ravencon this weekend

26
Apr

Hey folks, just a quick reminder that I’ll be at Ravencon in Williamsburg this weekend with Dimensional Riffs, in our official con debut. Yes, this band played a couple of bar gigs this summer with a different line-up, but this is the first big show for this particular version of the band, and I think we’ve got some pretty cool stuff to share.

Either that, or it’ll be a total train wreck. no matter what, it’ll be interesting, so you should definitely come out and bear witness.

According to the con schedule, we’re in the following slots:

  • Friday, 4/28 – 6pm, Large Auditorium
  • Saturday, 4/29 – 6pm, Small Auditorium

I also plan on being at the music jam on Friday night, 10pm, in Room 5, making music for and with anybody who shows up, so come on by!

We’ll have our limited edition, hipster-approved, artisanally-burned CDs for the low, low price of FIVE DOLLARS!, if you’re interested, and we hope you are. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty cool.

Anyway, pimping over. Enjoy!

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fast, furious, ridiculous

24
Apr

Last week, I got an insanely good deal on the blu-ray box set of the Fast and the Furious series; seven films with a space included to add the eighth film (currently in theaters) down the road. it also has a light up dashboard on the cover, for some unfathomable reason.

Go ahead and laugh; these movies are a pure guilty pleasure, and the franchise has done something very rare, shifting genres from low-budget street racing crime drama to over-the-top, physics defying heist action flicks that only make sense when you assume the characters have super powers, while still retaining backyard BBQs, bottle of Corona, and sledgehammer subtlety about family being the most important thing. They’re cheesy yet earnest, empty calorie thrill rides that I find myself getting a big kick out of, especially the more recent ones as their connection to reality becomes more and more tenuous.

In between all the other stuff on the schedule, we watched a couple of these flicks this weekend (I started with three, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift because it introduces Han Seoul-Oh, by far the best character in the movies, and also, strangely,includes his death, which leads to this movie being pushed into a future timeline (where everybody in Japan uses Nokia flip-phones in presumably 2013 Japan), taking place after film six, and leading to drinking-game worthy dialogue in each movie in the interim about how he’ll get to Tokyo “eventually,” which is wonderful retcon cheese that makes me love the silliness even more.

Anyway, Fast and Furious 6 is well into the cartoony, superhero heist evolution, and the final setpiece involves a bit where a bunch of cars, jeeps and motorcycles chase a cargo plane carrying the villains and macguffin along a runway. This sequence lasts over thirteen(!) minutes, with everybody barrelling forward at speed. As the film wrapped, my wife and I looked at each other and commented about how that must be one long runway.

The internet is a wonderful thing, because Vulture.com did the math, calculating in a runway approximately 29 miles long, which is approximately four times the length of the longest runway ever to exist on the planet.

I still love it, and a 29 mile runway is just as realistic as the bit where they jump the tank around the elevated highway and Vin Diesel leaps off the car to catch Michelle Rodriguez mid-air and land on another car and just get up and walk it off.

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not this shit again

24
Apr

I had a pretty decent weekend. The kid totally rocked the prom with her vintage dress, the post-prom “event” at my place didn’t result in the teens trashing my house (thanks kids), my favorite farmer was at the farmers’ market on Saturday morning to sell me some awesome produce, I had a successful practice session with Dimensional Riffs ahead of our gig next weekend, and the new Humdingers tunes we’re working on sound amazing.

And this week’s a short one (I’m taking a long weekend to prepare for and recover from the ‘con), though it’ll probably still pass 40 hours given the canine-and-equine exhibition I have to run on Tuesday and all the driving involved there, although it’s pretty quiet otherwise, so I might actually get some work done instead of sitting in meetings.

Of course, while pulling out of the driveway this morning, I hear the dulcet tones of Rachel Martin and Steve Inskeep talking, once again, about averting a government shutdown one more time because Congress has to pass the funding bill by the end of the week or they lock the doors on the federal government…again.

I understand the media, even the nice folks at NPR, like to talk about this because it’s drama on a deadline, even though for the most part, this stuff is routine (although why we don’t just write the rules so there’s an automatic continuation I’ll never understand), or should be. But this time, we’re talking about adding provisions to fund that stupid wall business, and that seems like a hill that the President might actually be willing to figuratively die on, and the folks on the left opposing it just might not be able to resist the symbolism of having the government shut down on the 100th day of his Presidency.

