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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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, April 07, 2009

Hovering Hotel In the Sky?

Now this is how I want my Future! I love this French dirigible flying hotel by designer Jean-Marie Massaud.

I've always thought the world was better off with blimps. (Infamous inferno-causing Hindenberg excluded, of course.)

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Monday, April 06, 2009

Today's Musical Inspiration: Nick Drake

Tricia and I watched Seven Pounds on DVD last night and while we did not like it all that much, one redeeming part was that there's a song in it I recalled hearing before on another movie soundtrack (Garden State), a jazzy guitary piano tune with a vaguely Cat Stevens vocal and lyrics like "Could've been a sign post...could have been a crook." I thought perhaps it was a modern artist returning to an earlier production style, something KCRW might play.

Turns out this is "One of these things first" by British folk singer Nick Drake, recorded in 1970 on the album Bryter Lyter. Sadly, as seems typical of many Romantic poets and painters, Nick suffered from depression and died way before his time (age 26). His work is only now starting to get some attention in movie soundtracks.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

TEDx USC: Elizabeth Gilbert and Having Your Own Personal Genius

Moving talk shown at TEDx (which I had seen online before) from the author of the best-selling book Eat, Pray, Love. After the unexpected success of her book, the maddening pressure of coming up with a second success made her realize that perhaps the ancient Roman belief of "genius" being a voice in your wall that gives you great ideas wasn't such a bad idea after all. Keeps a creative person from going insane!

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Very poignant vintage Sesame Street film

A particularly good performance of Vivaldi's Guitar Concerto in D Minor, 2nd movement is combined with footage of a little flower that manages to bloom atop a busy Manhattan cityscape.

This piece offered hope for my father, who saw it in the hospital while I was very sick as a toddler. He felt very moved by it. Whoever you are that made this film -- thank you! I wish more children's TV today had sublime moments like this.

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Monday, January 05, 2009

Iphone and Nintendo DS making music together

Nifty video of electronic music made with a pair of Nintendo DS portable game systems, a pair of iPhones, and a Korg FX box.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

New Book & CD: Jim Copp, Will You Tell Me a Story?

The vinyl record LPs of Jim Copp and Ed Brown were HUGE influences on me growing up. From the late 50s to the early 70s, These guys made imaginative songs and stories using only 3 Ampex reel-to-reel tape recorders, a couple of microphones, random instruments, and props all in Jim's Los Angeles house (including his bathroom, for its reverb). Then, the two of them would sell the records at upscale department stores directly.

Now there's an illustrated book called Jim Copp, Will You Tell Me a Story? featuring three of his stories, so now you can follow along with the included CD of their original recordings! I also recommend the full CDs (East of Flumdiddle, Thimble Corner, Jim Copp Tales et al.)

NPR (National Public Radio) did a segment about the book over the weekend. Listening to them now I really appreciate the imagination, creativity, tone and sophistication of their work. The music and words are all grown-up. These children's records are not shrill, high caffeine and corn syrup, or attitude-y. Indeed, my three my 3-year-old niece adores them.

Incidentally, one of the pieces in the book is one of my favorites, "Martha Matilda O'Toole", which I, Anita, and Sam performed as a puppet show a few years back for the SF Bay Area Puppeteers Guild and the Puppet Love! Festival:

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Mash-up Idea: The Office theme vs. A-Ha's Take On Me

This mash-up exists only in my head, but it's stuck there like toe fungus at the moment. The theme from the American version of The Office vs. A-Ha's Take On Me.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Nokia's "Get Out And Play" Site

Check out this impressive site for Nokia's N-Gage platform (which sadly won't work with my Motorola KRZR. Bummer!)

Play the initial Break-out game while everything's downloading, watch the human "snake" and then try the pixelated human version of Break-out. Very clever!

via Guz off of Tumblr.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

1980s HBO Title Sequence

This is a charming little behind-the-scenes clip showing how a small New York studio made an elaborate intro sequence for the then=fledgling cable channel, Home Box Office (HBO). I just love the craftsmanship and time it took, the ingenious streaking effects done optically. The 65-piece orchestral theme. Plus, they even wrote a song* (reminds me of the "Coke Is It" jingle of that era) just for the documentary!

via Cartoonbrew
*Performed by this guy.

