Home Studio Update: The hardware is in

(The links in this article go to product pages on Musician’s Friend, my preferred source for all my music gear. Musician’s Friend doesn’t have an affiliate program, so I don’t make a commission if you buy from my links.)

Me at my new microphone as if laying down a vocal trackWith today’s delivery of my mic stand and accessories, my home studio hardware is in and ready for recording vocals and guitar parts. My next task: To get the software tweaked so everything plays well with others. Then I can start laying down tracks.

My audio interface is the Focusrite Scarlett Solo Studio (3rd Gen) with the Scarlett Solo interface, the CM25 MkIII condenser microphone, and a pair of HP60MkIII headphones. The mic stand is a fixed boom stand from Musician’s Gear, as is the pop filter, and the shockmount is a Sabra SSM-1 Universal Shockmount.

The Right sure does hate us trans folks

(Content Warning: US federal politics are discussed in this article.)

I try not to post political articles here as a rule. But this evening I got an email from Erin in the Morning Substack that makes me break that rule. The so-called “Freedom Caucus” is threatening to shut down the federal government unless several anti-trans policies are included in legislation to keep the government open.

If the “Freedom Caucus” has a coat of arms it probably includes the phrase “Libertas mihi sed non tibi.” That’s Latin for “Freedom for me but not for thee.” They want to take us back to the days when the people who made the rules were all (supposedly) white folks who didn’t take any crap from anyone who wasn’t in total agreement with them.

Last week, I mentioned that I was finally getting the gear I need to make demos of some of my songs. I’m getting my recording system set up after getting my audio interface yesterday. My song Somewhere Someone Cares will be the first song to get recorded, and I’m also working on recording another song. I wrote a song years ago that got put on the side after I fell out of love with the lyrics. But the music for the song wouldn’t get out of my head, so I need to write some new lyrics for it. I have the chorus already, and this latest move from the ultra-religious right is making me want to get the song finished and out in the world. I think you’ll see what I mean from the lyrics.

The Right is trying to chase us away
The Gays and Lezzies, the Transes and Enbies
They’re saying that we don’t belong
But what they don’t know is we’ve been here forever
They say that we are grooming their kids
But they confuse us with some politicians and church folks
No matter what they do or say
The queers are here to stay.

While Somewhere Someone Cares is a nice blues/progressive rock song, this one is a flat-out rocker. I think it could do nicely as an anthem for the LGBTQ+ community.

If you want your elected officials to stand up for the trans and queer folk against the “Freedom Caucus,” please contact them and let them know. Don’t assume someone else will do it, because they may assume you will.

Read Erin Reed’s Republicans Issue New Government Shutdown Threat Over Trans People on Erin in the Morning.

Holy fuque

The court case I’m on the jury for got a continuance to next week, and tonight I could work on my music again in preparation for trying to lay down some demos. My first demo is going to be of my song Somewhere Someone Cares, which featured prominently in my short story He’s With the Band, but I had never managed to work out the chord progression for the chorus or the bridge.

I was a piano player when I first wrote the song, but it really needs a band to play it, especially since the main theme works better on guitars than on a piano. I’ve never had a band of my own, so the song has never been performed. Since it’s never been performed, I’ve never worked out the chords for the whole song. The verse chords are pretty much locked down, although may I need to change one of the B-section chords. I had an idea of what the chords would be for the chorus, but they never felt quite right.

Tonight I pulled out my guitar and folding keyboard and worked out what the chords should be for the chorus. Having all the chords written out, I ran through the solo section and got to work on the bridge. Amazingly enough, the bridge looks like it’s just two chords repeated.  I looked at changing the chords for the second line of the bridge, but it ended up just trying to be more complex than it really needs to be. Of course, being a good proggish song, the key changes a bit. Am for the A-section of the verse, Dm for the B-section, straight A major for the chorus, and Dm for the bridge. I guess my love for progressive rock came out a bit for this song.

Now all I need to do is get my computer ready to lay down some tracks and learn how to play it well enough to record them. And, Goddess help me, I need to work on the vocals as I come up with a way to lay them down. I haven’t done any proper singing in over 20 years. Yipes!

