furia furialog · Every Noise at Once · New Particles · The War Against Silence · Aedliga (songs) · photography · other things
5 March 2006 to 3 February 2006
[An idea arising (or maybe coalescing) from a conversation with Pito Salas of BlogBridge about "feed remixing".]  

Del.icio.us/popular and Digg, at the moment, produce feeds and are probably heavily fed by people who read feeds, but still rely on a workflow that requires browsing: I read something interesting in one of my feeds, I go to the web page it represents, I bookmark/Digg that web page, a bunch of people do the same, and when it crosses some threshold of popularity it hits del.icio.us/popular or the Digg front page, or whatever. Those pages in turn then generate feeds, which I read. This flow makes excellent sense if I want to bookmark the thing persistently, or I want to annotate my bookmarking of it, or participate in a discussion about it. But sometimes all I ever want to do is read it and pass it on.  

Maybe there should be a way to simply bypass the browsing stages. When you read something interesting in a feed, you could Figg the feed article itself. Your stream of Figged articles from all your feeds forms a new personal compilation feed, and those personal feeds are then aggregated and collated, and the most popularly Figged articles appear in a collaboratively generated new feed. This is just a flow, so it would be my recommendation to leave persistence and annotation and tagging and commentary all to the other model. Keep it to a single function requiring no other per-action parameters, whose output is just a normalized feed with articles uniquely IDed by source. The aggregation could either be centralized (i.e., as a service that also provides hosting for the personal feeds), or decentralized (you host your own personal feed, and just register it with the aggregation service).  

Note that I'm not claiming this is a business idea, nor do I even think it's a durable idea in structural terms. It won't surprise me much if feeds, in their current form, go straight from early-adopter obscurity to being obviated or subsumed or reintegrated back into a new form of browsing. But for now these possibilities are part of this idea's appeal -- for a little while the technology of feeds still happens to define a community and an audience, and Figg could be the ultimate insiders' channel.  
 

[If the main point of this is single-click-ness, it would require blog-reader integration, but several RSS readers already have Blog-This functions, and this would be simpler.]  

["Feedmarking" would have been a great name for this idea, but that term is already being used to talk about the marking/tagging of feeds. Of course "bookmarking" was originally the marking of pages within books rather than the marking of books, but on the web this distinction doesn't exactly hold.]
Despite spending my weekdays designing web software since pretty much the dawn of the web, I've only ever constructed a whole web site for myself, and I've only done that using my own deliberately self-centered and exploratorily minimal tools. At the moment this site is running on a Perl+XML system that would qualify as "content management" only with the liberal application of asterisks. In its exact current state it is a random combination of me-specific hacks I didn't feel like generalizing, over-generalized partial architectures of things that my own site's small scale doesn't really require, and I guess at least a few sensible compromises between the two. The system is not a product, and I don't really aspire to turn it into one, but I'm a product designer by trade, and so tend to gravitate towards product-designer-ish solutions.  

I've also never been a web freelancer, and I've always been pretty sure that freelancing wouldn't suit my personality particularly well. I prefer generalizable problems to the inherently individual, I like the challenge of adapting moral imperatives to evolving contexts and constraints more than constantly starting over at the beginning, and I really like having some control over the kind of work I'm doing.  

But that doesn't mean I'm not curious, and in my at-least-temporary unemployment I have the chance to experiment, and a friend of mine who does freelance design has a project for which he needs a developer. And, intriguingly, the structure of the site he needs to build is more or less the same as this one: a few sections of static content and a couple streams of dynamic stuff.  

Actually, perhaps even more importantly, the client's site is smaller than mine. Fewer pages, fewer bytes, fewer moving parts, probably even fewer visitors. More revenue, I hope, but none of it directly transacted by the site. So while my system is of vastly unproven scalability, I'm pretty confident in its ability to scale smaller than its one existing deployment.  
 

