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mdlbear: portrait of me holding a guitar, by Kelly Freas (freas)

I wrote a song last weekend, "Windward". (Here's the original post for reference; you'll note that the lyrics have changed somewhat since then.) It quickly became part of a matched set, since it made much more sense to sing it with the original. Thursday when we sang them for Emmy, Naomi came up with the title "Travelers" for the pair.

This is the second time we've done a pair of songs -- our first was "The Bears" -- "A Talk With the Middle-Sized Bear" and Naomi's brilliant "A Tribute to the Middle-Aged Bear". Only this time Naomi wrote the original and I wrote the parody.

Parody isn't exactly the right word for it, of course. Adaptation might be closer. In both cases, what started out as an obvious and silly throw-away ended up cutting deeper than expected, more of a complement than a commentary. It's an absolute delight when this happens. (It's also a delight when you approach the original songwriter worried about whether you'll still be friends after they've read your lyrics, and their response is ``This is brilliant!'')

ETA: The Wolfling recorded our debut performance; you'll find her videos on YouTube. Watch Where The Heart Is and Windward. It came off surprisingly well for a brand-new song.

mdlbear: portrait of me holding a guitar, by Kelly Freas (freas)

So, unless you were hiding under the same rock I was all week, you probably noticed that Jonathan Coulton re-recorded "Code Monkey" for Slashdot's 15th Birthday. When I finally listened to it this morning, I realized that it was prime s4s material. Never mind that it's Sunday -- the tag still matches. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

It's kind of appropriate, because I just started my new job this week, as a code monkey. I mean, sure, I have a fancier title than that, but what it comes down to is picking (mostly) well-defined little coding tasks off a list and writing the code. OK, we all get some say in the tasks, too, but it's all part of a huge edifice mostly designed by somebody else.

I've done this before. Recently, even -- what I did on the web services side of $PREV two years ago was like that. I can do it, and do it well, but it was demanding without being all that satisfying. I'm worried that this gig will be similar.

It'll pay the bills, and it'll be challenging and even fun in places, but I don't think I'm going to love it. (You will note that I am not going off on a riff comparing the expected experience to various kinds of casual relationship. This is a Good Thing. Trust me.)

mdlbear: (ccs-cover)

Because I'm surprised that I haven't taken the time to do it earlier, I've logged on to CD-Baby and dropped the digital download price of Coffee, Computers, & Song from $15 (which is where they set it by default, I guess) to $9.99. I probably ought to set it up on Bandcamp, too.

mdlbear: portrait of me holding a guitar, by Kelly Freas (freas)

Y'know, I can't miss today's Songs for Saturday -- the combination of Woody's 100th birthday and Bastille Day is just too perfect.

Here's a link to NPR: At 100, Woody Guthrie Still Resonates. And here's the Wikipedia article on La Marseillaise.

Here is one of the only two surviving film clips of Woody performing: The Ranger's Command - 1945, and here's Woody singing This Land Is Your Land.

And here's Tear the fascist down "This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright # 154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we dont give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, thats all we wanted to do."

And here's La Marseillaise in my favorite scene in Casablanca.

It makes me angry that this is all still so relevant.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

Apparently I missed Sunday. Probably because of having too many accumulated to-do items between then and Monday. :(

Anyway, I appear to have spent most of the day going up and down the garage attic stairs, bringing down the last of the old file boxes full of receipts. (I happen to know that there are still a couple of letter files and perhaps a drawer or two.) Old receipts really have to be shredded; they have such things as complete credit card and social security numbers on them. Those were more innocent times.

I didn't go out for a walk, but the stairs made up for it, I think.

As a belated S4S entry, how about Harp Twins Camille and Kennerly? That, and O Fortuna Misheard Lyrics. From the sublime to the ridiculous?

raw notes )
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

A week from yesterday, on Saturday, June 9th, we're having our last party at Grand Central Starport. It's been a long run, and a good one. We've thrown at least two parties each year since we moved in 36 years ago, and four most years. Over a hundred parties.

We're moving.

Moving out, moving North, and moving on. Parties at the Starport will probably continue -- our renters are fannish. We will certainly continue to have parties, though perhaps not until we move from our apartment to a house, a year or so down the road.

But... our household, our Starport... yeah. Last chance.

We're also downsizing. A lot. So a lot of things will be up for grabs. We're giving away a lot of books, because we'd rather see them go to good homes than get a few cents for them at a used bookshop. A goodly pile of other stuff. Get it while it's hot.

There will be potluck, and soft drinks in the tub -- bring something you know you can eat, plus enough to share. There will be filking. There will be nostalgia.

The maps and directions are, as usual, on the web at the Grand Central Starport Home Page.

Bonus Song for Sunday: "So Long It's Been Good To Know Yuh" by Woody Guthrie [YouTube].

mdlbear: portrait of me holding a guitar, by Kelly Freas (freas)

Something I've run across several places over the last couple of days is the official video for S. J. Tucker's "Neptune". It's gorgeous. While you're at it, check out the rest of her videos.

Then go to the S.J. Tucker - Skinny White Chick website. Because Sooj is awesome.

mdlbear: portrait of me holding a guitar, by Kelly Freas (freas)

This week's song is James Keelaghan's "Boom Gone To Bust", for reasons that should be obvious.

And I headed west when I had turned twenty
When the foundries and factories had closed
And in my minds eye I thought I might settle
Out here where my father was raised and was born
I worked as a jug-hound a rough-neck a bouncer
I worked where I wanted, I drew damn good pay
Saw no end to our luck and so we just pushed it
But O.P.E.C. and mortgages ate it away.

This recording is from Lookingglass Folk's "Trinitite" concert at Conflikt 2012.

mdlbear: portrait of me holding a guitar, by Kelly Freas (freas)

In honor of the communities I set up this morning ([community profile] underground_rail on DW and [livejournal.com profile] undergroundrail on LJ) to promote [personal profile] pocketnaomi's idea of a new Underground Rail, I give you the song that inspired it: [personal profile] catsittingstill's song "Underground Rail".

Here is Lookingglass Folk's version, from our concert at Conflikt.

mdlbear: portrait of me holding a guitar, by Kelly Freas (freas)

It's a bit of a grab-bag today. I found myself needing to finally learn the melody to a couple of songs that I'd so far only played guitar on, because I want to do them in my upcoming concert at Consonance. You know that thing about dominos? That.

So the only recordings I could find were back in 2009. And, for some unaccountable reason, I hadn't put up the audio for that concert. It soon became clear that one reason I hadn't was that the performer tags in the audio files were wrong...

... and once I'd fixed that, I decided to put my concert index into a sensible, most-recent-first format. (It had been most recent year first, but most recent last within each year.) So that's done now. And Baycon 2008 didn't have an index.html file. It does now.

So here you go:

... and if you're still with me, there's a somewhat off-the-wall bonus. You see, this week the R&D lab I work for publicly announced a subsidiary in India called Ricoh Innovations Private Limited (RIPL)

So what was the first song that popped into my head when first I heard about it? Right. The Grateful Dead - Ripple. I've been waiting five months to post that one...

mdlbear: portrait of me holding a guitar, by Kelly Freas (freas)

So, to make up for having missed a couple of weeks worth of Saturdays, you're getting a bonus this week.

After talking it over, Naomi and I decided that it'll be better -- or at least simpler -- to ask for forgiveness than permission, so the entire recording of Lookingglass Folk at Conflikt 2012 is now up on the web.

I don't like the way the guitar came out -- sorry about that; if I have time I'll try to process the other recording I got from [livejournal.com profile] hms42. But the performance? Yeah. That worked.

Please enjoy.

mdlbear: portrait of me holding a guitar, by Kelly Freas (freas)

Since I recently prompted a wonderful poem: "The Bear Spectacle", in ysabetwordsmith's recent Poetry Fishbowl!, this seems like a good time to post about The Bears.

The Bears are a suite of two songs: my semi-autobiographical "A Talk With the Middle-Sized Bear", and Naomi Rivkis's wonderful parody of it, "A Tribute to the Middle-Aged Bear". We (or I, if I'm performing solo) usually do them together. You sort of have to do that with the really good parodies, otherwise lines have a tendency to leak from one to the other, and either hilarity or havoc ensues.

The best (ok, only) recording of the two of them together is part of my Fan GOH concert at Baycon 2010.

The Middle-Sized Bear is one of my favorite characters in Cordwainer Smith's story, Mark Elf. You'll find out all about him in the last section, titled "Conversation with the Middle-Sized Bear". He formed part of my "Mandelbear" persona on the old newsgroup alt.callahans, but it was only a few years ago that I discovered that he was also a large part of my personality as well.

mdlbear: portrait of me holding a guitar, by Kelly Freas (freas)

OK, so it's a day late, but that means I can offer you a first-hand account of the Lamplighters' production of The Gondoliers by Gilbert and Sullivan.

For my money, The Gondoliers has the best music of any of the G&S operettas; it's lush and lyrical and sparkling. And the Lamplighters are a world class company, making the air ring with song in San Francisco for just a few months shy of 60 years. In Colleen and my 38 years worth of season tickets we've never been disappointed.

Simply gorgeous. They're performing next weekend in Walnut Creek; it's not to be missed if you're in the area and fond of such things.

For extras, here's The Gondoliers Preview podcast on YouTube; the G&S archive page points to two recordings at the Internet Archive.

mdlbear: portrait of me holding a guitar, by Kelly Freas (freas)

This song was written in response to a challenge: my sister-of-choice Naomi (whose birthday is today!) told me that she'd go with me to ConChord 2008 if I promised to sing a song either by her or about her. By a month before the con I still hadn't learned any of her songs, and was still struggling to write something, when I happened to think back on how easy a time Colleen had had getting through the airport with a wheelchair. This just fell out, then, as the answer to ``I can walk, damnit! What do I need a wheelchair for?''

I'm also using it as a prompt in today's Crowdfunding Creative Jam.

Steve.Savitzky.net/Songs/wheelin/ [pdf] [ogg] [mp3]


© 2008 Stephen Savitzky. Creative Commons by-nc-sa License Some Rights Reserved.

When you see her in the evening in a bright green dress
Walking fast down the hallway you might never guess
That the lady has a weakness she's reluctant to confess.
No, you might not notice when she's dancing reels
That she made it through the airport on a set of wheels,
And she still isn't certain that she likes the way that it feels.
    With her lover right behind her lookin' tired but proud
    They were wheelin' their way through the airport crowd;
    And the way it made her feel made her want to weep out loud. 
    'Cause they were cuttin' past the line at the TSA
    Asking healthy young people to get out of her way
    Savin' her strength to make it through another day.
When she has a good day she can walk a mile
Dance through the evening with grace and style
Greet her lover at the door with a tight embrace and a smile;
Next minute she's collapsing like she's half-way dead
With a fire in her body and an aching head
And she'll pay with pain and the rest of the weekend in bed.
    So with her lover right beside her lookin' calm and cool
    She walks up to the counter feeling like a fool
    And tries to tell herself that a wheelchair's only a tool.
    Soon she's wheelin' past the line at the TSA
    Feeling weird watching people getting out of her way
    But it's the easiest journey in years to the end of the day.
Well, her body is a battleground and life's a war,
And she's lost against her limits many times before;
But she's still fighting with a few new tricks in store;
Because a wheelchair is a weapon, not a mark of defeat
And she can stay standing longer with some time off her feet
The battle isn't over, and winning will be sweet.
    With her lover right behind her lookin' fierce and proud
    They'll be cutting a swath through the airport crowd
    The way it makes her feel will make her want to laugh out loud.
    'Cause she'll be wheelin' past the line at the TSA
    Watchin' tough young punks scurry out of her way
    Savin' her strength to make it through another day.
    Yeah, savin' her strength--to fight another day.
mdlbear: portrait of me holding a guitar, by Kelly Freas (freas)

I've been wanting to post this Songs for Saturday for a while, only the last couple got derailed somewhere along the way. Anyway, I'd like to point you at Cat Faber's "Alice Day" posts. The name is explained in a footnote to this post, where Cat says,

I promised my friend Alice a new song every two weeks so she would have new stuff to practice. This is where I'm putting them. I have been doing this for a while, actually but this is the first time I have mentioned the inspiration. So, Happy Alice Day.

Anyway, she's been posting a new song every couple of weeks since some time in March, mostly with mp3's attached. Enjoy! They're all worth a listen, but I think "Pepper-Spray Pike" is one of the better ones. Never anger a bard..."The Atheist's Anthem" is another good one, and captures a lot of what I, too, believe.

mdlbear: portrait of me holding a guitar, by Kelly Freas (freas)

There aren't any actual songs in this post. But soon! You see, Naomi and I started a new duo, Lookingglass Folk, less than two weeks ago.

One of our goals for this weekend's rehearsal session was to figure out whether we would be able to take over the concert slot at Conflikt originally scheduled for Tempered Glass. We figured we'd probably know by Monday.

It only took one rehearsal. The answer is, as pocketnaomi posted last night, Yes.

Yeah, it's still a little rough around the edges. But not for long: we work well together.

We hope to see you at Conflikt.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

This wonderful little video came in by way of Google+ this morning, and I figured I'd share it: Copying Is Not Theft - YouTube

It comes from QuestionCopyright.org | A Clearinghouse For New Ideas About Copyright. Here's another: Credit is Due (The Attribution Song) | QuestionCopyright.org. Just because copying isn't theft, it doesn't mean that it isn't sometimes wrong. Credit is always due, and sometimes payment is, too. (Though I personally believe that the term of a copyright should be exactly the same as that of a patent, namely 20 years.)

And All Creative Work Is Derivative isn't really a song, but it's a brilliant piece of choreography. Using statues.

You can find the whole collection of ""Minute Memes" here at QuestionCopyright.org.

mdlbear: portrait of me holding a guitar, by Kelly Freas (freas)

My former band, Tempered Glass, has fallen apart in a shower of jagged shards. Naomi and I intend to keep making music together, and we're pleased to announce that we are now a duo called Lookingglass Folk. We are hoping to pull off our first concert at Conflikt next year, taking advantage of the year's worth of planning and hard work we put into it as Tempered Glass.

The next two months are going to be a wild ride for the two of us, but the concert we're putting together is going to be worth it. I'm going up the weekend after next for a rehearsal; we'll know then whether we can pull it off. If we do, it will be something special.

We'll see you at Conflikt. Give us a listen.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

I was originally going to post something entirely different today -- I wanted to post one of my own love songs. Maybe I'll save it for February. Because I started thinking about the internet censorship laws now being debated in the House, and what's going on in New York, Davis, Seattle, and, well, just about everywhere...

And in the car this morning I remembered Die Gedanken sind frei.

Since the days of the Carlsbad Decrees and the Age of Metternich Die Gedanken sind frei was a popular protest song against political repression and censorship, especially among the banned Burschenschaften student fraternities. In the aftermath of the 1848 German Revolution the song was proscribed.

OK, then.

Here's Die Gedanken sind frei, the rally song of the 1942-43 German anti-Nazi youth movement, the White Rose. And here's Pete Seeger's translated version from his 1966 album, Dangerous Songs!? (Lyrics here.)

And remember that if those bills pass, and the Great Firewall of China comes to the US, this could be the last song I'll post here.

mdlbear: portrait of me holding a guitar, by Kelly Freas (freas)

Really short one today, because I'm posting from Orycon away from my familiar desktop, on a marginally-configured netbook. But I was impressed by The Doubleclicks' concert last night. Impressed enough to buy two copies of their CD -- one for the wolfling daughter who decided to spend the weekend LARPing rather than come down and enjoy the con.


mdlbear: portrait of me holding a guitar, by Kelly Freas (freas)

A short one today. In honor of Bank Transfer Day - Wikipedia and the Move Your Money Project, I'm posting a couple of recent protest songs. Very recent. The first is [personal profile] catsittingstill's "Getting Out Of Hand", which is so new it doesn't have music posted yet. But it has footnotes! I'm a sucker for songs with footnotes.

