You Keep Using That Phrase …

… but have you ever wondered where the expression “Drinking the Kool-Aid” comes from?

 

BC Election: Green Has the Balance

As of tonight the recounts are finished, the final results are in, and BC officially holds a Liberal minority government along with an enormous technical win for the Green Party.

The chance of an election turning out exactly as this one has is infinitesimally small, and yet it’s happened. We’ve made history.

The Comox-Courtenay riding, which denied a majority for the Liberals, went to the NDP by an initial margin of 9 votes, later confirmed as 13 votes during final recount, and finalized as a 189-vote NDP lead once the absentee ballots were tallied.

With the Liberals holding 43 seats in the Legislature, the NDP holding 41, and the Green Party holding the remaining 3, this puts the Greens in the unprecedented position of being the fulcrum on which any governing matters will stand.

The privilege of being in such a position essentially lends the Greens a huge megaphone. Being the deciding vote on legislative work brings a stronger bargaining position when it comes to doing good for this province, our residents, and our shared environmental legacy. It also brings enhanced opportunities to build a stronger political track record and candidate portfolio, shape the party into more of a household name, and hopefully secure additional seats in future elections if all goes well.

It’s not easy being green, but it’s an amazing time to be Green … so congratulations, fellow Green voters and party members, wear it well!

This post also wouldn’t be complete without heartfelt thanks to every single person who went out and voted, regardless of affiliation. Being part of the political process is absolutely vital to the health of our democracy and the progress of our future, and if ever there was a time to be reminded of the power of the individual, 2017 has truly showcased this in the most amazing of ways.

The Ongoing US Trump/Russia Media Flap

Here’s a fairly level-headed explanation of the Trump/Russia coverage that’s paralyzed the news cycle for the past few months, courtesy of Michael Tracey from TYT:

It’s important to note that whether or not the Trump/Russia story has legs, we’ve long since passed the point where irrational narratives became ends and pursuits in themselves, and people have largely chosen to see what they want to see come out of this situation.

If there’s one thing 2016 taught us, it’s that the American political system and electorate are, largely, no longer rational actors. They’re in a bad place and they want to burn something down because they’re understandably pissed off at the status quo. The other side of the coin is most aren’t terribly concerned with how they go about doing it, or what corners they cut when giving it thought.

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BC Provincial Election, Tuesday May 09

Get ready, get set, go vote! Your local polling stations will be open today from 08:00-20:00.

It’s important to make yourself heard in an election, not only because current media studies suggest a closely contested electoral race, but also because each party diverges from the others in its own view of ‘common ground’ as well as unique policy decisions.

Please take some time today to read further, get to know the party platforms, and make a choice on who you’d like to support.

Full platforms of the major parties can be found here:
Green Party
New Democratic Party
Liberal Party

Share this message with your friends!

Donald Trump’s First 100 Days

Until now, I haven’t been reporting on the political situation in the United States because news on the subject has been ubiquitous, and many talented individuals and media outlets have been calling the situation for what it is.

Today, this changes. I don’t feel it’s appropriate for a person to stand on the sidelines and wait for others to do one’s duty in the midst of a matter this important. I’ve written on Canadian politics on this site in the past, and arguably US politics can have just as significant an impact on anyone living north of the border due to widespread export of American culture, values, and geopolitical influence.

At the same time, lingering concerns remain on the political and financial affiliations of some media outlets, the impact of compromised journalism in an information driven society, and the pitfalls of the ratings-driven system holding sway on most TV-based media delivery platforms which tends to capitalize on drama and suffering while often failing to deliver context and historical perspective.

While there are many media groups who are doing high quality work and providing in-depth journalism, the mixed nature of technology and its use (or misuse at times) means it’s wise to ensure information is regularly fact-checked and further research is conducted to understand context and establish a broader perspective of current events.

The unfortunate thing about politics is that despite having great importance in daily life, it frequently tends to be treated as a spectator sport. Media companies run round-the-clock news cycles and make money from it, people talk to family and friends about what’s going on in the world, some offices run pools on what they think the next big change might be, but how many of us are actually willing to roll up our sleeves and get involved?

When was the last time you talked with a Congressperson, Member of Parliament, or MLA? Have you ever read legislative documentation to learn the issues? When was the last time you fact checked a political statement? Ever been part of a public commentary hearing? Heck, when was the last time you voted?

Here’s why political engagement matters:

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Auditory Flashbacks: Informatik, Assemblage 23, De/Vision

I’m about to head off for the evening, but before I do, here’s a music post … because, reasons.

 

 

The Sea-Change at YouTube

It’s time we had a conversation about censorship.

Recently a mass exodus of major advertisers occurred at YouTube, which has since caused the ecosystem of that platform to fall into disarray. As noted by both YouTubers and mainstream media outlets alike, the precipitating event seems to have been a small number of government and corporate ads appearing alongside racist hate videos on a very small number of channels. The issue was brought to the attention of governments and corporations in a high profile manner, and from there, industry brass decided to pull all advertising off the YouTube platform, citing the desire to not be associated with harmful content.

As various media outlets have reported, it’s an odd narrative to follow given the fact this problem has existed for many, many years. Until the middle of 2016, it’s been an issue that’s rarely made the news. Furthermore, despite the historical efforts made by media companies (especially Google) to stamp out racist and other extremist content, the issue remains difficult to address owing to the sheer volume of data being uploaded at any given time.

In Youtube’s case, at least 300 hours of video is uploaded each minute (though some put that number as high as 400 hrs/min). If we go with the lowest estimate, that’s still 18,000 hours of video in an hour, 432,000 hours of video in a day, or 12.96 million hours in a 30-day month. These numbers are definitely not in Google’s favour, and despite valiant efforts to screen user-generated content, Internet media companies as a rule tend to be faced with a never-ending, uphill battle when it comes to managing these enormous volumes of user-generated content.

Similar to the ongoing situation at Facebook (and its implications for that network’s 1.2 billion daily users), the logistics are impossible when it comes to setting up a purely human intervention as a solution to harmful content. There’s no practical way for Google, or any ultra high volume media company for that matter, to retain sufficient human staffing in order to individually review each piece of user-generated content that comes in the door. As a result, industry standard practices include the use of software algorithms as gatekeepers and the automation of most issues related to policy enforcement and content management.

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Auditory Flashbacks: Icon of Coil, VNV Nation

I’ve been busy as of late, albeit occupied with a lot of things IRL and not online as much. I realize it’s been a while since my last article here, so in the spirit of keeping the beat going, here’s a music post.

Tonight we have select songs from Icon of Coil and VNV Nation. Crank that volume knob way up high, and enjoy …

Regret // lyrics here.

Everything // lyrics here.

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Auditory Flashbacks: Sea Songs and More

When I began going through my posts as part of back-end maintenance the other day, I realized I haven’t done an article on sea songs yet. Considering how deeply that genre runs in my heart and my connections with the sea, I feel a bit silly at not doing it sooner.

So here’s a smattering of old favourites. I’ve searched a while for special versions of some of these songs, which you’ll notice below:

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Auditory Flashbacks: Die Laughing

Tonight’s post isn’t a review so much as a handful of snippets from the talented UK goth group Die Laughing. Having been active from 1986 to 1999, they dissolved the summer before Y2K and eventually re-formed in 2012 with a new single, “Tangled,” and news that they’re working on material for a new album.

Seeing as their international following never really stopped (due in equal parts to the Internet and the periodic releases of their work on other compilation albums) it’s refreshing to hear they’re intent on adding more works to their repertoire.

Enjoy …

Auditory Flashbacks: Blutengel

Tonight’s post isn’t a music review (for now, anyway). I just wanted to share this very beautiful song off of Blutengel’s 2011 album Tränenherz:

Tea Time: Meßmer’s Rosehip and Hibiscus

I’m WAY overdue on posting this review, considering I’ve been drinking this stuff for a long time.

Meet Meßmer’s Rosehip and Hibiscus:

Meßmer Rosehip and Hibiscus Tea Meßmer's Rosehip and Hibiscus Tea

It comes pre-packaged in individual paper wrapped tea bags (I’m not aware of there being any loose leaf variants). The ingredients list notes only three items are used to make it: rosehips, hibiscus, and sweet blackberry leaves. There is no caffeine content.

This tea is best served hot or cold. While it’s a great way to warm up on a winter’s night, it also makes some of the best iced tea, if you prefer it that way. The flavour is strong yet subtle, full-bodied with slightly earthy tones, and slight but noticeable sour and tangy notes.

The infusion is a characteristic blood-red hue, which makes for fun conversation and interesting speculation about what one is drinking.

While this product tastes great on its own, there have been plenty of times I’ve paired it with a sweetener in making iced tea to share with family and friends. For this, I’ve found honey gives the best results as its flavour spectrum runs complementary to the tangy and sour notes of the tea, and highlights the earthy tones perfectly without being overpowering. The result is an iced tea that tastes exceptionally smooth, which both adults and children love.

Much like good music, this tea is an export of Germany and comes to British Columbia as somewhat of a niche product. Not many people know it exists, and fewer still have had a chance to try it. This has unfortunately been borne out in the way retailers treat it, too: since 2005, I’ve seen both Walmart and Canadian Superstore briefly carry and then discontinue the Meßmer product line.

More recently, my girlfriend totally lucked out and found some at a downtown London Drugs here in Victoria (and on manager’s special, no less!) so needless to say, I’m stoked at having it again. Hopefully they’ll keep stocking it!

Last but not least, I created a Food and Drink section to categorize this post, and it got me thinking: this is not the usual content I share here, but considering how much kitchenware I own and how much creative stuff we do each year in the kitchen, I think I’ve been holding back. Perhaps in the future, I’ll post an occasional family recipe or recommendation … there are just too many good things out there, and not sharing them would be wrong.

:)

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.

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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:

First Photo Trip of 2016

I’m not sure how the rest of my readers have been faring, but here in my city we’re fully into spring, and there are lots of beautiful places to visit as the lands (and their inhabitants) wake from seasonal slumber.

This Tuesday I went for an afternoon bike ride around the city, eventually making my way through Ross Bay Cemetery and Beacon Hill Park. I figured I’d post a few of the highlights here. Please excuse the craptastic mobile phone image quality, I’ll have to make it a point sometime this year to get a proper camera and do these right.  ;)

More to come as the weather warms up!

Spring blossoms! Also, the back end of a bee. Spring blossoms. Of endless seas, and boundless skies ... Shoreline view taken from the Beacon Hill waterfront trail. A long abandoned, undisturbed gave in Ross Bay Cemetery.

Also, I updated the layout configuration files for this site earlier in the week. I don’t think there will be any glitches as a result of this, but in the off chance my readers see anything weird happen, I’d welcome a bug report via the contact page.

Building a website is a learning experience, and an ever-expanding construction project, and I’m planning to become much more involved with it this year.

Auditory Flashbacks: Helalyn Flowers, Asperger Synthdrome

While browsing the BC goth feeds on Facebook this morning, I found a link to “Hybrid Moments” by Helalyn Flowers. This lovely Italian band is a bit of an unknown for me, so I took a moment to listen, then, very content with the melodies of their colourful soundscapes, I promptly went looking for more.

It turns out they have a nice body of work in circulation, sitting in the shadows waiting for listeners like us to dig a bit more deeply. So let’s break out the shovels, nein?

Next up is a video I’ve been wanting to post for ages, somehow it got lost in the shuffle a while back. That’s especially unfortunate since I’m a fan of Adora BatBrat, and I LOVE hearing her sing.

Actually, it’s Adora and her sister that both head up their band, Asperger Synthdrome. At a graceful 44 (surprised?) Adora’s vein of talent and ability to constantly shake things up and reinvent herself makes me see parallels with Madonna. I mean this as a compliment — it takes a lot of energy (and an exacting eye) to balance ongoing fashion design, aggressive self-promotion, and the kind of marketing genius that Adora’s put into her work.

Hope today’s post brings a smile to your face! Sure is nice, being able to share this with my readers.

Starry tides and fair winds,
~ crimson

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.

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Victoria Times Colonist to Remove Online Commenting

This week, our local newspaper announced it was removing the comment section in future posts. This comes in the wake of a fairly well-established trend of prominent media outlets, including Popular Science, deciding to do the same in order to bring the emphasis back to the content, and curb widespread abuse of writers and their audiences by unpleasant drive-by commenters.

And truly, nothing of value was lost.

First, what many major outlets have realized by now, many of them through rather hard lessons, is that journalism isn’t just a business, it’s a delicate balance, a deep search for the truth. By its very nature, this demands well-developed communications skills and keen social competence on the part of its researchers and presenters, and a carefully crafted environment in which to convey the information to the audience.

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Auditory Flashbacks: the Music of Ost+Front, Megaherz, and Lord of the Lost

Somewhere along the way, my listening list got so large it hit that magical tipping point where it became its own novel. By the end of this post, it will officially be 442 artists. Even the fairly robust WordPress Editor was having issues last time I tried to add more band links. I’ve posted *maybe* a quarter of them here on my site by now, but made full-fledged discussion posts for far too few.

That’s going to change this year, as I’ll eventually get around to revamping my content a bit, along with a few changes to update frequency and post format.

But for now … LET’S DISCOVER SOME MUSIC!

Today’s theme is Neue Deutsche Härte, and to that end, I have three submissions for your listening pleasure.

First, there’s Ost+Front. What can I really say here? Their stage presence is the result of someone sneaking into a genetic engineering lab to combine Rammstein’s DNA with the entire cast of Dead Snow. Nazi zombies with awesome voices? You’d better believe it.

BUT WHERE’S THE FIRE? In the lyrics, of course …

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