Geeky Bob

Just a short, simple blog for Bob to share his thoughts.

Be sure to check out my technical blog at www.microsoftbob.com.

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My Thoughts About Rush's Studio Albums

A long time ago Rush ceased making albums where everything was good on it. It used to be that you could put on a Rush album and every track was going to be great, but that time has long since passed.

At the risk of too much information, here is my completely biased assessment on the "listenability" for each of the Rush studio albums:

  • RUSH, FLY BY NIGHT, and CARESS OF STEEL: There are good tracks, there are bad tracks, and there are weird tracks on each album. I seldom listened to any of these albums in their entirety.
  • 2112: "Lessons" and "Tears" weren't amazing songs, but the rest of the tracks more than made up for them, and I could listen to this entire album over and over.
  • A FAREWELL TO KINGS: I would call "Cinderella Man" this album's weakest track, but still... I could listen to this entire album repeatedly, and often did.
  • HEMISPHERES: There aren't any weak tracks. Period. I listened to this entire album repeatedly.
  • PERMANENT WAVES: Rush was firing on all cylinders now, so there are no clunkers on this album, and I listened to it more times than I can remember.
  • MOVING PICTURES: Rush had evolved into prog rock masters. This album is a masterpiece. Every song is a winner. I played this album more than any other album in my lifetime.
  • SIGNALS: There really aren't any exceedingly weak tracks on this album, either. But this marks the beginning of the synth takeover... still, I could listen to the whole album in one sitting.
  • GRACE UNDER PRESSURE: I will admit, this album had a couple songs that I liked less than others; for example: Red Lenses was fun to play in a band just to see if we could pull it off, but it wasn't that great to listen to. (Way too much synth.) Nevertheless, I could listen to this entire album, just not as often as others.
  • POWER WINDOWS: Several bright moments, but waaaaaaay too much synth. And the lyrics were nowhere near Neil's best. If MP3s had existed, I probably would have created playlists that left off a song or two.
  • HOLD YOUR FIRE: Wow - which band is this? Is this even Rush? The synths have completely taken over. As with POWER WINDOWS, I didn't want to hear every song, and by this point I had a CD player that allowed me to pick and choose what songs to play and what songs to skip.
  • PRESTO: High points and low points... and Rush continues to sound like a totally different band than a decade earlier. I continued to pick and choose which songs to play. Lyrically pretty weak at times, like Neil was trying too hard to be good or trying too hard to be funny.
  • ROLL THE BONES: Strong points and weak points. (Are you seeing a trend yet?) Plus - RAP??? SERIOUSLY??? (Okay - the video of the skeleton is funny in concert, but still...)
  • COUNTERPARTS: This album had a few bright moments, but truth be told - I despised this album so badly that I packed up all my Rush albums and gave them to my brother. (Seriously... all my picture discs, all my bootlegs, all my collectibles... everything went.)
  • TEST FOR ECHO: I was done with Rush, so I never listened to this album. The only way that I heard tracks from this album is when I went to see Rush in concert in later years, and I was happy to see that there were a couple good songs on it.
  • VAPOR TRAILS: As with TEST FOR ECHO, I didn't listen to VAPOR TRAILS, so the first time I heard tracks from this album was when I saw Rush in concert.
  • FEEDBACK: A friend let me listen to this album, but let's be honest - it's all cover songs, so it's not really Rush, is it?
  • SNAKES & ARROWS: I heard this album when it came out, although I will admit that I didn't actually buy it. Nevertheless, it was a strong album with very little hint of synths. I was hooked from the first few notes of "Far Cry," which hearkened back to the old Rush we used to love. Still, though - there were several weak points, too.
  • CLOCKWORK ANGELS: Wanna know a secret? I still haven't heard this album in its entirety. I heard "Caravan" and "BU2B" when they were released as singles, and I heard a couple more songs when Rush played them in concert, but... for some reason this album just didn't pique my interest, so I still haven't sat down and listened to it.

