FACE BOOK

This is an email I put out there………..

Why is everybody surprised by the data mining scandal on Face Book?

Isn’t the whole Face Book business model based on the mining and selling of their client’s data?
If people are so concerned about their own privacy why do they so willingly put it on the internet?
This is a response I received
The surprise is twofold: People mistakenly think of Facebook as an advertising platform. While they vaguely understand that Facebook collects information from them, the exact mechanics and details are fuzzy to them. In their mind, they may tell themselves “I don’t reveal that much through Facebook—I don’t post that much, I don’t fill out much of my profile, what’s the harm? And, frankly, if that helps them show me ads for things I actually want as opposed to crap I’m not interested in, all the better!
What they don’t realize is that Facebook tracks them everywhere they wander on the web via their web browser because Facebook’s tracking cookie is embedded on millions of web sites. That reach is extended to web and mobile apps that allow you to log into them using Facebook. Facebook literally tracks you across the web, mobile space, and if you have the mobile app on your phone, it’s also tracking where you are physically at times. And Facebook has a multitude of apps that people don’t even realize are owned by Facebook: Instagram, WhatsApp, and many others, which further extends its reach. Even if you’re not a Facebook user, they are creating a shadow profile of you as you travel the web to enable ad targeting. Finally, Facebook purchases data from other data aggregators (mortgage sales data, public record, and other) that they use to augment the data their own apps generate.
Facebook is not an advertising platform that tracks you to show better ads; it’s a surveillance platform that happens to make its money through advertising. Knowing users better than anyone else is its moat against competitors.
People are unwilling to admit how easily they can be manipulated.There is a chasm in people’s mind between the type of simplistic persuasion they are willing to admit that advertising is capable of effecting and the sophisticated priming and influence peddling that is possible via Facebook. Facebook’s in-depth demographic and psychological profiles on people around the world (2B+!) coupled with its capability to execute large-scale, programmatically-driven multi-variate testing enables advertisers to be highly selective in targeting specific audiences with particular psychographic profiles, and test the effectiveness of messages with previously impossible scale and precision. Cambridge Analytica was testing something like 150,000 versions of specific campaigns to find just the right combination of images and messages to trigger statistically significant response from its target audience.
The average person cannot comprehend things at that scale. They cannot internalize that while the influence on them of a particular ad might be small, its aggregate effect might be huge, or at least significant enough to trip over the boundary required to, say, win a voting district. They are incapable of crafting a mental model of how any particular technology can be used for nefarious purpose. They are bad at estimating risk.
And when they find out that people can do that, it kind of blows their mind—“Why—<clutches pearls>—who would want to do such a thing?”
If you’re interested in a good read on how people’s brains work in funny ways, check out “Thinking Fast and Slow”, or the more approachable Michael Lewis coverage of the same topic, “The Undoing Project”.
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I deleted my Facebook account several years ago and have not been interested in Twitter or any of the social media. It is not because of any privacy concerns but rather because I found the sites a huge reservoir of trivia and misinformation that is just a waster of time. I don’t really need to know the minute details of everybody’s life.  So what if you had a muffin for lunch and now have a need to go to the bathroom. Who cares?
Although the today’s outcome is slightly different. Never-the-less, the era of GEORGE ORWELL’S 1984 and BIG BROTHER has finally arrived. And what’s more to the point,  it’s worse because people willingly participate, and even buy the hardware (computer, mobile device) and connectivity to enable the massive surveillance,  monitoring and manipulation that is now possible.
DO YOURSELF AND EVERYONE ELSE A FAVOR – DELETE YOUR FACEBOOK ACCOUNT .
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YouTube Pick (#24) – A Clawhammer Banjo Tune

