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I saw Avatar yesterday. It was pretty awesome.

However…

After sitting through nearly three hours of quite possibly the greatest technical achievement in cinematography to date, the thought stuck at the front of my brain is: ‘A cavalry charge in the jungle? Who does that? Jesus effing hockey sticks.’

Cavalry. Jungle. Retarded.

Surely, if you have an army of space elf jungle-ninjas at your disposal, surely the good old guerrilla warfare is the way to go.

Even the Ewoks mustered a better battle plan.

Man, sampling is the shizzle. Totally. It’s brought us a lot of killer tunes over the years. I’m not just talking about old-school hip hop anthems jacking beats from old James Brown records, either.

It’s all over the place, these days.  Often, the samples have been  effects piled on top of them and the waveform stretched so they’re not really recognizable compared to the original source anymore (unless you know what you’re looking for, of course). Observe as The Prodigy’s Smack My Bitch Up is completely dismantled:

Jim Pavloff Makes Prodigy’s “Smack My Bitch Up” in Ableton Live

Other times, the producers are danging the samples in front of our faces, right out in the open and we don’t even know it.  Daft Punk have mastered the art of digging for a sample and doing only the most sublte of changes for effect.

Where Daft Punk Got Their Samples From

And, of course, there’s the humble mashup. Mashing takes sampling to the extreme. In some cases it’s a fairly straightforward affair of layering two songs together, but as the below video shows you, it’s not always that simple, and sometimes regular old non-sampled music is guilty of simple copying as well.

Remixed excerpt of RiP: A Remix Manifesto

I don’t usually dig into the personal here in the briefing room, but Festivus is a time for reflection (among other things) so here we go.

My DNA is chock full of crazy genes. I have a schizophrenic uncle (whom has been confused for another hometown crazy, The King of Regina*); another one who might as well be crazy (unless sterilizing yourself because the cult leader tells you to sounds like a perfectly reasonable idea); a cousin who’s had a drug-induced psychotic break; one grandmother most certainly had undiagnosed OCD (her house wasn’t as bad as the Collyer Brothers’ but it was on the way); the other grandmother was manic depressive. You get the picture.

team9 – Crazy Times | download

Suffice to say, I’m wary of ending up another one of the crazies.  I’m not sure when or how I came to realize it, but somewhere in my late teens I figured out that that could easily be me in the psych ward, so let’s be a bit careful with our brain, how about?

Growing up with the ramblings of my schizophrenic uncle has done little to build my sympathy for him (but not my liking of him – I’m happy to spend time with him and talk sense at him). I’ve become unable to understand how he ended up the way he is. I can’t imagine that you wake up one day batshit mental, screaming obscenities at passers-by. Surely it’s a steady decent into irrationality. I cannot fathom that I would not take the time to stop and question if I really had just had a conversation with a fugitive KGB agent who was going to show me his stolen gold if I got my family to come help (yes, I have lived through that conversation and many more of that caliber).

William S. Burroughs & The Disposable Heroes of Hip-Hopracy – The Last Words of Dutch Shultz (This is Insane)

To me, the obvious way through the genetic minefield I’ve been thrown into the middle of  is to not take those first few steps down the road to crazy-town. This means questioning everything, making sure that I actually am in line with reality. I’m not saying I hear voices in my head, but I’m going to make sure I’ve done everything in my power to dispel them if they *do* turn up. Practice makes perfect, right?

I can’t imagine not taking the time to investigate something for myself if I’m interested enough in it to talk to other people about it. I don’t look at this as a burden – in fact, I revel in the curiosity that my parents nurtured in me (thank you, mom & dad!). I can think of few things more depressing than a 75-year-old who believes the same things he or she did at 15.

The Prodigy – Crazy Man

Speaking of mom and dad, my early home life helped a lot to put me down this path. Mom is a fast draw with a dictionary and can pimp-slap an encyclopedia (this was before home internet!). My dad’s an electrical engineer and his father a mechanic – so the spirit of tinkering and figuring things out for yourself has certainly come from them.

But, hey, the world’s a complicated place and not a single one of us has a long enough life to acquire all the knowledge needed to understand every aspect of modern life. Science, thankfully, is imbued with checks and balances that ensure that current scientific theory in any scientific field matches observations of the universe. Awesome – I don’t need a degree in astrophysics to know about the Big Bang, I just need to realize the overwhelming majority of people who’ve studied long enough to understand astrophysics are in agreement that that’s the most accurate model for describing the start of the universe. Cool beans – who the fuck am I to question that?

