McConnell’s power grab

What Mitch McConnell is doing with this healthcare bill is stunning. It is a pure power play in which he is betting that because the bill is Republican, that enough people will support it regardless of how much harm it does. He’s betting that despite that, he has enough support that people are so partisan that they will vote for the bill regardless of the outcome, or they just hate “the other guy” so much that they are willing to hurt themselves in order to hurt others. If he succeeds in passing this bill, he will gleefully watch as people die all over the country so that rich people can get a tax break from already historic low rates.

It used to be that the GOP attempted to dull the effects of their bad bills by spinning them politically saying things like “our spending is out of control” or some other nonsensical but at least defensible argument. But this time, they’re not even pretending that the bill isn’t a giant giveaway to the rich on the backs of the poor. Again, Senate Republicans don’t even pretend that it isn’t class warfare; they’re just saying “yeah, so what are you gonna do about it?” When you see the leader of the party completely flip-flopping on his campaign promises and his cheering crowds eating it up, you know it’s bad, because now he can tell them absolutely anything, and they will follow, and what the Republicans are telling us is, “Let’s get rid of these parasitic sick and old people. We’ll burn their corpses to power the wall and buy a few more fighter jets!” And the crowd goes wild.

Island Time

Island time. It’s a time frame. It’s a state of mind. “Don’t worry, we’re on island time.” There’s a good reggae song in there somewhere. It’s knowing that there’s no need to rush, and that nobody else is going to go for that anyway. Some of the things you’re used to, like reliable wifi and ice cream, are more difficult to find, so a living-in-the-now approach seems appropriate, at least, those thoughts pass through your head as you furiously write on your laptop or charge your mobile. Just be patient. You’re on island time.
Like here on Koh Rong – it’s on island time. You get the feeling that the families here aren’t looking that far into the future, or the past. Today is today, and tomorrow is tomorrow, you think about tomorrow when it’s here. Life seems much simpler this way. It allows you to enjoy the things right in front of you without the burden of all those different time frames.
Today starts in the afternoon (of course!) and you snorkel the cool waters and coral of the nearby blip of island so small you don’t think it has a name. And you see things like rockfish, and yellow-and-black-vertically-striped-fish, a coquillage or giant clam, underwater plants that resemble brown hops, and a menacing display from the many inky-black anemones parking their white-ringed and fearsome-looking spikes on the sea bed.
After an undetermined amount of island time, your captain takes you to what is presumably his special spot, IMG_5865gives you a fishing line on a spool, baits the weighted hook with squid, and tells you to “fish on the bottom.” And soon as you please, you start reeling in sea life,and so does the boat captain, some small, some big, some strange, and soon you have a little assortiment des poissons that your boatman will cook for you later.
After a couple of hours or so (who knows?!), your angling prowess has secured dinner, and as the sun descends in the western sky, you motor over to catch a beauty on Koh Rong Samloem, while fishermen haul in the final catches of the day in the foreground. This sunset perhaps rivals the corker you saw on Long Beach the previous night, the one you barefoot-trekked to Koh Rong Samloem sunseton a jungle path that resembled a set a famous fictional archaeologist might have swashbuckled through.

Koh Rong Samloem
Koh Rong Samloem

But the topper and the capper is a ride out to Koh Kon,
Koh Kong
Koh Kong
just off the coast of Samloem, where plankton exhibit a delightful property when you pass your hands through them – they display a wispy and tendrile-like luminescence. Now, real hadoukens and lumos spells are at your fingertips with merely the proper flick of the wrists. You play and play in the water, and when you tire, you ride back under the stars, which are peering over the edge of the fading daylight, and ever-so-slowly rotating, movement that gives you a much better idea of how to tell island time.

