Random NVDT “Standards” and a Writerly Concerns Update

Standards are supposed to make life easier. Devices from different manufacturers should talk to one another. My favorite was the original “plug and play.” Not. The same may be said of “class compliant” USB, leading us to believe drivers aren’t needed. Display to multiple monitors? Well, there’s 1.1, or 1.3 or 1.4. Which HDMI? If there were standards, blades or other accessories from one blender or mixer or coffee pot would work with others. “Standards” are set in place to make sure things are “standardized.” Like #2 Pencils whose lead varies widely. Number #2 Phillips screwdrivers. Some are deeper and pointier at the tip, some are more robust. Some are magnetized. Forget all that, lets get to something important. Like synthesizers.

The little white MXR box in the photo – I’ve had that since 1975. I still have it because I know standards are baloney. Several years ago, I decided to back out of the computer and get myself some gear with knobs again. There was all this noise about “euro rack standard” for inter-connectivity. More baloney. I bought a Moog Mother 32. I was so proud. I sold some stuff I liked to buy it, and it cost too much for what it was, but I knew Dr. Bob from way back. It sounded like a Moog. Sort of. I won’t go into why I sold it, but I did. For a combination of reasons. Not so “Standard” factored large because it wasn’t. Just like it wasn’t in 1975 when I went on an adventure from couch surfing in OKC all the way to Garland Texas, home of Arnold and Morgan Music. I bought an Oberheim SEM from Charley Lowe. I called first to be sure they had one. They did, off I went. A cold front blew through while I was gone, and back in OKC I walked from downtown, in my hippie moccasins, in the slush, to where my gear was stashed. I didn’t die. It’s all down to youth, not diet or exercise or clean living.

What? I couldn’t trigger the OB with my MiniMoog? Hold on. I saw Jan Hammer do it. That’s why I…A custom cable? Cinch-Jones shorting trigger to 3.5mm mono +5. Huh? I took the schematic for the cable to the tech at the high end stereo store who always brought my Flame Linear power amp back from the dead. He laughed when I said I thought there were standards, because I’d read about them. Nope. Volt per octave pitch tracking, maybe. The rest? Hah! He built the cable for me, and later a tin project box that did it better. Fifteen bucks. And I had to listen to loud Rolling Stones and his screaming baby when I picked it up from his house.

Then came the synth mess in my gravatar. Four Moogs, an Arp, an OB module and an OB sequencer. That was my fake T-Dream video soundtrack and band synth rig. Without the MXR and a snake nest of cables with transistors inserted in them it would have been chaos. Rather, uncontrolled chaos.

The MXR was designed to take a signal and amplify it, sans coloration. The intended job being to sit on the output of a guitar, gain it up and clip the input of a guitar amp without altering (too much) the guitar’s tone. I stuck that bad boy on the output on the trigger signal of whatever was the boss, cranked it and popped the trigger inputs open on whatever needed to listen. Forty-three years ago. And I’m doing it now? How sad is that?

I worked for the guy who pushed for and developed MIDI to stop all that crap (backstory). But – Sequential and Roland, the two companies who adopted MIDI first? Is 1 zero or is zero zero? Program change 1-128 or 0-127?  Standards. MIDI does work, though. Thank God. Even if it doesn’t require a gazillion colorful cables to do the same thing.

My MXR is still there if I need it to wake up a Moog with a Korg because trigger and gate are the same thing, different names. They’re “standard.” Only they’re not. I like my knob stuff. I like patch cables and all sorts of crazy sounds. I also like program memory, and foregoing that, at least pitch range selectors tied to a tuning so I have a short path back to reality. Even if that is a moral dilemma to some modular synth purists. There’s an old joke, when looking at a big modular synth draped in patch cords and some arteest going all artsy and talking poly rhythm modulations (baloney). The joke was was to elbow the person next to you and call out, “Okay, great. Now quick, tape’s rolling, get us a French horn.”

