Category Archives: Music



I was thinking about playlists (formerly known as mixtapes) the other day and decided to make one that involves songs which evoke a particular location or event. Since this set of criteria is so loose as to allow a playlist of thousands of songs, I set myself some rather arbitrary limits. It had to fit on a standard audio CD (74 minutes) and each song had to be specific to a particular location/time and only one song per location/time. So, although high school is four years long, it gets one song. I went to Korea three times for a total of four years, so that’s three songs (one per trip). I also decided that any trip of less than two months didn’t count. So, no song for BNCOC or CEWIOC or business trips. Here’s the 57 minutes I ended up with; commentary follows:

Doug E FreshLa Di Da Di
Living ColourCult of Personality
Violent FemmesBlister in the Sun
Faith No MoreEpic
MinistryEveryday Is Halloween
DivinylsI Touch Myself
Ace of BaseThe Sign
SoundgardenBlack Hole Sun
Los Del RioMacarena (Bayside Boys Mix)
Smash MouthWalkin’ On The Sun
Kid RockBawitdaba
TransplantsDiamonds and Guns
EvanescenceBring Me To Life
The WaterboysWhen Will We Be Married?

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Nookindle Fire Tablet

Barnes & Noble just finished their big reveal of the new Nook lineup. The press conference seemed like a lot of poking at Amazon, which is fun to see. The e-ink Nook Simple Touch is getting dropped to $99, which brings it inline with the Kindle Touch. There are a few differences, though – the Nook doesn’t support audiobooks or text-to-speech, but it also doesn’t come loaded with “special offers” at that price. The Kindle costs $40 more to nuke the ads.

Of course, the big story is the new Nook Tablet. Surprisingly, they aren’t putting the Nook Color out to pasture; it becomes their entry-level color device instead. The Nook Tablet gets twice the RAM and twice the storage of the Kindle Fire, as well as an expansion slot. Those are the most obvious differences in the hardware. The screen is supposed to be slightly better, and the CPU is 20% faster, but those differences are a bit harder to notice I’m betting.

The ecosystem is one of the deciding factors for these semi-mobile devices, and that’s going to be interesting to see work out over the coming months. Now that both retailers are going to have similar devices on the market simultaneously, the head-to-head competition will heat up more than it has in the past. When there was no color or touch Kindle, it was easy to dismiss the competition as being too dissimilar to really count.

Ecosystems…Amazon has their Prime program, which gets them an annual subscription fee and which gives the customer a variety of benefits. There are streaming videos from TV and movies, as well as free two-day shipping of many tangible products from the Amazon behemoth. Most recently, they added a free book “loan” per month (based on the explanation at Good E-Reader, it sounds more like they’ve paid for the books and are giving them away to entice more brand loyalty). Amazon also has their own Android app store, as well as the books they’re known for and their Audible book subsidiary.

Meanwhile, back at Barnes & Noble, they are touting the relative openness of the Nook Tablet in contrast to the curated experience at Amazon. You’ll be able to stream Netflix videos and Pandora music, as well as many other Android apps from the Nook app store. The Nook Color has become well known for being easily rootable; there’s no reason to predict the Tablet will be harder to root as B&N doesn’t try to lock people in as much as Amazon does.

So, the Fire gets you one location with all your media paid for annually and bit-by-bit. Nook gets you several services with their own payment systems and subscriptions, but with more storage and speed for $50 more money upfront. Which model becomes the big winner will be hard to predict, but it sure makes this holiday shopping season more entertaining to watch.



The demise of soap operas (of which I was never a huge fan anyway) prompted me to write a rather long-winded piece recently, wherein I decided that DVRs were the final nail in the coffin of long-form serialized daytime dramatic television. Since then, I’ve been thinking a bit more about the disruptive technologies of the recent past and how my childhood differed from my son’s. I was interrupted in this reverie by a phone call, which ended up serving as a perfect example of the major differences.

Caller ID (didn’t exist for my childhood) showed me that The Boy was calling from a friend’s phone. The Boy requested that I bring him a particular toy from his bedroom. I wandered down the hall on my cordless phone (didn’t have that when I was a kid), and found the toy. I said to the child, “You’re at Friend’s house then?” Oh, no – they were at the park. And there went another piece of the implied landscape of my youth – a phone belonged to a location, not a person, when I was a kid.

We had a phone for the family, not for each member of it. We called people at home, and expected the person answering the phone to not necessarily be the person we were going to converse with. This seems to affect telephone etiquette, or my son’s peers are all just clueless gits. I presume the former, out of generosity. When I answer the phone when one of The Boy’s friends calls, it is almost painful to get out of them anything like a coherent statement. You know the kind we were taught to use as kids; something along the lines of, “Hello, this is Gary, I’m calling for James.” What I get now is some sputtering where, if I’m lucky, I’ll be able to pick out the name of the child calling me. More often, it’s incomprehensible or a demand to speak to The Boy, with nothing like an introductory preamble. I’m convinced that all of his friends have their own personal phones now, so they just know to start talking when they answer. *Ring Ring* Look at phone, see it is James. Hey, James, what’s up?  That sort of thing is so completely foreign to us old geezers, even if we are cell phone users. Think about it, how many times do you know who is calling you, and yet the person still goes through the (now old-fashioned) introduction? I predict that the “Hello” when answering the phone may eventually die out entirely, as nobody needs to just answer as if they don’t know who is calling them.

Meanwhile, people talk on the phone an awful lot more than we did. If you were lucky enough to not have siblings screaming at you for their turn, you might be able to have a half-hour conversation on the phone in the 1980s. That was probably all you’d get for a day or more. It’s not that we didn’t have more to say, we just got tired of sitting in the one room where we had a phone for so long. Now that phones are completely untethered from a wall, much less the house itself, why ever stop talking? And so we have people who stick their phones to their heads the moment they are no longer prohibited from doing so. Hey lady, just do the grocery shopping, stop discussing your latest sexual conquest at HEB, huh?

As everyone from Ogg the Caveman until the end of humanity notes, Things Are Different Now. Listening to the Skeptics Guide to the Universe recently, the youngest member of the crew had no idea what “F Troop” was. Nearly everyone from my generation and before knew the same television (and radio prior to TV) shows as everyone else in their generation. After all, we only had three channels. Shoot, even PBS has only existed since 1970, and for most of its early existence was consigned to the UHF dead zone.

So, we all watched Gilligan’s Island when we came home from school, oblivious to the fact that the show had been cancelled before we were even born. We knew all the characters in the Addams Family, which also ended four years before my birth. Such was the nature of the highly-syndicated rerun system of 1970s afternoon television, in the days before cable.

In pursuit of the desire for more options in entertainment and technology, we seem to have lost most of our generational shared experiences. Just about the only thing that seems to remain is popular music. Whether you like the songs or not, if you’re remotely aware of the outside world, you’ve probably heard Cee-Lo’s F You, or Pink’s F-ing Perfect, or Enrique Iglesias’s Tonight (I’m F-ing You). Yeah, I chose those examples because of my amusement at how far we’ve come in pop music. Not that any of those three actually has the F word in the radio version of the song, but what the heck?

If you ask someone born around 1940 what they remember from their childhood, many of them would reference “Fibber McGee and Molly” on the radio, listening to Bo Diddley and Elvis, and the films of Hitchock or stars like Cary Grant, and of course Sputnik and Apollo. When you ask someone born around 1970 what they remember from their childhood, you’ll get references to “The Brady Bunch;” listening to Joan Jett,  Johnny Cougar (neé Mellencamp), Madonna, and Michael Jackson; movies like Star Wars, ET, and the Breakfast Club; and the space shuttle (first launch and the first explosion). When kids today look back in nostalgia at the early 21st Century, will any significant percentage be thinking of the same things? Will the customized nature of modern society mean the end of common experiences? And is that even a bad thing anyway?

KROQ – Barometer of Life

Listening to the KROQ 1991 playlist in the car this week, it occurred to me how many of the songs I was completely unfamiliar with. This is likely due to the fact that I spent the entirety of 1991 in the Republic of Korea. For those of you under 35 years old, let me explain why this was significant. Back in 1991, Korea did not have a blanket of high-speed internet as they do now. In fact, they barely had reliable telephones or television stations. 1991 was a time before the commercial internet, before DVD box sets (or even DVDs of any kind), way back in the dark ages of information technology. So, that year in Korea was a year where the only American pop culture I knew of was filtered by the Armed Forces Korea Network. Civilian readers, AFKN was like swaddling pop culture in a giant blanket of blandness. I could not understand, when I returned in 1992, why people were singing a song about logs being “better than bad.” I’m pretty sure the most cutting edge thing I heard on the radio that year was “Enter Sandman” by Metallica. It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come in such a short time.

Twenty years later, I have a tiny device on my desk which looks like a miniature television set. This device is connected to my wireless router and streams Facebook updates, Gmail inbox listings, news feeds, silly games and LOLcats. Most importantly, it also streams KROQ (or KNDD, KDGE, 91X, etc.). I’m living in BFE Texas, where the best radio station around plays the same regurgitated pap that every post-Clear Channel era “best of the 80s 90s and today” channel is running. But, I am no longer beholden to the filtered geographically-dependent view of pop culture.

Alex just likes the robot clock.

Livin’ in the future, man!

Mix Tapes

Inspired by this post from Gizmodo, I began to think of mix tapes this morning. I actually have converted some of my old mix tapes to MP3 playlists in the past, although a combination of a lack of decent backup discipline and misplaced cassettes have rendered them lost to time. Has anyone else gone through that sort of effort, or did you just move from tapes to digital audio with a clean break? For that matter, how many people actually create curated playlists, and how many hit shuffle and hope for the best? Or are you one of those album people who listen to complete albums by one artist? Some combination?

I confess to being one of those wishy-washy “combination” people. I have almost completed my KROQ Top List recreation project. Although some of the playlists from the 1980s are a bit difficult to rebuild, due to the one-hit-wonder nature of some tracks, I’ve done a pretty good job of building year-specific playlists of KROQ tunage. I also have every Barenaked Ladies, Cracker, and Cake album on my MP3 player, plus some dynamically-generated playlists (Top-rated tunes, tunes from the 1980s, etc.) and a few curated playlists I’ve built for my darling bride over the past few years.

I’m still inordinately happy that I kept the LA Megamix tape long enough to rip that to MP3, though. And if anyone has the Madhouse album “16” I’d appreciate a hookup.

Old Songs

I’ve been slowly building every KROQ “Top 106.7 Songs” playlist for the years they did them, and recently finished 1985. It’s interesting to see how many of the songs that were considerd the biggest of the year (for that station) are completely forgotten today. For instance, the John Palumbo song “Blowing up Detroit” – I don’t remember that song at all, nor the singer, nor the band he’s still in today (Crack the Sky). Other songs are an interesting piece of history. There’s the obvious John Hughes reference – Simple Minds’ “Don’t You Forget About Me.” And there’s also the social commentary – Artists United Against Apartheid’s song “Sun City” was big in 1985. It took 5 more years for De Klerk to begin negotiating an end to apartheid, and it wasn’t until 1994 that apartheid ended with multi-racial elections in South Africa. But, the song is a part of many people’s memories of the era when (after 40 years) we in the USA finally noticed apartheid was part of the society of a country where our rich people went to party.

As Kat points out, the list also includes a very obvious LA-centric slant.  Three Oingo Boingo songs are on the 1985 list, and yet most folks outside of SoCal have heard of exactly one OB track – Weird Science. Amusingly, there’s also a Danny Elfman song, “Gratitude,” on the list, which was recorded with the entire Oingo Boingo band on an Elfman solo album (So-Lo) – the ridiculous nature of recording an album with the exact same people but calling it solo instead of Boingo is due to some dispute with their record company. So, “Gratitude” is considered to be both an Elfman solo track and a Boingo band track – it appeared on the Best O’ Boingo compilation album years later, adding some credence to the Boingo provenance. Hard to believe it’s been 15 years since Oingo Boingo performed their farewell Halloween concert.

So, any bands or songs you remember from years past, but are completely lost to most of your friends’ memories?

iPod iPod iPod

Because the only significant story in the tech press today is about Apple (as is true every time Steve Jobs gets on a stage), I have become far too aware of the various iPod and iPad updates announced.  I find it interesting that Apple chose to replace the most popular model, the nano, with a version completely unlike the one which sold so well – it now has a touch screen and no buttons. Since the iPod classic was not mentioned, one assumes it is being led out behind the barn for an Old Yeller moment.  That leaves the iPod Shuffle as the sole remaining iPod with buttons.  Apple has decided that you can either have buttons or a screen, but not both.

I personally use my Sansa Fuze in the car, and the tactility of the physical buttons is the only thing which allows me to jump past a song while keeping my eyes on the road.  I’ve heard that people who listen to their music while exercising are also quite fond of physical buttons.  Would those people now have to resign themselves to the screenless shuffle (4 gigs of music without a screen? Ick) or does Apple just not care if some portion of their market jumps to a Samsung or Sansa or Creative player instead?

Of course, this assumes that Apple purchasers are sane humans who weigh the balance of features they need and desire against the value proposition they’re offered.  I’ve seen no evidence that is the case, so Apple is probably safe in betting that everyone they’ve already hooked will wander into an Apple store in a hypnotic trance and buy the latest doodad that Steve says they want.

Ray Bradbury’s Biggest Fan?

For those five science fiction geeks who haven’t seen it yet, may I present the only viral video I’ve heard of devoted to a Golden Age author: Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury. Embedded video after the break, since it is obviously Not Safe For Work (As an aside, this is likely the only time I’ll get to use the category tags of “Literary, Music, Video, and Geek” all on the same post).

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Michael Buble

We watched Micheal Buble on SNL this weekend, and it’s the first time I’d ever heard him.  Considering that he’s sold millions of records and continues to be in the top 20 Billboard album chart, you’d think we’d have heard him before.  And now that we have, I have to say… I don’t get it. Is “lounge singer” a new hotness? This guy makes Bryan Adams look like he’s got a lot of soul.  To be fair, unlike some singers who perform on SNL, at least he did stay on key. So there’s that.  Zzzzzz….

Dr Shante not a doctor after all

Well, that sucks.

Remember the touching story of Roxanne Shante, former teen mother from the projects turned rap star, who got her evil record company (Warner Music) to pay for her doctorate? Not all that true. Like, pretty much none of it is true. OK, maybe it’s a bald-faced lie.

Shante, or Lolita Gooden as she’s legally named, claims to have an M.A. from Cornell, but Cornell says, “who’s that?”  She also calls herself “Dr. Shante” even though she freely admits she has no doctorate of any kind. Also, she never had a contract with Warner Music, and the companies she did have contracts with say they never put some education clause into any contract ever.

To make this more of a he said-she said thing, nobody can come up with a copy of any of these contracts. To muddy the waters further, she was listed on a page of notable Cornell alumni as of last week; her name is missing from that list now. Shante was mentioned as a Cornell alum in an article about a hiphop summit; that mention was excised this week. She still is listed as a PhD recipient in another Cornell article, as of this writing. That’s obviously in error, as she admits she never got a PhD.

Goes to show, you can’t trust anything you read.

More Cassette Ripping

I had the vinyl of this, but all my vinyl disappeared when I joined the Army – it either ended up thrown away or in my brother’s house, and there’s no expectation I’ll see the licorice pizzas ever again.  But, the song is one I’ve been hoping to find digitally for years, and now I’m just giving up. It’s a 12 minute megamix of a crazy assortment of hip hop and rap from 1985, which was called (if I remember correctly) LA Beats Megamix or something like that. Not only is this classic of the era completely missing from any online store, it’s even missing from many people’s memories. Many of the songs which are part of the mix don’t seem to have been preserved even as lyrics on the web today.

The Knights of the Turntable section, from their classic Techno Scratch, is remembered fondly. But what about the section in vocoder that says, “don’t be afraid of these vicious beats” – where is the tribute to that band, whose name even I forget?  Let me up freak, get me some juice, indeed! You only came to the party to rock shock and dance… Ah, memories.

If you’re reading this anywhere but at my actual blog, the little streaming player won’t show up for you.


Download File

Rap Superstar

Inspired by the recent news article on Roxanne Shante, I got all old skool and looked at my stack of tapes, hunting for those obscure bits that I’ve not found on digital media yet. I was reminded of the strange and jarring hiccup in “La Di Da Di” at the 2:38 mark, which was not present in the original and kind of obscures the next phrase in complete non sequitur. Seriously, they didn’t try to record an alternate version of the song when they got smacked by the lawyers, they just clipped 10 seconds of expository story out of it. The listener ends up wondering why this girl is crying over Rick and feeling blue. Sure, you’d like to tell her not to cry and dry her eyes, but why in the world is she crying in the first place? So, I grabbed my trusty patch cord, and now I have the original, found only on cassette, full version of the classic Doug E Fresh song on my computer. Take that, sampling copyright violations!

Now, to see what else I’ve got hiding out. Ooh, the LA Beats megamix…

We’re Back!

Wow, that was a long outage.  My hosting service has had a rocky week – I spent two days with email being rejected (if you sent me something and it said I didn’t exist, I do now), and then the servers lost their network connectivity this morning for about six hours. For Dreamhost, that’s very unusual. When I was with CCLhosting, I expected random outages but DH has been very reliable for years now. I’m sure this was just a really bad coincidence of unlucky events.

Back to ripping my CDs – I’m up to nearly 39000 tracks now.

Top 106 of 1988

Every few weeks, I update my MP3 player with a “new music” playlist. I used to draw this from the “New Release Rack” at a long-running Midland radio station that had a simulcast here in San Angelo. The simulcast ended (replaced by yet another hits of the blah blah I believe), and then the Midland station turned to Tejano music itself. What a firestorm of mediocrity. But media consolidation has no effect on variety and quality.

Moving on, I decided to use my old favorite from high school, KROQ, as inspiration to keep in touch with the cool new tracks from the music world. They kept a nice set of playlists online, to include their most-requested, most-played, and newest additions. I’d select a few from each list, and away I’d go with a new set of tunes. Last month, I noticed they’d added something even cooler, the Top 106.7 lists. Every year, the station compiles a list of the top 107 songs (they claim 106.7 because of their FM frequency, but 7 tenths of a song is odd). They had listed several of those annual lists on their site. I took a look at the 2008 list and added that to my Sansa. After a few weeks, I had heard all the tracks enough and went back to KROQ for a refresh. Their lists are all gone. Even using deep links from Google searches ends up at their newly-bare homepage. *sigh*

Thankfully, KNDD in Seattle is another great station and their playlist is still listed, so that takes care of my New Music Rack list. And, I found someone online who compiled all the KROQ annual lists from the 80s. Now I’ve got the 1988 list on my player, and I’m very amused. Some of the songs from the year I graduated high school stand up quite well, others not so much. Cocteau Twins are on the “not so much” list for sure. And, what happened to the band Camouflage? They sounded just like Depeche Mode, yet Martin Gore continues to play and Camouflage is gone. Listening to the Sugarcubes is an interesting flashback to a time before Bjork became such a spectacle. Sadly, I did not have nor could not find some of the tracks, so I have the top 93 of 1988.  Close enough, for 20 years later.

On a related note, combined with burning through the Amazon gift card The Boy gave me for Father’s Day, and ripping the several boxes of CDs hiding in the closet, I’m up to over 200 gigs of music on my computer. I’m not addicted.


The Foo Fighters have a new video. Since you can’t find music on MTV, here ya go:

So, um…soap star turns rock star, star drives car over cliff…is this a Rick Springfield-meets-James Dean reference? Naturally, the Foos remain unique in their video excursions.

Ted Nugent, Right-wing Hero

Every so often, Ted Nugent shows up on Faux News or in a print publication, and he gets to hold the unenviable position of the Cool Republican. After all, according to conventional wisdom, most of the entertainment industry is filled with crazy lefties, but Nugent is the edgy guy in the GOP.

He’s so edgy, he brought a couple of weapons on stage (they appear to be M16s, so they are probably AR-15s) , and waved them around. Ooh, edgy. And then, he screamed obscenities about a variety of Democratic politicians. Edgy. He told Senator Obama (who he respectfully calls a piece of shit) to suck on his machine gun. Um, edgy? Senator Clinton, lovingly called a worthless bitch, is told to ride a gun into the sunset. WTF?

In an interview with Sean Hannity, Nugent spoke of Democrats (in response to a former Hustler writer saying he had dibs on Rush Limbaugh for conservative hunting season), “I find it just reprehensible that they would recommend violence, not to mention murder and shooting people and assassinating people. This is bizarre.”

You’re right, Nuge. It is bizarre.
You can find the video if you search online. I’m not linking to that crap.