Wednesday, November 30, 2005

so what is it all about, anyway

This is one of these random jumble type of posts, where (like the surrealist painter) there are semi-recognizable things comprising some larger not-quite-consciously-grasped idea.

Back page of Time magazine, the 'light editorial', there is a cartoon that asks the question 'Why the worry about losing the true meaning of Christmas?', citing numerous popular movies, tv shows, plays, stories, etc. about some variety of meaning 'saving' or 're-discovering' Christmas.

Then I think about the 'commericialization' of Christmas as being generally ascribed as a largely American pursuit, and so attribute this fear of 'losing meaning' to the duality of the American mindset, where we purport to be virtuous, generous, down-to-earth and benevolent while wanting to be rich, powerful, glamorous and self-righteous.

Our reaction to this duality is to find fault in our general lifestyle and self-criticize relentlessly, particularly in the press: put the faults in the spotlight in order to somehow atone with a collective misgiving and demonstrate the insight that the virtous side has into our more corrupt side. So, it's important that the glamorous and rich are also wracked with relationship stress and secret self-destructive urges, that the crafty and talented are revealed as morally corrupt, and that the morally upstanding are pulled down by secret vice, and that the fallen, consumed by overreating, undereating, addiction, depression, self-indulgence, can be redeemed in small quantities from time to time after a suitable period of sufficient suffering (criteria for which to be secretly established and judged by an impartial panel of random unknown viewers).

To some extent, it's about 'equality'-- reinforcing that nobody is really any better than anyone else once you look at them for a while (of couse they can be *worse*, that's kind of the odd/sad thing, they can always be *Worse*).

But, while all this image shifting and judgement is going on, there really is a reality, an undercurrent, of change and rippling that has more to do with the everyday people you actually interact with. Also, there are people who manipulate the larger semi-fictional for ease of consumption images.

There's a great story by Kurt Vonnegut whose title I cannot remember, where the entire population is literally 'equalized' by the Handicapper General, whose department establishes a uniform standard of mediocrity that eschews natural discrepancies between individuals and enforces it by strapping weights to the exceptionally strong, clamping headphones that spit random noise into the ears of the unusually clever, disfiguring masks on the faces of the attractive, distorting lenses on the eyes of those particularly keen in vision. But the point is that the image movers/formers/changers are working at creating this balance of buildup, teardown, and moral to the story and keeping it consumable: not actual physically handicapping, but informationally handicapping.

So, while we lament the sullying of the meaning/spirit of Christmas (an image) and we are relieved at the various staged portrayals of it's reclamation, it's less clear that we are moved to make a change to project the essence of that meaning or spirit into our own surroundings or merge it into our day to day year round interactions.

Now, on the back cover of that same Time magazine (in my region, anyway), there is an add for a far reaching Wireless Broadband solution from a cellphone company that does not rely on wifi hotspots. "Forget WiFi" or words to that effect. Ah! $60 a month, not too bad, seeing all the things you can do on the internet.

But then you read a little more and it indicates "speeds averaging 400-700kbps". So, they are comparing apples to oranges: WiFi is shriekingly fast in comparison. They are offering you mediocre speed everywhere, and wanting you to settle for that. "Forget WiFi, even though it's often free". So this offer is not a gift at all, not a shining savior tucked in rough swaddling, but a hollow dimwit dolled up in shining raiment: it is not a thing of light and happiness, it is a letdown, a farce. It is the antithesis of Christmas, mere microns of paper away from the humorous yet poignant jest about the spirit of Christmas. Bold evidence of a Herod-like plot to wipe out wifi/wimax.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

now it's getting colder

We've had very mild temperatures for this time of year in Maryland. A front blew in and now it's much more like Novemember, damp and cold. Lost power for a little while due to high winds (not particularly conducive to electronic music, now is it?).

I am working a little on the Utenzil website, also have added some new products to the webshop.

Friday, November 18, 2005

AH, missed the anniversary gala

Utenzil's Electronic Music Adventure is One Year Old.

Two CDs released, digital distribution worldwide, several live performances. What's next? Well, that would have to be Merchandise, right?

clean potentiometers are good

I have an Ibanez Flying V, it is about 25 years old. I like it because it sounds good, the fingerboard and neck are comfortable, and it's light. I don't exercise it as much as I should, and the pots and pickup selector switch have become more than a little "skritchy", so I got some spray to clean them with. You spray in a bit and work the switch back and forth, it gets better.

In the past, I have gone to Radio Shack and gotten "TV Tuner" spray, which works fairly well, however it is not 'ozone safe'.

This time, I got some Hosa D5S-6 DeOxit spray. This spray was not available in the guitar side of the music store, but on the pro audio side.

You carefully remove the faceplate the electronics are attached to in order to access the backs of the switches, and you spray very sparingly.

Used as directed: sprayed in a little, worked the switches/knobs, waited a little, sprayed in a little more. The pots are incredibly smooth and it now sounds vintage again. A 5 oz can will last basically forever. I do not recall the TV tuner smoothing the pots like this did.

Monday, November 14, 2005

what is up with the rate of passage of time, anyway?

