Friday, November 30, 2007

Friday fun stuff...

Inventing the wheel. Why didn't I think of that?

And of course, there are so much fun with the Terra case...

And at last, air acrobatics isn't for everyone (from Dagbladet, short commerical before the clip)...

Have a nice weekend, y'all!

Thor is french

After a discussion with Wilhelm, I realized that he didn't know that the nordic god of something, Thor, was french. Actually his real name was Michele Torr (yes Thor was a girl too) . Here her official website.

A medical revolution...

According to Dagbladet, UK has now discovered that homeopathy is a fraud. Apperantly, homeophatic medicin is just water. It also seems that homeopathy How would have thought that...

In the other news: It seems there isn't any green men on Mars anyway, Spice Girls is a constructed group with crappy songs and you really do get fat if you eat all your meals at McDonald's.
In all fairness (and since I'm a general nice guy), I should place an link to the homeopaths respons in Dagbladet.
Funny thing: The only "publication" that did not come from a "Journal of Homeopaths'R'U A" or "Advances in diluted water and snakeoil" journals, is a comment (yes, not a publication, but a comment) in The Lancet. And this comment is by a homeopath on a publication that shows there are no difference between placebo effect and homeopahtic medicin. But using the same method, there was a significant difference between the placebo effect and conventional drugs. Surely if you are the leader of the homeopathic organisation in Norway, you should be able to dig up better scientific material than that (i.e. publications in a well know, scientific journal). If there are any...

How I hope this is a joke

Posted on the bulletin board of a Norwegian institution of higher learning (thanks for the tip, Pigeon):

I need a englich teatchher!

I need a english teatesher, my engleish is wery good, bot neads perfektion! youst to tiop everything off, i am now seartching for ein english (lærear) teacher to lern me the perfekt englich. can you add perfektion to my englich, send AN mail to me(meg) ASAP

...and then a student email addy.

Awesome, unless it's an actual ad placed by a student in a Norwegian institution of higher learning, in which case it's freakin' sad. Even if it's an extreme case of dyslexia, this doesn't fly. To paraphrase a famous line from "Pulp Fiction" - Spellchecker motherf*cker: Do you use it?

Not that using a spellchecker guarantees anything, though. In the wonderful book "How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper" by Robert A. Day, there's a poem which is quite pertinent to this topic:

I have a spelling checker,
It came with my PC;
It plainly marks four my revue
Mistakes I cannot sea.
I've run this poem threw it,
I'm sure your pleased too no,
Its letter perfect in its weigh,
My checker tolled me sew.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Worst songs ever according to 'specialists'

So I googled worst songs ever and I found this link

Damn those guys are idiots: Simon and Garfunkel, Bily Joel, Rem, Europe....
Too princes by Spin doctors doesn't deserve that.

Worst songs ever - candidates

Despite the fact that my taste in music has almost no overlap with the taste of the other regular contributors here, I'm sure that there are songs that are so bad as to transcend the barriers of personal preferences. To test this, I thought we could start a list of the worst songs ever and see if we can drum up a list of, say, ten songs that we all agree are absolute and utter crap. I'll start it off with some candidates - for each candidate vote yay or nay:
  • Los Del Rio - Macarena (Why is it that only the REALLY crap songs have their own dance?)
  • Las Ketchup - The Ketchup Song (Thankfully I lived in the good ol' US when this was a hit, and only heard it on vacation)
  • Lou Bega - Mambo No. 5 (I HATED that song with a passion for the entire Summer and Fall of 1999)
  • Ricky Martin - She Bangs (Like Anders says - how can you only pick one Ricky Martin song? Still - this one is in my opinion even worse than Livin' La Vida Whatever)
  • Jennifer Lopez - My Love Don't Cost A Thing (Toss-up between this and "Jenny From Da Block")
  • Baha Men - Who Let The Dogs Out (Thanks for ruining every football - as opposed to soccer - game, ya epic one hit wonder douches)
  • Eiffel 65 - Blue (We GET it - dude's blue. End of story - move on)
  • Eric Prydz - Call On Me (How annoying can three words strung together and put in a seemingly infinite loop be, you ask? Check out this 2004 monster hit and findeth out)
  • Sisqo - The Thong Song (Ohmigawd this is why so many third generation studiogangstas suck)
  • N'Sync- Bye Bye Bye (Yeah - move along....buh-bye now, ya epic wankstas. PS: you forgot to bring JT with ya)
  • Nelly - Hot In Herre (yet another sagging, three sizes too big sweater-wearing, Lugz-rollin' record company-constructed bandwagon-jumper)
  • Vengaboys - We're Goin' To Ibiza (Any song by this group fits in here, but this is much, much worse than their trademark "Boom Boom Boom Boom")
  • DJ Bobo - Chihuahua (Dude calls himself DJ Bobo. 'Nuff said)
  • Christina Aguilera, Li'l Kim, Mya and Pink - Lady Marmalade (My, my MY how I'm sick and tired of this here song. Can't stand the vocal masturbation goings on presented here and the complete lack of lyrical content)
  • 50 Cent - Candy Shop (How did this freak of nature ever get street cred? He got discovered and groomed by Eminem. Plus, his legendary music video formula of Product = (Black Leather Couch + Bottles of Bub + Collection of Booty-Shakin' Damn near Nekkid' Hos + Bling + Hyooge Black Car With Spinners + Bunch Of Loser Tag-Along Buddies Who Try Their Very Best To Look Badass But Probably Work At Mickey D + Jacuzzi) is frantically stereotypical. Plus - how somebody thinks he's all swole is beyond me - dude's a stickman.)
  • Aqua - Barbie Girl (From Anders. When this came out, I thought it was a once-over spoof by an otherwise unknown band. Then they released "Dr. Jones" in 1998...)
  • Rednex - Cotton Eye Joe (From Anders. Yeah this one's annoying...........)
  • Hanson - Mmmm Bop (Anders again. band used ta' play this one back in the mid-to-late 90's)
  • Spice Girls - When 2 Becomes 1 (From the Anders Selection. And I agree - this is even more annoying than Wannabe)
  • Wes - Alane (Pigeon's choice. He showed me teh video on Youtube, and sucketh plenty)
  • Inferno - Paris To Berlin (Anders' suggestion. Can't say that I recall this one..)
  • Robbie Williams - Rock DJ (Dude has many to choose from. My second choice would be "Let Me Entertain You")
  • Britney Spears - Toxic (Can't believe this piece of transplanted trailer park trash hasn't appeared earlier. Oh snap - now I'll have to deal with the psycho Britney fan.....)
  • Prodigy - Firestarter (Oh would ya hook a brutha' up.......this one sucks, and unless you're on X or mentally otherwise engaged, it's im possible to get anything positive out of this one)
  • Fool's garden - Lemon Tree (We get it - y'all have got yourselves a nice li'l lemon hush; begone!)
  • Celine Dion - My Heart Will Go On (Pigeon? Not sure if this is one of the worst ever, but sure - let's include it in teh preliminaries)
  • Billy Ray Cyrus - Achy Breaky Heart (There's country music, and there's Billy Ray Cyrus)
  • Marilyn Manson - Beautiful People (The only MM song I remember the name of..)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Hey Pigeon!