Either way, I’m left holding the bag, wondering if I’m going to be working (or getting paid) next week. The Feds, are, of course, making preparations for the “unlikely” event; which, even if they are just statutory (after this happened in 2013, the law says they have to make basic preparations if it comes this close), part of me still worries a bit.

So, in any case, I’ll keep my eyes on it, and hope for the best.

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friday random eleven twelve: “scattered data points” edition

21
Apr

Happy Friday, everybody. And, it’s been mostly happy this week. I’ve made incremental progress in a couple of areas at work (though I have a quarterly dog and pony show in DC next week I’m not thrilled about), I tracked a *lot* of parts for the new Blibbering Humdingers project in my evenings, hit level 30 in Pokemon Go thanks to the Easter event’s double XP, and remained remarkably patient in the face of frantic last-minute prom (mostly after-prom) plan changes from my eldest child.

I’ve also, on my doctor’s recommendation, been tracking weight since mid-week daily using some neat tools that came along with a prescription I’m on (I got a free internet-enabled scale that texts me motivational messages and tracks changes in an online spreadsheet – woo technology, I guess?), and have mostly learned that my weight fluctuates wildly day to day so far. A couple of more days and the signal-to-noise ratio will probably be better as I get more data points. Oh well. Thanks to this pill, though, my appetite is way down, my energy level is up, and the cravings/stress eating impulses are gone. I don’t know if I’m trending down yet (again, few data points), but I feel like I am, which is good at this point.

No huge plans for the weekend; there’s prom which will eat up a lot of it, and band rehearsal on Sunday (first gig for this incarnation of Dimensional Riffs is next weekend), but otherwise, I want to get out on the bike a bit, and, you know, not be at the office, because although the work itself is progressing, I’ve been having serious frustration with the trappings, things like leaving my ID behind, either at home (requiring me to turn around and go get it) or leaving it in my office when I go out for lunch (requiring me to do the security-window-walk-of-shame at the visitor gate), and I can’t really figure out why.

Anyway – tunes. I worked some “new indie” station into my shuffle this week (also “Yacht Rock”, because why the hell not?), and kind of fell in love with Amber Arcades‘s sound, which has a nice Liz Phair Guyville vibe to it, and a neat story. Gonna be big.

Also, apparently, I can’t count.

  1. No Quarter – Led Zepplin
  2. Life on Mars – David Bowie
  3. Making Art – JD Samson & MEN
  4. S.O.B. – Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats
  5. The Torture Never Stops – Dweezil Zappa
  6. If You Leave – OMD
  7. Carolina Hard-Core Ecstacy (live) – Frank Zappa & Captain Beefheart
  8. Sara Smile – Daryl Hall and John Oates
  9. It Changes – Amber Arcades
  10. Again – Slow Hollows
  11. Something Here – Day Wave
  12. Ventura Highway – America

And hey – to keep the “eleven/Stranger Things” thing going, here’s the new MST3K crew riffing the first couple of minutes of the first episode!

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happy discount candy day, spring edition

17
Apr

it’s monday. yep.

I’m still feeling pretty okay; all told. It’s refreshing, but kind of weird, to be operating without significant anxiety. Life hasn’t changed, at all, really, though dealing with it’s got much easier; I recognize the problems, but they don’t weigh on my so heavily. I’m eating less, sleeping better, and, all, is, if not right with my world, more than tolerable. I’m really hoping it stays this way.

The weekend was pretty typical, aside from the Easter baskets. Friday afternoon, most of us went bumming around James River Park, particularly Belle Isle and Brown’s Island. For those not aware, there’s a great big bit of green space in the middle of downtown Richmond, including legit whitewater rapids, miles of hiking trails, and lots of neat little historical bits. A lot of the impetus for the trip was to get some nice “senior” photos of the first born (mostly for the senior slideshow thing the dance school will do at the recital), though it ended up being a really nice, several mile walk along and across the river (and I hatched a bunch of pokemon eggs too). After that, we had nice dinner out, then settled in to watch a bit of the new MST3K on Netflix (it’s really, really good).