I am not so sure about banjos. I don’t care too much for the mechanical five string Bluegrass styles. To my ear they don’t sound very musical, and yet, in the hands of a master like Bela Fleck I am forced to re-evaluate that statement. When he steps outside the Bluegrass box his music is sublime. On another note (pun intended) the Irish adopted the banjo and, being Irish, they changed it by getting rid of the fifth string, tuning it like a mandolin and playing it with a pick. The Irish Tenor Banjo sounds great in Celtic ensembles where it adds punch and drive to the melody line but to hear it practiced solo in one’s basement it sounds frightful. Then there is the the open backed Clawhammer Banjo with the melody floating atop of nice chunking rhythms. It is capable of producing the very best in banjo music. Despite the subversive activities of the Irish the banjo is still the most American of musical instruments. It’s origins may be African but in practice it is absolutely American with a solidly American repertoire. I am so attracted to the sound of the Clawhammer Banjo that I own two and I always have the hope and ambition to one day actually play a tune in the appropriate style.  The only thing that puts me off is that I have no real desire to play American tunes. The world does not need another stumbling musician trying to play Old Joe Clark, Cripple Creek or any of the many other standard banjo tunes. So it was nice to come across a video of an Irish tune played on the Clawhammer Banjo. It is a tune composed by Thurlough O’Carolan .  For those who don’t  know of O’Carolan or his music he was a blind traditional Irish Harper living way back in the late 1600’s. He was a contemporary of Johann Sebastian Bach and he left us with a legacy of many wonderful tunes. They may not have the contrapuntal complexities of a Bach composition but they have a melodic strength that has kept them very much in circulation right up to present times. Acoustic guitar players love O’Carolan tunes and with the introduction of the DADGAD tuning system on the guitar they have adopted O’Carolan tunes with a vengeance. So here it is, Thurlough O’Carolan’s  tune Morgan Magan (Morgan Megan) played on the Clawhammer Banjo.

For those who maybe interested here is the melody for the tune.

I haven’t yet managed to get to grips with playing the tune on the Clawhammer banjo but I suspect it will sit well on a banjo tuned ADADE. It’s another one of those things on my ever lengthening wish list. It just might be that one elusive tune that I am destined to play on the banjo.

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YouTube Picks (#23) – The Cavaquinho

The Cavaquinho – It looks like a Ukulele and so it should. The Cavaquinho is a Portuguese instrument that has, in one form or another spread around the world. In the hands of Portuguese immigrants it traveled to Hawaii in the nineteenth century and under went some changes. With the adoption of gut (nylon) strings and tuning systems peculiar to the islands it became part of a whole new genre of music – Hawaiian music.  The sound of the Ukulele instantly conjures up images of the islands – trade winds, surf, palm trees, grass shirts and hula girls. Of course since that time the instrument has traveled back across the world and, in recent years, has undergone a resurgence in popular interest. In the meantime the original Cavaquinho has remained popular in Portugal, Brazil and the Cape Verde islands. Although Portugal had colonies in Angola and Mozambique the Cavaquinho doesn’t seem to have become part of their folkloric traditions. But it is in Brazilian Choro  that the instrument has it’s most noticeable impact. Choro is the most Brazilian of all musical styles and it grew out of the European Salon music tradition imported into Brazil and spiced up with local samba style rhythms. In one form or other the style has been around for a hundred or more years. In that genre of music the Cavaquinho, the Pandiero (Brazilian tambourine), the Seven String Guitar and the Bandolin (5 course mandolin) create music that is very melodic, rhythmic and harmonically sophisticated and somewhat uniquely Brazilian.

Although the instrument is not in common use in Canada, Godin Guitars in Quebec manufactures a unique version of the instrument that can hold its own in the company of the more traditional instruments. It is a hybrid steel strung instrument tuned Brazilian style D G B D. Basically, that is an an open G tuning,  a octave higher but almost identical, to the top four strings of the acoustic guitar. The difference is that the top  string on the Cavaquinho is tuned down  to D. Speaking from experience it was tempting to just tune the guitar like a Cavaquinho and play it as such. It was good idea at the time but basically it doesn’t work.  The Cavaquinho has a very short scale length and the normal Cavaquinho Choro stretches from the 1st  and 2nd to  seventh fret are dam near impossible on the guitar. Beside it does not have the nice high traditional Cavaquinho sound. D’Addario manufactures stainless steel ball end strings (EJ93, gauges 11-13-23w-28w) specifically for the Cavaquinho and are available from a number of on line sites. It is unlikely you will find them in your local music store.  The Godin instrument is equipped with their signature on-board electronics that is virtually free of feed back. In that regard, and in  other manufacturing details, the Godin Cavaquinho is similar to their acoustic and semi-acoustic  Nylon Classical, Multi Oud  and Seven String Guitars.

