Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Swim lessons, The Tubs

Registering a kid for swim lessons in 2023 is totally nuts. The moment registration opened, I breezed through all the waiver stuff and got him registered and paid for. Mere moments after I hit submit and got confirmation that my boy had been registered, all the classes showed up as being full. Wow. Like piranhas, man.

I mentioned to my wife that hey, now he'll be able to pass the freshman swim test when he goes to some fancypants college. She was not aware of swim tests being a thing and we both agreed that it is kind of crazy. I was glad to see that my fancypants alma mater will allow you to take a PE class for a quarter if you do not already know how to swim, because swimming pool distribution is, let's say, not exactly equitable in this country.

UNRELATED: Reliable old Trouble in Mind Records just put out The Tubs' Dead Meat. In the words of the old Dark Beloved Cloud catalog describing the Clean's "Late Last Night," it is "like your favorite parts of all your other favorite records." Perhaps too much so, but it is hard to deny that it is well-crafted. The song "Two Person Love" is the second song on the album, as it should be*, all the performances are spirited, and the algorithms have decided that since my peers like it, I will also like it. And I do, more or less. I do wish they would FIUM** a bit, and I wish the mastering job were less heavy-handed and allow for a little space here and there, but it fills in the workday and complements a second cup of coffee just fine.

* Everyone knows that if you have a number in the title of the song, that is what its position in the track listing should be. Souled American's Around the Horn has "Second of All" and "Six Feet of Snow" in the appropriate positions, one of many reasons I love that record. My various 33-track albums violate this rule in favor of maintaining an alphabetical order track listing, well, with one exception, namely, a song about choosing which set of rules to prioritize.

**F--k it up more, my standard instructions to the folks at my songwriting group, and, in general, a good guiding principle for making music.   

Sunday, January 29, 2023

And finally, old media and realizing how far we've come

My beloved archive.org has a cache of old Flipside punk rock magazines from the early 80s. Kind of great to read all of the eternally-hashed-out punk rock arguments when they were relatively new and fresh. But also kind of shocking to 2023 ears to hear endless SoCal bros endlessly tossing out homophobic slurs. Man there are so many of them. Flipside 32 has an interview with the Big Boys in which Randy Biscuit Turner talks about his pink cowboy boots, and there's a picture of him in a tutu. and reading about him in the face of all of this F-word garbage in the Letters section makes me appreciate them even more.

I've been riding my new exercise bike up in the office during lunch breaks at work in the rainy/cold Portland winter. I bought it from some lady in a Clackamas mobile home park - I drove into this weird manufactured-housing labyrinth in winter-solstice darkness - and that was weird, but eventually I found her and thankfully it folded up into my subcompact just fine.

This winter I've been replaying the Fable series of video games while riding the fake bike - turns out endless fetch quests in a pretty world are just what the doctor ordered for exercise entertainment (exertainment) - and when I finally finished the main quests I went back to playing Madden 12. I don't really see the point in buying any more recent pro football games, particularly since I haven't watched the real thing in years anyway - and there's a lot to be said for just annihilating one's opposition while also crushing calories.

It's hard to believe, but endlessly destroying the digital NFC North gets boring after a while, so I'm rewatching old 30 Rock episodes, starting with season 2 because that's what I had on hand from some garage sale or other. Pretty funny, and "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah" will be in my head for a while, though it's weird to hear this show that's otherwise so smart using transphobic slurs and playing up the gayz for the laughz. 2007 doesn't seem that long ago, but I guess it was?!?!

Videogames part two for the evening

The boy (now 6) has gone head over heels for Animal Crossing: New Leaf. I was playing that game during his first year or so of life, digging up fossils and catching fish with a little guy snoozing on my chest, and now here this kindergartner is just devouring this really text-heavy game with a passion. Today on the way to the library he asked me "when did you move to town?" "Oh, Portland?" I asked, prepared to tell him stories of young and zitty me in a Reagan-era lumber town. "No, Animal Crossing," he said. It is nice to see this thing that I spent a lot of time on through young and totally obsessed eyes.

I've still never played the new version for the Swytxch. I have this good/bad habit of not buying consoles until the next generation comes along and everything is really cheap. I figure I'll give things another year or so post-pandemic and see if prices come down. We'll see if I can hold out, though, especially once he starts going on about it to his classmates and realizes there is a new and shinier version out there.

I've been playing this loony Bubble Bobble sequel called Parasol Stars. As ridiculous as a game about dinosaurs blowing bubbles is, this sequel is even more ridiculous. It is delightful. Like any game requiring any coordination whatsoever, I'm terrible at it, but it's fun.

