Oct 10

How I Became a Certified AWS Cloud Practitioner

Roughly ten days ago, I passed my Amazon Web Services Certified Cloud Practitioner exam. This is the story of how I managed it.

I first started “Studying” for this over a year ago, when it was made clear that my place of employment was looking to include AWS in its future plans. I took Amazon’s Cloud Practitioner Essentials curriculum during roughly the middle of last year, and augmented that with some PluralSight courses both about AWS Fundamentals and about actually taking the exam.

It wasn’t until about 2 weeks before my September 30th exam, though, that I got serious about studying for the exams. To that end, I purchased (On sale for about $12) a set of practice exams from Udemy. There were six exams included in the package, and I took the first one beginning in roughly the middle of September.

This is an accurate re-enactment of me immediately before, during, and immediately after taking that first exam.

To take a step back, Amazon’s certification exams work similarly to the SATs. The score range is 100-1000, on a scale, and you need a minimum score of 700 to pass. The scale is based on the fact that the actual exam draws from a bank of thousands of questions, and some questions are harder than others. The practice exams considered 70% to be a “passing” grade, even if a 700 doesn’t necessarily correspond to getting 70% of the questions correct, and the extract for the exams recommended trying to get 90% or better on the exams to not have any issues with the actual exam.

My score on the first practice exam: 69%.

The part of me that will eternally be in middle school thought “Nice.”

The part of me that wanted to actually pass this exam to advance my career thought “Uh oh.”

The good news about the package of exams I bought is that it was an excellent teaching aid on its own. Of course the review told you what the correct answers were. But it also went into a lot of detail about why they were correct. Even more importantly, it detailed why the incorrect answers were wrong. This helped me get a feel for the types of wording to expect on the actual exam, and how to filter out wrong answers.

I took to making flash cards with key concepts. Rather than just the answers to the questions, I would make a card with, say “What is Service A?” or “Contrast Service B with Service C”, with a sentence or two about each–just enough to cover key concepts I might be asked about. The good news about the Cloud Practitioner exam is it emphasizes breadth over depth. There are a lot of services to know about, but as long as you know a brief summary of each (What it is, what it does, a potential use case or two–IE “Amazon Simple Storage Service, or S3, is a method of storing files on EC2 instances. It’s best used for static files, or static assets of a dynamic website like pictures. It can also be used to hold backups of databases, but isn’t good for storing live databases themselves”), I found that that’s enough to get you through the exam.

Still, there are a lot of services, so even working up enough knowledge to get that far took a while from where I started. After the embarassment of “failing” the first practice exam, I resolved to work on the other five, one per day, studying what I got wrong so I could hopefuly fix it.

Practice exam #2 yielded a score of 70%. Well, at least I “passed”. I guess you could say I improved as well, technically.

Exam #3 was a hard one. I failed that one too, with a 67%. This was where I started panicking a little bit, as it felt like I wasn’t remembering or recalling what I needed to.

For Exams 4 and 5, I felt that begin to change, as I scored a 78% on both. Still not great, but I was at least trending upward.

Exam #6 was just hard, and I barely “passed” it with another 70%.

Still, the exam was in about a week now, so I re-took between 1 and 2 of the practice exams per day. One thing about the course I picked is that it re-shuffles the order of the questions in each test, lessening the chance of being able to pass the practice exams by just memorizing or writing down the answers.

Nonetheless, my second attempts at the tests went a lot better–I improved anywhere from 15 (a 78 to a 93 on test #5) to 23 percent (A 69 to a 92 on test #1) on a given test. Test #4 remained the easiest–I only missed some question on it, giving me a 98, while Tests 3 (67 to 86) and 6 (70 to 87) remained the hardest. Because of my method of study, I was fairly sure I was retaining the concepts, but my scores, while well above 70%, were below the 90% recommended to “pass with confidence” about half the time. Plus, I still had the worry in the back of my mind that I was just memorizing question answers, which I was definitely guilty of on a couple questions.

Taking the Exam

I opted to take the exam via online proctoring through Pearson VUE. Online proctoring for the exams is pretty strict–you’re required to take pictures of your test space, you can’t have notes or anything else up, and you’re not even allowed to use multiple monitors. For these reasons and more, I opted to take the test from my bedroom. Even then, I had to cover a mirror in the room.

