Thursday, December 04, 2008

Comparative Animation

Saw a pretty good little documentary about Pixar the other night. Quite an amazing outfit if you think of what they’ve put out over the years: Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Monsters Inc, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars, Rattatouille, and Wall-E. Beyond the fact that these are all movies I’ve actually seen and enjoyed, (Some more than once), you realize that there’s not only no duds among them, but that they are in fact all box office hits. Try and name another studio, any studio in any genre that has done that and you’ll come up short.

The founders, led by Ed Catmull and John Lasseter, came from seminal computer graphics programs at a time when only a handful of schools even had such a thing. Naturally, they looked to the talented staff at Disney as their role models and heroes. Eventually Lasseter worked there as an animator, only to be let go in relatively short order for apparently pissing off a jealous boss. Eventually teaming up with Steve Jobs, enroute from Lucasfilm and Industrial Light and Magic where he met and worked with Catmull, the two formed Pixar and off they went.

Meanwhile, as Pixar grew and succeeded, Disney under the wise tutelage of Michael Eisner decided that 2D animation was dead and fired or laid off entire staffs of fantastically experienced and talented folks, who ended up largely at… Pixar. In 2006, the game went full circle when Disney, under new management, acquired Pixar and made Catmull President of the animation studios and Lasseter Chief Creative Officer.

What I found most fascinating though, was the fact that throughout the inception and blossoming of Pixar’s rise, it was the legendary Nine Old Men of Disney’s glory days who were held up by the 3D and feature length wizards as the true heroes of animation. Les Clarke, Ollie Johnston, Wolfgang “Woolie” Reitherman, Frank Thomas, John Lounsbery, Eric Larson, Ward Kimball, Milt Kahl and Marc Davis were the pioneers who made Mickey dance and Snow White twirl. Although kids of today have no idea who these guys were, and probably have never seen any of their seminal works, the folks at the cutting edge of animation revere them to this day. Last April, the last of the lads, Ollie Johnston, died at age 95. He and Frank Thomas had cameo roles in Pixar’s The Incredibles, a last swan song for the legendary ones…

Though flip books and the hand inked and painted cells of traditional animation seem antique today, the fact is that this is the basis of how animation is still done today, whether computer generated or not. Look at a scene of Pixar staff working on a project, and you see hand drawn frames of the same character moving ever so slightly each time, lined up on the walls and tables of their work space.
My only disappointment in the show was that there was no mention of some other pretty successful folks and methods that still survive in the 21st century: Bruce Bickford’s clay animation, Terry Gilliam’s wonderful work with Monty Python, Ray Harryhausen’s models, and Ralph Bakshi’s graphic animation come to mind as seminal works from my youth.

As more and more things become computerized and computer based, I trust that the arts community will have enough forethought, as Pixar did, and not discard the very things that make animation vibrant and diverse.

Friday, November 28, 2008


I was totally verklempt, dahlink...

A friend asked me to watch Zeitgeist, the viral YouTube documentary of sorts; I did and here's my response.

Well, I watched most of it while cooking yesterday...

Now, first a bit more background on moi, since it has bearing on my comments that follow: I have to say that, more than being "Churched" or having "Religion" as folks seem to like to say, I'd define myself as being a spiritual person with a fairly active spiritual life. I chose the Episcopal Church, FYI, not because my family has been Episcopal since the 17th Century, but because in my life it has been a bastion of acceptance - We acknowledge almost all baptized Christians, acknowledge that Buddhism, or Islam or most anything else likely has merit as a theology, and the faith has been tolerant if not downright progressive on women's ordination, non-white ordination, and acceptance of gay and lesbian folk - Until recently, that is - I don't know that you're aware of the watershed split the church is experiencing right now, but it's pretty nasty and very discouraging - While our parish stays true to the national church, the acrimony and politics has almost driven me away a few times now..

Anyway, I say all that because I am an open minded spiritual being before I am a Christian: If that sounds odd, it simply means to me that I don't claim to know answers and am open to other interpretations and beliefs... The so called legs of Episcopalianism are tradition, reason, and scripture; this implies a need for an individual to interpret their own faith, rather than letting someone else do it for them. My take on it says we are called to study, reason, and acknowledge the past for what it was to the best of our ability. As to whether or not there is a higher power, I just can't even fathom how there could not be - To much complexity, too amazing, too wow for there not to be, for my heart and mind...

Now, all that said, here's where the flick struck me: Over all, this was done by folks with a burning agenda who fundamentally believe in conspiracy theories: That's not to say that there aren't conspiracies, but it does say to me that the persons who produced this is VERY convinced of such in many facets of life today, to the point of being somewhat paranoid about 'em, for my mind... Personally, I think we're always called on to be healthy skeptics and to say no to what shouldn't be allowed - I think you and everyone else knows what I think of government and big business - Frankly, many churches could be lumped in the same vein there - Many of them are here to line their pockets, exert control and maintain their existences, just like the worst of the former entities I just mentioned...

Now, first to the faith shredding section and the contention of the film that all modern religions are basically just derivations of astrologically based mythology from earlier days, well... Yes and no - Let's face it, the heavens are powerful, and as long as man has been about to ponder what's there, the perceived vastness and majesty of space has held quite a sway over us. Secondly, I might go so far as to say that if there are other beings out there, (I find it quite arrogant and unlikely to assume that there are not, frankly), if we've gotten anything right, mathematics might just be the universal language, the tower of babel if you will. To posit that all this stuff comes about simply because of base astrological predilections among the majority of humans, and specifically among those who founded modern religion is not only arrogant, it's as obfuscatory a point as the one they're trying to make about religion: I mean, yeah, I'm aware of all the parallels that are laid out equating Christianity with earlier religions, and frankly, my response is, "No shit, Sherlock?" Of course our current organized faith has roots in what came before; good lord, if it didn't, I'd question whether anyone has any of it right or ever did! I mean, duh, guys...

As for the Jesus 'myth', well, here's my take: I believe there was indeed a prophet who said and did some amazing things back when. I don't think anybody can "prove" much more than that, or disprove it convincingly either, frankly. Now Jesus may indeed have been the Son of God; for all I know he may not have been - But the guy had something going for him, big time, and the fact that it survives to this day speaks loudly to that; to be able to instill in folks for thousands of years the basic tenet of, "Love one another as I have loved you," and for caring for those least fortunate, that';s powerful and a good thing, regardless of the source. If more folks took to heart such a message and acted on it, where would the world be now? What'd Ronnie Rayguns say back in '80, "Are you better off now than you were?" Honestly, with the dogma stripped away and the words taken to heart, I can't fathom how anyone could find fault in the beauty of that advise... Bottom line to me is this; myth or reality and no matter who and what he was, his message has survived pretty well, despite the ministrations of the Catholic church and tens of thousands of other posers over the millennium: Oh, and remember, he warned us about that shit too, ya know...

The flick's summary quote in this regard; "Christianity, along with all other theistic belief systems empowers those who know the truth, but uses the myth to manipulate and control societies. It reduces human responsibility to the effect that "God" controls everything, and in turn awful crimes can be justified in the name of Divine Pursuit. The religious myth is the most powerful device ever created, and serves as the psychological soil upon which other myths can flourish." Again, yes and no - As for the first line, I would contend that good faiths, (And yes, there are some whether these guys like it or not), seek for everyone to know the truth, and to use it for the good of humankind and our planet; by the same token, there are also undoubtedly those who steer as this quote suggests and they are without question rotten. Ok, second point; have horrid things been done and continue to be done in the name of faith? yes, no doubt, but I'd tell ya that is the fault of the weakness of humans and our shitty predilections whenever we incorporate to any significant degree, more so than it is the fault of faith itself. Fact is, the more I am around even a good church day to day, and see how much politics and subterfuge and ego and arrogance and greed and power seeking rear their ugly heads, the less I like churches, too! My Senior Warden told me about her Uncle, who was a Senior Warden before her, in her home town: He went to his Doc who examined him and said "Frank, you're stressed, what's stressing you?" Her uncle told the doc it was his job as Senior Warden. The doc's response was classic; "First off, change churches, and secondly, don't get there until Sunday service, and when that's done, don't go back until the next Sunday." Sage advice, that... In all fairness, and in direct response to that statement, though, my church has never said that God controls everything and that we are helpless; on the contrary, it has always spoken of the need for people to develop a personal relationship with God, and that we are in fact called to perceive God's will in our lives and act accordingly - We must help ourselves and one another and our planet, or nothing will get done... Doesn't sound way manipulative to me... As for that third quote, well, that line may be true, but in the context in which it is delivered, it is presumptuous, derivative and quite simply out of context...

Part 2, dealing with 9-11, ahhh, OK... Well, I am not a conspiracy theorist, but I have read and thought about this quite a bit, and I have to tell you that I would not be surprised in the least if the majority of assertions herein were not true to some degree. In fact, I've read quite a bit more of the technical, tactical and strategic considerations of that day, and it stinks, to be honest - Something was rotten in Denmark, I just don't know what...

Part III, sheesh - Well, these targets are some of my favorites, but I gotta tell ya, if you held a Conspiracy Whack-o-Meter up to the film makers, it would peg its needle way out there in left field... I've read more military history than anything, and more 20th century than any other age - To the majority of contentions made therein, I say Bullshit with a capital B! Thins happen and folks respond to take advantage, no doubt about it, but anyone trying to build a case showing that the U.S. wanted in to WW II saw three other conspirators on the grassy knoll in Dallas... Now the SPP does indeed stink to high heaven, but it reeks of profit making;, the whole third section tries to make something exist that doesn't, for my mind - The fact is, government and big business have always been in it to make huge profits for themselves and have always been whores in that regard; they care not where and how their dough comes as long as it keeps coming, this we know. But to try and make a National Treasure style Grand Conspiracy plan outta the whole thing strikes me like the hunt for a Unified Field Theory; yes, it would be cool, and maybe it does exist, but don't hold your breath or the next generation's waitin' for it to come to light, OK?

