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How to do it.

Today, class, we’re going to analyze how the rightwing nutjobs [RWNJ] manage to create a reality from their fears that cannot be dislodged with facts.

I came across this article from a video posted on Facebook—not to my timeline, needless to say, but on a friend’s—which I decided not to touch, involving as it did a retired admiral who doesn’t seem to be in full possession of his faculties.  One can only imagine the consternation at the National Press Club when he was invited to speak about the infiltration of the Muslim Brotherhood into EVERY INTELLIGENCE AGENCY IN OUR GOVERNMENT YOU GUYS!!!11!

I clicked through to the website, one Truth & Action dot org.  Merciful Cthulhu, people, it’s a fetid swamp out there.  This is where your drunk uncle gets all his info. All of it.  Here we go:

Texas Community Replaces Entire Police Department With Private Security – Crime Drops By 61%

There’s a headline for you.  Go read the article.  No, I don’t know why they didn’t just put the whole article on one page.  I suspect they think it’s classy/sophisticated/Web 2.0 to have a teaser.  (They may not understand the function of a “Read More” link and just have multiple pages instead.)

Here’s the quick and truthful version: the Civic Association in Sharptown, TX, let its contract with the constabulary expire and hired a private security firm instead to patrol its neighborhood in addition to the Houston Police.  Burglaries dropped from 304 in 2013 to 177 last year, which is a significant drop to be sure.  But 177 = 61% of 304; that’s not a drop of 61%.  The actual drop (127 burglaries) is actually 42%, which is still big, but continues to ignore the fact that that one category is not All The Crime™.

So let’s analyze.  It’s not easy to do so, since the article is a veritable Gish Gallop of assumptions, ignorance, and outright lies.

First things first: where is the article coming from?  Always click on the header/home page link to see what kind of website/source you’re dealing with.  Truth & Action doesn’t even try to conceal its leanings, so there’s your first clue: this is a rightwing haven, comforting itself that it alone dares to speak The Truth.  Ironically, none of the articles are signed.

Second: where did this source get the information for the article?  As I have outlined before, one thing to do when you are confronted with information that doesn’t pass the smell test, Google that sucker and see where it lives in the wild.  Truth & Action does source the article to Infowars, but that’s just another RWNJ swamp.  Any reports on this from AP or Reuters or even the Houston Chronicle?

Not really.  Look at all those hits!  Look at how all of them are the usual circle-jerk of RWNJ swamps—they’re all quoting each other, indiscriminately, passing on all the misinformation as if it were truth.  (N.B.: This search is on Google’s Web tab.  Click on the News tab, and the citations drop to almost zero.)

The only actual news item, and apparently the source, is a news report from KHOU out of Houston.  Truth & Action embeds the video, and they don’t seem to have edited it, and it does not exactly say what the post says.  The disparity between the post and the truth widens if you go to KHOU’s actual report on their website.  Right off the bat, notice the headline: “Private security patrols help control crime in Sharpstown.”


Private security patrols help control crime in SharpstownTexas Community Replaces Entire Police Department With Private Security — Crime Drops by 61%

Finally: what is it the authors of this piece want us to believe?  This is tricky, because the embedded assumptions are strong with this one.  I’ll do a bullet list and then if anything just screams to be explicated, I’ll do that thing:

