Monday, March 20, 2017

RIP Chuck Berry

Rock N' Roll legend, Chuck Berry is dead. Bursting onto the scene in 1955, Chuck Berry nurtured rhythm and blues into rock n' roll. John Lennon once quipped "If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry". Such was Chuck Berry's influence on the sound and presence of the genre.

Chuck Berry had a number of hits over the years, such as "Maybellene", "Roll Over Beethoven", "Rock N' Roll Music", "Johnny B. Goode", "No Particular Place To Go", "You Never Can Tell",  and "Nadine" But, for me, Chuck Berry's defining song has always been "Johnny B. Goode", a song that Berry has said is somewhat autobiographical. It's a song about an illiterate country boy who plays a mean guitar and wants to see his name in lights. It's a song that was put onto the golden records on the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecrafts. Eons from now, an alien culture may find those spacecraft and play those records and Chuck Berry will be seen as a significant part of Earth culture. So, as those spacecraft sail through space, the man who wanted to see his name in lights will have done better than he could have ever hoped, for his name now flies among the stars.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Monopoly Is Changing Their Tokens Again

Looks like the makers of the board game, Monopoly, is trying to modernize the game once again by changing out more of their tokens. The boot, thimble and wheelbarrow are out, and the T-Rex, rubber ducky and penguin are in. Over 60 other potential new tokens were up for contention including an emoji and a hashtag.

I suppose I'm a bit miffed at losing the boot, which was my go-to token whenever I played Monopoly. I was always thrilled to boot other tokens as I passed them by on the board. What am I supposed to do now, pretend to eat them with the T-Rex? Really, though, the tokens are secondary to the gameplay. Back when the game was originally produced, it didn't come with tokens. Players provided their own, often using charms from bracelets or toys from Cracker Jack boxes. An honestly, making the player use whatever was handy is more in-line with the game's Depression Era roots. I can recall using bottle caps and pull-tabs to replace lost Monopoly tokens back when I was a kid. Perhaps a return to this "make do with what you've got" spirit of the game is just what is required in order to make Monopoly relevant again.

Games featuring the new tokens will be available starting in August. Anyone want to bet on when a version of the game called "Monopoly Classic", priced slightly higher than the "mainstream" version will come out?

Thursday, March 2, 2017

I Spend All My Money On Your Mom!

Yet another "lower your interest rate" credit card scammer called me. When he asked me if I had over $3,500 in credit card debt, I told him that I did, and that had spent all of my money on his mom. He tried to roll with it, but he quickly gave up and hung up on me.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Donald Trump and Cinnamon Toast Crunch

President Donald Trump achieved his electoral college victory by a wider margin than any President since Ronald Reagan (aside from Obama in 2012, Obama in 2008, Clinton in 1996, Clinton in 1992, and George H.W. Bush in 1988). But, can he see why his constituents love the taste of Cinnamon Toast Crunch? Check out the commercial below: 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Telemarketer Inquires About Home Owner Phobia

Clovis got a call from a scammer calling himself Phabian from U.S. Safe Savings Center looking to try and sell him on some kind of insurance scam. When "Phabian" asked Clovis if he was a home owner, Clovis reacted as if the rep was calling him a "homo". Despite Clovis' admonishment to the contrary, the rep continued on his script as if Clovis had been objecting to the idea of being sold something. Soon, the language barrier became too much to overcome, and the rep ended the call, seemingly indicating that he'd be calling again.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Bowling Green Memorial Fund

Apparently, mad props are due to Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the President. Had it not been for her, we would never have remembered the tragic events that transpired in Bowling Green at some unknown point in the past. Thanks to her citing the media cover-up of the Bowling Green Massacre, more Americans than ever are now aware that a Bowling Green Massacre did indeed take place. They don't know when it happened, who was involved or how many victims there were, but at least awareness was raised.

The efforts of Kellyanne Conway to bring the events of the Bowling Green Massacre to light have resulted in grass roots movements to memorialize those events. To that end, the Bowling Green Memorial Fund aims to help people remember that they somehow forgot all about it.

DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a real commercial. No such fund exists. This is SATIRE.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Would You Rather Be Inside Dave Van Ronk or Inside Llewyn Davis?

In celebration of Valentine's Day, here's a clip of Poe Dameron and Kylo Ren putting aside their differences so that they can play a song with Justin Timberlake.

Seriously, though, the clip is from a movie called "Inside Llewyn Davis" which is loosely based on the career of Dave Von Ronk, one of the folk gurus of Greenwich Village. Van Ronk may not have gotten much fame in his own time, but his influence among other musicians at the time cannot be denied. Joni Mitchell often said that Van Ronk's rendition of "Both Sides Now" was the finest she'd ever heard. And Bob Dylan heaped praise on Van Ronk, saying "I'd heard Van Ronk back in the Midwest on records and thought he was pretty great, copied some of his recordings phrase for phrase. Van Ronk could howl and whisper, turn blues into ballads and ballads into blues. I loved his style. He was what the city was all about. In Greenwich Village, Van Ronk was king of the street, he reigned supreme."

The movie, Inside Llewyn Davis works very well as a Cohen Brothers concept, and as a primer for the kind of music that Dave Van Ronk played. However, if you're looking to get some insight into what kind of person Van Ronk was, Inside Llewyn Davis will disappoint. The movie, while incorporating some anecdotes from Van Ronk's life, portrays Llewyn Davis as an intelligent, arrogant asshole caught in a sisyphean cycle. Dave Van Ronk himself was a much different person. To truly get a feel for what he was like, check out his memoirs, "The Mayor Of MacDougal Street". It's worth a read.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

R.I.P. Richard Hatch

I grew up watching Battlestar Galactica. It was one of the many gems put together by Glen A. Larson whose resume included Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, The Fall Guy, Knight Rider, Quincy M.E. and B.J. and the Bear. There was something about Battlestar Galactica, though, that distinguished itself from Larson's other series. Battlestar Galactica, while still being your basic action-based sci-fi show, actually asked a number of deep questions. Where did humanity come from? Where are they going? What does it mean to be human?

One of the key components of Battlestar Galactica was the acting of Richard Hatch (not to be confused with that guy who won the first season of Survivor). When sharing a scene with the legendary Lorne Greene, Hatch evoked a humble optimism that paired so well with Greene's intimidating presence. Once Battlestar Galactica was cancelled, Hatch went on to try to revive the series in the 1990s, going so far as to mortgage his house in order to finance a trailer outlining his vision.

Universal Studios, who held the rights to Battlestar Galactica, were not interested in a continuation, opting instead to reboot the series with Ronald D. Moore at the helm. Hatch was bitterly disappointed and became overly critical of the new series (which, IMO, was actually a great show for the first two seasons). Despite this, Hatch invited Moore to appear at Galacticon, a Battlestar Galactica 25th anniversary convention hosted by Hatch. Moore endured tough questioning from hostile fans of the original series, but his grace under pressure earned Hatch's respect. Moore then offered Hatch a recurring role on the new series as Tom Zarek, a terrorist turned politician. So, instead of remaining indignant over his own vision not being made, Hatch decided to contribute his talent's so someone else's vision, which made the show better than it would have been without him.

Most recently, Hatch had starred as Klingon Supreme Commander Kharn the Undying in the Star Trek fan-film Prelude To Anaxar.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Hatch. You may be Tom Zarek to a generation of millenials, but you'll always be Captain Apollo, leader of Blue Squadron to me. So say we all.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Queen Elizabeth's Anniversary

Queen Elizabeth II, Britain's longest reigning monarch, has spent 65 years on the throne. Poor lady. Sounds like she could use a prune or maybe some Metamucil.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Trump Wants To Build Walls

During his first week in the Oval Office, President Trump got to work right away on fulfilling his biggest campaign promise: The Border Wall. He signed an executive order last week calling for the building of a wall along the Mexican border as well as the expansion of border patrol and deportation agents. He then indicated that Mexico would somehow be made to foot the bill of building the wall, a claim that Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto flat out denied. This led to the cancellation of a summit meeting between our two countries and a declaration from Trump that a 20% tariff on imports from Mexico would be explored in order to pay for the wall.

