Aug 02

Friday Crap Roundup XXV

I’ve somehow made it to the 25th FCR. That’s nearly half a year of these posts. Sneferu was a mere kitten when I started this blog. Today’s he’s a year old.

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And he can hardly contain himself.

We’ve got a few more weeks until Djoser’s birthday in October. I’m sure that will be equally exciting. In the meantime sit back and enjoy the FCR.

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Jun 26

History Wednesday: Skipping Technlology

When I’m not blogging or herding cats, one of my favored pastimes is borrowing CDs at the library down the street. The scheme is simple. First, I log on to my account, find CDs and put them on hold. When they make their way to my library branch, I check them out. Then I take them home, rip them, and bring them back in short order. Rinse and repeat. It works out well.

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Thus far I haven’t had many problems with scratched CDs.
Image credit: wikiHow

It works until CDs become completely obsolete, anyway. While we wait for that, let’s take a look back at where CDs came from, shall we?

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Jun 13

Bring Out Your Dead

Like many of you, my music collection began on the venerable Compact Cassette format. While I’m somewhat ashamed to say the first tape I bought on my own was *cough* Thriller, the second proved to be a much more dignified choice.

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1984 wasn’t so bad after all.

Although I remember when computers came with cassette tape players, the format doesn’t exactly lend itself to multimedia excellence. I haven’t had a tape player for years, so they’ve just sat there moldering.

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Jun 05

History Wednesday: Frequency Manipulation

Today I took my daughter swimming at the condo association pool next to the Command Center. Being an exceptionally nice day in Boise, some of the neighborhood kids were already there. One of them had her iPhone or whatever plugged into a speaker, playing her list of jammin’ MP3s. This experience proved to be exactly as excruciating as it sounds.

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You’d better “Beliebe” it.

Replace Justin Bieber with, say, Wham! and the iPhone with that noted paragon of past 2T culture, Z-103, and you’d have a scene very reminiscent of the Putt n’ Plunge during the mid-80s. Of course, my mind working the way it does I thought to myself, “Hey, it could have been Z-43.”

No, I’m not making an obscure Ed Wood reference here.

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Apr 30

Repulsed by Radio

A couple days ago I regaled you with my thoughts on 1980s TV. I suppose it’s only fitting I make a few comments about 1980s pop music as well.

My fascination with music can be traced directly back to 15 July 1984, my 11th birthday. As a gift I received a small “boom box.” This in turn led me to an obsession with the weekly Top 40 show as hosted by Casey Kasem and later Rick Dees. It aired on at 4 pm on Sundays on the local Top 40 FM station, and I often taped the whole frickin’ thing.

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There’s no cheese like the Dees.
Image credit: lax.hyundai

I freely admit I liked a lot of the stuff they played on Top 40 radio back then. Still do. However, as time wore on I increasingly came across songs I didn’t like. That’s to be expected, of course. Even so, there were some tracks I found so loathsome that just a few notes would compel me to turn the radio OFF until the offending audio went away.

The following are some of the worst offenders.

Anything by Prince

At roughly the same time I embraced the Top 40, a Minneapolis-based singer/songwriter named Prince Rogers Nelson released a film called Purple Rain, along with a soundtrack album of the same name. For approximately the next three years, Western civilization wouldn’t shut up about the guy. At certain times Prince seemed to be more overexposed than the King of 80s Cheese himself, Michael Jackson.

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I’d post a YouTube clip, but he’d probably have it taken down before I hit the “Publish” button.
Image credit: Yves Lorson

Why I hated it then: When I was 11 years old there were two things in this world I absolutely despised: Cabbage Patch Kids and Prince. There was no single reason for my loathing of the diminutive Minnesotan, but it probably had to do with his eyeliner, his ruffled shirts, a bouffant which put Kim Jong-il’s to shame, his repeated dissings of Weird Al Yankovic, and the fact he seemed to be everywhere for a very long time. Whatever it was, I couldn’t stand the guy.

One Christmas during this period there was a present for me under the tree which was clearly in a cassette tape box. For several days I feared some well-meaning but profoundly uninformed grownup bought me Purple Rain. As it turns out, it was The Best of Spike Jones. My sense of relief was enormous.

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Possibly the only time in recorded history anyone was so relieved to receive a Spike Jones album.

