Saturday, January 29, 2011

Beautiful doom

So I haven't had much activity here this week except to update some old posts. I've had a bad head cold since last Sunday. I called in sick Monday, worked sick for three days, and took off Friday to stay in bed and take cold medicine. I'm starting to come out of it now, although I'm still not completely recovered.

The new internet service has been mostly working, and when it works, it flies. I've downloaded a few samplers that I've been trying to get time to listen to but have been spending almost all my time at home just lying in bed being miserable and trying to stay warm. So with this post I will try to catch up on the week.

I came across another amusing site that posts weird album cover art, which you may enjoy: Regrettable Music. For example:

My young son was looking over my shoulder as I was first scanning over this site, and his remark was: "Eewwww!"

I got one of those FM stereo transmitter thingies that you use to listen to your mp3 player over your car stereo speakers, and it works great. I had an old one that I bought from Radio Shack about 20 years ago, and it just didn't work well at all. It was hard-wired to work on only four different frequencies, three of which were in use by real radio stations in San Antonio and its signal wasn't strong enough to block them out. This one I just got can tune the whole FM band and can block out even some of the stronger stations, although that isn't necessary since with the whole band it's a lot easier to find a more vacant(-ish) frequency. Also the old one ran only on batteries, whereas the new one can run on either batteries or being plugged into 12 volts DC. This one only cost $10 via eBay. So I should be able to keep up with listening to new downloads more easily now. I quit wearing my mp3 player while working some time ago because it interfered too much with me being able to hear my surroundings.

Amazon has been releasing some really good samplers in the doom/ambient/drone metal genre recently. In no particular order, here they are.

With a title like Melancholy Epiphony (note the pun), I clicked the download button on this one before even reading any comments or anything. Eleven tracks for about 90 minutes of music.

The Solitude Productions Compilation has 14 tracks for about 80 minutes of music. A particular "group" that recently caught my eye--The Howling Void--turns up on this one again.

Thirteen tracks for about 75 minutes of music, but the first track sounds like it was cut short. All three of these compilations have a mixture of doom/ambient metal, some instrumental, some with growling vocals and some with clean vocals. It's all in there.

And finally, although this was the first of this group that I downloaded--my first big download with the new internet service--is Metalhit's sampler of doom metal. It was on this album that I first came across The Howling Void.

Although I haven't hunted down all the countries of origin for all of groups on these samplers, I did do so for all of the Metalhit samplers, of which the doom metal sampler is the fifth (or sixth? I don't remember). Very few of these groups are from the United States, in fact I joked with a co-worker that I usually expect them to be from Finland. However, The Howling Void is from the United States, from San Antonio, Texas, in fact. It's actually only one person named Ryan who does all instruments and vocals. Here's his blog: Voidlight.

So far I've just been using Windows Movie Maker to make the stuff I've uploaded to YouTube, but I've downloaded another program that I'm going to take a shot at. It doesn't seem to be very intuitive to me so it might take me a while to get the hang of it. It does have some snazzier effects than Movie Maker though, so I'm going to try and learn it.

I am able now to read more, faster than I was before when I was stuck on dial-up. So I'm finding I actually have more time to do other stuff without feeling like I'm losing out, and that's nice. I guess that's about all I have to say for now.

Oh yeah, I also wanted to mention one other new blog I came across. This one is being written by someone who is watching every Doctor Who episode and commenting on them. He's just begun--only 7 posts so far--so you can still get in on the beginning. Just go to TARDIS Eruditorum.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Mark Twain has some fun with extrapolation

In chapter 14, "Cutoffs and Stephen," of Life on the Mississippi, Twain explains how the river has shortened itself. This happened when the river cut across various bends in its course, creating a new island, creating new riverfront property, and taking a more direct course south. In fact, the river was thus shortened more than once intentionally by landowners who wanted their property to front the river itself, by simply digging a ditch to start the course going, and once it began, there was no stopping it. This also often resulted in ill-will, to say the least, not excluding actual killing because of it.

