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A public conversation about our worlds.

  • Monday: Morgan J. Locke
  • Tuesday: Madeleine E. Robins
  • Wednesday: Maureen F. McHugh
  • Thursday: Bradley Denton
  • Friday: Steven Gould
  • Saturday: Caroline Spector
  • Sunday: Rory Harper

Brain Activity



Ghost Riders and Vampires

November 13th, 2010 by Rory Harper

Well, hi, gang! Long time no see.

I got in a new suite of audio repair software tools a week or so ago and found myself rummaging around in my collection of old Los Blues Guys tapes, looking for something to throw on the slab and eviscerate with them.

The specimen we have here, after a fair bit of tweaking and EQ’ing and other more exotic processing that you don’t care about, is a performance from AggieCon XXII on the evening of March 22, 1991.

As far as I can tell, it’s the usual line-up — Unca Brad on drums, Unca Stevie on keyboards, Casey on bass and back-up vocals, me on lead guitar, and Unca Scott on rhythm guitar and lead vocals. Frankly, Brad and Scott are what make this performance so awesome. IMHO. As was so often the case. I’d kill to have Scott’s rhythm chops, and long ago gave up the idea of ever trying to learn to play drums, faced with the mountain that is Brad.

And we had a surprise rock-star guest in Warren Norwood, who sang his original set of lyrics at the end.

Without further ado, I give you:

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Ghost Riders in the Sky / Vampires in the Sun

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(Incidentally, either I or WordPress have completely lost the ability to format mixed text and pics properly. My apologies for this post looking so amateurish here. Working on it…)

Posted in Brad, mp3, Music, Rory, Steve | 6 Comments »

Black Symphony

October 12th, 2009 by Rory Harper

Jillian

My apologies for missing my post yesterday — I spent a great weekend in Austin, hanging out with my Wild-Ass NeoPagan Tribe(TM) at the ScotchtoberFest party and seeing Zombieland with She Who Is Awesome and her thrall, Jesse. Then I rode back to CS in a cold, wet miserable drizzle. I’d neglected to bring my foul-weather gear with me because weather.com said there was a 10% chance of rain this weekend. I felt like a drowned kitten by the time I slithered off the bike. Weather.com can go screw themselves.

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Anyhow — I’ve always been a total sucker for orchestral rock. Except for prog-rock, which generally sucks. Saw the Moody Blues live three or four times, and the Metallica thing with the London Symphony Orchestra is also a fav.

Symphonic Goth Metal takes it to new level for me. Tonight we have Within Temptation’s magnum opus, Black Symphony, on the turntable. They got the Metropole Orchestra and a bunch of monks who’d given themselves over to the dark side to play with them one night.

They’re a Dutch band with a long and apparently happy history as a family. Sharon den Adel, their lead singer, has some amazing pipes on her. She’s also a major hottie. Unfortunately, she’s hooked up with her lead guitarist — as all chick singers do — and has even gone so far as to have a child with him in a futile effort to convince me to quit sending her those letters professing my undying adoration.

I had a difficult time deciding which cut from the album to present to you. They range from pretty-damn-metal to pretty-damn-symphonic. I have the album, and highly recommend it to you, especially the version that includes a DVD of the concert.

Click the pic at the top of this post for Jillian, which opens the album after the overture.  I encourage you to surf YouTube for other excellent songs from that night. The cut for Jane Doe isn’t on the US version of the album, and it was the one that got me into them to start with.  It does rock harder than Jillian. The big Frankensteiny guitarist who chases her across the stage in this vid is her main squeeze. I just don’t know what she sees in him.

You can also hit their site. It leads with Utopia, a ballady new song that isn’t metal at all, but is kinda-sorta heart-breaking. It’s a pre-sale song for their upcoming An Acoustic Night at the Theatre. It’s got an orchestra in it, so I’ll have get it, too.

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Posted in Music, Rachael is Awesome, Rory | 7 Comments »

A Keyboard For Writers

October 4th, 2009 by Rory Harper

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We all know that writing can be painful. The intense frustration when an idea that was pure genius in our heads translates to vapid merde when we try to put it into words on the screen. The struggle to impose form and structure on a plotline that insists on fracturing into a thousand shards, all of them purest zirconium. The realization that you abruptly suck at this endeavor that is central to your self-regard, that you’ve lost it forever, that all your friends will now know what a dismal fraud you are.

