Friday, August 26, 2016


Karaoke Night 2

I went to SoBo 151 bar (celebrating its 14th anniversary of existence today) last night and things were kind of the same as last time but one of those short buses which take senior citizens to activities out of the old folk's home had apparently dropped off about a half dozen at the bar.

That's a pretty snide comment coming from me at age 63. No, they came on their own accord and the big surprise came when three of them had their turn at singing. They were terrific. The first old guy sang Unchained Melody, a song that will chew up most singers, and hit it note for note. The karaoke DJ Amberama said jokingly that she was shutting down the show right there because it's good to end with the best singing of the night. I was too dumbfounded by the excellence of his voice to think to take a picture or him, but later I took a few of the group. That first singer of the group later did Billy Joel's Just the Way You Are very, very well. The only woman singer from the group did When Will I Be Loved and Stand by Your Man. The last aged singer, besides me, did two 21st Century rock songs but I can't recall which ones just now. He gets praise just for the choice and attempt.

No one sat with me this time but the really young girls I like came by with their friends and sang a lot.

Over the months, no, years now that I've been going, I've learned that there are certain songs that, if the singing goes on long enough (and the singers drink enough), will always be sung. These apparently mandatory songs include: Love Shack and Bohemian Rhapsody. (Hey, how come there is no Moravian Rhapsody?) We got them both last night and the Queen song was a ragged mess as usual, but the women on the B-52s song did great. The men singing in the inevitable group version of Love Shack have to learn to talk their verses, just like Fred Schneider has always "sung" his. When they sing their lines, it kind of sucks, even if they can actually sing.

My ability to take a phone photograph continues to suck but I hope you enjoy them anyway.

I did the Beatle's Come Together, a modest success, Toad/Sprocket's Fall Down (meh), Delbert's Two More Bottles of Wine and Pink Floyd's Time from Darkside of the Moon (I did it OK). All in all a very fun night. I might go back.

Apparently these sisters can only sing with Miller bottles in their hand, but they sure can sing.

UPDATE: There are Karaoke songs you have to suffer through, even when the singers are good. For me, it's most rap and anything by Disney. Stuff your Whole New World up your butt. But I'm beginning to think that Total Eclipse of the Heart is a form of torture or could be if used properly by trained operatives. There is nothing about many rock songs after August 1968 which wasn't made worse, sometimes much worse, by the insidious influence of Hey Jude. That song, the most destructive of all 60s songs, gave permission to lesser bands, which were most of them, to just keep on playing and singing even though the song ended minutes ago. Sometimes it seems like the song ended days ago but they're still singing. Stop, my mind cries out, but they keep on singing. I try to clap for all the singers, but when people end Total Eclipse, I clap enthusiastically because at last that awful song is over.

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Thursday, August 25, 2016


Lemonade, Lemons, Django, Music

I'm probably not telling most of you anything new when I repeat the story about Django Reinhardt, the Belgian-born, Gypsy jazz guitarist who was part of the Hot 5 (Quintette du Hot Club de France, as they called it). He burned his chord-making hand badly and lost the use of his last two fingers. It's easy to see the bad burn scar on the back of his hand  and the problem with his pinky in this photo, but his ring finger was useless as well. There are a lot of guitar chords you can't make with only two fingers and a thumb.

Rather than quit guitar, Django learned to play guitar without making chords, by making only individual notes with his two working fingers. A new style in guitar playing was popularized if not created and even though jazz is in decline, you hear a lot of Django in every rock guitar solo, or so I believe.

There are modern guitarist who have suffered injury to their pick-holding or, more precisely, their string plucking hand but that's almost no problem at all, especially if you use a pick. I'm thinking of Jerry Garcia and Phil Keaggy. If you're missing your middle finger as Garcia was and Keaggy is, you can't play like Dire Straits guitarist, Mark Knoffler, who uses, usually, his thumb and three fingers. But you can still play like Jeff Beck, if you're really talented, even if you don't use a pick like Beck doesn't. Tony Iommi lost the tips of his chord-making hand's middle and ring finger, so he was in Django's predicament to a lesser degree. He protected the ends of those fingers with thimble like covers.

The seed for this posting was I saw Eric Johnson play last night to a rather sparse crowd in a small venue (what's up with that? the guy is a superior guitar player). He only used his pinky  for chords and his first three fingers for individual notes. He did quite a good version of Hendrix's Third Rock from the Sun. Ah, our generations' classical music.


Thursday, August 18, 2016


The Dumbest Thing We Did in Korea, and the Smartest

It was pretty freakin' hot in Korea in August--38 degrees Celsius, or 100 degrees in American. So we decided to climb up a steep sided caldera. Behold.

It was, I don't know, 1800 yards high. That doesn't sound like a lot, I guess, but it means a whole lot of stairs. Did I mention it was about 100 degrees hot out there in the sun?

This is inside the caldera all green and pretty.

Back to the steep sided seafront.

So even two, icy drinks at Starbucks (black tea and green grapes, extraordinarily delicious and not available here in the states) after the climb down did not restore my usual core body temperature and it was pretty miserable even in the air conditioned car. But then we made a good choice. Let's go see the huge complex of lava tubes in the interior of the island, we said. (Oh, we were on Jeju, a teardrop shaped semi-tropic island in the Yellow Sea off the southwest corner of Korea).

Lava tubes, as the name might suggest, are tubes of solid stone through which lava has flowed (and cooled and solidified on the outside creating the tube in the first place) so they are long, slightly meandering caves with black rock flowstone insides, very like the walls inside of the alien space ships in Alien and Prometheus.

Here's the entrance from the surface.

Every step down into the tube cooled down about two degrees. So we went from 100 to about 45 American degrees. It was a very heaven below ground.

Sometimes the ceiling collapses creating a high dome like ceiling. The ceiling shown here is of other rock than solidified lava and had that not been there the ceiling collapse would have created a different entrance to the tube.

Details of the walls of the tube.

I'm not certain, because the floor of the tube is rough and could be original cooled last run of lava, but I tend to think it's man-made disguised to look like it's cooled lava. It certainly was at a very useful height for human visitors. Last two.

Sometimes, cooled lava rocks fall into the stream of lava but are not re-melted and create rafts. This one is remarkable for its similarity to the whole island of Jeju. You can see cooled lava adding to the edge of the raft on the left.

It's very common for tubes to be on top of each other and sometimes lava leaks from above, like here.

This tube was the only one we went in but there are about a dozen there, some of which they let you enter, with very different features (like ground water stalagmites and stalactites, etc.).

Apparently the best lava tubes in continental America are the Ape Cave (or Caves) on the south slope of Mt. St. Helens north east of Portland, OR in Washington state. I'm so interested in these tubes because of some knowledge of them from the "color" Mars book series by Kim Stanley Robinson. Because of the difference in gravity, the tubes would be even larger on Mars. Good place for the doomed volunteers to spend their last days a few decades from now. You could seal one end and pump in an atmosphere and heat. Perhaps even put in some skylight windows and create a greenhouse. Just an idea (from author Robinson).



Dragon Lore

I was pretty much finished with visiting Korean Temples (Buddhist), as beautiful and impressive as they are, from the multiple visits we made to them the last time I was in Korea. But my son talked me into going out to one more near Busan. It's on the coast and beautiful, he said. It was also a long, long way past the last subway station. But it was worth it. The leit motiv for the temple was a dragon battling some other thing. I have never been able to discover what that thing was. You tell me.

The temple, as all of them are, was indeed beautiful. Here are a few more photos.



This Is More Like It

Instapundit has a recurring meme where he decries things getting worse (This is not the 21st Century I was promised) or applauds things getting better (This is more like the 21st Century I was promised). I can play that game.

These are tracks, if that's the right word, for the Maglev train from the airport in Inchon, Korea out to some hotels, parking lots and a waterpark. My photography generally sucks but I think you can see that there are no tracks. Those are my legs and elegant travel bag reflected in the glass door (and wall) that separate a lot of trains and subways from the platforms in Korea and Japan. Their death rate from suicides jumping in front of oncoming trains and from accidental falls (and from homicides of people pushed onto the tracks, like D'Onofrio in that great episode of Homicide) is nearly zero.

Here is the train on the trackless tracks entering the terminus. You'll just have to take my word for it that there were no wheels on the train for running on the trackless tracks. Magnetic energy from electricity lifts the train and changes in polarity in the trackless tracks accelerates the train down the track and to the destinations. Inside the train there is almost no noise and the acceleration is smooth and somewhat impressive in it strength. Outside the train, one hears an electric hum, not that loud but you can hear it clearly.

The downside is the Maglev is so finicky that the Koreans warn you not to take it if you have a plane to catch and even a light rain will shut down the system which only runs for about 8 hours a day in the first place. Baby steps.

Still, kinda cool.


Monday, August 01, 2016


I'm Beginning to Think that Logic is Not a Democrat Value

Once more unto the breach, dear friends. Here's former Brady Center VP Denis Henigan failing to see the bleeding obvious in The Daily Beast. He's counting down the three arguments against further gun control laws he finds most fault with. Let's get to it.

Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People
This is the granddaddy of them all, a brilliantly clever way of conveying two related ideas: (1) because guns themselves are morally neutral objects that become a problem only when used by dangerous people, it makes sense only to focus on punishing bad people who use guns, rather than regulating guns themselves;

It's difficult for me to see what is wrong with the logic of the statements above. I wouldn't say only focus on punishing bad people but the major focus must be there if what you propose is to be effective and not mere harassment or punishment for the law abiding. But that's only the first of his objections on this issue about guns being mere steel, plastic, and alloy. He sets up a straw man next.

and (2) even if dangerous people can’t get guns, they will simply use other weapons to inflict death and injury. In short, there is no gun problem; there is only a people problem.

Our argument is not that the laws making it more difficult for the law abiding to buy a gun will be followed by those willing to violate the murder or assault statutes; so that those with murder on their minds will turn to a second best, other type of weapon, not a gun. What we actually say is they won't obey the gun ownership prohibitions and will get guns through other, generally illegal means. The criminologists who actually asked criminals where they got their guns with which they had committed crimes learned that universal background checks will do next to nothing to stop the criminals from obtaining firearms. Here is the study. The rest of Henigan's writing on this straw man argument is specious. Moving on.

Criminals Don’t Obey Gun Laws, Only Law-Abiding Citizens Do
This is the futility argument. According to the National Rifle Association and its allies, since gun laws are directed at criminals, who of course pay no attention to any laws (that’s why they’re called criminals), gun control can’t possibly be effective, except in making it harder for law-abiding citizens to have guns to defend themselves.
This is what we say and we say it because it's true. What could Mr. Henigan have against it? Let's see:

First, the argument is transparently circular. Of course, as to individuals who are willing to disobey gun laws, the laws are futile by definition. But what about the possibility that there are potentially violent individuals who are deterred from carrying guns by the illegality of doing so? Surely compliance with a law cannot be determined merely by looking at the instances of when the law is violated. If it could, we would regard all our criminal laws as ultimately futile because all of them are frequently violated. Should we repeal our laws against homicide because murderers don’t obey them?

But it is silly to compare gun control laws proposed by Henigan's ilk to the homicide statute. Murder is malum in se. A requirement of a background check, permission from the government to exercise a God given right, is malum prohibitum. And of course we look at the compliance rate of malum prohibitum laws to see if they're worthwhile. Think Prohibition and its repeal. Not only was the law flouted by non-criminal citizens but the ban on booze was having a detrimental effect on law enforcement and society in general. Prohibition made things worse not better.

There is indeed a "possibility" that a hardened criminal will not carry a gun for fear of being caught with it. (That's what the successful 'stop and frisk' program in NYC was relying on. If you have a decent chance of getting in serious trouble for merely carrying a gun illegally, many criminals will not carry one. Of course Henigan and his ilk hated that Giuliani program which brought NYC homicides down from nearly 2,000 a year in 1992 and 1993 to 909 in 2002. Under Bloomberg the trend continued down to 333 in 2014 but now that Democrat de Blasio has stopped the effective anti-crime programs of his predecessors, the murder rate has started back up). But the new prohibitions proposed by the Brady Center are not stop and frisk enforcement but universal background checks and prohibiting those on the terrorist list from buying a gun legally. Henigan praises those proposed laws but misses the point completely. Criminals don't get guns from places where they have to go through a background check to get them. So expanding the background checks, from federal firearm license holders to every person who obeys the law and sells or transfers a gun, will have no appreciable effect on criminals' obtaining guns. The terror list prohibition is a violation of due process. Democrats and gun grabbers don't appear to care about due process or many things actually in writing in the Constitution.

No matter what experience tells us and what competent, unbiased researchers tell us about where criminals get guns and how little effect the proposed new prohibitions will have on reducing criminal access to guns, Henigan and his ilk have a near religious, unshakable belief that people willing to break the murder statute will obey this new gun legislation. That's not logic; that's magical thinking.

I'll skip Henigan's criticism of the rational fear that gun registration will make it easier for collection of these weapons by the government if they are banned. Of course it's easier to confiscate the guns in private hands if you know who owns them. When the Democrat gun control enthusiasts drop the mask and admit they are for gun confiscation, are we to ignore this? Treat it like a faux pas? Think they don't mean it?


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