Wednesday, May 27, 2009

ReverbNation



To your right you will see a new widget on the blog. It is the result of progress towards my New Year's resolution. Seven little rough hewn audio tracks composed and performed by little old me. Yeah, I wish they were a little more slick. A little more polished. But given all of the things competing for my time, I'm OK with it. I think it's listenable. I think it's even enjoyable, however I acknowledge my bias.

There are a couple more tracks in the pipeline. The most difficult part is coming up with drum tracks because I don't even casually play drums. So it's basically plugging them in beat by beat, or listening to loops for a couple hours to see if I can make something work.

I suppose when I'm as done as I'm going to get, I'll design a CD cover for it, just for fun. Anyway, I hope you'll take a listen and tell me what you think.
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And that's enough for now.

Brian Norwood

Platypi Online: The Platypus Portal

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Righteous Anger, Unrighteous Gas

So, you're probably asking yourself, what could have possibly ticked him off enough to pull him away from whatever he's been doing for 2 months to bring him back here. I mean, the blog is a little dusty. I really should tidy up. So what was it that caused a rant I can't hold back.

I got a case of bad gas.

Don't get me wrong, two bucks a pop is a LOT... LOT LOT LOT LOT LOT LOT LOT LOT... better than 4 bucks a gallon for gas. Thank you God, OPEC, Bush, Obama and/or who ever was involved in bringing them prices down. But those... (Christian friends look away) ...those DIRTY RAT BASTARDS at the oil companies know we'll wear a 2 year old pair of Payless Shoes into the freaking ground and eat "2 for 99 cents" tacos at Jack's to keep gas in our cars. They KNOW we have money. And they want it.

I almost screamed out loud when I pulled into a Valero (which, depending on if the nut job talking is a right wing or left wing nut job, either is or isn't Hugo Chavez gas) and saw that it was going to cost me 10 cents a gallon to USE MY CREDIT CARD!!!! I mean, we used to do this back in the 70's, back when I knew exactly one human being that had a real honest-to-God magic plastic rectangle with the words "Diner's Club" on it, that let him buy stuff and pay for it later. These, however, are different days. Days in which you do not have to be a citizen, have a real address beyond a rented PO Box, or even HAVE AN ACTUAL JOB to get a credit card. Heck, a properly motivated (or improperly motivated if you will) person can even get a credit card with SOMEONE ELSE'S NAME! The plastic rectangle is more tragic than magic now. We stopped this barbaric practice of punishing card users years ago. Even Carl's Jr., who actively seeks to KILL US by piling ever more amounts of cheese, bacon, fried foods, chili, burbon and even PASTRAMI on our burgers, and charges you (!) a fee to use your ATM card (!!), doesn't charge to use a credit card. It's evil. It's wrong. Screw you guys, I won't pay it!

So, I took out my right out of my bank account, same as cash debit card to get gas. THERE IS A FORTY FIVE CENT TRANSACTION FEE TO USE MY ATM CARD. That's right boys an girls, unless you have a rectangle of greenish paper with a portrait of a dead president (or at least a dead inventor) on it, Valero is going to take money out of your pocket for no other reason than because they can.

All this fee crap was OK when we were building an electronic infrastructure to make these payments possible. That infrastructure has long been in place and this practice needs to stop. After earning our money, and after the Feds, State, City and now VENDOR take their share, we are starting to feel DAMN LUCKY to have 55 cents left to our dollar.

I'm sure Valero makes what I might call a "shload" of money doing this, but NOT OFF ME. Not only am I already in the habit of pulling out cash to buy my comic books through the time tunnel to the Stone Age where I get them, but I bank at B of A. Maybe a lousy bank, but if you tripped and fell off the International Space Station and plummeted to Earth, a Bank of America Automated Teller Machine is on the list of things you are most likely to hit; along with a Starbucks, a Walmart, a McDonald's and somebody "working the sign" on a freeway off ramp.

