Friday, August 31, 2007

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Passive Leech of Entertainment Product: Amusements Free and Otherwise to Mitigate my Sufferations

Thank Jah for the library. They don't have the coffee drinks you can get at Borders, but the whole 'Free Books' thing feels revolutionary, in a somebody from the publishing industry is going to sue me for using it. Due to my tragically ravaged attention span I've been going for graphic novels lately, and picked up both Embroideries and Chicken And Plums by Marjane Satrapi. Embroideries revolves around a group of Iranian women spanning 3 generations telling really personal stories about their run-ins with men both Iranian and Western, mostly sexual in nature, and at the end you find out the title means something completely different from what you'd originally thought. In Chicken and Plums heartbroken tar player Nasser Ali decides to die, and succeeds. Very sad, and it also contains unconventional parenting tips which require finding a source of opium. Persepolis was made into a movie, but I have no idea when it's coming out. 'Sometime in 2007' says the site. Well, who knows, I guess we can't have Americans loving Iranians and developing crushes on Marjane Satrapi if Cheney is itching to bomb Iran, as the song by John McCain goes, so maybe it won't come out too soon, which would be a shame. Ah well, those of us brought up through nun-run Catholic schools can relate, some things are universal.

I'm in the middle of 'Petropolis' by Anya Ulinich, part of the young-writers-from-the-ex-Soviet-Union-whose-novels-have-Jewish-protagonists genre I became enamored of after reading Gary Shteyngart's 'Absurdistan', which simultaneously portrayed the ex-USSR as a highly depressing hopeless place and managed to be very funny. Similarly, Ulinich's novel leavens the absurdity and hopelessness with some much-needed humor, and I am battling my attention span limitations to make my way through it.

I also got the graphic novel version of Malcolm X's biography, which looked cool, but I haven't started it.

There has been much listening to podcasts lately, including exploration of 'dubstep', which seemed promising having 'Dub' in the name, and I've decided I like it well enough, although the genre is totally unsuited to the mp3 and the iPod. It seems like something that must be listened to in a dark room with the bass loud enough to throw off your heart's rhythm.'s podcast is good though long (2+ hours), and actually there's a good Dubstep DJ in Indianapolis, DJ Shiva. Her set was noticeably better than the other DJs on that episode, anyway.

Also good is the Blentcast, which delves into the grime thing I was aware of but not so much into until hearing it in this context. Sick Girls from Germany did a recent set starting with that 'My Neck, My Back' song and wrapping things up w/ Lady SOV's 'Hoodie', which led me to buy 'Public Warning' by SOV on iTunes. I'm not about to go out to catch a 2-song SOV set, but the album is great and the price was nice. I fear a Lindsay Lohan future for Louise Harman, though. What the hell is wrong with you people? Why must you destroy people who make a life of music, like Lady SOV and Nasser Ali? To hell with all y'all.

Friday, August 17, 2007

My Job gave me ADD: in which I admit to watching 'The Flavor Flav Roast' + MORE!

When I was younger I thought it'd be cool to be the guy who knew stuff, that people went to with their questions about stuff. I could not have been more wrong. So far the highlight of my professional life involved holing up in a little office in the basement of a Mega-Pharma's HQ, probably getting accidentally irradiated and exposed to antibiotics floating around, cranking out code at a furious pace. Those were happy times. Now if I get 10 minutes to think about the same thing without an interruption, it's like I took a vacation to fucking Disneyland and they were giving out Vicodin on the monorail. Not that I have a Vicodin habit. That would be wrong.

I watched 'The Flavor Flav Roast' the other day. I remember being very obsessive about Public Enemy starting around the time of 'Do The Right Thing'. In the car, we listened to 'Fight the Power', and occasionally another song. The album 'Nation Of Millions' was also great, hooking us white boys with the Slayer sample in 'She Watch Channel Zero ?!??!?!' and somehow entering our minds and altering them until we thought the abrasive air-raid siren noise of 'Rebel Without A Pause' was really wonderful music. Flavor Flav had an essential role of adding a modicum of levity to the proceedings, without which everything would have collapsed under the weight of taking itself entirely too seriously (scientists call this the prog-rock effect).

