Sunday, December 30, 2007

Christmas Pics are Up

If you want to see them as a set, go to Christmas 2007. Otherwise, just feast your eyes on my personal pick, in the banner for now.



End of an Era

It is with some sadness but understanding that I have to announce that Renee is bidding adieu to flute. She'll finish out the year at school, but no more outside lessons, and no flute next year at school. She just isn't feeling a connection anymore. I wish it weren't so, but I'm not one of those parents who force a child to learn an instrument for their own good. At least she had two good years.

So enjoy this image, as it's likely the last of her playing a flute.



New Musical Intrusions

Jean has been active on the mash-up network again. Here's her most recent net:


  • Pretend We're Breathing - Khyzer Zuke (L7 vs. Sean Paul/Blu Cantrell)

  • BeyoncefeaturingJay-Z-CrazyInLove-VS-GrooveArmada-ISeeYouBaby-VS-Saliva (no other mash-up artist credit)

  • Victim of Da Funk - DJ John (Eagles vs. Daft Punk)

  • Glamorous Ex Gf - DJ Maxentropy (Fergie vs. Matt Willis)

  • Tambourine Reckoning - ABX (Eve vs. Radiohead)

  • Invisible Belief - Divide & Kreate (Genesis vs. Journey)

  • Break through love - DJ Zebra (Doors vs. Led Zeppelin)

  • Deep Message - Dj Moule (Jamiroquai Vs Grand Master Flash Vs Sly & the Familiy Stone Vs Svinkels)

  • Every Car You Chase - Party Ben (Police vs. Snow Patrol)

  • J'adore mon medley - DJ Zebra (no artist credit)

  • Unrecorded Love - Dopplebanger (Beyonce vs. M83)

  • Hypnotize The Army - (no mashup artist credit) (The White Stripes vs. Notorious B.I.G.)

  • Bootystyle - Dunproofin' (no artist credit)



I'll also mention that I have two new Kristin Hersh songs:


  • Slippershell

  • Torque



Both are available at her new venture, CASH Music



Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Mingus Ah Um

Number Three at the Jazz 100 site, my self-gifted stocking stuffer for this Christmas is Mingus Ah Um by Charles Mingus. So far it really does sound like a number-three-of-all-time album. More as I get a chance to absorb it. Merry Christmas!



Saturday at Tom's

I finally made it to Tom's for one of the gatherings with the gang. He usually tries to make his home available once a month so all us reprobates can get together and refresh our acquaintances. Two months ago, Lisa hosted at her home in Washington, which is just too far for me to go. Last month, I had a nasty throat infection. So since the last gathering I made was three months ago, I was quite looking forward to this one.

Alan was showing off his new coffee rig, which consisted of a precision filtered coffee 'plunger' to force hot water through fine ground coffee at a rate sufficient to prevent leaching nasty acids and bitter volatiles into his cup, and a burr grinder to get that fine grind necessary to such a setup. It turns out that he consumes around one cup of coffee a day, so this is just another example of young single engineers with disposable income.

He also has a handheld mobile PC which is his new 'cellphone', though I didn't get to see him make a call with it. It seems as if it would be awkward. Great as a portable mini-computer, but a cellphone? Dunno.

He showed off his 80GB Zune, which looked pretty cool, and his new laptop, one of the newer Thinkpads. Life must be good to him.

Tricia's daughter Heather was showing off the family's new camera, a Nikon D40. While that's a sort of entry level DSLR, if you put a 50mm lens on it, it would be a great walking around camera. Pretty neat.

Bo was showing off a bunch of videos on his PSP, including some fun goofy Japanese commercials with American celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Nicholas Cage.

Chris and Valeska gave me a nice Japanese model. I'll try to find a link to a catalog image, as I think that'll give a better idea than any snapshot I take.

A handful of us did gift exchange as well. I gave away a DVD of Bender's Big Score, which probably was more appreciated than last year's gift, but which I think Tricia was only so-so toward. I ended up with some Kinokuniya gift certificates, which I plan on passing on to Renee.

I'd asked Tom recently which of a handful of They Might Be Giants albums available on eMusic he thought were decent, since he's the closest thing to a TMBG expert I know. So at the gathering he gave me a stack of CDs to listen to. I'll be working through them for at least the next month. Thanks, Tom! Oh, and he also gave me a cute little lucky cat souvenir from his recent travels abroad. Thanks again!

The Saturday gathering was just not enough for me, so when Tom mentioned that he wanted to see Sweeney Todd, I suggested that we get together to see it. So he and Alan and I met at Bridgeport Village and watched it. I liked it a lot, though I agreed with Alan that the bloodiness was more than necessary. Alan seemed to feel that the music was too repetitive as well. I enjoy Sondheim, so it was fine for me.

Anyway, just wanted to dash this off while I still remembered it. Merry Christmas, all.



Friday, December 21, 2007

Darker Than Black

Darker Than Black ended like many of these intriguing anime series, with no certain resolution, and lots of unsatisfied questions. There is supposedly going to be an OVA that may answer some of them, but I suspect that it'll just prolong the agony.

I enjoyed the stylish journey, but the ending reminded me once again of The Prisoner, where the series ended in an almost nonsensical fashion, revealing that the story was mostly one long free association stream of consciousness gambol. Had fun watching, but I wish they'd put more thought into wrapping these things up.



Thursday, December 20, 2007

Go Go Santa Ranger!

I won't inline link this image (some folks find that akin to stealing), but just click on it for a cute re-imagining of Santa as a Power Ranger Santa.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Winter Concert

Renee's 2007 seventh grade Winter concert was this evening. I took a few quick snapshots that I'll try to upload to Flickr over the next few days. Too beat now.

I feel, and Jean agrees with me, that Renee is one of the better musicians in the Cadet Band. Go Renee!

Update



The single minimally acceptable image from the concert is now in the banner.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Win Some, Lose Some

On the flip side of gadget recovery, Renee's cellphone borked out Friday night. It would seem to turn itself off, but when you held down the power button to try turning it on again, it just buzzed angrily for as long as the button was held down.

I called Verizon Wireless (after hunting all over my bill for the number), and the guy I eventually got through to was very helpful. We have a new phone in the mail, supposedly scheduled to arrive on Wednesday or Thursday. With my employee discount, it comes to ... free.

So if the phone arrives in a timely fashion, and works, and neither of our other phones goes toes up in the next month or two, I'm satisfied with the resolution of this one.



Minimal Geek Repair

I've on my third hard drive for my ReplayTV, and my second remote control. The first one became unusable when the Select button refused to work. Think of it as the Enter key on your keyboard. I gussied up to the Internet and found a replacement, forget how much. And now the replacement has been getting wonkier and wonkier on the Select key. I could just pony up the dough for a third remote, but with the recent sale (second time around) by DM Holdings to DirecTV, I wasn't sure how much more money I want to put into this rig.

So instead, I fired up Google, which got me to this page. Two possible solutions: open the sucker up and clean the contacts, or reprogram the keys.

I grabbed my older, clearly broken remote, and busted it apart, cleaning the contacts thoroughly. Put together again, I found that the Select key now responded, if somewhat fussily. It would still be a little too annoying to use. However, now that I could get any response out of the key, I could reprogram the remote to use the Enter key instead of the Select key (can't do the reprogramming if you can't tell the remote which keys to switch around). And now I can use my old remote, albeit by reprogramming my fingers to press a new button now and then. I'm putting the newer remote in a drawer, sans batteries, against the eventual need for another rejuvenation ballet.



Sunday, December 16, 2007

Internet Cat Tax

It's nearing the end of the year and I have to get caught up on my Internet taxes, i.e. posting cat pictures to the Internet. More are available at my Flickr account if you so need...



Saturday, December 15, 2007

Kelly Great

Okay, Kelly Great is the other Not-Jazz-100-CD album I had my eye on. It's only five songs, so it fills out my December queue nicely. And since eMusic charges by the song, I don't have to feel like I'm getting gouged for a short album.

Wynton Kelly was a jazz pianist, perhaps less well known than Thelonius Monk, but well-travelled nevertheless. So I decided to grab one or two of his albums and give him a listen. I like the first number on this album, "Wrinkles", a lot, already sure it's at least four stars. We'll see about the others.



Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Speed Graphic

Some meat for the next (hypothetical) time I watch Speed Grapher.


From the Not-Jazz-100-CD Files

One of the two jazz albums I promised I'd be getting, this is People I Like, by The Blueprint Project, with Han Bennink. A bit avant-garde and arrhythmic, but in a way that really tickles my novelty gland. We'll see how it holds up to multiple listens.

Tom, I only had fourteen slots left on eMusic this month, and Mink Car has seventeen tracks, so I opted to wait until January to pick it up!

Oh, and it's now exactly two weeks until Christmas Day, so I can start listening in earnest to A Charlie Brown Christmas, a Vince Guaraldi piano album I seem to have neglected to mention here. So sorry.

Update



So People I Like is generally very strange. The atonality is a bit precious, so I'll have to say that this was an experiment with a short lifespan. I'll take it out occasionally, dust it off and give it a listen, but while I rated two songs four-star, none of them got five. Not so much memorable as novel.

