Sunday, January 31, 2010


Frank Zappa shreds, then does "The Torture Never Stops". Nice horns! But dang, that dude had a schnoz on him, eh?

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Calcination of Scout Niblett

Okay, I got the album. You've seen the previous video that I posted of the title song. Here is another song, "I.B.D.", that's on the album:

So what's my conclusion?

  1. Emma Louise "Scout" Niblett is one seriously weird chick. Believes in astrology and alchemy and such, talks crazy and her songs are even crazier.
  2. I like it -- perhaps because of, not despite, the fact that these songs are totally whack.
What you have here is Scout torturing her guitar and wailing, and occasionally torturing a drum set to go with it all. She's on a new label, Drag City, after being dropped by her previous label, and appears to have had a recording budget of about $50 and a budget for creating the packaging of about $10. Steve Albini supposedly produced this album, but given the recording budget, his contribution appears to have been to press the record button on the DAW on each track as Scout laid it down then run a quicky mix-down of the three instruments (voice, guitar, drum) at the end of the day.The packaging itself is one of those paper covered thingies with Scout on the front waving while holding her torch, and a rock on the back. You open it up, you see a pocket with a little booklet and say "oh look, a booklet!". You pull it out and... it's just pictures of rocks, one rock per page. Seriously! Is that crazy, or what?

The end result is the opposite of those manufactured pop acts with their pre-fab image and pre-fab sound. Ms. Niblett does whatever she feels like doing, and doesn't give a fuck whether you like it or not. The songs are interesting and unique without being pretentious -- Scout doesn't care whether you think she's a brilliant genius or some such shit like some of those pretentious "arty" types, she just wants to make the music she feels like making. She does know how to sing, can sing in tune when she feels like it (no auto-tune in sight anywhere on this album, I think Scout would probably shoot herself before letting anybody auto-tune her voice) and does know how to play her guitar nicely. But she spends a lot more time wailing and shredding than singing pretty, because pretty is boring. If you want pretty, go listen to Taylor Swift.

Okay, so how are the songs? Most of them are similar in sound to the two songs you've already heard -- i.e., unconventional in structure, mostly guitar-driven with the pedal kicking in and out, minimalist drums banging away on the tracks that aren't guitar-only. Somewhat minimalist-sounding, but Scout would sooner puke than do a boring singer-songwriter album, she isn't afraid of her guitar pedals. Indeed, you get the feeling she's just in there enjoying playing with the drum set and her guitar and her collection of pedals and the fact that an album came out of it in the end is sort of gravy. There's a couple of weak tracks in the middle but by and large the "interesting and unique" label applies to the rest. If you like the two tracks you've already heard you'll probably like most of the rest of the songs on the album. If you don't like those tracks, well. I understand Taylor Swift has an album out.

-- Badtux the Snarky Music Penguin


Well, the new song that I wrote decided it didn't want words, so I added some Irish whistle to the guitar track instead and left it as an instrumental.

Why is it named 13? I have absolutely no idea. It just happened.

- Badtux the Songwriting Penguin

Friday, January 29, 2010

More on taxes

So, taxes on businesses can't be increased because it hurts employment? And the experience of California, where businesses are fleeing the state in droves due to high taxes, shows what happens if you increase taxes on businesses? Uhm, it actually turns out to be a myth that businesses are fleeing California in droves, whether because of "high state taxes" or otherwise. Furthermore, as a percentage of state GDP, California business taxes are actually BELOW AVERAGE, ranking 39th amongst all states in business taxes as a percentage of GDP.

I recall a survey, which is probably findable by a Google search (please try it yourself and let me know what you find), that polled businesses that either left California or expanded somewhere other than California in the past ten years. This poll found that real estate prices and an expensive workforce, not taxes, were overwhelmingly the reason they left or expanded elsewhere. It makes sense when you consider that state and local taxes account for only around 1% of the cost of doing business in California.

In short: Right wingers, please quit repeating long-discredited talking points with no basis in fact. Thank you!

- Badtux the Snarky Penguin
Who really doesn't expect right-wingers to take his advice, since they are soooo addicted to their talking points!

President Hoover II's lunacy

Economic activity actually *declined* in December. That's right, during the heart of the Christmas shopping season, a season when economic activity usually goes *up*, it instead *fell*. It is clear that we're about to double-dip and go deeper into recession. So what is President Hoover II's response in his State of the Union Address? Well, basically... to maintain the status quo. I.e., do NOTHING of any economic value.

The small tax cuts he mentioned will do nothing to get people employed and therefore spending again. The "spending freeze" he mentioned will do nothing to get people employed and thus spending again. Furthermore, labor force participation right now is at its lowest level since 1982. (also see official BLS numbers). That is, real unemployment+underemployment (as vs. the bogus adjusted number) is probably around 20%. And we're still losing hundreds of thousands of jobs per month. That is the "status quo" that President Hoover II wants to maintain?!

To say that I am disappointed is an understatement. I know that lawyers do not understand economics. I had hoped, however, that he was an intelligent enough man to, like Bill Clinton, consult enough economists outside the Washington bubble to have an economic policy that made some kind of sense. Sadly, that does not appear to be the case. I suspect, for example, that people like Paul Krugman, Brad DeLong, Joseph Stiglitz, or any number of other excellent economists who could have steered President Hoover II straight have never gotten a single call from the man. He has disappeared into the Washington Bubble where “conventional thinking” (i.e., thinking by cretins, for consumption by cretins) is all that counts, and we’re all going to pay the price for that.

-- Badtux the Economics Penguin

Right-wing think tank liars

So all those corporate-sponsored right-wing think tanks and President Hoover II are claiming that tax cuts on businesses will cause more hiring? I have only one word to describe that notion: BULLSHIT.

I cannot imagine that any of the people thinking tax cuts will cause increased hiring have ever run a business. I have. I will tell you this: If you gave me a tax cut, it'd go straight to my profit margin, not to new hiring. I hired exactly as many people as I needed to meet demand for my business's services, and NOT ONE MORE. Because my job was to maximize profits, not serve as a welfare agency.

The only sort of tax cuts that would have caused me to hire additional people would have been tax cuts that increased demand for my services -- i.e., CONSUMPTION tax cuts that allowed people to buy more stuff for the same amount of money (because they were spending less money on consumption taxes). But over the past thirty years, we here in the USA have moved taxes significantly away from income taxes and towards consumption taxes, as well as shifting taxation significantly to tax the investor class less and the consumer class more (thanks to capital gains tax cuts and cuts in the top marginal rates, all of which affect the investor class, not the consumer class, and then increases in sales taxes and in payroll taxes, all of which affect the consumer class, not the investor class).

In short, the only tax cuts that could even *possibly* motivate me to hire more people would be tax cuts on consumers -- which, presumably, would create more demand for my business's services, which, presumably, would force me to hire more people to serve that demand. Giving me a business tax cut would just give me more profit, not more hiring, because businesses are for-profit enterprises, not charities, and hire only if increased demand requires them to do so. Only people who are utterly ignorant of how business works could ever with a straight face insist that a business tax cut would cause businesses to hire -- i.e., these "think tanks" suggesting business tax cuts will increase hiring are comprised of either utter cretins, or liars, take your pick.

-- Badtux the Business Penguin


Well, I didn't get any horns suggestions when I asked a few days ago (yeah, I'm posting 3 weeks into the future at this point ;) so I went out and found some myself. Not quite sure WTF this is... it claims to be "The Budos Band Live". It's not soul, it's sort of jazz, it has some weird Ethiopian shit going on... interesting, to say the least.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bernanke in

Despite his flaws, Ben Bernanke was still the best available choice for Federal Reserve chairman. There is nobody on the planet more qualified than Ben Bernanke for the job (something even Paul Krugman admitted), and after a slow start in 2007, the Federal Reserve and the FDIC were the *only* two government agencies to do exactly what their charter said they were supposed to do when faced with a massive banking crisis in 2008-2009. Without the massive quantitative easing done by the Fed in the aftermath of the collapse of the housing market, we would have entered into a deflationary spiral that would not have stopped until we were reduced to bartering for turnips in the streets.