Koh Rong

Travel to Koh Rong today. What is Koh Rong? It’s one of many destination islands off the coast of Cambodia, and one of the largest in the region. The transportation to the pier and the wait for the boat to arrive were all typical of how things run here – no real plan or organization to speak of and everyone just sort of does their own thing, and things usually manage to happen. Today, it was a “slow” ferry to the island, but to be honest, it didn’t look much slower than the fast ferry. But, the minute the boat left the harbor, the seasickness began for many aboard and never abated, at least on the top floor of the “backpackers ferry,” as it was called. Pretty sure our slow boat stopped to offload some of the sick passengers on what was billed as the fast ferry.
Pretty soon the island came into near view, and after running into friends yet again, which really seems to happen often these days, we tramped off together, no one really knowing where we were going or what we were doing, perhaps one person had a vague idea, but no one really knows.
First we went west along the shore of the island,

koh rong kids
koh rong kids
and we saw a pair of dogs stuck together who couldn’t separate after having (obviously) doggy-style sex,
stuck-together dogs
stuck-together dogs
and there was a tiny beach or two a kilometer west of the port, but we eventually had to reverse course
this is not long beach
this is not long beach
to go to the real gem, Long Beach, which turned out to be the best adventure of the day. Early on, you ascend at a measured and even pace, with no particular obstacles other than outcropping roots or jagged rocks, nothing that can’t be managed in the vertical position and without the use of hands. At some point we came across a man openly selling weed, a cashew farm, and even tried some of the cashew apples, which had a texture between a plum and nectarine, and a taste somewhere between an apple and prickly pear. The trail got progressively more technical, but as the ocean came into view over the top of the mountain, it became obvious that a very steep and rapid descent was imminent, and it did not disappoint, as attached ropes and vines served as the main defense against falls, any type of which would be painful, if not catastrophic. Going barefoot was perhaps not the best idea for this hike, but in some way, your feet have greater purchase when they can touch the object onto which they will land, even if they don’t have the protection that a shoe would provide. Some species of white monkey inhabits the trees on the last few tens of meters of the cross-island trek, which could be observed jumping from branch to branch, and dropping some kind of nut or empty shell husk to the ground, oftentimes with a proximity that seemed to belie intent.
And what a beach, Long Beach, pure white sand and a perfect view of the last rays of sun.
sunset on Long Beach
sunset on Long Beach
The sun going down with longtail boats in the foreground is a feature that I often saw on Thailand, and often took pictures of, and it is no less noteworthy tonight. The water is also a clear bluish-green, one of the nicest waters I have had the pleasure to swim in. But at nightfall it became clear that the taxi boats parked there were the only way back to the other side after dark, as the steep ascent and lack of shoes would make the return trip much more dangerous and much less plausible, so back to the island we went, in a boat that at times I wasn’t sure would make it because of the swells, and because the motor seemed underpowered, even for what was maybe only 5 or 6 people. But in half an hour or so, the young, energetic boatman with the purplish-pink watercraft put us safely where we wanted, tying a neat little bow on the first day of Koh Rong.


Kampot. A gem of a little trocadero nestled in the southwest corner of Cambodia. When I arrived on Sunday, it was the heat of the day, and the town appeared to be asleep, with dust the only thing stirring in the high sun of the afternoon. Today was a trip to Kep on rented motorbikes, two on one, and one on the other. The highway was more like a country road, mostly gravel and dirt with a strip of asphalt running down the center. In town was a little apron of sand

Kep Beach
Kep Beach
which beckoned with its greenish water and we joyfully acquiesced. From there we saw a statue of seated woman
seated woman
seated woman
and headed up the island
Welcome to Kep!
Welcome to Kep!
to find the crab market, which we found later, but not before going in the opposite direction first,
Kep Independence Monument
Kep Independence Monument — we accidentally found this
and then to find only the worst sign, possibly ever, which marked the departure and arrival departments of the local Rabbit Island tourism industry. Upon finding the crab market, we messied ourselves with grilled local crab
Kep crab
Kep crab
before I bought some local pepper to send back to my sister. Maybe 20km later, we were back in Kampot, an easy, breezy ride which was made just a little simpler with a scarf over the nose and mouth.

