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March 31, 2008

I'm Betting People Will Appreciate « Music/Guitar »


You Tube. The crutch for lazy bloggers.

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March 29, 2008

Outside the Wire, the DVD « GWOT »

I ordered it. You should, too.

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March 28, 2008

...Because, Hey! Free Photoshop! « For Jeremy Gilby »

In case you were wondering.

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Top Eight Most Influential Rock Drummers « Music/Guitar »

As always, this is my assessment of who is influential, not necessarily who I like, or who I think is the most skilled (although you have to be particularly skilled to make this list). These are the drummers who I know by name, whose style I can identify without hearing the song with it, the ones whose style is a point of comparison in music reviews, and/or the people I have heard cited by drummers as people they want to drum like.

1) Buddy Rich
Even though he's a jazz drummer, his ability and style influenced all drummers. He is, quite simply, the best ever.
From his wiki entry:

Rich's technique has been one of the most standardized and coveted in drumming. His dexterity, speed and smooth execution have been considered Holy Grails. While Rich typically held his sticks using traditional grip, he was also a skilled "match grip" player, and was one of few drummers to master the one-handed roll on both hands. Some of his more spectacular moves are crossover riffs, where he would criss-cross his arms from one drum to another, sometimes over the arm, and even under the arm at great speed.

He often used contrasting techniques to keep long drum solos from getting mundane. Aside from his energetic explosive displays, he would go into quieter passages. One passage he would use in most solos starts with a simple single-stroke roll on the snare picking up speed and power, then slowly moving his sticks closer to the rim as he gets quieter and then eventually playing on just the rim itself while still maintaining speed. Then he would reverse the effect and slowly move towards the center of the snare while increasing power.

Another technique that few drummers have been able to perfect is the stick-trick where he does a fast roll just by slapping his two sticks together in a circular motion.

2) John Bonham
Great drummer. Perhaps a little messy, but great passion, groove, and ultimate feel. I once heard him described as "the loudest drummer ever."
From his wiki entry:

He was renowned for his power, speed and "feel" for the groove. Bonham is described by the Encyclopdia Britannica as "the perfect model for all hard rock drummers that have followed him".[

3) Neil Peart
In contrast to Bonham, Peart is one of the most precise and cleanest rock drummers I've ever heard. From his wiki entry:

Peart is often regarded as one of the finest practitioners of the in-concert drum solo. He is known for extensive, intricate drum solos containing odd time signatures, complex arrangements (sometimes total separation between upper and lower limb patterns.

4) Lars Ulrich
Thrash Metal is to drumming what Neo-Classical Yngwie J. Malmsteen-style speed soloing is to guitar: even if you don't play that style, the technique has to be part of your repertoire. And Lars Ulrich spearheaded the effort. From his wiki page:

Ulrich's early work with Metallica led him to be dubbed as one of the thrash metal scene's drumming greats. He became known as a pioneer of fast thrash drum beats and techniques, featured on many of Metallica's early songs... He has since been considerably influential due to both the popularity of his band and his interesting drum techniques, such as the machine-gun double bass in the song "One" and the pounding opening of "Enter Sandman".

5) Keith Moon
I don't know that much about him, but he is clearly one of the most influential rock drummers of all time:

Moon is known for innovative, dramatic drumming, often eschewing basic back beats for a fluid, extremely busy technique focused on fast, cascading rolls across the toms and cymbal crashes. Moon was one of the first to play the drums as a lead instrument in an era when drums were supposed to only keep the back beat. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most distinctive rock drummers of all time.

6) Ginger Baker
I'd heard that the members of Cream were all egotists trying to upstage each other. If so, I think that despite Eric Clapton getting all the fame*, Ginger Baker was actually the most influential member of the band. According to his wiki entry, Ginger was in the same flamboyant mold as some of the other influential drummers in this list, but spearheaded the use of a double bass drum. That's worthy of inclusion right there.

