It's been a while: Ulysses

I've started reading James Joyce's Ulysses. I was discussing David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest and Herman Melville's Moby-Dick with my wife and I said I'd like to also read the Irish entry in the Big Big Multidimensional Book sweepstakes.

The next day, I saw a nice clean copy on a book table near NYU. So I guess it's meant to be.

Wish me luck: it's a biggie.

I couldn't find a nice representation on the Web of the cover most familiar to me (I paid double the original cover price for my copy, by the way) so I spent some time Photoshopping a scan of the Vintage Giant edition for y'all.

Y'all. Who am I kidding? No one reads a blog that's only been updated once in 5 years!


I had occasion to visit my own blog today and saw to my horror that - if I didn't post today - it'd be one year without a post. damn - since when did *I* have nothing to say?

Resolved: at least a post a month in 2010.



I know no one reads my blog, nor is anyone in need of yet another reaction to today's inauguration ceremony. But today, right now, just for myself, I want to remember this focal moment in history.

I did a fair amount of yelling at the TV. I cursed Bush and Cheney each time they were shown.

Obama, rightfully, shamed them with these lines summarizing the failure of the Bush Presidency:

"As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake."

The cameras showed Bush then and I told him, "That's right, he just said FUCK YOU!" I was struck by the cathartic feeling that now, finally, Bush and his failed, imbecilic "leadership" will finally Just Go Away and I teared up a bit. And I thoroughly enjoyed the moment near the end, when Katie Couric corrected herself - "President Bush, er, Former President Bush."

But I was not completely overcome by negativity, no. I was warmed by Michelle Obama's crooked-toothed smile, and by the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery's smooth Alabama accent as he delivered his benediction. I was touched by the diverse faces in the crowd, and their numbers, and the unmistakable resonance of their presence on the same National Mall where another huge, impassioned crowd heard Dr. Martin Luther King speak of his dream for this day.

President Obama's last act before assuming office - stumbling through the oath of office itself - gave way to the latest of his forceful, direct and cogent communications. His message - that we have done much as a nation in the past to achieve greatness, and must do much again to regain it - came around, near its conclusion, to an acknowledgement of today's significance in history. His faltering performance of the oath was not so important as his observation after it, that "a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath."

I want to write it again: President Obama.


I'm writing this in the Baltimore airport, in transit to Columbus, OH.

Baltimore is a sore subject for me. My mother Ruth was born there, but her relationship with her family was fractious and, ultimately, fractured. I spent some time as a very young kid here with my grandparents, and I remember well being ring bearer in my Aunt Barbara's wedding to my new Uncle Burton, in about 1965.

The next time I saw Barbara wasn't until the late 1990's. My grandmother Dorothy had managed to put a division between my mom and my aunt that neither one of them had worked to dislodge for many, many years. Over time, the split came to be like the Merchant's Shot Tower that rises in the heart of Baltimore, looming over everything, too old to tear down, with its original bellicose purpose forgotten and obsolete.

My mom got sick, as had my aunt before her, and eventually they decided that, whatever their differences had been, they weren't that important. Barbara and Burton visited my mom a few times before she died, which made us all very happy, but regretful about what might have been. It quickly became clear that Barbara and Burton were straightforward, sweet, caring people. The loss of a relationship between their family and ours was a pointless loss for all concerned. Ruth, Barbara, Burton, and Dorothy all died soon after the sisters reconnected.

That generation is pretty much in God's hands now. But the story continues. In Baltimore I was able to see my cousin Mike, and introduce him to my daughter Eliza for the first time. Mike and I had hit it off under sad circumstances (the funerals of his two parents) and by now it's pretty clear we could have been pretty good pals growing up. He's in the music business, running a small record label, and my own love of music affords us plenty of common ground. He's warm hearted, smart, cool, and funny, all of which makes him a great guy to visit with.

These days, he and his sister, my cousin, Diana, don't see much of each other. From what he described, something he did out of concern was interpreted as criticism and this left bad feelings between them. I don't know her side of the story - we haven't been in touch since the funerals. From my perspective, it sounds like the same old same old - The Curse Of The Greenbergs going on strong. I know I would have liked to see her and to have my daughter meet her - there are some ways they remind me of each other, based on the short meeting Diana and I had about ten tears ago.

Diana, if you are reading this: "Nevermore!" Answer my email, please. Call your brother, please. This has gone on long enough. Eventually you'll decide that, whatever your differences have been, they aren't that important. Your family loves you, in our own twisted way.


UPDATE: the lamb pictured below has been named. All hail "Queen Baa-thsheba"!

UPDATE 2: I heard it wrong! She's "Queen Baa-tifah"!

One of the dancers in the show has a cosmetology license and isn't afraid to use it. So I went up to her room for a 10 buck haircut, which was the bargain of the century, because it came with extras:

• a proud plug for her rock-star boyfriend's band, with the promise of an autograph for my daughter/fangirl;

• some delicious dish on who skeevs the dancers because he's always peeking while they change costumes;

• a glimpse into the roller-coaster life of a consummate professional, as she agonized over whether and when to call back a casting director who might have a part for her after this show ends. (A big Beatle fan, she's hoping for a part in Cirque de Soleil's Fab-Four-themed Vegas show.)

I had to renegotiate the parameters of my own mop top at one point, because she had created a bit of spikiness, which I had to tell her wasn't really me. (I'm a no-product, comb-it-with-a-towel, kind of guy.) She admitted that she has gotten used to cutting the gay-boy dancers' hair. Apparently they're more picky, less decisive, and much more willing to style themselves than I am - no surprises there.

My haircut came out really well! Thanks, K!

My adorable, massively-parallel-multitasking stylist was last seen thumbing away like crazy on the screen of her new iPhone, furiously competing head-to-head with her uber-skinny rocker in some sort of two-player game. Ah, the entertainment biz!

Today was Thanksgiving. Our company is in Cincinnati and the producers treated us to a yummy dinner on a riverboat. We rode to & from the wharf in our by-now-familiar bus convoy, and on the way back I happened to be on a bus predominately filled with our truck drivers, plus the crew responsible for the show's animals. We feature camels and sheep, including this new lamb, 1 week old yesterday.

Anyway, the truckers were all pretty drunk, and hilarity ensued:

Q: "What are the two sexiest farm animals?"
A: "Brown-chicken brown-cow!" (sing it out loud, rhymes with "Bow'm-chick-a-bow-bow)

" . . . Kansas hasn't been GPS'ed yet - the three people who live there know how to get where they're going . . . ."

Animal Wrangler: "One of my crew has to go to court when we get back off the road."
Trucker: "What are they saying he did?"
AW: "Statutory rape."
T: "Whoa! He's in pretty deep trouble!"
AW: "Yeah, turns out that goat was only a kid."

So, this Thanksgiving I'll say I'm grateful for dumb jokes, my faraway, but wonderful family, and the prospect of a new President with his own sharp sense of humor and beautiful family. Happy Thanksgiving everybody!


I witnessed something unusual today. It must be what it's like when two alternate realities collide.

I was off all afternoon, and I rambled out to see "Quantum Of Solace," which definitely holds its own within the action/James Bond/thriller genre. I arrived back at our hotel just as the cast returned from their afternoon performance. Simultaneously, a large and unusual group of visitors hit the lobby as well. Lots of squealed greetings, big hugs, and excited chatter ensued. I found myself wondering, "Who are all these NEW people?" And the visitors were seemingly doppelgangers for our cast: many dancers, with their characteristic posture, and the deadest giveaway: several Little People* whom I had never met. It's much too far along in the process for them to be replacing anybody, let alone several anybodies, I thought, leaving me perplexed.

The explanation: the show I'm traveling with has multiple companies in multiple cities. We're in Milwaukee, and tonight the nearby Chicago cast came to visit and watch the show. Some of our company has worked with members of theirs, and hence the excited reunions.

Myself, I thought I was in the middle of some sort of string-theoretical post-modern meltdown of the fabric of spacetime.

Christmas is magic, I guess.

* "Little People": The preferred term for people who are short of stature - in this show, several cast members who play Santa's helpers and teddy bears are LP's.


The group I'm traveling with includes a famous dance troupe, and their traveling support staff includes physical therapists to help heal the inevitable booboos and whatnot. I had occasion to bring one of my young students into the PT room yesterday - he had gotten a booboo himself.

The PTs have a grand assortment of muscle rollers, back stretching balls, and other props useful for stretching and working out knots.

So picture this scene: me lying on the floor cracking my back over a giant noodle, a bunch of dancers stretched out around me rolling their legs and icing their knees and feet, a 13-year-old boy regaling us with stories from his experiences on movie sets and musical theater. Some of his film work never got a theatrical release - them's the breaks in showbiz - but he got some small compensation in the form of cool stories. These included the time he got his eyes poked out in a horror movie, and his realistic assessment of his relationship with star Dakota Fanning: "I keep up with her, but she doesn't really keep up with me." He was pretty smooth, trying to impress the big girls, and they were eating it up.

Me, I just enjoyed the way my back was feeling.


The tour I'm on presents good, clean family entertainment, and I'm working with children, some as young as 10.

Which presents a problem - who's gonna be sarcastic and cynical enough for me to talk to?

Well, as it turns out, the band. These are some grizzled vets, with many a bus mile under their belts, and a jaded view to say the least. We've been having some fun in the back of the bus.

This all paid off yesterday when I got a phone call, telling me that my laptop (which I had needed to send back to Apple for repair) was going to require another round-trip back to the repair center. I started to sputter, "I'm traveling all over! And the one I got back is working fine! Can't I do this in January when I get home?" The reply, "No, sir, since you've turned it on already, there will have to be an additional charge if you keep it now."

I was perplexed. Before I could really get pissy, the show's violinist let me down easy - I had been punk'd!

Well, there's nothing like a prank call (unless it's a nickname, which I haven't got yet) to make you feel like one of the gang. I owe you guys one!

Today: Milwaukee USCellular Arena


I had an discussion at breakfast today with a sax player about the nature of mathematics as it relates to precision dance troupes.

He was saying that, unlike fellow reedman Artie Shaw, he had never really gotten very far with mathematics, and wished he had because he felt that mathematics was visible everywhere he looked. He wondered why so many people like himself "hit a wall" with learning math. I told him I thought it was because mathematics reward a high level of abstraction and that most people are much more comfortable with concreteness. I pointed out to him that when people speak of the "mathematical" precision of a group of dancers, they are picking up on the way that each dancer's identity has been sublimated to their part as a unit in a system, and that the payoff is watching a complex system strut its stuff in synchronization: a very mathematical idea.

Pretty deep stuff for a pair of strangers over their first cup of coffee . . . .


"Say you have money/Better be sure/Hard times'll kill you/Drive you so" - Skip James, "Hard Times Killing Floor Blues."

After last night's thrilling Obama victory, today's action continued apace. Hard times have driven me onto the road, where I will be working nonstop for two months tutoring young performers in a spectacular road show, visiting 18! count 'em! 18! cities before I come back home in the wee hours of 2009.

I took the cab to the plane to the cab to the Hilton Minneapolis hotel this morning, checked in, and met my new students. More about them another time. After that, I went upstairs to check email and there was a document attachment I wanted to print, so I scanned the network to see if there was a hotel printer I could hijack. Instead I came up with a printer labeled "something@Lucinda.Williams.Computer."

Hmm. I tried to use the printer to spit out a fan mail letter to the great singer/songwriter, but no dice. I looked online and found that, indeed, she was performing tonight about six blocks away.

I saw her terrific set, and her backing band Buick Six, and her support, Carrie Rodriguez (highly recommended: fiery Americana, what Ollabelle is supposed to sound like, if only they were any good.)

Blue Lu was her usual Grim Reaper presence but there was a slight newfound tinge of optimism - apparently she's been listening to the junior Illinois Senator's speeches lately. There were many highlights to her set, including a stomping rendition of the new song "Honey Bee" and a version of "Joy" that included a segue into "Riders On The Storm," well played Madame!

As an encore she brought out a guest, blues-harpist Tony Glover, and took it down into the Little Son Jackson, Skip James, and Howlin' Wolf songbooks. Splendid fun, and so much for getting to bed early my first night on the road.


OK, so the first thing I'll admit is that I'm not completely sane. That's a given. But, even with that said, there's something a little weird going on that I want to discuss.

