Archive | February, 2009

Hal360, Part the Third

28 Feb


*Attempting to read media*

*Attempting to read media*


Murfins and Burgalinks

27 Feb

It’s Friday! Here are some links:

050207Alan Sepinwall continues to write great weekly recaps of Lost. I offer a mea culpa – a few weeks ago, in my TV Round-Up, I said that I wasn’t too sure that Lost had the juice to keep things going after they took the left turn into time travel. At the time, I said they’d need to keep the action emotionally grounded in the characters for the whole thing to work, and I had my doubts that they could do that. Well, two of the last three episodes after that have really achieved that effectively, and my hope is restored. Especially this last one, with an absolutely kick-ass performance by Terry O’Quinn. Bring it home, guys.

Continuing on the TV tip, I finally got a chance to see some of the American Idol Semi-Finals.  Dudes, that Adam Lambert has one hell of a voice!  Good lord!  The range on that guy.  I’m hard-pressed to think of a male contestant with a range like his.  I don’t know if he’s got the control to really own a less “rock” tune, but I’m betting he does.  Impressive.  Jacob at TWoP had some interesting things to say about him, too.  Jacob always has interesting things to say, about everyone. Especially that freak-show Nick.

andrew-bird-blogAfter seeing Andrew Bird last week at the Fillmore, I have rediscovered my interest in looping.  And to that end, though I may never actually loop onstage, I have seen the pretty, pretty Electro-Harmonix 2880, and I want it.  I want the pretty.

And speaking of the Fillmore, Lindsay’s band, Or The Whale, booked a show there on April 17th!  Amazing!  Buy tickets.  See this band.  See them at the Fillmore.  Golden Ticket.  Victory.

Paul Krugman is actually impressed with Obama’s budget. Wow.  Paul Krugman is, like, the hardest guy to impress in the world. With your budget, anyway. That’s like impressing Philippe Petit with your tightrope walking skills.  Or your mind-blowing self-aggrandizement.

Of all of the video game blogs I’ve been reading lately, the most focused and interesting is Leigh Alexander’s blog Sexy Videogame Land.  She says that she started the blog with the intention of discussing sex and sexuality in videogames. Since she is a total girl, she’s coming at the issue from a significantly different perspective than 95% of other dudely game writers.  It helps that she’s fairly fearless in the topics she tackles, as well.  Case in point: her two recent posts discussing the Japanese rape-simulation game Rapelay, which recently was involved with a “why the hell is this game available here” dust-up on  I like how, when writing about Rapelay, we always feel the need to identify it as a “Japanese game.”  Because god knows, we’re not into any sick shit like that over on this side of the Pacific.  *cough* Manhunt 2 *cough*

tladI downloaded, played, and beat GTA IV: The Lost and Damned this week.  I liked it fine; it was pretty much just more of what GTA does best.  I basically agreed with IGN’s review across the board, which is unusual.  The thing it accomplished more than anything was make me want to boot up the original and play as Niko again.  Johnny Klebitz just isn’t nearly as cool of a character, and his story is nowhere near as epic, nor are the relationships he builds.  It’s weird that so many people bashed all of the friendship-maintaining from the original title; though playing darts with Packie wasn’t as exciting as robbing a bank with Packie, doing all of that stuff grounded me in Liberty City in a way that greatly increased the impact of the story.  So, after beating TLAD, I went back to the original version, and have been running around Liberty City hunting achievements quite a bit these days.  Do a wheelie for 500 feet?  Check.  Shoot all 200 pigeons? Not so check.

Last: the trailer for the upcoming DS (DS!) version of GTA, called GTA: Chinatown Wars, looks bloody awesome:

Bad Poetry for Tuesday (Battlestar Edition)

24 Feb

there’s a six in the basement
and a four on the roof
and two’s in the attic;
he’s looking for proof

that the five he believes in
were really the first,
as opposed to the final;
the best, not the worst

with three in a box
under strict key and lock,
and the fives, still alive?
still cajoling the flock?

the six stays beneath us,
her heart all aglow;
her love needs to Tie
to another to grow

and the eight in the pantry
is quashing the rumor
that she’s some greek goddess;
she’s just a late Bloomer.

so a Pyramid forms
from the questions they face,
Chief among them
can unity Foster in space?

and let’s cut to the chase;
Daniel’s last name was “Thrace.”

