Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Newspaper Music Video

About a month ago, Jman--8 and I decided it'd be fun to make a music video for one of the songs that I had written. Over the course of three days we recorded all the content, and then Jman--8 spent the better part of a month diligently working on editing the video. His efforts have finally paid off with an awesome music video that I'm very impressed with. My only complaint is that the guitars are a tiny bit out-of-sync in some parts (Jman--8 is not a musician, so he didn't have any past experience to work with). Other than that small hitch, I love the video, and I think Jman--8 did an excellent job. Visit the YouTube link or watch it embedded below!





Thanks for watching!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Links To Cool Stuff!

I'm back after a really long break to bring you a few links to cool things. I'll start posting a little more regularly from now on, because I've got three more cool electronics projects that I'd like to write about, and I'm thinking about reviewing some of my favorite classic albums, instead of just new ones. I've also started work on a new website and am writing/recording songs feverishly, so I'll write updates about my music project as well.

For now, though, I've got a list of cool Internet stuff that you should check out.

"A Scientific Attempt To Create The Most Annoying Song Ever" -This "song" is twenty-two minutes of mind-numbing hilarity. It's not really one of the most annoying songs ever, it's one of the most hilarious. Written according to data collected in the 1990's, this song incorporates everything from country western to opera to rap to children's choirs to pipe organs and tubas. Check out the rapping opera singer and the children's choir ripping on Wal-Mart.

"Songs To Wear Pants To" - Andrew "Pants" Huang lives in Toronto and is a prolific songwriter. He writes songs as his full-time job and earns money from commission and from $0.99 downloads of his popular songs. I wish I could earn $50 - $200 per minute of music from people wanting me to write songs about anything from first loves to robot pirates and hot dog eating contests. Here's a list of a few of his songs (there are almost 400 free-to-stream songs in his archives) that demonstrate his breadth and versatility and tongue-in-cheek style. Most of his songs are free to download, but if you like one of the paid ones enough, please give the guy a buck to download it. It's his only source of income, so support the guy while getting awesome songs!


The Indie Band Survival Guide -For those looking for good advice and information on everything from recording to CD manufacturing to gigging to merchandising, The Indie Band Survival Guide has got you covered. It's just about the coolest thing ever. I've found it very useful in my own musical explorations.

Le Site Du Billou -Billou is a guy from Lyon, France and he's very very smart. He helped me set up the chat function on my old site, and I've respected him very much ever since. He speaks English well enough to be fairly clear on most of his points, but some of his sentences are worded a little weirdly and they take some thinking about before you understand them. He's an excellent HTML coder and .xml gadget-builder. His site is full of little tips and tricks for Google Page Creator, but many apply to other sites as well. His HTML/JavaScript tricks are pretty impressive, and his site is worth checking out, if just for the "Google Page Explorer" gadget that parses and reads the sitemap.xml file of almost any website (every website that has a Sitemap.xml file, at least) and can show you every single file and page attributed to that site.

Nvu/KompoZer - Nvu (pronounced "En-View", for "New View") is a simple WYSIWYG web page editor. KompoZer is the updated version with bug fixes but exactly the same user interface. It's really very easy to use and makes web page authoring quick, painless, and almost fun. You can apply all kinds of attributes to anything just with the click of a button, and easily call external sources like Flash, Applets, CSS Stylesheets, and JavaScript. Think a low-power, free Adobe Dreamweaver and you've got it. I am currently in the process of authoring my own website with the remarkable KompoZer program and I'm enjoying it immensely.

Anyway, I'll be back soon with more personalized updates and I'll get the blog rolling again.

Monday, September 22, 2008

poojalooba_cow: 2 Electronics: 0

Today I scored another point against that devious being, electricity, and without using a single bead of solder or hot-glue. Using only a screwdriver, a pair of pliers, a length of wire, a roll of electric tape, and an old headphone jack, I was able to rig my outdated car cassette tape player to play audio from an iPod or other mp3 player instead. Once again, I'll provide detailed (albeit kind of poor-quality) pictures of the process and the idea behind it.

The story begins with the sudden failure of my car stereo to even power on. I let it sit for a few months without anything changing, but on a whim when I went to get the catalytic converter's heat shield fixed, I asked the mechanics to yank the stereo for me as well.

When I got my car back, I inspected the stereo. There were no problems that I could see with it - the fuses were all intact and nothing was burned out on the circuit board. I removed the pins that prevented me from pulling the stereo out of its niche so that I could insert it and remove it at my pleasure this time (it also makes it vulnerable to stereo-jackers, but who wants a ten-year old stereo console that only plays cassette tapes?).

When I plugged it back in, it powered on just fine, and the radio worked perfectly. The tape player, however, was still messed up. I'm not a fan of tapes - being a more digital-age kind of guy - so I had no use for the tape deck anyway, but I had an idea. Maybe if I could bypass the reader-head on the tape player, and insert an audio feed from say, an iPod, then I would be able to listen to anything I wanted in my outdated old car, instead of being restricted to the radio (all they ever play on the radio is crap anyway. I'm not a teenybopper who enjoys David Archuleta's "Crush" every other song, so there's no appeal for me on the radio, except maybe NPR, which is great).

The inner workings of the stereo console:


There were a few problems. The tape deck's reader head would not engage unless it genuinely thought that there was a tape inside the machine, and the tape deck refused to recognize and play a tape, and it wouldn't eject the tape once you jammed one in there.

I took the tape player out of the main console and messed around with it, determined to overcome these problems. I discovered that the reason it wouldn't eject was because a spring had popped loose, and I put it back in place so that the spring-loaded eject action would work. I discovered that it wouldn't recognize a tape because of an issue with the reader-head section jamming and not fully engaging, because of a problem with the spring-loaded eject button (they're all interrelated. They have gears and little plastic pieces that affect parts clear across the unit, all over the place. It took forever to figure out what parts affected what actions). It wouldn't play a tape because the reader-head wouldn't fully engage and the system was receiving a messed-up audio stream and decided that there couldn't be a tape in with that output.

So, with a little jiggling and clicking of parts and a lot of dumb luck, I finally snapped the reader-head and the eject mechanism back into place and everything ran smoothly. I popped it back in the unit, and it played a tape just fine. The audio was all messed up, though. It sounded as if the sound was coming from underwater - it was all warbly and tinny-sounding. I figured the reader-head was old and messed up. This didn't matter too much, because if I had my way, the reader-head would never be used again.

The tape player section of the stereo console. The eject mechanism is the black plastic face on top of the unit, the reader-head is the square metal thing on the center right with the brown strip coming from it, and the two of them were causing jams underneath the unit on the bottom left (not visible):


The reader-head communicated with the main section of the stereo console through five wires encased in plastic that ran from the reader-head and plugged into a jack on the main control board. I figured if I could find out what signals these five wires sent, I could bypass them and add my own audio instead of the audio that the reader-head would normally pick up. Since the reader-head plugged directly into a jack, I didn't have to desolder anything or cut any connections, I simply unplugged the wires from the jack and popped my own wires in instead. Through a highly scientific process called "trial and error", I discovered that the top wire was the negative lead for all four other positive leads, the next down was left-channel A-side tape audio, the next down was right-channel A-side tape audio, the next was left-channel B-side tape audio, and the farthest down was right-channel B-side tape audio. I figured it'd be way too much pain to try and configure both sides of tape audio, so I put in a left and a right channel on the A-side of the tape (the two red wires in the picture) and twisted the two negative leads from those wires together and stuck them in the communal negative port (the twisted black wires in the picture).


The reader-head and the bypassed connection. The reader-head's cables are unplugged and the red and black wires are wires that send audio signals from an external source instead of the tape player's source audio:



In order for the main console to accept audio from the reader-head, it has to believe that there's a tape in the machine for it to play, otherwise nothing will happen. This is where the dummy tape comes in. I pulled all the tape out of an old cassette, so that it would be just an empty shell. That way, the tape player wouldn't ever come to the "end" of the tape and try to switch sides (because I had no B-side audio set up, remember. If it switched sides I wouldn't be able to hear anything from my external source). The dummy tape successfully "tricked" the console into thinking that it had a tape in (because technically it did have a tape in. It just wasn't playing anything), thus engaging the reader-head (which is disconnected; it actually engages the external audio source) and amplifying and playing the signal that comes from it.

