Sunday, September 29, 2013

Levin Minnemann Rudess

Levin Minnemann Rudess (or as I like to call it, Liquid Tension Experiment 3) is the debut album from a trio of progressive rock titans: Tony Levin on bass (King Crimson), Marco Minnemann on drums (The Aristocrats), and Jordan Rudess on keyboards (Dream Theater).

Let's just say these guys can play. And play they do right from the start. This is a tsunami of music that bowls you over. The sound, especially for a trio, is a richly layered giant sphere. Listening is like unpacking a steamer trunk overflowing with oddly shaped machine parts, antique jewelry, and indecipherable electronic gadgets.

Why not just take a listen to one track, Scrod. They've also got a second video on YouTube that's a compilation of bits from various tracks on the album. I get the impression that while these guys have the skills to play some serious music they aren't drinking their own bathwater. They're having fun and it shows.

Progressive rock like this isn't for everyone. It's got sharp edges, has a hidden surprise inside, and doesn't come with assembly instructions. Someone called prog the jazz of rock which sounds good until you try to think about jazz being the whatever of something else. Regardless, this is music that pays off in spades for those willing to listen.

The band's website is

I receive no compensation of any kind for this review.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Dead or Alive by Tom Clancy

It's been about five years since I last read anything by Tom Clancy. He was the author who kindled my interest in popular fiction back in the 1980s with The Hunt for Red October and he quickly became my go-to guy for "techno-thrillers." Later he lost a few points with me because of the rather slipshod editing of Rainbow Six (not the story itself).

Clancy and I last crossed paths with The Teeth of the Tiger, the first novel in the Jack Ryan Jr. story arc that features the son of his previous protagonist. Five years later I've finally gotten around to the second novel in that arc, Dead or Alive.

The good news is that the Jack Ryan universe is as comfortable for me as it ever was. The characters Clancy created are as real as they ever were and I was glad to get caught up with their current pursuits.

And of course, they're up to same old things. Without the former president's knowledge, Jack Ryan Jr. has taken a job at an organization known as The Campus. Brokerage firm on the outside, intelligence agency on the inside, Ryan Jr. and his colleagues - including John Clark and Domingo Chavez who have been ungracefully "retired" from the CIA - are trying to decipher what the terrorist leader known as The Emir is plotting. They end up paying a heavy price to learn that a strike at America's heartland is underway, a plot that if successful could change the landscape of our country for centuries to come.

Solid story, comfortable characters, counter espionage - they're all here in Dead or Alive. I don't regret getting reaquainted with Clancy (and his co-writer Grant Blackwood). It appears I'm about 4-5 books behind and I won't hesitate to start getting caught up. My review is based on the audiobook version with vocal talent provided by Lou Diamond Phillips. Although I was initially skeptical, he did a good enough job that after a while I forgot it was him.

I received no compensation of any kind for this review.

What makes a fool is...

Here's a little peak at Twinscapes, the upcoming February 2014 album from bassists Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree, Metallic Taste of Blood) and Lorenzo Feliciati (Naked Truth, Berserk).

Read about and see photos of dinosaur proto feathers in amber. Then never look at a chicken the same way again.

I know a guy who's a technical director at Dallas' Reel FX and who worked on Free Birds, a new animated, Thanksgiving themed flick coming this autumn to a movie palace near you. Watch the trailer then go see the movie.

Guys, when did you stop caring about your appearance? (Please, no one ask if I ever started.) Science tells us that dudes stop caring about their looks at age 46.

The 1961 Goldsboro Incident during which a B-52 disintegrated mid-air over North Carolina and in the process released its two 4 MT Mark-39 H-bombs made its way back into the headlines recently when The Guardian revealed supposedly new information that one of the devices came within a single electronic switch of detonating upon impact with the ground. Frankly, I didn't think this was news, having years ago read one account of all the safeties failing except one. For a good write-up of the incident read The final switch: Goldsboro, 1961 from Restricted Data, the nuclear secrecy blog.

