Monday, October 25, 2010

Falling In Love With Fall

Fall. Autumn. The season of color. That there time of year what makes everything kinda crunchy. However you think of this season, it somehow always brings up memories of warmth and joy; anticipation for the holidays and winter ahead, while the parade of changing leaves drift downward onto the once-green ground. The ones that manage to escape your feet and get crunched into pieces flutter on a cool breeze, scattering the yard with a carpet of browns and yellows, mixed with an occasional red here and there.
Yes, it's a magical time of year.
Somehow, in our neck of the woods, we've managed to practically skip it.
This makes me very sad.
I have been tracking the progression of our cottonwood tree daily, looking for signs of "peak"; it should have already hit peak, but noooooo. Not this year. Hell, that thing should be totally bald by now. At any rate, the past week has been very promising; I would wake up every morning, walk into the office with my giant mug of Jiffy Juice (i.e., TEA, dammit!), look up at that tree while the stupid Vista start music permeated the wallpaper...

(just like every morning, really), and think 'not today, maybe tomorrow'.
Well, this afternoon, as I sat at Command Central (AKA, my side of the desk... I call it Command Central because I have control of the Bose)...
This is Command Central; I do everything but my personal projects (wordplay, stories, et al) here, including write all of the blogs! This is where the magic happens, baby. Please note the solar "waving Queen" next to the Bose, and the "any government that is big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take everything you've got" plaque.

...I watched as the wind blew a good portion of the leaves I have so patiently been watching over right off the tree, and all around our court yard. The further on the afternoon wore, the leaves really started to pile up on the ground, and the cottonwood was getting noticeably thinner.
Either I was going to take my pictures today, or that tree would be, as we say in these here parts, 'nekkid', and void of most of it's color.
So, for your pleasure and mine, here's what's left of the color on our cottonwood tree ('cause our other trees are still green, for heaven's sake, green. It's weird.)...

Now that the sun has gone down, it's started to sprinkle outside, and it's getting quite cool very quickly.
And as I say it, I have hit the bottom of my cuppa, and it's just perfect weather for a topper.
So, let's all go and enjoy this beautiful weather, our tea, and a song!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Kooky Revolver Conundrum

You may remember I told you we were going to talk about the Remasters some over the next couple of weeks; well, maybe you don't remember, as the rest of you have lives.
On the menu for this evening, we're serving up a great big ol' helping of Revolver, with a side of WOW, Those Remasters Sound Good, and a slice of Mono Comparison for afters.
You may wonder why it's been so long since the Remasters have made an appearance on this here chunk of the bloggy-verse. And I'm going to tell you.
When I promised that Revolver would be the next remaster on the agenda, I had actually started the comparisons on the flip side of the Magical Mystery Tour notes; I only made it to track five, "Here, There, and Everywhere", before I was somehow distracted by something shiny elsewhere (my guess is that I needed a break from the process... it's actually quite a lot of work to listen to these, but it's great fun, too). I pulled one of those 'I'll put this important thing somewhere safe, and I'll remember it's there for the later-times' things. Obviously, since the last Remaster related post was dated April 17, I lost it well and true. Knowing I'd find it eventually, I shelved the Revolver set, and continued on with my little piddly hobby elsewhere (that's where Past Masters comes in!). Fast forward to earlier this month; we're getting ready to head out to Colorado with Grandy, when I'm looking through some unaccounted for spirals. Lo! There, the very first page, were the Magical Mystery Tour/Revolver notes I had lost!
Naturally, when you're with family, you don't get much of a chance to play around with such things (we'll get into what I was up to in the back seat on that trip in another post, never fear... wait, that didn't come out right...), but I finally was able to finish the task on our Austin trip last week.
There, you see? Very simple!
Speaking of the notes, I would like to point out how my system of taking those notes has changed over time. I feel like it's gotten a little more organized, rather than just being excited for the remasters themselves.
Before, I would list each of the tracks in order (so as to make adjusting the iTunes placement easier), then make notes under the track listing. It looked a little something like this...

Now, however, I have taken to writing the track, then comparing mono and stereo beneath the title. It looks something like this...
Yes, it says 'Revolver, Part Deaux'. Sometimes, I like to count in French. I see nothing wrong with this.

