Fat Boys Crushin'

Right. New Year's Eve party tonight, new diet tomorrow.

At least that's the plan - my clothes have all mysteriously shrunk a size over christmas.

Then back to the latest songfight, titled "Crush". My take on it has, shall we say, a slightly ambitious three-in-one quality. "What do you mean by that, Kapitano?". Well, here's a clue, in the form of the lyrics, just finished.

Crush Alpha

They used to say
If you kneel and pray
He might pass you by

He might not come for you
His burning love imbue
But it was a lie

They used to tell me
I should wait and see
Whole world in his hand

Crush Beta

Little self-knowledge is a dangerous thing, a
Little self-deception it was meant to be a one time
Fling. Who'm I fooling? Who'm I fooling around with? Your
Marriage is a fiction, your family a myth. So
Do you lie to them more than you lie to me, pre-
-Tending they believe you for the sake of a trouble free
Family home with a mortgage and a pool, some-
Times I think I care for you, at other times I feel like a

You get a crush.
I get a rush.

Little coded SMS, you want to come over
More like Madame Bovary, less like Cassanova
If you can't love the one you're with, love the one you ought
Not, the only one who says you make 'em hot, huh, but
Our deniabiltity is always plausible, if
Anyone accuses we can say it was impossible
You were on a train trip, i was on the other side of
Town, and anyway you're not the type for messing a-

Crush Gamma
Tempo ordas
Vivo mordas

Provis signifi
Lante rezigni

Lasu kri'

(Rough translation:

Time gives order
Life bites down

Try to signify
Slowly give up

Let go a sigh)

Feeling Hot Hot Hot

Things that are useful when you've scalded three fingers of your right hand:

  • Your left hand

  • Cold running water

  • A large jug to periodically fill with cold water

  • A large supply of burn lotion

  • A supply of paper towels to improvise temporary finger bandages

  • Selotape to hold them together

  • A small pair of scissors

  • A box of disposable surgical gloves, which can hold the improvised bandages in place

  • A mother who suggests this temporary procedure

Things that are not useful:

  • Plasters that require two hands, teeth and possibly a hammer to get out of the packaging

  • A father who breezily tells a cheerful anecdote about how you burned your hand when you were five

  • Your small collection of first aid certificates, because somehow first aid courses only teach you how to fix up other people

Things to remember:

  • It's a bad idea to cook when you're drunk

Waiting for De Sign

How long does it take to design a website?

Actually I've no idea, because I've been doing something quite different - figuring out how to design a website. So far it's taken:

  • An hour to understand how to do frames in HTML - and then decide I don't need to use frames at all.

  • Two hours to understand the various ways button-links can be made to change colour when your mouse hovers over them - before deciding it's all too complicated and I don't need to have them anyway.

  • Another two hours to figure out why my designs for buttons came out in the wrong colours and the wrong sizes. Actually I still don't know why Photoshop can't map RGB to CMYK without turning everything grey, or why CorelDraw lies to me about graphical dimensions.

    But sometimes you've just got to be content with finding a solution, instead of knowing what the problem was. Here's my logo, version 3:

  • Half an hour to work out why the relative URLs weren't working - or rather, half an hour to work out the website telling me about relative URLs was wrong.

  • 90 minutes to sift through half a dozen freeware, opensource javascript mp3 streamers. To find the one which does what I want...doesn't use javascript.

(And if you understood all that, you spend too much time in front of a computer.)

After all of which, I am now going to have a Boxing Day afternoon nap. Because steep learning curves are the kind of hill you can only climb up, not roll down.

It's pissedmas. And I'm christ.

Christmas with the Family

Christmas used to be hell in our family.

With five cousins and their families, six other cousins young enough to call me "uncle", four grandparents, two aunts, two uncles, six great uncles, five great aunts and probably more...the air was thick with relatives I barely knew and didn't want to know.

Now thankfully most are far away, in care homes, dead, estranged or some combination of these. So there's just me, mother, father and sometimes brother. Plus four dogs and three parrots.

The time of exchanging giftwrapped socks and awkward platitudes with near strangers is over, and with family out of the way we can now spend christmas with...family.

