skiing: RIP Dr. Ruth Westheimer, 1928-2024

Dr. Ruth and her ski instructor at the former Squaw Valley USA with Lake Tahoe visible
Dr. Ruth Westheimer and random ski instructor with Lake Tahoe in the distance

RIP Dr. Ruth Westheimer, sex therapist and author! I was her ski instructor in 1999 when she came to Squaw Valley USA (now renamed Palisades Tahoe) age 70 for a celebrity ski “race.” The good ski instructors weren’t interested because it was unpaid but I was happy to volunteer for a few days. She was tiny, so she rented kid skis, kid boots, and kid poles; I took her up the cable car to cruise around the beginner area. She had no interest in my cerebral info-dense “counter-rotate your upper body to move your weight over the new outside ski as you press your big toe and pinky toe and angulate to get on matched edges” instruction, so we just made a few runs each day before hitting the sundeck for some après ski.

ski instructor and Dr. Ruth Westheimer at Squaw Valley USA with "black diamond" ski sign
spoiler: we did not ski the black diamond run in front of us

It was great to see all the maximum-gnar ski dudes genuinely psyched to see her. “Whoa! Dr. Ruth! The ‘good sex’ doctor! Awesome!” She was gracious and interested in everyone who stopped by. Privately she confessed to being lonely and hoped to meet someone (her husband Fred had died in 1996 after 36 years of marriage).

Dr. Ruth Westheimer poses with anonymous recently married couple in ski gear at the Resort at Squaw Creek
Random newly-wedded couple who celebrated on skis rewarded with celebrity photo op

As spoken of on TV

Days later I was immortalized in Dr. Ruth’s appearance on the short-lived daytime talk show The Howie Mandel Show on January 15th 1999 (I was teaching when it aired but ordered a VHS tape of the episode). Howie Mandel asked her about the celebrity ski event and she meticulously said something like “I had a handsome ski instructor. His name was ‘S’. I skied behind him as he wiggled his behind.” This left poor Howie visibly wondering “What the hell? What kind of an unfunny pointless anecdote is this?”; I thus contributed to his show’s cancellation a few months later. The “race”itself might have been televised early some Sunday morning.

The scam of celebrity events

These celebrity events always claim to benefit local charities, but I have my doubts. Even back in 1999, a decade before influencers on Instagram, the celebrities got free cosmetics, wine, and other goodies from the sponsors, which the sponsors claimed as a tax deduction along with the hotel providing the facilities, etc. Dr. Ruth offered me some of these goodies. I declined; I said the only gift I wanted was a signed copy of her Sex for Dummies book, an extension of the successful “for Dummies” series of books that started with computer guides. Sadly, I never received one.

cover of Sex for Dummies book
Originally for computers….

As I recall the big celebrity in the “race” was Ian Ziering of Beverly Hills 90210 (yeah, me neither). I found another photo that shows Muhammad Ali was there, at the time the most famous person in the world.

Muhammed Ali surrounded by fans at Squaw Valley USA

tech: Where’s the AI for faded photos?

The faded top image in this post is a scan of a framed enlargement I ordered at the time. Of course when I got the negative enlarged I misplaced it and the original print. Those faded lifeless colors are as good as I could get the scanned enlargement after futzing around with white balance, color histograms, color levels, auto saturation, etc., etc. tools in the GIMP photo editing program for 20 minutes. What is so frustrating is we humans can recognize that a photo has faded; I can even tell without checking whether it’s Kodacolor (reds stay, blues and greens fade and blur, light areas go all-white) or Fujicolor (greens stay vibrant, reds fade). So where’s the tool that lets me tell it “This is a Kodak print of a 25-year old Kodacolor 35mm negative that’s been exposed to bright indoor light for years” and it automatically corrects the color fade?! Or at least, “make the colors in this photo match the less-faded ones in this other photo”? Come on, AI, do your thing!

The otherwise excellent “Enhance” and “Dynamic” buttons in the photo editing software on phones doesn’t work because that software is optimized to correct digital images taken by the phone’s camera hardware, not 30-year-old photochemical artifacts.