Free Days

Days like this seem to be free days. Days you add on to perhaps check off a last thing or two from your list, maybe try some new food. You know there’s something you’ve missed, because you’ve seen so much and have a gut feeling that it’s just a small piece. You laze around the pool killing time until you’ve figured out if leaving for Kampot the next day is what you want to do. With a little prodding from the lodgings about moving out, you give in and secure tickets on a night bus and find a few spots around Siem Reap to meander, quite hungry from being so lazy in the morning that even food was too much trouble to fool with. Soon you alight upon a non-functioning, but still nice to look at, waterwheel, and you snap some photos like a tourist. IMG_5510As you round the bend, street food seems to appear as if conjured, as do tuktuk drivers who are eating in their rides, and one invites you over to sit, and you do, as the lack of clean, alternative seat-level accommodation nearby quickly makes up your mind for you. One fellow speaks quite good English, and one or two more find a few words to say, and so you sit there drinking beer cooled over ice cubes and shoot the shit for a bit. Just being free. Freedom from, freedom to. Free as free can be.

10 reasons to start buying your music again

Everyone who is ok with stealing/downloading/pirating/whatever-you-want-to-call-it for free the recorded works of artists should know this already. I’m going to address 10 reasons that I hear regularly, not tied to overthrow of laws and government or complete selfishness/dickishness towards the artist. But just for fun, I’ve included some of those non-starter reasons that freehadists tend to use, disingenuously of course.

Some reasons I find to not be legitimate:

1. something about copyright
– If your beef is legitimately about copyright, you should never be paying for any entertainment or viewing any media, since it’s all copyrighted and the system is corrupt. You can’t use most computers or software either, since most of those have software that fall under copyright. The few UNIX-based operating systems that are free still operate under copyright, even if they are free to use on personal computers. However, they are only free to use because the creator said so. If the creator chose not to make it free, that is their prerogative, and that is part of copyright too. You anti-copyrighters still on board?

2. something about blah blah blah evil record labels
– iTunes and other digital download services give artists 8 to 11 cents per track on average, earning a higher percentage if the entire album sells. I’m sure many believe that the ideal is where the artist makes the majority of the profit and the distributor and record label fight over whatever’s left of the scraps, and I would agree. However, 10% of a sale may not seem like a lot, but when you’re trying to feed your family, it can mean everything. And on top of this, you’re punishing the artist for something the record label supposedly did. The artist may not get the percentage of a sale that you believe to be fair, but not giving them anything is plain theft.

3. all information is or should be free
– Copyright is meant to reward creativity and inventiveness. The way you do that is by preventing people from stealing or profiting from their creativity, or to punish them if they do, the reasoning being that if every creation you made was immediately stolen and people could do whatever they wanted with it with no repercussions, there would be less professional creators, because professionals need to get paid. If the expectation is that your work will be immediately stolen and you won’t make any money off of it, that places a chilling effect on your wanting to produce creative works. Not to say that creativity would cease, it will just ensure that it is mostly/only amateurs that are. If you think Justin Bieber is a no-talent hack, just think how bad it would be if he had to write his own songs.

4. it’s not my fault copying is so easy, if you don’t want it stolen, don’t make it so convenient
– This is one of the worst justifications (and let’s face it, they are all justifications, not reasons). The argument is, essentially, that media companies have made it too easy to steal. TOO EASY TO STEAL!!! Imagine the scenario where someone who steals your bike off your front lawn trying to defend their actions by saying you didn’t lock it up well enough. They would be laughed out of court and straight to jail.

5. musicians make their money off live shows
– Only the top tier of musicians can even tour, given the costs. Therefore, all the rest of the tiers of musicians, your local bands, your regional bands, any act that hasn’t gone national in some way, are no longer allowed to make money off their creations? Could you imagine that situation for actors? “Hey, you only get paid for going out on the road and doing the performance from the movie over and over in a live setting. The work you did when you created the movie, that was filmed and recorded, should be free because actors should make their money off live performances, not recordings of performances.” The essence of the argument is that the very thing that persuades people to buy tickets to an artist’s show is suddenly without intrinsic value and should be free.

6. we’re not stealing anything…they’re just files
– Let’s explore this one. The software program Photoshop is just a “file.” Is it ok to pirate that? What if it was a book you wrote that was published in digital format? OK to consume it for free, and then distribute it for free without your permission? Especially when it’s your source of income? Didn’t think so. The situation is almost exactly as if you told a visual artist that they couldn’t sell a print of a work of art they’ve made. I guess the logic being that as soon as you make a copy of the original, it’s not pirating anymore, because they still have the original. But in the case of an artist, an exact copy of a thing doesn’t mean that the copies don’t have worth. In that case, they can make innumerable copies, but they still have a right to charge for the copies they make.

