The Music Will Never Stop

Continuing the comments on copying LPs to MP3:

November 6, 2013:

Today I polished off “German Drinking Songs,” Everest/Tradition TR-2076. Don’t know the date. No idea who the singers and musicians are. It says “Recorded live in Munich,’ and nothing else about its provenance.

It’s a really crappy job of packaging — the sleeve lists two cuts that aren’t actually on the record, a bunch of the German titles are misspelled*, and there’s absolutely no useful information. No artists, no copyright, no composers, nothin’.

I tried to look it up, and discovered that Everest had a history of sleazy behavior, such as issuing unauthorized editions that they didn’t pay royalties on, so I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised.

Anyway, the album is probably from somewhere in the period 1958-1963, and it has a bunch of classic Oktoberfest music, not all of it actually drinking songs — or even songs, really, as there are a couple of instrumentals among the twenty brief numbers. There are four songs about the Rhine all in a row, followed by two about Rüdesheim; why were people in Munich singing those?

(The cuts range from 36 seconds to just over three minutes; they jammed twenty songs/pieces into a thirty-minute album. The cover says twenty-two, but it lies.)

Side Two is pretty much all Munich-related drinking songs, including a couple of classics — you may not recognize the title “In München Steht Ein Hofbräuhaus,” but you’ve almost certainly heard it; in virtually any Hollywood movie with an Oktoberfest scene, it’s the song playing in the background.

I don’t know where I got my copy. It’s in reasonably good shape — no warping or skips, but a fair bit of surface noise. The transfer went smoothly.


* Whoever typeset the album cover left out all the umlauts (of which
there were many), transcribed the ess-tsetts as B’s, and reversed
several vowel combinations.

November 10, 2013:

Here’s one that was hard to catalog: “Walt Disney’s Babes in Toyland,” which is not the soundtrack album. There was no soundtrack album; this is the closest approximation, but while it’s all the songs from the movie, it’s not the versions that are in the film. It doesn’t feature Annette or Tommy Sands or Ray Bolger, though it does have Ann Jillian and Ed Wynn singing their bits from the film.

It’s very confusing; why did they do it this way? Also, several sources online say the record’s from 1961 because the film was released in December of ’61, but the album very clearly says “Copyright 1964 Walt Disney Productions” on the cover.

Actually, the singers on the album are much better than the ones in the film. (Which I have on DVD, so I’m not relying on fifty-year-old memories.) And it’s a clearer recording. Some of the songs are expanded, also an improvement.

Anyway. Got a nice clean transfer, though there’s some minor surface noise in spots.

I may have mentioned here [i.e., on SFF Net, where I’d posted about watching the DVD] that it’s a pretty lousy movie, which it is, but one thing I didn’t mention because it didn’t really register until I listened to the nice clear lyrics on this version is how staggeringly, mind-bogglingly sexist some bits are. In particular, the song “Just A Toy” is simply appalling even for the time.

Other than that, though, it’s cheesy fun.

More to come…

Domestic Archeology

Five years ago we were getting ready to move from our house in Gaithersburg to somewhere closer to my wife’s job. We had lived in the house on Solitaire Court for twenty-two years, and raised our kids there, so we had accumulated a lot of stuff — a lot of stuff. We didn’t realize how much until we had to clean the place up for potential buyers.

So we set out to declutter the place. We didn’t want to take all that stuff with us. We threw out vanloads of junk. I sorted out my books and comic books and so on, and started weeding out the stuff I didn’t want.

And I looked at the piles and piles of stuff in various obsolete (or nearly so) media, and decided something had to be done about it. I didn’t want to have LPs and cassette tapes and CDs and reel-to-reel tapes, VHS and DVDs, and so on. This is the twenty-first century, and all that stuff could be consolidated onto digital media, which would save huge amounts of space. Eliminating the multiple players would simplify matters, too.

Converting it all was far too big a job to be done before we moved. I was able to thin out hundreds of duplicates of one kind or another (books in multiple editions, LPs I also had on CD, etc.), but most of it got hauled to the new house, and I’ve been working on it ever since.

