Secret Mojo Dumbs It Down for You

October 31, 2006

Violent video games Videodrome their way into the real world (sort of)

Filed under: Art,creativity,games,terrorism — secretmojo @ 12:59 pm

What a neat idea! (scroll down for pictures and video)

In particular, I like the thought that there may be gifts inside. Sometimes a power-up, sometimes an extra life, and maybe — just maybe — coins. It’s mischievous and generous, and my favorite: imaginative.

But there are hidden dangers when igniting the imagination. Lesson learned? If you’re thinking of putting a bomb in a bright yellow box with an ominous question mark painted upon it, rest assured that your scheme, however it is camouflaged, will be detected by some extremely clever passer-by, and you will be arrested.

Game over.

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Simple question: “Where?”

Filed under: Iraq,mediachumps,News,Politics,rants,war — secretmojo @ 12:17 pm

The BBC reports that the Pentagon is launching a new propaganda — oops, I mean “media war” unit — that will attempt to offset — oops, I mean “correct” — unflattering (I mean “inaccurate”) breaking news reports.

My only question, which is blatantly missing in this article, is, “Where?” Who are the targets of this propa — media war? Which stations, which websites? More importantly, which country?

The BBC won’t say. They mention TV, radio, and weblogs, and grant the Pentagon a fully dictated — oops, I mean “reported” — paragraph to sort-of explain the issue:

The administration is particularly concerned that insurgents in areas such as Iraq have been able to use the web to disseminate their message and give the impression they are more powerful than the US, our correspondent says.

But my question still remains. “Where?”

Where will these bold countermeasures be conducted? On Iraqi TV? Iraqi Radio? Insurgent web sites?

Not mentioned. Which forces me to conclude that most of this media warring will be conducted in America, on American radio, on American TV, on American blogs, toward American station owners and American citizens.

Seriously, where else is that scary 24-hour news cycle that keeps Donald Rumsfeld “up at night” located? Where else can lobbyists and politicians (uh, “surrogates”) gear up and appear on a TV show so quickly? (Hint: Baghdad is 6,211 miles away from Washington. New York is 204.)

I will hazard a guess that Rumsfeld and the top brass don’t receive their daily supply of heebie jeebies from Al-Jazeera pundits. If not, who are they afraid of?

On Monday, US Vice President Dick Cheney also made reference to the use of media, suggesting insurgents had increased their attacks and were checking the internet to keep track of American public opinion. [emphasis added]

Ahhhh! That’s who. Never mind.

October 30, 2006

Anna plays dirty

Filed under: Knitting — secretmojo @ 6:09 am

Anna’s initiation yarn treat arrived today. Yyyesss!

I must admit, I’m a touch miffed that she spent extra money on me; I was under the suspicion I’d get some leftovers from her skein cornucopia (also known as her house), and not two incredibly classy hues (blue and green) of wool bought from Knit Picks topped off with a knitting gauge.

All I can say is, “Holy crap, Anna, do you fight dirty! Thanks!” Clearly, she is experienced at spreading her disease. I mean, “craft.” Now, I must think of something special to knit with these beauties, something worth their quality. Which means I better get cracking (practicing?) on this scarf.

Too classy for me.

Winter Night (blue) peruvian highland wool, Pine (green) marino wool, and something called a “knit gauge,” which I speculate, if I were a better knitter, I could use to draw perfect circles on paper. Delicious! Thanks, Anna!

October 29, 2006

Hey, don’t be teaching that cast on, peoples!

Filed under: Knitting — secretmojo @ 11:42 am

I ripped my scarf. Since there’s no deadline, I feel great about doing it. It was way too wide (30+ stitches), and revealed, in ragged fashion, a lesson I will share with everyone:

Do not do that reverse-loop cast on thingie.

It’s an easy cast on, which is why beginners like me are lured into it. You begin with a slip knot on your needle, and, by stacking up a row of folded loops, you give yourself strands to knit upon for your first row.

Problem is, the twistiness of the yarn makes the edge inconsistent and the loops drift in a spiral around the needle. It’s impossible to knit above it — especially with Homespun yarn — without creating scragglies. Unfortunately, you’ll realize this only three rows later — unless you’re lucky enough to read this post, which means you’ll realize it now.

Your welcome.

The better, though weirder, cast-on is the “double cast on,” where, using needle-magic, you both knit a row and cast on in one pass. Clever! Elegant! Some brilliant knitter from days gone by devised this technique, and it hurts my brain to imagine what kind of mental process and finger gymnastics they had to go through to invent it. But whomever you are: thanks! Check out a video of the niftiness here.

Anyway, the double cast-on is not that much harder to perform than the reverse ‘e,’ unless you’re talking about children. It gives a solid edge without fuss, and if you’re a beginner, it is the cast on you should learn for any project you’d like to use when finished.

Oh, and stop teaching the reverse e! It’s ugly, hard to knit on, and not worth the simplicity it offers.

Hm. I just realized that anyone curious enough to read this post already knows everything I just said.

Ah well!

October 27, 2006

Boy I’d like to tap that…

Filed under: Music — secretmojo @ 3:55 am

How do you even begin to write about something like this?

I mean, god damn. What’s more is that Erik Mongrain isn’t the end of it. In fact, as I net-splurged on fingertap guitar, I discovered that, while Mongrain has impressive chops, there are far more musicians out there that lend more musicality (as in “graspability”) to their compositions. In other words, when you close your eyes, they’re still impressive.

Michael Hedges, a strong influence of Mongrain, is one of those guys. He was a guitarist stolen from the world in a fatal car crash, and proves in this video (has two songs) that it’s not just technique, but technique applied musically that creates wonder.

Notice how Hedges squeezes the entire dynamic range out of his guitar. Even furious triplets are played delicately, quietly; technique serving the desire of the ear. It may seem like a waste when you listen to it. Why such a rapid-fire lick, just to underlay a mere passage? Something so impressive should jump out front and center and announce its ownership of the world! I SAID “!”! (That’s certainly what works on American Idol).

But this is where true mastery comes in. Hedges is so poised, so skilled, that a movement requiring years of practice from even the most talented to master — and therefore eternally out of reach for mere mortals — is but another trick in his bag, another way to get at music. As I always contend, “there is nothing more astonishing than ease.”

In my short exploration into unconventional guitar, I discovered one fingerstylist (besides Hedges) I could truly say impressed me with my eyes closed. His name is Andy McKee. He’s not as wacky-dextrous as the others (at least he doesn’t show it), but I really like his ear for music. My prediction is that within five years, he’ll be the hot new composer, writing scores for movies using a total of six strings. At least, it’s what I hope for both him and this style of guitar music.

Finally, I must mention a video that literally had me laughing in joy. Similar to Fencer’s juggling links (which still get me to this day), these two demonstrations (top of page) of a funky instrument called “the stick” had me clapping my hands (yes, it’s true) and yelling at my screen: “My god, that is so. fucking. coooooool!”

Greg Howard, the zealous advocate of the Chapman stick who plays in these two videos, is a keyboardist and sax player who found magic in the tapping technique developed by Emmett Chapman (designer of the stick). To be honest, Howard plays stick better than Emmett Chapman himself. Dave Matthews has used him on occasion, and the guy certainly deserves more attention. Check out his solo performances from his album Stick Figures (scroll down).

Sufficed to say, I want me one of those sticks. In a bad way. Looks like a bitch to play, and it’s not acoustic. But God. Damn. It’s the only instrument I know of that retains some of the compositional features of a keyboard while offering things a keyboard lacks (pitch bend, slide, tremolo, timbre experiments, and so on). Oh, the vibrato envy!

I hope the stick catches on. Unfortunately, its $2,600 price tag is prohibitive for such an experimental amplified instrument. I’d expect that kind of price from a keyboard or a violin, because they already have a support system of teachers and players around the globe. But for an instrument that you may just discover is not your bag of tea? No thanks.

It’s still wicked cool, though. Shame about the price.

More?

