Sunday, May 29, 2016

Numeric Driftwood II

"Did I Dream You Dreamed About Me?"

[This is one post in a series about my music mixes.  The series list has links to all posts in the series and also definitions of many of the terms I use.  You may wish to read the introduction for more background.  You may also want to check out the first volume in this multi-volume mix for more info on its theme.

Like all my series, it is not necessarily contiguous—that is, I don’t guarantee that the next post in the series will be next week.  Just that I will eventually finish it, someday.  Unless I get hit by a bus.]

As (nearly) always, my initial list for Numeric Driftwood was plenty long enough to fill out two volumes.  We have two more tracks from Kitaro, also off India, and another from Enya (the title track from Shepherd Moons, in fact), which is pretty good representation from two of my three favorite sleepy-time albums.  As far as the Cocteau Twins goes, I certainly couldn’t resist including them, but I decided to expand beyond merely reusing Victorialand.  As magnificent as that album is, it’s only one of only 7 Twins’ albums I own—which is the maxium number of albums I own from any single band1so it’s only fair to branch out a little and share some of the other Cocteau goodness out there.  In this case, I chose one cut off Treasure, the Cocteaus’ first album with Simon Raymonde, and one from their penultimate album Four-Calendar Café.

I’ve also drawn in my other favorite relaxing music album, which I talked about at some length when discussing Shadowfall Equinox II: This Mortal Coil’s It’ll End in Tears.  In that discussion I noted that IEiT is really more for relaxation and contemplation than drifting off to sleep, but, if there’s an exception to that observation, it surely must be “Song to the Siren,” a stunningly beautiful song sung by Elizabeth Fraser and played by Robin Guthrie, i.e. two-thirds of the Cocteau Twins.2  I’ve heard the original, as sung by Tim Buckley, and Buckley’s version is pretty, granted, but This Mortal Coil’s version is transcendent, and beautifully soothing as well.  The lyrics (which include our volume title) are beautiful as well, and, as this is one of the few times you’re going to be able to understand what Fraser is singing, definitely take advantage of it and listen to the words.

Of course, as is typical of a volume II, we see lots of returning artists, even above and beyond those I’ve already mentioned.  Angels of Venice are back with two more songs, as is Anjey Satori, with two more tracks off of For Relaxation.  Celtic/jazz/world fusionists Skyedance return as well, with another quiet tune from Way Out to Hope Street.  All of these provide the backbone on which we hang the jewels of the new artists.

We kick off this volume with a 1-2-3 punch that starts with the lovely (and maritime) “Song to the Siren,” then traipses through cello master David Darling’s “Eight String Religion,” which sprinkles down like a light rainfall, and winds up with Sade’s “Mermaid,” a lovely underwater piece.  Darling was one of the artists I discovered via Hearts of Space; his album Cello Blue is well suited for Shadowfall Equinox,3 but Eight String Religion is a lighter affair which works well here.  Sade, of course, is well known for her smooth-jazz-like compositions such as “No Ordinary Love” and “The Sweetest Taboo,” but she occasionally puts out a sweet, slow instrumental like this one.

Also, as promised in the footnotes from last volume,4 we have a tune from my favorite cello player, Jami Seiber.  We heard from her once before, on Smooth as Whispercats, but this track is more typical of her oeuvre; although much of it is darker, almost all of it is slow and languorous like this track.  Sieber is yet another Magnatune artist, proving once again that the “We Are Not Evil” folks are as awesome as their motto suggests.

Numeric Driftwood II
    [Did I Dream You Dreamed About Me?]

        “Song to the Siren” by This Mortal Coil, off It'll End in Tears
        “Eight String Religion” by David Darling, off Eight String Religion
        “Mermaid” by Sade, off Love Deluxe
        “Mountain Streams” by Kitaro, off India
        “Sea Surround” by Anjey Satori, off For Relaxation
        “Otterley” by Cocteau Twins, off Treasure
        “Sara's Dream” by Angels of Venice, off Music for Harp, Flute and Cello
        “Rain Surround” by Anjey Satori, off For Relaxation
        “Ganga” by Kitaro, off India
        “Tell It by Heart” by Jami Sieber, off Second Sight
        “Skerray” by Skyedance, off Way Out to Hope Street
        “Light at the Edge of the World” by Angels of Venice, off Awake Inside a Dream
        “Shepherd Moons” by Enya, off Shepherd Moons
        “Essence” by Cocteau Twins, off Four-Calendar Café
        “Submarine Bells” by The Chills, off Submarine Bells
        “Cradle Song” by Shriekback, off Big Night Music
Total:  16 tracks,  76:42