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art: Charles Schulz and Christo

photo of Christo's wrapped Snoopy doghouse at Charles M. Shulz museum

Charles Schulz is very much conventional decent middle-America (with a side of deep bitter existential distress underlying his Peanuts cartoons). Yet, as I learned on a return visit to his museum, it turns out “Sparky” was a big supporter of Christo and Jean-Claude’s toweringly great “Running Fence”, the 1976 conceptual land artwork running across Sonoma and Marin counties and into the sea. Schulz made a delightful Peanuts cartoon about Christo’s work that ended with a wrapped Snoopy doghouse; Christo repaid the friendship by actually constructing it 😍! Read Schulz’s widow’s lovely blog post.

Peanuts comic strip featuring Snoopy, the artist Christo, and Snoopy's doghouse
Peanuts © 1978 Peanuts Worldwide LLC

Running Fence gone but indelible

photo of Christo and Jean-Claude's artwork "Running Fence" weaving through the landscape
there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst

I never saw “Running Fence” in situ, but I was knocked out by the documentary by the Maysles about the process Christo and Jeanne-Claud went through to get it built and the incomparable results. I need to get the Maysles’ “5 Films About Christo and Jeanne-Claude”. Something so big, so evocative, so influential that’s gone forever is melancholic. It’s reminiscent of Rachel Whiteread’s “House”, another masterpice that vanished in weeks, leaving only pictures and a great documentary. So different from Richard Serra’s works that should last for centuries.

Peanuts forever

The museum was gratifyingly well-attended when I returned. Peanuts’ cultural impact will surely fade, but the evergreen Peanuts animated specials and Vince Guaraldi’s excellent music will keep it alive.

Earlier I wrote about a previous trip to the Charles M. Schulz museum, and the greatest comic strip ever.

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software: sneaky “gnihctamsim” phishing

I got an e-mail asking for my bank details.

From: Michael Doyle <ventas@farbiq.com.ar>
To: undisclosed recipients:;
Reply to: logistica.industrialparts@gmail.com
Subject: Re: URGENT PROFORMA INVOICE

Hello Dear, Greetings

Our company has approved the attached purchase order. Please review the purchase order list, and return to us proforma invoice with your receiving bank account for payment.

I wait for your reply.

Thanks

Michael L. Doyle
President
Direct: +1 978.834.0505 x12
Email: md@ppsystems.com

with an attached file PURCHASE QUOTATION LIST sxlx..zip , a compressed “zip” archive file that suggests it’s a Microsoft Office Excel spreadsheet. This is a scam! Bad writing, it’s not specifically addressed to me, the three e-mail addresses don’t match, I’ve never heard of the company, and there’s no reason to compress a real Office.xlsx (or .docx, etc.) file, which is already compressed. If you get something like this, mark it as junk/spam, and if it claims to be from a legit company do a web search for “company name report phishing e-mail” and forward it to the e-mail address any good company should provide.

Excel? XL SX? sxlx?

But for fun let’s investigate what’s going on. First, save the attachment to a temporary folder. The part of the filename before the extension in PURCHASE QUOTATION LIST sxlx..zip implies it contains an Excel spreadsheet (the Excel file extension is .xlsx), but in reality it is meaningless; the zip file could contain any set of files with any names. I’m on Linux, so start a terminal and type some commands to examine the zip file. (There might be Windows or Mac equivalents to these commands; on Windows you can install the Windows Subsystem for Linux for maximum geekery.) To start let’s test and list (using -tv options) its contents.

% unzip -tv /tmp/PURCHASE\ QUOTATION\ LIST\ sxlx..zip 
Archive:  /tmp/PURCHASE QUOTATION LIST sxlx..zip
PURCHASE QUOTATION LIST‮s͏x͏l͏x͏..exe:  mismatching "local" filename (PURCHASE QUOTATION LISTтАоs═Пx═Пl═Пx═П..exe),
         continuing with "central" filename version
    testing: PURCHASE QUOTATION LIST‮s͏x͏l͏x͏..exe   OK
At least one warning-error was detected in /tmp/PURCHASE QUOTATION LIST sxlx..zip.

