Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bach - Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor

Everyone knows it, or at least the beginning of it. It's that spooky Halloween piece, except I'm pretty sure Johann didn't have Halloween in mind when he wrote it. Anyhow, check out this video.

I came across this yesterday as I was looking for nyckelharpa info, and went ahead and downloaded it in hopes I could get a decent audio rip for my mp3 collection. I found myself utterly fascinated. Why? I think I've mentioned before that music always creates impressions of images in my mind that can best be described as spots and ribbons of various hues and brightnesses. This video comes closer than anything I have ever seen at roughly approximating the kinds of things I see in my mind when I hear music. One reason I so love Bach and organ music in general is because of the intense layering of varying colors and textures they generate.

More at Music Animation Machine.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The nyckelharpa

My dad called me a little while ago to tip me that a show on KLRN was going to have a "nickel harp" performance. Unfortunately, the show is on 9.2, and although I do have a digital-capable TV, I don't have a regular antenna to hook up to it right now and we don't get any of the extra digital channels via DishNetwork. So I went a-hunting.

It turns out he was not saying the word correctly: nyckelharpa. I had never heard of this instrument before but it is a very old instrument of Swedish origin in the violin family and could very roughly be described as a cross between a violin and a hurdy-gurdy. Click the above link for Wikipedia entry or just check out the video below.

Pi Records Amazon Sampler (2009, mp3 download)

I just wanted to be sure and get a word in about this collection while it's still available--you never can tell which of these free downloads will eventually become not-free or disappear altogether.

The Pi Records Sampler is a good, solid collection of jazz that is worth the download. Nothing at all weak about this one except maybe track #8 which is a spoken-word "art" piece with some jazz noodling in the background.

So...get it while you can.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

I would've thought that was pretty much self-explanatory

10 more albums #67

All except the last two are free downloads from

Eagle Armory Records Metal/Hard Rock Sampler (2009)
Hardly Art Sampler (2009)
Large Music Sampler (2009)
Lost Highway Sampler: T for Texas, T from Tennessee (2009)
Sargent House Sampler (2009)
Scandinavian Gold (2009)
Vanguard Visionaries Series Sampler (2009)
The B. Reith EP (2009)
Black Acid Prophecy - A Trip Into Unknown Kadath (2009, mp3 download)
Richard Davis - Harvest (1977, mp3 download)

Eagle Armory: pretty much meh. Notable artists get 2 out of 10 and overall gets a 1.4. Mostly just so-so, the notable artists being Deep Purple and Stratovarius. One track by Poison that's well worth deleting and the rest just your run-of-the-mill hard rock verging on metal. Older acts such as the aforementioned DP, Alice Cooper, Dio, Twisted Sister (really?) and Rainbow plus a few others I've never heard of.

Hardly Art fares not much better: Notable artists 3 out of 15 and overall a 1.6. Groups worth mentioning are The Duchess & The Duke, Pretty & Nice and The Pica Beats. Conversely, one other track by The Duchess & The Duke got a deletable rating, plus one other deletable by Talbot Tagora. Indie/alt rock.

The Large Music sampler gets an overall 1.3 with no notable artists. A collection of your typical trance/dance that fulfills its place as background music adequately.

Lost Highway, on the other hand, gets good marks. 3 out of 6 for notable artists and overall a 2.5. Highest marks go to Ryan Bingham, Robert Earl Keen and Willie Nelson. Three other nice tracks by Lyle Lovett, Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears and Hayes Carll. Unfortunately no longer available.

Sargent House is another one of indie/alt rock with one notable artist (Rx Bandits) and an overall score of 1.5. A few nice tracks that are mostly instrumental and several that aren't worth mentioning.

Scandinavian Gold is a decent collection of pop with an overall of 2.3 with 3 out of 6 notable artists: El Perro del Mar (2 tracks) and I Was a King. Not bad at all and still available.

The Vanguard Visionaries sampler is a collection of vocal jazz & blues that is great and still available. Notables are 4 out of 5 with Ramblin' Jack Elliot, Doc Watson, Peter Case and Odetta. Overall gets a 3.6.

