Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.


Ishkur’s Guide to Electronic Music

Filed under: Fun,music — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

A semi-visual guide to electronic music history.

I know sometimes when I share things on Friday, I’m a little late to the party. This week is no exception to that, but since this made the rounds a couple weeks ago, and the zeitgeist has a short memory in social media, I’m just going to share it again anyway. Seriously, you may have missed it when it came around, or already forgotten it, but this site is really good.
The quest to find new music has been something I pursue periodically. When I was in school, I wasn’t all that into music, really. I mean, I hung out with music majors in college, but that generally meant listening to jazz or someone from music history, not something contemporary. But, I read something once about how people get stuck in a musical genre or time-period and never expand their regular listening past that focus at some point in their lives. It sounded to me like a prescription for dying inside and becoming an old man before my time. So, vowing to cheat death, at least when it came to my inner child’s musical tastes, I’ve always sought out new music. And, by that I mean, music that’s new to me. That quest has led me down many a dark, internet alley in search of something new to groove to and resulted in a music collection that ranges from ABBA to Rob Zombie to Mongolian hard rock to hymns on the ukulele to, well, you get the idea. It’s pretty varied. But, I’m still always looking for more.
That brought me to Ishkur’s Guide to Electronic Music. It is just what the title says; Ishkur’s very personal guide to electronic music. But, let me tell you, it’s fabulous. First of all, it’s got a great interface that shows you how he breaks out the genres and the time-periods they were in. But, if you zoom in and click on a segment, it starts playing Ishkur’s, again, very personal, choice for the “best” of that genre in that year. When it starts playing, the information is displayed at the bottom of the browser, for your information and education. And, if you click the circled “i” icon, you can get a real education about the genre you’re listening to at the moment.
Whether you’re looking for new music or not, it’s definitely worth a look.
And, it’s a great way to warm up for your weekend!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!


[ Information Redacted ]

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Dog and Pony Shows,Garden of Unearthly Delights,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Sheep which is in the early afternoon or 2:56 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I deleted a post on my blog this morning for the first time in a long, long time.

Usually, I have an editing process for posts that may accidentally cross the border into Too Much Information Land or sound to bitter or too angry or too whatever. But, last night, I came home from church and dinner and had a wild hair to find a bunch of music via SeeqPod and run it in a loop while I hammered away furiously at the keys. Angry music. Angry music the like of which I haven’t listened to in a long, long time.

I felt a little hopeless and helpless and, well, angry. So, I dialed up a little Rob Zombie and Rammstein and Lords of Acid and Fu Manchu and then I used the “Discover” function on SeeqPod to find other stuff like that. Old thoughts and old memories just washed over me when it started playing and looping. I just wanted to jump up from the keyboard and rip into the heavy bag out in the garage. But, I didn’t, I just kept typing and typing and typing. Normally, I’d let that kind of thing sit over night and look at it again in the morning. Last night, though, I just hit the Publish button and walked away, exhausted, in the small hours of the night.

This morning, I reread a little of that post and then deleted it.
TMI, “sharing violation”, rant. Whatever you want to call it, that’s what I’d typed. It’s also why I deleted it. No one needs to read that. Not even me. It was good to write it out and get it out of my head, but it really shouldn’t have been out for public consumption. So, I deleted it.

If you’re still reading, you may be wondering what that has to do with the picture here. Bear with me.
So, this morning, I got up and threw on some shorts and a shirt and a hat to take the dog for a brisk walk before I got a shower. See, I want to get back into shape. Yes, back into shape. You see, more than ten years ago now, I was, to put it mildly, in far, far better shape than I am today. I did hundreds of push-ups and sit-ups every morning, five days a week. And, I hit the heavy bag. And, I worked with dumbbells. I was, in short, in good shape. I was lean and I filled out a suit jacket pretty damn well, thank you very much. Now, after a bad marriage, a couple of job changes, some other heart-ache, and a slight case of cancer, I’m fat and lazy. I don’t like it. Ergo, there’s only one thing to do about it; change it.

