Inhuman Swill : September 2007

On the air

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On the air
Since my novella "Inclination" will soon be available for purchase and download as an audiobook at Audible.com, and since there's a distinct possibility of more stuff coming, I figured it was about time to upgrade my recording equipment.

Still playing around and learning how to use this stuff, but this should be good news for listeners of my podcast too.

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Junk mail?

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It is a measure of the vileness of much spam that when I get one entitled "Increase your business," I'm not sure whether I'm being offered a direct-marketing service or penis enlargement.

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Rat carcass in alley this evening. Tire tread on burst stomach. This city is afraid of me. I have seen its true face.

Sad when you almost step in vermin, and the first panel of Watchmen is the thing that leaps to mind. At least I didn't skid in it, like once before.

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Ambushed by Zur!

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It's been such a hell of a long time since I've received any hate mail, I almost forgot what it was like. Thank God that hole in my life is plugged again, though I was more than a little surprised that the precipitating incident was, apparently, my mild slagging-off of the film The Last Starfighter in the course of my nearly-three-year-old review of the stage-musical version of same. I said:

Even to its ardent defenders, the movie version of The Last Starfighter has always played like a low-rent version of Star Wars, with a thinner, more maudlin story, inferior special effects and a production design no more convincing than the original Star Trek's. The genius of this new adaptation lies in its recognition that these apparent weaknesses are really strengths when translated to the musical stage.
My estimable correspondent said:
Re: Your review of The Last Starfighter, musical and film versions. I loved the movie. I have it on DVD. I consider it one of my favorite inspirational films. The effects are ground breaking in this, the first film to rely completely on CGI. If you told me the sky was blue, I'd check first. Screw you, Mary.
Goodness. That's the last time I speak out of turn about the film's ardent defenders. And I won't breathe a word about Tron.
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The Bad Plus
Sunday evening Laura and I went to see jazz trio The Bad Plus play at Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music. First of all, that theater on Lincoln Avenue is a great place to see a show—comforable, intimate, and acoustically welcoming (though it would be even better if people weren't coming in late all the time and if the ushers would keep their voices down). Second, I knew I liked these guys on wax, but holy shit they're great live.

The Bad Plus are masters of intricate time signatures, with an interplay that seems (clich´ though it is to say) telepathic. Ethan Iverson on piano hardly breaks a sweat, indeed hardly moves, as his two hands blur off in opposite directions performing contrary tasks and pounding out dangerous decibels, only to jump up from his seat just when you think he's too cool for school. Reed Anderson anchors things in the middle with a fat, woody bass sound that gives the music a fulcrum even as it hares off in unexpected directions. But the real show is drummer David King, who looks improbably awkward holding a pair of sticks but still manages to emulate the world's craziest clock mechanism, holding the beat in his teeth while it seems to explode with a flurry of jabs and kicks in every impossible directions, maybe even at right angles to spacetime itself. Laura said, "I've never understood before this how drums could be a voice of their own."

The band was excruciatingly tight, nowhere moreso than on their cover of the Ornette Coleman/Pat Metheny freakout "Song X," with its nervewracking periods of long silence. The originals were idiosyncratic and strong—and it was nice to be able to match each of the three players with his compositions in person—and the rock covers, including "Life on Mars?" and "Everybody Wants to Rule the World," turned the source material inside out to expose the pulsing life inside to the light. (Was that sweat they wiped off their faces, or was it blood?) One of two enthusiastically received encore numbers was Neil Young's "Heart of Gold." You could have heard a pin drop as the players took their hands off their instruments and sang the chorus in sweetly hushed three-part harmony. A startlement on top of a surprise wrapped in citrus rind.

The Bad Plus are justly famed for their cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit," and while I'm sure many in the audience were hoping to hear it, my only mild disappointment was that they didn't play their version of "Tom Sawyer," from their new album Prog. But maybe that's for the best. Having heard Rush play it two weeks earlier, and with the harmonic disturbances still lingering in the ether, The Bad Plus adding their take might have set up sympathetic vibrations of awesome that would have melted Chicago to a plain of bratwurst-colored glass. We should simply give thanks for the miracles we did witness, and lived to tell.

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A terabyte and a quarter
Pardon me while I indulge in some geek talk. So I'd been needing a couple of much larger external hard drives for some time, one to hold the music collection that had long since overspilled the Maxtor 200 Gb drive, and one to backup the entire system. After some hunting around, I found a great price on a couple of Seagate FreeAgent Pro FireWire drives, one 500 Gb and the other 750 Gb:

Looks good in the light...

...looks even better in the dark!

That's a terabyte and a quarter! Right there on my desk!

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I'll take mine straight

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You know, Neil Diamond's "Love on the Rocks" is ripe for a good, over-the-top-but-unabashedly-sincere heavy metal remake.

Laura and I concluded this as we were singing along. At the tops of our lungs.

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September's CD mix of the month

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I'm not sure how good the turnout was at this past Thursday's CD Mix of the Month Club meeting in New York City, but attendance was 100% at the Chicago chapter—me. My mix, providing my own idiosyncratic take on Muzak programming, was Rock Paper Jazz, a collection of various jazz versions of rock songs.

I'll send you a free copy of the mix if you're the first to identify the provenance of the hand drawings in the album art.

(The story so far.)

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On the literary map

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Laura and I were walking Ella the other evening when we ran across a sign indicating a historical landmark. I suppose we hadn't noticed it before because we usually walk Ella down the grassy greenway on the other side of the boulevard's frontage road, not down the sidewalk.

In any event, what we learned is that L. Frank Baum is our neighbor. He lived three blocks from us in 1899 when he wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

One hopes there's still something in the air.

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It's quizzing its users

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Via [info]affinity8:

You Scored an A
You got 10/10 questions correct.

It's pretty obvious that you don't make basic grammatical errors.
If anything, you're annoyed when people make simple mistakes on their blogs.
As far as people with bad grammar go, you know they're only human.
And it's humanity and its current condition that truly disturb you sometimes.

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The Accidental Terrorist 30th Anniversary Sale

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William Shunn

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This page is an archive of entries from September 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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