So what of the one?
Ellen’s hateful first son,
that oedipal, prodigal

he’ll be back for the sixes,
the eights and the five,
and it seems safe to say
that they won’t all survive

with the six in the basement
and the rest on the roof
in four more short hours
we’ll all know the truth

Rock Band, Guitar Hero, and Musical Convergence

21 Feb

rock-bandThere is a debate raging on craigslist music boards across the country fueled by posts as passionate, juvenile, and troll-tastic as any XBox 360 vs. PS3 fanboy forum-war.  It centers on a single question: Are DJs musicians?

It always starts when someone posts a “DJ for Hire” post in the Craigslist music section, and someone else posts a response: “Hey, this is the musician’s thread, you should post in Services.  DJs are not musicians.”   Defenses, retorts, and rebuttals are posted. Trolls jump in. Slurs and epithets fly. A flame war is born.

There is a similar discussion going on about the fundamental nature of Rock Band, Guitar Hero, and other interactive music games. Is there a possible artistic component to these games?  Are they in any way comparable to playing an actual instrument?  And, most interestingly to me, even if the answer to those first two questions is “no,” yet another question remains: Is there potential for that to change?  In other words, even if they’re not there yet, can these games evolve and become modes of artistic expression?

As both a musician and an avid fan of these games, I have been thinking about this for a while. Mitch Krpata recently wrote a couple of posts over at his (excellent) gaming blog Insult Swordfighting that got me thinking about it anew.  I went to write some comments on his posts and found myself writing and writing (and writing, and writing), and I quickly realized that I’d need to come back here and organize my thoughts into a series of posts.

The Debate

It’s tough to get this kind of debate into an objective space, but it’s a shame to leave it to the forum flame-fighters, because it is actually a very relevant and interesting issue.  As it gets easier and easier to take art out of its primary role (in this case, a completed recording) and, by manipulating it through a secondary medium (in the case of a DJ, turntables and a sampler), turn it into something else, where does the line between “listening” and “creating” get drawn?

Of course, this type of Meta-Art (and the accompanying “is it art?” debate) is nothing new. Taking someone else’s painting, re-painting it entirely beige, and breaking the frame may or may not qualify it to hang in the Postmodernism wing of SFMOMA, depending on your point of view.  Whether or not art is art is decided by the intention of the artist, but let’s be honest – whether or not it is hailed as art depends pretty significantly on the beholder, as well.

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The Exited Door

18 Feb

cover-art-squareAfter over a year of recording and rehearsing, writing and ranting, working and waiting, my first-ever solo album, “The Exited Door,” is finished and in-hand.  What’s more, as of today it’s available for purchase online!  In honor of that, I thought I’d devote a post to sharing links to all things Exited Doorian.  If you’ve enjoyed my blog or liked reading about the album, please pick up a copy!  It is an entirely self-funded project (look ma, no financial backers or label!) – I made the entire album with my hands and the scant contents of my bank account.  Your support really matters and is very appreciated.

Ways to Buy the Record:

1) The best way is to order the disc online from CDBaby. I love CDBaby, and they love me – the disc is a steal at $11.95, and the physical item is the way to go, not only because it includes all the lyrics, but because it contains all of the wonderful artwork that accompanies the record.

2) Download it from iTunes. The easiest and most familiar way to go. Though you won’t get a copy of the artwork if you do this, you can download it for free as a PDF from my website.

3) Download it from DigStation. Another good way to go – I’m not sure what the deal is with the downloads at CDBaby, but I know that when you download my album from DigStation, I get 100% of the income.  iTunes gives about .67 on the dollar, so that’s a huge improvement.  Plus, you get a downloadable PDF of all of the album art and lyrics, so it’s really the next-best thing to buying a CD.

Links, Etc:

If you’d like to keep track of the latest happenings with the record, as well as keep up to date on live performances, I keep my personal website and my myspace page very current.

I had a really good time writing the blog series about the creation of the album, and have organized the posts below:

  • Part one covered the album’s initial conception; this is the “why” behind the disc.
  • Part two discussed the initial writing process; this was probably the most exciting time in the album’s creation, when it felt like anything was possible.
  • Part three detailed writing the lyrics and creating the initial demos of the record.  This was also a fun project, and was a really fun time of the year (April/May of 2008).
  • Part four got all technical and stuff about the recording process; getting the rhythm section, strings, and horns recorded was a big logistical challenge that was fun to tackle.
  • Part five went inot detail about the final recording sessions – woodwinds, vocals, guitars, percussion – and the initial organization and mixing of the record.
  • Part six covers the mixing and mastering process; in other words, how we wrangled the audio from raw to finished.
  • Part seven discussed the album artwork and design, and the process of organizing the wonderful artists who contributed original artwork to the project.

Contributing Musicians/Artists:

A lot of amazing musicians played on The Exited Door.  Below, I’ve posted links to their various websites and projects.

Lindsay Garfield sings with the alt-folk group Or, The Whale – they are great, see them live!

Dan Apczynski writes for Acoustic Guitar Magazine and is the lead singer of The Cut Loose.

Dan Nervo leads The Cut Loose along with Dan A. – they rule.

Kenji Shinagawa played mandolin, and is an amazing guitarist who lives in NYC.

Brian Fox is a writer for Bass Player Magazine and also plays bass with The Estate. His amazing ex-band Pseudopod just might do some shows soon, too!

Scott Foster teaches with me at Urban and plays all over the Bay Area.

Brian Switzer plays trumpet with Native Elements, among other groups.

Alex Kelly is an amazing cellist, and has done some pretty rad things things.  He plays all over the place.

Joel Behrman played trombone; he is an amazing trumpet player, as well.

Daniel Fabricant played upright bass; his group The Nice Guy Trio is really good stuff.

Khamara Pettus is a fabulous actor and performs regularly around the SF Bay Area.

Fil Lorenz contributed wonderful Bari sax playing, and leads two groups – his Soul-Tet and his larger Jazz Orchestra.

Samantha Fisher did the album design and layout, and is truly amazing.

Michael Romanowski mastered the record, and I can’t recommend his services enough.  He works at Coast Recorders, and is one of the heads of the audiophile record lable The Tape Project.


The Wolverine Dream

15 Feb

xmen01Last night I had The Wolverine Dream again.

You know the one; you start in a sort of nebulous dream-place, surrounded by nebulous dream-people, when suddenly, things start to take form, there’s an air of urgency, the people with you start to feel familiar, and then – attack!  You’re under attack by unseen forces! You aren’t sure what to do, then you look down at your hands and… snikt!

It was pretty cool. The Wolverine Dream is always cool. After I woke up and established that my skeleton had not, in fact, been fused with Adamantium (I’ll spare you the details on how I determined this), I got to thinking. The students at Charles Xavier’s mansion have, as far back as I can remember, captured my heart and imagination to a degree unmatched by any other fictional characters, comic-book or otherwise. Forget the Planeteers and the Power Rangers – what is it, exactly, about the X-Men?

The teenager factor. I have no doubt that this has been written about all over the place. The most powerful and least subtle appeal of the X-Men comics lies in the comics’ far-reaching metaphor for adolescence. As these teens near adulthood, boys and girls with the mutant gene discover that their bodies are changing in strange ways that they can’t control. They’re developing frightening, uncontrollable, and often dangerous new powers.  They try to hide their new-found differentness and almost always fail. Their physical appearance undergoes radical changes, often for the freakish. They become social outcasts. If any of this sounds eerily familiar to you, well, that’s not an accident.  These stories resonate with us because to one degree or another, we’ve all been there ourselves.

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The Time-Vampire

13 Feb

There are no words for the hilarity to follow.  NSFW, both because of the pervasive foul language and the fact that you’ll be laughing so hard it’ll distract everyone in your office.

Things I Am Loving Today (Hamlet the Cat Edition)

12 Feb


1) Box

Box Box Box.  I love Box.  Box where I lie down. I like lie on things, paper things, cloth things.  Your thing? I will lie on. Box is thing, actually several thing.  It is crepe paper; it is a box. Crepe paper is in Box. Box is warm, it is in kitchen near food.  Box, Box. I like say box, too.  Box, Box Box.  I love Box.





3) You

Hello, You.  I love you, You.  You gave Box.  You gave Bacon.  You have Rug.  You also have House, and Couch, and Cushion, and Space Behind The Center Speaker In The Entertainment Center.  You have Furminator.  You have all the things I love.  And I love you, You.  Look into my eyes.  Can you see the love.  Hello, You.  I love you, You.

Always Intense

11 Feb


“Duke, let’s go do some crimes.”
Yeah. Let’s go get sushi and not pay.”

Bad Poetry For Tuesday

10 Feb

beans, beans,
the musical fruit;
the more you eat,
the more you toot

games, games,
the musical fruit;
the more you attend,
the more you root

vodka, vodka,
the musical fruit;
the more you drink,
the more you boot

mopeds, mopeds,
the musical fruit;
the more you ride,
the more you scoot

guns, guns,
the musical fruit;
the more you load,
the more you shoot

riots, riots,
the musical fruit;
the more you start,
the more you loot

logical conclusions,
the musical fruit;
the fewer you have,
the more it’s moot

The Exited Door – One Year, One Album (Part 7)

9 Feb

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 seventh and final part 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 five covers the final recording sessions and the initial mixing process, and part six details the final mixing and mastering processes.

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

Part Seven: Artwork, Photos, and Design


Assembling the artwork and finalizing the design on the album was by far the easiest part of production.  With the tunes written, recorded, edited, and mastered, the only thing left to do was to put together the art and the layout and send the thing off to Discmakers.


Yeah, I know.

I’d had a pretty good idea of what I wanted with the design from the get-go; I knew I wanted some sort of portrait-like illustration for the cover, and my initial thought was that it would be something like Billy Joel’s “River of Dreams” album cover.  Which is kind of hilarious, in retrospect.  That might be the least-cool album cover in existence.  I didn’t know it at the time, but it was actually drawn by Christie Brinkley when she was married to him, so it’s this total non-art kind of thing, with tons of watercolors and drawings, and it’s kinda sorta… lame.  But at the end of 2007, after putting down “cool” for a while and trying to come up with something more real, it was at least in the neighborhood of where I wanted the cover to be.

It didn’t take me long to figure out where to go to find an artist to commission to do the work. I know plenty of artists around San Francisco, but didn’t really know any of their work that well, and just tracking down an artist friend didn’t seem like the way to go, for whatever reason.  Right at the outset, however, when I thought about how much production and recording work I’d be doing at school, as well as how many students I’d be getting to help out musically, I realized (in a bit of a forehead-slapping moment of clarity) that I should get an Urban student to do the cover art!

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Murfins and Burgalinks

8 Feb

Sunday Links, Served Up Fresh:


From - ha!

Immediately after declaring it “dead,” SFist tackles the term “Hipster,” Look to the comments section – poster Angrybat completely nails it:  “A hipster is somebody you don’t like who goes to the same places you do.”  Amazing.

MNPP’s most recent Thursday’s Way Not To Die recalls Lord Of The Rings, as well as the reason I’m still watching Fringe.  Namely, good Lord Denethor (John Noble) and his amazingly shitty death.

Does everyone else want to see Coraline as much as I do?  I am so into seeing this movie. It sounds awesome.  Stephanie Z. at Salon agrees; her review makes me want to see it even more.

GamesRadar ran this hilarious feature about  a week ago in which they tried to determine which game’s character creator could make the most accurate Obama.  Ha!  The best one was Smackdown, which is interesting…  For special hilarity, find the one in which they imported an actual photo of Obama into the creator.  It looks quite possibly the least like him.

harold-falloutAlso on the gaming tip, thanks to The Brainy Gamer, I found Sparky Clarkson (real name?)’s recent “Critical Thinking Compilation” on Fallout 3. If you played that game and are interested in finding a compendium of interesting, well-written essays about various aspects of the game, this is the place to go.  My favorite that I’ve had time to read is a post at TheNewGamer called “What About Oasis?” I heartily agree with this post – you’d think that, after potentially opening the door for vegetation to return to the desolate wasteland you spent the entire game exploring, that the game’s epilogue would in some way allude to the results of your actions, but… nothing.  What a letdown!

Andrew Sullivan is doing a good job of posting terrifying graphs that I am going to do my best to ignore. Jesus, the sky really is falling, isn’t it?

Thanks to Beth Spotswood, I found a new, random, and quite funny blog called “Reclaiming Miss Havisham.” A recent post details a San Francisco dating encounter that has to be read to be believed. There are some weirdos in this town, I tell ya.

