Tuesday, June 30, 2009

This struck me as quite strange

This morning at work someone called me "MacGyver." It was due to something so simple and routine that I am still kind of stunned that someone else hadn't fixed it before I did.

I was on a two-man route so we had a company vehicle. It was a Jeep that didn't have built-in strobes, so we got a mag-mount amber flashing light to put on top. As I was going out to the Jeep, my co-worker came toward me with the light, saying, "It doesn't work." I glanced at it and immediately saw that the positive lead had come undone. So I said, "Just twist those wires back together, it'll work." "What," he said, "you mean twist all of these together?" Meaning the positive and negative leads. "No, no," I replied, "that'll cause a dead short. Just twist these two together and then put some electrical tape on those exposed wires so they don't short together and blow a fuse."

He did it, and a minute later came back inside the office, saying with some amazement, "It works!"

I am in no way boasting about my own technical know-how. I am just stunned that I was the only person there who knew how to repair a simple loose wire. I'm sure there are plenty of simple things that I don't know how to do*, but I was, and still am surprised at this one. Maybe it helps that I've been playing with 12-volt devices longer than I can remember, I don't know. What have these guys been doing with their lives that they can't tell a positive lead from a negative lead, or be able to recognize a broken circuit?

It reminds me of something from a long time ago when one of my sister's first boyfriend's didn't know how to change the oil in the his car, and he was going to pay someone to change it for him. "No you won't," she told him. "I'll change it for you." And she did. That relationship didn't last very long, as I recall.

*For example, I don't know much of anything about repairing engines. But I can change the oil.

America On Parade: Celebrating America and the Music of WWII (1995, CD)

I noticed this CD a few days ago and thought I'd see how it sounded. My wife must have picked it up somewhere. Twelve tracks: six military marches and six popular songs of the day.

I was pleased to discover "The Liberty Bell March," which I have never heard in its entirety and which I did not know the actual title of until just now. You are probably familiar with it even if you don't know it by the title, but the version you are used to hearing ends with a blown raspberry (pthpthpth!) and a giant cartoon foot dropping from the sky.

So far, this is the only CD I have ever submitted to freedb. I'm kind of proud of having something so obscure that it wasn't even on freedb.

Monday, June 29, 2009

My Life and Hard Times - James Thurber

I chanced across this book on my shelf a few days ago and decided to read it again. I bought it somewhere used more than 20 years ago, and have read it several times. It always still makes me laugh. This is one of the books that I immediately took my grandmother and told her, "You have to read this." She told me she laughed so hard that she could hardly breathe.

It's a slim volume that consists of a collection of essay/tales about Thurber's boyhood and his odd and eccentric family. Are they all true? I don't know, but it doesn't matter, because it's the kind of humor that makes you think "I know someone like that."

Here is one of my favorite passages, about one of their long succession of maids/housekeepers.
Mrs. Robertson, a fat and mumbly old Negro woman, who might have been sixty and who might have been a hundred, gave us more than one turn during the many years that she did our washing. She had been a slave down South and she remembered having seen the troops marching--"a mess o' blue, den a mess o' gray." "What," my mother asked her once, "were they fighting about?" "Dat," said Mrs. Robertson, "Ah don't know." She had a feeling, at all times, that something was going to happen. I can see her now, staggering up from the basement with a basketful of clothes and coming abruptly to a halt in the middle of the kitchen. "Hahk!" she would say, in a deep, guttural voice. We would all hark; there was never anything to be heard. Neither, when she shouted "Look yondah!" and pointed a trembling hand at a window, was there ever anything to be seen. Father protested time and again that he couldn't stand Mrs. Robertson around, but mother always refused to let her go. It seems that she was a jewel. Once she walked unbidden, a dishpan full of wrung-out clothes under her arm, into father's study, where he was engrossed in some figures. Father looked up. She regarded him for a moment in silence. Then--"Look out!" she said, and withdrew. Another time, a murky winter afternoon, she came flubbering up the cellar stairs and bounced, out of breath, into the kitchen. Father was in the kitchen sipping some black coffee; he was in a jittery state of nerves from the effects of the day. "Dey is a death watch downstaihs!" rumbled the old Negro lady. It developed that she had heard a strange "chipping" noise back of the furnace. "That was a cricket," said father. "Um-hm," said Mrs. Robertson. "Dat was uh death watch!" With that she put on her hat and went home, poising just long enough at the back door to observe darkly to father, "Dey ain't no way!" It upset him for days.
Everyone should read this book.

Good luck, dude!

click to enlarge

I don't know why on earth you would want to, though.

P.S. You don't have to, he's already here.


Cool weather for the rest of the week!

Sunday, June 28, 2009


As far as I can tell, I am now back up to normal operations. I had meant to post some stuff in the past few days but the computer problems derailed me.

I am, however, having some major headaches trying to edit one album that has proven extremely problematic because of the odd nature of the recording. I think I'm going to have to spend a couple of days doing nothing but working on it. It's worth it to me, because the more I hear it the more I like it, although when I first bought it 20+ years ago I remember thinking, this is too strange for me. Not strange anymore, but different.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


The computer was getting worse and worse, and it wasn't just the sounds. The whole thing was bogging down. I think it has been three years since the last time I used the system restore discs, so I guess it was overdue (this computer is five years old, or so). It was a lot easier this time since I now have a second hard drive to stash stuff on.

The machine is zipping right along now and playing mp3s like nobody's business. I just need to get the latest updates for various important programs and then I can make a full backup of a fresh system.

Friday, June 26, 2009

When you get the news from blogs...

Sometimes you have to figure things out backwards. It took me a few minutes to learn what this was all about. I had already heard about Ed McMahon. Yesterday Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson* also died.

*Now let us never speak of this again.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thanks, Fred!

