Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Five Facts About "Frankenstein"

There are few tiny diamonds buried in the shit swamp that is Clear-Channel-controlled classic rock radio, but Edgar Winter's "Frankenstein" is one of them. You can hear the song at almost any time in any town in America, and you could be forgiven for thinking it was just another old played-out song.

But, brother, it's not.

"Frankenstein" never gets old and "Frankenstein" will never die. Winters' stopless riffs can turn a church picnic packed with Republicans into a stone-cold groove-fest.

I saw a DVD of Edgar Winter Group banging out "Frankenstein" last weekend and it was like the contents of the Lost Ark in rock form -- my face nearly melted off my skull.

I couldn't believe Winter played synth, sax, drums and amp effects so effortlessly. It's worth a watch just for the guitar faces alone. Check it out:

Here's a few fun facts about "Frankenstein":

1) Winter painstakingly constructed the song in the studio, making his bandmates play their parts over and over again, then splicing the recordings together to compose the song from yards of recording tape.

Says Winter: "When we were editing it in the studio, back in those days when you edited something, you physically had to cut the tape and splice it back together, so it was all over the control room, draped over the backs of chairs and the couch. We were making fun of it, trying to figure out how to put it back together, saying 'Here's the main body; the leg bone's connected to the thigh bone ... ' Then Chuck Ruff, my drummer, says, 'Wow, man, it's like Frankenstein.' As soon as I heard that, I went, 'Wow, that's it!' The monster was born."

2) Rick Derringer plays lead guitar on the song -- Rick Derringer of "Rock & Roll, Hoochie Koo" fame. Rick Derringer may have the world's most perfect name -- that name suits any awesome profession: astronaut, cowboy, porn star, guitar-slinger ...

3) Derringer also produced the recording of this song

4) This was the first hit song to use the synthesizer as a live instrument. Winter was also the first to strap a synth to his neck, spawning the key-tar several years later, though the key-tar would never rock so hard.

5) Edgar Winter is a huge Scientologist. He produced, arranged, and performed on the album Mission Earth. Mission Earth's words and music were actually written by L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology's founder, who supposedly left detailed directions and audio tapes for whatever musicians made the album.

6) This isn't really a fact, but here's "Frankenstein" on the Simpsons:

If any of you can find a clip of Otto humming the song as he drives the school bus, let me know ...

That's all I got for now.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Rolling Battle-Bots and Limited Freedoms -- The Future is Coming and It's Terrifying

George Bush, Killer Robot

A grim sci-fi future is coming faster than we think, and it's not going to be cool at all. I love dirty visions of a repressive robot-patrolled future when I'm watching them in air-conditioned comfort, but the painful reality of it is coming. I swear to you that every geek is going to snap his Robocop special edition in half with bitter, Mountain Dew flavored tears when the days of true Terminators come -- and it's going to happen in our lifetime, too.

From Wired's Danger Room:

After years of development, three "special weapons observation remote reconnaissance direct action system" (SWORDS) robots have deployed to Iraq, armed with M249 machine guns. The 'bots "haven't fired their weapons yet," Michael Zecca, the SWORDS program manager, tells DANGER ROOM. "But that'll be happening soon."

Robots occupy exactly the same position in our culture now that personal computer did in the late 70's, with this critical difference: they're going to develop a LOT faster. We can share information and build communities better than ever before. Scientists, hobbyists and madmen are already standing on each others' shoulders at light speed to create machines that think like us, act like us, and carry out our little desires -- and it's only going to speed up.

Wars propel technical innovation. Soldiers bring their tools home and adapt them into tools for the mass culture. Look at all the Humvees on the streets, the hunters hunting with M-16s, the camo cargo shorts that I'm wearing right now. These 'bots, or the chips that power their metal guts at least, are going to make their way onto the streets and into homes by the time I've old enough to have grandkids.

And as you all should know by now, the Bush administration bent America over and helped themselves to the power to spy on us like never before over the weekend. From the Washington Post:

Many congressional Democrats wanted tighter restrictions on government surveillance, but yielded in the face of Bush's veto threats and the impending August recess.

"This bill would grant the attorney general the ability to wiretap anybody, any place, any time without court review, without any checks and balances," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., during the debate preceding the vote. "I think this unwarranted, unprecedented measure would simply eviscerate the 4th Amendment," which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures.

I know it sounds paranoid, crazy even. I know this might brand me as a frothing blogger nut. But something tells me I'm right here. Think about it:

How long do you think it would take before Bush -- or Giulani, or whoever they tell us we voted for -- puts these things on the streets of New York to "protect us from terrorists?" How long before our phone conversations flag us as terrorists and these things are sent to the GPS coordinates that are in every cell call?

Imagine making a joke to against freedom to a friend in another country while you're walking home from the subway -- and having these things roll up on you. They can't hear your argument, and there's no human behind the armor to ease off the trigger.

Yeah, I'm a sci-fi nerd. But I like it best when it stays FICTION.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Hunt Continues

Rules of the House
Originally uploaded by chinese_fashion
Being interviewed as an employee and a roommate in the same day makes the soul feel like a splotch of water on the countertop, shortly after being touched with a dry sponge. I need a place to live soon, and the process of finding one is exhausting.

I got lost going to an open house underneath the BQE. Once I made it, the open house was over, but the doors to the building were still wide open. I wandered inside. All the doors were shut, except for the front and back door to the concrete garden. An enterprising building manager had inscribed the rules of the building right on the wall with a Sharpie -- see the photo.

The super's number was written on another part of the wall in permanent marker, and each floor was carefully labelled, too: "3rd floor" on the 3rd, "4th floor" on the 4th, and so on.

This was written on the wall on the ground floor hallway, just above a stepladder leaning against the wall:

What Is The Former?

My inner grammarian shrieked: "What was the former? And how can someone stand on it to thank me?"

I looked at a place in Bushwick last week, and it was not the artsy-gentrified Bushwick that I was hoping for, the part that less scrupulous brokers refer to as "East Williamsburg." It was the "mattress leaning up outside the front door" part of Bushwick.

There is one tough lesson in Brooklyn real estate that I am quickly learning: there is an inverse relationship between the quality of apartment and quantity of neighboring fried chicken joints. If the ad mentions an apartment's proximity to White Castle or KFC as a selling point: no, thanks.

The building itself smelled like tigers had been pissing in the hallway. It seemed to be working to suppress the gazelle and springbok populations. The room was tiny, dingy, and painted a color precisely at the midpoint between dark brown and a diseased wound.

I lasted ten seconds in there and may have said "fuck this" out loud.

This place seemed right -- great location, good price. Then I read the ad:

The building is kinda dirty and smelly, but the apartment isn't. There are mostly Hispanics in the building, and some blacks and Italians. Very Brooklyn. I love it, but I understand this is not for everyone.

A lot of these ads, it's what they don't say. It's between the lines. This one reads like Annie Wilkes is looking for a roommate, which makes the question "what happened to the last occupant" exceptionally important.

The search continues. Every morning that sponge wrings a little more of me out on the countertop and I respond to a few ads and get soaked up again by nightfall. If you live in Brooklyn and want to share a place with a quiet writer who doesn't smoke, let me know.