Thursday, July 31, 2003
Oops, I completely forgot to mention that today is Ian's birthday. Happy birthday, Gazza! We haven't really got you anything yet, but will probably take you out to dinner when you come down in September.
A Life Less Blogful
None of my regular correspondents seem to be updating their blogs at the moment, so it looks like it's up to me to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
So much responsibility.
Actually, things are pretty quiet at the moment. Work is going well, evenings are cold and actually kind of lazy, and weekends are quiet. Suits us just fine, thanks for asking. This weekend will be a bit different, though. We're joining Ange and Michelle and Ange and Adam at some place called Mollymook - great name - down at the coast. (Finally, after five years of working as a Canberra public servant, it feels as though I am coming of age by spending a weekend down at the coast. It's like a ritual they have here). In many respects, though, it won't be too different from any other weekend, because apparently the plan is to spend most of the time lazing about, and then to cook a ginormous dinner on Saturday night, with lotsa rich food and wine. Yay!
The regular Thursday night game with Jimbo, ChrisT, der Simonster and Mizlidna is back on tonight.
Aside: This week, I did all my preparation by scrawling notes during Tuesday's branch planning day at work. It wasn't hard to find the time - my section is very new to the branch, and nobody is sure yet how it really fits in to the grand scheme of things. If I was hoping that perhaps a few minutes might be spared during the all-day session to address that question, though, I was due for (mild) disappointment. Instead, I got to listen politely and leave - eight hours later - none the wiser. But I did find the time to draw a picture of a wolf, which was good.
Anyway, back to the game. It suffers a bit from the fact that we only have a weeknight available to play, and most of us are pretty shagged by the time we get together. We usually only get a window of between two and three hours of solid game time, and we often have problems focusing as a group. The result is usually an amusing but not always entirely satisfying mishmash of combats, weak player improv failing to disguise abject plot confusion, lame jokes and weak GM improv failing to disguise a complete lack of preparation. And now it has to compete with Stargate and Alias on TV, so things are looking pretty dire...
Jimbo and I are also going along to my brother in law Alastair's place for a new semi-regular game tomorrow night. Al's not GM'ed a lot, and we will be breaking in at least one complete novice, so I expect it to be equal parts fun and frustration. Trying to judge how much help someone needs in coming to grips with rules, options and basic concepts is always a tricky balancing act. On one hand, if you don't explain anything they just sit their getting frustrated listening to all the unintelligible jargon and wondering what the point of it all is. On the other hand, if you're too helpful and forthcoming with explanations and suggestions you risk both overwhelming them with crap they don't need to know and robbing them of the chance to think it through and have an "Oh, I get it" moment of enlightenment.
Of course, it helps if the newbie is actually worth the time. The last time I can remember going through the pain of hand-holding someone while they came to grips with the rules of a new game, he was the kind of arsehole you generally wouldn't want to spend time with anyway. But on the whole it's a worthwhile exercise and I'm looking forward to tomorrow's game.
Monday, July 28, 2003
Actually, can it be classed as a lazy weekend if I actually did my tax? I dunno, but there seemed to be an awful lot of sitting around reading, watching videos and consuming lotsa coffee. I did manage to recover my scanner from Jimbo, which means that I could make a little progress towards getting the Spit album covers and cartoons prepared. While there's not a huge hurry, it would be good not to be the bottleneck point in the album production process this time around.
Amongst a lot of things that don't as yet include The Scar, I'm reading Dynasties and Demagogues, a pitch-perfect supplement for playing political campaigns in D&D. It covers the heretofore-untapped-in-D&D gaming potential of courtly intrigues, back-biting council meetings, favour-swapping and dodgy dealing at a variety of levels, and is wonderful. I'll likely not get to use it in a game any time soon, but it's a pleasure to read.
Outside it's one of those crystal-clear Canberra winter's days, beautiful and. The ice on top of the bucket of water left outside overnight was about a centimetre thick. The frost was crunchy and gleaming. The newspaper headline about the abortive Philippines coup was bumped for a wide-angle photo of the thick dusting of snow on the Brindabellas. Glorious.
