Bliznog is moving to Skiznot.com

I decided it would be fun to have a website of my own to share different kinds of creativity on one place so I’m moving the blog there too.  The new address is Skiznot.com and it’s already up with the blog.  I won’t be doing any new posts at this site but will leave the blog up for a while.

On thing I’ll really miss is this lovely green theme that I can’t export.

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Things to Add to the Resume: Composer for a Video Podcast!

Most of the big secret project is done.  I can say now that I was working on bumpers for a video podcast/show called The PC Lounge which should be up and running by next month.  “Bumpers” is actually a relatively new term for me but it basically means a little jingle type intro for the different segments of the show.  Sort of the same thing you’d see on David Letterman when he says he’s going to open the letters and Paul Schaffer starts sing “we get sacks and sacks of letters!”  It was a really fun project and I was given full liberty with only minor instructions like “high energy.”  All the fun of composing something but the longest one was 40 seconds so I didn’t have the pain of having to know where to go next in the tune because there was no next.  I also got to be a bit of an announcer in spots.  I’ve always wanted to be a disembodied voice ala Don Pardo (Wiki him kids).  The other fun part is this is for people across the country whom I’ve never met in person; more wonders of the digital world.  The hosts are Jay Emit and Stewie D from the Obscure80s podcast and I know them from calling into their voicemail line with comments and then over time more produced little bits.

For the recordings I used a controller keyboard and USB Microphone plugged into my iMac running Logic Pro (student edition because I’m not f@#$ing rich) and Garage band.  Logic pro is mostly for straight music whereas Garage Band works great for cutting and pasting different elements for something more theatrical.  Like when a death march is interrupted by a chainsaw, electric drill, and screaming.  All of these things easily export to MP3 that I can attach to email and at the speed of light folks in Cincinnati, Ohio received work from my dusty basement lab in San Francisco.  Where was this stuff 10 years ago? With Logic pro the software replaces lots and lots of hardware.  Of course if I could I’d love to have a real band that I can say “here play this,” but these days I’m not much of a “real time” musician.  Thanks Jay and Stu for the opportunity, now I can say I have worked as a composer for internet TV productions woohoo!  Add it to the list if things I can say.  The show will be posted here http://www.pennycult.com/ so stay tuned!

Why Blip.fm is superior to Pandora

Minds think alike but computers think according to code. Pandora uses a database approach to find songs it thinks you’ll like but when you like something about a song or musician it can be really tricky to quantify it into data fields or tags. Just take the term “oldies,”; clearly it’s relative. To some, oldies may only mean early 50s rock and roll but to your niece it can mean Will Smith’s early pre-acting career rap. Also Pandora seems to assume you want to hear something you’ve heard before. This is the same problem with radio stations in general. They used to have DJs that would play music that they liked whereas now it’s purely based on popularity. Of course I’m talking about commercial radio. A radio station’s main concern is that the listener does not the channel and it becomes a barrage of safe bets. I remember Tolkien describing Hobbits as wanting to hear stories where they already knew the end and that seems to be the corporate media approach. It goes something like this:

Media Executive: Don’t play something nobody has heard yet, they’ll change the station!

Minion: But what about this new song?

Media Executive: Well, let’s play it 30 times tomorrow so by the end of the day everyone will have heard it and it will be something everyone has heard before.

Media Conglomerate CEO: I like the way you think.  (end scene)

