Monday, December 29, 2008

MusicALL ALLphabet

And now I begin the 40-song journey through the tracks that begin with the word "All", starting with All by Collective Soul and ending with All You Need is Love.

It's probably a good thing that I go back to work tomorrow.

]{p

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Don't Talk During Movies and the Musical Alphabet

Let this story serve as a warning to people who talk during movies.

In other news, I organized the mp3 collection by song title, started at the beginning, and am just letting it play. There's nearly two weeks of music there, and I only plan on doing this while sitting at the comp at home, so this could take a long-ass while.

Sadly, if you have multiple versions of the same song, you have to listen to them all at once. Listening to Adieu from Cowboy Bebop and then immediately following that with Adieu (Long Version) is a bit harrowing if you don't have something else to do at the same time. Also, the album version of Nirvana's About a Girl sucks. That's right, I'm maybe twenty songs in and I've already had two double-ups.

On the other hand, you get some amusing juxtapositions. The list began with KoRn's A.D.I.D.A.S. and went straight into ABC by the Jackson 5. And I'm in a pretty good stretch right now. Just finished Aeroplane (with it's holy-crap-Flea-is-nuts bassline) and then Clapton's After Midnight, and next up comes Sting's After the Rain, After the Thrill Has Gone by the Eagles, and three different songs called Again buy Lenny Kravitz, Janet Jackson, and Alice in Chains.

Fun stuff. I'll point more of the crazy out as I get to it.

]{p

The Computer Gods Hate Me

This Christmas, I did what most young adults are doing.

I fragged an iMac.

Okay, I was able to fix it, but it was a heart-pounding few hours making sure that I could. I was trying to install Windows XP via Boot Camp, and without going into too many details, I formatted the entire hard drive.

Thankfully I had the wherewithal to backup all of my files first. But it wasn't as simple as insert boot-disk-and-reload-operating-system. No, because when I booted up the computer, no matter what disk was in it, it informed me that there was nothing bootable anywhere to be found.

Well, with the Mac OS-X disk I was able to get to the install screen (but only after specifically telling the computer to boot from the disk), and then I thought I was home free, but the installer couldn't find the hard drive.

Problem.

So, I fired up the Disk Utility. It could see the disk, I just couldn't read it. Nor would it erase, repair, or partition said disk. So I spent two hours messing with it until I finally realized that it would work if I unmounted the disk first, then erased it.

And then it was a question of re-installing everything and getting my preferences back the way I like them. So I lugged it into the living room and managed to get it all more-or-less up to speed by the end of the third episode of Band of Brothers.

I attempted to install XP via Boot Camp once more, but this time I checked out the instructions. In my defense, if everything had worked properly the first time, I would have done it right and not lost the entire machine, but it turns out that the only thing the XP installer could see was the entire partition, rather than the 32G virtual partition Boot Camp had set up.

So I ran some updates and we'll see if that fixes it. Unfortunately, attempting to install (even if you Quit at the beginning of the process) makes the machine automatically try to boot from that program, whether it exists or not. Which brings back the "No bootable devices" screen. Nothing freaks you out like plain white type on a black screen. Thankfully, since the machine did have an operating system on it this time, the problem was fixed in about eighteen seconds using the Startup Utility.

So, I now know a great deal more about how iMacs work behind-the-scenes than I ever thought I would--which sort of defeats the purpose of getting an iMac, but whatever.

]{p

Bonus - while writing this post, Abby came into the room to get something and instinctively flipped the light switch as she left. The light switch controls the outlet this computer is currently plugged into. Thank god for autosave.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Kurt Plugs His Genealogy Site

I got something very special this weekend--a copy of my great uncle Bob's genealogy notebook.

I've never been hugely interested in genealogy, but at some point in the last six months or so I discovered a website called Dynastree.com. Actually, when I found it, it was called "It's Our Tree", but the name change is for the better. It's part social network, but mostly it's just a family tree repository--anyone you invite into your tree can edit it, and it's a fairly intuitive interface.

Finding this website opened up some possibilities to me. Again, family histories have fascinated me, but never really interested me until now. But I had a kind of hokey epiphany about it, suddenly recognizing the extent to which people are connected...

