Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

How beautiful it is to do nothing, and then to rest afterward.
    —     Spanish Proverb
On This Day In:
2021 Still Learning (And Practicing) Guitar
Still Ain’t Quite Right
More Changes…
2020 Remembering…
You KNEW That Man Was Trippin’
2019 Kingslanding
2018 I’d Bet On Taxes
Ooops! I Spoke Too Soon
2017 A Cautionary Wish
2016 Slogging
It’s About…
Man / Man
2015 Memorial Day – 2015
Content People Love To Share
2014 I Resemble That Remark
2013 Long Range Exploration
2012 UBI
2011 Opportunity

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The Real Frank Zappa Book” (1989©)   —   book review
Today’s review is for the autobiography:  “The Real Frank Zappa Book“;  written by:  Frank Zappa and co-written by / with:  Peter Occhiogrosso.
Background:  a network system admin colleague was listening to some music when I approached him for assistance.  I asked about what he was listening to and he said it was Frank Zappa and the “Mother’s of Invention”.  He then proceeded to tell me how great Zappa was and that he listened to a Zappa show on the radio every Friday night where this little station ran a two hour program on Zappa’s music.  My friend said there was nothing more relaxing than sitting in an easy chair with a tumbler of Jägermeister and listening to Zappa to kick off a weekend.  I was familiar with the “name” but (honestly) could not recall a single song or album, but I said I’d check it out based on his (my friend’s) recommendation.
Well, I still haven’t gotten around to listening to the radio and I don’t know if the broadcast is still happening every Friday evening, but I was in the used book store (several years ago) and I saw this book and picked it up to add to my reading list.  I keep seeing Zappa’s name referred to in my guitar studies, so I finally made a point of opening (and reading) it.
Who is Frank Zappa and why should we care about him or his views (on anything)?  Zappa is / was (died 1993) an American musician, singer, composer, songwriter and bandleader.  He self-produced over 50 albums and his estate had published another 30+ albums of “new” material since his death.  He was a self-taught musician and composer.  He claims to not be a very great guitarist, but that is the only instrument I ever knew him to play and he’s said to be one of the top 100 guitarists in history.  His book says he originally learned music on a drum set and picked up guitar later.  He was also reasonably well known for his libertarian political views particularly about free speech and the separation of church and state.  Zappa is in both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has an album in the Library of Congress preserved for its historical significance.  Zappa’s music is a blend of rock, jazz, fusion, concert / symphonic music with a heavy dose of political / social satire – comedy.  He poked fun at both the left and the right.
What’s in this book and is it any good?  The book is really several parts:  1)  a personal biography;  2)  a discussion of his career and production thoughts about the music industry;  and,  3)  Zappa’s views on various political and social / societal trends.  I didn’t find his biography interesting.  I thought his comments on music and the industry were very insightful.  I was only mildly amused by his political stances and societal observations.  While I might personally agree with much of his stances and observations, I found his sarcasm / humor tiring long before the end of the book.
Part 1)  I grew up poor and we moved around a lot.  My escape was music.  I learned about it on my own by listening to an unfiltered variety of sound(s).  I got ripped off constantly by almost everyone else in the music business.  (Pgs 1 – 137)
Part 2)  Everybody is out to screw the composer / artist.  Including, but not limited to:  all production companies, all music unions, all venue owners, all governments (local and national), most fellow musicians, and, most hangers-on / groupies.  (Pgs 139 – 209)
Part 3)  Small, efficient government is the best.  Taxation should be limited to sales and should not include income – to have some hope of charging taxes on the wealthy as well as the workers.  All organized religion(s) and “church” institutions are corrupt (themselves) and corrupting to governments which allow them to have political influence.  There should be a full separation of Church and State.  Public education is a “mostly” a waste of money.  Education post-high school should be paid for by the individual only.  Special interest groups (guns and religion lobbies) have too much influence in America.  You cannot legislate morality and you should not be allowed to use morality to limit freedom of speech (particularly in the arts and music industries).  (Pgs 211 – 352 / end)
Final recommendation:  moderate to strong.  As stated previously, I didn’t find Zappa’s personal life (growing up or music performing) very interesting.  I found his thoughts about the concept of music (and art in general) VERY interesting.  This section was the strength of the book.  I would have been over the moon if he had devoted the rest of the book to elaborating on his theories of sound / art / artistry / and music production.  Unfortunately, he didn’t.  The final chunk of the book was “really” only moderately interesting.  My impression was:  “this is filler to add 80 extra pages”.  Again, just because I agree with an authors’ statements, doesn’t mean I like / enjoy how they choose to express the statements.  The book was worth the time invested in reading it , if only to gain an appreciation of a historic music figure.  I will be offering up some quotes from it in the future.  – BUT – except for the discussion on music / art, I can’t say the book inspired much after-thought / reflection.  (Actually, I’ve already posted a few of Zappa’s quotes, but didn’t know they were from this book.  I will probably get around to updating those prior posts at some point.)
Afterwords:  I have made an effort to go to YouTube and sample some of Zappa’s performances.  I’ve yet to be impressed.  Mostly, what I’ve heard has been ok.  JUST ok.  They remind me of what you’d hear at a county / state fair.  If anyone reading this can provide specific suggestions, I’d be more than happy to check them out.  I will say, I have found the video’s of his interviews to be much more interesting than the music I’ve listened to.
On This Day In:
2021 Every Time It Gets Better
2020 I’m Persuaded
2019 Hungry For Trust
2018 Mutual Assistance
2017 The Toughest Job
2016 Congratulations!!
Better Yet, Read!
2015 Even If It Kills Us Slowly
2014 Fun To Play God
Of Anything
2013 Legal (Almost)
2012 Great Scots!
2011 The GI Bill – A Simple History Lesson
Breaking Even