The best webpage, plus joysticks

I understand there may have been some arguments about this subject, but for me, the best webpage is obviously Atari Compendium's list of VCS controllers. It goes on and on, telling the story of a million ideas, mostly bad, crapped out in a gold rush environment in a very short period of time. Boy does it go on. There are so many of them. Mercury-switched Le Stiks that kids held in their hands? Check! Combination joystick/paddles, almost none of them usable? Checkarooni! Shapes that no hand could ever really grasp? You got it! Something called the "Obelisk"? There is an obelisk. It goes on and on and on and on.

"Retrogaming" is, as we all know, a pretty stupid hobby, especially if real money gets exchanged in the process, but I might make an exception for weird old joysticks. I don't need them to plug into any authentic hardware - the 2600-daptor works fine for my purposes - but there's something tactile and pleasing about these old crapsticks. And unlike the mechanical keyboard thing, joystick hunting remains clunky and funky and resoundingly uncool and, therefore, largely cheap.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Roches/Fire Roast

I've always had a maybe/well-maybe-not relationship with the Roches. They're one of those bands whose sublime/ridiculous ratio seems to have a very high standard deviation. Did I get that right? I did badly in stats class several decades ago. Anyway, I picked up their "Collected Works" AKA best-of album for a buck at the library's used book store last weekend, and it does a pretty good job of making their case. "Hammond Song" is pretty perfect (though the collected-works version maybe turns down the guitar solos a bit?), "Want Not Want Not" is at a largely unplumbed intersection of novelty-music/polka/bad-trip/experimental, "Nurds" is a lot more compelling and horrifying than I had thought, "One Season" hits a totally unexpected and perfect spot at 2:00 in or so. Getting their killer minus the filler helps me go back and appreciate the filler a bit more. My family members remain unconvinced.

Fire Roast is one of a million Nina Ryser things, and I'm not sure what happened with this particular outfit - they put out a tape on the great Single Girl Married Girl smack dab at the beginning of the pandemic, and then silence. It's been next to my tape deck ever since. Ms. Ryser's work in Palberta, Data, and solo is also at an uncomfortable intersection between genres at times, and I don't always click with all of it, but this album is great and consistent from start to finish. ZoĆ« Talkin's shredding bass work takes things to the next level. (Shades of Cris Kirkwood, maybe even Trefor Goronwy's work in Camberwell Now if you squint.) It's one of those albums I always gravitate toward on Monday mornings, when "Back in the Sulfur" feels a little too real. "Desire's Hold" is universal and confounding in all the right ways.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

_Gelatin Duplicator_ on the way (plus Cromemco)

Today I fired up the IBM Wheelwriter 5 and made some covers for the new Spirit Duplicator album Gelatin Duplicator. My typewriter's 1984-era brain is able to store an album cover's worth of liner notes in proportional-spacing type* (Thesis PS in case you were curious)**, so I stored a bunch of text in memory with the intent of mass-producing album covers on a typewriter. 

This is obviously a situation in which nothing could ever go wrong. I realized something was a little screwy and the left margins were going all over the place. A competent typewriter technician could fix this, but I decided to live with it. I mean, you could make your Chartpak/Letraset lettering straight, but that would not be very punk rock, would it?! So this is like a lazy version of that.

With all that being said, it is totally impressive visually and sonically to let a Wheelwriter go nuts. I took a slo-mo video and it is pretty hypnotic. And toward the end of the batch, the typewriter appeared to ungum itself and create consistent margins.

I'll draw a bunch of ring modulators with silver Sharpie in the next few days and put this thing up on Archive.org and Blandqlampt. Watch this space.

* I could store a lot more monospace type - Letter Gothic has featured on multiple album covers so far and will come up again I'm sure - but come on, proportional spacing on a typewriter!

**OK, rabbit hole descended into with thecomputerarchive.com. Currently looking at a 1980 Cromemco catalog and totally loving how neatly it sits at the interface between 70s and 80s aesthetics. Calligraphy on a computer front panel - how much would it blow up the world if a modern computer used hand lettering on its front panel? I could go on.



Friday, December 16, 2022

Cuba/dot matrix printers

Those of you who have had the distinct pleasure of receiving an actual physical Tape Mountain product in the past decade or so know how much I love dot matrix printers. I've got an ImageWriter II on my shelf and I've printed album covers on it from my Apple //c and, I think, my Macintosh Classic, from my high school and college years respectively.

Most of the millions of readers of this blog probably do not encounter dot matrix print on a regular basis, but I do, since at my job we get a lot of certificates from Cuba, which has continued to print official documents on dot matrix printers well into the 21st century. Sometimes you'll get a certificate where you can tell the functionary hasn't been able to reink the ribbon in a while:


Yes, it's that hard to read in the source. Hooray for "Sharpen More" in Photoshop.

People get really jazzed about the classic cars that continue to do everyday work in Cuba - where is the passion for the people who keep the dot matrix printers running????