February 9: Hiking in June gloom?

My planned valley to valley hike grows more complicated by the day. My current concern is about speed, specifically my walking speed. My original assumption was that the hike will be about 20 miles each way. Sure, it could be less but I think all in 20 miles is a good bet. So, for the last week I’ve used my iPhone to track my hiking (as opposed to walking on the street) speed.

And, it turns out that I hike slowly, right around 2.5 MPH versus the brisk 3.5 MPH I can do on a street or sidewalk. Damn those uphill sections of the trail! The problem is that depending on when I do the hike I could run out of daylight hours and that would be bad; I could even miss the cocktail hour, and we can’t have that.

The solution might be June Gloom, those days before the 4th of July when morning hours see a dense onshore overcast spread from the Pacific to the valleys and well after the start of daylight savings time in mid-June. I would have to leave the specific dates of the hike flexible to be assured of hiking on a day with good, deep onshore flow. Even still there’s a good chance the second half of the homeward trek would be pretty warm, since the west San Fernando Valley is typically around 8 degrees warmer than the eastern Conejo. And, the cherry on the sundae is that the whole hike will be into the sun.

No matter, as of this moment June is looking better than March. All those hours of daylight and the chance of overcast until well afternoon is making the hike feel a little more doable than my depressing walking speed made a feel a day ago.

The study continues.

Oh yeah, my writing soundtrack tonight are two versions of Not in Nottingham. The first sung by Sean Watkins on 2015’s The Watkins Family Hour and the second done by Los Lobos from their 2009 record, Los Lobos Goes Disney.

How out of the Disney songs loop am I? I had no idea Not in Nottingham was even a Disney song. It’s pretty damn good song so I bought both.

Thanks for reading.

February 9: Hiking in June gloom?

February 8: A bit more on yesterday’s missing musicians

The trauma of having to write all of yesterday’s post on my phone made me leave a few thoughts out. I was thinking about why John Danley & Brendan Campbell may have dropped out of the music business. At first, I thought that something bad must have happened to each of them, something like a chronic illness. The more I thought about it the more I realized the possibility that both had experienced some bizarre version of what happened to golf professional, Ty Tryon.

Tryon burst onto the PGA Tour back in the early days of the Tiger Woods era. He was only in high school when Callaway paid him a huge pile of money, nothing like the kind of cash Nike dumped on Woods, but we’re still talking about millions of dollars.

Ty Tryon, back in the early 2000s

Problem was that Tyron’s game soon collapsed, completely. Now, decades later, Tryon has become a walking monument to persistence. He’s been reduced to an annual quest just to find professional tournaments where he can tee it up in a so-far fruitless effort to find his long-gone game. Tryon was only 16 years old when he had that brief though profitable look at what the upper echelons of professional golf were like and thought he belonged. And, he has spent many years trying to get back there.

Campbell & Danley never had that look at the top. Oh sure, they made videos, played some live gigs and Campbell even composed and performed some music for a movie. Still, maybe what they saw of the music business simply didn’t make it seem like the kind of place they wanted to devote themselves to, possibly for years, with no guarantee for the kind of success they imagined.

And there’s another possibility I can think of; that one or both of them loved music, but didn’t love music as a profession. That’s how I like to imagine Campbell & Danley. I hope that wherever they are, and whatever they’re doing for a living, both continue to enjoy their rare musical gifts. And, should one or both of them decide they’d like to have another crack at the music business, I’ll be ready to enjoy their work once again.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

February 8: A bit more on yesterday’s missing musicians

February 7: Musicians who are missing in action

The internet is an endlessly fascinating place. It has made finding new wonderful musicians easy and immensely satisfying. I could not begin to name all of the musicians who have crossed my path, quite by accident, over the last decade or so.

The odd thing is that occasionally one of them (or two in this case) will go missing, leaving only the music that led me to them in the first place.

The first is Brendan Campbell. He may have had another record at some point, but the only one I know of is Burgers & Murders. I’m listening to Pleiades right now. This guy is so gone that he doesn’t even have a licensing deal with iTunes anymore. I found that out when I realized that none of his songs were on my iPhone. Had they not been downloaded to my MacMini years back that music would have been gone, maybe forever.

Brendan Campbell

The other musician is even more obscure. All John Danley left behind are a handful of videos. He was (is?) a wonderful finger-style player. From what I’ve been able to find he’s totally done with the whole music deal. The last reference I saw about him mentioned that he’d turned to a career in psychotherapy.

