Archief van november 2006:

nov 1 2006

Midlake

Cover of Midlake - The Trials of Van Occupanther on Amazon.com

Musical discovery of the week (my week that is, it’s been out a couple of months), and definitely on of my favourite albums of the year so far: Midlake’s “The Trials of Van Occupanther”.

This is one album that will grow on you like ivy on a wall, engulfing you with it’s warm sound, 70’s feel and gorgeous songs.

Give ‘em a try on MySpace, download opening track “Roscoe” or read a few reviews:
Popmatters
Drowned in sound
Guardian
The Onion A.V.


nov 3 2006

iTunes 7 – still slow as a snail

I had become a big fan of the ease of use and features of iTunes, but Apple is losing credit by the minute: since updating to iTunes 7, the program has become completely unusable! The audio output is chopped up, and the program is totally unresponsive when trying to browse the library.

Remedies found on the internet don’t bring solace (like disabling scrobbling with Last.fm, or disabling the automatic downloading of cover art), and the two updates that have been issued right after release ( itunes 7.0.1 and itunes 7.0.2) did nothing to relieve the pain.

My library has 3.330 songs in it for the moment (18 Gb), would that be the problem? Or that some of my songs are on a networked hard-disk, others my notebook’s hard-drive? Both things should be possible, no?

My hunch is that they have to implement a “disable coverflow” in the options (coverflow being one of the novelties in itunes 7.0 which allows you to browse your library by album cover. It was a stand-alone program for Mac that Apple bought and implemented .. poorly). I hope they come out with a working fix real quick now!


nov 3 2006

Joanna Newsom – Ys

cover of

They don’t come stranger than this, folks. If you want to give the truly bizarre a spin, look no further this year than harpist Joanna Newsom’s second album “Ys”. I saw her for the first time a few years ago on the ever-impressive “Late Night With Jools Holland” show. (Youtube to the rescue: here’s her performance that night of the song “the book of right-on” from her debut album “The Milk-Eyed Mender”). Hearing that this little elve was about to release an album with production and arrangements-assistance of people like Van Dyke Parks, Jim O’Rourke and Steve Albini, my musical curiosity was of course aroused. Ys is an album that is both very simple and incredibly complex. 15-minute song structures are of course complicated. Yet they’re at the same time quite repetitive, thus simple. Her voice at first sounds like a manierism, with the girl-ish tweak of Björk combining the intonation of Kate Bush, but it strangely enough never “quite” gets on my nerves. It’s an album that has “hubris” written all over it, yet it still manages to not sound pompous or arrogant. Here’s a few notes from my notebook from reviews around the web:

Joanna Newsom has always lived in a different world to the rest of us. With Ys she’s found a way to let us in. It’s a wonderful, varied, unpredictable place, difficult perhaps, and demanding. But it’s beautiful and there is magic here. She’s done right by us all.

BBC – collective – Joanna Newsom – Ys 

Ys was a mythical city in the Douarnenez Bay in Brittany which was built below sea-level and protected by a dam but which was subsequently flooded.

WOEBOT: Joanna Newsom “Ys” 

It took a while for her to win me over, but I am floored. Absolutely floored. The sweet, off-kilter and vaguely irritating voice that eventually stole my heart with The Milk-Eyed Mender has returned with not just a harp, but a full orchestra in tow (and then some – is that a banjo I hear?), along with a trunk full of whimsical lyrics to rival any on that landmark debut.

Harmonium � Archive � �Monkey & Bear� – Joanna Newsom [Ys]

his EP is hard to stomach: Five tracks, four of them more than nine minutes and one (“Only Skin”) sixteen-plus, with meandering strings-and-things accompaniment and indulgent vocal quirks that make Bjork sound like Kelly Clarkson.

Rolling Stone : Joanna Newsom: Ys : Music Reviews 

Her lyrics have a depth and intricacy that rivals, and possibly surpasses, Dylan, Waits and Cohen. I may be talking out of my hat but I think Newsom’s lyrics should be judged in comparison to the likes of Nabokov or Camus rather than popular music.