But "scalability" is actually a vector of variable orientation. I've written an outline of the implementation plan and a full schedule of task-time estimates before we finally stop and think about what we're doing. My system is streamlined in ways that are arguably clever, but in service of my goals and habits and assumptions. I am willing to write my own code to produce exact quirks of behaviour, and conversely would rather have simple behavior under my complete control than complexity that depends on other systems and constraints. I don't have to anticipate where I can adapt. I don't mind editing XML files by hand. I embrace informed incompatibility. I want a work in constant progress. I am a designer of large systems produced by large teams in my work life, and this is my other-extreme small system for the smallest team.  

My friend's client, on the other hand, is a chicken breeder. I don't mean this metaphorically, I mean they're a company that breeds chickens. Their web site, when it's done, will have background information, breeding statistics, news and announcements about their breeding of their chickens. I am quite prepared to believe, after looking through the source material for the site, that they are every bit as diligent about chickens as I am about information. And, vice versa, I would care about chicken breeding as long as it took me to build their site, and they would care about web design as long as their site never really required them to.  

So while I could build their web site, they could probably cook me a chicken dinner. I deal in information structure first, and the structure of chicken-breeding information is not complicated. They deal in predictability and consistency, and if you can breed chickens you can probably follow a recipe.  

But there are people who cook for a living, and people who make web sites like this for a living, and there are excellent reasons to let them. Fiddling with my site when I feel like it is a pleasure. Fiddling with theirs in a sudden crisis would be annoying for me and for them. My system is designed in anticipation of a future in which my software environment may change in a hundred ways, but I will always be me. Theirs should be built in almost exactly the opposite way, assuming that techs and admins and data-enterers and freelancers will change but the software will stay the same. A commercial content-management system is intolerable overhead and point-missing premature closure to me, basic foundation and the first step towards maintainability for them.  

So I'm not doing the site. We had fun imagining how we might have, probably me more than my friend, since I'm not billing for my time, and at the end of this he still has to find someone to build him a chicken breeder's site the right way. I got some ideas of new things to play with here on my own site, he got a couple ideas about streamlining their navigation and using tagging to filter news by audience. And I don't know whether this means I'll never be a freelancer, but I have a clearer idea of what oddities a project would have to entail to lend itself to my odd tools.  

And I am reminded, most usefully, that the most critical constraints on your solutions are not your capabilities, but the capabilities of the people whose problems you are trying to solve. As a tool collector and maker of tools for making tools, you are allowed to fill your own workshop with lopsided automata and non-Euclidean corners and puzzle-joins and secret panels; but when you're building for people who only ever want to have to own a hammer, you better stick to nails.
I think I can reasonably claim to be a student of Japanese: more disciplined and inquisitive than merely a fan or a tourist, but far less than an authority. I'm not a very advanced student, mind you. I've spent a couple years taking low-level language classes, I've watched a lot of Japanese movies (including some not intended for export, but so far none that didn't somehow get English subtitles), I've listened to a lot of Japanese pop music, I've eaten a lot of Japanese food. I've read a lot about Japan. I've been to Tokyo once, for six days, and Kyoto once, for a couple. I am trying to learn, but it's only barely a beginning.  

Of all this, the closest I think I've come to witnessing something intrinsically and untranslatably Japanese was reading Kenji Ekuan's The Aesthetics of the Japanese Lunchbox, which I only have or know about because of some bindery error that resulted in a pile of loose-covered copies making their way to the impulse-buy discount shelves at the MIT Press bookstore. Ekuan is a prominent industrial designer in Japan, and wrote this, his eighth book, in 1980, for a Japanese audience. It was translated into English in 1998 by Don Kenny for MIT, and I will assume, for simplicity, that the translation is at least vaguely accurate in meaning and tone.  

The book purports to be an examination of the design and cultural principles embodied and implied in the simple Japanese divided lunch container, and it does contain recognizable elements of such a study, but in Western terms the elaboration around them reads less like a "study" and more like a daydreaming note-taker's drafts of the most idiotically exaggerated claims that could conceivably be imagined on each related topic. This is how it begins:  

The greatest pleasure of the lunchbox comes when you take off the lid and sit for a moment gazing at the various delights inside. No matter how many times I open a lunchbox, I find myself gulping in surprise at its gorgeous contents. It inevitably contains delicacies from the sea, from the mountains, and from the plains in a variety of colors and fragrances. But you never have the feeling of unsightly clutter or congestion.
 

