Friday, October 20, 2017

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Now, in the "Even a blind hog finds an acorn once in a while" category, we have Cinderella's "Shelter Me." I was never a fan of Cinderella back when the group was popular, and they've since become something of a punchline for 80s hair bands. But damn if this song didn't just grab me the first time I heard it and it's not let go since. Maybe it's the por man's Guns & Roses thing they've got going, I dunno. But I think it's a hoot they have Little Richard in their video.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Eurythmics.

Now Playing: Ensemble Oni Wytars From Byzantium to Andalusia: Medieval Music and Poetry
Chicken Ranch Central

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Neverending #MeToo

So, Reese Witherspoon has come out with the fact that she was raped by a director at age 16, and felt pressured to remain silent about it otherwise her career would be ruined. Which is horrible. Before the proverbial ink was even dry on that story, though, Jennifer Lawrence shared the humiliation of being forced to participate in a nude line-up lest her career be derailed before it began. And then came word of Carrie Fisher's brutal takedown of an Oscar-winning Hollywood executive who tried to sexually assault her friend, Heather Ross, back in 2000. What do these horrible cases have in common?

The women have bravely come forward to share their stories. The male predators remain safely anonymous.

One thing I find problematic about the #MeToo movement--laudable though it is--is that the predators are still, by and large, being shielded. Witherspoon shared that she was first assaulted as a 16-year-old, "and other times" since then. Which is difficult and traumatic for her, to relive such pain in the retelling. But she only identifies her attacker as "that director." Who is presumably still working, and still preying on young, aspiring actresses. And that's what I'm seeing, over and over, women (and on rare occasion, men) coming forward as victims of sexual assault and harassment. The predators still anonymously lurk in the shadows, waiting for the current outrage to blow over, as it inevitably does. So guess what? I'm going to do what the Hollywood Reporter and every other media outlet worth its salt should've done as soon as these claims came to life:

Andy Tennant directed her in Desperate Choices: To Save My Child (1992)
Mikael Salomon directed her in A Far Off Place (1993)
Marshall Herskovitz directed her in Jack the Bear (1993)
Mike Robe directed her in Return to Lonesome Dove (1993)
Jefery Levy directed her in S.W.F. (1994)
From what I can deduce from the IMDB listings, these are all the productions she took part in around the time she was 16. It's REALLY pissing me off that the Hollywood Reporter and other media outlets are running with Witherspoon's quotes without doing one iota of additional work on the story. It took me five minutes to compile that list. Let me be clear: Do your damn jobs! Investigate! Every single one of those directors should've been contacted by now for an on-the-record comment. Did one of them sexually assault a 16-year-old girl? Possibly. Did more than one of them do so? Possibly. Are some or most or all of them innocent of the claims? Possibly. See? You don't cut-and-paste such a salacious story then simply move on to your next click-bait headline. As a journalist, you work the story! You go through IMDB and contact every woman who worked with them to find corroboration. You follow up with Witherspoon. You narrow the list of names. You find other victims. YOu get your facts straight and build a rock-solid story. Then publish it. Again, this is called doing your damn job!

Harvey Weinstein and Ben Affleck aren't enough. There's a vast number of pots calling a few kettles black right now--Affleck was Exhibit A on that count, until he got called out for his vile behavior. All of them need to be outed for what they are.

Are many women silent because they fear for their acting careers? Yes. Most certainly yes. That's how Harvey Weinstein was able to get away with his little rape-a-thon for so long. But Witherspoon and the other big names speaking out now aren't 16-year-olds desperate for a career. They have wealth and power. They have Voice and Agency. Telling young actresses "we have your back" means nothing if they're not putting those words into action and holding those predators who victimized them in the past accountable (Except Rose McGowan. She broke a non-disclosure agreement to take on Weinstein. That's badass. We need more badass in this cruel world).

I'm not blaming the victims. The person responsible for harassing and/or assaulting them is the person who harassed/assaulted them. I want the predators to be held accountable. The sad fact of the matter is that second-hand accounts--otherwise known as rumors--count for nothing. Even suspecting something untowards is going on isn't enough to open a police investigation without actual evidence. If these predators are going to be exposed and taken down, the victims are pretty much the ones with the power to do it. We can support them. We can encourage them. We can back them up all the way. But there is nothing I can do, personally, to stop whichever of those five directors listed above raped Reese Witherspoon.

