Thursday, January 7, 2010

Comparisons betwee Canon Powershot and Polaroid

We carefully selected a Canon Powershot 2.5 megapixel camera a few years ago, based on a review by Consumer Reports. The camera was excellent in all respects, and we were sad when the CCD chips died, and it had to be thrown away. So in the meantime my wife had gotten a similar camera in many ways, though it was 8 megapixel, and made by Polaroid.

This one was a great disapointment on various levels, the most important one being that it could not generate a clear image indoors without a flash, like the Powershot could. If you changed it to manual, the options are too complex, f stop, shutter speed, etc, for an amateur like me.

So I would be forced to use a flash and get washed out colors just to use the camera indoors. Outdoors, the pictures it takes are fine, though not much better than the Canon.

Other complaints: The Polaroid only contains two AA batteries, and it runs down fast. The Powershot has four, much better.

The navigation is not nearly as good or intuitive as the Powershot, and the feel of the Polaroid camera and general look is not as sleek as the silver metal of the Powershot. Otherwise the cameras are the same in features.

So next time we buy a basic bottom of the line camera, it's Canon all the way.

Liberace- Book Review- "An American Boy"

Liberace: An American Boy

Darden Asbury Pyron

This book came out in 2000, thirteen years after the performer died of AIDS at the age of 68. Pyron is a professor, and the writing style sounds like a thesis paper, with the repetition of ideas annoying. Yet the 400 plus pages have a welcome depth, and the research is thorough.

It could almost be subtitled “A Study of Gay Men in America and their Sexual Habits,” due to the graphic detail on the pickup system for gays. Anyone who has homophobia or is uneasy when the subject comes up should not read this book, or skip over those parts.

Liberace was one of the few unique megastars in the music industry, occupying a niche that has never been equaled and never will be duplicated. He sold out multiple nights at the country’s largest venues, had an extremely successful TV show, and launched many other lucrative financial activities connected to his lengthy career that almost boggle the mind.

It all started when he was born with a caul, or “under the veil,” a very rare occurrence, and babies born with the transparent birth sac surrounding their bodies are considered very special. Another aspect of his birth is similar to Elvis Presley’s, he was the only survivor of twins born that day.

The legendary pianist and showman was a story in contrasts: though a conservative Roman Catholic that disliked hippies and the liberal waves of social change, yet he cruised incessantly picking up men until the end. He scorned drug abuse, but drank quite a bit himself. Liberace disdained Elton John’s costumes as comic, yet felt his own takeoff of the elaborate outfits seen in the Catholic Church were serious.

Though Liberace had inner conflicts about his sexuality in high school, his classmates were fond of him, despite his flashy dress and effeminate manner and interests. He knew how to cook, decorate, design and make clothes, and of course, play the piano, and generously shared his talents with everyone.

When Liberace met Elvis, he welcomed him with open arms to Las Vegas, and thereafter, Elvis sent a guitar shaped bouquet of flowers every time he came to town in gratitude.

Liberace was kind to virtually everyone he met, and this drove his popularity. His stage banter was so sophisticated that the famous talk show host, Jack Parr, said Liberace was the only guest he would not ad-lib with, considering him better than himself.

The first half of the book is exhilarating as the reader learns how Liberace ascends the heights of stardom, including performances for Queen Elizabeth and multiple visits to the White House. He was driven on to stages in Rolls Royces, traveled the world with massive pianos and extraordinary costumes, and bought and decorated gaudy mansions that make Graceland look sedate.

But when the seventies came shadows began to fall, and some of his lovers and companions were tied to heavy drug use, pornography, extortion, robbery, even murder, though Liberace was largely ignorant of the activities. Like many superstars, he becomes a recluse, unable to trust anyone to like him for anything more than his money, and on occasion, bizarre. He asked his live-in lover and assistant, Scott Thorson, to have plastic surgery to look more like Liberace, which he did.

After Liberace dumps Thorson, there is a legal firestorm, and a book later appeared by Thorson that details the bizarre life they led together. Thorson descends into drug addiction and consorts with dangerous underworld figures.

Finally the bill comes due for his constant and dangerous sex with hundreds of men, and he becomes one of the first major figures to die of AIDS. This book is fascinating on a lot of levels, and if you skip past the repetition and social history lessons, it really reveals Liberace for what he was, a unique and unforgettable performer that was following a different drum at every step.