Funny, but I had a book in the queue at the library, and it arrived shortly after I started listening to this album. It's called The Rest Is Noise, by Alex Ross, the New Yorker music critic. In it he explores the history of modern music, with a lot of attention given to more experimental approaches, atonality, differing scales and the road less travelled. I think of this album as sort of kicking off my browse of this book.

Oh, and I've listened to A Charlie Brown Christmas every morning since I posted about it. Definitely more conventional and regular than People I Like, and certainly less cloying most of the time than the broad swath of Christmas music out there.



Monday, December 10, 2007

Gurren Lagann

Finally finished the last episode of the silly, fun series. I have to say, for a series that was built on melodrama and excess (a giant robot piloted by a smaller giant robot, piloted by a smaller, but still giant robot...), this last episode was a bit ... turgid.

Still, it fit the pattern, and it was a decent ending for the series, and hit a true note.



Sunday, December 9, 2007

Expoobident

Okay, it's not on the Jazz 100 list, but I liked The Sidewinder so much that I decided to grab Expoobident (apparently jazz slang for extraordinary, phenomenal, wonderful.) from eMusic tonight.

There are a couple other not-Jazz-100 albums that have caught my eye at eMusic, so I have a feeling I'm gonna rip through my quota early this month. I'll note them here if I grab them, of course.

Update



Yes, The Sidewinder is an album where everything pretty much gels, and Expoobident is not. The songs, though hard bop, seem a little too relaxed, and sometimes aimless. But even so, it's a fun album, and will continue to get a spot in the rotation.



Saturday, December 8, 2007

This House Ain't Big Enough for the Two of Us!

That's how it seemed, anyway, for the first few days after we adopted a second cat. After some initial experimentation, we named him Quark, after a difficult to locate subatomic particle. We picked him up last Sunday, and I've been waiting, collecting impressions, before writing up this post.

He's reasonably smart, though perhaps not quite so smart as Chichi. When we got him, he had a bad case of ear mites (one of the worst our vet had seen), but with medicine and ear drops, seems to be improving rapidly. He also has roundworms, but we're treating that as well. We adopted him from another family, and all I can say is, don't they care about their pets? Come on, people!

He's shared family beds most every night, and likes to nest right next to my head, which is fine when he's quiet, but not so good when he's scratching or licking himself. He also likes to announce wake-up call around 5am, which sucks for me. Jean is usually up by then anyway, so when I really need sleep, I retire to the captain's bed in the den and close the door.

As I mentioned, Chichi is currently very jealous, though she's improved greatly from the first day, when she was growling and hissing and following Quark all over the house. Now they actually play, though Chichi plays dominance games and clearly would gut Quark if she still had her claws. She's about twice as big as the little guy, and just wrestles him to the ground. But he keeps coming back for more. I think he'll tire her out eventually. And if that doesn't work, he'll soon grow to at least her size. So the beatings should stop by then.



The Golden Compass

I took Renee and her friend Alexandra to see The Golden Compass this evening. I sat across the theatre from them, to give them their space. All told, as the first installment of a franchise, I think this shows a lot of promise. I hope it does well enough at the box office that they give it a second round.

Just an observation, but the folk comparing this to the launching of the Harry Potter franchise mislead a little. It's nothing like the Harry Potter books, apart from some talking non-humans.



Wes Montgomery

Grabbed #25 of the Top 100 Jazz CDs tonight from eMusic. It's called The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery. I've just started listening to it. I'll post impressions here in a couple of days.

Also, if that's too highbrow for you, I grabbed, at Jean's behest, Milkshake by Kelis, from the iTunes Music Store.

Update



Very nice album. Definitely worth owning. I've practically tranced out to several of the numbers on this album, and look forward to many more listenings.



Saturday, December 1, 2007

Infernal Affairs

I finally got around to watching Infernal Affairs, a movie which was quite hot in Hong Kong when it was first released, in 2002. I bought it in the Dealer's Room at the last Anime Expo I attended in 2005, but have been sitting on it for the right moment. So long, in fact, that I actually saw the Martin Scorsese remake, The Departed, in the theatre before watching the original.

Not into writing elaborate essays on the Asian movies I watch anymore, so I'll just say that I enjoyed it thoroughly. It differed from The Departed mostly in cultural ways, and I suppose in ways specific to Martin Scorsese. A major plot element in Scorsese's version was not in the original, but I won't give that away here.

Two thumbs up.



Wednesday, November 28, 2007

No Country for Old Men

Now that it's several days after the holiday, I suppose I should mention that I saw the Coen brothers' new movie on Sunday. I try to see all the Coen brothers' movies, as they usually manage to produce something that's entertaining, and often manage to rise above that minimal requirement.

I knew I definitely had to see this one, as it's based on a book by Cormac McCarthy, an author whom I've read before. He's actually a bit of work to read, at least for me. I've heard him compared to Faulkner, and while that may be an unfair comparison, it is true that Faulkner is also a writer whom I've found requires work, but is worth it in the end.

Years ago I read Suttree, more or less picking it at random from McCarthy's ouvre. Turns out now it is considered one of his watershed works, and it really moved me when I finished it. Since then, I've only take stabs at his work, and have hesitated to read, for instance, The Road, as it seemed to be hyped in a weird sort of way, and I didn't know if I'd enjoy it (as much as one can enjoy a gloomy post-apocalyptic drama).

Now I know I must make time for "No Country for Old Men", as the movie was awesome, and I can only believe that the book will be even richer.

Monday, November 26, 2007

New Musical Experience

It's pretty common for a radio news show or a radio magazine like This American Life to play some music in the background, or between segments, as a sort of audio wallpaper. I've often had the experience of picking out the individual tune, naming it and the artist, and getting a little flush of pleasure. A lot of times on PBS, though, they stretch, playing compositions that I'm unfamiliar with, and which I often wish I could find later. But of course I forget to look them up.

Lately, PBS has been playing snippets of songs that I suspect they think are alternative, or obscure, and I've been pegging them. On two occasions, I've spotted them using Camper Van Beethoven, right back to Telephone Free Landslide Victory, their first album, from back when Jean and I were in Ohio. Nice to see David Lowery and gang getting recognized in such a pedestrian setting.

But yesterday morning, I was driving to work, listening to On the Media, and during their final segment, they were playing a jazz composition. And I recognized it! No, it wasn't "In the Mood", or "Begin the Beguine", or any other Big Band standard. It was "Freddie Freeloader", from Kind of Blue, by Miles Davis. One of my Jazz 100 CDs. And I named the artist, if not the title of the composition. That's a new experience for me. And "Kind of Nice."



New Music

Yes, despite all the free stuff I have available, I'm still spending eMusic points. This time, another album from the Jazz 100 site, Portrait In Jazz - Bill Evans.

Then to round out my credits for the month, I picked up URAQT by M.I.A.

Update



Regarding Bill Evans, I've now had three uninterrupted listens of this album, in different settings. And once again, I have to say that the Jazz 100 site's ranking, #112, feels fair to me. Listening to this album, I felt I was in a piano lounge at some generic hotel bar. There were a few definite thumbs-up moments, a lot of "meh", not much inspiration evident. Piano virtuosity aside, I don't find much memorable about this album. It's not offensive, it just doesn't reach my inner musical ear.

So it looks as if the top rated albums, like Kind of Blue and Saxaphone Colossus, are pretty easy to agree with. But after #100 (probably even earlier, as below #20 or so, I'm just picking ones that are available on eMusic), it becomes pretty much a matter of taste as to whether the album should be on any list. Anyway, Bill Evans Trio shows up twice in the top 30 (Waltz for Debby at #13, Sunday at the Village Vanguard at #26) so maybe I'll buy one of those to give Evans another chance.

But not before buying, for instance, Mingus Ah Um (#3).

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Overwhelmed with Music

I've now reached the point that I have more music coming down the pipe than I can reasonably listen to. Brent has given me a sampler from his library, which I'm listening to in bits, then deleting. I have my eMusic subscription, currently supplying a lot of jazz and the occasional surprise. And now I have Jamendo. This website was mentioned on Slashdot yesterday. It was founded by French musicians, and is a gathering place for independent artists to post their work.

Since it was founded by French folk, there are a lot of French albums, which Renee is thrilled by, since she's studying French right now. She had me download Lonah - Pièces, which I'm listening to right now. I also downloaded Revolution Void - Increase the Dosage. I'm of course going to be listening to both over the next few days. Not sure if I'll keep either, but they're free, cost and license, so I can take my time deciding.

Update



Renee had me download another, Saint-Jean - Allo barjo. Then Brent pointed me at an album by a group I'd already mentioned: t r y ^ d - Public Domain. More than I can keep up with, like I said...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Devil May Cry

This is becoming quite the little media log. Well, can't be helped.

So last night I finished Devil May Cry, which was pretty much a B-team series, pretty predictable, cardboard characters and all. Yet, I felt some tenuous connection with it since I'd struggled through a number of missions in the first videogame of this series. Final ending was as expected, and satisfactory.



