Tricks of the Trade (2014Sep13)


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Saturday, September 13, 2014                         11:07 PM

Click to Play: Bombastico II

The other day my camcorder’s tripod broke. It was cheaper to buy a bigger, better one than to get it fixed (plastic pieces, especially vital ones, always break—I hope they don’t think they’re fooling anybody). I move slowly and deliberately nowadays—I’m damned if I can figure out how I broke it. But that was a special case (I hope). More often I run out of charge and get disappointed that something I was surprised to get a record of—was not recorded at all.

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Yes, I run my camera a lot, but you know how hard it is to get a good recording when you’re self-conscious. Fortunately, I’m so absent-minded I can sometimes forget that there is a camera—but I have to run it every time, because I’m more likely to forget it when it’s always there.

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I’ve also learned that I have to check the little screen after I hit ‘record’—sometimes it’s telling me that the lens-cover is still up, or the data-card is still in the PC port. There’s also a toggle switch to set the ‘zoom’—I don’t know why they can’t just use a set-switch instead of a toggle. It toggles so fast that I end up zooming in and out and in and out. It’s ridiculous.

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The Internet is tightening up these days—only a few years ago I could download a graphic from Google’s Image Search and use it to make a point or to be funny—with all that stuff out there, it would be a shame to waste it and it’s isn’t like I’m getting rich off them. But those days are over. Not only have the graphics i-vendors created an overnight industry, they’ve found security measures that follow copies of their graphics. When they detect a Facebook posting or a blog graphic that ID’s itself as theirs, they contact you and threaten to sue you. So, goodbye Google Image Search.

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I just use my own photos now—I have several thousand (I’ve transcribed both sides of the families’ photo albums into videos—and some other work). Plus I just take photos of anything—but I have to remind myself to do it. I’m so used to the camera taking videos; I forget to take a few snaps before I turn it off. I’ll have to start taking more pictures, however, since my need for them has suddenly increased. My primary use for graphics has been, until now, the two end-cards I use to bracket my videos. I like to have a still shot as part of the Titles Card and I prefer to use a different photo for the Credits Card, which makes two photos per video.

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Now, I’ve begun using the old family albums (theirs and ours) to make videos to be overlayed onto the piano recital videos. This way I have something to look at as well as listen to. It may not improve the videos for everybody, but I have to work with what I have. Anyhow, because this will eat up a lot of my album collections, I’ll have to start using present-day snaps for the two cards, and sometimes for the overlay videos (I don’t want my family history to be the only thing in my videos).

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They always get me, I tell ya. Back in the eighties I recorded myself on an audio-cassette recorder and listened to the (unedited) tapes in my car—my daughter took some (which I was flattered by) but there were few others involved, even as an audience. Blank cassettes were pretty cheap, I used the built-in mike—et, voila! Aside from the audio-cassette player/recorder (which I would have bought anyway, to listen to music) it cost me close to nothing.

April Fools  Improv No. 2

April Fools Improv No. 2

I went from there to digital audio recorder, to camcorder, to HD camcorder with tripod—plus a few hundred bucks worth of software: graphics, audio-editing, video-editing, file-conversion, etc., and an external-hard-drive to hold it all. Some days I just say ‘f**k it’ and just play the piano. But I have gone so far as to buy mikes, an electric piano, and upload software to record straight from the keyboard’s MIDI port. I got it all hooked up, tried it out, and it scared me. It’s been gathering dust for a while now. It gives me the heebie-jeebies.

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Do Your Parents Need Regulation? (2014Sep09)


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Sunday, September 07, 2014                 9:17 PM

Some people seem to think that plain speaking is a sign of anger. This is incorrect—speaking plainly is a product of fatigue. Fatigue is far more accessible to us now that the Inter-Web has given us Social Media (in some digital environs, it could just as well be called Sociopathic Media). Once a Thread begins, particularly a cultural-socio-economic-politicized-cause-type thread, I see both the hard-minded-ness of their side and my own. I argue for the right and just, not because I want to prove myself right. And the casual, very personal vitriol is totally outside of whatever point is at hand, if there is one.

