Archive for August, 2009

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YOU SAVED MY LIFE, LES

August 19, 2009

LesPaulLOGO

I decided I was going to play music for a living when I was 15 years old. Although the instrument that I was trained to play was piano, I actually started a band playing a cheap acoustic 12-string with an even cheaper electronic pick-up. (I was a fan of The Byrds.) It took longer to tune the guitar than it did to play the entire Beatles White Album.

One night, I had the house to myself and I decided to hold rehearsal in the living room, using our spinet piano, a Baldwin Acrosonic.

MeSpinet

While rehearsing with the piano instead of the 12-string, I realized I was wasting my time trying to learn guitar. Eric Clapton, I’m not. I made the decision then to save up my money and buy an electric piano.

So how does Les Paul fit into this picture?

Yes, he invented the solid body electric guitar.

LesPaul5

It’s true, that along with his wife, Mary Ford, he was a very successful performer and recording artist. They were one of the best known singing acts of their time.

LP Cover

But none of this directly affected me. I’m thanking him for something else – something that many electric guitar fans don’t know about him. Les Paul  invented the tool that saved me from a “normal” life:

The multi-channel audio recorder.

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His first recorder (1948) did not use tape, but acetate discs. He eventually contracted the Ampex corporation to build the very first multi-channel tape recorder. Here’s Les in 1949 using his invention – with audio tape.

LesStudio5

Les Paul and his wife, Mary Ford had a home studio. Many very popular songs were recorded here. 

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LesStudio2

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LesStudio4

By the time I was able to afford the “luxury” of recording, stereo (2 channel) reel-to-reel tape recorders for home use were common. I started collecting equipment in 1968. By 1972, I had my first “studio.”

Studio01

I was actually able to record 3 channels of sound by taking the stereo recording of one tape recorder and “mixing” down to one channel of a second stereo recorder, leaving the other channel to record something else.

I went through the “bigger is better” stage in the late 70s and early 80s. I look at this picture now and say, “What the hell was I thinking?” In order to accurately listen to those speakers, you have to be at least 30 feet away.

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Studio02.2

Finally, in the late 1980s, I managed to pull the funds together for a true 8 channel recording system. Note the much smaller speakers. 🙂

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My desire to create recordings has never diminished. It’s on an even par with performing. Today, my recording studio is a combination of analog and digital. I’ve also incorporated video production.

 AerialShot

Les was 93 years old when this picture was taken in 2008.

LesPaulGigging

That smile tells you everything you need to know about how great it is to experience something other than a “normal” life.

Thanks, Les.

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com

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WHAT A FOOL BELIEVES

August 13, 2009

WhataFoolLOGO

Many people prefer staying in their “comfort zones.” They know what they know and live their lives accordingly – even if what they know is false. Challenging their knowledge with new ideas or asking them to re-think existing ones is usually a recipe for disaster. In other words, truth be damned.

Elected officials, both currently serving and retired know exactly how to use this “false knowledge” to fuel fear, hate and anger. They also know how to make a small “public outcry” seem far bigger and more significant than it really is thus assuring attention from the media, which is always looking for the next “hot” story – as opposed to just reporting news.

And so it is with the most recent “public outcry” about healthcare reform. The two previous “outcries” were not about taxes (the Tea Parties) or the validity of our President’s birth certificate (the Birther Movement) and this current wave of discontent is not about healthcare. These people know nothing about any of the drafted legislation. They did no research to see what is being proposed. They are simply resisting change, yelling the “coded rhetoric” that has been fed to them by the fear-mongerers in media who compare President Obama to Adolph Hitler and any proposed healthcare reform to genocide, euthanasia and death panels for citizens who might not be “worth the cost” of keeping alive. The people at these events don’t want the government “invading” their comfort zone – especially if that “invasion” is being lead by their worst nightmare – a black man.

Our country was heading in what most of us described as the wrong direction. So last year, we used one of our rights under the constitution and voted for change, which included electing an extremely intelligent, well-educated, very reasoned and pragmatic President, who happens to be black AND white. Now that change is here, those who did not vote for it or him are frightened, and extremists within the Republican Party are exploiting that fear with hate-filled rhetoric aimed straight at our President, not his policies.

We have voted for change many times in the last 90 years. (Remember, WE are the government.)

We added an amendment to our constitution giving women the right to vote in 1920.

We passed the Social Security Act which was signed into law by FDR in 1935.

We passed the GI Bill – signed into law in 1944.

We signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

We passed Medicare in 1965.

We again voted for change last year, and won. The “crazies” within the Republican Party now want to deny us what we earned when we not only elected Barack Obama as our 44th President but also elected many new faces to the House and Senate. Mark my words, we will not be denied.

In 1964, Nelson Rockefeller stood up at the Republican Convention and asked Republicans to repudiate extremism.

After he spoke, Barry Goldwater, the soon-to-become Republican nominee stood up and said, “…extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice!”

That single line gave Lyndon Johnson all he needed to defeat Goldwater. The famous “Daisy” ad only aired once – but once was enough.

