Archive for February, 2012

Random Stuff, Part 36

I feel like randomly ranting today, haven’t done this in a while. Soooo….

– I haven’t watched actual TV in months. Just a few Netflix movies here and there. I find everything on TV boring and stupid. The last good show was SGU, and before that LOST. TV (and especially sci-fi) becomes worse and worse as time goes by, as I wrote before. I’ve lost all hope for a truly deep sci-fi show.

– I stopped following indie music as closely lately. I need a new hobby. Something to do with art though. Maybe I should just shut up and finish my sci-fi movie script (yeah, the one that will never get shot).

– I run a few miles a day, almost every day. I also follow the Paleo-Ketogenic diet, but weight stays put for the most part. I’m close to giving up forever, and never restrict myself from food again. I’ve lost only 20 lbs since I started Paleo 6 months ago, others lose that weight in just 2 months time without moving a finger. The upside of a Paleo-keto diet though is mental clarity (even more so than plain Paleo). I has it. I know what I want, and most importantly, I know how to get it.

– I’m thinking of trying bungee jumping (yes, that’s my mental clarity talking). I spent years of fearing heights, but Paleo-keto was able to mostly alleviate this (obviously a mental) condition too. It’d be like giving the finger to my brain. Weeeeeeee…

– Do you believe in a “calling”? Meaning, that you feel compelled to do something, even if it might be bad for you? Kind of like, life asking you to do something, because it’s the only way you push yourself forward and evolve as a person? For example, it’s how some people might leave college or their families and move to LA and live homeless, while trying to succeed as artists, just because they felt an inner “calling”. Well, I’ve been feeling this in the last month, but of course it’s not about moving to LA to live homeless. It’s about something else. I’ve been fighting it, because it wouldn’t be good for me if I failed. But if I don’t try, I’d never know for sure. These thoughts have been consuming me in the last month, and it’s the reason I haven’t blogged much. So far I’m steering clear of it though.

– In the mornings, after I wake up and turn on my laptop, while the CNN page is loading, there’s always the same wishful-thinking thought on the back of my mind. A headline, reading: “Massive triangular UFO over San Francisco – Ongoing“.

– I’m going to buy the iPad 3, since I don’t have a tablet (I held off from buying any all these years). I hope this time its webcam is HD. I wish it would have a built-in SDXC slot too with support for Canon h.264 files, but it won’t. The iPad could actually be a great “proofing” device on location.

– Some sort of Artificial Intelligence is coming big time these days with Siri/VoiceActions, it seems. It’s nice to see this, given I’ve worked in the field 15 years ago. It always was one of my favorite domains in technology. In fact, it might be my MOST favorite part of technology. Maybe because it’s by definition sci-fi.

– Haven’t shot any new video in months. I sent a few requests to some bands, none came back to me. I obviously suck. Even if I shoot/edit their videos for free.

– My mom in Greece is pathetic. I love her, but she is pathetic. Today she told me on skype that she wanted to buy new clothes in order to look… “successful” to others, for having a son-in-law who works at Google. I mean, that’s the definition of a small-minded person, right there. Not that I ever expected more of her, she only had 6 years of schooling in her life. This is not meant to be degrading for JBQ, mind you, since getting employed at Google is NOT an easy feat. But damn, if we were to be proud for nothing we personally did, then we all deserve a supernova’s radiation passing through our bodies and blowing us to bits.

– For the record, I’m not proud of anything I ever did. Ok, maybe my time with OSNews had its glorious moments around 2003-2005, but apart of that, I don’t think anything I did ever mattered. Which is why I have this “calling” calling me all day and all night. Or, I’m just in middle-age crisis and I need to wait it out to pass. Pass the bourbon.

Check out Chad VanGaalen

If you’re after for the perfect stoner music, definitely check out Chad VanGaalen (free downloads here). He’s one of the few guitar-based artists that I still like. His last year album was one of the best, but SubPop did not promote it properly in my opinion. The fact that VanGaalen kind of sucks live doesn’t help either (stoned?).

Best song in the album is here, and the main single from the album is below:

MobiSlyder test

MobiSlyder is the small brother of the popular Glidetrack slider. It’s meant for cellphones, P&S digicams, digirecorders, and small dSLRs. The MobiSlyder comes with an articulated mount for full flexibility with your phone, a mobile device mount which has a variable size and can fit both small and big phones, a 1/4″ standard mount, and an adhesive & 1/4″ ball mount.

