Monday, November 30, 2009

Canadian Audio Hardware Tech Support

Some of you may recall that I started tweeting about my Presonus audio interface deciding to quit a couple of weeks ago.

Well, it's still sitting in my studio waiting to get fixed. I was thinking of replacing it, but then started entertaining repair options.

Of course, I contacted the Presonus customer service option on their site and got a fairly prompt response from them on procedures to start the repair process via a return authorization procedure. After a couple of emails, they discovered that I was from Canada.

I got directed to the Presonus distributor in Montreal... People down the street could probably hear my groan.

That was a week and a half ago...

I had a futile run-around experience with the Canadian distributor of M-Audio when my Delta 1010 interface on my PC started humming a few years back. I gave up and jumped to Presonus... {sigh}

If there's one thing that I find absolutely infuriating about moving back to Canada (after 9 years in the US), is that the very concept of customer service is seriously lacking! That's not a blanket statement by any means - there are companies that adopt good practices and treat their customers well up here, but there are a lot more companies I've run into that don't seem to willing to adopt any practices that might promote customer loyalty.

Now, jury is still out on whether the Presonus distributor will come through, but I've been sent to Long and McQuade with the assurance that they'll take the unit for me (they didn't) and numerous emails which each seem to have progressively more names added to the "CC" line have been flying back and forth.

My last two emails have fallen into black e-holes - and we don't have the American Thanksgiving to blame up here.

I just want a place to send the unit and get it fixed! I don't care who's supposed to do what nor who has an agreement with who ...

Why does a (up to a week ago) happy customer have to endure complicated and lengthy processes, explanations and delays to get a routine support task completed?

I have a couple more days of patience left I think, then I guess I'm going to have to postpone my monitor speaker purchase and put that budget towards a competitor's product.

... a product that doesn't require you to interface with their Canadian distributor!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Seriously Appropriate Blog Title

Just pulled up my news reader this morning and saw a post by my pal and co-host on Inside Home Recording entitled:


I've known Derek for almost 2 years and listened to him on IHR for more than a year before I was invited to be a host on the show. He's got to be one of the most positive and clear-thinking people I know. The fact that he has some pretty severe cancer - you'd hardly know it to talk to him - makes everything about the world seem totally out of whack.

He's an avid blogger (at penmachine.com) and has been interviewed by the CBC TV and CBC Radio for his efforts to document his life online and preserve that record for future generations.

This is all so infuriating as I'm beginning to think that this is an extremely bad and poor taste re-run. A close friend of my family - someone for whom I had the utmost respect while growing up - passed away after his fight with cancer a while back. He had such a magnetic, happy personality about him. There was always a twinkle in his eye and you would never leave his presence without a laugh and a smile. It was a very, very sad day for me when I learned that he wasn't with us anymore.

Why does this disease always seem to affect those who make positive impacts on lives? Not that I'd wish to inflict pain on anyone at all, but when it comes down to "emotional analysis" ... it all seems so unfair!

Derek has been fighting this for a long time, with some successes and some drawbacks as well. I wish there was something I could do to erase his burden or at least shoulder a bit of it. He's been going through many different treatments and operations that have thrown his body out of whack. I can't even begin to imagine what he, and his family are going through

What I do know is that he's still got a positive attitude while fighting this damned disease with everything he's got.

If I were a bettin' man, I'd be all in on Derek.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

What Just Happened???

A few days ago, my main concerns were:
  1. applying enough sunscreen
  2. making sure the kids didn't get caught in the undertow
  3. keeping little hands from touching sea turtles...
We arrived back from Maui last Wednesday morning (2:30AM to be exact). The morning of Tuesday, we were swimming in a pool in 80+degree, sunny weather and then that evening, returned to rainy weather and a temperature that was less than half of what we left.

A scant two days later, I find myself having driven four hours along Highway 1 in the dark (light faded at 4:30PM) and find myself in a small town in the middle of the Rocky Mountains named Princeton for a hockey tournament.

For peet sake! I was literally wearing two pieces of clothing (not counting flip flops) three days ago, and now, I'm packing multiple layers ...

After experiencing tropical island life for just over a week, I wonder whether my ancestors were oblivious to warmer climates, or were just plain lazy when they decided to emigrate from the British Isles...

Sigh...

I guess getting back to the regularly scheduled program can never be something that's gradual or forgiving.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fringe Fans!

