Wednesday, November 28, 2007

No Country for Old Men

Now that it's several days after the holiday, I suppose I should mention that I saw the Coen brothers' new movie on Sunday. I try to see all the Coen brothers' movies, as they usually manage to produce something that's entertaining, and often manage to rise above that minimal requirement.

I knew I definitely had to see this one, as it's based on a book by Cormac McCarthy, an author whom I've read before. He's actually a bit of work to read, at least for me. I've heard him compared to Faulkner, and while that may be an unfair comparison, it is true that Faulkner is also a writer whom I've found requires work, but is worth it in the end.

Years ago I read Suttree, more or less picking it at random from McCarthy's ouvre. Turns out now it is considered one of his watershed works, and it really moved me when I finished it. Since then, I've only take stabs at his work, and have hesitated to read, for instance, The Road, as it seemed to be hyped in a weird sort of way, and I didn't know if I'd enjoy it (as much as one can enjoy a gloomy post-apocalyptic drama).

Now I know I must make time for "No Country for Old Men", as the movie was awesome, and I can only believe that the book will be even richer.

Monday, November 26, 2007

New Musical Experience

It's pretty common for a radio news show or a radio magazine like This American Life to play some music in the background, or between segments, as a sort of audio wallpaper. I've often had the experience of picking out the individual tune, naming it and the artist, and getting a little flush of pleasure. A lot of times on PBS, though, they stretch, playing compositions that I'm unfamiliar with, and which I often wish I could find later. But of course I forget to look them up.

Lately, PBS has been playing snippets of songs that I suspect they think are alternative, or obscure, and I've been pegging them. On two occasions, I've spotted them using Camper Van Beethoven, right back to Telephone Free Landslide Victory, their first album, from back when Jean and I were in Ohio. Nice to see David Lowery and gang getting recognized in such a pedestrian setting.

But yesterday morning, I was driving to work, listening to On the Media, and during their final segment, they were playing a jazz composition. And I recognized it! No, it wasn't "In the Mood", or "Begin the Beguine", or any other Big Band standard. It was "Freddie Freeloader", from Kind of Blue, by Miles Davis. One of my Jazz 100 CDs. And I named the artist, if not the title of the composition. That's a new experience for me. And "Kind of Nice."

New Music

Yes, despite all the free stuff I have available, I'm still spending eMusic points. This time, another album from the Jazz 100 site, Portrait In Jazz - Bill Evans.

Then to round out my credits for the month, I picked up URAQT by M.I.A.


Regarding Bill Evans, I've now had three uninterrupted listens of this album, in different settings. And once again, I have to say that the Jazz 100 site's ranking, #112, feels fair to me. Listening to this album, I felt I was in a piano lounge at some generic hotel bar. There were a few definite thumbs-up moments, a lot of "meh", not much inspiration evident. Piano virtuosity aside, I don't find much memorable about this album. It's not offensive, it just doesn't reach my inner musical ear.

So it looks as if the top rated albums, like Kind of Blue and Saxaphone Colossus, are pretty easy to agree with. But after #100 (probably even earlier, as below #20 or so, I'm just picking ones that are available on eMusic), it becomes pretty much a matter of taste as to whether the album should be on any list. Anyway, Bill Evans Trio shows up twice in the top 30 (Waltz for Debby at #13, Sunday at the Village Vanguard at #26) so maybe I'll buy one of those to give Evans another chance.

But not before buying, for instance, Mingus Ah Um (#3).

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Overwhelmed with Music

I've now reached the point that I have more music coming down the pipe than I can reasonably listen to. Brent has given me a sampler from his library, which I'm listening to in bits, then deleting. I have my eMusic subscription, currently supplying a lot of jazz and the occasional surprise. And now I have Jamendo. This website was mentioned on Slashdot yesterday. It was founded by French musicians, and is a gathering place for independent artists to post their work.

Since it was founded by French folk, there are a lot of French albums, which Renee is thrilled by, since she's studying French right now. She had me download Lonah - Pi├Ęces, which I'm listening to right now. I also downloaded Revolution Void - Increase the Dosage. I'm of course going to be listening to both over the next few days. Not sure if I'll keep either, but they're free, cost and license, so I can take my time deciding.


Renee had me download another, Saint-Jean - Allo barjo. Then Brent pointed me at an album by a group I'd already mentioned: t r y ^ d - Public Domain. More than I can keep up with, like I said...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Devil May Cry

This is becoming quite the little media log. Well, can't be helped.

