Marcin Patrzalek and Bach's Toccata

As a guitarist, I like Marcin Patrzalek. A lot. In fact, I prefer Marcin far more than Tim Henson of Polyphia; Marcin keeps me endlessly entertained, while Henson starts to sound the same after a while. (I have the same complaint about Yngwie, but I digress.) Nevertheless, a friend recently sent me a video of Marcin performing his version of Johann Sebastian Bach's Toccata in D minor, which is a favorite piece of mine (and most people around Halloween), and you can watch the video below.

First things first - I'm not sure why Marcin decided to adopt his new "emo look," but it's not working for him.

Having said that, I should clarify that this is NOT Bach's "Toccata" on "one guitar" as the title suggests, for two primary reasons:

  1. Marcin's piece highlights a few themes from Bach's "Toccata," but it barely follows Bach's original, therefore this video should have been titled "Variations on Bach's Toccata."
  2. There are very clearly several layers that were overdubed, so this isn't on "one guitar" as advertised.

Don't get me wrong - I've seen enough of Marcin's live videos to know that he could play this piece on one guitar - and probably with one hand - but he chose not to, so the piece is mislabeled.

Setting those minor nitpicks aside - this is a great rendition. Marcin's approach to the piece is imaginative and original, and I loved his use of various percussion slaps throughout his variations on the theme.

Once again Marcin hit a home run in my estimation, and I stand by my original statement that I really like Marcin Patrzalek; he is inarguably one of the best percussive guitarists on the planet.

The Fastest Manmade Object

I just read the following article: The Fastest Speed Ever Reached by a Manmade Object?, and I have to disagree with their assessment.

The fastest speed ever reached by a manmade object was the back of my mom's hand, which broke the sound barrier several times over while spinning around from the front seat of a 1965 Plymouth Barracuda when I tried backtalking from the rear seat...

Surprised smile

Minor Surgery on a Ricoh Theta V

I just ran into a weird issue with a somewhat easy resolution that I thought I'd share:

One of my "fun" cameras is a Ricoh Theta V 360 camera, which is what I used to create several 360-degree images that I took at the Grand Canyon recently. However, when I looked at my images from that trip, there was a light shadow in each of the final images.

Upon inspecting the camera, there was a tiny scratch on the surface of the lens. I'm not sure how that happened, but any images in the future would have had similar shadows. A quick scan of eBay yielded a replacement lens for around $40, and the following video provided the instructions for swapping the new lens for the old.

Since the video has all the images you need to see, I didn't bother to take any photos, but I thought that I'd share a few notes about the steps involved:

  1. Remove the base from the camera; probably best with a hobby blade that you can easily slide underneath.
  2. Remove the four screws from the bottom; you need a fine point philips screwdriver for this.
  3. Open the case; I used a guitar pick to open the case, but you should make sure to use something non-metallic so that you don't damage anything inside the camera.
  4. Remove the lens; once again, you need to use something that won't damage the camera.

That's about it. Long story short, after 20 minutes of relatively easy labor, my camera is back up and working.


FYI: If you'd like to see the full 360-degree Grand Canyon image, you can click here.

The Cover Song No One Asked For (Or Needed)

I recently came across the following video, which is an "all star" cover of Boston's classic song "Foreplay/Long Time," which I thought I'd review.

I have to be honest - I disliked this video from the opening notes. As a guitar player, I am always highly critical of keyboard players who have spent far too much time trying to create a keyboard patch that approximates a guitar sound... I always think, "There's already guitarist here - why not leave the guitar parts to him and stick to your own instrument?" (e.g. Play in your own sandbox & keep outta mine...) I feel the same way when keyboardists try to steal the basslines from the bassist; further proof that keyboardists have an overinflated sense of importance that almost parallels lead vocalists (who typically think they're gods). In other words, the keyboardist lost me barely one or two seconds into the video, so this odd excursion wasn't a good start for me.

Once past the faux guitar intro, the keyboardist (Lachy Doley) did a good enough job with the organ part, but then - as others have pointed out - the wrong vocalist (Dino Jelusick) began to belt out the verse in his best Heavy Metal stylings. (Ugh.) My dislike for Jelusick's vocals in this cover version weren't simply because Brad Delp's original vocals are inimitable, but because Jelusick's vocals were totally wrong for this song.

