Posted on Sunday, February 13th, 2011
At 2:30am I ended up playing chauffeur to the hospital ER. While I was waiting, I saw a guy walk in holding one of his fingers that had gotten cut off. Holy crap. I could so not work the reception desk at an ER. I do not do well when people show up holding body parts. Or The bubonic plague.
• Debloggered. I've been noticing for quite a while now the long, slow, steady decline in blogging. It's a little depressing, but I didn't know how depressing until I was bored in the hospital waiting room and decided to edit my feed reader. It turns out twenty-eight of my feeds ended up getting deleted because they haven't been updated in over six months. Twenty-eight! I can't be sure, but I probably deleted close to that many a year ago. A few of the deleted bloggers I keep in touch with via Twitter or Facebook, so I guess that's okay. But there are others who apparently dropped off the face of the earth. A few left with a sad "this is my last entry" post, whereas others just... stopped.
A classic example is an expatriate who decided to move to Korea for a year so he could experience life in another country before getting his PhD. I found his blog during my third trip to Korea when I was Googling for... something... and kept reading because he was an interesting guy living an interesting life who had similar thoughts and hobbies (comic books!) to mine. Eventually he fell in love with a Korean girl, got married, ended up staying in Korea five years, got accepted at a school back in the USA, moved into a new apartment here with his wife, and then the entries just... stopped. It's so strange to have been a part of somebody's life for years and then =BLAM!= you have no idea what happened to them or how they're doing. I ended up doing some Google-stalking, found the guy on Twitter, then sent a request... but since I never commented on his blog, he doesn't know me and will probably ignore it.
It's the same story for a few other blogs I once followed. You get caught up in somebody's life, feel like you know them, then one day they're gone and you're left wondering. Now, granted, it's not like a blogger owes anybody anything. If they decide that blogging is no longer something they want to do, then that's all there is to it. But, even so, it's a little bit cruel. And a little bit curious. I wonder how many people would notice (or even care) if tomorrow I just... stopped?
• Fosterized. Last summer a song called Pumped Up Kicks by an unknown band called "Foster The People" was creeping through the blogosphere, infecting people wherever it landed. The song was contagious in a way that's truly rare... slamming through a catchy beat and even catchier nonsense lyrics that still haunt me months later. The odd thing being that the band was practically invisible, and finding any new material past their one song was nigh impossible. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that not only did they finally release a video for Pumped Up Kicks, they also unleashed an EP with three songs on iTunes (including Houdini, which has become permanently implanted in my head). Apparently an album is on the way. I'm hoping it sucks, because I don't know how I will be able to function with more than three awesome Foster The People songs constantly looping through my head...
• Branded. And so Russell Brand hosted Saturday Night Live last night. Compared to most recent episodes, it wasn't bad. But with the exception of Brand's monologue, Jay Pharoah's flawless Eminem impersonation, and a faux ad-spot for an offensively British movie called Don' You Go Rounin' Roun to Re Ro, it just wasn't that funny to me. By the time we got to the heinous A Spot of Tea sketch, I wanted to impale myself on my remote just to end the suffering. Surely even the people involved can't think this crap is in any way funny? Here's hoping Miley Cyrus manages to somehow have a good show in two weeks despite all evidence pointing to doom. Wow. If Hannah Montana can't make for a good episode of SNL they might as well hang it up.
• Weathered. Well, poop...
• Microsofnokia. Nokia, once the final word in mobile phones, has been sliding into irrelevance for years. First Blackberry skewered them in the business market. Then iPhone and Android served them their head in the personal smartphone market. In every way that matters Nokia was dying a slow death, never to be heard of again.
And then... Stephen Elop, a former Microsof employee (and Microsoft's eight largest shareholder), became CEO of Nokia. After a brutally honest critique of Nokia's complete lack of ability to compete in the market, Elop announced that Nokia was dumping pretty much everything and hitching its wagon to the Microsoft Windows Phone 7 train. It was spectacularly brilliant and evil. For all intents and purposes, Nokia was now a hardware division of Microsoft. For which Microsoft paid nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero dollars. When I first mentioned this, people called me a wingnut Microsoft-hating conspiracy theorist. And now another former Microsoft employee of sixteen years, Chris Weber, has just been installed as CEO of Nokia USA.
Get out your tinfoil hat!
I'd congratulate Microsoft for dropping to an entirely new level of evil, but I don't think this is going to make much difference. All they've done is ensure that what few manufacturers were making Windows Phone 7 handsets will now be embracing Android 100%. Good thing Microsoft has a lot of money, because that's about the only thing that's keeping them in the smartphone game. Alas, the same can't be said for Nokia. Since Microsoft has no financial interest in the company, they also have no risk. If this massive gamble doesn't pay off, Nokia is done for.
And let's not fool ourselves here, Nokia is done for.
UPDATE: Or billions. Whatever... this doesn't end well.
And on that sad note, I suppose I should try to get some work done before this weekend is over.
If only I could wake up...