I have been remiss in not pointing out an excellent mp3 blog called Kathleen Loves Music from Fred Seibert. Seibert was a jazz producer during the 70s and is posting full albums of many records he produced back then and which are now out of print. He has introduced me to some great musicians and music that I would likely never have heard of otherwise. For example, Willis Jackson and his Gator Horn.

This is a horn Jackson designed himself, which sounds to me pretty much like a tenor sax, but it has the neck of an alto and the bulbous bell of something like the cor anglais.

These are vinyl rips, so there are some pops & clicks here and there. So if you've been looking for a cheap way to expand your jazz collection or just a way to get into jazz to begin with, go forth and download.

Hit a snag

Yesterday everything was working fine. Today all my sounds are distorted and scratchy. I haven't been able to figure out what's going wrong, but since the biggest thing I do with my computer is play music, this is a major drag.

UPDATE: I think the cause may be a Windows update that has installing itself in the background. I've had problems with update installs sucking up resources before, and sometimes it seems like it takes hours to finish installing. We'll see how things sound when it settles down.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Finest Hours of U.S. 60's Punk - undated mono LP

I'm pretty sure I found this at Hastings. I suspect that the manager came across it when he was looking for something else that I had asked him about and thought he'd put it on the rack to see if someone would buy it. This is another record of which there was only one on the rack and was never replaced after I bought it.

This album comes from Eva Records, which is only one of many niche labels under the umbrella of FGL Productions in Paris, France. Each label under FGL focuses on a specific genre of popular music, and the focus of Eva is on punk/psychedelia in the United States during the 1960s. None of the three records I have from Eva are dated, but my best guess is that this was cut in the early 80s. It has since been re-released on CD and is available at Eva Records, but you'll have to pay in Euros.

Very little or nothing was known about these bands by the compiler at the time of its recording. Fortunately, thanks to the internet, I have found more information about some of them and have included links below. I believe that all the songs were originally recorded straight to 45; I don't think there are any master tapes to be found anywhere. I'm also pretty sure that this album was made simply by recording these old 45s. Each band featured gets two tracks, the A and B sides of old singles.

Track list:
Mourning Reign
1. Satisfaction Guaranteed
2. Our Fate
Bare Facts
3. Bad Part of Town
4. Georgiana
Precious Few
5. The Train Kept A-Rollin'
6. I Don't Mind
T.C. Atlantic
7. Faces
8. Mona
The Apollos
9. That's the Breaks
10. Target Love
The Sands
11. Open Your Eyes
12. Can't Find a Way
Black & Blues
13. Come To Me
14. Bye Bye Baby
Mystic Tide
15. Mystic Eyes
16. Mystery Ship

It seems a little odd to me that a label would have such a narrow and relatively obscure focus, but there you go. And I'm glad they do this. It's not the kind of thing that is very popular at all anymore, but they have done a good job of preserving this old music. Most of it is typical garage rock of that time: blues influenced, walls of fuzzy guitars, here and there an organ or a harmonica. The only band on this collection that I would consider psychedelic is Mystic Tide.

I'm happy to have this record in my collection, for historical value if for nothing else. Click the image to the left for a much larger version if you want to read all the liner notes.

I am not able to upload any sound samples, but if you click the link above for Bare Facts it will take you to their page at CD Baby where you can hear samples of these two and two other songs. Click the other links for helpful websites with more information about these almost lost 60s bands.

Next time I'll cover another pair of records from the Eva label devoted to what many seem to think was one of the greatest bands that almost was, and they were from Texas.

Words of warning

A co-worker of mine "went down" yesterday, in the words of the supervisor. That is, he was overcome by heat stress. Someone found him lying on the ground, shaking, and called an ambulance. He recovered fairly quickly, once they cooled him down, and he should be okay.

It's very hot out there folks, and if you have to spend an extended period of time exerting yourself outside, take precautions. If you wait until you're really thirsty to drink some water, you have waited too long. Try to keep drinking before you get thirsty. This isn't always easy, but it's easier than dying of heat stroke. And wear a decent hat. I'm pretty sure this guy doesn't ever wear a hat, which is just dumb in this kind of weather. I wear a boonie hat with a wide brim and a ventilated crown.

Be careful out there.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Acid Trip: A Complete Guide to Psychedelic Music

I have a few records that I plan on hitting in one post, but before that I should mention this book. I don't remember where I found it. It wasn't Hastings, because the remnant of the price sticker on the back cover is not a Hastings price sticker. But I guess that isn't really important. It was purchased sometime in the late 80s and provided me with a plethora of information on obscure bands I had never heard of, and probably never would hear of again. Published in 1984 in England by a place called Babylon Books, and written & compiled by someone named Vernon Joynson. This book has the look of something put together with a copy machine. Well, maybe it's not that bad. But this was a huge field of endeavor for one man to try and catalog. The reproductions of record jackets are small and in grayscale, so sometimes it's kind of hard to make out what the picture is supposed to be.

If you would, take a moment now to scroll down to the bottom of this post and look at the best price for a used copy at the Amazon link.

¡Ay caramba! The original price sticker is mostly removed, but I'm pretty sure I paid less than $20 for it. I seem to have an image of the original sticker in my mind which reads $14.95.

Anyway, the various bands in this book are broken into section by geography, with one section devoted entirely to Texas psychedelia, and if I hadn't already decided to buy the book just on general principles, that would undoubtedly have cinched the deal. Joynson's definition of "psychedelic music" seems to be a little loose because he catalogs some groups that I would not consider psychedelic, such as The Associaton.

Part 1 covers San Francisco, understandably. Part 2 covers the west coast, folk/rock, "rock/blues & heavy rock" (his words) and southern California. Part 3 covers Texas. Part 4 is for "the rest of the USA." Part 5 covers England, and the book ends with a post script in which he speculates on the rebirth of psychedelia.