I can’t help you with that part. Cocaine, alcohol, and perverse sex are the prescribed remedies.

However, there is some hope for the physical pains that you’re experiencing. If you write much, your hands hurt fairly constantly now, don’t they? Probably your forearms, too, and your shoulders ache.

Let’s trip back to the halcyon days of yestertyping, when only women were taught how to use a keyboard. Real computers cost five to ten thousand dollars. A mouse was a rodent that you carried around in your shirt pocket, because you were weird.

There was no GUI. There was only one screen color on a black background. There was the command line, and you wrote your novels in WordStar, which was the coolest program on the planet.

Back then, the keyboards were not made for a dollar a day by starving Filipino orphans. They were often designed by obsessive engineers who realized that keyboards were the contact point between their expensive wares and the person who bought them, so they damn well better be good.

Then came Windows (and the Macintosh, but we don’t talk about Macs in polite society).

The paradigm shifted tectonically. Now most people click away their lives rather than typing everything. And computers cost a tenth of what they once did, so keyboards are thrown into the bundle like Happy Meal toys.

And they’re awful. They hurt you badly in the long run if you type a lot.

I’d like to introduce you to the IBM Model M keyboard. If you’re a writer, it’s your new best friend.

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Posted in Daily Life, Health and Safety, Rory, Technology | 17 Comments »

Nothing Else Better To Do

September 27th, 2009 by Rory Harper

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Okay, it’s been completely dead in here for far too long.

I’ve been a near-total hermit since sometime late last year. I blame Obama. But I’m hereby officially re-committing to posting some postings at least once a week. I already have a couple in my head. They may not all be the casual masterpieces that you’ve grown accustomed to seeing from me. But they’ll be something.

I’m kicking off with a new song that I’ve largely finished mixing this morning.

It’s probably the most highly-produced song I’ve done yet, with all sorts of layers and panning and automation envelopes and synths and on and on about stuff you don’t care about.

And, Ghod help me, I smashed it all to hell with compressors and limiters. It just seemed like the kind of tune that called for that. Another sad victim of the Loudness Wars. I left a few transients in there somewhere. Maybe.

I like to think that this one is in the finest tradition of EatOurBrains.

I hope that it’s an easy listen for you.

…Uh… You should play it loud….

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Nothing Else Better to Do

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EDIT on 10-04-09: I’ve just loaded a slight remix of the song, for increased clarity. I brought the vocals forward so that they’re more intelligible, increased the strings’ level for ear candy, and got rid of some mud in the bottom end. I don’t know about you guys, but I usually don’t enjoy having mud in my bottom end.

Hugs to all of you

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Posted in Dammit!, Geniuses, mp3, Music, Rory, Zombies | 9 Comments »

Rory’s Rules of the Road

June 1st, 2009 by Rory Harper


I’ve been spending much too much time lately moving across our Texas highway system trapped inside the damnedest repeated clusterfracks. (Yes, that’s the technical linguistic term for a group of Texas drivers who have bunched up at high speed.)

 

I’m a gentle old man, but I’ve had too many recent inner visions of flames, explosions, and the deployment of my personal bazooka, to be satisfied with the current state of affairs.

 

Therefore, I’m posting so that everyone who drives in Texas will know how to better keep Rory alive and happy on the highway.

 

Here’s the One Rule to Rule Them All: Get Out of My Way.

 

Here are the Three Laws of Velocity:

 

  1. If you’re driving faster than me, you’re a maniac, and should be removed from the road.
  2. If you’re driving slower than me, you’re a granny, and should be removed from the road.
  3. If you’re driving the same speed as me, you’re pacing me, and should be removed from the road.

 

This set of rules is simple, elegant, and results in me having the highway entirely to myself, which is as it should be. However, we live in an imperfect world, so I’m willing to put up with you as long as you Get Out of My Way.

 

There are, of course, some behaviors you shouldn’t indulge in, unless you want to make me suffer from Road Annoyance.