Ripping all the 500 or so CDs to disk was relatively quick and easy, though about half a dozen got screwed up and need to be re-done. (“Need” is the correct tense; I haven’t done it yet.) I disposed of a couple of our CD players (though I admit to keeping two). Then I started on the phonograph records, which required installing the appropriate software (Audacity) and hooking my stereo and turntable up to my computer.

It takes a long time to copy 450+ albums and a few dozen singles, 78s, and other oddities to MP3. I finally finished a couple of months ago. Then after moving my turntable into dead storage in the basement I hooked up my tape deck and started on the cassettes; I only have just over a hundred of those. I’m in the middle of that, with the reel-to-reel tapes still to go when the cassettes are done.

(I’ve made some progress in other media besides sound; I have one more long box of comic books left to trade in at Beyond Comics, out of the 14,000 comics I started with, and about 300 assorted books have been replaced with ebooks on my Kindle. And all the VHS tapes are gone, replaced with DVDs or Blu-Ray, even if I had to burn them to DVD myself.)

Anyway, as I’ve worked my way through all this stuff, I’ve been posting about it on my old SFF Net newsgroup. Not many people read there. Not many people read here, either, but this blog is easier to link to, and generally more permanent and more accessible, so I’ve decided to copy edited versions of some of those newsgroup posts to this blog. I didn’t keep copies of the early ones, though they’re all somewhere in the SFF Net archives; the ones I do have are all from the last few months, when I’d already finished all the ordinary pop/rock/folk music I had on LP, and had gotten to the stuff in my collection I hadn’t played in decades.

Here’s the first entry, from a post dated November 2, 2013:

National Lampoon’s “Lemmings” is now squared away on my computers in MP3 form. Condition was excellent, transfer went very smoothly.

This brought back a lot of memories; I saw “Lemmings” live at McCarter Theater in Princeton, NJ when it first toured in 1973. Back then nobody knew who John Belushi and Chevy Chase were, but after watching the show we knew they were pretty damn funny. Chase’s Hell’s Angel routine was a lot funnier live than on the album because so much of it was visual; it involved the sort of pratfall he became famous for a couple of years later on “Saturday Night Live.” (He splashed beer on the audience in the process.) And there’s no explanation on the album of what’s going on in the middle of “Lonely At the Bottom,” Belushi’s Joe Cocker parody — he fell down while singing and couldn’t get up, and the band stopped playing and walked away until he managed to get back on his feet. On the record it just sounds like a bunch of grunting and gasping.

There was a lot that didn’t make it onto the album — the entire first act, for one thing, and also “Pull the Triggers, Niggers,” because they’d already put a shorter version of that song on “Radio Dinner.”

(Some other stuff on “Radio Dinner,” such as “Deteriorata,” was also in the first act.)

Anyway. Funny stuff, and most of it has held up fairly well, though “Papa Was A Running Dog Lackey of the Bourgeoisie” is kind of dated.

More when I get around to it.

Magazines Reloaded

So I just took a look at the magazines that have arrived in the last month or two, and thought I’d post an update.

I was, you may recall, involuntarily subscribed to Forbes, Yachting, ESPN: the Magazine, Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, and Chevy High Performance.

Yachting is still coming — it was a two-year subscription and runs through next June. Generally I still go through an issue in maybe five minutes, but there was a fluke a couple of months back, and one issue was fascinating, with a whole bunch of interesting stuff. Articles on things like how to deal with infections picked up in foreign ports, insects that can stow away and damage your boat, unusual ports of call, historical stuff, etc. I read it cover to cover, and thought that if this was going to be their new standard I was going to be spending a lot more time with it.

It wasn’t the new standard; the two subsequent issues are back to the five-minute flip-through stuff.

The subscription to Chevy High Performance ran out. I don’t miss it at all. I was slightly surprised they never made a serious effort to get me to renew, but they didn’t.

Men’s Health ran out, as well, and again, I didn’t get the expected barrage of renewal offers. I’m puzzled.

As I said last time, I passed Men’s Fitness on to a friend — sent in a change of address with his address. I assume he got it; I haven’t asked.

