Saturday, July 29, 2023

CYMBALISTIC: SUNDAY - SW Washington drum gear swap meet

CYMBALISTIC: OK, if you're located anywhere in the Olympia/Kelso/Aberdeen triangle you'll want to make it to Chehalis tomorrow for a drum gear swap meet at Alexander Park. Hosted by members of Last year about a dozen people brought a considerable amount of gear, and there were some good bargains. More are expected this year. 

Of my stuff, you'll get first look at the big new order of Cymbal & Gong cymbals just in, including several Special Janavars and Extra Special Janavars, currently rocking the world of everyone who plays them.

I'll also offer special in-person discounts on a couple of items, and bring a couple of random cheaper non-C&G used cymbals.  

The details: 

Chehalis, WA - Sunday, July 30th
Alexander Park, 1101 Riverside Road West, Chehalis, WA 98532

There will also be a meet at the Seattle Drum School, Georgetown, on the evening of Monday, August 28th. Tim Ennis of Cymbal & Gong will be attending, and probably bringing cymbals, too. 

See you in Chehalis! 

UPDATE: Good times at the meet— great meeting and talking to Jeff, Sheldon, Robert, Greg, everyone else! 

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Groove o' the day: Mickey Roker funk

Here's a lot of ink for you, for eight measures. Mickey Roker playing a funk groove with a lot of detail to it, on Goin' Down South, a Joe Sample tune from Bobby Hutcherson's record San Francisco. The transcription starts at the beginning of the track: 

The hihat, snare drum and bass drum are pretty layered here, there's no master plan of simplified coordination underlying it, of the type I'm always pushing. Like he doesn't avoid unisons between the SD and BD. I don't know how much he worked out his funk stuff. I've been listening to Roker playing some absurdly fast tempos with Dizzy Gillespie— to me this sounds like independence inherited from his jazz drumming. Everything about him sounds like it evolved through constant playing, on the gig.  

Point of notation: as I often do, I'm using a tenuto mark to indicate a half-open, sizzling hihat. I like it, it makes sense, and I think we should use standard articulations as much as possible.

Get the pdf

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

CYMBALISTIC: cymbal day

CYMBALISTIC: I went to Cymbal & Gong HQ yesterday and played a lot of great cymbals. Picking out the “best” ones to sell on my Cymbalistic site is really a game of inches. Someone else could have easily picked out a completely different group of cymbals as good as the ones I got.   

This outing I was attracted to the thinner, more characterful cymbals. There were many good options for beautiful, clean toned jazz cymbals, with slightly more straightforward character, which would have been easy choices. 

I selected: 

2x - 18" Holy Grail crashes
1x - 18" Turk crash
1x - 20" Turk jazz ride
2x - 20" Extra Special Janavar - jazz ride
1x - 20" Special Janavar crash-ride
1x - 22" Holy Grail (K-style) jazz ride
2x - 22" Extra Special Janavar crash-ride
1x - 22" Special Janavar crash-ride

Note: the jazz rides and crash-rides are very similar in weight and handling. It's a kind of a C&G convention that all the Janavars are labeled crash-rides. Virtually all C&G cymbals ride and crash very well.  

I'll have the cymbals in hand at the end of the week, and will have videos and descriptions of individual cymbals posted at Cymbalistic next week. C&G has a lot of cymbals on hand right now, and this is a great time for me to pick out a cymbal or set for you. 

And a reminder: I have in person events coming up SOON in Chehalis, WA, Seattle, and in Germany.

About the cymbals:

Extra Special Janavar: Tim Ennis of C&G and I both are very excited about this series— Janavars with irregular K-type hammering and lathing. I'm happy that this custom design was my idea. He received several each of 20s and 22s. All of the ones I sell will get a heavy patina, and the 22s will get a row of three rivets.  

The regular Janavar series are excellent light weight, brighter timbred cymbals for rock/pop. I have Tim give them a heavy patina to make them Special Janavars. The patina seems to give them a funkier character, and makes them more appealing to me as a jazz drummer. They were a big hit in Germany last year, and continue to be very popular. A student owns one, and I love the sound of it just hearing him play it over Skype. They're really cool, a brighter jazz sound with character.  

I chose the lightest and most unusual ones for how they would handle the patina, there were also some great options available for anyone who wants a bright, clean, musical light-medium crash-ride. Again: let me know, they won't be around forever. 

