Saturday, July 31, 2010

Here's How to GET RID of Prohibition

As best as I can glean from the pages of The New Yorker, 1930 was the year of:
  • Backgammon. All the department stores were selling deluxe sets and offering free lessons and tournaments.
  • Tom Thumb golf. Suddenly there were courses everywhere. Rather than the low-rent "mini golf" of today, the fad was marketed to the Gay Young Things as an after-club pastime drunkenly played in evening gowns, tuxedos, and high heels. Much ado was made about the damage to the courses caused by high heels.
  • Maybe this "depression" thing isn't going away?
  • Even the staunchest defenders of prohibition are getting sick of it. Like, to the point where virtually everybody wants to somehow repeal it.
The most obvious sign of the anti-prohibition fever so far is this advertisement in the October 18, 1930 issue. It sums up everything I've been reading (click for a larger view).

Joseph S. Auerbach seems to have been a moderately well-known lawyer...well-known enough to have been publishing books before and after this one, at least.

The Volstead Act would not be repealed until 1933, so it will be interesting to see if this vocal opposition continues to swell, or if it will simply be viewed as a fait d'accompli in the laps of the lawyers.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Don't Tell That Guy Anything

Andy Prieboy has put a "musical sketchbook" online entitled "Don't Tell That Guy Anything," consisting of six rejected songs that were lying around on his hard drive. Besides being wonderfully eclectic and giving insight into his own songwriting process, they're great songs (and they're cheap!)

The first one I heard (and the one that still resonates the most for me) was "Thunderbird (V-8 Wonder of the Western World)," with a video created by Edwin Vacek here:

In his writeup about the song, Prieboy reveals interesting things about the music (it was an Apple Loops experiment) and the lyrics. I find the subject of passive destruction and unsolvable hypocrisy to be endlessly fascinating, so it's amazing to see somebody combine those things into a series of beautiful and concise words.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Expanded Barracks Home Studio

Ladies and gentlemen, it's the newly-updated and fully-equipped Barracks Home Studio.

I've splurged a bit during the last few weeks. Errrr, actually, I've splurged quite a lot. My desire to raise my setup to the next level -- a level capable of semi-pro mastering -- has opened the floodgates in a terrifying way: when you find out how little you know, you also find out how much more you NEED.

Replace "Need" with "Want," if you like.

But my mixing and mastering quest will be detailed in another post. For now, this is where my studio stands today. And like an egocentric goof I'm going to tell you what's inside, in order of when it was acquired (more or less).
  • Akai S700 Sampler: The first instrument I bought that I still actually use, though its disk drive died several years ago. I picked this up mid-90s from Sherwood Music so I could hold my own within Mindsculpture, a band I was in at the time. It's incredibly easy to use, has a large sample capacity, and sounds pretty damn good...but the single mono out reduces its usefulness unless you're manually playing the thing.
  • Tascam Portastudio 424 Cassette 4-track: My second 4-track, after the first one suffered a tragic head loss. Most of my old pre-DAW music was recorded on this thing. Effect sends and returns, variable speed control, 2-band EQ, and extremely smooth operation. For a while I used it as a mixer and a pre-amp, but it's so noisy that it's almost useless. Now I just use it to get at my old master tapes.
  • DOD Digital Delay System R-910: I don't remember where I got this, which makes the following fact even stranger: it has almost no online presence whatsoever. No pictures. No manuals. No description. That's strange because it's so much fun! You can change your effects (flange, chorus, double, and echo) on the fly, apply a repeat hold, change all your settings's a real-time dub monster! Strictly monophonic, however, and it sounds a bit sharp. Here's a picture:

