Monthly Archives

December 2010

For your listening pleasure

If you are in the office today with one day to go on Xmas break like me, you might enjoy this YouTube playlist of the videos from my 10 for ’10 collection of 2010’s best albums. It should get you through at least two and a half hours, anyway!

Merry Xmas! Don’t say I didn’t get you anything nice.

About.me Profiles

I took a quick browse through TechCrunch today – a site I never really read so much as get linked to by other favorite haunts – and happened across a story that inadvertently gobbled up the last hour of my work day.  That article was on the recently gobbled-up profile site, about.me and my lost sixty minutes was spent putting together my own account there.  Deceptively simple, the AOL-owned service essentially allows you to make a welcome page for your 2.0 identity.  I really like the image-centric layout and the TypeKit fonts that look fantastic.  Clean, straightforward, elegant.  Here’s mine – might I see yours?

Insanity made real

While playing Forza 3 at the height of my addiction this past Spring, I built the most ridiculous of cars – a radioactive spider-bitten Mercedes B-Class with probably four times its value worth of performance modifications. At the end of my spending spree, I took it onto the Maple Valley racetrack to see what I had produced.

The results were interesting. Namely, the car fell over at the slightest indication of a corner. Then the back window fell out.

My surprise was supreme when I saw that Mercedes had built this:

Autoweek was invited to drive it by the Benz-people, reporting on its creation and specifics.

As its name suggests, the superbly constructed one-off prototype is well removed from the standard B-class. Having started life as a humble European-market B200 CDI, it has been liberated from its standard turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder diesel engine. Shoehorned into its place and other extremities of the engine bay is the 5.5-liter V8 unit packing 383 hp and 391 lb-ft of torque.

Yes, but how did it handle?  Was more time spent wondering how the ground “got up there” than actually rounding the test track?

Apart from a lack of self-centering with the steering, whose packaging has been compromised by the need to give up so much space to the engine and thus runs a smaller hydraulic pump than perhaps is required, the B55 also steers accurately, rides with impressive comfort and is free of any obvious vices.

Oh.

Well, don’t get too excited about it, because it’s never coming to the States with anything like this configuration (except in my dreams.)

New Media Commons Space at Harrisburg

The new Media Commons editing and collaboration space at Penn State Harrisburg is now officially open.  Featuring three brand new Mac workstations, two WhisperRoom soundbooths and a great location in the entry of the Eicke Library, this installation promises to offer PSH students an inviting and exciting place to get to work on their media projects.

To learn more about the Media Commons at Harrisburg – including the Studio and Equipment Checkout location in Olmsted W334 –  visit mediacommons.psu.edu/harrisburg

10 for ’10

Here’s a secret:  I haven’t updated the underlying structure of this post since I marked it up originally in 2008 – and even then, I think it may have been a take off of an old ARoB post.  [I'm lazy.]  However, this method also gives me a chance to review what I posted the year before – and I have to say, 2009 is a hard year to beat.  But I think 2010 can rally for a win!  Without much (more) ado, I’m going to give you a list of the 10 albums that really epitomized 2010 for me.

Robyn - Body Talk10. Robyn – Body Talk
Robyn’s new album launched in November and I somehow managed to miss it until Monday of this week. I found it thanks to the Nobel Peace Prize concert, so there could be worse introductions.  In any case, I was aware of awesome tracks like “Don’t Fucking Tell Me What To Do” and “None Of Dem” – and let’s not forget “Fembot” – from the Body Talk Pt. 1 EP but the new single, “Indestructible” is pretty fantastic and I can’t wait to see the videos for “Love Kills” and “Time Machine.”

Fol Chen - Part II: The New December9. Fol Chen – Part II: The New December
Driving down to Maryland after a summer visit home, I happened to catch “In Ruins” on XMU as I neared Chestertown. And I was smitten in a way that I can’t even describe. I mean, listen to it! It’s insane – and the post-apocalyptic video doesn’t hurt the cause. The album opens with “The Holograms“, a truly jarring mess of a track that is an experience you’ll want to repeat and repeat. Until you hear the serenity of the title track and decide you want to curl up there for a nap.

Alphabeat - The Beat Is...8. Alphabeat – The Beat Is…
Look, I’m just going to level with you: this album came out in 2009. But I can play a technicality of international music sales: it launched here with a different name during this calendar year. And why am I going through such loopholes? Well, how about the unabashed Euro 80s throwback sound of “DJ“, “The Beat Is” or “Heat Wave“? Thank you, Denmark.

Blonde Redhead - Penny Sparkle7. Blonde Redhead – Penny Sparkle
I didn’t think this band could utter a more disaffected sound than “23“, but they somehow managed with “Not Getting There“. And the joyous parade continues with “My Plants Are Dead“, “Oslo” (which is trying desperately to contain a nearly pop beat) and “Spain“. Blonde Redhead: music to stare listlessly to since 1993.

