Because I Can’t Make Things Short: Worst Song, Played on Ugliest Guitar Review

September 17, 2009

Since I was introduced to it in 2005 by a (soon-to-be) good friend, I’ve been a completely, head-over-heelsly devoted follower of the comic Achewood.  In the years since, the strip has exploded.  Two consecutive Ignatz Awards, one of Time’s top ten graphic novels of 2007, along with a slew of other awards gives some mainstream legitimacy to the comic, not to mention the huge following it has gathered since its start in 2001.

Last year, Chris Onstad (the sole artist, writer, and creator behind the strip) had his first book published by Dark Horse Comics: The Great Outdoor Fight.  This was a physical copy of his most popular story arc, involving a huge, sprawling three day brawl (“Three days! Three acres! Three THOUSAND men! Only one will win THE GREAT OUTDOOR FIGHT!”) along with notes on the (totally fictional, obviously) history of the fight.

Following on the success of his last foray into the non-internet publishing world, Dark Horse just released the first (second?) anthology of Achewood strips, starting from the very beginning: Worst Song, Played on Ugliest Guitar.  I received my long awaited, pre-ordered copy in the mail two days ago.  I eagerly tore off the Amazon cardboard to find a very handsomely put together little hard-bound book.  Read the rest of this entry »


Scrabble+Advertising=Awesome!

April 24, 2009

I came across this excellent new series of Scrabble ads on Boing Boing this morning.  Excellent attempt at turning Scrabble (which I love, although I’m terrible at it) into something much cooler and more exciting than it is.  Deliberating for 15 minutes over seven letters will, unfortunately, never be as awesome as these commercials make it out to be.  But they’re still great fun.

I do wonder, however, where these are running.  They seem a little too racy for US broadcast TV.  They must be for a European market.

Also check out the other two, Sumo and Yoga.


the future of music

April 1, 2009

I’ve been a pretty big fan of Girl Talk for some years now, particularly after seeing one of his live shows.  I love the mashup style, the level of artistry in mixing together other sounds to create something genuinely new.

But this blows him away.  Kutiman’s absolutely stunning YouTube mash ups are completely brilliant.  And so new, something impossible to imagine even five years ago.  He takes a series of amateur clips, tutorials and random bits of people singing – none of which would be worth watching on their own, and mashes them into genuinely great music.  The Mother of All Funk Chords is a great funk song, This is What it Became is excellent dub, while I M New, embedded above, is just… stunning.

I found this through Merlin Mann’s post about it on 43folders.com, which has a link to Jonathan Coulton’s post about it.  Coulton’s blog also has a great discussion running in the comments about the potential legality of what Kutiman is doing.

This is what I get for taking early March off the internet, due to an excess of late winter sunshine.  I missed this hitting Boing Boing, although looking back, it did so in a fairly unimpressive way, considering the implications of this for the future of creative work on the ‘net.


new look, and your help

March 30, 2009

I’ve started playing around with WordPress themes and settings.  The whole look of this blog might change dramatically several times over the next few weeks while I get things worked out.  One thing that many themes let users do is put in a custom header – with a stock one in waiting until an appropriate custom one is found.  You can see my stock one at the top of this page, various cafes in the midst of a city.

This post, while partially a warning about potential changes in the works, is also to ask for your help, elusive reader.  I need a good header, something appropriate for a blog about… whatever this is about.  Filling time, writing about things that interest me.  Often media, but mostly whatever grabs my attention.  If you have a suitable picture, or know of a Creative Commons one somewhere in the depths of the internet, please let me know by comment or Facebook, if you’ve got me.

Thanks!


Urban scavenging

March 30, 2009

(CC Licensed photo from AlwaysHallways‘ Flickr stream)

Two months ago I titled this blog based on my own unemployed status (as well as some imagined other associations of the word – media to disemploy you of your time – a bit of a stretch).  And, y’know, unemployed.wordpress.com was taken.  And never updated, as is most often the case.

I still, in fact, don’t have a job.  Over two months in.  Naturally, I’m starting to feel a little worried – is all the dire economic news really true for Vancouver, despite the supposed lasting power of the pre-Olympic boom?  Much of the news media I consume is American based, and therefore often much direr than Canadian news in terms of economic forecasts.  Regardless of how this might actually influence my own life, I’m left with a fairly bleak outlook for my short term monetary future.

