New Toys

Since the last time we got together:

The New Coursera Cafe Karaoke Project, which will be “You’ve Got A Friend, has been postponed until September.

The Coursera Blues Jam follow-up to “Be True” seems to have been postponed indefinitely due to lack of interest/participants.

“Baby Bought A Pistol” is still a back-burner issue, no doubt to be abandoned.

I have started working on a new original song that’s inspired by a dream my ex had, but that’s a story for another time. The lyrics are close to being finished, and I’ve mapped out the production.

But first…

Being a gadgethead and a sucker for deals, I’ve recently acquired two pieces of hardware that I’m anxious to try out.

The first is the Line 6 Mobile In

.

I have been using an iRig for a long time, but since the input goes through the headphone jack, quite a bit of electrical noise can be picked up. I tried different cords and settings, but the crackling noise is still maddeningly noticeable.

They can be had online ranging from $24.99 to $49.95, but in mid-July Musician’s Friend offered it as their “Stupid Deal Of The Day” for $9.99. Couldn’t pass that up! I’ve played around with it a bit, and it seems fantastic, but haven’t tried recording yet.

The second is a Blue Mikey Digital, which I read about in an article by Dan Cross.

I’m too cheap to spend $99.99 on something like this, but a little research helped me find a refurbished one at Rakuten.com for $40.97 (with free shipping, even). It just arrived yesterday, so I haven’t had a chance to test it yet.

My next project will be something simple to put my new toys through their paces.

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[Baby Bought A Pistol]

The song has a title and tentative verse lyrics. The subject was suggested by the latest rash of school/university shootings. But it’s not a serious protest song, or anything like that. A little sardonic is the most I’ll attribute to it. Lyrics were finished mostly during my five minute ride to work.

The rhythm track was added. Tried adding an organ stab to accompany it, but I didn’t like the sound. Made the executive decision to stick to just guitar.

Started doodling around with a lead guitar track; eventually hit the Record button to capture some improvisation, and, as these things are wont to happen, my high E string snapped. I’m going to attempt using one of my other axes, but if I can’t get what I was getting out of my Casino, I’ll have to man up and change strings. It’s about time, anyway, I suppose.

[bass]

Completed the bass track.

As previously mentioned, I built it with the GarageBand Smart Bass feature, and I nicked the “Taxman” riff.

Next up will be the rhythm guitar track. When that’s complete, I’ll try to post a few bars of this work-in-progress.

[riff]

Back to work, at least temporarily. The Coursera Blues Jam is starting work on another track, and that may distract me a bit.

But not for too long, I think. I find it takes me forever to get a new project rolling, but usually, once it does, I become consumed with it.

I recorded the riff with my Strat through iRig into GarageBand, pretty much the same way it was played in the video. Not “pretty much” the same way; the same way. Not straight through the entire song, though. Modern technology allows me to do a lot of cut-and-paste. I recorded the riff for 12 measures, then copied it throughout. I did a little edit of the main riff to serve as the bridge, and that was that. A little time spent fooling with the guitar tone, and I was done.

I started working on the bass track, and decided to build it with GarageBand’s Smart Bass feature. I can’t get the tone I want playing through a regular guitar, like I did with “Closing The Door”.

[drum track 1]

Now that “Be True” is in the can, I can return to my own project.

I’ve begun the actual “recording” process by settling on a tempo (120 bpm) and choosing a stock Apple drum loop to use as a click track. Once the rest of the instrumentation is added, I’ll construct some drum fills and flourishes in GarageBand so the percussion track isn’t too bland.

Progress:

Drum track

The Balloon Boy: We Got Got

I was sitting at work Thursday afternoon, and my iPhone let me know I received a text message. It was from CNN, and it said that a 6-year-old boy crawled into an experimental aircraft his parents were building and had floated away into the Colorado sky.  The text was worded poetically enough that my curiosity was aroused, so I dutifully logged on to CNN.com to see what was going on.

What was going on was horrifying. A six-year-old had reportedly climbed into the basket of what appeared to be a saucer-shaped helium weather balloon built by his parents, which somehow became untethered and sailed away.

Like millions of others, I sat in front of my monitor transfixed as the balloon floated a reported 7,000 feet in the Rocky Mountain air at speeds of 30 M.P.H. I could not begin to imagine the terror the little passenger must be feeling, but, as a parent, I could certainly imagine what the boy’s folks were going through.

CNN trotted out their requisite “experts” (there must be a Manhattan-phonebook-sized directory of every conceivable expert in any field a news organization could possibly need at every newsdesk in the studio), including a Hot Air Balloon Expert who helpfully informed us that hot air in a balloon makes it go up, or “rise”.

I was surfing back and forth between various news sites (even Fox News, to see if they had a slant yet on how this was Obama’s fault). I kept current and contributed to the Twitter #balloonboy stream. I called co-workers and friends to alert them to what was happening to this poor child.

In the midst of all this activity, I almost missed the expert that said that, based on the way the balloon was moving, he didn’t think there was anyone  on board. The physics weren’t quite right to suggest there was 60 pounds of boyweight affecting the flight.

Eventually, just like the balloons I used to get at the carnival, the helium gassed out, and the balloon sunk to earth, where it was met by various law enforcement personnel, who quickly ascertained that the boy was…not there.

Huh? So I was watching a cargoless balloon float across Colorado that whole time? Yeah, but that’s a good thing, right? Because the boy must be OK.  But his whereabouts were still unknown. Neighbors and  hangers-on took to searching the area around the family’s house, calling the boy’s name.

By this time my workday had ended (well, to be truthful, it had ended when I started following the story), so I stopped by a friend’s house to discuss the story. My take was that the kid and his brother were messing around the balloon and accidentally set it free, and the kid was probably hiding somewhere thinking he was in big trouble.

My friend, however, was more skeptical than I was. “I dunno,” she said. “There’s something not right about this.” (By this time the parents’ involvement in various TV projects had been revealed.) “I’ll bet you anything this is some sort of publicity stunt.”

I scoffed; happily, in light of subsequent events, she hasn’t rubbed my nose in it.

The first subsequent event was that the boy was found in a box in a garage attic. He crawled in the box and fell asleep, he said, because his dad had yelled at him earlier in the day and was upset.

The second, and biggest subsequent event, occurred later in the evening as Wolf Blitzer (I still have trouble  believing that’s his real name) asked him, through his dad, if he heard people calling his name while he was hiding in the box. The boy said he did; Dad asked him, “Well, why didn’t you come out?” After some hesitation, the boy answered, “Well…you guys said…we did this for the show.”

Wolfman asked what he meant by that, whereupon the dad got all huffy and “appalled”, and instead of answering the question, accused the media of making false accusations (he obviously studied under Sarah Palin).

Keeping up the strategy of not answering questions, the dad said that he would be making a “major announcement” Saturday morning. Having invested so much time in the story already, I was seated in front of my computer, watching the live feed.

 

The dad said he’d be back at 7:30 local time to answer whatever questions were in the box.

It was during this Major Announcement that I realized: I’d been had. I got got.  My friend was right. They did this for the show. I’d invested my time and emotions into an event as empty as my martini glass.

The dad did not show up at 7:30 local time to answer the questions that had piled up in the box. I’m sure the majority of the questions were along the line of “Are you nuts, or what?” But he didn’t answer them because he was answering questions for local law enforcement.

Sunday the sheriff proclaimed that the whole thing was a hoax, planned and executed by the parents, and probably other miscreants as well. The sheriff knew it the whole time, of course; he just wanted the parents to think he was a sucker so he could get some proof. Sometime in the next week, the parents will be charged with God knows how many felonies and misdemeanors, and whoever decides these things are currently deciding if the kids should be taken away or not.

In the meantime, the parents’ “high-profile Denver lawyer” is currently making the talk-show rounds, huffing and puffing about evidence and saying it’s his job to slap down the sheriff’s office.

Note that I did not mention the lawyer by name; nor did I mention the name of the parents that instigated this whole mess. They are all publicity whores, and the worst thing you can do to a publicity whore is ignore them.

Which is what I intend to do from here on out.

Random Thoughts #2

Ya see, this is why I don’t promote my personal brand and monetize this here blog thing. It’s been over a month since I’ve made any entries. Not that I can’t find anything to write about, it’s making the time to do it that’s my problem.

Anyway, a few random comments to catch things up:

• The computer problem outlined in my last post has been resolved successfully. I did have to install a new hard drive (and, naturally, strip a screw while putting everything back together, which resulted in one of the plastic cosmetic covers sticking up ever so slightly higher than the other). And I did blow $80 on a data recovery program that didn’t work for me (my own damn fault; I didn’t read the program description close enough to notice that it would not work on a striped RAID array). But with a step-back-and-rethink and the help of a wonderful free program called Pandora Recovery, I was able to recover the photos, documents and most of the music I’d lost. And I now have two 500GB external that I back up everything to on a regular basis.

• I loved loved loved the season finale of Lost! I had kept all Season 5 episodes on my TiVo, and went back and rewatched the entire season, and found it quite satisfying (although I’ll miss Elizabeth Mitchell terribly). I have complete confidence in the creative team that the Final Season will cement Lost’s place in TV history as one of the best series ever.

• The 24 season finale, however, seemed oddly disappointing to me. A bit of a let down, really. Don’t get me wrong; bad 24 is shelves above most other dramas, but after 23 rockin’ hours, the ending left me cold. It didn’t rock my world. The Season 7 DVD set was available to buy the next day, though. (Lost? You hear that?)

• Go see Up. After careful reflection, I think it’s my third favorite Pixar film (nothing can replace Buzz and Woody on my list). The story has always been Pixar’s strength, and this one is no exception. It’s a life-affirming message that applies to everyone. Well, everyone except for the young girl sitting a few rows behind me who loudly told her mom that she didn’t want to watch this movie anymore. But I bet by the end of the movie she was glad her mom told her to shut up and watch (or was that just a wishful thought I had?).

• Next gen iPhones are rumored to be available Monday. Still going back and forth as to whether or not I want to take the plunge. OK, you got me. I want to take the plunge.

OK, Loyal Reader. That’s enough for now. I shan’t wait another month to post again. Good bloggers post daily. Let’s see if I can do that.