Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Elmer's Mailing List

So, um, it has been awhile since I've posted anything here, including news about the new band . . . Elmer's Big Brain Theory.

After the demise of Blue Gene Therapy, I took some time off from playing with other people. Being in a band is pretty emotional for me and I just needed time by myself. Just as I was starting to feel the itch to play with others, an old friend contacted me about electronic drumkits. Turns out my old friend, Jesus, was feeling an itch of his own to get back to playing drums. He thought BGT was still a going concern so his inquiry was more of a "does your drummer like your electronic drums?" kind of question.

Little did he know.

He came by to play my drums, and after a couple of jam sessions he brought his friend Roger along to play bass. The three of us hit it off rather well and I begged another friend of mine, Mike, who I knew plays guitar to join in.

A few weeks later someone said, "so, I guess we should have a name, right?". Now, naming a band is an intense process. Names were bandied about and nothing really stuck. One of the names mentioned at this point was "Big Brain Theory", based on an article Roger read in the New York Times.

It was a cool name, but I thought it sounded a little . . . full of ourselves. And being from DC, I feared a backlash from any Bad Brains fans. While we continued to bandy about names, Jesus got into the habit of calling the stuffed moose who sits on my drumkit (he's a pretty small moose) "Elmer" and at some point joked about calling ourselves Elmer's Big Brain Theory.

My initial reaction wasn't overly positive, but the more I thought about it I liked the "silliness" aspect including the name and figured it would separate the name enough from the Bad Brains so there might not be so much backlash (whether or not this will be the case remains to be seen). I'm not really sure how the others, including Jesus and Roger, feel about the name. It may have just been an effect of attrition. Dunno. Anyway, we have a name.

Things are progressing slowly as we all have real adult lives, but it's fun and progress is being made.

So, here's the obligatory links:


and via ReverbNation we have a mailing list collector:


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

radio hidebound down for a little while

We lost electricity long enough this morning that the radio hidebound computer had to be restarted. Because of the "winback.exe" infection, this restart made it necessary to start a complete system recovery, i.e. resetting the computer back to the original facotry configuration.

It will be a few hours before we're back broadcasting again. Sorry.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

just testing since I fear I'll need to be using this space for updates on the pending problems with the computer running radio hidebound.


Monday, September 10, 2007

and one of my own, because I am

You are 100% Scorpio

Damn Straight!

I suck

ganked from Rosie

Candy Cigarettes

You're a total badass, but you don't taste very good.

Strange Daze

it's my night for quizzes, ganked from Zippychik (why no one tags me surprises me not one lick)

You Are 63% Strange!

Based on your score, it seems you do have a healthy dose of strangeness. You aren't THAT far out, but you are somewhat bizarre. Congratulations on being different and having some quirks. It makes you an interesting person!

How Strange Are You?
Quizzes for MySpace

Celtic Horoscope

ganked from deathlok who got tagged by Skywriter.

You Are A Chestnut Tree

You are a born diplomat with a well developed sense of justice.
And even though you're impressive and intimidating, you're also fun to be around.
You can be irritated easily, and you sometimes act superior.
Nevertheless, you are sensitive of others feelings and very loyal.
Sometimes you feel misunderstood and are fiercely close to those who know you best.

that's actually frightening accurate.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Radio: Terrestrial vs. Internet

radio hidebound's new friends over at TUN3R asked me to write an article for their blog about some of the differences between being a DJ on terrestrial radio as opposed to running an Internet radio station. This is what I came up with.

For me, the two are drastically different. I was "on the air" over 20 years ago playing "brand new music" and now I'm never actually "on the air" and playing, mostly, the music that was brand new over 20 years ago.

For the most part, my "on the air" experience was at WXYC, the college radio station in Chapel Hill, NC. I also spent a year or so at Chapel Hill's only commercial station, an AM Adult Contemporary Hits (at least that's what it was called back then) format. My commercial radio experience was pretty awful and aside from a few possibly funny anecdotes I told over the air, it's not really worth mentioning other than in no way was it fun or "art".