As per your wonderful insight I watched an episode of Californication because - according to your estimation it did have a story beyond T&A and sex.

No dice, tiger - two minutes didn't pass without a mention of cunt, buttplugs, blowjobs, coochie, etc. And no person exited a scene without either wandering off to get laid or to masturbate.

If ya still stick to your hallucination that this show actually carries a storyline, then I guess you refract reality through a different lens than us mortals. I respectully decline the invitation to join in your hallucination, "big guy".

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Paganini shuffle part II

The technical aspect of the caprice is progressing albeit slower than ideally. Buying a house will do that to you. Also, I've been uncharacteristically preoccupied with a Gary Moore-esque blues instrumental I've been toying with. For some reason, I can't play for more than ten minutes without slipping into this tune. It even keeps developing - it started out as a poorly disguised rip-off of The Loner/Still Got The Blues/Parisienne Walkways/Nothing's The Same, but now it's a completely different animal altogether.

But back to Paganini 24 in Am. Besides practicing the variations, I've been trying out different guitar tones, which turns out to be more difficult than I expected. The main problem is that I want one guitar sound throughout, and I've come up with suitable tones for the different variations. My main Yngwie Plus overdriven violin tone works well for the picked and sweeped sections, but it's crap for the fingerpicked section - too much distortion and not enough bass. My "Midnight" tone that I stole off of Satriani is great for the tapped chordal passages, but craps out for the other variations - too much delay and reverb. My ultratight, compressed Symphony X tone works like a charm for the MR tapped section, but sounds too sterile for the majority of the variations. Whenever I try to find a happy medium, I end up with a tone which has none of the desirable qualities, but rather sounds stale and bland. I COULD opt for a clean, "wet" tone, but that spectacularly fails to excite me.

I'll keep at it. I'm not ready to cop out and use the bland, clean tone or worse, several tones yet.

Honest question

With the ongoing riots in Parisian suburbs, I'm genuinely puzzled about a couple of things. Maybe some of y'all can shed some light on this:
  • Even in the event that the police is at least partly to blame for the deaths of the two teenagers (who rode a motorcycle without helmets) - why would the suburbian teenagers think that anything good can come out of waging a war on the police? Or more specifically; how dumb would you have to be to think that someone in their situation would benefit from this?
  • If the police is appointed Main Adversary by the suburbians - exactly how do they think they accomplish anything by setting their neighbors' cars and houses on fire? 'Cause they don't venture to central areas, but opt to torch their own neighborhood.

One has to question the logic in this. Even from an "eye for an eye" perspective, this is more than irrational. You don't see Palestinians exacting revenge on Israeli invaders by torching the next-door Palestinian kebab shop (or whatever the hell would be the equivalent).

Bring on teh funny...

Just had to post this. I don't know why it fits on this blog, but it does. ;-)

Edit: This one fits well in any blog...

How it should be !!!

Cause I have experienced that kind of idiot in a movie theater

Monday, November 26, 2007

Does piracy in fact kill music?

Anders and myself started to argue about this in another thread, but I think it's more than important enough to warrant it's own thread. In fact, this topic was recently covered by Scott Adams, and can be found here.

I think his post is right to the point, so I'll use some of it to start off the discussion. Here is a summary of Adams' post:

  • For successful musical artists, file sharing does little in terms of increased publicity, since they are already famous, but hurts their record sales.
  • Many citizens happily adopt a pay-per-song policy, but many, many more would rather not pay at all.
  • Proponents of file sharing argue that for the not-so-well-known artists, file sharing can be leveraged to promote a career in music without necessitating backing from a record company, because the publicity leads to more asses in seats for live performances.
  • How many concerts have you attended over the last year because you heard an artist's music for free over the internet?
  • How many concerts by artists who got famous the old-fashioned way have you attended the last year.

What really irks me is the flimsy rationalization from file-sharing proponents, like a) "we're only taking a small fraction of the already too large profit of big music corporations", or b)"bands like Metallica are just greedy bastards who make way too much money anyways." For a) you have to be an absolute imbecile to be unable to connect the dots between a financial backer, artist revenue and the ability to keep releasing records using high-quality equipment. For b) it ain't up to you to decide whether or not an artist or a record company is making too much money. Especially seeing as how you in fact have no idea what the financial situation of said enterprises is to begin with. But for almost everyone, there exists a subsection of the population who feels that you make too much money.

