Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Egypt in 1981

After only 33 years, I have made the photos of my trip to Egypt into a photo book. Well, technically I made them into a photo book in 1982, by arranging them in a scrapbook by affixing them with photo corners and adding hand written text, but that wasn't very robust.

Eventually, in 2013, I got offered a Groupon to have my photos scanned, so I did.

Then last month I was offered a Groupon for a Shutterfly photo book, so I did that too. In 2100 I expect to be offered a Groupon to have them turned into a 3D skywritten Bollywood movie on Mars, and I'll do that as well.

One of these days I hope to save up enough to go abroad again. Keep on saving me money, Groupon!


I'm not sure how either Groupon or Shutterfly makes any money, but I suppose that's not the point.

Click here to view a larger version of this photo book.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Common house hippo

The termite man was here yesterday to tell us we had dry rot and roof rats. No termites though.

At least we don't have house hippos. (Yes, this is an ad, but it's not an ad for an obnoxious product.)

Elvis was a hero to most

For a friend of mine who is on an Elvis kick, here's my favorite band Pop Will Eat Itself with an Elvis tribute - Rock a Hula Baby.

It's from the NME Elvis tribute album The Last Temptation of Elvis.  This is the most out there track on the CD, and I think this is the only track I listen to, though apparently it is highly thought of.

I have to say that I'd never really thought about the lines
And when she starts to sway, I've gotta say
She really moves her grass around
until I heard this version. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Lyle "brilliant" - Rocksmith

As a perpetual guitar-learner, I'm always interested in new ways to entice me to practice playing the guitar.

I bought Rocksmith 2014 three months ago. I had the original game for a year or so and never really got into it. The interwebs said the new version was much improved, so I bought that as well. (Once you have the guitar cable, it's pretty cheap to upgrade.) It is indeed much improved.

Learning rock songs does do away with much of the mystique, though. Like many Brits, I always assumed the chorus to (I Wanna) Rock And Roll All Nite was, "I wanna rock and roll all night and part of every day!" This turns out not to be the case, as I found out when listening to it at 25% speed for a couple of hours while trying to get the riff right. (Also, I hadn't realized it was by Kiss, a band I've never knowingly listened to but apparently have unconsciously listened to.) And, for that matter, Pour Some Sugar On Me has hilarious lyrics when slowed down and repeated. I've always had a soft spot for Def Leppard, but the verses are all like:
Pour your sugar on me, I can't get enough
I'm hot, sticky sweet from my head to my feet, yeah
Which makes you crack a smile however hard you're trying to look like a rock star.

The game occasionally says this kind of thing to me:

You can't fail to use a learning system that gives you feedback like that. (Although, to be honest it more often reads, "OK performance" or the speaking guy in a disappointed voice says, "Needs more practice".)

The upsides of this "game" are legion. It costs a LOT less than sitting in front of a live guy, who would give you the same exercises and the same songs, but is much less likely to be patient with you after you've played the riff from an Iron Maiden song at 25% playback speed for two solid hours and are still missing the same five notes. The game is not going to get bored with you or assault you with your guitar if it takes you All Day and All of the Night to get it right. (That song's not on there - The Kinks are represented by You Really Got Me.)

To teach a song, the game sends notes streaking down a runway that is colored and numbered to match the strings and frets. As the "note" - a hollow oblong shape - lands on the string/fret to be played, it twists. The idea is to play the note as it lands on the string. This is simple enough for single notes, but gets a bit complicated with chords, arpeggios and fast solos. I'm not great with left and right, and up and down sometimes fox me a bit, so after 65 days of this, I find myself still thinking "Okay, if the note is lower on the screen, my finger is on the higher (sounding, i.e. lower near the floor) string, and if my next finger goes to the right of the first finger on the screen, then it goes to the right of it on the guitar...the screen is not a mirror. Or maybe it is. I'm not good with mirrors either." By the time I've worked out the best finger placement for the first three or four notes coming down the runway, the average rockstar has finished his solo, had his groupie, snorted his coke and gone back to his hotel. To simplify things, though, the game manages your effects "pedals" for you. It just tells you which one it's turned on and when.