  • Ensoniq ESQ-1 Keyboard: About five years ago my neighbours had a garage sale, and this was the little gem they were selling FOR TEN DOLLARS. They were unable to get any sound out of it so they assumed it was broken (they were plugging a stereo headphone jack into the right mono port, no doubt), and I gleefully gave them twenty for it because I hated to see them get ripped off. Well, the battery immediately died (which is a huge deal for these keyboards), which also erased all the presets. I splurged on a Syntaur soundset cartridge and was back in business. It sounds weird and complicated in all the right ways, but I have yet to really devote the time to explore it. Downsides: you can't smoothly edit sounds while you play them, and there is no MIDI thru.
  • iMac Aluminum Desktop Computer: Now we're entering the modern era. Wonderful computer power. I'm running Logic Pro.
  • Korg NanoPad, NanoKontrol, and NanoKey Controllers: They certainly have their uses, but I get frustrated having to FIGHT them so often. Whether it's flaky detection thanks to their custom USB drivers, or an inability for their Kontrol Editor to update the devices occasionally, or keys getting stuck on they keyboard...well, you DO get what you pay for, and I certainly still use them. Here's my recent assessment.
  • Lexicon MX300 Effects Processor: I use this mainly for lush stereo reverb applied selectively to the mix, not to alter individual tracks...but now I can be more flexible because of...
  • ...the Presonus Firestudio Project 10x10 Firewire Interface: I've upgraded from the old 4x6 Firebox, for the simple reason that I was craving more effect send/receive capability. It's working perfectly and was an easy transition from the Firebox. Its editing software is SO simple, and it doesn't run NEARLY as hot as the Firebox (though maybe that's because it has a bigger surface area). Anyway, this is the lynchpin of the new studio setup.
  • Vox ToneLab LE pedal/effects/amp modeler: I bought this from my father and am only now really exploring it. I've had some bad impressions so far with a consistently harsh digital distortion, but that may be because of my source material, my amp settings, or my volume setup (probably all three). The expression pedal is beautiful just on its own for adding dynamics to a synth pad.
  • Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro Headphones: These started me on this upgrade project, because they revealed to me everything that was deficient about my equipment and my technique. Some things you don't WANT to hear, unless you have the means to fix them! Now I do.
  • iZotrope Ozone 4 Mastering Plugin: Do you want to know how much better and more professional your music can sound? Just try the demo. I can vouch that it operates just as sweetly as you can imagine. Even if you aren't trying the product, you should read their "Mastering with Ozone" guide, which is FULL of tips, information, and explanations for the neophyte mastering student.
  • KRK Rokit 5 G2 Close-Field Studio Speakers: I bought these today to finally bring my studio to a functional state. They're small (and I need to elevate them about two feet somehow) but they give an even tone that's far beyond anything I've ever owned before.
How does all this fit together? Basically I use Logic Pro as the central hub, with the Firestudio Project as a router for all my effects, external equipment, and monitoring options. It's a beastly patchwork of equipment but it all fits together now, and my hope is that I can finally CRAFT some music instead of simply hacking away at it.

Several projects are on the go, including a few collaborations that are far outside my comfort zone. More on that soon!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mathematics from Macy's

By extension, if you're wearing the WRONG clothes then games are only half as much fun.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The New Yorker Hitler-Watch

I am near the end of the 1930 issues of The New Yorker, and I am interested to see when Adolph Hitler begins appearing in the pages. I knew he really began consolidating his power after the depression hit Germany, but I didn't realize he was already internationally-known by October 11, 1930.

Here is a brief jokey comment in the "Of All Things" section of that issue. It marks -- as far as I know -- the first mention of Hitler in the magazine.
Hitler threatens to cut off some important German heads unless the demands of his party are met. He evidently means to set up a dictatorship of decapitalists.
Such is the style of New Yorker political commentary at the time: puns, puns, and more puns.

Anyway, it's obvious that Hitler was a visible figure to Americans at the time -- they don't even bother to mention his first name -- but I wonder what the charming fellow was up to and which demands he wanted met.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Works Automatically...Won't Burn Toast!