I must pause to give Uncle Bob a few words of praise--his very detailed, going back six generations from myself in some lines. He has photocopies of newspaper clippings, birth, death, and marriage certificates--the man has done some research. And this was assembled in 1994, before the internets were everywhere. He did his work with his own shoe-leather, visiting halls of record, cemeteries and libraries.

So now I'm adding his work to the tree, and it has grown. And it's grown in other ways, too--a new niece, a cousin gets married. Part of me has this silly ideal that a few people in any given family will have the gumption to fill things out as much as they can and it will grow and grow and trees will collide and grow even larger.

I'm also amazed by the real-life drama involved in it. You learn about the uncle who got on a train one day and was never heard from again. There's a clipping in there about a great-great-aunt on my mother's side who was orphaned and adopted at the age of five, only to discover thirteen years later that she had five siblings she never knew about, one of which had never been tracked down, one of which had spent a few years with a rather cruel foster family before running away and living with horse traders for two years, and then traveling the country for ten-odd years doing odd jobs and such.

Long sentence, that.

People disappear. But other people leave paper trails.

So anyway, it's a UK-based site, so it's got a few minor regional quirks (like asking for height in cm rather than feet and inches), but it's worth a look at. I think.

]{p

Spam-a-cide, finale!

Well, it's that special time of year where you can leave leftovers in your car for days on end with no adverse affects.

And I've decided to resume deleting my spam. It's been fun, but I'm bored of it, and that giant number next to my Spam folder irks me so. It leveled off around 620 and then slowly started to climb. It was at 699 when I decided that enough was, in fact, enough.

]{p

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Kiss My Sam Ash!

Holy crap, Amazon sells guitar strings?

What else do they sell?  Guitars?  Check.  Amps?  Check.  Pedals?  Check.  Cables?  Check.

I'm... I'm just... wow.  I might never have to set foot in a music store again.  Do you have any idea how relieving that thought is?

Guitar stores have lost all sex appeal for me.  They have crap selection, are staffed by worthless burnouts, overcharge for everything, and they ask for way too much information when you check out so they can send you their endless catalogs and e-mails.  Once in a blue moon they have a good special, and if you absolutely need to try something before you buy it, then they serve that purpose.  But for shopping--no thank you, I'll take Amazon.

This is perfect for things like strings, they cost half as much and I can get free shipping by purchasing several sets at once--so long as I don't end up in a situation where I need strings right now, I'm set.

This... has been a revelation.

]{p

Monday, December 15, 2008

Rock Rocks!

God, it feels good to be a musician again.

The band has been on semi-permanent hiatus for months since Walt left for med-school--and while we certainly can't fault Walt for his choice, it has been slightly depressing to be drummer-less (and there is no hell like trying to find a new drummer).

But Blind Satellite now has a drummer, and we've spent the last couple months practicing and will soon be up to show-putting-on speed.

And damn, it feels good to be a musician again.

]{p

Bat Insurance

So, this conversation really happened a few weeks ago (I've trimmed out some of the non-related conversational bits--Evan and I converse in threads, it seems... no pun intended).  I don't know why I was reminded of it, but it's a great example of me taking a quasi-funny joke just a few steps too far.

me: How's your extended weekend going?
11:54 Evan: I'm going bat-shit insance
  insane
 me: Heh, for a second there it looked like you said you were going into bat-shit insurance
 
 Evan: lol
 me: seriously, I smell entrepreneurship... and also guano.
11:55 Evan: bats really do smell quite foul...
11:56 me: Of course, the real motivator that will put us on the map will be the gaggle of radioactive bats (raised on a diet of Corn Nuts) that we will unleash on the city at the stroke of midnight on New Years Eve
  MWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
 Evan: Umm
  .
  ...
  you're scaring me
 metoo weird?
 Evan: a bit

Friday, December 12, 2008

An Open Letter to the Manager of My Employer's Office Building

Dear building manager:

Using four cheap paper towels to dry my hands, rather than a single sturdy paper towel, does not save you any money.

That is all,

]{p

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Well, Technically He's Related, but Only Recently

Kurtharis.com welcomes its newest reader, Bill. Hi, new friend!

