Thursday, December 31, 2009

Demonizing insurers

Private health insurers provide under 40% of healthcare funding in the US today. Their average medical loss ratio is 90% -- that is, out of every $1 in ratepayer money, 90 cents goes out to pay claims. What that means is that if they had $0 profit and 0% overhead, we as a nation would save a whole whopping 4% of our national health care costs.

So it's not insurers that are causing your 20% rate increases every year. It's providers -- the people who say, literally, "your money or your life", and refuse to provide life-saving procedures until you agree to pay them enough for a third or fourth home and a private jet of their own. Providers have no -- zero -- incentive to contain costs, because they know they're holding a loaded gun to your head. Either you pay what they demand that you pay, or you die. (This, BTW, is why primary care physicians are *not* paid very much -- you don't die if you don't get a physical, so they don't have that deadly force available to force you to pay outrageous amounts of money for medical procedures).

We need to deal with the way that insurers are handling the problem of rapidly escalating health care costs -- i.e., by kicking people out of the system and arbitrarily denying approvals for expensive procedures in hopes that the sick people will die before they have to pay out -- and handle the issue of people who can't afford insurance for whatever reason. So insurers are evil, but they're not the evil that's causing your 20% rate increases every year. To handle the rate increase problem we have to go to the core: the people who are literally saying, "your money or your life" and hijacking us all at gunpoint so that they can have the same gleaming under-used medical diagnostics equipment as the hospital across the street or otherwise provide healthcare services in an inefficient manner. Because those are the people who are causing your rate increases -- *not* the insurers. The insurers aren't good guys here, but unless you identify the correct culprit in the costs escalation problem, you haven't a hope in hell of solving it. Hint: Demonizing the insurers and accusing them of causing the costs escalation is about as idiotic as blaming President Obama for the Bush recession...

To summarize: We solve the costs issue by adopting the French system of government-mandated rates for every provider who accepts government-regulated insurance, we don't need to go to single-payer for that. (France is not exactly single-payer -- various guilds have their own insurance funds separate from the overall public fund). Blasting the German/Swiss amalgam set up by the current healthcare reform bills as "can't contain costs" because it's not single-payer simply isn't a reasonable criticism, because it's not the payers that's the problem with costs -- it's the providers. And demonizing the payers doesn't do shit about that.

-- Badtux the Healthcare Penguin

Sony Reader Mac incompatibility WARNING!

The DRM module for the Sony Reader product is incompatible with the 64-bit Mac kernel. The symptom is that the reader shows up as 'Error' in the Sony Library application rather than as 'Reader', and if you attempt to go to the Sony store and manage your authorized systems, the application will crash as it attempts to load a 32-bit DRM module into a 64-bit kernel. If you have 8 gigabytes of memory in your Mac and therefore aren't willing to boot into a 32-bit kernel (and lose access to half that memory), either use VMware and a 32-bit Windows installation, or use the free Calibre program to manage your Reader.

Note that Calibre will not allow you to authorize/deauthorize devices with the Sony store for reading DRM-"protected" content but then DRM is for fools anyhow because if Sony decided tomorrow to quit creating Reader devices and close the Sony store (with its authorization/deauthorization mechanisms), all your DRM-"protected" content would become worthless as soon as your current Reader device wore out. There are a million books available via Google Books that are *not* DRM-protected, and there are vendors like Baen Books whose books are similarly not DRM-protected. If someone wants to sell you a DRM-protected book, just say no and go borrow the book from your local public library -- f*** the bastards who want to ass-rape you with that DRM bullshit, they get $0 from you if you borrow it from the library instead and that's exactly what they should get from you -- $0. Books that can vanish into thin air tomorrow just because some asshole vendor decided to leave the eBook business are worthless. Just ask all those people whose copy of George Orwell's 1984 disappeared from their Kindle.

-- Badtux the ePenguin

U S A! U S A! U S A!

Iran has better health care than Mississippi.

Yay! We're number, uhm, something something something! U S A! U S A! U S A! Woot!

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

The perfect vs. the ideal

Lefties are predictably up in arms about the multi-payer Swiss/German amalgam universal health care bill that has been passed in both houses of Congress (in slightly different forms that will have to go through reconciliation). "We need single-payer!", many cry. There's one problem with that: in all the polls, the Swiss/German style multi-payer system polls higher than single-payer does. As in, 75% approval rating vs. 55% approval rating. And the chances of Democrats getting the spine to choose the less popular option are almost nil, jellyfish have more spine than the Democratic Congress.

So it simply isn't going to happen unless the American people as a whole change their mind. The notion that health care should be a right rather than a privilege has overwhelming support from the American people -- as in, close to 80% support in the polls I looked at. So the Republicans are pushing against the tide in their continual whining that health care should be a privilege rather than a right, there *will* be health care reform that has some measure of guarantee of universal health care for all Americans. But unless more Americans support single-payer than support multi-payer -- and all the polls say this is not the case -- single-payer has as much chance of being passed as my cat has of solving quantum physics problems. It just ain't happen. So we have to look at the possible, rather than the perfect, and try to make it as good as possible rather than the ideal that we'd all like.

There's nothing *inherently* wrong with the basic health care financing architecture set up by the bill. It's not single-payer, but single-payer is not necessary in order to get the benefits we typically attribute to single-payer (reduction in paperwork and claims-processing expenses, reducing in overhead, etc.). Heavily regulating health insurers to limit their profits to a certain percentage, eliminating arbitrary denials of coverage and lifetime limits, preventing them from arbitrarily denying claims, and forcing them to use a common claims-processing center that enforces common claims codes and paperwork across all insurers can get most of those benefits without single-payer. Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, and Austria (amongst others) get universal health care this way, after all. The question is whether we're going to regulate the health insurers sufficiently and give sufficient subsidies to the working class and lower middle class to make this setup work. Right now I'm seeing no signs that this is going to happen. We'll have to see, I guess.

- Badtux the Practical Penguin

In the smog

Bill Callahan / Smog, "To Be of Use", from the Smog album Red Apple Falls. One of the gurus of simplicity that I consulted for "Bridges".

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Grrr, got the AM/PM mixed up again when I queued this for today! I posted it immediately after the previous post, but queued up to show up at 1:32AM on the 31st. I thought. The reality appears to be something different ;).

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Not a happy song. But by and large I am happy with what I accomplished with the song. I took the prior attempt at this song, which had grown to novel size, and consulted the gurus of simplicity to strip it down to the fundamentals and got it down to 3:40 in length. I abandon VCV but don't abandon repetition entirely, it serves a valuable purpose in a song to highlight the things you want to highlight.

This is roughly the fourth time through with these general lyrics. In fact, the lyrics I'm singing aren't exactly the lyrics on the lyrics sheet that I'm looking at on the shelf above the camera, I changed a few things to make it feel right (just as I'd done during the previous take, which again changed things over the *prior* lyrics sheet). Forgive the camera angle and the mix (which puts my voice way out front), this is a rough take on a work in process. Everything is going through the computer-attached mixer so I can hear the guitar and voice parts through my monitor headphones so all I did was hit the "record" button on iMovie to actually record using my laptop's camera while all this is going on.

As for what the song means... well. All I'll say is that it is fiction, part of my Bottomlands cycle, and the rest is for you to think about.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Blogger fail ate all my blogrolls!

Siiiiiiigh. I guess this means I get to use some other method now to maintain my blogrolls, since Blogger obviously is massive Fail there.

-- Badtux the Bummed Penguin

In the doghouse

Seasick Steve, friends. An old sometimes-homeless dude with three strings on his guitar, an old wooden box as his percussion section, his John Deere cap on his head, singing some doghouse blues.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin


I am going to be transitioning the blog shortly to a Blogspot domain. The issue is mostly one of making my blog recession-proof -- if I can't afford my hosting fees due to unemployment, illness, or other bad thing happening, I'll still have a blog. More news on the rehosting front shortly...

-- Badtux the Pragmatic Penguin

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Quote of the day

If bin Laden et al. were really serious about attacking the US they would start a health insurance company, and make a lot of money while killing Americans… you know, like Aetna and Blue Cross.

