Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Guitar Rack Is Full

The Tuesday Night Blues Jam presented by Sherman House at Lynagh's has been doing pretty well: good turnouts of musicians (8-12), and some turnout of listeners. I have enjoyed being 1 of the house band guitarists/vocalists, with Brent Carter also on guitar and vocals, Matt Noell on bass and vocals, and Roger Barber on drums. We probably tried out 10 or so new songs since we resumed in early September, that has been fun.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Blues and Groove Jam at Squire's has also been doing well. This past Sunday, I had my 3 venue day: Backstretch Bar & Grill jam from 3-7, Listen Locally Open Mic at Twisted Cork from 5:30-9 with Steve on harp, and Squire's from 7:30-10:30. I played my latest guitar at all 3.

This guitar is the St. Vincent Signature from Sterling by Music Man. Music Man is Ernie Ball's guitar company, Sterling is their Epiphone cheaper version - $600 vs $2200 - made in Indonesia. I watched St. Vincent (Annie Clark)'s most excellent show on Austin City Limits and was struck by the guitar she was playing. She played red, matte black, and (vincent) blue versions. I checked it out and found that it was her signature guitar. So I got one - my 1st signature guitar and it is from a female guitarist?!?!?

The guitar is such a thing of beauty. The design is very geometrical: a triangle, a parallelogram, and a trapezoid. The difference of size in the 2 quadrilaterals is set by the width of the neck. I tried to draw it, the proportions are not quite right (the trapezoid that runs from top right to bottom left is off), but you get the idea.

It's light, fits the body well. It has the thickest neck of any of my guitars, but it still plays well, and the intonation up the neck is excellent. The whammy bar is like a Strat. I had to adjust it to whammy up as well as down, after which I had to adjust the string lengths and heights - I think I have got it set up pretty well now.

It took me 2 tries to get this guitar. The guitar has 3 pickups with a 5 position switch like a Strat. But it's not wired like a Strat. Pickup switch position 1 is the neck and bridge pickups; position 2 is all 3 pickups; position 3 is neck only; position 4 is middle only; and position 5 is bridge only. The 1st one I got came in with position 5 wired as bridge and middle. This is no good, you definitely want a bridge only setting for having the treble to cut through on solos when needed. I returned the 1st 1, the 2nd 1 came in wired correctly, yay!

As stated in the title, my 7-guitar rack is full - it actually has 8 guitars on it.

Not shown is the Flying V, which would not fit in the rack. Additionally, I have loaned it on a semi-permanent basis to the most excellent young guitarist Harlan Cecil of Fresh Cream Band. With the classical electric I added ~6 months ago, I think I'm good for a while.

Music In goes back to early August.

  • Spud Cannon, "Next Time Read the Fine Print", 2017, 12 tracks. Recommended by my son, who compared it to The Cure. They're out of Vassar College. Very nice peppy alternative tunes, 4 stars. Here's "Thrum a Dum".

  • Van Halen, "Fair Warning", 1981, 9 tracks. I read an interview with my friend, internationally renowned guitarist, the inimitable Ben Lacy, where he named this as his 1 album for a desert island. Great guitar work by Eddie Van Halen, one of Ben's seminal influences, but not particularly in my sweet spot. 3 stars.
  • Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention, "One Size Fits All", 1975, 9 tracks. Ben also mentioned this as his 2nd desert island pick. I really far prefer the earlier Zappa, from the beginning up through maybe "Apostrophe". 3 stars.
  • Aretha Franklin, "Spirit In The Dark", 1970, 12 tracks. After the death of the Queen of Soul, I realized I had no Aretha in my collection. One article about her referenced this album as a high point so I got it. 4 stars. Here's "Don't Play That Song", a catchy Ben E. King tune. Wow, she really has long fingers!

