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Messages - Bill Binkelman

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First Ralph McQuarrie (the conceptual artist who birthed the look of Star Wars) now Moebius, who was the creative genius behind part of the look of the original Alien movie (spacesuits and Nostromo interiors), as well as the original Tron and The Fifth Element, and his famous comic strips which ran in the magazine Heavy Metal, (which he co-founded) has left us. There is a write up at here:

as well as articles at venues like the the Chicago Sun Times:

and The Washington Post

I am really feeling old lately.  :(

I still have that original 'The StarWars Portfolio' collection of artwork that McQuarrie created, that literally got Star Wars off the ground back in 1976. I've always admired people like McQuarrie, Ron Cobb, Sam Didier, Syd Mead, H.R. Giger, and others, who could literally create magic from a blank canvas, and made our world a little better for showing us worlds that didn't exist until they opened the box just a bit to let us peek inside.

I limited myself to just one. RIP, Ralph McQuarrie.

Well said, Antdude!

He was the conceptual artist for the first Star Wars trilogy. Really visionary, IMO.

Good day for the Grim Reaper...BAD day for us humans.

Everything and Nothing / Guitarist Ronnie Montrose dies...
« on: March 04, 2012, 02:55:29 PM »
Wow! I LOVED his first two albums (Montrose, and Paper Money) and played them a LOT as a teen and into my 20s and was just set to order the CD of Paper Money from Amazon. His playing on They Only Come Out at Night was fantastic and MADE that album, IMO. Really sad.
Here is Rolling Stone's article:

Now Playing / Re: Currently listening, part 1
« on: March 02, 2012, 08:55:17 AM »
Working on a mix called "1969" so I've been listening to some music from 1969.

Bowie - Space Oddity
King Crimson - In The Court Of The Crimson King
Miles Davis - In a Silent Way
Pink Floyd - Ummagumma
Terry Riley - a rainbow in curved air

Now, that there is some choice high quality stuff! I love I T C O T C K (boy, that acronym looks strangely disturbing) and UmmaGumma is my fave P Floyd album. Nice!

Other Ambient (and related) Music / Re: Were did TELOMERE go?
« on: February 28, 2012, 06:26:51 PM »
Chris (MacDonald, who is Telomere) never has been the most prolific artist, although his albums all contain uniformly excellent classic spacemusic. He released CDs in 1998, 2001, and 2007, so he's probably "right on schedule." Hell, Meg Bowles went 10+ years between From the Dark Earth and A Quiet Light. You can always try emailing Chris at (his label). I suspecthe is just taking his time as always.

Other Ambient (and related) Music / Re: Under-rated Ambient
« on: February 20, 2012, 06:40:54 PM »
Meg Bowles - her 2011 release, A Quiet Light, is one of the best fusions of space and ambient in years. To release something this excellent after a more than 10 year absence is, IMO, unprecedented.

Richard Bone - I don't think he has ever gotten the level of recognition he deserves. He has had some "average works" but a lot of his stuff is superb and he is a VERSATILE artist.

Michael Allison/Darshan Ambient - If you look at his body of work, whether it be his pastoral ambient CDs like Providence, The Zen Master's Diary, or Autumn Light, or his more recent rhythmic stuff, you can't help but be VERY impressed.

Basically EVERYTHING released on APK's label. Yeah, that covers a lot of ground, but talk about maintaining CONSISTENT quality - sheesh! He's deservedly lauded here at Hypnos but APK (whether what he records himself under various pseudonyms or the other artists he chooses to release) is amazing...also his cover art is frequently beautiful and evocative.

Ben Swire - He's not the most prolific artist but both his Foundry EP, Equilibrium, and his 2010 recording, From Here to There, on Preservation are as good as glitchy yet melodic ambient gets, IMO.

Marconi Union - I haven't heard everything by this enigmatic duo, but Distance and A Lost Connection are moody, urban soundscapes suitable for late night neon-infused cruising by car.

Tristan Feldbauer (and others depending on the album) - I may be the only big fan this guy has but I cannot get enough of his blend of chill/ambient/retro-EM music. His best album, the enigmatically titled Recordings, is one of my all-time favorites. Like Swire's work, it's PERFECT for late night drives down city streets.

Other Ambient (and related) Music / Re: Overrated Ambient
« on: February 17, 2012, 01:43:38 PM »
Like John, my preference is weigh in on ambient musicians' whose music I like or who I feel should heard by more people (such as Matthew Florianz and Pete Kelly).  If I have critical points to make, I would rather express those thoughts directly to the musicians themselves.  I think that those of us who have stuck it out in our genre for a while should try to be as supportive as we can, as it is too easy on the net to drift into negativity and flame wars.  The net is inherently limited as a medium for communication.  I also prefer not to comment on music from artists who are friends of mine, as it might perceived as shilling if the comments are positive, and poor form if the comments happen to be a little negative.


Not meaning to pick on you, Forrest, but this does get at the heart of what I was addressing, in a roundabout way. Ambient, as a community, is small and insular. We all "know" each other well enough that to slag off one person or one album could be perceived as being mean and end up being taken personally. So, in the end, the majority of albums that are dissed on forums are those by artists who would NEVER EVER visit here or any other smallish forum (e.g. ambient@hyperreal) so that's why Eno, FSOL, Aphex, etc. are usually the only ones mentioned.

Someone earlier said something along the lines of "well, this is such a small group anyway that to denigrate anyone weakens us all.." to which I would say "Really? Has it really come to that? Are we so starved for a feeling of positive worth  and value that we aren't willing to be self-critical without feeling like we are under personal attack?" Maybe ambient doesn't have a huge fan base when compared to other genres...but IMO, there is a LOT more slagging off by fans AND OTHER ARTISTS in other genres, including in the press. Is it just because their numbers are vast compared to us or is their thicker skin or do the fans of those genres just not give a shit what someone else says?

If we actually are all involved in a communal love fest, than someone chiming in with "Ya know, I just don't get the popularity of The Magnificent Void." should not be ostracized or held up as a traitor, etc. If we are a "family" (due to our small size and feeling of inclusivity - as opposed to exclusivity - because most people don't "get us,") shouldn't we be MORE open to that kind of comment?

I appreciate all the response to my post. Sincerely. As someone who, through the years, has been criticized a lot for not writing enough overtly negative or critical reviews, it does make me scratch my head, though. But maybe I am comparing apples to oranges.  ???

Other Ambient (and related) Music / Re: Overrated Ambient
« on: February 16, 2012, 07:52:43 PM »
With 200 views of this topic and yet only 9 replies, I think it's safe to say that ambient fans are, well to be blunt, afraid to cast stones. Maybe there are hardly ANY overrated releases (unlikely, IMO), but over the years, what I have witnessed is that ambient fans, more than fans of other genres (again IMO) are reluctant to criticize almost anything or anyone within the genre. At least in the way this question is worded. Sure, there are isolated critics (*cough* Alan Lockett *cough*) who will blast what they consider a poor ambient recording, but to actually put a name or a title to the descriptor "overrated" may be asking ambient fans, who seem to (once again, IMO) view "their" artists in a sort of paternalistic fashion, might be akin to asking cops to rat out one of their own.

Just my observation and my two cents. Long time readers of my rants know I have called out more than a few overrated albums, but I have gone public with so many over the years it would be a retread to spin them out here yet again.

I am merely commenting on the (what I think is obvious) fact that with 200 views but only a scant few opinions offered, either ambient fans think NO ONE ALBUM is overrated or they think that stating so would be Quisling-esque in its betrayal.

Or maybe it's just my creeping age and resultant cynicism. ;)

Everything and Nothing / Re: Automobile batteries
« on: January 31, 2012, 06:46:03 PM »
I spoke too soon.  It started perfectly for two days, now it's back to weak/delayed cranking after sitting out all night.  I think something is draining my battery overnight.  Taking it in for alternator/electrical system test, and if that checks out OK then it must be a "parasitic drain" from somewhere in the car.  Can't afford a new battery every 21 months.

