Archive for the ‘weird’ Category

Imaginary software fanfic!

June 19, 2008

The other day, I was imagining an mp3 player of sorts, something that would allow the user to manipulate a variety of data about a virtual listener to generate playlists reflecting their age, location, and time. It’s basically the reverse of something like LastFM– instead of running into people and discovering them through their music, users of this program (which I’m calling “Malty”) would discover the music through virtual persons of their own design.

I decided that it would be a fun project to create a couple mock-ups of Malty– not only do I have no coding experience to create a program, but such an idea seems rather far-fetched anyways! Still, it’s been fun… something like software fanfic, if you think about it. Stephen King’s “Word Processor of the Gods” might fit the genre, too.

To create the mock-ups, I imported various screen caps into Photoshop, mostly of Photoshop and EAC preference windows. A little bit of cutting and pasting work, and voila! I present Malty 1.0, fanfic for the most extreme version of vaporware ever. Feel free to register your copy of Malty by leaving a comment!

PLEASE BE SURE TO VIEW THESE MOCK-UPS IN FULL SIZE!!

As you can see, Malty allows users to select the age and gender of the virtual listener. A “race weighting” feature allows users to generate playlists for virtual listeners ranging from extremely sheltered to cosmopolitan in outlook. The “religion shaping” tool can add realistic flourishes, using Malty’s patent-pending Pezee-Myers algorithm. The “odd formats” option introduces otherwise out-of-date formats into the mix; for example, a teen in the 1980’s could theoretically select from 78 RPM recordings.

Where Malty 1.0 is particularly exceptional, however, is in the pioneering field of realistic external sound generation. As no music is experienced in a vacuum, users can toggle the external sound playback function to generate lifelike incidental noises heard alongside the standard playback feature. Virtual listener profiles created within city environments will produce typical urban sounds appropriate to their day, all heard through the lens of your listener’s selected environment. Registered users can also import everyday sounds using the HarS plugin.

Social support is a given. Malty is iTunes-enabled, with auto-downloading of any playback recordings to user-defined libraries, or share playback lists across LastFM. Integrated Skypecasting allows virtual listeners to host “listening parties,” with 100% virtual listener control available– your virtual listener will interact with other created listeners worldwide, with temporal and cultural mashups providing hours of entertainment.

The time settings section allows Malty users to precisely select the time and duration of the playback span. Dates spanning approximately 4,000 years are available, however, years preceding the known history of recorded music will generate modern reproductions of historical and hypothetical music– e.g, Bach played by the New York Philharmonic, or interpolations of how a Hurrian hymn may have sounded.

Venue compensation lets Malty weight playback selections to account for listener profiles exposed to popular music via live settings; such as concert halls, discoteques, vaudeville, dive bars, or even coffee shops. A wide variety of settings are being developed by users everyday, utilizing Malty’s open-source code and venue-generator tool. The “parent” button can be toggled on and off during playback to simulate mom or dad returning home– try it during playback involving explicit lyrics!

Various playback methods are also included, with appropriate historical players available within the listener profile. Finally, users can browse the “situation library” to accurately frame the playback list– the same listener profile will generate different possible lists based on this information. Choose nearly any situation from cross-country roadtrip to quiet basement flat, pre-suicide to post-coital!

Future versions of Malty will allow situation “gradients,” for example, moving from over time from “drunken spree” into “slumber party.” Millions of combinations!

Earthquake!

April 18, 2008

I was awakened last night by an earthquake— pretty much known to be the only thing that can wake me up at night, haha. My wife, the former Californian, gave a mid-yawn guess that it was a 6.0 and that we weren’t too far from the epicenter. Not too shabby, Miss Information!

What I’m reading this morning says it was a magnitude 5.4, and that we’re about 100 miles off the location of the quake. I’ve spent some time reviewing the surely-underutilized Illinois Emergency Management Agency “earthquake safety and preparedness” pages, seeing as how I really didn’t know what to do in such an event. In Illinois, earthquake readiness is kind of like planning for a manatee attack… not exactly the first thing on your mind.