Meanwhile, I am inside, attempting to set a new world record for cappuccino consumption and fretting slightly about the management nightmare with which I must greet the boss when she arrives after lunch. While the problem isn't my fault, it is going to be a bit of a bastard to resolve and will have serious knock-on effects for months to come. Real instant-migraine material. Ick.
Interview about Pirates of the Burning Sea
So because I don't want to think about that for a while, here's a link to an interview about the new MMORPG coming out later in the year, serendipitously timed to coincide with the release in Oz of Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (which will, I have it on good authority, Rock my Pirate Loving World).
Wednesday, July 23, 2003
I haven't been updating much because I've found myself not having even one second free at work, and generally getting home too late each evening to be bothered with logging on and diarising.
I'm enjoying the new work, which is an agreeable combination of different things, including forensic records analysis (i.e. working out why particular decisions were taken, often on the basis of incomplete or non-existent evidence). For some reason I find that fun.
It doesn't hurt that this morning my boss put through a request for me to be paid at a higher level while my supervisor is away. It's only fair, since I'm doing my work and his, but she'd been awfully efficient in making sure I'm dealt with fairly. That makes a nice change.
Back on Babylon 5
The boxed sets of Seasons 1 and 2 of Babylon 5 were on special recently (its failed loss of popular longevity is my consumer-y gain), so Fiona picked them up for me as a present. She's a darlin'.
I've started working my way through the first season, which is a bit of a chore, because the show really doesn't find its feet until the second year. But there are lots of bits to like, and I've made a pact not to rewatch the most horrible episodes, so it should be fine.
I'm not an editor, but I play one on email
I've send a few emails back and forth to Andrew today to help him with his character motivation problem in his Monastery novel redraft. It was fun to help him out, but very dangerous. Every time I have a close brush with someone else's creative projects, I get a frisson of enthusiasm to do something myself.
Then I remember all the other things I'm already neglecting, and sit very still until the inclination passes. Otherwise there's an extreme risk of adding it to that pile of stuff I feel guilty about starting and not finishing.
Later: - Oh crap. Now I've started thinking about that fantasy story that I half-conceived about seedy criminal tavern owners and a vicious underworld war to control the most popular bards. I hate it when that happens.
Must. Read. Contract. Variation. Documentation. Must. Purge. Imagination.
Sunday, July 20, 2003
Dinner party goodliness!
Dinner with Kate and Tony went off without a hitch, and we had a lot of fun. We finished the evening by playing most of Nobody likes a smartarse for them. They laughed. They liked it. They even asked to buy a copy.
The strange perversity of the universe continues, as ever, to bemuse me. I mean, I know what I enjoy about Spit, but I've never really understood what anyone else sees in it (no need for you to interject at this point, Ted). Still, there's at least one more copy of each of the forthcoming albums that will go to a good home. One more step in the Grand Spit Design.
Saturday, July 19, 2003
Darn. It's the weekend.
This is the first time that I can remember ever feeling mildly disappointed that it is the weekend and I'm not going in to work. I can't begin to describe how alien that sensation felt.
The new job's going great, thanks.
Cookin n cleanin
We're having a dinner party with Kate and Tony tonight, so today will be one of our traditional "spend all day cleaning the house and cooking lots of exotic stuff". We've just got off to a rocketing start with Meagan blowing up the coffee maker and blasting superheated coffee grounds from one end of the kitchen to the other. It would have been funny, but one of her hands was inside the blast radius and she got a little bit burned. So it's not funny. Not at all.
I've had to wait ten minutes for my coffee. And now Fiona's put Don Maclean on the stereo. It's going to be a long day.
Andrew's put some photos from the Spit recording sessions up on the web page, as well as the track listings for the two new albums. I don't think the song order is right on either listing, though - presumably he was going from memory of the session on the last night when we all sat around eating nachos and deciding what song would go on what album. Lots of "we shouldn't have [Anonymous New Spit Member who doesn't want her name showing up on Google searches] singing before her intro song" and "I want to have one of my singing bits on each album" (that was me and Andrew).