I tested the slider with my Canon SX200 HS digicam, which worked great. The slider was really smooth, it was like pushing a feather! Very nice sliding, especially for that price!

I also tested with my Galaxy Nexus phone, which is a rather big phone at 4.7″ diagonial screen. The phone also had a plastic case which added to the bulk and weight. The mobile device mount was able to fit the Galaxy Nexus fine, but the articulated mount had problems supporting the weight (even after tightening it). The mount would just collapse under the weight occasionally.

Another problem was that the slider is a bit noisy, as you can hear below. I usually don’t care about capturing sound for my projects, so for me this is not a problem. Also, I’m more likely to be using the standard mount with my digicam rather than the phone too.

High Highs – “Flowers Bloom”

One of the most beautiful videos and songs of last year. Simple, but yet dreamy and powerful. Directed by the amazing Video Marsh.

Bedroom filmmaking

As some of you know, I taught some free videography classes for local kids recently. I was lucky to have some very smart students who would easily pick up the various notions about modern filmmaking. One of them is even using After Effects for his home movies using complex effects like gunshots and explosions. So I kept thinking tonight about how some of these kids could “make it” to the industry when and if they decide to follow such a profession.

We were discussing with JBQ a few weeks ago that there’s a huge opportunity for full length movies made using 3D gaming engines. The technology is nearly there (game companies already use them to create intro & cut scenes), but what is lacking is visual editors that would make it easy for non-technical users to put together a scene. Also, a universal 3D object format would be required, so directors/editors can simply download a needed prop and use it directly.

Audio technology would probably need a bigger push than the 3D engine though, as computerized voices would not only need to sound natural, but to also have support for accentuation or moods.

Of course, some would point to Blender 3D or Maya 3D to create an animated movie, but these tools are very difficult to use, and they require to almost create or control everything from scratch. On an existing 3D gaming engine with a proper front-end instead, a lot of the movie-making elements would be built-in, and much simpler to use. It would be a step beyond what current 3D design apps do.

Personally, I think we’re 5-10 years away from a commercial release of such a solution, but I think it’s coming. If there are so many successful bedroom musicians around after the maturation of computer music software, then movie-making without leaving the bedroom is also possible.

Regarding performance, shows, and spectacles

Watching that train wreck of a Madonna show at the Super-Bowl half-time made me feel even more about how gullible most humans are. Are we really that easily dazzled with shiny costumes, props, and ultra-canned choreography? I mean, that spectacle was just ridiculous when we try to look at it from far away. There we had Madonna, dressed like a bastardized Roman-Egyptian clown, 50 more dancers supporting this well-organized stupidity, all running around like idiots and try to fit every dance move ever within 12 minutes. The show didn’t feel coherent, it had no big idea behind it, other than to impose onto the masses.

To be honest, I was going to write this blog post in early December, after we came back from the Google Android party. I stopped short of writing my rant back then, because it would have been ungrateful of me (there I was, invited and all paid-for, and I was complaining on top of all this). But I think it’s more disingenuous of me not talking about it. I never hold back my raw thoughts (sorry, but that’s my best feature along my naturally big boobs), so why would I do so now?

Basically, at that party we had acrobatics, we had some Brazilian dance performers, and finally, an ’80s cover band. I found the whole thing cheesy as hell. The acrobatics reminded me of the Medieval clowns putting their limbs in danger for our amusement (it felt degrading to me), the Brazilian dance performers were over the top (I don’t mind their dance, but I don’t get the whole costume thing), and the cover band was just ridiculous trying to imitate Madonna and other ’80s pop stars. Why in the love of God would I want to listen to re-chewed hits from the ’80s?

In retrospect, that night was just an expensive, but shallow spectacle. Some fancy/shiny things thrown at a few hundred engineers and their wives. And that’s what really bothered me: here we have some of the smartest, educated professionals in the world, all in one building, and they get thrown some burlesque-type bullshit? Where was the art? Where was the pushed envelop to tease their intellect? Where was the next step of entertainment? Definitely not in that building that night.

To be clear, I don’t mind a spectacle that actually has a soul. I spoke of Madonna earlier, but Madonna has had in the past simpler and more amazing choreography. When I watch the linked video I feel something, I connect with the song and its atmosphere. The whole thing is impressionistic. The devil is in the details, I guess. Instead, on Super-Bowl we got a 53-year old Madonna play-acting a fucking cheerleader.

