Saturday, November 26, 2005

A penny for the guy, belatedly

"It is the little bits of things that fret and worry us; we can dodge a elephant, but we can't dodge a fly." - Josh Billings


What if I came knocking

What if I came knocking
on your front door some night?
Would you open the window
and drop me down the key?
What if I came knocking
on your bedpost that same night?
Would you open up your heart
or try to get the best of me?

What if I came knocking
on your brain the next day
and asked for your truth and your love and your honesty?
Would you build up your big walls
and try to hide behind that smile
or would you try to pull the wool right over me?

So what if I came knocking?

So what if I came kicking
and it scared you a little bit
and I came on strong — would you think
that there’s something wrong with me?
Or could it be your fears
of trying something real
or just afraid to touch
a guy like me?

What if I came knocking
on your front door some night?

So let’s just say it worked out
like a storybook dream
and we lived happily ever after
la la la la...

But what if I came crying
after just a few weeks
and said I misread my heart,
this is not really meant to be?

So if you hear some knocking
on your window tonight,
you can bet that it’s probably me.
But let it be known
that we’re just a pair of tumbling dice
and the outcome of these crapshoots
is hard to see.

So what if I came knocking
on your front porch tonight?

— John 'Cougar' Mellencamp

Thursday, November 24, 2005

December will be magic again

Hello, hello,

It's been an age since I've written, it seems. Lots has been happening, but most of it is still in process so I shouldn't write about it yet. But here's something I can write about...

***

Kate Bush, Aerial

Despite my earlier anxieties, Aerial arrived without copy protection, so I did not have to fret about whether or not to own a legal copy. I have listened to it now repeatedly and like it better each time. The "album" presentation adopts the metaphor of vinyl, with two "sides" represented by two discs: "A Sea of Honey" and "A Sky of Honey." Both display Kate in fine form, offering a contradictory reflection of the title image: while often fanciful, and even playful, the album is never lacking in substance.

"A Sea of Honey", the first disc, presents seven unrelated songs. The single, "King of the Mountain", is melodic and catchy; when I heard Kate Bush interviewed, she explained that she was trying to imitate Elvis Presley's vocal delivery style — that explanation makes her somewhat indistinct singing through the verses much easier to understand! "Pi" is perhaps one of those "be careful what you wish for" songs — in the past, fans have rashly made statements about being willing to listen to Kate recite the phone book, and that is roughly what she does here, chanting through more than 100 decimal places of pi. Although that description probably elicits shudders, the song itself is quite good (but I still don't like her use of interplay with the chorus, a habit she formed on The Red Shoes). "Bertie" is a beautiful tune with Renaissance instrumentation, but is lyrically very thin. Fans are quite divided over it: some despise it for its embarrassingly honest expression; others admire it for its musicianship. I find it appealing — very listenable, although I would hesitate to sing along with it — and being the mother of an only child myself, I can understand the unabashed adoration Kate declares for her young son. Bah, all you cynics, bah!

"Mrs Bartolozzi" is a puzzling song for me. It's quite powerful but I don't really understand it. Musically, it feels ungrounded; perhaps it will grow on me over the next few months. "How to be Invisible" is likely to be the next single (if there is another single); it's very uptempo and intelligent, although not quite dance floor material. Somehow it feels most like what I expected to hear on this album; perhaps it has the strongest root in the eighties (at least for me). Many fans have likened "Joanni" to a Tori Amos song, and my assessment is similar: it sounds like Kate decided to show singers like Sarah McLachlan and Tori Amos how to write! It is atmospheric and evocative, with lovely little sounds running around in the background, creating a complex listening experience. The most universally well-received song is one that I don't really care for yet: "A Coral Room". To me, it sounds like two underdeveloped song ideas fused. It is emotionally appealing throughout, with some gorgeous musicianship, but it simply doesn't wrench my heart.

One of the reasons I have yet to learn to love "side one" of the album may be that "side two", "A Sky of Honey", is one of the most sumptuous popular recordings I have ever heard. Kate Bush has lost none of her power in her decade away from the business. It is an astonishing creation.

The first four tracks establish the themes for the piece; the nine songs form a cycle or "concept" around the movement of light through a day. The writing is perceptive but a little distant, largely based on experimentation with sound, until track five, "Sunset," on which we hear Kate Bush perform in a jazz idiom that slides gradually into a world music sound. It's brilliant. The next track will either amuse or repulse listeners: Kate sings to bird song — the idea sounds absolutely cracked, but incredibly the performance works. "Somewhere in between" moves into liminal spaces: shadows, the transformation between day and dusk, twilight and starlight — another lovely, complex song with jazz inflections on Kate's mature style.

The centrepiece of the disc is "Nocturn", the longest recording of Kate's career. The song begins with a quiet, warbling vocal and gradually builds into a spectacular mass of voices and instrumentation — I cannot imagine anyone with a pulse being unmoved by the climax of this track. It is also one of the sexiest songs Kate has ever recorded, both lyrically and vocally. The main vocal is bell-pure, while the harmonies are deep and sultry; the instrumentation is intricate and sophisticated. WOW! I have listened to this track dozens of times now, and it gets better with every hearing. The disc finishes with the title track, a high-energy, percussion-heavy performance wrapped around a small number of phrases and Kate's maniacal laughter. I found it bizarre on my first listen, yet it works perfectly to tie the cycle together; the disc couldn't end any other way, musically or thematically.

