First lesson

    The teacher is a bit loopy, and he likes to talk and
play a lot. He does have a lot of knowledge though, so I’ll stick
around for a while and see if I can’t pick up on some of it. I didn’t
do much playing this time, most of the lesson was about holding the
guitar properly, striking the strings properly, and positioning the
right hand (stop moving it!). I had been screwing around a bit, trying
some of the lessons. I was doing things wrong of course. So I’ll spend
this week trying to unlearn the bad habits I started. It’ll be fun
eventually… I am gettng some nice sounds from the guitar (as opposed
to music) and the teacher complimented the guitar I chose so that made
me feel pretty good. Gotta go practice…


An interesting article in the Post today

    The post had a great breakdown on where all the
money from increased costs of gas goes. It turns out that it is the
refiners that have captured the lion’s share of the profits. The actual
gas stations look as though they are making about as much as before.
Why is this? The simple answer is competition. There are what seems
like endless gas stations. Any possible huge profits to be had are
erased by competition among themselves for customers. There are
relatively few refineries. There will always be enough gas stations
around to supply consumers, but it looks as though there aren’t enough
refineries to maintain the lower prices that we’d like to.
    The article has the usual quotes from politicians
that advocate price controls, taxes, etc to eliminate “excess” profits
(whatever those are). The only way to bring down the price without
adverse effects to the rest of the economy is through competition. I guarantee
you that if profits remain sky high, other companies will
come into the refining business to capture some of that profit.
Companies such as 3M, DuPont, etc are certainly capable of doing it, it
just hasn’t been profitable for them to do so, until now. If things are
allowed to work themselves out, without meddling from congress (and
that includes laws excluding entry into the business), overall prices
will come down assuming that the oil supply doesn’t dry up.
    Another definite result of high gas prices (separate
from oil prices) will be a more aggressive pursuit of alternative
fuels. The more gas costs, the more lucrative things such as hydrogen,
ethanol, solar, hamster wheels, etc. become. The key is to let people
and corporations pursue that potential profit. This is the only proven
way to advance technology. Human ingenuity will find solutions to
problems if it is profitable to do so. The newest alternative fuel will
find its place along side all the other technological advances made
over the last 100 years that have made our life so good.


Big class…

    My tuesday class has 10 people signed up for it. 7
of them showed up the first night. It doesn’t sound like a big
difference from the 3 and 4 people I’m used to, but it is. They are
also, in general, much further along than the other students I’ve had.
They’ll definately keep me on my toes. Another wrinkle is that most of
them will be shooting with digital SLRs. That’s not really a big deal,
except that I don’t have a great way of showing their pictures to the
class. I think we’ll end up hooking their cameras up to a TV. Anyway,
should be interesting… I wonder how confused I’ll get between the two
classes, I’m sure they’ll move at different speeds and have different
questions. Wish me luck!



Ever wonder how to increase traffic to your web site? Just post some fairly expensive things for sale on it. I had 382 unique visitors today! With over a 1000 pageloads… I wonder at what poing I run out of bandwidth?


A new thing for me

    For the first time in my life I have to worry about
my fingernails. Or at least I do on my right hand, classical guitar
makes extensive use of them. I’ve always looked at guys with perfect
nails as those things people call “metrosexuals.” You know, the guys
concerend with the more feminine things like nails, shaving thie
chests, etc. So how can I still be “manly” with perfect nails? I’ll
have to muddle through I guess…:-)

    Got several cds by accident. I meant to hit the
“update cart” button after I had unchecked everything. Instead I hit
the confirm shipment button… Oh well, at least they seem to be pretty
good albums. “Diamond Dogs” by Bowie, “Rust Never Sleeps” by Neil
Young, “A Ghost is Born” by Wilco, and a best of compliation from Black
Sabbath. “Rust” is an amazing album, everyone should hear it as far as
I’m concerned… It’s nice to hear new music, it’s been a while since I
added to my collection.


The Aristocrats…

    Remind me to never doubt the genius of Gilbert
Gottfreid again. I have not seen the film yet, but the description of
his section in the film made me cringe and laugh. I gotta see it for
myself. In case you haven’t heard, “The Aristocrats” is a documentary
about the biggest in joke that comedians have. It is filthy,
disgusting, and can be hilarious. It is rarely told in public because
of its vileness, but when it is, it can be a doozy. It’s a subtle
thing, much like the Philip Glass composition of silence (I think it’s
called 15 minutes or something like that), the audience’s reaction is
far more interesting than the joke itself. The combination of shock value and the unwitting participation (you and your reaction are the joke) is what makes this joke work. Google “The Aristocrats” and get an idea of how it works. Be prepared to be offended…

The joke has also been used to rattle rookie comedians right before they go on stage. Here’s anonther example of that kind of hazing I found on another website.

” Joke-teller: So this [insert racial slur of your choice] goes into the baker’s, and asks for a loaf of bread. And the baker says “Brown or white?”. And the [racial slur] says, “It doesn’t matter – I’m on my bike.”

