Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Cat Who Wouldn't Shut Up

Well, Trouble has been a pain these last few days. By that, I mean Trouble the cat, Oatmeal's brother, the thin stripped one with a bad temper when he doesn't get what he wants. His behavior has been somewhat odd, as we wonder where he got it from. His parents Fuzz and Boo are very even-tempered, and Fuzz never yowls when he wants to go outside. His older brother Oatmeal often tries to sneak outside (though usually we can tell if he's trying and thus can prevent it from happening), but he likewise never yowls. Trouble, on the other hand, comes in, eats, and then promptly demands to be let back outside. If his demand is not met swiftly, then he will just sit there and yowl at you. If you approach either the back or front door, he'll run to it. If you pass the piano bench and he happens to be there, he will yowl then swipe at you. Last night was interesting, to say the least. We let Trouble in, and he quickly wanted to go back outside. We refused because he often tends to wander and not come back for a few days, similar to what Oatmeal used to do before he became "jailbird Oat" and we now keep him in the house against his will. Anyway, so we kept Trouble inside but he wouldn't be quiet. He yowled for a long time and didn't stop, even after we went to bed. Now keep in mind this is not a quiet yowl. This is one that can be heard from the other side of the house. Needless to say, I think Dad let him out when he got back from the Braves' game last night because I don't remember hearing him after that. Darn animal. I wish he'd just go to sleep somewhere like his father and brother do instead of trying to keep the rest of us from sleep.

On a more positive note, it's amazing what little bribes do. Mandy's been wanting sunglasses but doesn't have any money, as we've not cashed our babysitting check yet. Mom and Dad made a deal with her: if she kept her part of the room clean for a week, then they would pay for her glasses. Even though it's only been two days, our room has actually been cleaner than usual, which has pleased me because there have been no piles of clothes on the floor for me to trip over. We'll see if Mandy will keep it up. The bigger test will be what the room looks like while I'm in Houston.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Last Friday and Musical Rant

This post will be in two parts. First, about the fun events of last Friday. Second, a musical rant that I've been contemplating.

After science class on Friday, I went home and cleaned up, getting ready for the movie night that was attended by both students of Geneva and Christ College. Later that afternoon, Mom came home with a few kids in tow, and she began preparing dinner. People started arriving around five thirty or six. The girls were off somewhere while the guys gathered in the living room to talk and to admire the pictures of food in the European food book in the coffee table. Dad came home and finally the feast was ready. We prayed and then descended upon the food en masse. When everyone had their food and had eaten, we gathered in the living room to watch the thriller "The Others," a movie about a house that is haunted by ghosts. One of the best things to do with one's peers is to watch a thriller movie with them because you get to hear them scream and see them jump, which makes everyone laugh. Anyway, Mandy, Bethany, Christopher, and Alex squeezed on the big couch with John, Megan, and myself on the other one and everyone else on the floor. Ben used Mandy's pillow and squishy, after she warned him not to damage her squishy lest he face the consequences. The movie was enjoyable, but it's even better when you watch it with friends. About halfway through the movie, I noticed that Noah was sneaking up behind Alex but I figured he was about to pull a prank so was silent. A few minutes later, Noah made some noise and made the girls on the big couch scream, and everyone laughed. When the DVD started skipping, we went for dessert of ice cream (we bought a big thing of it, and it was gone afterwards). While Mom was spooning out ice cream, Cliff and Noah decided to play a trick on Mandy and Megan, so they locked them in Seth's room and made them scream before Cliff suddenly opened the door and frightened them again. We were all roaring with laughter. After we finished the movie, some people decided to go outside and play a prank on our neighbors (I have no idea why), but a few others stayed inside. Dad put in "Kung Fu Panda" (one of the funniest childrens' movies ever. Lots of good quotes for us to use) briefly, but by eleven PM most people had to go. All in all, it was an excellent and fun evening. There has been some talk of doing another movie night and possibly alternating between houses. If there is one, I hope I get to go before I leave for Houston in a month. Below is a link to some pictures I took during the event.


And now, on to the second part of the blog post: a comparison of different types of vocal layering in music. In my personal definition, I define layering as recording one voice over and over again to achieve an "echoing" effect or using several different voices for a similar effect. I have the following examples to compare: Clannad, Enya, Maire Brennan, Emmy Rossum, and Anuna.