Notice there’s a reversed message from the unzip program here. The name of the one file in the zip archive very likely has some special character codes in it that changes text display into right-to-left mode (for languages such as Hebrew), and they spill over into the display of the message, making it hard to read and importantly, obscuring the order of the letters in the file’s name. If you copy and paste only the word “gnihctamsim” above and paste it somewhere else the letters appear the right way round, because you probably didn’t copy the character code that flips the order of the visible letters; and if you click at the start of the message and drag to the right to select it you’ll see the selection highlight jump around as the selection feedback tries to show you selecting the end of the text and then less and less of the backwards text. (The details of how this blog post appears depend on how your browser handles special characters – download Firefox!) The warning message is mismatching “local” filename :exe..xlxs , warning that the file extension doesn’t match what it appears to be, and I think that triggers the final “At least one warning-error was detected…” message. In Windows, a file with a .exe extension can be an executable file, a binary program of computer instructions that can literally do anything: show a fun game, forward your sensitive documents to a foreign computer, encrypt all your files and demand a ransom, install malware that will forever mine Bitcoins or spy on you, and worse! Here the exe part seems to come before the ending ..xlxs and it’s the “final” dot-whatever that influences how the operating system treats the file. But because the text has gone into right-to-left mode, it looks like blab blah exe blah.xlxs, which almost looks like the file extension for a spreadsheet so maybe people will ignore the warning, assuming it even shows up on Windows built-in zip file handling. (I don’t know what the point of the weird characters TтАоs═Пx═Пl═Пx═П in the file are before/after the right-to-left “TSIL”/LIST.)

Let’s actually use the unzip utility to uncompress the zip file it into a temporary subfolder. This would be risky on Windows, but I’m on Linux and I don’t think I have any Windows emulators or WINE (“Wine Is Not an Emulator”) that can actually run the file, and I’ll be careful not to accidentally run or “double-click” it.

% mkdir /tmp/PURCHASE_QUOTATION_quarantine
% cd /tmp/PURCHASE_QUOTATION_quarantine
% unzip ../PURCHASE\ QUOTATION\ LIST\ sxlx..zip 
Archive:  ../PURCHASE QUOTATION LIST sxlx..zip
PURCHASE QUOTATION LIST‮s͏x͏l͏x͏..exe:  mismatching "local" filename (PURCHASE QUOTATION LISTтАоs═Пx═Пl═Пx═П..exe),
         continuing with "central" filename version
  inflating: PURCHASE QUOTATION LIST‮s͏x͏l͏x͏..exe  

That looks OK, because it looks like it ends in “.xlsx”. But with all the right-to-left and mirror writing crap going on, does it really?

What’s really at the end? What is the end in the middle?

Let’s try to get a listing of the one file we uncompressed:

% ls --size
appears to my eyes as 2396 'PURCHASE QUOTATIONLISTsxlx..exe'
pastes here as 2396 'PURCHASE QUOTATION LIST‮s͏x͏l͏x͏..exe'
% type *.exe[Tab]
expands to % PURCHASE\ QUOTATION\ LIST<202e>s<034f>x<034f>l<034f>x<034f>..exe

Here’s where it gets extra weird. The one file in the archive uncompressed into a 2,396 kilobyte (2 Megabytes or so) file. What I see in the terminal is ‘PURCHASE QUOTATION LISTsxlx..exe, which is BAD, it’s an executable. But when I copy-pasted it into the paragraph above, it appears backwards with .xlxs on the end. It’s only when I expand the filename on the command line by pressing [Tab] or when I view the directory contents in my editor (vim) that I see the escape codes messing this up. And I’m now in a mess of what’s actually in the file name versus the terminal escape codes that tell the terminal to display things in bold and go into reverse mode and such. I wasted time trying to find a set of arguments to utilities hexdump, od, and strings that would print the regular letters and reveal the Unicode code points (or terminal escape characters?), e.g.

% ls *.exe | strings --unicode=x 
PURCHASE QUOTATION LIST<0xe280ae>s<0xcd8f>x<0xcd8f>l<0xcd8f>x<0xcd8f>..exe

I even asked ChatGPT to write a program to get the filename in the directory and print it out using Unicode escapes for the code points. After some coaxing it politely and helpfully wrote a 30-line Python program that when run prints:

% python3 ~/bin/dirlist_codepoints.py 
Original: PURCHASE QUOTATION LIST‮s͏x͏l͏x͏..exe
Code Points: PURCHASE QUOTATION\u0020LIST\u00e2\u0080\u00aes\u00cd\u008fx\u00cd\u008fl\u00cd\u008fx\u00cd\u008f..exe

How come none of these agree? Is it really that complicated? (Yes, it is.)

