Thursday, April 08, 2010

Jam with Faraway Musicians Via Your Laptop: Ohm Studio

Music has always been a collaborative art form. The first popular records were made by bringing all musicians into a studio full of microphones, recording them live all at once. With the advent of multitrack audiotape, each instrument could be recorded a track at a time, and thus, you could get a drummer or a pianist in there one day, then bring in a vocalist on another.

This multitrack metaphor still remains today in digital audio workstation software (or DAW). But there's still the problem of finding good musicians to meet up with you and jam. With the Internet and email and file-sharing, that's much easier. Assuming you find people through any number of sites, you can fling the tracks back and forth to each other wherever you might be -- in your garage in Seattle, or on a Wi-Fi accessible beach in Fiji. But that's still annoying.

Now there's Ohm Studio, a DAW with a social network back-end plus an optimized file-sharing engine within the app. Sounds good, but there are already quite a few DAWs out there. Pro Tools, Sonar, Logic Pro, Ableton Live, Acid, Cubase, Record, Reaper to name a few. Would be great if the social media back-end were an open API so that each DAW developer could tap into it. A standard, like the virtual instrument plugin standard "VST". Ah well.

Someday very soon you can be sitting on the beach, acting like you're the hot shot producer in the control room as you type to your artist "More cowbell."

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posted by Brian at 9:10 AM 0 comments links to this post

Monday, April 05, 2010

Moby Video Contest

My friends Holly and Dylan created this excellent entry for Moby's "Wait For Me" music video competition. Please have a look and vote for it if you like it.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Piano Improvisor Merton + Random Webcam Chatroom = Viral Hit!

People go onto anonymous webcam chatrooms for a variety of reasons. Loneliness. Boredom. Sexual exploration. But to be serenaded by a hooded improvising piano-player was not one of them, until now.

Merton (not his real name) is now an Internet phenom. His video was seen over 4 million times in less than a week! On his Youtube channel, Merton wrote a note saying he was not Ben Folds, a semi-famous male piano player from Atlanta (of the band Ben Folds Five). As Merton's video became more popular though, some media insisted Merton and Ben Folds were the same guy. Playing up the joke, Ben Folds recorded his own "Ode to Merton" video in front of a 2000 member live audience, complete with hoodie and glasses.

Here is the very first interview with Merton on Mashable.

I love the combination of improvisational music performance and the randomness of the participants, with all of us watching. It's a bit like those old "You're on Candid Camera" TV shows, where a set of actors and a camera crew do things in front of unsuspecting people. Only now, none of the parties has to go anywhere in particular. Both sides of the chat could be anywhere, and the audience could also be anywhere. Imagine if two improv pianists in front of live audiences from random places in the world encountered each other on Chatroullette?

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posted by Brian at 12:13 PM 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

DIY Dumplings? Desire Dim Sum? Get Andrea Nguyen's book "Asian Dumplings"

Tricia and I are passionate Dim Sum-o wrestlers.  Living in Los Angeles, we are fortunate to have many good Dim Sum restaurants near us in Chinatown, Alhambra, and Gardenia.  However, we had been wondering lately -- how difficult would it be to make our own char shiu bao (steamed pork buns)?  Or har gow (steamed shrimp dumplings)?  After doing some research, all we knew was that it supposedly took years (nay, a lifetime) of professional training in the kitchens and/or culinary schools of Hong Kong to be good enough to be worthy of making these morsels.  Our dreams of DIY Dim Sum seemed hopelessly farfetched.

Then one day, while driving and listening to KCRW's Good Food podcast, I found out about Andrea Nguyen's new book entitled Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas and More.  It was as if a steamed dough crescent rainbow had formed over the 405!  Our soy sauce, chili and mustard prayers were answered!  

The book goes into a lot of detail and offers short cuts for making your own doughs.  If illustrations aren't enough for you, she's got instructional videos on the book's companion site  Indian, Thai, Japanese, South American, Vietnamese and Fillipino dumpling lovers are not left out -- they too get recipes and techniques.  Seriously, if you want to make any sort of dumpling-esque food item, this book is for you.

So now we are building up our equipment list, taking the advice of Mrs. Nguyen and getting a tortilla press (!), and a wooden dowel to make into small, cheap rolling pins.  We're still tracking down some of the more exotic ingredients, like Shaoxing rice wine.  But hopefully soon I'll have photos up of our creations.

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posted by Brian at 3:44 PM 1 comments links to this post

Friday, February 19, 2010

MIT scientists developing giant, hovering 3-D Animations

Remember the amazing human pixel performances at the Chinese Olympics? I was stunned at the beauty of thousands of people acting as one giant moving picture. Now, scientists at MIT are working on floating displays made up of individual controllable flying robots, each with adjustable colored lights.

I do hope these don't catch on as advertising, however. Can you imagine being accosted by a hovering, glowing face made up of artificial gnats nagging you to shop at Wal Mart or get your oil changed at Jiffy Lube? Greaaat.

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posted by Brian at 4:45 PM 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Discovering Peter Serafinowicz

Peter Serfinowicz is a British voice actor, comedian and actor whom I've been exposed over the last decade, but never put a face to.  Tricia and I were watching Couples Retreat and the paradise island host Sctanley caught our attention because of his relaxing, authoritative, and strangely familiar voice. 

Today I found a Boing Boing interview with him and started connecting the dots.

Turns out he was in Star Wars: Episode I (Darth Maul's voice), Sean of the Dead (roommate of Simon Pegg), Look Around You (narrator), and Black Books (which featured Simon Pegg and Dylan Moran, another favorite comedian).