Sunday, November 18, 2007

Shriekback

When Jamie Zawinski first mentioned Glory Bumps, by Shriekback, I checked eMusic to see if they carried them. I don't recall now if they had even minimal entries, but they didn't have Glory Bumps, so since it was a great unknown to me I filed it away for later reference. More recently he brought the album up again, saying "I think I've just listened to 'Amaryllis in the Sprawl' about 25 times in a row."

Today I was browsing eMusic, typing in hits and misses from the past into the search bar, and lo and behold, there it was. So given that I had credits to burn before the end of the month, I grabbed it. Two albums in two days. Is that too excessive?

Anyway, I agree that "Amaryllis in the Sprawl" is a cool song, but I actually like the starter song ("Hooray for Everything") better. I'll be listening to this thing a bit over the next few days...

Uzumaki

Renee bought volume one of Uzumaki at the bookstore today. She's already read it and has now handed it off to me. I first introduced her to the story by showing her clips from the film adaptation, which is suitably creepy. The story recounts events in a village whose residents become gradually obsessed with spirals in all their natural and unnatural occurrences.

I guess this is what comes of letting one's daughter read Stephen King short stories. Since she read Skeleton Crew (and is miffed that she can't go see "The Mist" 'cause it's R-Rated), I got her a copy of Night Shift yesterday and she's reading that in preference to the copy of Siddhartha that Jean bought her recently...


Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Sidewinder

I was shopping for stocking stuffers at Borders this afternoon, and just decided to browse the jazz CD section while I was there. Turns out they had a reasonably priced copy of The Sidewinder, Lee Morgan's entry in the Top Jazz 100 list. So I grabbed it, and I'm giving it a listen right now. Sounds pretty good so far...

Update



Well, I've given this thing a couple of listens, and for now I'd have to say that it has a pretty high replay value. Definitely more enjoyable than "Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section". I'm almost tempted to say that it can hold it's own against "Kind of Blue", though I suspect these two will swap places from time to time as my mood changes. Anyway, four out of six of the tunes on this disc ranked four stars. Kewl!



Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Another Jazz 200 Album

Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section. Going to give it a better listen tomorrow while coding/digging.

Update



Heh. This album was released the year I was born (1957). Many of the compositions on this album could reach four stars, but for a minor flaw. Too much drum solo. This is pretty funny, since as a kid I really liked drum solos (having grown up on old movies featuring and about Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich). That second link to a clip of Buddy Rich with Jerry Lewis is actually pretty fun.

In my teenage years rock drum solos were also pretty common, and I had no complaints. And as I've listened to the various albums I've grabbed off of the Jazz 200 list (this one, Thelonius Monk's "Brilliant Corners" and "Monk's Music", John Coltrane's "Giant Steps", Sonny Rollins' "Saxaphone Colossus" and Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue") it's dawned on me that most of these albums center on compositions using a framing melody, with intervals for improvisational solos by the various band members. So drum solos fit right in.

So I'm not sure why they detract from this album. Maybe it's just that none of the other albums feature drum solos. Maybe the drum solos strike me as jarring, or unimaginative. I really don't know. As I've been reading up on each of these albums, I've learned that some of the key ones were milestones precisely because they broke with the last musical style. Kind of Blue, for instance, is based on "a new formulation using scales or a series of scales for improvisations", or modal jazz.

I lack any kind of formal musical training, even as a dabbler. So directly observing these foundations and how they affect the way the musicians play (and play) is mostly lost to me. I still get the aesthetic pleasure of the music, but if a composition is notable to a musically trained listener mainly for technique, I probably am not going to "get it." Maybe that's what's going on with "Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section."

In any case, unskilled though I may be, I have no problem accepting that this album came in ranked #38, while "Kind of Blue" is Number One.

Please note: I do not regret getting this album. It has a lot of good music, and I've already listened to it several times. I just have a few peeves with some of the compositions. Overall, it's definitely worth having.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

New TV

I seem to have neglected to mention that our living-room television, that we've had nigh on ten years, finally gave up the ghost. This was a few weeks ago. On Burr's suggestion, we put it up on craigslist, clearly marked defunct. Within the day, someone claimed it, and hauled it away. I should try that more often.

So as a stopgap, I took a 20" television that I had in storage and moved it into the living room. Downscaling from 32" to 20" didn't bother me as I watch most of my programs in the family room downstairs. But Renee watches most of her programming upstairs, and she complained that the 20" made her "eyes hurt".

Jean and I have been budgeting money for a new television for awhile now, as we knew that the 32" was on a downward spiral. So this weekend, we made the tour of Costco and Fry's, and settled on a flat-panel that was in our price range. It's a Samsung, and I put it in the family room today. Then I moved the 27" from the family room upstairs to the living room. My buttocks still ache.

After getting the hookups correct on both televisions, I noticed that even though we'd downgraded to 'limited basic' cable, the new television downstairs was picking up several digital channels that were not listed in the package. This includes a handful (NBC, CBS, PBS) of HDTV channels. Renee watched a football game between San Diego (?) and somebody else in HD as a result. She roots for the San Diego team because her best friend is from there.

I mostly won't benefit from this arrangement, as I do all my viewing using the ReplayTV, which only records standard definition television. But Jean and Renee both do live television viewing, so they may in fact become HD fans. Time will tell...



Saturday, November 10, 2007

Updates

Okay, to be fair to Verizon, we got the router within 48 hours. But, this is the second time I've hooked up a router of theirs, and had all web access redirected to the same Verizon web page. It's been over four months since I did this dance, so I had to call tech support again to find out the secret handshake to get their modem to let me onto the internet. This is undocumented anywhere in their shipped manuals, or as far as I can tell, online (though a fat lot of good that would do me if I didn't have internet access). For my future reference (yes, I'll have to remember to echo this to a local file), go to this URL and click on the button presented. I doubt this happens to everyone, but it's happened to me twice. What were they thinking?!?!

As for cable television, we are now using 'limited basic'. I've finished watching the last of the spooled episodes of my regular shows from Comedy Central and The SciFi Channel. I still have a couple of bad made-for-tv movies to go. After that, it's all vanilla.


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Short Notes

I can't post from home just now, as our Verizon-branded DSL router just went toes up yesterday. After only four months of service. After a rather crappy switch from Frame Relay to ATM networks. The good news is that the tech I spoke to identified himself as Ivan, who was one of the few who seemed to know what he was doing the last time I rode this merry-go-round. The bad news is that he doesn't control Verizon shipping, so it remains to be seen if the replacement router will arrive via UPS within the 24-48 hours he quoted.

On another note, we're experimenting with reduced cable television. We had 'extended basic' cable, which is analog cable with more stations than we watch. We were paying on the order of $55 per month by the time we got tired of the slowly escalating bills, and stations disappearing into the 'digital cable only' cloud. So now we're subscribing to 'limited basic' cable. For myself, this means giving up Comedy Central (South Park, Drawn Together, and if they ever release a new season, Venture Brothers) and the SciFi Network (mostly Stargate Atlantis, Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who [wah!] and the endless string of cheap made-for-SciFi movies). For Jean it mostly means giving up The Daily Show (Comedy Central again). For Renee, it means giving up Animal Planet, and some of the stations that re-run the crime shows she's grown fond of. And that's it.

So we get all the networks that also broadcast locally over the air, and we get tons of shopping channels and public access, that I'll never use. The price quoted on the Comcast site is $8.40, but of course that's before surcharges, taxes and double-speak fees. This next bill will be split across the old and new service, so I won't know what the actual price will be for another billing cycle.

If Comcast does something stupid like removing the limited basic channels from analog ('you need a Comcast set-top box for those channels, for a small monthly rental fee'), then we'll just start looking at one of the satellite packages. Burr uses Dish, and likes it. Or I hear that Verizon is going to start offering IPTV in our area in the next year. Of course, I'm just a little peeved with Verizon right now... Oh! Full Circle!


Monday, November 5, 2007

Saxophone Colossus

Okay, the Bauhaus album is fun, but the Miles Davis album got me in the mood for more jazz I haven't already heard, so I went back to the Top 200 CD list and found one that eMusic carries:



I'm listening to it now, sounds promising. I'll give it a full play during coding tomorrow.


Friday, November 2, 2007

Bauhaus

My odometer at eMusic rolled over with the start of the month, and I picked up Bauhaus - 1979-1983 Volume One. They were the predecessor of Love and Rockets, which I liked a bit back in the day, so I thought I would grab a 'survey collection' of their works. There seemed to be some burps during the downloads, so I may retry in a day or two. That is a nice feature of eMusic, you can re-download tunes you've paid for in the past, something that iTunes Music Store claims is impractical to track. So in your face, iTMS!


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Top 200 Jazz CDs

Go to Jazz 100 for a handful of interesting jazz 'best of' lists. I started looking at the Top 200 Jazz CDs (it says 100, but then links to a second 100 on another page). I have a handful of pieces scattered over the list, but mainly have three albums from the list that I recently purchased (mentioned here previously). I bought these albums before finding this list:


  • Monk's Music - Thelonious Monk

  • Brilliant Corners - Thelonious Monk

  • Giant Steps - John Coltrane



So tonight I decided to grab the two-years-running number one ranked album, Kind of Blue by Miles Davis (thank you iTunes -- eMusic doesn't have the clout to carry this one). Listening to it right now. It's really nice. I'll probably play this on a loop while working on grungy code all day tomorrow.