Gentlemen, Hats Off!: Joanna Newsom – Ys

After following the sage advice of the commenters on this site, I went and investigated Joanna Newsom�s new album, Ys, a couple of weeks ago. Not being very familiar with her previous releases, this was something of an exploration and, as it turns out, I should have packed a tent and sleeping bag.

The Muso � Curiouser and Curiouser – Joanna Newsom

Newsom�s most obvious recent cultural reference point is Kate Bush, a woman somehow capable of cultivating popularity, as she walks a tightrope between the opposing sides. Deconstruct the likes of �Wuthering Heights� and you�ll find high art concepts, skilfully hidden under a sheen of pop froth.

The Mondo Project � Blog Archive � Music Review: Joanna Newsom – Ys 

Here�s how I feel when I listen to this album: I feel like I�m on a planet made of marbles, and I have stepped into a pool of velvety quicksand. Instead of panicking, I find myself comforted. Black clouds turn to white, and it rains cherry blossoms. Meteors break off and float around the magic hour sky, and I am being massaged by the hands of god herself.

Feldheim: the Big Red Box of Ivy League Music


nov 4 2006

Link-o-rama (1)

Postcard of the parthenon, in front of the actual parthenonCool Flickr set: landmarks around the world are photographed with representations of the landmarks held at exactly the same spot of the landmarks itselves. Sort of what happens with the landmarks themselves: the icon replaces the real deal. Belgium is represented with the Atomium & Waterloo hill. No sign of our n1 cultural icon Manneken Pis though (via Reddit)

Web Design is 95% Typography, a statement that is at least 75% correct! Kinda sweet that the link, probably the original title of the article, states ” the-web-is-all-about-typography-period”. Not so .period. after all? (via Dzone)

Dove goes on with the crusade in favour of “natural beauty” with this cool commercial showing the power of photo retouching.

Mahir to Borat: I Sue You!

Lifehacker: “Top ten (non-Google) map innovations”. Some cool applications in there!


nov 6 2006

Test windows live writer

Windows live writer screenshot

Program: Windows Live writer

Download: http://g.msn.com/8SEENUS030000TBR/WriterMSI

Install: No probs, although it did not detect this blog running on wordpress, that was easy to adjust manually.

Up ’n Rolling: Edit your post as it appears in the web layout, WYSIWYG. Clean!  Powerful! Much easier to insert links, quotes … than the web-editor in the wordpress interface. Even the trackbacks, post-time, and all the other properties of the post can be filled in right from the interface of the program on your PC.

Cons: Assigning categories to the post is in an awkward spot, in the menu bar, and I don’t see how I can add a category from in there. Each post/draft is a new window (I would’ve thought MS knew about the power of tabs by now).

Things missing: a way to import your drafts from the blog to the local environment. Back-up of posts to the local environment. Maybe: features related to comments (administering, editing, notifying…).

All in all: I think this is a great tool, even in it’s current beta form! Keeping it.


nov 7 2006

IE7 page zoom: is this for real?

IE7 finally made it easy to scale up/scale down the font size (‘ctrl’-‘+’, ‘ctrl’-‘-‘, or the ‘100%’ situated at the bottom right of the screen). Long time coming!

The IE7-team elected to go with “page zooming” instead of “font scaling” for this. This means not only the fonts go up in size, everything does. Opera 9 has this feature, and it works like a charm. A real bonus for the users: they can scale up, always, even if the designer had the anal idea of controlling his intended minuscule font-size in pixels or in images.

And then the IE7 implementation came around. It’s an unfinished work! Just look at a few of the horrible consequences it has on the layout of the website I work for (fluid layout, ems-based, so that it would scale together with the font-size the user chooses to look at the site in).

Just look at these (screenshots are from this page):

Everything scales, except for the page background (the vdab-logo is an image, blended in to the background):

The crumbtrail below is a bunch of <li>’s, text with a border-bottom, and a background image with padding/margin to have the text next to it:

And, cream of the crop, these are just a bunch of radio buttons and labels, stacked

Some blogbuzz/discussions on this:


nov 20 2006

Maud

Is a baby, born Nov. 7th.
Maud

My baby (the most wonderful thing in the world).
Welcome my dear!!

Note to blog: she & her little brother Daan (now 1 year & 9 months old, and sick as a puppy today), the giving birth in hospitals, the getting home with the wife & new kid, and all the visiting relatives & friends that came by our house, somehow ate up all my time last two weeks.
Well: time well-spent I suppose.


nov 21 2006

Links and how to improve ‘em

Came across this interesting Firefox Add-on called Link Alert.

It works by changing the cursor above “non-regular” links to indicate what will happen if you click it. Thus a link that leads to a word-document, will automagically have a “word”-icon next to the “hand”-icon if you hover over the link.

Although there are some minor issues with this add-on ( changing the options doesn’t take effect until a restart of the browser; There is no way for adding types by the user; What if the website-author already implemented some cursor-changes?; The icons could’ve been better designed …), I still think this massively useful!

In fact, I think this is a kind of behavior that should be implemented as the standard behavior in browsers (of course with an option to turn it off, for those that feel the visual overhead outweighs the usability bonus):

  • As Jacob Nielsen rightfully puts in his latest alertbox, this is an empowerment issue. The users that would benefit the most of this extra information on links (those that don’t really understand the concept of popups, new windows, pdf’s opening …) are not the ones who are going to install Firefox plugins.
  • There were already some very intelligent solutions, implemented on the best of sites to help the users understand what’s going to happen after clicking a link. But these rely on the intelligence and sensibilities of the webdesigner.
  • Add-ons/Plugins are bound to be less memory/performance efficient than a browser-native solution.

So, kudos to Link Alert, but I think this is an easy improvement to include in the next versions of Firefox, Safari, IE & Opera …


nov 22 2006

Goose – Bring it on

From Kortrijk, the debut album of this foursome is released on a British dance-label. Great: at least one Belgian band that can be found on the .torrent circuitry. Good for them: after trying them out, I purchased 4 tracks of the album.

Its T-Raumschmiere meets Soulwax, Scritti Politti meets The Chemical Brothers, NiN meets Das Pop. Some keywords: Frantic, synth-powered, pounding, relentless. Weaknesses: the vocals, a few weak songs, “looks”, sometimes its all a bit over the top … Stand-out songs: opener “Black Gloves”, current single “British Mode” (that synth!), title-track “Bring it On” and the closing, bonus track “Audience” (the oldest song on the album, but still their most catch, I find).

All in all: If you have the right floor for it, they’ll fill it for ya!

Listen for yourselves at their myspace-page or on the official site. Watch the video’s for “Black Gloves” or “British Mode” at Youtube.

Some blogbuzz about Goose “Bring it on”:

this collective from belgium have a mass of old analogue synths (probably protools soft patches in all honesty) stacked up, they have some cheesy saturday night riffs good to go, see recent single, back gloves, with its sampled shoutouts for evidence. and yes they have some big fucking beats. oh, and alongside all this it rocks.

from: http://ireallylovemusic.co.uk/blog/?p=293

Some people will try telling you that Bring It On by Goose is a Nu-Rave album, but if they do you should happyslap them as fast as you can. Yes, Bring It On by Goose is a dance record by an instrument-playing band, but then again you could say the same about The Rapture, LCD Soundsystems, !!! and all manner of DFA-produced acts, and they’ve all about as Nu-Rave as your granny’s elbow. Good albums should be able to stand up by themselves independently of magazine-invented scenes, and we’re pleased to say that Bring It On by Goose just about manages to do this.

from http://www.hecklerspray.com/cd-review-goose-bring-…

Lairy electro rock precision-tooled to make your local indie dancefloor go into meltdown or Twisting Synths and sine waves to bowel-shaking extremities, this is an immense album. New rave has some new noise terrorists. Hold on to your bowels – the Belgians are here.