The book is a wealth of now-unknown bands who weren't even a ripple in the puddle of the Rolling Stone Record Guide (another book that I read from cover to cover back in the 80s). A great many of them came and went so fast that they were hardly noticed. Some of the bands included members who later went on to become famous, either in other bands or solo. For example, just opening at random, I find that Yes/GTR guitarist Steve Howe was in a band called Tomorrow who released one eponymous album in 1967.

Joynson's post script on "Psychedelia Reborn?" focuses mostly on the Psychedelic Furs (another of my favorite groups) and another group called The Soft Boys who I have otherwise never heard of, then briefly mentions numerous other bands without covering any of them very extensively, but I note The Church is mentioned in this section.

So later on if I refer back to this book in future posts, you'll know what I'm talking about.

Monday, June 22, 2009

New character

I have begun trying to work on a new installment for The Hunter Chronicles. So far I have only written this brief character sketch (just so you know I haven't given up).
“More coffee, hon?”

Darla called everyone “hon,” regardless of any difference—real or perceived—in age or gender. I nodded and pushed my cup toward her and she filled it a half-inch short of the rim with one smooth dip of her wrist, and without even seeming to look at the cup. She didn’t ask me how I wanted it because I ate there so often that she already knew I took it black and wasn’t interested at all in decaf.

She was fortyish, with straight hair tied up in a loose bun that was somewhere between brown and blond, and wide-spaced eyes that were somewhere between brown and hazel. She had the good looks of someone who had probably won a local beauty pageant twenty years before and had tried hard to stay pretty but hadn’t succeeded as well as she would have liked but had succeeded quite well enough for any man who saw her. Thin crow’s feet appeared at the corners of her eyes when she smiled, a strange secretive smile that made her look like she was amused by something no one else could see, a smile couched parenthetically between the curved wrinkles at each end of her mouth.

An old-timer had told me once that sometimes when one of these little diners were built, the owner studied such things as population distribution and economic standing, traffic density flows and so forth. And then sometimes they just found someone like Darla and built the diner around her.
This is a character that keeps turning up in my thoughts. I just haven't figured out what to do with her. But I hope to make her into a recurring character in the story.

I am also wrestling with a problem that must turn up eventually: Hunter's views, or the lack thereof, of God and religion. It seems to me that in such fantasy/horror stories, there isn't really any religious background to the main character (maybe I'm just wrong about this because I'm not well-informed enough on the topic). But seriously, how would learning the truth about vampires and then dedicating oneself to become a vampire killer impact one's preconceived religious beliefs? Maybe I'm trying to be too realistic, but I have been trying to allow the reader as little suspension of disbelief as possible, given the theme of the story.

Free Pimalia Sampler

I downloaded this a few days ago and have been enjoying the heck out of it. Amazon has placed it in the "alt rock/general" category but I would not classify it as such. For the most part, I would put this in the "ambient" category, or more specifically what I have thought of as "dark ambient," or what I recently learned is called "darkwave" or "dark wave."

Very few of these tracks have actual sung vocals, and the few that have vocals are often spoken, sampled, or electronically tricked out. One commenter stated that this is music is "too far out there" to listen to. Well, based on what little avant-garde I have in my collection, this sampler is no where near that far out there. I wouldn't call any of it avant-garde, although I might go so far as to call some of it "avant-rock," for lack of a better term. One track is quite thrashy, one ventures into trance/dance, maybe there's a hint of industrial in there somewhere, but mostly it's just eerily dark ambient music.

A great collection that has introduced me to several new groups that I think are worth checking out further, especially one called 400 Lonely Things. It has 17 tracks running at 1 hour 18 minutes. You can still download it for free right now. Just click. If you are a fan of ambient or of groups like The Residents, Tuxedomoon or Dead Can Dance, you will probably like it.

The ultimate action figure

More pix at Pink Tentacles. What it's all about at Anime News Network.

I have never been even slightly interested in the mecha branch of anime, but I must admit that's an impressive display.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Making do with what you have or can get cheaply

Oddee has 12 cool low-tech inventions that are worth checking out, especially if you are interested in easy solutions to common problems. The laptop privacy thing pictured below is just silly, in my opinion.

But there are others look like truly great ideas, such as self-adjustable spectacles, a primitive refrigerator that uses only evaporation for cooling, and the rolling water container. The amphibious bike looks cool too, though unwieldy. Check it out.

That just ruined my day

Just as I was about to put another old jazz record on the turntable to rip it, the swing-arm desk lamp came loose from the desk and crashed down onto the record--which at the time I was holding in my hands just before putting it on the turntable, leaving two horrible gouges across tracks 2 & 3 of side 1. Five seconds either way and the record would not have been in that exact spot at that exact moment. It's things like this that make me think there's some kind of curse on me sometimes.

It's not a great old record. In fact it's by a guy who is credited with inventing "smooth jazz." I don't know how accurate that credit is, but it's in Wikipedia so it must be true! But still, it's very aggravating.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Trio Mediaeval - Stella Maris (2005, CD)

I'm going to try and pick out an album every weekend that I think may be more interesting than the usual, and follow a more intentional method than my usual somewhat haphazard approach. Here is something that is still fairly new to me. I came across it while browsing at yourmusic.com and added it to my queue as soon as I saw it.

Trio Mediaeval are a trio of Norwegian women who sing ancient music that has been arranged for three-part female vocal harmony. No instrumentation--only the women singing.

Stella Maris is the second of their four albums, according to the discography on their official website. It has 12 tracks with a playing time of 65 minutes. The first seven tracks are authentic ancient music, from the 12th and 13th centuries and from both England and France. Tracks 8-12 are a contemporary composition in the style of the medieval mass written especially for Trio Mediaeval in 2005 by Korean composer Sungji Hong.

Their singing is precise and their harmonies are flawless. In fact it sounds more like one person singing with three voices than three individuals singing together. So if you like a capella women's vocals or medieval choral music you will like this.