It took a couple of issues before the change of address for Forbes went through, but it’s gone now.

Entrepreneur is still coming, but I’ve fallen behind on reading it.

Fast Company is also still coming, and I’m a little behind on that, too, but not as much.

ESPN sent me two issues after the supposed expiration date, but it’s gone now, and I belatedly read my last issue a few days ago. It’s still the coolest sports mag I ever saw — articles on sports surgery, gay luchadores, and a zillion other unexpected goodies, all well written and researched — but I should get more accomplished now that it’s gone.

The crowd is definitely thinning.


Well, it’s finally happened. I got a renewal offer. Took longer than I expected.

About a year ago, I started getting stuff in the mail that I hadn’t ordered. I’m not sure whether it was meant as a joke, or a birthday present, or what, but someone — I don’t know who — had signed me up for a whole bunch of things. They started arriving, without explanation.

First there were the cosmetics on trial. I returned those. I was a bit concerned because the packing slip said they’d been paid for with an AmEx card, and I made sure it wasn’t mine. Put a watch on my credit, just in case.

Then came the intro package from Book of the Month Club. I canceled my new membership immediately, explaining I hadn’t actually signed up, someone else had, and I asked where I should return the books. They said not to bother, so I added them to my “to read” stack.

Next was the membership in the North American Hunting Club. That brought a knife, a game cookbook, and a magazine subscription; I returned the cookbook and canceled my membership, so I only got one or two issues of the magazine, but I kept the knife, as it was a “free gift.” (Some gifts aren’t free?) These folks were much less helpful and cooperative than BotMC or the cosmetics trial, but they eventually accepted that I wasn’t interested, and I passed the magazines on to some guys serving in the military overseas. (The magazine wasn’t bad if you’re a hunter; I’m not.)

And after that, it was all magazines. New ones kept showing up through March 2013, too. I’m guessing my mysterious someone had a bunch of airline points to burn off before they expired. At any rate, I eventually found myself with subscriptions to Forbes, Yachting, ESPN: the Magazine, Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, and Chevy High Performance. (I think that’s all of them.)

Yachting was the first to show up, if I remember correctly. It’s weirdly fascinating because there’s the contrast between the rather down-to-earth attitude, with articles on maintenance, ports, etc., and the fact that it’s about toys costing millions of dollars. I read the first one pretty thoroughly, but quickly got inured to it and now typically go through an issue in about three minutes, mostly looking at the pictures, before passing it on to friends who like boats.

Chevy High Performance — if you own a Chevrolet muscle car from the ’60s or ’70s, you need this magazine. If you don’t, it’s absolutely useless and might as well be written in Etruscan. I don’t. This is another one I pass on to guys in the military. But wow, if you want to know anything about restoring, maintaining, or hot-rodding an old Chevy, this is a gift from the gods.

I’d seen Men’s Health and Men’s Fitness on the racks at the supermarket, and assumed they were sister (or in this case, brother) magazines. Never had any interest in ’em. But once they started showing up, I read them, and discovered they aren’t siblings, they’re rivals, and Men’s Health is the good one. It’s more upscale, better written, better edited, and all around classier, so I still read it, though I’m not going to renew when my subscription runs out. It looks at lots of lifestyle stuff for guys in their twenties and thirties. Men’s Fitness is much more concerned with, well, fitness — exercise, diet, and not much else. Where Men’s Health has a well-rounded feel and is clearly aimed at straight men, Men’s Fitness is narrowly focused and has (at least for me) a faint homoerotic vibe. I found it really boring, and transferred my subscription to someone else who was interested. (I hadn’t mentioned that homoerotic vibe to him, but then, it may just be my imagination in the first place.)

Then there are the three business magazines. I’d heard of Forbes, of course, and always assumed it was a business mag, but it isn’t, really; it’s money porn. It’s not about business, it’s about billionaires. It’s rather badly written, self-congratulatory in tone, and mostly about how wonderful the very rich are, simply because they made piles of money. Add in the editorials by Steve Forbes and others that demonstrate an insane misunderstanding of real-world economics, and the real world in general, and you have a magazine that I’ve found steadily more and more repulsive. When I noticed from the label that I’d been given a two-year subscription I decided I had to get rid of it, and Julian had a friend who works in finance, so I’ve just signed that one away.

