Friday, September 30, 2005

comparing Apple and oranges

Okay. That's a lame title. None the less, most of the people who read my blog know already that Fiona Apple's new album comes out next week and that it's been pre-released on

Having been listening to the pirated unreleased version of the album for about a month (that's right. I'm a pirate), it's a very interesting experience to listen to the finished versions of these songs. As I told Manda yesterday, it's an odd feeling to sing along to a new album upon first listening.

So, I thought I'd jot down my thoughts on the new tracks in case anyone is interested. As with all of her other material, I highly recommend taking a good close listen to this album. Without a doubt, I think Fiona Apple is the best lyricist around these days. There is such an incredible wit and wisdom to her lyrics, and such a heart-wrenchingly bittersweet honesty to everything. She has a way of writing that makes me feel as though my own version of similar emotions equate to little more than 7th grade sad girl poetry by comparison.

Anyway, the first track I heard of her new stuff was the title track, Extraordinary Machine. I'm thrilled to find that they've decided to go with it as the first track on the new album. It's fun; plain and simple. The arrangement is the same, much to my happy surprise. As far as I can tell, the sole difference is in the EQ of the tracks (the cellos and basses particularly have less pluck and more boom than the original).

Unfortunately, Get Him Back (track 2) has been retouched and it's production varied from the original version. I find that it's one of only two songs on the album that I don't like the new version. Disappointingly, this was also one of my favorite tracks on the pirated album. Now I find that I'm disinterested in the new version. Largely it has to do with the production work behind the last verse. There's this wash of George Martin-esque instrument fragments that just seem to overpower everything. The vocal seems to drown behind synths, reversed audio files, and some annoying little piano snippet that nags for attention like a gnat.

After that's O Sailor, and I must say, I didn't like the new version the first time I heard it, but I really do now. I don't know what it is I objected to at first; but the new one gets a big stamp of approval from me. I like the upped tempo and I love the sing-songy backing vocals at the end of the track. Initially, they were one of the biggest things I didn't like about the track (that and I missed the string arrangement of the original). It was the first track that I've ever heard her overdubbing vocals on and it bugged me. Now, however, I like it and think it's a great end cap for the tune. So, go figure.

I just deleted everything I was saying about Better Version of Me, track 4. I was saying "I really like it. It's so different." But, you know what? 1.) It's not all that different, 2.) I like the original better. : / I didn't think that was the case until I A/Bed them side by side. I'm not as much of a fan of the sax ensemble in the new one at the expense of the cool Mellotron flutes in the original. Oh well.

Tymps is the track that the pirated versions seemed to name Used To Love Him. It's pretty different. Less swanky, a little more hip-hop. Interestingly, I never really noticed the lyrics on the original version but was instantly aware of them on the remake. I like the new one. In almost all respects I think it's a great reinvention of the track. There's some very cool mandolin work that comes in briefly after the first chorus. The vocal works extraordinarily well with the new percussive nature of the backing tracks. Cool stuff.

Parting Gift is the only all new track and it's beautiful. Piana, vox, beautiful melody and lyrics - can't go wrong. It's the kind of track that makes me feel like it was written to go on vinyl. This is the perfect track to end side one.

And with that, I'll wrap up Side One of my thoughts on this stuff and leave the rest for later. Otherwise, this'll be way too long.

take that, bespin

TGIF. This beat is def. Can I get a witness, Jeff? [Yes.] Are you ready to start things off yet? ::scratchy-scratchy... scratch:: A'ight. Bet.

Today I had a gorgeous drive into work. As I was driving along the ocean, just outside the Presidio gates, the ocean and the bay were both completely obscured by clouds and low-lying fog. Poking just up over the top of everything were the mammoth orange spires of the Golden Gate Bridge and a ridge of mountains on the Marin side of the bay.

I felt like I was living in a city among the clouds. There was a very dream-like, detached quality to everything.

