Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Professor Truck!

I just finished recording and mixing a new song-- "Circumscribed"-- and I learned so much during the process that I've decided to award myself an honorary doctorate. If Bill Cosby can have one, then so can I. So from here on out, I'll go by Professor Truck. 



I've made a list of some of the reasons why I've graduated from Greasetruck to Professor Truck (also, Grease Truck is a drone band from Canada and I don't want to share a name with a drone band . . . especially if they're from Ontario). I must warn you, though, the next section gets a little technical and nerdy. You can hear it all in my new song, which started off as my usual silliness but eventually became an epic rock adventure. Mainly, I'd like to say that I really enjoy recording audio as a hobby and highly recommend it. There's never been a better time in history to screw around with this stuff.

Here's why I deserve my honorary doctorate:

Professor Truck knows how to use envelope filters, both for panning and gain.

Professor Truck used a noise gate to get rid of a hum on an overly distorted track.

Professor Truck knows how to use an arpeggiator!

Professor Truck made a template of loops, subtly changed the meter in places, and then recorded over the looped template with live guitar.

Professor Truck uses drum fills.

Professor Truck updated his mastering software.

Professor Truck listened to his mix on headphones and monitor speakers, so you should be able to crank it without distortion.

Professor Truck can play the microbass.

Professor Truck used a send and a bus for the vocals, and then added separate EQ and reverb.




Monday, June 26, 2017

The Test Approaches Dave's Mental Age

Long ago, Whitney pegged my mental age at 92 . . . for those of you unfamiliar with this concept, your mental age is the age that most consistently reflects your behavior and personality throughout your entire life. He's probably spot-on: I can be irascible and stubborn and grouchy, I often act like a know-it-all, I struggle with change and technology, I find many of the things people do a waste of time and effort, I like to go to bed at 8:30 PM and get up eight hours later, I've seen it all, I don't mind being alone, and-- despite all these willful characteristics-- I'm fairly easygoing because I know we're all going to die soon, so it's not worth getting too upset over anything.

My podcasting partners, Stacey and Cunningham, are both much younger than me, but Stacey's mental age is 18 (and mentally she's a male) and Cunningham's mental age is somewhere around 64. On this week's show, we are joined by special guest Little Allie Hogan, who is chronologically rather young, but has the mental affect of a 42 year old Amish woman . . . from 1880.

Quite a crew.




If you haven't tuned in to The Test for a while, this is a good one. And now you can listen on iTunes, Google Play Music, Stitcher, etc. Please subscribe and give us a good rating. We're getting 12,000 or so downloads a month, which is in the vicinity of being real. Marls, you can subscribe and never listen, we won't be offended.

Anyway, we finally got back to "the studio," a little carpeted room in Stacey's house that is great for recording audio, and I've figured out how to compress and EQ everything so it sounds fairly professional. I've also made a stellar quiz on this one, the answers will most definitely surprise you, and probably make you a little embarrassed to be a modern American.  It's only taken 90 episodes to get it right, but I don't think I'm ever going to sound like this guy again . . .






Podcaster Makes Solemn Promise To Improve Sound Quality Next Episode



Sunday, June 25, 2017

Goo Goo Muck

Last time we came here to sing the praises of Open Culture, an incredibly diverse and extensive compendium of free literary, academic, musical, and artistic resources, we reveled in Bob Ross' pretty little trees.

Less pretty, our subject today, but no less impactful.

From Ronnie Cook and the Gaylads to Green Day, from MC5 to the Buzzcocks to Black Flag, over 50 years of punk and its progenitors get a nod in a well researched post and an 11-hour Spotify playlist featured this month in Open Culture. The 250-song curation is offered in chronological order, beginning with the aforementioned Gaylads (who gave The Cramps a hit song) and ending with 'Not a Fan', a 2017 track from Orange County, CA band Skaal.



Punk kinda feels right for the moment, y'know? So put on your headphones, turn off the world, and let Brother Stummer and his high priests proclaim the word.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Thursday, June 22, 2017

NBA DRAFT NIGHT OPEN THREAD

Join us in the comments for world-class analysis and hi-jinx. Now, some pictures to get you excited for the evening.