Well, coolness happened in our neighbourhood today (and tonight). The House on the next block - we can literally see it out of our window at the back - was being used for an episode of Fringe.

The entire main cast was seen - Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson), Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble), and Philip Broyles (Lance Reddick). I brought the kids over to watch what looks like the final scene of the episode this afternoon and we got to speak with Joshua and get a pic with him - very nice guy - even asked how the kids liked their first day of school. No idea what the episode is about, but Joshua said that it's #7 this season - we'll be watching as always!

One other cool surprise was that we had Dr. Bishop's infamous station wagon parked out in front of our house too.

It's amazing that they can actually pump these episodes out so fast given what seems like such an inefficient process. There are tons of trucks and equipment around, 40-50 people milling around on the set and they seem to spend a lot of time doing ... stuff for perhaps 1-2 minutes of "action" per hour.

Regardless, it was cool to have all this happen in our own back yard - fun stuff!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Hello? Hello?

Wow.

Today, for the first time in a year, I talked on a phone at the back of our house without worrying whether the call would be dropped...

Since we moved back to Vancouver, Catherine and I have been trying to use just our cell phones as our primary (and only) means of voice communication. Well, Catherine has a desk phone at her office, but that's beside the point.

We haven't had a "land line" in our house for over a year.

We thought, "Hey, our cell phones should be more than enough. We're in the midst of a large metropolis and what do we really need a land line for?"

Okay, well, here's the list:
  • Even though we're in a well-established neighborhood minutes from downtown Vancouver and UBC, unless we're on the front porch or up in the master bedroom, a call to or from our cell phones will undoubtedly get dropped. And, we're on two totally different plans with two differenct carriers (Telus and Rogers) - no difference.
  • How the heck do you actually send and receive FAXes easily? Sorry if that seems like the dark ages to you, but some businesses up here in Canada still insist on electronic document transfer via 1980's technology.
  • 911 and the kids - we pretty well have to make sure that anyone babysitting the kids has a cell phone or leave one of ours if we go out. Plus, if something were to happen to one of us, would the kids be able to 1. find our phones and then 2. be able to place a call reliably?
So, yeah, now we have an old-fashioned land line. Well, not so old-fashioned, it's with Vonage, so it's only "old fashioned" up until the little orange box that converts my silky voice into 1's and 0's.

I'm okay with that - at least I still have my cell, although, I don't have to hesitate calling people back in fear of appearing rude and having the call dropped...

Sunday, August 02, 2009

My Vacation in Southwestern Ontario... so far

Well, the fam and I are three days into our vacation in Ontario - back to visit friends and family in the midst of some tourist-type activities...

So far, so good. The weather has definitely been cooler - it was 104 degrees Fahrenheit in Seattle when we left and 38 degrees Celsius in Vancouver the day before - freakin' hot. We got here and were tempted to drive on the QEW to my parents' place with the windows down instead of using the air conditioner!

We've seen grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins - all the good stuff so far - Niagara Falls was yesterday and tomorrow, we're off to Toronto.

Some personal noteworthy observations about the trip so far:
  • I didn't have to turn on my iPod once on the plane trip - someone was good enough to program the "Watchmen" and 3 episodes of "Flight of the Conchords" on Air Canada!
  • It seems as though Ontario has some odd Metric conversion going on - 100 Km/h speed limit seems to translate into a minimum of 130 Km/h....
  • Pedestrians seem to be a lowly lifeform here (approaching how they're viewed in Montreal) - I found myself yelling at some dude in a Pontiac Sunfire while crossing the street with my family - I almost had the heels taken of my shoes after my son and I stepped out of his lane.
  • Speaking of pedestrians - walking anywhere tends to be snickered at. You can't get anywhere in the "Golden Horseshoe" (who thought of that name anyway?) without getting into a car.
  • "Service" has, so far, translated to mean to treat customers with disdain and contempt, taking their money and hoping that they never want to come back into your store / restaurant ever again...
  • An "Alternative Rock" station I hit seemed to be, at least to me, classic rock with a bit of Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden sprinkled in for "modern" taste...
Funny being a tourist again in the "yard" where I grew up. It's cool to see the familiar as a bit unfamiliar. Looking forward to seeing old friends and relatives again! I'll see what I can post down the way...

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

He's not MY "boyfriend"

Late Night TV

Catherine and I watch late-night news most nights - and we typically watch CBC's The National ... mainly because it's the only decent one on at 10:00. Okay, we'd probably miss any news show we tried to watch at 11:00 because we'd fall asleep.