-- Bryan at Why Now


Working on yet another song, titled "Bridges". It's a love story. Sort of. And too damned long -- my first take was almost 7 minutes long, though granted probably a minute of that was a long solo that can be easily cut. I have to also put more references to bridges into the early part of the song, for reasons that become obvious by the end to the song.

I admire people who can write these mysterious songs about things you're not quite sure about. Me, I'm like a friggin' hammer. My stuff is generally about as subtle as a slap in the face, and tells a story, a vignette of sorts. I guess I'm more out of the Tom T. Hall school of songwriting, which maybe isn't a bad thing, but definitely has its own limitations. Chalk it up to hearing too much country music growing up, I guess.

The main problem with that style of songwriting is that it tends to sprawl. If you want to do VCV (verse-chorus-verse) it sprawls even further. Add in being a bit woozy with a cold, and that doesn't help the sprawl at all. So anyhow, I have a first cut, I know what the song is about, some tentative lyrics... now I just need to actually do the hard work of lassoing this lassie and cutting her down to size.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Good news and bad news

The good news is that my temperature is 98.8, so I don't have the flu. The bad news is that yeah, it might just be a cold, but it's knocking me loopy...

Update at 1:45PM: Just finished sucking down half a gallon of chicken soup (actually, Vietnamese Pho Ga). Feel *much* better, though still feel like I have a cold. Chicken soup really is the wonder drug :-).

-- Badtux the Ill Penguin

Health care deform

One hilarious outcome of the current health care "debate" is the consistent Republican insistence upon eliminating Medicaid and replacing it with health insurance subsidies. The problem with dropping Medicaid is that Medicaid is *much* cheaper than private health insurance. We currently spend less than HALF as much per-patient with Medicaid as the average private health insurance premium. This is part of why the Massachusetts experiment resulted in exploding health care costs there -- most Medicaid funding got diverted into health insurance subsidies there, and the result was a huge increase in costs compared to simply giving hospitals uncompensated care Medicaid funding for caring for the uninsured. I thought Republicans were about fiscal prudence? Oh wait, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Never mind ;).

Regarding the question of "is government subsidies and regulation of health insurers Constitutional", the Constitution mentions "the general welfare" *twice*, in the pre-amble and in the section describing the powers given to Congress (the power to pass laws to improve the general welfare -- as vs. the welfare of specific individuals -- being one of them). The Supremes already danced on this with Medicare and Medicaid. It's a non-starter -- there is no (zero) Constitutional barrier to setting up a mandatory health insurance program (like Medicare) or provide health care subsidies for the poor (Medicaid), or provide whatever regulation of private insurers is needed in order to insure the general welfare (as vs. the welfare of specified individuals).

As for all the theoretical mumbo-jumbo about how government should not be in the business of health insurance, look. We have a practical problem here: A huge number of uninsured, and a huge number of insured people who are not getting the care they're paying insurers for due to recissions, lifetime limits, and simple refusals to pay. "Let them eat cake" is *not* a viable policy for government in a democracy. It simply isn't. The majority (those who are being told to eat cake) will *not* tolerate it for a long time. Either they will overthrow any government which tells them that the solution to their health care problems is "eating cake" via voting it out of office, or if that doesn't work, they will overthrow it violently, but they *will* overthrow it. This is America. We may be sheeple most of the time (just stand in line at the airport "security" checkpoints to see that), but we're also a violent, vicious people who do *not* take well to being subjects rather than a free people. The overwhelming majority of Americans, in all polls, even Fox News polls, say that health care is a right that government must guarantee. As in, 70% to 80% of Americans in *ALL* polls say this.

In a democracy, no government can ignore this except at its own mortal peril. What that means is that however this plays out (and I'm as disappointed with the current bills in the House and Senate here as anybody is), government is going to *have* to do something to guarantee health care for all Americans, regardless of any theoretical quibbles, or end up on the street -- or under the graveyard after Madam Guillotine Time happens (just ask Marie Antoinette about *that* consequence of "let them eat cake" ignoring the will of the majority, oh wait, you can't, the majority chopped her head off). I realize that many conservatives hate democracy (they sneer at it as "the tyranny of the majority"), but what's the conservative alternative? The only alternative I've seen is a tyranny where jackboots enforce the will of a minority upon the majority. That never turns out well.

-- Badtux the Practical Penguin

Helium voice

Noise rockers Helium with their song "XXX", circa 1994. Mary Timony had a good voice, but the music didn't resonate with a lot of people, so after two albums Helium broke up. Just another one of the interesting things that happened in music in the 1990s, it really was a decade of musical experimentation as labels tried to jump on the Nirvana alt-rock bandwagon and signed anybody who sounded "alternative". Most of those bands, like Helium, had no prayer of selling a million albums, and so they ended up falling by the wayside. But the music still exists, if only as electronic downloads...

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Monday, December 28, 2009

I gwot a cowd

I have returned early from vacation because of a miserable cold that I picked up on that bleepin' aluminum tube to Buffalo. Friggin' virus spreading mechanisms, that's all that modern jet airliners are...

-- Badtux the miserable Penguin

The anti-pop

Thing about the 90's was that you didn't need a bass guitar. Two guitars and a drummer, and you were in business. Since most bassists are guitarists frustrated that they can't get a gig playing guitar, that was sorta handy, but now things are back to normal and bands have a bass guitar again to go booming away at the bottom end.

This is Sleater-Kinney when they were still in their riot grrl phase, "Not What You Want" , album is Dig Me Out. Corinne Tucker's voice is... unusual. She has a yelp that has a quaver in it. Doesn't sound bad, just different.

Sleater-Kinney appears to have broken up. A pity, their last album (The Woods) was pretty good. Carrie Brownstein says they pretty much did everything they wanted to do, made the record they always wanted to make, and have no reason to get back together. I guess that's as good a reason to stop playing music as any.

- Badtux the Music Penguin

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A woman who likes sex?

Warning - do not click on above if you are offended by descriptions of sexual activities ;).

Liz Phair hit the airwaves in '94 with Exile in Guyland. Okay, didn't hit the airwaves, at least not with this song, "Flower", which is so obscene that it violates probably every FCC code ;). But that was the point, I think. That's what made you "leading edge", having songs so obscene that they can't be played anywhere that children might hear them. Because, after all, it would be just plain wrong to let children know that women can like sex too, right?

-- Badtux the Nature Penguin

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Drunken Angel

No, not her song about Blaze Foley, I've already mentioned that one. But for many of Lucinda Williams' recent performances, it seems she's been hitting the sauce pretty heavily before getting up on stage. I suppose when you've written as many great songs for as little public recognition as Lucinda's gotten there's a reason for that, but let's hope she doesn't go the way of her friend Townes van Zandt and drink herself to death.

This is the song "Out of Touch", from her album Essence, which was a trip through the stories heard in hard-luck East Texas bars sung by a lady who'd obviously been there. Lucinda's rough voice was made for these kinds of songs -- they're not pretty, and having them sung by some pretty-voiced pop tart would be an atrocity.

-- Badtux the Rough-livin' Penguin

Oh yeah, my apologies for yesterday's lapse of sanity. I'm just not much of a holiday penguin, and an outrageously cynical song like that seemed entirely appropriate. "Cherry cherry boom boom" indeed...

Friday, December 25, 2009

My gift to you

To give you this gift, I subjected my ears to unspeakable horrors, and my Internet connections to the evil connivings of Teh YouTubes, which did everything in its power to stop me. Well, not everything in its power, just disabling embedding on its videos, like fools. But, inspired by the spirit of Jazzbumpa, I persevered, I survived my journey into the depths of the pop culture sewer, found the very soul of the modern Christmas spirit, and I emerged with your pearl of gleaming, shining... Lady Gaga.

I would say "enjoy", but I'm not sure that's possible if you're not in on the joke that is Lady Gaga's "Christmas Tree".