So last night I finished Devil May Cry, which was pretty much a B-team series, pretty predictable, cardboard characters and all. Yet, I felt some tenuous connection with it since I'd struggled through a number of missions in the first videogame of this series. Final ending was as expected, and satisfactory.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


When Jamie Zawinski first mentioned Glory Bumps, by Shriekback, I checked eMusic to see if they carried them. I don't recall now if they had even minimal entries, but they didn't have Glory Bumps, so since it was a great unknown to me I filed it away for later reference. More recently he brought the album up again, saying "I think I've just listened to 'Amaryllis in the Sprawl' about 25 times in a row."

Today I was browsing eMusic, typing in hits and misses from the past into the search bar, and lo and behold, there it was. So given that I had credits to burn before the end of the month, I grabbed it. Two albums in two days. Is that too excessive?

Anyway, I agree that "Amaryllis in the Sprawl" is a cool song, but I actually like the starter song ("Hooray for Everything") better. I'll be listening to this thing a bit over the next few days...


Renee bought volume one of Uzumaki at the bookstore today. She's already read it and has now handed it off to me. I first introduced her to the story by showing her clips from the film adaptation, which is suitably creepy. The story recounts events in a village whose residents become gradually obsessed with spirals in all their natural and unnatural occurrences.

I guess this is what comes of letting one's daughter read Stephen King short stories. Since she read Skeleton Crew (and is miffed that she can't go see "The Mist" 'cause it's R-Rated), I got her a copy of Night Shift yesterday and she's reading that in preference to the copy of Siddhartha that Jean bought her recently...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Sidewinder

I was shopping for stocking stuffers at Borders this afternoon, and just decided to browse the jazz CD section while I was there. Turns out they had a reasonably priced copy of The Sidewinder, Lee Morgan's entry in the Top Jazz 100 list. So I grabbed it, and I'm giving it a listen right now. Sounds pretty good so far...


Well, I've given this thing a couple of listens, and for now I'd have to say that it has a pretty high replay value. Definitely more enjoyable than "Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section". I'm almost tempted to say that it can hold it's own against "Kind of Blue", though I suspect these two will swap places from time to time as my mood changes. Anyway, four out of six of the tunes on this disc ranked four stars. Kewl!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Another Jazz 200 Album

Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section. Going to give it a better listen tomorrow while coding/digging.


Heh. This album was released the year I was born (1957). Many of the compositions on this album could reach four stars, but for a minor flaw. Too much drum solo. This is pretty funny, since as a kid I really liked drum solos (having grown up on old movies featuring and about Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich). That second link to a clip of Buddy Rich with Jerry Lewis is actually pretty fun.

In my teenage years rock drum solos were also pretty common, and I had no complaints. And as I've listened to the various albums I've grabbed off of the Jazz 200 list (this one, Thelonius Monk's "Brilliant Corners" and "Monk's Music", John Coltrane's "Giant Steps", Sonny Rollins' "Saxaphone Colossus" and Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue") it's dawned on me that most of these albums center on compositions using a framing melody, with intervals for improvisational solos by the various band members. So drum solos fit right in.

So I'm not sure why they detract from this album. Maybe it's just that none of the other albums feature drum solos. Maybe the drum solos strike me as jarring, or unimaginative. I really don't know. As I've been reading up on each of these albums, I've learned that some of the key ones were milestones precisely because they broke with the last musical style. Kind of Blue, for instance, is based on "a new formulation using scales or a series of scales for improvisations", or modal jazz.

I lack any kind of formal musical training, even as a dabbler. So directly observing these foundations and how they affect the way the musicians play (and play) is mostly lost to me. I still get the aesthetic pleasure of the music, but if a composition is notable to a musically trained listener mainly for technique, I probably am not going to "get it." Maybe that's what's going on with "Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section."

In any case, unskilled though I may be, I have no problem accepting that this album came in ranked #38, while "Kind of Blue" is Number One.

Please note: I do not regret getting this album. It has a lot of good music, and I've already listened to it several times. I just have a few peeves with some of the compositions. Overall, it's definitely worth having.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

New TV

I seem to have neglected to mention that our living-room television, that we've had nigh on ten years, finally gave up the ghost. This was a few weeks ago. On Burr's suggestion, we put it up on craigslist, clearly marked defunct. Within the day, someone claimed it, and hauled it away. I should try that more often.

