Monday, April 9. 2007
Enough jazz below to report, even though the week has been as much of a drag as expected. Other accomplishments include Recycled Goods done (although not yet posted), a pass through the entire notebook to populate the new/revised books section, and ordering the parts to my much needed replacement computer. Next week looks to be every bit as full of annoyances, obligations, and outright problems, but should see some progress as well. Falling behind on the incoming jazz, so that will be a focus.
Ben Bowen King: Sidewalk Saints: Roots Gospel Guitar (2007, Talking Taco Music): An antidote to the dumbing down of gospel: instrumentals, featuring venerable songs in old style, plucked out on what King calls a resonator/slide guitar -- built for volume in the streets, sounds like it's mostly built from steel. King cites Blind Willie Johnson and Dock Boggs as influences, credits "Amazing Grace" to Fred McDowell and "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" to Pops Staples. Covita Moroney helps out on percussion and the occasional moan. B+(***)
Coyote Poets of the Universe: Unmistakable Evidence! (2004-05 , Square Shaped): Denver group, although I only see one poet, with all words attributed to Andy O'Leary (or Andy O'Blivion, as he appears on their website). Gary Hoover (aka Gary 7) helps out with the music, with both playing guitar and a few other instruments. Others help out too. The music is fractured guitar jazz, interesting in its own right, but usually gives way to the spoken words. The latter have their moments as well, but nothing here impresses me nearly as much as Jerry Granelli's Sandhills Reunion did a couple of years ago. B+(*)
The Puppini Sisters: Betcha Bottom Dollar (2006 , Verve): A vocal trio, modelled on the Andrews Sisters down to a good chunk of their songbook, reportedly inspired by The Triplets of Belleville, which as far as I can tell they had nothing to do with. Only one Puppini too: Marcella, an Italian-born, London-based cabaret singer. The other two are Kate Mullins and Stephanie Brown. The frothy sound works best on proven material, but seems more awkward when they try more modern fare, even though songs like "Wuthering Heights," "Heart of Glass," and "I Will Survive" have strengths of their own. [B] [May 1]
Norah Jones: Not Too Late (2007, Blue Note): I've had friends play me their tapes, and more often than not I've panned them, pointing out that regardless of craft most lack the sort of distinguishing that would make them stand out in a field where craft and skill are mere minimums required. I'd probably say the same about Jones, and evidently in her case be wrong, but I still can't say why. Perhaps it's because she's turned ordinariness into a public virtue, and maybe we crave some sense of a comforting center given the sensory overkill that everyone else exercises to get our attention. That she can do it -- that she's the one we chose for this role -- depends on our understanding that she's not really ordinary: her voice, her piano, the elegant melodies, the unobvious words, the sensible arrangements, all serve to establish her worthiness through their subtlety. That's my theory, anyway. I still prefer my comforts less enigmatic, so I can't quite attest to whatever it is that others hear in her. B+(*)
Phil Bodner: The Clarinet Virtuosity of Phil Bodner: Once More With Feeling (1960s-70s , Arbors): The booklet here credits Bodner with two '60s albums on Camden. AMG doesn't list those, but starts with two 1980 albums on Stash. Not much more follows, but when you look up his credits, AMG's list goes on for five screens. He played eleven instruments, including alto sax with Benny Goodman, oboe with Coleman Hawkins, clarinet and flute with Gil Evans and Miles Davis, and English horn with Milt Jackson and Luiz Bonfá. In the '70s he starts showing up on pop albums -- the Bee Gees, Carly Simon, Chaka Khan, Phoebe Snow, Bette Midler, Bob James; actually, he may have started earlier, like the '50s, as he gets credits on compilations of LaVern Baker, Jackie Wilson, and the "Bear Family Single Disc" of "Cry" by Johnnie Ray. Scott Yanow suggests that you probably have "dozens if not hundreds" of records with Bodner playing something or other. This new one is cobbled together from six undated sessions sometime in the '60s or '70s, each featuring Bodner on clarinet. The first four cuts put him in front of a trio with Hank Jones on piano. The next five are duos with guitarist Gene Bertoncini. Later we get four cuts with Dick Hyman on organ. Milt Hinton plays bass on those, then sings one. That's followed by three cuts with Derek Smith on keyboards and Vinny Bell on guitar. Mostly swing era standards, clean and sharp and, well, swinging. [B+(***)]