Check out the official website at Trio Mediaeval. Amazon has sound samples of all tracks, and the album can be purchased either on CD or as an mp3 download. The CD booklet has extensive commentary on all tracks, as well as all the lyrics, which is helpful for someone such as myself who isn't very familiar with classical Latin (except for the odd necromantic spell or two).

Friday, June 19, 2009

Wall of Voodoo - Seven Days in Sammystown (1985, LP)

This is one of the albums that gave me hope that all was not lost when I was smack in the middle of the decade when all the music sucked.* Recommended to me by a co-worker, the first time I heard it, it immediately became one of my favorite albums and remains so to this day. I mean, this would be one of my desert island records if I were fortunate enough to be stranded on a desert island that was equipped with electricity and a stereo with a turntable. After I finished jerry-rigging a primitive spark-gap transmitter and had sent a Morse Code plea for help, I would listen to this record while waiting for the rescuers to arrive. If they got there before the album was finished, they would just have to wait.

This was their first album after Stan Ridgeway left the group to go solo and he was replaced on lead vocals by Andy Prieboy, who also was the primary songwriter for this album. The music is dark. It is bleak, somewhat twisted, mysterious and defiantly hopeful. It is quite heavily electronic, with three different members being credited as playing keyboards (one of them also covers the bass), and only one guitarist.


1. Far Side of Crazy - Inspired by or about John Hinckley, the guy who shot Ronald Reagan.
2. Business of Love - A strange song about two people who can't stand each other anymore but can't stand to be apart, either.
3. Faded Love - A very brief (1 minute) flirtation with country music with a nod to Patsy Cline. Voodoo had already shown country music influences earlier, when they covered "Ring of Fire" with Stan Ridgeway.
4. Mona - "Mona" being the moon, I'm guessing. I'm not entirely certain what this song is about, but sometimes I think it might be from the point of view of a werewolf.
5. Room with a View - A very snappy, fast-paced mostly spoken-word piece about someone who lives in the building next to the singer and who seems to have a parallel life with him. Or maybe he's just examining himself in a mirror.
6. Blackboard Sky - Another song with strange and mysterious lyrics. Possibly about someone who is contemplating suicide because of his broken heart. Every time I see trash tumbling across the street I'm reminded of these lyrics. "Fresh out of hell on a morning so cold and alone / Nobody there to say welcome home / So I roll like the leaves / I blow like the sand / And I tumble like a paper cup / That's caught in the wind..."
7. Big City - This one is about a couple who are moving to a big city to try and find a better life, but the singer is warning them about the dangers that can await them. Another reference to "paper cups" in this song.
8. Dark as the Dungeon - Another cover of an old country song, written by Merle Travis and made most popular by Johnny Cash. I think it could have been better if they had used more of the original stanzas and less repetition of the chorus, but it has still lodged in my mind as the version I always hear, and it has a rhythm as implacable as a pickaxe.
9. Museums - A song about visiting museums. Doesn't sound like much of a topic for a rock song, but it works. It has another favorite lyrical snatch of mine: "In museums full of teachers on their fieldtrips / (Or so they say)..."
10. Tragic Vaudeville - I think this song is about someone being driven nearly to madness because his lover died.
11. (Don't Spill My) Courage - And the album ends with a song of defiant hopefulness, or hopeful defiance.
I was drunk on hooch four nights long
When I rolled underneath this mobile home
The folks woke up and drove away
Left me here with these two dead legs
Now I'm rolling, rolling, rolling
I've been rolling
And I roll to the switchyards
Roll past the cops
I roll to the boxcars
And I pick myself up
I roll through the nights
And I roll through the gates
I roll through the cities
And I roll through the states

This is my body
This is my blood
Sufficient I am to the day
The Lord took my legs
Now it won't help if you pray
So don't spill my courage away
No don't spill my courage away
There is not a weak song on the album. It seems to me that Prieboy poured all his darkness, anxiety, angst, and fear of insanity into every song. It's a shame that it wasn't more popular, but then in 1985 most people weren't really listening to this kind of music.

Ripping results: perfect.

The album is not longer in print, and prices for hardcopies are high. Amazon currently lists one new one at $171, with used copies starting at $63. Fortunately you can download the mp3 version for less than $10, and they have sound samples of all tracks.

*I'm exaggerating, but only to make a point.

Dashboard ads

So today I just noticed that they've started putting ads on the dashboard. Click to enlarge if you want to see why I thought, "heh." I guess they don't have any keyword matches for "madness" and "death."

By the way, I have not yet begun to write a new installment, but I have been mulling it over in my mind. I am discovering a new difference in how I am trying to write this story. It seems that generally, my past attempts at fiction have been situation-oriented, that is, I thought of a situation and then tried to make up characters to fit it. In this story, it feels to me as if I'm first trying to create characters, and then seeing what kind of story can arise from them. Maybe this is a better way to write; I don't know. I've never had any training of any sort in creative writing. It has been quite an interesting experience for me so far.

The Lurking Fungus

Took this picture this morning on Claude W. Black. Very weird-looking and eerily bleached white fungus growing all around this meter. I left it alone. I'm curious to see if it gets any bigger.

P.S. Yes, I usually read meters upside down. Because of the way they are usually positioned in the box, it's just easier that way.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

5 seconds from a food fight

This and other odd Father's Day gifts at Oddee. Any of you who have or have had young children such as I do probably know immediately that putting any such thing on the table would be a horrendous mistake. I think so, and my kids already know that starting a food fight is just about the worst possible thing they could do, short of actually committing murder. Even I am tempted by the thought merely from looking at the picture.

I really could use one of those Pizza Boss things, though. That looks quite useful.

Jackson Browne - For Everyman (1973)

I have a bunch of rips backed up that I need to comment on (need! that is) so I can move them to the music drive. This is one.

An old Jackson Browne album that I bought used and I don't really have a whole lot to say about it. Good to have if you still listen to the old Jackson Browne/Eagles sort of thing, when they were still treading the gray zone between country and rock and hadn't gone totally pop yet.

