Archive | January, 2009

Things I Am Loving Today

31 Jan

1) Trader Joe’s Kettle Corn

Trader Joe’s Kettle Corn, you are a prince in the kingdom of snacks; long have I admired you, sitting haughtily on your throne next to good King Potato Chip and fair Queen Popcorn. But I did not really know you then, and I fear that many of your subjects still do not!  There is such depth to your character, far more than just the wonderful combination of salty and sweet that is so prominently displayed on your (sort of weird) candy-striped exterior.  After getting to know you, Trader Joe’s Kettle Corn, and learning the joy of finding the occasional kernel that has far more sugar than the others, of the irregularities that make you who you are, I find that I love and respect you all the more.  Your deep, delicious flavor demonstrates the strength of character that will be needed in the years to come, when you are called upon to rule all snacks.  I trust that you will do so with honor, fairness, and, most importantly, deliciousness.

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Not even the carnies on your packaging can dim the light of my love.

2) The Hooded Robe My Aunt Lee Gave Me

Shall I compare thee to a chilly morn? Thou art more fluffy and more warming. Rough winds do shake the darling window of my upstairs room, but you, The Hooded Robe My Aunt Lee Gave Me, you keep me warm through it all. I didn’t know how bad I had it in my old robe until you came along. What’s more, your giant hood and ankle-reaching length combine to make me feel like a wizard. And as I’ve always said, “Anything that lets me start my day feeling like a wizard is worthy of my undying adoration.” I’m paraphrasing, but you get the drift.

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You have cast a level-five charm spell upon me.

3) My Sister’s Old 15-Gig iPod

Hello there, My Sister’s Old 15-Gig iPod. Can I tell you something? It’s about how I feel. More specifically, it’s about how I feel about you. As you sit there on the other side of my room, filled with my entire jazz collection, serenading me with the dulcet tones of Rollins and Davis and Evans… well… I’m overwhelmed!  My Sister’s Old 15-Gig iPod, when I wanted a permanent musical fixture so that I could listen to records while I worked, you immediately came to mind, but on that fateful day when my sister gave you to me, I couldn’t have anticipated how much you’d change my life! The click-click of your scroll wheel takes me back to a better, more innocent time, and your clean, no-frills interface reminds me of when Apple didn’t feel the need to include a touch screen and Monkeyball on all of its products. And the fact that you came pre-loaded with a copy of The Low End Theory, which I lost several years ago? Bliss.

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Your nav-buttons glow red, like my heart.

The Exited Door – One Year, One Album (Part 5)

29 Jan

At the start of 2009 I finished work on my first solo album, titled “The Exited Door.” It is a collection of thirteen original songs, and it features just about every Bay Area musician I know.  It has been, to embrace the cliche, a labor of love – I began work on the record at the start of 2008, and spent most of the year shepherding the disc from conception to completion. I am immensely pleased with the finished product.

This is the fifth in a seven-part blog series detailing the various phases of its creation. Part one covers the initial conception, part two is on the writing and scoring of the music. Part three details the creation of the album demos, and part four is about the large recording sessions we did throughout the summer. Part six covers mixing, editing and mastering the tracks, and part seven is about the artwork, photos, and design.

The record is now available at CDBaby.com, as well as for download from iTunes and Digstation. Tracks from the disc are streaming on my myspace page.

Part Five: Final Recording Sessions and Initial Mixing

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As the tracks started to reach their final state in terms of content, it grew a lot easier for me to mix them.  I’m just not able to mix things separately – I have no way of knowing if the sound that I get on, say, the drums alone will sound good once the bass, guitars, and vocals are added, so it just wasn’t possible to tackle the mixing until everything had been recorded.

It was quite a process, and was the most challenging part of the album’s creation. The transition from demo to full recording required me to put down my preconceptions of the songs at every turn. One of the dangers of making complete recorded demos of tunes is that it’s pretty easy to get used to the demo – to the mistakes, the odd mixes, and lackluster instrument sounds – to the point that it can be jarring to mix in real instruments played by real humans.  Since the sampled instruments and the real musicians were in utterly different universes, both in terms of mix and groove, I held off attempting any mixing until I had everything in place.

