Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Non-Standard Roadsign Colors

It has been too long since I have posted any road geek photos, so let's remedy that right now. This is a picture of a 'YIELD' sign I saw in a Phoenix parking lot. I didn't Photoshop it, and yes, it is really blue. Looks weird, doesn't it?

Looks Like The Rolling Stones Logo

Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic Magazine, says humans are pattern seeking animals. This is why we see shapes of familiar things in the clouds and stars; and why people see the Virgin Mary in a grilled cheese sandwich.

I am not immune to this human trait. I noticed this hole punched in the tile of the cafeteria floor at work today. To me, it looks like the logo of the Rolling Stones, you know it...the open mouth with a tongue sticking out. What do you think?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Two Kinds of Coaches

After being unceremoniously dumped by the NFL's Houston Oilers, head coach Bum Phillips said, "There's two kinds of coaches. Them that's fired, and them that's gonna be fired." Today the Denver Broncos taught Coach Mike Shanahan the truth of Bum's words. The coach who has spent 14 years with the Broncos and led them to two Super Bowl victories was given his walking papers. In my opinion, it was high time.

The Broncos have barely broken .500 in three seasons. They had a three-game lead in there division this year, and only had to win one of three games to make the playoffs. They botched every chance. Fresh blood will do the team good.

After the Dallas Cowboys abysmal loss over the weekend, could Bum's son, Wade (a former Broncos coach himself) be tossed aside in Big "D" to give Tom Landry's old chair to Shanahan? I imagine we'll find out soon.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Digital Darkrooms

I have always enjoyed photography. Although I never had the proper resources to do the whole darkroom setup with enlarger, chemical baths, red lights and such; it has always fascinated me. My brother did dabble with this, and I thought it was a fascinating hobby.

I also recall the first time I saw a tin type photo and some of the work of Matthew Brady and his photos of the U.S. Civil War. As it turns out, the imperfection of the early photographic techniques give them a certain charm. Today, using digital post processing, one can recreate the look of some of these old photos fairly easily.

For years, I have used Adobe Photoshop, which is still the gold standard for digital image manipulation. The problems with this amazing product are its high cost and its steep learning curve. Luckily, there are powerful options for the photographer on a budget.

Since my main computer runs Linux, I cannot run Photoshop natively on it. I do run it under WINE, and it works fine. But there is a native Linux application known as the Gnu Image Manipulation Program, or The Gimp for short. The photo above started out as a full color digital photograph I took earlier this year in downtown Denver, Colorado. In a matter of about three minutes, I straightened it up, cropped out tell tale items like modern cars and signs, adjusted the levels, and applied a filter that gave it a treatment to mimic the look of a very old photo. If I had taken more time, I could do even more, like applying digital scratches and stains to it to further add to the illusion.

The Gimp will also run on Windows, but there is another very good (and free) program you can use to post process your pictures. It does require Windows, but is very powerful. It is called, and is an absolutely amazing little piece of software.

To get these programs, click on these links:
The Gimp

For the sake of comparison, here is a small version of the original photo. Click on either one to see a larger image.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Dennis Yost & The Classics IV

Remember the 1960s hits, Stormy, Spooky, Traces, and Every Day With You Girl? These memorable songs were performed by Dennis Yost and the Classics IV. You couldn't turn on the radio during 1968 and 1969 and not hear one of their records being played.

I just learned that earlier this month, Dennis Yost, the group's mellow-voiced lead singer, died of respiratory failure. Dennis fell down the stairs about 3 years ago, suffering a brain trauma that left him unable to perform. Now at age 65, Dennis has lost his battle to live. Yet another baby boomer cultural icon gone.

Labels? We Got Labels!

Okay, it's time to take a look at a couple of wacky labels. The first one is obviously either written by Mr. Obvious, or maybe it was a result of the work of the Department of Redundancy Department.

On the right we see a package of peanuts I got out of a vending machine at work. Ordinary looking bag of peanuts, nothing unusual or seemingly out of the ordinary, right?

So, we flip over to the back of the bag, and what do we see? Wel, there is the typical list of ingredients. Here we see this product contains "peanuts, (vegetable oil or peanut oil), salt". Fine. Sounds like a wholesome snack.

