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LIFE IS TOO SHORT TO LISTEN TO UGLY MUSIC



Updated: 2018-03-29T07:04:14.423-07:00

 



Jingle Bells Dementia Test

2018-01-05T00:14:58.651-08:00

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. allow="encrypted-media" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" gesture="media" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ohOfm7eb2gw?rel=0" width="560">Jingle Bells Dementia Test © 2017 David Ocker - 335 secondsThis 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. [...]



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

2017-12-28T01:40:11.768-08:00

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 secondsThis 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 secondsBut 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 difficult[...]



Tubas

2017-12-03T19:05:21.628-08:00

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. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="225" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/MXkVC6gTyWo?rel=0" width="400">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 GrassedCollected SelfiesDiscarded GlovesTile PatternsCamera ShakeDiscarded GlovesFacelike Part 1 - Part 2Hidden MeaningsBranches Before BlueStill here? Here's something political, about inequality, just so this post is not totally pointless. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="225" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/QPKKQnijnsM?rel=0" width="400">And here's Johnathan Pie.  Outrage! allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="225" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ex4rYsjxsdg?rel=0" width="400"> [...]



Albert Marsh (1930-2017)

2017-08-31T16:47:07.522-07:00

Leslie and I were very saddened to learn of the passing of our friend Albert Marsh.  We met Albert and his husband Johnnathan through an accident of real estate when they moved into the house next door.   That was nearly 25 years ago.  For a few years our lives met figuratively and literally over the back fence.  They became our adopted family, a relationship which has persisted in the years since we moved away from that street.Albert grew up in a Texas border-town and, after college in the fifties, settled in New York City, then San Francisco and finally in Los Angeles which is where he met Johnnathan.  He worked as an architect and designer.  He was also an artist.  I really like his geometrical three-dimensional paintings - or maybe they should be called wall sculptures.  Later in life he became interested in shamanism, drumming and designing jewelry.  Some of his art and his necklaces can be seen in the pictures below.Here's a caricature by the otherwise unidentified B.J. from Albert's time in San Francisco.  Then an apparently blissful moment I snapped over dinner one recent evening.Here are two shots of Albert visiting our home.  In the first he is sitting with Leslie's Aunt Rose.  In the second he is investigating my new iPad, completely unaware that he is shooting selfie after selfie with his thumb.  Later I combined the shots into this animated gif.A Halloween costume and striking a pose in his backyard.Leslie and I send our profound condolences to Johnnathan Korver, Albert's husband.  Johnn wrote about Albert on Facebook and he kindly gave me permission to reproduce his thoughts here:Dear Friends—It is with extreme heartbreak that I write this post today. My beloved husband, Albert Marsh passed away quietly and comfortably early yesterday morning. As I knew he was transitioning soon, I held his hand and played his favorite music with my IPad placed on his pillow. He was listening to some Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald and Karen Carpenter.Albert and I have been together since March of 1989. We had a commitment ceremony in June of 1994 and were married in Pasadena, Ca in March of 2014, two days before our 25th Anniversary. As many of you know I always referred to him as My Sweet Albert. Although we were 19 years apart, our two generations were perfectly matched as we learned so much about each others experiences, and opinions. He was a spiritual being with so much to teach me. One of the first things he taught me was to not define myself by tragic experiences and take responsibility for being the only one to be able to change my circumstances should I not like them. I’m certainly one to bitch and moan about the same thing too many times. He said to me quite clearly, “if this is a new story or problem, I’d be glad to listen and perhaps give some advice…if it’s something I’ve heard before, and you haven’t done anything about it, I’m not interested in hearing it”. That’s great advice.Thank you all for the wonderful and kind emails, messages and phone calls. I’m truly touched by them and I know he would be too. So take care of one another, listen to one another, and work together to solve problems and issues that put you both on the same page. Write your life screenplay together and Star in the Film of your lives. You will be rewarded with The Academy Award of your life.Oh and one other thing, put the hammer, nails and other tools away after you’re done using them…..Trust me on this one.  I love you all. Once same-sex marriage became legal, Albert and Johnnathan held their marriage ceremony in our living room.   To commemorate the event and to thank us, they gave us this work by Albert.  Everyday the beautiful piece reminds us of him and of the happiness he and Johnn shared.  On the back it says:"Twin Flames" collage by Albert Marsh, circa 1985Reframed February 29, 2014to David and LeslieFrom Johnnathan and AlbertOn [...]



Mixed Meters Attempts Political Optimism

2017-07-31T23:36:02.036-07:00

Progressives could use some good news. It’s pretty bleak out there right now for the far left.  Hard it is to write something even minimally positive.The best news we might get in the near term - the next three years or so - is that some of the front and center political stories, the ones we can’t escape daily, the ones that scream headlines at us from every media pore, might somehow resolve themselves without turning into utter catastrophes. There’s an awful lot of assuming the worst at the moment.  Doom and gloom is par for the course.Assuming the worst is not an unrealistic standpoint, it’s just depressing.   And, if we're lucky, maybe the bullets will only graze us, not score direct hits.  Trusting to luck may be the best we can do.For example, maybe the Republican scrooges won’t be able to replace our bad but functional healthcare bill, the ACA (aka Obamacare).  They got within one vote of pushing exactly that agenda last week.  They failed.  That's lucky.  (Don't be fooled.  They'll be back.)Politicians are well known for promising things they can’t deliver, but in the case of health care the Republicans have set a whole new standard.  They've promised repeal and replace so many times that even they felt the need to give the impression of having told the truth, to make good on their promise any which way, by hook or by crook.  Their parliamentary antics would be pretty funny to watch, like in a movie, if real-world consequences weren’t so serious. Try to think of Congress as a Keystone Cops movie.  Just remember, they're trying to do bad things and, as a country, we're better off when they screw up at their jobs.Another example — it might be that the Russia/Trump campaign story won't amount to anything.   And maybe the United States won’t be racked by another impeachment.  Once the dust settles it’s possible that there’ll be no smoking gun.  This might teach us to go into future elections on high alert to any outside influence, maybe even with a tiny bit of contrition over past U.S. attempts to influence elections in other countries.  (Who am I kidding?  Contrition?)And we can hope that Russiagate, when it’s finally unwound to the very end, might teach all Americans that someone who brings only his shady business ethics to the office of President is not qualified for that job.  And maybe he'll bumble through his entire term without being removed from office, without giving the other Republicans a do over.Here's another one - maybe our environment is not completely doomed.  Yes, Trump’s minions are toiling unnoticed underground at the EPA and the Energy Department to unlock extra huge profits for environment-plundering mega-corporations.  Meanwhile, maybe America’s free market system, so touted by Koch-brother-funded think tanks, will allow state governments and enlightened businesses and concerned individuals to protect bits of the environment on their own as best they can. Like the famous Hebrew National hot dog commercial, Americans can start answering to an authority higher than the government, in this case Mother Earth herself, except the issue is how to dispose of our shit rather than silly rules about what we eat to produce it in the first place. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="225" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/EAXvEFqLdm8?rel=0" width="400">One thing's for sure, whatever happens on any of these stories (and there are many more equally important topics each with similarly small bits of hidden optimism which can only be revealed by double talk and self delusion), our brazen liar president will find a way to declare himself victorious on all of them.  He’s our own Indiana Jones-ish political anti-hero: he cuts a dashing figure, spins every story to look like a winner, gets help on the hard stuff from shady stunt men and then takes all the credit and all[...]