I’d say that there are three kinds of performances: the spectacle one, the live music show one, and an actual artistic performance. I believe that each has its place, and each can be good or bad. For example, I’ve seen quite a few indie bands so far, some were good live, some were less good, and some were disastrous. I’m not talking about how well they played their instruments or how well they sang, but rather how well were able to take away their audience. I found The Soft Moon to be among the best live bands today.

Regarding artistic performances, I think few can do better than John Maus. The guy is the anti-spectacle spectacle, the anti-Madonna. There he goes on the stage with his running shoes, and jeans that usually fall off mid-performance when he forgets to wear a belt. He sings karaoke to his own songs (he has no backing band), with the vocal track intact, and he often stops the songs abruptly and moves on to the next one. But of course, that’s not the real treat in his performance. Instead, you get this intimidatingly tall guy screaming like a maniac in and out of the microphone, hitting his face and chest with his own fists, often blacking out his own eyes, pulling his own hair, and head-banging so hard like he’s drilling for oil. While I rather have him not abuse himself this way for the audience’s entertainment, his personal need to “appear”, or for art’s sake (it’s not a comfortable sight watching him hurt himself), he’s definitely unique. And fucking real.

10 new useless cameras from Canon

Well, either Canon has lost its mind, or they now segmentize their products too much. They announced 10 new P&S cameras recently, and they all have very disturbing video-related features. Removed features, that is.

– Except the SX260 HS, none of the other new models now support exposure compensation and exposure lock in video mode. That was a feature that was standard in all older models. Without these features, videos look like amateur hour.
– All their low-end cameras now do 25p instead of 24p. This is very dubious, because this is not a case of Canon throwing a bone to the Europeans and their PAL system. This is a case of Canon cutting off the “cheap 24p camera” pathway.

Basically, we had 2-3 years of Canon P&S superiority when it comes to video, and now Canon very consciously is removing video features so they can sell more high end products (e.g. dSLRs), or trying to save their failing camcorder division.

As the market stands today, I can’t recommend anymore ANY new P&S for video (from any manufacturer). A dSLR is the way to go for anyone serious about video (with lenses, you’d need a good $1500). I’m personally eager to see the new T4i.

For those who are interested in old P&S stock, Amazon currently sells the Canon A1200 (720/24p @ 22 mbps with exposure comp/lock and color controls) for $79 (last year’s model). Here’s a documentary shot with this little camera, unfortunately not uploaded in HD though.

Miso soup

While soy is to be avoided on the Paleo diet, when it’s fermented and its protein/lectins are broken down by the beneficial bacteria doing the fermentation, it becomes an acceptable ingredient. Tamari (wheat-free) soy sauce for example is used by many Paleo dieters, while natto (fermented soy beans), and soy-based unpasteurized miso paste are all considered very good for our health. Tofu on the other hand is very processed, and it still carries loads of agglutinin (SBA), so it’s not an acceptable food in the Paleo-sphere.

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to find these ingredients in all countries, especially the unpasteurized miso paste. Most miso pastes are pasteurized, so their cultures are dead, making miso itself useless. In my local Japanese food store I only found one product that was unpasteurized, and many more than weren’t. Also, make sure that your miso does not contain grains/barley.

This miso soup is very easy to make, and very healthy because it includes various bone minerals, the miso live culture, and iodine & other rare minerals found only on sea-vegetables (φύκια). My husband usually dislikes miso soup in sushi restaurants, but he loved this one (he asked for a refill, rare for him).

Ingredients (for 2, 5 gr of carbs each)
* 2 heaping tspoons of unpasteurized soy-based miso paste
* 1.5 cups of water
* 1 cup of bone marrow broth
* 2 tbspoons of dried sea vegetables (I used this 6-variety pack)
* 4 oyster mushrooms, chopped
* Green part of 1 green onion, chopped

1. Place the dried sea vegetables in warm water, and let them stand for 10 minutes. Then rinse them well.
2. In a saucepan add the bone broth and water, under medium heat. Using a tea cup, submerge it to the warm liquid and remove about 1/3 cup of it. Set aside the cup.
3. Add the sea vegetables and mushrooms in the saucepan and bring into a boil for about 3-5 minutes. Remove from fire.
4. Add the miso paste into the warm-ish water in the tea cup and try to liquify the paste using a teaspoon. It’s important for the water in the cup to not be very hot, or the active culture will die.
5. When the soup in the saucepan has cooled down a bit (warm, not hot), add the chopped green onion, and the now-liquid miso paste. Mix well, serve immediately, possibly with some sashimi!