But then we look a little further down, and see an allergy information line that warns us this product was "packed on equipment that processes peanuts and tree nuts". Ya think? It would be quite a feat if they were packed with equipment that doesn't handle peanuts.

This reminds me of the potato chips that we used to see in Oklahoma. I don't know if the brand is even made anymore, but we used to get "Kitty Clover Potato Chips". The bag always said "Untouched by human hands". I always wondered just what kind of hands were touching them during the production process!

Then we also have this little jewel I picked up today. The lovely spouse and I drove all the way over to the Stapleton area to have lunch at Famous Dave's Bar-B-Que. Now I have to say that Dave's has just about the best barbeque anywhere. No matter if you want Texas-style brisket, Georgia pulled pork, Saint Louis ribs, or just some good sausage or barbequed chicken, Daves is great. I have some favorite places, such as "The Swinging Door" outside of Richmond, Texas; or Spring Creek Barbeque in the Dallas area. But Famous Dave's can stand up to (and probably beat) any of them.

So anyway, I opened the little wet napkin they give you to clean up and notice the tag line under the Famous Dave's logo. "Better than the family dog"? What? I could think of better comparisons than saying the meat you serve is better than the family dog. What was funnier still is that we almost ate at a Chinese restaurant, but the LS is so afraid that they really are serving dog meat that she is leery of them. So now what do we find at Dave's? "Better than the family dog"!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Shake & Make Foods

Back in the 1960s there were some shakeable foods that my sisters and I used to love to make. Both were based on the same idea. They came with a cup with a lid, and a tetrahedronical envelope of powder. You tore the end off an envelope, poured the powder into the cup, added milk, and shook the cup.

One of these products was Royal's Shake-A-Pudd'n. As you might guess, the agitation of shaking the powder and milk caused the mixture to set into a smooth pudding. Their commercials started with a jingle singing, "Pudd'n, Pudd'n, Shake-A-Pudd'n".

Then there was Great Shakes, a similar idea, but instead of pudding, you ended up with a frothy milk shake. Below is a Great Shakes commercial, courtesy of You Tube. These were great fun as a kid, and as I recall they didn't taste too bad either.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Even More Music Reflections

In my last post, I wrote about some 60s & 70s pop songs that I didn't particularly care for. One of these was Angie Baby as recorded by Helen Reddy. In fact, I never particularly cared for her singing. However, if you read the comments from that post, I got a short comment back from Alan O'Day, the song's composer. It simply said, "I'm CRUSHED!!!"

Now while I still don't like that song, Alan I do want to clarify that I do dig Undercover Angel, so my mention of it was to demonstrate that it isn't all of your work I don't like. Just that one song. So I figured I should clarify that. :-) By the way, Rock 'n' Roll Heaven ain't half bad either.

Anyway, I popped over to Alan's website, and found some pretty interesting stuff there. One of the things I saw there was a picture of Alan and Ron Dante. Ron is not one of the better known people in popular music, at least to the general population. However, his voice and recordings are pretty well known by pop music fans. You see, he was the voice behind a number of what were sometimes derisively called "Bubblegum Music" hits. Two you will likely recall if you are of sufficient age are Tracy and Sugar, Sugar. Tracy was really all Ron, and was a big hit in 1969. It was released under the artist name of "The Cuff Links". Sugar, Sugar was of course, released by "The Archies", which was a fictional band of cartoon characters from the Archie comic books.

Ron also has worked with Barry Manilow, Cher, Bette Midler and other prominent artists. But there is one record of his that I recall that most people probably don't. Back in 1974, I was a disc jockey at WCUM Radio in Cumberland, Maryland (yep, those were the real call letters back then), and a record put out under his own name came in the mail. It was on the Bell label, and was titled Midnight Show, about a musician who was torn between being on the road and being with the woman he loves. The song was kind of catchy, so I put it into rotation on the air, and it became somewhat of a local hit, although I don't believe it did much nationally.

So now that I hopefully am back in Alan O'Day's good graces and have removed my foot from my mouth, let's just hope Helen Reddy doesn't stop by!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Not So Great Hit Songs

My recent post about Jersey Boys has been getting lots of hits, especially since the musical's official website linked back to it. While not everyone is a fan of music from the 1960s and 1970s, I happen to enjoy the guilty pleasures of listening to the music I remember from those years.

