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May 2008 Archives

Swedish indie pop night at Bimbo's

Last Sunday night, I went to Bimbo's for the first time. It's quite a classy venue. All the bands were from Sweden. I was wondering what the deal was with this Swedish invasion of the last few years until Dan X pointed me to an New York Times article about how Scandinavian governments are subsidizing their popular music with funding for recording and tours. Wacky. (I'm not saying these particular bands were, btw.)

Anyway, the first act was Anna Ternheim [MySpace], a singer-songwriter type. She was quite good! Here she is:

Anna Ternheim @ Bimbo's in San Francisco

Presumably she didn't have enough money to bring a whole band with her, and, well, you know how some bands use a drum machine or a synthesizer with recordings? Her backup band was her iPod. :)

I took that last shot with my trusty Fujifilm F30 compact camera. A security guy tapped me on my shoulder, and I was ready to put my camera away, but instead he said, "We're fine with you taking pictures, but no flash, okay?" I was like, "Sure!" I had noticed someone else using flash, so I guess they were bugging everyone with a camera. But see, then I thought, sweet! They're officially letting people take pictures! I had just just bought a Canon 85mm f/1.8 lens, and I wasn't sure when I'd get a good chance to try it out. I immediately ran out to my car to get my DSLR. :) These next few pictures are all from my shiny new lens.

Next up was Lykke Li [MySpace], and she was an awesome indie pop singer. Easily my favorite of the evening:

Lykke Li with megaphone

She went from sorta slower songs to danceable songs, always just a little odd but less weird than, say, Björk (whose personality she reminded me of a little), and with sort of a mysterious sexiness through aloofness appeal. :P I like her guitarist's pose in the background of the above shot. Here's a her guitarist in focus:

Lykke Li's guitarist

The quality difference between these and the F30 shot isn't as obvious at this size (a testament to the low light ability of the F30), but click on the guitarist to zoom in, and see the detail on the hair, then zoom in on the first shot to compare. (The one of Lykke Li has a bit of motion blur.)

The headliner was El Perro del Mar, another indie pop band, though more mellow than Lykke Li. Here's the lead singer:

El Perro del Mar @ Bimbo's in San Francisco

I like how the backlight on her hair makes it glow. They had an incense stick on stage that acted as sort of a poor man's smoke effects. It worked pretty well in the lighting:

El Perro del Mar's keyboardist

I only thought that shot was okay at first, but my friends all seem to like that one the most. It oddly reminds me of a radio telescope and moon shot I took a while back.

There are a few shots I didn't post here; see the full set here, or watch the full-screen slide show.

I love the new lens. It's so perfect for concerts, at least! I'm totally gonna want to find more concerts that allow photography now. :) And I look forward to trying it out at my friends' weddings this summer.

Supernova caught for the first time

Typically, we only notice supernovae hours or days after they happen in the visible spectrum, and we can then point our telescopes at them. When they first explode, they emit a lot of x-rays, but x-ray telescopes tend to have small fields of view, so we never catch anything. This January, Alicia Soderberg at Princeton was looking at a month-old supernova with an x-ray telescope when she happened to notice an x-ray burst nearby: another supernova! The burst was only about 5 minutes long, but she immediately called up lots of other people to aim their telescopes there, and so a ton of people got to observe a supernova sooner than ever before. Bad Astronomy Blog has a great writeup. I'm stealing this image from him:


The top row is in the UV spectrum and the bottom is in x-ray. The crazy thing that some of the news articles mess up on is that the two rows show the same field of view. That's how bright the x-ray burst was. Crazy, no?

Oh, and I wasn't kidding about a lot of people getting in on the action of gawking at this supernova. Check out how many coauthors are listed at the Nature abstract. :) Update: My physicist friend corrects me: "Dude, that's a tiny group by particle physics standards." :P



Wall-E Spotted in LA! from Blink on Vimeo.

What's with all the haters? (Re: Speed Racer)

Just wanted mention how I'm kinda surprised at how bad the reviews are for Speed Racer. It filled me with blissful joy. It was like the ultimate movie for 5-year-olds, but in such a way that turns all of us into 5-year-olds. I'd like to add two comments to my review: (1) I was surprised by how Speed Racer's younger brother Spritle and his pet monkey Chim Chim (who acts more like another brother) were actually funny. Usually the little kid comic relief is annoying, but not here. (2) One positive review I read mentioned how some movies, like The Fifth Element, show you some crazy insane visuals in the trailer, and you think the whole movie's gonna be like that, but then you realize that's only 10 minutes, and the rest of the movie is kinda normal. Not the case here. If anything the movie feels even faster paced and looks more insane than the trailers, which isn't an easy feat.

Look, if the idea of watching bright and shiny colors that requires zero attention span for 2 hours doesn't appeal to you, if you don't want to watch the equivalent of the PowerPuff Girls on meth, (the main character is called "Speed"...) then you probably won't like the movie. And I guess maybe there are a lot of people who don't want that, and that's why they didn't like the movie. But if that does sound like a good time to you, then you will like this movie, regardless of what the critics say.

P.S.: I have never actually watched a single episode of the original cartoon, but now I wanna say, GO SPEEDRACER GO!

Movie: Speed Racer

[Speed Racer]

[ IMDb Entry ] [ Trailers ]

Toast Toast Toast Toast

Speed Racer leaves any semblance of reality in the dust and never looks back. I didn't have any problems with suspension of disbelief while I watched it because there was nothing to believe in the first place. It was just completely insane. People sometimes complain about CG in movies looking too fake, including in the Matrix sequels, but here the Wachowskis have embraced the fakeness and made you not even think about it.