Later in the week, Trump signed an executive order keeping all refugees from entering the country for 120 days and keeping immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim nations (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia) out for three months. The order also blocked nationals from those nations who had valid green cards and visas from entering the country. Many nationals who were in transit when the order was signed found that they were denied entry when they landed and were either detained or sent back to where they had flown in from. Protests erupted at major airports around the country and foreign leaders were quick to denounce the ban. Trump supporters, however, see the ban a necessary step to safeguard our country against people from nations known as hotspots of terrorism while the vetting process for allowing people in from those countries is tweaked. The concept of a border wall and a temporary travel ban sound like good ideas, right? After all, you can't be too careful. The safety of our country is at risk, isn't it? Democrats should be on board since it was Obama who identified those seven nations as hotspots of terror.

First off, if you support the travel ban, you should do so because you believe in the plan itself. Pointing to past administrations that have done vaguely similar things and crying "Whatabout..." is a cowardly deflection of the issue and makes you look like you don't have any faith in your own beliefs. It's like when you catch one of your kids misbehaving and he points to his older brother saying "Well, he did it first, you just didn't catch him!". Pointing to someone else's bad behavior doesn't excuse your own.

Second, I understand that a lot of people view politics like they view team sports. They throw their support behind their party in such a way that they've become little more than game day fans. Yet, I cannot stress enough the need for people to look beyond their party lines and to think critically about the best ways to handle our national security. We also have to consider the human costs of these programs and whether or not the benefits outweigh the costs. Don't take the Republicans at their word and don't take Democrats at their word about it either. Go out there and educate yourself. Read articles by people are are experts on the subjects you're interested in.

That being said, my own opinion on this whole thing is that Trump is acting on fear. We, as a nation, are starting to fear people who are different from us simply because they are different. Trump himself declared via his campaign site in 2015 that he supported "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States", so you'll have to excuse me if I am skeptical when Trump says that his latest move isn't "a Muslim ban". I hear people saying all the time that if immigrants are going to come here, then they need to integrate into our culture and learn the language. Sentiments like this make me think of my great-great grandfather. He came to this country from Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic) after the failure of the tripartite agreement Austria-Hungry brought Bohemia under Austrian rule and made ethnic Czechs into second-class citizens. He settled briefly in Minnesota and then moved on to Chicago. By today's standards, he wasn't the type of immigrant most people would want living in this country. He never learned English beyond a few words and phrases. He didn't need to. He lived in a neighborhood where everyone spoke Czech. He attended a church that held services in Czech. He even subscribed to a Czech newspaper. What's worse, he was of a different religion than most of the rest of the country. He was a Catholic during an era when a number of groups were trying to limit Catholic immigration into the United States. He had at least 14 children (10 of whom survived to adulthood) all tucked into a tiny apartment and provided for them by doing odd jobs as a carpenter and sending his kids out to do the same. They were a poor family. So dirt poor that, when one of the children died due to a tragic, horrible accident, they couldn't afford to buy a burial plot for him. They had to rent it and live with the fact that someone would eventually be buried over him and that there would be no marker for his final resting place. My great-great grandfather may not have been what the mainstream saw as the ideal immigrant, but he planted himself firmly in the country and fought for his meager share of the American dream. From the roots he put down, generations of law-abiding, job holding American citizens sprung forth. Yet, had today's prejudicial attitudes towards refugees been applied to my great-great grandfather, I wouldn't be here writing this blog.