My college radio experience was just the opposite. I loved being on the air, even though at WXYC I hardly ever said anything other than, "that was {some song} by {some artist}, before that we heard blah blah blah and before that was blah blah blah . . . it's 24 minutes before two o'clock . . . you're listening to WXYC . . . and here is a new song from {some artist}.

In order to (eventually) write anything truly meaningful about the difference between "being on the air" on a terrestrial radio station and running an Internet radio station, I should probably write a little about WXYC itself. From the perspective of a DJ, aside from not getting paid (hmmmm . . . I'm sensing a pattern emerging), it was the closest thing to a perfect radio station that I can imagine. While we did have something resembling a format, the format was "anything good and let's focus a bit on music released in the last six months". While we focused on newly released music, a station favourite from many of the jocks was Nick Drake, so keep that in mind I guess. For most of the day's "programming" at 'XYC the only requirement was to play at least five songs every hour from our playbox. Our playbox had three parts, heavy rotation (about 25 records), medium rotation (about 25 other records) and light rotation (another 50 records or so). We were to play three heavies, one medium and one light every hour. Given a specific record in the playbox, we could play any song from that record we wanted to. Other than that, we could play whatever the hell we wanted to. Sometimes I'd play my five rotation songs and sometimes I might only play two or three of them. The new music rotation rule was really more a guideline.

When I started working (if that's the right word) at 'XYC in the fall of 1981, I was a typical 70's prog-rock junkie. I new absolutely nothing about punk, new wave, etc. etc. and, to be honest, didn't even particularly like it. I started on the path of learning about this "New Music" slowly, the station manager would keep telling me to play more new music and less Genesis et. al. and after six months or so I had changed my aural palette. Over the next four or five years, that palette grew and grew and grew. I kept playing Genesis et. al., but I played less and less as time went on and far more Teardrop Explodes and The Church and Rupert Hine - the 80's Rupert Hine, not so much the 70's Rupert Hine. And while I could have done all of this without being on the air, doing so in order to actually be on air and play songs was, I think, different than just listening to new music for myself.

Similar to many college radio stations, I had, for the most part, one two-hour shift every week. Those two hours were precious to me and I was very picky about the songs I played during those two hours. Those two hours were my way of saying, "here is the best music I think is being recorded today". Allow me to introduce you to U2, Echo & the Bunnymen, REM, Dream Syndicate, Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, Martha and the Muffins, Juluka, Guadalcanal Diary, Green on Red, the latest from Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel and David Bowie and Brian Eno and Bill Nelson. While I wasn't playing the Top 40 as defined by Billboard, I was playing the Top 400 as defined by the radio gnome. I would go to the station about 30 minutes before my show started and look at the list of songs played by the jock (we never really used the term "DJ", we were just "jocks") before me and the one before them to know what I couldn't play, since I didn't want to repeat anything they had played. Then I would go into the records library and pull 30-40 records for my two hours. I might not play a song from all 40 records, but I'd pull enough records so I could pick various things based on context. Then I'd take my 40 records into the control room and at the top of the hour, I was on the air.

The biggest part of actually being "on the air" was segues. When I started, I didn't know any segues, I didn't even know what a segue was. But over time I learned how to listen to both the beginning and ending of a song to get ideas about other songs to play before or after a song I was hearing for the first time. For songs in the playbox, if I "heard a great seg", which means I would hear it in my head while the playbox song was playing, I would rarely have the record the song was on in the control room. I'd make a mad dash into the library, pull the record, run back into the control room and cue up my song. Sometimes I made it back to the control in time, sometimes I didn't (oh the joys of college radio). Most of the time I made it back into the control room in time to cue the song. Which brings me to slip-cueing. Our turntables had felt covers on them so one could cue up a song, then a few seconds before the song currently playing would end one would put a thumb on the turntable for stability, put a ring finger (it had to be the ring finger, using the index finger was simply not sexy enough) on the vinyl, start the turntable while holding onto the record and then at an appropriate moment . . . let go . . . and the next song would start at a precise time. After getting reasonably sufficient at slip-cueing, I would actively search out segues with a high degree of difficulty, segues that would require me to . . . let go . . . at the exact split second or have the segue be spoiled. I could write a bit about cold fades and warm fades and false ends, but then we might be here for awhile.

