Tea Time With Jesse

Six of One, Half Dozen the Other

Archive for November, 2011

I Know People – A Man Ahead

Posted by middlerage on November 28, 2011

It’s been awhile since we’ve had an installment in the I Know People category. See the tab above for an explanation of this category.

This one is about a long time friend who also happens to be a musician in an internationally famous band. Howz dat for cool? We’ll call him Nieuwguyski, and when he’s not playing assorted brass for community bands, he plays trumpet in the genre bending band Polkacide. I’ve known Nieuw since early high school, and the single striking thing about him is that he has always been “a man ahead.”  Nieuw would be surprised to know this, but he is sort of my moral compass. As men, and especially as young men, there are probably many “ideals” we would like our friends to think of when they think of us. We want to be the go-to guy for advice on a flathead six versus an aluminum block V8, or Marilyn Monroe vs. Jane Russell. Certainly not moral compass. But that is how Nieuw has most affected me. When I seem to be faced with an ethical quandary, in my head I see Nieuw making the right decision, the moral decision. Whenever I proudly adopt a particular world view that I’ve thought long and hard about, I often realize that years ago Nieuw had already come to a similar conclusion. And yet oddly, I don’t feel like I’m playing catch up, rather I’m following a blaze mark. “Ahhh, okay, this is a good path to follow…”

When I was a young, anti-social teenager, all I wanted to do was piss off the establishment, grow a mohawk, and listen to punk rock. But Nieuw was more punk than any of us – he collected, and understood Jazz. He threw the most awesome Big Band house parties. He’d sit his friends down and teach us about the seriousness of early Jazz and the ironic clumsiness of late Jazz (trying to stay relevant in a funk, punk, rock-n-roll world). We’d laugh at Maynard Ferguson squealing out E above triple high C on the trumpet. We’d pore over the difference between a trumpet a cornet and a flugel horn. We’d quaff brewskis and listen to stories about Neils Neal Hefti. Fast forward to the iPod age and I’m putting together a workout playlist to exercise to. How can you have a workout playlist and not have Gonna Fly Now (theme from Rocky)? I’m at the iTunes store and of course there’s the Bill Conti original, and oh-my-god there’s a Maynard Ferguson cover. Thanks to Nieuw I know who Maynard Ferguson is. His cover is just as cheesy as it oughta be, and 99¢ later I’m the proud owner of a squeaky, over-wrought trumpet blaaat which I like.

The thing is, Nieuw was better at modeling the ‘just be yourself’ wisdom than all the after-school specials put together.

Then there is talking. Talking one-on-one with Nieuwguyski is just the best experience. It’s like a massage – there’s no pretense, there’s no judgement, there’s no requirement to be anything other than just his friend. With him you “get into a zone” where you just relax, and converse. Fifteen minutes later, you look up at the clock to see that five hours have passed. In the end, Nieuw really is a go-to guy about cars, girls, and the universe.

So take a gander at the Polkacide video below, while below that is a song Nieuw turned me onto years ago. It just resonates as a metaphor for the uniqueness that is Nieuwguyski.

P.S. Polkacide are a great audience band, with lots of back-and-forth banter, but this is lost in the internet experience. So comment on their website that you want HQ videos with more music and less talking.

Posted in I Know People | 4 Comments »

The Worst of the BEST

Posted by middlerage on November 22, 2011

Or, when scientists rankle…

If you follow the global warming debate* then you are probably aware of the BEST study. See there’s this guy, a University of Berkeley physicist actually, who felt that climate change scientists hadn’t been forthcoming enough about problems with land based observations. His name is Richard Muller and he became a darling of the global warming deniers crowd. He got some money together, including a donation from the Koch Brothers Foundation (notorious global warming deniers), and put together the “Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature” project, aka BEST. He and his merry band of fellow non-climatologists set to reanalyzing tens of thousands of surface observations, from the last hundred years, with the goal of showing climatologists how data analysis is really done. Deniers rubbed their collective hands together, gave a Snidely Whiplash fiendish laugh, and waited for the global warming house of cards to tumble. Lo and behold, it didn’t happen.

The best of BEST is that it found almost exactly the same results as climate change science has been reporting for years. It also popped the balloon of the favorite Deniers canard that global warming is mostly due to the urban heat island effect. (There really is an urban heat island effect – cities emit a heck of a lot of stored long wave energy. Deniers believe that meteorological observation stations have been rooted in one place for decades, while hot urban development has encroached around them, leading to a spurious global warming signal. This can happen, BUT, climate scientists are smart. They account for the phenomenon.)