Please don't be that guy (or gal) who tries to justify downloading/file sharing with moronic logic such as "I don't feel that file sharing is a crime, because I don't want to subsidise Big Corporations who push out a million identical artists but refuse to back True Individuals." At least have the cojones or whatever to admit that you're stealing stuff - don't make it into a Holy Crusade for All that is Righteous. Speeding is also a crime, but most would admit that they do it without throwing a Christ complex into the discussion. Don't even try to tell me that filesharing is noble - just man up to what you're doing. If you make a copy of your own CD and play it in the car, or you rip your CD collection for personal use, and if you put mp3s of your entire CD collection on a hub with 1000 users, we're talking about two quite different things - if you don't see this as separate issues (also in accordance with Norwegian law, actually), then don't even bother.

Some other facts/arguments that might be brought to light in this discussion, but which are typically drowned by strong partisan reasoning: You can identify at least three separate economies for artists based on their size/fame. The primary variables in these economies are CD/DVD/download sales, merch sales, and live performance revenue. Note that these variables are interrelated, so seeing them as separate doesn't make sense. Merchandise and CDs get moved at concerts, etc.

  • The well-established artists on major labels, with large fan bases. These artists make a lot of money on both front and back end of CD sales, but lose money/pray to break even on live performances if viewed separately. This is mainly due to the fact that if Rolling Stones go on tour, they bring along 2500 yes-people, 150 trucks, 30 sound engineers, 250 stage hands and roadies, 10 managers, 15 drug dealers, 50 guitar and drum techs, 17 yoga masters, etc. Payroll expenses alone kill the profits for the sheer live performance on big tours. They DO however generate lots of publicity and move merch and CD/DVDs from touring.
  • Medium-sized artists with a record deal could be in the zone where they're between markets, and so a few thousand CDs not sold could make the difference for whether they're able to make a living from music. This could probably go either way, though.
  • Minor players, especially those without a record deal, can totally benefit from "free" advertising on NRK Urørt" and general file-sharing, as they don't make any money from CD sale. Recording and distributing is freakin' expensive, and so CD's and downloads are used to propel touring/gigging as their source of revenue. A small band bringing along like two people can make an ok living from touring, but there's no way they'll move enouch CD units to justify upscale recording/producing/distributing costs.

Three separate economies based on the size of the bands - and my feeling is that a LOT of artists are in the middle bracket. I know that this is the case for many, many metal artists, who probably won't be able to live off of music if the CD sale goes further down.

Chup approved

The sad thing is that it's true !!!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Left-brained or right-brained

So, apperantly, whether you see percieve this girl as rotating clockwise or counter-clockwise can determin whether you're a left or right brain person. Me-thinks it's a no-brainer: Of course she spins clockwise.

So, what do you people see?

It's been 10 years...

Seeing that we have listed the guitarists that inspired us, it reminds me that this month (the 12th) is 10 years since one of my musical heros passed away, Rainer Ptack. Here' s a clip of him with his band, Das Combo, a track taken from the album release on the 12th this month:

On a side note: This album is available for download on iTunes, Amazon, etc, etc. Yeah, super-excited me though: Now I don't even have to wait for the shipment of the CD! Jippi! But, of course, I should have learned. Every time I'm letting my guard down, faith jumps up and kicks me in the groan. Of course they only let US citizen download tracks from iTunes, Amazon, etc. Those are paid downloads. And the record industry complains about pirate downloads? Djezes...

Freakonomics work!

Friday, we bought a house. We've been on the lookout for a while now, but Thursday we were at the viewing of what appeared to be an ideal house, we put in a bid on Friday morning, and approximately 8:45 PM the deal was done. Fan-freakin'-tastic!

Come March, we won't have to share any exterior walls with anyone else, and we'll even have a hyooge twin garage. Moreover, we'll have almost 1000 square meters of yard, and a wonderful view of the fjord.

...and yes; freakonomics work. We used freakonomics liberally in the bidding strategy, most notably the fact that the realtor makes more profit by moving more objects than holding out for a small increase in asking price. In other words, statistically, the realtors don't really have the seller's best interest in mind, despite what one might think. Even though the goals are common, holding out for a greater bid means diminishing profits for the realtor, which means that he'll have to wait longer to upgrade the lease to a newer/larger model of his or her BMW.

Now to sell the house we've got now....

Thursday, November 22, 2007

What should I do ??

I have received this message on my mail box and I really don't know what to do. It seems safe no ?

From:Ms Portia Ama Kwabina
Accra, Ghana.


I got your contact during my search for a reliable, honest and a trust worth person to entrust this huge transfer project with. My name is Ms Portia Ama Kwabina, Branch manager of a financial institution here in Ghana. I am a Ghanaian single mother with a kid. I am writing to solicit your assistance in the transfer of $ 4,550.000.00 Million United States dollars only.

This fund is the excess of what my branch in which am the manager made as profit during the 2005 financial year. I have already submitted annual report for that year to my head office here in Accra as I have watched with keen interest as they will never know of this excess.I have since, placed this amount of $ 4,550.000.00 Million United States dollars only to an Escrow Coded account without a beneficiary (anonymous) to avoid trace.

As an officer of the bank, I cannot be directly connected to this money thus I am impelled to request for your assistance to receive this money into your bank account on my behalf. I intend to part 30% of this fund to you while 70% shall be for me. I do need to stress that there are practically no risk involved in this. It's going to be a bank-to-bank transfer. All I need from you is to stand as the original depositor of this fund so that the fund can be transferred to your account. If you accept this offer, I will appreciate your timely response urgently.

With Regards,

Ms Portia Ama Kwabina

Seriously, who send that ?
and who is stupid enough to agree on that ?

