Archive for September, 2012

Princes of the Universe… on MVM

I first really had awareness of Queen thanks to the the infamous sequence in Wayne’s World(still do that sometimes when I’m in the car and Bohemian Rhapsody comes on, too). But there’s another song the put out that I explicitly sought out once it got under my skin. This one. Tied to the Highlander franchise (especially as the theme song for the TV series), this is a great one to crank up while cruising down the highway with the windows open.

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The Room

[Originally written 1/15/2008]

“She was a good kid,” the landlord says as he escorts the couple up the stairs of the old brownstone.

 “Thank you. Yes, she was,” Joan said. “She always kept in pretty good contact with us since she moved out here two years ago.” Joan starts sniffling, and raises a tissue to her face. Steve squeezes her hand.

 “We hadn’t been out here to see the new place yet. She’s only been living in this building for about six months, is that right?” Steve asks.

 “Yes, sir,” the landlord replies, “about that.” They continue up the flights of stairs, until they arrive at the fifth landing. “She lived up here. She was a pretty quiet girl, but she always seemed to be helping out some of the other neighbors and getting along alright,” Steve continues, following the hall around the corner to number 531.

 The landlord unlocks the door to the apartment, and turns to leave. “My condolences to you both. The paper says it was pretty quick, and that the other driver was at fault.” The landlord shakes Steve’s hand, then Joan’s. “I will be down in my office if you need anything,” he says, giving a key to Steve before walking away.

 Steve and Joan stand outside the door to apartment 531, holding each hands and stiffling sobs.

 “Okay,” Joan rasps, her cheeks still streaking with tears. Steve opens the door and lets Joan walk through first. They walk into the living room, eyes moist with tears, and look over the details of the tidy room. There are two closed doors off of the living room, with a third door, open, leading to a bedroom, and a fourth, also open, that looks like a bathroom. The kitchen opens directly off of the living space. “Nice place,” Joan whispers as she sits in a chair in the kitchen.

 Steve closes the door, and joins her at the table. “Whenever you feel ready, Joan,” Steve says, as much for himself as for her. She nods, still trying to take everything in.

 After an hour of sitting, staring and crying at the table, it is time to look around the apartment, and begin taking inventory of what remains. Nicole had a good job in marketing and graphic design, and was excited to be moving into a new place by herself. Joan began looking in the bedroom, while Steve looked into the other two rooms.

 The first door that Steve opens reveals an office and spare bedroom, with a daybed, a drafting table, and a desk with a laptop and printer set up. A couple of bookcases and display shelves filled out the room.

 Steve attempts to open the second door, only to find that it is locked. Steve is surprised, and begins feeling the top of the door frame for a key, finding nothing. Joan emerges from the bedroom, seeing Steve examining the door. “What?” she asks as he turns towards her.

 “It’s locked,” he replies, “and there’s no key over the frame.” He examines the knob, and sees that the lock is a basic interior “pop” lock and does not need a special key. Steve returns to the office to find a paperclip, or something else that could be used to trigger the button-lock mechanism. He returns a few moments later, bending a jumbo size paper clip into a “T”.

 Joan is standing next to the door as Steve grasps the knob and slides the paperclip inside. Steve bends over slightly, leaning into the door frame as he moves the clip inside the lock mechanism, searching for the button. After several moments of trying to turn the knob with no luck, Steve is finally able to move the handle. The inside of the room is dark, and Steve slides his hand along the wall, looking for a light switch. As the incandescant bulb flashes to life, both Joan and Steve stand dumbstruck. Joan lets out a slight shriek, while air slowly leaves Steve’s body. Their eyes dart around the room, taking it in.

 The room is darkly painted, with padding covering the windows. There are a few shelves, mostly lined with large candles. There is a television with a DVD player in the corner, and a stack of DVD cases on a shelf under the television. A video camera is on a tripod, standing next to the television. There is a small bookcase under the window with a small stack of books. There is a steel framed daybed – twin size – along one wall. Hanging from the ceiling, near the corner opposite the door was a hammock-like swing. Along the far wall, between the swing and the bed is a three drawer dresser. On top of the dresser, neatly arranged, are four narrow candles of various lengths, some with streams of wax along the sides, one silver and one pink bullet shaped rods, and a pair of handcuffs.

 Steve turns out the light and closes the door, letting the paperclip fall to the floor. Steve pulls Joan close to him, and they start to cry.

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iOS 6… pre-thoughts

So the OS has officially gone live and should be available for download… I plan on “borrowing” the MC’s iPad (the one that I got through my MFA program) to upgrade it this evening and give it a test drive. Also, with the iPhone 5 due to be released in just a few days, I plan on using that iPad to get a feel for some of the improvements before I brave the wilds ofthe local Verizon store. Yes, I do plan on trying to camp out and at least play with a demo model at some point over the weekend.

I did not pre-order (I still have an Unlimited Data plan, and want to keep it,which, it turns out, requires some interesting hoops – nay, minefields – to consider), so while I may try to get one this weekend, I am also going to be realistic and guess that it may potentially be a couple of weeks before supply & demand levels balance out.

Once I’ve had some time to tinker, expect some impression here…

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Clockwork Angels… a Listener’s Response

I’ve not been quiet about my affinity for Rush, and like I mentioned here I planned to spin the hell out of it since I had two 9+ hour drives in store for me not long after it came out. I picked it up on release day, and had to fight hard to not rip the plastic off and pop it into a CD player. With a daily commute of less than five miles, though, I know that would be an aggravating way to make it through a first listen, not to mention it would short-change the “first listening experience.” 

On the one hand, I’m glad I waited. Clockwork Angels is definitely best experienced (the first time through) in one full listen. For those not familiar, it’s a style of concept album that’s different for Rush. As opposed to The Who’s Tommy, Green Day’s American Idiot, or even Rush’s own 2112 (main track) where each piece sonically bleeds into the next, with Angels each track, while connected by a thematic narrative story, stands alone as independent songs. The closest comparison I can make is the libretto for a stage musical.

Here we are, three months removed from its release so lets talk about the tracks.

# 1 – Caravan: Originally released as a single in advance of the Time Machine Tour a few years ago, the track was reworked a little – not rerecorded, just having the balance/mixing tweaked. The original felt a bit heavier, but the album version allows more articulation for Geddy’s bass work to be heard, and the lyrics come through better instead of bleeding into the music at points.

# 2 – BU2B: The other early track from the TMT, they added a softer opening few bars before breaking into the hard stuff. Personally, while enjoyed the sonic slap with the original release, adding the new intro works better within the context of the album.

# 3 – Clockwork Angels: The first completely new track when I first listened… I was struck by the suggested imagery, I felt for a moment like I was experiencing the sequence in Robots when we first get to Robot City, some of Neil’s cymbal work in the softer sections gave that steampunky train feel.

# 4 – The Anarchist: Driving rock beat that can be expected. Alex does some interesting riffs and accents that, if you want to push references, almost sound like snippets of of past songs, then take a slightly different twist.

# 5 – Carnies: Heavier opening, then scales back for sections of the opening lyric before continuing with the beat. Mid song, there’s a moment that Alex’s guitar work reminds me of hints of the riffsfrom Red Barchetta. The ending is one that I can see working eaily in a concert.

# 6 – Halo Effect: Still a hard undercurrent, but subtler in the orchestration around the lyrics. This is one that has becoma a favorite track. The stylistic approach reminds me a little of Nobody’s Hero or The Way the Wind Blows.

# 7 – Seven Cities of Gold: Another stand out for me from the album. It grabbed me the same way that Vapor Trails (the track) did when I first heard it, playful instumentation for the introduction then into the core of the song with a sequence later of Alex being Alex.

# 8 – The Wreckers: Lighter key then several of the other tracks with a brighter sound, but one of the heavier sets of lyrics. Another one that is a favorite from the album. It evokes a same emotional response as Nobody’s Hero.

# 9 – Headlong Flight: I will admit, I was nervous when I first heard the track. As much as it rocks, I wasn’t won over by the track itself. After hearing it in the context of the entire album, it made better sense. Extra brownie points: there’s an instrumental break in there that echoed the vibe from By-tor and hte Snow Dog.

# 10 – BU2B2: A short, filler track that harkens back to the previous (#2)with a much softer instumentation (much like the opening sequence from before). Nothing overly remarkable by itself, but thematically works to smooth the transition from the high energy of Headlong Flight.

# 11 – Wish Them Well: More of the same rock that one would expect.

# 12 – The Garden: Most of the song has a softer feeling like Resist, and it’s not until late that there’s any significant guitar flourish (which, by key, harkens back to moments from Spirit of Radio), but it’s a mellow song when compared to others on the album.

Considering the story arc that is supposed to be in place, the sequencing makes sense. After reading the snippets from the liner notes, by the time the last track arrived I hadthe impression of an old man looking back over his life, maybe telling stories to the grandkids. It worked, for me. I’m also interested to see how the story plays out in the novelization.

So, that’s the deal. I’ve enjoyed it.

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Two Princes… on MVM

Back in the 90’s, this band called The Spin Doctors came up, and had two huge singles from their album Pocket Full of Kryptonite. This is one of them. There are a couple of other tracks that I pull from that album on a regular basis that rock fairly well, so I would encourage you to check out the album.

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Quick and Dirty on the 5

So the iPhone 5 was just announced (yes, I followed a couple of live feeds to get specs and other news). My take? I thought you’d never ask…

I plan to upgrade… I had wanted to get an iPhone before (which I’ve mentioned), but having just switched to a Droid scant months before iPhone arrived on Verizon, I wasn’t about to pay that kind of money to break the contract. Now that my contract is up, I’m good to go, and the timing just works this time (I’ve actually been holding off, waiting for the 5 to be official, instead of just getting the 4S). And yes, I’ve already talked with MC about it and she has granted permission.

The good:
The integration. Using a Mac now for the past few years, now that Mountain Lion has come out, the transferrability of information between devices (courtesy of the cloud), I can actually use just one calendar system and not have things listed in a half dozen different places. MC and I have already started merging to a shared schedule – something that once we get fully ironed out will have things make a lot more sense.

The camera will be an upgrade for me, coming from a 5MP on the Droid. More storage – since the Droid is still mostly factory with the 8GB-ish card that came with it. Actually using it, and the data plan (I managed to get in when Verizon was still doing Unlimited, and I aim to do everything I can to keep it!). I’ve only gotten a handful of apps for the Droid, all of them free, but short of web browsing haven’t really pulled much data. I don’t want to drop a lot of money on apps that are singular device options (anything from Apple I can at least flip onto an iPad, or Touch, so 1 purchase = multiple locations to run it). GPS integration/Apps – means I will finally (seriously) look into apps for running/cycling (see previous line).

The not-so-good:
Dock connector change. Kind of a “meh” issue in a micro sense (it’s main purpose is as a phone, that just happens to be able to do a lot of other things), and I plan to use it as such – not directly docking it to anything (aka – speakers, or the car), but it does make it frustrating in a macro sense that all previous cords become obsolete. In other words, I can’t just carry around a spare cord and USB wall charger (from the several I already have) – I will have to make sure I carry the new cable as well. Or pay $29 for the adapter. Not a huge issue, just an annoyance.

I’m not overly sold on the Facebook integration, handy, but not something I would consider a must have.

iOS 6. While I like most of it, and can appreciate the upgrades (Passbook will be interesting to play with), I have several devices that are about to be left in the dust and unable to upgrade. I understand new OSs need better hardware to run well, I just see a point when some of the current apps may be “upgraded” to a point where they will not run on 5.1, which would really outmode the device more than the dock connector change.


