Rugby Player Downing a Coors, Early 1990s.

Posted on Oct 15, 2014 in What, What's On My N: Drive?

A mystique surrounded Coors beer when I was growing up in Tampa. It could only be purchased at the Commissary at MacDill Air Force Base. This picture of a rugby player downing a can of Coors was probably taken in Colorado (where Coors is brewed) but it could also be from Canada. Looking at it makes me curious about whether closing one’s eyes while drinking a beverage is common behaviour.

Rugby Player Downing A Coors

Rugby Player Downing A Coors

Learn More

Cedar City, Utah. Early 1970s.

Posted on Oct 13, 2014 in What

Ektachrome slide showing Main Street in Cedar City, Utah, in the early to mid 1970s. Businesses visible in this image include the Melody Lane Cafe, Tri State Liquor Store, Milt’s Circus Lounge, Marsden’s Mens Shop, Sinclair Gas Station, Cedars Hotel, Phillips 66, Hugh’s Cafe, and the Cedar City Chamber Of Commerce. Beneath the white and red Hugh’s Cafe sign is a phone booth. Click the image to see a full size 4794×3247 scan that makes the detail clearer.

Cedar City, Utah. Early 1970s.

Cedar City, Utah. Early 1970s.

Learn More

sorabji.nyc

Posted on Oct 13, 2014 in What

I wanted a .NYC web address from the moment I heard they would be available. Now I’m not so certain it was worth all that, but it’s cool.

You can only get a .NYC address if you live in the 5 boroughs of New York City. Domain name hucksters might try to game that system if the novelty of the URL gains genuine traction.

I wanted an alternative to 181.sorabji.com, which seemed clever at first but proved clumsy and unwieldy. 181 is my magic number for a variety of reasons, but it’s not worth a weird looking URL to make that point.

The proliferation of gTLDs (Generic Top Level Domains) has gotten ridiculous, but I liked the sound of .NYC. So I got it. There you go. I thought I’d have more to say about it but I do not.

Learn More

Chester, West Virginia. “Little Blue” Revisited… Again

Posted on Oct 7, 2014 in What

Look for my pictures of Little Blue at about the 1:35 point in this 10+ minute documentary made by Earthjustice. “Little Blue – A Broken Promise” explores the “toxic nightmare” that emerged when coal ash was dumped into their community.

I first posted photos of Little Blue in 2002, and received occasional correspondence about it ever since.

Most recently I heard from Ian, a resident of Chester, who found my site and was surprised to learn that the once beautiful looking blue lake was actually a horror story in disguise.

A few weeks later I heard from Earthjustice with respect to using my old images of the lake while it was still neon-colored. I was happy to oblige and the 10+ minute film was released on YouTube in short order. Here it is:

Learn More

Strange Discovery: Receipts CD

Posted on Oct 2, 2014 in Receipts, What

I made an odd and intriguing discovery last week. Searching eBay for piano music of Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji I was alarmed to spot an item for sale titled “Receipts CD From Sorabji.com”. The CD appeared to be professionally produced.

Receipts CD From Sorabji.com

Receipts CD From Sorabji.com

Dumbfounded and even a bit shellshocked I immediately fired off a message to the seller, angrily informing them that they had no right to copy content from my web site to a CD and profit from the product.

The response came almost immediately: She had purchased the CD at a Salvation Army in upstate New York. Certainly, she said, there is no law against selling found items.

My righteous indignation quickly turned to contrition, and then to intrigue. Who had done this? Why? And what exactly was on the CD?

I quickly wrote back to the seller, apologizing with all sincerity for coming on so strong. Mine was a kneejerk reaction. This was a red star seller with 100% positive feedback ratings and thousands of sales. Had I thought about it for a moment I would have had to realize that such a person is probably not one to brazenly scrape content from web sites and sell it in such a manner.

She offered to sell the disc to me for the $2 she paid for it, plus shipping. I wanted to prove how sorry I was for writing such a snotty e-mail, so I clicked “Buy It Now” and paid the full $12.99 asking price. She promptly responded that it isn’t right that I should pay for my own work, and refunded me $11, meaning I only paid what she paid for it, plus shipping.