The B. Reith EP is not really my kind of music. Still, I gave it an overall of 2.8 which is pretty high for someone considered a "Christian hip-hop artist." The lyrics are funny and sometimes self-deprecating and not at any time obscene or profane, and he's a good composer and singer. Still available.

The Richard Davis album was downloaded from Kathleen Loves Music. This is jazz, with Davis playing bass and accompanied by bass, trumpet, guitar, piano, drums, alto sax and flute. Two basses? you might be thinking. Yes. The accompaniment bass holds the traditional bass place in the jazz band. Davis himself plays an upright bass as a lead instrument, often playing it with a bow. Unusual, interesting, and definitely worth checking out. Ripped from vinyl and there are a few pops & clicks but as I usually say: don't let that keep you away.

Album count: 680.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Oh yeah...

It completely slipped by me, but last Monday the 21st was my 6th Blogiversary.


I guess the season has finally inspired me and I churned out another "chapter" for The Hunter Chronicles. But I think I'll sit on it a while and try to improve upon it. Here's the obligatory teaser.
It was one of those lonely nights that happen only around Christmas-time, when you remember what it was like to be part of a loving, happy family. When you remember what it was like going outside at night just so you could look back at the Christmas tree lights twinkling through the window and enjoy the feel of a chill wind on your neck—knowing a few feet away was the warmth of a house and the love of a family. You remember the sound of your mother’s laughter from inside the house, and through the window you can see your dad grinning his quiet, closed-mouth grin at something silly your little sister had done.

You were going to be opening gifts in the morning and according to the stern instructions you had been issued to stay out of the tool shed, you were pretty sure you would get that bike you wanted. To top it all off, you had a crush on the redhead next door and you were pretty sure she was not uninterested. The world was perfect.

But the world wasn’t perfect anymore and I hadn’t decorated a Christmas tree in years. There was nothing in my 256-channel cable package that grabbed my attention, so I tried the radio. The spectrum was filled with Christmas cheer. It was unbearable. Even the jazz station was jumping on the bandwagon. I tried the classic rock station, but after 25 minutes they still hadn’t played any Pink Floyd and when I heard the opening twang of “Stairway to Heaven” I decided enough was enough, turned off the radio and left a dark apartment behind me in favor of the dark streets before me.
It sounds like a downer, but it has a happy ending.

They never saw it coming...


Nineteen dollars for a chess set?!

I got rooked.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

This and that

I am still here. Just going through one of those phases when I don't feel much like posting anything. But I figured it was time to scroll that previous post down from the top.

I've been working on cleaning up that record of The Messiah, and it came out quite well. Then I decided to re-rip a record that was one of the first I tried my hand at to see if I could make it come out better. Some of it, mostly side 1, did end up better than the first time. Side 2 has some vinyl damage and there doesn't seem to be much I can do about it.

I did my Christmas shopping today. My wife takes care of most of this and I never even think about it, except for gifts for her. Found exactly what she wanted, at Walgreens of all places. All I need to buy now is a halfway-decent chess set for my kids. They've both joined the chess club at their school. They aren't very good yet, but they love playing.

I remember when I was a kid, some cereal box had some cut-out chess pieces on the back of the box. So I cut them all out, but no one in my family knew how to play. So I broke out my grandmother's ancient encyclopedia and looked it up. Taught myself how to play from the encyclopedia. Unfortunately, there was no one to play with, so I didn't get very far. But when my grandmother found me reading about chess, she gave me a small wooden box containing a set of wooden chess pieces that my great-grandfather (her father) had carved. I still have it, but haven't let the kids get their hands on it yet for fear that they will lose pieces.

Tomorrow is the last day of work for the week, and I'm really looking forward to spending Christmas Eve at home. Christmas Day we'll be running all over the country visiting. It always gets on my nerves.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday night vintage video: The Smithereens - Behind the Wall of Sleep

This is one of those videos that has embedding disabled.'s the link.

Especially For You by The Smithereens is one of the great forgotten albums* of the 80s. This was their second-biggest hit from it.

An unusually normal-looking bunch of guys for 1986. If you met them walking down the street, you'd never guess they were a rock band. And their lead singer (Jim Babjak) has a great voice.

