The Bitter End

Well, not that bitter actually. Because…

fireworks of success

Success!

At 4:55 p.m. Eastern Time on December 31, the tunequest was completed! In early February, I set out on a mission to listen to every song that I had collected over the years, cutting those songs and artists that I’d outgrown, celebrating those I continue to adore, and rediscovering those I had neglected, all by the end of 2006.

And I did it. There were times, as recently as a couple weeks ago, that I didn’t think that it would work out. But I do tend to pull through in the 11th hour and, at the least, I am pleased with my own personal accomplishment.

The last song played, appropriately enough, was The Smashing Pumpkins’ The Last Song, a b-side to the Thirty Three single.

Now it’s New Year’s Eve and I have two reasons to celebrate. Huzzah!

Mac OS 9 mp3 Abandonware: MusicVac

MusicVac

Something odd happened to me the other day while listening to my iPod. I was enjoying a bootlegged version of Jerry Goldsmith’s magnum opus, the score to the first Star Trek motion picture. One of the tracks is raw recording session featuring two takes of the now-famous main title.

The theme was just getting going when, at the 1:26 mark, it just stopped playing. The music went silent and the time counter stopped moving. The iPod itself wasn’t frozen. I could still skip to the next track, navigate menus, play other songs, etc, but this one file would not play all the way through.

The song played fine in iTunes and Quicktime Player, but for some reason, my iPod didn’t like it.

Using my troubleshooting “shinn” I surmised that the problem was with the file itself. In the past when I encountered problem mp3 files, usually the result of trying to play Windows-created files on my Mac, I turned to a little utility called MusicVac. The program cleared all the gunk out of the file, bad headers, corrupted ID3 tags, resource forks, etc, leaving behind a fresh mpeg stream. 99% of the time, MusicVac made the unplayable playable, succeeding where countless other apps failed.

Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t find the program in any of my software archives. It must have been lost in a hard drive crash or during the move from one computer to another over the years. So off to Google I went, but I wasn’t hopeful. This program was written for Mac OS 9 and I’d not heard of any updates since 1999 or so. Indeed the first few links pointed to a dead dhs.org site and everything else pointed to pages that looked like they hadn’t been updated since 1998.

It took a better part of the evening and more search strings than I can remember, but I finally found a downloadable copy, link intact, on an Italian ftp server. After moving the program and the troublesome mp3 to my G4 PowerBook (had to run in Classic and Classic doesn’t work on Intel Macs), I proceeded to “vacuum” the file.

A few seconds later, I had a brand new mp3, that I’m happy to report works just fine on my iPod.

Because MusicVac was so hard to track down and development seems to have ceased, I’ve decided to host a copy of it here. As I noted above, Classic or a booted version of OS 9 is required to use it. Sorry, Intel Mac users. The feature set from the Read Me is below.

Download MusicVac b9.

MusicVac currently offers these features:

  • Removal of info window comments (saved automatically to "Saved Comments" file, just in case you need them again)
  • Removal of the resource fork (saves some space by getting rid of unnecessary information)
  • Removal of a specified PC file extension if it exists (Blah.mp3 becomes Blah)
  • Removal of leading and ending spaces in file names.
  • Automatic repair of invalid file information bits. (invalid bundle bits, custom icon bits, etc. are fixed automatically)
  • Automatic repair of invalid file creation/modification dates
  • Find and replace in file names
  • Removal of Finder label for a file
  • Removal of non-standard headers
  • Save information about your MPEG files to a text file for easy viewing.
  • Creation/modification of ID3 and ID3v2 tags.
  • Change file type and creator. (Hold down the option key when dragging files to MusicVac to bring up the "Quick Change" dialog to temporarily switch file types.)

Other Notes:

  • Under VERY rare circumstances MusicVac can damage a file when removing a header – usually if the header is corrupt. If this happens, you can try to recover the file by dragging it to MusicVac while holding the command and control keys. You will most likely never need to do this.
  • ID3 editing works like this – MusicVac assumes the filename for the song title. If an ID3 tag already exists, it’s values are inserted into the fields automatically. If you click the "Recall Previous Entries" button (command-R), it will insert the artist and album you last entered. If you click "Skip", no ID3 information will be changed/added to this file. If you option-click "Skip", no ID3 information will be asked the rest of the current MusicVac session.

Five Things you might not have known about me

me

So Webomatica tagged me and I guess I’m now “it” for the five things chain blog that’s been making the rounds. The idea is for a blogger to post five items of potentially new information about themselves. I guess it’s to help readers gain more insight into the writer. So, I’m game.

Number One

I back-date my songs in iTunes’ Date Added field. If I’m encoding a CD I originally got as a birthday present in 1994, I set my Mac’s date to my birthday 1994 when importing it into my library. This is an awesome technique for creating Smart Playlists based on the various eras of my life. So if I want to relive my college days, I just have to set the playlist criteria to Date Added is between May 1997 and August 2000. It’s pretty rad.

Number Two

Of the 4 members of my nuclear family growing up, only my mom was born in the United States, yet we are all American citizens by birth. In fact, it’s about time to renew my passport.

One of my grandmothers however, is a citizen of France.

Number Three

I graduated from an International Baccalaureate high school, ninth in my class, and finished college in 3 years, with high honors. I’ve been wasting potential every day since.

Number Four

I’m currently sporting a shaved head and a kick-ass 10-week-old beard, real son-of-the-south style. But in high school, I had long thick hair. I was notorious on campus for it. Friends would joke that it was home to wild, scalp-dwelling beasts and that it had its own gravity well.

Near the end of chemistry class one day, I got into a “Fro Contest” with a friend. We both whipped out our combs and started to fling our coiffures up and around.

Since my hair was longer, gravity kept pulling it down. He won on height; I won on volume.

Number Five

And finally…

Famous People!

We all know the Six Degrees game, where you count how many people it takes to connect one person to another. The philosophy holds that every person in the world is separated at most by relationships to six other persons.

One thing that’s never been clear to me though, is how one counts the first connection. My inclination is that if you have a direct relationship with someone, then your degree of separation is “zero.” Thus, that person’s relationships with other people are the ones that are separated. Using this formula, your degrees of separating are equal to the number of people between yourself and someone else.

However, others might consider your relationship with yourself as “zero” and that the first connection is the one that’s separated from you. In that scenario, your direct relationships are the first degree of separation.

I like my idea, because it brings people closer together. It also sounds more impressive if are you’re able to connect yourself to notable people, which brings me to my fifth and final…

Five Things You Didn’t Know About Me: Number Five

I can count the chain, and I’m two degrees of separation away from Jon Stewart of Death to Smoochy and The Daily Show fame. I’m also only one degree of separation away from Avery Brooks, aka Captain Ben Sisko or as others may remember him, the baddass Hawk.

::

There you have it, my “five things.” Part of the game is that I’m now supposed to tag five other people to now complete this same task. Well, I don’t normally pass on chain letter, but this one is kinda fun. I don’t know five other bloggers though, so I’ll be limited to my co-resident, themodernista.

Leonard Nimoy – Mr. Spock’s Music From Outer Space

Part of the Musical Star Trek Actors Series

  1. Shatner Rapping: No Tears for Caesar
  2. Leonard Nimoy – Mr. Spock’s Music From Outer Space

From the archives: I wrote the original version of this article for a newspaper column about 5 years ago. So it reads more like a newspaper column and not so much like a the informal blogginess that’s usually found around here. It’s from the Records that time forgot series that I hope to revive in 2007. This version corrects a couple awkward sentences and updates the formatting, but remains largely unchanged.

nimoy strums guitar

::

Actors want to be rock stars and rock stars are increasingly actors. It’s all theatrics. But it is by no means a recent phenomenon. Stars from Marlene Dietrich to Frank Sinatra to Snoop Dogg have crossed the line between audio and video for decades. That’s okay; they all had the talent to do it successfully yes, even snoop dogg.

Then there is another class of star who, no matter how talented in one field, fail in the other. You’ve got your Jennifer Love Hewitts, your Keanu Reeves I know, I use “talented” loosely and your Leonard Nimoys.

Nimoy was part of an explosion of such entertainers that occurred in the 60s. They were known as “Golden Throats,” popular screen actors who were way out of their element in front of a microphone. That description is not entirely fair to Nimoy though. He has a distinct and decent enough voice, which he uses to greater effect on his later albums. But this, his first, pretty much defines the word “doozy.”

Judged solely on its musical value, Leonard Nimoy Presents Mr. Spock’s Music From Outer Space would show few bright spots. Most people might even argue that it is a record best left forgotten. But 30 years and the age of ironic reinterpretation have added an entirely new dimension to Nimoy’s recording career, firmly entrenching this album in the novelty camp. This is a record for hardcore Star Trek fans and fans of junk culture kitsch alike.