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There are a crowd of possible responses to any statement—the less concern for the point of a discussion, the wider the crowd. If I seek to understand the speaker, and to give a considered, reasonable response, my possible actions are at their least prolific, i.e. listening carefully, with an open mind, and thinking hard about what I’ve heard—being on the lookout for distractions such as my desire to win the argument or simple impatience masquerading as righteousness—and forming a response that respects the other person’s ideas while forwarding my own as clearly as possible.

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But if trolling threads is my favorite past-time because I get to cuss and dismiss and insult without consequence (or without the courage to look a person in the face and say such things) then I can say what I want. I don’t have to pay attention to other posters in any way other than to find key-words to hang my taunts on. ‘Kill yourself’ is a favorite among the trolls—and that outlines their thought process to a ‘T’. Only children (many of them overgrown) have the urge to titillate themselves by trolling the internet—grown-ups are far too busy with more real pursuits, online and off. Part of the thrill, I suppose, is the ability to jump into any formerly rational discussion thread and mess it up for everyone else—and no one knows who to blame. What finer mischief could be imagined?

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My favorite are the ‘parental’ trolls—they adopt a knowing and dismissive tone, usually managing to drop mention of their advanced degree in whatever the discussion is about, then spout off ‘correct solutions’ that only reveal that, yes, they have probably spent their lives in a classroom, and not out where reality has a nasty habit of intervening. We cannot write about anything without revealing our personality—indeed, those in the arts and in entertainment are well aware that we can’t create anything without imbuing it with our personality. Trolls, like all children who act out, and most of all, like bullies, only reveal through their derogations that they are mentally broken and emotionally hurt.

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But the world is full of people who are mentally broken and emotionally hurt. The young who suffer from poor self-approval are the trollers’ most vulnerable prey—they have neither the self-confidence nor the experience to understand all the hatred being fired at them online, just as they make easy prey for the bullies in school hallways.

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Before caller ID, the anonymous phone-call was the weapon of choice for those who had the same twisted drives as the trollers of our times. The same anonymity cloaked their ludicrously evil whispers through the phone-receiver and the same anger and frustration drove them to it. Technology changes our life-styles, but never our natures. The first time I asked a girl for a date was, like millions of others, on the telephone. Such sweet conversations people can have on the phone. Yet ways were found to use it to defraud, to threaten, and to hurt. When we make our lives easier, we make all of it easier, even the bad stuff.

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So every time we invent something that gives us greater ease and power, we inevitably follow up with regulations against using the new thing for bad purposes. But now we have the Internet—and regulating it will remove its chiefest good. Plus, we have seen regulation go from a public service to a protection for the big corporations against limitations on their profit-making activity, and against potential competition or lawsuits.

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Regulating the Internet goes without saying, to some people—to others, the idea of regulating it seems a defeat of its potential. I suggest that these two ideologies have non-internet related origins. The simple truth of computing is that any security protocols must be coded and implemented by people, imperfect people. Further, computer-systems security is based on mathematics—more specifically, cryptography—and will always be vulnerable to superior mathematicians. The fact that such people are rare as hens’ teeth doesn’t decrease my sense of insecurity one bit—especially with American education in such a pitiful state, compared to other countries.

 

Spencer  -born 1988

Spencer -born 1988

Articles were written as far back as the 1980s delineating the impossibility of total digital security on an open network. Having worked with computers, I was aware of their physical fragility and their reliance on disinterest as their chief deterrent to hacking. I doubt I was alone in my surprise at the willingness of security-sensitive industries like banking, air-traffic-control, and government agencies to convert themselves into digital entities so early on. Even when they found themselves looking down the barrel of the Y2K crisis, there was no thought of retreat. I guess there’s another simple truth—computerized organizations function exponentially better than a pure-paper office ever could.

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We regulate everything but what matters—people. It would be unthinkable to pass laws forcing expectant mothers to refrain from drugs and alcohol, or mandating that parents read to their children for at least one hour every day. Such regulations would violate our civil rights. And what is the punishment for bad parenting? Domestic child protection agencies already face this dilemma with regards to parents who commit felonies—separating a child from his or her parents is much more a punishment of the child than of the bad parent.