But then he goes off on a slight tangent to show the dangers of extrapolation:
In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average of a trifle over one mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the Old O├Âlitic Silurian Period, just a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi River was upwards of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing rod. And by the same token any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three quarters long, and Cairo and new Orleans will have joined their streets together, and be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and a mutual board of aldermen. There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.

Various artists - Potatoes Volume 1 (1987, LP)

UPDATE: Bumped to the top to note that you can listen to the full album at YouTube if you wish by going to my YouTube channel and looking for Potatoes Vol. 1.

NOTE: This is an update to a post from August 27, 2008. I recently ripped the album with my new turntable, so I'm updating the post.

There used to be a small, obscure record label called Ralph Records. Technically there still is, but now it's not actually a music label. It's actually a distribution company for The Residents, for whom Ralph was originally created, after all. Also it's now called Ralph America.

I bought some stuff from them when I used to get their mail-order catalogs back in the 80s. As I said before, I probably discovered them via the book High Weirdness By Mail. I would have bought a lot more if I'd had the money, but alas. One of the albums they put out was Potatoes: A Collection of Folk Songs from Ralph Records in 1987. The spine of this jacket says it's Potatoes Vol. I. Was there ever a Vol. II? I don't know. I never heard of it, but of course I could be simply be ignorant of it.

This was one of the first albums I converted to mp3 back when I had my old turntable, but I didn't do the whole album. I skipped some of the songs that I didn't particularly care for--something which I'd never do now (UPDATE: this time I ripped the whole thing).

You won't find an entry in Wikipedia on this album, but you can find a different version (CD re-release) of it at Amazon.

From the notes:
As far back as any musical memory, and up to this very record, artists have tried to define and appropriate to their own satisfaction the ever elusive expression of folk music.

Ralph Records is proud to announce its seduction by the folk muse and to present the progeny of this joyful union.

Folk music is a reflection of life in the world. Given the world of today, folk music aficionados should be prepared for some novel twists. However, they shouldn't be surprised to hear traditional strains as well.

This collection of songs is what a handful of artists have done with what was handed down to them. Maybe these songs will in turn serve as motivation to future folk heroes.

We hope you enjoy them.
So...what's it like? I am glad you asked.

It starts out with a traditional American fiddle tune called "Fire on the Mountain" by Blitzoids, except that they "have chosen to arrange it like a mutant square dance." Except it's not so much a dance as a series of crashing lurches. Very nice.

Renaldo and the Loaf were associates of the mysterious The Residents. They perform song #2: a traditional Liverpudlian sea chanty called "Haul on the Bowline."

Song #3 is one of my favorites, "Canto del Pilon" by Maria Marquez and Frank Harris. It's a traditional Venezuelan woman's work song but all sounds except the singing were made with the Synclavier (totally state-of-the-art synthesizer music system in 1987). Very hypnotic and beautiful, even though I don't understand the language.

The Residents come in at #4 with their interpretation of Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry." If you know what a Residents interpretation of a song can sound like, I don't need to explain it. If you don't, there's no way I can explain it. But once you've heard it, you probably won't ever forget it.

Terra Incognita are at song #5 with the traditional country folk hymn "Rank Stranger." Most people are more familiar with the version recorded by the Stanley Brothers, but this is a good version, too.

The last song on side 1 is "The Ballad of Sawney Bean/Sawney's Death Dance" by Snakefinger's Midi-Evil Vestal Virgins. Snakefinger is another associate of the Residents, and gained his nickname from the way his fingers fly while picking his guitar. This song was written by him, based on the true story of Sawney Bean, who led a clan of inbred cannibalistic Scots in the early 1400s until King James had him hunted down and executed. (click to download a sample)

Side 2 opens with "My Hometown" by Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo fame. A quick little guitar-accompanied anthem to Akron, Ohio. I intend to write a whole post about this song eventually, but I am still in the data-gathering phase. Teaser: unless I am mistaken, this song has a tie-in with an old Andy Griffith episode.