First Person Rants

2017-07-01T05:45:49.127-07:00

We at Mixed Meters love rants.  By "we" of course I mean me, David Ocker, who single-handedly writes every word of this blog with his two bare hands.  Personally I really hate it when he mixes first person writing with third person.  I'm sure you agree.Anyway, as I was saying, we adore good rants, especially political rants.   There's an awful lot to rant about nowadays, don't you know, but good clean progressive ranting still seems quite rare.  I guess all the real energy in the Democratic Party is going into normalizing our so-called president or raising wads of money for losing candidates in Congressional by-elections.  Since I don't have the time or energy to write my own rants at the moment, I'd like to share a two good ones I found online.Rant one is from a comedian named Lee Camp.   Never heard of him.  His bio says he wrote for the Onion so he must have a firm grip on reality.  In this piece his target is the so-called debate on health care.  He strongly emphasizes the "so-called" angle.  The rant title is "Here's why there's no legitimate debate about healthcare in this country."  Go read the whole thing.  Here's a quote.Sure, there are red-faced politicians screaming about one make-believe side or the other, but that doesn’t mean there’s a legitimate debate.  In order for there to be a debate, there needs to exist two sides that – if argued well – could seem to hold merit.  But that’s nowhere to be found in the current healthcare debate.  Instead there are two sides, both of which are disingenuous, both of which are corrupted by big money, both of which are hardly even SIDES;  instead they’re two separate spots in the center of whatever proverbial thing we’re picturing having sides.  (I’m picturing a duck.  Not sure why.)As we at Mixed Meters always say, if the U.S. wanted health care for its citizens we'd pass single-payer.   Instead, the politcos are keeping extra busy trying to decide whether to maintain Obamacare as corporate welfare for insurance companies or to just give the richest people in the country a direct tax break.For good measures, here's another quote:We are debating between two horrific, criminal versions of healthcare designed to make people rich off of the pain and suffering of every American.  Yes, Obamacare is better.  Yes, Trumpcare is worse.  Yes, I don’t care.  By acting like this is a legitimate debate, we are subconsciously solidifying cultural hegemony for the idea that healthcare should be something exploited for profit.  It should not.  Stop dignifying that thought process.The health care debate, of course, is far from over.  It's like the war in Afghanistan or the Arab-Israeli conflict.  None of these will have definitive resolutions during my lifetime.  On-going stalemates have become incredibly prevalent in American politics.  That's why I think it's wise to take the long view.Few politicians in America are as qualified to give the long-view as Ralph Nader.   Today's Ralph rant is called "Ralph Nader: The Democrats Are Unable To Defend The U.S. From The 'Most Vicious' Republican Party In History".  It's an interview in The Intercept which sets the scene so:The Democratic Party is at its lowest ebb in the memory of everyone now alive. It’s lost the White House and both houses of Congress.  On the state level it’s weaker than at any time since 1920.  And so far in 2017 Democrats have gone 0 for 4 in special elections to replace Republican members of Congress who joined the Trump administration.How did it come to this?  One person the Democratic Party is not going to ask, but perhaps should, is legendary consumer advocate and three-time presidential candidate Ralph Nader.How, according to Nader, did the Dems lose their way?  Here's some ex[...]



Normalization Fatigue

2017-05-31T23:22:05.850-07:00

Donald Trump has been President of the United States for over four months. I am sick of it.Please note that I just called him Donald Trump.  I didn't call him Donald Fucking Trump as I always did before the election.  Nor did I refer to him with some third person pseudo-pronoun, like "the new president" or an acronym ("SCROTUS") as I have since.Calling him by his actual name is a sure sign of normalization. Normalization is wearing me down.I know that this fatigue is not unique to me.   Indeed those Americans who are actively and valiantly resisting the evils of the Trump administration (not to mention all the additional evils of the fucking Republicans in Congress) must be suffering from normalization far more than I.  The resisters are the heroes.  I'm just a guy who has a hard time finding enough energy to write one angry blog post per month.It turns out that normalizing Donald Trump is strenuous work.  Based only on the behavior of every previous president, the man keeps doing completely unpredictable things.  In his few months in office Donald Trump has proven to be personally erratic, egotistical, boorish, bigoted, angry and greedy.It's hard to understand how his unwavering base can still support him.   Somehow they do.  They evidently are okay living in a country that's becoming more and more erratic, egotistical, boorish, bigoted, angry and greedy.For someone in office for such a short period of time, President Trump is beset by many problems: extremely low approval ratings, a special prosecutor investigating his ties to Putin and Russia, an otherwise disorganized opposition baying in unison for his impeachment, disorganization in his own Republican party baying for tax cuts for billionaires. My opinion is that those problems couldn't happen to a nicer guy.  And I mean that quite literally. If Donald Trump were a nicer guy - even just a little bit nicer - many of his problems would disappear. However, it appears that Donald Trump is a new kind of politician: a jerk incapable of even insincere gestures of reconciliation to his opponents.  There are forty four more months left in his first term. He is raising money for his 2020 re-election campaign. His re-election slogan is "Keep America Great".  Cart Before Horse.President Donald J. Trump is going to drag the United States through a lot more mud and shit before the next presidential election.  His supporters, those people in the other bubble, will cheer mindlessly even when the mud and shit splatters on them.  For the rest of us, the fatigue has only just begun.Meanwhile, here's something out of the Other Bubble: a paragraph from an apparently real White House press release describing President Donald J. Trump, "great leader":President Trump has a magnetic personality and exudes positive energy, which is infectious to those around him. He has an unparalleled ability to communicate with people, whether he is speaking to a room of three or an arena of 30,000. He has built great relationships throughout his life and treats everyone with respect. He is brilliant with a great sense of humor . . . and an amazing ability to make people feel special and aspire to be more than even they thought possible.If only. [...]



