Tuesday, December 26, 2006

James Brown - The Godfather is dead, Long Live the Godfather

I cannot explain the powerful impact that James Brown has had on my life. Is the music profound? Yes, in a guttural, tribal, Darwinian survival instinct way. It is sex, it is life. Was he a hero or saint? No. But let's face it, could a saint sing Sex Machine Part 1?!!(which has been my ringtone for the past year.)
Here is a link to a video of JB at the height of his powers in the 70's:

As a suburban white kid I cannot figure out why this crazed soul legend has so deeply embedded his music in my psyche. Heaven is "Doin' it to Death" on vinyl. On my Dream Board of Directors it is JB, Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix. If only Warren Buffet had recorded "Funky Drummer" he might be invited too.
Here's the thing: Whatever I do, it gots to be funky.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Am I crazy or does Cubase sound better than Protools??

Look I know the old axiom of garbage in/garbage out but I am now entirely convinced that the Steinberg Audio engine far surpasses the Protools system in terms of audio depth and warmth.
This is of course entirely subjective. I took a song that was tracked on Protools and exported it to Cubase SX 3.0 (No, I have not rushed to upgrade). I mixed it in Cubase and then mixed it in Protools using the same monitors, amps etc. I didn't use any plugins, mixed dry with only the built in EQs. The Cubase mix of the exact same tracks had a depth and warmth that made the Protools mix sounds cold, icy and brittle.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Personal Portable Solar Power

I have got to get one of these. It is the Solio portable solar power charger. It can be used to charge iPods, cell phones and a lot of other mobile electronics. Very cool.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Mash-Upical Mystery Tour

I have been listening to the "new" Beatles album LOVE for the past week. It is the soundscape/sound track for the newish Cirque du Soleil/Vegas monstrosity LOVE (housed in the former Sigfried and Roy space at the Mirage). I am absolutely torn by this project.
1) The Beatles are holy in my humble opinion but, a little mash up action is always interesting (Kudos to Dangermouse).
2) Cirque du Soleil are pretty cool but with 1,000 shows running simultaneously in Vegas their schtick is wearing a bit thin. To make things worse they have to tackle this well respected canon without offending a bevy of stakeholders including surviving widows, 2 band members, the real 5th Beatle Sir George and of course the legions of fans young and old.
3) so I am a fan of the band; the producer and actually his son too, and the troupe that has commissioned this work.
4) When it works Jesus its good, when it doesn't it isn't bad but it is certainly nothing new.
First impressions: The strings leap from being a mere backing track to a rich, soulful experience. For instance when listening to Elanor Rigby, it is as if you are sitting in a semicircle with the octet and Paul. You can hear the wood aching and creaking on the cellos. Just great.
I am the Walrus, again the poignant strings stand out but the new mix is a bit too crisp, the clarity is like lasix treatment for kaleidoscope eyes, too much clarity strips away some of the mystery and psychedelia. The mashups that work are Within You Without you superimposed over the monster drum beat/drone of Tomorrow Never Knows. The tabla beat sitting under Here Comes the Sun works not only sonically but also as a tribute to George.
The other thing I walked away with is how POWERFUL Ringo's playing is. He is maligned and underrated for sure but these remixes highlight just how remarkably powerful his playing is. From the Symphonic tom flourishes of A Day in the Life to the freight train chug of I am the Walrus (Sorry Bohnham fans, this is possibly the sludge rock freakin drum track of all time, it GROOVES like nothing I have ever heard.) (Ok, with several exceptions mostly from Ringo himself, Bill Ward and Bonham)(for those keeping track this si the 3rd paranthetical statement. I swear to God that Bonham's beat on "When the Levee Breaks" is a direct tribute to "I am the Walrus".)
I'd rather here the original mixes cleaned up and re-mastered or re-created from the original takes. Let it Be Naked showed how beautiful this could be. Stop screwing around with the limber limbed Canadians and get us the real stuff.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Home Recording - Gearlust!

I have been lusting after one of these after hearing about it after last year's NAMM show.
The Presonus Faderport looks to be the coolest solution for home studios with limited desk space. A 100mm motorized fader that can be assigned to each channel as needed!
Awesome idea.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Portable USB Flash Drive Applications Rule!

portableapps logo, free software, open source, mobile computing

I have been using portableapps on a 1 gig USB Flash Drive from CFGear for a few months now. I am totally hooked. John Haller has created one of the coolest things ever. I think I could probably ditch my laptop all together and just carry the thumb drive loaded with PortableApps Suite. (The only thing I would add is Portable Skype which is essential.) And the best part? It is free.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Can I get this for Skype?!

I have been looking for a unit like this for Skype. I have been using portable Skype on my USB drive but still have to carry my Handset around.

Did you Grow up in the 70's?

If you were born during the Johnson or Nixon administrations you might recognize the kids clothes in this spot from my friends at www.cfgear.com. This is their Christmas Promotion for USB sticks, Flash Drives and MP3 players:

Thursday, November 16, 2006

P2P is not killing the music industry!!

napster, all of mp3, itunes, mp3

I read the most rational, reasoned analysis of the state of the music industry on Save The Music Fan. Terry McBride, CEO of the Nettwerk Music Group, shares his insights on the current state of the record business, file sharing, piracy and the whiny idiocy that illegal downloads are ruining the industry.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

This Just In - iPod is Compatible with MAC OSX!!

ipod, zune, mac , vista, microsoft
apple, steve jobs, bill gates
But evidently the Zune is not compatible with Windows Vista. Can that be possible??
Read about it here.

Interview with Jimi Hendrix Photographer

There is an interesting interview with famed Rock photographer Robert M. Knight on FPE TV.
He discusses being onstage with Hendrix, taking photos during his last show in the U.S.
Always tune in to FPE for the latest news on guitars and guitar equipment.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Solar Power - Now!

solar energy
A few years ago I read "The Sun, The Internet and the Genome" by Freeman Dyson. It is short, insightful look at how current technological developments will shape our short-term future. He is not making wild sci-fi type predictions but looking at realistic developments that are already in the works. Here is a WIRED article about some new manufacturing techniques for solar cells. It looks like some of Dyson's thoughts on Solar power are coming to fruition.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Nominees

I was reading over the nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Seems to be an easy bunch to sort through with the exception of Patti Smith. I have to admit that I have never really dug her. I tried but in the end I couldn't even fake it to seem hip. I mean the Springsteen cover was OK but other than that...
But I am sure the die hard music critic nerds will cry foul if she is passed over.
Here are my picks:

R.E.M. - Hard to believe they are eligible already (25 years since Chronic Town?!) but they deserve a place in the Hall of fame for Automatic for the People alone.

Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five - Everyone overlook what a ground breaking DJ this guy was, sure we have come to appreciate turntablists now but this guy was a pioneer. He did mindblowing stuff. The key was that he did it behind great rappers and good songs. A shoe-in.

Iggy and The Stooges - Lester Bangs said everything that ever needed to be said in praise of the Stooges.

Chic - Chic should be included more for their collective and individual influence than for their body of work. (Though the bass break on "Freak Out" ensures Bernard Edwards a place in Funky Valhalla.) They inadvertently laid the ground work for Rap when the Sugarhill Gang used the "Good Times" groove for Rapper's Delight. Nile Roger's production on Madonna and Steve Winwood and Tony Thomson's drums on Bowie's "Let's Dance" album set the pace for the 80's.

Van Halen - Van Halen I, Eruption, You Really Got Me. This is bombastic rock at its best and that goes without any mention of Eddie Van Halen's groundbreaking fret work.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

2 Tips for Writing a Novel

It was exhilarating to finish the new book. But a couple of weeks have passed and I need to get to the second re-write (the first one did little more than correct some spelling errors...). My wife blew through it and had some good insights. For one thing the dialogue in other languages is never translated. Though it is rarely more than a sentence or two it seems to be a sticking point. I also glossed over some stuff that needs more detail. The exhilaration has evaporated. I realize now that the ending needs some help too. I am anxious to dive back in and polish it but also dreading the overwhelming work! I know from past experience that I am prone to getting caught in an endless loop of tweaking and re-tweaking. I need to avoid that somehow and just bash the thing out. I hope that by Thanksgiving I can be done enough to begin the rounds of query letters etc. My two tips: 1) Write to the end of the book then go back and clean it up. This way you won't get bogged down in minutia. 2) "Write what you know" is the worst advice ever. Why regurgitate your daily life? (unless of course it is truly compelling, but chances are you go to the bank, post office, grocery store and dry cleaners, how compelling is starch?) "Blog what you know, Write what you imagine.", that's good advice

Monday, October 30, 2006

Tom Petty - New single adds to His History

Tom Petty is nothing if not consistent. Are there highs and lows, sure (he rhymed "Tattoo" with " a tattoo too" at one point...), but the guy has been writing great songs for 30 years and his new single will surely join the pantheon of his continuing hits.
Flirting With Time, his new single from the Highway Companion CD, is a wistful, haunting but joyous tune. He is at the high end of his vocal range during the verses, plaintive and haunting. The Chorus is a power house of pop. I think the song might be perfect. Whimsical but sad. He is addressing the encroaching downhill struggle of age but still slamming away like the young rocker he was.
I saw him with the Heartbreakers at the Hollywood Bowl on Sept. 26. I have seen the band countless times but it had been at least a decade since the last show I had been to. There are new crowd favorites (It's Good To Be King.) but surely the material from the new CD will take the band into its twilight. Stevie Nicks and Jeff Lynne both stepped in for guest appearances. Jeff Lynne's production of the new CD is amazing(Jeff, thanks for the incredibly understated production on Highway Companion, and thank you for not burying the tunes under a mountain of background vocal overdubs.)
Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell are possibly the best sidemen of all time, tasteful, timeless, and not a wasted note. Steve Ferrone, a strange choice for a Heartbreaker (British funk drummer!?) is an amazing compliment. Solid, steady and falling right in with one of the most American sounding bands of all time, sure their pointy boots nod to the Beatles but these boys were more likely listening to The Byrds.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Guitar Gadget - This is Cool

I usually go to my friend's site www.cfgear.com for USB drives. I found this cool guitar shaped drive that I might just have to get!

Friday, October 27, 2006

How could DHL lose 6 boxes twice in one day!?

So they found my missing boxes in Rochester, NY and shipped them to their hub in Ohio for re-delivery to Detroit. When I tracked the boxes to Ohio they only had showed one arriving.
I called. They physically checked and could not find any of the boxes.
I called back again. They found the six boxes! So, they are on the way to Detroit right? WRONG!
They have been seized by U.S. Customs. Evidently the boys at CBP were a bit peeved that DHL didn't send this stuff through correctly the first time. Now I am looking at a 30 day hold!
From past experience I know that a good customs broker will work as an advocate to be sure your shipment clears Customs as soon as possible. Unfortunately my customs broker is:DHL.

Middle Eastern Music

I am taking a break from my ranting about DHL (There's more of that on the way.) to mention something positive. The Yuval Ron Ensemble is playing this Saturday in Los Angeles. The Ensemble is a unique blend of musicians from throughout the Middle East. They promote peace, unity and understanding through the common language of music. There is information about the Concert For Unity here.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Al Qaida, DHL is the shipper for you!

What's this employee thinking? "Too bad we forgot to clear this stuff through U.S. Customs!" Attention Al Qaida, if you want to get a dirty bomb into America just ship it with DHL! They won't bother to actually run anything by U.S. Customs. And then they will try to lie their way out of it and never accept responsibility for the problems they have caused. Al Qaida, DHL is your perfect partner!
So DHL came clean today, they forgot to clear my shipment through Customs. Iin the words of DHL's import department "this was all our fault".
So what does a $700 additional charge get you from DHL? 73%(Almost $100 a percentage point!). Of 23 boxes, only 17 showed up before the GUARANTEED delivery time (let alone the fact that they previously quoted a $10 fee, not $700!) .
So the missing six boxes, where are they? Missing.
Here's where it gets really good, the DHL driver showed up at the delivery location a few hours after dropping off the packages asking if he can "have them back because we forgot to clear them with Customs."
So, now my customer is still traveling. They will be in Michigan tomorrow. If DHL finds my 6 boxes they will most likely be schlepped to Customs for inspection (and delayed even further). If they don't find them it is a $6000 claim.
DHL is a global corporation, this level of incompetence is unfathomable. I have been involved with shipping and delivery for nearly 20 years and I have NEVER seen anything like this. I have NEVER seen anything like this in countries where I would expect confusion and bribery to be the norm. (I NEVER thought I'd say this but Thank god for bribes! At least things happen!)

Another DHL Rant

This is a picture of a DHL guy in action. Is he running to get your package to you? No. He is running off to the wrong address or even city, far, far away from where it is actually supposed to be. DHL called me yesterday afternoon. They had originally told me that there was a410 charge to re-direct to a new address. That has suddenly escalated to $700!!! SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLARS! To send a shipment to New York instead of New Hampshire. And to top it off it was THEIR FAULT! Now I must say that all of the DHL employees I have spoken to have been very pleasant and polite. Unfortunately they have also been inefficient, unaware, uninformed and in one particular case a complete liar.
The headaches, expense and in convenience are my own, the biggest problem is the lack of confidence my customer might have after this incident. Will they re-order from me or avoid me like the plague? Will they understand that the problems have been with DHL and not us?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

DHL - Part 2, These guys can't quite deliver.

I have spent the morning on the phone with DHL. My stuff finally cleared Customs by some miracle. I had to change the delivery address because DHL seems to have forgotten about my shipment which languished in Ohio for 5 days befor they bothered to take it to Cusstoms. Despite the fact that I faxed the new re-directed address to them twice and read it over the phone twice, they tried to deliver to the original address today. Duh. I have my doubts that it will make it to the new address by tomorrow in which Case we will have to re-direct it again to a third address (my customer is traveling, I am trying to hit a moving target here!). Is it seemingly impossible that incompetence could rise to such grand levels.

DHL = DHELL Is it that hard to deliver a package?

Last night I was on the phone with U.S. Customs for the better part of an hour. I have a shipment with DHL that came in from Hong Kong. Last Thursday they showed that the shipment had arrived in OH and was clearing Customs. On Friday they contacted my customer and made delivery. But only 1 of 24 boxes showed up. So I check back with DHL and they tell me that the shipment has not cleared Customs yet. I pointed out that they had already delivered one box.
The guy at DHL tells me they will need to retrieve the box and take it back to Customs.
Too late, the stuff is already sold. They gave me the number for the Customs office in Ohio and told me to contact them directly. Of course this particular Customs office is conveniently only open from 10pm to 6am. I spoke to the supervisor and the inspector who were both polite and professional and just a little baffled as to why DHL would have me call. Turns out that despite the fact that my goods arrived on Thursday, by Monday night DHL hadn't bothered to clear them through Customs AND mistakenly let one box loose (too bad they didn't screw up and send all of them!). I would expect these headaches in a developing country (as well as "fees" for customs officers) but in OHIO!? Hopefully my customer will get their stuff tomorrow, I can't wait for the import department at DHL to open this morning.

Friday, October 20, 2006

British Band Releases Song on USB Flash Drive

I have never been a fan of Keane's music but this is pretty cool. Island Records is releasing the group's new single as an MP3 loaded onto a thumb drive. Seeing as the entire recording industry is moving toward digital distribution this makes perfect sense. Now of course there is something to be said for the argument that MP3 fidelity isn't nearly as good as a CD but then CDs are stuck in the ancient 16bit format anyway. True audiophiles would prefer digital files if they were higher resolution.
Cheers to the person at Island Records that either thought of this or permitted the band to do it!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Here is a great group of subtle and witty put downs, Click for Maryam's Blog.

Low Back Pain Relief - Knee Pain Management

My wife, Chantal Donnelly, just launched her new website BodyInsight101
She is a Certified Physical Therapist and Massage Therapist as well as a Certified Pilates Instructor. The site address aches and pains, in particular knee and back pain.
There are exercises and stretches to help relieve pain before it becomes so serious that surgery or drastic treatment is required.
She also has her own blog, Body Blog where she is posting about her own experiences treating patients as well as her own aches and pains.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Greg Graffin - Trades in Punk for Folk?

I got the new(ish) Greg Graffin CD today.
There are few punks whose voices could be said to have soul, and among them Graffin is at the top of the list. (If you don't believe me check out "Sorrow" from the 2002 Bad Religion release The Process of Belief.) He's also an interesting character in that he eshewed the stereotypical nihilistic, self destructive drug and drink addled punk lifestyle to study anthropology, biology, paleontology and zoology. He received his PhD from Cornell University.

This year he recorded a very un-punk solo record called Cold as the Clay. It is a collection of traditional songs and new tunes drawn from the deep well of his childhood growing up in the rural midwest of the United States.
First impressions: The first song might be the weakest of the bunch. As the album unfolds the signature soulful scratch of his voice surfaces and grabs you. The backing band are great, amazing guitar, banjo, slide and drum stuff.

Friday, October 13, 2006

New Chilled Electronica

Working on a new CD. This one is a bit grittier than the past few. more of an urban American sound than the cool euro/middle east vibe of Foundsound or Tighten Up Vol.1.

You can find the first two L.A. Tight albums on iTunes:
FoundSound on iTunes
Tighten Up Vol. 1 on iTunes

I uploaded 4 sample tracks to our MySpace page, you can listen to them here: L.A. Tight.
I hope to have the full CD finished by the end of the year.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

All I need - on a USB Flash drive

I have been using mobile applications from Portableapps.com for the past few months.
I have to say that I couldn't be too much more impressed. John Haller, the developer who created the site, has done an amazing job of using community resources to provide free open source apps that you run entirely off of a USB thumb drive. Portable Firefox, Thunderbird, Skype, and Abiword have proven to be invaluable. Portable OpenOffice is great for any one needing to throw together powerpoint compatible presentations on the go.

The book is done - Self Doubt Sets In

I finished the first re-write of my book last night. As I skimmed back over the entire thing I suddenly had a gut wrenching wave of doubt wash over me. What if it sucks?
I have a fairly short attention span as is, I hardly ever come across anything that seems "new" (most stories and songs have been written a million times over, think about it and you will see that things start to slide into easily distinguishable archetypes).
But then, maybe there is hope because these are the themes of human existance and they resonate over and over again because there is a degree of truth to them.
Of course, that doesn't mean that I haven't written a big turd.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Manuscript Format - MS Word

I have a question for other writers: Do you write and then format or do you keep everything in proper format (1" borders, courier, double space etc.)?

Also: Does anyone know how to eliminate the header on the first page of an MS WORD doc?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Cashflow - Rich Dad/ Poor Dad Board Game

I played Cashflow for the first time yesterday with a group of friends here in South Pasadena. Cashflow was created by Robert Kiyosaki, Author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad, a book about investing and wealth. I had read the book a few months ago and was a bit underwhelmed. His advice is sound but when he mentions that he got rich in pyramid schemes and 'no money down' real estate scams it minimized the impact of his approach. I won't use this post to lambaste him or his books, there are enough places you can find Kiyosaki critiques on the web.
I do want to talk about the game though.
The game is designed to educate and instill Kiyosaki's investment and wealth principles. Was it fun? Yes, for the first hour or so but be prepared for a 3-5 hour game if you want to play it until completion. The fact that a few of us were first time players probably slowed the pace a bit but the experienced players said this was typical. Did I learn anything? Sure, the key to financial success is to borrow recklessly and hope you get lucky and rich. This is the strategy to win the game and presumably Kiyosaki's strategy to generate wealth.
I'd say enjoy Cashflow as sort of a complicated Monopoly, don't expect to learn anything but be sure to bring a calculator.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

L.A. Times

I read the L.A. Times every morning.I have been following the recent ownership/management drama for the past few months with a personal interest as a reader but also as a citizen. The Times may not be perfect but it is a damn fine newspaper, one of the best in the country and maybe one of the best in the world. (Attn. East Coast folks, The Washington Post and The New York Times are not the only newspapers in the U.S.). I haven't read much of the L.A. Times' own coverage of the situation because it can only be inherently colored by the editorial staff's own personal experiences (though I am sure they have gone to great, valiant lengths to remain professional in presenting the story). I have mostly relied on other local media coverage to follow the power struggle between the Chandlers and the Tribune Company.

This week the inevitable happened as publisher Jeffery Johnson was forced to resign. After his recent stand with editor Dean Baquet to refuse to slash staff and expenditures, it was only a matter of time before he was shown the door. Now Baquet is under attack from bloggers who claim he has been disloyal in remaining at the paper and not resigning immediately in a show of support for Johnson. This allegation is ridiculous. I do not know Baquet personally, he may be a jerk or an ogre but one thing is clear; his stand against the Tribune was to save the heart and soul of the L.A. Times, not to simply support his colleague. A resignation in the face of more adversity would only sell out the paper he is trying to protect. If Ms. Finke and others see this as cowardice or a lack of spine they are sadly mistaken.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Guitar Rig

I went from Diehard Analog purist (1/4" 8 track reel to reel)(Ok, not only analog but lo-fi to boot) to Cubase fanatic but I have resisted the siren song of Amp Farm, Pod , Amplitude et al. Not only resisted, protested. Were the sounds good? Yeah, they were "good", possibly usable but when A/B'd with my Marshall, '49 Champ or Victorilux, there was clearly NO comparison.
Until today. Native Instruments Guitar Rig is pretty cool. Perfect? No.
Remarkable for a software amp/cab simulator? Yes.
I did a few demo tracks today and was blown away. I was looking for a warm, just past clean crunch. Wow. My past experience has been that these programs do 2 things well: Super clean and Pristine or Blown out hi-gain madness. Not much in between. Leave it to NI to fill in the shades of gray. The stellar quality of the B4 should have been a sure sign that beneath the cool, collected German heart of the company lies some honest to god, warm blooded soul.
Vielen Dank NI!