Superstore Run for Printer Ink

OK, I can admit I’m a bit of a procrastinator…not on everything, but on most things. This morning, I found myself out of black printer ink — again. (Naturally, I tried to milk the remaining ink from an old cartridge, but was denied.) This meant venturing out to my local superstore in the snowy weather. Unlike most people, I take the weather conditions into account when I drive. I’m actually aware of the fact that rain and/or snow, and/or a wintery mix can have an impact on driving and braking conditions. It was a relatively painless journey to the store at 6:45 am. ( I could have waited for the “office superstore” to open at 7:30 am, but I was done procrastinating.) Little did I know, the journey would raise some questions about man vs. machine in today’s U.S. of A.

Upon arrival, there were a couple of folks using mini-plows to clear the massive parking lot. I don’t know why, but for some reason, the 24/7 superstore only keeps one of its two sets of doors open during certain hours so I didn’t park in my usual spot. I made it to the electronics or “entertainment” department where the extremely valuable printer ink is kept behind lock and key. (Sub question: Is it possible one of the three wise men should have brought printer ink to Baby Jesus? I mean, do they keep the frankincense and myrrh under lock and key as well or is it near the Flintstone vitamins?) Unfortunately, there were no superstore employees in electronics. I was being denied my black printer ink cartridge after my wintery trek! I noticed superstore employees near the large metallic doors at the back of the store. Apparently, there must be a shift change at 7 am because employees were coming and going. A yellow vested lady told me “someone will be out shortly.” As I waited, I questioned my superstore trek at this point.

I decided to stand near the “entertainment” command post where they keep the cash registers and card scanners. The screen on the card scanner read “press for assistance” so I did. Nothing changed. Then another employee saw me and told me he’d “get someone from electronics.” I pressed it again. Finally, a third employee spotted me and took the initiative to visit the forbidden zone behind the large metallic doors. She emerged with a set of keys to free the printer ink from its vault. It’s a weird little lock on a large glass case, but the two of us persevered and the 245 XL ink cartridge was mine. Naturally, I had to take it to the self-scanning registers.

This raises the question…Have “the machines have taken over” a la The Terminator, etc. ? I mean the printer is the machine who started all of this. How long till it can just refill itself? Can’t it just spring legs or wheels and refill itself or maybe transform into a drone and fly there? Would using the superstore app have helped in this situation? I never use it because my cell phone is so dated it won’t work with any of those. You gotta love procrastination! In the meantime, I think someone should invent a little cow which holds your emergency ink cartridges. That way you can pull the extra cartridge right out of its udder.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

How the Lynch stole Cinema

One quote pops to mind when I think about film director David Lynch. “I’m not gonna lie to you, it’s gonna get weird.” – Big Earl, Starsky & Hutch (2004).

Have you ever SEEN a David Lynch film? The word which always seems to define his films is “surreal”, which is great because… how else could you describe them? For example, I stumbled across a short film of his called “What Did Jack Do?” on Netflix. What is this seventeen minute effort all about? “In a locked down train station, a homicide detective conducts an interview with a tormented monkey.” Yep, it doesn’t get much more Lynchian than that.

I’d love to tell you I’m an expert on Lynch’s films, but I’m not. I’ve seen a few them: Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart, Mulholland Drive, and even The Elephant Man. He might best be known for the film and TV show Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. I’ve seen the film and part of the series. What I always remember about it is the cool instrumental “The Pink Room” by soundtrack composer Angelo Badalamenti.

Back in the day, I remember going to a used record store to listen to the Twin Peaks soundtrack just so I could buy this one song.

Getting back to David Lynch films, they are unique, visually interesting, and pretty disturbing. There are dreamlike sequences involving midgets, cowboys, and in “Blue Velvet”, even Dean Stockwell lip-syncing Roy Orbison’s “Candy Colored Clown.”

