Category Archives: Entertainment

George Martin dies

One of my favorite music makers, George Martin, the producer of most of the Beatles records, has died at age 91. Until Martin — then a recording engineer for Parlophone Records — recorded them, the Beatles were a local Liverpool phenomenon. But for the relentless promotion and grooming by manager Brian Epstein and the tasteful recording direction by George Martin, the Beatles may never have broken out of Liverpool.

The Beatles, and the world, owe George Martin a big ‘Thank You’.

Scam the phone scammers

In this video, listen to the Jolly Roger Telephone robot waste telemarketers’ time.

Do you receive frequent annoying telemarketing calls? Here’s How to send YOUR telemarketers to this robot. It’s designed to keep the telemarketers on line as long as possible, to waste their time.

This clip is just one of many from Jolly Roger Telephone, which is the creation of Roger Anderson. This robot comes close to passing the Turing test. I think that it’s built on an Asterisk phone server (which is Linux-based).

Blondie video: Hanging on the Telephone

10th Annual Dania Beach Vintage Motorcycle Show

The annual Dania Beach Vintage Motorcycle Show just keeps improving each year. It’s held just one day each year in January. Dania is nestled between Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood, Florida. Admission for spectators is free. I love its family-friendly laid back atmosphere, free of poseurs and pretense. I snapped a few photos last week at this year’s event.

ABBA reconsidered

In the 1970s and early 1980s, I loved ABBA’s music. I was pleased to discover this recent critique, in both spoken and written form. I didn’t realize that ABBA were considered politically incorrect in their home country.

Listen The world according to ABBA (audio clip)

Intelligent Life magazine‘s Matthew Sweet observes that ABBA’s songs progressed from naiveté through sophistication to melancholy. As Matthew says, “Many of their songs are about accepting the failure of relationships”.

Here’s the companion article, Thank You for the Music, by Matthew Sweet, from a recent issue of Intelligent Life. Both the article and the audio clip stem from his visit to Stockholm’s ABBA Museum.

Shortwave broadcasting is dying

I notice that many governments are cutting back if not shutting down their shortwave radio broadcasting operations. Shortwave radio and newspapers are both carriers of content, and both are affected by the Internet. Here’s a video from 2012 about Radio Netherlands closing its Caribbean shortwave broadcast station:

Putting all their eggs in one basket

I think that these broadcasters are shortsighted.

Providers of audio content argue that it’s cheaper to distribute their programming via the Internet. They forget that the Internet comprises many routers that reside in many countries. If a government decides to erect a firewall such as the Great Firewall of China, selected content can be blocked within that government’s jurisdiction.

One beauty of shortwave broadcasting is its simplicity. The entire shortwave route consists of only two stations: the transmitter and the receiver. Radio signals don’t respect national borders and radio jamming is expensive and never 100% effective.

In my opinion providers of other HF (high frequency: 2 to 30 MHz) services are also shortsighted, for the same reason: they’ve done away with their users’ backup systems. AT&T killed its high seas HF radiotelephone service, so now ships at sea depend solely on satellite links for shipboard telephone service. They have no backup. Ditto Loran-C: ships depend exclusively upon the GPS system for electronic navigation.

Articles:

  • November, 2014: Does Shortwave Radio Have a Future?
  • August, 2010: Whatever Happened to Shortwave Radio?

    For all its transmission expense and audio problems, analog shortwave radio has one clear advantage over the Internet and domestic radio/TV: It cannot be easily blocked — even when states try to disrupt its signals using jamming transmitters.

    Webcasts can be filtered or blocked through IP geolocation techniques that block access to sites based upon the IP address of the site or the user.

John Lennon: Gimme Some Truth:

George Martin visits Brian Wilson

“If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad then Muhammad must go to the mountain.”

In the mid-1990s, Sir George Martin drove a flash red 1960s Cadillac convertible to Brian Wilson’s southern California home. (I love George’s summer fedora.) The BBC recorded his visit on videotape.

