The Making of Whole Lotta Love

I was interested to read some studio/production stuff about the making of Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love. I was surprised to learn that the pre-echo of Plant’s a capella parts (‘Way down inside…’) was not a brilliant idea, but rather an artifact of print-through or cross-talk on the magnetic tape.

I noted that this was another track where Jimmy recorded the drums by placing them in a large reverberant room and miking them with essentially a stereo pair. He also did this to get the great drum sound on The Levee Song. Most engineers and producers close mike the individual drums and toy with the mix to get the sound they want. I think Page’s approach sounds better.

I was also interesting to read how Jimmy Page disfavored releasing singles, and intentionally produced songs that would be hard to cut up into singles.

The Wall Street Journal: The Making of Whole Lotta Love

Living the Dream

When I was young, I had many dreams and few achievements. Now I have many achievements and few dreams, and I wonder if I am truly the richer for it.

Member of Motown House Band

Robert Willie White, member of the Motown house band.

Many years after Bob Willie White was a member of the Motown house band, playing guitar on songs that sold tens or hundreds of millions of records, Bob and some friends were having dinner at a restaurant in LA, and on the movie ‘Standing in the Shadows of Motown’ one of his friends related the following tale:

While the waiter was taking their order the song ‘Ive Got Sunshine’ began playing. After the waiter left, Bob White said he almost told the waiter that he was the guitarist who played those opening notes, but he just couldn’t quite bring himself to do it. His friend ruefully observed that Bob still didn’t recognize his supreme accomplishments as a musician, he still wasn’t Living the Dream…

Those words resonated with me and I have thought about Bob’s timidity many times in the years since I watched that movie. The words ‘Not Living the Dream’ became a metaphor in my mind for the notion of being successful but not feeling successful. But then there is the more difficult question: How does one address this, how does one ‘Live the Dream’? I don’t think its an invitation to boorish bragging or a sense of elitism.

Many understand the importance of respecting all people. And many know that being modest, or at least appearing modest, is an essential social skill. In addition, doesn’t a sense of failing in one’s duties have an important place in the scheme of things? Shouldn’t those who shirk their responsibilities out of laziness, or excessive self-indulgence, feel some heat? Shouldn’t they kick themselves in the butt, cowboy up, or whatever it takes, and start doing their part? Absolutely.

But what if one has a sense of unease caused by the feeling that one has come up short, and that the apparent cure for this unease is to drive one’s self harder, to take more risks, to embrace stress? What if one’s sense of insufficient success is in fact impervious to achievement, making life a difficult and narrow-minded journey with an ever-receding Shangri La just over the next hill? I take no pleasure in acknowledging that this mode of thinking is not entirely unfamiliar to me, and reflecting on a life lived this way can be a grim exercise.

So what is Living the Dream? Another ever-receding Happyland? I hope not. Surely its something that must be done in the moment if it is to be done at all. I encourage my sons to Live The Dream, to feel their success and know that at any given moment they are more than I could have ever hoped they would be. I came to this place late as a father and as a man.

I reflect a lot on Tennyson’s poem Ulysses–a warrior’s defiant howl in the face of mortality. And now I wonder: is Ulysses driven by an implacable inner master to ever greater conquests, or is he thirsting to drink in the glory of the moment, an exhilarating joy of adventure?

for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.

I hope and believe it is the latter. I seek that my own journeys be embraced with a joyful and eager heart, that I in spirit may smite the sounding furrows at Ulysses side. That is The Dream.

WordPress love and hate

I have had a website for 14 years as of 2014. I got the URL and created the website primarily to host my essay ‘The Remarkable Criminal Financial Career of Charles Ponzi’. Initially I coded it myself using html and css. It wasn’t very striking, but it was functional for many years. Occasionally I would spruce up the visuals a bit, and at for a few years, I used it to sell a piece of software I wrote which tuned computers for more efficient recording of music. I have always had in the back of my mind a to-do to clean it up a bit.

