as family and friends, and I couldn't be happier for them.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Gene Simmons is never wrong.

If you've ever wondered what Gene Simmons looks like without make-up, here it is.

Not a pretty picture.

If you've ever wonder about the deep thoughts of Gene Simmons, you are making a bigger mistake than wondering what he looks like without make-up.

Gene Simmons is a Rick Perry fan.

Yes, the best bass player KISS ever had (and the only bass player KISS ever had) made a proclamation in August that there really wasn't any need for the electoral college or even an election, he liked Rick Perry and whoever he has liked since 1988 has become president.  End of story.

Except for the slight problem that when Rick Perry doesn't look bombed out of his mind getting sloppy over syrup (last week), Rick has brain farts so stinky, you can smell them in your living room when watching him on TV (mere hours ago).

Nice try, Gene, and thanks for playing.  Leave the deep thinking to someone else.

Nerd joke.

And who is getting credit for this nerd-infused pun?

Nerd god George Takei.

Good on ya, Mr. Sulu.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Joe Frazier, 1944-2011

Joe Frazier, who won the undisputed heavyweight crown by beating Muhammad Ali in Madison Square Garden in 1971, has died at the age of 67 of liver cancer.

I will readily admit my money was on Ali that night and for many years I thought Frazier was ungracious towards Ali. In retrospect, it was Ali who treated Frazier unfairly, labeling Joe an Uncle Tom when he was anything but.  It wasn't Frazier's fault that the people who hated Ali needed someone to root for and their was no Great White Hope on the horizon, so many bigots had to pin their hopes on Frazier.  Frazier had also given Ali financial help earlier in their careers, so Ali's taunts were a very personal betrayal to Joe.

There's a line in the movie Gattaca about a competition between a genetically engineered man and his normal brother.  They are swimming out from the shore and the normal brother leads his allegedly superior sibling all the way.  When the genetically engineered brother finally gives up and asks how he lost, the normal one answers "I had no plan to swim back to shore."  This is a metaphor for Ali-Frazier I.  Frazier won a very hard fought battle that night and was never quite the same. Joe beat guys like Jerry Quarry, Ron Stander and Jimmy Ellis after this, but the rest of his career is defined by losing to both George Foreman and Ali twice.

Many boxing fans now consider Ali "The Greatest", his nickname for himself. This is in large part because Ali was lucky enough to be in his prime at a time when there were other great fighters at their peak who could test him.  When I was a kid, Rocky Marciano was revered because he retired undefeated.  Nowadays, Marciano is usually ranked under Ali even though Ali lost several times, largely because Marciano never had that great fight against another top boxer in his prime.

In the beginning of his career when he was still Cassius Clay, he faced a hard hitting Englishman named Henry Cooper who decked him. He also fought some underrated fighters who were tough as nails like George Chuvalo and Oscar Bonavena. (Frazier beat Chuvalo despite being decked twice in the second round.)  But if Ali is The Greatest, it's because he proved it against great fighters in their prime, most notably two other deserving champions, Joe Frazier and George Foreman.

Best wishes to the friends and family of Smokin' Joe Frazier, one of the toughest and hardest hitting heavyweights who ever lived, from a fan.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The aggrieved party.

The modern Republican Party is more a list of complaints than an actual ideology.  The deepest feelings of the typical Republican voter are his hatreds.  Conventional wisdom says the complaints are a rejection of modernity, but I'd like to point out that Charles Darwin's 203th birthday is next year.  His views on natural selection and the origin of species, the underlying principles of all biology today, are a little long in the tooth to be called "modern".

Modern Republicans hate a lot of stuff. They hate people who worship differently than they do, from a deep hatred of Muslims to a contempt for atheists to a dislike for Mormons.  They hate science and fancy learning of all kinds and they hate being called ignorant.  They hate government and taxes and career politicians.  They hate abortion and they hate women who need help once their babies arrive. They hate people who look different from them or speak different languages, and they hate being called racists.

Enter Herman Cain.  Cain is clever enough to understand that white guilt isn't just for quiche eating liberals anymore and he is currently riding high in the polls, with no major drop-off yet in spite of his current scandal for sexual harassment allegations and the probably more serious problems about his fledgling campaign ignoring some major campaign finance laws.