The Senate voted 70-30 to confirm Bernanke, the most bipartisan vote that the Senate has managed in quite some time, if not exactly the overwhelming endorsement that previous Fed chiefs received. I do not yet have a breakdown of how many Democrats vs. Republicans voted for Bernanke, but I would not be surprised if it were a handful of the most radical of both parties who voted against him. The problem is, there just wasn't a good choice to replace him. Sure, Obama could have nominated Paul Krugman to be the next Fed Chairman, but c'mon -- a) Paul would never accept the nomination because he's worked in government before and it was a nightmare for him because he had to keep his mouth shut, and b) the Senate would have never voted to confirm him. And that applies to pretty much anybody else who had the chops to replace Bernanke, they either didn't want the job, or they would have never been confirmed.

So anyhow, now that's off the table for the next six years, meaning we get sensible monetary policy anyhow if not as loose as I'd like to see it (I'd like to see the Fed move aggressively on Treasuries in order to create a scarcity of Treasuries that would force investors to move their money into more productive areas such as lending to businesses, but the Fed's Treasury purchase program has been fairly limited thus far). Hopefully without the need to get confirmed, Bernanke can be more aggressive than he had to be this past six months when he had to shore up political support amongst the economic cretins who are the U.S. Senate.

-- Badtux the Monetary Penguin

The Apple Maxi-Pad

Okay, so Apple introduced an iPad yesterday -- a 10" thingy that's about the size of my Asus Aspire One netbook, except slower, with less storage space, less memory, two hours more of rated battery life, and much thinner and lighter. And my response is... uhm. Why?

If the thing was smaller, maybe the size of the Sony Pocket Reader, and had a full-fledged cell phone built in, it could replace my cell phone and eBook reader while giving me a display that's actually readable rather than the microscopic screen of the iPhone (which is just too friggin' small for my elderly beady little penguin eyes). But the damned thing is *gigantic*. As in, roughly the size of your typical spiral-bound school notebook. You can't fit that in the side pouch of a notebook case or in a large cargo pants pocket. Not to mention it doesn't have a cell phone voice module anyhow. And it doesn't have the battery life to compete with my e-book reader, which you can literally use for *days* on one charge, not the six or eight hours you'll get from the iPad. And it's too limited to replace my Macbook Pro for anything -- it doesn't multi-task, it won't run Mac software, it won't run Windows software, etc. At least my Aspire One netbook can replace my Macbook Pro for limited purposes such as carrying in my Jeep to program my ham radio, program my GPS, and jump on the Internet, but the iPad doesn't have a USB port so it can't be used for programming my ham radio or GPS either.

In short, the iPad is for 8th graders. I'm going to wait and see if they release the iTampon anytime soon, which will hopefully be smaller, more convenient, and have a full iPhone built into it. That would replace two devices I currently own -- an eBook reader and a cell phone -- as vs. the iPad, which is just one more device to carry when I'm already carrying too many.

-- Badtux the Geeky Penguin

Ted Haggard is completely heterosexual

Ted's wife sez so, so it must be true.

Self-delusion. It is to tighty righties what water is to fish.

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

The economy is not a zero-sum game

Reminder to morons: There are two ways to handle not making enough money to meet all your basic needs. The first one is to starve shivering in the cold. The second one is to increase your income.

For some reason, the second one absolutely gets ignored by the right wing deficit cutter talking points spewers. It's as if they believe if you're not making enough money to get by, well, you should just cut out food for two days a week, or something like that. They say, “government should be like a household — should cut its expenses to match its income.” But when my dad was only making enough money to feed his children for five days a week, he didn’t starve his children for two days a week — he went out and found a second job to increase his income. But the deficit cutters want to starve the children for two days a week rather than do what’s necessary to increase income.

So could we increase the national income? Sure. The first thing would be to increase the GDP as a whole via policies aimed at increasing employment and economic growth. The second would be *targetted* tax increases where it won’t hurt consumption (basically the government equivalent of asking your boss for overtime when your kids are hungry), policies to increase percentage of our national income that is taxed (right now we’re the least-taxed major economy on the planet, and it shows in the poor state of our infrastructure and social services). You combine these two things, and the deficit goes away by increasing our income rather than starving our children.

Of course, since the majority of these fat cats who are whining about taxes and whining for less government have never had to make that choice — let your children go hungry, or find more income — they simply dismiss it as a possibility. It’s as if they operate in a zero sum world, where if your children are hungry, the only thing permissible to do is allow them to slowly starve to death, because it’s impossible to grow your income. That’s both ridiculous, and sad, that these people are so out of touch with reality that they seriously advocate letting children go hungry — which is what their policies boil down to, in the end. They'd rather see children starve due to our collapsing social services network than pay even the amount of taxes that the Japanese and Koreans pay -- yeppers, the Japs and Koreans pay more taxes than Americans do. So much for that bullshit of "Americans are too heavily taxed", just another right-wing lie like every other right-wing lie. Evil motherfuckers couldn't tell the truth if you wired'em to one of those Abu Ghraib electrocution machines and shocked their nuts every time they lied, it seems built in to them like gills on a catfish, sigh...

-- Badtux the Economics Penguin

Fly the geek flag high

The prophets of Devolution speak: Devo with "That's Good". This reminds me of just how terrible NTSC VHS videotape really was. Everything you recorded off of TV looked this lousy, hard to believe in these days of 1024p HDTV, eh?

But then, I suppose HDTV is devolution in action too, since it makes it that much more difficult to tell fact from fiction... if it's on television it must be real, right? Right?!

-- Badtux the Ancient Penguin

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hopes dashed

A few days back, just in time for Burns' Supper, we learned that the USDA was going to allow importing Scottish haggis again. Sadly, that was incorrect. So those of you pining for authentic Scottish sheep offal stuffed into a sheep stomach shall simply have to do without for the time being. Oh the agony!

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

I told you so

It must be hard to be Paul Krugman. Time after time, he's right, and people just refuse to listen. Must be like being one of those old Hebrew prophets who made all these prophecies of shit that was going to happen, and everybody just looked at'em like they were crazy and said "nuh-uh, won't happen!" and then when it did, they got mad at the prophet for, well, telling them what was gonna happen. Obama's endorsement of Reaganism tonight? Paul says, I told you so. And I told you so too. Though my record is nowhere near as good as Paul Krugman's, I ain't an idiot, unlike the morons who thought that somehow a conservative black middle class attorney was the Great Liberal Hope.

So it goes...

-- Badtux the "I told you so" Penguin

It's hard out there for a pimp

You undoubtedly have by now heard about James O'Keefe, the "investigator" whose creatively edited videos of his "pimp" character (wearing his mom's chinchilla fur coat, no less!) interacting with poorly trained tax advisors were used to create furor against a voting rights and affordable housing outfit named ACORN, being arrested for a scheme to wire-tap Senator Mary Landrieu's office. Skippy the Bush Kangaroo has the best summary I've seen so far. And EBM has the best nickname for these morons: The Teabuggers. LOL.

Oh yeah -- his lawyer, Michael Madigan, was Howard Baker's lawyer during Watergate where Richard Nixon's "plumbers" tried to wire-tap the Democrat's headquarters in Washington. Republicans. Wire tapping. What is it with these cretins, anyhow, that makes them so prone to wanting to wire-tap every Democrat under the sun -- and so bad at it?!

UPDATE: James O'Keefe spent most of his time in the jailhouse restroom while waiting to be bailed out. No news on whether he tapped his toes a lot like most Republicans do in the restroom, and whether he had any other guys there with him to, you know, but I'm sure he just had a wide stance, yessiree. And he twittered, "The truth shall set me free." Well, that and a bail bond, anyhow.

UPDATE2: Apparently, reading the affidavit, the first rule of "plumbing operations" is to dress like The Village People. Wide stance. Just sayin' ;).

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

The Calcination of Scout Niblett

The title song of Scout Niblett's new album, a stripped-down affair where she takes the music to its most elemental. The sheer incongruities of what she's doing make you sit up and pay attention. Here's this nice English housewife wearing a nice English housewife dress singing a nice English housewife song and then suddenly she starts shredding and sneering into the microphone? Awesome!

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Mr. President, you own this depression now

President HooverObama decides that the best solution for a deflationary cycle in spending and production is to... create further cuts in future spending. Thereby basically implementing the Republican economic program of George W. Bush, which, as we all know, worked so well in 2007-2008, and 1930-1933 for that matter.

Mr. President, you are the one who decided to embrace the economic policies of President George W. Bush, and from now on out you can no longer place the blame for this current economic economic crisis on the policies of the prior administration. If you embrace the prior administration's policies, it's yours now. From now on, we can call this the Obama Depression, because you just decided to own it. I hope you enjoy it, because the rest of us sure the fuck aren't.