And there you have it: my completely biased view of the studio albums that were released throughout Rush's career. Please note that the views expressed were entirely my own and are not intended to infer any lack of awesomeness for the Trio from Toronto.

That being said, Clockwork Angels was not the best swan song for a band this awesome. I know that Rush has said that they will never tour again, but hopefully they'll put out another studio album that will make up for Clockwork Angels.

Posted: Aug 19 2018, 09:39 by Bob | Comments (0)
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I Love Levy's Guitar Straps

I have played guitar for over 40 years, and I have to say - without a doubt - that Levy's makes the best guitar straps. I know that this is probably going to sound like a paid advertisement, but I have used their straps for the past 25 years or so, and I have never had one fail on me. (And trust me, I have abused the heck out of them.)

With that in mind, I thought that it was pretty cool that I stumbled across the following short video which shows how their straps are made:

FYI - I currently own a dozen different straps from Levy's, and I use them together with Schaller Strap Locks. That combination is, in my opinion, the best setup for any guitar player.

Posted: Jul 02 2018, 17:46 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Reflections on an Mi-24D Hind

I recently saw this old warhorse at the Pima Air and Space Museum outside Tucson, AZ:

Mi-24 Hind

The Mi-24D was a formidable enemy in its day, so my first thought was that this once-mighty gunship living out the rest of its years as a rusting museum piece seemed such an ignoble end for this amazing aircraft. And yet - like the empire this beast once served, its days of usefulness have long passed.

With that in mind, this ancient relic seems a fitting epitaph for the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. Its fortuitous demise and relegation to the junk heap of history should serve as a stark reminder of the atrocities committed in the name of Communism during the 20th-century's flirtations with that particular brand of unspeakable evil.

My hope is that future generations will leave this aircraft, and the failed political system that it represents, in the past - where they belong.

Posted: Jun 19 2018, 15:39 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Filed under: History | Military | Politics | Ponderings
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The Walking Dead is a Dead Man Walking

A couple of years ago I wrote a blog titled How The Walking Dead Lost Me As A Fan, wherein I described how AMC's television series The Walking Dead (TWD) lost me forever through their lack of artistic direction and their apathetic and unnecessarily-grotesque methods for killing off major characters. I also pointed out that I was not alone in my opinions: fans and critics alike have lambasted the show, and its ratings have continued to plummet into a near-fatal nosedive. While TWD's average viewership is still garnering numbers that would make some other series proud, the show is at it's lowest point since its second season, and nearly half of what it was at its peak. In short, TWD is driving its fans away for many of the reasons that I wrote about in my blog two years ago - and more.

Having said that, I recently stumbled across the following videos, each of which does a great job of summarizing many of the problems that TWD's production staff has failed to rectify:

If you used to be a fan of TWD, those videos might be worth your time to watch, because they will reinforce your decision to abandon the sinking ship that was once one of television's best series.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, I would try to keep up with the series by reading episode synopses, but I have no intention of actually watching the show again. With that in mind, I discovered that The Telegraph provides great recaps for most of TWD's episodes, with just enough detail to help former TWD fans know what's happening to their favorite characters, without having to waste an hour each week suffering through yet another pointless offering from TWD's misguided creative team.

So if you're like me, have fun catching up on the show, and enjoy all the time you're saving by not actually watching it.

Posted: Jun 15 2018, 11:39 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism

The following study of 1,256,407 children conclusively shows that there is no link between vaccinations and autism:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0264410X14006367

There is no other way to put this mildly:

  • ...if you choose to ignore the overwhelming amount of scientific evidence that supports vaccines...
    - or -
  • ...if you choose to listen to some ignorant celebrity's rant against vaccines...
    - or -
  • ...if you choose to believe some dim-witted anti-vaxxer's blog...
    - or -
  • ...if you think that you somehow have more information than the thousands of disparate scientists and researchers from around the globe who have repeatedly shown that there is no link between vaccinations and autism...