The New Yorker on the toilet

2017-04-30T23:57:48.596-07:00

For years my interest in The New Yorker magazine was limited to the cartoons.  Good cartoons.  I would read the magazine from back to front, stopping only for the comics.The New Yorker features profiles, extended articles about interesting accomplished people.  I remember reading only two over many years, both of people I actually knew - first Nicolas Slonimsky and then Esa-Pekka Salonen.Instead of magazines, mostly I read novels or histories, some of which I wrote about on this very blog.  Magazines didn't much interest me.  Magazines were for toilet reading.  I subscribed to gobs of computer magazines, back when computers were new.  Wired Magazine lasted the longest - eventually it got just too silly.Then I purchased an iPad, a first generation Mini, on the day it was released in November, 2012.  I'm still amazed by how much this little hand-held slab of glass and metal can do.  It truly is the stuff of science fiction.  I expected it to change my life in any number of ways. It's fair to say that the Mini changed my reading habits.  That's all, not much else.  I stopped reading novels and histories and started reading an endless thrum of online news and feature articles.  I like the iPad Mini because it fit in my pants pocket.  It even made it possible for me to feel bad about myself while scrolling through Facebook at Starbucks instead of only at home.I devised one essential rule for using the little mini.  I'd promised myself that I'd never read it on the toilet.  So far, more than four years later, the promise remains kept. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="236" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/13GTbEW0bco?rel=0" width="420">Meanwhile, I noticed something important.  The news articles and opinion pieces and badly disguised-as-commentary advertising coming at me through the Internet were an endless rush of awful writing.  It was tiring.  It was often inaccurate as well.  Today, in the era of obvious fake news, it can be downright odious.Then I discovered The New Yorker online.  I subscribed to a daily newsletter with links to articles, a few subtle ads and a daily cartoon.  I looked forward to the links for a entire week's worth of cartoons.  I "liked" New Yorker Cartoons on Facebook.  I started following the weekly caption contest.  The captions suggested by readers are never, ever as funny as ones provided by the magazine so I stopped following. And one more thing - the writing was good.Part and parcel of subscribing to the newsletter was giving them my postal address, so soon enough I was receiving offers to subscribe to The New Yorker.  At first I could resist easily.  Then I started thinking "I really should subscribe." Finally, at the end of last year I took the bait: ridiculously low price for a subscription of 50 issues, plus a useless tote bag and $10 off on my next Amazon order.  It didn't hurt that the magazine had taken a strong editorial stance against the winner of the last Presidential election.  You know how I feel about him. I've read that The New Yorker has more subscribers in California than it does in New York.  I just fact-checked that - it's 2004 data.  I wonder if it's still true.  I suppose part of the "allure" of The New Yorker for non-New Yorkers is keeping tabs on what's happening in Gotham.  I wouldn't live there for a billion dollars but it's as close to a center of actual culture you can find this side of Europe.  If there were a magazine that personifies Los Angeles I doubt it would be known for intelligent good writing.Within a few weeks paper copies began appearing in my mail box.   It wasn't long before they started piling up in the toilet.  I now open them from the front. I've read articles I never would ha[...]



Dumb Democrat Emails

2017-04-01T00:03:30.818-07:00

Democrats are my second least-favorite political party.Here's an email I received today - from the DCCC.   It makes me angry.  (Should be easier to read if you click on the picture.)(Here's the same text written in text to help dumb search engine bots:)from: FINAL-NOTICE@dccc.org Subject: AUTO-CONFIRM: [Member Status (03/31/2017)]We hate to bug you again, but this is the FINAL NOTICE OF YOUR DEMOCRATIC MEMBERSHIP before tonights End of Quarter Deadline FINAL NOTICE(my email address appeared here)2017 Membership: PendingThis is our first End of Quarter deadline since President T---p took office . . . and we're desperately behind our goal.That's why every top Democrat asked for your help:Martin Sheen emailed you!Carole King emailed you!Donna Brazile emailed you!Barney Frank emailed you!James Carville emailed you THREE TIMES!Keith Ellison emailed you!Khizr Khan emailed you!Nancy Pelosi emailed you SIX TIMES!This is your FINAL NOTICE to answer their calls before the Triple Match expires.Pitch in $1 before the deadline hits in 11 hours:ALL GIFTS TRIPLE-MATCHEDTriple match your $1 >>Triple match your $35 >>Triple match your $50 >>Triple match your $100 >>Triple match your $250 >> Or triple match another amount >> Thanks,DCCCLet me just tick off some of the issues I have with this communication:"We're desperately behind"?  Desperation is not a good image for America's second ranked political party.  Quarterly fund-raising goals are made up things, nothing I can get excited about.  This is fake news."2017 Membership: pending"?  My "membership" in what, exactly?  I'm a Democrat only by virtue of my local voter registration.  Giving money to your political action committee doesn't make me a Democrat (or a democrat) - even if that's what I wanted to be.  (What I am call myself now is "progressive".)FINAL NOTICE?  Believe me, this will not be the last email I get from the DCCC (even if I unsubscribed, which I probably should.)  Threatening me with loss of my membership is just plain silly.My email?  (I covered it with a red bar.)  I never gave you my email, DCCC.  I gave it to that guy Bernie Sanders - you may have heard of him.  He talks about issues in his emails.  After he lost the primaries, I started getting emails from someone named Hillary.  I don't hear from her anymore.  I suspect you party guys have been trading email lists.  (Also: instead of inserting my email into your form letter, try inserting my name next time.)"Every top Democrat"?  I believe Martin Sheen and Carole King are entertainers.  James Carville and Donna Brazile are party hacks.  I liked Barney Frank when he was in Congress and I have great hope that your latest runner-up, Keith Ellison, will not become yet another hack.  I feel sorry for Khizr Khan - he lost his son in the fight for . . . what exactly?  There may not be all that many "top Democrats" left - but can't you do better than this list?Nancy Pelosi  Nancy, how are you still a Democratic leader, a top Democrat?  Why weren't you replaced after the Democrats lost control of the House in 2010?  Or after the elections in 2012, or 2014 or 2016?   Didn't you hear me screaming at you in my car recently as I listened to you being interviewed about health care on NPR.  "Mention single payer!" I shouted repeatedly at you.  You couldn't say the words or even hint at the idea.  Your goal was simply to defend the status quo, Obamacare (which, I like to point out, was originally a Republican idea to give corporate welfare to insurance companies.)"Pitch in $1"?  Only one?  Don't worry, you're not going to get even a buck from me.  Leslie and I do give mon[...]



Articles of Politics

2017-03-01T01:37:55.432-08:00

There's been a flood of thoughtful editorial writing analyzing recent political changes in our democracy-based republic.  There was already a lot during the election, but now there's so much more.  I try to keep up as best I can, really I do, yet I'm losing the battle. To cope, I've started saving links to articles which I think I might want to refer to later.  That list is growing out of hand.Meanwhile, today is the last day of February and I haven't posted to Mixed Meters yet.  I figured it ought to be easy to link to some of those articles.  Now you can not refer to these articles also.  Don't expect much continuity in this post.  Just go with the flow.Deep Throat said "Follow the Money".  At least he said that in the movie.  Here's a short article about why the Republicans hate Obamacare so very very very very much.  (Hint, it's about money.)  Here are quotes:at its most basic level, [Obamacare] raises taxes on the top 1 percent to pay for health insurance for the bottom 40 percent. So undoing Obamacare would undo a lot of taxes at the top, and a lot of subsidies at the bottom.It's a reverse Robin Hood. It's taking tax subsidies from the poor to give as tax cuts to the rich. The starkest way to think about that is that the bottom 60 percent would get negative 61.1 percent of the total benefits of getting rid of Obamacare, while the top 1 percent would get 117.5 percent. That's right: the wealthiest would gain more than the country as a whole would, because the working class wouldn't be gaining anything at all. They'd be losing tax credits, and the health insurance those bought them.Deciding who rules the country has come down to convincing a few percent of the people in a few swing states to switch sides.  Apparently these people flip from left to right based on catchphrases and short soundbites. One author, George Lakoff, is trying to explain to the Democrats that how you say things is as important as what you say.  He's a professor of linguistics and he talks a lot about framing of an argument. As an example he suggests that governmental regulations should be referred to as "governmental protections".  Here's a quote from an interview called Don’t think of a rampaging elephant:what are regulations? Why do people have them? They’re there for protection of the public in every [case]. Why do you have environmental regulations? To protect against pollution and global warming and so on. Things that are harmful. Why do you have an SEC regulation? To protect investors, and protect people who have mortgages. Why do you have food and drug regulations? To protect against poisons. This is important. You’re protecting against corporate malfeasance. Corporate harm to the public. When they say, “We’re getting rid of these regulations", no one reports in the media, “They have gotten rid of protections, and they’re going to get rid of more protections!”I have my own advice for the Democratic party.  I think that every time a Democrat talks in public they should change the subject to one of these issues:protecting the environment, protecting civil liberties,a living minimum wage, universal healthcare, income and wealth inequality, making college affordable, protecting the rights of minorities, women's rights,freedom of the press.Unfortunately, the Democrats are spending way too much time thinking about that goddamn elephant.  Hey Democrats, the elephant is irrelevant.  These actual issues that will protect and improve people's lives are what you should talk about incessantly.We are repeatedly told by Republicans that government should be more like business and that successful business people would make good politicians.  This philosophy of course [...]