I’ve been involved in some memorable and positive eBay transactions but this one definitely tops the list. All thanks in the world to eBay seller younameit.

Photos of the CD on eBay appeared to show that the CD was copyright 2002 by a company called “LOSER”. The authenticity of this “copyright” was dubious, and I thought it unlikely that a company named “LOSER” ever existed or that anyone actually sold copies and made money on this project.

The booklet also showed URLs for two web sites: My Receipts at Sorabji.com and another URL that no longer exists but which lives on at archive.org: Derek Dahlsad’s Big Website of Wal-Mart Purchase Receipts, at Prohosting.com.

The CD was delivered to my PO Box. I used the time on the subway ride home to get a closer look at the CD and its particulars.

The cover contains an image of a cash register and the word “receipts”. The typography and style of the word appears to be consistent with the “LOSER” logo that is on the back (see below).

The inside of the booklet shows a collage of images of receipts, all from Wal-Mart and all, evidently, from the latter of the abovementioned web sites.

Receipts CD Booklet. Collage of Wal-Mart Receipts.

Receipts CD Booklet. Collage of Wal-Mart Receipts.

On the back of the CD booklet is printed the LOSER logo, with an apparent copyright date of 2002. Web site URLs for my receipts site and Derek’s Wal-Mart receipts page are below.

Receipts CD With Loser Logo

Receipts CD With Loser Logo

The CD itself is printed upon with text matter lifted from receipts, along with an inexplicable (to me, at least) illustration of a man holding his hand up to another man’s head as a giant + sign hovers between them. There may be other inside jokes here that are lost on me.

Receipts CD

Receipts CD

What I did not notice at first was the list at the far left of the booklet’s second page. The list starts with “locust prayer” then “horse pills” then “mouthful of cavities.” This would not have been a giveaway to me had I noticed it right away but its meaning became obvious once I got home.

Given the presence of the web site URLs on the book I expected some sort of HTML or multimedia presentation showing images of receipts from Derek’s site and mine. Instead I was prompted to choose a program with which to play back an audio CD. I found myself listening to a mixed CD of music, pop and indie type songs none of which appeared to have anything to do with receipts, sorabji.com, or Derek’s site.

Using a mix of the Shazam Android app and by typing in song lyrics as I heard them I determined the names and performers of all 16 of the songs. As mysterious as it still was to me I had to admit that it was a damn good playlist:

Down: Pray For The Locust
The Dandy Warhols: Horse Pills
The Faint: Cars Pass In Cold Blood
Blind Melon: Mouthful of Cavities
Modest Mouse: Jesus Christ Was An Only Child
Pinback: Concrete Seconds
Simon & Garfunkel: Leaves That Are Green
Starlight Mints: Submarine Number 3
Neutral Milk Hotel: King Of Carrot Flowers, Parts 2-3
Fugazi: The Kill
Rage Against the Machine: Down Rodeo
David Dondero: The Lonesomeness That Kills
Bob Geldof: Six Million Dollar Loser
Damien Jurado: Tonight I Will Retire
The Police: King of Pain
Pernice Brothers: Overcome By Happiness

I briefly studied the song titles and listened to the lyrics, trying to imagine what connection any of this had to do with my receipts, or Derek’s. Was the Pernice Brothers’ “Overcome By Happiness” an allusion to my original web site: “The Place Of General Happiness“? Was Modest Mouse’s “Jesus Christ Was An Only Child” a shoutout to “The Lord“, one of the first things I ever posted to the Internet?

Neither of these options made much sense, even stretching possibilities to the nth.

Then I noticed something at the bottom of Derek’s page. His Wal-Mart receipts site was a member of the “Loser Site Web Ring,” a web ring which connected related sites via HTML links at the bottom of pages. If you wanted to be a member of the Loser Site Web Ring you would insert some HTML/CGI code at the bottom of your web pages. Your site would link to another site in the web ring, and other sites in the ring would link to yours. It was an easy and harmless way to draw traffic.

There had to be some connection between the “LOSER” logo and the Loser Site Web Ring. I can’t seem to find a logo for that Web Ring today, but maybe this was it.