Herman Cain's skin may be several shades darker than that of the typical Republican voter, but deep down where it counts, they are much the same.  Their hearts are as black as onyx.  He hates almost all the right people and things.  Unlike Rick Perry, he's not soft on illegal immigrants.  Having Mexicans die on an electrocuted fence was allegedly a joke, he now says, but he still wants the electric fence.  He does not give a shit who the leader of "Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan" is, regardless of the fact that Uzbekistan is currently on our side in the not yet completed Global War or Terror. He doesn't care that "9-9-9" is a burden on the poor and won't come close to paying our bills.

That kind of stuff is for eggheads, and Herman is proudly not one of those.

His only weakness so far is that he didn't realize his position on abortion skates very close to being pro-choice.  That's a course correction he can easily make.

More importantly for the modern Republican party, Herman Cain is not a career politician. The disdain for politicians runs across the political spectrum, as evidenced by Al Franken, Jesse Ventura and Michael Bloomberg, but the feeling is deeper in the right wing base, as we saw in 2008 when California Republicans nominated the no-hope candidates Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina. It used to be a person had to have a serious resume to be a candidate, but that's no longer the case.  Bloomberg is certainly a success, but Fiorina left a string of disasters in her wake, and Cain took a fifth rate pizza chain and turned it into a fifth rate pizza chain.

As usual, I am fascinated by the numbers.  The early polls tell us very little about what will happen a year from now, but about a month ago, the votes for all the Republican candidates combined in the opinion polls added up to about 70%.  A lot of people who weren't in the race made it clear they weren't getting in, the two most publicized being Chris Christie and Sarah Palin.  The total percentages for all candidates shot up over the 90% range and Herman Cain replaced Rick Perry as the main challenger to Romney. Cain is still either in first or second place both in national polls and likewise in state polls, but now the total percentages are slipping backwards to about 85%. The malaise returns to the Republican base, though of course they hate the word "malaise", both for sounding too French and its association with Jimmy Carter, who never used the word in his famous speech.

No matter how hard they try, the Republican Party can't seem to find that perfect candidate, both mean enough and stupid enough to truly satisfy their new core voter. Herman Cain is just the best they can do right now.  I'm sure stupider and meaner is coming, but probably not in time for the 2012 presidential election.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The sequence of events creates an epiphany.

I've been writing my silly tabloid blog for 22 months now and this morning a feeling came over me that I really couldn't put into words even yesterday.

I actively detest Kim Kardashian and all she stands for.

Kim tweeted her divorce on Halloween, her marriage which started with a lavish bash televised over two nights ending in just 72 days.  Why pick Halloween?

She didn't pick Halloween.  She picked a Monday, the last day of the week when you can be sure the supermarket gossip rags can get a story in that will be printed by Wednesday and on the stands around the country on Thursday.

How can I be sure?  Because I've seen the front covers this week and she is on seven of them, effectively the maximum possible. (There are a total of ten supermarket gossip rags, but two have a demographic that skews much older than the typical Kardashian fan and the last is only interested in the End of the World.)

Kim Kardashian is the poster girl for the 1%.  She is near the money spigot without an ounce of talent, just a pretty smile, a nice set of tits and an enormous ass, which has come into fashion in some circles now. She is not "creating jobs", merely spending money foolishly.  The young man with the sign standing in front of the portable toilet at the general strike today is 100% correct, the pointless pastimes of the idle rich are stealing from people who are just trying to make their way in the world.

Many people want to know what the point of Occupy Oakland is.  There are certainly a lot of signs pointing in a lot of directions.  But the facts are simple.  The United States isn't broke, it's just broken.  The ideas of community and commonwealth are derided by people who benefit from the many ways the few get rich and the many get screwed.

It's time for the many to ask for their fair share.

General strike in Oakland today.

The general strike is today.

I'm taking the day off from both my teaching gigs in Oakland and I'll be down at Frank Ogawa Plaza several times today, around 9:00, marching from Laney at noon and back at 5:00 pm.

And in my copious free time I'll be prepping classes.

You know, because that's how teachers roll.

If you're in Oakland, I hope to see you down there.