Archive for December, 2012

last call for 2012

Last call for 2012! I should do some sort of big end-of-the-year recap post, and probably will on Monday, even though I’d actually rather talk about the 48fps 3D The Hobbit. There’s a lot to say, and some similarities to the arrival of colour in the black-and-white era. But that’ll have to wait until Wednesday, if I want that wrap-up post.

Or not. I may get ambitious. Hey, anything’s possible, don’t laugh. Just because I’ve been putting in 12 to 16 hour days in the Lair’s studio working on the next Leannan Sidhe album and a little on the Bone Walker soundtrack, that doesn’t mean I’m too wrung out to get anything done.

This party can’t be over, there’s still Scotch!

Or maybe it does, I dunno. XD

Talking of, Leannan Sidhe have gone home, to take a break for a few days and warm up for the next round in a week. Henchies are busy working on resetting the guest dormitory. The fairies are pretty neat, but the orcs, well, their ability to party is well known and well deserved.

Sunday readers, I wanted to throw out a last call for discounted physical CDs of Dick Tracy Must Die and Cracksman Betty. Free shipping in North America, even. But only until the first, so move fast. End of year sale and all that, eh? Just for you.

Finally, does your browser support the new WebAudio API? Check out this awesome shit. It’s a reimplementation of some BBC Radiophonic Workshop tools in WebAudio, from the BBC itself. Somebody test this and tell me how it works, I don’t want to install Chrome. But it sure looks cool.

she is a fighter pilot

RIP Gerry Anderson, who died today in Britain at age 83. Gerry, along with co-creator Sylvia Anderson, produced some of the most mad and most epic modernist SF television of the 1960s and 1970s, and continued working separately after he and Sylvia broke up between Series 1 and 2 of Space: 1999.

While not as globally famous as Doctor Who, you know his work. Thunderbirds, the global cult classic. Supercar, which never made any damn sense but was crazy awesome all the same. UFO, their first live-action series. Joe 90. Fireball XL-5. Stingray. Space Precinct. Our two household favourites, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons and Space: 1999 (series one, anyway). That’s not even the whole list.

Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons – and its worthy reboot/successor, Captain Scarlet (2005) – doesn’t get the mention it should, much of the time. The title character dies in the first ten minutes, and yes, he’s really dead. The rest of the series, he’s a Mysteron replicant. The war is started – thanks to a misunderstanding – by Earth; the resulting terror campaign is a conflict of nerves, to destroy Terran civilisation. In some episodes, the Mysterons win. And, shot in 1966, all the combat aircraft are flown by women.

Pilot Ready Room, Cloudbase. Combat pilots Destiny (Juliette Pontoin, French, from Paris), Harmony (Chan Kwan, Chinese, but born in Tokyo), and Melody (Magnolia Jones, African-American, from Atlanta). Take that, Star Trek.

Angels Symphony and Rhapsody are off-duty, so not in this picture.

I only met Gerry Anderson once, very briefly, at a convention. He was warm, friendly, gregarious, and talking to about a zillion fans in a row all at once, so it’s not even really a meeting. I didn’t know him. But I knew his work, and particularly, I knew his and Sylvia’s work. His shows weren’t always good – particularly not after Sylvia left – but sometimes, even often, they were amazing. While I know more than enough not to conflate the work with the artist, I’ll still miss him.

Might be time look up some episodes of Twizzle, and then for a Captain Scarlet (2005) marathon. From the start, to the finish. It was a hell of a run, Gerry. Thanks.

have some presents

It’s really weird when you’re done with your holidays but the big mass-culture one hasn’t quite happened yet because it’s on a kinda dumb calendar so everyone else is still in ramp-up mode and all the ads are going liek woah.

Except for Rite-Aid, which seems to be filling shelves with Valentine’s Day candy. Who knew?