  • The private sector can always outperform the government: cheaper, more effective, betterer.  Always.  Hence the belief that Sharpstown “fired” the Houston Police—that’s not even a thing, folks—and saved $200,000, got more boots on the ground for their money,  and saw a 61% drop in “crime.”
    • This is like for-profit schools: how does that even work?
  • Worship of the military: SEAL Security… Really?  It’s Texas, so the cowboy/shoot-em-up predilection is ineradicable, I guess.
  • And yet they despise “government”: the police’s thug-like behavior is backed by red-taped Marxists.  Nationally, of course.  That one phrase tilts this website towards the libertarian, if not prepper, side of the political spectrum.  If we explored the site further, I imagine we’d find more than one Sovereign Citizen piece.
    • Full disclosure: I did not have the stomach to read any comments.  That’s probably where the preppers/SovCits lurk.  My need to know is not that great.
  • Simplistic solutions: one only has to eliminate bad policing to see a drop in crime.  Their citation is a hoot: the NYPD’s slowdown resulted in a drastic reduction in summons and citations.  As we libtards chortled at the time, the police thought they were showing de Blasio who was boss when all they were doing was admitting that most of their work consisted of arrests they didn’t “have to” make.
    • No, the liberals and the libertarians do not agree on this point: we think that a decent police force is necessary; they think a decent police force is a contradiction in terms.
  • Obscure sources/quotes: The first block quote appears to be from an interview with a spokesperson for SEAL, but the last one comes from… somewhere…  It refers to “a report,” but there’s no link, nor is the report identified.  Just conclusions that wave the magic Wand of Private Industry and reduce All The Crime™.
  • Elision: one Mr. Alexander of SEAL is quoted describing all the strategies they use to reduce All The Crime™, with the implication that the Houston Police do not do these things.  Notice that he does not actually say that the Houston Police do not do these things.  I bet he’s just comparing his company’s best practices to those of the private company they replaced.   Sure, that’s it.
    • Now that I mention it, if Private Industry is always better,  how come the company that Sharpstown employed before wasn’t cheaper and betterer?  Yeah, yeah, Free Hand of the Market blah blah blah.  This is really where us libtards go head to head with the libertarians.  Their position is that you can always pay someone to reduce All The Crime™ better and cheaper, blithely ignoring that a) the majority of the populace cannot afford anything of the sort; and b) this paradise is, as usual, supported by an actual infrastructure of actual police.  Our position is that everyone deserves protection from crime, not just those who can “afford” it.
  • Buried deep under all of this is a deep-seated fear of increasing crime rates.  Everyone knows that crime is up—way up—and [here we must whisper] you know it’s because of those people.  Not true, of course.  Crime in all categories has been dropping precipitously since the 90s, but this website firmly believes the opposite.
    • I think it’s interesting that they describe police brutality as “off the charts.”  That kind of language is usually reserved for criminals.

So here is this article about how a community saved itself from high crime by firing its police department and hiring a private security firm—only it’s a lie.  None of it happened the way they want their readers to believe it happened.  Fortunately for the website, their readers already believe all of this.  They must believe it, or they would have to question their entire worldview… and that ain’t going to happen.  They like having monsters under their bed, and shining the flashlight of truth and reason is not something they’re interested in.

I would like to state for the record that when a liberal website does something similar, i.e., start with a misleading and emotionally charged headline, I will read the article with a critical eye. If—and it happens occasionally—the author of the piece deliberately misinterprets the actions or words of a RWNJ, attributing malice where there is simply stupidity, or affirming the consequent when that is not what the speaker meant, then I make a mental note not to add whatever event they’re describing to my pile of evidence of the paucity of empathy or logic of the average RWNJ.  (I exclude, of course, the wondrous Wonkette; their gleeful savagery is just good, clean mean-spirited fun.)

A little work

OK, so I’ve not been very productive.  But I have accomplished some little bits.

First, you must know that I’ve been working on re-orchestrating A Christmas Carol for next December’s re-premiere.  I haven’t shared any of that because it’s not very interesting, but here’s a taste:

Past’s Arrival | mp3

This bit of underscoring takes us from the chimes of a neighboring church to the Ghost of Christmas Present’s teasing appearance, to their transportation to Scrooge’s past: the countryside, Martin and Oliver having a snowball fight, and then fading into the schoolroom.

The process of preparing sound files for December is not at all the same as simply re-orchestrating the show from an 11-piece ensemble to a full orchestra.  Because I’m not actually working on documents for live musicians, there are lots of shortcuts and omissions.  For example, if I transpose a harp sequence up a octave, I don’t bother moving it from the bass clef up to the treble clef because who cares?  No harpist is going to have to decipher what I’ve written, and the computer doesn’t care—it will play the notes exactly where I’ve put them whether they look correct or not.

Repeats are another area: many of the pieces have vamps (bits that loop until the scene moves on) or repeated verses/choruses.  For live musicians, repeats save paper and are easier to read.  But the printed repeat signs are irrelevant to a computer program that I’m going to instruct to “loop this waveform until I tell you not to,” and so I’m leaving those out. In the above sample, there is a vamp on the flute part that you won’t hear because that will be taken care of in QLab, the multimedia sequencer I’m still exploring.

I’m in the middle of pondering whether it is going to be better to try to “slice” the repeat (with varying degrees of smoothness or accuracy) in QLab or to export each section of a piece separately so that the repeated section is clear and easy to click on.  This may become critical in rehearsal, of “A Reason for Laughter,” for example, as we try to get Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig in and out of their verses, or in “Country Dance” when we’re trying to learn new sections of the dance.

I also have been taking repeat signs out of pieces like “Country Dance,” where it’s just easier to string all the jumpbacks (from A—>B—>A—>C—>A) out into one long piece rather than deal with all my quirky repeat signs.  In fact, I’ve stopped working on the music to blog here because the challenge of untangling “A Reason for Laughter” makes my eyes cross.

