Monday, November 30, 2009

The Bad Sex in Fiction Awards nominations are in...

It's very British to agonize, or chortle, or both, over sex in fiction. (I wrote sex infection there the first time. Hmmm.) The yearly Bad Sex in Fiction Awards are given to writers who have produced the worst descriptions of a sexual act. The BBC gives several examples in its write up here.

Actually, I think they're all quite good. Descriptions of sex don't start from zero, so reading any of these without a run-up is likely to produce a wtf reaction. For any scene to work, you need to know the background of the characters, what they want, what they're afraid of, what they think of the other person, animal, vegetable or fruit in the scene. Given that there's probably some reason in the original for the narrator or viewpoint of the book to portray the couple this way, this description by Nick Cave (yes, that Nick Cave) is pretty evocative: "Bunny lies on his back on the sofa. He is naked and his clothes sit in sad, little heaps on the living room floor..."

Anyway, what I wanted to talk about was this comment from Lucasta Miller:

Booker Prize judge Lucasta Miller says sex has been at the centre of most of Western literature for centuries but too much of it nowadays reads like a "biology textbook".

"A trap people fall into is an earnest anatomical description of sex. The difficulty with the anatomical is that it can read like a bit of a textbook.

"To stop it doing so, they will put in flowery metaphors from the animal kingdom, but you don't need that detail.

They put in flowery metaphors? From the animal kingdom?

Someone needs to work on their metaphors, and it isn't Nick Cave.

Read the shortlisted passages at Literary Review here.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen: It's the Rolling Stones

G K Nomelend of The Drive Byes on why the Rolling Stones matter.

It's a well-written piece - in fact it's a professional level piece. If you have to be told why the Rolling Stones matter, it's probably not for you despite its titular slant. But for an old timer, it's nice to see a history of the Stones, and why we should give a shit.
"For “Let It Bleed”, if one has to pick a song it is “Gimme Shelter”, a tune, as a wise friend of mine once noted (who runs The Dangers by the way) it the true expression of what The Stones are really all about. Life is dangerous and irrational and the only solace to be found is in sexual love. Love, sister, it’s just a kiss away, a kiss away. “Sticky Fingers” for me is the truest Classic Rock Album of all time, a collection of tunes that give us the DNA of what the genre is all about. It comes down to “Brown Sugar” as the take-to-a-desert-isle track. Dirty, raucous, a ditty the Marquis de Sade could love, it is probably the best Stones single of all time (yes, even above “Honky Tonk Women”)."

If you don't know why you should give a shit, here's a good first answer.

The Song Remains the Same.

I went to the store this evening and I saw a guy there in a Led Zeppelin 1977 Tour t shirt. He looked about ten years older than I feel. I went up to him to ask him if he'd seen the 1977 tour and he said no. He'd seen Page & Plant on tour much later, though.

I told him I'd seen Led Zeppelin in 1975 at Earl's Court and in 1979 at Knebworth. He was awestruck and mentioned his mother had taken him to a 1977 concert but he'd been in the car, too young to get in.

This tells me I need to concentrate on younger men. If men too young to see Led Zeppelin in 1977 look like they're older than me, it's time to stop being honest. I need to start cradle robbing.

I can do a good enough imitation of a White Stripes fan to pass, I think - I could probably interest the over-30 Indie Rock demographic with a few well-placed lines. God knows what would happen if I sought the Dead Weather's principal fandom. It might be legal for me to importune over-18s, but I'm not sure I'd like to try on anyone under 25.

Or I can just stay with the arrangement I've got. That works.

A picture of the future

"If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face— forever."- George Orwell

It's and old joke to say that Nineteen Eighty-Four was supposed to be a warning, not a how-to book. Or perhaps it's an old warning to say that Nineteen Eighty-Four was supposed to be a warning, not a how-to book. Whatever, it's true, but the British government is still working its way through Orwell's classic with DIY gusto.

The Britosphere has noticed that the newly introduced Digital Economy Bill has a couple of problems.

It's entirely based on the assumption that copyright infractions are a form of theft (which is debatable); it puts forward a framework in which people who are accused of downloading or uploading works are automatically guilty without due process; it throws entire households off the internet (which these days is tantamount to throwing whole households off the water mains or the power grid); and it enables an entire network of spying on the internet uses of everyone in Britain - actually, it *mandates* spying, since ISPs will be forced to do it.