And I still need to work on the other song I want to make a demo for. That tune needs a ton of prep work, especially since it may be a hard rock song with a Hammond B3-ish track and some synth tracks to try and pass for a good R&B horn section. Why on earth can I not write simple songs that are easy to do demos of? (laughter)

If you want to get updates on the songs and be able to find out where to hear them, watch this space. I hope to have a demo of Somewhere Someone Cares finished by the time Ncuti Gatwa’s first full season of Doctor Who drops in May.

Happy Old Year!

I meant to write a post for the end of 2023, but I didn’t get it finished to share it before the year ended. I have jury duty, and I finally got picked for a trial, so my time for doing things online is a lot leaner than it usually is. Still, I wanted to share a few things before we got too far into January 2024.

Sportsball

I’m still kind of amazed at the fact that my Bois en Bleu, the Los Angeles Dodgers, not only signed Shohei Ohtani but they also won the Yoshinobu Yamamoto lottery. They also got Tyler Glasnow and Manuel Margot, and Mookie Betts will be the regular second baseman in 2024. Unfortunately, between the new signings and the expected return of Gavin Lux, who spent 2023 on the IL recovering from a torn ACL, it looks like Kiké Hernádez won’t be back in Dodger Blue in 2024. Hopefully, his improved performance back in LA will help him get the contract he deserves.

The next cause of worry is super utility player Chris Taylor. If Miguel Rojas is the everyday starter at short and Teoscar Hernández is the everyday left fielder, CT3 could have to go back to riding the pine most of the season. Chris is always to contribute wherever he’s needed, but I’m disappointed that he’s back to being a backup instead of a starter.

And we still have to see what Clayton Kershaw is going to do. He isn’t as dominant as he used to be, and he’s been spending more time on the IL with each season. I hope he gives one more season to LA and doesn’t retire or, even worse, finish out his career in Texas. It’s rare to have a player spend their entire career with a single team, but seeing Kersh in another uniform would look even more weird than seeing Cody Bellinger in a Cubs uniform.

My Die-With-a-T

In the spring, I got referred to a new doctor who put me on the Mediterranean Diet. I quickly remembered a Garfield comic strip from the 70s where he called a diet “a die-wih-a-t.” I told my doctor that the things I would need to get at the grocery store for the diet are pretty expensive for someone on disability, and I was right. While I did pretty well on it for the first few months, but my budget got stretched so thin that it was hard to get the good food I should be eating all month. Grocery prices may still be going down, but it’s still hard to make sure I have decent food to eat all month, and I’ve noticed myself getting less nutritious food to complete menus for any given month. The fact that I’m still a fiend for good fried chicken doesn’t help.

Social Media

I thought I had found a great social media platform to use after Elon Musk bought (and trashed) the bird platform. After the attacks of 7 October, I discovered that my support of the civilians living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank wasn’t very welcome there. I refuse to use any platform owned by Meta due to all the hate and BS, so I’m basically off of social media. It’s good though, because it freed up some time in my days for other things.

Second Life

I still need to reopen my virtual t-shirt store in Second Life, and I’m moving my real-life merchandise back to Spreadshirt this year. If you want to keep up with the happenings with my merch, you can keep an eye on things on the Nanci’s Naughties website. When I get my Spreadshop set back up, I’ll announce it there. With the war in the Gaza Strip expected to continue for several months, I’m considering adding the virtual posters I made to support the Palestinians to my real-world store. I really should have done that a few months ago, and I don’t want it to seem like I’m trying to make money off the Palestinians’ suffering. I simply want to give people a way to show their support for people who are routinely treated like they’re poop that needs to be scraped off a person’s shoe.

As I wrote in May, I am the proud owner of a virtual bowling center in Second Life, the Pride Lanes Bowling Center. It’s not a very busy place, and I need to look at giving more folks reasons to visit. I tried using a machine to give out free Linden dollars (the currency in Second Life) to get people to go to the bowling center, but they only stayed around long enough to get paid. If you like to bowl in real life and you’re in Second Life, I hope you’ll head over to Pride Lanes and see how much fun bowling in Second Life can be You don’t even need to worry about renting bowling shoes, and I’ve even bowled in high heels without twisting an ankle or falling on my arse.

