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Did I Miss Something?

February 17, 2009 2 comments

As some of you have no doubt noticed by now, I’m at the computer a lot. Like, a lot. I’d say I spend about 50% (or more) of my waking hours at my computer, in my apartment, every day. Having a two-year-old daughter has a lot to do with that.

But it wasn’t always so. Just three months ago I was attending classes in web design, and I was shuffling between home and campus every day. I had things that needed sorting, organizing, listing. So I took it upon myself and looked into a couple of neat-o Web 2.0 apps, Remember the Milk and del.icio.us. I realized some things. Mainly, though, I realized one big thing: pen and paper are not dead.

Reports of the death of the written language are widely exaggerated.

See, when I need to remember something, I can write it in my handy-dandy Moleskine. I can make a note on my phone. I can write it on my hand. When did we become so interconnected that we couldn’t, y’know, write a note that said “Remember the Milk” and leave it at our desk in the office?

I will admit that del.icio.us in particular is a different kind of animal, as it’s a social network as much as it’s a place to store your bookmarks online, but in the end, it’s really just something you don’t necessarily have to take with you everywhere you go. How many travelling internet-folk don’t take their laptop or netbooks with them wherever they go (and need to use the internet)? Want to share your cool new website with your friends? Just IM them or e-mail them. Or have we gotten to the point that e-mail is too slow and inefficient? If so, I suggest you loosen up your schedule. Or look into microwave Pop-Tarts instructions. And also a good cardiologist. Because that much stress? Probably not good for you.

Now, I’m not saying that the whole “Web 2.0” thing is a bunch of useless crap. I’m on Facebook, I’m on Twitter. Hell, I’m writing a blog right now. (I used to be on Myspace, but it’s ugly, it’s inefficient, and it’s like walking down the halls of a junior high nowadays, cluttered with corporate junk and stupid drama. I think Facebook is already at that point, but people still seem to be using it.) But I’m saying let’s use the technology for useful stuff, not things that people have been doing for hundreds of years, i.e., writing quick crap notes to themselves. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.


Heed this guy’s advice

“What about remembering when to do things?” you’re probably saying. “What about my schedule?” …what about your cell phone? Chances are pretty good you’ve got a reasonably-priced, moderately-featured phone. It’s probably got a calendar on it. It’s probably got alarms and notifications you can set yourself. And if you’re like me, and have a Windows Mobile phone, Outlook can sync your calendar between your desktop and your phone, doing exactly what Remember the Milk does. Sure, it’s evil, soulless, corporate Microsoft, but some of their goodies work. (It should be noted that I don’t use Outlook for my e-mail. Fuck that noise. Just calendars and contacts, thanks.)

I guess, though, this is really just a long-winded way of saying “Am I missing something?” I mean, when I first jumped on Twitter, it only took a couple minutes to see the basic use for it, and it’s definitely outside the realm of “What are you doing?” But with Remember the Milk and del.icio.us, I think I missed a meeting. Making a list when you could just make your own list with a pen? Sharing your bookmarks to the world at large? So?

If you can enlighten me further, please, let me know. And dear baby god, let it pass the “So What?” test.

Melissa Auf der Maur – This would be paradise – Reviewed

February 13, 2009 Leave a comment

There’s a game I like to play with some of the rock bands that I listen to, akin to Six Degrees of Seperation. It doesn’t really have a name, but if it did, it would be something like “Who’s Playing Whose Album?”

Remember back in the day when Hole needed a bassist because Kristin Pfaff died of a heroin overdose? Courtney Love talked to her friend Billy Corgan who called up his friend Melissa Auf der Maur, who then auditioned and joined the band, then joined Smashing Pumpkins (to replace the M.I.A. D’arcy). Somehow in there she got mixed up with Paz Lenchantin of A Perfect Circle, Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri of Queens of the Stone Age, Josh Freese from A Perfect Circle and Nine Inch Nails, and a gazillion other people. In short, Melissa Auf der Maur is in a multitude of circles that I keep my eyes on pretty well.

Somehow her new site redesign escaped me. As well as the release of an E.P., entitled “This would be paradise”(sic). The E.P. ties into the release of her new album, which I believe to be titled MAdM and is scheduled for release sometime this year. (Late March, I think I read.) The new site has some fun little teasers for audio, but the real nugget is that the full E.P. is avaiable for streaming on her site.

So, without further ado, here is a review of those three tracks:

  • “The Key”
    The biggest strength Auf der Maur has is her voice. She is a capable bassist, but her voice is pure magic. Her harmonies are nothing short of sonic heaven. This song puts a great emphasis on those harmonies, as the song itself is fairly sparse until about the two-minute mark. I can’t say for sure, but I think Josh Freese may have played drums for this track, which wouldn’t be surprising. The “weird noise factor” can’t be discounted on this track, either. Guitars swirl, bizarro synth lines chop around the soundstage. The melody and tempo seem to be “typical” Auf der Maur faire, but the slight swing conveys a sense of motion that is always present in an Auf der Maur solo track. Song rating: B+
  • “Willing Enabler”
    Starts out with a clean guitar ostinato, and continues with a slightly more uptempo beat from “The Key”. My biggest problem with the first solo album was the lyrical content, which seemed quite… I don’t know. The lyrics on that album sway from very good to absolute garbage, and this song lets the listener know she hasn’t really moved away from that. “Willing and able/A willing enabler/But these boulders, they do squeeze” LOL WUT? I know what she’s trying to say, but it goes from a great lyric with great delivery into insanity. Anyone that’s read my Death Magnetic review knows that I tend to get on lyricists if they start insulting people’s intelligence, and this is an example. Replace “squeeze” with an number of synonyms, and the lyric becomes instantly better while still conveying the same message. For someone that seems as smart as Melissa Auf der Maur, she really ought to buy a thesaurus.

    The song, musically, is fantastic. But those lyrics completely take me out of the feel, and that’s never a good thing in a song. Song rating: B

  • “This would be paradise”
    An instrumental track, it keeps in the Auf der Maur “sonic experirmentation” theme. It contains an exteneded audio sample of Tommy Douglas, a Canadian political figure, who is credited with forming the first socialist government in the Western Hemisphere and bringing universal healthcare to Canada. (Auf der Maur is staunchly Canadian, if such a thing is possible.) Combining the title, the sample, and the whimsical tone of the music, the listener can construct the meaning: this fantastic idea of healthcare and equality for all… would be paradise. I think, as a sonic oddity, it has merit, but I think I’ll probably be skipping the track if it’s included on the album unless I’m listening the full way through in one go. Song rating: C

The only thing that really, truly bothers me about the E.P. is that it’s unavalable in CD, it’s available as digital download or vinyl copy only. Now, I love me some vinyl, but I don’t know if I want to lay out the cash for something I can’t rip to my computer and take with me. At the same time, I don’t want to simply download the digital copy that I can’t really get in a superior audio quality. Incidentally, they don’t supply bitrate or format details with the download links, so I have no idea how good the files actually are. I may break down and spend $3 on the download, but we’ll see.

All in all, I now know that Auf der Maur’s past 3 years haven’t been spent doing nothing. I realize she’s been making some cockamamie movie, and has been spending a ton of time “living life” and all that, which she’s entitled to, but I know there’s a lot of good music still left in the can. Her contributions to Hole’s Celebrity Skin and her own solo album attest to this. This E.P. has done it’s job: I’m excited for the new album. So let’s get to it!

Bonus Section
The Grammys.

This is one of the few years that I thought the right people won. I’m not big on the hip-hop, but I’ve been told Lil Wayne’s awards are well-deserved. I’m confused as to Death Magnetic‘s inclusion in the Rock category, but all in all, a good year. The Coldplay performance made me laugh a little, because aside from being pretty good, it was a dead-on U2 impression. I half expected Bono and The Edge to come on for backing vocals during the “woah oh oooooh” section at the end of “Viva La Vida”. Also, what the hell was Jay-Z doing in that song? “You got your Jay-Z in my Coldplay!” “You got your Coldplay in my Jay-Z!” Radiohead was good, even if it was only Thom and Johnny.

Finally, what was U2 even doing there? I realize they have an ablum coming out, and I realize CBS was trying to run the ratings, but they weren’t even nominated this year. Also, my inner bastard was laughing at U2, Radiohead, and Coldplay all being at the same show. Lucky their songs were all different enough to keep the “but they’re the same band!” comments out of most people’s minds.

DIGITAL RANT

February 4, 2009 2 comments

Hi. I’m Rick. I watch TV, and on occasion, I read the newspaper, or browse about on the intarwubs. I’ve been noticing something. On occasion, on network, broadcast television, they’ve been playing these “advertisments” or “public service announcements.” Surely you’ve seen them.

They say, essentially, that if you get network TV over the air (that is, not through cable or satellite), then you need to get a converter box for your current TV, or buy a TV with a digital tuner. You’ve had to have seen them.

Now, here’s the astonishing thing. Congress just finished passing an extension of the digital switchover date from February 17th to June 12th.

WHY?

The whole goddamned world knows that you can get a $40-off coupon to purchase a $50-$60 dollar converter box! And if you have cable, satellite, or a TV purchased in the last two years, you don’t even need one!

WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THIS COUNTRY THAT WE HAVE TO ACCOMODATE THE 6 MILLION PEOPLE (they think) THAT ARE SO FUCKING LAZY THAT THEY PUT OFF BUYING A $20 BOX TO WATCH THEIR TV? IT’S BEEN COMING FOR YEARS! IF YOU DON’T GET SIGNAL ON THE 17TH, FUCK YOU. YOU DON’T MATTER. YOU’RE WASTING CONGRESS’ TIME AND TAXPAYER MONEY.

Update: I have included this. Says pretty much everything I said, except with less ranty-ness. Also, the 6 million figure is apparently households, not population. So the number affected is slightly higher. If, again, those numbers are to be believed.

Coddling Mommies in Sportscasting (with bonus rant)

February 2, 2009 Leave a comment

Back in the annals of the 1990s, there was a show called Sports Night. You may remember it, you may not. It was probably the best show on television at the time, and it featured a lot of acting-folk that went on to star in other shows, among them Desperate Housewives and The West Wing (and, um… Half-life 2).

The Aaron Sorkin-penned show was probably the first in what became the somewhat-unfortunately dubbed “dramedy” genre — that is, it was a drama, it was a comedy, and it was often both in the same line. The show was brilliantly funny, due to the great dialogue and the snappy delivery of the cast, but it also tackled some interesting plot and story territory. One story, in particular, was a short arc in which one of the female leads, Natalie (played by Sabrina Lloyd), is assigned to a post-game locker room interview, in which she was sexually assaulted. Not only was this episode huge from a story standpoint, it addressed the issue of females in sports reporting. Did they belong there? Should women be mixing it up in a man’s world?

Of course, we’ve come to the point where women are all over the place in sports coverage, from NASCAR pit reporting to NFL halftime coverage to Sportcenter analysis. They’re everywhere, and most of them are hot. In researching this post I found dozens, if not hundreds, of sites dedicated to the hottest of the hot female sportscasters. Just for contrast, the first hit on Google for “sexy male sportscaster” is, in fact, a blog link to the Top 10 Hottest Female Sportscasters. (I refuse to link to it. If you want to Google it yourself, be my guest.)

But you know what? I don’t really care how hot my female sportscasters are. I just want them to do their damn job without being overtly female (in a sexual or non-sexual way), just as I don’t want to see the men slapping each other on the back and downing beers and all that macho shit that The Guys do. But the most irritating and annoying offender — aside from the women that do coverage for NASCAR, with their low-cut “fire suits” — is the placating matron stance that some of them take in post-game interviews, especially for the losers.

Take, for example, last night’s post game wraps. In the Cardinals’ locker room — or maybe outside it, I couldn’t tell — NFL Network’s Alex Flanagan (I think) interviewed both coach Whisenhunt and quarterback Kurt Warner. The problem I had was the poor-baby, we still love you, it’s okay you lost tone she took with both of them. “Better luck next year,” her inflection was saying. Now, I realize that when you’re a 130-pound woman who’s dealing with 200-plus-pound, six-foot-tall men who just had their dreams for an entire season crushed by a miracle play, you’re going to be a little cautious. But these are grown men. Losing is part of the game. Ask your questions and get the hell out. Don’t try to coddle and coax them. Don’t be a mom. Be a journalist. You’re doing your whole gender a disservice by acting so stereotypically that you make some random dork on the internet complain about how he couldn’t even listen to your actual words because you coated them in so much saccharine that it was impossible not to notice.

I can’t seem to find a link for the interviews, either, either because no one cared about what they had to say, or because they were so damn annoying that the NFL didn’t want them to get out. I choose the latter.

Bonus Rant Section
For those of us in the Comcast-available area, we’re blessed with the unending ads for getting cable before the digital switch. But what really annoys me is their claim that you can get cable and whether the switch “without having to buy a new television.” You know what, Comcast? I can do that, too, I can BUY A CONVERTER BOX. The converters I’ve seen are $50-$60. With the government rebate coupon, that’s $20 or less. Drop in the bucket compared to cable or a new TV, and it works until my old TV dies.

Thanks for doing your part to intentionally mislead people. And the industry wonders why it’s taking people so long to adopt digital. Maybe it’s because of fucksticks like Comcast lying to make a buck off of people. Sure, gullible people should be harvested of their cash regularly, but there’s some people out there that are genuinely confused about how to go about the switch, and you’re not helping.

Of course, I anticipated this whole thing, and bought a TV with a digital tuner in it two years ago. Not because The Man made me, either, but because I actually care about the quality of the content I’m getting. I’d rather watch PBS all day in HD than two hours of a Lifetime movie of the week.

Dear Comcast: shut the hell up. Either give people their entire list of options, or don’t give them any.