 

To be perfectly clear, I’m not doing this for your own good. I don’t care if you kill yourself and all your loved ones by driving stupidly. Darwinism in action is what that is. I just don’t want you to kill me, okay? I’ve already got enough problems with that whole natural selection thing as it is.

 

Though, since I’ve already passed my DNA along, I suppose it really wouldn’t be that wrong to run over me. And I know it won’t really upset you to kill a feeble old man whose life is practically over with anyhow, for more than a few hours, or until you’re distracted when the next episode of  “Jon & Kate Plus 8” airs.

 

But what if you hit Jon & Kate and the eight cute little kids and smushed them all? That would make you sad for a long time, wouldn’t it? Okay, maybe not about Jon and Kate. I mean, who cares about those two idiots? But the kids for sure, right? I bet that would make you sad for a loooong time.

 

So – remember these things I’m about to list, because you might kill a bunch of adorable little soon-to-be-adoptees instead of me, if you don’t.

 

Here are the Ten Tips to Avoid Bazookas:

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Posted in Daily Life, Dammit!, Health and Safety, Rachael is Awesome, Rory, You | 5 Comments »

Stand By Me — Around the World

April 29th, 2009 by Rory Harper

This is a transcendant piece of video- and music-making. Sean e-mailed me the link, suggesting that we might enjoy it.

At least in my case, he was absolutely correct in his surmise. It’s a version of Ben E. King’s classic ‘Stand By Me’. It starts out small and personal, then quickly achieves orbital velocity as it goes global.

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It’s too late for us to be among the earliest adopters on this song. But, if you haven’t alrady seen it, you have my heartiest encouragement to click the pic. It’s uplifting. And it rocks.

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Posted in Music, Pop. Culture, Rory | 2 Comments »

Death by Tiny Invisible Pig

April 25th, 2009 by Rory Harper


Hey, guys – Go visit any of the major news web sites. Cool stuff today. According to the CDC, the Swine Flu Pandemic is going to slam into us sometime in the next few weeks, slaughtering the population and destroying civilization as we knew it.

 

Finally.

 

I mean, just between you and me and the pigs, I was beginning to doubt that civilization as we knew it was going to end at all. It sucked to find myself being pessimistic about my pessimism.

 

Some days, I just wanted to smash my forehead into something, hard enough to hurt, but not hard enough to actually damage my brain. You know?

 

That Bird Flu thing just never seemed to be able to get off the ground. And it looks like Apophis is going to stubbornly refuse to smash the earth into molten flinders.

 

The Global Warming thing was coming along nicely, after we convinced Bush and his crew that it was all a liberal conspiracy against Hummers – and you know how insanely freaked out they were with Clinton and his hummers in the Oval Office. Then we messed up and elected an administration that actually believes in science. Who knows what the hell they’ll do to demonize GW the climate like they demonized GW the Bush?

 

Nuclear war? Well, the Soviets were a great disappointment to me, personally. They had the capability for about thirty years, and could never sober up from the vodka binges long enough to push the red button. North Korea and Iran are just laughable wannabes.

 

I’ve got a small bet going that Pakistan will fall into the hands of the Taliban next year and, maddened by the presence of infidels somewhere on the rest of the planet, will launch their hundred nukes at somebody. If they hit India, then my job is less likely to be outsourced, so this is a two-fer. They’ve got enough bombs to trigger at least a Nuclear Autumn.

 

But that’ll be offset by the damn global warming that we’ve been trying so hard to cause. Unless Obama or Steven Chu or Paul Krugman fix it first.

 

I’m immensely cheered by today’s news, though.

 

I went out this afternoon and bought my survival kit. Here are my top ten items:

 