Meanwhile, one of my Irish ancestors who brought his family to this country embodied the sort of immigrant that we'd see as ideal in today's society. He was a Protestant, the predominant sect of Christianity in the U.S. at the time. He spoke English and even became a naturalized citizen. He was successful businessman who pitched in around his community in order to help out those less fortunate than him. On the surface, he was the ideal immigrant, yet he was involved in organized crime, grand larceny, jury tampering, bail jumping and murder. My point in telling these stories is to highlight the fact that, ultimately, we don't know what's in the heart of anyone who chooses to come to this country. We're quick to trust what's familiar, but we're even quicker to condemn what's different. Supposedly, Muslim nations want to attack us because they hate our freedom. If we keep making restrictions like this, then aren't we making our country less free and, thus, playing into the hands of the very people who want to tear us down?

Friday, January 20, 2017

McCartney Sues Sony To Get Back His Publishing Rights

According to multiple news sources, Paul McCartney is attempting to get back his publishing rights to the Beatles catalog via certain termination provisions U.S. copyright law. An update to the law in 1976 increased the period that works are under copyright protection, and, in recognition of authors who had signed over their rights to publishers and studios without much bargaining power, allowed such authors 35 years hence to reclaim rights in the latter stages of a copyright term. McCartney has been serving Sony/ATV, the current owner of the catalog, termination notices for the last decade. Sony/ATV have been ignoring them. Now, McCartney seeks a declaration that his termination notices are valid under the provisions provided in the 1976 Copyright Act.

In my own opinion, Paul is going to lose this case big time. Paul is citing Section 304(c) of the 1976 Copyright Act which gives authors who transferred their copyright interests to third parties before January 1, 1978 the right to terminate those transfers and reclaim their copyright interests. Problem is, John Lennon and Paul McCartney didn't transfer their rights to a third party. They created a company called Northern Songs and transferred their copyright interests to it. In hindsight, the deal that created Northern Songs looks like a bad one. After all, John and Paul only owned 40% of the company collectively. Brian Epstein, the manager of The Beatles, got 10 percent. The remaining 50 percent went to Dick James and Charles Silver, experienced music publishers. Considering that James and Silver were taking the bulk of the risk, they got the bulk of the company.

In 1965, it was decided to make Northern Songs a public company in order to save on the capital gains tax. To that end, 1,250,000 shares were traded on the London Stock Exchange, and, after the offering was closed, Lennon and McCartney owned 15% each, NEMS (Brian Epstein's company) held 7.5%, Harrison and Starr shared 1.6%, and James and Silver (Northern Songs' chairmen), held a controlling 37.5% interest. The remaining shares were owned by various financial institutions. After Epstein's death in 1967, Lennon and McCartney summoned Dick James to a meeting in order to renegotiate their deal. They treated James rather poorly, which made him wonder why he was bothering to deal with them in the wake of Epstein's death. Early in 1969, James and Silver their shares of Northern Songs to ATV Music. Upon hearing the news, John and Paul attempted to gain control of Northern Songs, but couldn't match the financial power of ATV. The Beatles' new manager, Allen Klein then made a bid for their company, Apple, to purchase ATV. That deal was quickly squashed by McCartney's lawyer who wrote a letter to ATV informing them that Allen Klein, while manager of the Beatles, had no authority to act on Paul's behalf because Paul had not signed the management agreement. Thus, ATV pulled out of the deal. In a last ditch effort to gain control, Lennon and McCartney called a meeting with a block of investors who owned a significant percentage of ownership in Northern Songs in the hopes that they'd sell their shares to them or help them take control of Northern Songs. Lennon sabotaged the meeting by insulting the investors, declaring, "I'm sick to death of being fucked about by men in suits sitting on their fat arses in the City!", which pushed any offended investors to ATV's side. Having lost the battle, Lennon and McCartney were offered shares of ATV in exchange for their shares of Northern Songs, but they chose instead to sell their shares outright.

In 1981, Paul McCartney and Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, had an opportunity to buy the ATV catalog for 20 million pounds. McCartney and Ono couldn't come to an agreement as, according to McCartney, Ono insisted that the catalog was over valued. A change to acquire the catalog surfaced again in 1984 when ATV itself went up for sale. McCartney was given the opportunity to buy it, but refused. Michael Jackson ended up buying ATV in 1985. In 1995, Jackson merged the catalog with Sony music publishing as part of a financial deal where Jackson have Sony 50% ownership in exchange for a sizable loan. Subsequent re-negotiations of the deal left Jackson with 25% interest in the catalog.

