Thursday, November 28, 2013

RELEASE: the lossless e.p. by The Calculus Affair


My wife Laurie Frankel wrote a book called Goodbye for Now. I might have mentioned it before. When it got picked up I thought a nifty cross-promotional thing to do would be write an album to go along with it. Since February was nearby and I always produce ten songs as part of my yearly go-'round with the RPM Challenge, I wrote those ten songs for the book, and recorded a demo of them as my RPM Challenge album for 2012.

After listening to the demos once or twice, I came to an inescapable conclusion that those ten songs sucked. Well, they didn't all suck. One was good.  I threw out the other nine songs and wrote ten more. Of those ten, nine sucked and one half-sucked. I threw out the original plan and decided to take the one and a half songs that didn't suck and with them re-record some of my old material--because really, who has heard any of my old stuff?--and that would be the album.

Time went by and none of that happened; I missed both the release of the hardback and the paperback and now it's two years later (life, man, I tell you what). The lossless e.p. is the salvage of this project: it contains the two songs (nos. 2 and 4 on the e.p.) and a couple from my back-catalog. It's also the first formal release of "Men of Luggage," which, while ten years old, has never appeared on anything besides compilations released by other entities.


  • 1) The Bridge
  • 2) Just This Once
  • 3) Men of Luggage
  • 4) I Take it Back
  • 5) Men of Luggage (Acoustic Version)


  • Written, performed, recorded, and mixed by Paul Mariz at The Cowslip's Bell, Seattle, WA. Additional recording and mixing for (3) by Gino Scarpino at Joralemon House, Seattle WA. Additional backing vocals on (3) by Gino and Jason Hyatt
  • Sounds of cars passing on (1) from freesound, recorded by Corsica_S and volivieri.
  • Mastered by Kevin Bressler at Whiney Cat Audio, Seattle, WA. 


As of this writing there's no place to buy a physical CD;  there may be at some point--updates as events warrant. If you know me and ask nicely, I'll burn one for you. Otherwise, go listen on Spotify (or Google Play, if you're a subscriber). It's free, and I get, like, $0.0015 every time you play a song. Also, when you listen there, it associates The Calculus Affair with other music you listen to and that's good for me. If you're a downloader, my net from any of the four stores above is roughly the same, so support the marketplace of your choice.


  • In addition to those happy few of you out there who are Calculus Affair fans (you know who you are)...
  • Matt Gani, Jennie Shortridge, Garth Stein, Stevie Kallos, and Ben Bauermeister (a.k.a. The Rejections). It is thanks to you that The Calculus Affair is now my side-project.
  • Gino Scarpino, Kevin Hyatt, and Mark Cooper for an endless, life-long stream of musical support and constructive criticism.
  • And Laurie Frankel: all and everything beyond words.

Monday, July 08, 2013

"Well, They've Seen Us"

Back in March, Randall Munroe posted to his webcomic, XKCD, an unassuming drawing of two stick figures, a boy and a girl, sitting on a slight incline. The comic was titled, "Time," and the alt-text (what you see when you hover your mouse over the image) said only, "Wait for it." I clicked it a couple of times, stared at it for a little while--maybe it was a slow-moving animation of some kind?--but nothing happened. A couple of hours later, though, the picture had changed--now the two people appeared to be building a sandcastle. A quick look at the source code of the page revealed the trick: every half hour, a javascript call was updating the picture, creating an ultra-slow motion animation of two people building a sandcastle on a beach. So after a day or so the cartoon showed a partially built sand castle; a few days later the sand castle was quite elaborate--the two builders created a scaffolding so they could build higher. They went away and came back with a mini trebuchet so they could play Sand Castle Siege. I thought it was cute. I assumed eventually it would reach its natural end and the cartoon would start over. I thought that because I'd forgotten that Randall Munroe doesn't do anything to any scale that's not epic.

XKCD is one of the most popular web comics out there, and one of the few that allows its creator the luxury of making a living doing his art. The "art" portion of his art is at first glance very simple--stick figure people, black and white drawings, basic outlines of things. The subject matter of his cartoons, which are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, are anything but. He constructs Math jokes, Linux jokes, Quantum Physics jokes; ofttimes a deep knowledge of coding, science-fiction/fantasy tropes, and/or general nerd culture are required to have any idea where lies the humor. 

And then there are the big things: a subway map of all of North America, a drag-able map of an enormous world of which the viewer can only see a tiny part at any one time, a log-scale drawing of the  height of the universea log-scale drawing of the depths of the universe, an exploded view of money, a map of online communities scaled by population circa 2007, then circa 2010 (in which you learn that Farmville is only the second-biggest farming-based social-media game in the world). And it goes on. Every now and then Randall Munroe will completely blow you away with the scale of his effort. 

It is, as of this writing, 106 days after frame one of "Time" was posted. More than 2500 drawings have come and gone, now at a rate of one an hour. There is dialog--in individual frames one of the two characters will have a word balloon and a frame or two later, the other character will answer back. After they had built their fantastically detailed sand castle, had a little bit of fun destroying and repairing it, and resting a bit, the couple started to notice the sea level rising. It began to eat up their castle, but it also caused them to wonder what was going on in the world they were in, a world they seemed not quite to understand fully. So they left and began hiking; mostly they seemed to be searching for some kind of answer about that world and what was happening to it. They have been hiking for months now. They have climbed mountains, seen far off seas, and come across buildings long abandoned. Night fell and it was stunningly beautiful--black and white drawings of the sky and Milky Way, slowly rotating through the sky.     

XKCD is, according to its own epigram, a "webcomic of romance, math, sarcasm, and language." I've always thought "romance" was an awkward word right there at the front--a better word might be longing--but it's also not wrong either. XKCD's first read may be as a comic about math jokes, but it also can't help but reflect the author's ongoing awe with all the things he finds in the world and his attempts to convey that awe to a broader audience. You might get a good chuckle from reading one of his comics, but read them continuously for months and you will find that you are following along something bigger, more profound, and more (literally) awesome. 

Today, for the first time in three and  a half months, the explorers of "Time" have come across some other people--they seem to be wearing Toessels. An initial read might be that the comic is nearing its end, but I suspect it's probably just the beginning. 

(a continuously updating visualization of the entire "Time" comic can be found here) 

Friday, May 03, 2013

Technical Note

If anyone out there is still paying attention, I decided not to renew my custom domain for this blog, because why would I do that? You may find all of your favorite Odds Are One content at the original blogger URL, As you were.