John Danley

A handful of years ago, he had a working website. What must have happened for him to let both his website’s eponymous domain and the site itself slip below the electrons of the internet? I just don’t get it. It’s just too easy and inexpensive to keep a website online to let one slip away. I actually mentioned Danley’s name to Will Ackerman a couple years back, along with a link to one of his videos. I had a kind of fantasy that Will might have recognized Danley’s talent and would want to set about using his industry connections to get him discovered, but Danley’s anonymity remains frustratingly intact.

How many more wonderful musicians am I doomed to find and lose? To put a tiny spin of optimism I could say I’m fortunate to have found Danley & Campbell at all, and that’s true. It’s always hard to keep from wanting more, I suppose.

Thanks for reading.

P.S. Had I been willing to let this post wait until tomorrow I would have done a better job. For some reason tonight the WordPress desktop app will let me do everything but write a post.

The optimist would say how lucky I am to be able write what I have on my phone.

February 7: Musicians who are missing in action

February 6: A quiet weekend

It was a quiet weekend, which was good. I had time to think about Cottonwood and my valley to valley idea without putting a lot of pressure on myself. I have to say that I would like to be looking forward to something positive but I’m getting the stuck-in-neutral feeling again. Who knows? Maybe it’s the weather. Or, maybe this transition year is already moving along a bit more rapidly than I hoped it would.

On the other hand, maybe I’m simply not taking on enough in the way of challenges. It’s hard to be satisfied with yourself when you don’t feel like you’re accomplishing enough.

Cottonwood was an immense undertaking but now it’s done and there’s nothing on the immediate horizon to get my attention, creatively anyway. The valley to valley project is something I could place my own horizon. It maximizes planning and brings a little of the unknown, but not so many unknowns that it feels unsolvable.

Still, it’s not quite enough to occupy my thoughts in a constructive way. I think this daily blog is a good thing. It helps to bring some structure and intensity to what I’m thinking about and how. But it’s not been easy and I cannot imagine it getting easier, but we’ll see how long I can keep it up.

Tonight’s writing soundtrack is Paul Brady singing Arthur McBride and the Sergeant. It’s a 7-minute Irish protest song and Brady has the perfect voice to sing the heck out of it.

Thanks for reading.

February 6: A quiet weekend

February 5: Hill climb & pano

The winds have been blowing off & mostly on for more than a week. When we had measurable rain a while back I allowed myself a bit too much optimism, at least as regards the drought.

Now that optimism is being blown away and that’s a lousy feeling. The only benefit of Santa Anas this time of year are cloudless, scrubbed-blue skies and fantastic visibility. Even though the winds were less intense today, the skies were still quite clear.

My valley to valley hike is front of mind. I’ve been looking for a map that shows all of the fire roads in Los Angeles and Ventura counties but I haven’t found one so far. I made a trip to REI today since they have a good selection of maps and guides on hand but they didn’t have what I needed. There was an interesting trail map of Conejo to the ocean that should have easily covered the entire relevant area except that the folks at NatGeo decided to plop the map’s legend right over the west end of the valley, where it meets up with Palo Comado. Oh well. What do those folks know?

This is iPhone pano looking northish (those are homes in Bell Canyon on the left).

This is a nastyish hil climb I use to inaugurate my legs and lungs every time I use the Victory Trailhead. From the middle to the top you actually ascend on toes. It’s possible to descend it but if it happens to rain again this hill will be impassable both up and down. The photo doesn’t do it justice; it’s damn steep.

No hike is complete without a refreshment and today I promised myself a blood orange IPA from the pizza and beer tavern at the intersection of Victory & Valley Circle. Somehow I’ve managed to miss the name of the brewery both times I’ve enjoyed it there. That fact gives me a good excuse to drop in for another pint someday soon.

Tonight’s writing soundtrack is He’s Fine from The Secret Sisters 2017 record You Don’t Own Me Anymore. It’s far and away the best song on the record; clean, simple and bound to no genre or time. It’s fantastic.

Thanks for reading.

February 5: Hill climb & pano

February 4: Not quite as big as I hoped

The week I mean…

I should have known better than to look forward to a week that felt big, let alone was big. There aren’t many of those and this certainly wasn’t one. I didn’t get Cottonwood to the formatter. Instead I spent too much time noodling on the question of whether it needed a preface or some kind of introduction. I imagined something that linked Cottonwood gracefully back to John J. McDermott & the 1971 U.S. Open but in the end I just didn’t want to. I suppose I can rationalize the decision by my thought that even though both books are connected, they are intended to be capable of standing on their own, and I hope they do.