How would you protect yourself from a 2,500 degree, 1,400 feet wide fireball? If you were an Apollo astronaut seeking shelter from a malfunctioning Saturn V, you'd take a 200 foot slide into the so-called rubber room, 40 feet beneath the launch pad. Great NASA history.

Schlitz is making a comeback. Schlitz.

Etsy seller Pretentious Beer Glass certainly has created a beautiful dual beer glass. (This is where I get blamed for aiding a certain reader's beer paraphernalia obsession.)
History of teh interwebs in horizontal scrolling timeline form. (The first browser, called WorldWideWeb, was developed in what year and on what type of computer?)

The average cost of a cable TV channel is 28 cents. One of the least expensive is MTV2 at 7 cents (apparently it doesn't cost much to hire the inbred white trash for their "reality" shows). But why is TNT one of the most expensive at $1.33? Are that many people watching reruns of Beastmaster 2?

Check out this video of the QF-16, an unmanned F-16 to be used for target practice.

Jet lag tip: don't eat for 12-16 hours before breakfast time in your new time zone. Then eat breakfast no matter where or when you are (i.e. even if it's 1am in mid-Pacific).

Denizens of Canadia: get ye to Triple O's, taste their poutine burger, and report thine opinion. (There is one obvious flaw in the photo of the burger. At a minimum, see if you can identify that.)

Beautiful and delicious: Fried Egg Font. Not photoshop, real honest frying. I especially like the inclusion of diacriticals. I'm too lazy to type them in HTML yet they fried them out of eggs. Incredible edible eggs.
Kinda like watching paint dry. Use this webcam to watch Texas A&M's Kyle Field be remodeled.

Which is different than watching birds poop. If we really wanted to latch on to technology hype we'd call it the 3D Poo Printer instead of just the Poo Printer. Regardless, an artist created an "exercise in social engineering" by manipulating finches to defecate the letters of the alphabet.

A British Cold Warrior, Ferguson Smith, has died at age 98.

The geographic center of Texas is just northwest of the town of Brady. How do I know this? Someone mapped the geographic centers of all 50 states.

Art and science collide in MRK's visualization of scientific theories.

Take a virtual stroll through Berlin's Stasi Museum (East German secret police).

Note the date 06 Sep 2013 for this is the date that Robert Fripp wrote: "The Seven-Headed Beast of Crim is in Go! mode." For those who don't speak Fripp, he is about to embark on the eighth version of the band King Crimson this time with seven players including three drummers (Gavin Harrison, Bill Rieflin, Pat Mastelotto), bassist Tony Levin, Mel Collins on sax, and guitarists Jakko Jakszyk and Fripp. Estimated time to album is one year.

This Civil War infographic from 1897 rivals Minard's graphic of Napoleon's Russian defeat of 1812.
Profit has been demonized. Profit is not a 4-letter word.

Shit, however, is a 4-letter word and is used in the book title Holy Shit: A Brief History of Swearing. (It seems like one of these swearing books comes out every year.)

If you like physics and the music of Queen give this a shot: Bohemian Gravity.

Any Spy vs. Spy fans out there from back in the day in MAD Magazine?

Google is now encrypting search meaning that if you have a website and are interested in knowing what terms people type in to Google to find your site you are now out of luck. Speculation says that Google did this to drive more people to be paid advertisers (who get the unencrypted results) or to foil spying by nefarious three-letter government agencies. Regardless, SEO is going to have to change.

The periodic table is an anal-retentive scientist's wet dream. So it behooves us (me?) to know its origins and thank Mendeleev (and Meyer too). Ask yourself, what is the only letter not used in an element's symbol on the periodic table. Then look here.

Fans of vintage radio will love this full-day recording from 1939 of a Washington, DC radio station. I like listening to the music.

Betabrand created a synthetic fleece so soft they call it Vagisoft. Unfortunately, the Vagisoft blanket is currently out of stock. If this fleece is truly that soft I'd make a hat.

 photo jiggly-butt-pudding_zpse41ae6d8.gif
Excuse me, but is your dessert twerking? jiggly butt pudding.

