Thursday, December 10, 2015

Slayer - "Repentless"

After not listening to much Slayer in the last couple of decades, except for their first album a few times a year, Show No Mercy I was seeing this one all over some online shopping sites as new and as i was buying new CDs from other bands I’ve liked for a long time, I was thinking about the Slayer songs I know.  Last month I first got into Reign in Blood for a while, then I ordered this one, Repentless.

And I like this one.

It’s their first new album after the untimely death of founder and guitarist Jeff Hanneman.  His replacement had covered for the ill Hanneman for a few years on tour, so by the time they were recording this he was well integrated into the band.  And they got another former drummer of theirs, Paul Bostaph back in.

For the first half of the album they play at lightning speed, without sounding too noisy and without Arraya’s singing getting too much into merely screaming.

The second half gets a bit noisier, with their playing sounding more random, frantic and less like songs they planned out.

Throughout it, in between furiously fast guitar solos there’s a second here, a second there of music that I’d actually really like to hear more of.  They come and go, like “hey! what was that?  I want to hear more of that!” but they’re too fleeting, gone as fast as a Kerry King guitar solo.

I’d have to say the title track, “Repentless” is my favorite song on it, the one I keep singing in my head the most when I’m not listening to any music.

Overall, it’s really good if you like this sort of thing.  And if you don’t, you’d probably hate it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Chanukah Chase in the Subway

I got literally chased in the subway station this evening.  By two young, ultra-Orthodox Jewish men from the Chabad sect, the same one all of my current coworkers and our biggest clients belong to.

I was minding my own business, listening to some Rob Zombie remixes in my headphones, walking fast across the mezzanine to the 4th Avenue line, when I saw them on top of the steps, with a large cardboard box on a luggage cart.  They looked lost and indicated they wanted my attention, so I lifted on earpiece away from my head, thinking they were going to ask directions.

“Are you Jewish?  Do you have a menorah at home?” one asked.  “I don’t want one, thank you,” I replied and with the earpiece off heard a train arriving on the platform below.  Halfway on my quick dash down the clear steps I saw it was the N train, the one I wanted, so I sped up even more.

Since I always ride this one at the very front of the train, standing right behind the driver’s cab, I practically ran along the platform to get to the front of the first car, waited for people to exit and got on, comfortably leaning against the bulkhead, facing backward.

Then I looked out the open door next to me to see those two guys looking straight at me, following the same path I took on the platform.

They got to the end of the platform, right outside the open train door a few inches away from me and one asked, “are you Jewish?”

I said, “I choose not to participate!” and the conductor played the announcement “Stand Clear of the Closing Doors Please!” 

One reached into the box and the other said “we have a gift for you.”  

But they weren’t quick enough, the train doors closed, me inside, them outside.  I grinned to them through the window and the train rolled out of the station.  I settled back to listen to my music in peace.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Slayer - "Reign in Blood" after decades...

I bought Reign in Blood on tape when it first came out in 1986, when I was 17, and while I tried to enjoy it, was definitely disappointed in it.  I’d really hoped it would be more like Show No Mercy which was and remains my favorite Slayer album.  I’ve bought a few of their albums in the intervening years, but not many of them, and none of them have excited me the way Show No Mercy does and I rarely listened to any of them.

But for some reason a couple of weeks ago I felt like listening to some Slayer again and just reading some of the song titles somewhere I heard the songs running through my head.  I don’t think i’d listened to Reign in Blood  in 20-25 years so I ordered the CD.  

Well, while it’s no Show No Mercy it’s not as bad as I remembered.  In fact, now I quite like it.

This album marks their departure from swords & sorcery, Satanic inspired lyrics into more of the morbid and evil stuff from the real world and history, serial killers, Nazis, war and so forth.

It’s fast.  The original ten songs (minus the two extras on this CD edition) clock in at slightly under half an hour, without feeling like it’s a short album.

Some of the songs feel like a bit of random playing, not like written songs, but most of it manages to work pretty well, and Tom Arraya’s singing is very much singing for most of it instead of screaming.

The mix could have used a bit more bass in it, though…  It sounds a bit tinny to my ears.

Overall, though, coming back to it somewhat fresh after close to a quarter century, I like it.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Crappy Week at Work

So, last week was literally a crappy week here at the office...  The morning of the first day of the week someone used the bathroom next to our work area and left a couple small piles of crap on the floor when they finished, I guess they couldn't get it all in the toilet.  And that person isn't one of the very small number who will take responsibility for cleaning their own messes in the common, shared parts of the office, and frequently leaves urine all over the floor near the toilet.

The other bathroom, on the other side of that one was out of order, and the only one that has a sink in the same room as the toilet, having gotten clogged a couple of weeks earlier and simply locked to keep people out of it (I don't have a key).  As the week progressed, people stepped in and smeared those little piles of crap around the floor of the working bathroom.  Wonderful.

With the window next to me open, as long as the fan was left on, the smell didn't really reach as far as my desk, but not everyone leaves the fan on when they exit the bathroom.

It was pretty gross.

I thought about cleaning it up myself, but I felt nauseous at the thought of bending down to clean up someone else's shit off the floor (I mean, someone who isn't my wife who I chose to share a life with) who should be a mature enough adult, who's raising half a dozen children, to clean up their own fucking mess like that.  Certainly, if I had an accident like that, I would have cleaned it up.

At least the cleaning woman came in some time Friday or Sunday and the office is now clean again.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Iron Maiden - "The Book of Souls"

I got the new Iron Maiden album late last week, "The Book of Souls" and I've been listening to it off and on since then.

It's got some true gems on it, but they're still a bit in the rough. The music is all good, much like you'd expect from Iron Maiden in their prime, but the main problem is there's too much and it's simply not arranged well.

With eleven songs, it's over 90 minutes long, coming on two CDs.  Bruce Dickinson has been quoted as saying, "we all agreed that each track was such an integral part of the whole body of work that if it needed to be a double album, then double it's going to be!"

Unfortunately while each song may be an integral part of it, most of the songs are simply too long.  One is over 13 minutes and the final one is 18 minutes. Sheer length isn't the issue, it's that many songs have minutes of passages that don't feel like they fit into the theme of the song, they feel like they should be separate songs.

On a few of them if I'm not paying attention I think a song is over and moved onto then next one, only to find a couple of minutes later it's back to the one I thought was done. It's a little jarring.  They could've trimmed passages out of many of them to create more cohesive songs.

The other problem is many of the songs have the vocals mixed kind of low, so it's difficult to actually hear what Dickinson is actually singing. He's got a powerful voice and musically it sounds ok, but I can't tell what the lyrics are from listening.

The first single from it, "Speed of Light" is the fastest paced one, reminiscent of earlier Iron Maiden and probably wouldn't have been out of place on "Piece of Mind" and doesn't sound like anything else on this album.

I quite like the first half of the 13 minute "The Red and the Black", especially the bits with a guitar going along with e vocals, but then the second half is like a different song.  And it's not a cover of the Blue Öyster Cult song of the same name.

"Death or Glory" is a bit of a rehash of "Aces High" but supposedly about WWI dogfighting triplanes. And it's not a cover of the Social Distortion song of the same name.

The album rounds out with the 18 minute "Empire of the Skies" about a 1920's British airship that crashed and burned on one of its earliest flights. The song starts with some piano music, not at all what I expected from Iron Maiden, but then after a few minute sounds more typical. The piano at the end of song nicely finished it. In between its got some good music, and some passages that feel misplaced.

Overall it's a decent album. The biggest improvement they could've made is to trim more from many of the sings. It sounds like they wanted to integrate all the musical ideas they all hadn't hour being able to cut any of it out. They should've saved some for this next album.

Since I wrote this I read online about the airship R101 that's the theme of "Empire of the Skies" and that helped a lot. With the vocals low in the mix the song itself doesn't tell the story as well as it could. But reading the story, then listening, the various musical passages that jarred me initially work better by imagining it as the soundtrack to a movie, visualizing the crew of the airship running around frantically when the ship loses altitude and crashes. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Motörhead- "Bad Magic"

Motörhead's new CD, Bad Magic arrived in the mail a few days ago and I've been listening to it off and on since then...

Overall I like it better than their last six or seven albums. This one is heavier and livelier, possible because it's the first after Lemmy's heart surgery last year, with him drink in quite a bit less.

Some of the songs are a bit dull, more random sounding noises from the guitar than music, but some of it is great.

I was quickly drawn to the song, The Devil with its deep, thundering baseline (not to mention lots of songs with subjects like that get my attention in a positive way....) following that I quite like Firestorm Hotel and Till the End.

Of course one of the absolute highlights has to be the album's closer, their cover of the Rolling Stones' Sympathy for the Devil.  It sounds great with Lemmy's gravel voice and much harder edged guitars than the original. Like the original, hey play around a lot with various sounds from differs sides of the stereo, totally unlike the usual Motörhead.

So, it's a pretty good album, probably now my favorite for this Motörhead line-up, Lemmy, Phil Campbell and Mikkey Dee.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Photo Processing Software - The End of iPhoto

So, after over a decade of using Apple’s iPhoto application for all of my photos, they’re forcing me to switch.  They’re discontinuing it in favor of their new app, named Photos.

I tried Photos a couple of times and it’s just bug-ridden garbage.  It’s slow, it crashes, it fails to import photos from my cameras, and it messes up the metadata on my photos (swapping east and west in geolocation data, making half my photos display as taken in Osh, Kyrgyzstan (as far east of the prime meridian as New York City is west)), and in the end, wouldn’t upload to any service it has plug-ins for.  No errors, it just failed to do it.

I tried using the free, open source app, Darktable, but it wasn’t very intuitive in terms of managing a large collection and breaking it down into albums and things like that.  And it didn’t let me fix the metadata that Photos screwed up on a batch of photos.  Still, if you want a laugh, go to the download page and read their instructions for setting it up under Windows…

Now, with a couple of recommendations from other photographers, I’m trying out Adobe Lightroom.  It’s not free, after the 30 day trial it’ll be $10 a month.  And, presumably I'd be at their mercy if they feel like raising the price.

So far it’s not too bad to use.  It takes more mouse clicks to do some tasks, like write titles and captions for photos, than iPhoto requires.  And deleting rejects is slow, requiring both keyboard and mouse, compared to iPhoto with just the keyboard.  Making adjustments to exposure settings in photos is a lot easier in Lightroom, or at least, a lot easier to get good results without being an expert.

The biggest issue I see so far with Lightroom is that it uploads the photo titles I type, and not the descriptions…  With iPhoto, it does both for Flickr.

So, I'll see how it goes...

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Office Space - Employees' Loss for Boss's Gain

Office Space - Employees' Loss for Boss's Gain

At work we've downsized slightly, so my company has been moved to a room in the basement and the upper floor of our offie rented out to another company.  Having downsized slightly again, the boss is looking to move us into a smaller room in the basement and rent out the room we're in now.

He's also the landlord, the owner of the building.  He bought it, a classic Brooklyn brownstone, and converted the bottom two floors into office space and rents out the top two floors as residential apartments.  His own private office is on the first floor, and he has his own private bathroom.  for the rest of us, including the company renting the upper floor space, we shared three small bathrooms, only one of which has a sink inside for washing in private.

As the owner of the building he decided to refinance it.  One of the conditions the bank had was that the bottom floor could be rentable as residential space.  So, to accomplish that he had the toilet removed from one of the three small bathrooms and converted into a shower, then locked so no one could go in there.

Now, as a career employee, I've never been under the illusion that my bosses would value me over money.  They're in business to make money, and I'm a resource that does work to help bring it in.  I've worked for companies that couldn't give out bonuses or raises because sales weren't good enough, yet the bosses and top managers kept getting raises and bonuses and all that.  I'm used to that.

But I've never had a boss so plainly demonstrate his value for money over employees as this.  I mean, he took an existing space that employees were using on a daily basis for their comfort, and changed it to one we can't use and doesn't in any way help us do our work better, which wasn't a resource he personally used in the office, and isn't going to use in its new capacity, all for his own person financial gain.

This sucks.  This is definitely the lowest I've ever felt my value to a company as an employee.