After that is "The Billy Bee Song." The female singer who recorded this did so anonymously. It sounds like she's sitting in a rocking chair on her porch singing this between slugs of moonshine. A sad, desperate song. This one presented some special problems for me because it was intentionally recorded to sound like it was being played on a very old, crackly record. Unfortunately it had a few real pops, which I had to try and dig out manually so the auto-filters wouldn't screw with the fake crackles. As a result, this is the only song that I don't consider to be a perfect rip. But what's left of the real pops probably aren't noticeable unless you've actually looked at the waveform and know what to listen for.

Then we have the legendary Negativland with "Perfect Scrambled Eggs." The milk makes all the difference.

"Mamma Made Me Do It" by Voice Farm is probably my second favorite song on the album, after "Sawney Bean" (and tied with "Canto del Pilon"). This is another of the original songs on the album, written by members of Voice Farm and inspired by a film called La Juajira (I think that's misspelled. I think the title is really La Guajira, with a "G"). A sweet, creepy song with a spoken-word ending.
This is the part about the bones...

There's a little sleepy village in South America where they have a little ritual, and they...they dig up the bodies of the dead after they've been buried for about eight years and, uh...they take the fleshy part...what was the fleshy part off the bones and...it's considered an honor to do this...the women, mostly, and...the men are sitting around playing cards while the women are crying...
Next is Clubfoot Orchestra with "Japanese Song Too," which is either an adaptation of a Japanese folk song or a song they wrote that sounds like a Japanese folk song--I'm not sure which. Then there's Rhythm and Noise with "Berta's Hammer," a two-song medly of prison songs that sounds like it's being sung by a real chain gang. The closer is a short traditional song called "Potatoes."

So... used CDs at Amazon start at around $30 (new ones are selling for $70). Is it worth it? To me, no. Especially since the re-release seems to have deleted a couple of my favorites and replaced them with songs I've never heard. I guess it's a good thing I bought the LP for less than $10 back in 1987. Especially since it provided so much entertainment way back when by way of my memorizing, and subsequently singing, "Sawney Bean" after I'd had a couple of beers.

Way back when, like I said. But I still have the song memorized.

Ripping results: perfect except for "The Billy Bee Song," as I mentioned above.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Monday, January 24, 2011

Thomas Jefferson and His Dixieland All Stars - If I Could Be With You (LP, 1974)


UPDATED to include the track below and a cleaner scan of the cover art.

Not too long ago I wrote about a Dixieland album by Teresa Brewer. Well, here's another one that also came from my late mother-in-law's record collection, and this one is the real thing.

The Brewer album, excellent as it is and I suppose technically authentic in its own right, is somewhat (how shall I say...) whitewashed. Perhaps recorded for the Lawrence Welk set, with a pretty white face to disguise the true origins of the music.

The liner notes for this album are quite extensive and I have tried to provide the whole thing (click the graphic to enlarge), but my stitching was a little off so I apologize for that. I recommend reading them if you want to know all about Thomas Jefferson. His parents were from Louisiana, but they moved to Chicago briefly, where he was born in 1921. Then they moved back to New Orleans where he grew up learning music in church. He showed such great proficiency playing with toy wind instruments that a church friend gave him a bugle which he became very good with. He then began playing a cornet that belonged to a friend of his until his mother saw how good he was and bought him his own cornet for $65 (an astounding sum to spend on a instrument for a boy back then, I'd say). He learned to play gospel music by ear, or by "head" as he called it.

When he was 14 he was sent to a "Home for Waifs" because he got caught skipping school and skinny-dipping, and it was there that he encountered a real music teacher who taught him to play the French horn and the trumpet. He got a part as second trumpet in a real jazz band in 1934, and was fronting his own band by 1935.

Wikipedia has a very brief entry on him, and the liner notes here are exhaustive by comparison. According to their entry, he is still living.

The music on this record is real Dixieland, the gruff vocals somewhat reminiscent of Louis Armstrong, although not quite up to that level. But wow, this is great stuff. Another hidden gem.

The liner notes say this was recorded at a place called The Lord Napier in England. Not a recording studio, I don't think. It sounds like a pub or club or something was emptied out just for the recording. It has a very "live" feel, in fact the song "Blueberry Hill" was recorded in one take according to the notes.