As well as the songs, there is a studio set up, where you can choose your guitar tone from a frankly astounding array of real-seeming effects, pick a "band" of robot musicians - drummers, bassists, pianists and so forth - tell them what sort of thing you want them to play, how fast and what key, and they follow you, vamping when you're unsure and positively jamming when you have a clue. Unfortunately I'm usually in the first category, but as I say, the game has a lot more patience than the average person and the robots never throw you out of their garage for "artistic differences".

One drawback of the game for me is timing. In regular music notation, each note, as well as having a pitch position, has a shape that tells you how long it should be sounded, and all the notes in a bar have to add up according to a sort of formula I couldn't possibly explain but in practice means that you can count exactly when to start each note and when to end it. The runway concept just has the hollow oblongs, sometimes with a long tail for a sustained note, and although the basic idea seems to be to sound the note when it lands on the fret/string, it doesn't seem to be that simple in practice. Now, I'm not great at counting; the game may have a lag, either in the video card or somewhere in its programming; and the original guitarist may not have been great at keeping time either and I guess we have to copy his exact phrase. But despite all that, the game is a complete stickler for getting what it wants. If you misinterpret it, it marks you down. It's possible to get timing wrong by an infinitesimal amount literally tens of times in a row before it becomes obvious why it wants the note to start at that exact time.

But on the other hand, it's sometimes possible to play the duffest muffed chord that a beginner would wince at, and the game doesn't notice. When I think about what the waveform must look like, which is all it's got to go on, I'm surprised any software can even guess at how well you're playing a guitar chord, so I'm actually impressed at how well it does, but it's still funny sometimes when you screw up with three out of five strings muffled and it waves you on. I get something like 95% on the Ramones' Blitzkrieg Bop - which has four two-finger chords - even though I can hear that I'm not playing them well. (Because it's so darn fast.)

It's structured as a videogame, which is I suppose part of its charm, but also a weakness. Learning a song (as I was before the screenshots above) is fun but supposed learning games such as "shooting" ducks by finding the right fret and the right string quickly can be irritating. The eight-bit sounds and fake arcade tricks rattling around the room at guitar-hero volumes soon get wearing and the simulated eight-bit time-to-add-up-your-score and then time-taken-to-change-the-screen mean that you spend more time waiting for the game than playing guitar. And I still haven't figured out Jungle of Bends or whatever it's called. It apparently wants me to bend a string to a certain note in order to save a jungle character, but in its authentic arcade game way, it won't tell me which string, which fret or which note, so I pretty much just sit there shouting at the screen until the character dies. A bit like real life, really. Maybe that's the point.

At the moment it's telling me that my next mission is to Obtain 14.09% Mastery on Now, which would be great if I had the slightest idea what it meant. (There is no manual.)

Not all the songs are of the Kiss/Def Leppard variety, so I can now play large sections of All I Wanna Do by Splashh (whoever they may be) and Stay In by Jaws (ditto) and can strum through Knocking On Heaven's Door fast enough that the game thinks I'm playing arpeggios...ha ha ha game, I'm cleverer than you! The game keeps track of how many hours you have practiced towards the magic Malcolm Gladwell-approved ten thousand you have to have under your belt to be an expert and right now....carry one, divide by two...I have only nine thousand nine hundred to go!

Back to swearing at Jungle of Bends!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

British Pathé News: Beat School (1961) and 85,000 others

On April 13th, British Pathé News released 85,000 of its films on to YouTube.

I remember seeing Pathé newsreels at the cinema in the late sixties and early seventies. The appearance of a Pathé film always roused a groan from a cynical young audience. We knew we were in for 5 minutes of a plummy-voiced narrator over a simple-minded film that skimmed over its misunderstood subject with the blithe no-fucks-given of the upper class making a show at educating the lower classes.

That was when the subject was contemporaneous with our lived experience, of course. Looking at them now, the newsreels are AWESOME.  The plummy-voice bloke is still there of course, and his inch-deep and mile-wide excavation still leaves the vast majority of its subject completely unexposed, but something magic has happened in the meantime. The films have become little windows into the past you can look through, ignoring Mr. Received Pronunciation, and see real people in great color.

