Saturday, March 28, 2009

Chillin' on Saturday Night

I was trolling around my drive this evening, wondering what to listen to while I was typing. Then I remembered that one of my favorite web-transmissions does a live show on Saturday night (in fact, I've actually played live a time or two). provides 24x7 ambient music, with occasional live productions by talented and interesting DJ's. I happened to tune into a show featuring a beautiful performance by my friend Mike Metlay - always a cool treat. In addition to hearing the action, Stillstream has a live chat that includes the DJ, various artists and other ne're-do-wells that keep the evening hopping.

If you enjoy ambient music in its various incarnations, you owe it to yourself to check out Stillstream. When there isn't a live show, Wally the Ambient Robot serves up tracks from various sources, so you always get to hear a treat.

Highly recommended.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

The best $15 I spend each month...

My last post was about something I dislike a lot: Twitter-love. This time, I'm going to talk about something I like for a change, and it is something that most of the pundits have written off as dead. It's clear that I don't line up with said pundits, since I consider the $15 I get charged each month (actually, it's really $13 and change...) to be the best money I spend.

This thing is Rhapsody, the music subscription service.

Steve Jobs has declared the subscription model to be idiotic, while almost every "wired" reporter has pointed out that iTunes proves the pointlessness of any other service on the net. I'm not sure about 14 year-old girls, goatee-toting hipsters or people with unlimited wads of cash, but it works for me. Let me tell you why...

My life is surrounded with music: I work for a music software company, am a journalist covering music and recording techniques, performing and recording artist and recording engineer. I live and breath music and music-making. In addition to doing this stuff, I also spend a lot of time reading and talking about music. Often (and by often, I mean daily), a musical group or genre will come up in conversation, or in a book or magazine, and either I've never heard or can't easily recall.

I could just assume that I know what this sounds like and forget about it, or I could track down the music. It's just not that easy to track it down - especially if you don't want to spend $0.99 everytime someone remembers to burp out a recollection of some band's output. By spending the money on a Rhapsody subscription, I now have unlimited access to everything they have available - and it's a pretty impressive stack.

Some examples:

- I was reading an forum post about engineer Phill Brown, and his work on the Talk Talk album "Laughing Stock". I had a good friend that was a huge Talk Talk fan, and I remember listening to a lot of them - but a long time ago. Popping into Rhapsody had me enjoying this amazing gem of an album in 10 seconds flat.

- Listening to Gregory Taylor's RTQE radio show, I was reminded of an old obsession with Jon Hassell. I needed a fix, and my vinyl collection had been destroyed (in a horrible accident which I will recall sometime later) a long time ago. Checking in with Rhapsody, I found 13 of his 19 albums were available, giving me access to 76 tracks. Hassell marathon!

- I was wondering what my friend Matthew Curry (Safety Scissors) was up to. Since most of his work is on teeny-tiny labels, I was wondering if there would be anything on Rhapsody at all. Checking it out provided only a few tracks (but it did let me listen to his Fridgelife work), but jumping over to the Minimal/Glitch genre listen gave me a re-introduction to Oval's work, and a chance to listen to Thom Yorke' "The Eraser" solo work. I'd heard he did a release, but had never checked it out.

I, like almost everyone else, have the tendency to park myself on a favorite CD or iPod artist and leave it honking for weeks on end. Rhapsody allows me to track trends, catch up with past interests and lend an ear to new artists. Is that worth $15 a month?

Hell, yeah.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

All-a-freakin' Twitter

OK, I'll admit it. I don't want to be bothered. I don't want to know when you are about to enter the train, and I don't care that you found the most wonderful scarf at the Goodwill Store.

So please, I beg of you, don't ask me to get Twitter'd.

Anyone that has ever seen my book or record collection (or even gawked at my favorite links on my browser tools bar) will realize one thing - I prefer substance over surface. Hence, there is nothing you can really tell me in 140 characters that is going to interest me in the least.

But for whatever reason, Twitter is getting the buzz. It has already passed my "Aunt Valerie" test: nothing is truly ubiquitous until Aunt Valerie starts using it. As an example, I knew Facebook was going to be worth a zillion bucks when she started Friending every relative I've got, and now shares about 20 pictures (of grandchildren, of course) a day. Now, I get to find out when Aunt Valerie is about to hit the mall, or when she is about to start watching General Hospital.

I get asked about Twitter at least twice a day, always answering: "It's big, people are into it, and I will never do it." Perhaps I'm just a Cranky Geek, but the last thing I need at any given moment is a Virtual Stool Sample of your life. You know what I'd rather have? A nice email, maybe every month or two, letting me know about the important stuff that is going on.

If nothing else, that will remind me that you are an interesting and deep person, and that I'm glad to know you - something no Tweet will ever do.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Initialization - please wait...

Yeah, it's time that I started getting serious about putting my every last stupid thought somewhere into the cloud. I finally got my website ( fired up over the weekend, and will be putting my long-term bloviations there. Technology posts will probably still go on my O'Reilly Digital Media blog (although who knows what they're gonna do with it), and my Max programming writing will continue to get posted at C74.

But I do need someplace to put the everyday neuron firings that don't line up with the above contents, and I can't be bothered with Facebook's goofy blogging thing. The last thing I want is for my Very Important Thoughts to get bunched up with my Aunt Valerie's gushing about her latest great-grandchild.

I'll post something real Real Soon Now.