Dear Brad Mehldau, You’re Not Doing Yourself Any Favors

We should state for the record, both Greg and I are huge Mehldau fans historically. I know that I have heard almost every single one of his albums, from this amazing Art of the Trio series with Jorge Rossy and Larry Grenadier, to his masterpiece collaboration with Jon Brion, Largo, to his more recent trio work with drummer Jeff Ballard. Few jazz pianists since the 1990’s have been more consistently inventive, diverse and interesting as Mehldau — and more, his trios are a sight to be seen live in concert.

Continue reading Dear Brad Mehldau, You’re Not Doing Yourself Any Favors

98 Seconds From Peter Bjorn And John

One of the things that everyone seemed to forget when discussing Peter Bjorn And John’s breakout album Writer’s Block was it’s conciseness. When you boiled down the glockenspiels and whistling that made “Young Folks” such a monstrous, ubiquitous hit, the songs on that record were lean, simple and melodically memorable. The song structures were just innately well crafted and clean, something their follow up, Living Thing was absolutely not. That record was drowned out by needless electronic layers and bloated synths — they went big when they probably should’ve gone smaller.

Well with their newest record Gimme Some, the band seems to have returned somewhat to form. The songs aren’t nearly as tight and catchy as on Writer’s Block, but they’ve definitely pared down the flabbiness and sheen. The best example of this is the impossibly short, perfectly constructed “Breaker Breaker.” The song is a minute and 38 seconds, yet it feels fully thought out and a powerful burst of British Invasion rock and punk rock energy.

The video for this song also brilliantly captures the fury, the speed and explosive nature of the song — in a way that makes you sit and try to figure out how they made it (film in slow motion and speed it up so it’s in sync?) Bands don’t seem to do songs this short anymore because let’s face it, it’s freaking hard to do. So bully for Peter Bjorn & John. They’ve pulled it off and outdone themselves in the process.

Hot Flat and Crowded — Cows

— Updated Below —

Welcome to a new series for hellocomein: Book Club. The first book that we’ll be tackling is Hot, Flat, and Crowded, the new treatise on Global Warming and Globalization from Thomas Friedman.

I’m only a couple of chapters into this thing, so I don’t have much to say yet, except to expand on a paragraph concerning livestock (Ch 2 Pg 35):

That’s right – the striking thing about greenhouse gases is the diversity of sources that emit them. A heard of cattle can be worse than a highway full of Hummers. Livestock gas is very high in methane… “Molecule for molecule, methane’s heat-trapping power in the atmosphere is twenty-one times stronger than carbon dioxide, the most abundant greenhouse gas,” reported Science World. “With 1.3 billion cows belching constantly around the world (110 million in the United States alone), it’s no surprise that methane released by livestock is one of the chief global sources of the gas, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

In fact, according to ABC, livestock accounts for 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas problem. It’s unclear exactly how that number was calculated, but for the sake of discussion it’s pretty daunting.

There are a few groups looking at the livestock methane emissions from different angles that I thought would be worth sharing. One approach is to introduce biological tweaks to the system, such as developing food sources for livestock that produces fewer methane burps during digestion. Scientists at biotech company Gramina are doing exactly that with a new “burpless” grass in the works.

I think the more interesting discussion is being led by food writers Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman. Both take issue with the over-industrialized diet Americans eat. Simply put, we eat too much meat, and have been duped into thinking it’s healthy by the Agro-business lobbyists (More Protein!). As a result, we have an enormous livestock industry that is a large contributor to both Global Warming and Heart Disease. Bittman has a great food column in the New York Times called the Minimalist, and I’m anxious to read some of Pollan’s writings in the near future. For now here are a couple of interesting videos of Bittman at the TED Conference and Pollan on the most recent Bill Moyer’s Journal that provide the gist of their arguments. Both are definitely worth watching when you have a chance.

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Update 12/3/08:

The New York Times has an article today on livestock’s contribution to global warming that’s worth a read. An excerpt:

At the electricity-from-manure project here in Sterksel, the refuse from thousands of pigs is combined with local waste materials (outdated carrot juice and crumbs from a cookie factory), and pumped into warmed tanks called digesters. There, resident bacteria release the natural gas within, which is burned to generate heat and electricity.

The farm uses 25 percent of the electricity, and the rest is sold to a local power provider. The leftover mineral slurry is an ideal fertilizer that reduces the use of chemical fertilizers, whose production releases a heavy dose of carbon dioxide.

For this farm the scheme has provided a substantial payback: By reducing its emissions, it has been able to sell carbon credits on European markets. It makes money by selling electricity. It gets free fertilizer.

hello.build — what the hell is arduino?