Track list:
Side One
1. Baby Won't You Please Come Home
2. Blueberry Hill
3. It's a Long Way to Tipperary
4. If I Could Be With You
5. Who's Sorry Now

Side Two
1. Tell Me Your Dreams
2. Ting-A-Ling
3. Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter
4. Blues for Jefferson, Jr.
5. St. Louis Blues

Ripping results: I had to give an extra-thorough cleaning to side 1, track 2 because of some gunk causing a skip, but once that I was fixed, I got a perfect rip. No pops or skips.

Here is the title track, which has both his trumpet playing and his singing.



This album is not currently in print, and it probably didn't have a very wide distribution to begin with. I have found only one collection at Amazon that involves him. The link is below. It is available only as an mp3 download and there are samples of all songs on the album that you can click to hear.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Kathy Dalton - Amazing (1973, LP)

click to enlarge

UPDATE: This post has been bumped back to the top for the videos embedded below and further information.

I had originally grabbed this one for a "weird album covers" post, but I remembered liking it back about 25 years ago so I put off posting until I had finished ripping it. The editing isn't good; a couple of songs have a scratchy sound that I can't get rid of. I really wish someone would re-release a CD of this one. Possibly the most remarkable thing about this cover art is that the album came out a good 10 years before Jabba the Hut took Princess Leia captive.

It's hard to find information about this one. Collectible copies in near-mint condition are going for around $90 in various places on the internet. Pretty much everything I know about it comes from the liner notes on the back jacket. Since the cover art is quite, shall we say, fanciful, here is a photo of the actual Kathy Dalton from the back cover.


Her main backing band was Little Feat, who you have probably heard of. There were lots of other musicians who contributed to the album, and of them the only one I've heard of is Van Dyke Parks. Parks also has an a album called Tokyo Rose from 1989 on which Dalton contributes vocals. All the songs on Amazing were written by Greg Dempsey, but he's another one who I can't find any real information about, although if you wiki or google his name he turns up in all kinds of places as a song writer. Amazing was later re-released with the title Boogie Bands and One Night Stands with a slightly different track list (I think), but it is no more easily available than Amazing.

UPDATE: Kathy Dalton (then Kathy Yesse) was in an earlier band called Daughters of Albion who released a self-titled album in 1968. Below is one song from it, "Hey, You, Wait, Stay."



Amazing is another album that I picked up at Yesterday's Warehouse, and as you can see if you enlarge the cover art, it belonged at one time to the Schertz Library. (This is not the only album I have with that stamp on the cover). Eleven tracks with a total playing time of around 33 minutes. The songs range from boogie to rock to country. Favorite tracks of mine are "Pour Your Wine" and "I Need You Tonight," but to me the whole album doesn't have any weak spots. One song called "Ride Ride Ride" seemed vaguely familiar to me, so I looked it up and it turns out it was recorded by Lynn Anderson in 1966, so that's probably where I heard it long ago. Never mind, it's not the same song. There seem to be several songs with this title, none of which are this one.

If I ever come across another decent copy of this--LP or CD--that I can afford, I'll buy it.

--

UPDATE: Embedded below are two tracks from this album. The first, "Ride Ride Ride" is a more up-tempo rocker; the second, "I Need You Tonight" is sort of a countrified power ballad.



Saturday, January 22, 2011

Next side project

I'm going to go back over some of the more obscure albums I have posted about, and if I can't find any evidence to show that they are still available somewhere, I will attempt to put some representative tracks up at YouTube. So that's what I'm working on now. Any suggestions?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Daring Deed

I have several books in progress now; it's very hard for me to stick with only one unless it really fascinates me. Usually, I can't understand this fascination. However, in my life of reading I have come to one realization: I am fascinated by books that allow glimpses into little-known subcultures. Such as the subculture of fire-jumpers (Young Men and Fire), the subculture of map collectors (The Island of Lost Maps), or--currently--the subculture of Mississippi steamboat pilots. A particular subculture that no longer exists, and hasn't for many decades. I've begun reading Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi and I'm finding it quite fascinating. I would suggest, for a taste, that you read chapter 8: A Daring Deed.
Now the engines were stopped altogether, and we drifted with the current. Not that I could see the boat drift, for I could not, the stars being all gone by this time. This drifting was the dismalest work; it held one's heart still. Presently I discovered a blacker gloom than that which surrounded us. It was the head of the island. We were closing right down upon it. We entered its deeper shadow, and so imminent seemed the peril that I was likely to suffocate; and I had the strongest impulse to do SOMETHING, anything, to save the vessel. But still Mr. Bixby stood by his wheel, silent, intent as a cat, and all the pilots stood shoulder to shoulder at his back.