It's a little bit stodgy and sometimes, when the news cycle for the day seems to be quite dry, going to bed early will definitely be the best option - CBC is not the best at creating filler or fluff pieces.

The nights that we actually do get to the end of the broadcast and get to see the flirtatious jibes between Peter Mansbridge and CBC's "senior meteorologist", Claire Martin, we get our ten minutes of local Vancouver news and then...

It's "The HOUR" with George Stroumboulopoulos (put that name on the back of a hockey jersey). The Hour is the only Canadian late-night talk-show and I gotta say, the show itself seems to be able to book a lot of great talent. BUT, I don't think I've ever been able to watch the show for more than five minutes...

I don't think it's the late hour and it's definitely not the fact that there are so many other fantastic shows on at the same time (ahem) ... but I have to admit, something about Georgie just makes me want to turn the TV off.

Some of my complaints:
  • He tries to be funny with little skits and impromtu stand-up-like routines ... and to me, it sounds as though even the audience is being threatened to at least force their laughter.
  • He talks WAY too fast.
  • He comes off as being ... immodest - I have no idea why he would have a big ego...
I think the thing that seems a bit grating about the show is that someone at CBC (don't know if we can entirely blame George) is that he's been officially labeled as "Canada's boyfriend".

"Your boyfriend is next after your late local news."
"Tune in to see your favourite boyfriend tonight..."
"Hello there, it's me, your boyfriend, and on tonight's show..."

{shiver}

I don't know about you, but I have trouble seeing how I'd be attracted to George.

He does have a show, seems to be famous and well connected, so I guess there's that going for him, but really ...

George Stroumboulopoulos: a sex symbol?

Am I out of touch with what others see as attributes that contribute to a man being attractive or desirable?

I don't know, maybe I AM turning into a cranky old geezer.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Synth Memory Lane...

Ahhh... Nothing better than a little trip down gear-from-the-past memory lane.

This latest episode was brought to you by my upcoming segment for Inside Home Reocording. I'm planning to do a "Synthesizers 101" bit - getting into some basics on theory and practice behind subtractive synthesis.

I'll probably be touching on other kinds of synthesis (granular, wavetable, additive, physical modeling...), but subtractive synthesis is probably the easiest and most popular form of synthesis to cover. Plus a lot of the "downstream" aspects of subtractive synthesis apply to other forms as well.

Back to the post subject. As part of researching this, I was trying to find a soft-synth out there that was:
  1. a subtractive / analogue model,
  2. FREE and
  3. available on both Mac and PC platforms
Surprisingly, there were more than just a handful when I did a search on KVR. I unearthed a fantastic candidate from Togu Audio Line called the U-NO-62. It's apparently a model of the Roland Juno-60 built back in the early '80's.

Finding this soft-synth was awesome on a couple of levels:
  1. The Juno 60 was a simple synth with a single"ish" oscillator and fairly intuitive controls - so perfect for demonstrating a "101 Basics" thing with.
  2. It was the predecessor to my very first synth - the Juno-106 - which I spent HOURS on back in high school. It had a similar layout and controls as the Juno-60, but also had this new-fangled thing called MIDI on it as well.
... which brings me to memory lane... {ahhh...}.

"To all the synths and gear I've owned..."
Come on everyone, you know the words!

Alright, I'll spare you the nostalgic crooning, but I'll indulge you with a shortened, abridged version of the trip down memory lane of gear I've owned and sold over the years...

Soon after investing in the Juno-106, I went on to acquire a Roland TR-909.

That led to getting my first MIDI cable and ... well, the rest is history. I started doing some rudimentary recording with two tape decks and a couple of RCA splitter cables. Very time consuming, but hey, I was a teenager with time on my hands. We didn't have the Internet back then folks!

When I went off to music school at Western, I thought I needed to upgrade, so like any budding gear-slut, I haunted the local music store in Ottawa (Steve's Music) and lusted after the latest and greatest (at the time): Ensoniq's ESQ-1.

.... {drool}

It had 3 oscillators and 8 multitimbral voices! Woo Hoo!!!! To boot, it had an on-board multi-track sequencer which was the kicker!

Having this little baby around made me realize that I was a Music-Theory geek. I spent hours trying out stuff we'd learned in Theory classes - trying to apply to different styles of music and whot-not.