I’m reminded of a job where I sat far too close to a woman who loved to listen to the “oldies” station. Well it was kinda nice for the first few hours but by the end of the day I would swear that station had a rotation of no more than 30 songs total and 12 of them were “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison. Now I like to make forays into music history and on one such excursion I found I really liked an early Rock and Roll star named Clyde McPhatter. I found him from a stray mention while doing a sociolinguistic paper on Jazz speech. So my question is: Why have I never heard of Clyde McPhatter? Even after listening to the oldies station of a co-worker for three months straight no Clyde, no Ruth Brown, and no Dominoes. Same is true for 80s stations now. You’ll get Stray Cats if you’re lucky but no Polecats or Roman Holiday. You’ll get Howard Jones but no Thomas Dolby (other than that one song). So I figured with Pandora if I like Peter Gabriel then I make a Pandora station and they will find other people that I might like and have never heard of. But alas I end up going through 8 songs without something I’ve never heard of. Also, when there’s an artist like Peter with a vast body of work, the quality you like about him can’t be easily tagged. I put in Peter and Pandora says “oh, you like him so you must like 80s music by white English speaking foreigners so you will like U2, Sting and Kate Bush.” But maybe what I like about Peter is his world music influences. Well Pandora did not play a single song that wasn’t in English on my Peter Gabriel station. Now with Blip.fm the old school Radio DJs are back. If I blip a Peter song I see a list of other people that blipped him too. I can click on any one of them and see all the songs they have blipped and I can discern weather they just like 80s pop in general or if they appreciate that more elusive evocative quality of his greater body of work. Also when I blip the song some people can give me props (basically “I like that” points) and I can go look into who they are. In fact I blipped a lesser known Thomas Dolby tune and someone re-blipped it and offered up a lesser known Thompson Twins song. Somebody got the fact that I’m going to the past for things I remember as well as things I missed. Now I can pick favorite DJs and have my own Twitter like song feed with people whose judgment I trust making the selections mixed in with my selections. Aaaah. So now when I look for more obscure oldies I can find someone who knows more than I do and actually hear “new” oldies. So much musical history is glossed over by the average oldie station and it becomes a fun but often frustration fishing expedition to find out what good stuff was out there. The internet once again puts the power of media back into the people’s hands. Whoohoo! Once again we’re allowed to enjoy both Hip Hop and Heavy Metal and those crazy kids who mix it up; We aren’t forced to pick one or the other. Once again we can like a Nelly Furtado song from her “flop” album that are musically superior to her “hits.” If we like AC/DC nobody will tell us we can also listen to Joe Williams (or Frank Sinatra if Joe is too obscure). Happy Blipping!

Why Creativity is a Porcupine on my Back

This last year has just been an increasing flood of creativity.   It has been more difficult to focus at work as a I drown in a flood of ideas that I can’t work on until I get home.  Then I try to cram in as much as I can with the rest of the day while balancing the rest of my life.  I want to do art/drawing, music, audio bits for some of my favorite podcasts, and writes scripts to name a few.  Its a good thing I don’t have a video camera because that would be one more thing I would not be doing.   The cool thing is that sharing creativity has become so much easier now.  If I were to record a song I could post it the same day on Facebook or anywhere I can post a link.  Well, better get back to it.

The Insect With a Thousand Names

 

“Look Mom!; A giant, Mosquito!”

 

“Now don’t kill ‘im, son.  That’s a Mosquito Hawk and he eats mosquitoes.”

 

“Oh.”

 

Near on 20 years later and there’s a plague on my house and someone tells me:  “A plague of what?  No, that’s not Mosquito Hawk; a Mosquito Hawk is a Dragon Fly, that’s a Mosquito Dragon.”

 

What is that thing?

 

It’s a story of mistaken identity and misdirection that belongs on Dateline.  Just to get it straight from the start; they’re called Crane Flies or insects in the Tipulidae family.  I would include a picture but they are not nice close up.  So, I asked someone who grew up in India what they were called and she said they were Daddy Long Legs.  And I sputtered “What? No way! A Daddy Long Legs is a spider!  I of course was being an ass as later I asked someone from the UK what she called them and she said she learned to call them Mosquito Eaters but then with a near apologetic tone said she grew up calling them Daddy Long Legs.  So now I had: Mosquito Hawk, Mosquito Dragon, Mosquito Eaters and Daddy Long Legs.  Last night I’m in Second Life listening to a live podcast feed and I ask a few other listeners what they’re called.  It takes a while to convince them I’m not talking about Dragon Flies but then someone says: “I think they’re called May Flies.”  Finally someone had the most common name (according to Wiki although I’d never heard it before) Crane Flies.

 

They don’t eat Mosquitoes.

 

This is a misconception because people also call Dragon Flies Mosquito Hawks and Dragon Flies do eat Mosquito’s.

 

And now, a list of Names of my Creepy but harmless home invaders:

 

-Mosquito Hawks

            -can also refer to Dragon Flies

            -can also refer to Damsel Flies

-Mosquito Dragons

-Mosquito Eaters

-Skeeter Eaters

-Daddy Long Legs

            -can also refer to the namesake Spider.

-Gallinipper

-Gollywhopper

-Texas Mosquitoes (mmmhm)

-Jimmy Spinner

 

What do you call ’em?

