Tag Archives: Observations

What Commercial Covers Should Be

I caught this Thursday night on Huffington Post. From what I gather, it was done as a Halloween “trick” with the truncation at the end. It’s a cover of a song from a plucky, sixteen year-old Kiwi (that’s not a pejorative, is it?) called Lorde. It’s interesting to juxtapose an original and a cover side-by-side, or at least it is for me. Observations are my hobby.

The lyrics are untouched, which is a folk music way of covering a song. He’s singing in a female point of view, however the first noticeable departure is the technology. It is stripped down to upright bass, snare/bass-drum, and piano. That means the level of difficulty is much higher. I’ve worked with music before, even if at a compulsory education level, and intonation, synthesis, and timing are a right pain in the ass.

What is enchanting, which shouldn’t be given the nature of the original, is how they capture the message. It’s 100% more effective. The original is done in a faster tempo, which in my opinion is an influential mistake. That’s a product of modern pop music. The cover uses better elements to demonstrate the disparity of wealth (think of poor musicians at a black-tie event), and slap down a message that is sad yet concessionary. The whole picture just got turned on its head and is much easier to relate for the billions unmade in the world.

The reason I say it shouldn’t be so enchanting is that these entertainers are much older than Lorde. She has quite the long road of training, like how to avoid straining her voice (drop your jaw and open your windpipe for airflow), before she would have a level playing field with people like “Puddles.” In the end, though, this is what a cover song should do. If you’re going to sell something you’ve not created, then you better make it interesting. The only straight-em-up cover bands I’ll listen to are the ones I’m paying a $3 cover charge for in a dive bar.

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Oh, Canada

As a few of you know now, I took a vacation the last few days to Niagara Falls. Yes, I went to Canada on the Fourth of July. It was a really good decision, because people were elsewhere celebrating while I traveled.

First off, Canada is quite similar to America but there are subtleties. One, it’s much cleaner. I get so tired of the amount of litter and garbage I find in the States. It’s so slovenly! It’s so disrespectful! I past a chewed up couch on I-90 in Cleveland. A couch. There was a little bit of litter here and there in the Great White North, but something seems to tell me it’s not all from careless Canadians. One point awarded to Canada.

The more important difference is personality. There is an identifiable general persona of Canadians. Many of them aren’t as expressive as Americans, if only because that’s not how they were raised. In America, there are places where people just don’t care about warmth or social grace. The Philadelphia area is a prime example. Many, many times I was met with blunt people with very coarse behavior. Philadelphia left me a little cool, and I’m not the warmest sun in the galaxy. That’s their prerogative, but it takes some real work to get black marks for being uncouth.

Niagara Falls was a great destination. The Maid of the Mist boat tour is a must! Make sure your poncho is on tight though. The Clifton Hill area is geared toward families, and it reminds me of Cedar Point in some respects. The Canadians know what drives their economy there, and it does become a little bit of a tourist trap. I’m not that type of person, but others enjoy wax museums, carnival games, houses of horror, IMAX shows, and flashy dining.

I found more comfort on the quiet sidewalks of Queen St. There I found the Paris Crepes Cafe. I haven’t had a crepe in years. My goat cheese, honey, and walnut dish was masterful. After my time spent in the cafe, I popped off to a bar for a pint of Alexander Keith’s red and some honest Canadian hockey food: poutine! For those that are unfamiliar with the dish, it’s french fries with cheese curds and beef gravy. So heavy, yet awesome in a totally unhealthy way. It’s not all that odd. We have mashed potatoes and gravy, right?

One of the other non-tourist activities I enjoy doing is driving around. With the support of the GPS I went all of Hell’s half acre and had myself a grand old time. Canadian driving is like slow-speed mayhem. I took it at the posted km/h, but people were driving all over the place, that included under a meter from my bumper. I was often in the wrong sections of town. I was in the low-rent districts, the middle-class neighborhoods, and the suburbia as a tourist. Not all Canadians are happy with the idea of Americans. I even got cursed in French by some teens riding bikes, thinking my lack of French skills would somehow make me feel stupid. Well, here’s a little tip Canadians: if I don’t care what you have to say, you can say it in any language you want.  One point awarded to American brass.

