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My dad is badass.  Not in a ranking-officer-in-the-Hell’s-Angels kind of way (because, seriously, presumptions and stereotyping aside, I think we can all agree that creative writing wouldn’t be a likely pastime if that were my background), but in a god-damn-can-my-dad-bust-out-some-serious-beats kind of way.

Following are five tracks from albums my dad has in his collection or, in the case of the last item, has provided to me as a gift. Other than Pink Floyd I think you’re going to cop a few surprises: consider that my dad is a French Canadian raised on the same distant and frigid ice moon sparsely-populated plains of rural Canada as I. Except a few decades earlier. Together, these tracks coupled with that image to ponder upon will quite likely convince you that my old man is one badass mofo.

Pink Floyd – On The Run

I find it hard to believe that once upon a time I didn’t like Pink Floyd. I suspect it must be common to all youth to think that anything older than what’s charting currently is “ghey”, because that’s my best defence other than guilty by way of insanity. At any rate, after many teenage years spent despising dad’s ‘stupid Pink Floyd albums’, I woke one morning to the sound of Dark Side of the Moon blasting away just outside my bedroom (a clever way for dad to disrupt my slackful late-morning slumber). It was like the proverbial light had gone on inside my headspace, and I suddenly understood the awesome that is Floyd.

Ice-T feat. Jello Biafra – Shut Up, Be Happy

My dad picked up Ice-T’s The Iceberg/Freedom of Speech… Just Watch What You Say (seriously, Ice-T: did the title really need to be that long?) within a year of its release in 1989. That was my first year of high school. This was in the neighbourhood of when I read Orwell’s Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four (both borrowed from my dad’s badass library).  You put repeated listening of this album together with the dangerously beautiful warnings in those dystopian classics in the same young mind and you end up with one supernova-sized catalyst for a lot of the political leanings I still hold.

New Order – Round & Round

I’d have to say 1989 was a monumental year, in terms of the music landscape, and my growth into a full-fledged music snob. On the same shopping trip as the Ice-T album, dad picked up New Order’s fifth album, Technique. This album got a lot of play, and put me ahead of the curve when all the other kids in high school were only discovering New Order in the latter half of high school. Not that being one of the music literati has ever helped me the way it has Jack Black, and most certainly not in the Klingon salt mine that I attended high school in. On the other hand, my Dungeons and Dragons characters had more bitchin’ soundtracks than anyone else’s.

Yello – Le Secret Farida

Yello is this kinda out there performance-art-meets-bizarro-techno outfit from Switzerland. They’re most famous for that “Oh Yeah” song from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Listening to Yello really nudged me along towards the understanding that you could uncover an ass-load of merit in “out there” music if the production was tight enough or it bored through your skull and graffitied twisted and crazy-dark fantasy worlds on the walls of your mind. Also highly recommended, from another Yello CD in dad’s collection: Tied Up (In Fantasia).

Kool Moe Dee – 50 Ways

So dad scored me Kool Moe Dee’s How Ya Like Me Now and Young MC’s Stone Cold Rhymin’ at the same time (honourable mention for this entry goes to Young MC’s Know How for sampling the theme song from Shaft). I could have veered toward either, but I decided to give props to Mr. Dee because he doesn’t get the “retro”-inspired airplay Mr. MC does. It’s almost certainly these two albums that led me to Eric B. & Rakim, Gang Starr, KRS-1, LL Cool J, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul and the title of “Blackest White Man in Canada” from a number of my equally not-black friends in our little corner of the vast North American prairies. Yep, 50 Ways is saddled with cheesy 80s rap, but these beats are from the cusp of sample-based production moving from the sideline into the mainstream. Yeah, I’m a music snob. Didn’t we cover that already?

PS: Dad, I’m sorry I ever played all those super-shitty “Euro Mega Hits 199x” and “Club Dance Hits 199x” compilations on your stereo. It will so not ever happen again.

PPS: Dad, I also hope you’ve enjoyed this article. Merry Festivus, and thanks!