A couple of years later, the next shiny toy came out: The Korg M-1

This was just a killer synth at the time - a lot of the same concepts that the ESQ-1 incorporated, but it just sounded ... fantastic. So, back to the sell-your-gear-to-finance-the-upgrade cycle.

Soon after that, I decided to go to B-School at Mac and sold the M-1 to finance my next "toy" - a shiny 386 33MHz PC. Woo Hoo! Boy, that thing had 4 Mb of memory and a 80 Mb drive - killer!

The rest is sort of more recent history, but it took another five or six years before I'd start marrying the PC-geek and the Music-geek who were just itching to hitch up. I went out and bought a Korg N264 along with a copy of Cakewalk Pro-Audio (version 5 or 6 I believe).


That's where the downward spiral to today begins, and THAT is where I unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your perspective) have to end this before it gets way too complicated and rambling....

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Music Technology & a Few Sucking Sounds ... Part II

In my previous blog entry, I mused about the possibility that Music Technology itself may contribute to a "suckage" factor in today's music. This mental excursion was the result of listening to Joe Chiccarelli in an interview on Electronic Musician's monthly podcast where he stated that he felt that the low barriers present for artists to record, produce and distribute their music has deteriorated the overall quality of music you hear on radio these days.

Well, I must say, I've had a lot of great response both on my blog and on Facebook (I have my profile pick up my blog and post it as a note there...).

I wanted to touch on one more thing before I let it rest - give a bit of a real-life example that I came across that frustrated me a bit.

For those of you who know me, or tune into Derek and I on the Inside Home Recording podcast, you'll probably have heard me mention that I've been teaching a theory course at the Art Institute of Vancouver.

I'm about to mark the second of two assignments for the term. Their first effort was good overall, but there were a few instances where folks were ... well a little TOO reliant on technology. I'd asked them to piece together a "song" using stuff we'd covered in class: 8-bar verse, 8-bar chorus. Be as simple or complex as you want. I gave an example of what I was looking for too...

I got some interesting stuff back, but I think the most irksome bit was getting back stuff that was printed off Logic and other notation modules from DAWs that were ... unplayable as written. I asked these folks to at least play me what they were thinking and found it to be quite simple.

There were odd double-dotted 64th rests at beginnings of bars, sixteenth notes tied to dotted 32nds over bar lines... some of these scores were simply unreadable. What they'd done was play their creations into a DAW with a click, look at what came out on the screen, added in chord analysis as I asked, and pressed print.

Interesting, I thought ... why would these folks - and they're all intelligent young dudes (and a dudette) - not go ahead and double check to see if their work actually worked out? They've shown me that they understand notation rules and the like to be able to verify the validity of their work. Was it laziness? Were they pressed for time?

Maybe. But I also feel, now looking back on the first assignment, that these kids rely so heavily on technology to finish their music and put that "special sheen" on it, they don't find the need to even question what comes out the other end.

The next class, I gave them a half-hour primer on how to actually go into the piano-roll in conjunction with the score view and use tools such as quantization to line things up, stretch notes out so that what you get something that will be playable by a musician.

Regardless, I changed up the second assignment to force some good old fashion pencil sharpening and thinking ...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Modern Music Making Tools = Increased Suckage Factor?

I was just listening to the latest Electronic Musician podcast which contained an interview with Joe Chiccarelli - Producer / Engineer who's worked with The Shins, U2, My Morning Jacket, Tori Amos, Beck...

Mike Levine asked what his opinion was of the impact of recording technologies available out there now for everyone have on recordings these days. He had some interesting comments that got me thinking one in particular was him lamenting that although there is a larger volume of artists out there getting attention, he felt that the quality of music coming out these days has gone down - both from the songwriting/structure and the overall sound standpoints.

Got me wondering if I agree or disagree.

In the end, I think I have to be on both sides of the fence.

One the one hand, I absolutely love the tools that are out there now. There's a ton of flexibility, and ease to which you can work on music projects and produce things in a bedroom at relatively low cost.
There are a lot of great artists getting heard with the low barriers now. There are also a lot of folks who are not necessarily musicians being able to create music now.

A lot of barriers are getting broken down and there is a TON of diversity out there - which I find great!

On the flip-side, the low barriers also does produce its share of ... kr@p too. Joe lamented that now-a-days there is a lot of mixes coming out that try to emulate what FM Radio sounds like - getting back to the loudness wars debate - where everything seems to have no dynamic range whatsoever. Charles Dye and company have been outspoken proponents of bringing dynamics back to music.

