Surely you know about RiffTrax by now. Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett from Mystery Science Theater 3000 riffing on Hollywood Blockbusters, educational shorts, and B-movie deep cuts. It’s easily my favorite thing currently on the web, but their catalog has grown so very large that I thought I’d take a moment to list a handful of my favorites to help you get started.

Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny

Santa’s sled is stuck in the sand, and Santa himself is about to pass out from heat exhaustion. He mentally calls for a group of local kids to help him out. They try using a sheep, a donkey, and a guy in a gorilla suit to get him out, but eventually he gives up and tells the kids a story about a girl in a theme park who visits a Thumbalina attraction - until the Ice Cream Bunny saves the day. For real.

Twilight

Where RiffTrax shines is in making these terrible movies not only bearable but downright amazing. The scene where Edward takes Bella to the top of the mountain so she can see him sparkle is now one of my favorite scenes in any movie thanks to Bill Corbett’s pitch-perfect commentary.

Three Magic Words

A newly married housewife unwittingly finds herself the plaything of three singing butchers as they assume a series of more perplexing roles in her life, all in the name of the promotion of pork. Of course.

As I write this, I’m listening to the Tom Waits album “Closing Time”. I really love this album. Listening this time, it occurred to me what a very different musical experience it would be if he was playing a different piano. The weariness, introversion, longing, self-doubt all comes out so very beautifully on the out-of-tune piano he’s playing. If here were playing a giant, meticulous concert grand, it would be a different feel entirely.

That got me to thinking. Piano really is the only instrument that, if it’s a little out of tune, it’s still musically viable. A guitar, or a sax or a trumpet - out of tune means the player needs to work on their ear or intonation. Out of tune piano, though, creates its own atmosphere. There are connotations of playing the beat-up instrument in the bar, striving, poverty, atmosphere.

You can’t play just anything on an out-of-tune piano, though. Chopin, no way. Brubeck, forget it. But you can play the hell out of “Ol’ 55” on an out-of-tune piano.

"You know I was born to be a Doctor Who fan. After all, my name is an anagram of TARDIS."
— My daughter Astrid, age 11

The original.

  1. Camera: Nokia Lumia 928
  2. Aperture: f/2
  3. Exposure: 1/14th

I’ve been a fan of the Atlanta Braves for as long as I can remember. Every summer visiting my father, he and I would watch every TBS broadcast. I have fond memories of Skip Caray and Pete Van Wiren announcing. I still remember clearly Phil Niekro’s ‘82 heroic, almost single-handed win against the Padres which clinched a spot in the playoffs. To this day, Dale Murphy remains my ideal of what a baseball player should be, on and off the field.

I heard about your plans to move the stadium to Cobb County. While this has the potential for real disaster, particularly as the traffic on 75 and 285 for a 7pm weekday game is going to be nightmarish, there are also some real possibilities for positive change. Here’s a small list of three things this one fan thinks you should consider:

1. It’s time to change the mascot and team name. Change it back to the Beaneaters if you must, but the era of the acceptable use of ethnic iconography is long passed (if it ever existed). Ancillary to this, don’t go the route of the Angels and become “The Atlanta Peaches of Cobb County” or some such ridiculousness. Remain an Atlanta team.

2. I realize that it is hard to pass up on the massive funding that comes with auctioning naming rights, but please consider rectifying the error made in 1996 and name the new facility “Hank Aaron Field.”  At the very least, make the inclusion of Hank Aaron’s name a requisite part of the name, regardless of which company wins the naming rights. I would be fine with “Hank Aaron Coca-Cola Park”.

3. I read that the new stadium will have 42,000 seats. That is a lot of seats to fill. Please consider something like $5 upper deck ticket prices for all games, so that a family of 4 can see a game for less than $50 inclusive (tickets, parking, and food).

Thank you for your consideration,

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Recently, Emilee and I have taken to listening to an album or two as we’re preparing dinner. I’ve been enjoying it quite a bit, as I’ve begun finding it harder and harder to carve out time to just listen to music. Last week, I landed on The Band’s “Music From Big Pink” and decided that it was more than time to listen to it again.

It was pretty early into the album - probably the opening chords of “In A Station” - when I turned to Emilee and said “wow, this is really good music.” And yes, beginning to end, it was amazing.

Days later while apparently seeming pensive, Emilee asked me “what are you thinking about?” and I had to honestly reply that Music from Big Pink was still playing in my head. When she asked me why I thought that was, I told her a version of this story:

Early in high school, as my own musical tastes were evolving, I spent a large amount of time listening to anything I could get my hands on, including my mom’s large vinyl collection. Among these was The Band’s eponymous “brown” album, which I found to be absolutely brilliant at the time. I still do. Side two of that album contains some of the most moving, haunted, brilliant Americana ever created in any art form.

When I bought Music From Big Pink in college, I think I was expecting more of the same, and while there are elements of it, there is more of Dylan’s influence on this first album, I think, so I kind of relegated Big Pink to the “not as good” category in my brain. This meant that whenever the urge for music of The Band came to me, I’d play the brown album instead.

But wow, listening to Music From Big Pink with new ears has made all the difference. If it’s been a while since you’ve heard this one, or if you’ve never heard it before, I think you’ll be amazed.

There were just too many reasons for me to move to tumblr, so here I am. This should mean more posts here, now that I can write from just about anywhere.

tumblrbot Asked
QuestionWHERE WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO VISIT ON YOUR PLANET? Answer

Thank you for your questions, tumblrbot. This is a question I think about often. I spend lots of time on Google Maps street view virtually visiting places. Right this very moment, the place that interests me most is Nuuk, Greenland.

Stop posting about “Moneybags”.  Just stop.  It’s not just annoying, it’s completely factually and provably inaccurate.  Here, I’ll show you.

Let’s start off with some simple calendar math.  There are 7 days in a week.  If you project ahead 7 days into the future, the day of the week will be identical to the day you start with.  This is also true for multiples of 7.  For example if the June 1 is on a Monday, then June 22 is also going to be on a Monday - this is because 21 is a multiple of 7, and 21 + 1 (the day you started on) is 22.

Now then, let’s apply that to an entire year.  If you start a year on a Monday, what day of the week will the next year start on?  Let’s start by looking at the number of days in a year - 365.  Is it a multiple of 7?  No, it’s not.  When you divide 365 by 7 you get 52 with a remainder of 1.  Or, another way to say that same number is (7 x 52) + 1.

We have already established that if the 1st is on a Monday then so is the 8th, the 15th, the 22nd, and the 29th, right?  Well, if we convert that into a simple formula, we can say something like

Dates that fall on the same day as January 1 = (7x) + 1.

Does that work for the numbers we know?

(7 x 1) + 1 = 8 - check

(7 x 2) + 1 = 15 - check

(7 x 3) + 1 = 22 - check

(7 x 4) + 1 = 29 - check

So let’s try a little experiment.  What happens if we think of a year as a single long month.  What would the last day of the month be - say January 365th?  We can find this pretty easy; just let x be 52 and plug it into our formula above:

(7 x 52) + 1 = 365

That means, mathematically speaking, for any year that is not a leap year, the January 1 and December 31 will be on the same day of the week.  Let’s check our work by looking at the dates we know for this year.  January 1, 2013 was on a Tuesday.  And what do you know, December 31, 2013 will also be on a Tuesday.

This means that, for any year that is not a leap year, Jan 1 will be exactly one day BEFORE Jan 1 of next year.  For leap year you just add one.  This means we can make a nice little pattern for when Jan 1 will fall every year:

    2013  2014  2015  2016  2017  2018  2019  2020  2021  2022

    Tue   Wed   Thu   Fri   Sun   Mon   Tue   Wed   Fri   Sat 


Thanks to that pesky leap year, we have to go all the way to 2022 before we see all 7 days of the week on January 1.

Without too much work, we can repeat this same exercise for the first day of any month.  The only real trick is, for January and February, to skip the day for years following a leap year (since the leap day doesn’t happen until the end of February) and for the rest of the months you skip the day for the leap years themselves.  So for example, let’s look at the patter of days for October 1:

    2013  2014  2015  2016  2017  2018  2019  2020  2021

    Tue   Wed   Thu   Sat   Sun   Mon   Tue   Thu   Fri 


This time it only took us nine years to get all 7 days of the week.

Now that we have this bit of math out of the way, let’s look at the “moneybag” claims.  I’ve seen a bunch of different variations, but the most recent one I have seen features the claim that “This year, October will have 5 Tuesdays, 5 Wednesday, and 5 Thursdays” and that this happens “only once in 823 years.”

Let’s break this claim down one item at a time.

