Religious fundamentalists are motivated by the sneaking suspicion that someone, somewhere, is having fun -- and that this must be stopped.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Checking out Macbook battery life
I earlier said that a Macbook will go about 2 hours on a battery charge. I'm going to test that. I turned off wireless and Bluetooth to save battery life, and will see how long I can go on that while doing typical "work" stuff such as browsing the Internet, editing text, playing with GarageBand (turns out it *will* do the kind of dynamics processing that I ranted it couldn't do, I just need to read the freakin' documentation, funny how that works, heh?), and otherwise doing stuff like I'd be doing on an airplane or train. Not watching a DVD or streaming mp3's, though. Those would probably use more juice.
GarageBand turns out to be able to do more than I thought yesterday. What can I say, I'm new to this Mac and Garageband thingy. Looks like it'll probably do everything I need to do for my own use, including clean up my crappy vocals (heh!). Running the guitar effects is pretty interesting. Hey, I can make my acoustic guitar sound like a Strat, whoa! If I were a pro I'd go for something like Logic Pro that allows lots of things like, for example, "stretching out" vocals phrasing to match an instrumental track (or vice-versa) without making it sound like crap, but for me, my guitar, and my MIDI keyboard for adding things like drums and such, GarageBand *might* do the trick. It's not as if I'm corresponding with myself across country (see: The Postal Service).
Discovered all the AU plugins for GarageBand (and Logic) over at MacMusic. Hmm. So it appears my frustration yesterday was just because I was using a new software app that I didn't know how to use, not because it won't do what I need it to do...
Hmm, currently at 78%, 41 minutes in. That implies that in light use in transit with all the radios turned off doing word processing and such I can get about 3 hours use out of the battery. Turn the radios all on, and battery usage is much higher, I know from experience...
Well, 'nuff techno-geekery for now. Your snark supply shall resume shortly.
Written by Thomas Moore sometime in the early 1800's, supposedly as a commemoration of the 1798 Irish rebellion against British rule.
The minstrel boy to the war is gone
In the ranks of death you will find him
His father's sword he hath girded on
And his wild harp's slung behind him.
"Land of Song!" said the warrior bard
"Though all the world betrays thee.
One sword, at least, thy rights shall guard,
One faithful harp shall praise thee!"
The Minstrel fell! But the foeman's chain
Could not bring that proud soul under.
The harp he lov'd ne'er spoke again
For he tore its chords asunder.
And said "No chains shall sully thee
Thou soul of love and bravery!
Thy songs were made for the pure and free
They shall never sound in slavery!"
I fired up the new sound gear and checked it out, and did my best Irish imitation. Which is not very good, because the first time I ever even *heard* this song was tonight, so you'll notice my voice searching for the right pitch in various locations (and an occasional hesitant chord change) because I simply forgot what the song sounded like, and I sound Irish only via rough approximation. However, the process did allow me to test out all my gear. Here is what I found:
The Lexicon Lambda does well with a high-output condenser mike, but lousy with a low-output condenser mike or a dynamic mike. Because it is USB bus powered, it just doesn't have the juice to hike those up. I ended up plugging a patch cord to my old mixer to get the guitar mike, the Lexicon handled the output from the mixer just fine.
Dynamics are lousy altogether because I turned the guitar input down to get rid of the hum from the mixer, then had to turn the vocals down to match. I think I'll just leave the guitar input up next time, the hum isn't audible over the sound of the guitar.
The best mike for miking my boomy acoustic guitar is still a hoary old dynamic mike like a SM58C, though maybe an open capsule condenser mike might do the trick. A closed capsule condenser mike booms like the little Boehringers that I got for cheap whoofs too bad. Not restricted to those mikes, BTW, my Oktava does the same thing.
I couldn't adjust the volume in post-processing because GarageBand won't do that beyond a certain point. GarageBand's limitations are pretty serious. So next I'll install the Cubase LE software that came with the Lexicon to see what happens. I hate the thought of spending serious money on music software given how cheap the music hardware is nowdays, I'll have to see whether Audacity runs on MacOS if Cubase LE doesn't do the job. Oh what am I saying, you know I'm going to be buying Logic Express...