What I think of it now: My view of Prince has moderated considerably over the years. He’s an undisputed musical genius, and I have to to admit even today “When Doves Cry” is a hell of a dance track. Nevertheless, I still haven’t seen Purple Rain (or any of his other movies, for that matter).

“Always” by Atlantic Starr

If there ever was a song written specifically to be played at wedding receptions, this 1987 track is it. Apologies in advance if this is “your” song.

Perhaps the best-known single by this upstate New York R&B group, “Always” is four solid minutes of the most concentrated shlocky sweet cheese produced to date. Repeated exposure to this track is bound to cause hyperglycemia in just about anyone. Consider yourselves warned.

Atlantic Starr was responsible for many, many awkward high school slow dances.

Why I hated it then: This sort of thing is exactly what a sexually confused 13-year-old boy DOESN’T want to hear, especially in heavy rotation. Sweet YHWH this was a painful experience.

What I think of it now: OK, OK, they were a talented group and it’s crystal clear why newlyweds gravitated to them. Still, if I ever get married again I’d much rather hear Public Enemy’s “Bring the Noise” at my reception.

“Kyrie” by Mr. Mister

In 1986, someone at the Top 40 station in the 2T must have really, REALLY liked Mr. Mister, as they tortured the whole of south-central Idaho for months with these guys. Overplayed doesn’t begin to cover it.

Remember styling mousse? They do.

Why I hated it then: If it weren’t for the excessive overplay, Mr. Mister would have likely merited little more than a footnote in my memory. But once the damage was done, there was no holding my rage back.

What I think of it now: I still don’t miss it.

“Hippychick” by Soho

If you’ve never heard of this one-hit wonder or their reputed “hit,” you’re forgiven. “Hippychick” was released in 1990, did its requisite tour of the Top 40, and then was quickly forgotten. Or at least I wish it was.

In 1996, some years after I swore off the Top 40 (more on that in a moment), I was a regular listener of an “alternative” radio station out of the Sun Valley area called KSKI. At the time KSKI was an independent, free-wheeling station which wasn’t afraid to play good music, even after an infamous incident involving “special brownies” among the morning drive crew.

Good music, with the glaring exception of “Hippychick.”

Gah!

Why I hated it then: This song is essentially a clumsy sample of Johnny Marr’s iconic guitar riff from “How Soon is Now?” followed by a crappy dance tune. That alone is bad enough. What really set me off is that it was broadcast on KSKI, a station one could reasonably expect to actually play The Smiths. But instead of Morrissey’s plaintive wailing, you were presented with this. Gotcha! I wouldn’t be surprised if this turned out to be KSKI’s idea of a practical joke. If so, I sure as hell didn’t find it funny.

What I think of it now: No wonder why Queen fans hate Vanilla Ice.

“Do the Bartman” by The Simpsons

When The Simpsons premiered in December 1989 it was a big deal. I liked it. Possibly you liked it. In any event, it’s a TV show that’s still in first-run prime time nearly a quarter century later. It’s clearly a groundbreaking series.

Which is why we can almost forgive them for dropping the festering turd known as The Simpsons Sing the Blues on us a year later. “Do the Bartman” was the lead single.

I don’t care if he’s dead. I still want to bitchslap Michael Jackson for writing this.

Why I hated it then: Although by the time “Do the Bartman” came out I had given up on pop music (again, more on that in a moment), my hatred for it was nearly automatic. Unlike Mr. Mister, it didn’t need to be overplayed. Being the most ham-handed attempt to cash in on a fad since the advent of The Archies a generation earlier, there were plenty of other good reasons to despise it.

What I think of it now: Yeah, it still makes me want to go out and break stuff.

“Just a Friend” by Biz Markie

Oh my, this is the granddaddy of them all. Not only did this track elicit an immediate, visceral response, it also triggered a significant watershed moment in my life. For a variety of reasons, including some of the aforementioned songs, by the time the Biz hit the radio in late 1989 I was already quite disgruntled with the whole pop music thing. Then one fine day I was presented with this:

Absolutely stupefying.

Why I hated it then: As I recall my initial reaction was something to the effect of, “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME!?!?!?” Don’t get me wrong, I like old-school rap. At this point I was the proud owner of Run-DMC and Public Enemy albums. But this … this made Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” sound like Sgt. Pepper.