The National - High Violet6. The National – High Violet
This is probably on every indie best of list this year and I really do think it deserves to be there. I was reluctant to care about this album, but an acoustic performance of “Anyone’s Ghost” absolutely lured me in. Some others worth a listen: “Lemonworld“, “England” and the radio hit, “Bloodbuzz Ohio“.

Delorean - Subiza5. Delorean – Subiza
Warmer Places” has become my go-to walk into work track so far this winter.  The rest of Delorean’s album has been equally sparkling from my first listen over the summer on.  Every song drips this effortless Spanish cool, and calls to mind the beach-y scenes you see in the video for “Stay Close“.  I’m not usually into such in your face optimism, but Subiza has won me over.

Yeasayer - Odd Blood4. Yeasayer – Odd Blood
Proving that it’s often a good idea to look again, “Ambling Alp” initially annoyed the shit out of me but I’m glad I stuck around to watch the video for “O.N.E.” because it immediately converted me to a Yeasayer fan. Which is great, since “Rome” is a song I cannot live without and “Madder Red” (warning: most depressing video) is not to be missed.

Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles3. Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles
Back with an album by the same name as 2008’s release – and with a vocalist looking like a Shirley Manson-esque cyborg with plastic skin – Crystal Castles stormed my eardrums and eyeballs with “Celestica” before leading me to tracks like “Birds” and the sublime “Not In Love” with Robert Smith.

Marina & The Diamonds - The Family Jewels2. Marina & The Diamonds – The Family Jewels
With a starkly strange video and sound all its own, “Mowgli’s Road” instantly won my heart this year.  And then there’s this pared-back version of “Hollywood“.  And “Oh No!“, which could be the catchiest track that also has the most poignant lyrics of the whole release.

The Golden Filter - Voluspa1. The Golden Filter – Voluspa
“How did this make the top of the list,” you ask. “Surely you listened to the number two album many more times?” Probably, but I waited for this album since April 2009, checking my music acquisition favorites nearly daily for most of those months. It all started with “Solid Gold“, still one of the most alluring videos I’ve ever seen. And just when I had given up on this release ever happening, “Thunderbird” appeared. I don’t even remember what day marked my first with Voluspa but I know it gets played at least weekly now that it’s mine. Other great tracks: “Frejya’s Ghost“, “Hide Me” and “Dance Around The Fire“.

Next year, I’m not doing eleven, so we will have to end the gimmick this year, I’m afraid.

Digital Appendages

But it was more than that, too. I also missed the ability to look up anything I was curious about at a moment’s notice.

From “A Day Spent Without My Arm – I Mean, My Phone” by Matthew Ingram (GigaOM)

While not an intentional experiment in this case – as it probably was for most of the times that we all have taken part in it – it is always curious to explore a world without your smartphone.  And I mean that in both senses:  physically exploring your surrounding and mentally exploring the ways in which you would get around without this multifaceted tool.  
As someone who has parents that live far enough into the woods that all phones turn into pretty paperweights upon arrival at their house, I can tell you that it truly does like losing a limb or a sense to not have the device at my fingertips.  And if you think that’s bad, you can’t imagine what it’s like to have their 384k DSL drop out at the beginning of a weekend visit. 
The complaints of a first world resident, I suppose. 

Oddly tempted

Not that I’ve really had any problems, per se, but I’ve been thinking a lot about having all wheel drive now that I’m back in a climate where snow is an actual possibility eventuality. For whatever reason, the Mini Countryman Cooper S has caught my eye:

I mean, I will most likely end up with the next iteration of the A3 with Quattro (or maybe the Q3 or Q5 2.0T or A4 Avant or…), but there’s always something tempting about looking at other brands once you pass the midway point on a lease. And with so many small cars coming with intriguing features (Mercedes B-Class, VW Golf R, Alfa-Romeo Giulia, BMW X1) it’s going to be a tough call come November.

iPad 2 Back to You

Apparently, this is the back (literally) of the next iPad:

Enough watermarks for you?  What we can see here seems to be the all too obvious rear-facing camera opening, a pretty standard dock connector opening (whither micro/mini-USB?) and a mystery slot.  We also see the same move from aluminum to plastic backing that Apple made when the iPhone went from extreme luxury item (original) to mass-market commodity (3G).  MacRumors has further photos showing the same black/white choice of colors and even cases that mimic that layout of openings.  

It all looks very believable to me – I’m still curious how Apple is going to get past the EU’s mandate about charging connectors but not surprised that they would try to avoid changing their dock connector ecosystem – but I will hold complete judgement until we see a leaked test unit.  Which should be any second now, right?  

(Case for the iPad)

Syd Mead to the future

What will the world look like in 2019?  io9 posts a video interview with visual futurist (a title I’d kill for), Syd Mead, that aims to answer this question.

2019: A Future Imagined from Flat-12 on Vimeo.

I think what I enjoyed most was Syd’s advice for doing good work – being the creator, the technician and the observer. This is kind of the core of my job and has been since I started at 19, so it’s good to hear it from such a visionary. Thanks, Syd!