The book is constructed almost entirely (and that "almost" is probably about my own reticence, not the book's (as is that "probably")) of absolutes, even where they conflict. "Never", "always", "inevitably", "invariably", "integral", "instinctively", "everyone", "must", "cannot", "most". For the first couple introductory pages it's possible to imagine that he is talking about what a lunchbox can aspire to, not what any lunchbox becomes by its lunchboxness, but then shortly into chapter one we get this:  

During the postwar period of high economic growth in Japan, owners of small and medium-sized enterprises traveled to the West one after another. They were unable to speak the languages of the countries they visited and they paid no attention to the explanations of interpreters. They simply stared at the machines they were hoping to introduce into their businesses. This was quite enough for them to be able to perceive the inner workings. Were they to have attempted to understand the logic behind these machines, it would have wanted a great bustle of taking the machinery apart and reassembling it again. Since they were able to get a complete grasp by simply staring, they could instead make their decisions very quickly.
 

Coming from a noted industrial designer, in a book about design and its relation to technology, this seems to be intended as a serious observation, but if I take it seriously, I find it hard not to also assume that the author is fundamentally self-unaware, both about himself and his culture. And thus, for the rest of the book, I feel like I am reading a demonstration ingeniously embedded in the form of an explication.  

Some other choice moments:  

The Japanese are by nature acquisitive people. We cultivate more types of agricultural products and have a larger variety of foods than any other nation. In the field of sports as well, we have introduced games from all over the world, which, added to traditional indigenous pastimes and the martial arts, combine to give Japan the greatest variety of sports anywhere. The same thing can be said of music.  

...  

The lunchbox goes beyond tawdry excuses. Since it is truly greedy, it has come out impeccably arranged.  

...  

The instant you remove the lid of the lunchbox, such a profusion of messages is conveyed that you are quite dazzled. Messages from nature; messages from the environment; a seamless brocade of values embroidered by the people; an abstract methodology; the care, skill, and style, or philosophy, of the cook; and the breath of diverse symbols and their combinations. It is truly a spectacular playing out of volition and codes. Cooking is an art of process, yielding masterpieces unsuitable for display in museums -- yet with a dignified presence that everyone knows how to enjoy. People willingly consume the masterworks constructed out of a sense of beauty, with all their overtones of popular appeal. What a luxuriant art!  

...  

The lunchbox structure is one, while its contents are myriad. It is a great wonder that its contents, despite their broad variety, are inevitably divided into that triple classification: pine, bamboo, and plum -- the so-called lucky triad of Japanese art. No detailed explanation of this breakdown of the contents, or of their quality, is provided; everything is simply lumped together under the three headings of pine, bamboo, or plum, with no apparent rational concern for the differences. It would be boorish to question this topos.  

...  

All contents of the lunchbox are of equal value -- none is of unusually great cost or status. It is a height competition among acorns, so to speak. There are no great geniuses here. Even though differences of origin are recognized, organization is founded on the basic premise that every item involved is equal in standing. There are, of course, distinctions of faction and pedigree, but these scarcely constitute a discriminatory structure. Every element is used to the full, either for its adaptability or in terms of individual merit, rather than for any specific functional virtue. It is through this sort of unspoken understanding that, in Japan, even incompetents gain positions for themselves and manage reasonably well within the organization.  

...  

Since nature is rich in variety, we Japanese have an innate penchant for variation.  

...  

It is well known that today some ninety percent of Japanese consider themselves middle-class. This may appear contradictory at first glance, but has made possible provision of anything and everything in portions that all can easily consume and digest. Most notably, fully ninety percent of the nation can now afford to buy car, refrigerator, washing machine, and television set on the installment plan.  

...  

The Yamaha compact stereo system Tiffany AST-7 effectively enhances a small space and creates a new dimension of entertainment.  

...  