So, that’s the background so now for the sounds. The first three videos below demonstrate, for me, the attraction of the Cavaquinho and Brazilian music in general. These young musicians look like they are having fun. The guitar in the first and third videos are obviously Godins. In the third video the guitarist is throwing in some very interesting chord progressions. All three tunes are pretty well classics in the Brazilian Choro repertoire.

There a lots of Cavaquinho tutorials on YouTube and the approach they use to teach the tunes has, for me, a lot of appeal. The first tutorial, Garota de Ipanema is better known as the The Girl from Ipanema, by the well known Brazilian composer Tom Jobim. The tune is probably the most recorded composition on the planet. I have lost count of the number of Cavaquinho and Brazilian Guitar tutorials that are available on YouTube so there is plenty out there to explore.

I know local musicians aren’t likely to stumble on or acquire a Cavaquinho but the above videos might just attract some interest in the instrument  or also in that very rich and varied world of Brazilian music. This is only the tip of the iceberg.

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YouTube Picks (#22) – More Mandolin Music

When trolling around the internet for Mandolin music and performances the name Marissa Carroll is one that pops up frequently. She is a young Australian musician (b1992) who began playing mandolin at the age of ten and has progressed rapidly to her current status as a much in demand soloist. With mandolin as her principal instrument Marissa completed her degree in music at the University of Queensland in 2012. She plays on a prized vintage Lyon and Healy mandolin from the early 1920s. a German bowl-back mandolin by Klaus Knorr and a Baroque mandolino by Alex Vervaert. Here are a couple of YouTube clips …….

The sound from the above ensemble reminds me very much of the famous Ida Presti / Alexander Lagoya classical guitar duo that was much recorded before Ida’s death in 1967. And now for a little bit of Bach.

There are numerous YouTube performances of Melissa performing in a duo with the classical guitarist Joel Woods. Note the guitar stand used by Joel Woods. This particular device is becoming popular with classical guitarists. Although best known as a classical mandolinist in this  third video the duo is performing a well known Brazilian Choro composition by Ernesto Nazareth.

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Also, while trolling mandolin performances I came across this YouTube of Mochalova. I have not been able to find any information on the lady. Although I find her body language a little over the top  one can’t dispute the quality of her playing.

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Read any Good Books Lately? (#11) – BLACK ICE by Colin Dunne

This book is described as “A Classic Cold War Thriller” and I guess that’s what it is but it is a little different. There are no CIA / MI6 / FBI / Security Agency conspiracies and while the Russians figure in the plot it is not about the KBG or the “Evil Empire”. It is not set in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Korea or any of the usual political pressure spots that figure in most Spy/Thriller novels and its not all gloom and doom either. If anything there is a very significant thread of humor thought out the story. In fact I would suggest that is one of the strengths of the book. Another would be the story’s location. It is set in Iceland. Now, how many novels have this cold but exotic location for a story? So, it has humor, a good use of language, a good plot, a great location and when you add in an interesting cast of characters you have a worth while read. There is an Icelandic beauty queen who causes some hormonal disturbances in a number of male characters. There is a tabloid journalist who ends up as an amateur spy. A significant number of American, British and Icelandic personalities, and a Russian gay spy who would “simply die” if he was ever sent back to Moscow. Iceland seems to be a interesting place where American and Russian interests collide. Despite the novel’s press release, there is no real scenario where the prospect of war is a possibility. The novel is more about Icelandic political independence, the presence of the American military base on the island and the low level off shore soviet naval presence and how these factors impinge on the characters in the novel.

Here is the publisher blurb in Amazon:

“If you’ve never come to in the middle of the night to find yourself approximately halfway between New York and Moscow, right up on top of the world, standing outside a block of flats wearing nothing other than a ladies’ silk dressing-robe – and that decorated with large scarlet kisses – allow me to describe the sensation. Confused. That’s the word, I think. Confused, and cold around the knees’. Stranded in Iceland, journalist turned spy Sam Craven wakes up to the greatest adventure of his career.