The point I'm making here is that McCartney wasn't the victim of a greedy record company who snatched his publishing rights away under his nose. He knowingly transferred his rights to a company that he was an owner of and then lost those rights when the company got taken over. He then washed his hands of the catalog by selling his stock and turned down several subsequent opportunities to re-acquire his rights. This isn't the type of situation that the cited provision in the 1976 Copyright Act was written to accommodate. This case is a loser, and Paul is most likely aware of it. He's almost certainly using the threat of termination to leverage his position against Sony in order to get an increase in his songwriting royalty rate, which would be the fist time he's gotten an increase in decades. And, even without that,  I can see why Paul is making the attempt. Paul had once said that he wrote the songs for free, so he doesn't see why he should pay to get them back. So, this lawsuit is his last chance to get his rights back for relatively little cost.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Why Is Braith In My Home After I Adopted Lucia

No matter how immersed I may get in a Bethesda game, I don't generally get a case of "the feels" when I'm guilt tripped by NPCs within the game. In Skyrim, I'm not moved by Delvin's scolding me after I quit a Thieves Guild job. I don't really care about what led Aventus Aretino to perform the Black Sacrament (I care even less about whether he's a Nord or an Imperial). Yet, for some reason, young Lucia's story about losing her mother and being kicked off the farm by her aunt and uncle got to me. So, I adopted her and sent her off to my home in Lakeview Manor to be taken care of by my Housecarl.

When I arrived home after adopting her, I noticed that Whiterun's brattiest bratface, Braith was also in my house for some reason. Had I accidentally adopted her too (all these Skyrim kids look alike to me)? Horrible! She's the only character more annoying than Nazeem! Anyway, after bitching a bit, she left the house. I don't know what glitch ended up entangling her with Lucia briefly, but I certainly hope that Lucia doesn't invite her over to play anymore.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Fake Warranty Scammers Call Me

This is a pretty typical scam, and I think I've posted about it before. Someone calls you claiming that your car's warranty is about to expire and they offer to hook you back up for a nominal fee. Of course, they don't offer any real coverage and if you end up actually needing a repair, you'll find out that you've got no actual coverage. So, when these jokers called Clovis, he decided to have a little fun.

  • When the first rep heard Clovis' accent, he somewhat aped it himself. 
  • Clovis bragged about the amount of side-action he got in the back seat of the car
  • Clovis also wondered what the rep meant by Board Underwriter. Clovis wondered how someone writes under a board and/or why the underwriter was so bored. 
  • The second rep had a little less patience. When Clovis said that the only leaking fluid issues he had was in his bed after a night of heavy drinking, the rep laughed, but it seemed forced. 
  • The rep put Clovis on hold the second he said that he doesn't need his engine covered because his car has no engine. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Even The Giants Of Skyrim Can't Stop Pop-Up Ads

We all know that advertising has had to constantly evolve in order to stay ahead of various methods of viral advertising. It has gotten to the point where it is often hard to tell the difference between real content and an ad. Skyrim is apparently no different. While exiting my home in Lakeview, I noticed a courier approaching. No doubt he had a letter for me. Perhaps it was the telegram from Ed McMahon that I had been waiting for. Before he could deliver it, the giant that has been hanging around my property (that's what I get for building out in the boonies) chased him down and beat him to death. While I walked back to my home, another courier appeared and gave me the intended message: An advertisement for the opening of a museum in Dawnstar. Great. Another viral ad.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Trump Mention Triggers Credit Card Scammer

Clovis is a very ardent, unapologetic Trump supporter. So, it's really no wonder that, when a credit card scammer with a foreign accent called him recently, Clovis felt inclined to mention that Tump's campaign promises related to immigration. The mere mention of Trump sent the caller into a frenzy, shouting insults and making threats. The scammer then hung up the phone in order to retreat to his safe space.