1, 2, Mic Checka!

While I’m recovering from some particularly painful throat stuff (yaay for Amoxicillin!), I can’t do any singing. This makes me feel anxious, frustrated and a wee bit homicidal.

To distract me, I’ve been doing all the things I usually put off. One of them was arranging some of my fave mics for acoustic guitar and doing a direct comparison. I recorded to my AW2400 (using only its built-in mic preamps) with my Neumann TLM193, Crown CM-700, AKG CK 91/SE 300B and dusty, trusty Tandy PZM.

I’ve done comparisons before but not in my current studio so I wanted to see how each mic would react to the new acoustics. First, I played very repetitive acoustic guitar chords and then a bit of tambourine. Tambourine because it’s a bastard to record. It’s bloody loud but if you’re not careful, you’ll end up with a clattery, clunky sound rather than a pleasing shimmer. The transients can be startling.

The results? Well, they’re pointless for anyone but me as this was a very specific test in a specific acoustic. But overall, it was AKG fourth, Crown third, Neumann second and Tandy first. The Tandy was particularly adept at the high end, producing a twinkly sheen the others didn’t. The Neumann had more body, of course, but the Tandy had the edge for me. Lovely mic for around only thirty quid when I bought it. Tandy don’t make it any more because, if I remember correctly, they licensed the design from Crown. When it came up for renewal, Crown didn’t want Tandy banging out such excellent mics for a tenth of their own prices. Ah well… the contemporary equivalent Crown PZM mic is around three hundred quid!

Back to the test…

Of course, my results must be taken with a skipload of salt. I like a very shiny, light acoustic guitar tone – I use a 0.38mm plectrum, which proper guitarists shriek at. So what I think is a pleasing acoustic sound may sound weak and tinny to you. This test is entirely subjective. But fun!

Hmmm… I wonder what they’ll all sound like through my Oram Octasonic…? 😀

Dawkins Review Reviewed

Richard Dawkins - The God Delusion

Via my mate Steve, have a read of this review of ‘The God Delusion.’

Read it? Good… now are we sitting comfortably?

Oh dear… I had hoped for a better critique but sentences like:

“His transcendence and invisibility are part of what he is, which is not the case with the Loch Ness monster.”

– uhh, what? And just why is that “not the case” with the Loch Ness Monster. There is no difference between the LNM and God, apart from there are pictures of Nessie. Again, a bald-faced assertion, with no logical support, is presented as an obvious truth. This is the basis of all religion.

“He is the answer to why there is something rather than nothing.”

– means precisely nothing. More to the point, why do religionists say that a universe without cause is untenable but then have no problem in accepting a creator with no cause?

“He is what sustains all things in being by his love; and this would still be the case even if the universe had no beginning. To say that he brought it into being ex nihilo is not a measure of how very clever he is, but to suggest that he did it out of love rather than need.”

– more absolute flummery… Replace ‘He’ in that with ‘Flying Spaghetti Monster‘ and you’ll see how foolish all of Eagleton’s rhapsodising is.

“Because the universe is God’s, it shares in his life, which is the life of freedom.”

– What? Hey Terry, how about this: ‘Because the Universe is made of cheese, it must be made by a gigantic, all-loving mouse.’ It makes exactly as much sense as your sentence.

“Yet the Apocalypse is far more likely to be the product of them [scientists] than the work of religion. Swap you the Inquisition for chemical warfare.”

– totally missing the point here. Whose finger will be on the button? You might as well blame a blacksmith for making a sword.

“but as far as I know his anti-religious diatribes have never been matched in his work by a critique of the global capitalism that generates the hatred, anxiety, insecurity and sense of humiliation that breed fundamentalism.”

– This is the weakest crticism: in the past three years, Dawkins has campaigned against the war more than any other high-profile British academic. He’s also been one of the most outspoken critics of the Bush government and their agenda of global military dominance.

By the end of the review, Eagleton has descended into bashing ‘rationalists’ and launching into sarcastic ad-hominem attacks on the “middle-class liberal rationalist.” Only the truly religious would consider being rational as a defect, some kind of crippling palsy of the normally devout mind.

In fact, it’s a piss-poor review in that the meat of it is Eagleton proclaiming his vision of Christianity. Fair enough, a review of Dawkins is a great opportunity to preach and, if you’re a Christian, it’s your duty to spread the truth of your beliefs. But it should be more accurately labelled a sermon than a review.