Have fun with your one and only term of office as President, Mr. Obama. Because the rest of us aren't having a whole lot of fun at all, and you sure the fuck aren't helping us by deciding to channel the ghost of President Hoover.

- Badtux the Economics Penguin

Not clear on the concept

In the aftermath of Google's announcement that they were hacked by Chinese spies seeking information on Chinese dissidents, some members of Congress are reviving a bill banning U.S. tech companies from working with governments that digitally spy on their citizens. Presumably, those legislators don't understand that their own government is on the list.

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

In the house

How the hell can that huge voice come out of that runty little squirt? This is The Animals in 1964 or so, covering their arrangement of "House of the Rising Sun" live. Eric Burden was placed on this Earth to sing this song, and this is such a great arrangement, it's the one that went ear-wig on me and the one I use when I cover the song. Too bad he hasn't seen a penny from the publishing of this arrangement because assholes ripped him off...

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Rule of the Violent

One of the interesting things that hard-core Glibertarians will say to you, when you mention the public order / public safety / national defense justification for having government, is "I don't need government to protect me, I have my guns!"

Let's do a little thought experiment, why don't we? First of all, let's identify when a gun is useful:

  1. You have the weapon upon your person (it's not in a closet, in another room, or something like that).
  2. You are awake and aware of your surroundings
  3. You have identified a target,
  4. You have identified that you wish to kill this target and are capable of doing so, rather than having qualms or doubts.
  5. You are able to kill this person before he kills you.
Okay, so let's look at the advantages that a bad guy who has cased your place has in, say, a home invasion situation at 3AM:
  1. He has the weapon on his person. You don't (weapons make lumpy sleeping companions, it might be as close as the nightstand, but it still isn't on your person).
  2. He is awake. You aren't.
  3. He is shining a very bright light in your eyes so that you can't see him. He can see you clearly.
  4. He knows he wants to kill you. You, on the other hand, can't see him, don't know who he is or whether he has evil intent towards you, have qualms about violence and the taking of life that cause hesitation, and so...
  5. He thus kills you before you kill him.
In other words, because the criminal can choose the time and conditions under which he will take you out, you're dead. The criminal is violent, has no qualms, has identified you as someone he wishes to kill, does not hesitate, is not only comfortable with violence and the taking of life but enjoys it, and you ... are ... dead.

So why doesn't this happen more in real life, you say? Well, actually, it does -- every evening, around the country, there are thugs breaking into homes with the purpose of making the inhabitants of that home either dead or harmless. Except they're called "police officers", and they're arresting *other* thugs. We as a society hire a lot of the violent types and put them to work for us policing the rest of the violent types and protecting us from them. Second of all, the majority of the worst of the violent types, the most amoral killers, are either in prison or refrain from excessive violence because they don't wish to go to prison. In short, the deterrent effect of having police officers and prisons is what keeps most of us safe at night despite the fact that if anybody really wanted to take us out, we'd be dead.

So what would happen if we did not have our own thugs and prisons to take care of other thugs? Well, then thugs would rule the world. They'd go anywhere they wanted to go, kill anybody they wanted to kill, take anything they wanted to take, and if you objected, you would be dead because they're amoral killers who identify *everybody* as someone they want to kill and thus will never hesitate, while you waste precious moments trying to figure out that this guy wants to kill you rather than being the harmless meter reader he's dressed as. Why do we know this is what happens? Because it's what has happened everywhere that government has failed -- Somalia, Afghanistan, the tribal areas of Pakistan, all of them are thugocracies where the majority are cowed and victimized by a vicious and violent minority. You, as an individual, have about as much chance of stopping The Taliban as a mosquito has of stopping an elephant.

But, you say, let's form some voluntary organizations to hire our own thugs! Well, okay. Let's say that everybody in my neighborhood joins together to hire some security guards to protect us from those OTHER thugs out there. So far, so good. But what if someone in my neighborhood doesn't want to pay his part of paying for those security guards? He's free-loading off of the rest of us -- he's getting security for his home, but WE are paying for it!

So what is the Libertarian answer here? Apparently, to say "can't happen! Never happens! yada yada yada!" But my dad was manager of a townhouse complex for a while, and I'll tell you this, it *does* happen, and is prevalent. Mr. Grouch says, "I don't think we need security guards so I'm not going to pay." Or, "I don't use the pool, so I'm not going to pay" -- even though having a pool in the complex makes his house more valuable. And you can't exactly move his house to *outside* the secured perimeter, so he's getting free security AND free benefit to his property values from having a pool in the complex!

In short, we've run into the fundamental problem with libertarianism: the FREELOADER problem. The other people in the complex will get tired of paying for freeloaders, and more and more of them will refuse to pay, until eventually the few still paying for the security guards give up because they can't afford it anymore, nobody pays, and the thugs just march right in and turn everybody into their own personal slaves. Only something that we can call GOVERNMENT that says, "No freeloaders, if you refuse to pay we'll seize your home at a tax auction and sell it to someone who WILL pay" handles the freeloader problem.

And what is the Libertarian answer to the freeloader problem? Apparently, from what I've encountered, to stick their hands over their ears, their second pair of hands over their eyes, and shout at the top of their lungs "I see nothing! I hear nothing! It doesn't exist, lalalalala!" Apparently the Libertarian answer to the freeloader problem is to move to some alternate universe where unicorns are real and cotton candy grows on trees and human beings are perfect. It's the same universe as the hardcore Marxists, in other words, a universe where human beings are perfect and do not behave the way real life humans in this universe behave.

In the end, Libertarians and Marxists are fellow travelers -- utopians whose philosophies have failed everywhere they've ever been tried because they do not take into account the actual nature of humanity: hairless apes, monkeys with delusions of grandeur, with all the vices you'd expect from monkeys such as a propensity to fling poo, selfishness, an inability to cooperate except insofar as led by an alpha male, and a willingness to follow that alpha male regardless of what he leads them into. Monkeys. That's all human beings are. Marxists and Libertarians pretend that humans somehow can transcend a million years of evolution and become perfect. That, in the end, is why Marxist and Libertarian theories have failed wherever tried -- reality simply is, and can't just be wished away by pretending.

- Badtux the Realist Penguin


But this ragweed don't make me sneeze. Cross Canadian Ragweed, singing "Suicide Blues" off of their self-titled album.

I guess you'd call this "alt-country" or "country-rock" or "country-blues-rock" or something along those lines. Me, I simply call it music.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Scout Niblett has a new album out Tuesday, The Calcination of Scout Niblett. Here is the review I think best expresses why I like Scout Niblett's stuff.

I'll try to re-arrange my music queue to jump one of the tracks from the new album in line (I'm currently queued up to February 15th). Don't know if I'll manage it, most of the stuff I have queued up follows a particular progression, e.g., a heavy metal shredder one day, then Willie Nelson the next day (WTF? What does Willie have to do with a heavy metal shredder?! But it makes sense, and I'll tell you why). In the meantime, I already have the album on order, I'll do a review as soon as I get it some time next week.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin


Okay, so I have my guitars, now what about strings?

The Duo-Sonic is running Ernie Ball Skinny Top/Heavy Bottom strings (#2215), 10-13-18-30-42-52. It's a short-scale (24" vs. 25.5") electric guitar so straight 10's would be ultra-slinky and impossible to fret cleanly, the slightest pressure would send them way out of tune, and you'd really want to run 12's on the guitar. which would get you basically the bottom three strings. On the other hand, I wanted something slinky that I could easily squirm out of tune to get a sort of wavering psychedelic sound -- if I want a "straight" sound, well, that's why my acoustic guitar exists ;). This set of strings does what I want it to do right now, though I've thought about just putting straight 12's on there -- with the short scale, that would work about like putting 10's on a regular-scale Fender.

The Yamaha 335 acoustic was running Yamaha 12's when I got it. This is a size which is easy to fret on this guitar (easy for an acoustic, anyhow), stays in tune, gets reasonable volume. They sounded okay but were really messy, turning my fretting fingers black. I decided to put some coated strings both to get longer life and cleaner fingers, so I put some D'Addario EXP11 80/20's on there. Big mistake. The low strings are very chunky/rough-feeling and noisy when you move around, they don't have a good "feel" to them at all, and the sound is sort of muffled, the guitar doesn't have as much of a "ring" to it as with the Yamaha strings. And to top it all off, I paid close to $10 for this set of mediocre strings. So I'm not happy. If you have some good acoustic guitar strings that you like, drop me a line in comments...

