Thursday, April 30, 2009

Timeless by Tran

It was probably 1995 (the first year that I had "unlimited" internet access via Netcom), and certainly no later than 1996 that I downloaded this cool demo that was called "Timeless," which was created in 1994 by a programmer who went by the name Tran. I don't remember where I downloaded it from, but I never forgot it. It was used as a screen-saver by some, although it wasn't because it had to be started manually. Also, it was likely you would have to tweak the DMA and IRQ settings of your soundcard to get it to work right.

My last native DOS machine bit the big one years ago, but I never forgot "Timeless." It ran in a continual loop with some very dense ambient music and I could sit and watch it for...well, a long time. It was trance-inducing and hypnotic. Yesterday some ambient piece popped up on my mp3 player that reminded me of the music from "Timeless." So I thought I'd see if I could find anything about it. Back when I used to run it on the old 486...

By the way, that old 486 did not come with a modem or a sound card--who needed them, right? I first installed a 2400 baud modem that I bought for $5 at a ham radio swap meet, then later I bought a package from somewhere, probably Circuit City, that had a soundcard plus a 14400 baud modem together. I remember asking the CC guy how hard it would be to install, he asked me if I had ever done any other upgrades. "Well, I installed a hand scanner not long ago," I answered. "If you can get a hand scanner to work," he said, "this'll be a piece of cake." What a headache that scanner was. I had to create a special boot floppy because there was an IRQ conflict that would not allow the scanner and the soundcard to work at the same time. So if I wanted to use the scanner, I booted from the floppy, did some scanning, then rebooted so I'd have sound again. And then I had another special boot floppy so I could play Aces of the Pacific. Aces didn't work too well anyway because the computer was too slow (neither did Doom), but things picked up nicely when I finally got my first Pentium. But I digress.

Back when I used to run it on the old 486, I thought it was one of the coolest things I'd ever seen, and I also loved the music. When I went hunting for it yesterday I found that it has since been ported to Windows, and you can download it here.

It isn't exactly the same, of course. On my machine, there's a slight lag when the loop starts over, so there's a brief break in the music. The DOS version I used to run long ago never had that lag. Also, the only way I can stop it is to bring up the task manager and end the process. It's still worth watching, especially if you can remember how magical some things seemed on the computer 15 years ago.

You can read all about Tran, the demoscene and other things Tran created by following the link to his Wikipedia entry: Thomas Pytel.

P.S. It's even cooler if you watch it in the dark. Turn off everything except the computer and your sound system, sit back and enter the zone...

This is reprehensible

According to their FAQ, there are few requirements to be eligible to attend the Second Amendment Blogbash. For example, you don't have to be a blogger, only a "new media publisher." You don't have to focus on gun rights, either. You only need to support the Second Amendment. The blogbash is at the NRA convention, but you don't have to be a member of the NRA, either.

But there is one big anti-requirement: if you write for the Examiners, you are not allowed.

I have never been a regular reader of either of the two big "gun" bloggers involved, because I recognized them quite quickly as cliqueish NRA apologists. A lot of other bloggers think they're great. I don't. If you do, you need to read the previous link and decide if you really want to associate with--or even blogroll--people who practice such unjustified exclusion.

Disgusting.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I have found it

Does anyone remember this?



Or this?



Or this?


I'll post something about this tomorrow, but for now chime in if it rings a bell.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Okay...

The next installment is up, check the link at the top right sidebar. Many thanks to Albatross for posting Longfellow's "The Cross of Snow at his blog Painted Ocean.

That is the kind of poetry that speaks to me.

I'm right, you know

Via the pistolero, I have just been reading a bit of a site called Country California. He's right: it's pretty funny. As he said, it's like The Onion for country music. But I've just read the post Lonely Guys in Empty Houses and I am forced to make a couple of comments.

First, very simply: Captain Kangaroo was not a cartoon.

Second, regarding the song "This Ole House." The reason this song is "oddly jaunty" is because the record company made Stuart Hamblen record it that way so it would sell better. His original version is very slow and somber. Second, this is not a heartbreak song. I repeat: this song has nothing to do with heartbreak. This is a country gospel song. The singer is telling the story of his life, which he realizes will soon be over. The house in the song is both his literal house as well as a metaphor for his physical condition: he is in failing health, nothing can be done about it, and he is preparing himself for the hereafter.

How do I know this? Because I have a box set of "country gospel" records in which Mr. Hamblen tells the whole story about the song, and then sings his original down-tempo version. So there.

Eureka!

Due to a match-striking incident that just occurred, I have had a brilliant idea.

Bent matches!

It makes re-lighting a pipe so much easier!

You heard it here first.

Icehouse - Measure for Measure (1986, LP)

Another one from the halcyon synth-pop years of the 80s. I bought this one new, but I don't remember exactly why. I think the biggest single from this one, "No Promises," was getting some radio play around here, and I probably saw the video on MTV. Still, my real motivation for buying it is now a mystery to me.

Icehouse apparently has a devoted following, and this album is in a tie for their best album ever (from what I've read). It's mostly quite atmospheric, and heavily electronic, relying greatly on the Fairlight electronic music system which was totally-cutting-edge-technology back then. There are a couple of goofy tracks that just reek of the 80s, but other than that it's a pretty solid album and a very good example of what 80s synth-rock could attain when it wasn't getting screwed up by a bunch of Brits with bad hair.

One item of note is that Brian Eno is credited as a member of the group. If you've never heard of him, then click the link and at least read the Wikipedia entry, because he has been enormously influential in a variety of musical genres as both a musician and a producer. He is also considered to be the originator of "ambient" music. The year after this album was released, he was the producer for another album which became hugely famous and which you've probably heard of.

Another item of note is that this album was recorded digitally, which was still uncommon in 1986. The Wikipedia entry says that it was only the third album to be recorded digitally, which doesn't sound right to me. Numerous internet sources state that the first album to be so recorded was Ry Cooder's Bop Till You Drop in 1979. If I recall the liner notes on the Scorpions' Love at First Sting correctly, it was also recorded digitally (someone feel free to correct me on this if I'm wrong, I can't find my CD at the moment). That was in 1984. Peter Gabriel's Security was also recorded digitally, and released in 1982. I find it hard to believe that only three albums had been thus recorded by 1986. But like I said, this was still fairly uncommon in 1986, so you can add that to your meaningless musical trivia file.

Should you buy it? If you're still into 80s synth-rock and you somehow missed this one, then yes, by all means buy it. Otherwise... I would probably not be averse to getting their follow-up to this one, called Man of Colours.

The album cover pictured above is the alternate cover, and I'm not sure why there were different covers. Perhaps this one was made for the U.S. market, with the original cover (below) marketed in Australia and Europe. But I'm not sure.

Ripping results: perfect.

Amazon has sound samples of all tracks.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Heh

Some slightly nerdy Star Wars humor at PhotoshopDisasters.

Anthony Phillips - The Geese & The Ghost (1979, LP)

I don't remember buying this record, but I must have. And I definitely purchased it used. So I don't know why I bought it. I can't imagine it was because I saw Phil Collins in the vocal credits, because he has never thrilled me much. It couldn't have been any of the other names in the credits, because I wasn't familiar enough with Genesis back then for them to mean anything to me. Maybe it was the cover, which is pretty cool. Click the image to the right to view a much higher-res version where you can pick out some neat details.

Well, The Geese & The Ghost was a project of Anthony Phillips, who was one of the original members of Genesis. When I went to rip this album recently, his name did ring a bell, because I have a sampler CD of various ambient artists on the Audion label which includes two pieces by him. But up until I did some reading to learn more about this record, I didn't know he had been in Genesis. I know so few details about that group that I fear I may be listening to this record out of context. I have always wanted to go back and get everything up to the point at which Peter Gabriel left the group, but after that I'm really just not interested. It's obvious to me that they were a serious art-rock or prog-rock group in the early days, and Phil Collins pretty much turned them into just another pop group.

So anyway, on this album Phillips is backed up by Mike Rutherford (of Genesis and Mike & the Mechanics) on guitars and various percussion, and by Phil Collins providing vocals on two of the tracks that aren't instrumentals. Plus about a dozen other musicians who I've never heard of otherwise. Phillips himself plays guitars and a wide selection of other stringed instruments, plus synthesizers, organ, mellotron and several other keyboard instruments. He also sings on the one other track that is not an instrumental.

This album is prog-rock. So far progged, in fact, that there is very little rock left. Taken as a whole, the album starts out very soft and slow, picks up in the middle, and then tapers down again toward the end. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy (most of) it, but most people probably won't. Those vocal tracks by Phil Collins just about put me to sleep.

So I guess the question that should be asked is: is it worth shelling out $15 for a used copy of the digitally remastered CD because that's the only version available now except for even more expensive collectible versions? If you're a hard-core Genesis fan, the answer is yes. But if you're a hard-core Genesis fan, you probably already have it. If you're not, nah, I wouldn't think you'd be very interested.

Click the image to the left to view a much higher-res version of the back cover. The goose wearing armor looks pretty cool, but check out the flying geese also. Again, some interesting details there. The cover art was done by illustrator Peter Cross.

Ripping results: good. This record had some surface damage which caused a few bad clicks that I couldn't entirely remove without destroying the surrounding music. But will I go out and buy the CD so I have a perfect copy? No. This is good enough.

My favorite track is "Henry; Portraits from Tudor Times," which has some nice keyboard work, and I think has more energy than the rest of the record.

The CD at Amazon is actually a two-disc set, the first disc being the original album, and the second disc being demo versions and basic tracks of the original album. Amazon has sound samples of all tracks.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Quick comment

I just finished watching the commentary version of Magnum Force, with commentary provided by John Milius, who wrote the script (and also wrote the script for the original Dirty Harry, I believe). If you get a chance to watch it, check it out. It's quite interesting. Milius is a gun person, and when he starts talking about the guns used and how they are used it's pretty good. He even mentions Jeff Cooper at one point.

For example, Dirty Harry's gun was supposed to be the 4-inch model, which is the model that Milius himself owned. But they couldn't find one like that to use in the movie, and the only one they could find was the 6-inch model. So Harry used the 6-incher.

He also points out that silencers don't work on revolvers, but that it's a common movie convention ("and they always just snap right onto the barrel--I don't know how they keep it from falling off"). There's lots more, so like I said, if you get a chance check it out.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A comment on "Tearless" and a somewhat random 20

The drainage ditch tunnel in that post is based on a real tunnel I saw a few months ago. Of course there were no vampires in it, but...

When you have a job like mine, one of the odd skills you pick up is how to balance yourself between dehydration and needing to go to the restroom. Well, one day my usual precision in this particular talent failed, and I found myself desperately needing to visit the euphemism. So I decided as soon as I got to where this old creek/big ditch ran under the street, I'd just duck under there and avail myself.

In the story, I said it was on the south side of town. The real one was actually on the far north side, in a very nice countryish neighborhood that's very quiet and is one of those "no outlet" subdivisions, so there's no through traffic there.

But as I walked into the tunnel things got creepy. I actually stopped and let my eyes adjust to the darkness so I could make sure no one was in there. The walls were covered with graffiti and there were discarded junk food wrappers, coke cans and beer bottles littering the ground. It looked like a bizarre subterranean hoodlum hangout right in the middle of Pleasantville.

I try to keep my eyes and mind open to random bits of inspiration like this everywhere I go, because you never can tell when something will come in useful.

In other news, no big random 20 tonight, because I'm in the mood for some smoother more ambient stuff. But here's a random 20 from my "ambient/new age/electronic" directory.

1. Enigma - The Screen Behind the Mirror
2. Michael Forrest - Looks Like Riggiddy Rain
3. Sun Electric - Quail
4. Clannad - Na Laethe Bhí (I'm sure the members of Clannad would be horrified to know that someone puts them in the "ambient" field, but their music fits well along with all the other stuff when I'm in the mood for this kind of thing. So I apologize, but I'm not changing it).
5. Richard Bone - Nocturna
6. Kitaro - Koi
7. Samite - Having a Good Time
8. Human Mesh Dance - Rotating Mirror
9. Mike Oldfield - She Moves Through the Fair
10. Jef Stott - Aegean Dub
11. Danny Thompson - Till Minne Av Jan
12. Yanni - Secret Vows (feel free to ridicule me mercilessly--it's there to remind me that I am still on a quest to find his One Great Composition)
13. Dubtribe - Memory
14. Alex de Grassi - Western
15. Fernando Cellicion - Eagle Dance Song (native American flute music)
16. Blackfish - Insight
17. Iona - When I Survey*
18. Opera to Relax - From Life 2 Life
19. The Benedictine Monks Of Santo Domingo De Silos - Vani Creator Spiritus (I also keep my Gregorian chant albums in this same directory)
20. Kozo - Illumination

*Iona is a Celtic group whose music might fall into that "Celtic new age" category, but I hate calling anything that because it just kind of doesn't sound right to me. One thing that sets Iona apart is that they are openly and unabashedly Christian (which pretty much takes them out of the new age category). "When I Survey" is a re-working of the old hymn "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross." They use all the original lyrics but with new music which I heartily approve of. This is one of my favorite songs, regardless of artist or genre.

Steve Forbert - Jackrabbit Slim (1979, LP)


I've always enjoyed the heck out of this record, but Forbert isn't the kind of artist who you can easily find in stores (usual qualifer: not around here, not when I used to frequent record stores). This is another one that I bought at a place that sold used books & records. I think at the time that I bought it, I had only a vague memory of having heard of him, when I listened to it the first time, "Romeo's Tune" rang a bell, but not a very loud one. Forbert is another artist whose work treads the sometimes-gray-zone that we now call Americana, but I don't think anyone had thought of that designation in 1979.

But before I listened to it, I didn't know what to expect. I bought it because it looked interesting. The cover photo of just some regular-looking guy with a guitar (he looks like about 15 years old to my eyes--he was actually 24 when it was released), the back cover crudely "photoshopped" image of Forbert herding cows while riding a giant jackrabbit, and the list of song titles on the back cover all contributed to my decision, I guess. Also it was used, so I didn't pay much for it.

Forbert has a sort of hoarse tenor voice. His voice and his songwriting talents have brought him comparisons to Bob Dylan, however, he sings much better than Dylan ever did (for whatever that's worth). If you enjoy that kind of music that is not quite country and not quite rock, you will probably like this album.

Favorites of mine are "Romeo's Tune," which reached #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1980, and "Complications." But I like the whole album and will sing along with any song on the record. Forbert has an extensive discography and is still active today. His latest album was released March 31 of this year. Jackrabbit Slim still has a fairly high Amazon rank, in the 22,000's. Amazon has song samples of the full album. One commenter there says that it was recorded with no overdubs. It does have that sort of feel.

Ripping results: perfect.

I didn't realize it was that important

This econometric study covers the world outlook for 60-milligram containers of fromage frais across more than 200 countries. For each year reported, estimates are given for the latent demand, or potential industry earnings (P.I.E.), for the country in question (in millions of U.S. dollars), the percent share the country is of the region and of the globe.
This and 11 other strange but real books you can actually buy at Oddee.

P.S. I just noticed that that is an odd world map layout on the cover.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Uh...

I managed to hack out another installment which I posted at Nightgaunt's Realm today. Not quite up to the first one, but I felt that I needed to write something, even if it mostly stunk. I needed to do a bit of exposition, but had problems fitting it into a brief tale. And I was starting to get a little tired of mindless inactivity today, although the lack of activity has given my ankle a chance to stop hurting so much.