Expect the Unexpected

2017-01-20T15:04:47.721-08:00

You may have heard: a new U.S. president is being inaugurated.  You know who I'm talking about. Many confused people and a lot of confusing pundits have been pouring out endless verbiage trying to predict the future under this new guy.  We all have a burning desire to know what he's going to do before he does it.  We need predictions NOW! What, we ask over and over again, can we expect from the next four (or, more likely, eight) years? The easy answer is, of course: "expect the unexpected."  That's exactly what we should have done during the election and history repeats itself, don'tchaknow?Except, I hear you reply, that answer is unsatisfying and unhelpful.  Douglas Adams, in his Mixed Meters-approved The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, agreed with you. "This advice has annoyed many Hitch-Hikers in that it is ‘A’ - glib, and ‘B’ - a contradiction in terms." he wrote.Okay, try this instead: "expect the worst". We liberals know that things are not going to be pretty under the new administration.  And the good guys, by which I mean the Democrats (who are the best good guys we can expect these days, such as they are), have been left nearly powerless to fight back. What's the best way to oppose the new president?  Sorry, I have no clue.  If you're reading this hoping for suggestions on how to persevere during the coming dark times, I apologize in advance.  Nothing useful will be found below. Also, a word to the wise, don't expect this essay to end on a hopeful note.There are some things I confidently expect will happen in the U.S. during the next four (or, more likely, eight) years.  For example, we need to expect that racism will be come much more obvious.  And hatred.  There you go . . . expect racism and hatred.Also discrimination.  Expect racism and hatred and discrimination.  And bigotry.  Racism and hatred and discrimination and bigotry will become conspicuous throughout America under the new administration.  Just like it was, for opposite reasons, in the previous administration.  Bigotry, I sadly predict, will seep from America's pores.  It will ooze from orifices we forgot existed.Expect that the new president and his administration will in large part be responsible for this reemergence of American racism, through sins of either commission or ommision.  Expect the new federal government to fight racism with half a heart (or less) and one hand tied behind its back (or more). Expect that his racist supporters will respond to being called racist by calling their accusers racist.  Expect schoolyard name calling.  Expect that pretty soon everyone will have been called racist by somebody.  Expect Barack Obama to be blamed for everything.Expect dog whistles, a lot of racist dog whistles.  Expect all their deplorable dogs to howl on cue when they hear the whistles.  When accused directly of whistling for his dogs (i.e. saying stuff that invites intolerance), or when actual blatantly hateful stuff comes directly out of his mouth, expect the new president to feign offense.  Expect him to tell us, over the sounds of baying hounds, that he never intended the thing he said to be interpreted that way.  "I never meant it like that" will be the new presidential plan for promoting equality and tolerance.That's one thing to expect.  There are others . . .Expect wealth transfer. We need to expect that the rich, and only the rich, will get richer.  Expect to hear constant repetitions of the Republican dogma that tax cuts for the wealthy will trickle down in the form of jobs for average Americans.  (This dogma is pure bull shit of course.  It will not be seriously challenged while Republicans rule the [...]



Wine Bottle Sizes

2017-01-12T21:08:07.750-08:00

I have a hard time throwing things away.Today I've been spending time trying to sort through piles of papers in my office in hopes of finding some empty desktop space underneath - actual empty physical space.In one pile I found this small piece of paper clipped from a Wired Magazine - dated November 2012, more than four years ago.I saved this because I thought it would make a nice subject for a blog post.  I tossed the rest of the magazine and have since stopped my subscription to Wired.  There's just so many articles a guy can read in one lifetime making the point that computers and the big businesses they inspire will save the world.  (It's not true no matter how futuristic you think you are.)Anyway, here's that scrap of paper . . .And here's the same list in list form:Containers for wine and spirits (by liters):Magnum: 1.5jeroboam: 3flagon: 3.785rehoboam: 4.5Methuselah: 6Salmanazar: 9Nebuchadnezzar: 15rundlet: 68.2tierce: 159barrique: 225hogshead: 239firkin: 318butt: 477Only "rundlet" fails Google's online spell checker. Most bottles of wine and booze in the stores around here are 750 milliliters, or half a Magnum. Why, I wonder, are some of these items capitalized and others not.  If only names are capitalized, who is Magnum?  Here's an actual picture of Nebuchadnezzar that I found on line.And here's our cat, Spackle Puss inspecting the magnum of beer - oops, excuse me - the Magnum of beer gifted to us on New Years.We also had a Magnum of champagne gifted to us on Thanksgiving.  I guess Magnums are the thing now, huh?  Thanks to Mark and Peter for the magnanimous gifting.Now that the clipping from the magazine is safely preserved for eternity here on Mixed Meters, I've tossed the physical paper into the trash.  A very very small amount of empty space in my office has thus been created. Here's an MM post with a picture of a skunk hunt.  Same deal - the picture got tossed in a cleanup after it was preserved in online pixels.And here's another post called Desktop Stilllife - with pictures of cats and a video with music. [...]



A year, a parade

2017-01-01T23:34:23.386-08:00

This New Yorker cartoon by Paul Noth made me guffaw even before I read the caption.  I share it with apologies to any relevant copyright legislation.The humor here for me is a Pasadena thing.  Pasadena marks the solstice with fantastic flower-covered flat beds and horse patrols and pretty girls and marching bands and minor celebrities moving inexorably down the middle of our main drag.  Maybe the coffin has a minor celebrity in it.  (This page has a list of all the grand marshals - how many can you identify?)In 2017 the parade is on January second because New Years Day falls on a Sunday and, you know, the Christian god has his rules.  Parade goers start marking their territory at noon on the day before the parade and some of them bring signs to show us where their heads are at. For example, this guy.  I snapped him about 2:00 today. Here's the text on his sign with links:Lucifer is the original divider.And the angels which kept not their 1st estate, but "left" their own habitation. . . (Jude 6)One third of the angels under lucifer fell. (Revelation 12:4)- Rules for Radicals - Alinsky was dedicated to Lucifer.And on the T-shirt:Make America Great Again - Revelation 12:24-28Dire.  Crazy. Frightening.Meanwhile, here's a musical theater reference to lighten your mood:And the lyrics go on from there:You are 16 going on 17Baby it's time to thinkBetter bewareBe canny and carefulBaby you're on the brink You are 16 going on 17Fellows will fall in lineEager young ladsAnd rues and cads Will offer you food and wineTotally unprepared are youTo face a world of menTimid and shy and scared are you Of things beyond your kenYou need someoneOlder and wiserTelling you what to doI am 17 going on 18 I'll take care of youSounds like perfect Republican paternalism to me.Anyway, happy new year if that sort of thing makes you feel better.Mixed Meters has covered the Rose Parade before.  Never with much enthusiasm.  Click here to see all MM posts marked "parades".And view this video to see more sign carriers (starting at about 1’45”): allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="253" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/O8rCxnqb-dc?t=1m45s" width="450"> [...]



Post-rational Jingle Bells

2016-12-25T01:45:20.615-08:00

Humans need holidays. Otherwise our lives would get just too bleak.And what could be more bleak than the winter solstice in the northern latitudes? Consider the facts . . .There's not nearly enough sunlight.It's cold cold cold every day.Snow everywhere.Spring will never come.How did those pre-Europeans cope with such adversity?  They decided to kick back near a fire to overeat and overdrink.  Maybe sing some cheery songs.  After they'd done that for a couple years - or a couple of centuries - they had themselves a solstice holiday.Of course, the nature of this particular holy day has changed over time.  Pagan holiday became Christian holiday became Capitalist holiday.  Whatever.  It's a holiday no matter what your religion.  And it comes just when you need it most, during the dark time.  Go ahead.  Turn on all the lights.  Drink too much.  Give useless gifts.This year - given our recent presidential election - a lot of people (including myself) really need a good holiday.  Current events have stopped making sense for us.  And there's no expectation that the news will be getting better in the future.  It's going to be an awfully long time before America's political winter is over.I've dubbed this the "post-rational" period of history - everything seems beyond reason.And when life makes no sense, you need holiday music that makes no sense. That's why I'm offering you my piece called Post-rational Jingle Bells.  It's just another installment of my yearly series of incomprehensible Jingle Bells arrangements, a Mixed Meters holiday tradition since 2006.  Click here to hear Post-rational Jingle Bells by David Ocker - © 2016 David Ocker - 322 secondsCurious about the picture?  Here are a couple Mixed Meters posts on the subject of bio-geography:Stalking the Christmas PenguinStalking the Christmas Penguin 2Christmas ZoologyYou may be surprised to learn that one or two other musicians, besides myself, have dealt with the Jingle Bells Question.  Here's a version narrated by the composer Juan Garcia Esquivel directly from his Space Age Bachelor Pad.  I particularly like the line "There is a lovely view of Venus tonight." allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="270" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/XTLmTyVwtu4" width="480">Here's a Mongolian folk ensemble playing the tune.  It looks genuinely cold where they are. Watch for a guy with a rifle. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="270" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/qJkiYNeDsw4" width="480">Finally, to hammer home the post-rational aspect, here is a Walmart commercial. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="270" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/1aigfM5Tmqk" width="480"> [...]



No Escape From The Bubble

2016-11-30T01:10:16.214-08:00

Much to my embarrassment, back in May Mixed Meters correctly predicted the winner of this presidential election.  What could I have been thinking?  (It was actually a sort of magic realism: I could avoid the worst possible outcome by predicting it would happen because I've always made incorrect predictions before.)Michael Moore accurately predicted the outcome for better reasons.Like so many Americans, I was caught up in The Bubble before the vote.  Admit it, so were you.  We took shelter in a comfortable cocoon of news and opinion, endlessly reinforcing what we already believed.  We thrilled at stories about how Arizona might go Democratic and shivered at predictions of how racist the Republican would be if he got elected.Yes, we all believed those damn polls.  Both sides did.  Obfuscatory statistical sports-minded double talk became source material for countless predictive think pieces.   After reading those we turned to Facebook for our news.  That's where they pick new things to show us based on the items we've previously liked.  Click like on one item and get another one almost the same.  Facebook shows you stories that your "friends" have liked; maybe you will as well. I doubt there is a more perfect way to stay in The Bubble than by reading a news feed controlled by computer algorithms designed to discard uncomfortable contrary opinions while simultaneously showing you enticing advertising.  Capitalism wants you to be happy while you spend money.  Capitalism didn't care how this election turned out.  Capitalism wants profits.  Either candidate would have been good for business.Hillary Clinton, after running for President for like a quarter century and being the unbeatable presumptive next President of the United States not once but twice, the candidate who got more votes than her opponent (over 2 million more at this point), still lost the election.  Thinking that Hillary would be the inevitable winner is a sure sign that you were in The Bubble.  Yes, this is a real book.Clinton simply couldn't communicate with many American voters as well as the guy who talks at a fifth-grade level.   She looked like a deer caught in the headlights every time they asked her to explain those emails.  The other guy blamed her for just about every problem in the U.S. today and it all stuck to her like glue. I think Clinton needs to confess.  She needs to contritely tell the country that she is completely at fault for this huge election loss.  She could post a YouTube video saying how sorry she is, taking complete repsonsibility and announcing her complete retirement from politics - hanging up her pantsuit as it were. Her first sentence could be "I want to tell the American people that I screwed up."  She should not mention James Comey or emails even once.  No excuses, Hillary.  You were at the top of the ticket.  You called the shots.  You get the blame now in the same way you would have gotten the glory if you had won. At the end of the video you could add a few heartfelt warnings about how little boys and girls should not be too obsessed with gaining power at all costs.  That would be good too. The sooner she does this the better.  Bowing out this way, formally, would be very helpful as the Democrats prepare to fight future political battles.  A full-throated mea maxima culpa from Hillary Clinton could help the Democrats get off to a new start.  If she doesn't do this the Dems are again going to imitate that old joke by lining up in a circle and fighting their battles with one another ins[...]



Shooting Hummingbirds.

