Saturday, July 26, 2008

Charlie 'Yardbird' Parker

Charlie Parker @ Wikipedia

As an addendum to yesterday's Charlie Bird music sample is today's brief tribute to the man most responsible for bebop jazz (a kind of jazz my friend and co-worker Willie T finds too busy for his playing tastes but doesn't mind listening to the man). I've taken it upon myself to help Willie remember things from his days as trumpet player for the Red Tops, a Dallas-based jazz group that played throughout the 50s and 60s. I went out and bought up several jazz records and naturally Parker was at the top of the list due to my love for his song "Koko". Bebop jazz is fast becoming my preferred kind with it's crazy song structure and tendency for unusual solos. And Willie loves it. Whenever I put on one of Charlie Bird's records Willie will pop his head up here and there to note the song title. He doesn't have to look at the liner notes, he just knows the songs by heart.
One thing I found interesting to learn from Willie came when I was looking at the liner notes for a compilation of Parker's recordings that frequently cited the date and place where a song was recorded. Every so often the place of recording was listed only as "an unknown studio in New York City". When I asked Willie about this he told me of the musician's union and how you couldn't play without union approval, or else you had to take a back door and record or play in secret. Think of the RIAA today and imagine them applying their tactics against file sharers on the playing of live music. Strange things, I tell you. Willie did say he would have loved to play with Parker but never got the chance. This was because in order to make it big in jazz you either had to move to NYC or Europe and Willie liked Dallas too much.
Still, here's to the man that makes Willie T bop his head: Charlie 'Bird' Parker.

The Internet Archive Hosts All of NASA's imagery

NASA Opens Space Image Library - Slashdot

Oh, this is very cool. Collaborating with the Internet Archive, NASA has provided access to their massive catalog of space imagery, including the Apollo moon landings, test aircraft and the amazing photography of the Hubble Space Telescope. And apparently it's already up and running. nerd porn. I love it.

Rose-Colored Glasses

The Limes Home Page
The Limes @ MySpace
The Limes @ Last.FM

Stumbled across this band about a month ago during an audio dive. I was inundated with music so I didn't give them much attention, but their song "Beyond Blue" kept popping up in the shuffler on Winamp. It's stuck in my head now. Such a haunting tune with a wonderful back-and-forth play between the male and female vocals, simple piano and guitar rhythm, deep rumbling drums and a ghostly trumpet in the background that ties it all together.
Apparently the band is more of a collaborative effort by members of several other bands spread across the Atlantic consisting of Toy Fight, Orouni, Mina Tindle, John Hale and Henry Sparrow. Like the Postal Service, the members of the Limes trade recordings between each other and add their own touches to them; only with a group this size it's rather amazing they can complete song of such beauty. I have yet to find any physical release and hope that one does exist if anyone can find it. As it is, I have a small, three-song sample and will continue to hunt for tracks. Wonderful to listen to on a sleepy morning.

