31 March 2012

Alesis Videotrack (Build Quality & Accessories)

Follow up to my Camera Complaint video, wherein I explain
the rather poor audio quality. Interestingly, it's not because
the microphones were of poor quality, but rather because I
was standing on the wrong side of the camera.

11 March 2012

The Rune Scroll Project

I should be more excited about finally finishing this, given that it took me about a month (completing about a page per day, working somewhat leisurely at it), but in the end, it's just disappointing. I had originally planned to lay it all out on the floor and, using a table dolly, pan left to right in one single and relatively smooth move.

It didn't work out. 15 takes later, I ended up just putting the camera on a tripod, setting the book on a table, and just opening it by hand.

I might post another video I made of putting together the last page, but that's turning out to be a bit of a pain in terms of editing, so it'll be a while.

10 March 2012

By(gone)-Product of an Era

A few nights ago, my roommate was laughing in awe and befuddlement at the musical stylings of one Richard Cheese, a lounge singer whose choice of subject matter is, to put it mildly, eclectic. Music is ultimately a reflection of the culture that created it. As such, Country is typically about working on a farm or driving a truck while pretending not to care what others think, Punk is about railing against an establishment or fighting oppression by wearing mismatched articles of torn clothing, Rap is about growing up on the mean streets only to sell out and buy a mansion while the public school clings to its one microscope, and Lounge singing is about losing an entire year's income on keno and drowning subsequent sorrows in margaritas.

Obviously, there are exceptions, far too few (especially in Rap and Country, but that's for another discussion) overall, but exceptions all the same, and Richard Cheese is a Lounge singer who sings about... really what everyone else sings about and then some, just filtered through the style of a Rat Pack-era Vegas Lounge act. If it sounds like he's a novelty act, that's because he probably is, but here's a question:

What's wrong with that?

When Swing Kids came out, I remember being obsessed with "Sing, Sing, Sing (With a Swing)" by Louis Prima not just from the trailers for the film, but also the Chips Ahoy! commercials of the time. This was about 1993, and I was completely alone in my newfound obsession with this era of music. Although bands like Cherry Poppin' Daddies and Squirrel Nut Zippers were around, their popularity was niche at best. This was the grunge era of music, when bands like Stone Temple Pilots, Alice In Chains, and Nirvana were all the rage. None of it really interested me, which is why stuff like swing held so much appeal; it was practically the polar opposite of alternative, but didn't have that lofty pretentiousness of classical or the tired banality of older rock.

Later on, as tended to happen to me with trends and fads (don't get me started on POGs.), I grew out of swing just in time for everyone at my high school to declare it the next big thing. Along with Ska, swing didn't just become a type of music people liked, it became a lifestyle, with people adopting the dress sense of these bands like The Mighty Mighty Bosstones or The Brian Setzer Orchestra and some even starting ska-themed bands of their own. Just like grunge, I didn't really care.

At least, I didn't care until I heard "Zoot Suit Riot" and some little assortment of machinery started whirring and clicking away in my head. It wasn't trying to reconcile its anachronistic terminology with modern-day living, I'd worked that out years ago. Rather, it was the two-pronged question of, "How many people know what a Zoot Suit even is (let alone a riot centering around them), and is there any modern equivalent that isn't already represented in some other genre of music?"

In other words, why does this style and genre of music not only have to be a reflection of the era that created it, but ultimately be stuck in that era?

Think about this, if I wrote a song meant to be played on an old-school synthesizer like the Fairlight CMI, would my lyrics have to make references to leg-warmers and big hair? Would my album's artwork have to feature someone in a pair of shutter shades and a jean jacket?

Why would a swing piece about MySpace seem so weird or even hokey? Why would it be written off as a novelty track on par with "Telstar" or "Witch Doctor"?

If I sound crazy, here's one last little bite of food-for-thought: When you hear the term "Hammond Organ" what exactly do you think of first? Electric organs were meant as inexpensive alternatives to traditional pipe organs that smaller churches couldn't afford. So, if that was their intended use, and given how frozen-in-time swing and lounge acts seem to be, why have so many progressive rock bands implemented them so pervasively? Just look at Keith Emerson or Rick Wakeman or David Greenslade. Sure, most of them moved onto more advanced synthesizers, but the Hammond Organ still got a lot of mileage outside of churches, yet so many people probably still think of hymns and old radio plays.

06 March 2012

An Open Letter to WI Sen. Glenn Grothman (NSFW)

Dear Inexplicably-elected Senator,

Regarding this Senate Bill 507 of yours, I have a question:

Are you fucking stupid?

Myself and anyone else living in the real world

04 March 2012

Is Master's Voice

I've had a few entries on the back burner for some time, at least three in the past week that have been relegated to "drafts" for various reasons, mostly refinement and fact-checking. I realize it's a bit lazy, even unprofessional from certain perspectives, to then post an entry practically made up on the spot. However, even with that spontaneity which leaves other and more refined projects in the wings, somehow I can't help but feel like I've lapped 90% of the world's population at least twice in a sack race where my sack is the only one made of chainmail instead of burlap. In other words, I still feel superior when I look around and see remarks like this:

In the interest of full disclosure, I was one of those lucky little boys who had teachers for parents. In fact, one of them is an English teacher, so I'm used to hearing terms like "Grammar Nazi" hurled in my direction. As such, I have to respect that not everyone had the kind of background I did where re-reading and double-checking what I'd written became an almost unconscious habit. I also have to respect that lingering on someone's lack of articulation is a bit of a straw man situation which might ultimately undermine any credibility I'd otherwise have in the discussion. That said, when someone is talking about being mis(understood/interpreted/quoted) or chastising others for how they speak or write when they themselves can't rise to the level they claim to champion, how they handle themselves at a keyboard should be fair game.
In this case, it's especially fair game considering the overall length of the phrase. I can forgive a typo in a novel or even a somewhat lengthy weblog entry, but this is just incompetent.

To his credit, he starts off well enough from a technical point of view, his only real misstep being that he doesn't back up his assessment of the video's "dumb and stupid" narration with specific points of observation, but then we get to the third sentence. Verbosity can't be spelled without "bore," it's true, but sometimes the pursuit of conciseness is equally overbearing and tedious. Moreover, in addition to the uncapitalized abbreviation for "by the way," he forgets part of his own hyperbolic metaphor; what is he speculating being put down the reviewer's throat? He's not even leaving it open to interpretation with an all-purpose placeholder like "something." It's not just bad grammar, it's bad writing full stop.

The final straw is the last sentence, where he remembers to capitalize the first word of the sentence, but forgets how to spell the first word itself, carrying over the same spelling error as the sentence containing a missing word. It's not just incompetence, it's committed incompetence.