Yesterday at around 10:30AM I clicked the "Buy" button on that home studio gear that I wanted for my Macbook. About 30 minutes ago I heard a knock on my door and went to take a look. The UPS guy looked up as he was going down the stairs and waved and pointed at a big box.
Big box? But I haven't ordered anything lately except that stuff from Zzounds, and Zzounds is in New Jersey, so the stuff I bought from them yesterday couldn't be here, on the opposite coast, on the next day. And the UPS guy had done a dump'n'run, which they do only on ground shipments, so they couldn't have accidently sent it overnight (they won't release overnight shipments without a signature and besides those arrive before 1pm). So I picked up the big box, convinced that the UPS guy had done a dump'n'run on the wrong doorstep and... uhm... yeah, it was from Zzounds.
Either Zzounds has invented time travel, or they have a fulfillment house in this area. I'm betting on the latter :-). Now the bummer is that I can't check it out until I get my day's quota of work done. Telecommuting is great and all, but sometimes can be distracting, especially since I'm using my Macbook to do my real paying work and my Macbook is what I would want to plug all this new stuff into...
Let's see, this is the same guy who regularly rips off music artists by claiming he can't send them their royalties because he can't "find" them, has laid off 1/3rd of his recording artists over the past six years while getting record salaries and bonuses for himself, runs a multi-national conglomerate that conspires with other multi-national conglomerates to keep CD prices artificially and unsustainably high then griping that people won't buy his overpriced wares (hint: ain't *no* way that a 45-minute long CD whose production cost a couple million tops should cost more than a DVD for a 90-minute-long movie that probably cost over fifty million to make, there's a reason why DVD sales are skyrocketing while CD sales are plummeting, and it ain't called "Bittorrent", it's called people maximizing their entertainment value for the money), and otherwise is a pot colored greedy in every single way, and then he has the audacity to call Steve Jobs greedy?
Of course Steve Jobs wants to have all the profits he can get for his company. But Apple doesn't control 40% of the music industry the way Sony does, and people have viable alternatives to Apple if they want to purchase computers, music, or music-playing devices. People buy Apple's stuff because Apple's stuff simply works best, not because of any conspiracy by Steve Jobs to force them to buy Apple stuff, the way that the traditional music labels conspired to force independents out of the distribution chain so that you were forced to buy their product or nothing at all (a plan which of course has backfired on them since the independents now are on the web and taking an increasing chunk of the market from the majors, but the majors' Mafia-type tactics made sense in the 1970's, I suppose)...
Pot, see kettle. Pot, call kettle black. Pot, look like the biggest fucking greedy dumbass hypocrite to ever walk this planet. 'Nuff said!
-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin
Vorschau, dammit! Yes, the German lessons at the hands of Tor and Blogger.com continue!
Now that I have the cute little Macbook, I'm sorta dissatisfied with my recording setup. My old USB sound system works, but is slow and has more lag than modern ones. My mixer sorta works, but I gotta keep remembering to work around some issues it has because at a gig a bass player plugged his amp into the wrong place and let the magic smoke out (and I ain't kidding about the magic smoke bit, it went "Pop!" and smoke started coming out of it, to say that I was sick to my stomach about my mixer's semi-demise is sorta an understatement!). Besides, it's clunky and this is a small apartment. Modern USB sound systems will accept XLR inputs directly from the mikes as well as accepting input from mixers via the traditional plugs, eliminating the need for a separate mixer entirely if you're not going to be recording a whole band at one time. Also, my USB MIDI interface is a separate thingy and my Macbook has only two USB plugs. So if I want to do MIDI instruments via my keyboard at the same time that I'm recording vocals, my Macbook looks like a freakin' wire farm and I have no USB plugs left.
Okay, so I went and did my research and found that a lot of folks like the Lexicon Lambda for $150 for recording with their Macbooks. You can use Garageband or the software which comes with it, Garageband is a lot easier to use though I'll tell you that much and has plenty of its own effects which work just fine. This also has MIDI IN/OUT plugs. So there goes the mixer, the MIDI controller, and one wall wart...