Clannad doesn't exactly use layering, but they deserve some credit because Enya, who uses layering heavily, was impacted by them. Clannad's layering consists of Maire's frontal vocals with the background harmony of the four (or three or five, depending on which year the song was recorded) people, most of whom are male. Their layering techniques were not present in their early traditional works, but they appeared in their "Theme from Harry's Game" with the mixture of Maire's vocals with the men's. I like to think that it was this song that inspired several artists to try the layering effect in different ways. After 1982, Clannad used layering frequently, especially for their darker songs and not as much for their lighter ones. Their layering gives them a similar Enya-esque sound except they did not have to record the same voice over a hundred times. Another good example of their layering would be in "Croi Croga" (which I have to agree with fans and critics who say it is Clannad's finest work) and " A Mhuirin O" (I can't spell Gaelic, so forgive me), the latter which actually uses I think only Maire's voice and no male vocals though I can't be sure.

Enya has established her place in the music industry by her signature layering in many of her songs. I have listened to songs from her first popular album "Watermark" and compared them to her most recent "Amarantine," and I discovered that her layering was not very prominant in her early works but became that way with "Shepherd Moons" and beyond. For Enya, her layering is all her voice and no one else's (though I do wonder how she can sing bass on some songs). Basically, she probably records herself singing the melody first and then over time she either adds on to the melody by singing in another key or by singing a harmonic line or two. It is long process, and some fans have said this is the reason why it takes her so long to record an album, because she does all the vocals herself. Good examples of her layering would be "The River Sings" (new layering) and "Storms in Africa" (old layering), especially the latter where you can hear her singing in different keys and tones.

Maire Brennan
Maire has not achieved the same claim to fame as her little sister Enya, though she uses similar techniques, especially in her recent albums. When Maire released her solo albums in 1992 and 1995, she used two (or three) of her sisters as backing vocalists whose voices are similar though different, which distinguished her from Enya. However, after Maire went solo full-time in 1998 she ceased using her sisters as singers, only using for for a few more years, but she began using her own voice in layering. An example would be "Perfect Time," where it is her voice that is divided during the chorus, one singing low and one singing higher in a very Enya-esque fashion. Her most recent albums do not use layering, though there is definitely some electronics at work on songs like "River."

Emmy Rossum
Emmy Rossum is mainly known for her role in the recent film adaptation of "Phantom of the Opera" as well as other roles in cheesy movies like "Day after Tomorrow." She released a solo album in 2007 that she called pop but mainstream music calls New Age (a definition I disagree with because I think of New Age as being very mystical and centered around nature, and her album is anything but that). I've heard most of this album, and she uses layering very heavily, leading some critics to call her a softer version of Enya. Emmy does indeed at some points sound like Enya, except her voice is much softer and more emotional. She relies on layering in every song that I've heard from the album, but she mostly stays in the same key, which sets her apart from Enya. While I could criticize Enya for overdoing her layering and at some points taking away the emotion of a song, Emmy does not do the same thing. Rather, her layered voice, which she recorded hundreds of times, carries the emotion well and does not sound busy or overdone. I highly recommend her as a solo artist, especially her songs "Don't Stop Now" and "Anymore."

And last but not least, Irish choral band Anuna. While the above musicians mentioned mostly rely on one person to supply everything for the layering, Anuna uses about fourteen different voices to achieve a similar and haunting effect. I would consider founding member Michael McGlynn a genius for mixing together untrained and trained voices into a beautiful, unified whole. Anuna is basically like Gregorian chants meets Irish music. They range between Catholic hymns, traditional Irish songs, and then more modern compositions, though they always use layering for each one. On songs like "Rising of the Sun," there is the lead female vocalist and then the chorus, which together has the dark sound one would hear in Clannad or Enya. Some good examples of their layering would be "St. Nicholas," "Hin Barra," and "Noel Nouvelet."

I do have a slight warning for my Christian readers, though. I have to be careful especially when listening to Maire Brennan, who, despite not liking the New Age label and prefering a Christian one, is a mystic and has some odd lyrics about spiritual experiences. Anuna often does songs about the Virgin Mary and sometimes New Age songs about nature like "The Wild Song," which I am edgy about.