Posted on Thursday, March 3rd, 2011
For a day that had so many things going oh so terribly wrong, something unexpected happened to make all the suffering worthwhile.I've blogged before about my love of all things Matt & Kim. They are far and away one of my favorite bands, and I have been trying for years to see them in concert. Because if there's one thing that Matt & Kim are known for beyond the awesome music they make, it's their live performances. If you weren't a fan before seeing them play, you would most certainly be one after. They have a joy and passion for playing music that makes their shows an experience to be savored...
But, alas, it has not yet come to pass. Every time they've played in Seattle, I'm away. Any time I'm in a city other than Seattle, it seems as though I've just missed them. And any time I've made plans to see them, life gets in the way. I've purchased tickets to see them perform three times (once in Seattle, once in Austin, and again in New York)... but every time I was diverted and couldn't make it.
Either somebody up there really doesn't want me to see Matt & Kim, or I'm just horribly unlucky.
Lil' Whall PC has no sympathy for Lil' Dave Mac's pain. And people wonder why I hate Windows!
So you can imagine my non-surprise when I went through their brand new Sidewalks tour schedule and saw that no dates for Seattle were listed. But then something caught my eye. There were still some dates left in their current European tour. Including March 23 in London...
Which happens to be the day I have an overnight layover at London's Heathrow Airport on my way back home.
And so now, after years of chasing them all over the USA trying to catch them live, I have a ticket to see Matt & Kim in the UK because I just happen to be in the neighborhood.
I wonder what's going to go wrong this time?
Show canceled? Trip canceled? Weather delay? Public transportation strike? Venue closing? AIRPLANE EXPLODING?
I guess we'll see. Maybe this is finally my moment. But if something does go wrong, I'm pretty sure I'll be blaming Matt & Kim. Surely after years of effort on my part, it can't be my fault that things are going so terribly wrong.
Posted on Friday, March 4th, 2011
As I've said a couple of times now, I have no use for an iPad. My iPhone and MacBook do everything I need, and an iPad would just be one more thing to carry. Sure I bought one. I kinda had to. I'm an iOS developer and needed to update app graphics for some of my clients so they work on iPad. But after I was done, I gave it to my mom. She loves it. For her, it is truly a "Magical and Revolutionary New Device," just as Apple said.
I recently started composing music again.
I used to write quite a bit of music when I was in video production. It saved me lots of time over collaborating with a REAL musician, which meant I could move on to my next project faster. Alas, eventually digital editing tools came along that made my kind of video work redundant. I stopped doing video projects, which meant I stopped making music as well.
But recently I got bit by the music bug again, and have been using Apple's "SoundTrack" and "Garage Band" apps to bang out some tunes on my Mac with an old keyboard I have. It's far from an ideal solution. I have to "fake" instruments like guitars, drums, brass, and woodwinds by "playing" them on the keyboard or using pre-made loops because I can't play them very well in real life. I can play keyboard decently. Electronic drums I'm okay at. I have played bass guitar a few times and can manage. Barely. Sax and clarinet I used to play well, but suck at now. Given my menial musical talent, I don't have much choice but to faux compose on a computer. But I manage and it works.And then I saw Apple's "iPad2 Event" and nearly crapped my pants.
They demoed the new iPad Garage Band app, and it's jaw-dropping amazing. I'd go so far as to say "fucking astounding," but I don't want to oversell things here.
Except it really is fucking astounding...
For $4.99 (FOUR DOLLARS AND NINETY-NINE CENTS!) you get such a jaw-dropping array of musical tools with such unprecedented interactivity and functionality that you would have to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars on real life instruments and gear to even get even close to what Apple is offering. But they don't stop there. For instruments you might not play very well, they include "smart instruments" which assist you in working with them. PLUS an amp with stompboxes (for incorporating real guitars) AND a frickin' eight-track recording studio...
The most amazing part is how much thought went into it. It's like Garage Band was designed by actual musicians who would know what's needed to make an app like this useful. Like using the iPad's accelerometer to sense how hard you're tapping a piano key or a drum. Like using iPad's multi-touch surface to do things you couldn't even do with a real instrument. Like including properties of actual instruments so their virtual counterparts play as expected (chord dampening!).
For the music hobbyist who wants access to a "home studio" full of instruments and multi-track recording equipment (like me!) the iPad is more than a frickin' bargain... It's almost free. $500 for the hardware plus $5 for a crap-load of exceptional instruments AND a recording studio? I mean, holy shit. How can I NOT want an iPad now?
It's like the Mac version is just a clutzy imitator, and THIS is was what Garage Band was meant to be all along.
Of course, me talking about it can't possibly explain just how wonderful the app is. If you're an amateur musician... or even somebody who just likes the idea of giving music a try, you owe it to yourself to watch the Apple keynote video here (the Garage Band stuff starts
As for the iPad2 itself? It's nice. It finally includes the front-facing FaceTime camera THAT IT SHOULD HAVE HAD ALL ALONG. There's other good new stuff too, and the bump in speed and graphics will make more complex apps function better (as well as opening the door for even more incredible stuff in the future). But the miraculous thing about the iPad is not its specs. It's the extraordinary experience of using one that gives Apple the edge. This is something that competitors simply don't seem to understand. It doesn't matter if you have a tablet with a faster processor or more memory or more ports than iPad... you're not going to make a superior experience to iPad in hardware alone. It's the tight integration of hardware to software when married to truly brilliant apps like GarageBand that makes an iPad an iPad.