was said in NME, quoted on
http://www.gilotti.net/newsite/goose-bring-it-on-2…

Al bij al zorgt het debuut van Goose toch voor wat zure oprispingen en hebben we de indruk dat het verschil tussen moordsongs u las de titels hierboven al en onderontwikkeld materiaal toch iets t groot is. Hebben we ons laten vangen aan de puike concerten die aan deze release voorafgingen, het fantastische Black Gloves of het onmiskenbare talent dat in deze band sluimert? Misschien. Feit is dat we van een volgende plaat niets minder dan vuurwerk verwachten. In de tussentijd wachten we geduldig af welke reacties deze vriendelijke gozers over het Kanaal kunnen losweken.

from http://www.digg.be/articles.php?id=1438

De luisteraar wordt tussen al het elektrogeweld ook enige verademing gegund: Slow Down is een rocknummer dat lijzig en loom voorbij kabbelt, net als het dromerige, door zanger Mickael Karkousse zacht geneuriede Modern Times. Bring It On kan niet van begin tot einde boeien, omdat het naar het eind iets te nadrukkelijk naar herhaling ruikt. Maar hoewel de plaat niet in originaliteit uitblinkt, doet hij onze nekharen wl enthousiast recht veren. Daarom: debuut van het jaar. En dat van een bende Kortrijks bourgeoisgebroed. Faut le faire!

http://www.kindamuzik.net/recensie/goose/bring-it-…


nov 23 2006

Big brother second life

How’s this for ironic absurdity: Big Brother, the television show that coined the term “Reality TV” now extends their version of reality (stupid games, getting watched 24/24, raunchy talk, endless themesongs, and boredom, boredom, boredom …) to the virtual reality. They’re producing a show in the virtual world “Second Life”, glass house ’n all: Big Brother Second Life. The contestants they’re looking for: “if you’re able to spend at least 8 hours a day in the virtual house from December 1 to 31st” you can go for the magnificent prize: a tropical island! (in the second life environment).

So to sum it up: this is gonna become a unreal reality show with contestants that are selected from the fact they have no life outside second life. And you (the audience) get to watch real avatars!

From the Endemol-press release:

Endemol is the first television producer in the world to establish a branch in Second Life. Managing Director Paul Rmer: The role of online communities is becoming increasingly important. As a producer of cross-media content, Big Brother Second Life represents a fantastic opportunity to amass knowledge of the virtual world. In the future we will use this experience to develop specific content for online communities. Big Brother is the perfect format. Now that its been seen by 2 billion viewers all over the world, it is now time to conquer the virtual world.

Which is lacking a bit in grasping the ironic absurdity of the setup I’m afraid. It’s a new frontier for them to be conquered (after their previous conquests in morality – the pregnant woman in the house – or general good taste).
Starting December 1, on a screen near you (safe to say: that will probably not be anywhere near my screen).


nov 26 2006

Thinking Web (1)

Useful new sites, articles, newbies, tricks, discussions etc. from the world of webdesign, css, xml, information architecture, javascript yada yada, as I come across them.

… on CSS-organisation

Friendly Bit did a serious bit of thinking into the question of How to structure large CSS files. Apart from the indentation part – a very logical way to structure CSS for large projects indeed!

His advice to avoid general rules, handle things with specifics in context (#header ul li a {…} instead of li a {…} or even header a { … }) is the only way to more or less successfully “debug” a complex website!

And sorting the styles in alphabetical order instead of function-related might be a real timesaver if ever somebody foreign to your website has to tinker with its styles.
Other input on this issue:

… on CSS-lookups

Useful Google Coop-powered site for CSS-related issues (search a subset of Google’s web index): Skuer.

… on design tools

25 Essential Firefox Extensions for Professionals. One or two I didn’t know/use. Still find it amazing how this has become such a strength of Firefox, giving it a clear advantage over IE & co for the websavvy crowd.

… on AJAX

Cameron Moll invents a vocabulary for AJAX-effects: Responsive Disclosure, Magnetism, Data Brushing, Latency Reduction … Great to get on the same wavelength as another person you’re talking to, so make this an industry standard!