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a more positive follow-up on the vitamin caper

I spoke to a different customer service rep today, and she actually seemed like a human being. She took my information, canceled all subsequent deliveries of the product, and removed all balance due. She said the word "fraud," but only to warn me that I might be a victim of same ... she agreed with me that there was no reason why they would have my address and credit card number, but said that nonetheless, someone ordered this product in my name on February 1, so I'd want to follow up on that. I don't understand why someone would defraud me by sending vitamins to my house, but at least she sounded honest. She didn't offer to send me the $8.65 they'd already extracted from me, but she did say to contact my bank and tell them I was a fraud victim and the bank would take care of that. She was far too willing to talk fraud ... it makes me think she was honest. I am not ready to remove my Google-bomb posts, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt until I see if I get more deliveries or charges from the company.

all along the watchtower (galactica spoilers)

I am not what you would call a spiritual person. Whatever "spiritual" experiences I've had in my life are for the most part directly related to the use of psychedelic drugs. I do not disregard those experiences because they were drug-aided, nor do I think they are any less "real" than other experiences in my life. At the time, I probably attributed things to the spiritual life ... now I'm inclined to give the credit to chemistry.

Whatever the cause, certain things have stuck with me over the years. I can remember once when I was on acid, and I was at the dinner table with my brothers and sisters, eating a sandwich of some kind. Being wasted, my "sandwich" consisted of bread and meat ... I didn't really care if I ate it, I just wanted to look semi-normal if my parents walked in. At one point, someone passed the French's mustard across the table in front of my eyes. My eyes, and my nose, I should say, because it was the smell of the mustard that grabbed my attention, in a very interesting way: when I smelled the mustard, I could taste it on my sandwich, even though it wasn't in my mouth.

I still recall this hallucination, because I think it says something about how our brain processes the input from our senses. Sometimes there's a little glitch, and you can taste what you smell.

There's also that feeling of oneness with the universe, which is perhaps the number one reason why psychedelics remain my favorite drug of all time, even though I haven't taken any for more than 25 years. That yummy snow-like feeling that grows in your heart when you are tripping ... I love it.

What does this have to do with Battlestar Galactica, I can hear you saying. (Not literally ... like I say, it's been a long time since I took acid.) Well, there's one thing that happened one time on one acid trip that isn't as easily dismissed as "just chemistry." I mean, that's what it was, but it felt special at the time, and remnants of that specialness are with me to this day. I was sitting on the beach, communing with the waves as it were. I had a song playing in my head ... it was more a loop, although we didn't really know about loops in those days. It didn't really have words ... when I try to recapture the moment, it goes something like "ga lung gara lung." Whatever ... I was really getting into this song in my head, and suddenly, the song merged with that "oneness" feeling and I felt completely connected to the waves ... connected via that little song loop. The waves would break, and in my head I'd hear ga lung gara lung, and they were the same, and I was the same, and I am he as you are he etc.

That was in 1970 or 1971. I've never forgotten it, and I've never quit hoping that one day, my little song would spring forth in my head one more time. It never does, of course ... that was a solitary moment, in all likelihood.

The moment, or rather, the series of moments that gradually led to the odd discovery that "All Along the Watchtower" played a key role in Battlestar Galactica is one of my favorite parts of the entire series. The way the human/cylons kept hearing a song ... the way the song was inscrutable, to them and to us ... the path that led them to come closer to familiarity with the song ... all of this was reflected in the audience's concurrent attempt to figure the song out. Since BSG is, or appears to be, an alternate universe, it didn't occur to me that I'd actually know the song ... they don't have the same songs as we do, or so we thought. When I finally recognized the Dylan tune at the same time the song brought the human/cylons together ... it was, for lack of a better description, a "ga lung gara lung" moment. I felt a oneness with the fictional world on my television screen, and I felt full of lovely emotion.

Time passed, and "All Along the Watchtower" became one of those BSG oddities that fell by the wayside. Until tonight. Starbuck finds herself playing a song that she "learned" from her father and from a three-year-old child (this is sci-fi, not everything has a clear explanation!). She's pecking away on the piano, it doesn't really sound familiar at first, because it's been long enough that we've mostly forgotten about "Watchtower," but then some chords resonate, and human/cylon Saul Tigh hears the chords and his one eye starts acting up a storm, and he starts to recognize the song at the same time that we in the audience start to recognize the song, and damn if it isn't another ga lung gara lung moment.

I can't imagine a more subjective, idiosyncratic response to the use of "All Along the Watchtower" in Battlestar Galactica. I am making no claims for understanding the "truth" behind the song in the series. But twice, now, I've been transported back to a place to which I never thought I'd return.

more scam health products institute rip-off

Further web searching shows that something called the Health Products Institute is connected to the scam artists I mentioned earlier. I emailed the contact address listed on their web site ... the email bounced, "User Unknown." So we've got another company for Google:

Health Products Institute, Klee Irwin, Dual-Action Cleanse, 12-in-One vitamins, Ultimate Nutraceuticals, or Cellular Research LLC

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klee irwin piece of shit motherfucking rip-off scam artists

Don't have time to think up a better title. I got a box in the mail that I wasn't expecting. Opened it up, and the first thing I see is a flyer that thanks me and says there are free gifts inside. I look, and there's a bottle of "for men" vitamins and a DVD that teaches about nutrition or something. I wonder how they got my address, but figure what the heck, everyone knows that stuff, and I set it aside ... I know I'm not interested in taking crackpot vitamins, even if they are free.

Only then I notice there's an invoice ... my "risk free trial" costs money. To be exact, they claim I owe them $32.57, plus they have already deducted $8.65. I check my bank account, and sure enough, Klee Irwin Health Program has deducted that amount from my account. I call the customer service number on the invoice, and after a longish wait, I get "Dennis." I say they sent me something I didn't order, are asking for money, and have already taken some of my money. I want to know how they got my address and credit card number. He takes the order number, my last name, and my zip code, then tells me there is nothing in their records. Then he says "we're just the dual-action cleanse people" and claims that the vitamin people are at a different phone number, which he gives me. I ask him why his phone number was on the invoice ... he blabbed some lies, and I asked for his full name. He said he couldn't give out his last name. I said yeah, he can't give me his last name, but they can use my credit card number to take money from my checking account.

I'm in a hurry now, so I'll have to postpone further action until later. But Google is my friend, so I think I'll see what I can do to get potential scam victims to read this. If you are contacted by anyone connected to Klee Irwin, Dual-Action Cleanse, 12-in-One vitamins, Ultimate Nutraceuticals, or Cellular Research LLC, they are:

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friday random ten, 1966 edition

1. Percy Sledge, "When a Man Loves a Woman." He really didn't need to make any more records after this one ... it was that great.

2. Buffy Sainte-Marie, "Little Wheel Spin and Spin." Buffy Sainte-Marie was an acquired taste, but she was far more experimental than most of her fellow female folkies.

3. Alan Price, "I Put a Spell on You." I really loved this version ... as many great versions as there are (plenty), I may like this one the best. The organ is gorgeous.

4. Aaron Neville, "Tell It Like It Is." The reason Aaron Neville was put on this earth.

5. Question Mark and the Mysterians, "96 Tears." We've reached a period where my childhood memories really start interfering with my ability to say anything profound. In the second half of the 1960s, this song was probably played by every band and every junior high and high school dance I attended. It never got old.

6. The Lovin' Spoonful, "Bald-Headed Lena." YouTube strikes again. One of my favorite Spoonful recordings (I feel like I say that a lot), I figured it was too obscure for a video. But I was wrong ... they sang it on Ed Sullivan!

7. The Swingin' Medallions, "Double Shot (Of My Baby's Love)." A couplet that never gets old: "A potion that I had too much of / It was a double shot of my baby's love."

8. Billy Stewart, "Summertime." Check out the video ... whoever posted it went with the long version, and added some visuals to the beginning, but when the song finally kicks in, Billy's in a ten-gallon hat ... I have no idea why. It's as surreal as his vocals, but completely unrelated to his performance.

9. The Who, "A Quick One While He's Away." I love Keith Moon. Really, really a lot.

10. Bob Dylan, "Like a Rolling Stone." The national anthem of white baby-boomers. Shuffle play turned up the "Judas" version, but the video is, I believe, from Eat the Document. Wherever it is from, it is astonishing, and not just because Garth Hudson is beardless. Dylan is beyond belief here.

another fifteen minutes?

For almost 30 years, I've thought that I was once in a David Johansen video. That video has been unavailable for a long time ... I even contact the director once, and he said yeah, maybe he had it in a box in his garage or something like that. Well, someone has posted it to YouTube:

My memory is that David slapped my hand ... and at the end of the song, he does indeed give a bunch of high-fives (the end comes a couple of minutes before the YouTube video stops ... someone seems to have pulled this off a VHS copy of an MTV airing). At around the 2:45 mark, I think maybe I see me ... except, of course, I might not even be there, I might be wrong about where/when the video was filmed. Anyway, this is from that place in the video:

johansen video

Guess I'll never know for sure. That might be Robin behind "me" and over "my" right shoulder.

what i watched last week

White Heat (Raoul Walsh, 1949). It's almost too easy to consider this late-40s gangster movie as a symbol of its time, with a psychopathic lead gangster who gets really bad headaches and really loves his mom. There is no Robin Hood in Cagney's Cody Jarrett, and we don't get to watch someone rise to the top before the inevitable fall. Instead, we see a guy who craves mommy's attention (at least she doesn't withhold it) and who only reaches the top in a figurative sense, in its oft-misquoted finale (he never exactly says "top of the world, ma!"). The film plays around with noir elements, but in the end, it's all about Cagney, who dives into his role as if he, too, owed one to his mom. The mess hall scene where he learns of her death is a masterpiece of over-the-top acting, and if you can see the ending a mile away, that doesn't make it any less satisfying. #290 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the 1000 greatest films of all time.

The Bridge (Eric Steel, 2006). This probably wasn't the best time for me to watch this documentary about people who jump off the Golden Gate Bridge.

WALL-E (Andrew Stanton, 2008). Watched it again because I'm using it in my class this semester. I liked it again. #68 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 250 movies of the 21st century.

my oscar night

We spent most of the afternoon hanging out at the Emeryville Food Court while our floors were being stained. I told our son that the basement flooding had been remarkably minor, and that our stay down there was reasonably tolerable. So, of course, we came home to a flooded basement, with water in the bathroom and bedroom, among other spots. There is no other working bathroom in the house, so there's no avoiding that room, no matter how wet it gets. We thought about going to a hotel, then decided to sleep in the attic.

As for the Oscars, we watched WALL-E, which Robin hadn't seen. The extent of my Oscar updates came from Charlie's Twitter reports. After our movie, we watched Big Love. Did I miss anything?

friday random ten, 1965 edition

I'm tempted to just post this list and suggest you head straight to the links ... there are some really good videos this time.

1. Fontella Bass, "Rescue Me." Her mom sang gospel with the Clara Ward Singers, her husband was avant-garde jazzbo Lester Bowie, but she's best known for this fine soul hit.

2. Jim Kweskin & the Jug Band, "I'm a Woman." I couldn't find video of this, one of Maria Muldaur's early signature songs. But I was able to find a few snippets of the young Maria belting it out with the Jug Band.

3. Joe Tex, "Hold What You've Got." This video, from a Shindig! compilation, includes Major Lance, Tina Turner, and Marvin Gaye along with Tex. "Listen fellas, you know, it's not all the time that a man can have a good woman that he can call his very own. A woman who will stay right there at home and mind the children while he's gone to work. A woman who will have his dinner cooked when he comes home."

4. Lovin' Spoonful, "Fishin' Blues." I love pretty much every version of this old folk song, but I think I love the Spoonful's the best. No video, so I linked to Taj Mahal, who ain't bad, either.

5. Bob Dylan, "Desolation Row." Right now I can't read too good, don't send me no more letters, no. Not unless you mail them from Desolation Row.

6. Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, "Zorba the Greek." I've written about this before. You start with a Jewish trumpet player, put him together with a band made up of non-Hispanics, call them the Tijuana Brass and play mariachi-influenced music. Then you add a movie based on a Greek novel, written in Greek by a Greek author, and cast a Mexican-American as the title character. Have the fake-Mexicans play the music from the movie starring the Mexican-as-Greek, and what do you have? A song that is still played regularly at American baseball games, several decades down the road. The video is a medley ... "Zorba" comes just after the five-minute mark.

7. Barbara Lewis, "Make Me Your Baby." Wonderful second-tier soul singer whose songs are covered to this day.

8. The Miracles, "Tracks of My Tears." That guy at #5 called Smokey Robinson one of the great American poets. Most people probably thought he was kidding. He wasn't.

9. The Who, "The Kids Are Alright." This video just cries out for an OMG! The band is impossibly young, the camera work is as random as this list, Moonie doesn't seem to be playing his drums, which is OK since it's synced. The whole band shows the excitement level of Entwhistle.

10. Wilson Pickett, "In the Midnight Hour." There are some smooth soul singers on this list, there are some shouters on this list, but no one matches the Wicked One when he's at the top of his game, and you don't get any closer to the top than "In the Midnight Hour." The video has Wilson teaming up with a rocker who, over the years, has somehow managed to be simultaneously as unfunky as is possible and as soulful as possible.