November 30, 2005


Category: Music — Cranky @

As I listened to the rough mix of a new piece of music I’ve been working on, I had a sudden revelation. I like it, but it’s just more of the same.

That piece can be found here.

It’s probably as finished as it will get, although there are plain parts were additional instruments were intended to go, and the guitar work wasn’t meant to make the final cut.

When I was ten years old and taking guitar lessons, my musical world was split right down the middle. I learned the basics of theory and technique from my teacher and my books, and I learned the basics of rock and roll from Black Sabbath albums. What I didn’t know at the time, and wouldn’t know for many years, is that those old Sabbath albums were heavily based on blues. It permeated the solos, which I learned note for note.

A blues scale is usually the six notes of a minor pentatonic plus a sharp fourth. The patterns are easy to play on the guitar, and they bring a particular feel to the piece. It’s a versatile, wonderful scale, but I’ve used it in nearly everything I’ve written for the past 25 years, and I’m just tired.

It’s the same with choosing chords. I’ll pick from my pool of maybe two dozen workhorses. I’ll occasionally work with an oddball I discovered noodling around doing nothing specific, but I realized recently that a piece I had in my head was in A-minor, which is a another way of saying it’s in the key of C… which is another way of saying I want to write a novel that starts with “It was a dark and stormy night…”

The other night when I picked up my guitar to mess around a bit I found myself going for the old standards, and I literally slapped my fretting hand. So I’ve sworn off the key of C. Goodbye to my good friends, C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am and… well, I never did use B diminished a whole lot, but goodbye to him too. I’m also going to limit how much I use the blues scale. I need to expand my horizons. If I catch my hands trying to rewrite old stuff into new stuff, we’re gonna have some words.

I’m just tired of what I’ve done before. It’s time to move on. The world doesn’t need any more stuff in the key of C. We’ve got plenty.


November 27, 2005

I'm Stronger Than I Look

Category: Science And Technology — Cranky @

I was pondering the biomechanics of my fingers today. Have you ever looked closely at them before? Take a look now.

You’ve got bone at the core, of course… but the bones aren’t simply a contiguous mass. Your index finger has no less than three bones, and they are separate from one and other. Joining them together you’ve got cartilage, muscle tissue, fat, and skin. The cells that make up most of this tissue are mostly composed of water.

But despite the fact that the bones aren’t actually touching, and the reality that the building materials aren’t exactly steel and concrete, there is a tremendous amount of strength in this tissue. You can suspend your entire body from the fingers, without unduly stressing them. The flesh is very, very strong.

Really, that extends to the whole body. When I pick up a 40 pound dumbbell and do a bicep curl, the elbow joint is worked entirely by muscles, and held together by tendons. The skeleton holds the shape, but the tissue holds it all together and moves everything. When the tissue is removed, the skeleton falls apart.

Imagine a tiger out on the savannah, chasing down and killing a wildebeest. The stresses put on that tissue and skeleton are enormous. From the simple act of running as fast as possible, to the bone-crunching takedown, the tissue is wrenched to and fro, and yet it still holds together.

Under normal circumstances the body lasts a lifetime, completely intact. Before the advent of civilization, generally the flesh failed for one of two reasons. Either you fell prey to something, or you simply fell off of something.

Now we put ourselves in vehicles made out of hard plastics and metals, and drive them at high velocity, occasionally rupturing ourselves when things go wrong. We work with power sanders and circular saws. Everybody owns knives. We build far into the sky. Many people climb steep rock facings, or throw themselves out of perfectly good airplanes… for recreation. People work as loggers, steelworkers, welders…

One of the side effects of industrialization is that we have invented an amazing number of new ways to test the flesh. Sadly, steel trumps flesh. Indeed, we’ve been hard at work in figuring out exactly how to damage each other. Switchblades, swords, spears, bullets… there are thousands of weapons and devices made that have no other use than to cause irreparable harm to skin, organs, tissue and bone.

We’re made of stern stuff… even the frailest of us.


November 22, 2005

Remember to Wear Clean Underwear!

Category: General — Cranky @

The other day I read something wherein was found the old adage, “Remember to wear clean underwear, in case you get in an accident!”

Funny. I never really considered that phrase before. The implication, of course, is that you will need to be hospitalized due to injuries sustained in the wreck, and during that period you will have your underwear removed and analyzed for cleanliness. If they are found lacking, a stern letter of disapproval will be immediately dispatched to your mother, and a comely young member of the opposite sex who works on the team that assisted you will be mildly disgusted.

The way I see it, if I’m in a car accident that sends me to the hospital unable to remove my own underwear, those shorts are either going to be covered in sweat, blood or crap. Either way the original state will be rather difficult to determine.