Hurple Hoopla

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Doctor Who: Time Works


Blurb from Big Finish Website:

“You want to know about the Time Keepers?

“We work in their shadow, every tick and tock of our lives. We hear them in the workings of the Great Clock. We work hard, turn our hands – but we all wind down in time, and that is when they come for us: when our time is up.”

The TARDIS lands in between times, in a time where this is no time. A time in which nothing can possibly be. But something is…

The Doctor, Charley and C’rizz are rats in the wheelwork, a threat to the schedule of a world where timing is everything. And the seconds are counting down to a fateful future that has already happened. Unless they can beat the clock.

Tick, tock.

After a few weaker stories, Big Finish seems to have rebounded for the 80th release in its Doctor Who audio adventures series. This is a great story, full of wonderful characters and great situations with a nice, tight resolution (which has been Big Finish's biggest weakness recently. From start to finish, this is their most satisfying release in a long time. In fact, I would love to see this story "reimagined" for the current TV show like the previous Big Finish story Jubilee was reimagined into last series' Dalek.

And, ah, who cares what else I write here, even though a few people will see this post through a Google search on "Doctor Who Time Works", they'll have stopped reading already by this point; and the vast majority of my audience sits at a desk right behind me or in a little subdivision right outside Murfreesboro Tennessee.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Just say NO to iPod

So, it's all the rage these days to have an iPod. For those who don't consider spending $300 on an item that the manufacturers consider disposable, there are other alternatives. Plenty of other companies manufacture equivalent devices, hard drive based MP3 players.

However, for my money, the best portable music player, by far, is the good old minidisc system. Sony created minidisc back in the 1990's right after CDs had become the dominant retail music delivery hardware. Minidiscs look like PC floppy discs, but are only 3 inches per side. Inside each plastic shell is a small magnetic hard disc which can hold 350 meg of data. Originally Sony sold minidisc as a "digital" version of the cassette tape. Through compression, each disc could hold the same amount of music as a CD, 80 minutes. In fact, that compression system eventually morphed into MP3, both having been developed by the same man. (Sony's system ATRAC is proprietary, so although it is the precursor to MP3, the encoding systems are very different.)

In America, minidisc never caught on. In Japan and Europe, it decimated cassettes.

As technology improved so Sony continued to upgrade minidiscs, while still keeping all new players/recorders "backwards compatible" so that all the music you'd already saved on discs didn't suddenly become obsolete if you upgraded hardware. Currently, minidiscs can hold 1 gig of data and the players can play back not just the Sony's ATRAC but also uncompressed PCM and even MP3 files. Oh, and some models will record in addition to just playing the files. To get the files on the minidiscs (unless you record them yourself) is simple, just plug the MD unit up to your PC and transfer them over, just like with an iPod (although it is required that you use Sony's music manager program, Sonic Stage, to do it).

portable MD players/recorders range in price from $300 down to $80 and the 1 gig discs go for around $5 apiece. Plus, you can still get the old 350meg discs for less than $1 apiece, if you want.

Oh, and one more little selling point... If you hook the MD player up to your PC without also loading Sony's Sonic Stage software, you can move any type of file to the minidisc using the standard windows explorer and the unit will act as an external HD.

If you're looking for a portable music player, give minidisc a look (which will be harder than necessary since only online retailers like Amazon and JR's Music World seem to be carrying them these days), you might like it more than you think.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Buck Owens 1929 - 2006

I grew up during the heyday of Hee Haw, so that was my first exposure to Buck Owens. It wasn't until my wife and I later restructured WHOW, in 2001, that I truly discovered what a great artist he really was. Do yourself a favor, if you only know Buck Owens from Hee Haw buy these 2 CDs from Rhino Records and digest them. You will not be sorry!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Scott Miller - Citation

Scott Miller first made his mark in the recording industry as one-fourth of the Knoxville based, Steve Earle produced V-Roys. I wrote them up in an earlier post, here. (Trust me, it's on that page... somewhere) Following that band's demise Scott Miller began work on his first solo album, Thus Always To Tyrants, with producer R S Field.

The first thing I thought after hearing that album for the first time was, "V-Roys who?" Really, the set is the perfect blend of all the things that Miller does best, from flat out rock 'n' roll to acoustic ballads. The beauty of Scott Miller's music lies in a mix of his lyrics, he's unbelievably good at creating a connection within each song between the characters and their environment such that the listener immediately builds a strong emotional attachment to the situations explored in the song, and his voice, which he can transform from a ragged howl to folksy smoothness at the drop of a dime. Overall some of the best material he's ever recorded is on this album. Highlights: "Across The Line," "I Made A Mess of This Town," "I Won't Go With You," "Dear Sarah," "Absolution," "Goddamn The Sun," and "Is There Room on the Cross For Me?"

For his next album,Upside Downside, Miller internalized everything. All production was handled by Miller and his band The Commonwealth. While the album sounded more homemade and much rawer than anything he'd done yet, it was another fine project. Highlights: "Raised By The Graves," "Second Chance," "Amtrak Crescent," "Ciderville Saturday Night," and "Red Ball Express."

As I wrote in an earlier post, Scott Miller is probably my favorite current musical artist, of any genre, out there kickin' and screaming these days. His newest release does nothing to change that, even though there seems to be something missing. Somewhere, somehow the spark of pure, unbridled energy that Miller brings to everything he touches is diminished (but not missing entirely). After giving the album a few listens, I think the fault lies in the spot-perfect production by Jim Dickinson. It sounds like he wanted to make a more cohesive album out of Miller's material than has been done before, so he toned down Miller's "rocking" moments and pushed Miller's "acoustic" moments. Unfortunately, it's the dichotomy of Miller's songs (following a loud, brash rock 'n' roll number with a traditional-sounding Civil War era ballad like on Thus Always To Tyrants, for example) that makes him such a singular, exciting artist.

Regardless, this is a great album full of great material. When my main complaint is that he covered the wrong Neil Young song (he covers "Hawks And Doves" which is good, but "Walk On" is a highlight of his live performances when he pulls it out), then is definitely an artistic success. Highlights: "Wild Things," "8 Miles A Gallon," "Jody," and "Long Goodnight."

And in case Miller ever reads this himself: When the hell are you going to release "The Rain" on a proper album, instead of just the self-pressed one sold at live shows?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

New Bible Chapter Discovered

Archeologists in Syria have found a previously undiscovered biblical text in a jar buried in a cave. It is the Book Of Disclaimers. Here it is in it's entirety:

  1. The following is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is unintentional and purely coincidental.

  2. Void where prohibited.

  3. Some assembly required.

  4. Batteries not included.

  5. Contents may settle during shipment.

  6. Use only as directed. No other warranty expressed or implied.

  7. Do not use while operating a motor vehicle or heavy equipment.

  8. Postage will be paid by addressee.

  9. Apply only to affected area.

  10. May be too intense for some viewers.

  11. For recreational use only.

  12. If condition persists, consult your physician.

  13. Freshest if eaten before date on carton.

  14. Subject to change without notice.

  15. Times approximate.

  16. No postage necessary if mailed in the United States.

  17. Breaking seal constitutes acceptance of agreement.

  18. Colors may, in time, fade.

  19. Slippery when wet.

  20. Post office will not deliver without postage.

  21. Not responsible for direct, indirect, incidental or consequential damages resulting from any defect, error or failure to perform.

  22. Penalty for private use.

  23. Avoid contact with skin.

  24. Sanitized for your protection.

  25. Employees and their families are not eligible.

  26. Not recommended for children.

  27. Some of the trademarks mentioned in this product appear for identification purposes only.

  28. Your mileage may vary.

  29. Terms are subject to change without notice.

  30. Do not remove this disclaimer under penalty of law.

  31. Hand wash only, tumble dry on low heat.

  32. If any defects are discovered, do not attempt to repair them yourself, but return to an authorized service center.

  33. Parental advisory - explicit lyrics. Text may contain explicit materials some readers may find objectionable, parental guidance is advised.

  34. Keep away from sunlight.

  35. Keep away from pets and small children.

  36. Safety goggles may be required during use.

  37. If rash, irritation, redness, or swelling develops, discontinue use.

  38. Do not puncture, incinerate, or store above 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

  39. No salt, MSG, artificial color or flavoring added.

  40. If ingested, do not induce vomiting, and if symptoms persist, consult a physician.

  41. Allow four to six weeks for delivery.

  42. Warranty does not cover misuse, accident, lightning, flood, tornado, tsunami, volcanic eruption, earthquake, hurricanes and other Acts of God, neglect, damage from improper reading, incorrect line voltage, improper or unauthorized reading, broken antenna or marred cabinet, missing or altered serial numbers, electromagnetic radiation from nuclear blasts, sonic boom vibrations, customer adjustments that are not covered in this list, and incidents owing to an airplane crash, ship sinking or taking on water, motor vehicle crashing, dropping the item, falling rocks, leaky roof, broken glass, mud slides, forest fire, or projectile (which can include, but not be limited to, arrows, bullets, shot, BB's, shrapnel, lasers, napalm, torpedoes, or emissions of X-rays, Alpha, Beta and Gamma rays, knives, stones, etc.).

  43. Other restrictions may apply.

  44. No animals were hurt in the creation of this item.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

New Arrival

Well, the new Scott Miller CD, Citation (an autographed copy, by the way) arrived in my mailbox this morning. I listened to it while driving to Champaign IL this afternoon. Scott Miller is probably my very favorite current recording artist. Once I have time to give it a few more spins and gather my thoughts, I'll post a review, probably combined with the "artist profile" I've been planning to write about him since I typed in the one about the V-Roys. My first thoughts are that it takes 3 or 4 songs before it really starts to sound like a Scott Miller album, and the whole thing seems a bit too "smooth." It also hit me that if any one member of his band will have a life-long career as a session guy, it'll be his drummer, Shawn McWilliams, the guy can certainly pound those skins.

The Meaning of Life

If you can read this, you're too close.