There the two musical geniuses played with the source tapes from Brian’s beautiful song, “God Only Knows”. Watch and listen to two old masters.

Who are these old codgers? Sir George Martin recorded, occasionally played accompaniment, and produced every Beatles recording. That’s Sir George playing harpsichord on “In My Life”.  It was he who gave the Beatles their first shot at recording for EMI.  Brian Wilson wrote, played guitar, sang, arranged, and produced almost every Beach Boys recording.

These two men, the Beatles and the Beach Boys, together with Phil Spector, owned the radio airwaves in the 1960s. What a treat to see these two together.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

A new appreciation for Ringo Starr

I’ve referred to (recently retired CEO) Steve Ballmer as Microsoft’s Ringo Starr, because Ballmer hopped aboard the Microsoft express as it was pulling out of the station.  Ringo was hired by the Beatles after they’d apprenticed on Hamburg’s Reeperbahn and were about to conquer the world.  I’ve underestimated Ringo’s talent.

Two short videos on YouTube opened my eyes . . . er, ears. The first:

The second:

I’ve never been especially attuned to anyone’s drumming.  For decades my faves have included Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, and Keith Moon.  I guess that I’d just not listened closely to all those fab four recordings.  My apologies, Richie.

What about Steve? He retired ten years too late.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Listen to podcasts on your smartphone

I just realized that I’ve not described how I listen to podcasts, recorded audio, and live radio broadcasts on my phone.

Prehistory

Winamp website
Winamp for Windows Screenshot

My first streaming audio experience was in 2000 with the Windows-based MP3 player program called Winamp. Its Shoutcast network of streaming sites is built upon the traditional broadcast model: content on each channel is delivered in a continuous stream. A listener may not demand or replay any content. There are (or were) thousands of Shoutcast channels. I still occasionally listen to Shoutcast streams on my phone using Winamp for Android (which may no longer be available). I wrote an article or two about Winamp’s latter day rough sledding.

Content on demand

I began listening to both live and pre-recorded audio with an older version of TuneIn. Its creator sold TuneIn to a company that has ruined it with too many ads and unnecessary “features”. I’ve stored an early version for Android. This older version is much better than the new version that’s available in the Android Play Store. If you have an Android device, feel free to download and install my version.

RSS Podcast iconWhen Tunein began to degrade, I turned to Podcast Addict on my Android phone. It’s very flexible, and its many options can intimidate a first-time user. Have patience. Its power is worth climbing the learning curve. I now use Podcast Addict for most of my phone-based audio listening.

  • Tip: If one of these programs responds slowly, go to Android Settings, More, Application management. Select the sluggish program. Press the Force stop button. Press the Clear Cache button. Restart the program.

Apple iPhone or iPad?

I recommend all three of these programs for Android. If you have an Apple (IOS) device, you may find better alternatives. I see on alternativeto.net that Apple supplies its own podcast program.

Tune in, turn on, and drop out in.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Hillary Clinton-approved email server

I love this parody.  It’s a humorous advertisement for your own mail server:

Do you run a government agency but hate complying with the law?  Then you need DC Matic, the Hillary Clinton-approved email server!

credit: Written and performed by Remy.  Video directed and edited by Meredith Bragg

What’s Hillary hiding?  Classified emails?  Sure.  Evidence of her negligence in Benghazi that led to the murders of US citizens?  Of course.  Security breaches via assistant Huma Abedin’s Muslim Brotherhood connections?  Probably.  No, the ticking time bomb in this server is bribery.  Maybe treason as well.  She’s hiding written evidence of her deals that traded State Department help in exchange for large donations to the Clinton Foundation and large fees for speaking engagements by Bill Clinton.

Putney Swope and Barack Obama

Today’s laughably corrupt Obama regime is life imitating art. Which art? Cinema. Whacked-out cinema. Farce. Namely, 1969’s Putney Swope:

Both Swope and Obama were elected to office by fools who suffer from chronic white guilt.