It was so beautiful that I actually pulled my car over and tried to take a picture of it with my camera phone. Didn't turn out that well.


That's mountains on the left, a very japanese tree in the foreground, and the smear on the right is The Bridge.

As I stood there with the cool breeze in my face, two fog horns called to each other - honking like two lusty geese. It was an odd sound, but added to the weird dreamy quality of everything.

I like my city in the clouds. It was a nice moment.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

shi-poop, plain and simple

Everyone gets songs stuck in their heads. Maybe musicians are more prone to it; I don't know. What I do know is that I have a nasty habit of getting a single song stuck in my head that starts to function as a type of audio screen saver.

Whenever nothing's going on, that song will just start playing. Typically, these things hang around for years.


From about 1990 to 1998, my audio screen saver was "Life Loves a Tragedy" by Poison. From 1998 until this year, it's been "What Is And What Should Never Be" by Zeppelin. Thankfully, the Zep tune seems to be in decline. The problem is, whenever I get a song stuck in my head, I worry that it's become the new default audio screen saver.

Which brings me to today. All day today I've had "Shi-Poo-Pi" from the wretched The Music Man stuck in my head. I don't like musicals. I find them to be the lowest form of entertainment, roughly on par with Blind Date and Springer.

I mean ... Shi-poo-pi ... seriously? Let's take a quick look at what it contributes to our society:

Squeeze her once when she isn't lookin',
If you get a squeeze back, that's fancy cookin',
Once more for a pepper-upper,
She will never get sore on her way to supper.

Shi-Poo-Pi! The girl who's hard to get.

Shi-Poo-Pi! But you can win her yet.

Swill. If I have to listen to this crap on and off until 2011, I'm going to go nuts.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

it happened again

There are going to be a couple of people pretty pissed at me about this, but two events that have occurred repeatedly in my past just occurred again.

First off, my car registration expired. I don't know how it happened. The bill got away from me or something. I have a bad habit of forgetting about my registration and letting it lapse; it's an annoying thing that I've done repeatedly throughout my driving history. How did I find out? Well, as usual with this scenario, I got pulled over by the police on my way to work.

The thing is, the thing that's going to piss people off is that he actually pulled me over for speeding. I was going 46 in a 35 zone. He pulled me over, told me that I was going 11 miles over the speed limit and that my registration was expired. The officer then marched off to his patrol car, chatted on the radio for a bit, and then came back to tell me "I'm not going to give you a speeding ticket. I'm just going to give you a fix-it ticket for your registration. You have one month to get it fixed."

This might be the 4th or 5th time I've been pulled over for speeding and let off without a speeding ticket. I think the police keep letting me off because they look at my record and say "Hm. Well, he's never had a speeding ticket before. Must have just been a lapse in judgment."

I'm getting karmically nervous about it all, actually. I have a bad feeling that something out there is going to come along and bite me in the ass pretty severely just to make up for all of the times that I've gotten off without a scratch.

I'm nervous just writing this all down, in fact. Hopefully I can knock on some eWood and everything will be okay.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

enter: THE ZONE

I was so in The Zone just now.

Last week, I downloaded Bejeweled onto my cellphone and I've found myself losing big chunks of time to it ever since. While waiting for a bunch of stuff to copy on my computer, I busted out the Bejeweled.

My high score was 10,630 and I was having a hard time getting beyond that.

But just now ... oh man, was I in The Zone. I could do no wrong. Cartoony jewels were disappearing left right and center off of that thing ...

It took forever, but my high score is now 18,750. Self, you may now consider the bar officially upped.

Monday, September 26, 2005

busy as a ... seal! SEAL!!

Manda and I had a really busy weekend: a friend's wedding, a birthday party Sunday night, hanging with more friends Saturday night, helping other friends move some furniture Sunday morning, and - the only real "quiet" time we got to spend together - painting some pottery together at a Color Me Mine clone called All Fired Up.