I can see why he was chosen to play Paul McCartney in the upcoming Zemeckis motion capture freakfest remake of Yellow Submarine:

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posted by Brian at 12:58 PM 0 comments links to this post

Monday, February 08, 2010

New Rare Condition to Add to My Collection: Pellucid Marginal Degeneration

Went to a new eye doctor today.  Turns out I do not have Keratoconus after all.  My left eye has Pellucid Marginal Degeneration, which is often confused with it and is much more rare.  The good news is that it does not lead to blindness and does not get worse with age.

I had been wearing soft contacts for almost twelve years until one day in 1998, my new optometrist gave me the usual eye tests.  Right eye was fine.  Left eye though, not so much.  "Which of these look better, one or two?"  "Neither"  This went on for too long as I sat nervously, wearing those steam-punk goggles.  The doctor seemed very puzzled, then told me "Well it looks like you have Keratoconus, or a curved cornea.  There's not much we can do.  We could give you glasses, but the left lens would be about 5 inches thick.  Sorry."  Wha?!

Luckily, we have an optometrist in the distant family.  Called him, and he said the doc was crazy and recommended another one.  He too declared "Keratoconus" but claimed "your last doc was wrong -- you can do something about it.  Hard contact lenses."  Rigid gas-permeable, to be exact.  They are like tiny translucent blue versions of those saucer sleds kids play with in the snow.  In fact, they are so similar to those that it's very easy to lose them in the sink drain.
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posted by Brian at 5:38 PM 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

David Crane: Videogame Pioneer

David Crane, creator of the first so-called "platform" videogame Pitfall! is to be honored with a Pioneer Award soon.   He worked at Atari back in the days when its Atari 2600 ruled the world.  Atari's games were each designed and programmed -- game, graphics, sound and all -- by one person.  But that person had no bonus, no recognition.  Not even in the game itself*, out of fear that he might get stolen away by a competitor.

Also at that time, videogame console manufacturers produced games for their own systems.  David and other Atari programmers left and formed the world's first third party game company, Activision.  They changed the rules -- programmers could now get recognition, and a percentage of royalties.  Activision spawned all other Third Party game companies and, I would argue, invented Rock Star programmers.

Somewhere there is a photo of my really high score on Pitfall!

* Although there are programmers who hid "Easter Eggs" signatures, like Will Robinette in his game Adventure.

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posted by Brian at 3:52 PM 0 comments links to this post

Supreme Court to Corporations: Take all the Megaphones You Want, It's Your Right

This week, the Supreme Court voted 5 to 4 to lift spending restrictions on corporations and unions, claiming that such restrictions are a violation of Free Speech, a right given to all "citizens" by our Constitution.

Given that corporations are allegedly "Persons"*, and given that there is legal precedent dating back to the 1970s for equating money spent on lobbying and advertising with Free Speech, the winning side here believes that the Constitutional Rights of these poor helpless fictional entities have been justifiably restored

To me this means we've just cleared the way for America to be a Corporate Fascist nation, not a Democracy.

Sure, there are Constitutional Purists, like Glenn Greenwald, who drank the Kool-Aid and think this ruling was about an abstract fight against the notion of limiting free speech to some category of entities.   He and others think having any such regulation in any context is paramount to censorship and must be stopped.

I don't buy it.

We're dealing here not with stopping ideas we may or may not agree with.  Glenn is right when he points out that government banning and censoring human communication in one context, but not in others, is unacceptable in a true Democracy.  Either you have Free Speech or you don't.  If you don't, you live in China and mere mentioning of certain topics will get you imprisoned or killed.

But, even if we don't restrict its content, the intent of Free Speech was never to allow one group of entities to have more of it than anyone else. The problem is how to mix all the communications channels in a fair, informative way.  Prior regulation kept the Corporate voice lower in the mix.  Now that regulation will be off.

Thanks to these Supreme Court idiots, Corporations will able to seize the control room, crank up the volume and mix everyone else out of the dialogue.

The Megaphones vs. The Unmiked.

It is not that Corporations have not been able to speak.  (They already have).

It's not that they cannot speak the particular messages they would like to (even if those might be misleading or false).

No.  The problem now is that Corporations do not speak.   With billions of dollars, they can YELL.

They can now yell louder, and across more loudspeakers and channels than any other entity on the planet.  These entities can now buy up all the megaphones and boomboxes. 

Speech?  Or Corruptive Influence

Then there is the matter of corruption.  Corruption can trump even the fairest of dialogues and messaging between elected officials and the citizens voting for them.

When a human being donates money to a politician in the hopes of getting him or her elected, there is the hope (or expectation) he or she will vote in a way pleasing to the donor.

But with a corporation, we're talking HUGE sums of money that no mere mortal human being can simply walk away from.  In effect, the politician will think twice before enacting any laws against such a "generous" donor.  In effect, the Corporate Donor has just bought the Law, custom-made for its own self-interest.

Theodore Roosevelt and our preceding governments recognized the danger of granting unlimited power to Corporations.  We had protections in place to separate government and commerce.  They gave corporations a voice, but muted so that the rest of us could be heard too.

But now our members of Congress are former members of Corporations and vice versa.  They have debts to repay, Laws to create on their donor's behalf.  This ruling will make he voice of the Corporations so overwhelmingly loud that we human beings might as well call it a day and do what Douglas Rushkoff suggests -- forget about government and do stuff ourselves.

* Albeit fictional, and only made so in the 1800s by a clerk writing notes on a court case about granting rights to slaves.

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posted by Brian at 12:42 PM 0 comments links to this post

Monday, January 18, 2010

Golden Globe Award Snafus

Hollywood must be severely broken if a Golden Globe for Best Picture for a non-drama goes to The Hangover?!!  Unbelievable.


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posted by Brian at 10:11 AM 1 comments links to this post