As far as the guitarists were concerned, the slide part (from Justin Johnson) was... well... INTERESTING, but I wouldn't call it "good." It sounded like someone down on the bayou was drunk and playing along with the radio. On the other hand, the guitar solo in the bridge (from Joel Hoekstra) was a hastily-slapped-together montage that consisted of an odd set of completely nonsensical choices, which paled by comparison to Tom Scholtz's brilliantly melodic original; my ears are still bleeding from the resulting maelstrom of cacophony. Much like Jelusick's vocals, Hoekstra's guitar parts were completely out of place for this song.

The only decent parts of the song were the rhythm section of Henrik Linder on bass and Mike Portnoy on Drums. Even with little embellishments here and there, Linder and Portnoy laid down a solid groove that respected the original while putting a bit of themselves into their performances.

Despite those few positive elements, in my final opinion - this entire offering gets a big, fat "no" from me.

I Wonder If History Was Like This

I love studying history, and I must admit that the majority of the books that I read are on that subject. That said, I recently stumbled across the following video from Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, which an amusing look at the signing of the Treaty of Westphalia. Even though I know that it's meant humorously, there are times when I wonder how historically accurate events like this might have been.

Winking smile

Painters and Pretenders

I belong to an online support group for people (like me) who suffer from Essential Tremors, and one of the group members posted a link to some modern art from Cy Twombly together with a humorous remark that several of us in the group could probably create similar works of art because our hands shake so much.

TWOMBLY-jumbo

Personally, I thought his observation was hilarious, and several members of the group who understood that this was meant as humor continued to post similar comments. However, before I continue - and in the interests of full transparency - I have written a few blogs over the years in which I describe my personal feeling that a great deal of "modern art" is produced by frauds who are nothing more than conmen posing as "artists" while accusing their critics of being "uncultured." (At the risk of self-aggrandizement, see The Eye of the Beholder, A Fool and His Money, and Modern Art versus the I Could Do That Mentality for a bit more of what I mean.) In one of my blogs I mention my measuring scale for what constitutes "art" in my estimation: "If I Can Do It, It's Not Art." Based on the comments of my fellow group members, it would appear that several of them agreed with my opinion.

However, not everyone can appreciate a good joke at face value. It didn't take long before some humorless simpleton was offended over what was clearly meant as a farce, and he posted the following commentary:

"Here come the misinformed comments about contemporary art! Cy Twombly is a highly regarded contemporary artist. Artists are used to comments from people who haven't put in [the] time to understand contemporary art before breaking into hysterics and assumptions, but as a group, people with tremors are a highly misunderstood bunch and should know better than to laugh at ignorance of an issue or topic."

Setting aside this pompous windbag's inarguable lack of whimsy, I pointed out that not every statement of dislike is borne out of misinformation or ignorance. On the contrary, my personal dislike for the majority of contemporary art is based on a lifetime of exposure. I have visited hundreds of art museums around the planet, attended lectures with the artists themselves, toured museums with their curators, discussed modern art with private guides, and I have taken dozens of art history courses over the past several decades. Currently the walls of my house are adorned with lithographs and originals from a diverse set of artists; from Picasso to Monet to a host of other artists whom many people have likely never heard of, which includes art from family members who were contemporary artists in the Pacific Northwest in the late 1960s/early 1970s. In other words, my opinions on the talents (or lack thereof) that are typically displayed by many contemporary artists are based on more than a half-century of art study.

In every sphere of art - whether oils & canvas, pencil & paper, photography, music, etc., there will be artists who are serious about their craft. However, there will also be charlatans who pass off their lack of talent as creative genius that only the uncultured will fail to appreciate. When this happens, I am continuously amazed at the number of people who defend these charlatans, which I can only assume is a vain attempt by modern art apologists to stave off the discovery that they have been duped. Unfortunately, the category of "modern" art allows a greater number of charlatans to enter the art world, because the very strengths of contemporary art (e.g. the lack of definitive rules) enables these charlatans to submit their crap as artistic creations.

In summary, not every objection to contemporary art can be labeled as "breaking into hysterics;" quite often people's objections to contemporary art is that it holds zero intrinsic value. Much of what is currently en vogue will be largely forgotten as faddish tripe within a few decades, by which time we will have yet another interpretation of what constitutes "modern art" from a new tribe of charlatans. What shall stand the test of time and remain within the art world, however, are those pieces from artists who are truly serious about their craft.

We Have Plenty of Evidence

As I watch the news and listen to politicians discuss the ongoing investigation into the treasonous actions of the people who stormed the Nation's Capital, they begin to repeat the same old story that they have told many times in the past: "we have plenty of evidence, but we won't prosecute."

