Friday, October 21, 2005
Please forgive me; I'm going to be wearing my Music Reviewer's hat for the following several paragraphs:
I was a teenager when I first heard the band Camper Van Beethoven
, some 16 or 17 years ago. (Man, I can't believe I'm that old
.) I won't tell you where I got that first CVB cassette - I'm ashamed at how I obtained that particular recording, and perhaps I'll confess the method in a future story or commentary - but I recall schooldays spent adrift on Camper tunes, salvation for a teen full of angst. Their sweet brew was the perfect blend of rock and country and alternative and punk and violin and experimentation and silliness and intelligence and irony and wit and sorrow and sex; the trials of teenhood were rarely accompanied by a more eclectically (un?)suitable soundtrack, dangerously original-sounding fuel for a young mind already bored by Corporate Rock...
Okay, I've lost you already. You've read hundreds of Eighties Music reviews like this, and they all read the same. They all wax nostalgic on how great the music was during that decade, how X band changed the reviewer's life and how much they wish music could be like the (80s) Old Days. Isn't that how these period pieces go?
Sorry to say, I'm not prepared to tell you much different. Camper Van Beethoven was
a great band, and they certainly helped shape my life to some extent. I mean, that's been the case with all the music that I've spent a considerable amount of time listening to over my lifetime. Yet I will say one
thing differently; I don't wish music could be like the 80's Old Days, because I love these New Roman Times.
Huh? What's that I say? What I mean to say is, as much as I still enjoy The Music I Came Of Age To, the music that's being produced these days delights me just as much. Especially the music coming from independent artists...
...such as Camper Van Beethoven! Because Camper is back
- they left for awhile and became Monks of Doom and Cracker for a time, then were silent for a few years. Then, all of a sudden, they came back
. All the original members of the band came back for a reunion tour, and then they decided to make a new album, and not your Typical Reunion Album - they made a real
record, remained a real
band, and continued touring, for real
. And their new record sounds new, but also 80's-old - they seem to have picked up right from where they left off. Do you understand what I'm saying? It's like they never left
. Except they did, but then they came back, bringing the best of the 80's with them.
Back in the 80's, theirs was a sound far
from the typical teen fare you'd find on the radio during the mid-to-late 80's (unless you were listening to Rodney on the ROQ late on a Sunday night). To this day, I don't quite know how to describe Camper Van Beethoven's sound without feeling I've done them injustice; just mentioning "Take the Skinheads Bowling", perhaps their most well-known song, misrepresents the entirety of their sound. Still, I'll make an attempt.
CVB's sound was some kind of hybrid of Alternative, Indie Rock, and that category of the Billboard charts labeled College
- and yet, they were so much more than that. By definition, the College category is used to describe music that is difficult to categorize elsewhere: music that is not always heard on commercial radio but which might be found playing in college dormrooms. In that respect, CVB may have fit the College bill, for theirs was a highly unorthodox mix. Yet they didn't sound anything like REM or other punk-flavored rock bands you'd typically find on the College charts (and campuses) during the 80's. Camper Van Beethoven was country punk from Northern California. Yet they weren't
country and they weren't
punk - they were rock, alternatively so, and with folk flavorings. They had a violinist, and they experimented with Pink Floyd and - as we've recently discovered - Fleetwood Mac covers. Their lyrics were more poetic than most. You could headbang and mosh and skank to their music. You could imagine them playing with the Circle Jerks or at a square dance.
Look, I'm not a music reviewer, and I'm not going to pretend to be one any longer. You've just got to listen to CVB yourself
. I'm too tired to continue with this review, even though it's still early in the afternoon. I simply find it too exhausting, and perhaps impossible, to come up with ways to describe the sound of this band - this band that I've spent many cherished days of my life listening to. Loudly. Alcohol coursing through my blood. Thinking to myself, "This has got to be the best band in the world." Helplessly singing aloud. And though I'm sober most of the time these days, listening to Camper Van Beethoven still rocks my socks off and sends chills down my spine. And gives me the urge to textmail song lyrics to other Camper listeners. (By the way, Dave, that gum you like is back in style
.) I don't know how else to say it: you've just got to listen
. So please, do me a favor and buy Camper Van Beethoven's new album, New Roman Times
, and then send me a copy. I'm unemployed and can't afford to buy CDs, but I've got to hear the rest of this album before I catch them on tour
. (Don't ask me how I'm going to get into their show; I'll figure something out...)