*I don't mean they were forgotten by their fans. When say "forgotten album" I mean that it's a group or album that is never mentioned on any of those 80s nostalgia music programs.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Welcome to the party, pal!

I find a sort of perverse joy in seeing others find evidence that modern "journalism" is largely a sham. Anyone who pays attention knows how they continually lie about topics such as guns and liberty (actual liberty, not Redemopublican faux-liberty).

In this case, ABC is working on a report of an alleged "Bigfoot" photo taken by a trailcam in Minnesota. So they call the man who is probably the current most expert person in the United States (possibly the world) for his comments on the subject. He tells them he thinks it's "bogus," and points out reasons why.

So what happens? They don't even mention him, or his comments, in their report.

Also, more shmournalism at the Today Show.


Hmmm...I have never heard of the word "notorious" being used in such a positive sense, unless the speaker was trying to be ironic. But I doubt that someone who has been sending out emails all month in alternating font colors of red and green is well versed in the concept of irony.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Old-school nerds on the east side

At Commerce & Cherry.

And here are a couple more shots of the train at Sunset Station, all decked out for Christmas.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Humbug, Mr. Baldrick?

I know it has been a little slower even than usual around here lately, but that's because I have not been feeling entirely well and I have been medicating myself and hitting the sack earlier than usual most days this week. Also the holiday season coupled with Boy Scout and Girl Scout activities--and my daughter being in the school choir--has made life a little more hectic than I prefer. Sigh...and the choir concert is Monday night, scout meetings again Tuesday night...but then the rest of the week should go back to normal, except for Christmas shopping. Argh.

Tonight was the annual tree lighting at the city park. Although they announced several times to "stay off the snow" until the tree was lit, did they really expect to dump several tons of fake snow around the tree and not have it result in utter chaos?

The scouts raised the flags, led everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance, and sang some carols. The high school band played some carols. Some praise band from one of the local churches did a bunch of pop-carols that were completely uninteresting.

And then the misting rain started, which I was expecting and dreading because I'm usually outside in that kind of weather only when I'm getting paid to do it. So we came home and had hot soup for supper, and the tree-lighting ordeal is over with for another year.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Yahoo earns its place in the Takedown Hall of Shame

Here's where the bogosity begins in earnest. Yahoo sent a formal DMCA takedown notice to, demanding the removal of the compliance manual. In the letter, Yahoo's lawyers allege that posting the manual infringes Yahoo's copyrights (the only proper basis for a DMCA takedown), as well as claiming that it's a trade secret (absurd for a marketing document) and that posting it constitutes "business interference" (huh? informing customers about Yahoo's disclosure practices "interferes" with business?).
A bogus use of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by Yahoo, just in case you think it's a better alternative to Google. It isn't. Yahoo just isn't as big and powerful. If they were, they'd be just as evil. Read the whole thing for the full explanation--and this has an "Only Ones" connection.

Bonus points to EFF for using the word "bogosity."

Thank G-d it wasn't an Elite

A few nights ago I was awakened in the small hours of the morning by a high-pitched, rapid-fire staccato beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep! As usual, no one else was awakened.

What the?! I thought. I know that sound...what...that is the low battery alert for some kind of Motorola pager. Previous employment experience has made me sort of an expert on these sounds. And then the weariness overcame me once again and I passed out.

The next day in poking around the house I found the culprit. One of these.

I still have a few old pagers laying around, mostly in junk boxes left over from when I worked as a pager repair tech, and some of them would probably work if they had service. My son had found one and put a battery in it so he could play with it.

That was a weird way to be awakened at one o'clock in the morning.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Innsmouth Free Press has a good review of the Sci-Fi* "remake" of Alice, as in Alice in Wonderland.

I have not watched the whole thing yet, but I plan on finishing it tonight. The short version of the above review is: meh.

If you have never read the original and you don't have very high expectations, I guess it would be okay. However, if you grew up reading the original then forget about it. This is another screwy hatchet-job of a classic, similar to what they did with Tin Man, except much worse. Also Tin Man was improved by starring the willowy Zooey Deschanel. The star of Alice is so brittle she looks like she could easily be snapped in half.