Aphex Twin – Windowlicker

Beardyman – Aphex Twin vs Bumblebees

Marly Marl – Droppin’ Science

I admit I’m surprised by this, given the high standards I hold my homeland to, but I suppose I shouldn’t expect so much of the 16 to 18 year old set regardless of the locale. A Canadian survey recently found that only 4% of Canadian teens see science as ‘cool’ – which leads me to ruminate upon the sorry state of science PR when you can’t fucking make robots and lasers and spacecraft appealing to youth. Seriously. You know, robots. Robots! Dinosaurs, too!

The same survey found that only 37% of these students were considering post-secondary study in a science course. This badass infographic tells me that that’s comparable with China’s current crop of university students, where enrollment in science and engineering is just over 40%, so I don’t think that’s actually too bad a figure. Not when you compare it to the USA’s unsurprising and paltry sub-15% of enrollments in those degrees.

Across the Pacific, a recent poll found – in total disregard for national stereotypes – that Australians are more interested in science than sport (although, I dare you to prove that during prime-time in football season).  All this despite the presence of this anti-reason douchebag as a prominent public figure and both state and federal governments intent on funding the exact opposite of science education.

I don’t know what conclusion to draw from all this. All I know is that a basic understanding of science is going to become more and more essential for every member of society, as the problems we face will grow more and more complex and require more knowledge to understand. It’s especially damning if our only science graduates are reclusive antisocials and all the cool kids run off to do law and economics, because science desperately needs to be communicated (and communicated well) in order to be accepted and understood.

We’ve already seen examples of what happens when scientific illiteracy reigns: Americans with their bizarre restrictions on stem cell research; Europeans with their paranoid aversion to GM crops; drought-stricken cities voting down recycled water; the continuing spread of HIV across Africa courtesy of false wisdom bestowed upon us by the king of all douchebags; and the myriad of horrible things done by witch doctors, exorcists and homeopaths across the globe. It’s not so bad now, but when a frighteningly large percentage of people don’t even know how long it takes the Sun to go around the Earth, what completely avoidable problem will we march willingly into next?

Hey there, cadets.

I’ve been away, I know. Let’s pretend my absence has been humorous and implausible, something like a thrilling and wildly dangerous mission to destroy a secret shadow government facility where future pop stars were being grown in giant vats of nutrient slime. Sure, let’s call it that.

In reality, I’ve been lazy.

There’s a fair bit of time-starvation in there, courtesy of mini-me #1 and mini-me #2, mind. I’ve had spare time, but there is a special kind of exhaustion one gets from chasing a toddler for the last few hours before bedtime that really squashes my desire to preference activities other than a lazy game of Halo or Urban Terror.

Just recently, though, a couple of interesting things have happened.

First up, this blog has been nominated for a 2010 Canadian Weblog Award! Not bad, given how sporadic and rant-heavy the thing has been over the past few months. Presumably, this means enough people have considered the year’s catalogue of my infrequent sub-space dispatches and decided the lack of volume is trumped severely by the calibre of my have word writy things make sense.

I’m fairly proud of my writing; I suspect I could turn tricks as a professional wordsmith in a pinch. Atomique (who is a Wizard of Media and Communications) recently praised one of my shorter pieces, a letter to my MP regarding the Australian government’s position on Julian Assange in the wake of Cablegate. It went like this:

Hi Teresa,

I’m just dropping you a quick email to let you know how disappointed and horrified I am by our government’s handling of the WikiLeaks Cablegate affair and Mr Julian Assange.

I refer to recent actions by the Prime Minister and the Attourney-General in which they condemn the man as a criminal before any court of law has convicted him of such.

Regardless of what may eventually come of any investigation into Mr Assange’s activities as head of Wikileaks, it is abhorrent to think that our Prime Minister is so willing to discard an Australian citizen.

Above and beyond all of the media hype surrounding Mr Assange, I applaud the man for his efforts in promoting transparency in government and freedom of information.  The least our government should do is support him as it ought any other citizen, let alone give him the thanks he deserves for his service to the common good.