While I was there I went to look for good vocals and instrument mikes for studio use. Last time I was in the mike market, the only low-cost condenser microphone was a Russian small-diaphragm one for around $200 (Oktava mk-012), which had the typical Russian "quality" (you never knew what you were getting when you bought one). However, as with everything else, the Chinese have come into this market with a bang. Lots of people seem to like the Audio Technica AT2020 Studio Microphone for $100 for both vocals and miking a guitar. Other than a little harshness at the top end easily controlled with a teensy bit of EQ, folks rave that it does as good a job as their $500+ studio mikes yet is cheap and durable enough that they can take it out on gigs if desired without shitting a brick at the thought of their expensive studio mike getting smashed. For a low-end instrument mike, folks have been getting the Behringer C2 Chinese mikes, which come as a pair for $60.
So anyhow, I think I'm going to go ahead and order all this, the mikes are better than what I have (which are live performance mikes that emphasize durability over fidelity -- a good thing, since they definitely show some wear and tear on them) and the USB sound system is *way* better than my antique. Hmm. Basically a complete recording studio for $350 (minus the cost of the laptop)? Whoa! While I must admit some qualms about using the product of Chinese slave labor in my home studio, if it's a choice between no home studio and using the product of Chinese slave labor, I guess there just isn't much choice. Besides, my Macbook was made in China too, as was my previous HP laptop, my keyboard, my mixer, ... Sigh :-(.
So I finally feel well enough to plug in the USB sound system into the Mac. Hmm. Nothing shows up on the screen. Go into sound preferences. Oh, there it is. Turn on the mixer, and adjust the levels so that my guitar mike hits a couple of bars below the top and my vocals mike hits a couple of bars below the top. Fire up Garage Band. Figure out how to make a track from a "natural instrument". Figure out how to add an "effect" to that track, like compression and reverb, but end up choosing effects from the nifty list of effects ("male vocals" for the vocal mike, "clean" for the guitar -- I'll add a little reverb to it later, but my guitar style prefers a clean soundboard). Assign the vocal mike channel to the track. Create a second track, and assign the guitar mike channel to the track. Make sure the little red "record" icons are lit for both tracks. Press "Record". Huh. That's it?
Yep, that's it. It Just Works(tm). No fuss. No muss. No hassles.
Now I just need to write a couple of songs. (Actually have ideas for a couple, one called "Independence Day" and one called "Liberation", just need to flesh them out).
So what do the people that Mimus Pauly so charitably calls "peckerwoods", the music industry suits, and the health care insurers covered by Michael Moore's new film "Sicko" all have in common? Simple: They all possess an unwarranted sense of self-entitlement that says that they're entitled, yes, *ENTITLED*, to make a living in the industry in which they've chosen.
I ran into it first hand working in the oil industry in the early 1980's. Affirmative Action programs had brought the first black oilfield workers into the shop. As far as I could tell, they were competent and did the jobs for which they were hired just fine, but that didn't stop the peckerwoods from grumbling that "goddamned niggers are taking our jobs". Like, the fucking stupid peckerwoods thought they were *entitled* to those jobs, like it was some natural born right or something. Now the peckerwoods are grumbling about how them goddamned cockroaches from south of the border are taking their jobs. Nevermind that the goddamned moron peckerwoods are stupid as a brick and time after time vote for the same goddamned politicians who set up the system that lets the Mexicans swarm across the border. Nevermind that the peckerwoods are lazy, intellectually interested only in beer and football, and do as little work as they can get away with, to the point where a lot of construction contractors I know will hire *legal* Hispanics over legal peckerwoods simply because the Hispanics will work their goddamned tails off while the peckerwoods just slouch around whining about how they're being picked on by "The Man" for, like, being expected to actually WORK. In the HEAT. In the SUN! Without being waited on hand and FOOT! But will they actually get out there and bust their butts to show employers that they're both capable and willing of working hard and getting the job done? Hell no. They prefer drinking beer and whining about Mexicans taking their jobs.