I've been a pretty hard-core music maven for quite some years now. I was the kid who always brought a stack of albums to the parties in high school (I think I was convinced that, without me, the whole thing would degenerate into some sort of Disco Party!) I'm still the guy my friends go to for turntable advice, guidance in finding something obscure, or Name That Tune help. I can explain the difference between Leo Nocentelli and Rico Petrocelli, or "Hungry" Williams and "Jabbo" Starks, with the best of them. (Although sometimes I do get "Fathead" Newman mixed up with our current President.)

But lately I haven't been listening to music that much. Sure, my iPod is with me everywhere I go, and sure, I find myself hitting "repeat" four times when Lil' Millet & His Creoles come on, or dancing in my subway seat to Nigerian disco from the 70's. But I'd have to say I spend more time downloading, retagging, transcoding and otherwise caretaking my digital music collection than I do listening to it these days.

What the hell is wrong with me?


I've made a MUXTAPE and you can too!




One of the most intriguing soul reissue tracks of the recent past is the unreleased version of "Rock Steady" by Aretha Franklin. It was unveiled on "What It Is," a recent various-artists anthology of Atlantic-label rarities but it also forms the kingpin of the brand-new 2-CD Aretha rarities collection, "Rare & Unreleased Recordings from the Golden Reign of the Queen of Soul."

The "new" version is looser, and has some interesting echo effects, and lasts longer than the more familiar original, which was released in 1972 on "Young, Gifted, and Black." But it lacks the thing that - for me at least - made the original "Rock Steady" one of the most important recordings in the soul canon.

The original "Rock Steady" is rock steady. And it's about rock-steadiness. It describes itself - it's a recursion, one of Douglas Hofstadter's "strange loops" in the form of a blistering dance-floor-filler. The unreleased version has a little bit of a tempo wobble towards the end, followed by a deliberate slow-down as it spaces out to an echoey ending. It's NOT "what it is" througho ut - it's partly rock steady and partly not.

To my ears, the original version is the most meta song ever. It's exactly "what it is what it is what it is" (which also happens to be the vocal hook sung by backing singers The Sweet Inspirations.) It tells you exactly how it does what it does while it's doing it. It sounds like what rock-steadiness is supposed to sound like.

The unreleased version, by contrast, gives glimpses of rock-steadiness but ultimately runs down. It describes what it is to be rock steady but is ultimately unable to come through with what it promises, to be what it aspires to be. If Aretha were merely The Princess of Soul, maybe that would be good enough, I don't know. But Aretha is not "Carolyn's sister," nor "C.L's daughter" - hers is the uneasy head that wears the crown. And like a ruler, you have to be straight when you say you're being straight - you have to deliver the goods, or else your realm isn't worth a damn. And "Rock Steady" proves that the Realm of Soul is under divine rule.


The Great Johnny Ace, a little late.

I must have heard Johnny Ace's great hit, "Pledging My Love," a thousand times, and every time I did, I cringed at the terrible edit about 1:25 into the song, before the piano solo, which chopped out a beat from the beautiful slow drag rhythm of this classic 1955 hit.

These days, you don't need a recording studio, a razor blade, or a steady hand to fix it. All you need is a laptop and a CD with the original version on it.

Here's the late, great Johnny Ace performing "Pledging My Love" without the distracting botched edit. Enjoy.


Desmond Dekker RIP

Other music blogs are bringing the sad news in more detail than I will. I'm just going to take Dekker's demise as an opportunity to post my favorite of his recordings, "Tips Of My Fingers." This wonderful, soulful version of a 1963 Roy Clark country tune proves Duke Ellington's maxim: there are only two kinds of music, good and bad. The rippling piano betrays the song's country roots, while silver-tongued Desmond and his harmonizing Aces pour on the regret and sweet nostalgia thick.

Download Tips Of My Fingers


My father-in-law is in town, and so I tried to take him to the Darwin exhibit. We couldn't get in in a timely fashion, so we went to the new MoMA instead. What a great decision that was: the new building is a perfect setting for modern sensibilities and the collection has so many fascinating places to stop and gawk. Recommended.

My favorite item was the Bell helicopter:

Bell Helicopter


One of the ideas that inspired Charles Darwin was selective breeding, the process by which dogs or horses are tailored over generations to excel at, and instinctively perform, a specific task. I was thinking about this today when I took Sam to Prospect Park to run after a tennis ball. Sam will run after a tennis ball with every fiber of his being. I'm pretty sure he doesn't think about why, or whether it's a good idea, or anything else for that matter - when the tennis ball flies, he runs and gets it, and brings it back, and that's all there is to it, and he enjoys the experience so much you can actually tell that a lot of his time in between chasing tennis balls is spent hoping that he's about to do it some more. It's a gift, and he knows it's what he's born to do.

I, on the other hand, have had some major difficulty finding my "purpose in life" - I have no idea what color my parachute is, despite a lot of attention to that question. Sam and I fill out each other's profiles really well - he knows exactly what he likes to do, but he has no opposable thumbs and almost no understanding of mathematics as far as I can tell. I, on the other hand, am a math teacher for crying out loud, and the good lord has blessed me with two thumbs and a tendency towards self-second-guessing. He really likes to be petted and I really like petting him. We both get a lot out of the deal, but I have to admit, I'm very jealous of his keen sense of self.


A colleague of mine arranged for all of the teachers at my school to visit the Charles Darwin exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History and I found the experience very rich.

Like everyone else, I followed the news from Kansas last year about their school board's mandating the teaching of Intelligent Design as science, a folly which cost those board members their jobs. The exhibit at the AMNH explicitly counters the arguments of ID proponents and does so in a very low-key, but forceful way. The result is that the work of Darwin is solidly linked to our circumstances in the present.

However, I was most affected by the ways in which the AMNH exhibit linked Darwin's breakthroughs to the circumstances of his time and his intellectual climate, in particular, the family in which he grew up. I learned that he was the grandson of Erasmus, a man who had already thought a bit about evolution, and the son of Robert, a man who was vehemently opposed to Charles' becoming a scientist. But Robert was not so firm in his resolve that a logical argument would not change his mind, and Charles' uncle was able to provide this key support.

As I learned more about the tenor of the times, I found one key detail fascinating: Darwin was influenced in an important way by the emerging understanding of geology which was a nascent science at that time. He came to understand that there was geological evidence that age of the earth was far greater than had been previously assumed. Adopting this new time scale made it conceivable that species could have evolved over miliions of years and many thousands of generations.

I like this connection because it reminds me that there are unpredictable links between the sciences and that a great mind can synthesize from a variety of sources.

Another way the exhibit contextualized Darwin's work was in making it clear just how far the theory of evolution diverged from accepted science of the times and how much Darwin risked in making it public. He was immediately subjected to arguments and controversy that would not seem the least bit unfamiliar to followers of the Kansas case upon its publication. Darwin was worried by both this firestorm and the risk of shocking his wife's personal beliefs and for this reason delayed publication for decades.

Finally, the most impressive thing about the exhibit was how it showed they way Darwin;s mind worked. Using very simple tools and very little in the way of resources, he essentially leveraged his opportunity to be in a fruitful place (the good ship Beagle) at a fruitful time (the 1830's) by virtue of being able to make the most of every scrap of information he learned and every observation he made. I can't think of an intellectual effort that extrapolated so well, so far, as Darwin's.

In sum, the exhibit presents Darwin the man, Darwin the family member, Darwin the thinker, as well as Darwin the theorist. It makes use of a well-chosen variety of displays, from living animals to model boats and preserved insects, to explain and illuminate. I'm going back later this week to see it again.

As you can see by examining my postings, I am not one of those bloggers who updates every day, or even every month. Maybe I just don't have quite that much to say! Or maybe evolution is just slow . . . .


You can go home again.

Patti Smith's Horses album hit me like a ton of bricks, oh about thirty years ago. As a teen I was a little bit poetic, a little bit rock'n'roll, and her shaman/poet/dervish shtick played really well with me. I have a cool aunt who had seen Patti doing poetry/music coffeehouse gigs with Lenny Kaye and she slipped me a copy of the album soon after it came out. Many was the night I awoke with my headphones still on, with the runout groove of one side or the other of Horses going "shhhhclickshhhhclickshhhhclick."

So now it's thirty years later, and Patti Smith is sixty for chrissakes, and she's gotten most of her original band back together to perform Horses in concert. Richard Sohl is dead, and his place has been taken by Tony Shanahan. Ivan Kral's spot was taken by Flea, and Tom Verlaine has been added as second guitarist.

I saw the show at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and it was like having a reunion with myself. It's impossible to tell you how she and her band were on Dec 1 2005, because for me it was all wrapped up with the time when, and the night that, and the year of . . . . I really enjoyed the show though, and the friend I brought, who had never seen her, had a very good time too.

One period detail that was kind of eerie: there was an idiot sitting right behind me, singing the wrong lyrics, acting wasted, etc., just as I'm sure he had in 1977. There was always one, and he seems to have lived to tell about it.

Another memorable Patti Smith show took place almost exactly ten years ago. I went to see her return to performance as an opening act on Bob Dylan's tour in December 1995 at the Beacon Theater. My strategy was to see Patti and split: I had no expectations for Bob Dylan. Patti Smith was her usual anarchic self, and I felt very glad of her comeback onto the scene after years of domestic quietude. But Bob Dylan made an instant convert of me and I've been listening to him closely ever since.

I know it's ridiculous for a music geek like me to discover Bob fucking Dylan this late in the game, but let me tell you: in December 1995 at least, he was chopping down mountains with the back of his hand and they were landing straight on top of me.


It rocks. It digresses. It has a cool title. The new Supergrass album "Road To Rouen" is the best album of 1975. Buy it.



I spent some time this week watching pelicans fish off the beach in Santa Monica, which is quite different from my usual pastimes, like switching cars on the F train to avoid the one with the smelly bum or dysfunctional A/C. On Monday there was just the lone pelican and he was putting on quite a show, scanning up and down a small area of ocean right in front of me. Everry few minutes he'd pull up over his chosen spot, and dive down to catch a fish. Yesterday there were several pelicans to be seen. But the flock was scanning a much larger area, so they weren't right in front of me all the time. They didn't seem to be finding much, either - I only saw two dives.

Watching pelicans is a great way to spend a few hours, and a perfect prelude to seeing that penguin movie.



I just finished reading After, by Francine Prose, which is Prose's first book for young adults. I picked this up from my daughter's bookshelf immediately after finishing one of Prose's novels for an adult audience, A Changed Man.

After concerns itself with the erosion of civil liberties and freedom at a high school after a catastrophe at a neighboring school. The characters in the book are students at a school where nothing disastrous is happening, but the town's adults are not paying enough attention to notice as the school is taken over by a stranger with a repressive agenda.

The students come to see their situation as similar to The Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, but the parallels with our current political situation are unmistakable despite being unspecific. It seems to me that Prose has maintained enough universality in her book's setting to allow it to stay fresh for a long time. It may become a classic for today's young audience and those who are not yet young.

A Changed Man is Ms. Prose's latest book, and it is very fine. Her writing captures the inner insecurities of each character - an aged Holocaust survivor, a nervous single mom, her son, a changed man - what they want to say but can't, what they say but wish they had said differently, what they never admit, except to themselves. All the roadblocks between identity and intimacy are portrayed wisely and with a sense of humor that never makes fun of anyone who doesn't deserve it.

I had been on a Robertson Davies jag this past year, and there are strong parallels between Davies' work and Prose's. Intelligence, humor, social observation, family ties, and, above all, a clarity and effortlessness to the writing that is always polished, and never precious.

I've had the good fortune to meet Ms. Prose and she seems very modest and perhaps a little bit shy. This might be a camouflage behind which to observe the world acutely, because she certainly is engaged with people fully. For Francine Prose is able to express those human truths that we only sometimes let show.



Mind Over Matter: Nolan Strong & The Diablos

Dave Marsh wrote a book called "The Heart Of Rock 'n' Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made" which contains a little essay on 1001 different songs. Among these are two by Nolan Strong & The Diablos: "The Wind," and "Mind Over Matter."

Nolan Strong & The Diablos were something like the 5 Royales: a group at the cusp of soul, R & B, and rock 'n' roll. "The Wind" is an eerie, hushed vocal group record from 1954. Either Marsh did a really good job of describing it or the song is completely unique: I recognized it from his description within seconds, the one and only time I heard it on the radio.