The other thing is that once the test starts, you’re not allowed to leave the field of vision of your webcam until you’ve finished the test and shut down the testing software.

The good news is that you know basically right away if you pass the test or not. I finished the 65 questions in roughly 35 minutes…

And obviously, I passed! I later found out that my score was 893, which sounds about in line with “Yes, I actually remembered the concepts and not just the answers to specific questions”.

So I’m happy. The next step is Amazon Cloud Architect Associate certification, which I’ve already started working toward and would like to get in the next six months or so. We’ll see how that goes…


Apr 06

Game Review- Infested

Icom’s “MacVenture” series is a classic set of four point-and-click adventures that, in a lot of ways, predicted and influenced where the genre would go. Among other innovations, they were the first games to represent your inventory in pictures, and gave you a specific set of commands to use (“Look”, “Use”, “Open”, etc.). This was a welcome respite from the previous norm, where you would have to play “Guess the exact syntax the game wants you to use to advance” (Which Homestar Runner and later TV Tropes would call “You Can’t Get Ye Flask“).

Three of the four games in the MacVenture series, Shadowgate, Deja Vu, and Uninvited, would later see NES ports (The fourth, Deja Vu II, would be released on the Game Boy Color as part of a Deja Vu I & II collection about a decade later). These changed the UI somewhat, replacing the pictorial inventory with a text list, but would become iconic in their own right–they were later re-ported to PCs as a collection called 8-Bit Anthology Volume 1, complete with their infamous Nintendo of America censorship.

It’s these NES ports that inspired GrahfMetal’s Infested, a point-and-click adventure with an interface very similar to the NES ports, but just different enough to be legally distinct. The UI has a futuristic shine to it, which is fitting for the setting of the game.

You play as a resident of a space ship. You wake up out of stasis thanks to screams coming from elsewhere on your ship, followed by an eerie silence, all of which may or may not have been a dream. Fortunately, you know who you are, which puts you ahead of 90% of video game protagonists who wake up at the start of their adventures. Unfortunately you quickly realize that the screams and subsequent silence were real. It’s up to you to figure out what happened and stay alive.

Infested sneaks in a number of references to those old MacVentures, especially Shadowgate. If you’ve never played one, though, don’t worry–they’re just easter eggs, and you don’t need to pick up on them in order to complete the game. As one example, your mission briefing, where you learn about “Commander Lakmir”, is an homage to Shadowgate, which had a similar intro with a wizard named Lakmir.

Point-and-click adventures, especially old-school ones in the style of early Sierra Online games (Even Sierra toned down the sadism in their later adventure games), get their difficulty from two main factors. The first is “Ways to die”. Infested is packed pretty tightly with these. Death looms on almost every screen, especially early on. I wrote a Twitter thread not long after I first played it; within that thread, I highlight four of those ways to die. And the first time death catches you, you’ll wish it hadn’t–the image is comparable to the corresponding image in Shadowgate or Uninvited.

Fortunately, the game mitigates the frequency of your demise in a couple different ways. The first is allowing you to save wherever you want. The second is the penalty for a death. Said penalty is essentially non-existent; dying kicks you back into the room before the one where you met your end. You even get to keep the item you used to kill yourself, if doing so is what caused you to die!

The second main factor in a point-and-click adventure’s difficulty is whether or not the puzzles are logical, and whether it’s easy to find the items needed to solve said puzzles. Infested is pretty forgiving here, to the point you can intuit what you need to do in a few puzzles without ever finding the in-game hint for them. This was actually my main irritant with the game–in the puzzle I missed the hint on, examining the elements of the puzzle will cause the game to imply you’re closer to the solution than you actually are, confusing you when you try to do what the game says to do next and nothing happens. Regarding the “moon-logic” nature of adventure-game puzzles, Infested is pretty fair. I’m not a point-and-click afficionado, and except for one puzzle in particular where the intended solution was probably not what I would have done with the combination of items in question, everything either made enough logical sense that I didn’t question it, or the game gave more obvious hints toward the solution.