So as a stopgap, I took a 20" television that I had in storage and moved it into the living room. Downscaling from 32" to 20" didn't bother me as I watch most of my programs in the family room downstairs. But Renee watches most of her programming upstairs, and she complained that the 20" made her "eyes hurt".

Jean and I have been budgeting money for a new television for awhile now, as we knew that the 32" was on a downward spiral. So this weekend, we made the tour of Costco and Fry's, and settled on a flat-panel that was in our price range. It's a Samsung, and I put it in the family room today. Then I moved the 27" from the family room upstairs to the living room. My buttocks still ache.

After getting the hookups correct on both televisions, I noticed that even though we'd downgraded to 'limited basic' cable, the new television downstairs was picking up several digital channels that were not listed in the package. This includes a handful (NBC, CBS, PBS) of HDTV channels. Renee watched a football game between San Diego (?) and somebody else in HD as a result. She roots for the San Diego team because her best friend is from there.

I mostly won't benefit from this arrangement, as I do all my viewing using the ReplayTV, which only records standard definition television. But Jean and Renee both do live television viewing, so they may in fact become HD fans. Time will tell...

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Okay, to be fair to Verizon, we got the router within 48 hours. But, this is the second time I've hooked up a router of theirs, and had all web access redirected to the same Verizon web page. It's been over four months since I did this dance, so I had to call tech support again to find out the secret handshake to get their modem to let me onto the internet. This is undocumented anywhere in their shipped manuals, or as far as I can tell, online (though a fat lot of good that would do me if I didn't have internet access). For my future reference (yes, I'll have to remember to echo this to a local file), go to this URL and click on the button presented. I doubt this happens to everyone, but it's happened to me twice. What were they thinking?!?!

As for cable television, we are now using 'limited basic'. I've finished watching the last of the spooled episodes of my regular shows from Comedy Central and The SciFi Channel. I still have a couple of bad made-for-tv movies to go. After that, it's all vanilla.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Short Notes

I can't post from home just now, as our Verizon-branded DSL router just went toes up yesterday. After only four months of service. After a rather crappy switch from Frame Relay to ATM networks. The good news is that the tech I spoke to identified himself as Ivan, who was one of the few who seemed to know what he was doing the last time I rode this merry-go-round. The bad news is that he doesn't control Verizon shipping, so it remains to be seen if the replacement router will arrive via UPS within the 24-48 hours he quoted.

On another note, we're experimenting with reduced cable television. We had 'extended basic' cable, which is analog cable with more stations than we watch. We were paying on the order of $55 per month by the time we got tired of the slowly escalating bills, and stations disappearing into the 'digital cable only' cloud. So now we're subscribing to 'limited basic' cable. For myself, this means giving up Comedy Central (South Park, Drawn Together, and if they ever release a new season, Venture Brothers) and the SciFi Network (mostly Stargate Atlantis, Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who [wah!] and the endless string of cheap made-for-SciFi movies). For Jean it mostly means giving up The Daily Show (Comedy Central again). For Renee, it means giving up Animal Planet, and some of the stations that re-run the crime shows she's grown fond of. And that's it.

So we get all the networks that also broadcast locally over the air, and we get tons of shopping channels and public access, that I'll never use. The price quoted on the Comcast site is $8.40, but of course that's before surcharges, taxes and double-speak fees. This next bill will be split across the old and new service, so I won't know what the actual price will be for another billing cycle.

If Comcast does something stupid like removing the limited basic channels from analog ('you need a Comcast set-top box for those channels, for a small monthly rental fee'), then we'll just start looking at one of the satellite packages. Burr uses Dish, and likes it. Or I hear that Verizon is going to start offering IPTV in our area in the next year. Of course, I'm just a little peeved with Verizon right now... Oh! Full Circle!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Saxophone Colossus

Okay, the Bauhaus album is fun, but the Miles Davis album got me in the mood for more jazz I haven't already heard, so I went back to the Top 200 CD list and found one that eMusic carries:

I'm listening to it now, sounds promising. I'll give it a full play during coding tomorrow.

Friday, November 2, 2007


My odometer at eMusic rolled over with the start of the month, and I picked up Bauhaus - 1979-1983 Volume One. They were the predecessor of Love and Rockets, which I liked a bit back in the day, so I thought I would grab a 'survey collection' of their works. There seemed to be some burps during the downloads, so I may retry in a day or two. That is a nice feature of eMusic, you can re-download tunes you've paid for in the past, something that iTunes Music Store claims is impractical to track. So in your face, iTMS!