Led Zeppelin dissed in article

Photo by James Fortune

This is from a very good article in the New York Times


A Biography of Led Zeppelin

By Mick Wall

Illustrated. 504 pp. St. Martin’s Press. $27.99

"Robert Plant muses aloud at one point, despairing of the true story ever getting out: “We thought it was time that people heard something about us other than that we were eating women and throwing the bones out the window." Create a profile and login, lots of great stuff here.


Photo by James Fortune

I heard a piano piece on WCVE here in Richmond, it was played by Kiril Gersten, and it was one Rachmaninoff wrote when he was seventeen. It had some interesting chords, but was generally a nice sweet work, very romantic.

Once I read that he dominated the soundtrack industry in Los Angeles, and as a consequence, had a huge subtle influence on the vast movie-going public, who grew up hearing his variations on classic symphonies he wrote and new pieces.

The Raspberrie's "All By Myself" owes heavily to Rachmaninoff, and you could hear with in the piano piece this morning classic rock/pop construction, it sounded at times like "You Never Give Me Your Money." I could just hear Paul playing the bass line, and singing one of the melody lines, it's all there.

"Because," "A Whiter Shade of Pale," and many other classics are directly lifted from classical works, respectively Beethoven and Bach, if I'm not mistaken.

Invisible voices-George Harrison, David Crosby, Joey Molland

Photo above by James Fortune

I was intrigued to note the connection between David Crosby of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, and George Harrison of the Beatles, they are both "invisible voices." Both are credited with creating harmony parts that are critical for the lush arrangements in their respective bands.

When Graham Nash took the high parts, and Stephen Stills lower or middle, whatever David Crosby did blended in so well and effectively it was very difficult to tell which part he was singing.

George Harrison is sandwiched between Paul and John in the vocal layering, and it is hard to detect him next to the highly textured John Lennon and Paul McCartney's pure tones. No doubt there are many other fine singers that play such critical roles, you could certainly add Joey Molland to that type of harmony singer. While Tom Evan's keening and powerful voice soared over Pete's rich tones, Joey mingled in their invisibly, just like Harrison and Crosby.

Rockitz Battle of the Bands continues

Rockitz Battle of the Bands Fall 2009

By Brooke Saunders

The Rockitz Battle of the Bands Fall 2009 semi-finals have wrapped up, with a finale set for Saturday, January 23rd, at the Playing Field (7801 West Broad Street), in Richmond, Virginia. The scores were tallied, and the top five bands are performing are: 59H2O, A Good Natured Riot, Caught In The Rift, Jim O'Ferrell Band, and the Velvet Nines.

During the ten-show battle (from September to November), judges at each show considered stage presence, musicianship, vocals, songwriting, and other factors. All attendees received a ballot allowing them to cast a vote for their favorite artist to show attendance levels, which was factored into the final scores. The fifteen bands involved in the semi-finals are some of the very best Richmond has to offer.

Tailgating solution

There seems to be a genetic disposition of some people to drive on your bumper, beating on the steering wheel with red faces, usually pickups and larger vehicles, but not always. They cause many accidents, up the stress level of both the people they follow and the people in their vehicle.

I vow not to step on the brakes anymore, it enrages their already slender grasp on control, and they may be armed and just left their weekly session for anger management meeting. Or they flip their car and hurt innocent people. Or they could be blind. So you just grit your teeth and grin and bear it.

But I have a solution with two components: one is a system that is installed in your car like a breathalyzer for drunk drivers, except that now it has a beam that detects when you are too close to the car in front of you. This is fed to the police, so they know you are tailgating someone, or speeding, or whatever stupid driving you are up to.

The other part would be a camera installed in the back of a car that films and records the vehicle behind you with a distance detecting infrared beam. So if you are being tailgating, the evidence would be captured and sent to the police. It could notarize the time and date, though probably not be used in court. Still, it sends a message. Such a system couldn't be much to build, with the dramatic drop in pricing of electronic equipment, and the increase in features.

So then there is proof the person behind you is tailgating you. If they are driving on suspended licenses or otherwise on probation, this might tell the authorities what they are doing. They would have no idea you are filming them.

Imagine the fear of God this would put into tailgators, the ordinary vehicle they are so aggressively following is actually taping them. Would it reduce tailgating? Maybe not, tailgators are technically insane.