Anyway, as far as slicing vs. exporting multiple files for each pieces goes, I have lots of time between now and November, so I can play with all my options.  (Who am I kidding?  I’ll take the complicated way because it will make life much easier in rehearsal.)

I have gained an assistant:

She is currently trying to keep me from typing—WHAT IS THE DEAL EVEN I SHOULD BE PETTING HER ANYWAY—and did you know that pencils, pens, and erasers make great rolly toys, especially if you knock them to the floor?

She’s been with us for a couple of weeks now but has so far refused to divulge her name, and she is the only cat I have ever met that, when you pick her up, goes limp in your arms and settles in for a cuddle.  She’ll shift, turn over even to get more comfortable, but ask to be put down?  Nope.

This is not the cat I was looking for—I prefer tabbies—but she is such a sweet-tempered beast that we were afraid to tempt fate by giving her away.  I’m trying to get used to cat hair everywhere again.  The turbo-purr helps.

Rehearsals continue for Into the Woods.  You will have to believe me when I say it is not bragging to claim that my performance will be a tour de force—it would be for anyone handling the roles of Narrator, Mysterious Man, and the Wolf.  Generally, the Narrator/Mysterious Man are combined roles, but the Wolf is played by Cinderella’s Prince.  My playing all three requires some very quick changes indeed, and so the audience can not help but be dazzled by my facility, speed, and grace.  There is one moment where I—as the Narrator—facilitate Milky White’s escape from the Baker’s Wife, only reappear seconds later as the Mysterious Man; I expect it to provoke laughter.

I am quite enjoying the chance to sing “Hello, Little Girl,” however.  It’s delicious, nasty fun.

The show opens March 19 and runs for two weekends, Thu-Sun.  Details here.

Lichtenbergianism: procrastination as a creative strategy is going well, if by “well” you mean “successfully avoid writing abortive attempts for Seven Dreams of Falling while not accomplishing an awful lot.”  I sit in my writing chair—that’s an official thing—and start free-associating on one of the 9 Precepts, and before I know it I’ll have two pages in a minuscule field notebook almost filled.  It’s exhausting.

So far, I don’t have any brilliant new insights to share from my writing; I’m still in the “dumping” phase, wherein all those things I’ve said and thought about the creative process over the years are finding their way out of the recesses of my brain onto the page.  I’ve also begun collecting relevant bibliographic support, so that’s progress of a sort.

Finally, a look at the labyrinth:

—click to embiggen—

A panoramic shot from the west side looking back towards the entrance—not our usual vantage point.  The winter rye grass makes for a lovely oasis of green, although I’m sure I’d be a better hippie if I learned to appreciate Nature’s own withered brownness.

I am eagerly awaiting warmer weather!


I mean look at this!!



I will now nerd out a little.

It is well known amongst cognoscenti of office supplies that the fabled Blackwing 602 was/is the best pencil around.  I was reminded of this indisputable fact recently while reading the Reintroduction of Stephen Sondheim’s Look, I Made a Hat, the followup volume to his Finishing the Hat.  He actually has an entire section of the intro devoted to this pencil.

So I went looking for it and found it on Amazon, of course.  I figured I deserved to have the world’s best pencil in order to work in my many little notebooks—at least those in which I work in pencil—and on the score to whatever music I’m not composing at the  moment.  Hey, if that’s what it takes for me to become Sondheim…

Quick review of said pencil: Meh.  It has a lovely black graphite that is indeed easy to write with, and the detachable eraser thingie is cool, but the eraser is not the best eraser for the job.  This one is.


If you go shopping for these pencils, you will also be offered Palomino’s pencil sharpener.  There’s the magic:

Before we go any further, do not buy the Palomino pencil sharpener.  It is manufactured by KUM, a German company, and it is about $4.00 cheaper to buy their brand.

So… Notice the two sharpeners.  This is why your life is improved by owning this thing.  It’s a two-step process.

The #1 sharpener trims the wood of the pencil while allowing the lead to extrude without interruption:

And then the #2 sharpener sharpens the lead to the sharpest point you have ever had in your life on a pencil that was not right out of the box:

It’s awesome.  I make yummy sounds every time I sharpen a pencil.  As you can see, it works on all standard pencils, not just the Blackwings.

In addition, there are two little blades on the sides—see the red circle in the photo above?  That’s for mechanical pencil leads.  Plus it has two spare blades tucked away at the far end.  What is not to like?

It is almost enough to make me want to write something.

The stupid, it burns.