The Limes

Friday, July 25, 2008


A brief respite from the Texas heat provided by Charlie Parker. Enjoy

Charlie Bird

Why Non-Comic Readers Should Read More Comics

An Old, Old Story - hilzoy @ Obsidian Wings

After a week of reading stories on The Dark Knight and how much it represents a none too subtle nod to President Bush's policies, I have to take the time for a rebuttal. It's a basic flaw in the non-comic reading public that transforms Batman into some psychopathic man bent on beating up criminals as a form of revenge for the murder of his parents. This kind of thinking comes from those who have missed the great Batman stories of the past and the present stories that exist parallel to, but still outside of, the contemporary world. Batman is, was and will always stand as the anti-hero. He's not the first but he is the most well-known. His form of justice and the methods he uses are sometimes nothing more than a fist to the face. But that misses the fact that Batman is also the world's greatest detective.
I can understand how the non-comic types can mischaracterize Batman when most of what they see in a movie rendition is an all-fists, no-brain Batman. Even then though the public often misses the limits of Batman; the limits Batman and Bruce Wayne place on himself in his efforts against crime. The most important part of Batman's moral code is that you do not kill people. The second is that criminals are a cowardly and superstitious lot who are easily terrified by what might happen if the Batman finds them. At the start of Grant Morrison's current run on Batman, a police officer dressed as Batman shoots the Joker before the real Batman shows up. Afterwards, Robin mentions that everyone believes it was the real Batman who shot the Joker and all Bruce Wayne says is let the people keep believing that.
The tactics Batman uses against criminals to gather information does seem similar to that of the gulags or Gitmo, but the reader knows and always knows that the Batman will not kill someone. Now putting a criminal in the hospital is a different story, but one that also comes with the lesson that criminals sometimes need pressuring to reveal information. If they believed that the Batman wouldn't hurt them then what reason do they have to tell the truth? The Batman and the fear he brings only works because he exists outside of the normal institutions. Even then, Batman often lets the criminal justice system do its job. Batman is not the jury and executioner, even if he is the judge.
Another problem with the non-comic reading public's idea of the Batman is that they often don't see him wrestling with the morality of what he does. In The Dark Knight you occasionally see that, but in the comics that question is ever present. He knows there are limits to what the police can do and he understands that his actions label him as a criminal as well; one that would stand trial just like the rest of the criminals if he were ever caught. This is where the Batman and President Bush differ. The president believes that what he is doing is right and just and thus legal. Batman knows he is doing the work of justice but he also knows that it isn't legal. It's the whole point of being the vigilante--to do what normal society can't because they have a moral code to live by. Batman understands this which is why he runs around at night in his underwear smacking around crooks. He has to appear beyond moral norms or else he would get nowhere. But he is not, nor does he represent, the kind of amoral man who justifies his actions by claiming they are legal.
In other words, Batman isn't a representation of President Bush and his policies but just the opposite. That his tactics are somewhat similar isn't the point. It is that as Batman Bruce Wayne can do something normal men can't. Still, he knows that Bruce Wayne is bound by the law as well and would gladly face a trial and jail if ever caught.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Treewave @ The Conduit Gallery: Come Play with the Art Kids

Oh, before I forget again, Treewave is playing for the opening of the Dallas Video Festival this coming Saturday, 26th of July. They, or just Paul, will play at the Conduit Gallery in the Design District supposedly at 8pm. I doubt if I'll make it before 7:30 but an opening reception with W. Tucker's Fragile and Matthew Barney's Drawing Restraint 13 showing along with a talk by Barney starts at 5:30. I know nothing about the video instillations but I'm keen to see Treewave play again. If you need a refresher of their sound, check the playlist below. I may have to bring a sharp blade with me. You know, just in case someone eyeballs me the wrong way.

Tree Wave

Good News/Bad News

These Are Powers Sign to Dead Oceans, Reissue LP, EP - Paul Thompson @ Pitchfork

Ah, excellent. After getting their strong album Terrific Seasons I've tried to track down the Taro Tarot e.p. Even better, These Are Powers are coming to town and playing at a cheap club. Unfortunately, it's the same night as the Ratatat show. Divided loyalties and such.

Break into your room at night and wreck up the place!

The "Hang On" Outlet Reminds You To Unplug Your Gadgets - Sean Fallon @ Gizmodo
A bit of the 'ole in and out... - Anthony James @ Yanko Design

I have to say, this is an elegant solution to a problem most people are unaware of. I'm not like most people though, and try my best to minimize my electric impact when I'm not around to use such items. The problem most people are unaware of is the continuous power usage by devices they may believe are turned off but are merely in a stand-by state. DVD players, TVs, cellphone and camera chargers and even stereos typically switch to a low-power stand-by state when you press the off button. The only way to completely cut the power usage of these devices is to unplug them.
This is where the biggest obstacle comes in--how do you set up your plugs in a way that makes unplugging them easy and eventually habitual? Power strips are convenient enough, although figuring out with devices to assign to that power strip is bit of a logic problem. So Paulo Oh has designed an ingenious solution to the problem. It's not in production and even if it was, I'm not sure whether you would need an electrician's help or not? Still, it is a product with excellent potential. At the very least, I hope it raises public awareness to the energy drain the stand-by function of most electronic devices causes. If you can swap your light bulbs for CFLs then you can unplug your DVD player when you're not using it.

Watch Porn at $400,000

$400,000 Watches: The Maitres Du Temps Chapter One - Trendhunter

This is almost as sexy as the new Zenith watch that has a Tourbillon mechanism placed in a gyroscopic housing. Now that's just down-right dirty.

