July 31, 2003

We have returned, more or less intact, from another weekend on Birdsong Hill - more or less, save for the weird sickness that hit me on the way home Monday, and which I passed to Stacy as of last night. No fun, no fun. So it goes.

Otherwise, SSX was a blast. We had a lot of first-timers this year (among them a whole passel o' babbies, including wee Nicholas, who dispensed bumpies with glee and bonded with Eli), and a couple of Events - not least of which was Tony's reunion with Patrick and Bernice after more than a decade, which was wicked cool. (After five minutes of intense geeky tech-talk between Tony and Patrick, Bernice turned to me and said, "Oh my God - it's the Thing with Two Heads again.") As for me, I smoked many pipes, and drank copious amounts of Troeg's Nut-Brown Ale, and made myself terribly popular with a bottle of 12-year-old Jameson. And had, needless to say, a grand time.

To my delight, among the new arrivals was my leetal cousin Dylan (now 23, and towering over me like a juggernaut), who spent some time in amazement that he'd never come out before - "My childhood would've been completely different!" I note that he has also inherited the quick and acerbic wit for which his father was known, though why I should be surprised by that I don't know. (Dylan managed to get me with a zinger that may just have trumped even Jeff McCrady at his best - he turned to me Saturday evening and said, "Is is true we were held up for forty-five minutes today while you were looking for your sunglasses? It's a good thing Stacy caught you before you tried to find your trenchcoat, 'cause God knows we might've had to rescue Morpheus while we were out." And he was such a sweet kid, once upon a time.)

Music was quite good this year, with some new faces onstage. I got to do a, well, ahem, appropo version of "Lucy and I" on Friday, and Tony and Patrick and I and some other assorted folks did a big jam Saturday that was excellent fun. And I had the honor of having a talented kid named Nick come up to me and say, "I'm looking for the guy who wrote 'Lord Vlad,'" and getting to grin wickedly and say, "That'd be me."

Oh, and I turned Patrick on to Exalted, which gave me that "My work is done" feeling for the weekend.

Spent much of the rest of the week laid up and feeling like crap, though I'm much better now, thankyouverymuch. Matt, on the other hand, is much improved after a long weekend on the Hill; you can read all about the fun he had last week over at his blog, where he puts it ever so much better than I could. And speaking of blogs, if you're wondering where the hell Stacy's went, we don't know either, but there's an all-new one at http://stacylk.blogspot.com.

I hold Tempest auditions in a couple of weeks. Wooch. That's both exciting and terrifying. And for those of you following the Full Fathom Five blog - I'll have a new entry soon, darlings, and announce it here when I do.

In the meantime, there's a new Last Dark Art that went up Monday, and had actually generated some discussion. Huzzah! (And it occurs to me that I never announced the last one's going up, but it did, and you can go read it too, here.)

And that's all for now, gentles. Back in a few.

July 25, 2003


In a handful of hours, we're off to the hills for Swampstock X. Huzzah! I'll be back Monday with an after-action report.

Meantime, Spyder is off on adventures of her own in the upstate NY wilderness, on which the best of luck is wished her. Wink, nudge, say n'more. May you level up often, mia sorella, and never fail a fortitude save. And you can read that on whatever level you like.

If you're going to SSX, I'll see you there. If not, I'll be thinking of you and wishing you could've made it. When I'm not trying to remember where the hell a barred C minor is after four or five Honey Browns, anyway.

Safe journey to all and sundry, and back in a few.

July 22, 2003

Update: Stacy just talked to Matt, and he's going home. Hooray!

Keep the good thoughts going his way, though. As per The Princess Bride: "He's had a hard day."
We got a call at work this morning from Matt, who's in the hospital. He has what seems to be a hereditary condition that makes his heart go bugfuck every so often, which is as serious as you'd imagine. He's on a drug that they hope will get him regulated by this afternoon - otherwise they'll have to do some kind of mad-scientist procedure involving stopping his heart and restarting it with electric shock. Stacy and I, in the meantime, are doing our best not to worry. (When I talked to him this morning, he seemed okay, but tired - he hadn't slept all night from the uppers they gave him. He's keeping a healthy sense of humor about all this, and so I am too - but we're still worried.)

If you pray, think of Matt sometime today. If you do magic, now's a good time. Otherwise, any good thoughts and energy you send his way sure can't hurt.

July 21, 2003

Saturday morning, we got up bright and early (i.e., 9ish) to go to Circuit City and get a slick new CD player put in the car. It's shiny and has bright lights and is wonderful. It was a little weird pulling all of our cassettes out of the glove compartment, and realizing that the age of the mix tape is pretty much over now. Sigh. This will be one of those points of nostalgia before we know it - I'll turn around one of these days and a "Remember the 90s" bullet list will be making the rounds of the 'Net, with "You had a mix tape with the Sundays on it," and I will know it's nearly time to die. Indeed, the mix CD is a wonderful thing, and a miracle of the modern age, but it ain't the same when you can do it in like 20 minutes instead of needing an entire afternoon. This is the kind of thing Bill Gibson forgot to warn us about.

For further nostalgia fun, bravo game designer Bruce Baugh, who's doing the new edition of Gamma World, has an entry at Rock Scissors Blog about the era when the first version of that game was making the rounds, and it's thought-provoking reading. Let's see... in 1981, I was seven, living in the basement of an unfinished house in the wilds of WV, with no floor, no indoor bathroom and only a wood-burning stove for heat; my favorite songs on the radio were "Games Without Frontiers" and "The Legend of Wooley Swamp." Star Wars was not yet a trilogy, King Crimson hadn't had their first reunion, and one of my dearest friends was not even a gleam in the milkman's eye (or the suitable Rio equivalent). How's that for sobering?

Anyway, I also spent a portion of Saturday afternoon in the CDepot in College Park, which is a dangerous place for a guy like me to go. I left with some excellent finds - Lisa Germano, Dead Can Dance, This Mortal Coil - and lighter quite a bit of money, though certainly not poorer.

Speaking of music, tonight I'll be up past my bedtime seeing Porcupine Tree at the 9:30 Club, and no doubt fighting Gravity Eyelids of my own for the drive home. I expect it to be worth it.

And the rest of the week shall be spent preparing for Swampstock X, for which I depart Friday Morning mit mine brudder and Matt. I spent way, way too much time yesterday burning CDs for the trip, because you never know what you'll need to hear on that lonely, interminable stretch down 50 during the last leg. Come to think of it, you never know what might be a good idea to inflict on the hardcore Swampstockers in the middle of the damn night. (Track One: "Sleep Has His House." Track Two: "Sleep Is Wrong.")

In the meantime, I shall be determinedly unfazed by work and mudane things. As far as I'm concerned, my vacation is as good as begun. Whoohoo!

July 17, 2003

Aaaaah! Aaaaaaaah! Holy living fuck!

July 14, 2003

A slightly exhausting week last week, but worthwhile. SGM was just as awesome a second time, and very interesting to see in the tiny standing-room-only backstage of the Black Cat as compared to the great big proscenium stage at the War Memorial. They are, if anything, more disturbing when confronted intimately, but also more rewarding in some ways; you get to see up close how freakin' good they are. And I got the chance afterwards, as I hadn't gotten at NEARfest, to tell Carla Kihlstedt how impressed by her I was, and that she'd inspired me to get out my violin again after all these years; at which she smiled, and said, "Good." And that made my night.

I was also impressed by Koshari, SGM's opening act. They sort of remind me of what Jefferson Airplane might have sounded like if they'd been alternative-Britpop. Good solid songwriting, compelling tunes, and a nice sensibility for ambience in there among the wicked guitar and massive bass. They sound good on MP3, too; go check 'em out.

And Todd Burge played at the frigging Kennedy Center. That was plenty weird, and not just in the musical one-eighty from seeing Nils Frykdahl in his blood-red cowl groaning "Sleeeep is wroooong" the night previous. Seeing Todd playing somewhere other than, say, the Rusty Nail or Bogart's is just enough cognitive dissonance to unhinge me but good. Great show, though, and it was good to see Todd again. (If you watch the archived performance, you can catch him talking to me. That was cool.) And he played "Pickin' a Lock," which was worth showing up for all by itself as far as I'm concerned.

Nobilis commenced on Saturday and was excellent fun. We're down to business with this now, politicking with other Powers, running errands for the Imperator, getting ourselves into wondrous strange trouble. And I had a rather interesting arc this time around, going from being all pleased with myself at the start for cozying up to the Viscountess of Joviality, to stepping into court politics and diplomacy (very Swordspoint), to using, at the end of our session, a Word of Command that drained all my miracles and left me horribly wounded as part of a bargain with the Domina of Purity. I hope my Brothers Caelestis have some idea how they're going to bring the amphisbaena home, because I sure the fuck don't.