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The Intermittent Part

One of the hazards of being an intermittent super-genius is the intermittent part. Creativity (along with happiness) seems to come in spurts and in my case, lately it seems like those spurts only appear when I'm mildly intoxicated and hanging out with a receptive, laughing group of people. Then, safety net in place, my mind takes bold leaps into the abyss of possibilities and returns with something amusing.

But most of the time, it wants to find comfort in things can't have right now, and that are possibly contradictory -- wanting a peaceful, sensible world of curious creative people working together, helping each other and others less fortunate, combined with a strange selfish desire to be famous, well-liked and wealthy. The former is only attainable in a small scale with lots of hard work, and the latter is something that's best when you're happy with yourself.

That's not always easy. Some of the things they tell you when you're not feeling happy about yourself (they being psychiatrists and friends) are don't compare yourself to others, set low expectations, follow your bliss, don't be too hard on yourself, focus on what you want or what actions you can take (vs. the things you can't control or trying to squelch the bad), smile, and don't forget to exercise.

I don't know about following your bliss -- my natural inclination would be just to nap, or walk around national parks all the time. I'd get nothing done at all, and would anyone pay me for that existence?

Difficult not to compare yourself to others. Friends and strangers have things you want -- houses, wives, children, cars, money, prestige, affection, free time. Sure, we can become desireless reeds like the Taoists suggest, but I'm not a vegetable, I seem to want more than water and sunshine. Besides, to get good at something, you must compare yourself to the best, not in terms of "My god, they're so much better than me. I suck." but more asking questions like "How do they do it and what do I need to practice?"

I've heard the Danish are the amongst the happiest people because they have low expectations. Victor Borgé was a creative genius, but other than him I'm not aware of successful Danes to admire. Claire Danes, maybe. She's cute.

Smiling is surprisingly difficult sometimes. I don't know if some stray botox entered my cheeks a while back or that somehow the feedback loop telling me "Ok, you're smiling" is stuck at "on" even I'm not smiling, but apparently I don't smile enough and am not realizing it.

Have to remember to enjoy what you have. That's certainly something I'm guilty of neglecting. Typically my brain is doing mental window shopping for the toys it lacks, yet when was the last time I used my scanner or watched that VHS tape of Robin Williams playing with dolphins?

Anyways, eventually the Super-genius part comes back, happiness returns (with groceries), coincidence and serendipity come over for dinner, and the five of you enjoy life as it was meant to be.

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Web-based Random Generators: The Future

My god, there are a lot of random generators out there now. Band names, insults, British town names (!?). There are portals with nothing but random generators now.

My poor old Random Logline Generator is feeling a bit under-appreciated. Been wanting to bring it into the modern world for some time now. I've been thinking of the ideal system for generators (including the RLG) since 1996 or so. Though I do admit sometimes too much grand thinking gets in the way of actually implementing things (Project Xanadu, anyone?).

Still, the random generators out there are fairly primitive (even compared to mine in some ways, which is written in old-school Perl). Sure, they're much prettier, written in PHP or Javascript, and some have extras like letting users submit words and their favorite results. But behind the scenes, things have not progressed much. For example:

Inflexible (Fixed) Grammar Sequences
Most of these appear to be using fixed patterns, typically just one to make a result. RLG's backend can support dynamic sequences.

Proprietary & Closed
While some of these newer generators can be made into widgets usable on various platforms (blogs, Facebook, etc), there's no standard way to grab results or portions of the results to make your own mash-ups of random things across sites.

No Editing of Results
All of the sites I've seen, what you get back is it. You want something else that's similar to what you got, but maybe you don't want "sexy accountants", you want something else but keep the rest? Not possible. Your only choice is to shuffle everything, getting a totally different result. (RLG had a klunky interface to do editing but I took down because few could understand how to use it.)

Here's what I propose: an open-source approach, akin to RSS and Atom, for getting randomized content at the atomic (word or image) level and at a sequence level, from multiple sources.

In plain English, this would enable the ultimate hat full of cards. Each "card" deck classified by what kind of thing you wanted, and as big as all the cards your "friends" or you had in the deck when you asked for it.

So if someone wanted to build a random anything generator client, they would make calls to the API requesting the tagged thing itself (e.g "occupation") and would be able to include their own lists of things, optionally making those lists available to everyone else too via subscription.

The interface should be RESTful, offer both JSON and XML results, and anyone with a web server should be able to host lists.

However it works, it needs to be fast enough to aggregate the results from all the sources, while maintaining the information needed to shuffle any subset of the results.

How about it, Google? Yahoo!? Anyone?

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posted by Brian at 1:37 PM 1 comments links to this post

Monday, March 24, 2008

TED: Dave Eggers and his After-School Pirate Supply Store Writing Center

A few years ago I went to a Revenge of the Bookeaters fund-raising event for Dave Eggers' 826 Valencia project, an after school writing program for kids. Dave put both a magazine and a tutoring center in one place so that kids could have one-on-one access with professional writers. What's novel about the San Francisco location is that it's not "Center for Teaching Kids Writing" or some dull name -- it's a crazy cool pirate accessory store! Having that sort of atmosphere expands kids' imaginations, and writing just becomes a means to express and dignify children's ideas. Other places have opened around the country and even Ireland, all with a nifty theme. One is time travellers accessory store, another a superhero store with a capery... I love it!

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Mystery Science Theatre 3K for Films You Have or Rent!

It was certainly bound to happen. Remember Mystery Science 3000? An early 90s cable TV show with the combination of bad movies with comedic commentary, featuring silhouettes of the commentators sitting in front.

Now, a website called Rifftrax by some of the original cast of this show offers downloadable synchronized files to play along with popular movies you might already own, or have rented from sites like Netflix. Some even feature special commentator guests like Weird Al Yankovic.

Seems like this concept could increase rentals of less popular, even god-awful movies out there on DVD. I wonder if other meta-content sites like this will emerge and catch on.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Random Mash-up Idea

"Easy" (Commodores / Lionel Ritchie) with "Cold As Ice" (Foreigner)

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Monday, March 03, 2008

TED Talk: Purple Cows, and Being Remarkable To Those Who Care

Marketing expert and Author Seth Godin talks about the changing landscape of creative success. The old model was to spend millions on interrupting people with the message about your product, a product that is "safe" and appealing to the masses. The new model is to recognize that "the idea that spreads, wins" and that this idea must be remarkable ("easy to remark about"), different, not boring, and appealing to people who care ("otaku"). If you let these people work for you, you win.

(The R.I.A.A raises its hand.)

"But can't we sue them? I mean, come on. They're ruining our old business model, and this new one where we can bully them into paying up is pretty neat. And we save so much $$$ not paying artists--"

Seth Godin stands up, answering "Well you can, but you'll lose. People will either get their intangibles for free or they'll care enough to buy them, preferably from the source. And anyway, you're boring now."

"Aww man."

(R.I.A.A stands up, sulks, walks out as Lawrence Lessig, Cory Doctorow, and I escort him out, consolingly)

"There there, cartel. It'll be all right. Have you ever considered a new career? Prison management maybe? Or smoking ban enforcement? I hear that's big in Europe now."

(R.I.A.A smiles hopefully) Ohhh!

To be continued...

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

The OM NOM NOM NOM Phenomenom nom nom

If you work in an office, there's a 97% chance you've been sent email about something odd, something interesting, gross, or funny spread from coworker to coworker, from friend to friend, from blog to friend, from some random person in the world with too much time on his hands to you (who ought to be working now, but hey...) It could be a political cartoon, a woman playing a ukelele cover of Britney Spears, or yet another photo of a cat with odd captions. The best of these memes inspire others to respond with their own versions.

Usually yours truly is a bit behind, riding the meme after it's already gone viral and spread everywhere like some media plague. At work, it's LOLCats and World of Warcraft-anything that have caught on, causing cascades of laughter down the cubicles. But yesterday, my coworker exposed me to a lovely, relatively nascent and contained meme, known by its trademark onomonopoetic label, OM NOM NOM NOM.