So am I going to buy all 200 Jazz CDs? To say nothing of their New Breed 100? Probably not. But I'll be picking and choosing samples from this list, perhaps for a long time. I hope it stays online a long while, as I'm too lazy to grab a copy for myself.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Robot Monk

This just about made my weekend, it's so cool, in an absurd way. Be sure to check out the Flickr photoset of the robot in action.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Tobaku Mokushiroku Kaiji

Just watched episodes 2 and 3 in a row, and now can't wait for the next episode of Ultimate Survivor Kaiji. None of the characters are sympathetic, least of all Kaiji, but the whole concept of life and death boiled down to a tournament of Restricted Rock, Paper, Scissors is pretty damn neat. This could turn out to be my favorite new series of the fall season.

Still thinking about Bamboo Blade, Dragonaut - The Resonance, Ghost Hound, Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro (though Renee is already sold on this one), Night Wizard and Suteki Tantei Labyrinth. I've already culled a lot of other shows (such as Rental Magika, Shakugan no Shana II, Shion no Oh and Shugo Chara), either by watching or just reading a summary that sounded dull.

Update



Got Episode 4. Watched Episode 4.

Want Episode 5.

Damn it.

Update the Second



Kicked Night Wizard to the curb. Just weren't clickin' for me.

Update the Third



It's official. With episode five, I'm naming Kaiji the best new series out of Japanese anime this season. It may get overtaken by Ghost Hound once that picks up steam, considering the creative minds behind that series, but GitS:SAC was a slow builder, so Kaiji may well finish before the verdict is in on Ghost Hound.



Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Rounding Out October

Just to use up my allotment for October at eMusic, I picked up a few nice tunes:


  • The Midnight Special - Creedence Clearwater Revival

  • Born on the Bayou - Creedence Clearwater Revival

  • 20th Century Blues - Robin Trower

  • Prisoner of Love - Robin Trower



The latter two are from a more recent (1994) album of his (20th Century Blues, go figure), but there's no mistaking his style.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

New Music

Two new albums:


  • Gypsy Punks - Gogol Bordello

  • The Civil War - Matmos



I think the song I already had from Gogol Bordello (Start Wearing Purple) is most likely the best one on the album, but I still wanted to give them a closer listen than 30-second samples allowed.

Matmos is an unusual electronic duo, and I have a handful of their music from various free samplers. One of them is one of my all-time favorites in any genre, The Struggle Against Unreality Begins, from The Civil War, so I finally decided to burn some of my eMusic credits to grab it.

I also picked up a couple individual songs:


  • The Trolley Song - Judy Garland

  • Powerhouse - Raymond Scott



Jean has also added to the playlist:


  • Just For Van the Man - Lenlow

  • Deceptataffy - Party Ben

  • Sharp Dressed Party (ZZ Top vs Pink) - Divide & Kreate

  • Fatboy vs. Blackstreet - Tim Lee




Saturday, October 20, 2007

Holiday Fare (Early)

Renee and I went to Bridgeport Cinema this afternoon to see the 3D rendition of A Nightmare Before Christmas. The three-dimensional rendering was quite good. I for one was in heaven, as this is nearly a perfect movie for me. Lovingly crafted armature animation, a great musical, and one screwy story. What's not to like?



Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Mysterious System Failure

Just in case you think I'm an uncritical Apple fanboy, relax. While I've preferred to own Macs for as long as I could afford them, I am well aware that they sometimes fail. Case in point:

My iBook began telling time sort-of-randomly early last week. I tried setting the timezone multiple times, but it kept ending up in weird timezones like WGST. I could, with some effort, get the timezone to change, just never to PST/PDT. So on Friday I threw in the towel and made a reservation at the Apple 'Genius Bar' in Bridgeport Village (online, from my web browser, so convenient).

In the end, all the tricks I've learned over the years (disk repair, deleting corrupt preference files, booting in safe mode, etc., etc.) were of no avail. They had to do a clean install of the system software. Somehow, something got buggy, and manifested as a cracked time reading. It took something like two hours to resolve. Fortunately, with 'archive and install', all my data was preserved, so I didn't have to dig out my backup drive after the repair.

So yes, Apple computers have problems (ask me about failed hard drives sometime), but they still mostly just work.


Burr-day

Saturday was the third time I've gone to a Burr-day party. My friend from work, Burr, turned 51 (I think), and he decided to have another party like his fiftieth, wherein he gathered together a bunch of friends and held a cooking party. Last year's theme was beef (from grain to grass-fed, and more-or-less grocery grade to Wagyu beef).

This year he jumped to the other pole, and the theme was vegetables. He told me that my salsa recipe would be welcome, so I made double batches of both kinds, on the spot. People seemed to like them.

After the meal, we went outside and played Bocce Ball. The last time I can recall playing that was as a youngster in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where one of our neighbors had a cousin from Italy staying the summer. Strange nostalgia there.

Anyway, happy birthday, Burr!


Achilles' Heel

Renee has an Achilles' Heel. I was balancing the checkbook in the den when I heard the most soul-rending wails from the living room. I ran to Renee, who was sitting on the floor in obvious pain. Good thing her mother is a nurse. All I could do was support her back and ask if I should bring ice.

It seems that she had been sitting cross-legged while knitting, and one of her feet was twisted on top of her other leg. When she went to stretch, it wouldn't straighten out. She had a muscle spasm. She's walking now, although she has to limp, but it took awhile for the spasm to die down, and I really felt helpless.

Thing is, this isn't the first time Renee has had problems with a foot locking up on her. And on at least one of those occasions, I'm pretty sure she'd been sitting with it folded at an odd angle. So I told her that now she has to train herself to never sit like that, since she's obviously predisposed toward cramping painfully when that happens.

Ugh. I'm just glad she's okay.


Mash-Up Report


  • Pretend We're North American Fun - The Illuminoids

  • Mama Sam - DJ Zebra Mix

  • Puzzle and the Wailers - DJ Zebra Mix



I don't really know if these are Mash-Ups yet, Jean moves too fast for me to listen to all these guys...


Balkan Beat Box

Latest eMusic album: Balkan Beat Box. I was actually listening to samples of Gogol Bordello, and saw a link to BBB. Checking them out, I discovered that they make music that is ideal to program to, texturally rich, but amenable as background music. Looking forward to using it tomorrow at work.


Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Music Pipeline

I've been wading through the freebies from the 2006 SXSW (I haven't even started on 2007's free content). Nice discoveries:


  • Start Wearing Purple - Gogol Bordello

  • Forever and Day - Her Space Holiday

  • Black Horse and the Cherry Tree - KT Tunstall

  • Destroy everything you touch - Ladytron

  • Wagon Wheel - Old Crow Medicine Show

  • Tear You Apart - She Wants Revenge



From Jean's Mash-Up Train, we have some new contenders as well:


  • Alla vill till Darins Himmel - Calle Hansson

  • I Love New England - Lenlow



Then a cool little culture collision I picked up scanning the web:


  • Hip Hop Violin - Paul Dateh & Inka one



I've also been previewing a couple of albums:


  • Ramonetures

  • In Rainbows - Radiohead



The first is a cover album of Ramones tunes, done in the style of surf guitar. It's not too bad, but I've been spoiled listening to Takeshi Terauchi, who is a Japanese surf guitar god, so they have a steep hill to climb.

The second album is Radiohead's latest, and their first without being under contract to a major label. It's 'free', in that they let you decide how much to pay for it. I'm previewing before I give them any money, as I am generally annoyed with Thom Yorke's policy of only allowing sales of complete albums since he feels that allowing purchase of individual tracks destroys the artistic integrity of his music. Rii-ight. Anyway, so far there are only a couple of songs I'd pay for, so I'll probably delete this one in a day or two.


Sunday, October 7, 2007

Good IT Citizen

I've had the same backup methodology for a few years now. Basically, I have a portable hard drive with three partitions, one for each computer in active use in our household. On Saturday mornings, after I've done my paperwork for the week, I do a backup of my computer in the den. When I'm feeling a bit more ambitious, I drag the drive around the house backing up Jean's computer and the laptop. That seems to happen once a month or even less frequently.

However, with my approximately year-old computer purchase came a much larger hard drive. I've actually had to cull stuff off the drive because my backup partition wouldn't hold it, twice. So when I saw that Costco had a 500GB external drive on sale, I grabbed one. Tonight I formatted it and dedicated it completely to Revy, my computer in the den. The original backup drive got reformatted and partitioned into two slots, for Haruko, Jean's computer, and Mikura, my laptop. That smaller backup drive now sits next to Jean's machine, so I think it's safe to say that it will get backed up more frequently than once a month.

And no, I don't have a backup plan that will survive a house fire. If that happens, I figure I've got bigger problems to worry about than what happened to my amateur photography files.