We're just inches away from double-digit readership, folks. Thanks for keeping the dream alive.

]{p

Spam-a-cide, part 4

My spam folder is now holding 582 messages and has reached the point where it will start automatically deleting anything 30 days old or older.  Since my spam intake has decreased thanks to some timely arrests in California, 582 (or so) may be a peak.  Once delection kicks in, it should start to drop and then even out around, say, 500 or so, which is impressive, but well shy of the 1500 I'd predicted when I first started this experiment.  And furthermore, I'd be supremely surprised if it manages to crest 600 before the day is out.

I almost wish I'd begun this sooner, because it would have been fun to watch the level decrease from 1500 down to 500 slowly, organically, cathartically.

Whatever.

Bonus rant: how do we know spam is evil?  The first commercial spam was for/by lawyers.

]{p

It's About Damned Time

Netflix video-streaming service is now Mac-Compatible.  However, you still have to download and install a bloated bit of quirky software to use it.

So, nice effort (and the effort is appreciated), but take a lesson from Hulu, will ya?

]{p

Sunday, December 7, 2008

What Made Him Think a Baby Would Like Drumming?

I'm reprinting this post from my other blog (on MySpace) from December 6, 2007, for several reasons. First, I have since figured out who performed that god-awful version of Little Drummer Boy, second, because I my former MySpace blog isn't very link-friendly, and third, because it's a good post, but it probably merits some editing. So, yes, this is part hubris.

But it's funny hubris.

-K

----------------------------------

There are songs out there whose narrative evokes wonder and interpretation throughout the ages. Who hasn't sought the meaning behind American Pie by Don McLean or The Beatles' I am the Walrus, for example. Songs of such complexity, such compelling story, that they capture the imagination and force the listener to question the deep, resonant meaning at the heart of it.

Little Drummer Boy is not one of these songs. It's pretty straightforward.

And yet, today I heard a cover of it on muzak by a group who seemed to not understand what the song is about, musically or otherwise. And this staggers my brain, because what is there to "get" about it? Little boy plays the drum, gets caught up with a group going to see this newborn king somewhere, sees the baby, emotes, realizes he hasn't brought a gift (which is apparently of some importance where these songs are concerned), plays the drum instead, the child--strangely not angry about the loud noise--who just happens to be Baby Jesus, smiles at the drummer boy and all is right in the world. Yippee. Kind of a stupid, yes. No mention of drums or drummer boys in the source material, but whatever--it's Christmas.

From a musical standpoint, the song is a simple repetition of verses. It has no chorus, but each line refrains to "Parum-pa-pum-pum", which is repeated dramatically at the end of each verse before throwing in one last line to tie the whole verse together. The style is very similar to old folk tunes, the hook is catchy enough, it's a sweet story even if it is complete bunk, and there you have it. If you can't hold all of that in your head, that's kind of sad. If you are a professional in the music business and can't grasp all this, then you need to consider a career change. If you are a professional in the music industry who knows this song, decides to record a version of it to be released commercially, and still don't have any idea what this song is about, then you must be Destiny's Child.

This may be the worst ever Christmas song. This includes Jingle Bells as sung by dogs. Give it a listen. The first belly-laugh is around 1:24.

"Parum-pa-pum-pum" is the equivalent of a chorus for this song, chaining the narrative together and propelling the story ahead, all the while reminding us what the song is about. It should work out nicely for an R&B song, because R&B singers, as I'm fond of pointing out, all forgot what choruses were sometime in the mid-90's. Modern R&B is generally a string of monosyllabic, however heartfelt, sentiments used as vocal acrobatics and cordoned off in blocks that are delineated by the absence or presence of back-up singers. Let it go for about four and a half minutes (or substantially longer if this is an R. Kelly song), against a background loop of... whatever, and you've got a Grammy-winner. It's pretty sad--in fact, just talking about it is making me yen for Boys II Men a little.

Sigh.

And yet, even this crude formula could be applied successfully (and no doubt has) to such a simple song as Little Drummer Boy. The parum's become a vessel that edges the song along, and every third set of parum's becomes an abstract climactic build, perfect for showing off those tuned vocalists and their impossibly accurate back-up singers. Catch your breath and on the next verse, each time getting a little bit crazier, until finally it builds up to one thundering orgasm of "parum" and energy and, erm, piety... then laying back for a smoke with that cathartic final line "Then he smiled at me, me and my drum."