What is it exactly, you ask? Take a photo of something that looks like a mouth, preferably with some person or object near it as inevitable victim, draw teeth and menacing eyes, add the label "Om nom nom nom" to it and voilá! Now share it with others through email or posting to a website. (The semi-official Om Nom Nom Nom website though, is not user-friendly about letting you upload your own photos -- and may be inadvertantly keeping the meme from spreading as it should! *baps head*)

Mind you, the visual aspect of Om Nom Nom Nom, the cartoony monsterization of objects, dates at least back to the 1960s & 70s, notably with Jim Henson's Muppets and probably earlier artists before him. (Here's a Muppet example from the late 1970s):

I'm no Art Historian though. Can anyone find earlier examples of adding monster eyes and teeth to inanimate objects?

One of my favorite (and often blogged about) modern examples of this visual motif would be Amy Winfrey's Web (and soon Nickelodeon TV) cartoon, Making Fiends.

The most famous spoken use of "Om nom nom nom" I can find of course is from Cookie Monster, but I suspect earlier, less famous Muppet creatures also emitted that sound during their final feeding frenzies.

So far, I've found only one blog reporting about Om Nom Nom Nom as an Internet phenomenon, written last Fall, though "om nom nom nom" as a word (not a sound effect) seems to have been used on Internet forums and IRC chat channels as early 2003-05*.

So help me, fellow om nom nom-nivores, spread this meme across the globe!

* Apparently, some folks are using it as a slang word for oral sex.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Jonathan Coulton on Yahoo!

Jonathan Coulton has broken out into the semi-mainstream with an article about him on Yahoo News! Nifty.

Who is Jonathan Coulton, you ask? Well, he's a great geeky singer/songwriter I've written about before who got his start through the Internet and is now touring.

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Saturday, February 09, 2008

The GO! Team: Crazy British Happy-Go-Lucky Band Hiding in my PSP Game

Once again, it often takes two exposures to some new things before it sinks into my brain to the point where I notice. This was the case for Jonathan Coulton, whom I had seen perform along side John Hodgman without knowing who he was, then later finding out that HE was the one doing the great folk-songy version of "Baby Got Back" and a bunch of other great songs. Today's rediscovery is The Go! Team.

Sometimes last year I bought Lumines II for my PSP, the sequel to the horrifically addicting block game that features bizarre music (mostly Japanese electronica) and swirly visuals. This new version features actual music videos (!) of a few familiar artists (Beck, Gwen Stefani). I had started on the Basic mode, so none of these appeared. Hadn't played my PSP in a while, so yesterday I put in Lumines II and tried the Intermediate & Advanced modes to discover whatever tunes might be hidden in the game. Sure enough, there's one really, really strange video that sounds a bit like a high school marching band mixed with a previously unknown happy-sounding Janet Jackson or Nina Cherry rap song playing on a cassette player in the basement mixed with a harmonica riff, and a drummer playing an early 70s-style backbeat. Meanwhile, the visuals have a Super-8 film look, cut into a bizarro early 70s Sesame Street-like New York montage (with a few shots of Hollywood?) with no polish whatsoever. Unfortunately, one can't really focus on the visuals because the game itself is underway and blocks cover them up. Doh! How to figure out who made this craziness?

Luckily, the game tells you the name of the song ("Bottle Rocket") as you complete a level, but who was this artist? Was it a guy with lots of samples? Maybe two? A real marching band went home and recorded itself on Garage Band and went nuts, mashing it with 80s rap and adding tons of reverb?

In the back of my mind, I thought "Could this be The Go! Team?" Being an Angel member of the fantastic public radio station KCRW, I get new CDs sent to me every six weeks or so. In this manner I've discovered KT Tunstall, Zero 7, Imogen Heap, LCD Soundsystem, Band of Bees, and so many other great artists that in general, don't get played on mainstream, tightly-controlled corporate radio. Back in the Fall, they sent me an album called "Proof of Youth" by The Go! Team, which sounded like a high school cheerleading section paired with an acoustic drumset. It was a cool concept, but to my ears a little too muddled. I couldn't really make out the lyrics, and some parts were mixed too loudly for my taste. But maybe the creator(s) of this CD were responsible for this bizarre game video.

A quick search on YouTube for "Bottle Rocket" revealed this (albeit in poor quality):

A-ha! Caught red-handed. And this other video reveals that no, this is not the result of only a guy with some brass and rap samples (or a cheerleading squad / marching band for that matter):

Nope. This is a band from the UK, apparently quite multicultural and jubilant:

And how you can you not like a band with TWO drummers and an invisible horn section?

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Monday, February 04, 2008

My Favorite SuperBowl 42 Ad

I've only been to a few Superbowl parties. The food & beverages & commercials are about the only thing interesting to me usually (although at this party, we also played Nintendo Wii® and Guitar Hero III too to liven things up.) This year, there were maybe two or three good commercials and this Coca Cola ad ("It's Mine!") with Thanksgiving Day parade balloons of Stewie (from Family Guy), Underdog, and Charlie Brown was the best, IMHO. Honorable mentions to the Tide To Go "My Talking Stain" and ETrade's talking baby ads.

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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Frozen Pedestrians in Grand Central Station

It's certainly cold in New York this time of year, but on one particular day, hundreds of travel-goers stood still for five minutes in New York City's Grand Central Station as part of an Improv Everywhere event:

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Turntable + Analog Drum Machine + Step Sequencer motif = Drum Buddy

Speaking of the step sequencer design motif, here's a video of the Drum Buddy, a hand-made, fantasmic analog drum / filter instrument thing, only 10 of which exist, and all of which are sold out (at $5000 a piece!). Note the rotating spool with marks, which are read by optical sensors hooked up to analog oscillators and filters. But unlike piano rolls or music boxes, this guy can be spun in a manner any DJ turntablist would appreciate.

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posted by Brian at 7:12 PM 0 comments links to this post

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Making Fiends: Web Cartoon Becoming a Nicktoon Soon

As I've blogged about before, UCLA MFA student Amy Winfrey created an Adobe™ Flash-based Web cartoon back in 2004 called "Making Fiends". The premise? Vendetta, a school girl with hobbies that include making evil creatures, eating clams, and taunting her neighborhood meets new kid on the block, Charlotte, whose optimistic attitude seems completely resistant to Vendetta's evil habits. Visually, the show has a playful mix of Edward Gorey, early Jim Henson monster drawings with a touch of the 1980s cut-out animated film "Twice Upon a Time."

Two seasons of webisodes and a community of fiendy fans later, Nickelodeon began hosting a few of them on iTunes, and has almost finished developing a TV version to be aired later this year. Hooray!

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The Cintiq 12WX Portable Pen Screen by Wacom

Oh my, how lovely! Although I don't draw very much at all, if I did I would certainly want the Cintiq 12WX, the smaller, less expensive sibling of Wacom's larger non-portable pen-sensitive screens, and cousin to their popular Intuos and Bamboo lines of pen tablets.

Wacom tablets are obviously designed for artists and photographers, but other uses include sound design and interactive lighting control. Interestingly, each pad is capable of tracking two pens although no software utilizes that feature yet.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Irwin Music: Drummer Brings Performance back to Electronic Music

Ableton Live and Irwin at SAE Institute of Music Los Angeles

I really enjoy live music and computer music, but a large portion of the "concerts" I've been to with both involve a bunch of people sitting down, not facing the audience, appearing to twiddle a few knobs. Yeah, the idea is probably to get lost in the sound (and/or the effects of drugs, if you're into that), and geek out at all the cool toys. And sure, there might be a cool projected screensaver going on in the background (possibly being performed by a VJ) but come on, don't you enjoy seeing people playing instruments?

A few months ago I went to an Ableton Live User's Group meeting in Hollywood, and was excitedly surprised to see the above performance. Of course a video can't really capture the energy of the room, but it gives you a good idea. (If you look very closely you can see fuzzy me in the audience).

Irwin is using some Roland V-Drums (professional versions of the electronic drums I blogged about earlier), a drum trigger pad, a theremin, a special box that converts the theremin's continuous tone into discrete MIDI events, and an Apple Black Macbook running Ableton Live. Things get very hectic on his second set -- he's playing high speed drum n' bass music LIVE. Nice!

There's just something about banging physical objects that beats knob-twiddling or fader-sliding any day.

If you're in Los Angeles and interested in making electronic music, check out the next Ableton Live User Group meeting on January 31st, 8 PM @ SAE on 6565 Sunset Blvd, Hollywood.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Computerized Musical Automaton

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Saturday, December 08, 2007

Sesame Street Clips Online!

Whohoo! Finally! Sesame Workshop (formerly known as Children's Television Workshop) has begun offering classic and newer Sesame Street clips online after seeing so many of them posted by fans on YouTube. It's in Beta and lacks the ability to link to favorites right now, but here are some keywords to type in for my favorite clips so far:
  • "painter"
  • "monsterpiece theatre" ("upstairs downstairs")
  • "news: angry reporter"
  • "can remember"
  • "kermit calls a plumber"
  • "song: subway train"
  • "news mother hubbard"
  • "question song"
  • "disco"
  • "daddy dear"
  • "lonely n song"
I just love the energy, spontaneity, weirdness, and subversive humor in these sketches. Some of it I'm just getting now, clearly meant for the parent watching with his or her kids.

There are some untagged clips in there, some really rare ones, and all in pristine quality. Enjoy! Let me know if you discover any great ones.

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posted by Brian at 9:49 AM 3 comments links to this post

Monday, December 03, 2007

KÀ in Las Vegas: Videogame as Theatre?

I just got back from Vegas this weekend, my first time there. Naturally I'd heard all about some amazing Cirque du Soleil shows there, like "O", "Mystere", and "Zumanity," but when I got there, my native Las Vegan friends told me they loved a newer show called "KÀ".

Well, they couldn't have picked a better show for me to see.

Imagine if you will a multi-story tall auditorium stage that appears to have no bottom, out of which a myriad of theatrical environments emerge. A ship atop a stormy sea. A sandy beach. A monstrously high cliff. A wall for shadow puppets. Battlefields. A forest. Or, during the pre-show, intermittent bursts of flame. To the left and right are illuminated copper cage towers. Think H.G. Wells meets Ewok tree condos on Endor.

Of course there are the Cirque trademarks -- dancers, acrobats, twirlers, and people flying through the air. (If you have not seen a Cirque show, go rent Mystere, Quidam, or Dralion and come back. Or better yet, go see Varekai or whatever tour is out there now live) There is the fantastic music. Though in KÀ, the music is blended with extravagant sound effects, playing through speakers in everyone's seats. But this is the first of their Vegas shows to have a plot*, albeit a relatively simple one. Two twins are kidnapped and must be rescued across varied landscapes full of strange creatures and peoples.

Hmm. Sound videogame-esque? We'll touch on that shortly.

Unbeknownst to me while I was watching it, the Cirque du Soleil troupe brought in two of my theatrical heroes, Robert Le Page and Michael Curry to work on it, as director and puppet fabricator respectively. I wrote a review of Robert's amazing earlier work "The Far Side of the Moon" back in 2001 and got to talk with him a little about how he was experimenting with moving set technology and puppets. Of course, Michael Curry is the genius behind the Lion King Musical puppets, masks, and its morphing cliff stage.

The fusion of all these talents adds up to an unbelievable, jaw-dropping, almost indescribable experience. However, I think I've stumbled upon the right analogy here, although please don't assume I mean to undermine its theatricality in any way: KÀ is part live-action, ultra-high production value videogame sequence, part Cirque du soleil show, part martial arts.

To make my point, here is the state-of-the-art in camera-oriented videogames Super Mario Galaxy for the Wii™:

Now picture something along these lines, right in front of you, live with human beings, scaled to the size of a good-sized hotel. (Ok, not a giant orb spinning but I wouldn't put it past these guys to do something like that next time.) A giant spinning rectangular plane. Two, actually, both acting as stages so capable of transforming they might as well be virtual.

In a sense, KÀ really is part videogame with its use of real-time, tracked projected animations. The larger of the two stages in KÀ is not limited to physical texture, thanks to a clever use of computer vision and projection techniques. It becomes a cliff, or the dark sea with bubbles following a diving actor. Through the combination of this and flying rigs, the stage becomes more like the eye of the camera, with moves previously reserved for Film and now videogames.

Will this make good theatre? Or just another technological exercise like the motion captured, virtual camera move-fests of recent Zemeckis films like The Polar Express and Beowulf? We will see.

Coming soon, I'll try to go into more detail about how this technology works and how it will change live theatre.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Writer's Strike Near My Home

Today members of the Writer's Guild of America sat down with members of the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers in media silence after weeks of striking. Perhaps we will see some news within the coming days, whether talks progress or the strike continues. (The last writer's strike back in the 1980s lasted for 5 months.)

Somehow I missed the gathering and march of 4000 supporters a few blocks from my apartment in Hollywood, right in front of Graumann Chinese Theatre last Tuesday. I know two writers involved and they've been protesting every day.

At issue is a large chunk of revenue coming from the Internet and DVD sales, which is not being shared with the writers at all. Being a Hollywood writer is generally not a glamorous or stable job. Shows and pilots come and go, canceled willy-nilly by trigger happy bottom-line focused executives. Certainly when that rare show becomes a hit, there is some good money involved. But the average writer's cut is not up there with the actors or those putting up the financial risk. It's a shame that it has taken a strike for the producers to listen and perhaps give writer's a cut of what money does come from Internet advertising and iTunes downloads (which despite all the free material out there, that sum is many millions).

Meanwhile, I heard on NPR that production companies producing (so-called) Reality TV shows are having a different problem: too much work. Yep, they're having to work 24/7 to fulfill the demand created by the void of new programming. But I can only stand so many talent shows, home redecoration shows, chef competitions and shows without writing. One has to escape to HBO and Comedy Central to find the decent writing these days, now that most of the once independent cable channels have been devoured by conglomerate-owned networks and made just like them. The Simpsons continues on, The Office thrives, but for the most part it's a wasteland out there anyway at the moment.

Ahh, but that's why videogames are so popular. Nothing on TV? Let's play Guitar Hero III.

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posted by Brian at 11:41 PM 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Build Your Very Own Ball Pit

Russell Monroe, the creator of my favorite geeky comic strip xkcd (featured in Wired magazine this month) wrote about making his own ball pit (you know, like those you find in kids' amusement parks or Chuck E. Cheese's) in his blog. Russell is on the far right side here, using his Fujitsu Lifebook.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Creativity: A Curriculum

I was combing through old VHS tapes this weekend, recording any useful tidbits of footage into my Mac. One that I stumbled across was a Steven Sondheim episode of Inside the Actor's Studio on Bravo (back when they were actually an Arts channel and not just another reality-show landscape).

Sondheim talked about how his mentor Oscar Hammerstein (Showboat, Oklahoma) had read his very first musical at age 15 and told him "Are you sure you want me to critique this as if I didn't know you?" and when Steven nodded, he said "Well in that case it's the worst thing I've ever read." Ouch. But then Oscar laid out a curriculum for him, the gist of which I think could apply to any craft or artform you're trying to get better at:
  1. Write a musical version of a play you like
  2. Write musical of a play that you like but find flawed
  3. Write a musical adapted from a work of prose fiction
  4. Write an original musical

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posted by Brian at 4:34 PM 1 comments links to this post

Monday, October 08, 2007

Pepakura - Make Your Own Figurines!

The Internet has spawned a number of sites devoted to papercraft or Pepakura patterns. Papercraft is similar to Origami, the Japanese art of making folded paper sculptures, except that it usually involves cutting out shapes and gluing them together. Thanks to technology, we can easily share patterns through Illustrator and PDF files. We can also use 3-D software to automatically flatten the shape into a pattern.

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Sunday, September 02, 2007

Google asked the World How Email Works

and now you know!

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Quote about "Fear of Failure"

How many times do you find yourself not trying something new or starting an idea you've been sitting on because you think you lack confidence?

Dick Costolo, founder of the blog aggregation site Feedburner that was acquired by Google recently, wrote this advice on his blog:
[..]the opposite of ‘fear of failure’ isn’t confidence. The opposite of ‘fear of failure’ is just not bothering to think about failure (BIG difference between this and thinking about risk profile for your idea/company)...

The key is to just get on the bike, and the key to getting on the bike is not the confidence in knowing you will be successful if you do x,y,z. The key to getting on the bike is to stop thinking about “there are a bunch of reasons i might fall off” and just hop on and peddle the damned thing. You can pick up a map, a tire pump, and better footwear along the way.

From Ask The Wizard

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posted by Brian at 12:53 PM 0 comments links to this post

Friday, May 18, 2007

Trees, Design, and Inspiring Conference Lectures

I think that I shall never see
a poem lovely as a tree.
-- Joyce Killmer
A quote from systems sustainability expert William Mcdonough, during a TED conference lecture:
Imagine this design assignment. Design something that makes oxygen, sequesters carbon, fixes nitrogen, distills water, acrues solar energy as fuel, makes complex sugars and food, creates micro-climates, changes colors with the seasons and self-replicates.
Watch the video here.

I highly recommend watching all TED Conference videos for inspiration. My friend Nick is lucky enough to have attended several of these invite-only $6000 conferences, but fortunately for the rest of us, the lectures are made available for free to watch online. You can watch them at the TED website or via iTunes podcast.

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posted by Brian at 12:57 AM 0 comments links to this post

Friday, May 11, 2007

Manipulating Emotions Through Food & Technology

MIT Technology review has a video clip about Chicago restaurant chef, Grant Achatz, who combines food technology (typically reserved for fast food), gourmet cuisine, and design to stimulate emotions in his guests.

Seems to be a common thread in creating good things -- your work should manipulate emotions.

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posted by Brian at 8:20 AM 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Love thy Failure as Thyself

James Dyson, inventor of new-fangled vacuum cleaners, wrote a book about his struggles to create a better vacuum called "Against The Odds".

The blog Signal vs. Noise writes about it here.

A Dyson quote it references from an article in Fast Company:
I made 5127 prototypes of my vacuum before I got it right. There were 5126 failures. But I learned from each one. That’s how I came up with a solution. So I don’t mind failure. I’ve always thought that schoolchildren should be marked by the number of failures they’ve had. The child who tries strange things and experiences lots of failures to get there is probably more creative…

We’re taught to do things the right way. But if you want to discover something that other people haven’t, you need to do things the wrong way. Initiate a failure by doing something that’s very silly, unthinkable, naughty, dangerous. Watching why that fails can take you on a completely different path. It’s exciting, actually. To me, solving problems is a bit like a drug. You’re on it, and you can’t get off.
We're a culture obsessed with success. In general, the creative people who succeed -- be they inventors, musicians, photographers, puppeteers, writers, filmmakers, singers, actors, artists or whatever -- are the ones who keep trying, revising, practicing, and failing over and over.


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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Sesame Street Martian costumes, Uh-huh Uh-huh Yip Yip Yip Yip

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Learn how to make a Fairy from Wendy Froud!

I just found this instructional DVD on how to sculpt a fairy, taught by the wife of Brian Froud, master illustrator of Goblins and Fairies in books and in Jim Henson movies like Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal!

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posted by Brian at 5:58 PM 0 comments links to this post

Behold! Neat-o Keyboard from the Future!

Have a look at this new British MIDI controller interface called the Axis Natural Keyboard.

A traditional piano keyboard looks like this:

Whereas, this instrument looks like this:

I had thought this layout was a completely original, from-the-future concept. But like all ideas, it has some connection to the past. Here's a musical reed instrument produced in the 1950s with a similar interface, the Harmonetta.

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posted by Brian at 12:10 PM 0 comments links to this post

The Ecstacy of Influence: A Plagiarism

I found this amazing essay about copying and creative works by Jonathan Lethem via BoingBoing. Make sure you read it all the way to the end.

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posted by Brian at 11:21 AM 0 comments links to this post