Jan 09

A thought occurred to me this morning while I was swishing mouthwash before heading out the door. All the commercials you see for Scope and Listerine show these people taking a giant gulp of mouthwash and swishing it around with cheeks puffed out like Dizzy Gilespie (watch for it next time, it’s pretty funny). And my inclination is always to take a big swig. In reality though, it takes exactly one sip of mouthwash to achieve the same benefit (probably 1/10th of what they show in a commercial). It’s obviously in their best interest, however, that you take a huge pull so you buy another bottle in 2wks.

Of course we plant similar mental seeds when we point out that JumpBoxes are so inexpensive and easy to use, you might benefit from getting multiple apps even if you came in search of only one. We also plant the seed that “you’ve discovered something unique which represents such a productivity boost and value in time-savings value, why not get an extra one and surprise a friend with it as a gift?” Guilty as charged of planting seeds and yet it’s different in that there is genuine value in what we propose vs. the idea of encouraging over-consumption of an exhaustible item to increase the frequency with which you must replace it.

What other instances of “passive aggressive” advertising in commercials and ads have you noticed?

Jan 06

Newly-remodeled, fully-furnished 3BR 1700sqft rental home in the heart of the action in Phx available for the entire week of the Super Bowl and the FBR Open. Located in north Tempe on the border of Scottsdale this house is perfect for entertaining and in the ideal location:

  • 2min access to the 202 and 101 freeways
  • 5min from famous Mill Ave in Tempe (shops and restaurants)
  • 10min from Old Town Scottsdale (Superbowl festivities and commentary on the water front)
  • 25min from the stadium in Glendale

House sleeps 7 (TV room has a pull-out couch and one room has bunk beds). Ammenities include:

  • hot tub
  • barbecue
  • 17′ HDTV projection screen and 24" flatscreen both with cable
  • wireless internet
  • all new furniture including leather couches and recliners
  • new stainless appliances and granite counters
  • covered 2-car garage
  • washer & dryer
  • yard with horse shoes

$10k for 7 days rental

$5k due by Jan 11th, $5k due upon arrival plus $2k refundable damage deposit. Will accept paypal, wire or money order. No smoking inside. Pets okay. The game is only one day- proximity to the real action in Scottsdale and Tempe the rest of the week is where it’s at! Check comparables on Craigs List– this will not last long. Call or email Sean with inquiries: 480.221.5500 sean -at- jumpbox.com

front of house
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Jan 05

Cabin Pressure” is the first song I’ve recorded in three years and wow it feels good to get this one out. That link is the MP3 and you can see the lyrics here. I wrote all the parts from scratch and it took about 15hrs in all to record and produce it from start to finish. Granted I don’t have the best voice but like most things I think passion can make up for a lack of raw talent. This is a big deal for me because this tune has been gestating inside me for awhile now and feels something like I imagine childbirth being like to be finally able to manifest this thing into the world for others to experience.

The quick backstory: like most songs it’s about a girl. And specifically the mixed emotional bag of emptiness/anger/sorrow when someone with whom you feel a close connection is able to casually exit your life and never look back. The recording is about 90% close to what I wanted and while I’m not entirely satisfied, I am done tinkering with it. The one thing I couldn’t figure out was how to normalize the volume of the final track so that it’s equal with other songs in my iTunes. It’s way more quiet than most songs but when I tried to boost the volume levels it would clip the audio (if anyone knows how to do this please share). I do have some random thoughts on the mechanics of songwriting and specifically Garageband as a tool for recording and producing audio.

