Good News! This is Ann from Cardholder Services!

Actually, it’s bad news.

On November 1, the FTC announced it had shut down 5 companies that were participating in the “Rachel from Cardholder Services” scheme, but over the last 3 days I have been being called relentlessly by “Ann from Cardholder Services”; I have been receiving phone calls from 701-671-9224, which is apparently a new prefix for Pacific Telecom Communications Group.

This article from the Telecom Compliance News Press gives abundant information about the scam and, based on the area code and prefix that is calling you, places you can lodge a complaint.  Here is the salient text from the article:

If you’ve received an unsolicited telemarketing call from Rachel at “Cardholder Services”, Tom with “Home Security”, or other robocall originating from a phone number listed below, it likely came from a telemarketer that has entered into a revenue sharing agreement with a public utility named Pacific Telecom Communications Group.
Pacific Telecom is involved in a scheme whereby they profit from the millions of seemingly illegal unsolicited telemarketing sales calls made each week that are identified with their phone numbers, all in apparent violation of 16 C.F.R. §310.3(b) of the Federal Telemarketing Sales Rule.
Pacific Telecom has a foreign “subsidiary” registered in Belize, which seemingly acts as a “shell” company to hide the identity of the individuals who initiate these outbound telemarketing calls and makes it difficult for regulators to investigate this activity.
Our analysis of FTC consumer complaint data shows that Pacific Telecom phone numbers are the target of over 25% of consumer telemarketing complaints to the FTC.  A staggering 208,362 complaints were filed with the FTC against Pacific Telecom phone numbers over a recent 3 month period alone.
The mastermind behind these schemes appears to be an attorney in Portland Oregon named F Antone Accuardi.  Although multiple State and Federal investigations are under way, so far Accuardi has not been brought to justice.

The more people that complain, the more the authorities will be motivated to keep working on shutting these bottom-feeders down.

This has been an Old Wolf public service announcement.

The Unit Orchestra (otherwise known as the Theatre Organ)

Once upon a time, when movies were silent, audiences would enjoy films accompanied by a live orchestra that provided background music and sound effects. This, however, was an expensive proposition for theater owners, and when Robert Hope-Jones introduced his “Unit Orchestra,” smaller theaters had the option of providing a reasonable fac-simile of orchestral music with a single instrument and a single musician.

Robert Hope-Jones (1859-1914)

Hope-Jones combined his organ-building operation with Wurlitzer, but apparently became despondent over the partnership and ended his life in 1914; his legacy, however, lived on and blossomed into one of the most unique eras in American theater music.

The Detroit-Senate 4/34 Wurlitzer

Today, only the devoted or the fortunate have had the chance to see, hear, or lay hands on one of these behemoths; I have been privileged to play several of them, although I am nothing but a dilettante, a duffer, and an amateur in the purest sense of the word – I simply love the music of these incredible one-man orchestras. While in their heyday there were hundreds of these around the country, only 40 or so exist in their original theatres, but many have been rescued, restored, and installed in private locations.

I was first introduced to the magic of Theatre Organ music when I worked at a restaurant in Salt Lake called Pipes and Pizza shortly before serving a mission for the LDS Church in Austria.

The Wurlitzer 3/32 console. This means that the console has 3 manuals or keyboards, and there are 32 different sets of pipes with different voices.

Typical theatre organ pipe chamber; note the percussion instruments above, and the accordion-like bellows below which vibrate up and down to produce the signature tremolo sound.

The console showing the pipe chambers behind half-moon windows. Notice the shutters above the windows, which open and close to control volume.

Theatre organs included many percussion instruments including xylophones, glockenspiels, marimbas, chrysoglotts, and traps (drums, triangles, castanets, bird whistles, etc.) and many others. This enabled a performer to provide endless combinations of sound effects to accompany silent movies.

Thanks to a comment from Mike Ohman, noted classical and theatre organist and co-owner with Cal Christensen in the Pipes and Pizza venture (also assistant director of the BYU School of Music), we have learned that this wonderful instrument was not disassembled, but transported to the Founders Church  in Los Angeles. A manual was added to make the instrument a 4/34, and is played by venerable Lawrence Welk organist, Bob Ralston, weekly. Wonderful news!



This is the best photo I could find of the Holmes Chapel at the Founders Church of Religious Science. You can see the console at the upper left… barely.

The El Capitan Theatre Wurlitzer in Hollywood

Many of these organs were never envisioned by Wurlitzer itself – people bought consoles and various pipe ranks, added manuals, and created incredible monsters of astonishing range and power. Wurlitzer was not the only company to get on the one-man-bandwagon; Möller, Kimball, Compton, Robert-Morton and many others manufactured organs for theater use. In later years, Rodgers, Allen, Conn and others produced some amazing electronic theatre organs for home and professional use.