Destiny's Child's rendition sounds very much like someone handed the girls a lyric sheet and said "pretend like you have no idea what this song is supposed to sound like and... we're rolling..." And it's all scattershot, really, they just sing bits of the first verse and a half over and over until they decide to stop singing.

So, the arrangement is out there. And by "out there", I mean "impossible to listen to with a straight face". But the lyrics were what made me laugh out loud. I know what you're thinking--how could anyone screw up the lyrics to a song like Little Drummer Boy? Well, let me explain. First, there's the slight issue of gender identification. This version was sung by females, and frequently "boy" is replaced with "girl" such as in the line "I am a poor boy, too", which is perfectly fine, but it causes some titular consternation. The phrase "Little Drummer Boy" does not actually appear anywhere in the lyrics, but if the narrator identifies herself as female then perhaps that version of the song ought to be called "Little Drummer Girl".

And you know, I don't have a problem with that either. Here's my issue: not only did the singer identify herself as "a poor girl", she also was constantly making references to the drummer boy! As though there were multiple drummers there celebrating the savior's birth! Hell, we brought a whole drum line and coordinated a routine; mind if we play it out in the field there? No wonder there was no room at the inn! There was a marching band conference in town!!

But wait, there's more.

Take this line for example: "Then he smiled at me, the little drummer boy smiled at me!" The artist here seems to not realize that Jesus and the Little Drummer Boy are TWO DIFFERENT PEOPLE! So there's Jesus, freshly born, curled up in swaddling clothes, wailin' on the skins like John Bonham... it doesn't work. But the clincher, the laugh-out-loud-and-piss-your-pants part of the song came earlier. At around 1:24.

"Shall I play for him? parum-pa-pum pum, rum-pa-pum-pum... every night."

Every night?

Did someone think this Christmas carol was a bit short on sexual tension? Happy birthday Jesus, I'm your present! What the hell kind of nonsense is this? I know that people "love" Jesus. I get that. But I don't think they mean sexually. But what the hell, suppose we accepted that on faith as well--that someone out there might be sexually attracted to their "messiah". It's vaguely creepy, but I can understand how it might happen. But someone sidling up to a newborn infant Jesus--days old--and wanting to get all freaky with the savior? Really?

Seriously, you cannot go mixing religion and pedophilia like that! It won't fly.

At least, not in the Protestant Church...

]{

Friday, December 5, 2008

Christmas Sleigh?

Has anyone made a Holiday slasher film called Secret Santa yet? Because someone should.

Seriously.

]{p

The Na's Have It

I was thinking the other day about all the songs out there that use "Na-na-na" instead of lyrics at some point, and not only are there quite a few of them, but many of them are popular.  So below is what I could come up with off the top of my head.  Anybody think of anything else?  Stipulation: I'm looking for lyric substitution.  Something where a good old fashioned word would have worked perfectly, but the artists instead decided to go with "na".  So while Master P's Make 'em Say Uhh would work, I wouldn't count Welcome to the Jungle, because that's more of a stutter.

So here's what I came up with in ten minutes, definitely all in a classic rock vein:
  • Hey Jude by The Beatles
  • Land of 1,000 Dances by Wilson Pickett
  • Crocodile Rock by Elton John
  • Hush by Deep Purple (although the Kula Shaker version is better)
  • Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye by Steam (arguably the most gratuitous example on this list)
Honorable Mention:
  • Tom's Diner by Suzanne Vega
  • Anything by Sha Na Na
Thoughts?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Prop 8, the Musical on Funny or Die

Stuff like this is why I totally love the internets.  Watch this, right now.

I tried to embed it, but it was getting cut off at the right edge.  Something to work on, Blogger.

Anyway.

You couldn't have done anything like this ten or fifteen years ago.  But here, a group of people in response to something in culture were able to, in a month, write, stage, cast, and shoot, edit, and distribute a short film with A-List actors in it (okay, and several B-listers as well).

Also, it's hilarious.

]{p