Careful with that tfeL-ot-thgiR

What is the 202e when the file name first starts to display weird? Most sequences of text these days use Unicode to represent regular “typewriter” characters, accented characters, symbols, hieroglyphs, Asian logographs, emoji, and the thousands of other “characters” we now put in text. A DuckDuckGo web search for “unicode \202e” reveals

U+202E RIGHT-TO-LEFT OVERRIDE – Unicode Explorer
The Right-To-Left Override character can be used to force a right-to-left direction withing a text. This is often abused by hackers to disguise file extensions: when using it in the file name my-text.’U+202E’cod.exe, the file name is actually displayed as my-text.exe.doc – so it seems to be a .doc file while in reality it is an .exe file. There’s even an xkcd comic for this character!

So that’s the explanation for the start of the problem and why part of the filename and text nearby appear reversed. I’ll leave the decoding of the rest of the weird characters to actual security and Unicode professionals.

Danger nerd humor alert

What’s extreme nerd humor is many of the search results are from useless web sites that try to appear high in search results with computer-generated web pages for every possible Unicode character, like “Unicode Character 💌 (U+1F48C) is ‘LOVE LETTER’…” (together with a bunch of ads and privacy-sucking JavaScript tracking). But when the page “shows” the Right-to-Left Override “character,” the snippet in search results (and the web site’s page, but don’t go there) appears in reverse.

screenshot showing reversed text in search results for RIGHT-TO-LEFT OVERRIDE Unicode code point
Naively print out a direction change “character” and you’re gonna have a bad time

🤖 ha. ha. ha. 😆

What is the executable?

Let’s not run it!, even under Linux.Instead use the file utility to see what kind of file it is.

% file PURCHASE\ QUOTATION\ LIST<202e>s<034f>x<034f>l<034f>x<034f>..exe
PURCHASE QUOTATION LIST‮s͏x͏l͏x͏..exe: PE32+ executable (GUI) x86-64 Mono/.Net assembly, for MS Windows, 2 sections

Any utility that displays the file’s name without extreme care is going to have reversed output, and file does too. The right-to-left text is telling us it’s an assembly, for MS Windows, 2 sections sxlx..exe: PE32+ executable (GUI) x86-64 Mono/.Net. You can write a 2 MB standalone program that does a hell of a lot of bad stuff, but who knows what the executable section would do. I wonder if there’s actually a spreadsheet in there as well as computer code. For fun let’s see what strings of characters are in it.

% strings *.exe | less
!This program cannot be run in DOS mode.
.text
...
oT8=
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" standalone="yes"?>
<assembly xmlns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:asm.v1" manifestVersion="1.0">
  <assemblyIdentity version="1.0.0.0" name="MyApplication.app"/>
  <trustInfo xmlns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:asm.v2">
    <security>
      <requestedPrivileges xmlns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:asm.v3">
        <requestedExecutionLevel level="asInvoker" uiAccess="false"/>
      </requestedPrivileges>
    </security>
  </trustInfo>
</assembly>
xkcva2wfKaiDsaDdws,
...
%xkcva2wfKaiDsaDdwsPAPADDINGXXPAPADDINGXXPAPADDINGXX...PADDINGXX repeated thousands of times sover and over and over...PADDINGXXPAPADDIN
(END)

So there is some kind of program in there announcing that it wants to run with my privileges, which when I boot into Windows is an administrator with lots of rights.

scary stuff!

Posted in search, software | Leave a comment

music: Everyone Knows That, Radio Arabesque, other lostwave

Two commenters on this blog (here and here) randomly asked me about the song “Ulterior motives (everyone knows that)”. I though they were spammers, but it turns out there was a genuine Internet hunt for the song, forming its own subreddit /r/everyoneknowsthat/. After the second comment I tried to figure out what’s up and by then Internet sleuths had tracked down the song.

