Thursday, May 31, 2007

It's been a few days since my last post due to factors such as the long weekend, the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals and the Arcade Fire show at the Greek last night. I want to say it was a great show, cause it probably was, but I was waaaaay in the back and the music was about as loud as a group of people talking. I am confident in that comparison because the group behind us had a dire need to entertain themselves - lots of bad jokes and stupid comments. They weren't even talking that loud, but they were drowning out the band. I'm just mad I missed Arcade Fire the first time around when they were supporting Funeral. My bad.

BIG Cavs game tonight. Huge. Although I am a realist, how awesome was Daniel Gibson on Tuesday? Unreal? Flabbergasting? He was sensational. Maybe the numbers won't prove it, but his play was electrifying, and it did sync up with an important Cavs' run while James was on the bench. Let's hope Hughes' foot is worse today. Sorry Larry.

My buddy at work was telling me all about the Kobe fiasco - apparantly he wants out of LA. I kept teasing my friend that, since Kobe can veto any trade and will therefore go where he wants, the Lakers might end up having to trade him for Hughes' massive contract plus spare parts from the Cavs. Hey, it could happen. If you're Kobe, and don't want to waste the rest of your prime, wouldn't you want to play with LeBron James? I will go on record saying it would be a guaranteed championship. The one thing the Cavs are missing is quality gaurds, and they have the contracts to make it work. I would even be willing (reluctantly) to include Varejao as a sign-and-trade to make it work. I'm going to pretend that this might happen for the next month. Danny Ferry should be on the phone with Kobe's agent Right Now.

I placed an email to the netlabel guy who is releasing the pre-EP for the new album. Waiting to hear from him; since it's all electronic we should be able to get the EP up real soon.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Tuesday night I spent 5 hours mixing one song. I have no idea what I'm doing. I'm trying to get it to sound like Arcade Fire or Neutral Milk Hotel, but I don't think that's even possible given the state of my recording/mixing equipment. It's all about compression. NMH is obviously highly compressed - the acoustic guitars sound almost ridiculously present and loud. But I went around the net yesterday, looking for help on specific compression settings, and I found tons - literally a ton - of articles decrying the use of compression. I'm starting to feel convinced, although it's clearly partly out of convenience. Essentially, compression destroys dynamics. But it allows you to listen to music over the roar of a car engine without having to adjust the volume for specific loudnesses during the song. Many people, including a prominent record label exec, feel that this contributes to listener fatigue.

So I may have a way out of the compression issue. I'm just going to do what I do, what I can do that is, and mix my songs with an eye on EQ and balance, not presence and loudness. I can live with that if you can.

This is a fantastic page illustrating the relative engorgement of the world's population... well, in America at least (look how fat the US guy is!)

Somehow I managed to miss two things I had been hotly anticipating. Tuesday was the NBA draft lottery (I thought it was next Tuesday). Wow. I have a new appreciation for the Cavs' luck in getting LeBron James. Absolutely unbelieveable. Bill Simmons is correct - the Celtics could very well have missed out on a chance for relevancy in the coming decade, and it's all due to pure cocaine luck. Now their only hope is to either A) get lucky in a near-future draft, B) discover that Danny Ainge is actually a GM genius (in hiding, apparently) who can judiciously deal dead weight and acquire diamonds in the rough on a regular basis. Sorry Celtics. I'm glad I'm from Cleveland (first and only time I will ever say that).

Second, I missed Blizzard's big announcement at a huge South Korean gaming convention: Starcraft 2. My initial reaction is that this is a big mistake. After taking a look at the S2 website I now think "what's the point?" It's very, very similar to Starcraft in both look and makeup. The same races are there, and the same general strategies and storyline. It seems more like a very, very large expansion pack at this point. I mean, Brood War offered new units and a new campaign when it came out; S2 just offers a graphical update in addition to that. I think this is good. There is absolutely no way to surpass the greatness of Starcraft - it is the very definition of a isometric real time strategy game and it has been balanced to perfection. Blizzard, at this point, is not changing the input method or the viewpoint, and they are not adding significant content (like an entirely new race). Sounds like an expansion/upgrade to me. That is the wise choice.