For Everyman is, perhaps, notable only because it includes Browne's version of "Take it Easy," which became a huge hit for the Eagles but wasn't much of anything for Browne.

I never went out of my way to buy Jackson Browne albums, although I do enjoy most of his music and wouldn't mind hearing it on the radio if a station around here ever played it. Unfortunately our only classic rock station has a very narrow view of what constitutes classic rock and Browne doesn't seem to make the cut. Neither do the Eagles, for that matter, with the exceptions of "Hotel California" and "Life's Been Good," (which wasn't technically an Eagles song, except that they did it on that live album when Joe Walsh was with them).

Ripping results: good enough although not totally perfect. A couple of faint artefacts.

Amazon has sound samples of the whole album, and you can buy the mp3 of "Take it Easy" for 99¢ if you're curious about how it sounds. It's much less polished and less poppish than the Eagles. More of a singer/songwriter-sounding version. The commenters at Amazon seem to be much more enthusiastic about this record than I am, so maybe you should go read what they have to say.

I'm not saying I don't like this album, because I do. It just doesn't thrill me terribly. My favorite of his is Running On Empty, which I ripped from an old cassette some time ago. Maybe I should write about it sometime so no one gets the impression that I'm a Jackson Brown hater or something.

Word of the day

Darkwave. I've always liked this kind of stuff, I just didn't know it had a name.

cf. Dead Can Dance


Today in the mail I received a check from Cafe Press for $27.24. I was mightily puzzled about it. It's been ages since I've even looked at Cafe Press and I had no idea how I made that money. It turns out several people have bought a Don't Tread On Me cap that I slapped together a long time ago. All the purchases were in March and April of this year, even though I created it at least a year ago. Strange.

There are a couple of other items there in a similar vein. Click here if you want to check them out. I think my personal favorite is the "Homegrown Terrorist" shirt, but I've never bought one for myself so I don't know how good it looks in real life.

Good question

Albatross at Painted Ocean asks "what is your musical guilty pleasure?"

So go confess your musical sins and make yourself feel better. I was the first. I hope I'm not the only one.

By the way, if this is a conspiracy to see if I'll admit to liking Kenny G, it didn't work. That is not one of my musical guilty pleasures. That is more of a "musical-sustain-the-burning-fires-of-hatred" pleasure.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Deer news

On Friday, while working in that gated subdivision off of 1604 (on the north side) between Redland and Bulverde Road (I don't remember the name of the subdivision) I almost stepped on a fawn. His mama must have hidden him behind a bush right on top of a meter early that morning before going out to forage. Spooked him pretty bad. Spooked me, too. I hope he returned or found a new hiding place to wait out the day.

On of my dad's doe's had triplets yesterday. That doesn't happen often. Twins are more common. It doesn't look like she can produce enough milk for all three and they'll have to bottle-feed at least one of them. They came and got my dog pen today to separate the fawns so the vet can come give them a once-over. I hope they make it. I have learned that deer can be a lot more fragile and death-prone than they appear to be, especially when they are young.

The dog pen was not being used. I keep my dog secured on a long trolley and only use the pen when I need to make repairs to the trolly. I have to watch her closely because she becomes violent in the presence of other dogs. I have never seen a dog that hated other dogs as much as she does.

ADDENDUM: Two bucks and one doe. One of the bucks was apparently too cramped in the womb and came out with skewed hips. They're going to see if he straightens out as he grows up. He isn't crippled, just looks kind of odd.

Innsmouth's Finest (or, A Picture That's Worth 666 Words)

This and 13 other strange canned foods at Oddee.

Check out the cholesterol content on #9.

Somebody somewhere is probably looking for this...

Shriekback, "Get Down Tonight (Acid House Mix)" 12-inch single. Actually Side A is the regular album version of the song, which is a cover of that sucky white-boy disco piece by KC and the Sunshine Band. I think that's who did it. This is one thing I would like to be wrong about to show how little I know about that kind of music, but one can't have everything. I think this version is better because of Barry Andrews' vocals--he always sings like he is smiling an evil smile.

Side B is the extended (almost 8 minutes) acid house mix, which, you know, is just stretched out with lots of repetition and the dance beat emphasized.

I would like to be very clear that I am not a dancer, and if I was, I would not dance to this kind of music (I envision myself as more of a mazurka type). But I like to hear this kind of thing turn up in the shuffle now and then to put a new spring in my step when I'm working.

So if you need a thumbnail of this for your files, grab it. It's the only one on the internet except for the one on some German site where they chopped off half of the "S."

One odd thing about this record is that on the record itself (but not on the jacket) it says it's a promotional copy and not meant for selling. However, I distinctly remember buying it. I guess someone in the record store decided to make a couple bucks under the table while no one was looking.

Ripping results: close enough to perfect after a few minutes work.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Change of name

I changed the name of Nightgaunt's Realm to something more appropriate for the story. It shouldn't have any effect unless you have bookmarked the old url or subscribed to the RSS feed.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Hole in the Hill - (hardback, 1969 by Edwin A. Peeples)

Colin Stowe watched the winter break. He watched everything that the world and the weather and the animals did. He feared that if he didn't go to look, it wouldn't be able to happen. Somebody had to watch the melting of the ice and the little streams that grew and flowed down the banks and the chickweed growing green and the early tendrils on the briar that looked like rags of soiled cotton cloth.
It's no wonder I loved this book when I was a kid, and as I read it again recently, I found myself wondering how much Peeples' style has influenced my own attempts at writing. I also realized a kindred spirit in the main character of Colin Stowe; I was very much like the boy described above when I was young. Except that we never had ice, and my own interests fell more in line with watching the fall and winter come in. I was always more fascinated by the ending of nature's cycle than the beginning.