It's almost frightening to think of where Apple maight take us next.
Posted on Thursday, March 24th, 2011
I'm covered in sweat and hoarse from screaming... that's how you know it was a great show!
Yes. That's me. Drinking Champaign with MATT AND KIM!
When I arrived at London's Restless Garage, I though my biggest surprise of the night would be when my friend and fellow Hard Rock Cafe aficionado Perry showed up with his girlfriend Sarah to the concert.
That was just the beginning.
The concert, as expected, was amazing. Matt & Kim so clearly love music and love their fans. They give absolutely everything they have to their performance, and this lets you appreciate their songs on an entirely new level...
Matt takes it down a notch...
That's Kim dancing ON the crowd!
And there's Matt crowd-surfing!
After trying to catch them in concert for literally years across the USA, I finally managed it by accident while on a Layover in London. How fucking crazy is life?
Apparently not crazy enough.
Because Matt & Kim's manager stumbled across my blog and sympathized with my numerous failed efforts to see the band live. Being the incredibly kind and generous human being he is, he arranged for a back-stage pass, for which I will be forever grateful. Because meeting Matt & Kim is kind of one of those life-defining moments...
My musical tastes are firmly planted in the 1980's. But when I first heard Matt & Kim's stuff, I fell in love with music all over again. They have a passion that you just don't see much anymore, and it comes across in every song they make. Seeing them perform those songs live lets you feel it.
After the show, Matt & Kim jumped into the audience and made their way around the show floor, saying hello to everybody. Kim stayed and signed autographs and had pictures taken until they literally kicked everybody out of the club. They just love their fans.
But the icing on the cake is that they are truly grateful for their success. They love what they do, and realize that it's their fans that make it all possible. When I was back-stage waiting to say hello, Matt & Kim were talking with various people that were there. And the topic of their conversation wasn't what a great show they gave... or how hard they rock... or how awesome they are... it was all about their fans. They went on and on with how thrilled they were that the London audience was so welcoming and so hyped to see them. They loved that everybody was having a great time. They were genuinely humbled that people showed up to watch them play. They said again and again how great it was to have such enthusiastic fans. If I wasn't already a massive fan of the band, I would have become one right there just listening to them... even if I hated their music.
And then I got to meet them, which is about the greatest thing ever.
Then the night was over, and Matt & Kim were off to Paris so they could thrill their fans in the City of Lights.
I wanted so badly to hop on a train and meet them there.
But, alas, I am flying back home today, so I had to pull myself away... content knowing that I had just met one of my favorite bands of all time.
Thanks to Matt, Kim, Kevin, Perry, and Sarah for the best birthday ever!
Posted on Wednesday, March 30th, 2011
Last night I saw an amazing show by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark at The Music Box L.A.
All the expense and trouble of getting here melted away as the band slammed through a sensational set list of their incredible music. And, because I had bought a "VIP Package," I got to attend a soundcheck and meet the band before the show even started. This was an incredible experience, and made a great thing even better...
The soundcheck ended up being fantastic, but the concert itself was amazing. One of my favorite new bands, Mackintosh Braun, opened up for them, which was like extra frosting on your cake.
I thought it would be impossible for any band to even get close to the energy from the Matt & Kim show I attended last week in London, but Andy, Paul, and Co. played their guts out for an enthusiastic crowd that absolutely loved their performance...
When I met the band, I gave them crap for not playing Seattle. They said that they had been asked to tour the States again, and Seattle would definitely be included next time. Which is like chocolate pudding on top of your extra frosting on top of your cake. I can hardly wait!
Since this was the final show on their tour, Andy took a minute to send out some thank you's. One of them was to their record label, Bright Antenna, for sponsoring this tour in the first place. Apparently no concert promoter would back OMD because they didn't think people would show up. Of course, the band went on to not only sell-out every single show, but they even added an extra one. Which also sold out...
Congrats to Andy, Paul, Martin, and Malcolm on a great album, a great tour, and for having such great fans.
And now it's time for how I got here...
Along with Depeche Mode and the Thompson Twins, the holy trinity of my favorite 80's bands is completed by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (more often known as "OMD"). Other bands like a-ha, Pet Shop Boys, and Duran Duran came along to snag my attention, but my DM, TT, and OMD came first.
As a massively huge fan of their work, I was thrilled when OMD released a new album last year, History of Modern, that was as good as anything they've ever done. It ended up being my pick for "Album of the Year," so you can imagine my delight when I found out that they were touring the USA in March.
Except there was no stop in Seattle, and I was gone for a big chunk of the shows because I was in London and Venice. A part of me was gutted that I'd miss the tour, but a part of me was also relieved because I'd be flat-broke when I got back from Europe.
And then they added an extra Los Angeles date six days after I returned from London.
I was sorely tempted but, the cost of the flight, hotel, food, and tickets was more than I could spend, and I've already seen OMD live several times.
