Monday, February 28, 2011

Star Chamber Radio

My friend Colin Campbell wrote a great short story about Da Bomb, his character in our Cape City campaign (a superhero game). I was inspired by it enough to record this 8.55 bit of radio theater, and I hope you enjoy it. If you haven't ever looked through the stuff at the Free Sound Project - well, do. I couldn't have made it without those sound effects!

Anyway, the first episode of Star Chamber Radio is right here. Let me know what you think!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Shortcuts, Vol. 1

I've embarked on a fun musical project where I am recording a short song for each of the hundreds of preset drum patterns on my cheap-o keyboard. So far it's been great fun. You can hear the first volume here.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Yeah, but have you heard it lately?

The Eighties. I was 8 years old in 1980 and 18 in 1990. That means I certainly came of age in the Eighties. For some reason I've developed a creeping urge to hear Eighties songs. So I downloaded a bunch of 'em from several different compilations, and kept only the ones I knew I would listen to - some 150 songs. I was surprised at what made the cut. I found I wanted to hear Cyndi Lauper (awesome), Soft Cell, Katrina & the Waves...stuff I didn't particularly like back then. Interestingly, I was less interested in late Eighties stuff. Once my mix hits the Bobby Brown/Aerosmith Resurgence years the pickings get sparse, with almost no entries from metal (this was pretty much a pop collection), the only exceptions being Twisted Sister and Europe (although I'm not sure the latter is exactly metal...I had to put The Final Countdown in there). Other late Eighties picks are Fine Young Cannibals (She Drives Me Crazy - a gem I was oblivious to at the time) and Love Shack, which I'm vaguely embarrassed about.

I'm not sure I can explain entries from Lionel Ritchie, or why I like Toto's Africa so much. I'm sure much of it is nostalgia. But it's been great to rediscover a song like Madonna's Crazy For You, which I could not have appreciated back in the day. - Oh, and is Rock Me Amadeus in the original German not a really freakin' weird song when you get right down to it? I also think Loverboy actually rocks pretty hard, provided you're blasting them at maximum volume. Crowded House was an excellent little band that deserved to be a lot more popular. Same goes for the Rainmakers. When you listen to Michael Jackson in headphones for the first time in your life you realize how awesome Quincy Jones is. Richard Marx sucks. Those are just a few of the nice little insights I've been having on this journey through the music of my youth.

Of course, nearly all of the obligatory hits from 1980-86 or so are in there, and there are a few more I need to round up. There is always the temptation to give one artist too many selections. Prince, of all people, got more than anyone. The Police deserve more than just Every Breath You Take and Huey Lewis & the News deserve more than just Power of Love. I'm sure this will be an evolving collection.

Maybe the real reason I like all this stuff is that it puts me in an easier mindset, more like the way I was when I was a kid before I got so jaded and cynical. But it seems pretty clear there was just a lot of good music back then. The Eighties gets a bad rep for its somewhat confused fashions. But no one can say it was not a distinctive decade, and the older I get the more I realize how much the pop culture of that decade - music, movies, books, everything - shaped who I am.

...and for the record, I'll never be able to hear Sister Christian again without hearing John Bilbrey sing, "Motorhead! What's your price for flight?"

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I Don't Smoke. I Vape.

Last Friday I bought an e-cigarette at my local liquor store (from a local company, no less). I chose the liquid variety over the cartridge because the girl at the tobacco store said she preferred the ones next door at the liquor store, and said the cartridges aren't always interchangeable, but the liquids are. Anyway, for a total of $55 I got the e-cigarette, which came with a charger and small bottle of liquid ("American Mix" flavor), and added a $10 bottle of "3&5," a "tobacco" flavor. The bottles supposedly last about two weeks. That seems about right based on how much I've used so far, but we'll see.

Anyway...that was expensive, for me, but I'm ready to quit and I liked the fact that this way, I could still inhale something. So far...I'm pleasantly surprised. That's an understatement: I'm excited. I had no luck at all with gum (or cold turkey) and I don't even care if I'm addicted to nicotine for the rest of my life at this point: I just want to quit smoking. I now "vape," apparently; I am a vaper. I enjoy vaping.

I feel like I'm cheating, though, because I really don't feel like I quit smoking. It feels enough like smoking that I, a heavy smoker, find it an appealing substitute. In case you don't know, it's actually water vapor (that contains flavors and nicotine) that you're inhaling. I'm on what will be my second full day, and haven't had a cigarette for about 54 hours, I guess. I haven't really even wanted one. I consider that a major step forward, even if it creates a vaping dependency.

Of course vaping comes with its own set of expenses (which would seem to be a lot cheaper than smoking, after a much higher start-up cost) and maintenance. You've got to keep the battery charged, and you have to fill it up with the liquid (you drip it into a foam reservoir with an eye-dropper thingy). But it works, so it's worth it. I can already see where, once you were committed to vaping, you'd want to pick up a second e-cigarette and maybe try some of the weird flavors.

Maybe it's too early to cry triumph, but I have every good reason to think this is going to make me a non-smoker. I may be a vaper, but it's better than...well, a lot of horrible things.

Just call me Darth Vaper.