I also thought - well, what about the actual music itself? What's going on there to facilitate the "suckage factor" these days.

With all these tools out available to pros, semi-pros and amateurs alike, a lot of variations on representing music - whether it be performance information in the form of MIDI or recorded information in the form of digital audio waveforms - conforms to a grid-like paradigm.

You start a new project in Logic, Sonar, Garageband, CuBase etc. and you're presented with grids - time, measures, beats etc. along the top and your tracks along the left-hand side. Usually, you're not proficient in all the instruments you'd like to add to your creation, so you have synthesizers and samplers, but if you're not a keyboardist either, then you have LOOPS!

Loops have become a staple in a LOT of music you hear these days and they're usually found increments of one, two, four, eight... bars. You drop these into your creation and bada-bing, you're ready to move on to the next part.

All this grid / pattern stuff, at least to me, seems to promote a "laziness" on the part of the artist sitting behind the screen. There's a system ... a formula if you will ... that home recordists, semi-pro and even pros succumb to in constructing their creations.

Listen to a top-40 station and try and find something that contains something that deviates from a formulaic 4 or 8 bar phrase. It's pretty hard.

I guess, what I took away from this personal brain fart was that I need to try and step away from the tools and create music with ears - come up with things that don't easily fit into the formulas - shake it up a bit. Folks worked like this 10-20 years ago and there was some GREAT stuff.

Don't get me wrong, next to Catherine and the kids, music technology rocks. I just think the next project I create, maybe I'll start away from the things that require power and have those shiny, flashing lights...

Monday, June 08, 2009

My Toys Suck

... well, that's what my son said in not so many words.

I just bought and am in the process of configuring and and setting up a Network Attached Storage device on our home network - copying files over, setting up backup programs to talk to it...

My son walks in and asks what I'm doing ...

"Playing with my new toy" I tell him.

It's black, it's shiny, it's got cool lights that are blinking.

He asks what it's for and I try to explain that it's so that we can keep our data in a centralized place AND have it on redundant/mirrored media.

Before I finish, I can see his eyes glazing over ... his hope that it's some sort of cool new Star Wars device from Toys R Us dashed to oblivion.

It's then that I wonder ... when did my toys start to adopt this ... "boringness"? Maybe next time, I'll bundle the optional lightsaber, holoprojector option with my electronic shopping cart...

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Mystery of the Lost Tooth

Our little guy Alex, lost his tooth a couple of days ago.

He wanted to save it for show and tell today. He got up this morning and put the tooth in a little carrying case (shaped like a tooth) and strung it around his neck to bring to school.

Well, as you can probably guess from the title of this post, just before going into class, we discovered the carrying case hanging open and the tooth missing.

We took a look around the playground and ... sigh ... didn't find it. Well, it's a playground with woodchips ALL over, and a bazillion other kids were playing at the same time, so chances were pretty slim of finding it.

On the way home with Sam, I found myself in a very deep discussion about why the Tooth Fairy would most likely still be able to "re-imburse" Alex for his tooth ... even though the said tooth was not going to be in the, ahem, agreed-upon location: under the pillow.

I found myself wondering how much of this she'll remember. I'm pretty sure that Alex will - after all, it was his first tooth.

Chris is now at the age where doubts have surfaced and he gives little winks and nods at the mention of different holiday and special characters quite regularly.

It'll be interesting to probe their memories in the next few years and see what sticks and what doesn't.

I'm only hoping that these memories aren't the catalysts for future therapy sessions ...

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Parent Break is coming to an end...

Just looked on the calendar and saw that our daughter's last day of school is next week!

ACK!

The boys get out of school a couple of weeks after that, but geez, it got me thinking ...

Has anyone ever done a study on the amount that summer break loses it's luster and appeal in relation to your age / amount of kids? Is this an inverse direct relationship? Is it linear, logarithmic? Am I the only one who wonders this?

Oh, don't get me wrong, I still look forward to it and love being outside - especially on awesome days with the kids - swimming, biking, playing in the park .... it's going to be a blast.

I'm thinking of the lame-o things that us loser adult types start to elevate as priorities - sleep, mowing lawns, fixing stuff, typing on a computer in a cafe (ahem) and ... oh yeah ... work.

I mean, what's up with that? We spend our entire childhood getting pysch'd up for holidays and summer vacation, then when we're teenagers, we're slowly introduced to the "summer job" and once you leave school - it just gets the "oh never mind - you're a responsible adult now" treatment.