The recording industry suits are the same way. Rather than listen to the public when the public says that, like, firing 1/3rd of the recording artists and suing thousands of your customers is bad business, what do they do? Why, like buggy whip makers whining about that new horseless carriage, they whine that new technology is rendering their job obsolete and should thus be outlawed! It's the same goddamned mentality. They think the world has an obligation to give them a living. Sorta like the linotype operators at the New York Times who whined that the Times had an obligation to provide jobs for them despite all those fancy new computer typesetting widgets the Times had acquired. They went out on strike, the Times said "fine", turned on the computer typesetting widgets, and the linotype operators never came back from strike because, well, they had no jobs to come back to. Technology happens. When it happens, you either learn the new technology and make a living there, or you learn how to say "Do you want fries with that order, sir?". The world has no obligation to give you a good living in the industry you've chosen. Shit, musicians know that, that's why they have day jobs except for a very very few who are lucky enough to make their living at music full time. The suits are scared as hell that they're gonna join the ranks of barristas at Starbucks who work evenings as roadies on the local bar circuit.
Now we get the health insurance companies and their paid lackeys in the corporate media whining about Michael Moore's new film "Sicko" and his call for universal national single-payer health care. They whine, "what about the hundreds of thousands of Americans who work in the health insurance industry?" Oh cry me a river, you see this . ? Yeah, it's the world's smallest fucking violin. They're not goddamned *ENTITLED* to those fucking jobs. Let'em join the rest of us motherfuckers out here on the free market, who have to show that we goddamned *KNOW OUR SHIT* and work our fucking tails off to get ahead. And the same thing for the billionaire profiteers who own those companies. So their stocks in those companies become worthless? oh WAH! You fucking *CHOSE* to invest in the most evil companies on this planet, and now you're going to whine that your choice was a bad choice? It's your own goddamned fault, you stupid-assed bitches! You and your short-sighted asshole demands for moh profit, moh profit, moh profit at the expense of health care quality destroyed our health care system and kills thousands of people every year (*MORE PEOPLE DIE OF DENIED HEALTH CARE COVERAGE EVERY YEAR THAN AMERICANS KILLED IN IRAQ DURING THE ENTIRE WAR!*), so fuck you. Go jump off the goddamned top of a skyscraper or something, you stupid assholes. You deserve to lose all your money for being such jerks as to place profits ahead of people.
And to all of the people above: *THE WORLD DOESN'T GODDAMNED WELL OWE YOU JACK SHIT!*. *Nothing*. Nada. Not one goddamned thing. If you're too goddamned lazy, greedy, venal, and/or stupid to make an honest living, it's your own goddamned fault. Don't whine that I should bail your stupid lazy ass out because you're too stupid to move into the digital media market or too lazy to compete with Mexicans or too greedy to, like, fucking provide the goddamned health care that we pay and pay and PAY for (15%+ of our Gross Domestic Product, or about twice what a universal single provider health care system would require to cover every single American). Just shut your fucking mouth up and go get a job, you lazy slacker assholes, and quit bothering my fucking ass with your whine whine whine whine (oh do you want fucking CHEESE with that whine, assholes?). I'm tired of it. WAYYYY more than tired of it. Goddamn it, get a fucking CLUE, will ya?!
-- Badtux the Rude Penguin
As usual, I cross-post my best stuff over at The Medley...
For the person who said that I needed to get the cats their own bed: They have their very own futon, covered in fur (well, used to be blue denim, now it's pretty much fur). Needless to say, whenever I go into my bedroom to go to bed, they follow me in there and pretty much take over the place. You can see how much of the futon they take up. My guys are *BIG*!
That's a Walton C pennywhistle and a Generation Bb whistle, btw. And of course the case to my camera. The kitties run when I start tootling on the D whistle, but don't seem to mind the lower whistles. Hmm. Anyhow, thus far the Walton C, Walton Mellow D, and Generation Bb are my favorites, they're easy to control and in tune. And none of them are expensive -- all were purchased for under $10 apiece. As far as musical hobbies go, this definitely is one of the less expensive ones!