I put quiet in quotes (inverted commas, for my British readers [do I have British readers? {who knows. but I do have three sets of brackets now in this sentence.}]) because our quiet time alone painting pottery ended up being shared in the same room with a birthday party for 20 seven year-olds. Well, actually, the party was only for one of them; but there were 20 or so of the 7 and Under crowd hanging out.

By far, the highlight of their party (for Manda and I anyway) was when they all finished painting their whatevers and the Head Mom started vamping to fill time.

Enter: Charades.

When given the ability to act out anything you can think of, 7 year-olds seem to all go for animals. So, as soon as they began charading(?), the room filled with shouts of "DOG!!" or "CAT!!!!" All of course, relatively normal shouts. All except for one girl who - no matter what the charader(?) was acting out - would yell "SEAL!!" at the top of her lungs. 'Twas awesome and we laughed at that kid a lot.

You hear that 7 year-old kid? We were laughing at you.

Also entertaining, yet in a very different way, was the mom we saw there who was living vicariously through her 7 year-old son. She brought him in there so that "he" could paint some pottery. She then proceeded to pick all of his colors and tell him what to paint.

"Do you want to paint polka dots on the outside? They'd look really great."

My favorite part of their painting time came when I heard her say "I'm not going to paint any of your polka dots." Followed closely by "Okay, I'm just going to paint this one to show you how to do it." After hearing her say "Oh, that's PERFECT!" I looked up to see that she had just finished painting her 15th polka dot while her son sat dejectedly nearby watching his mom paint "his" mug.

Sometimes parents are awesome. Sometimes they are that lady. That lady was clearly that lady.

Friday, September 23, 2005

well wishes

Not much doin' on my end.

Here's hoping, however, that everything is okay down South for the Phobucket Clan vs. Hurricane Rita.

Or maybe we could call it "The Rumble Down Umble."

I don't know what an umble is; but whatever it is, I'm sure Amanda is one.

; )

just kidding.

Anyway, be well, Ben.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

let down again

Got a package at work this afternoon. At first, I was really excited, as I thought the power supply for the monitor switcher had finally arrived.

Turns out it was just the Logic upgrade I ordered last week.

At least Apple's on the ball with their orders.

Oh well. Back to burying myself in databasi.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

phone tree rage

I'm setting up my office finally this week. See, when we moved into the Presidio, I was neck deep working on the music assets to Battlefront 2.

quick aside: does it seem to anyone else like neck should be spelled kneck? It feels like it should to me today. Knock, know, kneck. See?

Anyway, Battlefront 2. Yeah, so I'm done with it now. This means that when I moved into my office, I only really had time to set up my office enough to keep working on the project (to be read as: only functionally enough to do music editing). Well, now I'm going ahead and setting up everything else: software instruments, computer upgrades, integrating Gigastudio into Logic 7, etc.

I have three Gigastudios in my office right now. Ultimately, they're all going to be linked to one monitor via a monitor switcher. They're not at the moment because - somehow - the 5 volt power adapter to the monitor switcher didn't make the move with us over to the Presidio.

This means I had to order one. [Cue Jesse ranting.] The company that makes the monitor switcher is called IO Gear. When I first ordered the part, they said "We're back ordered right now. When we get them in next week, we'll send them out to you."

Fine. No prob. Except that when the next week rolled around, it never arrived. I called them and was told "Oh, sorry. Yeah, we're back ordered on that. When they get in, we'll send it out to you. You should have it by September 12th."

Yesterday was the 20th and I still didn't have it. I called again. Here's a run-down of the customer service Hiroshima that I dealt with:

1. I navigate a vague and mildly confusing automated phone tree for a while. Eventually, First Guy answers the phone and then gets really happy when he realizes he doesn't have to talk to me because he can funnel me off to someone else.

2. After waiting on hold for about 5 minutes, I find out he funneled me to the voice mail for their Strategic Marketing Manager. There's no way to back out to the main menu. I have to hang up, call again, navigate the same stupid phone tree, and wait for someone to answer.