Alice herself is probably the second least-likable character, the first being her boring and feckless boyfriend. The plot manages to be both predictable and nonsensical.

I like it most for Matt Frewer, whose fake English accent has improved dramatically since 2000, at least to my American ears.

P.S. Okay, I finished it. Yes, I could see the ending coming from a mile away. Meh.

*I refuse to write their newer and much more stupid name.

A Christmas ringtone for you


Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Cthulhu makes Express-News

At, which is the Express-News' online version, Cult of Cthulhu crowns its icon:
There's a famous line by horror writer H.P. Lovecraft that goes like this: "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn."

OK, untie your tongue from that unholy terror and try it again like this: "In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming."

Cthulhu (kuh-thool-hoo) is a giant monster that first rose from the depths of Lovecraft's imagination in his 1928 short story The Call of Cthulhu. The tale unfolds as accounts of an enormous, otherworldly being with a bizarre cult that awaits his rise from the submerged city of R'lyeh and worships him to the point of madness.
Mostly it's about how Cthulhu has become a target of satire.  Anyhow, it always amuses me to "outsider" write about Lovecraft to other "outsiders."  Also I find this comment by "Kat" hilarious:
Ummm, I'm a huge reader and I've never heard of this "popular" character. sounds interesting, but I
agree, how is this incredibly obscure character news?

Oh, Kat.  Kat, Kat, Kat.  If you want news, why are you reading the "Life" section?

Thanks to Albatross who tipped me by email.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Voynich Manuscript dated

Mysterious Voynich manuscript is genuine, scientists find:
Many historians have so far believed that the so-called Woynich manuscript, which includes illustrations related to natural sciences, is a forgery, and mathematicians and other experts have not able to decode it.

The book is named after Polish-American antiquarian Wilfrid Voynich, who acquired the text in 1912 in Italy.

Researchers at the University of Arizona used the radiocarbon dating method on the 246 pages written in Europe by and found that the parchment was made between 1404 and 1438, said Walter Koehler, an ORF producer who oversaw the TV documentary on the manuscript.

In addition, experts at the McCrone Research Institute in Chicago determined that the ink was not added in a later period. The text was likely written in Northern Italy.

Before these findings, 'there was no serious expert who would have dated it to pre-Columbian times,' said Koehler, but rather to the 16th century, when coded texts were in fashion.
This kind of blows the main theories about who wrote it right out of the water.

Voynich made it up himself - he was born in 1865
Roger Bacon - died 1294
John Dee - born 1527
Jacobus Sinapius (Emporer Rudolf II's personal physician) - born 1575
Jan Marci - born 1595
Raphael Mnishovsky - born 1580
Anthony Ascham - lived during 1500's
Antonio Averlino - born about 1400, died about 1469, a possible!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Music and speech

Music and speech based on human biology, new evidence shows:
The two new studies found that the musical scales most commonly used over the centuries are those that come closest to mimicking the physics of the human voice, and that we understand emotions expressed through music because the music mimics the way emotions are expressed in speech. Composers have long exploited the perception of minor chord music as sad and major chord music as happy, now the Duke team thinks they know why.
Interesting article that relates speech patterns with musical scales.  They probably should do more research into cultures that use non-Western musical scales before they draw any more conclusions.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Toreo Band: Tijuana Christmas - 1968

When the time is right, I do enjoy listening to Christmas music, but not all "Christmas" music. I avoid like the plague that station that starts the week of Thanksgiving and flogs it to death 24 hours a day until the new year. If you live in S.A., you know which station I'm talking about. If you don't, then chances are there's a station in your area that does the same thing. Yeck.

When it comes to traditional Christmas music, I'd rather hear it performed by highly practiced, highly polished choirs or orchestras. I'm really not interested in Christmas pop/rock/country tunes. They just bore me.

