Jeff's online journal, ramblings, whatever.

Archive for April, 2009

SONAR Home Studio…What?

loderunner

Next in our fine list of programs I can use after I graduate: SONAR Home Studio 7 XL! I actually bought this as an upgrade to my old Cakewalk Home Studio and got a discount. Let’s compare two versions of an old SaXon Geat song that was actually mostly written by Ben (the filename is “What” but the song itself is unnamed, although Casey may recognize it as the MIDI file I used when we played Lode Runner):

Old version – created many years ago using the old Cakewalk.

New version – created tonight using SONAR.

Which is better? Are either professional quality? Feedback, please!


Reverse parodies

SQIV Landing Bay

There are some things that are assumed to exist in the collective cultural consciousness. Elements from a source so familiar, that if somebody makes a reference to it that person assumes that the audience will recognize the source material and any connotations associated with it. However, if a person is not familiar with the source material, but grows to love some derivative of it, and then goes back and encounters the original, there is a much larger shock, especially if the person does not realize that the offshoot was a derivative at all. This has been my experience, at least lately.

Let me explain. Most people know the story of Romeo and Juliet, so when West Side Story was written the writers assumed that most audience members would recognize the connections. But let’s say a person grew to know West Side Story very well without knowing about Romeo and Juliet at all. If such a person later sat down and read or saw Romeo and Juliet without any prior preparation, such a person may suddenly start making connections. “Wait a minute! Romeo’s just like Tony! These Montagues are like the Jets if they wore tights and couldn’t dance as well!” It would be moment after moment of amazing coincidences!

Not being intimately familiar with Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story, or any other offshoots, let me continue this explanation with my own experience, which hasn’t been precisely the same as this unnamed protagonist in our Shakespearean/Sondheimian example. I’m a giant sci-fi fan, and I always have been. However, there have been some movies that I hadn’t got around to seeing yet. Such a movie was 2001: A Space Odyssey, one of the most famous and influential films of the 20th century, especially in the sci-fi genre, which I finally got around to seeing about a month or so ago. Previously, I was familiar enough with various pop-culture references and parodies of it to know basically the big moments (apes learning how to beat other apes with bones thanks to a black rectangular slab, the psycho computer Hal, the “I’m sorry Dave, but I can’t do that” line, the 20-minute acid trip that closes out the movie, etc.) and recognize them if they came up in an episode of The Simpsons or whatever.  But imagine when I saw this segment, with an astronaut jogging in a circle:

Why, that’s almost exactly the same as the opening credits of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 movie, where Mike Nelson jogs in a hamster wheel! (I tried and tried to find a video of this, but to no avail; the best I found was about fifteen seconds — from 0:10 to 0:25 — from a collection of clips that it won’t even let me embed in WordPress for some reason, so follow the link!) That wasn’t just another “Oh yeah, I heard about this part where they play the entirety of the Blue Danube Waltz twice!” but it was something entirely unexpected and therefore much more satisfying.

Not obscure enough for you? Well, consider this next example. In preparation for the new Star Trek movie coming out on May 8th I’ve been familiarizing myself with old TOS Star Trek episodes. Now don’t get me wrong: I’m a Trekkie through and through. I’ve never been to a convention nor dressed like a Klingon, but I do own a few uniform shirts, the entire DVD sets of Next Gen and DS9, and even wrote an a capella song of Data’s “Ode to Spot.” But I was weaned on the later generations (pardon the pun) and series of Star Trek, and therefore never really got around to watching the original series that started it all. Maybe it was never on reruns at the right time, I dunno. In any case, with the advent of hulu.com I’ve been able to watch those old classic episodes for the first time ever! And while I could make a list as long as my arm and then some about the cool references in later series that I finally understand, perhaps the most surprising to me came in the episode “Mirror, Mirror.” It wasn’t a scene, or a famous piece of dialogue, or even some sort of conceptual idea in the storyline that stood out to me, but something in the soundtrack that made me get excited!

“Mirror, Mirror” on CBS.com

Follow that link and fast forward to about 44:10. There’s a musical sting that plays there and in other various spots in the episode that is a good, ominous, foreboding clip, sure. But now compare it to “The Landing Bay”, a piece of background music from the Sierra game Space Quest IV (about 25 seconds into the clip).

It’s the exact same theme!

It makes sense! The Space Quest series is all about parody. At this point the protagonist Roger Wilco has made it back to his home planet of Xenon, only to find it in a post-apocalyptic ruin, where killer cyborgs roam the once-friendly streets. What better way to evoke a feeling of familiar-yet-unfamiliar, where what once was good has now turned dark, than to crib a riff out of the classic Trek episode “Mirror, Mirror”, a story where Kirk and his landing party find themselves in a parallel universe, where the ship is the same yet dark and brutal. In a game series known for some pretty broad humor, this is one homage that has probably gone unnoticed by a gigantic amount of players, and even those who may have recognized the theme from SQIV as a piece of incidental music from Star Trek probably wouldn’t have thought much of it other than, “Oh, Space Quest is parodying Star Trek. That makes sense.” But for someone who grew up playing Space Quest (a relatively obscure series nowadays) to hear the same thing later in life in an episode of Star Trek felt to me like watching, say, American Idol, when suddenly the ultimate winner in the last show breaks into a song that your next-door-neighbor wrote.

