Monday, December 31, 2007

WLAV 10th Anniversary Show from 1950

Here's another rarity from radio history on the blog today.

A few years ago, a good friend, Bill Blodgett, gave me a vintage Lear wire recorder. If you're not familiar with the devices, wire recorders were a predecessor to magnetic tape recorders used by the military and for some recordings of field reports by reporters during World War II. After the War, they were marketed for home and business use. They recorded audio on a thin wire moving at around 20 inches per second. After only a few years, sales of wire recorders declined in favor of easier to use and edit tape recordings.

I have up a page about the recorder and some of the wires that Bill gave me with the set on my website. Most of the wires contained recordings of song, snippets of radio broadcasts, and events like Christmas or birthday parties and neither Bill nor I know who the original owners were.

Two wires among the recordings contain a rather unusual program. The show appears to have been created, perhaps for a private party, by the staff of radio station WLAV for their tenth anniversary. Below is a link to the two excerpts found on different wires - the program is almost complete when you listen to the excerpts one after another.

The show tells a funny dramatized story about the history of the station, poking fun at WLAV's founder and owner, Leonard Allen Versluis. It also frames the "show" as a broadcast from the ABC network, so I'm assuming the station was an affiliate at the time. WLAV started broadcasting in 1940, so that would make this recording date from 1950. According to Wikipedia, WLAV-AM, located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is now WBBL, which broadcasts with a sports-talk format.

I contacted the station about the recording, but, with the changes in management over the past fifty-plus years, they didn't know anything about it. They wanted a copy for their collection and I sent it to them.

What surprised me about this wire and some others was the quality - I've always heard that wire recorders sounded rather poor, but this rivals some audio tape recordings from the time in frequency response. The anniversary show appears to have been dubbed either from an acetate or tape made at the station.

If you ever run into old wire recordings or reels of tape, be sure to pick them up and give them a listen - you never know what might turn up.

WLAV Anniversary - Part 1 (1:57, MP3 - 2.7 MB)
WLAV Anniversary - Part 2 (10:48, MP3 - 14.9 MB)

Friday, December 28, 2007

NBC Night Beat promo record set

On a recent trip to Goodwill, I found a curious little 45 rpm record set.

After RCA developed the 45 rpm record, they promoted the format as a replacement for 78 rpm album sets and singles. In the late 40s and through the early 50s, they issued album sets in various genres and promoted RCA record changers for 45s that could be hooked up as auxiliary devices to radio sets.

At Goodwill, there were a few of these sets by artists like Wayne King and Vaughn Monroe, but one caught my eye. It was called "Night Beat" and featured an NBC record label. I've heard an old NBC radio drama series by that name, but had never seen a radio show issued on 45s like this. Curious, I picked up the set and checked it out.

The set consists of one complete episode of the show with an announcement aimed at advertisers inserted just after the opening, inviting potential sponsors to buy time on the program. So, this appears to be a promotional set put out by NBC.

listen to MP3 of the opening and promo announcement (2 MB)

I'm guessing that someone at NBC saw it as a chance to promote the series to advertisers in the face of competition from television. Indeed, "Night Beat" was sustained, without a sponsor, for the first few months of its run.

I posted about the set on the OTR mailing list and Michael Biel helpfully provided some additional information about the set. The label and matrix numbers are EO-CX-342 through 347 and the label runoff area includes an "I" notation near the matrix number. According to Biel, "EO" is a date code indicating 1950. The "C" indicates "Custom", pressed by RCA for a special purpose (a "K" would be used if the records were custom pressed for an outside customer). Biel estimates that the master numbers were done early in the year, perhaps mid-January to early February.

The "X" in the matrix number is a problem - usually a "W" was used in this position at the time. Biel thinks this might be a holdover from the "X" used in this position during secret development of the 45 rpm system between 1940 and 1948. The "I" indication is a code for pressings done in the Indianapolis plant.

The source of the recording sounds to my ears like a 16" transcription - halfway through the show, you can hear a side change where the audio quality changes, similar to what might be heard when going from the end of one side of a transcription to the beginning of a second side.

Despite no episode title in the program or on the label, the episode on the records appears to be "Zero", the first show of the series broadcast on February 6, 1950, according to a log of the series.

Anyone have any additional info on the set or seen others like it? Was there other material, like a press kit, also released? Was it sent to ad agencies or advertising departments at some companies?

Friday, September 14, 2007

email I won't be opening today, part 2

From: White Smoke
Subject: fehlerloses Englisch auf Ihrem PC !

From: Mariano Childress
Subject: Wondercum consist of two sets of herbs

From: Dollar Colon Sale
Subject: Re: Your Colon Emergency

Monday, August 6, 2007

Goodwill hunting - Dora Hall and Just Call Me Old

Stopped by Goodwill today and made two little discoveries.

First off, I found two VHS tapes of Dora Hall tv specials, "Dora's World" and "Secret Sleuth".

If you do any web search on Dora, you can find out more than you ever wanted to know about her. She was born about 1900 and was always fascinated with show business. Her husband, owner of the Solo Cup company, financed recordings of her albums which were given away with proofs of purchase from Solo Cup products. He also paid for some elaborate tv specials starring Dora in the 1970s and these were also available as Solo Cup premiums. (Here's a web version of a great TV Guide article from 1971 about the first tv show she did, "Once Upon a Tour".)

My fellow lp fanatic and musician friend Carman gifted me a couple of Dora's lps, featuring her remarkable song stylings on tunes like "Hang On Sloopy" and the Rolling Stones's "Satisfaction". The tv specials are a very different level of Dora Hall artistry.

The specials are the absolute cheesiest of 70's musical variety shows, compressed into a swift half-hour. In "Secret Sleuth", Dora owns a newstand and the plot has something to do with a mysterious man and a briefcase; it's just an excuse for Dora to perform songs like "Secret Agent Man" and "King of the Road". "Dora's World" has Dora playing a show-biz vet grandmother that annoys her daughter in law by performing numbers for the kids all the time. She does "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" sitting on a motorcyle surrounded by gyrating dancers dressed in bell bottoms and 70's glitter and guys in kung fu outfits (don't ask). Oh, and she serves them milk and cookies. (Again, don't ask.)

My second discovery at Goodwill?

At the checkout, the clerk, after ringing up my tapes asked, "Senior citizens discount?"

Since I'm only 43 and the clerk looked to be well over sixty, I'm not sure why she thought I knew the secret AARP handshake that gets me discount coffee at McDonald's.

Was it the way I look?

Or was it because I bought two Dora Hall videotapes?

Friday, August 3, 2007

RIP Bergman, soap commercial king

Slate has a short video that takes a look at a neglected aspect of Ingmar Bergman's film career - soap commercials.

Bergman produced the commercials in the 1950s to pick up extra money during a studio shutdown and they're rather clever, combining aspects of theater and film. One is a parody of the 3D movie craze.

video at

Sunday, July 29, 2007

1984, the BBC version

Screened the BBC television production of "1984" over the weekend. Sourced from a kinescope, this is the only surviving record of a live, two-hour television adaption of the novel from 1954 that stars Peter Cushing.

The acting by Cushing and the cast is first rate. It was an ambitious production, consiting of 28 sets, several filmed inserts to "open up" the story or bridge scenes, and a live orchestra playing the score in a nearby studio. The intimacy of the production, with minimalist sets and lots of close-ups, adds to the claustrophobic feeling of the story and allows you to concentrate fully on Cushing's disheartening transformation to a man crushed by Big Brother.

The British had considerable experience with fairly elaborate dramatic productions all the way back in the 1930's in the early days of electronic television, so it's no surprise that they were able to pull off "1984" so well - it was light years ahead of US television at the time. The only detraction was the flimsy cardboard set used for Winston Smith's apartment; it just wasn't convincing and briefly broke the "spell" of watching the drama unfold.

Too bad there's not more early British television that has survived and is in circulation.

entry at Wikipedia on the 1954 BBC production of "1984"

Also, the other day, I listened to the "Goon Show"'s parody of the BBC's "1984" telecast; the Goons version is called "1985" and has Seagoon battling the Big Brother Corporation by joining the Independent Television Army. It includes, as a motif, constant announcements from the telescreens such as "Attention! Attention! Lunch is now being served in the BBC cafeteria! Doctors are standing by!" When Seagoon's torturned in room 101, he's subjected to recordings of then-popular BBC radio shows. Peter Sellers, who always does several characters on the Goons, plays both Winston Seagoon's love interest and the Big Brother Corporation torturer at the end.

The Devils

Last night, I watched Ken Russell's "The Devils" with some friends. This was a grey market DVD (okay, a bootleg) of the complete cut of the film, sourced from a UK television broadcast.

The reviews in the small group were mixed; one of my friends, from a Catholic Italian family, thought it was just over the top and too relentless in trying to shock; another thoroughly enjoyed the outrageousness.

For those that haven't seen it, "The Devils" is based on a true event - nuns in a convent are drawn into ruining a politically active priest in France and accuse him of being in league with Satan. The political mechanizations in the film are a little simplistic, in some ways, with the "bad guys" being portrayed in a thoroughly nasty fashion. The film, in its uncut version, is an assault on the senses, with copious amounts of vomit, blood, violence and sex involving holy implements.

It's the work of a young filmmaker with a lot of pent up energy and plenty to say. It's shocking to the point of being ridiculous at times, but that's the price you pay for a unique vision bursting on the screen.

What really makes the thing work is the scripting of the priest's character and Oliver Reed's portrayal - Russell presents him as a kind of "lost soul", facing doubts about his religion, but holding on to what's right.

The bootleg DVD makes me wish Warner Brothers would give this a proper release with a good transfer - the set and costume designs by Derek Jarman are quite effective and Russell makes full use of the 2.35:1 frame.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Like throwing writers to the lions

The New York Times has a nice little piece about a strange little Hollywood ritual, Pitchfest.

The idea is that aspiring writers pay about $400 to show up in a large convention hall to give a seven minute pitch for their screenplay or series idea to producers.

It's a wonderfully giddy and frightening experience; I went through a similar gauntlet at a screenwriter's confab in Los Angeles a few years ago.

article at NY Times

essay on my own experience at the Screenwriter's Expo

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The most fascinating writer you've never heard of

I stumbled on to a web site devoted to Harry Stephen Keeler, a unique mystery writer that probably deserves a closer look.

Keeler developed his own style, writing mystery and science fiction in the 1930s. He was pretty widely published, but publishers and readers weren't quite sure what to make of him. His novels, based on a complicated "webworks" structure, violate all the rules of conventional storytelling - plots move solely on coincidence, his characters are broad and comical and his works are so bizarre and often badly written, it's difficult to tell if he was a brilliant satirist or an insane literary Ed Wood.

An overview of Keeler's life and work

Harry Stephen Keeler Society

Some etexts of Keelor's works

Article by Keeler on his "webworks" method of plotting novels (including convoluted illustrations)

A trip to Columbia University to investigate Keeler's papers and unpublished works

Ramble House reprints of Keeler's novels and related material

Monday, July 16, 2007

Until the End of the World

It was a real movie marathon this weekend. Another film I screened was the full five-hour director's cut of Wim Wenders's "Until the End of the World".

The story follows a cast of characters on a trip around the world, wandering from continent to continent, trying to find their purpose in life. It begins as a meditation on love and our place in the world and winds up being a story about the nature of dreams and our own psyche.