A few years ago, I decided to add a blog, and did so with wordpress. Recently I both tired of html coding and became aware that wordpress could be configured to host an entire website in a convenient manner, and resolved to convert my site over to a blog only. My initial wordpress install was in a subdirectory named blog, as is required for this software. To convert my entire site over, I needed to have any accesses to www.mark-knutson.com go directly to the blog.

This is where things got hairy. Despite its widespread acceptance and support, wordpress is internally hard-coded to the initial url you give it when you install the software. There is no elegant, supported, way of changing this. There are many articles on the web about various approaches to resolving this, all involving getting under the hood of wordpress–the database data, php code, and webserver configuration files. I initially switched my website domain to point directly to the blog subdirectory, but this broke the wordpress installation as it was looking for the blog subdirectory reference. I edited data in the database and for a while it looked like things were all set.

Then I noticed that on other browsers, my website showed as nothing more than a blank white screen. Apparently this is a common problem with wordpress, and hours of googling presented no sure answers, only various things to try. My efforts to resolve this became a fiasco, and I ended up learning how to back up and restore my database and various other programming-type tasks that I had hoped to avoid learning about when I picked a mature purportedly easy to use blog software.

After a couple of late evenings and early mornings, I think I do have it working this time. Ultimately I found three lines of code to paste in an apache webserver configuration file which took care of everything.

So, nice software, a bit fragile in the face of foreseeable environment changes, though. Hopefully I can use it more and fix it less going forward.

RIP Gerry Goffin

As a Brill Building songwriter, he wrote or co-wrote some memorable hits from the 1950s and 60s. With Carol King he wrote:

  • Will you love me tomorrow? (#1 Shirelles 1961)
  • Take good care of my baby (#1 Bobby Vee 1961)
  • Go away little girl (#1 Steve Lawrence 1962)
  • The Locomotion (#1 Little Eva 1962)
  • Pleasant Valley Sunday (#3 Monkees 1967)
  • Hey Girl (#10 Freddie Scott 1963)
  • One Fine Day (#5 Chiffons 1963)
  • Up on the roof (#5 Drifters 1963)

List indicates highest chart position, artist, and year. For a complete list, see Wiki Goffin/King songs

For all the catchy hooks and chart-topping songs they wrote, Carol King’s pensive 1971 performance of Love Me Tomorrow?, from her Tapestry album, touched me the most–expressing a fundamental and enduring question.

A weak Spanish Prisoner con

I had been explaining the Spanish Prisoner con to my son Anthony, and just received this clumsy one today. Upon receipt of a better one, I will post that. I will lay out the elements of the con so that they can be recognized in this one. The big picture of a Spanish Prisoner is that the mark (target of the con) is to be persuaded to send money to the con-man (prisoner) for the purpose of putting banking mechanism in place to facilitate the transfer of the promised millions of dollars. A variation is paying money to help said prisoner escape from prison in his home country, or escape from the country himself.

The psychological key to this con (in addition to the normal incitement of greed in the mark) is to give the mark the sense that they are in a special position of power vis-a-vis the prisoner. In the past this might be accomplished better by arranging for the mark to find a letter, purportedly the only one the prisoner was able to send from prison. The mark would then believe it was their fortune to be the only life-line for the prisoner.

Now the prisoner-only lifeline link in this letter is weak, but nonetheless addressed. The mark has been selected from a business directory of reputable businessmen. While a mark may realize that they are not in such a directory, their greed may inspire them to discreetly not bring this mistake to the attention of the prisoner. You will note in this letter that the prisoner claims he will work exclusively with the mark unless the mark declines.

This contains the normal grammatical errors and archaic word choices that indicate a letter written by a non english speaker. The writer of this one is so lazy that they don’t even include the mark’s name or country in the letter, undercutting the claim that they have been selected specifically–the key to this con. While no doubt there will be claims of money to follow for a mark who responds, at the very least the first interchange will involve the mark providing their demographic information to the prisoner. Text is below:

Compliments!

