Communication Is One Thing

Someone I know recently shared the following image on Social Media, and I think I understand the gist of what the writer was trying to say:

Communication-Is-One-Thing
"Communication is one thing
but your tone while communicating
With someone is everything ."

The general thought that is being expressed is fine, I guess - but... holy cow! What's up with the grammar? Let's see, the "W" in "With" on the third line is capitalized, but not the "b" in "But" on the second line, which makes it seem like an entirely different thought. And where's the comma after the first line? And why is there a visible space before the period? Who wrote this? 1,000,000 monkeys with typewriters? Surprised smile

With that in mind, perhaps what this statement could have said was:

"Communication is one thing,
but your tone while communicating
with someone is everything."

Of course, the redundancy for "communication" on the first and second lines is kind of amateurish; perhaps another word would have been better in either the first or second line? But then again, I believe the thought that the writer was trying to express is that "tone" is part of "communication," so it makes no sense to begin the with the word "communication" since it can't be both "part" and "everything" at the same time, though we can infer by context that the writer meant "speaking" when he or she wrote "communication" in the first line. In a like manner, "tone" isn't "everything" because "speaking" is still part of "communication." In other words, "communication" is "everything," of which "tone" and "speaking" are both parts.

Taking all of that into account, perhaps this statement would have been better?

"The spoken word is one thing,
but the tone of your voice when speaking to someone
often says more than your words."

Hmm... have I overthought this enough yet? Winking smile

Not All Marginalization is Misogyny

Every few years, the following photograph of Margaret Hamilton makes the rounds in social media. This particular image's popularity is not surprising; it's a great shot of Hamilton, who was NASA's lead developer for Apollo program, standing next to the stack of computer printouts for the software that told the Apollo Guidance Computer what to do and when to do it, which eventually helped astronauts land on the moon.

Margaret-Hamilton-With-Apollo-Software

A friend recently posted this image to social media, and upon seeing it, someone else responded, "That is incredible. Why haven't I ever heard of her before?"

My friend's reply was simple: "Because men."

I completely understood my friend's point. There are far too many times where women are overlooked in their respective fields. But I was annoyed and frustrated by my friend's two-word reply, because there are times when gender has nothing to do with whether someone's accomplishments are publicly recognized. In this specific instance, Hamilton's relative obscurity wasn't due to misogyny. Developers like Margaret Hamilton, Grace Hopper, Jean E. Sammet, and Frances Allen are pioneers in their respective contributions to computer science and software engineering, but the real reason why people haven't heard of them is because: they're computer scientists, and no one cares about computer scientists, except for other computer scientists.

In some fields, men are easy targets for a good round of bashing where "popularity" or "fame" are concerned, but when an entire career field isn't "popular," then EVERYONE who works in that field remains obscure. As history shows, Hamilton (and Hopper, and Sammet, and Allen) earned a host of accolades, but most people haven't heard of them because we use their work without giving a second thought where it came from. (Which, by the way, is true of all engineering fields, but I digress.) I challenge anyone to name a single engineer - man or woman - who helped to produce the iPhone, which is (for better or worse) one of the most civilization-altering inventions in history. Oh, sure - everyone can name Steve Jobs, because he owned the company. But Steve Jobs never "made" anything; millions of unnamed engineers - both men and women - are responsible for the iPhone, the iMac, Windows, Google, Microsoft Office, etc.

Here's another example: I just watched the new "Thor" movie, and Taika Waititi's name is everywhere during the credits because he co-wrote and directed the movie; but most people probably haven't heard of his co-writer, Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, because "men." (Hollywood has always been and continues to remain misogynistic, but once again I digress.) However, did anyone bother to pay attention when the credits listed hundreds of people who worked on SFX/CGI for the movie? Nope - we enjoyed their work, but the computer scientists and digital artists who contributed to every scene in that movie remain unknown to anyone outside of their field.

Looping this back to the original subject of NASA and whether they slighted Margaret Hamilton, can anyone name any of the other members of her software development team? If the entire reason some people haven't heard of her was "because men," then I would assume that people could name some of the men who were on her team because they would have received credit for her work. But no, people can't name any of them, either. And why is that? Because - engineers.

How about any of the men and women who designed the Apollo space capsule? Or the Lunar Rover? Or the space suits? Or the propulsion systems? Or the communication systems? Or anyone involved in Skylab? Or the Space Shuttle? Or the Mars probes? Once again, people can't name a single one of those people. And why is that? Because "engineers."

NASA isn't slighting anyone. On the contrary, NASA hires brilliant minds - both men and women - who remain unknown to the general public because they chose extremely technical career fields that lead to obscurity within the community, and societal anonymity doesn't care about gender when it comes to scientific ignorance...

Boss-Leader-Programmer

King's X Has Not Aged Well

It should come as no surprise to people who know me or follow my blog, but I was a huge fan of King's X throughout the 1990s. The sublime mixture of Ty Tabor's searing guitar work, Doug Pinnick's thunderous bass tone and booming vocals, Jerry Gaskill's solid foundation on percussion, and their combined Beatlesque harmonies yielded a one-of-a-kind sound that quickly gained attention for this trio from Southern Texas. Over the years, I've transcribed a few classic pieces from King's X for my guitar students, and I've shared my transcriptions of the King's X songs Black Flag and Lost in Germany in previous blogs.

It should, therefore, also be of little surprise to anyone who knows me that my interest was piqued when I heard that King's X recently released a new single, which was their first studio offering after a fourteen-year absence. You can listen to their new single at the following URL.