Wednesday, June 21, 2017

zTravelogue: I Love The Hanshin Tigers

For my last night in Osaka I went to Koshien Stadium to watch Osaka's beloved Hanshin Tigers play the Yokohama DeNA Baystars. I think this was the best live sports experience of my life.

Tigers fans are notoriously passionate, possibly the most rabid fans in Japan. The Tigers are also perennial losers. Taken together, they were called the Red Sox of Japan until 13 years ago, and fans still use that analogy to explain their vibe to foreigners. When I went to the game they were in first place but the guys who took me assured me that it wouldn't last for long. They are 4 games out of first place as I write this.

I was invited to the game before I even left the US and I jumped at the chance, name dropping Kosuke Fukudome in my reply email after checking the roster and recognizing the former Cub. That I knew who Fukudome was put me in good stead as he is one of my host's favorite players.

I work closely with the two guys who took me to the game but I've only met them in person a handful of times. Most of our interaction is by phone or email. But they like to drink beer and watch baseball and we get along well so I was sure we would have fun.

In order to foster more eating and drinking in Osaka restaurants and bars, the local government started this "Premium Friday" summer program where corporations are incentivized to let employees leave early so long as they go out and have fun. Sort of like summer hours crossed with beer bash. As luck would have it, my last night in Osaka was the first Premium Friday ever so I went out with a large contingent of colleagues.

People in Japan love to drink, and if you aren't drinking speedily or volumetrically enough booze, someone will say "Will you drink my sake?" I Apparently this is trash talk (I think it sounds more like smack in Japanese) so when someone explained what was going on I started telling everyone "Oh, I'll drink your sake!!!" Aggressively. But it went over well (Osakans love humor, even misguided American humor) and I drank a lot of sake and malt liquor and ate some beef and fish and headed over to the subway.

A ticket from Umeda Station (right by my hotel) to Koshien is 270 yen, or about $2.50. As with all trains and subways in Osaka it was immaculate and the AC was forceful. We got there in about 20 minutes. I got off the train and the weather was perfect.

Koshien is the oldest stadium in Japan but you'd never know it. It looks modern and spotless, although the stadium itself doesn't look like much from the outside.


On the way in my hosts got all excited when we passed a trinket stand. They bought a bunch of what appeared to be unrolled condoms with very large reservoir tips and insisted that I do so too. They were balloons. More on this later.


We also passed a bunch of food vendors. Suffice it to say that ballpark food in Japan is different than what they serve in the Bronx.


Later we passed some higher quality merch. I abstained.


Then we went inside. The first order of business was getting more beer, then we found our seats in right field, near Fukudome. I settled into my seat and I was not prepared for what I saw. An entire section in left field was blue jerseys--Baystar fans. And they had flags and drums and trumpets and chants. It was hardcore. And it was clear that I would never run out of beer--the vendors are 21 year old girls in pink Asahi outfits carrying small kegs in backpacks. They are ubiquitous.

video


The Tigers fans soon clapped back. Turns out they have their own band in center field, sort of like the Bleacher Creatures only more musical. They even have a conductor. The whole crowd got into it.

video


One of my friends disappeared, presumably to go to the bathroom, and returned with two yellow Tigers jerseys. He told me "This is my gift to you so now you are a Tigers fan! And now we will wear them." I'm the fat guy on the right.


They don't play Take Me Out to the Ballgame during the 7th inning stretch. Instead they do this.

video


That's what the balloons were for. Fun, right? But that wasn't my favorite moment of the game. Here's my favorite moment of the game.

Top of the fifth inning, Fujinami, their 6'5" 19-year-old fireball-throwing future phenom with control problems (think of an Asian Nuke LaLoosh) gets into a jam. Japanese managers let their pitchers try and work out of it longer than Americans do--it only gets worse and he gives up three runs (one unearned) and they pull him with two men on. Iwakazi comes in and gets out of the inning but gives up two more runs. My friends are pissing and moaning, in English, throughout. "Oh, bad control!" "He trying to kill me!" "I've been saying he too young!" "Ug. Tigers." It really was kinda Red Soxy.