We Japanese can only bear to look at scenery to which someone has consciously added significance. ... Fish welcome people who know fish. Rice welcomes people who know rice. The lunchbox has a mission of culinary artifice to render fish more fishlike and rice more ricelike. It is due to such artificialization that one is able to savor nature more deeply.  

...  

We must keep in mind that the Japanese people have a boundless admiration for ingenious improvisation, and paradoxically are prepared to expend infinite pains.  

...  

Things not pertaining to everyday use must be stored in boxes or sacks. This represents a way of thinking common to the entire human race. Unless jewels are replaced in casks, swords in scabbards, and needles in sewing baskets, people find it impossible to sleep at night.  

...  

Placing objects in boxes and closing the lid serves to quiet their spirits.  

...  

People go to department stores to observe and experience the entire panorama of contemporary life. Total satisfaction may be had by spending half a day gazing at the innumerable products displayed on all floors from roof to basement. Even if you go to purchase only one or two specific items, you nonetheless return home with an enhanced and refreshed image of life. ... The department store deals in styles of life, and people willingly modify theirs according to what they find there. Thus the notion that if only one continually consumes the lunchbox that is the department store, one can keep a vigorous nutritional balance and lead a life of health and beauty.  

...  

We now have a calculator that fits into the palm of the hand. It is as light and thin as a business card -- only 1.6 millimeters thick, and weighing 34 grams. People inadvertently reach to buy one as they might pluck a wild flower, in an uncomplicated urge for high-quality precision. They want the calculator because it is thin and light; it elicits the same reaction as a jewel seen and immediately coveted. In the case of jewels, ulterior motives such as hoarding or speculation may be involved. The desire for a calculator is far purer. There is no other instance of such passionate pursuit of thinness, lightness, and compactness. Is this not something that should be inscribed as a datum of cultural history rather than the history of technology?  

...  

Calculators can be categorized: those that embody an aesthetic of thinness; small desk-top types; those for business use which do not stress thinness; specialist-oriented calculators; industrial models (desk-top types the size of a small typewriter); those set in wrist watches which are almost jewel-like; those installed in cigarette lighters; and others embedded in writing instruments.  

...  

Precision, thinness, and lightness are sufficient to make any product attractive.  

...  

A nearly weightless precision device expands the range of human sociability into a new realm. The AVOT is a 1986 design proposal for a new personal audio lifestyle.  

...  

Not so long ago, the world simultaneously witnessed a new etiquette of eating and drinking. On that occasion the impression of the earth as "blue" was first received, as we gazed in amazement at a meal consumed in a spaceship.  

...  

In this maintenance of order and efficiency through anonymity, equality, and a consciousness of belonging, geniuses are rarely born. Eccentrics are permitted to add a dash of spice to the atmosphere, but it is impossible for such persons to assert themselves to any greater extent. Nor do self-centered individuals receive encouragement. For a lunchbox, as I have repeatedly emphasized, it is essential that each piece of food be tasty but that none outshines another in flavor. In the case of an organization, as well, all personnel must be of the same overall capability.  

...  

In the past, the myriad Shinto deities put in their appearance to serve as an approximate point of reference. The master-and-pupil system in Japanese traditional arts is a pattern based on this hierarchical assemblage of deities. The hierarchy of cultural diffusion begins with the grand master at the top, and appointed teachers at subsequent levels convey the style of an art to ordinary mortals. The deities, or grand masters, even appear on the television screen. Gods of song, of entertainment, of cooking, of clothing -- all deign to demonstrate and convey to the shifting masses the ambitions and aims of contemporary beauty and taste. Deities alao appear in weekly magazines and as product advertisers.  

...  

The different peoples of the earth all have their unique ways of looking at things, so today's world is still a place where numerous senses of value coexist. And it is through the exercise of our various overlapping psychologies that we are able to cooperate with those quite unlike ourselves, eliciting unification-of-diversity responses from one another. Nurturing a spirit of acceptance is one of the great challenges faced by education in our world today.  

...  

Anything there is to see, eat, or wear abroad can be bought or experienced in Tokyo. In addition, anything and everything from all over Japan can also be had in Tokyo.  

...  

