Monthly Archives: January 2009

YouTube Alternatives

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I admit– I’m not a big fan of YouTube (I’m not going to link it. If you don’t know what it is, I can’t help you). I don’t know what it is about the site… Perhaps it’s nothing more than the fact that “YouTube” is now a synonym with “bad, amateur video.” I also really don’t like the design of the site and the windows. Again, there’s not really any substantial reason for it– I just don’t like it. It’s impossible, however, to deny that YouTube has become the premier venue for video on the internet. I prefer Google Video, but since YouTube is owned by Google, it’s not much of a difference anymore, to be honest. That alone is a testament to how comprehensive the site’s library is. Anything that can pace Google is noteworthy indeed.

Anyway, the point is that I want to take this space to share my preferred alternative to YouTube. Vimeo is just a better designed system, in my opinion. Now, if you want to post a video and have it go viral, then Vimeo’s not the site for you. YouTube has proven that it can make anyone a celebrity, and no other site has the viewership to match that. If, however, you’re looking for a site to host videos, especially for embedding in blogs and other websites, Vimeo’s design wins. It’s also nice to support sites other than the giant monopoly that is YouTube.

I’ll cut to the music now, because a song just cued up that I have to share. This first track isn’t technically exceptional as a mash-up, but what it does have is dialogue from The Warriors! Awesome. (Update– I just accidentally played this track on top of itself at just the right moment, and it sounds incredible! Hopefully this can be a new campfire-round song)

I’ve heard the instrumental from this second track in a few different mashes, but I think this is the most effective one, so far.

Finally, here’s an official mash-up! I don’t know which band had the idea, but you can definitely tell that it’s officially produced– the technical quality is pristine. It makes me wish that more artists would take this route. If Jay-Z can do it, so can you!

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Steampunk

 

Image Copyright Patrick Boland

Image Copyright Patrick Boland

Doodling in class, I made a portmanteau of the words of “craft” and “punk,” yielding “crunk.” While I giggled at the result, I realized that mixing the crafting and punk mentalities yields something completely different: Steampunk. Steampunk is significantly different from most of the craft work we discussed in class for many reasons, but the one I want to focus on most is the existence of gender roles. A lot of crafting uses materials and processes typically reserved for “women’s work.” A part of the craft/DIY revolution, of course, is breaking down those gender barriers, but the fact remains that at most craft shows and the like, the majority of the crafts are made and sold by women. Steampunk, on the other hand, is strongly masculine (though not exclusively, of course).

Steampunk is somewhat hard to define. Generally, it is an exploration of retr0-futurism (predictions of the future from the point of view of the past) with the notion that steam would be the world’s primary source of power. In other words, instead of electricity and plastic, the technology we use today would be made of brass and glass, while being powered by steam. 

Since uni-body brass computer monitors are in short supply in this modern age, all steampunk devices must be meticulously hand crafted, which requires extensive knowledge of metalwork and lathes, etc. The pieces take ages to create, but they’re made with a perfectionist aesthetic, and usually look absolutely stunning. Not to stray unintentionally into politically incorrect language, but metal/machine work is typically more of a masculine affair, and as such, keeps steampunk separate from the majority of the craft movement. It’s also different in the fact that it is a purely aesthetic movement– the pieces that are created are almost never more functional than the objects they replace, and have no real practical purpose.

All that aside, the real reason I’m sharing this style is because I love it. I don’t have the time/materials/technical ability to create any of my own (with the exception of a few small sculpture pieces), so I’m constantly in awe of what people can do with the idea. If you think I’m totally wrong about my understanding of the gender roles involved with the craft movement, please comment. I’m just one opinion.

And now to the music. This first track is just incredible. I don’t know who he’s being mashed with, but Jay-Z has rarely sounded better. It has the perfect amount of energy– just on the edge of frantic, but not enough that it’s bothersome.

Reggae just isn’t used in mash-ups enough, in my opinion, so I was glad to find this second track. This track makes really good use of stereo imaging, as well, so if you can listen to it with headphones, I recommend it.

There also seems to be a general lack of gospel in mash-ups, which is silly, since they’re often a cappella, and thus extremely easy to work alongside an instrumental track, like in this third song.

Again, if you think I’m off the mark with my observations today, let me know!

Punk, Contintued

 

Copyright Glen Friedman, via BoingBoing

Copyright Glen Friedman, via BoingBoing

I came across this interesting BoingBoing TV series today, though if I’d seen it a few days ago, I wouldn’t have thought anything of it. The band name Bad Brains jumped out at me, and I realized they were the hardcore punk band I was most impressed with in the video we watched in class. Anyway, this episode features photographer Glen Freidman and artist Shepard Fairey, who collaborated to create an image of the Bad Brains in Fairey’s now legendary style.

I was going to be snazzy and embed the flash video of the episode, but WordPress has been stone-walling me for the past half hour. So if you want to see it, you’re going to have to just click through. Sorry. (Update– Success!)

We’ll start the music loud again today, with this first track. I just love Britney mash-ups, since she’s so pop that any non-official mix is immediately evident.

I don’t know what’s going on with this second track, but I like it. 

The final track is a little spacey, too, but hey, a little change is good now and then.

“They Don’t Like Music”

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We spent all of class today watching American Hardcore, a documentary on the hardcore punk culture of the eighties. It’s not over yet, but I came away with some initial impressions, regarding the subject matter. I’ve never been much of a fan of punk music. Hardcore punk music, apparently, I find even less attractive. Call me a traditionalist, but when I think “music,” I think… Melody. Even harmony. I’m a rather shoddy guitar player, but if I cranked my amp to full distortion and did the same to my vocals, all the while holding a E minor-chord and screaming, I could put on a performance (somewhat) equivalent to famous hardcore bands. What I’d be missing, of course, is the attitude, and as SS Decontrol famously emphasized, that’s what makes a true punk band.

I actually like a lot of the punk subculture, especially the philosophical underpinnings. Do-It-Yourself is huge, as is questioning authority. They’re both equally valid and important ideas, and are epitomized (to me) in blogs and zines. Zines are more legitimate, since you yourself staple them together, but I’ve talked about that already. The problem I have with punk is when it goes beyond the actual creators of art (credit to Prof. Massanari for the link idea). Punk, more than almost anything else, is dead when it’s popular. If something is the anti-pop, then it cancels itself out when every pop producer in the world gets their hands on it.

I guess I’m talking myself in circles. The point is, and this is just my opinion, that there are two kinds of Punk. Artists and producers of thought or media are Punks. With a capital P. They provide the impetus and passion behind the movement, and they actually contribute to an alternative way of thinking. On the other hand, kids who just want to look cool to scare their parents are regular old punks. They don’t get any capitalization. How embarrassing. I suppose that they contribute to some culture in a way, but if anything they just feed the hungry beast that is mainstream culture with once-legitimate, now-hackneyed ideas and styles. 

Thoughts?

I thought briefly about making the mash-ups today punk based. Then I realized I would be contradicting my opening statements, so instead, I’m posting anything but. Half the fun of mash-ups is how they deal with pop music anyway.

Starting things off loud, this first track is fairly dance-oriented, but it does that very well. There’s not too much “DJ/Electronic” sound muddling up the mashed tracks (which I often see as simply a smokescreen to hide bad mash-up skills).

Next is a direct affront to punk, featuring Blink 182! This track doesn’t use them too much (thank goodness), but if you want to listen to what dead punk rots into, check them out. I include all emo in that category, as well.

Finally, this last track features a perennial favorite on this blog (I’ll let you figure out who– it’s not hard). It also has a band called “Bonobo,” which initially excited me, since I hoped it could be used as a “gorilla” reference. Unfortunately, I quickly remembered that bonobos are chimps, but at least they’re still primates. If this gorilla-drought continues, I may have to change the name of the blog to something less *ahem* clever.

We shall see.

It’s Pronounced “RAY-dio”

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Today I talked with my Broadcast News teacher, Prof. Konrad, about her experience at WTVS Detroit and about public radio. I was shocked when she said that NPR has actually experienced growth, strongly opposed to the rest of the radio format. I’ve noticed that NPR/PRI, et al. have been getting much better at fostering “hit shows,” but I didn’t think that they were actually doing well enough to gain popularity when everyone else is shutting down. I’m glad to hear it, personally. It also reminded me of just how much I want to work in public media (you know you aren’t in it for money when…). I have a lot of production work that I’m going to be doing this semester– and I can’t wait to get started!

This first track is something of a teaser. It’s only a minute long, but it’s delightful in its novelty.

If you need something to wake you up, this second track is just the thing– It’s almost too frantic, but there is a nice calming bridge in the middle, in case you can’t handle it.

This last track should hopefully be long/complex enough to make up for the shortness of the first one. I usually hate the Beastie Boys (whether alone or mashed-up), so this may be the last you see of them from me. Luckily for all you Beastie Boys fans out there, this track is pretty good. Especially right at the half-way point.

Papercraft!

 

Image Copyright Julien Vallée

Image Copyright Julien Vallée

My friend Kelsey posted this artist’s work on her blog last week, and I wanted to share it with everyone else. I can never get over how good papercraft looks. There’s something so lo-tech and stunning about it. I also like actually working with the paper itself, as opposed to struggling with Photoshop or Illustrator. I also respect how much time goes into making pieces like this– I spent over six hours cutting out paper for my Drawing I final project last semester, and that didn’t even come close to the amount of paper manipulation that real papercraft artists do. They’re probably much quicker and more adept at handling the materials than I am, but a piece like the image above probably took over thirty hours to create. I wouldn’t even mind paying several hundred dollars for a piece like that!

Whenever I see really good papercraft, I’m probably going to post it. I just love the stuff. I may post my own pathetic attempts at it sometime, too, but for now I’ll just leave you with this image. It was my desktop picture for months, and looking at it again, I might put it back up.

In preparation for the crush of homework tonight, I looked up the mash-ups I wanted to share throughout the day, since that’s probably the most time-consuming aspect of this blog (not that I’m complaining– I’ve listened to more good music this past week and a half than in the past year).

I really like the epic swells on the instrumental half of this first track. I think it helps drive the mood better than the original music, actually.

I’m also always impressed when two rap songs can be mashed as well as in this second track. It may actually be rather easy, since it just depends on precise beat-matching, but it sounds great.

Since I’m going to be up for a while, I’ll end on an up-beat track. This is usually about as far into the electronica realm as I like to wander, but that’s just my personal taste.

On to homework!

.LOMO

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Today I encountered nothing interesting enough to post, so I’ll just share a site that has made a funny transition between guerilla/alternative media since I’ve known of it. Lomography is centered around distortion caused by lo-fi cameras. In other words, those washed out/color shifted photos of the school dance that you took on a disposable camera are now hip. They are even, in some cases, considered fine art. That may sound dismissive, but it’s not– I really like the aesthetic. I also like the emphasis on low-tech equipment. Unfortunately, since Lomography has become hip, the equipment has become more and more expensive, until now it costs significantly more to buy the junk cameras than to buy quality equipment. Still, it had its roots as a small group of weirdos that liked a particular aesthetic and made a subculture around it. Since I hate it when people shame indie bands that “went pop,” I can’t in good conscience hold Lomography’s success against it. All else aside, it still makes interesting images, and that’s what counts most.

Enough of that. I may talk about Lomography more at later dates, but let’s move on to the music.

This song is hardly a mash-up at all since it only substitutes the instrumental from a different song, but it sounds awesome. And I love anything Kanye.

I guess this next song is, too, but at least they had to match the beats and key this time. I not crazy that it’s Macy Gray, but it sounds good.

This seems to be the theme tonight, so the last song will not waver. I also usually end on a quiet song since it puts me to sleep, but realizing that most readers probably check this sometime before they’re going to bed, I’m ending on this faster song to keep you energized throughout the day.

Toodles.