Well, as I’m letting the dog out to relieve herself before we go for our walk, I see these tiny white things on my sad, nasty pond. I get closer, thinking that they’re funny leaves or insects or something and I see that they’re teeny, tiny, little white flowers. Naturally, my walk can wait while I grab the camera and tripod. It took longer to get a decent shot than I thought it would, but, oh, it was worth it to me.
See, to me, these aren’t just little, white flowers. They’re a metaphor for my entire life right now. From the swampy morass of my mind and my slimy past, little, white hope can still bloom. There are no coincidences, truly. And, non-believers may scoff, but some power in the universe was sending me a message in an insignificant, white flower blooming on top of embarrassing slime.

Hope springs eternal.
Thank God.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"The whole purpose of religion is to facilitate love and compassion, patience, tolerance, humility, forgiveness."
   --Dalai Lama


New Music Resources

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Art,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,Red Herrings,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is just before lunchtime or 11:14 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Yeah, I know this is later than normal, but I gave you two things on Tuesday, so I figure we’re even.

Well, as you know I’ve been searching for new music. At least, music that’s new to me, because, you know, I was told that Snow Patrol is, well, mainstream and old hat and whatever other cliche you want to squeeze in here. So, I put a poll up over in the sidebar and hoped for the best. Now, for those of you who don’t know me in life, you might be a little surprised by how eclectic and varied my choices in music can be. For instance, in my car right now, I have Warren Zevon’s last CD, a Frank Sinatra collection, Snow Patrol, Bowling For Soup, Green Day, Sheryl Crow, Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, Rob Zombie and Nina Simone, just to name a few. In fact, I went from listening to Rob Zombie to Sheryl Crow in an afternoon. So, my point is, I’m pretty open. I usually say I don’t listen to Rap or Country, but, honestly? If someone presents something interesting enough, I’ll try it. Seriously.

In any case, I wasn’t satisfied with the responses I was getting on my poll (vote early, vote often!), so I started doing more research. I got a book called The Pocket DJ. It’s been around a little while, but I figured it would still lead me places I hadn’t been. Also, there’s this writing exercise where you build a playlist for your various characters, to try and get inside their heads and feel how they feel through music. I sort of figured that I could go in the other direction and pick playlists from the book then build the character from that. You know, getting twice the use of the book by cranking my musical IQ up a few points and getting some writing exercises at the same time. I’ll get back to you on both.

Either way, though, there was a section in the back of the book that listed a bunch of music blogs. So, naturally, I sat down not too long ago and started chasing links. Some didn’t interest me and some had either moved or shutdown or shutdown just as I found them. At least one blogger announced that she was shutting down her blog to become a full-time music journalist not more than a week after I bookmarked it! Of the ones that survived, though, I’ve got three for you.
First, there’s Sixeyes MP3 Blog, with regular posts and free MP3s in every post! Yea! They’re mostly indy stuff, but kind of all over the place, too.
Then there’s Fluxblog! with almost daily posts and, again, free MP3s in every post, sometimes podcasts with music, too. Yea free! I mean, seriously, you can fill your entire iPod with free MP3s of popular and new music from this blog alone!
Finally, there’s Stereogum with many, many posts, at least one daily, lots of performers from overseas and many posts with videos or MP3s. Yea regularity! Oh, my middle-age is showing! Seriously, these folks love music and it shows in sheer volume of posts, if not the intensity of each review.

Also, a friend, Marc Garvin of Pulling Strings, the great Houston-based public radio show about classical guitar and similar stringed instruments (Correction!  Marc e-mailed me and said the show features “the sounds of “Picked, plucked and strummed” (sometimes “banged, bashed and hammered”) instruments.”  So, you know, it’s even better than what I said.) suggested some of these very cool and different performers when he caught wind of my search for something new to add to my rotation. Even though these links are all about the music, they’re brought to you via YouTube.
Jake Shimabukuro on the Ukulele. This is definitely worth looking at and listening to. He does things with a ukulele that have to be heard, and seen, to be believed!
Kaki King playing the guitar in such a way as to get percussion. Okay, the video is a little strange and disjointed, but I really like this sound. It’s kind of the latest version of a performer singing with their instrument. Open mike night taken to a super-high professional level, you know?
Joscho Stephan, also playing the guitar. This is a more Country, or Appalachian, sound to me than I’d have expected from Marc, seeing as he’s a Classical guy, but, I have to admit, it’s got a certain energy to it that really works!  (Update!  Marc told me that “Joscho is a “gypsy jazz” guitarist in the style of Django Reinhardt.” So, that should make it more clear to those of you who are more musically well-versed than I.  And, by that I mean, everyone in the world.)