I greatly enjoyed the two-hour American cut of the film; the director's cut (which is actually three feature-length films) doesn't significantly change the story, but adds more depth to the different stories. It only starts dragging in Part Three, after the troupe gets stuck in Australia, isolated from the rest of the world due to a nuclear explosion in space set off by the US government (don't ask) - he doesn't seem to have much to do with the minor characters in this part of the movie. (Watching the five-hour version of the movie reminds me of what it was like to see the miniseries version of Bergman's "Fanny and Alexander" after seeing the feature length version a couple of times.)

I'm glad I saw it, but don't think I'll watch it again soon.

A Matter of Life and Death ... and Technicolor

I screened Powell and Pressburger's "A Matter of Life and Death" over the weekend.

Thoroughly amazed - every time I see one of their films for the first time, I find myself saying, "I've never seen anything quite like that before".

The plot involves an RAF flyer, played by David Niven, who bails from his crippled airplane without a parachute and cheats death. The whole balance sheet in Heaven is thrown off and he appeals his case in order to stay on earth with an American woman (Kim Novak) that he's fallen in love with.

Real life is shown in glorious Technicolor while Heaven is depicted in shades of monochrome - a nice touch, considering the bureaucratic nature of paradise that Powell and Pressburger show.

I wonder when this is going to get an official release in Region 1 - Columbia, which owns the US distribution rights, either announced or briefly released it on DVD, but it was quickly withdrawn for some reason.

Highly recommended if you can track it down.

The Tulse Luper annoyance

Well, about half-way through watching Greenaway's "The Tulse Luper Suitcases", I'm thoroughly in the realm of having an intense migraine.

This is the first feature film (2+ hours) in a proposed series of sixteen feature films about the contents of suitcases that belonged to one Tulse Luper. We get to see the contents of each suitcase, one by one. (Number eight, if you're interested, contains frogs. Another - I lost count - contains fish.) He also shows us, one by one, "92 Objects That Represent the World" (number sixty-six is a clock).

It's "The Falls" meets "The Pillow Book" - a long, drawn out shaggy dog story that doesn't seem to have very much of a point except in Mr. Greenaway's little head somewhere.

It has something to do with Mormons, Uranium, sex with cherries, sex with guns, big boobs, full frontal nudity, eating ice cream, dentists, water, spies, Belgian stenographers and Nazis. And clean hands. And lots of people who say "Good morning Mr. Luper" and dialogue that repeats... repeats... repeats... repeats... repeats.....

Greenaway has made the first three films of the series and the second one is available.

I don't think I'll bother.

Greenaway is a mentally ill man with sado-masochistic tendencies towards librarianship. I'm surprised he didn't show each suitcase with its Dewey Decimal classification number.

After an hour of this movie, I'm ready to scream.

Update: Just finished watching it. Just like "The Falls", "Tulse Luper" is a two-hour shaggy dog story. How annoying....

Friday, July 6, 2007

Memo to Bill Gates: You've just wasted $26 million

The gay blogs are abuzz with the news that a capital investment firm headed by Bill Gates has rushed in to save PlanetOut, the first publicly traded LGBT media company. PlanetOut was on the verge of shutting down and the $26 million invested by Gates and Company will allow it to survive through 2008.

There was a lot of buzz about PlanetOut during the dot com boom, with optimistic talk about how the company would reach the large and lucrative Gay demographic. These days, as the company's revenue for personal ads sinks and subsidaries like "The Advocate" and their Gay cruises are tanking, they're still referring to themselves as the "go to" destination for advertisers and marketers to reach LGBT Americans.

It seems the company is still deluded with its own hype. Companies and media outlets, both big and small, that claim to have cracked the Gay demographic seem to come and go on a regular basis. I've not seen any that really "gets it".

The LGBT market is probably the most diverse on the planet - it's politically conservative, moderate, and very liberal; it's education levels are all over the map; it comes from most every profession known on the planet; it lives everywhere from big cities to small towns to isolated rural areas.

Most LGBT marketers make the mistake of trying to appeal to a fairly narrow view of what LGBT's are and are interested in, dividing the demographic into the party crowd, the suburban white picket fence relationship crowd and the political junkies. So, sites or Gay publications give LGBT's gay related political news, music and clothing that appeals to an "out proud" urban audience and lots of talk about relationships.

The sites and publications present a kind of tightly controlled LGBT community - there's not a lot of debate, there's a certain amount of apathy about the outside world and culture, and features of LGBT focuses sites are aimed at the hard sell of LGBT fashion, music, movies and the "lifestyle". There's a certain shallowness about it all - a hefty amount of downright bad writing, music and movies are foisted on LGBTs; it's material that has no distinctive qualities or interest beyond that fact that it's gay-themed. ("Brokeback Mountain" has been such a hit in the gay community simply because it's the only decently scripted, acted and directed gay-themed movie to come out in several years.)

Most LGBTs don't buy into this whole world. They might congregate in a Yahoo group around a common identity, like Bears, Leathermen or FTMs, but they're just as likely to pop up on sports forums, sites devoted to gardening, or what have you; sites that allow networking for common interests and affinities are thriving while PlanetOut is much the same as it was almost a decade ago.

I think there's potential for an enterprising start-up out there to really tap the LGBT market with a very different approach, using the social networking model as a basic structure. With my own varied interests, I keep running into people who are on several different personals or community sites from different companies or small start-ups, each focusing on a different little niche among LGBTs - there's money to be made for someone that sets up a basic structure for the LGBT demographic to express itself organically at a single site that has features that focus on its needs and interests, rather than the interests of some PlanetOut investors or marketing firms.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

FDR and the Pentagon

Slate has an interesting little piece about the influence that FDR had on the design and location of the Pentagon. An interesting little book could probably be assembled on the architectural work and interests of FDR.

Friday, June 15, 2007

This Old Hot House

Ever casually browse around antique shops and flea markets on the weekend?

Ever wonder if you're getting radiated with some of the antiques?

Most folks have heard about the radioactive properties of some old Fiestaware, which used uranium for that pretty red-orange glow, or how Vaseline glass glows under a UV light. But there are other old antiques that give you more radiation than several chest x-rays.

Slate has an article on finding radioactive antiques on ebay.

Friday, May 25, 2007

iPod as giveaway commodity

Is it just me, but doesn't this remind you of this?

I actually have one of the cameras, btw, still in its original box.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Pop-up video

The NY Times looks at the latest trend in trendy high-end home theaters - outdoor screens.

Get a load of the giant "pop up" screen at the edge of the pool, the palm trees and oceans in the distance. Yeah...I could could get used to a home theater like that...

article at NY Times

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

One gallon jars of mustard and ... a coffin...

Mark Morford at the SF Chronicle points out something in his latest column that is rather surprising and creepy: selected Costco locations are selling coffins.

The thing I don't quite understand is what one would do with a coffin if you're not going to be buried in the thing right away. Sure, you'd like to save money and be prepared, but where do you put a coffin for a year or two or three before you actually use it? Do you use it for storing all those Beanie Babies you're ordering off of ebay? Stand it up in the corner and use it as a walk-in closet?

article at

Friday, April 6, 2007

Early reel to reel tape

Here's one of the earliest and most unusual pre-recorded reel to reel tapes I've seen turn up on ebay.

This is the soundtrack album for "The Living Desert", Disney's first "True Life Adventure" film. The tape is basically made on a stock Scotch blank tape with a label pasted over the box; it has an unusual large flange reel with the title and speed directly printed on the reel itself. It probably dates from 1954 or '55. (It reminds me of some of the early Columbia reel to reel tapes that turn up once in a while that have a generic Columbia box with small labels printed on them for the particular tape inside.)

I'd be curious how many of these were produced and if Disney put out other reel tapes in the mid-fifties.

auction at ebay

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Moving maples

Have you noticed less and less US produced maple syrup in recent years?

You might want to make a trip to the northeast soon to enjoy the maple trees - they're dying off in the US as things warm up and most maple syrup production has moved to Canada.

article at Slate

New Mexico film industry

Will Albuquerque become the new Los Angeles?

An article in the LA Times looks at the increasing numbers of Hollywood based film businesses moving to New Mexico. The state, rather than trying to attract the occasional film shoot like North Carolina, has concentrated on incentives to get the production and post-production businesses that support the industry to move to the state.

article at LA Times

Gaynsta rap?

Well, I'm not a big fan of rap in the first place, so it should be no surprise that I hadn't heard of any gay rap artists that were well known enough to get national press coverage.

I suppose it had to happen - the masculine swagger of the whole rap scene does remind me of the kind of vibe one gets from visiting some leather sites or watching pro wrestling ...

buzzfeed list of links

The Stanford Prison Experiment

The NY Times has an interview with the lead researcher in the 1970's "Stanford Prison Experiment". There is currently a movie in production about the experiment; the researcher reflects on the experiment in the interview and discusses it in the context of the Abu Gareb abuses.

article at NY Times

Friday, March 30, 2007

Run away! has a fun little set of graphics showing the new international symbol used for radiation warnings.

It seems the old symbol wasn't frightening enough; they tested the new one on 1,600 people of different nationalities and ethnicities to see if it would make them feel uncomfortable enough to run away from the danger.

The new symbol, however, reminds me of some 1980's album cover or a stencil you might see painted on a subway car.

article at

Thursday, March 29, 2007


I'm not a big fan of Quentin Tarrentino or Robert Rodriguez (though I think Rodriguez shows a bit more taste and talent). Their new movie is a kind of anthology that pays homage to the sleezy horror films of years gone by.

In between the "features" is an intermission with some trailers for fake horror movies made by some other directors especially for the project. The LA Times has an article about the trailers - I may just have to go see this just to check out Rod Zombie's trailer for "Werewolf Women of the SS".

article at LA Times

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

What the heck is a mellophonium?

Well, I had never heard of a "mellophonium" until I chanced upon this interesting article about the Stan Kenton Orchestra's "Melloponium Period".

Monday, March 26, 2007

Canned music on Broadway

The New York Times has an article today about the use of virtual orchestra software in live theater productions; the piece mentions Notion, a software package produced by a small start-up in Greensboro. (I have a good friend who works for the company.)

article at NY Times

Friday, March 23, 2007

Letter from Vietnam

Continuing with excerpts from my uncle's tapes, here's a short two minute excerpt from one of his voice letters. He would send them on 3" reels of tape while he was stationed in Vietnam; on this one, recorded in August 1967, he couldn't think of much to say. So, he turned the microphone over to two of his fellow soldiers. I can't identify their names, but the first is Allen from Mocksville, North Carolina; the other soldier is from Youngstown, Ohio.

This tape was one of the few in the collection that had serious issues. It was improperly spooled and had suffered some deterioration over the years; the tape had buckled and wouldn't stay flat on side two. I gently held the tip of a cotton swap on the head of the deck as the tape played to flatten it out so it could be transferred. The sound still fades in and out a bit.

Voiceletter excerpt (2 mins, MP3 format)

Sounds of Vietnam

My uncle William "Burl" Flannery served in Vietnam from 1965 through 1967 with the 121st Helicopter Assault Company stationed in Soctrang. While there, he made many short "voice letters" on 3" reel to reel tapes that he would mail to the family (our family, in turn, would record voice letters for him).

Recently, I borrowed the tapes to transfer them to CD since my uncle hasn't had a reel to reel deck in many years. Included in the collection were tapes of music and other material he recorded while in Vietnam and in the early 1970's. In the blog, I'll be highlighting a few more interesting excerpts of the tapes.

One 5" reel contained a compilation of other tapes with some introductions by Burl. Titled "Songs of Vietnam", it included the following material. Each MP3 is a selection of highlights from that section of the tape and runs two or three minutes.

Pop music from Vietnam - A selection of pop records played on the Vietnamese radio stations.

Amateur singers - Recorded at a party in Saigon, highlights of some young girls singing for the microphone. One wonders what happened to them.

Sounds of war - Material recorded during a company patrol.

Vietnamese rock musicians - Recorded at the Whiskey a Go Go in Saigon just before my uncle left the country, the recording is a group of Vietnamese soldiers who performed rock music at the club.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Goodwill finds, March 17th

Went to the Alamance Antique Mall in Burlington and to a couple of Goodwills in town over the weekend. Here's a few of the more unusual things we saw.

First up ... a Jesus plate. Did you realize that He was so blonde?

Next, a frightening whatiz to put on your wall. Are these some kind of pirates on crystal meth or something?

A psychodelic cow at Goodwill...

Two cookie jars sure to discourage children from sneaking a snack...

Monday, March 12, 2007

Online dating coaches

Well, I think I'm in the wrong business again. Turns out that there are companies out there charging anywhere from $40 to $2,000 to help people remake their online personal ads and help them get started with online dating.

article at NY Times

Acting and republicans

Isn't it odd that conservatives in show business - particularly actors - seem attracted to politics. There was, of course, Ronnie Reagan, Sonny Bono, Arnie in California, Fred Grandy (of "The Love Boat"), Clint Eastwood and, now, Fred Thompson. Thompson was a Senator from Tennessee, but is probably most well-known for his roles in "Law and Order" and "The Hunt for Red October".

Does acting somehow prepare you to be a conservative politician?

Does pro wrestling prepare one to be a Libertarian politician?

Funny how liberals in the entertainment industry don't generally become politicians - they just buy influence instead ....

article at CNN

Diplomat, naked

Israel's ambassador to El Salvadore was recalled. Over the weekend, he was found on the streets naked, drunk with a rubber ball stuck in his mouth. And there were SM toys involved too.

It was the first time Rephael, who had held a technical position in the ministry before his posting to San Salvador, had ever distinguished himself in any way, the official added.

article at BBC

Spam I won't be opening today #1

Received a spam today with the subject line:

"Cash Advances Based on Christian Principles"

A fun one from 'The Onion'

If you're a Pagan, or anyone who has dreaded going home for the holidays, you'll enjoy this little piece from the Onion.


Friday, March 9, 2007

Searching a mascot

The NY Times has a short piece about the mascot for a West Virginia basketball team that showed up at Madison Square Gardens for a college tournament and wasn't searched even though he was carrying a rifle.

When I first saw the headline, I thought it might have been about the Mountaineer mascot of my own alma-mater, Appalachian State University. I believe that, at least in the 1980's, the mascot there fired a rifle or musket with gunpowder during some parts of the games. (College memories are a little hazy these days...)

article at NY Times

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Conservative shill by day; porn star by night...

Sigh. What's the deal with these conservatives, anyway?

First there was the bruhaha about Jeff Gannon, a PR guy in conservative circles who was given access to White House press conferences so he could plant leading or easy questions for the prez. Turns out he was hiring himself out as an escort.

Now, a US Marine Reservist that just received the top freedom of speech award at the Conservative Political Action Conference (the same one Ann Coulter spouted off at) has been revealed as the star of the gay porn production, "Touched by an Anal".

post at Americablog, pointing to an opinion piece at Salon where the man blames a liberal conspiracy for his outing

post at Americablog with NGLTF's spot-on press release concerning the matter

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Catching up with old friends

Here's a web site that collects a number of telephone interviews with many television and film personalities; they were recorded in the 1970's for a local radio show by Tom McCarthy.


Conservatives and the cult of masculinity

Found an insightful little blog post by Glenn Greenwald at Salon; the author looks at Ann Coulter's recent taunting of John Edwards and digs beneath the surface to reveal the often ridiculous "fake macho" cult of masculinity among conservatives. The Village People would be jealous, indeed.

blog post at

Monday, March 5, 2007

Gee, I missed Colt Studio Day...

Well, even though I'm a regular reader of the San Francisco Chronicle's website, I missed this news story. Seems that conservatives in the city are up in arms because February 23rd was declared Colt Studio Day by the mayor's office. The proclamation, which was drawn up by someone on his staff, is one of about 2,000 that are put together each year. The mayor was apologetic; other city officials supported the honor for the porn studio, which was celebrating its 40th anniversary.

article at

Sir! No Sir!

Over the past couple of years, there's been a number of interesting documentaries out there - so many that some invariably slip through the cracks.

Here's a review I just ran into at of "Sir! No Sir!", an award-winning documentary about the GI protest movement against the Vietnam War. At the official site, you can order it on DVD and they are also running a program where you can donate to send copies free of charge to current active duty military personnel.

The documentary includes footage from Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland's infamous "FTA" shows that were compiled into a feature film (and have never been released on video).

review at

Official site

Psychohistory - Hit the road, Jack

Once in a while, I'll make a few psychohistory-related posts here. Today, I'm wondering why there are two movies featuring bikers going head to head at the box office - Wild Hogs, a comedy about middle-aged men who become bikers and Ghost Rider, which concerns a biker who sells his soul to the devil. Both films were panned by the critics, but seem to be catching on with audiences.

My own theory about biker-themed movies is that they hint at themes of journeys, standing out from normalcy or being an outlaw, and being exposed or vulnerable. There seem to be several news stories making the rounds that seem to fit these themes - police discovering a video of a 2 and 5 year old being taught how to smoke pot, the story about the "giggling bandits" or the baseball team bus crash that has gotten so much play in the news. There's also the numerous stories about the abuses at Walter Reed of vets (and we often think of bikers as men formerly in the military).

Friday, March 2, 2007

Miami Vice - The Movie

Watched the "Miami Vice" movie on DVD tonight. It didn't get great reviews, but I thorougly enjoyed it as someone who thought "Miami Vice" was the coolest thing on television in the 1980's (at least until Mann's "Crime Story" came along). It has a darker vibe, but all the qualities that made the original show work well - lots of fast cars, action, style, and two buddy cops who are cool cats. I think it actually plays better in a home theater setting - on the big screen, some of the endless music video stuff might get a little tedious, but they got tedious sometimes in the weekly series too.

Real or the Onion? You decide...

Have you ever found yourself reading "The Onion", then turning to a "real" news outlet and finding that the headlines are similar? I often do.

Which of the following are "real" and which are from "The Onion"? Click and find out...

Swiss Accidentally Invade Liechtenstein

Chained to the Radiator? It’s for Her Own Good

Anna Nicole Smith's casket moved to grave

Viacom Demands YouTube Pull 400,000 Ex-TV Viewers From Its Site

Dancing' adds Cliff from 'Cheers'

Arrests made in giggling bandits case

Where Only the Salad Is Properly Dressed

Sword Fight Ensues After S.C. Break-In

Tennessee High School Students Make Porn Film Between Classes

Now that's a _real_ theater...

The Widescreen Museum has up some new material - an article about the remodeling of New York's Rivoli Theater in 1955 when it was reconfigured for showing films in the Todd-AO format. They did extensive remodeling to the interior, including custom made carpets and a concession stand for balcony patrons. They even had a $15,000 custom made curtain for the screen that was themed as the main, long-running attraction at the time, "Oklahoma".

It's no wonder I'm just not interested in going out to the movies anymore.

article at the Widescreen Museum (note - large images make take some time to download)

Jerry Springer opera premieres in US

A Vegas group is doing the US premiere of "Jerry Spring, The Opera"; there will be two performances, staged as a benefit for charity.

article at Broadway World

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A recently diagnosed disorder ...

Do you suffer from Dysphoric Social Attention Consumption Deficit Anxiety Disorder (DSACDAD)?

Sometimes, I wonder if I do ... perhaps I should talk to my doctor ....

website to learn more about treatments

article at Reuters about this recently discovered affliction

Disappearing bees

It's a mystery the NY Times calls worthy of Agatha Christie. Around the US, millions of bees are disappearing. Beekeepers on the East Coast are reporting losses of 70 percent and those on the West Coast are seeing 30 to 60 percent losses. The bee shortage may have a big impact on many crops in the coming months and years.

article at NY Times

I'm just so...special....

A research at San Diego State University has concluded that today's young people are self-centered and narcissistic. The researchers have seen a steady rise since 1982 on a standardized test, the Narcissistic Personality Inventory.

And we wonder why young people, spending hours on MySpace and YouTube uploading the most mundane little details of their lives, are so fascinated with idea of celebrity ...

article at HuffingtonPost

Now that's some serious Karma...

Car crashes! Plane wrecks! Near-death experiences!

Nope, it's not the new episode of "24". The NY Times looks at an Olympic athelete that seems to attract major accidents almost every day.

article at NY Times

Controversy at SF Asian newspaper

A San Francisco weekly newspaper aimed at the Asian-American community there has come under fire for publishing a column by a self-proclaimed "Asian Supremicist" titled "Why I Hate Blacks".

Other AsianWeek columns of Eng's -- including "Proof That Whites Inherently Hate Us" and "Why I Hate Asians" -- have resulted in criticism. In the first, he complained about the scarcity of Asian heroes in the media. In the second, he described Asian Americans as apathetic, brown-nosing and lacking in cultural pride.

The newspaper has withdrawn the online version of the column and apologized for any misunderstanding; individuals in the community have called for a town-hall meeting to clear the air over racial issues.

It's interesting to me that there seems to be a resurgence of hate-speech and ultra-conservative poltics among some young people (the writer of the column is in his early 20's); in previous months there have been reports on conservative churches led by young people in the Northwest and rumblings among Young Republicans on college campuses. It's probably a reaction to the more tolerant attitudes among their peers.

article at the SF Gate

Friday, February 23, 2007

The ultimate Moog LP?

Well, I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it on ebay.

Someone actually did one of those Moog concept LP's in the late 60's or early 70's featuring the music of ... Buck Owens. Now, with "Switched on Buck", you can hear what "Tiger by the Tail" sounds like played on a Moog.

If it weren't fifty bucks, I'd get it....

auction at ebay

A complex issue

Did you know that the income taxes paid by 90% of Americans - everyone making under $100,000 per year - is given to private companies under contract to the Federal government?

Well, neither did I.

A blogger reflects on Ike's warning of a Military Industrial Complex and links to a recent investigative piece in Vanity Fair about the outsourcing of our government.

blog post at

PM Blair, I see in your future....

According to recently declassified documents, the British government hired psychics to try to find Osama Bin Laden.

There's nothing really to say here except it shows some desperation on their part. I wouldn't be surprised if the Bush administration tried the same thing.

article at the DailyMail

Silents, please!

Wired magazine takes a look at the growing interest in silent films - the production of new silent films that tackle an art form pretty much dead for the past seven decades. (Odd to run into this article today, considering that I'm going to see my musician friend Gil accompany the 1929 silent feature "Show People" on Saturday at the North Carolina School of the Arts.)

My own theory about the resurgance of interest in silents is the way that our society is becoming more "iPod plugged". Look around you in any big city, high school or college town and you'll see young whipper-snappers wandering around all day plugged, headphones firmly implanted in ear canals, listening to music as they walk to class, jog or study. In a sense, with a constant stream of music and visual cues of the world around them, a big chunk of their lives are becoming a real life silent movie.

article at

Painted kitties

Painted cats, or rather photographs of "artistically" painted cats, are making the rounds of the Internet, inspired by a coffee table book that went on sale around Christmas. The book has its own entry at Wikipedia, reminding everyone that it's a parody and isn't real.

examples at the blog

An animal painting exercise that is real was done by a colleague at my last employer, Wake Forest University's Art Department. Martine Sherrill, the curator of the visual resources collection, would actually paint her horses for Halloween.