Sent to Reykjavik to track down the model Solrun, in whom British intelligence have taken a sudden interest, Craven finds himself caught up in a vast power-play between two superpowers on the brink of war – and with only his wits to rely on. Trying to stay alive, and one step ahead of a band of ruthless killers, Sam is skating on black ice. One slip and he’s dead.

‘Black Ice’ is a classic Cold War thriller, certain to appeal to fans of Jack Higgins, Len Deighton and Ian Fleming. ”

Yes, this a novel well worth the time of day and some lost sleep.

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Open Mic Session at the Bean Tree

Sunday January 28, 2018 12:30 – 3:30 pm: OPEN MIC AT THE BEAN TREE IN THE KIMBERLEY  PLATZL hosted by Bill St Amand

This is a throw back to the good ole’ days when the Bean Tree was pretty well the only venue offering live music on a regular basis in Kimberley. Sound wise and audience wise this is probably one of the best, if not the best music room in the area. For musicians it is a joy to perform in a great room for quiet attentive audiences. This second session lived up to those expectations with performances by Bill St.Amand (guitar and vocals);  Alphonse Joseph (“Fonzie”) on his new Taylor guitar with vocals; Rod Wilson on 12-string guitar, vocals  and percussion; Wally Smith on Irish Whistles, button accordion and percussion; Lane on guitar and vocals and Jordan Vanderwerf on guitar and vocals. Here are some images from this relaxing, family style afternoon of acoustic music.

 

Once again, this was so successful that Bill will be hosting another open mic next Sunday February 4, 2018, 1-4 pm. All patrons and musicians are welcome.

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YouTube Picks (#21) – Another way to play Mandolin (4): The Near East

In lots of ways Israel is the center of everything. It is a hot bed of violence and political conflict; a place of monumental religious clashes; a cultural cross road for thousands of years; a place where east meets west. It also the birthplace and incubator of some phenomenal musical talents and one in particular is the Israeli mandolinist Avi Avitar (born 19 October 1978). He is expanding the boundaries of the mandolin. He is best known for his renditions of well-known Baroque and folk music, much of which was originally written for other instruments. He has been nominated for a Grammy award (Best Instrumental Soloist with Ensemble). Here are a couple YouTube performances where East meets West.They are a  couple of Turkish and Bulgarian tunes that are guaranteed to clean the wax out of your ears and free up you mind for musical possibilities outside the ordinary.The music is performed by Avi Avital on mandolin and Itamar Doari on percussion.

Now I have to come clean. The mandolin playing is outstanding but my real reason for sharing the videos is the out standing hand percussion.

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Dean Smith Quartet at Frank’s Restaurant

A fine and mellow Christmas at Frank’s Restaurant in Cranbrook with the Dean (Dino) Smith Quartet featuring Dean Smith on Guitar,Trombone and Vocals; Zach Smith on Alto Sax;  Ben Smith on Bass and Guitar and Jared Zimmer on Drums. The favorite Christmas carols, pop songs and show tunes of past eras were all there – We Three Kings, Let it Snow, Frosty the Snowman, Walking in a Winter Wonderland, Dreaming of a White Christmas, Joy to the World, Jingle Bells and Greensleeves and many, many more. 

  

Saturday, December 23, 2017 may have been very frosty outside (minus 20 degrees centigrade) but inside Frank’s it was was warm, cosy and very “Christmassy”.

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Deja Vu all over again

From the get go, it was a full night of rock and roll and reggae. Even the poster had a 1968 vibe. The first band up was The Choice,  featuring James Neve – guitars and lead vocals; Rick Parsons – back up vocals and multiple keyboards and Brian Hamilton – drums and back up vocals. They served up a full platter of rock and roll favorites and in the process punched a lot of nostalgia buttons in the audience. James Neve is probably better known as a singer / song writer and was a key member of the band 60 Hertz. He also masquerades as a wayward solo performer known as Lonesome Jim. I get the impression that for this night James was living the dream of a 1968 rock and roll musician. He looked so happy………  Rick is also a well known local musician who just loves to hammer away at the keyboards. That gutsy, funky organ sound is no longer a feature of modern rock and roll and the scene is the poorer for it. It’s nice to have it back in the sonic arena and hear it bouncing off a dance hall wall. Who needs a bass player when you can have a full throttle organ doing the job?  Brian Hamilton is just back in the area and rounds out the band with his “in your face drumming”. For just a trio this band generates a lot of music and a lot of excitement.

  

The Choice traded off one hour sets with the Reggae band The Meditations. The band featured the young Moroccan musician Mehdi Makraz on lead guitar and vocals. Mehdi has been in the area for a while and at a recent Summer Sounds concert in Cranbrook he played electric bass with The Dark Fire Cloud and Lightning Band. The back up vocalist Syama Mama was also featured with that band. The drummer with the mandatory dreadlocks was Morgan and along with the well known local musician Peter Warland on electric bass locked down the rhythm section. Randy Tapp is a local musician and dance instructor and he played Alto and Tenor Saxes. Normally the band has a keyboard player (Landon) but he was not available for this performance.

  

At the intermission, if that’s the right word, the catering crew from the Green Door dished out Tacos for the dance patrons. After that it was back to the music. More vintage rock and reggae spiced up with some original compositions from Mehdi and his band mates. Here are some more images from the evening.

            

The only thing missing from the evening was a Creedence Clearwater Revival tune, but as James Neve explained, there were so many great tunes and so little time that with much regret the CCR tune had to fall on the cutting floor. Better luck next time.

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YouTube Picks (#20) – Another way to play Mandolin (3): Back to Bach

It really doesn’t matter whether you are into classic rock, jazz, blues, pop, bluegrass, whatever, eventually every serious musician or music patron has to come to terms with the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. He is one of, if not the most significant  composer, in the history of western music. It really doesn’t matter what instrument you play because Bach didn’t really care to much about instrumental specifics. He frequently moved his music around from instrument to instrument or onto any one of the many configuration or ensembles at his disposal. Obviously, string and keyboard players have the edge with the shear volume of Bach’s music that is available for their instruments. Mandolin players are luckier than most. Although, to my knowledge Bach didn’t compose specific mandolin music, players have access to the huge quantity of Bach’s violin, cello, viola, etc music that is out there. They also have the advantage in that the tuning of the mandolin is the same as the violin (G D A E – low to high). Admittedly the Mandolin doesn’t have the ability to sustain long notes like a violin but there are ways around that (the tremolo).

Over the years mandolin players have not been slow to pick up on the Bach Solo Violin Sonatas and Partitas. It is not only great music but it’s a great way to build up your mandolin technique.  Even Bluegrass players have taken a turn at those compositions.  One of note is an American mandolinist,  singer, songwriter, and radio personality named  Colin Thile  (born February 20, 1981). He is best known for his work in the progressive acoustic trio  Nickel Creek and the acoustic folk and progressive bluegrass quintet  Punch Brothers. He also has a passion for Bach. Check the video below of Colin playing Bach’s Sonata No.1 in G Minor, BWV 1001. This is a Suite of  four pieces:  Adagio / Fuga / Siciliano / Presto.

Although the Bluegrass mandolin, to my ears, sounds a little thin for this style of music this is a great performance and should inspire us all.

The first time I took a look at the manuscript for the Sonata it threw me for a loop. I am more used to reading simple melody lines or chord diagrams so on first glance it was, and still is, pretty daunting. Take a look at the first page ………

Mike Marshall and Darroll Anger are two other North American performers who have dipped more than a toe in Bach’s deep musical waters.

Mandolin players can go even further afield in the huge Bach inventory. For example here  the Israeli Madolinist Avi Avital and Harpist  Bridget Kibbey playing a rearrangement of the Eb Major Sonata for Flute and Clavier, BWV 1031. This is the first movement the Allegro Moderato. Avi is a well known, award winning performer and Bridget is a much in demand solo and ensemble performer.  The physical contrast between the tiny mandolin and the giant harp is eye catching and yet the sound balance between the instruments is spot on.

There are many, many more examples on YouTube so feel free to explore and, if you are a mandolin player, maybe work on a few pieces.

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