Yes, that’s par for the course a la David Lynch. Is his goal simply to shock and/or disturb the audience? Are there deeper meanings to these surreal films that only some viewers get or does he purposefully leave them ambiguous and trippy? Beats me, but they certainly aren’t boring. The first time I heard of David Lynch was in college. A friend of mine with the moniker “King Couch Potato” told me about some of the weirdest films he’d ever seen. Those included Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” and Lynch’s “Blue Velvet.” And, yes, they are pretty weird. Another college friend said the same thing about Lynch’s “Eraserhead.” I’ve yet to see this one, but I will.

In conclusion, here are some Lynchian questions to ponder. My answers are (in parentheses), but what do you think?

Q: If a tree falls in the forest, but no one hears it, does it make a sound?

(A: Yes– what are you stupid or something?)

Q: Why did David Lynch interview a monkey suspected of murder?

(A: Why not!)

Till next time, keep your monkey out of trouble and your Mojo on the Horizon!

Pronunciation: Ears of the Beholder

A few random thoughts on pronunciations in the musical world popped into my head recently. I’m sure there are lots of issues and interpretations with them, but two jump to mind.

The first one is familiar to guitarists, but is also something which can be found in some household smoke detectors. The word is…drum roll, please….piezo. I hear it pronounced several different ways. I pronounce it like the letters “P” “A” plus “zo.” Some folks pronounce it like an after dinner dessert: (apple) pie and zo. Others say something like the letter “P” “ate” “zo” or “P” “et” “zo.”

I always thought piezo was an Italian term like mezzo forte, but I think it’s actually Greek. I could try to explain exactly how it works, but the bottom line is you find them in acoustic-electric guitars. I found this video on YouTube. If you just want to see/hear the fun part, skip ahead to about the 4 minute mark.

Give this dude credit. It’s a pretty creative use of cranberry juice and other household items. Piezos are also commonly used in cigar box guitars and can be used to create “stompboxes”. It’s very DIY.

As a side note, I have lots of ideas for cigar box guitar designs with or without piezos, but being handy isn’t my first love. Getting back to the world of musical pronunciations, musicians and Rush fans are mourning the loss of drummer Neil Peart. I’ve always pronounced his last name like the affordably priced shampoo “Pert”, but I’ve been told it actually sounds like “Ear” in the middle.

It sounds weird to say it that way….like I should be sipping a cocktail with my pinky finger extended, but whatever. I’ve never been an enormous Rush fan, but however you pronounce it Peart has always been revered for his abilities as a drummer. The Rush songs “Tom Sawyer” and “YYZ” seemed to be the Holy Grails of drum solos for many aspiring percussionists.

Peart also contributed lyrics to Rush songs like “A Passage to Bangkok” and music to “Limelight” (both are worth a listen) as well as the mid 70s progressive rock epic 2112 — that’s pronounced “twenty-one, twelve.”

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Nightcrawls & Gyllenhaals

First thing’s first. The movie “Nightcrawler” is creepy. I’d even call it “C-R-eepy” for emphasis. It’s not a horror movie per se, but Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance could very well make your skin crawl.

Gyllenhaal plays a weird L.A. dude named Lou Bloom. From the get-go, viewers can tell this dude is a little different and not in a good way. Bloom is a petty thief with some serious negotiating skills and boundary issues. After stumbling across an accident in progress, Bloom runs into a a freelance TV reporter (played by Bill Paxton) and decides to explore the same career path of “nightcrawling” (selling footage to the highest TV morning news bidder.) Before long, Bloom risks life and limb in hot pursuit of stories ranging from shootings to accidents, and meets aging news director Nina Romina (Rene Russo) in the process. She wants “graphic” news footage (preferably effecting suburban viewers) and Bloom is the guy who can deliver it.

What makes Gyllenhaal’s Lou Bloom character soooo creepy?? Wow, there are lots of things, but, for my money, the way he speaks is number one. He sounds like a monotone robot — like some weird mix of a textbook and and a pop psychology paperback. “I think being clear with your objectives is more important than trying to present your ideas in a non-confrontational manner.” (This is from the same guy who assaults a security guard and steals his watch in the first five minutes of the movie.)

