Thursday, October 23, 2014

Puppies To The Rescue?

Michael Steele's "I do SO love puppies" ad ran eight years ago when he was trying to become Maryland's next senator. The ads were widely praised as "highly effective" even after Steele lost "by a landslide" to "a complete nobody".

But, hey, eight years? That's long enough. Now it's Republican Martha McSally of Arizona's turn to use the puppy idea.

Congratulations go out to Ron Barber, her opponent.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Callista Gingrich's American Exceptionalist Elephant Friend Is, Of Course, Made In China

So about that dumpy, vaguely unsettling elephant costume some poor Callistastaffer has to wear, trailing after her like a mute testimony to American Exceptionalism? How was it formed?

Probably by tiny little hands.

The costume was made by Pole Star International, which makes it likely that Ellis's birthplace was No 8, the North Street of Chen Tian, Baiyun Zone, Guangzhou. GuangDong, China.

Nǐ hǎo, Ellis!

Callista Gingrich Forces Her Hairdressers, Probably At Gunpoint, To Leave Positive Reviews On Amazon

(10-18-14, via the Goddess Callista's Instathing.)

How many more trips to the well can our Beloved Moon Goddess make? Once again, we have a new soft-core patriotism adventure with our favorite twee time-traveling elephant. This time it's Lewis and Clark.

And just as before, I'm wondering who is buying these books?  Let's take a look. Amazon currently has 26 reviews, and just as before, most of these books are being bought for other people's children:

  • Ellis is such a delight, as my nieces read along
  • I look forward to sharing his newest adventures with my nieces and nephews!
  • Perfect birthday gift for our great grandson to encourage patriotism in our young.
  • Great educational gift for my younger cousin!
  • I gave this book as a gift to my niece and she loved it
  • We have loved the series and look forward to more treasured memories sharing this book with our grandchildren.
  • I have gifted these books to our little private elementary school.
  • Our grandchildren love these books & we have donated the 1st 3 books to a local school library.
  • It has been a favorite gift to my grandkids and friends' kids.

So, basically the book is being used as an "American Exceptionalism"  proselytizing tool, as intended.

But what's this? A lot of these reviews are by people who seem to have signed up specifically to give Callista's book a five-star rave.

And, again, I ask: who are these people?

Well, they are her beauticians, for instance.

I spotted one review written by an oddly named person, Wioleta Frackiewicz, and thought, "That's easy to Google." It turns out she's the "Manager/Esthetician at Sugar House Day Spa and Salon" in Alexandria. Finding that led me to noticing that there was another five-star review of Callista's book by a user named "sugar house". What an amazing coincidence!

The next question I asked to myself was, of course, "I wonder where Callista gets her hair done?" For that I turned to the New Yorker:

“Where do you get your hair done?” a red-haired woman asked as she got her book signed.

“At Sugar House in Old Town,” Mrs. Gingrich said quietly, referring to a salon in Alexandria. (Her stylist, Tatjana Belajic, told me she has yet to get a request for “the Callista,” though that would surely change if Mrs. Gingrich became First Lady.)

Another incredible coincidence! 

Another reviewer, Carmen Omiste, is also a hairdresser in Alexandria!

Five-star reviewer Sonya Harrison is not a hairdresser, and she does not manage a day spa, but my goodness, there's a LOT of Gingrich in her LinkedIn profile.

Five-star reviewer Rick Story may be the same Rick Story who worked on Newt's staff alongside... Callista!

So I feel like I've finally answered that nagging "Who is reading Callista's boring books?" question: ancient people who are worried about their nieces, nephews and grandchildren, people who work for the Gingriches, and people who work for the Gingriches' hairdressers.

Oh, and supposedly actual children, too.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Audioblogging: Lemon Fresh Pinetones Play In The Dark, 1988

Oh, sorry! Forgot I had a blog for a bit. Ha.

Anyway, picking up from where I left off with the audioblogging, here's another of the handful of live recordings by my "garage space prog" hand, the Lemon-Fresh Pinetones!

This was a very interesting show! We wanted to play, but since my musical endeavors had become notorious in San Diego, it was hard to find a venue. Our solution was to reserve one of the video production rooms at UCSD and invite a select audience to hear us.

Being an improvisational band has its drawbacks, as you can imagine. My previous bands and solo performances had all been tightly planned and formatted, so playing with the Pinetones was always somewhat terrifying, because there was always that chance that nothing would happen, that the three of us would simply fail to musically connect.