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[Yes, this is another looonnnggg post!  You’ve been warned…    —    KMAB]
Today’s review(s) are for a TV series and movie based on a science-fiction / western style premise.  The show is titled:  “Firefly” (2002).  The movie is titled:  “Serenity” (2005).  Both star:  Nathan Fillion as Captain Malcolm ‘Mal’ Reynolds, Gina Torres as Zoë Washburne (second in command / wife), Alan Tudyk as Hoban ‘Wash’ Washburne (ship’s pilot / husband), Morena Baccarin as Inara Serra (a liscensed “companion”), Adam Baldwin as Jayne Cobb (soldier / weapons expert), Jewel Staite as Kaylee Frye (ship’s engineer / mechanic), Sean Maher as Dr. Simon Tam (ship’s doctor / brother), Summer Glau as River Tam (telepath / enhanced warrior / sister), Ron Glass as Shepherd Derrial Book (ship’s preacher / retired government agent), with Chiwetel Ejiofor (a government “operative”) and David Krumholtz (a futuristic hacker) appearing in the movie (but not in the series).
The basic story-line for both the series and the movie is the same:  Earth has become uninhabitable, so humanity has colonized a new solar system (in the TV series it’s continuously referred to as a new galaxy).  The setting is roughly 500 years in the future.  The planets and moons in the new system have been “Terra-formed” so they support human life.  The planets / moons nearest the sun (the closest together) form an “Alliance” government.  The outer planets revolted and the war ended with the rebels losing.  ‘Mal’ Reynolds was a sergeant in the rebel army and after the war he purchases a spaceship so he is “mostly” beyond the reach of any government.  The ship / crew take any job they can to stay afloat in space.  The ship is an unarmed transport vessel:  “Firefly” class.  (It looks vaguely like an Earth firefly bug who’s rear-end glows.)  The crew is armed with small caliber personal firearms (and some small explosives).
The series runs 14 episodes with the pilot being the longest at roughly 90 minutes and the remaining “hourly” episodes running about 42-45 minutes.
I remember watching a couple of episodes during the original run (back in 2005-6), but I never caught them all before it was cancelled and pulled from broadcast.  A work friend picked up the DVD’s when they came out and as he knew I was a “Trekkie”, he loaned them to me.  I thoroughly enjoyed the series and he said they also had a movie – which he loaned me, too.  I made a mental note to pick up both and I have.  (Side note:  the series DVD’s come with “extras” which your streaming service may or may not include with the series purchase.)
Anyway, I just finished watching both (again).
Firefly”  —  TV series review
If you’ve ever spent ANY time watching American western TV series from the 50s / 60s, the formula is pretty standard.  Weekly episode of the crew doing their transporting of goods around space with occasional petty larceny thrown in.  Like all of the better series, there is an on-going / over-arching story-line to allow for the personal growth of each of the characters.  There is also a surprising amount of well written dialog and humor in the series (and the movie).
The TV series was never a broadcast hit (and as I recall was re-slotted for live sporting events, which almost always hurts a new show’s numbers).  The series was cancelled but has achieved a cult following over the last 20 years.  There was initial talk of restarting the series, but it was reformatted into a movie instead.
Final recommendation:  very highly recommended!!  I have thoroughly enjoyed watching this series (and movie) several times over the years.  Come for the action and special effects and get hooked on the characters and story arcs.  One caution:  There are multiple instances of drinking, swearing and the occasional sex scene (although you never “really” see anything but sweaty arms and backs).
Serenity”  —  movie review
This is a follow-up to the TV series and takes up shortly after the last episode.  The “preacher” and the “companion” have left the ship and the government / Alliance is still trying to recover River Tam.  Chiwetel Ejiofor is the government “operative” sent to bring her back.  He is “licenced-to-kill” and he does – repeatedly – to achieve the objective.
River Tam knows something the Alliance wants kept secret and they are willing to do most anything to get her back / silence her.  The movie is a long series of chases and fights.
Now, both the movie and the TV series are simple entertainment…  They are “Sci-Fi’d” westerns with enough action to keep you entertained and enough plot / character dialog – development to keep you interested.  That’s it…  Don’t expect anything to make sense (scientifically).  Just get your popcorn and get ready to be entertained (not educated).
By the way, the movie doesn’t explain it very well (the series does), so I will:  “Serenity” is the name of the ship – a Firefly-class transport vessel.  The name comes from the famous final battle in the revolt which both ‘Mal’ and Zoë fought in:  “the Battle of Serenity Valley“.
Another point:  in both the series and the movie, it sounds like the cast are speaking some form of Chinese.  They are not.  Some of the individual words are, but much of it is made up to get around the (rating agencies) censorship of cursing / cussing in broadcast TV.
Final recommendation:  (Again) Very Highly recommended!  The movie can stand on it’s own, but you’ll enjoy it more if you watch the full TV series first.  A last note:  the movie was not a BOMB!  It did make back its production cost – but just barely.  The fan base for both versions continues to grow (slowly), and there is “some” talk of Disney doing a re-boot for their streaming service.  Disney bought out FOX movies and now has rights to the IP (“intellectual property”).  Obviously, the original cast are all too old to reappear in their roles (20 years flies by!)
On This Day In:
2021 Facing Life
70’s Sunshine Sound
2020 #IncompetentTrump And His Pandemic Briefings
2019 I Hope So
2018 Painted Into
2017 Prayers, Miracles And Lottery Tickets
Roman View
2016 Dignity And Grace
2015 Is It Warm Enough For You
2014 What The Right STILL Wants
2013 Embrace Serendipity
2012 Your Order, Please
2011 Well Enough Anyway