A few years back, a sincere young lady by the name of Stefani Germanotta tried to get signed by a record label. After getting rejected time after time by studio reps who said that yes, she sang pretty but she was, in the end, just another well-padded Italian girl playing the piano and singing pretty, she got frustrated. One day, while playing her piano at a club, she got so frustrated because everybody was talking rather than listening to her music that she stood up and ripped off her clothes and started screaming at the audience. Everybody paid attention. That was the genesis of Lady Gaga: Stefani Germanotta's realization that people didn't want nice meaningful lyrics and a pleasant melody. They wanted sex. They wanted violence. They wanted to dance their booties off. So Ms. Germanotta studied the masters -- David Bowie, Madonna, Queen (from which she got the name "Gaga") -- consulted the appropriate glam pop dance music svengalis, dyed her dark hair to blond, and set out to be the next pop dance queen.

Question is, where does she go from here? Stefani Germanotta proved her point that gleaming, shining well polished shit turds sell. A large portion of her audience is in on the joke, but a joke repeated time after time is no longer a joke. So now what? My guess is that ten years from now, there will be some new joke, and Stefani Germanotta will be back behind her piano in small clubs, hair dark again, once again pounding out pretty songs that nobody listens to inbetween her day job selling cosmetics at a Macy's Store and her evening job as a waitress at a restaurant. That, sadly, is the usual fate of people who take the cynical approach to the music business rather than following their muse where it takes them... usually they end up being eaten alive by a machine that has seem way too many of them over the years to not know how to deal with them, spat out, then some new phenom takes their place a few months later. So it goes.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Cheerful Christmas Music Blogging

Okay, I lied.

Townes Van Zandt once said, when asked why he wrote so many sad songs, "they're not sad, they're hopeless." I beg to disagree. This song, "Tecumseh Valley", is both.

Tomorrow be sure to come by, I have some very special Christmas music for you tomorrow. Jazzbumpa in particular will especially enjoy it.

-- Badtux the "Merry Christmas" Penguin

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Just checkin in

Glad to see you guys haven't burned the blog down while I was away ;).

-- Badtux the Vacationing Penguin

Old hippy

Who is James McMurtry, what is this song named "Down Across the Delaware", and what is that album Where'd You Hide the Body? In a better world you would know the answer to those questions without having to Google the answer.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


"Soldiers Get Strange", by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. Jason is a kinda doughy youngster who, in person, sounds kinda goofy. But when he gets up on that stage and sings a song like this, he's damn well serious. The Drive By Truckers pulled him in as a guitarist when their prior guitarist left and Jason stepped in and not only played guitar, but contributed some of the best songs on the three albums he was with the Truckers. Now Jason's on his own, touring, touring, touring, never staying in any city more than two days at a time. I suppose some people have so many things happening in their head that they can't stand to stay in one place too long for fear that something will explode.

-- Badtux the Merry Christmas Penguin

Monday, December 21, 2009

Blue Monday music

Black Heart Procession, "Guess I'll Forget You". BHP has been called "music to slit your wrists by". Merry Mondaymas, ho ho ho.

-- Badtux the "Bah Humbug!" Penguin

Sunday, December 20, 2009

There is no such thing as ghosts

I almost expect her to stamp her foot at the end of the song when she does this song, expressing frustration with people who insist upon believing in things that don't exist and who waste their time trying to convince her to believe in ghosts.

This is Emmy the Great, singing "The Easter Parade". Uhm, note that she was born to a Chinese mother and raised in Hong Kong, and thus unlikely to belong to any particular religion recognizable as such (both Confucianism and Buddhism are more philosophies than religions).

- Badtux the Music Penguin

Saturday, December 19, 2009

I am on vacation

For the last two weeks of this year, I am on vacation. I will be in and out of Internet range. I've lined up plenty of music for you guys though while I'm away...

-- Badtux the Vacationing Penguin


Anybody else find it interesting that at the same time we're bombing Yemen and occupying Iraq, we lecture Iran about respecting the sovereignty of other nations?

That's the problem with doing evil shit -- you lose any moral high ground to lecture other people, and end up as that big-mouth asshole that nobody listens to.

-- Badtux the Not-such-a-hypocrit Penguin


Mostly here for the horns, so that Jazzbumpa can explain them to us ;).

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Friday, December 18, 2009


I was out of town from Monday-Thursday of this week, freezing my butt off in Buffalo at a client site. To prepare the kittehs for that, I put out four days worth of food. Of course, The Mighty Fang being a mighty kibble monster, he probably eats that in two days, but here he is immediately after he heard the kibble hit the platter...

Yes, TMF is *fat*.

-- Badtux the Fat-cat-owned Penguin


Yet another performance/tune by performance artist turned musician Natasha Khan.

Live performance for a band that does a lot of weird stuff can be difficult. Having good monitors to make sure you're getting exactly the right effect you're looking for is essential. Here Bat for Lashes (Natasha Khan and friends) play "Glass" off the new album Two Suns for KCRW, and the monitor situation was dire enough that they all donned headphones for the occasion so they could hear the mix without getting feedback through their mikes (especially an issue for the acoustic instruments here).

I especially like the drums on this performance. A drummer who can come in on the right beat this way rather than serve as a metronome is a gem. It takes a lot more skill to do a syncopated beat of the sort that Sarah Jones is doing than it takes to just bash the shit out of the drums like a giant drum machine.

Remember, sometimes less is more. Despite the effects being applied to the stringed instruments, this is actually a fairly simple song with simple instrumentation applied skillfully. It works surprisingly well despite -- or because of? -- its simplicity. Natasha Khan comes at this with the background of a performance artist, where mystery and drama doesn't rely on having a lot of props, and it shows -- her approach to music works the same way.

-- Badtux the Music Appreciation Penguin

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Next rev of my depressing Christmas song

Yet another revision of my depressing Christmas song. The lyrics are getting close to final. The musical arrangement, however, is in flux (if you don't have the old one around you'll notice they sound nothing alike, other than the fact that the lyrics are about 80% the same). This is the first time through for the new arrangement, you'll notice a few flubs here and there. This is pretty much a clean take except for a teensy bit of compression and EQ on the vocals and massive reverb on the lead guitar track. I think it has promise but needs to be played through a couple dozen times then do a drum track and a clean take of the rhythm guitar track on top of that, at which point I can layer on vocals and lead guitar and anything else I want to put on there.

Only other news is that I switched microphones yet again in my continual quest to find a microphone that sounds good with my crappy vocals. This one is a Behringer condenser microphone usually used to mike drums, with a two-layer puff filter in front of it (otherwise all you'd hear would be "pufff... puff... puff..."). Given that my voice is almost a percussive instrument, I thought it was worth trying. Sounds better than that crappy SM58 that the previous take used, anyhow...

- Badtux the Songwriting Penguin


Mencken is purring and drooling on my lap right now. A while before, The Mighty Fang was purring and kneading on my lap (he occupies my lap only when Mencken doesn't want it, TMF is bigger but Mencken is meaner). Not getting much done right now, especially as they "help" me type. Entertain yourselves for a while, my lap warmers have priority.

-- Badtux the Cat-owned Penguin


This is from Phosphorescent, which is Matthew Houck, a one-man indie folk/alt country band . The song is named "Wolves", and is off of his beautifully minimalist album Pride.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Too much LSD?

The Earthbound Misfit points out that George W. Bush appears to have a long-lost European brother.

Russian troops. In Afghanistan. That gasping sound you hear from Moscow is the sound of a thousand Russian rulers after laughing their heads off for hours and shortly before asking NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, "Are you on fucking CRACK, or just the dumbest asshole on the planet?" The notion of Russia ever sending troops anywhere *near* the Afghan morass that destroyed their empire is on par with the notion of Russia's leaders voluntarily castrating themselves. Not happening. No way. No how. In no universe where the sky is blue and water is wet, anyhow.

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

A fitting Man of the Year

Time Magazine names their man of the year: Ben Bernanke.

I agree with them. As I and respectable economists (i.e. the ones who were right) such as Paul Krugman and Nouriel Roubini have repeatedly pointed out in the past, Ben Bernanke has done everything that a central banker is supposed to do when faced with a potentially Depression-scale crash of the money supply. The Federal Reserve and the FDIC are the only two of our national institutions that have behaved exactly the way they're supposed to behave in the kind of crisis we find ourselves in. The rest of our government -- the regulators and the legislators, the courts and the Cabinet members -- eh, not so much.