You might remember the spectacular introduction of the Toastmaster back in February of 1929. But holy shit, have you seen the new and improved Toastmaster? These two ladies in fur coats are looking at it right now!

Stop it, ladies! NO WATCHING! Don't watch it! Do something else for a while!
Of the hundreds of thousands who saw the remarkable first model which revolutionized toastmaking in America, not one would have believed it could ever have been improved upon.

Yet--that has been done!

It is even more simple, more amazing, more beautiful!
How has the Toastmaster improved in the last two years? They replaced one of the levers with a "small, new-type indicator," and it comes with "cool-type carrying handles" so you won't burn your pretty-type hands, and it also can't overheat and start your fur coat on fire at the flaming breakfast table! It won't burn your tabletop! It now does two slices at once! It's wonderful!

Ladies and Gentlemen, these ladies and I honestly don't think this toaster can get any better.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

They Gave a New Thrill -- That's Why They Got There....So Quickly

During 1930, the cigarette manufacturers continue to aim their advertisements at the Gay Young Things. It was a market that Murad had long courted (by 1930 they were in the midst of a long and tiresome pidgin-French campaign), Lucky Strikes had graduated from flippant "Happy Go-Luckies" to paranoia about weight (a reaction to a candy manufacturer's campaign that told readers to eat candy instead of smoke), and Spud was still hammering the "Smoke a Spud When You're Freaking Out" storyline (after briefly flirting with bogus science).

What about Old Gold? Last time I mentioned them in this blog they were in the midst of a rickety vaudeville promotion, and since then they've continued with the "Not a Cough in a Carload" tagline by hiring John Held Jr. to create his signature Victorian woodcut cartoons (the joke is usually about a male Victorian stereotype being berated for his rough smoker's voice).

But I suspect they felt the need to capture the same flapper audience that the other manufacturers were targeting, so in September 27, 1930 there's a full-page advertisement with a new angle, which I paraphrase as Old Gold is a plucky newcomer who became instantly popular because of its exceptionality, just like This Famous Broadway Star!

I'm sure this is the first in a long line. This time the star is Marilyn Miller:
From her grandmother's Ziegfeld's just the twinkle of a toe. She really was the "Sally"...of the alley called Broadway.

How to explain the miracle of Marilyn's success?...Nature simply blessed her with a charm all her own.
The real interesting part of the advertisement, however, is the huge picture of Marilyn dancing in a dirty basement.

I've mentioned before that some design elements in The New Yorker reflect a shift from the "modern" 20s to a new 30s style. This is definitely one of them. As an added bonus here's the caption:
"Mar'lyn, chile, shake yo' feet!" Grandmother's kinky-haired old furnaceman was first to educate Marilyn Miller's feet. At those same feet, a few years later, old New York laid its heart.
Ah, the kindly kinky-haired drudge with his native rhythm. There's also a reproduction of the moment when Old Gold's supposedly first arrived in Waikiki, but the quality is so poor I won't bother posting it. Which is a shame because it looks really bizarre.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Scrutable Poetry Corner: "Anachronism" by Peggy Bacon

From the September 27, 1930 issue of The New Yorker, here's "Anachronism," written by a poetess with the rather unpoetic name of Peggy Bacon.
In the mummy-case the queen--
brittle toes and matted hair!
Her compelling portrait seen
on the lid, returns a stare.

Through millenniums enduring
as a relic, for a while
she was laughing and alluring
as a siren by the Nile.

Bead and bauble, tool and chattel,
symbol, amulet, and token,
effigies of sacred cattle
lie beside her, chipped or broken.

In the Bowery I meet
Sadie, similarly fair,
flashy sandals on her feet,
bangle, bead, and busy hair

(mummy-matted, tonsor twirled,
tinted with a dubious dye),
and a little serpent curled
in the angle of her eye.
Who was Peggy Bacon? She wrote poetry (and later fiction) for The New Yorker from the first month of publication up to the 1950s, and she even drew a few illustrations along the way:

You can find out much more online, starting here. She seems to have been a remarkable person.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Talkie Technology in 1930

By September 27, 1930 the talkies had hit their stride. The technology had advanced to a point where procedures for recording sound were standardized and efficient, but as the wonderful Morris Markey tells us in his New Yorker article entitled "Hit the Switch!", things were still uncertain in the studios.

