Archive for September, 2010

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More Guilty Pleasures Of 70′s Symphonic Rock: The Moody Blues

[ 5 Comments ]Posted on September 24, 2010 by admin in Music

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Sure, these stoned, classically-trained hippies may have accidentally planted the seeds of the new age movement, but until tragedy struck in 1978, they were one of the best art rock bands in existence.

With covers like this they may have
been indirectly responsible for the new
age movement, but they still rocked.

Last year I publicly revealed the shameful pleasure I still derive from listening to 70′s symphonic rock band ELO, and was genuinely surprised by how many people still enjoyed their Beatles-esque pop genius. Well, today I have an even more shameful confession. I am a hopeless The Moody Blues fan. In spite of the fact that these guys were essentially a bunch of hairy-faced, classically-trained hippies who may be single-handedly responsible for the entire new age movement with their penchant for stoned, pseudo-spiritual peacenik poetry interludes and dreamy airbrush psychedelic album covers, they also happened to be amongst the most talented and innovative of all the 60′s/70′s art rock bands, with their brilliant early use of the mellotron and tight pop symphonics, provided mostly by the London Festival Orchestra. The Moody Blues especially stood out amongst many of their prog-rock contemporaries like Yes or Pink Floyd for the simple fact that they possessed a gift that few of these bands did: the ability to not sound like crap live. In fact, if you’re familiar with the studio version of Ride My See-Saw, I would defy you to be able to tell the difference between it and this live Paris club performance (also below) from 1970. The band churned out a string of hit singles and solid albums beginning with (video below) 1964′s Go Now – which could easily be mistaken for a song by Peter Bjorn & John or Grizzly Bear – and culminating with 1972′s Seventh Sojourn. Unfortunately, after creating a series of well-crafted stoner concept albums like Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, Seventh Sojourn, and A Question of Balance, as well as resilient singles like Nights in White Satin, Tuesday Afternoon and I’m Just a Singer (In a Rock ‘n Roll Band), tragedy struck in 1978. No, there was no tragic aircrash, 1978 was the year the band decided to get back together and release Octave, which launched a series of middle-of-the-road pop dreck albums with aging rock star saccharine hits like I Know You’re Out There Somewhere. Personally, I do a good job of pretending – as I do with much of the 80′s – that their later releases never happened, and just enjoy the good stuff. Vids below. Read the rest of this entry »

What If America’s Highways Were One Big Solar Panel?

[ 4 Comments ]Posted on September 23, 2010 by admin in Clean & Green, Technology

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

Solar Roadways has an idea that could solve several of America’s energy and infrastructure problems at once, and revolutionize energy and transportation.

Okay. So you’re not quite ready to give up your gas guzzling FUV for some pansy little electric just yet. So how about we make the ROADS electric? That’s the rather brilliant idea behind Solar Roadways’ “Intelligent Highway” prototype (video below). The basic idea is that we have 2.73 million miles of paved road in America that just sits there getting driven on. So why not make it a solar grid? We’d produce three times more energy than the country needs, and since the roads go everywhere, including right to your house, why not deliver the electricity intelligently throughout the grid too, eliminating the need for much of the country’s hardwired power distribution? With the erratically skyrocketing costs of asphalt, this idea seems like a no-brainer. Solar Roadways’ highway would be built with – get this – glass, and utilize all sorts of extra features including built-in LED’s that can display virtually any message you like. Personally I think even if the material were quite a bit “dumber”, and only collected and distributed electricity, this would be a brilliant plan for America’s infrastructure. Although there’s a little irony in the fact that much like petroleum, one of the plan’s central materials is plentiful in Saudi Arabia. Down the road we may lament our dependence on foreign sand. But seriously. This is GENIUS. Why hasn’t it gotten more press? Consider giving them a vote to help them get funding from GE. Read the rest of this entry »

Mirror Mirror On The Wall, Please Stop That. You’re Freaking Me Out

[ Comments Off ]Posted on September 22, 2010 by admin in Lifestyle & Culture

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

A recent small study found interesting results when the subjects were asked to stare in a mirror for a length of time. Have you ever done this?