Its story is great! The original poster who upload a 17-second musical snippet said they were practicing ripping audio from DVDs… turns out the song was from an adult movie. Rolling Stone has a great article about the search “Viral Mystery Song ‘Everyone Knows That’ Identified Thanks to Eighties Porno, then a sweet interview with the twins who made it: “After moving to L.A. in the 1980s, Christopher and Philip Booth broke into the movie business by scoring adult films — and one of their tracks went viral decades later.” I look forward to paying for the entire track, these guys deserve something for spawning this song hunt and the song is pretty good. Here’s the song in context starting around 24:38 (I believe the visuals are appropriately blurred out):

But what about my great white whale, my decades-long lostwave search, the one that got away?

Radio Arabesque, a classic mis-remembered

I’ve been looking for the song for decades, I first blogged about it in 2005. I heard it once on the radio I think in the early 1980s and somehow it stuck in my mind. It’s a dance-pop song wherein a woman or women sing “This is Radio Arabesque”; there’s an atmospheric bit where they sing “Ahh–ah-ahhh… don’t give in, start to dance, do your thing, Listen to Radio Arabesque” The obvious group is the European 1970s disco girl group Arabesque, but I’ve skimmed through their catalog and can’t find the song, not even on their album Radio Arabesque.

After searching every five years or so for literally decades I feared I was imagining the song, but then my last search for the song found “Radio Arabesque (Saudi-CLub Version)” by Ethno League on YouTube, which has the tune, that bit, and those lyrics starting around 90 seconds in! But it’s also got an overdone club sound with intrusive sound effects, random dialog clips from movies, overcooked percussion, and a more ersatz arabesque sound than I remember. Everything about it including its title screams that it’s remix of a tighter, simpler pop song:

The YouTube description says “Madcat Records (Germany) 1988 Produced and written by Frank Mayer-Thurn; Ethno League is German producer, Frank Mayer-Thurn (who passed in 2009)” So, who/what/where is the original? The 12-inch includes “Radio Arabesque Radio Version,” but that’s just a shorter version of the remix. So I’m still searching for the original recording. There is a woman speaking French in the kitchen sink of the remix, so maybe the original was a French song. The label of the remix also credits Raymond Bayer and C. Huether as songwriters, so maybe they wrote the original song before Frank Mayer-Thrun made the remix.

Unreliable memory

The reddit everyoneknowsthat sub for the “Ulterior Motives” hunt mentioned the Lostwave subreddit, so I asked there about Radio Arabesque. Quickly someone replied “I reached out to Raymund Bayer and I got the following response. He also responded to your YT comment here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPz28hIATR4

Hi there, this is the original. The hook vocals are no samples, they where sung by Camilla Meyer (Hüther) and also mainly written by her. Frank and me collected the samples and did the production. Also Horst Schnebel (e.g. Sydnney Youngblood) was involved in an early production stage.

Which puts the matter to bed, except my memory tells me I heard a much simpler version years before 1988 without all the dialog bits and with less heavy percussion. Maybe AI can take the remix and turn it into the simpler cleaner pop song that my brain tells me I heard. My remaining lead is Camilla Hüther, whose Discogs page doesn’t list this song, maybe she remembers recording a simpler version. But I don’t know how to reach her.

I can’t remember finding the song I couldn’t find

Writing this reminded me of another lost song. Several years ago my partner watched a fairly forgettable TV crime show called Life starring Damien Lewis. Both our ears pricked up when a song came on, but Shazam didn’t know what it was. Somehow I found people talking online about it, and charmingly the woman who recorded it for a generic movie music supply company it stepped forward, gave the story, and said she would provide an MP3. But I can’t remember where this took place in the amorphous digital sphere! It wasn’t Reddit, it was probably in comments on a YouTube clip of the scene or maybe iMDB discussion of the episode. I even have a “media recommendations” Google Docs where I enter movies, TV, books, and songs that friends recommend, and I didn’t add it to this. Arggghh!

But in the intervening years, companies have seen an opportunity to help track down songs. DuckDuckGo found WhatSong, “the worlds [sic] largest collection of movie & tv show soundtracks and playlists,” and Tunefind by Songtradr, “The Internet’s best source for TV, movie and video game soundtracks since 2005.” The former has the episodes but misses a lot of song data and doesn’t have play buttons for each song; Tunefind seems more complete for this TV show, and I quickly found a song title that sounded familiar in Season 1 Episode 4, press Play, and… Whoomp! there it is! The song is “Goin’ All Night” by Kirsten Proffit for 5 Alarm music. The song got a “release” of sorts on a compilation and you can listen to it on YouTube Music and YouTube (and I gladly bought the MP3 download on Amazon).