Mostly been busy with my Mac, trying to get Parallels set up so I can run my mapping software (which alas does not run under MacOS). Turns out that the store I bought it from at the time I bought my Mac was selling an old version, and I'm automatically eligible to upgrade to the new version, all I have to do is mail them a copy of my receipt along with a piece of paper they generated for me on their web site, then they'll email me the info needed to upgrade for free. After they get around to it. Whenever. Like, after they're finished surfing or climbing Mount Whitney or whatever they're doing other than supporting their customers (hey, anybody who is registering an old version in late June when the new version was released in early April obviously is entitled to the new version, but what do I know, I only have 25 years in the bizness and obviously they have more years, right?). Huh. Well, since I'm legally entitled to the new version according to their very own web site, I went on my favorite pirate site (hey, I'm in the computer security biz, you think I don't know where those guys live?) and got a key for the new one along with where to download it (off of the Parallels site!) and went ahead and installed it. When I get the new key back from the Parallels guys, well, then that'll just be gravy...
Someone call a wahmbulance for the record industry
Picked up this week's Rolling Stone out of the trash (long story - someone got forwarded a subscription by mistake, he throws it away, I pick it back up), and find that record company executives are wailing and gnashing their teeth. Seems that album sales are down by 25% since 2000, they've had to lay off 4,000 people, blah blah blah, wah wah wah.
Well gosh, folks. Y'know, if you wouldn't collude as a cartel to charge $14.95 for a product that costs literally 25c to manufacture, maybe people would buy more of them? And if you would quit suing your customers, maybe your customers wouldn't get pissed and quit buying your product?
Besides, everybody is hurting in Bush's America, except for the top 1% of taxpayers, who are just getting richer (and this includes record company executives, who are getting pay raises while they lay off thousands of workers, though at least the morons who sued Napster out of business are walking the streets now, or, rather, taken their million-dollar bank accounts into retirement in the Bermudas). The company before last that I worked for got knocked out of business by the Bush Depression. The last company that I worked for came up with a great product, and it's selling like heaters in Death Valley in July. So over 2,000 record stores have gone out of business? Join the club. The only retailers doing worth a crap right now are Wal-Mart and McDonalds, and in both cases it's because they cut their prices to cope with the fact that, dude, things just fucking *suck* out here in the Real World(tm).
Now, I'm not saying that CD's need to be priced at 25c apiece. Obviously there needs to be some royalties flowing. But the free market is telling record company executives that colluding together to keep CD prices at the same level as the much-more-expensive-to-produce DVD's is not working. When the fucking soundtrack CD to a movie on DVD costs more than the actual movie on DVD, a movie which cost $80 million to make, it doesn't take a fucking genius to figure out that its pricing is out of whack. The movie studios are making money hand over foot on DVD sales because they chose to price DVD's reasonably and release a *ton* of their backlist even more reasonably on DVD. Will record studios do this? Nooooo.... they'll continue treating their customers as their enemy, continue suing their customers, and continue publishing the same old crap year after year while keeping greats on the backlist out of production to avoid their old acts sucking sales from their new acts.
Meanwhile things are going just fine in every other part of the music industry. People are listening to more music than ever. They're just not listening to it off of purchased CD's. If record industry executives had a fucking clue, they'd realize that this is a sign that the problem is one of them suing and pissing off their customers and overpricing their product, not a sign that people don't want their product. Sadly, you can beat stupid greedy morons with the Clue Stick(tm), but that doesn't mean they'll ever get a clue.
So I had to switch to Ubuntu Studio (Gnome) from Kubuntu (KDE) because Skype just won't work right under Kubuntu (gets into fights with the KDE audio daemon). My favorite music application from the KDE world wouldn't work with the ESD (Enlightenment Sound Daemon, GNOME's audio daemon). Yeah, this sucks, two incompatible audio systems, Linux isn't an OS, Linux is a freakin' mess pretending to be an OS. Anyhow, so I went out looking for a new audio player and found RhythmBox, a loose clone of the iTunes application.
So I installed it using Synaptic (the software package installer for Ubuntu), which entailed firing up Synaptic, putting a checkmark by RhythmBox, and pressing the "Go" button. Synaptic then went out and found it on the Internets, downloaded it, installed it, added it to the Multimedia menu in my Start menu, etc... lots easier than having to go find it on a web site and stuff. So I was playing my collection, when I hit the "Plugins" configuration and saw... Last.fm?