But then Mackintosh Braun announced they would be the opening act.
Keep in mind, THIS is what my favorite albums list looks like for 2010...
With Mackintosh Braun added to the ticket, there was no way I could miss this show. I had just seen Matt & Kim. I had flown to New York for a-ha's farewell tour. The chance to see tracks from four out of five of my favorite albums of 2010 performed live was too much.
And so I decided to throw responsibility to the wind, spend a chunk of money I don't have, and fly to L.A. for one night only for an opportunity to listen to some great music. And since I was already going for broke, I went ahead and got the VIP deal. In for a penny, in for a pound, I guess.
What was especially cool was that Ian and Ben (Mackintock Braun) hung around in the lobby after the show so I could tell them that they were the reason I flew to the show. They were genuinely grateful, and a couple of really nice guys. If you haven't listened to their stuff, I highly recommend it.
And so now I fly home. Poor, but happy.
Which is as it really should be, I suppose.
Posted on Monday, May 16th, 2011
I've been fact-checked!
First thing this morning I got an email from Bad Robert calling "bullshit" on the meme I filled out on Saturday. Question #55 was "WHAT IS YOUR MOST EMBARRASSING CD ON THE SHELF?" I answered with this: "I don't have CDs anymore, they've all been ripped into iTunes. I'm not really embarrassed by any of it."
Bad Robert had this to say...
"Dude! You still listen to the Millionaires! You're not even a little embarrassed by that?"
To which I could only answer "Oh gawd... you're right!"
The Millionaires is a girl-band duo (formerly a trio) that sings mostly about drinking, doing drugs, and having sex with every guy they meet. So... basically they're drunken sluts who kinda sing. And it IS embarrassing that I would be into listening to that crap, but I just can't help myself. I mean, it's pretty much just catchy beats with filthy lyrics, but it's fun. One of their least offensive videos (which is still a little offensive) is Stay The Night...
Yes. Yes, I know.
But if you want to know what the Millionaires are really about, you need to listen to Party Like a Millionaire, which is probably offensive and most definitely not safe for work...
Their parents must be so proud.
And yes, I am embarrassed to have Millionaires in my music collection. So thanks, Bad Robert! Oh well. If you want to experience the full horror, here's their MySpace.
You. Are. Welcome.
Today I had to run to the craft shop to buy some posterboard. Well, they call it posterboard, but it's really just big wimpy sheets of paper now-a-days. It stopped being "board" years ago.
As I was pulling into a parking space, I had to slam on the brakes. A woman in a giant pick-up truck was driving through her parking space to exit through the one I was entering. She waited a second, then honked her horn so I would move. But I just sat there. She can back out of her parking space just like everybody else has to.
This did not make her happy.
She started slamming her fists on her steering wheel and laying on the horn.
I just sat there. Fuck her.
She finally realized I wasn't going to move, so she started screaming at me with crap I couldn't hear because my stereo was on. After a minute went by she finally backed up, then went screeching out of the parking lot.
I guess she was in a hurry to go off and party like a Millionaire.
But seriously. What IS it with people?
All I wanted to do was park in an empty parking spot... none of this situation was my fault, and yet there she was acting like an asshole and blaming me for it. Well kiss my ass, I'm sick of this shit. Be a bitch on your own time and leave me out of it.
But the world is ending in five days, so there's that.
Posted on Friday, June 17th, 2011
One thing I've been noticing lately is a lot of cars being pulled over by the police. In an age of labor cuts and dwindling budgets, it seems like even the cops are having to justify their jobs and increase revenue. This means a lot of tickets are probably being issued where they once were not. Because of this, I've been driving a lot more conservatively over the past year or so... but not everybody has gotten the message. When I was driving over to Seattle last week, I was twice passed by cars going way over the speed limit, only to catch up with them down the road after they had been pulled over.
Today it happened again. The police are not playing around. At least not in Washington State.
A part of me is happy about this, because there are people on the road who are downright dangerous and should be pulled over. But another part of me is concerned at the thought that the police may be going too far. If people are being pulled over for going 65 in a 60, for example, I don't consider this to be ticket-worthy. Even a temporary passing speed of 70 in a 60 should not be a ticketable offense if somebody is passing safely. Hopefully, things are not getting out of hand, because there's a fine line between "To serve and protect" and "To humiliate and harass."
Personally, I'd rather pay more taxes to the police so that they don't have ticket quotas and can focus on public safety and dangerous drivers... like the assholes who are slow-driving in the passing lane AND AREN'T PASSING ANYBODY! It may cost us more money, but at least it's not affecting our insurance rates, so we're saving in the long-run.
In the meanwhile... watch your speed, citizens!
Oh... for those of you who were asking which headphones I ended up with after my rant yesterday...
Blogography's Bose AE2 Audio Headphones Review
Bose is one of those companies that usually gets massacred at review sites because most everybody seems to think they are overpriced and have poor sound. This is kind of surprising because every time I've stopped at a Bose kiosk and given them a listen, I've been relatively impressed. No, they're not going to win in a contest against $1500 studio reference cans (obviously) but, for the most part, I think they're worth the money they charge.