But hey, it's not written in stone, only electrons, so I can always change it or just delete it.

P.S. I think I'll drop by Bullfrog Books tomorrow and see if they have any poetry collections by Lord Byron. I've found some pretty interesting stuff there.

P.P.S. The ankle problem is something that didn't seem serious at the time, but has come to be a continuous bother, though not so serious as an actual handicap. I was reading in alleys several months ago. It was not one of my regular routes, therefore I didn't know exactly where all the meters were. Whoever had been doing it had not bothered to put the lids back on the meter boxes. I found a lid under a bunch of leaves and grass, and as I stepped forward to lift it, I stepped into the hidden meter box. My foot very quickly twisted far forward and down, extremely compressing the Achilles tendon in my left ankle. It never has completely healed, or gotten back to normal. Normal walking is no problem, but if I have to do a lot of walking over irregular terrain it becomes a real bother.

Fiesta Friday

Thanks for the extra holiday, all you S.A. folks! So how will I spend my bonus holiday? Well, my ankle has been bothering me a lot this week (I had do a lot more walking--over some pretty rough terrain--than usual on Wednesday), and I am not going to do a thing today, except drink plenty of iced tea, smoke some pipes, listen to music, etc.

Also I woke up real early this morning and so far have watched the first three Dirty Harry movies.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Gunsmoker

I'm sure everyone has the seen the photos of much larger and more impressive such devices that are floating around the internet, but this is the first time I've seen one live and in person, so to speak.


Seen early this morning on S. Gen. McMullen.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Lenin's Birthday!

Earth Day predictions from 1970
“The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years,” he declared. “If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.” — Kenneth Watt, Ecologist
Earth Day founder murdered his girlfriend
“One of the self-identified ‘founders’ of Earth Day, Bay Area activist John McConnell, has written that in 1969 he proposed to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors a new holiday to be called Earth Day on the first day of spring, the Equinox, around March 21. But, he writes, in 1970 local anti-Vietnam War and Environmental Teach-in activists ‘who were planning a one-time event for April 22, also decided to call their event Earth Day.’

“And what was this unnamed ‘one-time event’ in 1970? It was the 100th birthday celebration for Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, known to history as Lenin…”

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I found a decent knife today

I have found several knives since I started beating the streets and back alleys several years ago, but so far they have all been pieces of junk, like those Eagle "Talon" knives. Suitable only for a tackle box: you drop it in the creek, you shrug and move along.

But today I came across a Gerber with an assisted-opening blade. Man it was sweet when I pushed the blade up just a little and it snicked all the way open. It has a partially-serrated blade. It definitely won't be going in the tackle box. It even has ambidextrous thumb studs. Nice.

Writing about books

My friend Brer at Power of Babel has started a new thing for his blog: he is going through his entire library, posting the titles of at least 10 books every day, and writing whatever commentary is inspired by these semi-random installments.

I read a lot more than the average shmuck--not a boast, just one of those things that I have come to realize, although my book reading has slacked off a lot in the past several years. When I was younger, I got most of my reading done in school when I had already taken care of any class- or homework, and on the bus ride to and from school, and at night before I went to sleep. These days I have to drive myself everywhere, I don't have any downtime while waiting for a class to end, and once I lie down at night, I pretty much go to sleep with little delay--no matter if I'm reading something or not.

Anyhow, when Brer gets going on his books, he often makes me feel somewhat ashamed that I have read so little. Just click the link above and scroll down. He just started this yesterday so it will be easy to catch up. You may find something interesting.

Oh, but...one thing. If you leave comments there, whatever you do, do not mention Dennis L. McKiernan.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Tony Carey - Some Tough City (LP, 1984)


When my Uncle Sonny blew back into town,
Said "I'll just go for a ride and have a look around."
And he took off his fedora, and he stuck his fingers in the crown,
And he pulled out twenty dollars and he laid that money down.

And he called out to a taxi cab, "Take me down to central park,
And keep that meter runnin' to the twenty dollar mark."
And he kept his eyes turned forward and he sat up straight and tall
And no one even noticed him, no one cared at all.

Anyone remember that song? From 1984, and in my opinion, Some Tough City is one of the great overlooked albums of the 80s.

The 80s were full of catchy pop tunes built around very few words, and in the middle of it all, Tony Carey was writing songs that were full of words and told stories, backed up by solid music and catchy tunes. He wasn't the only one, of course, but he seems to have been unjustly dropped into the One Hit Wonder category for his song "A Fine, Fine Day."

When this album came out, I had never heard of him before. I suppose most people hadn't, and assumed he was just another of those who came out of nowhere and swiftly vanished into oblivion. In fact, he had started out in a country-folk band called Blessings (which got a recording contract with ABC Dunhill when he was 19), then racked up experience as a keyboardist for Rainbow and created two albums as leader of a group called Planet P Project. I have not heard these albums, but I remember seeing them in record stores back then. And now I kick myself for not buying them. Anyway, they're available on CD now, so I've added them to my hit list. The Planet P albums are art-rock with sci-fi themes and from what I've read I'm sure I would have loved them back in the 80s, and will enjoy them when I get them (soon, I hope). Carey has recently reunited with a new version of Rainbow (sans Ritchie Blackmore) and a tour is in the works. He has also written film scores and produced albums for many other musicians.

So, it irks me a little that most barely remember him as an obscure one-hitter from the 80s.

As a keyboardist, he started out on organ and then followed the usual course into using synthesizers. This album isn't synth-pop. It's rock that uses synths (so don't let the leader being a keyboardist worry you). In fact, somewhere along the way he also began playing guitar, because the liner notes clearly state that he used Vantage guitars.

This has been a sort of defensive post, which is probably because when I mention him to someone they get that glazed look and then say, "Oh yeah...I remember that song."

The album starts out fairly hard, then gets harder and darker until finally brightening a little toward the end. Favorites of mine are "A Fine, Fine Day" and "I Can Stop the World." This album has, to me, improved with age. I also find an interesting tension between very sweet music and very bleak lyrics in "A Lonely Life" (a song about drug pushing and addiction). "I Can Stop the World" is a big enough favorite that it made it onto a collection of mix tapes that I put together in the early 90s. The title track (a saxophone song) has lyrics that are still appropriate today.

There's man on the radio
And he's readin the news
Says things are tough all over like 1932
Ain't no hope when it gets this slow
Seems like everybody gave up years ago

And no one's tryin' anymore, anymore
Ya just get promises
And you've heard all the promises before

[...]

There's a line outside the mission
Gonna get you whatcha want
And the salvation army's got the sisters out in front
And the unemployment office it stays open all night long
And the President keeps sayin', yeah, we'll make this country strong

Ripping results: nearly perfect. So close that I can't hear the very faint pops that I know are still there because I looked at the waveform but just couldn't dig them out.

If you ever heard anyone claim that all the music in the 80s sucked (I have said so myself in more cynical moments), this is an album you can point to to prove them wrong.

Amazon has sound samples of all tracks. Carey currently makes his home in Germany, and his official website is at truebeliever.de.

mp3 player notes

Due to circumstances not entirely beyond my control (mostly absent-mindedness), I have attempted recording parts of the KRTU lunch feature only twice since I got the mp3 player. Last week I got about 90 minutes of Herbie Hancock which I still need to go through. But today I got some Charles Mingus and managed to get four decent tracks out of it before I got too far out of range and the signal starting getting noisy.

Not perfect digital clarity, because a lot of their catalog is stuff that is only available on old LPs and there simply aren't any CD versions yet. So there are a few small pops & clicks, but nothing bad. And I managed to add these tracks to my jazz collection:

Self-Portrait in Three Colors
Better Get it in Your Soul
Goodbye Pork Pie Hat (a favorite)
Original Faubus Fables - This is a vocal version in a collection of live recordings that was lost for many years and only rediscovered a couple of years ago. It isn't even listed on the official discography I consulted to make sure I had all the details right for the tags.