In 1969, Putney Swope announced:

The changes I’m gonna make will be minimal. I’m not gonna rock the boat. Rockin’ the boat’s a drag. What you do is sink the boat.

In 2008, Barack Obama bragged:

. . . we are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.

Mr. Obama is trying to transform America, alright. Transform it from a prosperous capitalist economy governed by a constitutional republic to a bankrupt socialist economy governed by a corrupt tyrannical dictatorship. Barack is following Putney’s credo, “What you do is sink the boat.”

The FoxNews / Facebook spectacle

Foxnews Republican debate commentatorsWhy did the three moderators of Thursday night’s presentation by FoxNews and Facebook of the first 2016 Republican debate (if you can call it that) go for Donald Trump’s throat?

Facebook

My guess is that, like most Silicon Valley magnates, Mark Zuckerberg (founder and chairman of Facebook) views a Donald Trump presidency as a threat to Facebook’s cozy deal for H-1B visas. He, together with Bill Gates, Sergei Brin, Larry Page, et al, wishes to continue to drive down the wages of tech workers. Not only is Donald Trump Hillary Clinton’s worst nightmare, he’s the worst nightmare for Zuckerman, Gates, et al.

(Discussion of the H1-B visa scam)

Trump has pledged to bring jobs back to America, for Americans.

A pox on both your houses

It’s easy to understand why Republicans favor legal (and illegal) immigration and work visas: they like cheap labor. (Democrats favor illegal immigration because they like their votes.)

FoxNews

I’m not sure which dog Rupert Murdoch and son (owners of FoxNews) have in this fight. I guess it may be because they receive major advertising income through Karl Rove’s traditional Republican buddies. The Murdochs see Trump as a threat to Fox’s juicy revenue stream.

It was clear that Fox’s Megyn Kelly, Chris Matthews, and Bret Baier were following marching orders to trash Mr. Trump. (It’s ironic that he alone was the magnet that attracted 24 million viewers.)

I thought that Mr. Trump handily dodged their bullets and returned fire just fine. Good for him. Americans need jobs.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Is radio and TV broadcasting doomed?

The FCC plans to meet with broadcasters with a view to recovering some radio frequency (RF) spectrum from them. Recovered spectrum would be auctioned to cellular wireless broadband Internet service providers.

From a spectral efficiency viewpoint, this could make sense. Today’s modulation methods conserve spectrum (compared to traditional AM and FM broadcast signals) and the cellular model allows many geographically separated users to independently share one frequency. The packet model leaves each channel available for others whenever data isn’t flowing. From a consumer’s point of view, it allows program content on demand, rather than only when the broadcaster airs the content.

I wonder how much longer the RF broadcast model will make sense?

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Wanna see jitterbug? Wanna hear rock & roll?

Check out this video:

The tune, “Slow Down”, is performed on piano and sung by its composer, Larry Williams. He was from New Orleans (of course). The tune, ringing with ninth chords, was released on disc in 1958. I think that the dancers are from a 1950s Hollywood rock & roll movie. Larry also composed Dizzy Miss Lizzy, Bad Boy, and Bony Moronie — classic rock tunes, all. He was born in 1935 and died on this date, January 7, in 1980.

In the mid-1950s, Williams inherited star billing from Little Richard (who’d forsaken rock and roll for religion) at New Orleans’ record label Specialty Records.

While Williams was alive, the Beatles paid their respects by admirably covering Larry’s Dizzy Miss Lizzy, Slow Down, and Bad Boy. I’m amazed that Larry Williams isn’t in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Extra credit assignment: Compare and contrast the Beatles’ cover of Slow Down with Larry Williams’ original. This clip includes the fab four wailing in Liverpool’s Cavern Club: (If YouTube has taken down this video clip, you can hear the same recording with groovy rock and roll clips (sorry — requires Flash) from 1950s America and early Beatles. Sorry for the Flash format.)

