Lindsay Powell amazes as Cake Bake Betty. Follow the link to better understand greatness.
I like be your own PET, one of the many fine bands brought to the greater world via Infinity Cat records. Out of Nashville, TN, they know how to pick and cultivate the new wow sounds; Cake Bake Betty's recent masterpiece being a perfect case in point.
Because I trust their taste, I've been sampling familiar and unexpected releases, to see what turns up. It's not that surprising that I love [Extra Extra], the latest 3 song EP by be your own PET, with stellar vocal-growls by Jemina Pearl, and solidly crunchy sounds by Jonas Stein (Guitar), Nathan Vasquez (Bass), and Jamin Orrall (Drums).
The songs are simple, but that's the attraction; the title track only has a few repeated words, and yet you get the point in a full on rocky way. [Feel Me Loud] is a bit more my taste, with an extra dollop of lyrical and sonic complexity. [Steal] has some hints of the Strokes meets any number of guitar-forward indie bands, and thus is equally pleasing. A fine affair, this, and on 12.2.2005 a limited edition of said EP will be available from the label, with one of a kind, hand drawn covers by the band. A certain snag, if you know what's good for you.
Please note that byoP have a drummer, Jamin Orrall. He and his brother Jake have their very own project, [Jeff], that recently released an hour long CD entitled [The Byzantine Empire]. It's like an alternative peanut butter cup, with a bunch of tasty chocolate on the outside, and peanuts on the inside hand-watered by some experimental noise outfit out of Oakland.
You have straightforward Dim Stars dirty bar punk rock like in [Cancer Killer], and then you have the 29 minute long [I Don't Want To Die (Life Mix)], smack dab in the middle of the party, and quite perplexing to most ears. I like this other side of Jeff, but it requires the flip side of your brain to fully participate, unless you're fans of Bugskull (obscure band reference alert), and therefore are all set for the spacy sounds.
Overall, I'm fond of the Jeff found in songs like [Oh No, No You Don't] or [My Back Hurts], with basketballs bouncing off of stage monitors in a generalized, rhythmical proto-punk way. Short and sweet, not filled with fancy thoughts, but still Mentos in a soda bottle propelled.
Remember, these are just two out of heaping earfulls of music available from your friendly Infinity Cat, so don't hesitate to browse and buy today.
I'm a big fan of Mahiro Maeda, director of the [Aoi No. 6] anime series, and now the visionary responsible for [Gankutsuou], a revisioning of [The Count of Monte Cristo], the classic novel by Alexander Dumas.
Now set in a hybrid of romantic Paris and a science fiction space opera, [Gankusuou] is both remarkably beautiful and compelling, an "adult" anime without the focus on violence or sex. Not that both don't exist in the work, but as concepts in play, as opposed to graphic display. You don't have to be familiar with the novel or its many movie adaptations to appreciate the creativity that has gone into transforming a well-known work into something new, yet evocative of what has come before.
The artistic presentation is superb, thanks to Maeda, Yasufumi Soejima (digital direction) and Hidenori Matsubara (character design), with shimmering textures floating around objects and characters in a way almost entirely unique to the series. Sure, it evokes a fair amount of pre-existing painterly work, but the counter-motion adds depth and mystery to the all-too-common tale of admiration, betrayal, and revenge. The 2D work far surpasses the quality of most CGI models, which for some reason are quite flat and stale in this series.
As usual, I will not discuss the plot to any real degree, but the skeleton of the tale remains true to the original, save the expected fantastical touches and discussion of "vampires". I found the characterization crisp, occasionally charicatured in minor characters, but well done for the leads, Albert de Morcerf, his childhood friend Franz d'Epinay, and the titular Count, who in every scene is obviously more than he seems.
By the end of the first volume, which I viewed thanks to Netflix last night, plans are put into motion, and walls are introduced only to be later penetrated by the machinations of a man scorned. I liked it so much that I'm definitely going to buy the series for my collection, and I definitely recommend that you check it out. That Japanese language track is a must (with subtitles), but if your ears can't handle such beauty and truth, then I'm sure the atrocious dub will not harm anyone too severely.
I'm a regular customer of a local bookstore that specializes in DVDs, VCDs, CDs and the like from Taiwan and Hong Kong, Kingstone Books. They have a small selection of Japanese imports via Taiwan, and a large selection of the latest Hong Kong films. Usually, I pick something that's popular, new, or simply interesting looking, and last night I snagged [AV], a comedy that came out theatrically in the Spring of 2005.
Written and directed by Edmond Pang Ho-Cheung, [AV] is a tale of horniness taken to the extreme. In Japan, publicly sold porn films, replete with mosaic blurring to protect societal morals, are known as "AV" (audio visual), as a sort of polite shorthand for smut. So, you have AV stars, which are well known throughout Asia, including in Hong Kong, where this film is set.
Five young men, many of whom are film students, concoct a plan to "rent" an AV star from Japan, Manami Amamiya (an actual AV star, played by herself), and make a fake film, with all of them as "actors". The specifics of this plan I'll leave to those who check out this hilarious story, but sufficed to say that their dreams both come true and deflate by the end.
[AV] is well put together, and quite daring for a Hong Kong film, with its fair share of above-the-waste nudity and sexual situations. The more you know about the porn industry and its fans, the more you'll appreciate the humor, but it's basically of the [The Girl Next Door] school, only this time with a starlet that's willing to put out, so to speak.
All of the leads were strong, and not as stereotypical as they could be for this genre of meta-softporn. I found Manami Amamiya to be particularly effective, partially because I could actually understand what she was saying (in Japanese), but mostly because she brought authenticity tempered with actual dramatic acting skills. The guys were also charming and funny, and apparently two of them are musicians in a boy-band in real life (thus their charisma, I suppose - at least there's something for the ladies).
Although the film is far from serious, there is a fair undercurrent of "what's to be done with the current generation?", which every generation bemoans, but in the case of the changes Hong Kong has seen over the past few decades, this is actually a real query, that the antics of the characters typify. If everyone's out for their own satisfaction, then where shall we be lead?
Still, it's mostly about some friends effectively buying sexual favors from a porn star, but in the end it comes off as charming, and not too terribly sexist or offensive. The AV star is empowered and far from naive, and the boys, while not yet men, at least had their localized [Road Trip] into the land of [Porky's], with enough inventiveness to recommend.
The version I bought is in Cantonese/Mandarin, with some Japanese, and optional English subtitles - Mei Ah Entertainment, DVD-722, 6.14.2005. It comes with ample special features on both discs, basically all with English words for those in need. It's only $9.99 from YesAsia, so why not?
In the 1990s, an amazing 4 piece from Australia existed, Clouds. Jodi Phillis (Guitar, Vocals), Patricia Young (Bass, Vocals), David Easton (Guitar), Raphael Whittingham (Drums) (and sometimes Stuart Eadie on Drums as well) made some of the most brilliant poppy rock music ever, and they shone brightly enough that Elektra even picked up their [Thunderhead] album for US distribution.
I adored [Thunderhead], enough to quickly import all of their other albums and some singles. Alas, while they played huge festivals back home, they weren't noticed that much abroad, and despite the genius of their songs, did not achieve anything close to world-wide stardom. In fact, they didn't last much longer than their US debut, and I and other fans sincerely mourned their passing in 1997.
Thankfully, there was a best-of release in 1999 with rarities, along with various solo projects by band members. Jodi probably has reached the most post-Clouds success with her transcendent solo albums, which definitely are recommended. Check out Candle Records for the connection to her music, and that of other Australian artists of note.
However, the real news is that Jodie and Trish from the Clouds have just put out a mini-reunion EP, [LaLaLaLa], under the name The Girls From The Clouds, which is obviously appropriate. It doesn't sound as rocky as the Clouds, but the 5 songs are still quite charming, with amazingly lush moments interleaved with cute ones. It's really great to my ears, so I say import it now, but perhaps some exposure to the mother band is in order prior to that.
To catch up to the Clouds in the sky, [Thunderhead] and [Collage] were released in the US, while [Penny Century] and [Futura] are essential imports. If you can find the best-of 31 track [Favourites] then by all means snap it up - all the great songs are there.
In any case, more people outside of Australia deserve to know about the Clouds and its former members, so consider this a formal introduction.
Did you know that about 10 years ago, I dabbled in crazy Casio-powered music? Well, I did, even going so far as to make some recordings under the Quicker moniker.
Those recordings have been on this website for over 5 years, and a fair number of people have downloaded them, much to their perplexion. A few people went so far as to contact me, inquiring about the process said sounds were unleashed upon the world, which was much like you would untether a ravenous rabbit - all ears and teeth, all the time.
Tonight, I shall repurpose an email I sent someone sometime, so that all can share in the amazing, buzzy process. It helps if you have a Casio PT-1 synthesizer, or something as simplistic. Now, go to listen to a few tracks, and then come back for the how and why, revealed publicly for the first time ever in the history of the world:
You need two hand held walkie-talkies, which I assume you can still find for sale as toys, or from Radio Shack. The only requirements is that you can send sound from one to the other, and that the sound output can be varied. They also need to have an antenna, the longer and sturdier, the better.
Now comes the tricky part. Turn on one walkie-talkie (the sender) and place it face down over the PT-1's speaker. That walkie-talkie can be affixed to the PT-1 so it won't move, or you can use your left hand. It needs to be set to send sound all the time, perhaps with a rubber band.
Turn on the other walkie-talkie, and place it in your right hand. That is your "bow". Depending on whether its button is down (to receive) and up (to send), you will get different sound effects. The closer you move the bow to the sender, the more distortion and feedback you will get. You have to manipulate the bow in 3D, to get the full range of effects.