So, even though you've seen it all on the web, there will still be some surprises when you hear the final results. Just another instance of Spit repaying the fans' loyalty...
In other unsettling Spit news, my Mum was talking to one of my cousins, who now wants to buy copies. They won't have to, of course, because I have heaps of spares, and because we still don't really have a pricing scheme, and I certainly wouldn't charge anyone for the first four albums, which is what they're getting. But it's kinda cool, and all part of the viral marketing scheme that will eventually see Spit transform lives the world over.
Wednesday, July 16, 2003
On advice from my lawyers, or at least some people I know with common sense, I'm not going to talk about the new job much, except to say that I've started it and am currently going through the "read mounds of paper until you become an expert" phase. Fortunately it appears that nobody has anything that they would like me to immediately attend to, except going to lots of meetings, so I have time to try to digest the (rather complex) background info.
Not much going on
I was all excited about going on a LAN computer game spree at some new place in Woden which Linda was organising, but then I was reminded that we are having Kate and Tony over for dinner this weekend, so I can't go after all. Which is a shame, as I do enjoy turning people to chunky red vapour with rocket launchers. Sigh.
Stuff Needs Doing
I seem to have come back from Sydney with a whole bunch of new things I want to get done, but forgot to bring any energy or enthusiasm to achieve them. There's the Spit album covers to work on, the Spit web page which needs prettying up and some comic strip-style cartoons ("Spit-toons", as if you couldn't see that one coming) to write and draw. On top of that is the IT course, which I am starting to get back into now that I am getting some encouragement at work. All these things I want to do, and I can do them if only I got to bed later and completely give up television. I can just about manage the second, but it's hard to part with the precious few snatches of sleep I manage to get around next door's dogs voluminous barkathons.
I feel sorry for the dogs. It really isn't their fault. Itemising our list of complaints against them (barking, howling, digging, roaming the neighbourhood, defecating on our gardens) points to a great big "It's all the owners' fault". Grr.
Sunday, July 13, 2003
The Spit recording is all done with and I am back in Canberra, after a week at Andrew and Anna’s place in Sydney. We spent Friday finishing up the last remaining songs, ended with some semi-primal screaming which will end up mixed in with Amanda’s song "Infernal Machine:, and then finished the day with a vast Indian banquet and a viewing of Army of Darkness. Groovy.
Yesterday felt like a pretty long one considering I didn’t have to do much. Evan and I started the day with our now-traditional stroll down to the Marrickville shops for an early coffee ("early" in suburban Sydney terms, that is…none of the Marrickville shops seem to open before 8 am, which seems a bit slack, or perhaps we were just looking in the wrong places for a place that does breakfasts at, you know, breakfast time). After that, we killed the morning listening to Weird Al Yankovic’s new album "Poodle Hat". Stupid name, yes, but it’s an excellent album, that confirms the return to form suggested by his previous effort "Running with Scissors". Al’s kind of the Patron Saint of Spit, so it was kind of fitting that we got to listen to his first great album in more than 15 years at the end of a very (I won’t say "equally") satisfying recording session.
Before anyone asks, we’re not sure how long it is going to take to get the albums together, but it should all be in place by Christmas, if not much earlier. I’m going to work on the album covers and hopefully shine up the web site a little bit, while Evan and Andrew tweak the tunes. And they really are better than the last one, so it’s not entirely something to be dreaded…
By the way, this time around we are keen to hear from people that we don’t know who hear the album, so if you play one of our songs to a friend or whatever (…what? It could happen…), please encourage them to get in contact with us (especially if they like it). We’ll happily send them a copy (of the current and previous albums).
Friday, July 11, 2003
Late breaking news - The years of waiting are over.
Oh God. Oh yes. Oh God.
At long bloody last.
