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Today In CA

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Over 453 Served


5/23 Holding Pattern

In the last two weeks I’ve been all across Matsunoyama, Tokamachi and Tokyo, seen a super-cool animation exhibition, hung out with Darcey who is visiting from America and ate a lot of spaghetti. And Vice City is finally out here. Today I went on a group hike through the Matsunoyama wilderness. I will update you with all the details the next time I update the site but for now here is a picture from Harajuku.

Harajuku Goths

“So I turned on the TV and the only thing that was on was the news…in Spanish. And as I watched the news in Spanish I was reminded of all the things that I’ve never understood, like Spanish…like high school calculus… like astro-physics…like Diana.” –The Glen Roosevelt 5

5/10 Today’s Word is “Snark”

Did you hear that Sofia Coppola is dating Quentin Tarantino? I know, I know. What sort of movie will she make when she breaks up this time?

4/25 Yeah, Hella

I’m all about the Keyco album “Summerholic” lately. If you like UA’s “Turbo” and you like Justin Timberlake (or early Michael Jackson) I can nearly mathematically derive that you’ll like Summerholic too. It’s as though someone has stolen UA’s voice and gone karaokeing to Mariah Carey (wait, that sounds awful).You'll find it's like UA but less emotional to listen to.

I was going to write about how summery it’s been lately and then it started snowing yesterday (admittedly half-assed snow and I was wearing a t-shirt inside but still). That hasn’t stopped the snow from nearly completely melting away or the frogs from being HELLA loud though. Like, I had to watch Soderbergh’s “Solaris” with the English subtitles on because I couldn’t hear the dialog over the frogs. They are that loud.

So…why can’t I find a mate by being hella loud?

Anyway, have you ever noticed that a certain Nick Currie looks an awful lot like Vincent Van Gogh?

Van GoghMomus

4/18 Szkandelous Music

What a difference a reformat makes! There was some sort of weird and invisible demon/virus/lobster eating system processes on my computer so I decided a complete reinstall was in order. And my how much happier my computer seems.

I have made a song. Actually, song is too strong a word, I was making a song and got sidetracked with another project while trying to decide on how to move towards the chorus of the first song. However, I've been getting a lot of requests to hear what I've been working on and I didn't want you guys to have to wait until I completed the new project to hear a sample so I threw together something super quick.

You can find the "song" here. But before you listen to it I want you to know that this is NOT what my music will sound like (some might even describe this song as "embarrassingly bad"). Each element you hear composes the basic skeleton of a verse to a more rock-like song. In the case of a real song they'd be played all together, combined with vocals and properly mixed.

Here each piece is thrown together with violence into an ambient-techno progression. I didn't want to devote too much time to something I'll be changing drastically in the future and I can string techno tracks together in my sleep (Ditto for the drum fills. I spent a total of maybe six hours sequencing the drum fills, organizing the song and mixing which is next to nothing). If the majority of music composition is similar to solving a puzzle, today's song is more representative of me grabbing a hand-full of puzzle pieces and organizing them by color. In short, mathematical and artless.

So, I thought I'd take this opportunity to do a band introduction and talk a little about how I made the song.

System Setup

Ok, all the way on the left and not visible in this picture is my new electro/acoustic guitar which features prominently in today's demo song.

Juno Electro/AcousticEpiphone '56 Goldtop Les Paul

The acoustic is an Indonesian-made Juno I found new for $200 in Tokamachi. I was looking for a microphone cable at the time I found it and was so impressed with the price/quality ratio that two months later when I was looking for an acoustic I knew this was the one. On the right is a little better picture of my '56 Goldtop Reissue. Just so you know, it's pretty much all budget gear here.

I have a really strange set-up. Most people plug their guitars into amplifiers and then record the amps with a microphone. Instead, I wire my guitars through a BlueTUBE tube pre-amp (slightly visible to the right of the Les Paul Goldtop) and then into the vocoder-in on my microKorg synthesizer for EQ and some effects processing (chorus and delay/reverb mostly).

Korg microKorg Synthesizer

Of course, I also use the synthesizer for general analog synthesizer goodness and midi input for my software. The major baselines and bird-like synth lead of the sample song all come from the microKorg. There are many things I love about my synth, not the least of which are the huge basses, vocoder, and small footprint (perfect for small Japanese houses) but perhaps my favorite feature is the retro look and 70's stationwagon-style wood siding.

By running my guitars through the synthesizer I am able to consolidate all of my inputs into one stereo line which runs to my firewire Audiophile soundbox (in between the blueTUBE pre-amp and spare hard drive).

Rack Setup

I've been pretty happy with my Audiophile though the sound driver is still a little buggy. However, the sound quality is impressive and I like having 2 stereo-outs and a midi-interface all in one place.

From there the audio is converted to bits and processed through my computer.


When I have need for an electric guitar lead (and once they fix the awesome program Jack which has issues with the Audiophile driver) I'll be running the signal through Apple's Garageband software for further amplifier and effects processing but for now all sound-in goes directly to Logic Express for sequencing. On top of Logic, I run Reason for additional synthesizer and drum sequencing (all drums and the 303-like synth bass that appears in the middle of the song come straight from Reason).