Bucky & John Pizzarelli: Generations (2006 , Arbors): The better known son is a crooner stuck between his Nat Cole and Frank Sinatra tributes, but he started off as a pretty sharp guitarist, a chip off the old Bucky, as it were. The father never ventured far from swing, a graceful rhythm guitarist but not a great soloist. Father and son previously waxed duos in the early '80s, collected as The Complete Guitar Duos (The Stash Sessions), as well as a 1998 album Contrasts (Arbors) -- both well-regarded, but I haven't heard either. This this one is tasteful, modestly intricate and intimate. B+(**)
Frank Vignola: Vignola Plays Gershwin (2006 , Mel Bay): Guitarist, heard of late in the Frank and Joe Show, although I first noticed him in an old timey/trad jazz group called Travelin' Light. Actually, Joe [Ascione] is on board here as well. Vignola does standard stuff with a lot of zip and presence, and takes no chances on formula here: he doubles up the guitar by adding Corey Christiansen, and doesn't bother with any obscurities or feints. So there's not much to it, but it sounds terrific. B+(***)
Dept. of Good and Evil Feat. Rachel Z (2007, Savoy Jazz): Rachel Z is a pianist originally named Rachel Nicolazzo. She has at least 9 albums since 1992, but I've missed her until now -- my only encounter was the time when I was accidentally caught Mary McPartland toasting her on "Piano Jazz," where she made a favorable impression. AMG lists Wayne Shorter as a "similar artist" -- she recorded a Shorter tribute album, but that hardly makes her similar; "influences" are Joanne Brackeen, John Hicks, and George Garzone -- latter just means she's lived in Boston, where Garzone has taught everyone; "see also" includes Najee, although I certainly don't recommend following up there; "styles" include Crossover Jazz, which she's pretty much managed to crossover from. She's got a couple of cheesecake album covers in the past, but this isn't one. I can't say as I hear much Brackeen or Hicks in her piano, but I couldn't argue strongly against Hancock and/or Tyner. The mod touches here include a couple of rock songs (Sting, Joy Division) and a couple of unclaimed weak vocals on originals. Judging from the typography, the group is a piano trio plus guests Tony Levin on electric bass and Erik Naslund on trumpet. Seems more middle brow than mainstream. Probably of minor interest, but shouldn't be easily dismissed. [B+(*)]
Kenny Werner: Lawn Chair Society (2007, Blue Note): I should have written this up first time I played the release. At least that way my confusion could seem resolvable through further experience. As it is, I've played this 6-8 times -- often at times I didn't expect to be able to concentrate on anything but I thought I'd give it a chance to connect. Bottom line is: it hasn't, but I can't tell you why. Chris Potter has moments at peak form. Trumpet player is no slouch either: Dave Douglas. Brian Blade and Scott Colley navigate the undertow, never more authoritatively than when they break free. Werner's a good pianist, and I don't mind when he dabbles in electronics except when it gets slow and gloomy. I don't know Werner's other work, but that may not matter given how strong the horns are. Come to think of it, Douglas and Potter have often confused me in the past. I have no doubt that they are brilliant musicians, and there are stretches here as elsewhere to underscore the point, but this isn't the first time they've managed to throw me. B+(*)