I may be the only person in the world who finds this interesting. But by gum, I thought it was awesome! Who knows what other gems I may uncover as I watch the rest of the series and geek out?


Then what chain of stores would be located within an English Hogi Yogi?

teriyaki-chow

True story:

(An English girl in my Songwriting class comes in early, eating something Oriental)

ME: Hey, that smells pretty good, what is it?

ENGLISH GIRL: It’s something I got for lunch. I’ve never tried it before. It’s rice and chicken, but with some sort of sauce on it.

OTHER GIRL: Is it soy sauce?

ENGLISH GIRL: Not really. The best way to describe it is it’s kind of like soy sauce crossed with treacle.

(Stony silence. Everybody in the room is racking their brains trying to remember/figure out what treacle is or what it tastes like.)

ENGLISH GIRL: They gave it a weird name too: Terr-ee-yack-ee, I think.

EVERYONE ELSE: Ohhh!!!! Teriyaki!

ENGLISH GIRL: What, you’ve tried it too?

Seriously, though, I saw tons of oriental restaurants when I lived in Spain. Are most English unfamiliar with the concept of teriyaki sauce? Really makes you think.

Also, who puts treacle (which, it turns out, is molasses) on rice?


Choose the Right remix?

hippie_feeling_ctr

For Annelise’s upcoming murder mystery show I’ve created this remix (still a work-in-progress) of a popular LDS hymn. Tell me the truth, people: does this track contain a higher level of awesomeness, or blasphemy?


Conference in a nutshell – version 5

lds-first-presidency

Once again, here are my notes and impressions of the LDS General Conference, this time from Apr. 2009:

  • New apostle — Neil Lyndon Andersen
  • The prophet may sing “El Rancho Grande” if you put him in a sombrero and sarape.
  • The four most caring words: “We can’t afford it.”
  • Be reverent!
  • Virtue is not just for young women, but men too.
  • Be acquainted with the voice of the Spirit, so you can recognize and understand it in the heat of the moment.
  • Trials are invitations to grow, and those who accept trials as such can find peace in the turmoil.
  • Learn from others, smart guy! Prophets and apostles are in touch, despite being old.
  • Learn from the past too, lest you be doomed to repeat it.
  • A loving God only makes sense if there is continuing revelation, and hell is not endless.
  • Faith is like spiritual photosynthesis.
  • Go to the temple and participate in all ordinances!
  • Forgive to be forgiven.
  • Add audible “amen” as a listener to a prayer.
  • Learn how to pray from Christ’s prayers.
  • Prayer doesn’t need to be long-winded. Six words can be as effective, or more so, than one thousand.
  • Young people speak of the future because they have no past. Old people speak of the past because they have no future.
  • Take care of your body.
  • Do not immerse yourself so much in the technical that you fail to learn the practical.
  • Help others through this time of economic hardship, especially with unemployment issues.
  • Involve the whole family in home evening. The four-year-old can still share a Primary lesson.
  • Don’t do Church work on your employer’s time.
  • Elder Uchtdorf pokes fun at his own propensity to tell aviation stories.
  • A malfunctioning light bulb led to the crash of a plane.
  • The tendency to focus on the insignificant instead of the profound ends in tragedy.
  • Don’t text while driving!
  • Our weakness is failing to align our actions with our conscience.
  • We’re at spiritual war! Let us be not just spiritual soldiers, but spiritual medics as well.
  • Prophetic counsel: take notes!
  • Be always ready to give a reason for the hope within you.
  • Three not-new suggestions for safety:
  1. Study diligently
  2. Pray fervently
  3. Live righteously
  • Prayer is the passport to peace.
  • Don’t eat egg salad sandwiches after leaving them out in the sun.
  • Answer the call to serve, even if it’s just giving a blessing to a drummer with food poisoning.
  • Live worthy every minute.
  • Get on with life! Adapt to change!
  • Next time you want to groan, laugh instead! Ha ha ha!
  • The Spirit had to withdraw from Christ on the cross so He could understand the hopeless despair of those who have committed grievous sins.
  • Don’t be an unresponsive onlooker on the road to Golgotha.
  • Perseverance with faith in hard times will lead to peace.
  • If you ever find a mother with four children journeying in bare feet and tattered clothes across a war-torn country, for pete’s sake help her out, lest she be forced to bury all four of her children with a spoon, and later her bare hands in the snow!
  • The future is as bright as your faith.
  • Church members’ willingness to sacrifice comes from faith, church leader instruction, and commitment to covenants.
  • Selfishness and entitlement (the feeling of getting something for nothing because one “deserves” it) are behind the global economic meltdown.
  • Going to church is better if you’re active, not passive, while there.
  • Regular temple-going is the way to truly take Christ’s name upon us.
  • You’re never lost when you can see the temple.
  • Make your home as holy as the temple.
  • Our Father will respect our freedom to shoes, er, choose.
  • GPS systems are awesome, except when they lose the satellite signal in underground parking garages.
  • Our personal GPS (conscience) will lose its connection with the divine if buried under the concrete parking garage of sin.
  • When you lose sight of the camp, let the old experienced horse lead the way.
  • Analogy: full-time missionaries = search and rescue team. Members = shepherds. Who has a better chance of bringing in the sheep?
  • Share your musical talents with others! That means go to choir, kid!
  • Word of caution: careful on the Internet! There’s a whole lotta crap on there! Avoid it at all costs, especially the porn!
  • Remember President Monson and all general authorities in your prayers!

And perhaps most importantly:

  • If you’re staying at your parents’ house from Saturday night to Sunday morning, make sure you’ve set your clock for Daylight Savings Time back in your childhood bedroom, lest you believe it’s 9:30 when you go upstairs, only to find out that conference has been going for a full half hour. I heard Pres. Uchtdorf’s talk had to do with Palm Sunday, but that’s about all I got.

This was the first April conference since I moved down to Provo where I haven’t been in the choir at one session. While that means I got to hear the whole thing instead of being stuck on a bus for most of a session, it was still kind of sad. I guess I can’t be there all the time, though, not unless I join the Tab choir. Maybe I’ll do that someday. I’ll be right up there with Mark Pearce and Brad Omer! On a related choir note, the Saturday Afternoon choir was a combined Institute choir from Salt Lake County, and it was conducted by a guy in my home stake, who was in charge of the tenors when we put on From Cumorah’s Hill when I was in seventh grade (and was a tenor). Kind of random.

In any case, enjoy the conference proceedings, and remember to consider the lilies in the field. How they grow? How they grow.


Making a todo about what to do

to-do list

I’ve got a lot of projects in the air right now, but I can never seem to remember them all when I get some free time. So I’ve decided to list a bunch of things I’ve been meaning to get to; trivial or life-changing, old or new, easy or difficult — here they are:

  • Finish college (this current semester, plus the music history core, form & analysis, an English class, and an internship, is all I have left)
  • Finish my Super Metroid Limit commentary
  • Finish up all the disks on my Atarieviewer site, plus video reviews
  • Somehow save up enough money to be able to buy a new Mac, so I can:
  1. Buy Logic and a couple of good sound libraries to be able to compete professionally in the music business, particulary in the arena of film/tv scoring and/or minus track writing, and
  2. Finish editing all those home videos Mom wanted me to work on like four years ago. (If that goes well I may end up scoring them. If those end up going well, I may use that as a source of income! “Hire me to score your home movies!” Rich bishops who live in Mapleton would love it!)
  • Write a choir piece for Tuesday’s choir arranging class.
  • Write a ten page research paper on something in the field of Media Music for my songwriting class before next Friday.
  • Write two entirely original songs, plus two hymn parodies, for the Called to Murder murder mystery show that Annelise is organizing, preferably sometime in the next week or two.
  • Help Annelise with that script, along with the casting and other responsibilities I will no doubt assume upon the whole opening of the murder mystery show here in Orem.
  • Watch the entire series of: 24, The Office, Doctor Who, Stargate SG-1 and Atlantis, and whatever other shows society and my friends and family deem I need in my consciousness.
  • Finish my Rescue Ranger Adventure game.
  • Work with Crystie Cook on her pioneer script (for which I’ve done less than nothing, sorry!)
  • Get the Easter program to run smoothly for Easter Sunday (luckily I’ve delegated well on that count).
  • Talk to Ron Simpson and get an internship going, preferably local so I can still help Annelise out.
  • Finish my Facebook Diplomacy games (there’s only one left now!)
  • Film and put together my birthday present for Josh Reese: an action movie trailer where Billy and Dan Omer take over the future with a clone army.

That’s all I can think of right now; I’m sure there are more. I’ve also omitted items from a few categories, from the ones that are so far off and vague that I can’t make real specific plans at this time (getting married), to the ones that are both personal and inconsequential (playing through Final Fantasy VII like my roommate Shaun wants me to do, watching last night’s Colbert Report), to the ones that are obvious (go to work every day, eat, read scriptures).

The murder mystery show, oddly enough, is the same one I was doing waaay back when I started this blog years ago. It’s needed a major rewrite, since we’re not affiliated with the Hunts any more and the format has changed. Also, the songs are all going to be originals. It’ll be performed in May and June at the Wise Guys comedy club in Orem, near UVU. I’m a bit pressed for time right now (we’re hanging up posters around town advertising auditions), but maybe later I can relate the whole story of how this opportunity came to be. Needless to say, ’tis very exciting!