See if you can work out our interpersonal dynamics from this year's gifts:

  • My gifts to mother: An 8GB memory stick and a course on how to play the piano.

  • Mother's gifts to me: A pair of slipppers and...something I'll get to in a minute.

  • My gifts to father: Um...

  • Father's gifts to me: Um...he likes to maintain that all money comes from him, so whatever I get he provides.

  • Mother's gifts to father: A sweater she knitted.

  • Father's gifts to mother: Um...see above.

  • Our gifts to brother: I'll get to that in a moment.

  • Brother's gifts to us: I don't know yet!

  • Our gifts to everyone else: Assorted homemade chocolates. Those we can resist eating ourselves.

    It was almost puppies, but that turned out to be another phantom pregnancy.

Oh, mother's other gift to me and brother? Domain names! With matching webspaces!

They're not activated yet, but pretty soon there'll be a Kapitano website, which I'm thinking will be mostly musical.

Christmas. Turns out it's not quite all humbug after all.

There will be a Short Delay

What? I've got a virus and need to reinstall Windows again? Oh, goody.

No, no. It's quite alright.

It is a slimmed down version, so there's bound to be occasional problems.

I'm sure the problem is right in front of me.

Maybe I'm looking in the wrong direction somehow.

Would I lie to you?

Ask a silly question...

...don't be surprised at the answer.

I'm sure I'll find something to do in the meantime.

There's always something.

Even though I've got a cold.

It's not like anything's likely to happen while I'm away.

Even if it does, what's the worst that could happen?

I'll be back on top of things again in no time.

Blogger's comment notification hasn't been working for the last few days.

As a workaround, you can go to http://[blogname].blogspot.com/feeds/comments/default?alt=rss, to read your recent comments, or use the URL to set up an RSS feed.

Apologies if you've left a comment and I haven't seen it.

The other person with a sick computer this week. Asked me where to get a new laptop battery, because theirs was dead after years of use - wouldn't recharge anymore.

I sent back info about identifying and removing the battery, and who might have a new one for sale. They write back with a rant about how shop assistants gave her wrong advice...when a parenthetical remark makes everything clear. Because apparently there's this little flashing light which means the battery needs replacing.

The battery isn't dead. It's flat. And it's never been flat before. And they think it only takes a moment to charge.

I've only got one face and two palms. It's just not enough.

My contribution to the local rock scene: I just repaired this band's computer, updated their mixing software...and installed a loop sequencer for their new direction as guitars-and-hiphop combo.

In return for a promised copy of their album, when it's finished.

It's Warm Inside

Okay, here's the version for submission:

Kapitano - Frostbite (Submission Version)

There's a saying in computer programming: "90% of the project takes 90% of the time. The other 10% takes the other 90%."

In other words, the finishing touches take the most time, and it's them which make a project overrun. They're also what makes it work.

So, here are the finishing touches - at least the ones which got left in:

  • High-pass filter on main scratch at 220Mhz, and volume down c5%. Should make the kick and bassline clearer.

  • The same filter on the rap. Should make it stand out a bit more, hopefully being clearer, without increasing actual volume.

  • High-pass filter on vocoder chorus at 110Mhz. Again, should reduce the amount of "mud" cluttering up the bass end.

  • Octave doubling effect on the bassline that follows each chorus. It's a two oscillator synth - one is just pitched down an octave for those parts. The detuning between the two is also increased.

  • Big reverby kick added, for the parts where the kick is the only drum.

  • The clave is a little quieter.

  • Agogo bells added.

  • Tape hiss and crackly noise quieter.

  • Vocoder increased from 16 to 32 bands.

  • Probably the most important change from an engineer's point of view, though the listener might not notice. The five drumloops replaced with...sequenced drums. Which I think now sound crisper anyway.

    They were only loops in the first place to make them scratchable, but the scratching effects weren't much good, so I didn't use most of them. The ones I did use are still there, on a dedicated sample track.