I understand it's difficult and painful. But these women speaking out are 3/4 there already. If they can't bring themselves to out their attackers publicly, then find an LA Times reporter in private. I guarantee they'll take the call. Give the reporter the names. Tell them the enablers. Give them the dates and times and locations and context. Build a damning case, and let the villains be damned. Those who've done this and enabled this in the past aren't going to suddenly see the light. They're circling the wagons. Hollywood's turned on Weinstein so quickly because many of those throwing stones are trying to obfuscate their own sins. Weinstein is the sacrificial lamb. They're willing to see him burn if it preserves the existing testosterone-infused power structure.

If #MeToo is as far as it goes, nothing changes. The bad guys are never going to change their ways, and never going to confess unless their feet are held to the fire. This chronic problem needs to end. Not just in Hollywood, but in every corporate board room and every mom and pop business and every college and high school in the country. That's not going to happen until the predators face real and continuing consequence.

Now Playing: Various artists Night and Day: The Cole Porter Songbook
Chicken Ranch Central

Monday, October 16, 2017


This year marked the 7th annual Sacred Springs Powwow in San Marcos. Held at the Meadows Center on the shores of Spring Lake (land that, many years ago, was known as the amusement park Aquarena Springs), the powwow has grown dramatically over the past decade, and is now a two-day event drawing indigenous people from across North America.

When I learned this was happening over the weekend, I decided to take my family. Until recently I'd believed we had distant Cherokee ancestors, but a DNA test proved that to be false. However, The Wife learned that she did have Papua New Guinea ancestry, which was pretty amazing in its own right. I wanted to watch some of the dances, and just expose the kids to the various cultures overall. Little did I know that a Maori cultural group from Vancouver, Canada, TE TINI A MĀUI had been invited there to perform. I'd never see Maori dance before, although I'd heard of haka. It turned out to be quite an impressive display.

Many of the Maoris had body tattoos, as is tradition, but their facial tattoos were actually makeup. I guess some concessions had to be made to Western culture. Now, here's the cool thing: I got video of much of their performance. Certain caveats apply. Mainly, I'm not a videographer and did not plan on shooting any video, so I didn't have a tripod or monopod with which to stabilize my camera. This means the images suffer from "shaky cam" on occasion. If you can get past that, the performances are pretty impressive. I wasn't expecting the songs, and the sound quality on the video is surprisingly good despite only using the built-in mic. Here's their intro song:

Next, we have their speaker greeting the powwow attendees both in his native tongue and then Kiwi-accented English. Very cool.

I'm afraid I was so taken up with the performances that I forgot what these next few were about. My apologies.

Here is their haka. I'd heard about haka, but never seen it before. I can see how would be effective at instilling intimidation in one's enemies. Particularly with the black tattoos/makeup around the eyes, their expressions create an air of dangerous, crazed aggression. I love it.

If I recall correctly, this is a song of friendship. They closed with it, and alas, I only recorded about half before my memory card filled.

I looked on their website, and it doesn't appear that they sell any CDs or DVDs of their performances. Which is a shame, because their live performance is so impressive I'm certain they'd sell quite a few. If you ever get a chance to see TE TINI A MĀUI in person, I highly recommend it.

Now Playing: Bix Beiderbecke Vol. 1: Singin' the Blues
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, October 13, 2017

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

The Eurythmics, as I suspect I've pointed out before, are one of those groups I really didn't like back in the day, but as I've aged, Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart's music has really grown on me. And not just the obvious big New Wave hits. "Don't Ask Me Why" is a case in point. With a plucky, elegant melody right off the bat you are inclined to hear it as an upbeat song, but damn, the lyrics are so depressing. It's sadness and raw, emotional brutality wrapped up in a cloak of happy music. The video captures that tension perfectly. Enjoy.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Tom Petty.

Now Playing: Django Reinhardt Chronological, Vol. 1
Chicken Ranch Central

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Sailing Venus: Progress is as progress does

After several nights of consistent word-making, last night was the proverbial problem child. After two hours, I'd only managed 250 words. That amounts to a single page. I could take solace in the fact that they were quality words, except for the fact that they are not.

This isn't terribly unusual for writers to experience. Sometimes the words simply refuse to flow. In my experience, this is often a direct consequence of the story not working. And, unfortunately, that's the case this time as well. Sometimes it's the subconscious trying to clue the active writer in, but at the moment both my conscious and subconscious are in perfect sync. I know this chapter has problems. Very specific problems. Problems I haven't quite figured out how to reconcile.

