Sketchbook Post

And then, years later… There’s a bit of hand/eye activity this year, although the hand hurts and the eye is dim. I share a few recent pages here (all the while feeling that showing the sketchbook is akin to showing one’s knickers.) Perhaps will dip and swim through the archives someday. I see that the pages are not showing well in the previews… please click on them a couple of times to see clearly.


Bike Good (car bad) part 6

A check to be deposited from my one remaining student gave me the extra push to get out on my bike in spite of myself. As I no doubt said often this week, if only to myself, I hate these all too rare and oh so beautiful days when they come and go while I don’t have the time or strength to enjoy them. There was one quick shot of real Indian Summer, and I went to work, had a short walk, and went back to bed. Today was not quite so balmy, but as pretty a year as when she was young. So, finally, not long before sundown, I wobbled down the alley and just hoped the momentum would come from somewhere.

Of course, once I get out I never want to go home. One of these days I suppose I won’t. Dusk is really the ideal time to be riding, I don’t care what you diurnals say, especially right now with the sun and moon teeter-tottering across the river. The wild variety of autumn leaves we are so blessed with in Ohio makes a passing impression too varied and complex to linger; what really Moooves me, man (Muddy Waters) is the soft purple poured along the horizon contrasting with the warm ochre that underlies all of the vegetation.
In local news, I’m happy to report they’ve finished the fussing over the Henderson Road Bridge, and I no longer feel like I will tip over into the river any second while doing the pass over.
Darn brisk down by the river this evening. I guess I’m going to have to start using gloves and get something for under the helmet if I’m going to continue getting these moments of enjoyment out of the illusion in coming months. though, eventually, the focus moved off of the chill on my hands and head and all focused on my face. Maybe because of the dew and frost accumulating in my beard. I began to develop a theory, looking down at my bright red hands, that somehow it was the redness that was making them feel warmer. Maybe they were on fire.
At the same time, the Olentangy was in an uproar, rising in breakers. I thought I must be
entering the wild and usually hidden territories, when I saw the sign hanging from the side of a bridge, “DANGER DAM.” Strange thing to name a bridge I thought. arf arf. quack quack. Just past the tiny dam, in calmer thinner waters, the ducks and geese arranged themselves in an accommodatingly decorous manner just across from some sitting benches. but, it was getting chillier by the moment and I kept moving, on up to the lake.

There, since I didn’t really know what I would be doing about dinner, I unraveled one of my socks and cast it into the water to catch a pile of catfish, a brace of mahi-mahi, and an old Wendell Wilkie button.
back in reality, I did spy a girl on a tricycle with her helmet perched on the side of her head, like the high-tone ladies all do. No doubt she’d be well padded if she happened to fall over to that side.
then the sun went down. The moon played in the waviest part of the water where I stop on the bridge right before turning down the path back to the commercial sector.
I guess that’s more complete than the previous chapters, anyway. If you’re wondering where they are, they are either partially written or lost in my head somewhere. I write these things while I’m riding, and then don’t feel much like doing all the typing once I start to wind down. I suppose I should get a portable recorder. But, I don’t even use an iPod while riding. I like the depth and resolution of the soundtrack of the ‘world’, even if I do end up riding next to a freeway most of the time. There’s still this spaciousness to the illusion; the level of detail in this simulation is beyond an individuals ability to absorb! I’m put in mind of Cliff’s idea of practicing ‘decentralization’. I had mostly thought of decentralization in terms of industrial and economic issues, but he was talking in terms of consciousness; trying to visualize further and further out in a radius away from himself. In the open air, one can try to listen on beyond the horizon. The earphone world is just the opposite of this, trying to take everything and compress it down and shove it into the center of one’s smallest version of the world, that pesky devouring skull.

blog theme song.

apologies to Billy Preston. (and Prestone anti-freeze, for that matter.)

(you know the tune.)

I’ve got a blog ain’t got no subject, y’all,

I’m gonna share it with some unknown entities out there in the cybervoid; — (my songwriting theory: if you’re gonna not scan, might as well go to extremes.)


Will it go round in circuits?

Will it fry fly like a pi in yo gee you eye;

Will it go round in circuits?

Or will it just jump in a lump to some bit bucket in the sky?

I’ll write a post ain’t got no moral;

There’s enough happy horseshit in the social net. (x2)

Will it go ’round in circuits?

Will it gnaw craw like a flawed sinner full of awe? (x2)

3rd verse goes here. let me know when you finish it. It should probably be about how I only get moved to write a couple times in a blue moon and by then I’m embarrassed by the last thing I wrote.

PABL009 – Yola My Blues Away – Skip James (1931)

How many copies of the same records does a person need? When it comes to those mysterious and timelessly great Paramount blues records of the late ’20’s, as many as it takes. Back when we started listening to them, there would be only one source available and it would be barely audible. But, there’s no doubt that the very challenge of hearing through all those pops, crackles and hisses made us hear all the more for the effort. And the enshrouding noise enhanced the romance and air of mystery. But despite all that, there remained the nagging questions about just what notes were being played on those distant guitars; and the enduring fantasy: what if I could be there and really hear Charley Patton play and sing?

The earliest re-releases of the 78’s generally involved turning the treble down to reduce the scratchiness. Sometimes way too far down. They pre-digital Yazoo releases sometimes did different eq’s on each side of the stereo groove, sometimes to good effect. That label had the best releases, and to my ear still does a lot of the time. They get access to the best originals, and use good turntables and stylii (current transfer masters have many custom stylii of different diameters to touch different parts of the groove wall so they can find the sweet spot on different records), getting the best out of the mechanical processes before going digital.

Some of the biggest disappointments have been releases from the Columbia Roots & Blues series, which was so exciting because they actually have the original metal master parts in their vaults. But, in spite of working from these pristine sources, they seemed to feel the need to over-process, with the decisions left too much to the software, until every last trace of noise is gone but with much of the feel of the music along with it. The sound is thin and, to me, often annoying.

Well, here’s yet another guy jumping into the digital remastering pool, and with yet another approach and to different effect. Andrew Rose at Pristine Audio is working over a number of the greats.

He is doing what he calls ‘digital heavy lifting’, working over individual phrases and moments in detail. Patching broken waveforms, working detailed multiple eq’s to try to make the guitar sound like what he thinks the guitar would have sounded like in person. In other words, remaking the record rather than trying to present it as is in best condition. These opposed approaches have advocates who will argue the issue in great detail at endless length. I’ll listen to both and wonder.

These records feature selections, rather than the ‘complete in chronological order’ programs that some labels attempt. He doesn’t have access to those ‘best copies available’ original discs, and has to content himself to working from other peoples’ transcriptions from varying sources. That, unfortunately, means that all that hard work is on top of a flawed foundation. Like all other versions before it, this can not be thought of as the ultimate. I’ll just have to keep buying every new remastering that comes along, I guess.

These records offer a listening experience that is decidedly worth pursuing, though. There are some nuances of the performance that are far easier to grasp than ever before. And, a great sense of presence to be sure. To my ear, there is just a bit of constriction to the sound; the Yazoo versions exist in a more natural ‘space’, and are ultimately slightly more satisfying emotionally. But, there are definitely revelations to be had from Mr. Rose’s Pristine work. And, if you’re trying to work out a Charley Patton guitar part, this might get you a little closer view of the genius.

Night Music clips on yootoob

Surprising music show, maybe the coolest ever, even. And in the ’80s, of all places. I just happened to think there might be better clips on the internet by now than I could find on my couple of moldering video tapes. And sure enough, here’s
one treasure trove:

And the preview, some Funky Chicken. (I thought Rufus was my ‘celebrity sharing a birthday’, but all his bios I’m seeing now say a day earlier). But there’s so much more. Pharoah Sanders. NRBQ. Loudon. Toots. Bootsy. And, People who weren’t even alive.