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We could try the crèche approach—take children away from parents and raise them using an institution with a professional staff. But negligent crèche-workers are no less likely than poor parents—and children still lose something without the focused love of the ‘traditional’ family. We could try monitoring—but that would be the biggest civil-rights infringement of all. We need our kids to be raised right—rich or poor, smart or dumb parents notwithstanding—but that need finds little support in a country that prides itself on personal freedom. Let’s face it—parenthood is the opposite of personal freedom, at least in terms of daily behavior. Good parenting is downright un-American.

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Four Escapees From The Blackout (2014Sep06)


Only one of these videos was shot during the actual blackout, which was mercifully brief. “Improv – Damp and Warm” is a short one, anyhow.

The piano cover is of “Stand By Me”, written by American singer-songwriter Ben E. King, Jerry Leiber, and Mike Stoller. It was inspired by the spiritual “Lord Stand by Me” (plus two lines rooted in Psalms 46:2–3).

I’m working on a song–I can’t decide whether to call it “The Pit-Stop Diner” or “Best Pie For Fifty Miles”, but either way, I’m having some difficulty with the melody, hence my improvised ‘study’.

 

 

 

 

Nobody Expects The Spanish Exhibition (2014Sep05)


XperDunn plays Piano
September 5th, 2014

Improvisación – Concierta Fantástico

The couple whose portraits bookend this video are my great-great-great-great-great-grandparents.
Now, I was thinking about the math on this and for every two parents you get four granparents, so you have eight first ‘grand’s, sixteen 2nd-‘grands’, 32 3rd-‘grands, 64 4th-‘grands, and 128 great-great-great-great-great-grandparents.
But parents come in pairs (of course) so this couple is just one of my 64 great-great-great-great-great-grandparents couples.

The first overlay is a photo of my mom in her younger days, followed by a wedding photo of her and my dad (the Marine).
The rest are maternal ancestors, followed by fragments of a circular family-tree my grandmother invented.

If you can’t enjoy my music, at least enjoy the personal history…

 

 

 

 

 

Wailing and Weeping (2014Aug26)


20140824XD-SkyPix (5)Tuesday, August 26, 2014            2:52 PM

 

Stardate 09 point ho-ho-dee-ho-dee-ho

Status renewal:

Pill count: 12 (morning) 2 (evening)

Sleep Cycle: way off of ‘daytime’ norm

Lungs in terrible pain: taking the cigarettes easy today—no weed!

Fatigue: still hovering at max.

Loneliness: very high

Frustration: barely under control

Drinking: None

Projects: None

Value: None

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Now that I’ve got that out of my system, let’s try something more coherent. Last week of August—my melancholy usually waits till the leaves start to turn, but this has been a very un-hot summer and it seems to be leaving without ever really arriving (Not one heat wave this year—where’s global warming when you need it?).

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I’ve been promised a full cure of my HCV—it won’t happen—I’ve been so sick for so long, I’d have to marinate my entire anatomy in ‘cure juice’ to get it all out. HepC will even leave outposts in my bone marrow to repopulate the blood stream and liver after they’ve been ‘completely cleared’. In my bone marrow! Jeez.

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I am on my own. That is to say, I’m not alone—there’s Spence here all the time, in his own building, but there—and Claire takes care of me in the morning and at night with meals and pills and hundreds of other things—and my friend, Sherryl, stops by nearly every day and we have a chat or a cuppa. But that gives me only the barest minimum of contact to humans—no hanging around or long talks or collaborations on interesting ideas, no physical contact to speak of, no intense interest in me or my doings—just maintenance of my continued breathing, really.

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I try to fill the emptiness I feel by playing the piano or Facebooking or writing (like this)—none of it works completely; it just provides a framework for me to thrash about within. Until my illness, I was unaware of the very real, physical stamina that thought requires. Now it is plain as the nose, as they say, and it has become my nemesis—I can still think, but not very deeply or very long—and that’s where intelligence lies. My former intelligence lies afar. My superpower is gone and I’m helpless in the grip of the Red Sun.

