1. Disintegration Loops

    I recently discovered a new musical artist I enjoy named William Basinski. The first time I heard it was on the Last.fm station for artists similar to Geir Jenssen. I had no idea who he was though I enjoyed the slow building and atmospheric loops from the track D|P 6.William+Basinski

    A quick Google search revealed (after the 15-20 minute track finished) that this was from an album titled The Disintegration Loops. The album was recorded from loops on magnetic tapes that because of age decayed until they would never be played again. By archiving the loops digitally they would never be played the same again from their analog source. A fairly interesting concept in our copy and paste world.

    Oh, and he recorded this the night of September 11, 2001 in his apartment one nautical mile from the World Trade Center in Brooklyn. The moment that people said changed the world, at least until the next event that changes the world. Did I mention Michael Jackson died?

    I also found a Pitchfork review of the album giving it a 9.4 out of 10. I despise Pitchfork. Mainly because they rarely review artists I like and when they do they rarely discuss the actual work in question. Largely their reviewers tend to focus their take on the fans, why they do not like a genre, or are simply trying too hard. I think David Cross said it best.

    The said review goes in length about Basinski’s process in the tapes being destroyed. It remains unclear the reviewer knew this and to be fair he says “The process may be the hook for this sprawling four-disc set.” This might be the best Pitchfork review I’ve read to date as he was not trying to be clever by trying a sophomoric trick.

    Reviewing music seems challenging. Denis Dutton describes it best in his OpEd piece “Shoot the Piano Player.” He begins with the following story that in the mid 2000’s had the piano/classical music world piqued:

    It seemed almost too good to be true, and in the end it was. A conscientious pianist who had enjoyed an active if undistinguished career in London falls ill and retreats to a small town. Here she undertakes a project to record virtually the entire standard classical repertoire. Her recordings, CDs made when she was in her late 60s and 70s, are staggering, showing a masterful technique, a preternatural ability to adapt to different styles and a depth of musical insight hardly seen elsewhere.

    It was too good to be true. The artist Joyce Hatto‘s husband has considerable audio engineering credentials. He took it upon himself to take recordings of other obscure and younger artists and pass them off as his dying wife’s own work. Before this people were astounded at the beauty of the swan songs produced by an undiscovered talent. Was it really the beauty of these recordings or the beauty of the story? Piano aficionados– more than most other audiophiles– generally view their music through an objective lens. In the case of Joyce Hatto, a good story fogged the lens.

    Thankfully, I’m glad I discovered William Basinski without the compelling background story. He may live in the same city, in the same borough, and have a thought provoking process but at least I know the music stood on its own for me.

    Personally I prefer the robotic reviews by Last.fm and Pandora to any music review with bias. “It features electronica roots, trippy soundscapes, headnodic beats, unsyncopated ensemble rhythms and subtle buildup/breakdown” sums up things nicely.

  2. Jesus Grassdancin' Christ, Obama… Bud Light?


    Alright, I knew what I was getting into, not going to pretend I didn’t.  Obama’s a politician and you don’t get further than your front door in politics if you don’t have a healthy dose of the Zelig in you.  Some of the backslapper, the faux everyman, the telegenic blank slate that talks pretty and says little.  But c’mon…

    CBS says that for his cop and proffessor ‘hey let’s talk about racial profiling bay-bee’ beer session Obama’s choosing Bud Light.

    This is intolerable.  Are they playing beer pong?  Is that why he’s going for watery domestic? I don’t know about you, but I like my elected representatives to be smarter than me, with better taste.

    I remain too indignant to say anything useful about the Fourth Amendment or the numerous descendents of Niall.

  3. The Internet is Pictures of Cats: X-Entertainment


    That last post reminded me of my old gateway drug to internet time-wasting: X-Entertainment.com. And it’s surprisingly not porn!

    The proprietor of said storehouse of half-remembered pop culture is a gent named Matt who describes his domain thusly:

    Basically, the entire site is a tribute to anything I feel, or have felt, passionately about in my life. It’s really not an ’80s nostalgia site,’ the reason it’s garnered that reputation is because I’m big on nostalgia and I was a child in that decade. To say it’s by design though would overstate it a bit. The main purpose of X-E is to bring to light many of the more obscure, geeky parts of pop-culture that often get buried as years go by. Whether it’s an old movie, toy, video game, television show, or candy bar – if I feel strongly enough to write about it, I probably will.

    Things look a wee bit out of date (that about page has been saying Matt’s 23 for… well, since I was younger than 23 at least) but there’s nearly no end to the site with all its back articles about whatever pop culture flotsam has been rattling around Matt’s brains since the 80s.  What distinguishes it and makes it so addicting is Matt’s personal take and odd mini-dramas acted out by action figures and other inanimate objects towards the purpose of describing something else equally obscure.

    Remember, this site was up and running a few years before social networking and Youtube combined to create the perfect storm of nostalgia composting.  The past wasn’t always so immediately available.  Matt was paying for our sins of forgetting by spending many a night bleeding cash while drunk on eBay.

    At any rate, I’ve sunk more time into combing through this site than I ever did in the depths of my Snood addiction back in Aught Zero.  Give it a look.

  4. Lost Sodas Are Our Generation's Lou Gehrig


    This post over at BuzzFeed got me googling old soft drinks I spend far too much time thinking about, especially considering how little I drink soda.  Still, discontinued products form something of a shared culture of loss that you can discuss with anyone in pretty wide age bracket.

    What with the pace of technological and pop cultural innovation, speaking of shared experiences growing up in a generation doesn’t make much sense anymore.  The half-life of popular shows, songs, fads is short and these products are targeted at finer and finer slices of the population, especially at slices divvied up by age.

    Food and drink, though, while not timeless, at least can be shared alike by a pretty broad range.  As for sodas, well, fizzy corn syrup is a fairly universal lust or at least an inescapable fact.

    One soda BuzzFeed skipped over that factors into my memories is a Canada-only permutation of Pepsi that split the difference between diet and regular: Pepsi Max.  I remember being awed that A: Canadians ate cold, cheeseless pizza as a picnic food (???) and B: For some reason they got better Pepsi that walked a perfect line between tasting like rocket exhaust and instant diabetes.  This soda nostalgia is made more difficult by the low vocabulary of PepsiCo’s marketing department, who decided to recycle the name Pepsi Max for a slew of   reboots, running the gamut from some kinda cola version of eggnog to the recent high caffeine, ginseng infused, zero-calorie version of the black stuff.

    As an aside, is anyone else freaked out by things advertised as having zero calories?  Are you guys serious that there is nothing in this that my body can process and burn and yet I’m still drinking it?  What’s in here, silicone?

    I should also pay tribute to the generosity of the marketers behind Surge for choosing my humble hometown as a test market for their weird Mt. Dew knockoff.  For a whole summer, idling Surge trucks were the safer alternative to liplocking with a busted water fountain at schools, parks and really anywhere I could be found rubbing wax on a curb.

    Though did anyone ever play any of those capture-the-Surge games depicted in the commercials?

  5. Declassified Spy Images of Arctic

    Reuters reports:

    The United States released more than a thousand intelligence images of Arctic ice to help scientists study the impact of climate change, within hours of a recommendation by the National Academy of Sciences.In an unusually fast move by a U.S. government agency, the Interior Department made the images public on Wednesday. The academy’s report urging this action was released at 11 a.m. on Wednesday.

    East Siberian Sea in 2000 released by the Obama Administration Previously Classified

    East Siberian Sea in 2000

    These images show the possible effects of global warming. Possibly classified by the Bush administration for possible fear that Al Qaeda might take a liking to snow or evil supervillan Lex Luthor might find Superman’s base on Google Earth.

  6. DIY Fix for Global Warming?


    Russ George: The Man to Save the World?

    “Give me half a tanker of iron and I will give you an ice age.” — Russ George

    Russ George in the volume 18 issue of Make magazine says he has a solution for global warming. His plan sounds like a deus ex machina solution for our global warming problems: get some iron (0.5 micron hematite), drop it in the ocean, spread at the right times and places, plankton eats iron, plankton grows, and global warming and dying fish go bye-bye. He has also written a Google Knol article (yes, someone uses Google Knol) on the subject as well.

    His company, Plantoks Science bills themselves as a “privately held ecorestoration and ocean  biotechnology company” though this sounds like “MacGyver style fix to global warming.”

    Science to the rescue or psuedo-science fraud?
    Read the rest of this entry »

  7. Apollo Landing Module, Footprints, & Experiment Gear Spotted

    One of the often touted “the Moon landing was a hoax” statements is “how come the Hubble telescope can’t get a picture of the equipment?” When in reality that makes as much sense as using a microscope to take a photo of a friend. Hubble is designed to look deep into space, not on the moon or some chick’s apartment. Different lenses, different uses.

    Well, in honor of the 40th anniversary of when man was on the moon NASA released an image from LROC showing not only the hardware left behind from Apollo but experimental gear and even the footprints of astronauts.

    So there.


  8. If X => Then the Owls Will Surely Rape Our Faces as We Sleep


    A lot of useless things get shoveled into the brain of a young inmate of the public education system.  Like factorials or peanut-based inventions numbers 4 – 2,000 of George Washington Carver.  One thing I am grateful to my middle school math classes for is a careful study of logic.  It helps me read the news and see little flashing bursts of color as brain cells seize, choke and blow up like a meth lab. (high school chemistry!)

    Exhibit A, from the New York Post:

    A Brooklyn grandma got more than she’d bargained for when she rented a copy of “Austin Powers” from her local library and found it spliced with long pornographic scenes.

    Klein contacted her assemblyman, Dov Hikind — and he’s now demanding that local libraries ban all VHS tapes.

    “This is unbelievable,” Hikind fumed. “The bottom line is that the local library can be unsafe for young children. It’s pretty sick stuff.”

    Really, Dov?  Ban all VHS tapes?

    Exhibit B, via a Wired blog post on pending Congressional legislation to allow prisons to jam cellphones used illegally by prisoners:

    But public interest groups, including Public Knowledge, the New America Foundation, and the Main Street Project, told the committee in a letter that cited a Wired magazine story that blocking technology is unproven and that blocking is not possible without causing collateral damage.

    “Allowing the legal manufacture, importation and sale of jamming equipment will create a loophole that history shows the FCC will find impossible to close,” the groups wrote.

    “Jamming prison cellphones would jeopardize public safety because there is no way to jam only phones used by prisoners,” said Harold Feld, legal director for Public Knowledge. “All wireless communications could be shut down within a prison.”

    “Once such a jamming device is built, it will inevitably become available on a wider basis. Who knows what chaos that will cause?” Feld said.

    So what do these two stories have in common?  A similar psuedo-logical leap that I like to call If X =>Then the Owls Will Surely Rape Our Faces as We Sleep.* This is a favored tactic of those we pay to freak out about things on our behalf (politicians, lawyers, PR, lobbyists) wherein the master logician in question takes scant evidence, an anecdotal isolated incident or something they hope the listener is ignorant about and label it the surest route to a doomsday of owl-on-face-sexual-assault proportions.

    This is how Assemblyman Dov “Hey can we get some more racial profiling over here?” Hikind goes from a random porno dub on an Austin Powers tape to populist rage against an entire A/V format to protect the children from sexual relations.  (Of which there is no mention in Austin Powers, mind you)

    And he even manages to get in a WTF-worthy dig at the wretched hive of scum and villiany, oh, and child seduction, that is the library.  Dammit, Dov, that’s the Queens Public Library System, get it straight.

    Then we’ve got Harold Feld hearing the desperate hooting and mad sex-crazed flapping of some dystopic future where owls rule and cell phones are jammed everywhere, all because we tried to stop a few measly contract killings.  While it should be said that I support a lot of what Public Knowledge says they’re for, Feld is either banking on our ignorance and sitting in a warm puddle of his own.

    Anyone with access to another dangerous technology, The Googles, can find plans and providers for exactly the sort of cell phone jammers (DIY here, commercial there) that he fears will lead to some kind of ambiguous large bad thing.

    That’s another piece of this tactic: keep the threat ambiguously defined but big.  The human brain automatically fills that void with, you guessed it, feathers everywhere and a taste no amount of mouth wash will cleanse.

    *Feel free to replace face rape by owls with the worst case scenario of your choice.  I spent a lot of my upbringing in a sleeping bag in the woods so y’know.

  9. Raw Materials: Social Networking Bookmark Icons

    Scouring the web it was hard to find social networking icons that were not 3D Boxes, bottled shaped, or otherwise irregular. So as the cliché goes sometimes if you want a job done you have to do it yourself. These basic logo icons for Facebook, Digg, Reddit, Twitter, and Delicious are suitable to use as is or modify for a more custom look.

    Facebook, Digg, Reddit, Twitter, and Delicious Icons

    Facebook, Digg, Reddit, Twitter, and Delicious Icons

    The file is a vector EPS version 3.0 file so it should open in most graphics programs such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, Inkscape and many more. They will be used as part of a redesign of this very site (coming soon). If you find these icon logos useful let us know!

  10. Two Fists, Two X Chromosomes and a Love of Country


    A post on China Military Report this weekend gave some glowing praise for an apparently all-female unit of the Chinese Navy, along with some possibly-for-the-eye-candy shots to accompany the swells of patriotism.  A couple thoughts rolled through my head while looking at these:

    1. I always thought that blue cammo was just a suburban mallrat cargo shorts kind of pattern, not actually used by any military operating outside of an aquarium.  The blue face paint seems to indicate they’re somewhat serious about this.  Maybe it’s a Braveheart thing?
    2. Are they really leaping like dolphins through the water in that one photo?
    3. What’s the deal with all-female military units?

    Photo threads of female soldiers on military blogs are a pretty common thing, often with some careful language at the start about how the point isn’t hot ogling of government property but to pay tribute to our fighting sisters.  Of course, after a few posts, someone starts hooting for the Swedish Defense Bikini Team, sadly nonexistant.

    Surely, though, there’s purposes for all-female squads beyond the fantasies of military aficionados.  While I couldn’t turn up a “why” for the Chinese First Marine Brigade Recon Unit, other forces create segregated units for cultural reasons, perceived skills or subterfuge.

    What with the whole burka thing and all, the U.S fields an all-female team from the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment for cultural outreach to Afghan women.  Similar teams have been tried in Iraq, for similar reasons of cultural sensitivity.  It’s also worth noting that U.S. and Iraqi security forces have deployed female guards specifically to search women to combat suicide bombings and arms smuggling.  Having a woman on the squad could also help fight the old Huck Finn/Jefferson Davis tactic of dressing up like a woman to duck the law, as cross-dressing Taliban are fond of doing.

    Qaddafi‘s ladies with AKs also come to mind.  When the Libyan dictator steps out just about anywhere, he rolls deep with a large entourage of well-trained women with automatic weapons and matching cammo. Again, not much of a straight answer out there as to why his security is guaranteed exclusively by women, but a good guess can be made by Qaddafi’s two pronged policy of being in the vanguard of the Arab world in terms of women’s rights and being a nutty, sorta lecherous, old-school dictator who gets whatever the hell he wants.

    Special mention must go to the unbelievably badass “Night Witches” of the USSR who flew goddamn crop dusters on bombing raids against the Third Reich.  Doing so they became the most highly decorated unit in the Soviet Air Force. As if flying slow and low with a bomb-laden bi-plane wasn’t enough, Wikipedia mentions that they’d “shut the engine off near the target and glide to the bomb release point, with only wind noise to reveal their location.”  Scientific proof right there, folks, that the gland for audacity does not reside in the balls.