David Torn: Prezens (2005 , ECM): AMG's entire biography reads: "Hard-edged fusion guitarist with aura of mystery. Influenced by Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Terje Rypdal, and Robert Fripp." I can imagine Wire playing him those in one of their Invisible Jukebox interviews. Wikipedia is more forthcoming: born 1953; studied with Leonard Bernstein, John Abercrombie, and Pat Martino; cousin of Rip Torn, Geraldine Page, and Sissy Spacek; survived a brain tumor that left him deaf in right ear; since then about half of his credits have been for mixing and/or producing. Four cuts are solo things with Torn mixing guitar and electronics. One more adds drummer Matt Chamberlain. The other seven tracks backs Torn with Tim Berne's Hard Cell trio -- Craig Taborn on keyboards and Tom Rainey on drums -- although one could just as well view the group as Berne's Science Friction quartet with Torn replacing guitarist Marc Ducret. In the latter case Torn is a heavier, more rockish guitarist, into broad tonal assaults rather than noted lines. He threatens to turn the album into structure, but Rainey is too quick to let him get away with that. This fits nicely into the great wave of guitar albums of late. I might prefer to hear Torn supporting Berne rather than the other way around. Haven't heard Torn's early albums. His previous tour on ECM produced the well-regarded 1986 album Cloud Over Mercury, with a lineup that included Bill Bruford, Tony Levin, and Mark Isham. I haven't heard any of his previous records, but the group shift must be notable. I do know that Torn has mixed most of Berne's recent albums, so he certainly knew what he was getting into. [B+(**)] [Apr 17]
Paul Motian/Bill Frisell/Joe Lovano: Time and Time Again (2006 , ECM): One Rodgers/Hammerstein, one Monk, one by Lovano, the rest by Motian. Lovano and Frisell play soft and disjointed, kind of like Motian drums. There's a certain integrity to that, but it's hard to get excited about. Frisell sounds especially uninspired. B
Hal Galper/Jeff Johnson/John Bishop: Furious Rubato (2006 , Origin): Galper is a veteran pianist who has impressed me in the past; Johnson and Bishop are Seattle's go-to rhythm section. Two Miles Davis pieces, one by Coltrane, one by Johnson, the rest Galper originals. Strikes me as dense and busy. I'm keeping it open because I've been distracted during two plays -- don't expect much at this point, but not quite sure. [B]
Joe Beck/Santi Debriano/Thierry Arpino: Trio 7 (2007, Whaling City Sound): Guitarist. Been around at least since the '70s, when he worked with Esther Phillips. AMG says he had a "big hit with David Sanborn in 1975" -- there's an album from then called Beck & Sanborn, but I missed it. Actually, I missed all of 20+ records Beck's recorded since 1969 -- even the Phillips records, but the name rings a bell. This is pleasant, soft-toned, with a little Brazilian seasoning but no nylon. I find myself focusing on the bassist, who's worth the attention. Note that Debriano's name is misspelled on the cover. B+(*)
Allen Lowe: Jews in Hell: Radical Jewish Acculturation (2004-06 , Spaceout, 2CD): Actually, the title goes on: Or: All the Blues You Could Play By Now If Stanley Crouch Was Your Uncle; and on: Or: Dance of the Creative Economy: How I Learned to Stop Worrying About the Space Gallery and Love the Music Business. Lowe wrote in suggesting that if I made this a Dud he could market around that. I doubt that he'll get that particular wish, although the record is a huge mess, a lot of things that fit oddly if at all. Next step is RTFM: Lowe may not be much of a musician -- his alto sax is fine, but he mostly plays guitar here along with banjo, bass, and synth -- and he certainly isn't much of a singer -- but he's a good writer and an exceptional musicologist, and the manual (err, booklet) looks to be as important a part of the package as the discs. All I can really say thus far is that this shatters expectations. [B]
(((Powerhouse Sound))): Oslo/Chicago Breaks (2005-06 , Atavistic, 2CD): I've never been sure what some Ken Vandermark group names really mean -- Territory Band, Free Fall, FME all suggest something more/less different from reality -- but this one couldn't be more literal. Vandermark has a batch of songs, half dedicated to JA stars (Burning Spear, Lee Perry, Coxsonne Dodd, King Tubby), half to others distinguished mostly by hardness (Miles Davis, Bernie Worrell, Hank Shocklee, the Stooges). He took them to Oslo to record with his School Days crew (Ingebrigt Haker Flaten, Paal Nilssen-Love), Lasse Marhaug's electronics, and doubled up on the bass by bringing Nate McBride along -- both bassists play electric. Then he returned to Chicago with McBride and added Jeff Parker on guitar and John Herndon on drums for more/less the same set. Vandermark sticks to tenor sax, and is the sole horn on both, a setup that by now promises powerhouse avant-honk. He's on spot almost as much as with Sound in Action Trio, or for that matter the McBride-driven Triple Play, although there's more going on here -- particularly with Parker. Not done with this yet, but grade is minimal. Could be a Pick Hit. A-