Beastie Boys – Get It Together

Long story short: I’m not going to believe anything anyone says if they can’t bring forth evidence to back up the claim. I can’t afford not to.

* I was out having pizza with Coyote, The Ringmaster and others one day during my last voyage back to the motherland. My uncle walks into the joint and we talk for a bit and then he wanders off. Everybody else around the table is looking at me rather intently, I suddenly realize. With a mix of confusion, trepidation and childlike wonder on his face, The Ringmaster asks me ‘Who was that?’ I explain who that was, and eyes around the table go wide. ‘Dude, that was The King of Regina! He’s fucking famous! Everybody’s been abused by him!’ They all then take turns telling stories about when my uncle’s gone stage-four nuclear on them. After doing as much Googling as I can about The King of Regina, I’m uncertain that my uncle is the same crazy that they’re all thinking of. Not all the stories in the KOTR archive sound like his particular kind of crazy, I don’t think he’s ever had a beard (granted, I’ve been away for a while) and they refer to him occasionally as King David, and David ain’t his nom de plume.

There goes my brush with fame.

I normally don’t go for accoustic stuff, but this cover of Massive Attack’s Teardrops is pretty kick-ass.

Newton Faulkner – Teardrops

Apologies for short post, but I exhausted my reserve tanks writing a short essay in response to a comment on that thing I wrote about fortune telling.

If that gypsy* really can tell the future, do you really think she would be doing it for fifty dollars a hit? No, she’d be at the motherfucking Pentagon, earing fifty MILLION dollars a hit.

Cut Copy – Future

Uriah Heep – Gypsy

* palmist, mentalist, tea leaf reader, seer, Jehovah’s Witness, iPhone app, Viking rune-caster, fate witch, telephone psychic, sheep-entrails-inspector, flea market weirdo, diviner, astral traveler, mad scientist, oracle, et al.

Hey there, Avaaz: I’m leaving.

To shed some light on the curiously out-of-context statement above, Avaaz is a web-based not-for-profit ‘global voice of the people’ type thing. Being a good humanist, I joined up some while back to throw my weight behind certain issues. Last week, however, I saw a message from Avaaz in my inbox that has me kissing them goodbye.

After a short break to get a break, let’s break down the email.

Resin Dogs – Gimme a Break

(Avaaz email indented, my comments all normal-text-like.)

Climate deniers and fossil fuel lobbyists are stopping at nothing to kill a Copenhagen deal.

So far so good.

Two weeks ago, hackers stole thousands of emails between a few climate scientists–and then released cherry-picked quotes out of context, absurdly claiming that they question the science behind climate change.

And now the downward spiral begins. This was classic hacktivism: this data, like all data, wanted to be free, and someone helped it out into the wild.  It wasn’t done by climate deniers, it was thousands of documents as well as email, and those who did it didn’t cherry pick any quotes out of context – the entire lot was released.

By the way, I’m curious to know how, exactly, you can take ‘Holy shit, this data doesn’t fit’ and ‘We should really oust the editors of these journals because they’re publishing papers that we don’t agree with’ out of context.

With big money behind it, this misinformation tactic aims to distract the media and the public from the most important conference of our time in Copenhagen — we have to make sure it doesn’t work.

A guy with an internet connection is “big money”?

We urgently need to chip in funds to step up our successful protests and ad campaign in Copenhagen and key cities to counter the denial lobby and get our media and politicians back on track. The industry lobbies are scaling up their fight, let’s take ours to the next level:

If you were on-topic, I’d totally back that play.

In the last 48 hours, the Avaaz community’s voice on climate has been featured in media across the planet, including the Financial Times, the New York Times, the China people’s daily and China’s cable news station, the Guardian, Associated France Presse and many more. Our voice is successfully competing directly with the industry lobby’s scams for attention, now we need to up the volume.

Here’s where I go on the rant you’ve all been waiting for.

If we want to fix the climate, we have to know how it works. Some of the released emails indicate that the CRU researchers had data that didn’t fit our current global warming model. If there’s data that doesn’t fit, then our models need to change to accommodate that data. That’s how science works – if you find new data that doesn’t fit, you figure out why it doesn’t fit and adjust the model accordingly. And then you publish in a peer-reviewed journal to make sure that your math, data collection methodology and models are correct. You publish in a peer reviewed journal because that’s where the people with the necessary training to understand all of the above hang out. You don’t go yelling as loud as you can until everyone forgets about anything that doesn’t add up.