Important Events of the 80s

•In 1080 The idea of the magnetic compass is born in China.

•In 1180 Alexius II Comnenus becomes Byzantine Emperor.

•In 1280 Construction on the northern section of the Grand Canal of China is begun.

•In 1380 Sir William Walworth, a member of the Fishmongers Guild, becomes Lord Mayor of London for the second time.

•In 1480 Consorts and co-rulers Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella of Castile initiate the Spanish Inquisition.

•In 1580 Sir Francis Drake circumnavigated the globe.

•In 1680 Pueblo Indians capture Santa Fe (New Mexico) from the Spanish.

•In 1780 American Revolutionary War – Battle of Camden: The British defeat the Americans near Camden, South Carolina.

•In 1880 Wabash, Indiana becomes the first electrically lighted city in the world.

•In 1980 Pac-Man (the best-selling arcade game of all time) is released.

A Longevity Poll

I know some people may have several conditions. You can assume it’s available to everyone who chooses to take it. “Comfortable” means it keeps you physically healthy and re-grows any lost limbs. That’s all ya get.

Comments welcome.

San Francisco Moment 2

This might be more of a 21st century moment in that it’s probably more ubiquitous in space but not so much in time. I was feeling icky on this day so I was going in late to work waiting at the bus stop at around 11:30 on a Friday. Groggy as I was, I forgot headphones so I had an ipod in the backpack but no way to connect it to my head. I’d grown so used to the constant chatter of podcasts’ news/education/infotainment and occasional music that I felt a bit off standing there with just the wind. I thought this might be a nice chance to listen to the sounds of the neighborhood, appreciate the bits of nature dispersed throughout the city and. . . nah, I really wanted my headphones the lack of other voices in my head was making me edgy. Then I heard and “excuse me!” the kind of excuse me that precedes “commin’ through.”

A six foot human male with brown hair wearing grey nylon jogging shorts, matching shirt and grey and black headphones attached to a content delivery mechanism that I couldn’t see (wait for the verb) was quickly jogging down the hill and pushing a three wheeled sports baby carriage. You know the kind of carriage; handle bars, inflatable tires, encased in flashy REI nylon (couldn’t tell if the kid had a blue ray display inside, wasn’t a lot of space so he probably just had on demand with a wireless connection). This may not have seemed all that unusual but I found it interesting because if you turn the clock back 30+ years, well to the time traveling 1950s native this would look all kinds of strange. First of all, it’s a man pushing a baby around by himself. Second, it’s a man who has the free time to push a baby around on a weekday so he either works from home or has vacation time and wouldn’t that be an odd way to spend vacation time? But the big thing I chose to notice was all the multi-tasking. He is not content sitting at home and listening to audio content. Neither is he content taking the baby for a stroll. And think of all the time he would be wasting if he just went for a jog; not our 21st century man. No, He’s jogging while receiving his content and taking the baby for a brisk stroll. I bet this slacker probably had a dog at home too that would have loved to have been going for a run and he had a hand free that could have been texting but he was in his 30s so three things was probably enough for him. So he jogged down to the flat part of the hill, turned the sports baby carriage to face him and held onto the sides for a lunge stretch while making faces at the baby. If you just stretch you’re missing a golden opportunity to play with your toddler while receiving content through your headphones. I wish I had the omnipresence to know what was in those headphones because it could have been stock reports or an audio book which would have added more layers of complexity but for all I know it was the best of Hootie and the Blowfish. Who has time for music anymore? Crap, what am I gonna do for a whole day without headphones.

Satire Wire (fiction)

In reaction to the G. W. Bush shoe incident in Iraq, plans are underway to invade Italy, where the shoes were made. According to the Whitehouse: “we have good intel indicating that Italy has massive stockpiles of these weapons of mass humiliation and we need to make sure they stay out of the hands of journalists.” This was reminiscent of a similar incident when Bush was speaking at a press conference in Canada and one of the journalists attempted to, “crush the President’s head” by making a pinching gesture in front of his eye.

In the US reaction has been swift as several Americans suspected of wearing a size 10 shoe have been taken in for questioning.

In business news, Halburton is showing a spike in earnings from its new line of 9 ½ and 10 ½ dress shoes.

(I have since learned there is already a website called SatireWire. Just spontaneously typed out the title but I’ll have to think of something else if I ever come up with more fake news.)