Nightcrawler is an interesting reflection of sorts — it holds a mirror up to not only the news business, but capitalist society as a whole. On the one hand, Lou Bloom and the news outlets serve the viewing public’s needs. He beats his competitors to stories and provides information. On the other hand, Lou and the news stations are exploitative and will seemingly stop at nothing to get the stories. Ultimately, it asks how far is “too far” to get the story or just to survive in the news business? It’s a theme that has been explored in plenty of other films, but “Nightcrawler” does it in an original albeit white knuckle way. The 2014 film was written and directed by Dan Gilroy. I highly recommend it.

Till next time, keep our Mojo on the Horizon!

The Scourge of Skidmore, MO

I remember hearing stories about the town bully that was served a lethal dose of vigilante justice. I was probably in middle school or junior high at the time, but I can still remember it. Years later, as a working adult, I remember a coworker of mine in the radio business re-telling the story as well. It sounds like folklore, but what happened in the small Missouri town is apparently true, and, truth is stranger than fiction.

Nodaway County sits along the Iowa-Missouri border and Skidmore’s population is estimated at less than 300. Picture dusty pickup trucks…farmland…and you’ll get the idea. In July 1981, the residents of Skidmore had enough of the “town bully” Ken McElroy. Picture an enormous dude (270 lbs.) with Elvis-like dark hair and pork chop sideburns. They also had enough of law enforcement’s inability to do anything effective about him. To put it in perspective, Wikipedia notes McElroy was “indicted 21 times”, but was only found guilty once — that was for shooting and injuring an elderly grocery store owner in Skidmore. (Apparently, there was some dispute about one of McElroy’s many offspring pilfering candy from the store.)

While McElroy was found guilty of the assault charge, he remained free pending his appeal. Soon enough, he allegedly took the time to make threats at the local pub with a WW II rifle and attached bayonet. That was the last straw for Skidmore residents. A large group of citizens met in a nearby legion hall, then entered the pub. As McElroy and his wife exited the pub and entered his pickup truck, he was shot dead. To this day, no one saw a thing.

This story is re-told by author Harry N. MacLean in the book “In Broad Daylight.” I haven’t read it yet, but today I watched the 1991 made-for-TV movie of the same name. The TV version stars Brian Dennehy as town bully “Len Rowan” and Marcia Gay Harden as his wife. A young Chris Cooper plays a state trooper as well. Cloris Leachman also has a supporting role. I found it on YouTube and have to say it’s worth watching. Dennehy plays arrogant very well and the story itself is pretty amazing.

There’s more to the story…allegations of witness intimidation, cattle rustling, mob lawyers, and much more. I found a “60 minutes” piece where McElroy’s widow and attorney both vouch for his moral character. Was justice served? You be the judge.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Visualizing The Beatles

I’ve been a fan of The Beatles’ music for over thirty years. I own their original 12 studio albums in some form or another and have some oddities as well. (Take the album “The Beatles in Italy” for example. It has a great pic of the Fab Four raising their champagne glasses in unison. It’s on the back cover if I’m not mistaken.) I’ve read a few books about their lyrics, how different songs were developed, and the whole Beatles phenomenon. At some point, I practically had the documentary film “The Compleat Beatles” memorized. It can be difficult to find a new spin on some of these things, but I found one in a book I got for Christmas last year.

Visualizing The Beatles: A Complete Graphic History of the World’s Favorite Band was written by John Pring and Rob Thomas. According to the liner notes and their website, they formed a company called Designbysoap Ltd, which “specializes in information design and infographics.” The book’s cover gives you some idea about what’s inside for readers, but it’s not just a study of The Beatles’ fashion trends — although it is interesting to see their different suits and hairstyles.

The authors break down each of the original 12 albums into infographics about who sang lead, who wrote the songs, and who played what instruments. They also list the number of covers and originals on their early albums. My favorite part was the graphic showing how many songs were in major or minor keys for example. There are also quotes and graphics regarding their influences like Bob Dylan and Ravi Shankar. If you’re into trivia, you won’t be disappointed. Prior to reading this book, I found out “Revolver” wasn’t the only title considered for the album. There’s a graphic which shows 7 other possibilities. There are also maps which include The Beatles first tour stops as well as Beatle landmarks in London and elsewhere. Did you know the Fab Four had plans to purchase a private island? Good stuff.