The Spit Sessions 2003: Friday morning
Yesterday was a bit of a write-off -or “break day”, if you prefer, because by the time we had met Jimbo for lunch, walked around town for several hours, watched Hulk, put Jimbo back on the train to Canberra, went and met Evan’s friend Nick and his girlfriend Sophie for Japanese beers, and thence, via a o’er-swanky Thai wine bar, to a Japanese dinner, the day was pretty much done. There was nothing for it but to play some more Playstation (which is too hard after Japanese beer, for the record) and go to bed.
This morning we started with some editing of spoken vocal tracks on “Time Machine” and “Andrew Ain’t Got No Alias”. We’re into the home stretch now, with only two songs left unstarted (both of which are simple and should take no time at all), a bit more editing and then a lot of level-balancing, compressing and other technical stuff that Evan and Andrew act like they know about...
I’ve been working on a cartoon to go on the sleeve insert. It’s very silly. Sadly I may have run out of ideas two panels early, but since technically I didn’t have any ideas to start with it shouldn’t be a problem. An additional problem is that now we have decided to do two albums, I now have to do two album covers. Hours of fun. Literally. I’ll worry about that when I get back to Canberra, of course.
Speaking of the two albums, one will be called “Into the Wind”, a name we used once before, on the “live from Ev’s living room” album. No copies of that cassette are known to remain in existence, so we figure we’re safe to use the name again. Besides, it has that pretentious Peter Gabriel/Led Zeppelin feel, so it’s got that going for it as well. The other album will probably be called “On Me”, because for a variety of reasons which will probably not be at all apparent to the casual listener, we find it funny.
By the way, if you do have a cassette of the Spit Live album, please send a copy to Evan. We’ve all forgotten how the Derryn Hinch song goes.
Thursday, July 10, 2003
The Spit Sessions 2003: Thursday morning
Evan’s just got back from his cousin’s, so we’re playing him the stuff that got done last night. And drinking coffee. Last night was a late one. I overslept this morning.
Jimbo’s train gets here in a couple of hours, so we should be able to get a bit more work done this morning before I take the afternoon off to keep him company (he’s going to be stuck in Sydney for five hours or so until he can catch his connection to Canberra).
On the schedule for this morning are the songs about Chris’s Spit pseudonym (Entrails X) and a short-short pastiche of the old “Iko Iko” song. Ev’s got to do some vocals along the lines of the stuff that was done last night, and then probably write some music to go with some lyrics that Chris just emailed to us.
This is fun. Not for the first time I wish I actually had some musical talent, enough to do this for a living. With the long hours and frequent frustrations, it’s a lot like a real job, but without the money. Being able to do this sort of thing more regularly - collaborating creatively with good friends - is yet another one of my “lotto fantasies”...
Evan’s just accidentally broken another pair of headphones. That makes two pairs now. Hmm. What is it he has against them exactly? One of the stranger mysteries to come out of this week...
Wednesday, July 09, 2003
The Spit Sessions 2003: Late Wednesday evening
Chris and Amanda have just left, and it’s about twenty past eleven. We’ve laid down a variety of vocals, including some (to us) highly amusing spoken pieces over Amanda’s singing on “Don’t Wanna Be Me”. Tried to do the humming and operatic vocals over Chris’ piece on Richard Carlton (Spit historians will recognise a well worn theme there, and suffice to say that we have not changed out position vis a vis Mr Carlton’s wellbeing), but had to settle for rerecording Chris’ part so that we could work on sharpening the timing. It proved too hard to do a decent chorus to his rythmns.
Andrew’s enthusiasm to press on is infectious, so we are going to take a shot at recording him singing my song, “Cold Call”. Hope we can get it in one or two takes. After the big Indian dinner we had, I’m starting to fade pretty fast...
The Spit Sessions 2003: Wednesday evening
Evan’s out visiting with his cousin Garth, and Chris and Amanda have come over for the evening. Since they’ve arrived, we’ve recorded an entirely new song in several-part harmonies. Amanda wrote it yesterday while sanding her ceiling. It’s gorgeous...
I’ve got time to write a blog entry because we have hit what appears to be an intractable technical snag: Cubase will not allow us to record new vocals on one song, which is kind of a shame as we would like to get some input from Chris and Amanda while they’re here, and it’s looking like that may not be possible. Andrew still hasn’t said “eureka”, but I have heard several less salutory expressions.