'She'll not make it!' somebody whispered.
If you are of the inclination, you can follow that link above and read the entire book online. Personally, I have not yet developed a taste for reading books from a computer screen.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

H.R. Pufnstuf Original Soundtrack (1969, EP)

UPDATE: I'm bumping this back to the top in order to announce that this record may now be listened to in full by visiting my YouTube channel.

And here is one of my prized possessions. One day when I was five years old, a large, stiff manila envelope arrived in the mail, and it had my name on it. Without my knowing about it, my mother had taken advantage of an offer on some cereal box to enter me into the H.R. Pufnstuf Fan Club. There were other items in the package. I think there was a certificate, and I remember some kind of pin that I wore on my shirt everywhere until it broke. But this record was the best part of it, and I somehow have managed to preserve it intact for 40 years.

It is a 7-inch, 45 rpm EP including 11 songs that were used on the show. There are a few songs left out, but these are all the best songs.

Having recently watched all 17 episodes plus all available extras and interviews on the DVD set, I can say that the songs on this record are not exactly the same as they were presented on the TV show. For example, in the show the song "Pronouns" had a flute solo played by Freddie, but on the record there's just an instrumental bridge with no flute.


I played this record over and over and over again when I was a kid. When they stopped running the show on Saturday mornings I still had this record to remind me of the best TV show I had ever seen. The sequence of songs has become firmly fixed in my head. If I see that episode where Witchiepoo sings "Ice Cold Lemonade" I immediately hear the beginning of "A Bucket of Sunshine" in my head when she stops singing.

Track list:
Side One
1. H.R. Pufnstuf (theme song)
2. When We Woke Up This Morning
3. Mechanical Boy (another favorite of mine)
4. How Lucky I Am
5. I'm So Happy to Be Here

Side Two
1. Oranges, Smoranges
2. Pronouns
3. Ice Cold Lemonade (if you ever hear a meter reader coming down the street whistling this song, you'll know it's me)
4. A Bucket of Sunshine
5. End of the Road
6. H.R. Pufnstuf reprise

Yes, the jacket is somewhat tattered, but this is understandable when it began as the last thing a small child could hold in his hands and stare at to make sure he didn't forget his favorite escapist fantasy as he slowly grew older and came to realize that childhood was slipping away. But now we have the DVD, and some things are good again.

The record itself is in remarkably good condition, some pops and clicks but no jumps, and the mp3 files I created cleaned up very well. Another notable thing about this record is that it is one of the few I ripped with the old turntable before I gave up on it, and I still have the old files I created a few years ago when I did that. So I was able to compare the old files with the new, and there is a huge difference in sound quality. That old turntable was so horrendously noisy that I shouldn't even have bothered.

Here's one of the first songs I ever memorized as a small child. I still sing it sometimes, when I feel I need some encouragement.

Novus ordo seclorum

I would like to announce my first ever upload to YouTube.



Now I can have my own channel! And I think this calls for a new category of blog posts.

Friday, January 14, 2011

"uncivil"

It was you again.
Your unhealthy addiction to freedom of speech.
Your discourse has gotten too "uncivil".
The Discourse on Civil Discourse. Good reading.

Note for future reference...

Kel-Tec Shotgun (KSG)

Found this in the house today...

Thought it might jog some memories.

Sweet dreams.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

He's a millionaire!

I always thought they were singing about Boy George. The song is being told by your average everyday Larry Lunchpail, so how the heck do you think he's going to talk? As usual, political correctness as thought control. Screw you, anyone who approves of this ban.