So overall, I gotta say this - The flick strikes me like a Michael Moore work; some good stuff, thought provoking, interesting, coupled with great silliness and off the deep end supposition.

In the end run, zealots of any stripe make me nervous, 'cause they's still first and foremost zealots, ya know?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fun with Leveraged Hedge Funds

My Pop was an Economist; Harvard and MIT trained, and taught there in fact… Purty prestigious, huh? So, that said, it is telling to me that Dad, when explaining things economic, he used pretty plain English. His Doctoral dissertation at Harvard was entitled, ‘Some Economic Implications of Modern Personnel Management and the Situational Approach.’ Now, we might not understand the intricacies of the concepts, but what that was about is perfectly evident, ain’t it?

So, it was with some disdain I listened to a story on NPR this morning wherein economic pundits tried to explain why the market is tubing, even after the greatest two day rise in twenty one years. I heard analysts explain that the market “Was in liar phase,” and “Decoupled from the economic environment.” Now I don’t know about you, but that sounds more like a bunch of idiots trying to emulate Greenspan’s semantic gymnastics than somebody honestly trying to explain the situation to the masses…

The gist of the report focused on the supposition that the market was largely being pushed by the vagaries of “Huge multi-billion dollar hedge funds.” Bemoaning “forced sales” and margin calls, the pundits stated that “Perfectly good stocks were being sold to pay for other stuff.” Now I don’t know about you, but this kind of obfuscation genuinely pisses me off; as such, I’d like to take just a moment to go ahead and call a spade a fucking shovel…

“Liar phase,” and “Decoupled” are akin to using the word ‘Parse’ to mean ‘explain’; The fact is, ‘parse’ has a specific meaning pertaining to language usage, to dissect a phrase into its components and describe them grammatically; it is not a generic term for ‘describe’. ‘Liar phase’ means nothing, but it is a very dangerous throw away solipsism;it implies that times when the market reflects nothing but its own lack of fecundity are de rigueur and perfectly OK; fact is, they’re not, and it’s not OK. ‘Decoupled’ shouldn’t be used when one means ‘dislocated’. Decoupling implies the elimination of a relationship, not a temporary displacement; if one is implying the entire economy is in the toilet, one should say so and not employ doublespeak. The fact is, the last time the market did not reflect reality this badly was in ’29, and that’s not good, but if that is in fact the case then let’s bloody say so and get after it; being cute analyzes and explains nothing…

Now as for hedge funds; do you know what they are? If you say yes, I think you’re fooling yourself; what we know is what the media tells us they are. Most folks think of a hedge fund as a little exclusive club of the super-rich, designed to make them more so. Yet if these analysts are firing off statements about “Multi-billion dollar hedge funds,” messing up the whole market, how small and exclusive are they? Forbes magazine alternately described hedge funds as, “The sleaziest show on earth… A business rife with exorbitant fees, phony numbers and outright thievery.” Now that floats my boat higher than that other balderdash… Mark my words, friends and neighbors; something that’s only been around for maybe a dozen years that has such a pervasive reach is to be feared and squashed, not admired and encouraged.

The fact is that there ain’t no clear cut definition of what a hedge fund is: They are generally speaking, some kind of business entity that manages investments, but the key component thereof seems to be the fact that they are almost always highly leveraged entities. Now, it is real important to understand what ‘leveraged’ means in this context, and it’s real simple: ‘Leveraged’ means ‘borrowed money’ plain out and simple. Now where that concept began I don’t know, but it was somewhere around selling swamp land and bridges to carnival goers, I can guarantee you that… You see how this works? I am a financial wizard, but I don’t have shitloads of money, (Yet, I’m gonna soon though, and it’ll be yours by the way), but you do, so loan it to me and I’ll make you one hell of a return!!! Whether the investment is equity, debt, foreign exchange or derivations thereof, this is what these jokers do, fundamentally.

Now, do they do this out of altruism, just to make their investors more dough? I don’t think so… They get paid, in fact, at both ends of each transaction. Up front, there’s the matter of a Management fee; see, I’m the expert, remember, so you gotta pay papa, right? And of course after my alchemy turns your lead into gold, I get a cut, ‘cause that’s only fair, right? So the Incentive Fee comes into play at the back end to cover that. And down the middle, there might be some Administrative fees here and there, all par for the course of course… All told, I will easily skate with 20% to 30% of your money before it’s all through; pretty good return, huh? Wow, you think, those guys rake it in, huh? Well yeah, but to protect your interests, they’ll likely have a Hurdle rate built into the deal too.. Huh, you say, a what rate? A hurdle rate means I gotta perform at a certain level, or I don’t get the full Incentive fee, which is where the lion’s share of my dough is gonna come from. That’s a good protection for you, huh? Sure, except that the hurdle rate’s gonna be tied to some conservative measure of success, like the LIBOR fer instance, the London Interbank Offered Rate; today’s read on the 1 year LIBOR rate is 2.74%: If I can’t make you 2.74% on your money, uhhhh, I’m in the wrong business, or you’re really fucking dumb, or some viable combination thereof, ya know? Oh sure, there are other safeguards, like High Water marks, which are quite common, and are tracked for each investor individually; basically, that just says I only get full fees for what I make above and beyond the high point that existed when you got in, as opposed to the full fund value… Hoopty doo! I mean, if that wasn’t there, they wouldn’t be called Hedge Funds, they’d be called Wall Street Muggings and we’d all know how things really work, right?

OK, let’s get back to that one little word, ‘leveraged’ AKA borrowed. So, you ask, what’s so bad about that? I do that shit too, I mean, I bought a house and I owe $100,000 on it and I only put $5,000 down? Well sure you did and when times are good, you’re good too; that house might be worth $150,000 then and if you sold it, you’d pay off the bank, pocket $40,000 and be an arrogant ass at the bar: But campers, times ain’t good… What if the house is only worth $75,000 and your friendly bank ain’t so friendly anymore and they want to make sure their full investment is covered; what happens then? Well, frankly, you’re gonna hear a knock on the door and Guido and Vinny are gonna be there looking for their twenty five large, capice? And when your house is a “Multi-billion dollar leveraged hedge fund,” there ain’t enough muscle to collect on that shit, dig?

While the concept of the hedge fund has been around quite a while, (This is basically what A. W. Jones & Co did in the 70s), they’ve modernized, AKA obfuscated their concepts and strategies appropriately for the 21st century: Clearly, they don’t want this stuff to be simply explained, because if it was, the smoke and mirrors would be set aside and folks would no longer pay any attention to the dudes behind the screens. They call their schemes things like ‘Directional Strategies,’ AKA betting on big picture market trends and investing accordingly; ‘Market Neutral Strategies,’ AKA picking a specific market and trying to take advantage of specific changes therein while avoiding being steamrollered by the big picture; and ‘Event Driven Strategies,’ AKA taking advantage of a single companies fortune or demise by betting on the aftermath of a merger or divestiture, that sorta thing: Notice all of these are basically betting on stuff and hoping you’re right? You can have all the computers and models and heuristics you want, but the fact is, Texas Hold ‘em is still poker gang… Now the way all this bullshit really works is much simpler yet; what these funds do is infuse massive amounts of liquidity, AKA cash, into the market. And of course, the market likes that a great deal and therefore respects said funds in the morning, if you catch my drift… Now that’s all nice and good, but just providing bucks to the market and getting a spread therefore ain’t gonna make me a billionaire, so there’s gotta be more to it, and there is, and that is… Leverage again.

And that, friends and neighbors is the essence of how these funds make ridiculous money: They get dough for providing dough, and then they leverage all of that, all of it, and make more dough. Sounds easy, right? Well in fact, it’s not rocket science; it’s pretty basic stuff for folks that know what they’re doing. The problem is that this doesn’t work so great when overlaid on the Big Picture Boom and Bust cycles that we all know too well. I used to sell mortgages; the fact is, trained weasels can sell mortgages when a boom’s on. What’s not so easy is selling them when times suck. I know, I did it through a couple of those cycles too… The problem with this hedge fund Ponzi scheme is that doing this stuff is very, very risky indeed. When the shit hits the fan, you are hanging out a mile and a half: When it all goes to hell, you in fact are the one left holding the bag, and everybody wants theirs back, now… Now go back to what I just said about mortgages. In the booms, anyone can sell and believe you me, they do… You get fucking arrogant idiots with a GED who don’t give a flying rats ass about their clients, they just know you can make shitloads of money doing this and they want in: So Citi and Countrywide and Ralph’s Pretty Good Mortgages hires these morons and off they all go… And then the wind changes, and lo and behold, things suck, bad, really bad. Welcome to today… It is not unusual at all for these funds to lose everything, and I mean everything they had; and remember gang, it ain’t my money, it’s yours! This has in fact happened to large funds throughout the time they have existed; there is case after case to be cited. We notice now because this is a big down and they’s all circling the big drain.

Now there’s one more concern you need to be aware of before we’re done and it has to do with the folks running these things; remember what I said about folks selling mortgages in the good times? Welcome to the GED boys… There’s also fraud, you see, just like Forbes warned us about. From plain ol’ greed to amazing personal excess and outright criminal stupidity, amazing wealth can and does lead to amazing wrongdoing. From Lipper to Beacon Hill, and Lancer to Maricopa, billions have been lost and more will follow…

Most recently, hedge funds figured out that they could market themselves to somebody other than wealthy individuals; they began to go after institutional clients, like state retirement systems and educational entities. So tell me, as I wind this up; with that last point in mind, they’re only doing that out of altruism, right, to help those kinds of clients make bigger bucks, right?

I mean, it couldn’t have anything to do with deeper pockets and more suckers, could it?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Ahhhhh, Fall...

I am torn as to which is my favorite season, it’s a tossup between fall and winter.

Here in Texas, I’ve leaned toward fall, simply because it and spring are the seasons where you can actually see sustained and distinct seasonal change.

Summer is just plain freaking hot, and winter is a crap shoot, but as fall rolls through, you can feel the crisp mornings, watch the leaves change and know that stuff is happening…

It’s also the second growth season for goodies, a benefit of the relatively mild climate here. Spring is basically storm season, and that can and does trump growth when it feels like it. Tomatoes and peppers and herbs don’t take kindly to having the snot knocked out of them by hail, and neither do our trees.

Where we live, west of Fort Worth, is the place during Storm Season where big nasty storms roll in from the west. If you watch the radar, you see deep red commonly, and even pink, purple and white headed right toward us. The colors represent dBZ, or “A non-dimensional unit of radar reflectivity which represents a logarithmic power ratio (in decibels, or dB) with respect to radar reflectivity factor, Z; the Z is best expressed in the ratio Z/R, or “An empirical relationship between radar reflectivity factor z (in mm^6 / m^3 ) and rain rate ( in mm / hr ):” All that aside, if you ever watch the weather radar and live in tornado alley, colors like deep red, pink, purple, and white are very, very, very bad; they mean that deep shit is headed your way and regardless of how that manifests, it’s going to be an ugly ride…

In all the years we’ve lived here, every single storm that looked like that has waited until it was dang near on top of us and then split neatly into and roared off northeast and southwest, leaving us fine and dandy and knocking the crap out of those less fortunate: But not last April… That storm came on and roared dead overhead, packing maximum hail of roughly baseball size, common hail of ping pong ball size, and winds in excess of 80 mph. Now ping bong balls falling from the heavens wouldn’t hurt ya, and might even be kinda cool; ping pong ball sized hail might crack your skull and is definitely not cool. I have been out in storms in the mogollons at 9000 feet, and all over the western US, but I have never been through anything inside a structure like that storm. I thought the house was coming down, ‘cause it sounded that way, but it wasn’t that bad.

After it passed, hail lay several inches deep and the roads ran like rivers. Our trees and plants got the shit knocked out of ‘em, as did our roof, greenhouse, shed, cars, and grill. An insurance claim later, all that was settled, but the plants didn’t forget…

And it took ‘em until fall to catch their stride, but boy did they; we’ve been blessed with incredible crops of tomatoes and peppers, “Pretty enough for a Burpee catalog,” according to mom. The trees had bit harder time, but they’ll be OK by next year and the only recollection of that storm will be a skinny growth ring many years down the pike.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

I Can See Clearly Now The Rain Is Gone


We went to bed before the results came in, as much excited as maybe still a wee bit scared. About 2 am, it got the better of us and we opened up Monica’s laptop in bed and had a look, and…

We smoked ‘em!
Oh my Lord say your prayers or thanks or sighs of relief, leaps of joy whatever you got let it fly!

I almost can’t believe it. I heard an NPR interview with a 109 year old black woman, daughter of an emancipated slaves saying, “It’s a blessing, it’s a miracle…” Indeed it is my dear, and I am so thrilled you were alive to see it, let alone me. I wish Obama’s Gramma could have lasted another day, but I am sure she’s swinging her legs on the edge of a cloud and grinning from ear to ear as I am today.

Rosa sat so that Martin could walk; Martin walked so Obama could run; Obama is running so that our children can fly.
I am told a black, 19 year old single mother texted this to a friend; whoever said it, it is prophetic and touching.

And how about McCain’s gracious and poignant concession speech? Thank God he wasn’t so heartfelt throughout the campaign or he might just have won! I kid, I kid because I love… In any case, his request for all Americans to join him in pulling together with our new President-elect, was, to my ear, sincere and the perfect thing to say.

Obama's acceptance speech, strong and equally gracious, credited the work of many for his success. He noted, gravely and honestly, that the work that lies ahead is arduous; “The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you, we as a people will get there.”

I believe you, Sir. I believe in you and that’s why I voted for you. Your voice is a comfort to me, as is your strength and your resolve. May God protect you and yours and keep you safe always, so that these qualities, your energy and drive, may go to work on our behalf.

I can see clearly now the rain is gone. I can see all obstacles in my way. Gone are the dark clouds that had me down, gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day.

Gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I Have Finally Found Me a Home

Man, I am well pleased, indeed…

Always wanted a place to kinda call my own out here in cyberspace, ya know? I’ve got a website, and I like it a lot, but that wasn’t it. I got this blog site and it’s very cool, and truth be told, I wouldn’t last long without having a place to blather like this, but it’s not quite it either.

Now, with the help of a bunch of wonderful friends, I have found me a home. It’s called The Luthier Community and it is quickly becoming The Place for me. Actually, it was from the get go, it’s just turning out better than I imagined!

See guitar building is the shit for me, and here’s why. I have always had what we call a busy mind – I don’t know if that’s common or not, ‘cause I don’t go to a lot of parties and say, “Well, I get a song stuck in my head and it won’t go away, does that happen to you?” Or turn to somebody at coffee hour in church and note, “I don’t always sleep well ‘cause at 2 am, my brain is kinda like a hamster with a brand new wheel, ya know?” Like a lot of special folks, I am creative, but I often felt like creativity was something I did to try and stay focused rather than something I’m passionate about. Now, making guitars, I am passionate about. My friend Hesh says “guitar building is how I find my center and nothing else seems to come close;” that says it just right.

I’ve always dug teaching other people how to get good at the things I was good at; from skiing to rock climbing and firefighting to police work, I wanted to share the passion I had found for how to be good at stuff that many people considered too difficult for them. I am passionate about making guitars and I want to share that too. As a guitarist, playing in front of an audience with a guitar I made eclipses even the debut of a song I wrote – It’s that big a rush…

So a website dedicated to that seemed natural, and I gravitated towards them when the ‘net came into being and such sites started to pop up. I belong to a bunch of 'em and have been very active on a couple, but none seemed just right, and I eventually realized that the reason for that was that they weren’t mine. I’m not knocking anybody else’s site or the people behind them when I say I’ve just always felt that I can do this better than anyone else, (Heck they better feel the same way about themselves of they’re playin’ the wrong gig!) Now I’ve been given the chance and I am running with it.

TLC is filling quickly with a great community of folks that I admire and respect and enjoy hanging with. I’ve traveled cross country to meet some face to face and made genuine new friends as a result; how many websites can you say that about? Most of all, it’s a place where those attributes I like seem to be shared by the rest of the members; there are plenty of places online where one can go and run into nastiness and cut downs and just plain mean spirited folks who seem to delight in fucking with others; I believe that the anonymity of the ‘net makes that all the easier – If you don’t really know ‘em, you don’t have to care, and it shows… Our place is the antithesis of this; I am doing what I am doing because I genuinely love it; I dig meeting all these other folks and getting to know them as much or more than their work. But don’t get me wrong, the best teachers know that they learn every day, and if they don’t, they’re not looking hard enough. With instrument making more than any other art, I have found the folks to be genuinely willing, in fact eager to share what they know with other. It’s not about ego, it’s about sharing and learning.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Who said that?

“Politics, it seems to me, for years, or all too long, has been concerned with the right or left instead of right and wrong;” Richard Armour said that. He was a poet who obviously understood American politics just fine. An unknown pundit noted that, “Politicians are like diapers; they both need changing regularly and for the same reason; whomever that was, they were wise indeed…

Alexis de Toqueville noted that, “There are many men of principle in both parties in American, but there is on party of principle;” too right you were and are, Al.

The venerable Albert Einstein said, “All of us who are concerned for peace and triumph of reason and justice must be keenly aware how small an influence reason and honest good will exert upon events in the political field;” oy vey ist mere – too right!

Claire Sargeant, who McCain trounced in the ’92 Arizona senatorial campaign, said, “I think it's about time we voted for senators with breasts. After all, we've been voting for boobs long enough;” she was dead on, however she had not apparently anticipated Sarah Palin…

Is all that tripe about being doomed to repeat the past correct? Well, according to Plato, “Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber;” AKA, apparently so.

Are we in the US the only ones who have these issues? “Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge even where they is no river;” Nikita Khrushchev said that, so apparently not.

Clarence Darrow, the famous jurist, noted that, “When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become President; I'm beginning to believe it;” with McCain old and infirm and his good friend Sarah as running mate, that’s very, very true…

Is there any great voice not soured by politics? “An election is coming. Universal peace is declared and the foxes have a sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry;” T. S. Eliot says no.

And good ol’ MO Udall, whom I liked very much actually, hit GWB right on the nail head: “We have, I fear, confused power with greatness.” Or if you prefer the thought fleshed out, look to John Kenneth Galbraith; “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness,” ouch, the truth hurts, doesn’t it?

One of my all time faves comes from John Quinton, “Politicians are people who, when they see light at the end of the tunnel, go out and buy some more tunnel;” bingo, bango, bongo, popcorn!

