follow up

I’ve been reading Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower. Set beginning in 2024, after total economic and social collapse apparently brought on by climate change and hypercapitalism, it’s… not pleasant. I’m not sure I am getting much from the philosophical/psuedo-religious bits, but it does have the feature of the middle class being pinched in the middle — having relative privilege and comfort compared to the abject poor, and yet not prospering, not having stability and security.

That is an argument I see a lot from some leftists online: if you make (insert salary level here), or are living in (expensive city) then everything must be automatically easy for you, and therefore you’re part of the problem. I think it’s the same failure to understand and empathize with others’ circumstances that spawned the “avocado toast” meme, but it takes the form of resentment rather than disdain.

Yes, I have a decent salary, at this stage in my life. That was not always so, and I have a fraction of what Boomer financial advisors say I should have saved up for retirement. Prescription drug costs scare me, and sometimes I wonder how long it’ll take to die if I lose my job. Capitalism kills. I would happily pay more in income tax if it meant a stronger social safety net, partly because I’m not entirely self-absorbed and sociopathic, and partly because it’s very much in my own interests to do so. Universal health care and universal basic income are exactly what would make me more secure, not lower taxes. And taking better care of both the earth and the poor would have avoided the fate of society in Butler’s novel for sure.

Anyway, on to more pleasant subjects…

I wound up grabbing two Jean-Michel Jarre albums and the Yellowjackets one. Without the nostalgia lens the JMJ is… pretty good, just not mind-blowing. The YJ is honestly a bit disappointing; there are a couple of good tracks and more of a smooth jazz lean than I remembered.

Tomita is much less disappointing! He did have some cheesy and/or gimmicky moments but some of his albums are very satisfying overall.

I don’t think I’ll be able to find the “Robots” Kraftwerk compilation — it probably was never released on CD and not very widely even on cassette — but at some point I will track down the three classic albums I care about.

One of the key things that I practice on the U-bass is going to have to be intonation. I fired up a tuner plugin the other day and found that, when I thought I’d been nailing notes relatively well, I was off by more than I expected. Maybe the free-tuning stuff with synths has de-trained my ears, or maybe, a few cents off here and there is just natural. But I don’t want my pitch to be super sloppy — and maybe that second bass that I pick up eventually should be fretted.

I really like the look of an unlined fretless bass, like a classic upright double bass and the rest of the violin family. But in practical terms that’s much more difficult to get right, and I certainly don’t mind playing an easier instrument.

I’ve been looking at “Wing” style basses — much shorter, lyre-like instruments where the body is elongated and the neck is integrated with it. They use normal bass strings; many are half-scale and play one octave up, but some are sort of “baritone” and can use BEAD tuning or even standard bass tuning. Some instead have octave pedal electronics built-in.

Wing itself is a pretty spendy brand and have a long waiting list. There are a couple of brands that start even higher. But Italian brand Maurizio makes the Miezo, which is a bit more more “bass-shaped,” also look absolutely lovely, and are priced very reasonably given that they’re also all custom builds. [UPDATE: hours after I wrote that, they announced an upcoming price increase.] Polish brand MihaDo makes the (unfortunately named) FingyBass with several different options in stock in a variety of prices.

Maybe I should stick with the uke style basses, but I kind of like the hybridization these have gone through, the departure from a traditional bass role. It’s not like I had planned on playing bass in a band, at least not any conventional one. At any rate, I’m going to stick with my current bass until I’ve had at least six months of practice and experience with it.

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