It’s also quite misleading as to Dawkins’ tone. Reading this review, one would never guess that Dawkins has devoted an entire section to the beauty of the Bible as great literature and the importance of not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Thuddingly predictably, Eagleton calls Dawkins a philistine which is an insult to both Dawkins (in the sense that Eagleton hurls the word) and the poor-old, much maligned Philistines. One would think such a high moral authority as Eagleton, far more educated and intelligent than me (he’s Professor of English Literature at Manchester University), would avoid lazy racist epithets. Or am I being the nigger in the woodpile here?

The only way any of Eagleton’s review makes sense is if you’re already a fellow believer in his particular tooth-fairy. In fact, if you go through Eagleton’s article and replace God and Jesus with ‘Spiderman’ it makes far more sense.

And at least I’ve heard Spiderman speak…

Small Mac Apps I Love

Seems a lot of people I know are getting their first Macs! So, to help them out, here’s a list of all the small Mac applications that make my working day / arsing around more fun.

I was going to call this post ‘Essential Mac Apps’ but that’s far too objective-sounding. 🙂

ImageWell
I use this app so much! Everyday, at least, and usually ten or twenty times. All the images in this blog were uploaded and auto-resized (where needed) with ImageWell. It’s a cracking little app, it’ll even let you add speech bubbles and text before saving or uploading your pic. And it’s FREEEE! Yep! Download ImageWell

Audio Hijack Pro
Not free but at around sixteen quid, pretty damn cheap. AHP does what it says on the tin: it lets you record audio from anywhere in you Mac. That could be system sounds, what you’re watching in a video clip, the inputs, whatever. I’ve just transferred loads of old DAT recordings with it and it’s a joy to use. Small, quick, stable.
Here’s Audio Hijack Pro.

iSquint
This app is a handy-dandy video transcoder / compressor. In other words, if you gt a video clip in one format and want to make it watchable on, say, your iPod, iSquint will do the job for you. FREE!

Gmail Notifier
For those of you on the Gmail, Gmail Notifier will pop up when you get a new email. It also keeps track of your Google Calendar events. FREE!

Comic Life
I’ve had so much fun with this app! It let’s you drag and drop images into comic pages, add dialogue, action and description boxes and all the other touches that make a comic beautiful. Even if you don’t want to make your own comics, Comic Life is a wonderful tool for presentations or storyboarding videos and films. Well worth thirteen quid.

VLC
They say…

VLC media player is a highly portable multimedia player for various audio and video formats (MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, mp3, ogg, …) as well as DVDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols. It can also be used as a server to stream in unicast or multicast in IPv4 or IPv6 on a high-bandwidth network.

And they’re right! VLC is FREE!

OmniGraffle
Hey! Ever wanted to draw flowcharts but too lazy to use those plastic thingies with the holes cut out? Then OmniGraffle is for you! It isn’t cheap at forty quid but if you do a lot of diagramming, it’s the best app I’ve found.

OmniOutliner
I used OmniOutliner when planning my international gigs. It’s a great way to keep track of what the hell’s going on. It’s saved my arse more than a couple of times and definitely saved me more than the twenty quid it costs.

Handbrake
They say…

HandBrake is a GPL’d multiplatform, multithreaded DVD to MPEG-4 ripper/converter. HandBrake was originally available on the BeOS, but now has been ported over to MacOS X and to GNU/Linux. A Windows port is being worked on.

I say: rip… er BACKUP your DVDs today with Handbrake!

Delicious Library
Do you have too many DVDs? Or books? Or video games? Do you sometimes buy the same thing twice because you’ve forgotten you already own it? Then Delicious Library will sort you out. And if you’re lucky and smug enough to have a webcam built into your Mac (or even attached, I guess), you don’t even have to type the items in: you can scan the barcode and DL will look it up for you. How lazy is that? Twenty quid!

Super Duper!
Over the years, I’ve lost shitloads of songs to hard drives that have fucked-up. It doesn’t happen that often, but when it does, you can bet you’re scrabbling round for back-ups. Well, Super Duper! takes all the stress out of backing up your Mac. No more kludges or arcane invocations, it’ll create a bootable backup of your hard drive painlessly. Definitely worth £15 for the peace of mind.

Audacity
If, like me, you spend a lot of time chopping audio up or you just want an occasional audio editor, Audacity is for you. It’s quick, very stable and FREE!