Sweet Jebus.

Go read this.  It’s short.  I’ll wait.

Yes, I know this is shooting fish in a barrel, but in case you have arrived at this blog thinking that somehow Victoria Jackson—or anyone who thinks like her—has a point, let’s try a little Think & Do exercise, shall we?

Here’s your worksheet.  (No fair peeking at the answer key.)

OK, it’s pretty clear that Victoria Jackson is crazy in the head and also stupid because what kind of person thinks that ISIS is even close to agreement with United States President Barack Obama even though his middle name is Hussein even?  Other than someone incredibly crazy in the head and also stupid in the mouth like Victoria Jackson.

So if that’s not the question—and really it’s not—then what is?

The question is, why is Victoria Jackson on the teevee and the radio and internet?  Didn’t we used to shake our heads sadly as these people would stand on the street corners and tell us that JFK was a Communist?  What happened to our discourse such that conduits protected under the First Amendment as “press” give this sad sad person a place to say her crazy stupid things?

(There is actually probably a discussion to be had about the Fairness Doctrine here, but let it pass.)

I’m pretty positive that Ms. Jackson is completely sincere when she says she cannot understand why the nation as a whole does not see what she sees.  Just as this guy really believes he’s doing the Lord’s work, or this guy believes he’s protecting the citizens of our fair state from… something… Victoria Jackson believes—totally, without let, and most sincerely—that Barack H. Obama is an “Islamic jihadist.”  Her thread of evidence is completely batshit insane, but as Professor Peter Schickele always says, “Truth is just truth; you can’t have opinions about truth.”

I’m also pretty positive that Newsmax in no way thinks that Victoria Jackson is saying something true.  They don’t believe that Obama is an Islamic jihadist.  I’m willing to bet they don’t even believe he’s Muslim.  What I am positive about is that Newsmax finds Jackson to be a useful idiot who can help them delegitimize the President, to keep the half of this country who get their frissons from fear riled up and opposed to anything that Obama and/or his party stands for.  Unions?  Universal healthcare? Minimum wage?  “IT’S NOT TRUE THAT ALL OF THAT WOULD BENEFIT ME AND PEOPLE I LOVE CAUSE HE’S A MUSLIM COMMUNIST FASCIST SOCIALIST ARGLE BARGLE, HENGGH?”

Do you doubt me?  Here.


Answer key (DON’T PEEK YOU GUYS!)

Christmas Carol redux: getting started

Yesterday I successfully avoided composing a single note by getting started on the re-re-orchestration of A Christmas Carol.

Actually, this should not take too long and will be an excellent task avoidance option for whatever else I’m working on.  All I have to do is open a new orchestral file (modified for my Christmas Carol purposes) and copy/paste material from the small ensemble version into the orchestral version, then redistribute the parts for a fuller sound.

There are the usual caveats: Finale doesn’t copy time signature changes or repeats, so I have to plan ahead for those.  And the repeats were enough to drive me mad on a couple of pieces, if you will recall, so that’s going to take a lot of flipping back and forth between the small ensemble and full orchestral versions and digging into the control panel for each repeat sign.  There were a couple of invisible ones as well, although I think that’s just for printing purposes.  I think they’re visible on the screen.

So anyway, I got the “Opening” done—in the sense of successively approximated—and “Bah! Humbug!” blocked out.  I may or may not post them at a later date.

If I were a rich man…

Since I won the PowerBall a couple of weeks ago1, I thought I’d start sharing things I’ve been buying with my half a billion dollars.

Check this out:

Sweet, is it not? I figure if we’re going to camp with the hippies, we might as well be comfortable.

It’s from this company, and it’s only AUD 49,995, which even less in Ameros, less than $40,000, really.

We’d want to go check it out for ourselves of course, and I’m thinking the two weeks around Memorial Day would be a great time to go.  Round trip tickets to Sydney at that time will run us about $3500—I wonder how much business class would cost?  Expedia doesn’t really give you that option; I can see that it will take a little work to get the hang of this rich thing.  Are there still travel agents?

It took a while to find a really expensive hotel in Sydney, but the ADGE will do just fine.  That will run us another AUD 6,000.

Then we could have a good time going to see the Mark Morris Dance Group at the Opera House (AUD 99.00), perhaps a trip to Ayers Rock and/or Alice Springs ($1600 US), maybe even a third week over in New Zealand and do all the LoTR things ($6400.00 NZD).

Of course, there are the meals to consider, little extras like helicopter rides and Great Reef excursions and above all shipping our new camper back to Atlanta.