3. I get the same guy when I call back. He acts like he's a different guy, despite his unique voice. He tosses me off into the phone system for a while again.

4. After a wait, I get a guy who's pretty knowledgeable. When I tell him I placed an order over the phone, he responds with "WHAT?! We're not supposed to do that! Who did you talk to?!" I didn't know. "What's the case number?" They never gave me one. "Wow ... We're not supposed to be doing business like that. Let me put you on hold for a moment."

5. This time, the phone system kicks in and says "Your average wait time will be [4] minutes." After four minutes, it tells me to leave them a message so that someone can call me back. If I don't want to leave a message, I can go back to the main on-hold queue.

5. I go back to being on hold (no one ever calls you back when you leave a message on a customer support line). After 27 minutes of being on hold, I hang up.

All for a freakin' power plug. Today I called back and - not all that surprisingly - they told me that "We're back ordered. You should have it by Monday the 25th."

We'll see about that, IO Gear.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

it finally happened


That's how much gas cost me this morning on my way into work. That was to fill up my tank with the lowest grade stuff. I've been watching it dance nearer and nearer the $40 barrier for weeks now. But, today, it finally tumbled over the line and into the $40s.

I've been telling myself "As soon as it crosses over to $40 a fill-up, I'm taking the train."

So, I guess it's time to start taking the train. I'll try and figure out the schedules and whatnot today and then start taking it this Thursday.

Here's hoping that sooner or later enough people stop driving to kick in the laws of supply and demand.

Monday, September 19, 2005

the rebirth of Rebirth™

Today I downloaded and installed the Rebirth™ Refill for Propellerheads' Reason 3.0.

Hoo-nanny, I'm a happy composer.

To me, Rebirth was a far superior drum machine to Reason only because of the many user-created mods that existed.

After having their user base bitch about the lack of an OSX-version of Rebirth for years, Reason finally decided to become Super Awesome Gods of the World by releasing a Refill pack (a term here meaning "extra drum sounds", for those unfamiliar with Reason terminology) that contains all of the Rebirth User Mods ever hosted on the Propellerheads website.

So, anyway, I downloaded it, installed it, and started to reacquaint myself with some old friends; particularly the Red Stripe and Regulator mods. I love those two; used to use them all of the time.

So, I'm happy that Rebirth has risen from the ashes into a much cooler tool than it used to be. Because of the nature of Reason, now you can use just the samples you like from each of the Mods, instead of the whole thing - which means no more loading up one Mod just for that one cool noise mapped to F#4. Now you can create your own kit that includes it.

Ah, I'm a happy little MIDI programmer ...

Thursday, September 15, 2005

near miss

Bunnies, squirrels, deer - all cuddly Friends of Bambi. They're also all common roadkill. There are certain animals you expect to see in the road and others that you don't.



Anyway, you get the point. Also very unexpected was the ENORMOUS Falcon that I almost drove head-on into this morning on my way into work. This thing was huge. Big wing span, huge body, and it flew very quickly at my car only to swerve and miss me by about a foot.

Pretty scary.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

we can rebuild him

The G4 is dead, long live the G5.

Today's a happy day in the little hamlet of My Office. The new computer stuff is going well. This stuff takes forever, though. I'm so glad I don't have to do this frequently.

As of this week, I've been able to officially rule out IT Guy from my potential career paths.

Otherwise, not much going on. So little in fact, that it's take me 2 hours just to write this. (well, not two non-stop hours. I keep turning away from it and trying to think of something more entertaining to write about).

Netflix received our movies we mailed back to them, so the next two flicks (flix?) should be winging their way to us now. That makes me happy.

And Survivor starts on Thursday night. That makes me very happy. What a good little show.

I give up. I'm boring today.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

another day, another kernel panic

Still burning DVDs amidst a mess of crashes. I hate this computer.

I've also started over playing Metal Gear Solid 3. I love this game. There is so much depth to it.

