Friday, November 25, 2011

Friday Pussy Blog: Black Friday Pussy Edition

Black Friday is one of those days when I'm most likely to forget to post the pussy blog because it feels more like a Saturday or Sunday. Not today!

Sweet Pea hasn't been featured in a while so I thought I'd showcase the boy. He's putting on his thick winter coat and I can start calling him my "black woolly bear" again.

Tater Tot had just finished his fish entree.

Jessie Lee is a very happy, stretchy girl.

Hope you are all having a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Pussy Blog: #OccuPussy Edition





Wait a minute...I think my mental wires are getting crossed.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Four Decades of Love and Vinyl

I'm not sure I have it in me to write the way I used to but I'm going to give this a shot because I need a distraction from the plethora of one-sentence stream-of-consciousness status updates I do on Facebook.

For the past several weeks I've been seriously into vinyl records again and rediscovering some old classics that I had when I was in my teens. It's bringing back a flood of memories.

Music has always been such an important part of my life. In fact it was the most important part until love came along and bumped it into the #2 slot.

It really amazes me how much the world has changed since I was a teen. I always had a number of pen pals -- mostly in Europe. We would exchange letters and occasionally cassette tapes so we could speak to each other and share music. It was a slow process and is positively archaic in this day and age when I can connect with Europeans, or anyone else, in real time.

During the 70s I had a friend in the Netherlands who gave me my first introduction to Queen. I came to love the band and quickly had collected their first 6 albums -- News of the World from 1977 being the sixth and my least favorite thanks in no small part to the opening tracks "We Will Rock You" and "We Are the Champions." The two prior releases, A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races were hard to beat.

In 1978 I left home and went off to college with a stereo system and crates of records in tow. The University of Arkansas had a radio station on campus and one day I noticed they were in need of some DJs. I went to a meeting which was sparsely attended and was given the opportunity for 2 hours per week during a night shift, from 12a -2a if I recall correctly. This was such a great experience! I had access to a vast library of music and being able to share what I wanted to play with a lot of other people was a dream come true. (OK, so the reality is there were probably not more than 15 or 20 people listening to the station! And even though it was FM, they were not even broadcasting in stereo at the time.)

Prior to each shift, the DJs would go in early and start assembling the records for their playlist. New releases would arrive frequently and those were always targeted. I will never forget sitting there at a table flipping through a stack of albums and suddenly my heart stopped for a second. There it was: the new Jazz album by Queen! I have no recollection of which song I played from it though.

From 1979 into 1980 I was discovering punk and new wave music. And I'm not sure who wrote the rules, but I was under the impression that all old stuff had to go to make room for the new. It was no longer cool to be a fan of Queen, Deep Purple, Rush, Jethro Tull or the countless other icons of the 70s. All of that got unloaded and suddenly I was starting over with bands such as the Ramones, Gang of Four, Sex Pistols, and Siouxsie and the Banshees. And I eventually had a collection that would rival what I had collected during the 70s!

Little did I know while I was spinning records over the air in 1978, in five short years my musical tastes would have changed drastically and I'd be living in London working at the HMV Shop -- one of the world's greatest record stores -- on the 3rd floor though, where VHS tapes and computer hardware & software was sold, along with a couple of racks of these new things called "compact discs."

I bought my first compact disc there before I even had a CD player! Scores of LP records were also purchased. Suffice it to say that whatever I was earning at the store was getting pumped right back into the tills and then some! I didn't actually have a hi-fi system in London so all the LP records were just being accumulated for when I returned to the States. However, I did buy a Phillips CD player (in 1984 that was $400, by the way!) into which I could plug headphones and get my music fix that way.

Right before I left London, I acquired a top-notch amp and set of audiophile speakers to go with my CD player, and arranged to have this shipped to my home in Arkansas. There it was united for the first time with my turntable and I had the best of both worlds.

By 1986 hard rock and heavy metal were making their presence felt in my soul again. (Lord, do I even need to go down this road?) Suddenly I was losing interest in so much of the music I had been collecting since 1980 and was fondly remembering all the records I had collected during my youth and wishing I had so many of them back such as the early Led Zeppelin releases.

It was a strange era as I was still straddling the technology fence. I still had a lot of vinyl I knew I'd never want to get rid of, and I was also buying new releases in the CD format when I could find them.

In 1987 I set up a big yard sale of LP records and CDs, as well as my London-purchased CD player since I had recently acquired a new one. The technology was still relatively new at the time so most of that stuff sold pretty quickly and for a decent price. I raised enough money to fly back to London for a couple of weeks and visit the old stomping grounds.

By this time the HMV had expanded their CD selection considerably! In fact, vinyl records only comprised a small section on the ground floor!