  • Death Cab For Cutie, "Thank You for Today", 2018, 10 tracks. The 1st I have heard of them in a while. Nice tunes but no real standouts. 3 stars.
  • Interpol, "Marauder", 2018, 13 tracks. Interpol was 1 of the 1st alternative bands I started listening to when I restarted music ingestion around the turn of the century. A distinctive sound, but this album, like the other 5 of their albums I have, gets 3 stars.
  • Tash Sultana, "Flow State", 2018, 13 tracks. I think my weekly Amazon music email recommended this. Very catchy stuff. Australian, they sound like a woman, but their Wikipedia page consistently uses the gender-neutral pronoun "they" in referring to Sultana. At some point the article got edited and now under Personal Life says "Sultana identifies as nonbinary and prefers the pronoun "they"". Quite a variety of music, 1 track reminds me of a Kaki King guitar special. Here's track 1, "Seed (Intro)". I'm such a sucker for these major and minor 7th chords.

  • Iron & Wine, "Weed Garden", 2018, 6 tracks. This guy continues to put out great tunes, 4 stars. Here's "Last of Your Rock'n Roll Heroes".

  • Paul McCartney, "Egypt Station", 2018, 16 tracks. At this point I feel I'm committed to buy the works of the old guys like Paul. A decent album. Some of his lyrics may be a bit inappropriate for someone in their 70's, but I guess he's entitled. 4 stars (just barely). Here's "Happy With You".

  • Muddy Waters, "Hard Again", 1977, 10. Last year my friend from Ottawa harp player Owen Evans wanted to do the song "Crosseyed Cat", which had a unique lick and was fun to do. This year he wanted to do "Deep Down In Florida", which may be the slowest song I have ever heard - I clocked it at 62 bpm. Turns out it was the song before last year's on this album - so I decided to get the album. It was produced by Johnny Winter. A lot of times I'm tired of the blues after listening to a whole album, but this one has a really good variety of styles and tempos. An enthusiastic 4 stars. Here's "Deep Down In Florida".

  • Willie Nelson, "My Way", 2018, 11 tracks. Well, I almost didn't follow my rule of getting old guy albums, but, when I saw that there was a duet with Norah Jones, I had to buy it. I loved their duet of the now politically incorrect "Baby It's Cold Outside" - but their version here of "What Is This Thing Called Love" didn't do much for me. 3 stars.
  • CAN'T HOLD WAFFLES, "SPARE CHANGE CHICKEN INCIDENT", subtitled "Studies for Piano and Burning Kitchen Appliances", 2018, 9 30 second tracks, 1 2:31 track. This came from "The Weirdest Band in the World" website - I follow their blog. 30 second tone poems? I found it remarkably interesting to listen to.

  • Jim & Marie Howard, "Dreaming Of A Little Cabin", 2014, 10 tracks. Our bug guy plays mandolin and his wife sings. He gave me this album of old-timey country songs, recorded with some very good local musicians. 3 stars.
  • Eric Gales, "Middle Of The Road", 2018, 11 tracks. My harp player Steve Konopka and his wife took me and my wife to the Ribberfest Blues Festival in Madison, IN in August. 3 acts on Friday and 5 acts on Saturday for $30, with $10 in food tickets if you ordered in advance. We stayed at a Super 8 ~10 minutes away. Parking was no problem, and if you got tired of a band, it was a short walk to the downtown area that had restaurants, shops, and an excellent music store, Crawdaddy Music. Ha ha, the owner of Crawdaddy had been a judge at the BBQ contest - 8 entrants each pulled pork, ribs, pulled chicken, chicken, brisket, variety (rabbit, venison, other) - he said it was like being waterboarded.

    Eric Gales was the penultimate act on Saturday. He absolutely blew me away - like Jimi Hendrix had a cousin in another dimension. Incredibly fast and fluid, and beautiful, bright chords. In addition to bluesy stuff, he did variations on "Don't Fear The Reaper", and then went from "Voodoo Child" to Beethoven to "Kashmir" to "Back In Black". Just incredible. He had a really hard-working band too: his wife on vocals and percussion; drums; and bass (who also played some keys).