I’ll grant you, living on the New Madrid fault comes up now and again. It’s sort of an elephant in the room among Southern Illinoisians; a ticking time bomb we all tend to accept with a certain fatalistic “what can you do?” attitude. Doubtless, it will be popping up in conversations around the area all day.

Still, the eyewitness accounts from the 1811-12 New Madrid earthquakes are terrifying. In a series of quakes peaking at magnitude 8, an area ten times as large as that affected by the famous 1906 quakes of San Francisco was beaten for a span of two months. For a short time, an uplift underneath the river actually caused the Mississippi to flow upstream!

Everything went south

February 14, 2008

I won’t be blogging this week… or hosting tomorrow’s radio show. I’ll catch you all up on my absolutely insane week when things settle. But for now, let’s just say that it involves lots of ice, lots of falling down, lots of vomit, lots of hospital visits, a house in mid-explosion, and amnesia.

Really.

Burning in pink noise!

February 5, 2008

I’ve returned from the frontier, where sound and music meet the gullible enthusiast— yes, I’ve spent time in the audiophile trenches today, attempting to find useful information about my next headphone purchase.

Apparently, I live in an area of the country deemed unfit for the sale of anything greater than colorful earbuds, whereas I am hoping to pick up a set of full-size around-ear headphones. I didn’t think this was too big of a task, but it looks like I’m going to have to visit St. Louis to find anything worthwhile.

Even though I didn’t come away with much useful information about my intended purchase, I did find out about the rather humorous practice of “burning in” headphones.

Essentially, “burning in” a set of headphones is supposed to be like breaking in a new pair of shoes or a baseball glove– given appropriate time and volume, the headphone diaphragms can “settle” into place. Audiophiles naturally claim that this is very important, and have come up with a wide variety of methods for the “burning in” process.

Incredibly, the most accepted method seems to be playing 100 to 200 hours of pink noise through each new pair of headphones! Others use white noise, sine wave sweeps, or ordinary music… but it’s pink noise that seems to have captured the audiophile imagination.

Unfortunately, there’s the question of how to OBTAIN pink noise…

“Well i guess i’ve bought into burn-in… and I was wondering if anyone knew where you can get it [pink noise] for free? Is it complex enough that you need 15 minutes or can you use one minute or less just on a loop? Does anyone have a small file that they could share?”rwest1389

Glancing at my shelves full of Merzbow, Emil Beaulieu, KK Null, Masonna, Praew Jik, etc is making me feel like a drug dealer given free access to the junior high playground. “You want pink noise? Shiiiiit… try some of THIS, it’ll blow your mind….”

The kiddies crack me up:

“so i just got some air cushions and i want to burn them in but not sure where to get pink noise?”xenochimera

“Is there some sort of ISO (I got a cable modem) I can download and burn so I can break in my V6s (when I get em)?” –massappeal85

“I’m not quite sure what pink noise is…but I hear its good for burning in headphones. If so, what is it, and more importantly how do I acquire it so that I may use it?” –DavidMahler

Even more hilarious was the file poor David was directed to– 200 megabytes of pink noise! But it was a FLAC… my money says Massappeal85’s ISO sounded better, haha.

And it keeps going! This is a topic of Great Concern to the audiophiles!

“I keep seeing pink noise being recommended for breaking-in phones. Just what is pink noise and how do I get me some?” –vaper

“I’ve been researching and reading and came across something called: “Pink noise” as a means to breaking in a pair of headphones. I’m writing now, for the prime purpose of asking what this is “pink noise,” how to produce it and how to make use of it with a new pair of headphones?” –Dr.J

“Does anyone have a mp3 or AIFF file of pink noise they can send me? It would be greatly appreciated.” –Phraxos

The real fun is where the audiophiles start showing off their pathological aversion to noise….

“I read up on pinknoise yet I’m not sure how to set the volume of it on my headphone. How loud should it be? I’ve read it should be a little above or at normal listening level, but usualy I dont listen to static that much so I can’t tell what normal listening level is. Does that meen just play some play it at the same volume I usualy play my music at?” –weste47

“i’ve been suggested from my dealer not to burn in with pink noise, i’m wondering if pink noise put stress on the PK1 driver” –Bozz_Keren

“Is pink noise supposed to sound like ocean waves? I mean it sounds horrible but is the tone similar b/c I’m not sure if there’s “different types” or if I got a good one.” –SBD

As Yoda once mentioned, “Fear leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering…” With this in mind, I present you with the dark side of audiophile-noise relations:

“I hate noise! Two of my sacds, Kind of Blue and Getz/Gilberto, have noticeable crackling or sizzling noises accompanying the instruments. On various Kind of Blue tracks, I can hear subtle crackling along with the musical tone coming out of the horns. On Getz/Gilberto, I hear loud crackling accompanying the bass notes for the most of the length of the fourth track. Also, I can hear the buzzing of what sounds like an overly sensitive mic on Astrud Gilberto’s vocal line in “Girl from Ipanema”. I generally like the fact that my sr325s are detailed phones, but I find such recording artifacts quite annoying. For those who have heard these popular recordings, would I benefit from slightly less detailed phones, or are these noises something I’ll have to get used to?” –Dimitri

” I found a strange noise evey time I play the female voice in the music every time when the singer sing a word there is a “hass, hass” noise accomplish with singers voice… is my e3c defect ?? or my setting problem??” –miaofat

“You can hear literally all electronical interferences, including the fan, hard drive, dvd-rom(thats loud as hell!), and even mouse movement! It just drives me insane…” –ahdat

“does an external plugin device exist to cancel out the noise?” –pchong

“The SA5000 is a scary monster; hearing pulsing static at 1 second intervals… I then suspected my ears were messed up. Nope, I never hear the pulses when I don’t have headpones on. What exactly was the problem? Then I noticed something. The pulses of static buzz happened on an average of 1 second intervals and actually varied somewhat over time. This is absolutely abnormal. Whoa. Was it picking up my… hearbeat… my pulse? I placed my fingers against my neck to test my pulse just a few minutes ago with my headphones on. My goodness. They were in synch. What the hell is with these headphones? :veryevil:” –Veniogenesis

From a BANNED USER: “on a side note, I love listening actively to shortwave radio distortion. It’s a very complex and to me, beautiful sound.” –aaroncort

Almost immediately afterward: “Man, you in a league all by yourself — lean back in your SR325i, listen to some pink noise, and sip some scotch. Um, who needs music?” –stereophile

Alien music

November 13, 2007

So I’ve been constructing little creatures out of Nickelodeon “Tangles” this evening, just putzing around, basically. These toys are pretty damn ugly– like a bastard offspring of an K’nex and an 80’s Kraft Mac ‘n Cheese commercial– UGLY.

97tangles.jpg

Anyways, having made two such creatures, linked by a fluorescent orange umbilicus, I began dancing them about on the floor. Music being a necessity for these creatures to dance, I made up some alien music…

burr burr burr pop splot burble burble grr pah pah grum burr splot

Or something like that. Apparently, in my mind, alien music sounds a lot like a pitched-down clothes dryer attempting to wrinkle-release a giant tampon. This being vitally important information, I figured I’d share this story with you.

If you have first-hand knowledge of what alien music really sounds like, or own a CD where someone actually put giant tampons in a clothes dryer; feel free to leave a comment.

Cloned human girls bored, turn to radio hosting

September 27, 2007

This week’s broadcast of “It’s Too Damn Early” will be followed by a special episode of “Kids Kamp,” hosted by DaveX, and DJ Mo— both of whom prefer their Photoshopping often and obvious. This should be an interesting broadcast, you won’t want to miss hearing whatever we think kids should be listening to!