If your car went CHUG-CHUG-KATHUNK one morning, and you called up your mechanic friend about it and described those sounds, he might tell you what was broken. In this case, let’s say it’s a problem with the gearbox, because I know fuck-all about what would make that kind of sound in a car. After talking to your friend, if you then noticed that your car was actually going CHUG-CHUG-BOINK-BOINK-DIDDLE-KATHUNK would you proceed to get a new gearbox because you want the car fixed quicker? No, dumbass, you call your mate again and give him the new data.

For the love of Jebus, a serious breakdown in the fucking basics of how we examine and understand our environment has gone on here. We need to highlight that this problem has occurred and fix it. You want to shut up the climate deniers? Then your science needs to be whiter than white, and it needs to be demonstrably so so you can get people behind you. Just shouting at the top of your lungs so you can drown out everything but your own preconceived ideas helps not one one iota.

I’m not even going to bother with the rest of the email. Suffice to say it’s more of the same, and I’m fed up with half-wits running these kinds of things. If it’s not the asshats at fucking Greenpeace it’s a pack of screaming gen-Yers who don’t understand the importance of science in solving this mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. Until someone can find me a decent organization that will directly fight these kinds of things with a brain or two, I’ll be pumping all my donations into Wikipedia and the skeptics again this year. I’m pretty sure that if everyone was better educated, we wouldn’t have half of the problems we do now.

Cheers to The Ringmaster for some links if you’d like to read further on Climategate. (Hey, I’d throw money at a foundation to come up with a better way for the media to describe scandals than by using ‘gate’ as a suffix. That would be awesome.)

I need to calm down now.  Here’s a calming Orbital track with a thematic title. Class dismissed!

Orbital – Science Friction

Auto-tune. The mere mention of it conjures horrific, tortuous images of Cher and Auto-Tune the News. That god-fucking-awful new* Black Eyed Peas tune is a hate crime with lyrics. I’m not the only one with this take on auto-tune, or who thinks that the Black Eyed Peas have written the worst song ever (that’s saying something, given the empirical shittiness of Whitney Houston and Celine Dion).

All that petty bitching aside, though, someone has found a legitimate use of auto-tune. John Boswell’s ambitious Symphony of Science project takes the voice talents of some of the greatest science communicators of recent times and pimps them up with the auto-tune, matching up their awe-inspiring words with melody and song.

Symphony of Science – Our Place in the Cosmos

There are several great scientists represented in the Symphony: Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking (not MC Hawking, unfortunately) Bill Nye and others. Carl Sagan seems to have the voice most well-suited to this treatment – or it could just be that his dialogue is the shiz-nizzle, motherfutons!

Carl Sagan – Cosmos (Intro)

Musically speaking, the Symphony of Science stuff is a bit limp for my tastes. I prefer my tunes to have bigger balls, or if they’re on the light side I need some kind of hook (I’m looking at you Brian Eno. Mmm. Brian Eno.  Mmmgrrblrgrbl. More on him some day.).  I’m not going to run out and buy the Symphony of Science vinyl, but I’ll give it a few listens, and so should you if you’re up for something a little bit different.  Dude gets points for beating me to sampling the shit out of Sagan.  It’s been on my to-do list for years. Oh well.

I give the symphony 8/10 for creativity, 5/10 for making me want to ‘bang me head’ and 10/10 for giving us a new spin on science communication: http://www.symphonyofscience.com/

* What the in the name of the Flying Spaghetti Monster happened to the Black Eyed Peas of the pre-Fergie days? Seriously, Bridging the Gap is a fantastic album, so don’t think I’m just hating for the sake of hating – once upon a time I really dug this crew.

You have two ways to hear the latest gem from Viper Pilot’s munitions works: turn up to Bootie Brisbane tomorrow night (difficult if you’re not in Brisbane) or go download this month’s Bootie Top 10.  Every month, mashup wizards A+D hand-pick the cream of the crop of bootlegs from around the world and present them for your consumption.

For this release, Viper Pilot has taken Flight of the Conchords and mashed the shit out of them, throwing everyone’s favourite folk-rap comedy troupe together with hip-hop heavyweights Missy Elliot, Busta Rhymes and the Beastie Boys.  Sugalumps is an exclusive to the Bootie Top 10, so run now and grab it – and all of the other slammin’ tracks in this month’s list – from the Bootie Brisbane website or any of the other sites in the sprawling web of the Bootie empire.

Viper Pilot Audio

Looking for music by Viper Pilot? This blog is the current home of Viper Pilot's Munition Works, where he stores all of his mashes and mixes.

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