So, while I've still only lukewarm about disc one, I think disc two is utterly gorgeous. I should mention that both discs flicker with moments reflecting Kate's earlier work, although likely only long-time fans will recognize these little flashes. Vocal touches throughout, aural effects on certain songs, and lyrical concerns give the record a degree of artistic unity generally unseen in popular music. This is a mature, accomplished work — and yet it's clear that Kate Bush had a great deal of fun creating it. It may not be art, but it's as close as a popular form is likely to get, and I really like it.

***

Anyway, this has taken much longer than I intended to write, so I must go. I hope all is well with you! More soon...

Leslie

Now playing: Aerial, of course!
Now reading: Millions of student essays...

Monday, November 14, 2005

Blog Abandonment

So its come to this. I've mostly abandoned this blog for a blog of my own making. In the course of working on my site I installed Wordpress and have since converted all my php pages to wordpress ones. I'm still working on the image archive but I may move that to something else as well.

Macblaze may not be fancy but its got all my computer geek stuff and since its running off the Ruby iMac it may be slow, but its surely disposable. I can break it whenever I want...and quite often do.

What fascinates me about open source stuff is that it has so much potential for small to medium sized business. If you can't afford your own programmer, there seems to be something out there you can make work--and generally for free. And who would have imagined the cross-platform fluidity. I still hate my PC boxes (mostly cause fixin' them is a b_itch) but it's nice to move from one to another without having to resort to clunky stuff like maclink for translation...or even to have to use completely different software for the same task.

Speaking of which... those of you who have two computers on your desk, especially if one's a Mac and one's a windows box, I downloaded a sweet little program called Synergy the other day. Think of it as a software KVM switch without the M. Completely cross platform, it allows me to use the iMac and the PC with the same keyboard and mouse. I still have to use the iMac keyboard to start the software on rebooting but after that I can put them aside. and surf and play games with same keyboard on two different computers.

I've been documenting some of my trials and tribulations on Macblaze so check it out if you want to get a sense of what I've been breaking. You'll find some climbing stuiff ther as well and I'm working on a picture of the day type thing for some of the climbing pics.

Back to the business thing. Some of the open source stuff like the afore mentioned KVM and WordPress is great and MySql and PHP as well as some stuff like mail servers is simply outstanding. It take some time, and I'll admit the interface of Filemaker is worth paying for, but MySql is powerful, free, multiplatform and totally tuned for the web. I've never really made inroads with Access and I think its unlikely I ever will now that I'm tuned into this open source stuff.

Meanwhile I'm typing this in on L's laptop over a wireless connection using a free Widget while I pop back and forth amoungst programs and do a little programming on the Hole's Wordpressweblog. These are all part of the plugin technology that is also going crazy and making things easier and easier to customize. The commercial stuff like Adobe has the possibilities but developers tend to charge an arm and a leg for something to make you life easier. I don't know about you but my workplace finances usually dictate that easier isn't work $$..."Let's save money and do it the hard way" is a more common credo. Anyway, plugins abound inthe open source community and people are generally willing and eager to share their time-saving ideas. Popular stuff like WordPress has literally hundreds of plugins and generally more than a few ways to skin any particular cat. Suffice it to say I can get bonus points at work eveytime I leverage free technology to make the business run smoother.

In other worlds, I've reached the pinacle of publishing by being invited to join the BPAA's Executive. We had a meeting in Red Deer last week and I learned something new about human behavior.. or at least was able to articualte soemthing I knew subconciously. People hate to lose. People who lose at one game are loath to let it go and play another. people who thought they were winning have a hard time even admitting that the game was longshot anyway.

The Executive spend a lot of time and $$ lobbying the gov't for more support funding for Alberta's book publishers and, as I interpret it, they were played. A lot of positive and encouraging sign led them to hope that our, oh-so-generous Klein government was about to inject fresh cash into our cultural industries and... nothing. Private film projects like Paul Gross's WWI flick got special funding but incredibley successfull and award winning publishers like Red Deer Press are being sold to Eastern interests cause its they only way they can grow.

Anyway back to the human nature part. Coming into this cold it seems pretty obvious to me that the Conservatives aren't going to give money to a left-leaning industry like book publishing...what's this reading all about anyway... and they they are very likely to spend lots of visible cash on high profile movies just for the hint of flashing cameras and good press. On top of that, leading Alberta citzens go to the Symphony, see high profile theatre at the Citadel and divide their dollars between the ballet and opera and if they read at all its stuff recommeded by MacLeans or the New Yor Times. They do not read books published by small-time local publishers... no matter how many awards they get. But you see, it was hard for anyone else at the table to fathom it. They had tried so hard and fought the good fight and they had lost...lost?

Meanwhile I'm sitting there thinking about what we could do to raise profile or stir up some sh_t. Maybe move into the 20th century with some of the aforementioned open source software. Anything to bide time until a new gov't comes along or Margaret Atwood announces she's marrying Ted Byfield and starting an Alberta-based press specializing in right wing canada lit. God we could rake in the funding with that scenario... I got a few licks in and listened hard to the woeful tales but it stilled seemed to me a lost cause before they started. Course I'm not one to take risks involving government, bureaucracy or an collection of people that number more than 10...never see me at the front of a revolution, no siree.

In the end everyone had to accept defeat but those eternal optimists among them still were talking of new plans to fight the total apathy of our government. I guess I'll have to join in because the only thing worse than fighting a losing battle is watching one from the sidelines. What the H, it might be fun if'n no one takes it too seriously. Maybe I'll meet Ralph in a more socail setting than Lois' funeral, invite him over for a brew and expalin just how much I can admire his skill at politick'n and still curse him up one side and down the other for being such a bonehead with my future.

I better get off this topic as I can feel L's blood a'boiling...

Ciao for now

B