Yes, Ben Bernanke did not suddenly come up with a solution to the unemployment problem. He's a central banker, not a Congressman. His job is to maintain a stable money supply, he cannot provide the kind of fiscal stimulus needed to soak up the excess capacity in the economy and put it to work building infrastructure, Congress has to pass the laws to do that and the President has to actually spend the money that Congress allots for that purpose. But maintaining a stable money supply is no small thing. Without that, we'd be truly fucked, in a deflationary spiral that would not stop until we were back at a barter economy -- which, in case you haven't notice, is woefully inadequate at the task of creating and maintaining a technological civilization.

In short, Ben Bernanke saved civilization. He made some mis-steps here and there, but he's human, not friggin' Jesus Christ incarnate, for cryin' out loud, and the one thing Ben has been is pragmatic -- if something he did was not working, he did something else, exercising powers the Federal Reserve had been granted since 1913 but had never before exercised (a probable cause of the Great Depression, that). Unlike Obama and the Nobel Peace Prize, Ben Bernanke truly is deserving of the Man of the Year award. As for the conspiracy theorists (and Barney Frank): You're full of shit. All that needs sayin', thankyouverymuch.

-- Badtux the Appreciative Penguin

Some Truckers

The Drive By Truckers, at home, at the 40 Watt in Athens GA, which is a dive night club that is infamous as the place to go if you want to hear some damned fine music by bands that consider it home. This particular song is "When the Pin Hits The Shell" off of the album Decoration Day. Buy it, or I'll flog you with a wet herring for being a doofus.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Once again...

To all the Obama-voting librals who voted for Obama in the primaries because they thought Obama was a liberal and would govern as a liberal: You're a moron and should STFU. I was pointing out as early as January 2008 that Obama's policies were liberal only compared to those of George W. Bush, but crap, Ghenghis Khan's policies would have been liberal compared to George W. Bush. In January 2008 I pointed out that Obama's health care plan was basically a subsidy for insurance companies, that Obama's views on topics such as gay marriage, gays in the military, the death penalty, and so forth were not likely to be any different than John McCain's views on such, and that Obama's strategy regarding Iraq and Afghanistan was to be George W. Bush, only smarter. I advised you then that if you wanted a real liberal President, you should vote for Dennis Kucinich or John Edwards in the primaries, the only real liberals who were running (albeit John Edwards later sorely disappointed me by hiking the Appalachian trail with a hottie).

But did you listen? NOOOOOooo. You took a fundamentally conservative black middle class politician -- and if you know the black middle class like I do, you know that they're VERY conservative about everything except government assistance for minorities and the poor -- and put him into office because he was, well, black, and black means liberal, right? To those of you who voted for Obama because you wanted a sane, basically conservative politician in charge, congratulations, that's what you got. For those who made the racist assumption that because Obama is black, that automatically made him a liberal, and voted for him based on that racist assumption rather than the fundamentally conservative contents of his web site and speeches: Congratulations, you're a moron. Report for duty on the Failboat immediately for treatment for Obama Derangement Syndrome, which, apparently, afflicts left-wing morons just as much as it afflicts right-wing morons.

-- Badtux the Derangement-Observin' Penguin

Tuesday acid trip

Band was called "The Telescopes", in their original late 1980s/early 1990's shoegazer configuration, the song is "Everso". Somebody definitely dropped a tab before doing this video.

-- Badtux the Drug-free Penguin

Monday, December 14, 2009

Financial advice

With gold prices at historic peaks, I've seen a number of gold mining companies trolling for investors. A word of advice here: A gold mine is a mechanism for turning investor money into a hole in the ground. Sorta the mining equivalent of a swimming pool. A year later the price of gold has gone back down, and all you're left with is an empty pocket and an empty hole in the ground (if they even bother creating the hole in the ground rather than pilfering the money directly).

-- Badtux the Mining Penguin

Interesting fact found at World Nut Daily

It seems that the more you expose children to bullshit, the more likely they are to recognize it as bullshit. Apparently they found that children who attend fundamentalist Sunday Schools are more likely to leave fundamentalist churches, defend gay marriage, etc. than children who don't. Probably because if you've been exposed in depth to the actual arguments that these churches use to preach hate against others, you have a far greater chance of figuring out that they're full of shit than if you're motivated by a vague "squick" factor and squicky ads with some surface plausibility if you don't look closely.

Reminds me of my notion that a lot of the kids who are buying the "Lady Gaga" stuff are in on the joke. They know that "Lady Gaga" is a cynical ploy that a frustrated singer-songwriter by the name of Stefani Germanotta came up with when people wouldn't shut up while she was trying to play her pretty songs, and it appeals to their sense of cynicism as well as their liking for bouncy dance music to dance to.

Today's kids are living in a hopeless world. Oh sure, there was the threat of the atom bomb when I was coming up, but after ICBM's and MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) came around, we had hope that they would never be used, and we had hope that we could continue human progress into the future. Today... ah yes, today. They see our government controlled by evil and vicious men who dictate to our leaders what they should vote for and do or else get the Mafia treatment of a cutoff of election funding and the funding of a well-funded opponent. They see our leaders leading us straight into a brick wall threatening mass extinction of most of the human race within their lifetimes due to peak oil and global warming (collapse of technological civilization, which these threaten to do, would kill over 6 billion of the 6.8 billion people on the planet today and pretty much end civilization forever). They see nothing they do being able to change things soon enough to make any difference, so they're, like, "what the fuck, let's dance our booties off to some other cynical young person who gets it."

In the end, that is the worst fallout from the 28 years of Republican domination of U.S. politics that began with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980: the end of hope. Children born during those 28 years came up knowing that they would have a worse life than their parents, that the good jobs were going to go overseas or be filled with overseas immigrants pulled over to work for cheap and leave only shit service jobs that they'd have to compete with 3rd world immigrants for, that their politicians were either senile morons, genial philanderers, or evil, that the world they died in was likely to be far harsher than the world they were born in, that the chances of dying young due to lack of health care, exposure to the elements, or simple starvation were far higher for them than it was for their parents growing up. What kind of head-fucking that gives a kid is something I don't want to even think about. But it's no surprise that children exposed to particularly high levels of bullshit become more adept at figuring out that it's bullshit... whether we're talking about religious fundamentalists whose kids leave their churches in vast numbers, or our sick culture as a whole.

-- Badtux the Hope* Penguin

* As in, hope I die before the final collapse comes, which seems likely since I am becoming an elderly penguin far more rapidly than I'd like.

Monday Morning Sad Angry Music

Lisa Germano is not everybody's cup of tea. Her stuff is so dreary and depressing that I can't listen to one of her albums straight through, I'd feel inclined to slit my wrists at the end of the first 30 minutes of one sad song after another. Apparently everybody else agrees, her albums sold so poorly that they're now out of print. But in small doses she is well worth listening to. And who can ignore a song whose chorus is, "go to hell, fuck you" in a very small voice?

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Sunday, December 13, 2009

New strings

Well, despite much "help" from the Mighty Fang, I changed out the strings on the new Duo-Sonic. The 9's on there were just too dadburned skinny, it was impossible to keep it in tune when I capo'ed it or even moved down the fingerboard towards the middle. Great for out-of-tune shredding and note bending, but too much of a good thing IMHO given the short scale of the Duo-Sonic.

So that I could experiment with drop-D tuning, I went with Ernie Ball 2215's, which is a 10-13-17-30-42-52 set (heavy bottom, skinny top). Due to the short scale of the Duo Sonic the 52 is still loose enough that I can bend it if I wish, but it doesn't go out of tune just by breathing on it like the original 09-11-16-24-32-42 set (the fact that the low-E on the original string is the same as the A on the current set should tell you that much!). And 10's on a short scale act like 9's on a full-scale Fender so I can still do some fabulously slinky runs on the top strings if I wish. We'll have to see what happens here, but so far so good.

One thing that irritates me: This guitar has "classic" tuners. This requires you to cut the strings to an exact length so that the end of the string can be placed down the center of the tuner, then wound around the tuner with a specified number of turns. There is no (*zero*) documentation as to what the length of the strings should be. I used the old strings as my guide and documented it. Here it is: 6E - to 4th tuner from top. 5A - to 2nd tuner from top. 4D - to 1st tuner. 3G to tip of guitar. 2B - about 1" past tip of guitar. 1E - to about 2" past tip of guitar.

Oh yeah, my Shubb capo doesn't work well at all on the skinny thin neck of the Duo-Sonic. I love that neck, it's a sweet neck, but the Shubb's tensioning ball hits the neck off-center and pulls the strings out of tune (all of them together, so it's in tune as far as the strings relative to each other, but like a G## rather than a G). I got a Kyser. I hate Kyser capos, they're too bulky and clunky and I keep running into it while moving on the fretboard while the Shubb is inobtrusive and keeps out of my way, but (shrug). I might try another capo at some point in the future but this works so...

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Some Sunday tripping

Portishead, "The Rip", off their album Third. Sublime.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Thought for the day

Re: Young teenage starlets all dressed up like Mommy: I think teenagers should look like teenagers, not like they have stripper names.

-- Badtux the Cranky Old Penguin
Hey! You darn kids! Get offa my lawn!

Some bouncy Brit-pop

Band is named Salad, from the 1990's, one of the best decades for music that we've ever had, and the song is named "Diminished Clothes" (hmm?). I must admit to having a weakness for bands with hot red-headed female singers, as long as said singer can actually sing (always a requirement, heh!). And Marijne Van Der Vlugt definitely had the hot *and* the voice, as well as the talent -- she wrote most of their songs. Alas, the buying public did not agree, and they disbanded after three albums.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Friday, December 11, 2009

Taylor Swift

I don't get it. How can this bland boring music get so many plays and fill up so many slots on the top 40? It has nothing new to add to the world, just soul-less retellings of stories that have already been told too many times in better ways, packaged in the most attractive of plastic packaging for people with empty heads, backed up by millions of dollars of payola money to radio stations to play this unadventurous and inoffensive (but content-free) pap.

Am I missing something? Anybody?

-- Badtux the "What's the deal?" Penguin

Spotty posting for the next three weeks

I will be in and out due to both work stuff and holiday stuff, so I won't be posting too much topical stuff. I do have quite a long queue of interesting music lined up for your enjoyment though, with occasional commentaries (I especially like the one on the Bat for Lashes piece in the queue, where I talk about some of the choices Natasha Khan makes in the nature of her music and how she presents it). So y'all come by now, y'hear?

-- Badtux the Busy Penguin

Friday Morning Cat Blogging

This is Cat Power (Chan Marshall) doing a mashup of Skip Spence's shambolic murder ballad "Weighted Down" and Sonic Youth's "Schizophrenia" and making it her own as "Schizophrenia's Weighted Me Down". This was the b-side of the single "Nude as the News" released in 1996. As far as I know the only place you can get the song now is iTunes, it was never on any of her albums. And no, it doesn't sound like either of the songs that she mashed up, she took lyrics that meant something to her from both songs to make her own song, so "cover" is not a good description for the result.

Chan's older sister had a psychotic break and was diagnosed with schizophrenia somewhere around this time and had to be institutionalized for some time. Her older sister was the one Chan always admired for being the wife and mother, the ordinary sane one, as vs. the crazy weirdo of the family (Chan). I guess this was Chan's way of dealing with that situation. Given all the bad shit that has happened to her and her family over the years, I doubt Chan is going to run out of material anytime soon... though she's starting to feel a bit ambivalent about writing so many sad songs for her next album, she says. Which might be the truth. Or might not. You never know, with Chan, because of her tendency to say what she thinks people want to hear, yet another survival skill carried over from a fucked-up childhood growing up with a schizophrenic parent (where figuring out what the parent wants to hear is a valuable skill to prevent a blow-up and subsequent abuse)...

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Medicare is good, except it's bad

So... we shouldn't cut excess disbursements to Medicare Advantage because Medicare is good. But we shouldn't let people buy into Medicare because Medicare is bad.

I suppose expecting logical consistency out of Republicans is like expecting cows to fly, but, geez, at least they could try...

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

70's oldies blogging

Band is named Blondie, song is "Heart of Glass". Sadly I remember when this was new and I was a kid crushing on Deborah Harry (but she was way too old even then - only a year younger than my mother, talk about a MILF!). This particularly rendition is a particularly soul-less version, shortly before they broke up I suspect. The album version was quite sexy in a clean-cut sort of way and I loved her voice, probably why I keep putting so many female singers here, it's that deranged 70's upbringing ;).

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

I'm a ray of sunshine

With clouds and rain and shit. Yeah, I wrote yet another depressing song. This one must be the most depressing Christmas song ever. What can I say, Christmas is a season that gives me the blues.

Yet another quicky bounce. This is about the third time I played the song through, and I was still tweaking lyrics. There's still a few parts I need to fix before I consider it "finished", and I would definitely need to make a good recording rather than this quick bounce, but it's definitely a good start given that I started writing it tonight. (But started thinking about it several days ago).

Just my new guitar and my creaky voice.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

The right-wing mindset

Math is hard. Much better to just accept whatever our Rushevik commissars tell us on faith. Facts are overrated anyhow, where facts contradict faith, faith must rule out or you're the Antichrist.

And that is the snarkarific summary of the right-wing mindset on all this economics stuff dealing with employment and how to increase employment when the economy is stuck in a deflationary spiral / liquidity trap. Their Party commissars, not mere things like math, are what possesses truth in their alternate universe. Their Party commissars tell them that the problem is not a lack of consumption thus meaning that businesses have no need to hire workers. Rather, the Rushevik Party commissars say to their constituents that the problem of unemployment is that people want too much money for their labor, that if people would simply accept less money they could find employment. Of course, in our real universe things are different, but they live in a fictional universe where all markets are perfect and where there is no lower bounds to the marginal cost for human labor because in their universe (unlike ours) human beings willingly starve to death if they do not possess sufficient market value for basic subsistence.

Of course, in this universe, there is a lower bounds on the wage that a human being will accept, thus the notion that the solution to our unemployment problem is lower wages is nonsense. If a wage is below the subsistence level needed for basic survival, the person will not accept it because the way a human being works in this reality is that if you're going to die, you might as well die doing something useful like storming Congress with pitchforks and torches demanding assistance. I.e., the Rushevik Party's "Let Them Eat Cake" attitude leads directly to a re-enactment of the French Revolution. But wait, I'm talking about real life now, not the fictional reality that wingers live in... my bad!

-- Badtux the Economics Penguin

Crazy anti-American influence

The proud warriors fighting to defend The American Way against the War on Christmas are in full swing today, chirping about how evil saying "Happy Holidays" is. So here's a bit of brilliance from David Willis for you:

One guess as to what the sacred totem of fertility is, and who the Middle Eastern god is ;).

-- Badtux the Snark-Appreciatin' Penguin

Breaking news: Chinese mice join the War on Christmas!

A recipe for victory in Afghanistan

There is a population of roughly 30 million Afghans, those are large families, so let's say there will be about 6 million households. Give each head of household 500 USD a month. Thats $36 billion a year. Way less that what we are spending now and three times the country’s GDP. Give Mullah Omar a McDonald’s franchise and we are all set.

If that is what it takes, the only reason for not doing it is because the industrial-military complex want to keep all the money for themselves.

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin
(Above proposal is not mine, but that of a guy named "Henry").

The Taliban pays better

Why does the Taliban have no problem finding soldiers to fight for them in Afghanistan, while the Afghan Army is desperate for new recruits? Simple: The Taliban pays better. And this is unlikely to change, due to the rampant corruption that means that any money the Afghan government gets for things like increasing soldier pay is just as likely to disappear into the pockets of corrupt paymasters as it is to actually reach soldiers' pockets.

Of course, pay isn't the only thing soldiers fight for. They fight for king and country too. Unfortunately, that assumes that king and country exist. Karzai is widely considered to be a corrupt puppet of the United States and nobody fights for Karzai, he has no charisma, no following, nothing. And the majority of Afghans view themselves as members of an ethnic group or tribe, not as an Afghan fighting for Afghanistan. If there were outside invaders in Afghanistan they could view themselves as fighting for Afghanistan collectively against outside invaders, but the Taliban are a native-grown Afghan institution, not outside invaders. The only outside invaders are... err... us.