Kitties!

I’ve loved cats my whole life, but my budget is usually so tight that Abe Lincoln has gotten laryngitis from screaming so much. As a result, I haven’t felt I could be a good primary human to a feline. Earlier this year, my upstairs neighbor catsit for someone in the hospital, and Mr. Jack came down often to spend time in my half of the house. When Jack went back to his primary human, my neighbor realized he really liked cats after always preferring dogs. One of my neighbor’s friends heard there was a pair of abandoned kittens in New York, and the kitties moved in upstairs. It was a brother and sister, Tommy and Babe, but Tommy got too aggressive, so he had to go to a new home. It worked out better because Tommy thrives in his new home, and is loved by everyone in his new building.

I’ve become Babe’s “aunt,” and she’s gotten the run of the entire place. She comes down several times daily to see what’s happening downstairs, and I spoil her with treats and toys from time to time. Her primary human doesn’t have a climbing toy upstairs, so I built her a cat condo from cardboard boxes. She now has several places to get a nap, and she loves having a maze and a higher place to sit.

I’ve started posting some videos of Babe to my YouTube channel, and I have a video of her getting introduced to snow that I need to get online. Many felines like the snow, but Babe isn’t one of them. I was surprised at how fast she turned around when she got off the porch.

Music

As I said in May, I started working on a pair of songs I had written years ago. Life got in the way, and neither song has a demo recorded. I finally worked on the second song again last month, and the chord progression for the song’s intro reminds me of the solo section of Del Shannon’s Runaway. The melodies are very different, but the underlying chord progressions are similar. I hope I can share it before it’s time to celebrate Pride Month.

My computer

Last month, I did something terrible to my computer and had to do a clean install of SolydK Linux. I’m not saying what I did because I’m not sure what I did, but I was losing available disk space at a prodigious speed. Having to do a clean install of my daily work computer wasn’t a great thing to have to do, especially since I had to get into Second Life every day to get goodies from advent calendars.

I finally reinstalled some software to record demos of my music, but I still need to get fully set up for recording. The plan is to write an article on what I installed once I have something musical to share with it. I still need to get some gear to make proper recordings, but with my tight budget, I plan on seeing what my current setup can do. I’m going to see if I can use my Fender Mustang Micro headphone amp and my phone to record some guitar tracks. I miss making music, both from the creative and production sides. I was a recording engineer when I lived in New Orleans, but it was hard to get a job at a studio with all the students in Boston when I moved up here in 1989.

What does 2024 have in store?

I hope I can be even more productive in 2023 than I was in 2023. Once the trial I’m on the jury for finishes, I’ll be able to create a decent working routine. I hope to give you more reasons to visit My Two Lives in the coming year. There is a whole heap of question marks ahead of us between the US elections, the war in Palestine, and life’s seeming predisposition to throw more on our plates than we thought we could handle. Remember, you’re better than you think you are. You’re worth more than you think you are. You’re more loved and appreciated than you probably know. The more the haters want to put you down, the higher the possibility that they’re trying to keep you from knowing the full value of your being on this planet.

This feels nicely familiar

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I’ve been enjoying Joe Jackson’s The Duke, an album of music written by the great Duke Ellington, since 2015 or so. I was listening to it recently and decided I wanted to learn the guitar part for the song Sharon Jones sang, “I Ain’t Got Nothin’ But The Blues / Do Nothin’ ‘Til You Hear From Me.” The guitar part is simple enough that once I figure out what’s being played, it should be easy to get under my fingers. But first, I have to work out what “Captain” Kirk Douglas played.

My music work area

My desk set up for working on music. Description abut what is in the picture is in the main text of the articleSince I’ve been playing the piano off and on for well over half of my life and I’ve only been a guitar player for a few years, it’s easier to work out the music on a keyboard. That means setting up my musical workspace, and since I was doing that I figured I’d get a picture. Please pardon the mess around my desk. The song is loaded into VLC on my laptop with my Artek Bluetooth keyboard and staff paper ready for action. My Carry-On 49-Key Folding Piano & MIDI Controller is ready to plunk out notes, and both Clara the Strat and my Type 10 TARDIS (my amp) are close by.

