my fifteen minutes of fame...

...or at least 20 seconds or something. i was hanging Christmas lights in Westlake Park and someone at the shop told King 5 news (when they called the shop) to ask for me by name there. so they mic'ed me up and asked me to go back to work, then shot questions at me. it was about 20 degrees and windy and snowing that day, so they weren't lying when they called it a tough day to work outside. so here's the clip:

and here's a little blurb on their website.

go check out Westlake, it looks pretty festive :) PEACE


father of the year

this guy had no time to think, just react- and his fast reaction probably saved his kid's life. AMAZING footage.


new dream

i wandered away from some people i was with; there was more to the dream before this, but it’s gone.   i went outside, onto a large, square deck, moving toward the far left corner.   a heavy-set brunette woman, evidently a neighbor, who seemed familiar from the previous part of the dream, was some distance away, lower than the deck level, down a small hill, out toward the street.   she was grilling something.   she looked up at me, and we acknowledged each other’s presence without speaking.

i turned to my right, moving along the edge of the deck, sort of surveying the area around the deck, and i noticed a young girl, maybe 10 years old, unfamiliar to me, standing quietly on the far right corner of the deck.   she’d noticed me first, aware that i was moving toward her before i noticed her, and i approached her.   she seemed self-conscious. she had dark hair, carefully curled and arranged, and she wore an uncommon amount of makeup for a young girl, but it was very carefully applied; someone obviously took great care to make this girl appear “just so”.   she wore a black and white dress, and she was immaculate in every detail.   she seemed very shy, and only fleetingly met my gaze.   my observations came at a glance, taking only a moment.

as i was about to ask her who she was, where she came from, i heard the grilling lady address me, her voice coming over my shoulder, answering my unasked question, and i turned to look at her as she spoke.   she explained that the girl belonged to a new family, who’d just moved in to the house at the property adjacent to this side of the deck, gesturing toward it with her metal grilling spatula.   i turned back to the girl and introduced myself to her.   she seemed slightly more comfortable now, but she only nodded, still shy.   i looked over her head, through the branches of trees, down toward the property on that side of the deck, and noticed there were others, busy with some tasks.   among them were movers, bringing the family’s things inside.

i realized there were people all around me, in the branches of the trees immediately surrounding the deck.   i expanded my introduction of myself, directing my words toward the crowd surrounding me, “seated” like an audience in many tree branches.

as i spoke, i seemed to stop appearing as myself, becoming instead a clown.   rather, i didn’t “become” the clown; i remained myself, now portraying a clown character.   the comic nature of the clown character was that of a man portraying a female; that is, the “whole” of the character was realized in the minds of the audience by the combination of elements: a comic characterization of a woman, as obviously portrayed by a male clown, which was itself less obviously portrayed by my dream self: a man playing a male clown playing a woman.

i was costumed in a traditional interpretation of clowning, sort of a classic “sad” clown, more shabby than ludicrous, far more subtle than the stereotypical modern American clown.   my costume was directed more toward artistic intent than toward buffoonery, supporting the nature of the character.   though i never saw myself, i knew my face was made up.   my clothes were nothing elaborate, but they contained elements of both the sad clown and the female character which he portrayed.   it was as if i’d come to inhabit this character seamlessly, as i spoke, while the deck on which i was standing transformed, to serve the purpose of a stage without becoming one.   it remained a deck, but the boards inclined and leveled out, following the contours of a steep hill, which was itself surrounded by the trees of the audience.

continuing to speak, i added another layer of depth to the performance.   my words told a story, in the clown’s voice, about the female character which the clown portrayed.   this fictitious story was analagous to and paralleled true things about my dream self, like who “i” was and how “i” fit into this environment.   as i told the story i began to perform as the clown character, which in turn performed as the female character.   i danced a slow, comical ballet that was, by turns, purposely clumsy, to the audience’s amusement, and surprisingly, effortlessly deft, to their wonderment.   the audience seemed to enjoy my performance, and to appreciate / understand its multiple levels of depth.   my performance seemed to be having the desired effect; through it, the people in the audience seemed to accept and gain an understanding of me (that is, my dream self), and my (his) purpose.

as my performance continued, i began to defy physics and gravity.   i would spin impossibly slowly, or slowly descend floating from a leap, coming to rest so lightly on my feet that i seemed to weigh nothing, or ending in an improbably fluid series of tumbles.   no matter how impossible it seemed to recover from some movement, i always regained my composure, and it all seemed effortless.   my more complicated movements were connected smoothly by small, simple dance steps.   the dance demonstrated my words, its elements sometimes mirroring, sometimes comically contradicting their story, and i used both methods to communicate with the audience.

then i pushed off, executing another slow motion, gravity-defying leap, and unexpectedly found myself not descending, which alarmed me.   i grew nervous, and my story stopped, as i floated higher, no longer in control, out over the edge of the hill, where there was a steep drop.   suddenly i was very high up- too high!   but then, before my anxiety could become fear, i seemed to regain control of my motion.   i need not fall, but my performance was no longer effortless; i had to concentrate.   i literally swam through the air, and was relieved when i was back over the area of the hill i started from, and i willed myself to land.   i came to rest on the hill, in a position fully composed in the air: lying down, facing uphill, chest to the ground, elbows resting on a small mound, chin resting on hands.   as if nothing unplanned had taken place, i quietly spoke the final words of the story to the crowd.

then i realized my alarm was going off.


A History of Knowledge: Past, Present and Future - The pivotal events, people and achievements of world history

I finished this a couple weeks ago...a really fantastic book.   It reads almost like an extended series of Smithsonian articles, examining, chronologically from ancient to modern times, the people responsible for, highlights of, ongoing interrelationships between, and social impacts resulting from the progression of science & technology, the arts, religious & political thought and hierarchies, economics, and philosophy, among other things.