I have to admit - I was far from impressed by this new single. This track sounded like something that King's X could have released years ago; it was as if the band hadn't bothered to improve their songwriting skills during their lengthy hiatus. In hindsight, I don't think that it's enough to say that "I was far from impressed." I think it is a far better statement to say that I was disappointed.

From my perspective, King's X was at their musical peak when Sam Taylor was producing them, and the Billboard chart history for King's X reinforces my sentiments. Taylor, as many King's X fans might recall, also produced Galactic Cowboys, Atomic Opera, and the "Conspiracy No. 5" album for Third Day (which was their second-best album in my opinion). Once Taylor was out of the picture, King's X produced themselves for several albums, where they sounded like they forgot how to function as a band; their playing was worse, their vocals were worse, their lyrics were worse, and each album contained tracks that were literally nothing but noise. In my estimation, King's X is the poster child for why bands should not produce themselves.

If you've ever watched the excellent documentary series from PBS called "Soundbreaking," it does a great job of explaining how it is the role of a producer to push artists out of their comfort zones and challenge them to try new things. That is why after 40 years bands like Rush continued to change producers on each album; Rush wanted new challenges and a fresh perspective. Cycling back to King's X, after several self-produced albums they had the good sense to team up with Michael Wagener as a producer for a couple albums, but King's X didn't change for the better, and this new single sounds like it has nothing original to offer. Unfortunately, this track sounds like the same old drivel that King's X has been churning out for decades.

It's a shame that a fourteen-year absence doesn't appear to have added anything to King's X's talent pool.


POSTSCRIPT:

As a point of trivia, I should mention that I bumped into Sam Taylor at a show back in 1997. Third Day was doing an acoustic set at a store in the Dallas area to support their "Conspiracy No. 5" album, and I was standing off to the side next to a guy who was a few years older than me. We got to talking, and when he offered his name I immediately said, "You mean the Sam Taylor who produced King's X and Galactic Cowboys?" Taylor looked at me and said, "You must be a guitarist." When I asked, "How could you tell?," he responded, "Because no one listens to King's X except guitarists."

Auschwitz and Contemporary Politics

A blogger who publishes his content using the moniker of The Catholic Traveler recently shared his observations on social media about his recent trip to the former concentration camp of Auschwitz. I visited the former concentration camp of Dachau when I was stationed in Germany back in the late 1980s, so I read his post with interest. After reading his post, I made an observation that I thought was worth sharing, but first - I have to put things in perspective. To do so, I will repost the full contents of his original blog, with full credit given to Mountain Butorac (aka "The Catholic Traveler") as its author.

I visited Auschwitz for the first time the other day. I'm not sure how I feel about it. It's one of the most awful places in the world, yet they sell donuts at the snack bar.

Many people traveling with me posted things like "no words." That's how I felt at first too. It's why I often wait a while before commenting on things - to be sure I have the right words, rather than just emotions.

During our visit the sky was grey and there was a steady cold rain. We trudged through thick mud to get from barracks to gas chambers to crematoriums. Everything about the visit was uncomfortable, even the guide.

She spoke English with a heavy German accent and an even heavier lisp. She showed no emotion at all, even when saying...

"These people are being separated from their families. They are told they are going to shower after the long journey, but they are being sent to die. Their family will never see them again."

"Kids and the elderly couldn't work. They were stripped naked and sent to the gas chambers to die. Here's their hair."

"Pregnant women and twins were used in medical experiments. Their screams could be heard across this courtyard."

She was great, I would use her again, but it was all very creepy. As it should be, I suppose.

Two things that struck me...

How often the guide stressed the proof of what happened there. I've heard of Holocaust deniers, but assumed it was a small group of people like those who think Elvis is alive.

I also never considered how many people thought what they were doing was right and just. They felt these people were a threat to their way of life. An inconvenience. A burden.

In interviews with SS guards after the war, they were asked how they could justify killing babies who were of no threat. Their answers were that they were useless, needed the attention of the mother to survive, and would eventually grow to be a threat.

When asked how they could do such horrid experiments on people, they responded that it was essential for improving their medical system. Doctors and nurses felt it was completely ethical to drown newborn babies and inject all sorts of things into people to further their science.

Just incredible. I'm still processing it.

I think it's a place you must visit. But don't get the donuts.

 

-- Copyright 2022 by The Catholic Traveler.

My personal experiences at Dachau evoked the same emotions that Butorac tried his best to explain, but words failed me as they did for him. When you are standing in a place where unspeakable evil was committed on a daily basis, it is hard to fathom how someone / anyone could allow themselves to torture and kill their fellow human beings without so much as a second thought.

And yet, as I considered recent political events in the United States and re-examined some of Butorac's statements after I removed his references to World War II, I was left with the following excerpt:

"I also never considered how many people thought what they were doing was right and just. They felt these people were a threat to their way of life. An inconvenience. A burden. In interviews ... they were asked how they could justify killing babies who were of no threat. Their answers were that they were useless, needed the attention of the mother to survive, and would eventually grow to be a threat [to their way of life]."

The remaining verbiage that we are left with is just as incredible - and just as creepy - when compared to the arguments that I hear in sound bites on the daily news. The devaluation of innocent lives whom people regard as an inconvenience, or a burden, or a threat to the way of life to which they have grown accustomed has apparently not been limited to history or geography.

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.

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.