It’s 8:00 pm and I haven’t eaten for several hours, since lunch’s nachos. Might be time for a break, I think.
Late breaking news: Andrew's come throughh with the "eureka". It was something basic, of course.
Important breaking news!
Java monkey rampage!
The Spit Sessions 2003: Wednesday lunchtime
Yay! I laid down a keyboard performance. And it didn’t even suck! Admittedly it’s only in the last twenty seconds or so of the song, but still...
Ev’s been struggling with the “groovebox” (which is apparently more than just a drum machine, including synthesizer and probably some other stuff) this morning, trying to make it behave as a useful MIDI interface between the keyboard and the computer. Right now he’s getting some crazy Blake’s 7-style electronic sounds out of it, which we’ll be using on Amanda’s “Don’t Wanna Be Me”.
Andrew and I have been filling the time (while Ev fiddles with dials and sliders and such) playing Button Men, a rather neat dice strategy game. It’s simple, but has a surprisingly large range of strategic and tactical options. This is a rather over-detailed explanation of the rules, but note that there doesn’t seem to be any real reason to actually buy the game, since you can just choose the dice you want to use (and apparently the game doesn’t actually come with any dice anyway...). Even for a company called Cheapass Games, this would seem to be a severe case of self-inflicted foot-shooting.
A note for our listeners
Marco in particular will be happy to know that the new albums - in keeping with extensive listener feedback and market surveys, which have identified an unexpected demographic profile for Spit fans - will be kid-friendly. We've removed all references to artificial sex aids and replaced them with something nicer (or more sinister, depending on how you look at it, but definitely okay for the little ones). But we have left in all references to hating Richard carlton, because that, in the end, is what really matters.
Just another case of Spit looking out for the fans.
The Spit Sessions 2003: Wednesday morning
At times yesterday, progress felt really slow, as Andrew and Evan tried to solve yet more difficulties in downloading various tracks from Ev's 12-track deck to the computer, but in actual fact we powered through rather a lot of stuff. We decided not to bother rerecording two songs which Ev had already done - he had been worried that the sound, recorded in a small inner city flat in Brisbane, wouldn't stack up against the rest of the album, but we had a comparison listen last night and if there was any difference in quality, it wasn't discernible on Andrew's sound system. So that saved some time. We declared half a dozen songs done last night, which made us feel good enough about ourselves that we felt justified in going to the 24-hour store for junk food and then having a Playstation shootathon.
I'm getting better with the rocket launcher, and can now win about one game in four.
This morning we are laying down some backing guitar and vocals to a couple of Amanda's tracks and probably some extra stuff on top of two of Chris'. I will actually be making a musical contribution on one of them, having worked out a simple keyboard accompaniment for Amanda's song "Recipe for a Conspiracy Theorist". Hopefully we will have them done by the time either or both comes around this evening (I expect my piano playing to require a few takes...). Ev's going to see his cousin Garth (who used to play indoor cricket with us when Ev, Jimbo, Dave Astley and I had a team back in high school) tonight, so Andrew and I want to get as much done as possible before then.
The decision has been made to go with two short albums of 10 songs or so each. I think it's the best option - it keeps them from wearing out their welcome and becoming un-replayable. One will be a "theme" album of what we're implausibly calling personal songs, while the other is the more usual Spit collection of eclectica. And one will have an instrumental, which is excellent.
Tuesday, July 08, 2003
Goddamn you Blogger!
Argh! I just discovered that Blogger has deleted the huge entry I wrote last night about the first couple of days of the recording sessions. Crap! That thing took something like an hour to type last night! And I copied over the original, so I can't even repost it.
Screw you, Blogger.
To recap: Came up to Sydney on Friday night with Fiona, gadded about with Andrew on Saturday morning until we could pick Evan up off the plane, went to Andrea's for a barbecue and roleplaying with Chris and Amanda, went to breakfast with Niall and Jaimie on Sunday morning (Jimbo's birthday), and spent most of the rest of the day shopping for clothes for Fiona with Niall, then did more recording until about midnight.