Hmm. So I enabled it, and a "LastFM" item appeared below the "Streams" on the left panel. I clicked on that, and.... "Listen to music like ______" (fill in the blank). I filled in "Townes Van Zandt", and started getting tasty alt.country (Patty Griffith, Steve Earle, etc.). I filled in "Nirvana", and started getting crunchy Seattle grunge (Soundgarden, Everclear, etc.). I filled in "Death Cab For Cutie" and started getting poppy ballads that might be the soundtrack to some teen show like "The O.C.". Wow!
Anyhow, there is a big problem with the RhythmBox plugin. It doesn't put up the name of the song and musician. I selected the "last.fm" and "last-exit" from Synaptic, but neither of them appeared to be compatible with ESD as compiled. I ended up downloading the source code to the latest "last-exit" and compiling it from scratch against ESD, but the result is quite good. Now I can play whatever kind of music I want, when I want, *plus* hear songs from other artists whose albums I might be interested in (e.g., by typing in "Lucinda Williams", I got songs from Gillian Welch and Neko Case amongst others - whoa!). PLUS, unlike real radio, I can hit "Next" if I don't like the song playing, or even "Ban" if I want to never hear that song again. Imagine what traditional radio would be like if we could hit "Ban" on every banal pop song that ever got payola'ed onto the airwaves? Why, there might even be room for good stuff on the airwaves! But until then, there's last.fm. Enjoy.
-- Badtux the Music Penguin
Yeah, I know last.fm has gotten a fair amount of press over the past year or so, but I really don't pay attention to that kinda "trendy" stuff. My loss.
Courtney Love drunk and high as a kite and the song grabs her anyhow, she doesn't even mangle any of the lyrics as well as adding a few that are a clear reference to her dead husband. Even high as a kite she hit all her cues (if you've never sung to backing music you won't know what I'm talking about, it's harder than you think).
Courtney had talent. Too bad she threw it away on drugs and craziness.
But that's what the music industry does, takes screwed up but talented kids like the Courtney Loves of the world, feeds them ever more booze and drugs in hopes of keeping them docile enough that they don't question the screwing the suits are giving them while exploiting their talent, and then throw them away when the booze and drugs take their inevitable toll. Courtney never grew up. She never had a chance to, she went from a fucked up home life to a fucked up road life. Thus the famous episode where she flashed her boobies at David Letterman. Sad. Just sad.
Set RhythmBox on "random", hit "forward", discard the horrible ones... note: if you don't see an album listed, I probably ripped it before Linux had CDDB-enabled rippers capable of filling in the album field in the mp3 headers.
Arlo Guthrie, "Deportees"
Mississippi Fred McDowell, "Soon One Mornin'"
Townes Van Zandt, "Snake Mountain Blues" (Legend)
The Cranberries, "Dreams" (Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We?)
Hole, "Reasons to be Beautiful"
Air, "Cherry Blossom Girl" (Talkie Walkie)
Cat Power, "Metal Heart" (Moon Pix)
Tracy Chapman, "Subcity"
Belle and Sebastian, "Like Dylan in the Movies"
Suzanne Vega, "Blood Sings" (99.9F)
Oh, I also skipped dupes. Hit Townes and Tracy a couple of times. Interesting selection up there, from folk to blues to alt-country to shoe-gazer to grunge to electronica to alterna-cat (sorry, Chan is her own category) to "contemporary"...
Now for one more spin of the "Next" button:
Leonard Cohen, "Everybody Knows".
Hey Mimus, I promise that I did *not* rig my "next" button, that's what really came up when I hit "next"!
Jennifer lost the war today
They'll find her burned and raped
Through it all she must have wondered
What have I done
But nobody really cares today
The world's a busy place
Guess she must have really sinned
I guess we're all just soldiers
She was only six years old
Left to die by strangers
Her family waits
And if we're all just soldiers
Is it so wrong to be afraid
Jennifer lost the war
Phoebe lost the war today
There must be some mistake
Say it happens all the time
And it's said and done
Little Miss 15 65
Your soul remains unclaimed
Guess you must have really sinned
Morality won't help her
When she lies silent in a morgue
And all our sorrows left her
But will the morning headlines
Even say that it's a shame
What are we heading for
Jennifer lost the war
Seen it all before
Silent on the ground as he's walking away
And I wonder how many more
Everybody take it like it's nothing at all
Jennifer lost, lost, lost, lost the war
Now I guess we're all just soldiers
She was only six years old
Left to die by strangers
Her family waits
And will the morning headlines
Even say that it's a shame
What are we heading for
Primal punk. I've seen video of them singing this song in 1987. Yes, twenty years ago. And My Lai was almost forty years ago. The more things change... (And yes, I know the backstory on this song, which had nothing to do with a literal war, but even if you don't know the backstory, the fact is that the same damned thing just keeps happening over and over again).
No, she was *not* booed, despite the legend that she was "booed off the stage". At 19 years old, she got up there and sang her little heart out.
What brought this to mind was the June 14 edition of Rolling Stone Magazine. It has interviews with Amy Winehouse (another dark-haired Jewish girl who channels Motown and classic pop), and with surviving members of the Sex Pistols. If you want to know what's wrong with the music business, this is it. Scheming managers, exploitive labels that don't care that their "stars" are burning out and killing themselves as long as they get a little lucre in the bargain, and in the end, the "stars" are abandoned, impoverished, eking out a living as radio advertising salesmen and tabloid fodder, if they're not dead of the same demons and obsessions that led to them making music in the first place. It already happened to the Sex Pistols, the surviving members of which bitterly note that they couldn't get signed by a record label today no matter how good their songs. It'll happen to Amy Winehouse too, and her lightweight songs, unlike Linda Nyro's, will not stand the test of time. Some time in the future, I will open the pages of Rolling Stone, and somewhere near the back find out that Amy Winehouse sliced her wrists and killed herself along with her husband. And nobody at the record labels will even remember her name.
So I installed Ubuntu Studio after I installed my Ubuntu 7.04, but I didn't do anything with it because I was still setting up my system. I decided to install Skype, and tracked down a version for Ubuntu 7.04 and installed it along with the software upgrades needed to play DVD's (which I own, but which the MPAA says I can't play on my computer because, well, just because they're assholes and don't want me to). I plugged my little desktop microphone into the microphone jack on my console switch, and tried to make a sample call. Eh. Nothing. So I fired up my old favorite audacity (an Open Source hard drive audio recording program) to see whether it was a problem with the audio system or with Skype. Still nothing. Okay, so my Soundblaster USB is also plugged in, hooked up to my Behringer mixer which in turn is hooked up to a couple of recording mikes. So I swivel the boom with a Shure SM58C to in front of my face, turn on the mixer, and tell Audacity to look at the Soundblaster USB instead of the internal sound card. I successfully record my voice with Audacity, then switch to the Skype window, tell *it* to use the Soundblaster USB for recording, and successfully make my test call.
Then I switch back to Audacity, flip through the menus, and ... OMG! This thing already has over 500 plugins installed! Whoa, no need to go look for a tube amp simulator plugin, it's already there! No need to go look for a good compression plugin, a half-dozen compressors are already there!
Somehow, I think I'm no longer going to be hooking my Soundblaster USB to my Windows laptop for my sound recording purposes... although I need to go out and get more CPU and memory because my Linux box was my file server, not my recording workstation, thus has an emphasis upon fast disks, not upon lots of CPU power. Oh well. For a computer geek, any excuse to buy new hardware works :-). (To be fair, I need more memory to run Ubuntu Studio, and the kind of memory my old motherboard takes is no longer cheaply available, so might as well get a new motherboard and processor while I'm at it... one of those new Intel Core 2 Duos sounds like just the trick!).
Presenting... The Vegetable Orchestra. After they're finished playing a concert, they eat their musical instruments. Now I've heard of everything.
For L>T, who claims that she is totally "non-musical", get thee to Whistle and Drum and buy the Deluxe Clarke Tin Whistle Handbook, a Clarke Meg tin whistle, and a Walton's Mellow D tin whistle. For less than $30, you may find that you actually CAN learn to play a musical instrument. It's not rocket science, after all. 4th graders can play these whistles. That's just how simple they are.
Yep, sitting here waiting for the carpet guys, and UPS does a drop-and-run!
