Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Calling all Axe People

As I mentioned a bit earlier, I purchased an electric guitar and I know enough to keep myself occupied for a while, but not enough to improve at any rate of speed. Pa've was kind of enough to offer to lend me a book, but I think I would like something I owned myself so I can desecrate it as I see fit.

I know a number of you play guitar out there so I am wondering if you know of any web or printed materials which might put me on the road to being a passable guitar player. I am pretty good on music theory (at least for what I need) and pretty weak on playing techniques.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Uncle Cliffy Keeps on Playing

Remember when the Blazers were good and the players were universally loved back around 90, 91, and 92? Most of those guys are now in NBA front offices or coaches. However, Cliff Robinson, at 39, is still playing and still scoring. Brian Meehan at The Oregonian wrote a piece called "Robinson is forever young in the NBA".

When Clifford Ralph Robinson began his NBA career, Antoine Wright, a teammate on the New Jersey Nets, was just 5 years old. Nets coach Lawrence Frank, now 35, was entering his freshman year at Indiana.

Seventeen seasons later, Robinson holds the NBA's ranking seniority. If he were a Congressman, he'd be chairing Ways and Means.

At 39, Robinson is long removed from 1989, when the Blazers drafted the Connecticut forward in the second round. But Robinson still is going strong, averaging 23 minutes for the Atlantic Division-leading Nets.


Friday night marked Robinson's 1,289th game, which ranks 11th in NBA history. If he appears in all 42 of the Nets' remaining games, Robinson would rank seventh all-time, passing Elvin Hayes, Buck Williams and Moses Malone.

My money is he will play in them all -- in 17 seasons this guy has missed just 24 games because of injury. And his 19,072 points are more than the total of any other active player except Shaquille O'Neal and Gary Payton.

Thanks Clifford Robinson for 17 years of great basketball.

The Next Eric Clapton

I've been a good little drone at work and received a nice gift certificate, so I decided to do something frivolous and buy an electric guitar and amp. I haven't played any music in years and no guitar at all other than plunking around on Moody and Pa've's axes a couple decades ago. I still remember a few chords and the Internet has several places to learn more, so what the heck?

As an unrelated sidenote, our Asiaficianados, Moody Minstrel and Pandabonium, have some good stuff on the Chinese New Year (or lunar new year for us loonies). Click their names above for the links.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Happy Birthday, Wolfie!!!!!!!

John Chrysostom Wolfgang Theophilus Mozart (pause for breath) was born on January 27th, 1756. Last Friday would have been his 250th birthday. As a musician/conductor/composer, I don't see how I missed it, particularly with all the hype going around. I guess I got too wrapped up in other things...such as blog comment threads...

He actually adopted the name "Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart" as a sort of stage nickname, "Amadeus" being a Latin translation of Greek "Theophilus". The well-known movie Amadeus isn't exactly the most accurate portrayal of Mozart's life. (It is, after all, the story of Mozart as seen through the eyes of a madman.) However, it does give a basic idea of his personal story, from his father's merciless exploitation of his wunderkind talents (including a hard life of touring that, many experts say, probably wrecked his health, contributing to his early death), his marriage to affectionate but lazy Constance Weber (cousin of the famous composer Carl Maria von Weber), and his obsessive composing efforts while struggling to make ends meet in Vienna.

The real "Wolfie" was probably a bit less geeky and definitely a lot more pompous than the character in the movie (as he is said to have been impatient with and contemptuous of musicians and composers of lesser talent...to the point of being cruel to his co-performers or those serving under his baton). He was also constantly plagued by both his ill health and his lack of funds. As the movie correctly portrays, his early successes apparently earned the jealousy and wrath of court composer Antonia Salieri and his supporters, and it seemed political barriers were constantly being thrown in his path. (At least Mozart himself seemed to think so, though there is still considerable debate. At any rate, the two didn't get along.) In the end, Mozart had to go to Prague to get his operas The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni properly staged. Even so, he got little income from his work, and he often had to pawn off the gifts he was given in order to buy meals. Ironically, the King of Prussia invited him to what could have been a lucrative court position, but he abandoned it when Emperor Leopold begged him to stay. In the end, as the movie shows, he died young, poor, and sick while in the middle of writing his Requiem. (However, unlike the movie, in real life it was not Salieri that was helping him write it but rather one of his students and one or two of his friends. In his final moments, Mozart was no longer able to speak, but he continued to use body language to convey instructions to his student. He kept composing right up to the moment of his death.)

No one knows where Mozart's remains are interred, for he was dumped into a nameless, common grave with several other poor individuals. Later, in keeping with laws that were in effect in those days, his body was exhumed and cremated to make room for more. There are no records as to where the ashes were put. The "tombstone" in Vienna stands over no body. It's as if he was simply erased from existence (like with a phaser), but his music remains.

And, man, does his music ever remain! Stylistically, Mozart's works can be immediately compared with those of Joseph Haydn, who was actually one of Mozart's teachers at one stage. However, Mozart's own works seem more inventive and, somehow, have more emotional impact. There is apparently a scientific explanation for this. Some psychologists have said that Mozart's music actually produces the right range of tones to enhance brain function or aid in relaxation. I don't know if that's true or not, but I do know that listening to some of his less action-packed tunes can put me in a meditative (no, not asleep) state.