BoingBoing says:

The British government has brought down its long-awaited Digital Economy Bill, and it's perfectly useless and terrible. It consists almost entirely of penalties for people who do things that upset the entertainment industry (including the "three-strikes" rule that allows your entire family to be cut off from the net if anyone who lives in your house is accused of copyright infringement, without proof or evidence or trial), as well as a plan to beat the hell out of the video-game industry with a new, even dumber rating system (why is it acceptable for the government to declare that some forms of artwork have to be mandatorily labelled as to their suitability for kids? And why is it only some media? Why not paintings? Why not novels? Why not modern dance or ballet or opera?).
So it's bad. £50,000 fines if someone in your house is accused of filesharing. A duty on ISPs to spy on all their customers in case they find something that would help the record or film industry sue them (ISPs who refuse to cooperate can be fined £250,000).

But that's just for starters.

Steven Grant of Permanent Damage calls this fascism. (Rant starts about half way down the long post):

Thing is, once this principle gets established, what else do they decide they can grant dictatorial powers over, complete with private armies to compel obedience and no legal recourse? By the way, I'm not playing fast and loose with the word fascism here; fascism is corporate government, not only structured like a corporation with orders raining down from the man on top to be fulfilled by various levels of "employees" (i.e. citizens, who in fascism are considered the property of the state, which is how British citizens have customarily been viewed by their state throughout British history) but serving the needs and desires of corporations over the needs of the citizens. The "Digital Economy Bill" is, pure and simple, about testing the reach of power, and what the public will tolerate. It's a time-tested fact that populations will become accustomed in times of "crisis" – and everything now is positioned as "crisis" – to practices previously thought unacceptable, but that once the formerly unacceptable becomes accepted, it gets applied to new contexts, on the theory that what's acceptable in one circumstance ought to be acceptable in a similar circumstance. Guess who gets to determine what constitutes a similar circumstance? Hint: it's not you or me.

Charlie Stross froths at his blog:

Want to publish a piece of shareware over BitTorrent? You're fucked, mate: all it takes is a malicious accusation and your ISP (who are required to snitch on p2p users on pain of heavy fines) will be ordered to cut off the internet connection to you and everyone else in your household. (A really draconian punishment in an age where it's increasingly normal to conduct business correspondence via email and to manage bank accounts and gas or electricity bills or tax returns via the web.) Oh, you don't get the right to confront your accuser in court, either: this is merely an administrative process, no lawyers involved. It's unlikely that p2p access will survive this bill in any form — even for innocent purposes (distributing Linux .iso images, for example).
This bill isn't about securing our creative industries. It's about fucking the little guys, depriving them of channels to reach their public, and about protecting the cartel of big media organizations who are threatened by the development of the public internet. And it stinks from the head down.

This all makes me glad I no longer live there. American politics - and general American privilege - can be a pain in the neck, but the public as a whole here is a bit less likely to roll over. The standard American way to enhance government control is to introduce a bill that's twice as absurdly intrusive as it needs to be, at which the public boils over, froths, writes its Congressman etc. and then a watered-down bill is passed which does what the government needs it to do to keep the public poor and ill-informed.

The standard British model is to introduce a bill which really is a boot stamping on a human face forever, at which the entire journalistic contingent of the nation will rise as one and write articles on agreeable wines, recipes with rocket and blue cheese, nice cars and whether $reality_show_face_1 really does or does not hate $reality_show_face_2. A thousand crusties will march on the Houses of Parliament and be roundly ignored, and then the bill will pass as read.

Friday, November 27, 2009

More fractalization

Yesterday, in The Long Tail, I mentioned the idea of fractalization - that the web, as currently configured, drives us down into our own subculture and takes us away from the mainstream culture into a mini-representation of an overall culture. It reinforces our subcultures and allows us to live in small places where everyone agrees with us.

Today, the JG Ballard group I belong to (see what I mean? That's a niche, all right) points me towards an interview with Rex Marshall, the founder of Mattress. Of course, Rex Marshall mentions JGB, or he would not have come up in the JG Ballard group's conversations. So far today, 100% of the bands I've been pointed to are JGB fans. See how this works?

And what does Rex say? "There no longer seems to be a zeitgeist. Or there are 1,000 tiny zeitgeists."

Rex agrees with me!

The article says Mattress play dystopian torch songs. I'll check them out.