Normally I would link to this article only because of the selection of words in its title. Like this: Beaver. Anal. Secretions. But wait - there's more. These secretions include a compound called castoreum which is used. As vanilla-like flavoring. In food. That you eat. With your mouth. Poo hole secretions in your pie hole. You'll never look at a beaver the same way again. inability to take even his own good advice. ~William Faulkner, Light in August

Monday, September 23, 2013

InterStatic and Anthem by InterStatic

(This is my third attempt at writing this.)

InterStatic's self-titled second album will definitely be on my year-end list of favorite music. By the end of my first listen-through I was hooked and proceeded to listen to it exclusively for the next three days. Finally, playing it at home on a good audio system cemented my appreciation of it as more of its intimate details were revealed.

InterStatic is a trio consisting of Roy Powell (Hammond organ, Moog, and electronics), Jacob Young (guitars), and Jarle Vespestad (drums). InterStatic (the album) is comprised of 10 tracks: Stills, First Vision, Flatland 1, Washed Up, Reel Time, InterStatic, Water Music, The Elverum Incident, Americana, and Flatland 2.

What struck me first about InterStatic is Powell's use of the Hammond. His evocative playing of the organ gives InterStatic an undeniable charm, an analog patina that is vocal in its richness. But by no means is InterStatic a one-trick pony. These three musicians give new meaning to ensemble playing - each coaxes maximal breadth and depth of expression from his instrument while simultaneously demonstrating an effortless, balanced interplay with his bandmates. This is progressive jazz at its best.

One of my favorite tracks, Stills, which perfectly demonstrates the interplay of these three musicians. This tune makes me smile every time I hear it.

The band's first album, Anthem, was actually recorded under the name Young, Powell & Vestespad, the name InterStatic not being coined until the second album. To my ear it's a much more in the standard jazz genre (So in Love is a Cole Porter tune) although there are hints at what may be coming in the future. Anthem delivers nine tracks: Time Changes, Wayward, Body of Memory, Advance with Caution, So in Love, Anthem, Ă„qual, Elegy, When Time is All. The standout for me is the title track Anthem (please watch this YouTube video).

Any fan of progressive jazz should purchase InterStatic right now.

Of course, if you're also an engineer like me you'll also appreciate InterStatic's CD sleeve which features two views of streamlines over a wing - a side view and a top view, the latter showing the wing tip vortices. That's icing on the cake.

InterStatic is available from Rare Noise Records who have also posted a YouTube playlist of the band's work. The band's website is Roy Powell's website is

I received no compensation of any kind for this review.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Let parents bequeath to their children not riches...

DFW is the nation's happiest "city." Houston is #2. Ya'll come down to Texas and git yer grin on.

Darla Records is letting you stream the album Touch Tone by I Am Robot And Proud Of It today and who knows how much longer. It's OK - electronica with a pop feel.

Despite being a bit convoluted, psychology research shows "that music heard during childhood, likely reflecting the tastes of previous generations, would make a lasting impression on children’s autobiographical memories, preferences and emotional responses." In other words, the music your parents listened to has a lasting effect on you.

Richard Diebenkorn, Berkeley #44, 1955. Read about Diebenkorn and the problems of modern painting in The Rectangular Canvas is Dead. (Warning tl;dr)
William Deresiewicz wrote some of my favorite stuff on American Scholar but unfortunately he's not writing for them anymore. Browse his collection of essays.

Monty Python fans: would you be more or less inclined to see The Holy Grail after seeing this modernized movie trailer?

B-2 fans: tune in to the Smithsonian Channel for B2: Stealth at War.

Star Wars fans and webmasters: someone remade the Star Wars opening credits entirely with HTML and CSS.

Outer space fans: check out this 360 degree video of the moon made from LRO imagery.

The Feynman Lectures on Physics (Vol. I) are now available online. Time to begin reading.

You'll never be surprised by an out of date condiment again now that you have the periodic table of condiments.

The Museum of Online Museums makes it easy to find all the quirkiness you want. For example, the International Toothpaste Museum and the Gallery of Vintage TV Print Ads.

Neat programming tricks.

Literally, a beer belly.

The German word kummerspeck literally translates as grief bacon and means weight gain from emotional overeating. Grief. Bacon.

An infographic that's remarkable for its lack of surprises. In this map of NFL pass completion (color) and pass frequency (size) I see a slight bias from right-handed QBs throwing screens to the left and another bias toward downfield passes to the right side of the field.
From the WSJ of all places comes Should You Bring Mom and Dad to the Office, creepily subtitled Employers Are Embracing the Involvement of Parents to Attract and Hold On to Talent. Let's first stipulate to the fact that bringing your parents on an office tour after you're hired is a good thing - it shows them where you're working and whom you're working with. And parents are, of course, a great source of advice when you're considering job offers. But let me be very explicit: There's no place for mommy and daddy at the office. NONE. If you bring them to a job interview, the interview will be over before it starts. The lack of self-respect required to bring your parents to a job interview or a salary negotiation is mind boggling. If you are so weak that you need your parents' direct involvement with your employer my advice is to go back to live in their basement, crawl under the bed covers, and turn out the lights.
Combine animation, typography, and black and white line art and you get these portraits of Warner Bros. characters comprised entirely of typographical characters.
Ze Frank is back with True Facts About The Frog.

This was inevitable. Sen. John McCain countered comrade Putin's NYT editorial with commentary of his own in

This also was inevitable: Putin on the Ritz.
...but the spirit of reverence. ~Plato

Saturday, September 14, 2013

I'm in competition with myself...

In case you missed it, here is the most honest video on teh interwebs.

How did you feel the editorial the NYT ran for Comrade Putin?

You probably should've used some Poopourri before reading that.

Sam Francis, Basel Mural I, 1958. Image from HuffPo.
Sam Francis' paintings have always intrigued me. They remind me of a cross between Ad Reinhardt and Helen Frankenthaler. One of his Japanese influenced paintings, Untitled from Mako Series, 1967, is in the collection of The Modern here in Fort Worth. His current exhibition at the Pasadena Museum was nicely reviewed in the LA Times.


To ensure every child "wins", Ontario athletic association removes ball from soccer.

Someone ought to remove the balls from whomever came up with this glistening turd of an idea. PLEASE, someone tell me this is actually from The Onion.

This great photo of two F-117 Nighthawks is from a series by Code One Magazine celebrating Lockheed Martin Skunk Works' 70th anniversary.
Speaking of Skunk Works, legendary engineer Kelly Johnson lived by 14 rules and practices that served him quite well and would probably benefit many in industry today too. I like #10 regarding proposals; they should have "a specification section stating clearly which important military specification items will not knowingly be complied with and reasons therefore." In other words, being specific about what you're not going to do and why is a good thing.

How good is the internet connectivity where you live?

From the Things I Didn't Know You Could Hear department comes this 1972 interview with Moe Howard of Stooges fame.

The world's largest (only?) lunchbox museum.

Fix all your broken stuff with free guides from iFixit.

You can lose yourself for hours in Streamer, mapping rivers from source to outlet.
See slavery by county in this 1861 map.

Three phrases you probably won't ever see together again: China. Hello Kitty. Beer. While we're on that theme, how about this: Japan. Soft Serve. Beer foam.

Do you like to hear people talk about music? On Sid Smith's Postcards from the Yellow Room you'll hear stuff about Steven Wilson, Robert Fripp, Roy Powell and more.

The bad news: 3D printing is at the peak of the hype cycle. The good news, cloud computing is well over the hump.
Use 506 Sports to see which games will be on TV in your area.

Sometimes you're the rocket, sometimes you're the frog.
...and I'm losing. ~Roger Waters

The Endless Change of Colour by Marsen Jules & Faint by Taylor Deupree

Marsen Jules dips into Brian Eno's toolbox for Endless Change of Colour, his latest album for 12k, and a fine example of his brand of "modern ambience." Jules took a single phrase of an (unnamed) jazz tune and split it into three brief, offset, looping phrases that interweave over the course of a single, 47-minute track. (The Eno to which I refer is Discrete Music.)