Another comes from P. J. O’Rourke, who happens to be, by the way, a conservative, “The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work and then they get elected and prove it.”

And for a final thought, I return to Galbraith for what I hope is in the hearts and minds of voters, given the alternatives before us this time around; “Liberalism is, I think, resurgent. One reason is that more and more people are so painfully aware of the alternative.”

Smoke 'em if ya got 'em and watch yer top knot...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Redaction Redux

Ok, well, Monique read my farts blog AND my farts redaction blog and...

She pointed out yet ANOTHER failure in my perception:

Fact is, because of her efforts, our home, inside and out, is a veritable garden; we have plants everywhere and plenty of 'em. Some, even inside, are large enough that it can be said that we coexist, rather than just "Have plants," and yes, one of them IS named Seymour and yes, he is taking over the kitchen, (I wondered about that escalating food bill and where a few of the 17 year olds friends had gotten off to...).

In any case, I am required to point out that these efforts of Monique's definitely counteract any and all emissions on my part and therefore have already rendered me environmentally neutral.

neutral, not neutered...

Monday, September 29, 2008

Letter to a Friend

OK, buddy, time to explore politics: It may be the one place we differ, (And then again...)

I am an independent, FYI - Not with a capital I, but independent because I think American politics especially is grossly fucked up, inefficient, out of control and beyond ridiculous. I find most politicians interested in self preservation and self aggrandizement and little else, with a few worthy exceptions. I find few who really understand and care about what we should care about: If and when I do find someone like that, I'll support them. If they turn out to be not who they said they are and end up joining the Greater Miasma, I'll do all I can to tear them down again. I watch, play, and partake in politics only within this simple framework: I learn enough to understand what my genuine place within the system is; if I don't like that, I change it. If an issue or a person is important, I learn all I can about it or them so that I can make an informed decision; then I vote. If it or they are not important to me, I don't vote, because I believe that a vote in ignorance is worse than none at all. It comes down to this: If you want change, (Or to maintain status quo, for that matter), then work for it in some way shape or form; if you're not willing to do that, then shut the fuck up...

Socially, I'm very liberal. I believe that we are called to love and care for one another, regardless of political, social, economic, racial, or any other differences. I think that a government's privilege of existence is granted first and foremost to care for humankind: beyond that, they should butt the hell out. I don't believe it is ever government jobs to dictate morality. Ethics and morals are things I rarely see reflected in government, so how and why they feel they can or should tell me how those concepts work is beyond me. People, (AKA, families, communities, schools, faith and social groups) are the institutions wherein morals and ethics are taught and learned; the government needs to mind their own fucking business...

I'm very much pro-environment, in that I know that we've been steadily fucking up the earth for our gain pretty much since we became 'civilized', (And I use the term loosely). In my book, we do not have carte blanche to do or take anything and everything for profit; we should first and foremost sustain or better what we have - Anything less is condemning future generations, and if that ain't fundamentally wrongheaded I don't know what is. I have great faith not in technology, but in humankind's ability to create and foment change, for the better as well as for the worse - We need to focus much more on the former and much less on the latter.

I'm legally conservative, but not in the sense most folks apply to that label. What I mean by it is this: "The Law" should actually be a much narrower term than it is. Many things that become law should not be so, (See the paragraph above). Law should apply to basic common law and be based on common sense; it was never meant to be used as a political football. To me, true legal conservatism means "Small Law" in the sense that the original Republicans spoke of "Small Government". They need to be seriously reined in and reminded what they're really here for, pretty much across the board. I believe that this is yet another branch of government that has lost its way; they need to be powerfully reminded that they are here to assure consistent common sense, not to wield ridiculously broad ranged powers cantilevered directly from the Executive branch; remember the scales o' justice boys? That implies check and balance, not piling everything up on one side and wondering what the other folk are doing way up there...

I'm economically conservative in the most common sense use of the word. As the son of a Harvard/MIT Econ Prof who was raised during the Great Depression, I believe that you work hard, and for that, receive a fair wage and some security in exchange. American greed is manifest in the clusterfuck we have before us currently, (Wait for it, I saved best for last, I"m gettin' warmed up...) Nowhere does it say that it is right or even remotely OK for 1% to 2% of a population to have vast wealth while everyone else lags far, far behind. Anyone who knows of the age of the Robber Barons knows what that got us last time, (After all, it was called The Great Depression for a reason). I am a bit of a student of history, but you don't need to be to see that the current state of our nation is terribly, terribly close to that dark time. The euphemism, "Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it," is ringin' pretty loud in my ears right now. Why did certain small U.S. and some European banks fare far better in this latest crisis? Because they weren't so wholeheartedly, outlandishly, completely fucking greedy as the ones that are eating the big one right now. Shoot, even some of the Robber Barons did good works with their money, (Granted, we have a few who are doing so here and now too), but the fact remains that outlandish greed and economic excess, repeated about every generation or so, is the primary cause for the mess we're in. It blows my mind that these companies who have progressively and repeatedly fucked their workers and ignored the people they supposedly serve come screaming to the government for help as soon as they see that they're startin' to circle the big drain... (And along that line, how smart do you need to be? I was in sub-prime mortgage banking and got out 2 years ago, in December of '06 because I could see it comin', and I ain't no Bernanke...) Economics is not the science of how to best fuck the most people over; it is, by definition, a branch of the social sciences, and deals with making, moving and using stuff and the management thereof: I say again, it is a branch of social science, meaning it should first and foremost be dealing with people and their needs, not with the needs of a few blowing the many off the face of the earth - Time for these fuckers to come down to reality as well.

Oh, and just on the odd chance you didn't intuit my take on all this current economic crisis via my rant, I say let them motherfuckers fail and hang the repercussions - They created it, they need to fix it - Necessity breeds innovation; I know of no greater necessity than one's ass hanging off the ledge to foment a good solution to that dilemma... I am frankly not scared at all - I am and always have been a very, very capable survivor - I will always find a way to care for me and my fellow humankind, so frankly, I feel not the slightest twinge of charitability toward these horses asses at all. I find this whole situation disgusting and at the same time maddening - It galls me to be stuck around such a bunch of completely mindless empty suits...

So, whataya think; am I nuts?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sarah Palin, Categorically and Thoroughly Defined

Dan Quayle with jugs.

"What a waste it is to lose one's mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is."

Friday, September 26, 2008

Rectraction and Redaction

I actually just really like the word 'redact'...

No, after writing my expose on the nature of the bilabial fricative and my history therewith, I was consumed with guilt. I must admit here and now that I was basking in the past and not thinking properly as a thoughtful and sensitive 21st century guy.

The reason for my self-loathing should already be obvious to you. My shame in not seeing it before I spouted is great, indeed.

Two words: Global Warming.

Yeah, I'm an ass for not even considering the methane thing, let alone releasing any gas at 98.6 degrees into an already fragile environment.

I hereby renounce farting and all things fartage.

I am undertaking a serious study of meditation and body awareness, and shall hereinafter endeavor to turn what formerly were farts into harmless belches. I figure if I can reverse the gas flow prior to it percolating away in the intestines, I can release harmless air, still make a funny noise, and do my part to save the planet.

I apologize not only for the vulgarity of my topic, but for my obvious ignorance and lack of consideration in not seeing the bigger picture view. Hopefully this sincere apology will keep the Greenpeace, Earth First, and other assorted ecoterrorists away from home in the wee hours.

I got a wife and kid to think about.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Farters of the World, Unite!

I am a farter. In fact, I am an inveterate farter, a professional farter, a farter par excellence… Yup, I fart, and I am proud of it!

There'll be none of those foofy euphemisms for me, either, (Not to discount Denholm Elliot’s great line from Trading Places though; “No son, it gives me wind, something terrible.”), there’ll be no “Did you toot?” or “did somebody poof?” here; they’re farts, I farted, I am a champeen fartist, and that’s that.

I am also an avowed public farter. I believe in farting on the street, in stores, at work, pretty much wherever I can get away with it and some places I can’t.

I ripped an excellent reverberating fart on a wooden pew, in church, on Christmas Eve in 2000 that sent my then 7 year old son into paroxysms of laughter and prompted Father Brian to lean in as he passed during the processional and say, “I heard that!” That was a very good fart, indeed.

In my early days, when I pretty much lived on beer, eggs, cheese, and Mexican food, my farts had true power; knee buckling, eye squinting, room clearing power. They were a weapon of terrible purpose that I used with relative abandon...

In 1987, while performing a runway inspection at Bellingham International Airport, with an MD-80 turning base to final, I ripped a legendary Death Fart, causing my partner to bail out of the truck, on the runway, going 15 miles an hour; his last words were, “I don’t care, I’ve got to get out!” That too was a fine fart.

My boss back then, who was a bit of a milquetoast, took the brunt of many an SBD, or Silent But Deadly fart, (Not it’s real name; I’ll explain further on). I’d walk into his office, ask how he was, remain long enough to release the Death From Below and leave, and then wait gleefully for the eruption. Wait for it, wait for it… “Godammit Atwater! That’s awful, damnit!!! Priceless…

In the late 80’s, I personally destroyed the Leavenworth, Washington Safeway store with what was undoubtedly the best Death Fart of my illustrious career. It was released in the beer section. I knew what I had done, and quickly grabbed a six pack of pukers, (16 oz. Rainiers in bottles), and moved away from the rapidly expanding green cloud. The first victims were a little bandy rooster of a logger guy with a wife who easily ran 300 pounds and obviously would not be able to move quickly, even if her life depended on it. He hit the cloud first and I watched as his head snapped back and a look of pure revulsion washed over his shriven features; “Jesus Christ, somebody died!” he croaked, right before it got him. His poor wife never had a chance. I paid for the beer with tears streaming down my cheeks, and in response to the cute cashier’s question answered, “Oh, nothing, just don’t go back there for a while.” I understand that six died in that event, including two would be rescuers who were overcome by fumes before they realized they’d need SCBAs…

Nowadays, I eat better and carouse less, so I don’t very often have the piquancy I used to wield, but what I’ve lost in power I’ve compensated for with musicality. The best part of the public fart, of course, is getting away with it, even when it’s a real rumbling faduka of a blast. An ex of mine was an excellent farter, and she was also cute and had big blue eyes. She could rip one in public, turn and look at me and say “Eben, really! That lacks charm!” wink, and walk off. Everybody heard it, and of course, everybody believed her. Having never been cute, I’ve had to resort to sneakiness and humor, and they both work fine for me. The humor I borrow unabashedly from Steve Martin’s old routine; you know, you’re with the family at Applebee’s, the dining room is crowded and boisterous on a Friday night, you’re packed into a table next to a typical north Texas family with the cute little Texas mom right behind you, so you lean into the middle of your table and ask, “Hey do you guys mind if I fart?” and then you let fly: When they say “No!” you smile and respond with “Too late…” and everybody but the cute mom gets a good laugh. As far as sneakiness goes, if one considers harmonics and the directional aspect of sound, one quite quickly realizes that aiming the nozzle, as it were, gives one some control over where the fart sounds like it’s coming from. It’s really just a matter of a quick scan of the immediate area, a smart cocking of the hip and lettin’ ‘er rip. You really should try it some time.

As for the classification of farts, regardless of what you’ve heard previously, there are really only three varieties of fart: There’s your Suppression Fart, Your Exclamation Fart, and your Question Fart; that’s it, just them three.

Your suppression fart is any fart that makes little noise – They are never silent though; a silencer for a gun is not a silencer, it’s a suppressor. Just as you can not completely silence a weapon, you can’t completely silence your fart valve either; there is always some sound, it’s just that some of them are so quiet that you’d have to be quite close to hear them, and, for personal safety reasons, we just don’t do that, so take my word for it, OK? And despite the SBD misnomer, they aren’t all stinky. Most people probably produce farts from within this category, since they live under the fallacy that farts are rude, crude, and socially unacceptable. Purposefully suppressing a fart is ill advised and possibly dangerous: I won’t go into detail herein, but in so many words, you didn't really think that humans actually spontaneously combust, did you? ‘Nuff said…

Exclamation farts are just that. This is a fart that announces its presence with gusto and authority – Poot! You know ‘em when you hear them; from the thundering shorts, to the aforementioned rumbling faduka, they are all exclamation farts. They are a very manly fart, but certainly not exclusive to men; I have known some lasses who were fully in touch with their Y chromosomes and could belt out a fine exclamation fart. Most of them are of Scandinavian heritage...

A question fart is more reserved, a bit more hesitant perhaps, maybe a bit more polite. The question fart, (Poooot?), is asking if it’s OK to make itself known, seeing if there’s any more of its kind out there it might hobnob with, just checkin’ the scene rather than blasting out and stopping all conversation; kind of a fart mating call, if you will…

And that’s it, for most folks, that’s all the farts they will ever produce in a lifetime of farting. Now, there are a few people, a few artists, who rise above this level of fartage, but they are rare indeed. My sister recently told Monica and I about the beautiful French flower girl who works in her home town; at a party, this lovely creature actually farted out a coupla measures of Les Marseillaise, and apparently did an unabashedly damn fine job of it. My sis found it somewhat humorous, but she is not a farter; to her credit, she had the wherewithal to realize that she was in the presence of an artist, and to relate the tale to me.

Ah the French; they really know how to party!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Stop, Look and Listen

I came home to my youngest blasting tunes from his room; I heard Three Dog Night, a bunch of new stuff I don't know, The Who, and Kelly Willis. He's 17. I'm blessed.

What was your first music you bought?

For my generation, you say, what was the first LP you bought? The next one, I guess you'd ask them about cassettes, then CDs, and now online/streaming/MP3/digorama.

As a working musician, I don't have any nostalgia for the sound quality, but I do for the whole experience of records: Going to Stop, Look And Listen to browse and buy... That store, a seventies stalwart if there ever was one, was in the Concord train station, which was still a train station, but didn't need anything other than the platform upon which Budliners disgorged weary commuters in early evening.

I remember going in and knowing I was going to buy my first album, the first one I was going to decide upon, and that was heavy!

I grew up the youngest of 4 kids, the eldest 11 years older than I. Both my folks loved music, and our house was filled with a range of music that I am still proud of today: From J. J. Mouret to Buck Clayton, Segovia to Ledbelly, Bonnie Raitt to the Beatles, and Paul Simon to Odetta, we owned it all, played it all, and at parties, my folks friends came and dug it all.

But it was 1973 and time for me to contribute. I mighta only been 13, but it was heavy shit to me - I wanted to buy what I wanted to hear, but I knew my whole family would weigh in on my decision - I wasn't gonna buy based solely on that, but it certainly colored my choice!

So, there I was, prowlin' the aisles... I had it down to a Top 4 list, in no particular order: Carol King's Tapestry, The Allman Brothers' Brothers & Sisters, Aerosmith's debut album, and Steely Dan's Can't Buy a Thrill. Now, truth be told, I own 'em all, and have through LPs, tapes, CDs and now hard tracks on my main box, but at the time, I could afford exactly one, so a decision had to be made.

Each of those albums evokes a specific memory, as all good albums do. Carol King reminded me of a whole bunch of great songs she had written, and besides, you had some musicians in that band who were destined to literally define ass-kicking music in the next 20 years, from studio to live, and you can't ever discount that. Danny Korchmar on guitar, Russ Kunkel on Drums, and Merry Clayton singing backups. That band, with Lee Sklar on Bass, would fuel Jackson Browne's legendary Running on Empty tour, establishing levels of sustained musicianship and debauchery rivaled only by the Eagles. Brothers and Sisters I first heard at tennis camp, where I was surrounded for the first time by teenagers up through 18 and counselors in their early 20s; good music and cool discussions were de rigueur and terribly exciting at 13 years of age. Aerosmith I heard for the first time at the first truly good party I ever went to, at John Bott's house. There were hot and cold running cool girls my age for the first time in my history, and I knew instantly that this was a very good thing... And Steely Dan was... how about fucking astounding! The musicianship and sophistication blew my mind: Elliot Randall's chromatic paean on Reelin' in the Years, Everything Denny Dias and Skunk Baxter did, Becker's unconscious bass playing; when I heard that, I'd been "playing the guitar" for 3 years: That was when I knew why I wanted to play and the kind of emotion I wanted to be able to express when so doing. (I ain't even close to it but; maybe, some day...)

Anyway, a lotta pressure on a 13 year old dude, ya know?

I went with Carole King. Learned all the licks and how to sing harmony and what being locked in the pocket means.

And like I said; I own all the other ones too...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Write every day, even if it's bad...

Funny thing;

I swear that quote was uttered by a highly notable American author, but I can't recall who and the fact is, if you Google that quote, what you get is a pantload of folks who are writers, usually talking about how to write, and using the phrase as if it were their own...

Anyway, it is a good idea - Writing is like the classic Steve Martin shtick; "Always keep a litter bag in your car; it doesn't take up much room, and if it ever gets full, you can just throw it out the window..."

Ar, ar, ar!

Well, S'Truth - If you don't like it in this day and age and media, just leave it alone after you write it; chances are good, your fucking computer will crash and you won't have to worry about that mother anyway.

So, I really have tried to lay off, but recently, in response to an email wherein I had stated that American politics was shot and that I was moving to Canada, somebody accused me of political pessimism of all things, and here was my response:

Oh, of course i am being flippant, to a degree - I ain't goin' anywhere - But read and listen to what they say and do, and how people respond, and tell me how you draw anything other than massive stupidity and ambivalence out of it? Remember, my dear, I am fairly intelligent and a student of history, including US political history; I know a shitload more about this stuff than 90% of the people you meet...

I am truly and totally tired of American politics and I believe, from the heart, that the system is broken and will not be mended without radical changes. I know not where or how such a thing might happen, but it will take that kind of phenomenon to repair the ills.

If I sound dark and dire, it is because things are extremely dark and dire right now - There has never been a worse time in modern history - The head of the UN, Bishop Tutu, and I all believe this to be true - Not nice, but fact...

Here are more facts:

The Republican party is run by the part bosses and architects, just like it was pretty much through the 70's. Carl Rove and Grover Norquist: Have you ever read anything by either man? If not, with all due respect, you don't know what they're about and what they intend to do: In a nutshell, Norquist, the primary architect of the 21st century Republicans, learned from the '64 convention, wherein the Republicans lost because they did not understand that the media age was upon them and they must cultivate it rather than fight it. Norquist believes also that government is broken. He comes from the ol' smaller is better federal government school, and both he and Rove believe wholeheartedly in the Robber Baron model of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Anyone who has witnessed what has occurred in the last eight years and doesn't realize that is fooling themselves. Norquist also believes the system beyond redemption, and he has stated in no uncertain terms, that what must be done is to drive the government into the ground, bankrupt it and force a new start - You don't really think this bullshit in Iraq is about honor and democracy, do you? This year's budget shortfall will easily top a half a trillion dollars - Got that? Half a trillion, just this year. Dick Cheney, AKA the Anti-Christ; do you think he was chosen because he's a great leader and engaging politician? They win because they do things with demographics and micro-targeting that are essentially grass roots efforts, and they work: The people who flock to them are the folks who call stock car racing a 'sport' - Capiche?

The Democrats have been ineffective since the horrible '68 convention - They fractured as a party right there in front of God and everyone and they have never recovered - Doubt that fact? Then consider that no Democratic Presidential candidate since has won a popular national election with even 50% of the vote, and only one has garnered 2 terms in a row. When the conservative southern elements were rejected, and the intellectual intelligentsia was rejected, and the party stood behind the anemic ticket of Humphrey and Muskie, and Wallace split off as an independent, the party was done in national politics, and nothing but folly and chance has won them an election since.

Barrack may have the stones to win, I hope so, but again, if you beleive that race is not a factor in the minds of the average American, you're fooling yourself. Little blue haired ladies come into Monica's store and parrot the bullshit about him being a secret Muslim, and how if we vote for him, they'll all being wearing burkas in 2 years...

Now if that's not ignorance, what do you call it?

Now do you understand why I am pessemistic?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Tomorrow, deep underground beneath the Franco-Swiss border, the CERN LHC will begin its first wild ride. Energized particles will race around a 17 mile loop, and eventually, when the time is right, will be able to do so at 99.99% of the speed of light. The colloquialism 'Holy Shit' comes to mind...

The CERN Large Hadron Collider is far and away the most ambitious technical achievement in particle physics in the history of civilization. Now, finally, we are at a place and time where theories, wild and crazy theories, can be tested. Are you ready; I sure am…

I was born in the 60’s, and while the technological leaps that occurred between then and now pale before those witnessed by my parents and grandparents, they are still fairly miraculous. When I was in college in the 70’s, I took computer classes at the University of Washington’s fairly state-of-the-art facility, programming in FORTRAN and BASIC. I will posit without much doubt that the computer I’m plunking away on right now is far smarter and faster than that. String Theory and superstring theory didn’t exist. Physics was pretty well grounded in Einsteinian concepts. I believe the great man had seen an inkling of such things, and it scared the crap out of him.

Now, we stand at the brink of what could and should be the most amazing discoveries in physics in the history of humankind. In roughly 24 hours, we will begin exploring the reality of what previously could not be done: Experiments will be initiated using equipment given appropriately hefty acronyms; ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment), ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC Apparatus), CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid), LHCb (Large Hadron Collider beauty), TOTEM (Total Elastic and Diffractive Cross Section Measurement), and LHCf (Large Hadron Collider forward). All of this GeekSpeak means the genuine potential to explore what has to this point been necessarily theoretical physics; the ability to prove or disprove such things did not exist. Now it does, and that is amazing and wonderful.

All this will not happen in a day. Fact is, it may not happen at all; we don’t know, and that’s why experiments are conducted. No one truly knows what happens when, a few months down the line high energy particles are run up to speed in both directions and allowed to collide: That process will be tested prior to a few months, but at relatively low energy levels. The fact is that, unleashed, the CERN LHC is capable of unleashing strings of trillions of charged protons packing a maximum energy of 7 TeV (tera-electronvolt), meaning that a head-to-head collision generates 14 TeV... Sounds hefty, doesn’t it? You have no idea: In non GeekSpeak,one electronvolt is roughly the amount of energy needed to dissociate a molecule AKA,the energy needed to rip a molecule apart; and this beast is capable of generating tera-electron volts, or the power of an electronvolt raised by a factor of ten to the twelfth power; can you say, ‘Yipe?’ I knew you could…

So what are they gonna do with all that energy? Potentially, everything from seeing what happened when the universe came into being, right down to proving what the glue of sub-atomic particles is. Let's start small and work our way up: Did you take physics or chemistry in school? If so, you'll recall that all matter as we know it is made up of atoms, and that atoms are composed of a nucleus surrounded by protons and neutrons, which are further surrounded by clouds of electrons. Now comes the part that probably happened after you and I got outta school: Boring further down, protons and neutrons are made up of quarks, and them quarks are held together by gluons, (No, I ain't makin' this up). The bonds that keep all that together are so strong that we have never had the capability, before now, of ripping all that stuff apart and exposing a single quark, thereby proving that the little buggers exist: That may all be about to change... Meanwhile, the how did the universe form question looms large as well: The theory holds that, right after the The Big Bang, (Things don’t make noise in a vacuum; I vastly prefer the term The Big Flash) when what little of the Universe that existed was unbelievably hot, it is theorized that a state of matter existed known as a quark-gluon plasma. The ALICE experiment I alluded to above is designed to recreate, yes I said recreate, the conditions that may have existed right after The Big Flash, and may just actually prove that theory correct: Can you imagine that? It makes the fur on the back of my neck stand up.

The actual particle collisions that the LHC is expected to be capable of creating, (Remember them tera-electronvolts?), will generate temperatures over one hundred thousand times hotter than the heart of our Sun. The scientists working on this stuff theorize that, under these conditions, those incredibly powerful bonds holding together all those protons and neutrons will effectively melt, and free the quarks from their bonds with the gluons, and that, in turn, should create that quark-gluon plasma.

From that stunning beginning, if it all works, Physicists will be able to study the quark-gluon plasma as it expands and cools, and therefore, will be able to actually, physically observe how it evolves into the particles that constitute the matter of our Universe today, let alone see one of them quarks.

Welcome to a brave new world.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Let me say this about that...

Oh, enough about politics, huh?

How about things in life that are good?

Gas is getting high enough that people, even people in Texas, are using public transportation and driving less. It rained almost 2” in the last 24 hours. I am married to the most wonderful person I know; we’re going out for lobster tonight – Just the two of us, there may be hanky panky involved afterwards, (Does eating Lobster generate endorphins?). Baseball is still a gas. I got more guitars in my building pipeline than I can shake a stick at, and they’re all coming along fine. My hand doesn’t go numb any more. Food for the Poor is doing fantastic work in the Caribbean and South America. Nothing but Nets is handing out tens of thousands of life saving sleep nets to families all over Africa. When you re-read Mountains Beyond Mountains, it’s as amazing as the very first time. Smoked paprika is the secret to many things. A custom Strat thrown over your shoulder will make you feel like Pete Townsend. Bare feet feel great after a long day walking on concrete. Our backyard, on our little 1/6th of an acre, is like a tiny jewel; a park, an oasis in the midst of suburban kitsch. My car is covered in hail dents and I think it looks cool. My cats like each other; no, really… Baby squirrels are amazingly cute, even though they remind me of that ad from the Stupor Bowl. My family can still get together for a reunion and have too much fun, and nobody gets bent for long in the process. I have guitar making friends all over the world; I could go to England, Norway, Scotland, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Bosnia, Thailand, and all over the US and hang with fellow builders. My wife is incredibly sexy, and we like the same stuff. We finish each other’s sentences; I never question the fact that we love each other madly and will be together forever: Did I mention that she’s way sexy? I can memorize my part in a 36 page script and pretty much repeat them accurately, and when I don’t, I can fake it well enough to get by. All our kids are wonderful people, as are those they are close to.

And last but not least: Some people are like slinkies; they’re not really good for anything, but you can’t help but smile when you push ‘em down the stairs…

Life is good.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Zoot Alors!!

Zoot Alors!

Is it just me? Lord, I hope not… Oh – Sorry, the question was this; anybody else totally tired of American Politics? I just want the whole mess done, so I don’t have to listen to this horseshit any more.

McCain is, in my not-so-humble-opinion, a typical say-anything-do-anything-become-anything-just-please-elect-me-I’ll-be-whatever-it-takes-to-get-the-job-egomonster bullshit artist.
I am going to vote, and do so for Obama, frankly. I hope that he is half as genuine, different, and truly interested in making things right as he claims to be. I know that the real power lies in who comes with the mouthpiece; I certainly have far more faith in whom Obama will bring than I do McCain.

Have you ever met a fighter jock? I played hockey for years with several. Most are great guys, but in general, it is safe to say that, among aviators, this genre is far and away the hugest bunch of ego monsters you’ll ever meet; wore, in fact than either cardiac or orthopedic surgeons, and that, my good friends, is sayin’ something...

Don’t get me wrong; flying a fighter in wartime is hard, dangerous, and complex, and it takes an amazing ego to stand up to that kind of sustained pressure. I admire the hell out of those who do and have done it, and I appreciate greatly the sacrifices they make. McCain was shot down and spent years in the Hanoi Hilton. I can barely imagine the incredible evil and hardship he suffered there. I am sorry that happened and happy that he survived. I don’t know if he’s the same person all these years later, but the impressions I get of him from newspaper, website, radio, and television say he most certainly is not. This man doesn’t appear honest to me, or forthright in his intentions to become President in order to form a more perfect union. He appears and sounds and reads to me as if he wants the job to complete his personal campaign for greater power and notoriety. He and his beer dynasty trophy wife do not impress me; in fact, they depress and repel me.

Perhaps first and foremost in that regard is his tone of voice; have you noticed that? He has the same damn smarmy, superior, talkin’-to-the-little-people sneer that The Shrub has. Is this a new Republican phenomenon? In any case, that alone is enough to permanently turn me off to the guy. There’s also the whole “My friends” bullshit: A former campaign manager explained it this way, “When John McCain calls you, “My friend,” it means he’s not sure about you, but he’s willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. When he calls you, “My good friend,” it means he probably does not like you; when he calls you “My very good friend,” there’s no doubt he hates your guts.” Now that sounds like what I hear when he speaks, frankly.

