Monday, January 26, 2015

The Blizzard of 1899 in New York

The Great Blizzard of 1899 in New York. It's amazing that we're looking at a film of it. The oldest film I've ever found in the Library of Congress was 1898, so this must be among the first things ever filmed in New York. The Blizzard of 1899 was a big deal. Back before weather forecasts, people got caught unawares fairly often by cataclysmic weather events. The Hurricane of '38 killed a lot of people, and I have personally been in a house in Rhode Island that was blown across a salt water pond to the opposite shore. The owners just decided to leave it there, and built a foundation under it where it landed. Tornadoes killed people in the mid sixties, I think it was, in western Massachusetts. [Update: I looked it up. It was 1953. The toll was 94 dead, 1200+ injured in Worcester] The Blizzard of 1899 went into folklore because it killed a bunch of people, and it destroyed a lot of things. It was 39 below zero Fahrenheit in Ohio, still the record low. They had a snowball fight on the steps of the Florida State Capitol Building. Cape May, New Jersey, got 34 inches of snow, back when Sesame Street Scientists™ weren't abroad in the land, exaggerating for grant money, and they used an honest ruler. It was reported that there was a hard frost in Cuba, of all places. It was reported by the US Weather Service, because we owned Cuba then.

Some people in New York City won't have cable TV for twelve straight hours tomorrow, and they'll start eating each other soon after if history is any example. The feds will ladle money over corrupt city administrations to fund snowplow contracts that are paid to cronies while the snow waits for the spring to do the work. In short, if we weren't an incompetent society in all things practical, today's storm would be handled easily. But it won't, and Cuba won't freeze, I imagine. For years we'll have to listen to the same people claim today's storm was an arctic cataclysm while simultaneously saying it never happened because the computer model they cooked up ran out of ones and zeroes or something.

Back to the video. When moving pictures first became popular, it was common to simply take pictures of mundane life in and around a city or town, and then display it for the locals while charging a little money for admission. People liked seeing themselves on film, and liked seeing familiar things in a new way.

Movies like this one are more valuable to us because they show mundane life as it was. Entertainment on film from early in the 20th century isn't nearly as much fun to look at. I've noticed the same phenomenon in newspapers. A brand new newspaper is useless twaddle. An old newspaper is full of all sorts of interesting things, most of them not the news stories. When I had to fix a dormer atop the back of my house, I stripped off the shingles and found the whole thing was sheathed in newspaper. It served as a sort of primitive house wrap to keep out drafts. It was all from 1910, so I figure the dormer was an addition; the house was supposedly built in 1901. It's technically a Victorian, because the old girl was still alive, if only for a few more months. The newspaper was perfectly readable. The advertisements were the best part, and the paper on the whole served as a mute tombstone to the bustling city where it was published a century ago, which is now a disreputable place with a ghostly population that favors plywood curtains for their windows.

All in all, I prefer the real ghosts. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

I'm the Burning Bush, I'm the Burning Fire, I'm the Bleeding Volcano

That animated gif isn't from this year. This year there's been snow on the ground continuously since, since, well, let's call it forever, because I can't remember. But there's not as much as last year. It's too cold to snow. There's no ground showing or anything, but the snow is  glacial, not slide-y.

I have to pay close attention to the weather because it's hard to heat the house. I don't watch television, and wouldn't watch a TV weather report if I did. I do look at a webpage that has high and low temps projected on a calendar. Well, I did. I got to be a fairly good hand at triangulating what the actual temperature might be by using the hinky numbers they offered. I used to use one webpage, but it went full retard, hid all the temperature numbers, and covered the entire surface of the website with video thumbnails that tout YouTube videos with titles like: You won't believe what happened to this one couple while they were shoe shopping and eating artisanal cupcakes on their honeymoon! The entire page turned into linkbait crapola too stupid for Buzzfeed. The weather was around back, I guess, like it would be if you bought an elephant and fed it refried beans.

I turned it off and tried what my wife calls the Happy Funtime Weather! webpage. She calls it that because they always say it will be five to ten degrees warmer than it is. It cheers her up to see it. It's like people telling you that you look mahvelous when you're caught taking the trash out to the curb in your sweat clothes and slippers, with your hair making architectural poses and sleep seeds in your eyes. Besides, who are you going to believe, the weather channel or your lying eyes and the thermometer?