I'm thinking it's got to be the biggest bait and switch scam out there! Why do we do this to ourselves and our kids?

The solution? I don't know - until summer holidays are mandated by governments, perhaps we should do away with all this negativity around childhood labour just so that we can let our kids down easier as they get older.

I'm just sayin... ;)

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Am I sounding like a broken record?

I've been listening to a LOT of different music these days - I have to admit, consumption of new music has become a habit ...

It's been a condition of mine for a while, and I don't think it really has any real serious side effects - well, except if you count my kids requesting songs such as "Balls to the Wall" or "Crazy Train" once in a while.

The new bands coming out today are fantastic! I mean, stuff like the Silversun Pickups, Metric, Phoenix, Band of Skulls, Patrick Watson... I'm having a blast listening to them.

I'm also expanding the jazz collection - picking up classics from Herbie, Miles, Chet...

However, just this morning, I went ahead and found my music selection on my iPod fall onto AC/DC for some reason.

Back in Black came up.

I haven't listened to Back in Black all the way through since high school.

Dang, what a brilliant album - the song sequence fits, the sound is amazing - great tracks from beginning to end.

Derek and I have discussed this online with others a lot before - how music from your youth really resonates with you. But, I don't know there IS something fantastic about this album that is so much different from the ones out these past years.

What makes a "classic" album? What's going to be a classic album from the 2000's in the next 15-20 years?

It'll be cool to see.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Hockey Morning in ... West"ish" Vancouver

A couple of weeks ago, while at Chris' hockey practice, a couple of the other parents started to suggest that I write a "theme song" for the hockey team.

This came about because the team has been chosen to be featured on CBC's Hockey Night In Canada sometime in the spring.

Someone (I forget who) said, "we should have a theme song for the kids". Which led to ... "hey, you do that creative kind of stuff don't you? What do you think of writing a tune?"

Well, to make a long story short, I've been seriously working on the tune and it's kinda coming together. Don't know if they were joking around, but I'm running with it. I even lugged out Catherine's laptop, an audio interface, a pair of small diaphram cardioid mics, mic stand and cables to Chris's game last Thursday to record the kids yelling their team name - among other things.

I'm not kidding when I say, these kids can yell! I had to bring the gain back down to less than half of where I'd done my own personal sound checks...

It's starting to grow now. I've got a section where there's this two bar "catchy" sing-along bit ("uh, uh, uh, uh, ohhhh...!") where I'm thinking I might start to solicit help from some Internet audio-geek buddies out there to provide more fodder for a "gang vocal" thing.

Anyway, so far, it's been fun, and it's starting to take on a life of it's own - eating up spare time and the like. I'm even finding myself obsessing over lyrics and melody lines.

What started out as - oh, this won't take more than a couple of hours, has grown to taking a bit more than a week... so far.

I think I'll have to start imposing a deadline before long. More to come!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The 30 (no 31) albums meme

I HATE memes. I really do, but I have to admit that being tagged by Derek on this particular subject got me thinking and... well here we are...

Think of 25 (sorry, I couldn't whittle down below 31 - even then I felt like I was cutting off a limb...) albums that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life or the way you looked at it. They sucked you in and took you over for days, weeks, months, years. These are the albums that you can use to identify time, places, people, emotions. These are the albums, no matter what they were thought of musically, that shaped your world.

When you finish, tag 25 others, including me. Make sure you copy and paste this part so they know the drill. Get the idea now? Good.