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Restore TuneIn Android app

I’ve used TuneIn on my Android phones until recently. Its creator sold it years ago. For the past year or so, it’s been devolving, confirming the theory that adding programmers to a project only degrades it. (Read The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering.) Here’s my current TuneIn review on the Google Play store:

2013 version was okay. 12.9.2 version is broken.

TuneIn iconIt WAS very good. Now it’s broken. Bloated. Sluggish. Meaningless error messages.  Too many ads. Frequent crashes. Stupid social net UI. Lacks setting to choose continuous sequential play or stop playing at end of each episode. Its new continuous play behavior of episodes confuses ads with episodes so you hear ad + previous episode instead of your chosen episode. Frequent false complaints that it can’t find stream. The Search function is now broken and its results are unsorted.

I uninstalled TuneIn, downloaded version 9 dot something from uptodown.com, scanned it with Lookout, and installed it on my Android 4.2.2 phone. Whew! It works much better than recent versions.

I’ve made TuneIn version 9.3 available for download at this link. It’s 8 Megabytes in size. (The disastrous version 12.9.2 is 14 Megabytes.) Feel free to download and install it on your Android device. (You must first change an Android security setting to allow installing apps from unknown sources.)

Update I ended up installing TuneIn version 6.7. It’s “only” 3.9 Megabytes in size, feels responsive, and doesn’t display obnoxious ads or play pre-roll audio ads. I’ve made it available for download at this link.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Prelude to Rock & Roll

Before rock got rolling, hundreds of tributaries were converging: blues, gospel, bebop, boogie woogie, rhythm and blues, country, hillbilly. Go to YouTube and listen to and watch Hank Williams, Louie Jordan, and Big Joe Turner. The Juke in the Back website collects those seminal tunes from the 1940s and 50s and adds detailed documentation. Little RichardI’m listening via Tunein to Episode 176, the earliest recordings of Little Richard, as I write this.

Terri Gross’ NPR program Fresh Air also has a well-done audio rock & roll history series by Ed Ward: Fresh Air Rock History. Mr. Ward weaves together the up and down lives of not only the musicians, but the record labels, recording engineers, deejays, agents, and promoters. Mr. Ward also covers artists of the 1960s and 70s.

When dinosaurs roamed the earth
These guys paint a chaotic picture of the early rock music scene. I vaguely recall listening to an assortment of country, gospel, and blues when I was a boy in the early 1950s. I first heard Elvis in 1955, then Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Jerry Lee Lewis. My world changed.

Caldonia / Louis Jordan:

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Joni Mitchell, Jaco Pastorius, et al on YouTube

I’m delighted to discover that the video of Joni Mitchell’s classic Shadows and Light concert (1980) can be viewed in full (1h 13m) on YouTube. Supporting players are Jaco Pastorius on bass, Pat Metheny on guitar, Michael Brecker on sax, Don Alias on drums, Lyle Mays on keyboards, and The Persuasions. It’s among my favorite videos of a concert performance.

Jaco Pastorius 1987
Jaco Pastorius

Jaco was a Fort Lauderdale kid who began playing in rock bands around town in a variety of clubs: She, The 4 O’Clock CLub, The Village Zoo, The Flying Machine, The Button, Bachelors III, Ocean Mist . . . When I first heard Jaco in the early 1970s, he was playing bass for straight-ahead local rock bands. He graduated to more jazz- and fusion- related music and put his unique fretless Fender bass stamp on Weather Report. I’ve heard bass players tell me that they tried to imitate Jaco’s technique, but gave up trying; they claim that Jaco changed what it meant to play electric bass guitar. Jaco’s friend Pat Metheny, who plays a beautiful lead guitar in this concert, is a University of Miami music school graduate.

Jaco seemed to still have his act together when he played this concert. Wikipedia has a good Jaco biography. He had a rapid rise to the top followed by a quick ride back down again. I had musician friends c 1984-87 who were torn up watching their friend Jaco dismantle his life. This Warner Brothers recording artist and Down Beat Hall of Fame member was sleeping on park benches and shooting baskets in a local public park.

Michael Brecker and Don Alias died a few years ago.

This is a classic performance by master musicians who were at the top of their games. Too bad it couldn’t last forever.

FCC may fine NBC for Miley Cyrus “Bangerz” show

According to Rolling Stone magazine, the FCC is considering disciplining NBC for airing an indecent performance on July 6, Miley Cyrus’ “Bangerz Tour”. I watched it. It was provocative, but artful. Bertolt Brecht would have loved the production: live dancers against rear-projection oversized animation with creative costumes and lighting. I loved it. Some of the images, such as Miley riding a giant “Mr. Wiener”, were sexually suggestive.

image
Click to stream or download full 862 Megabyte video performance

The concert (recorded in Barcelona) reminded me of Madonna’s shows twenty-five years ago. Both performers have acceptable contralto voices, energetic dance skills, and assemble exciting Brechtian spectacles. I love the costuming and choreopgraphy. Shocking? “Bangerz” pushed the limits on prime-time American TV, I suppose. But that week on television, the atrocious performance by the Brazilian football team was truly shocking.

I’d prefer that the FCC take no action on this. They have enough serious issues on their plate already. Censoring art is, in my opinion, a slippery slope for any government agency . . . and I think that this production can be labeled “art”. Here’s the full show (862MB H264 1h 25m mp4 video file, 720 x 404 pixel) for download or streaming:

Miley Cyrus Bangerz show in Barcelona
Click to stream or download full 862 Megabyte video performance

You’ll need a fast Internet connection to smoothly stream this. You might be better to download the file and then play it locally with a good video player such as VLC.

Is it Miley’s performance or just modern low distortion recording technique that for the first time makes John Lennon’s “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” lyrics (at 44m 35s) sound so . . . so . . . clear, logical, and complete?

What do you think?

Pushing the limits of road bikes

These guys perform tricks that look impossible . . . on a road bike. Fantastic riding from England. The 6-minute video is beautifully photographed and edited.

Youtube videos: Road Bike Party 2. All tricks were performed on one bike: The Making Of Martyn Ashton’s Colnago C59 Disc. Postscript: Martyn broke his back last September when he fell ten feet during a demo. His legs remain paralyzed. His mates helped him finish the video.

Photo storage sites

This article began life last year as a simple list of photo storage/sharing sites. However, some of those sites have since disappeared:Camera lens

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

What is music?

Edmund Morris, biographer of Beethoven, in an audio interview, was reminded of a Thelonius Monk quip:

Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.

Mr. Morris added that Mendelssohn claimed that the reason that writing about music is so hard is that music is a superior language.

This reminds me of Walter Pater’s quote:

all art constantly aspires to the condition of music

.


imageThe audio interview about Beethoven is fascinating. Mr. Morris explains that Beethoven was profoundly deaf when he created his Ninth Symphony. Tinnitus sufferers claim that the pianissimo opening punctuated by stabbing violins of the Ninth Symphony is exactly like the ringing that they hear 24/7 as they begin to lose their hearing.

Shall we play a game?

image

Numberphile uploaded a brief video clip of John Conway, mathematician and inventor of the Game of Life. The interesting thing about the Game of Life is that the only player input that’s needed is initial setup. Then, a computer applies a predefined set of rules to your initial configuration and you watch as your creation either prospers or dies with each iteration. Surprisingly complex patterns can emerge from simple origins. It’s been called “a fun way to consume otherwise unused CPU cycles”.

There’s a good free Game of Life in the Android Play Store.

Dr. Conway is the Von Neumann professor of mathematics at Princeton University.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695