Firstly, i must apologies for barging into your mailbox without formal introduction of myself to you, actually, I got your contact information from a reputable business/professional Directory of your country which gives me assurance of your legibility as a person while trying to get a good and capable business person in your country for business and investment purposes, this why without wasting any time i am seeking a decision maker to grab my offering $64,000,000 ,Yours free! With some simple conditions you will need to follow and work closely with me, you can’t say my generous offer of 50% $64,000,000 a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Have i got your attention?

Let me introduce myself I am the Senior Programme Manager with the United Nation Development Program in the Asia Pacific Region with UNDP,I am the person directly responsible to answer to the board of directors to UNDP on monthly meetings, My special role is to evaluate all contract appraisals and the approvals to foreign contractors, As you are aware i am the Senior Project manager ANSWERING TO THE PRINCIPLE DIRECTORS OF UNDP i got sick of answering to stubborn management i decided to deploy early retirement, this is where our deal begins to work for you and me .Under my strict supervision you will be working closely with me directly, I am letting you to my finding, during routine supervision over foreign contracts; i noticed a series of over invoiced contracts that amassed to $128,000,000,here comes the advantage you have, I have successfully secured the sum of $128,000,000 One hundred and twenty eight million US Dollars, I want us to work closely together and enable to transfer the total amount of$128,000,000,to your business account, As i have highlighted to you before i am more than willing to share 50% with you for your efforts and assistance, It’s worth $64,000,000 to you Division 1 Lottery!

My question to you is do you want to be a millionaire all you need do is assist me on what is Required you get $64,000,000,upon the success of the transfer we shall form a partnership and invest my share with yours into blue chip investments, As a result of this obviously i will have to surrender my position with UNDP, Then immediately afterwards make provision to relocate my family to your country, Now i hope you understand everything is transparent all things my side are perfected at this point all you need is to follow

my directives.

Accept the $128,000,000 into your business account bearing in mind it’s a 50-50 deal. I will require UN undertaking from you that you will not run of with the $128,000,000 Driven by greed. On this basis i will agree to assist you transfer smoothly to your account $128,000,000 that at that point in time, call it winnings or compensation is your choice it’s the $64,000,000 dollar question.

PLEASE YOU HAVE TO PROVIDE YOUR FULL INFORMATION SUCH AS STATED BELOW;

1) Full Name
2) Full Address
3) Age
4) Sex
5) Home Telephone
6) Mobile Phone
7) Active Email Account
8) Fax Number
9) Business Number
10)Business Address
11)Current occupation status
12)Country of Origin
13)Nationality

Also be informed that this transaction will take us 15 working days to accomplish beginning from When i receive your Data, after you have assumed the position of foreign contractor to UNDP .I will Also file an application in the UNDP headquarters & secure the necessary approval and letter of Clearance .you is a Contractor to UNDP & a favor of movement of funds to an account that will be Provided by you, this process is 100% risk free as i have set out all the modalities to see that a legalized method is used because then i will prepare all the necessary documents, Please note that utmost secrecy and confidentiality is required at all times during this transaction, Once the funds have been transferred into your nominated bank account we shall share ratio of 50% for me, 50% for you, If you are not interested please delete this proposal, so that i can look for another competent partner to conclude this above mentioned transaction, Should you be interested please send me your full details as stated above . I would prefer that you reach me on my private
number: +60166324907

Your earliest response to this email will be appreciated.

Best Regards

Mr Kevin Hor
Senior Programme Manager  to UNDP

The Life Cycle of a Police Procedural, or why these shows inevitably engage in Shark Jumping

I have come to see that thinking in terms of predictable life-cycles is a powerful tool for understanding many phenomena. Having seen many beloved police procedurals evolve into something not worth watching, I will advance my theory. Case in point, The Closer and its spin-off Major Crimes.

First off a definition: A Police Procedural is a show or book that chronicles police activity as they solve a single major crime, or go about their routine business of investigating many crimes with some remaining unsolved. I’ll confess I am addicted to this sort of show or book, so I see a lot. I also watch some that are shockingly badly done, though even I have my limits to what I will tolerate. What I enjoy about a procedural is the predator dynamic–the police seeking a criminal and ultimately finding them and meting out some form of justice. Such shows are also made interesting by the work and interpersonal patterns of people engaged in such work.

It strikes me there are myriad criminals and investigative paths such shows can follow year in and out, but ultimately the dynamic of the shows change from a predatory hunt for a criminal being the focus of the energy, to a focus on sex and conflict among the police and in their personal lives. One good indicator that your favorite cop show is on the fast track to the toilet is the milestone episode when the members of the police themselves become victims of the criminals they are pursuing. To appeal to the basest instincts among us, this crime often involves the rape of one or more large-busted female members of the cast.

Why this should be inevitable puzzles me, but its inevitability is axiomatic nonetheless. My working theory is that there is an extremely limited number of good writers in the TV business, and an unlimited supply of mediocre ones. The first few seasons of a really good show is staffed with what I call the “A” team, but over time, the good writers quit or are assigned to other new shows to get them off to a good start. The “B” team is not very good at writing police procedurals, and the only thing they really know how to do is write soap operas fueled by sex and interpersonal conflict.

Also, tv writers are inevitably marxists at heart, else they would not find work in the business. The A team is better at concealing it, but the B team just can’t help themselves from using the weekly episode as their political soapbox. Soon there is no mystery as to who-dun-it. Its the wealthy industrialist, the uptight christian who is a hypocrite in matters of marital fidelity, and all those evil freedom-loving Tea Party types who inhabit the marxian nightmare closet. And then there is the onanistic speechifying in shows like Law And Order which, if nothing else, relive the producers of paying for expensive exterior filming.

Now I do need to acknowledge that percentage-wise there are probably more TV viewers who prefer interpersonal drama to the predacious hunt for criminals, so for a real blockbuster show, producers try to give the whole family something to enjoy, mixing police work and sex/conflict.

Take The Closer, for example. Now the show started out with two striking elements: 1) the ability of ‘The Closer’ to solve crimes and get confessions, and 2) the amount of conflict she has with some of her team in the first season. For quite some time, I found it to be a pretty good bargain–good police work with boring team infighting.

I also must acknowledge the deft comic touch of those who wrote The Closer: the misadventures of Flynn and Provenza. One of my favorite scenes: Johnson to Pope: “I need to tell you something, don’t get angry. This is about Flynn and Provenza…” Pope: “I’m already angry.”

And for many seasons the show stayed unusually strong until in the final seasons, the show became more and more about the feelings and personal life of the lead character. Presumably toward the end, Kyra Sedgwick probably got tired of the role and wanted some personal time to spend the millions she had earned, and just when the focus on her character’s personal life threatened to swamp the show, the producers put it out of its misery.

With a strong ensemble cast, one could have expected the spin-off, Major Crimes, to have a good shot at being a good show. Well, from what I could see in the first couple of episodes, the show had moved away from a maverick cop getting results, to a politically correct bureaucracy preachily extolling the virtues of following the rules and not getting results.

And in addition to this unsatisfying turn of affairs, apparently half of each episode was devoted to the implausible plot device whereby the new female lead, Captain Raydor, invites a young, shrill, selfish, and irritating young criminal/victim to live in her home while she delivers on a promise to locate his neer-do-well mom who has abandoned him. During their time together, Raydor shares her innermost vulnerabilities with this whiney victim while he throws tantrums in response, with his victimhood his license to be an ingrate. At this point, its clear the writers here are talent-free regurgitators of cliche, so we all know that these two will come to develop a strong bond and yada yada. But I certainly didn’t care if this happens or even want to stick around to see it.

As is often the case with spin-offs, Major Crimes didn’t have the legs its predecessor did and quickly lost viewer interest and deservedly wound up un-mourned in an unmarked grave.

With this example providing a roadmap, one can see how so many police procedurals start out with great promise and evolve into something implausible and loathsome, alienating their erstwhile loyal followers. If you like procedurals for the same reasons I do, watch for the pattern and you will see it.

There are some precious franchises which escape these tawdry failings, and they seem to come mostly from England (the birthplace and motherlode of the Police Procedural), but that is a discussion for another day.