Anyway, I love it when artists use the layering effect and I believe the credit goes to Clannad for discovering it back in 1982 and then being modified by Enya, who introduced it to a world-wide audience and to other musicians who use her techniques.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Death of the Electronics

I think my laptop and headphones are in an alliance against me. Why? Well, the power cord for my laptop has disappeared and my headphones were tossed in the garbage yesterday. I've known for a few weeks that I'd need to buy new headphones because the little covers for the part that covers my ears were torn. Yesterday, I was on my laptop and watching a live performance of Secret Garden on youtube (Norwegian- Irish band Secret Garden is quickly becoming a new favorite of mine) when the sound started acting weird. I thought it was the sound on the laptop, which has given me grief before, so I turned it off. However, when I used the headphones a little later to listen to my MP3, I couldn't hear the melody, only the bassline for Sondre Lerche (Indie artist from Europe). That convinced me that my loyal headphones were no longer working, so I threw them away when I got home. They served me well, and I'm glad they lasted for a few years. However, that will make listening to my MP3 impossible (unless I borrow Seth's headphones, which ironically I bought him for Christmas, like I'm doing right now) and music on the laptop interesting.

And now on to the power cord. Yesterday, GGC had its annual Spring Bash. Last year it had been for Perimeter students but the GGC students "crashed" it. The Bash took place in the remaining 1/4 of the Green (the other 3/4 has been torn up to make way for the new library when they could have easily been built in the kudzoo, but I digress), and it was much smaller than last year's. I ate a snowcone, and then Blair and I walked onto the remainder of the Green, where they had set up a few inflatable thingys; one was like a crash course, where you have to climb over stuff and under stuff to race someone else, another was a basketball court/ boxing court, and the other was some sports thing that barely anyone used. Oh, and not to forget the rock-climbing wall as well. Well, I had to lug around my heavy backpack on wheels because I'm not leaving my laptop in a corner while I have fun, especially when you take into consideration the electronics robberies that have been going on on campus for the past two years. Anyway, so I was pulling my backpack behind me most of the time, and at one point I saw my laptop cord sticking out, so I pushed it back in and didn't think anything else about it. The Bash was ok, and I'll try to upload pictures later (though it might be a while if my cord is gone). After the Bash, we went home to prepare for company coming over for dinner so I used my free time to keep music downloads going (which makes me wonder why I have to like the most hard-to-find artists and hard songs), which can only happen on the bedroom computer. Well, after a fun time with the Hortons, I decided to bring out my laptop because I usually stay up on Thursday nights, but then I discovered the cord was missing. I went out to the van to see if it had fallen out, but it was not there either. From what I can gather, it probably fell out of my bag somewhere on the Green during the Bash. Despite the fact it's gone, I'm not going to go crazy about it because the power cord was already broken (as I believe it was actually sucking power from my battery at certain times) and I had already considered replacing it before I go to Houston this summer. Besides, last night I borrowed Seth's cord, so I can do that... on occasion, when he's not using his laptop. The only thing that sort of bums me out is that I can't write or listen to my music on the laptop, but I confess I more than likely need a break from it. I guess my itching fingers will have to wait a little longer, but it'll probably be for the best because finals are in two weeks. I'm not really concerned about either broken/ missing electronics, as both needed to be replaced anyway and then I've already dropped the hint about wanting new ones for my upcoming birthday in a few weeks.

Oh, and one more thing before I forget: Geneva Christian Academy is over. For years, the school has struggled in various areas yet has remained open to try to keep students graduating. However, at a recent faculty meeting, three of the teachers announced that this was their last year and they weren't coming back next fall. Due to this, as well as a few other difficulties, the school is closing down at the end of May. We're still working on details, as some of the students may have trouble being homeschooled, but it looks like Mom may still be teaching two science classes to whomever. As I said, no details have been confirmed. This won't impact us, as Mom and Dad told us a month ago that Seth and Mandy would be homeschooled next fall. And, because Mom is a faculty member, we kids have known about the school closing down before most of the other students did, so it wasn't a shock to us. Seth and Mandy are looking forward to being homeschooled again (except Mandy'll be a little disappointed she won't get to hang out with Bethany every day, but that's a different issue), and Mom is as well. It's sad to see Geneva go, as I graduated from it and was there for four years, but I'm glad that I had the opportunity to go in its "Golden Days." I've been thinking of making a slideshow- video of Geneva throughout the years because Mandy and I have so many pictures of the school and the students, but nothing's come out of yet because we lack the technology for it and because frankly I don't like doing slideshows because they cause my laptop to lock up. Anyway, despite Geneva closing down, Christ College is not being impacted, except it can now take over the classrooms, so going there next spring shouldn't be a problem, which reminds me....