The highlight of the trip had nothing to do with the falls, though. I was at the resort Friday evening, and a man came out of the hotel room area looking for a seat. I offered the open seat next to me. He was meeting someone and also pulled up another chair. While he waited, we struck up a conversation. By his accent, I could tell he was German. As it turned out, Mike was and a journalist from Berlin. He and a long-time friend took their families to vacation in Niagara. They wanted to chat before they headed in different directions in the morning. Now looking back on it, I think I might have stunted that meeting. Hopefully, that transgression was forgiven.

We talked about America, Germany, Canada and more interestingly Berlin before the Wall. I had no idea it was an artist’s enclave at that time. The reason being was its inexpensive living. It was walled off from the rest of the world and no industry could get in. There was one highway between West Berlin and West Germany. West Germans were not allowed to take any exits nor were they able to take their time. If they arrived at the border later than expected, they were pulled out of the car and interrogated. This was only thirty years ago. That’s within my life time! This is what America needs to avoid becoming, metaphorically and physically.

At the end of the discussion, Mike said, “this is what I love about Americans. You are all so open. If this was Europe, we would not be having this conversation. It wouldn’t be meant as rude. It would just be you sitting there and me sitting there… and that is it.” It was such an informative and entertaining talk, I got a little choked up after Mike and I parted ways. I’ve wanted a discussion that was political, civil, and intellectual for so long that it brought me to tears. A meaningful, intellectual conversation without hostility or ego. Sometimes, it’s the small things that are worth a mint.

Maid of the Mist

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The Ugly Duckling or the Silly Goose

With all of my superior grace, I still managed to spill a glass of red wine on my home laptop. After I set it out to dry, it seems the wireless NIC has taken a powder. It’s now residing at the computer repair store with no ETA of being fixed. That puts a little bit of a crimp in my blogging. As one can plainly see, I do have alternatives but they’re not the most convenient.

Smeagol Finds His True Precious

MY PRECIOUS! (Photo credit: Cole Edmonson)

I thought I would use this time to put together all of the observations I couldn’t make in to a full post on their own. It’s a hodgepodge, which bites at my sense of continuity, but it keeps me writing. I like to write, as a painter loves to paint. Inspiration is a trixie hobbit though, and it often has my precious. Yessss.

The Tobacco Werewolf

As you may or may not be able to make out in my Gravatar, I am a smoker. A dirty, dirty smoker to some. I own it for the most part, but have been fighting to get away from lighting up. Have you ever felt weird, when someone says they love smoking? Well, prepare to be uncomfortable again! I am one of those people.

Talbot in wolf form, as portrayed by Lon Chane...

Give me a menthol! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is a tactile pleasure, I think. The weight, the draw, the gesture are almost a part of my personality. That is what makes me a tobacco werewolf. After a few drinks, a bad day at the office, or a friend lighting I turn into a mad beast (internally, my mind is Lon Chaney, Jr.). I simply have to have one. Of the two general types of addictions, this is probably categorized as a mostly psychological. My mind is more powerful than my body and has the terrible ability to rationalize tobacco.

In recent months, I have attempted alternative measures to assuage this monster. Gum, vapor, cold turkey, and now the patch have been added to my seemingly futile attempts to curb smoking. Admittedly, last night I fell off the wagon and got back up this afternoon. I don’t ask for anyone’s sympathy or whatnot. I’m not the type to beg, plead, or otherwise excuse the activity. It just is, and I accept the consequences of those actions. How many people can say they do that?

Private Eyes Are Watching You

In another candid camera moment, local authorities are now storing your day-to-day travels just in case you might be doing something illegal. I file this one under the increasingly growing “guilty until proven innocent” section. However, there still are people convinced otherwise. Why worry, if one’s not doing anything illegal? Right? Here’s a question for you. Do you really understand the law? Have you taken the time to read all the Federal, state, and local regulations? If you have, you’d realize the massive amounts of text it provides. This voluminous subject covers a lot of ground, stated in simplicity. With such verbiage is also the idea of interpretation. You see, situations occur when two people take the same law and read it differently. In other words, you may think you’re the model citizen obeying every sort of law imaginable. Authorities may think otherwise. Guess who’s going to win without a lengthy battle in court? My money’s on the law enforcement.

For example, say you were to take a marvelous vacation to the great state of Maine. What’s one food for which Maine is exalted? Lobsters. I love lobster just as much as the next seafood enthusiast, but do you know the regulations on lobsters? If Maine is anything like the other East coast states, trawlers will vend their food as soon as they get off the boat. North Carolina shrimpers will set up shop with a cooler and a tent just to capture the allure of freshness.