Tune in online this Saturday morning, from 4-6:30 a.m. CST, for “It’s Too Damn Early’s” experimental stylings, or just drop in from 6:30-8 a.m. CST, to catch us pulling a kid’s show out of my hat!

Update: Looks like a friend of DJ Mo will be co-hosting as well! 

Strangest phrase to send your child to school with…

September 5, 2007

It’s a bit off-topic, but I thought I’d share… the strangest phrase to send your child off to school with:

This morning, I was having a conversation with my daughter (DJ Mo, remember?) while waiting for her school bus to arrive. She was describing a basic science experiment her class was performing– putting a plant in food-colored water to see how it travels up the stem. I mentioned to her how this process of experimentation was at the heart of science, and how that differed from religious “thinking,” which simply poses ideas and accepts them on faith.

The conversation progressed into a riff on science, with a lot of “what-ifs” being thrown around. My daughter told me that one idea she thought was especially interesting was to use a “machine” of some sort to put kids in, that could read their DNA and tell you what they’d be like when they grew up. I explained that while no such machine existed, that there are a number of things that could be examined to determine some of a child’s future, such as their eating habits and parent’s health.

Now, I’m pretty sure she was more interested in whether or not her brother’s hair was going to change from his rather unlikely blond to fit the rest of the family than the more questionable uses such a machine might pose, but I decided to talk with her a little about this anyhow.

I explained that some people had previously used the concepts of genetics to push for laws that would only allow “perfect” people to be bred, and to disallow others from having children. I explained that while genetics research could yield many interesting and useful results, that it was sometimes hard for some to draw an ethical line at where to stop– thus leading to the idea of eugenics. I cautioned her with the old sci-fi saw that in a world of eugenics, there might not be room for imperfect folks like us.

It’s heady stuff for 7:00 in the morning, and she was naturally a little upset to see some of the possible ramifications of her machine. As the bus pulled up, the driver opened the door. I called out after her, forgetting I was in full earshot of the driver:

“Have a great day at school, Mo! Don’t worry about eugenics!”

John Cage, a charlatan!?

August 28, 2007

Yesterday, I finally decided to register at the “i hate music” forums. Blame it on the combination of a Sachiko M thread and the fact that there are very few people I can talk to about such music locally. I’m also hoping that some of the better writers might take a look at my reviews– it’s no secret that I’d appreciate some constructive criticism in regards to my music writing.

Having been primed by the interesting discussions going on at “ihm,” I was in a receptive mood to click on a link in the comments section at Pharyngula that described a blog with the topic of “matters musical and high-cultural.” It turns out I should have paid more attention to that term “high-cultural”…

John Cage, on the game show

Anyhow, the link took me to the blog “Sounds & Fury,” where a New Yorker writes aptly and passionately about “classical” music, opera, and the myriad of fascinating events surrounding these works.

Admittedly, I have much to learn about so-called “classical” music. Like many areas of sound, it is daunting in its own way; full of new artists, terms, and unfamiliar history that takes some time to work into before the pieces begin to fit. Jazz used to be much the same way for me– a perplexing, amorphous mess filled with endless liner notes detailing the contributions of faceless names and mysterious places.

Despite my rather ridiculous start, (my first jazz purchase being John Coltrane’s “Meditations,” of all things!) I dug in, struggled through those liner notes, listened to the recordings until they started making sense, and picked up book after book to absorb the history and ideas driving the music. Unsurprisingly, it worked. Ten years later, I’m comfortable discussing and listening to jazz music– and while I still have a lot to learn and hear, I’m no longer bewildered while browsing the bins at a good record store.

Eventually, I’ll feel the same way about “classical” music. That’s why I read sites like Sounds & Fury; I want to dig into these accumulations of knowledge and make the pieces begin to fit together. That’s why I was particularly surprised to find that Sounds & Fury is written by a closed-minded caveman.