The dummy tape engaging the reader-head. Since the reader-head is unplugged, the audio is actually coming from the external audio source plugged into the red and black wires in the reader-head's place:


So, as long as there's a dummy tape in the tape player, it will continue to play whatever signals are coming from the reader-head jack, which in this case is music from my iPod. I wrapped the wires through holes in the console frame so they wouldn't come loose or short-circuit each other, then I pulled them around to the front so they'd hang out of the console and be able to have a headphone jack attached to them:


Then I slid the unit back into its niche:



It hangs out about a centimeter from where it normally would fit, because the wires are thick and don't like to be bent three directions and squashed in order to fit, but that's fine because I can now pull the entire console out with greater ease. I might need to do this because it's an old tape player and if it ever has a problem, it'll refuse to play and might jam and then I'd have to open the console up and disengage the reader-head and engage the eject mechanism manually in order to get the dummy tape working again.

This is the end product - what it looks like in my car and how it looks when it's in use. The four wires hang down and are connected to a cut-apart headphone jack that sends the right and left channels from my iPod to the right and left channels of the tape player's reader-head jack:


There is a little bit of static feedback - my guess is that it's from the sensitive amplification circuit picking up the electric "hum" of the motors running the tape player gears - but if I turn on the Dolby Noise Reduction System on the console, it effectively reduces the static to a point where it's not even noticeable (and when you're listening to music it's barely noticeable at all even without the noise reduction, the only time it's audible is between tracks). The iPod volume must also be turned almost all the way down in order for good sound quality to be preserved. Apparently after the signals are received from the reader-head, they go through some pretty hefty amplification. You can crank the console volume as much as you want, but you have to keep the iPod/external source volume down or the gain becomes too great and things sound really muddy. There's one more peculiarity: For some reason, the bass is amplified a lot more than the treble. On just normal equalizer settings, the bass is loud enough that it shakes the whole car while the treble is much quieter. Fans of hip-hop and rap might not object to this, but as a person who wants to rock out and hear the guitar chords and the singing, I'm a little put off by this. Luckily, the console has an equalizer, and if I turn the bass all the way down and the treble up a little, it sounds almost normal. If I activate my iPod's equalizer as well, and set it on the "Bass Reduction" setting, the sound is completely normal and balanced and the bass is not too heavy or overbearing. It's just right.

All in all, this project was a resounding success. I can now listen to whatever I desire whenever I drive anywhere, instead of being confined to silence or crummy radio junk. It works a lot better than one of those FM radio iPod transmitters or even one of those faux-tapes that plays your iPod through a tape (mine uses a tape also, but it's just a dummy and the real audio is a direct line in, so it's better sound fidelity). It's [just barely] not quite as good as a professionally-configured line-in port where all the circuits are built to handle an iPod/mp3 player audio signal, because I'm patching into the signal from an entirely different sort of media. The ultimate redeeming quality of this project is, of course, that it cost me absolutely NOTHING to make, and I even learned a thing or two along the way!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Browser Of The Future

Wow. I haven't posted in forever. I've been meaning to post about my new electric guitar and the homemade talkbox I made as well, but I never got around to it. I was kind of waiting for a good opportunity, like once I had finished writing a cool song with guitar/talkbox, but I only just barely did that. I'll supply some wonderful pictures of that sometime later. What I really wanted to write about right now was Google Chrome, though. Maybe the real reason I haven't posted in forever is because I was running FireFox and it was holding me back. Even upgrading to FireFox 3.0.1 wasn't nearly as amazing as switching to Google Chrome has been.


Google Chrome is a new open-source web browser released, obviously, by Google. Its main points of argument are: Why must the entire web browsing experience suffer because of one window, and why do we continue to rely on outdated scripts to run all of the high-end programs of today? So, they've made it so every tab work and process independently. This initially causes more resource drain than a normal browser would, but in the long run it's incredibly helpful in increasing loading speeds and if one tab crashes, the others continue to function fine (currently, YouTube is having troubles in one of my other tabs, but this tab works perfectly fine in the meantime). They've also re-written lots of code for JavaScript and other plugins so that they quit running like they were designed to run ten years ago and start running and functioning as we need them to now, in the 21st century, where our JavaScript does much more than play a MIDI file and show a tap-dancing banana.

The result is astounding: Google Chrome is an amazingly simplistic and intuitive browser (you thought FireFox was stripped-down, wait till you see Google Chrome). When you open a new tab, it shows a list of your recently-visited sites and a grid of your most-visited sites. Come on, those are the sites you were going to open in that tab anyway, right? It's great. Sites load really fast once they're established, web-based plugins (like Flash player and JavaScript) work really fast, the security is amazing, with a huge database of Google's sites that are not to be trusted to pull from, and I haven't been bothered by a single pop-up. Google Chrome has caught every single one. It tells you that a pop-up was blocked, and a window pops up in the bottom-right corner. You can drag it into the main window if it's like a music streaming pop-up, or you can just hit the X on the window and kill the pop-up without having to see it at all if it's advertisements or something.

This is a beta version of Google Chrome, though. The full release isn't expected until 2009, so there are a few bugs. YouTube is not quite up to scratch, and Gmail is a little sketchy occasionally, which is ironic seeing as how it's another Gmail service and they're supposed to be optimized by Chrome. For the most part, though, Google Chrome is a geek's dream come true and you can't call yourself an Internet connoiseur until you run the Internet in Google Chrome.

So, read about Google Chrome, and then download it and give it a try. Guaranteed satisfaction or your money back!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

It's A Long Title For An Album That's Done All Too Soon


Yesterday, Coldplay released a new album, entitled "Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends." I'm a fan of Coldplay because of their laid-back acoustic feel, but this album is decidedly more crunchy. Everything in this album, from their um, interesting choice of album art, to the untidy scrawl of the album name, to the sound of their first single, is more in-your-face and more aggressive and rockin'. I like acoustic music, but I like good rock also. There's always old Coldplay (and plenty of tracks on this album) that I can turn to when I'm feeling mellow, but it's good to hear some rock from the boys.

As with the Weezer Red Album, I'm going to listen to this album for the first time right now, and I'll write my impressions of each song as they come up. I'm not going to put a lyrical excerpt from every song this time. I'll just put lyrics that are catchy or that stand out to me.

Once again, I got the pre-order iTunes edition, so I have two additional bonus tracks: Lost? and the acoustic version of Lovers In Japan. I'll still write about those, but keep in mind that they might not be available to you.

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1. Life In Technicolor
This is an instrumental track. It starts out with chiming sounds and a quick repetitive riff underneath. Next, a plucky stringed instrument (doesn't sound like a guitar...) comes in. More and more layers are added to the mix until it's a pretty good rockin' song, but it contains the classic Coldplay atmospheric noises in the background as well. There are yells by Chris Martin, does it count as instrumental then, even if the voices aren't saying anything?

2. Cemeteries of London
This track bleeds right in from Life In Technicolor. It's got a dark ambient feel, and Chris Martin singing in a weird key signature. It doesn't sound like a minor (aeolian) scale, maybe it's phrygian? Quickly-picked acoustic guitar and slapping drums come in. There's a weird vocal harmony part, and then an electric guitar solo with a voice not unlike the sound on Coldplay's "Talk" comes in. I think this song is about seeing evidence of God in everyday objects. It ends with a nice little sliding-down piano riff that didn't fit with anything else on the song.

3. Lost!
Hard-pounding drums and handclaps, plus pipe organ make the beginning of this song very distinctive. Tambourine and more organ layers come in for the chorus, and an electric guitar comes in halfway through the chorus. Falls into familiar Coldplay territory about two minutes in: Mellow vocal harmonies over atmospheric ambience. There's a distorted guitar solo right after, though, but the harmonies are kept in and hummed this time. This song was way too short. It was amazing, but wasn't long enough.