A fruitful day.


And here's a picture I took today of the backside of the Alamodome from Claude W. Black.

Welcome to two new "domestic terrorists"

Well, I didn't intend for it to happen, but something that was said on some TV show set me off yesterday as I was watching something with my kids, and I told them all about it being the anniversary of the Waco Massacre. I made sure to make it clear that several of the people who were killed there were kids their own ages, some younger (they are 10 and 8 years old).

Let it suffice to say that their reactions now place them firmly in the camp of those Constitutional extremists we've all been reading about, even if they aren't fully aware of it yet.

ABC changes name to APC

Okay, not really.  But American Propaganda Corporation would be much more accurate.  Oh yeah, I forgot.  They aren't into accuracy.

Exposed: The anti-gun agenda behind ABC News' "Before Arranging Playdates, Ask About Guns" | Buckeye Firearms Association:
The kicker about the whole story is this: remember Carol, the lady referenced to at the beginning of ABC's story? It turns out that she has no qualms about letting her son Stephen play with Robbie at his home. In fact, since the ABC crew came out and filmed both kids are still welcome at each others homes for play dates and overnight visits. (Why didn't that make it to the story? I guess it was an inconvenient fact that didn't reinforce the bias in ABC's story.)
Read the whole thing.

via The War On Guns

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Patriot's Day posts worth reading

I'm sure there are many, but here are some that stood out for me.

April 19 by Jay21.

April 19th by Whose Paranoid.

This Day in History: April 19 and April 19 a day for gun owners to reflect on sacrifices by David Codrea.

A comment for the Pistolero

I was trying to leave a comment on this post, but when I got to the bottom of the Haloscan window, instead of scrolling down, my computer locked up. Since it was sort of a long comment, and I don't care to duplicate the problem, I'll just make it a post here. So if I can remember the whole thing...

Pistolero is correct that genre classification has a very great deal to do with the drones in marketing trying to figure out how to make the most money, and less to do with what the music actually sounds like. If a band like Pure Prarie League were around today, they would be called Americana (as would the early Eagles, CS&N, Seals & Crofts, Lobo, etc.). The true modern-day descendant of what we now think of as "classic country" is the Americana genre, not the wimped out cowpop* that passes for "country" these days because people don't know any better.

Just take a listen at some of the radio stations that call themselves Americana, and see how frequently they play "classic country" songs, or new songs by "classic country" artists. Then compare how often modern "country" stations play songs by these same artists. You will find that these Americana stations put the "country" stations to shame.

The music played by these so-called "country" stations is not the descendant of "classic country." It is really highly polished, carefully crafted and target-marketed pop music.

Of course, this is only my opinion, and you may disagree. But you'd better be prepared to make a very good case for the contrary if you plan on changing my mind.

*I made this term up myself. Someone else might have also thought of it at some point. I don't know. It just came to me one day and it seemed apt.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Saturday random 20

I think I forgot to do a random 20 last week. I was busy with family stuff and getting ready for Easter. So here we go for this week.

1. Clemencic Consort - Kyrie (some very old sacred choral music)
2. Alan Parsons Project - Stereotomy
3. R.E.M. - Fall On Me (my favorite R.E.M. song)
4. Scorpions - Crossfire
5. Emmylou Harris - Goodbye
6. Peter Gabriel - I Have the Touch
7. Leon Redbone - 14th St. Blues (I am ashamed to say that I have only one Leon Redbone album)
8. Syd Barrett - Waving My Arms in the Air
9. Styx - You Need Love
10. Choir of the Moine et Moniales - Ecce Quam Bonum, Gradual
11. Buggles - I Love You (Miss Robot)
12. Rick Wakeman - Anne of Cleves
13. Mojo Nixon & Skip Roper - Burn Down the Malls (the song that introduced me to Mojo Nixon)
14. Monk's Choir of the Benedictine Abbey of St. Martin, Beuron - Secret: Oblata, Domine
15. Pavement - No More Kings
16. Skin to Skin - Temenos I
17. Suzanne Vega - Calypso
18. Tracy Chapman - Give Me One Reason
19. Bill Monroe - Tennessee Blues
20. Hawkwind - Angels of Death

Any thoughts, memories triggered, bells rung? Leave a comment.

Herbie Hancock - Dedication (mp3 download, 1974)

It has been a jazzy day here today, having downloaded this album and ripped a Chick Corea record. Also, we got a lot of rain. I haven't had a rain gauge since the house move, but my dad who lives less than 5 miles away from us reported 5 inches of rain at his house.

Anywho, this past week KRTU featured Herbie Hancock for the daily lunch feature (runs 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM local time weekdays). I caught the tail end of one piece that I really liked the sound of, and listened long enough to catch the info on what the piece was named and which album it came from.

In my quest to go further into jazz, I am just beginning to get into Herbie Hancock, although I must say that I've already heard a lot of his stuff played on KRTU, so I know what I'm getting into for the most part. And this is a good one.

Dedication was the next release after the famous Head Hunters album, when Hancock was still heavily into electronics and the more "fusion" edge of jazz. The KRTU announcer (Aaron Prado–I hope I spelled that right) said that this album was not currently in print, but if you poke around on the internet you might find a used or collectible copy somewhere. This piece I heard, called "Cantaloupe Island" was enough to motivate me to do a little poking, and I found that Amazon has an mp3 version that can be downloaded for 99¢ a track, and at four tracks, that's a bargain. Those four tracks give you a total playing time of 40 minutes.

Unlike Head Hunters, this is not a Herbie Hancock "leader record," that is, a record for which he composed the music and led a group of musicians which he recruited himself. Dedication is a solo project, with Hancock performing all instruments.

The two tracks on side one are pretty much straight jazz, played on nothing but an acoustic piano. The two tracks on side two are much funkier, more fusion-edged, played on a Rhodes piano and a variety of ARP synthesizers. ARP was another big name in analog synthesizers that you often saw alongside Moog back in the 70s.

When I wrote about Wendy Carlos I had noted how some disparaged the synthesizer as not creating "real music." Hancock ran into that same prejudice when he started getting into electronics. But there is a true art to creating sounds electronically, and a further art in knowing how and where to apply those sounds. Hancock has it, and this is the real thing.

An aside: I remember reading an interview with Miles Davis about the time that Tutu came out and he said that he liked electric keyboards because "you press a key and that note plays as long as you pay the electric bill." Heh.

This is only the second album of Hancock's to become a part of my collection, but I expect there to be many more in the future. So if you are unfamiliar with his work, I suppose the best place to start would be with Head Hunters (which is next on my hit list), but starting with Dedication wouldn't be a bad idea, either.



P.S. If you click on "buy the album" it costs $5.99, but if you buy each track individually they are only 99¢ each.

I still think Bob Lazar was full of it

The Road to Area 51 - Los Angeles Times:
The problem is the myths of Area 51 are hard to dispute if no one can speak on the record about what actually happened there. Well, now, for the first time, someone is ready to talk—in fact, five men are, and their stories rival the most outrageous of rumors. Colonel Hugh "Slip" Slater, 87, was commander of the Area 51 base in the 1960s. Edward Lovick, 90, featured in "What Plane?" in LA's March issue, spent three decades radar testing some of the world's most famous aircraft (including the U-2, the A-12 OXCART and the F-117). Kenneth Collins, 80, a CIA experimental test pilot, was given the silver star. Thornton "T.D." Barnes, 72, was an Area 51 special-projects engineer. And Harry Martin, 77, was one of the men in charge of the base's half-million-gallon monthly supply of spy-plane fuels. Here are a few of their best stories—for the record:
Interesting article about some old Area 51 projects that have been declassified, and now the few surviving people who were there are able to talk about them.

via Murdoc Online via Hell in a Handbasket

Friday, April 17, 2009

New blog project

One of the things I've been toying with which has been keeping me somewhat away from this blog is a new project in which I will attempt to combine two things I've been wanting to try: to tell a story in blog format, and to tell a different kind of vampire story.