On songwriting

  1. Chickens and Eggs – the classic question is “which comes first, the lyrics or the musical idea?” For me they’re usually inextricably intertwined and tend to emerge over time where one affects the development of the other. I usually get a musical riff stuck in my head first and the lyrics start to gel around the melody as nonsensical mouth sounds. I can generally sing the lyrics “in tongues” before the exact words coalesce, but once they do it tends to alter the song itself. Like any chicken/egg problem at some point you have to bend one of the flaps and dig into it.
  2. Discovery vs. Invention – I was talking with my friend Brian Chartrand of the band Ten Dollar Outfit about this (and btw i consider Brian to be one of the most talented local musicians in the Phx Metro Area). We agree that songwriting feels more like a process of discovery than invention. It’s this whole process of unearthing a song that’s in you like the archaeologist that chips away at a ruin buried underground.
  3. Iterate using different playback sources – you get a different perspective when you take the song while it’s half-baked and listen to it in the car or while running. The frustration of recording comes when you get in a rut and from my experience you can avoid that by constantly seeing the song from different angles.
  4. Professional vs. home studio – it has to be on your own time. I love recording at my own pace using my own equipment. No doubt I could get better quality audio going into a studio (I used the internal mic on my Mac and I know singing into a laptop screen doesn’t yield the best acoustics). But studio time is expensive (~$150/hr) and more importantly, because it’s a ticking clock you end up rushing it and there’s nothing worse than being stressed while recording and settling for something you’re unhapy with.
  5. Alpha and omega – I like songs and albums that start and finish back at the same place. This song in particular lent itself well to this idea of fading in and out with ocean surf. I know this is possibly considered cheesy by some but for this one I had a really profound experience here and couldn’t get that vision out of my head while recording the song.
  6. Let it marinate – it always works better for me to do it in chunks and distance myself from the recording in between. I spent 4hrs the night before I drove to San Felipe and layed down the basic melody and framework of the song. I put it on my iPod, spent a few days away from it and then listened to it on the road back home. I think you can screw things up if you try to force it all out in one recording session. Again, being able to record at your own pace is key.

On Garageband

  1. Less features = more power – I love this program. It’s amazing to me how much functionality Apple can expose but in a way that still makes it dead-simple for a beginner to get started. Kathy Sierra always talked about helping your users to get over the “suck threshold” as quickly as possible. Garageband 3 is a shining example of an app that does this well. Kimbro pointed out to me that Apple tends to strip away features and that in doing so the program may be able to do less but you’ll actually get more out of it because you’ll be more likely to use it. I couldn’t agree more.
  2. Sequencing and recording all in one – so did I mention I love this program? I have experience with using Sonic Foundry and Cool Edit in the past to record and produce songs on a PC and I find Garageband on a Mac to be superior in just about every respect. It merges the important features of both programs and has a few extra features that make things way easier. I picked up an absolute nugget from watching 15min of the Apple Tutorials – the arrange track makes it so you can divide your song into sections and manipulate groups of tracks as a unit. Very useful.
  3. Make it sloppy – the over-quantized drum sounds that you get from using a drum machine make songs sound starchy and synthetic. What’s cool about Garageband is that via the Apple Loops feature you can get an onscreen drum pad for a track and pepper it with sounds that manually dub in realtime. The Takes feature allows you to build a drum track by layering different percussive instruments without having to manually rewind, do separate tracks and then merge. Making it “sloppy” by adding drums by hand gives the rhythmic section a more of a human-made feel.
  4. Extend the library of sounds– I bought the percussion Jam Pack from Apple and it gave me 5 gigs of drum sounds to work with. They have Jam Packs for symphonic, electronic and other instruments. It’s neat to be able to have access to a big library of sounds. I wonder when the iStockPhoto of music will emerge?

Specific nerd details on this track (for anyone interested)

I used three physical instruments in recording:

  • a ’95 Jackson Charvel electric guitar through a Line6 head unmic’d (via headphones jack)
  • a Martin acoustic guitar with active pickups plugged straight in
  • an Ibanez bass ran straight in
  • The staccato pianic effect in the beginning is from doing tap harmonics on the acoustic and adding the “Acoustic Guitar Echoes” effect in GB. The ocean noise is a royalty free sound I got from imeem.com. I applied a flanger effect to all the verses to get an “under water” sound (because frankly that’s what it’s felt like) and dynamically maxed it at the end of each verse cause I thought it sounded cool (aka made my voice less annoying when i scream). I added distortion to the refrain vocals via the megaphone effect. The squealing guitar solo is proprietary ;-) It uses the distortion from the Line6 – I found that using the distortion effect from GB to added just enough latency to where it didn’t feel right. I compressed the mp3 at 192kbps for max quality so that’s why it’s larger filesize than most mp3’s of equivalent length. The entire song is only 3 chords with no change whatsoever but it still works (hey Jane’s addiction proved you can make a winner with 2 chords ;-) And that fat 80’s-style wah bass sound at the end is the filter effect applied over a slap bassline played on the Ibanez- i was really happy with how that part turned out.