Okay, I’m probably unfair singling anybody out, because there’s plenty of fingerstyling to be impressed with over at Candy Rat Records, like Erick Turnbull (mp3 sample, site), Antoine Dufour (mp3 sample, site), Don Ross (mp3 sample, site), and a grammy-nominated guy who boldly does it with Bass, Michael Manring (mp3 sample, site). Not to mention all the newgrass artists, chicks like Ani DiFranco (mp3, site) and on, and on, and on…

Here’s a selection of Chapman stick players on YouTube (why all the ambient music, man?)

Michael Hedges kicks ass with All Along the Watchtower

Don Kush, another impressive fingertapping artist, who plays the guitar harp.

In my opinion, a superior composition from Eric Mongrain called The Silent Fool.

Check out more performance videos of the stick from various artists.

Musicians influenced by Michael Hedges (with mp3s).

October 26, 2006

Firefly, with gentle hand, amazes

Filed under: Love,wordpress gems,writing — secretmojo @ 3:55 am

Wow. Just. Wow.

Spam darkly: the new writing game!

Filed under: creativity,Poetry,Spam,Technology,writing — secretmojo @ 2:56 am

I never thought I’d see the day when I said, “I like spam.” Either the compressed meat or the e-mail kind. But today is that day.

Anybody notice a significant change in Spam 2.0? No longer do I get Nigerian business opportunities or chicks who are “so lonely!” In fact, the exclamation marks are all but extinct. I’m now dealt the innocuous: “Re: your tickets”, or “Your account,” or simply “[none].” Whispers from the subject line yawningly promise dull quotidian maintenance ensconced within. How thoroughly boring. Are those the new findings on what people deign to click on? If so, it may be time to give another species a chance to do great things on Earth.

However, there is hope. The results of a random number generator and basic linguistic construction offer spam haters like me to at least take a second look before pressing delete. Like random tarot cards or a cybernetic form of bibliomancy, Spam 2.0 subject lines offer moments of zen-like insight. Possibly even inspiration:

Klutz operator.
King of Pharrmacy (I really enjoyed that double-r slur)
Banana dispassionately.
Ashen jet lag.
John Broadly.
Sandblast concession.

I almost want to save my spam, with its brilliant names (Nora Grace, Montagu Singleton) and neuron-kinking subjects, to use as a pick-me-up during a day of idea drought.

Almost.

I’m tempted to run with spam inspiration the way this person did. But for now, I’ll be pressing the delete key. I’ll hold out until Spam 3.0 is released — from the white paper, bayesian profiling will give it the power to title itself after the embarrassing moments in your past you never wanted anyone to find out about.

I can’t wait! Nor can I resist:

ashen jet lag
creates this klutz operator
drowsy, absent and hallucinating
a banana, dispassionately.

October 25, 2006

Another blogger to web-stalk

Filed under: blogging,Feminism,Links,Politics — secretmojo @ 12:17 pm

Dangit. Wish I’d known about Danah Boyd earlier. Now I instantly have a copius backlog of posts I simply must read. Unlike most political/student blogs, this one seems chock-full of information. Raw data, snappy writing, chick heading toward a PhD. If only I had more time…

Um, yuck.

Filed under: What the?? — secretmojo @ 11:43 am

Though my guess is that the experience is not much different than enduring a campaign season in the States.

The Eight Year “Agenda” of Michael J. Fox

Filed under: health,Politics,religion,science — secretmojo @ 3:52 am

Boy, I so wanted to launch into a rant at this.

Instead, I offer these videos of a man thirty times my better — not because of his disease, but because of what he’s done for the past eight years. The entirity of my life won’t add up to what this man has accomplished in such a brief time. He deserves the respect of a man who took a very personal situation (7 years in hiding), owned his destiny, and chose to help the world in response.

There really is no criticism that can be thrown on Fox, because he’s done so much generous work already. But that’s the point, isn’t it? He’s not like the usual easy targets, and that’s soooo unfair!

So criticism is flung at him, of the most noble snickering and catty kind. But if critics were honest, they would remember whilst drawing mustaches on his pictures and cackling: nineteen times out of twenty, Michael J. Fox (“The toughest part about acting is to act like I don’t have parkinsons”) is a better man than you.

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