And for the global Occupy movement that Bank Transfer Day sprang out of, here's Zander Nyrond's Occupy The Earth. You'll find the lyrics here, in his LJ.

You also need to listen to talis_kimberley's The Steps of St Paul's (lyrics here, download here)

mdlbear: portrait of me holding a guitar, by Kelly Freas (freas)

There's a party today at Grand Central Starport, so the most obvious song to post for today is Bigger On The Inside, which I wrote 20 years ago (has it really been that long?) following a usenet post about a visit (waves at [personal profile] liralen) to our house.

No video (I suppose I ought to learn how to make those synchronized-image things), but you'll find the audio here.

Bigger On The Inside

© 1991 Stephen Savitzky. Creative Commons by-nc-sa License Some Rights Reserved.

Our house is bigger on the inside than it looks from on the street
There must be something odd about the way the corners meet.
We warn our friends about it, but they always seem surprised,
And I sometimes can't imagine how our stuff all fits inside.

    We have computers, toys, and magazines, and quiet cozy nooks;
    The bathroom's lined with cedar planks, and the living room with books.
    There's boxes full of God-knows-what in the attic up above,
    And we always keep good company and love.

There's a gallery of science-fiction pictures in the hall,
And something's taped or bolted on to each square foot of wall.
Our daughters' closets look just like a baby dragon's hoard;
It's true that we're disorganized, but at least we're seldom bored.

Colleen is halfway buried as she crochets up a quilt 
I'm getting in some songs before my voice begins to wilt.
Kids are shouting back in Emmy's room, the pizza's getting hot;
Folks come over every Wednesday whether we're at home or not.

There's a guest crashed on the futon couch who's too wiped out to leave,
And something in the fridge that's been there since last Christmas eve.
We're packed in five dimensions, and through the twilight zone,
It's all the friendly clutter here that makes it feel like home.

At the Younger Daughter's insistence, I have pluralized "daughters" in verse 2, and at the older's insistance changed the name in verse 3, both to reflect current reality.

mdlbear: portrait of me holding a guitar, by Kelly Freas (freas)

I was sitting around idly wondering what to do for my Songs for Saturday post when I got the news via min0taur that Bert Jansch had died last week. It doesn't even seem to have hit his official website yet, but it hit me hard. Bert was one of my heros.

The song that immediately popped into my head was Needle Of Death -- it was on his first album, which I bought close to the year it came out, 1965. I think it's still the only album of his I ever owned, but his sharp-edged songwriting and astounding fingerpicking left a lasting impression.

I could spend hours browsing through the recordings on YouTube. I probably will. For now I'll just leave you with Angie, from his first album, and this video of him performing Alice's Wonderland.

mdlbear: portrait of me holding a guitar, by Kelly Freas (freas)

I was pondering what to post this morning. It's not that I was in an unusually weird mood, but this video of Tom Smith singing "I Had A Shoggoth" popped into my head. Ok, now my mood is unusually weird. The best thing about this one is the amazing Judi Miller signing it. Never having heard it before!

Warning: not keyboard-safe. Put your drink down in a safe place.

mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)

I'm not sure when or why I fell in love with The Rose; I was reminded of it about a year ago, when I followed a link to LeAnn Rimes performing "The Rose" with The Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles.

I quickly followed more links, and found these performances by Judy Collins and Joan Baez.

And, just for completeness, here's Bette Midler singing the version from the movie that everyone else thinks of. But the song wasn't written for the movie, and it was never sung by Janis Joplin.

Here's the real story, in songwriter Amanda McBroom's own words, and here's Amanda herself singing it. And here's a live performance. I think I like that one best.

mdlbear: portrait of me holding a guitar, by Kelly Freas (freas)

Just a quickie today, since I'm traveling and away from my usual posting client, but this is way too good to leave on the shelf until it becomes seasonal. If you love mathematics, or are a fan of xkcd, you really need to go over to YouTube and watch/listen to The Gauss Christmath Special by the amazingly wacko Vi Hart. Then go check out Pachelbel's Music Box Canon in D. I could go on. And on.

mdlbear: portrait of me holding a guitar, by Kelly Freas (freas)

Over Labor Day weekend I moved from a software development job at Ricoh eWriter Solutions, back to R&D at Ricoh Innovations. The preceeding Wednesday morning, as part of my weekly status report, I sent around email pointing to a farewell document, When I Go - Steve Savitzky's Farewell To EWS.

The title was a blatant excuse to embed this video of Dave Carter's When I Go, performed by Pete & Maura Kennedy on YouTube. Go watch and listen. I'll wait.

I love that song. Talk about New Song Energy -- of course I tracked down the chords, downloaded it, and learned it. I earwormed it for nearly a month.

Here are Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer performing it live. It wasn't my first whirlwind romance with a Dave Carter song -- I vividly recall practicing "Gentle Arms of Eden" on Naomi's bed, about an hour and a half before we first performed it in pubic, at Consonance 2009. Why don't I have the audio for that one up? Hmm.

Anyway, that's my Second Songs for Saturday. Enjoy.

mdlbear: portrait of me holding a guitar, by Kelly Freas (freas)

Every once in a while a song, or a songwriter, grabs me. Call it New Song Energy. If I'm really lucky it's a new song of mine, but mostly it's somebody else.

It's not so often that it's someone whose name I can't hope to pronounce, writing in a language I don't understand. I'm damned if I know why nobody seems to have recorded English versions of Trịnh Công Sơn's songs except maybe that, judging from the translations I've seen, it's unlikely that singable translations exist. Which is a damned shame.

I was pointed at Trinh by a coworker, our lovely Vietnamese lab tech Gloria, on my last day at EWS. We had a good talk. She gave me a freshly-picked pluot to give to Colleen, and the name "Trịnh Công Sơn" written on a post-it note.

You should probably start, as I did, with this video of CÁT BỤI - Sand and Dust. (translation here)

Now listen to the lovely Hồng Nhung singing Đóa hoa vô thường - "Evanescent Bloom". There's a translation here, though not in my opinion a very good one. There's a rather different live performance here.

Sad and lovely. But maybe a little hard to hear why Joan Baez once called him the Bob Dylan of Vietnam. So try Trinh himself singing Gia Tài Của Mẹ translation: A mother's heritage.

      A thousand years of Chinese reign
      A hundred years of French domain
      Twenty years fighting brothers each day
      A mother's fate, bones left to dry
      And graves that fill a mountain high

Starting to sound a little more like Dylan? The original words, in Google's excessively literal translation (and slightly cleaned up), have even more bite:

       A thousand years of the slave ship 
       One hundred years of Western colonial invaders
       Twenty years of civil war every day 
       of her fortune a bone dry forest 
       of the mother's legacy, a mountain full of sweat 

OK. If you can handle the video, watch Hát Trên Những Xác Người - Song about the Corpses of People - sung by Khánh Ly. If not, just turn your monitor off and listen. If you don't speak Vietnamese, you can just skip the interview; the song starts at 1:16. If you do speak Vietnamese, how about helping me come up with some singable translations? There's a good, but not singable, translation in this blog post.

      This afternoon, climbing a hill, singing on top of corpses
       I have seen, I have seen
       On the road, people holding each other and running to hide

       This afternoon, climbing a hill, singing on top of corpses
       I have seen, I have seen
       In a garden, a mother holding her child's lifeless body

       A mother claps her hands and celebrates her child's corpse
       A mother claps and cheers for peace
       People clap their hands for more harmony
       People clap their hands for more miserable hardship 

It's about the Massacre at Huế. I grew up with this stuff on TV, and Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs on vinyl.

I have no idea whether this will turn into a series; we'll see. But I miss [personal profile] gridlore's Heavy Metal Sunday series. We'll see.

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