Like many of you, I've grown weary of this same "we have plenty of evidence, but we won't prosecute" excuse. For the people who want to see someone (like Trump) go down in flames, such a statement is vindication of their existing hatred even though nothing actually happens. But when no one is ever prosecuted, Washington's "we have plenty of evidence" statements mean nothing. As someone I know pointed out: either you prosecute because you have evidence, or you exonerate because you don't.

This continued tendency of politicians to say whatever they want about someone's presumptive guilt without demonstrable evidence to support their claims borders on slander and/or libel from a legal perspective, while from a personal perspective I disregard the entire fetid mass of political anal fissures currently in office as useless appendages of society. In a related matter, I distrust news sources that will print or broadcast anything as publicly and loudly as possible without verifying the facts when it suits their agenda, and then quietly print a retraction when their duplicitousness is discovered, while at the same time demonstrating their hypocrisy when they demand ridiculous levels of authentication for stories that do not fit the message they want to promote. (But I digress...)

This current situation with Trump isn't the first time we've heard Washington troglodytes claim they have plenty of evidence. We heard the same thing about Hillary Clinton's destruction of government equipment that had been subpoenaed; you might recall the FBI saying, "we have enough evidence, but we won't prosecute," so the AG dismissed the investigation. So was she actually guilty of crimes or not? We'll never know. There was "plenty of evidence" that the Obama administration used the IRS to punish political rivals, but no one was prosecuted. On more than one occasion we heard that someone had plenty of evidence on Bill Clinton for one crime or other; but he was never prosecuted and nothing was ever brought to light. Apart from being a serial predator, was Slick Willie guilty of actual crimes? Once again, we'll never know.

Jumping forward to today, the Washington Post presented ample evidence, and the New York Times has begrudgingly verified, that the Bidens appear to be guilty of some truly nefarious money changing prior to Joe's election to office, which isn't surprising given the fact that Joe and his son built both of their careers upon a steaming pile of dishonesty and lies (see Politics, Plagiarism and the Press and Laptop from Hell, among others). But will these undisputed facts ever see the light of day in a court room? I think not, and it will probably be the same situation with Trump and whomever serves in office after the Bidens leave town.

Despite their mutual loathing and hatred for each other, both sides of the political aisle know this to be true: once Washington finally gets around to prosecuting someone who truly deserves it, the gloves will come off, everyone will be fair game for prosecution, and the entire house of cards will come tumbling down. In other words, the Dems and GOP have d├ętente right now... and neither side wants to cause Mutually Assured Political Destruction.

Why I Prefer Tina Setkic over Yngwie Malmsteen

On the one hand, you have Yngwie Malmsteen, who is inarguably the most arrogant SOB in modern rock guitar, playing his "Arpeggios from Hell" in the following video while acting like he's some sort of badass:

While on the other hand, you have the teenage Tina S playing the same solo in the following video, and she's playing it arguably better while looking like she's bored to tears:

It's easy to see why I think Tina is far more talented than Yngwie...

Prog Rock Sentiments on Saint Patrick's Day

In honor of St. Patrick's Day and my favorite prog rock band, this is the t-shirt that I'm wearing today...

irush-shamrock-green

In keeping with that theme, here are some possible lyrics that go along with that t-shirt:

An ancient cleric
Humble stride
Today's Saint Patrick
Humble pride

No his snakes are not for rent
Neither viper nor serpent
And I'm glad they finally went
For they all would not repent

Saint Patrick!

My Humble Request to Amend the English Language

I have realized a serious shortcoming within the English language: we have no word to describe someone who speaks sarcasm fluently, which I believe is a serious lapse in linguistic breadth.

In the current iteration of the English language, we have an adverb to say that something was said "sarcastically," or an adjective to describe a particular turn of phrase as being "sarcastic," or a noun to denote "sarcasm" itself as a form of bitter irony, but we have no way to properly identify the person who employs sarcasm to communicate.

On the contrary, someone who is speaking "satirically" is labeled a "satirist," though that word does not adequately describe someone who is speaking sarcastically.

Therefore, I propose that the word "sarcastinator" be added to the English language. I think this simple linguistic addition will do well to recognize the talents of those who are proficient in the fine art of sarcasm, and begin to reconcile the years of oversight and neglect that sarcastinators have endured within conversational circles.

To that end, I welcome your participation in promoting "sarcastinator" to the English speaking nations of the world, because I care about your participation.

Really.

If only you could hear the sincerity with which I am asking for your support.

I-Speak-Fluent-Sarcasm