My best guess is that members of Loser Site web ring shared mixed CDs, for some reason associating the discs with web sites on that ring. My site was never on this or any other web ring, but if the sharers of this CD had some fetish for receipts then I guess the URL’s inclusion makes some kind of sense. I’m going to give the playlist a few more listens, though. Maybe a theme of consumerism and anti-capitalism will emerge. Or maybe it’s just a Zen joke. Whatever the case, I will not burn much more time thinking about it.

Learn More

Infinite Music Library

Posted on Sep 16, 2014 in What

This is something. The Horizon 2 is a 27-inch flatscreen device manufactured by Lenovo. It is designed for gaming and entertainment but my use of it is primarily as a music library and sheet music reader. It does not entirely replace my collection of printed piano music (comprising hundreds of volumes) but it opens practical performance access to the Borgesianly infinite library of public domain music freely available in PDF format.

Lenovo Horizon 2

Lenovo Horizon 2

Free public domain sheet music is easy to find on the WWW. Its usefulness, however, has until now been largely limited to serving as reference material. The hassles of printing out the PDFs and arranging the pages in a usable way outweighed the benefits of actually using them for practice or performance. I put a fair amount of time and effort into doing that (I have several three-ring binders filled with printed scores to show for it) but it Just Never Worked. Even with paper hole reinforcements and thick-stock paper the pages inevitably came loose. At one point I seriously considered taking a course in bookbinding to create quality volumes of this stuff, but I never did.

I was a little apprehensive about the Horizon 2. After actually ordering it I felt I had boarded the hardware equivalent of a sinking ship. Lenovo’s official pages for the Horizon 2 are frozen in time. Customer reviews seem to indicate that this thing hit the stores in July, maybe earlier. Yet for some reason the official web site still lists the Horizon 2 as “Coming Soon”, months after its release, and details of its technical specifications are not present.

Adding to my apprehension: Customer reviews complained that what specifications are shown on the official web site and at online retailers are not accurate. The official website says there should be a 3-in-1 memory card reader (which would be handy) but there is none, nor does the Horizon 2 ship with the promised “Joystick, Striker, and E-dice”. Not having the latter gaming pieces is no big deal to me (I don’t even know what a “Striker” is) but errors like this, where a product manager is simply not doing their job and should be fired, inspire no confidence.

I bought the Horizon 2 from Amazon.com, but the customer reviews at BestBuy.com were most useful to me in deciphering what this thing actually was before buying it.

Notwithstanding the specification errors on Lenovo’s and other web sites the Horizon 2 fully lives up to what I had in mind for it as a music reader and library. Somewhat against my will (more on that later) I purchased the Music Reader software and imported a stash of PDFs from the “CD Sheet Music” discs I bought years ago. Online collections such as the estimable Petrucci Music Library and sites linked to from there helped build a library, and I quickly had the Horizon 2 mounted on the piano and functioning as a music reader. In that capacity it Just Works. The more I think about it the more amazing it seems.

Setup of the Horizon 2 was not without its irks. I do everything I can to avoid interacting with the Windows 8.1 operating system. I was unaware that Windows 8 makes logging in through your Microsoft account seemingly compulsory. As I should have known there are workarounds for this, but while such petty skulduggery may be satisfying it comes not necessarily without consequence. I just wanted to get this thing going, so I gave in and dug up my Microsoft account password, which I had changed to something unmemorizable after the Heartbleed thing.

My only complaint about the hardware is the difficulty I have in getting this latch undone:

The Red Arrow Points At The Tiny Latch Which Is All But Impossible To Open With My Bare Hands.

The Red Arrow Points At The Tiny Latch Which Is All But Impossible To Open With My Bare Hands.

That’s the latch that holds the kickstand in place for when you place the device flat on a table. I use the butt end of a screwdriver to dislodge it, which feels like I might break something. In a way I respect this for the sense of confidence it gives that the kickstand is mighty sturdy. But it is always a challenge to undo this freakin’ latch.

Friends have asked me: Why not just use a regular computer?