Bottom of the fifth, runners on first and second, Fukudome comes up to bat. He's 40 but he's still a slugger in this league and you can feel a energy and hope ripple through the crowd as he enters the box. The bandleader calls up their rally song--every batter has their own song, but this time they play the Hanshin rally song (this was explained to me by one of the other guys). You know how sometimes you can just feel a big play coming? Here's what happened. The video is a little over 2 minutes long but I think the payoff is worth it.

video


That was great. But it wasn't what made me title this post "I Love The Hanshin Tigers." I've never experienced a sporting event like this. Plenty of people were drinking, many heavily, but no one even considered getting into a fight. We were all having fun. There were tons and tons of children at the game. They were all well behaved and all the adults behaved well in front of them. There was passion and heartbreak (the Tigers went on to lose 5-2) but everyone was happy and upbeat. Everyone cheered together and no one took the loss to heart. Everyone knew all the songs and all the cheers, everyone wanted the home team to win and yelled themselves hoarse, but no one was a meathead or a jerk. No one gave the chubby American guy a hard time. Instead, for a few hours on the west side of Osaka on a perfect May afternoon into night, I was passively taken in by a community of people, embraced and accepted and included, and despite the fact that I had no idea what they were singing or why they were singing it, I had a spiritual experience. Those who know me well know that I laugh when people wax overly poetic about sports, and my sister says I'm the coldest person she knows, but God help me I got misty-eyed at the affection on display between parents and children, groups of friends, complete strangers. It was like a cross between an SEC football game, or maybe a Premier League soccer match, and a Quaker meeting. Maybe it was the alcohol, who knows. But I can't wait to get back to another Tigers game.

Monday, June 19, 2017

zTravelogue: Another must-try restaurant in Osaka, alternatively titled "Mm.. Food"

I went back to Osaka a few weeks ago and did two things for the first time that were post-worthy (no TR, not those kinds of things). I will regale with each in separate posts. Suspense!

I'm good friends with two guys in Osaka. The last time I went they took me to the Swimming Squid (which is still my favorite restaurant in Osaka). This time they took me to Umapero, a horse meat spot. The menu is all horse all day. For real.


It turns out horse is really good! And Umpero is really cool! As I should've expected from the Google translation of their website and the horse pinatas mounted over the door.


Fun drinking party girls' association! Reasonable horse meat! Homemade sangria and grilled wine glass! What could go wrong?

Our first course was horse sashimi. The white stuff on the right comes from the horse's neck, right under the skin below the mane. The stuff above the neck meat is skirt steak (which is the diaphragm). I think the thick pink meaty stuff on the top left was tenderloin. The stuff below that was cured tongue. The stuff below the tongue was sirloin, I think.


The neck meat wasn't particularly flavorful, but the other selections had clear, clean flavors. The tongue, skirt, and tenderloin were all lean and different from beef but not gamy or cloying like venison can be. The sirloin was fattier but not not nearly as fatty as Japanese beef.

After that was horse sushi. It was good but after that sashimi platter it was just more of the same and the rice actually detracted from the flavor of the meat.


I ate cooked food too, like this horse steak frites (which was completely indistinguishable from American beef).


We had a bunch of other cooked and raw courses, but the most interesting (at least to me) from a cultural perspective was the pastrami and pepperoni platter.


The ambiance is great too. The waitresses are friendly, cute, and speak serviceable English. Their uniforms include a golf shirt with one of those giant Polo logos, except instead of a mallet the polo guy has a giant fork. I was the oldest person there. Everyone was knocking back malt liquor and/or sake and you can smoke if you want. There were several tables of ladies that definitely made the place seem like "Fun drinking party girls' association." The tables are close to foster conversation between parties, and if things go well you don't have to go far--during a conversation about Japanese politics and societal norms, my friend Soichi pointed out the window to a building and said "That is a place for sex. If you meet a girl and want to have sex you don't have to take her home, you just go to an hourly place like that. They are all over the city." Umapero even has an adjacent hourly sex hotel! But be sure to bring some Alka-Seltzer and be prepared for strange smelling farts.

Umapero gets a 5 out of 5 spur rating. You should absolutely check it out if you're in Osaka. And if you need a reason to visit Osaka you should read my next post ...