Sunday, October 07, 2012

Thankful (2012)

With Thanksgiving 2012 scheduled for tomorrow -- at least in Canada -- I want to list the things I'm thankful for this year in the most honest and unsentimental way possible:
  • autumn weather: for good nights of sleep, frosty mornings, and making me feel better about returning to indoor pursuits
  • natural gas: for making me not have to panic about the approaching winter, and not have to gather and cut firewood
  • oil: that lovely black, natural, and organic product that lets me be able to afford to live so far from the congested area in which I work, and makes most of the other things I enjoy possible, when you get right down to it
  • having a normal, traditional family: I know it's not trendy anymore, but it's the best foundation you can have.
  • the free market: for keeping food affordable, for providing variety, and for making things that shouldn't be available year-round available year-round
  • the global supply chain: for giving me apples when the crop failed in Ontario and hardly raising the price at all
  • China and India, in collaboration with the free market: for bringing more people out of poverty by far than any organization I've ever donated money to.
  • Steven Wilson: thanks for Porcupine Tree, Storm Corrosion, your solo work in particular, and pretty much everything else you've done
  • Opeth: thanks for making me find some value in death metal by applying it only sparingly and making it beautiful by surrounding it by beautiful music, and especially for "Heritage", where you left it out altogether
  • Amazon Kindle: for letting me take books with me to places that I'd never normally take them because they were so big. I just wish you'd let me lend books to people, and the Kindle book should never be more expensive than the paper one.
  • Microsoft: for getting your act together with Windows 8 and giving me a reason to avoid buying an iPad. I'm not sure I'll easily forget that you killed off Media Center, but I suppose I understand
  • Squeezebox: such an amazing music distribution system, flexible beyond what most people have a right to expect. It was inevitable but still saddening that Logitech destroyed your future.
  • Halloween III on Blu-Ray: the 30th Silver Shamrock edition with high-def mono soundtrack made it worth the wait
  • work: for making all of the above even more appreciable by way of the fact that I have so little time left to enjoy them
  • iPod Touch: left until last for a reason: grudgingly, I have come to like this thing. Thanks for making it easy to overlook the things you can't do. And I've also come to tolerate iTunes as long as I don't have to use it very much
I haven't thanked the Lord, but if the Lord made all of the above possible then I thank Him, too.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Good new music: Dr. John, Storm Corrosion, Jack White

It's true that democratization of the music industry via the Internet and cheap and easy recording equipment may not have been the best thing for our culture as a whole, but it's been great for subculture. And at least you have more choice, even if you can't agree with everyone else so easily anymore. Every cloud... So it's worth celebrating the fact that I came across three albums -- two of which I bought blindly, though with some foreknowledge of their concepts -- that were clear winners.

Dr. John - Locked Down

There's not much to say about this album. It's a modernized traditional New Orleans sound veering toward a more African influence. Very interesting overall, even though it's a bit off-putting to hear a 70-year-old still talking about revolution.

Storm Corrosion - Storm Corrosion

This is the anticipated (if by a small audience) collaboration between Steven Wilson and Mikael Ã…kerfeldt.

I don't really know how to categorize it, but "Death New Age" (in the vein of "Death Metal") seems like a good description to me. It's quiet, eerie, dissonant, and powerful while being sparse and subdued. It's an extension of what "Heritage" accomplished, and also what Steven Wilson accomplished with tracks like the amazingly efficient "Index" on "Grace for Drowning". The puppeteered video they created for the opening track "Drag Ropes" was equally efficient and powerful.

If you didn't like Opeth's "Heritage" and you had no patience for Steven Wilson's "Bass Communion" project, you probably won't like this one. To me, of the three albums mentioned here, this one will probably be my favourite of the three albums and the most timeless.

Jack White - Blunderbuss

I knew I was going to buy this one, but it took me awhile to actually go and do it because I haven't had much spare time lately.

Before I bought it, I had seen it for sale in Starbucks and this made me feel a bit nervous. It reminded me of the story around the song "Little Boys" on Devendra Banhart's "Cripple Crow" album: whether true or not, he had apparently put that song on the album after a friend had warned him after hearing a preview of the album that "they'll be selling this in Starbucks". So, the song, whose full chorus is "I see so many little boys I want to marry", and sung from the perspective of a hermaphroditic pedophile, done in a 50's folk style, was put on to ensure that wouldn't happen. I never did see it in Starbucks. He's a weird fellow, but when you're familiar with his overall strangeness it makes some sense. Don't shoot the messenger.

Anyway, no need to worry about this album -- it is Jack White distilled, with all of the influences of others from his various projects removed. And now he's got a good drummer, too (ahem). It's the Jack White you know from all of his other projects, but focused, and it's a really good album with a variety of influences on display and very few filler tracks.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Maven http plugin error on Windows

I did a quick search for this problem when I first had it and couldn't find anything about it, so here's a solution.

Building a new project with Maven 3.0.3 on Windows, if you get an error like the following:
[ERROR] No plugin found for prefix 'http' in the current project and in the plugin groups [org.apache.maven.plugins, org.codehaus.mojo] available from the repositories ...
...first confirm that you're using the default Windows shell. Using an atypical shell caused the above problem for me, likely due to different handling of environment variables. You don't have to change your shell: just launch the default shell with "cmd.exe" and run the command from within there.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012


Since you seldom meet members of "the bad crowd" -- just people who claim to have fallen in with it or been led by it; and since you seldom meet bad drivers -- just people who claim to have been victimized by them; it shouldn't come as any surprise that I meet a vast majority of people who know many others who are incompetent than I do people who are actually incompetent.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

The better culture

If we can't agree that one culture is better than another, can we agree that a culture that allows all cultures to flourish -- a multicultural culture -- is better than one that allows only a select few to flourish?

In other words, is our culture better than that of China, Iran, Pakistan, and Egypt?

Or are they all the same and equally-valid?

If they're all the same and equally-valid, we can do away with multiculturalism without concern, I think.