And after the ads he has been running, McCain has the balls to say, “I don’t think we’re running a negative campaign at all.” He told a citizen questioner at the Urban League, (A black male, by the way), that he “Didn’t understand,” the ads if he found them negative, because they were just illuminating important character issues; this was the ad where Obama is compared to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. This after McCain said several times in the spring that his campaign wouldn’t use such ads because “Negative ads don’t work.”

Do you smell bullshit?

Monday, July 21, 2008

I Grok HAL

Ok, I’ve been accused of being wordy before, even verbose, occasionally sesquipedalian, but never of grammatolatry, or even verbolatry. Now, before you say, huh?, my friend David turned me on to the A.Word.A.Day email, which sends you some pretty spiffy vocab to contemplate each and every day, for free, without any apparent adjunct and unwanted spam attached thereto – Definitely a worthwhile thing, for my mind.

Anyway, grammatolatry is a very cool word that I am not at all sure I’ll remember well enough to use later, so I thought I'd better do it now. It put me in mind of a very interesting book I read recently, David Stork’s HAL’s Legacy: 2001’s Computer as Dream and Reality. Using the most notorious computer intelligence yet created as his muse, Stork basically dips into the state of the art today and asks how close we are to the 12th of January, 1992, (HALs Birthday for you non technogeeks). And Grammatolatry might be at the root of the problem Stork outlines therein.

The short answer to the big question posed by Stork's book, where are we compared to where Clarke thought we'd be by now, is in essence this: While we’ve actually built computer system with more memory than Sir Arthur thought we'd be able to, we’re not anywhere near having a box that can genuinely channel Douglas Rain; for you non-geeks, he’s the actor who supplied HALs voice. And in fact, some of the biggest names in the field of ai, like Allen Newell and Marvin Minsky, are less optimistic about our chances of ever so doing than they were when the pursuit began in the 1950s.

So what’s the problem? Well, the fact is, computers are great at handling stuff like dialing phones, searching data, or handling web orders for books, but they’re not so hot at stuff that requites broad understanding of th world around them, and let’s face it, understanding language probably tops that list.

Ray Kurzweil, (Yep, the guy who has his name on so many way cool synthesizers in so many way cool bands), is also a student of ai. Whereas once he believed we’d have HAL nailed by the dawn of the 21st Century, he notes that the likely reason we’ve not achieved that goal is a lack of sophisticated computer architecture; in other words, it’s not the capacity of the machine that presents the greatest challenge, it’s whether or not we can build a reasonably effective analog of the human brain’s neural network. Kurzweil points out that even today’s supercomputers do not have anything approaching the capacity of the human brain, which has “about a hundred billion neurons, each of which has an average of a thousand connections to other neurons” (163). Advances in circuit design, such as creating three-dimensional circuits, will increase the capacity of computers, but even more important is achieving breakthroughs in architecture, in the arrangements of circuits.

These are just a couple of vignettes from the book. Stork is the Chief Scientist at the Ricoh California Research Center, and a Visiting Professor of Psychology at Stanford, so he’s what you could call a well informed insider in this field of study. His book stemmed from the formation of a team of the brightest stars in computer research he put together a while back; cutting edge experts in virtually every facet of the pursuit of ai, computer design, and all its most interesting offshoots. After putting this supergroup together, he asked them to speak to where we are now vis a vis Sir Arthur’s vision. There are essays by all these folks therein, many of which are truly fascinating stuff.

And no, you don’t need to be a supergeek to understand it – Lord knows I’m not, and I think I groked it – Bet you will too!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Why Should I Care?

Yep, it’s true; in a major leap of serendipity, it turns out that Oingo Boingo had the appropriate answer to the hue and cry of American business and politics: Why should I care? Let’s look at the stuff they’re shoveling piece by piece, shall we?

1. We’re losing jobs during this economic downturn: Yeah? Well, fact is, you bastards have shown in a myriad of ways that you have no qualms about killing jobs, careers, and lives off with relative abandon in the best of times, so why should we listen to you now? You have used all your powers to get out of paying pensions and retirements, altered employee classifications and hours so that they are not eligible for benefits, and generally found every way possible to fuck the worker in every way possible. And our government has set you up and supported you all along – So why should I care?

2. Wall Street is in a panic and investors are scared to engage: So the fuck what? It has been posited that a seminal cause to the crash of ’29 was the fact that the stock market had little to do with business and industry; Wall Street reflected itself and its owners, and not much else. Does that sound familiar? Does anything they have or do give you real stability? Have you been protected and cared for when they’ve had problems in the past? Who lost all their savings and investments, you or Carl Icahn? Why should I care?

3. American businesses are suffering from our situation: Excuse me? American people are suffering from our situation; you assholes aren’t! CEO’s and billionaires are like Major League Baseball Managers; fired today, resurrected tomorrow in somebody else’s uniform and still making good money. Why should I care?

4. The rest of the world depends on American strength and prosperity: Say what? What are you smokin’? The rest of the world hates our business and political elements with a passion bordering on fanaticism. This administration and our business community has done more damage to America’s reputation and ability to functionally interact in the world than any other in history; these two factions walked hand in hand down the aisle smiling along the way. Why should I care?

All in all, I see this stuff as a necessary and good correction to the intense craziness created and fostered by factions of our society with whom I have nothing in common and not a care in the world for. Housing bubbles, stock rushes, consolidation, failure, yadda, yadda, yadda… These bastards care not a lick for humanity or humankind. Their aim is not our wellbeing, national or international stability, or the fair and just machinations of business and politics: Their aim is to stuff the pockets of themselves and their ilk; nothing more and nothing less. I could not care less what happens to them.

May nature, fate, and the natural course of things grind them all to dust.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Georgian Voices

One night when I was a cop working graveyards, I was cruising around about 3 am, listening to the local college radio station, when out of my speakers came the most astounding music. The song literally made me stop the patrol car and sit there with the hair on the back of my neck standing up. Sung acapella by a male group, the tune was complex, with two lead singers twining amazing lines of melody in a language I didn’t understand, while a full background chorus kept amazing power flowing through the piece. After a while, I realized that the background guys were employing polyphonic beating tones, weaving slight pitch discrepancies into their lines that create amazing power and literally leave your ears ringing. The song was breathtaking, almost religious, incredibly powerful, and seemed to blend elements of both eastern and western music seamlessly.

When the song ended, I learned that this was The Rustavi Choir, from Georgia, (Aka The Republic of Georgia, not the southern state), singing ‘Chakrulo,’ from the disk Georgian Voices. The music was and is amazing. A young Ted Levin, now a Dartmouth Distinguished Professor of the Humanities, was then a young ne’er do well traveler, (By his own admission), cruising in 1974 across Europe, bound for Tbilisi and searching for amazing music. He found the Rustavi Choir there and that lead to the recording of Georgian Voices in 1989.

Almost 20 years later, I still listen to the disc regularly, and especially that song, Chakrulo. These Georgian songs are very old, pre-dating Christianity. The Georgian singing style employs a scale similar to western music, in that it has seven tones, eight if you include the octave. That, however, is where the similarities divide.

As do most traditional tunings, the Georgian system runs with a just perfect fifth. OK, is your head spinning already? Then let’s break it down – Just intonation means that an interval tuned justly has notes that are related by ratios of whole numbers, aka, they’re in the same harmonic series. The Perfect Fifth part of that phrase refers to the interval between a note and the seven semi-tones above it. A perfect fifth is such because of its relatively simple relationship to other musical intervals, and the fact that they are considered consonant, aka, harmonious and stable in musicspeak. Now before you shake that head and say ‘so what?’, let me just point out that musically, a perfect fifth occurs in the root of all western chords, major and minor, and pretty much all of their extensions as well –A very busy thing, musically, that perfect fifth. You might also recognize the sound as a base harmony within Gregorian chant.

OK, back to the differences in the Georgian scale: In between the fifth and the unison in the Georgian system, there are three evenly spaced notes; a major second, (Compressed versus our usual western suspect), a neutral third, and a perfect fourth. While the major second is certainly heard in our scales, (Diatonic and pentatonic for example – And I’m tired of making hyperlinks, by the way, so look ‘em up yourself!), the neutral third is quite rare to our ears. And finally, the perfect fourth is ‘stretched’ compared to our scales.

Thoroughly confused and don’t know nothing about this? Yes, you do! Hum the start of The Bridal Chorus from Lohengren – Hmm hmmm hmm hmmm – That’s a perfect fourth, pal – Oh, and bass guitars and all but one string on plain ol’ guitars are tuned in perfect fourths, too…

Back to the Georgian scale! On the other side of that fifth, between it and the octave, there are two more evenly spaced notes, which yields a major sixth and a minor seventh. What this does is make the interval of thirds the most consonant, (Again, think stable), thing next to the fifth; unusual to us because it was happening in Georgia way before it was in the western music world.

Ya got all that? Good…

Chakrulo is a Table Song, a long-standing element in the tradition of Georgian ritual music that stems from the Kakheti region, in eastern Georgia. Unlike their neighbors in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the Kakheti don’t seem inclined to split from the mother country, which is probably good for everyone involved, frankly.

Now, I’ve saved coolest for last: Unbeknownst to me at the time, the Chakrulo sung by the Rustavi Choir is considered a distinctly patriotic version of the song form, and in fact, is included on the sound samples of the famous Golden Records, housed aboard Voyager 1 and 2 and sent spaceward in 1977. Today, somewhere beyond the deep space at the very edge of our solar system, Chakrulo is waiting to be heard; I can’t think of a more appropriate place for it, frankly.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Feel like Raisin' a Little Hell?

Cool show today on Diane Rehm – David Sirota, who wrote The Uprising, discussing what might come in future days…

Now, if you’ve read my rants, you’d probably guess that I would be totally up for such an event, and in fact, I would! In an ideal world, I’d be a moderately conservative Democrat, or perhaps a liberal Republican. Problem for me is, they’re all scoundrels and ne’er do wells and I don’t want much of anything to do with either. I think, frankly, that our society is so completely FUBAR that, as intimated, it almost truly is beyond all repair...

So Sirota’s premise is interesting to me, indeed – And it brooks the question, first and foremost, are we really on the verge of populist revolt, or is this just another wave of faux sentiment bullshit? You make the call!

Sirota has explored the American past sufficiently to draw cautious parallels with current times, and maybe he’s right, overall. On one key consideration, he absolutely hits the nail dead on the head: The average American should have no doubt that Big Picture American Politics has not a thing to do with them and not a care for them. The current state of the nation reflects an insane focus on insane profits for the insanely wealthy, and very little else. American politics is in business for one thing and one thing only; self preservation. Anybody who says otherwise is a liar, part of the problem, or both. And God knows the Shrub’s current administration has done nothing but further those goals and truths.

So, has America had enough? Are the common folk getting riled up enough to actually do something potent and lasting? How the hell would we know if they were? (Don’t forget Big Media’s incestuous ties to Big Business – You do know that they ain't gonna tell you, right?). Don’t know, don’t know, but what interesting questions!

I suppose one could try and indict Sirota’s perspective as narrow because he only really speaks to corporate and political injustice, but in all honesty, what else is out there that threatens our very lives so much?

I think this is an important read for us, y’all – As Naomi Klein so aptly put it; “Sirota is a clear-headed and principled hell-raiser for economic justice. More like him, and we’ll have a real uprising on our hands.”

Right on…

Monday, July 07, 2008

Whoa my gosh – Starbucks is in trouble!!!

Am I crushed? Nope. Saddened? Nope. Bothered, even a tiny smidge? Nah

Wait, let me back up first. I am a coffee snob, and yes, I more or less gained that attribute whilst living in the Great Northwet, Washington State in particular. And yes, we were totally nuts about coffee, although that has abated somewhat today; when it became ultra cool for everyone to be a coffee snob, then the natives quit, because then it wasn’t cool anymore, ya see…

Anyway, during coffee’s Northwest heyday, we had three 24 hour coffee drive through joints in a town of 50,000, and every hardware store and lumber yard had an espresso stand, if they wanted to survive. A good Barista was hard to find and jealously guarded: Stephanie not only saw you coming from 2 blocks away and had your stuff ready when you got there, she was smart, funny, and easy on the eye…

Then came the ‘roiding of Starbucks… When that little shop opened at Pikes Market in the early 80s, it was cool. When they opened their first satellite up on Capitol Hill, and a stone’s throw from my apartment, it was convenient.

When they opened their 6,000+ store, it was oppressive. I’ve had Starbucks in Fort Worth Texas and Salt Lake City, Utah: Neither had good coffee, and at both, the perceived mien for a Barista is over-the-top, hyper-cheerful, AM radio jock morning show horseshit – No, I don’t want a creamy orange gelato mocha frapuccino and how I am is pretty much none of your business, frankly; see, you ain’t earned intimacy yet, and you don’t get it granted to you due to overzealous verbal diarrhea…

At the point that Starbucks became a corporation, all the magic was gone. They were dead meat, they just didn’t know it yet. Ever been to a Red Robin? They also started in Seattle. The first one was at the base of the Montlake cut, right next to the bridge, and it was really quite good; it was and is no Dick’s, mind you, (The truly legendary Seattle burger joint), but it was good. Once it got out of Seattle and was fully corporized, it too was toast.

So am I sad at Starbucks woes? Nope, just wondering what took them so long.

See, I can do all you corporate hotshots a favor, if you’ll lend me an ear for a sec; I can save you a bunch of money and energy and time, if you’ll listen up… You ready?

OK, here it is, in the form of a simple formula to remember:

The depth of demise that anything and anybody will fall to, when you try to multiply their success via incorporation and expansion, will be directly proportional to how great they were and would still be had you left them alone.

Ya got that? Still not sure it's true? How about a quick checklist: Bobby Flay? He’s in an ad as a fucking M & M, for cryin’ out loud! Southwest Airline’s pioneering spirit? Gonzo. Redhook Ale? Urk! J. K. Rowling? 'nuff said Any department store you wanna mention? Please...

Just as the ever increasing waistline of a megalithic entity like G. E. gets worse and worse every year, that burger joint, that coffee shop, that chef, that writer, that store will most certainly go to shit when you try to share it too broadly. Once you’re a corporation, you have no soul, no heart, no cojones, and you never will.

So do us a favor, pencil necks; stick to actuarial and fiduciary, and leave life to us, OK?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Me Thinks Thou Doest Protest Too Loudly...


It is, of course, well known that one of the chief cornerstones of the foreign policy of His Very Righteous Holiness, Mr. George W. Bush, is that, under no circumstances and in no way, shape, or form, would Himself ever deign to actually speak with, let alone negotiate of otherwise work with, a terrorist...

Y'all are well aware of that, right?


Well then, y'all just might find this little tale nteresting.

It seems the nut has fallen a fur piece from the ol' tree... While what I'm about to illuminate might be considered old hat, (Having been discussed by the co-called 'alternative media before the last election - Although not by the 'mainstream' media for some curious reason...), nonetheless:

Are you aware of the meanderings of The Shrub's fraternal grandfather, Prescott Bush? No? Read on, then! See, on the surface view, (AKA The Mainstream Media), ol' Prescott was a stand up dude and a Captain of Industry: U. S. Senator, Wall street banker, founding partner of Brown Brothers Harriman, (BBH). This Bush learned his chops from his daddy of course, Mr. Samuel Prescott Bush, a railroad and steel company executive, and during WW I, a government flack in charge of coordinating and aiding defense contractors.

Anyway, back to Prescott: While daddy was making sure we had the ordinance we needed, Prescott served as an artillery Captain and fought during the Great War. Now, before you start thinking to yourself, 'well , at least he served honorably; something his kid obviously didn't learn, know this: Prescott sent some letters to home outlining the medals he had won for various heroic deeds in battle, a 'fact' that was picked up by the hometown papers and spread relatively far and wide. Only problem was, well... Fact is, he didn't actually win any medals see, he, ahh... Kinda made that part up, it turns out... Ah well, let's just chalk that up to youthful enthusiasm run amok and move on! Ol' Prescott came home and waded into the big, wide world of business where he... generally failed miserably until his Father-in-Law, George Herbert Walker, (Hadda throw that in so you see where the name game comes from), bailed him out and made him a V. P. of BBH. via A. Harriman and Co., which had been a precursor to BBH that made their fortune in dry goods prior to getting into banking. In yet another sickening aside, it just so happens that Prescott was now surrounded by fellow Bonesmen, (AKA a buncha inbred Yalees...) So by this point, life was pretty durn good for ol' Prescott and his flock, indeed. Gosh, you think, The Shrub is a chip off the ol' block, ain't he?! Yes, yes he is, and like the current incarnation, just wait, 'cause it gets worse - A lot worse...

Now, over there at Harriman, there was this one client see, a German fellow named Fritz Thyssen. Ol' Fritz was a Captain of German Industry by virtue of the fact that his family had been big in mining and steel production for a couple of generations prior. Fritz was an early fan and financier of the Nazis, until he became disenchanted with and ran afoul of 'em around 1940. Fritz had himself some pretty hefty U. S. assets, and his good pals at Harriman, specifically including ol' Prescott, were looking out for his best interests on our shining shores. Trouble was, regardless of Fritz' protestations, when Hitler declared war on the U.S., there was trouble in paradise, and all his assets, along with pretty much every other German company with U.S. assets and interests, got seized by virtue of the Trading with the Enemy Act, signed in December 1941, just after the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred. And what fueled that Act's creation was that the public was made aware of the fact that American companies, (I don't want to name names, but a big one's initials were BBH), was happily and profitably doing business with German companies who were supporting the Nazi war machine. All these suspect company's assets were seized by the U. S. Government, including BBH, and one li'l outfit called Union Banking Corporation, (UBC), of which, strangely enough, ol' Prescott was not only a board member, but a genuine Director. Further poking around revealed that a whole bunch of Prescott's mucky muck BBH pals were also board members and directors, and that, in fact, UBC had pretty much been created by these yahoos solely to provide a nice vehicle for all Thyssen's U.S. held wealth; funny, ain't it? Hey! Why ain't you laughin'?

Well, the bottom line is that it seems Prescott didn't hold tyrants and dictators in such low esteem as his Grandson 'does'. There were, in fact, more companies that Prescott was involved with, such as the Hamburg-America Line, (Ever seen ships or containers marked HAPAG? That's the one...), which was investigated for spreading Nazi propaganda over here during the war.

One can't deny that the money Prescott earned from the Germans helped make him rich, and his wealth made more and more political connections possible, significantly furthering the Bush involvement in politics. As such, whether you like it or not, it's not unreasonable to posit that The Shrub owes his presidency partially to the fact that his grandfather helped fund Hitler.

Here's a smattering of references, just in case some ne'er do well wishes to try and call bullshit on me:

Nonetheless, there ain't a gonna be no talkin' to terrorists!

Unless, of course, there's money to be made...