The name of the blog is Nightgaunt's Realm. It has nothing to do with nightgaunts. It's a blog I created here a long, long time ago, one of the first actually, just in case I ever wanted to use it and because no one else had created it yet so I got a pretty cool blog url. A feed link is at the upper right sidebar for now so if anyone is interested you can click on the above link or the one on the sidebar.

You should get a warning that it has adult content. I thought it was better to do it this way, but that doesn't mean it will have explicit s3x. Or any s3x at all, really. It just means the language might get a little intense now and then.

I was going to try and write several installments before I posted the first one, but I think I will have more incentive to keep going if I post them as I write them. New posts will not be on any kind of regular schedule, just as I happen to write them. I do have basic ideas for at least three more installments for now.

Comments are enabled, so as the story progresses, if you have any suggestions or ideas that you think would be cool for further installments, leave a comment.

As usual, the disclaimer: I am not a professional writer or author. It's something I do for fun. If you enjoy reading it, great. If not, that's fine too. There are plenty of other more productive things you could probably be doing, anyway.

DDTC

This is essential information. Drop what you're doing and read it all. It's about a little-known government goon squad agency called the DDTC.

Via Gun Rights Examiner, from which I quote:
You should REALLY read this article, since the DDTC is about to make all guns, shooting supplies and accessories more expensive or unavailable. Under the guise of implementing an international arms control treaty, the DDTC is fixing to make life VERY difficult for everyone in the U.S. gun culture, beginning with manufacturers of any shooting-related products.


P.S. "Fixing to?" Must be from Texas.

But I use it often

Someone came here after Googling "i laughed i cried it became a part of me origin."

I don't know, but the first time I heard it, it was uttered by Selma Diamond, in her role as Bailiff Selma Hackett on Night Court.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Skinny Puppy - a threefer


Do you remember back when you were younger, and still mostly a naïve country boy, and you went to the big city to have some fun? You remember. You got picked up by these two extremely hot hot chicks who said they'd show you a good time, so you went with them to this weird dance club where they were playing something that technically had a good beat and you could dance to it, but somehow you suddenly weren't really in the mood. And then things started to get...a little...intense, shall we say, and then when blood started raining down out of the sprinkler system you might have freaked out and lost bladder control just a tiny bit, and the only reason you lived to tell about it was because right about then this huge dude knocked the doors down, came in and killed everyone except you with a sword.

Remember that? This is the music that was playing.

But seriously, these three albums are the full extent of the electro-industrial subgenre in my collection. And I don't think I really need any more. The album names from top to bottom are: Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse (1986), Cleanse Fold and Manipulate (1987), and VIVIsectVI (1988).

I read about these guys in Keyboard magazine way back in the 80s, because they used lots of electronics and the description of their sound interested me. I knew it wasn't going to be the kind of thing I usually listened to, but I really wanted to hear it so I bought one of these. I don't remember which was first, but they were all in stock at Sundance Records in San Marcos. I took it home and listened to it, and the next day I went back and bought the other two.

So, if you've never heard any of this stuff, well, to describe it...(takes pipe bowl in hand pensively).

Like I said, a huge reliance on electronics to start. Add in a powerful application of drum machine(s), found sound as well as recognizable sound clips from movies and the news, and vocals that that demon from The Exorcist could only dream about in its worst nightmares.

Need I say--I enjoyed it very much.

Skinny Puppy are generally considered to be the founders of this kind of music: industrial or at least electro-industrial. Their work, and especially their earlier work, has been hugely influential in this genre. These three were their third, fourth and fifth albums, and many think these are pretty much the best of the best.

So if one of you industrialists out there reads this and thinks I'm missing out on someone else, leave a comment. Otherwise, these three will be it for me.

All three of these are LPs, but were played only once or twice before because I taped them right away. I got perfect rips on all three. It's hard to pick any favorite "songs," because this stuff just doesn't lend itself well to such frivolity. But if I had to pick a favorite, it would be "Shadow Cast" from Cleanse Fold and Manipulate, because it uses sound clips from one of my favorite movies: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Unfortunately, they do not use the best line from the whole movie, which is: "Oh...my achin' banana" by native Texan James N. Harrell.

If you care to go exploring, Amazon has samples of all tracks from all three of these albums that you can listen to.

Amazon link: Skinny Puppy

Almost got rained on

This week has been too busy with kid activities at night. Today is the first time I've had the chance to do much of anything but eat and shower before we were gone again. And it's that time of the month when I have the worst routes and was completely worn out by the end of yesterday. As a result, I was in a daze and forgot all my gear at the office yesterday and didn't realize it until I got out to my route this morning and realized I didn't have the required tools.

Well, I figured I could go one day without gloves or the tube*, but no hook? So I broke out the back-up hook that's in my toolbox. It's actually a latch hook that I bought when I was truck driving, and which I had chewed the end with a Dremel to get it in better shape for hooking meter lids. It wasn't what I was used to, but thank goodness, it worked. It's made of anodized aluminum, so it's very light. I need to work on it more to get the hook shaped better, but I think I'll use it more often now that I know it works. I won't use it in alleys, because I need the heavy hook for bashing brush, but it should be better for motor routes because it's lighter and shorter and should be easier to wield while jumping in and out of the truck.

Also, it's purple.

*The tube is a plasic tube with one closed end about 2 inches in diameter and about 18 inches long. It's used to stick down in a meter box that is flooded due to a leak, rain or sprinklers. You put the closed end right down on top of the meter face so you can read it better. Also you can turn it upside down and cover a sprinkler head with it so you don't get sprayed while reading a nearby meter. Maybe sometime I'll take some pix of the tools I use. That will be good for at least one blog post.

Well, not getting killed is usually fun

Other than that, I don't know. I think you're pretty much gonna have your hands full just staying alive.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Texas as a "terror state"

Great reading at American Thinker with Is Texas A Terror State?
Let's test Texas's terror threat assessment capabilities based on voting habit:
Anti-abortion--check
Pro-Gun--check
Anti-gun control--check
Predominantly Christian--check
Military bases--check
Returning soldiers--check
Against high taxes (no state tax in Texas)--check, check
Anti-illegal immigration--check
Against an overreaching federal government--check
Conservative--check
Extreme right-wing (according to Democratic Party standards)--check
Understands Article 1, Section 8--check
Understands the 10th Amendment--check
Rejects federal authority in favor of state or local authority--check
That sums it up: Texas is most definitely a terror state in the eyes of Secretary Napolitano and her agency.
Read the whole thing. Hyperbole? No. Just wait and see if doesn't ring more and more true as time passes.

And it won't take much time, at that.

via the pistolero

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

(Toy) guns a-plenty

Every year, the second grade at the school my kids attend puts on what they call a "wax museum." They dress up as best they can as some famous historical character and when someone drops a coin in their can, they recite a brief info blurb about this person. Two years ago when my daughter took part in this, she was Reba McIntire. This year it was my son's turn, and he chose Davy Crockett.

I bought him a fur cap with a coon tail, pretty much like the one I used to have when I was a kid, and with that and a toy Kentucky rifle as his props, he did a pretty good job. The toy rifle is totally vintage--I got it for Christmas when I was about his age. And it was a big hit.

I'm just mentioning this so you'll know that there is at least one public school that doesn't fly into P.S.H. and start expelling kids for Things That Look Like Guns But Actually Are Not.

