Saturday, March 28, 2015

Contemplate the extent and stability of the heavens...

Let's begin, as always, with music news. And by that you should infer news about music I like and want to share.

If Amy Shore's serendipitous photograph of a bird passing in front of the recent solar eclipse doesn't win like a million awards I will lose the last shreds of hope I have for photography. source
Begin Music

Wagner Transformed is an ambient interpretation of the composer's operatic works by J. Peter Schwalm with help from a cast that includes Brian Eno. You can stream it for free but maybe you'll buy it too.

Is Soundcloud account user48736353001 really Aphex Twin?

Despite the uneven mix on this recording, I would've loved to have been in the audience for this 2010 performance by Allan Holdsworth, Terry Bozzio, Tony Levin, and Pat Mastelotto (HoBoLeMa?).

Watch this rare promo video for Robert Fripp's Exposure album.

How about a live set by Daniel Lanois from the studios of KCRW?

iapetus has made the album Touch Guitars Compilation 2015 freely available for download. But why not give them at least a couple of bucks if you enjoy the music?

More free music you ask? How about TOTEM, the first album from the duo Markus Reuter and Pat Mastelotto (aka TUNER)?

End Music

And now onward with the usual gibberish.

If an algorithm implemented in software can identify a genuine Jackson Pollock 93% of the time, how long before it can forge one that's indistinguishable from the real thing?

From the Idiot's Guide to Smart People, develop an appreciation for (or at least a way to fake understanding of) art by comparing it to farts.

Still trying to figure out what and where the space suit experience is.

For the first time, one of the Navy's Littoral Combat Ships has visited Japan. It was the USS Fort Worth.

Begin Film

Must watch video of the week: how Kurosawa mastered movement in his films.

Before Blade Runner was filmed its miniature models were made.
Interesting article about making two related movies at the same time: Alien 5 and Prometheus 2.

Watch a video shot during a flight of the only airworthy B-24J and read about a 90 year-old WWII veteran pilot who was reunited with his ride.

Take a ride with the Blue Angels.

Or watch Disneland being built (timelapse).

Or watch a live bald eagle webcam. When I was watching he had one and a half fishes in his nest. Or watch a live webcam of the sarcophagus being built over Chernobyl.

End Film

Would you like it if you software acted like this?

The world mapped by each country's most popular beer. Hooray Bud Light.
Wonder no more about 3-letter airport codes.

Begin Slow Descent Into Madness

Best news headline ever: Smelly poo forces plane to land.

Maybe it was just an airmail delivery by I Poop You.

Why was it a big deal for a Canadian collegiate basketball player to get permission to put his name on his jersey? Ask Guilherme Carbagiale Fuck.

Feelers is a creepy wormy alphabet.
Here's how you will waste the rest of your day: drum machine.

...and then at last cease to admire worthless things. ~Boethius

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Carousel by Robin Guthrie

Nice is not enough,
yet it is the perfect word
for this Carousel.

There is something wonderfully warm and ripe and full about Robin Guthrie's Carousel.

This ten track album from 2009 is deceptively nice, which would be almost insulting if said by itself. Nice is fleshed out by the album's sonic depth, its layers of expansive sound. The album's cover art is an apt visual analogy. The music gives the sense of timeless drifting, a warm throbbing sea, sunlight's shimmering phrasing.

Draw your own conclusions from this sample. A simple search on YouTube for "Robin Guthrie Carousel" will yield more results from the album.

The ten tracks on Carousel are relatively brief, sort of mood vignettes. To my ear, there's also a bit of late 1980s tonality to some of Guthrie's guitar work that when heard anchors the track like a pebble dropped into a fountain. And time and time again I find myself settling back for another ride on Guthrie's vibrant Carousel.

You can find Robin Guthrie online at

I received no compensation of any kind for this review.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

There is nothing so easy...