Follow: In the current chapter (Chapter 12 if you're keeping score at home) certain things have to happen for the plot to progress as it needs to. Like Chapter 11, this is a slower chapter that provides answers to long-standing questions whilst presenting new issues to be dealt with. Essentially, I'm positioning the chess pieces to launch into the final act. Going in, I've long known that A had to happen, which directly leads to B. But in the course of writing, I realized that C was sitting there, off to the side, waiting for me to notice. C is a significant character/plot issue that is glaringly obvious once you realize it's there, and can't be ignored without undermining the rest of the story. So here's the thing, the character interactions involved with A can just as naturally lead to C. But once they're at C, there is no natural route (outside of Author Intervention) that would lead them to B as well. And likewise, there is no natural path from B to C. Prodding my characters to bring the focus around to one or the other is meeting with lots of resistance. I know I'll figure it out eventually, but at this point I don't want resistance. I don't want eventually. I want golden prose gushing forth like Niagra Falls.

World Fantasy begins in 21 days. At the moment, I'm at the cusp of 50,000 words, a significant psychological milestone if nothing else. It is possible that I'll hit the 60,000 word mark by World Fantasy, far short of the completed novel I'd hoped to have, but effectively 2/3 complete. But these darn problem spots need to stop making nuisances of themselves for that to happen.

Pissing and moaning aside, progress is progress, even if it's a mere 250 words. Here are a few lines from last night. Tensions are rising amongst the various characters at this point, and tempers start to fray. Suffice to say, Erica frays back.

"Is it just me?" Paol said. "Doesn't anyone else see how insane this is?"

"Yes, Paol, I agree that our current situation is quite madness-inducing," Adina said. "Since you're so good at pointing out our failings, what would you suggest?"

"We need to stop wasting time and fix the transmitter," he said. "That dog. Take it apart and use its transmitter instead."

"No!" Erica shouted, tensing up.

"Connex is a low-power, short range transmitter," Adina said. "The amount of power necessary to reach the comm sats would burn it out in an instant. I'm not even sure if the sats can detect connex frequencies."

"That's a chance I'm willing to take," Paol said.

"You lay one finger on Sigfried," Erica growled, "you lose that finger."
Now Playing: Count Basie The Atomic Mr. Basie
Chicken Ranch Central

Monday, October 09, 2017

Tiki build-along, pt. 11

Welcome to a super-sized edition of Jayme's tiki bar build-along! This part of my project dates back a couple of months, but I thought it'd work best to present the whole thing here in one installment, start-to-finish. But before we get to that, take a look to the right. That's one of my banana plants fruiting. Pretty cool, eh? Unfortunately, I have no idea what variety it is. I know what it is supposed to be: Dwarf Brazilian. But I found out after the fact that the nursery I ordered it from is notorious for mislabeling plants. The other two I got from them are Gold Finger and Dwarf Orinoco, but I'm suspicious of those as well. In any event, this bunch of bananas might be ready by January, if a freeze doesn't get them. I cut the flower off about a week after I took this photo in the hopes that the plant would put more energy into maturing the fruit. We shall see.

Now back to the tiki bar! Throughout our dive-in movies this summer, one thing that became obvious is that despite adding the back bar, I really underestimated the need for drinkware storage in the tiki area. Mugs and glasses stored on the tiki bar's shelves get dusty pretty quickly, and if there's an event where I need glasses for multiple people's drinks, I don't really have any place to put them. I'm starting to get a little tiki mug collection going, and there's no place to display those, either. The solution that grew upon me over the course of the summer was to build two cabinets for wall over the back bar. Initially, I thought this wouldn't be possible, because they'd have to go right under the light sconces. The light is fairly dim, and I didn't think blocking it would be a good idea. But I hit upon a solution to that. Using 1" thick Ponderosa pine boards from McCoy's, I sketched out two cabinets that were 10" tall and 8" deep. Because there is a different amount of available wall space for each, one is 36" wide while the other is 42" wide. I went with the boards from McCoy's because they have a much smoother finish than similar boards from other lumber yards. I cut all the pieces out, and this is the result:

This being a tiki bar, a plain side panel on the cabinets wouldn't do. Tiki bars are all about elaborate detailing and texture and drawing the eye. So I decided I would go with a hibiscus flower on the ends, that being the classic tropical blossom representative of Hawaii, Polynesia and the Caribbean as well. I looked at a bunch of designs online and cherry-picked elements I liked, tweaking them to get an image I liked. I printed it out and transferred it to a piece of poster board, which I cut out with an X-acto knife to make a template pattern.

Then I sketched the pattern onto the end pieces. I guess that part's self-explanatory.

Once the pattern was marked down, I attacked it with a Dremel to carve out the outlines and fine, inner details. I used my trim router to carve out the remaining wood. The first one took me almost an entire evening to do, learning as I was. The next evening I knocked two of them out in the same amount of time.