Saturday, among other little bits here and there, I ran another session of D&D for my group of newbie grad students; so much fun was had. They’re pirates now, after running my oft-used Goonies rip-off homage adventure in pursuit of the artifacts left behind by the notorious sourge of the seas, “Crabface” Stanley. This was followed by more MST3K (this is a theme).

Sunday was largely chill; little bit of candy, a nice meal, more MST3K (see?), some laundry, some reading, and some music – I spent some time learning a couple of tin-pan alley tunes on ukulele (which fit the milieu of the item mentioned later in this run-on sentence), and late in the day, I got a bunch of in-process tracks from the upcoming Humdingers record to work on, which I’ll drop some tracks on over the next week or two. This batch includes, among other things, “Trolley Witch Blues”, which I wrote and S&K were fond enough of to deem worthy of inclusion into the Humdinger ouvre. We laid some guitar tracks down for it the other weekend, though I need to put a bass line and a new guitar solo on it. I think I’m going to use my dad’s old SG to do that; I think he’d have gotten a kick out of my using it in this context.

That’s life as it stands, other than sending kids back to school after spring break (I had lots of fun tossing fresh laundry at them to fold while yelling “Woo Spring Break!” Kitty Sanchez style this week, because I’m an awful person). Jury’s still out on how they’re going to do today.

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friday random eleven: “feeling good enough to wax philosophical about my place in the ensemble” edition

14
Apr

it’s Friday, which is nice. Actually the outlook around these parts is not awful. Thanks to the nice weather, and let’s face it, the the dosage adjustments from the doc, I’ve been feeling a lot better; it’s not that the world or work or anything has gotten less uncertain or threatening – that’s about the same, or worse, on the global front (when NPR is sounding apocalyptic, you start to pay attention) – but I am (provisionally at this point) able to see past my personal cloud of despair and see some of the good stuff.

I got some additional solo biking in this week; I am starting to remember how nice those rides along the river loop at Dutch Gap can be for clearing the head, and I need to make the effort to work that back into my routine, and maybe melt away some of the extra self I’ve packed on thanks to the crazy stress and anxiety the last several months.

Last night we got the band back together…for our weekly rehearsal – the Ravencon debut of the new, improved lineup of Dimensional Riffs is coming up real soon now, so we need to get our stuff together, arranged, and ready for performance. After spending the last couple of weeks on the CD, our original stuff is solid, though the covers we’re filling out the set with started to suffer a bit, so we need to wrok on those, get off book and confident with them. Well, *I* do at least – especially since I need to re-acquaint myself with playing with a bass player instead of *being* the bass player, and doing it on an electric guitar, which is something I haven’t done in a long time, at least on stage in the group context.

warning: musician shop-talk musings ahead: I’m mostly used to playing acoustic anymore when I go six strings, which allows me to fill a bunch of shoes in a group context in a pinch; an acoustic guitar, especially a jumbo like mine, does a lot to cover low-end and percussion sounds, adding a bit of “oomph”, or substance to the overall sound of the ensemble, resulting in a “fuller” sound when you’re lacking some important players. The electric guitar, while it can be powerful, lacks some of that depth of sound on its own, especially when, as in the DR context, you’re lacking a percussionist; it’s just a bit thinner, at least to my ears. Our bassist D.J. is, in many ways, a better bass player than I am; working in all kinds of interesting runs and some clever fretboard acrobatics (he calls it “taking it for a walk”), which leaves me off the hook a lot for carrying the upper end/embellishment stuff I’d normally do – I’m struggling a bit adjusting (or rather trusting) my playing with the fancy Telecaster rig to carry the rhythm stuff in a way that lends solidity to the ensemble’s overall expression, especially as we lack percussion in order to give us an instrumental sound I’m happy with, and full enough to support the great vocal harmonies the girls are coming up with.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say, is that I have some work to do in the next two weeks (or give up and just play the acoustic, but I really wanna play my pretty new guitar!), but if I finally have the mind-space to worry about this, I’m doing pretty well in terms of overall anxiety management. Yay me.

Oh yeah, we shot some band photos this week too!

Here’s today’s random playlist – so, so indie:

  1. “Manic Monday” – The Bangles
  2. “Smooth Criminal” – Michael Jackson
  3. “Drag” – Day Wave
  4. “Intro” – the xx
  5. “Home” – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroez
  6. “Flashed Junk Mind” – Milky Chance
  7. “A Punk” – Vampire Weekend
  8. “The Underdog” – Spoon
  9. “Heartbeats” – Jose Gonzalez
  10. “Fade Into You” – Mazzy Star
  11. “Where Is My Mind” – The Pixies
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talking weekends through the fourth dimension

12
Apr

My weekend finally ended last evening. I took a couple of days off to support a couple of commitments and to maybe, sort of, get a little bit of rest here in the early spring. That last bit didn’t quite work, but I got stuff done.

The big event was the trip to Sweet Briar College for accepted students’ weekend on Sunday/Monday. This was really all about the firstborn’s experience, though I’d never been to the campus before, so it was a good experience for me. The kid loves it, and I can see why; it’s a gorgeous campus, not dissimilar to where I spent my undergrad years – lots of old brick, green grass, and fat squirrels running around. Being a very small college in the best of years, and especially after recovering from the recent hiccup, the only weird thing about it was walking around Monday (after spending Sunday in seminars, academic fairs, and campus tours) while classes were in session (the incoming accepted students got to audit a couple of classes), was that it felt kind of empty. I would have expected, on a warm spring day, to see kids in groups in the public areas, or sitting against a tree reading, or you know, milling around. Of course, the whole student body was in class somewhere; and those class sizes were pretty much all smaller than a dozen students, which, if you’re looking for an academic environment that would work for my kid, is pretty much perfect. Still, I kind of missed the blanket of student life just out and about; all the signs of it happening were there, I think I just missed it due to timing and the logical application of a small student population. In any case, the faculty, staff and students I talked to were uniformly pretty great, and I was very impressed with the place as a parent of one of next year’s First Years.

I kind of crashed Monday afternoon; it’s been a busy and stressful couple of weeks, and it pretty much wrecked me. Tuesday I had a medical appointment, which even though I’m in generally okay shape, is always a little stressful. I got some new stuff to try to sort out some of the rough edges; we’ll see how that goes. After that, I took care of grocery shopping I went on a nice bike ride along the river with the youngest (did I mention that? spring break), took a little time to read, and then got dragged out to the local, somewhat anachronistic skating rink for two-dollar-tuesdays, again with the youngest, as the middle one was hours deep into an Overwatch orgy and the eldest was out at the beach for the day with “the squad”.

I hadn’t been on roller skates in a few years, but I got my rink legs back pretty quickly. As I’ve probably said before in the more than a decade of musings archived in this space, roller rinks always perk up my nostalgia circuits, since I *lived* in roller rinks from elementary through mid-high school, because that was a thing we used to do. Things honestly haven’t changed much since then; I’m always amazed that stepping into a roller rink is like stepping back to 1988 or so. Same decorations, same carpet, same old brown and orange rental skates, same tables and crappy pizza in the snack bar. Half the music was from the period as well – “It Takes Two” from Rob Base and DJ EZ-Rock? Salt-n-Peppa? Yep. Only thing missing was a couples’ skate set to Atlantic Starr’s “Always” or “Almost Paradise” by Ann Wilson and Mike Reno.

I had thought that my rental size 11s seemed a little “off”, though I wrote it off to them being rentals until about 90 minutes into the session, I tossed a wheel going around a turn (while executing a pretty nice crossover maneuver) and I dropped myself gracefully to the rink surface in the opposite direction of the wheel. Oh yeah. I bet there are still the remnants of badly packed bearings somewhere. That was about it for me (it was a two-hour skate). Still, I had a decent time on a day when I was dealing with a bit of anxiety.

Rest of the week (other than the Spring Break stuff) is pretty standard for me; I’m going to try to get some more biking in (I need to get my mileage back up), do some band practice later this week, and just try to get through all of this…life.

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this is gonna be great

10
Apr

…it may even Ragna-Rock! (I’m sorry).

Here’s the teaser trailer for Thor: Ragnarok:

It’s not like the other Thor movies, and that’s okay. This one, in large part, I think due to director Taikia Waititi (seriously, go see What We Do In The Shadows to get a sense of his sensibility – it’s on amazon prime; I’ll wait), is going to embrace the comic-bookiness and camp of 70s and 80s Marvel, and it’s going to be amazing. Hemsworth has always had an easy charisma and had a surprising gift for comedy; it looks like we’re finally going to finally see a Thor movie take advantage of it (the last two were good, but not the phenomena the other “founding” series and GotG were), and I think we’re really in for a treat.

Plus, you know, they manage to work in the classic “Planet Hulk” storyline without making The Illuminati (or at least those of them currently in the MCU) look like dicks to do it.

Marvel films, while always including humor, have been a bit heavy lately (particularly Civil War); 2017, with this, GotG vol 2 and, I hope, Spider-Man: Homecoming, is going to be the year of the romp, and that’s totally okay.

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friday random eleven – “making the things” edition

07
Apr

Happy Friday to you all, more or less. I will admit to a little deja vu, as yesterday felt an awful lot like Friday to me, which is never a great thing to have happen to someone on a Thursday, as you can imagine.

The week’s been the usual weirdness and uncertainty, though I’ve made some progress in a couple of areas at work that make things a bit easier; I got a few answers on a couple of things, which at least means I can make plans and adjust for the resources I’m not getting. This is the way of the world here in this particular public sector agency; we’re all frustrated. I heard a senior executive diss the president in a phone conference yesterday, which was novel; the current freeze on new regulations is putting serious limit on what kind of progress policy-making organizations can do in terms of implementing policy, it would seem.

Otherwise this week, I’ve been putting work into the first, limited-edition, live-around-the-mic-like-1920s-jazz-musicians, artisanally-burned CD release from my non-Humdingers project, Dimensional Riffs, which we’re calling “Live in the Boudoir”, since we recorded it in one of the vocalists’ bedrooms. We did the bulk of recording a couple of weeks ago, but did some pick-up stuff this week, and I spent several hours (mostly last night) hunched over a laptop bending the results to my will with various sound editing and processing applications (primarily tracktion and audacity), and knocking out a handful physical copies so we’ll have some stock to sell to our small cadre of “fans”, assuming we actually have any, at the gigs we have coming up.

It’s not much, just six seven (shhhhh….) tracks to give folks a taste of what we have to offer and maybe open up a few more gigs. There are a few bum notes and things that I couldn’t correct with studio wizardry (honestly, I’m still learning), but overall, it’s not an embarassing thing to be involved with (and a couple of tracks are things I’m legitimately proud of), and ideally, it’ll drum up enough interest to make investing in a “real” multi-track release worth the effort in the coming months.

It’s certainly something I feel comfortable asking five bucks for.

This weekend opens up spring break for the kids, and I’m taking a couple of days as well, mostly to fill in a couple of doctor’s appointments, and to be able to hit the student/parent orientation thing at SBC so I can finally see where my college money’s gonna go next year.

Otherwise, I’m going to relax a little after the busy week, and hope that last night’s 59 cruise missles’ worth of orange machismo doesn’t open up something larger on the 100th anniversary or our getting involved in another global spanning conflict that had a lot to do with chemical weapons.

But let’s not end on a thought like that – to celebrate our random eleven and a movie watched a bit of this week when my kid had it on, here’s Doctor Stranger Things, who it turns out, is actually a friend of a friend in the mid-atlantic sci-fi community:

And now some music. A slightly AAA mix this time around, because it turns out that that’s where I had my Pandora playlist targeted for at least the beginning of things. As I type this, I’m seven minutes into track eight’s 23, so I’ll get this posted sometime in the next century, without commentary on what could be a pretty embarassing back third:

  1. “Lonely Boy” – The Black Keys
  2. “Mess Around” – Cage the Elephant
  3. “Where The Streets Have No Name” – U2
  4. “Human” – Rag’n’Bone Man
  5. “Riptide” – Vance Joy
  6. “Soul to Squeeze” – RHCP
  7. “Skirnir” – Falkenbach
  8. “Thick as a Brick” – Jethro Tull
  9. “Blister in the Sun” – Violent Femmes
  10. “Space Oddity (live ’72)” – David Bowie
  11. “Madness” – Muse
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no reason

06
Apr

other than this is probably the best thing ever:

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