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Indio (by Monoprice) Retro Classic Solid Body (“tele”-style) Electric Guitar w/ Gig Bag  —  guitar review  (Images follow the review)
[Disclaimer:  I have not received as a promotion any guitar or music related product, nor am I mentioning anything in this post to secure compensation / income for myself or the manufacturer(s) of the products mentioned.  I am only posting about this / these item(s) because I personally purchased it / them and am excited to be learning about music and playing guitar.    —    KMAB]
Background:  I am a rank beginner guitar player (particularly when it comes to electric guitars), so please take all of my advice / opinions with a healthy grain of salt…  This is another in a series of reviews of guitars and kit I am writing as I learn how to play guitar.  All of my purchases have been at the bottom end / inexpensive side of the market.  (Obviously, this is not really a box-opening / initial receipt review like my prior ones.  I just procrastinated…)
Start of review:
Ordering / Delivery:  I ordered on a Saturday evening (11 Dec 2021), and received the guitar the following Tuesday (14 Dec 2021).  I consider this pretty phenomenal service!
Price:  $79.99  (Yes!!  This is NOT a mis-type!)  My son asked what I wanted for X-mas and agreed to go half with me.  He gave me $40, and I paid the difference (just under $90, w/ taxes, but free shipping).  So, I was all-in less than $50!  (My wife is [was] still not happy as this is [was] my sixth guitar purchase in less than 12 months.  LoL!!)
Buyer’s caution:  Indio / Monoprice sells another “tele” style model which – at first glance – looks exactly like this model.  However, it has no “through-body” strings and it has the three post / two string bridge (traditional) as opposed to a post for each string (non-traditional).  I specifically wanted the individual posts because I want to be able to set intonation on each string, not balance between two strings per post.  Does it matter?  Probably not, I’m just OCD.  (images below)
What you get:
Guitar Brand:  Indio (by Monoprice)
Model:  610264
Orientation:  Right handed
Guitar Color:  Blue (Dark Royal)
Number of frets:  22
Nut width:  42mm.
Scale length:  24.75″ (“full size”)
Number of strings:  6
Pick-up Style:  Single (lipstick);  Single (standard / exposed / ceramic)
Guitar Bridge System:  tele-style modified ash-tray
Controls:  3 – 1 x switch (3 positions), 1 x Volume, 1 x Tone;  the switch and knobs are metal and mounted on a metal oval backing plate (traditional “tele” style.
Body Material:  Basswood;  NO pits, gaps or faults.  A surprisingly beautiful instrument for the price!
Neck Material:  Basswood
Fingerboard Material:  Maple
Tuning Peg Material:  Metal, Kidney Bean shape
Nut Material:  Plastic (well cut and trimmed)
Bridge Material:  Metal
Bridge Type:  Through body stringing with a modified “ash-tray” style metal piece
(Package Includes)
1 x Guitar
1 x Gig Bag
2 – 1 x Allen wrench (for adjusting the neck / truss rod);  1 x small Allen wrench (for adjusting the bridge intonation / action)
First impression:
Visual checklist:
• neck – straight, flat and not visibly warped or bent;
• nut – Plastic.  Looks perfect.  Well cut and rounded
• strings – strum…  not in tune, but string ends are not excessively long or wrapped around the tuning pegs.  It tuned up very easily.
• body – again, beautiful color and shiny finish.
• pickups – both magnetic.  I can’t tell much else visually.  My “visual test” is to hold something metal near the pickup and feel if it is pulled to the magnetic pickup.
• controls – the switch is responsive without being resistant, the volume and tone both turn smoothly.  I am able to hear the differences between the pickups on the switch (after it’s plugged in and the amp is turned on)
• tuning pegs – no loose spots on turning (tightening or loosening)
• pick (“plectrum”) – none – a missed opportunity for marketing.
• strap – none – another missed opportunity
• action and intonation – the strings are high-“ish” and the intonation is off.  Neither are “bad”, just not spot on.  The guitar did not come tuned, but this is not unexpected.
Strum…  the strings are all loose and there is no hope this is tuned “out of the box”.  I attach my Snark tuner and tune the guitar.  Nothing significant to report.  I’m actually loving this at first touch…!!!  Despite the neck looking pretty unvarnished, the slide is very smooth and comfortable.  It is described as “fast satin”.  I’ve no idea what that means.  Okay, “nothing significant” ONLY means everything seems normal.  There is “normal” fret sprout and the fret ends are not rounded (“BB” style).  Both of these conditions ARE “normal” – particularly at a price point under $100.  The sharp edges are much worse than the sprout.
I plug in the amplifier and plug the cable into it and into the guitar.  Both connections are solid enough.  I turn on the amp and increase the volume on both the guitar and the amp.  Both switch and the knobs on the guitar seem to work.  As always, the tone kind of changes the sound, but I still don’t know what I’m doing or what it should sound like, so I set both back to “0”.  The volume is MORE than enough (perfect) for me to play in my bedroom or living room after everyone else goes to bed.  It is quieter than an acoustic, but no louder than any of my other electrics.  Maybe just a little “twangier” in the base strings.  Not buzzy, but not like clean strings.
Strum…  I play for a few minutes – chords and scales.  I spend a few minutes “playing” Ode To Joy and then decide to pack it in for now.  The guitar is very comfortable to play.  The neck and the body seem to be made just for me.  It is lighter than my Donner “LP” style, but heavier than the Glarry “strat” style.  Also, the single cut top end of the body does make the higher frets more comfortable to reach (compared to full / acoustic bodies).
What’s happened since then?
Mostly, I played with the action and the intonation.  I’ve set the action very low and the intonation is as close as I can get it to perfection – at least to my Snark.  I waited a week or so and then filed of a bit of the fret sprout and rounded them, too.  I also ended up raising the action back a little bit and then re-adjusting the intonation.
Check the fret sprout periodically and do the light maintenance on it / them for safe play-ability.  The guitar has (since) been added to my rotation and I’m still enjoying it.
Final Recommendation:  This is a beautiful guitar and once I sorted out the fret ends and added a strap, it’s been a pleasure to practice with.  I still don’t know enough about electric guitars to comment about that aspect (using with amps).  I am starting to tell differences in sound, but only on head to head comparison.  If I separate the instruments by any length of time (even more than a few minutes), I don’t have enough perception / memory to say if one is “better” than any other.  Please recall:  I have a VERY inexpensive ($30) starter amp.  I’m hoping to experiment more with this later in 2022 or get another “inexpensive” amp in 2023, to use for comparisons.  I am VERY grateful to my son for going half on this with me (for my X-mas present).

