The Null Device
From the pages of the most recent VICE Magazine: a hand-made "PowerBook", made of a grey garbage bag, some issues of the Village Voice, and a hand-painted Apple logo in White-Out; apparently fashioned by a crackhead with a PowerBook box and shrinkwrapping machine, and sold to an unsuspecting student for US$200. Perhaps junkies read Something Awful as well...
Recordings of 2004
- Morrissey, You Are The Quarry. Moz is back, and in fine form. His youthful alienation is turning into the crankiness of a lonely old man, but he still can write a good song (and give a good show).
- Pipas, Bitterclub. A new EP from this London electropop duo; A classy mixture of indiepop vocals, glitchy beats and guitars.
- The Radio Dept., Lesser Matters. Well-crafted indiepop with guitars, synths, Casio drum loops, good chord progressions and songwriting and just the right amount of Kevin Shields influence.
- Talkshow Boy, Watch As I Perform My Own Tracheotomy. Apparently not out yet, though I got an advance copy, and it's a cracker of an album. It's 20 tracks along the same lines as the Ice Police single; glitchy yet catchy electropop with razor-sharp stream-of-consciousness lyrics and titles like Ruff Lovin' In A Tuff Neighbourhood, Go Hard Or Go Home (I Wanna Tweak Yr Moog) and OMG I <3 Livejournal (And My Livejournal <3's Me).
And a few other mentions, honourable and otherwise. The new Stereolab album, Margerine Eclipse was good, though no track leapt out at me in quite the way that various tracks from previous releases have done. The long-awaited New Buffalo album was, to be honest, a bit disappointing; in building her home studio, Sally seems to have mislaid her analogue drum machine, and gone away from the layered glitchiness which made About Last Night (and early live versions of many of the songs) such a delight. Meanwhile, Björk's Medulla didn't grab me; making tracks entirely out of voice samples is an interesting experiment, though the result I'm not sure about. And then there were all the calculatedly commercial post-Interpol/Franz Ferdinand bands like The Killers.
There are a few recordings released in 2004 which I didn't get to check out properly before the end of the year, such as Minimum Chips' Sound Asleep, the Arcade Fire's Funeral and the new Styrofoam. Or, indeed, the new Interpol album. My excuse is that a lot of the money which would have gone on CDs was instead squandered on food and rent in one of the world's most expensive cities; I'll probably catch up on them in the first half of 2005.
Some other bands I discovered this year: GirlsAreShort (a Canadian electropop act), Remington Super 60/Nice System (a Norwegian lounge-pop/bossa-pop outfit), a wealth of British indie from the late 1980s and 1990s, including parts of the Sarah Records back-catalogue I hadn't heard (of) before (key bands being The Wake, The Bodines, and various bands from the Sound of Leamington Spa compilation series) and Azure Ray (an all-female indie duo from Nebraska). Not to mention an appreciation of Electric Six's, Fire (they're like the Scissor Sisters with balls or something; tacky but fun).
Top gigs of 2004 (in alphabetical order):
- BAM BAM in a backyard in Fitzroy in April. I was blown away by their energy and musicianship. They rock hard and look sharp, and if anyone deserves to make it big, it's them. And it looks like things are happening for them.
- Belle & Sebastian at the Palais in St Kilda. Easily the gig of the year. They tore the roof off the place. People were dancing in the aisles and all. The band bantered with the audience, did an AC/DC cover, and at one stage, a girl from the audience got up on stage, sang the vocals from Lazy Line Painter Jane with them and did a perfect job of it.
- Le Tigre at the Islington Academy (in London, natch). Half of it was prerecorded (though they did play guitars/keyboards and sing), though the visuals and stage performance were good to behold.
- The Chickfactor Mon Gala Papillons night in Shepherd's Bush (also in London). Stevie Jackson from Belle & Sebastian did a few quite nice songs, and Pipas took their act to the stage.
- The Radio Dept., at Barfly, Camden. They're as good live as on record.
- Radiohead at the Rod Laver Arena (back in Melbourne again). Gigs at arenas usually suck, because of the binoculars factor, but Radiohead put on a good show, despite Thom's voice faltering somewhat. Their use of the video screens was quite creative too.
- Schmoof, at the Water Rats in London. Slick if slightly silly tongue-in-cheek electropop with rock theatrics worthy of Spinal Tap and visuals handcoded in BASIC on a ZX Spectrum.
Not to mention multiple gigs by various excellent Melbourne bands, including The Rumours, Season and City City City, not to mention the aforementioned BAM BAM and Talkshow Boy.
Britain's railways are now carrying more people than at any time since 1959 (i.e., before the Beeching closures winnowed the railway network down), with more than 1 billion rail journeys made in 2004. Which is surprising, given that a train journey in Britain costs more than the equivalent journey by air where available (largely thanks to jet fuel and airline tickets being tax-free), not to mention trains being frequently late and having a reputation for breaking down. Though perhaps with all those commuters and travellers using the trains, there'll be more money for making the system more reliable.
Patent of the day: Automatic Detection of Pornographic Images:
If the pixel color is determined to be "skin" 46, the image is sent to a first shape detection process indicated for example as "face detection" of block 48 wherein steps similar to blocks 26 and 28 of FIG. 1 are performed. If the image is detected as a "face" 50, the image is classified as "portrait" and a manual check/inspection is done only infrequently (block 52). If the image is not a "face" 54, the image is analyzed to determine if it is a body part (block 56) i.e., other than a face. If it is not a body part (58), the image is classified as a "landscape", and this type is only inspected occasionally (block 60) i.e. only a small percentage of these images are inspected manually. If the image is a body part (62), a pose detection is done to determine if there is an erotic position (block 64). If it is determined that the pose is not erotic (66), this image is classified as a "swim suit picture" and the result of the detection may be a "parental guidance" notice attached (block 68).
(via bOING bOING)
Tulip BV, the Dutch company which owned the Commodore brand and slapped it on dodgy DVD+Rs and VIC-20-brand MP3 players, has sold the brand to a company based in Beverly Hills, the cringeworthily-named Yeahronimo Media Ventures, who currently are in the business of hawking ringtones or somesuch. Apparently their business model involves cracking down on "copyright infringement" of the Commodore name (whatever that means), and or replacing their own less than ideal name with Commodore.