Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Silver Bullets

Hurog: Silver Bullets is a multi-part treatise on one person's quest to cast real silver bullets. Something I have devoted some thought to, as you may have guessed if you've ever read anything from my fiction project The Hunter Chronicles. Very interesting reading, via Ballistic Deanimation.

P.S. I haven't given up on it, I'm just waiting for the mood to strike again. Also the object in this story is to kill vampires, not werewolves, but like most modern vampire-tale-tellers I'm making up my own mythology as I go along. Our protagonist has approached the problem not by using silver bullets, but by using a very large hollowpoint lead projectile (which he casts himself--although I haven't revealed that much yet in the story) with a small quantity of silver chloride sealed into the hollow. I'll get back to it someday.

10 albums a day #53

Tony Carey - Some Tough City (1984, LP)
Tori Amos
- Little Earthquakes (1991, cassette)
- Boys for Pele (1996, CD)
- Hey Jupiter (1996, CD)
Tracy Chapman
- Tracy Chapman (1988, CD)
- New Beginning (1995, CD)
Traveling Wilburys - Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 (1988, CD)
- Just a Game (1979, LP)
- Allied Forces (1981, LP)
- Thunder Seven (1984, LP)
- The Sport of Kings (1986, LP)
Tuxedomoon - Half-Mute (1979, CD)

I bought the first Tori Amos tape when they were playing "Silent All These Years" on the radio, probably station KGSR out of Austin, which I used to listen to when I lived/worked/attended college in San Marcos. I liked it a lot (still do), so I bought those next two CDs just to keep up before calling it quits. Hey Jupiter is an EP-length CD of mostly live cuts. I'm pretty sure I got both of them through a music club. On the rare occasion that she comes up in a conversation, I recommend getting Little Earthquakes and then "you're on your own from there."

Tracy Chapman came along about the same time as many of those other acts who were popular on college campuses back then, and I wrote her off for the same reasons as all the others: rampant political correctness and the advocation of socialism, even if that isn't what they called it. Chapman is responsible for one of the most heinous collectivist anthems ever: "Talkin' 'Bout a Revolution." If that statement comes as a surprise to you, just pay close attention to the lyrics sometime.

I think everybody probably has that Traveling Wilburys CD. If you don't, you're still okay. I guess.

When Thunder Seven was new it was getting played on KISS. They may have been playing some of the other stuff too, although I don't remember that specifically. They were another group that got a lot of P.R. from Joe Anthony, so they were a lot more famous around San Antonio than in other parts of the southern U.S. They're still a staple of KZEP and those first two albums have just about everything KZEP plays these days except for "Blinding Light Show" which is on some other album. Thunder Seven is my favorite of these. The Sport of Kings was a disappointment and I didn't keep up with them after that.

Half-Mute was ordered from Ralph Records sometime in the mid-80s. Tuxedomoon are, according to Wikipedia, experimental post-punk new wave. I guess that description is as good as any. Their melodies and musical structures are a little too coherent to be called avant-garde (which is a good thing). This is the only one of theirs I have, but they have kept busy through the years and their latest album was released in 2007.

Album count: 548.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

10 albums a day #52

Toad the Wet Sprocket
- Bread and Circus (1988, cassette)
- Pale (1990, CD)
- Fear (1991, CD)
- Dulcinea (1994, CD)
- Coil (1997, CD)
Todd Rundgren
- Runt (1971, CD)
- Nearly Human (1989, CD)
- The Very Best of (1997, CD)
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Southern Accents (1985, CD)
Tom Pomposello - Honest Tom Pomposello (1975, mp3 download)

I discovered Toad the Wet Sprocket on a label sampler CD with the song "Come Back Down" from Pale. As soon as I had listened to the full album I knew: this is my 90s group. All four CDs were purchased as new releases; the first on cassette was picked up by my wife in the early 90s when she came across it somewhere because she knew I liked them. These five are their only studio albums. There were a couple of live EPs that I missed because getting live albums isn't really a priority for me. I think I should get at least one of their compilations because it has some extra stuff on it; I don't remember which one right at this moment, however. They should have been much more famous than they were. This was really the only new group that I bothered to keep track of during the 90s.

Todd Rundgren is another musician who I should have more of. I read about him in Musician magazine and soon after stumbled across Runt at Sundance Records. It's still my favorite of these three, and was his first solo album. Nearly Human was purchased as a new release from a mail-order music club, and the compilation album was from last year. It's hard to believe that Runt was released in 1971. It doesn't sound much like anything that was really popular back then, in fact it sounds like something that might have come from the later 70s or very early 80s. I recommend it.

The Tom Petty album was probably a music club purchase for the song "Rebels," but the whole album is good. The Tom Pomposello album was downloaded from Kathleen Loves Music. The songs are some folk, some blues, and some a mixture of the two.

Album count: 536.

Monday, September 28, 2009

But is it metal?