Being these fisherman are in the business, and you’re not, they are aware of the v-notched lobsters they caught and sell one to you. You start driving away blissfully thinking of how you’ll prepare the little devil. Suddenly, you’re pulled over by Maine’s finest a few miles later. “There was a boat that just came in with an illegal lobster catch. Our cameras caught your car driving away from the docks, and we are asking to search your car.” This is a request you really, really don’t want to deny. Authorities don’t like noncompliance, and will make your life Hell if you don’t.

They find your dinner, and now you’re slapped with $600 in fines for having illegal lobster in your car. It’s the same with stolen property. Even if you’re not aware of the illegality of the stolen merchandise, you are still held culpable for the purchase. You are the one currently holding illegal goods. Possession is 9/10 of the law.

Should you really have to go through all of this, because you did something innocuous? You’re not trafficking lobster. You’re not some criminal kingpin. You just wanted dinner. You’re not going to do it again. It’s a stupid lobster! How many of these obscure rules are there?! In short, you are held to a very difficult standard as a layman in which compliance has become treacherous. That is why you should be concerned about surveillance like this while “you’re not doing anything wrong.”

To Post or Not to Post

I’ve been thinking about the lack of security of the Internet and my books. It started with a concern raised by frommtvtomommy, and snowballed into a Thursday night drinking session. I like writing, and love to share. That’s not to say I would mind receiving some income from what I create, or more importantly, prevent someone making money off of me. It’s not my focal point, but I’m not so sure now it should be ignored. While I will take my current story to a conclusion, there are three other stories I’ve started that haven’t been discussed in detail. One of them I haven’t mentioned anything about until now. I’m not sure how I could share them without helping someone else profit at my expense.

With that, it’s time to make the doughnuts. More importantly, it’s time to eat the doughnuts! Have a great rest of your weekend everyone!

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TSA Security Level: Butterscotch Paisley

As I mentioned before I left, I’m not a huge fan of going through the motions at TSA checkpoints. I’ve seen checkpoints pre- and post-9/11, and they’ve never made me feel all that safe. If anything, they only create more stress. My observations of their conduct have given me the impression they’re not truly there for my safety either. This is above and beyond talk of privacy violations.

I was body scanned at Port Columbus Int’l on my way out to the coast. This was the more updated version, as it was now “only an outline.” Apparently TSA realized what a bad idea the original body scanners were. If I’m not mistaken, pictures were posted to the internet even after TSA denied it would happen. I suppose they didn’t understand the human nature of their employees.

After removing my belt, pocket contents, and shoes for the x-ray machine, I was ordered to line up near the scanner with two other people. No more than a few seconds later, the TSA “technician” yelled at us to get back. Considering the screening process is already very stressful, I could not contain a sigh as I walked back to my original position. This caught the ire of the short blonde with control issues who gave directives to us in the first place. With a passive-aggressive flair much savored here in Ohio, she let the two passengers in front of me go through a metal detector. She then looked at me and pointed at the scanner, as if I was such a naughty boy for sighing. Too bad she never got much of a reaction out of me.

You see, I was going to go through that scanning machine whether she let those passengers go or not. I don’t look innocuous enough. Her actions would only have an impact, if I had any chance of going through a lesser invasive and less time consuming process. That just wasn’t going to happen.

The way I see it is I prevented two of my fellow countrymen from performing more humiliating exams in front of these little dictators. In vocalizing my disappointment through a completely protected First Amendment way, I gave Blondie McEgotrip a contrast on who was going the extra mile to make her job more pleasant. Without that contrast, she wouldn’t have thought anything about it. I’m actually very happy about this, because I made something positive out of her little negative attitude.

As stated above, I’ve never received the impression from the Federal government or TSA that all of these measures were for my safety. Of course, that’s what they tell you, but it doesn’t feel genuine. Instead, every time I’m there I get the distinct impression I’m guilty until proven innocent. Also, it feels like the interest lay in avoiding embarrassment in Washington and protecting the assets of corporate airlines. After all, if they truly cared about a citizen’s safety, they wouldn’t use violent pacification as a foreign policy. That seems to fuel quite a bit of aggression against us.

During these trips, I’m reminded of a random conversation I had with a traveler outside of Logan Int’l airport. She had a motto: TSA Fearever. That has stuck in my head ever since.

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