Holy Grail
(K-style): I haven't had a lot of these in stock— the last few took awhile to sell. Possibly the “regular” Holy Grail seems mundane now, just from the familiarity of the name? If so, that's a bad perception! People are missing out on some great cymbals for no good reason. They're such great instruments, and would serve well as any jazz drummer's main axe. I played several really nice 22s today, and was sorry I could only get one.     

For awhile they were making the Holy Grail crashes a little on the stout side— a lot of them were functioning better as rides than as very responsive crashes. The current round are generally thinner, while still riding well. I selected the ones that functioned best both ways. There are a few available that were better as pure crashes, with a more straightforward crash sound, if anyone is looking for that. 

Turks: He received several each of 18, 20, and 22", all it jazz weight. Usually they make them with no lathing, and with a hammered bell. This time they made them their usual way, which is similar to Bosphorus Turks, with a few mm wide band of lathing at the edge, and no hammering on the bell. That gives the tone a little more shimmer, where the non-lathed versions I prefer are a little darker and drier. Still, the ones I chose are excellent. 

You can listen to examples of all these types of cymbals on the available cymbals at Cymbalistic, and the list of cymbals I've sold

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Daily best music in the world: Billy Hart

This is an interesting record from 2014, by Bobby Hutcherson, with David Sanborn, Joey DeFrancesco, and Billy Hart on drums. The whole thing is real loose, and basically the opposite of everything happening in music lately— like a titanic expression of the performer's great abilities. Not that.   

Billy Hart is 74 years old here, and has played and recorded as much music as anyone alive, and is working from a level of familiarity with act of playing— and through levels of burnout— it's hard to conceive, and hard for me to write about— what I'm hearing with his playing here.  

You wouldn't mistake him for being a stylist. He's more a “contextist”— and the context is all of modern jazz from ~1960-1980. Including free jazz and early fusion, as well as R&B and funk. Which largely means playing interactively and not just playing idiomatic stuff.

They're playing familiar music, but there's nothing routine here— everything sounds present and in the moment and there to serve a purpose. More like music behavior than a performance for an audience, or even necessarily for musical effect. All very unforced. When he plays assertively, it's not coming from a personality intruding, he's more riding an energy.

It's easy to hear the vocabulary items he's using, and basically why. He'll do one thing for awhile, and you can hear how he uses it, where it goes. You can pick stuff out and use it yourself. 

Friday, July 21, 2023

Reed tweak: RH lead with a backbeat

Another real simple tweak to a basic right hand lead method used with Syncopation: adding a half time feel backbeat. We've been doing a lot with this lately, and it's turning into a very robust system. We're getting into some things we used to have to just figure out (or not) individually, in an unstructured way, in the practice room. I've added a Reed tweaks tag to give these small changes to existing systems their own category.

The right hand lead method, once again, is: 

RH on cymbal + bass drum: play book rhythm
LH on snare drum: play spaces in book rhythm, to make a full measure of 8th notes

To give it a backbeat: 

If there's a snare drum on beat 3*, accent it. 
If there's a cym/BD on 3, substitute SD for BD, and accent it. Cymbal rhythm stays the same. 

* - In cut time the beat is counted in 2, but I still count the actual rhythms in 4/4. The backbeat is on the cut time 2, or on beat 3 in 4/4. 

Here's how that works out interpreting some rhythms from pp. 34-45 in Syncopation: 

Sorting out what to hit may be a little confusing at first, so keep the basic method as your point of reference. Sort it out by playing a two-measure phrase: 

1st measure: regular RH lead / 2nd measure: RH lead w/backbeat

This creates a nice open environment for adding embellishments, which we'll get into in the next post. 

Thursday, July 20, 2023

CYMBALISTIC: Cymbals are in!

CYMBALISTIC: I've just been informed that Cymbal & Gong has just received a big shipment of over 100 new cymbals, including 18, 20, and 22" Turks, and a lot of other good stuff. This is a great time for me to pick something out for you, if you're looking for something special beyond what I already have in stock

On Monday I'm picking some things up, including some Extra Special Janavars, which have been very hot items. Here's the one I have remaining in stock, “Beatrice”: 

I got this note back from the person who bought the other 22, “Emelia”: 

“Todd! The XS Janavar has arrived and I love it! You do have a great ear for picking excellent cymbals! This is the third cymbal I’ve bought from you and they are all wonderful instruments. Nice work. Thanks again!!!”

I'll also get one or two Hammered-bell Holy Grails— a nice variation on the regular K-type Holy Grail: 

There are also some events upcoming: 

Chehalis, WA - Sunday, July 30th
Alexander Park, 1101 Riverside Road West, Chehalis, WA 98532
Drum gear swap meet organized by members Last year about 15 drummers showed up with gear to sell and exchange, I'll be bringing new Cymbal & Gong cymbals, and a few personal used items. The meet runs from 11am-5pm, I'll arrive in the early afternoon. 

Seattle, WA - Monday, August 28th (tentative date may change!)
Seattle Drum School - Georgetown
1010 S. Bailey Street Seattle, WA. 98108

Currently talking to Steve Smith @ Seattle Drum School about rescheduling a meet we originally planned for April 2020, which was cancelled due to COVID. I'll bring cymbals, and a bunch of great Seattle drummers will be hanging out. Date/details TBA. 

Frankfurt / Heidelberg / Berlin, Germany - October '23
Plans are being formed, but I will bring one case of cymbals to Germany in October, mainly to deliver pre-ordered cymbals to each of those cities. Put your requests/orders in now to insure I will have room to bring yours! 

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Basic 8th note rhythms with variations - two bar phrases

Item for one of my students. I generally have people learn their rock beats through Syncopation— once they can do a few basic beats reading them in the conventional way, we go over to my Reed based system to learn them thoroughly (that link is to a very old post, my little e-book covering the same method is more current). I want to convert them from reading a fully written out beat to just reading and counting a single rhythm, and interpreting it to make a rock beat. There are a lot of good reasons for doing it that way. 

These phrases cover the first eight lines from p. 10 in Syncopation— the first measure corresponds with the numbered line in Reed, the second measure is a variation of it, and we end up covering all of the one line exercises except 11, 14 and 15. 

Surprised I haven't needed this earlier. But the book is usually enough. You can't run everybody through every single thing. What's needed for one student may be belaboring the point for another. You can wear people out with that.    

Get the pdf

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

JD Beck

Someone shared the following video, and was commenting on the technique of JD Beck, a hot new drumming sensation who I kind of like. How can you not? He's cute and charismatic, and has an actual music project that is a band with an image that tours and plays music and shows like real musicians. His duo act, DOMi and JD Beck, has put together a lot of complicated music that they know really well, and he's really good at playing densely. It's cool. 

I like that they're not a pure YouTube product— though they have a big social media presence, and the YouTube grift community has latched onto them with a lot of “REACTS” videos, and assorted other bullcrap content.   

This is a video put together by Zildjian to feature Beck— pretty sure it's a regular item from their set, that someone else arranged for a larger group. 

Wow, a lot of activity there. Let's analyze it a little bit, put the framework in real world terms. If you subscribe to YouTube music you might want to clip the sections involved to have a shot at relating them to what's below. The music starts at 1:47. 

1:47-2:01 - Intro vamp based on a quarter note pulse @ ~176 bpm, 18 beats long. Without seeing their chart it's easiest to count as three measures of 6/4. The vamp is played two times. Beck floats some stuff over it. 


2:01-3:03 - Band comes in, vamp continues behind melody. Here's where he's putting the backbeats on the snare drum, suggesting that the barlines are placed differently than I've written them. 

The bass drum rhythm is busy, seemingly with a consistent pattern that I haven't listened closely enough to discern. 

The melody is an R&B thing played over two times through the vamp— it seems unconnected to the vamp until the last couple of accents on the & of 6 / & of 2. Here's the rhythm of it in 6/4: 

3:03-3:35 - John Scofield like vamp in 4/4, 8 bars long. 

Beck plays half time, getting very busy. Possibly he's triggering with the snare drum, and the sensitivity is set to only catch the biggest hits— you can hear that electronic sound on the backbeats, and the very dry sound on the filler.  

Again, the horns float over that, closer to the rhythm of the vamp this time.

3:35-3:42 - Arranged four measure rhythm break— Beck plays it conventionally. 

- Original vamp, with some different horn activity, ending with a figure that's easy to hear. Clearly the bass drum rhythm is a repeating worked out thing. 