Next week will be a huge recording week – I’ve been booked from the 26th through the 30th, by Leannan Sidhe, with backup time going to Bards of a Feather as available. I actually find I get a lot of things done that week, partly because nobody else is doing anything and therefore gets in your way. <3

Anyway, faithful minions who are reading these even now, have some fun links:

Have fun, everybody, and if I don’t say it before the first – happy new year!

that monitor and mouse look

Fourteen hours in the studio yesterday. A bunch more the day before. I’m swamped, but it’s kind of awesome. I was up later than intended last night because I found this thing I can’t talk about in a mix for someone else’s song and it’s pretty awesome but I can’t talk about it.


So instead, let’s see that dual-monitor setup! A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how old 4:3 monitors are basically free right now, and about what you need to set everything up. A couple of weeks in, I can report it works great, my workflow is tremendously improved, and I freed up SO much important desk space.

Enjoy some configuration photos:

Single-screen Windows, inside setup

For some reason, Windows XP only wants to use one of these cards at a time. If I boot up on the motherboard Intel video, it can see the Rage PCI card, but says it’s broken and can’t be used. If I boot up on the Rage PCI, it can’t see the motherboard card at all. I have no idea why, but since I don’t use XP for much, I don’t care enough to pursue it.

Single-screen Windows, inside setup

I’ll probably never use this configuration, but you never know.

Real work 1: inside setup, Ubuntu+Ardour

SO much real estate. I love it. I’ve played with it some more since I took this photo and for Ardour I’m actually separating the monitors a bit, and have editor view in one and mixer view in the other. This gets left monitor back to pretty much directly in front, which makes this a good editing arrangement.

Real work 2, outside setup, Ubuntu+Ardour

Good for recording other people. This is where I’ve been the last two days, pretty much nonstop. Again, pulling the monitors more apart a bit gives you better angles, and I’ve found myself doing that.

Here, I can look at performers and levels at the same time, and have full access to the control board. I angle the keyboard so it’s kind of between the two monitors, it’s awesome. I’ve found that I slide the audio interface forward for better access to the hardware controls, and that’s actually easier too because nothing’s in the way anymore.

Real work 3: self-recording

The instant I set this up, I reflexively tried using the screens as touchscreens, and was disappointed on some level when it didn’t work. If you have the dosh, do this with touchscreens – if they treat fingers as mice that’s good enough. I want this. I want it good.

The closest I’ve found to a downside is that this monitor stand holds altitude through friction and when you rotate the screen arms on the central post, it tends to sink a little. It doesn’t do this while stable, so once you set it, it’s good.

Anyway, no rest for the wicked. Ja ne!

is it not ironic

Remember all the things that got lost in the disastrous trip to Portland? Well, I’ve been replacing things, and the latest is the iPad that was part of the electronics set that went away with the flute and the rest of my backpack.

And of course it’s arriving the one day that I can guarantee that we can’t be here – at least, for half of the delivery window – because Anna has a followup medical appointment where she’ll need to be sedated lightly, which means she can’t drive. So ironic!

Which, of course, means you’re thinking, no, it’s not, you idiot. What is it with you and Alanis Morissette, don’t you know what classical irony actually means? Farfle farfle farfle farfle farfle.

Except this is a re-order. The original order form gave me an initial delivery date on this same day. And I knew I couldn’t be here because of said medical appointment. That caused me to need to route delivery to the Apple Store, following directions from phone support. Those directions turned out to be wrong, and for bonus points, the actual delivery date for that first order turned out to be a week earlier. And all that was apparently harmless until it turned into CLUSTERFUCK OF FAIL and the iPad got returned by the store, and that one’s still lost.

So Apple support sent a new one, as a re-order. And now this re-order’s new, actual delivery date is… back on the day when we’ll miss it.

It literally is just so ironic.

not that kind of irony


I’ve ordered it held for pickup by the shipping agency instead. Let’s find out whether this, too, can turn into tasty, tasty irony. The setup is there! But I hope not. Fun’s fun, but c’mon. I want my toy. GIMMIE!

tis the season to lose my packages

My replacement iPad – a mini – is Somewhere. Nobody knows where. Somewhere. The Apple store got it Wednesday morning at 10:32 and sent it back. “I’d wait a few days and see what happens.” THANKS GUYES. Now I get to play phone warz with FedEx and the online Apple Store.

And I hate phones. I am so pissed off right now.

But! I, by contrast, have not lost the packages with CDs that people have ordered! I’ll be hand-delivering a few more this weekend, and that’s the last of what I have so far. If you’re thinking of elfmetal as stocking stuffers? ORDER SOON! For best shipping, anyway. Dick Tracy Must Die, Cracksman Betty, both on yummy holiday discount.

And since we’re going to be talking money, apparently…

If any of you are Leannan Sidhe fans – and I know a few of you are – let’s talk about them for a second. They’ve been recording here, and down in Oregon, for their next album. Mixing is already started, mostly down at Alec’s. They have all the money they need to get recording and mixing finished, but are tight on mastering funds, so’ve launched an indiegogo campaign going to make up the difference and raise replication money. Give it a look.

See, I’ve talked a lot about the business of indie music, particularly in the Post-Scarcity Model article series (The Problem with All of This, The Damage is Worse Than I Thought, Even Pressing Play Makes My Fingers Ache, Touring, Part I, Touring, Part II, The Long Tail of Zero is Still Zero, The Same Model as Music), and one of the things I talked about was up-front money through patronage. If people don’t buy music once it’s out there – and a lot of them pretty much just don’t – then getting dosh in advance to do new work becomes really critical. If people believe in you enough to back you up front (Part A), piracy becomes almost unimportant. Anything you sell after – Part B – is profit, ramp up for next go, souvenirs, and PR.

Leannan Sidhe need a little more money to do the new things. They need their Part A help right now.

Me, I need some of my minions to give my current CDs to other, potential minions. That’s the back side of any album project; I had money up front to record, now I try to bootstrap on post-creation sales. Part B.

And that’s how we hope it works. Cycles, where Part A leads to Part B leads back to Part A. I’m running a couple of them in parallel – I’ve already got the money for the soundtrack album, or most of it, via Anna’s book kickstarter. That’s another, separate, Part A.

With a little luck, and a little help, it can become a virtuous cycle, and everybody wins except the RIAA, who can go fuck themselves. But that only happens if the cycle builds. Otherwise, you’re back to the labels and the DRM and the lockdown model, and everything sucks. If you care about music as art, then when you’re thinking about your holiday spending – think about that.

Because Heather Dale recently linked to this article on the necessity of music. Music is entertainment – but it’s not just that. I like to say that music is the written language of emotion, and I mean that in a literal sense. It can be fiction, it can be nonfiction, we don’t have good language for this so I borrow words from literature which don’t quite work, but you get the idea.

Karl Paulnack goes further than I, in that aforementioned article, paraphrasing the ancient Greeks as saying it’s “…the opposite of entertainment… music was seen as the study of relationships between invisible, internal, hidden objects. Music has a way of finding the big, invisible moving pieces inside our hearts and souls and helping us figure out the position of things inside us.”

There’s a whole hell of a lot of entertainment out there, and I don’t mean to disparage it; entertainment is healthful. It’s important, too. It’s approachable. It’s fun. You can get tired of it, but having your fill every so often is good for you.

But those of us who are, in our vain little ways, insisting on trying to do something more like art, more like that moving of invisible pieces inside our hearts – we’re not as approachable. We don’t pattern-match as well. It might have a good beat, but it can be pretty damned hard to dance to.

Are songs like Hide from Me “entertainment” music? Fuck no. It’s brutal and hard and mean and that’s on purpose. It’s on the album as a statement. And the same people who call you “quite brilliant” for it turn you down for tours because you’re not labelly enough.

That’s why we really need people who believe in what we’re doing – the people who throw in the up-front money, the people who think that art matters – to fuel that virtuous cycle.

So go give that Leannan Sidhe funding gap project a look. Be their Part A. Think about Dick Tracy Must Die and Cracksman Betty as gifts; fuel our Part B.

And maybe we’ll manage to epoxy something together out of all this yet.

from the outside looking further out

There’s no such thing as GoodListens, is there?

Sure, there are music reviewers, a few. But while lots of people review books they read on their journals and blogs, and while is pretty much a staple of both the geek community and the greater reading community, you don’t seem to see so much of that for music.

I do wonder why. Is it the lack of music education, leading to a lack of common vocabulary? Is it the marketing from the labels, turning people off? Both combined plus something else? I honestly don’t know.

But occasionally people do post reviews! It’s really great to see them, particularly since they’re pretty uncommon and obviously difficult. Paul Tristan Fergus at Diamond Island gave Cracksman Betty a really nice write-up a few days ago – there’s even a little cartoon with it. I swoon! Also, at the 5/5 rating. Yay!

If you don’t mind a little politics, this quote gets to the heart of things:

There’s an element of public disobedience inherent in the songs, of being a lowdown outsider who is unapproved of by the rulers. In a way this is just what a gathering of super-villains actually is: ordinary people with extraordinary viewpoints hearing the call to gather into an assembly and defy authority that serves only a few superheroes and their estates. Hanging out in the pub singing songs might be the most dangerous place on earth for the League of Justice for the Fortunate Few.

Yeah. We may be part of the problem, but we are not part of that problem. You’ll see some of that closer to the surface in Din of Thieves – albeit leavened by humour, like always.

Talking of, albums cost money to make. And that takes fan support. If you’re willing, help share the… love? rage? problem? All of the above? Physical CDs are still on holiday discount. Dick Tracy Must Die is $10, Cracksman Betty is a piffle at $5, and there’s still time before the holidays for shipping. Or if you just want to download and hand over files, that works fine for me!

But people still like physical presents, as far as I can tell. Particularly in stockings. Particularly when the Elfin National Resistance Front has finally got to that sweatshop-running bastard, Nicholas Santa “the Hutt” Claus. “Saint” Nicholas, my shiny metal ass:

Nobody expects the tinsel garrotte. Nobody.

on starting a supervillain society

Google+ has opened up communities. There aren’t any supervillain guilds. I kinda want to start one – but I don’t have a name yet.

I don’t want to reuse The Guild of Calamitous Intent – that’s an epic tag, but let’s have something new. (Plus, I want to keep my Guild membership.) And it can’t be generic.

But ‘Guild’? I like Guild. That’s a nice word. So I’ve been playing with that. Guild of Strategic Interventionists isn’t bad, but isn’t right yet. Infelicitous Action Guild is a little too Silver Age DC if you keep the “Guild” part – even morseo if you swap out “Guild” for “League.”

Society of Superpowered (not superhuman, thanks) Instigators isn’t terrible, but isn’t there. Fellowship of Felons sounds like a bunch of hobbits and says nothing about lulz, mad, or science. Supervillainy United has plusses, except for sounding a bit much like a football team; Fiends Unlimited is a little too 1990s Marvel; Confederated Criminality just sounds like the mob, with pretensions. (Still, it’s better than – lol – “Intergang.”)

You can see the difficulty here.

Infelicitous Action, though. It’s kind of hanging out in my head. Infelicitous Action…


Internally contradictory, as all such organisations tend to be so let’s get that right out there. Implies subversion – always fun – and has the word “action” which expresses dynamism. Kind of keeps the spirit of the Guild. Leaves room for non-superpowered non-mad-scientist actors such as agents of SPECTRE.

Most of all, does not exclude lulz.


I have to think on this some more. But… hmm.

PS: This is what a link from The Old New Thing does to your stats:

No, those weren’t all zeroes before. It was quite bumpy.

…makes them utterly useless. Yay! HI NEW PEOPLE! 😀

all about the learning tracks

Productive we so far; we got the last of Leannan Sidhe’s major guitar recording down in the lair. Still a few drop-ins to do, and fixes, but the heavy lifting in guitar is over. Yay!

Today, I’m busy building out melody parts for the Free Court of Seattle soundtrack album. I made learning tracks for the traditional music a couple of weeks ago, for the other musicians appearing on the album, but the fight scene set is really difficult to understand, so…

…I might explain what a learning track is. And a set, for that matter.

Okay! So, the basic element of Irish music is the “tune.” It’s a melody, typically in repeating parts (A/B, often A/B/C, sometimes A/B/C/D or more) which may and may not have basic chord and/or drum accompaniment. The melody is the defining element of the tune; the rest is optional. Here’s an example tune:

A set is simply a collection of tunes arranged together into a longer piece. As in hiphop, flow is critical, tho’ instead of lyric flow it’s melodic flow. These were historically performed in participatory playing circles, at pubs, in sessions. Those tend to look a bit like this:

The learning tracks I’ve been working on are rough mockups of some of the sets which will be appearing on the Free Court of Seattle book series soundtrack. (The link is to Book 1 on Amazon; also in print, B&N/Nook, and Kobo). You build learning tracks by taking other peoples’ performances and editing them together into a single recording that can be studied and learned from.

Most of the sets for this album are traditional; that’s intentional, being the music that informs the early parts of the book series. But for one set – for a conflict scene involving kitsune, a dragon, Our Heroes, and so on – we’re bringing in some Japanese traditional music.

To make this melding work, I’ve written a variation on one of the Irish standards as a bridging piece, and am not so much building a set as arranging the elements like one would for an orchestral piece. It’s… complicated.

And since some of this has never been recorded by anyone – my March towards Lisdoonvarna, mostly – the current learning track is a hideous mashup of flute and taiko, bagpipes and accordion, and me whistling something nobody’s heard before into a microphone.

Worst. Learning track. Evar. It’s totally incoherent.

So I’m currently learning all of these parts the hard way, and playing them on bouzouki. Once it’s all on the same instrument, it makes a lot more sense. But I’m not traditionally a big melody player on strings, which means I’m learning! new! skills! and means it’s taking for-bloody-evar.

But it’ll be cool.

Finally, a reminder from the Guild: don’t let the supervillain get bored. All CDs are on sale, so give them to friends and rivals, frenemies and nemeses, and help spread the rage. Besides, we need the money to record our new music. We can steal everything but time, and it’s just plain faster sometimes to buy things, you know? I mean honestly, who wants to spend time planning the grand supertheft of a breakfast bagel? I have better things to do. Or worse. Muah ha ha.

and now it is time for gift-giving season

In much of the world now, it’s gift-giving season! So I’m putting the CD copy of Dick Tracy Must Die on special sale at Bandcamp: it’s $9.99, the same as the digital download.

Also, I’ve added a physical CD of Cracksman Betty, for $4.99, also the same price as the digital download. It’s the version we sell at shows.

If you like our music – and if you’re reading this I imagine you do – help us find new listeners and fans! Give these discounted copies to people you think would like them. At $4.99 and $9.99, they’ll make really good stocking stuffers.

Besides, it helps pay for the new album we’re working on, which is no small thing. Din of Thieves is going to be pretty epic if I have anything to say about it – and my Rainmaker 68000 says I do – but even volcano-powered generators aren’t free, and the more time we have to spend stealing things, the less time we have to work on the album.

And we all want us working on the album, rather than working on taking over the west coast, don’t we?

I thought so.

So! Spread the love. Or the terror. Whatever. Buy copies to give to other people. Warn them we’re coming, muah ha ha. If you’re nervous about buying straight from the supervillain, Dick Tracy Must Die is also on CD Baby, and they’re… ugh… reputable and shit.

So go! Spread the holiday fear! And as always, minions, you have a special place in my heart, so – try not to die, okay? Thanks.

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