Fred Lonberg-Holm Trio: Terminal Valentine (2006 , Atavistic): Chicago-based cellist, recently joined Vandermark 5 replacing trombonist Jeb Bishop. The initial problem here is that there isn't a lot of sonic variety to a cello-bass-drums trio, so it's hard to tell what's going on without paying close attention. As background this flows agreeably, with some edge that may pan out, but I'll have to return to it later. Another open question is why do so many FLH albums involve valentines? [B+(*)]
Nicole Mitchell/Harrison Bankhead/Hamid Drake: Indigo Trio: Live in Montreal (Paperback Series Vol. 3) (2005 , Greenleaf Music): Website says: "The Paperback Series is a revolutionary new way of making rare recordings available. This is music that the artists have long wanted to release, in a new format that now makes it possible. The CDs are packaged in a distinctive cardboard sleeve with full credits and information and offered at a special low price, exclusively from Greenleaf Music through our store, musicstem.com." I guess revolutions aren't what they used to be -- there's nothing even remotely impressive about the website pricing. I haven't heard the first two volumes, which are live sets by label proprietor Dave Douglas. Chicago musicians. Drake and Bankhead play often when Fred Anderson -- Bankhead is a dependable bassist, Drake is brilliant and then some. Mitchell plays with Bankhead in Frequency. Her instrument is flute, something I'm rarely impressed by, but the rhythm Bankhead and Drake throw up is so alive that a thin layer of frosting works. She also sings, or chants, one, with a thin, airy voice not unlike her flute, and that works as well. [B+(***)]
And these are final grades/notes on records I put back for further listening the first time around.
Roger Powell: Fossil Poets (2006, Inner Knot): Powell's "retro-future" suggests that there must have been such a thing as pre-postmodernism, only we were fortunate enough not to recognize it as such at the time. Powell's resume isn't promising: even if we discount Bat Out of Hell as a fluke, he played the synths that drove Todd Rundgren's Utopia over the deep end. The only jazz credit I find on his CV is a Charlie Rouse album. This one is marginal genrewise, synth-driven instrumentals with a steady beat, eschewing both funk and spaciness -- too square for jazz, too soft for fusion, too old-fashioned for experimental rock, too much fun for new age. Comes to a nice soft landing with what sounds like a real piano. I've refiled this under Pop Jazz, but the smoothies won't like it either. B+(**)
Nicolas Masson: Yellow (A Little Orange) (2004 , Fresh Sound New Talent): Two-horn quartet, Masson playing tenor sax and bass clarinet, Russ Johnson trumpet, with Eivind Opsvik on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums. More postbop than avant; both horns have good broken field runs and the jousts generate some heat, but the harmonizing bogs down a bit. B+(*)
Scotty Hard's Radical Reconstructive Surgery (2004 , Thirsty Ear): Hard is credited with drum machines and samplers, but he's working on top of Mauricio Takara's drums and DJ Olive's turntables, so it's hard to say how much is his. The two sets of keyboards are easier to unravel, and far more central to the record, even though both John Medeski and Matthew Shipp are credited variously with organ, wurlitzer, and piano -- Medeski also on mellotron and clavinet. Typical Blue Series jam. I'd be more impressed had it come earlier in the series. B+(**)
Saturday, April 7. 2007
Haven't written anything about movies since Marie Antoinette and The Queen in November. That was actually the beginning of the decent movie season here in Wichita, which winds down a few weeks after the Oscars. So we've seen a lot of stuff lately, but I haven't been keeping track. In looking back over the early notebooks, one thing I noticed is that a lot of times I just jotted down a grade. Too bad, given that I can't even recall some of the movies listed, but that's a precedent for the lapses that follow. Can't swear that I've seen them in this order, but this works as a first approximation. The first note was written at the time and squirrelled away in the scratch file. The others are catch-up quickies.