Happy Birthday, Pete

Pete Seeger, 90 years old today. His generation (including my parents) seem to have the market on longevity (while my generation is dropping like flies, already); but not even that many of his fellow WWII survivors were out standing upright and playing the banjo in the freezing cold of this year’s January. Let alone doing it in front of the President-elect, in the city that tried to throw him in jail 55 years earlier.

Pete testifying:

The testimony:

Here’s one place playing some music for the occasion:
I don’t have the time or strength to write the book on Pete right now. Heck, that would mean catching up with what he’s been up to, when there’s no one who could even keep up with him. There was a very nice biography on him broadcast on PBS last year, and it showed me many things about his life I had either never heard or forgotten over the years. I guess he never much focused on telling us his own story, except as it related to his telling of other people’s stories, and their telling of their own. By the end of the movie, I was saying, “I take back any of the nasty things I’ve had to say about Pete over the years.” Not that I ever stopped being his fan, but I certainly saw some weaknesses between when I got into the whole earlier folk movement in my early teens, and when I learned so much more about the more rootsy original versions that inspired it. Not that I would take kindly to any ignorant punk putting him down. But, sure, Pete’s blues weren’t that bluesy. His easy-going approach to other languages turned ‘mbube’ into ‘wimoweh’ in most of the world’s mind. he would choose ideology over aesthetics repeatedly.
Still, I see now, he is authentic as any of those sources. He has been the most whatever the heck he is that anyone could possibly be. He got every drop out of it. Unflagging effort, unsullied virtue, untiring seeking and sharing. Love, peace, justice, universal brotherhood of man. School drop-out, hobo, protester, cabin-building rural independant… if it weren’t for his shunning of drugs, alcohol and free sex he would indeed be the prototypical hippie.
One of the most amazing and mysterious things about his history is his effect on popular culture. he has spent most of his life not only not pursuing fame and commercial success, but attacking the very concepts. And yet, he keeps coming back to the ‘top of the charts’ decade after decade. Talk about the weeds cracking the sidewalk.
I guess there should be some mention of the star-studded spectacular, though I’m not that hot on it. He’s spending tonight at Madison Square Garden with Bruce Springsteen and Eddie Vedder, etc. and certainly not that happy at the prospect. “I’ve already had too much publicity”, he says. But, it’s going to raise a lot of money for his pet project of keeping a sloop sailing the Hudson, raising awareness for its’ cleanup. He had this idea a long time ago; and it happened.

A walk in the gloaming

All of life, and I mean life experienced as such –  real and earnest as they used to say 100 years ago – takes place for me in the seams. In the larger pieces of the fabric I am lost, aswim in warp and woof and itchy in the wool and died in the wombat. No, I’m living life in the cracks; just like the beloved inner-city vegetation. It’s only in the transitions that I have this imaginary sensation of being “in” it. Walks and bike rides. And dreams. As I walk through the neighborhood I stride dynamically (as I did just now), or drag painfully. Dramatic either way, observed by an appreciative audience of trees. Out in the world, I am the world. Endlessly rich and complex and changing and dying and becoming. I seem to be full of possibilities, but that is just a momentary glimpse. Put all those moments together from my nearly 60 years of life thus far, and you have about a half day of getting ready for something.

There’s no doubt I’m not living the life I want to live. And, I  can’t afford to live the one I am living; nor do I feel I have the time and strength to do anything about it. I’ve always been shrouded by this feeling that you can’t get there from here. But, nevertheless, between here and the grocery I’m on my way.

This neighborhood is different than my old one. I like it on a greyish spring evening, the slight hilliness, the narrow and old passages, the little houses and little trees and little people all piled up on each others’ edges at odd angles. I imagine if I were painting it I’d feel very european. I imagine I’m painting it. Everything I see, I imagine I’m somehow making it possible for the world to feel the moment. But, of course, it takes many many hours of concentration to really gather even the most minimal index of all this information. It’s all just fading away now that I’m home, just like those dreams. Those dreams, where things happen and I’m really living.
But, this is not what we gathered here for. No, let’s move on and look through some of the important junk I keep coming across in these internet alleys…