Finally, if you want to find any of the music that’s been mentioned here, or elsewhere on my blog, I suggest trying SeeqPod, the playable search engine. I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating in this context. One of the great features here is the “Discover” feature that lets you discover songs that SeeqPod thinks are close to what you’ve been searching for in style. Sometimes some really interesting stuff comes up in that.

So, there you have it. As promised, more than one new resource for new music.
Also, for those interested, yes, I did buy the newest Snow Patrol CD, but don’t let that stop you from voting in the poll because I’ll be buying more music eventually.
Oh, yeah, one more thing… Don’t forget that next week I’ll be doing a guest post on someone else’s blog. I’ll have an announcement the day it’s supposed to go live on that site.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"A merry heart doeth good like a medicine."
   --Proverbs 27:22 (KJV)


Book Soundtracks

Filed under: Adventures with iPods,Art,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fiction,Fun,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is just before lunchtime or 11:17 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Music to read by…

So, as I’ve been cleaning up the massive pile of magazines that I accumulated over the past five or six years, I’ve been cutting out interesting articles. One of the more interesting articles, to me at least, was one in Wired magazine about soundtracks to accompany books. The article itself was called Books with a Backbeat and you can read it online if you follow the link. But, this got me thinking about music and books.

There’s an old “trick” that’s been given a modern twist, thanks to the iPod. In the old days, it was making a “mix tape” that your proto-character might listen to or give to someone. Now, of course, it’s all about play-lists on the character’s MP3 player of choice, which, usually, is an iPod. I’ve been thinking about this lately as I’ve been laying the ground work for my first attempt at NaNoWriMo. One of the ways people manage to get their word quota for that is by shutting out the rest of the world with music. Naturally, I’ve been ripping CDs and loading them onto my massive, 4 Gig Nano in preparation for drowning out the world. (Yes, for the inquiring minds that made the leap, Snow Patrol is on there.) But, I’ve been considering what the music I have selected will do to my writing. So, I’ve been looking at that article online again.

I’ve been trying to imagine what the sound track to my ur-novel will be like. Lots of Top 40 Pop? Rob Zombie for the fight scenes? Will that Paul Van Dyk that just came up in my random shuffle show up in a dance club? Will it drive my characters to a rave? (Do raves even still exist?) Will Bowling for Soup or Spoon be the love theme? Or will that be Sting or the Doors or, even, Warren Zevon? How is that all going to come together?
So, as I contemplate this conundrum, I’ve been looking at Albums to Books and seeing what some of my favorite books have been associated with by other fans. At least, I might find some new music out of the deal.

Oh, one other thing… One reason I haven’t used my iPod more is that I hate the earbuds that come with it. Sure, the sound is good, but I always feel like they’re about to fall out of my ears. Yesterday, I found these great Altec Lansing Clip-On Headphones at a local computer store. If you, like me, hate the default earbuds, try these babies. They stay put and the sound is as good or better than the iPod standard earbuds. I highly recommend them!
And, for all you fellow aspiring writers out there, or any artist really, what do you listen to when you create?


Killer Bunnies

Filed under: Art,Fun,The Network Geek at Home,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:27 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Yes, blood-thirsty, cute, fluffy bunnies.
Actually, it’s a game. No, don’t ask how I found this because I will not reveal my super-secret source. And, it’s a little embarassing. Anyway, Killer Bunnies is this relatively new card game wherein one tries to keep as many of your own bunnies alive while killing as many of your opponents. I have not played this game, but it sounds like it would appeal to the same side of me that likes listening to Rob Zombie. A twisted combonation of dark malice and sweet rays of sunshine. And, now, you can make your own, very special killer bunnies for the game with Killer Bunny Blanks. Doesn’t that sound like the perfect gift for the up and coming Goth in your house?