7) Stewart Copeland
Just slightly less crisp and precise than Peart, Copeland still hewed his own path to a distinct enough sound and style that he gets his own mention. From his wiki entry:

Copeland is known for his precise, energetic, and creative rock drumming along with a reggae and jazz influenced style. His distinctive sound centers on a hard, high-pitched crack on a snare drum or rimshot, subtle hi-hat work with understated flourishes, while often playing only hi-hat with bass drum. Copeland is a master of the syncopated beat, and his distinct approach consolidates his position as an important drummer on the world stage, subsequently influencing generations of drummers.

Copeland is also noted for his heavy emphasis on the groove as a complement to the song, rather than displays of technical prowess. He once drove this point home at a drum clinic: Copeland announced that he would show the audience something "that very few modern drummers can do," and proceeded to play a simple rock beat for two minutes. Nonetheless, his playing often incorporates spectacular fills and subtle inflections which greatly augment the groove. Compared to most of his 1980s contemporaries, Copeland's snare sound was very bright and cutting. Another novelty was his use of splash cymbals. He also is one of the few rock drummers using the traditional grip rather than the matched grip.

8) Rick Allen
His wiki entry sells him short, in my opinion.
Yes, Rick Allen is influential because he's probably the only one-armed drummer in the world, ever. But he earns a spot on this list because he is one of the best drummers I've heard at surprising sequences of beats. He doesn't do anything that complicated, but it never fails to sound special to me. I might consider him the equivalent to Carlos Santana: his musical sense is impeccable, even if his technique is nothing to write home about.

Honorable mentions:
Cozy Powell
Carl Palmer
Carmen Appice
Ian Paice
Aynsley Dunbar
Bill Bruford

Not making the list:
Phil Collins
Alex Van Halen
Tommy Lee

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March 27, 2008

Golden Earring « Music/Guitar »

A comment from Diamond Dave reminded me I wanted to look them up in Wikipedia.

I'm glad I did.

Dutch. Dutch?!? Dutch.
Oldest rock band still in existing and touring (beating the Stones by a year)
Unchanged lineup since 1970.
Still performs approximately 200 shows per year???

Wow. Just: Wow.

Mr. Lady: Two hit wonder:
You are not allowed to forget "Twilight Zone."

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Posted by Nathan at 10:56 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
Two Things I've Never Done « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

Illegal drugs or prostitutes.

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Top Seven Most Influential Rock Bassists « Music/Guitar »

1) John Paul Jones
I think much of the credit given to Jimmy Page actually belongs to John Paul Jones, who had to keep up with all of Jimmy's licks on bass. At this point, any time you hear a guitar and bass playing blues licks in unison, it is called Zeppelin-esque. No other bassist has created such an enduring and distinctive style, in my opinion.
2) Paul McCartney
The guy rocked. He kept the beat, nailed down the low end, and still added in lots of melodic licks and fills. Dang, Paul!
3) Larry Graham of Sly and the Family Stone
Could also be Louis Johnson of Brothers Johnson...or a group effort.
In any case, slap bass technique was a totally new approach to the guitar. It appears more in funk and jazz, but the technique appears enough in rock to earn the #3 spot in influence; and so the players that popularized it are nameed...
4) Ross Valory
Journey was one of the top rock bands of the 80s. And Ross' bass work was often at the forefront, playing the role of melodic as well as harmonic motion. Add in that he was also the bassist for most of the big Steve Miller Band hits of the 70s, and you have one of the most influential bassists of all time.
5) Geddy Lee
You know, I think Geddy is a little over-rated. Many of his bass fills are rather repititious 5th intervals. I also really dislike his bass tone, which mostly sounds like a muddy guitar. But YYZ and a few other songs show he has bass chops like most people don't.
6) Carol Kaye
Look her up. If half her claims are true, she's one of the most influential bassists of all tie.
7) Derek Smalls
How can you not include Derek Smalls? The driving force between a triple bass guitar composition? Been around with Spinal Tap since the 60s, including all the stylistic changes that encompassed? He's so on the list. I had to make a special spot on the list for Derek.

Honorable mention, but not making the list:
Jack Bruce
John Entwhistle
Noel Redding

Not even close to being on my list of "Best" bassists:
Jermaine Jackson
Andy Taylor
The guy from Mr. Mister
Randy Jackson

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Posted by Nathan at 09:40 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

March 26, 2008

Ode to My Mazda 626 « Car Issues »

One of the reasons I've been doing car issues is because my commute car was totalled, and I did much car research to determine value and find a replacement.

I ended up getting a steal:
A 1998 Mazda 626 4-cyl LX with 83k miles: $1000 even. If you do the math on it over at Edmunds for Hawaii (where I am and where I purchased it, naturally), It is worth $3300 retail! The typical Mazda transmission problems should be a thing of the past, as the transmission was replaced last year.

I was looking for a car that I could drive for a month, then sell without a loss while shipping my '01 Prizm for the upcoming move to Texas. Not only did I do that in spades, I ended up getting a car I don't want to give maybe we'll sell the Prizm instead.

Without further ado:
Ode to my Mazda 626 (David J. Will Understand)
O! My 626,
You are lovely.
You look so nice parked in my assigned space,
Your aggressive stance and perfect proportions
Displayed for all to see.
You have all the gadgets a man could hope for,
Including air vents that swing at a touch of a button.
You have decent fuel economy, but enough power to
Cruise smoothly at interstate speeds.
Acceleration may not be world-class,
May not approach current sedan standards,
But your steering is so precise, so rock steady,
That driving is a simple, daily pleasure.
I feel great just slipping behind the wheel.
You are larger than most used Corollas and Civics, but
With an elegance and comfort and little
Touches of quality in materials and the way
Knobs and switches move, that I feel more
Decadent than an Accord or Camry owner.
I cannot believe I found you for just $1000.
I do not want to lose you, my 626,
But cold, hard cash is hard to resist.
I may have to look for a used 626 in Texas...

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Posted by Nathan at 08:06 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)

March 25, 2008

What Is GM Thinking?!??, Pt II « Car Issues »

Along with the Cobalt not really having a decent niche, along with GM not really having a decent small economy car, it hit me the other day:

Why doesn't GM have any cars for women?

Take a look at their SUV list.

Is there anything there that can compete with the Honda CRV, the Toyota RAV4, the Lexus RX330, or similar Sport-Cutes? Nope. Their smallest is still hefty enough that they don't offer a single 4-cyl option. That's too bloated for many women. And the base model is already nearly $23k!

That's an important market segment they willingly and unnecessarily gave away to the competition.

Just for giggles, check out all the models that earned a fairly-easily obtainable "8" Edmund's Editor's Rating.*

Do they want to give up on the US market or something? The Corvette and the single Cadillac that's getting rave reviews will not be enough to revive sales across the entire line.

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Rental Car Review, Pt XVII: What is GM Thinking??!? « Car Issues »

After my commute car was totalled by a motorcycle (while the car was parked for the night), I had the dubious pleasure of driving a Cobalt for about a week.

The Cobalt is a decent car, I guess.

But I don't really understand what GM is thinking.

First, the positives:
It's got plenty of power. It handles nicely. It looks good, and had plenty of room to seat 4 adults easily. Unfortunately, that's about it on the positives. Not enough to even use a bulletized list.

The negatives (all sorts of bullets):
- A severe lack of convenience electronics: No power windows, no key fob lock/unlock function, no in-car All-Lock/Unlock button. I realize I had a rental fleet car. But I have had plenty of other rental fleet cars with convenience electronics. The worst was the lack of any all-lock/unlock function anywhere in the vehicle: even my entry-level 2001 Chevy Prizm (a Toyota design built by Chevy workers) from almost a decade ago has the ability to lock/unlock all the doors from the drivers door; it was a real pain to always have to lock/unlock all doors manually when kids/in-laws were riding with me.
- I have never understood when car reviewers complained about the quality of the plastic inside a car. I really never thought about how the plastic was that I was touching. But this car had a textured plastic covering the door interior; no problem at that point...until it came time to roll down the window. No power windows, so you reach for the handle, and proceed to strip all the skin off of your knuckles on the rough-textured plastic as you crank. They might as well have used a cheese-grater!
- "Plenty of room" should be a positive...but if you want to buy a small car so that you can park easily and zip around, this car is not it. It is a foot longer than the previous model RAV4 (As I noticed in comparing to my neighbor's vehicle from the 2nd-floor balcony). But despite being longer than the RAV4, the Cobalt is not as comfortable for 5 adults, nor does it have anywhere near the cargo space. Being a Sport-Cute, the RAV4 is far more expensive, but is far more efficient with space.
And even worse, despite being 6 inches longer my 2001 Chevy Prizm, than it has approximately the same passenger dimensions except for one: significantly less rear hip room! It seems as if the only way Chevy can compete with Toyota is when it uses Toyota designs!
- Despite having plenty of room, the Cobalt's extremely short rear deck made it very difficult to put anything into the trunk.