Saturday night wrapped with Stacy and I going out to see League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which was... okay, but left me wishing they'd put together a plot that I didn't have to turn my brain off quite so much for. Great cast, great visuals, wild action, and a script that seems to have gone through one Hollywood rewrite too many. Even so, it's fun to watch Sean Connery do his thing for two hours. Catch it on the big screen, but see a matinee.

And tonight brings a new post to Full Fathom Five. Crack open the Director's head and see what's inside!

July 07, 2003

"When I grow up, I'm never going to sleep"

Back from Allentown (again, this time for my grandmother's eightieth birthday celebration) on Saturday night, and enjoying some much-needed slacking these last two evenings. It's been rare enough, despite all the fun I've been having.

I set up a new blog today, devoted entirely to Tempest stuff; it's at http://fullfathomfive.blogspot.com for those curious about my thought processes in approaching this project. I'm thinking of it as a kind of informal thesis.

This week is action-packed. Wednesday night I go to The Black Cat for Sleepytime Gorilla Museum (whoohoo! Sleep Is Wrong!) and no doubt much strangeness; that's twice in two weeks to come face-to-face with the Donkey-Headed Adversary, and I'm not going to speculate what effect that's likely to have on a sensitive psyche. For less overtly scary fun, Thursday Stacy and I are going to see fellow Ohio Valley folksinger Todd Burge play at the Kennedy Center, and I get to alleviate some of my guilt at not having been to a Burge show in some three and a half years. (Aiya!) It's a free show, all you DC folk, and Todd is pretty damn good, so come on out at 6 PM if you can make it; he's the kind of singer-songwriter who can pen a line like "I never thought I'd wear a silk tie/ My eyes are buggin' out like when bugs die" and make it work.

And that's all, until Nobilis part II on Saturday. So much good stuff to do!

July 01, 2003

Whoa! I got linked by Anglagard, re: my NEARfest report. Thanks, guys!
After-Action Report: NEARfest '03


Longer version: NEARfest rocks on toast. Two days of prog, ten bands, thousands of CDs with art calculated to produce the "Oooo, shiny!" response in the Yes-and-Crimson set, a breathtaking Roger Dean gallery, and more fat guys with ponytails than you can count. There's nothing quite like it for putting a feller into moog-solo and mellotron overload.

First off, though: Trenton sucks. If I hit you with the suckage of Trenton, you would die. There is very nearly nowhere to eat, and certainly nowhere that isn't vaguely distressing to be in, and you're inclined to inspect whatever they give you. And on the weekend that town is day-ud. Not so good when you unleash a coupla thousand goofy-looking art-rock fans into it for forty-five minutes at a stretch, and besides, walking five minutes from the War Memorial in any direction is so depressing you want to just sit down and give up. Perhaps there is some intriguing nightlife there in some other section of town, well-hidden from view, but until that's unveiled I hereby renounce any impulse I had to refrain from gratuitous Jersey-bashing. Garden State, is it? There's a reason why people laugh when you say that, you know.

Tony and I missed the first act on Saturday - late start getting out of Allentown - so I have no idea if High Wheel was any good or not. The program sums them up as "German heavy symphonic prog," which certainly has possibilities in either direction, but I'll assume they were at least passably good. Didn't hear folks talking about them all weekend, but that's the peril of opening; you never hear about Birdsongs of the Mesozoic from the '01 show either, so there you go.

We did arrive in time for Alamaailman Vasarat, a sextet from Finland who do a sort of instrumental Prog Noir - no guitars, but organ, drums, sax, trombone, and two cellos (and it never occured to me before that you could run a cello through a distortion box; the results are quite awesome). These guys were great. Supposedly the name means "hammers of the underworld," but I'll have to have Maija confirm that one.

Tunnels was perfectly good, but not my thing. A little too atonal-jazz-noodling for my taste - lots of riffing odd stuff up and down the MIDI-Vibes, which loses me after the first thirty seconds or so. Fortunately, I have some awareness of how trained you have to be to sound like you're just goofing off like that, or my assessment would probably be more cynical. As it is, I can nod appreciatively and hold out for the next act.

Which was The Flower Kings. Oh, my. The Flower Kings rawk. Here's what I love about this genre - these guys played for an hour and a half and their set was, like, five songs. They're certainly planted firmly in the epic-length crunchy symphonic-rock school of progressive music, but they have made that very much their own. I think one of the things I tend to like about European prog especially (the Flower Kings are from Sweden) is that they're influenced by more stuff than just Yes and Genesis and bring that musical syncretism into their work; they're not stuck in-genre, they're just playing what they like. That said, this stuff soars and wails with the best of 'em, but even if you don't know Marillion from Kansas, if you're not moved by the end of "Stardust We Are" and singing it in the shower for two days - well, there may be no hope for you.

Headliner for Saturday night was Magma. Not bad, if a bit on the avant-side (French, y'know). Sort of what would happen if there was a Manhattan Transfer rock opera. Dunno if it was headliner material for me, but it was interesting enough, and you can certainly sit and groove to it for two hours.

Sunday morning brought the pleasant (if that's the word I'm looking for) surprise of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, who have made an awful lot of new fans now, myself enthusiastically among them. They're a sort of apocalyptic industrial nightmare goth prog, which manages to push just about all of my aesthetic buttons at once. Go see them, just for the costumes. I wish I looked that good in a dress and hightops, I'll tell you that.

And then there was Glass Hammer. While I was slightly disappointed they didn't do any of their Middle-Earth stuff, the live performance of their album Lex Rex is tough to complain about. You want classic epic keyboard prog in the fashion of Yes and so forth, look no further. Sure, it's entirely over-the-top, but this is not a genre that has ever been known to stop once it's made its point anyway. And the women doing their backup vocals were hella-cute. (An aside: You can learn almost everything you need to know about prog fans by observing the two reactions engendered in them by putting three attractive women onstage. The first is perhaps best summed up as "Whoa, boobs!" The second, even more unfortunate, is "Yeah, but they couldn't dance in 7/8 time." I kid you not, gentle readers, though I deeply wish I did.)

Oh, and during the Glass Hammer set, Rich Williams of Kansas ambled out onstage to play a song with them. Just, y'know, 'cause he thought it'd be fun. I'd give a kidney to have been there for that conversation, just to hear what the GH guys said after they got done crapping themselves. There's your lesson for the day, kids: if you're an art-rock musician, learn you some Kansas songs, because you never know.

I don't know what it is about tall, skinny German guys and prog, but Kraan was pretty damn good. They were lots of fun, and obviously had a blast doing what they were doing. Danceable and catchy and unpretentious, and very much a breath of fresh air.

Nonetheless, out of all the new finds for me this year, it's Anglagard that more or less owns my soul now. Instrumental Swedish vituoso symphonic stuff with flutes and whatnot. And three mellotrons. Three! I didn't know you could do that without blowing something up. They are awesome. Once again, it's the European bands that really get me; two years ago, it was White Willow, and now it's these guys, for much the same reasons. (Well, okay, then it was at least partially out of falling deeply in love with Sylvia Erichsen, but you get the idea. Not that Anna Holmgren ain't easy on the eyes herself, but assume I'm speaking of lofty aesthetics here.) Go thou forth, and buy Anglagard albums. That is all.

And then, playing fashionably late, the Sunday-night headliner came in the form of the venerable and esteemed Camel. Worth the wait, I'd say. Very much like classic Genesis - immensely listenable, smart but not oh-so-clever, and frequently very beautiful and sweet. Sadly, this is their farewell tour; catch 'em if you can.

And there you have it. I was pretty good, and didn't buy everything that looked in the least bit cool (which is why I'm not still in Jersey, saying "That's twenty for just the blowjob, and nothing up the bum, please"). Besides the obligatory Angalgard and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum CDs, I also got a single from a local band called The Red Masque, which is certainly the right thing to listen to if you want your musical boundaries stretched forcibly wider - but at almost 40 minutes, it's the best four bucks you'll spend, and you really should just for the chance to hear Lynette Shelley sing. She is pretty damn amazing. I also recommend playing it, if you can, while you drive down a dark road in the middle of the night; that was our first exposure, and oh, wow. (I also had the reaction, "If she's not a Current 93 fan, she should be," but, then, I would.)

And that was NEARfest. Woot! Final analysis: "It's even worth going to Trenton." How's that for a t-shirt slogan?