The Lego Matrix

Via STB, from LegoAgentJones, a bit of Lego Bullet Time:

According to the information at YouTube, that took 440 hours to animate. Looks great!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Long Tail

There's been some debate about the effect of the web on commerce, whether access to "the long tail" would be a boon or not. Recently, thinking seems to have shifted towards the "winner takes all" theory, that the best-selling whatever, by reason of being best-selling, would find itself cemented as the best-seller by the use of search engines, user recommendations and merchandizing software that looks at preferences and suggests what to buy.

This article in Techdirt, Winner Takes All, Long Tails And The Fractilization Of Culture looks at the argument for winner takes all and concludes that things don't work that way - that winners (and tails) are fractal. A big winner and long tail for the whole world, and similar smaller winner and long tail for every niche.

Just as a fractal repeats its same pattern as you zoom in and look closer on the smaller segments, so do cultural subsegments. And those segments continue to thrive, despite the recommendation systems just pushing people to the hits. Part of that may be that once you've begun exploring those subcultures, the recommendation engines and collaborative filters drive you towards the "hits within" the subculture.
This seems intuitively true to me. Whoever's on top of music today (and I have no idea who that is - Kanye West? Taylor Swift?) will get the most hits on any generic search, but who searches generically? I'm always looking from within my subculture, and so are you.

A trainspotter, going to his trainspotter message boards and reading trainspotter sites, will always find that Mr. Big Trainspotter is more important than Kanye West in his world, and if you do furniture restoration, French polish is always going to come up more often in your searches than Miller Lite beer. The idea that search engines and preference engines drive us all into the mainstream is intrinsically flawed. The web's Killer App - search engines - actually dig us deeper into our own little world with every search.

Now, that's not to say everything's fine. In a way, that might be a worse scenario. Almost every search I do proves I'm right, because the keywords I use lead me to sites that agree with me. If I find 60 sites that agree with me on something, I have no idea whether sites that disagree number 6, 60, or six million. All I know is somebody agrees. Fragmentation of this kind looks to me as though it will be a bigger problem than homogenization.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Harlequin becomes a vanity publisher

In other news, a very, very large publishing house decides that a great "new publishing business model" would be for the writers to pay them, instead of the other way around.

Good luck with that.

Rather than rehearsing why this is a bad idea for everyone, especially writers, I'll send you over to John 'scathing' Scalzi for the lowdown.

Global Warming Oopsie

It seems that scientists don't know something businesspeople have known for years: that emails are like postcards. They can be read by anyone, and frequently are.

Allegedly, someone hacked into a server and published several thousand emails by Climatologists, wherein they argue about best way to present their data to support a warming climate, call the opposition prats and talk about a statistical 'trick' to use.

Hacked emails show Climate Science Ridden with Rancor - Wall Street Journal

I'm already getting emails quoting the stolen material, mostly from right-wingers, as that seems to be who sends me most emails. They are very, very happy about this development.

This was the first article sent to me, from American Thinker.

I haven't read all the emails, and I'm not going to, but if this is all true, it is a big blow for the scientific consensus that the atmosphere is getting warmer. The science is still all there, but the public will always remember the tone of these emails. A statistical 'trick' may just mean 'a clever presentation', not 'I'm trying to trick someone'. Many of the opposing side are prats (and sounds like some of the pro-climate change scientists are prats too). But aiming to only present one side of the story, or even looking like you want to present only one side of the story, is profoundly unscientific. That's not how it's supposed to work. As one email quoted in the WSJ says,"As for thinking that it is 'Better that nothing appear, than something unacceptable to us' … as though we are the gatekeepers of all that is acceptable in the world of paleoclimatology seems amazingly arrogant. Science moves forward whether we agree with individual articles or not."

That's correct, and it's interesting that the hackers kept that email in with the others. Perhaps the hackers have a better grasp of science than some of the scientists in the hacked group.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Empire of the Sun and Tideland

The other day I wrote about Terry Gilliam's Tideland, and said a number of unpraising things about it. STB thought it was a little unfair – he said, "I think Gilliam did absolutely nail it – seeing the world through an eight year old's eyes. But…there's a reason why eight year olds don't direct movies."