Unfortunately even around that time Flav did not seem overburdened with self-awareness. In an interview he described his role as being 'the guy who breaks it down for the man on the street' as opposed to 'the guy who says "YEAHHH BOYEEEEEE!"'. At the live show we saw during Black Expo one year (the same concert where Trouble T-Roy of Heavy D and The Boyz died after a tragic fall from the upper levels of Market Square Arena, which is now a Parking Lot), Flav gave a rambling speech about the media being out to get us and stay in school. He also did the 'Yeah Boyeeeee!' bit.

The Roast was star-studded, mostly with 1993 stars. Peers Ice T and Snoop Dogg were there, some tiny comic named 'Katt Williams' (?) was there as host. There were several white boy comedians including Patton Oswalt, Jimmy Kimmel, Carrot Top(?) and some guys I've never heard of, and a white woman comic named Lisa Lampanelli(?).

Things got off to a shaky start with the Pimprechaun laying into my man Patton Oswalt, one of my favorite comedians, mainly because Patton is an atheist and doesn't really make a secret about it. He (Katt(?)) was making jokes supposedly, but was having a hard time hiding the fact that he pretty much wanted to tie Oswalt to the stake and light him up, ruling out 'Ratatouille II' (which would be a shame, I liked that movie). P.O. took this in stride and later got his licks in against 12 ounce mouse when it was his turn.

Actually there was many a good insult joke lobbed about that night, although I felt guilty about laughing, kind of like I felt guilty watching Flav on 'Surreal Life' and later 'Strange Love' (I tuned out completely by the time 'Flavor Of Love' came around.) 'Ice T's so old, the first thing he bought with his record money was his freedom' some white guy with an Italian name said. 'Why are you wearing that clock? You haven't had to be anywhere for 13 years!' Lampanelli asked. 'Chuck D. couldn't be here tonight. The D. is for dignity' said somebody else (it doesn't really matter who. I'll never see most of those people again).

Everybody ended with 'aw man I'm just kidding you're great' and a hug for Flav, wearing a comical gold crown (kings lose crowns, but teachers stay intelligent, KRS-One once observed). When Flav got his turn he lobbed a couple of insults of his own, singling out the comedian with the stubble (he's Bennigan'z) for the harshest abuse: 'I'm giving you a rap name: old ugly bastard! Your jokes were racist, straight up, simple and plain, mother-fuck you and John Wayne!' he cried, quoting the aforementioned 'Fight The Power'. Bennigan'z shouted something back, which I couldn't make out.

So that was the Flavor Flav Roast. I feel bad for Flav. He was out there in the 80's and early 90's doing his thing, trying to set a good example, and everything went to hell. Public Enemy's DJ, the enigmatic 'Terminator X' (he only speaks with his hands) last I heard was an ostrich farmer in South Carolina, good honest practical work, but all you hear about or see is Flavor Flav's televised trainwrecks.

I picked up a CD today: 'Dr. No's Oxperiment' by a guy named 'Oh No', who's actually MadLib's brother. It's good instrumental hip-hop, in the vein of Jay Dilla's 'Donuts', only in this case he goes for really out-of-the-way samples (psych from Turkey, Lebanon, Greece and Italy) instead of the over-fished breakbeats we've heard plenty of times by now. Recommended!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Learning about Learning LSL in Second Life

The Second Life backlash is in full effect, thanks in part to an article in Wired (How Madison Avenue is Wasting Millions on a Deserted Second Life) by Frank Rose, a journalist who made the shocking discovery that people don't want to spend their free time exploring the 'Coke Pavilion' or the 'Quaker Oats Hall Of Dietary Fiber' or other marketing efforts in this new space.

Further, the article implies that the companies that've sprung up to build these spaces for marketeers for stodgy companies that want to be cool might be taking advantage of misplaced enthusiasm. Sort of like the web design houses and professionals that took advantage of all the suckers wanting to get in on the irrationally exhuberant Web boom of the 90's, which I seem to recall Wired Magazine being around for. They weren't around for the California Gold Rush, where the people selling the pickaxes and such were the only ones making money, but they sure milked that analogy for all it was worth then, especially as things started to really turn to shit.

But I'm not here to defend SL, Wagner James Au will do that at New World Notes. This entry is about LSL, the Linden Scripting Language, and if it's true that SL is abandoned, you can probably find a nice quiet place to do some experimenting with building 3-D shit and then giving it functionality, which is one of the fun 'anything is possible' aspects to SL that people like Frank Rose are missing when they aren't missing their own reflection in a mirror.

Anyhow, with LSL basic programming (not necessarily BASIC programming) skillz are handy, but not necessarily required. It is not the prettiest language around. 'The New Hampshire Coder In Linden Lab's Court' calls it 'JavaScript after a lobotomy'. And it's true, it is not going to support large-scale development efforts. However, for some quick fun with 3-D graphics without having to blow the dust off your C++ book, it works nicely.

The LSL Portal is an obvious starting point (it's also an item in the help menu). The 'Scripting Guide' also under the Help Menu will be valuable as a reference (what are the arguments to that function?, that sort of thing), but as an intro, it's not so great. In fact, the intro caused me to completely lose interest in the idea of doing anything with LSL for months, until it crossed my mind again.

Actually, probably the best intro I found was this tutorial at the Kansas Board of Regents. As most people in the other 49 states can imagine, I was really shocked to discover I could learn something from the state of Kansas, but this guide is a nice intro to many aspects of scripting (particles, objects rezzing other objects, commands via chat, 'physics', etc), with examples. Of course there are millions of scripts on the wiki, but it's nice to get the info in a tutorial format.

As far as tools go, aside from the editor inside the SL client, there's an Eclipse plugin for scripting, which could prove to be handy for some off-line editing. There's also an LSLEditor which gives the developer a very rudimentary framework for debugging, however, there's really no substitute for trying out scripts in the 3D environment where you can interact with the objects you are scripting.

Finally, a particularly good sample script (set of scripts actually) is the sailboat library. Sailing is popular in SL as it is not whiplash-fast, but still requires skill since you are at the mercy of SL weather patterns, and can't just point in the direction you want to go and accelerate. Anybody can take these scripts as a starting point for building a sailboat of their own. For an airborne version, you can build a balloon or dirigible with your mind, or create robots which do bizarre stunts, or fireworks and the like with llParticleSystem, or whatever. The 'build it yourself' nature of SL is as I mentioned earlier both a really cool (because there's a ton of potential, and people do make some cool stuff) and horribly aggravating (people make some really hokey shit - scientists call it the 'MySpace Effect') aspect of SL, something marketeers have not figured out how to tap into or incorporate into a marketing effort at all (to be fair, it's not a trivial problem, or somebody would have figured it out by now). Anyhow, have fun, just don't create grey goo, scripts that hassle people, or the like, nobody needs that.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Feel Good Hit of the Summer 2007

In '96 I took a job with a consulting company in South Jersey. I took it to get away from a job with a defense contractor that paid peanuts and caused untold grief as it was a pit of despair, fit only for masochists and people with psychology degrees.

I only stayed with the Jersey job for a couple of months, but that was long enough to know what 'Cracked Out' is referring to in their song 'Bennigan'z', a cross between Run-DMC's 'You Be Illin'' and Jeff Foxworthy's 'You might be a redneck' routine. Only in this case it's 'you might be a wanna-be Gotti boy'.

You got the highlights hair, barb-wire tattoo, You're Bennigan'z
You just bought the brand new Dave Matthew(s), You're Bennigan'z

You can see Rapzilla and MC Record Deal perform it here on MTV's 'the human giant show' (the actual performance doesn't happen until a couple minutes in).

So yeah, the job in New Jersey was straight Bennigan'z, I stayed in a Bennigan'z hotel (Hampton Inn) and ate at a Bennigan'z restaurant (Chili's). Bennigan'z sales guys decided my fate. (You can maybe get in on the ground floor on the Bennigan'z thing. At this writing, Google only brings back 1,100 results for 'Bennigan'z').

Back to Cracked Out. Lazy music reviewers sometimes say things like 'Kelly Clarkson could sing the phone book and I would listen'. Cracked Out spits the numbers from 1 to 100, and damn, that shit is dope. Kind of like DJ Shadow's 'The Numbers Song', but with more numbers. Another video here. This one has an ad at the beginning. Fuckin' MTV.

Here's what those Lebowski costumes were about:
  • The monkey with the napkin and spork represented the line 'you gotta feed the monkey'
  • The Irish caricature was a reference to when the guy in the VW thought the Dude was a 'brother shamus' (an Irish monk?)
  • The new piece of shit carrying the flashlight symbolized the line 'new shit has come to light'
  • The globe that beat on the guy inside w/ the hammer and axe was the 'world of pain'. He entered a world of pain, see?