I made several tours and stopped and put a coin into the can for just about every frontier-type character, and my son wasn't the only one with a toy gun. I also noticed William Clark (who also had a big toy tomahawk), Meriwether Lewis, Wyatt Earp, Sam Houston, Pat Garrett, James Bowie (who also had a toy Bowie knife) and Annie Oakley. There was also a Theodore Roosevelt who didn't have a toy gun but did have a toy sabre. Lewis & Clark were also wearing fur hats.

At one point the school photographer stopped at my son's spot and told him, "I need a good picture for the photo board in the hall, so grab your gun and take a good pose!"

It was so cool to be in a gym full of kids, many of whom were playing with toy guns, and see parents walking around talking and nobody soiling their undies. It slightly restores my faith in the world.

And everybody wanted to see that vintage toy Kentucky rifle.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Educational

If you can call learning about pop/rock music "educational," discovering this album in my collection has certainly been educational. I'll have to put off saying anymore until I get a chance to listen to it a few times.

My pop/rock knowledge is weak when it comes to Genesis, but I would like to investigate their earlier albums.

Quickies


Tanya Tucker - Greatest Hits (1975, LP). Tucker's first greatest hits collection, released when she was 16 and I was 11. Her first hit single had hit the country music world only three years earlier, and much of her music provided the soundtrack for my childhood.

Her "What's Your Mama's Name?" was one of the first songs I ever memorized, certainly the first for me that was neither a children's song nor a gospel hymn.

Another of my favorite songs of hers is "Lizzie and the Rainman," which was released the same year as this compilation and therefore was not included on it. I downloaded it some time ago.

This album was inherited and was in pretty bad shape. I managed to remove the worst pops but there are still faint pops & clicks throughout. Good enough to turn up in the shuffle, since I'm not a snob when it comes to pops & clicks.

Journey - Escape (1981, LP). I had this cassette in high school, and listened to it a lot. Eventually it wore out, or maybe I got tired of it and gave it to my sister. Anyway, I think this record was picked up by my wife at a yard sale or something. Another one that was not well taken care of, so there are faint pops & clicks throughout. I downloaded my two favorite songs, "Don't Stop Believin'" and "Stone in Love" a long time ago, so I have clean digital copies of them.

Upon listening to it just recently, it seems better than I remembered it. However, I'm still not entirely certain that I'll ever need to hear "Open Arms" again. Or want to.

Men At Work - Business As Usual (1982, LP). This one didn't hit the airwaves until I was in college, or maybe it happened during the summer. Anyway, while I always identify Escape with high school, Business As Usual was strictly a college album. When it was new, it was just radio music to me, I never considered buying the album. I picked this one up second-hand at some point. Favorite song is "Be Good Johnny," but I think the whole album is worth having.

On this one I got a perfect rip.

A blog for everything

I give you Cake Wrecks, which documents "when professional cakes go horribly, hilariously wrong."

via Oddee

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Good boy


via Samantha Burns

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Keeping a secret

My daughter is part of a team that went to Houston for a Bible quiz competition yesterday, and my wife went with her. So I prepared breakfast this morning for myself and my son.

"Your scrambled eggs are better than Mommy's," he declared.

"Well don't tell her that," I replied. "She might make me cook them all the time."

I know this bit of trivial information may shock some of you, but you don't have to fry everything in bacon grease. And I know this may seem as heresy to some, but some things are actually better when you don't. I have never been able to make my wife understand this.

Sure I like bacon & eggs, but that doesn't mean you have to cook the eggs in the leftover bacon fat "for flavor." Eggs have flavor, and you don't need to mess with it.

Just smear the bottom of the pan with a healthy dose of melted butter (or margarine, whatever), then dump the eggs in and scramble. I don't do fried eggs, btw. For the best scrambled eggs, you keep them moving constantly. You don't want to let anything remain in direct contact with the bottom of the hot pan for very long. This is important. Keep them moving. When the eggs are still fluffy but no longer wet (this is a very narrow window of time so you have to be paying attention), remove them from the heat immediately and dispense them onto plates or dump them in a bowl where the hot pan will no longer continue to cook them. Do not let them sit in the pan until everything else is ready. Allow each eater to salt & pepper the eggs to his own taste. This is also very important. Don't be seasoning the eggs while you're cooking them, or I will justifiably refer to you as a flavor fascist.

Serve bacon on the side. Biscuits are also good. Hot sauce and/or fresh ground black pepper for the eggs will also not be out of place. Dispose of the bacon grease properly, but leave the eggs out of it.

Don't call them zombies anymore

Not Zombies: Differently Alive.
In a move that almost stopped the collective hearts of the world, a spokesman for the differently alive came forward today to announce their presence among us.

“You know us as Zombies,” said the spokesman, who used the moniker “Reg Shoe” after the zombie in the Terry Pratchett novel. “But we consider that a derogatory term. It conjures up images of shambling, mindless creatures in search of brains. We prefer the term differently alive.”
Funny. But I take exception to this:
When asked if other differently alive creatures such as vampires or werewolves might exist, Shoe was silent on the subject.

“I can’t speak for our undead brethren,” he said. “If such creatures do or do not exist, it is up to them to come out of the coffin.”
I don't know how many times I'll have to explain this, but werewolves are not undead. And they have nothing to do with coffins, except that their victims usually end up in one.

Zombies are undead. Except possibly in that one movie where the Responsible Guy With Job dies without actually dying. But still, in the end he is an animated dead guy. Undead.

A vampire must also die to become a vampire. Ignore all the TV shows about "getting close to death" and that nonsense. A victim must be (eventually) killed by a vampire before coming back to "life" and becoming a vampire himself. Animated dead. Undead.

A werewolf must be created by being attacked or scratched by another werewolf, or created by a curse, or possibly just by sleeping outside under a full moon. If a werewolf kills someone, that victim remains dead. Only a surviving victim of a werewolf can become a werewolf. A living person who has become changed. Not undead.

This is an important distinction.

Now stop calling them undead. It only angries them up.

CO2 into methane

Via nanotube technology:
The nanotubes are arranged vertically, almost like empty honeycomb. Over the top of the nanotubes sits a thin, reddish-brown layer of copper oxide. Both the copper and titanium oxide act as catalysts, speeding up reactions that take place naturally.

When sunlight hits the copper oxide, carbon dioxide is converted into carbon monoxide. When sunlight hits the titanium oxide, water molecules split apart. The hydrogen freed from the water and the carbon freed from CO2 then recombine to create burnable methane, and the spare oxygen atoms pair up to create breathable oxygen.
Interesting.

I can answer this one

THIS POST HAS BEEN CORRECTED FROM THE ORIGINAL. Thanks to Hammer.

Someone Googled "what is minimum caliber for concealed carry texas."

It depends. You must use at least a .32 caliber to qualify, but you can carry anything you want.

Which means you can qualify with a wimpy .32 ACP, but not the much more powerful 7.62x25mm Tokarev, because 7.62mm is only .30 caliber. Not logical, but since when do governmental restrictions operate by logic?

But after you qualify with your P-32, you can carry whatever.

By the way another restriction is that if you want to carry a semi-auto, you must qualify with a semi-auto. If you qualify with a revolver, you can't carry a semi-auto.

You can download a pdf of the current CHL laws at the DPS website.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Residents - God in Three Persons (1988, CD)


You're walking down the street one day when you chance to bump into an old acquaintance. Not someone who you ever thought of as a friend, but not an enemy either. There's a diner on the corner nearby, so you both take a booth there to have a cup of coffee and catch up. He proceeds to tell you his life story, from the last time you saw him up to the beginning of this cup of coffee. He tells you a strange and disturbing tale of how he met a set of conjoined twins--one male and one female. They have an amazing power: the power to heal, both emotionally and physically. They heal him of his grief from the recent passing of his wife, but then, he realizes, they are ripe for exploitation. There was money to be made. They traveled the country, charging people for their healing powers. Your old acquaintance eventually fell in love with the female twin, but of course couldn't be near her without the male twin being there as well.

From there, the story starts getting weird.

God in Three Persons is an hour-long epic tale that begins as I have roughly outlined above. The vocalist never sings throughout this album, but speaks conversationally, and sometimes in a rough meter that makes more sense heard than read. The music, as is usual for The Residents, relies heavily on synthesizers, sequencers and drum machines, but don't let that throw you, this isn't "synth-pop."

As is customary with The Residents' music, there is quite often more than one thing going on, and there are several motifs which surface and submerge throughout the album.

To give an example of what I mean about the lyrics making more sense heard than read, here is the opening paragraph from the first track, "Hard & Tenderly."
They called me "Mr. X, Indeed," the special ones that saw so deep inside the souls of those who were so lonely. I was down beneath the bottom, when my vacant staring caught them gaily parading up and down the street - followed by some stinking masses, freeing fumes and giving gasses to the brown and nearly worn out air. But they had that certain presence like the ether or the essence of the cleansing upper atmosphere. Laughing, loving, and without a doubt, they simply strode about the streets that other creatures left alone. I ran across, myself compulsive, with the feeling of a pulsing drum that pounded underneath my skin. A tingling in my tangled brain was screaming that this was insane, but it also told me, "touch it," too.
It doesn't seem very lyrical as seen above, and which is how it is printed in the CD booklet. But here it is "versified." See if it doesn't make better sense.
They called me "Mr. X, Indeed,"
the special ones that saw so deep
inside the souls of those who were so lonely.
I was down beneath the bottom,
when my vacant staring caught them
gaily parading up and down the street -
followed by some stinking masses,
freeing fumes and giving gasses
to the brown and nearly worn out air.
But they had that certain presence
like the ether or the essence
of the cleansing upper atmosphere.
Laughing, loving, and without a doubt,
they simply strode about
the streets that other creatures left alone.
I ran across, myself compulsive,
with the feeling of a pulsing
drum that pounded underneath my skin.
A tingling in my tangled brain
was screaming that this was insane,
but it also told me, "touch it," too.
This is basically the rhythm and the loose rhyming scheme of the entire album, until near the end when the climax of the story gets kind of, uh...strange. The meter gets more insistent but not any less coherent, and there's a really impressive display of over-dubbed call and response that the vocalist does with himself in the penultimate track, "Kiss of Flesh."

NOTE: This album has lyrics which could be objectionable to some listeners. So don't say you weren't warned. I'm not talking four-letter words, although there are a few, but they are used in specific context to describe what is actually happening, and I would not consider them gratuitous. I'm talking more about his descriptions of what went on, regardless of the language used.

There aren't any pieces on this album that you can sing along with, although you may find yourself humming some of the recurring motifs when they appear. For example, the gospel hymn "Holy, Holy, Holy" makes at least three appearances that I noted on my last listen. Now that I think about it, the number 3 seems to be another recurring motif. I'll have to listen to it a few more times and see if I can pick out more of this.

I have the original CD release which has slightly different cover art from the re-release that is currently being sold at Amazon. If you click through the Amazon link, they have sound samples of the entire track list.

This is probably a better starting point for a new listener than some of the earlier albums like Meet The Residents, but if you were to ask me if this is a typical example of their music, I would have to say no, because there is no really typical example of their music. Every album pretty much stands on its own as a new creation. Every one of them is different in some way. This one stands up very well to repeated listening, in fact it gets better with time in my opinion.

This one has also become somewhat collectible. Used CDs start at about $25, new ones at about $75.

Your old acquaintance has finished his story, which somehow seemed to dredge a happy ending (more or less) from what you were sure was going to end with tragedy. You realize you still have half a cup of forgotten coffee, now gone tepid and you motion for the waitress to freshen your cup. You take a gulp of warm coffee, wishing it were something stronger as he sips his cup, makes a gesture as if miming a toast, and grins at you over the rim of his mug. You are left with the question: was it really true, or did he make the whole thing up? In either case, the world is always going to seem a little stranger than it was before.

Amazon link: God in Three Persons

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Bonus music

The new mp3 player came pre-loaded with 19 mp3s, and I am just now listening to them to see if they are worth keeping. Most are. I've never heard of any of these artists/groups. I am woefully out of date when it comes to contemporary pop music, but the vast majority of it that gets played on the radio is such crap that I just don't have the time to waste wading through it and trying to find something fit to listen to. So far they've been pretty good, though. One trance piece that I moved to my ambient/electronic folder, one rap that I deleted, one Spanish-language song that sounds like a hybrid of conjunto/Tejano, except it's probably from some L.A. band if I'm guessing right, which I also deleted. A hip-hoppy piece that I deleted.

P.S. I have nothing against real conjunto--it's essentially only polka music anyway, which is a big part of my own ancestry.

Anyway, one song that I liked so much I had to play it twice was "Little Black Backpack" by Stroke 9. I don't completely understand what it's about, but it has one of my favorite sayings: "I think I'm gonna bash his head in." If I had had this song in high school I would have been singing it to annoy the English teacher. They are the only group with two songs in this collection, and they're both pretty good. I might have to investigate them further. I'm going to have to look up some info on some of these people and learn more about them.

Some other artists that jumped out at me: Andrew Paul Woodworth, Gretchen Lieberum, The Caroline Movement, The Procession (they sound like they are heavily influenced by the Beatles), Umphrey's McGee.

Overall, pretty good stuff.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

A Lovecraftian perspective

Amusing yet dramatic, at the UNSPEAKABLE VAULT (Of Doom).

Nothing much

I finally got the last bits of accessories that I ordered to go with the new mp3 player--a screen protector film and a rubber case to help shield it from bumps. So at last I downloaded the manual and gave myself a quick lesson on how to operate it. I think I have it pretty much figured out, and will give it a first run tomorrow. One thing I especially like about it is that it also has an FM radio, and can record direct from the radio. I'll be using that to record some of KRTU's lunch time features. When they have someone I like. Unfortunately, this week has kind of sucked. As I mentioned before, April is Jazz Appreciation Month. It's also National Poetry Month, so they've been doing features on the poetry/jazz thing, which should have died out a long time ago. Maybe it's just me, but I don't get it.

I'm still not sure I have the arm band figured out, though.

UPDATE: Okay, I got the armband figured out. One thing I was curious about was exactly what kind of file I would get when I did radio recording, so I just recorded about 10 seconds and then transferred it to the computer so I could take a look at it. This is the kind of detail that you'll never read in any descriptions about this player, so just in case anyone is wondering, what you get is a 768 kbps wav file. Now you know. The one I got is the SanDisk Sansa Fuze 4 GB Video MP3 Player. I doubt if I'll ever use it for videos. It shows the time you have left to record based on free memory. When it's empty it'll record for more than 10 hours, or until your battery runs out. So you can pack it up with songs and still have plenty of room to record a 2-hour radio program.

The Residents - Double Shot (mini-CD, 1988)


As long as I'm on this Ralph Records kick, here is another one from The Residents. This one has the distinction of being the only Residents music I ever bought from (or ever saw in) a local music store (the Hastings in Seguin). I don't know how it got there. It was the only one, and after I bought it, it was never restocked. This one was not released by Ralph, however. It was released by Rykodisc.

"Double Shot" (the title includes quotation marks) is a mini-CD, that is, a CD-3, or three-inch diameter CD including three tracks:
1. Double Shot
2. Loss of Loved One
3. Kiss of Flesh (instrumental)

A lot of time and a lot of albums that I missed came and went between this one and Duck Stab, and the music on this one is very different. The vocalist no longer disguises his voice with recording or electronic tricks, and on these you can clearly hear what seems to be his real voice and his very pronounced southern twang. Instrumentation is not listed, but it sounds like mostly electronic instruments. I would call it electronic soundscapes with partly spoken and partly sung vocals.

Track one, "Double Shot" is a cover of an old 60s tune by that title, although I think it may be more accurate to say it's an "interpretation" rather than a "cover." Most covers by The Residents are that way.

"Loss of Loved One" is an extended version of the piece that appears on the album God in Three Persons. "Kiss of Flesh" is a slightly shorter instrumental version of a piece with vocals that is also on that album, and is another of those soundscapes with a heavy drum (probably drum machine, if my ears don't deceive me) background that has two different things going on: the original music, dark and ominous, with the gospel hymn "Holy, Holy, Holy" layered on top of it, creating that characteristic Residents tension of trying to listen to two different musical atmospheres simultaneously. They come together in a final resolution which is both sweet and foreboding at the same time.

"Double Shot" (the song) is supposed to be the core inspiration for God in Three Persons, which boasts similar though not identical cover art. Both this mini-disc and the Three Persons album have lyrics which are NSFW. Some of the lyrics are the kind that if someone heard you listening to it as you walked down the street, and they took the trouble to listen and understand them, they would tend to step away from you and pull their children closer. Very dark and eerie, even twisted, I might say. The conversational tone of the vocalist makes it even more disturbing.

This one has also gone collectible, it seems. Used ones at Amazon go for $13.95, with new ones starting at around $30. Since it was a mini when I bought it new in 1988, I probably paid around $7 for it. I don't really remember, but I don't think I would have paid $14 for a 3-song disc.

JAM time


April is Jazz Appreciation Month! So go buy a jazz album and send those suckers in Washington a message! My April jazz purchase is to the right.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Eunice aphroditois

Very strange, and a very strange animal.  Read about it at Cryptomundo.  Read the whole article, but...uh...brace yourself if you read it all the way through.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Ignore this post

I have slowed down a little on posting, party because I have been learning how to get the sound files as close to perfect as possible and I have been taking more time and being more careful before I call them finished. Also partly because I have a backlog of stuff that I've pretty much finished with but I need to go over it again and listening to albums takes time. And then partly because I've started another blogging project which may or may not go anywhere and I will reveal it in time.

All this to say that I like to be able to post something at least once every day, but I don't really have anything today.

I wish I knew...

But don't despair, you can still get hickory smoked salt from various mail-order sources, and if you live in a large enough city there might even be a "gourmet" salt & spices store that sells it. It will be more expensive, you can't just pick it up at the grocery store, but hickory smoked salt is still out there.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Holy cow

The "best price" shown on these Amazon links can change based on what's available. When I first wrote about Meet The Residents it didn't even show a price because there were none available. Now there is at least one available.


Mind-boggling.

Ripping notes

If you've been watching the twitter feed in the sidebar, you can see I've been ripping all of my Alan Parsons Project records. I have all their studio albums except the last one, Gaudi. I was disappointed with Stereotomy when it first came out, so much so that I decided not to buy Gaudi when it came out. But now I think I want to complete the collection, and I've been reading some comments on it that give me the impression it's better than Stereotomy. I think I'll be ordering it on CD pretty soon.

I think I'll be making some specific playlists regarding APP when I get that last album. One playlist will be of all their instrumentals, and other playlists will be built according to who sang lead on the song. I generally tend to like the songs with Eric Woolfson on lead vocals best. That's probably a big reason I didn't care for Stereotomy all that much, because he doesn't sing lead on any song from that album. Gaudi is supposed to have him back in the lead for some of the songs.

APP was a group that I always liked when I heard their songs on the radio, but I didn't buy any of their stuff until Eye in the Sky. After that I went back and hunted down all their older albums, and bought the newer ones as soon as they were released. They're still one of my favorite groups. Many of their songs will have to be included in my big favorite songs list (The Official Soundtrack) when I get around to putting that together.

We had a nice day today. My daughter went with a church group to a nearby miniature golf place, but they ended up not playing golf and instead doing just about everything else there (go-carts, bumper boats, etc.). My son asked me if we could do some "boy stuff," so I took him with me as we dropped a worn-out tire off at the local tire shop to get a replacement (I'll pick it up Monday), then we went to NAPA for oil and a filter and I showed him how to change the oil in the truck.

After some Sonic hamburgers (I got my favorite double jalapeño cheeseburger) and a nap, I worked on that last record and am giving the wavs a cursory listen right now prior to the filtering and converting to mp3. So far so good.

Ever more dictatorial

Bill Would Grant President Unprecedented Cyber-security Powers
The headlines were all about creating a national cyber-security czar reporting directly to the president, but the Cybersecurity Act of 2009 introduced April 1 in the U.S. Senate would also give the president unprecedented authority over private-sector Internet services, applications and software.

According to the bill's language, the president would have broad authority to designate various private networks as a "critical infrastructure system or network" and, with no other review, "may declare a cyber-security emergency and order the limitation or shutdown of Internet traffic to and from" the designated the private-sector system or network.

The 51-page bill does not define what private sector networks would be considered critical to the nation's security, but the Center for Democracy and Technology fears it could include communications networks in addition to the more traditional security concerns over the financial and transportation networks and the electrical grid.
Read the whole thing.  They fear us, they fear the truth, and they will do whatever they have to to stop the flow of information.  Regardless of whatever else happens, this will ultimately come down to an information war, which in fact started a long time ago.

via The Liberty Sphere

Friday, April 03, 2009

A false statement deliberately presented as being true

That is: a lie.

JR has a roundup on blogosphere and MSM coverage of the "90% of guns in Mexico come from American gun stores and gun shows" lie with Fox News is Catching up With Bloggers on the American Gunz in Mexico Farce.

It is not spin.  It is not skew.  It is a lie.  A deliberate presented falsehood.  Read the whole thing for full details.  Be sure and read this Gun Rights Examiner column as well.

Here's the truth:  the weapons that the drugs wars are being fought with in Mexico can't be coming from U.S. gun stores and gun shows, because if they were, I would own the very same weapons, that is:  fully-automatic firearms, grenades, rocket launchers, etc.  They are getting there because the Mexican army purchases such weapons from other governments, including the United States', and since corruption is so rampant among the Mexican government and military, it is easy to see how these weapons are being sold, traded to, or stolen by the thugs who use them.

It's just that simple.  So if you're looking for someone to blame, don't blame the little gun store owner.  Blame your own government.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Wake the children and call the neighbors...

I have ordered an mp3 player. And it's about time. Sometimes walking those meter routes can get pretty boring.

What I am about to say I have no way to prove, so you may freely accuse me of blowing smoke. But more than 20 years ago, I predicted the mp3 player. I didn't have the details all exact, but I got pretty close. Some co-workers and I were sitting around after work one night, eating pizza, quaffing a few and watching MTV, when we began discussing CDs. That was early in the game, and I didn't know much about computers at the time, but I understood that the compact disc was just digitally stored data that could be read by a computer, if it had the correct programming. What I basically said was that someday there would be an erasable and re-writable chip that would be able to hold the data for dozens, maybe hundreds--of songs, or any other kind of data you might care to write on it. You would be able to load all your favorite albums on the chip and plug it into a player small enough to wear like a wrist watch. When you got tired of those songs, you could just plug it into your computer, erase the memory and reload it with more songs.

My occasional visions of the future back in the mid-80s seemed to be fairly accurate, and some of them were terrifying. I also predicted to some friends that there would be rebellion and open warfare within the United States no later than 2015. As time went by, I became convinced that I was just flat wrong about that one, but as more time has gone by, I am becoming convinced that I was right. I will not be surprised to see it happen.

You probably think it will be started as a rebellion against collectivism, or socialism, or communism, or whatever you want to call it. It won't. It will be much simpler, and it's going to have individualists and (some) collectivists fighting on the same side against a common enemy.

And this is why.

I really hope I'm wrong on this one.