Bringing together so much information, and presenting it so clearly and compactly, is a remarkable achievement.   The book was never dry. Van Doren always seemed to have an insight I'd not encountered, even on subject matter with which I'm at least passably familiar, and he balances a certain lightness of tone and cautious optimism with a wry acknowledgment of some truly ugly facts.   He could have easily run off on any of dozens of tangents, but he chose sparingly which points to elaborate on, and he cuts quickly to the heart of those.

The book touches on so many fascinating subjects that I may have to skim through it again, taking some notes along the way.   More than once I found myself putting the book down to head to my computer and track down some more information on this subject or that person.

When a book is enlightening, that's something; when it's entertaining, that's also something; sometimes you find one that's both, and this is one of them.   Great book.

Interesting aside: I borrowed this book from my dad, who informed me the author (Charles Van Doren) has the dubious honor of being the "contestant" on the rigged 1950s game show "Twenty One" (info here).

The end of the book concerns "current" affairs, and Van Doren's predictions for the next 100 years or so.   As the book was written nearly 20 years ago, it's an interesting perspective.   More info on amazon.com.


Loren's choir concert

Granite Falls School District & the Everett Chorale
"Why We Sing"
First Annual All-City Choir Concert

Granite Falls High School
Granite Falls, WA
April 15, 2010

1 - Ah, Robyn
2 - Children of Peace
3 - Vocalise

Diana Lawrence, Director
Patti McElroy, piano
Emilie Barker, flute

GFHS Choraliers:
Loren Pelkey, Parker Aamold, Alexis Bailey, Emilie Barker, Sierra Barker, Rochelle
Baron, Kimberly Bray, Allie Chadwick, Nik Cole, Ashlee Cortez, Alexis Irvin,
Semira Kern, Nathan Lynn, Maxx Marker, Desi Nease, Shannon Ozog, Mercedes
Pryor, Allyssa Puett, Brenda Ramirez, Amanda Ray, Emily Richbourg, Kelsey
Salsgiver, Lupe Sanchez-Reynoso, Catie Schusted, Mikyla Sears, Shantae Smith-
Roberts, Brad Somes, Kevin Sprague, Maria Stadler, Heidi Thayer, Caroline Todd,
Alysa Turner, Sarah Turner, Kelsey Wesson, Madelyn Winter


pretty cool dream

Christina Applegate and i were working together to preserve the integrity of the timeline, so the “correct” future would come to pass. we were new friends, thrown together by circumstance, who’d grown close quickly. Christina seemed to be part of a large quasi-military organization, which appeared only tangentally, but our mutual goal was personal, outside of that context. the future we were trying to preserve seemed to be represented by a very complex piece of music; everything hinged on its survival. we both had an understanding of the piece, but Christina’s was comprehensive, and it existed in its entirety only in her mind.

working counter to our purposes was Aaron Eckhart (the actor who played Harvey Dent/Two Face in “The Dark Night”). he was infatuated with Christina. his complete obsession with her (which included jealousy of our relationship) led him to oppose the “correct” future, in which she belonged to someone else. he confronted us while we were deciding what to do next, and threatened to use a device which could “negate” possible futures by permanently “erasing” elements of the present. the elements to be erased by this unseen device seemed to be controlled by his thoughts, so its effects were therefore limited by his knowledge. it was unspoken but conveyed that he would even erase Christina if necessary- if he couldn’t have her, he’d make sure no one else would either. this gave her/us an advantage, as erasing her was a last resort, and she held the key to our success. our desire to preserve the timeline was independent of any ramifications for either of us personally.

realizing that the entire future depended on this piece of music, which would cease to exist if she were erased, Christina and i used a device to transcribe it, directly from her mind. suddenly i was looking over her shoulder at the sheet music in her hands. below the title “Tapis Rouge” was a dauntingly complex score, continued on multiple pages. we both stood still and stared at it for a moment, absorbing what this accomplishment meant: a physical copy of the music, unknown to the Eckhart, that would survive to preserve the timeline, even if he activated his device. as it sunk in, Christina was overjoyed, and threw her arms around me to hug me. i’d felt a great deal of relief, but that was quickly overshadowed by happiness for her as i was caught up in her enthusiasm.

Christina left the music with me, and rushed off to return to her official duties. i became aware that her romantic interest- the man Echkart was truly jealous of- was her professional peer. he was somewhat awkward, unsure of himself, and he wore thick glasses. i watched as they approached each other in a hallway, while various others dressed in like, grey uniforms went about their business. Christina exchanged a few words with him surreptitiously, seeming not to want to draw the others’ attention. this seemed to reinforce his impression that he had no chance for a relationship with her. they parted company in opposite directions. Christina couldn’t follow through with it, and she called out to him, and they rushed back to each other and embraced. she caught my eye over his shoulder and smiled at me, then (very strangely!) seemed to notice something about one of her fingernails, and started inspecting it, still hugging him. i was close enough to see it was bright white and shaped very oddly, like a spade from a deck of cards, but flat across the top instead of coming to a point. (this seemed as strange to me in the dream as it does now writing this.)

Christina and her man finally parted company for real, and she returned to her duties, entering a huge room that resembled a barn, to my right. the place had weathered, exposed beams everywhere, a high, peaked roof, and straw on the floor. there were bales of hay around, and rough wooden crates. it was crawling with people, working individually or in small groups, with different kinds of equipment that all looked very technical...i didn’t understand anything about what they were doing.

at the far end of this room was Echkart. he approached and confronted her angrily, and she walked away from him. i had a feeling something bad was about to happen and i started to cross the room toward him. Christina passed me, on her way out. Eckhart said something bitter and final and activated his erasing device- literally plugging in the power cord. i turned on my heel toward Christina and saw a wave of vanishing; i could mark its progress by disappearing people and equipment, from the far end of the room toward me. Christina saw it too, and started to turn to face me, but didn’t complete the move before she was erased. the wave passed over me without affecting me, and i turned to follow its progress. it ended with Eckart, who was himself erased. i was alone in this huge and now basically empty room. stunned, i turned back toward the door and saw a piece of tubing and a few other components, the surviving remnants of the transciption device we’d used, lying on a crate. i crossed the room toward it and there, at the base, was the hard copy of “Tapis Rouge”.