I also liked the editing, which involved nearly non-stop gimmicky sweeps, cars flying across the screen to reveal another scene, that sort of thing. A trailer for The Incredible Hulk preceded the movie, and that reminded me of the comic book editing in Ang Lee's Hulk. Here, they took it to an extreme, so the whole thing felt like the spirit of a comic book directly transposed onto the screen... except shinier and more brightly colored. Excuse me. Except SHINIER and more BRIGHTLY COLORED! That's better. :)

The plot was sort of a standard sweet families good/corporations bad message, but my favorite part is that it actually featured patent abuse! When was the last time you saw what's essentially a kid's movie talk about "IP infringement"? And in a negative light, too! Awesome. Speaking of the family-friendliness, the movie was firmly PG-rated, but with the one allotted instance of "shit", just like the animated Transformers movie from the 80s. :)

My only complaint is that the plot kind of disappeared toward the end. The motivation for the final race wasn't very strong, and the montage near the end was cliched, but the sheer primary-colored craziness of the whole thing outweighed that. It's not at all a perfect movie, and not everyone will like it (only 35/100 on both Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic), but I went in not quite knowing what to expect, and I got a really fun time with shiny bright new sights.

Update: I added a few comments in a new post.

Band in a Door!

Band in a Door!

Actually, this was shot through a reflection in a window. The band is The Mary Onettes, from Sweden, playing at Pop Scene. They were so-so. Kinda new wavy, with a dash of Bloc Party's more poppy stuff.

Isabella Rossellini is really weird

...but awesome. She made a series of tiny short films starring herself in outlandish costumes explaining the nature of insect sex in the first person. It's called Green Porno, but it's more or less SFW, though very strange.

This is sportsmanship

Here is the heartwarming story of the day.

Lyrics Born at the Independent

Lyrics Born at the Independent in SF, May 2008

I went to see Lyrics Born [MySpace] at The Independent in San Francisco Friday night. (He's a half-Japanese, half-Italian rapper who lives in Berkeley.) I like that they actually officially let us take photos, which they rarely do in SF, even at some smaller venues. The show was really fun. I like that he had a full band and backup singer with him:

Lyrics Born at the Independent in SF, May 2008

It was a great contrast from the opening act, who only had a DJ for music. It was also an interesting contrast from a typical rock show because the music never stopped! Every time he finished a song, the band would immediate segue into the next, just jamming along even when he's talking to the audience. It gave the show a non-stop party feel.

The hipster crowd wasn't quite as loud as it could've been, but it was still a lot more into it than the crowd at a typical nod-your-head indie rock concert. All-in-all, I'd say the music was actually even better live than on the album. I think that Galactic [MySpace] album I've been listening to, From the Corner to the Block [Amazon] has really gotten me to like this whole funk music backing hip-hop thing.

Lyrics Born live:

Toast Toast Toast and a half

Lyrics Born / Later That Day... (2003):

Toast Toast and a half
It has two awesome tracks, "Callin' Out" and "Do That There", but the production is a bit spare, and I wasn't that into the album as a whole when I got it.

Lyrics Born / Same !@#$ Different Day (2005):

Toast Toast Toast and a half
Half the tracks on this album are remixes of his first album, but in most cases I actually like the remixes together (with the exception of the two songs on the original I really liked already). The interesting thing is that most of them are more than "remixes" in that they have whole new verses or even new guest rappers with new lyrics, so they're more like alternative versions than mere remixes. The production on this album is much fuller and more exciting. I particularly like "Shake It Off (Bad Dreams Part II)" and "The Last Trumpet (Halou Remix)".

Lyrics Born / Everywhere At Once (2008):

His new album just came out, and I haven't quite listened to it enough to give it a good review yet, but my instinct is that it's somewhere between the first two. The songs don't sound quite as catchy so far, but I do rather like "I Like It, I Love It", while "Do U Buy It?" is both annoying and catchy at the same time. :P There is more R&B-ish stuff (by guest vocalists) on this album, and I'm not as into that.

Galactic / From the Corner to the Block (2007):

Toast Toast Toast and a half
I might as well review this while I'm at it. It's the best album I've heard in a while. Galactic is this New Orleans funk band who joined up with a different rapper for each track on their new album, and it's awesome. (Lyrics Born is on the first track, but it's not really one of the best tracks on the album.) My favorite is track 2: "...And I'm Out", featuring Mr. Lif. Click that link to listen to it. Pure awesome.

* * *

And now for something completely different, from Maker Faire on Saturday:

[flickr video link]

Memristor: A new fundamental electrical element created

Over three decades ago, the memristor was theorized as the fourth basic passive electrical element, to go with the resistor, the capacitor, and the inductor. The memristor Wikipedia article explains it better than I can. HP Labs just discovered that some nanoscale switches act as memristors.

We already know of one practical application: They could provide RAM-like speeds but be non-volatile, keeping their data while powered down. According to some of the comments in the /. article where I read about this, they could also simulate a transistor at smaller than what we have now, and it could be used as analog memory, which may have some AI uses, among others.

In any case, it sounds like there will probably be tons of applications for this that we haven't thought up yet. I don't know how far out commercialization is for any of this, but it's still a great reason why science research is important.

Update:: Ars Technica has a nice writeup that describes how HP's memristor works. It also shows the symbol for it, which apparently looks like a square wave (whereas the resistor's symbol is a sawtooth wave).

About May 2008

This page contains all entries posted to the klog in May 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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