It was at that moment I shut off the radio and resolved never to willingly listen to a Top 40 station ever again. Over 20 years later I continue to make good on that promise. Not long after I started discovering the good stuff, including Living Colour, R.E.M., The Police, Jane’s Addiction, The Dead Milkmen, Erasure, the Pixies and – of course – Rush.

What I think of it now: In all seriousness, I think today is the very first time I managed to listen to “Just a Friend” the whole way through. In an odd way, I’m almost thankful to Biz Markie for delivering the coup de grâce to my Top 40 habit.

Damn, I feel dirty now. I think I need to take a shower and listen to Permanent Waves for awhile.

Apr 12

Friday Crap Roundup IX

It’s Friday and I’m in the 2T again. Beachy has one of those teacher inservice days, so I had to interrupt her Smosh and Fred Figglehorn habit to write today’s FCR. Believe me, that’s not an easy task. Once I’m done I get to take her to Hop 2 It. Oh joy. At least she’s paying her own way this time ….

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NOTICE: FATHER CARRIES NO CASH
Image credit: Channel R

But First, A Shameless Plug

I’ve known Travis Hill since we were in fifth grade or something like that. He’s into hockey, writing and snark, just like me. If you enjoy SB, I venture to guess you’ll like his stuff too. You can find it here, here and here.

He doesn’t know I’m doing this, and when he finds out he’ll probably have some off-color remark for me. That’s part of his charm.

Speaking of Remarks …

SB got its first real comment in well over a month earlier this week. Feel free to comment at this site, you slackers. Constantly deleting Engrish spam hawking fake Air Jordans gets old after a few weeks.

Anyway, commenting on “Messing With Spammers,” Ray told SB he also encountered the infamous “gr8tits2play.” He wrote in part:

How can I report this user? That ISP address or whatever. Oh well my only option is to report it on Fling and hopefully they will warn others. I didn’t sign up for the other site because I couldn’t find her user name, so I Googled – you guessed it – gr8tits2play. should I respond back with something, or don’t reply?

(Ed note: link NSFW)

Good questions, Ray. You did the right thing by reporting the account to Fling and by NOT signing up to “her” site. The dating site is probably not going to “warn others,” but it should delete the offending account with extreme prejudice. I imagine they’ve already done so as of this writing. I don’t recommend responding unless you’re going to troll them like I do. That just invites more spam.

As for tracking where the e-mail came from, what I do is find the originating IP address in the e-mail source. A “View Source” option should be available in e-mail clients such as Thunderbird and Outlook. Finding the source in web-based e-mail, such as Hotmail, can be problematic.

The source consists of a bunch of computer gobbledygook. What you want is something that looks like “Received: from [1.2.3.4].” The numbers in the brackets are the IP address. There may be several lines like this; the one you want is usually the last one.

Once you have the IP, do a search on an IP lookup site such as IP2Location. The result should tell you where the IP originates and what ISP it’s registered with. This doesn’t work every time, but it’s the best way I know of to track an e-mail’s origin. If someone out there knows a better way, please share with the class.

Of course this only works with an actual e-mail. If all you have is the communication on Fling (or wherever), you’re not going to be able to track the original IP, although the site admins can if they so choose.

By the way, if you do troll them let me know. Definitely share if it nets you hilarious results.

My Message in Your Modem

SB reached an auspicious milestone earlier today. All you Rush fans out there should appreciate this:

2112views

And the geeks shall inherit the earth.

Let’s Network … Or Something

Hey! Now you can “like” me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter. The Mayor of Boise, members of the Idaho Legislature, and the Idaho Statesman all follow me. Why not you?

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In other words, the city knows my every move.

Oh yeah, for what it’s worth I have a Pinterest account too. I don’t use that much, though.

Track of the Week

I like me some trance, y’all.

We’re not in Kansas anymore.

Apr 11

It Begins …

Ha, ha! I warned you! Now I’ve gone and done it.

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Oh, snap.

Yes, that’s right! I have “discovered” a long-lost recording of my 31 February 1982 concert at the id-famous Owyhee County Pork Sausage Distillery in Dickshooter, Idaho. My performance of John Gage’s classic 4′33″ brought down the house. Have a listen:

Damn, I’m good.