Someday, I'm going to have to set aside several hours to read this:

Heavy metal music - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

And follow all the subgenre links.

Just ran into a subgenre called "power ambient" which kind of blows my mind.

Very strange, how I like this music more now than I did as a youngster.

10 albums a day #51

Suzanne Vega
- Suzanne Vega (1985, CD)
- Solitude Standing (1987, CD)
- Days of Open Hand (1990, CD)
- 99.9 Degrees (1992, CD)
- Nine Objects of Desire (1996, CD)
Tanya Tucker - Greatest Hits (1975, LP)
Tex Ritter - Vintage Collection (1996, CD)
Timbuk 3
- Greetings from Timbuk 3 (1986, CD)
- Eden Alley (1988, CD)
Todd Snider - Peace Queer (2008, mp3 download)

Okay, I remember how I started on Suzanne Vega. There used to be a station in S.A., callsign KLLS, which played what I think they call "adult contemporary." They were playing her single "Undertow" from her first album so I bought the LP (much later the CD). I like her music a lot, but I don't think I'd want to hang out with her. As you can see, she isn't one of those "crank-out-one-album-every-year-no-matter-what" musicians, and I think she has released only one other album after the ones I have listed. I'll probably get it someday.

The Tex Ritter compilation is another one from Which reminds me, I have a great old LP of him and some other guy doing kids folk songs that I really need to rip.

It's a real shame that Timbuk 3 was consigned to the "one-hit wonder" category, because they were much better than that. Their song writing was very smart and they made some great melodies.

The Todd Snider album was downloaded from his website when he was offering this one for free. Sort of Americana, I guess. It's okay, but his irony meter is pushing the red zone, which is somewhat annoying to me except in small doses.

Album count: 526.

Heard somewhere

In light of some recent news, this is an interesting find, apparently from back during the primary season.

FOUND Magazine | Damage Control

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Garfield Minus Garfield

Garfield Minus Garfield is a site dedicated to removing Garfield from the Garfield comic strips in order to reveal the existential angst of a certain young Mr. Jon Arbuckle. It is a journey deep into the mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness and depression in a quiet American suburb.

I haven't laughed so hard in a long time.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A time called America

Strange Horizons Fiction: Let Us Now Praise Awesome Dinosaurs, by Leonard Richardson:
"I want to buy a gun," said the Thymomenoraptor. He moved his foreclaw along the glass case of pistols, counting them off: one, two, three, four. "That one." He tapped the case; the glass squeaked.

"Why would a dinosaur need a gun?" asked the shop owner.


The owner's gaze dropped to the three-inch claw that had chipped his display case.

"These are killing claws," said the dinosaur, whose name was Tark. "For sheep, or cows. I merely want to disable an attacker with a precision shot to the leg or other uh, limbal region."

"Uh-huh," the owner said. "Or maybe you figure humans shoot each other all the time, but if someone turns up ripped in half the cops are gonna start lookin' for dinosaurs."

Tark carefully pounded the counter. "There used to be a time," he said, "when gun dealers would actually sell people guns! A time . . . called America. I miss that time."

10 albums a day #50

- Styx (1972, LP)
- Styx II (1972, LP; later repackaged as Lady)
- The Serpent is Rising (1973, LP; later repackaged as Serpent)
- Man of Miracles (1974, LP; later repackaged as Miracles)
- Equinox (1975, LP)
- Crystal Ball (1976, LP)
- The Grand Illusion (1977, CD)
- Pieces of Eight (1978, CD)
- Cornerstone (1979, LP)
- Paradise Theater (1980, CD)
- Kilroy Was Here (1983, LP)

What can I say about Styx? Really. I'm trying to think of something. They were my Official Favorite Band from 1980 to '84 or maybe '85.

Cogent reasons I like(d) Styx:
1. Multi-part vocal harmonies.
2. Use of electronics.
3. Uh...I thought had a third reason but I can't think of it now. Must not have been all that good.

The first purchase was Paradise Theater as a new release; this was just when I was beginning to listen to rock music. Following that were the three albums previous to it. All four of these were originally bought on cassette, then later as the tapes started wearing out I bought the records, and much, much later I got the CD for some of them.

The cover art for their first four albums are the original covers from when they were on the Wooden Nickel label; the records I have were later reprints from...uh...maybe RCA or something, I don't remember but the cover art is really lame so I'm using the old ones. Also I'm having trouble finding any graphics of the reprint art on the internet and I'm not going to scan those lousy, cartoonish album covers. I remember coming across a cassette called "The Best of Styx" in the ACU bookstore in '82 and was intrigued because it included only tracks from the Wooden Nickel times, their sound was quite different, and I had never heard any of those songs before. So being the fanatic that I was back then, I had those first four all special-ordered from Hastings the first time I got back home.