"You might be a big fish/in a little pond/doesn't mean you've won"

4. 42
Obviously, "42" refers to Douglas Adams' Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy, where it is proclaimed that "42" is the answer to Life, The Universe, and Everything. I wonder how this song is going to reference that. There's a weird piano part and then of course, the ambience comes in, but that's okay. I like this kind of ambience, where it's setting a mood and underlaying other things, but I don't like ambience where it's just noise for the sake of noise, like some of the stuff Pink Floyd does. Two minutes in, some kind of weird instrument comes in, like a cross between a trumpet and an electric guitar. This instrument leads into a happy, upbeat second section with a drumbeat and guitar riff that sounds a lot like New Order or The Cure could have done it. It goes back to the original section for the last two lines, and that ruins it. I also did not detect much of an idea about why "42" is the title.

"You thought you might be a ghost/you didn't get to heaven but you made it close"

5. Lovers In Japan / Reign Of Love
This song continues the feel of actually belonging to New Order. There are lots of guitar parts, some acoustic, some ambient, and some fuzzy electric riffs. It makes for a nice mix. There's a plinky piano part in the middle of the first song, it sounds like they put the microphone right next to the "bridge" of the piano where the strings don't vibrate as much and generate a plucky sound. They could be synthesizing it, of course. Lovers In Japan is a very good, happy, upbeat song, but it's kind of inane. It doesn't stick in your memory, because the riffs are too long and the sections change too often. I like it, but I'm not likely to be humming it anytime soon. It'll take a lot longer to memorize all the ins and outs of this song.

Lovers In Japan ends on a big, loud, fuzzy guitar tone, and Reign Of Love fades in right over the top of it. It's got some sweet rolling piano parts in the foreground, with weird percussion noises in the background. I have no idea how these guys recorded all these weird sounds. The rolling piano continues clear to the end and makes a nice finish to the track.

6. Yes (With Hidden Track: Chinese Sleep Chant)
Some very weird noises start out this song. Chris Martin's voice is very heavy in the mix, taking up all the space and leaving not much else able to be heard. It sounds like they put the microphone right in his mouth when recording, it's so resonant. Someone in the band (or I guess it could be someone else...) is good with a violin. It can't have been synthesized, because there are sounds of fingers fretting strings and the box sticking across the strings, making them resonate. It's a quick, low, choppy riff, and it sounds cool. Most of the songs so far have been comprised of a few chords in the background and funky riffs going back and forth between instruments. It's not a bad way to write music, but it sounds a little too... progressive for me. Coldplay is not supposed to be progressive rock, they're supposed to be mellow, beautiful, flowing arrangements filled with emotion and thought-provoking lyrics. I don't like it a ton, but they pull it off pretty well, I guess.

The second song on this track makes up for the really heavy voice in the song before it. There's a fairly heavy (for Coldplay, that is) guitar chopping away at chords and a bass creating a flowing background canvas, and Chris Martin's falsetto is shoved to the very back of the mix, as if it's... I dunno, as if the music were a big waterfall and he was trying to sing from behind the waterfall...

7. Viva la Vida
This song has made the rounds around the modern-rock charts and has remained one of the top-downloaded songs on iTunes since the very day it was available about three months ago. If you haven't heard it yet, there's something wrong, because it's everywhere. Of course, there's nothing wrong with that. It's a great little ditty, played mostly on orchestra instruments (including an upright string bass, none of this imitation electric bass stuff) and concert percussion, not a drum set. It creates a great feeling. The song is about a dethroned king, and thoughts of kings bring back memories of the olden days, and the olden days bring back thoughts of classical music, and this song captures that feel of good ol' classical music, without being classical.

8. Violet Hill
This is the band's first single, and it's done the rounds on iTunes and YouTube and the rock charts as well. It definitely takes the top place on the list of Coldplay Songs With Heavily Distorted Electric Guitar. It's very... crunchy. That word has been used a million times all over the place to describe this song, but that's the only word that fits. It's got very distinctive, rockin' guitars, but they're not very loud in the mix. The lesser-distorted guitars playing ambience take top spot, and the heavy chords come in quieter. It makes for a cool, top-heavy song, and it's no wonder that it's such a hit.

"When the future's architectured/by a carnival of idiots on show/you'd better lie low"

9. Strawberry Swing
Sounds as if they recorded this all together on some concert hall stage, instead of overdubbing tracks in a studio. It's got reverberating handclaps and drums that are giving off a much more rounded sound than they otherwise would in a studio... I dunno, maybe it's just a microphone trick. This song has great folk-style guitar riffs leaning a little bit to the right-side channel of the stereo mix, while the guitar chords come in later, leaning to the left, balancing out the song right as you start to feel a little off-balance. This is kind of an inane, silly, happy pop song, but it's great, and people will love it. It's upbeat, and without a trace of negativity or unhappiness. Since many Coldplay songs deal with loss or insecurity, this is a very welcome change-up for their usual musical theme.

"It's such a perfect day"

10. Death and All His Friends
The beginning reminds me of stuff done by The Fray: quiet, fuzzy, rolling piano and a single voice. Coldplay adds a mellow guitar riffs into it as well. The piano starts to pound the chords together instead of rolling over them, and the guitar riffs gets a little heavier, then comes a heavy one-measure fill, and a perfect pop song is born. The drum beat is the epitome of pop, and the piano is banging out bright chords in a syncopated pattern, and the guitar is drilling into a repetitive riff. Multiple voicals come in for a few great lines, then fade away to let the piano resume rolling and slowing down to finish off the song. Actually, I guess the song is only about halfway done. The piano fades into total silence for a few seconds, then another completely different song comes up, still under the same title. It's got rolling guitar tones reminiscent of the album opener, Life In Technicolor, but this time with words, albeit few of them. This is the last song on the official album, and all three sections of it would be great stand-alone album finishers.

"And/in the end/we lie awake/and we dream of makin' our escape"

11. Lost?
Not to be confused with Lost!, this is Lost?, and it's a more reflective, questioning version of the other one. Even though the lyrics of both songs are exactly the same, the music makes them sound much different. In Lost!, the heavy beat and quick tempo, it sounds as if Chris is singing about being already lost and the hopelessness of things. In Lost?, the slower tempo and the mellow piano chords without any other major music creates a feeling of being in denial about being lost. He sings as if he still has some hope of finding something or being able to get out of the hopelessness, instead of giving up and making the best of the little he has, like on Lost!. It's odd, but the different versions really do carry very different emotions with them, proving that lyrics are not everything.

"Just because I'm losin', doesn't mean I'm lost/doesn't mean I'll stop/doesn't mean I will cross"

12. Lovers In Japan (Acoustic Version)
Fifteen seconds into this song (essentially enough to get a plucky-sounding intro off the ground), and I'm already digging this song a lot. It's not just straight-up major guitar chords, like so many "acoustic" versions of things are. There are plenty of the atmospheric Coldplay sounds here, mostly supplied by a very far away tambourine and a mellow bass line, but there are plenty of very interesting acoustic guitar noises. Dissonances, sustained chords, and silly little repetitive riffs make this feel very... organic. Down-to-earth. Not as produced as all of the other songs on the album. Real. Something like that, I guess. Ends on a very high sustained note that sounds like a voice but is way too high for any normal human being to hit. This tone slowly fades into black, and that finishes up the album.

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In conclusion, I'll say that Coldplay has created another brilliant album full of songs I'm sure to enjoy again and again. There are some problems, some things I didn't like, and just some weird things in general, but those are just small wrinkles in the otherwise smooth, glassy surface of the music. Some of the minor things I have taken issue with include:

-The atmospheric noises: Sure, ambience is great, and it can carry great emotion and can be great for setting the mood of a piece, but when every song has weird noises in the background and constant, high-pitched sighing things, it gets just a little bit old. It seems as if Coldplay is using the ambience as too much of a gimmick, and not a thing to be taken seriously and used sparingly in order to achieve the full effect. It's nothing major, but it detracts from the overall experience by being ever-present and demanding. If they would remove the weird noises in a few places, it would leave their music much bore open and raw and exposed, and that can carry more emotion than ambience will ever be able to.

-The weird multiple-songs-in-one-track idea: Sure, maybe a bonus track at the end of the album is okay, or maybe some kind of short song placed at the end of another long song is acceptable, but when you have seven songs rolled into three tracks, it's a little annoying. I will most probably be clipping these songs all apart and re-labeling them as individual tracks, just so I don't have to skip through things or remember time positions so I can jump right to the song I want to hear. When the last track contains three completely different songs, it could mean one of many things. You can be telling people that you had so many great ideas that you couldn't choose a good album finisher, which leaves you seeming pretty arrogant. You could be saying that you don't know how to pick a good album finisher and haven't given the matter proper thought or production time, which I doubt is the problem here, because this album feels almost too produced, (which is just another very small issue that I had, but not even big enough to merit its own paragraph). Or, it might say that you're trying to be too gimmicky with your music and trying to be clever or funny or quirky, in which case you end up not being taken seriously. Either way, it was kind of lame to stuff three songs into the last track, as well as hiding two other "bonus tracks" throughout the rest of the album. The extra songs are all good songs, but it would be nicer to at least have them out in the open as individual tracks so that you can listen to them and their companions separately and at your leisure.

All in all, though, it's a very good album, full of emotion and thought, and will have me listening to it on repeat for a long time to come. Clocking in at just over 53 minutes, it's not really a short album, but it's such a great musical journey that you'll never realize you've been lost for an hour in the land of Coldplay. 8 out of 10.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Greatest Album That Ever Lived?


Weezer's Red Album was just barely released! I haven't listened to it yet, though, but I'm going to be listening to it all night, that's for sure, and I'm going to listen to it for the very first time right now and write my impressions on each of the tracks. They might be edited later on when I'm more familiar with the tracks, but I'll make a note of that, so that my first impressions are also preserved.

No, I'm not proclaiming that Weezer's Red Album is the greatest album ever. It's just a pun on one of the tracks on the album. It's a very good rockin' ride of an album, though, and it departs a little bit more from Weezer's traditional power pop sound, which is by no means a bad thing. I'll go through and listen to the album, and write my views on each song as I go through them. I got the iTunes Deluxe Version Pre-Order, so I have sixteen tracks. The standard Weezer Red Album that is available in stores has only the first ten tracks, the Weezer Red Album Deluxe Version available on iTunes has the first fourteen, the fifteenth track comes with an iTunes purchase of the entire album simultaneously, and the sixteenth track is an iTunes exclusive track that only is available if you pre-ordered the album. That said, some of the tracks I write about will not be available to you (although I'm sure if you look hard enough, you'll be able to find them on the Internet, and I'm not saying any more than that...) Anyway, here goes:

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1. Troublemaker
Not quite a power-pop song, but definitely fairly mainstream. Nice bright guitars. Funny, cool chorus, even if it doesn't mean much. There isn't a whole lot about "troublemaking" in this song, but it's still really cool.

"I'm a troublemaker, never been a faker/doin' things my own way, never givin' up/I'm a troublemaker, not a double-taker/I don't have the patience to keep it on the up"

2. The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations On A Shaker Hymn)
This song is EPIC! I love it. It starts out with a crowd cheering and mellow piano, then goes into a rock-rap section, and after a verse of that, the mellow piano comes in with the rock-rap. Next is an acoustic section with Rivers Cuomo singing in falsetto, then an INCREDIBLE vocal chorus section with the entire band. Back to another acoustic section with higher falsetto, then a straight-up rock section. Brian Bell singing cool backup vocals. An almost swing-style section with offbeat, syncopated drums and guitar. Back to more straight-rock, then a plunky guitar part with Rivers speaking metaphorically about life as a stage. Another vocal chorus (not quite as amazing as the first one, but still darn good). A last rock section, and a great ending chord, sung by the band. Amazing harmonies, this song is excellent.

"After the havoc that I'm gonna wreak/no more words will critics have to speak/I've got the answers to the tangled knot/sleep tight in your cot"

3. Pork And Beans
Great power-poppy song, definitely a "single" sound. The music video is currently the most popular on YouTube, with over 5,000,000 views since May 23rd when it debuted. It's not my favorite song, because it's full of all the standard power chords, but it's got a good hook and nice lyrics. (Don't forget, you should watch the music video for Pork And Beans through this link to help me out in the contest for a guitar signed by Weezer!)


"I ain't gonna wear the clothes that you like/I'm fine and dandy with the me inside/one look in the mirror and I'm tickled pink/I don't give a hoot about what you think"

4. Heart Songs
Cool acoustic intro, with bass drum beats like a heart beating. Rivers is singing about all of his musical influences, from Gordon Lightfoot to Cat Stevens to the Beatles to Iron Maiden to Michael Jackson and Nirvana. It's a cool laid-back song with nice bell sounds. Heavy section when he mentions Nirvana's Nevermind. Synthed strings section that is a perfect foil for the heavy building guitar part. Excellent vocal counterpart breakdown with the band singing the chorus at half speed and Rivers overlaying it with repeated sections.

"These are my heart songs/they never feel wrong/and when I wake, for goodness' sake/these are the songs I keep singin'"

5. Everybody Get Dangerous
Sounds like a car speeding by and breaking glass, then some sweet chugging guitar comes in. Rivers is "singing" rap-rock about being bad as a kid. A song akin to "Troublemaker" but with more admissions to being a bad kid. Very good chugging guitars and fast vocals, reminds me of Anthony Kiedis' (Red Hot Chili Peppers) singing style. A long "bridge" section without the chugging guitars. Rivers holds out "place" for about a minute while the rest of the band comes in with other parts, then it's back to the march of the awesome guitar! The guitar ends suddenly and is replaced with a really sweet drum solo with falsetto yells on top of it, and this fades into the next song.

"And what will we say when our kids come to us/and ask with a smile on their face/hey, Dad my friends got some new ninja swords/is it cool if we slash up this place?"

6. Dreamin'
Another epic song, happy and upbeat. Cool ambient intro, standard pop-rock beginning, then fades into a cool mellow section with Brian singing lead and Rivers singing counterpart. A little section with some cool guitars in the middle that make you think it's going to go back into the heavy rock, but then it heads back into mellow counterparts again. Eventually, the pop rock comes back in underneath the counterpart and they make an excellent combination, until the straight-rock last four lines take over to finish up the song.

"I'm dreamin' in the morning, I'm dreamin' all through the night/and when I'm dreamin' I know that it's all right/I'm dreamin' in the evening, I'm dreamin' all through the day/and when I'm dreamin' I know that it's okay"

7. Thought I Knew
It's got a techno sound to the beginning, then comes in with an acoustic guitar and bass. This is a song that Brian wrote for his band, The Relationship, and he sings lead in the re-done Weezer version. This is originally a really dark-sounding minor key song, but Weezer has made it a light pop ballad. Brian has a very good voice. I like it, and it's a fresh change from Rivers (not that he's a bad singer, but it's way cool when bands have other people sing lead). Got a cool wandering guitar solo (first one on the album...) through the last chorus and breakdown.

"Sorry, if I caused you pain/sorry, I forgot your name/sorry, but you left me out in the rain"

8. Cold Dark World
Scott Shriner wrote the music and sang for this song, and it's got a really cool bass line (of course, seeing as how he is the bassist), keeps chugging and is just loud enough to be heard but not be overbearing. This is a really dark, almost creepy song, but it's so cool. It's another fresh change for Weezer, and this album is looking to be full of those. Cool synths and distorted vocals, plus really cool clicks on the percussion track, offbeat and perfectly fitting with the song.