Movie: For Your Consideration. A Christopher Guest movie, with Eugene Levy co-writing, and the usual cast of characters working out. The setting is Hollywood during the filming of a '40s period movie called Home for Purim, with a pair of has-been or never-was leading actors at the center of a large cluster of roles -- supporting actors, director, writers, producers, agent, publicists, makeup, media flacks, and so forth. The movie, with its melodrama -- a dying mother hopes to reunite her family for one last Purim dinner -- and mix of Yiddish with southern accents, is deliciously off base, which makes the the outer film's central joke -- the buzz that the cast could be in line for Oscar nods -- a non-starter. That infects most of the jokes that follow -- some of which are still hilarious, although Catherine O'Hara's surgery is just painful. B+
Movie: The U.S. Versus John Lennon. The soundtrack itself is great, and very useful in the way it mixes Lennon's agitprop songs within his bedrock philosophy, an anti-religion pacifism. The film itself is less compelling. B+
Movie: Blood Diamond. Got panned for being preachy, but that's really only the last couple of minutes. Leonardo Di Caprio is terrific, and Africa is gorgeous and horrifying. A-
Movie: The Good Shepherd. I meant to dig up a quote from Lewis Lapham relevant here, where he recounts his job interview with the CIA. The real story of the CIA is one of those stranger than fiction tales: who would believe that the whole organization would have been so tightly wound around something like Skull and Bones? Yet it fits; it even helps explain some of the weirdness. Matt Damon is unusually wooden here, his brilliance often attested to but rarely demonstrated. B+
Movie: Children of Men. Anglo dystopianism, set in a near-future world lacking children, waiting to die. Seems to me it would have been better with less of the violent action that distracts from its philosphical heaviness. Also could have used more eccentrics, not that anyone else could top Michael Caine. B+
Movie: Charlotte's Web. Went twice to see Casino Royale only to find it sold out -- never did get back to it. Saw this as a second choice. I don't recall the classic story, which both pleased and annoyed. Not much impressed by the pig. Suggested we go for BBQ afterwards, but Laura opted for sushi. B
Movie: Babel. Don't see what's confusing here. The model is global north-south, how both fails, but the north forgives its own faults while the south suffers. Each of the stories involves two generations, so that's another dimension. Doesn't simplify or moralize: each fate speaks for itself. A
Movie: Dreamgirls. The problem with this as a Motown saga is the lack of great, or even good, music -- even Beyoncé kept her best shit out of this movie. Eddie Murphy gets a pass for pre-Motown grease. Sets were great with period details shined up to museum level. I wouldn't have given Jennifer Hudson that Oscar. B+
Movie: Flags of Our Fathers. Saw this late, on its second pass in support of Letters From Iwo Jima. It's roughly three movies in one, of which the least important is its chronicle of fearful assault -- what Spielberg started to do in Saving Private Ryan before he made his feel-good move. Eastwood finds no romance and no glory in that assault. It is, rather, a mere consequence of the decision of others to go to war -- the brunt suffered by people who had no say in the decision. Eastwood is equally unromantic about the home front -- a take that's even more unprecedented. The third is a riff on accidental fame and human fragility. The three Iwo Jima heroes provide distinct case studies, none viable. Along the way we see how the media simplifies and trivializes events that are nearly unfathomably complex. A
Movie: Letters From Iwo Jima. The view from the other side of the beach, the pillbox, the tunnel -- a view never before filmed by an American director. Eastwood wants to humanize the enemy here, which makes this a little softer, more sentimental than Flags, but he's right to recognize that we need help. Two officers have American connections, which plays nicely, but also rings true. The main enlisted man is a drafted baker; another is a flunkee from what seems to have been Japan's SS. One major difference is that for the Japanese impending doom was an endstate rather than a temporary terror. Hard to know how one should face that, especially given that it's so rare in American experience. A
Movie: Volver. Average Almodovar movie -- takes a while for that to sink in. The women are central; the men disposable, necessary props, or maybe even incidental. In the end, I was struck by the absence, indeed utter irrelevance, of the police in a movie that involves a killing. Very un-American thing to do. A-