Entrepreneur, on the other hand, is kind of fascinating. It’s not about business in general, but only about entrepreneurs. It’s better-written than Forbes, and doesn’t take a political position; it just looks at how these guys got to where they are now (and maybe you can too!). That was one of the late arrivals, so I may revise my opinion in time. I don’t really have much use for it, and would hit the old change-of-address road if I knew of anyone who wanted it, but at least it doesn’t embarrass me to have it in the house.

And Fast Company is cool. It’s about the cutting edge of business — innovation in every field, high-tech news, online developments, etc. It’s tied to several websites that I haven’t really looked at yet, but every time I read an issue I come away with scribbled notes about things I want to check out online. This one might be a keeper.

Which brings us to ESPN. Okay, I watch ESPN sometimes. I’ve read Sports Illustrated. I thought I knew what to expect. I was wrong.

ESPN is the best magazine we get, including the ones I subscribed to myself, rather than having dumped on me. I’m not a big sports fan, but there is some fine, fine writing here. It’s got stats I never thought about, human interest stories I’d never have considered. A recent issue had a huge feature on racism in Italian soccer that did a better job of looking at race and history than anything I’ve read in more general publications. There are big chunks I skip in most issues, because I frankly don’t give a damn about basketball or most of the NFL, but even there, I can see it’s some fine writing and excellent research.

And today I got a renewal offer for ESPN — another year for just a buck.

I wouldn’t even be tempted by any of the others, but that one…

But no. I don’t have the free time to read more magazines; I’m years behind on my fiction reading, and could always use more time writing. So I am reluctantly going to let it go.

But it did prompt me to finally write this blog post. I’d been meaning to do it for months, and this renewal offer was what finally pushed me to do it.

So there we are.

Old New England

As mentioned in my last post, we visited New England last month and spent a few days in Rhode Island. Looked at the famous mansions of Newport, poked around Providence, admired the ocean cliffs, etc.

But you know what I find myself thinking about? The Newport Creamery.

We ate there twice. We also ate at several other restaurants — the trendy TSK, Belle’s Cafe, Scampi up in Portsmouth, and so on — but it’s the Newport Creamery I remember.

You know why? Nostalgia.

I grew up in New England — in Massachusetts, in Billerica and Bedford. Naturally, like any kid, I thought that what I grew up with was normal; it wasn’t until I moved away that I began to realize what was standard American, and what was specifically New Englander fare. It took even longer before I began to miss the New England stuff.

And some of it I still didn’t necessarily realize was New England specific; I thought it was just old-fashioned.

But eating at the Newport Creamery brought back a lot of memories, and a realization that some of that stuff is unique to New England.

When I was a kid, we used to eat at Friendly Ice Cream sometimes. That’s the chain that later became Friendly’s, but in my youth it was Friendly Ice Cream, no apostrophe S, and it was still pretty local — they didn’t get outside New England at all, and were mostly just in Massachusetts. For 95 cents you could get a cheeseburger and a frappe — that’s the New England name for what most of the country calls a milk shake; it’s one syllable, “frap,” not the same as the whipped-fruit thing called a “frappé.” And the cheeseburger would be on butter-grilled toast, not a bun.

But then the chain started expanding, they changed the name to “Friendly’s” and updated the menu, and the burgers were on buns…

Getting sandwiches on butter-grilled toast — that wasn’t just Friendly. There were a lot of places that did that when I was a kid.

Turns out there still are — in New England. It’s not so much old-fashioned as regional.

And the Newport Creamery of today has almost exactly the same menu that Friendly had fifty years ago. Not at the same prices, of course, but wow, everything tasted just the way I remembered the food at Friendly.

So for the past month I’ve been thinking about that food, and wishing there was some way to get it here in Maryland.