As Advertised…

…Delivered in Gig Bag

…Still Wrapped


More traditional three post bridge

My preference… Six post bridge

On This Day In:
2021 Allowing For Compromise
2020 Why #LyingDonald Hurts The US
2019 Blow Between Your Ears
2018 Thinking Ahead
2017 I’d Like To Try
2016 Or Blog (And Bound)
2015 Welcome The Virtuous
2014 Closing The Gap?
2013 On Parenting
2012 What Knowledge Is
2011 The Indefinite Accumulation Of Property

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[Another LONG post…  You’ve been warned!  (LoL)    —    KMAB]
The Third World War:  August 1985  (1978©)   —   book review
This review is for the fictional portrayal (as a “future history”) of a “realistic” invasion of NATO allied European countries by the Warsaw Pact in August of 1985.  The book was “written” primarily (et al) by (Ret.) British General John W. Hackett in consultation with a number of experts gathered to discuss how such an invasion might occur, what might lead up to it and what might be the end-of-war results.  The “advisors” were listed as:  John Barraclough (Air Chief Marshal), Kenneth Hunt (Brigadier), Ian McGeoch (Vice-Admiral), Norman Macrae (a deputy editor at “The Economist“), John Strawson (Major-General), and, Bernard Burrows (British Diplomatic Service).
The book was a best-seller in England back in 1978.  It was published in the U.S. in early 1979 as a hardback and then released as a paperback in 1980.  I initially read the paperback version.  I believe it was shortly after I was released from the Active Reserves, but my memory isn’t that precise anymore.  In any case, this review is of a re-reading of the book after my reading of “2034: A Novel of the Next World War” earlier this year.  (review here:  A Novel War).  The author of that book, (ret) Admiral James Stavridis, cited this book as a primary inspiration for his work.  This prompted my re-interest in the original…
During my (almost) two years in the Reserves I was assigned to a unit which tested and evaluated the readiness of National Guard units from California, Arizona and New Mexico.  The officers would establish “war-game” scenarios for the Guard officers and I (as an NCO) would embed with the line units to evaluate actual field performance.  We were artillery evaluators, so I watched Guard batteries fire cannons / howitzers, but I gained an understanding of scenario development and large scale tactical war-gaming.  This led to a post-service interest in military style board games which carried on for most of the ’80s.  I lost interest when gaming shifted to computers and became “mostly” shoot-em-up’s instead of (IMHO) about strategy.
Basically, the plot of this book is the leaders of the USSR feel their position as a superpower is being threatened by political and economic factors which are worsening (for them).  They feel there has been a significant / progressive decrease in NATO’s readiness over the last decade and this may be their last / best opportunity to remove a potential military threat (NATO) and further subjugate the buffer countries of Eastern Europe who are members of the Warsaw Pact.  The plan is a crushing invasion of Western Europe (West Germany and the low-lands) which leaves the USSR in command up to the border of France.  The invasion fails because in the years between the book’s publishing (1978) and the date of the “future-history” event (August 1985), Europe (specifically Great Britain) comes to its senses and reverses the general military decline of the late ’60s to ’70s.  The NATO forces are able to slow the advance of invasion (without the use of tactical nuclear weapons) and allows reinforcements to arrive from the U.S. just in the nick of time.
In a striking foreboding of the current (2022) invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the invasion portrayed fails because of (in no particular order of importance):
1)  an inability to dominate the air despite superior numerical assets;
2)  a failure of logistics (fuel and ammunition) by the Warsaw Pact, (it is believed the invasion will take less than two weeks AND there will not be enough time for the U.S. to resupply NATO forces);
3)  resistance by the native forces (in this case, the West German army / reserves) is surprisingly effective;  and,
4)  the centralized command and control characteristic of authoritarian political systems, does not promote the flexibility / initiative of junior officers (and NCOs) to seize military opportunities when they arise, so opportunities for significant breakouts are lost.
When the war quickly (the “war” lasts weeks) devolves into a war of attrition, failure is viewed as inevitable and hard-liners in the Politburo decide to consolidate their gains for future armistice negotiations by the use of a limited (against only one city) nuclear strike.  The result, however, is not fear and negotiation, but instead, fury and retaliation via a similar limited nuclear strike by Great Britain and the U.S. against a Russian city;  (and like falling dominoes) the Warsaw Pact allies turn on the USSR to avoid nuclear annihilation;  the Soviet military / security services stage a coup, over-throw the hardliners, and cease further combat;  the non-Russian border states (the “-stans”) declare independence from the USSR;  and, the rest of the world struggles with the effects of a new world order.  The “war” is barely a month old before it is over.  Because the book is written as a “recent” history of past events, it does not attempt to forecast / describe long term results of the war except to relate the world has to deal with unaccounted for Soviet nuclear weapons / warheads and large stocks of conventional weapons scattered around the global (mainly Africa).
Is this a “good” book?  Is it realistic as a predictor of future conflict (lethality, if not participants)?  Is it entertaining or interesting?  Do I recommend this book?  With the exception of the final question, the answer to all of these is (are):  yes to so-so…
The book is not a “good” novel.  There are no specified individual characters driving the action, so you cannot (as a reader) identify and grow with anyone.  In this sense, although fictional, the book is written with more of an academic or journalistic feel.  It is very much an military style “after-action” report.  If you are comfortable with this writing style, you will enjoy the writing / book.  If you are not, you will not.  I did.  Was the book able to realistically describe combat and the results (devastation) of war?  Yes!  Although, saying this, there was an obvious Western bias of vivid description of the destruction of the British city and virtually nothing about the similar (or much worse) destruction of the Russian city.  (Very much:  “Yeah, we took out one of theirs as payback…”)  Is the book entertaining or interesting?  This is the toughest question because every reader’s tastes varies so much… I was not “entertained”;  but, I did find the book interesting.  I particularly “enjoyed” the parts the authors get terribly wrong, because as a reader I (we) have 40+ years of hind-sight.  There is no China – Japan alliance;  the Shah is no longer in charge of Iran (or, rather, wasn’t in 1985);  South Africa did not fall to external forces;  and, East Germany did not resist consolidation with West Germany after the fall of the USSR.
Final recommendation:  strong recommendation.  I think most veterans (particularly my age group) will find this book relatable.  I think most civilian “military” readers / historians – and quite a few regular historians – will, too.  For political science readers, the “states” interests, goals, and stances will seem Machiavellian / Kissinger-ian (is that a real word?).  Yet, they ring true – even 40 years later.  It is entirely obvious why this book could seem as an inspiration for a future – updated version (a la “2034“), and I believe (I read) this book served as a similar inspiration for several of Tom Clancy’s works which followed.  At any rate, I do remember “enjoying” the initial read from “way-back-when”, and don’t feel the re-read was less so.  My reaction to “2034” was reinforced:  this version is much better than the more recent book.  If you have read “2034“, I recommend you read “WW3:1985” for the comparison value, if nothing else.
Final disclaimer:  I purchased this book at normal / sale price (for an old / used book) and no compensation has been provided to me by anyone for my opinions in this review.
On This Day In:
2021 I’m An Optimist
Talent Is A Ticket To Ride
2020 Works For Me
Rivers Versus Waterfalls
2019 Better To Do
News: Drunken Party Girl Saves Seoul
2018 Keep Moving
2017 Fighting Good
2016 Size Matters
2015 Maybe The Best Thing
2014 Ready To Be Fried?
2013 A Real Lover
2012 Winning Wars
2011 A Different Lesson