I kinda doubt it's the alternator, but I could be wrong. My money is on something...some kind of permanently "on" due to a short or a glitch. If you lived in a cold climate, like Minnesota, that drain at this time of year would drain the entire battery overnight, most likely. In southern/warmer climates, an accessory left on wouldn't drain the battery completely for a while, especially if you are then driving it now and then and recharging it. But maybe the alternator is "kinda" bad...if it is, it has to be under warranty...HAS to be. Unless you have put on more than 50K in two years. A thorough diagnostic check of the entire charging system will reveal if it's at all related to that. OTOH, if the charging system is okay, it has to be something else...something draining the battery, I'd have to think. But, yeah, as Steve just wrote..electrical problems are the worst...they can be almost impossible to diagnose without tearing a car apart and costing a LOT of money in diagnostic fees. My power door locks are fidgety as hell on the driver's side but my mechanic, who I have used for about 15 years, said it would be cost prohibitive to track down the problem (likely a short or loose wire). Sucks, man. I feel for ya...seriously. I've owned about 20 cars in my life and repairs will just frustrate the shit out of anyone.

Everything and Nothing / Re: Automobile batteries
« on: January 29, 2012, 03:52:46 PM »
It's possible the factory installs less the good batteries as a cost saving measure. You can try Googling for info. Here is a quick result of a Google search I did about bad batteries in Mazdas

The only thing that can cause a battery to die that soon, from what I know, are:

(1) Recharged so often due to frequently letting it discharge so battery loses effectiveness over time (unlikely if you don't remember at least 10-20 times the battery died because you left lights on, etc.)
(2) Bad cells in the battery or just a bad battery...cells can go bad before the whole battery dies
(3) Charging system operating at less than normal output (unlikely, IMO....usually the charging system just flat out dies, e.g. the alternator goes out)
(4) Something is draining the battery because the device is still "on" when it shouldn't be, e.g. overhead dome lamp never shuts off, etc.

If you put in a a good aftermarket battery and it happens again in a short amount of time, then it's something in the car itself. I'd be willing to bet it's the battery. Sorry I can't be of more help.

Everything and Nothing / Re: Automobile batteries
« on: January 28, 2012, 05:26:04 PM »
I can't offer any advice except to say that I have NEVER heard of factory installed battery failing in so short a time....unless you let it completely discharge numerous times. When a car battery "dies" each recharge brings it up less and less to its "full" strength. Why a dealer would refuse to simply put a new battery in, when the vehicle is under warranty, is a mystery. Dealers are compensated by the manufacturer for warranty repairs. Could they have simply made the mistake and misdiagnosed it? Sure. But I'm more concerned why the battery had zero capacity in so short a time. Out of curiosity, what make and model did you buy? I ask because the service dept. for dealers can vary depending on make as some car companies are more lax in rating their dealerships' service depts.

Now Playing / Re: Currently listening, part 1
« on: December 28, 2011, 07:57:35 PM »
My Brother very kindly gave me an iTunes card for christmas, so I downloaded a selection of some of me favourite tunes:

Trampled Under Foot - Led Zep
Pack it up (and Go) - UFO
The Sails of Charon - Scorpions
Unchained - Van Halen
The Royal Scam - Steely Dan
Billion Dollar Babies - Alice Cooper

Lovely stuff !

Oh THAT is a song!  :D

Computers, Internet and Technology / Re: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
« on: December 28, 2011, 07:54:56 PM »
Do you need a super PC for this game? I only have a modest ASUS laptop that I purchased a few months ago. I suppose to really enjoy a game like this, you need a desktop unit with tons of RAM, a super deluxe sound card and video graphics card, etc etc etc, right?

Are any of the "hot" PC games any good at all on baseline PCs?