The graphics alone make this book an interesting read, but it really does have plenty to offer the seasoned Beatle fan who’s already well-read. In short, “a splendid time is guaranteed for all.”

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

The Ongoing Electric Guitar Quest

The call of the guitar is a constant thing and the quest for more of them never stops. (Some musicians call it “GAS” Gear/Guitar Acquisition Syndrome). Why is that? For one thing, there are so many different brands and choices. Some electric players are Fender snobs while others are snob-o-RIFF-ic about Gibsons. (Personally, I play an Epiphone Dot Studio, but more on that later.) In the acoustic world, you could say the same thing about the brands Taylor and Martin. Don’t get me wrong, if you make your living with music, you need something reliable to get the job done ; however, it can take on a Bloods vs. Crips type of vibe.

I don’t make a living playing music and I’m a tightwad so making a split-second decision to buy a high dollar Les Paul, Stratocaster, Telecaster, or even Jaguar is not going to happen. My first electric guitar was a gift from my aunt and uncle. It was a black Westone with a Floyd Rose tremolo system. (Basically, it’s a device for keeping the guitar in tune.) It was a good guitar and I have good memories of jamming with friends and learning barred chords on it. Down the road, I bought a low end Telecaster copy (the Austin brand). It was black with a white pickguard. I think Bob Dylan played a similar looking Tele when he “went electric” and pissed everybody off in the process. I eventually sold the Austin Tele and grew tired of black guitars because I’d been there and done that. Plus, black Strats a la Eric Clapton (or lower end Squiers) are a dime a dozen.

I came across an intriguing semi-hollow electric guitar at a Best Buy store. Ironically, it was in the same shopping center as Guitar Center. (Apparently, Best Buy was test marketing musical instrument sales at that location. They closed that department after a year or so if I remember correctly.) The Epiphone Dot Studio appealed to me on several levels. First of all, it had a rootsy or classic vibe to it. It LOOKED like the guitars played by the likes of John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, and Chuck Berry. It had the classic “f” holes cut into it. Second, it was an affordable model and I’m a tightwad. Third, I liked the sound and feel of it. Novel reasons for considering a purchase! For awhile, the Epiphone Dot Studio in Alpine White was like my white whale or Moby Dick. They only produced them in white for a few years, but then they stopped. Eventually, I bought a used Dot Studio with a Dark Mahogany finish from Guitar Center. Pics really don’t do it justice. It’s a beautiful instrument.

Somewhere along the way, I also bought a solid body electric for 50 bucks. It’s a Dean Vendetta and also happens to have a mahogany finish. What I like about this model is it’s light as a feather! My experience on discussion boards is guitar snobs have universal disdain for the Dean brand. I’m not sure why, but it sure seems that way. Currently, this guitar is in pieces because I experimented with a different neck on it. It’s not that I didn’t like the current one, I just wanted to experiment with it. At one point, I raised the bridge on Dean to play some slide/bottleneck guitar on it. This guitar has a string-through body and tune-o-matic bridge. I feel this allows for great sustain, but some may think differently. Mark my words….The Vendetta and it’s bridge will both rise again!

So what’s next? I’m not really tired of the mahogany finish per se , but I’d say the weight of the guitar is one thing I’ve learned to take into consideration when buying — not only for playing time, but also for schlepping around your gear. Why be weighted down when you don’t have to be? Lately, I’ve been looking at another Epiphone model — the Les Paul Special I P90 in “faded TV yellow.” Man, that has a nice ring to it. (And, yes, it’s both lightweight and affordable.)

What does the type of guitar you play say about you as a person anyway? Does playing an expensive model make you a better player? It won’t if you suck. Recently I bought a very versatile, short scale Ibanez bass for a great price. During a jam, I was told it’s a “shredder” brand for, you know, metal heads. I disagree. Instruments are only as good as the musicians playing them. People judge one another based on how they present themselves. Guitars are no different.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!