At this point everyone except the mark laughs loud and long and waits for the mark to join in. At that moment, everyone should stop laughing:

Joke-teller: [to the mark] Why are you laughing? It’s not a joke.” A comedian and the audience members in the know can have the same kind of fun and laughs when the aristocrat joke is sprung on them.

    I first heard about this joke when I read a piece in
the NY Times about GIlbert Gottfried’s performance of it at the Friar’s
Club. They were roasting Hugh Hefner several weeks after 9/11 and there
was a weird vibe in the air. Gottfreid’s reaction to this was the most
edgy, problematic, and heroic that I can think of. He started off with
some planes flying into buildings jokes. When the inevitable boos came
raining down on him, he launched into “The Aristocrats.” He threw their indignation right back at them. The audience
was horrified at his telling of this unbelievably vile, unholy, unnatural
joke. Appearently it was all they could do to gasp at his first line and then sit there dumbstruck at the torrent of vileness that Gottfreid was able to improvise. His fellow comedians on the other hand were literally falling on
the floor with laughter because they couldn’t believe that he had the
balls to tell it to an audience. Not only was he saying it to an
audience, but to a nervous, unsettled, hostile one. By all accounts, his rendition embodied the best of improvisation, delivery, and shock value, all the things that are necessary for the joke to be effective. The reviewer for
the NY Times said that it was a blow to the gut, it was Gottfreid
ramming medicine down the throat to cure the  post 9/11 gloom. The
joke itself isn’t funny, but it was needed, it (in the reviewer’s mind)
made it OK to laugh again in NYC.  It also shows how great
comedians work. They go to places that you hate, are afraid of, or are
disgusted with, and make you laugh at them. You also get to see how the
comedian improvises, what motivates him and how far he is willing to go
for the reaction.
    The film builds on this and shows 100 different
comedians telling the history and technique of the joke along with
their own versions of course. I will rent this as soon as it comes out
on DVD.


I’m actually doing it!

    I ordered my guitar the other day. It should be here
by the middle of next week. The parks and rec class I wanted to get
into was canceled due to lack of intrest. turns out that the teacher is
availible for private lessons though. So I contacted him, and I’ll be
seeing him every monday night! Only 30 bucks a week (conviently just
under what I get paid for the photo class). I’m very very excited. I
really like the stuff he has up on the web
(, hopefully I won’t hate him:-) According
to him, all that is required is hard work and a tolerance for pain. I
figure that working retail for 8 years would dull anyone’s senses… In
a perfect world I’d get the disease that every musician I’ve ever met
has. They don’t own a decent stereo system. That would save me a ton
long term….



    OK, my first night’s selling of photo stuff netted
me about 850 bucks, and that was just some misc. junk I had around! I
did sell one of my Leica lenses (not for as much as I could have) and a
couple of enlarging lenses. All the rest of it was film! I can’t wait
to start selling the “big” stuff. I was a little afraid that I wouldn’t
hit my target for saving money for the Egypt trip. I figure that I
should be able to get around 5 grand(!) for the stuff I have laying
around and not using. Egypt here I come!
    So what am I going to do? Well, I have a few bills
to pay, but I am going to use this initial windfall to do something
I’ve been threatening to do for years. I’m going to take some guitar
lessons! I have listened to my Julian Bream, Parkening, and Gailbraith
CDs so much I’m amazed they haven’t been worn out. I feel like the only
way for me to get closer to the music is to start making it. I doubt
I’ll be playing much Bach for a while, but I do want to get there
eventually… I’m starting out slowly, my first lessons will be through
parks and rec (only 88 bucks for 8 lessons!) and I’ll take it from
there. At first I was going to wait for the “winter” sessions, but I
figured what the hell, I’ve been wanting to do this for years. I’ll
have to see if I can get a decent guitar in time, that’ll be the
determining factor. Worst case scenario is that I start in 8 weeks
instead of one, but I’m going to do it! I’m really excited!


OK, I’m doing it

    After several years of deliberation, I’ve decided
to sell off my photo gear. All my stuff is film based, and it’s value
is dropping like a rock. Truth is, I haven’t done any serious
photography in years, 4 or 5 at least. I’m going to sell all of it and
reevaluate my photo needs when my trip is near. I’ll most likely “go
digital”. I’m hoping that by that time, there will be a camera I really
like. If not, I could always rebuy some of my old stuff…
    Gotta say that it’s a bit of a relief. I’ve been
holding onto the identity of being a photographer longer than I’ve been
taking pictures. The stuff I’ve taken over the past several years are
just snapshots, and they mean more to me than the “art” I was making
before. For a while I was worried that I was wasting my photo
education, but really, I have been living my art education the whole
time. I’m ready to try some other things, and selling this stuff will
help me do that. The vast majority of it will go towards my Egypt trip,
some of it will go towards other things…