Thursday, March 21, 2013

Moon and stars protect you, Kevin Hendrickson and Loren Hoskins

One of the perks of having small kids is the excuse to listen to some excellent children's music. It would be cool but untruthful to say the first album I was really into was Somewhere in Time or The Beatles' "Blue" Album

To be honest it was more like Mickey Mouse Splashdance, which I must have played over 100 times. Somehow I managed to sneak Girls, Girls, Girls into the rotation as well, though it turned out to be too intense for my younger self:
East LA at midnight.
Papa won't be home tonight.
Found dead with his best friend's wife (HUH!)
My dad was working a 2nd shift back during those Hard Times. The idea of him being anywhere but inside our house at midnight was scary, let alone him turning up dead in some boudoir of iniquity.

As you grow up your musical tastes evolve, from the brash and thrusting (adolescence) to the romantic and  mood-inducing (adulthood) to the melodic and nostalgic (later middle-age).  Yet there is something so joyful and pure about children's music that it never ceases to enchant you no matter what your stage of life (provided you don't overdose on the stuff).  I think The Beatles channel some of this same magic and, come to think of it, several of their most popular tunes (Yellow Submarine, Octopus's Garden) ARE basically children's songs.

Disney has a new show called Jake and the Neverland Pirates, with music by  Kevin Hendrickson (Bones) and Loren Hoskins (Sharky).  The two were performing in their own "pirate rock" band (based on how corny, guileless, and technically intricate any fad is, it can be triangulated down to the exact Portland neighborhood where it was invented) when Disney discovered the two and made them the house-band for their new show.

Kevin and Loren are great, and their first CD is excellent.  It's been a little disappointing, therefore, to see the compromises that have come with success.  Let's not get overly dramatic here.  This ain't Atlantic Records demanding a 3 minute cut of Stairway to Heaven.  Still, it's clear that the Pirate Band's live performances are less energetic and spontaneous than of yore:
How did you like doing the live concert on the Mag Mile?
Loren: It was cool. I miss having a live band though.
Kevin: I do, too.
Loren: I really miss it. At least we’re performing for kids and families again and that’s great, but we’re still performing to track, and it doesn’t feel all the way sincere… I don’t know if I should say that.
No, I understand what you’re saying. Coming from a musical background like both of you do, it must feel very different to play without a live band.
Loren: Kevin and I were always really good about working with the band and playing together, and playing out the moments like, ‘It doesn’t feel right to play this song right now, let’s skip to this one…’ or ‘Let’s just have the band vamp for a little bit, and get the kids yelling yo-ho and stuff.’
Sorry, can't feed off the audience's energy anymore.  Not compatible with the Disney commitment to a consistent buyer experience!

And, of course, the two have been glammed up to be more compatible (gateway product?) with the metrosexual swashbuckler look of Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.  Before Loren (Sharky, the fat one) had a lovably scruffy look.  Now he's just another eunuch with ceremonial beard from Game of Thrones:

Moon and stars protect you, Kevin and Loren!  Ride this gravy train for all it's worth, just don't lose sight of where you came from and who your friends are.  Loren, who's a pretty good voice and comedic talent, may be sorely tempted to give Kevin the shiv for a bit part on Cars 3.  Resist, resit!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Spring Cleaning

I wouldn't say Lucy is a neatness freak, buuuuuuuuuuut- she makes Kate Goslin look about as mellow as "The Dude". Still, there are advantages to having such a details-oriented mistress on-premise. Case-in-point: my new-found awareness of battery rot.

Once a wife and kids arrive on the scene, you will quickly find yourself running an electronics Underground Railroad.  Many perfectly functional, even high-quality, pieces of audio and video equipment will go into hiding in the garage because they do not match her decor preferences or are a safety risk to small children.  The audiophile community even has its own term for this.  So anyway, at some point you will have a stash of electronics equipment in the garage, fearfully huddling in anticipation of the day they will be readmitted into polite society.  Their rehabilitation is inevitable because:
  • baby will become too big to be crushed to death by tower speakers
  • as you drift apart as a couple, you inevitably cede control of whole areas of the house to the other partner, no longer caring what goes on/into those rooms or whether they match the overall style of the home
So don't throw away that audiophile-quality receiver just yet!  But before stashing it away in that damp garage, make sure to take the batteries out:

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Faux Real?

Obama shed tears for the children of Sandy Hook?  Fo' real?  Listen, I am not an inveterate Obama-basher.  The guy has many sterling qualities, and I'd probably like him as President a lot more if so many of his self-congratulating supporters were not so repellent.  But let's face facts- Obama is one cold fish.  He was not at his mother's bedside when she succumbed prematurely to cancer.  He did not bother attending his grandmother's funeral either.  This is a product of both his high-intelligence as well as his racial-identity issues.  If this blog is about anything it's about the raising of men; so I perfectly understand how emasculating it must have seemed to the teen-aged Obama to be constantly on egg-shells in front of nervous, well-meaning white people, and that rather than embrace the persona of a nice, nonthreatening mulatto kid, he chose instead to be a proud, possibly dangerous, black man.  I get that, as well as the need to throw his white family under the bus in pursuit of such self-respect.