A few days ago, I put up a Pathé newsreel on Liverpool in the early sixties, and the trove has many such popular culture films. There are a dozen on the Rolling Stones alone, for instance.  To find your own favorite subject, just subscribe to Pathe's channel and hit the search button.

Here's a random example: it is an exploration of a boarding school (a private high school with live-in students) in 1961, which for whatever reason has decided to let the school children do what they want. Leather jacketed greasers, mods and rock'n'roll girls smoke cigarettes and study "drama" while beatnik teachers hang around. Over cheerfully incongruous classical background music, the narrator manages to sound thoroughly entranced by the subject matter. I'm sure if you switched his script for Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven, his perky enthusiasm would continue unabated.

I wonder what happened to the kids when they grew up. They'd be nearly 70 by now. Are they still free spirits? How did they educate their kids? Or was the school just lying to Pathé in the first place?


 "England has long been famous for its educational establishments, the freedom of choice of schools and for their political and social toleration. But here's a boarding school where youth is not merely allowed but encouraged to have its fling." Shots of children arriving at school. Some arrive on their own motorbikes, others jump out of a van. The kids wear casual clothes - jeans and leather jackets. A couple of the boys are "rockers" with quiffs and sunglasses, some might be called "beatniks". They go into the school building - this is the progressive Burgess Hill School in Hertfordshire. 
 The films are fully annotated, which makes them easily searchable.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Lazaretto by Jack White (7" single, 2014)

Consequence of Sound has a write up, with pictures, of Jack White's Record Store Day Fastest Single escapade from Saturday, here. He recorded a single live in front of an audience at Third Man by direct cutting an acetate, which was taken to United Records Pressing, made into a master and the singles pressed. The singles were then brought back to the audience (and other shoppers) at Third Man - within four hours!

Here is the official Third Man video of the event. It includes the b side and a few more teasers. Great video!

Hmm, there are both Buzzards and Peacocks on stage with him. "Buzzcocks" is taken, so presumably they are the Peazzards.

Jack White's limited edition live single, Lazaretto played for you.

Here's the official video for the studio version, out tomorrow.

Thanks to the folks at The Little Room for finding the videos!

Huffpo headline crash blossom - Online dating fails to scare you off dating forever

Online dating fails to scare you off dating forever (NSFW)
I certainly read it as meaning that online dating could not scare me off dating forever.

And while we're at it, what's with, "We'd dress like these ladies everyday"? The single word "everyday" means ordinary or nondescript.  Whenever I get spam offering me everyday bargains, I'm overcome with ennui. A bargain every day would be more interesting.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

WSJ Crash Blossom - Ukraine army push flounders

Front page headline in the Wall Street Journal today: "Ukraine Army Push Flounders".

The Ukraine army push what?


I used to play that game a lot! The headline's made me miss the Merry Game of Floundering.

Horse knickers

We don't have cable, so the amazing resurgence of great cable shows (that the interwebs keeps telling me about) has passed me by. Not one esipode of Mad Men, not a jot of How I Met Your Mother, not a single darning needle from the iron throne in Game of Thrones.  However I do have Netflix and Amazon Prime, so it's generally possible to catch up with something as long as you start after season one has finished.  I rely on the famous word of mouth for recommendations and that can be a very iffy thing.

The last but one thing people told me to watch was Once Upon a Time.  Admittedly the "people" were in the singular, but they were very insistent that I watch. So we did - and it was amazing, as promised. Partly set in Fairyland, all the Disney fairytale characters have settled in a small town in New England due to A Spell, of course, and have to get on with each other in a non-magical, non-royalty sort of way. Some do, some don't. Some remember Fairyland, some think they're New England Yuppies having come through a long coma or other reason to be a bit befuddled. Children are mislaid and found, fathers are located and celebrated and the nuns who run the local charity joint are fairies. The Seven Dwarfs are heigh-hoing away in their mine and, once Wonderland is on board, Captain Hook is piped on to the deck.

We refer to the series as Horse Knickers, and there's a reason for that. Unlike any other show I can think of, the horses (and there are a lot of horses in this cod-Medieval Fairyland) are subtitled. The nags aren't actually reading from the script, as far as I can tell, but each different equine utterance is transcribed faithfully for the hard of hearing. Sometimes one neighs, sometimes one whinnies, but most often the subtitle reads: Horse nickers.