Really, Warcraft 3 was Starcraft 2 (and Starcraft was actually Warcraft 3, making Warcraft 3 actually Warcraft 4). They're essentially the same game. Warcraft 3 attempted to 're-create' the RTS genre by adding RPG elements. In the end even this addition wasn't that significant, but the game as a whole did not meet the bar set by Starcraft in terms of pure gameplay. Good luck Blizzard.

Also, the tiny villa on the far right side of the picture above, about midway up, is where we stayed when we were in Vernazza.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Well, I had an eventful weekend. Too eventful, actually. I might post about Saturday's activities later, but Sunday's are infinitely more fascinating.

I played soccer in the AM as usual, only I got a concussion. I went up for a header and go smacked in the back corner of my skull - I immediately felt my left leg go numb and then start tingling. The feeling was back in an instant, but that scared me tremendously. My head hurt badly and I rolled around on the ground for a while. I tried to keep playing for a few minutes longer but I knew something was wrong, I eventually went over to the sidelines. The next few minutes are extremely vague - I think the game was stopped and some people came over, then one of them walked me over to a groundskeeper's office (we play at a school, so I guess there is a school rep there are at all times). I don't remember walking in or someone giving me ice for my head, but I remember sitting in that office while the supervisor called my girlfriend to come pick me up.

While sitting there, I realized I didn't know what month it was. I was aware that I could figure out what month it was by considering the weather outside and by thinking of recent past events, but something was keeping me from actually focusing on the question. Likewise, when I was in the car with my girlfriend she asked me if I remembered what I did Saturday morning - I didn't, but only because I couldn't successfully process the query 'what I did yesterday morning'. When she gave me the hint that I had welts on my back, I immediately remembered that I had gone paintballing. So I didn't forget about it, I just couldn't focus on coming up with the answer on my own.

It was fascinating, but of course a little scary. I wish a second version of me could have been around to ask a multitude of questions while I was in that state - it would have been a fun study to do, to see if 'we' could pinpoint exactly what kinds of questions I couldn't answer, how far back in my memory was unaccessable, etc. Overall though, the experience sucked. Even now, almost 24 hours later, my head feels fuzzy. I'm fine; it's not that dissimilar to a hangover actually, only even though my head feels a little heavy I don't have an actual headache.

This shouldn't keep me from finishing up the EP this week though.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Yesterday was a marathon music fest. Keep in mind that when I said 'final mix' yesterday, there's still mastering that needs to be done. Take a listen to the song and then listen to oh, I don't know, Neon Bible afterwards. There's really no comparison. Mine sounds like crap. Well, it's always going to sound worse because I don't have an engineer or producer or even pro tools. But the actual final track will sound mas mejor.

I'm passing on this phenomenal link I found on Dubious Quality by Bill Harris (he's got a great analysis of the PS3's woes at the top of the page). Take it from me - this shot is very, very, very diffucult to pull off, even when you're not mid-game. Also to take from me - Bill Harris is a good blogger. In his PS3 post he actually takes numbers, DOES MATH, and then comes up with his own conclusion of what the numbers are saying. He does the legwork. I am just the leg.

Ok, I feel like posting another 'final mix'. This was unplanned, so I only have it as a .wma file (because I'm posting from work).

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Yep, here is a new song, as promised.

A Pencil Without Lead.mp3

Not sure if this is the final mix yet. I need to hear it on a bunch of sound systems first. Thoughts?

I'm not going to bother posting anything about last night's Cavs' game. My thoughts re: Larry Hughes can be found in one of this week's other posts.

At one point Z was 6 of 7 and Hughes was 1 of 14. Explain that to me please.

Ok that's all. On to something else. In a fit of sponteneity yesterday I grabbed my ipod and went on one of my longest runs ever. I hadn't been running in months but thanks to my weekly soccer games I managed to not get tired. My arms and legs felt weird though, and I was fighting chunks the whole way cause I had eaten a bunch of tacos and rice just a couple hours earlier. It turned out to be a 3-mile run (I verfied it). I am disappointed at how short that distance sounds. It took so long to run that far though - anything longer just seems like a waste of time.

Ok, music. I am going to get some final mixes together tonight, and next week the pre-EP will be finished. As in done. I'll be posting mp3s, possibly as early as tonight (?). I know both of you are excited.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I got myself involved in a comment fest on the Wages of Wins and now I am slowly being driven insane.