I was never inspired by that option, though I twice attempted to use a laptop as a music reader. That was before Windows 8, when no touch screen support existed, which was just one factor among many that made the effort unrealistic.

The advantage of the Horizon 2 over a regular computer and monitor setup is its all-in-one portability, containing within its thin surface a full operating system, 1TB hard drive, and (of course) a 27″ monitor. 1TB of storage is probably enough room to store the entire canon of western classical piano music in PDF format.

Traveling with a laptop and an external monitor certainly makes portability possible but the scenario seems gawky by comparison to this.

The Horizon 2 ships with a garish tote bag. This gives the device some level of portability but it is an advertisement for the product and an announcement to anyone who might be interested in stealing such a conspicuously unique device. I turned the bag inside out to conceal its advertising (which is not even for the Horizon 2, it’s for the previous “IdeaCentre” iteration). The bag feels flimsy and I do not expect to carry the device very far with it. At 16 pounds the Horizon 2 isn’t that heavy. It is its shape and dimensions that make it awkward to transport by hand.

Lenovo Horizon Carrying Case

Lenovo Horizon Carrying Case

I find that reading music from this screen is easier than reading it from paper. I do not feel this way about eReaders such as the Kindle device or the Kindle app. For whatever reason those are harder on my eyes than printed matter.

The Music Reader software behaves pretty much as expected, but it needs a lot of work. Once in a while it just freezes for no apparent reason. On account of that I would have to think twice before using this software in live performance. The interface looks primitive and even amateurish. Browsing through the library is something of a challenge, as opening a PDF frequently sends you right back to the list of files.

Music Reader Catalogue Interface

Music Reader Catalogue Interface

I had intended to try the Music Reader software for its trial period whilst researching other options in the meantime. The trial period was supposed to be 30 days or 60 uses, but for some reason it expired after only 4 or 5 uses. Irritated but impatient at 3:00 a.m. I just went ahead and bought it, somewhat against my better judgment but it’s fine.

I could probably work out a way to use Adobe Acrobat or any other PDF viewer, but other options I intend to explore include Power Music Pro and eStand.

Pageturns in Music Reader are done by tapping the screen. An available USB-connected foot pedal accessory allows you to turn the pages by tapping it. I am not sure I need the pedal. Tapping the screen to turn pages creates the illusion of a nostalgic connection between this new technology and the analogue world of page turns, without the risk of paper cuts. But I will probably give in and get the pedal.

In vertical mode the page defaults to flush top. Given the size of the Horizon 2 you might have to crane your neck to see the top of the page, and Music Reader does not appear to have any way to make it flush bottom.

Lenovo Horizon 2 With Music Reader Software In Vertical Mode

Lenovo Horizon 2 With Music Reader Software In Vertical Mode

The Horizon 2 in vertical view looks kind of ridiculous. Indeed, the horizontal placement of this enormous screen on top of my Roland digital piano took some getting used to, but I don’t think twice about it now.

Music Reader’s  ½ page option suits me best, but it is twitchy, frequently failing to find the middle of a page. When ½ page mode works as expected it cuts the page in half, making the noteheads plenty large enough for this ocularly challenged pianist to read. Unfortunately it does not always work. The ½ page view is most valuable while first reading through and getting to know a piece. As I become more familiar I can change to single page view or even 2-page view.

Music Reader's ½ Page View, When It Works, Looks Like This.

Music Reader’s ½ Page View, When It Works, Looks Like This.

 

Music Reader's ½ Page View, When It Does Not Work, Might Look Like This Or...

Music Reader’s ½ Page View, When It Does Not Work, Might Look Like This Or…

...It Might Even Look Like This, Which Is Essentially Single Page Mode.

…It Might Even Look Like This, Which Is Essentially Single Page Mode.

Lenovo Horizon 2 Running Music Reader Software In 2-Page View Mode.

Lenovo Horizon 2 Running Music Reader Software In Full Screen 2-Page View Mode.

I will make little use of Music Reader’s annotations feature. I have not written notes on solo piano scores since high school. I was impressed by a comment (I believe it was Rudolf Serkin’s) that the fastidious scribbling of reminders and fingerings on scores is needlessly gratuitous. To wit I have never understood the sense of satisfaction that musicians feel by violating scores with acres of their own comments and notations. As Serkin would have said, if you want to learn this music you will. No amount of handwritten reminders will help. Indeed, such things can create distractions if you are playing from score in a performance that is not going exactly as planned.

I feel a small bit of buyers remorse for not fully exploring other options. There are 24″ Android tablets out there (at much lower cost) which might have sufficed. But I’m satisfied that paying a premium for the larger screen works best for me. My eyes are not as good as they once were (some days are better than others) and the jumbo size of this screen helps compensate for that.

The Horizon 2 may seem expensive for what it is but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to what it would cost to purchase printed copies of all that piano music. Until the Internet explodes I do not expect to purchase another Dover edition ever again.

I obviously do not expect to play or even contemplate every last piece of piano music that is out there. But the reality of bringing up obscure works of Sergey Lyapunov as easily as summoning the complete works of Chopin is simply amazing. Lyapunov is my current favorite neglected composer. His Op. 27 Piano Sonata is a favorite find from this week.

 

Learn More

Everything Is Ruined

Posted on Jul 14, 2014 in Poems

All food has turned to inarticulate balls of hair. Grade school craft projects have assumed souls, their dignity damaged with pencil-lashings. Slashes rip leftover radios still chirping nightly news summaries from 1922. Craven fantasies of hedonists lie vanquished, each dream suffocated under its own flaccidity, clustered like punchlines declared righteous by the solitary comedian but dismissed as vacant backwash by her peers.

A lonely tube of shoes and socks rivals for my attention but I am drawn to a crowd of humble geese, their towering and rigid frightfulness sated by the catastrophe surrounding us. Their stern posture of marmish dignity has given way to greyed passions and humorless dust in their lungs. All creatures so remarkably similar but these creatively-appointed birds are unique among the survivors, maintaining their reputation of authority while visibly defeated. I step heavily through their fields, honest but chagrined at what past triumphs have come to.

All motorized vehicles upon which society relied are gone. No one can draw a circle, no one can turn a wheel. The bus and taxi drivers of yore now operate the heavy machinery of thought. They manage obligatory rituals of memory, their urgency falling hardest on they who felt they knew and understood basic accommodations of human races. They anthropomorphize vanquished towers and shattered religions, filling dead air with substances of life.

Oil tycoons are gone. Natural resources are unknown. We survive drinking vaccines and formerly poisonous stinkroot plundered from enormous birdcage facilities that swallowed thousands of hospitals during the Bicholim Conflict. Microphones and loudspeakers from the sky blast savage noise, colossal rapture of radio sounds overlapping like alcoholics addicted to mind control, northern lights replaced by northern noise of a decimated heavenly audio system none on earth could have fathomed had we not seen it ourselves, crashing through thousands of firmaments.

Towering but unsteady the crutches that hold God’s legs above the ground stampede like redwoods from the sky, punishing the groaning earth that He so sullenly surveys. How did crowds of wandering blow so hard and far apart? How do incredible creations, monumental moods, and façades of fathomless extremes resign themselves to such violent deaths?

 

Learn More

Remembering A Cemetery Cat

Posted on Jun 11, 2014 in What

I spotted this slow-moving, unpleasant seeming cat at Calvary Cemetery a few years ago. It has haunted me since. I rediscovered these pictures and sent a couple of them up to the 500px.com popularity ccontest.

Remembering A Cemetery Cat

Remembering A Cemetery Cat

In the first instant that I saw the cat I thought for a millisecond that it might actually be human. I think this is because of the staid, frozen look in the animal’s eyes. It was a look of having been intruded upon.

The stareoff didn’t last long. Within a minute the cat began sauntering away. I hoped this world-weary beast had some place to go. The cat’s extraordinarily long whiskers suggested that this was a stray.

Remembering A Cemetery Cat

Remembering A Cemetery Cat

Wandering off among the tombs the cemetery cat stopped for one parting stare, one more accusatory look in my direction, into my eyes.

Remembering A Cemetery Cat

Remembering A Cemetery Cat

Learn More

Wander around sorabji.com: