The Turtle Moves

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“Small Gods” is the fourth book of Terry Pratchett’s I’ve read.   He employs “British humor” in his fantasy series that happen on Discworld.  These books may share references to places and mention a character more fully explored elsewhere, but they stand alone.   You’ll be all61G2LFdfsiL but immediately deluged with the author’s cynical wit, humor, biting social commentary, comical reasoning and… for all of that, it’s still a bit of a chore to read through.  But, it’s on NPR’s Top 100 list, so here I go again.

This book is, roughly, about a simpleton in a religious order who suddenly is presented with a very demanding turtle, who turns out to be a god (he speaks but is otherwise powerless other than a fortuitous ability to land optimally when dropped by an eagle.  An eagle would do this, you see, to break the turtle’s shell.  These things you learn by reading) who is embodied as this small creature because this is apparently what happens when a god loses his  believing flock.   The residue of lost popularity is similar to Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods.”  The story has its rewards, and my bookmarking system of inserting tissue paper on pages with good or otherwise thoughtful quotes attests to the author’s small opinion of gods.  In fact, the only notable quote not related is:

“Words are the litmus paper of the mind.”

Decent enough.  Understand that I enjoyed the book (though I’d recommend Going Postal first), and the following are offered for those who will appreciate the humor.

His philosophy was a mixture of three famous schools – the Cynics, the Stoics, and the Epicureans – and summed up all three of them in his famous phrase “You can’t trust any bugger further than you can throw him, and there’s nothing you can do about it, so let’s have a drink.  Mine’s a double, if you’re buying.”


Stated philosopher also has a chalk board that serves as a business card: 

Practical Philosophers

No Proposition Too Large
”We Can Do Your Thinking For You”

Special Rates after 6 pm
Fresh Axioms Every Day


And a variety of quicker quotes:

"I could be wrong. Not being certain is what being a philosopher is all about.”

The Captain frowned.  “it’s a funny thing,” he said, “but why is it that the heathens and the barbarians seem to have the best places to go when they die?”

“Just because you can explain it doesn't mean it's not still a miracle.”

“The trouble was that he was talking in philosophy but they were listening in gibberish.”

“We are here and it is now. The way I see it is, after that, everything tends towards guesswork.”

“There’s no point in believing in things that exist.”

“When you can flatten entire cities at a whim, a tendency towards quiet reflection and seeing-things-from-the-other-fellow's-point- of-view is seldom necessary.”

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So, I’m fairly pleased with my graphic exercise in my last post.  I see ample creative pictures on Facebook or other places, often leaving a head-scratching “Who took the time to make that?” – never mind so quickly to keep it current with world events.  For what I had in mind, I didn’t bother searching for a ready-made image.

So, a brief session of searching for the ingredients.  Gollum, holding a ring - and I have to admit that I pretty much pictured this scene before I started looking for it. 


And a suitable watch or clock face.


So, how is such a thing done without learning Photoshop?  Well, a $2.99 app on my iPhone will do the trick.  It’s called Juxtaposer, and it’s pretty dang easy (other than finding the images from which you want to make a composite.)  The same company made Color Splash, a selective color desaturater, which I’ve had on my iPhone seemingly forever and used maybe twice.

download (1)

So, let’s view it step by step. You’re presented with your layers (there are only 2 available, but you can merge a final image, substitute that for the “Background,” and repeat with a new “Top Image”).


You touch the layer, and the menu prompts for you to locate the file that you want.


After finding both layers, this is what you have.


Clicking the “Top Image” puts it in the primary working space.  As seen below, the image, the Move button allows you to shift the image around and contract or expand it.


I want just the watch face, so I’ll expand the image thus:


Then, after clicking the “Erase” button, I swipe my finger across the image and “poof!” it’s gone.


With continued care, and occasional use of the “Unerase” button to put back what I accidentally erased, I begin to whittle the image away.  It’s fairly easy and doesn’t take much time.  Back to the “Move” button to shrink or rotate the image and size it to fit the ring.  Obviously, I haven’t finished erasing the edges.  Just pretend.