The production values are, to be sure, quite spartan, and the CGI budget-video-game worthy. And some of the characterizations are as thin as tissue paper, but what makes the show (and what made my friend insist I watch) is Robert Carlyle; you know - Begby in Train Spotting, here playing Rumplestiltskin.  This is a gift of a character. In one world he's cursed to be an ugly, amoral non-human goblin who giggles when his schemes work out, and in the other, a handsome man and doting father (or son or something, I forget) who gets to tug all the non-fantasy strings that people like in their TV series. As supporting cast, evil queens, evil queen mothers, Pinocchio, Belle and Prince Charming, among many others, get to manipulate each other and change motivation at the drop of a scriptwriters pen in order to produce ever more episodes of As The Other World Turns.

It's only two seasons long, though, so eventually we ran out. It's back on for a third season right now, so it's off to the ABC website to watch.

That was the last but one thing people told me to watch. The last thing was Breaking Bad, and I haven't quite finished yet.

How you know vampires have thoroughly taken over pop culture

I was reading Wired to "catch up" on Orphan Black, the TV thriller the follows a passel of female clones as they attempt to uncover their origin and purpose.  (I watched the first season but I thought a recap was in order.) In a breathless rush, the writer, Devon Maloney, attempts to summarize hours of television in a few paragraphs. It's about clones, and eugenics and possibly nature versus nurture and the "terrifyingly talented" player of all the clones, Tatiana Maslany. About half way through we get this description:
Anyway, the clones grew up (and were closely monitored) under different circumstances around the world. We don’t exactly know Leekie’s motivation, apart from observing nature-versus-nurture in its purest form. (Eventually, we found out that each clone has a single differentiating gene that acts like a nametag.) Two clones, Sarah and Helena, were spirited away by their birth mother to protect them, which means they’ve grown up unmonitored, outside the experiment. Meanwhile, several of the other clones have begun to suffer from a mystery illness that involves coughing up your own blood.
(My italics.)

Wait, now we have to specify that blood which is coughed up is the character's own blood? Who else's blood could it be? Is this like Spinal Tap - the drummer Stumpy Joe Chiles who choked on someone else's vomit, except in this case you might assume a character choked on someone else's blood unless reassured otherwise?  

I blame the ubiquity of vampires. 

Then again, unlike in Stumpy Joe's case, where, as Nigel Tufnel remarked, "You can't dust for vomit", you can identify blood. But they are clones, so they all have the same blood. Perhaps this cryptic remark is actually a spoiler? (Probably not.)

Orphan Black Season 1 is available on Netflix. The second season begins airing on BBC America on April 19th. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Idols as tangible as knockers

"Idols as tangible as the knockers on their front doors." That's what the narrator says about Beat Groups, honest.

This is a lovely color Pathé News clip of Liverpool from 1965. The narrator talks about the change from "traditional" Liverpool songs (sea shanties, Maggie May and so on) to Merseybeat.  It's a little dishonest as of course The Spinners (the UK folk group, not the American R&B group) were formed in 1958 and were part of the Great Folk Scare, rather than a bunch of Liverpudlian elders doggedly carrying on an ancient tradition. However, although they weren't actually a vestige of genuine people's music, folk was certainly ubiquitous enough at the time. I know, I had to live through it.

However, the newsreel is quite authentic in its portrayal of the mighty wind that blew away the folkie cobwebs as soon as the Beatles appeared on the scene.  You could compare it to one of those movies that starts in black and white and suddenly changes to color when Modernity In All Its Youthful Glory hits the screen. There's a palpable sense of something in the air as soon as the Beatles footage arrives.  It's worth sitting through five agonizing minutes of Johnny Todd He Took A Notion and Maggie May just to feel the skull-peeling effect of the great leap forward as the Spinners fade out and the Beat Groups fade in.

Speaking of whom, there's quite a lot of high quality footage of The Searchers in the studio recording Sugar and Spice a couple of years earlier. The studio arrangement looks very primitive, but when you see the engineer capture the performance on reel-to-reel and then take the reels over to the disk-cutting equipment you see equipment that Jack White would cheerfully kill for.