In other news, boy it's been cold this week. I've been wearing a pair of flannel pajama pants under my blue jeans for warmth. Actually today wasn't bad at all after about 8:30 or so. I think I'll go without the extra layer of pants tomorrow.

I've been revisiting a couple of sites I bookmarked long ago against this day: when (if!) I would be able to actually stream audio. I'm quite happy that I will now be able to listen once again to my favorite ambient music program: Musical Starstreams. I checked out a couple of other channels at Live365 but have done nothing serious yet. I took a good hard nap after work today and then just laid there for a while after I woke up, watching old sitcoms on TV Land, and then we had Cub Scouts tonight so I haven't spent much time on the internet today. I would usually be in bed right now but between that nap and the cool weather today (did not sweat at all--didn't even feel thirsty after 4 hours without drinking any water) I'm not feeling very tired.

Enjoyed having a discussion about Greek mythology on the drive in to the Cub Scout meeting today. My son is still trying to work out which ones are which and what the Roman names are.

I am also enjoying very much being able to quickly read sites like Cracked.com and Oddee. Man on dial-up that was almost a chore.

One of my co-workers today showed me a picture he had taken (with his phone) of what he said was "the weirdest thing I've ever found in a meter box." He found it just yesterday. It was purple, and was of the design that has an auxiliary...uh...stud on it so that it can be inserted into two orifices at once. Yeah. People stick all kinds of weird things in meter boxes.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Further adventures with WiFi

I set up the Wii to use the new internet service today. Now we can browse the web on the TV, although I have no idea why anyone would want to. Set up my Netflix account to watch movies via WiFi, but the service isn't quite perfect enough. I was able to watch about the first 10 minutes of the very first Fat Albert episode before the signal had one of its hiccups and it shut down. Oh well.

Huh...

I guess that means I don't need to call them and cancel my service.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Zoom!

Some comments on the new internet service.

I asked the lady yesterday how long this service has been around...she said 3 years. My jaw dropped. "And I've known about it for two," she added. I told her I had been searching for a long time for such a service in our area and this one had never turned up on G00gl3. "Yeah, it's just been a word-of-mouth kind of thing...this is the first mailing we've ever done." "You're going to get swamped," I said. "Today has been insane," she confirmed.

So I hope their infrastructure can handle what will certainly be a big jump in clientele. It's not completely smooth. Occasionally it loses the signal or something and I have to "repair" the link, mostly it's working quite well. I put it to the test last night and downloaded that full Metalhit sampler that I couldn't get before on dial-up, so I have the complete collection now. I moved the router around to different parts of the house to see if the signal was any better, but I ended up back here in the computer room.

Big difference: I can stream videos now. I think I'll go see what this YouTube thing is I've been hearing so much about.

update update

I spoke too soon. Apparently it took them longer to activate my account than they thought it would. About 8:30 last night I tried it again and this time I got the blue & green signal lights instead of just flashing red. Well, web surfing is blazingly fast. Downloading large files isn't as fast as I had hoped for, but it is much faster than dial-up. I think I'm going to have to tweak some things on this computer to get it working just right.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The more you look at English, the more you realize...

It's horses all the way down.

On the other hand...

I did get a micro USB adapter so I could fiddle around with my phone. It's pretty cool. It can sync with Windows Media Player for loading mp3s or playlists, or you can just drag & drop files manually. Also, once you start the mp3 player, you can close the phone and it keeps playing--you can listen to it without headphones. That's kinda cool, but I suppose it puts a drain on the battery. Unfortunately I can't connect to it with Motorola Phone Tools like I did with my old phone, so I'm going to have to rebuild the phone book manually with the phone keypad.

Also I took a couple of experimental pix (of my mouse and a new CD) and they do look quite a lot better than the old phone's pictures. I'll see if I can take some work pix tomorrow and post something.

update

I picked up the hardware for that wireless broadband service I mentioned. Nope. Can't get their signal here. That's what I expected. So I'm still on dial-up. I'll have to take the stuff back for a refund tomorrow.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Wolverines!

I was going to try posting another album commentary (can't bring myself to call them "reviews") but I got sidetracked so I'll try it tomorrow. I got several albums from a friend who shall remain nameless here but you know who you are and thanks again--I'll be writing some posts up about them soon.