So frequently if I think of something I want to do in the game, I find out that its possible as an actual move. Want to shoot a hornet's nest off of a tree in the hopes that it has honey inside of it? Go ahead; it does. Want to contact your special ops radio folks and ask about the hornet's nest you just found? Go ahead. They've recorded a whole conversation just in case you decided to do that. It's cool. There's so much you can do.

Except for jumping. Solid Snake, the main character, can't jump. That's a little weird.

So I guess that's Solid Snake 0, Pitfall Harry 1.

Monday, September 12, 2005

last few hurrahs

I've been spending the last few days backing up my computer onto DVDs so that I can replace it with a nice new computer.

See, my computer has always had problems. Lots and lots and lots of Kernel Panics. More than normal, and more than anyone has ever been able to figure out a cause for. We checked drivers, software updates, hardware compatibility, memory, Permissions, etc. You name it; we checked it.

The end result was that I came to simply see this computer as a home to Gremlins.

Anyway, here I am on the verge of being rid of this thing and its Gremlin-ridden carcass, and all I have to do is finish burning a few more DVDs.

What does it decide to do today? September Kernel Panic-athon 2005. It must have heard me telling Harrison that I was almost done and going to ditch it, because it's doing everything it can to crash as much as possible. It seems to really love crashing in the middle of burning discs now. So, not only do I have to reburn the disc, but ... well, I guess that's it. But still! It's annoying.

I'll finish soon and then it's "Smell you later, G4. Smell you now, G5."

Friday, September 09, 2005

hard life lessons

Today is a day of archiving and backups, so my computer is pretty much completely tied up with DVD burning.

As I wait on stuff to burn, I'm sitting here being schooled in hard life lessons by freeware apps.

Take, for instance, the rough lesson Minesweeper just taught me.

Sometimes, no matter how much time or planning you put into something, life just comes down to a 50/50 Craps shoot.


Thursday, September 08, 2005

i've got blistas on me fingas!!

I've started to play games again after about a three month hiatus. In all honesty, it hasn't actually been that long; I play games at work in the process of doing my job (I've logged a lot of hours on Battlefront 2 over the last 5 months).

What I mean, though, is that I haven't played games much at home when I'm done at work. It happens from time to time. Seems to happen most frequently when I'm neck-deep in a project. While I'm plugging away on a game at work, I have little interest in going home and either 1.) listening to music (especially classical music) and 2.) playing any games.

Well, with some more time on my hands these days, I've started to pick up the controller again. Over the last week, I beat God of War. I'm torn as to whether I think its a great game or not.

Everything that I typically use to gauge a game's worth - camera, controls, basic gameplay mechanisms, voice acting, story - all of these things are absolutely fantastic. The fixed camera annoyed me a bit at first, but I got used to it. Sony's created a great atmosphere with the game, fleshed it out well with some of the best scripting (story-wise, not trigger-wise) I've ever seen in a game, and created a game that remains true to itself through the entire 10+ hours or so of gameplay. Perhaps most impressively, they've created a game that has a really great ending that feels like it pays off on the journey to get there. No small task; many great games fall on their face with their endings (Spider-Man for the PS1 immediately comes to mind).

My problem with it comes from its "M" rating. For the most part, it's a Teen rated game: violence against mythical creatures, no cursing, etc. The thing is, in the game's cutscenes, there's a RIDICULOUS amount of blood and repeated gratuitous female nudity. If an enemy is killed in a cutscene, the poor sod instantly seems to jettison all of the blood from his body out of whatever wound he just incurred. And if the character is female, chances are that she's there topless (or in a sheer top). Anyway, there's a lot of seemingly pointless nipplage.

The thing is, neither of these elements seem to really make the game any better. They don't seem to have a point. They seem to only be there to bump the Teen rating up to a Mature rating. I think the end result is a game that completely succeeds in alienating some of their prospective audience.