Japanese culture is predisposed to absorb the surge of new information like a sponge. But exactly where and in what age did this spongelike disposition most successfully show itself? Was it in the Katsura Detached Palace, or in the Toshogu Shrine at Nikko, or in the ancient times of the Manyo poetry anthology, or during the flashy Genroku era of Edo? But what we are really asking is whether a true Japanese culture ever existed. Self-evidently, our culture has established various values where appropriate. It may be best compared to the infinity of lines in the palm of the hand. The struggle among conflicting values eventually settles into its proper place. There is neither genealogy nor evolution nor hieararchy setting one above another, rather everything is left up to human choices. It may be said that Japanese society affords countless channels for promoting selection.  

...  

When people come into contact with truly attractive things, they inadvertently reach out toward them. On the one hand, there are no ugly flowers; unfortunately, unseemly industrial products do exist. Since there are those who grab quite randomly at things, such bastard species are rampant.  

...  

To understand Japan, it is better to depend on things rather than words.  

...  

There can be no doubt that the sensitivities of people from other countries who have chosen Japanese products are tuned into the frequencies that broadcast the beauty and quality we here in Japan produce.  

...  

I am sufficiently moved by the beauty of the lunchbox to have wished to trace the history of its principles and structure. How satisfying it is that our country has created such force and power that even I, as a designer -- whose special field of endeavor is the shape of things -- stand in awe. And I believe that the lunchbox comprises a structure of salvation. I have come to realize that its magnificent organizing potential offers salvation for both people and things; indeed, it is a form of salvation just to come into contact with such beauty almost without effort. But its greatest salvation is the realization of a method for living richly with negligible resources. If such a technology can be employed in a systematic manner, it will certainly save the earth.
 

And if I am drawn to crazy people who seem to live in some entirely different world, maybe it's because they seem so certain that theirs can be saved.
I have just finished my second week of unemployment, and so might have expected by now to be able to say something about how that feels.  

For the first week, it felt a lot like working. Actually, it felt busier than working, for reasons that were pretty simple to identify. For the last year or so, my work has been following information-technology trends, learning as much as I could about every strange new acronym or product idea or standard, and staring into the middle distance trying to figure out what I thought it all was likely to amount to. You might protest that this does not sound like what most people mean by "work", in that its unproductiveness does not appear to be accomplished with quite enough mindless tedium or deliberately self-deluding idiocy. But it takes a lot of time and thought to do properly, and the last part is difficult.  

The truth, however, is that I was more or less going to do that stuff anyway. Possibly laying me off was thus actually an act of supreme cleverness on the part of my bosses, realizing that I was going to keep doing my job even if they stopped paying me for it. You might think that it kind of makes a difference whether I'm doing this stuff for them or me, but you would be wrong, since I more or less did not report my hypotheses to anybody. Left to my own I'll publish them here, anyway, where they will be far easier to find then they would be in any internal document repository (and, um, I worked for a document repositorifying company...).  

For the first week, then, I was still doing that job, and doing the easily full-time job of writing a new resume, organizing my contact list, sending out a lot of "Hey, now I'm really back in the market for interesting opportunities..." emails, and conducting a crash analysis of job-posting sites and the available tools for dealing with them. By the end of week one I had written no new songs, read less than .2 of a book, watched 3 movies and a soccer game, and, admittedly, spent a very satisfying amount of time trying to see if I could actually annoy our kittens more than they could annoy me. And I was still unemployed, but had one three phone interviews and one in person, and lined up one vaguely possible contracting gig and one more-likely one.  

Week two was a significant improvement. I followed up on a variety of work leads from week one, but spent relatively little time doing that. Instead I wrote two songs, did a remix, finished Gene Wolfe's Book of the Short Sun, spent a while pounding on my friend Pito's RSS reader BlogBridge and sending meddlesome UI suggestions, watched some more movies and some inexplicably compelling Olympic curling, and napped with the cats. That felt much more like unemployment.  