I came across this quote from JG Ballard yesterday. As many people know, JGB was interned in a Japanese labor camp during World War II, an experience which informed his novel Empire of the Sun (and the very different Spielberg movie of the same name supposedly based on it). But even before the internment, he'd been having what the audience member in this interview calls "an unusual childhood".
Audience: When you were in China, I was wondering, just how much fear you actually felt?

JGB:I never remember feeling any fear, either during or before the war. This is something which has absolutely baffled me. I brought up three children of my own. I live in one of the most tranquil suburbs in the western world, Shepperton in West London. I used to get nervous every time my kiddies ran out to buy a Crunchie [candy], I thought they would fall into the hands of some childhood rapist or get run over or I'd never see them again. Whereas, I as a child was living in one of the most dangerous cities the world has ever seen. Even before the Japanese invaded in 1937, I was only seven years old, before then it was an extremely dangerous place to be. The Guomindang forces under General Chiang-Kai-Shek even then was battling with the Chinese communists led by Mao and Chou Enlai who made their start in Shanghai. There were terrorist bombings and atrocities, the city was full of gangsters of the most ruthless kind. Yet I used to pedal my little bike all over the place, some sort of magic preserved me. I went back for the first time about two months ago. The streets were extremely narrow, how I survived, these vast American cars would roar everywhere, and there were violent gangsters who would just kick anyone out of their way, me included, giant French trams were screaming all over the place. This was a place widespread with kidnapping and God knows what. But some magic preserved me. I don't know why I'm here at all.

Audience: Were you aware at the time you were having an unusual childhood?

JGB: No, of course not, it was the only one I knew. I assumed that the whole world was like that, it was quite a shock to come here, I must say.

Twice he says "some magic preserved me". Not actual magic, of course – JGB was not known for his fuzzy pagan philosophies – but his adult self looked back and saw something strange about his own preservation.

That's the magic Terry Gilliam was aiming for in Tideland, I think, and yes, he did nail it.

Possibly one reason for my reaction to the movie was the magic. I was expecting something like Alice in Wonderland, and of the course the beauty and surrealism of Alice is based on the tension between the rabbit hole creatures and the little girl. Alice is a proper Victorian girl who has studied grammar, spelling, poetry, French and the proper forms of address between people of different status. The rabbit hole creatures are constantly violating these rules. Humpty Dumpty cheerfully states that words mean what he wants them to mean, nothing more, nothing less. This must have thrilled the real Alice – how transgressive! and of course intrigued if not irritated the fictional Alice as she has to listen to him and a parade of weird living things from walruses through carpenters mangling the poems she knows by heart and generally acting like they don't have to care about authority. But Jeliza-Rose is not coming from the same place. She's apparently never had discipline, and the only thing she seems to have learned by heart is how to cook up a fix. Bizarre creatures and the strangest things, like stuffing your relatives, are completely normal to her since she has no frame of reference.

She's more like JG Ballard than Alice.

I still can't bring myself to like Tideland. The little boy, Jim, in Empire of the Sun may be in the same circumstances as Jeliza-Rose, but his story is told by an adult. Not a writer who prides himself on plots and macguffins and chase sequences – JG Ballard never cared about any of those. But apart from the non-caricature characters of Empire, there's an adult sensibility that looks at the magic surrounding the boy without getting woolly-headed. The Spielberg movie drifts off its anchor a couple of times, but never approaches the indulgence of Tideland. There's a reason eight year olds don't make movies.

Mike Holliday of the JG Ballard Mailing List on Yahoo kindly provided a transcript of the 1992 interview with Hardcore magazine.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Dead Weather, Brooklyn

I know, it's been at least 72 hours since I mentioned the Dead Weather.

The Brooklyn show was awesome - it's already up on Dime. Go get. If you can't find, let me know and I'll set you up.

Here's a video.

The Dead Weather, "I Can't Hear You" 11-17-2009 from StopRemembering on Vimeo.

Apart from just rocking harder than any band I've heard in the last ten years, it illustrates that man/woman non-commutative thing. Baby Ruthless can cannon into Dean, or shove Jack White, and they just smile. But when 6'4" Jack White shoves Baby Ruthless, she lands hard on the floor. Hope she bit his ear off later, the bully.