You may hear Infested described as “A ‘short’ tribute to MacVentures”. Honestly, its length is roughly in line with the games it pays tribute to, especially once you know how to get through them. The game contains, by my count, 31 rooms to explore. That’s slightly smaller than Shadowgate (Which had roughly 40 rooms from a quick search), though not by enough to be called “short” by comparison. The sequence to complete the game requires you to go back and forth between rooms, but you can use knowledge from previous playthroughs to get through subsequent ones faster if you’re the speedrunning type.

In all, the 3-person team behind Infested did an excellent job creating a game in the spirit of the MacVentures. The music definitely helps in bringing that “ICom feel” back, particularly the harsh theme that plays when you die. And since I was extremely young when those games were first released, this was really my first game I played through in this style totally “on my own”, and it didn’t frustrate me enough to want to throw my laptop through a window (This is a good thing).


Jun 22

Reflections on Doki Doki Literature Club!

I seem to be slowly turning into That Visual Novel Guy.

Anyway. Most of this will go behind a cut, mainly due to massive Doki Doki Literature Club! spoilers. I mean, more than the Steam/Twitch tags and content warning already spoil it.

Continue reading

Jun 09

Episode 6: Van Halen’s 5150

In 1984, Van Halen were one of the biggest bands on Earth. By 1985, they were on the verge of breaking up, as vocalist David Lee Roth left to pursue a solo career and try his luck in Hollywood. After a couple asks that went nowhere, they settled on former Montrose vocalist Sammy Hagar as Roth’s replacement. Replacing a vocalist, especially one with the stature of Roth, is always a dicey proposition, but did Van Halen make it work? Come explore their 1986 album 5150!

It’s time for the SHOW NOTES!
0:00: Intro and Theme Song
0:22: About me and the podcast.
0:41: Introducing our band: Van Halen!
0:55: The mythology of Van Halen’s INSTANT MASSIVE SUCCESS!!
1:16: The reality is it wasn’t quite that simple.
1:57: But when they did break, they broke big.
2:11: Why? Their singer. Also their guitar player.
2:23: The origins of Eddie Van Halen’s two-hand tapping guitar technique.
2:44: Van Halen sustain their success until 1984…
2:59: A digression into the inspiration for this episode’s intro.
3:43: HEY BROSSENTIA! Van Halen are about to run into trouble!
4:13: Specifically, now they don’t have a singer!
4:19: Ah, the first-album-with-a-new-singer. The classic Divisive Album!
4:52: Who could replace David Lee Roth? Patty Smyth?
5:14: Or how about DARYL HALL?
5:46: No, they went with Sammy Hagar instead!
6:06: Which didn’t exactly surprise Hagar. Hagar was a confident man.
6:16: There were positive signs when they demoed some new material…
6:27: Introducing this episode’s album: 1986’s 5150!
7:03: The opening of “Good Enough”, the album’s opener.
7:15: The chorus of “Good Enough”, and some discussion of the song.
7:51: A third excerpt from “Good Enough”, and discussion of this spoken-word section.
8:17: This monologue is more light-hearted than Roth’s tended to be.
8:28: Introducing the album’s first single: “Why Can’t This Be Love”
8:40: The start of “Why Can’t This Be Love”.
9:05: Discussion of the 80s keyboard-oriented smoothness of this song.
9:31: Maybe the worst lyric we’ve ever heard on this podcast, and discussion thereof.
10:03: Let’s hear it again, but this time listen to the drums!
10:16: Those electronic toms sound…a little out of place with everything else.
11:09: Of course, 1986’s popular consensus disagreed with my nitpicking.
11:20: An excerpt from and discussion of “Get Up”, song number 3 on 5150.
12:13: Introducing the second single from the album, and playing an excerpt from it.
12:47: Another excerpt from the song….
13:08: Which is obviously called….”Dreams”.
13:29: An excerpt from near the end of “Dreams”.
14:04: Discussion of the last segment of the song.
14:50: “Dreams” was a hit too, but it had a B-side….
15:01: …which was “Inside”, the album’s closer.
15:07: An excerpt from “Inside”.
15:34: What I’d actually make The Divisive Albums Podcast given a do-over.
16:19: Discussing what the band were going for with “Inside”, which was….
17:09: Did you guess “Making fun of their previous singer”? You’re right!
17:16: Turns out Roth and Van Halen were not BFFs after Roth’s departure.
17:34: Another excerpt from “Inside”
18:06: Introducing the third single from the album, “Love Walks In”
18:40: Discussing “Love Walks In”‘s chart performance, and what it portended for the band.
19:03: How’d 5150 do? It did well!
19:30: Like “Van Halen’s first #1 album” well!
19:47: Like “Crushing David Lee Roth’s competing solo album” well!
20:03: What happened after that, and Where Are They Now?
20:55: Final Thoughts
21:20: Outro and Social Media. Twitter, Website, Discord, Patreon, The Music For Two Podcast, E-Mail

Also, thanks to MercuryZelda for becoming a Patron!

Other Links:
The Classic Rock interview/retrospective I mentioned
A Rolling Stone interview where Sammy Hagar looks back on 5150.
Sammy Hagar’s Live from Daryl’s House appearance. The discussion about Daryl potentially joining Van Halen and the “Eddie’s funky” line come about 33 minutes in.

May 27

The American Dream–The Idea and the Reality

Earlier today, I started reading The Tao of Writing by Ralph L Wahlstrom. I’m about a third of the way through it right now. Thus far, and I don’t expect this to change very much, the book is half philosophy, half how-to-write book. It argues that the way writing is traditionally taught in schools (Strict grammatical rules, having to outline, five paragraph essays, writing in a strict beginning-to-end style–essentially, focusing on the form and structure instead of the expression of ideas) sets people up for failure, and that just brainstorming and letting ideas flow will yield, if not a masterpiece of writing, at least a start from which a good idea can probably be pulled and expanded on.

But the writing technique part isn’t the most interesting part of what I’ve read thus far. No, that’s this passage about 10% of the way through the book on the Kindle Edition:

“[The Brazilian literary activist] Paulo Friere saw that illiteracy prevented the Brazilian peasants from being heard, from having a voice in the politics, economy, and culture of their country. When he began his literacy circles in which indigenous peasants learned to read and write through pictures and music, through their own culture, his success so frightened the Brazilian oligarchy that he was exiled. Freire discovered that literacy and culture, when taken together, are a power, liberating force. They can free a people politically, and they can free each of us from the bonds that hold us so rigidly in place.”

This got me thinking about the US and its treatment of the poor (And the young, for that matter. I like to imagine that today’s “Oh shut up you complain about money yet have NO problem buying that IPHONE!” had a rough equivalent ~70 years ago of “Oh stop complaining you had NO problem saving up and buying that fancy REFRIGERATOR of yours!”, such is the necesity of some kind of connected device nowadays). For as much as people like to peddle “The American Dream” and “You can be anything you want as long as you work hard for it” and so on, the fact is that you can do everything right and still have nothing to show for it at the end of the day. It’s also a fact that resources are easier for some to come by than for others. For me, “self-enrichment resources” like books (Such as The Tao of Writing!) are pretty easy to come by. Heck, a branch of my workplace has a local Toastmasters group if I ever feel like working on my public speaking/leadership skills! But for others, especially people living in poor areas that may not have easy access to, EG, a library, it’s a lot harder. And it’s not just a matter of lack of motivation. It’s a matter of, if you will, “The American oligarchy” making it as hard as possible for poor people to rise above what others see as “their station” in life.

Part of it is we have this tendency to romanticize suffering and toil as a part of said American Dream, and think everyone should suffer as we suffered. “*I” worked two jobs all my life, I don’t see why *those people* can’t *also* work two jobs, they must just not WANT IT enough!” for instance. Ignoring the fact that even finding two jobs that can work around one another’s schedule isn’t easy even for someone like myself, why should anyone *have* to work two jobs just to survive? Just because I did?

We claim that we want people to help themselves, then try to make it impossible for them to actually do so, by doing things like cutting education funding, funding to public libraries, and so on. And it sucks.

May 24

Book Review: Write. by Karen E. Peterson

Write. by Karen Peterson is a book that, unlike the last book I read, focuses almost exclusively on the actual writing process. More precisely, it’s a book about overcoming writer’s block. To the extent it covers aspects like finding an agent and publishing, it does so only in the context of writer’s block, IE “Are you not writing because you really don’t have any ideas, or because you’re afraid of later steps in the process…or could you even be afraid of potential success?”

The book’s approach to writer’s block is a bit of an unusual one. The book, which has a copyright of 2006 in the Kindle edition I read, approaches writer’s block as a function of the left brain versus the right brain, and goes off of the now discredited theory that hand dominance is related to brain dominance, IE that left-handed people are right-brain dominant, and vice-versa. It does turn out that brain activity is asymmetrical–generally speaking, the right brain is the emotional center of the brain, and the left brain is more dedicated to languages, both spoken and visual (Such as sign language). The book’s science is rather suspect in that regard, asking you to perform a bunch of exercises with each hand, one right after the other, and see how the answers differ as a result. Peterson shares the results of her exercises, which do differ between hands, and the appendix of the book includes extra copies of the exercises if you want to repeat them.

Though the underlying science is less-than-rock-solid, which calls the starting thesis into question as well, the interesting bit is that the conclusion and Peterson’s suggestions for overcoming writer’s block are rather sound. The book argues that the right side of the brain, besides being the emotional center of the brain, is like a toddler–it wants what it wants, it wants it now, and it will throw tantrums if it doesn’t get what it wants. In terms of writing, Peterson argues that the right brain wants to write the Great American Novel, all at once, in one big chunk of time–and since big chunks of time are difficult-to-impossible to come by, the right brain decides it’s better to just not write at all. The solution, then, is to take whatever time you can steal away to write, even if it’s an hour a week–waking up ten minutes early here, writing during your lunch break there, and so on–and, in doing so, to undergo the process of writing. And the process of writing can be just about anything–writing your book, yes, but also writing supporting documentation (Character bios, outlines, etc.) for the book, or as a last resort, revising parts of the book you’ve already written.

It’s a fascinating book. I’ve discovered two things as I’ve branched out and begun reading books that would broadly be described as “self-help”. The first is that there’s nothing new under the sun, so to speak. I’ve picked up on common themes and concepts in several of these books, even though the books are by different authors. The fact that these, for lack of a better word, motivators tend to mentor one another and, thus, pass their philosophies down through the generations no doubt helps this. But the second thing is that several of the more recent books I’ve read have gone to unexpected places only tangentially related to their core theses. Sonya Renee Taylor’s The Body Is Not An Apology discusses how racism persists in different ways in modern society, and how it’s regarded as acceptable to do so, for instance (And no, it’s probably not what you think). In Write, it’s the right-brain/left-brain theory in general, and how most people aren’t brought up with what she regards as the proper balance of each, in part because parents aren’t perfect.

And despite the shaky starting ground, I do like Peterson’s conclusion and some of her suggestions for getting yourself to write, such as giving yourself 20 minutes of reward time for every 20 (Or 10, or 30, or whatever number you pick) minutes of productive writing time. She also suggests some smaller, healthier habits that can help you get through writer’s block, and put you in a better mood besides. These are things like drinking green tea instead of caffeinated sodas, or going for a brisk 5 minute walk now and again. And I appreciate the “be productive in whatever blocks of time and discipline you can muster” encouragement–I’m writing this review in small bursts between browsing the internet, my old nemesis, for instance.

While I don’t think I’d recommend this book on its own, I’m not sorry I read it as one book in a Humble Bundle that contained about 25 books in it. To be fair, not all of those books will directly relate to me, but nonetheless, I find the exhortation to write to be one I need to hear on occasion.


May 19

Book Review: Write That Book Already! by Sam Barry and Kathi Kamen Goldmark

I recently purchased the Humble Write Like a Writer Book Bundle (Still on-sale for a couple more days as I write this). Since one of the things I’m trying to do is spend less idle time on the Internet (See this for a brief explanation), I figure writing up reviews of some of these books while I’m on the computer is as good a use of my time as any. I may go back and review some of the other self-improvement books I’ve read lately.

In any event, the first book I read in this bundle was Write That Book Already!: The Tough Love You Need To Get Published Now by Sam Barry and Kathi Kamen Goldmark, who are BookPage’s Author Enablers. The e-book edition of the book, which I read, was published in September of 2012, and the original book is copyright 2010 (Note the foreword from Maya Angelou, who passed away in 2014).

Write That Book Already! is an accurate title, but it doesn’t fully do the book justice. Yes, the book does tell you to, well, write that book already, and it makes the point that the only way to do that is to sit down and write the book (Or short story, or whatever). But it also takes you through the full publishing process–it distinguishes fiction from non-fiction in terms of how you pitch your book (Short version: Non-fiction tends to be more relaxed in terms of submitting concepts for books you haven’t actually written yet). It also discusses how to find an agent, how to find a publisher, and what the publishing process actually is. Throughout the book, the authors provide humorous examples, some fictitious just to show the process and what to do or not to do, some real. one example is handling a call from an agent who wants to represent your book. There are also peeks into the lives and jobs of some of those agents, publishers, etc. involved in the process of making the book. It even goes into how to help your publisher promote your book (Though while the authors acknowledge the rapidly changing internet landscape, there is nonetheless, an of-its-time reference or two–at least one reference to Myspace, for instance).

Of course, not everyone goes the “Get a publisher” route anymore, and the book details self-publishing as well, how to go about it, and the difference between self-publishing (Technically, setting up your own publishing company) and vanity publishing. It also notes when each may be appropriate (There’s nothing wrong with using a vanity press to print up a book about your family history and give it to family members, for instance).

The book’s first appendix is a useful source of further reading both in terms of books about writing, and of books to draw more general inspiration from. Authors like Stephen King, Amy Tan, and Dave Barry, among others, give some picks in each of these categories, including some I’ll likely check out once I run out of Humble Bundle books to read.

The advice is focused around writing a longer-form book, as opposed to a novella or short story, although there is one example of an author who had more success pitching their short story collection once they turned it into an actual *collection* with a common theme, as opposed to just “Whatever short stories they had laying around”.

That said, the advice of “Just freaking write already; nothing else happens until you do that!” is universal to all authors, or really any creative types like artists, musicians, game developers, etc. Ideas are great, but they’re also useless if you don’t get them onto paper/canvas/code/whatever. In short, I recommend this book. It’s a pretty quick read, around 200 pages plus appendices, and it sprinkles enough humor in throughout to be engaging.


Apr 29

The Least Work-Safe Thing I’ve Ever Written for this Site

Which is saying something, considering I reviewed Lesbian Spider-Queens of Mars as part of Games I Beat In 2014.

So yeah, I’m going to put most of this behind a “Read More” link. This is a Content Warning for two things:

  1. Spoilers for the game Ladykiller in a Bind
  2. A cishet dude (That’s me) writing about aspects of that game without having any clue what he’s actually talking about.

With that:

Continue reading

Apr 22

Episode 5: The Beatles’ White Album

Five episodes! FIVE episodes! FIVE….never mind. For episode five, we go big, looking at an album by some guys from Liverpool who I guess were kind of big in the 1960s? Big enough that they could follow up a landmark album with a 93-minute opus and no one would bat an eye. And despite the band beginning to fall apart, or maybe because of the band beginning to fall apart, they managed to write a bunch of songs in a bunch of differing styles. Come explore The Beatles’ 1968 self-titled album, AKA The White Album!

Check out these SHOW NOTES!

0:00: Intro and Theme Song
0:23: About me and the podcast.
0:48: Introducing our band: The Beatles!
0:53: A bit about my trepidation in doing this episode, and a little about The Beatles themselves.
1:42: On how The Beatles’ popularity endures.
2:47: Introducing this album’s episode, The White Album!
3:07: Some “double albums” wouldn’t be double albums today.
3:36: This DOES NOT apply to The White Album.
3:52: But is this album actually divisive? Yes. It is.
4:06: People generally agree 2/3rds of it are great…
4:17: …but no one agrees on WHICH 2/3rds that is!
4:26: Guess what? This album technically had ZERO singles in the UK/US!
5:06: So how did I decide what songs to discuss?
5:20: By picking the relatively lesser-known ones…
5:39: …Where I used The Beatles Rock Band to decide which tracks DIDN’T fit that description.
6:20: Presenting our first excerpt, from “Glass Onion”
6:49: Discussing a bit about the “Beatles Mythology” that had built up by 1968.
7:07: Another excerpt, and the “Paul Is Dead” rumor.
8:06: American Internet Jerk BUTCHERS the Greek Language in only THREE WORDS!!
8:40: On why the “Paul Is Dead” theory got so popular in 1969.
9:13: The chorus of “Glass Onion”, and its weird accent on “onION”.
9:38: An excerpt from and discussion of “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”
10:10: The Beatles are fallible! Another excerpt, where the song characters’ roles are reversed, among other things.
10:51: An excerpt from and discussion of “Wild Honey Pie”, a strange little mini-song.
11:20: Discussing this song in the context of turning The White Album from a double to a single album (Most people cut it).
11:43: Discussing “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill” and playing an excerpt from it.
12:28: Another “Bungalow Bill” excerpt, and introducing Yoko Ono!
13:04: A bit more about Yoko, and…
13:13: Digressing into the movie This Is Spinal Tap!
13:30: Back to Ono and how she totally didn’t break up The Beatles.
13:45: Turns out people who spend every waking hour together for YEARS get sick of each other!
13:57: Skipping ahead to George Harrison’s “Piggies”, which seems like it’s about pigs…
14:25: But is actually about CAPITALISM!…
14:53: And how it turns people into symbolic CANNIBALS!!
15:15: On one of the factors in The Beatles’ breakup: Lennon and McCartney not giving Harrison his due for his songwriting prowess.
16:02: Though Harrison could be goofy too.
16:08: Introducing and discussing “Savoy Truffle”, where Harrison worries about Eric Clapton’s dental health (Yes, really).
16:48: Comparing The Beatles to System of a Down (Yes, really).
17:27: Discussion of and an excerpt from “Yer Blues”, by John Lennon.
17:57: On Lennon’s genuine unhappiness at the time shining through the absurdity of the lyrics.
18:20: On The Beatles as musical chameleons.
18:53: Discussing the fracturing of the Lennon-McCartney song-writing partnership.
19:26: Lennon’s annoyance at McCartney’s pop songs.
19:36: Like this one, “Martha My Dear”, which sounds straight out of 1940.
20:08: So does this one, “Honey Pie” (Not the Wild variety).
20:41: McCartney, meanwhile, was annoyed at Lennon’s Avant-Garde focus…
21:01: …Which culminated in this, “Revolution 9”.
21:27: Discussing what Lennon was going for, and the technical difficulties in doing so in 1968.
22:14: How Lennon took up all of Abbey Road studios to put “Revolution 9” together.
22:22: On how to treat “Revolution 9” (Listen to it with a good pair of headphones. Once. And only once.)
22:40: Because it’s the OTHER song most people cut when reducing The White Album to one album.
23:00: Discussing a few other forgettable songs, and Ringo Starr’s dissatisfaction around this time.
23:37: Paul McCartney actually played drums on some songs after Ringo peaced out for a bit.
24:15: Ringo eventually comes back and they finish making the album.
24:26: And a strong album it is!
24:53: But how’d it perform on the market? Pretty well.
25:07: Like “#1 in multiple countries” well.
25:35: Like “Going Diamond in the US twice” well.
25:56: Like “The fourth-biggest selling album ever in the US, INCLUDING compilations (Third-best excluding them)” well.
26:18: Final Thoughts
26:55: Outro and Social Media. Twitter, Website, Discord, Patreon, The Music For Two Podcast

Other Links:
A 2010 Michigan Today Article discussing how the “Paul Is Dead” rumor blew up.
A Rolling Stone Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono in 1971. Lennon discusses “Yer Blues” here: “[…]They always struck me as – what is the word? Funny? Ironic? – that I was writing them supposedly in the presence of guru and meditating so many hours a day, writing […] songs of such pain as “Yer Blues” which I meant. […]”
A Howard Stern Interview with Ringo Starr in October 2018. In the text summary, it mentions the “I thought it was you three!” story.

Feb 26

Episode 4: Yes’s Drama

For Episode Four, we travel back to 1980 and get to know five musicians who only worked all together one time. Three of them are what’s left of a prog-rock band after their singer and keyboardist left. The other two are a duo who write songs about the perils of technology using the finest recording equipment money can buy. Together, they fight crime. Or, well, they release an album together at any rate. Come explore Yes’s 1980 release, Drama!