I won't get into an explanation of WoW here, you can visit the page yourself if interested. Basically, it's a book and blog written by some UCal economic professors. They've devised a statistical model of the NBA that uses box score stats to predit a team's performance during a season - and they're incredibly accurate. Despite this fact, many, many people remain skeptical of WoW because some of the conclusions of their model contradict popular opinion. For instance, Allen Iverson is actually a slightly below-average player. I made the point that before Copernicus popular opinion held that the Sun revolved around the Earth. Math proved otherwise, just as here math is proving what makes a team good or bad.

After numerous posts in which I explained why Garnett is a better player than Duncan (according to WoW) to my fellow commentors, the most recent post contains these quotes:

"There's just something that Duncan possesses"

"I don't think Duncan would have ever missed the playoffs"

"I think he is a rare type of player who finds ways to win"

"I don't see Garnett as someone who does that"

(blood spurting from my eyeballs...)

I want to set myself on fire after reading this. None of these observations rest on one ounce of fact or evidence. They're just that - observations. "There's just something that Duncan possesses..." Wow, great point, that would hold up in an academic paper. "I think he is a rare type of player who finds ways to win..." Yes, given that after every game there is one winner and one loser, a player who finds ways to win must be 'rare'. I actually do agree with this statement, assuming Duncan declared his draft eligibility knowing that he'd 'find a way' to end up in the Spurs' organization.

The best is "I don't think Duncan would have ever missed the playoffs." Really? This gem directly contradicts the evidence offered by numerous papers, blog posts, and a published book written and researched by the guys (and gal) behind WoW. And what evidence is offered in defense of this statement? Literally, "I don't think..." The guy who wrote this doesn't think Duncan would have failed to reach the playoffs if his team was hamstrung with the types Garnett has been forced to play with. He just doesn't think so. Hey, I don't think gravity is for real. I'm probably right too.

If this sounds like a bitter, sarcastic, negative post to you... it is.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Cavs are up 3-1 vs the Nets, and I am happy. Yesterday's game was the Cavs' season in a nutshell: moments of inspired play featuring dedication to the low post game and lots of movement, huge stretches of undisciplined dribbling and LeBron holding the ball stationary at the top of the key, Hughes taking outside shots instead of penetrating the defense (as Brian Windhorst says, "All roads..."), Gooden and Z doing more than their share on the offensive boards, Varejao positively impacting the total number of Cavs' possessions, LeBron missing too many free throws, LeBron making fantastic passes, Mike Brown standing with his hands in his pockets, and Damon Jones sitting on the bench. And yet they were an above average team during the season and they were above average last night on the road in New Jersey. Despite some excruciating play they controlled the game, up by around 4 points for most of the second half. NJ made some runs but were never able to get ahead by more than 3 or so. I think Mike Brown deserves some credit for his myriad substitution adjustments throughout the fourth quarter - he did an admirable job juggling Z, Varejao and Gooden while the former two were in serious foul trouble.

I'm sorry, but if you shoot only 40% for the season you have no right being the second leading scorer on your team. That only means you're taking way too many shots. Z should absolutely be scoring more points than Hughes. This has been better in the playoffs, and Hughes has played well some games, but in general this is a huge, albeit obvious, problem. Of course, you've got to give your guards shot attempts to keep opponents from packing the paint, and this is why the Cavs will not win a championship with the current team. The best guard, FG % wise, is Pavlovic, and he's only a 43% shooter. Shannon Brown could be a solid contributor in a year or two - so could Gibson - but that's it. Pavlovic will not improve much more, and Hughes is a lost cause as an offensive weapon. Despite being injury-free for much of the season he's actually playing worse than last year on all statistical levels. His only real hope is to work exclusively on the drive-and-kick in the offseason; I don't think I've ever seen him perform that most basic of point guard duties. 70% of the time he passes the ball to LeBron on the perimeter, 5% to the SG, and the other 15% he takes a (bad) shot. I'm OK with him using a screen to take an open 15-footer from the top of the key, I'm not OK with anything else.

I just checked some stats - Hughes is taking roughly twice the number of shots as Z in the Nets series. This is fundamentally unacceptable and should be the #1 offensive issue to fix. There is no downside to Z taking more shots and Hughes less. None.

