Sirius Radio Review (a rant I'm afraid)

February 8, 2005

New York radio has never done it for me. In all my stints of living here I've listened to exactly one station, WFMU. And WFMU isn't even based here, it broadcasts out of Jersey City. LA had a couple of good stations, KCRW being the big gorilla of radio goodness. There were also several good college stations scattered about although I could only ever pick them up in the Valley.

Anyway, frustrated with local NY radio, in my general quest to make everything digital, and because of Jenn's desire to have music in the kitchen, I impulsively bought a Tivoli tabletop radio with Sirius satellite radio.

Spying the attractive Tivoli box, visiting friends instantly assume we are in radio nirvana, but it hasn't worked out that way.

First the satellite radio sound quality is poor--probably worse than normal radio. This is, I'm sure, a consequence of living in a city with lots of tall buildings, but even with a clear view of the sky... not so good. (normal radio on the Tivoli sounds great).

The second issue I have is the whole concept Sirius is built on, namely mainstream narrowcasting. There are 184 channels each one very specifically focused on a certain type of music. So for example, there are 6 jazz channels, each dedicated to a different type of jazz, but each is basically a "greatest hits" channel. None delves deep. And many of the DJs are just record spinners who just read label info and put on records almost at random. My idea of a jazz dj is some former beatnik who lives in a house whose foundation is crumbling from the weight of the records it bears, a guy who gets furious when you make a mistake identifying a session drummer on Bill Evans live show... a guy who wants to share what he knows because he loves and breaths the music.

Ditto for the punk DJ, ditto for the old time country DJ, etcetera. Wait. Sirius has no pure punk channel. Nor does it have a real classic country channel (it has something called the roadhouse prone to playing 70's crap. Where's my Tex Ritter, Hank Snow, and Jimmie Rodgers? How about some Collins kids.) How about playing music that music buffs actually get excited about?

Sirius has it all wrong. They are taking the same approach that Clear Channel used to destroy commercial radio, except they have more bandwidth available and are making each channel more specific. There is logic to this, but ultimately this strategy will always lose out to the ipod. The ipod is the ultimate narrowcast, it's only the music you already love, commercial free delivered whenever you want it.

How does satellite radio compete against this? By offering real DJs in the mode of the late John Peel. People who are fearless musical explorers with a taste for the unordinary. A good DJ brings you into his world, if he is happy, he plays happy songs, if he's sad he'll play an hour of music that will break your heart, if it's raining he might play a couple of rain songs. He doesn't stick to one genre or time period. He just plays the next song that needs to be played because it feels right. That's radio that excites and draws people in, not this mindless polite stuff they are now broadcasting from too many channels.

Sirius also has commercials (for Sirius!). The shame.

Circa 1975

February 7, 2005

Jenn's family. That's her with the red bow on the right. Funky pants. Her mom is holding her. She surrounded by aunts, cousins and her grandparents. Her dad is not pictured, I'm sure he was busy away at work.

Boing Boinged.

February 7, 2005

Hey a flickr photo of me taken by my wife just got BoingBoinged. To be fair they could care less about me... it was on a story about the Millenium Park sculpture... Anyway, here I am jumping like a fool in front of the sculpture:

BoingBoing

Too bad Boing Boing doesn't link flickr thumbnails properly so they can be clicked through.

The original photo appeared on this blog back in August.

Raul Gutierrez on Google

February 5, 2005

Have you ever done a google search on yourself? For many years I was the only Raul Gutierrez that came up on searches, but that was when the internet was young. My first page went up in 1996 and my first real site in 1998. I just recently took those off line. Back then, pre-google, I was the only raul gutierrez in town. These days there are almost 200,000 results for Raul Gutierrez. The name is common throughout the latin world so it's surprising there aren't more. In Los Angeles alone the phone book has a whole page of us. In Mexico most big cities have multiple pages. There is a famous Raul Gutierrez soccer player, a Raul Gutierrez Philipino rapper, and Raul Gutierrez wanted by the DEA (I know this last one from bad experiences at customs. They always ask me "Have you ever been to Guadalajara?")

So to the results:

1. This site... The google index is always a bit out of date, but it points here. Glad to see of the many thousands of us in the world I'm number one, at least for now.

2. The home page of Raul Gutierrez Fu Shi Kempo Knife Fighting Master. With his slick hair and steely glare this Raul Gutierrez saves the world time and time again in his direct-to-video movies. I have tracked down a few videos and will give a full review when they arrive. I have yet to determine whether this guy is Spanish or Portugese, but I would kill to be in his Galleria de Honor along with Elvis (apparently a karate fan), Hanshi the great, and Jose Bana Sanchez. No I don't recognize the last two either... but you know...Respect.

3. Raul Gutierrez Fu Shi Kempo Knife Fighting Master also commands the number 3 spot. This time on a Japanese site with Great Grandmaster Thomas Mitose. There is a lovely image of Raul with some of his many trophies. How do you think he got all those trophy's back home to Spain (or Portugal or wherever)?

From the site: " Practitioners of Kosho-Ryu Kenpo believe that if one gives respect to another than this respect would be returned. Alternatively, individuals who do not show respect for others will receive no respect."

4. The information page for Raul Gutierrez Sanchez, Spanish astronomer. Not much of a homepage, just some basic information, but it seems he studies brown dwarfs. What is a Brown Dwarf you ask? Happily the page gives an answer: "A Brown Dwarf is a quasi-stellar object unable to fuse hydrogen in a stable manner." I'm glad to see that some of us are smart (this is not to say that Raul Gutierrez Fu Shi Kempo Knife Fighting Master is not smart. Stay cool man. Stay cool.)

5. Ok. This one is my favorite. Masseur Raul Gutierrez of Walnut Creek California specializes in "Energetic Massage." He learned his vocation from the founder of the "Body Electric School of Massage" and his special vocation is to "touch men on erotic-spiritual paths." All this for only eighty bucks. Dude, you better hope Raul Gutierrez Fu Shi Kempo Knife Fighting Master doesn't find out about this. He might be very angry at you for sullying our good name... then again he might find your "polarity energy balancing techniques" relaxing and exhilarating.

6. This is a page for a Raul Gutierrez who died in Vietnam. No date of death, rank, or anything else. I might have to do a bit of research on this one.

7. Me again. A link to my photosets on flickr.

8. A painting by cheesy bird painter Raul Gutierrez. This man torments me. He's been on google for years and for a brief period googled higher than me. His banal paintings of ducks and swamps rarely fail to bore and yet he still commands around $8,500 per painting.

9. Me again. It's a link to a program I wrote several years ago. But I took those pages down and the link is dead now, just more internet detritus.

10. Raul Gutierrez, the Panamanian environmentalist. A bit of research dug up this picture.

So not too bad all in all. A diverse mix. My fellow Rauls I wish you well.

river of sleep

February 4, 2005

I was looking through some old journals this evening in an attempt to date photos I am scanning and ran into some pages I didn't remember writing.

Here's a bit that jumped out at me. It was written in a Tibetan guesthouse high on the plateau. The year was 1999:

4/30 - Last night I heard howling dogs, screaming hawks and a strange low moan that might have been human, but was not. From my high window, I could see the dark shadows of hawks circling overhead against a tremendous canopy of stars. In my dream I had seen lightning leaping across the sky. A bolt struck the moon and it fell, crashing with the sound of a falling chandelier. The broken pieces scattered in the soft earth flickering out with long angry hisses. My eyes adjust. Without the moon even more stars lit the sky, but they too began falling, one by one with whispered sighs until the world was inky black. A paralyzing fear overwhelmed me until, in this absolute night, swooped creatures bristling with electricity gliding out of reach on great gossamer wings. Looking, while comforting, hurt my eyes so I closed them and drifted quickly, silently away from this cold place and back into the warm river of sleep.

Minor mystery

February 3, 2005

Today I was surprised by a lady on a unicycle speeding down Atlantic Avenue and without thinking exclaimed, "holy mackerel". I don't think I've said that phrase since I was a kid... and then out of nowhere, there it was.

Occasionally I'll let out a "holy cow" or a "holy moly.""Holy smokes" isn't really my thing, but sometimes it will show up... much more occasionally, "holy frijole", but "holy mackerel" has been locked up for probably 30 years. What spurred it? Did I hear it somewhere,was it the fish shop I visited the other day, or is there something about fatherhood greasing the rusty wheels in my brain?

Why I hate renting...

February 1, 2005

We live in a nice old townhouse circa 1831. It has been renovated in the past, but never horribly. But the worst architetural crimes are often cumulative, small nicks and tucks that eventually leave a buiding without it's architectural integrity...

A few weeks ago we complained about the cold (it's downright drafty). Instead of turning up the heat a notch our landaldy decided to replace the windows as the current ones are uninsulated. It didn't seem like a horrible idea at the time....then the windows arrived. Instead of nice period-appropriate wooden casings she is installing horrible steel framed unpaned windows... I feel the building's pain. This will leave me grumpy for months.

Domokun Email Signature

February 1, 2005

I have been Domokun fan for years, but only recently have I begun to see the domo meme take hold here in the US.

Don't know Domo. Here's his homepage.

Here's a domo sig I created for your email (use a monospaced font to see it):


        __________ 
       /           
     _/  O      O   
    / )  ________  | 
   | (| |////| | 
     | |        | | 
       |        | | 
      | |////| | 
      |      
      |            | | 
      |            (_) 
      |     ||     | 
      (_____)(_____) 
Domo is powerful!

...

I've been a fan of audioscrobbler for a few years, but only recently has the Mac plug-in been polished enough everyday use. Lately I just leave it on all the time. Interesting to see what you actually listen to all graphed out. Right now the sample is too small so it doesn't really accurately reflect my tastes, but over time it should get more and more precise as more and more songs are added. Pretty cool if you love music. And even nicer when coupled with last.fm
This is my page for the curious:
http://www.audioscrobbler.com/user/themexican/

games

January 30, 2005

Snippets from life with a newborn:

Jenn: ok. I'm exhausted, you need to take him for a while.

me: Ok little bear, let's play a game.... How about 'my nose, your nose'?

My nose.
Your nose.
My nose.
Your nose

(nothing)

Ok. don't like that one today. How about 'up down'?
Up.
Down.
Up.
Down.

(nothing)

Don't like that one either. Ok lets play 'Ramones original lineup'?

Johnny Ramone
Joey Ramone
Dee Dee Ramone
Tommy Ramone

(Raul Andres lights up and actually laughs)

[repeat for the next half hour]
. . .

. . .
The snow is getting really dirty... I'm ready for another blizzard.

missing pieces

January 28, 2005

When I was in high school my little brother received a call from a man with a New York accent claiming to be our grandfather. "You're not my grandfather," my brother said and hung up.

The only grandfather we knew lived in Mexico, my dad's dad. My mother's father was dead. According to my mom he had been a bad guy and had left her family when she was a child. She never actually detailed how he had died, "I don't talk about him" she would say, but that's the impression she left. Only when asked questions directly would she parcel out small fragments of information. He was Irish. He was in the Navy. He had blue eyes. He left Queens for California. Eventually she would would change the subject.

His name was Francis Peter and to this day I've never seen a picture of him.

That afternoon in 1983 the man on the phone kept calling. It was a little bit scary so we took the phone off the hook. My mom returned home and answered a call. She shooed us out of the room and closed the door. About an hour later she emerged clearly shaken. It was indeed her father. He was dying and wanted to visit. It had taken him 3 years to track us down.

My mom called her lawyer, a big bear of a man with a gravely Texas twang to warn her father never to call again. He never did. About a year later we received word that he had died. He had been living in San Francisco...alone apparently; a park ranger. Before he died he had put together a large box of things he wanted to give my mom, it would arrive a few weeks later.

The box was a crate made of wood. Well made and heavy packed. Notable was the address, hand lettered in black paint with a sure hand. Big old fashioned looking cursive.