  1. Star Wars Soundtrack - John Williams
    (probably the first album I bought on my own)
  2. The Dream Police - Cheap Trick
    (first rock album I bought)
  3. Back in Black - AC/DC
    (god, memories of middle school flooding back...)
  4. The Wall - Pink Floyd
    (ditto with above)
  5. Moving Pictures - Rush
    (move to London Ontario - grade 8 - I've owned this on two cassettes, an LP and CD ... now ripped into MP3 - high quality of course!)
  6. Thriller - Michael Jackson
    (didn't everyone pick this up back then?)
  7. Freeze Frame - J. Geils Band
    (Centerfold - grade 8 - puberty ... need I say more?)
  8. Synchronicity - Police
    (like, who DIDN'T own this album and wear it out?)
  9. 1984 - Van Halen
    (Eddie plays an Oberheim ... my connection with hard rock)
  10. 5150 - Van Halen
    (grade 13 and summer before university - plain and simple)
  11. Songs from the Big Chair - Tears for Fears
  12. (grade 11 written all over this in my head)
  13. Rio - Duran Duran
    ('k, I was dating a John Taylor groupie back then...)
  14. Dream into Action - Howard Jones
    (wore this album out - grade 12 and 13 through and through)
  15. Appetite for Destruction - Guns 'n Roses
    (I can still remember the night I first heard Sweet Child o' Mine on the car radio ... blew me away)
  16. Boston - Boston
    (got me through a summer job)
  17. Pyromania - Def Leppard
    (they hit it big with this one, but still had that pent-up energy - can still remember playing this over and over at a pool I worked at - must have driven the regulars nuts)
  18. Scenes from a Memory - Dream Theater
    (still cannot get enough of this work - priceless)
  19. Emerson, Lake and Powell - Emerson, Lake and Powell
    (no, not Palmer ... Powell - remember seeing the video on MuchMusic with Keith surrounded by 20 keyboards ... woah, that guy is wild, I have GOT to get this album)
  20. 90125 - Yes
    (my first exposure to Yes ... it all went downhill after this - I've lost count of how many albums I have from them!)
  21. Pornograffitti - Extreme
    (got me through a summer clerk desk job...)
  22. Welcome Interstate Managers - Fountains of Wayne
    (there are still easter eggs and ear candy I find in this album - pop songwriting at its' best)
  23. So - Peter Gabriel
    (remember waiting to see what "Big Time" would look like when released on MuchMusic)
  24. Version 2.0 - Garbage
    (the model of late '90's pop sound)
  25. Genesis - Genesis
    (probably their peak with just the trio)
  26. Flying in a Blue Dream - Joe Satriani
    (when Joe actually started to sing - such diversity through this album)
  27. Metallica - Metallica
    (couldn't get enough of this CD)
  28. Dream of the Blue Turtles - Sting
    (you either hated the new sound or you loved it ... stuck with me)
  29. Bridges Over Borders - Spoons
    (their "rock" / change of direction album post Nile Rogers - grade 12/13 through and through - Catherine can't believe I have this in iTunes too!)
  30. Fumbling Towards Ecstasy - Sarah McLachlan
    (I think this was her peak - so far - she's just hitting what's now become her monotonous sound, but there are still things from days of Solace and Touch)
  31. Commitments Soundtrack - The Commitments
    (Catherine and I spent a lot of Sunday mornings listening to this)
  32. Sleepless in Seattle Soundtrack - Various
    (When I Fall in Love - NKC version - was what Catherine and I chose for our 1st dance tune - listened to this album pre-wedding almost every day)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Facebook & "My" Stuff

There's been a lot of hullaballoo about the recent update of Facebook's Terms of Service legalese. This was brought to my attention a couple of days ago by a good friend who has since closed out her account on the site.

Her departure from Facebook will definitely be missed as she had posted a lot of interesting mental fodder that was enjoyable, albeit (as she put it) non-productive, time online.

The uproar is appearing in a lot of different places - people ranting over their expectations of privacy and ownership of content being violated.

Now, Facebook has backpedaled and gone back to its' original terms of service. Mark Zuckerburg posted this earlier today. Now, the universe has righted itself after the voice of the people made a big roar - everyone is safe now... Everyone owns and controls their online content yet again.

Not to be cynical, but ... DUH - come on people!!!

I don't know about other folks out there, but my online mantra is:

Anything I put online can NEVER be guaranteed to remain in my control.

Any email, blog post, twitter, forum comment, music clip, photo or movie I, in one way or another, move from my hardware onto the Internet - I consider it to be out of my control.

Seems like common sense to me.

Technology has made the dissemination and consumption of information so much easier than it used to be. Back in the olden days, when I was a kid, plagarizing a book for that school assignment involved actually hand-writing, word-for-word the text from a page. Having a copy of your friends' AC/DC album involved actually recording, in real time, the entire album to tape.

These days, copying, manipulating and/or forwarding on someone elses' intellectual property takes a matter of seconds.

It's the Internet ... if it's out there, I consider it to be out of my control - no matter what the terms of service are.

