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Donations: A One Year Report

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David Barrett's Voluntary Payment Plan

Red Ferret

Pretty Much Amazing

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October 31, 2009

Jeeze, I forgot how good this was. Thanks, Glenn, for turning me on to this. There were more records by the Firesign Theater, but nothing compares to the opening of The Other Side of Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers. After listening to this, it's impossible to take Amerikan Kulture seriously, ever again. Warning!!! Do Not Listen!!!

October 29, 2009

In Egypt's sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desert knows:
"I am great OZYMANDIAS," saith the stone,
"The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
"The wonders of my hand." The City's gone,
Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
The site of this forgotten Babylon.
We wonder, and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro' the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
He meets some fragments huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.

-Horace Smith

moon groucho

"Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

October 28, 2009

I don't know why I didn't think of this sooner- Dave Crossley had given me a bunch of recordings he had made with Kenny Gross years ago. Kenny wrote a song about going to a Halloween party in a dress and ending up with the cutest girl there. It's pure Kenny, and although it's a little hard to pick out the lyrics sometimes, it's worth a try. JC plays lead guitar, and I'm finding out who's on drums here...

October 26, 2009

We read history, and we understand that civilizations rise and fall. The Romans, the Greeks. The Persians, the Egyptians. The Inca, the Mongols. All had their day, their era, their rule.

And every one of them passed away.

We think that we are immune. We believe in progress, in science, in rational thinking. We may think this will save us. It isn't hard to see that we might be wrong about this. I'm not predicting anything, or trying to be scary. It's just so obvious that these cycles occur, we'd be foolish not to think that they will continue to occur. So what?

moon X

I think we should give whoever (or whatever) comes after us a target to shoot for. I think we should X the Moon.

We put a big "X" up there, and no matter what happens here, in a million years, it will be there. No jihad, no Taliban could destroy it. Nuclear winter? No problem. Global warming? Let it rain. Nothing, but nothing will erase that nice, straight X. History will fade, memory dim, but what thinking creature here on earth could resist wondering about that X up there, yearning to know how it got there, trying to get there to find out?

If not an "X", what symbol would you put on the moon to haunt future mans' (or cockroachs') dreams?

October 25, 2009

insulator light

A bit like that guy in the movie, who feels compelled to pile up his mashed potatoes into a replica of the Devil's Tower, I felt compelled to put a light in this old insulator I found while clearing out my shed-like structure today. At first I thought it was a very trite and ordinary thing to do, but the thing is, if the light is in exactly the right place, it works nicely.

I've been geekily pursuing the quality of insulation lately. It starts with the telegraph- and specifically, the undersea cross-Atlantic cable of 1863. This was a cable that was 2,200 miles long. That's pretty long for a piece of wire. And basically, they dumped it off the back of a boat, without much choice about where it landed two miles down. That's pretty far underwater, don't you think? It's like, as deep as the Titanic.

So what? Well, you may have noticed that electrical stuff doesn't like getting wet. Just doesn't work so well, wet. And in the 1860's they didn't have plastic insulation. In fact, they made the first insulation-making machines out of modified pasta machines. And used sap from Indonesia called gutta-percha. But you don't care about that.

And the thing about this cable- you might think that it was pretty massive, right? Well, no, it was less than 1/2" thick. They had to coil up a few thousand miles of this into a boat you know.

Well, imagine if you will, a 2,200 mile long "cable", under salt water, with someone on the other end. How will you send them some sort of message? Maybe you could just give it a good strong jerk, maybe they'd notice... Turns out that they had Lord Kelvin, (the temperature guy, wot?), design the equipment to detect the very slight electrical currents that could manage to seep through that cable. I think it's amazing, but then, I am a geek...


chet hanger

This section of the studio has a shortage of flat surfaces. I made the wire hanger thing to hold headphones, but look- it holds a bottle of ale as well. Who knew?

The Band With No Name has become Summer Thieves. We report, you decide.

October 20, 2009

I have been remiss. Back in the early days I spent a lot of time making sure Steam Powered was getting listed on search engines and getting links from other sites- the usual web oriented promotional stuff. Since moving to this domain I haven't invested much time in it. It seemed like Google was doing just fine finding the place. But tonight I went to the Google site and ran some diagnostics. I discovered that I could be doing a lot better.

So I've been tidying up the old metas tonight. I'm making sure everyone is listed in the keywords section, I've improved the site description a bit, and I'll be working with the Google website optimizer to see what changes I can make to improve traffic. Right now we get between 60 and 80 real visitors a day (not counting robots), which is pretty fine! But there's no reason why we shouldn't be getting ten times as many, or 100 times as many. It's a big old world, and we've got some good music here...

Speaking of which, I'll be uploading songs by that Ralph Toro soon. A while back he came in here with a brown paper bag full of old cassette tapes, the only copies he had of the many recording projects he's done through the years. I transferred them to CD for him, and since then he's had them mastered and pressed. Well, in my opinion, Mr Toro was an honest contender back in the day. His band Zane Trace and the others he formed were tight and knew the meaning of rockin' out. Some might call these tunes dated, but I call them undiscovered gems. Nobody else sounded like this (Ralph has always been a little twisted).

Also a little twisted are the Band With No Name So Far. We're getting together twice a week, making good progress as they say. Tom has suggested a name for T.B.W.N.N.S.F. and I'm not sure if it's too soon to make it public or not. Maybe Sunday we'll go public, take a vote, something...

October 18, 2009

Freesound news... I uploaded a friends' recording of tree branches rubbing together to the Freesound site- in time for Halloween sampling, I hope. Bob did a great job with this, because he used a contact mic (I think he said a Barcus-Berry) normally used for acoustic instruments, thus eliminating wind noise. It's a big file, but here's a 19 second sample.

branches rubbing

Spooky, huh? While I was on the Freesound site I found that someone had used one of my contributions in their work. I had submitted some waves lapping onshore in Nigril last year, and Cirrus973 has worked them into the piece here titled Paranoic-Critical Esker. I'm not sure what language this is, but I do know that the internet is a wonderful thing.

October 17, 2009

Well, if you couldn't be there, Sam's memorial service was today. Here's audio...

Sam's memorial service

October 16, 2009

rail yard

This is one of a series- after a few years of taking a photo of this place every day, there's bound to be one that comes out OK.

October 15, 2009

mystery circuit

Sometime in the past we've run "mystery sound" contests here at the Studio. Today, it's a "mystery circuit" contest. Yeah, I know, it's like asking about some obscure Latin phrase or a level 42 Wizard's hit points, but give it a try- this one is really pretty easy to figure out. It was designed by one of the pioneers of radio in the middle of the so-called Golden Age, 1930.

Here's a hint- the "wafer adapter" connects to a mechanical device which breaks the circuit after a user-selected time period. It's a nice looking schematic diagram anyway- maybe Rich Stewart should put this one on a tee-shirt.

Well, submit your guesses in the comments section. Who designed it and what does it do? The winner (or winners) receive our accolades...

October 13, 2009

keeping time front

Here's a delightful new way to sponsor the Steam Powered Studio! Order the compact disk Keeping Time by Jeff Coleman for only $21.75 (plus shipping) and we'll include a year's sponsorship, absolutely free!

This lovely CD, completely similar to what you see in stores, will be hand-crafted by the robots at Kunaki dot com and shipped directly to your door. No waiting!

keeping time rear

Take a look at those great titles. Many of them have hardly ever been heard before... and if you can make it past track 5 you'll become a charter member of The Pioneers Club!

The CD alone is a great deal, but there's more! Order Keeping Time and you will also receive a year's access to all the other fantastic music we've been recording here at Steam Powered- a $20 value. As a sponsor you'll be entitled to download new music the instant it's available, as well as getting inside information about current and upcoming recording projects. Just take a look at our catalogue to hear samples of music from the exciting bands recording here!

You'll enjoy Keeping Time, and you'll feel good knowing that your sponsorship helps us continue making new music. We're Steam Powered, the world's first (and only) listener-supported recording studio. Operators are standing by- just click on the CD to order now!


I have added the Namaste CD, Colonial Pagoda, to the catalogue. We missed the ten year anniversary of its release- consider this a belated celebration. It wasn't recorded here at Steam Powered, but what the hell. Somebody's got to put this amazing CD online!

Check out the new featured song, Zigarettes, by Namaste.

October 11, 2009


The soup can? That's some sort of art, isn't it?

The gas flame? Actually, that's condensed sunlight that fell on the earth about 400 million years ago.

I don't think there were chickens 400 million years ago. Or noodles, for that matter.

Jeeze, this place is old...

October 10, 2009

Here's a crazy thought. Is music made that's only meant to be listened to one time?

Not "that's so bad, I'll never listen to it again," or "it's a live jam that can never happen exactly this way again," but music intentionally made so that it doesn't affect you the same way twice. Because the second time, you know.

I think I have heard music like this.

October 08, 2009



Sam died today. I still remember the first time I met him, I was very green and trying out for a club band. Well, I couldn't play the organ parts for anything those guys were doing, (AWB stuff, you know? I was so dumb!) but when I suggested that we jam on some blues, Sam was the guy whose eyes lit up and got everyone else to play along.

It was such a nice thing to do. Thanks, Sam.

Here's something else he did for me. He sang my song and made it really work. I wrote it with him in mind, and it only took about 10 minutes to write it because I could just picture him singing it. So it's really his song.