I look back with some level of embarrassment at my actions through the years. It's fine to get rid of things if you are sure you no longer want or need them, but in so many cases I was unloading music because I didn't think it was cool to own it, not because I had really lost interest in it. (I have never regretted selling the Controversy CD by Prince; that I can assure you.)

After 1990 I had found love in the form of another man, and music started to ride in the back seat. Not long after we met, when we were still living in our first apartment, my beloved audiophile amp got spiked during a rare electrical storm in Hollywood. Not having the funds to replace it, I bought a basic run-of-the-mill SONY all-in-one tuner & amp. That probably wasn't the best pairing with my $1500 speakers but it worked. And I was strictly in the CD realm by this time, and did not own a turntable. Yet I clung to 400 vinyl LP records like they were family jewels. Thankfully I never had to move them much since we only moved twice in Los Angeles before coming to Austin in 1997.

Another revelation was hitting me during the decade of the 90s: it's OK to like multiple genres of music. Wow! You mean, no one is going to think I'm uncool because I like punk and jazz, hard rock and Joni Mitchell? Even a little country here and there? The CD collection was soaring and probably surpassed my vinyl LP collection during that time.

I'm thinking it was around 2000 when I started hearing a buzzing in one of the tweeters. My prized audiophile speakers from London were dying. I can't help but wonder if this wasn't in some way related to me pairing them up with that SONY amp/tuner for several years.

The man who lived for music was suddenly reduced to listening on a Bose Wave desktop CD/radio or on the CD player with this surround-sound system used with the television. And it seemed OK since I'd already lost my high-end amp a decade earlier.

A couple of years went by and I decided I wanted to take steps to get back to the original audiophile sound I had enjoyed so much from 1984 - 1991. Being unsuccessful at getting the English-made components repaired in the US, I bought a new amp and a short time later a new turntable, both made in England like my original setup. This did not get used as much as I expected because I was still lacking speakers, and this setup was not compatible with the Bose stuff. I would occasionally put on headphones and listen to a record or a CD, but that clearly was not the end result I was so desperately craving.

It's been less than 2 years since I finally bit the bullet and ordered two high-end speakers to complete my heavenly system. So to put this in the proper perspective, I, Mr. High Fidelity snob, had gone from 1991 all the way into 2009 without an optimal listening apparatus! And it was even more astounding when I was able to compare the new system with the sound that was coming from the Bose system. I had no idea how much sound I'd been missing! To be fair to Bose, that system is just fine for movies and other television programs; it just wasn't delivering the music as well as I wanted. (I've since completely disconnected the Bose system and I'm even running TV programs through the hi-fi speakers now.)

From 2009 until the present I was enjoying some of the vinyl from my collection but I was mostly still playing (and still buying) CDs because of their "superior sound" and because no one makes records these days, right? After getting the new speakers, I did splurge one last time and got a truly high-end CD player. You can argue amongst yourselves whether that was a wise move, and whether the sonic difference is detectable versus a $100 unit. If nothing else, it'll likely last a lot longer. And I'm a high-fidelity snob, remember? How would I ever impress another audiophile snob if I had a fantastic system hooked to a $159 Onkyo 6-disc CD changer -- even if it features Vector Linear Shaping Circuitry?

The real irony here is that I've also become reunited with the act of purchasing vinyl again, and not just used vinyl, but some new releases. Among my recent additions are: Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix by Phoenix, the debut by Vampire Weekend as well as their Contra LP, The Chemistry of Common Life by Fucked Up, and some oldies such as a reissued box set of the first five Grateful Dead albums, Hemispheres by Rush, A Day at the Races and A Night at the Opera by Queen, and Alice Cooper's Muscle of Love. How's that for uncool diversity?

Thanks to vinyl I have also added another genre to my favorites list: rap/hip-hop! Some NWA and Public Enemy that would absolutely be among my top-10 albums of all time! I have more to say about this but will save it for the next post.

And did I mention I just found an original issue of Queen's Jazz? Sadly, it was missing the big original poster of the naked fat-bottomed girls preparing for the bicycle race, but we can't have it all.

They all sound positively mind-blowing on vinyl. In fact, I may never buy another CD if at all possible. What a long strange 40 years of musical transformations this has been.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday Pussy Blog: Cork Toy Edition

The best cat toys are not the ones you go out and buy.

Jessie Lee may appear relaxed but she's merely plotting.

She wants that cork disk! The one I put my coffee on every morning! She has spent much of the day grabbing it and slinging it under my computer keyboard, and then nearly pushes the keyboard in my lap trying to reach under there to grab it again.

The most hilarious thing is when she grabs it in her mouth and walks off with it. Where I come from that's called stealing.

I know I'd catch all kinds of hell if I don't get some of the other kitties on here.

The obligatory Tot shot. He's looking rather thoughtful. Or sleepy after a meal of fish.

Ditto with Sissy. Satisfied!

Happy Friday!

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Prop 26 - Mississippi: On Tap For Tuesday

Tata posted this at Brilliant at Breakfast and I wanted to share. The letter was written by one of her Christian relatives.

All eyes on Mississippi this Tuesday...

Mississippi Proposition 26 – Think before you vote.

Proposals to provide single cells with the rights of citizens is dangerous on several levels. The ongoing desire of passionate groups to eliminate the reproductive rights of women is based upon the religious belief that a fertilized egg houses a human soul. That religious belief is based upon no evidence and a great deal of misguided faith. People who believe the special nature of humans is that we have a soul entering the body at some point in development and leaving the body at death also believe that causing that spirit to leave the body is considered manslaughter, if not murder. We have accepted the idea that once the brain becomes inactive (flat-lined) and the cells of the body continue to live, that the soul has left the body and that allowing the remaining cells to die is not considered manslaughter or murder. Those of us who have been to many funerals have heard clergy of all types describe death as the soul leaving the body behind and moving on to another journey.

The question that still creates much controversy is which event allows the soul to enter the body. Keep in mind that almost everyone understands that the brain is the part of the human body that houses the soul. Co-joined twins that have two heads have two distinct personalities and are treated as two people, regardless of how many body parts they share. A baby that is born with several duplicated body parts, but one head, is considered to be one person, not several. It’s all about the brain. If you are religious, you might accept the idea that God created a human brain to be able to house a soul. Identical twins develop from a single fertilized egg which is then separated after fertilization and those two cells then develop separately into two separate bodies. Does each twin have half a soul?

Trying to determine the beginning of a human life or any other life is nonsense. Life does not begin at fertilization or at birth, it began a long time ago and continues through a series of important events. One of the things we have in common with everyone on this planet is that all of our ancestors lived long enough to reproduce and pass those living human cells on to future generations. That long line of life involves a sequence of living human cells going through a series of beginnings and endings of significant events, not the beginning or end of life. The question of manslaughter or homicide is determined by whether or not the human cells or cluster of cells houses a human soul, and if one has caused that soul to leave the body. An atheist or agnostic might use the word independent intellect instead of soul, but the same points apply. If your religious belief is that a fertilized egg or a fetus in early stages of development houses an independent soul, that belief is protected in this country and our government cannot punish you for having that belief. The same should be true of my belief that the soul enters the body at birth, the first breath of the baby. Both events are important in the continuity of human life, fertilization to create a cell with the full genetic complement to develop a human body, and birth to bring the body and spirit together and a new, independent individual into the world. If a fertilized egg houses a soul, what happens to it as that first cell divides into a ball of cells and later into layers of types of cells and finally into specific body parts? Do all the cells house the soul, or does it move into the brain later? I contend that most of society will accept the idea that a baby taking its first breath is an independent individual with a soul (or underdeveloped but independent intellect). If your religious belief is that an independent soul is present in a fertilized egg, you have the right to that belief, but you do not have the right to impose that religious belief onto the rest of society. I believe that a pregnant woman is developing a human house, but that there is nobody home until birth, when that house becomes occupied by a soul.

Imposing religious beliefs of one group on all of society is something this country has fought since before its beginning as a nation. Shall we develop laws that prohibit driving or other activities on Saturday or Sunday because some people have religious beliefs that require them to refrain from those activities? Shall we force women to cover their heads and faces because some religious beliefs require that behavior? We respect the rights of individuals to worship as they please. We do not allow the beliefs of those individuals to undermine the rights of the rest of us. The greatest danger is to promote the idea that our country needs to allow religious fringe groups to control the rest of the country. Be very careful of how much control you want the government to have over your independent decisions and individual rights, even if in this particular case the proposition under consideration is consistent with your individual religious beliefs.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Friday Pussy Blog: Sunburst Butt Edition

After skipping a week, the Friday Pussy Blog is back! I can't promise for how long. Work has proven to suck all my life out during the week and by Friday I usually have to force myself to do this. However today was a pretty good day.

Tot Loaf enjoying the last of the Friday sun.

Sissy enjoyed her fish dinner.

Jessie Lee says the carpet is HERS! ALL HERS!

I'm not sure what the future holds for this blog. I need to do a major revamping of it, and get the commenting system replaced. I may work on that over the weekend. Seems like life is so much easier with Facebook. Photos go straight from the phone. No screwing around with Photobucket or editing. And I rather enjoy the simpler life after a hectic week.

But we shall see. Don't abandon konagod just yet. HAPPY FRIDAY!