2006 May at John Mackey's Blog



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  • How I Spent My Teen Years
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  • May 14, 2006

    Bizarro Presidency

    Ever wonder what the world might be like if, in 2000, Al Gore had been inaugurated as our President, rather than Mr. 29%? Last night, SNL showed us what the world might be like in that alternate universe. Meet President Gore.

    1 Comment

    May 12, 2006


    Anybody have an MP3 recording of Warren Benson’s “The Passing Bell?” If it’s a good recording, would you email it to me? Doesn’t seem to be a commercial recording available. I just bought the score, but it’s kind of a drag looking at it without being able to hear it.

    And I think the new piece will actually have a waterphone in it. According to Mark Steighner, it’s not an impossible instrument to obtain, and wow — I just love the sound. So, this will likely be the “playable piece that never gets played because nobody has a waterphone” piece. Cursed samples…

    (EDIT) As Montoya has pointed out, Ghost Train and UFO both use waterphone, and those certainly get played, so this should be fine. Woo hoo!


    May 10, 2006


    I was afraid this would happen.

    I just installed the Vienna Symphonic Library “FX Percussion” sample set, and while playing with various instruments, I discovered one that I’ve only heard once before — a waterphone. Tan Dun begins his Concerto for Water Percussion with this instrument, but I had no idea what it was called. Now that I’ve heard it again — this time in sample format (that is, actual recordings of the instrument prepared for synth playback) — I wish I could use the sound in a piece. The problem is that waterphones are custom handmade by a guy named Richard Waters, and they’re very expensive — starting at $800. I can’t very well write a part for an instrument that nobody can afford to purchase. But wow, it’s a cool sound. AEJ heard it from the other room and yelled something to the effect of, “that’s scary.” It’s very… I don’t know. Haunted ship? Check out the inventor’s website. This is the danger of playing with great and interesting samples — you end up wanting to use these sounds for real, and often, it’s not realistic.

    While you’re reading things, there’s a review of the Naxos “Redline Tango” CD in this week’s Time Out New York. Here’s the link. Has anybody seen this review in print? Newman? Would somebody mind picking up a copy for me?

    1 Comment


    AEJ and I had a celebrity sighting the other day. We were at our local grocery store, and there in the dairy section was John C. Reilly, he of Chicago, Magnolia, Boogie Nights, and the soon-to-be-released A Prairie Home Companion.

    It’s pretty fun to us that he’s the sort of celebrity who lives in our hood and shops at our grocery store. We’ve also twice seen one of the actresses from “The Unit” (our favorite new show this season), Audrey Marie Anderson, who plays Scott Foley’s wife. (She’s the brunette with the short hair.) The second time we saw her at the grocery, I told her that we loved her show. It was the first time I’d ever spoken to an actor or actress whom I didn’t know — I said nothing to Harrison Ford at a party a few years ago, because really, what was I going to say? “Um, hey, you were awesome as Indiana Jones.” — but in this instance, I figured that her show was new enough that she probably hadn’t yet received an onslaught of public attention from strangers, so it seemed safe. She seemed appreciative. John C. Reilly, though, looked pretty engrossed in his yogurt selection. (He seems to prefer Horizon Organic.)

    “24” this week was great until the last 10 minutes, when it decided it was time to suck again. The whole thing with the weasely guy, Miles, was retarded. I mean, come on. Here Chloe has the most important piece of evidence in the WORLD, and while she’s transferring it to clean it up (what?! seriously? it needed remastering? it ain’t on vinyl. what was up with that?), other people are allowed into the room to erase the data with a friggin’ magnet? Seriously? So stupid and irritating. You expect me to believe that they wouldn’t have Chloe working alone in a room with, like, 6 guys guarding the door? And why did the president take Miles’s call? He’d have known the call was about Bauer — and Miles even said as much — but the president would have assumed it was BAD, like they’d listened to the recording, and he was busted. But no, he answers the phone – what, just in case it’s somehow GOOD news? – and surprise! It IS good news! Hooray. What. Ever. And the episode was going along so well until the last 10 minutes. Then it became — as it so often has this season — unbelievable and irritating. I get it that they have to stretch it out for 3 more episodes, but that was awfully clumsy.

    Kind of like American Idol. Elvis is no Queen, but I really am a fan of a lot of Elvis. (Didn’t you read my blog entry about my trip to Graceland?) As such, I wasn’t thrilled about the Elvis theme. Much of it was cartoonishly goofy, but I guess in the end, as Randy said, they worked it out, dawg. I still think Chris should win. I like Taylor, but AEJ finds him fantastically irritating. We both agree that we hate Elliot, and are endlessly baffled by the praise he receives week after week from the judges. And then there’s Catherine, who sings pretty, and looks pretty — and bugs me. Doesn’t she strike you as the biggest prude ever to appear on the show? It saddens me (well, not really), because it seems that she should be hot, but she actually has no sexual charisma at all. She’s all nice girl — and not the kind of nice girl who you know, deep down, is very, very bad. No, Catherine is all “let’s sit around and smile and talk about puppies while we drink caffeine-free diet iced tea and brush our hair.” And you’re all, “seriously? Are you really this nice?” And she’s like, “Look! A puppy! I love puppies!” Gag.

    I’m off to lunch with Teddy and Bob at Alcove. And then, tonight — The Amazing Race! I love that show. I hope The Hippies win.


    May 5, 2006

    Imogen Heap of Crap

    Two brief TV things…

    First, “24” is BACK, baby! Wow, this week was awesome. Jack hijacking a plane was bad-ass to begin with, but add the priceless moments of Chloe tasering the drunk guy in the bar, and then Jack pulling on the control cables from inside the baggage claim to nearly crash the plane — wow. It’s tough to forgive them taking 18 episodes to make the show good, but this week, it absolutely returned to top form. 5-out-of-5 stars.

    At the other end of the spectrum was last week’s performance of Imogen Heap on The Tonight Show. Eric Whitacre and Daniel Montoya have been raving about her for ages, so a few weeks ago, I bought her album on iTunes, and you know, it’s really good. Great production, good tunes, and she has a cool voice. But seeing her live on The Tonight Show nearly turned me off of her for good. I actually had to stop watching for fear that she would forever ruin my enjoyment of her album. This is an artist who apparently has a real talent for writing and producing, but manages to have a black hole of talent — complete negative space that sucks the life of everything around it — when it comes to performing live. Her persona on the show was completely off-putting as she writhed around awkwardly in front of that mixing board and laptop. And I understand that on the album, she performs to electronics, but can’t she throw us a single instrumental bone when she sings live? Backup vocals, maybe? Hell, a drummer? Even other people just standing in front of keyboards? I remember seeing Moby on SNL a few years ago, expecting to dislike him as much live as I did on recordings, but he (and his band, particularly his percussionists) kicked ass, leaving me actually admiring Moby a little — and that’s music that is also inherently electronic.

    But the solo singer in front of a mixing board and laptop wasn’t what really irked me; it was her self-conscious styling with “aren’t I interesting looking?!” hair and her irritating mannerisms and tics that were impossible to ignore. Here is somebody who doesn’t simply lack charisma on stage, but manages to be completely off-putting personally. Plus, she just didn’t sound good. Without post-production, her voice is thin and nasal and her poor intonation takes me back to some of the early auditions on American Idol. She took a song that I truly like — Goodnight and Go (that’s the iTunes link) — and made it almost unrecognizable.

    I know Montoya is going to see her live soon and I’ll be curious what he thinks after the concert. As for me, even though I changed the channel after about 90 seconds, I still get a little peanut-butter-back when I hear that song on my iPod now, and it’s tough not to throw up in my mouth just a little as I think about it while I type this. Imogen Heap on CD: 4-out-of-5 stars. Imogen Heap live: zero stars.