Skylark at Martine's website

Meetings make us dumb

It's no surprise to me, but some scientists have produced research indicating that making group decisions cause individuals to think inside the box.

Yet another reason to really question focus groups and decisions made by groups.

article at MSNBC

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Reno 911 cops interviewed at the AV Club

A very funny interview with two of the actors from "Reno 911", talking "in character" about the new movie based on the series.

interview at the Onion AV Club

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Spyder, baby

Mark Morford moans about the latest development in fun, sort of motorcycle thingies, the Spyder, a kind of "trike" that gives you the thrill of motorcycling riding without all those stability problems.

Mark should lighten up. A hybrid electric golf cart for tooting around the city is great for the environment and should be encouraged. But testosterone fueled fun should be on the agenda as well (in moderation, of course).

commentary with pics at

Medved's afraid you're looking at his naughty bits

Recently, conservative film reviewer and all around annoyance Michael Medved chimed in with his thoughts about NBA player Tim Hardaway's "I hate gays" pronouncement:

"Tim Hardaway (and most of his former NBA teammates) wouldn't welcome openly gay players into the locker room any more than they'd welcome profoundly unattractive, morbidly obese women. I specify unattractive females because if a young lady is attractive (or, even better, downright 'hot') most guys, very much including the notorious love machines of the National Basketball Association, would probably welcome her joining their showers. The ill-favored, grossly overweight female is the right counterpart to a gay male because, like the homosexual, she causes discomfort due to the fact that attraction can only operate in one direction. She might well feel drawn to the straight guys with whom she's grouped, while they feel downright repulsed at the very idea of sex with her."


You can read more of Medved's idiocy at

The boot on the other foot

Slate has an interesting essay about torture, considered in the light of Michael Palin's characterization of a benign bureaucratic torturer in Terry Gilliam's "Brazil". The article is an excerpt from Clive James' book "Cultural Amnesia".

article at

Solar for free?

A new start-up company is trying a different financial model to get solar power to the masses - the solar panels are free and they make money by charging you for the energy the panels generate. There are critics who have called the company a "house of cards", but the concept is intriguing.

article at

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Fascinating fakery

About a year ago, a classical pianist emerged as a phenomina on the Internet. A woman, battling cancer, released a series of CD's produced by her husband. They were difficult to obtain, but caused such a stir that she was championed as a great artist by Gramophone magazine.

There were doubts, however. Some were skeptical she could have developed such a range and technique without being heard from before. Turns out the skeptics were right.

Someone at the magazine noticed that when he put one of her cd's in his computer, the CDDB (used to automatically put in track and artist listings in iTunes and other programs) identified it as a recording by a different artist. Indeed, it was an exact duplicate of a major label release. Other investigations revealed clumsy attempts to mask the true origins of her recordings by speeding them up or adding equalization.

Classical afficiandos and reviewers couldn't hear that the recordings were exactly like those by well known performers in the first place? Just how critical are these fanboys in evaluating performances?

article at Gramophone

analysis of the recordings at a classical music site

One of a kind GWTW poster

Well, if you believe the auction listing, it appears that someone has unearthed the only existing copy of the 40x60 original release poster for "Gone With the Wind".

Strange - it starts at $165,000 and no one has placed a bid...

auction at ebay

Bye bye bulbs, mate

Australia has become the first country in the world to ban incandescent light bulbs. The simple light bulb, unchanged since Edison unleashed unnatural lighting on an unsuspecting world over one hundred years ago, won't meet the new energy standards being enacted in the country. By 2009, you will only be able to purchase compact flourscent bulbs for your artificial lighting needs.

The new bulbs are certainly brighter and use less energy, but they're a bit annoying. I have several in my apartment and they seem to cause static on my am and shortwave radios.

Perhaps I need to hoard some old fashioned bulbs to use when I want to listen to the BBC or WSM-AM.

article at MSNBC

Monday, February 19, 2007

Sign of the times

I happened to be taking a whiz in the men's room today and noticed some scribbling on the wall.

"For BJ ..."

Funny how, not that long ago, the preferred medium for such hook-ups was a telephone. Now we see ourselves in a state of transition - those who are analogue, offering up phone numbers, and those that are digital, who want to hook up through an anonymous email address.

I suppose a hundred years ago, it might have said "For good time, telegraph Joe ...."

New book on recording the Beatles

A new book has been released that chronicles, in excrutiating detail, how each of the Beatles's albums were originally recorded. The authors, who have done professional recording themselves, interviewed the original engineers and poured over recording logs to reveal the tricks they used in the studio. And there's lots of pictures of vintage equipment, too.

While the Beatles were certainly innovative in the pop music field and changed how music in the genre could be recorded and presented on an lp, I'd like to see a book that takes the same approach to explaining how some of the great classical lp's were recorded - the early Mercury Living Presence albums, the RCA Living Stereo recordings, or even works like Harry Partch's "Delusion of the Fury".

article at

Can China create a real hi-fi?

The SF Chronicle takes a look at the growing presence of Chinese companies producing high end audio products. The industry basically developed out of hi-fi enthusiasts in the country tinkering and coming up with their own designs; they face stiff competition from established companies that turn up their nose at the phrase "Made in China" (even as they sometimes buy Chinese equipment, tweak it, and rebrand it for sale under their own names).

article at


Slate has an article about the military's new "pain" gun. It targets individuals in a crowd with an invisible ray that causes a feeling similar to having your clothes on fire.

While they're promoting it now as a tool to use in countries like Iraq to target insurgents and do crowd control, I can see it being used on protestors here in the States. And I could see mass panic breaking out when a crowd thinks the "pain ray" is being used when it really isn't.