You Make Me.mp3  or  You Make Me.ogg


October 07, 2009

Mr Bobby

It wouldn't be Steam Powered if it didn't have Robert Bobby in it now and then. He stopped over last night to record a version of his Christmas song Four Inches and Dreaming and that went well. We recorded tracks for a "normal" version and for one with a slightly different arrangement that we're going to try.

Mr. Bobby's playing several gigs this month- be sure to check his website for those appearances. If you can't make one of those, here's a new featured song, Robert Bobby live with the Speedboys at the Pequea Inn.

October 05, 2009

I'm nearly done transferring this Vietnam-era reel-to-reel tape to digital now. It's a big collection of music and narrative and field recordings. The individual bits are interesting in themselves, but the way these came to be assembled on one tape is the (unknown) story I like best. There are four or five levels of recording and transfer and editing that can be heard, with one narrator describing the songs themselves, and another describing how he's putting that stuff together on the reel-to-reel copy. Then there are the spoken introductions to some of the songs by the singers and/or songwriters and there are those whose voices are never are heard on the tape but who were there at some point recording and copying and arranging the songs in order.

It's sort of like archaeology, diggin' in the dirt, sort of like finding that big trove of pre-human fossils that's been in the news lately. The news there is that the scientists are surprised to find that these ancients were less chimp-like than previously imagined. There's no telling if we're related to them in any way, but it is possible. Scientists are always looking for signs that might link these old ones to us modern humans, things like brain size and pelvic shape.

But is bone structure what really makes us human? It's not hard to figure it out, actually. We tell stories about how we became human all the time. Once upon a time there was a hero... I suspect that what really made us different from those other monkeys was that someone sacrificed themselves for the good of the others. It would have been very puzzling behavior, and in order to complete that picture, it requires at least two more things to be true. The hero would have needed to be able to conceive of the effect his or her actions would have for the group (in order for those actions to have meaning), and the group would have had to have been able to see that this action was not in the best interests of the hero.

Oh, and maybe the third necessary thing- we would have had to have some way of remembering this event, of telling it. Story time. Or a song, maybe. Or maybe a dramatic re-enactment, if we hadn't discovered speech or singing yet. However it was done, that puzzling act of self-sacrifice had to be turned into a story which could outlast the memories of the ones who witnessed it.

Surely there were a lot of false starts. Many times some element or another would have been missing. Maybe the group died out anyway, or maybe they forgot the story, or its meaning got lost along the way. But obviously, at some time the story stuck with us, became part of us. The story of the hero. All the meanings we attach and all the variety of the telling of that story came later.

October 03, 2009

Wait a minute. It seems as if there are battling musical anthems out there in the world. Naturally, in the USA, we know our own anthems the best- God Bless America, Jose Can You See, etc. But really, once upon a time people took this stuff seriously, and composed songs meant to arouse feelings of fraternity, liberty, justice, yadda, yadda...

I find it fascinating that I have zero knowledge of The Internationale, a song of worker unity. I mean, have you ever heard this before? It was considered to be something inflamatory, something which must be suppressed. Well, in the war of musical thema, sorry, you lose. The Star Spangled Banner (even though it started life as a drinking song, or maybe because of that) will kick your butt!

At one point, back a long time ago, the words to this song were set to the melody of La Marseillaise. Modern lovers will recognize this melody as being one of the high points in the movie Casablanca, when sung by the defiant Free French at Rick's Cafe American, non? (When that tune modulates into the minor section in the middle, I defy you hard-nosed American capitalists to keep from tearing up a little (before you order the destruction of another thousand acres of rain forest)).

The Internationale never seems to have made inroads into our national psyche. I wonder why? When Born in the USA, with all its anti-war, anti-capitalist meaning is only understood as a Rah! Rah! Go USA! sort of song, it's really no wonder, is it...

We are so far beyond this stuff now. Absolutely no one would be "moved" by the lyrics of a song these days, if it were so obvious as something like...

O Liberty, can man resign thee
Once having felt thy generous flame?
Can dungeons, bolts or bars confine thee
Or whips thy noble spirit tame? (repeat)
Too long the world has wept, bewailing
That falsehood's dagger tyrants wield,
But freedom is our sword and shield,
And all their arts are unavailing.
To arms, to arms, ye brave!...


To arms? Where's my credit card?

October 01, 2009

sacrifice screenshot

There's a nice pic, from the computer game Sacrifice. It's easier to take than the bloody images I had been considering for today's post, yet disturbing in a Dali sort of way. I'm tempted to try and find this game just to get a better look at those graphics.

But I woke up thinking about the Mayans, wondering how they could have sacrificed people the way they did. The still-beating heart aspect of the sacrifice seems to have been important. But the heart stops eventually...

I don't know, maybe it's about hollowness... one phrase comes to mind. How do we survive with all of these gods inside of us?

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Kenny Gross

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