Time has made this album into pure comedy gold.

Opening with a swingin’, go-go, Austin Powers-esque version of the original Star Trek theme, MSMFOS goes where no Star Trek actor had gone before, the recording booth. Released in 1967 to cash in on Star Trek’s, and Spock’s, growing popularity, MSMFOS edges out William Shatner’s own recording debut, The Transformed Man, by a year and is the first of Leonard Nimoy’s dozen-plus records.

MSMFOS is at once hilarious and completely non-cohesive. Like the variety shows of the era, the album veers erratically round the moons of Nibia and round the Antares maelstrom in a torrent of lounge, spoken word, and crooning before finally giving up.

Parts of the album even seem to have been put together without any input from the actor at all. Music to Watch Space Girls By is a nifty lounge-pop instrumental as is the included version of Lalo Schiffrin’s Mission: Impossible theme. In a strange turn, Nimoy would join the cast of that show three years later. Still, these pieces are obviously filler.

Of the vocal tracks on the record, most are presented from Spock’s point of view, casting his alien observations on humanity in spoken word and swing vocal form. Imagine that, Vulcan poetry.

But pop culture re-visioning can’t make up for everything on the disc. Twinkle Twinkle Little Earth is a horrendous essay on the use of the word “star” full of Gordon-level puns while Visit to a Sad Planet attempts to preach against nuclear violence in a narration with an eminently predictable twist that’s all too expected in a post-Planet of the Apes (1968) world.

For the most part, if you’re into novelty, the record is a treat if not overly rewarding. Like Halloween candy, it’s enjoyable is small doses, but don’t overdo it.

“Mr. Spock’s Music From Outer Space” remains out of print in both vinyl and CD formats. But if you can manage to find it, set your phasers to fun and prepare to be stunned by the vocal stylings of Leonard Nimoy.

::

Addendum: No, this is not the record that features The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins, but if you’re desperate enough to experience that hilarity, watch this disturbing video. You’ll have nightmares for sure.

iPod security note: Owner Info.txt

owner info on ipod

Hopefully your day-that-happened-to-be-Christmas was full of family togetherness, holiday cheer, and of course, lucrative acquisitions. And once again Apple’s iPod dominated the retail scene. While sales figures aren’t out yet, I think there’s a strong possiblity that a new iPod was among those acquisitions ilounge claims more ipods sold in 2006 than 2001-2005 combined.

So, in the interest to providing security for all those iPods newly given and received, as well as those that have been hanging around, here’s a quick tip that will help to ensure the safety of your mp3 player in the event it becomes separated from you. It makes use of the iPod’s Notes feature and is something I’ve done with each iPod I’ve owned since I got my first one nearly five years ago has it really been five years?.

This procedure works for all iPods with a screen and the principle is simple. Drop a text file with the name Owner Info.txt into the Notes folder on your iPod. To do this, the iPod must be mounted as a drive on your desktop, which you can do by selecting Enable Disk Use from iTunes.

On Windows, use Notepad to create the file. By default, it saves a text file format, which is required for the note to work. On Mac OS X, use TextEdit, but make sure you must select Make Plain Text from the Format menu before saving.

Inside this text file, type a short message about to whom the iPod belongs and ways to contact you: email, phone, website, instant messenger, etc. You can even include a physical address in hopes that some kind soul will mail it back to you or drop it off in person. In this case, it may be wiser to use a work address or P.O. box if you have one; you probably don’t want any nefarious types knowing where you live.


click to see full size.

When you’re finished with your message, save it with the filename Owner Info.txt into the Notes folder. On your iPod, browse to Extra > Notes > Owner Info.txt and you’ll see your message displayed on screen. Should you lose your iPod, the person who finds it can read your message and contact you to return it.

If you ever sell or give your iPod away, make sure you change or remove the file.

Weaknesses

Of course, this isn’t a fool-proof suggestion. It’s primarily designed to help honest people return a lost iPod and, to a certain extent, help buyers of second-hand iPods identify stolen property. If any would-be thieves are savvy enough, they can easily delete or change the Owner Info.txt. Though, once you save your file, you can always turn off Enable Disk Use to set up a roadblock. Even if someone resets the iPod by linking it to a new iTunes library, your owner message will remain intact.

Additionally, if you use a case with your iPod, drop a small slip of paper behind it with the same contact info. Then you’ll have one more avenue of protection in the event of loss or theft.