The lyrics are there really just to give the voice something to say, but these are they:

Verse 1:
Sitting up at long past midnight
Drinking too-strong tea and freezing
Snow it falls and wind it's howling
Start to shiver turn up heating

Take another sip it's cold now
Do I want to make a new cup
Should I try again to get sleep
Dream till morning see what comes up

With the sun it could be oper-
-Tunity a piece of blue sky
Got to get some motivation
Say it three times that same old lie

Optimism always waiting
Every morning hope for new life
Evening comes on old sensation
Feeling of sunburn and frostbite

Wake up at midnight
Sunburn and frostbite

Verse 2:
Put on some old favourite CD
Sampled groove and shot dead MC

Stand and walk around the bedroom
Headphones on pump up the volume

Hungry not yet time for breakfast
Drinking coffee not just for thirst

Sitting up at long past midnight
Sunburn shading into frostbite

"Finished" is a relative term. But I reckon this demo is finished.

Besides, I've hit on some new production techniques and want to try them out.

It's Cold Outside

Song done, more or less. Provisional version...here:

Kapitano - Frostbite (Provisional Version)

It's really a test-of-concept piece, rather than a serious attempt at a song. The concepts in question being:

  • Can I do a reasonable imitation of turntable scratching without going anywhere near a turntable?
  • For rapid vocals a la Dieter Meier, can I record at half speed, then time compress them?
  • Can I use (self made) drumloops?
  • Just how deep into the 80s can I go? :-)

What do you think? Does it sound like I've got a personal scratch DJ imprisoned in the basement? Would you pay good money to never hear a vocal like this again? Do the lo-fi elements add anything good?

Is it overcompressed? Not compressed enough? Anything need changing mixwise? Anything in particular that doesn't work?

Let me know.

High Fidelity

Somewhere in the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams talks about a society that's done away with all diseases and disabilities.

The doctors had put themselves out of a job by curing anything that can go wrong with a body - including most forms of death. There were still psychiatrists of course, because no one's found a way to cure the universe, but the planet is full of healthy, bronzed individuals in peak condition.

And they're bored. Because nothing's a challenge anymore. So the doctors are suddenly back in employment, recreating all the diseases they'd cured, in handy portable form.

I only mention it because of the path my latest song is taking.

I've spent today recreating the sounds of cheap vinyl turntables with unstable speeds, and tape decks that lose power at odd moments. Later I'm going to add saturation distortion - the effect of overloading ferrous tape with a too-loud signal.

And when I've recorded the vocals, they'll probably get some fuzz - a lovingly detailed recreation of the horrible sound of a bad loudspeaker from 40 year ago. Plus analog vacuum tube noise - on noiseless digital circuits.

After that, vinyl crackle, amplifier hum, and the joys of records pressed off-centre, courtesy of some free software. All the infuriating imperfections of old technology, now packaged as features in new technology.

And finally, something from a program I only discovered today - a feature I'd never think to ask for, but now have a strange compulsion to use. Tape hiss.

Metaphor for Life, Number 1:

Metaphor for Life, Number 2:

Metaphor for Life, Number 3:

The last three times I got phoned to fix a computer...

The first: "I was repartitioning my hard disk, and I removed the system drive. Now it won't boot up."

The second: "How do I set up a Facebook group?".

The third: "A friend of mine can't get his wireless internet connection to work. Can you sort it all out? Oh by the way, he doesn't speak English."

Atlas Un...Played

I'm happy. Because I've finished the song.

Not because it's a particularly good song, or it's going to get any votes on Songfight, or it's inspired loosely by "American Psycho", or there's a George Carlin quote in the first verse.

And not because I've finally figured out who I sing like - on the grounds that it's Jona Lewie, of "Stop the Cavalry" and "You'll Always Find Me in the Kitchen at Parties" fame.

And certainly not because it took me two and a half backing tracks and two complete recordings of the vocals to get something approaching right - and only then thanks to the magic of Melodyne.

No, I'm just happy 'cos I've managed to finish writing, composing, recording and mixing it. And now, if this works, you can hear it too.

Left-click the arrow to stream, right-click the title to download. Hopefully.

Kapitano - Cost of Living (Atlas Unplugged)

Can someone explain why an MP3 player I bought five years ago is the only one still working? Three others managed to fall apart and stop working within six months, and the most expensive died from brief contact with rain.

There was one other, the cheapest of the lot, which worked fine and possibly still does - but I lent it to someone who promised they're be very careful and not lose it.

Can anyone tell me why the microphone on a GBP5 headset is better than any of the six others which cost eight times the price? Or why the CD drive which came with this laptop stopped working after a month - and I replaced it with the seven year old drive from the laptop it replaced, which works perfectly.

If only there were some kind of pattern.

L. Ron Hubbard was a fake. Everyone knows that now, but here's the book that said it first: A Piece of Blue Sky, by Jon Atack

Mother Teresa was a fake. Everyone knows that now, but here's the book which gives the details: Mother Teresa: Final Verdict, by Aroup Chatterjee. It spawned this documentary: Hell's Angel - Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

I'm waiting for the book which shows Diana Spencer was a fake. Not because I want to read it - I just think it needs writing.

Atlas Unplugged

No, I still can't write meaningless lyrics. That's not to say I can do deep and meaningful, but I do seem to think in connected sentences.

Looks like I'm booked up with political stuff over Friday and the weekend. But who knows, maybe I'll get around to recording and submitting this one.

The deadline's next Thursday, and the title to write to is "Cost of Living".

Verse 1:
So you
Buy a new home, a
Place for your stuff, 'cos the
One that you grew up in
Somehow it's just not enough

And you
Buy a new car, just to
Sit at the wheel
Got nowhere to go to
Just love the chrome and steel

Want more, 'cos
Need is the drug

Verse 2:
Then you
Get a new job, 'cos you
Want to fit in
Take a new direction, and
Offset the cost of living

Why play truth when you can play dare?
Why you playing chicken if you say you don't care?
Have you forgotten?

Why tell lies when you don't know the truth? You
Only take their money when you can't take their youth
Have you forgotten?

Blog Psychology

If someone tells you they're very angry - instead of behaving angrily - they probably aren't. Anyone who constantly tells you they love you, instead of demonstrating it in a hundred little unconscious ways, doesn't. And anyone who tells you their faith is rock solid, but spends all their time virulently attacking anyone who disagrees with them, is having a crisis of faith.

Case in point: Atheism is Dead.

There's a rhetorical technique called Quote Mining, which involves presenting a stream of out-of-context quotes as "proof" that "Plato was gay", "Hitler was a vegetarian", "Obama is the antichrist" or whatever.

Sometimes it takes an expert - or at least someone who's read the works quoted - to unpick the distortions. But some quote miners, usually in their efforts to prove they're serious researchers and not quote miners, quote enough text to disprove their own thesis.

Case in point: Marxwords - Giving you all the quotations that Marxists hope you never hear about.

We stick with our friends because they treat us well, and stay away from those who've hurt us. Right? Except when our friends treat us like shit and we find excuses to forgive them, and we avoid and dislike individuals and groups who've never hurt us - indeed, we've never met.

We chose our allies because we share goals, and share enemies. Yes? Or do we change our goals and attitudes to fit our milieu? If you've ever watched someone move between social classes, the way they change their beliefs and habits can be striking. It's like the invasion of the bodysnatchers - you're dealing with a different person, but they insist they've always been as they are now. And they believe it.

Do we invent ways to find allies admirable, and rationalise reasons to dislike the enemy? I rather think so. Double standards aren't just a failure of logic, they're a vital part of society.

I flatter myself I'm anti-social.

Case in point: Shrouded in Doubt - the most unintentionally ironic blog title in the world?.

Stock Check

What do you do when:

  • You don't want to do the things you're good at anymore, because they've got boring. Computers, sex, political dabbling.

  • Most of things you want to do you suck at. Songwriting, storywriting, philosophy, science.

  • The other things you want to do are completely pointless. Annoying the whackjobs on youtube.

  • The things everyone else thinks you should do, you have no interest in doing. Relationship, mortgage, career.

  • The things you should do, you really don't want to do. Exercise, housework, moving out.


Is that the definition of a mid-life crisis? Or just life?