I suppose I should hope the answer is "no" so I don't go getting hooked on games again...I can't afford any kind of gamer PC, so if they don't run on my crummy laptop, at least my checkbook is safe.  ;)

Thanks, Mike. I appreciate the feedback and suggestions.

Computers, Internet and Technology / Troubleshooting a weird tech problem
« on: December 23, 2011, 12:20:06 PM »
If any of you have any ideas on this, I'd love to hear them...

I have a Samsung HDTV (LCD) and use Comcast cable for my TV. For the last 2.5 years, everything was fine. I used HDMI cables for both TV and my blu-ray player. My Samsung TV has 4 HDMI ports, plus component inputs too, of course. Well, Thursday morning, my Samsung TV read as "No Signal" when I tried to watch TV. There were no power outages or surges that night (all the digital clocks were fine). I re-booted the cable box twice. No luck. I tried switching the HDMI cables, thinking the TV one was bad. Nope. My blu-ray player was fine, so the TV itself still had a picture. I even hooked up the Component video cables and still "No Signal." And yes, I always changed the source on the source menu for the TV. So, Comcast said "Switch out the cable box for a new one" (I use a DVR type box). So, I did that last night and still no luck. I thought "Okay, all 4 HDMI ports can't be bad and at least one of the HDMI cables works because it works for the blu ray player." I suspected signal loss somewhere along the line from where the cable hits the house to the cable feed near the HDTV (the regular TV in the bed room, which is analog, was getting a fine signal, so it wasn't the signal from the pole in the alley to the house).

The Comcast guy came and hooked up his signal meter and the signal strength was better than good. He was stumped too. But when he switched out the blu ray HDMI and routed it to HDMI port 3 and put the cable lead into HDMI 2, then the TV worked...BUT the blu ray didn't...and now it gets weird. See, when you select a source on a Samsung device that has no signal, it displays "No Signal" on the TV screen (duh). But when I selected the blu ray player on the source menu (when it was plugged into port 3), instead of displaying "No Signal" the TV "jumped" and displayed the TV signal instead (which is on HDMI port 2) even though the source menu read "HDMI 3." The Comcast guy said he had never seen anything like it. How can a TV "select" a different source on its own?

With the new cable box, the composite video cables DID end up working (I must have forgotten to check THAT option after I got the new box), so I am running my hi def TV cable signal via composite cables which are nearly as good as HDMI but way clunkier and the one "good" HDMI port is used for the blu-ray player. I'm not keen on this, but...

Here is my question. What is the likelihood that, literally all of a sudden, 3 of the 4 HDMI ports would go bad with no apparent cause? Complicating this is that 3 of the HDMI ports are on the back of the TV (including the one good port) and the 4th HDMI port is on the side (for use with game consoles, I assume). If it's a weird hardware issue with how the ports are wired, or a blown circuit, I would think the one good port would be port 4, since it's not located where the other three are.

The TV in question is 2.5 years old. I was going to get a bigger one soon (this one which is our main set is only 37") anyway and move this to the bedroom were the HDMI vs component issue is moot since the box there doesn't have an HDMI output. But do I bother trying to trouble-shoot it some more with Samsung? I have spoken with them twice in the past but it's that whole "This is Peggy..." thing (outsourced to a non-native English speaking country...sorry to sound ethnocentric but talking tech issues with a non-native speaker is very frustrating, IMO). Do I just say "Fuck it...I have a high def signal and that's all that matters" (although I can tell a subtle difference between the component and HDMI signal, to be honest).

Any advice or suggestions or opinions are welcome.

And that doesn't even address my other tech problem which is that every time there is power surge/power failure, the Netgear box that feeds Wi-Fi to my blu ray player (it plugs into my Ethernet port on the blu ray and receives the 'net signal from my Netgear router) "loses" the internet and I have to reset the entire set-up and restore the blu-ray factory settings (which is weird because my laptop just "re-finds" the router and modem with no reset or reboot necessary). It's frustrating because it makes streaming Netflix a dicey proposition until I reboot, reset, and reprogram the blu ray player after every power loss or if the player gets unplugged for some reason. A Samsung rep said "Yup, every time the blu ray player loses power, you will have the problem"...but come on, really? The reason I didn't buy a "wi-fi built-in" blu-ray player (and opted for one that is "wi-fi ready" instead) is because many reviews of the built-ins got worse consumer reviews...people complained about slow streaming, etc. WHEN this Netgear "booster" is working, I can stream Netflix no problem, but it's a royal pain to reboot the modem, router, and have the router "find" the booster and THEN have to reset all the player stuff, including reauthorizing it to Netflix account, etc.

Well, any suggestions or ideas on this one are also appreciated. I know lots of you forumites are super high tech wizards, and as I wrote, I am NOT tech savvy enough to do all my own setups, installs, etc. for audio, video and computer, but one or more of you may be a LOT smarter than me with these problems - I hope so.

I'm really not technologically challenged, IMO, but these two problems have proven vexing to the say the least.

Thanks for your indulgence.

Art and Literature, Movies and TV / Re: Movie trailers worth a look
« on: November 21, 2011, 04:09:30 PM »

last chance to bail.....

I am a HUGE fan of the 3-part book series, but I have severe reservations about the film(s) (even before I saw the trailer, but the trailer underscores my fears).


Sorry to be so cynical....because I LOVED the Hunger Games trilogy....but the last book in the series would HAVE to be is simply too dark, too twisted, too pessimistic not to be. We're talking, IMO, on the level of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, again IMO. And they will not make it R-rated so they will gut the very essence of Katniss' story.

Bill, I really liked the Hunger Games stories, especially the first book (I thought the writing became more hurried and sloppy with each new installment). The HG books were surprising for their darkness, considering they were intended for a young adult readership. The Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings movies showed you can make a mass-market film suitable for an audience including younger people, and address such themes as fear of imminent death, the individual betrayed by authority, unexpected loss of loved ones, making sacrifice for a greater cause, and other aspects important to the HG stories. Does it matter if a character dies in gory detail onscreen, or is it merely important that they die with emotional authenticity (for themselves and those around them) conveyed clearly to the audience?

As for my own tastes, I feel like any literary or storytelling contest between Suzanne Collins and Cormac McCarthy ends in a very quick knockout for McCarthy.

One, agreed on the artistic merits of Collins versus McCarthy...I was merely opining that they share an equally pessimistic and fatalistic view of humanity, IMO. That's my take, though, and YMMV.

Second, I do disagree somewhat about "... Does it matter if a character dies in gory detail onscreen..." because, yes, I do think in this case it makes a huge difference. The manner of death has a lot to do with accurately depicting the depravity of the power elite in how they relish seeing the combatants, especially the youngest ones, resort to cruel inhumane savagery in order to survive. I think the level of violence also helps to explain Katniss' descent into a hell of isolation, bitter cynicism, and despondence. If the deaths are relatively bloodless and/or happen off-screen, I don't know how they have Katniss evolve into what she becomes. Again, that is my take. I think the themes of LOTR and HP are vastly different than HG in tone. I don't know about you, but at the end of Return of the King and HP and the Deathly Hallows, I was relieved, elated, and feeling satisfied. I came away after the last HG installment pissed off, despairing and depressed. I don't doubt they can try to convey the guts of the books in a PG-13 format, but I think it will lose some of the novels' power. I also think they (the studios) will HAVE to raise the age of the youngest combatants, because I believe there was one girl who was, what, 6 or 7 years old yet was an effective killer, yes? I work with a woman who took her adolescent daughter to see "Hanna" and was shocked at the level of violence being perpetrated by the lead character...I thought the movie was actually milder than anticipated.

So, maybe it's too subjective to even evaluate. What I may think as mild you or others might think is brutal enough to convey the message of the books/movies.

Regardless, I will see the first movie and hopefully enjoy it enough to see the next one if it is made. If it's another Golden Compass, I will give it a pass.