You would think that, since I don’t have a day job or kids at home, I’d be able to get lots of writing done, wouldn’t you? Yet here I am, turning out maybe fifteen-twenty pages in a good week. So what do I do with my time?

Well, eating, sleeping, housekeeping, web-surfing — all the obvious stuff. But I manage to find some more eccentric ways to put off work, as well.

Right now, for example, I’m in the middle of carefully editing a digital transfer of the Moody Blues’ “Seventh Sojourn” from LP to iTunes. This is an album I haven’t played in four or five years, but it suddenly seemed urgent to get it archived on my computer.

And I just wrote a letter to a bank to let them know that the guy they’re looking for at this address hasn’t lived here for at least five years. Anyone sensible would have just tossed their letter, instead of answering it.

Earlier I spent some time identifying a coverless old book I inherited, which turns out to be A.D. 2000, by Lieutenant Alvarado M. Fuller, published in 1890 — while I knew the title, the author’s name does not appear anywhere after the title page, which is missing from my copy. Now I’ve not only identified it, but was able to print out scans of the pages I was missing. Which was entertaining, but not very useful.

I also sorted a bunch of old manuscripts as part of an ongoing effort to tidy my office. This had me happily contemplating questions such as, “Do comic book scripts go with novels or short stories?” “Do I need to keep all the drafts of short stories?” “Did I really do that many rewrites of my scripts for Tekno*Comix? Well, at least they’re all dated, and therefore easy to sort.”

And of course, I’m writing this blog entry, instead of something that might make money.

So now you know why I’m still only a paragraph into Chapter Seven of The Sorcerer’s Widow.

Days of Future Past

I’ve recently gotten back the rights to some of my older work, and am in the process of putting it back in print, either through Wildside Press or self-published.

The first of these old novels to see print anew is Touched by the Gods, which is now available in e-book form from Smashwords. It should be on Amazon and Barnes & Noble soon, with other outlets following in a week or two. A new trade paperback edition is planned, as well.

Weirdness about Beards

I have a beard, as anyone who’s met me or seen my picture probably knows. I’ve had it a long, long time.

I started out with just a mustache — and when I say “started out,” I mean I have literally never shaved my upper lip (though it was once, and only once, shaved for me), so by the time I graduated from high school I had a mustache.

That was 1972.

I got kicked out of Princeton in February, 1974, and that was when I grew a beard — a Van Dyke.

Then when I dropped out in 1977, I stopped shaving entirely and grew a full beard. I eventually started shaving again when my neck got excessively fuzzy, but I still have a full beard, and except for two brief interruptions I’ve had it since 1977.

I used to have long hair. I started growing it out in 1969. It got cut back somewhat a couple of times, but basically stayed long until 1984, when I cut it for my youngest sister’s wedding, and so Kyrith, who was then a baby, would stop grabbing and pulling it.

I kept it short for a few years, and honestly, I don’t remember exactly when I grew it back out, but it was long (below my shoulders) through most of the 1990s and well into the 21st century. In 2008, though — I think it was 2008, might have been a year or two earlier — I saw a picture of the back of my head and realized I had a bald spot, and that, combined with the long hair, had me looking uncomfortably like Riff Raff from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” So that October I cut it short, and it’s been fairly short ever since.

There were other variations along the way, such as color, but we won’t go into that right now — the basics, long hair and full beard, were pretty much as described above.

And here’s the weird thing: People don’t see this.

The first time I encountered this was when I was readmitted to Princeton in the fall of 1975. People who hadn’t seen me since February of ’74 got to see me with my new beard.

Some people didn’t notice. Some saw that there was something different about me, but couldn’t place it exactly. The strangest was the girl who exclaimed, “You cut your hair!”

I pointed out that no, I hadn’t, my hair was still halfway down my back, but I’d grown a beard. She stared and said, “Didn’t you always have a beard?”

I never did convince her that I hadn’t.

Then at my sister’s wedding in 1984, nobody noticed that I had cut my hair, that it was at least eight inches shorter than before. I mean, nobody noticed. No one. When I finally mentioned it to someone, he asked, “Didn’t you cut it back in 1972?”