Last but certainly not least, I give you Franz Ferdinand’s new single Ulysses. Sweet.  I need to get their album:

TV Round-Up

7 Feb

Somewhere amidst all of my album preparations and the ensuing chaos, I’ve somehow still been finding time to watch my stories. Some shows are still doing it for me, some are showing signs of flagging. In weekday order:

gossip-girlGossip Girl

I’m an avowed fan, and this show continues to be a great deal of fun. Awesome clothes? Check. Horrible, bitchy characters doing immature, nasty things to one another?  Check.  Adults whose drama that is in no way as interesting as the drama of their offspring?  Check.  And yet…. and yet… and yet.  Discontent brews.  Maybe it was the last episode, the first true “miss” of the season, dealing with Dan’s fake-then-real affair with the new (apparently 17-year-old) English teacher at Constance and removing Chuck from the action and placing him in a confusing and half-baked Illuminati plot line that seems imported from another show.  Maybe it’s the general feeling that, after all of the “My father is dead, I love you” shenanigans of the mid-season climax, the writers can’t find another good plot line to sink their teeth into.  I don’t know.  But for some reason, I’m starting to have my doubts.

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The Exited Door – One Year, One Album (Part 6)

5 Feb

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 sixth 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 five covers the final recording sessions and the initial mixing process, and part seven is about the artwork, photos, and design.

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

Part Six: Mixing, Editing, and Mastering


It was December.  The music had been written, the charts laid out; the musicians had learned the parts and been recorded, the voice-overs were complete.  The singers and I had learned, tweaked, and re-learned the parts, and the tunes had morphed from abstract ideas into actual recordings.  This was the home stretch – time to wrestle these tracks into a finished album.

I’ve already discussed how much easier it is to mix things when all of the tracks are recorded and accounted for – the drums can be EQed to leave space for the bass, the vocals and the horns can be put where they need to be in order not to clash, etc. But there’s another aspect to it as well – when I have an incomplete session, it’s tough to get in the mindset required to make things sound finished; all of the ingredients aren’t yet in the stew, so it’s tough to begin to add seasoning.

Once all of the tracks are recorded though, for better or for worse, I know what I’ve got to work with, so it’s much easier to begin to chop up the audio and make it fit into the sound of the tune.  Which, once the tracks were finished, was exactly what I got started doing.

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Monday’s Person I Want To Be

2 Feb

Saving the girl in mom-jeans.

When life seems too big for me, like there are just too many problems in the world, I sometimes find comfort in the simple, direct, borderline-retarded words of 80′s action heroes. These guys had it much easier than the action stars of today – they didn’t have to worry about their past catching up with them or the emotional scarring left by inflicting torture, let ALONE everyday things like taxes or the job market or the economy.  All these guys needed to focus on was making sure they had enough ammo and that they were ready with a spicy one-liner for the next time they threw a bad guy out of an airlock/into a propeller blade/off a cliff.

But of all the 80′s action heroes out there, perhaps none are better suited for these troubled times than the blustering, contradictory, totally fucking awesome Jack Burton.

The man has amazing fashion sense (see picture), wears sunglasses while driving at night, and has a serious way with the ladies.  And by “way,” I mean, “sort of argues with them for a while, then saves them and leaves without so much as a good-bye kiss.” He’s totally rich (he ends the film with at least $3,000, wow), and he surrounds himself with people who can fight better than he can.

Jack also takes ancient Chinese drugs to help himself keep a positive attitude, and is just cool enough to play the part of “America” in a somewhat metaphorically tortured but still interesting HuffPo op-ed from December (though the writer curiously doesn’t mention the weird scene where, just before the final battle and apropos of nothing, Jack and his sidekick Wang toast to the glory of America and the red, white and blue).

And through it all, he saves his love for the one thing in his life that he can truly count on – his truck.

So you know what Jack Burton says:

Why are all those guys at the door? “We may be trapped.”

I am Lo Pan, and he is me! “Are you insane? Is that your problem?”

How are you going to get us outta here, Jack? “I have no idea.”

and of course…

What does ol’ Jack Burton say? “What the hell.”

So I’m just gonna tune out the AM radio talking-heads and tune in to the ol’ Pork Chop express, because even as I write this, Jack’s cruising down the 101, monster-filled trailer in tow, dropping pearls of wisdom into the CB while en route to some Chinatown shenanigans. Thanks to him, when they come to make me pay my dues, I’ll just tell ‘em “Yes sir, the check is in the mail.”


No horseshit.

Life On The Tightrope

1 Feb


“To me, it’s really so simple, that life should be lived on the edge. You have to exercise rebellion. To refuse to tape yourself to the rules, to refuse your own success, to refuse to repeat yourself, to see every day, every year, every idea as a true challenge. Then you will live your life on the tightrope.”

- Philippe Petit in Man on Wire


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