I got three whistles -- a Clarke Sweetone, a Walton Mellow D, and a Walton Little Black Whistle. Physically, these things are smaller than a recorder, with the Clarke being the tiniest. Yes, the breath control practice with the recorder definitely carries over to the tin whistle. The fingering is different, of course. The penny whistles are much easier to skirl at the higher register than the recorder is. But these whistles each have their very own character.
The Clarke Sweetone is just a sweet whistle. It's really easy to choose which register you want to be in. If you want to stay in the low register, it's easy to stay there. If you want to go up to the high register, blow harder and do whatever it is you do inside your mouth to get there, and it's similarly easy to skirl away up there. (I dunno what's happening up there, I just kept practicing until it worked). It has a pleasingly "chiffy" sound.
The Walton Mellow D is similarly easy to work with, though a little harder to keep in the low register on the lowest D. As you'd expect from its name, it has a quite mellow tone, a bit bland compared to the Clarke. I think of it as a Clarke on weed :-).
The Walton's Little Black Whistle isn't so little (it's about the same size as the Mellow D, but with a smaller fipple or mouthpiece and slightly smaller in diameter tube). This one is a pain. It doesn't want to stay in the low register. It's great for skirling around in the high register though.
My instructional books came in from Amazon yesterday, so now I'm all set! Not that I'm waiting to read the books, I'm having fun skirling away right now. Given that the average price of these little instruments was $5.95, this is the most musical fun for the buck that I can think of, except maybe a harmonica (but most cheap harmonicas are pretty irritating because virtually all of them have at least one reed that's out-of-tune and irritates the trained ear, while all of these penny whistles are at least in tune with themselves).
Hmm, after Minstrel Boy recommended the penny whistle ("tin whistle", "Irish whistle"), I find that Wikibooks has the beginnings of a book on the subject and there's entire web sites devoted to the instrument. There are literally dozens of penny whistles available for cheap from $3 and up from lots of places.
Reading various reviews on various sites it looks like lots of people like the Clarke's Meg whistle for beginners because a) it's cheap ($3?!), b) it's easy to play, c) it sounds quite, well, Irish. For an even more Irish sound some folks seem to like the Feadog (available for under $10), but apparently it is somewhat harder to play for a beginner. Crap, I'll spend $3 for a whistle and five times that for instructional materials just to have another musical instrument around the place (it's not as if I have any shortage of the things anyhow, though of course Minstrel Boy's guitar collection is probably bigger than my whole instrument collection, but then I think he has a room of his house for his guitars :-).
Anyhow, just wish to thank Minstrel Boy for introducing me to the penny whistle. I suspect I shall be practicing Gaelic airs in California canyons shortly :-).
Regarding an apartment or house to dock my iceberg, I may just re-sign to the current dock. Yeah, they're raising the rent by $135 per month. But looking around at the local market, it looks like this isn't much above market rate, other than the crazy anti-cat-lady-who-advertised-cats everybody else seems to be advertising about $100 per month less than the new rate, which doesn't make it worthwhile to move. Plus I note that I get a "free rentable storage unit" if I renew before May 19. Hmm. I need to see exactly what that means. Maybe a place to store these new musical instruments...
C'mon, how hard can it be, the 4th grade kids at the last elementary school that I taught at mastered it, right? Piece of cake!
Except I can't seem to make the stupid thing behave. It wants to SQUAWK and squeak and squeal. Sometimes I can get the right sound out of it. Other times it sounds like fingernails scratching down a chalk board.
Sigh. Back to harmonica. At least with the harmonica the only way to make it sound bad is to clog it with your spit...
Johnny Cash's former home in Henderson, Tennessee, featured in this video that was shot only a few months before his death, burned down today.
Also see: The Johnny Cash rules. I especially like the one about how Rick Rubin's producing Johnny Cash's last albums meant he could even be forgiven for anything, even if he put together a supergroup consisting of Britney Speares, John Ashcroft, and the William twins (Shatner and Hung) singing the collected works of Wayne Newton. Ouch, my ears hurt just thinking about that supergroup (heh!).
More to follow, after I finish cursing SOB chickenhawks and get my breath back...
"Keep fighting for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don't forget to have fun doin' it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce."
-- Molly Ivins, 1944-2007
"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men."
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