So, yeah… the big dilemma I’ve bee struggling with for the last couple of months as I’ve pondered the upgrade? should I go with a 16 or a 32GB? Only a few days left to ponder…

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Muse Double Shot… on MVM

They have a new album hitting stores in the next month, and they had a “theme” song for the Olympics this summer. I’ve mentioned how I got plugged in to their music before… so, here’s their latest: the Olympic theme, and the lead single from the new album.


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[Originally written 12/21/2007]

“It’s about time you came back,” a gravelly voice whispers from the shadows. “We always knew you would come back to us, didn’t we?”

 There is a cacaphony rise of voices. I turn in circles, but cand see nothing outside of the small shaft of light I am standing in. I recognize some of the voices – whispers that I heard years ago, brushed aside in the name of “progress” – which is actually just another word for “lazy”. Other voices scream for attention, like wind howling against a building trying to get inside.

 Slowly, the spot of light, my sanctuary, flutters. It shrinks momentarily, thrusting the darkness to just outside my body. Only a faint, focused light is around me – but only enough for me to stand in. If I move, even the slightest twitch of a finger, I will be exposed in the darkness. Even as I breathe, as my chest expands with every intake of air, I am dangerously close to the darkness.

 Suddenly, I am plunged into darkness as the light flickers, dancing on and off like the flash of a strobe. When the flashing finally subsides back to a constant glow of life, I am surrounded by faces. Not all of the faces are defined, some are blank canvasas like a store manaquin, featuring only a simple opening to speak through. Others, the voices from my past, stare at me fully formed, their eyes piercing me with their looks of anger, frustration and hurt.

 “We trusted you,” they begin to say. “You are the only one that can tell our story… that can help us live. We knew you would come back to us, but we did not think it would be this long.” They pause, collectively, as if they have been preparing these words, like a nervous boy rehearses how to ask a girl out. Unlike the nervous boy, there is strength and resolve in the voices of the crowd.

 “Hear our voices. Let them haunt you, let them terrify you, let them seduce you. We chose you to speak for us, and you have ignored us for too long. Now it is our turn. Now, it is our time. You call yourself a writer, but you barely put pen to paper – and we are the proof! All of these nameless, faceless forms have been waiting for their chance to be born – to be molded and shaped into something for the ages.

 “Quit pissing on yourself, and listen to us. We all have stories to tell, you just need to learn to stop and listen, and write what we tell you. Without you, we have no voice. Without us, your life will be difficult. Your time is over. If you want to be a writer, you belong to us… and it’s time you do as you are told.”

 The crowd grows quiet, then slowly backs away. From their midst, a child whom I have never seen before, steps forward. Her formless face slowly morphs as I envision someone very much like Cindy Lou Who. A child’s nose develops, and sockets form, filling up with pools of blue for her eyes. Blonde hair sprouts from her scalp, and in moments a full, shoulder length head of hair with a slight curl at the end is circling her face. There are some gasps from the crowd as they see the transformation, but the child does not yet seem to know what has happened to her yet. “Please, tell me a story,” she asks.

 I look at her face, then look to those around me. I look back to her, thinking, straining my ears and my mind to hear something, anything, that I might be able to say to this newly faced Cindy. There’s a whisper coming from my left. I glance, but see no one. Trust it, I remind myself. I stretch my mind, focusing on that whisper, which is now slowly growing louder. I listen for a moment, drinking in the words.

 “Once upon a time,” I begin. I know it’s cliche, but it gives me time to digest what I am hearing, as the words begin pouring in. Figures begin to sit, attentive, wanting to listen. Others move away, waiting, as if they already know the story, to see how well I can deliver. Somewhere behind me on the left, still in the shadows, faces began to take form.

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Some Pinball… on MVM

One of the things that the Olympics did was rekindle my listening of The Who… I’ve had Pinball Wizard stuck in my head at intervals for the last few weeks. So, here… let me get it stuck in your head now… All together: “that deaf, dumb and blind kid, sure plays a mean pinball…”


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