This all reminds me of some prior history. We had the same problem in South Vietnam. We gave the South Vietnamese government enough money to pay the troops, but the paymasters tended to embezzle the money into their Swiss bank accounts rather than paying the troops with it. There's many a restaurant here in the USA that was started with money that was intended to be paid to ARVN soldiers.

Anyhow, the eventual result in South Vietnam was that the troops basically said, "no pay, no play" and, lacking any allegiance to any nation (since there was no real South Vietnamese national identity, no leader had built a cult of nationhood there just as Afghans don't view themselves as Afghans but, rather, as members of an ethnic group or clan) saw no reason to fight hard. During the final offensive after their leadership mostly fled the country they by and large threw down their weapons and stripped off their uniforms and went home. Both NVA veterans and civilians who later escaped report that the streets of Saigon were littered with thrown-down weapons and uniforms as the NVA entered virtually unopposed. The NVA probably would have won even if those soldiers hadn't deserted, but it would have been a hollow victory with a severely-reduced force, rather than the triumphal procession that it turned into.

What that history says about our chances in Afghanistan... you connect the dots yourself, okay?

-- Badtux the History Penguin

Random thoughts for the day

I've suddenly noticed that I don't have anything from the 80's posted to the blog, with the exception of one Suzanne Vega clip and one Sonic Youth clip that actually dates to '91 but was from an album they released in '88. Then I strain my memory and remember why... in the '80's, "hard rock" stations were filled with hair metal and dinosaur acts ("classic rock"), while pop stations were filled with electronica noodlings and voices with so much reverb and EQ added to them they might as well have been shouted (or whispered) from the bottom of a well. I mean, Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Tears for Fears. Really. And then the great Bryan Adams (snark intended ;) ushered in what would be the pop music of the 1990's and beyond, i.e., bland homogenized shit that wouldn't scare the mothers and small children or random people off the street.

Not to say that there wasn't some subversive stuff going on. Dire Straits poked fun at the whole 80's music scene with "Money for Nothing", for example, snarkily subverting the whole paradigm by using it to poke fun at itself. And the mid to late 80's saw a New Folk resurgence that led to artists like Suzanne Vega and Tracy Chapman. And of course the late 80's led to "alternative" music as people like Sonic Youth came around and started bubbling around in the underground. But by and large, I view the 80's as a "lost decade" for music, and the 90's as a reinvention and resurgence of what music is all about.

Then filesharing came along and the record companies lost their mind in the '00's and we're in one of those periods where the industry refuses to take chances once again and mediocrity once more rules the airwaves... sigh! Do any of you have an album that you bought recently because you heard it on the radio? With me, the last thing I bought because I heard it on the radio was Serj Tankian's recent album Elect the Dead, where I heard "Empty Walls" on the radio, said "waitaminit, I didn't know SOAD had a new album out!", and ran off to find out WTF it was I'd just heard. But that was a year ago, people. A year. One album out of the dozens I've bought over the past year was bought because I heard it on the radio. That's the state of today's music biz, folks. Let's just hope the next decade brings some re-invention of the business that will make it relevant again, because it did serve a purpose, at one time.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Some car (wreck) music

Neko Case, "Star Witness". Red hair. Great voice. Not much more that need be said ;).

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Sarah Failin

I honestly don't care about the demented bitch, but there's an innocent party in all of this who is being harmed by her negligence, stupidity, and ignorance:

I’m sorry but every time I see a picture of Trig on the book tour I cringe. As the mother of a Special Needs child, I know that Trig should be home getting intensive speech, physical and occupational therapy at this point in his young life. He shouldn’t be used as his mother’s prop to boost her favorability with a certain segment of voters who appreciate that she didn’t abort him. Sarah Palin is potentially setting her child’s potential progress back by years. Any parent of a Special Needs child can vouch that early, intensive therapies are key to future development. Every time I see her with him on her hip, instead of with a speech or other therapist, I keep wondering what she’s thinking.
That question, of course, assumes she is thinking at all. Which is a big assumption.

-- Badtux the Thinking Penguin

Demented recommendation of the week

YouTube does this "recommendations" thing, where, based on what you've been listening to recently, they recommend other videos you might be interested in. As some of you may have figured out, I've been listening to a bunch of pretentious art-rock bands recently (from what I've been hearing I think that going to an arts and music school must turn you into a total pretentious asswipe, the only grad I can think of who makes music that's actually listenable is Natasha Khan's "Bat For Lashes" and her major was performance art, not music). So, after listening to all that, what did YouTube recommend that I listen to next?

Uhm..., The Wiggles, "Get Ready to Wiggle".

I love it. YouTube does snark!

-- Badtux the Snarky Music Penguin

When the Sonic Youth actually were youth

Kim Gordon is what, almost 60 years old now? Performing as "Sonic Youth" is the ultimate in irony today, but they're still out there touring and everything.

This is "Schitzophrenia", off of their album Sister. This particular concert was in 1991, but they were performing the song live in 1987, except in 1987 Steve Shelley was the only one of them who knew how to play, and by 1991, they'd all learned how to play their instruments (thankfully! I like noise as well as anybody, but it ought to be *musical* noise!).

Question: Would any of you appreciate iTunes or or etc. links to the clips I'm posting? I can provide them, but figure I'm giving enough info for you to figure out where to get it at your favorite source of music so haven't bothered thus far. Right now my policy is that I'll provide a link to a source only if there's a sole source for the song that's not easy to find, e.g., if the only place to get a particular song is from iTunes or from some obscure indy label's web site.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Monday, December 07, 2009

How to be a hipster scenester

If you want to impress your fellow hipster music scenesters, just tell them "Jandek's the coolest most original artist I've ever encountered. His rejection of all musical conventions is breathtaking in its originality."

Just do not, by any means, actually go listen to any of the awful moans, groans, croaks, and atonal random pluckings of stringed instruments that encompass his "work". This is a name to be dropped, not one to actually endure by, like, listening to that ear-shatteringly horrific mess.

-- Badtux the Tipster Penguin

Chimpy's House of Horror

Looks like some guards at Gitmo tortured some prisoners to death then engaged in a coverup with the complicity of the chain of command. At least, that's all I can conclude reading between the lines of all these reports...

-- Badtux the Unsurprised Penguin

Alcohol vs. marijuana

Alcohol poisoning accounts for about 1,000 deaths per year in the USA, including several dozen under the age of 18 such as 15-year-old Sarah Botill. Marijuana poisoning accounts for... err... *0* deaths per year in the USA, probably because you'd have to smoke around 40,000 joints in a 1 hour period or eat 1500 pounds of marijuana brownies in 1 hour to get enough THC in your bloodstream to shut your breathing centers down and that's simply physically impossible.

So, uhm, why is alcohol legal and marijuana is not, again?

-- Badtux the Baffled Penguin


Well I'll be a wet penguin. The National Weather Service forecast that it would rain all this week here and I look out the window and... well. A weatherman whose predictions are correct. What is the world coming to?!

-- Badtux the Easily Amused Penguin

Ain't youth no more but still rock

Thurston Moore on guitar and Steve Shelley on drums, i.e. 2/5ths of Sonic Youth, on Thurston's solo tour. The song is named Psychic Hearts, and it is a love song. Sort of.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Sunday Irish Coffee Music

Massive Attack, with Sinead O'Connor doing the vocals work. Song is named "Special Cases".

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Saturday, December 05, 2009


The man was sitting by the side of the road, holding a sign. He was probably in his late 50's, with the craggy face and graying whiskers but not yet old enough for Social Security or SSI. I presume the sign said something soliciting money, but I could not read it. His hand was shaking too much from alcohol withdrawal tremors.

There is something missing in some people, a hole they fill in whatever way they can. For some, it is alcohol. For others, drugs. Yet the cause is the same -- a life run off the rails because something is missing, something in their psyche, in their whole mind-body makeup, and there's no way to fill that hole that they can otherwise find.