Contrary to the title's implied temporal passage, Endless gives me the sense being in a world where time has stopped (I'm glad I wrote that before reading on Jules' website how the work was created) and sunlight has a tremulous solidity that's balanced just on this side of stridency. Again I can't help but compare Endless to Eno, this time Lux. Whereas Eno's Lux gives the sensation of thousands of uniquely lit jeweled facets, Endless is a continuum, a bell that rings continuously despite never having been struck.

Endless will not appeal to everyone. It's ambience at its minimalist best, just bordering on drone. The interplay of these three arrested musical moments creates a tension as you wait to be released from this trap, for time to start moving again. Whether you're reading, programming, or just relaxing, Jules' Endless Change of Colour provides a beautiful sonic palette.

To give you a little taste of Endless, here's a video with Jules and Anders Weberg.

You can learn more about Jules at his website,

Also from 12k comes Faint by Taylor Deupree.  Faint consists of five tracks (Negative Snow 9:37, Dreams of Stairs 11:13, Thaw 11:34, Shutter 8:48, and Sundown 12:40) with guitar contributions by Cameron Webb.

As compared to the stoppage of time in Jules' Endless, Deupree's Faint presents a sense of immediacy - not one of urgency but rather a sense of being in the moment. Through his use of electronics, tape loops, found sounds, noise, and other unidentifiable effects he creates a sonic yet natural landscape that evokes the sensation of a solitary early morning stroll through the woods. His dreamlike electronics surround you with a peaceful aura while the sounds and effects are guideposts that ground you to reality and keep you from getting lost.

Faint is definitely something I'd listen to primarily in the early morning when time is intimate, light is cool, and I need a quiet companion for my stroll to wakefulness.

Update: Here's a link to Deupree's website.

12k's entire catalog can be found online at

I received no compensation of any kind for these reviews.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

To live is to suffer...

Today's soundtrack is a live performance by The Aristocrats (Marco Minnemann, Guthrie Govan, and Bryan Beller).  I just recently learned about this group and their CD has already been ordered. Amazing progressive jazz. It sounds like a cross between Allan Holdworth and Stick Men. You can learn more about The Aristocrats on their website.

Too much for you? Chill out to Ellington and Coltrane performing In a Sentimental Mood.

I'm not a big movie watcher. But Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai is one of my favorite films of all time. If you've never watched it, you should. And it's been a long time since I saw his film Ran but I recall it being visually stunning. Because of all that, the article about Kurosawa on How Creatives Work was really interesting.

In case you think Miley Cyrus' twerking was the worst ever, at least she didn't catch on fire.

Looks like DFW has a lot of job openings.
Keeping in mind that the earth is spherical, 2D maps can sometimes visually distort things. For example, see just how big Africa is.

I thought renting tires was weird, but you can rent chickens. (2 hens, coop, feed for 7 months is $350)  From fowl to fish: a great graphical representation of 150 million years of evolution of the spiny-rayed fish.

I'm not a huge fan of photography, but you should checkout the gallery at Time is a Dimension.

I hereby name this newmoticon Ultra-Orthodox Hippie.
Ever wonder what Darth Vader's theme from Star Wars would've sounded like had Beethoven written it?

NASA lets you Spot the Station with this website that tells you where and when you can expect to see the International Space Station at your location.

For vintage NASA stuff check out this video about the computers onboard Apollo. (And if you haven't, I highly recommend the book Digital Apollo.)

NASA was offering social media credentials for the upcoming Antares launch on 17 September. I spent more time thinking about applying than you might have expected.

The periodic table of alcohol by designer mayra.artes on (How does a drink called Shit on Grass make the cut while a vodka martini doesn't?)
Interns - was your summer wasted or not? 30% of you want more real work. (For the record, we only give our interns real work. That's a mixed blessing because a lot of real work is real dull.) 28% of you had unpaid internships (which are illegal - if you're unpaid, you're a trainee and can't do anything that directly benefits the business).

Donald Sultan, Black and Colors, 2006 - Just learning about this artist and liking what I see.
Enjoy the MoMA's website for their 2011 exhibition de Kooning: A Retrospective.

Computer scientists, there are a few things that programming in an academic environment doesn't teach you about programming in the "real world" and that's OK. The main thing is you'll be coding for more people other than yourself.

Real-time social programming: Codeivate.

If you agree with the author that "calculus is one of the major intellectual achievements of Western civilization" but yet you still don't believe you fully "get it" here's Calculus for the Intelligent Person (as opposed to Calculus for Dummies).

What was asked was "Should MBAs learn to code?" What was answered was "Was it worth learning to code?" 83% yes. This goes back to one of the core platforms of the Business of Software conference - it's easier for tech people to learn the business than for business people to learn the tech. (But that isn't the relevant question either.)

My only regret is that YouTube only has a Like button and not a Love button for this and other videos about Lancelot Link.

Most of my aviation pr0n now gets posted to my Pinterest page but Lockheed Martin's Code One magazine has a great compilation of outstanding images from 2013.
Maurice Noble may be one of the most unknown artists of the golden age of animation. There's a new book about his work coming out soon that's already on my wish list at Amazon. Another artist who needs broader recognition is Eyvind Earle.

Listen to Scrod, a track from the upcoming Levin Minnemann Rudess album.

Steely Dan's Aja is one of my absolute favorite albums of all time. Here's a 1-hour video "rockumentary." 

Trey Gunn blogs about a recent solo/trio performance with Michael Manring and Allonso Arreola. Three bass players together? You just gotta watch the teaser video in his post.

James Jamerson's bass work on Steve Wonder's song For Once in My Life gets animated and cited as the pinnacle of his work.

More bass you say? OK, coming in 2014 is the collaboration between bassist Colin Edwin and Lorenzo Feliciati, Twinscapes.

It's been a long time since the last one. Here we see a red hot ball of lead and a gummy bear.
This may be one the scariest things on earth: the elephant's foot at Chernobyl.

Write your name in Runes courtesy of NOVA.

Or write it in the style of the new Yahoo! logo.
Suds: A photo set of beer labels. A list of the 15 least and most healthy beers. (Bass Ale is one of the least healthy, Guinness one of the best.) Speaking of Guinness, were you one of the collectors who plundered a treasure trove of original Guinness artwork? And now you can spread your beer on toast, in Italy at least.

Continuing the hot new trend of craftsmanship pr0n comes this multiple part series from John Neeman Tools. Making an axe, a chisel, a knife.

Eyal Gever's sculpture satisfied the Cold War/nuke fetish in me but you'll be surprised by how it's made.
Sorry. Nothing puerile or even silly to close with this week. (I couldn't get the farting Facebook Like button to work.) survive is to find some meaning in the suffering. ~Nietzsche

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Veil by Michael Bernier

Michael Bernier's Veil is a great follow-up to his 2011 release, leviathan. (my review). Bernier is joined on this work by Kandy Harris, Dave Bodie, Martin Keith, and Colin Almquist but otherwise seems to play most of the parts himself.  So while this Stick Men alum has created a showcase for his Chapman Stick playing, it's a bit more accessible than Stick Men or similar work (think Tony Levin et al). I don't mean that in a derogatory way, it's just that some people prefer smaller doses of progressive music.

What does that mean exactly? Except for two tunes, Falling Down Steps at 6:50 and Fretnetic at 7:13, everything else comes in at or below five minute mark. So no rambling opuses here. Without being restrained, each composition has more of a typical rock structure to it. So think humming along with the melody or the vocals. In a way, Bernier seems to be working around some of the preconceptions that people have of progressive rock.

I was immediately drawn to Falling Down Steps because of the title's similarity with Stick Men's Nude Ascending Staircase from their album Deep. While I doubt it was intentional, I imagine Bernier exhibiting a little self deprecating humor here. Unnecessarily, of course. Framed in a guitar-bass-drums rock format, FDS exhibits a great interplay of guitar and bass. Achilles' Heel on the other hand, has the guitar work ride effortlessly over a heavy bass line.

Kandy Harris' backing vocals are one differentiator of Bernier's music for me on both Veil and Leviathan. The harmonies they produce on Veil and Nothing New really elevate the instrumentals.

You can listen to and purchase Veil from Bernier's page on Bandcamp. I can't wait to see what he does next.

I received no compensation of any kind for this review.