See, at it's heart, the game is very reminiscent of Prince of Persia. Many of the gameplay mechanisms are the same: glowing columns of save points, environmental puzzling melded seamlessly into the level design, strong/light combat moves with special moves, dagger-armed main heroes, etc. That said, there was a great fanciful storytelling element of PoP that God of War lacks. SAT time:

Prince of Persia:Dragonslayer::God of War:

A. Conan the Barbarian
B. Conan the Govenor
C. Conan O'Brian
D. Whatever, I've muddled my point.

The end result was that PoP was a game both Amanda and I enjoyed. Meanwhile, the cutscenes of God of War make me feel that, should we play the game together, I'd feel embarrassed on behalf of the Devs whenever a topless Greek lady got beheaded and gushed gallons of blood out of her neck.

It bugs me, I guess, and it has me still debating what I think of the game. I suppose I like the "game" part of it and don't like the developers. Maybe it's just the director or art director. Who knows. All I know is that I anxiously awaited the PoP sequel and I don't particularly care about a God of War sequel.

Mainly because I'm disappointed in the execution of what could have been a phenomenal game if it didn't seem to stoop so low for sex appeal and shock factor.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

oogie woogie

My dad was fond of giving his kids nicknames. When my brother and I were growing up, "Jesse" and "Ryan" were hardly used. Instead, I started out being called "Jess Beau" as in French for "Handsome Jess." Kinda' embarrassing to talk about, I guess. Anyway, that's what the name was.

At first, anyway. Over time, it morphed from Jess Beau, to Jess Bo, to Bo Dog, to Bo Dog Harlin Dog, to (I believe at last) Jess Bo Bo Dog Harlin Dog Doggy. This last name was usually said while picking me up in a bear hug and twirling me around some.

Ry was alternately "Ry Man" or "Ry Guy." The names seemed to calm down a little when we got older. When our sister was born, however, my dad's nicknaming returned in full-force from is long sabbatical. Somehow Kody became "Beauter." Beauter then became Beautius T. Beauter or Beautius Maximus.

Anyway, I say all of this because as I was driving into work today, I heard a commercial on the radio for I found it a little disappointing to discover that my nickname from my dad has become an online poker site.

Also of note:

- is the homepage for a theater in Nashville.
- And seems to give me a 403 Forbidden Error Message.

I guess the good news is that, so far,,, and don't seem to be taken.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

no way to understand this either

On a different note, Amanda and I went to IKEA this weekend. In line in front of us was a Gen-Xer with a tattoo on his leg. Not too surprising.

What was surprising was its ridiculously lame subject matter.

It was a an open jar of Creamy Jif™ peanut butter. I mean, when that guy's 80 years old and we all live on the Moon eating soy tablets, he's going to have to explain to his grandkids what peanut butter is, why he liked it so much to get it tattooed on his body, why he chose the brand Jif™, etc.

Hands down, lamest tattoo I've ever seen.

Runner up? This thing.

there's no way to understand it all

Amanda and I spent a large chunk of our weekend glued to the News, completely immersed in the stories of Katrina.

It's just so unfathomable down there. I heard so many things that just seem to defy any sense what so ever:

- Some female survivors weren't rescued because they wouldn't flash their rescuers their breasts.
- The New Orlean's police were taxed to the breaking point and started quitting and killing themselves.
- A sniper was shooting at doctors and patients as they tried to evacuated the destroyed Charity Hospital.

It's crazy. Hundreds of thousands of people have had their lives destroyed. Forced to leave Louisiana, some are now looking to settle into whereever it is they've been relocated to. It makes sense. How do you go back to nothing? When you have nothing, why not just start over whereever you are? Is it easier to just start over than to knock down and demolish the wreck of your old life and then start over?

By the way, did everyone else see that Barbara Bush thinks that the situation the poor are now in following Katrina is "working out well for them?" Insane.

All of this is insane.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

i mean this as sincerely as possible

I was wrong.

I'm sorry.

I've changed my point of view and regret the mistakes of the past.

Just needed to say that.