Why so familiar?

I say it feels familiar because it takes me back to the days when I would spend hours writing new songs or classical compositions. When I was a singer/songwriter I’d have a legal pad at the piano so I could write chord progressions for lyrics I’d written, and when I was studying classical composition I kept a pad of staff paper close by to notate what I was composing. That was years ago, and it feels like another lifetime.

I have a nice mug of Tazo Zen tea and a plate of cookies for while I work. Before anyone fusses at my eating cookies while on the Mediterranean diet, they’re sugar-free cookies from The Swiss Colony. As you can see, I only took three cookies, which the tin says is one serving. Of course, as my family likes to say, they definitely taste like more.

Get working, you!

I need to get to work, but I wanted to share a picture of my musical workspace. The picture serving as my laptop’s wallpaper is the Palestinian (Not Hamas) Lives Matter flag I made for Second Life. You can see the three signs I made in the Nanci’s Naughties store on the Second Life Marketplace. And before anyone bitches that it’s anti-Semitic, it isn’t. If Black Lives Matter, so should the lives of Palestinian civilians.

I have pretty being busy lately

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JM Hardin in May, 2023I haven’t posted anything here in quite a while, but that hasn’t meant I haven’t been doing anything. After getting new web hosting from Namecheap, I moved My Two Lives to a different product within the Namecheap family. The new product allows hosting for not only My Two Lives but also my Second Life store, Nanci’s Naughties, and due to having way too much on my plate, I just got Nanci’s Naughties back up this week.

Sports!

Some people know of my love for tenpin bowling, but I haven’t visited a bowling center since I was in Guam with the Air Force in 1987. Being on a fixed income makes visiting a bowling center in Boston difficult financially, so in March I decided to see what options are available for virtual bowling in Second Life. I found the Bergson Bowling System, which does more than let me bowl inworld. It also lets people lay out lanes for their own use.

Pride Lanes Bowling Center logoRather than just setting up a lane for myself, I created a bowling center anyone could use. It’s the Pride Lanes Bowling Center, and you can find out more about it at PrideLanesSL.online. Pride Lanes has a tent at this year’s Second Pride, and I’m working on some merch that will connect Nanci’s Naughties, Pride Lanes, Second Pride, and global LGBTQ+ life. Once it’s available I’ll announce it over on the Nanci’s Naughties website.

I’m making music again

Clara, my Squire StratocasterWhen I bought my Squire Stratocaster back in 2020, I knew I wanted to work on an original song I got the idea for in a practice room at the Longy School of Music back in 1996. It started as a cool riff with a soul gospel feel, and it became a whole bluesy song in late 1999, but it’s more of a guitar song than a keyboard song, so it just got tucked away in my proverbial drawer. When I got my Strat, I knew I wanted to develop the song, and last year I started working on a demo for the song. The demo still isn’t finished because I never get enough time for playing my guitar, but now that I’m getting things off my plate I hope to get back to working on that soon.

Early this year I was thinking of a Christian rock song I wrote in the early naughts. As an ex-vangelical I won’t use the lyrics anymore, but I love the music I came up with for it, so I’m going to put together a demo on BandLab. I’ll publish the song on BandLab for someone to write new lyrics for and use. Of course, there’s not enough time in the day to do everything, and my brain can play the guitar a hell of a lot better than my fingers can, so it’s another song that’s going to be a work in progress for a while.

Et cetera

There are many things going on in my life that I won’t talk about here, and with warmer weather arriving in Boston I hope to spend more time outside this summer, even if it’s just out on my porch. Yes, I’m a big old homebody, so I tend to stick around Château Hardin unless I have to make groceries, run an errand or five, or go the medico folks. But that works pretty well for me since I’m also a huge night owl, and I’m usually going to bed when the morning news folks are getting up. There are also days when I’ve kicked myself because the sun is going down as I’m going to bed, but the only problem there is that by the time I get up I’ve missed most of the daytime.

I’m going to leave you with a meme posted by someone last year on a social media platform I used to use. It’s something I need to remind myself of every now and then, and I’m not the only one who needs it.

Life is too short to worry about what others think about you. So have fun and give them something to talk about.