Cage The Elephant - In One Ear

can't remember who turned me on to this originally, but i ran across it again- this is a good song and i love the lyrics (below the video).  pass it on-


Cage The Elephant
MP3 download @ amazon.com
Cage The Elephant
In One Ear

they say that we ain't got the style
we ain't got the class
we ain't got the tunes
that's gonna put us on the map
and i'm a phony in disguise
tryin' to make the radio
i'm an anti-social anarchist
i sound like so and so

they say i'm just a stupid kid
another crazy radical
rock and roll is dead
i prob'ly should've stayed in school
another generation X
who somehow slipped up through the cracks
oh, they'd love to see me fall
but i'm already on my back

so it goes in one ear and right out the other
people talkin' shit but you know i never bother
it goes in one ear and right out the other
people talkin' shit
they can kiss the back of my hand

now i know i'm not a saint
i been a sinner all my life
i ain't tryin' to hide my flaws
i'd rather keep them in the light
they wanna criticize, scrutinize,
cast another stone
burn me at the stake
and sit and watch it from their throne

they say the devil is my pal,
i do a lotta drugs
the crowd will only like me
if they're really fuckin' drunk
they think they know my thoughts
but they don't know the least
if they'd listen to the words
they'd find the message tucked beneath

but it goes in one ear and right out the other
people talkin' shit even though they never bother
it goes in one ear and right out the other
people talkin' shit
they can kiss the back of my hand

you hear that?
you hear what's coming'?
oh, you better run for the hills
'cause we're comin' to your town
and we're gonna burn that mother fucker down

here's the moral to the story
we don't do it for the glory
we don't do it for the money
we don't do it for the fame
so all the critics who despise us
go ahead and criticize us
it's your tyranny that drives us
adds the fire to our flames

and it goes in one ear and right out the other
people talkin' shit but you know we'll never bother
it goes in one ear and right out the other
i'm only playing music 'cause you know i fuckin' love it
it goes in one ear and right out the other
people talkin' shit but you know we'll never bother
it goes in one ear, and right out the other
people talkin' shit
they can kiss the back of my hand


RealD 3D and Dreamworks's animated Megamind

this is only a teaser trailer (haven't found a longer one yet), but i like the idea: make a "good" bad guy in an animated comedy.   the main character of this reminds me a little of the type of over-the-top, megalomaniacal villain in Monsters vs. Aliens, but it's hard to tell anything much from a teaser.

i'm actually looking forward to seeing a 3D animated movie.   i wasn't very impressed with Avatar as a movie, but it really was over the top visually, and the RealD 3D technology is amazingly good.   it projects polarized light off a specially reflective screen to each eye alternately, through the use of glasses with differenly polarized lenses, a total of 144 times per second.   i've read that (rarely) some people get headaches from watching these kinds of films, but i've also read that paying attention to the in-focus part of the picture- usually the point anyway- makes that even more rare.   i didn't have any problems watching Avatar, and i made a conscious effort to disobey that warning, specifically to see if it caused any.

incidentally, what's up with having people recycle those glasses? how inefficient is that?! how about saving them until the next time and bringing them with you? when they're 'recycled', are they disinfected and repackaged, or do they melt them down and keep making new ones? the only reason i can see for recycling those glasses is to make a little more money every time you buy a RealD 3D movie ticket.   i'd rather save my $1/ticket charge (or whatever it is) and keep the glasses.   (actually, i did keep mine, and i'll use them again next time whether i have to "buy" a new pair or not...i'm kinda neurotic about wasting perfectly good things.)

for better or worse, the 3D tech seems to be the latest "killer app" for the theaters, a real draw when many would prefer to spend less money streaming on-demand films through their HDTVs.   having a pretty decent TV myself, i see the attraction.   the TVs are getting better and cheaper all the time, and the content is much cheaper in the long run, especially if you'd be buying multiple movie tickets for a lot of films.   movie theaters are notoriously expensive! you can make the argument that it's the concessions that double the cost, but what's a movie without popcorn? that's part of the experience, in my book.   besides, it's what keeps them in business.   and there are always going to be films you MUST see on the big screen.

i doubt this movie's one of them, but some animated 3D film or another will eventually see me shelling out $50 for the privilege of sitting in a dark room with my son, in funny glasses, eating overpriced popcorn.

M. Night Shyamalan does The Last Airbender

having a son is a perfect excuse to sit around watching cartoons...at least until they get old enough to think that's not so cool anymore.   (then you have to find a new excuse to commune with your inner geek.)   anyway, my son was the right age when the original cartoon version of this was new, and it was a good show.   Shyamalan's done a lot of films- some of them really excellent, like The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs- but i really didn't know what to make of it when i heard he was doing this.   looks like he nailed it.   if the performances live up to the look and the scope of this project, he'll rightfully have one of the biggest hits of the year on his hands in July.   i'm really looking forward to this one- hope it's not a disappointment, and i don't think it will be.

by all means, watch the animated series first!

Ridley Scott's Robin Hood redux

i've had a thing for medieval period films as long as i can remember, mostly because i was completely obsessed with King Arthur when i was a kid.   and i've also had a thing for summer blockbusters, ever since i saw Star Wars at the drive-in in fourth grade...or was it fifth?...i think it was fifth.   anyway, if it's sci-fi or fantasy epicness, count me in.   Ridley Scott's done some great stuff, including two of my favorite movies of all time, Blade Runner and Aliens.   Russell Crowe was one of those guys that didn't do much for me at first, but i thought he was pretty excellent in Gladiator and even better in Cinderella Man, so i'm looking forward to seeing him play another of my favorite classic characters here.

but i'm really looking forward to seeing Cate Blanchett in this; you can pretty much count on an excellent performance from her.   if you haven't seen them, check out The Gift, which also has a really great performance by Giovanni Rabisi, and Veronica Guerin.   and definitely check out Elizabeth, if you haven't.

recycling The Sorceror's Apprentice

this is Disney's live-action spin on their old Fantasia segment.   is nothing sacred?!   well, Mickey fans can rest easy; this has nothing to do with the beloved Mickey-battles-the-flood short, and everything to do with capitalizing on the famous name.   think National Treasure meets Harry Potter.   Alfred Molina is likely to be a great big PLUS for this film, as he's usually pretty fantastic, and he gets to play a villain here.

this film's premise is similar to The Vampire's Assistant (trailer & clips here), the first film adaptation of Darren Shan's Vampire Blood trilogy (the first of 4 trilogies in his fictionally biographical Saga of Darren Shan arc).   Assistant had some great story elements, a lot of humor, and occasionally stellar special effects work; it was entertaining, but short of outstanding.   not having read the books, i can't comment on them personally, but i gather J.K. Rowling liked them.

Apprentice looks like it had a lot higher budget- your typical Disney summer blockbuster / family-oriented action-adventure film.   i was skeptical but, judging by the trailer, this could be fun.

Kick-Ass hits the theaters in a couple weeks- looks pretty good

i think Chloe Moretz is about to be a household name, even though most people are going to think twice about letting their kids watch her in this movie, which comes off as a bloodier, darker sort of "Superbad-meets-Mystery Men", but is really an adaptation of Mark Millar's graphic novel.

official trailer #4 (yes, there are 3 more, and no, i'm not posting them all)

unrated trailer #2 (Hit-Girl is awesome.)

unrated trailer #1

from the youtube page:
Release date: 16 April 2010
Cast: Mark Strong, Nicolas Cage, Aaron Johnson, Chloe Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse

A twisted, funny, high—octane adventure, director Matthew Vaughn brings KICK—ASS to the big screen. KICK—ASS tells the story of average teenager Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), a comic—book fanboy who decides to take his obsession as inspiration to become a real—life superhero. As any good superhero would, he chooses a new name — Kick—Ass — assembles a suit and mask to wear, and gets to work fighting crime. Theres only one problem standing in his way: Kick—Ass has absolutely no superpowers. His life is forever changed as he inspires a subculture of copy cats, meets up with a pair of crazed vigilantes — including an 11—year—old sword—wielding dynamo, Hit Girl (Chloë Moretz) and her father, Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) — and forges a friendship with another fledgling superhero, Red Mist (Christopher Mintz—Plasse). But thanks to the scheming of a local mob boss Frank DAmico (Mark Strong), that new alliance will be put to the test.


over Obama's shoulder as he edits a healthcare speech, Sep 9, 2009

Obama editing healthcare speech, Sep 9, 2009

P090909PS-0026, originally uploaded by The White House.

this is a really rare opportunity to see how a presidential speech is written and rewritten and rerewritten for maximum effect.   clicking through to the Flickr page and viewing the "original" size picture (click "all sizes" above the picture then "original") allows you to clearly see the edits.

one of the most interesting points is the complete removal of a section concerning Obama's personal experiences with his daughter's and mother's illnesses.   some things must inevitably be cut, and evidently that section didn't advance the main thrust of the speech, so they were removed.   i'm sure Obama was loathe to cut them.

i was turned on to this after stumbling across Michael Leddy's blog Orange Crate Art, which is also pretty interesting stuff.


Windows Live Mail

kinda bugs me. you would think a Microsoft product would at least have an option for keeping your operating system's contact list in sync with your email application's, so that- if not both ways- you could at least manage both with one or the other. but NO! each may only operate independently of the other. so, exactly, what good is having a contact list embedded in the operating system?

color me annoyed with that.


mbira music

press play on the first video, then read on- and by all means, if you like the post, leave me a comment and let me know you were here :)

from this wikipedia page, for those who are unfamiliar with the mbira:
"The mbira (aka likembe, mbila, thumb piano, ...) is a musical instrument consisting of a wooden board to which staggered keys [technically "lamellae", which may be metal or bamboo] have been attached, often fitted to a resonator.   Usually classified as part of the lamellaphone family, it is also part of the idiophones family of musical instruments.   In some places it is also known as a sanza."

though some are configured with an array of keys capable of producing fully chromatic scales, mbira, like harmonicas, are more commonly limited to tones within the range of musical keys sharing a related set of intervals (such as G mixolydian / A minor / C major, etc.).   the proper name for a specific type of mbira seems to refer to both its physical configuration and place of origin.

the "color" of sounds produced by all instruments- that is, the unique quality of sound that distinguishes each from another- is a function of their physical forms.   within a finite range, and varying with the "touch" of the person playing, each creates specifically "shaped" waveforms at certain pitches, subject to Attack-Decay-Sustain-Release (ADSR) envelopes.   the attack is a combination of the time it takes a note to reach peak volume and the manner in which it does so.   decay is the opposite, describing the note's fall in volume from its initial peak to the level at which it rings (sustain).   eventually the sustain gives way and the tone dies out (release).   mbira tend to have an attack that can vary from sharp to blunt, with a relatively loud peak, and a quick decay, followed by a long, smooth sustain/release curve that's almost a hum.

they sound to me like a quiet cross between a xylophone and steel drums, with a little wind chime thrown in, but there's also an element of scraping to the sound- the edge of the 'keys' scraping against the fingers- that's pretty unique.   in Africa, people often attach bottle caps, shells, or similar things to the sound board, which create a buzzing sound, supposed to attract the spirits of the dead- important since the instruments are often played at religious gatherings.   aesthetically, for me, they recall African, Asian, Caribbean, and Central American music, which may say more about the universal commonalities in music than about the instruments per se.

Thumb Piano, Largei kept thinking to myself how simple it looks to make one of the more basic ones, apart from achieving the right tones with the tines, which would take some trial and error.   i also think this would be a great gift for a kid, so i looked them up.   they're available from a lot of manufacturers over a wide range of prices.   should either of my readers decide to buy one at some point, consider looking for one on amazon.com, 'cause if you do, and buy one, i'll make a tiny little percentage of the purchase price.   (actually, if you click through any amazon link on this blog, and then buy anything through them during that browsing session, i make a little something.) heck, buy one for me!  i kinda like the one on the right...maybe i'll put it on my wish list.

anyway, since they come from Africa, where they've been played for at least a thousand years, it seemed fitting to start there.   the mbira pictured in the video above seems to be a mbira huru.   the piece was probably played on a different instrument, the mbira dzavadzimu ("voice of the ancestors"), which is considered a religious instrument, and is the national instrument of Zimbabwe.   incidentally, i have no idea if that first piece of music is actually African, or particularly indicative of any African style.   i'm certainly no expert on world music or Africa, and i suspect "African music" is an oversimplification anyway.

the mbira in this next picture and video is fully chromatic, as this very nice PDF shows.   the physical configuration makes it one of the most versatile instruments in terms of fingering.   i'm not familiar with this particular composition, but it's a familiar-sounding malagueña or a piece in the malagueñas style.   though many pieces of music bear it as their title, the term refers more generally to a flamenco style of playing, and a type of Central American folk music.   more info here and here.   the mbira migrated from Africa to Central America a long time ago, and was incorporated into the indigenous folk music.   the musician in the video is named Patti.   i borrowed the picture from her myspace page, which has a bunch more videos.   she also has a youtube channel.

in contrast to the last, this next video shows an improvisational jazz piece by Patrick Hadley.   Hadley's mbira (which he also likely made, as he's a craftsman with the manufacturer, Array Instruments), has a 5-octave range, and incorporates a custom piezo cable pickup, allowing amplification, direct recording (as he's done here), and signal processing.   the recording shows definite delineation between stereo channels for different registers on his mbira...possibly two separate pickups.   these retail for about $2400, about the same as a high-end acoustic guitar.

one more from Hadley, which starts with a couple good shots of his instrument.   Array makes a few interesting non-standard instruments, my favorites of which are probably this mbira, their psaltry, and their nail violin.   that last link has pictures of them, and audio clips of them played solo, together and with more conventional instruments. Hadley has a youtube channel too, here.

can't resist throwing in one more link.   mbiras like the one shown after the jump are usually called kalimbas.   i like this guy's technique, using his thumb to baffle the sound hole, finessing it almost like you'd do with a wah pedal on guitar.   he's pretty prolific with the video posts, too.   more power to him!   check him out.



very short animated video, possibly most notable for its highly stylized use of polygons and blocks, which certainly seem more an artistic choice than a technical constraint.

from the filmmaker:
There used to be a small but beautiful blue rock somewhere within the vast void of the universe. Life appeared on its crust relatively fast and as usual through out the evolution, one of the species dominated the rest, by forming complex societies to overcome its primordial survival needs. The dominant inhabitants progressed technologically, excelled in many different fields within their closed society and managed to build establishments on every corner of the planet's terrain. But during the process of solving these initial problems and building their dream utopia, more problems would arise faster than before, making their daily lives gradually more and more complicated. The time came when their overcomplicated society demanded so much devotion, that they stopped questioning other, more fundamental issues. It was then, when they even stopped looking up the sky. The sky that used to inspire and guide them will now bring them disaster and Erebus.

the praying machine

this is an interesting animated short, at times NQSFW.  by all means check out the filmmakers' website, Tokyo Plastic, here.  if you click the topmost link ('website') on that page, the next has some seriously top-notch flash animation work (which has garnered them some awards, i gather).  i actually ran across that flash work before, a long time ago, and had forgotten about it.  funny that something that well done stuck in my head, and was instantly recognizable after so long.

short sketches of life

from the filmmakers' vimeo page:
A short sketchbook-style animated film that takes a look at people at a "La Fete Nationale" celebration in Montreal, Quebec. The film was an independent production, directed and animated by Malcolm Sutherland with music by Kevin Kardasz, and was produced with financial assistance from The Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec. Looks best in HD!!

Spider Boy

this is a well-executed short about a young boy with a wish...or two. Spanish with English subtitles. as with all Vimeo embeds, click through for more info.

¿Dare you to make a wish?


"long may you wave"

on the 28th anniversary of the performance, here's Robin Williams personifying the American flag.

via my uncle Wayne! thanks, man.


short dream

i was with Loren, and we were with a larger group that seems very indistinct now. there was a dark-haired girl there, someone who’d done Loren a serious wrong. we three seemed to separate from a larger group. Loren was concentrating on how to punish the girl, working out how to carry out a confrontation that seemed inevitable. he was going to kill her. she was never far from us, moving around, seeming to busy herself with small tasks, at a refrigerator, and moving from this room to that. she kept a sort of respectful distance while remaining close enough to eavesdrop. she was fully aware of the wrong she’d done, of Loren’s plan to confront her, of me; she was aware of everything. resigned to meeting whatever destiny Loren chose- to dealing with the consequences of her mistake- she seemed both curious to learn what would happen next and indifferent to what was happening.

Loren seemed inclined to confront her with a knife. as this became clear to me, it seemed a previously unperceived element of “support” for the girl sprang into action. there was a bustle in the household, which now seemed to be the girl’s territory, as people prepared for the coming confrontation. i moved through the house, watching these preparations. someone produced a small handgun. i found myself beside a headless, female-proportioned mannequin, very like the ones dressmakers use, which wore a set of Japanese-looking bamboo body armor. each of the stalks was very thin- larger than a pencil but smaller than a pinky finger. the assembly of them was painted, mostly black with green highlights. someone test-fired the gun at the mannequin. i was certain the armor would fail in a burst of splinters, but the bullets- three of the them- did less damage than i expected. each left a neat, round impact “crater”. the girl’s “staff” seemed to conclude that the armor would barely suffice. the armor seemed to be intended for the girl in the coming confrontation.

moving to find Loren, i saw the girl, sitting sprawled on the floor in a small, square kitchen, her legs an improbable tangle, her back against plain wooden cupboards, below a white porcelain sink. above the sink was an uncovered window, through which twilight gave the room a low, blue glow. the girl’s position seemed awkward, but she made no effort to move. i noticed she wore only a plain, thin shift. continuing on, i brought news of the gun and the bamboo armor to Loren, who was now working out his plan on paper, in a sort of storyboard. i stood over the table he worked at, and discussed how this change in circumstances required rethinking his plan. i erased, somewhat ineffectively, what he had on the page, as i explained the circumstances to him. i did so plainly but also gently, trying to break news i judged to be problematic and unwelcome. i left the outer box he’d drawn around his plan- literally the “outline”, and surrendered the pencil back to him, and i watched him, interested to see how he’d proceed.

then Loren’s mother was there. she inserted herself into the situation bluntly, her loud entrance drawing Loren’s attention, as intended. she approached him, moving behind his chair, grasped his shoulders and leaned in close, addressing him directly. she’d obviously assimilated the new information i brought, and her words to Loren pressured him in no uncertain terms to proceed along a course she thought best. i was disheartened by her approach, but didn’t interfere, choosing to hold my tongue while Loren contemplated how to move forward. all this took only a few seconds, and Loren seemed to take it all in quietly, taking no action immediately, not even looking up from his plan. as his mother spoke, his attention seemed focused on me, as if he heard what she said, but hadn’t finished the train of thought from the last change in circumstance. halfheartedly, he redrew some of the lines he’d drawn previously, reluctant to change course, and knowing he must. he drew a “thought bubble” around the entire box, and looked up at me, indicating- first to himself and then to me- that he would continue to think about his previous plan, that he reserved the right to revisit it later.

the scene changed. i was outside in a hilly field on what seemed like a game preserve. it was evident to me that the place was undergoing a change- the animals could not stay. three animals seemed particularly important to me. they were quite varied in anatomy, and all a bit different than anything i’ve seen before, but they seemed quite normal to me at the time. most striking about them was their coloring. each of them was spotted haphazardly, like a cheetah or leopard, black spots on white. strangely, every irregular black spot was surrounded by a ring of lime green. the animals seemed rare, possibly endangered, and the question of what to do with them occupied others present as well.

i stood beside a cart, sort of a cross between a jeep and a golf cart, which was colored like the odd animals. one of the three animals, very dog-like, sat on the ground next to me, and i scratched it behind the ears, while interacting with various people. they asked me questions, and i pointed them off in one direction or another, but whatever was actually going on, i was involved, but not in charge.

i was approached by a girl who was looking for Yogi Bear. people were calling out for him. turning around, facing in the general direction they were calling, where a low hill obscured my view to the left. the base of the hill became a small grassy area, ending at the bank of a stream, which wound from right to left, disappearing behind the hill. as i watched, Yogi skipped out from behind the hill, fully cartoon-like amid a perfectly real-looking landscape. he was in a good mood, and- strangely- as he bounced toward those looking for him, the pupils of his eyes spun around the whites randomly, a cartoon representation of the eyes sometimes seen on stuffed animals, the ones with a little black ball free to move inside a rounded, hollow disk.


free hugs

i've seen this a few times now, and i've prob'ly posted it somewhere before, if not here, but it's worth reposting once in a while anyway. definitely one of, if not THE, coolest "reality TV" type things i've seen, and evidently plenty of other people think so too: as of this posting, it's at 57,111,454 views. which means you've prob'ly seen it before...but may watch it again anyway.

from the youtube page:
"Sometimes, a hug is all that we need. Free Hugs is the real life controversial story of Juan Mann, a man whose sole mission was to reach out and hug a stranger put a smile on their face.
As this simple gesture of kindness and hope spread across the city, police and officials ordered the Free Hugs Campaign BANNED. What we then witnessed was the true spirit of humanity as people came together in what can only be described as something awe inspiring.

The response to this video has been nothing short of overwhelming and touching. Hugs to every single one of you who messaged. There has been thousands of emails from all over the world from people seeking to participate in the Free Hugs Campaign and asking for permission. You don't need permission. This is the people's movement, this is *your* movement. With nothing but your bare hands you CAN make a difference."

Tim Hawkins - old rock star songs

"bein' a comedian, i can keep doin' comedy for a long time, and still it would look, y'know, OK...i think a lotta musicians i see, like rock stars, they need to quit after a while. it just doesn't look right, y'know? i say, you're a musician, though...if you get older, just keep singin', but just change your songs. y'know, make it look more believable."

via my uncle Vern! thanks, man.

OK, it's plenty late

i've been feeling a little anxious lately...prob'ly has something to do with Loren being here for so long and then not being here, and then maybe or maybe not coming back tomorrow, as planned. i think it would be a little naive not to think stressors like these affect me; they do, i'm just a little dense like that...they're more of a low, dull ache than a sharp pain.

predictably, his mother is leaning on him to come back after the weekend. this seems contrary to his wishes, and if he wants to stay, he's going to. i'll be quite disappointed if he doesn't. her reasoning is (unsurprisingly) that she hasn't seen him in 9 weeks, to which i say, "tough, that doesn't even compare to 5 months." that's some irrefutable logic right there, and establishing the pattern of his spending alternate weeks at alternate houses now greatly increases the odds that it will stick. i'm sure she thinks if she subverts it now, she "wins". that's by no means a "win" for Loren. he's not blind to what she's doing, especially not this time, but it's obvious he feels the pressure. the trick for me is encouraging him to do what he's said he wants to do, and, admittedly, what i would be very pleased if he did, without putting the kind of pressure on him that his mother is. i mean, she hollered from across the room, "he's coming back on Sunday," and he said he wasn't, and she said he was, and he stuck to his guns through 5 rounds of that before walking away from the "you are" / "no, i'm not".

more of the same, really...typical selfishness on her part. really hoping this one goes my way. i'm sure it's the best thing for him, and i want to see him get what he wants- especially since it runs counter to what she wants. the woman's gotten her own way with no regard for what's good for anyone else for far too long, and i'm all for Loren showing some independent judgment and setting his own terms irrespective of his mom's manipulations.

Loren told me recently that she told him, in 7th grade, when he was seriously considering trying out an alternating week on/week off arrangement, that she wouldn't let that happen. he said she told him if he did that she'd refuse to let him spend his "mom" week at her house, only alternating weekends. WTF?! if that's not a threat of abandonment (and i can tell you for SURE he took it that way, from the way he told me about this) i don't know what is.

so i told him to call her bluff; she's not going to turn down time he'll spend with her (and time she can use to try to work her coercive magic to upset the apple cart). cutting off her nose to spite her own face is not in her bag of tricks. even if she did initially refuse his "mom" week, i'm absolutely sure she'd relent after a couple weeks of only seeing him on the weekends.

that's more than enough about that.

it was really interesting talking to him on the phone this (last!) evening. i haven't heard that tone of voice from him in months. he really becomes a different person in different environments, and the change isn't hard to see. i can't even really imagine what it would be like- what he would be like- if his parents weren't divorced. i'm sure he'd be different, i just can't imagine how so.

guess that's all i've got to say; more than i intended, really. well past time to crash for a few hours.

Avatar: The Review, by redletter media

this guy's awesome. i kept thinking i recognized his voice, and i think it's one of the voice-over guys from Beavis & Butthead. this review is right on the money.

via scuffletown

NSFW 'no glove, no love' animated AIDS awareness ad

poor Peter. he just doesn't get it. and then he does!

via scuffletown

lego robot for setting up rows of dominos

not bad at all.

via scuffletown

The Indispensable Opposition (excerpt)

"Were they pressed hard enough, most men would probably confess that political freedom- that is to say, the right to speak freely and to act in opposition- is a noble ideal rather than a practical necessity. As the case for freedom is generally put to-day, the argument lends itself to this feeling. It is made to appear that, whereas each man claims his right to freedom as a matter of right, the freedom he accords to other men is a matter of toleration. Thus, the defense of freedom of opinion tends to rest not on its substantial, beneficial, and indispensable consequences, but on a somewhat eccentric, a rather vaguely benevolent, attachment to an abstraction.

It is all very well to say with Voltaire, 'I wholly disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it,' but as a matter of fact most men will not defend to the death the rights of other men: if they disapprove sufficiently what other men say, they will somehow suppress those men if they can.

So, if this is the best that can be said for liberty of opinion, that a man must tolerate his opponents because everyone has a 'right' to say what he pleases, then we shall find that liberty of opinion is a luxury, safe only in pleasant times when men can be tolerant because they are not deeply and vitally concerned.

Yet actually, as a matter of historic fact, there is a much stronger foundation for the great constitutional right of freedom of speech, and as a matter of practical human experience there is a much more compelling reason for cultivating the habits of free men. We take, it seems to me, a naively self-righteous view when we argue as if the right of our opponents to speak were something that we protect because we are magnanimous, noble, and unselfish. The compelling reason why, if liberty of opinion did not exist, we should have to invent it, why it will eventually have to be restored in all civilized countries where it is now suppressed, is that we must protect the right or our opponents to speak because we must hear what they have to say.

We miss the whole point when we imagine that we tolerate the freedom of our opponents as we tolerate the howling of a baby next door, as we put up with the blasts from our neighbor's radio because we are too peaceable to heave a brick through the window. If this were all there is to freedom of opinion, that we are too good-natured or too timid to do anything about our opponents and our critics except to let them talk, it would be difficult to say whether we are tolerant because we are magnanimous or because we are lazy, because we have strong principles or because we lack serious convictions, whether we have the hospitality of an inquiring mind or the indifference of an empty mind. And so, if we truly wish to understand why freedom is necessary in a civilized society, we must begin by realizing that, because freedom of discussion improves our own opinions, the liberties of other men are our own vital necessity."

Walter Lippman
The Atlantic Monthly, 1939


peace, love and understanding for all...by all

this is the guy who wrote it, Nick Lowe. not the best recording, but it has all the energy of the Elvis Costello version- he usually plays it more low key.

this is a more pop-oriented version that might be the first commercially released version of the song, by Brinsley Schwarz (embedding disabled by user).

Chris Cornell weighing in at an Audioslave concert, Lollapalooza 2008:

A Perfect Circle having their way with it:

...Elvis sharing the stage with Jakob Dylan (who throws down), and Jenny Lewis and Zoey Deschanel on backup vox (meh)...what really gets me about this vid is how PERFECTLY in sync the drummers are.

and finally Elvis, hitting it the way everyone's used to hearing, on the Late Show with...uh...Elvis Costello.

this 1979 original by Racey isn't as well known as the remake...

i'm betting most people will recognize the tune within the first 15 seconds.


behind the scenes: green screen revealed

everyone's used to seeing outrageous special effects, but you might be surprised by the type of things shot on green screen that don't necessarily need to be faked.

a fu%^ sh#& stack

this is a NSFW Comedy Central video by Reggie Watts, directed by Duncan Skiles & Ben Dickinson, calling out hip hop for all its pretentiousness. spot on, and well done. click through for the HD version on its Vimeo page.

more info about Reggie and the upcoming release of his DVD/CD combo "Why Sh_t So Crazy" on Looseworld.com.



just when you think you've seen it all, along comes a 10 yr old girl who just tears it up, on Kansas's "Carry On Wayward Son".  she's hitting all the solos, the vocal lines, bass pedals...everything! flat amazing, 5 stars.  ROCK ON!

how about a font based on your actual handwriting

for $10, YourFonts.com will convert your handwriting into a working font. you download their free template, print it out, fill it out in your handwriting, scan it and send it back, then they rasterize / vectorize it. from the looks of the template, it would work better with printing than cursive writing.

this looked pretty cool to do for your own handwriting, but after i thought about it for a minute, i had a more interesting idea: doing your childrens' handwriting, while it's still cute kids' scrawl. if you can get them to follow the template. do it again in a few years (provided they're still in business...), and you could get a snapshot of how their handwriting evolves over time.

this got me thinking about typing something with those fonts in a graphic editing app, and running the pictures through morphing software. if i was going to do that right this minute, i'd use FotoMorph's freeware app. might be interesting...

at the risk of running off in a completely different direction, that reminds me of this time-lapse age progression clip i recently made with FotoMorph. it's my nephew Ethan, and i made it from two remarkably similar pictures i snapped almost exactly 5 years apart. i'm looking forward to getting a shot of him like this every year or so now, and seeing how dramatic the morph gets.

i've played with FotoMorph on some other things, including morphing face shots together.  in some ways i find it more interesting to see the rendered image Y that's halfway down the road from X and Z than it is to see the morph in motion.  i've also tried using screen captures cropped from video, separated by maybe a second, to attempt rendering super-slow-motion video.  (if the two frames aren't too terribly different, compositionally, it works pretty well, but it's when the frames differ a little more substantially that something like that would be most useful.)  theoretically it should be possible to morph between two not-too-distant frames and insert "corrected" frames into a video where the originals are flawed or damaged.  unfortunately, i've yet to see any audio morphing software.  in any case, the FotoMorph software is entirely intuitive to use, allows for saving in multiple formats and resolutions, including MP4 and FLV, and can handle reasonably large images with an insane number of control points without crashing.  the video output begins to show some degradation with a combination of high frame rates, long morph times and large images (say, upwards of 1600 x 1200), but it's plenty powerful enough for just about anything a casual user would throw at it.  and it works in both Windows 7 and Vista.

this post didn't start out to be a freeware review, but that's how we roll sometimes.

so this is the new look

Blogger is rolling out new template design functionality. my site's been needing some attention for a long time (like actual posts!) and it's needed a makeover for a while too, so i figured i'd give it a shot. the new tools are pretty good- excellent compared to the previously provided options- but still a lot more limited than i'd like.

first impression is: big improvement. dissatisfaction with the available plug-and-play options previously available was one of the reasons i delved into writing so much of the code for my old template myself. (i also wanted to learn a little more about HTML, CSS and Adobe's Dreamweaver UltraDev, so that also didn't hurt.) there's something to be said for just jumping in over your head and trying to swim.

incidentally, there are a ton of resources online to learn about coding for the web. one of the most comprehensive i've found is a remarkably complete site of instructional pages published by W3schools.com, which include HTML, CSS, XML, javascript, ASP, PHP, SQL, and more. if you're interested in learning something from scratch about designing web pages, a blog is a pretty good place to start, and messing around with the code for your blog's template is a good next step.

back to the subject at hand. Blogger's definitely improved what's possible with their in-house template options. i still think, to get something truly outstanding, you'll have to resort to hunting through third-party sites or writing your own code, but for my purposes- a reasonably quick, non-permanent site makeover via the new options- the new design tools were adequate.  if you're a casual or aspiring blogger, they'll probably be plenty powerful enough for you, too.

some of the widgets they've included are pretty useful, such as a customizable blog roll widget which can include previews, and a slideshow widget that works with both Flickr and (less surprisingly, since it's another Google product) Picasa online image galleries. not the Holy Grail, but a nice touch.

i find it a little maddening that the overall blog widths are limited to 1000 pixels. these days, more than 76% of people are browsing the web at resolutions HIGHER than 1024 x 768. a lot of computer monitors and video cards / integrated video chipsets actually outclass HD TVs in terms of maximum resolution. my own setup runs at 1920 x 1200 (as opposed to Blu-ray 1080p resolution of 1920 x 1080) and displays 1080p content letterboxed, blacking out 60 pixels above and below. at similar dot pitches (size of pixels) any extra pixels make for more "real estate" (working area on the screen in which to display content), but most useful, on standard "landscape" display orientations, are increases in horizontal resolution.  (greatly increasing the resolution while greatly reducing the size of pixels makes for much sharper pictures, but doesn't necessarily give you more room to work with, since some content- like characters of text- can only be correspondingly reduced in size so far before they become unreadable.)

the real benefit- really a by-product rather than a design feature- of optimizing web page content for lower display resolutions is multitasking on higher resolution systems. if two sites are optimized for 800 x 600 resolution, that means they can be displayed in two open browser windows, full height, with a little room left over to provide easy access to something else, like an instant messaging window or music player.  but i'm getting off the subject again.

if you want to give blogging a shot, try it out!  it's a piece of cake to get started, and you can put as much or as little effort into it as you like- there aren't any rules.  you might check out Wordpress's open-source software, which i've been meaning to try out since i started my blog, and haven't gotten around to. people swear by it, in terms of powerful features and customization, but i definitely recommend giving Blogger a look as well. they've got pretty solid support (especially for a free service), and their new design tools, available here, are a step in the right direction.


these guys are SERIOUS about coffee...i like 'em!


this is a -really- slick video

videos like this, and the disturbing, increasing inclination of people (myself included) to gravitate toward infotainment that not only caters to but may very well be shortening attention spans, are the reasons i find myself watching (and digging around for) more and more short-form video online, watching less broadcast television, and reading fewer books. while that's all very lamentable, this is still a great video.

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