Well, I need to get off the blog and get back to work. We're having company tonight with various Geneva and Christ College students coming over for dinner and movie, so I need to make sure the laundry is done and the house is clean. Maybe my next post will be another music rant, as I've got a few bouncing around in my fiendish brain.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Seth's 17th B-Day

Ok, so I finally stopped being lazy and posted several pictures on the slow-working Facebook, so I'll have several pics to share.

Last Saturday afternoon, Uncle Josh and his crew got together with us to celebrate Seth's birthday. We met at Jillians' and then began the game, most of us participating. The game was fun until three of the bigger balls (which Dad and Uncle Josh were using) were eaten, and so we had to wait fifteen, twenty minutes until someone came and got them out (we've decided to go to Oasis next time, and not Jillians'). Seth used his birthday present (a dark blue bowling ball), and Mandy got a chance to use her new one as well. We all did fairly well, as we all had our highs and our lows. Noah and Gabe started off very poorly but ended finishing very well. Dad ended up winning the game, and that's all I remember about the scores. After the game, we came back to the house for dinner. Our neighbors CJ and Vaneigh came over and wanted to come in, but they settled for playing in our yard and attempting pull-ups on the porch. Supper was delicious, as Mom made country fried steak, mashed potatoes, gravy, salad, green beans, and biscuits. We kids outside while the adults sat inside. Mandy kept getting annoyed and twitchy with a carpenter bee that was in the vicinity, and it was a task to get Rivers to eat her food. I went inside, and then the kids took a walk, but not before Seth opened up his birthday present, a new knife. We could have hung out for a long time together, but it was a Saturday night so Uncle Josh and his crew left around nine or so. We had a good time together, and I hope we get to get together more.

Here are pictures from Seth's birthday.


Here are pictures from the recent clan gathering.


Here are random spring pictures.


Here are a few pics from the Celtic Woman concert. We took them in the garage outside the theater, as I didn't want to take my camera inside, after hearing a story about one of the tour managers taking a fan's camera at a venue a few years ago.


On an unrelated note, I hate pollen. I don't think I've ever had spring allergies before, but right now my nose is clogged up, my sinuses hurt, and just in general feel sick. I've taken my vitamins, but they don't seem to be helping, which is why I believe this is the pollen and not a cold. I love spring and its beautiful yet tricky weather (comes from living in the South, I guess), but the pollen and sap are not a favorite around here. The weather has been acting unpredicatable. Sunday was gorgeous, but Monday and Tuesday were bitter cold and the temp actually dropped around freezing on those days. Then yesterday it warmed up, and today it's warm again. I hope there's not another bout of cold weather, as I'm ready for it to warm up permanently. On the other hand, it makes us laugh about supposed global warming and it's freezing in April. Oh, and there were snow flurries on Tuesday, which is extremely unusual for Georgia in April, but they didn't stick and the brief showers were on and off for an hour before disappearing.

Well, excuse me. I've got to blow this stupid nose of mine.

P.S. Please tell me if the links to facebook don't show any pictures. Facebook's been acting weird lately.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Snow in April in Georgia? What is the world coming to?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Spring Break! For the Others....

Yep. This week is spring break for Geneva and its students and teachers. A bit late, I would think, but they go on until late May while I'll be out the first/ second week of May (as soon as they release the exam schedule, which I would think they should have done by now). Anyway, nothing big has happened except for Seth's birthday yesterday. It's so hard to believe that he's 17! Nothing big happened for his birthday, except that he went to dig a trench at the church (which we thought was funny) and Dad came home late due to it being the end of the quarter. We're planning on going bowling with the family on Saturday, so that will probably be his celebration of sorts. Mom's enjoyed her spring break because no school planning for her to do, except she has been studying for an upcoming bio test. Mandy had fun on Monday when Bethany G. spent the night. Dinner was an interesting affair, as the two were giggling and doing the most random things that you wouldn't think Mandy would do. The girls watched "Twilight" (blech! Scrap the romance, but keep the action, which was pretty cool) and then decided to stay up until 3 AM.... when they had to get up around 7:30 AM. After spending most of the day at the zoo with the Abrahams and some other moms and their kids, Mandy went to bed around 10, which is unusual for her. And she slept for a long time, as when Mom and I went to classes this morning at 10:30 she still hadn't woken up yet.

