Saturday, November 26, 2005

Finally Better

So whatever crud Bella had for a whole week was somehow transferred to me (I do have a memory of a cough being delivered directly into my eyeball), and it knocked me OUT for this entire week. I was working 1/2 days M-T-W, and was asleep most of Th-Fri, and only today can I say that my mojo is in fact working.

This made for me only half-participating in the two great celebrations of November: My Birthday and Thanksgiving. As far as Thanksgiving goes - I was material support while Pamela was the cook mistress... though I did have to leave the celebration early and pass out, alas.

On the day before my birthday, we did go out to dinner, but I was out shortly after that. On the day of, we combined festivities with my consulting firm's "thank you" for me smoothing over a situation where one of our people failed to deliver for many moons, and cost us thousands... My thank you was dinner at Morton's!

So they came with a Limo, and whisked us off to Morton's and the meal was delightful, but I was basically watching the proceedings from behind a veil of haze... and milliseconds after being dropped off, I was out again.

I'm quite ready for this crud to be thoroughly gone - but even today there was a lingering ache... UGH.

Friday, November 18, 2005

The end of PG13

In 1986, PG13 had just released our "Album", and spent the summer playing for drunk frat brothers. In the previous year of our existence, we had done a bunch of shows where we would rent out a VFW hall or a park center, and would have a show for underage friends.... but this final year, we were too "big" for that, so we played bigger shows - once at First Avenue... lots of college parties.

In this time we grew VERY far apart, and split into a few factions:
- The Clique: Myself, Mike the Singer, and Tim the Replacement Bassist (who I went to art school with).
- The Oblivious: Jon the Drummer was deeply into collegiate drug stupor.
- The Resentful: Dan the guitarist and Matt the Sax just hated us.

Our final gig was in August 1986: We played a Bath Mitzvah: We were set up in an aerobicize room in a health club... and were playing to semi-adoring 13 year olds. We were mostly drunk and totally hating eachother by this point. For the final gig, Paul the original Bassist came back in, though Tim the Replacement Bassist (V2, actually there was an interim Tim the Replacement Bassist as well, but he didn't work out)

In the end, Mike wound up stealing Paul the Original Bassist's Bass Amp. The kids were disappointed because we were mostly drunk and very spiteful - we thought we should have been STARS - we had a VINYL ALBUM for crisssakes.

But out of this, were born two new bands formed by The Clique: KARL was a thought experiment - we did street busking for money, and throughout 1986-87, we actually got a LOT of gigs. We were a garage funk outfit, and I played drum. Just a ride and a cymbal is all they gave me. Karl kept on going for two years, following me to College where we played many many parties. The other band was "The Great Divide", which was us trying to be serious pop people.

For more on The Great Divide, I point interested parties to my other site at:

Karl was regrettably never properly recorded - but it's likely for the best. you sort of had to be there.

To close this blog on PG13, I point to a quote given to me by Mike, who is now singing with the Derek Trucks band: "You are very kind to tip-toe around the 800 lbs. gorilla in the room -- after a few heroic tries, we just ended up sucking."

So true. So true.

More on Language

So this week, I finally finished my Pimsleur German - all 90 lessons, and it was almost bittersweet - the last two lessons were focused around conversations of saying goodbye and thank you, and give our best to your family, and I couldn't help but believe it was my instructors saying goodbye.

So how to celebrate? RUN LOLA RUN. Beautiful Franke Potenta action, lots of German... And I'm proud to say that even though I did have the subtitles on, I also "heard" about half of the movie correctly... I'm going to rip it to Ipod video without subtitles and knowing the whole movie will be my trophy.

I started Spanish this week, mostly because Pamela speaks it, and wants me to have a language in common... but I know I'll be able to speak it with Ana our housekeeper and Carrie, my lovely sister... so I figure I'm just going to be one of those "can speak many languages" kind of guys.

I'm sticking with German, though - I downloaded Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire e-book in German, and am reading it out loud to myself... also I have a few books to keep learning the language. I'm sticking with the Podcasts too.... god bless with their free resources.

After Spanish, I'll do Japanese again... But the practicality of Spanish is finally sinking in...