Markey takes a trip to Stage B "in the Paramount studio at Astoria" to see the filming of a new movie (possibly "Follow the Leader") starring comedian Ed Wynn. He discovers that studios are no longer sound-proofed and cloistered the way they were in the early days of the talkies, but some new equipment has certainly arrived.
There were four cameras. Three of them were the familiar movie cameras, a little bulky with their sound-insulation but recognizable. The fourth was the sound camera. Instead of a lens, it was fitted with a microphone at the end of a very long, very thin telescopic arm. The arm thrust out from the camera like the tentacle of an insect, and the microphone at its end was poised immediately over the spot where the action was to take place--high enough to be invisible to the lenses of the other cameras. As the actors moved about, the arm could be extended or shortened, raised or lowered in an instant so that the sound-collecting microphone always hovered over them.

The sound camera does not carry its own film. It merely carries certain electrical equipment which transmits the sound from the microphone to a telephone wire. The telephone wire carries the speech of the players to the central sound-recording room in the basement.
It's interesting that Markey doesn't know the names for any of this equipment, and so relates to it as though it were simply refurbished from the silent film days. The "boom microphone" is a "sound camera," even though it has nothing whatsoever in common with the other cameras. The cable which carries the sound is a "telephone wire."

He goes on to describe the somewhat magical goings-on inside the basement room where another camera stares at "infinitesimal reeds" which vibrate to the transmitted sound impulses. The light which shines between these vibrating reeds creates the visible sound wave which is recorded onto film for later playback. Was this REALLY how it was done?

He also mentions the "control booth," a little "soundproof room on wheels." Inside sits a man who monitors the recorded sound and controls the volume. This man -- credited as a "sound recordist" and possibly Ernest Zatorsky -- actually stops the entire shoot by walking out and protesting:
"There's a hum," he said, glancing vaguely toward the ceiling and the arc-lamps.

"What kind of hum?" asked the director.

"Something technical," said the young man. "It's an induced hum. I told 'em they'd have to fix it. This stuff sounds lousy."
The director, unable to solve or even understand the problem, walks helplessly off the set. "Like lost sheep, the actors and the helpers drifted out after him and the young man of the booth, nodding with satisfaction, picked up his hat and went home."

Monday, July 12, 2010

Muffet in Tubular Crin

I give you a picture of the Demon Cat Muffet, sometimes known as Catzalcoatl, in a rare moment of rest.

Fireman, Save My Chop!

Yes, this General Electric advertisement on the back page of the September 20, 1930 New Yorker is...baffling. I can only print it in full.
Don't worry, lady. You'll find that chop as fresh as on the day it roamed the fields of Iowa. Ain't this a General Electric Refrigerator?

Don't ask silly questions, lady. Sure it's a General Electric -- can't you see the Monitor Top? In the Monitor Top, the nonchalant motor of this astonishing Refrigerator is doubtless idling with its feet perched atop its desk--totally oblivious to the muffled epithets of the perspiring fire department.

Lady--in ten or fifteen hours, when the noble fire brigade has succeeded in drenching the entire back cover of the New Yorker with half of Croton Reservoir, these gallant fire-fighters will open the regrigerator door, and--as is the custom of gallant fire-fighters--they'll "take a little peep inside."

They wouldn't blink an eyelash--since this refrigerator is General Electric--if they found a huddle of sleepy penguins roosting on the topmost shelves. And ice cubes frozen solid--with a happy band of baby walri (walruses) frisking in their midst.