Anyway, I turned it on a few days ago, and Happy Funtime Weather! decided they'd change the site to default to Centrigade temperatures, because they're hopeless weenies, and it said it was going to be 22 below zero that day, which looked a bit off to me. It took me a few moments to figure out what had happened.

It had been 17 below zero a week ago, but that was good old Fahrenheit numbers. On the same day I got up and saw it was 17 below zero at daybreak, the Happy Funtime Weather! channel was trumpeting a story I wasn't interested in from a Maine newspaper. It said that some commissar had announced that ALL WAS WELL, and because it was so hot all the time, people in Maine shouldn't worry about their heating bills, because it was so hot. Those bills were going to be so low, because it was so hot.

I've run out of shipping pallets to burn, so I'm slowly taking apart the barbarous shelving someone built out of rough lumber all around  the basement of my house 75 years ago, and I'm burning it in the furnace.  Luckily, none of that will show up on by heating bill, which will be so low, because it's so hot.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Putting on the Ritz Cracker

Kids gotta make their own fun. They pick up all the stuff we leave lying around the house of the world, and play blocks with it as best they can. It's not up to them what kind of stuff they find to play with when they escape the playpen. Crack pipe or Rubik's Cube, they're bound to fiddle with it.

My children are a rock band in my attic. I mean that literally as well as figuratively. I have seen what other parents are subjected to when their children get old enough to make amplified noise, and it ain't pretty. My children are always delightful, and I never get tired of hearing what they play. I guess that means we left the right stuff on the living room floor. Yay us.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Epiphone Wildkat Reviews, Unorganized Hancock-Style

Epiphone Wildkat Guitar Reviews Are All the Rage

My two sons have a band called Unorganized Hancock. They've been recording music videos for a couple of years, and they perform here and there around the state of Maine where we live. It's interesting to see which of their YouTube music videos become more popular than others, and try to figure out why.

Unorganized Hancock: The Most Famous Band You Never Heard Of

Unorganized Hancock have almost reached 50,000 YouTube views for their YouTube channel. No matter what YouTube says, their algorithms don't count all, or even a small minority of the views these videos generate. YouTube claims they count embedded views, but they don't. If you're unfamiliar with the term "embedded," it means that you watch them directly on the website that features them, without going directly to YouTube first. YouTube might count them if you're already logged into YouTube, which is uncommon when people are reading text-centric blogs and websites like mine. Actually, I doubt they count those, either.

Unorganized Hancock's Grandmother Doesn't Count, Apparently

I estimate that Unorganized Hancock has actually had well over 250,000 video views. It's easy for me to tell, because I can see how many people watch them on my blog alone. Hell, their grandmother has watched their videos more than 50,000 times. The boys have been embedded on lots of other blogs besides mine, many with much more traffic than mine. YouTube fibs, for reasons of its own. They want people to use YouTube as a social media platform, and that's that. If you've ever wondered why you find YouTube videos that say "embedding disabled by owner's request," that's why. The account holder is tired of showing the video without getting YouTube hits on his counter.

They Did A Killer Version of Take Five

Unorganized Hancock recorded Dave Brubeck's Take Five about two years ago. I re-posted it on Wednesday, a charming form of recycling, I hope. My little drummer boy was only nine when that video was made, and he was playing flawlessly in 5/4 Time with no metronome, a near impossibility at his age. His big brudder played two guitar parts, and the bass part too. The video was very well-received, and embedded at dozens of blogs and message boards. Their original dub of the song, which has a very cute joke at the beginning of it, has about 4600 views on the counter, and a hi-def upload that's straight music has another 2600. That's nonsense of course. Those videos got ten times that, easy, but let's not quibble. A broken ruler makes the same, reliable mistake. Let's go with it.

Minor Swing, By Minors, Swinging

The most popular video Unorganized Hancock has recorded, Take Five, is about to be eclipsed by their take on Minor Swing, made famous by gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt. It's a so-so take for the boys if you ask me. They were tired, and the big one had been sick, and though the audience wouldn't notice so much, I can still see it wasn't their lively best. It did OK when I posted it on this blog, and then it was forgotten. Here it is:

Epiphone Wildkat Guitar Reviews Are Now Unorganized Hancock's Biggest Fans

Minor Swing is about to pass Take Five, even though it wasn't that popular when it was posted, and we've done nothing to promote it. That's because Unorganized Hancock's version of Minor Swing made the list of the most prominent videos for people searching for: Epiphone Wildkat Guitar Reviews. It really isn't a review, or it's a far superior review than all the others, depending on your outlook on life. The Heir plays an Epiphone Wildkat Guitar that his mother and I gave him for Christmas a couple years back, using money that generous supporters of this blog put in our tipjar. The guitar is prominently displayed in the thumbnail of the video, completely by accident. That's it. Every morning when they get up, their YouTube counter tells them that somewhere between 25 and 100 people watch that video while they were asleep, because they want to see a Epiphone Wildkat Review, and the thumbnail is irresistible.

Hell, they've played Minor Swing live and done a better job:

That second video doesn't have the Epiphone Wildkat guitar in the thumbnail picture, so it has 384 views, no comments, and 10 Likes.

By this method -- or lack of a method, just YouTube madness -- Unorganized Hancock's version of Minor Swing is watched more than any of their other videos, by people who have nothing to do with me, and nothing to do with them. You get an unvarnished opinion, straight from the world that Unorganized Hancock must enter if they are ultimately to be successful. Do strangers like you? The rest is applesauce. Strangers do.

A Busted Ruler Measures the Same Way, Every Time

Unorganized Hancock's version of Minor Swing currently has 77 likes. [oops, while I was writing this, the counter turned to 78] There are more comments than any other video, and they're full of enthusiastic swears in affirmation. That video has delivered more subscribers to their YouTube channel in the last month than they got in the previous year. People looking for Epiphone Wildkat reviews on YouTube are quickly becoming Unorganized Hancock's biggest audience, if only because they're the only ones that are being counted fully. It's the way the Internet works. It doesn't make a lick of sense, but no one asked us how to run it. The kids just play -- play Minor Swing -- along.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Preciso Praticar Meu Português. Never Mind. They Speak Beatles

That's from a show in Brazil called Programa do Jô. It's something along the lines of the Johnny Carson show. Oops, I mean the Leno Show. Dammit, the Letterman Show or something.

Wait a minute, I have no idea if Letterman is still on the air, either. Whatever. On Programa do Jô, a Chilean waiter serves the guests cocktails and food while they're on the air. And they have Beatles cover bands that probably don't have any idea what the words mean in the songs they're singing.
Hey, you've got to guzzle Cabernet!

Hey, you've got an ugly fiancee!

Hey, Yul Brynner hides your lunch away!

Hey, read me a book by le Carre!

Hey, you've got to give me some sorbet!
As I said, whatever. Most people have no idea what the words are, or what they're driving at. In most cases, the composer had no idea what they were driving at either. Writing songs is more a knack than a trade. You're supposed to give the audience a vague feeling one way or the other, and try to concatenate the notes so it can be hummed. That's about it.

A half-decent folk song is hard to come by these days. These Brazilian coves knew where to look.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Take Five. Now Hipster Brubeck Aficionado Approved

Firstly  let me adjust my Patagonia heritage jacket. I won't take it off, even if it's 95 degrees at the loft party. I wear it open. Totally insouciant that way. There's a hint of plaid underneath. Not in my outfit. That's entirely plaid. The hint of plaid is on my skin. I've never been outdoors in the daytime, so I'm sort of sallow, and my plaid shirt, T-shirt, tie, and underpants are starting to leave little checkerboard patterns directly on my skin. Must be all the Fair Trade dye. I'm not wearing sunglasses, of course. That would be silly. I'm wearing mountaineering glasses. Inside. At night.

Anyway, I only listen to Nepalese Dave Brubeck cover bands. You probably haven't heard of them.

When I can't find Nepalese Dave Brubeck cover bands on vinyl at my locavore Greek yogurt stand/independent music store, I'll settle for these two deck cronkites laying it down in an unheated hovel. It's Western Maine, but at least it isn't midtown. They make me want to bust a polyrhythm moby. Peace out.

[Update: Many Thanks to Kathleen M. in the Nutmeg State for her constant support of my boys' efforts via the TipJar. We greatly appreciate it.]

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Everyone Knows A Trombone Can Kill Anything

I do believe the Geneva Convention specifically mentions torture devices like trombones. It's right up there with harsh language, unsolicited head baths,  and Taco Bell food, which if I recall correctly is listed under germ warfare.

That video has a style I recognize. There don't seem to be any credits appended to it, but it sure looks like a video I ran years ago by a guy named Czarek Cwazny. I have no idea why his parents named him after the bug juice I used to spill on the carpet in the living room while watching Star Trek, but he's a talented feller. If it's not him, he should sue, or talk angrily, or something.