Hey, what do you want from me here? It’s been a long week.
(What? This doesn’t seem like fun to you? Come back next week for more Geek Pickup Lines, then.)


Ridin’ in my car…

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Dog and Pony Shows,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time or 8:29 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

So, I’ve been a little, well, off, the past couple of days.
There’s a reason, but, frankly, not one I want to put out for everyone to read. My regular readers, who have left good e-mail addresses, will most likely get a private e-mail with why. But, I won’t post it. The e-mail will make it clear, but, yes, there’s a girl involved. Hey, with me, there’s always a girl involved.
In any case, after a day of hell at the office, combined with the purgatory that’s become my personal life, I decided that I’d take my favorite girl for a ride. I’ve been listening to lots of new music lately, everything from Rob Zombie to Bowling For Soup to the Brian Setzer Orchestra. And, most of that gets listened to in my car, so I’ve really enjoyed driving the Black Beast, as I call my Crown Vic. It’s a retired police crusier, that still has the big V-8 and police tranny on it. Burns gas like an open fire, but it’s got a smooth ride and never has trouble accelerating into traffic on the highway.
Anyway, I popped in some Gwen Stefani and picked up my favorite redhead for a little drive and some dinner. Of course, I mean Hilda, my dog. And dinner was a trip to PetSmart for her, and some 99¢ tacos from Jack-in-the-Box for me. Well, okay, I shared some of them with her, too. I spoil her a little extra when I’m feeling down at all. She always appreciates it and always shows me love. Now, if I could just find a nice girl who felt the same way…


The Bookstore Method

Filed under: Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:38 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes.
– Desiderius Erasmus

So, I tried the Bookstore Method again last night, against the recommendation of at least one of my readers. Honestly, it’s not working well for me, in spite of what my therapist tells me about how well it works for his other client, who, in fact, originated the process. I’m not sure if it’s that I’m too picky, or just too cowardly, but the pickings always seem slim. Here’s how it went…