I am utterly disgusted with the government and its actions, and I urge you to lend some thought to my concerns.

Sincerely,

Atomique’s glowing review:

That was articulate, clear and concise. A plain English triumph, too. If I was marking it, I’d give it an HD, the highest mark.

U haz mad communik8shun skilz.

So, anyhow, I really should write some more, so I will. And I suppose I ought stay on-topic, given my nomination in the 2010 CWAs was in the music category. Courtesy of the of the process for the CWAs, having now made the shortlist of finalists I get all of December to make up for a slack previous eleven months. BAM! Electoral abuse, baby!

Secondly, I curated the December 4th edition of Curated By Interesting People. Curated by Interesting People is a project run out of the UK where interesting people share interesting things: a curation is restricted to one song, one video, one website, one twitter feed. There other curators are a motley, accomplished and certainly interesting bunch. I’m in good company among some of the other interesting folk with a background in music, like the guy behind Banco de Gaia and Eric Kleptone (music nerds represent!).

The curation covers me for science and music, so I’ll direct you over there now for your usual dose of what I’m really supposed to be writing about.

Seeing as I now have this renewed energy for the blog and a motivation in freakishly dystopian surveillance by the CWA judges, keep your sensors on this quadrant for more out of me this month.

I had a killer ending to an awesome weekend.

Out of the orbital habitat and away from the Earthlets for a night out with Atomique two evenings in a row? Mind-bendingly priceless. The spawn are awesome and all, but a touch of freedom was sorely needed for all the adults of the household.

First up was a bit of foreign cuisine, in an establishment of the variety where one is very unlikely to encounter screaming children.  The portions were tasty and smallish; I now tend to expect small with either fine or Japanese dining so I was neither surprised nor saddened by the size of the meals. We then wandered the city aimlessly, unable to remember what it is that people without children do when they hit the city. Courtesy of how much it sucks, we were drawn to the casino. The majority of the population of tragic-town appeared, to our casual glances, to be oversized, underaged or abnormal. One beer later it had stopped being amusing and we went home, nevertheless happy with our night out.

The next night was a friend’s birthday party, followed by me spinning a few tunes at the Beetle Bar. The party was funky and well-catered, and the Beetle Bar was packed with a posse of groovy cats Atomique and I don’t get to spend nearly enough time with lately. You know who you are, awesome folks. Big thank you to everyone who had kind words to say about my sets – and even more praise be to you who rewarded my technique on the midi controller (sigh, that just doesn’t have the same ring as ‘skills on the decks’) with a frosty beverage.

Sunday night? It was pretty special too, because I travelled through fucking time.

The in-laws had cleared out and everyone else in the house had gone to bed by 21:00. I parked myself cross-legged on the floor, game controller in hand, the house illuminated only by the glow of the TV and listened to an album while playing a brand new video game.

It was awesome.

LCD Soundsystem – Us vs Them (Go Home Productions Remix)

The album? The LCD Soundsystem tribute/mashup/remix album Sounds like Silver. The official website appears to have lapsed into oblivion, but there are still ways to get the record.  The game? Forza Motorsport 3. I don’t even rank racing games high on my to-do list; it’s just been a long time since I spent an extended amount of time with a new game in one sitting. It certainly helped that the graphics in the game are staggeringly beautiful.

It was only a short visit to the past, though. I don’t see myself recreating the winter of ’95, where I played X-Com 2: Terror From the Deep an unhealthy amount and listened to The Prodigy’s Music for the Jilted Generation on repeat, so much so that both are fused into one entity in my brain. To this day, fifteen years later, the moment I hear any track from that album I have a pavlovian response and the interface from the game is momentarily superimposed over reality. I’m a sad testament to the flaws of the human brain, I know.

Still, cerebral failings aside: awesome weekend.

I don’t know where all the time goes.  It’s here, I’m fairly certain of that, but I’m just not seeing it.  I imagine it would need to be around here somewhere, but the alarmist in me now suspects extremists of some sort have detonated some kind of time vortex under my orbital platform.