"Angel girl in a cold dark world/I’m gonna be your man/angel girl in a cold dark world/I’ll make you understand"

9. Automatic
Drummer Patrick Wilson wrote this song, and frontman Rivers played drums, while Pat played guitar and sang. He's got a really great voice, deeper, throatier, and broader than Rivers'. Pat wrote it about loving his family. It's got really chugging guitars and a really sweet guitar solo (the second on the album, and it's really short, and this is the second-to-last song on the "official" album. Apparently guitar solos aren't what Weezer focused on this time around). Nice vocal harmonies. The guitar is really distorted and sounds way cool.

"When do I lay down/and get to see the world inside your eyes?/how can I reach out/and hold on to the joy you’ve got inside?"

10. The Angel And The One
Slow ballad-type song at the beginning. Rivers sings this song kind of emotionlessly, but all the emotion is still translated right through to you through the music, which is dark and sad as well as hopeful and promising as well. It gets happier about two minutes into the song, and Rivers adds some emotion to his voice. There's a part with standard poppy power chords, but they're fuzzed out and shoved to the back of the mix in favor of the ambient synthesizers and the vocals, and it creates a really cool effect. The vocals end at about five minutes but there's still two minutes of music left after that. It fades down quiet and then starts to build back up. Slightly dissonant and very mellow guitar chords and synths make a great finisher to the official album, but I'm glad I've got six songs to go.

"I’ve reached a higher place/that no one else can make a claim in/I’ll take you there my friend/I’m reaching out my hand, so take it/We are the angels and we are the ones that are praying"

11. Miss Sweeney
This song is hilariously unconventional. It starts out with a big sustained synth and a guy talking over an office intercom. Rivers comes in rapping as if he's continuing the message of the manager on the intercom, discussing business with Miss Sweeney, then comes in with a love-struck chorus. He then apologizes for the chorus and says he doesn't know what came over him, then goes back to talking business, and then comes into another chorus and admits that he's falling for... his secretary, and how much she means to him. It's a really sweet song though, and it's got some great parts. A choppy acoustic guitar plays during the verses and the breakdown, and there's a great bright, not-too-distorted electric guitar part in the choruses.

"Girl, you make the rain clouds disappear/the sun always shines when you’re near/I’m waiting until you love me"

12. Pig
This is a song that Rivers wrote about the life of a pig. He grows up with his family, finds a wife, has children, and is slaughtered. Fans loved Rivers' demo so much that it is in the album by popular demand (I suspect that Rivers liked this song, also, because it's amazing). This song starts with great foreign-sounding drums, like a shaker and an snare drum with the snare turned half-off, plus lots of hand claps and percussive strums with the acoustic guitar. Rivers and Brian narrate the life of the pig, Rivers semi-rapping the lyrics and Brian singing the falsetto harmonies that used to be Matt Sharp's job. Nice piano chords come in and synth strings and make it incredible. I think I detect a bit of clarinet as well, and I know Rivers can play the clarinet, so it may be possible (EDIT: I do believe it's actually a harmonica). Super-distorted guitar and bass at the bottom of the mix make it powerful as well as quaint and hilarious. If you didn't know the title, you'd think it was just a song about human life, until the very end where Rivers discusses getting slaughtered and giving thanks to Farmer Pete for giving him food and taking care of him. It drops down back to laid-back acoustic guitar and slow drums, and then is over all too soon.

"I’d like to thank Farmer Pete/for bringing me scraps of food that I could eat/he always had a smile on his face/he didn’t want to think of this day"

13. The Spider
Another song about animals having to die, but not entirely. There is a spider in the story, but the main gist of this song is the idea that we don't have much time before our lives are gone and we need to make the most of them and not be afraid of what might happen. Rivers' vocals sound like he sang on a stage and put the microphone at the back of the audience. There are nice ambient synths in the background. There's a lot of acoustic guitar on this album, more than all the rest of the Weezer albums combined. I might have to get some tabs for these songs, because I like to play along with Weezer, but if the Weezer music is acoustic and I'm playing along on an acoustic, it'll sound so much better.

"There’s a spider in the drain and he’s feeling pain/and he doesn’t want to die any more than you or I/he’s struggling to live but he doesn’t have much time/any more than you or I, you or I"

14. King
Scott sings lead on this song, because Rivers didn't like it but Scott fought for it to be put in the Deluxe Version. Scott sounds like he could be a country singer or something. He's got a deep, scratchy voice that sounds great. Amazing reverberating synths come in after the acoustic guitar has been playing alone for a while. There's also a lot of synth work in this album, and other Weezer albums have hardly had any. It's nice to hear them branching out from the standard rock band instruments, but it seems almost that they're using them as too much of a gimmick instead of enhancing their music. The synths sound great, but they're unnecessary in some sections of the album. Later on in this song, a really distorted bass comes in, which is an interesting combination, because the acoustic guitar is still playing mellow Spanish-style chords. Good, original drum beat with more than a two-count repeat rate. This song is like a mix of classical Spanish music, New Wave synthesized stuff, and hard rock. It's way cool.

"You see I own this town. You best not come around/if you wanna get by, then cool it down/if you wanna start something, know one thing: I’m king"

15. It's Easy
Country-pop acoustic guitar work at the beginning of this song. It sounds like Brian singing (it definitely isn't Rivers). Really cool acoustic bass guitar sounds in this song. It would be way cool if Scott played an upright string bass, but an acoustic bass guitar is pretty cool also. Excellent acoustic guitar solo. I really need the guitar tabs to some of these songs, because I'm really digging the acoustic guitar stuff. This was a sweet country-style song (even though I don't specifically like country) with awesome riffs in it. Great break from power-pop and power chords for Weezer.

"Gimme time, give it up/draw the line, raise the cup (EDIT: I'm pretty sure "raise the gun" is the actual lyric, and it fits more with the song's idea as well [EDIT EDIT: I guess it actually is "raise the cup," even though "raise the gun" fits so much better])/it's easy to be mean
(EDIT: "not to be mean")"

16. I Can Love
Sounds like a poor-quality garage band recorded with an eight-track. Rivers has a great falsetto, but this is some kind of weird jam of a song that could be cool if it were properly mixed. I can't hear enough of the parts (I guess I'm just not used to pre-production demos). This is the iTunes exclusive pre-order track, and it's pretty cool, but I don't like the poor audio quality. I guess it's not poor quality, so much as it is a few microphones set up around the band jamming, with no post-recording production or anything like that. Sweet twangy guitar riffs, though. You can hear Rivers giving instructions as they play the bridge. "Six times", et cetera.

"I didn't hope for much, I was used to how things were/even though I was not sure, you'd say/I was throwin' it all away and I never learned to heal"

--------------------------------------------------
In conclusion, I really like the Red Album. It's a great turn away from power pop for Weezer, and it's an amazing musical journey. Sure, there's nothing wrong with power pop, but there's only so much you can do with twelve power chords, right? Exactly. The acoustic guitar, the synths, the alternate singers and the unconventional song forms all combine to make a completely original album full of great songs that you'll want to listen to again and again until you have squeezed every last drop of amazingness from them (which will take an incredibly long time). 9 out of 10.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Weezer's Pork And Beans!

Hey, everybody (if there is anybody who actually reads this blog), go watch Weezer's new Pork And Beans video on YouTube, but please do it via this link: http://www.weezerjonas.com/CDA5240F87574D8387EBDE8FEC733210/tracklink.asp?guid=23E1D36BEFE44585A2786E91A1214E59
This link will take you directly to YouTube, but it'll also add a point to my profile and put me in the running to win a guitar signed by the members of Weezer. How cool is that?

So, if you'd be so kind, help me out and click on the link above. You don't even have to watch the video if you don't like Weezer, just click the link and then close the tab. It'll still add a point to my score.

If you help me win the guitar, I promise to share it with you, through online pictures, and awesome electric guitar music on my music project. It'll be a gift that gives back to you!

What are you waiting for? Click that link RIGHT NOW!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Links To Cool Stuff!