Sunday, November 13, 2005

On the 80's

1) It appears that the Madonna album I was reviewing actually will not be released until later this week. I cannot explain then how I came to believe I heard it and passed judgement. Must have been a VERY vivid dream. That's the most likely solution.

2) One of my pet peeves about the Sirius 80's First Wave station is that when playing Alphaville Forever Young, they use the horrid 1989 remix where they got their grubby hands on a Fairlight or something....

3) I am continually torn about Duran Duran: Are they actually good, or do i love what they make me REMEMBER about life back when they were new? I remember drunkenly shouting "Ba-bada-ba-ba-ba-bada THIS IS PLANET EARTH" at more than one party. My love for Notorious had more to do with the fact that Nick's Emax had the riff sampled in it and we played it endlessly. And it's possible my love for the two 90's hits (ordinary world, come undone) was because I was working as a music sequencer and had to do those two for cash, so I got very familiar with them.

I'm leaning toward the "nostalgia love" bit, actually. Though their first two albums did work SO very well... But then it was also because they were expermenting and pushing envelopes.

So, no decision there.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Wither my 80s heroes?

So in the past month, I've acquired new albums by Depeche Mode, Heaven 17, and Madonna. Here are my capsule reviews:

Madonna: This is a perfectly passable Kylie album. Really not much more than that, however. I'm glad she's getting in touch with her disco roots... without Mirwais' belaboured quirky mixes. Some very chunky big synthbass however - nice 16th notes that sound very Jupiter 8.

Depeche Mode: Some very good stuff on there, but here's my recommendation. GET FLOOD back. And somebody please apologize to Alan Wilder and get him back to the band. And finally, will someone please rein in Martin's horrible ballad-istic tendencies? This album reminds me of "A Broken Frame" - not very hooky, a couple of very bad songs, and a few that will sneak up on you.

I think Dave Gahan's songs are great - maybe just maybe Dave and Vince Clarke could get together and do an album? Vince has been playing the same damn song since 1985, he could use a change of scenery.

Heaven 17: This one's tough. Bear with me. Way back in 1980-1983 H17 did some great audio experimentation with modular synths and Fairlights, and the sheer exhuberance of that experimentation outweighed their occasional cheezy indulgence. Then their albums grew more and more "professional" sounding - using more session players, and then their cheese was more and more apparent.

Flash forward to 1999, they released "Bigger than America" - done on an 8 track with their old Roland Modular synths. It was brilliantly edgy, and very reminiscent of their very first efforts.

And then in 2001-2003 they worked on a new album that was only just released called "Before/After". And somewhere, they lost that spirit again - this new album has them working with looped drums, and more generic synth sounds... and basically they jumped RIGHT BACK to their late 80's cheese. There are good moments, but really, Glenn Gregory could be singing over almost any producer's work.

I'm going to leave it at this: But one final note: Annie and Dave, what are you DOING? I listened to the newer tracks on the new Eurythmics Greatest Hits album... and I woke up a few hours later. Jesus.

Studio Reminiscences Part 3 - the album

By early 1986, PG13 had decided to release an ALBUM. Vinyl baby. Whereas the first and second sessions were recordings of our established "live" repetoire, we set out to write songs just for the album. The pressure on the band was incredible - For a teenage cover band to write 5 new songs for an album, when we'd already written 10 originals, and all we ever got to play live was 90 minutes, and our covers were what people liked best... let's just say that these songs were entering re-tread territory, and we had pretty well exhausted the creative capabilities of a few of our band members.

Add to this that more than a few of us had begun playing with other bands "on the side"... there was a lessening concern for the quality of this work across the board. In addition, the few people who recall our band will vouch that our 'sound" was "everybody write a riff within the chord progression, and play it non stop".

We picked the same studio that our local idols "The Suburbs" had recorded at several years earlier. This was a "real" studio where you could do a "real album". This thing was budgeted 10x any of our previous efforts ($5000, versus $500 for each of the previous sessions). We were all there only one evening, to do basic tracking for drums - we played together only to help Jon play his drums. After that night, no more than 3 people from the band were together in the studio at any one time.

We were "remaking" several of our earlier "hits", and recording several new songs as well. Working with the instruments in isolation was a pretty grim experience - we heard every dropped beat, every flubbed note, every mistuned string. So we spent extra time polishing the turd.