Yep, I'm that stubborn. Not only will I go pull out cash to get gas, after I do it, I might decide Valero really didn't need ANY of my money. Sadly, however, I must be a revolution of one, because I see now that Shell is pulling the same stunt with their gas. Now, this might seem trivial, so let's do the math. I fill up my standard 12 gallon tank once a week. I get decent gas mileage and, I DON'T COMMUTE. At 10 cents a gallon, that's $62.40 a year. Not a giant amount of money. But I can think a million things I'd rather do with 62 dollars than just give it to Valero for the privilege of buying their gas. If you just fill up for the day, that's $1.20, which is a 20 ounce soda, something off the value menu at a fast food place or, pretty much lunch at Costco.

A big chain like Valero MIGHT pay 25 cents plus 1 percent a transaction to take credit cards. I know much smaller places that pay even less than that. And, that charge is ALREADY priced into what they charge for gas. It has to be, because they have been taking credit cards without charging for about 20 years, if memory serves.

This is free money for businesses. And the only way a business is going to turn down free money is if it costs them sales. So expect this trend to gather steam if we don't nip it in the bud. And after the FED taxes us, The state taxes us, the city taxes us, and all the vendors start taxing us, that 55 cents on the dollar will start to actually look pretty damn good.

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And that's enough for now.

Brian Norwood

Platypi Online: The Platypus Portal

Saturday, January 24, 2009

You say you want a resolution...

100_4667.JPGFirst, sit down, take a deep breath and sip some water. Yes, this is a new blog post. Relax. Now, down to business.

I don't really believe myself to be all that remarkable. Sure, I have lots of talents, and I'm pretty bright. But when your social sphere consists primarily of talented, intelligent people, you are allowed to rest in the normalcy of what has been given to you. Most people I know are either really smart, really talented or both. So this is how it is possible that someone so many people see as exceptional can have so little faith in his abilities.

On Christmas day, in my 16th year, my parents gave me a gift. It's sitting in the next room, although much the worse for wear, and probably in it's last functional days. I shall never forget the words inscribed on it. Kimberly VIP 4. What I know now that I didn't know then, it that a Kimberly VIP 4 is a cheap, short scale Japanese knock off of a Gibson EB-2 Electric Bass. But none of that mattered. What mattered back then is is was a REAL bass guitar. And,it was mine. I didn't know how to hold it, or how to tune it. But on that very first day, I made music. Really terrible, un-amplified, music wrought with tempo fluctuations, but I made music. What I didn't know then, that I know now was that the notes I chose were the foundation of rock and roll, the Root, the 4th, and the 5th. I IV V. The legendary three chords, that when coupled with the "truth", made some of the most significant music of the later half of the 20th century.

I got pretty good at playing bass, growing past the Kimberly (for the time being)and beginning what would become a life long love affair with Fender. And, since the concept was essentially the same, being a good bassist brought being a fair guitarist along with it. But, I distinctly remember the next milestone, as it was also a Christmas. In college, it seemed pianos were everywhere, and I was fascinated by them. I plunked at them (how awful those first sounds must have been) sometimes bringing a guitar with me, to translate the chords I could finger on guitar to this wonderful new... "thing" I was playing with. Having already been a geek for sometime, my music director asked me to take home the group's Yamaha SY77 to learn how to edit patches and program sounds. To accomplish this, I sequenced out a crude, rudimentary orchestration of "Agnus Dei" by Micheal W. Smith. This frustrating process, that after a month resulted in two and one half minutes of actual music, gave me a quick and dirty crash course in sequencing, melody, harmony, note choice and note duration, that continues to inform my efforts to this day.

And, maybe you guessed it, two years later at Christmas time, I laid the final piece of the foundation. For two weeks, I borrowed a Tascam 8 Track Porta-Studio. It recorded, miraculously, 8 separate tracks to a standard cassette tape. And I used every spare second of those two weeks, to record all manner of of things, layered A Capella voices, multiple tracks of bass and guitar, and various sounds from a friend's Korg N365. Now, I had by no means arrived. Rather, I was now a complete seed. And I spent the next few years germinating. Sometimes I tended the seed. Other times, I tended to other artistic expressions. But they all seemed to inform each other.

So, what's my point? My point is, I had been waiting all this time for "it" to happen. Then, I finally made peace that "it" never would. And yet, the desire was still there. And I took an inventory. And all of the pieces are there, as good as I will probably ever get them. I have a couple good guitars. I have a couple good basses. I have a couple good mics. I have Garageband on the Mac, and I have Cubase on the PC. And, I have songs, although I am too close to know for sure that they are "good" songs. I think the time has past to make a "real" record at a "real" studio. And yet, I believe I must do this thing. Not to make a definitive "statement", because there are people a lot better than me at everything I do, but rather, to enter into the conversation.