All of this led to a very tactile aspect of being on the air. My fingers were almost constantly touching something while I was on the air. At times it was a bit like playing an instrument and sometimes even slightly athletic.

Fast forward 20-something years to running an Internet radio station. Because I decided to attempt being some kind of time capsule of what I did at WXYC, there is not much of a new music component to radio hidebound and definitely not one where the whole point is to find the best of everything released this week. There is also no real concept of "being on the air". I'm never really "on the air" at all. I suppose I could sit down and run the station manually for a couple of hours, but . . . why?

Instead of pulling of records from the library at WXYC, I rip CDs into mp3 files.

Instead of listening to boatloads of new music, I review the mp3 files to make sure they are technically okay and list the songs from each record I want to include in the playlist for radio hidebound.

Instead of sitting in the control room with a pile of LPs leaning against a cabinet, I load the mp3 files of songs I like into my broadcasting software's database.

Instead of opening boxes of promotional records we would receive at 'XYC, I search for CDs I want/need to buy. Yes, I have to plunk down my own money to buy CDs I want to play on the station. WXYC would get promotional copies of everything under the sun.

Instead of opening my mic to say "it's 24 minutes before 2:00", I record canned mp3 file station IDs that say things like "it's 24 minutes before 24 minutes from now . . . you're listening to radio hidebound". I have no idea what time it will be when the station ID gets played and I have no idea what time zone a listener might be in when they hear it.

Instead of taking requests to play specific songs over the phone, I answer posts in my online forum about, well, whatever a listener wants to say.

Instead of having a personal Top 400 list of songs to choose from once a week, I have a library of over 10,000 "songs that don't suck" playing in an endless loop with various controls in place so that the same song or musician doesn't get repeated too frequently.

Instead of personally selecting what song to play next, I leave that to the logic of the software I use. Having said that, I am almost constantly amazed at how good most of the segs I hear on radio hidebound are. Sometimes there are some real losers, but in general I think they are pretty good and sometimes I'll hear two songs played together which I would never have thought of playing together and be thrilled at how well they blended together.

Instead of broadcasting to a very small potential audience in Chapel Hill, NC, I am broadcasting to the largest potential audience possible, the world.

Finally . . . there is all of the technology involved in running an Internet radio station and the reality that I'm responsible for all of it working. I didn't have to worry about anything like this at WXYC. Walking into 'XYC was like flipping on a light switch, I expected everything to work and if something wasn't working, all I could do was call the station's engineer. Now I'm responsible for:

- making sure my DSL connection is working
- maintaining the various computers involved in running radio hidebound
- installing, configuring, enhancing and trouble-shooting my broadcasting software
- connecting to my broadcast host and dealing with the bills, etc.
- making sure I'm legal with all licensing issues
- ftp'ing files to a non-php HTML host server (the original "web presence" for radio hidebound)
- installing, configuring, enhancing and trouble-shooting my own portfolio of php-based software to provide for an on-line community experience for my listeners
- making whatever vain attempts at marketing I can think of

Today, I probably spend more time on the community parts of radio hidebound than I do on the station itself. Of course I keep adding songs to the playlist, but doing so takes very little time, other than spending time listening to a record I'm unfamiliar with several times before deciding which songs to add. A process which takes a little longer than one might think because I also spend a lot of time simply listening to the station itself. Listening to my station. In part to make sure it is still on the air, but mostly because I simply enjoy listening to it. If I didn't, why would I go to all of this trouble in the first place? While, of course, I want to have other people listening to the station to feel somehow important, mostly I just want to enjoy listening to it. If someone else enjoys listening, great, if not, that's okay too.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

avec un fork

first, go check out Deathlok's caption of the week, then come back here.

Monday, August 06, 2007

a wonderful waste of time

I've wanted to get a digital tablet for ages. I got one today. Why today? I have no idea. This is going to be fun! Today was all about beginning the process of learning how to use the pen and some of the options of the software. It's crap (the result that is, the tablet is pretty cool), but it was a heck of a lot of fun.