  1. Three boxes of Kleenex – Will need them if I get the flu, and the allergies have been really nasty all year anyhow.
  2. Three containers of Crystal Light no-cal drink powder – I already got a bunch of iodine pills for purifying water, at Rachael’s insistence. Now I can drink both safely and deliciously.
  3. Three boxes of wet kitty treats – Little Tex and Secret Kitty are likely to get grumpy while trapped in the house for a month or so, and this will help. I’m contemplating buying some more catnip toys tomorrow, before there’s a run on them.
  4. A pound of Kraft Mild Cheddar cheese – It was on sale, and I like cheese.
  5. Two pounds of Skinner Vermicelli – Yummy and nutritious and would survive a nuclear war, I think.
  6. Two glass containers of Ragu Roasted Garlic spaghetti sauce – To make the Vermicelli taste even yummier. Also, the Ragu has catsup in it, which, as Ronald Reagan taught us, is an essential vegetable.
  7. Four pounds of Folger’s coffee – Life isn’t worth living if I don’t get my coffee in the morning. Also, it’ll be worth its weight in hummers after the apocalypse.
  8. Lots of cans of Dinty Moore beef stew and microwaveable plastic lunches of various types and brands – I think I forgot to get crackers to go with these. Dammit.
  9. Four pounds of Imperial Pure Cane Granulated Sugar – Screw the Splenda if civilization ends. I want real sugar in my coffee.
  10. A 1.75 liter bottle of Bacardi Gold – Should make a great internal antiseptic to help me avoid getting infected. I forgot to get the Coke that potentiates its healing effect. Dammit.

 

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Personally, I think I did pretty good, considering how off-the-cuff and panicky this was. I already had plenty of toilet paper. And you can use the Kleenex that way in a pinch, in case you didn’t know.

 

I think I’ll be able to survive in my apartment all through the Great Dying. Surely they won’t disconnect the Internet. It’s all satellite communications these days, anyhow, and the satellites will keep on working fine for years and years.

 

Then I can come out and the glorious dream of my childhood will begin – me, being one of the last ragged inhabitants in a post-industrial nightmare wasteland. Kind of like moving to Detroit, only more fun.

 

I’ll have my gun with me. I bet I can find some bullets for it, somewhere out there. Unless they’re all buried in some Teabagger’s back yard.

 

Rachael and Jesse will survive, as will all of you, and my sister and her husband, and all of my Goddam Neopagan Tribe™. We’ll form the nucleus of a new and intrinsically pessimistic society, as I’ve always hoped for. With motorcycles.

 

It’ll be great!

 

We should all meet at that filling station right outside Bastrop, where you turn to go to or from Austin, depending on the direction you’re traveling in. You know the one.

 

See you all in a couple of months!

 

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Hey….

 

….I just had the inevitable thought…

 

The CDC says the Swine Flu is mutating. Maybe we’ll get lucky and it’ll mutate into —

 

Zombie Apocalypse Virus !!!!

 

Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

 

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Posted in Dammit!, Environment, Food, Health and Safety, Politics, Rachael is Awesome, Rory, Zombies | 14 Comments »

Where’s Al Gore When You Need Him?

December 10th, 2008 by Rory Harper

Huh. So much for that global warming rumor.

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This is what confronted me in the parking lot when I was desperately trying to escape from work this afternoon.

I’ve lived in BCS for a dozen years. I think I saw a few sprinkles in the sky once, that first year. Nothing since then.

We had an actual snowstorm this evening, which meant that the ground was completely covered for awhile. It was an unexpected pleasure to ride through it. It was trippy, man.

It’s mostly gone now, as I noticed when I went out a few minutes ago to stock up on survival BlueBell Homemade Vanilla.

It’s supposed to get down into the twenties tonight. This, of course, does not affect my plans to ride into Austin this weekend to hang out with She Who Is Awesome and her concubine, since weather.com says the temps will be in the seventies by then. Gotta love that fickle Texas weather.

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Posted in Daily Life, Rachael is Awesome, Rory | 4 Comments »

The Wedding of the Century

November 30th, 2008 by Rory Harper


Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you — Mr. Jesse Hawkins and Mrs. Rachael Hawkins.

 

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They were married last Saturday afternoon in an outdoor amphitheatre at Brownwood State Park, to my delight and to the applause of approximately 45 friends and family.

 

This is the terrible loss that I suffered, mentioned in my previous post. I gave up my most beloved daughter – but gained both a wonderful son-in-law and a vast herd of cattle in payment.

 

More below the cut.

 

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Posted in Barb, Bob Y., Brad, Caroline, Hope, Maureen, mp3, Personal History, Rachael is Awesome, Religion, Rory, The Dude | 9 Comments »

THB For The Masses

November 28th, 2008 by Rory Harper

Two Headed Baby played a special gig last weekend.

