December 28-29, 2014

M got this cold first, and it has hit her much harder than it has hit me. I credit my obsessive zinc usage from the moment she got sick, but it could just be that my stress levels are a lot lower now than they were 3-4 months ago.

Or maybe the worst is yet to come for me.

In any case, what was already going to be an uneventful holiday period has turned into a gruellingly uneventful slog through endless days filled with moving as little as possible, interrupted only by brief forays out to get food.

Reminder: Mami Nora makes some incredible chicken.

And the chicken soup from the Whole Foods hot bar is more than adequate when you’re sick and probably can’t taste anything correctly anyway.

The other night we watched Frank. I enjoyed it, up to a point – I wanted more Frank, more weird music, and less of the bland protagonist & his bland blandness. After we finished watching it, we looked up the music of the real Frank Sidebottom. Weird dude, but I liked the music from the film better.

I’m actually getting huge amounts of coding done. This is my first major project in node.js, and I have to say I’m enjoying it quite a bit. Some of that has to do with the fact that I’m comfortable in Javascript – its flexibility and ramshackleness remind me of Perl, a language I’m hugely fond of. Although if I wanted to do more formalized & proper OO coding in Javascript, I could do that too, which is another reason I love it.

And some of it has to do with the fact that NPM is so painless, and the Node community has just exploded with useful packages.

Anyway. I’ve been pushing Javascript & Node on students for 3 years now, after having really only just played around with it on small projects. Relieved to see I wasn’t crazy.

December 28-29, 2014

25 Albums from 2014*

I’m going back to alphabetical order this year. There’s so much genre spread here that I don’t really feel like trying to figure out whether I like insane satanic death metal more or less than Beyonce.

Behemoth – The Satanist

I hadn’t ever listened to Behemoth before this album; there are now some reissues of their earlier material out on Metal Blade, if you’re interested. Grayson Currin gave The Satanist an 8.2 in February, but I didn’t actually hear it until November. It’s phenomenal, and it epitomizes everything I’m loving in metal right now – thoroughly raspy Satanic vocals, pulsating speed, and the occasional oldschool guitar-solo flourish.

Beyonce – Beyonce

Sure, this technically came out in December of 2013, but I didn’t hear it until 2014, and based on the press coverage and general popular attention, I think that’s true of most people as well. Given the coverage since then, I don’t think I need to say much here, other than that it’s still amazing, a year later.

Blursome – Heavy Resting

2014 was the year that local indie/weirdo electronic acts multiplied like crazy. We had debuts from Doom Asylum and Faster Detail, and a great leap forward for VVAQRT, all on Hot Releases, and new music from Zeke Graves’s long-running Datahata project, on Grovl. My favorite of the bunch, though, was this debut EP from Raleigh’s Blursome. Spooky nighttime nervous ambient unease music:


Body Games – “Perfume”

Still waiting for Dax to release more than one song a year. But when the songs are this good, I can’t really complain too hard.

D’Angelo – Black Messiah

Is this a brilliant album? Sort of. Is it as good as Voodoo was? Not exactly – but I don’t think it’s trying to be what Voodoo was. It sounds so skittish and erratic and overthought (it took 14 years to make, so yeah). I find it fascinating & really enjoyable to listen to, but more as a document of a particular Sly/Prince style obsessive aesthetic, rather than beautiful music to sink into & simply enjoy.

Demon Eye – Leave the Light

Straight-up no-pretensions old-fashioned heavy Sabbathy blooz-metal out of Raleigh. These guys are so clearly having a great time, and guitarist Erik Sugg seems to be a bottomless well of perfect riffs.

Leave The Light by Demon Eye

Ex Hex – Rips

I was kind of nervous about this album before I heard it, because I’ve seen Ex Hex a few times now, and they’ve never really clicked for me. I’ve really wanted to love them, but so far onstage they’ve just seemed a little too thin-sounding, or something. I’m always wishing for a second guitarist.

There is no such problem with this album. It’s tight and fast and stripped-down and riff-laden and lacks absolutely nothing. What a great pop guitar album.

Stream it here.

Horseback – Piedmont Apocrypha

I’m an unabashed Horseback fan, but I’ll also freely admit that I “appreciate” some Horseback more than I outright enjoy it.

This one, though, is pure crystalline enjoyment from start to finish. It distills the breadth of the Horseback project into a handful of songs, while continuing to push things further & further away from any sort of “metal” center.

Piedmont Apocrypha by Horseback

Last Year’s Men – Underwhelmed

It has been a few years since Last Year’s Men made their splashy debut, back when drummer Ian Rose was still in high school. They played garage rock, sure, but there was a ‘50s purity and a not-so-hidden undercurrent of country about it, which was even more surreal given that the average age of the band was around 19.

This new album further hones & clarifies those tendencies, and it equals or exceeds their first album in every way. It’s something of a mystery that nobody was leaping to release this thing (and that nobody has yet stepped up to do a physical release of it since its digital-only release in September). Not too late!

Underwhelmed by Last Year’s Men

Lord Mantis – Death Mask

I listened to a lot of metal this year, but most of it didn’t hook me. I was at least moderately disappointed by several albums I had been eagerly awaiting, and maybe that threw my general expectations off. Or maybe it was just ear fatigue.

Whatever the reason, the only metal that I really got into was mostly from the “hellish ritual soundtracks” camp, and this album is pretty much Exhibit A.

Death Mask by LORD MANTIS

Lud – Defenestration Boulevard

Lud are my favorite North Carolina band, and this album is as good as anything they have ever done. These are everyday middle-aged people with day-jobs, making extraordinary heartfelt music about stuff that really matters, like the importance of actually giving a shit about our fellow human beings. Never mawkish or easily sentimental; rather, Kirk Ross brings his reporter’s eyes & ears to bear on the world around him, and just tells it like it is. If this list were in numeric order, this album would be at the top of it.

Mannequin Pussy – Gypsy Pervert

This band came through town, and I was compiling show listings the week before the show, I was curious enough about them to check them out on Bandcamp. I don’t recall the specifics, but knowing me, I probably downloaded the record, barely listened to it, missed the show, and then realized later what an idiot I had been.

I mean, I know I missed the show, and I know I’m an idiot. This is a great record.


Museum Mouth – Alex I Am Nothing

These guys are from Southport, NC, but they play around the Triangle a LOT. It took me way too long to actually get around to hearing them or seeing them – they are a frenzy of nervous energy & this album is the best pop-punk unrequited love album ever.

Alex I Am Nothing by Museum Mouth

No Love – Tape #2

Raleigh Hardcore is pretty dude-heavy and pretty serious nowadays, but No Love are neither, and that makes them The Best.

Tape #2 by No Love

See Gulls – “Don’t Write Me Love Songs”

The undeniable runaway smash hit of Hopscotch 2014. I really thought we’d have the full album by now, but it’s gonna be spring before it arrives, apparently. I’m perfectly capable of listening to nothing but this on repeat until then:

Don’t Write Me Love Songs by See Gulls

Soft Pink Truth – Why Do the Heathen Rage?

There are a handful of metal albums on this list, but none of them gave me as much pleasure as this queer electronic re-imagining of black metal classics by Matmos’s Drew Daniel. So profane & so beautiful.

Solar Halos – Solar Halos

The thing I love about Solar Halos is that they sound exactly like what the combination of Nora Rogers, Eddie Sanchez and John Crouch ought to sound like. You can hear the layers of their other bands (Curtains of Night, Fin Fang Foom, Caltrop), and you realize that they were always meant to be layered in exactly this way. Intensely heavy, but always moving ever upward.

Solar Halos by Solar Halos

Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso

Who knew? Well, near as I could tell, Nick and Amelia knew, and they were just waiting for the rest of the world to catch up. All of the local bands on this list deserve the kind of attention this album got, but few of them have worked as hard or in as focused a manner to make it happen.


It has been fun watching T0W3RS evolve, from a huge sprawling band getting over on vibe and energy, to a recording outfit that was still figuring out, over the course of a couple of EPs, what worked & what didn’t work. And then to Derek, himself, sans band, hunkered down & inventing this stunner of an album more or less on his own.


Teitanblood – Death

Straight fukkin insane blackened death from Spain. It’s just an endless pummelling onslaught. I particularly love the vintage Hanneman/King style guitar solos that come spurting up periodically from within the maelstrom.

The Tender Fruit – The Darkness Comes

It took Christy Smith four years to record & release this, her second album. She told me that, much like some other folks I know, she learned that she’s a better & more prolific writer when she’s going through some hard times. Hard times are inevitable, but I’m not one to wish them on anyone, so I’m fine with listening to this gorgeous album for the next howevermany years it takes for the next one to happen.

The Darkness Comes by The Tender Fruit

The Tills – Howlin’

The garage-rock “revival” is endless and bottomless and meaningless, pretty much, but I know a great song when I hear one, and this EP is loaded with them.

Howlin’ by The Tills

White Lung – Deep Fantasy

I got pissed at these folks at Hopscotch because there were a half-dozen asshole mosh-pit crowd-surfing fist-swinging dudes at their show, and the band didn’t do or say anything to try to stop it. I kind of expect more from punk bands with women in them. Didn’t keep me from enjoying the hell out of this album, though.

Wye Oak – Shriek

Wye Oak put on one of the two or three best sets at this summer’s Merge 25 anniversary celebration, and it was due in large part to how much fun Jenn Wasner was clearly having playing bass & keyboards, instead of guitar, on the songs from this album. She looked ecstatic, and it came through in the music as well. Comes through on the album, too. This is next-level stuff.

Yob – Clearing the Path to Ascend

I had listened to plenty of Yob before, but they never quite clicked for me until this amazing, sprawling, epic album. So heavy, so gorgeous, so sad & yet so optimistic. It fills me with hope in a way that nothing else on this list can do.

25 Albums from 2014*

WXDU’s Top 65 NC Releases of 2014

Based on airplay by all of our DJs during the 2-month period each album was on playlist. I’m pretty sure I’ve never had the same band back-to-back in the top 5 before.

1 – John Howie Jr & the Rosewood Bluff – Everything Except Goodbye
2 – T0W3RS – TL;DR
3 – See Gulls – 2 Songs
4 – Hiss Golden Messenger – Bad Debt
5 – Hiss Golden Messenger – Lateness of Dancers
6 – Reigning Sound – Shattered
7 – Dex Romweber Duo – Images 13
8 – Solar Halos – Solar Halos
9 – Various – Merge 25th Anniversary Covers EP
10 – Daniel Bachman – Orange County Serenade
11 – Lilac Shadows – No Dark / No Light
12 – Humble Tripe – The Giving
13 – Last Year’s Men – Underwhelmed
14 – Datahata – Spectral Cities
15 – Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba – The Great Peace
16 – Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso
17 – Horseback – Piedmont Apocrypha
18 – Silent Lunch – Late to Bloom
19 – Horizontal Hold – This is Not a Living
20 – Logical Sound Discovery – Thrill Seeker
21 – Shipwrecker – III
22 – Wesley Wolfe – Numbskull
23 – The Loudermilks – The Loudermilks
24 – The Tender Fruit – The Darkness Comes
25 – Dan Melchior und das Menace – Hunger
26 – Jenks Miller/JJ Toth – Roads to Ruin
27 – Curtis Eller’s American Circus – How To Make it in Hollywood
28 – Sagan Youth Boys – Annotated Universe
29 – Ezekiel Graves – Chthonic Journey
30 – Wood Ear – Electric Alone
31 – Secret Boyfriend – This is Always Where You’ve Lived
32 – Ashrae Fax – Never Really Been Into It
33 – Davidians – 2014 demos
34 – Flesh Wounds – Bitter Boy 7"
35 – Ama Divers – An Echo in the Sound
36 – Lud – Defenestration Boulevard
37 – Le Weekend – No Object
38 – Spider Bags – Frozen Letter
39 – VVAQRT – Detainee
40 – Backsliders – Raleighwood EP
41 – Blursome – Heavy Resting
42 – No Love – Tape #2
43 – The Tills – Howlin’
44 – Whatever Brains – SSR63/SSR64
45 – Drag Sounds – II
46 – Flesh Wounds – Flesh Wounds
47 – Chatham County Line – Tightrope
48 – Tashi Dorji – Tashi Dorji
49 – Museum Mouth – Alex I Am Nothing
50 – Solar Halos/Irata – Split 10"
51 – New Light Choir – Volume II
52 – Jack Carter & the Armory – Anthropomorphic Transfiguration
53 – Bo White – Millennial Tombs
54 – Staton Embassy – From My Head to Yours
55 – North Elementary – Honcho Poncho
56 – Malcolm Holcombe – Pitiful Blues
57 – Brain Flannel – Empty Set
58 – Jenks Miller & Rose Cross NC – Hopscotch 2013-2014 Recordings
59 – Art Jackson – Tulip Tree Poplar Flower
60 – Beauty World – Beauty World
61 – Totally Slow/Black Market – split 7”
62 – Kneads – 2013 Demos
63 – King Mez – Long Live the King
64 – Kaleidoscope Death – Restofthdrumtracks/DeadDrum
65 – Alpha Cop – Cue the Cold Air

WXDU’s Top 65 NC Releases of 2014

December 26-27, 2014

Plowing through user stories on this WXDU database project that has been sitting fallow for the past 9 months or so. Thankfully this head-cold hasn’t affected my [limited] ability to program. If anything, feeling too lousy to get up & move around has actually improved my concentration.

The daily routine has basically involved getting up, coughing horribly until some sort of detente is achieved, working all day, and then watching a movie.

Friday night was L.A. Confidential, which has its flaws, but which serves as a reminder that Kim Basinger, Russell Crowe and Kevin Spacey can all be excellent actors when they feel like it. Or they could at one time, anyway. I have no idea whether Crowe or Spacey are salvageable at this point.

I’ve read some Ellroy but I don’t think I got very far into L.A. Confidential – it was too much about politics for me at the time I was trying it. Might give myself a month to re-forget the movie & then try again.

Saturday night we watched Dazed and Confused, and I was reminded of all the things I disliked about it the first time around. It’s not so much the plotlessness – lord knows I’ve watched plenty of plotless movies. But the use of music is really lazy.

There are quite a few scenes that cut between multiple carfuls of kids, all apparently listening to the same music, which is a cool idea – only the stuff that they’re listening to is unlikely to have been on the radio in May 1976.

This is what was on the radio in May 1976:

  • “Afternoon Delight” – The Starland Vocal Band (G) (#1)
  • “The Boys Are Back In Town” – Thin Lizzy (#12)
  • “A Fifth Of Beethoven” – Walter Murphy & the Big Apple Band (G) (#1)
  • “I’ll Be Good To You” – The Brothers Johnson (G) (#3)
  • “I’m Easy” – Keith Carradine (#17)
  • “‘I.O.U.’” – Jimmy Dean (G) (#35)
  • “Let Her In” – John Travolta (#10)
  • “Love Is Alive” – Gary Wright (#2)
  • “Making Our Dreams Come True” – Cyndi Grecco (#25)
  • “Never Gonna Fall In Love Again” – Eric Carmen (#11)
  • “Rock And Roll Love Letter” – The Bay City Rollers (#28)
  • “Shop Around” – The Captain & Tennille (G) (#4)
  • “Still Crazy After All These Years” – Paul Simon (#40)
  • “Take The Money And Run” – The Steve Miller Band (#11)
  • “Tear The Roof Off The Sucker (Give Up The Funk)” – Parliament (G) (#15)
  • “Today’s The Day” – America (#23)

Sure, for the stoners, the soundtrack would have been heavier, and closer to the music featured in the movie – but they’re not the only kids shown listening to music. And it’s not like every car sold in 1976 came with a Foghat 8-track.

Plus the prohibitive costs of licensing certain bands resulted in some glaring omissions – no Who, no Zeppelin, no Pink Floyd (this in a movie with a character named Randall “Pink” Floyd). I don’t hold that against Linklater, but if your big hook is verisimilitude in costuming, cars, language & music (and you let plot and character development take a back seat to those things), then you open yourself up to criticism on those factors.

Having said that, Wiley Wiggins is just as astonishing to me every time I see that movie (and I’ve seen it 3-4 times, for some reason). And yes, so is McConaughey.

In semi-unrelated news, I finished reading Viv Albertine’s memoir Clothes Clothes Clothes. Music Music Music. Boys Boys Boys. It features a lot of all of those things. I enjoyed it quite a bit, even though the Slits wind up playing a major role for only maybe 20% of the whole book.

One last note: the advanced search at IMDB is really quite useful. Here’s Most Popular Comedy Feature Films Released 1979 to 2012 With User Rating Between 7.4 And 10 , Online Videos Available on Amazon Instant Video, Amazon Prime Instant Video , At Least 20,000 Votes and Production Status: Released

December 26-27, 2014

Nashville police chief shares message, responds to questions

Nashville police chief shares message, responds to questions


December 25, 2014

Today I got the cold that M has had for the past week or so. I fought valiantly, but there’s really no way to live with someone without sharing each other’s germs.

Still managed to continue my holiday crash-course in Node, Express & Mongo – I’m at least to the point where I can read through this project’s existing codebase and understand more or less what’s happening, which is rad.

We went to a late afternoon matinee of Chris Rock’s Top Five, a movie whose good parts are amazingly good, but whose bad parts are lousy. Many of the actors are great, and the looser, more improvisatory scenes crackle with energy.

But there’s a lot of plot in this script, most of it kind of ludicrous, and it keeps getting in the way of the good parts.

Overall I’m very glad I saw it, but any recommendations I give will come with some caveats (particularly regarding the first 25 minutes or so).

Ate terrible Whole Foods prepared food. Went to bed & coughed all night. Merry Christmas.

December 25, 2014

December 23-24, 2014

After work I decided to check out Bar Virgile; you may have seen a photo of a small portion of it yesterday.

Some observations:

  • The decor and the overall vibe are kind of not-Durham, but not in a bad way. I felt like I was in, well, Atlanta, or at least the small part of Atlanta that feels relatively cosmopolitan. Someone has paid a lot of attention to details in a way that hasn’t always been the case around here.
  • Juju has a similar vibe. 2015 is apparently going to be the year in which Durham steps up its game, ambience-wise. 
  • Carrie from G2B is the chef at Bar Virgile, which is emphatically a bar, but which also has a pretty substantial menu of cheeses, charcuterie & bar food (sausages, sandwiches, fried stuff). And frog legs and escargots. I always liked the food at G2B & hated everything else about it, so I’m 100% OK with this change.
  • It was packed at 6:45 on the Tuesday night before Christmas Eve. This doesn’t necessarily bode well for anyone actually hoping to get in & get a seat & get served at any point in the future.

Tuesday evening we watched Tusk, the 2014 Kevin Smith movie. I wish that I had known more about the back-story before we bothered to rent it – apparently Smith wrote the whole thing in an hour while stoned on a podcast with a friend of his? It shows. A lot.

M has been sick with a heavy-duty chest cold for 3-4 days now, and I have been zincing up a storm trying to keep it out of me. I may be slowly losing that battle. At least I’m off work until next Monday, although I had sincere plans involving node.js and a new WXDU music database.

I felt OK this morning but the day has been kind of touch-and-go.

Tonight we saw Wild, the new Reese Witherspoon movie based on Cheryl Strayed’s book about hiking the 1000-mile Pacific Crest Trail from the California/Mexico border to Oregon. Witherspoon is OK – I had a hard time sympathizing with her character, but I don’t know that that’s her fault. Laura Dern is outstanding as Strayed’s mom, but then I think she’s outstanding in literally everything she does.

Overall, while I’m glad it was made – lord knows we need more movies with strong women as primary characters – it was a little too heavy on the pop-psych and over-obvious poetry quotes for my tastes.

Just got home from dinner at Piedmont. I have eaten at Piedmont on a fairly regular basis since it opened, through good times and not-so-good times, and I can say with a fair degree of confidence that the food now is better than it has ever been. 

This is a fairly recent development – as little as 3-4 months ago, the current chef & FOH manager were clearly trying really hard, but hadn’t quite worked out all the kinks. But this fall it seems like everything really locked into place.

December 23-24, 2014

December 22, 2014

I worked today. Originally I had set aside the full two weeks here at the end of the year (thereby using up my allotted vacation days that nobody really keeps track of anymore), but we have this enormous backlog of interviews due to A Lot of Circumstances so I got up & went in to the office & did two interviews & also did some emailing & other miscellaneous Things.

I will do the same tomorrow, and then I have the rest of the week off. But next Monday & Tuesday I’ll be back in there.

It’s like the good old days of being an hourly worker who works through holidays, except now instead of sitting around doing nothing & getting paid I actually have to work.

Anyway. Between interviews & emailing I managed to download the source for jackmeter, a kind of ancient (9 years old!) cmd-line digital VU meter for the Jack Audio Connection Kit.

I had needed a way to check input levels on our streaming server at WXDU, which doesn’t have any sort of X server or other GUI installed, so I poked around & lo and behold, someone had written just what I needed.

Only it didn’t work for us because I’m using an option on our jack server that didn’t exist 9 years ago.

So I downloaded the source, acquainted myself with gnu getopt and the basic outline of how one connects to a jack server, and then wrote a patch & applied it and … it didn’t work. And then I fixed the thing I screwed up and then it DID work and it was pretty thrilling, actually, because I’m basically a freshman-level C programmer. 

And then, in sharp contrast to literally every other time I have modified a piece of open-source software to suit my needs, I actually pushed the patch back up to github and submitted a pull request to the guy who wrote the thing (and who had already proved himself to be a good guy by responding to my random email about a little piece of software he had written 9 years earlier).

My first pull request! After years of haranguing students to get more involved in open-source projects.

If *you* need a console-based VU meter for your jack server that you’re running with a non-default name, here you go:

December 22, 2014

December 19-21, 2014

I don’t want to be doing this every-three-days thing, but it has happened twice this week. Sometimes life intervenes.

Friday night we went back to Juju with a friend of ours. It was packed; there were people standing around by the door waiting for tables.

They’re still working out a few kinks in how orders get entered & food gets delivered, presumably a side effect of their small-plates setup (and the relative enormity of the dining room). We had nowhere to be, so the occasional delay wasn’t really an issue.

Last time we ate there, we loved the brussels sprouts, the fried oysters and the pork belly. This time it was all about the hanger steak. Seriously: It’s amazing. Such richness of flavor. 

Saturday I had to re-learn the hard way about how Linux handles multiple IP addresses assigned to multiple NICs on the same subnet: not well. The Linux network subsystem doesn’t really firmly associate IP addresses with NICs, so you get really unpredictable results.

I had actually learned this once, years ago, but had forgotten. In the intervening years I’ve been using all of these multi-homed OSX machines & it has Just Worked. Chalk one up for OSX. Or rather chalk one up for BSD.

Bummer about the expensive server-class multi-port NICs we just bought, though.

Saturday night we saw The Babadook, which refuses to commit to being a Bad Seed movie, a Sick Parent movie, or a Legitimate Haunting movie. It walks an excellent tightrope between those three things for ¾ of its length, but at a certain point it gets muddled & never really unmuddles.

Still, it has some amazing performances & a truly wicked evil popup book at its center.

Tonight we watched one episode of The Starlost, which is a 1973 Canadian sci-fi series starring Kier Dullea. It was written by Harlan Ellison but then modified sufficiently that Ellison took his name off of it.

It was kind of amazing. Their effects budget was essentially zero, apparently, so nearly every shot is green-screened somehow. This contrasts poorly with the rather ponderous dialogue. It’s glorious.

I have to work Monday & Tuesday this week, but I’m off the rest of the time & plan to write an entire node.js / mongodb online database with my spare time. We’ll see how far I get.

December 19-21, 2014