In response to noting that Mazda drivers are usually very passionate about loving their cars, I noted that Toyotas are usually best described as "good enough, and that's about it." It almost seems like Chevrolet was attempting to imitate being "just good enough", rather than shooting for making a good car that is "good enough" to compete with everything out there. They missed the mark slightly, and it resulted in a thoroughly mediocre car. Unfortunately, cars are all getting better, and mediocre no longer equates to average. This is clearly a below-average car.

The Cobalt can't even compare to mid-90s sedans like the Mazda 626 or Honda Accord. The power/size/economy may be about the same, but the Japanese offerings are far more luxurious and comfortable. Chevy is about 15 years behind the state-of-the-art, if the Cobalt is any example.

To be honest, I don't even understand why this car is in GM's lineup. It can't compete with any of the Japanese cars on quality, economy, or comfort. It isn't small enough to be a small car (I think the Aero is supposed to fit that segment for Chevy, actually). The base Mazda 3 and Mitsubishi Lancer are just as cheap, but far more fun to drive. And there are many other cars just as cheap and equally as fun to drive, but more reliable (there are 12 total cars at an equivalent size/price point). It really doesn't fit well between the Aero and the Malibu, really.

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March 23, 2008

Pit Bull In Art « Blogging »

It's gotta be done.

I'm sorry, but I think putting a pit bull in art is probably a violation of most cruelty to animal statues.

Unless it is a mis-spelling of "put bull in art", because I think there is already enough bullS*** in modern art that there's a sort of grandfather clause on putting actuall bulls in art nowadays.

This has been a public service announcement from Brain Fertilizer's Trolling for Traffic department.

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Posted by Nathan at 09:37 AM | Comments (385) | TrackBack (0)
It's Easter. You Know What That Means... « Blogging »

Aside from the celebration of Christ's Resurrection, I get crazy traffic from people doing Google searches on "why no Google Easter logo?"!

Back when I was a semi-important blogger (people actually read and even occasionally linked this site), I reacted to a minor kerfuffle about Google not doing an Easter logo design for 2005. For some reason, it scratched people's itch or something...or maybe seeing "Brain Fertilizer" with something closely related to what they were searching for sparked interest enough for people to click through...dunno, but I'm #4 on the Google search for the topic. And that means every Easter I get mega-traffic. This year blows the previous years out of the water: I already have more than 200...but I'm sure it won't translate into any sustainable traffic.

Snapshot of the last 100 hits of my traffic in the extended entry.

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It's Business Time: Name That Party Edition « Snark »

That's why they call 'em business socks!*

" target="_blank">It's Business Time!

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March 22, 2008

Ma Wins Taiwan Presidency; DPP Wallows in Confusion « China/Taiwan »

Reactions from That's Impossible pro-DPP Taiwan blog.

Reactions from Taiwan Matters pro-DPP Taiwan blog.

I think they're missing the point.

Chen owns the DPP right now. For the last 8 years, just about anything he said, the DPP did.

The DPP paid the price today. Hsieh would otherwise have been a decent candidate, but the DPP/Chen albatross around his neck ruined any chance.

In any case, the I think we'll see the DPP win some power back eventually. Much of Chen's failures in the last four years were because he simply couldn't understand he wasn't dealing with Jiang Zemin anymore; he was dealing with Hu Jintao, someone even better at splitting hairs to put the opponent at a disadvantage than Chen himself was. But some of Chen's failures were simply because Taiwan's socio-economic-political situation just isn't very good. When Ma fails at lots of stuff, too, people will begin to think maybe the DPP is a better choice, after all...

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