Friday, October 16, 2009

Lab Mixtapes: Episode 22 

Sometimes you hear a particular instrument and it strikes you as so odd and wonderful you wonder why you don't hear it more often. The banjo comes to mind, and, yes, the harp. I know what you're thinking. "Aren't harps played by fat people dressed as angels in cheese commercials?" Yes - also by that strange woman seen playing with classical quartets who knows too much about Wiccan Rice Krispie recipes. But they also create a window to some far off magical place. Be it in your mind, your heart, or as in the cheese commercials, your gut. All I'm saying is give the harp a chance.

Episode 22: The Harp Will Rock You
plays 11:16 mins

Links open the iTunes Music Store:
1. Like Someone in Love - Bjork
2. Exploration - Bruno Coulais, Mathilde Pellegrini, Hélène Breschand
3. The Sprout and the Bean - Joanna Newsom

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Polarized Express

This explains a lot. Really. It explains why I didn't like The Polar Express and why I don't like Stephen Harper. The Uncanny Valley.

People may be feeling more warm and fuzzy about our near (now nearer) human Prime Minister, but I just can't shake the feeling. For those of you, such as Robert Zemeckis, who are unfamiliar with the term, "uncanny valley" or "zombie valley" (which is apparently full of frothy mouthed Conservatives) I've provided this excellent and instructive quote for your benefit.

In 1978, the Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori noticed something interesting: The more humanlike his robots became, the more people were attracted to them, but only up to a point. If an android become too realistic and lifelike, suddenly people were repelled and disgusted.

The problem, Mori realized, is in the nature of how we identify with robots. When an android, such as R2-D2 or C-3PO, barely looks human, we cut it a lot of slack. It seems cute. We don't care that it's only 50 percent humanlike. But when a robot becomes 99 percent lifelike-- so close that it's almost real-- we focus on the missing 1 percent. We notice the slightly slack skin, the absence of a truly human glitter in the eyes. The once-cute robot now looks like an animated corpse. Our warm feelings, which had been rising the more vivid the robot became, abruptly plunge downward. Mori called this plunge "the Uncanny Valley," the paradoxical point at which a simulation of life becomes so good it's bad.

from The Undead Zone, by Clive Thompson,

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

White Nights

Last Saturday was nuit blanche, Toronto's all-night art thing so we met up with some friends and perambulated throughout the city streets. I learned that art can be interactive, transformative and sometimes, "the Public" can ruin a good thing. I also learned that nuit blanche takes place in very low light and that there's only so much a small camera can do. This is some of what we saw.

Nuit Blanche Toronto, 2009 from rowdyman on Vimeo.

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Friday, October 02, 2009

LAB Mixtapes: Episode 21 

A stretch of rainy weather and cloudy skies reminded me of Seattle, home to many pop/rock phenomenon, and the spiritual starting point for this mixtape. I came to know these three bands at around the same time thanks to sources like CBC Radio 3, NPR's All Songs Considered, KEXP from Seattle and surprisingly, Believer Magazine which publishes an annual collection of loosely curated musical selections.

Intelligent lyrics (they use some big words), simple, personal stories performed to ruckus folk-rock melodies and a sort of anti-glamour touch of bittersweetness are hallmarks of Death Cab for Cutie, The Decemberists and The Shins. Is that what the kids-too-old-to-be-kids call "Emo" or are we in "Twee' territory here? Hmm, no, me thinks we'll preserve "Twee" for the Belle & Sebastian Mixtape. From that description, these guys are a set of bright t-shirts away from being the Wiggles. Yet there's a propensity for wearing geeky eyewear and getting the "indie" chick from the record store (or Zoe Deschanel in the case of Death Cab for Cutie's front man). Each of these bands have found a healthy audience while maintaining that unknowable metric known in this bureau as "indie cred". Enjoy and remember, grey skies are going to clear up. Eventually.

Episode 21
Runs 10:10 mins

Links below open the iTunes Music Store:
1. I WIll Follow You Into The Dark – Death Cab For Cutie
2. We Will Become Silhouettes – The Shins
3. The Rake's Song - The Decemberists

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