Mirrors seem to hold a strange fascination for people. As adults, most of us probably take them for granted, and just use them as a grooming tool. But as a kid, you may have invested a lot more imagination in them, imagining another world beyond them, or using two mirrors to create infinite reflections. That was one of my personal favorites. Throughout history, mirrors were believed to hold magical powers, and have always had many superstitions attached to them, including the belief that you can divine things with them through intuitive arts like Catoptromancy. They also have been featured extensively in literature and film. They’re a common horror cliche (clip also below), and the movie Candyman is pretty directly based on a scary “game” called Bloody Mary. In literature, they’ve been a central element in stories like Snow White, Through the Looking-Glass, and numerous works called Through a Glass Darkly. So given a history so rich with magical imaginings and fraught with otherworldly projections from the unconscious mind, I was surprised at some people’s reaction to a recent study in which subjects were asked to stare into a mirror for a period of time, and then report what they saw. Many people make remarks like “no way, this is way too creepy” or “I’ve tried this before and it’s exactly why I won’t again“. I find these reactions odd, because this is something I did a lot at certain points in my life, not out of vanity – I actually detest my own face – but as personal meditative or perceptual experiments both with and without the influence of drugs. So it had never occurred to me that not everyone would engage in this kind of peculiar pursuit, and after randomly surveying a few friends, I realized there were two distinct crowds, those who had, and those who hadn’t. And then I noticed a distinct difference in the psychological makeup of the two groups, something subtle about their apparent depth of perception in general. A completely subjective and biased observation on my part, I know. But what about you? Have you ever stared in a mirror so long that your face dissolved and the spooks came out? Read the rest of this entry »

Big Oil’s Proposition 23: Don’t Blow This One, California

[ Comments Off ]Posted on September 21, 2010 by admin in Clean & Green

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Hey California, even if YOU don’t care, think about the rest of us. We’re downwind you know. We want to see the sunshine while we build our poop-powered cars made of hemp.

Don’t do it California. Don’t let this Proposition 23 thing go through. I feel odd throwing in my two cents, because I’m not a resident so I can’t even vote on it, but you’ve proven your obliviousness to your own well-being before, so I feel it’s my civic duty to address the issue, even if I do live three thousand miles away. Maybe you’ll be more self-interested on this one if enough outsiders rant about it. If you’re not aware of what Proposition 23 is about, here’s the nutshell version: two Texas oil companies – Tesoro Corp. and Valero Energy Corp. – are spending over $100 million dollars to try to roll back California’s visionary emissions reduction plans, which were intended to limit California’s pollution levels in 2020 to what they were in 1990. The energy companies’ justification? They claim that the emission control legislation has caused California’s double-digit unemployment. Even if this were true – and it isn’t; there are plenty of states with double-digit unemployment that don’t have forward-thinking emission control legislation – what kind of effed up logic is THAT? “Honey, I know it’s sad that the kids can’t play outside today for fear of being asphyxiated by the sooty, mustard brown air, but at least we have JOBS…” C’mon California, get it together. Don’t let a bunch of rich, fossil-fuel Texans tell you how to run your state. Use your unemployment as inspiration to INNOVATE. And even if you don’t care enough about your own state to act on this, think about the rest of us. Your air blows our way a lot. We want to be able to see the sunshine while we build our poop-powered cars made of hemp.

Sink Your Teeth Into True Blood’s Music

[ Comments Off ]Posted on September 20, 2010 by admin in Music

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Music supervisor Gary Calamar’s brilliant music choices have left a bigger mark on me than all the vampire teeth, eroticism and wacked-out storylines have. Fortunately there’s an easy way to review and collect all the songs.

True Blood’s Music Will Have
You Licking Your Lips Too

I’ve mentioned before that I haven’t had TV for years, and am ironically more interested in watching TV commercials than the shows that they interrupt, but occasionally, when a few friends recommend something rabidly enough, I break down and watch it on line if I can, or borrow, rent, or torrent it if I can’t. Which is how I ended up watching all three seasons of True Blood in three weeks recently. Yes, I fell for the implausible but irresistible plot-twisting cliffhangers, and even endured the episodes where the plotline went all wacky and Dionysian and sort of became the “History of Mythology with Mary Ann Forrester” show. I think actress Michelle Forbes is carving out a great niche for herself; her character in Battlestar Galactica performed the same “appear as a heroine, derail the series, and turn out to be a nasty villain and die” function as her character in True Blood did. But in spite of any humorous criticism I have of the show, it’s been fun so far, and there’s no arguing that it’s another well-crafted piece of entertainment from HBO. And for me the most lasting element of what has made the series so watchable is the excellent selection of soundtrack and closing title songs. Which range from the alt-country of Todd Snider’s Back to the Crossroads to the industrial/techno of Ashtrayhead’s tune Ashtrayhead. I already picked up the True Blood: Music From The HBO Original Series collection, now I’m trying to figure out how to round up the remaining few dozen songs without going broke. Lucky for me, there’s a True Blood wiki that lists every song used in every episode, and conveniently presents them in a Grooveshark player so you can preview each song in its entirety. I wish HBO would just bundle them all in some kind of collection, but it’ll be fun all the same rounding up the tunes separately. True Blood’s music supervisor Gary Calamar is a genius, and apparently has a book out called Record Store Days: From Vinyl to Digital and Back Again which I think I just may have to check out.

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