"October will have 5 Tuesdays, 5 Wednesday, and 5 Thursdays".  Yes, this is true - but it is by no means extraordinary.  There are 31 days in October - which is 3 days more than 4 weeks.  Every month has 4 of every day - so logically, October will always have 5 of three consecutive days.  Nothing mysterious there.

"This happens only once in 823 years."  Take a look again at the table above showing the day of the week for October 1 for the next 9 years.  Notice that October 1 lands on a Tuesday again in 2019?  Know what that means?  That’s right.  October will have 5 Tuesdays, 5 Wednesdays, and 5 Thursdays again in just 6 years.

You can do this same exercise with any month.  There is no pattern of 5 occurrences of three consecutive days in the same month that takes 823 years to repeat.  The absolute most you’ll have to wait is 14 years.

The whole “moneybags” thing is complete bunk.  All it takes is a little math and a little common sense and we can do away with yet another bit of superstition. 

This past weekend I was asked to perform a song with the Allman Brothers Band.  The encore for their Saturday night performance at the Beacon Theater in New York was Southbound, a fairly standard I IV V blues in D, which was originally released on their 1973 recording “Brothers and Sisters" - the one with me on the cover.

This is a song I know very, very well.  I’ve heard it hundreds if not thousands of times.  I can cite the differences in the arrangements of this song from one year to another as the Allman Brothers have changed personnel.  I can tell you differences in vocal approaches depending on who is singing it.

Even without all of that knowledge of this particular song, though, I would still have the capacity to perform this piece of music.  The chord changes are the standard I IV V twelve bar blues progression, but the rhythm is up-tempo straight eights rock.  None of this is, technically, anywhere near as challenging as some of the things that I do with The Yeti Trio.

Despite all of that, sitting in with the Allman Brothers is, as it has been for me in the past, one of the toughest things I have ever done musically.

For me, the first thing that makes it so tough is that I am on stage with 7 musicians whose work and whose opinions I deeply respect.  When you have to go on stage and stand in a line that includes Warren Haynes and Oteil Burbridge, with Mark Quinones standing directly behind you - and hearing your every note from behind his organ will be Gregg Allman - that in and of itself is intimidating.

Then there is wanting to do the family proud.  My father’s behind me playing drums, as is his lifelong partner and my de facto uncle Jaimoe.   And my cousin - the man I’ve know since his birth - who I have seen in little league games, driven to sunday dinner at the grandparents house, and seen develop into arguably the most influential guitarist of his generation - well what would it say about me in his eyes if I can’t even play Southbound?

And did I mention that it’s loud on stage?  Nobody in the audience, nobody back stage, nobody except anyone who has stood on the stage knows how loud it is up there.  Loud enough to make you scared to touch your instrument because every time you do, the big box behind you screams with enough force to resonate the air in your chest cavity.

Now the song starts and Warren takes the opening improvisations, which is good because it was all I could do just to play the ascending 7th chords that open the song.  Once we hit the 4 and the rest of the band kicks in, I’ve found a spot I am comfortable with and am playing what sounds to me like a respectable rhythm pattern.  I’m ok for now.  As we get closer to the solos, I start glancing at the Tube Screamer on the floor, debating whether or not to engage it for a bit more sustain and distortion.  I finally decided that I would be scared shitless to even try.

And now we’re at the solos.  Oteil (on drums this time) goes first with 4 bars of drum fills.  Then Warren takes the rest of the chorus and all of a second.  Now it’s my turn.  The ascending 7s hit and I start fumbling out a garbled mess of notes and stop when I expect the 7s to hit again.  But they don’t.  And the pause lingers.  And lingers some more.  In my state, I had internally rushed the tempo so badly that I had completely misjudged where the hits for the next downbeat would fall.  So I try again - a few more notes and my pause where I anticipate the rest of the band should play - but again what feels like 3 or 4 seconds of silence before the next hits.  Holy shit.  The third time around I decide just to hold a bent note and wait for the band to come in and save me, since when we get to the 4,  everyone will be playing again and I can relax a bit.

At least that’s the plan, but I have no melodic ideas.  None.  All of the things that fly off my fingers as I practice aren’t there.  I can’t pull off anything I attempt.  All I can do is stay in a basic but competent level of simply running scales and trite blues cliches.  Then my 2 choruses are over and Derek’s improvising.  I can go back to keeping rhythm and then thank everyone for letting me play when the song is over.

I’ve performed with the Allman Brothers 6 or 7 times over the years, and each experience has been almost exactly like this one.  But if they asked me to play again tonight, I would in a heartbeat.