Go check out the Sounds & Fury main page, and see what you notice– yes, that’s it… up in the top right corner: “A Very Brief Thought On New Music.” I can’t believe I didn’t see it right away, but it went unnoticed while I browsed the archives. Then I saw it. “Hooray!”; I thought. “This guy writes about new music too!”

And then I saw it:

“Of that so-called New Music of which I’ve direct experience, almost all of it not recognized immediately as blatantly and tiresomely derivative tripe requires at some level, and to greater or lesser degree, the active participation of the intellect in order to appreciate or, in some cases, even begin to comprehend. That, to my way of thinking, is the very definition of non-music — more, and much worse, a veritable perverse contradiction of just what it means to be music. In short, anti-music, much of it concerned with sound per se rather than with purely musical ideas, and much of that traceable to the influence of the charlatan John Cage.”

And he goes on:

“Which is not to say such can’t (or shouldn’t) be enjoyed, even relished, at some other level. But at the level of music — that condition to which all art aspires — it fails utterly and abjectly. And that’s principally why, not much time left me for music listening as the human span goes, I’ve little or no time for it. There’s simply too much music — genuine music — I’ve either not yet experienced, or not experienced or understood to the deepest level of which I’m capable, to spend valuable time sussing out the ostensible musical value of such presumptive music which, on initial hearing, I find to be no music at all.”

You know me. I couldn’t let this go unexamined. I love experimental music, and must surely be counted as among the most passionate and enthusiastic of its listeners. I can’t begin to fathom the magnitude of influence Cage’s ideas and works have had on the recordings and performances I so enjoy… To see an otherwise-knowledgeable listener write than he was a charlatan was unthinkable. I fired off an e-mail:

“…the John Cage = charlatan bit compelled me to write, the purpose being to ask you to give any decent reason why you’d say such a thing. He may not be your cup of tea, but damn, the man is definitely a composer. He may be one of the most important composers of the 20th century; I’m amazed any thoughtful person could find otherwise.”

To which I received:

“Oh? And just what, exactly, makes Cage “definitely a composer,” and “one of the most important composers of the 20th century,” other than his influence on those looking for an easy way out of sounding in their compositions like pale and effete copies of those musical giants who preceded them?”

So the guy has some balls, no doubt. Still, I wasn’t letting him off the hook. I asked my question first, and rightly claimed that he should defend his “charlatan” accusation before I’d address my own statements. He replied:

“I’ve already stated my reasoning. It’s contained directly in my statement about the charlatan Cage. To repeat: “In short, anti-music, much of it concerned with sound per se rather than with purely musical ideas….””

That’s it? This was the big defense? Mr. Sounds & Fury says it’s not music, so John Cage isn’t a composer. Well! One wonders what he was doing on the Pharyngula website in the first place– championing that omnipresent creationist “the bible says so” argument?

I wrote back, giving concrete examples of some of Cage’s compositions ranging from the highly-detailed (such as Etudes Borealis) to those allowing for much greater influence of chance (such as HPSCHD, which let players shuffle the score). I also discussed some of the main ideas Cage demonstrated and worked with, to show his enormous importance in 20th century music:

“John Cage gives us the following startling notions about music: 1) That there can be no true silence, only unexamined sound. 2) That the border between “noise” and “music” is far less real than previously imagined, and very well may not exist. 3) That rhythm is the basic structural element of all music, being that duration is the only common element of sound and silence. These are huge ideas, and it is difficult at best to fail to notice the time and effort at understanding them taken since Cage’s introduction of these concepts. While you may disagree with the various aesthetics wrought by their birth, I can hardly see how you could claim John Cage is NOT one of the most important composers of the 20th century. Who indeed would you put in his stead?”

I figured I had this guy hemmed in. I mean, seriously, I can’t take a step into new music without running into one of Cage’s ideas. But I underestimated Sound & Fury’s slipperiness, and apparent ability to self-medicate:

“In his stead? He has no “stead”. He’s a nobody as a composer. A total cipher. As I’ve said: a charlatan.”