So, because I have a toddler and I am still somewhat sane, I am giving myself one year. And in one year (or less if all goes well) I will have in my hands, my record. It won't be perfect, I don't have the time or the tools (or perhaps the talent) for perfect. At this point, I don't know if I will be alone, or invite others in. I am no drummer, so there will be loops and samples which may sound cheesy. But, I will have it. And, since I have no desire any longer to be a rockstar, or leave my family for tours, or be subject to the self serving contracts of record labels, I suppose when I have it, I will simply give it away. That's my resolution for 2009. God help me, the clock starts.... now.

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And that's enough for now.

Brian Norwood

Platypi Online: The Platypus Portal

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

nuff said.


Serious ADHD Likely!

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And that's enough for now.

Brian Norwood

Platypi Online: The Platypus Portal

Monday, November 03, 2008

Some practical advice for purchasing guitars on Craigslist.

Guitars. I love guitars and think everyone should own and play one. But before you buy one, I'd like to offer you some practical information.
Many manufacturers have 3 levels in their product line. Domestic, Import and Budget. Example; The Fender American series is it's top of the line pro series. Imports would be guitars from Mexico Japan and Korea bearing the Fender brand. Budgets would be the Squire line. This means the very best Squire has less resale value than the most basic Mexican Fender. The grim reality is that import Fenders lose about 50% of their value the minute you pay for them. Sounds harsh, but if your Mexican Strat was 400 dollars and you try to sell it for $300, many buyers are willing to pay the extra hundred dollars to have a new, in box guitar. Budget guitars lose about 60% of their value. And this is only the higher end Squires. Affinity Series Squires are almost not resalable. The New-in-box price is so low, very few people would be willing to settle for a used instrument.

Buyers, do not be fooled! Squires do not bear the Fender logo for a reason. If a guitar is listed as a Fender, it should say Fender on the Headstock. Insist on a clear picture of the headstock. Many sellers try to deceive buyers by using the Fender name to describe a Squire. Steer clear of these sellers.

Another brand frequently lied about is Takamine. A domestic Takamine is a fine, pro level guitar made in Japan. It is instantly recognizable by It's slim head stock. Fatter head stocks indicate a G Series import. They should sell for much less. A Jasmine is the least expensive of the line, and again, the new-in-box price is so low, these should be VERY cheap.

So, here are a few hierarchies to remember.
  • Fender Custom Shop > Fender American > Fender Import > Squire > Affinity Squire
  • Takamine > Takamine G Series > Jasmine
  • Adamas > Ovation Custom > Ovation > Ovation Celebrity > Applause
  • Gibson > Epiphone
  • Hamer USA > Hamer XT > Slammer
  • ESP > LTD
  • Warwick > Rockbass
And one more thing. If the guitar is strat copy made in China, in my opinion, these are pretty much the same guitar, whether they say Squire, Slammer, Dean, Peavey, Epiphone, Jay Turser, Arbor, Piece Of Crap or any of a hundreds of names. Don't pay a lot for a used Chinese strat, as these can usually be had new for less than 100 dollars.

And this whole post assumes the guitar is in like new condition. Demand discounts for scratches, dings, discolorations and missing accessories. If the strat doesn't have a whammy bar (it came with one) a replacement is about 10 bucks, plus your time and travel. Demand a discount. Same with pick guards on Gibson style instruments.

I also suggest Cash only transactions and meeting in a public place. I bought a small battery powered amp for testing guitars in the Starbucks parking lot.

Hope this helps. I'll add to this post as things occur to me.
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And that's enough for now.

Brian Norwood

Platypi Online: The Platypus Portal

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tolerance is a dirty word.

Don't get me wrong. I wish we could all, to reference the philosopher Rodney King, "get along". I don't really hate anyone on a person to person level, though I can say I hate groups of people, say, freeway drivers, mall crowds, and most of the time, teenagers. I hate people who talk too loud on cell phones in public, and people who talk on cell phones and drive. I hate people who jay walk. And I REALLY REALLY hate with a passion, people who refuse to get out of line to scratch lottery tickets. (I know I should love EVERYONE, but that's another post) So, the fact that I tolerate these people should tip you off that tolerance is not and act of love, or really even an act of "like".