Art and Literature, Movies and TV / Re: Movie trailers worth a look
« on: November 17, 2011, 04:58:24 PM »

last chance to bail.....

I am a HUGE fan of the 3-part book series, but I have severe reservations about the film(s) (even before I saw the trailer, but the trailer underscores my fears).

(1) Hunger Games is a dark and complex novel (and the next two escalate from that starting point). I worry that the film adaptation(s) will fall to the same fate as a similarly dark and complex trio of novels, the first of which was The Golden Compass. Hollywood took THAT book and "Disney'fied" it in extremis! The film had none of the complexities or metaphysics of the book AT ALL. I worry that the same thing will happen here.

(2) Hunger Games, and its two sequels, are dark, cynical, bitter tales and VERY violent, including violence perpetrated ON and BY pre-teen children. How can they possibly do justice to this CRUCIAL element of the story and still get a PG-13? If they soften the violence at all, it totally undercuts the visceral impact of the material and also calls into question the very nature of the emotional chaos that overwhelms the lead character, Katniss.

(3) Based on the trailer, the "stars" they got to play their respective characters are all "too pretty." The world of the Hunger Games, with the exception of when the setting is the "Capitol" is that of dirty, grimy, barely surviving people. The lead characters in the trailer look like they are from "The O.C." or some other post-teen TV show. The only actor who, IMO, I think will fit his character as written will be Donald Sutherland as President Snow.

I WILL see this, just as I did The Golden Compass, but I truly fear that this will suffer the same fate, just as the same fate befell other great SF/fantasy works in the young adult genre, e.g. Madeline L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in Time," Ursula LeGuinn's "Earthsea" series, and others. When the source material is crafted as an intelligent, dark, and deep body of work, invariably Hollywood gives ITS audience less credit for appreciating that element than the large publishing houses do when they publish the original works.

Sorry to be so cynical....because I LOVED the Hunger Games trilogy....but the last book in the series would HAVE to be is simply too dark, too twisted, too pessimistic not to be. We're talking, IMO, on the level of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, again IMO. And they will not make it R-rated so they will gut the very essence of Katniss' story.

Computers, Internet and Technology / Re: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
« on: November 16, 2011, 03:10:00 PM »
This game certainly looks amazing....but I know all too well what happens with me and immersive computer games. I have not seriously gamed since....get ready for a long time ago... Bungie's Marathon and Marathon 2: Durandal way back in the 90s. I would start playing at 9-10 pm and go until dawn, easily. I realized that I simply couldn't ever afford to get that "into" a game ever again. It was way too easy to just keep playing and ignore everything else - eating, sleeping, etc. So, I've never owned a game console either. I just know myself too well. It would be the end of me! LOL...I have too many other things to do. But, this is the first game, I must admit, that makes me want to pick it up again (well, actually, Riven did that to me as well...but I really sucked at Riven so giving it up was easy). I watched a demo on youtube and I thought "Now THAT is pretty awesome." and then realized "okay, close the youtube clip and back away....slowly!" ;D

Wow....what a lot of fuss about such a little thing. I will admit, A., that these posts of yours sound somewhat atypical from other ones of yours I have read over the years here and elsewheres (no need to be THAT self-deprecating - that's my shtick!)...and it has been years that I have known you. That's fine...everyone changes over time (look at me).

As far as the brouhaha over reviews, while the initial review was a little hyperbolic, I never thought it was a plant. Just a very zealous fan. If you have followed Austere over the years, they you know that they have never been preoccupied with self-promotion and have always been modest to a fault in the face of praise. So thinking they either authored this review or endorsed it is a little nonsensical. Nothing personal to those who criticized it...just that it would be the same as accusing Steve Roach of making overly commercial music or accusing Mike G of being mercenary in how he runs Hypnos. Those are two examples, like Austere, of people who simply are not wired that way, at least from what I can tell from my vantage point (which can be wrong, of course)

Just sharing my's all good, really. Hey, A. Don't be strangers, man. 2 years is "2" long. :-)

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