Thursday, January 28, 2016

You'll Not See Nothing Like The Mighty Quinn

This is a really cool video of a dogsled trip around downtown Pittsburgh during the major snowstorm over the past weekend. 

The guy filming, one Matt Philips, films quite a bit of adventurous stuff. Check out some of his other videos - here's his YouTube channel

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

You'll Shoot'em Down Because You're Waiting For Someone Good To Come On

So... the hosts of The Tonight Show have been, in order: 

Jack Paar

Johnny Carson

Jay Leno

and Jimmy Fallon.

Notice anything about that lineup?

All their first names begin with J!

Coincidence? I think not.

EDIT: I was informed that the first Tonight Show host was actually early TV comedian Steve Allen, and I had forgotten about Conan O'Brien's nine-month stint as host after Leno's first 'retirement'. So the theory may be Jossed. Let's wait twenty years and see who succeeds Fallon. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

This Here's A Story 'Bout The House Rent Blues

"I'm terribly sorry, Toby old chap, but you're ineligible for unemployment being that you're, well... a locomotive."
So I was laid off from my most recent job (a temp assignment in Murrysville) a couple weeks ago. That's not a good feeling, especially with student loans to keep up with. Worse still, I had really gotten to like the place and especially the people there. But I will say one thing with certainty: Of the two jobs I had previously left behind, I will never go back to either of them under any circumstances.

Yes, I started out, like so many other vaguely fresh-faced young people working at McDonald's. One thing that was, however, different in my case was that I began after college. I left State College without having completed my degree, and without one jot of experience. (Looking back, a year of the place BEFORE college might have changed some things for me. I also think it would be wise to look for a small amount of job experience in college admissions, but hey - what do I know?) I think everyone can relate to the kind of suckage that such jobs seemingly consistently are, so I thin I'll pass on talking about most of it. My coworkers were the usual mix; mostly local high school kids and the like. There were some of the crew I liked and some I didn't; and the owners were good guys but with autocratic tendencies.

That said, what I got tired of fast was the customers. Most were fairly indifferent; and really, if any were outright nice people, there was no time to find out. But the bad ones, holy fucking shit. Typically the bad customers were just miserable, clueless (one time the nearest Wendy's had to close their drive-thru because some idiot managed to wreck into it, and so their customers came to us - and ORDERED WENDY'S MENU ITEMS.), or expected to get stuff for free (e.g. the wad that canceled his order because there was a 50-cent charge to add lettuce to his sandwich, and said rather loudly that he'd go to Wendy's because he'd get it for free, not factoring in that Wendy's is pricier...). But let me tell you, we had some real lunatics come though. Like the cranky old biddy who complained about yellow crap in the vanilla milkshake we served her. It turned out to be VANILLA SYRUP. Y'know, the actual FLAVOR. And she went on this rant about how we were all terrible at running the restaurant and how supposedly her 30s-ish son sitting there in the dining room right then could do better. Or the people who got MORE disappointed when we fixed their complaints. Yeah. That actually happened.

I finally got fed up with this crap, and found another job. In hindsight, the better option might have been politics, or maybe guerilla warfare. Mainly because said job turned out to be Leed's. What a beyond worthless, entire-family-fucking piece of ass crap waste-of-time company this turned out to be. Spoiler alert: I eventually walked out. I managed to piss away four years there on 50+ hour weeks and sometimes weekends. But worse - remember my complaints about the customers at McDonald's? Well, now I WORKED WITH THEM. Sure, I had some good coworkers, but all in all, most of them were lucky enough to move on or unlucky enough to get fired by the time I was done. And you wouldn't believe what it took to get rid of the bad ones. Especially when some of them were friends with a supervisor. I have said that I would refuse to go back even at gunpoint, and I mean it. Surely getting shot would be less painful.

But fortunately, there's a happy ending to this story. Sort of. For the time being, at least. I'm employed again and have returned to the job I lamented losing at the start of this essay (read: rant). I was ready to go to another assignment elsewhere in the Valley; everything was in by last Friday and we were just waiting on the company to respond. Monday, I get a call that the company that laid me off was looking for someone in a different department. I really struggled with such a short-notice decision, but in the end, I elected to return.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Farmer Wins A Trophy And Hands It To You

I think this might be the start of a series. The subject being weird pictures of musicians.

Mcgwireonfire, via Wikimedia
The hell happened here? This is a picture of the avant-noise band Deerhoof. I think they're still alive. I mean, I know their music is weird (one of the few bands whose output borders on non-music that I like), but this is just strange. Then again, I've never seen them live, despite them coming to the Warhol museum twice that I can think of. I wonder if this is just something they do...

I should point out that lead singer Satomi Matsuzaki joined the band a week after arriving in San Francisco from Japan, and went on the band's first tour the following week. With NO previous musical experience. (That should explain... something.) But the most inexplicable part of this is that I got th photo from their Wikipedia page. Like with Robert Pollard linked above, whose idea was this?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

You Got A Hubcap Diamond Star Halo

Well, it sems I did it again. I went to Dee's on Thursday and put ten bucks in the jukebox. So immediately after I went up, there was a lady who put another ten in right after me, and she spent XTC, 80s Neil Young, Guided By Voices and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs waiting for ten bucks worth of T. Rex. That's a lot of the late Marc Bolan.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Untrackable Star, I'll Shine My Flashlight To Where You Are

Northwest of Emlenton, Pennsylvania, December 5 & 6, 2015. 