I originally intended my first unemployed act to be drawing up a master plan for my use of my unemployed time. That still seems like a pretty good idea, but I haven't done it yet, and maybe I'll do it next week but maybe I won't. This is my first unemployed period since college, and I want to find out what happens when my brain actually absorbs the idea that inertia is not going to drag me anywhere. Getting a new job might be a perfectly good idea. But there are other ideas, and some of them would require me to be the sort of person who doesn't immediately fill the smallest empty space in his time with lists of how it should be reloaded.
It took me an extra day, much of which was spent being completely incapable of singing it at its original slower tempo, and then chewing through a small pile of CDs making infinitesimally different masters, but here is my valiant Valentine's song for my amazing wife Bethany, with, I hope, enough love to make up for the weird way in which it sounds like Bruce Hornsby asphyxiating in a storm drain.  

To Nevada From Japan
The NIN rebuild was done entirely in GarageBand, starting from Trent's files and using only cut/copy/paste/move, pitch-shifting and a little extra effects-processing.  

GarageBand is sleek, but barely adequate for even this crude project. Its current fatal limitation for my own music is that it doesn't do any kind of MIDI out, and thus can't drive external MIDI devices. It's cool that it has its own software instruments, but they're toy sounds compared to my Korg Triton, which I have no interest in reducing to a glorified keyboard controller.  

I unloaded a lot of my old random bits of music gear in the big object-purge when Beth moved in, so my setup is now pretty simple: the Triton, a Tascam 788 hard-drive recorder, a guitar, a big guitar multi-effects board, a fretless bass, some microphones, and a pair of Mackie powered monitors. I didn't use the guitar or bass on the new song, so everything other than my voice came from the Triton.  

There are five different loops on the drum track, mostly played by hand and then touched up in the event editor. I initially played the piano riff by hand, but couldn't get it to be legato enough, so I ended up transcribing it and then recreating it note by note in step-record. The Triton has a great dual-programmable arpeggiator, so for the burbly bass-line I step-recorded a custom arpeggiator pattern and then played the trigger notes in real-time. Or, more precisely, I first tried to play this on my real bass, but it made my hand bleed, so I slowed down what I was doing and then recreated an even faster version in the arpeggiator. I think everything else I just played by hand, the most complicated bit being some weird ghost noises in the quiet parts that required the ribbon controller and joystick. Another advantage to sequencing this stuff instead of recording it as audio, obviously, is that you can do all the punching in and out you want without any risk of stop/start artifacts, which saves a lot of time in a song like this where most of the individual parts come in and out a lot. All the mixing and effects-processing for the instrument parts were done in the Triton, too. I think in the end I used nine sequencer tracks and nine different synth programs, but I'm not sure what maximum note-polyphony I hit at any one moment.  

All the Triton stuff was originally done with internal sync, to cut down on button-pushing, but for the vocals the Triton was then slaved to external MIDI sync from the 788. The switch could have been essentially transparent, except that I had insisted on using one drum-loop in 7/4, so I had to recreate a matching tempo-map on the 788.  

I then did vocal takes ad nauseam on the 788, switching among several recorder tracks to compare takes. I tried some "harmony" vocals, too, which sounded fabulously terrible, so in the end stuck to a single vocal track, from a single continuous take. The 788 has two multi-effects units of its own, so all the vocal processing was done there: EQ, compression, de-essing, some chorus, a little reverb. The Triton was slaved to the 788 all the way to the final mixdown, so the instrument parts didn't go through any extra generations, and more significantly, remained in fully-editable sequence form even after the vocals were recorded.  

The combination of the storm and Beth being away resulted in my violating one cardinal rule of recording in this process. When I went to do the vocals I realized that I'd purged not only my one bedraggled pair of closed-ear headphones, but all my 1/4"-to-1/8" headphone adapters, and thus I couldn't even use my iPod earbuds for monitoring. So I did the vocals with the music actually playing in the room, me facing towards the monitors and the microphone facing away. The directional pattern of the microphone (an Audio-Technica Midnight Blues) turns out to be excellent, and produced almost no audible bleed-through even when soloing the vocal track.  

Mastered to CD-R on the 788, trimmed and normalized in Sound Studio on the Mac, converted to mp3 in iTunes.  