-- Badtux the Guitar Penguin

Psycho bluegrass

Well, not exactly. This is The Avett Brothers, singing "Laundry Room" off of their album I and Love and You produced by Rick Rubin, who apparently isn't letting being promoted to co-head of Columbia Records stop him from going into the studio and doing his imitation of Rick Rubin reviving the career of Johnny Cash...

I haven't the slightest idea what genre to call this. Maybe "alt-country". Or somethin'.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Saturday, January 23, 2010

How the real world works

Leonard Cohen: prophet. Song is "Everybody Knows", this version is from his Live in London album.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Friday, January 22, 2010

Action and intonation

I was going to do some music tonight, but the action of a couple of my strings was too low (long-time issue) and I decided to fix it (finally!). Gah, I hate adjusting the action on a guitar with the Fender Classic three-piece bridge! Well, actually, after the second pair I pretty much hit it right -- I loosened the strings a bit, twisted the screw to pull the bridge back a suitable-seeming amount, used the teeny allen wrench on the height adjusters to bring'em up a couple of turns, and there we were, only the teensiest bit of fine tuning needed. It's the 5A and 1E strings that are the PITA with this bridge!

Ah well, at least I didn't have any plans for the evening otherwise, due to having to work late today...

-- Badtux the Music

Paul Krugman has a new book out

Or maybe it's just a revised edition of an old book? It's a book of essays called The Accidental Theorist, and economist Brad DeLong reviews it. To quote Brad:

Critics of Paul Krugman call him acerbic and boastful, unfair on the attack and unwilling to make concessions on the defense, certain that he is correct, and always sure that those who disagree are mendacious or foolish (or both). And I cannot deny that these criticisms are accurate. But all these are outweighed by one fact: he is almost always--not always, but almost always--right.

That being right thingy must chap some right wing Chicago ass big-time, yo.

-- Badtux the Economics Penguin

Math is hard

Yeah, things really suck now that the Democrats are now in the minority in the Senate, with only 59 Democratic senators out of 100 total. No way they can get anything done with only 59 votes out of 100 votes, such a small minority of votes in the Senate is powerless.

- Badtux the Snarky Penguin
I hear excuses!

Problem making up my bed

For some reason making up my bed never seems to be an easy task. I try my best to get the covers up (mostly because if I don't, my sheet turns into solid fur, and I don't sleep well on fur-covered sheets), but... well. Mencken and The Mighty Fang always seem to re-occupy the premises as soon as I get up to put the coffee on percolating. And no, I can't pull the covers up immediately after getting up because the cats are occupying *different* parts of the bed then, they don't jump off the bed until I leave the bedroom, at which point they jump off the bed to come beg food off of me.

The solution, it seems to me, is obvious: Buy a coffeemaker that has an auto-start timer, so that the amount of time between me getting up and me pouring the first cup of coffee is greatly reduced, hopefully reducing the time window within which my bed can be re-colonized. Sounds like a reasonable solution to me. Certainly more reasonable than disturbing two such warm furry cuddly critters who are cuddling with each other, right?

-- Badtux the Solutions Penguin

Summary of Supremes dance

More on the recent Supreme Court ruling overturning campaign finance limits. Here is a brief summary of what the majority ruled in that decision:

  1. Money is speech. Now, to you and me, us moving our lips and actually, like, saying stuff is speech (or writing down what we would say and publishing it). But to the U.S. Supreme Court, money is the EXACT SAME THING as speech, and thereby restricting how much money you can spend is a restriction on free speech.. And Thomas Jefferson's grave could probably be harnessed for electrical generation purposes, it's spinning so fast at that notion.
  2. Property has rights. Corporations are property of their stockholders. But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the property was the thing that had rights here, and did not even mention the owners of the corporation.
  3. Stockholders have twice the free speech rights of regular people. They not only have their individual right of free speech, but they also have the free speech rights of their property. In short, our rich and powerful who control our major corporations have twice the free speech rights of every other person in the nation even without considering the "money is speech" argument.
The intellectual bankruptcy of the U.S. Supreme Courts' ruling in this situation should be obvious to anybody with half a brain. This is as bad and as wrong-headed a decision as the Supreme Court decision that ended the Florida recount and selected George W. Bush as President in 2000, a decision which was so intellectually bankrupt itself that IN THAT VERY SAME DECISION the U.S. Supreme Court even disavowed it as a precedent, in essence writing it into public record that it was a bad decision being made for political purposes. This is what happens when you put Republicans in power -- they select Republican Supreme Court justices, who are just as intellectually bankrupt as the Republican Party itself. They are literally willing to say anything, no matter how stupid it sounds, if it furthers their cause of concentrating power into the hands of a few.

-- Badtux the Politics Penguin

Yeah, that about sums it up

Andrew Sullivan:

So we have a government fused with corporations, a legislature run by corporate lobbyists who have just been given a massive financial gift to control the process even more deeply; we have a theory of executive power advanced by one party that gives the president total extra-legal power over any human being he wants to call an "enemy combatant" and total prerogative in launching and waging wars (remember Cheney did not believe Bush needed any congressional support to invade Iraq); we have a Supreme Court that believes in extreme deference to presidential power; we have a Congress of total pussies on the left and maniacs on the right and little in the middle; we have a 24-hour propaganda channel, run by a multinational corporation and managed by a partisan Republican, demonizing the president for anything he does or does not do; we have the open embrace of torture as a routine aspect of US government; and we have one party urging an expansion of the war on Jihadism to encompass a full-scale war against Iran, an act that would embolden the Khamenei junta and ensure that a civilizational war between the nuttiest Christianists in America and the vilest Islamists metastasizes to Def Con 3.
I think the term Andrew is searching for is, "We're fucked."

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin


Diane Cluck, "Here I Am". She's recorded a number of albums using karaoke boom boxes or something like that, i.e., very low-fi and I'm not quite sure what to think about them. But she certainly delivers live.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Are any RWNJ's *not* kiddie fuckers?

For real. Right wing nut job and Tea Partier Charles Dyer, aka "July4Patriot," arrested for raping a kid.

Most right-wingers love to fuck kids over, but usually just figuratively, not *literally*. As in, cutting off children's health care, fostering policies that lead to child hunger, underfunding schools, so on and so forth. But, as David Neiwert points out, there's an inordinate number of RWNJ's who really *ARE* kiddie fuckers, literally. As he explains: "Evidently, being a pedophile leads to resentment of the government -- probably for its desire to lock you away."

And these are the leaders of the "Tea Party" movement? Good job of being classy buddying up to these kinda folks, Republicans!

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

All Americans have equal rights

But, the U.S. Supreme Court just ruled, some people are more equal than others. Because, they ruled, money is speech and thus if you have more money than someone else, you have more free speech rights than that person.

Reminds me of George Orwell's critique of Communism in Animal Farm: "Somehow it seemed as though the farm had grown richer without making the animals themselves any richer— except, of course, for the pigs and the dogs." Sounds like a description of American society over the past ten years... with bankers in the role of the pigs, and the security establishment in the role of the dogs. Welcome to Soviet America, citizen! Except instead of Party membership, your membership in the Millionaire's club determines whether you're one of those people who are more equal than others.

-- Badtux the Orwellian Penguin

Quote of the day

(Obama) is giving the GOP a free pass and they are cornholing him with the abandon of Larry Craig in an airport john. -- Earthbound Misfit talking about Obama caving on health care.

KKK starts a basketball league

A league for white basketball players. Which, apparently, is supposed to be a cleaner game with less fighting and stuff because, as Archy snarks, We all know that people without color, especially of the Southern persuasion, never cary guns into inappropriate places and that young white men, during their peak years of testosterone production, never flip anyone off, brawl with the spectators, or grab their crotches. All we need to do is look to ice hockey to know that this is true.

Bwahaha! The snark writes itself.

-- Badtux the Snark-appreciatin' Penguin

Bonus: The next ten to fifteen years are going to be brutal as whites become a minority and resort to more and more teabaggery-type attempts at intimidation in order to try to retain white privilege.

Wet crackers

"Another Song About The Rain", by the band Cracker, off of their self-titled first album.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin`

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Somebody died

Teh Google News informs me that some nanny who played herself on the drama "Survivor" has died of breast cancer.