I have four sets of earbuds, with my favorite being the Klipsch S4i. The problem is that earbuds become uncomfortable for me after a while, and I was wanting something that went over my ears like a traditional headset. Unfortunately, the three pairs I tried at the mid-low-end (JVC, Sony, and Skullcandy... each $50 or less) were not at all comfortable. It finally got to the point that I didn't even care about the sound, all I wanted was something that didn't squeeze my brain or dent the top of my head. A Google search for "most comfortable headphones" eventually led me to Bose. Target had a listening station and AE2's in stock for $20 off ($130 total). They were about $60 more than I wanted to spend, but oh well.
My thoughts on my new cans can be found in an extended entry...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Posted on Saturday, July 23rd, 2011
People can make fun of Amy Winehouse and mock her death as much as they want. It won't change the fact that she was a remarkable artist who created music that a great many people, including myself, really loved. A month ago I was lamenting that she hadn't come out with a new album in five years and was crossing my fingers that something would be released soon. Now, it saddens me greatly that anything we get... if anything at all... will be released posthumously.
I am not going to deny that she had serious problems and did some crazy shit. Amy was a very troubled and tortured person, and dealt with it the best way she knew how. Unfortunately that involved a lot of abusive behavior that would be tough for anybody to survive. But not one bit of it made me enjoy her music any less. Because no matter how out-of-control and batshit crazy she was in her personal life, in her songs she made perfect sense.
I'd say that I will miss her music, but the truth is her music isn't going anywhere. I just wish so badly she would have stuck around to make more of it. And, on that note, my favorite of so many favorites...
The rest of my day was $600 in repair costs for my car's brakes.
Hanging out with my sister on a flawless afternoon.
Meeting up with some remarkable Pacific Northwest bloggers.
Life is the bittersweet joy and hurt of it all. I am so incredibly blessed to have friends and family to make even my worst days good again.
Oh how I wish Amy Winehouse could have found the same.
Posted on Sunday, August 21st, 2011
It'll have to be a short Bullet Sunday today... I've got a big mess to clear up in my living room...
• Diiiiiiiieee! A new study shows that single people die younger than married people. The bottom-line being that I would live (on average, I guess) 8 to 17 years longer if I were to get hitched. I don't really know if I want to live 17 years longer on this sick sad world, but I suppose I should start investigating mail-order bride options just in case.
• Millionaires! Everybody's favorite drug-endorsing, alcohol-gorging, sex-addicted, party-obsessed melody-makers are back and asking for your help to finance their first album! That's right, Millionaires (one of those bands I hate to love) has opened up a project on Kickstarter to raise $10,000 in funding...
People can say what they like about the girls, but Millionaires know how to crank out addictive pop tunes that infest your brain unlike any other. There's just something inexplicably appealing about their unique blend of nasty-ass lyrics and thumping beats! Here's one of the least offensive songs from their last EP...
• RIP HP Mobile! The big news in tech this week was Hewlett Packard killing off their "WebOS" products... namely their phones (like the Pre) and tablet (the "iPad killing" TouchPad).
Personally I don't give a crap. Nothing in these products was overwhelmingly more compelling than what you can get from an iPhone or iPad, so why bother? Why waste everybody's time? I want real competition for Apple so they are forced to keep innovating and moving forward... HP was obviously never serious about challenging iOS dominance, so good riddance.
Though it's kind of stupid to pay 1.2 BILLION DOLLARS for something you're going to piss away. And I feel really bad for the people at Palm who thought that getting bought out by HP was going to rescue all their hard work. I mean, hey... their commercials may have given me nightmares, but Palm was a decent company at one time. It's all a shame, but not surprising though. HP has a history of fucking things up.
• Comic Collector! At one time, Macintosh users who were comic book fans had a nifty solution for keeping track of their collection. It was called ComicBase, and made it a snap to catalog you comics. But then the people behind the program abandoned the Mac and went full-on Windows, which was pretty shitty to do to their fans, but I guess you go where the money is. For years, there hasn't been a really serious alternative if you're a Mac Whore. But all that changed with Colletorz.com decided to make their "Comic Collector" software available on the Mac...
I've had a few crashes from time to time... and adding a bar code scanner can cause a few problems... but, overall, I'm very happy with it. Finally Mac users have a serious comic book database utility which pulls from a vast repository of information and images. If you're a Mac or Windows user looking to keep track of your comics, you can download a free trial at their website.
And now? Time to throw away another couple bags of crap I've been collecting before bedtime. I feel my life getting less complicated already!
Posted on Friday, September 16th, 2011
Well that was a great evening.
As for today? BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS, BABY!
It only got better from there.
Posted on Sunday, October 9th, 2011
Oog. Bullets will have to wait a day since there's only ten minutes left in my Sunday.
Just got back from Foster the People's sold-out gig in Seattle. I've been a fan ever since Pumped Up Kicks first starting going viral on YouTube. Of course, back then they were practically unknown, but that's far from the case now... heck, they were even on Saturday Night Live last night (with special guest Kenny G!).
The band puts on a really good live show, I just wish the venue had been better.
Oh well. I had a good time, so I guess that's what really matters.
Foster the People has teamed up with the Do Good Bus, which was parked out front.
Tomorrow it's back to reality after two-and-a-half weeks of big fun.
Wish me luck.
Posted on Monday, November 14th, 2011
Sorry, but this is a geeky computer post most of you will probably want to skip.
And so Apple finally unleashed their iTunes Match service today. I say "finally" because we were told that it was going to be released on October 31st, but then it wasn't. I can only guess that it wasn't ready yet, and Apple wanted to take some extra time to make sure everything was working perfectly before launch.
Because, from my experience, iTunes Match is mostly crap. For now, anyways.
The idea is that you pay Apple $25 a year, and they manage all your music for you via iCloud. Songs in your iTunes library that Apple sells in the iTunes Store, regardless of how you acquired them, are immediately available online from Apple's servers. Also... no matter how poor quality your music files are, Apple automatically upgrades them to high-quality 256-kbps DRM-free files. You can then either A) Stream these files from iCloud over the internet to your computer or iOS device any time you want... or B) Download them to your computer or iOS device any time you want for offline listening.
If the song is not sold by Apple, it will be uploaded to iCloud so you can access the original file via streaming/downloading as stated above. It will not be upgraded in any way, however, because Apple doesn't have it for sale.
When it works... it's pretty special.
For example, I bought the CD Cruel Summer by "Ace of Base" years ago and ripped it into iTunes. Since the album is also sold by Apple, I am supposed to get the full benefit of iTunes Match. But not really...
Above you see iTunes Match in action. Or not.
The songs with NO cloud icon after them have been recognized by Apple as being sold in their store and I can stream or download them immediately to any device or computer I have registered with iCloud (but my original ripped file is left untouched on this computer). The songs with a dotted cloud icon after them are in-process and may or may not be recognized... if NOT recognized for some reason, they have to be uploaded. The songs with an exclamation(!) cloud icon after them have some kind of problem and return an undefined error when iTunes attempted to match/upload them...
What's the cause of the error? Who the fuck knows! This is APPLE we're talking about!
Usually re-processing them will work, but not always.
Anyway, to demonstrate how iTunes Match is supposed to work, I am going to delete the Ace of Base song Adventures in Paradise from my library (since it's one of just three measly songs iTunes Match has recognized off this album as being sold by Apple)...
Note that I am net telling Apple to delete the song from iCloud. I'm guessing that I would lose it permanently if I did this (assuming I hadn't backed it up). From what I can tell, ONLY songs you purchased directly from Apple are permanently available from iCloud (whether your membership is current or not).
After the song has been deleted, the file is no longer on my MacBook, but the song is still listed as being available. I can then click the standard little "Download from iCloud" icon to the right of the title and get it back. Here it is downloading to my MacBook (a little "progress pie chart" is on the left there)...
Now here's the cool part...
On the LEFT is the new high-quality Apple file I just downloaded. On the RIGHT is the original low quality file I dragged from the trash. iTunes Match is working as advertised. I just traded my old "low-res" music file for the fresh "hi-res" one that Apple sells in their store. Assumably, since the file was uploaded direct from the record label, it's the best possible version of the song available in a condensed digital format. To do any better than this I'd have to rip the file from CD in a "lossless" uncompressed format... but I don't have room on my MacBook for large files like that and, given that I'm not an audiophile, probably wouldn't notice the quality improvement anyway.
BUT... what if you don't want these audio files hogging up space on your hard drive? No problem! Apple allows you to "stream" songs to your computer for listening without downloading. KINDA. Technically the files are downloaded to your computer to a temporary buffer. This way, you can fast-forward, rewind, and skip around instantly... which is something you can't usually do with streaming music. As to how big this buffer is and how long it lasts, I have no clue. But it's a very nice way to handle streaming audio. To "stream" music that's not on your computer/device just click play or double-click the song anywhere except on the "Download from iCloud" icon.
So, yeah, when it works, Apple's new iTunes Match is pretty darn cool.
But, for a huge chunk of my library, it most definitely does NOT work...
And here's where it gets strange.
Just for kicks I deleted a song that I know Apple does not sell... The mono version of Baby's in Black from the album Beatles for Sale (2009 Mono Remaster). Apple only sells the Stereo version (which is not the version I want because true fans know that The Beatles only cared about the mono tracks on their early albums... stereo releases were considered a novelty at the time, and the band was rarely involved in making them).
After deletion, I immediately clicked the "Download from iCloud" button to get it back. Now, since Apple does not sell this song, I should have gotten the same mono version file I just uploaded. But, as you can probably guess, I didn't. I got back the stereo version that Apple sells... but they left the song label the same...
A quick look at the graphic equalizer confirms that this really is the STEREO version with two unique left and right channels...
Just to be sure, I also took the graphic equalizer to my original file so I could confirm is really is the MONO version with the same channels...
So, to sum up my iTunes Match experience...
Sometimes it works as advertised and it's all good. But an alarming number of times there are problems...