A close up, merely to illustrate my point...
In case you can't read the monkey scribbles, it says:
Here, There, And Everywhere
Mono: It's got all the right bits. Stereo had better be stellar.
Stereo: OK, stereo is stellar.

Now that we've got the boring bits out of the way (regardless that I have found this part of the discussion incredibly interesting), we'll get down to talking about the music itself.
Of the fourteen tracks, I kept one lone mono in the playlist (I organize my iTunes by playlist, which really are just the contents of the album itself [or, on occasion, singles and bonus tracks that don't fit into another playlist], in alphabetical order. Usually I will only do this for the music I listen to all the time; folks like Donovan and Buddy Holly do have their own playlists that are merely categorized by artist, but that's another discussion entirely). We'll get to that in a moment, though.
If we look chronologically at The Beatles as artist - particularly revolutionaries in their field - and at the time frame during which this album was recorded and released, I think we'll get a better look at why the stereo tracks seem to dominate the mono.
With touring days in their rear view mirrors, they were allowed to get experimental; if they didn't have to reproduce the sound on stage, they could use different techniques with their material. Layered vocals, tape loops (involving such funsies as playing back an instrument backwards, or speeding them up [usually done on a four-track deck back in the good old days when they'd have to actually superimpose the sounds on tapes one at a time]; a process prominent on their next album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band), and strings on a couple of the tracks are just a few examples right off the top of yer head. When the time came to record the album in the summer of '66, their practically unlimited access to Abbey Road (I say practically because they never did get the key to the fridge in the canteen), coupled with their excitement to experiment with these different sounds and methods made for the album we ended up with.
That being said, with the all the layering and electricity going on, the stereo channels a little more evenly; the littlest sounds can finally be heard, rather than just a glob of sounds and vocals on a platter, like week-old shepherd's pie.
In favor of the stereo, you can really tell the difference with Paul's "For No One". Though the channeling is slightly uneven, I think it works for the song; pulling the vocal forward, almost to the point that it's acapella, and leaving the music as just a quiet din in the background (excluding the french horn solo... that was gear), the song packs a great punch in the stereo form...

...and mono...

I find it odd that there's a two second difference between the two tracks (though, on the videos, it's a three second difference), yet it's just dead space. Who knows, man, who knows.
Now, let's talk about Eleanor Rigby, AKA, the lone mono track.
As before described, with the vocal layering and use of strings (this is the only Beatles song that none of the Beatles played an instrument on... just Paulie's vocal), the stereo, although crisp on the bits where vocals were layered in, leaves the main vocal on the right ear, and practically nothing in the left. There was no punch to the stereo vocal, and the strings felt like they were tucked away in a little rosewood pencil box. Mono, on the other hand, though not as clear on the layered parts, channels the vocal and strings evenly, and gives the zing back to the lead vocal.
Compare, and see what I mean!
Mono (pay attention to the channeling, and lead vocal)...

Stereo (look out for the changes)...

You know, when I played these two songs on the full sized Bose, and then gave my mother the headphone Bose to further illustrate the 'I think it channels differently for the compact size' argument, I finally convinced her that Bose is the way to go, rather than a cheaper brand. I was actually afraid I wouldn't get my headphones back... perhaps I should hide them tonight.

And now, for the song I felt benefited most from the remastering process!
Revolver's winner has to be "Got To Get You Into My Life"; it's a stand out number live (Up and Coming Tour... what an event!), but this version is pretty damn good, too. I'm looking at my nerdy notes right now ('cause I'm really good, and can both type and read at the same time), and my stereo notes say, quote, "TALKING/INTRO COUNT? Instantly sold. Punch. Great layered lead, robust horns. Love, love the fade out!" Sounds a right sight better than the mono notes: "Nice intro, good vocals; chorus doesn't have much punch; longer fade out?"
So, in it's awesome stereo form, Got To Get You Into My Life (look out for the layered lead vocal... a Paul in each ear!)...

I love a horn arrangement in a pop song.

You may be asking where the conundrum comes into this whole album fangirling process, right?
Oh, Reginald Kitty, you already know!