4:20-5:39 -  Guitar starts a new section in 3/4, same tempo as before, then ensemble blowing by keyboards, bass and drums, very open, nobody's particularly enforcing the 3/4... if that's even the meter they're thinking. Maybe 6/4— 2+2+2. Weather Report-like vibe to me.      

5:39-OUT - Vamp for drum solo: 

Has the same four beat ending as the section starting at 3:42— I think it happens on the last bar of the vamp written in 4/4. And that ends arrangement. 

Density of the drumming aside, I find it to be hard music because it doesn't sit real well in my ear. I need some repetition to make sense of it. I assume the band has a click (at least) going in their headphones— nobody seems to be helping anybody along nailing their parts. Like, if it was just some guys in a room setting up and playing, I would expect a little bit of fluff from the horns on the drum solo, with all of the broken up stuff he's doing.  

The drumming: Very broadly, if we're counting the tempo as 176, he's playing a highly embellished half time feel. He plays running 8ths with his right hand for a lot of it, and has a lot of 16th note texture activity happening off of that with the left hand. See Johnny Rabb's book for examples of the sort of thing. Otherwise there are a lot of paradiddle inversions/variations. It doesn't require exceptional technique— statistically it's well within the range of speed many drummers can do.

In fact Beck's technique is interesting, for how normal it is. I'm used to everyone in drumming videos having fascinating technique. His back fingers are very controlled, and he's looser up front. Similar to my grip, actually, but he allows less finger than I do. Partly due to what he's playing— I imagine if he were playing Satin Doll he would open up his grip some. He uses a lot of arm. But you can play stuff like this with a regular controlled grip, without any special Jojo Mayer type techniques.

Can you play 8th notes with one hand @ 176 bpm, and hang a half time funk beat off of that? Can you play some paradiddle variations, or Chaffee-style sticking patterns at that 16th note speed at that tempo? You've got a foot in the door, at least. Learn some of my velocity patterns and prepare your drums with some towels and splash cymbals on the heads, and set them up really close together. 

His set up basically has just extremely dry sounds. Various timbres of woodblocks, essentially. The only way to get any breadth is to play very fast. A big part of this genre of playing is the textures created by playing fast on different combinations of dry timbres. A lot of people are doing that now. 

This kind of drumming is like drum corps— people from that world hear a lot of dense percussion, all the time. So if a corps is playing Finlandia or something, there's still high speed drumming happening all the way through. That's music to you, and you start to hear that way naturally. Beck is well positioned for that— he's in a situation where he's featured all the time, and will likely be mainly appearing in situations like that for some time.

For everyone else, that's a little dangerous, because most of the music you will play in life will not be centered around featuring dense percussion all the time. Most of the time there's a balance, and people like it when you're really good at creating that. I've played with people on other instruments who had no concept of anything else happening in music but them playing a lot of stuff. It sucked.      

I don't know how much scope he has with his playing, because I've only heard him with his one act. Ultimately he may be pretty narrow, but so what? A lot of good people are pretty narrow. I'd be surprised if he wasn't; he's 20 now, and has been mainly doing this project for awhile. He's kind of spewing, and it's fine— though I'm more interested in what he'll do when he's done with that. 

Monday, July 17, 2023

A basic waltz vocabulary - 01

I was working with a student on a jazz waltz, played at a brighter tempo than he was real comfortable with, so we needed to come up with some easy things to add to his basic feel. The first thing to do with any style is to get some simple options for things to play.  

We'll use this as our basic time feel— everything else will be added to that, or modify it: 

Use the 8th rest pages from my book, Syncopation in 3/4, which you should own. The first three lines of p. 18 have a single beat of 8th notes/rests per measure, and some quarter notes:  

Normally people just tell you to play the rhythm on the snare drum, and play it on the bass drum, and move on, but let's change it to make it more like something we might actually play when playing this style:

1. Play just the 8th note.
2. Play the 8th note plus the note after it. 
3. Play all the notes. 
4. Play all the notes, minus the note after the 8th note. 

Using line 1 above, along with our time feel, that would go: 

Seem convoluted? Not really. You want to be able to look at a rhythm and just play part of it. 

In jazz, you don't generally play a repeating rhythm every single measure— let's play them every two measures: 

Simple. We're looking for basic, mundane vocabulary. 

We're not going to do a lot with the bass drum here, but try playing it on the note after the 8th note: 

When you do that in the two measure phrase, don't hit both 1s with the bass drum, for example: 

Use your own judgment in how you do that, which measure of the phrase gets the 1 on the bass drum. 

After you can do all of the above in the two measure phrases, improvise similar things, while thinking your way through a tune, or playing along with a record. Something like All Blues or Someday My Prince Will Come, or Up Jumped Spring.

We'll do a little more with this later in the week. 

Saturday, July 15, 2023

Batucada styles

Just did a gig playing all samba and bossa nova, so I've got Brazilian music on the brain. Here's an old record offering a little round up of styles in Brazilian percussion: Batucada, by Paulinho e sua Bateria. Things will have evolved somewhat in the 60 years since this was made, but hey, jazz records from 60 years ago are still relevant. This is good for getting the broad concept. We're just looking to inform the way we play sambas and bossas in a combo setting, ideas to draw from beyond a groove in a drum book.  

Open it up on YouTube for the track listing, which names the styles involved. 

Another set of three records is by Luciano Perrone: Batucada Fantastica, also from the 60s, which rounds up some percussion styles, and the individual instruments. Here's one of the volumes on Soundcloud. Here's a track demonstrating the tamborim, accompanied by surdo and snare drum: 

Saturday, July 08, 2023

Baiao practice sheet

Here's a page of basic left hand rhythms based around a Baiao rhythm (say bye-yo or bye-yohn). You could just use Syncopation for this, but I like starting with rhythms connected to the ostinato somehow— after the basic rhythms 1-10, these are mostly based on the bass drum rhythm. 

As it says, use the hihat or ride cymbal— the open hihat sound emulates a triangle, which is kind of an essential element in this style, so when playing the ride cymbal you could use the bell somehow to get a similar vibe. 

On the snare drum play rim clicks, or varied accents/articulations— rim shots, dead strokes, buzzes, whatever. 

Move the LH between the SD and toms as in the example moves— whatever patterns of movement you can devine from the examples, that makes sense for the rhythm you're playing.  

Get the pdf

Here's a track you could play along with, by Seattle-based Brazilian pianist Jovino Santos Neto, with his long time drummer (and Brazilian drumming expert) Mark Ivester, and some other Seattle friends playing:

Friday, July 07, 2023

Tri pa let

Related to my late forays into different systems of counting: in an online conversation, someone asked about counting 16th notes within an 8th note triplet, specifically a triplet-rate hemiola: 

Generally, people count 8th note triplets:

1-&-a 2-&-a - or - 1-trip-let 2-trip-let

A natural way to count the rhythm above would be to add a syllable to either of those ways—a, la and ta are common. I would most likely say:

1 an-a-da 2 an-a-da 

One could also say: 

1 tri-pa-let 2 tri-pa-let

Which is offensive for a couple of reasons:

First, a lot of people already wrongly count triplets tri-pa-let tri-pa-let, with the tri falling on the beat. So this could result in further confusion. 

Second, and worse, there's no pa syllable in the word triplet— we're violating the structure of the word! And it sounds extra-dumb. 

But people already chop up the word all the time when they have to count triplet partials, using a lot of isolated lets and trips:

I don't hear anyone complaining about
this... except me, because I hate it.

I didn't ask anyone to bring the word TRIPLET into it, whose morphological integrity I am now obligated to preserve, even if it hinders our ability to COUNT RHYTHMS— the alleged point of all of this. A system that is only good for one thing is not a system, it's a device

So the heck with it. When you see 16th notes within an 8th note triplet, and you refuse to give up the 1 trip let way of counting, you can add the syllables, as needed: 

1-da-tri-pa-le-ta 2-da-tri-pa-le-ta

We're essentially Italianizing the word, breaking up the consonant clusters with extra vowel sounds. It's the language of music for a reason.  

This even works pretty well as you get into more broken rhythms— if you say these out loud, you'll notice how the trip let syllables are ghosted even in the more remote rhythms:  

But those are pretty uncommon. It's fairly unusual to see it notated— most likely in drum set books, where the natural context is generally 4/4. The last pages of Dahlgren & Fine, for example. In snare drum books those types of rhythms are generally written in compound meters. Usually we just see the first or second partial, or first two or last two partials doubled to make 16ths. You can just touch the extra syllables and it's easy.  

Finally, let's be clear: nobody counts this way. But nobody did every other thing in drumming, until somebody started doing it. It's a natural extension of something widely done, that works well if you don't get too hung up on this imported restriction of maintaining word structure, which has nothing to do with the needs for counting rhythms.

Monday, July 03, 2023

Subtractive method: one practice approach

A lot of commitments right now, and posting will continue to be light through next weekend.

Congratulations to Justin in Omaha for getting the 22" Extra Special Janavar “Emilia”— there is now one of those remaining. I'll just keep shamelessly hustling the Cymbal & Gong cymbals, on faith that you'll thank me when you get one— as instruments, they're the most satisfying cymbals I've ever owned.

Tim @ C&G was talking to an endorser recently, asking him if he needed anything; his response was, no, he's content[!!!] with the set he got six years ago, that he has been using constantly since then. I understand the feeling. When you get the true right instrument, the greed for more stuff kind of goes away. I haven't bought another cymbal for myself in three years. 

So anyway, some real content: 

The “subtractive method”, as I'm calling it, is a system for splitting up a rhythm between the snare drum and bass drum (or any two sounds). Starting with an 8/8 drum pattern— here we'll use BSSB-SBBS*— you hit only the notes sounding in the rhythm you're playing. 

* - B = bass drum / S = snare drum 

We do that with a cymbal/hihat ostinato of some kind— e.g. a jazz rhythm, Mozambique, Guaguanco, or Baiao, which I was doing this week. This pattern is really well suited for all of those styles— though at times it may make a funk groove out of your jazz time. 

With a fairly complex base pattern like that, you need to work through it completely starting with some simple rhythms so you can do the interpretation accurately— especially if you're using a complex ostinato, like that Mozambique. 

So, reading out of Syncopation, I'll use the simple quarter note and 8th note pages (pp. 6-7, 9-10) as well as the usual more complex rhythms on pp. 30-45. With 8th note pages 9-10, you can break it down further from what's written by playing just the 8th notes, and/or the 8th notes and the note after: 

Here's how each of those rhythms would be played with the BSSB-SBBS voicing: 

I also played the complete pattern one time, starting on each note of the pattern, with the ostinato continuing:

You can spend a long time on that, but luckily you don't need to do a lot of different base patterns this way. And, after doing one hard one like this, the other ways are easier. 

Saturday, July 01, 2023

Surveying styles of drum notation

I was recently critiqued on my notation style, by someone who knows their stuff— who also knows their stuff— and I got paranoid that I was writing in a stupid way, so I went to my library to re-check what other people actually do. 

You may have noticed, I virtually always put drum set materials on one set of stems. It's a doctrinal thing I decided to follow a long time ago: the drum set is one instrument, what we play on it is one rhythm, using four limbs. It's a common way of writing, but not the only way. In the past, drum set music was generally written as if the different parts were being played by different people, like a band part for snare drum and bass drum.

It's a difficult problem, because the drums are not normally played by reading a mapped out drum part verbatim— most of what we play is basically improvised, possibly with a sketched out groove suggested by a drum chart. But in the practice room we need to read a lot more particular, complex things than we would normally see in a drum chart, and that's where judgments about style come in, with the concerns being the best way to render an idea for the purposes of the materials.   

So let's check out what is done in some some drumming library favorites (and otherwise): 

Jim Chapin - Advanced Techniques For The Modern Drummer - 1948
The earliest modern representation of drumming independence that I'm aware of. He writes the main exercises both with the cymbal and snare drum and cymbal parts separately, but with them unified into a single rhythm, on a single set of stems:  

And those are still the main ways drums are notated today. They each have advantages. The single-stem way for the reasons I gave above. The two-part way because it's clearer what rhythm we're doing with the independent part. 

Rhythmic Patterns - Joe Cusatis - 1963
This kind of situation is more usual in older drum set notation— and it's totally barbaric and unreadable. At least the drums played with the hands are on the same stems. 

Further, each page includes a big key at the top of the page reminding you which line goes with which drum, as well as the markings you see here, like you're going to forget from page to page, or as you move your eye down the page. 

This is kind of a long post— much more below the fold: