Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I Learned a New Trick

Today I decided to find out how to do a couple of things in GimpShop that I've never tried before. Here's one of them. Hard to believe that I've never worked with multiple layers before.

[Original version of this pic here.]

I'll try not to overdo it!


Blocked View

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Arthur Ganson

Until quite recently I'd never heard of kinetic sculptor Arthur Ganson. I think, now, that he may be my favorite "artist." I use the quote marks here only because I don't think "art" is a big enough term to contain what he does.

You'll rarely see/hear me blathering about art and meaning and all that stuff, but when I look at Ganson's pieces I'm utterly mesmerized and feel as though I'm as close as humanly possible to gazing at meaning itself. (Yeah, I'm blathering.)

If you're not familiar with what Ganson does, you should check out his YouTube site. Here are a couple of clips. Maybe you'll get what I'm on about.
Each scrap is activated in two places. The mind is very acute and recognizes instantly the manner in which energy flows through a system. Here, the center point always leads the peripheral point. This is vitally important in allowing the scrap to feel as if it is flying.

"This is vitally important in allowing the scrap to feel as if it is flying." Damn. I realize that not everybody looks at the world the same way I do, but, but... Damn...

If you find that philosophically depressing (I don't--what's the point!?), the next one may cheer you up a bit. It's a variation on a theme, but it strikes me as looking at things a bit more optimistically.

In this machine, the chair is passive and all motion is due to interference by the cat. The large disk at the back serves to both counterbalance the arm and give more mass to the chair itself. The motion of the chair is complex and will never repeat.

I think it was Susan who pointed me to Ganson's stuff, but I can't remember when/where/how/etc.

See also Arthur Ganson's Machines (official website).

Monday, September 28, 2009


The other day I was sitting on a bench in a park having a smoke when some junior high girls walked by. They were humming the tune of Ravel's Bolero. "That's odd," I remember thinking to myself.

That evening I was at home sitting on the sofa with my little girl when, out of the blue, she started humming Bolero.

"This is how horror movies begin," I thought to myself. I waited for the phone to ring...

Hangin' Around

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Brownout: "Slinky"

Four words: psychedelic, Latin, funk, and rock. For me, resistance is futile. Last week I discovered (i.e. heard for the first time) Brownout and their album Homenaje. I got the album, played it a few times, and loved it. I imagine a lot of geezers like me, when they think about Latin rock, remember Santana and then draw a blank. Well, OK, the real hipsters might remember Captain Beyond's second album, Sufficiently Breathless (billed as "space Latin rock," but I always thought it owed more to The Allman Brothers...). Later there was Los Lobos, of course. But really, I have no idea what's been going on with Latin-based rock since forever. I still don't. I just know that whenever I hear stuff, it usually sounds good to me.

I remember a couple of years ago I was on a bit of a Ray Baretto kick, and I commented to a friend that I couldn't hear anything not to like in Latin music. I mean, shit, I kinda dug the music when Q materialized the mariachi band onto the bridge of the Enterprise in Star Trek TNG. At that time I tended to associate "Latin" more with jazz than with rock. Big fuckin' mistake.

And then today, seemingly out of the blue, an email arrives in my spam box from Six Degree Records (home of Brownout) with a header of "Some content for your blog." What the fuck...

Hey Rick,

Love the site. I work for Six Degree Records.

I wanted to let you know that we just released the new full-length album from Brownout, called Aguilas and Cobras on 9/15. We would love to share some content with you.

The band is the offspring and germinating seed of Grammy-nominated Grupo Fantasma, consisting of eight of the same members.They've been getting into hardcore psychedelic Latin funk rock, and this is just that, at it's best. When not performing as Brownout, or Grupo Fantasma, they can be seen as Prince's back-up band.
I didn't know that last bit. Maybe I should start listening to Prince again...

I'm not naive enough to think that my blog was specifically targeted for this email, but it was a weird coincidence that I had been planning a post about Brownout. In fact, I suspect the diligent folks at Six Degree did a scan of Last. Fm (sidebar on the right) and checked out who was listening to Brownout. I also checked out some videos at YouTube. It was a nice touch to personalize things with my name, though.

I would hesitate to call that email "spam." It was exactly what I'd been looking for: links, information, and free stuff to share on my blog. I'm happy to oblige.

Here's the video for Brownout's "Slinky":

That's a cool tune, but doesn't really give you clear idea about the band's overall direction.

You can download a free tune ("Olvidalo") off the new album here (link/download safe and OK--I did it myself).

There's also a DJ mixtape (25 minutes) available for free download here.

That stuff is all great. If you're still not convinced, you can stream the new album in its entirety from Brownout's website [9/25- Bad link now repaired].

This is all great music by a really good band. Seriously, Kyklops recommended.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Chillin' at the Beach

Are We Not Men?

Just got back from a family road trip up to Yamaguchi Prefecture. I'll have some words and pictures about that later this week, but now that my wife and daughter are sleeping, and I'm showered and drinking beer, I'd like to relate a rather disturbing and disgusting spectacle I witnessed earlier today.

On our way back to Miyazaki we decided to swing by the Costco in Fukuoka to pick up some stuff (now that we're members, and all). It's the "Silver Week" holidays, so I wasn't surprised that Costco (like anyplace else in Japan on a holiday) was wall-to-wall crowded.

Anyway, we wend our way through the aisles picking up items that my wife deems necessary (and value-priced!) to our household. (A penchant for 5-gallon jugs of whiskey and 48-packs of beer has resulted, over the years, in the loss of my "can-deem-something-necessary" powers in our household's political hierarchy. There was also the Amazon CD and book fiasco...) We've got some coffee in our cart, some clothes for our daughter, a case of soup (a subtle victory of mine!), and some other stuff. Not much really.

We wait until we have everything else until we go to the fresh food section of the store (bakery, meat, produce, etc.--stuff we might have to put in a cooler before driving home). This is only my second time at this store, but I think this particular section is generally very crowded, so many people park their carts on the fringes and go in "hands free." My wife wanted to buy some rolls, but the shelf was empty. She seemed sure that they would be putting some more out soon, so she told us (our daughter and me) to go wait by the cart for a few minutes until she was finished. When we left her she was the only person in line waiting for rolls...

After about 15 minutes our daughter started getting a bit antsy, so I decided to go see what was keeping my wife. As I approached the spot where I'd left her a few minutes earlier, I could see a crowd had formed. I could also see that staff behind the bakery counter were basically just throwing bags of rolls over the counter and on to the sloped shelf one by one as they were being prepared, so that they basically slid down into the hands of whomever was lucky enough to be standing in that particular spot. To say there was a "scramble" for these rolls would be a slight understatement. My wife, who's not a very tall woman, and who was still right at the front of the counter where I had left her, was not having much luck. In fact, much taller men were reaching over her and plucking bags of rolls before she could reach them...

Freeze that scene for a moment. I've seen similar scenes with my wife before. These scenes are, simultaneously, a source of pride and frustration for me. I've never seen her jostle for position, when any rule of fairness would say that she has it. I've never seen her scramble or clutch at or fight for anything that she had every right to have in her hands. I honestly don't know if she has some kind of inner zen, or if she's simply "too good" to lower herself to that level; perhaps if it's some combination. I do know that after about a minute--in fact, it's probably exactly one minute-- of that kind of crap, I'm gonna get nasty...

If it had just been women fighting it out for these fucking rolls I probably would have let things run their course. (Hey, I've read The Bacchae!) If that sounds a bit (or very) sexist, well, excuse my sorry ass. I assume that the only reason any woman would find herself fighting tooth and nail over food is to feed her kids. The beer and potato chips are elsewhere... And, as I've already mentioned, some sorry-assed pricks calling themselves men had already interjected themselves into the situation.

I'm still holding back a bit until one bag of rolls comes cleanly into my wife's hands. I say "cleanly" in the sense that she's started to turn around and walk away with her prize. Just then, some asshole, some prick, some fucking piece of shit who no doubt considers himself a hero of modern manhood, some worthless scumbag, grabbed the bag from my wife's hands. She had a good grip on it, so when he grabbed it away the bag actually ripped a bit. And then, and then, he held the bag of rolls up like a prize and actually cried out in triumph.

At that moment I wished for nothing more than a machete so that I could remove that asshole's head and hold it up like a trophy with a shout of triumph. Fortunately (or not, who really knows?), I've been hanging out with my wife too long for anything like that to happen. Instead, I (firmly but gently--ahem) made my way through the crowd, put my hand on my wife's shoulder, and told her not to worry about it, let's get out of here.

The next bag of rolls fell into her hand. No one else touched it.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Big Block

I've been on a bit of a Jeff Beck kick while driving this week, so I thought I'd peruse a few YouTube clips and see what he's been up to the last few years.

