December 2008 Archives

Year In Review: Music

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The 2008 year musical year in review had me going to four shows (which is about 4 more than I usually go to), getting introduced to a CD now on my all time favorite list, a new Swedish crush, as well as two CDs from Amanda Palmer.

On the live show front, the year opened with a Swedish trio and introduced me to Anna Ternheim, who has rapidly become a real favorite of mine. I saw her open for Joseph Arthur and I sure could have used more Anna and less Joseph. I also saw a very nice show by Bess Rogers at Johnny D's in the spring.

But the best show of the year had to be Amanda Palmer's show last month. Odd that I didn't do a write up on it, but it opened with Vermillion Lies, a very good sister act. They were followed by The Builders and the Butchers, who completely blew me away with their two drummers and incredible energy. And then of course, there was Amanda, who just put on a whale of a show, wrapping it up with a blistering version of Leeds United where everyone showed up on the stage to help out. Fantastic night of music.

On the CD front, it was Gorillaz's Demon Days CD and concert video that grabbed me early in the year and remains in constant play today. Really dig this "virtual" group's 2005 release and even bought the DVD of the debut concert in London. Hard to pick just one song from the CD. Other top CDs include Amanda's Who Killed Amanda Palmer, Goldfrapp's A&E, Verimillion Lies' What's In The Box, and El Perro Del Mar's From the Valley to the Stars.

Geek out ahead. Skip to after the player if you don't care about the technical details...

As for my songs of the year, I was using Muxtape to keep track of it, until the RIAA Nazis shut it down. So I installed my own opentape page, which does a fairly good job of mimicing Muxtape. The 0.12 release didn't work out of the box for me. I used opentape-latest.zip and then copied over the xspf.php file from the -0.11 release. Now it works okay.

I'd love to take some time to add new features to it. Or just write my own. I'm not a big php fan, so I'd probably use python with the Flash audio player. Yeah, sure, some day...

A few notes on the songs:

  • These aren't songs released in 2008, just songs I heard for the first time in 2008
  • Like I said, it is impossible to pick just one song from Demon Days. The whole CD hangs together incredibly well. And I can really recommend the London show DVD.
  • The Savath & Savalas, Laura Veirs and Robyn songs came from the Stereogum free downloads. I would just play a month's worth of songs in the background and then be grabbed periodically by an especially catchy tune.
  • Primal Scream's Screamadelic CD is a modern classic, and I had heard the Loaded song before, but hadn't really known about the whole thing. Plenty of excellent other songs on this CD.
  • The Amy Winehouse CD was a bit of a disappointment, as was the M.I.A. one. The only songs that grabbed me are here.
  • I first heard the M.I.A. and The Real Tuesday Weld songs on blip.fm, which has exposed me to plenty of great songs.
  • The Faces song I first heard over the ending credits of Rushmore, a solid if somewhat forgettable movie save for the soundtrack, which had plenty of other great songs. I picked up the Faces Greatest Hits collection which has a few other good songs as well.
  • Union Jack's song was first heard on soma.fm's Groove Salad, a favorite Internet radio station, especially when I'm programming. It exposed me to lots of other great electronica.



Playing with Opentape

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Given the demise of Muxtape, I decided to install Opentape on my server. Let's see how the embedding feature works:

Edit: Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to play yet. Some technical difficulties with my web server perhaps...

Edit 2: Looks like v0.11 works better than either v0.12 or -latest.


Santa Wins!

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In choosing between Santa and God, I picked Santa. At least when I was little, he used to bring me tangible goodies, rather than waiting until I was dead.


Movies: Skull Burning

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As far as movies goes, there's been a couple on the menu:

I finally watch Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and, despite dire warnings against it, I simply loved it. Now maybe it is because I am such an Indiana Jones fan boy, but Skull just resonated with me right from the beginning. It just *felt* like an Indiana Jones movie to me.

The basic synopsis, as if that matters, is that Indiana Jones, after getting fired from his job due to "Red" worries, gets conscripted into looking for the crystal skull because it was an old colleague's obsession (sound like any of the other movies, eh?). Of course, this being the 50s, the Russians are after it too and the chase is on.

Nothing Earth shattering about the plot but the execution was exquisite. Every few minutes was a reminder of the past, from the subtle (a huge, endless wharehouse anyone?) to the obvious (pictures and remincsing about Marcus and Dad). Plenty of Indiana Jones action, with perhaps the biggest flaw being that there was just too much. Some of the action scenes could have been cut by a bit without a loss. But that is a minor quibble.

I really wish I had seen this in the theaters when it first came out, as some of the surprises were no longer surprises. The sound and picture on the Comcast HD Movie channel were just swell, but I really want the BluRay version of it. That's how much I liked it.

The next evening, my wife and I actually went to a movie theater to watch a movie. Burn After Reading is a the latest Coen brothers movie and features such stalwarts as George Clooney, Brad Pit, and of course Frances McDormand. In it, Pitt and McDormand play a couple of fitness center losers who try to capitalize on a lost CD of information and get it all wrong.

The movie depended far too much on coincidences that just seemed far too unlikely. A very slight Coen Brothers effort, it did feature the typically stellar work from Brad Pitt, who really gave his character some depth, which is probably more than he deserved! There were a few twists and turns but nothing too hard too follow and, in the end, everyone got what they deserved, I guess.

The funny part about going to watch the movie is that I'm pretty sure a better experience would have occured in my home theater. It was a discount movie theater that had split its once grandiose theater into 7 or 8 tiny theater boxes. Only about 8 seats in each row, a screen only slightly larger than my relatively small 50" HDTV, a scratchy print and sorrowful sound all lent itself to wondering just why we would bother paying US$8 to see it. It worked, but only just barely!

While I didn't have time to finish it under non-renewable pressure, Amity Shlaes The Forgotten Man : A New History Of The Great Depression was a very interesting and timely book. In it, she wonders why the Great Depression took so long to get over (nearly ten years), despite Hoover and 3 terms of FDR trying their best to fix it. It is her thesis that the government meddling, like the Tennessee Valley Authority, actually made things worse, by keeping private monies on the sideline because they couldn't figure out what the government was going to do next. It's an interesting history of the era, and one that is all too applicable these days, with phrases like "the next Great Depression" getting tossed about so freely.

Lewis Black's Me of Little Faith was a very funny collection of vignettes, mostly about how silly religion is, but also touching on other subjects like airplane travel. The library summary:

From the hilariously mad-as-hell Daily Show regular and New York Times' bestselling author comes a ferociously funny exploration of religion and faith. What do we believe? And in God's name why? Lewis Black has the answers. Or at least his answers. He survived Hebrew school and a bar mitzvah (barely), was a sixties college student who saw the parallels between religious rapture and drug-induced visions (even if none of his friends did), explored the self-actualization movement of the seventies (and the self-indulgence it engendered), and turned a cynical eye toward politicians who don the cloak of religious rectitude to cover up their own hypocrisy.

I enjoyed it, especially the golf story. He also was honest in a couple of spots where he talks about some odd things that happened to him and how it kind of touches on faith. I didn't like the last chapter, which was a reprint of a two man play he wrote and acted in - it just felt like filler. But if you can grab this from the library, you'll enjoy it.

Red
Jordan Summers

And now for something completely diffent. John Scalzi has a recurring feature on his Whatever blog called "The Big Idea", where authors talk about the inspiration for their latest book. I see the occasionally interesting book, and for some reason Jordan Summers' Red struck me as interesting, so I requested it from the library. The summary:

Gina Santiago is a member of an elite tactical team in charge of protecting the world. She’s devoted her life to apprehending the most heinous criminals that prey on society—and now she’s after the worst one yet.On her own, with no backup, the trail takes her to a dusty, tight-knit town on the fringes of society, where everyone’s a suspect. Even the sexy sheriff, Morgan Hunter, isn’t telling her everything. Gina knows he’s trouble, but she’s inexorably drawn to him. The closer Gina comes to finding out the secret of this sleepy little town and its big bad sheriff; the closer she comes to catching the predator, the more scared she gets—because she’s beginning to realize that she has a secret too. A secret that will change Gina’s life… and make her the killer’s prey.

The librarian was nonplussed when she fetched the book from the On Call stack, as the outside of the pages of this paperback were a bright red. Turns out, this is a real paranormal romance, as it says on the book's spine. Yup, a true bodice ripper, with plenty of wetnesses, hardnesses, panting breaths, and exploding desires, etc. etc. All wrapped in an interesting milieu, set in an apocalyptic future, where government experiments have gone wild. These experiments include things very much like werewolves, vampires and the like. And Red doesn't know just what she is, or has gotten into. Combined with a murder investigation, it proved to be an interesting book, if far afield of my normal reading habits. The writing was a little stilted and more than a little overheated, but I finished the book, so there is that!

Finally, if you are a soccer coach, I'd like to recommend two books I got from the library to give me some inspirations for soccer drills. I really thought both The baffled parent's guide to great soccer drills by Tom Fleck and Ron Quinn and, especially, Developing youth soccer players Horst Wein, were excellent coach's handbooks, with clear illustrations and plenty of interesting games and drills for the under 16 player.




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