    Oh yeah, lastly feel free to redistribute, burn, mix, whatever. Everyone unless you’re Rhapsody (F$#@ you and your 2hr hold times to cancel service Real Networks). Music should be free with concerts generating revenue for musicians. If anything come out to our next concert or open mic and throw quarters at us onstage. Sign up on our site to get an email before our next show.

    Jan 03

    F$%# you Real Netwojerks. You killed a gem of a company this week when you forced Yottamusic to close its doors. This was a company that offered a free service that stood only to help you guys sell more accounts by making up for the inadequacies of your crappy web-based player. They made your service tolerable for people on Macs and also accessible for anyone working on multiple computers. The only flaw in their player was that which was introduced from the buggy Real player engine component that would occasionally crash the browser- and they probably would have figured out how to fix that too if you had just acquired those guys. How about instead of killing off the companies that are solving the inadequacies of your products, you focus your shareholder’s money on making your own stuff work?

    I’ve taken the liberty of rewriting your mission statement to bring it a bit more in line with the behavior you actually exhibit. One can only guess how many scarcity-minded middle-managers, SCO-trained lawyers and committees were behind this mistake. The smart move here that would have added value to your service and gained favor with your Mac user base would have been to acquire Yotta, put Luke in charge of your product dev team and replace all the crappy aspects of your service with the good stuff they created. You offer an API so presumably you’re interested in encouraging developers to extend your service and make it more useful? Way to send the exact opposite message to any potential developers who were thinking about doing so… instead you killed the guys that were using an API (albeit private) to create value. Rockin’ start to ’08…

    I will be canceling my Rhapsody service and shorting your stock first thing in the morning. I would do both now but the market is closed and apparently you offer no way to cancel service via your web site. Nice barrier to exit there – introduce enough friction to leaving by forcing your users to call your CSR’s and wade through an automated phone system to cancel (can’t wait to run that human hamster maze tomorrow – F$%# you again Real Networks). Apparently I’m not the only one who feels strongly about how poorly you guys handled this situation.

    I can’t in good conscience continue to give money to a company that behaves this stupidly. Actually stupididity isn’t the word to describe this because that implies benign uninformed-ness and this is just plain evil. I have been hoping that Real and Apple would work out a deal to extend Rhapsody integration to Apple TV and the iPod- now Rhapsody has instead taken a colossal step backwards making it almost entirely unusable on the Mac. Idiocy. For anyone who plans to remain a Rhapsody user, here’s an option to make their service usable again by averting the repeated disruption of applications crashes: place-shift your service so you can listen to your Rhapsody music on an iPod or your Apple TV or your iTunes. Here’s how:

    1. Buy something like the Replay Music client that allows you to record streaming music.
    2. Rip your Rhapsody songs to your hard drive (complete with ID3 tags).
    3. Bring them into iTunes and tag with a playlist called “Rhapsody.”
    4. Evaluate the music in your car, at the gym, on your Apple TV, wherever and then decide what’s worth buying. Delete it when your done evaluating and purchase using iTunes or Amazon (not Rhapsody).

    This tactic of course opens up the potential for abuse and requires that you do the right thing and purchase the music you plan to keep and delete the stuff you’re don’t when you’re through vetting it. I don’t advocate stealing music. If you want to steal music it’s probably easier through Bit Torrent and Pirate Bay if that’s really your thing.

    Your welcome, Real, for educating your subscribers on how to make your service truly usable again and compensating for your inability to deliver a technology that doesn’t crash every 5 min. Now resume your nastiness and put some of that over-zealous legal staff back to work doing something detrimental to your business so I can make some money off your stock. Yahoo music here I come… it’s half the monthly price of Rhapsody and they have a risk-free 14 day trial apparently. Some useful reviews from people that compared the two services here, here and here if you’re thinking of switching.

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