These days listening to Styx is partly nostalgia, but partly because I still really like their stuff. Even the old Wooden Nickel albums have some songs that I would count among my favorites. I also have their double-live album Caught in the Act and a compilation CD called Classics that is mostly redundant except I think it has a couple of live tracks that weren't released anywhere else (but I'm not sure about that). I didn't bother to rip that CD because of its redundancy with all the other albums.

I also have Dennis DeYoung's first two solo albums, James Young's first solo album, and Tommy Shaw's first two (or was it three?) solo albums, none of which I have yet ripped. I haven't even bothered to check in on the modern version of Styx. I know it just won't be the same.

I also bought several piano score books of their music back in the 80s, and at one time I was pretty good at playing "The Best of Times," "Babe" and a couple of other songs. I remember trying to learn to play "Snowblind," but it was really hard. Then I got a videotape of them in concert and saw that the bass line was being played by the bass, of course, while DeYoung played the synth line. "What a minute!" I thought. "Here are two professional musicians covering the parts that I am somehow supposed to play alone?"

Other anecdotes:

I do not have perfect pitch. But there was a time when I had "Castle Walls" memorized so well that I even had the starting pitch (a "G") learned. The song is in C minor.

When I college, we were drilled on recognizing intervals. We all used tricks to learn certain intervals. My trick for knowing the ascending minor 6th was the first two notes of the melody of "Castle Walls," from the words "Once" to "in." Most people used the theme from "Love Story" for the minor 6th, which probably works better because it goes both up and down.

Album count: 516.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

10 albums a day #49

Steve Winwood - Back in the High Life (1986, CD)
Stevie Nicks
- Bella Donna (1981, LP)
- The Wild Heart (1983, LP)
- Rock a Little (1985, LP)
- The Other Side of the Mirror (1989, CD)
The Sugarcubes
- Life's Too Good (1988, cassette)
- Here Today, Tomorrow Next Week! (1989, CD)
Syd Barrett
- The Madcap Laughs (1970, LP)
- Barrett (1970, LP)

I bought the Winwood CD because I read about him in Keyboard magazine and it talked a lot about the his main keyboard, which was a Korg sampling synthesizer that I have forgotten the exact model name of. Anyhow, I was sort of a Korg fan (I still have an old gone-wonky Poly800II) so I bought the CD to see what it sounded like. It's a decent album, had some radio hits which you probably remember. He used pretty much the same lead or solo timbre on all the songs, which to my ears sounded like he sampled a tenor sax and then fiddled around with it with the synthesizer part of the system until he had a fairly unique-sounding lead patch. But that's just my guess.*

Stevie Nicks. Yeah. In the early 80s, before I discovered Kate Bush, Stevie was my favorite female pop star. I still like her a lot. I think I probably bought the first two in '83, the third one as soon as it was released, and then I kind of fell away. I found that last one on CD sometime in the early 90s and bought it for old time's sake, it's still good Stevie Nicks, and it has a cover of an old Johnny Cash song that's pretty neat, called "I Still Miss Someone."

I saw The Sugarcubes on SNL and thought they looked interesting enough to buy Life's Too Good since Hastings had it for a reduced price. I like it. Later I got that next CD when it was released. I wouldn't count them among my very favorite groups, but they're okay.

Although they came in a 2-for-1 package, the Syd Barrett albums were originally released separately and therefore the one album cover counts as two albums. This was the first set of records I ever digitized several years ago with my old turntable and an iMic. I still use the iMic for ripping cassettes. Listen to this if you want to hear Barrett in the process of falling apart, and if you want a glimpse of what he might have become if he hadn't gone too far and never come back.

Album count: 505.

*A brief explanation of terminology may be called for here.

A synthesizer is a device which uses the raw stuff of electronics to produce a basic sound with is usually either a sine wave, sawtooth wave, or square wave. The user then routes this basic wave (or sometimes combinations of more than one wave) through various filters to adjust the harmonics, reverberation, frequencies and final shape of the sound.

A sampler takes a digital sample, or recording of an existing instrument or sound so that the user can play that sound back on a keyboard. Early, primitive samplers took only one sample for the entire range of the keyboard, so that the notes in the middle sounded normal, but since the sound had to be sped up for high notes and slowed down for low notes, notes in the high range would be drastically shortened, and notes in the low range would of course likewise be lengthened. Later, more sophisticated samplers were capable of recording several notes of the target instrument over its entire range so that the note duration when played on the keyboard remained about what it was on the original instrument. Top-o-da-line samplers use a separate sample for each individual note.**

A sampling synthesizer is capable of taking the sampled sound so that the user can then process it through the synthesizing circuitry to change the way it sounds.

That's a more or less simple explanation, anyway.

**Also the human voice. I noticed in the late 80s that some of the more popular divas had certain intricate melismatic passages played on a keyboard rather than actually singing. When I tried to explain this to certain die-hard fans of said divas they looked at me like I was crazy. But I was right. This trick has continued to this day. Apparently most people aren't capable of picking it up, or maybe they just don't care.