Movie: The Last King of Scotland. The Idi Amin story. Plot got a little creepy toward the end, with the Scottish doctor tortured more by the writers than by the thugs, but no complaints about Forest Whitaker's Oscar. A-
Movie: Notes on a Scandal. Weak spot here is that I can't see this as much of a scandal, but then I recall a fondness for older women myself. Thought Cate Blanchett was better here than Helen Mirren was in The Queen. B+
Movie: Pan's Labyrinth. Didn't care much for the fantasy sequences as this got going, although they paid off in the end. Don't know whether the fantasy made the reality more credible, but this etches the face of Fascism in starkly realistic terms -- the Capitan is a complete monster, right down to his watch. He produces fear even when he shaves himself. A-
Movie: The Painted Veil. W. Somerset Maugham novel, a powerful story told a bit too sketchily. The rotten core of the west's exploitation of China is clear to behold even if it factors little into the story. B+
Movie: Venus. Same role Peter O'Toole played in My Favorite Year, but much older, of course. His old buddies are a plus. The young tart finally figures that out, and we all learn with her. A-
Movie: The Good German. So odd you suspect you're missing something. Looks ugly, deliberately so. Title seems to be ironic, but the case is too muddied to be sure. Also, I've never seen a leading man get into so many fights and get creamed so consistently -- even when Clooney kills someone near the end he winds up looking like a loser. Ending looks lifted from Casablanca, ignoring the more plausible one: Clooney should have left with the girl; either way would have been humiliating, but the separation leaves it all in vain. B
Movie: Breach. Spy vs. Spy. Taut enough as a movie, but could be better as history, if anyone cares what makes people like Hansen tick. Chris Cooper is very good. Too bad the movie's about the other guy, and the creeps in the background, including the clueless asshole who got to announce the sting. B+
Movie: The Lives of Others. Two pivot points here, each tuned precisely in terms of how they personally balance their ethics and their loyalty to the Communist order: one a writer, the other a Stasi spy monitoring the writer. The order itself fares less well, as secrecy breeds corruption backed with stifling violence. The story wouldn't be half as powerful, or half as damning of the GDR, without the idealism, nor would the idealism be credible without the personal quirks: the two may be Good Germans, but not always, or even principally -- Bertolt Brecht haunts the background, reminding us of the primacy of bestial acts. Movie of the year, even before the last line, which may be the best ever. A+
Movie: Zodiac. California murder case from the '70s, an era before caller ID. Killer managed to avoid identification, or prosecution at least, despite tweaking of the press. I like the strict chronological structure, which spreads out over decades, following a book by a cartoonist obsessed with the case, and featuring a journalist and a police detective who spend substantial parts of their careers with it more/less on their minds. Police work strikes me as realistic. Some echoes of personal experience, but also critical differences. A-
Two of the above (Breach; Zodiac) are 2007 releases. The others are 2006 releases. The following sums up the 2006 releases I saw and wrote about:
A list of 2006 movies I didn't see but more/less wish I had, in roughly descending order: Idlewild; Little Children; Casino Royale; Tristam Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story; The Science of Sleep; Borat; United 93; A Scanner Darkly; Fast Food Nation; Who Killed the Electric Car?; Hollywoodland; L'Enfant; World Trade Center; 49 Up; Factotum.
Friday, April 6. 2007
Aside from a note ducking Jazz Prospecting this week, I haven't posted anything to the blog since March 28. Posts have been spotty before then, too, although I did manage a burst in mid-March, partly fueled by book reports. I thought it might be time to offer a status report. Aside from the physical and mental stresses, the robbery five weeks ago resulted in a long list of things to do which I have been moving through rather slowly. For instance, we have a plan for various home improvements -- mostly relating to security, but that's also scratched a long-time itch for better network wiring. So I've been chasing down information, talking to contractors, trying to figure it out, and all that takes a lot of time. We've installed some lighting that still has some problems, ordered some doors that haven't arrived yet, and are getting close to settling on other bits and pieces.