Which just leaves us with our closing pair.  Coming off the dreaminess of “Essence” by the Cocteaus, we hit two vocal tracks (a rarity for this mix, which is of course mostly instrumental).  The first is from New Zealanders the Chills, who normally craft sublime alterna-pop, but the title track off their quite lovely Submarine Bells is less poppy and more calming.  And we close with a tune from Shriekback, another alternative band who’s more often known for their poppy numbers—in fact, Shriekback is often full-on dancy, with tunes such as “Everything That Rises Must Converge” and “Go Bang.”  But they can also do mellow as well, and their album Big Night Music is almost nothing but mellow.  “Cradle Song” is a true lullaby that provides a beautiful closer for this volume.

Next time, we’ll perk things up by taking a walk on the female vocal side.


1 There are 3 bands from whom I own 7 albums, actually (as of this writing), which is why I had to phrase that so qualifyingly.  The other two are INXS and They Might Be Giants.

2 Yes, the Cocteau Twins, like the Thompson Twins, are composed of three people, despite the name.

3 Although we won’t actually see a track there until Shadowfall Equinox IV.

4 Footnote 8, specifically, in connection with my discussion of cellist Martin McCarrick.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Perl blog post #52

As promised last week, this week I’ve published another part of my long-ass series on my Perl date module over on my Other Blog.  This one doesn’t even have much of a non-technical philosophical thread running through it, so I won’t be offended if you’re a non-techie and want to give it a pass.

Next week I’ll see if I can drum up someting more interesting than Perl gobbledygook.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Perl blog post #51

This week it’s time for another installment in my date module series over on my Other Blog.  This time it’s all about eating your own dogfood and not being afraid to admit you made a mistake and totally change your mind.  Still a lot of techno-babble in it, if you’re not a technical person, but I believe there’s some general utility there as well.  Hop on over and check it out if you’re so inclined.

If you’re not, then you’re out of luck this week.  And possibly next week as well, since I hope to do some more work on the module then too.  My annual trip to YAPC is coming up again, and I really hope to have something useful by the time I go there.  I won’t be doing a full talk this year, but maybe I can whip up a lightning talk, or at the very least just talk it up during the corridor chatting.

So look for something non-technical in this space in a couple of weeks.  Or don’t.  That’s cool too.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

P!nk for Mother's Day

Well, it’s Mother’s Day again, and this year I’ve decided to work on another music mix for The Mother.  Now, The Mother has a tendency to go through musical phases, which she calls “going to church.”  For a while she went to the Church of Bob Marley.  Then she switched to the Church of the Beatles.  Then, for a while, she worshipped at the Church of Queen.  There were also stints with Elton John and Jimi Hendrix.  For a period of some number of weeks, she will play a greatest hits CD when riding around with the kids, which not only gives The Mother an enjoyable listening experience, but also provides valuable musical educatiion to my children.  So I always support her in whatever she wants to move on to next.

And her next target is P!nk.  She asked me to get all six of P!nk’s albums recently, which I did.  So I thought for Mother’s Day it might be nice to put together my own version of a greatest hits album.  This somewhat complements my Mother’s Day mix from a few years back, although this one is a double album: two CDs worth of P!nk.

For this, I paid absolutely no attention to what singles were released off each album.  I just played them all and picked out the songs I liked.  Now, I’ve personally always liked P!nk, at least a little.  M!ssundaztood is an excellent album, although I generally like her other albums less.  However, as I listened to her complete ouvre, I began to realize that I actually like her even more than I realized.  Oh, sure, her first album (Can’t Take Me Home) is not so great, and Try This is fairly consistently “meh,” but Funhouse and I’m Not Dead are nearly as good as M!ssundaztood, and even The Truth about Love has some great moments.  I separated all my picks into “definitely"s and “maybe"s, and I ended up with enough for two volumes, so I just kept all the “maybes” rather than try to trim it down to a single disc.  I was almost exactly one song short, lengthwise, so I went back and picked up “Beam Me Up” from The Truth about Love, a song which I initially discarded as too cheesy and too country.  But it provides an extra downbeat song (an area where P!nk needs bolstering), and, besides: The Mother actually likes country.  Although I try not to hold that against her.