Now to go to the editing options at the top of the screen.


A simple slide of the opacity adjustment… 


… and Gollum is looking through precious time, which seemed appropriate.  After finding the photos, the actual manipulation took maybe 10 minutes, including the learning curve.


The website describes the features in more detail, though their intended audience is either kids who want to make fun of kids or parents who want to embarrass their kids.  I suppose I’ll get around to the latter, later.

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My Precious…

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Recently, I listened to Dire Straits’ Making Movies, one of my favorite albums from the 80’s, and one that I hadn’t bothered to listen to in quite a while.  Side one includes three excellent songs, “Tunnel of Love,” “Rdire_straits_-_making_movies_-_frontomeo & Juliet,” and “Skateaway.”   Side two was never quite as satisfying, with three very good songs before concluding with an anti-climatic and out of place clunker.  The album has always been a brisk listen, even when I had to flip the album.

I used to drive on business a lot, and the car became my primary “music room,” where I could listen to the music 1) fairly loudly and 2) undisturbed.  And, it was in my car that I was recently  re-experiencing Making Movies in that context.

When I got to “Skateaway,” I was disappointed, not for any lack of appreciation of the song, but because its instrumental introduction had lost something… duration.  The song isn’t short; it clocks in at a generous 6:19.  It’s the intro.  The song begins muted and fades in with cymbals and a breezy beat punctuated by jingling tambourine to create a rhythmic mood.  It’s soon joined by an organ which creates the shape of what is to come before Mark Knopfler kicks in with his restrained fingerpicking flourishes.   Good stuff.  Then, at 35 seconds, the song formally commences when Knopfler begins singing.  I still like the song.  My recollection was that the intro lasted much longer.   It was a worthy intro, one to appreciate for longer than 35 seconds.

Bah, humbug.

So this sets me out to reading the interweb about what smarter people than me are putting forward as to why time seems to tick faster as we get older.  I know time is limited, but when I was younger, the time I spent concentrating on something didn’t just seem more expansive, it allowed me to live within the moment.  It was precious.


If you want, you can read this.  The key quote which resonates (after searching through many similar articles) is this:

Psychologist William James, in his 1890 text Principles of Psychology, wrote that as we age, time seems to speed up because adulthood is accompanied by fewer and fewer memorable events. When the passage of time is measured by “firsts” (first kiss, first day of school, first family vacation), the lack of new experiences in adulthood, James morosely argues, causes “the days and weeks [to] smooth themselves out…and the years grow hollow and collapse.”


Many years later, a more sophisticated version:

[She] suggests that an intake of fresh, unusual experiences — rather than a predictable routine — can trick our brain into once again registering time more slowly, the same way we did as children.

Children have to be extremely engaged (i.e. dedicate many neural resources or significant brain power) in the present moment because they must constantly reconfigure their mental models of the world to assimilate it, and properly behave from within. On the contrary, adults may rarely step outside of their mental habits and external routines. When an adult frequently experiences this overstimulation of the same stimuli, their brain renders it "invisible" because the brain has already sufficiently and effectively mapped those stimuli. This phenomenon is known as neural adaptation. Thus, the brain will record fewer densely rich memories during these frequent periods of disengagement from the present moment. Consequently, the subjective perception of time often passes by at a faster rate with age.

Maybe.  Or, maybe I just need to disengage my critical thinking and absorb the experience more.

I was recently introducing my daughter to The Who’s “Eminence Front,” another prime example for a fantastic music intro, but one that is more satisfying at almost a full two minutes before the vocals begin, has much more time to deliver.  And, with a common denominator in these two songs, it’s easy for me to recognize that 1) I tend to listen frequently to songs with great intros, 2) many of these are keyboard based (I’m far more of a guitar fan), 3) there are varying types of intros.

