Monday, August 28, 2006


We've had 100-degree heat just about every day in August. So let's pull the shades, crank up the AC, and watch some DVDs.

Badlands - We really liked this movie. I can't believe I hadn't seen it before. It seems like most of my friends have seen it and recommended it. We both like it better than The New World--another Terrence Malick movie we watched a couple of months ago. Badlands clocks in at an economical 95 minutes, compared to The New World's 150 [?]. Check one in Badlands favor. Martin Sheen does his best James Dean and Sissy Spacek is pretty much Sissy Spacek [in scandalously short shorts] playing two kids on the run from Johnny Law.

Brick - Pretty cool little movie with Joseph Gordon-Levitt [that kid from 3rd Rock from the Sun] and Lukas Haas. Gordon-Levitt does a high school Phillip Marlow thing as he delves into a seedy adolescent underworld to find out what happened to some dame.

Weeds, Season 1 - Have you ever seen Desperate Housewives? Have you ever seen it . . . on weed? That's kinda what the Showtime series is like, except it's a little less catty when they roll up a fatty. [Yes, I wrote that.] The suburban satire thing has been done a few times over: this is yet another take, now with the trophy wife/soccer mom as pot dealer. It's entertaining. I can't remember ever liking Mary-Louise Parker in anything, but she's pretty good, here. And Kevin Nealon is as funny as ever in a role he was born to play--a pothead accountant.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Talkin' 'bout pop music.

Acoustics, they are a-changin', complains unhappy Dylan

Bob Dylan rags on modern recording and studio production. This article isn't all that great, but this one excerpt sums up my general disdain for major label/big studio pop music production.

"[Dylan's] main criticism of contemporary CDs is the lack of sound clarity arising when producers try to make each strand of a recording as uniformly loud as possible. 'You listen to these modern records, they're atrocious, they have sound all over them. There's no definition of nothing, no vocal, no nothing, just, like ... static.'"

This is something I've noticed in pop radio tunes over the last 10 years or so. Most pop-rock songs seem to have this haze of background rhythmic filler that makes them all sound same-y. It's like the studio thinks a couple of guitars, a bass, and some drums are not enough, so they have to add a wall of tambourines and shakers to fill in any "black" space. The real problem is that what should be background filler is pumped up into the foreground creating the "static" that old Bob is griping about.

Black space is golden.

Maybe I'm just getting old.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

the notebook

Kim and I had been thinking about getting a notebook computer and going wireless for a while. Last weekend, we finally got hooked up--or unhooked up.

It's crazy how much cheaper notebook PCs are now than they were 4 years ago, around the time I built my desktop system. I'm guessing that increased production capacity for LCD screens is a big factor. [Check out the falling prices for LCD HDTVs.*] I was able to get a notebook with a faster processor, 4 times more memory, and a DVD/CD burner for about the same price or slightly cheaper than my old desktop [sans DVD burner].

It's really nice to be able to "compute" from my couch, sitting on the floor, at the dining table, or anywhere in the house other than our depressing office. But the best thing about the new notebook is that it's quiet. My old desktop is really loud: it has a fan on the power supply, a case fan, CPU fan, and a fan on the video card. The resulting noise is something like that of a harrier jet hovering two feet over my head.

I'm still getting accustomed to the notebook keyboard. It feels like it's a full size keyboard, but it doesn't have the concave key surface like my desktop keyboards at home and work. I definitely make more mistakes on the notebook keys. I suppose I could plug in a full size USB keyboard if I decide to work on a novel or something like that [not likely]. But I could see us phasing out the old desktop and having the notebook as our sole PC.

Now I have to figure out what stuff I need to backup or transfer from the old desktop. There's four years worth of crap on there that I could probably live without but for some reason I've allowed it to languish on the old hard disk.

* LCD and plasma flat panel HDTVs are still way too pricey for me. But they seem to be dominating the floor space at the big box electronics stores. I think you can buy new "standard definition" tube sets for half a song, now. In a couple of years when I decide to board the widescreen/flat panel bandwagon, I will probably have to pay someone to take away my old Sony tube TV. Or I could give it the old Viking funeral in Lake Austin.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


A gracious friend has gifted me a 6-month trial of Netflix. I'm one week into the trial, and I think I'm liking it.

The first movie sent to my door was Quadrophenia. Why? The Who, that's why. For some reason I had The Who on my brain, and I thought I would check if Netflix had Quadrophenia. I'd never seen the whole movie. Of course they had it, so I decided to add it to my "queue." What I didn't realize was that, having no movies in my queue, it would be shipped to me immediately. So that was my first Netflix rental. And now I hate scooters and England.

Last night, we watched Metallica: Some Kind of Monster--a documentary film commissioned by the band. Unreal. Awesome. The film takes you fairly deep into some intimate shit with the band--bitter arguments in the recording studio, group therapy sessions with their quasi-therapist "performance enhanment coach", and much more. [I can only imagine the great stuff that got cut by Metallica.] It's so crazy to see how rich and arrogant these guys have become. They don't even bat an eye at the $40,000 per month that they pay their performance enhancement coach [who they employ for the better part of two years!]. Lars has a collection of million-dollar paintings and wears Dolce and Gabbana sunglasses. James has a different, custom hot-rod vehicle to match his every mood swing. Kirk owns a ranch with horses [WTF?]. But beyond that, it's fun to witness the group dynamic and watch egos clash as they struggle to put together some really awful material for their album, St. Anger. I'll stop there. If you haven't seen it, then go rent it now--even if you don't like Metallica.

We've also Netflixed The Matador [not too bad] and Brick [haven't watched yet].