2016-10-31T23:21:47.451-07:00

I made a video of hummingbirds buzzing about our backyard.  I'm fascinated by hummingbirds, tiny bundles of iridescent fluff with high-speed aerobatic talent. Weve installed a number of feeders - I call them "hummingbird traps" - to encourage these mini-birdies to choose our backyard as the place to hang out.   And this year has been a banner year for quantity of hummers in the backyard. Don't imagine that we've had hummingbird swarms (like you might see on YouTube).  I'm grateful just to see five or six of the little fighter-pilot critters all dive bombing at once.  That represents a big population increase over previous years. In a moment of weakness I resolved to get a stop-action picture of a hummer in mid-flight.What's more, I would use the point'n'shoot in my pocket to take the picture.Frankly this turned out to be quite a challenge given that I was using a camera which literally fits in my jeans.My criteria were pretty simple: I wanted a picture of a hummingbird in flight showing its wings in focus without any blurring.  This was a difficult task given my limited patience, expertise and equipment.It became immediately apparent that there was no way I could get an in-focus shot while the bird was flying.  They're just too fast.  I would have to wait with my camera trained on one of the feeders, poised for instant action when a bird decided to drop by for a wee drink.My point'n'shoot's fastest shutter speed is 1/2000th of a second, barely up to the challenge.  And there needs to be full sunlight to get a decent picture at that speed.Did I mention there is going to be a video?  If you make it through all these still pictures and silly comments you can watch the video.  Or you can just scroll down.Also don't forget that you can click on any picture to see an enlargement.Our hummers are mean little critters who try to chase the other thirsty hummingbirds away from the sugar juice in the feeders.  It's just simple sugar water.  I mix the magic potion myself (Secret formula: 1 part granulated sugar and 4 parts tap water.)In fact, this is the first year I can remember having multiple birds on a feeder at the same time.  They're fighting over sugar water!  It must be high energy stuff.  I suppose they get their protein and fiber from eating insects.Watching these bird brains' high velocity antics as they pursue one another over who gets the soft drink made me turn to video.Yeah, my pocket point and shoot does video too.  No, not great video.  What did you expect?  Did I mention that the camera fits in my pocket?Anyway, I edited together short clips of birdies feeding on sugar drink as they anxiously keep a lookout for enemy hummers who might swoop down on them at any moment and chase them away faster than a human eye can blink.   It's a tough life being a hummingbird.I think this next shot is my best picture of stopped hummingbird wings.  Too bad the head is obscured by the metal post of the feeder.The final still is my luckiest shot.  You can see the bird and the feeder and you can see the shadows in the lower left.  Got that?  Now look closely at the light fixture in the upper left corner and you'll see both the bird and feeder reflected upside down in the glass.  Three in one.  Cool.I remember mentioning something about a video.  It will give you some idea of what the hummingbirds in our backyard are up to these days.  They're really into sugar water.(A word of warning - in order not to scare the hummers off most of the video was taken with high zoom magnification.  That[...]



Dildos on Mixed Meters

2016-09-22T15:53:19.192-07:00

September 15 was the eleventh anniversary of Mixed Meters.  I must have started this blog for some good reason.  Right?In my very first post I admonished myself to keep things short.  I've failed at that quest many times.   In one early post an anonymous commenter said that I "went on and on and on about it..."  ('It' was a hip hop song which quoted the Dies Irae.)   Dude was right.  "Going on and on" has become a motto around here.  Thanks, Dude.I really appreciate everyone who reads my blather, either here or via email.  Getting comments is a pleasant bonus. What's really amazing is not that I'm still posting.  I'm amazed that I haven't found an excuse good enough to get me to quit.It's been remarked that Facebook has killed blogging.  True enough.  Many things which I used to post here I now post there - and they disappear completely in a few days.  If I link Mixed Meters posts to my Facebook page they might get a few extra comments on Facebook.  FB, however, doesn't increase the traffic here much. Incomprehensibly Google tells me that Mixed Meters keeps getting hits anyway.  Google, as you know, owns Blogger and competes with Facebook.  They provide me with this fine web forum for free.  Thanks, Goog.What's more, they've been keeping track of my hit totals since 2010.  Last month MM registered the highest monthly hit total in that entire time, double the amount from the previous August.  Why?  I have absolutely no clue.  Certainly not because of all the great articles I've been posting.In 2008 I joined something called Google Adsense, where the Goog posts ads on my blog which they think will interest you, my dear readers.  Every time you click their ad a small sum of money is paid to an account in my name.  Over 6 or more years I had gotten over $25 in credits.  Hey, don't laugh.  It's the biggest revenue stream in Mixed Meters entire history.The trick - and there's always a trick - is that in order to get paid in actual currency, my earnings would have to reach $100.  And that would take, give or take a long time, another 24 years or so. Recently I learned that this is not the incredibly sweet deal I thought it was.  Google Adsense, for all its largesse, does have a few rules.  And one of those rules is 'family friendly'.Last February (the February in 2016) an email arrived calling my attention to one particular page http://mixedmeters.com/2007_09_01_archive.html - an archive of all seven posts I made in September of 2007.  Their complaint was pretty non-specific considering the variety of subjects I addressed that month. Google ads may not be placed on pages with adult or any kinds of non family-safe content. This includes, but is not limited to, pages with images or videos containing:Strategically covered nuditySheer or see-through clothingLewd or provocative posesClose-ups of breasts, buttocks, or crotchesWere they complaining about my piece of music named after my dog's genitals?  Maybe.  Maybe they didn't like this picture of a topless Hawaiian goddess:Or this historical, usually strategically blurred, photo (from my article comparing judicial punishments for Abu Gharib prison and Nazi death camp officers):Or this musically relevant photo of nude people doing couples yoga on a Paul Horn concert poster which I had found in Leslie's papers:I'll never know exactly which post that month triggered the warning, only that it took 8 and a half years for me to get the news.  I opted to ignore the notice. Then in June anoth[...]



Florence Foster Jenkins

2016-08-31T14:32:51.582-07:00

Music students who are fans of opera - or who, like me, were friends of fans of opera - inevitably get exposed to the singing of Florence Foster Jenkins.  Imagine a late night, a group gathered in someone's dorm room, everyone's well stoned listening to all kinds of music.  Eventually, without explaining, someone plays Florence's album.  Hilarity ensues.  It's better when you don't know what to expect. If you aren't familiar with Florence's work, here's a recording.  Enjoy: allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="270" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/DMu9PKWthLE" width="360">It's natural to wonder whether Florence Foster Jenkins was having a little joke on her audiences.  No, apparently not.  All evidence suggests that Florence was completely serious.  I mean, she was no Darlene Edwards.  Florence was, at least in her own mind, a serious artist.And that's just the beginning of her tale.  The whole story would make a good movie.Oh right.  That movie is out now.  It's entitled Florence Foster Jenkins and stars Meryl Streep as the eponymous prima donna.  Since Florence seems like a perfect patron saint of Illusory Superiority (which is the pop psychology trope I have recently adopted as a feeble excuse for not fulfilling my own lofty career expectations), I was tremendously anxious to see it.  I dragged Leslie off to a local theater last week.   Here's the trailer. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="180" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/HszfdNS0JSc" width="320">I think the essential point is that Florence Foster Jenkins is a love story.  Bad singing is just the hook.  Florence and her husband, St. Clair Bayfield (played by Hugh Grant) had a non-traditional marriage.  Theirs was clearly a loving supportive relationship.  Co-dependent even.  I ended up rooting for Bayfield to help Florence succeed.It's a good movie because of the acting.  Streep makes you feel that this might have been what the real Florence was like.  And she mimics Florence's singing exceptionally well.   Grant is perfectly cast.  Simon Helberg, who plays the accompanist Cosme McMoon, escapes his Big Bang Theory persona and holds his own against these two formidable talents, although I found his high voice annoying.  On the other hand it was a pleasure to watch an actor actually playing a piano instead of faking.I even liked the sound track by Alexandre Desplat - especially the Rota/Fellini-esque cue as the crowd streamed into Carnegie Hall.   The best musical moment, in my opinion, happened just after the scene where Florence and Cosme play a Chopin prelude together.  The scene cuts outside while the music transforms perfectly into the John Kirby arrangement of that same music; sad, mournful and very 40's. Another oft-mentioned moment shows Florence singing while we hear her presumably as she heard herself.  It's excellent singing, also sung by Meryl Streep.  Here's where I suspect the common perception of Florence Foster Jenkins goes slightly awry. It's been suggested that Florence's hearing was affected by the mercury treatments given for her syphilis.  The movie shows her enjoying Lily Pons' excellent singing.  It's possible that what Florence actually heard when she herself was singing was the same thing she heard when she listened to Lily, both performances would have been scrambled by a maladjusted auditory system. In my twisted version, we would have heard Lily Pons in concert through Florence's ears rather[...]



The Last Strawberry Plant

2016-07-31T05:32:49.697-07:00

Years ago Leslie optimistically planted some strawberries in our back yard. The plants did not thrive in our hot dry summers, although one of them has survived against all odds.  We thought it too would soon be a goner. Recently that remaining plant was moved a few feet so it sits under an avacado tree. This new spot seems to have given it a new lease on life.  It still doesn't produce much fruit, but the plant is flowering and is showing potential. Here is the entire strawberry crop from the last two weeks.The plant is in a big cloth pot.  The bricks and the dog have nothing to do with this story.I noticed a praying mantis on one of the leaves.I shot some video of Mr. or Ms. Mantis.  Watch in hi-def for less than a minute.  Keep your eyes on the scurrying ants. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="270" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/51BrTmNGCtc" width="480">The music is the opening from my piece Allegro (Winter 2013 short version) from The Seasons.Read about another fruit on Mixed Meters: In which I remember the Great Cranberry Scare of 1959 [...]



Breezes In The Danger Garden

2016-07-21T05:24:24.705-07:00

Back in April I posted pictures of Leslie's carnivorous plants thriving in her garden. I called it the Danger Garden.  Dangerous only if you're an insect.Here's a plant that didn't make that post.  It's called a Rainbow Plant, very small and delicate and gorgeous.  But still a carnivore.I also shot lots of video.  I was fascinated by the plants swaying in the wind.  I spliced the least unsteady video segments into a sequence, rather at random, and began adding music.Before long I had to put the project aside, only one third complete, in favor of real work.I returned to the project several weeks ago and, to be honest, I didn't like what I heard.  The music was way too busy for aimlessly bobbing plants.  So I started decomposing - moving things around, adding silence, cutting things out, thinning the herd.  (Or should I say 'thinning the heard'?)Then, using the time-honored musical technique called Cut and Paste, I expanded what remained to the necessary length.  After some tucks and tweaks, adjustments and embellishments, fiddling and fixing, and finally a lot of random transpositions both vertical and horizontal, I made the music fit the video. "Good enough," I exclaimed to no one in particular.  "Not your best work," I told myself in the mirror the next morning. So here it is, Breezes In The Danger Garden, by David Ocker (© 2016 by David Ocker 395 seconds.)  It's good enough.  Just click it to play it: allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Akt-EPYBQOU" width="420">I could have spent hours more doing tucking and tweaking on Breezes in the Danger Garden and it would have remained, in my opinion, only good enough. The issue here is my opinion.I've been thinking a lot lately about the opinions I form of my own work.  That's because self-evaluation is the only evaluation I get.  No one else tries to understand or explain what I do.  Fair enough.The final product, my actual music, however it sounds, might be great art -- although it probably isn't.  And how would I know one way or the other? You'd think by now I'd have an instinct or a set of tools for evaluating the quality of music, developed over decades of writing, hearing and thinking about music.    This is different than knowing what I like and what I don't like; I know that subjectively.  My likes change over time.  Knowing what's good or bad ought to be more objective, right?  Permanent.  Something others agree on.So here's the problem: I no longer trust my ability to distinguish good from bad, even in my own music.  Especially in my own music.  That's why, when I read about the notion of illusory superiority it made sense to me.  The idea grabbed me and wouldn't let go. Simply stated, it made me realize that I believe I'm a better composer than I actually am.  A kind of self-protective mechanism.  I guess it prevents me from getting depressed.  In other words, a useful delusion.  And, based on what the Internet tells me, many people in our society display this tendency in all sorts of ways.Now it's not my job, as the writer of an ego blog like Mixed Meters, to explain issues of pop psychology to you.  You could just do a Google search for "illusory superiority".  Then you can read what other people have written and I won't need to try to explain it.  And you won't need to try to understand it.Meanwhile I've concluded that the notion that I [...]



Collected Selfies

2016-06-30T23:04:48.791-07:00

Lacking the time to create a blog post at the high standards you expect, I've created one at the low standards you also expect.  Yes, it's an exhaustive compendium of pictures I've taken of myself. The Hairline SelfieThe Nonet SelfieThe Out-of-focus SelfieThe Across-Colorado-Boulevard SelfieThe Selfie in Judy's SunglassesThe Selfie with Doctor PyewacketSix Failed Selfies with Dr. Pyewacket The Two-headed SelfieThe Television SelfieThe Purple Selfie with Carnivorous PlantsThe Watercolor SelfieClick any of my selfies for a larger selfie.More than you wanted to know about selfies.And then there's THIS POST with my extremely long video selfie. [...]



