Psych

As I’ve written in multiple posts previously, I’m a total slut for mysteries, whether it’s books, TV, movies, and even games. A mystery is to me the culmination of a well-constructed plot and engages the reader/viewer/player more than anything else.

While there have been many good mystery series on TV, most of them tend to focus on police procedure and violence, especially those in recent years/decades. One great series that puts more focus on comedy, wit, and a nice dash of irreverent 80s references is Psych.

Debuting in 2006, Psych was the second mystery/crime hit for the USA Network, following Monk‘s debut in 2002. In this series though, the eccentricities have been dialed way back, and we also get phenomenal chemistry and interesting interactions between all the main actors. Even in the very first pilot episode, Sean and Gus already have a great background story growing up in Santa Barbara. Once he is caught and nearly in jail for trying to help solve a case for the police, Sean desperately relies on the skills he acquired growing up with a single father who was a detective for the very same police department.

Wowing the officers and getting off the hook with the detectives, the chief pulls Sean in on another case, and not before long Sean pulls in Gus to start a psychic detective case. It sounds as wild as Gus’ exasperated look belies, but Sean is a very keen observer with a photographic memory, assisting the police and his own clients solve everything from robberies, missing persons, hauntings, and of course murders.

Over the course of 8 seasons, the actors and characters have a very nice growth and maturity. In the center would have to be Sean and Juliet’s relationship, as his crush is agonizingly and slowly, but surely, returned by Juliet, and it’s a very sweet friendship as well as romance that we get. Sean also repairs and grows the relationship with his father, and that is also really nice to see. Sean’s friendship with Gus is pretty steady with a few ups and downs throughout the series, much like a normal friendship should be.

In conclusion, it’s really nice to see a series like this come along, something that truly has its heart and mind in a good place, and isn’t overly violent, mean, or anything else drastic that seems to overwhelm TV these days.

Choosing a Synth … Still

Almost a year and a half ago I wrote an entry about possibly deciding on a new synthesizer to add to my little home studio. Well I never did, and since then have once in awhile tried to keep up with new releases, discontinued models, etc. to see if I could and would ever make a decision. So, compared to the list from the previous entry, how’s it looking now?

Subtractions

Out of all the synths I listed in my previous entry, there’s a few that I have removed from my list of considerations:

  • DSI Prophet 08 PE – this is still a great synth at a somewhat-good price, but the main reason I’m removing it from the list, as seen in the Additions section below, is because there’s a new REV2 model coming from DSI that’s replacing the Prophet 08!
  • Elektron Analog Keys – I just really don’t like the interface or the super-small screen.
  • Novation UltraNova – Similarly to the Analog Keys, I just don’t like the interface.
  • Waldorf Blofeld – Yet again, another synth that I don’t think has that great an interface, and with a possible still-buggy OS and questionable knob/encoder quality I don’t want to spend money on this.

Whew, that’s quite a few deletions from my list of considerations! So do I have that many additions to make up for them? Well let’s see…

Additions

DSI Prophet REV2 8-Voice

As mentioned above, DSI has recently unveiled the REV2 as the sucessor for the Prophet 08. It borrows design cues from the Prophet 06 and Pro2, including a really easy and logical face, as well as a nice (but still kinda small) OLED screen. Unlike the Prophet 06 and the OB-6, the REV2 maintains a 5-octave keybed rather than 4. It may mean more space taken up (although the pitch and mod wheels are above instead of beside), but it does give the most range. The REV2 comes in 2 versions (8- and 16-voice), and for my needs the 8-voice is plenty to work with (it’s also $500 less, and I have a feeling it’s gonna be easier to get for awhile than the 16-voice). This is really gonna be hard to pass up, even though its is a little higher priced (but like a Moog you’re paying for an American-made tank!).

Korg Minilogue

The Korg Minilogue has been wildly popular ever since it was announced. At $500 for a 3-octave, 4-voice analog polyphonic synthesizer, Korg impressed synth enthusiasts and seemed to finally have a worthy successor to the MS2000. The only negative I would give would be the slim keys, but at least it’s not mini keys! The Minilogue will be a really hard choice to pass up, not just due to its price but also its sound and features.

Moog Subsequent 37

The Sub 37 Tribute edition has been around for a little while now, and it’s only recently that Moog has decided to try and improve on it. The Subsequent is intended to be a very limited edition synth, but it does claim to make a few improvements. First is an improved keybed; second is a tweaked multidrive circuit and improved mixer headroom. Are these improvements worth the extra $300? That’s no small change for me, but if paying for an American-made classic synth, it’s really not that much more if I’d want the current best synth from Moog aside from the Model D. Of course by the time I might decide the Subsequent may already be discontinued.

Those Still on the List

Clavia Nord Lead A1

Nord has released many new Electro and Stage models in the past year and a half, but nothing has changed with their Lead line. That makes me fairly wary. Add in the fact that I’m not too happy with A1’s interface, and the Lead 4 hasn’t had a price drop since its release, this one is fairly low on my list. I still like its sound, its looks, and its stellar build quality. If I knew for sure I wouldn’t care about excessive programming and knob twiddling, then perhaps the A1 would be near or at the top of my list.

Moog Sub 37

Although I added the slightly revised Subsequent 37 in the Additions section, it’s not that different from the Sub 37. I do like the darker look of the Sub 37, and I really doubt the Sub 37’s keyboard is that much “worse” than the Subsequent’s. While still pricey for a mono-duophonic synth, there’s no doubt the build quality and sheer sonic bliss of a Moog!

Novation Bass Station II

It may “only” be a monophonic synth and just 25 keys, but it’s hard to argue how good a value the Bass Station II is at its price. Novation is also a pretty good company as far as support goes, at least that’s what I’ve heard. The interface is OK for some things, while deeper settings rely on using a Function button and the keys. I’m not sure this is near the top of the list, but it’s at least sitting comfortably in the middle.

Monophonic vs. Polyphonic

With the exception of the Moog Sub and Subsequent 37 and the Novation Bass Station II, all the synths on this list are polyphonic, ie able to make more than 1 sound at a time. As I like to play ambient and have decent piano-playing skills and knowledge of music theory, I know I would enjoy having a 4- or 5-octave keybed with the capability to fill the room with lovely lush sounds. Would it matter so much having a smaller keybed (in the case of the Bass Station II, a really really small and cramped keybed) and only able to make 1 sound at a time? Perhaps if I used a larger MIDI keyboard with Reason or another synthesizer I wouldn’t mind, but I think for having just 1 good synthesizer I need the polyphony. Now is the 3-octave keybed on the Minilogue too small, even though it’s “just” 4 voices? There’s no doubt I’d like that it wouldn’t take up as much space, and perhaps for my needs it could be enough room. I think I just have to weigh if it’s worth the money to jump from the $500 Minilogue to a $1500 REV2.

What About the DeepMind?

Some may read this entry, and note my affection for ambient and lush sounds, and wonder why the hell I don’t have the Behringer DeepMind 12 (or 6) in my list of considerations. There’s no doubt the massive value you get for the DeepMind, as far as number of keys, voices, and sheer amount of features for the money. What still nags me in the back of my mind is that it’s still a Behringer. Now yes, I do get a 2-year warranty through Sweetwater, and I know I’d be fully covered for anything in that time period. But because the DeepMind is still so new (the 6 isn’t even out yet), I just don’t know how reliable this synth would be longer-term. If more time passes and the reviews for the DeepMind are still pretty good, then I may indeed have to consider putting it on my list.

Website find: Zen Pencils

While looking at popular writing links on Reddit, I came across an illustrated comic, with the words an excerpt from Stephen King’s On Writing. The website, Zen Pencils, has incredible illustrations, and I couldn’t help but keep reading more and more of his illustrated quotes and excerpts from other noted authors, artists, scientists, and other professions. They are all great and well worth a look!

Dragons of Winter Night

A few months have passed since I read and reviewed Dragons of Autumn Twilight. I’ve read a few other books in the meantime, including starting The Eye of the World, but now I’m ready to go back into the world of Krynn and the continued adventures of Tanis, Raistlin, and everyone else!

This book picks up right where the first one left off. While one dragon highlord was killed we already get a replacement, this one wearing blue armor. An army of blue dragons come to join in, but the dragon highlord sends them north. They encounter Tanis and the others, riding on Griffons headed towards Silvanesti (yep, another freaking elf homeland). After a very confusing recount of events and dreams that everyone in the party has due to the corrupted tower in Silvanstri, Laurana and several others head out to find another dragon orb.

Basically, they do find the other dragon orb and stuff happens as they try to get it to Sancrist. While all of this is happening, we don’t hear anything about Tanis, Raistlin, or the others who aren’t with Laurana and Sturm. And Tanis is who I really care about. I don’t care about Sturm, not really.

Later on we do come back to Raistlin, Caramon, Tika, and the others, but not much time or details are devoted to them. We also get a little insight into the Knights of Solamnia as Sturm is questioned before the Council for his actions regarding Derek and his orders. There’s some political undertones and power struggles, and all that comes with that, but in the end it all has very little affect on the story as a whole, and I was ready to move on. Shortly after this is where I stopped, when I realized that the story really wasn’t going anywhere. Maybe it does pick up before the end of the book, but I just don’t have the time to keep reading chapter after chapter trying to find out.

I never realized two things about this trilogy. First, just how little actually happens, and just as few locations those events take place in. Once I finished reading the majority of the second book, I was thinking over what all has happened and it’s just not very much. Second, there’s so much melodramatic “tension” going on between characters. I guess most of it is supposed to create drama and draw the reader in, but most of the time I just rolled my eyes and wished something would actually happen, rather than reading more and more about how a character would first feel angry, and then remorseful, but never actually doing anything about it.

After reading Dragons of Autumn Twilight, I was still looking forward to what happens to all of the characters. I wanted them to keep exploring the world, meeting new and interesting people, races, and cultures. I was quite let down trying to get through the second book, and I don’t think I’ll try to read any other Dragonlance novels.

Seven Kingdoms

I had heard about Seven Kingdoms long ago when they were on Century Media, and they had recorded the album Seven Kingdoms at Morrisound Recording in Florida, where Iced Earth had recorded many of their albums. As the years passed they fell off my radar, even though they released another album, Fire Is Mine, in the meantime.

Well, for whatever reason I recently remembered about them and went looking to see what had happened to them, and lo and behold they are now signed to Napalm Records. I’m not sure how long they’ve been on that label, but this month they have a new album out, Decennium. While some of the members have changed, Sabrina is still the powerful frontwoman and her vocals sound just as incredible as ever! I’ve missed listening to power metal such as this, and I’m really glad they’re still releasing new material and re-invigorating the power metal genre.