    The headliner was Ronnie Baker Brooks, an excellent bluesman, but we left after 1 song - Eric Gales was so unique and inventive we all wanted to keep him in our head. My wife bought this CD there. We also saw him in October in Lexington at Willie's Locally Known (now defunct as of last week) and had seats right below the stage FTW!

    I normally prefer studio to live albums, but I don't think a studio album can do him justice - the man really knows how to get a crowd worked up. 4 stars for the album, here's "Boogie Man", featuring Gary Clark, Jr.

  • Madeline Kenney, "Perfect Shapes", 2018, 10 tracks. I discovered Ms. Kenney by accident at The Burl. I really liked her Strat playing, emphasizing the low strings. On this, her 2nd album, she opens up the orchestration quite a bit, and I really like the results. I read an article where she said she was afraid her fans wouldn't like the new direction - this fan thinks it is great. 4 stars, here's "Cut Me Off".

  • Jimi Hendrix, "Both Sides of the Sky", 2018, 13 tracks. The last of 3 posthumous albums released over the last 5 years or so. The 1st was OK, the last 2 were fairly unremarkable. 3 stars.
  • Amanda Shires, "To the Sunset", 2018, 10 tracks. Not a bad album - I read a review which commented how non-countryish it was - but, I don't enjoy Ms. Shires voice all that much. I prefer her as a harmony singer, and, of course, fiddle player. 3 stars.
  • Jason Isbell, "Southeastern", 2013, 12 tracks. I think this was Isbell's 1st solo album after Drive-By Truckers. He is definitely a great songwriter. 4 stars. Here is a moving track about death, "Elephant".

That makes us current through mid-October. The _unrated playlist currently has 111 songs. Had a bit of a drought of new music for a while, but it has picked up recently, ysy!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

1.5 + 1.5

1st, "Ball Lightning", by Cixin Liu, 2018, 384 pages. This winds up being a prequel to the "3-Body Problem" trilogy (now in production at NetFlix), blogged here and here. Like the trilogy, the speculative physics in this book is very interesting. We are again reminded that the author lives in communist China. For the majority of the book the principals are engaged in weapons research, and a brief war does break out between China and the US and others. There is also reference to the Sino-Vietnamese War of 1979, which I definitely don't remember. This is another well-paced read, with understandable, if occasionally somewhat off, characters.

2nd, the latest (9th) Laundry Files novel from Charles Stross, "The Labyrinth Index", 2018, 368 pages. Around installment 5 of this series, I think I said that Charlie seemed to getting tired of this series. Then the next couple seemed to be a lot better. This 1, the 9th, seems tired. The players are mostly 2nd-stringers. It seems like they used to do this in comics sometimes, have team-ups of 2ndary characters. There's still more to come in the series though. I'm counting this as 0.5 sci fi and 0.5 fantasy. The Laundry Files stories actually are a mix of spy and horror - but they read more like sci fi to me, so, whatever.

3rd, "The Monster Baru Cormorant", by Seth Dickinson, 2018, 464 pages. This is the 2nd book of a series which began with "The Traitor Baru Cormorant", blogged here. I went back and read that post to remind myself what this novel was about. I found I had liked the novel's title, but the novel itself not so much. Characters with nothing but bad choices, and the civilization that discovers science, medicine, rational government, etc. happens to be eugenics-practicing fascists.

The 2nd novel is more of the same: intrigue, poisoning, double-crosses, plus we get a new set of actors who seem to worship cancer - ugh. These are well written, but really kind of unpleasant. A suggestion, there are so many characters with non-English names, the next one could really use a "Cast of Characters" preface to help us keep them all straight. I will finish the series - hopefully there's only 1 more coming - but it is really not pleasant reading.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Au Revoir, FaceBook - plus, What Are Our Rights?

Leaving FaceBook Friday, November 23, 2018. Here's proposed alternatives - I will update the post as others pop up. I am not going to pursue these anytime soon. I am thinking that Twitter will scratch my itch for online social media well enough.

I billed this as my Last FB Post - in response to some typical Libertarian pulled-out-of-their-ass bullshit about what their "rights" are.