Needless to say, this is a bit frustrating. Whether or not Apple can fix this is anybody's guess but, for me at least, I just paid $25 for something which is fatally flawed.
What Apple has to do is find some way of letting customers manually correct the iTunes Match information. The problem is that I can't even figure out when Apple has made a match... or when there was no match and they had to upload my files (UPDATE: Actually, I can, see below). So even if I could correct the data, I wouldn't know which files needed it. Unless I delete each and every one and downloaded it back. Then matched files would be flagged as "Matched AAC Audio File."
In the meanwhile, there are still a lot of questions to be answered. Like... what happens to all my downloaded "Match" files if I don't renew my membership? Do they evaporate? What happens when a record label jerks their music from Apple's store? Do you lose your music? And so on. And so on. Since this is only my first day with the service, maybe my questions will eventually be answered. But Apple is Apple, so I've resigned myself to the fact that they probably won't be.
As for iTunes Match?
The potential is there... but I can't recommend it. Yet.
Check back in a bit.
UPDATE: iTunes does have a column you can turn on which will show you the iTunes Match status of your music...
Still no way I can figure out why some tracks are recognized and others are not on the same frickin' album. You'd think that once Apple figured out I own the album, they'd recognize ALL the tracks. But, alas, no.
Finding this feature lead to my discovering something very interesting...
a-ha's amazing final album, Foot of the Mountain, was never released in the USA. I had to import the CD and rip it into iTunes. HOWEVER... iTunes Match totally recognized and matched it! Apparently, iTunes Match gives you access to ALL of Apple's music stores worldwide. This is very cool, but is it intentional? Time will tell.
UPDATE: One of the reasons I was so keen to sign up for iTunes Match was that I could finally get rid of all the DRM-Protected music I bought and replace it with fresh DRM-Free downloads. I had already upgraded most of my music to "DRM-Free iTunes Plus" but there were some songs that never wanted to upgrade for some reason. Such as the album Play by Moby. iTunes Match recognized all but one song (even though I bought it from Apple!), but I deleted them all anyway so I could test whether songs I uploaded were still intact when I downloaded them. Sadly, the answer is NO! Trying to download the DRM-Protected song I had uploaded fails completely...
Needless to say, this is a load of shit. I BOUGHT THIS SONG FROM APPLE AND YET APPLE CAN'T MATCH IT? WTF?!? Just goes to show... buying DRM crap will only end up punishing paying customers instead of the criminals it's supposed to.
UPDATE: And things just keep getting worse. Holy crap is iTunes Match a mess! Take a look at this...
This is an album I bought from Apple's iTunes Music Store. Note that all songs are recognized as having been purchased. Note also that the status of the songs in iTunes Match is "Matched" or "Purchased" or "Uploaded"... seemingly at random. ALL OFF THE SAME ALBUM! They should all be registering as "purchased" but are not. If Apple can't even get the stuff THEY SELL YOU right, how in the hell can they be trusted to figure everything else out? And who do I talk to about getting all this straightened out?
UPDATE:I was hoping that re-importing a CD directly into iTunes with Match enabled would make it so that the entire album was recognized instead of just random songs. No such luck. iTunes is apparently matching by digital fingerprinting... and doesn't have very accurate fingerprints from CD rips to match against. Crap. I can only hope that their service will get smarter in time.
UPDATE: Despite a few minor bugs (like skipping to the next track when the current song isn't buffering fast enough and iTunes runs out of data to play), I have officially deleted (almost) all my music files from my Home Mac, my Work Mac, and my MacBook Pro. The only files I keep are unmatched protected songs, which won't play from iCloud for some reason. Since I mostly only use these devices when I have internet, it seems crazy to waste the hard disk space when I can just stream everything. For plane rides sans WiFi or other situations where I don't have internet, I'll just listen to the music I've got loaded on my phone (which is always with me). I gotta say... if Apple could just do a better job of recognizing the 800+ songs that are currently "unMatched" in my library, this whole iCloud thing would be absolutely killer. Until that day, it's just merely awesome.
Posted on Friday, December 30th, 2011
2011 was an interesting time for music. I swear that I spent more time rediscovering old stuff than trying anything new. When I did try something new, it was usually to get hooked on an awesome single only to be disappointed by the rest of the album (I'm looking at you, Grouplove!). This got really tiring after a while, but that's what happens when none of your favorite bands release an album that year! Still, there were some noticeable highlights on the album front, and I've got my top six right here...
#1 Torches by Foster The People.
It's odd when you've been following a band only to have them hit the big time. I remember heading to Seattle to see Mother Love Bone (which morphed into Pearl Jam) and Nirvana play before the whole "Grunge" scene exploded, and it was both wonderful and horrible at the same time. On one hand you're overjoyed that a band you like has found success... on the other hand, you have trouble finding tickets to see them perform! Foster the People kind of flew under the radar for a while, but I became a massive fan from the very first time I stumbled across them on the internet. And look where we are now. Sold out shows everywhere they go. In the end, I can't really blame people for loving the band, because the eclectic influences Mark Foster incorporates into his music makes everything sound so new and fresh. Their debut album incorporates the songs from their awesome EP and adds even more musical genius to make Torches my favorite album of 2012. Yeah, it's overplayed, but Pumped Up Kicks is such genius that it never gets old.