"Mind Over Matter" is a somewhat different story. By 1958 these guys had created a really tough amalgam: a vocal group, a snarling lead guitar, a little cheesy organ for texture, and a song structure that takes you all the way around the steeplechase and past the grandstand waving the flag. Great lyrics round out the picture. This song belongs way higher than #967 on the all-time list, even though you've probably never heard it.

This song was later covered by the Temptations, recording under the pseudonym "The Pirates." Their version has a lazier beat and the guitar part is nowhere near as dynamic or propulsive as the one on the original.

An index of the 1001 songs with selected reviews can be seen here.

Mind Over Matter


I read an article today about how there are more cats on the web than there are dogs and I thought (angrily!) that that was a situation which needed addressing pronto. Hence the spotlight on Sam "Samwich" Oler Epstein, our dog.
Sam is a pretty handsome guy:
He loves everybody, but what he really loves is his lacrosse ball:

Being somewhat obsessive myself, I can really relate to the way Sam will chase this lacrosse ball over and over and over again. We had Sam up in the country, with twin 6-year-old boys last weekend and it was quite the battle of wills. A draw.



OK, I just played my first record with this new phono preamp, but I didn't get it working the way I showed it below. The absolute voltage reference of the gas reg and the (slightly) mismatched sections of the 6N1P didn't allow enough leeway for the DC voltages to settle correctly. So I punted.

As you can see, I had to put cathode bypass electrolytics back for the 6SL7. I sure hope they break in :)

I'm not listening too closely, the air conditioner is making some noise (that's actually a GOOD thing, trust me) but so far I am not really impressed. I've got David & Igor Oistrakh on DG playing, a nifty record, and it sounds OK.

I'll keep it playing for a while and see what we get. Maybe I'll put in some film bypasses on those cathode caps, but that never seems to do much.

Any suggestions?



I finished (or so I thought) a new phono stage today, but I tried to test it and it isn't working right.

In addition, two seperate room air conditioners, the coolant system in my car, and a wireless card for my laptop all malfunctioned.

I decided I'd wait until tomorrow to debug the phono stage. If I try it today I'm pretty sure what'll happen: I'll land somewhere on the spectrum between breaking it and electrocuting myself.



Well, I decided not to build an Aikido phono yet. I got a different idea as a result of a conversation with Chris Boettcher, who is very happy with an Artemis Labs PH-1 phono preamp he is using.

I took a look at the Artemis Labs schematic which is available here.

The designer, John Atwood, has done a couple of things differently than I have ever done in a phono preamp and I decided to try a couple of his ideas. Specifically, I'm going to build a phono with 6N1P as the input tube, biased with a battery in series with the grid. This will be direct-coupled to an "all-in-one" RIAA network and the second stage will be a conventionally plate-loaded 6SL7 to get a bit of gain (6SL7 mu = 70.)

I've gotten this circuit partly wired up already and I should have something to listen to this week - provided I can find all the necessary parts values in my stash.



According to the contributor "01A" over at Audio Asylum, this is the formula for the Zout of the Aikido circuit:


I calculated the Zout of my variant to be approximately 583 ohms, using these values:


This calculation will be useful in trying to design a phono preamp around this circuit, which is why I was curious.

I think I may try to do an Aikido phono, maybe using a 6N1P as the first tube.



I've recently gotten back into doing a little bit with DIY audio after about a year off. I've been busy with my new career, as a HS math teacher, and simultaneously going to grad school for my Master's degree. Meanwhile there's been a backlog (just like a blog, only different) of projects building up.

Here's my To Do list:

• SE 7591 UL amp using basement parts
• rebuilding the Free Lunch amp into a clean chassis
• trying to better my 6C45π phono preamp somehow
• improving the Small Saul one-tube 13FM7 amps a bit

Let's see what I get done in the next few weeks while summer lasts!



I'm starting this blog with a report on a new line stage I built according to John Broskie's "Aikido" design. I chose to use 6SN7 tubes; their gain works out to be just right in my system.

I've been listening for a day now, and the sound is excellent, and I hope it will just get better when I replace the awful coupling caps with some good ones (I used whatever parts I had on hand to build this at first.) I used this schematic:

It was very simple to build and the parts were all available at Radio Shack other than the tube sockets.