Logic and Reason

You can see from the screenshot just how shady the drum-fills I laid-out for the song are. Sooner or later I'm going to get around to writing real-time filtering effects plugins via Max/MSP but for the time being Logic and Reason are my workhorses.

Well, that turned out a bit longer than I intended!

P.S. The song is untitled because it's not really a song yet.

4/9 I Cry Sometimes When I Lie In Bed

This is a little embarrassing but when I was in junior high school I was completely in love with the 4 Non Blondes. Like, buying-Linda-Perry's-solo-album (Linda Perry, of course, being the lead singer of 4 Non Blondes) in love. Like, "About ready to beat down some Hare Krishnas when they hijacked my hippied out campfire rendition of 'What's up' by singing 'Hare hare' over the entire song" in love, even.

So, in 2000 when I had to trek across San Francisco because the only record store on the planet that she agreed to sell her new album "After Hours" at (or quite possible, the only record store that agreed to pick her up after leaving a major label and releasing the mediocre "In Flight") was the Amoeba Records in SF, I did so more as a last rights ritual for an old friend than out of any belief that the album would be good. "After Hours", with it's Haight Street Led Zepplin sound, was at once both cheesier and better than "In Flight". It wasn't particularly good by any standard though.

I figured that after leaving a good pop-blues band to release two mediocre and generic solo albums and eventually founding a record label that released albums to exactly one record store, Linda Perry was on a one-way trip to the Haight/Ashbury coffee shop circuit.

So, you know the new Courtney Love single "Mono"? I found out today that Linda Perry co-wrote that. Apparently she also has writing credits for Christina Aguilera and Pink.

4/9 Roman Porsche is the Best Band Ever...

...and I am not using hyperbole when I say I laughed for hours after reading this.

P.S. Anyone know why I have been getting hit from a JPop forum?

Roman Porsche

4/1 Matsunoyama Gaiden

The end of March is the end of the professional year in Japan. Students graduate (unlike in America where we graduate in the summer) and government occupational contracts all end on March 31st. The upper tier of my pre-school kids all graduated too. They made me this picture:


I wanted to cry when I saw they’re highly Japanized portrait of me. They are Kirin-gumi softly.

The government’s occupational contracts run three years at the end of which most people end up getting transferred to another division of the government (for example my boss in the Department of Education used to staff the tax offices). Since a little less than a third of the entire governmental staff of Matsunoyama end up transferring positions every year on exactly March 31st, there’s always a slough of farewell and welcome parties around this time of year. I went to one yesterday, one on Monday and there was supposed to be another one today.

I don’t know what’s wrong with the people of Matsunoyama but it seems like whenever we have big drinking parties (i.e. electively pouring poison into our digestive system) we inevitably have the wackiest, most stomach-churning combination of foods to complement our varieties of alcohol. Japan has wonderful drinking foods: ramen, chicken karage (deep-fried chicken) and gyoza just to name a few. But we always end up getting some lukewarm sweet and vinegary (not at all like sweet-and-sour but thanks for playing) or fishy item. Afterwards they bust out the delicacies. Merzbow June was once forced to eat raw horsemeat at a drinking party (nomikai).

The last time we partied with the entire government staff of Matsunoyama was at our Bounenkai (the end of year…or alternatively, the “forget the year” party). I kept shoving the sweet/sour type of food into my mouth eyeing the broth next to me. People were asking me if there was any sort of foods I couldn’t eat…they pointed to a boiled block of not-yet ripe fish eggs still hardened into the exact shape they were when scraped from whatever fish the eggs had come. I took a bite and the eggs crunched, but otherwise it wasn’t so bad. My Japanese colleagues began to feel bad about having me try weird things, so they recommended I try these balls floating in the broth because they were “tasty” and wouldn’t be hard for me to eat (entirely seriously). I take a bite and it tastes kinda weird, so I ask what it was. My coworker furrowed his brow for a second and said “fish-no-seieki”. “Huh?” I think to myself…”clearly this man did not just say that the food that he thought I would like was FISH SEMEN”…so I point to the ikura (the red fish roe you see on sushi) on my plate, then back to the balls, make a stirring motion with my chopsticks and ask if that would make a fish…my coworker laughs and says “yes, good illustration”.

Yo! My mouth is not a fish fertility clinic.

So, yesterday’s party was an experience of similar caliber:


No, no, no not like a shrimp with the head still on…I mean like…


…a plate of locusts (What?) Or:


On the left we have my dear friend sea snail (the toothpick comes stock), the middle is takenoko which is some sort of vegetable that isn’t so bad in that it tastes like artichoke, and on the right we have…brains? I don’t know it, scared the hell out of me and I most certainly wasn’t going to put it in my mouth. The guy next to me said that it was an indescribable internal organ of a fish who’s name I had never heard. F…orget that sh…tuff, I’m staying with the yellow pickled cabbage.

Anyway, it’s gradumacating, job-a-changing season congratulations to Kei and Brian for making it out of college and Yuriko and Holly for finding new jobs.

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All works this site copyright D. Szkoropad, 2001-2003 unless stated otherwise. This means don't steal it or I'll tell your mother on you. Domo-kun copyright NHK.

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