Here is the kind of description that makes me wish I had written it.
But enough rain fell to make the grass grow fast. And the deep green grss looked soft as putty and so green it would stain like fresh paint.
Peeples writes so that you don't only see what he is talking about. You feel it.

Told mostly from Colin's point of view, he is a boy who thinks poetically without realizing it, and although he has no trouble speaking with other kids, when he tries to talk to grown-ups he falters and has a hard time making sense. Or perhaps that's just how grown-ups hear him because they don't listen to him closely enough. He's only a kid, after all.

Most of the story takes place during a summer when a severe drought was going on. Colin, his brother Geoffrey, and two new kids from the farm next door named Deirdre and Ian (twins who are of similar age to Colin) start out simply trying to pass the time in the country. They build a small dam over a stream to create a pool deep enough for wading, until Deirdre's and Ian's teenage brother Malcolm and another older kid who is a bully come along and destroy it. Then they hear a story about an old cave that is supposed to be in the area that was rumored to be part of the Underground Railroad. They go searching for it but can't find it, so they dig a tiny "cave" of their own but eventually become bored with it. Following a fox that Colin has named Voltaire because of something his mother had said, they find a small hole that leads into an enormous cave and they realize they have found the old runaway slave cave.

Although we don't get to learn much about Deirdre's and Ian's personality quirks (except that Ian is kind of dull and will do anything for ice cream and Deirdre is much more courageous than she believes she is), the book is full of odd details about Geoffrey and Colin that paint them as interesting and multi-layered children. Colin sees and hears everything, he loves to roam the fields regardless of the weather, he watches animals and people closely and once was even able to feed Voltaire by hand. Geoffrey usually prefers to stay indoors reading and listening to classical music. He wants to grow up to be a chandler and collects hats. Throughout the book he wears an old tricorn hat and Colin wears a Confederate soldier's forage cap that Geoffrey gave him.

As the summer passes, the cave is discovered by the grown-ups, and although Colin's parents try to protect it, it is soon overrun by tourists and treasure hunters. But there is a further secret, known only to Colin and Deirdre. A pile of rocks in the recesses of the cave conceals another small hole that leads into an inner cavern where there is a large pool of water and the ghost of a slave named Fewkes Gillespie. The drought becomes so severe that no one can even take a bath, and only Fewkes can make it rain. But to do so, he needs some children to help him. Colin and Deirdre must work to keep the inner cavern secret from everyone else, keep checking on Fewkes until the time is right for him to make it rain, and defy their parents to keep entering the cave. And in the end, the biggest problem is, perhaps, how to reconcile the conflict between each other's parents so that they can live in peace and friendship.

This is a great children's book that can still be read by a grown-up, if I count as a grown-up. Also, I believe it must be the same edition I read when I was about 12 years old, because when I came across the first illustration I was struck by such a flood of memories that I had to stop and just stare at it for a few minutes. I had forgotten the illustrations and seeing that first one again brought me up short.

I found this copy at half.com. They still have several used copies listed at less than $10, and a couple of new ones around $25.


This post about "fan mail" by Steven Den Beste sort of struck a chord with me. I started blogging for fun, although I began to cover more serious topics as time went by. Eventually, those serious topics were no longer fun for me. Blogging is to me another version of escapism, like reading a book or watching a movie. It came to a point where I was either going to quit or change how I was blogging because it wasn't fun anymore.

My blog reading habits have not followed my blog writing habits, however. I still read quite a number of "serious" blogs and in fact, I think my blog reading habits have tilted even more toward the "serious." I just don't have it within me to write that stuff myself.

So that's why I have been writing so much about music. It is something that I have always loved, something I have studied just for the sheer joy of learning about it, and it gives me something to keep blogging about.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Digital Domain: A Demonstration (1983, CD)

I have a lot of CDs that I'd like to comment on eventually, and not just stick with the old records that I've been converting, so I thought I'd start with some that are odd or unusual, or at least more interesting than the average (whatever that is).

The Digital Domain: A Demonstration is from 1983, when the CD was still very new and digital recording was still fairly new. I think I first heard of the compact disc in that year, although it would be a couple more years before I actually saw one. I probably bought this one is '85 or '86.

This CD was made to demonstrate three different things, really: the compact disc itself, digital recording, and the capabilities of various synthesizers.

Track descriptions:

1. The Digital Domain - It starts with 15 seconds of dead silence (all bits set to "0"), then fades very slowly into a recording of a creek, with trickling water and insect noises. From the distance you can hear a jet airplane approaching. Brace yourself. This was one of the most mind-blowing things I ever heard. With a good system (such as I had back then) you could make walls vibrate and windows rattle. Someone who didn't know what was happening might easily dive for the floor and say their final prayers. It gets louder and closer until you'd think the jet was going right over your head. The jet lands and is followed by other sounds of other jets taking off and landing. This fades into a monstrous synth chord and one final jet taking off.

2. Study for Reverie - A soprano voice and a trombone were recorded separately, all kinds of cool things were done to the sounds, and then they were placed in simulated reverberant environments--the trombone in a cathedral and the voice in a concert hall.

3. Lions are Growing - Words from a poem called "Rommel Drives on into Egypt" were recorded, broken down and rebuilt with a computer. Strange, but a good example of how far audio technology had already come.

4. Hologram 9 - A digital recording of a harpsichord piece. No synthesizers or computers on this one, just a harpsichord that was mic'd to emphasize the overtones produced by the instrument so the recording produces audio "illusions." You think you hear notes and chords that aren't actually being played.

5. Colony V (excerpt) - This one is all synthetic. An "orchestra" of 50 simulated violins with some other synthesized instruments and voices and digitally recorded birds, frogs and insects.

6. Specific Racquetball - A one-minute digital recording of a racquetball match. Nothing musical about it, just one of those gee-whiz things to show how sharp the sound could be with digital recording and a digital medium.

7, 8 and 9. - Excerpts from a piece called "Shaman." Percussion, bass and synthesizer. This was actually a theatre piece that was performed by a belly dancer.

10. Towers of Hanoi - All of these tracks have extensive descriptions of what's going on, how the sounds were recorded and the equipment used to record and produce them. This is one that I would have to quote the whole thing to describe it. It's based on a puzzle game in which you have to move a tower one disc at a time without it collapsing, but in this piece the discs are different pitches and the towers are different timbres.

11. Generic Racquetball - Another racquetball track, but this time instead of a specific match, it's a recording of all the courts surrouding the court that the recording equipment was in.

12. Love in the Asylum - A synthesizer piece that combines simulated real instruments with new sounds created by the composer. Like several other of the musical tracks, this would fall into the "ambient/experimental" category.

13. Venice Beach - Digital recording of said beach layered with other recordings made by something called a "waterphone."

14. Silicon Valley Breakdown (excerpt) - This is my favorite, I think. Quote: "...scored for a symphony of imaginary plucked stringed instruments. These range from a tiny 'piccolo mandolin' to an immense bass 'plucked Golden Gate Bridge.'" This is another one that is entirely synthetic.

15. Foothill Park - Digital recording of a redwood grove, featuring a bluejay and other environmental sounds.

16. Helicopter - An almost four-minute digital recording of a Huey helicopter.

The remaining tracks (17-29) are test tracks, beginning with one that allows you to check correct speaker placement, then followed by several noise generation tracks that you could use to test the output of your system. The final track is one minute of dead silence, all bits set to "0" so you can test your system's noise floor.

Like I mentioned before, the booklet that came with the CD is packed with a wealth of technical information on exactly what kind of instruments and equipment were used and exactly how they were used, often right down to describing microphone placement. This CD is no longer produced, and getting a new one will cost you more than your usual new CD, but Amazon has used ones available quite cheap. I think it would be a good buy for anyone with a CD player.

License plate geekery

At Oddee.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Okay, it's up

After tinkering with it for a few more days, the next installment is up at Nightgaunt's Realm. Click on Secondhand Blood to read it.

Also, thanks to Dinah Washington's "Funny Thing" for further inspiration.

I am speechless with wonder and amazement

Amazon sells Atomic Fireballs.

A lost book found

This was a book I read in about 5th grade, and I really liked it. It was one of the books that I mentally added to a list of books to look for in used book stores when I got older. I found a few of them, but never this one. Along came the internet, and although I hunted for it, I found several different books by this or a similar enough title that I couldn't be sure if it was the right one or not. I didn't remember the author's name, and none of the online used booksellers had plot descriptions so that I could figure out if it was the right book.

But somehow Brer figured out which was the right book, so I tracked it down and ordered it, and it just came in today. The book I checked out of our junior high library didn't have a dust jacket, so this is the first time I've seen a cover illustration. I don't remember anything about a fox, but then it's been more than 30 years since I read it.

Nice. Maybe I'll do a review after I've read it again.

Kansas - Point of Know Return (1977, LP)

And here is the first album-length record I ever bought, not counting the single of "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" that I bought when I was 15. This one was probably purchased right around 1982, and I'm not certain why I did. I have a cousin who was a big fan of theirs back then, and he had been talking to me about them. Maybe that was why. I already had a decent collection of albums on cassette by that time, but I didn't have a turntable yet. However, my college room mate did, and I used his all the time. I probably got this one at the ACU bookstore. This is only one of several records that I bought before I owned a turntable myself. I think my room mate may have had this one on 8-track, so I was able to preview it before I bought it. I remember being with him at the store one day when he bought a new 8-track of Monolith.

I guess I don't need to go into talking about their music. They were quite popular, after all. I think I might be interested in hearing some of their older albums, but not any of their later ones, especially after the fiddle player dropped out and they went too far into the pop field.

Ripping results: a few very faint artefacts here and there, but nothing I can't live with.

Amazon has sound samples of all the tracks, in case you haven't already heard "Dust in the Wind" 8,000 times on your local classic rock radio station. The current CD issue has two bonus tracks that aren't on the original record. P.S. "Dust in the Wind" costs $1.29 to download instead of the usual 99¢. I guess it's still that much in demand.

In other news...yesterday, in spite of having a relatively easy day at work, I felt utterly horrible and barely had the energy to do anything. I blame it on staying up too late Sunday night and not getting enough sleep. But yesterday and through last weekend I got to the bottom of my ripping stack and went through the collection for another batch to rip. I also did some CDs that I missed or ignored previously, and found another stack of cassettes that should be worth ripping, a couple of them only so I can say how much I hate them.

Oddities: I somehow missed ripping my Sons of the Pioneers CD. That one's a puzzler. The real puzzler is how/why I did not have "Careful with that Axe, Eugene" ripped, when I had all the other tracks from Ummagumma. I don't have any idea how that happened, but it has been rectified.

So in the coming weeks, I should be covering such diverse artists as Wall of Voodoo, John Denver, Triumph and Al Jolson. And as they say on TV: and many, many more.

Sunday, June 07, 2009


Another update for those two or three of you who are following Nightgaunt's Realm. I have pretty much finished the next installment, but I'm going to hold off posting for a few days at least because I'm sure I'll want to change or add something.

In the fiction I have written before, it was always for fun and something I just enjoyed, and I am enjoying this also (or I wouldn't be doing it), but this time I am finding it to also be emotionally draining. I don't know if that means it's better or worse, but the effect it has on me is something new to me.

Here is a poem by Tennyson that I read several times while working on it.



A spirit haunts the year's last hours,
Dwelling amid these yellowing bowers:
To himself he talks;
For at eventide, listening earnestly,
At his work you may hear him sob and sigh
In the walks;
Earthward he boweth the heavy stalks
Of the mouldering flowers:
Heavily hangs the broad sunflower
Over its grave i' the earth so chilly;
Heavily hangs the hollyhock,
Heavily hangs the tiger-lily.


The air is damp, and hushed, and close,
As a sick man's room when he taketh repose
An hour before death;
My very heart faints and my whole soul grieves
At the moist rich smell of the rotting leaves,
And the breath
Of the fading edges of box beneath,
And the year's last rose.
Heavily hangs the broad sunflower
Over its grave i' the earth so chilly;
Heavily hangs the hollyhock,
Heavily hangs the tiger-lily.

Saturday, June 06, 2009


I have had a sort of tradition of watching Saving Private Ryan every June 6, but I skipped it this year. I don't think I'm quite ready to watch it again just yet.

I spent a lot of time today doing some cleaning up of my mp3 collection: deleting duplicates, downloading or scanning album covers for thumbnails, and so forth. Also been listening to a lot of stuff I'd downloaded from Amazon and hadn't gotten around to playing yet. They've released a few decent samplers lately in jazz and Indian music. One that was particularly odd is the Savoy Jazz Free Sampler. All the tracks have bad pops & clicks as if they were ripped from old vinyl. I don't know if they really did do a vinyl rip or if the clicks were added to make it sound "old." But it seems strange that they would put out even a free collection that sounds this bad. I don't like to screw around with mp3s, since it is a lossy medium, but I might have to work this bunch over to see if I can make it sound better. Other than that, it's a pretty good collection of traditional, historical jazz pieces.

Watched some more "Land of the Lost" with the kids today. Otherwise I have just been enjoying not being outside in the heat. Working in the summer gets me down. I think I might suffer from seasonal depression, except I get it in the summer instead of the winter.

Friday, June 05, 2009

And the word of the day is...

I saw this movie on TV when I was a kid (8 years old!), and I remembered it as being hilariously funny and downright weird. Through the years I would think of it now and then, and wonder if it was only funny because I was a dumb kid.

Well, it's still funny. In fact, I think it's funnier now that I can appreciate some of the more (cough) "subtle" jokes. Boy, Netflix was a great invention.

I don't know why they thought it was a good idea to superimpose "HAVOC" over the screen for about 30 seconds, but it's definitely funny.

"Boss, they've got midgets!"

"Well, aim at their little hearts."

If you've never seen Evil Roy Slade, you should. Starring John Astin, also with Dom DeLuise and Milton Burle, and a wagon load of character actors that will have you saying "oh that guy" throughout the movie.

Another strange thing about this movie is that for years I was haunted by this fleeting image of a guy whose guitar was also a gun, but couldn't remember the movie I'd seen it in. Now I know.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Led Zeppelin - The Fourth Album (1971, LP)

This is my one and only Led Zeppelin album. If you assume that I bought it because of "Stairway to Heaven," you would be assuming correctly. Okay...I realize their important place in rock music, and that they may be the greatest rock band ever, and so forth and so on...but their music has never really appealed to me. Also, Robert Plant would have to be on my list of the most annoying vocalists ever. I don't mind hearing stuff by them when it's played on KZEP, but I have never had the desire to go out and buy their albums.

I am somewhat comforted to see that it has a sales rank of #319 at Amazon, which pretty much buries that horrendous Johnny Hates Jazz record. Read the comments from the folks who gave it one star though, they're pretty funny, especially the one about Howard the Duck.

Of course Amazon has sound samples of the whole album. The newest version is a CD digitally-remastered version that comes with a booklet of extensive notes (according to them) which are not part of the original LP release. But does that justify the price of $15 for a new copy? I don't know. Maybe if you're a LZ fan.

Ripping results: perfect, but it took a lot of work. Track #1 was scratched up pretty bad, and there were so many artefacts left over from DePopper that I ended up removing all the clicks manually. I also had to manually clean up "Stairway to Heaven," although it wasn't nearly as bad.

If you don't have it, I guess you should listen to it at least once, and then make up your own mind.

New contact email

Even though the contact email in the left sidebar has always been an image and not text, it finally got harvested somehow. Maybe the bots are just getting smarter. Oh well, it lasted over 5 years, so that's not bad. But this week I got deluged with spam coming to that address so I killed it. The new one is below and in the left sidebar for future reference. This is only my "public" email that I put here in case anyone wants to contact me by email. I also use it as my email when leaving comments on other blogs, when it's necessary. If you have the old "blogonomicon@blazeisp.com" address, delete it. If you have my real address (the one with my real name in it), it's still good.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Johnny Hates Jazz - Turn Back the Clock (1988)

Ye gads. Why do I have this record? I remember. I had a very specific reason. I read about them in Keyboard magazine when this album came out, and one of them said that their main synth was the Casio CZ-1000. I had (still have, but it needs to be overhauled) a CZ-101, which is a miniature version of the 1000, but otherwise produces all the same sounds and has all the same controls. Well, it turns out the guy was either lying, mistaken, or not clear enough. Maybe he meant that they used the CZ-1000 while working on songs, but not to do the actual recording, because they really used one of those super-systems like the Fairlight or the Synclavier. I don't feel like picking up the jacket to look at it, because what's the point?

Everything that was bad about much 80s music: the extreme polish, over-reliance on electronics (and I say this as someone who is a fan of electronic music), over-emphasis on the surface quality of the music--lacking any real depth or soul...you name it, this album epitomizes it all.

Ripping results: one artefact on track one that I might be able to dig out if I worked on it, but as I said, what's the point?

The radio hit from this one was track one: "Shattered Dreams." This album has an unbelievably high sales rank at Amazon, in the 54,000s. Further proof that the masses have no taste. It garners a 5-star rating from 21 customer reviews. You people disgust me.

Disagree? Feel free to leave another one of those irrefutable "you suck" comments, but it will have no effect. Because I've listened to the album, and I know who really sucks.

Amazon has sound samples of the full album, if you really want to hear it.

P.S. They also have a stupid group name.