I'm sorry liberals the world over, LOVE is corrective, and instructive. Love forces you to refuse to tolerate your son's drug abuse. Love will not let you tolerate your brother abusing his wife. Love will not let you tolerate theft, or vandalism. Love will not let you tolerate laziness or ignorance. And when you do tolerate these things, it is an act of petty selfishness. Leave me alone, and go do what you want. I've felt that before. I've SAID that before. And it's not an attitude born of love.
In science, tolerance is how much something is allowed to deviate from the standard or norm. And it's a good thing to keep tolerances pretty tight. Interesting then that people who allegedly claim this same world view are the biggest proponents of keeping social tolerance as loose as possible.

So, liberally, who do I not tolerate? I guess they would say I do not tolerate other religions. And I guess they'd be technically right, but practically wrong. I can co-exist with people who do not believe as I do, even like and love them. But to tolerate them would be to abandon them to their fate, deny the truth of Christ, and cease to care whether they lived or died spiritually, and possibly even physically. Do I tolerate people? All the time. But it's to my shame and it's certainly no compliment. And I am sure I will have to give an account for it, and the thought makes me tremble.

So the liberal will say, "but they don't believe in Christ." Well, I do. I believe it is the truth, and I believe it is a truth with grave consequences. So what am I to do? Leave them be? That is NOT LOVE. True, Jihads and Fatwas are not love either, but vigorous debate and apologetics is absolutely in order. The Crusades, The Inquisition? Pure evil. But the evil of men does not taint the Love of God or the Redemption of Christ. I have enough physical and spiritual conviction that I MUST preach Christ crucified for the sins of Man and raised again to redeem him, or I am a liar and a villain! And to "let them be" tempting as it is, surrendering to the temptation as I often have, is NOT in any way an act of love, and is in fact an evil unto it's self.

Do we preach Christ with the sword and the stick? May it never be so!! There is no greater corruption of the truth than to suggest we make belief compulsory. But to not raise an objection to the evil that men do? It's not right, and I hope I never tolerate it.
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And that's enough for now.

Brian Norwood

Platypi Online: The Platypus Portal

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Is Intellegence Enough?

I'm a pretty bright guy (I've allegedly had that quantified, but I'm so distrustful of numbers these days). And I know a lot of bright people. I know a lot of extraordinarily bright people who do incredibly stupid things. (I also know some allegedly mundane people who make some startlingly insightful observations.) This being the political season, we are seeing one perfectly intelligent person sit down with another perfectly intelligent person and tear at each other like rabid dogs because each is absolutely convinced they are right, and that their counterpart is a total blathering idiot. Now, how is this possible?

Well, say we had a 5 horsepower circular saw. Since most saws of this type are about 2 1/2 hp, this is a pretty powerful saw. So, the carpenter takes the saw in hand approaches a piece of wood. He runs the saw the length of the wood only to discovery he has made a crooked cut.

Now, another man has a huge pile of bricks. He is a bricklayer, and he mortars the bricks together and builds and builds only to find he has built a crooked house.

In both of these cases, the power of the tool was part of the problem. The saw was so powerful, it exerted drift, causing a crooked cut. The brick and mortar were so strong, they could support the weight of the house even when not laid true. So it is with intellect. It's a tool, a raw material, and it's power is part of the problem. An intelligence bridled with imagination can create any number of interesting, internally logical things that have no basis in reality.

A carpenter puts a guide or fence on his saw. A bricklayer uses a level and plumb to lay bricks straight. But what does a thinker affix to his intelligence to keep it straight?

One thing might be wisdom. But what is wise? We can test for intelligence, but wisdom? It is a more ethereal thing. The premiere thinker Doogie Howser, M.D. once said to his father "I'd trade a whole lot of my intelligence for a little bit of your wisdom". I think a great place to look for wisdom is in the past.

One example is slavery. Intellectually, slavery looks great. What better way to build a nation than with free labor? You'd have to feed, house and clothe your slaves of course, but after that, all of the rest of your resources could be channeled into building great things.