Nothing really interesting to report, otherwise.  The western front is quiet, but busy, you grok?

Here are some tunes I’ve managed to listen to (and enjoy) lately, courtesy of me entering this millennium and finally setting up a media extender in the living room.  Some of the tunes are newer; some of it’s older stuff I’m digging all over again. Given the presence of some ‘8-bit nerdcore dubstep’, I guarantee that the following is at least a touch eclectic if nothing else.

DJ Food – The Crow

 

The Darkness – I Believe in a Thing Called Love

 

Neon Neon – Belfast

 

YTCracker – The Link

 

Merriman Weir – Gallowsman (From Man To Man With Dean Learner, sequel to the excellent 80s horror spoof show Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace)

 

Party Ben – Another One Bites Da Funk (Daft Punk vs Queen)

 

IAM – L’Empire du Côté Obscur

One of the coolest things about Australian elections is that you don’t throw your vote away pitching your lot in with a minor party.  You order the candidates as you prefer; once the votes are tallied, if no candidate has 50% of the vote then everyone who voted for the least-voted-for candidate has all of their second preference votes cast, and so on until the magic 50% mark is hit.

Mathematical!

One of the lamest things about Australian elections is having to number all of the senate candidates for your state in order of preference.  Last time out I had sixty-odd names to order and boned my ballot paper twice because I was being very clever about putting the nutjobs at the bottom, the anti-bozos at the top and was working my way from both sides towards the middle when I hit numeric snags in the shape of duplicates. You can, of course, just pick one party and use their preferences (known as ‘voting above the line’) but then you’re kind of throwing your democratic rights out the window.

This time around, I’m prepared!  There are two websites which let you use a web interface to order the candidates at your leisure and print out a guide to take to the polling booth with you.

http://belowtheline.cc/

http://www.belowtheline.org.au/

Now there’s no reason to not do things the hard way. Use these tools to lodge a proper protest vote and tell the big parties they all stink! Or don’t – that’s the beauty of democracy.

Oh, speaking of elections:

Arcadia (AKA Duran Duran) – Election Day

Did you just say home-made 8-bit synthesizer? Yes you did? Win!

I watched Tron on the weekend. Good gravy, that movie still hauls ass. Yeah, the real-world fashion is pretty tragic, but the film is from that strange time between the end of the 70s and before the 80s really turned into the hideous monster that it became by ’85, after all. The art design is still, 30 years on, mindblowing. Lightcycles, vast city-like datascapes, freaky neon costuming and thoroughly imaginative set design (the command centre of a recognizer? ZOMG).

And, of course, Wendy Carlos’ visionary soundtrack.  And thus I segue clumsily to today’s actual subject…

Data visualisation is awesome. Data visualisation about musical artists and the labyrinthine interconnections between them is, as it turns out, kind of neat.

Flared Music lets you plug in an artist’s name and then you can sit back and watch the web of collaborations and production tie-ins unravel before your eyes. It pulls data from the BBC’s Musicbrainz database and renders it onscreen.  It doesn’t take too much clicking around to end up with a giant, glorious tangle of names.

Wendy Carlos’ web above doesn’t appear that full.  Wendy must have been something of a loner; plug in, say, Jean-Jacques Perrey, who’s been recording music for just as long as Carlos and you get a constantly-growing screen full of wow.

In fact, it gets me a lot more than that – I captured that image early on in the generation of the Perrey-web.  The guy’s been recording music (and collaborating on music!) for a long time, and if you let it go the sprawling mass of connections gets effing massive.

Anyhow, go have a play. I had thought of something else clever to say, but the older child made me forget when he ran around the house with a box on his head, shouting “Tycho-robot!”

Yeah, I’m still gearing up for a return to full-blown literary production.  Getting there… getting there.

Oh, hey, let me introduce Mr. Barry Morgan:

If that isn’t enough, you can see even more of Mr. Barry Morgan on his YouTube channel, the Mr. Barry Morgan website and the Barry Morgan’s World of Organs website.

That’s a lot of organ.

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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