I've been petitioning both Brian Windhorst (of the Akron Beakon-Journal) and Bill Simmons (of ESPN Page 2) to publicize The Wages of Wins to their readership, but neither has complied (I myself have no readership). This vexes me. I am terribly vexed.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Addendum - this is more James Randi, and it's even better than the previous clip. Absolutely riveting TV.

I can't believe James Randi has been around for decades and I've never heard of him. This must be the best clip on YouTube right now - and it's from the 80's. Just masterful work. I can't believe Johnny Carson exposed Uri Geller on national TV like that; and like Randi, I can't believe that no one seemed to care (nowadays as much as back then). This clip is living proof of why history is so important, and it should be played every year immediately preceding or following the ball drop in Times Square. As Mark Twain said, "history doesn't repeat, but it rhymes." See that jackass John Edward for proof (the supposed medium, not the Presidential candidate).

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Stat check:

Since 1st was released* the Earth has orbited the Sun 3 3/4 times. Likewise, the Moon has orbited Earth 45 times, so it's been 45 'Moons', or 'Months' in English. (Thanks to my Aztec warrior friend Quizhotepl for this explanation).

In the past 45 months, including the songs on the forthcoming CD, I have released 46 songs. So by the time the new CD is released it will still be about a song a month. I can't believe that. It doesn't feel like I'm writing a quality song a month (quality being a severely debatable term when it comes to my songs). It's really been like 9 songs a month for 5 months and then 40 months of anxiety and worry over my lack of output and effort.

Well, here's to another 12 songs in the coming year.

(* ie - mailed out to reviewers as a CD-R)

Yesterday's post doesn't have any spacing between paragraphs. I can't figure out why that happens sometimes, but I'm guessing it has something to do with when I upload the pictures to Blogger.

I play a lot of soccer, but this kid blows my mind. I've never seen anything like it. You will sit in stunned silence after clicking the link, I guaratee it.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

So my town was on fire yesterday.
It's been all over the news so this isn't new information here. Just pictures. It started at around 1:30 in the afternoon while I was at work in Glendale, which is in line with where the smoke headed. It looked like you were wearing sunglasses when you walked outside because only red rays from the sun were filtering through the smoke. Ash started falling around 3. I didn't really think it was a big deal.
I took a different route home to avoid the freeway right next to the fire, and as I crossed a bridge I had a good view of the hills and I could actually see flames. At this point the fire seemed to be under control.
At about 7:30 my roommates called me outside. The smoke, which had been a dirty tan the whole day, was suddenly dark gray. And there was lots more of it.
We jumped in his car, drove around the corner, and our jaws dropped. There were flames straight ahead in the hills. A few traffic lights were out, and tons of people were standing on the street corners, taking pictures and calling friends. We parked and joined them - this was a once-a-lifetime event.
Right before darkness fell we drove to my roommate's friend's house. He wasn't at home, but we stood on his porch because he had an unobstructed view of the hills. That's when we saw the west edge of the fire, which had been made up of small, red flames, suddenly burst into bright white-orange flames and spread quickly. Helicopters started attacking the top of the blaze which was about to reach a crest - the final crest between the fire and Griffith Observatory, which just completed a 4-year renovation. They succeeded, but the blaze continued down the mountain towards inhabited areas unabated.
Every now and then a new flare up would burst and we'd see huge flames right behind the final ridge between the fire and our neck of the woods. We thought those were houses going up, but they weren't. They were probably pine trees. But it was scary. We couldn't believe how fast it was moving and how quickly the firefighters were loosing control. I guess they had decided to let certain areas burn - it probably needed it, as part of what should be a natural cycle.
This morning streets were still closed down and at one point of my commute I saw smoke still coming from parts of the hills. I also saw whole sides of the park burnt bare. I will go up there when the streets are reopened and take more pictures of the devestation.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The plan is coming up again...

The pre-EP is now on the fast track for release. The drums will have to wait per my drummer's availability, and I am getting impatient. So there will be two versions of a few songs.