A random lost song about zeppelins

I also remember seeing a low-budget music video of an indie pop song with a girl singing about zeppelins. That seems hopeless.

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music: Brad Mehldau so smart so good

I love Brad Mehldau’s solo “Blackbird” the most of all the recent jazz versions, his album of Beatles is wonderful, his own work is all over the place (Jacob’s Ladder and Finding Gabriel are intense), and this interview is solid gold.

The mystery of music

At 52:56: “More modal over pedal points,.. but he’s going to put some Giant Steps in there… it’s the blues but it’s something mixolydian”. It’s a delight to hear Brad Mehldau talk and play great John Coltrane musical phrases, but understanding what’s going on is somehow beyond me. I hear beautiful changes and evolution as he plays; I can read music notation, I know some music theory and even enjoy the physics and math behind, for example, a perfect fifth interval, I can get lost in Wikipedia articles about modal jazz and the mixolydian, I can laboriously pick out simple melodies… but I can’t grasp it. I hear the notes of achingly beautiful chords following one another, but am almost incapable of identifying them.

Instead of pitying myself, I took a basic music college course where we practiced singing simple scores and notating melodies we heard, and it was so frustrating: I could write down and sing the interval between two notes (there are cheat sheets that give examples of intervals in famous music), but my hearing of the third, fourth, fifth, … notes afterwards was so affected by what came before that I would get them wrong 80% of the time, and chords were impossible. I couldn’t believe I got an ‘A’ on the course. I suspect my brain only has one neuron available for music recognition, so notes all at once (chords) and sequences over time (melody) just overflow it. Back to pity.

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cars: Rivian R1S is an excellent big EV

Rivian R1S

We rented a Rivian R1S EV on Turo so seven of us could tourist around for the day in comfort; it happened to be in Forest Green with light Ocean Coast interior that I would spec were I to need a three-row SUV (I don’t! that’s why there are rentals!). It’s spacious, comfortable, high tech but usable, quiet, made in America, and gets 71 MPG equivalent. If you buy a gasoline-swilling CO2-belching Range Rover or bloated generic Audi/BMW/Jeep/Mercedes/Porsche Q7/Q8/X7/Wagoneer/GLS/Cayenne crossover instead of this or another premium battery-electric crossover, you should probably be ashamed of the choice you made.

Rivian recently announced a smaller R2 and unexpectedly a dinky even smaller R3 as well; the latter sounds like it would be perfect for us.

side view of silver Rivian R3 future car model

The company is still losing money, but it has $9 billion in cash and the R1S was the 4th highest selling EV in the USA in Q1 2024. The combustion age is ending! 🔋🚗💪

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art: Serra “Band” broke me

I unexpectedly met Richard Serra’s Band again, at LACMA; surely one of his greatest. I was sad at the great man’s[*] death in 2024, but walking around and through its spaces one more time left me collapsed and sobbing.

Richard Serra's "Band" sculpture at Los Angeles County Museum of Art. 12 feet high, over 70 feet long

Museum guard: Are you OK?

S: So much engineering and technical mastery focused on delivering such intense aesthetic senses of disequilibrium – solidity – mass – fear – intellectual puzzlement – and pure experiential wonder is bracing and makes life worth living, and for its arrogant dickhead orchestrator to be gone is heartbreaking. We need to be spiritually cared for by technology on this fragile garden planet, not exploited through its misuse by sociopathic techbros and corporations. It’s not OK! 😭

Museum guard: Uhh…

Previously on skierpage.com

I made the pilgrimages to DIA: Beacon which has several Serra sculptures (blog post) and to MOMA’s extraordinary Richard Serra Sculpture: Forty Years exhibition where I first encountered Band (blog post), then SFMOMA exhibited Sequence for years.

I could put up pictures of these but the more you see at once, the less any individual sculpture means. Yet another giant sinuous form made up of cold-rolled 12-foot Cor-ten steel plates, yadda yadda. By all means read about them, but the pictures are worth a thousandth of a single step. You have to experience these sculptures. Go!