First, there is the type of intros above, which establish a feel or a mood that becomes the essence of the remainder of the song.   Others in this vain include Led Zeppelin’s haunting “No Quarter,” The Verve’s aptly titled “Bittersweet Symphony,” Guns N’ Roses bona fide rock ‘n roller “Sweet Child of Mine,” Steve Winwood’s ultra groovy “ Night Train,” Dire Straits wonderfully indulgent “Telegraph Road,”  and others.   A common denominator is that these songs sound great loud, as in loud enough to hear the quiet parts above the road noise… if you were in a car.

Second would be songs where the intro is more of it’s own musical piece but is revisited occasionally in the song.  The Temptation’s “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” is a great example.  The intro is a fully realized piece, but it’s not the foundation for the song.  A pitfall of this tactic is Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion,” whose intro is revisited as a gorgeous refrain that only reminds the listener that someone spliced the wrong song around it.

Third, there are songs whose introductions take a bow before yielding to something largely unrelated.  Sometimes, the artist gives it a proper name.  Boston’s “Foreplay/Long Time” includes a pulse quickening rocker before taking a breath and settling down to a mere foot stomping rocker.   Alan Parsons Project irritates in that “Sirius” is a great intro to “Eye in the Sky,” but it is listed as a separate track and doesn’t hold its own water.   There’s an abundance of progressive rock songs that fall into this category; I’d rank Renaissance’s “Song for All Seasons” as a resplendent  exemplar.

For those who bother to download Spotify, I’ve grouped the songs accordingly for your enjoyment.




Please feel free to comment on other songs with great intros!

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An Assault on Political Correctness

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Let’s start with some terminology.


1. Noun – a sudden, violent attack; onslaught: “an assault on tradition”

2. Verb (used with object) – to make an assault upon; attack, assail.

3. Law – an instance in which a person demonstrates the intent to hurt another and the victim believes that he/she will be hurt.  There is no requirement of actual contact or physical injury, which is why the legal definition is so different than the common English meaning.  There is a subjective element, i.e., that the victim believes that he/she is in danger of immediate harm.

political correctness – “marked by or adhering to a typically progressive orthodoxy on issues especially race, gender, sexual affinity, or ecology. (    Or, “Showing an effort to make broad social and political changes to redress injustices caused by prejudice.  It often involves changing or avoiding language that might offend anyone, especially with respect to gender, race, or ethnic background.”

Examples filter across the news seemingly each day of someone or some institution failing the test of political correctness.  As usual, I can’t think of something as I write.  But two come to mind:

1) The revision of any and all instructional materials used to train agents in counter-terrorism, specifically removing any linkage of Islam and terrorism.  It’s true that terrorists act for many reasons.  But, if Muslims are offended at any linkage between the two in recent events, they should look within their faith for solutions.

2) A Catholic student being told to remove the cross pendant she was wearing for fear that it might offend someone.

I don’t need to bore with more examples, I hope.  On the one hand, no one should seek to…

Oh, heck. We interrupt this paragraph for yet another definition:

offendcause to feel upset, annoyed, or resentful.

…deliberately offend others.  And, on the other hand we find tolerance, this Age’s queen of ethical conduct, which demands that people not be offended.  Insert your own Charlie Hebdo opinion here as to which side was wrong and which caused the greater harm in societal terms.  I’m not going there.

Tolerancethe ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.

Toleration is the cure for offending behaviors.  They’re complementary.  They’re both sides of the Coin of Peaceful Coexistence among civilized people/persons/races/etc. who find occasion to disagree.  But, it doesn’t work that way.  Tolerance is not practiced by the movers and shakers of the world, and offenses are not tolerated by the unmoved and unshaken.

There’s a quote I’ve mentioned before, author unknown: “Tolerance is a virtue to those without convictions.”  As pithy as that is, I don’t fully agree with it, but political correctness has hammered into a more observable phrase: “Intolerance is a virtue when others have opposing convictions.” 

It’s really the conviction that’s the problem, isn’t it? 

conviction a firmly held belief or opinion, a feeling of being sure that what you believe or say is true.

I’ll remain focused on religious political correctness, because, I suppose, it’s the least offensive subject that might test the reader’s, eh, tolerance.