I'm not sure what the answer is. It's clear that they aren't this way voluntarily, that they no more chose to be this way than you chose your skin color, but there seems nothing that can be done to "cure" them. Drug abuse programs, alcohol abuse programs, none of these work for the "intransigent addict". Yet we treat them like they're just lazy, rather than having something seriously wrong in how their brains are put together. It's odd, really, this man, sitting by the side of the road in the cold, holding his sign while his body trembles craving alcohol... it is as if the majority of Americans shudder, view him with the sort of horror that child molesters might get. Yet he is harmless, other than that hole in his head that leads him to fill it with alcohol. Yet he has been relegated to this nightmarish world of begging for alms on the side of the road and sleeping under bushes because... why?

If he were a stray dog, my town would pick him up and bring him to a no-kill shelter run by the Humane Society where he could live out the remainder of his life well-fed in a warm, secure place with volunteers who regularly come in to interact with him. But he's not a dog, so he's on the street. When did our society start viewing dogs as more important than human beings, anyhow?

-- Badtux the Puzzled Penguin

Saturday Morning British Invasion

Bat for Lashes, "Sleep Alone" off the new album Two Suns.

Natasha Khan started out as a performance artist doing spoken word. She still seems to approach things with the same attitude.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Friday, December 04, 2009

This is crazy

Colorado sheriff's deputies resort to Tasering to subdue a 10 year old child.

This is crazy. Seriously crazy. What the hell did they dispatch out there, two Barney Fife clones eager to use their one (electrifying) bullet? Or just plain sadists?

Look. I've dealt with out-of-control 10 year olds before. *Seriously* out of control 10 year olds. As in, 10 year olds who were (excuse my political incorrectness) batshit fucking crazy in a day unit for kids with severe behavior problems, kids who would go off for reasons that made no sense because they were, well, batshit fucking crazy. And we didn't need a goddamned Taser when one of these kids went out of control and started trashing the center or attacked one of the other students. It didn't take a Taser to take one of these kids down to the floor and keep him there as long as it took for him to realize that he had a choice of following directions to go to the cool-off room or being there on the floor with someone sitting on his ass and someone sitting on his feet for longer than he had any desire. And crap, we were barely even trained on how to do this -- a single three-hour session using full-sized adults as the "children" to be restrained hardly qualifies as training. We were teachers and aides, not cops. Cops are supposed to be trained for this shit.

But I forgot, today's pussified cops have one bullet in their arsenal, and they can't handle shit that unarmed teachers can handle without using that one bullet. Kid lips off at ya? Taser'em! That's some crazy-ass shit. The batshit crazy kids I taught in that behavior unit made more sense than that. I guess Barney Fife really is cops' role model nowdays. Either that, or they're recruiting cops from mental wards!

-- Badtux the Been-there Done-that Penguin

Why am I not surprised?

Scratch a tighty righty, find a perv...

Of course, I do suppose they could simply be picking up a few Bibles, which such a bookstore naturally would have due to all the incest, kinky sex, and violence in the Bible. Hey, could be, right?

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

A conspiracy of cats

Left: A meeting of a conspiracy of cats. Oooh, I love conspiracy theories! Usually they're hilariously ridiculous and require that human beings behave in ways that human beings simply don't behave. I ran across a cool example of such a conspiracy theory recently: that the reason there are no papers in peer-reviewed journals disproving the hypothesis of human-caused global is because.... oooh... it's a CONSPIRACY! Yes, a conspiracy... of SCIENTISTS!

Speculating about a conspiracy of scientists is like speculating about a conspiracy of cats. It makes no sense. Every top scientist I've ever met is a legend in his own mind who wants to destroy all the other scientists so he can get the Nobel Prize that he feels he so rightly deserves. The mechanism that scientists have for doing that is peer-reviewed research in research journals, backed up by solid experimental design and data, that is fully replicable by other scientists. The fact that every contrarian anti-global-warming article in research journals has been destroyed when other scientists point to flaws in the design or point out that the data doesn't support the contrarian position advanced, while most articles supporting the global-warming hypothesis have not been destroyed is a matter of experimental design and data, not of conspiracy -- believe me, if some scientist could figure out how to destroy the global-warming hypothesis in a way that would pass peer review muster (that is, where no flaws can be found in the experimental data and method), he would, because it would be a guaranteed Nobel.

Note that such a paper would get published EVEN IF EVERY REVIEWER DISAGREED WITH IT. If there is a piece of science where none of the reviewers can find any flaws in its research methodologies, data, or the logic leading to its conclusions, it generally gets published even if the reviewers disagree with its conclusions. And why would the reviewers allow the paper to be published even though they don't agree with it? Simple: Because that gives them an excuse to write their *own* papers where they attempt to replicate the results of the original paper, at which point they get to a) say "Booyah! Dude was a moron!" and high-five each other and publish their own paper disproving the first paper, or b) mutter "dammit, I was *sure* he was wrong, but my results seem to back up his position" and *still* get a paper published. Point being, you get your own paper published out of the deal. Remember, "publish or perish" is the general rule in the academic world... so there is a *big* incentive to allow anything that passes basic quality control standards to be published, whether it backs the current consensus or not, because that gives more opportunities for *everybody* to publish.

In short, a conspiracy of scientists is as reasonable a hypothesis as a conspiracy of cats. Neither the mentality of scientists nor the incentives in their environment point towards any ability to create and maintain a conspiracy of some sort. If all you have is vague mutterings of some "conspiracy" by scientists as the reason why there is not a single paper in any peer-reviewed journal which disproves the hypothesis of human-caused global warming, then you're full of shit, and that's exactly what I'll say -- that you're a lying asshole who ought to be ashamed of yourself. Either that, or you're a fucking moron and should keep your trap shut because you don't know your ass from a hole in the ground. Whatever.

- Badtux the Scientific Penguin

Friday Morning Post-Rock

Note: It starts off really slow but builds up to a really cool climax that sounds sorta like Nirvana and Pink Floyd got together to do a song. So don't quit listening just because the start is boring.

The band is named Her Name is Calla, and the song is called "Nylon". Don't listen for it on your radio, it won't be there.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

The Investigator

The Mighty Fang investigates a Roland Micro Cube, on top of a normal-sized Crate practice amp.

So why'd I get the little Micro Cube? Simple: Put six batteries in it, and you can jam out in the middle of the desert, a coffee shop, or a random street corner. It doesn't need to be plugged into the wall. Of course, neither does my beat up old Yamaha acoustic guitar, but you can't play Jimi Hendrix riffs on my beat up old Yamaha :).

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Quote of the day

The difference between a Libertarian and an Anarchist usually seems to be a bachelor's degree.

-- Badtux the Snark-appreciatin' Penguin
And now you have cholera!

Tiger Woods

Who the fuck gives a shit? You got 20% real unemployment, state governments going bankrupt, people dying on the streets for lack of healthcare, hundreds of American soldiers dying every month in wars that nobody thinks are worthwhile or winnable other than a few dozen dead-enders who insist that victory is just a few more years and a few thousand more lives thrown in the meat grinder, and... who the fuck cares about Tiger Woods?

-- Badtux the WTF Penguin

Thursday Morning Alt-Country Break

More Jason Isbell / Drive-by Truckers, y'all.

-- Badtux the Southern Penguin

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The new guitar

Just finished writing a song (that I started yesterday) and recording an initial version. Flubbed a couple of lines because I've only sung it through maybe three times and this is the first time with that particular version of the lyrics, oh well! But you can at least see what the new guitar sounds like.

Nice and clanky and slinky, yeah! Note that the only effects on the guitar is mild compression, I could put it through amp simulations or do other such things to it but it's "clean" right now.

Oh yeah, the song is named "Neocons", and here are its current lyrics (definitely subject to change):

Rape and kill and maim destroy
Daddy's got a brand new toy
soldiers plastic marching on
jet airplanes all dropping bombs

and nothing dies and nothing kills
it's just a game just one more thrill

grey men in undisclosed locations
pushing pins around a map
just a game to play with nations
while money piles in great big stacks

rape and kill and maim destroy
gotta use up all our toys

corpses they pile high and deep
but they never smell that reek
in bunkers hidden far below
from blood that along gutters flow

and profits pile up hipbone deep
while on the street broken men weep

so let's all praise our neocons
for profits they make selling arms
children piled in shallow graves
all rise to sing their lowly praise

rape and kill and maim destroy
it's all a game to neocons

Future band name

The Lucky Sperm Club

Paris Hilton is the founding member, on lead guitar and vocals.
George W. Bush on bass because he basically knows three notes ("cut taxes", "go to war", and "spend, spend, spend!") and that's all a bass player has to know ;).
Who shall be on drums?

That is all.

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Setting intonation on a three-saddle bridge

The guitar I bought Monday evening has an official name: "Squier Classic Vibe Duo-Sonic 50s Electric". It's part of a "Classic Vibe 50's" series that is intended to bring modern re-imaginations of 50's classics to life, with suitable updates for playability and modern sensibilities. As such it has a 24" scale rather than the original Duo-Sonic's 22.5" scale, and a modern neck rather than the original child-sized neck. But one of the things that has not changed is the 1950's style three-saddle bridge -- see above (clicky on the picture to embiggen it and you'll see for sure).

This presents an obvious problem when it comes to setting the intonation of each string. Intonation is the quality wherein a guitar string remains in tune as you fret it down the fingerboard. Thus if you fret an E string at the 12th fret, it should be an E, not an Eb or E#. The usual way of setting intonation is to move the saddle away from the nut (the thing the strings cross at the top of the fingerboard prior to entering the tuners on the head) if the string is sharp at the 12th fret, or move the saddle towards the nut if the string is flat at the 12th fret. But if you do that on a three-saddle bridge, you're changing the intonation of the other string too! This was the first time I'd ever encountered a three-saddle bridge, and at first glance was stumped -- there seemed no way to properly intonate the guitar!

So how do we resolve this problem? Well, by remembering that there are two things that determine the tone of a string: The string length, and the string tension. And the tension of a fretted string depends on how hard you push it down to fret it, which in turn depends upon how high the string is above the fret to begin with, i.e., its action.

So with that, we now know what we need to do: Set the action of the bass string of each pair to the lowest that you can go without getting buzz, intonate the bass string of each pair by moving the saddle towards if too flat or away if too sharp at fret 12 (remember to re-tune the string after each tweak!), then raise (or lower) the action for the treble string of each pair until its intonation is correct at fret 12. The reason we're raising or lowering the action for the treble string is because the treble string is smaller than the bass string, thus we actually can lower its action without getting buzzing if necessary.

So how does it all work out? Well, pretty much like the photo above, which isn't my guitar but is intonated similar to my guitar. If the fingerboard was flat you'd need to raise each treble string to sharpen it at fret 12, but the fingerboard is actually curved. So you end up having to raise the action of string #5 fairly significantly to overcome the curve of the fretboard and sharpen it up beyond that, *very* slightly raise the action of string #3, and actually *lower* the action of string #1 (because the curve of the fingerboard outweighs the natural flatness caused by the bridge being too far away). And remember, adjusting the action of the treble string very slightly adjusts the action of the bass string of the pair also, so you'll need to re-tune the bass string (and check its intonation to make sure it hasn't changed) as well as re-tuning the treble string after each tweak of the action.

Oh yeah, because intonation depends on the tension of the string, if you change strings to a heavier set you'll need to re-intonate the guitar (because heavier strings will have a higher tension). The Duo-Sonic comes with #9's (i.e. the high E or #1 string is .009" in diameter), most people say they're a bit too slinky and that #10's or #11's are more appropriate for this guitar. But now you know how to do it and can eyeball the above photo to see what a properly intonated Duo-Sonic looks like, so...

Oh yeah, tools required:

  1. Guitar tuner (duh!), I have a 20 year old Korg guitar tuner that works just fine. I prefer the needle-type tuners to the blinky-lighty ones because it's easier to see just how far you are from being in tune. If you want to experiment with drop tunings you might want to get a chromatic tuner, but mine isn't one of those and I have no problem figuring out how to do drop tunings with a regular guitar tuner (just fret the dropped string, duh).
  2. Small phillips screwdriver (to adjust the saddle distance to and fro)
  3. The small allen wrench that came with the guitar for adjusting the allen-head screws for the saddle height (action height).

That's all. No other tools or special knowledge or techniques needed, other than knowing how to use the tuner and how to use the tuners at the head to adjust the note made by a string. (And remember, tune *up*, especially important with these "classic" tuners). It's kind of twiddly because every adjustment made to one string also affects the other string, but as long as you start out with the saddles level and the bass string of each pair at the lowest action that will work for that string, it all seems to work out pretty well without as much twiddling as you'd expect.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Wednesday morning guitar music

Scout Niblett is one of the more, err, interesting, performers out there, she looks like this nice young English housewife and then she starts playing and suddenly you're listening to the demented love child of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. Here she really makes her guitar wail then spits out a couple of songs, her own "Good To Me" and TLC's "No Scrubs".

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Quote of the day

What the fuck is there for us in Afghanistan except goats and the men who love them?

Indeed. Indeed.

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Tighty righties want to sell guns to terrorists

You'd expect raving sobbing nutcase Glen Beck to support selling weapons to people on the terrorist watch list. But it's not just Mr. Crazy. It's the rest of the Republicans too, who are ranting left and right about how if we don't let terrorists buy all the weapons they want to buy, then freedom is dead in America because if terrorists can't buy guns then nobody can buy guns. Or something like that. Hey, it doesn't have to make sense if you're a Republican.

I'd say that I was suprised, but no, I'm not. These are the same morons who ignored a warning "bin Laden determined to strike in America", after all. The stupidity and insanity of today's right-wing Republicans cannot be overestimated, because it is literally greater than any sane person could ever imagine.

-- Badtux the "Arm the terrorists!" Penguin

A new instrument

Squier Classic Vibe Duo-Sonic. I was looking for a short-scale electric guitar (this is a 24" scale) with that classic Fender single-coil sound (kind of jangly, as vs. the richer sound of humbuckers). I found this guy on sale yesterday when going to pick up some patch cords and a microphone cable. Expensive patch cords :). Still, it was $30 less than the on-line Internet price for this guitar, and the on-line Internet price was quite reasonable to begin with. So it's not like I dumped a *lot* of money at the guitar store!

In the box (yes, I got it in the original box) was two wrenches. That's it. No little sheet of paper telling which pickup was which on the switch (not that I need that sheet of paper, it's pretty obvious when playing the guitar which way gets you the bridge pickup, which gets you the nut pickup, and which gets you both) or which knob is the volume (again, twiddle knobs, the one that makes it louder is the volume knob :). No setup instructions. No nothing. Just a cute little piece of brown paper with Chinese writing on it wrapping the strings so they wouldn't rattle and wear during shipping. But the guitar itself looks pretty good for a cheap Chinese-made instrument. It's a nice creamy Formica color, the exact same color as my 1950's retro Formica dining room table, and the only way I can tell it's a cheap Chinese instrument is if I run my hands down the sides of the neck and feel a slight bumpiness at the frets that I wouldn't feel with a top quality instrument. Still, that doesn't interfere at all with the playability of the instrument, or with its sound -- both of which are excellent.

Only thing I don't like about it is that it has the classic 3-saddle Telecaster bridge on it. The intonation is a compromise on each string. That's authentic, but I bought this for the sound as much as for the "classic vibe", I wanted something that would replicate the sound of some of my favorite indie artists from the 90's. Which I guess this will do, because being slightly out-of-tune was one of the things that defined that sound, but my ears are too good to be entirely comfortable with that :). I spent most of yesterday evening setting this thing up getting the intonation dialed in (as well as you can with a 3-saddle bridge anyhow) and the action preliminarily sketched in, I'll play more with the action tonight to get it dialed to exactly where I want it. Hopefully tonight I'll be able to record something using it, I did test the basic functionality at my mixer and listened to a mix of guitar and voice thru the studio headphones and it seemed to be working.

So anyhow, I have a new "toy", if a musical instrument can be called a toy. I expect this little guy to be around for quite some time, it's built pretty darn good for a $300 axe, even if it was made in China.

-- Badtux the Noise-making Penguin