Check out these SHOW NOTES!

0:00: Intro and Theme Song
0:21: About me and the podcast.
0:50: Introducing our band, with an upbeat heroic fanfare: Yes! …..Yes!
0:58: About the band, musically and personally.
1:30: On Yes’s status as a critical laughingstock.
1:49: HERE’S THE THING about Yes. They’re either REALLY GOOD….
2:11: ….or REALLY BAD.
3:33: Time warp to the late 70s, as Yes try to follow up Tormato, while punk rock has taken over the world…
3:55 …or so revisionist history would have you believe.
4:36: Either way, Yes’s attempt to write a new album goes catastrophically wrong.
4:47: Like “Their singer and keyboardist quit” wrong.
5:18: But manager Brian Lane comes to their rescue by uniting the remaining members with…
5:27: Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes, AKA The Buggles!
5:36: Yeah, the Buggles you’re thinking of.
6:08: The Buggles are oblivious at first, but eventually catch on…
6:42: …and join the band, despite Horn’s trepidation.
6:48: Introducing the album for this episode, Drama!
7:15: A discussion of the album’s cover.
7:12: Discussing and presenting an excerpt from the album’s opener, “Machine Messiah”.
8:17: Discussion on the song’s heaviness.
8:34: On Yes’s frequent lineup changes.
9:18: Discussing Chris Squire (Bass) and Jon Anderson (Former Vocalist), who until Drama had been the two constants in the band.
9:45: The real test: Trevor Horn’s first vocals, and discussion thereof.
10:29: On the assistance of backing vocalists in rock bands.
11:40: Discussing Yes’s backing vocalists in particular.
11:52: Slowing down “Machine Messiah” and discussing its lyrics.
12:51: Who wrote what on Drama? Who can really say? Not the credits!
13:07: Introducing and discussing “White Car”.
13:52: The differences between Trevor Horn and Jon Anderson.
14:55: An excerpt from and discussion of “Does It Really Happen?”
16:01: An excerpt from the 11/8 chorus of “Does It Really Happen?”
16:26: Talking about the song’s false ending, and its lead in to a bass solo.
17:16: Discussing the album’s length, and the track lengths.
18:09: Introducing “Into the Lens” and playing an excerpt from it.
19:13: Another excerpt, this one from later in the song, and discussing how this was the album’s main single.
19:55: A TRIVIA TANGENT into the history of music videos.
21:21: Go watch Yes’s video for “No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed”. Seriously. Just go now.
21:30: On the Second British Invasion caused by early MTV because Britain beat the US to the punch on the whole “music video” thing.
22:33: Discussion of and an excerpt from “Run Through the Light”, a moodier track re-worked from an earlier song.
23:03: How the single version of “Run Through the Light” differs from the album version.
23:19: Briefly discussing the Drama remaster’s bonus tracks.
23:43: The album’s closer, “Tempus Fugit”, which plays to everyone’s strengths.
24:48: What do I think of Drama as a whole?
25:30: And what did other people think of it?
26:12: On the truly divisive tour, thanks to Yes not bothering to mention the latest lineup changes.
27:25: What happened after Drama?
27:37: Squire and White formed a new band…
28:04: …when that didn’t work, they formed ANOTHER new band…
28:19: …which became a reincarnation of Yes…
28:34: …which reached new heights with the 90125 album!
29:01: And now there are TWO Yeses!
29:14: The one that Chris Squire was in until he died in 2015…
29:38: …and “Yes Featuring ARW”, which has some of the members people consider essential to Yes.
29:54: How did two Yeses come to be?
30:36: Geoff Downes had a pretty nice career in Asia before returning to Yes in 2011…
31:04: …but it was nothing compared to Trevor Horn’s becoming a superproducer.
32:40: Outro and Social Media. Twitter, Website, Discord, Patreon

Other Links:
Trevor Horn’s 2011 Red Bull Music Academy Interview, with a transcript. It goes over his whole career, and is long, but worth listening to.
An Interview with Trevor Rabin. It mainly discusses his new-at-the-time solo album, but he does discuss his misgivings about being in the reincarnated Yes in the early 80s.
A cover of “White Car” I did as part of a college course.