Not that Jack needs all that equipment any more. Jack's proposed adventure for Record Store Day (on April 19th) is to record direct to acetate at Third Man's performance room, rush the acetate over to United Records Pressing and press vinyl records in time for the fans to take a copy home with them. Quite a brave thing to do, if there really isn't an intermediate tape, unless he's located the bloke pictured above, now with fifty more years of experience in cutting discs....

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Songs about gnomes

Although I've never watched Game of Thrones, I found myself reading this*: Please Shut The Fuck Up About Game Of Thrones, by Clive Martin in Vice.  Mr Martin does not like GoT, because it is fantasy, and apparently fantasy is for unhip people. 
I guess my real problem is that most things fantasy-related seem to come from a very conservative, dated worldview. They remind me of car trips, bars where the bartender wears corduroy, school trips to theme parks, and people who wear "SMEG OFF" T-shirts.
In passing, he mentions Pink Floyd's Piper at the Gates of Dawn, which is a bad thing because it has something to do with boarding schools and Tolkien. 
While the Music Room Crew back at my middle school were wigging out to The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, I just couldn't get past the Tolkienisms and mythological allusions. Granted, I couldn't relate to Chronic 2001 that much, either, but that seemed like a document of a world that actually existed somewhere, rather than some ridiculous boarding school fantasy.

I was a bit puzzled by the Tolkien reference, so I went to the effort of looking up all the words on the album, and there's nothing about Tolkien in there. There is, however, a song about a gnome. The gnomes get everywhere.

I've always seen gnomes as a fundamental part of British hippieism.  Your American hippie was politicized, with Vietnam on his mind and a lineage extending back to the Beats. The quintessential English hippie grew up in Canterbury in a comfortable middle-class home with a shelf full of Enid Blyton in the kids' room. Noddy and Big Ears were part of the literal furniture before they became part of the mental furniture and eventually they came back out in the sub-sub-Tolkien lyrics of hippy bands.

My own favorite hippies, Tyrannosaurus Rex, never managed to pen a song about gnomes as far as I can tell. Marc Bolan did, however, write two short stories about moles, which were read on their albums by John Peel himself, who is not, as it turns out, all that great a reader.

I reckon that moles are Toad of Toad Hall enough to count as a form of gnome.

My People Were Fair - Story reading by John Peel

Unicorn - Story reading by John Peel

*Thanks, I think, James Nicoll's More Words Deeper Hole

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

A Surrealist Alphabet

My dad used to recite this.

It's Clapham and Dwyer's A Surrealist Alphabet from 1934. It's a bit obscure in places (but probably wasn't when it was written, although I do have to wonder about Jaffa Oranges before the war - were they really that well known in England?).

Luckily Wikipedia has transcribed it for us:

A for 'orses (hay for horses)
B for mutton (beef or mutton)
C for 'th highlanders (Seaforth Highlanders)
D for 'ential (deferential)
E for Adam (Eve or Adam)
F for 'vescence (effervescence)
G for police (Chief of police)
H for respect (age for respect)
I for Novello (Ivor Novello)
J for oranges (Jaffa oranges)
K for 'ancis, (Kay Francis), or K for undressing
L for leather (Hell for leather)
M for 'sis (emphasis)
N for 'adig (in for a dig, or infradig)
O for the garden wall (over the garden wall)
P for a penny (pee for a penny)
Q for a song (cue for a song), or Q for billiards (cue for billiards)
R for mo' (half a mo')
S for you (it's for you)
T for two (tea for two)
U for films (UFA films)
V for La France (Vive La France)
W for a bob (double you for a bob)
X for breakfast (eggs for breakfast)
Y for Gawd's sake (why, for God's sake)
Z for breezes (zephyr breezes: see West wind)

Don't know why the YouTube uploader EMGColonel is so sniffy about it though; I thought it was funny. Mind you, I was about five when I first heard it. Took me years to find out what some of the words actually meant.

More poor little rich boys

While I'm on the subject of how heartbreaking it is to be a billionaire and have no possible way of letting the world know how great you are, Charles Murray, the conservative pundit and famous face of "scientific" racism (he wrote The Bell Curve, with Richard Herrnstein) has a book to plug at the moment, and so is appearing in various places making sonorous and yet somehow still deeply stupid pronouncements about how to live life well.