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Lilies of the Field”  (1963) — movie review
I know.  I know.  I haven’t done very many movie reviews of late…  And, yes, I have been watching (both) movies and streaming series.  Truth be told:  I’ve just been lazy and procrastinating…  (Mea culpa, mea culpa…)
Anyway, today’s review is for the drama (mild comedic moments) “Lilies of the Field” starring Sidney Poitier as Homer Smith, and Lilia Skala as the Head Mother / Sister (that’s Mother Superior to you non-Catholics) Maria.  The movie was nominated for Best Picture;  Skala for Best Supporting Actress and Poitier won Best Actor.  With this win, he became the first African-American male to win for a lead role.  There was a female Oscar winner before him, but her role was “Supporting”, not just “Best”.
The plot is a group of sisters has escaped East Germany and traveled to the United States.  They have inherited a farm, but have no knowledge of farming and only the Mother speaks passable English.  She has been praying to God for someone to help them build a chapel so they (and their parish) can practice their faith (attend Mass and hold Sacraments).  And, along comes Homer…
The rest of the movie is an exposition about the Sisters and Homer and their bonding while building the chapel.
Is the movie any good?  Do I recommend it?  Hmmm…  The movie was up for Best Picture and is currently in the U.S. National Film Registry / Library of Congress designated as:  “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”  I think that’s a:  “YES!!”
Do I recommend it?  Hmmm…  Yes!!
The acting is terrific!  Skala brilliant as the Head Mother and she brought back a LOT of memories of my years in a Catholic grammar school.  (LoL)  Poitier won Best Actor, so there’s not a lot to add to that.
The movie as multiple GREAT scenes:  from Homer’s ordering breakfast at a road-side diner, to Sister Maria’s reaction while the priest is thanking her, to the on-going “insurance” dialogue.  And, of course, no review would be complete without at least a mention of “Amen“…  Homer listens to the sisters singing and they ask him to join them.  He proceeds to teach them a “down-home go to meeting song”, which has become quite famous in cinema.  I was surprised / disappointed to find out (while researching for this review) that Poitier lip-sync’d the song.  It’s a little bit sad, when things you thought you knew (for most of your life) turn out to be incorrect. (LoL)
Final recommendation:  Very Highly recommended!  This is a terrific movie which I have watched multiple times and still find little details to enjoy.  (IMHO – it’s very reminiscent of “Casablanca” and “Inherit the Wind” in this regard.  All classics!  All in black and white.)
On This Day In:
2021 I Should Have Started Earlier
To Soothe Your Soul
2020 Let’s Make It So
2019 Today’s Question
2018 A Moment Of Union
2016 Symptoms
2016 Tossers
2015 Hunger
2014 Outside Dependence
2013 Doing Right
2012 A Short Course In Human Relations
If Death Be My Future
Such A Fool
2011 I’m Working For A Living

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GROTE Full Scale Electric Guitar Semi-Hollow Body Guitar w/ Bone Nut (Red GRDB-TR35)  —  guitar review  (Images follow the review)
[Disclaimer:  I have not received as a promotion any guitar or music related product, nor am I mentioning anything in this post to secure compensation / income for myself or the manufacturer(s) of the products mentioned.  I am only posting about this / these item(s) because I personally purchased it / them and am excited to be learning about music and playing guitar.    —    KMAB]
* Guitar Acquisition Syndrome
Background:  For the last fourteen months, I’ve been trying to teach myself about music and playing guitar.  To date I have now purchased eight “inexpensive / cheap” guitars.  Here’s the review of my latest:  a Grote 335 / 338 style Electric Guitar (red)…  What’s the difference between “335” and “338”?  I don’t know…  I can’t tell exactly.  It seems there is “some” difference in the body size, but I’ve not been able to see / read and / or find a description of which is which.  As near as I can tell, the 335 was created / invented by Gibson Guitar Corporation back in the late 1950’s.  Rather than a full body (figure-8) guitar, the top of the body has two “cut-aways” to allow for easier access by the fretting hand to the higher (closer to the body) frets.  Gibson bought Epiphone (also in the late 1950’s) and used that brand to sell a much less expensive version of the the same model.  I gather “335” is a legal brand, so other companies can’t say their guitars ARE 335s, but they seem to be able to say their guitars are 335-style.  Others just say their guitars are “338” and then slightly modify the size / shape so they are not getting sued by Gibson / Epiphone.  This is very similar to the issue of headstock shape many “knockoff” guitar companies have with the Fender headstock style.
Since starting on this journey, I’ve watched numerous interviews of famous guitarist saying they wanted to play the same guitar as their inspirational heroes (I don’t have any guitar heroes) or they started playing one (guitar) style that fit the sound they heard in their head (I don’t have a sound) and when the sound changed, they changed the guitar style to match their new sound.  I’ve yet to see / hear any of them say, “the company gave me a free custom guitar and an endorsement contract, so I switched“.
Anyway, as stated in several prior reviews, I’m retired and I have a significant price point and life time (mine) limitation.  I haven’t found my sound or style (or hero), so I’m playing around at the bottom of the market in search of one, both or all three.  For those of you readers who are unfamiliar with the price of music instruments, a decent quality, name brand guitar “probably” runs near USD $1,000.  (If you are lucky, you can find the same model used for half that.)  At half that price (USD $500), you can also normally find the same name brand (or their subsidiary) selling a new entry-level model of substantially lower quality.  You can also go (quickly) the other direction to many times that price before you even get to custom guitars.  Specific historic guitars sell in the tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars!
I now have eight “cheap / inexpensive” guitars of various style / types, and, not counting books and accessories (tools, tuners, picks, cables, gig bags, straps, etc), I’m right around the $1,000 “all-in” mark.  My wife believes I’m a hoarder and while she supports my trying to learn music / guitar, she does NOT approve of my continuing guitar purchases.  I (on the other hand) still feel the need for one last guitar before pausing for the “right” one – which I may never find / buy.  I will probably get that “last” inexpensive one before the end of this year.  After that, I will be playing them each, and, over time, upgrading the bits and pieces on them until I’m more or less happy with each.  Some, like my three-quarter size acoustic are so minimalist it really can’t have much changed out.  Of course, as my luthier skills improve, there is a seemingly endless pool of tools to spend (my wife would say “waste”) money on.  And, there are also amplifiers.  On the issue of amps, I only have my initial 10-watt amp from the purchase of my first electric guitar.  I’m sure it’s “crap”, but I very rarely use it, so it may be some time before I get a second / replacement amp.  At the moment, I play my acoustic guitars in the day and my electrics sans amp at night.  The “only” time I use my amp is when I get a new guitar want to verify the electric bits work.  Because I still have no ear for electric sound, I still can’t tell if the electric guitars are good or not – only if they play at all.
Start of review:
Ordering:  The company home site:  https://www.grotechina.com/ did not have the model I wanted – red / glossy and with no trapeze end-piece.  I was tempted to settle for red with the trap, but I decided to wait.  The general price at their site for this style but with matte finish was $189.00, not including tax or shipping.  I found the same item on Amazon for $179 (not including tax but with free shipping).  The price ended up:  $196.45 (delivered).  Note:  the model I purchased on Amazon is now available on the Grote home site for $169 – $10 less than my price, but you will then have shipping (usually $20-$30) costs.
Delivery:  I ordered mine on Friday April 15, 2022 (late evening) and it arrived on April 17, mid-afternoon.  The site said it would be delivered in a week or so, depending on your location.  Amazon said it would be delivered on Monday 17 April 2022.  On delivery, the box was slightly crumpled at the base.  Otherwise, there was no damage to the box.  (This was a first!)  On opening the box, there was no damage at all to the guitar.
What you get:
Guitar Brand:  Grote
Orientation:  Right handed
Guitar Color:  Cherry Red (not really my desired candy apple red, but close enough)
(I’m not sure why this matters or the company thinks we care…) Trademark & Metal Truss Rod Cover:  Laser anti-false trademark, Metal truss rod cover with engraved logo.
Number of frets:  22
Nut width:  42mm.
Scale length:  24.75″
Number of strings:  6
Pick-up Style:  Humbucker, Humbucker
Guitar Bridge System:  Tune-o-matic
Controls:  5 – 1 switch (3 positions), 2 x Volume, 2 x Tone;  the four knobs are clear plastic which lets you see the number settings from the top or side.  Very cool!
Body Material:  Canadian Maple;  there is a hint of wood grain through the glossy paint.  NO pits or faults.  A beautiful instrument.
“F” holes:  2, painted the same color as the edge binding and the pain appears smoothly applied.
Neck Material:  Canadian Maple
Fingerboard Material:  Black Wood (I have no idea what that means.  Also, the fingerboard itself is slightly indented in multiple locations of the non-inlaid frets.  The “dents” don’t impact the playability and can only be seen if you are looking specifically for damage / flaws.
Tuning Peg Material:  Metal, Kidney Bean shape
Nut Material:  Bone
Bridge Material:  Metal
Bridge Type:  Tune-o-matic style
(Package Includes)
1 x Guitar
2 x Plectrum
1 x Connecting Wire
1 x Spanner Tool (for adjusting the neck / truss rod)
First impression:  right out of the box, the guitar has a beautiful, dark, rich almost burgundy wine red body and neck back.  It is thin but not particularly light.  Being “semi-hollow”, I expected lighter.  I run my left hand up and down the neck.  The edges of the fret board are beautifully bound with a kind of beige / white binding, but the fret spout is TERRIBLE!  The metal frets are visibly past the edge of the neck and binding AND they are sharp(!) AND on both sides of the neck.  I make a mental note to self:  DO NOT run your hand up and down this neck quickly or you WILL cut yourself badly!  This is unexpected because many / most of the YouTube reviews were extremely positive on this.  I will wait at least a week before I sort the fret sprout.  In the meantime, the best I can do is tune and then continue the overall inspection.  At least the frets are polished and don’t leave a residue on your fingertips.
Visual checklist:
• neck – straight, flat and not visibly warped or bent;
• nut – bone. Looks perfect!
• strings – strum… not in tune, but string ends are not excessively long or wrapped around the tuning pegs.  It tuned up very easily.
• body – again, beautiful color and shiny finish.  One VERY minor dent on the side of the body which can barely be seen or felt.
• pickups – are all magnetic.  I can’t tell much else visually.  The “visual test” is to hold something metal near the pickup and feel if it is pulled to the magnetic pickup.
• controls – the switch is responsive without being resistant, the volume(s) and tone(s) both turn smoothly.  I am able to hear the differences between the pickups on the switch (after it’s plugged in and the amp is turned on)
• tuning pegs – three seem to have “gaps” in action before turning them kicks in (both directions)
• pick (“plectrum”) – no name plastic, but you get two of them.  One has skull artwork on it.  The second has some kind of dancing Asiatic female.  They seem medium thickness.  Not bendy; not super-hard; not textured.
• action and intonation – the strings seem fine (eyeball test).  I will measure them in the future.  The intonation is PERFECT.  I can’t believe it!  Not just open and at the 12th fret.  All up and down the neck with no dead frets on any strings.
Strum…  the strings are all loose and there is no hope this is tuned “out of the box”.  I attach my Snark tuner and tune the guitar.  Nothing significant to report.  I’m a happy camper…!!!
I plug in the amplifier and plug the cable into it and into the guitar.  Both connections seem solid enough.  I turn on the amp and increase the volume on both the guitar and the amp.  All the knobs on the amp and the guitar seem to work.  They kind of change the sound, but I still don’t know what I’m doing or what they should sound like, so I set everything but the volume back to “0”.  The volume is MORE than enough (perfect) for me to play in my bedroom.  It is quieter than an acoustic, but louder than any of my other electrics.
Strum…  I play for a few minutes – chords and scales.  I spend a few minutes “playing” Ode To Joy and then decide to pack it in for the evening.  The main thing I notice is the guitar is very comfortable to play.  The neck seems long, but I don’t have to stretch to play open chords and the body seems to be made just for me.  Mainly the thinner body means it’s easier to hold the guitar body under my strumming arm and against my body.  Also the smaller top end of the body brings the neck closer to me, which is itself more comfortable.
What’s happened since then?
Nothing.  Well, because it lacks a gig bag and there’s an included caution note about resting the guitar between playing sessions, I set up one of the three guitar hangers I got for Christmas and have set the guitar to rest on the wall right next to me.
Check the fret sprout for about a week and do the light maintenance on it / them for safe playability.  Then it’s add to the rotation and enjoy!!  I will, of course, need a gig bag and a strap ASAP.
Final Recommendation:  LoL!!  Are you kidding me?  This is a beautiful guitar and once I sort out the fret ends and get a strap, it will be a pleasure to practice with.  In a strange way, I’m lucky I didn’t get this guitar as my first electric or I might never have bought my others.  Again, I don’t know anything about how the guitar sounds electrically, because I don’t have enough experience – except to say everything seems to be working.  All things in their time.  Inshallah…