So climate scientists are tremendously happy for the added support. There is well-deserved gratitude, but it is mixed with some equally well-deserved anger… The worst of the BEST is the condescension of the whole project. The idea that “We (BEST) are physicists, and we know how proper science is done. We know that science requires skepticism. The climate change science community isn’t properly skeptical,” is utter crap, and amazingly patronizing.


Bill Chameides, the Dean of Duke University’s Nicholas School for the Environment is a leading voice of explaining global warming and he was recently on Capitol Hill for a hearing, where he met the BEST leader, Muller. I quote his thoughts here:

There’s little doubt that much of the hubbub over the BEST project arises from Muller’s identification as a “skeptic” and the study’s partial funding by the right-leaning Koch Foundation. In person Muller portrayed a more ambivalent view about skepticism and his status as a card-carrying skeptic, referring to himself as someone “considered a skeptic by the skeptics.” Averring that there’s a difference between skeptics (good) and deniers (bad), he identifies as a skeptic on climate science since all scientists are skeptics. Or, more accurately, he was a global-warming skeptic until his own study confirmed what others had found before him.

I have to say the philosophical, what-is-a-skeptic discussion rankled. He seemed to imply that all scientists should have been skeptics like him before his study, and that he’s the only one to have taken skeptics’ criticisms seriously and actually investigated their claims. In fact Muller was not the first to assess the potential biases to the temperature record […]. But like previous investigators into such issues raised by skeptics, Muller found the phenomena to be non-issues. Did those other scientists violate some sacred principle of scientific skepticism by accepting their own exhaustive studies’ results without having waited for Muller to come along with his study? Certainly not.

The whole piece is an interesting insight into how things work on Capitol Hill and you can read it here. It also features a profile of Ben Santer who was also caught up in the Climategate scandal. Santer is a wonderful man, and deserves any exoneration he can get.

* I use ‘debate’ loosely. We need a better word for an argument in which one side is overwhelmingly correct and the other side is awash in head-up-the-ass foolishness. Time for a neologism. Any suggestions?

Posted in Climate | 2 Comments »

Music Friday – the Humor Edition

Posted by middlerage on November 19, 2011

Ahem. Nothing like the Saturday after a Friday to get going on a Music Fridays post. Anyhoo, the inaugural comment thread for Music Fridays delved into the subject of humor laced music. But not just any ol’ music, rather the question of why there is such a dearth of humorous rock music? Readers noted that humor is a respected and acceptable art form in Country, Jazz, Big Band, etc, but it isn’t in Rock. Why is the de-facto rebel music so rigid in this instance? Readers contributed some great exceptions. That thread also wended its way into the completely non-musical, and dry subject of unicode character programming and its smack down with accounting principles for most-boring-suckfest-turn-a-girl-off subject evah. File this under WTF. And I love it.

First up is a video from Anonynurse, and satirizes pop music being so happy in a world on fire. I’ve never heard of Ben Lee before, and I really dig this piece he does. Even without the damning lyrics, it’s a finger-snapping fun melody. Great selection!

Then we have a suggestion from Mark L. to feature the Rubberbandits. I had never heard of them either, but they were easy enough to find on YouTube. They seem to be an Irish duo, and have a distinctly non-American sense of humor. I couldn’t really get into them, but I did ask for reader contributions. I settled on the best video I could a) understand enough of the deep Irish brogue to make out some of the words, and b) was mildly funny. The song seems to be an expansion on the theme of beer goggles, but in this case, sniffin-glue goggles.

Muddledrambler suggests Tenacious D. ‘Nuff said – it’s hard to go wrong with the D. He also suggests, Green Jellö. Who remind me (slightly) of Gwar. So two vids from TD and GJ, respectively.

It is totally appropriate to link a tribute video to Gwar who just lost the lead guitarist, Cory Smoot (who has died under unknown causes, which is signature Rock-n-Roll). RIP Smoot.

Finally, how could we forget Spinal Tap? The genius of the mockumentary This is Spinal Tap has yet to be repeated. I find the comedy troupe’s later works (A Mighty Wind, Best in Show) to be wanting. But I can always settle in for a replay of This is Spinal Tap.

I am getting more ideas about funny rock or satirical rock, but I will stop here. Too many videos spoil the soup. There’s also the problem of searching for bands instead of songs. Trying to find that one special song keeps research narrow. Searching on a band brings up a zillion videos to choose from. Whew!

So here we go….Enjoy!


Posted in Thinking 'bout music, wtf | 3 Comments »

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