When venture capitalists get specific about what they're interested in, it's worth listening especially when it's a firm like Andreesen Horowitz. They published 16 things they're thinking about. You'd be surprised if some weren't on the list (internet of things, virtual reality), some you don't even recognize (sensorification, devops), and then there are the meaty things: security, digital health.

John Marin, Approaching Fog, 1952. source. Painter John Marin came up in a conversation this week and I found myself largely ignorant of his work. What I found in a brief online search was startling. I see in his work foreshadowing of Rothko, Diebenkorn, Kline, and more. Time to start learning more.
If you recognize "The box was thrown besides the parked truck." as one of the Harvard sentences then skip to the next bit of gibberish. Otherwise, click the link and read about sentences designed to test the quality of telecommunications by how well certain test phrases can be understood. On a related note, I was once told by a Japanese friend that English is much better suited for radio communication than Japanese because in the latter a single slightly garbled accent can change the entire meaning of a sentence but with English you can miss quite a bit and still get the gist.

"How much does _______ cost?' as Googled by state. Ohio, what's with the private investigators?
What cities get the best return on their spending for education, police, parks, and recreation? Fort Worth is #20. But Dallas is #4 which I find laughable.

This shouldn't surprise anyone, but in certain fields (e.g. engineering, computers) new college graduates can earn a lot more than less educated and more experienced colleagues. This is not true for other majors (e.g. social work). Therefore, how much of your education should be financed with loans depends on your major and how quickly you'll earn money to repay the loan. (What's the rule of thumb? Borrow no more than what your first year salary will be.)

Ever wonder about all the lights and signage on airport runways? Wonder no more.

I don't know anyone who thinks daylight savings time is a good idea or even fully understands why it exists in the first place. Count me among those who think it's an anachronism if ever there was one (pun and double entendre fully intentional). But this guy takes it a step farther and also wants to consolidate time zones so the U.S. has only two.

Colin Edwin shared the cover of the new (May?) album from Metallic Taste of Blood, Doctoring the Dead. Can't wait for the audio samples.

...but that it becomes difficult when you do it reluctantly. ~Pythagoras

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Culture Clash Live & Secret Show by The Aristocrats

How does an instru-
mental album earn a pa-
rental 'visory?

These two albums from one of my favorite music groups capture everything that is great about The Aristocrats. Culture Clash Live is an "official" live album with eight tracks recorded at various sites on their tour in support of the Culture Clash studio album. The accompanying DVD has nine tracks. Culture Clash Live captures the band's epic musicianship and their wacky personalities.

Sometimes it seems like Bryan Beller's ebullient bass is the glue that binds together the frenetic playing of Marco Minneman (drums) and Guthrie Govan (guitar). Never content to play any particular style or genre, they synthesize it all into music you just want to embrace.

Check out the DVD's trailer for an idea of their performances.

Secret Show: Live in Osaka is another live recording, this one with two CDs, that's only available from the band's webstore. What makes it special is that it was "secretly" recorded and released completely without editing. The result is a performance that has a bit more presence to it; a real sense of immediacy and capturing one particular moment in time. The inter-song banter is captured at a low level and the performances exhibit some of the jaggies that are normally edited out. But I prefer it over Culture Clash Live because the grainy patina lets you marvel at the strength of this unedited performance.

I was fortunate enough to be one of the first 1,000 to order Secret Show and get the autographed version.
The band's website and store can be found at

I received no compensation of any kind for this review.

Existence by David Brin

If hell is other
people, Sartre's universe
will be hot, not cold.

Reading David Brin's Existence showed me at least one thing. I don't read as much science fiction as I used to.

Near-future humanity comes face to face with the question of universal existence when an orbiting garbage man snares a crystalline egg of obvious (?) extraterrestrial origin that soon begins communicating with him. Except the message isn't quite what we all expected.

Less about our place in the universe and more about what it means to be human, Existence proposes one vision of our near-future that's entertaining, fills a decades-long plot line with existential questions, and leaves you pondering science fact instead of fiction.

I'll get to hear Brin speak at next month's Congress on the Future of Engineering Software and hopefully he'll tell me how all my interpretations of Existence are wrong.

Brin's website for the book is

Added 25 Apr 2015: David Brin autographed my copy of Existence at COFES 2015, the Congress on the Future of Engineering Software.

I received no compensation of any kind for this review. The book was provided to me and other COFES attendees at no cost.

It is difficult to free fools...

Recently added to my wish list at Amazon and presented here for today's soundtrack is Wagner Transformed by J. Peter Schwalm, an ambient-leaning interpretation of the composer's work.

For those of you who prefer your music farther out in left field, avant garde musical group Bang on a Can performed a 5-hour marathon.

Van Eaton Galleries' auction of Disneyland memorabilia netted $1.7 million including $154,000 for a 1970s era animatronic bird from the Enchanted Tiki Room.

This screen capture from a NASA video shows global precipitation.
Of the 10 breakthrough technologies for 2015 presented by MIT Technology Review, the one that really caught my attention was Megascale Desalination.

How do you peel a 10 km layer off the surface of the entire planet? Impact with a 500 km asteroid, of course.

What would it look like if you 3D printed your 3D animated film? It would look like this.

The first photograph that captures the particle-wave duality of light.
A photo essay on famous artists in their studios.

Do you buy lottery tickets? Will you continue to buy them after trying this Powerball Simulator? In a simulated 50 years of playing a quick-pick ticket twice a week I've turned each dollar invested into 7 cents and haven't won more than $7 on any one ticket.

Use Crumbles to make video montages like this one.

Rich person Paul Allen has begun building the world's largest airplane.
Harrison Ford is confirmed for the Blade Runner sequel.

Remember that 4K video I posted of passage through the South China Sea? Here's another seascape that's generated completely by computer.

Begin Rant

This is vile. Not so much that UC Irvine students banned the US flag from their student government room on campus, but the fact that their resolution includes this statement: "Whereas freedom of speech, in a space that aims to be as inclusive as possible can be interpreted as hate speech." Another example of how far-left liberals are actually limiting free speech because apparently these pussies believe that the First Amendment includes the right to not be offended - as if the presence of the US flag actually did that in the first place. The fact that these kids are actually able propose and vote on this nutty issue illustrates the irony of their position. I kinda expected to see the crazy phrase "micro aggression" littered throughout their little policy document.

End Rant

Science reveals all. The average flaccid penis is 3.6 inches in length and the average erect penis is 5.2 inches. Read the details of this study from the British Journal of Urological Surgeons.

...from the chains they revere. ~Voltaire

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Nuclear Burn by Brand X

All the jazz fusion
I haven't heard in decades.
Now in one jewel case.

Fans of jazz-rock fusion, rejoice! Fans of lesser-known recordings of Phil Collins, rejoice! Brand X's Nuclear Burn is a 4-CD compilation of the group's first 5 albums from the mid 1970s to 1980 and some live performances.

Fans of Phil Collins, especially those late to the game, may enjoy hearing him drumming with more finesse and expression that perhaps you're used to with his Genesis and solo work.

Fans of fusion cannot ignore the quality of the band's lineup throughout the era represented by this box set: John Goodsall, Percy Jones, Morris Pert, Robin Lumley, Kenwood Dennard, Jack Lancaster, J. Peter Robinson, Chuck Bergi, Mike Clark, and John Gilbin. And Phil Collins.

And the live recordings, which I had never heard before, simply round out any fan's experience of the band.

I tried to find a good video on YouTube of the band performing live to give you a taste of what they're about. The best I came up with is this low-quality recording of their performance on the TV show Old Grey Whistle Test from 1979.

To use a very poor analogy, if you'd like an edgier version of Weather Report or Spyrogrya, give Brand X a try. The band's union of skilled performances with a titular sense of humor reminds me a little bit of The Aristocrats, albeit 4 decades earlier.

I received no compensation of any kind for this review.