Must be news because dying of breath cancer is so rare. Except... according to the American Cancer Society, on average roughly 83 women in the United States die every day of breast cancer. Oh dear, it can't be that we have a double standard here in Amurka, where if it happens to a "celebrity" it's news, but otherwise... not news. Only a sick nation with messed-up priorities could value one human being more than 82 other human beings based solely upon one of them spending a few minutes on a television screen years ago (and doing nothing since), so clearly today was one of those rare days when only ONE woman died of breast cancer. Right? Right?!

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Double-take headline of the day

"Dykes take over at Louisiana Tech."

I looked at that headline and was, like, "Wha? Militant lesbians took over a college campus?" I imagined out-of-control dykes with whips and leather standing on the college president's desk slashing him with their whips while shouting, "you WILL give more money to women's sports! You WILL provide a real women's studies program! You WILL provide contraceptives in the campus clinic!"

Then I clicked on the headline to see the actual story, and it was about... a football coach. BORE-ing!

-- Badtux the Bummed Penguin

John Kerry lost

He ran a shoddy campaign, refused to go on the attack to take on the lunacy of his opponent in the general election, did not express any sort of coherent or consistent message other than "I'm not a Republican", was stiff and uncomfortable during the few times he interacted with actual voters, and apparently went through a sex change operation and changed his name to Martha Coakley in order to run for Teddy Kennedy's old Senate seat in Massachusetts. And lost. Of course.

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin


The Dollyrots were a couple of Florida biology students by the name of Kelly Ogden and Luis Cabezas who were preparing to apply for med school when President George W. Bush was selected by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000. They looked at each other and said something along the lines of, "fuck it, we're doomed anyhow, instead of applying to med school let's find a drummer for our punk band and party all night long." And so they did.

Their music is a sort of bubbly alterna-pop, very tongue-in-cheek and fuck-it-all in nature. Nothing earth shattering, but they have fun, and their music is fun, so who the fuck cares.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Folk music loses a great

Kate McGarrigle, a national treasure of Canada and of folk music in general.

-- Badtux the Folkie Penguin

Quote of the day

Explaining how investors can value a worthless company at $500M: "A market can't regulate the intelligence of investors." (H/T).

The invisible hand appears to be attached to the arm of an utter cretin. But hey, I forgot, "the market is always right and properly values assets." Alrighty, then!

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Be prepared for your next airline flight

Things have changed somewhat since the Panty Bomber. So here's some handy tips for you to remember for your next flight:

Alrighty, then!

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Help the homeless, go to jail

Remember, zoning ordinances are more important than human beings. Just ask Dan De Vaul, jailed for letting homeless people camp on his ranch.

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Electronic hot

Band is called Northern Kind, and it's kind of bubbly synth pop like you might have heard during the 1980's, except without all the reverb you would have heard on the voice during the 80's. Song is named "Automatic", off of their album Fifty Three Degrees North. Oddly enough, though the duo is English, their album did best in... uhm, Sweden. Hmm. Guess they like long-legged blond singers in Sweden, wonder why?

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Monday, January 18, 2010

A new king is crowned

No, not the Reverend. But, rather, something altogether more important: PIZZA! Today's pizza for review is the Digiorno Crispy Flatbread Pizza, Pepperoni and Fire-Roasted Bell Peppers. So what's it taste like?

In a word: Yummy.

The crust: It has a toasty taste as a thin crust pizza should have, but also has an appropriate bready taste, like a freshly-baked loaf of bread. The pepperoni is plentiful and zesty. The cheese is rich and smooth and complements the zesty taste of the pepperoni quite well. The bell peppers added an interesting flavor of its own to the mix, and the sauce was appropriately tangy and well balanced with the taste of the crust and cheese.

The only real flaw of this pizza was that the sauce was a bit skimpy in places, a thin crust pizza cannot have much sauce on it or it becomes soupy, but the sauce was not evenly distributed and there were places where it tasted a bit cheesier-breadier than it should have (that is, it fell out of balance). Still, the cheese and crust were good enough that this was not obnoxious. Hopefully they will improve their quality control on how they spread their sauce in the future to spread it more evenly. But still, even with that flaw, this is the best frozen pizza I've ever eaten -- well, other than the Digiorno Rising Crust Pepperoni, which had similar traits. Digiorno's slogan is "It's not delivery, it's DiGiorno". In my opinion, this pizza goes way beyond any thin-crust pizza I've ever had delivered, which invariably ends up steamed and limp. Definitely two flippers up!

-- Badtux the Pizza Penguin

Oh yeah, almost forgot

Happy Perfect Token Negro Day to y'all. Today is the day where, all over the land, teachers present to their students and networks present to their viewers the image of the Perfect Token Negro -- mature, grey haired, pleasant, well-dressed, and so forth. Their Perfect Token Negro never crowds into offices of politicians demanding social justice, equal opportunity, and voting rights, never listens to that icky "rap" music that is so offensive to white bread honkey ears, never puts on bling or drives a big luxury car to display his wealth (hon, that's restricted to white people, when a black person does it that's scary!), and most of all, never, ever, hurts a white person even if that white person is trying to hurt him.

See, Perfect Token Negro is, like, PERFECT, so if the white man slaps his face, he'll just take it like the proper servile servant that he is, rather than fuck the white man up. Of course, Perfect Token Negro isn't *real* -- not at all like the Rev. Martin Luther King, who was a rabble-rouser who set up perfect photo ops to demonstrate Southern brutality against blacks but was no martyr until the day the bullet took him down -- but what the hey, the *real* Martin Luther King Jr. isn't around, so there's nobody to say, "hold it, Token Perfect Negro *ISN'T ME!*". Well, except for various leftover relics of the 60's Civil Rights movement, who, for reasons of their own, have helped elevate Perfect Token Negro to his pedestal, but so it goes.

And do I sound utterly cynical about "Martin Luther King Jr. Day" and all the festivities that go with it? Fuck yeah. It's all a scam, in the end, intended to keep people from taking effective action to better their plight by saying, "hey, Perfect Token Negro never would go outside the system like that and try to bust it up." So it goes.

-- Badtux the Cynical Penguin

Quote of the day

The Democrats are a clapped out, gut-free lobbyist machine. The Republicans are insane. The system is therefore paralyzed beyond repair. -- Andrew Sullivan

Thing is, the system didn't get this way by accident. It's part of a deliberate strategy by the Republican Party to make the nation ungovernable. Why they think anarchy and chaos will be good for them... all I can think is that they are channeling the ghosts of Benito Mussolini and Francisco Franco, who both took advantage of anarchy and chaos to establish strongman rule in their respective countries, and quite expect to perform the exact same feat in the United States even though they themselves will be the cause of the anarchy and chaos. They are expecting 50%+1 of Americans to be total cretins willing to follow a dictator who promises them better times. And I don't know if I'd bet against them on that.

On the other side -- as Andrew points out, the Republicans are batshit insane. And have proved to be utterly incompetent. Look at Shrubbery the Lesser. Darth Cheney undoubtedly put him into power with the firm expectation that the Shrubbery would seize all the power that Darth Cheney wanted, then declare martial law when the nation descended into anarchy and chaos. Instead, the Shrubbery was a lazy little shit who did as little as possible (though what he did do -- get the nation into two quagmires, run up huge debts, etc. -- was bad enough) and who was so tired of being President by the time of his last two years of office that he never even considered simply seizing power at gunpoint. The goons who run the Republican Party know that they're so obnoxious, so obviously evil, that they can't get elected, yet their tools that they do insert into office tend to be lazy cretins with no real interest in following the Franco/Mussolini formula. But relying upon the incompetence of our enemies to obtain victory is stupid whether you're a progressive or the IDF in Lebanon 2006. The IDF, accustomed to easy victories over cretinous enemies, ran into a buzz-saw put together by the first competent enemy they had ever encountered and limped back home with its tail tucked between its hind legs. Sooner or later, they're either going to get a tool into office who isn't a lazy cretin, or they're going to figure out some way to get Diebolded into office. And then... well. Imagine Hitler if he'd had nukes and aircraft carriers. Ick.

-- Badtux the Apocalyptic Penguin

World's most dangerous job

Apparently the world's most dangerous job is #2 leader of al-Qaeda. At least, every other day you hear about the #2 guy in al Qaeda getting whacked, this time in Yemen. You'd think, like, there'd be as hortage of people willing to be promoted into that spot. But noooo, apparently not.

Well, either that, or somebody is lying desperately. Your call.

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin


This is "Allelujah", from the album subHuman by the "band" Recoil (Alan Wilder of Depeche Mode fame, with whoever he rounded up). The video was fan-made by Russian fans with Alan's permission, the Russian fans also rounded up the money to actually record and do the first pressing of the album itself. That was Alan's work-around to the problem that he can't find anybody willing to publish his music.

This seems like it's going back to an earlier model of the music industry, the patron model, which was the case up until the music industry was invented in the 19th century. Which perhaps is appropriate, since we're devolving back to a feudal economy (and Russia is our future -- they're already there) where a few filthy rich oligarchs are our noblemen and the rest of us... peasants. Or servants. Whatever. The problem with the patron model is that in the 18th century no petty nobleman or prince of the Church would have dared not have a court composer to compose tunes for the enjoyment of the court, but today's lords of the universe seem to have a singular disinterest in cultural matters. They're too busy snarling at each other for the last meat on the bones of nations to think about petty things like music. In Alan's case, the children of those oligarchs became interested in his plight and swooped in on a lark to make him a project. But that's hardly a real solution to the future of music, there are only so many children of oligarchs, and they tend to have singularly short attention spans.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A reminder about my blogrolls

They got zapped in the transition from the old blog to the new blog, so if you don't see your blog there it's not a conspiracy or anything, it probably just got overlooked during the transition. If you would like your blog in my blogroll, or if there's an econo-blog you know about that I should be reading, just drop me a line in email or as a comment here. Note that if you don't have a reciprocal link on your own blog I may or may not add it to one of my visible blogrolls, but if it's interesting it will go onto *some* blogroll...

-- Badtux the Metablogging Penguin

Not so unusual after all...

Asian-American songwriters, that is. I mentioned previously that there didn't seem to be a lot of Asian-Americans in the American music industry, but here we are with a second one within the last three months. Singer is Priscilla Ahn, song is named "Dream" off of her album A good day. Great voice, we'll have to see whether she gets to use it.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Saturday, January 16, 2010

New guitar

My old Yammy was utterly worn out. Frets worn down, divots in the fingerboard, the works. So I replaced it with this new Yamaha FX335. Just a cheap plywood guitar, but has a pickup and sounds decent for what it is.

Song is "Everything Turns To Shit", from my White Trash Blues cycle back in the late 1990's. This was an experiment to see how well the new guitar sounded plugged in. Answer: Decent. Too bad the mook singing into the microphone doesn't sound anywhere near as good as the guitar.

-- Badtux the Songwriting Penguin

Okay, not all pop is bad

This is Paramore, off of their album Brand New Eyes. This is standard alterna-pop, nothing particularly earth-shattering there. Still, these youngsters do a great job with the form -- and these are youngsters. Hayley Williams was born in 1988. That means she was a whole 16 years old when she begged her way into the band in 2004... siiigh! Makes this penguin feel old. As well as somehow unworthy... I didn't accidentally stumble into what I wanted to do with my life until the ripe old age of 30. These youngsters who decide what they want to do with their life and then just go out and friggin' do it... I don't know if I'll ever understand'em, but may the Great Penguin bless'em, they make this world so much more colorful and interesting with their enthusiasm and energy.

-- Badtux the Elderly Penguin

Friday, January 15, 2010

Tunch has a posse

John Cole over at Balloon Juice is posting some pictures depicting his cat Tunch. I'm starting to see a pattern. Check this out and tell me if you can see it too:

Hmm... here is the result, a photo of Tunch applying the mighty Paw of Doom to a goggie who poked a wet nose where it was unwanted:

Think maybe John obeys a bit too well when Tunch says "Feed me"? Oh wait, I forgot, Tunch is just fluffy. Yes, FLUFFY. That's right, fluffy!

-- Badtux the Amused Penguin

A song for Pat Robertson

Man, if Frank Zappa were still alive he'd be having a field day with ole' Pat. This song of course was about Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker, but Pat gets mentioned in it too. The title, directed at all three of them BTW, is "Jesus Christ Thinks You're a Jerk".

Indeed. Indeed.

-- Badtux the Easily Amused Penguin

Revolution? Yeah right

So you want a revolution, you say? You say that the inevitable result of these asswipes on Wall Street looting and plundering the nation while millions of Americans are homeless and hungry is going to be these asswipes hanging from the nearest lamp-post? I got three words for you, compadre: Bull fucking shit.

Yeah, you got a lot of genuine rage out there, embodied by the so-called "tea party" movement. But somehow I doubt that a movement dominated by oldsters waving signs around saying "tea bagging for change!" (frisky granny, that!) while chanting “keep your government hands off my Medicare!” has the intellectual heft to connect the dots that we connect about who's to blame for their plight. One thing is clear: “Let them eat cake” is not a viable solution. But my fear is that the solution that the majority arrive at will be the same as the majority arrived at in much of the world as the Great Depression settled in — dictatorship by a “Strong Man” who promises to save them. That rarely turns out well, the streets typically run with blood afterwards, and the villains who created the Great Depression through their greed and stupidity were rarely the ones lined up against the wall, rather, labor unionists, Jews, socialists, etc. were the typical victims, none of whom had any hand in the collapse of the banking system that was the primary cause of the Depression (liquidity trap, y’know).

Reminds me of an old music joke: Q: How can you tell the drum riser is level? A: The drummer is drooling equally out of both sides of his mouth. Replace the word "drummer" with "teabagger", heh. So anyhow, these are the folks who are gonna storm the mansions of Wall Street moguls and pull them all out and string'em up from the nearest lamp post by their neck-ties? I don't think so, mah friend... these folks are so dumb they can't even *find* those friggin' mansions, much less figure out what to do once they get there!

So anyhow, that's my bet on the future of Amurka if we *do* have the "revolution" that some loons are advocating: Strong-man rule by a fascist dictator who promises to put to death all them Messicans, Negros, and soshalists that is bringin' our nation down and bring our nation back to its rightful place in the world glory hallelujah Ayeeee-men! That's the only kind of revolution I see in America's future. And the tea baggers will just run to be the stormtroopers for this asswipe, whoever he turns out to be. Face facts: The average American is dumber than a stump and as easily led to safety by a fascist asswipe as a dog is led on a leash. There just ain't "there" there, insofar as revolutionary capability is concerned.

-- Badtux the Unrevolutionary Penguin

I feel safer

From EBM, I find out that the TSA is defending America from a dire threat that would kill us all, all of us, I say, I say. Whew! That makes me feel a lot safer!

Oh yeah, that threat... An eight year old Cub Scout.

The horror! Oh the horror! (Shudder).

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin


Well, not exactly. Shirley Manson *was* the lead singer of the band Garbage, but this is her solo act from the score to the Terminator TV series. Do check out the Garbage albums though, especially the first one, which is surprisingly good.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Good news!

Initial unemployment claims have begun to... fall?

Uhm, not exactly. 800K new unemployment claims were filed last week. You can say "new claims are declining!" only if you apply a seasonal "fudge factor" to them. That normally applies for the post-Christmas season because the Christmas workers get laid off during the first week of January. But retailers didn't hire a lot of Christmas workers this year, they simply ceased laying off as fast as previously. My suspicion is that the traditional "seasonal adjustment" that the BLS has always applied to the post-Christmas unemployment filings is no longer applicable.

- Badtux the Employment Penguin

Pat Robertson, douchebag

I’ve given up on commenting on Pat Robertson’s assholery. Every time he opens his piehole, you’re reminded of just how evil, venal, and stupid the man really is. It’s like throwing a pie at a barn that’s three feet in front of your face — there’s just no challenge in it, and it’s boring as hell after a while.

His recent comments blaming some supposed pact Haitians made with The Devil for the recent earthquake are just par for the course for this miserable excuse for a "man". You ask me, He ought to be airdropped into Haiti naked, with no ID or anything, and condemned to the same misery as those darkies he despises. ‘Nuff said!

- Badtux the Vicious Penguin

Crazy is crazy whether Muslim or Christian

Crazed Somali Islamist extremists who threaten death to cartoonist Kurt Westergaard for making fun of their invisible guy in the sky, meet crazed American tea-bagger Christian extremists who, err, threaten death to cartoonist Mark Fiore for making fun of, well, them.

Two peas in a pod, that, wot?