I expect to be blown away watching/listening to Jeff Beck. I didn't expect to be blown away by a very young looking woman playing bass with Jeff Beck. Her name is Tal Wilkenfeld, and she's incredible in this clip and others I've watched. It's clear that she's having a blast playing with these guys. The old guys are infected (possibly smitten?), and raise their game. She's right there with them (did I mention that she's very good at her instrument?).

An absolute pleasure...


Entering Warp

Thursday, September 17, 2009

An Eye-Opener

From Roger Sandall, Plato vs. Grand Theft Auto:
It had been just an ordinary day at the office, metaphysically speaking, but it looked like ending with a bang. In a sunlit grove at the foot of the Acropolis, close by the Academy, Plato was showing Aristotle something he'd found on the web...


Aristotle looked concerned but not alarmed. He was an early adopter himself, he told Plato, adding that his well-known remarks about theatre were not meant to legitimate coke dealing or running folks over or robbing vulnerable women. Nothing nasty like that. Theatre had a noble heritage, and would doubtless survive the deliriously fun straight-up thugs of Grand Theft Auto IV.
As insanely jealous as an article like this makes me, I still wish there were more writers doing stuff like this. If only because I get it, even though I've never actually played Grand Theft Auto myself. I know what GTA is, I know what video games are, I know what theatre is, and I sure as fuck know who Plato and Aristotle were and probably have a better idea than most about what they said and thought about things. That last is not bragging, it's just what I spent 6 years studying at university (yeah, yeah--and then I entered 2nd year, ha ha ha etc.).

Sandall has, in a very short article, quickly and accurately identified the basic positions of Plato and Aristotle. Plato is a moralist and Aristotle is an observer. I suspect that many (most?) university grads identify more closely with Plato because--and there's no question about this--he was much easier to read. Plato's dialogues are like stories, and are relatively easy to follow. (There's a real irony in this. If you've read Sandall's article, maybe you get it.) Aristotle, on the other hand, reads like the instructions of the made-in-China tent that you're trying to set up out of the box and in the dark. He's damn near impenetrable in many places. Unlike the tent... [whoa! better rein in those extended metaphors, Rick!]

Aristotle is much harder to read. As a fellow grad student once put it, "there aren't as many laughs." But then there wouldn't be if one were merely describing what he observed as opposed to describing the way he thought things should be. Aristotle is pretty ruthless in his deconstruction of every philosopher that came before him (including his teacher, Plato). Plato is a great primer for philosophy, but Aristotle is the shit...

I remember spending an entire day (24 hours!) reading, over and over again, one page of Aristotle's Metaphysics until I finally understood what the fuck he was talking about. It was an epiphany of sorts, and I wouldn't recommend it for everyone. I had a paper deadline. (I got an "A" by the way.) Anyone reading this who thinks maybe I wasted my time on a useless exercise for a useless grade in a useless subject has, I would argue, no concept of what an education is. They probably suck at Grand Theft Auto, as well...

Rural Scenes

Train Crossing River

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Mad Mouse

Vending Machines, No. 76

Ear Pick

Sometimes I get to feeling a little guilty that, as a "Canadian living and working in Japan," I don't really carry my weight when it comes to informing the outside world about all the stuff that happens here. Let's consider this post a small step towards rectifying this situation.

Did you know that Japanese people don't use Q-Tips to clean their ears? No? They use something called an ear pick. It's a slender piece of wood with a little scoop at one end (like a mini coke spoon) and a puffy, cottony ball of something puffy and cottony at the other. It should be noted that the non-puffy, coke spoon-shaped end has been linked to an increase in illegal drug use among Japanese (as evidenced by recent celebrity drug scandals).

I guess while I'm on the topic of Japanese stuff it wouldn't hurt to mention that the Japanese regularly consult goat entrails before deciding whether to take an umbrella to work or not.

Also, certain tribes will expose their newborns to the elements, with the survivors becoming eligible for kindergarten. This actually has more to do with the declining population than the government-sponsored abortion we read so much about.

Of course, being from Canada, none of this is in the least bit strange to me.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings

Here's a great song by a great band:

Here's the same song done live:

I'd pay money any day of the week to see this band perform live. Who needs MTV and this music video crap anyway?

Oh, and Amy who?

Won't Get Fooled Again


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Hungry (3)

Having learned a valuable lesson with the geese, here's a nice display of the proper technique to employ when feeding animals. (Good parenting, you see, is often not much more than showing your kids what they did wrong the first time.)

A Bird