Then it came time to mix it all. Now's the time to explain that the studio was owned by two men who were very very into their marijuana. I remember going upstairs to the restroom and being confronted by several ziploc freezer bags filled with "oregano". This meant they didn't really think too fast, and had a pretty laid back work ethic.

Add to this, they had their "studio process" down - we ran the snare track alone several times while we got the exact right reverb sound... then printed that. Then worked on the Kick. As we worked on the drums, we discovered that the drummers' simmons kit had been cross triggering all over the place. This had probably always been happening, but hell, we never heard it before, because we had never spent time listening to individual PARTs.

The engineers were about to get the drummer back in to rerecord all of his parts, when I had the idea to rent a Linndrum, gate the tracks, trigger new sounds... At the time, I was thrilled to have that tight Linn Kick going, but in retrospect that 20ms delay really made the tracks drag... We should have just washed it all out with extra reverb...

In the middle of this, I got a horrible Flu. But every night, every single person in the band called in with a very important excuse of some sort. So the whole album was basically mixed by me with a stuffed up head, and two engineers with a head full of zombie.

In the final analysis, the album sounded ok, but it lacked all of the spontaneity of our earlier efforts. We sold maybe a dozen of them TOTAL. We broke up not 6 months after this ordeal. The whole thing cost us $10,000, but it was all paid for by the drummer's dad, who wrote it all off as a business expense.

Several years later, I was at a St Vincent's De Paul store and found an entire box of the album for $.25. I sort of wish I had bought it, because I actually do not have that album anymore!

Studio Reminiscences Part 2

PG13 decided to record 4-5 more songs a few months later in early 1985. This time we were referred to a studio by some people in another band called "No Hands Clock". This studio was in the back of a huge warehouse and had great natural ambience, and more importantly, they also had some effects available - reverbs, delays, compressors... and more excitingly for me, they had a Prophet V for me to use too!

The industrial setting was very condusive to our creativity - there was a basketball hoop out back, and the landscape was so bleak, we thought we were on the moon.

These songs wound up being some of our favorites - in contrast to the first 4, these sounded much more like the music we actually liked to LISTEN to.

With 8 songs recorded, we decided it was time to "release a cassette" - we mixed the studio tracks along with one horrible horrible live track (which at least does capture the extremely loose timing and questionable tuning we engaged in).

We actually sold several dozen of these cassettes! We thought we were kings of the world. Talk started to turn to... an actual ALBUM.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Studio Reminiscences Part 1

Way back in 1984, I was keyboardist in a band called "PG13" - and back then, the rating was brand new, so it wasn't quite so stupid of a name. We did covers and originals... My gear included a Rhodes Chroma Polaris and a Juno 106.

We did the high school dance circuit... well, actually just our schools, and a few parties. But we were liked. So we decided to make a cassette.

We decided on 4 songs: 3 originals, and 1 cover. And it would get us gigs and lots of love. I cannot recall exactly how we wound up at "Custom Recording Studio" - an 8 track studio in the basement of a suburban house outside of Minneapolis, but there we were.

In retrospect I should have known there would be issues... he had some gorgeous microphones (more on this later), but his only effect available was a spring reverb. NO effects - no delay, no verb. And a very dry, well insulated basement.

Enter our drummer, with a Simmons SDSV kit, which the guy had never seen, and had no idea of how to record. He ran the kit direct to the board, dry as a bone. The mighty "Pssssh" of a Simmons reduced to the sound of a finger tapping on paper.

Recording went predictably - the whole affair was done in an afternoon. Midway through tracking vocals, our good friend and evil nemesis Tom Baxter walked in, surveyed the situation, and decided to take his finger and tap-tap-tap on the Neumann U87 microphone - and the engineer actually began screaming at him. Tom was a band buddy, but was not a musician - he just came to gigs and smoked backstage and pestered people on our behalf (he really was annoying - my sister tried to push him out of a moving car once).

Tom tried to pull a "what's with this guy" routine as the engineer screamed, but we knew, he had done a bad thing. Tom had to leave. We never invited him to a studio session again.