Monday, November 16, 2009

To Err is Human

From NPR, an article on The Death of Rock, which will come about because people can no longer make mistakes (or human variations in pitch and beat) due to Pro Tools. There's a beautiful paragraph in there detailing the mistakes in the Beatles' song Rain, followed by the video so we can hear it for ourselves.
Now imagine what would happen if some band of 25-year-olds with radio aspirations wrote and recorded "Rain" today. That take would probably be thrown out, or at least digitally edited to fix the screw-up; even if they played it right, the drum track would get imported into ProTools and snapped back into strict rhythm any time it drifts behind the beat. The lead singer's wobbly notes, and the not-quite-in-tune bass guitar, would get fixed with AutoTune. The all-over-the-place guitar dynamics would be tightened up with a compressor-limiter. It'd still be a fine song, but the recording would be impossibly boring -- as frictionless and dull as the recordings even the best mainstream rock bands often end up making now.
Do you agree?

It seems to me that there have always been perfectionists - Queen mixing down thousands of tracks of the tiniest pieces of sound from the strangest sources, back in the days when it meant slicing tape with a scalpel and splicing it back together. And there have always been first-take bands. I think the only real change is that mediocre bands can be made to sound good by a producer armed with auto-tune and pro-tools, thus 'fooling' us. In the old days they just used to do that by kicking the band out and bringing in session musicians, so I'm not sure even that's much of an innovation.

On the other hand, I really hate auto-tune.

News from other planets

Water on the moon! Although I suspect this is mostly rah-rah from a NASA desperate to seem relevant, I love the idea that even the moon has water. It comes in from comets, apparently. No, I don't want to build a base there. Why? We've got one here. No point getting down another gravity well. Space exploration should be seeded from space, not from another rock.

Here's a photo of Mars, a much more beautiful planet than Luna, and somewhere I would really like to visit sometime.

Many more sublime pictures here at

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Today in terrible film history we watch:

Terry Gilliam's Tideland.

Spoilers below.
Neither of us had ever heard of it and it was a bit of a surprise when it dropped through the door. Presumably Netflix thought if we liked Brazil and Time Bandits and Monty Python, we'd be up for a bit more of Gilliam, an imaginative genius with a hole in his head where the other bits of Good Film Directing would normally go.

Apparently released in 2005 to mass walk-outs, it was re-released in 2007 with a plea tacked on to the front. This prolog is a film of Gilliam himself, looking seventy-ish, worn-out and whiskered, and pleading for us to understand that the movie we are about to see should be watched as if through the eyes of a child. The scary old man then goes on to say the movie helped him, Terry Gilliam, discover his inner child, and she was a young girl.

Hearing the grizzled geezer describe himself as a young girl gave me that shock of sexual horror that only the very, very best horror films can ever produce. It took me five minutes to recover from it. Gilliam's lucky he nailed it right at the beginning because over the rest of the 17.5 hour long borefest (subjective time) he never again reached that height of emotional involvement.

The film itself starts with Jeff Bridges, an older and even more slacker version of the Dude from The Big Lebowski, and his wife, Jennifer Tilly, as a caricature of all that is female and poor in films, a fat, bon-bon stuffing Methadone-using addict, and their eight year old daughter Jeliza-Rose, who is adept at preparing her parents' fixes. The wife, a giant of sexist and classist film-making, dies early on and Noah and Jeliza-Rose take a Greyhound for the family homestead, a little house on the prairie (the amber waves of grain being the tideland of the title). The house is utterly abandoned, except for sentient squirrels, and about to fall apart. Little Jeliza-Rose gets down to cooking some H for dad, he shoots up and dies peacefully. She's alone.

Anything can happen now, and in a proper film, most anything would. There's a rabbit-hole she falls down - but we don't get to see the absurdist creatures who live there. There are talking squirrels, but they don't tell her anything useful. There are neighbors, a beekeeping woman whose protective costume makes her look a bit like a witch, and her brother and lover, a retarded young man (his operation for epilepsy having gone wrong and left him with the mind of an eight year old).

The possibilities inherent in a character who has been eight for twelve years and would make a great guide to the girl are not explored. The witch aspect is not explored. Instead, they plod along as a Texas Chainsaw Massacre couple seen through the eyes of Jeliza-Rose. Finding her sitting on her dead dad's lap as his bloated corpse farts and belches from decomposition, they show her how to stuff dad and keep him in her bed, as they have done with their mother and a number of other people and what appear to be the contents of about three traveling circuses. The young man tells her he is a submarine captain and informs her in irritating slow motion (because his speech is affected by his brain damage) how much he hates the shark (the train that thunders through the fields each day). The young girl puts on makeup and plays boyfriend and girlfriend with the young man. I think it's here that people really walked out in droves in the cinema showings. It's filmed as perfectly innocent - they are both eight after all - and although there's always the adult fear at the back of the viewer's mind that his mind may be eight but his testicles are twenty, this could all end in tears, it actually doesn't.