Which is why I sold the Moog. One oscillator, no range select and bunch of 3.5mm patch points that talked to each other and some of them to the outside world. And one very important one, the gate/trig, that required the MXR to function with certain external devices. Michelin money for a trailer tire? Baloney.

I solved a lot of the “standards that aren’t” with the Arturia Beat Step Pro sequencer. It sends out three sequences on three channels, or a butt load of gate/trig with enough voltage to blow open the most stubborn modern and vintage gear. The old “if they don’t understand you, talk louder” routine. But why should I have to buy another piece of gear to make the children behave?

Next up – power supplies. The MXR was built before wall warts were even imagined. There is no jack for one on the unit I own. 9V batteries only. There were days where it was buy batteries and play, or eat. The first time I saw a Radio Shack 9v wall wart with 9v battery terminals on it I freaked. It might have been $19. Ridiculous at the time. But it beat batteries. I borrowed a rat tail file from the guitar tech at Rock World and cut a hole in the MXR for the wire to escape. And even now wall wart jacks are various sizes, various voltages. Different barrel sizes on the supply, center + or -. Jesus. In my garage I have an old, beat up drummer’s trap case on wheels with years worth of power supplies. When I’m about to get rid of them a use pops up. How crazy is that? Gear does not communicate with each other, cables of different types and specs are required, power supplies are specific, active or passive, got a battery? My kingdom for a battery! My old bass player’s last girlfriend bought him a fistful of rechargeable batteries and a charger to keep him out of homeless shelters just keeping the active pickups in his basses functioning. This is about musicians, people. No wonder any player with money has a tech and IT runs any business with more than three people.

***

Retraction. “Switching on the lights, I trudged downstairs etc…” just reads stupid to me. I have been informed that it is a participle phrase that modifies “I”, the noun, not the (in my mind) associative action verb of trudged and is perfectly “legal” based on the position of the comma and “I”. As you wish. For my .02, that sort of thing, like Garlic and Cumin, starts to own whatever it’s in and a little goes a long way. It gets worse when they are used to modify the subject of a weak verb like “is”. Elmore Leonard sits in the back of my mind repeating, “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” Follow the action, don’t sort it. Like Deepthroat. “Follow the money.” “Following the money, crooks you will find,” or “you will find crooks” sounds like Yoda, doesn’t it? Stilted? Regardless of my opinion, the one big takeaway is – Do not leave your participle hung out to dry or you will be arrested by the grammar Nazis for exposing your dangling modifier!

Here you go, “ing” as a noun modifier and not a weakened verb.

http://www.chompchomp.com/terms/participlephrase.htm

 

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Looney Lunes #137 2-Fer

There’s Obviously Nothing About ‘Easy’ In That

From Our Lady of Sorrows Church Bulletin

Evenings at 7 in the Parish Hall

MON    Alcoholics Anonymous

TUE     Abused Spouses/bi-lingual

WED   Eating Disorder Support Group

THU    Say No To Drugs

FRI     Teen Suicide Watch*

SAT    Soup Kitchen/Homeless Breakfast

SUN – Homily “Our Joyous Future in Christ”

*as written that’s a little creepy

Part Two – No Fishing

Seriously. I want to get a big no fishing sign and put it on the front page. The graphic in the header came from someone who stole it from somewhere else who followed my “most superiorly and knowing blog”. Really? That person will never read, or be able to read, anything I write. Ever. The never ending quest for blind follow-backs. Always replete with stock lingerie photos or read this or I’ll shoot the depressed poet who is me, or have a “superiorly” nice day with the feel good Jesus. The big three. Sex, guilt and Jesus. Maybe they can monetize if they get to 60k. Like writing a bad song and getting the BMI check for 18 cents because nobody in Israel listened to the station that played it. But it felt good for about 1/3 of a second. Hey. God Loves Me. And I’ll bet she can spell.

Random NVDT- Writerly Concerns

“Switching off the lights, I trudged downstairs and walked to the door. (Character’s) (car) was gone.”