Last night, when I went to arrange my playlist, I was rather rudely told that all of my Revolver songs, both remastered and German mono and stereo, were gone. The files could not be located. Vanished. I've got no idea what happened.
This, however, is a good lesson to us all; make sure you have a hard copy of ANYTHING you want saved. Luckily for me, I just went to the top of my closet, where I store all of my Beatles hard copies (Beatles, and solo material... the top of my closet is full of empty jewel cases, as I also categorize my hard copies into folders, according to release date/artist... it's a crazy little world in my brainbucket), and directly uploaded the content back into my iTunes library.
Today's lesson: COPY EVERYTHING IMPORTANT. You never know when Steve Jobs is going to take away your awesome albums.
Come on, Steve, it's not like we're in the Kremlin! (Kids living behind the Iron Curtain would risk their necks to smuggle in the original vinyl copy [mostly Beatles, but I suspect there were other artists, too], then burn additional copies for black market resale [again, risking their skins, here] on old x-rays. No one suspected anything, and if someone was around, they could easily slip the x-ray/album up a sleeve quickly, due to the flexibility.) Just 'cause they aren't on your beloved iTunes yet doesn't mean we can't have 'em at our disposal!

So, another remaster down. Revolver is now safely categorized in all of it's files according to my thinktank, and the blog to explain it all has been written, and, hopefully, read.
The next in the Remasters Series (well, it's kind of like a series, anyway) will be, most likely, the biggest remaster undertaking of the entire process. Bigger than the White Album, for certain. Not only did I compare the Mono Masters to the Stereo Masters (AKA, every single the boys officially put out), I was compelled to compare those to the Beatles 1 album (compilation of every number one), just because I heard that some folks liked the 1 remasters, done in 2000, better than the 2009 remasters.
The result may surprise us all. (Of course, I've already done it, so the results don't surprise me.)

Reginald Kitty is not surprised.

As an aside, and totally related to nothing here...
We're now on design 2.1 here at the Turret Full Of Ravens! The old header just wasn't punchy enough for me, so I had to go off and make a new one. We shall, however, remember our humble one fondly.

Off-Center Simple Header
April 8, 2010 - October 22, 2010

Monday, October 18, 2010

Please, Refrain From Touching The Cheese.

Would you believe it, we're going to talk about our travels again this week.
It shall be short and sweet, and then we'll get down to the real reason for this psychotic blog post (trust me, you'll run for the Advil once you've had your brain twisted round your thinkhatch like it took a fanciful horror-holiday at Quasimodo's pretzel factory).
We went down to Austin, played around on Congress (I believe they're trying to brand that area as SoCo), and then back to San Antonio for a little jolly.
Here was the view from our Austin room...

...and another view (it was a hell of a room)...

We made it to British Sensations (one of my favorite little British brick-a-brack shops) in San Antonio...

...though we didn't buy this at British Sensations, it may or may not have come home with us...
It did.

And, in general, had oodles of fun down in the Hill Country...


There, now didn't I say it would be short and sweet?
That being said, we're going to talk about the British.
Are you surprised?

Maybe you've noticed, and maybe you haven't (but you probably have) that I kinda sorta have a tendency to maybe like stuff from our British friends, peradventure (but yes, actually).
Please, do not be ashamed of me, Reginald Kitty.

Hell, recently I was asked to write a few paragraphs for one of my classes about my personal culture differing from "The Norm" (whoever this Norm guy is, he's a right bastard). It went a little something like this :

The older I have gotten, the more I have felt a bit out of touch with my own culture. Though American history and our nation's past trends greatly intrigues me (I study both topics for pleasure in my free time), modern America leaves me rather nonplussed.
Since I was very small, I have had a fascination with the British Isles. The music, the scenery, differences and similarities between the US and UK, and the culture in general; if it's from the UK, I am more willing to try it, or pay attention to it. It isn't that I totally disregard contemporary American culture - I do live here, after all, so I have a little bit of a clue - I've just found that my preferences are more in line with the British (except politics, of course; monarchy seems rather archaic to me).
The American music scene holds little fascination for me, but I'm quite excited about a couple of bands out of Britain right now; even music as far back as the '60s British Invasion are all frequently played on my iPod.
I don't really have an American sense of humor, but I know exactly which writers of British and Irish comedy I like. Even something as simple as our fashion trends seem a little off to me, as I tend to follow the British mod scene.
My family thinks I'm absolutely nuts, and maybe they're right; I prefer to think I'm secure in my own skin, regardless of whether it makes me crackers or not. I may not be "normal", but I'm rather happy with myself the way I am.