 

It was a good weekend for me, in many, many ways. I’m planning to post in more detail on that later today or perhaps tomorrow.

 

I set up a laptop to record the gig as best I could through a single mic off to the side, and seem to have caught about two-thirds of it on disk. I’ve just finished processing a couple of the songs, and thought you might enjoy listening to THB in full fury.

 

Rachael was there, and told me that we sounded awesome, but she was being especially kind to her Papa last weekend, because I was suffering a great loss. The audience danced their asses off, and didn’t throw anything sharp or too hard at us. I figure that we probably didn’t suck, much.

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Rockin’ In The Free World

 

Blues Medley

 

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As you may know, our old drummer got bored with just hitting things and wandered off to try to learn how to be another goddam dime-a-dozen guitar player. Bob Yeager, who still enjoys smashing the hell out of everything, has gracefully taken his place.

 

Caroline Spector on bass, cello, and vocals, Warren Spector on rhythm and lead guitar, Gilda Ginsel on vocals and keyboard, my nice friend Bradley Denton on vocals, harp, and rhythm and lead guitar. I was up there, too, mostly played rhythm guitar.

 

However, we made the mistake of allowing both GreyLion and Bulky Jones to sit in. And they wanked endlessly. Please forgive them.

 

I’ve whined repeatedly about the Loudness Wars, but – I smashed the hell out these recordings, just because it seemed the rock ‘n roll thing to do. Another mea culpa for that. I tried to leave a few dynamics in place.

 

This stuff is meant to be played loud, though, so you should turn the volume knob all the way to the right. I hope your neighbors don’t find it too painful to listen to.

 

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Pics credit to Cheryl Collum, who, incidentally, happens to be my baby sister.

Posted in Bob Y., Brad, Caroline, mp3, Music, Rachael is Awesome, Rory, The Dude | 7 Comments »

Obama vs. McCain – The Conspiracy

November 11th, 2008 by Rory Harper

I suspect that you’ve all already seen this one, but just in case…

It’s South Park’s  take on the recent election, revealing what was really going on. I think they got it just about right.

Click the pic and go to Season 12, the next-to-last ep, named ‘About Last Night…’. The full episode is on tap.

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Posted in Politics, Pop. Culture, Rory | 3 Comments »

A Change is Gonna Come

November 9th, 2008 by Rory Harper

Props to OpenLeft for posting this tonight.

Seal is out with a new album of soul oldies. This song and vid totally blew me away. I’ve always thought of the Sam Cooke version as being definitive, but Seal’s version competes. Among many others, Otis Redding covered it and did not suck, either.

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Seal was a serous Obama activist. The sub-text here ain’t so sub.

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Addendum: I also really like Seal’s ‘Amazing‘. It feels like a much slicker cousin to Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy‘, which still gets stuck in my head occasionally.

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Posted in Music, Politics, Rory | 1 Comment »

Scarred for Life!

October 30th, 2008 by Rory Harper

Just a warning to you all — It’s getting really scary out there.

Click the pic and you’ll see….

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(First draft, completely unedited.)

Posted in Rory | 7 Comments »

SNL – Bush Endorses McCain

October 25th, 2008 by Rory Harper

I haven’t actually watched SNL since the Belushi-Ackroyd glory days. But, as we know, they’ve been experiencing a resurgence with their take on the upcoming election.

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This sketch is further evidence that something is badly broken inside my head.

I’ve watched Sarah Palin speak and she gives me the creeps. She’s such a blatantly obvious sociopath that I have the same instinctive, uncontrollable reaction to her that I’ve always had to GWB. I’m absolutely nonplussed that some people think that she’s a VPILF.

But I also instinctively react in exactly the oppposite way to Tina Fey. Dude, she is one hot, juicy babe.

And I can’t tell them apart visually.

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Posted in Dammit!, Politics, Pop. Culture, Rory | 13 Comments »

Ohhhh, We Knew It Would Come To This…

October 17th, 2008 by Rory Harper

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Props to Erica-Liis for bringing this to my attention.

Posted in Politics, Rory, Zombies | 3 Comments »

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