I'm back again, after gathering up a bunch of cool things to share over the last month. Here goes:

Snopes - http://snopes.com Snopes is an online urban legend-busting site, kind of like unto MythBusters, but with all of its information readily available online. You can find anything you want, from urban legends to virus scares to presidential candidate myths to forward emails debunked. It's amazing, and anything I read anything suspicious or receive a false-sounding email, I immediately check Snopes. It hasn't let me down yet.

FreeRice.com - http://freerice.com I was very suspicious about this one, until Snopes backed it up! FreeRice.com is an actual charity site that really does donate twenty grains of rice for every words problem you get right. The rice is paid for through the advertising at the bottom of the site, and it really does go to starving children. Try it out! It's good for your vocabulary and it's good for those who are less fortunate than yourself.

Twitter - http://twitter.com This is like a mini-blog that only lets you post 140 characters per post, maximum. It's great for little updates on projects that you're working on. Mine is http://twitter.com/poojalooba_cow

The White Stripes - This band is absolutely wonderful. Jack White on vocals, guitar, and piano, and Meg White on drums and backing vocals. Their sound is simple, stripped-down and raw, but it's amazing. Everyone and their dog has heard "Seven Nation Army" but you should try out their other stuff, such as "You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You're Told)" or "Icky Thump" or "Blue Orchid" or "My Doorbell" or "The Hardest Button To Button". Heck, just buy all of their albums and you can thank me later. http://www.whitestripes.com

Dave Barry's Blog - Dave Barry was a humorous column writer for the Miami Herald for a number of years (alas, he no longer is), as well as a pulitzer-prize winner for his books. He's quite possibly the funniest guy in the history of the universe, and he's got a blog, which he updates about eight times a day. Most of his updates are links to bizarre news items, but quite a few of them are hilarious little tidbits that he has written or thought about, or et cetera. http://blogs.herald.com/dave_barrys_blog

Bathtime In Clerkenwell - http://poojaloobacow.googlepages.com/bathtimeinclerkenwell.wmv None of the videos on YouTube had decent sound quality, so that's a link to my own site's upload of it, which has much better sound quality. I know I've mentioned this before, but if you liked the song, you can download the music video from my site, for your own personal enjoyment, without having to be tethered to the Internet to watch it. All credit for this movie and the music behind it goes, of course, to Alex Budovsky (animator) and Stephen Coates (composer).

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Both Familiar And New

First off, you'll have to go to http://www.urbanfonts.com and download this font here if you want to read this blog post in the right font. It's in weezerFont in honor of them. It's an awesome font! I guess if you don't download that font, it'll just appear in the regular Blogger font, but how can you resist a font based on the weezer typeset? (Hey, that's a cool question mark! ?????)

There has been lots of information concerning weezer's sixth studio album recently, and I thought I'd add my two cents to the bank of thousands of people blogging about it.

According to weezer.com, the new weezer album will "very likely" be released on June 17th, 2008. It will "very likely" be self-titled "weezer", just like their 1994 "Blue Album" and their 2001 "Green Album". It will "very likely" be a red color theme, thus the "Red Album" (hence the red-ified past weezer albums above [yes, I was the Photoshopper. Yes, I didn't to very well. Yes, they look cool anyway]). The album's first single is "confirmed" as "Pork And Beans". Other songs "possibly" on the album include "Everybody Get Dangerous", "Automatic", "Ms. Sweeney", a "12 letter word starting with T and ending with R" (my money's on "Troublemaker"), "I'm the Greatest Man That Ever Lived", and "Daydreamer".

I can't wait for this album. I've been an all-out weezer junkie for about a year now, and I own their Blue Album, Maladroit, and Make Believe, as well as selected songs from the Green Album and Pinkerton (such as "Hash Pipe", "Island In The Sun", and "El Scorcho"). I fully plan on buying the rest of Pinkerton and Green, as well as buying the "Red Album" the very day it comes out.

If you haven't heard of weezer, or haven't liked their singles very much, you really should give them a chance. Their clever lyrics, their amazingly catchy riffs, and their energetic power pop style has totally endeared them to me in just a few short months. Good thing they're signed with Geffen for at least two more albums!

If "Beverly Hills" is too repetitive and lame for your style, if "Buddy Holly" is getting old, you should dig deeper into weezer's albums and discover some of their other gems. Honestly, the best weezer songs were never even considered as singles. Songs like My Name Is Jonas, Surf Wax America, Across The Sea, Butterfly, Don't Let Go, Slob, Burndt Jamb, Hold Me, The Other Way, and Freak Me Out are way better than the singles on their respective albums. Try some weezer. Grow to love them. Get hyped for their next album. It's gonna be great!

If you're afraid that weezer's new album is going to be too safe and unoriginal, like unto their 2005 album Make Believe, have no fear. Rivers Cuomo (weezer's frontman, duh!) has said that the Red Album will be entirely different from anything weezer has done before, containing "longer songs, non-traditional song forms, different people writing and singing, instrument switching, TR-808s, synths, Southern rap, and baroque counterpoint." There's a sample of Patrick Wilson (the drummer) singing lead on a song called "Automatic (LA Riots Remix) for a trailer of Gran Turismo 5 here. I can't wait to hear other weezer members stepping up and taking lead. Come to think of it, I can't wait regardless! Track-by-track review to come on June 17th, if I haven't died of excess anticipation before then.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Best-Seller In The Making

I actually finished reading this book three weeks ago, but I've been so addicted to Desktop Tower Defense as of late, that I've done nothing else on the Internet. I've almost mastered the game, though, so I'm going to concentrate on other Internet-y things more now. (By the way, if you want to try to compare your scores against mine, enter the group name "Poojalooba" on the score submit screen).

This book is Airman by
Eoin Colfer. He's the author of the Artemis Fowl series and The Supernaturalist and The Wish List. I think he's certainly one of the best authors around, and I hope he continues to crank out crazy stories and ideas for a long time to come.
Airman is about Conor Broekhart, who lives on the island of Great Saltee, a few miles north of Ireland. A few miles away from Great Saltee lies Little Saltee, which is a prison island full of diamonds. Law-breakers on Great Saltee are sent to Little Saltee, where they are forced to work in the diamond mines there until they have either paid their debt to society or died. (The Saltees are actual islands, but they have been uninhabited since around the time that this book would have taken place).

Conor Broekhart is the son of the captain of the Saltee Sharpshooters, an elite rifle group dedicated to defending the Saltee Wall. Since Little Saltee is home to the richest diamond mine in the world, many invasion attempts have been made on the Saltees over the centuries, and it takes the very best soldiers around to keep the islands from falling into enemy hands.

Conor spends his days in the castle on Great Saltee, having adventures with the princess Isabella, and he dreams of being able to fly (he was born in a hot air balloon at the Paris World's Fair). His tutor, Victor Vigny, is just as passionate about flying as Conor himself, so they spend their days designing flying machines, soaking up knowledge about the world around them, fencing, and shooting. Unfortunately, his life is about to be turned upside down.

The evil Marshall Hugo Bonvilain, captain of the Saltees' foot soldiers, kills the king and Victor, and Conor is the only witness. When Conor confronts Bonvilain immediately after the murders, Bonvilain overpowers Conor and uses him as a puppet to reach an evil goal. He tells Conor's parents that Conor died a valiant death trying to save the king, and he tells Conor that he has framed him for the murders and the entire island of Great Saltee hates him. Through very clever deceits, Bonvilain manages to fool both parties into believing what he wants them to believe, and can manipulate them accordingly.

Conor is transported to the diamond mines on Little Saltee, where he is forced to work in the diving bell, mining for diamonds underwater where conditions are dangerous and his mining partner is more dangerous still. I won't divulge anything more about his mining partner, but rest assured, it's an awesome part.