Why doesn't America offer an economic incentive for people (women) who agree to only have one or two children? A lot of people plan on doing this anyhow, and since it's in America's long-term interests to have fewer inhabitants (thereby lowering welfare/medicare etc. costs and allowing a greater immigrant workforce) why isn't this being done? What is the point of tax breaks for dependents? It's essentially an unofficial pro-birth policy. Why? It's not 1940 anymore.

I wonder how much it costs to maintain the American/Mexican border. I wonder how much growth that cost could provide if it were invested in Mexico's infrastructure and industry, and I wonder how many fewer immigrants would be trying to get into America if conditions were improved in Mexico. Again, isn't that in our best long-term interests? It's not like we have a free-trade agreement with Iraq.

I probably sound like an anarcho-syndicalist.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Easily the best part of writing this blog is picking out the pictures to go at the top of each post. If I didn't get to do that I'd probably write even less than I do.

I wrote the letters 'BR' on the back of my left hand this morning. I write on my hand a lot so I don't have to buy a PDA. But I can't remember what 'BR' stands for, so maybe I should buy that PDA anyhow. I also wrote 'LIB' but I know that means I need to return some books to the library.

Maybe if I talk it through I'll remember. I only partake in a handful of activities so the potential number of meanings of 'BR' is relatively small. I play soccer, but there is no soccer happening tonight. I spent way too much time in my ever-expanding garden but after thinking about it, 'BR' has nothing to do with that either. I play video games but I'm constantly struggling to play them less, so I certainly don't need a reminder to do that.

Ah, it worked. I just remembered 'BR' stands for 'Bottle Rocket', the first film by Wes Anderson (and Owen Wilson). I saw part of that movie again over the weekend and it's one of my favorites. I think it's far superior to the Royal Tenenbaums, the Life Aquatic and, on some levels, even Rushmore. But I love Rushmore. I was doing some research on the movie today - I read half each of the original and final scripts (markedly different) and I'm more convinced than ever that I could write a quality script if I ever felt such an undertaking would be worthwhile.

I'm still not sure exactly why I wanted to remind myself about Bottle Rocket. I think I wanted to do more research, but I ended up reading a ton about it - much more than I originally anticipated. I did this instead of, oh, say, finishing up a response analysis for last year's Missions Outreach campaign. This is what I should have been doing at work. In the end I did finish up the analysis, but first I read all that stuff about Bottle Rocket.

I really couldn't care less about how the coming year's campaign will do. I am also very confident that no one from my workplace reads my blog, or even knows of its existence.

I was originally going to write about how I didn't feel like writing anything today. Now look what happened.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

If you're from Northeast Ohio you know the greatness of Cedar Point. So when you move to Southern California you scoff when people mention Magic Moutain. Six Flags! What a crock.

I went there last Friday and it was actually pretty great. They have a ton of coasters - not as many as Cedar Point - but almost every coaster at Cedar point has a sister at Magic Mountain. Raptor is Batman, Magnum is Goliath, Gemini is Colossus, Iron Dragon is Ninja, Corkscrew is called something like "Vector", I think, and Mantis is Riddler's Revenge. There are a couple that Cedar Point doesn't have, like X and Tatsu, but Magic Mountain doesn't have a giant wooden coaster like the Mean Streak and they definitely don't have anything like Milennium Force.

I almost passed out during the G-force spiral at the end of Goliath, and when I came hold and told my roommate that I went to MM his first question was "Did you almost pass out on Goliath?" I guess someone had an anuerysm on it and died a few years ago. Might want to think about fixing that ride.

I have become obsessed with my garden. I planted a couple packets of seeds a month ago - some flowers and anaheim chiles - and once they sprouted I saw the empty space and decided to buy a few more, then a few more, then even more seeds. Now I have no more room and I've spent roughly 5 hours over the last three days weeding and transplanting seedlings. Apparently I am 67 years old.

Here is what I am growing (from memory)

Anaheim Chiles
Pumpkins (nice)
Cilantro (way too much of it)
Bell Peppers

What the hell am I doing? I'm supposed to be a musician.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Just two entertaining quotes from Bertrand Russell today:

As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one can prove that there is not a God. On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street I think that I ought to say that I am an Atheist, because, when I say that I cannot prove that there is not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the Homeric gods.

- Bertrand Russell, Collected Papers, vol. 11, p. 91
Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly, as I have said, the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes. [...] A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men.
- Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects