Friday, June 26, 2009

Themes for iGoogle

If you are using iGoogle (and if not, why not?), then check out the results of the Google photography contest. You can add any of the results of the top contestants to your iGoogle page for a change of pace in your theme. You can even try a theme out on your page to see how it looks, then revert to your former page if you don't care for it. What do you have to lose?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Log Cabin Recording Log, The Fire Next Time, pt. 3

(photo by Gabe Duke)

We recorded accordion tracks for St. Josephina (quick! band meeting: is is St. Josephina or St. Josefina?) and San Jacinto last evening, as well as glockenspiel on You Do Too. It was an easy evening, not too warm in the cabin, brownies to keep us sugared up and happy (thank you, Caitlin!), and we were done by 9:00. Intern Matt diligently took notes, completed his "what's a pre-amp" quiz, learned about various mics, and was his usual helpful self.

Recording the accordion keyboard part on San Jacinto was easy and went quickly. The St. Josephina bass accordion part was a little tougher -- in order for the microphone to pick up the rumbling bass, it had to be close enough that it was also picking up the click of the buttons as I changed notes. It was a challenge to change notes with a minimal amount of clicking, but any clicks on the recording will be Firm Evidence that we used real instruments.

Recording the glockenspiel was trickiest. It is a tough instrument to record, as it can sound annoyingly "pingy" if not miced correctly. If the microphone is too close, than it will catch the click of the mallet hitting the metal bars. If it is too far away, the microphone will loose the pitched tones and the tune won't carry. After a few tries, Allen found a microphone set up that worked well. Allen said that a toy piano works well for the glockenspiel sound, but there can be pitch issues (but do let us know if you have a perfectly tuned toy piano in your attic that you'd let us use).

Jonathan left early to play a show at Cous Cous, and I lobbied hard to change the album to Jonathan Vassar: Rock the Glock, but Allen revoked my Stand-In Producer title, and nixed the idea.

Next up: vocals.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Log Cabin Recording Log, The Fire Next Time, pt. 2

condemnation plantation


last night Chris put down electric guitar, banjo and mandolin. a display of solid chops. especially considering that he just got back from a road trip to Nova Scotia.
iced tea cooled us down until it got nice enough outside to open the windows.
with the opening of the cabin came night noises, frogs and owls, that worked their way into the songs.

the record is beginning to take form, and there is discussion about recording the playback in the main cabin living room to create a reverb chamber that is true to the shape of the space.

at the end of the evening, during the recording of the slide guitar on Saint Josephina, the rain began. hopefully we’ll be able to keep it in the track. if so, we’ll have captured sound both inside the and outside that conveys the cabin’s form.

tonight Chris will put finishing touches on his work.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Log Cabin Recording Log, The Fire Next Time


so far the guitar and scratch vocals are in the can
and we’re set for Chris to lay down mandolin,
banjo, and electric guitar this evening.
we haven’t quite captured the space yet, but with
the recordings combined we feel it’ll start to take shape soon enough.

other sounds captured to our endless amusement:
cackling birds on Nearer My Father’s Wounded Side
Bugle the dog on A Hole in the Ground

though it’s taken us awhile to end up here, recording
in the cabin is especially meaningful for Antonia and me.
antonia’s grandmother bought the property when it was condemned–earning its name “Condemnation Plantation,” and restored it back to health.
Antonia and i made the cabin our home for the first four and a half years of our marriage. it’s in this house that all of the songs were written, and my 2008 demo recordings were scraped together.


The Fire Next Time

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Artifacts of my father

Darien posted a very lovely tribute to her father today (actually only part one, with several more on the way). It got me thinking about my own father -- the things I remember, and more that are only dimly recalled or that have even slipped from my grasp altogether. There are things I have that remind me of him. They surround my daily life, usually in the background, but sometimes thrusting themselves forward and sending me into a reverie.

I have several such artifacts of my father, but I'll just mention just three. One is a brick from Uniontown. I picked it up during a marathon trip to Pennsylvania, driving up and back in less than twenty-four hours. Other than my father, I have a hazy recollection of who made that journey with us. Darien didn't come I'm certain, but a young Antonia did. Darien must have stayed back with one or two boys, too young to understand why we would pack into a station wagon that way and just drive. Maybe Jody, too? But not Skip? My mother must have been there, too. Would I had a digital camera back then.

We toured around Uniontown, Dad pointing out things he remembered, such as the house where he was born, the laundry where he worked, the Slovak club where his father spent a lot of time, talking and playing music. He also showed us the site of his elementary school. The original building had been razed, and a new one built in its place. A rubble of bricks was piled off to the side. Some of them had the name Uniontown chiseled into them, indicating the place of their manufacture. Probably in violation of some law, I took one as a memento of the trip. Whenever I look at it, I am not only reminded of the trip, but of my father growing up in that town that had such an influence on his life, and that hovered my own childhood far away in California, like a Grecian myth. The older I get, the more I think of histories that I never experienced, but that exert their own spell over me.

(It is irritating that when I went to write this, I could not find the brick. It is in the utility room, somewhere on the workbench, I think. I shall have to clean the room now. My father would never have let his workshop devolve into the state mine is in. There is a small glimmer of hope that Gabriel is using it as a perch for his dragons.)

Another artifact I have is a knife. It belonged to my father. It is a Craftsman knife -- nothing special, just utilitarian. He always bought Craftsman, so I always buy Craftsman. Whenever I use it, I remember him and how he loved tools and working with his hands and fixing things. He engraved his name on it. I think he gave it to me before he died, but I'm not sure. I wish I had written it down.

The last artifact is a pocket watch. I have it displayed in my front hallway. I see it every time I come down the stairs, or walk out the front door. Most of the time it is just there, invisible, part of the patchwork surrounding me. Other times it makes me pause -- time stops, so to speak. It was my father's; my mother gave it to me after he died. Darien found a stand for it. The watch makes me remember the pride he had in efficiency, in systems, in finding the shortest route to get from Point A to Point B. I have that in me, too. I use it now as an icon for myself on my blogs.

Places. Tools. Time. These and other artifacts of my father live in me still. They are the trivial detritus of life, never intended to carry the weight of the past with them, but that is what they do now. They make me muse upon what my own children will take from me.

Recycling (duh!)

We have been recycling in our house for almost twenty years. We haven't wanted to use a plastic bag to line the receptacle in the house, so we have just been using a brown paper grocery bag and then putting that in the collection bin for the every-other-week pick-up. Over the past several years we have been gradually switching to reusable eco-bags for our marketing. When our paper bags get low, we forgo the eco-bags and ask for paper at the market.

It suddenly occurred to one of us (the smart one) that we could just as easily use a stiff eco-bag in the house receptacle. That is what we are doing now for all of our house recycling. We just dump what we collect into the larger bins when the time comes, saving a little bit of paper each time. Wish we would have thought of that one sooner.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Wolfgang's Vault

I subscribe to a online newsletter from Wolfgang's Vault. It is a music site with a large catalog of vintage recorded concerts, most of which were never released commercially, from sources such as King Biscuit Flower Hour and Bill Graham's archive. Most concerts derive from the sixties and seventies, although there is a smattering of later years as well. You can also browse through the concert list and play on demand those you like, either the concert in its entirety or selected songs. There is also streaming radio, playlists, and more.

New concerts are added every week -- twenty this week alone. Several concerts are highlighted each week in the newsletter. It's fun to be surprised and just tune in to what is being offered. To give you a flavor, here is an excerpt from today's newsletter:

On the website this week, we've been celebrating the career of Eric Clapton, featuring concerts from Delaney & Bonnie and Derek and the Dominos. Today we're featuring a mini-set from Cream, recorded just over a month before their final concert. There's a terrific take on a Howlin' Wolf blues number followed by a pummeling workout on "I'm So Glad." Short and sweet, this is a quintessential representation of the first supergroup. For a more concise look at Slowhand's career, check out our featured Artist Archive Playlist highlighting his best performances in the Vault.

Our new releases for the weekend include a mellow, intimate set from Judy Collins in 1979, after she had moved away from her folk roots and into more eclectic pop territory; a high energy set of Southern rock from the Henry Paul Band, including songs from Paul's solo career and from his time with the Outlaws; and exciting hard rock and theatrics from the underappreciated Shooting Star.

Last Sunday, singer/songwriter Kenny Rankin passed away from complications associated with lung cancer; he was 69. To help his memory live on through his music, we're adding a new set from Kenny, recorded in 1976. Our thoughts and prayers are with his friends and family.
Sign up for the newsletter and have some fun. Feed your ears.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Getting a screenful of Picasa Web

If you use or view Picasa on the Web, there is now a very nice full screen mode that allows you to flip through a gallery very quickly. Essentially, it is the slide show with snappier navigation. When you have a single picture on the screen, look up in the left corner, right under where it says "My Photos" and click "Full screen." When the full screen comes up, you will see the navigation buttons at the bottom to flip through the gallery, but you can also use the right and left arrow keys to go even faster. You will be amazed at how quickly you can scan through the images. If you don't have your own Picasa Web albums, you can test drive it on one of mine. To really take advantage of your monitor's size and turn on the acceleration, press the F11 key -- at least on a PC. Let us know if that works on a Mac as well, or if there is some equivalent key.