Even worse has been the computer problems. Two machines that I bought in late 2005 were stolen and needed to be replaced: a Linux box that I was doing most of my work on, and a Windows box that I sometimes had to resort to for their proprietary file crap. In the meantime, I've fallen back on two older machines, which are slow and increasingly crash-prone. I've limped along with them, but one effect is that I've cut way back on my news browsing -- hence, I've lacked the stimuli that kick off most of my posts. I've been slow replacing them because the technology has moved on quite a bit in two years: dual core 64-bit hacks (AMD 64, Intel's EMT64) are now standard in my price category, DDR2 memory is up to 800 MHz, PCI Express x16 has obsoleted AGP, SATA has reduced PATA down to one connector/two devices on most motherboards, video cards compete more and more on things like hardware shading, TV tuners have become commodity-priced, and the political economy of operating systems has shifted. The latter has been particularly annoying: I've noticed that it's become much harder to find compatibility information on Linux than it used to be. To some extent this may have been because Linux support has become routinized, especially if you're willing to compromise and use closed source drivers for ATI and NVIDIA. But it may also be that since DOJ caved in on the Microsoft antitrust suit, Microsoft has been able to muscle the hardware companies away from public support of Linux. In the end, I wound up just throwing my hands up in the air and ordering a bunch of hardware with no real guarantee of support. It may be that it will all run out of the box fine, but if so that will be a first in my experience, and I've never felt more alone. We'll see: I have parts on order for an AMD X2 2.8GHz, ASUS motherboard, 2GB RAM, 2 320GB disks, NVIDIA 7600GT video card, DVD-ROM and DVD burner. Will know more next week.
As for the Windows system, I'm still researching that. Everyone says the Intel Core 2 Duo processors are much faster than AMD X2s, but the LGA 775 motherboards look less impressive -- especially the ones with Intel P965 chipsets. (On the other hand, the rule of thumb with Intel processors is to go with Intel motherboards, so you see my quandry.) Then there's the new, no doubt buggy, Windows Vista vs. the old, still buggy, Windows XP. And within that the question of 64-bit vs. 32-bit. I think the answer for my needs is to go with Vista 64-bit and ride it out. It's not a critical machine for me, so I figure I should look forward. But it winds up being a more expensive machine for less utility, so, well, my ingrained sense of cost-effectiveness is taking a beating. That's true on all these shopping issues, but we're feeling lucky to still be here.
I'm close to figuring this out, at least well enough to order. I'm not worried about Windows compatibility, since that's what everyone builds to, so the Windows machine will be more advanced. Also, given $200 for Vista, more expensive. But eventually Linux will run on it too, and in a better world that would be sooner. The other shopping issues are also coming to a head, although as David Owen points out, you never really want home projects to end -- otherwise, you'll have to think of something new. I still want new siding and a better kitchen and maybe a second bath upstairs, so I have fallback options.
On the writing front, the April Recycled Goods is done but as I understand it won't be posted until this weekend. I'll post on that when it happens. Only started jazz prospecting yesterday, so next week will be short but at least there'll be something. Most of the website-related work I've been doing has been in the Books section. I'm going through all the old notebook entries and pulling out scraps I've written on books since 2001. I've found over 100, so next update there'll be a lot more there. In doing so, I've skimmed through and started to think that it might be possible to edit that stuff down to a useful and interesting chronicle of the Bush era. I'll write more about that and the book project(s) when I finish scrounging.
For those readers in Kansas, KSN has shot a "Crimestoppers" sequence on our incident. This will air on Sunday, and I guess will be on their website later on. There's been little or no progress on finding the criminals, so the police hope this will generate some fresh leads. I dodged the thing, but Laura talks off camera, and they took a lot of video of the inside of our car trunk. I'm not optimistic about what they've done, but it's not our place to tell them how to do their jobs.
Weather has been weird here in Kansas. Had three weeks with overcast skies and rain almost every day, followed by a little sun and an explosion of pollen and histamines. Temperature got up into the 80s, with everything bright and green, then yesterday it got cold, clouded up, and snowed. Very strange to see white snow on top of so much green.
Otherwise, we keep on keeping on, and some of these problems will get worked out before too long.
Monday, April 2. 2007
Spent all last week working on April's Recycled Goods column. Still needs an editing pass, but should be posted sometime late this week. I managed to get far enough ahead that May's column is pretty much in the bag as well. It's been a slow, tedious, in the end agonizing week, as three weeks of monsoon finally broke in an explosion of toxic pollen. Spring is here, and suddenly the world is bright and green. Wish I could enjoy it more, but the accumulation of tasks to do, physical ailments, and sheer exhaustion is dragging me down. One casualty this week has been Jazz Prospecting. The week closed out with five records in the scratch file, but only one undoubtedly counts as jazz, and it doesn't have a final grade. So I figure I'll hold them back and at least have a start on next week. This looks like it's gonna be another rough one.