Now, not all of the songs from that era were great music by any means. In fact, one of the sappiest songs ever was a number one hit from 1968. I would say it is a strong contender for the worst song of all time. Want a clue? Remember these lyrics?

"She wrecked the car and she was sad
And so afraid that I'd be mad
But what the heck"

Yes, it's that saccharine laced song of a dead love, Honey (I Miss You) as sung by Bobby Goldsboro. The song was written by the late Bobby Russell, who penned other hits, such as Little Green Apples for O. C. Smith (for which he won a Grammy award); The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia, recorded by his wife at the time, Vicki Lawrence; and had novelty recordings of his own with Saturday Morning Confusion and 1432 Franklin Pike Circle Hero.

Another song that rubs me the wrong way is one I heard on XM's 70s on 7 channel this morning. The song? Angie Baby as recorded by Helen Reddy. This song about a crazy girl who makes a boy "with evil on his mind" disappear into her radio was written by Alan O'Day, who had a hit a few years later with Undercover Angel, yet another song about a mysterious lover who disappears.

I'll stop here for now, before I begin to sound too much like I am channeling Casey Kasem. So, let me know what your picks are for some of the worst songs of the Sixties & Seventies. Until next time, I leave you with Casey's signature sign off . . . "Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars".

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Jersey Boys

A few days back, I wrote about catching a special on TV called Frankie Valli - A Tribute on Ice. Well, tonight (actually Friday's past midnight) the lovely spouse's boss and his wife took us to see the musical Jersey Boys, a show that chronicles the history of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. The performance was at the Buell Theatre in downtown Denver, and I have to say, the guys portraying the group were dead on with the sound and the music. You could almost swear you were watching the Four Seasons as they were back in the 1960s. The show follows the formation of the group, originally known as The Four Lovers, and follows their path from the first big hit, Sherry, through hit after hit after hit; like Big Girls Don't Cry, Walk Like A Man, Dawn (Go Away), Rag Doll, Who Loves You, and many more. If you get the chance, and like The Four Seasons or sixties pop music, it is definitely a show to see.

This performance was interrupted during the second act when an audience member started choking. You could hear him being pounded on, and it appeared that he may have been having a heart attack. The commotion quickly spread, and finally they had fire department personnel come in and brought up the house lights, but by then, the man had ejected whatever he choked on. At first, the performers were oblivious, as all they can see is the spotlights in their eyes, but once the excitement subsided, they requeued to a point to restart, and the artists continued the performance flawlessly.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hold On!

Well, the UAW and the GOP members of the United States Senate stared each other down tonight, and neither side blinked, thus killing the bridge loans passed in the House today. I fear tomorrow's trading on Wall Street is going to be a free fall. Could the Dow drop to 5000 or below? How many jobs will be lost in the wake of this? It's not pretty. I don't believe the automakers deserve the loans, but for the sake of the greater economy, I think they are necessary to avoid an even bigger disaster than we already have. This is not a pretty picture.

Bye Bye Polaroid Pictures

Another icon of the 20th Century is headed to the proverbial dustbin of history. Polaroid is ceasing production of its instant photography film. The advent of digital photography has killed off the experience of waiting 60 seconds and having a picture that came right out of your camera. The early Polariods I remember had to be peeled open after developing. Some of the later cameras used a film that had the developer inside a clear window on the picture so you could actually watch the image form from the gray square. The company had many hits, from the famed Polaroid Land Camera, to the 60s hip Swinger, to the Sun camera to the SX-70, Polaroid brought the magic of instant photography to the masses. Even as Polaroid makes digital cameras, they aren't real Polaroids.

Who could ever forget, "Meet the Swinger, the Polaroid Swinger". After all, it's almost alive, and it's only nineteen dollars and ninety-five! Yeah Yeah! And you know, you just gotta many actual "swingers" used these cameras for those pictures they couldn't take to the corner drug store to be developed.

Here's the commercial that anyone alive in the 1960s should remember, featuring a young Ali McGraw.