He’d seen me several times between 1972 and 1984. It was long every time.

I mentioned two interruptions in my beard. One of them was when I sold my beard to Gillette, for research, and there aren’t any odd stories about that, but the other one, well, one morning I just decided to experiment, and shaved half of it off, trimming it back down to the old Van Dyke.

No one noticed. It was like the wedding, except that this time even my own kids didn’t notice anything. So I grew the full beard back, because why bother maintaining the trim if nobody notices?

And I bring this all up now because at Capricon last month, someone I hadn’t seen for a few years saw me and exclaimed, “You grew a beard!”

She had never, ever seen me without a full beard. The actual difference was that I’d cut my hair since she last saw me. Well, that, and I’ve gone mostly gray.

But she saw a difference, and somehow that became I’d grown a beard.

I find this phenomenon baffling.

Skating Away

Last night Julie and I had one of our rarer-than-I’d-like nights out, and went to dinner and a show.

Due to time constraints dinner was just burgers at Fuddruckers — we’d planned to do something classier, but things at the Bureau ran late and the show started at 7:00, so we made do.

The show was at the Verizon Center, and was “Kaleidoscope: Skating, Song, and Survivorship,” a cancer benefit put together by Scott Hamilton and friends. At least in theory it’s going to be a TV event, shown on Fox on Thanksgiving Day after the football game, though I didn’t see it on the schedule here. The main sponsor was Sanofi-Aventis, and there were ten cancer support organizations involved, but we mostly went because hey, it was a good show.

Our seats were nine rows back, near the stage end of the ice. Very good view.

They featured three famous cancer survivors: Hamilton, Dorothy Hamill, and Olivia Newton-John. This was Hamilton’s first skating performance in six years, but he was still good, and still did his trademark flips.

Really, everyone was good.

Newton-John only sang one song, and that was backed up with a children’s chorus (flown in from Santa Barbara), but it was nice. The other two singers on the program were Katherine McPhee and David Archuleta, who both have new albums coming out that they want to publicize, but Archuleta’s is a Christmas album, so his three songs were all traditional stuff, not his own compositions.

Archuleta has an absolutely beautiful voice; I hadn’t realized, watching him on TV, just how beautiful, as our TV’s speakers aren’t good enough to do it justice. He also looked genuinely happy to be there, and connected with the crowd more than McPhee or Newton-John; he’s very endearing in person.

As for the skating, Hamill doesn’t do a lot of jumping or other really difficult stuff these days, since she hasn’t competed in years, but she’s still performing, and still very good at it. She looked like she was having fun.

Nancy Kerrigan did a couple of performances, and while she hasn’t competed in years either, she did include difficult jumps — one of which she missed, but after the show they did a re-take for TV, so you won’t get to see her fall; the audience was invited to hang around to provide background, which we did.

Ashley Wagner and Rachael Flatt represented the younger generation of skaters, and gave splendid performances.

Ice dancers Charlie White and Meryl Davis were beautiful. Davis is a tiny little thing, and beautiful quite aside from her skating, but on the ice they’re stunning.

Johnny Weir was supposed to skate, but cancelled at the last minute, we don’t know why, and was replaced by Viktor Petrenko, who did two numbers, both of which were very slick and lots of fun — a cowboy number and a mambo. The guy’s a great showman.

I’m probably forgetting someone; it was quite a show.

Oh, David Foster (fifteen-time Grammy winner — as a producer, if you’re wondering why you don’t know the name) was the host, and played piano for a couple of the songs.

Because it was being done as a TV show there were several delays while technical stuff got squared away, and some of the introductions got repeated — in one case a skater was introduced, did her stuff, and then got announced again when they realized the first take wasn’t good. She did not skate again, though. The audience was also asked for random applause every so often, to be plugged in after pre-recorded stuff we didn’t see, and we obliged — the crowd was very enthusiastic. Not as big as we expected, actually, but loud.

All in all, we were there from 7:00 until 10:30 for a show that I believe will be ninety minutes on TV. (I don’t think the actual skating began until 8:00, but stuff was going on before that.)

It was fun.