The Allen “George Wright IV” symphony organ

Rodgers 33-E

If you have more money than God, Allen would be happy to build you a behemoth, either to your specifications or from their catalog.

Having mentioned George Wright, I need to say that from where I sit, this man is the Babe Ruth of the organ world. As you will hear below, there are many people with absolutely mad skills on these instruments, but Mr. Wright is probably the best of the best. Of the best. Sir!

Organs I have been privileged to play include the Pipes and Pizza organ above;

The Salt Lake City Organ Loft 5/34;

The two-manual Wurlitzer in Salt Lake City’s Capitol Theatre,

and a couple of others in various places which are no longer existent.

Organists I have met include Gaylord Carter (1905-2000)

and David Reese (1950-1995)

as well as a number of very talented people local to the Salt Lake area.

I own a small Conn Theatrette organ which is still plugging away, more or less,

but when I get to Heaven, I’m going to spend 10,000 years really learning how to play one of these monsters.

Here’s a recording of George Wright playing the “Chit Chat Polka”

Listen to Steve Eaklor from the Chicago area rip up one of these beasts.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Terror From the Year 5000: Not so terrifying after all

In 1959, when my cousins were visiting New York from their country home in Connecticut, something possessed them to go take in a double-feature horror show (either at Loew’s or the RKO theatre, I can’t recall which one.) Double-billed was The Spider and Terror from the Year 5,000.

Bad idea.

My 8-year-old brain was scarred for decades. The Spider was bad enough, but The Terror had me pissing my pants any time I saw a closet door left ajar.

And not having TV or cable in later life, I missed the opportunity to poke fun at it on MST 3,000.

Until last year.

I found a copy of it at a vintage movie outlet online, and got my dear wife a copy of Don’t be Afraid of the Dark, the one that scared her to Nouakchott when she was young. They’ve been sitting on our shelves unopened, until the other night when the Goodwoman of the House was taking a nap, and I was working on a knitting project.

So I bit the bullet, and in it went.

Good idea.

Surprise! It’s not a bad film at all, as B-movies go. It had a plot, it had a message, and the effects were nowhere near as corny as some other things I’ve seen. And, over half a century later, not terribly scary.

The basic plot: A scientist develops a time machine that has been sending small objects into the future, and bringing back “trade” items – which happen to be highly radioactive. He’s got a fiery young assistant who’s got the hots for his daughter, and a bad case of paranoia as well. The professor’s daughter arranges for a former colleague of her father to come down to the island where the experiments are taking place, and during a demonstration of the machine, a Phi Beta Kappa key is exchanged for a medallion which has “Save us” engraved on it – in Greek.

The professor decides the machine is too dangerous to use until more information can be gathered, but lover-boy (Victor) – who thinks he’s being sidelined – runs the machine at ever higher power until he brings back a lady from the 51st Century (seen above). She’s badly disfigured from the effects of radiation and seems to have hypnotic powers accentuated by shiny fingernails and the thousands of reflective bangles on her outfit, but other than that she’s largely unremarkable.

Victor’s about to get a surprise.

Earth of that year is dying of radiation poisoning, and this lady’s mission is to bring back someone with undamaged genes to inject new life into their dying society. Unfortunately, she’s not beneath killing anyone who gets in the way of her mission, including a caretaker and a nurse, whose face she steals (perhaps they had vintage movies in her day, and she had watched Silence of the Lambs).

The “Future Woman” wearing a stolen face (actually her own, that of the lovely and talented Salome Jens in her debut rôle.) [1]

At any rate, after much drama, Victor is killed in the lab trying to send the woman back to her time, and the unfortunate visitor is shot. In the end, the professor explains that they don’t need new genetic material, because the future is yet unwritten, and mankind has a chance to avoid atomic holocaust by acting more sensibly now.

Having seen it again, about the only major complaint I had about the film was the soundtrack, which incorporated a lot of musical interludes that sounded like they were lifted from Disney’s Pinocchio. The atmosphere of the movie was serious enough that the tinkle-tinkle passages seemed out of place. Other than that, I give it a thumbs up.

And, it’s nice to know that my horrific memories from the 50’s were nothing more than a child’s untutored perception.

[1]Salome Jens

Salome Jens has had a vigorous acting career, and in later years has played some very-recognizable characters (at least, recognizable by their makeup).

Star Trek TNG – “The Chase” – Humanoid Progenitor

Star Trek DS9 – The female shapeshifter and “ambassador” of the Founders.

Salome Jens and Gil Rogers in I Knock at the Door and Pictures in the Hallway, 2007.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The Jetsons Promo

It would seem that what the Jetsons represented as the 21st century is going to be more like the 24th… if we survive.

As a kid, 1984 seemed so far away… and the 21st century was an  unthinkable dream. And now here we are; Big Brother is watching us in so many ways, and I still don’t have my flying car.


The Empty Court: A Guest Essay

A friend of mine posted this essay on Facebook, and in light of the Black Friday madness taking place last night and today, I thought it well worth sharing.

As I was reading over the Gospel text for today (Luke 19:45-48, where Jesus cleanses the Temple), I was struck by a certain irony.

Just before this event, Jesus comes in sight of Jerusalem and weeps over it, since “If this day you only knew what makes for peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. . . . [Your enemies] will smash you to the ground and your children within you . . . because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” He then proceeds to enter the temple, where he finds the court of Gentiles has become a marketplace, not a place of prayer for the nations.

The temple authorities must have had a natural impulse. The court was nearly empty because, although this open expanse of over 20 acres had been reserved for the nations to come and pray to God, most of the peoples of the world neither knew or cared that it was for them. It was a vacuum, begging to be filled. There was a need to provide those who did come to the temple with pure animals for sacrifice, and the proper coins (without engraved images of humans or deities) for use in the temple. A vacuum, and the need that could fill it—the temple authorities put the two together very neatly. With only one problem. There was no room left for the original purpose, and so Jesus came along to restore this part of the world to its intended purpose.

In filling the court, the authorities had shown that they did not know “what makes for peace,” which is leaving room, being empty for God. They soon would show they did not “recognize the time of their visitation,” by killing God’s messenger, his own Son. Even though God had “pitched his tent” in their midst for a thousand years, from the time of David and Solomon, they still had not learned enough to know God or God’s peace.

However, lest we jeer at such foolishness, let us note this irony. Christmas commemorates our own hour of God’s visitation, not one thousand years ago now, but nearly two thousand. Decades ago it was taken over by the marketplace. Now it seems as if Thanksgiving is likewise vanishing under our worship of buying and selling to serve the almighty Dollar. Thanksgiving was begun as a day of peace and prayer to give thanks to God, an empty expanse that the merchants could not resist filling, with turkey for the feast, with football to entertain us, and with deals to entice us into the stores and malls. The temple authorities filled one court with their marketplace. It seems to me that we are very near to filling two holidays with our marketplace.

If the temple authorities were fools, does this mean that we are at least twice the fools?

-Boniface Muggli, osb

Father Boniface lives and works at Assumption Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in Richardon, ND.

My wish for the world on this beautiful day

It’s sunny out, on the 22nd of November – almost 50F (10C, for you metrical folks), and my home smells like heaven. Economic times are tough, but at the moment I have a warm home, a loving wife, work to do, family coming to visit, and more food to put on the table today than billions of people may ever see in one place in their lifetime. I am blessed beyond my deserts.

May this season bring you an abundance and an increase of all in your life for which you are grateful.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


This is London’s face of evil

My purpose in keeping this blog up is to post things that uplift, things that inspire, and sometimes just things that make us smile.

Today I make an exception, for a good reason.

Yes, I’m talking to you. You’re an unspeakable coward, a gutless, worthless, nutless loser. I’d love to hear what your mother had to say about this miserable, cowardly attack on an innocent girl.

On November 13, this thug ran up behind an unsuspecting girl in London and knocked her unconscious. The attack was captured on video, but I don’t recommend watching it – it’s not fun.

If you live anywhere in London, and you recognize this waste of human cytoplasm, please contact the Metropolitan police’s Newham violent crime unit on 020 8217 5890 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Edit: It is a relief to know that this bag of pig rectums, Michael Ayoade, was caught and jailed, but 4 years in the slammer for two such unprovoked and brutal attacks seems pretty minimal. He expressed little remose for his actions; this unprintable excuse for a man will probably learn new techniques for violating the peace, and be back on the streets before the terror of the victims has even had a chance to fade.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

In and around Athens, 1971

Some images of a trip I made to Athens in 1971, while a guest aboard the USS Cascade, AD-16 (a subject for a future post.)

Downtown Athens

The Acropolis

A side trip to Delphi

The oracle was out to lunch

An amazing trip. My only visit to Greece, but enough to make me want to go back – even with all the financial troubles they have been struggling with over the past few years.

The Old Wolf has spoken.