This was put up on YouTube only yesterday, yet the reviews are already remarkable! B. T. from London, Ontario, Canada, an accomplished musician and regular SB reader, said:

Enthralling performance! Although I must say that the opening was a bit disturbing…. And I can thank you for now knowing that there is a Dickshooter, ID. Always learning from you….

Beachy had this to say:

Dad, that is just wrong and weird! Weird and wrong! Wait … did you do it for people who like plaid? Who like plaid and beige? Beige, plaid people?

The rest of Taxil and the White Noise is currently in production. 4’33” will be available soon in MP3 format from Amazon and iTunes. Look for it!

Apr 01

Unexpecting the Expected

Hot damn tamale Mephistopheles! It’s April Fool’s Day! I suppose this means y’all are expecting me to base today’s post on some absurd, blatantly false declaration then cry, “APRIL FOOL’S!” Well, I did consider it.

Claim to have an epiphany and pledge to channel the spirit of the undead Jerry Falwell? Nah ….

Become the world’s most annoying Buddhist monk? Nah ….

Announce the end of SB to write at RedState instead? Nah ….

Tout a diet consisting exclusively of carrots, celery and Pabst Blue Ribbon? Nah ….

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Oh, hell no.
Image credit: Chasqui

Then it occurred to me. Last night on Facebook I announced my intention to record an EP for download. I’m very seriously considering this. I mean, seriously ….

Friends, I’m happy to announce I’m going into the studio to record my first EP, Taxil and the White Noise. It’ll feature a cover of Allais’ Funeral March for the Obsequies of a Deaf Man, La Double Vie de Théophraste Longuet as inspired by Leroux, the eponymous original composition, and Cage’s masterpiece 4’33”, which was voted one of the most important American musical works of the 20th Century. Look for it soon!

The key to a lasting presence on the Internet is going multimedia as soon as you can. SB regularly gets 50 hits a day now. That may not sound like much, but given that this blog was started less than two months ago with an advertising budget of absolute zero, I happen to think it’s pretty damn good. Hell, those guys from Smosh recently put out an album. If two kids from northern California can make it big by using pink sprinkled donuts and churros as props, then I can become famous too, dammit!

As you may recall, a few days ago I mentioned John Cage’s 4’33”. A groundbreaking work like that is exactly what I need to give this EP some serious gravitas. No less than Frank freakin’ Zappa covered 4’33”, man. I understand it’s pretty easy to play, and that it can be recorded on a shoestring budget. This is a good thing given my limited musical skills and financial resources. Just gotta get the timing down, or something ….

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The concept doesn’t need cheesy production, or Auto-Tune, or anything. I’m golden.
Image credit: Kenal

Last night I composed the title track, Taxil and the White Noise, on a state-of-the-art Walgreens Model 890-WGN cool moisture humidifier. The 890-WGN is a frequently overlooked instrument, which I think really makes the piece pop. You’re gonna love it.

So no, I’m not yelling, “APRIL FOOL’S!” I want to make this happen. More details are sure to follow.

Mar 23

Here We Have Tone Deafness

When I was a wee wiseacre in the 2T I learned about the Idaho state emblems. Every state has them. You know, state bird, state flower, state tree, state cottager ….

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OK, just kidding about the last one. Maybe.

Like every other state we also have a state song. Some state songs are well-known outside their borders, such as “Georgia on My Mind,” “Home on the Range,” “Oklahoma!” and … “Born to Run.” Seriously, you don’t mess with the Boss in New Jersey.

Our state song is “Here We Have Idaho.” Chances are decent you haven’t heard it, even if you’re from Idaho. There’s a reason for that. It’s bloody awful on every conceivable level.

Oh, the humanity.

Now please don’t think I’m picking on the performers here. There’s simply no way to sing this piece without sounding like you’re clobbering a rabid hyena with a Louisville Slugger. I chose this particular clip because apparently no one else wanted to be caught dead singing the song in its entirety on YouTube.

Just look at how this turd was constructed. The music was composed by a Sallie Hume Douglas in 1915 under the original title of (no kidding) “Garden of Paradise.” A couple years later, the original lyrics were written by a couple of people at the University of Idaho who were unaware of the tune’s provenance. By 1930, two other sets of lyrics were written because, why not?

Finally in 1931 the Idaho Legislature, noted patrons of the arts they are, declared the Douglas tune the state song along with lyrics written by the then-director of music for the Boise Public Schools. In other words, “Here We Have Idaho” was essentially written by a proto-Oprah fan and your elementary school music teacher. I’m somewhat comforted by the fact I’m not the only one to recognize its banality.