7. nothing is lost — therefore it’s not stealing
– This is the “no harm is done” argument. It’s not wrong because the original file (from wherever it was taken/borrowed from) is still there. It wasn’t “stolen” in the traditional sense. True, but this is misdirection and misleading. Your intellectual property rights extend to whatever medium they reside in. Therefore, if the artist’s choice is to get paid for their work, then it is stealing when you don’t pay the artist for that work, simple as that. The artist (or label or other organization who represents the artist) says it costs a certain amount of money; you are saying, I want this, but it’s not worth anything, so I’m going to consume it for free. Question. How can it possibly not be worth anything if you want it? You don’t get a free coke at the store just because you think it should be free. You want it, coke has a price, you pay for it or don’t. Just because a file is digital and not in some uncopiable analog format doesn’t mean that the rules no longer apply. Also, here’s a blog that addresses the “it’s not stealing” straw man argument.

8. i don’t have any money
– Yes you do. You may not have the money to buy ALL the recorded works you are stealing, but you can certainly pay for some of them. Even if it’s just a handful of songs a month. If $10 is really out of your budget and you are so bad off that any paid entertainment is out of the question, then I genuinely feel badly for you. However, most of the music piracy happens over home internet connections (which are paid for). If you can afford an internet connection, you can clearly afford to buy music. And you are essentially giving the ISP money instead of the artist whose work you appreciate. Is that what you want?

9. DRM doesn’t work, etc
– This one’s pretty easy. The main purveyor of music to the US is iTunes, although other services are increasing, such as Spotify and Pandora. They dropped DRM on their files a while back, as did most of the other music stores. Now, you can move and copy files from any device to any other device. If you buy them from iTunes, you can use their cloud storage to download that file to any device you have. DRM is simply not a valid excuse anymore, the record labels have seemingly come around to that bit of knowledge.

10. not easy enough to access, not offered in the format I want, etc
– How about this: can you demand to have an entertainment product in any format you want? Sure. But chances are, you’re going to get the product in either physical or streaming format. You don’t have a right to expect that you could get that music in 8-track, MiniDisc, or some other obscure/outdated format. Same goes for digital formats…you can’t really buy the full 24/96 wave files, because the highest resolution generally offered is 16/44.1. Again, as a consumer, if you want a music product, you have to buy it from people who sell them, and you have to buy it on whatever format they desire. Yes, it may not be ideal that you can’t buy music in whatever format you want, but there are plenty of options now. You can listen in your home, mobile, anywhere basically, and it’s super convenient and easy. iTunes and Amazon have one click buying. Other music stores have similarly easy buying. In fact, it’s so easy now, it’s probably faster and easier to find it on a legal service than to go through all the hoops you need to torrent it or download it from an internet locker.

I’ll close with a quote from Trent Reznor:

“I know that what we’re doing flies in the face of the Kickstarter Amanda-Palmer-Start-a-Revolution thing, which is fine for her, but I’m not super-comfortable with the idea of Ziggy Stardust shaking his cup for scraps. I’m not saying offering things for free or pay-what-you-can is wrong. I’m saying my personal feeling is that my album’s not a dime. It’s not a buck. I made it as well as I could, and it costs 10 bucks, or go fuck yourself.” — Trent Reznor

the blog is moving

I have finally moved the blog software I wrote over to WordPress, so the RSS feed location will change. Here is the new one:

I’ve already moved all the old entries onto wordpress so everything should be up to date. Of course, I will move this entry over there soon as well, and just start using the wordpress interface (as opposed to the custom interface I designed). There are just many more options with WordPress, including adding images, which was not really possible with the one I designed, so hopefully, it’s an upgrade. And the new blog is customized to look pretty much like the rest of the site. So, just a heads up, and happy reading, if in fact anyone actually reads this. 🙂