Like I said--I like Netflix so far, but I don't think I've taken full advantage of the concept. I still feel like I should "ration" my movie picks. But the movies are essentially paid-for. So I need to get busy loading up my queue.

I wonder how much I'll like it when the free subscription ends, and they start billing me $18/month. That's approximately what it costs to rent 4 new-release DVD's at my local video place. Well . . . we've 'flixed four movies in seven days. And I like the idea of never having to go to the video store ever again. It's much cheaper than getting cable TV. I'd say there's a pretty good chance we'll continue after our 6 months is up.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

November Foxtrot Lima

This evening, I turned on the tube for some primetime opioids only to be blindsided by . . . Colts vs. Rams!

It's August 10th! I'm not ready for some football!

Or, am I?

I do love me some football--any kind of football but soccer [futbol] and Canadian football. I did enjoy the 10 minutes or so that I watched this evening. But pre-season NFL sucks, so I quickly turned my attention to other things. I don't want to spoil my appetite.

As much as I like the sport, I don't really keep up with the off-season or off-the-field wheelin' and dealin'. I just learned that Indy dropped Mike Vanderjagt and picked up Adam Vinatieri, the best clutch kicker in the game. But who cares? Apparently the Colts lost Edgerrin James to Arizona, where he's joined Matt Leinart and Larry Fitzgerald to become the Dennis Green Preservation Society.

And I'm reminded, Monday Night Football has moved to ESPN. I don't have cable. So that means I, your rowdy friend, will watch some PBS on Monday night. BUT . . . Madden and Michaels will be on Sunday Night Football [on NBC, no less], which I know is just going to throw my shit out of whack for about a month.

I have a bad feeling SNF isn't going to work out so well for me or for NBC.

"Boom! That's gotta hurt."

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

____ Adventures in HiFi: IKEA Edition

A few weeks ago I discovered the IKEAhacker blog, which is all about tweaking IKEA furniture and other items for alternate uses. The concept is right up my alley. Too bad none of the stuff posted so far is all that great. Well . . . the use of IKEA wardrobe doors as a room divider looks pretty smart [if you're into that whole modern thing].

One of the hacks I've always wanted to try is this hi-fi stand made out of IKEA Lack side tables, sometimes referred to as the "Lack Rack."

So this particular job may not look all that hot. [I have seen much better examples of this hack.] But you should see some of the god-awful hi-fi furniture that's out there--lots of expensive, shiny metal and glass monstrosities. If executed correctly, the Lack Rack can be effective, inconspicuous but attractive, and relatively inexpensive. The few rack systems out there that are effective and halfway attractive to me [Hutter; Isoblue; Quadraspire] cost about $700 to $1,000. For the hardware and 3 of the style of Lack tables pictured above, you'd probably spend about $100. With about 2 hours of hacking and assembly, you'll have something that is about as effective as the high-dollar options.

So what do I mean by "effective?" I don't know how to explain it without getting too geeky. Let's just say that what you place your audio equipment on may have a negative effect on the performance of the equipment. This effect is most obvious with turntables, but it can also make a difference with CDP's and amps. The IKEA Lack side table has long been heralded as one of the best [and cheapest!] stands for Linn and Rega turntables. Apparently the light-but-rigid construction of these little tables allows them to quickly disipate extraneous vibrations that could mess up your tunes.

Beyond the alleged sonic benefits of the Lack Rack, I'm just looking for something small and not ugly [but cheap] on which to place my hi-fi gear in the corner of the room where it won't be noticed. Right now, I've got everything set up on this "cabinet" thing I got at Goodwill 6 years ago.

blah. I gotta get rid of that thing.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Here's a couple of pics of one of the Grete Jalk side tables.

They need a good dusting on those slats underneath. I'd better get on that, now.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Is this thing on?

Most of July passed with nary a peep from yours truly. What's up?

Not much time for blogging, that's what. What little time I've spent online has been focused on home remodeling and design-related stuff. We've been thinking seriously about a kitchen remodel for quite a while. Kim contacted our realtor who referred us to a contractor who then referred us to two interior designers. One interior designer charges $200 per hour and the other $50 per hour. Time is money! So I decided we should pull together a fairly specific list of ideas [needs and wants] before we employ the services of a designer.

The more we think about the kitchen remodel, the bigger the project gets--expanding to a possible three-room remodel. Also, with interest rates rising and home values in Austin continuing to appreciate, we're starting to consider our current house as more of a long-term residence [i.e. we'll keep our modest, low-rate mortgage, thanks]. So now we're thinking about remodeling options that would probably require an architect rather than an interior designer. I'm on the lookout for cost-effective ideas . . .

Right now, I have a lot of friends and colleagues who have recently sold/purchased a home, have moved, or are in the process of purchasing and moving. So there's been much conversation about all things home related. I'm very happy to not be purchasing, selling, or moving right now or any time in the near future. I get stressed out thinking about it.

Last month, we also went in search of furniture--seeking a replacement couch and maybe a chair for our den. I haven't seen much in my price range [or even outside my price] that I really like. I'm certainly not willing to spend a lot of dough on something that is "just OK." So it could be a long time before we find something we both like. Anyway, our search for seating culminated in the purchase of a cool pair of "Danish modern" end tables at a local resale shop. The mark underneath the table top indicates they're designed by Grete Jalk [I'm guessing circa 1960]. We will probably not use them for seating. Maybe I'll post some pics. I wish I could find some more cool, old furniture like that.

I also bought some old records at Backspin, last month: Gang of Four - Solid Gold; Buzzcocks - Singles Going Steady; The Jam - All Mod Cons; Iron Maiden - Piece of Mind. I think it's pretty obvious I like to rock.

More to come . . . [?]