Nothing else happens for about five hours. Jeliza-Rose, played excellently by Jodelle Ferland, gets to give us her inner narrative by having conversations with her dolls' heads (which she uses as finger-puppets). It's not a very interesting inner narrative. The slow young man has eternal, draggy, hesitant conversations with her that go nowhere. Dad turns black and rots a bit more. The squirrels giggle.

Eventually (spoilers) the young man manages to knock the land shark off its rails with a stick of dynamite he had sequestered away. In a very Brazil scene of wreckage, Jeliza-Rose is picked up by a survivor of the crash and the implication is she'll be adopted by someone and live a more normal life.

The film got off on the wrong foot with me by starting with such broad and insulting stereotypes. As an English northerner, I'm very sensitive to regional stereotyping and whereas I can stand, say, Deliverance, a great film with an actual plot, or at least great chase sequence, I couldn't bear the caricatures in this one, which isn't really set in the south and gets its Texas Chainsaw Massacre tropes turned up to 11 even though we appear to be in Idaho or somewhere. Jeliza-Rose's name and accent aren't really explained and I was just left on my own to develop the theory that everyone who shoots up, gets fat, eats bon-bons, stuffs people and marries their own sister is an honorary southerner. I realize that watching movies set in America through the eyes of an English class warrior is probably not the only, nor even the best, filter, but I couldn't help it. The pigeonholing was too strong to ignore.

I think it's funny the movie ends in a train wreck. It's almost like he knew.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

London, in color, 1927

Astonishing color film of London, shot in 1927 using the "Friese Greene Colour Process". This is the closest thing to time travel I've experienced. Clocking up the similarities and differences between London today and London in the film occupied the whole ten minutes. Guards - the same. Embankment - the same. Majority of vehicles horse-drawn - not so much.

I'll embed it but it's worth a double-click as the picture is larger on YouTube's site.

(Seen via Making Light)

Sunday, November 08, 2009

The Fandom Menace

Fandom takes time.

This weekend we bought a poor and rather faded poster of M. Seurat's seminal Les 'olly'ocks Formee Avec Blobs, in a nice frame for ten bucks. It was exactly the right size for a poster I have.

It wasn't the first time the frame had been repurposed. The ghostly blue hollyhocks were stuck in with electrical tape, which required careful handling. I needed the mat to be clean of glue, obviously, for an archival poster. Stamps and writing on the back of the paper suggested that it had originally held a picture of a model house plan for a nearby housing development. Well, a frame's a frame. Bye bye hollyhocks, hello picture of man burying a corpse in a copse, courtesy of my brother's recent shipment of The Dead Weather posters. This one is from Newcastle, U.K. and comes with the entry ticket.

I still haven't located anywhere near enough space for the rock posters I already have, but a few are up.

The Yorkshire sheep and the Yorkshire landmark of Penyghent are still up next to them. (These don't count as poor art, by the way. I love the sheep photo and the watercolor is by Jeff Money, a friend of my parents'.) They may end up crammed into some sort of Yorkshire room, though, when I build the new wing for the rest of the collection.

While we were out buying the frame, we found a wonderful addition to our art collection, Power Station at Night from the illegible artist's Lots Of Paint Period. Half price art day, fifteen bucks. A tremendous bargain.

Although taking a frame and mat apart and redoing it takes time, that's about ten percent of the time I used for fandom activities this weekend, which included finding and supplying a rare file for a collector and helping organize a sync watch of some music videos. You'd think getting four women on two continents all to watch a video at the same time would be easy (once you'd worked out the time difference) but in real time it was quite a handful. Have you ever tried to get four people to play an MKV file at the same time? First VLC won't handle it for one person, and then KMP freezes for another and necessitates a reboot and then someone's husband needs something and then everyone needs coffee...

Actually we never did get to watch the MKV file. I'm leaving it as a project for later. We didn't fare much better with what should have been a standard DVD (vob) file, either, since we could all play it but only on machines we weren't actually in front of at the time. We fared much better with the WMV of The Dead Weather live at ACL and after that sought to amuse ourselves with YouTube videos which pretty much anyone can always play.