Still, just spitballing here, but it appears that the whole thing will cost less than $100,000.  Pfft.  That’s nothing.  So why don’t you just come with us too?  Free trips to Middle-Earth for everyone!


1I did not win the PowerBall.

Burning Man redux

So this happened…

More adventures in 21st century technology

After yesterday’s frustrations with Ableton Live, I emailed their tech support.  I should expect to hear back from them in a couple of days, they said, but hey, you snooze you lose: after mentioning the problem to a couple of NTC folk, they pointed me to QLab.

Click on it!

Ahhhh, much better.  Completely simple interface, yet a hugely powerful program.  It can control audio, video, lighting, etc., etc.  I can do damage with this.  Multimedia Christmas Carol, anyone?

All I have to do is export the orchestral accompaniment to a sound file, then drag it over to QLab all in one piece, not in separate pieces like in Ableton Live.  Down at the bottom, you can see where I’ve marked “slices,” and if you look at the full photo, you can see that I’ve changed the number of repeats for that middle vamping slice to infinity.

If you look at the center panel, you can see there are two cues, the music cue and then the “devamp” cue, i.e., when I tell that cue to Go, it tells the slice to stop looping and go to the next slice.  JUST LIKE EZ•VISION, YOU GUYS!  Only this time, if I like, I can add lighting cues, video cues, etc.

Also of interest: over on the right, you can see that I’ve told QLab that these two cues are “Marley’s Departure.”  I can build an entire set of cue lists, one for each musical number.  Turn, turn, kick turn—yes, it will work!

The only problem, which I have no doubt I will overcome, is that adding the slice points can be dicey. (See what I did there?)  I have to play the cue and click on the Add Slice button where I want the slice to happen.  I can move it around easily, but what I really want is to find a way for Finale to add the marker for me so that the file will import with the slices already marked.

That, however, is minimal.  I am now set to completely rescore Christmas Carol for full orchestra—and to recreate the Overture!

Five Easier Pieces: Stuck again

Stuck in the tango.  No sign of improvement.  We are at 6 on the Lyles Scale of Compositional Agony, with no relief in sight.

So instead of actually working on it, I have downloaded the trial version of Ableton Live, a piece of music software that I have been assured by several people will be the tool I need to create an orchestral performance track for Christmas Carol.

It has been more than 15 years since I had to tinker with such software, and back then—pre-Mac OS X days, even—the software I used was simple and straightforward.  But in the intervening years, the consumer end of such things has dropped off and the pros have taken over.  If you don’t know what I mean, look at the following screenshots from Live:

Click on it to get a full view.

No, really, click on it.


It has two “views,” Arrangement and Session.  At this point—I just installed the thing—I don’t even know which one is which.  Here’s the other one:

Click on this one too.

Oy, also too.  ::sigh::

Cover me, I’m going in.  Updates as I surface.

10:10 am: I may have a clue.  In the second image above—that’s the Session view—each of the little colored boxes is a loop of some kind, either a beatbox or riff or some other kids-these-days item.  The columns are all using the same instrument to create the clips.  The rows are called “scenes,” and that’s where you combine/recombine all your whomp-whomp bits.  (That’s a technical term.)

So, for my purposes… We’ll use “Marley’s Departure” as our test case.  Here’s a score so you can follow along at home.  We have one measure of nervous diddling about, then two measures that repeat while the cast plays a scene about Scrooge seeing a ton of spirits like Marley hovering about the London streets, and then a final measure that we jump to when we reach the cue “…and lost the power forever!”

Here’s what I think will work: I go in, export each section as a clip.   Then I’ll have three scenes in Live, each one with one clip.  Hm… now I’m hazy.  Will someone have to “play” the piece live, i.e., click on scenes 1-2-3 in order (they loop until you click on the next one)—or can I line them up in the Arrangement view, loop the second one, then whoever’s in charge of the computer clicks some kind of NEXT button to skip to the third one?

Step one is to export those three audio clips from Finale.  Back in a moment.

11:00 am: Problems:

  • Each clip seems to have two seconds of silence at the end.  I think that’s a Finale export preference thing and should be easily fixable.
  • I figured out how to add the folder of exported .aiff files to the “browser” of Live—although you can drag-and-drop directly from the Finder, but when I drag them into the Arrangement timeline, there is no sound.
  • Clicking on each clip in the browser previews the clip, i.e., plays it, but again, dragging it to the timeline produces no sound.
  • If I drag a clip in Session view, I can click the Solo button and there is sound, but it’s muddy and clicky—which is not the case if I preview it in the browser.
  • The User Manual is of no assistance in this issue.