The years roll past and Conor is still stuck on Little Saltee, and he has been shaped into a tough, smart, and desperate person. Princess Isabella is due to be crowned Queen, and Conor has been carefully cultivating an escape plan that revolves around her coronation. When the coronation is moved ahead two weeks, Conor is hard-pressed to keep on schedule. Does he eventually escape Little Saltee, even with these complications? Of course! That's only the first half of the book! Conor escapes, all goes well, and the next amazing section of the book begins.

Conor leaves behind his life as Conor Broekhart and becomes the Airman, a black-clothed, flying thief. Victor left behind a Martello tower full of equipment needed to build flying machines, and Conor utilizes these to create a glider that can transport him across the sea, provided the wind cooperates. Conor is no petty thief, however. He is stealing diamonds that he has carefully been saving up on Little Saltee for the past three years. Yes, Conor designs a glider and flies back to his hated prison island, in order to steal diamonds and make himself a rich man. Throughout the course of this section, there are many amazing parts that both demonstrate the sheer awesomeness of the characters that Eoin Colfer has thought up, as well as showing some great character development along the way.

Marshall Bonvilain eventually discovers Conor's escape and learns where he is hiding, and leaves him with a message detailing Conor on Bonvilain's plans to murder the Queen and Conor's family. Conor knows this is a trap set up for Bonvilain to kill him as well, but Conor is our valiant and fearless protagonist, and he has to do something!

The rest of the book is too good to give away, so you'll just have to read it. It's full of Eoin Colfer's clever wit, with humor-filled dialog and superfluous bits that add to the hilarity. It's not just a funny book, though. It's an excellent read with an amazing plot that never seems to be going the way you want it to -even up to the very end- but somehow still ends up awesome anyway.

This book receives ten stars out of ten by me, poojalooba_cow. I'm no official critic or anything, and I'm probably more than a little bit biased, but I have been around the block and I've read plenty of books, so I can say I have a pretty good idea of what's good and what's boring. Just for the record, I was going to give it nine out of ten before, because I felt that it didn't have as much of Eoin Colfer's staple cleverness and subtlety. After you read it more than once, though (I've read it twice in the last week), you realize that all along it did have some very clever bits, you just have to have read it more than once or remember all the little confusing bits until they're resolved. You have to dig kinda deep, but everything resolves and is very witty and sharp and fresh. Highly recommended read.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

poojalooba_cow's Debut On The Silver Screen

I'll start off by saying that I absolutely HATE Disney Channel and almost all of the content they put out. That said, I will be appearing in the new "Disney Channel Original Movie" called Hatching Pete that will be out this December. Apparently it's a story about a really popular kid named Pete who is also the school mascot, which happens to be a large chicken. Apparently he thinks kids will laugh at him for dressing up as a chicken, so he tries to hide this fact from people. I'll be appearing alongside (okay, not alongside, but behind) well-known Disney channel actors like Mitchel Musso (Oliver in Hannah Montana), Jason Dolley (Newt in Cory In The House), and Brian Stepanek (Arwin in The Suite Life Of Zack And Cody). These are all Disney Channel shows that I absolutely HATE, but oh, well.

It was shot earlier today near where I live, and they needed two marching bands (it was a parade scene along our old, "historic" part of Main Street). Me being in the band, my band director asked a few of the band members to show up as extras at 6:30 IN THE MORNING! It was so cold that my instrument (trombone) stuck to my lips when I tried to play it. We didn't actually play any music, though. We just stepped in time and pretended to play. They'll dub over us later.

I spent fourteen hours standing around on Main Street and we got maybe a good fifteen minutes of footage. I was highly disgusted, and I have decided that I will never, ever, EVER join the acting guild. Too much time-wasting and not enough doing.

I was one of three trombone players in the "Rooster Band" (Pete's hometown is Brewster, and their school mascot is the Rooster, so they're the Brewster Roosters), and when the movie comes out, I'll be the trombone player on the far left of the screen (or, more easily, the only person of the male gender playing the trombone). There were two marching bands, but I was in the one with the big letter B on our chests, not the "dorky flannel star" band (the star was a patch covering up their high school marching band logo [holy crap, I just realized that I use a ton of parentheses. I need to cut back...]).

Besides marching in a band, our extras group jammed to some (horrible) tunes at the parade, and chased a car-jacking chicken. There were even some stunts we were slightly involved in, including a chicken doing a backflip and a bunch of hay bales exploding.

All in all, the day was about medium level tolerable. It was fun at times, but at other times it was terminally boring. I understand that being on the set of a movie as a main character is lots of fun, but being an extra most certainly isn't.

Supposedly, there is some money involved in being an extra, but alas, I am not to see any of it. Apparently the time and skill of my bandmates and me (yes, that's the proper way to put it) was donated to my band, which is currently heavily in debt. Other kids who weren't tied to local bands claimed that they were being paid upwards of $150 for the same things that we were doing, so I'm just a little chapped about that, as you can well understand.

Anyway, watch for me in December on none other than everybody's favorite Disney Channel! I bet you can't wait, huh? Well, I can.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Links To Cool Stuff!

So, I decided I'm not going to weekly post cool things, because that's kind of a little bit lame. I'll just post a bunch of cool stuff when I build up a big list. I won't try to set myself to a time schedule or anything. I have quite a list right now, because I've found lots of cool things since last time. Here goes:

-The Landlord:
http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/74 This is a clip about Will Ferrell and troubles with his landlord. Watch out for language. This clip would be rated PG-13 if it were a movie (for language and alcohol abuse by a minor), but it's still really funny.

-My music page: http://poojaloobaCow.googlepages.com/music I've been working on composing some music for quite a while, and I've just finished getting a music website up for them. I plan on filling an Indie album with about fourteen songs (right now I have music for four) and releasing it for free on iTunes, but until then I'll upload demos, samples, and "singles" to my website for sampling before the final project is finished. Right now, you can listen to my first finished song from the album, as well as an early demo of another song I'm working on. You can also listen to covers and other garbage that I didn't compose, but that I did originally record. Watch out for my music on iTunes in the next few months (it'll be under the artist name poojalooba_cow).

-Anti-Phishing Phil: http://cups.cs.cmu.edu/antiphishing_phil/quiz/index.html This little game is actually almost fun, but it's more aimed at being educational. It's about a fish named Phil, and his dad is teaching him about phishing websites. Created by professors at Carnegie-Mellon University, it was designed to teach people about how to recognize a phishing site based on its URL and several other factors. It's an effective tool, because people are much more likely to want to play a game (even if it is a game that's trying to teach them things) than read a bunch of text on a website. Studies reported that after playing Anti-Phishing Phil for fifteen minutes, people were much better able to recognize phishing websites. It's a really clever way to educate people, and it really does work, too. A few days ago I encountered a phishing website and I would have had no clue that it was one if I hadn't played Anti-Phishing Phil before. Thanks to Phil the Phish (ha), I wasn't scammed into giving out personal information or money! Give it a try, it just might save you a lot of grief in the future.

-Pandora: http://pandora.com This is a music site that lets you listen to artists and songs similar to songs or artists you give it. It bills itself as the "Music Genome Project" because it categorizes songs into an immense number of sub-categories (such as "Major Key Tonality" or "Dynamic Male Vocalist" or "Subtle Vocal Harmonies") and creates a listening experience entirely catered to your likes. The more artists and songs you feed it, the more accurate it'll be at choosing other songs and artists that are similar to that. It's great for finding new songs and artists, as well as rediscovering old favorites.

-Desktop Tower Defense: http://www.handdrawngames.com/DesktopTD/game.asp An incredibly addicting little game. Swarms of "creeps" come crawling across your desktop, so what do you do? Create little towers to destroy them, of course! It's a mix of strategy, speed, creativity, and trial-and-error. Try it. You won't be able to stop.

-Dwarf Fortress: http://www.bay12games.com/dwarves This game is a real-time strategy game where you make and manage a fortress filled with dwarfs (hence the name...). It's really hard to learn (I've just barely started getting the hang of things after a week), but it's hilarious and has a really detailed engine behind it. The game art is less-than-commendable (it's an entirely ASCII-art game, so it looks like your screen barfed out a bunch of punctuation marks), but it's still really fun.