Typewriter Keys as Jewelry

Steampunk typewriter key jewelry - Cory Doctorow @ BoingBoing

I like the typewriter keys but I can't help thinking the watch movement parts are too bulky. I have to come up with alternatives than simply attaching things to mechanical movements. There are too many possibilities waiting for someone to tap into.

Cyberpunk Tech + Watches = Porn

Let Me Briefly Consult My Finger... - Zoetica Ebb @ Coilhouse

Photo taken from Coilhouse

That is far too sexy for it's own good. I mean, I love my mechanical watches and all the little moving parts, but tech like this gets me all hot and bothered. There's something deeply wrong with me, isn't there?

Looking for a New Hillary

Right Matters - Ramesh Ponnuru @ Washington Post

Hmm...Sen. Clinton's out of the race so the standard rightist attacks are unusable. Or are they? Hey, look! A black woman who talks about the evils of corporations, the black experience in America letting blacks down and how we need smarter people running things. Let's get her! We can just rehash all the anti-Clinton arguments against her. Brilliant!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Fuck the Vette

Robert Novak, Sociopath - Matt Yglesias

Apparently op-ed columnist Robert Novak hit a pedestrian while driving in his Corvette in D.C. today. Yglesias properly takes Novak to task about this but flubs it in the end by criticizing the media for using the term 'aggressive' driver in describing Novak's driving style. I'm an aggressive driver, or 'spirited' in tuner speak, and I have yet to hit a pedestrian because I follow an essential rule whenever you drive aggressively--the harder you drive the more you have to pay attention. Call it defensive aggressiveness if you will, but since rarely is anyone looking out for you on the road (be it pedestrian, biker, baby carriage) you have to look out for them.
Of course, I also have another problem with Yglesias' post; it's the sort of thing only a lover of cars would appreciate though. Why didn't Yglesias point out the fact that Novak was driving a Corvette of all things? I'm mean, really, that's just criminal. You don't let a man like Novak get a pass on driving an over-priced, poor-performing cock on wheels. Had Novak been in an actual supercar versus his fakery I could argue in his favor. As it is, Novak deserves whatever fine he gets (despite the fact that he should serve at least a few hundred hours of community service).
Still, as much as I like seeing Novak being dissed by the fuzz, I really didn't want to read another article by someone who apparently looks at all cars with a degree of disgust. Is this 'war on cars' ever going to end or does Yglesias want all drivers to swear fealty to the gods of bipeds and bicycles? Novak fucked up and I doubt even if he had killed the poor fellow on foot would Novak feel any sympathy--that is what you get with someone willing to buy a fucking Corvette after all. But all this does is give the pro-bipeds another soap-box to stand on and rail against cars. I just really don't want to hear about it for a while. When the biped crowd comes to their senses and start advocating real change to driving laws, which would include talking to drivers, then I'll take them seriously. Otherwise, their righteousness is just a lot of hot air and doesn't do anything to prevent things like this from happening again. Get off your soap box and start doing something about the problem. Christ, for someone as smart as Yglesias you'd think he'd get that part.

Ha! I'm Not The Only One Now, Bitches!

A Treasure In The Trash: $20K Diamond Earrings Found - thenewswizard @ Truemors

I haven't gone as far as going to a landfill to look for a lost piece of jewelry I accidentally threw away, but I have done the dumpster diving. It's actually not that hard to toss a piece of jewelry in the trash. Paper towels and a lack of attention are the usual culprits. We do have a test for ring sizing that came from a similar story. One of our customers was going through an old-fashion toll booth and threw her quarters in, along with her diamond engagement ring. The toll booth attendants weren't allowed to open the containers on site so by the time the quarters reached their collection point the ring had naturally disappeared. Hence, the toll booth test: if you can fling your hand out and not have the ring fly off then it's probably the right size. This is only one of many ways you can lose jewelry.