??? A right to me is defined as, something about which you say "If you try to take this away from me, I will fight you to the death." [Edit from FB comments: "I will fight" => "me and my friends will fight"] I cannot think of any other logically defensible definition. Which means that rights, according to this approach, are completely malleable, and defined by your testosterone level.

I far prefer the idea of a Basic Good, as defined in the book reviewed in the post linked to below. Basic Goods are things we can decide how to define together, and then decide what they are together, rationally. Their definition has 4 components, from which they define 7 Basic Goods. No testosterone required, just logic! I apologize for asking you to read so much, but, this seems to me to be something that is reasoned out, rather than just plucked out of the air.

Here's the link: "How Much Is Enough?"

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Kim Stanley Robinson For President of the Householders' Union!

"Red Moon", 2018, 464 pages, is the latest novel by Kim Stanley Robinson. Robinson is one of our greatest living (science fiction) authors.

The novel is set in 2047. There is one reference to "Red Moon" in the text of the novel, referring to rare earth element lunar regions that have a reddish hue. But early on I concluded that "Red Moon" actually referred to "Red Chinese Moon". The Chinese have aggressively colonized the south polar regions of the moon, and are expanding north on the terminators. There is also a privately developed lava tube on the dark side. The US and other countries have a much smaller presence in the north polar regions, but have at least 1 cool covered crater. The majority of the story takes place in the Chinese lunar settlements and China, and a good majority of the characters are Chinese.

The novel is set against a time of turmoil in the world. China is getting ready to elect a new party chairman and president, and various social inequities are creating massive unrest. In the US, Robinson has (yay!) decided to move the events of "New York 2140" (blogged here) forward 100 years. The vast left-behind majority of US citizens has formed a Householders' Union and has declared a rent (in the economic sense) strike - everyone stops paying their rent and credit card bills. This has thrown the financial system into a 2008 type crisis. But this time, instead of bailing out the banks, we nationalize them - the financial system now belongs to the people! No more obscene salaries and bonuses for derivative traders and hedge-fund managers! A robin hood tax on all financial transactions! As I said talking about "New York 2140", fighting money with money seems like the only way to go.

The story follows a young, somewhat autistic US quantum computing geek, a Chinese poet and travelogue blogger who befriends him, and a young, pregnant revolutionary daughter of the Chinese Minister of Finance as they attempt to escape the clutches of reactionary forces. The most science-fictiony thing we have is a fledgling AI who tries to help them.

As you would expect, there is a lot of interesting detail about living on the moon. There are also good descriptions of China, both Beijing and Hong Kong. We get most major plot threads tied up by the end of the book, but the ending seems to definitely indicate more to come. Yay!

Robinson really seems to have some good ideas about how we can attempt to address our oligarch/plutocrat/kleptocrat problem. I addition to the rent strike, he talks about cryptocurrencies as a means of transferring financial power from institutions to the people. He specifically mentions carboncoin, which turns out to be a real thing?!?!? I have been very afraid of bitcoin because of its environmental downside, here's a cryptocurrency with an environmental upside, yay! There is 1 line in the last chapter with a tantalizing possibility that I would love to quote, but I will avoid the spoiler.

Robinson seems to really get what's going on, and has so many good ideas! Kim Stanley Robinson For President of the Householders' Union!

Friday, November 09, 2018

With MMT, Can Every Day Be a Jubilee?

A couple of FB posts I wrote with some links I wanted to save.

The national debt is basically a scam serving 2 purposes:

  1. Pay interest to the investor class;
  2. Provide a reason to gut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the entire social safety net. I still for the life of me cannot figure out why they want to do this, aside from just plain meanness.

The Fed could totally do what the Japanese are doing ... #jubilee.

What the Japanese are doing is that the Bank of Japan is buying up their national debt. Nice!

This next I have not posted yet.

Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) is fun! I don't think they have it 100% correct, but they are totally heading in the right direction.

If Congress does not spend more money into the economy than our real resources, our productive capacity (our capacity to produce) can handle, then there is no inflationary risk.
So, for example, Congress could direct the Fed to print the money to pay everyone's medical bills and student loans. Those represent already used resources, so absolutely 0 risk of inflation.