#2 Holy Ghost by Holy Ghost.
Holy Ghost hit my radar last year when they did a "Battle EP" vs. Friendly Fires. In my humble opinion, they won hands-down with their cover track Hold On despite my being a big fan of Friendly Fires. But who in the heck was "Holy Ghost?" I'd never even heard of them before. Then their self-titled debut was released and the only thing that mattered was that I know who they are now. This album is lethally infectious and jam-packed with catchy 80's-flavored pop singles that never leave your head. As if that weren't enough, they got Michael McDonald(!) to collaborate on one of the tracks! The only real criticism I have is that some of the songs have repetitive bits that can drive you crazy. Slow Motion is almost unlistenable it's so bad. Hold My Breath has fucking amazing music, but the ever-repeating "I took some money from the joint account" line is irritating as hell and makes little sense. But, that's Holy Ghost for you, for better or worse. Regardless, the minute I start up the album and hear that intro beat for Do It Again, I'm hooked all over again... which is why this is my #2 album for 2012.
#3 Wasting Light by The Foo Fighters.
My favorite FF album is their self-titled debut and I played the shit out of it back in 1995. Alan Wilder had just left my favorite band of all time (Depeche Mode) and it was the Foo Fighters who came to my rescue in a time of musical crisis. Seven albums later, along comes Wasting Light to remind everybody what a rock album sounds like. While not quite on the level as the more commercial tracks I love, it's nice to hear Grohl & Co. moving forward. Sure there's catchy favorites like Walk and Rope as you'd expect... but there's also raw, blistering tracks like White Limo to keep things interesting. I've come to assume consistently great work from the Foo Fighters, but it took something different to make me really appreciate them as a band all over again. In addition to amazing music, Foo Fighters have some of the best videos ever. The intro for Walk goes on a little too long, but I love it anyway because it sets up the song so wonderfully.
#4 Last Night on Earth by Noah & the Whale
I'll be straight with you, this album isn't going to set the world on fire. It's an acceptable blend of pop and folk that is a pleasant diversion from the standard radio fare, and that's about it. Except... some of the songs are so beautifully executed that I find myself playing Last Night on Earth far more than I normally would. When I was preparing this list I was plenty shocked at the play counts I'd racked up in iTunes. It's almost as if I play it non-stop, which I probably do when I'm working. Reason enough to have this as my #4 for 2011.
#5 Panic of Girls by Blondie
Their last album left me sick with disappointment, so I was reluctant to hop on the Blondie bandwagon again... but boy did they deliver with Panic of Girls! This is a terrific album and a decidedly more mature effort than their early works. I love that the sound for each track is subtly eclectic and interesting... but also so uniquely "Blondie" sounding. Nice to know that Deborah Harry can still belt out a song with the best of them... I'll take her over Adele any day of the week.
#6 Days by Real Estate
Bordering on "easy listening," this album filled with hazy dreamy drifting songs that sparkle just enough to keep you awake. That may sound like a bad thing, but there are times when I'm working or driving that this is exactly what I need in the background of my life.
And before I go...
MUSIC VIDEO OF THE YEAR!
The Murf by Rendezvous.
Though, quite honestly, this could very well be the best music video of the decade...
Amazing. Just amazing. I've watched it dozens of times and see something new each time. BOW DOWN BEFORE THE ALMIGHTY SQUID YOU WHALE-WORSHIPING BLASPHEMERS!
SINGLE OF THE YEAR!
Midnight City by M83.
This innovative musical dreamscape that combines a lot of distinctly different elements into a really sweet track had me really excited for the album it came from, Hurry Up We're Dreaming. Unfortunately, the other songs there didn't grab me enough for the album to make my list. Still, the video is pretty darn cool...
I could have just as easily dropped Tounge Tied by Grouplove here. Amazing single, not so amazing album.
And that about sums it up. I'd list my "Worst Albums of 2012," but I never really latched on to anything truly bad this year. I suppose I could ask "What happened to The Decemberists with their new album "The King is Dead?" What's with the twang? Have they gone country? Have they gone INSANE? A huge misstep that may have cost them a fan... but still, there were nice bits too, so it's not like I could even label it as one of the "worst" I had heard this year.
I guess Lady Gaga could get the honor since Born This Way was pretty shitty. It was supposed to be some kind of gay anthem, but she ended up mocking the people she professed to be helping by putting bones on her face and shoulders then giving birth to herself from a giant egg. Well, baby, nobody is fucking born THAT way. All you did was turn yourself into exactly the kind of freak that simple-minded morons already label the gays with, which means the people who could have been influenced by your music were turned away. If you truly wanted to make a difference, you should have put your "art" on the back burner and sang the songs in jeans and a T-shirt or something. But still, her heart was in the right place and I'm guessing she managed to touch those she intended to lift up with her music, so I guess it's not so terrible after all? I dunno.
Anyway... here's hoping that next year all my favorite bands are back with new material in 2012 so I'll have an easier time making my list next December.