Mash-Update

Jean still busily mines the mashup world:


  • Boogie Woogie Candyman - Christina Aguilera vs. The Andrews Sisters [RabRadio]

  • Work It Out - Beyonce, Jurassic 5, Dee-Lite [Lenlow]

  • J-Lo vs. K-Co vs S-Wo [Lenlow]

  • To the Taxmobile - Batman TV Theme, Beatles [Lenlow]



Then, for a more conventional take, I grabbed these two from AmazonMP3 Store:


  • Rehab - Amy Winehouse

  • Back to Black - Amy Winehouse




Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Vive La Trance

Another twenty-some odd year-old album, from my early college years. Ook! Make that thirty years. The album first came out in 1974, and I remember listening to it at Michigan Tech, in Houghton, Michigan, which would put it at around 1976 or 1977. God I'm old!

Anyway, Vive La Trance is something like the seventh album by Amon Düül II. Yes, that's a Roman numeral two there. There was an Amon Düül first. I won't reiterate the history from Wikipedia here, it's an interesting read. Suffice to say that I've had two of their albums, the remains of which exist still in my desk at work, on a double-length cassette tape. I've played it infrequently over the years, well aware that it was degrading and would eventually cease playing listenable music.

Now I've grabbed this album from eMusic, and I finally found the near-impossible-to-locate Hijack, now back in print. So it's winging it's way through the mail to me, and I'll note it here when it arrives. Such good memories...

Update



Hijack arrived in the mail yesterday, and I've been listening to it ever since. It's as good as I remember, and better even than Vive La Trance. Guess I should follow my instinct to restore all those old albums I was fond of. Hmm, what's next? Voyage of the Acolyte?

Monday, October 1, 2007

Screamin' Jay Hawkins

Okay, I know I already got a version of I Put a Spell on You from eMusic, but that was an inferior version, Hawkins 'covering' himself, trying to be goofier without really topping the classic recording.

So now I went ahead and got the version I first heard, which was included in Stranger Than Paradise, a very strange, slow, but wonderful movie by Jim Jarmusch.


Sunday, September 30, 2007

And In the Mash-Up Corner...

Jean's been busy, that's all I can say:


  • basement-jaxx-ft-lisa-kekaula-vs-martha-and-the-vandellas-no-luck-to-run-zamali [that's really the title of the MP3]

  • Together Undone (Mastered) - The Beatles vs. Duran Duran feat. Rakim [DJ Clive$ter]

  • What I Got In The Playas Club

  • Can I Have a Mambo Like That - Lou Bega vs. Pharell & Gwen Stefani [DJ Boasty]

  • Just Can't Get Club Action - Yo Majesty vs. Depeche Mode [DJ Paul V]

  • Tequila Lip Gloss (BegaBeats) - DJ Paul

  • Rock Your Billie - DJ Zebra

  • Am I Undone - Erasure vs. Korn feat. Fatboy Slim [DJ Clive$ter]

  • Pink Wedding - Go Home Productions

  • God's Gonna Cut You Down - DJ Schmolli vs. Johnny Cash Allstar Band [DJ Schmolli]



The Joe Bega mashup is kinda funny since the first time I ever heard his
Mambo #5 was in an Anime Music Video (though not the one I link here). As you may know, AMVs are a whole genre of mashups!

And some freebies from Last.FM:


  • Scissory - Psapp (Looking Back Ain't No Way Forward)

  • Exurgency - Zoë Keating (One Cello x 16 EP)

  • Entertaining Thoughts - Over the Rhine (The Trumpet Child)

  • Onions - The Mountain Goats (Live performance)




Gulag Orkestar

This is my other eMusic grab for the end of September, by the Band Beirut. I'm still listening to it, so I haven't formed a solid opinion yet, but got it based on it's 2006 kudos. More later.


Now Listening...

I categorized this post under Music, but I will add Movies as well, as this is a note about one of my two remaining acquisitions for September from eMusic:


  • La Dolce Vita - Nino Rota



It is the soundtrack album for the movie of the same name by Fellini. Nino Rota, along with Ennio Morricone, is one of the primary Italian popular composers that I've enjoyed over the years. This is a great album, and will be background music for many programming sessions.


Friday, September 28, 2007

Toes in the Water

If you're technologically challenged, or just have a life, you may not have heard that Amazon is jumping into the online music store business. Since any DRM they could use would not be compatible with iPods (Apple does not license Fairplay), they have chosen to offer unencumbered MP3 files (following in Apple's footsteps after Apple negotiated a similar deal -- in their case for unencumbered AAC files -- with EMI).

Songs and albums are generally cheaper on Amazon than the DRM-locked versions on the iTunes Music Store. Songs most often cost 89 cents, though songs longer than seven minutes are nearly two dollars, and songs longer than fourteen minutes are even more. A strange variable pricing scheme, but one imagines the record companies have to get that camel's nose into the tent somehow. Not all the record companies have climbed aboard the DRM-free wagon, so Amazon currently has about one third of the offerings of Apple.

I imagine the fondest dreams of the RIAA cabal involve selling cheap to cut the legs out from under Apple during future contract negotiations, and once Apple has buckled (or simply been made irrelevant) we will see gradually escalating prices at Amazon. Probably much multi-tier nonsense, with 'popular' tunes going for $5 a pop, and older standards costing 'only' $1.98. I don't really think I'm being cynical here. But as a counterweight to this viewpoint, I don't think that the record companies will be able to push prices back up across the board, and that instead, this step away from DRM will just become the expected default. Sorry, RIAA...

Last night I went to my daughter's school for the usual yearly grind of 'meeting' all her teachers in a cattle call wandering from classroom to classroom, collecting bits of paper, but not really being able to talk to the teachers, since we were all on the clock, literally (hear the bell, move on). So this morning, as a treat for disrupting my routine evening, I've dipped my toes into the Amazon pool, buying a copy of Under Pressure, by David Bowie and Queen (really, to me, just Freddie Mercury). It's a very acceptable encoding of the song, and now that I've looked at the album it came from (Best of Bowie) I almost wish I'd just gotten the whole thing.

So now I'm getting my music from three vendors, eMusic, iTunes and Amazon MP3. Will I forsake the iTunes Music Store for a cheaper vendor? I already have, giving preference to eMusic when they carry the same artist as iTunes. This is partly for the average price of a song on eMusic, and partly due to the fact that they don't use DRM. So I'm not, in my opinion, playing into the hands of the RIAA, as I won't purchase a song for $5, ever. I won't purchase a song separately for $1.98, either, though I'll buy it if it is part of an album I'm buying, and the average price of the songs works out to 99 cents or less. An example of that would be this album by Hawkwind, where there are multiple songs priced at $1.94 (that dreaded seven minute limit, damn bandwidth costs !) but the whole (double) album comes in under $23. I don't think I'll actually buy this album, as I only want two or three of the songs, but you get the gist.

Also, Thom Yorke, get over yourself. OK Computer is not such a precious unified work of art that it can only be experienced as a complete entity. Sure, I liked Kid A, which I bought on CD years ago, but I only want Paranoid Android, and I'm not willing to pay $8.99 for it. 'Album Only' indeed!



Thursday, September 27, 2007

Jean, Jean, the Mash-Up Queen

I introduced Jean to the concept of mash-ups, and she's grabbed a few, and highlighted a few that I otherwise gave only a light listen to, making them favorites. Now, the student has overtaken the master. She's using music from my iTunes library to compose exercise discs, and spicing them up with mash-ups. But her desire for them outstrips my rather casual discovery methods (i.e. did someone mention it on Boing Boing?)

So she's out there trawling the net alone, unprotected. She's doing it for herself, she's doing it for me, Hell, she's doing it for you! Here are the latest catches:


  • Workin' Techno Pop (Apollo Zero Reconstruct) - Apollo Zero [from "Bootwerk - A Bastard Pop Tribute To Kraftwerk"]

  • An Honest M.I.A. (The Bravery vs. M.I.A.) - A plus D

  • Crazy Egyptians (The Bangles vs. Fine Young Cannibals) - DJ Earlybird [from "Bird Doo Doo"]



And in case all that unconventional music makes your head hurt, I also grabbed (via eMusic):


  • Messin' With the Kid - Junior Wells



A fine song, later covered by the Blues Brothers. I like both versions.


Recovered Albums

Like a lot of trailing edge post-Boomers, I spend a fair portion of my music budget on acquiring digital versions of music I've already owned on vinyl. My most recent album is a case in point. This Nation's Saving Grace, by The Fall. It's the only album I've ever owned by them (or by him -- The Fall is primarily Mark E. Smith: "If it's me, and your granny on bongos, it's a Fall gig""), but I plan to correct this via eMusic later with Hex Enduction Hour.

Anyway, it's just as fun as I remember, some twenty years ago, when I was disturbing the normals by boogying at the bus stop with a cassette walkmen and headphones. The only other band I did that with was Camper Van Beethoven, another band I've slowly been replacing with bits.

Funniest of all, I bet if I went out into the garage and dug through a box full of old records, I'd find The Fall, pristine and unchanged, ready to play but for the lack of a working record player. Bet the record companies are giddy about that.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Castle of Cagliostro

Regal Cinemas is showing a handful of dubbed anime movies, one of which, The Castle of Cagliostro, is a classic. I saw it both dubbed and fansubbed many years ago, and when I found it was showing in the theater (albeit dubbed) I asked Renee if she would like to see it. The main draw for her, as I imagined it, is that the movie is written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, responsible for many family anime films that Renee has seen and enjoyed. Once there, I was hoping that the story itself would please her. Of course, the big draw for her was to be able to go out on a school night, so she said yes.

So we went to see it tonight. Two things I'd forgotten about it: one, it was originally released in 1979, and has a definite 'period' feel to it. Pacing is also more deliberate than current Hollywood fare. That is, while there is action, with occasional gun (and sword) battles, and an explosion or two, there are also long stretches of scenery, character development and conversation.

Secondly, this is a very fun story. The plot could very easily be filmed with live actors and released to a general audience. I'd forgotten how enjoyable this movie is. Renee certainly seemed to be enjoying it. There's always some suspicion in the back of my mind that she's exaggerating her display of pleasure to humor poor old Dad, but it felt really natural during the movie.

Afterwards as we were walking back to the car in the cool evening air, we talked about how we were both naturally 'night creatures' and how we preferred the evening for our activities. I guess she takes after me there.

All in all, I enjoyed seeing the film again, very much more so for having shared it with Renee.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Mo' Music

Some more music acquired recently:


  • The Whistler - Old Blind Dogs

  • Too Busy Thinkin' About the Evil Woman - DJ Earlybird



The first is a song I first heard on Thistle and Shamrock. It struck me as interesting for being an Irish reel with bagpipes and harmonica.

The second is a mash-up that Jean found, blending 'Evil Woman' by E.L.O. with Marvin Gaye singing 'Too Busy Thinking About My Baby'.

Finally, I got another album from a Portland, Oregon, group. I seem to have quite a lot of luck with local groups. This one is called The Prids, and the album is called Until the World Is Beautiful. I've heard it described as 'Proto-Goth', and that would not be too bad a label.

Update



I've had a chance to listen to The Prids several times now. Even when I'm not sure I'm going to like more than a song, I like to buy the entire album when sampling a local Portland group, sort of a home culture support policy. In this cased, I can say that I like several of their songs quite a lot. Even if I only liked the first one, though, that'd justify the album for me. "The Glow" has been stuck in my head since I first heard it. Talk about putting your best foot forward!


A-Key Kyou

To demonstrate how lazy I've been with the posting, today's banner photo is of a concert at last weekend's Japan Festival, in the Uwajimaya parking lot in Beaverton. Renee and I went there, primarily so that she and her friend Sammi could get together and roam the store. Unfortunately, we were never able to hook up with her friend, so we stayed around an hour.

While we were there, we saw A-Key Kyou, who had also played at Kumoricon. As before, they displayed reasonable stage presence, and the instruments were competently played. At Kumoricon, the amplification was so loud that it was hard to tell just what the singing was like. This time, it seemed off-key, but I marked that up to bad equipment, as I saw one of the sound crew repeatedly fiddling with the settings and then walking out to the back of the audience to check the levels.

You might notice in the foreground of the picture a sign for a 'Free Demo CD'. Well, I ambled up and grabbed one, making a donation of five dollars, since free didn't seem fair after attending two of their concerts.

I've given it a listen more than once, and I asked Renee if she agreed with me. She does. The singers (I think both of them) seem to have trouble hitting the notes, quite often. Not the high notes, or the low notes, but notes that might have been intended to be sharp or flat, sustained for a bit, anything slightly off the melody. It's a bit disconcerting, and I'm sad to report it. I had fun watching them perform, much as I enjoy watching kids do cosplay. I just feel sad that they miss the notes.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Day of the Triffids

I finished this yesterday evening before going to bed. If you've seen the film adaptation, or worse, some pastiche emphasizing the ooga-booga creepiness of ambulatory, poisonous carnivorous plants directly or indirectly inspired by 'Triffids', then you might think this a trash novel. In reality, it's a very nice post-apocalyptic novel, with interesting characters and a decent exploration of the consequences of civilization's worldwide collapse.

I especially liked that Wyndham ensured that his protagonist had no omniscient knowledge of the source of the disaster -- almost literally a disaster, by the way. He speculates about it, but no one left alive speaks with certainty of it's source.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Two New Songs

I'm gonna be grabbing something from eMusic soon, so I should update my record of things I've gotten recently. These two were bought at the behest of my spouse:


  • Here It Goes Again - Ok Go

  • Don't You Evah - Spoon



Also, sampling music over the ether:


  • Stompin' On DOWN BEAT ALLEY (album) - Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra

  • Kimi Wa Suteki - FLOPPY




Recliner

Jean is around five feet tall, and often dissatisfied with the scale of the furniture around her. This summer, she and Renee went to Michigan to visit Jean's parents, and while there, she saw a chair that her parents had bought that she liked. As for the Papa Bear, Mama Bear and Baby Bear, there are three sizes of this chair available, and yesterday we went and tried all three out, at Elegant Interiors, in Lake Oswego.

The chair Jean eventually settled on was this one, appropriately enough, the Mama Bear size. Jean is indulging her penchant for light colors by getting the Pearl Grey leather upholstery, and humoring my need for some darker tones by getting the Teak Stained base.

We'll take delivery in a few weeks, as the color combo was not in stock, and needs to be sent to Norway. This gives us plenty of time to plan out the placement in our family room. I'll post a picture once we have it.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Tokyo Majin Gakuen Kenpuchou - Tou Dai Ni Maku

Simple pleasures. I was just a little bit giggly when the first episode of the second season came out. It's a little bit jumbled, on purpose, but still has that complex overlay of character and off-kilter storyline that makes it more than just a fight-of-the-week show. Looking forward to more.


Monday, September 3, 2007

Day Three (The Last)

Today was the last day of Kumoricon, and the shortest. I asked Renee last night if there was anything in particular she wanted to do on Monday, suggesting the A-Key Kyo concert. She was worn out from the day, and didn't seem interested in much. I asked her again later, and she said that the concert seemed to be the only interesting thing, and that she wanted to go out for coffee with her mom in the morning.

This morning, I told her that while she and Jean were out for coffee, I would be going out for exercise. I really needed it, as I'd done nothing but stand in lines and sit in panels for the last two days. So I went out for my 'jog' and was gone for an hour. When I returned, with plenty of time to get to Vancouver before the concert, Renee was standing there in her full 'Kagura' regalia, and she said "okay, let's go." I asked her for what, and she acted as if I'd somehow flaked on our plans.

Long story short, we had to get there early to let her visit the dealer's room one more time. After that, the concert really was the only thing we did. She didn't want to stay for closing ceremonies, which I can understand. After we got home, it was just a matter of coming down from the three-day break in our routine.

A handful of new pictures have been added to the set. Many of them were taken by Renee. Enjoy.


Sunday, September 2, 2007

Day Two

Today was much shorter. We got home in the middle of the afternoon instead of early evening. When I pointed out to Renee that the Cosplay Contest was from 4pm to 7pm, she agreed that that was a bit much. Once that was eliminated, we didn't find a lot we wanted to do in the afternoon/evening.

There are more photos in my Kumoricon Set.

The first few are of the Ouran Host Club Tea Party. I talked with the young man who was in charge. He told me that he and his friend were up at three in the morning one night in February racking their brains trying to come up with an idea for a panel. He said "we both like Ouran High School Host Club, so why not have a tea party with that theme?"

He took the idea to the Con Committee, and they liked it. The Con paid for all the food and tea, and supplied the room at the convention. This kid was in charge of the logistics, and getting enough friends together to host it. As you can see from the pictures, he did a really good job. This was a cute event, probably my favorite so far. It was really popular, not just, I think, due to the free food. He said they were planning on 300 people showing up. It was more like double that!

We sat through the first half of the panel by Kirk Thornton, a voice actor on American dubbed anime. He was a pretty fun guy, but made it clear that voice acting and making money are incompatible. It was almost like attending Scared Straight.

We cut out early from that so that Renee could attend the Fangirl Support Group. This is where fangirls get together to learn how to be better fans, I guess. Anyway, I thought it would cramp her style to have a balding old guy sitting next to her, so I stayed in the hallway while she went in. She stayed for the entire two hour session! There were frequent screams from within, but of the kind you hear near your favorite roller coaster. It turns out they were practicing their squees. Also, their glomps. Go figger, eh?

I in the meantime read up on C++ Standard string streams, and had chats with members of NOVA who showed up occasionally.

Afterwards, we went outside, and Renee got crazy with my camera, accounting for the remaining photos in today's set. Rest assured that these are a mere sampling of her twitchy finger!



Saturday, September 1, 2007

New Music

You may recall that I was sampling a band called Tilly and the Wall. I've concluded that there are only two songs I really like, so I've bought them on iTunes Music Store and deleted the remainder of my sample music:


  • Rainbows In the Dark

  • Bad Education



I also did my part at Kumoricon today, and bought a CD by one of the musical guests, a Portland area band called The Slants. The album is called "Slanted Eyes, Slanted Hearts". The other musical guests, A-Key Kyo, were not represented in the dealer's room (which was set up in the hotel parking garage), so I don't know if I'll get a CD by them. I'll try anyway...


Kumoricon

Today was the first day of Kumoricon 2007, and Renee and I were in attendance, as you can see by directing your attention to the banner. In this image she is essaying her first ever attempt at karaoke, singing 'Pray', the opening theme from Gintama. We did a few things today, but I was only interested in taking photos of my daughter, so there is a limited set up on my Flickr account. I'll update it if I take more photos.

Tom! Take special note of the outfit that Renee is wearing. This is her Kagura costume. You will be pleased to note that, yes, we were working on it until bedtime Friday night.

We might have finished earlier except that my mastery of Valeska's old sewing machine was pretty comically lacking. The bobbin kept getting tangled and sucked up into the fabric, so we ended up hand stitching the majority of the costume. Anyway, it looks neat, and Renee seems happy with it. Perhaps next year we'll have a better handle on the time...


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The IT Crowd

The second season of The IT Crowd started in Britain last Friday, with an episode called The Work Outing. Through the magic of the Internet, Jean, Renee and I watched it this evening. I was 'worried' that there might be a sophomore slump, but I needn't have been concerned. Viewing the episode for all three of us went something like this:

Silence ... chuckle ... laugh ... silence ... chuckle ... laugh ... laugh ... guffaw ... gasp, "oh my god, back it up, play that again!", hysterical laughter, hysterical laughter, repeat...

Looking forward to episode two.

By the way, Channel 4, how about an NTSC DVD boxed set of Season One, so I can buy it (and buy it for friends, and...). I can't really play the PAL, Region 2, Boxed Set sold on your website.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Giant Steps Indeed

Early this week I had to go in for a root planing at my dentist. Unpleasant business, and it left me feeling worn and a bit depressed. So come Friday I decided to treat myself, and I picked up a copy of Giant Steps by John Coltrane. I mentioned it earlier when talking about my acquisition of some Thelonius Monk albums. Well, I'm surely gonna get a lot of mileage out of this album.

What I've discovered while listening to these three albums is that I don't recognize individual numbers as such. I do recognize some of the signature works, but mostly, I enjoy these compositions as uplifting but unobtrusive background music, while I work (or read more recreationally). In any case, they are a welcome addition to my library.


Spamalot!

Thanks again to Tom, who arranged this most excellent outing. Yesterday, Renee and I met with Tom, his mom, and Adam Goetz (one of them Washington furriners from up North) outside of the Keller Auditorium, to watch Spamalot. And boy was it lots of fun! I'm afraid that the poor woman sitting in front of me in the balcony was made deaf by my bellowing laughter. Anyway, this week's banner photo is of Renee waiting patiently in her seat for the musical to begin.

Afterwards, we drove across the Willamette River to dine at the Widmer Gasthaus. Renee had the chicken pot pie, and I had the chili. Yummers!

This marks Milestone One on the journey to the end of Renee's Summer Vacation. Milestone Two, the final milestone, will be next weekend, when we engage in the endurance competition of the full three-day Kumoricon. I'll try to get a snap or two at that shindig as well.


Sunday, August 12, 2007

Jazz

Way back in my college days I listened to a lot of different genres of music. For instance, I listened to a lot of jazz. Mostly Latin and jazz fusion. Lots of Passport, Weather Report, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, some Ramsey Lewis. By some stretches, Frank Zappa and John McLaughlin (Mahavishnu Orchestra) fit the jazz label as well. I still have a handful of that music in my collection, but most of it didn't survive the transition from LP to CD.

I dipped my toe into the jazz waters recently when I grabbed some Bix Biederbecke music for Jean. I've been listening too, and it's great music. Now, with my remaining 'August' allotment from eMusic, I decided to branch out once again. Not in any systematic way, but taking an almost random stab into the huge corpus of jazz history, I've grabbed two new (old) albums:

Brilliant Corners
Monk's Music

Both by Thelonious Monk. I'm not ready to comment in any depth, but I've been playing them on heavy rotation, and they make for great contemplative music, as in, for instance, deep programming sessions. I'd like to get Giant Steps, by John Coltrane, but it's not on eMusic, so I'll have to grab it from iTunes or via a traditional CD. Later...


Thursday, August 9, 2007

Kristin Hersh

If you search my site for Throwing Muses or Kristin Hersh (sometimes mispellled by yours truly as Kristen), you'll find a number of mentions, unequivocally positive. I first heard Throwing Muses in two albums that I bought based on reviews I read in Factsheet Five. I first saw Throwing Muses in Cleveland, decades ago. I've been a fan, however casually, ever since. And now, as I mentioned in a recent post, I've bought Golden Ocean, by Kristin's new band 50 Foot Wave.

So what do I find in the comment queue today, but a message from Billy O'Connell ("Throwing Management") pointing me to an EP by 50 Foot Wave called, appropriately enough, Free Music ("please share this music in any and every way you see fit. ")!

Well, over the years, I've bought vinyl and CDs from the whole Throwing Muses dynasty. By Throwing Muses, I originally bought the vinyl for their untitled album that I called Green, due to the cover and the song Green on that album. I also bought The Fat Skier, House Tornado and Hunkpapa in vinyl editions. When those wore out, I bought their CD equivalents, along with The Real Ramona. eMusic.com has the 2003 eponymous album, so I'll be picking it up eventually.

I can't remember what all solo Kristin Hersh albums I bought over the years, but the only one to survive is the CD Hips and Makers.

So in any case, between earlier purchases and future planned purchases, I don't feel guilty accepting a little charity here. Thanks, Billy!


Garo

Finally, Garo is done. Sort of a souped-up Power Rangers/Kamen Rider type of show, with lots of CGI, and a typical heroic plot with lots of monsters and knights. I was actually quite pleased with the development of the story and characters, and while I had misgivings about the finale, they wrapped it up in a satisfactory manner.

Now I'm looking around for the Garo Special: Beast of the White Night.


Saturday, August 4, 2007

New Music

I started downloading songs as part of my new subscription to eMusic (after the free trial period, which I mentioned earlier). The first couple of albums consist of:

Bix Beiderbecke and the Chicago Cornets

which I got mainly for Jean, who's a big Bix fan, but I'll be listening to it as well.

For my own itch, I got

Golden Ocean - 50 Foot Wave

which is Kristin Hersch's new-ish rock band (less arty than Throwing Muses, much harder than most of her solo work). It's pretty funny hearing her harsh, gutteral singing, after so many years of her dulcet voice. Love it either way.

I'm also enjoying a new mash-up album (not eMusic sourced):

Forgotten Hits, compiled by Simon Iddol

and exploring the music of Tilly and the Wall, specifically I'm evaluating Bottoms of Barrels. I'm particularly fond of Bad Education.

Update



I forgot to mention some neat single songs I've gotten recently: Back in Your Head - Tegan and Sara (Salon Audiofile), Open Your Heart - Lavender Diamond (eMusic) and Star Witness - Neko Case (Pitchfork Media freebie).


Sunday, July 29, 2007

xkcd

Today's banner brought to you courtesy of xkcd. What?


It's not actually an acronym. It's just a word with no phonetic pronunciation. It stands for the comic and everything the comic stands for!



Anyway, this is an old one I stumbled on that tickled me, since Goldfinger is one of the two archetypal superspy movies (yes, Doctor No is the other).

Update



I missed the title attribute associated with that image:


You spin me right round, baby, right round, in a manner depriving me of an inertial reference frame. Baby.




Saturday, July 28, 2007

New Music

Blood Money, one of two albums capturing the music written by Waits for plays directed by Robert Wilson. It's based on an unfinished German play entitled Woyzeck, by Georg Büchner. Definitely feels Brechtian to me, along with that "ramshackle apocalyptic carnival" ... "flaunting a keen otherworldly nostalgia and a preoccupation with freaks" (see the review). The other album is titled Alice, and I'll probably be getting it in the next few weeks.

Sound of zZz. Jamie W. Zawinski pointed to a performance art video set to the song House of Sin, and featuring the two members (Daan Schinkel, Björn Ottenheim) of the band, zZz, as well as a troupe of acrobats and a trampoline. It was visually captivating, in a silly, self-deprecating way, and the song reminded me of Joy Division, so I had to check them out. I ended up picking up the album.


Monday, July 23, 2007

Google News

Nice new interface for Google News...

Friday, July 20, 2007

And an Anime Series

We're already up to the third episode of Zombie Loan, which we both agree is cute. I may actually use one of the main gimmicks (characters marked for death, or already zombies, have a black ring of flesh around their necks, invisible to ordinary humans) as a 'costume' when I take Renee to Kumoricon.


For You In Full Bloom

I started watching a new live-action comedy/drama last night with Renee. It's called Hanazakari no Kimitachi e, or "For You In Full Bloom". I'm not done with Garo, but I'm nearing the end, and I can't seem to resist some live action silliness.

This one is about a boy's school, and the girl who attends it disguised as a boy. Pretty funny first episode, and I've got number two waiting in the wings.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Kemonodzume

Well, finally managed to finish this series. Each episode was stranger than the last, and it ramped up to an increasingly weird climax. But there was a happy ending!


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Earthquake!

I can't remember with certainty when we last experienced a notable earthquake here in Tualatin, but I do remember that I was half-asleep in bed. This time, I was noodling on the computer. It was a 2.9, maybe ten miles away and 16 miles down. There was no missing it, but not enough force to knock things over.

