Category Archives: Links > Sites

Links > Sites

Tools for Audio Geeks: Spek, a Free Spectrum Analyzer

Tonight, I’d like to give a major shout-out to the cre­ators of Spek, a free spec­trum ana­lyz­er I dis­cov­ered recent­ly, which has been extreme­ly use­ful in the course of pro­cess­ing my music col­lec­tion.

Why use a spec­trum ana­lyz­er at all? Glad you asked.

The main ben­e­fit is you can phys­i­cal­ly see how the encode turned out — peaks, fre­quen­cy cut­offs, bit rates, and oth­er details can be checked with this tool. It can be some­what neb­u­lous on the details if you used VBR, but I gen­er­al­ly find that’s not much of an issue con­sid­er­ing being able to see a track’s audio spec­trum pro­vides a bet­ter look at the file any­way.

Con­tin­ue read­ing

Slam Poetry: “Hi, I’m a Slut”

Back in my uni­ver­si­ty days, I jumped at the oppor­tu­ni­ty to be a vol­un­teer for our show­ing of The Vagi­na Mono­logues. I loved the for­mat of that per­for­mance and the way it engaged the audi­ence, and I’ve been on the hunt ever since for sim­i­lar­ly off-beat, hard-hit­ting con­tent that gets dia­logue start­ed about impor­tant issues.

So, when I found this video by Savan­nah Brown in a friend’s FB feed today, I couldn’t resist post­ing it here. Her unpre­ten­tious, cut-to-the-bone style makes lin­ger­ing points and delves deeply into our col­lec­tive mem­o­ry on the patho­log­i­cal sex­u­al­iza­tion, ram­pant objec­ti­fi­ca­tion, and vic­tim-blam­ing that goes on all too often as a fea­ture of the social fab­ric in North Amer­i­ca.

I’m also throw­ing in an old­er video she made called, “What Guys Look For In Girls.” The mes­sage, again, is too impor­tant to leave out:

Reading 2.0 and the Ultimate E-Book Toolkit (Calibre)

As a child of the orig­i­nal ‘Inter­net gen­er­a­tion,’ I’ve long felt blessed and grate­ful for the trans­for­ma­tions that have come about in the wake of the per­son­al com­put­ing rev­o­lu­tion. It’s changed the way we com­mu­ni­cate, the way we share infor­ma­tion, the way we store our things, and the way we think.

There’s always been some­thing very beau­ti­ful about the inti­mate enmesh­ment of phys­i­cal essence and tech­nol­o­gy. The tighter that bond becomes, the more we become able to tran­scend our own nat­ur­al lim­its. If not also in name and appear­ance by this time, I’d argue we are at least the first cyborgs in spir­it, aug­ment­ing our liv­ing bod­ies with tire­less elec­tron­ics and high-pow­ered micro­proces­sors, hold­ing a uni­verse-with­in-a-uni­verse between our quiv­er­ing fin­ger­tips.

Back in the day, a lot of peo­ple used to talk about device con­ver­gence, a point at which all (or most) user needs could be met by the capa­bil­i­ties of a sin­gle mul­ti-pur­pose plat­form. There were numer­ous exper­i­ments tried and failed over the years to find that ide­al­ized, com­fort­able sense of mass appeal, rang­ing from the launch of WebTV to installing hard disks into game con­soles, but despite all of this, the true killer app came only when the com­put­ing indus­try final­ly set its sights on the ordi­nary mobile cel­lu­lar phone and said, “Let’s make this bet­ter.”

Ka-boom.

And so the sec­ond rev­o­lu­tion of our gen­er­a­tion began.

Nowa­days, it’s almost abnor­mal to meet any­one on the streets who isn’t cart­ing around a three-by-sev­en-inch smart­phone (or tablet) with pow­er and endurance rival­ing that of many net­books and low­er-end lap­tops. With boosts in porta­bil­i­ty and bat­tery life, more stor­age, mul­ti-core pro­cess­ing, wide­spread open-source devel­op­ment, and easy cloud inte­gra­tion, the pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less. Much like the change in our own des­tiny, aug­men­ta­tion of our phones has hit a point where it’s trans­formed them into some­thing entire­ly dif­fer­ent, and made them part of a greater force in the realm of cul­tur­al design and social func­tion.

And while we use these devices for a mul­ti­tude of every­day tasks, one of the more sub­tle ones that’s tak­en hold is read­ing for busi­ness and plea­sure. It’s long been obvi­ous, ever since cyber­space gained mass appeal, that one of the more hot­ly debat­ed issues would remain the divide between read­ing from phys­i­cal media ver­sus read­ing from dig­i­tal. The e-book trend is in an upward swing, a lot of read­ers have trad­ed in their cum­ber­some dead-tree-for­mat for some­thing that slips more eas­i­ly into a data card, and these changes have many more ques­tion­ing the direc­tion in which these changes might take us.