Oh but it gets better. The lyric, “Here we have Idaho, winning its way to fame” is bad enough. However, the original lyric was, “Here we have Idaho, scourged on its way to fame.” Wow, you can’t get much more metal than that.

Flagellants

Pictured: scourging your way to fame.

This state needs a lot of work in many ways. However, I think we can agree we need a new state song, one that’s not completely embarrassing. Granted, there’s not a lot out there to go on. I tried looking tonight on YouTube, but I didn’t find much. I did come across a band called Idaho in my search. They’re actually pretty good. Check them out. Unfortunately they wouldn’t work for this purpose, as they’re from California and their most recent album is titled You Were a Dick.

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There’s no way that’s getting through this government.

Still, write your legislator. Give Butch a call. Do something. If I give the world one less thing to laugh at us about, I’ve done my job.

Mar 21

Riding the Thunder Broom

I recently bought a bass guitar. I figured at this point in my life it would be a good idea for me to take up a new hobby or two. Beachy also wants me to be a “rock star” when I grow up. She approves of this purchase.

Music is not an entirely new thing to me. Dad was a guitarist in a few local bands in the 60s. I took piano lessons when I was in elementary school, although my passion for that was halfhearted at best. Most of my friends in high school were band geeks.

Strongly influenced by said band geeks, I acquainted myself with the works of Mike Watt, Geddy Lee, Les Claypool and others as a teenager. I’ve been interested in taking up bass for a good 20 years. Bass should be a good instrument for me. I fancy myself loud and low, and I think in terms of single notes rather than chords.

There were two main obstacles to that though. First, I’m left-handed. VERY left-handed. Dad tried to teach me guitar on a standard right-handed model, but I just wasn’t picking it up. Everything seemed upside down to me. What’s more, locating an affordable left-handed instrument in the pre-World Wide Web days was about as easy as picking up a bottle of Bacardi 151 in Riyadh. It just wasn’t happening.

The second obstacle – and probably the more important one – was my strong tendency to set the bar unrealistically high for myself when undertaking any new endeavor. If I wasn’t able to be a virtuoso in a relatively short period of time, it wasn’t worth it to me.

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And when I say “set the bar high,” I’m not dicking around here.

I’m a perfectionist by nature. It wasn’t until quite recently that I became somewhat comfortable with the concept of not having to be a world-beater in absolutely everything I did. Having your ass handed to you by bipolar type II will do that to you. That and the miracle of e-commerce finally convinced me to take the next step.

So despite being 39, well past the age many people take up these sorts of things, over Christmas I found a left-handed bass online and had it shipped to the local Guitar Center. Of course, not wanting to drop a ton of money on something I wasn’t entirely sure I’d take up in the long term, I went for – shall we say – a low-end model. It’s made by an outfit called Main Street Guitar Company.

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The Chinese call it quality!

Over the next couple months I picked up other necessary items, such as an amp, a cord, a shoulder strap and a gig bag. I’m ready to RAWK!

Well, I would be if I had anything resembling dedication. Everyone tells me, “Man, you need to practice every day or you lose your touch.” I have no reason to disagree with that. However, I play maybe twice a week at the moment. Never mind CORRECT notes. At this point I’m happy with CLEAN notes which don’t sound like hitting a metal coil with a sledgehammer.

I can play the bass line from “Once in a Lifetime” fairly well, but that’s about it right now.

A couple days ago I compared learning the bass to learning to type. Honestly I don’t know how valid that comparison is, but as a writer it seems logical to me. Music theory as traditionally presented has never been one of my strengths. I get the basic concept of such things as notation and time signatures, but I’ve always found anything but the simplest sheet music absolutely confounding.

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Yeah, this does nothing for me.
Image credit: Hyacinth

It seems to me it would be easier to think of notes as “letters” and bass lines as “words.” One needs to learn where the various notes are on the bass. After that it’s a relatively simple matter of constructing the line in much the same way one types a word on a keyboard. I understand this theory doesn’t take into account important things like tempo. I tend to view that as something one picks up innately.

Perhaps I’m over-thinking this and trying to unnecessarily re-invent the wheel. That’s another thing I’m notorious for.