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 - ZoĆ« 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.


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


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...


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...