-- Badtux the Crazy-scryin' Penguin

A conspiracy of suck

One of the stupidest things I've ever encountered is the notion that the lousy state of public education here in the USA is somehow a conspiracy by "Them" (for some mysterious "Them") to make us stupid so they can rule us. Which is complete and utter bullshit. Look: school boards here in the USA are local. Schools are run by local communities, not by "Them". It's true that states can set a curriculum, but the curriculum is a minimum, and half the time the schools ignore the damned thing anyhow except insofar as it's embodied in exit exams because most of these curriculums are stupid and there's nobody in the classroom with the teacher to validate that she in fact taught every stupid thing in the curriculum guide.

So that whole conspiracy thing is bullshit. What you are seeing is the education We The People want. Parents don't discipline their little heathens and don't want the schools to do so, either. Parents don't give their children any intellectual stimulation at home and don't want their children to get any at school, either, because if the little brats could think their way out of a cardboard box then the little brats might start doubting some of the "truths" they're told by their parents about invisible guys in the sky and crap like that. The old people who dominate school board elections don't want anything taught in the schools that weren't taught in the schools when they were kids 60 years ago, and want the exact same teaching methods used in the classroom that were used when they were kids 60 years ago, despite the fact that the world is much different now from what it was 60 years ago and if you look at the actual numbers, 60 years ago was even worse than today. If the school district has "those" kids in it -- you know, THOSE kids, brown, maybe speak one of them thare foreign gabbles instead of God's language, the language He wrote the Bible in, English? -- they don't want to pay taxes to educate "those" kids and underfund the schools in that district to the point where all the good teachers and administrators leave, which means that the schools fall apart because only the incompetent or the venal are left. And so on and so forth. The only conspiracy in the U S of A, my friend, is the conspiracy of STUPID. 50% of all people are below average, and that average is pretty much suck.

Even authoritarian dictatorships don't crash their economic viability this way. See: South Korea prior to the democracy era, Singapore today, China today, etc. If someone conquered the U S of A they couldn't do a better job of destroying our schools than we've already done ourselves. Yet... the majority of kids do leave school with some basic skills like reading and arithmetic. It IS possible to get an education in our schools. Just horribly frustrating both for the teachers and the kids, both of whom are trapped in a system designed by cretins (a.k.a. We The People) for generating cretins. We get the schools (as a nation) that we want -- and deserve. Alas.

- Badtux the Former Teacher Penguin

Say cheese!

The Shat. Of course.

I have only one question: Why has there never been a cheese named after William Shatner?!

-- Badtux the Easily Amused Music Penguin

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Who gives a shit? Turn your damned TV off. It's just a waste of time and makes you stupid (yes, we have scientific proof of that). Sheesh!

-- Badtux the WTF Penguin

Don't Be Evil

Google re-considers its China strategy, reconsiders whether staying in China results in sufficient complicity with evil to outweigh any good that it does. I suppose it helps that Google isn't making much, if any, money in China due to its refusal to host servers in China and the resulting costs of hauling queries to the nearest data center in a free country -- it's always easier to Not Be Evil if you don't lose any money by doing so. Still, maybe more companies should think about whether Being Evil outweighs any potential profits they might make in China...

-- Badtux the Evil Penguin

Foreclosures down? Don't bet on it

So the recent news is foreclosures are down in California, one of the bubble markets hurt worst by the collapse of the bubble. But is that good news? Well, not really.

The primary reason why foreclosures are down is because even though California is a civil foreclosure state, foreclosure actions are clogging up the legal system. Lenders' lawyers simply can't process foreclosures fast enough to clear them, local sheriffs can't hold sheriffs' sales fast enough, once foreclosures happen the unlawful detainer actions needed to evict the residents are taking up to six months to happen because there aren't enough process servers and skip tracers to track down and serve the former owners of the home, and even after the unlawful detainer notice is served, I notice on the Stanislaus County Superior Court docket that unlawful detainers filed in December have their case management conferences scheduled for March or April. Quite frankly, the whole system is completely clogged up in a way that hasn't happened since the Great Depression, it was not built for this sort of volume and it doesn't help that the Governator has judges working four-day weeks in order to save money, that's caused a backlog in all cases. In one case I have personal knowledge of, the lawsuit was filed in July, the summons was served in December, and the case management conference is in March! That's just plain nuts, no so-called "justice" system can operate like that and still be credible.

We could have had a "Day Zero" reset of the entire mortgage market -- basically, reset all mortgages to current market rates with freshly printed Fed money monetizing the difference -- but that would have "rewarded misbehavior" and thus been "wrong". So clogging up the entire legal system with this bullshit so that people can't handle their normal legal business in a timely manner is wrong? I pity landlords with deadbeat tenants, they can't even get the deadbeats out of their properties so they can rent to non-deadbeats because unlawful detainers are taking six months! If that isn't "rewarding misbehavior", I don't know what the fuck is... but deal is, not only is it rewarding misbehavior (deadbeat tenants who don't leave once lawfully evicted with 30 days notice), it's also punishing the innocent! At least monetizing the bubble would have not punished the innocent.

But whoa, I keep forgetting, America is all about lose-lose propositions. If everybody doesn't lose, then it's bad. That's our whole approach to *any* societal problem in America today, find a solution where everybody loses, because if someone wins, that person is "unfairly" benefiting from the solution. Siiiiiiigh! What a spiteful vicious buncha motherfuckers we Americans are, eh?

-- Badtux the Housing Penguin


Steven Wilson is a one of the more interesting artists that emerged in the 1990's. With his bands No Man and Porcupine Tree he produced a number of albums that mixed 60's-style psychedelia with modern pop trappings that veered into trance, shoe-gazing, and everywhere else under the sun. As this song, "Puncture Wounds" off of his 2008 album Insurgentes, makes clear, he's still around and still writing some interesting music.

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


I moved the lyrics of the new song around into an order that worked better for what I was attempting to do, but I'm not happy at all with the result. Oh, I like the guitar work. Great drone, and now that I've played it another ten-fifteen times I hit it pretty much every time -- but the lyrics aren't ominous enough to go with the guitar work. Back to the drawing board, because the musical accompaniment is what I was aiming for as far as the general tone of the song (ominous and mysterious), but clearly I need to start over on the lyrics side.

And therein lies the secret of "the creative process" -- 1 part inspiration, 9 parts perspiration. Unfortunately the 1 part inspiration isn't with me today. Siiiigh!

-- Badtux the Songwriting Penguin


funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Or a human sharing a home with a cat, for that matter -- honestly, do you know how often it is that I get to sleep on my entire bed, rather than just on whatever tiny piece my kittehs let me sleep on? Uhm, neither do I, it's been so long...

-- Badtux the Cat-owned Penguin

In the mode

Some bands just keep going and going like the energizer bunny and never seem to run out of steam. Depeche Mode certainly seems to be in that category, as far as I know they're the only survivor of 1980's electronica though they've moved far beyond their early sound. This is from their 2009 album Sounds of the Universe, and is named "Wrong". They still got it!

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Monday, January 11, 2010

Taliban has woodies

Nearly-undetectable wooden IED's, that is. They can't be detected by metal detectors because, duh, they have no metal.

Chank one up for the Theory of Evolution. The Theory of Evolution hypothesizes that natural selection -- the survival of the fittest -- will naturally improve the adaptation of a species for its environment. In Afghanistan, stupid people die, the smartest and fittest and most vicious people live. So we're breeding super-Taliban, just as we bred super-bugs with antibiotics earlier in this decade. They're getting smarter and smarter because the dumbest ones end up dead, leaving only smarter and smarter ones to come up with ways to bedevil the occupying force.

We declared victory in Iraq and (largely) went home. Time to do the same in Afghanistan, methinks...

-- Badtux the Evolutionary Penguin


An acoustic slide guitar being played blues-style with harmonica and an acoustic stomp box for the beat. This appears to be an advertisement for Ellis Guitars, an Australian custom guitar maker. No idea who the players are, Googling the names on the video does *not* turn up any Aussies... but this is some nice jazzy-bluesy riffing anyhow.

Updated: Have now located the players. They're a couple of teenagers from New South Wales (Australia), "Lightning Jack" Ceriani and Michael "Mic" Burley (*NOT* "Mick"). Good job, guys!

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Sunday, January 10, 2010

December's unemployment numbers

The actual unemployment number for December 2009 hit 17.3%, basically unchanged from the previous two months. Note that I am counting everybody who is available to work full time, who wants to work full time, who is not currently holding a full-time job. This is how unemployment was measured during the Great Depression (not with the bullshit statistical corrections currently applied by the Bureau of Labor Statistics).

So, where are we on the Great Depression Scale? Well, closing in on 1932. But not there. And hopefully won't get there, but that depends on continued stimulus, which has at least stopped the numbers from going upwards.

Sooo.... what about all this news about economic upturns yada yada yada? Utter nonsense. The economy can't turn up until consumption turns up. Government consumption has increased since January 2009, but that was more than offset by a reduction in private consumption as people lost their jobs. In other words, until people have jobs, and until people who DO have jobs feel secure in consuming rather than saving to create their own ad-hoc unemployment insurance since this country's system of unemployment insurance sucks donkey dicks, the economy can't turn up.

At which point you say, "hold it -- isn't this chicken and egg? You need jobs before the economy to turn up, but you need the economy to turn up before you can have jobs!" Oh bullshit. There's tons of things that can be done. First of all, you can un-outsource some of the jobs that have been outsourced overseas. Start taxing companies on their overseas operations on a level that would make it just as expensive to build shit overseas as it would be to build shit in America, and you'll see them swarming back to America like flies to a cow patty. It's a myth that overseas workers can build shit better than Americans can -- Toyota's American-built cars are just as good as their Japan-built cars, in fact, they export cars from the USA to Japan -- overseas is just cheaper, usually. Well, make it stop being cheaper, dammit! Now I hear you saying, "but... but... Smoot-Hawley! It made the Great Depression worse!" Oh bull fucking shit, imports during 1929 were only 4.2% of the United States' GNP and exports were only 5.0%, meaning that the most that the tariff could have affected the economy by was 0.8% net exports. US GDP fell by *30%* in the period 1929-1933. In case you can't add, 30% is a helluva lot more than 0.8%. And today the U.S. is a net *importer*, not a net *exporter*, so it would have *positive* effect on the U.S. economy to reduce imports by pulling back more manufacturing to the USA.

And even if we can't get the jobs back, we can get people spending again by making it *seem* like they have jobs, money-wise. Just set unemployment benefits at 80% of previous income, *for the duration of the recession plus six months*, and people will breathe a sigh of relief and start spending again, content that if they *do* lose their job, they'll have to cut back a bit but will still be able to keep their homes and cars. Unemployment payments in many states are bullshit. For example, Arizona's maximum unemployment benefit is $240/week, or $12,480 per year. Crap, that isn't even poverty level, the only thing you can rent for that little money is a cardboard box under a freeway aqueduct. Who the fuck is going to spend money right now when they know that they will be homeless if required to rely on the bullshit that is U.S. "unemployment insurance"? Instead, they're going to shovel every dollar they can get their hands on into savings as their own ad-hoc "unemployment insurance", basically seeming like they're *already* unemployed as far as the economy is concerned.

And that's just two ideas off the top of my head. Give me ten minutes and I can come up with a hundred more ideas. In short, there's a lot that could be done to increase employment and consumption and get the economy moving, either directly or effectively. But none of it's getting done, because politics in America has turned into partisan bullshit where nobody gives a damn about America and Americans, just about how many political points they can score. People who attack Americans are enemies of America, period. Remember that, next time you turn on Faux News and see "news" anchors attacking Americans...

-- Badtux the Economics Penguin

Wonderwall Part 4

The most ironic cover of "Wonderwall" *evah*! I can just imagine the Gallagher brothers looking at this and saying, "What bollocks!"

And this ends the Wonderwall Marathon. We shall return to normal music blogging momentarily ;).

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Saturday, January 09, 2010


One of the things any band has to do when starting out is to do covers. First, that's what people expect when they go to hear an unknown band in the bar. They're okay with the band doing a few of their own songs, but they want to hear covers of their favorite songs too. But also, there's the simple fact that you have to know how songs are put together before you can write songs of your own, and the best way to do that is to listen carefully to other songs and deconstruct them and put them back together again in your own style as you play them.

You haven't heard any of the songs that I cover for the simple reason that I'm in no mood to worry about ASCAP, which has started trolling websites looking for covers so they can get the mechanicals due to the original songwriters. Besides, it's pointless -- given my (lack of) singing voice, you're better off listening to the original. Still, a list of lyrics printouts in my pile above my screen that I've played recently might give you an idea of what's at my fingertips influences-wise:

  • The Animals/Traditional: "House of the Rising Sun"
  • Steve Earle: "Goodbye"
  • Pete Seeger: "Where have all the flowers gone"
  • Steve Earle: "Ft. Worth Blues"
  • Lucinda Williams: "Drunken Angel"
  • Drive By Truckers/Jason Isbell: "Decoration Day"
  • Cat Power: "The Sleepwalker"
  • Bruce Springsteen: "Downbound Train"
  • Townes Van Zandt: "Pancho and Lefty"
  • Oasis: "Wonderwall". (Okay, I only learned this one because everybody else was covering it, so why not me? ;).
And of course a bunch of my own songs that get played from time to time when my fingers get itchy and want to play with my guitar. When I get the urge to play something, I print out the lyrics and prop them up against the drawer unit above my computer so it's at eye level with my microphone (I don't need to print out tabs or anything, I already know what the song sounds like, it's the lyrics I don't remember). Then when done, the printout goes into the pile above the screen. Thus my reference to a pile...

-- Badtux the Songwriting Penguin

And if you're a masochist... a quicky bounce of a *very* rough take of 18, this is about the fourth time through and I'm still deciding what I like and don't like so I can change it to be what I like.

Wonderwall Part 3

Chan Marshall (Cat Power) had a gorgeous cover in 2000 for her "Covers Record" with just her voice and what appears to be a borrowed acoustic guitar that she is very awkwardly strumming (it certainly isn't her Silvertone 1448 electric guitar, which she has a relationship with rather than this awkward strum).

The Gallagher brothers hate Wonderwall. They complain that every time they're in concert, the audience makes them play it. But if it was such a terrible song, would so many people be covering it?

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Friday, January 08, 2010

Music shortage?

If you made a suggestion for a song for the daily YouTubery, your request wouldn't get played until sometime in early February. Yeah, I have a *lot* of music queued up for you. No shortage of good music out there. Though can someone give me some pointers to things with horns? I have a brass deficiency!

Now back to the grindstone of figuring out how to make 18 work...

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Wonderwall Part 2

Ryan Adams covered it with just a single guitar and a cello. He also changes the melody slightly to deal with his vocal range, which is rather limited. Compare/contrast with the original in the previous posting...

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Thursday, January 07, 2010


I was listening to some new stuff on my iPod on the way to and from work today, and there was a song that made me stop and replay it a number of times. It was a very mysterious song that went around in circles back to a few key lines that repeated in various places and making more sense each time, almost a dirge, but slowly I picked out those critical lines, remembered some personal background on that artist, and figured out what it was maybe about. But thinking about it, I was like, wow, that's a really cool way to put a song together.

I've previously noted my biggest failing as a songwriter -- I'm basically a storyteller, not a poet, so I want to tell a story. But a good poem -- and a good song -- are as much about what they *don't* say as what they *do* say. The goal is to leave some ambiguity, some mystery, so that the listener can create their own story. It is as much about engagement with the listener as it is about saying something specific. So anyhow, "The Promised Land" wasn't a good vehicle for trying out that technique because it has a specific story to say, so instead I sat down and did a first rough cut of a new song called "18" tonight. No mp3 yet because parts of the lyrics are still "mumble mumble mumble" because I couldn't think of anything to fit there while I was just blurting out lyrics into the microphone (but I have no shortage of ideas of what to put there so that'll get resolved) plus the chord sequence and melody are going to change because I used one of my basic all-purpose sequences to avoid having the music get in the way of creating the lyrics while I was trying to put that together, but it'll go through the same process as usual -- I'll write down lyrics, try them out again singing them into the microphone, some of them won't "feel" right and I'll change them, wash, rinse, repeat.

As for someone who asks, "where do you get your ideas?", ideas are not something I'm ever particularly short of. In this particular case, it is a song about something that I read in the newspaper combined with something that happened to someone I know. The subject matter of the song I kept hitting the "repeat" button on knocked it loose, though it's an entirely different subject matter. The problem is too many ideas, rather than a shortage of them, and the only reason I don't get back to work and finish that desert novel is because of a time shortage, it's a lot quicker to write a song than a novel.

-- Badtux the Creative Penguin