Jazz treatments of Christmas music are another matter. Especially if they are musically valid enough to stand up to listening at any time of the year on their own merit, regardless of the traditional season that our culture has pigeon-holed them into. And although they seem to be less common, there are some "new age" artists who have tackled the Christmas music sub-genre. I'm probably not stating my opinion very well, but it seems that I have no taste at all for tired, rote recordings of such songs by pop/rock/country artists, who expect us to love the music just because suddenly our favorite pop/rock/country artist has recorded it. I want to hear such music either in a purely classical and unchanged fashion, or I want to hear it in a newer, more alternative way that will get me to hear something new in the old songs that I hadn't noticed before.

Tijuana Christmas is not your typical Christmas album. Liner notes:
Christmas is the most joyful festival of the Christian year, when we celebrate at the same time the turning point of the winter and the new hope that was brought to men with the birth of Jesus. Christmas is a time when we make up for the bleakness of the weather outside with the warmth of our spirits, and it is no coincidence that the songs which have come to be particularly associated with Christmas should be carols, which have always been the most cheerful and often the most secular of Christian songs.

On this record you find your favourite carols in an unfamiliar guise–we’ve called the album ‘Tijuana Christmas’, but you will find the mariachi sound taking on a richer and more varied flavour as the Toreo Band bring out the charms of our most beautiful carol tunes in imaginative brand new arrangements. ‘The Holly and the Ivy’ sets the pace with a bright, sparkling beat that even adds to the gaiety of one of our oldest and liveliest carols; ‘Silent Night’ a much more recent and a more devout carol, is given a quite contrasting treatment, slow and tender. ‘Hark, the Herald Angels Sing’ sets off again at a brisk, bouncy pace–and if you feel like dancing, why not? It may come as a surprise to you that our oldest carols used to be dances, and that the word itself described a form of circular dance.

In the preface to the Oxford book of carols you will find carols described as songs with a religious impulse that are simple, joyful, popular and modern. You’ll never have heard them sounding more joyful, popular or modern than they do on this exciting and original L.P.
If you're looking for Christmas music to serve as background sound while you have a Christmas party or to help pass the time while you're at work, this is not your album. If you're looking for something different that will catch your ear and get you tapping your feet and humming along, then this is for you.

I haven't been able to find much information about the band who recorded this album, but it falls into the same flavor of music as Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, if that helps. You can read more about it and download the whole album at Forgotten Albums. Just do it. You don't even have to thank me.

The mp3s at the link above were ripped from vinyl and therefore include a few pops & clicks, but don't let that bother you. It certainly doesn't bother me.

It's only a coincidence

Baltimore Weather Examiner:
Al Gore's scheduled December 16th speech with the auspicious title "Climate Conclusion" has been canceled amid the scandal of Climategate.
Also totally unrelated:
Houston, Texas had their earliest snowfall on record Friday when 0.8 inches of snow fell making it the earliest date ever. This beats the old record of December 10th set in 1944 and again 2008 (last year) with 1.4 inches. Houston averages one snowfall every four years, and this is the first time ever that snow has fallen two years in a row.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Snow, schmow

Although it would be technically correct (which is the best kind of correct) to say that I got snowed on today, I am honestly a little embarrassed even to mention it.


Thursday, December 03, 2009

One of my favorite musicians...

Eric Woolfson has passed away.
We are sorry to announce that Eric died from cancer in the early hours of the 2nd December 2009, aged 64.
All of my most favorite Alan Parsons Project songs were sung by him.

You gotta be kiddin' me

Although I have no documentation to prove it, I'm almost certain my ancestors settled in this part of Texas specifically to escape snow. And hurricanes.

A mixed week so far. Monday was just a typical day. Tuesday I got drizzled on all morning and was fairly miserable, and then I saw that big cloud coming out of the northwest and ran the end of my route in hopes that I wouldn't get really rained on. I finished literally seconds before the deluge began.

Yesterday, due to what I believe was an error in judgement, me and one other guy were assigned two days worth of work. We finished about 4:15. I actually read meters non-stop for over 8 hours.

Today was a total breeze, but I think I deserved a break after yesterday. And tomorrow...

I'm not worried about being out in the mid-30-degree temps all day tomorrow. I know how to dress for that, and I know it won't be a problem. But snow...$#@!