School has been extremely busy, hence the lack of updates (well, due to a mixture of procrastination and studies). I thought I'd do my science project on the outer Solar System this Friday but decided against it because of three (possibly four) tests this week and because of an upcoming history newspaper project. But, on the side of science, I'm free of the Sith Lord! Yes, I came up with a name for Dr. La: Sith Lord. I had my last lecture with him on Monday, which was about ETs and such. Then he gave us a test to see how much we knew about the characters from Star Wars. I swear, he's turned me off of Star Wars (though not completely, as I'll explain later). And this is the quality of higher education: a teacher who's convinced that one day Darth Vader will come back and that he'll be taken away. Blech! I hope Dr. Purcell makes up for my brain-melting, though I'm not counting on it, as he went all environmental on us during our last few lectures (good thing Mom discussed environmentalism and global warming with her classes, so I soak it all up like a sponge :) ), even going as far to tell us that hamburgers release as much CO2 into the atmosphere as a car. Sorry, Dr. Purcell. You won't make me a vegetarian; I like my beef too much. Anyway, at least Dr. Purcell won't go all weird like Dr. La does, so I'm looking forward to that at least. Government has been busy too, with projects being due (one of which was due the day of the Celtic Woman concert and which I furiously had to finish) and a test today. Psych hasn't been that bad, as I'm glad we were given mercy and didn't have to do our take-home test last week. I hope she delays the test a little further, but it's hard to tell. History was a bit about piling things on, but I managed. History class last night was entertaining (I learned what a lobotomy is and I think everyone was a bit disturbed afterwards), especially with video clips of people during the Cold War being told to "duck and cover" in case of bombing. Then there was the talk about cars in the 50's, especially the one with a trunk seven by five feet big. Otherwise, nothing much has been going on at GGC besides boring newspaper club meetings, beginning to eat lunch earlier and not buy from the school, and things of that nature.

As a family, Saturday was busy for all of us. Mom and I were driving to go clean the church when suddenly the power steering started acting weird. We thought it was normal, as the power steering acts weird when it rains. Mom and I afterwards went to Costco to get a few things when we discovered that the electricity was dying in the car. The car died, so we bought our things and then waited for Dad to arrive. We thought the battery was dead, so we bought a new one. We were about to leave when Dad suddenly stopped us and ordered Mandy to turn off the car, as he had discovered that one of the belts had come undone. This belt, we figured out, came undone when Mom had driven through a puddle near the church, which had prevented the battery from being charged (sounds sort of like an episode of "House") and which had made the car die. Well, we got the belt fixed, and now the van is working just fine. After running around for two hours and trying to figure this out, we went home. A few hours later, we drove up to Houschton for a clan gathering. We had fun playing with the Wii, especially the bowling that we teased each other about. I took several pictures, but I've yet to upload them.

In the midst of everything being busy, the urge to write has been strong and has been a major cause of procrastination in getting things done. While I sat in Dr. La's class and heard him talking about Darth Vader causing solar flares, I kept remembering a story I had done a long time ago when I still posted on the forum. It had been a Jedi/ Sith story, where someone would post something as a character or two, and then someone else would post. I jumped into the story midway and joined as the evil Sith lady Ennuasa, who was the bane of the Jedis' existence. While I had been thinking about it, I decided I wanted to try to find the original thread. I did find it, and it's actually quite funny and often quite random, though it grew more serious as time went on. Now, I've been going through the thread and writing down what happened. I'm hoping at some point to go back and rewrite the entire story just for fun and good memories. That is, if my other story will not suck me in, though it's being uncooperative at the moment.

Before I end this post, the weather has been slightly warming up down here. The trees have budded and are now turning green again, though it still looks bare outside. It's been raining for the past few days, though I think now maybe the rain is over for now. The weather's being a bit weird, as one day it'll be in the 70's and sunny then the next day it'll be in the 40's, windy, and cloudy. While I'm welcoming the warm weather, there's one thing I'm not looking forward to that Mom and I sensed today: humidity. It'll be interesting to see how humid this summer gets, though I won't be here this summer, so I'll get to see how Houston's weather turns out (on that note, I got my passport last week!).

Well, that's all I've got for now. I've got another idea for a music rant, though I'm not sure if I'll post it or not.