I glide into the store as casually as a desperately lonely man can, trying to look as completely uninterested in anything in particular. I glance at the sale books in the entrance way and pick up a departure for me, Dirty Little Secrets, which looks like a freakish combination of a chick book with an action thriller. Way, way outside my normal reading and perfect to get me into the nonconventional mindset I’ll need to survive the night. Then, I browse through the first tables of new books and see The Ethical Assassin : A Novel, which established a grim, little theme for my chances. So, now I have two books about murder and mayhem in unusual settings, right? Must be time for the magazine section! Yea!
And, as I prowled over to the glossy rags, I remembered I was there to find a date, not spend money I don’t have on books I won’t read for months. So, as I pickup the latest Writer’s Digest, I start watching for likely ladies out of the corner of my eye. (See, I’m being all sly-like, so I can sneak up on them and pounce when even I don’t suspect it!) Sadly, there were only men around the row I was in, so I loop around and see Plaza Magazine, which caught me with the headline “Japan Issue: Capsule Living With Kurokawa”. I mean, with my total fascination regarding all things Japanese, how could I resist? But, still, no groovy chicks, so it was on the next row for Blender, because I need to update my musical taste if I’m going to date. After all, I’m told the hottest of the hotties are into music. Personally, I wouldn’t know. Thelonious Monk aside, I don’t know squat about music or what’s musically cool right now, so, for all I know, I’m hip as all get out. I doubt it, but, still, you never know. I’m hoping that if I hold on long enough, I’ll swing around and be retro again. That was when I saw her, grabbing that Blender. She was dressed down in running gear, casually flipping through a magazine and leaned up against the end of the row where the movie magazines are. But, she seemed a little tense, so I watched her out of the corner of my eye while pretending to scan the movie rags. Forgetting my purpose for a moment, I spotted one of my obscure favorites, Asian Cult Cinema. The current issue was Thai Cinema, so I leaned over to get it, startling the poor, nervous cutie reading her magazine. Then, I saw why she seemed tense. She was looking at the latest Sports Illustrated. You know, the Swimsuit Edition? Yeah, so, either she’s really cool and just checking it out for, uh, actually, I have no idea why she’d be cool and checking it out. She’s a chick. If I understood chicks, I wouldn’t be blogging this, I’d be cooking her breakfast. My bet was she was a lesbian. Why? Because, that’d be just my luck. Anyone want to take that bet? Yeah, me neither.
So, then it was a quick tour through philosophy, where I saw On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt. It’s a short one, so I picked it up to read while I had my beverage of the evening. After that, I popped upstairs to the language section. I wanted to grab a Vietnamese Dictionary & Phrasebook because I’d “Wink”ed at a Vietnamese girl on Match.com and I thought learning a few words of her language would be cool. Especially because I love language and she could totally correct my mispronunciation of the complicated, tonal language. (Sadly, she opted out on me, but, at least I have the book.) So, then it was over to the writing section to see what they had to help me with my pitiful plots. I found The 3 A.M. Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises That Transform Your Fiction, which appealed to me because that was about when I got the idea for the best story I almost sold o many years ago. And, just because it was funny, Plots Unlimited caught my attention. Of course, it’s a total gimmick book, but I bought it anyway, again, because it was funny. And, as long as I was indulging in a little retail therapy at this point, I decided to check out some music by way of the martial arts section. I love martial arts philosophy because it’s so practical, so when I saw Be Like Water: Practical Wisdom from the Martial Arts, I knew I had one of my minimum four spirituality books for the year. And, about that time, I noticed The Best of Dave Lowry, who is one of the world’s best writers on the Japanese martial arts. This book collects the best of his Black Belt magazine articles in one place. Very cool. So, then it was music, I was in a funky mood, so I went looking for something with an edge. What I found was Past, Present & Future [with Bonus DVD] by Rob Zombie. Hey, I don’t have a kid who’s too into Goth music in my house right now, so, I can indulge in some heavy metal. What do you want from me? It’s actually great music to do aerobic workouts to. Honest. Besides, while finding Zombie, Gimme Fiction by Spoon caught my eye. I know nothing about it, but I have a vague memory that someone, somewhere thought it was good, so I figured I’d take the risk.
So, now, totally weighed down with books and magazines, I head over to Smarmy Lad in the Hell of Mediocre Coffee. He, of course, goads me with his hypercaffinated, but artificial, cheeriness, trying to rush me so he can do two orders at once. But, as I mentioned, I’m in a mood, so I give him a hearty “Yeah, I’ll get back to you in a second on that”, which, I’m pleased to say, threw him off his game. Ha! Take that slacker boy! And, I got to stand there with a giant pile of heavy books showing off my muscle while pretending that holding forty pounds of books in one outstretched hand is no big deal. And, finally, just before my arm completely failed, he came back and took my order. Instead of my usual Italian Fascist Blend, I had a kinder, gentler iced mocha chai. While I was paying, I had to endure his lengthy sales pitch for Border’s new marketing, er, “discount” program.
“I’m not sure if you’re going to get all those books tonight, but you’ll get a…”
“Yeah, okay, fine. I’ll take it.”
“Great! You know you’ll really save! And, you’ll start getting the better coupons!”
“Why, you’ll even get coupons for the Cafe here!”
“Yeah. Great.” So, pretty much at this point the easy sell has really upset his little apple cart and he has no idea that he can stop babbling. I decide to stop listening instead. Easier and less likely to make me want to lobotomize myself with a knitting needle. But, I survive the process and sip my frozen mocha chai while I read On Bullshit, both of which were surprisingly good. And, then, it’s getting late and I’ve pretty well given up on actually meeting someone, so, I head down to the cashier with my books. When I check out, I get the book that actually brought me out to the bookstore, No Plot? No Problem! and beat a hasty retreat home, while listening to Rob Zombie.
And, what did I learn last night? Well, I learned that, while this might be a proven method for one guy, it’s not working for me very well. I learned that following through even when I’m not in a good mood does not produce the best results. But, most importantly, I learned something about myself. Something best summarized by a quote from On Bullshit:
“Our natures are, indeed, elusively insubstantial – notoriously less stable and less inherent than the natures of other things. And insofar as this is the case, sincerity itself is bullshit.”
And, that, kids, just about sums up my day yesterday. Today has got to be better. Right?

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