Within 30 minutes of it's arrival at our house , the box was on a truck headed towards the city dump. It was unopened. I didn't think throwing it out was right, but I knew that on this issue I would have no sway. My mom never mentioned the incident again.

Still, even today, half a life later, I wonder...

Thought Project

January 26, 2005

Are you someone who looks at people on the street and wonders what they were thinking? If so Simon Høgsberg's Thought Project is for you. He stopped people on the street in Denmark, took their photo, asked what they were thinking, and recorded the results.

And while you are thinking... you might as well check out Swapatorium, an excellent blog of found photographs and objects. Angelica has the most amazing eye... Her flickr pages are also worthy of exploration.

quick on the draw

January 26, 2005

I wrote a long post tonight about nothing in particular (it meandered from thoughts on our local Brooklyn Heights deli to some nonsense about an old dream), but managed to delete it with an over eager command-w (window close for you windows people).

In lieu of anything else, enclosed is another portrait of the baby this time with me. He's been smiling nonstop these days, except when the camera is pulled out. Then he puts on his serious face.

before...

January 23, 2005

On days like today there is usually a window of time when the snow is still falling and before the snowplows and shovelers arrive where the city is transformed becoming the domain of kids on sleds, happy dogs, and intrepid urban skiers. Snowball fights erupt with random people in the middle of the street (which is indistinguishable from the sidewalk), snowmen are built and destroyed with glee, and life seems uncomplicated. As Jenn would say, happy times, happy times.



. . .
In the meantime, on the Upper West Side, Aunt Becky was having her own happy times:

The blizzard of 2005 approaches

January 22, 2005

Today people all around the city were hysterical about "blizzard of 05" . "Stock up on food and batteries, there will be a run on the grocery stores;" they said, "the city will come to a standstill. The water mains will break. The power will go out. You never know what will happen."

About a foot of snow is expected starting tomorrow.

Nothing to sneeze at, but my friends in Buffalo will hear of this with a chuckle. The last time we visited there in winter cars were covered with snow and 7 foot snowbanks turned roads into deep white trenches. And when the snow came off of Lake Erie visibility went down to a few inches. A foot is no big deal. We prepared by grabbing a few extra logs for the fire and some milk.

A digression

Because of the speed with which this cold snap hit us, the deeper subway stations have been turned into chimneys as the hot air trapped deep underground rushes to the surface. Most of New York's subways are actually right under the streets, built 100 years ago with the then innovative, dig and cover technique, but the stations around the edges of the island dive down into the bedrock to pass under the rivers. You would think the deep subway tunnels would be cool, like caves, but the constant heat escaping from the trains keeps them perpetually warm, and hence the strong wind on cold days. Today it was so bad men were losing their hats and women had to hold their skirts and coats down. Children of course enjoyed the phenomenon.

I sat near at the front of the train next to the window peering into the tracks. I always like watching the plunge from Court Street Station down into the the elegant tunnel under the East River. The tunnel is officially called the Whitehall-Montague Street Tunnel and was completed in 1917 with great fanfare. The man who oversaw the project at a ceremony for marking the final blast to complete the tunnel noted "There have been 800,000 decompressions, with air pressures reaching as high as 37.5 pounds, yet there has been only one death due to compressed air sickness. Less than 200 cases of bends have been reported. Although on the average as many as 2100 men have been employed daily, but 22 men have been killed due to accidents during the whole period of the work. This is an indication of the precautions which you have taken for the protection and safety of your men, and it merits the highest commendation."

Coming up into Manhattan the tunnel rises and starts to branch and curve. All along the way the train is guided by a simple system of stoplights. Unlike modern subways operated by a central computer. New York subways are still driven individual conductors. When the light is green the driver goes forward. When yellow he slows down. When red he stops. There is little communication between trains and no central control of the whole system although a dispatcher can now talk to all trains. In the City the trains rise to the "just under the street level" and from there the cold outside is obvious. Thick clusters icicles hang down from grates above sometimes falling onto the passing train. Here there is little wind. It's just as cold as it is outside.

all feet

January 21, 2005

Jenn keeps making me crop her... I might have to disobey her orders soon.

good advice

January 20, 2005

I'm sleepy. It's the baby, it's too much work. It's the cold. And I haven't been getting my naps.