-N: http://www.thewayoftheninja.org/n.html "N" is an incredibly cool game about a ninja and his thirst for gold. You have ninety seconds to complete five levels within an "episode". In order to be able to advance to the next episode, you have to complete the five levels in the previous episode. It's got a totally sweet physics engine, so when you die, you'll bounce all over the place and your limbs flop independently. It comes with a built-in custom level generator, so you can create your own awesome levels. It's coming to the XBox Live Arcade and the DS and the PSP, also. I'll most definitely be getting it for my DS.

-Orbiter: http://orbit.medphys.ucl.ac.uk This is a flight simulator with a little extra to it: Besides just flying around on Earth, you can take to the stars and fly to virtually any planet (and any of that planet's moons) in our solar system. It features real physics equations (you can't just take off and fly straight up into the sky), so the learning curve is steep because there are all kinds of weird forces acting on you that you've never even heard of before (especially when you're in outer space), but it's strangely addictive, and it's even got some educational value to it!

Yeah, that should keep anyone busy for a while. I'll be back whenever with more.

Monday, February 11, 2008

poojalooba_cow: 1 Electronics: 0

On Friday, I built a wireless microphone and interfaced it with my computer. I haven't had a chance to blog about it until now, though. I'm quite proud of my success, even though it's essentially just shorting out a wireless phone base and hooking the short into the computer input port. My other, smaller projects include a wired computer microphone and a sustain pedal for my digital piano keyboard, but this is the first semi-difficult electronics project that I've succeeded with, and I'll be keeping score from now on.

I had to pull apart the phone and the base station, first off. Then I had to find a power cord that would put out 9VDC (Volts Direct Current) of power and close to 350 mA (milliAmps). I finally found one that gave off 9VDC and 210 mA, which was close enough to get it to run (800 mA at 9VDC just made sparks and smelled like things burning...) Sorry if this sounds complicated or confusing to you, but it's the only way I can adequately explain my project.

Since I'm way too cheap to go buy a wireless computer microphone ($100), I then proceeded to find the audio output on the base station using the scientific method Trial and Error. I short-circuited across random solder beads on the base station with a screwdriver until I heard a click come from the speaker on the phone unit. I got the first group on my first try. I then tested it by feeding audio from a CD player into the two beads I found. Ta-da! Weezer's Beverly Hills came out loud and clear from the speaker of the phone. Now my microphone could be two-way. I could play audio through my computer into the base unit, which would then transmit it to wherever the phone unit happened to be, and I would eventually be able to record what the phone unit was hearing as well.

Next I had to play music into the microphone of the phone unit and touch leads from an old pair of headphones to random solder beads until I could hear the audio coming into my headphones. This part took me considerably longer to get right, but I eventually could hear Weezer's We Are All On Drugs coming through from the phone to the base station.

Then came the tricky part. I had to find a reliable way to keep my short circuit wires in contact with the solder beads, while being able to plug in an audio source or an input jack or whatever into them so as to receive or send audio using whatever I wanted. Not having a soldering iron handy, I used the next best thing: A hot-glue gun. Hot-glue dries almost as fast as solder, and is safer if you get it on yourself. Once the wires had been hot-glued to their leads, I was ready to hook it into my computer. I used my normal wired microphone's wires, and I just changed the attachment on the end from the wired microphone to the base station (alligator clips are great that way).

Now, the moment of truth. I loaded up Audacity and started recording, then went to another room with the phone unit, turned it on, and started talking. It worked! I recorded a clip so that everyone can have proof of my accomplishment: http://poojaloobacow.storage.googlepages.com/success.mp3

Here are some pictures of the microphone and the base station. They're kinda fuzzy, but I tried my best to sharpen them up in Photoshop (for the most part, I failed):

Both units together:


The base unit:

The wireless unit. Note the stylish lack of plastic casing, even though it is just a normal cordless phone (plastic casings are
sooo last year):

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Not Just Science Fiction Any More

Every kid (well, me, at least) has dreamed at some point of having contact lenses that can display things on them. Think about it- you could have the world at your fingertips through Internet connectivity. You could instantly check email, blog, look up weather or sports or information that you lack. You can call up pictures, videos, et cetera right in front of your eyes. It would bring a whole new dimension to gaming. Now, that future just might be possible. Researchers at the University of Washington have discovered a way to place an electronic circuit on contact lenses, and they tested the lenses on rabbits for up to twenty minutes, with no ill effects appearing. The electrical circuits are created from components that are only a few nanometers in width (a human hair is about 80,000 nanometers) and they're built so that only the correct components fit together, so there's no need to solder or use other toxic substances to get the circuits to stay together (because nobody wants arsenic or lead pressed up against their eyes). The contacts would be powered by radio waves and solar energy (that means if you closed your eyes for too long, your contacts' displays would die), so they won't need to develop really tiny batteries or anything.

Reports say this new technology could be commercially available soon (in the technology world, that means about ten years). Me being a wearer of corrective contacts, this would be totally awesome. I could have my vision corrected and be wirelessly connected to the world at the same time! With pocket tools that you would also carry around, you could turn your lenses into a computer that follows you everywhere. A pocket keyboard or, even cooler, a pen that can recognize letter strokes and transform them into text- this could also double as a mouse; a small hard drive embedded in your watch or your shoe, a wireless Internet card in your wallet; and speakers embedded in your teeth would make your body the ultimate device in the modern world. How cool would that be?

http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2008/01/self-assembling.html
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,323929,00.html

*EDIT:* Oh, dear. We've finally achieved more than fifteen blog posts, so the very first post to this blog has now disappeared into the land of the blog archive. I guess that's a good thing, because that means I've been posting fairly semi-regularly lately and I hope I'll be able to continue that! Don't forget to check the blog archive from time to time to see if there's anything good in there...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Return Of The Weekly Links!

I've decided to expand the topic to a weekly link to cool stuff in general, because writing a post to a cool site like XKCD like I did or a cool video or something is relatively pointless. Other blogs do it, but I won't. What Jman--8 posts is, of course, up to him (he actually is working on a post right now, but there hasn't been anything added to it in over a week), but I'm just going to stick everything I found that I think is cool into one weekly post. This blog is about interesting and thought-provoking technology and video games and concepts, not just a drain for us to pour all the cool things we find into. Henceforth, I will be posting all the cool things I find that don't quite merit an entire blog entry into this weekly topic. Soon there will be a whole big long list of weekly cool stuff links to search through! (Jman--8, you're more than welcome to add your own weekly links to cool stuff if you feel the need.)

First off is a cool blog I found awhile ago but haven't mentioned anywhere before, and I just realized that. It's called the Weekly Geek Show and they talk about all things geek. They have a podcast and lots of separate categories and reviews and opinions on things. It's pretty cool, but it can be slightly profanity-laced sometimes, so read with discretion. http://weeklygeekshow.com/

Next up is a hilarious music video I discovered a while ago. It's called "Bathtime In Clerkenwell" by "(The Real) Tuesday Weld" and animated by Alex Budovsky. It's awesome - the tune is catchy and addictive, and the video adds even more hilarity to the mess. http://youtube.com/watch?v=awuTkVytgYs

Lastly, just in case you missed the original hype, it's not too late to get hooked on Line Rider. It was originally created as a deviantART project by Bostjan Cadez (a Slovenian art student), but inXile Entertainment bought the rights to the game. They've claimed they were going to release a version for the DS and Wii, but the "tentative release date" was over a year ago and nothing has happened with it other than a video by TechDawg (Line Rider's most prolific rider) showcasing a new version of Line Rider. It's still fun to play the old Beta 2, however, but I recommend downloading the Flash File to your hard drive by clicking "File -> Save Page As" in your browser, because playing it online is slow and full of advertisements. http://linerider.com/play-line-rider-online

Well, that's all for today, because I didn't have a list of stuff that deserved mentioning. I'll start collecting things for next week's starting right now, though. There'll be a better variety next time. Promise.