There are lots of variables. The actual volume of the PT-1 effects the sound. Certain rhythms syncopate at certain volumes and manipulations of the bow. You can get different kinds of feedback, whether the sender or bow is sending or receiving.
For example, if the bow and sender are on, when they approach each other you'll get massive feedback.
It's extremely difficult to manipulate the bow and play notes at the same time. That's why Quicker songs are either a long series of notes during bow manipulation, or no notes at all, like with [Not Not]. Perhaps two people are needed - one for the sender and one for the bow.
That's pretty much the secret. You're using the walkie talkies like amplifiers, theremins, and perhaps percussion. You're throwing the PT-1's speaker output to the bow, and then moving that sound in the air to cause all sorts of ruckus. It's akin to the guitarist approaching the amps for that special feedback, only in miniature.
Surprisingly, there are no effect pedals, extra amplifiers, or anything but the PT-1 and walkie-talkies. I placed two mics in the room to pick up the sounds, because you can't just line-out the PT-1 to get these effects. The actual sound is much fuller than the mono MP3s suggest.
Oh yeah... the 9-volt battery power level of the walkie-talkies also dramatically effects the sound.
Alright... now you have the Quicker New Wave Casiocore secrets. Spread them as you see fit, and share the craziness.
Yes, I have more pre-orders from Japan you might be interested in. Please note the new albums by The Pillows and Tokyo Jihen (Tokyo Incidents), which are guaranteed great.
Ayumi Hamasaki always seems to release an album on the first of a year, and this one might be alright - the singles so far have been above tolerable.
Number Girl's Omiode In My Head retrospective project is coming to an end, and I for one have appreciated the comprehensive effort over the past few months. A perfect jumping on point for those looking back; I'll be also looking forward to the Zazen Boys, a related outfit. Their CDs are waiting in my physical inbox for a listen.
01) [Bold And Delicious / Pride], Ayumi Hamasaki, 11.30.05, AVCD-30892, 1,800yen (single with DVD; AVCD-30893 without DVD)
02) [OMOIDE IN MY HEAD 4 Rare Shu], Number Girl, 12.21.05, TOCT-25876, 3,048yen
03) [Untitled], Ayumi Hamasaki, 1.1.06, AVCD-17837, 3,800yen (album with DVD; AVCD-17838 without DVD)
04) [My Foot], Pillows, 1.12.06, KICS-1214, 2,857yen
05) [Adult], Tokyo Jihen, 1.25.06, TOCT-25884, 3,619yen
This entry goes out to all of the web designers in the audience - I apologize to the most of you who don't code. See, I'm in the conceptual stages of Junk Magnet 2.0, which will be fully compliant with modern standards like XHTML, and will use CSS extensively.
I'm almost there, except for the fact that I learned to code HTML in 1994 or so, and thus my most favorite tags are soon to be out of style. Instead of lots of tables to make things pretty, I need to position things with CSS, which is far more flexible and powerful, but will take some time to master. Take out some old school HTML tags, and then I'll be XHTML positive, and ripe for joining Web 2.0, kinda.
Finally, I want to better utilize RSS and other syndication schemes, not to mention some XML schema, so that I can I can "write once, use often" when it comes to the text.
For example, I've spent lots of time entering album data into the Japanese Pop section, but no one probably noticed that all of the graphics are named by the release code given by the label. I use that info for my coding purposes, but I'd like to leverage it for more.
Furthermore, move your mouse over the images in this junk.log - you'll see a text popup. In the future, I want to be able to transform that rudimentary interactivity into something awesome and unimaginable, to better serve visitors looking for specific bits of info. Explosions of data via gestures as well as more traditional links.
It wouldn't hurt to have WML (phone) support, but that can come later, as long as I get the foundations right.
Anyway, I'm going to spend the next few weeks examining the code of websites that I visit, and those I don't, but nevertheless are going in directions I like. Then, it's off to the keyboard races, with a release target of February 2006.
Please use the message board link below (comment on this entry) to leave a few words about what you'd like to see in the next revision of this site. For example, that tired ass message board will be gone, so what do you want out of a discussion forum? Include links to sites that exemplify what moves you, if so inspired.
No, I'm not paralyzed or
Anyways, the first of the promised contests: Win the Hot IQs first CD, [An Argument Between The Brain And Feet], along with an attractive T-Shirt. Or, just win a T-Shirt, depending on your luck. The shirts are adult Large, no bigger or smaller, and the colors are an amazing choice between baby blue and navy blue. Specify your color if you care about such things.
All you have to do to enter is to e-mail me, and use Hot IQs Contest as the subject. That's it. Your email address is your entry. You can enter until 11.30.05, and the winner will be contacted at that time.
contests: [enter here]
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