Mixed Meters Predicts The 2016 Election

2016-05-30T04:00:50.833-07:00

Warning - if you don't like the F-word permanently incorporated into the presumed Republican candidate's name you might want to start your own blog.Mixed Meters has a short history of predicting the political silly season.  I'm always wrong.  That won't stop me from trying again.With their combined negative polling near 100%, the general election between Hillary and Donald Fucking Trump will be the most negative ever.   As Election Day approaches all advertising will be negative and none of it will be accurate.  On CNN Reince Preibus will claim that lying is perfectly acceptable in Presidential elections.  No one will contradict him.Both vice-president candidates will be white, male, Protestant politicians almost unknown outside their home state.  In fact both will be from the same state or maybe adjacent states.  Both will make  Dan Quayle look over-qualified.There will be campaign violence - lots of it - much more than 1968.  Baton-wielding cops will fire tear gas at Occupy Wall Street and at Black Lives Matter.  Someone who appears to be transgender (but isn't) will be beaten up while trying to take a shit.  Expect at least one fatality during this election cycle - some innocent person will die during a protest. At the conventions both parties will have ugly platform fights: Republicans will obsess over gay wedding cakes and Democrats will argue about Israeli fascists.At one point, everyone in the media - nutcases and reasonable pundits alike (although I admit it's sometimes hard to tell them apart) - will start to agree on some one thing.  No, I don't know what it will be.  This common wisdom will emerge the same way everyone said that Donald Fucking Trump would never get nominated.  Once again everyone will be proven wrong.Something Ted Nugent says will lead the news cycle for several days. Also Jorge Ramos.Donald Fucking Trump will turn his campaign into a reality television show with behind the scenes cameras following his every move and showing off-the-cuff exchanges with his supporters.  A nightly broadcast hosted by Sarah Palin and Ben Carson.  Donald Fucking Trump will claim he is winning because the show gets high ratings.Donald Fucking Trump, trying not to sound like a bigot, will simply allow the Democratic campaign advertising to remind his vile racist followers that he too is a vile racist.  In spite of this he will accidentally keep insulting women and minorities almost every time he speaks.  His supporters will love him all the more for it.Hillary will deny ever changing her political positions but then abandon her recent pivot to the political right when she eventually realizes that she needs Bernie Sanders' help.  Therefore, late in the campaign, she will desperately re-pivot to the left, talking incessantly about free college tuition.  (It is too much to hope that "re-pivot" will become a generally known term.) Conflicts in Syria, Libya and Iraq will drop out of the news because ISIS leaders will be afraid of affecting the U.S. elections.  Kim Jong-un, however, will keep launching satellites and missiles and saying provocative things leading Donald Fucking Trump to display a large prop red button which he will symbolically press to show his willingness to launch missiles at North Korea.   He will offer to travel to Russia during the campaign.  When Putin politely declines, he will offer to travel to Israel. &[...]



Mixed Meters Endorses Bernie

2016-05-27T14:24:12.477-07:00

Mixed Meters (i.e. me, David Ocker) commends you to vote for Bernie Sanders in the California Democratic Party Primary next month. I am assuming, of course, that you live in this state and are registered as a Democrat or as NPP ("No Party Preference").  (There are a bunch of other states who have yet to vote.  If you live in one of those, I commend you to vote for him there as well.)There are two reasons I make this recommendation.  Both of them have really pissed me off.First, Bernie has repeatedly demonstrated that he actually believes things which I also believe; things about economic equality, ending the endless war, reforming politics and investing in people's futures.Second, he has brought millions of voters - many of them young - into the electoral process and gotten them excited about those ideas.  Their numbers and excitement demonstrate that his ideas might well be viable public policy someday. Before Bernie I had naturally assumed that in this election, like in almost every previous one, there would be no candidate who actually reflected my political beliefs.  And even if there were, that candidate would have no chance.Bernie came along and proved me wrong - forcing me to support him in spite of my utter distaste of politics as usual.  How annoying is that?  My fleeting moment of hope - now dashed by Bernie's likely loss of the Democratic nomination - gives me the right to be pissed.Yeah, it's true, Bernie has no chance of winning the Democratic nomination, although at the moment polls are all over the map.   I suppose he still has a chance of winning in California just like I have a chance of winning the lottery.  Winning anything, even this one large battle in the nearly completed nomination war, would be a huge accomplishment for his supporters to celebrate.So, on June 7, I'm going to have a rare opportunity in American politics.  I'm actually going to get to vote FOR someone who, if he  became President, would promote ideas I believe in.  In this one election I'm not going to be voting against someone.  First  time since 1972.Eventually, I can only hope that some real social liberal candidate wins office someday and she can begin the even-harder-than-getting-elected job of changing the laws, the society and the hearts and minds of the people.A vote for Bernie on June 7 will send a message to that as yet nameless candidate of the future that there are voters who support her ideas: we are out here and we will vote if given something to believe in.The pictures of homemade Bernie signs were all taken in Pasadena except the Post No Bills graffiti which was near USC.  The two girls with signs were near a voter registration table.  I asked a nearby supervising adult for permission to take their picture, but I still felt as though I should obscure their faces.Here is an 2008 Mixed Meters post showing homemade Obama for President signs. [...]



Recent Pet Pictures

2016-04-30T22:51:51.042-07:00

Mixed Meters' Three Readers are saying "What? Three posts in four days?"Yeah, I try to do three posts a month and if I put it off until the end I need to work fast. To prove to you that quality drops when the deadline looms, I'm offering some pictures of our pets.You may remember that about this time last year we adopted a little black kitten who was stranded in the bushes near our home. We named him Dr. Pyewacket.  You can see his baby pictures here or some from last summer here.Here are three recent pictures of Dr. Pyewacket on various couches.Our other two cats Spackle Puss and her twin brother Crackle Pop came to us in the summer of 2006.  See their baby pictures here.  (I'm impressed that the video links in that post still work.)I'm happy to report that The Ackles are in good health and have accepted Pyewacket into the family pretty much.  (Crackle is in the top photo.)The remaining four-legged family member is Chowderhead, the big red dog.  Here's Leslie holding Chowder's legs up.  If you look closely you can see that he is erect in more ways than one.  (Click on any picture for enlargement.)In the 2007 post Dog's Balls and Elizabethan Collars you can see Chowder's penis before he was "fixed".  Since Chowder was about a year old when we adopted him he too is about 10 years old.  He's doing pretty well for an old dog.  Maybe it's time to try teaching him a new trick.You can see all Mixed Meters posts labeled Dogs or Cats.You can see all Mixed Meters posts labeled Last Day of the Month.Hooray - I've done three postings this month.  The deadline is my friend once again. [...]



From The Danger Garden

2016-04-30T05:08:46.174-07:00

Spring is a nice time in Southern California.  Like Springs everywhere plants here begin to grow again.  And so it is with Leslie's collection of carnivorous plants.  We call them CPs for short.  She has a lot of CPs in her garden.  It's a dangerous place to be if you're an insect.(Click on any picture for better viewing.)In the winter she cuts these little insect-meat eaters back and we wait for new shoots to sprout out in the brighter sun and higher temperatures.  Or maybe we wait for new sprouts to shoot out.  This year has not disappointed.  In fact it's been downright amazing.  I have taken many photographs.Leslie grows multiple varieties of Saracennia, commonly known as Pitcher Plants.  These bad boys trap their unsuspecting little buggers in tall horn-like pitchers.  The pitchers have a cap on them giving them the profile of a large animal with its mouth open.The different varieties are colored with combinations of green and red and white.  There are colored veins of great intricacy.  And little hairs that help ensnare dinner.Before the pitchers form, they send out thin stalks with a round bulb on the end.  This becomes the flower with droopy petals. The plants send out flat stalks which slowly open into the pitchers.  Then they just spend the rest of the year waiting for food to fly right in.Leslie has many other varieties of CPs.  Here are a few pictures of Sundews.  This guys full name is Drosera capensis.  Sundews catch their food using little balls of stickum from which a hapless six-legger can't escape.  Clever.Here's a drosera flower stalk with delicate purple flowers.  Apparently there's a good reason CPs have tall flower stalks.  They need to trick insects into pollinating them.  If the flowers are too close to the parts of the plant which catch the insects, pollination won't happen.  Once the plant sex is over, however, the insect is back on the menu.Other Mixed Meters posts in which carnivorous plants play a role.Freud Was Wrong About the CigarCarnivorous Plants (with pictures of many different types of CPs) [...]