Which, by way of a long-winded segue, brings me to my point.  Feeling pessimistic about money leaves me searching for different, slightly ‘off the grid’ ways of making a living.  In this spirit, I noticed the Boing Boing post about a Salon article about a new book (oh, the wonderous and convoluted internets), Scavenger’s ManifestoThe book is by a pair of Berkley, CA residents who manage to live very cheaply through various forms of scavenging, from coupon clipping to snatching up curbside furniture to occasional (and only clean-) dumpster diving, while in the Salon article Katharine Mieszkowski joins the authors for a typical scavenging day.

Through these various sources, plus the comments following the Boing Boing article, I’ve become very curious about the world of scavenging.  The authors of Scavenger’s Manifesto argue that our society unfairly labels those who pick through trash as dirty – although this trash is often perfectly good, useful stuff that has outlived its usefullness for the original owners.  Inspired by my morning’s reading, I now plan to hit up some alleyways – see if I can find anything interesting, useful, or potential Craigslist sales to make a few dollars.

The only issue with this in Vancouver is the prevalence of full time scavengers.  With our mild climate, horrible governmental policies towards mental health and addiction issues, and a multitude of other factors, Vancouver has a huge population of homeless and very low income folks.  Some of these people scrape out a living by collecting bottles and whatever else appears in back alleys.  To scavenge I would have to compete, both making scavenging more challenging and making me acutely aware that I need these things far less than most.

However – people throw out so much, and particularly around this time of the month (moving day), that I’m sure there is enough to go around.  It’s certainly worth a try.  A recommended resource for free things is Freecycle.org, which allows users to post goods they don’t want, or a request for something they do want, all in the spirit of reusing rather than throwing away.  The Craigslist free section, more established in some cities (such as Vancouver), is also an excellent source of free things.  And, finally, a general resource site for scavenging of all types: Trashwiki.


consume me: this american life

March 29, 2009

My first foray into the wondrous world of American public radio took place shortly after the purchase of my iPod and the beginnings of my  iTunes podcast subscriptions.  I knew nothing about this world, save for an imagined similarity to the CBC and an assumption that it was about as boring as the majority of PBS’ televised programing.  You know, not necessarily boring topics, but made in a very standard, old-people-friendly sort of way.  I wasn’t hugely interested in this, but I decided to check out one show that I had heard of a few times anyways.

That show, of course, was This American Life.  It gripped me immediately.  The show’s format is an hour long collection of stories, generally three or four with an occasional episode consumed entirely by a single tale.  These are usually non-fiction, but told in such a way as to create a real narrative arc complete with strong characters and an engaging voice.  Some are highly produced field pieces, where the producers go spend time with a group of people and edit the tapes into a complete story.  Others, such as David Sedaris’ (the author of Naked, Me Talk Pretty One Day, and his most recent When You Are Engulfed in Flames) semi-regular pieces, are simply a story read aloud, often with some scoring to heighten the emotional impact.  Similarly to The Moth, these can be touching, funny, or simply interesting, although they’re put together much more tightly than The Moth’s ‘live and without notes’ tales.

The stories are grouped by themes, with each episode exploring a central idea.  Some recent episodes explored a worst case parenting situation (Didn’t Ask to Be Born)‘human’ resources, or what happens when we switch to our secondary plan in life (Plan B).

It comes out once a week, and is definitely worth listening to.  They also have the entire archives of the show on their website, with an excellent favourites page giving a strong introduction (and a direct iTunes link).

Oh, and it has won awards.  Because that is all that matters.

Next: Radio Lab

Previously: The Moth, Search Engine, Podcasting


London leaves Vancouver in the dust

March 24, 2009

Okay, I take it back.  Just when I post that Vancouver is catching up to London in terms of absurd surveillance and the whole attitude towards ‘reporting the suspicious,’ London takes a huge leap and widens the gap near-infinitely.  The Metropolitan Police have just started a new campaign instructing Londoners: “Don’t rely on others. If you supect it report it. Londoners are being asked to trust their instincts and report suspicious behaviour to help combat terrorist activity.”

This is bad enough, telling people not to rely on their communities or the people they know – just report everything.  But to make it worse, the message is accompanied by two awful posters.

Thanks, London, for making me seem like a presumptious jackass.

(via Boing Boing)