First off, I don’t care much for the pol­i­tics, and I’m not here to preach. The views on elec­tron­ic read­ing are as var­ied and numer­ous as there are peo­ple who read. Some like to keep their dis­tance and feel that e-read­ers are infe­ri­or and a betray­al of a whole­some pas­time. Oth­ers strike vary­ing shades of bal­ance between the use of dig­i­tal and phys­i­cal for­mats. Still oth­ers are at a point where they’ve either swung firm­ly toward car­ry­ing out an even­tu­al migra­tion to dig­i­tal or have already arrived there.

Per­son­al­ly, I’m flex­i­ble when it comes to my books. I have a lot of paper, in spite of every­thing else in my life being almost entire­ly dig­i­tal. I also have a lot of books in dig­i­tal for­mat. So, when­ev­er I want to indulge in a sto­ry, I go with what’s con­ve­nient and feels good that day.

The take-home les­son here is, “you do you.” Work with what makes you hap­py. Work with what you feel works best for the cir­cum­stances. The ONLY thing you need to care about at the end of the day is that what you’re doing keeps you read­ing and keeps you feel­ing joy from your pas­time.

Books are a price­less tool to hone the intel­lect and give wings to our imag­i­na­tions. There’s a lot we could do that’s far worse than con­sum­ing them reg­u­lar­ly (and eager­ly) in dig­i­tal form.

On that note, I’m going to share one more tool that might be of inter­est to any­one who’s dip­ping their toes into the e-read­ing pool. Cal­i­bre is an e-book sys­tem that’s total­ly free, has no ads or spy­ware, and pret­ty much does every­thing you could ever ask for in an e-book soft­ware pack­age. I’ve been using mine to con­vert between EPUB and PDF for­mats; as long as a user under­stands basic typog­ra­phy, this pro­gram is a dream to work with. Cal­i­bre makes it ridicu­lous­ly easy to cre­ate out­put files that are re-flowed and set for the screen size of one’s read­er.

Also, huge kudos go to Mor­ri for gift­ing me with the old Black­ber­ry Play­book that became my mobile library. I love so much of what we share, inter­est-wise and oth­er­wise … and this BB made for such an awe­some DIY hack, and even more fun after the fact. I can slip this thing into a purse or coat pock­et and just run out the door, and not have to wor­ry about cart­ing around 50 pounds of books. (I know I’ve already thanked you pro­fuse­ly IRL, but cred­it is due in cyber­space too!)

So long sto­ry short … if you’re an avid read­er, check out Cal­i­bre, it’s one of the few appli­ca­tions I’ve encoun­tered that’s prob­a­bly worth your time.

Now … pick up a book and read, dammit!  :)

<3

Auditory Flashbacks: Cauda Pavonis, Adversus, Flesh Field, Aesthetic Perfection, Aïboforcen, Aeon Sable, The Birthday Massacre, Battery, and Qntal

After more than ten hours of hard work, the Links page is final­ly up to date, along with a slew of new addi­tions to the music sec­tion. Artists begin­ning with let­ters A through F are com­plete, with each entry researched pri­or to list­ing in order to make the most use­ful resources avail­able to read­ers who are inter­est­ed in explor­ing fur­ther. In cas­es where an artist has retired or gone on hia­tus, I’ve tried to link to resources that offer the most com­plete overview of their musi­cal works.

Now that that’s fin­ished, ON TO THE MUSIC!

Start­ing off tonight’s round of offer­ings is the awe­some, dri­ving sound of the one and only Cau­da Pavo­nis:

Next up, we have the ulti­mate grave­yard ser­e­nade: Adver­sus’ See­len­win­ter. The song is an old favourite of mine, and see­ing the video hits even hard­er than any­thing before.

Those voic­es, those melodies … they’re eight bliss­ful, soar­ing min­utes of pure lovelorn flight. I adore every part of it. Stu­dio ver­sion here. Frankly, though, I think this one works much bet­ter live.

Con­tin­ue read­ing

On the Death of David Bowie

There’s “pass­ing away with style,” and then there’s “I’m going for one more encore, and I’m not just going to love this, I’m gonna strike the bold­est dot imag­in­able on the excla­ma­tion point that is my life.”

When I heard about David Bowie’s death, I part­ly expect­ed to hear about him doing some­thing notable or dra­mat­ic on the way out — ain’t that just like him.

The end is near, the odds are tan­gi­bly impos­si­ble, and even as the world comes crash­ing down around his ears, here he is on set cast­ing a music video, singing with that same sweet, sil­very pas­sion that’s defined so many of his life’s oth­er accom­plish­ments.

Not florid prose nor mourn­ful dis­course nor sim­ple won­der can prop­er­ly describe the inspi­ra­tion and beau­ty in such a ges­ture. Lyrics here. Links to the Cana­di­an and Amer­i­can Can­cer Soci­eties as well, because why not con­tribute?

Now, if you haven’t clicked PLAY on the above video, you’d bet­ter turn off every­thing else around you right now, and load it up.

And don’t for­get the encore …

May you be well remem­bered, and remem­bered well in all the ages to come.