I subscribe to the English school of naps:

"You must sleep sometime between lunch and dinner, and no halfway measures. Take off your clothes and get into bed. That's what I always do. Don't think you will doing less work because you sleep during the day. That's a foolish notion held by people with no imaginations. You will be able to accomplish more. You get two days in one--well, at least one and a half." - Winston Churchill

Barkam

January 16, 2005

A photo from the archives. I don't know why, but I was thinking about this man the other day. He patiently led me around his village, through his apple orchards, and up for some tea.

Views

January 14, 2005

I was forwarded this image today (don't know the photographer, but it's dated this morning). The photo evoked that time in my life when I worked on the 54th floor of the Citicorp building. Many mornings up there New York looked like this...a city of of a few tower peeking out above the low clouds. We were closer to the Chrysler building so the view was even more spectacular. Sadly I never thought to snap a picture.

From the angle (facing east from midtown) I think this shot must have been taken from the Empire State Building about 3/4 of the way up.

. . .

And speaking of nice photography check out Eliot Shepard's online portfolio.

Venice

January 13, 2005

A year ago today we were in Venice. Venice in the summer with it's tourist hordes and expensive food is intolerable, but in the winter, the place feels a bit more manageable and well.... it's Venice.

These are two shots from 1/13/04. Gosh it seems light years away.


. . .
For now travel is just via the armchair... but soon.

Some inspiration.
. . .
Quotes generally don't do much for me, but this sentence by Katherine Anne Porter seemed worthy of repeat:

"I am always surprised by people who cannot understand range and change, variety and contradiction, tragic feeling, a saving dash of frivolity, and the deep sense of comedy, the salt of life that makes our daily bread bearable."

emails

January 12, 2005

I've recieved several emails from friends and family for more up to date baby pictures, so enclosed are 2 from about 4 hours ago.


I actually feel bad about not having taken more pictures, but the skies have been grey and the light dim which always leaves me photographically challenged. Also I think the digital camera makes me flabby. It's just too darned easy. Tomorrow I'm going to pull some real cameras.

dreams before words

January 10, 2005

My wife went out today to make a quick appearance at a good friend's birthday party leaving me alone with the baby for a bit. This might not seem like a big thing, but most new dads of breastfed kids will empathize because ultimately there is not much we can do if the kid wakes up hungry. A timer is set when the mom leaves... could be an hour, could be three hours, could five minutes. I found myself not wanting to move for fear of waking him so I watched him dream. He was in deep REM sleep and full of activity.

What do they dream about at this age? Sometimes the dreams are good with smiles and even the beginnings of a laugh, sometimes they seem to be very very bad with startles and pained yelps of panic. At this age they are generally in REM about 5-6 hours a day. In the womb it was 10 hours. Some people suggest the dreams are the babies way of forming connections, making sense of the day, and learning, but new studies suggest deep low wave sleep is more important for development and REM is just random firings of neurons that allow the brain circuitry time to recharge. Still,some part of me doesn't accept the scientific explanation and believes the his dreams take him far outside the confines of our small house to the places he visited while still in the womb in the manner of the blind experiencing the world in sounds and movements. Perhaps he's even inherited a few of our dreams. I know some of my own dreams do not always seem to be my own and would more likely belong to my grandfather or one of my many uncles. Sometimes it would make more sense if the logical world did not apply.

He of course did wake up hungry and inconsolable, but a few minutes later mom appeared and the sound of her voice alone calmed him.

. . . . . . .

Thinking about these things brought to mind this story.