The question, therefore, is why someone with such baggage would get so torn up over the deaths of a bunch of white kids.  And not just white kids, but WHITE kids.  Their hair colors were a far-Northern blend of many fruits- lemon and strawberry and several combinations in between- tangello and sh!t.  Let's face it- these children were F-ing beautiful, non angli, sed angeli and all that.  My theory is that Obama was moved not by the deaths of these children in-and-of themselves, but at the sublimity of someone like himself being moved by the death of children like these.  Meaning, these were meta-tears.  Or, to quote Kundera:
Kitsch causes two tears to flow in quick succession.  The first tear says: How nice to see [in a painting] children running on the grass. The second tear says: How nice to be moved, together with all mankind, by children running on the grass!
 Or, to quote Peter Gabriel: "I love to be loved" / [I am enraptured at my own rapture].

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Your Personal Line of Credit, Quick & Dirty Edition

Our financial system is increasingly stacked against the common person. In medieval times kings gave monopolies and patents to favored individuals as a reward for loyalty and service.  The monarch, of course, did not lighten his own purse by this token of generosity.  Rather, the commoners would foot the bill by paying higher prices on the artificially-restricted good.

The consumer credit industry works in much the same way.  People of above-average intelligence and self-control can reap all the benefits of easy credit while actually getting PAID to use it. The industry, of course, would not be doing any of this if it were not making a tidy profit. As always it's those of average and especially below-average capabilities who foot the bill by buying more than they can afford and then financing it at exorbitant rates. The industry surely has no love for people who can exploit its system (in industry jargon people who use credit cards responsibly and never pay financing charges are "dead-beats"!) but will tolerate them as they are such a small minority of consumers.

To see if you are the sort of person who can exploit this type of quick and dirty personal line of credit, answer the following:
  1. have you ever bought overpriced, ready-to-eat food at the grocery when you were absolutely starving?
  2. do you ever fill your cart with 1 or 2 impulse purchases from the check-out stand?
  3. do you ever pay less than your full credit card balance, such as around Christmas time?
  4. is dipping into savings to cover monthly expenses something that happens to you several times a year?
If you answered YES to any of the above questions except #1, then the following system is not for you. If you can truthfully say that 2-4 never applies to you, though, then you may have the financial iron-will for this system. If you have serious financial iron-will, of course, you may already be using your credit card (note singular- there should be no reason for using multiple cards unless you already have financial discipline issues) to pay almost all of your monthly expenses, including utilities, food and consumables, health care, etc.  Pretty much every credit card gives 1% cash-back, which amounts to several hundred dollars per year of free cash.  If I could pay my mortgage bills through credit cards I would!

Now, every month you are probably receiving "checks" in the mail from your credit card issuer.  Before the credit crunch of 2008, it was not uncommon to get offers for new cards with the option to balance transfer with no transaction fees!  This amounted to a 0% interest loan for 1 year.  Those days are gone, though, and now if you take advantage of those checks you will typically pay 4-5% on the balance immediately.  That is still pretty good compared to other types of loans, though, just make sure the term for the 0% introductory loan is at least 12 months.  I will probably be using this method to roll-over the large expenses we accrued during our new home purchase and paying off the balance in 2-3 years.  But if you have true financial iron will, here is how you can avoid paying any transaction overhead- wait for a new credit card offer with at least a 12 month 0% introductory rate, open it, and then use it to make all your subsequent normal monthly purchases.  If you had an instrument that is now going to a high interest rate, use the cash you would normally spend on monthly expenses to pay off that old debt.

  • Assume you have $6,000 in debt on a credit card that is going to a high interest rate soon and that you incur $2000/month of regular household expenses which you are able to pay through that card
  • Open up a new credit card with a 0% introductory rate for the first 12 months; do this 3 months before the rate on your existing credit card goes up
  • Each month, pay $2000 of normal expenses on the new card and use the cash you'd normally pay expenses with to pay off the debit on the old card; do this for 3 months
  • At the end of 3 months, the old card whose rate is about to be jacked up will have a $0 balance while the new card, with at least 9 months left at the introductory 0% rate, will have the old debt (actually, a bit less since you should still be whittling down what you owe with regular monthly payments)
In theory one could repeat this process several times to string along your debt for several years.  In practice, I would recommend not doing it more than 2-3 times to avoid the hassle of multiple cards, and also because your credit score will take a small hit from opening so many new accounts.  If you have financial iron-will your credit score should already be solidly excellent (730+) so this should not be a big deal, but I would still not do it right before taking out a big loan (auto, home).  Needless to say you should also not be doing this simply to balloon your debt, only to string along a large, necessary, and singular expense (house move, wedding, birth of a child, etc.) that you WILL pay down in a couple of years.  Again, all this depends on financial iron-will.  The system is not for everyone, so don't feel bad if you suspect it's not right for you- it was certainly not for Obama.




Yep, violent entertainment has absolutely NOTHING to do with spree-shootings by marginal individuals... nada... (apologia brought to you by the people who not only over-use the word meme, but kinda, sorta believe in their actual existence and so should be open to the meme possibility that ideas trigger behavior).

Sunday, December 9, 2012

First Lesson

If I could impart only a single lesson to prospective parents it would be this: get help!  If your parents or in-laws live in another state, consider relocating.  If you are estranged from them, make up.  If they died, find an Indian Cemetary and bring them back.  Abuse?  Let them have the kids of the sex they don't fancy.

Yeah, two parents can still raise kids on their own in this day and age. Just don't expect it to be pretty.