music

RFT Music Showcase

I love Jumbling Towers. If you haven't figured out how badly I want to be in the middle of a gay sandwich with singer Joe DeBoer and bassist Nate Drexler, you simply haven't been reading this livejournal enough. Jumbling Towers is my favorite local band, and although I hate them for not playing live more often I also love them for releasing the excellent-though-not-as-good-as-Classy-Entertainment album Kanetown City Rips a month ago. I have a wee favor to ask of you: Please click right here right now and vote for Jumbling Towers for Best Indie Band and Best Local Album (two separate categories). They're crowded categories, but I assure you Jumbling Towers is the best in both categories. If you were about to vote for Son Volt or Bunnygrunt for best album, I can see where you're coming from but actually you're wrong, Kanetown City Rips is the best album.

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Abraham Lincon: Vampire Hunter

From the trailer you might think that Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a corny over-the-top gorefest that has little to do with the actual life of Abraham Lincoln. But author Seth Grahame-Smith writes it very seriously. Once you accept the premise that vampires are real and Abraham Lincoln spent a good portion of his life hunting them, the novel is a realistic work of fiction. The novel tells the real biography of Lincoln between the fictional vampire encounters. And this is where the book's flaw lies. Abraham Lincoln had such an interesting life and lived in such an interesting time, even adding vampires to the story doesn't make a Lincoln biography even better. The horrors committed by vampires in this novel can't compare to the real life horrors of slavery. The tragedies Lincoln encounters from his vampire encounters can't compare to the real tragedies Lincoln suffered throughout his life. Toward the end of the novel, when Lincoln complains that he wants to finish the war without ever seeing another vampire, I couldn't help sharing the sentiment. I had actually been drawn into the real portion of Lincoln's biography more than the fictional portion and wanted all the distracting bits about vampires to be over with. I never condemn or praise a work based solely on the ending, but it needs to be pointed out that the ending is wholly unsatisfying and nonsensical. Nonsensical would be all right in another work, but as I said, the author seems to want the reader to take this stuff seriously. 

If you've never read a Lincoln biography (or read Wikipedia's entries about Lincoln, hello 21st century), you'll probably learn a few facts about Lincoln's life reading this novel. It's not a bad read, just not as good as I think a book about Abraham Lincoln hunting vampires ought to be. I admit that I've never read a Lincoln biography, and the only book I've read about vampires was written by Edward Packard, so I'm no authority on the subjects. My verdict is to check this one out from the library if you're interested, don't bother buying it. I still hold out hope that a better work of fiction about Lincoln hunting vampires will be written one day.

For other works about vampires I can recommend, rent Buffy the Vampire Slayer or buy Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter.
music

You are the blood

A friend linked me to Sufjan Stevens' cover of "You are the blood" recently. When I heard it, I was amazed at what an great cover he had made. I really liked the original, but the cover was so good. Alternating between dissonance and melody, simple arrangement and complex layers, it took a great song so much further.

That was my opinion at the time, but I hadn't listened to the original in a while. I went back and listened to the original by the Castanets today, and it's an even better song than I remembered, and better then Sufjan's cover. The dissonance, the long instrumental section, the alternating between simple and complex arrangements, it's all there in the original and done quite well. The original is a great song that probably cannot be improved upon, and although Sufjan Stevens has made a very good version, it's simply not as good as the original.
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Free cake

When I bought my iMac I made sure to get the cheapest graphics available, some integrated Intel junk. I did this because it's MacOS fercryinoutloud, I'm never going to play games with it, right?

Valve just released Portal for Mac, and they released it for free, probably to promote Portal 2 which is coming out soon. So I downloaded the game because hey, free Portal, right? Playing this game is a horrific experience on my hardware. I'm not a gamer, but when I started the game the frame rate was low enough to make me feel nauseated. And so I lowered every video setting possible, and now it looks absolutely hideous. I didn't even know 1024x640 was a resolution! And it's still got a low frame rate even with all the video setting down, although at least it's fast enough now that I don't feel sick when I look at it.

So it's not a big deal, I'm not that interested in playing games anyway, I just wanted to try something because it was free. But part of me is regretting making the hardware choice I made, thanks to someone giving something away for free that I wasn't interested in to begin with. I think there's a principle of human behavior here that I should take some time to think about so I can exploit it in the future.
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MacKvetch

Today it occurred to me that I hadn't received any OS updates from Apple since I first got my iMac in October 2008. I do get a nag message from iTunes that it has an update whenever I accidentally start iTunes. But no OS updates. Surely Apple pushes out an update ever now and again. I asked a Mac-using coworkers and they all get updates regularly. "Oh, you must be using the thing that came before Leopard." No, I use Leopard. "Oh, you must have turned off the automatic updates." Um, not on purpose.

I'm looking at the Software Update preferences panel. It says "Check for updates: Weekly". This option is checked. It says "Download updates automatically". This option is checked. It also says "Last check: Sunday, October 12, 2008 1:07 PM". WTF? I guess I'll check manually from time to time.

Second complaint: As it finishes downloading each update, the computer asks me for an administrator password to install each one. Couldn't it download all the updates, then give me a single password prompt at the end? Or even multiple prompts at the end. I don't want to have to sit here and babysit the computer so the two hour download process can complete.
music

The scent of a record

April 17th is the third Saturday of April, which means it's Record Store Day. A record store near you will probably be having some kind of event, so search for your zip code and find out what's going on. I'll most likely be at Apop Records, which will have an all-day concert with a lineup so long (and true to their name, eclectic) that I'm not going to list it here.

I've never really liked ordering music online. There are a couple reasons for this. One practical reason is that if I bought stuff online I'd have everything I wanted available to me, so I'd be penniless by now. Silly reason, but it's an honest consideration for me. The other reason is the fun I have at record stores. I love the click, click, click of jewel cases and flup, flup of record sleeves flipping against each other as I scan each one. I love finding a recording I didn't even know existed. I love finding used CDs and records; I feel like I'm rescuing an unloved orphan and giving it a new home. I love the human interaction when I or a fellow shopper notice a shared musical interest and the exchanges that ensue. And of course, record store staff are the key, the folks who make helpful suggestions and let you know about another artist you may like or an upcoming show you may not have heard of.

One day I was changing CDs at my desk at work and noticed a smell. I sniffed the paper insert and memories came back — Atomic Records in Milwaukee! Experimenting with my other used CDs and records, I found I could recognize where I had bought most of them from the smell, even years after I had bought them. I can still remember the smell of a record shop in Lexington, Kentucky even though I forgot its name years ago.

Be sure to see what record shops in your area are doing for Record Store Day. But you don't have to wait for April 17. Next time you're thinking of buying something off of iTunes, go out to a local independent record store and get something there instead. Music is a social experience, meant to be shared with others.