But wisdom taps you on the shoulder. Human beings have done this before. This nation has done this before. And you realize, degrading human beings in to positions of slavery usually ends in violent revolt. Also, using slave labor doesn't produce the kind of growth and wealth you might think it would. In this country, the "free" North was always more prosperous than the South, even without slaves. And, although no one alive in this country was ever a slave or ever owned a slave, there is still a lot of anger a guilt over the issue, and rightfully so.

So, why aren't we questioning the wisdom of building a virtual slave labor class in the underpaid, under protected illegal alien work force? Are we building resentment? Are we displacing and disadvantaging low skilled workers from our own nation? Are we depressing wages? Are we justifying it economically? Are we sowing the seeds of our next revolution? Yes, I think we are. And I don't think saving 20 cents on a head of lettuce is worth it.

But, this is only one example of the extremely bad decisions we are capable of when we make a god of human intellect. For one thing, intellect on it's own seems incapable of transcending human greed. Sure, I want my daughter to grow up intelligent. But I will teach her that intelligence may be necessary, but is certainly not sufficient for success. And, I guess I'll have to teach her there are various ways to gauge success, but that is another blog post entirely.
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And that's enough for now.

Brian Norwood

Platypi Online: The Platypus Portal

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Fantastic Trailer

Ok, Youtube reposts are kinda lame. But I LOVED this trailer for the new Hellboy movie.

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And that's enough for now.

Brian Norwood

Platypi Online: The Platypus Portal

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Massively Multi-Tasking Offline Real Playing Game

100_3489.JPGWell, it's indeed been a while. I can't apologize for that, as our band has been very busy the last couple months and I'm pretty happy about it. Adding a Beach Boys tribute to our repertoire, while not being the most exciting idea to me at first, has opened us up to a whole new group of paying customers. Throw in a little Jan & Dean, Ventures, Surfaris and Jimmy Buffet and we are THE band for your beach themed party.
It's payed well enough, that I got GAS (that's Gear Acquisition Syndrome, a serious medical disorder). I acquired a red Fender American Deluxe Strat with a flamed maple top. It has single coils in all positions and sound more "era appropriate" and "surfy" than my hot rodded, humbucker equipped MIM Black Strat (which may still be the more "fun" of the two guitars).
Then after weeks of agonizing and calling or talking to almost every guitarist I knew and playing through at least 20 All Tube and Hybrid amps, I went for the All Tube, 50 Watt Peavy Valve King 112. Now, I know. I've cracked many a Peavy joke over the years, mostly about their (still) ugly logo and their Bomb Shelter like construction. But I've also owned a Peavey or two, and I was comfortable with the brand (unlike the 3 or 4 Crate amps I looked at).
It was a process. I decided fairly quickly a Hybrid wasn't going to get it for me. I was looking to replace a Fender Twin Reverb I'd been borrowing. And with the new Strat being much quieter than the older one, I decided I probably needed 50 watts over the 30 watt amps I'd been looking at. At that point, it came down to bang for the buck. And the Peavey was channel switching, had reverb, and had a control to dial out one of the power tubes for a pseudo Class A circuit (which is quieter for smaller gigs). That and I turned it pretty much all the way up at Sam Ash and the clean channel stayed clean. Pretty impressive.
So, as I write this, I have another gig tonight in Diamond Bar. So, i better get going. Hope you are all doing well.
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And that's enough for now.

Brian Norwood

Platypi Online: The Platypus Portal

Monday, April 07, 2008

Another Blog?

I know, your saying "You gotta be freakin' kidding me, you hardly write for THIS blog." I know, and I'm not sure how it'll go. But, I eat out a lot. Too much really, but that's another issue. I eat out a lot, and sometimes it's great, and sometimes it's crap. I've often wanted to have a way to let people know what I was experiencing, to praise the good, and offer some criticism for the bad.
So, I've started "Eating I.E.", a place where I can offer up an informal review of the places I've been. If you aren't local, I don't know that it has anything to offer you, save you can see just how often I eat out. But I thought I'd announce it, since I've eaten out three times since last Thursday. This is no competition for West's great Caddywampus Cafe where West manages to cook for himself (and the family).
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And that's enough for now.

Brian Norwood

Platypi Online: The Platypus Portal