Numerology
Now this app is a bit more specialised than the rest:

Numerology is a revolutionary new virtual studio environment from a small company known as Five12. It is a modular sequencing and Audio Unit hosting environment designed for performing musicians. It works by giving the user an organized workspace within which they can quickly create and connect together a variety of modules for sequencing, MIDI generation, automation, audio synthesis and effects. By using Numerology in conjunction with your choice of Audio Unit plugins and hardware synths, you can create an open compositional environment that is truly your own.

I can vouch for all the above. Just start mucking around with Numerology and you can have polyrhythmic melodies flowing out of your speakers. I haven’t used it live yet but it looks very capable in that area too. And the best news: it’s an immensely powerful compositional and performance tool that costs £47. And, unlike Logic Pro, it actually plays its sequences in time.

Onlife
There was a function on one of the old Microsoft Offices (I’ve forgotten which platform and version) that kept track of every email you wrote, Word docs, Excel etc. While that sounds a bit pointless initially, if you’re running a small business, it’s very handy to keep track of what emails you sent in a chronological way, rather than trawling through your mail program. Well, Onlife does all that for Macs and keeps track of other activity, which you can configure. And it’s a FREE beta!

ArtRage 2
This is an app I’ve only been using for two days but I’ve got no hesitation in adding it to this list as it’s so much fun! ArtRage 2 costs a tenner and it’s a lovely painting program. It can produce stuff like this:

artrageart

Well, it can if you can. Do you see?

Art Directors Toolkit
I use this most often when I’m doing webby stuff. It’s handy to have for nicking colours, managing colour schemes – all the stuff you’d imagine implied from something called Art Directors Toolkit. It came free with my Mac and maybe you’ve got a version with yours, hiding in the apps folder? If not, you can buy from seven to twenty quid, depending on an array or options.

But where’s the apostrophe, eh? Art Director’s Toolkit? Art Directors’ Toolkit? Gah!

Unison
Do you use Usenet? Do you know what it is? If you’re curious, have a look at Unison. It’s the best Mac Usenet app! £13.

Transmit
Another lovely bit of kit from Panic, Transmit is my favourite FTP app. It makes uploading files piss-easy and you can configure it for drag-n-drop operation. Lovely! Fifteen quid.

Pic2Icon
Last but certainly not least, Pic2Icon is a very useful app. If you have any images on your desktop without icons, drop them onto Pic2Icon and it’ll make the icons into thumbnails of the images. Makes organising your stuff so much easier. Also works with PDFs! It’s FREE!

The Swedish Invasion!

Vapnet
Vapnet, one of the Swedish indie bands kicking our pop arses.

In the ’60s, the Yanks called The Beatles, Stones etc ‘the British Invaion.’ Of pop, not tanks.

Well, I think Britain has lately lost the pop crown to Sweden (and Scandinavia generally). Look at our pop bands, especially the indie ones. Ours are generally four good-looking lads who sound like Chas and Dave on guitars. They come, they go and their songs are quickly forgotten. Mainly because they didn’t have any in the first place: they had promotion, marketing and the NME sucking them off in order to sell copies.

Sweden, on the other hand, is overflowing with artists who manage to marry the most sublime, poppy melodies with lyrics that mean something (when I can understand them). Whether they’re making twee guitar indie, folk or electropop, the Scandies RULE!

Want to know who I mean? Just check out:

Vapnet, Sibiria, Bille the vision and the dancers, Bobby Baby, Komeda, Cats on fire, Agent Simple, The Concretes, the Honeydrips, Broder Daniel, Håkan Hellström, The Bear Quartet, Dorotea, Nixon, The Tidy Ups, The Knife, The Radio Dept., Logh

The above artists all write pop songs, albeit in different genres. It would be impossible for me to come up with a similar list of current innovative pop artists that are British. If it wasn’t for a couple of trips to Sweden and friends there, I probably wouldn’t have heard of 99% of them. And my life would be a little more grey.

Let us now hang our heads in shame… and then WELCOME THE SWEDISH INVASION!

Rumsfeld To Be Charged?

Rumsfeld + Hussein
Two mass-murderers meet.

Donald Rumsfeld, who quit as US defence secretary this week, may face criminal charges in Germany for alleged abuses in Guantanamo Bay and Iraq.

A complaint has been launched by the US-based Centre for Constitutional Rights, representing a Saudi detained in Cuba and 11 Iraqis held in Baghdad.

German law allows the pursuit of cases originating anywhere in the world.

The Centre for Constitutional Rights argues that Mr Rumsfeld was instrumental in abuses committed at Guantanamo Bay and at Abu Ghraib jail in Baghdad.