I was in Wal-Mart the other day and happened across their big...what do you call that thing? It looks like a cage, but without a top, and it stands about 4 feet tall and is about 6 feet on a side and it's so full of DVDs they're about to cascade out onto the floor. Anyway they had all these DVDs for $5 each so I perused them for a while and came away with two that I think will be pretty good. One is a collection of several horror films from the 60s. I was quite amused when it was rung up and beeped for the cashier to make sure the buyer was over 18 years old. The other is a collection of Alfred Hitchcock pieces, some episodes from his TV series and some movies. I think they'll both be pretty good, although I'm afraid the horror collection will generally seem quite hokey--I'm not familiar with any of the movies (on first glance) except for the original Night of the Living Dead which I've seen before. Many years ago, at a Christmas party at the pizza restaurant, a co-worker gave me a double-feature VHS tape of that movie along with Reefer Madness.

I was just looking at that film's entry at Wikipedia, and because I typed in an error I came up with a list that has revealed to me that Red Dawn is being remade. Good grief. This time it's going to be a Chinese invasion in the Pacific Northwest. Yeesh. One of the main characters is to be portrayed by Josh Peck, who you may remember as a child star on several Nickelodeon shows such as The Amanda Show and Drake & Josh. Or, if you don't have any kids who ever watched those shows, maybe you don't remember him--which may be a blessing. I'll be forced to watch it just to see how he looks now. I'm pretty sure it's going to be weird watching him in a dramatic role.

I have been becoming more familiar than I would ever have expected with the world of Percy Jackson. The books are quite the mish-mash of Greek mythology, but it's gotten my son interested in Greek mythology so I can't find too much fault with it. I've been looking around on Amazon for some good Greek myth books written for kids. The only book I have on them now is the classic Bulfinch's Mythology, but I never liked that book much because it's too much a combination of tales and commentary, with not enough tales. Also Bulfinch had a terrible habit of mixing Greek and Roman names together which I think is too confusing for a beginner. I read all the myths from library books when I was in elementary and I still wish I had those books now. At one point I even created a large poster-sized family tree of the gods which--get this--was stolen. I couldn't believe somebody would actually steal such a thing, but it happened.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

What's up

I guess I should post something. I've had a few posts cooking but blew them off since I'm not much in the mood to post anything right now.

My cell phone is in the process of biting the dust. Right now the display has given up the ghost. I can still use it, but mostly only for receiving calls because making calls is kind of difficult without a display. We've been planning on dropping our old service anyway and going with one of the prepaid services. So I picked up a cheap phone today from the local Dollar General. I was going to play with it some because--even for a cheap phone--it has a better camera plus an mp3 player once you stick in a 2GB microSD card (which I've already done); unfortunately file transfers require a micro USB cable and I have only regular and mini cables. So that will have to wait for a day or two until I can get the right cable or an adapter.

I got an ad in the mail today for a wireless broadband service that is focusing on providing such service to rural areas called Stelera. $30 a month. So this coming week I'm going to stop by the the local rep's office and ask about it. If they actually do reach where I live, I'm going to give it a shot. I'm not getting my hopes up though, because according to their coverage map I'm right on the line. Also, something I don't like about it is that it's a connection only--no email service or any of that. I guess I'm still old-fashioned enough to think that internet service should include email and usenet, although I haven't had a service with it's own usenet servers for a long time (and I still miss it--using G00gl3 Groups just isn't right).

I tried downloading the full album of the latest Metalhit Free Download Series. Can't do it. One of the tracks is an "album only" track meaning you have to click on "download the whole freakin' album at once" to get it, and the album is too big.* However, in researching the bands from this collection, I discovered a thing or two quite interesting about the group that made this one track that I can't get (also: the track is 12 minutes long) which really makes me want to hear it. So, I'm thinking as a last resort I can see if the album is still available and download it again later on, next time I visit my mother and can use her broadband connection. Or I might just go ahead and buy the album that it was originally released on. In any case I can still get all the other tracks and my first cursory listen was quite enjoyable; doom metal tends to be very atmospheric and even if the vocals are non-melodic they are usually so buried in the mix that they are more of a "vocal instrument" or even "vocal effect" than actual singing.