Something rather creepy about the thing - it seems part of society's march of progress in warfare and police work, trying to make something very unpleasant and messy more "clean" and scientific.

Bball memior

I'm not a really big fan of basketball (a handicap when one works for the rabid mob of roundball fandom that happens to have a little college attached to it, Duke University). But, this new memior from John Amaechi looks like interesting reading.

Amaechi, who came out of the closet, doesn't use the book as an opportunity to diss fellow players or turn in the usual inspiring "up by your bootstraps" sports story. According to a reviewer at Salon, the book is more about the pain and isolation of being literate. Amaechi's interest in art and poetry probably isolated him more from his teammates than his homosexuality.

It's curious that there's still that jock/nerd separation in society - one can be atheletic, but not intelligent and vice versa. The Onion has its own take on Amaechi's coming out that plays with this idea.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Prop collection

The NY Times does a brief profile of Bob Burns, a Los Angeles resident who has been a collector of movie props in sci-fi films since he was a ten year old kid.

His basement is something of a shrine for sci-fi movie fans; it contains special effects props for everything from some of the classic Universal horror films and Republic serials of the 1940s to more recent big budget blockbusters.

It's a collection waiting for a proper museum exhibition since many of these types of effects props are a disappearing art form with the advent of digital fx in movies.

Video clip - Captain Kangaroo

From YouTube, a wonderful bit of nostalgia for those of us that grew up in the late 60s and early 70s, a clip from the opening of a 1968 episode of "Captain Kangaroo". Sure, we were easily amused, but this seems much more charming than the Teletubbies.

Mummified man found in front of tv

From CNN comes this story.

The mummified body of man who died more than a year ago was found sitting in front of a blaring television set in his Long Island home. Police came to the house to investigate a burst water pipe; his neighbors, who knew he was ill with diabetes, assumed he had been in a nursing home or long term care facility. The low humidity of the house had preserved the body.

Is there anything that's so sad and says more about America?

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Reel of the day - DisinHAIRited

Our first reel of the day on the coolcatdaddy blog is DisinHAIRited, RCA Victor TO3-1015, a collection of songs cut from the Broadway production of Hair. The album was released in 1970 as the cast album was climbing up the charts and RCA thought that a followup lp might generate some new revenue.

The songs are quite interesting; some are more raunchy or a little more "out there" than tunes in the final show. The tape, found on ebay, was still sealed and runs at 3.75 ips - the sound is quite good for something recorded at this speed. (I don't know if RCA released it at the 7.5 ips speed.) I'd highly recommend it for your collection.

Here's a brief (400 kb) excerpt so you can get an idea of the sound quality; the MP3 emphasizes the hiss a bit more than what it's like in the original tape. It's one of the better 3.75 ips open reel tapes I've found.

Sirius - OTR as a gay market?

I couldn't have been more surprised Thursday evening. I had my Sirius satellite radio tuned to Radio Classics. It's a channel devoted to old radio shows from the 1930's, 40's and 50's, things like the Jack Benny Show, Suspense, The Shadow and The Burns and Allen Show.

In between the shows, they'll play a bit of music, ads for cd's you can order of old radio shows, and promos for other Sirius channels. Sometimes, they'll play an old commercial or PSA from an old radio show, but they also play regular commercials as well.

Just after the Abbott and Costello Show, they played their usual promo for the channel, an old PSA from Lux Radio Theater, reminding everyone to save thier fat for the War effort, and then ... this ...

listen to mp3, 1.6 MB

Jeans "by gay designers"? "Inspired by the art of Tom of Finland"?

What the fuck?

I'm happy I've got a Sirius S-50 receiver that lets you back up and replay the channel you're listening to, sort of like a Tivo. I really couldn't believe my ears.

If you're curious, RufSkin jeans has their own website: Note that it's not safe for work.

Now, I do know they have ad agencies that are buying time on these channels, but why would they advertise something like this on Radio Classics?

Hmm.. Gay men ... they go to the gym, they shop for clothes, they go to the bar on Saturday night ... they listen to Abbott and Costello when they relax at home on Thursday night ...

After checking out the site, I can only conclude that they're actually targeting the ad towards Gay sugar daddies. The jeans, available in sizes up to 34, aren't aimed at men in the 40s and 50s that listen to Radio Classics, but at middle aged men who would buy them for their twenty-something boy toy that probably has the ... er... assests ... and waist size to wear something like this.

I've noticed they run promos for OutQ, the dreadful Sirius channel devoted to Gay talk and dance music, on Radio Classics. So maybe there's something to my little theory.

Target marketing, indeed.

And isn't that ad for RufSkin jeans a real parody of Gay stereotypes (even if the creators of it don't realize that it is)?

Brittney and Anna Nicole - why should we care?

According to CNN, the troubled star was seen at a tattoo parlor shaving her head. A crowd gathered and pandemonium broke out.

Along with all of the coverage of the troubled (and still dead) Anna Nicole, I'm becoming convinced that Americans's lives must be really fucked up - if they're following the escapades of a trailer park trash nut that couldn't sing her way out of a paper bag and a buxom golddigger with the intellectual capacity of a peanut as a way to feel better about their own existence, then life must be pretty sad.

A friend gave me the first season of Anna Nicole's reality show on DVD for Christmas a few years back. I could only make it through a couple of episodes before outright nausea set in. In the episode I saw, she was looking for a new house and crawled under a table to retreive something she dropped. She promptly got stuck under the table and required assistance from the crew of the show to get out from under it.

Can any homo sapiens be that dumb?

Is this really what we're watching on television these days?

Condi Rice, catwoman

Further proof, seen at CNN's website this morning, that Condi Rice is psychotic - her body language gives it away. She's always snapped by photographers with an expression that says "I'm going to laser beam you with my eyes" or "I'm going to rip your balls off."

Great image for the State Department to show diplomacy to the rest of the world, eh?