So All You Critics Sit Alone

I realize I've been posting a lot of music reviews, but I do read other reviewers as well. Sometimes it helps to consider a different point of view.

Probably my favorite reviewer would have to be John McFerrin. An insightful and thorough reviewer, he has convinced me to check out a number of albums I actually would not have thought of listening to. He's very clear about what he likes and dislikes, and can eloquently convey what he feels and thinks about a record. I find myself disagreeing with him rarely (qualifed by how little overlap there is in what we've both heard) but being able to understand why he holds his opinion regardless. 

Mark Prindle is a really unique voice among album reviewers, mainly reviewing a lot of punk and hardcore that I've never even heard of. I confess I disagree with Prindle on a lot of things, and his attempts to be funny can get really distracting at times. Also, he occasionally goes very off the rails with some of his reviews, but he does have some valuable insights. Okay, some of his stupidity can be pretty funny after all - see some of his Guided By Voices, Metallica and Sonic Youth reviews for an example. He seems to be in retirement as of 2011, but there's quite a bit to read on his site even so. 

Although it's been a long time since I've read him, George Starostin of Russia has long been an advocate of keeping music good. His original website, Only Solitaire, still remains a good archive of what makes rock and pop music good. I remember reading his Neil Young reviews back in college - critical, but constructively. Starostin had very good reasons for considering Neil a very good artist, but equally compelling ones for not considering him to be some king of phenomenal. He's got a new blog now, and he's just go so much material on there that I have no idea if I'll ever really get to read it all.

Robert Christgau is one of the legendary rock reviewers of the late 60s and on through the 70s. I can't consider him one of my major influences in record reviews because he and I disagree so widely - he can't stand The Black Keys or Guided By Voices, seemingly - but he does have some insights and makes some points to consider from his point of view. He's also keeping me in touch with some new stuff thanks to his Expert Witness column on Vice Magazine's music site, Noisey.

And of course I would be remiss if I didn't mention hipster tastemaker website Pitchfork. Like with Christgau, I think their reviewers have a tendency to miss the point of most of the records they review that I've listened to. But again, a contrarian voice can be helpful to consider.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Better Still, Just Stop The Train 'Cause I Want To Look Around

Fans of steam railroading action in Pennsylvania have suffered from a lack of activity as of late; while the Strasburg is doing well, the East Broad Top hasn't run for several years, Steamtown tends to operate with diesels, and it seems as though Pennsylvania Railroad K4s 1361 will spend its preservation being perpetually restored at the Altoona Railroader's Memorial Museum (her boiler is actually at the EBT's shops, but nothing seems to be in the works). And it's been a while since Nickel Plate 765 was here, too. So discovering that the Everett Railroad of Hollidaysburg, PA had purchased and restored a little ALCo 2-6-0 to use in excursion service was a very pleasant and welcome surprise. Some friends and I ventured out on a rather gray Saturday to catch Everett number 11 in  action. 

Pretty good for a first impression! Everett 11 is a nicely proportioned little locomotive, perfect for the dash up the valley and back. The combine behind her tender is the first of the passenger cars to be rebuilt by the line for this service; I believe the other two are borrowed from the Horseshoe Curve chapter of the National Railroad Historical Society.

A look at 11's iron muscle. There's something very interesting about the complexity of a steam locomotive's running gear.

On the move! She's got quite a pleasant whistle. It sure got a workout at this grade crossing on Monastery Rd, just off of PA-36.

And going away.

Got a profile shot watching her run around the train for the return trip.

And off we go.

On her second run of the day, we caught 11 at a bridge over Halter Creek. The others were taking photos and film up close to the bridge on the bank, out of sight to the left. I actually shared this spot with a professional photographer who lives a bit south of here, who just got into railroad photography thanks to the Everett. I can't find the business card he gave me, though - I was gonna link to his site. If I find it, I'll have to post it.

Now this looks like a Christmas card, aside from the lack of snow.

Back it up! We basically hung out at this spot (the previous two pictures were taken about 200 feet behind the photographer) for the rest of the day.

And returning home. This was taken after a mad dash up the stairs of the PA-36 bridge crossing the yard. That's a nice little station that the Everett's built for this, off to the left there. Next trip out, I should get a couple better photos of it.

Everett GP16 1712 was just chillin' in the yard all day.

Running around the train at the station; which I can't believe I didn't think to take a picture of.

Take a look at that knuckle coupler. I suspect it's a piece of original equipment for 11, since the knuckle (the part that moves when coupling or uncoupling) has the slot in the edge. That was used in the days of transitioning away from the dangerous link-and-pin couplers for backwards compatibility; the link would be positioned in the slot, and the a pin would be dropped through a hole on top of the knuckle to hold it in. This pattern of coupler probably hasn't been made since the turn of the last century - it's an antique in its own right!

Isn't she just a fine little machine?

We had a pretty nice day of it, despite the weather not quite cooperating. Overcast photography is a sore challenge. I think things turned out well, even so.

As an addendum, the Everett also owns the former Knox & Kane 2-8-0 number 38, and I'm told is also working on restoring her for service as well.