The Great Man ??? theory

[*] It’s terrible that “man” subsumes “woman” in our language. Louise Bourgeois and Louise Nevelson are sensationally talented sculptors, and that’s just among people named “Louise.”

More pilgrimages

I’ll probably never burn the carbon to visit Bilbao and see The Matter of Time, eight sculptures (!) weighing 1034 tonnes (!!) in a 430-foot (130 m) by 80-foot (24 m) (!!!) gallery. It’s more practical to one day visit Michael Heizer’s so-beyond-monumental-there-aren’t-words City and Walter De Maria’s sublime gridscape The Lightning Field.

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web: sometimes it’s not a typo

Anomie & Bonhomie is an underrated Scritti Politti album, the rapping and scratching and turntable noises put some fans off. “Umm” is a phenomenal everything-but-the-kitchen-sink track, and “Tinseltown to the Boogiedown” just oozes style.

Don’t call me Shirley, Lee

Both tracks feature “Lee Majors” on backing vocals and rapping. Surely this can’t be the actor on The Six Million Dollar Man cheesy TV show, Lee Majors, who married Farrah Fawcett? Searching Wikipedia reveals that there is a Lee Major (no ending ‘s’) American hip-hop producer, so surely this is a typo? Someone “fixed” the Anomie & Bonhomie Wikipedia page to make this correction, and even cited a retrospective Tumbler review of the album’s reissue:

“Tinseltown to the Boogiedown” brings in Lee Major, who would go on to produce for Jay Z and others

Jennifer Kelly, confident but wrong

It seems the citation in a Wikipedia article settles the matter?! But why would all the credits of the album get this wrong and add an ‘s’? I even pulled out my CD to check the ^%$#@! illegible album credits printed in a tiny font behind the plastic shell for the CD, and it’s “Lee Majors” with an ‘s’. So I did some sleuthing (thank you Discogs) and there really is a Lee Majors-not-the-$6M-Man-actor: this Lee Majors is a Jamaican musician who was in an underground hip-hop trio called Da Bush Babees and was friends with Mos Def who most definitely raps on the Anomie and Bonhomie album.

1973 black & white photo of actor Lee Majors
Not the Six Million Dollar Lee Majors…
photo of hip-hop producer Lee Majors
not Jay-Z’s producer Lee Major…
photo of Lee Majors aka Babe-B-Face Kaos, hip-hop musician
… but Lee Majors aka Babe-B-Face Kaos, hip-hop musician

See see redirect

So, I reverted the well-intentioned edit to the Anomie & Bonhomie Wikipedia page and its citation of the well-intentioned but mistaken reviewer (whom I contacted). But… how to stop someone making the same mistaken edit in the future? Without changes, every few years someone will see “Lee Majors” on the page, thinks “The bionic actor never rapped!”, find the hip-hop producer, and “correct” the typo? So:

  1. Add a hatnote (short note at the top of the article) to the bionic actor’s page:
      For the hip-hop musician also known as Babe-B-Face Kaos, see Da Bush Babees.
    which already had a hatnote:
    For the music producer, see Lee Major.
  2. Turn the first mention of the Jamaican musician Lee Majors on the Anomie & Bonhomie page into a hyperlink to a new Wikipedia page titled “Lee Majors (hip-hop musician)”.
  3. Jamaican musician Lee Majors is not notable enough to deserve his own Wikipedia page, so create a “Lee Majors (hip-hop musician)” page that simply (if you know Mediawiki syntax) redirects to “Da Bush Babees”.

That was a fun hour fixing Wikipedia!

Not names, Q numbers

I blogged about four similar confusions in music: 1990s alternative rock supremos The Sundays vs. Japanese band SUNDAYS(サンデイズ), acid jazz Corduroy vs. Korean singer 코듀로이 (“corduroy”) (and it turns out a third Corduroy. with a period), Icelandic Casino vs. alternative rockers Casino (and it turns out various rappers named Ca$ino), and rock supremos Yes vs. mystery?? group named “Yes, Plis.” Google Now mistakenly brought albums by two of these doppelgängers to my attention because (before I got Google to not track my history between apps) it knows I love Corduroy and Yes.