The whole deal found me learning about a mistake I made in JJM. I wrote the foreword. By convention a foreword should be written by someone other than the author.

That error, unsurprisingly, got me thinking about other introductory elements of a book’s front matter.

Beyond foreword there could be a preface, a prologue and an introduction. I suppose a writer could aspire to have all of them in one book but somehow for Cottonwood it feels to me like none of them fit, or are needed, so I have elected to leave them all out. Plus, it will keep me from writing another foreword that should really have been a preface or an introduction.

I should have known better than to expect a lot from a week because I felt like I needed a lot. That’s never worked, at least not in my experience. I had a zoom with one of my clients in Japan tonight. He seemed a little bit at odds as if he too was looking for something to happen, because he needed it to happen. I saw his situation totally differently than he did. I saw only his energy and dedication while all he could sense was a need for progress he couldn’t quite define.

I wanted a big week and he wanted a big whatever and neither of us got our wish.

Big week or not, I should have accomplished more this week than I did. I know that’s true but I can’t do anything about it. All I can do is follow my advice to my young client in Japan; just keep at it and don’t let up. You cannot control events, you can only control your efforts and choose where and how to apply them.

Maybe someday I’ll learn the lessons I try so hard to convey to my clients.

I know I’ve neglected my writing soundtrack the last couple days. The truth is that I’ve not been listening to much music the last couple days, other than the LPs I’ve managed to upload. Tonight’s different and so I have a different kind of writer’s soundtrack that anyone can enjoy. It’s The Shins Live at Hurricane from way back in 2012. You can easily find it at YouTube and it’s worth the search.

They were really a band in full back in 2012 to borrow a phrase from Tom Wolfe. Deep Sea Diver’s Jessica Dobson was still serving as James Mercer’s guitar hero back then (there’s yet another longish blog post I need to write) and the band effortlessly flowed and ripped and glided their way through a rainy outdoor set in Germany. I’m not sure who owns the rights to that video but I hope it stays on YouTube forever because I really need it from time to time…like tonight.

Thanks for reading.

February 4: Not quite as big as I hoped

February 3: Century City

It’s a been a good long while since I’ve been to the Century City mall.

How long? I am guessing it was right around 1990. Our office was at the then Fox Plaza, 2121 Avenue of the Stars. Ronald Reagan was a floor above us on 32 while Marvin Davis occupied the 33rd floor. Another Davis was the reason that we were in that building but that’s a story for another days. Three of us from the old firm had lunch today and reminisced about the times when each of us got to share an elevator with Reagan. He must have been about 78 at the time and while he still looked great in a blue suit you could sense the most subtle hints of cognitive decline. Has anyone even written more eloquently than the man himself?

“I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life.”

Sunsets seem to be everywhere these days. So many of the people I know and love are holding them off, doing all they can to stay in the day’s light, whether the challenges they face affect themselves or their own loved ones. Both of my dining partners have dealt with it, through the illness of an adult child and the death of a spouse. I know it is hard to each of them to find a way to look ahead toward something good when they have seen the challenges of today and the near past.

Still, we ate, we remembered back to working at 2121, and we drank an excellent red blend called, La Croce.

Too bad there was only one bottle.

The weather was perfect. Only one day before and we would not have been able to dine outside without a good deal of shivering and cold Italian food that’s meant to be served hot. Our mood was lightish and plans were made for another lunch, a happy hour this time, were made. I’ll be really happy if we manage to pull that off soon.

Back to the last time I was at that mall and I’m guessing it was also in 1990. Wait, first I have to say that the mall is not the mall I visited all those many years ago. It was closed for years while undergoing a massive renovation. Going there today was like going back to a place I have never seen before, even though everything, the Hollywood Hills and the many towers of Century City were right where I left them.

Back in 1990, I shared lunch with the great love of my life, the woman who is still the love of my life. We ate at a little Japanese place that served excellent teriyaki. That’s a day I will never forget. I’ll never forget the food, I’ll never forget where it was (I’m sure I could walk to the point where our table stood, even though there’s no restaurant there anymore) and most importantly I will never forget what it felt like to be there sharing it all with the person whom I was lucky enough to be with. It’s been thirty years and I still feel lucky every time I share a table with her, or a kiss, or a touch, or a smile.

Sunsets come to each day and every person’s life. There’s nothing to be done about that. All we can do is share the daylight of our love and fondness for the people in our lives as often as we can, and always savor the sweetness of the wine and the warmth of the sun.

The three of us did a little of that today and I’m glad we all made the trip.

February 3: Century City

February 2: Turntables, continued & concluded

Anyway, the days of Kuzma and Dynavector lasted as long as my days of a reviewer. Great tables, arms and cartridges (not to mention superb phono preamps) can give a careful listener a look within that little else can. Eventually, though I bought my first REGA Planar 3 and used it as a kind of everyman’s table reference. That second REGA served me well. Somehow, it ended up on the other side of the table when I got divorced. Also, I lost a good number of LPs (well over a thousand) and my beloved Magnepan MGIIIa to a flood of hot water caused by a plumbing leak, when there was no one around to simply turn off the damn water.

That was then and the is now and I have another REGA Planar 3. It was set up for me by none other than the legendary Brooks Berdan. If you’re interested you can read about it here. If you’re not, just know it’s a been a great table and I’m happy to be giving it some exercise during the transfer of my remaining LPs.

I am sentimental about this particular table but not about analog generally or LPs specifically. They are the technology I grew up with and while I find their miniature renaissance amusing, I am under no illusions that they create a corner on the market of musicality.

In the early 90s, it seemed like they might. Early CDs were abysmal for a number of reasons, most notably lousy DACs and misunderstandings about how digital recording changed and didn’t change the requirements of microphone placement. The truth is that things got better fast when it came to CDs. That said, a CD is not an LP and there is no reason to expect one to sound like the other. It’s rather like tubes which is, if I decide to go down that particular rabbit hole, a question with a longer answer for another blog post. I am not immune to nostalgia but I am when it comes to the mechanisms that deliver my music, I simply don’t care what device or technology brings me decent sound, I just want it. Thanks for reading. Tomorrow, no more turntables…I promise.

February 2: Turntables, continued & concluded

February 1: Analog and, damn, but January went by fast

pCloud actually finished the digital upload. It didn’t finish on time, but it did finish. So, today I moved the first of the LP AAC files onto pCloud. Files seem to move quickly when, even though the files are large, the number of files are relatively small. I had one early LP that had a skip producing a skip that pissed me off. Since I was familiar with the record I was surprised to find the visibly-evident smudge. Once I found it and cleaned it the LP was fine.

This miniature misadventure got me thinking about analog, especially about the LP. As I have said before, I have no nostalgia or happy feelings toward the LP. They sound better but they are a pain in the ass. There’s no dispute about either end of that sentence, at least to me.

The thought did move me to consider all of the turntables I’ve owned in my 60 years. I need to back up first to my brother’s Acoustic Research AR XA which I am guessing he bought in 1969 or thereabouts. I do not, sadly, recall the cartridge. That was the first analog rig that allowed one to hear into the recording in a way I’ve not generally been able to recreate with any digital equivalents. I was only 8 or 9 then I think it was another handful of years before I bought my first table at Fedco, a BSR. It didn’t sound very good but I liked it anyway. By then, the XA and even the XB were long gone or wildly reduced in quality by whatever forces affected such changes in the early 1970s.

Still, I used that BSR happily until I found a seemingly ancient Empire 298 Troubadour with a poorly-matched Infinity Black Widow arm. The arm was far too low in mass to work properly with the 298 and it took forever to find the proper belt but it sounded pretty good. Again, I do not recall the cartridge but I do remember that the rig was befouled by relentless acoustic feedback and a stubborn ground-loop hum that only my brother, John, was able to chase down.

I then went Japanese, first with an entry-level Technics SL-20 and Empire cartridge that I bought, new, in like 1975. It sounded excellent but suffered from feedback and rather surprising wow and flutter especially since it supposedly used a synchronous motor, so let’s be charitable and blame the speed issues to the drive belt which always felt a bit stretchy.

What next? Well, I’ll have to think for a bit. Holy shit, I remember, even though I would rather not.

It was the Harman/Kardon ST-7 Rabco. Oh my god, the promise. Oh my god, the horror. Straight-line tracking. How do you do better than that? Tell me, how?

I had three of these in the late 1970s, though I do not recall the faults of the first two that resulted in the third. I can only say that the dealer was as unhappy as I was. To say they were casually, tending towards carelessly, assembled would be kind. Yes, the channel balance was superb. And, yes, the speed precision, considering one motor drove two belts (the one that drove the platter and the one that drove the arm) was quite good. But, feedback was horrendous even with the most conscientious placement (another room, more than twenty feet away).

As another reviewer wrote about a pair of Jason Bloom’s Apogee speakers, the ST-7 was a glimpse of heaven and a look at hell, all at once. But, that glimpse of heaven was hard to forget.

A couple years later I bought my first REGA product, a Planar 2. Nirvana. It didn’t sound as good as any of the previous tables I had used yet somehow it sounded more right than any of them. Plus, it worked. It was free of hum, had impeccable speed control and keep feedback at bay. Later, I bought a Planar 3 that I used as a reference while many far more expensive tables made their way into and out of my listening room. The most impressive were the tables from Franc Kuzma, first the Stabi and later the Stabi Reference. Yes, it helped that I was working for the distributor at the time. It also helped that the distributor also brought in the amazing cartridges from Dynavector in Japan.

Ah, Kuzma and Dynavector. Would anyone ever imagine that a Slovenian turntable and a Japanese cartridge would work so well together?

Well, they did.

Hey, wait just a second. I’m way beyond my daily word allotment. I’m going to have to finish this tomorrow. For all of you who care about my analog evolution, please drop by tomorrow. For those of you who don’t care, well, I will leave that decision up to you.

Thanks for reading.

February 1: Analog and, damn, but January went by fast

January 31: More about pCloud than you (or I) ever wanted to know

It’s true, pCloud is coming into the home stretch though I will remind you that the upload process has been very slow (but steady) at least after fooling around with the upload speeds in settings.

There were about 9,000 digital files to start. Owing to its unbelievable initial sluggishness I began to plot its progress to see if I had tossed $50 into the street (yet again).

8057 files were ready for upload on last Sunday:
7916 3:22pm Monday
7767 8:08pm Monday
6658 10:23am Tuesday
6582 2:38pm Tuesday
6442 11:57am Wednesday
6385 3:10pm Wednesday
6274 10:23am Thursday
3902 10:30am Friday
3026 11:09am Saturday
2024 12:04pm Sunday
1288 11:36pm Sunday
1018 11:19am Monday (today)

Right now, it has 50 files (6.33GB) to go but it’s stalled (which seems to happen a couple times a day). When I’m done with this post I will quit and restart which is the recipe to getting things flowing again. Check that; it’s uploading again…44 files remaining (5.87GB) estimated as an hour and thirty-seven minutes (I’m guessing around 12 hours of actual upload time).

Off and on I’ve taken look at the pCloud app, which looks like this on my iPhone:

The pCloud iOS app Home Screen

Now let me explain what I think (and I emphasize the word think) we’re looking at. First of all, the top three folders labeled My Music, My Pictures and My Videos have absolutely nothing in them. That explains why they’re at the top, doesn’t it? I am genuinely unsure if they’re intended to be placeholders or samples or just something to look at.

It’s very weird and significantly kludgy.

But wait, look below and you’ll see a green folder labeled pCloud backup. Now we’re cooking! That’s full of good stuff like what pCloud refers to both within the app and the desktop app as the MacMachine pCloud is Swiss, you know).

The whole deal looks like something AOL would have considered cutting-edge back in 2003.

As I mentioned before, once I’m done with the digital stuff I plan to add a folder called LPs to the upload. It’s good to know approximately where this will live once it’s on p’s cloud.

My hope remains that pCloud will do exactly what I want it to do when it’s all done, house my digital music in a non-Apple cloud as well as the AAC files of my LPs. I’m cautiously optimistic. If it works I’ll be more than happy to pay for a lifetime subscription which is something under $200. I’ll keep you posted.

My musical company this evening is Remembering Mountains sung by Sharon Van Etten from the 2015 record, Remembering Mountains: Unheard Songs by Karen Dalton. Unheard indeed. The record has fewer reviews (18) at Amazon than my first novel (20).

Oh well, I’ll boost the count up to 19 once I’ve penned mine. The title song is fantastic and at least two others (Don’t Make It Easy and At Last the Night Has Ended) are very good. So, here I am listening to and buying songs by a songwriter I’ve never heard of until a couple weeks ago. Who said the internet wasn’t amazing (as well as occasionally horrible, intrusive and possessed of post-apocalyptic potential?). I’m going to try to read up on Dalton. Don’t surprised if you read more about her from me soon.

January 31: More about pCloud than you (or I) ever wanted to know