but this “AI” is good

I had my routine diabetes checkup today. My hemoglobin A1C is the lowest it’s been in several years; there’s room for improvement but it’s encouraging news!

The doc says that the tingling in my pinky may or may not be diabetic neuropathy. Basically I shouldn’t worry about it too much unless it spreads. It could go away on its own after a while, or not. If it’s diabetes-related, all I can do is keep working on my glucose control. If not, and it grows to be a problem, there are tests and possible fixes.

My eye appointment last week was fairly encouraging too. I still have early signs of diabetic retinopathy but it hasn’t progressed in 15 months, in fact the worst spot has healed.

In recent news, the big pharma corp Eli Lilly has announced a 70% price cut and a cap of $35 copays on Humalog, the most common rapid-acting insulin, which is one of the ones I’m on. Hopefully this will put pressure on Novo Nordisk and Sanofri, the other two giant insulin manufacturers, and the ridiculous prices on long-acting insulin will drop too. It’s not the national health care program we need but it’s not nothing, either.

Ataraxic Iteritas is here. My initial feeling was surprise that it sounds so different from its ancestor Ataraxic Translatron. Just listening to it drone by itself, it’s kind of unpleasant, “thin” or harsh, lacking in weight, weirdly glitchy and beepy in ways I didn’t quite expect. But if you feed it through some saturation and a filter (say, Lacrima Versio) or sometimes just EQ or a delay, it very much comes to life. If you sync it to another oscillator, things get really interesting, more so than any other VCO in my experience. If you feed it through Koszalin to shift its various fighting overtones around it can be magical. Just using a snappy envelope and VCA to turn it into mysterious percussive bits is really effective. It is intriguingly different, and I feel like approaching it from the start as something unique rather than a typical VCO, is going to keep things fresh.

I have a nice sturdy supporting shelf and the white overlay for the BrutePest. I’ve found the setup is a potent combination — but both the Pest’s main output and the Brute’s Ext input are a little quiet and a gain boost could help. So I went ahead and bought a Befaco A*B+C, since it can do that as well as the other mixing/attenuversion/crossfading/VCA/etc. stuff. I am leaving the Inertia up for sale on MW, and if it sells, I’ll consider what smaller, simpler modulator to put in its place.

The album is coming along, not fast by my own standards perhaps but not stalled either even though I’m going easy on it. 7 tracks so far and 48 minutes, with some prep work in place for the 8th. There is so much more music to make…

In last weeks’ Bandcamp Friday I wound up grabbing 8 albums, 6 of them in that 21st century darkwave/goth vein. Boy Harsher’s Lesser Man EP is probably in the top two, with “Pain” being the hit single I suppose but the whole EP is an extension of it in sound design and some compositional elements. Sort of Moogy 16th note bass sequences with occasional other additions, minimal drums that owe a lot to Kraftwerk, short/high feedback metallic echoes accenting the warm but anxious-sounding vocals… it’s good. I’m going to have to seek out more of their stuff.

Memoria’s From The Bones is my other top two pick, almost opposite in style while still being in the same room. The synths and harmonies are often lush and full, the sound design meticulous but not overproduced, the vocals often reminiscent of Siousxie. I’m also absolutely going to have to look for more of their work.

Keluar’s Vitreum is closer to New Wave even than Boy Harsher — you can almost hear the VHS tape, and could easily imagine them doing a very competent, darker cover of Berlin’s “The Metro.”

Phosphor’s Youth And Immortality immediately reminded me of Soft Moon with the first track, but with a female vocalist who kind of reminds me of Concrete Blonde but sadder and reverbier. The more retro influence is certainly there but it sounds like the mid-2010s. There are some good songs on it, yet overall it kind of sits back in your consciousness the way ambient theoretically is supposed to.

Minuit Machine’s 24 is sort of… more EBM-influenced dance floor pop but shadowy? Like Ayria but more cynicism and despair than vengeance? The adjectives are failing me, I am not a music critic. I’ll have to be in the right mood for this probably, but it’s well done.

The Weird West Original Soundtrack by the Weird Wolves is something else. It’s got the Western twangy guitars but also some (really rocking) biting bass guitar, some solid almost industrial synth work, driving drums, female vocals that remind me a little of Portishead but more solid, and male vocals that make me think of a (slightly too young and clean-cut an actor for the role) nattily dressed villain cajoling a potential victim over a ghostly telephone line. The combination of genres feels like it shouldn’t work and yet it does, and it’s fascinating.

In books: The Spear Cuts Through Water has been an unusual tale. The layers of storytelling and/or dreaming and/or the performance of a play all intertwine in time (and probably space). The world where the main events are happening is rich and weird, reminding me of Gene Wolfe without being quite so doggedly literary about it. The world (or one of them?) where the story is being told makes me think of a poorer, not entirely free, slightly behind the times South American or Asian country perhaps, and it comes across very colorfully without any specifics whatsoever.

The “chapters” (if that’s what they are) are often just a few paragraphs at most. The story is interrupted mid-paragraph with reactions and commentary from the dead (or those who were present) in a way that’s jarring at first, then kind of expected, and then integrated into the plot itself very cleverly. Overall, the book is the sort of thing where you can read for a while and then have to stop and return to it another time. But I’m enjoying it quite a bit.

The Red Scholar’s Wake was the previous book I read. I’ll get the criticism out of the way first: the beginning felt like a story the author really wanted to tell but had no idea how to start, so she just did it as quickly as possible to move on to the good part. A powerful pirate queen approaches a captive on one of her ships, and proposes marriage to her as a “business arrangement” (because said captive is good with bots). It’s either that or death. (The fun twist? The pirate queen is actually a pirate ship, a cyborg who might or might not have ever been human but is currently some organic blobs attached to a computer. But she still has needs, understand.)

The romance aspects of the book are mostly sweet and fun even though the power dynamics are never not completely weird, and some of the physical stuff also pretty far out there. It’s the sort of story where you know how their relationship is going to shape up and you’re just sort of rolling your eyes (in a fun way) at all the miscommunications and almosts as it unfolds. It’s very light reading.

The science fiction part is… hmm. Neat ideas, but not always well executed in terms of the descriptive language and details. Like a movie script with some good art direction ideas but some fill-in-the-blanks that never got filled in.

(It’s still better than the quest items named “Thing” in Hellgate London, or the unforgiveable Unobtanium of Avatar. (I haven’t seen Avatar 2, and don’t really care to.))

The cultural stuff was neat, Vietnamese inspired with the names and customs and food, nobody caring even a little about gender roles, and — for all that the story mostly seems a bit fluffy — some nuance and seriousness where it comes to class, an individual’s place in a larger society, and justice.

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