The lawyer group alleges that Mr Rumsfeld personally approved torture to be used to extract information from the prisoners.

It is also seeking to prosecute US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and former CIA director George Tenet, among others.
(Source: BBC News)

Fingers crossed, eh?

Test Your Musical Ear(s)

Musical Aptitude test

I’ve loved Jake Mandell’s music for years now. He’s always produced startling, innovative music while never losing sight of melody or form. ‘Parallel Processes,’ the first album I heard by him, is a classic electronic record. If you like electronic music even slightly, it’s one you have to have in your collection.

So I was surprised to find his name attached to the musicial aptitude test above. At first I thought it was a different bloke. Then, maybe a joke or some elaborate promo device for a new album? But, so far, it seems to be kosher. Jake is apparently now studying to be a doctor, which could explain why his musical output has been more sporadic lately 🙂

Have a go at the test – it’s fun! But you need to be in a quiet environment or use headphones or you’ll never hear some of the nuances.

What did I get? Well, sadly I’m not a world-class musician but I didn’t do too badly:

Jyoti's musical aptitude results

77.8%… looks like I picked the right career! 🙂

Take the test by clicking here.

Imeem 1, YouTube 0

Above is a film I made around 1989/90 to accompany the debut White Town single. It’s very rough: it was shot on Super 8 and edited by me with a razor blade and some sellotape.

Because of the poor quality and even worse transfer to VHS, it’s a flickery, fuzzy, grainy, hairy wall of visual noise. But, nevertheless, I decided to upload it onto YouTube as I find it charming. It’s also historical in that it features a drive around a Derby that’s long gone now, including shots of BPM, The Dial and a drive around the market place. You know, where we used to catch buses to Wilmorton on freezing wintry mornings.

So, I uploaded it… and YouTube mangled it. The compression they use couldn’t cope with all the noise and the result was something that was hugely blocky and pixellated. I tried again another four times, uploading different formats and different data rates. Made no bleeding difference.

Around an hour ago, I thought I might as well see how badly imeem mangled the vid. So I uploaded it and… it worked! If you click the pic above, you’ll see my film in its grainy, shitty glory, slightly compressed but watchable. Unlike the fly’s-eye view that YouTube morphed it into.

So, if you’ve got any troublesome vids that don’t seem to be at all happy on YouTube, give imeem a try!

Where America Leads, We Should Follow

US Midterm Election Results 2006

Democrats have gained the final seat in the battle for the US Senate, sealing their mid-term poll victory in both houses of Congress.

Republican George Allen admitted defeat to his Democratic opponent, James Webb, in the close Virginia Senate race.

The Democrats had already secured the House of Representatives in Tuesday’s elections.

President George W Bush has pledged to work with his rivals, and says he is open to new ideas on Iraq.

He has already accepted the resignation of Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, key architect of US policy in Iraq, following the poll defeat.
(Source: BBC News)

I waited till the Senate results were in. I didn’t want to jump the gun and then witness a “surprise” Republican victory in Virginia.

But I can officially say now: well done, the voters of America!

These election results, coupled with warmonger Rumsfeld’s sacking, are a huge rejection of Bush’s illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq.

I wish that Britons had been as brave as you. I wish we’d given Blair the drubbing at the polls he deserved the last time he asked for our votes. Unfortunately, for the UK and the people of Iraq, we didn’t.

Of course, the Democrats aren’t revolutionary socialists. Both parties are capitalist parties, the Democrats are simply differ in the way they’d manage capitalism – they have no desire to dismantle it. They’re about as left-wing as some sections of our own Tory party:

Let us be 100% clear: the Democrats are a party of, by and for the capitalist class. They are in no way shape or form a reformist social-democratic party of the masses along the lines of the European Social Democracy.
(Source: In Defence of Marxism)

BUT…

For America, this is a swing to the left, as far as the left exists in a mass-party sense in America. This is a slap in the face for Bush and the neocons. Bush will now be a lame-duck president, no longer able to rely on automatic rubber-stamps from Senate and Congress.

Meanwhile, here in Britain, we still have to suffer under Butcher Blair’s coterie of liars and mass murderers. Every night, some fresh-faced New Labour toady pops up on our news, claiming the moral high ground concerning the issue du jour while dripping with the blood of 655,000 slaughtered Iraqis. Our media doesn’t even raise the war as a topic, arguing that the mass of public opinion doesn’t care about Iraq.

If that’s true, isn’t it about time that we Brits were all more like the Americans?