As I said in that equally boring blog post, the fix for this is to refer to everyone across a semantically meaningful web with a unique identifier instead of relying on context or additional words in parentheses like (hip-hop musician) and (Korean singer-songwriter) to disambiguate. Nearly everything in Wikipedia and many other entities in the world have a “Q number” in Wikidata where facts about the entity reside; Q454088 is Lee Majors the actor and Q6514455 is Lee Major hip-hop producer. But Lee Majors the minor rapper isn’t in Wikidata, because he’s not notable enough for any Wikipedia. We would need to give a Q number to every person who’s referenced in any existing article, even if that person doesn’t have their own page… which will probably turn into hundreds of millions of items and a whole lot of “Is the John Doe the childhood friend of politician A the same John Doe who sang background vocals for musician B?”. I just found out that Discogs lists a “Lee Majors (3)”, a rapper/producer from Oakland, who probably is a third Lee Majors. Or fourth?

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web: spammers copying my pages

Someone found my post about my legendary Herman-Miller Levity standing desk and added a comment asking about operating manuals for it. When I searched (using DuckDuckGo) for manuals Herman-Miller "Levity standing desk", it returned my post, but also found bogus copies of it on random sites!

screenshot of DuckDuckGo results showing fake copies of my blog post
Hey weedround2, mantylahti, newenglandrunaway, kljiji: stop ripping me off!

I’m not sure why anyone would bother to copy content from my weak endeavor, the 3,000,000th most popular site on the Internet. If you look, the path part of the URL of the fake web pages is herman-miller-cubicle-instruction-manual, so maybe the spammers figured out people are looking for “herman miller instructions,” found my human text, and slapped up copies with a promising URL.

I visited one of these pages (don’t!), and the bastard spammer has badly and mechanically rewritten my page, probably so that search engines don’t detect that it’s a complete ripoff. My text

computers: my legendary Herman-Miller Levity standing desk
For months I tried to give my old adjustable desk to a museum, or at least to someone who has a use for it. It’s the Levity by Herman-Miller, an impressive piece of late 90s office design. It goes from

turns into

screenshot of one of the ripoff pages showing slightly different text

Levity → Frivolous, standing → stationary, months → period, desk → bureau, etc. But these automated crappy substitutions don’t appear in the heading and summary snippet that search engines display.

Death to spammers!

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music: questions and comments for Michael Omartian and Rick Beato

Rick Beato has a great interview with Michael Omartian, a funny thoughtful guest who’s a fine producer, arranger, and keyboard player.

At 50:00 Rick references “the SNL skit with Michael McDonald where he was singing on everything at that point.” It was an SCTV skit, not Saturday Night Live. Watch “SCTV 3 Gerry Todd and Michael McDonald“. (Then watch the Yacht Rock web series for more brilliant loving parody of the soft rock/AOR/Steely Dan confluence.)

I Really Didn’t Know about the song

At 51:02 Michael Omartian comments “I think there was another one or two things that he [Michael McDonald] did on that record”
Just one, the excellent “I Really Don’t Know Anymore”. McDonald’s “I really don’t KNOOOW” high note is electric (literally, it cross-fades into Larry Carlton’s desperate-sounding guitar solo), as is the delicious double-tracked harmonizing Michael McDonald does on the third chorus, reminiscent of his incredible “Peg” harmonies about which I blogged. I hope Rick Beato talks with Michael McDonald some day.

It took me years to track down “I Really Don’t Know Anymore.” I remembered the chorus and feel, but not the exact words, and was sure it was a Doobie Brothers recording (I don’t have the Christopher Cross album). One week I was listening to the first 9 Doobie Brothers records and realized it’s not on any of them, which motivated me to search harder and eventually locate it.

I wish Michael Omartian talked about “I Really Don’t Know Anymore” in Rick’s interview. The horns and overall sound are so compressed and claustrophobic until the wistfully uplifting chorus; was he consciously taking advantage of the sound of early digital recording? (Wikipedia: “[Christopher Cross (album)] was one of the first in popular music to be digitally recorded, utilizing the 3M Digital Recording System”). And 81 seconds into the song a great piano chord “escapes” from the constrained mix; I’ve always wondered if that was a happy mistake or planned.

@Rick Beato, @Rick, @hello, hello?!

I made similar comments on the video, but so did 1,793 other people. I wonder would Rick respond to me if I signed up for his Patreon or Discord channel or whatever? I don’t mind paying for access.

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