The leaderless Republicans appear to be once again embracing these tactics. Sen. Jim DeMint believes that if Republicans can “break” the President, it will be his Waterloo.

Radio talk show hosts like Michael Savage are perpetuating the idea that our democratically-elected President is a dictator.

Keeping all of this in context, one must understand that media’s extensive coverage of these events is disproportionate. Pundits and their employers are hoping for good tabloid TV and  radio. Most of the gatherings are much smaller than they appear on TV. Here’s some samples of what’s been happening around the country.

In this first video, the additional captions tell you as much as the video does. Pay close attention to what is NOT being said, but can be clearly seen.

Notice the use of words like “trampling,” “shoving” and “molesting” (a car?). The point trying to be made is that these people aren’t being “heard.” What? That’s ALL you hear!

Imagine if the people not “shoving,” not “trampling” and not “molesting” are people of color. Would this not be a very different story?

This young man is wearing what others are saying. He’s clueless. He knows nothing about Hitler, fascism or the Holocaust. To him, it’s just a T-shirt that someone asked him to wear. When confronted with questions, he turns away.

The man below keeps saying that President Obama is lying, but forgets what he was supposed to say after that. His agenda is to get on TV.

These “healthcare events” are being called “Astroturfing Events” because they are NOT real grassroots efforts. They are being sponsored and promoted by some of the same people that brought us the “Tea Parties” – Dick Army’s Freedom Works and of course, FOX News with its list of Democratic Town Hall Meetings. (I downloaded the list to my personal site because I know after August, the list will be gone from their site.)

Here’s some video from Kelly Denver at The Seminal, a pretty good video blogger. 

This was in Tampa, Florida

The President is to blame for the town hall uprisings. Now THAT is some real spinning of these events.

Did you know that when healthcare reform passes, the government will tell us how to die? Neither did I. 🙂 

And then there’s this clown, who was wearing a sidearm standing outside one of our President’s town hall meetings in New Hampshire, where it’s legal to carry. He knows nothing about healthcare reform. He’s just there in defiance of our President.

All of this is going to backfire on the opposition if they don’t get control of the situation. If people continue to see and hear nothing but these lies as the Republican Party’s message, reasonable Republicans and conservatives will go further into hiding, not wanting to be publically associated with this element. Privately, they obviously think they need these people in order for the party to stay releveant. I coudn’t disagree more. A rational Republican needs to step into a leadership role, quickly.

The irony in all of this is the very people that healthcare reform would help the most, the low and middle income aging population, are some of the same people at these events screaming “Hitler” and “Fascist.” Many are receiving Medicare, a single-payer healthcare system, or VA healthcare, a governement-run healthcare system, or Social Security, a governement-run benefits program. As hard as it is to believe, these mule-headed fear-followers don’t realize any of this. They foolishly stand in a crowd, screaming statements they did not create and when questioned, don’t know what they’re screaming about. God forgive them, for they know not what they say.

BTW: Barry Goldwater, the “pro-extremist,” lost BIG in the 1964 Presidential Election.

Goldwater-Johnson

These tactics didn’t work in 1964 or in last year’s Presidential Election and they won’t work now. The fringe elements of media are speaking to a diminishing audience. These are the waning years of hard bigotry and racism. By the time my 19 year old son reaches my age, these elements of our society will be even less relevant than they are now.

Until then, sadly, there is no reasoning with these people. Facts will not penetrate their thinking. They refuse to listen to anyone, regardless of intelligence, education and expertise. Trying to debate an issue with them is an exercise in futility. So sit back, watch and be amused. The circus is on a television near you.

On a lighter note, allow me to close with some great lines from two well-known “Michaels.”

And from this Michael: “What a fool believes… no wise man has the power to reason away.”

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com

PS – Here’s Mr. “Blue-Eyed Soul” in 1992, singing “What A Fool Believes.”

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CRANIAL FLATULENCE VOL. 4

August 4, 2009

Flatulence

Human ingenuity, for the most part, is a good thing. No doubt, much of our modern technology is the result of creative thinking and know-how.

Sometimes however, that “know-how” manifests itself in ways that are a bit less than stellar.

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Notice there are no cars parked anywhere near this one.

 

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No comment.

 

Fixed05

Gas-powered generator: $350. Window Air Conditioner: $300. Reinforced sheetmetal, taillight configuration and additional hardware: $150.

Car: $100.

 

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“Good afternoon everyone. This is your captain speaking. It has been brought to our attention…”

 

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 “Honey, use your seatbelt. We don’t want to get a ticket.”

 

Fixed09

“Yes sir, your car is done. Looks good as new.”

 

Fixed10

Hmm. I need to check on the last time I had a Tetanus shot.

 

Fixed11

This will work… until the engine is started.

 

Fixed12

For God’s sake, at least use GRAY duct tape!

 

Fixed14

Maybe I don’t need my landline phone anymore.

 

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I know this could be photoshopped. I don’t want get close enough to check.

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com