Once when I when was in Rajasthan on a desert road between Jodhpur and Jaisalmer I came upon a group of children being prepared as fire eaters for a circus. It was twilight and the kids would stand by the road blowing fire from their mouths at the passing cars hoping for a few rupees. Over and over they would shoot out flames into the air projecting a circle of yellow light around them and onto the desert floor. While there were few cars on this deserted road , almost all who passed threw out some small token. Occasionally a truck would stop, the driver would negotiate a price, and the kids would gather round with their limca soda bottles full of gasoline for a show. An older boy collected the money and gave it to their boss, a Fagin-like character named Hrishikesh. The younger boys would compete for the longest brightest flame. One played a flute. The scene was terrible and beautiful and it comes back to me in my own dreams sometime--the darkness of the desert, the indigo sky, the boys many irreparably dulled by the constant breathing of gas and kerosene with their burned mouths and odd laughter, and of course the flames lighting the dark. I wanted to leave that place quickly, but Hrishikesh invited me to tea and some part of me was fascinated. We sat outside his hut in front of a burning oil drum and talked of many things. I asked him about his dreams meaning what did he dream of doing, but he took my question literally. "I have only one dream. All my life one dream. I dream of ice and a world without fire." After the tea I excused myself feeling I was about to be robbed, he protested but let me hitch a ride to Shaitrawa with a trucker. Before I left he looked me in the eyes and said, "You will not forget this amazing thing" he said, "You will dream this night."

attic lair

January 8, 2005

Today I had 2 email requests for a picture of my home office (actually one was a geek asking for a "shot of my computer rig"). I don't know what these people are imagining, but it's a rather dreary attic space, stuffed with books and computer equipment, in a 160 year old brownstone. I'm a Mac guy and run things off of a G5, a G4 and an iBook. I've been trying to organize the place since we moved in back in September but life being what it is, I'm sure I won't be done until it is time to move.

Day of Kings

January 6, 2005

Today was my birthday. While I enjoy celebrating other people's birthdays my own have never had much meaning for me. I have never quite understood all the anticipation and fuss (Nor do I understand people who get gloomy talking darkly being another step closer to the grave--Hey buddy, you are one step closer every day, why single out your birthday). Perhaps it's simply timing. Falling twelve days after Christmas and only 6 days after New Years, I tire of being jolly. The weather is often miserable. People are out of town. So my birthdays tend to pass quietly or at least they have since my big roller skating party in the 7th grade.

My 20th was spent in the library (someone had actually planned a surprise party but couldn't find me). My 25th was spent locked out of the house with a vomiting dog. The only reminder of my 30th was a card from my dentist who sent me a limerick incorporating a birthday message with notice of an upcoming appointment. "There was once a man named Raul..."

These days people have reminders in email and calendar programs so you get those automated electronic postcards. I got 6 today. One with a dancing pig.

My wife will have none of my indifference. Year by year she's been wearing me down with carefully selected gifts, nice meals and general thoughtfulness. So while I still don't completely understand why birthdays should be such a big deal, and I make mistakes (like blowing out my candles on the first 2 bars of the song and accidentally opening my gifts early), I've come to enjoy the day and even sort of look forward to it.

--
This is us, a bit out of focus, on my birthday last year.

Those yellow wristbands

January 5, 2005

I know Lance Armstrong has raised lots of money for cancer with his wristbands, but why is it that everyone who wears one is kind of a jackass?

one month and growing fast

January 5, 2005

Our boy is now 12 pounds 10 ounces. That's exactly 2 pounds in one month. So he's growing rapidly. He's also developing a a bit of a personality. Some changes have been gradual such as his demands to be fed expressed with ever more expressive and finely tuned emotion (and lung capacity). Some changes take place overnight. Yesterday he woke up and you could almost hear the synapses crackling as he started smiling for the first time in response to our smiles. It was as if he couldn't stop himself. The sight of him smiling made us chuckle which made him smile all the more... Of course the energy he expended in the effort left him exhausted and he was positively narcoleptic the rest of the day. I would have taken a picture but I was too busy enjoying the show.

Brooklyn Bridge

January 4, 2005

My grandfather (on the left) on the Brooklyn Bridge with friends (circa 1929), and me on the bridge with friends (circa 1989 I think, also on the left). Next time I have to do a better job of recreating the original.


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