So long as that's the strongest I experience, cool!

The shakiest quake I ever experienced was in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. I was in our apartment, and could see the floor lamp's shade swinging left and right as I felt the entire building sway. That one had me worried for awhile...

Update



Ooh! Overnight it got upgraded. The automatic machinery gave it a 2.9, but it's now ranked a 3.3! Cool!


Monday, July 9, 2007

Drain Doctor

I got to see a heavy-duty rooter in action today. Late last week we began to experience repeated overflow/backwash from the downstairs shower, following clothes washing, dishwashing, toilet flushing, pretty much any big water disposal event. By Friday, we really couldn't use any water appliance without nasty flooding.

Jean called Canby Plumbing, and they recommended the Drain Doctor. Their guy came today, so I came home from work early to meet with him. The big electric motor cranking out cable tipped with a rotating shredder head was pretty cool. Took about an hour, and now we are working our way through a backlog of dishes and laundry.

First Internet outages, then water. I guess cable is next! Bring it!


Sunday, July 8, 2007

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

After watching the first two Pirates movies in close succession, Renee and I agreed to see the final one this weekend. This is a good thing, as it looks like the movie is shuffling off the screens, having only two matinee showings today at our local theater.

We went, we saw, we enjoyed. A benefit of having seen the rerun of Curse of the Black Pearl on television, then renting Dead Man's Chest the following weekend, is that all the characters, subplots and MacGuffins that link the three movies were fresh in our minds. I won't enumerate all the little things which held this triptych together. But they definitely enhanced my enjoyment tremendously.

In fact, bother the critics who have trashed each sequel successively. I disagree heartily with their opinion. This trilogy is, for me, the best popular entertainment trilogy I've seen since the original Star Wars trilogy (that's IV, V and VI in case you're too young to remember). There have been other very nice ones, such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy. There have been others that started out very promising, such as the Matrix, which then fall flat. The Pirates win this one.


Cosplay Hunt

Labor Day Weekend is the weekend of Kumoricon. Renee and I did a last minute field trip there last year, and she decided that she wanted to do the full convention experience this year. While we won't be renting a room, we will be attending during regular convention hours each day.

Renee has begun to assemble a costume, in order to participate--at least--in the hallway cosplay. She's planning a costume based on Kagura, from the anime Gintama. So we drove up to Uwajimaya, in search of clothing resembling that worn by her character. No luck, so we'll be venturing to a fabric store next weekend. In the meantime, we successfully purchased a couple of jars of nori strips, as stand-ins for Kagura's favorite snack, sukonbu. Nori is seaweed, and sukonbu is kelp, so, close enough!


Saturday, July 7, 2007

Vegan 'Scramble'

I tried this recipe for a vegan Spanish Scramble this evening. I don't really think there's any point calling it that, as there is no mistaking it for eggs, and no need to either. It was very tasty, and had a nice, interesting texture.

I don't think I processed the nuts to the coarseness specified in the video. My mix was pretty fine. Still, with tomatoes, scallions and spinach bought from the farmer's market this morning, it filled and nourished me just great.

Don't be afraid to try vegan dishes. If you eat a salad now and then, you're eating a 'vegan' recipe.

P.S. - no, I'm not vegan, and not turning vegan. I eat fish practically every day, and have been known to eat beef if it's on a buffet at work. I just like my fresh veggies!


Thursday, July 5, 2007

The Third Man

I mentioned this yesterday. I decided to watch the first half tonight and finish it tomorrow, but I couldn't stop myself from watching it straight through. This is such a wonderful movie of the period. For the picture of living on the edge I'd rate it as at least the equal of Casablanca. I'm really happy I tracked it down again.


Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Movieola

Been through a recent batch of movies, and have some pending, so I thought I'd just mention a few:

Ratatouille - I went to see this last weekend, and my was it marvelous. I like cooking, and I like animation, and Pixar generally does a good job of the latter. They've also been pretty good at bringing a specific environment to life, and this was no exception. Their representation of a working kitchen felt pretty right to me. This is written and directed by Brad Bird, who created Iron Giant and The Incredibles. Recommended.

Knocked Up - I saw this one today with Jean. She picked it out. When I initially heard of it, I thought it was going to be a drama, and a tedious and depressing one at that. Then I heard it was going to be a comedy. "Good luck with that," I thought. After all, it's about two strangers getting hit with an unplanned pregnancy. But Jean mentioned it, and then I heard it was by the guy who did The Forty Year Old Virgin (Judd Apatow). That was funny in a totally irreverant way, so I was more willing to give this a chance. As it turns out, it was pretty funny, with some laugh-out-loud moments. The characters were all note-perfect as well. There was a cameo by Harold Ramis, and I couldn't help wishing he did more acting. He has great screen presence. So both Jean and I liked this one.

Recently, those television moguls have been showing multiple screenings of Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. Gee, I wonder why? Anyway, Renee caught a chunk of it out of the corner of her eye while working on the computer and insisted on watching the ending. So I recorded one of the multiple repeats, and we watched the whole thing together. Last weekend, we rented the second movie, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm thinking that this coming weekend, we'll go to the theater and see the third. Suits me, as I enjoyed the first two quite a lot.

Finally, in the queue for me alone, is a repeat viewing of The Third Man, which I saw years ago and really enjoyed. I've just recently gotten a strong hankering to see it again, and it was available at the library, so I'm going to be watching it in a day or two...



Monday, June 25, 2007

Twelve (point Eight) Days Later

This evening I finally got Internet access back in my home. I don't want to go into the details, suffice to say that when things are going right, Verizon is fine as bandwidth vendor. When they go wrong, they go spectacularly wrong. Verizon can be staggeringly incompetent when the wind blows the wrong way, and this is such an occasion. I've had busloads of frustration, trying to get correct answers, and get back online.

Tonight, I plugged in the ATM modem they finally sent me, and the first thing it did was redirect every, single, URL to their DSL registration page. Following the directions just started a stalled download for software I don't need or want. I called them up, steaming, and got a tech to walk me through steps to turn off some kind of firewall that's on by default in their router (and undocumented in the PDF they sent on the CD, as far as I can see) which was responsible for it wanting to download and install software from the mothership.

I tell you, if I hadn't heard even worse horror stories about Comcast from some of my friends, I would have jumped ship by now. If ever there is a third bandwidth vendor in our area, truly interested in selling me bandwidth at a reasonable price, Verizon is on the trash heap!


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Birthday

Quick note from work, as I'm still Internet poor at home.

Yesterday was Renee's twelfth birthday! I went to work, but in the evening, we went to John Barleycorn, a McMenamin's pub/restaurant. Renee wanted to go there because they serve Oregon Country Beef, which is grass-fed, and hence lower-risk than the already low risk of mad cow contamination. Jean won't let Renee eat grocery beef (grain fed) because of that risk, so Renee has to go to extra lengths to get a cheeseburger.

Afterwords we went home and opened prezzies. Renee got three books, some earrings inspired by the serotonin molecule, a digitizing pad for her computer artwork, an album from Snow Patrol and a tennis racket. She's been bouncing a ball ever since. I think she was happy with what she got.

Oh, and Chichi was an early present. Another early present her mom gave her, of which I don't approve, is pierced ears, hence the new earring present. I'll just have to live with that sort of thing, I guess.


Monday, June 18, 2007

Outages

While I haven't exactly been prolific in posting recently, I've been offline for a more direct reason of late. Verizon has royally mucked up my internet connection, such that I've had no connectivity at home whatsoever from last Wednesday morning. I won't go into the incompetence or the massive voice-menu mazes I've had to deal with, but at best, I don't expect to have Internet bandwidth again until this Wednesday. And I'm not laying any bets on that.

Just a short post from work, for those of you who care.

And Tom, I'm still a kid. I took that Tachikoma toy to work, and it's sitting under my moniter, distracting me repeatedly.


Monday, June 11, 2007

Tom's BBQ

It's been something like two months for me since I last got together with the gang, so it was kinda neat that Tom threw a BBQ. I don't care that it was overcast, as I actually prefer rainy weather, and Tom has a nice canopy over his patio, so he's still able to do the cooking so long as the rain isn't horizontal.

There were burgers and hotdogs and skewers with shrimp, as well as lightly cooked bell peppers, yum! And, as I threatened, I ran over to the Beaverton Farmer's Market early that morning and found lots of fresh tomatoes, onions, garlic and cilantro. Other ingredients, like jalapenos, were not really growing locally yet, so I made do with grocery store imports for those.

Pretty much the whole Oregon crowd, and Bo and Lisa from further North, were there Saturday. I got the usual pop culture and gaming immersion, including hints from Alan on how to pick up the Japan-only demo of Eternal Sonata, an RPG featuring 'Frederic Chopin' and musical themes throughout.

I grabbed it yesterday evening, and played through the sample scenario with Renee. It seems like a lot of fun, and I continue to plan to get it. Renee was adamant that she wanted it, so I told her "start saving your money, and we'll split the cost."

She agreed, but said, "if I'm sharing the cost, I get to play equal time." I agreed, knowing of course that with all my other RPGs she's ended up playing more time than I have, even when I'm still interested in the games. So agreeing to half-and-half is a win for me!