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.

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