It's odd, but I don't seem to be able to get enough things lined up in a day at a pace that is appopriate, to the point that if I start something, I know it will take too long to complete.

For example, my mileage indicates it's time for an oil change. My location is such that I have to drive about 30-40 minutes one way to get an oil change, which might take 15-20 minutes, but could take 30-40 minutes depending on if I have to get other things done, and then 30-40 minutes to get back to home. So that is 75-120 minutes for that task. I would also like to get other work done on my car, but it would likely take a couple of hours for that to occur. I could get the work done at the garage next to the place where I get my oil changed, so that becomes a 4 hour excursion. Now, that two hours would be more just to figure out what needs to be fixed on the car, not actually fixing it. If I have to leave my car there, then I'm hosed. But even if it takes just another two hours to fix it, then I'm at the 6 hour mark, so somewhere in there I have to get something to eat. 6.5, 7 hour mark. Geez.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

What was it I wanted to blog...

I was thinking about blogging something today that would be very thought provoking and had it all outlined and it has completely slipped away...

ok, ah! here is some of it.

There is a life cycle to companies, I think. I've worked at several different companies, in various stages. There was the heady startup, the basic static sweathshop grind, the behemoth anything for the bottom line company, the poorly marketed fairly good idea that folded up, the fanatic founder-driven extension of self, the franchise, the closely held niche provider of something mundane...

but basically, you build something into something bigger, and then it starts to die. Somehow, it starts dying: not just that it goes stale and then belly up, but it might become something very different, unrecognizable. It could be extremely successful but also be the killer of what it started as.

I'm sure there are MBA or economist types who have written books about this. Every business endeavor (maybe every endeavor) gets to a point where a decision has to be made to go a little further or not, it's a matter of being both adequately engaged and properly aloof to be able to see where it's all going and then make the right choice. Someone like me, I tend to grasp concepts that I find inspiring with zeal, and that gives me a lot of momentum. When that involves a job, and the concept that inspires me ends up being hollowed out, or basically gets trampled, then that is ... exhausting, I guess, exhausting is the word: it's becomes a drag that you end up pulling around like a dead weight, ultimately that's what it becomes. So there can be some difficulty arising, stemming from 1) reluctance to admit that the concept that inspired you has, in fact, been basically snuffed out, 2) some sheepishness over buying into it to begin with and 3) some anger towards the various forces and/or persons that you see as assisting in it's demise.

But if you look at it for a while you say, "Hey, you know, this and that part was what I breathed into the or painted onto the concept, but that other part, well, that wasn't my concept and it did pretty much stink, and I never really wanted to have anything to do with it, so just as well".

So the part that you really liked, that becomes part what you want to carry on and you do that or find someone else who does that and help them out with it. Because, here's the nub of that: nobody else may have seen what you saw in it all.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

podcasting expo in progress, other stuff

I have had the good fortune to have been included on a couple of podcasts, AccidentHash, hosted by C.C. Chapman and MWS Media podcast, hosted by Matthew W. Selznick.

Now, I must admit that in it's infancy, the thought had crossed my mind that the whole podcasting thing was a semi-clever way to get people to send the podcaster free CDs. But, having long ago worked at a centralized automated radio programming company, I know that you have to be more than a little dedicated to get a bunch of CDs and somehow categorize into genres, styles, etc. and store them. Moreover, these intrepids are dealing with truly "whatever"-- unlike the remote controlled channelled and paneled mass market mainstream radio, they get a disc and will tend to have little or no notion of what will spring forth from the speakers, and there is no notion of trying to aim for nice little format buckets like "Adult Contemporary". Also, neither of the above podcasts predominately consist of electronic music, they tend towards "alt rock-ish songs (both metal hard and folky soft) with lyrics" but that is only a partly accurate characterization because they are also willing to be eclectic and have played something as oddball (comparatively speaking) as Utenzil. Actually, I should say "Willing to Be Eclectic" because that is one aspect of what makes podcasts the kind of pleasant surprises they can be.

It makes me wonder if the total decentralization of music 'purveyance' will become the norm. I mean, most of the music you listen to in a day doesn't come as music you purchase or that you even have any control over. Most of the music that reaches your ears comes from anonymous speakers in the stores and restaurants and coffee shops, and from your car radio. Even for many who consider themselves avid "self guided music consumer" who wear a portable with headphones/earbuds, the set of offerings selected from was likely well pruned unless a concerted effort was made to tread the less traversed paths. It also strikes me that podcasting and subscription radio are made for each other. It also strikes me that the "segments" (for those who concern themselves with these things) will end up being incredibly specific and precise. The current culture will be disrupted more and more, definitely-- is this the end of advertising supported music radio?

Arggh, grab the rudder and turn it around...

So when things are generally in a downturn, you have to look at the best of what's going on. My dog has gotten much better, basically all better. This is wonderful. Noting that the Halloween and Xmas stuff was co-occurring in local stores, I thought what Utenzil-oriented giftage I might generate, and dusted off my half-started Cafepress store.

There are semi-alienated and quasi-brooding styles
and there is lighthearted stuff.