No, lady--it takes more than a mere conflagration to fluster a chop in a General Electric Refrigerator. That's one reason why we think you'd like to own one. You don't like your chops flustered--do you?
Besides employing the flippant, slangy tone that I'm increasingly seeing in advertisements of this era, what the hell is the point of all this? Are they saying that GE fridges will keep their contents cool even when the temperature outside is hot? Are they actually implying that said fridge will survive an apartment fire?

Heck, those things WERE built like tanks, but I'd think at least the Monitor Top (whose motor apparently has FEET) would melt into a puddle of toxic goo.

PS: A possible explanation. It's obvious this was written specifically for The New Yorker. Maybe it's a clumsy attempt at exploiting some of the recent themes in the magazine? Several months earlier The New Yorker had printed a long serialized feature about the history of firefighting in New York; the rivalries, the technology, the ubiquitous Croton Reservoir.

I wonder if GE made it a habit to scour the pages of the magazines they advertised in, then write tailor-made copy about whatever they found.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Gary Jennings: Smut, History, Purity, Coincidence, and Torture

I'm re-reading "Aztec," the Gary Jennings book that I first read many years ago, and I have a few things to add to my previous post about the Jennings formula (at least as it applies this novel and "Raptor").

Yes, Jennings does his research, and combined with a perfect sense of pacing he manages to convey a realistic impression of what it was like to live at the time (in this case, to be an Aztec before, during, and after the Spanish conquest). I'm re-reading this particular book because I want to learn a bit more about Central American civilization, and "Aztec" is telling me a hell of a lot.

But Jennings isn't content to write 750-page books about dry old history, he must also introduce characters who are almost Ayn Rand-ian in their purity: the loyal and innocent servant, the battle-hardened and kind-hearted soldier, the intelligent and noble protagonist, the honest craftsman who pours his entire soul into his work.

These characters would be the first to disappear in an Ayn Rand novel, though, because they are so noble and pure that they can't even be CAPITALISTS (what sort of craftsman would give away his work for free simply because he is proud of what he does?), but they do share the Rand-trait of being such focuses of ideology that reality seems to WARP AROUND them. Thanks to their unswerving characteristics they form impossible alliances, get out of impossible (but clever) traps, and discover impossible know, like Mayan eyeglasses.

During all of this they engage in meticulously-described sexual acrobatics, and they also witness meticulously-described tortures that make even the most hardened reader (me) physically ill. When reading either "Aztec" or "Raptor" you can rest assured that if things are getting a bit bogged down in philosophy or natural beauty, a flaying or an orgy is right around the corner.

As amazed as I am by Gary Jenning's audacity at writing historical novels which are simultaneously accurate and wildly exploitative and impossible, I have to admit that he's an incredible writer. In the pauses between the lesbian couplings and the guys whose guts splash out, his characters meditate on civilization and love, on warfare and writing, on the beauty of the universe and the beauty of the flowers. I have never read any other author who could pull this off so seamlessly that it becomes a genre unto itself...and for 750 pages, no less!

Here's to Gary Jennings. I wish I knew more about the man who wrote these books. In fact, I wish I could read at least one other review that bothered to mention this curious juxtaposition of brilliance and cheap smut.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Bonus Wisdom of the Taxi Drivers

I love talking to taxi drivers, and I think they sense this because whenever I get into a taxi they take note of where I've been and then they ask me personal questions.

They also dispense wisdom from distant lands. Yesterday, when I caught a taxi outside the Belmont Medical Centre, the taxi driver instantly asked me if I was sick.

We started talking about pain and he said "When you have pain in some part, all of your soul is in that part! Everything is important where there is soul!" He then told me exactly what's wrong with North Americans: "Mortgages!"

He has a good point. He says that instead of spending twenty years saving enough money to make a huge payment on a house -- the way they do it in Turkey, apparently -- we put ourselves into immediate debt by buying a house that we can't afford. Our mortgages are so big that we live in perpetual fear of losing our jobs, and the threat of joblessness is held over our heads by our employees and our government. We don't dare step out of line lest we lose our earning power and therefore our beloved houses.

I don't totally agree. Some of us (most of us?) don't step out of line because we don't see a big enough reason to; we are not convinced that things are so bad and the alternatives are so good. He also admitted that other parts of the world are beginning to embrace the idea of big mortgages for early houses, as advertised by America-own companies on television...on television even in Turkey.

But I do see his point. The problem probably has more to do with us not SAVING money as opposed to going into extravagant debt. Even before I had a mortgage I was afraid of losing my earning power, entirely because I didn't have a financial safety net to land in (and I still don't).

To all Turkish taxi drivers: stick to your principles. Speak truth to power. Remember that Park Street is closed and you will waste my money by trying to drive through it.


Many things have prevented me from blogging recently, not least my own laziness and ennui. My computer's hard drive totally died after my post about the importance of backups, requiring a trip to the repair shop (and then a total update of everything to Snow Leopard which does kick ass).

This misfortune was immediately followed by a five-day heatwave. Despite my perverse resistance to installing my window air conditioner -- and therefore many nights spent sweating buckets into my sodden bedding -- I learned two things about humans and heat:
  1. When people who live in an extremely HUMID area -- like those of us in Southern Ontario -- complain about 35-degree temperatures that feel like 42-degrees due to the humidity, people who live in DRY areas say -- repeatedly and disdainfully -- "Ha! It's that hot here ALL SUMMER!" To which I can only say: try going out in that heat with a wet towel wrapped around your nose and mouth.
  2. When people complain about the devastating heat, a subset of other people say "Ha! In the winter you complain about the cold, now you complain about the heat! You just like complaining!" This is like saying "You complained that you were thirsty, so you'd better not complain when I throw you in the pool and drown you!" However illogical it is to complain about the weather -- since nobody you complain to can actually change it -- it is NOT illogical to complain about temperature extremes.
I only mention this because people say these things all the time, and it's tiresome.

Anyway, I'm also living with a cat who is a bit like the Tazmanian Devil, only more hyperactive and noisy. She is a fearless destroyer of bookshelves. She has learned that the best way to send me leaping out of bed in the morning is to sharpen her claws on my mattress, which I imagine her doing with a big grin on her face.

As of this morning, Muffet is forbidden from entering my bedroom. This is difficult because I haven't lived with closed doors for over ten years, and also because I don't think she'll adapt quickly or quietly to this change. Her favourite window is in my bedroom, and so is the sock drawer. I foresee many challenging nights ahead.

Third obstacle: constant pain in my shoulders. Sometimes it's barely there, and other times it feels like my biceps and shoulders are being held together by old rusty rivets made out of bubbling lava.

When I told my family doctor that I was on a three-year waiting list to see a shoulder specialist, he had a fit of furious Irish passion and booked me for a series of examinations. Yesterday a delicate lady held an ultrasound paddle to my shoulders and we viewed the inside of my pathology: wavy lines of bone and fat surrounding ominous black holes of encysted fluid.

Then I crossed the hall to get some X-rays done. It was a much more respectable operation than the last place I went to, though it ALSO had a cupboard which emitted terrifying scrabbling sounds.

Most interesting was the woman who took the X-rays. She was brusque and businesslike, but every time she prepared to take another picture she'd say "Hold your breath!" in an incongruous sing-song way, like the way you'd speak to a mischievous child. I felt weird, standing there in my lead girdle, with this extremely professional lady buzzing around who would suddenly disappear into a booth and sing out -- as though she were offering me a popsicle -- "Hold your breath!"