Biology blogger PZ Myers weighs in on Murray's Salon outing here. (Summary: PZ has an unfavorable opinion of Murray.) I was so put out by Murray's Wall Street Journal piece that I had totally failed to notice the Salon one even existed.

Said Wall Street Journal article by Charles Murray is entitled Advice for a Happy Life, and consists of soppy platitudes that are unlikely to supercharge the Youth of Today.  Example:
Learn How to Recognize Your Soul Mate
Ready for some clichés about marriage? Here they come. Because they're true.
Marry someone with similar tastes and preferences. Which tastes and preferences? The ones that will affect life almost every day.
It is OK if you like the ballet and your spouse doesn't. Reasonable people can accommodate each other on such differences. But if you dislike each other's friends, or don't get each other's senses of humor or—especially—if you have different ethical impulses, break it off and find someone else.
Groundbreaking sociological reasoning, I think you'll agree. But what caused my incandescent rage was a little item, number four, called "Eventually stop fretting about fame and fortune". Part of it is about David Geffen, described as a billionaire music and film producer:
[H]e said, "Show me someone who thinks that money buys happiness, and I'll show you someone who has never had a lot of money." The remark was accompanied by an ineffably sad smile on Mr. Geffen's face, which said that he had been there, done that and knew what he was talking about. The whole vignette struck me in a way that "money can't buy happiness" never had, and my visceral reaction was reinforced by one especially memorable shot during the profile, taken down the length of Mr. Geffen's private jet, along the rows of empty leather seats and sofas, to where he sat all alone in the rear.
Oh dear god, my heart bleeds for Mr. Geffen. How incredibly heartrending to imagine the billionaire all alone in his leather-seated, sofa-endowedvprivate jet with his ineffably sad smile. 

Trying to give Murray the benefit of the doubt - I don't know why I should, but I did - Cliche #4 in the article is in some small way trying to tell young people that money doesn't get you everything, which is true. But as the song goes on to say, "What it don't get, I can't use."

And anyway, it doesn't excuse David Geffen himself and his astoundingly self-serving comment. Money itself may not buy happiness, but it's a lot easier to find happiness if you have the money to ignore the little unhappiness-generating things like creditors, lack of housing, food insecurity.

Unless Geffen is working hard at having no friends to talk to on his private jet, I'm going to put his remark down to the reflexive self-preservation instinct of the filthy rich: "Don't envy me! This is hard work! I get no pleasure out of it at all, I swear! Don't take it away from me or all this angst will fall on your gentle and unpracticed shoulders!"

The Kochs, their voices crying in the wilderness

You have to feel sorry for the poor old Koch brothers. Multi-billionaires who repeatedly attempt to buy elections with literally hundreds of millions of dollars in ad spend and more direct methods, and yet they get no respect.

Sad Charles Koch was so upset at his lack of a public voice he had to write an editorial in the Wall Street Journal about how pathetic it was that nobody loved him.

(Screenshot from WSJ, via Daily Kos)

The poor dear. He only has billions to buy time and space in the media AND have the WSJ provide him with a giant megaphone. No wonder no one can hear him.

Oh, and he has a Senator who will read his Op Ed out loud on the Senate floor so it can be entered into the official record.
In Sen. Moran's apparent view, poor Mr. Koch—the petrochemical billionaire who has pumped hundreds of millions into projects denying climate-change, undermined federal regulations and nudged legislators into passing a plethora of laws helpful to the corporatist agenda in dozens of states—doesn't have a big enough forum to present his views.
So, the senator, whose top campaign contributor just happens to be Koch Industries, decided to give Charlie a boost by reading aloud the man's Wednesday op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. If only constituents could get as fast of action on fixing their potholes.
(From Daily Kos)

But apart from the billions, the Wall Street Journal at his beck and call and the Senators who do his bidding, how will the poor man get his word out to the avid masses? So sad.

Monday, April 07, 2014

i09 Game of Thrones Crash Blossom

A crash blossom headline on i09.