God bless America.  Christmas.  One nation, under God.  These archaic terms of an unnecessary or laughable belief system that is endured by the new age masses and sustained only to enrich its leaders and placate the most dimwitted of homo sapiens are on their way out.  Right?

Why? Because both sides have convictions, which is a claim to truth, which, by definition, excludes.  And the seesaw between competing views favors those who by hook, crook, might, judicial appointments, or vocal amplitude and reach claim the opposite pole from meekness, humility, and tolerance.

Okay, folks, lighten up!

All of this is just a preface to some pictures which entertained me on the way to Nashville, TN this week.  I am convicted that these billboards are an assault on political correctness which may offend a subset of those who claim tolerance as their guiding virtue. 




If I needed a gun and lived in Tennessee, I’d buy from these guys, who not only advertise their wares effectively for their target audience but also raise a (very prominent) middle finger, repeatedly, to those who will hate them for it.  No offense.

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Sean McConnell – Live @ Eddie’s Attic

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A friend asked me to go see a concert.  It would, of course, be better to say a free concert, but $15, as concerts go, is close enough.  And it was at Atlanta’s “legendary” Eddie’s Attic, a cool place to listen to a show. 

My friend volunteered to work with a church youth group a good number of years ago, and one of the kids was friends with Sean McConnell.  So there’s the connection, because I hadn’t heard of the guy.  Although there was no real consideration of a return favor, because I like going to concerts, the same friend did go with me to a Jason Isbell show years ago, who he was unfamiliar with.  So there’s that. 

Anyway, let’s just say the nearly two hour commute from Woodstock to Decatur was the steepest price paid for the night. 

Opening acts… you never know what you’re going to get, but rarely are they bad.  This was Statesboro’s own, Scotty Cram.  Scotty grew up with a father that likes Motown, and as a result of talent and some work, he’s one of the palest soul singers ever, his voice reaching an octave or two above his speaking voice.  Enjoyable and artist perhaps on the rise, though a website would be a start.


So, I said yes to this concert without listening to the artist.  In the previously mentioned 2 hour commute, my friend had a couple of McConnell’s early CDs, one of which was likely while he was a teenager, “Faces.”  Maybe it was the car stereo that was set to Treble only or maybe the recording just suffered from funding, but I wasn’t so impressed, though “Running From the Devil” was interesting, and he has an unpretentious way of writing that speaks of faith without hammering it.  Whatever.  That was like 2001.

And now he’s playing for an almost packed Eddie’s Attic.  Where an artist comes from isn’t really something that I think about.  Sure, maybe a State or the U.K., but not local.  And here’s McConnell, singing about Trickum Road.  Well, yeah.  If you’re going to pick a street name in my vicinity, that one begs to be included in a song.   

Now Nashville based, McConnell has been at the music business for over a decade, and though he doesn’t possess an audience between songs, he shares enough to illuminate enough about himself and his path to make the songs more personal.


The songs I liked the best were probably “Save Our Soul” and “Novocaine,” not because they’re lyrically great, but rather because they move musically.  Too often, McConnell remains on the same fret which brings a certain “sameness” to too many of his songs, as earnest as they are.

On the other hand, it’s obvious he does pay careful attention to his lyrics, and that’s really the challenge of a self described “optimistic troubadour.”  When you choose to be a singer/songwriter for a living, I can only imagine the pressure to turn a pithy lyrical phrase that will nail an audience.


And he seems to be getting better at it.  His voice is richer, he sings in varying styles, and the  new songs he previewed spoke to a deliberate effort to raise the bar lyrically.  If he could pick up a few guitar licks from the pessimistic troubadour, James McMurtry, he’d leapfrog a year or three of gradual growth.

It was a really good show, and I’d go see him again.  Below is his latest CD, which detours from the personal acoustic set as he’s accompanied by a full band.  There’s merit in both.  There’s a lot to like here, such as “Kiss” and “Lord it’s Gonna Rain.”   He’s definitely growing a sense of vibe.


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