Reclaiming Old Tech for Music

I was brows­ing Slash­dot ear­li­er today when I came across a real­ly cool arti­cle show­ing how Tool­box Bodensee e.V. took a bunch of old flop­py dri­ves, added a con­troller with a piano inter­face, mount­ed the lot on a board with 3D print­ed hard­ware, and turned their strange mar­riage of parts into an entire­ly new kind of instru­ment.

Here we go …

… and it only gets weird­er from here.

Con­tin­ue read­ing

Financial Corruption and Value Dilution in Higher Education

I’d been brows­ing through the news recent­ly for a col­lec­tion of arti­cles to share on a rather broad top­ic: the influ­ence of mon­eyed inter­ests on the edu­ca­tion­al sys­tem. This is a long­stand­ing inter­est of mine, hav­ing grown up dur­ing a time when a year in uni­ver­si­ty cost about $1,200, and hav­ing watched tuition rates and liv­ing costs bal­loon expo­nen­tial­ly ever since. But what shocked me into get­ting the links to this post up that much soon­er is this emerg­ing sto­ry from the US:

The Secu­ri­ties and Exchange Com­mis­sion on Tues­day said it brought fraud charges against ITT Edu­ca­tion­al Ser­vices Inc. and two of its top exec­u­tives, alleg­ing they mis­led investors about the loom­ing finan­cial impact of two bad­ly-per­form­ing stu­dent-loan pro­grams on the for-prof­it edu­ca­tor. […] ITT formed the stu­dent-loan pro­grams to pro­vide off-bal­ance-sheet loans for ITT’s stu­dents in the wake of the finan­cial cri­sis, when the mar­ket for pri­vate stu­dent loans dried up and for-prof­it schools cre­at­ed new ways to help stu­dents pay their tuition bills.”

source: Wall Street Jour­nal

Let us fur­ther expand on the dia­logue sur­round­ing mon­ey in edu­ca­tion for the ben­e­fit of those who haven’t been as immersed in the debate:

Con­tin­ue read­ing

Auditory Flashbacks: Helium Vola

For those who haven’t heard of them before, today’s post is going to give some exam­ples of the amaz­ing work that’s been cre­at­ed over the years by Heli­um Vola. Based in Ger­many, active since 2001, and head­ed up by com­pos­er Ernst Horn who also holds con­sid­er­able renown for his oth­er work under Deine Lakaien and Qntal, Heli­um Vola mix­es the haunt­ing into­na­tions of numer­ous dead lan­guages with the effer­ves­cent melodies of its ongo­ing elec­tron­ic, neo-medieval, and neo-clas­si­cal explo­rations.

While the over­all atmos­phere of most of their work is marked­ly ethe­re­al in nature and has long found its great­est strengths in that style, it hasn’t stopped the band from branch­ing out in oth­er ways, as can eas­i­ly be noticed over time. This has result­ed in cer­tain tracks giv­ing an utter­ly chaot­ic feel­ing at times, peri­od­i­cal­ly laps­ing into wide vari­a­tions of melody and tem­po, pro­duc­ing rather unex­pect­ed results that can tend to be a strong hit or miss to the lis­ten­er. This is more preva­lent in their recent albums than the old­er ones, seem­ing to come and go at whim on cer­tain tracks, sug­gest­ing both an ongo­ing, ephemer­al sort of exper­i­men­ta­tion, and per­haps unex­pect­ed­ly tap­ping into a listener’s more vis­cer­al reac­tion. There are times one won­ders what’s sud­den­ly tran­spired, when all of a sud­den the song weaves back into its orig­i­nal tone and tem­po, that much stronger for the jux­ta­po­si­tion.

This is some­thing that’s high­ly sub­jec­tive, to say the least. You’ll have to lis­ten for your­self and decide.

Also, while Heli­um Vola’s work tends not to be first thing that springs to mind when­ev­er one thinks of the word ‘dance,’ the raw, organ­ic, flu­id emo­tions expressed in these songs and their qui­et­ly rest­less rhythms bring a spe­cial con­tri­bu­tion to the table, and when one is immersed in the soar­ing vocals and flut­ter­ing tones of cer­tain songs, it’s not long before one feels the sen­su­al wisps of temp­ta­tion pulling at the mind to sway and drift in uni­son, to speak melody through motion, to aspire to dreams that fly as high.

On a per­son­al lev­el, I’ve found this a very rare expe­ri­ence to dis­cov­er in any musi­cal artist, and I find myself wish­ing we had some­thing — any­thing — like it in Cana­da. Along­side bands like Qntal, Atarax­ia, and oth­ers (who will be dis­cussed in future posts), I’ve noticed HV falls into a very spe­cif­ic niche even with­in the goth­ic sub­cul­ture where their par­tic­u­lar style seems much more wide­ly rec­og­nized. I find it odd they’re not more well known giv­en the obvi­ous­ly dark direc­tion in which their music leans, but either way, it doesn’t real­ly mat­ter so much as the fact I feel bet­ter off for hav­ing expe­ri­enced their work, and I’d like to offer the same to my read­ers. It took years of explor­ing before I found them, and that was large­ly by acci­dent.

With­out fur­ther ado, let us take a brief jour­ney through time.

Con­tin­ue read­ing