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Resident Evil 5 Demo vs. Dead Space

28 Jan
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He looks as disappointed as I am.

Haven’t had a chance to post anything about games lately – mainly because I haven’t had any time to play any games lately.  However, this week, as I’m twiddling my thumbs waiting for Discmakers to finish printing my album, I did manage to pick up a used copy of EA’s Dead Space from Half.com.

It happened to arrive in the mail on the same day that Capcom’s Resident Evil 5 demo was released on XBox live, which was a happy coincidence. Dead Space and RE5 share a common ancestry – just about every review of Dead Space called it as a direct descendant (slash rip-off) of Resident Evil 4, the game that many reviewers name as their favorite of the last generation of consoles.  After a few hours of spacing deadishly, I thought I’d try the RE5 demo and see how the two compared. And they… don’t really.  Not in my opinion, anyway. I’m sure it will make me a heretic in many circles, but for me, Dead Space just destroys RE5.

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Bad Poetry For Tuesday

27 Jan

some rooms are big
some rooms are small
some rooms are wider

than they’re tall

some rooms are barely
rooms at all.

some rooms are made for running in
some rooms are just for standing
some rooms are best when sitting down
some rooms are so low to the ground

that all you do
is lie around.

and some rooms,
they have well-stocked bars
and painted stars
and absinthe jars

the stage is dark
the night is ours.

but this room,
long as it was bright;
it didn’t help
combat stage-fright

’twas quite well-lit
that Sunday night.

and from the stage
we both could see
the audience,
attentively

was watching Dan,
was watching me.

Some rooms are cold
some rooms are hot
but most I know
are worth a shot -

they’re easy to play;
this room was not.

Murfins and Burgalinks

25 Jan

Sunday Links, Comin’ Atcha:

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Bear McCreary, composer for Battlestar Galactica, is a man after my own heart – after I finally had a chance to sit down and watch the heartbreaking season premiere of Battlestar Galactica, I headed right over to his blog to read his thoughts on the process of writing the music for the episode. And WOW, you guys, it’s a must-read, if you’re a fan of the show.  It’s so full of behind-the-scenes info and so unabashadly technical in its discussion of orchestration and composition – and best of all, it’s so filled with passion!  Bear doesn’t have to write these gigantic blog posts, but he he does, and he does because he cares so much about music, and the show, and the music he writes for the show.  It’s uncommon, and a pleasure to read – go check it out!

51039053_lSpeaking of music, I’ve been rocking it on Myspace these past couple of weeks, and have been reminded of two things.  First of all, Myspace sucks. Good lord.  It is the most user-unfriendly, wretched site; it may be the worst user interface on the internet.  I mean, you have to enter a CAPTCHA code to sneeze. On the brighter side, the other thing I’ve been reminded of is that Myspace is a fantastic place to find good music – which I guess is why I’m on there, to begin with.  I found this singer, Vienna Teng – maybe she’s famous, who knows.  But I really liked one of her songs – some of her other material is a little overly I-V-vi-IV-I, but the first tune on her player, called “Whatever You Want,” really works for me.  The strings on the chorus break into a killer little thing, and the groove is really in there.  Plus, she’s a mega-babe, which is nice.  So anyway, check out Vienna Teng.

Andrew Sullivan somehow made Forbes Magazine’s list of the top 25 media liberals. I don’t have much to say about it other than, “wha?” but Sullivan certainly does.

Beth Spotswood offers her hilarious (as always) take on whether men and women can be platonic friends.

Joe R. Posts his best picture top-ten list, and also shares thoughts on the Oscar nominations, over at Low Resolution.  While I don’t always agree with every opinion Joe has, he is always very passionate about movies that I haven’t seen but want to, and is usually the thing that pushes me to finally go see him.  Great blog.

Some PC mod-making joker apparently decided that Left 4 Dead wasn’t hardcore enough, so he made a mod that makes it more realistic.  Zombies need a headshot to die, everyone’s slower, there’s no friendly AI, no ammo dumps, and… no flashlight?  You had me up ’till then.  Anyway, Kotaku’s got the full list of tweaks, as well as some gameplay footage. I wish people could mod for 360.
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Alan Sepinwall reviews season 2 of Damages over at the Star-Ledger. I dunno.  He thinks that the show is fun but ultimately hollow, but I just finished season 1 on Hulu, and I was so entertained and wrapped up in the twists and turns that I didn’t care at all.  Great show!  I guess everyone knew that but me, but it’s got a really strong, mostly smart script bouyed by an outstanding ensemble cast.  I’m looking forward to getting into season 2.

Leigh Alexander at Sexy Videogame Land discusses Eidos Interactive’s stated desire to make Tomb Raider heroine Lara Croft more “Female Friendly.” Whatever the hell that means. Which I think is Leigh’s point.  Interesting subject for discussion, if a bit loaded.

And lastly, the lovely Mindy Kaling has a few new posts up over on her shopping blog “Things I Bought That I Love.”  Hilarious.  There is no shortage of Kaling love over here at Murfins, and it’s always fun to read her stuff.  Not that I will buy/can afford any of the things she writes about.  I have no need of cardigans (yet, anyway).

The Exited Door – One Year, One Album (Part 4)

24 Jan

At the start of 2009 I finished work on my first solo album, titled “The Exited Door.” It is a collection of thirteen original songs, and it features just about every Bay Area musician I know.  It has been, to embrace the cliche, a labor of love – I began work on the record at the start of 2008, and spent most of the year shepherding the disc from conception to completion. I am immensely pleased with the finished product.

This is the fourth in a seven-part blog series detailing the various phases of its Part one covers the album’s initial conception. Part two is on the writing and scoring of the music. Part three details the creation of the album demos, and Part five covers the final recording sessions and the initial mixing process, and part six covers mixing, editing and mastering the tracks. Part seven is about the artwork, photos, and design.

The record is now available at CDBaby.com, as well as for download from iTunes and Digstation. Tracks from the disc are streaming on my myspace page.

Part Four: Recording the Musicians

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With the demos complete, the music scored, and the parts written, it was time to head into the studio and record the actual musicians. Since I had sent demos and charts out to everyone already, my plan from the outset had been to do modular recording sessions, breaking things up to make it easy to schedule time with each musician or group.  The Urban School has a very cool Pro Tools HD system and Control | 24 board, along with a nice big main room and an isolation booth.  Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to run the sessions entirely on my own, particularly when I was playing (on the horn session), I enlisted the help of two student engineers at Urban, Sam Tygiel (who is also a brilliant young flutist, guitarist, and songwriter), and the always-professional, low-key Daniel Moattar.

The great thing about demoing in Pro Tools is that it makes it possible to take the demos you’ve created and really easily replace tracks one-at-a-time through several sessions, until you’ve got a whole new recording. In other words, the demos act as templates for the finished product.

The plan was to record the musicians over the following sessions:

  • Drums
  • Electric Bass
  • Acoustic Bass
  • Piano and Keyboards
  • Strings
  • Horns
  • Guitars
  • Auxiliary Sessions (Woodwinds, Marimba, Clapping, Percussion)
  • Final Vocal Takes

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The Line Between Fantasy and Reality

22 Jan

..gets thinner.  You guys remember that fake New York Times that got put up a few months ago?  It had headlines like “Iraq War Ends,” and “Nation Sets its Sites on Sane Economy?”  Well, I gotta say, reading the actual New York Times these days feels sort of like reading that (wonderful) fake one. It’s kind of disorienting.

Some comparisons.  Here’s a screen-grab from today’s Times:

real-new-york-times

…and here’s the wishful-thinking version:

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Or take these two.  Not real:

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and ACTUALLY REAL, even the part about Al Gore:

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It’s going to take a while for all of this to sink in.

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