Nine Inch Nails, via Creative Commons, have very generously provided their new album, The Slip, for free download to one and all. It’s a good move to thank their fans, but it’s also a good way to encourage people to get to know them.

As one who is newly exploring what’s out there, and therefore has a great deal of ground to make up, this was very good news. So I downloaded it earlier tonight and am now on my third fourth listen: it’s awesome, and a terrific introduction to this band.

the slip

There is such a lot going on in their music but yet it’s not at all cluttered: there’s a clarity to the sound that lets you hear everything that’s going on.  Contrast between tracks, that range from ambient sounds to upbeat rocker numbers, gives a satisfying impetus to the whole: we are brought on a journey and I certainly didn’t want to stop after any part of it. They’re not afraid to make creative use of inventive instrumentation (including effective use of an out-of-tune piano, something usually guaranteed to set my teeth on edge, but here it works) and there’s superb use of a huge dynamic range especially in the ambient tracks. The vast crescendi threaten to take you over, and you can only wallow in the impact of this delicious soundscape. I love it.

Think I’ll be looking out their back catalogue.



RIP Scamp

May 3, 2008

Well I said this wasn’t going to be a cat blog, and it won’t be, but I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t include this. My beloved Scamp, our boy of seventeen-and-a-half years, died this morning. Not exactly in our arms, but with our hands on him, stroking him as he purred himself into oblivion and we tried not to upset him by sobbing on him before he went.

He had chronic renal failure, diagnosed in Sept 2006, which had progressed slowly over the last year-and-a-half, and he had also developed hyperthyroidism. Thanks to this site, and the yahoo CRF support group, as well as Dr Lisa Pierson and our own wonderful vets in Dublin, we had managed his symptoms very well, and kept him pretty happy. He was more or less symptom-free, and content with a regime of meds that didn’t traumatise him or make him unhappy. But last week he developed an upper respiratory infection and it turned out to be too much for him. Not the cold itself, but to get him over the hump of it we had to give him a feeding tube, and he was so frail he didn’t really recover from the GA. We knew it was a risk, but doing nothing wasn’t an option either: he had wanted to eat, and had perked up enough to make his feelings very well known, but couldn’t smell enough for the food to be tempting (‘no smell, no eat’ is a cat’s mantra) so we had to try to make things better for him. We tried syringe feeding but that obviously wasn’t going to be an option for too long, so the tube was the next best thing, and other than the GA would not have presented any problems. However, the GA left him very weak and feeble, and in the end he decided that enough was enough, and to let go, and all we could do was let go too.

Scamp came into our lives with his brother Pucci, as tiny kittens from Cats’ Aid in October 1990, and what a pair of sweeties they were.

Pucci, who became diabetic but went remission (thanks to Dr Elizabeth Hodgkins), died in February this year from cancer. Scamp was such a diminished boy after that: he seemed like just half a cat somehow. And now that Scamp is gone it suddenly feels more real that Pucci was gone too—now he’s really gone—and it’s a double whammy. It really is the end of an era and I just can’t believe that my gorgeous prima-donna, handsome, cantankerous, thunderface, kitten-still-at-heart, playful, loving, beautiful beast is gone. It’s just not right, just as seeing him in an old, frail body wasn’t right for his young, Scampish spirit. Right up until he got this cold he was Scamp by name and Scamp by nature.

We know that we did the best for him, both in his treatment while alive, and for his death, but it doesn’t take away from the pain which is now red raw, as anyone who’s lost a much-loved pet will know. I wish there was a way to fast forward through the grief and just appreciate the long and happy life he had.

But ah, my boy, you are so much missed. RIP, handsome beast.


Techy stuff

May 2, 2008

Ooh, why do I always feel I have to understand things immediately? Not just select items, but everything, and perfectly to boot. Since discovering Twitter I’ve come across so many new techy things, and have dived (dove?) right in to try to discover how it all works. Twitter came first, then blogs, which necessitated getting to grips with RSS feeds (as well as starting this, my own blog, of course).

For news and other feeds I started off on NewsFire, but the disadvantage of that is of course that it’s a standalone application and so is only on my laptop. Enter NetVibes: salvation! All my bits and pieces in one place so I can even skive at work! But, ah – there’s another element to it, and that is the option to share online.

Share? What’s that all about then? I’ve shared photos on Flickr and other sites, but that’s about as far as it’s got so far, other than FaceBook and a messageboard. But this seems different. Share what exactly?

Then I realise there’s a whole world of internet sharing out there. Not just blogging, no, that’s in the ha’penny place really: a blog is just not enough. It seems that to share properly we have to have, Digg, Reddit, Stumble, LastFM, Pipes, Muxtape, Remember The Milk, Scribd, Zemanta (which I forgot to use for this), ClipMarks, OpenID… and these are only the ones I can remember without looking up. Is this what is meant by Web 2.0? And what exactly are we sharing? Other websites, interesting bits and pieces… anything original? I don’t know yet. I realise this is just scratching the surface and the serious techy stuff is probably a whole new level, but for now this part is absorbing me, and holding my interest.

In the last week I have opened accounts for just about all of the above, and heaven only knows why. For example, Pipes: I’ve registered there too, though how I’ll ever use it I have not the faintest idea. I just feel the urge to get in there and join up. ‘Don’t leave me out!’ my inner child cries! ‘New toys! New toys!’

And as for OpenID… do I really want it? Do I want everything all linked up and my whole life (such as it is) available to all? I saw this interview (from one of my RSS’d blogs) just after I had written my first blog and linked it to my Flickr, Twitter and MySpace accounts.

Then I realised that I too have different identities in different places, so I hastily unlinked my MySpace account. I’m still not sure how much of me I want online, and so a degree of separation suits me fine, for now.

But what a learning curve there seems to be. I’m following in Twitter, and RSSing, a few techy blogs as well as some creative types, and there seems to be so much going on that’s really interesting, I want a slice of it. But like a kid in a sweetshop, I really have no idea what to choose and what to leave behind, and I seem to be sampling it all in soundbites rather than sitting down properly to absorb fully what it’s all about. But with Twitter links coming at me right, left and centre, and all these interesting blogs to read, how can I filter what’s useful and what ain’t, and have a normal life too? I don’t yet know, but finding out is half the fun.