Per Mike’s request, here’s some background info on Arduino. Here’s the best intro I’ve seen courtesy of DIY rockstar Bre Pettis. Seriously, this thing is super easy to get started with, even with zero programming or electronics background. Once you run through a few tutorials, it’s pretty easy to get to work on your own ideas, like dot matrix drum machines and remote dog treat dispensers. A great way to spend 30 bucks.

hello.build — dot matrix drum machine

Post one on my latest Arduino project. The goal: get a dot matrix printer and turn it into a step sequenced drum machine using Arduino as the brains….

Last week I acquired the dot matrix printer for free off of a Craigslist posting from Brisbane’s city hall, which is close to my office. This thing weighs about 50 pounds, but it’s perfect for the job. Tonight, I spent a few hours stripping the data cable down to bare wires and tagging each wire with its corresponding pin on the centronics parallel connector. It was a bit tedious, but had to be done. Tomorrow I’m hoping to actually plug these wires into the microcontroller to find out if I can control the printer. Stay tuned…

Dot_Matrix_Machine

Dot_Matrix_Cable

The idea isn’t exactly new, but I wanted to give it a try myself… here’s a really great example of someone re-purposing old computer hardware as an instrument:

hello.build: iPhone Theramin

Here’s a simple use of the touchOSC app and Pure Date to turn the iPhone/iPod Touch into a Theramin of sorts. Feel free to download the Pure Data patch and try it yourself! Some basic instructions to get it up and running:

-You need to download and install Pure Data (free) and touchOSC (a few bucks) on your computer and iPhone
-Get your computer and iphone on the same wi-fi network.
-Open up the Pure Data patch on your computer and make sure the audio is turned on under the menu “Media” >> “Audio On”
-Open up TouchOSC and make sure the accelerometer setting is turned to “On”
-In the Host IP Address menu, you have to enter your laptop’s IP address. To get this, go to your computer’s Network Preferences and choose your wireless connection, click “Advanced”, choose the “TCP/IP” tab, and you should see the IP address there. Enter this number on the TouchOSC “Host” entry box
-Choose any of the layouts, and click Done

Now you should hear the Theramin from your laptop speakers, and you should see a stream of accelerometer data printing on the PureData screen…

Give it a shot and mess around with the numbers 20 and 440 to adjust the scaling (20) and center pitch (440, A). To edit the numbers, you have to be in Edit Mode, which you toggle on and off by pressing command-E.

hello.build: hello world… servo style

Wow- it’s been a long while since my last post, but I’m back to present the first post in a new series: hello.build. This is where we’ll track our progress on some hardware projects we have in the pipeline. More on that soon…

I recently picked up an Arduino, which is an open source microcontroller platform created to make it easy for people to enter into the world of physical computing. Just do a quick You Tube search for Arduino, and you’ll come across tons of really great projects. With a few easy-to-follow tutorials from Make, you can really do a lot of cool stuff.

Tonight, my goal was to get a servo motor up and running, controlling its position with a potentiometer. Here’s the code:

—————

//Hello World, Servo Style!

#define SERVO 9 //The servo is hooked up to PWM output 9
int pot; //Pot is an analog potentiometer input
int servo_position; //This is what value is going to get sent to the servo

void setup(){
pinMode(SERVO, OUTPUT); //Set the servo as an output
Serial.begin(9600); //Open up a Serial Communique so we can see data
}

void loop(){
pot = analogRead(0); //Read in the value of the knob
servo_position = pot/4; //The analog input reads between 0 and 1023, and the PWM
//output needs values between 0 and 255, so divide by 4.
Serial.println(pot); //let’s print what we read in to the computer screen
Serial.println(servo_position); //lets see what value we are going to send out
analogWrite(SERVO, servo_position); //send out the position to the servo
}

—————

And here’s a video of the result:

hello.music — crushed (updated)

hello.music
Here’s an updated version of this song with some trackings I did this evening. I think it’s an improvement, particularly in the vocal department. I might try toning down the distortedness a bit, but I like them double tracked. Also some empty space left still for a guitar/glock/whistle solo. Anyone? Anyone? Aryn- how would this sound with upright bass?

Version 3

[audio:https://secureservercdn.net/198.71.233.179/wvv.338.myftpupload.com/greg/music/crushed_3.mp3]

hello.music — crushed

hello.music
Here’s a new song I’ve been working on. I was messing around the other night with some really low, raspy tunings. Listen first to the original scratch track (on nylon) and then the updated one (on steel) with some lyrics. I did fill in the progression a bit from the original, which I do like. Sorry for the sucky off key vocals- apparently I kind of forgot the original verse melody I had going. Any thoughts? How’s the chorus?

Version 1

[audio:https://secureservercdn.net/198.71.233.179/wvv.338.myftpupload.com/greg/music/crushed_1.mp3]

Version 2

[audio:https://secureservercdn.net/198.71.233.179/wvv.338.myftpupload.com/greg/music/crushed_2.mp3]