There's not much else to say about the compositional process, such as it was. I did most of the drums first, including a little bit of diagramming on paper and a bunch of just pounding on keys. Once I had the loops I went back to paper to figure out a tentative song-structure, sequenced that, and then fiddled with it until it seemed workable. The deepest original philosophical premise for the music was that it be 3:20 long, which I revised to 2:57 because one section felt tedious and I couldn't think of a way to fix it. The rest of the instruments were overlaid on the drums one at a time, with a fairly small amount of iteration since there aren't actually that many places in the song where there's a lot going on at once.  

For the vocals I started with nonsense lyrics to work out the melody and meter. Possibly I ended up with some nonsense lyrics in the finished piece, too, but at least they're different than the nonsense lyrics I began with. Sometimes I already have a story in mind before writing anything, but in this case all I had was one word ("Tantalizer"), so it took several drafts before anything even vaguely coherent materialized, and although I know what I think the thing ended up being about, I can't really explain why it ended up being about that.  

I always think I could get better melodies if I figured them out on the keyboard instead of just improvising them by singing, but when I try to do that I come up with notes I want to sing but can't, which is unhelpful. Some vocal lessons would increase my options, but then so would virtually any kind of music training, production discipline, writing forethought, etc. But as the last long silence testifies, I have a much bigger problem finding the time and emotional space to make any music, and it's pointless to worry about how bad your music is when you aren't making it.
There's little better for artistic perspective than seeing the internal mechanics of somebody else's creativity. The next thing on my music list after writing a new song myself was playing with the files Trent Reznor put up in GarageBand format a really long time ago.  

After a few hours of that, I don't feel quite so sheepish about "The Foreverists". I have no easy way of getting the multi-track sources out of my Triton and 788, so you'll have to trust me that piece by piece there's at least as much to my song as Trent's. It would be wildly foolish to judge a song by its soloed tracks, of course, and the ability to put simple pieces together evocatively is much different than the ability to simply stack them up. But as snowbound amusements go, smashing things apart and stacking up the bits to look like different monsters isn't bad.  

Will You Stay (rebuilt by glenn mcdonald from Nine Inch Nails' "The Hand That Feeds") (1.1M mp3)
OK, apparently the necessary conditions for me to make music are that Bethany is going to be away on Valentine's Day, and I am snowed in.  

This one probably won't qualify as a valentine. I think it's a new low for me in compositional sophistication (when real composers talk about the "key of D", they don't mean just the note D), and the lyrics came out in some bizarre evangelical earnestness I won't bother trying to justify. The original idea was to write a dance track called "The Tantalizer", for reasons that now escape me. As usual, my attempt to transcribe the shreds of music in my head into audible form were a laughable failure, and this sounds absolutely nothing like what I began by humming. But the cats and I have been dancing around to it, and we got through the recording without them eating any of my equipment, or me dropping any of it on them, so I'm declaring moral victory.  

Anyway: The Foreverists.
Moki is of the strong opinion that Winged Migration is the greatest movie of all time.  

To be entirely fair, Moki is rather young, and as far as I know the only other movies he has ever seen are The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Hellboy, Rashomon, Spy Kids, Dinner Rush, Kind Hearts and Coronets, No Such Thing, Turn and Picnic. I'm not sure I agree that Winged Migration is clearly the best of these, but it's certainly in the top five. Plus, I myself thought the greatest movie of all time was Capricorn One until a rather embarrassingly older age.  

Luna tends to keep her opinions to herself, but she wandered off more than once during Hellboy, and seemed comparatively intent on Kind Hearts and Coronets, so in this as in many other things she shows signs of a quiet classicism.
This morning I turned in my badge, and I'm now neither required to turn up at the office nor, indeed, allowed to. Barring wholly unanticipated developments on Monday, this will be the first time in my entire working life that I've had more than a long weekend between one job and the next.  

I do not know what I will do next. I do not know what I want to do, maybe not even the shape of it. Obviously I have some lists to make, starting with the list of lists.  

But not yet. Tonight I am adrift. Tonight I have been released from abandoned loyalties and memories of good work long ago. Time to rest.  

And then time to start over.
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