Still Wrapped In-Box

Close-up of Knob Control

On This Day In:
2021 The Heart Of Science
Too Thin
2020 Up Again
2019 Advice From #1 To #45
2018 How Much I Will Miss The Trump Administration
2017 We Need To Continue Experimenting
2016 Consistently
2015 We Must Dissent
2014 Now What?
2013 Judgement
2012 Stuck In My Mind
Life’s Hope
2011 Just Getting Up
Directions Please

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My Girl

[Happy Valentine’s Day, Hil!!  I’ve got all the riches one man can claim…
All my love,
Your Kev
On This Day In:
2021 Happy Valentine’s Day – 2021!!
Our Love’s No Mystery
Backyard Narcissus
2020 Happy Valentine’s Day – 2020!!
2019 Happy Valentine’s Day – 2019!!
2018 Happy Valentine’s Day – 2018!!
2017 Happy Valentine’s Day – 2017!!
2016 Happy Valentine’s Day – 2016!!
2015 To My Special Lady
2014 Awakening
2013 Drowsy In Comfort
2012 Happy Valentine’s Day
2011 Own Your Bible

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Reacher”  —  streaming (TV) series:  Season 1 (2022)
This review is for the recently released Amazon Prime video / movie / TV series titled:  “Reacher“.  The series is based on the book series by the same name written by Lee Child (James Dover Grant CBE).  The book series first started getting released in the late 1990’s and comes out about one volume per year – so, yes, there are now about twenty-plus books in the series.  I’ve read the first four and then skipped ahead for one of the books which explained some of the character’s background.  I’ve also seen both of the Tom Cruise movies in which Tom plays the lead.  I’ve done a review of the first (here), but never got around to reviewing the second (which I’ll probably need to re-watch before finally reviewing).
Anyway, the main character – Jack Reacher – is played by actor Alan Ritchson.  This is the first role I’ve seen Ritchson in.  Reacher is a retired Army officer who served in a “special investigations” unit.  Some sort of super JAG / NCIS.  They only worked cases no one else could handle – blah, blah, blah.  Reacher comes from a military family, graduated from West Point (as did his older brother), and served with distinction during his career. Reacher retired as a major; a rank he regained after being busted back down to captain.  The series history differs from the books as over twenty years has passed since the first novel, so they’ve “re-booted” his life to make him younger for the series.  It’s also possible the character got an early-out / medical discharge as he doesn’t seem old enough to have graduated from the Military Academy and served a full twenty years of service for a “normal” retirement.  In real life, Ritchson is 37 years old, (although he looks younger to me) so I guess it’s possible.  Reacher is an expert with multiple firearms, hand to hand combat and has a photographic memory.  He is also given to sarcasm.
Reacher has no “social-media presence”, no driver’s license, no phone, no permanent address, no ID and no bags.  He has a passport, a couple of hundred dollars in cash and the clothes on his back.  He buys used clothes when he needs to change and tosses what he’s done with.  Reacher likes old-fashioned blues, so he decides to visit the home town of a famous blues musician (which his brother mentioned).  The night before he arrives in the town, the murders start…  Reacher is the only stranger in town and he walked into town on the same road near where the body was found.  He is arrested and off we go…
The series is a thriller / crime / action series loosely based on a bigger than life (6ft 5in) paladin who roams around the country with no ties, just trying to mind his own business and bring a form of “rough” justice to the world when he feels it’s needed.
So:  is the series any good?  Is it true to the books?  Is it better than the (two) movies?  Is the acting / dialogue any good?  Yes, pretty close, so-so and yes.  The season-series is broken down into eight episodes of roughly 50 minutes each, so you’re investing almost 6-7 hours which gives a lot more time to tell the story (book).  The fights are pretty well shot (choreography wise).  Given the lead character’s physical size, most of the fights involve multiple attackers / combatants – again, true to the book.  I found the series marginally better than the two Cruise movies.  I didn’t think the acting was much better, but I found the inter-personal dialogue to be better – particularly the lead’s sarcasm.
The books are good to very good.  Cruise’s two movies were entertaining action movies, but nothing to write home about.  Ritchson simply makes a better Reacher than Cruise does physically (not in acting, though).  Cruise is (maybe) 5ft 7in;  Ritchson is (maybe) 6ft 2in in real life.  Reacher claims to be 6ft 4in in the series.  He’s supposed to be 6ft 5in in the books.  In a funny (strange) way, although height was the biggest complaint about casting Cruise in the movies, it doesn’t seem to be a factor for Ritchson.  The problem remains:  a “BIG” lead requires more than a shorter cast and the sets just don’t deliver / convey the size of the lead character.
Final recommendation:  very good to strong recommendation.  If you are a fan of the books, you will almost certainly enjoy this series more than Cruise’s two movies.  If you are a fan of action / crime-thriller / vigilante genre (again), you will almost certainly enjoy this series.  Note:  There is some profanity and some brief nudity in a few of the episodes.  There is quite a bit of violence / bloody injuries across all of the episodes, but I’d put it closer to “Die Hard” style than to “John Wick” style.  The series is NOT appropriate for young teens or pre-teens (IMHO).
On This Day In:
2021 Suggestions…
2020 Until November… Then Vote
2019 Start With Health And Friends
Iterum Vale Tres*
2018 Tweets From The Disrupter-In-Chief
2017 Do We Still Listen To Her Silent Lips?
Not Now, Not Ever
2016 Why Do You Write/Blog?
2015 Can Your Repeat The Question, Please?
2014 On Faith
2013 My Name Is Charles Stein
2012 Faiths And Sorcery
Made And Kept Free
2011 Multi-Source Learning