And, as I have mentioned a few times before, in 2009 during the quantitative easing (QE) program, the Fed tripled the amount of $$$ in circulation, and, despite dire warnings of hyperinflation from conservatives, of inflation there was none!

This video seemed like a good intro. I definitely need to check out MMT more fully.

I also wanted to include this snippet from Star Trek: Next Generation (STNG) that I have often referenced. It isn't quite as I remembered it, but, close enough. Yes, I want to live in the future!

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Including a Reread

1st up, I read "The Consuming Fire", by John Scalzi, 2018, 320 pages, book #2 of "The Interdepencency" series. Pretty standard space opera. An interstellar empire, founded by marketoids and supported by a cynically created state religion, faces challenges as the branches of the interstellar river system they use for FTL start to dry up. Lots of scheming and politics. Scalzi has some, what, refreshingly vulgar/smartass characters, as you would expect. A page turner, as always from Scalzi.

Next, a short story collection by relative newcomer Tobias S. Bucknell "Tides From the New Worlds", 2010, 293 pages. Bucknell is the author who emailed me the ebooks 3 of his novels when I wasn't able to get them on Kobo - man, I love living in the future! These are interesting stories. Bucknell grew up on a yacht in the Caribbean, mostly anchored at St. Thomas. A lot of these stories feature Caribbean settings and culture. It reminded me of some of Lucius Shepherd's stories set in Central America, but mostly not nearly as dark. A good variety of stories.

I was going to read something else, but then the 1st novel in 6 years from Richard K. Morgan came in: "Thin Air", 2018, 544 pages. This is set in the same universe as his 2007 novel "Thirteen", blogged here: around 100 years in the future, with humanity on Mars and Jovian and Saturnian moons, and various new techs. Their AIs aren't very smart. The protagonist is a genetically modified human. In "Thirteen", the modifications were to recreate pre-agricultural humans: antisocial (psychopathic), and very violent. Here the main modifications are for hibernation for long space flights - but they have to wake up quickly in case of a serious problem, and are very violent during this period. Morgan's heros are generally males who are very violent. The books also have more sex in them most current sci-fi does. The plotting and dialogue are great - I watched the Netflix series of "Altered Carbon", his 1st novel, 2x.

This one, like "Thirteen" has 54 chapters with 2 of the chapters in a coda. I wonder if this is a design artifact?

I had thought about doing it a few times, so after finishing "Thin Air" I went on and reread "Thirteen", 2007, 550 pages. Wow, this is so prescient of the current malaise gripping much of white maledom, particularly in the US. This is well before the opioid epidemic and subsequent increasing death rates of recent years.

You got a first world where manhood’s going out of style. Advancing wave of the feminized society, the alpha males culling themselves with suicide and supervirility drugs their hearts can’t stand, which in the end is suicide, just slower and a bit more fucking fun.
I, for one, welcome our new female overlords. I don't think it will take very many decades with women at the helm to get Planet Earth headed in a more survivable direction.

Here's what I said about it when it came out in 2007. Note that the real name of Jesusland is the Confederated Republic of America.

After that read "Thirteen" by Richard K. Morgan, his 5th novel. Aside from some pacing problems in its 550 pages, a very good read. But, very depressing. Morgan is a Scot. The novel is set in ~2105. The northeast states and the west coast have split from the US in the mid 21st century, leaving the rest as a country known popularly as Jesusland. It's main characteristics are its poor education system, legislated morality, and its willingness to do dirty jobs for cheap, and its suspension of the rule of law, habeus corpus, etc. The truth hurts, don't it?
1 thing I realized in passing from this book is that 1 bonus "southern value" from banning abortions would be more drugs to add to the War on Drugs, and hence more prisoners for private prisons, one of the south's great growth industries.

I think the Jesusland scenario was 1st explored by Bruce Sterling in "Distraction" 20 years ago. We seem to be getting closer and closer. Sigh.