There were many more details, but Blogger has robbed you of the chance to read them. Screw you Blogger.
The Spit Sessions 2003: Tuesday morning
I woke up with a headache (probably because I'm old and out of practice at only getting six hours sleep a night - what a wuss) so I was pretty glad that we got off to a slow start this morning. For a variety of reasons, including Anna needing the office, a long leisurely breakfast and workshopping yet another couple of songs, by lunchtime we had only managed to get Andrew's vocals for "graduation" down, plus some chorus from Ev and me. Sounds good, but we will really need to knuckle down for the rest of the day if we want to keep on track.
At the moment Evan is playing with the drum machine and the computer, trying to get one to talk to the other. He and Andrew keep saying things like "MIDI input transformer", "synchronisation options" and "I am reading the manual". We keep encountering these occasional technical stumbling blocks as we navigate around the mixing/arranging software (Cubase) and suddenly discover that we don't know how to get this effect or that, but we - and by that I mean Ev and Andrew, since I don't know what ninety percent of this stuff means - have generally worked our way through it, so the process becomes quicker by iterations. Sooner or later we're going to seem very professional...
The talk this morning is that we may end up with two albums of ten songs or so, rather than a single with 13 or 14 songs. Everyone just keeps coming up with material that's too good not to use (okay, I'm not making any huge promises here, but in general the standards have risen from previous attempts). Unlike our recording sessions in the past, this time we're in a position of having more material than we need, and having to make some tough choices about what we can use and what we have to discard. Even if we go to two albums, we'll have to throw away good stuff.
Sounds like Ev's given up on trying to puzzle out the MIDI problems, and we're going to try something else. Back to the grind.
The Spit Sessions 2003: Monday
The first full day of Spit recording, which is more or less coming to an end as I type this, was a pretty full one. After knocking off a couple more attempts at "Cornetto Girl", Evan and Andrew put together "Closer" (no, nothing to do with NIN), which includes Spit's very first ever (unless I've forgotten something) use of electric guitar. It's a very pretty track, as well. Between that and a shopping expedition, that took us through to the afternoon, when Chris and Amanda came back.
Chris laid down some spoken tracks and his ancient Egyptian chant to Australian radio personalities. Amanda did guitar and vocals for a couple of her tracks. Because their time over here is limited, we tried to get as much of their stuff done as possible. Haven't heard most of the tracks yet, so don't know the results.
It's late, I've just got whupped at Playstation again (but not as badly), and it's time for bed. Tomorrow I try to make the music for some lyrics I wrote called "Cold Call", and learn to play the piano.
The Real World
And back in the real world, yesterday was Jimbo's birthday, and Flynn's Name Celebration. Jimbo's up at Tweed for the ceremony, and we'll be seeing him on Thursday when his train journey home has a six hour layover at Central Station in Sydney. Which reminds me that I still haven't booked a train home...
Friday, July 04, 2003
Managed to get through the week without killing anyone, but it was a close call with Finance Section yesterday. Was rushing to get everything tidied up and a comprehensive handover note written, and didn't really need to deal with people who have a firm idea of what they want and don't necessarily acknowledge that they might also need communication skills if they want someone else to provide it. Particularly if that someone would rather that they just went away before violence became necessary...
I'm making a brief venture into the new section today, to get myself set up and read files so I know what is going on. And that's probably about as much as I plan to say about my new job, unless it really sucks and I have to vent. But I'm pretty sure it won't.
Heading up to Sydney after work tonight to begin a week of Spit song writing and recording sessions. I have singularly failed to appropriately prepare, having not succeeded in becoming either a virtuoso pianist or even a competent vocalist since the last album was recorded. So no surprises there. It sounds a bit as if both Andrew and Evan have done a bit more prep work, but not quite as much as it turns out they might have liked. Chris, I would expect, has done nothing. He believes the music should come from the moment, or something. Whatever. As long as I get pastries and coffee and have fun with my friends (and see Hulk with ted) then I'm happy.