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Same Old Lang Syne

Favorite Line(s):
We drank a toast to innocence
We drank a toast to time
Reliving in our eloquence
Another auld lang syne
On This Day In:
2020 Best Wishes For 2021!
Tomorrow Starts A New Year
2019 Best Wishes For 2020!
World Views: End Of 2019
2018 Best Wishes For 2019!
2017 Best Wishes For 2018!
2016 Best Wishes For 2017!
2015 Better Red Than Dead
Tomorrow Starts A New Year
2014 Recovering
Best Wishes For 2015!
2013 Best Wishes For 2014!
2012 My Creed
2011 It Probably Isn’t So

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Time In A Bottle

Favorite Line(s):
But there never seems
To be enough time
To do the things
You want to do
Once you find them
I’ve looked around
Enough to know
That you’re the one
I want to go through
Time with
On This Day In:
2020 More Than Satisfying Hunger
End Of Year Thoughts Of Those Gone Before Us
2019 Still Hoping To Soar
2018 Why America Stinks More Than It Did 50 Years Ago
2017 No Universal Thinking
2016 Supervise The Results
2015 Just Magic!
2014 It Lies Ahead…
2013 At Least One Difference
2012 Are We, Are We?
On Not Playing The Game
2011 Nutcracker And Nooks
Seeing Differences

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It’s A Shame

Favorite Line(s):
It’s a shame (Shame)
The way you mess around with your man
You’re like a child at play
On a sunny day
‘Cause you play with love,
And then you throw it away
On This Day In:
2020 The Definition Of A Modern Republican Senator
#45 Has Got To Go
2019 Just Rewards
2018 Diet Resolutions For The New Year
Day 3: Late December Diet / Fast
2017 Daily, Mr. President, Daily
2016 We Did This
2015 I’m Talking To You
Forced (Again)
2014 We Are Not A Fearful Nation!
2013 Risking Truth
2012 Working On Reality
2011 Massive Contradictory Changes

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Listen To The Music

Favorite Line(s):
What the people need
Is a way to make ’em smile
It ain’t so hard to do
If you know how
Gotta get a message,
Get it on through
Oh, now momma
Don’t you ask me why
On This Day In:
2020 Boxing Day 2020
Fractal Branches
Advice For Sons, Too
2019 Almost Soulful Pleasure
2018 Cursive In The News
2017 Coffee Crunch
2016 Preparation
2015 Scarcely Asked
2014 They Resemble Us
2013 Both
2012 That’s Success!
2011 Losing At Dominoes
2010 1,001

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Have I Told You Lately That I Love You

Favorite Line(s):
Have I told you lately that I love you
Have I told you there’s no one else above you
You fill my heart with gladness
Take away all my sadness
Ease my troubles, that’s what you do
On This Day In:
2020 Every Touch Vibrates
When She Smiles
2019 Six Reasons Why #DumbDonald Will Always Be A Failure
2018 The Trouble With Bookstores
Another No Chew Diet
2017 Biased World View
2016 Control In The Age Of Entanglement
2015 Okay, Maybe Not Ceaseless
2014 Can Do
2013 Are You Helping?
2012 Inside All Truth Is A Vacuum
2011 So, Whom Are We Trying To Fool Then?

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The Christmas Song

Favorite Line(s):
And so I’m offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety-two
Although it’s been said many times, many ways
Merry Christmas to you
On This Day In:
2020 Christmas Wishes For 2020
Best Wishes For All
2019 My Thoughts About The X-mas Turkey…
2018 Merry X-mas – 2018
2017 Focus On Christmas — 2017
2016 Merry X-mas – 2016
2015 Merry X-mas – 2015
2014 Merry X-mas – 2014
2013 Merry X-mas – 2013
2012 Merry Christmas – 2012
2011 I Have Seen

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