I also spent some time making covers for downloads of live music, which don't always come with covers. The standard is for them to include a text file of the set list, and that's that. With a flac file, since the chances are you're going to burn a CD, it's better to have a jewel case cover or at the very least a slip, and that means a 9.7 by 4.76 inch, or 4.7 by 4.7 inch picture that sums up the music inside, with the setlist incorporated into the picture.

I love this stuff.

I started this decade not listening to music to any significant degree. I'd burned out on Techno, which was the only music that really moved me, rap and hip hip having imploded earlierand rock music having hit the bottom by the turn of the century. I was watching movies and TV and joining societies and message boards like crazy. Now those accounts are abandoned and it's music all the time. I think I'll make this into a full post sometime, but briefly: I joined a Led Zeppelin group about a couple of months before Led Zeppelin announced their reunion concert in 2007. I didn't know it was going to happen at the time, it was serendipity. I met so many wonderful people on line and learned so many new things, that music switched to my primary focus. And I used to be a science fiction fan of the moderately active sort, even before the internet, but that's faded too.

I do fannish things because I'm just a born fan.

Thank you, all the people I'm a fan of, and thank you other fans.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Dead Weather in Amsterdam

Excellent video of The Dead Weather in Amsterdam.

But this is why I want to marry Baby Ruthless

circa 2:21

I don't know if assaulting the boss is a good idea, but in this case, it seems to work. Amazing freakin' rendition of the song, anyway.

On the other hand, she treats Dean Fertita the way one normally treats a guitar god.


Sunday, November 01, 2009

Merlot Red, too

On Thursday night my laptop dropped dead. The external keyboard hadn't been registering every stroke, so I plugged in a new keyboard and that was fine. I woke up in the middle of the night to an eerie glow from the Blue Screen of Death. A groggy poke at the laptop led me to believe it was doomed and an attempted reboot in the morning confirmed that it couldn't boot. The master of computers came home on Saturday and broke the news – the hard disk was toast.

After some searching it turns out I have copies of The Novel and The Half Novel on the shared drive. Good. (Nanowrimo starts today, but I guess for me it didn't.) Several major things I was working on are only on the laptop disk though, along with some softwares that keep count of how many copies are registered and for which I might not be able to get new keys. The reason for RAID and all the other types of continual disk back-ups become obvious at times like these, but of course I will forget immediately and not set anything up. And don't tell me to keep files in the Cloud. I live in Southern California where the clouds are apt to evaporate at any opportunity, so I don't trust it.

M of C quickly got down to specifying a replacement for the six and a half year old Dell. It was fast enough, I told him. "You can't get anything less than six times as fast," he said. The disk was big enough, I told him. "You can't get anything with a disk less than ten times the size," he said.

On an unrelated note, all my frying pans (skillets) also gave up the ghost over the previous few weeks, and so there was nothing for it but to head to Macy's for a box of cookware. I forced M of C along with me today and as we walked out burdened with non-stick, he casually mentioned that the world's second only Microsoft store was here, in this very mall.

Of course, we went. The store had first opened its doors on Friday, just a few hours after the laptop shuffled off the mortal coil. A coincidence, I am almost sure. It was packed – there must have been sixty or seventy people in there, along with a school group sitting in front of a huge screen. One standout thing was watching the store guy demonstrate the new touch screens by touching a Google Earth picture that just happened to be on the screen of a computer being tested by an older man, probably seventy, as we were walking past. The screen twisted under the store guy's touch and as we walked on I looked back to see the man gleefully experimenting with this new type of interface, running around Google Earth and dumping the picture upside down with a broad smile.

Store guy said it had been this busy since the hour they opened. The atmosphere was more of an interactive art display than a store, with people from four to seventy tapping away and big displays of the planets of the solar system on the walls. M of C talked me through two or three Dells with the help of the store guy. Upshot was it cost me half as much for about ten times as much computer, the store guy put it together in front of me and Microsoft Office and the printer were free. It even has a backlit keyboard, though I have yet to find out why, exactly, one might want a backlit keyboard. Could it be that some of those people from 4 to 70 playing checkers on touch screens are not – gasp – able to touch type? Say it ain't so!

It's a Dell Studio XPS 16. I know you were dying to know.


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