Hopefully though, the more people who do this, the more standard it will become. If this practice reaches a critical mass, like luggage tags on a suitcase, people will automatically know where to look to contact an iPod that’s lost its owner.

James Brown – Santa’s Got a Brand New Bag

I had forgotten that I had this song, but I was rummaging through my archives and was delighted to find it on today of all days. So in light of today’s news as well as the date, let’s celebrate some James Brown with his Santa’s Got a Brand New Bag.

Enjoy.

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For more Brownian Christmas classics, check out James Brown’s Funky Christmas at Amazon. Strangely, Santa’s Got a Brand New Bag isn’t included on it. Don’t worry, though, it does feature Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto and Soulful Christmas.

James Brown Double-bolted

this bandstand wasn't double bolted

James Brown died of pneumonia on Christmas Day 2006 at the age of 73 in Atlanta Georgia. The obits are all over the net, but here’s one from the AJC. Besides his musical legacy, he leaves behind one of the funniest, catchiest Simpsons’ lines, for its out-of-character absurdity and earnest delivery.

From the fifth season episode Bart’s Inner Child, it’s a heck of a catch-phrase:


Paramount Pictures closes Stage M

Paramount Pictures closed its legendary Stage M this past August.

The stage opened in 1932 and since then, many famous and notable film scores have been recorded on it, including The Ten Commandments, Out of Africa, as well as a great portion of Star Trek’s music. More recently, Danny Elfman’s score for Nacho Libre was laid down there. try this Google search to see some more examples of music that was recorded on the stage.

Paramount attributed the closing to the company’s financial redevelopment, but said nothing specific. From the article:

A Par spokeswoman attributed the closing to part of the studio’s ongoing efforts to “use the stage the best way we can, as we transform our business here on the lot.” What will happen to the space is anybody’s guess: “that has not yet been determined,” said the spokeswoman.

This is the type of story that, to me, brings home the idea that actual people create all this music I enjoy, that it’s not just academics and abstract relationships. In a world where the months of writing that goes into a symphony and weeks spent recording a rock opus are reduced to but a few minutes of play time, a handful of megabytes on a disk and a couple of lines in a database, that notion can be easily lost. It can all seem like a collector’s game when switching from Beethoven to the Bee Gees requires little more than a thought and a click.

Of course, I know that music is made by people. However, that’s completely intellectual knowledge. Before reading that story, I’d never heard of Stage M. Yet, based on its credits, it was a place that has brought me much listening pleasure in my life. But just as revelations grant power over the ephemeral, my discovery of the that specific recording studio’s existence suddenly makes much of the film music in my library feel more visceral, more real.

And while I can bemoan the passing of the stage, I can partially look at it positively, because if it had never closed, I probably would have never come to know it at all.

L.A. Independent has more on the closing and the history of Stage M.

They went Chattaway! –> The Caretaker’s Hoedown

Voyager Banjo Player

Well, for some reason, almost all of my Star Trek music got pushed toward the end of the tunequest, and believe me, I have nearly all of the Star Trek music except for the unreleased promo soundtrack to the Starfleet Academy video game. If anyone can point towards that, I’ll send you a digital high five or something, so the waters around here will be thick with Trekkin for a bit.

Today’s little nugget of musical trekdom comes from Jay Chattaway, a veteran composer of the post-Next Generation era with music credits on a total of 182 episodes of the franchise (second only to Dennis McCarthy’s 258). Chattaway has been actively writing music for Star Trek since The Next Generation’s 3rd season episode Tin Man, which has been cited by many Trek fans as one of his best contributions to the show’s musical heritage.

By the time Voyager’s first episode began production, he had seven combined seasons worth of titles under his belt (from both TNG and DS9), so it was natural that the show’s producers asked him to score the premiere though the show’s main theme was composed by Jerry Goldsmith, who won an Emmy for his efforts. In general, Chattaway’s scores rely heavily on synthesizers and Caretaker is no different, much to its detriment. There’s some good music here, but most of it’s lost in a fog of artificial tones, chords and hums. I’m sure it’s effective on screen, but as stand-alone music, there’s not much that stands out. While listening to it, I couldn’t help but imagine it being performed by a larger, fuller orchestra for a more rewarding experience.

In the end though, it’s not bad, but it’s not great either. Fortunately, the soundtrack has a saving grace other than the Goldsmith theme. It features the complete banjo performance that was used in part of the episode. It’s pretty catchy and is probably the most unique two minutes in Star Trek’s musical repertoire. The Caretaker’s Howdown:

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