A little over 5 years ago I somehow stumbled across Philip Greenspun's shots of the Parco dei Mostri (Park of Monsters) in Bomarzo, Italy. At the time those were just about the only decent images of the place to be found on the internet.
5 years later, there are a lot more webpages out there about the place, and a lot more photos on Flickr.
Someday I will go there.
The price of the Compact Disc format's high fidelity was the loss of real estate for cover art and inserts... posters, tattoos, and cardboard spaceships, stuff to obsess over while you listen (until you have to get up and flip the LP.)
Now half the surface area of the average CD insert is taken up by piracy warnings and UPC symbols, and you can certainly forget about anything beyond the booklet and the CD itself! Print is so tiny it's hard if not impossible to read the microscopic lyrics and/or list of people each band member wants to thank.
With electronically purchased music you might get a PDF booklet if you're lucky, but what are you supposed to do with it, really? Painstakingly attempt to print it double-sided, cut it out, then staple it together? Most tracks on the iTunes music store contain a single, low-resolution image of the front cover, and that's all... no personnel notes, lyrics, or anything else.
I do love having all of my music in digital format, playable in seconds from a device I can carry with me at all times... but sometimes I miss the ritual of picking out something to listen to, pulling the album out of the sleeve and setting it up on the turntable, then settling back and just listening to it while turning the sleeve back in forth in my hands.
I've seen this image a couple of places on the web. I found the color version at bluegrassbanjo.org, linked without an illustrator credit... so I don't know who to attribute this to.
I'm also kicking myself for not bookmarking an illustration I saw last year titled "December 26th", a Norman Rockwell-style scene featuring Santa relaxing in a chair, jacket and hat off, playing an F-style mandolin. Now that I'm trying to find it again, my Google-fu is failing miserably.
Tom Waits' Take it With Me is simultaneously the prettiest and most haunting love song I think I've ever heard, and it only gets moreso every time I listen to it. Specifically, the recording on Mule Variations.
I don't know how it was accomplished, but the piano in that recording sounds dusty. There's no other way I can think of to describe it. You can hear the dust motes, and I think it's a big part of why the track has such a grip on me.
Get Lamp looks like it should be an interesting film.
Interactive fiction continues to fascinate me, although I really haven't played much over the past year or so. What few Inform chops I developed during last year's Hours of Inform minicomp have atrophied, and I still haven't fixed my first humble effort's significant bug.
I can spend time playing my instruments, spend time trying to build instruments, or spend time hacking around with IF. If I limited myself to one of those activities I'd probably make some good progress. Lately I seem to be limiting myself to two, and having fun but sometimes feeling like I'm spinning my wheels. No way I could get away with a third, so lately IF has been put back on the shelf.
It occurred to me today to write some Java classes to represent western musical scales; starting with the 12 tone system and then providing methods to build scales in a given major or minor key, (and eventually different modes,) and build chords.
Classes like this could also become the basis of any number of other utilities or applications; chord chart generators, midi generators et cetera.
Plus it would be good reinforcement for a person (such as myself) teaching themselves the fundamentals of music theory.
While conceptualizing how such a package might be broken down, one of the first things I wondered was, "When building a scale in a given key, is there a formula to determine whether the accidentals in that scale will be sharps or flats?" Sure, I could hard-code all of the scales by note as constants in some core utility class, but that would be a crutch, and inelegant.
Anyway, while Googling this very question one of the first things I came across was Steve White's weblog, specifically one of the entries about his Voices project. Steve appears to have had almost exactly the same idea a while ago, only he's doing it in C#. It will be interesting to read how he's approaching the problem.
Well, crap. Yahoo! has purchased del.icio.us. That's two web services of which I am a rabid fan that they've gobbled up. They've already managed to crap up the Flickr registration process and burned a bunch of karma when they flipped everyone over to Yahoo! accounts and broke the "remember me" feature for a few weeks.
I still don't trust Yahoo! not to pollute Flickr (and now del.icio.us) with flash ads and cross-promotion. Things have been quiet since the Flickr accounts merge kafuffle, but I'm not looking forward to being forced to switch over to a Yahoo! ID next year.
Ed Dumbill, on behalf of the "Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group", writes:
That's the dumbest thing I've read in a long time.
I know what they're trying to say, which is that HTML/CSS does have its quirks and limitations, whether a function of the standard specs themselves or crummy browser implementation, but for crap's sake... of course HTML is a good language for making web pages! In case the WHATWG hasn't noticed, there are umpteen billion of them out there, each of which were written with HTML.
It's like saying "English isn't a very good language for writing books in English."
I'm beginning to think that everything I know about 3-finger style banjo is wrong.
More specifically, I think the preponderance of information about technique and learning approaches is very limited in perspective, and counter-productive to really learning the instrument; everything revolves around playing like Earl Scruggs, and pretty much any beginning banjo instruction zeroes right in on Practicing The Holy Roll patterns. (raise your hand if you're sick of these: Forward Roll, Backwards Roll, Forward-Reverse Roll, Foggy Mountain Roll, Thumb-in-and-out) Practice the rolls over and over and over and over and over and over and over again, and then practice them some more. Practice them until you can do them in your sleep.
The reason for the sacred rolls as I've read it is that when people sat down to try and figure out how in the hell Earl plays like he plays, they noticed a number of common picking patterns. These patterns were quickly (and somewhat incorrectly, I think) written in stone as the basis of all bluegrass-style banjo playing. I haven't delved very much into the Earl Scruggs tab book yet, but from what little I've seen Earl's arrangements don't feel like they have much to do with these rolls; they feel much more like a lot of the rock tunes I learned when I took electric guitar lessons. That is to say, the notes are arranged the way Earl picked them off the fretboard when he was first working the tunes up. The fact that some common patterns emerge is secondary.
Bluegrass banjo books have it the other way around; "Learn the rolls first, and then you'll be able to play like Earl." It's rather boring, and it doesn't really encourage experimentation because it doesn't really give you any idea of how to go about experimenting; you just wind up vamping over some chords with the same old rolls, and throwing in the same old licks from the tab.
I need some things:
I might also need to stop reading the Banjo Hangout forums for a while. Sometimes it seems like there's so much energy dedicated to discussing the right way to play the foggy mountain roll, or whether it's ok to NOT anchor both your ring finger and pinky on the head, or the endless hardware tinkering and daydreaming about prewar Gibson banjos. So many things that have been discussed to death, with new threads started daily. As much as banjo players kvetch about the Deliverance stereotype, a lot of them do plenty to make sure the instrument remains widely associated with its rural roots.
I just re-read Wil Wheaton's The Trade for the first time since he posted it, and it still takes me right back to my own ill-advised Star Wars toy trade.
It was nothing on the par of giving up a Death Star for a Land Speeder, but I always did miss the figure that I lost in the bargain: A Snow Trooper. What did I get in exchange? A measly little Jawa.
At the time, it seemed like a great deal; you couldn't get Jawas in the store anymore, whereas everybody had Snow Troopers right after The Empire Strikes Back had come out. Plus, the Jawa had a cloth robe, which was kind of cool. It didn't take me long to wish I had my Snow Trooper back; I tended to be rather sentimental about my possessions and that would have been the first time I lost custody of one, so to speak.
I never did get another Snow Trooper, and to the best of my recollection I never traded any more toys. (Although I strongly suspect the same kid I traded my Snow Trooper to of stealing two of my favorite Go-Bots from my pencil box a few years later.)
I've been working up a Christmas carol for 5-String banjo. It's usually performed in a minor key that doesn't lend itself all that well to banjo, so I decided to use G minor tuning (GDGB?D) on the instrument and transpose the tune to G minor.
I've never done anything in G minor tuning before, which means learning some new chord forms and getting used to the dark (yes, banjo can sound dark) sound the instrument has when tuned to an open minor chord.
None of these things is particularly impressive, but each one is useful reinforcement of the music theory I've been accumulating over the last couple of years. It's fashionable to blow off music theory on the Banjo Hangout forums; You don't need do know anything beyond the G, C, and D/D7 chords to vamp along with quite a few oldtime/bluegrass standards, and if you learn the rest from tab you don't need to worry about which note falls where on which string.
Personally, I like being able to hack the musical source code, even if it's only to come up with my own tab to memorize so I don't have to worry about which note falls where on which string.
There was little doubt that something would be done to shake up the Bruins if they couldn't pull themselves out of the nose dive they've been in for most of the season.
I didn't think they would get rid of Joe Thornton, though. As captain, Thornton was always billed as the team superstar, the superduper excellent player, the number one guy. I only got back to following the Bruins three years ago so I wasn't around for his early days with the team, but I have to admit that I've never thought Joe Thornton was living up to the hype.
Which is not to say he's a bad player, he's just always seemed somewhat lackluster to me and didn't really seem to fit the role of team captain either. (Of course, it will be hard for anyone to fit that role as well as Ray Bourque did if you ask me.) That being said, I find that I'm sorry to see him go... it seems like 7 years is a long time for a player to stick with one team these days.
It creates an interesting situation for the Bruins, who have invested a lot of energy in branding Joe as the Tom Brady of the team. Jackie McMullen puts it succinctly in this article in The Boston Globe:
We all know what happened when the Sox shipped out Garciaparra for a group of lesser names. The ball club regrouped, flourished with some new defensive pieces, and went on to win it all.
The Bruins can only dream of being so lucky. They have just wiped the face of their franchise from their roster, and an already disgruntled fan base is thinking only one thing: this better work.