I don’t know what I expected from someone who recommends using Internet Explorer for viewing his website! I asked him to back up his statements, or I was using him for blog fodder. Obviously, that’s what happened.

At the heart of S&F’s miniature “defense” is this strange notion that somehow, the sounds that emanate from an easily-recognized musical instrument are “music,” but that other things are “just” sound. Or something like that– frankly, it’s hard to tell what this guy thinks. Tossing around lightweight phrases like “purely music” is simple, but S&F seems to lack the mental effort necessary to catch up with his rampaging chutzpah.

In the closing paragraph of his “Brief Thought on New Music” section, Sounds & Fury poses the question, “Is all this the musical equivalent of what it means to be a Luddite, or, worse, a woodenheaded philistine?”

To which I reply: “Yes, all of the above.”

I like photobooths!

July 26, 2007

Ever since I was little, I have enjoyed taking my picture at photobooths, as well as seeing the photos that others have taken. Every so often, I’d find a lost photo, and add it to my informal collection of random odd photographs. After seeing the film “Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain,” which featured a character who collects photobooth pictures, I started looking at these photos in a new way. I was surprised to see how frequently I could find discarded photos, given the tiniest of efforts at checking my local booths.

I’d been wanting to put these online for a while now, but was not looking forward to the repetitive scanning and re-sizing this would entail. Regardless, here they are! The first seven sets are obviously my photobooth owner, who takes these pictures while maintaining the machine. He is aware that I collect his photos, and will occasionally provide me with a particularly interesting one he has found by slipping it into the side of the machine for me to grab later on. He also has a terrific collection of photos, mainly of girls flirting with the camera– the best of these often end up under the plexiglass cover of the photobooth itself– a sort of shrine to college girls willing to fondle each other, or “kiss” the camera.

As you can see, my own collection is much less focused:

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Liveblogging! Commentary for “ITDE” 6/30/07

June 30, 2007

First off, I want to wish my daughter a happy birthday. STARTLING MONIKER readers know her as DJ Mo, but may not be aware that much of her photography appears throughout this blog, especially in the commentary entries. Happy birthday, Mo!

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Neil Diamond, Black Metal Superstar

May 7, 2007

I bought some cassette tapes at a yard sale the other day– among them, Neil Diamond’s “Live in America” album, yet another Neil where I’d know all the songs, but hadn’t actually heard this exact album. The double CD has him singing Hava Nagila, but not my tape– damn.

But my tape has something that nobody else’s tape has. My tape has Neil Diamond in full-on black metal mode.

Digital illustration by DaveX

Well, not really. Due to some fault of the tape (and I’ve never heard anything even remotely like this before) the first five or six seconds sound exactly like a motorcycle. It was so believable that I was wondering how I had ever missed Neil Diamond riding a motorcycle onto stage. Pretty soon I realized this was some tape malfunction, right around the time Neil started his black metal vocal version of “America.”Yep. There was Neil, doing the Cookie Monster growling vox– “Faaaaaaaar! We’ve been traveling FAAAAARRRR!”

Both my wife and I were more than a little taken aback. This was a side of Neil I wasn’t previously aware of. And yeah, it was a lot of fun. I started making evil hand gestures, growling along with Neil as he ripped into the chorus, which now took on an overtone of invasion– “They’re coming to Americaaaaa! TODAAAAY! TODAAAAAY!”

Neil was getting all NSBM on me, as the tape somehow continued its crazed-viking onslaught. Up for a laugh, we went along with it– a little head-banging, throwing up the horns, and nearly spitting up my Coke when the tape drug out the bit about the “eye of the storm,” pitching it deep into Neil’s gut.

By the time “Hello, Again” came on, Neil’s black metal tendencies had mostly worn off. Every so often, the tape would sputter again, but it was clear that the odd confluence of tape and stereo wouldn’t happen again– Neil’s short-lived day as a black metal vocalist was over.