Having done some research on the fireplace model that came with our house, I have discovered that there is a blower kit manufactured for it and I can get one online for $84 plus shipping. I'm still looking into that and deciding whether to go for it or not, but I'm sure that would help a great deal toward making the fireplace something that actually heats part of the house instead of something that's just for looks. There's also a fireplace insert that will fit it, which essentially turns your inefficient old fireplace into a real wood stove. Unfortunately, it costs about $1,400.

I discovered, thanks to Oddee, another funny website this past week called DamnYouAutoCorrect.com. Some of those make the think the smartphone makers are intentionally screwing with people.

*I don't understand why they do this with free samplers. With real albums, I can understand it. But these freebies? It just doesn't make sense to me.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Interesting...

10 Mind-Blowing Easter Eggs Hidden in Famous Albums at Cracked.com. I knew about a few of these already: the Information Society thing, the Pink Floyd thing and the Beatles thing. The way I learned about the Beatles album was kind of funny. One night at work (back in the pizza restaurant days*), we were talking about albums (a frequent topic) and I said, "You know, it would be cool if someone made an album with two parallel sets of grooves, so you would hear a different bunch of songs depending on which groove the needle went into when you started the record." Answer: "It's been done. The Beatles did it."

I read somewhere about that Information Society album a long time ago. Possibly in the pre-internet days, I'm not sure.

*I dreamed I was working there again just a few nights ago...AGAIN--will I never stop dreaming about that place? This will mean something to one of you. Or possibly two of you.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Bullfrog Books is no more

Our local used book store, Bullfrog Books, has gone out of business. Honestly, I'm surprised it lasted as long as it did--a few years, I guess. We hit it one last time last week during their closeout sale and the kids used some Christmas money to pick up a few books. I also got a few. It took some poring over the shelves (note: that's PORING not POURING). I found Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain and a collection of Herman Melville short stories ("Huh," the store guy said, "I'm surprised no one else has already picked these up.") Also picked up a few sci-fi books. Two of them are the first two books of a trilogy that looks promising just because of the premise, and I made a start on the first last night. I think I will be hunting down the third volume on Amazon pretty soon. The trilogy is called The Songkiller Saga by Elizabeth Scarborough, first volume published 1991. Also found a copy of The War of the Worlds because I was looking for my old copy a while back and couldn't find it, and some other dystopian-type sci-fi that might not be too terrible. Although I suppose it should be terrible if it's dystopian.

As I was paying for my loot, I noticed an old Louis L'Amour paperback up high on a shelf behind the counter, so I asked if it was for sale. The lady said no, she just kept it up there so people could see it and ask about it and she could boast about it, because it was the first paperback edition of that book, called To Tame a Land. So I told her that when I was a teenager I had borrowed that book from someone and read it, and it was one of my favorite books regardless of genre, but I had never come across it where I could buy it for myself--I even described what the cover art had looked like from the one I read. So suddenly she said, "Okay, I'll sell it to you. Seventy-five cents sound good?" So of course I bought it, too. Way back when I actually used that book to teach myself how to quick-draw with my old Ruger Single-Six. I still think it's right up at the top of the list of L'Amour's best books, and I'd still rate it quite highly, regardless of genre.

There was also a box with a couple hundred copies of the CD pictured above (Claymhor, The Water is Wide). They were free. The guy told me that a friend of his from S.A. had been in this group, now defunct. There is one long live track on there in which they say they drove all the way to S.A. from South Dakota, so I'm not sure about all their origins. In fact I can't find any details about them on ye olde internette except a mention that they once had a gig in San Antonio, which I already knew from what the guy told me. It's mostly traditional Celtic music, with what sounds to me like at least 4 singers--2 male, 2 female, and a collection of traditional instruments. That's about all the information I can give you about it. It's all studio recordings except, like I mentioned, one 17-minute "live" track that I'm pretty sure was recorded at a gig in S.A. About an hour long, total playing time, and I like it.