Once I had my complete list, I worked on trying to arrange them into some semblance of a sine wave: from upbeat through mid-tempo to downbeat, then starting back up the other side.  I worked on avoiding using two songs from the same album back-to-back, similar to how I avoid repeating the same artist for my mixes.  I also tried to spread out my “maybe"s, so there wouldn’t be too many iffy songs in a row.  But P!nk has a habit of growing on you, so even the songs you thought were only okay at first start to sound pretty good after repeated listens.

Although I tried to spread it out so both discs would be strong, I think I ended up making volume I a bit more awesome than volume II.  It kicks off with “So What,” which is definitely my favorite P!nk song not on M!ssundaztood, and certainly a strong opener.  Then into “Are We All We Are,” which is one of those songs that grows on you, then “U + Ur Hand” and “Don’t Let Me Get Me,” for a four-song blast which really shows off what P!nk can do when she sets her mind to it.  Then a 3-song stretch which is a bit less strong, but still good, which leads us to the 3-way punch of “Respect,” “Trouble,” and the knock-out ”‘Cuz I Can,” which shows off P!nk’s lyrical playfulness:

So I’ll cash my checks and place my bets and hope I’ll always win
Even if I don’t I’m fucked because I live a life of sin
But it’s all right, I don’t give a damn
I don’t play your rules, I make my own
Tonight I’ll do what I want
‘Cuz I can

From there we go downbeat for a bit: “Dear Diary,” which is our volume namer, then “Glitter in the Air,” which is probably P!nk’s second-best slow song, a very pretty ballad.  Then we have “The Truth about Love,” the title song from P!nk’s latest album, which somehow reminds me of Voice of the Beehive.  And that takes us into the home stretch for volume I.

In the P!nk I
    [I've Been a Bad, Bad Girl]

        “So What” by P!nk, off Funhouse
        “Are We All We Are” by P!nk, off The Truth about Love
        “U + Ur Hand” by P!nk, off I'm Not Dead
        “Don't Let Me Get Me” by P!nk, off M!ssundaztood
        “Catch Me While I'm Sleeping” by P!nk, off Try This
        “Hell Wit Ya” by P!nk, off Can't Take Me Home
        “Slut Like You” by P!nk, off The Truth about Love
        “Respect” by P!nk, off M!ssundaztood
        “Trouble” by P!nk, off Try This
        “'Cuz I Can” by P!nk, off I'm Not Dead
        “Dear Diary” by P!nk, off M!ssundaztood
        “Glitter in the Air” by P!nk, off Funhouse
        “The Truth about Love” by P!nk, off The Truth about Love
        “Can't Take Me Home” by P!nk, off Can't Take Me Home
        “Last to Know” by P!nk, off Try This
        “Numb” by P!nk, off M!ssundaztood
        “Funhouse” by P!nk, off Funhouse
        “Leave Me Alone (I'm Lonely)” by P!nk, off I'm Not Dead
        “Beam Me Up” by P!nk, off The Truth about Love
        “Gone to California” by P!nk, off M!ssundaztood
Total:  20 tracks,  74:15

A couple more average-good tracks, then “Numb,” then the title track from her next-to-newest album, then “Leave Me Alone (I’m Lonely),” which is another song that reminds me of something else completely divorced from P!nk’s normal style, although this time I can’t quite put my finger on it.  But it’s very catchy, and I dig it quite a lot.

We close with the aforementioned “Beam Me Up,” then my favorite P!nk slow song, “Gone to California,”  This has a slightly psychedelic groove which really worms its way into your brain.  I thought it was a really fine way to close out volume I.

Volume II starts out strong with what certainly has to be the all-time greatest P!nk song ever, “Get the Party Started.”  This is the song that first made me fall in love with P!nk, and I don’t think she’s ever topped it yet.  “Stupid Girls is a strong follow-up though, and while “God Is a DJ” isn’t quite as strong, it’s got a super-catchy chorus.  “This Is How It Goes Down” isn’t quite filler, but I’ll admit it’s a break from the awesome, and saying “Do What U Do” is the best song on P!nk’s first album is not really saying too much, unfortunately.

But then we’re up to “Just Like a Pill,” which is one of those tracks which is simultaneously downbeat and yet compelling—not pretty, like most of her other slow songs.  “Feel Good Time” is a bit weird, in that it almost sounds like an electropop song, which is again a bit of a departure for P!nk.  And that takes us to “True Love,” which is the best song on the latest album, with some more great lyrics:

At the same time I wanna hug you, I wanna wrap my hands around your neck
You’re an asshole, but I love you, and you make me so mad I ask myself
Why I’m still here, or where could I go, you’re the only love I’ve ever known
But I hate you, I really hate you, so much I think it must be
True love ...

“18 Wheeler” is pretty strong too, “Bad Influence” perhaps a bit less so, then “Fingers,” which I absolutely adore.  Then another slow song, then “Boring” provides our volume title, and a hook that won’t let your brain forget it any time soon.  Then coming back down for “Waiting for Love” and the sweet “Conversations with My 13 Year Old Self” heads us towards the close.

In the P!nk II
    [You're Gonna Have to Catch Me]

        “Get the Party Started” by P!nk, off M!ssundaztood
        “Stupid Girls” by P!nk, off I'm Not Dead
        “God Is a DJ” by P!nk, off Try This
        “This Is How It Goes Down” by P!nk, off Funhouse
        “Do What U Do” by P!nk, off Can't Take Me Home
        “Just Like a Pill” by P!nk, off M!ssundaztood
        “Feel Good Time” by P!nk, off Try This
        “True Love” by P!nk, off The Truth about Love
        “18 Wheeler” by P!nk, off M!ssundaztood
        “Bad Influence” by P!nk, off Funhouse
        “Fingers” by P!nk, off I'm Not Dead
        “Family Portrait” by P!nk, off M!ssundaztood
        “Boring” by P!nk, off Funhouse
        “Waiting for Love” by P!nk, off Try This
        “Conversations with My 13 Year Old Self” by P!nk, off I'm Not Dead
        “Mean” by P!nk, off Funhouse
        “M!ssundaztood” by P!nk, off M!ssundaztood
        “Humble Neighbourhood” by P!nk, off Try This
        “Blow Me (One Last Kiss)” by P!nk, off The Truth about Love
Total:  19 tracks,  74:34

“Mean” has a bit of a country twang, like “Beam Me Up,” but with more redeeming value perhaps.  The title track from M!zzundaztood is not a party song, but I’ve always felt it was very strong.  “Humble Neighborhood” is more of a traditional rocker than you expect from P!nk, which makes its guitar licks even more delicious.  And we close out the show with “Blow Me (One Last Kiss),” which lyrically works for a closer but leaves us on a strong note.

So that’s my take on a “best of” compilation for P!nk ... note I don’t say “greatest hits,” as that’s something else entirely.  Many of my favorite P!nk songs were never hits.  Comparing my set list to P!nk’s actual greatest hits album, Greatest Hits ... So Far!!!, I leave out 5 “hits.”  The only one I even waffled over was “Dear Mr. President,” her duet (triette?) with the Indigo Girls.  I almost threw it in despite not caring for it that much, but in the end, it’s just too sappy and over-obvious.  She’s better than that.  (I dislike “My Vietnam” for the same reason.)  The official greatest hits also throws in two original songs, which I didn’t have access to, but I have an entire extra album to work with, as Greatest Hits ... So Far!!! was released in between Funhouse and The Truth about Love.  So we have 11 songs in common, but I throw in an extra 28 on top of that.  Now, who’s giving you more bang for the buck?  I think you know.

I put this mix together primarily in the last 3 days or so, although I had started earlier and had gone through 3 of the 6 albums already.  But, as Mother’s Day approached, I realized that I really needed to shoot for completion by today.  Partially because I’d been promising her I’d burn her something for ages and I needed to stop being a lame-ass.  But also because she’s The Mother, and she deserves it.

And also because P!nk is friggin’ cool.  I’m so looking forward to having my kids learn that too.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Work work work

This weekend I’ve been working on another big project for $work, and I’ve had no time to put together a proper post.  It’s been a fun project, though, so I’m not complaining.  I’ve gotten to remove quite a lot of code—nearly 5,000 lines—and replace it with only half as much.  I love doing stuff like that: simplifying, cutting away the dead wood, generally tidying up.  Less code means less for my fellow developers to have to wade through when they want to fix things or change things, and it reduces the overall cognitive burden of understanding our codebase.  Things like that make me happy.  I’m a man of simple tastes.

Anyways, I’m sorry that I didn’t have anything here for you to read.  But I’m sure you can find other things to entertain yourself in this wild wondrous place we call the Internet.  Good luck.