...then you are an idiot.

Posted: Jun 14 2018, 11:24 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Trying Not to Overheat

Today's afternoon cycling adventure through the desert was not the hottest ride that I've been on, but it was the second-most.

2018-06-13-temperatures

I had to force myself to ride slower and constantly douse myself with water from one of my water bottles to keep from overheating. As a result, I added a little over a minute to each mile on my ride, but I managed to keep my heart rate low as I kept saying under my breath, "Don't kill yourself," which was meant both literally and figuratively: I didn't want to push myself too hard and overheat, and I didn't want to make dumb choices that would simply get me killed. (Although it is arguable that riding in that level of extreme heat is a dumb choice by itself.)

SunSurprised smile

Posted: Jun 13 2018, 21:42 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Transcribing It's the Right Time by Mitch Malloy and Van Halen

Every month or two I decide to transcribe a song; it's a weird hobby, but it's a lot more challenging than Sudoku. Anyway, today's song was "It's the Right Time," which is the only song by Van Halen with Mitch Malloy on vocals. (See https://youtu.be/NBXjQ8FASug for the original song.)

My transcription is pretty faithful to the original - the only artistic license that I took was to add an ending since the original recording fades out.

While I have usually liked EVH's grooves, this song had some particularly interesting parts to it: the main hook for the verses is a four-measure progression, wherein EVH hits the opening chord for each of the first two measures an eighth note before the beat, and he hits the opening chord for the third and fourth measures on the downbeat; this creates a cool groove with a heightened tension, because your ear usually wants to hear the chords hit on the downbeat. When EVH gets to the bridge, he changes accents all over the place; so sometimes he sounds on the beat, while at other times he sounds like he's playing in a different time signature. As a whole, all of EVH's inventiveness on this song results in a really fun piece to listen to; it sometimes sounds like it's not quite right, but in the best possible way.


Note: Mitch Malloy was probably Van Halen's shortest-term vocalist; Van Halen hired him right before the Gary Cherone debacle, although Mitch eventually declined the gig due to a mix-up regarding David Lee Roth. (See https://youtu.be/dxF4WRORQ9s for Mitch's story.)

Nevertheless, back in the 1990s, it seemed like Van Halen was going through a different vocalist every other month. It became kind of a running joke, so Eddie and Alex Van Halen posed for the following milk advertisement:

Van Halen Milk Ad

The text in the advertisement reads:

"Of all the lead singers we've had, most never got enough calcium. Typical. But not for Alex and me. Because every time we change singers, we have an extra glass of milk. That way we're sure to get more than the recommended three glasses a day. As you can see, sometimes all at once."

Open-mouthed smile

Posted: Jun 11 2018, 23:14 by Bob | Comments (0)
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If You Think You're Having a Bad Day…

I just read this article, Pompeii victim crushed by boulder while fleeing eruption, which details a recent archeological discovery in Italy. The unfortunate soul in these photos from that article has to be one of the least-lucky people to have ever walked the face of the planet:

The Unluckiest Man in Pompeii

This doomed individual survived the initial eruption of Mount Vesuvius near Pompeii, only to have his head crushed by a rock during the subsequent eruption.

Sometimes, it's just not your day...

Posted: Jun 02 2018, 09:34 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Brian Culbertson Makes Me Want To Hurl

A good friend of mine shared the following video of Brian Culbertson and his band playing a medley of jazz pieces, Back in the Day and So Good; my friend introduced the video as an example of "a band hitting on all cylinders."

I really like jazz, so despite never having heard of Brian Culbertson before, I watched with anticipation. However, I was sorely disappointed, and I responded that I totally loved the band, but I thought that Culbertson was overly tiresome. I really wished that Culbertson hadn't shown up to the gig, which is a really bad thing since it's his band and his gig... and I closed out my comment by stating that this was just my $.02 on the subject.

Someone else accused my observations of being overly jaded, to which I replied that my critique wasn't meant to be a jaded response; I sincerely watched the video 'cause I love jazz, but just as sincerely I felt robbed. The video starts out with Culbertson jumping around his band members like a Jack Russell Terrier, then Culbertson starts acting like he's calling the shots for a band that is obviously so well-rehearsed that they could play their parts in their sleep. (I haven't seen that level of self-aggrandizing pomposity since Yanni fell from grace.)

When Culbertson's piano melody finally comes in around 0:30, it's actually kind of a let-down; it's a poppy, pseudo-jazz hook, but Culbertson's faux attachment to his own amazingness during the first 2:30 of the video literally made me laugh out loud. When the band changes piece to "So Good," Culbertson's piano melody steps it up a notch; it's a much better hook, but Culbertson continues his useless, Yanni-style directing motions. I laughed out loud a second time when Culbertson pulled off his pouty stance and walked away from the piano around 4:15. (Seriously? What purpose did that serve?)

Around 4:25 we finally get to Culbertson's piano solo, which for an entire minute is nothing but smacking the black keys of the piano, which is an old trick used by less-talented pianists; play a song in Db and stick to the black keys and you'll be playing a Db pentatonic scale, which means that you'll never hit a wrong note or a sour note. Seriously - anyone could have played the first minute of his solo; regardless of whether they can actually play keyboards. At around 5:30 Culbertson finally wanders off the black keys, but that's only for a descending line during the last few seconds of his solo, after which he assumes his "menacing look" and struts over to the bass player, where he acts like he's getting in the bass player's face - for no @#$% discernible reason other than being a schmuck. (The bass player has some cool, funky chops, though.)

Around 6:35 I was surprised to see Culbertson switch to the trombone, and as one of my friends pointed out - Culbertson pulls off a pretty good solo for about a minute. However, by this point I was already so annoyed by the previous 6½ minutes of Culbertson's frenetic prancing about that it overshadowed his single-best moment to shine. After Culbertson's solo, the sax player does a great job of eclipsing Culbertson's preceding solo, but that doesn't stop Culbertson from raining on his parade by uselessly gesticulating in the sax player's face for a half-minute or so. After that useless escapade, Culbertson switches back to the trombone for the remainder of the song.

I made a comparison to Yanni earlier, and there are several reasons why Culbertson really reminds me of him; Yanni was one of the most self-absorbed SOBs on the planet, but he managed to surround himself with awesome musicians who made him look and sound great. Yanni's orchestra over-rehearsed everything; there was no improvisation when playing live - every 'solo' was purposefully-written and memorized, yet Yanni still felt the need to gesture like he was some sort of gifted conductor, even though his orchestra could have played with blindfolds. Or as one concert reviewer stated, "Yanni's orchestra was amazing; the only thing that could have made them better would have been for Yanni not to have shown up." In many ways, Culbertson seems like a Yanni reincarnation in a different genre; his band is amazingly-skilled, and they're incredibly tight, but Culbertson's arm-waving, prancing, faux-conducting, strutting, and posturing ruined it for me.


FYI - for an example of my Yanni comparison, watch the following video; you'll see a lot of the reasons why Culbertson's mannerisms reminded me of Yanni, except that Yanni doesn't play any solos to save himself from looking like a useless appendage.

By the way, the great irony of Yanni's flowery statements in the above video about how his musicians "bring great beauty, strength and color to his music" and how they "breathe life to his notes," is that the piece they play in the video isn't even Yanni's!!! It's actually a traditional American fiddle piece called The Old Grey Cat; one of Yanni's musicians introduced it to the orchestra, so Yanni slapped a different name on it, (World Dance), and started claiming that it was his. What a tool.

Posted: May 30 2018, 13:34 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Desert Riding Bokeh Videos

When you somehow manage to bump the camera button on your phone in its waterproof case during a desert ride and it creates an experimental bokeh-art film in your honor...

Posted: May 04 2018, 10:16 by Bob | Comments (0)
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