Adventures in Stupidity

Why is the TSA taking out nipple rings and pantsing amputees? - Cory Doctorow @ BoingBoing

Oh, this is a great way to improve your agency's image. I can't imagine what kind of hell would go down if the TSA tried this on my dad. I figure tasers will enter the picture at some point. And of course, the rest of the family would learn how much handcuffs hurt as we're escorted to undisclosed locations.
On the other hand, it's astoundingly stupid of the TSA to act this way. I'm rather sure the Americans with Disabilities Act will end up pantsing the TSA in court. Can you just picture the number of organizations ready to pounce on the TSA for something like this? It'll be a flurry of legal briefs and supoenas. Oh, what fun the righteous lawyers at the ACLU will have.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Troubles from a Jeweler's Bench

I fucked up a platinum setting I was making. Made the taper too narrow for the stones. At least I could melt down and reuse the metal. Second fuck up came from a gent's ring with four rows of twist bezel wire. Now I have to make new wire, twist it, flatten it, and then attach it to the ring. There's two days of work right there.
In the meantime, apartment plans closing in, I've been listening to a lot of Jay-Z and Working for a Nuclear-Free City lately and I now have enough Paxil on hand to choke a monkey. Maybe that'll calm the bastard down. Oh, and We Are Wolves own my mind right now. Must go read more Batman and Blindness.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Patient A Good Reporter Does Not Make

Well, I haven't gotten a direct answer from Rosie Swash but there is a new article on the Okereke-Lydon fight--this time with reporter Helen Pidd sharing authorship--up at the Guardian that merged the two previously disparate articles into one coherent whole. Pitchfork has a column on the fight by Amy Phillips that lists the Guardian as the first to report on the fight. And a quick Google News search reveals a litany of articles from various sites reporting slight varations of the same story; the general consensus being Lydon is a bigoted asshole while Okereke was being nothing more than an eager fan talking to one of his influences.
As I said before, I'm not sitting in judgement, either on the fight or the two conflicting articles. That said, Okereke's reported shyness with the media and Lydon's famous temper make Lydon's defense, and indeed Lydon himself, seem small and weak. Okereke, on the other hand, comes off as well-spoken and disciplined in his released statement. As it stands, Okereke appears as the better man while Lydon has a cloud of racism hanging around him. That is not the kind of image one wants to project, even if it turns out unfounded.
Meanwhile, the addition of a second and general (or non-specific if you will) reporter to the article indirectly confirms my suspicion that the two articles were written in haste and not properly merged as new information came in. I suppose I could say something mean about Ms. Swash's reporting but I think she did what she could with the facts at hand. More importantly, she got the story out in the public eye first and that deserves some praise considering the number of bloggers and reporters constantly digging for new information. So while I would have to deduct points for incomplete reporting, her scooping of the story outweighes the confusion of the two articles.

Bloc Party vs. Sex Pistols

I'm a bit confused and have been since this morning. Going through my blog reader this morning an article over at the Guardian caught my eye. Seems that Kele Okereke, frontman and singer for the band Bloc Party, got into fisticuffs with John Lydon, better known as Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols. Lydon is quoted in the article as claiming Okereke was the instigator and any allegations of racial attacks by him or his entourage were baseless. Lydon goes further to say that Okereke was just looking for some publicity.
Now Bloc Party just released a new song two weeks ago on their website. And the last time I saw the band play they were still bringing in lots of people. So I don't think the band is hurting for press coverage. Besides, why would Okereke throw down with Johnny Rotten of all people? The band hasn't built itself on a rough and tumble punk rocker image so why start now?
Then I came across this posting at ultra8201 linking to another article by the same Rosie Swash of the Guardian. This new posting relates a different story that the fight "occurred on Saturday evening at the Summercase festival in Barcelona while the bands were socialising backstage." Swash reports that after Okereke asked Lydon about a renunion tour of Public Limited Ltd, a band Lydon formed after the Sex Pistols, Lydon and his entourage became aggressive with the words "your problem is your black attitude" being said before members of two other bands, Foal and the Kaiser Chiefs, came to Okereke's defense.
Clearly the two articles conflict, not just in who's side of the story you're reading, but also in their complete lack of cross-linking and information, aside from the basic fact that a fight occurred between Okereke and Lydon. After shooting a message to Richard at ultra8201 he expressed the same confusion saying, "I dont see Bloc Party pushing for press this way or initiating any arguments at all. I interviewed them at ACL and they are anything but aggressive."
So here I sit, waiting for an email back from Ms. Swash, wondering what the hell is going on. It's not that big of a deal. I like Bloc Party a lot but I don't swoon for them. And the Sex Pistols are more of an institution than a band for me. I have no particular beef with them or Lydon in particular. I just want to know why the conflict between articles written by the same person but standing in strong odds with each other? I'm reserving judgement here, both on who was at fault in the fight and over the quality of reporting. Still, this isn't the kind of reporting one wants as it's confusing and almost misleading. I hope Ms. Swash can clear things up for me.

With Smart Driving Comes Great Savings

Gas-Saving Tips for the Savvy Consumer - Sakina Rangwala & Amy Adkins @ Washington Post

As I've continued to modify my car I've placed engine efficiency at the top of my list when considering a new part purchase. The last two parts I bought were a shorter shift lever and a new diverter valve for the closed loop turbocharger. I don't have a large engine (1.8l with the turbo that produces only 170hp at stock, but probably a little more now) so the engine is rather efficient as it is. But there are ways of improving the engine's output and thus reducing the amount of fuel needed to keep it turning at certain speeds. Aside from the regular maintence there are other things one can do to improve engine, drivetrain and overall performance of nearly any consumer vehicle.
Rangwala has compiled a list of practices and ideas that can improve fuel economy along with a few misconceptions or dangerous practices one should avoid. Overall, she's put together a decent list that most drivers can follow without drastically changing the way they drive. I do have two items that I think Rangwala has gotten partially wrong. The first is the air filter. While your air filter does need replacing at regular intervals, a new air filter alone will not give you any noticeable fuel savings. But replacing the whole air intake box with a cold air intake will. As Rangwala noted, modern cars come equiped with an air intake sensor called the Mass Air Filter that typically sits right off the air box and measures the temperature and volume of air entering the car. The car's computer, or ECU, adjusts the amount of fuel entering the combustion chamber so the proper fuel-air mixture is reached. A cold air intake is designed to lower the temperature of the incoming air. Cooler air is denser and the denser the air the more you can put into the combustion chamber. The MAF and the ECU will compensate for the change in air volume and temperature by adding more fuel to the mixture. While it sounds like you would use more fuel you actually end up using less as the engine has a more efficient combustion driving the pistons. A five to ten percent increase in fuel economy is common with the replacement of the stock air intake. The cost of aftermarket cold air intakes can run between $150 and $400 but considering the price of fuel it's a worthwhile investment.
The other item Rangwala muddles a bit is the one on fuel additives. I think she should have differentiated between so-called 'octane boosters' and fuel system cleaners. Boosting octane doesn't do a damn thing for your car, particularly one that's built to take a certain octane of fuel in the first place. In point of fact, raising the octane in a car that's not designed for higher octanes can actually damage the engine. The other item, the fuel system cleaner, does help your car. By keeping the fuel system free of debris and cleaning the intake valves you end up with a smoother running engine. Of course, using a fuel system cleaner also will require that you stick to a strict oil change schedule. Some of the debris in the system gets burned off into the exhaust while some of it gets cycled into the oil system. It's not a big deal to do and the payoff is significant, even if you don't notice it.
The other items Rangwala lists are all pretty good, even if some are just plain common sense ideas. Planning your route, keeping the load in the car light, maintaining proper tire pressure and all of that are things everyone can easily do. I keep coming back to a line I read on a tuning site: you don't see fat race car drivers. Even your own weight can have an effect on fuel consumption. Weight reduction allows several other advantages beyond lessening the strain on the engine. A lighter car is a more nimble car. It is also a car that can take better advantage of serious coasting and light hypermiling. It's harder to do in an automatic-shifting car but taking advantage of downslopes and long stretches to a red light by putting the car in neutral offers significant improvement in fuel economy. The basic idea is to put physics and the laws of motion to work for you. A lighter car can coast for a long time without losing too much of its kinetic energy. Even a slight gradiation in the road can allow you to maintain your speed while letting the engine idle. Done properly you can even come off a downward slope and make it over another slope with little to no use of the engine.
While Rangwala does a decent job of rounding up the most important things a driver should take note of if they want to increase efficiency she ends on something of a sour note. It is true that buying gas in the morning will not increase the amount of gas you get she misses another point about fueling up in the morning that could improve the air quality of a city if enough drivers do it. By refueling in the morning versus after work you save the car from expelling gas vapor into the air. Have enough drivers follow this practice and the overall air quality would see some improvement. This follows with the nature of all the other items Rangwala mentions; they're all common sense ideas that just require a minimal amount of forethought. With gas prices as they are now, I hope drivers start putting that more into consideration.