A few weeks ago, I injected something totally random on this site. Not a WP follower harvesting “stick with a plan” thing. Nope. I wrote about a phone app of the musical instrument that changed my life. Back pedal – I changed my life, the synthesizer was the way forward. Writing is the same. I dropped out of college as part of that change. I didn’t believe they could teach me how to write by regurgitating some tweedy old fart’s thoughts on Henry James and Melville. Frankly, thoughts on Melville, to me, would be time better spent thinking about the variances in cottage cheese curds. Personal opinion only.

Today marks another Friday of randomness, which will become a regular thing. I suppose that punts the randomness, save for content. Writing, electronic music, whatever drops. Today? Writerly things. I read a book. Yeah, yeah., seriously. Check this out. Again

“Switching off the lights, I trudged downstairs and walked to the door. (Character’s) (car) was gone.”

Why do I bring this up? As written it is completely devoid of linear logic. Funny how your brain will drag you right through that literary quagmire like it wasn’t awful. Published awful. The author bagged that verb ing followed by action thing throughout the book. Nobody at (publisher) caught it. The critics who raved about the next big thing in formulaic detective fiction missed it. Fair enough – It was written in the Eighties by a successful gentleman who has written many follow ups. The book I read came from the Plano Public Library very cheap book sale. I probably paid a quarter for it. Maybe a dime. Regardless, I buy old and new detective pulp to learn things. How to, how not to. How things have changed.

Like – The author drags out fight scenes like bad TV. You know, till you want to put it down and go feed the dogs and hope it’s done when you get back. The Detective and the bad guy, both well drawn clichés by the way, dance and swing and kick and poke and jab while the Detective does one of those every detective and Perry Mason/Jessica Fletcher/Miss Marple et al bits laying out the case against the bad guy. For like four pages. While they spar. The speculation gets reworded three or four different ways. Okay, we get it already. You say it, he denies it. Rinse and repeat. Fight and talk and fight and talk and fight some more. Whew. After the good guy passes out almost dead and wakes up the nasty end of the bad guy gets narrated, sans anything but a “Well, you know. Gross.” Yeah. Four pages of fight and talk. Yep, he’s gone, call your girlfriend.

Certain old Western pulp writers would do that. Good guy rides into town, gets his ass almost beat to death whipping the town bully. But the whole spaghetti western thing, the quick cuts between the players in a Mexican standoff? Doesn’t drop on the page very well. Even with a lot of call and response dialog.

The point there was violence is boring. Repetitive dialog to wind up a nutcase is boring. Wind it up, blow it up, hit it and keep moving.

Back to that gross end. I mentioned to George F that I have never been able to smack a woman around in fiction or anywhere else. I can narrate it like news. She got beat up. I can describe how beat up. I can’t go beat her up. I had one of those “show don’t tell” a-hole dipstick “editors” push for that in a scene where I had a beat up woman on the floor of a bathroom. What sort of sick f*ck wants to read a blow by blow of how she got there? All that brings me back to the bad logic in –

“Switching off the lights, I trudged downstairs and walked to the door. (Character’s) (car) was gone.” Written after the first person private dick took a shot to the head. Maybe it got to the writer. That was facetious and unkind, and as I mentioned, that crap was all through the book. Why am I harping on this? It looks okay to you? Really? Read it. As written the light switches were along the staircase. Our brains took us to the parking lot, not the writing. Yes, readers are allowed to make logical leaps, but lines like that make your head spin for a fraction of second putting them together. Like Phonics, or horrible spelling. Okay, the verb ing and the comma, we can still derive the intent, but we have to slalom along in the author’s brain to get there.

“I switched off the lights, trudged down the atrium stairs, staggered my good shoulder into the door and pushed. It took most of the energy I had left to focus and scan the parking lot. (Character’s) (car) was gone.”

Logical. Continues the descriptive. I would have put more in, but I’d hate to get busted re-writing two pages of a guy’s book in four lines. As re-written, they are the separate acts, each following in order. Not, as written, a simultaneous Timothy Leary moment to be sorted. These are how I see action co-mingling verb ing modifiers –

“Laughing, Bob tied his shoes.” “Crying, she shoved the runny pecan pie down the disposal.” “Shaking with fear he grabbed the ripcord and prayed.” Hey, that was three-fer! Any points for that?

The ing descriptive is generally used to convey an act that is part of, or to modify, another act. Not for a logical progression of activity, or activities unless what is modified by ing follows or precedes LOGICAL intent. Now this ing –

“Trudging down the stairs, switching off the lights under the starving artist prints that lined the wall as I went, I still managed to find the lobby floor in the darkened atrium. The hard way.” Okay. Trudging and switching. But “Switching off the lights, I trudged down the stairs.” No. It makes my head hurt. It, and its many kin populated a published (many times) author’s work. Come on. If I were to run that past The Editor’s Blog or any number of other legitimate editing resources I’d get basted.

Do yourself a favor the next time you doubt your writing. Pick up a published book while you wait in line somewhere. If you think it sucks, as a writer good for you. When it’s time to move, remember to pick your jaw up before you switch off your brain and trudge on it. (See? Poorly written. What is being trudged upon, the jaw or the brain? It’s a never ending process.)

That was random. And now it’s over. Next week – why “standards” are not. Maybe.

A good resource for formulaic fiction is here

A good resource for well explained grammar rules is here –

My grammar rule follows Elmore Leonard’s advice. Grammar rules shouldn’t get in the way of a story. (Bad grammar, as we’ve seen, often does). And – If it reads like writing, re-write it.

Looney Lunes #135

CHINA MAY BE USING SEA TO HIDE ITS SUBMARINES

Headline in Southeast Asia (Thailand) Newspaper

Pretty Clever If You Ask Me…

Share Your Short Story – Winner for March — Who Me? Hell Yeah! From Stevie Turner’s Indie Author Site –

No. Really? Me? Yes. And thanks to Stevie Turner’s site, her competition, and just for reading my story. Liking it enough to win is icing. Thanks to all the other writers as well. Don’t want to bounce around the ‘net? The winner is HERE.

Wow, I’m getting quite a lot of interest in my monthly competition now, with the result that I’ve had a few more entries – 16 this month! Do take some time to read all the wonderful stories I’ve been sent. As usual it’s been hard to pick out a winner and runner up. This month […]

via Share Your Short Story – Winner for March — Stevie Turner, Indie Author.

Looney Lunes #133

A Thousand Word Picture (Really)

In Revising Prose rhetorician Richard Lanham called for “translating the Official Style into plain English.” Simplified it comes down to finding the epidemic of “catalog like monotony” of multiple prepositional phrases strung together without a direct verb. Glued together with the weakest verb we have, “is.” He asserts that it has become criminal to state a situation for what it is without a lot of flowery gobbledygook that goes nowhere. He repeatedly, from students to published peers, finds ways to insert an active verb into a string of “of” and turn 35 words into 11. “Noun centeredness…generates most of our present day prose sludge.” He wrote this in the 70s.

Why do I post this? I have been bombarded of late with mystics and gnomes and fairies and wise travelers from the stars and desert islands who all speak like a combination of the Old Testament and any B grade 1940’s pirate flick. Attacked by dialogue stiffer than an Oxford cloth shirt fresh from the cleaners. By stories full of travelogue scene setting while a character takes a walk and internalizes the last scene just to be sure we, as readers, got it. Tell and ‘splain with the rusty light pole at the corner of 47th and Crishaven and Tony’s deli where they don’t know my name. Full of “is” and “of” and a prayer stringing it all together like a redneck’s Christmas lights.

Rant over. The book, should any of you who write care, is Revising Prose by Richard Lanham. The man can “Break it dowwwwwn.” Word by useless word. Thus it’s essentially like just an awesomeness casserole of basically cool word whatevers for ye.