In the two week span that folks could respond to this dismal answer, the only kid ballsy enough to reply simply said, and I quote, "Sounds like you were born in the wrong country :)". So, not only have I admitted I have a problem, I have solidified my place as the class nutter (but I like being the class nutter... people leave you alone if you're the class nutter). Yet, somehow, I still got 100% for that rubbish. There really must be one born every minute.
This little exercise really got me to thinking, though. I import everything. Everything.
I import my talk shows...

I import my stand up...

I import my radio...

I import my game shows...

I import my cheese-tastic mini series marathons...

I don't think I watched the same Flambards as these people, 'cause they've got it wrong.

I even prefer their QVC...

The American movies I like? Written by foreigners...

I can count on Nick Hornby for a good screenplay adaptation.

I import my old music...

...and the new music...

The other day, I was giving my mother directions, and I actually told her "to the left, chugga chugga". I don't think she got it.

So, when I saw this ad in the Union Jack newspaper I got at British Sensations...
...and realized I could import chaps, as well, I just knew I had to look these folks up.
That's right, that website actually exists.

So, really, I didn't have to defend the British male... there's already a fanbase!

I particularly liked this quote from their website: "Find your very own David Beckham, Hugh Grant, Orlando Bloom, Jude Law, Sean Connery, Prince Harry, the list goes on."
When I showed my mother, she asked why they didn't say you could find your own Paul McCartney.
I told her it would be false advertising.
You know, they say girls lose interest in math and science by sixth grade. That's because he's not teaching it.


Speaking of my musical imports, here's a sneak peek of what we'll be talking about within the next week or two (hopefully, anyway)...




Well, you know what I've always said... Britannia rules the airwaves!
(Surely you saw that one from a mile off.)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Seventy! Can You Adam And Eve It?

I tend miss a lot of things, and I know that. I suppose it's part of human nature to think that something is happening when you're out of the room, and we can't help that sneaking suspicion.
One thing I absolutely refuse to miss is October 9th of every year. Well, technically, I haven't missed any days of the year since I was born, but you get the picture. No matter what I do this day, I take out the time to wish my favorite guy a big ol' happy birthday.
No, not Chris O'Dowd...

This day can turn so bittersweet, but I prefer to celebrate the many facets of a truly wonderful human.

The Artist...

The Activist...

The House Husband...

The Poet...

The Comedian...

No, the Rolling Stones are not your hosts for this evening.

And, least we forget, The Musician...

Whichever John you know best, celebrate it today.
And to John: I raise my teacup to you, Darling. Thank you for everything now, then, and always. Big hugs and kisses, sweetheart, and happy birthday!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Concussions Don't Come Eeee-zay; Neither Do Monkey Sword Fights

We've just come back from a lovely weekender up in Colorado!
Grandy came along for the ride; we all had a splendid time, but I think he enjoyed this one the most of us all.
He had his very first Chipotle burrito...
He appears to be very happy about this.

...discovered this AWESOME pinball machine at the Penny Arcade...
You're damn right that's Captain Fantastic... on a PINBALL MACHINE in a PENNY ARCADE.
I felt complete.

...relived a blast from my past (and most other folks, probably), the Creepy Cymbal Monkey!

I couldn't help but sing this song in my head while we were there...

And, apparently, you can make the lasses of Fusspot Farm bust into an incredible gigglefit by just reminding us of this...

I laughed when I watched it over again. And then, I went back for more.

Unfortunately, I was mildly concussed yesterday (I smacked my head on the car so hard that it jiggled the two people inside), so I can only really rely on the pictures I took while we were there.
Would you like to see them?
Of course you would!
Well, pretend.

So, if we're keeping tabs, I climbed a lighthouse with heat stroke,
and went trail hiking with concussion.
I think this officially makes me awesome.

My life may not be as awesome as a monkey sword fight,
but how many monkeys have this picture of themselves?

What did I do with my life before I started blogging?

Is It A Subscription Box, Or Something More Sinister? (It's A Subscription Box. Maybe.)