Monday, October 17, 2005
Dear listener, lately this has become the
spot to receive my Odeo Studio experimentations
. I'm still not reviewing the service, yet, as it's still in alpha (an early stage of testing, not open to the public), and it wouldn't really be fair for me to make any overall assessments based on an alpha version of any product. I will say this, however: I really have nothing negative to say about the service, and I believe it works, more or less, as advertised.So here we go with my latest test
. [MP3 stream or download]
I just finished composing a long and (I believe) decent commentary for my VoyagerRadio blog Transmitting to Earth
, and I'd like to share it with you here. If you dig this type of commentary - commentary regarding Internet radio and related technologies - please consider subscribing to the blog's feed
To Be, or Not To Be (Dishonest When It Comes to Acquiring Music)
It's amazing how easily you can get fooled (or fool yourself) into nearly engaging in what can be construed as
illegal activity on the Internet. I opened up Google's new Blog Search
engine and ran a quick query for my current favorite subject, Python
. A fellow who sometimes blogs about Python
had recently posted some commentary about a project he is working on, in which he plans to develop a Pythonized AllOfMP3.com downloader
AllOfMP3.com sounded familiar, and I searched my memory seeking to recall where I had heard of this site or service. Drawing a blank (more than usual), I decide to visit the site, figuring it would probably jog my memory. At first I didn't recognize the music downloading service - it is now much more polished and professional-looking than it had been the last time I visited the site (perhaps a year or two ago). A prominent advertisement for Depeche Mode, a band you'd find in my playlist, caught my attention at once; the ad announced that the band's latest release, Playing the Angel
, could be ordered "for $1.47 only".
Had I read that right? $1.47 for the entire album
? Had I just stumbled upon a music service that had finally got it right
? $1.47 seemed a fair price for a digital download of a brand-new release - in fact, it seemed more than fair - yet the price seemed possible
, if not probable. My mind quickly accepted the notion that the price was possible since the about-to-be-released album would sell so many copies at that price that the band (or their recording label) would recoup their costs. So I proceed to click the 'Order This Album' link to see what would happen.
I was taken to a login dialog, and I clicked the 'Register' button to continue with the process. I next encountered a 'Terms & Conditions' agreement, which is not uncommon during a registration procedure. Yet something was immediately off
about this particular agreement, forebodingly titled 'Liability Limitations and Rules of AllOfMP3.com Services Use':
You agree with the fact that you are not able to use and even to download audio and video materials from Allofmp3.com catalogue if it is in the conflict with legislation of your country.
? Conflict with legislation
? I knew what those
terms meant. This service was probably too good to be true
- and that it was, for a cursory glance at the top of the page told me all was not right in Denmark (or Russia, in this case). At the top of the site was an alphabetized listing of recording artists, and to the far right of that listing was a solitary link: 'Russian'. The link led to a Russian translation of the site, which told me this site was probably not within the legal boundaries of the United States; it was a service based in Russia.
That's when I remembered having visited the site before - back when it had been composed almost entirely in the Russian language. The legitimacy of the site had been drawn into question from its introduction, yet now it was polished enough to (nearly) fool the savviest of customers. I was amazed at how close I came to registering for a service that was now, in retrospect, clearly illegal (at least, in the U.S.) And yet, even after realizing the fact, I very nearly went through with the registration. At ten cents a song (or thereabouts), the price was difficult to beat. I use a variety of services to collect my music: iTunes, eMusic, BitTorrent...but each service has its drawbacks in either price, selection, time wasted, DRM or any number of other issues. AllOfMP3.com, though illegal, was tempting due to its response to all of the above. I wanted a music downloading service like this, desperately.
Still, I resisted. I already receive a ton of great music from independent recording artists looking for exposure through my podcast, and I've yet to listen to them all. So I've really no need to spend any more money on music at this time. Yet I can see how easily a service such as AllOfMP3.com can appeal to even the most honest of consumers, and I'm hoping the "legit" download services will take note. We can only be honest for so long when we're being continuously cheated...
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Though it's not likely I'll be studying Ruby wholeheartedly yet (since I'm currently learning Python
), the downloadable book Why's (Poignant) Guide to Ruby
very nearly makes me want to drop my study of Python and come to know all the elegance that a growing number of developers are calling a Gem of a programming language...
Monday, October 10, 2005
Tonight, in lieu of posting a narrative, commentary, or podcast, I present you with a recording I worked on today. This recording is a work in progress; it's the current session of my Tempo of the Down
podcast for VoyagerRadio
. Download or stream it here
, if you'd like.
Sunday, October 09, 2005
Free time is now spent learning Python
. Yesterday I also discovered a fun and informative podcast for Python newbies (beginners), Python411
, along with its resourceful website, the Python Learning Foundation
I've already learned that some of my assumptions about the language
were wrong. For example, Python's simple syntax doesn't necessitate simple programs; serious developers can - and in fact, do - use Python to develop robust applications. Actually, I already knew that, mostly. I mean, I wouldn't even be looking into Python if it wasn't mentioned by serious developers
. (Yes, I consider developers of Mac apps serious, even though it seems that many of them are currently spending a great deal of time debating the pros and cons of developing for Intel chips, rather than actually spending that time programming.)
For the record, and for future recollection, I believe the moment I seriously began to consider learning Python was during an IRC session in #ubuntu. (That's the Ubuntu
support chat forum.) I had asked the group their opinion of "the best" programming language "for a beginner".