Indeed, every Pinetones performance has moments where this happens, where things just fall apart. In the case of this performance, the falling apart happened right at the very beginning (these parts are not included here). Mortified, we knew nothing good was happening, and our small audience was obviously disappointed. What were we going to do? Just stop, apologize, and call it a night?

Luckily, one of us (I can't remember who) suddenly came up with an idea: turn out all the lights, and see if complete darkness would prove to be an inspiration.

It worked, as I like to think the ensuing 30-minute recording uploaded here demonstrates. It still got off to a shaky start, but then it gets better and better, and finally at about the 19:30 mark, it really gets cooking and, from that point on, unexpectedly became our best ever collaboration.

Instrumentally, it was a simple setup: John had two synthesizers, Joel had his electric guitar, which was run through "The Fourth Pinetone," the mysterious effects box covered with unlabeled buttons and knobs. I used a Casio sampler and two cassette machines.

The recording quality is surprisingly high (with a few typical cassette issues), and the sound is interesting. John alternated between baroque harpsichord-type runs and noisier wooshes and layers of non-melodic noise. His interplay with Joel's guitar becomes increasingly complex and responsive. I mainly provided rhythm in the form of loops, samples, and keyboard "drumming." At this point, too, Joel and I were interested in exploiting "glitches," so there's a lot of line noise and machine hum used as texture as well.

Overall, I think this is a really credible piece of improv prog. It has peaks and valleys, numerous changes, and some nice lyrical and  rhythmic sections alternating with noisier/spacier bits.

It ain't no Phish, that's for sure. We may have been a "jam band," and we may have been "trippy," but we were never mellow.

The 200mb single 30-minute track is zipped up with artwork and available to download here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Condibots On The Loose? Condibots On The Loose!

(Photo: Wayne Armstrong)

Seems like a drag of a new Condi sighting: there she is, plopped in a chair at a groundbreaking for what sounds suspiciously like the new most boring place on earth, the Joseph Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. This is as routine as Condigigs get.

Or so you thought! See, if you are a close Condiwatcher like me and, I suspect, most readers of this blog, things can get strange in Condiland pretty quickly:

Rice said the new complex “will allow this great school to push forward — it will allow this school to find more Condi Rices who are searching out there for what they might do and decide that they belong in a world quite different from their own. A world that is increasingly complex, increasingly diverse, and therefore needs the diversity of talents and people who can find and make sense of our common humanity when so much tries to tear us apart.

Wait, whhhhhat? What's all this about more Condi Rices out there? What is she saying, exactly?

I have a theory.

Long-time Pony Pals know of the existence of the Condibots, those labor-saving, Disneytronic artificial Condoleezzas frequently sent out on routine missions (they were particularly useful to the Bush administration). But isn't this boring groundbreaking just exactly the kind of dud for which the Condibots were developed? 

No, this is the real Condi at this dreadful broad-daylight event. Why? Because the Condibots have escaped! You heard her! "More Condi Rices" out there! She said it plain as day.

Let's emphasize what has happened:


So what they've doing is this, and it's clever: they're building this really boring and pointless foreign policy center to lurrrrre in the escaped Condibots so that they can be recaptured!

See? That's how a boring Condi story becomes a GREAT Condi story, when you know enough to read between the lines before falling asleep.

Watch out for the Condibots! They're out there somewhere! I bet right now they're wandering aimlessly around an alley behind the Heritage Foundation headquarters.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Happy Birthday To Screamy


Ten years ago today I made my favorite ever Photoshop creation, the shouty Barbie head. I originally made "Shriek.jpg" for a Photoshop contest over at Fark back when that was a novel activity. The contest was, basically, "Here's a photo of my kid; have at it," and it always kind of blows my mind that some parents will do that. But the picture, showing the submitter's Halloween costume-clad son (It's not me, and it's not a girl!) was too good to resist. I handily won the contest with my vision of a deranged fashion doll, but I also submitted this alternative version:


Not quite as jarring as the Barbie image, I suppose. Photoshopping "Shriek" wasn't that difficult. I found the excellent photo of the vintage doll on a website run by a person who sold wigs for dolls, thus the fantastic hairdo. Both pictures had similar tonalities and almost identical light sources, making them easy to blend with a minimum of fuss. I could probably redo it a little more carefully (left side of the face still bugs me), but I don't think it would significantly improve the image's impact.

Midway through making the picture, I thought, "This would be a perfect cover design for Philip K. Dick's The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch."

So anyway, happy 10, Yelling Doll Thing! Here's to many more.