In the end, the recording was extremely two dimensional and crispy - everything was eventually fed through his one spring reverb, to add some minor ambience...

Did the tape get us gigs? Not so much. But the Engineer did pass the tape along to a friend who had a public access radio show, and we got played on the radio exactly once - as "James Reee-ay and his Band". On a public school station.

And that's the first PG-13 recording story. Still to come - the second cassette, the LP, and the "side Project".

Friday, November 04, 2005

Tonight on MPR

I have a recurring fantasy where Mishelle Norris, Melissa Block, and Terri Gross are in the NPR lunchroom discussing the day's events, and I'm at the table next to theirs, leaning in to hear their sassy, caring, but even and modulated voices....

And they talk for like 15 hours.


(UPDATE - My wife informed me that the only way this could be "hotter" would be to have Nina Totenberg hanging out with them. I concur WHOLEHEARTEDLY)

19 days of no Pacifiers....

Almost 3 weeks since the Pacifier Fairy came and took Bella's Pacifiers away, we're still having some LATE nights where she's waking up and isn't able to settle herself. We are definitely conflicted on how to help - if we let her cry, she sometimes goes down, sometimes escalates. But if we go in, she seems to get even more revved up. Last night she was standing in our doorway screaming for us to "Go Downstairs!!!", until she collapsed in a heap.

Every day I think... maybe I should let her have a pacifier. But no, this is the right thing.

So tonight, for her sleepover with Jenny, she was getting ready for bed in her old crib (Jenny's much taller, so she wouldn't fit), and she actually found a pacifier in her old room. And POP it went into her mouth. And I had to talk it back out of her mouth... but more importantly, she actually seemed to be disappointed in the feeling of the pacifier, that it wasn't quite the magic she remembered.... So maybe this is a good thing.

(rereading this, I did mean "talk" it out, not take it out. She gave it back to me.)

Parenting is great, but sometimes these "lessons" are not so fun.


Welcome Friends

So I've finally told people about this thing. It's just for random firings of my synapses.

Please direct all complaints and inquiries to ""


Thursday, November 03, 2005

Learning German

When we were going to Tokyo last spring, I took it on myself to do the 8 lesson Pimsleur "basic Japanese" course to get some basic words. I found that I was TRULY enjoying learning a new language with the aural method Pimsleur uses.

So this summer I decided to stop making up German sounding words, and actually learn some German. I got the 90-lesson full Pimsleur course from Audiofy on 3 DRM'ed SD cards that fit into my Treo Phone, and did a lesson every morning during my commute.

A few months later, and I'm on lesson 81. I can talk all SORTS of crazy German. I download German language Podcasts and try to understand them (yeah, not so well yet, but I'm getting better - the Hans Zimmer interview with Traumen Fur Deutschland is great).

Perhaps my best moment was at my rewedding being able to tell Kate Dowling, a woman with a Masters in German and family in Bavaria, that "me and my wife have been married for 10 years and we love it!" (Meine Frau und Ich sind zeit sein Jahren verhairatet, und es gefelt uns SEHR!) - she was stunned.

What's next? I'll be scheduling some conversation lessons with Kate, keep on with the daily podcasts, go to Germany next year.... but then it's off to another language. I'm still debating between hitting Japanese again and Spanish (which might actually be useful. But utility has no place in this decision).

Finally, what started me on this jag: today's lesson had a phrase that almost made me drive off the road: Shall we go to Castle Frankenstein?

(Wollen wir zum SchlossFrankenstein gehen?)

Jimmy OUT

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Neighborhoodies at Halloween set me up PROPER - this post shows both my lovely wife wearing the custom job (with the optional drop-shadow and heart graphics), and my daughter dressed as a Pink Poodle for the Treat Day. By the time this pic was taken, she was getting a bit tired of being on display, and was pulling a Greta Garbo.

T-Shirt Life

Good buddy Caesar (who is still "on notice" as far as I'm concerned) forwarded me this link to "ninja T-Shirt Folding":

After a few tries, I was able to get this working no problem, and thoroughly impressed my wife... and we'll see how that pans out!

It does work with long sleeved shirts, but you need to manually fold in the sleeves during the flip-over phase.

Jimmy OUT.