Love him or hate him, Wolfie is here to stay. Now...where did I put my magic flute?

Two New Links

I added two new links over on the right: Goemagog's Artificial Monkeys blog and Corncob Bob's blog.

Corncob Bob has been a long time contributor here at Snabulus and his addition to linkdom is long overdue. I have a sneaky suspicion that it may not be authored by an ear of corn, but rather by a rabbit. Nonetheless, shower him with your comments.

Goemagog is a recent contributor to the comments who has been doing some yeoman's work fact checking our full-time professors of culture war studies, Moody Minstrel and Pa've (and occasional adjunct professor Vulgarius).

Reaching Out to the Third Abrahamic Child

I thought this was a nice, positive story involving the Catholic Church to help offset all the bad vibes oozing from that rapidly-bloating comment thread under that Chinese world map thingie. The Vatican is looking into the possibility of opening up even more to other religions.

Apparently they have one particular religion in mind right now. The Vatican already maintains an official dialogue with Jews. Now it is exploring the third option:

"It is important to enter into discussions with the third 'Abrahamic child' - Islam," Singer said in the statement. "No one in the meetings has underestimated the difficulties in bringing about a meaningful dialogue. But we all agreed that the principle of mutual respect can override differences that exist between the religions."

Hmm...if only our own evangelically-minded administration could be as enlightened...

Friday, January 27, 2006

Valentine's Day

Well pretty soon an excuse to spend money on your beloved of choice will be coming your way....

Here are some fun, and cheap ways to celebrate - First you can send an email vintage Valentine here. Or perhaps let your love lie abed that day and fix breakfast.
Finally, you can download a funky Valentine's Day card template from Martha Stewart, (of course there are many other Valentine ideas in the holiday section; more recipes, kid crafts, and flower arrangements).
So here's hoping a restful, creative and fun Valentine's Day is in your future!

Speaking of Media Myths

Space Shuttle Challenger did not explode.

No, millions did not see it do so live on TV. The crew was not killed when it did so. Those are myths.

Don't believe me? Check out the linked article.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Did China Discover America First?

The Chinese have been claiming for some time (and on certain friends' blog sites) that they discovered America back in 1418, during the Ming Dynasty, more than 70 years before Columbus. Now they say they have a map that helps back up the claim.

The map in question was actually made in 1763, during the Qing Dynasty, but it is said to be a copy of a Ming original. If it is authentic, the level of detail is remarkable. It does have some errors; California is represented as an island, and Australia is small and a bit misplaced. However, the fact that the Chinese knew all of the continents and understood the concept of a round Earth decades before Europe got over their flat-Earth hangup boggles the mind.

So...is it real, or is it like one of those low-cost DVDs?

Correction: After an extremely drawn-out and rather convoluted debate, one anonymous poster finally provided a weblink that could have ended it all at the start. It turns out that the flat Earth comment was mistaken, as the whole flat Earth business was likely a myth started in the 19th century. We regret the error. (In fact, we regret that whole debate even took place for reasons to be discussed later.)

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The World's Oldest Preppie...in Ireland??!?

Or was he the world's oldest punk rock star?

The bodies of two prehistoric men were recently found in a peat bog in Ireland. Because of the bacterial condition of the bog, the two ancients were remarkably well preserved.

They were also full of surprises. For one thing, the duo apparently consisted of a short, wealthy man and his bodyguard. The reason is that, while the "bodyguard" was a 6'6" tall monster of a man, his much shorter companion was very stylishly dressed...right down to the imported French resin he used as hair gel to set his hair in a style reminiscent of a Mohawk. Apparently he wanted to make himself look taller, or at least less short.

Also surprising (or not) is the fact that the pair were both murdered. The "bodyguard" apparently went down fighting, but he failed to protect his dapper companion, who got his head bashed in.

Hmm...is there a 102nd use for a dead preppie?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Once More unto the Breach for Le Guin

Even though the SciFi channel screwed it up, I get the feeling that Studio Ghibli won't. "Screw up what?" you ask. Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea novels I say. Click here for the Japanese link (and click here for the English translation) to Ghibli's animated version of Tales from Earthsea. From the English version website:

Based on the Earthsea series by Ursula K. Le Guin.

The literal translation of the Japanese is "GED military history" or "A military history of GED". A more sensible translation is "Ged's war chronicle" or "Ged's history of the war". The official English title is "Tales from Earthsea".

Directed by Goro MIYAZAKI, script by Goro MIYAZAKI and Keiko NIWA, music by Tamiya TERASHIMA.

As to which tales, here is a mixed answer from the translator...

Q: What book is the film based upon?

The film will be mainly based on the volume 3 (The Farthest Shore) of the series. The English title is "Tales from Earthsea," so the film will probably mix several episodes from various volumes.

After enjoying the heck out of Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle, I am excited to see what is coming to us in June 2006!