CD Release Party scheduled

The CD is finally out, and we’re gonna celebrate and play the songs live for you. What a journey this has been…who knew that back in 2005 after releasing the debut, the changes that would occur, and that even with all that, the CD would be finished and is ready to come out. The band that will be performing September 7th is all-new as well, with the addition of a guitar player as well, to make it a four piece. We started off with just a three-piece in 2004-2005, but having a guitarist really rounds out the sound, especially since the new album has more than one guitar part on nearly every song. This is a change from the debut EP because there was only so much we had time to do, and so the songs that didn’t get extra guitar parts were usually given sound effects or no extra parts at all, which is perfect for a three-piece, but now that the sound is bigger (and better), adding this live piece could make a big difference. Rehearsals are going pretty well, and I can’t wait to see how it turns out.
The CD Release party is scheduled for Friday September 7th, 2012 at 8PM at the Elbo Room, located at 2871 N. Lincoln in Chicago.

the CD has shipped

After all this time, the CD is finally shipping. Wow, what a long time coming!! Too bad they won’t be available for the show tomorrow. But if you can make it out, we are playing at the Gallery Cabaret from 11 to 11:30 or so. Love to see ya!

very close

Got the first proof back from Discmakers, and it’s really close. I only see one mistake, and it should be ready to go. So hopefully it will be ready for me when I return from Coachella. (I really wanted some to take with me, but oh well.) At least the price wasn’t that bad; I hope all this time and money will turn out to be a good investment.

the music part is finished

Just got word back on Friday that the CD mastering process is done. Done! That just leaves the artwork and manufacture of the CD. It almost seemed like this day might never come, but it is finally here. I almost can’t believe it.

the wait is nearly over

Spoke with the mastering engineer last night and we have just a few minor things to iron out! And at first, I thought it was sorta expensive, but he’s given me great value and now 7(!) revisions. Luckily, he really likes the project so I think he’s been kinda sneaking it in when he could. He said last night he could sing all the songs, which is a good sign I think!!

no hurry

I mean, this mastering process could go on forever. I thought the last mastering round would be the last, but like I’ve said before, there’s no reason to skimp or cut corners now. And Matt is doing such a good job mastering, giving feedback, and making great masters, and we are so close. The mixes get better each iteration though, and I’m quite happy with the direction it’s going. It may be a week or a month, but it will be soon.


final final final

Well, I sent some more mixes to NY, the first set of mixes revealed some issues with my mixes because once you crank those levels up, some noise floor and other stuff tried to sneak its way in. And since I never usually listened at a very high level, I didn’t catch some of those issues. But after two weeks of work, I sent them new mixes! So we’ll see how the next couple of weeks go.

mastering and album cover

Well, the CD is in the process of being mastered in New York at masterdisk, which is great. and the mastering engineer, without any prompting, says he really really liked it and that it reminded him of Beck’s “Sea Change,” which I find to be quite a compliment. Also, the album cover is being worked on and worked out, so this will be an exciting number of months. I can’t believe this project is finally coming to fruition!!

CD being reviewed

Well, 95% of the cd is done, and now it’s out in other people’s hands to get their mix opinions. This is such a long process, but it’s a necessary one. For one, I needed a break from the music to get some perspective. Also, having people I trust give me opinions on it is a great thing. So, hopefully not too much longer. 🙂


Good news: I’m starting to mix, and I have about 6 of 14 songs with a preliminary mix already. Hopefully, some of the editing I’ve been doing while recording will speed this process up. As of now about 98% percent of the album has all their parts recorded. I am still seeking a spoon player so if anyone knows one let me know. I’m serious. 🙂

lead vocal end within sight

Well, last night I did what was seemingly the last lead vocal (for “Meet you on the Downbeat”). I still have to go back and edit those vocals to make sure everything is OK, but even so, it’s still a nice milestone. That leaves background vocals and the occasional odds-and-ends type instrument recording too. With any luck, I won’t need to do a lot of re-recording for the lead vocals and can just dive in to the backgrounds.

vocals begun

So, the last major piece of the record is underway, the vocals. So far, things are going well. My vocal endurance is down a little, so right now, I can only record for about an hour or so before my voice gets tired. But it’s nice to know I can still hit notes for songs I wrote years ago. Very good news. So as of now, I’ve finished lead vocals for about 3 songs, and part of another, with another 10 or 12 to go. However, it looks like I should be able to complete about 2 songs a week at this rate, and then can move on to backing vocals. Very exciting!!

maybe? Maybe???

Last night I recorded, if my calculations are correct, the final guitar parts for the record. That leaves vocals, background vocals, and a few random other parts. I have endeavored to keep this record free of keyboards and electronic instruments as much as possible (that’s for my side project), and have managed to avoid them completely up to this point. Unless I find a string section that wants to come record, there may be some keyboard strings added to the record, but I’m hoping they will be seamless (or just plain good) enough to not be out of place. But if this is true, what a milestone!! Still much to do, but this is major for me.

still around

So life has been getting in the way, but I have still been making progress on the new CD. I’ve got 98% of the drums, bass, and acoustic guitar recorded, and about 75% of the electric guitars down. I’m working on the two latest additions right now, “you’re the one” and “dream song”. Honestly, the hardest part of recording electric guitars (other than being making sure you’re absolutely happy with your performances) is finding the right sound. I’m essentially only using two pieces of outboard gear for everything. It’s limiting, but at the same time, when you force yourself to follow it, it actually makes you _more_ creative. The only thing that is holding me back are the time constraints of having a 9-5 and my own ability to be able to work long hours and then come home and work on the record. I’m still learning how to juggle that, but knowing that it isn’t THAT far in the future is still good.

if it’s not one thing, it’s another

I have this song project that I’ve been trying to fix for about two weeks now. To fix it, I have to export every single audio clip and then re-import it into a rebuilt version of the project. Well, last night, after believing I was almost there, I found yet another issue which is going to make me have to completely re-import and arrange all of the audio files AGAIN. This is about the fourth time I have attempted this, and it’s really getting out of hand. I can look at this as a learning experience, where if it has to be done again, I will know exactly what to do and what not to do. But even so, my frustration level is really high; all I’m trying to do is make a mixdown of the song so that I can give it to a percussionist friend of mine so he can hear it before he comes in to record. That process usually lasts less than 5 minutes. Ugh.

geez louise

I was working on making a mixdown of a song last night, and was having some issues. Well, it turns out that there are differing bit depths and sample rates in the project. Bummer. Now it’s going to take at least an hour or two to export and re-import everything properly into another project. I don’t like setbacks. 🙁
In other news, I opened up for American English (essentially) on Sunday with a set of classical instrumentals that included Maleguena, Bouree, and Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, as well as alternative rock instrumentals like No Memory (Stone Temple Pilots), Whale & Wasp (Alice in Chains), and Joseph Merrick (Mastodon), amongst others. It was a good experience all around, the event was nice, I played well, hung out with the band after the show (they liked what I played), all in all a memorable and fun time.


Last evening Nate came in and started working on a slide guitar part for the song called “western song”. Slide guitar is a very touchy thing to lay down, because by nature the slide never touches the frets, just the strings, so just about every time the frets were touched, they buzzed or generally objected. However, after a lot of patience on his part with getting it right, we finished the verses, with the choruses still to go. Thanks Nate and can’t wait to finish up.

different hats

Saturday was a great recording session with Paul, who came from Madison, Wisconsin to help me record electric guitars for a couple of tracks, “Acrobat” and “Lookin Out”, as it turned out. It was amazing how quickly time passed after we got started. Paul was an able engineer and helped me concentrate on wearing one “hat”; when you’re self-recording an album, you often have to wear different “hats” which often don’t dovetail so easily, and by hats I mean, the producer hat, the performer hat, the composer hat, etc., and they all call for different forms of expertise. When you’re composing or performing, it often isn’t helpful to have to think about making sure that your mikes are recording properly, or the many other myriad things that need to be taken care of in the recording process. Besides, creativity (performance) is a left-brained activity, while editing/mixing and the like are right-brained activities, and mixing them? Seems like a situation where you might not get the best of either. But thanks to Paul, for a short time, I was able to focus on performance, for which I’m very thankful. Thanks Wizz!