It says, "We reached the "everybody's broken past fixing" part of Game of Thrones". 

I read it as "We have reached the part where we fix everybody's broken past" - which is a jolly nice place to be at.  Then I read the first paragraph:
Remember when all the characters on Game of Thrones were shiny and new? Now Tyrion Lannister can't get laid in a whorehouse. His brother Jaime has lost his groove. The Stark girls have death in their hearts. Jon Snow's a traitor forever. Last night's premiere showed these characters aren't just broken, but broken beyond repair.
It seems that what it really means is "From where we are now, it appears no one can be fixed because everyone is too broken". That's not such a great place to be.

Mind you, I've never watched nor read Game of Thrones, so I don't really care. It's a great headline though.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Jack White: High Ball Stepper teaser track and cool video

Jack White's Third Man Records have dropped the news that Jack is releasing an album in June.  It's called Lazaretto (he hinted at that in a Vault chat back in August 2013) and will also be released in a limited format with a mound of tchotchkes for the 20th Vault release.

The first single and title track, or a single and a title track (possible zeugma alert here) called, obvs, Lazaretto, will be released later this month. For some reason, the label put out a teaser track on video with the announcement.

The track, High Ball Stepper, is an instrumental featuring Jack getting deeply grungy on his guitar, which  is presumably en-grungenated by his favorite Bumble Buzz effects pedal.

The video says it's directed by Third Man Grand Fromage Ben Swank and cinephile James Cathcart. (I actually don't know who James Cathcart is but Nashville Scene called him a cinephile and it's good enough for me.) For the video it appears they rigged up nine speakers in a cabinet (facing upwards) and poured in mixtures of corn flour (corn starch) and water, along with food coloring in approved Third Man hues. Corn starch and water mixture is anti-thixotropic, or non-Newtonian, which means, in a nutshell, if you dip something into it, it acts as a liquid, but if you hit it hard, it acts as a solid. Putting it on a vibrating speaker cone means that softer sounds produce an interference pattern, as they would with water, but louder sounds spank the mixture into a semi-solid 3D creature shape that dances like a psychedelic Bill Plympton character until the sound gets quiet enough for it to collapse back into the cone (for which I am sure it is truly grateful - the forced dancing looks exhausting).

Some of the effects in the video

Unfortunately (for me at least) the liquid patterns in the video don't produce the classic Chladni's Figures, but the video makers have thought of that and at several points they insert video of the standard Chladni apparatus, a plate, fixed in the center, on a speaker (or something...hard to see what is underneath it), with salt or other particulate matter scattered on top of it. Cleverly, the salt starts out in three white stripes (Jack White III's symbol, lll) and bounces into the classic standing wave patterns as the pitch changes. The video does an excellent job of looking exactly like Jack's instrumental is producing the patterns and standing waves in real time, but there's just one bit where a bit of liquid plops back into the speaker cone exactly in time with the music that makes me think it's all painstakingly edited together by hand to look simple; if so that's the opposite of what Jack White normally does.

Edit: More of this sort of thing by Nigel Stanford, 2017. Very beautiful!

High Ball Stepper sounds like the sort of name Marc Bolan would have come up with. 

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Wankard Pooser

Let's take a moment to review the life of Wankard Pooser, the felicitously-named Floridian and stormy petrel of the economy bloc.  He was born in the equally remarkably-christened town of DeFuniak Springs, had ten children and was a politician, amongst a plethora of other things.

In a 1958 article, Pooser referred to himself as a "famous author, statesman, [and] poet". It was also said that he was known around his city of residence as a "lawyer, ex-legislator, ... noted local after-dinner speaker, wit, [and] critic". His headstone at Pope Cemetery reads:

The one and only
Wankard POOSER
She love me too
27 Sep 1893
22 Feb 1978
To be continued
(From Wikipedia)
It's one of those names that only an American could have, like the similarly-apellated Buford Pusser, of whom I have heard because he died in a Corvette, and Death Cars - particularly Corvettes - are a thing of mine. Sheriff Buford Pusser, who Walked Tall, was a famous lawman, which is another peculiarly American thing, unless Detective Superintendent Leonard "Nipper" Read would fit the bill. (Probably not.)



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