Welcome to our web site. For more information about Stephie's art, please also check out artbystephie.com.
For Matt's writing projects, please go to storiesbymatt.net. Enjoy your visit here!

08/29/16: I am done with allmusic.com. I used to use the site to see what albums a particular artist had released, or to read the band bios or album reviews hosted there. Some of the reviews were not that good, which I guess you could say about any review site, but absent of anything else, they provided some information on what albums were better or worse in an artist's catalog.
     I guess I hadn't been on there in a while, and when I went there to look up something I was presented with a white box on a black screen notifying me that because of my use of an ad blocker, I would not be able to view their content. I had three choices: install some kind of browser extension, turn off my ad blocker, or pay for a subscription. Since I'm currently unemployed and I rarely use the site, a subscription was out of the question. I refuse to install the suggested browser extension, which I suspect will just open my system up to more advertising, so I figured fine, I'll disable my ad blocker.
     Pardon the all caps, but OH MY GOD! The first thing that happened was that the top half of the screen was replaced by an ad. A full half-page ad! I then went to look up the information that I needed and besides the upper-third ad, there were three identical ads on the same page, all shouting at me that I "didn't need a gun if I had this tactical flashlight." I quickly got the information I was looking for, turned my ad blocker back on and deleted the allmusic link from my bookmarks folder.
     I use an ad blocker (and Flashblock as well) not to deprive any web sites from any revenue they may get from ads, but to prevent the type of ads that interfere with what I'm trying to do, which is learn something or be entertained. In my opinion, ads that jump around the screen, expand to move the text I'm trying to read, play videos automatically, or overlay content on the site have no place in my browsing experience. I also object to the bait-and-switch type ads (like outbrain and taboola) that show the same thing over and over and that appear to be news stories but are actually links to an aggregating site with even more ads and may contain a link to the article I might want to read.
     I apologize to sites that have respectful ads and are just trying to make a buck, but you are too few and far between in my experience. Every so often I click on a link which has content that doesn't work right in my current configuration (Facebook videos don't work for me) but I figure that missing out on another cute dog video is a small price to pay for my piece of mind. By the way, if anyone knows of a NFL news aggregator similar to the one Yahoo used to offer, but doesn't REPEATEDLY prompt me to log into their Fantasy Football game, please let me know because I'm on the lookout for one.

08/28/16: The Tamale Hut Cafe Reading Series last night was the release party for my latest book, The Sleep Detectives Go to Washington. I wanted to something special, like I did with the radio show last time, so I adapted a chapter or so of the new book as a script and bookended it with an announcer in the style of Frazier Thomas on Family Classics. Well, it's more than just the style. We recorded it so you can hear what I mean. Click over to my writing web site and listen for yourself. Then you can hop over to Amazon to buy the book! It's available in paperback and for your Kindle. And if you read it, please leave me a review on Amazon. The more reviews I have, the more people can find me there and maybe buy a book or two.

08/17/16: Back when my main music listening time consisted of popping a cassette in my car stereo, there were a few tapes I had that tended to say in the player for more than a few plays. I remember listening to Lou Reed's New Sensations album front to back many times in a row when it first came out. Likewise John Fogerty's Centerfield, Tina Turner's Private Dancer, Simon and Garfunkel's Live in Central Park, Little Feat's Waiting for Columbus, and the soundtrack to Rock 'n' Roll High School all benefited from the auto-reverse feature in the car deck, playing the tape over and over for weeks at a time
     The analog to that in these days of mobile devices and MP3 players are albums (because I still think of music in terms of albums) that stay on my player or phone, even as I rotate other music on and off. The foremost example is a 1999 Poi Dog Pondering concert I recorded off of WXRT. That was the first thing I loaded on my Archos Jukebox, as well as on several Nokia Internet Tablets and smartphones, and is still on my current phone as of today. There are also a couple of Captain Beefheart albums that I can't bring myself to delete.
     Lately I've been listening to a couple albums by a band called Love which seemed to have taken up residence on my phone. One is their classic album Forever Changes, which shows up on a number of "greatest albums of all time" lists. But the other is a greatest hits collection called Revisited. I got my copy of Forever Changes on CD a few years ago, but my copy of Revisited is on vinyl. I remember buying it many, many years ago at Rolling Stones, a huge north-side record store. I picked it up because I wanted to hear the original version of "Alone Again Or", a song I really liked as covered by UFO on their Lights Out album. I listened to the album a few times and while I liked the original take on "Alone Again Or", I was not that excited about the rest, and it soon wound up filed in my record collection.
     After I got a copy of Forever Changes, I thought I'd give the Revisited collection another try and found that I really liked most of the songs on there. There's a little late-'60s vibe to the music, but all of it is a little ... odd, I guess is the best way to describe it. Wikipedia says that the band mixed "psychedelia, folk, hard rock, blues, jazz, flamenco and orchestral pop" and it really has a unique sound. I've always had an affinity to late-'60s psychedelic music, and this is firmly in that vein, but there's other stuff going on, like the trumpet solo on "Alone Again Or". I really like it.
     I was listening to it today and the very first track, "My Little Red Book", got me curious. I looked it up on-line, ostensibly to find some of the lyrics that were a little unclear, and discovered that it was a cover and that the song was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. I went to YouTube to try to find the original version (oddly, the reason I bought this album in the first place) and discovered lots of versions: Manfred Mann (the original), Burt Bacharach with Tony Middleton, The Standells, Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, Elvis Costello, Ted Nugent, and Toni Basil (although I wouldn't recommend clicking on that last one.) How odd that a song would be covered so many times, and by such a range of different performers. Check out a few and see what you think.
     And if you're in the mood for another exercise like this, check out YouTube for all the versions of "Alone Again Or". I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, because it is a great song.

08/16/16: Back when I was working, I did not have speakers for my computer. At home, I rarely have my speakers turned on. Since I essentially don't have audio, I don't watch many videos linked in news stories or blog posts. Part of it is also technical, since I run an ad blocker and Flash blocker to avoid things jumping around my screen when on the 'net and that confuses some pages containing videos. But mostly, it's because when I do try to watch a video I'm interested in, I typically have to sit through an ad or two, then a graphical/music introduction, then the reporter or blogger introduces themselves and welcomes me to their video, telling me what they're about to tell me and asking me to subscribe to their channel, all before giving me some information that I could have read in two paragraphs and moved on. Usually when I click on a link on Google News and it turns out that the link takes me to a video without any accompanying text, I just close the window, figuring that I didn't really need that information.
     Another problem is that the video is usually linked to YouTube, and you don't need me to tell you what a time suck that particular site can be. I frequently go to view a video demonstrating a feature of a program I'm using (something that I could easily learn in a few sentences of plain text) and wind up a half-hour later watching clips of exotic animals or people doing stupid things or music videos from the 1980s.
     But as much as I avoid videos, every once in a while I stumble across something that really catches my eye. For instance, I was directed to this video from a link on BoingBoing.net. I was a Hot Wheels fan when I was a kid, so I think that's why it appeals to me so much. I could put this on a loop and watch it all day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12Coi4_BVL4

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