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See the good? Find that silver lining? Yeah, sorry—I can’t seem to oblige. Truth is, I’m barely alive. I’m a burden on my family. I’m a lousy role-model for my son. I don’t leave the house. I’m sitting on a pile of atrophied muscles and forgotten skills. I’m not involved—I’m missing the party. I want so much—I’m still wanting a few things I’ve become too old to ever achieve. I’ve been dying, literally, for nearly two decades—it’s been a parade of horror and pain and isolation and heartbreak and helplessness.

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Have I become wiser? Has the refining fire burnt away impurities and left me with the pure gold of reason and mercy? There’s some truth to that—I am wiser than I was—but to what purpose? My lack of people skills is not at all helped by being wiser—wise is no party-trick, it’s more like x-ray vision. It takes the false front away, but it takes all the fun with it. X-rays of beautiful bodies are just x-rays. X-rays of a celebration show the noise but fail to capture the mirth. I was much happier being intelligent, but foolish.

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Music is all I have now—I listen to it constantly. I pay more attention to soundtracks than to special effects. But I’ve built my own tragedy into music, as well—by trying the impossible, trying to make my own music. I should have stuck with just listening. I have no natural talent, and all my hard work is towards fighting fatigue, not finding beauty in what I do. It’s Sisyphean, and what’s worse, self-imposed. What was I thinking?

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My greatest fear is to find myself perfectly healthy and alive again. I’m fast approaching sixty years old—how the hell do I start over at sixty? How do I recreate a social life at sixty? How do I re-enter the workforce at sixty? It will be hard enough to reconcile myself to the erasure of my forties and fifties, how am I supposed to just pick up where I left off? If this medicine really works, I will find out just where I ‘pick up’.

Truly, I can’t simply start off where I left off. One of the hardest things about my illness was how long it took to be diagnosed. I spent many years being unfairly accused of alcoholism and drug abuse—just at the point where I had stopped my wild ways for some time—and both things, the accusing and the reining in of my lifestyle, were (unbeknownst to anyone, including me) the effects of my increasing liver failure and the blood toxicity it causes.

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Everyone, including my wife, my kids, and myself, resented my ‘laziness’ and my ‘lack of willpower’. I thought being forced out of management and getting fired was what I deserved. I assumed that I had no one to blame but myself—I laid such a heavy guilt trip on myself that, when I finally found out the truth, I was glad to learn I had a fatal disease—it was a far better reality than the self-hatred I was immersed in.

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Thus, I must pick up where I left off my health, not my life. I remember a nervous, overly serious guy in his thirties who had a head full of plans and dreams and more. I remember working hard, sometimes through the night—it didn’t faze me, I was always obsessive about projects. This was before the internet and I spent a great deal of time answering questions—I was a walking Wiki, calculator, copyeditor, proofreader, and history timeline. I loved being over-educated. One of my long-term goals was a PhD—I had planned to take school courses forever. Now I can hardly remember my name.

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No, I fear that health may prove a harder life than my mostly bed-ridden, everyday usual. We all fear change, even beneficial change. Plus, my memories betray me—the agony of getting out of bed and getting to work (during those years when I didn’t realize I belonged in a hospital) was a daily hell. The frustration of staring at the computer screen and not knowing what to do, when I was used to programing without flow-charts, the entire structure always firm in my mind, was unbearably humiliating. The heartbreak at not having the strength to spend time with my kids, to take them places, or do school projects together—I hated myself worst of all for that.

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Those are some of the reasons I don’t look back on my active past with longing—I fear the return of an active life because my last one ended in torture and near-madness. But I will try. I’m hoping to find myself capable enough to build a happy lifeand find some worthwhile work (I’m damned if I’ve gone through all this so I can work at Burger King in my sixties!). If my hands stop shaking, at least somewhat, I may just go back to drawing full-time—the internet provides a variety of ways to sell original artwork. If I get some concentration back, I’ll try writing fiction. I will definitely get in shape, no matter how much it hurts—I’m most tired of all of ‘being tired’.

 

Well, that’s my wailing and weeping for today.