Once I finished all the end pieces, it was time to get serious about the cabinet doors. Early on, because these were to be display cases, I decided to have sliding doors. I've seen such before, but it's amazing just how little information was available on the DIY sites that populate the interwebz. The cabinets would have two plexiglass doors that slide in parallel. The most solid sheet of plexiglass readily available measured .22" in thickness, so I went with a quarter-inch router bit, set at 1/8" depth for the bottom and sides of the cabinets, and a quarter inch deep for the top.

Yes, it was very stressful making sure the routered grooves aligned. I was using a guide, but that's never 100 percent guaranteed to work right.

To make everything work, I needed the two plexiglass doors to slide in parallel. Which meant I had to router two grooves that ran in parallel, very, very close to one another. This was very stress-inducing. Even with a guide, the routher bit would catch on the wood occasionally and jerk, potentially ruining everything. I kept a very tight grip and worked it slowly. The finished tandem slots weren't perfect, but they were close enough.

Once all the routering was completed, I took my butane torch and scorched the hibiscus carvings and the front edge of the boards. Once everything was suitably carbonized, I took a wire brush and scrubbed off the char and soot, leaving an interestingly textured surface evocative of the old Witco designs. The next step was to glue (Titebond II) all the pieces together. For each joint I drilled a pilot hole and sank in a wood screw to hold it together. Once the glue set, the cabinets would be pretty darn solid.

Not all of our drinkware consists of tiki mugs. In fact, because of the close proximity to the pool, our go-to barware consists of acrylic poco grande glasses (think half-size hurricane glasses). Actual glass is a no-go in the bar area. The poco grande stemware needs a place to hang out as well. After some thought, I realized the entire bottom of my cabinets was going unused. I took the remaining wood left over from the cabinets themselves and cut a bunch (I forget how many) 3"x8" rectangles. Then I ran those pieces through the table saw, like this:

After running them through on each side, I flipped them down and ran them through again, like this. See where I'm going yet?

Once all the pieces were cut into a T, I put a rounded trim router bit into my full-sized router. Normally, one would use a router table for this, but since I haven't built a router table yet, I winged it, laying the router on its side, locking the power button in the "on" position, and running the pieces across it by hand to get a nice beveled edge. Yes, mistakes were made, but I'm not going to talk about those. Suffice to say that it was a good thing I had extras. I also hand-sanded the rough spots, of which there were quite a few.

The next step was to stain everything with Minwax's "Special Walnut," my go-to stain for the rich, dark, warm look. The whole process is tedious and not terribly dramatic, so I didn't take any photos. Trust me when I say I did this. I also put a coat of water-based spar urethane on all the exposed surfaces. I did this because I was out of regular, oil-based spar urethane. Go with what you've got. I will, at some point, go back and add additional coats of oil-based spar urethane, because that gives a nice amber glow, whereas the water-based is colorless and clear. Fortunately, one can top-coat water-based with oil-based. The reverse is not true. All that accomplished, I spaced the glass-holder Ts out along the bottoms of the cabinets.

Stop me if you've heard this before: I drilled a pilot hole in the center of each T, then used a bigger bit to cut a countersink hole over the pilot hole.

I ran a bead of Titebond II along the bottom of the T, then secured it to the bottom of the cabinet with a 1.25" wood screw. Those glass holders are on there solid.

Because I'm obsessive, I went over all the screw heads and covered them with wood putty. Remember the countersink holes? This is why I put those there--so the screw head sits below the surface of the wood.

The next day, after the putty had fully dried, I went over the holes with fine-grain sandpaper. It was either 220 or 320 grit, I can't quite remember. I suspect it was 220 grit, because at this point I've been working on these cabinets for more than a month and I'm getting very impatient.

After sanding smooth, I used a folded paper towel to dab on Minwax "Dark Walnut" stain. Why "Dark Walnut" when I'd originally used the lighter "Special Walnut"? Because stains show up lighter on wood filler than on actual wood. The "Dark Walnut" gave me a closer match. The next day, once the stain was fully dry (nothing about this project went quickly) I added another coat of the spar urethane to sanded/puttied/stained surface.

At this point I entered uncharted territory. I've never worked with plexiglass before. I was nervous and cautious--not least because the sheet of plexiglass I'd gotten for this cost more than all the other materials combined. I carefully measured the cut, then double- and triple-checked it. I clamped down a steel yard stick as a guide, then ran the plexiglass cutting tool along the intended cut.

Plexiglass is weird in that it's very strong--much stronger than glass--but also very soft. The cutter was similar to an X-acto knife, except it has a barb to dig into the plexiglass. To make a cut, I drew it across many, many times. With each pass it bit a little deeper, gouging up coiled shavings.

Once I'd cut about halfway through, I simply snapped the piece off. I was surprised at how clean the breaks were. I had a couple of small pieces turn out a little jagged, but that was a result of my getting impatient and trying to break the piece off before I'd cut a deep enough groove first.

This is my solution for the light sconce problem, mentioned up at the start of this blog entry. I used a jig saw and router to cut skylight windows in the tops of both cabinets. Then I cut plexiglass windows to fill those holes. Now, when the lights are on, they illuminate the contents of the cabinets from above, and the light spills out the front. I've seen a lot of people add LED light strips to their shelves to illuminate their tiki mugs. This saves me a little of that trouble.

Once cut to size, I inserted the sliding plexiglass doors. The top grooves are deeper than the bottom, so that I can push the plexiglass all the way up into the top groove and have enough clearance to slip the bottom into the lower groove. But having those nice clear doors does me no good if the interior fills up with mud daubers, spiders and the like, so I had to seal that gap between the doors somehow. The solution? Self-adhesive pile weatherstripping. I cut to size and placed one strip on each section of door, facing toward the opposite door. It's not an airtight seal, but it should keep most dust and critters out.

I had one remaining challenge. Those plexiglass doors slid open and shut just fine, especially once I sprayed the grooves with furniture wax. But fingerprints showed up readily. Fingerprints are ugly. I didn't want to have to spend all my time cleaning the doors, so I needed handles. I looked at building supply and home furnishing stores for something appropriate, but nothing seemed right. Then I thought to myself, "Why not make your own?" And that's what I did. I had a pine branch in the garage I'd picked up during one of my son's campouts last fall. I had a vague notion I'd carve something into it at the time, but I had no idea what. I cut two 3.5" sections from it, then split those lengthwise into halves. Then I ran then over my power sander to strip away the bark. Looking back, I should've sanded more to strip away all of the cambium as well, but live and learn.

I took a pencil and sketched tiki faces on them. I poked around the interwebz for inspiration. They mostly inspired by Hawaiian tikis, but I mixed and matched different design elements and added some interpretations of my own, so I don't think anyone can point to one and say, "That's Ku" or somesuch. These are my interpretations of various thematic elements, artistic license and all that. Alas, I don't seem to have taken any photos of the pencil sketches. They didn't last long once I attacked with the Dremel. This is where I found that the cambium fuzzed up and made a brittle, splintery mess. It was really hard to see what I was doing with that going on. Fortunately, all of that cleaned up nicely once I scorched them.

Then came the obligatory walnut stain and spar urethane coating.

I wanted them attached to the plexiglass doors as a floating mount, so that meant more drilling. I cut out two holes in each tiki handle deep and wide enough for a brass nut, then set them in place with a dab of JB Weld epoxy. On a couple of these the epoxy oozed into the center, and I had to Dremel it out once it dried so the screw would fit properly.

Then I measured and taped each handle into position.

This is what it looked like from the other side. Duh. I marked the center of each nut with a permanent marker dot.

I drilled through the plexiglass with a bit large enough to accommodate the screw. Drilling plexiglass was challenging, because although it's soft, it'll melt if you drill too fast from friction. So I had to drill through it like I was Goldilocks--not to fast, not too slow, not too hard, not too soft. Once I got the first hole through, I attached the handle using a rubber washer and brass washer on either side of the plexiglass. I recentered to make sure the original dot was still valid (it wasn't always) then drilled the second screw hole.

Yeah, this is pretty much what it looked like once the second hole was drilled.

And this is the tiki handle fully secured in place.

Floating tiki handle No. 1.

Floating tiki handle No. 2.

Floating tiki handle No. 3.

Floating tiki handle No. 4.

Finally, after all that work, here is the first cabinet, fully operational:

And the other cabinet, for comparison's sake.

I have to say, the end result exceeded my expectations by a wide margin. They look pretty darn cool up there above the bar. If someone didn't know any better, they might be tempted to think I actually knew what I was doing. But we all know better than that, don't we?

Now Playing: João Gilberto Chega de Saudade
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, October 06, 2017

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Tom Petty died this week. I was never his biggest fan, but he grew on me over the years. I really liked his work with the Traveling Wilburys, but his his three-hour live set at the Fillmore in 1997--broadcast on radio and streamed live online, and thus widely bootlegged--simply blew me away. One of the best live recordings ever. With all the strife in society today, I think it apropos to remember him with a more obscure hit, 1987's "Jammin' Me." Enjoy.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... The Brothers Cazimero.

Now Playing: Antonio Carlos Jobim/Luiz Bonfá Orfeu Negro: Bof du Film de Marcel Camus
Chicken Ranch Central