Saturday, October 08, 2005
On mom's birthday, during lunch at her favorite restaurant, we received the call we'd been waiting for
. From the doctor's assistant. Because you see, Doctor Bergsneider is a busy man - doesn't have time for calls. He might have conferences to attend, doncha know? Hands to shake, lectures to give, patients with decent insurance...you got any insurance? Nah, not that Medi-Cal shit - I'm talkin'
I'm not angry with the doctor; I'm grateful he took a moment to glance over my mom's results. It's the news that bothers. The news wasn't great. In fact, it was terrible. According to the assistant - who seems a nice enough messenger of ill tidings - the doctor didn't see anything in mom's CT Scan results to indicate hydrocephalus
. Nothing that surgery - nuerosurgery, that is - could fix.
A year of waiting, and the news comes and goes so swiftly - an item at the top of a list
, soon displaced by another. Mom will now succumb to a rapidly decaying brain, unless we find another solution, another doctor, another world.
Thursday, October 06, 2005
This fellow Tom scribbled a short story about his encounter with the New York State Police
, and I found myself laughing out loud unexpectedly while reading it. It's written well - one of the more entertaining blog posts in the 'sphere. Simply pure, unadulterated narrative - there's not a single link in the post.
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
I've been spending a great deal of time trying to decide which programming language to throw my heart (and time) into learning. I began the affair a couple of months ago, though the love was probably originally seeded by my initial exposure to Linux and OS X's command line well over a year ago.
I'm currently wooing both Perl and Python; I left C/C++ after realizing I didn't have enough time for her. (I'm still kind of seeing her on the side, though.) Perl seems to do it for me, but I'm worried about her future; it seems she may be facing a dearth of utility (or perhaps, utilities) in the years to come
. Py, on the other hand, appears favorable to many, and is quite easy, apparently; that very same looseness, however, worries me, and I wonder whether I'll age gracefully using her.
I don't want to remain promiscuous; I want to choose a language and really delve into her heart. I'm a perfectionist, after all, and don't want to be a half-hearted or sloppy lover. My only obstacle is time - I want to consummate the affair, but I don't have a great deal of time available, and I'm yearning to get my hands busy...I'm open to suggestions
Yesterday I spent most of the day producing the remix I made of Dave Winer's podcast
. Why I spent so much time working on this, when I could have been doing so many other things, is beyond me; I do things like this when I'm inspired. And I have to say I was inspired by Dave's singing of Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant
, a song I've always enjoyed and of which Dave has hinted as being anthemic for software development. In any case, I had fun creating the remix.
Dave was trying to relate a passage of the song in which Arlo Guthrie rouses up the audience to sing the song. So, for your listening enjoyment, I now provide the part of the song Dave was talking about
. Keep in mind that this song was performed sometime during the 60's - an era my parents once summed up for me as turbulent
. Arlo helped folks laugh their way through the era.
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
"Without the Coffee
" [MP3 stream or download]
I hadn't realized Dave Winer was already a fan of the song
when I suggested he open the fifth installment of Gnomedex
with Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant
, so I can't claim credit for inspiring him to sing the song for us in his podcast, Morning Coffee Notes
. (Listen to the podcast associated with his 9/30/2005 post, currently listed at the top of his page, or listen to my remix above.) So why is Dave singing the song for us now?
It's about starting a movement, in a sense - both the song and Dave's intention in sharing the song. Among the various hats he wears, Dave Winer is a software developer - one of the most well-known and well-respected - and he wants to create software that users will love to, well, use
. Alice's Restaurant
seems to be his current mantra and analog for the development of his current project
"You can get anything you want/at Alice's Restaurant..."
Dave's the ambitious sort, and this project (called OPML
) is not a small one, perhaps requiring
a movement in order for users and developers to see the light of its usefulness. For OPML can not only enhance our digital lives, it can fundamentally
change the way we view and manage information on the Internet. And people are often resistant to change, don'tcha know? It makes it easier for folks to accept change when it's part of a movement.
So let's sing that song - else we find out, too late, that we should have been singing rather than complaining. Read the details about OPML
and try the software out
yourself. I won't go into details about OPML here, but I will leave you with this: In many ways, it is analogous to RSS, that technology that it seems everyone and their grandmother (including mine) is using these days - a technology that Dave Winer both developed and heralded the utility of for years
before most of us took notice.
Sunday, October 02, 2005
Continuing my series of tests of the Odeo Studio podcast creation tools
, here's a link to my latest recording
, something created on my computer using Audacity and then uploaded to Odeo Studio. I may turn this one into a longer recording and include it in Something That Happened's podcast feed
, but for now this is the "work" in progress...
Saturday, October 01, 2005
I'm currently testing Odeo Studio (not yet available), and I've used the web-based recording tool to record a few podcasts. Thus far, I've recorded three podcasts using the tool, which you'll find on my Odeo Channel
If you're subscribed to my podcast feed
, you should be automagically receiving the third recording (the first one listed above), depending on how well Odeo's servers work. I didn't include the first two in the podcast feed, so you'll have to visit the links above to download them (if you're interested in hearing them).