Three Atheist Signs Part 1: Olympia Washington

            The first sign made a big splash in the news and I first heard about it on the CNN website.  The link to the article read: “Anti-God Sign Placed Across from Nativity Scene.”  The sign itself read:

 

At this season of THE WINTER SOLSTICE may reason prevail.  There are no gods, no devils, no angels no heaven or hell.  There is only our natural world.  Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.

 

            Like me, most people reading just the headline and sign probably already have an opinion and most likely a strong one. This all went down in Olympia, Washington and rather than paraphrase the article I’ll first go into my reactions before even reading.

 

The Sign Itself

 

Even though I agreed for the most part with the content of the message, the tone and some of the wording of the sign came off as immature to me.  The statement, “there is only our natural world,” sounds terra-centric and unscientific.  Without going off on a long semantic discussion what the author meant by ‘our natural world’ I’ll just say that replacing the word world with universe would fix some of the problems but even then science can’t say for sure that ours is the only universe.  We could live in one of infinitive universes each with their own native physics.  “Religion is but myth and superstition,” I’m fine with that bit but the absolute statement “that hardens hearts and enslaves minds,” is unflatteringly absolutist and dismisses the positive contribution of religions and myth.  I used the word unflattering because it makes us atheist look just as closed minded and dogmatic as the religious fundamentalists we find ourselves at odds with.  I think it’s true that myth religion hardens hearts and enslaves minds but it also inspires beauty and opens hearts.  Through metaphor, mythology can teach us about ourselves and our history and help us work out problems and moral dilemmas.  Of course being in the Atheist camp, I’m a firm proponent for teaching folks to draw a line between fact and myth because I find the biggest danger is when folks take the myth as literal truth.  To quite Joseph Campbell there’s are the ones willing to “die for a metaphor,” and we’ve all scene where that leads.

 

The Tone of the Sign

 

            The next bit that rubs me the wrong way is the confrontational nature of the sign.  Now don’t get me wrong, I believe there are situations when the non-religious need to fight religion head on but I don’t think protesting a nativity scene is the best use of our time and resources.  I think the battles in public discourse really only need to happen when the religious get out of line.  The easiest example is the fundamentalist creationists’ attempt to redefine science and dilute scientific knowledge.  Now a case can be made that the nativity scene constitutes religion getting out of line which I’ll get to in a bit but even if you assume that the atheists are 100% right and the Christians are 100% wrong, is that the way you really would want to go about making your point?  For some the answer may be yes but not me.  When the author writes: At this season of THE WINTER SOLSTICE, I get the impression of someone trying to shout over the word Christmas.  Imagine a group of carolers singing “We wish you a Merry Christmas,” while some guy stands beside them singing “We wish you a Merry THE WINTER SOLSTICE,” at the top of his lungs.  I’m personally against the “under god” bit of the pledge of allegiance so I can choose to not say it or I can try and shout out all the others by saying “one nation, THERE IS NO GOD, indivisible.”  If I stay silent it only becomes an issue if someone notices me not saying it and tries to force me.  I tend to think dignity and clarity will have more sway than belligerence and if you have to shout chances are you’re yelling at someone who won’t hear you anyway.   So I wouldn’t have worded the sign with such absolute one sided language and I wouldn’t have taken a confrontation attitude against a display of one of Christianity’s more peaceful symbols.  In fact I probably wouldn’t have even raised an eyebrow except for one thing:

 

The Location of the Sign

 

            That’s right, I was ready to write off the whole stunt as a bad idea until I read the whole article and found the nativity scene was placed in front of a government legislative building.  It’s one of those all or nothing issues.  If you’re going to let someone put a religious message in front of a government building, then you have to allow for all other religions and points of view.  If it were my call to make I would err on the side of nothing; keep the building and decorations secular.  It would be more a pragmatic than an ideological decision.  If you allowed a decoration for every metaphysical point of view, nobody would be able to get into the building for work and you open the door for Scientologists, yikes!  Finally on the double if train, if I felt the need to offer a different pint of view and if I chose the Olympia legislative building to make my stand, my sign would read something like:

 

In this country, you are free to hold any religious belief.  But know also, that if you choose NOT to believe in any gods, if you choose reason over mythology, if you choose science over superstition; you are not evil and you are not alone this holiday season.

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