The Facebook kerfuffle took a more ominous tone in that people were up in arms about a clause from their revised TOS that stated:
The following sections will survive any termination of your use of the Facebook Service: Prohibited Conduct, User Content, Your Privacy Practices, Gift Credits, Ownership; Proprietary Rights, Licenses, Submissions, User Disputes; Complaints, Indemnity, General Disclaimers, Limitation on Liability, Termination and Changes to the Facebook Service, Arbitration, Governing Law; Venue and Jurisdiction and Other.
(There - I actually just copied that in a matter of a second... ha!)

I, personally, was not surprised nor offended by this. I'm not paying for my use of Facebook (and I don't consider the ads on the right-hand side of the Facebook interface - which I have long since ignored - to be an "inconvenient" form of payment), so why would I trust or even expect them to look after my personal interests?

I don't know about other people, but I consider it to be a bit naive to think otherwise.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Come on, stop it... it's embarrassing

Every so often, when there's nothing else to do or watch later in the evening, I'll watch the CBC's "The National". There's a segment that our eloquent host, Peter Mansbridge brings up every now and then, a segment called "Your Turn". It's a very small bit where he'll read off a couple of comments from viewers who have written in about segments aired on previous episodes.

I've asked myself, on a few occassions: "Who actually spends the time to write in?"

Well, I found out who - I actually went to the site, digged up the submit form and wrote in. Here's what I wrote:

"Please stop playing to the insecure, whining Canadian stereotype. It's really quite embarrassing.

Being a proud Canadian who lived in the United States for 9 years, I can tell you that yes, Americans do like us, and there are some who admire our way of life. We're just not at the top of their minds all the time... nor should we expect to be.

The Canadian media (that includes you, Peter and Rex), needs to get over the fact that the United States does not share your exaggerated sense of self-importance. Take a cue from the at-issue panel last evening who, at the least, all seemed to view the agenda for the Obama visit with rational eyes rather than snubs to petty, jealous delusions of grandeur."

What prompted this you ask?

Last evening, the burr in Peter's bonnet was the newly released schedule of Barak Obama's visit to Canada on February 19th. With a few peppered references to Canadians being "snubbed", the main thrust of the commentary for the evening wasn't the fact that this is Obama's first foreign visit as President nor that this could be a great opportunity to put our best foot forward with a new administration, but rather the fact that the visit is for less than 6 hours without {gasp} any expected pomp and circumstance.

The injustice!

The travesty!

He's not even going to address Parliament, stay for a state dinner or even bring Michelle and the kids along!

How rude!

{rolling eyes}

It was Rex Murphy's rant that put it over the edge for me. I hate to generalize, but why is it that Canadians (actually, it's mostly the Canadian media) have entitlement issues when it comes to the United States and Americans? There always seems to be some sort of cup-is-half-empty mentality when it comes to any interaction between our two countries. There's some sort of misplaced sense that Canada and Canadians are not much more important and proper than our southern neighbours.

A decade ago, this didn't really bother me, but after living amongst our American neighbours for a few years, I got a good chance to see Canada from an outside point of view. Don't get me wrong, I love being Canadian and am the first to admit I'm proud of the country I call home, but comments like the kind Rex Murphy made make our country look like a spoiled little brat.

I can not, for the life of me, see any high horse other Canadians seem to feel they are perched on. Please get down, you look stupid up there.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Turning Tables

I know, I know, it's been a while since my last post...

I've been frickin' busy already!!!

Ever since the first week of this year, I've been teaching a class at the Art Institute in Vancouver. I'm teaching second quarter music theory.

I have to admit, I'm actually quite enjoying it. It's taking up a lot of my time preparing, but it seems as though everything is going well. The guys (and 1 gal) in my classes are a great bunch - all seem to be quite receptive and interested in the topic. Well, as interested in theory as you can get.

The quiz I popped a couple weeks ago yielded some great results - either it was too easy, they all cheated, or I'm actually doing a great job. I'm holding out for the last option!

While it's going well, there is a bit of "weirdness" in the position. There's that student-teacher wall that although I remember being there as a student, it took me a bit off-guard as I wasn't really expecting it.

You know, it's that being-friendly-but-not-"friendly" kind of thing. Being in a position of "authority" isn't really new to me - I've been a dad for ... almost 9 years now, and I did do the management thing, but this is different somehow.

There's those furtive glances when I walk past students in the hall, or that silence or quieter voices as I pass a group from class. It's not like I'm itching to be "one of the gang" and all that, it's just that I never really thought about being on "this side" of the coin.

I'm just taking it all in and chalking it up as one more of my experiences in my life.