In other news, I have joined the board for the condo corporation, which is a story I'll tell someday. I also joined the board for the Open Ears festival. I have added "The Toronto G-20" to the list of topics which must not be discussed in friendly company. I walked past my old apartment and saw that the vegetation grew back but the junker cars remain. I read "Babbitt" by Sinclair Lewis, "Day of the Triffids" by John Wyndham, and a beautiful book about undeciphered ancient scripts by Andrew Robinson. If I go on any sort of vacation this year it will hopefully be to Easter Island, because I want to see what their discos are like.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Dr. Seuss and Flit: "Wife Swap"

A "Dr. Seuss in Africa" that doesn't make my skin crawl more than a few feet! The lack of any dialect comedy helps, and also the gleeful cheer of the elephants.

Strangely, elephants are one of the few animals -- including cats and dogs -- which Seuss draws with a reasonable realism. Oh, I know their eyes are too close together and their feet protrude too much, but at least he hasn't put frills and stems all over them.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

"Hergest Ridge" Revisited

I've talked at length about my love for Mike Oldfield's classic albums. The fact that those albums are now being re-released in new 2010 deluxe editions is cause for celebration.

I already had the deluxe edition of "Tubular Bells." The demo material was fascinating and Oldfield's remixed versions were an interesting insight into previously-hidden aspects of the master tapes, but the remastering job of the original mix offered nothing new. I didn't expect it to: it's the mix I've been hearing all my life, of course.

Now his other two classics have been released. I'm most excited about "Ommadawn" -- which I haven't yet received -- and I didn't particularly care about "Hergest Ridge" until a fellow Oldfield fan said it was an album that could ONLY sound better if it were tweaked. Like, it was so poor that ANY treatment could improve it.

Many people consider "Hergest Ridge" to be unfocused, weak, and twee. I've always agreed but I bought the deluxe edition anyway...and HOLY FREAKING COW!

"Hergest Ridge" was released during a petrochemical shortage, so the 1974 vinyl was of notoriously bad quality. Also, Oldfield was unhappy with the final result and he mixed a new quadraphonic version in 1976...this is the version (flattened to stereo) that was eventually released on CD.

So all my life I've been listening to two versions of "Hergest Ridge": one that suffered so much from its crappy vinyl that all subtlety was removed, and another that was never properly for CD and was supposed to be quadraphonic to begin with.

I didn't think that mattered; I thought the album was "blah" from conception to execution, so poor reproduction couldn't make it any worse. I was totally wrong.

Right now I'm listening to the ORIGINAL 1974 stereo mix, finally liberated from poor-quality vinyl AND mastered for CD, and it's like hearing an entirely new album. The annoying reverb-heavy trumpet has become clear and clean and perfectly suited to the rest of the instruments. The acoustic guitar positively GLITTERS. The backup vocals are suddenly audible for the first time in places where I didn't even know they existed; that dreary "overdubbed guitar" section at the end of Part Two has been brought to ecstatic life by the grace of Sally Oldfield and Clodagh Simonds, howling away in the background.

There are so many differences to this mix that I have to keep checking to make sure it isn't one of the new "2010" mixes.

I'm thrilled that I can stand on this blog hilltop -- this ramshackle virtual ridge -- and proclaim that "Hergest Ridge" is genius. I've you've dismissed it, now's the time to give it another listen. If you've spent your life listening to the inferior versions then you will be totally amazed by what you hear.

The Beat!

Over the years I have become a better person, but there is still a type of person who frustrates me: she (or he) who monopolizes the dancefloor without any sense of "the beat."

"The beat" isn't hard. It's the drums. It's the bass. Unless it's a song by Tool then it's probably even in 4/4. Stay on The Beat and everybody gets along. Even if you're only looking for sex this is a good tip to keep in mind, because otherwise you look goofy and must fall back on your physical charm.

In honour of The Beat, here's Sophie Ellis-Bextor's "Murder on the Dancefloor." It's an indication of the sort of circus that a dancefloor is. And if you can't take the beat...

Saturday, July 03, 2010

A Quick Announcement

Backgammon was all the rage in New York City during the summer of 1930.

That is all.