29 Guitarists that have inspired me

Since we're in a Listmania kind of phase, I thought I'd list the 29 guitarists that have inspired me the most. Not only that, but also the 29 guitarists whose style and influence can be heard in my playing. Why 29? 'Cause we're rollin' with that theme, and because it's a prime number. So there. The guitarists are not necessarily ranked in order of importance.
  1. Yngwie J. Malmsteen. THE single biggest influence on my approach, technique and tone. All A harmonic minor, sweep picking and Dorian modes. Some of what makes Yngwie unique is that his solos are beautiful even when played slowly - they're not just a bunch of adjacent notes thrown together in order to sound fast. Baroque & Roll!
  2. Joe Satriani. The last two years or so, my appreciation for Satriani's ultramelodic approach has really boomed. I find myself using his "pitch axis" theory for soloing, as well as his approach to chordal two-handed tapping a lot. Also, many of his signature licks keep appearing in my vocabulary spontaneously - I'll start playing something out of the blue, and suddenly realize that it's something Satriani.
  3. Steve Vai. I've even got his signature guitar, so that ought to tell you something right there. Listening to Vai taught me to play with a certain abandon. Oh yeah; I also stole some of his licks...
  4. Gary Moore. Hyooge influence when I started playing. His tone and vibrato are almost unmatched, and I find myself incorporating many of his stylistic elements in soloing, like sections from The Loner, Over The Hills And Far Away and Still In Love With You.
  5. Nuno Bettencourt (Extreme). When I started out, I never thought it was possible to play faster and more technical than Bettencourt and Vai, and then I stumbled onto Yngwie. What I really like about Nuno's style, is the fact that he almost never plays the same riff twice without some variation, which is something I really try to emulate. Also, his use of harmonics to spice up rhytm sections is something I strive for.
  6. Chris Holmes (W.A.S.P). When I started playing for real, I practiced 10 hours a day trying to figure out "Live...In The Raw" by W.A.S.P. I'm still using many of Holmes' licks for solos (especially the pick-tapped ascending or descending trills), and I absolutely love his way of structuring songs.
  7. Dave Mustaine (Megadeth). 90% of the angry, pedal-note based riffs and progressions I come up with are derivations of The House That Dave Built. In my opinion one of, if not THE best rhytm guitar player in metal. His solo style is also pretty amazing, if somewhat chaotic.
  8. Magnus Karlsson (Last Tribe, Starbreaker, Allen/Lande). This guy is flat out amazing, and I've really opened up to his way of structuring songs - tight during verses, wide open during the chorus. Also, he has helped me improve my sring-skipping, and has single-handedly restored my faith in Wah and Whammy pedals. Kudos, Magnus - U Da Man!
  9. Rolf Kasparek (Running Wild). Not only do I use his signature lick every now and then, but I also find myself incorporating his way of organizing the rhytm structure behind guitar solos. Plus, his melodic approach to trem picking makes for excellent riffs. Under Jolly Roger!
  10. Jason Becker (Cacophony, David Lee Roth band). More neoclassical guitar and sweep-picking. My playing doesn't use any of his approach to sweeps, but I use plenty of his soloing concepts. Speed Metal Symphony is a great blueprint for any guitarist aspiring to play fast AND melodic.
  11. Al DiMeola. Al, or rather two of his songs, have radically affected the way I play muted scalar runs. Mediterranean Sundance and Race With The Devil On A Spanish Highway. Most of what you need to know about alternate picking and palm-muting right there.
  12. Michael Romeo (Symphony X). His tapping style really expanded my soloing repertoire. Also, I love employing his time signature changes and trademark descending chorus progression.
  13. Kee Marcello (Europe). For his trills and trademark accellerating descending runs, that tottaly liven up solos.
  14. Herman Li (Dragonforce). I find myself stealing ideas from the Force all the time now. Both with respect to harmonized riffs and their unison tapped solo licks.
  15. Randy Rhoads (Ozzy Osbourne). For his incorporation of bluesly licks and cyclic, descending runs. Also a little bit because I find myself using a guitar tone close to his every now and then.
  16. Marty Friedman (Megadeth, Cacophony). Love his use of oriental scales, and I try to spice up lead work using his approach.
  17. Stevie Ray Vaughan. Perhaps the most surprising entry on the list, but his chordal, rhytmic soloing style is something I bring with me every now and then.
  18. Paul Gilbert (Mr. Big). 'Cause I damn near can't stop using his signature string skipping now.
  19. Luca Turilli (Rhapsody). Whenever I try to make some really epic, symphonic and pompous music - preferably with some Tarantella incorporated, I find myself emulating Luca. Also, I like his way of speed-picking riffs and arpeggiating melodies. And did I mention one of my guitars is identical (save for the color) to the one he used on the two first Rhapsody albums?
  20. Kai Hansen (Gamma Ray). Through him, I've picked up the essential power metal song and riff structure (check out Future World or Follow Me for a primer), and have realized that main riffs don't need to be played on the lowest strings to sound heavy.
  21. CC Deville (Poison). For a primer in the use of G-Cadd9-D for power ballad purposes, and his dramatic high-to-low solo changes.
  22. Timo Tolkki (Stratovarius). 'Cause I like using his approach to riffs and fills - what he refers to as hypermegaspeedpicking (yeah; that's actually what he likes to call it). Plus, his use of doublepicking in solos helps create tension and interest.
  23. Vito Bratta (White Lion). For his use of counterpoint in solos. Dude's so incredibly underrated...
  24. Eddie Van Halen (Van Halen). Not for his soloing style, and not for his tapping (can't stand to tap using his approach), but for his free-form approach to rhytm, where his fills mirror the lyrics.
  25. Johnny Öhlin (Dionysus). For his tone and storytelling solos. Also because he has transferred the neoclassical style of guitar to the power metal form. Awesome!
  26. Alex Skolnick (Testament). For showing how inserting soft, melodic solos in very hard metal can enhance both the soft and the hard aspects of the music without diminishing either.
  27. Kiko Koureiro (Angra). I love his incorporation of chromatic licks in his solos, and the widel-interval legato licks.
  28. John Sykes (Whitesnake). Double-picked rhythmical ideas, like the ones found in "In The Still Of The Night"
  29. Ronni Le Tekrø (TNT, Vagabond). For his use of machine-gun picking, i.e. heavily muted tremolo-picked structures combined with legato hammer-on/pull-offs.


My favourite artists or bands

After the list given by the norwegian newspaper of the biggets rock front figures, I thought that it would be fun to propose a list of my favourite artists, in solos or in bands.
I know that, by doing that, I seriously open a valve of sarcasms and criticisms but I must be masochist in a way so ... let's roll !!!!!!!!!!!my 29 favourites bands. If I have to make the list tomorrow, some would probably change though.

Radiohead: OK Computer is the perfect album. I've listened to that album at least 1000 times and I still like it.
REM: The perfect band. All the albums are good. Some are just excellent.
Massive Attack: The inventors of trip hop. perfect for the end of an evening
David Bowie: what can you say about him. Just the class. i had the chance to see him in concert in 2002, and I will remember that night for a long time
Damien Rice: just beautiful
EEls: My youth.
Interpol: The renew of indie rock
Smashing Pumpkins: indie rock at his best. Mellon Collie and the infinite sadness is such a great album. Also saw them in concert and it was just great.
Jeff Buckley: Bought his album more because it was cheap than a real envy and it was such a nice surprise. i still listen to it with real pleasure.
Queen: They made some bad songs in the 80's but so many good ones in the 70's.
Neil Young: the perfect career.
Arctic Monkeys: those kids rock !!!
Supergrass: super cool
Led Zeppelin: i don't care if they stole eveything v to da v.
Noir Desir: THE french rock band. With intelligent lyrics (some songs are in english, so you should try)
Air: Don't listen to journalists , french electro is Air not Daft Punk. The two bands are from my home city (Versailles)
Iron Maiden: Also my youth. but still a guilty pleasure. Will see them in concert next july.
Serge Gainsbourg: His 70's period is so great. That guy was a genious
Groove Armada: English electro.
The Beatles: because they invented everything
The Chemical Brothers: English electro too
Pink Floyd: Some concepts albums just perfects
Pulp: Jarvis Cocker is a fanatastic song writer
Arcade Fire: very energic band
The Strokes: they always play the same song, but I don't care I like it.
Venus: The best belgian band
Marvin Gaye: Is it possible to not like him ?
Garbage: Yes I like Garbage !!!
The Pixies: My youth again !!

R2-D2 guitar...

So, while reading Dagbladet online today, I notice this little clip (or, to be honest, commercial from Gibson) about the new robot guitar from Gibson:

Is this just me, or is this a whole bunch of electronics to "correct" a problem (tuning your guitar) which isn't really a problem at all? Yes, there are many people that never learn to play guitar, but not beeing able to tune the guitar has never been the main reason. Also, I you master all those tunings on the guitar (standard, open E, open Em, open G, DADGAD, double drop-D, etc), you are not really a novice on the guitar. And the beginner is the only player I could see benefit from this.

School of Hard Knocks

Have you checked out the ongoing story about several municipalities/communities in Norway having been screwed by Terra Securities? If you haven't, here's a short summary (the link being to an excellent summary in Norwegian):
  • This summer, Terra Securities and four municipalities in the nothern parts of Norway - Rana, Hemnes, Hattfjelldal and Narvik, made an investment deal for about 451 MNOK in registered Citibank bonds.
  • The investment is mortgaged against future electrical power revenue and has been used as security for loans.
  • Should the value of the bonds drop below 55% of the value at date of purchase, the municipalities need to provide more capital.
  • The bonds have done just that, necessitating capital injection of 84 MNOK in September, and now requiring further investments - it's a black hole, essentially.
  • The broker - Terra Securities - claim that they only acted as "advisors" for the municipalities.
  • The local government in these municipalities only read the documents translated (from English to Norwegian) by Terra Securities, i.e. the seller before signing the contracts.
  • The municipalities only read the original, English documents (which were available to them prior to the signing) after problems emerged on the horizon, because at the time of signing "they saw no need to read the same documents in two languages", even though the translated version was provided by a party with stakes in the deal.
  • Terra Securities conveniently "forgot" to translate the sections detailing that this was a high-risk venture. All Terra Securities told the municipalities was that this was high profit.
  • The municipalities now stand to lose all their investments, and there are obvious legal issues to be taken care of.

This is one of the best examples I've ever seen on why giving more money to local government instead of providing capital from a central source is a bad idea, because in this case, local government obviously consists solely of low-IQ losers who only have a fleeting relationship with reality. To paraphrase a Simpsons episode, a small community with a lot of money is like a giraffe with a computer. Nobody knows how it got it, and damned if it knows how to use it. If a small set of communities can dump more than five hundred MNOK into a high-risk investment deal without even checking the paperwork properly before they sign, then don't you DARE have old school buildings, hospitals, etc., and especially STFU about asking the government for more money. This is a lot of people's tax money they're dealing with also. One small municipality that I know of once spent a lot of money upgrading a very small section of one byroad to ridiculously high standards. The result: They didn't have money for plowing snow that winter.

Calling into play my Powers of Deduction, here's a play-by-play of the situation that took place this summer in four municipalities.

  1. Some Calvin Klein Obsession-drenched dude in a cheap suit and a large-series BMW rolls up to the town hall, hands out some business cards and asks: "Say; would y'all like to make an investment that will yield phantasmogorgical profit for no risk whatsoever?"
  2. The mayor and his or her stooges spit out the straw in the corner of their mouths and drawl "uuuuuuhhhhhhhh...yeah, Mr. Slick Polyester Hugo Boss Suit Man with the Expensive Leased Car sure look like you know what you're talking about."
  3. Slick BMW Douchebag (SBD)says "Super! As soon as you've signed this here deal, this little hick town will now be on the map, I tells ya. All you have to do is mortgage all your future electrical power revenue."
  4. Local Government Losers (LGL): "Uuuhhhhhhhhhhhh...dat sho' nuff wud be swell, boss. 'Cuz dis heah place sho' cud need some puttin' on a map. Now you wudn't be foolin' us dumb local politicians and paper-pushers, now wud'ya?"
  5. SBD: "Why I've NEVER... Tell you what; I'll even let you look at some papers BEFORE you sign them as a sign of good faith."
  6. LGL: "Duuuuuh.....dat be great, Boss. We didn't fall off no turnip truck yesterday, ya know."
  7. SBD: "Sure you didn't. Tell you what. To sweeten the deal, I'll even offer to translate the documents for ya, so you don't have to struggle with them big, English words and stuff. No need to read the same document twice, right?"
  8. LGL: "Uhhhhhhhh.......U da man, Boss. Cuz' it be da same document, and reading it in two different languages audn't make no sense, 'specially seeing as how nobody in dis here local administration speaka da English. Do y'all in charge of finances in dis heah municipal see a problem with signing a document based on a translation of da original terms proposed by da sellah of said investment deal without checking that the translation is in fact correct?"
  9. Community college flunkout loser local finance people in unison: "If the document is translated, it HAS to say the same, just in a different language. We learned dat in school. Oh, and we also did learn something about trojans and gifts, but we never got condoms for presents, so we never figured out what it was. We also learned something about supply and demand, but we've forgotten what, exactly."
  10. LGL: "You slick, larger-than-5000 inhabitant-city bigshot have gotten yerself a deal if y'all can provide us with da document in question. We sho' got no problem mortgaging our future against your risk-free, high profit investment."
  11. SBD: "Sweet. Now just sign this here."
  12. Mayor/LBL: " at da bottom of dis here blank page, ya mean?"

Shortly after the deal is made (approved by the people who have finance educations and whatnot) the investment turns out to be a high-risk loser-trap, and the municipalities go "Uhhhhhhhh da douchebag done screwed us. How cud we have known. Who wud've thought such a thing about someone who had so nice bidness cards."

Imbeciles. No $hit Terra Securities are crooks, but the people in charge should have seen that coming from a mile away...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

MY list of greatest front figures in rock

Not to be confused with the list presented in Anders' post from Dagbladet. Y'all probably won't agree with my list, and the bands represented here might not have sold as much as some of the candidates on that other list, but in terms of pure front figure charisma and influence on contemporary and subsequent artists, this is THE list according to me. Note that I have not included bands which are solely associated with the front figure (like Hendrix), and it's a list of front figures in rock, not pop (which means that Gwen Stefani shouldn't have been on the other one anyways, as ska ain't rock. Ditto Michael Jackson). Here we go - in stream-of-consciousness order:
  1. Steven Tyler (Aerosmith). There's no getting around Steven, who is one of the most charismatic frontmen ever. Like some of the others on this list, he has that elusive quality that makes him three-dimensional when you watch him on TV or whatever. Dude also has the ability to convey the content of whatever song he's doing.
  2. David Lee Roth (Van Halen). Nobody, but nobody is more charismatic and energetic on stage than Diamond Dave ca. 1984. The video to "Jump" is in my opinion one of the most impressive ever due to it solely focusing on Dave and the band on stage, and how easily they pull it off. With Roth, it's always just a question of pushing "Play". Plus; he's one of the best meta-talkers in the bidness.
  3. David Coverdale (Whitesnake, Deep Purple). Like the two previous on the list, David Coverdale has that quality which makes everything but him disappear from the screen. Plus that voice is so freakin' big...
  4. Mick Jagger (Stones). I think their music freakin' sucks, and that they'd never get a record deal if they rolled up with their out-of tune, three-chord songs in a period where the only two recording acts were themselves and The Beatles, but the Jagger strut and overall demeanor screams rock star.
  5. Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin). The archetypal heavy metal singer, and the blueprint for David Coverdale.
  6. Ronnie James Dio (Black Sabbath, Rainbow). Talk about big voice and presence from such a small dude. Also made it OK to combine D&D/horror lyrics with musical proficiency, unlike his predecessors.
  7. Jon Bon Jovi (Bon Jovi). THE flagbearer for stadium heavy metal in the 80's and 90's. There's no taking that away from them.
  8. Freddie Mercury (Queen). Talk about superstar persona with a flair for the dramatical.
  9. Bruce Springsteen (Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band). Working-class folk-rocker who made a successful transition to stadium rock. I actually wasn't sure about whether to include The Boss, as he has gotten equal success with several backing bands, but still..
  10. Rob Halford (Judas Priest). Besides being the voice and the design from the British metal masters, he actually came out as a homosexual while Priest were in their prime. In the very macho subculture of heavy metal, that takes great strength of character. MUCHO props.
  11. Joan Jett (The Runaways). One of the true pioneers of rock, regardless of gender.
  12. Doro Pesch (Warlock). Another true pioneer who managed to gain widespread credibility in the heavy metal culture way back in the mid-80's. She is an icon of heavy metal, although her solo project is the more well-known band.
  13. Joe Elliot (Def Leppard). Talk about being the lead singer of one of the most influential bands to ever hit the rock scene. Before DL, nobody took the time to lay down 48 rhytm guitar tracks to get a wall of sound. Plus they made it ok to include synth drums in rock. Whether that's a good thing is another discussion, but the influence remains.
  14. Ian Gillan (Deep Purple). No list of this sort is complete without Gillan. Period. Unless you discount the influence of Purple on the development of heavy rock and metal....
  15. Phil Lynott (Thin Lizzy). Together with Wishbone Ash, they pioneered the use of twin guitars in the 70's. Also one of the most cited influences of heavy metal musicians.
  16. Gene Simmons/Paul Stanley (KISS). Difficult to figure out which one of these is the front figure, but they still should get mentioned, as they are THE most influential band for extreme metal, and because they're the greediest bunch of people to hit the music scene in the history of mankind.
  17. Kurt Cobain (Nirvana). Absolutely hate his "music", but you can't deny the influence he had over a million Nirvana spawns.
  18. Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins). Same thing here - I loathe the music he has put out, but the influence is close to impossible to discount.
  19. James Hetfield (Metallica). Metallica was and still is one of the biggest bands ever. Plus, they managed to get to their status mostly via hard work and little to no reliance on MTV. before they sold out, that is.
  20. Nancy Wilson (Heart). This pioneering Seattle AOR band, fronted by the sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson, was consistently among the biggest bands in the world in the late 80's/early 90's. They even made the transition from being members of a flower-power band to fronting their own and negtiating a new record deal, which is awesome.
  21. Debbie Harry (Blondie). Mostly for pioneer reasons...
  22. Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden). The front man for the biggest NWOBHM band. Of freakin' course he has a place here.
  23. Anthony Kiedis (Red Hot Chili Peppers). Two words: Funk Rock
  24. Zach De La Rocha (Rage Against The Machine). Provided the template for nu-metal and most of the industrial rock. Sad but true.
  25. Bono (U2). Yeah, yeah. I guess........
  26. Noel Gallager (Oasis). Same thing - if you count Britpop as rock, that is...
  27. Axl Rose (Guns N' Roses). Also the biggest band on earth before Metallica overtook their momentum.
  28. Vince Neil (Mötley Crüe). Love'em or hate'm - you can't discount the influence MC and Neil has had on 80's hair bands.
  29. Shagrath (Dimmu Borgir). Because he managed to bring black metal to the Billboard list and actually make it ok to advertise for black metal on prime-time TV. That's an extreme accomplishments in and of itself, plus the fact that he has influenced way too many bm "singers".

People I would have loved to include but had to give way due to greater influence by other people: Roy Khan (Kamelot), Robert Smith (The Cure), Sammy Hagar (Van Halen). I'd also like to include Annie Lennox of Eurythmics, but I count Eurythmics as a pop band. So there.

Now to the reasons some of the people on dagbladet's list ain't there:

Michael Hutchence: INXS wouldn't have had lasting fame if the singer hadn't killed himself. I challenge you to point to two major bands that cite INXS as an influence.

Paul McCartney/John Lennon: Beatles never were rock.

Ozzy Osbourne (Black Sabbath): Never a good singer, and people would come to see him do some crazy $hit, not because he was a great frontman. More of a sideshow.

Michael Stipe (REM). Why would I include him?

Jim Morrison (The Doors). In what universe were they a rock band?

Iggy Pop (The Stooges). When dude tours it says Iggy Pop and the Stooges. Dude's damn near a solo artist

Gwen Stefani: Pop artist, never rock

Michael Jackson: Solo artist, and also the King of POP.

Janis Joplin: Solo artist

Chuck D: Public Enemy is one of the first major rap acts - not rock. If you even try to argue this point, then I suggest you name the guitar player or the drummer of PE. ...and there was silence

Johnny Rotten (Sex Pistols). Punk rock came waaaaay after punk. Not the same thing, and a genre onto itself.

Roger Daltrey (The Who). Quick - name one band that claims to be influenced by The Who outside of their guitar style....

Perry Farrel (Jane's Addiction). Corgan is way more influential, bro

Steven Patrick (Morissey). Another band that people love to cite as an influence, but is impossible to trace the influence of. Just like the New York Dolls. Nobody outside of journalists cite Morissey as an influence.

Björk. Solo artist plus ARE Y A FREAKIN KIDDDIN' ME?

Shirley Manson (Garbage). Pathetic attempt to include female front figures so as not to appear biased on dagbladet's part.

Karen O (Yeah Yeah Yeah's). Whuut?

Ian Curtis. Who?

EDIT: After Pigeon frenched and complained and even sent me Wikipedia links (of all unreliable things) to back up his cliam that The Police were a rock act and Roxette isn't, I replaced Roxette with Heart.

Greatest front figures in rock

So, Dagbladet has a list of the greatest front figures in the history of rock. A total of 29 men and women (why 29? Why not 30?), and most of them are giants in the history of rock. There were a couple of people there which I really won't consider "greatest", but that might be just a personal taste.

However, I really missed out one person: Where's Bruce Springsteen? The Boss? The leader of one of the tightest live bands in the history of rock? Regardsless of what you what you think of his music, it's undeniable that he's a great front figure. And he was definitly a front figure, it's "Bruce Springsteen and the E street band".

Also, Elvis should have been there, but one could argue that he was purly a solo artist and hence does not belong to this list.

Symphony of Construction

Awesome! As I sit here trying to finish the corrections to the aforementioned galley proof, the maintenance branch of the university have in their infinite wisdom decided that this would be a good time to do some of that sawing of fiberglass and drilling in concrete walls just outside my office that they never got around to do. And unfortunately, they can't tell how long it's gonna take, but it was vital that they do it NOW. But they're very sorry - they didn't realize it was disturbing.

When life deals you an office adjacent to a newly emerged construction site, play Children Of Bodom.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Gallow Proof

...or Galley Proof, as the publishers like to call it.

After receiving this and reading through it for a really cool paper that recently got accepted, it appeared that few changes needed to be made. Which is good, because anything beyond minor/cosmetic changes to a manuscript at this point requires a major production and thus a lot of work.

Well guess what - I f*cked up! Text fragments in three of the figures are screwed up by one letter following a revision, and now the ante has been upped for the work that needs to be put in. What I envisioned to be a two-hour job is now something that easily will take me all of tomorrow, with no guarantee what the final outcome will be, as there is no such thing as a second galley proof.

F*ck this and the giraffe it rode in on!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Paganini shuffle part 1

In the post "My Band", Anders commented that the best odds of us finding common musical ground would be Paganini in the form of a shuffle. I thought it would be cool to try to adapt at least one of Paganini's 24 caprices to a bluesy format, so this here is sort of a journal entry on the way to a final product in the form of a recording. The idea is that I'll record the original format, plus one shuffle version, perhaps with a backing track. This post might not make sense to anyone but Anders and myself, but if you could see my face as I type this, you'd have an excellent opportunity to witness a picture of me not caring.

Niccolo Paganini is perhaps the most metal of all the virtuoso violinists of old, as the rumors of him having made a deal with the devil in exchange for his otherworldly technical skills still endure to this day. The Faustian ideal of a deal with the devil also provides a link to Robert Johnson and the Crossroads, although it must be said that if Johnson and Paganini made the same basic deal - soul for skillz on their respective instruments - then one of them got severely short-changed.

Step one was to choose which caprice to modify. After giving it some thought, I picked caprice No. 24 in A minor, because the main theme lends itself to 4/4 with no major issues from it's original 2/4 tempo, and because I feel the melody doesn't suffer too much in doing so. Moreover, some series or other on radio way back actually used a 4/4 version of the main theme, so it's not entirely uncharted waters. After poring over the sheet music and practicing a bit, I found that not all the variations work well in a shuffle format. The parts I picked (all of which are 16 bars) are:
  1. The main theme (120 bpm). Most people have heard this theme without knowing it's Paganini. It's a staccato question-and-answers theme with a contained, raw energy waiting to be released in a later variation.
  2. Variation 1 (132 bpm). Dramatic, descending, progressively muted arpeggios (i.e. sweeps) which provide a small relief from the tension of the main theme. Very YJM section, which suits me well.
  3. Variation 2 (144 bpm). Return of the main theme with some chromaticism thrown in for good measure (and extra notes). Also, it's played at a slightly higher tempo, which is cool. I'm probably going to record it a little more muted than what you'll hear on violin recordings, to avoid the notes bleeding into each other on a non-glissando instrument.
  4. Variation 3 (80 bpm). A "heavier" chordal passage with wide intervals which on a guitar necessitates two-handed tapping. More or less the same style of tapping you'll find on Satriani's "Midnight" and Van Halen's "Judgement Day", if you're interested, but more rigid, or tense. This variation really brings down the overall mood of the piece.
  5. Variation 4 (120 bpm). Bouncy, lively theme heavy on the chromaticism, which provides some relief from the downer of the previous passage.
  6. Variation 5 (120 bpm). Another wide-interval two-handed tapping section. This time the tapping is in the same style as typically employed by Michael Romeo of Symphony X. Way cool.
  7. Variation 7 (108 bpm). Playful passage comprised of wide-interval legato trills, which entails string-skipping.
  8. Variation 8 (80 bpm). Euphoric, choral passage with a tremenduous sense of relief, in the same style as the main theme of Beethoven's ninth symphony. Or, if you don't know what I'm talking about - it gives the same sensation as Etta James' "At Last". This is the part I find most difficult to play, as it requires classical fingerpicking, i.e. no plectrum. I don't exactly practice fingerpicking every day, so this is gonna take a little while. The most difficult aspect of this and variation 7 is to convey the emotions of euphoria and playfulness, respectively, that I hear in these passages. Which ain't always easy to do when the music is technically demanding at the same time.
  9. Variation 11 (72 bpm). Octaves and speed-picked ascending runs alternated with descending sweep arpeggios. It's a thing of beauty.
  10. Finale (~115 bpm). Sweep-and tap arpeggios to your (or at least to my) heart's content.

Now I've got to practice more unplugged and with my good friend the metronome, before I move on to the next aspect - choosing the sound.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Not just in Queens or Staten Island

Unfortunately, you can't swing a barbell without hitting four of these at our gym.

Gilmore Girls

Mad TV again !!!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Queen Of Queens

...more Mad TV

Airport security is a wonderful thing

So yesterday me and Dr. S to da V rolled down to Bergen for purposes of data collection. We had the first available flight out, and consequently had to get up before 4 AM. Since we needed to bring some custom-made syringes (a bunch of them), we had to be at the airport in time to check in a bag if we couldn't get it past security. Two days prior, I'd called the airport and asked what my odds were of bringing a box full of 10-12 cm syringes, and they told me that barring a miracle or a very understanding security guy at the checkpoint, I'd have to send the admittedly sharp objects. This information became available to me after three phonecalls, more than 15 different transfers and at least one Kevorkian disconnect.

As we rolled deuce deep into the airport, we decided that I'd just try to get past the security and pull ye olde "I'm just an absent-minded academic and I'm not a morning person so I plain forgot" mea culpa standby in case the rent-a-cops decided they wanted to jump me or something. Just to be sure, I was also bringing two ampules of white powder, so if I got stopped and frisked, I'd have some 'splaining to do. SO; I put my bag on the conveyor belt, put on my most benign look, and pimp-strolled through like nothing. My travel companion, however, got jumped and received the "let's rummage through your stuff" bonus package on account of him having forgotten to take off his belt.

Cliff notes: Rolling past security with a box full of syringes and white powder in vaguely marked glass vials is ok, nailclippers, wrist watches and belt buckles are not.

My faith in the security measures at airports has now skyrocketed.......

Death Proof

So, after dropping of Grandmaster W and his entourage and driving back Woody to the office, I stopped by the local gas station and snapped up a copy of Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino's latest flick. Now I won't make excuses, but there wasn't many movies to choice from, I didn't read the cover before I bought it, I've heard it was a good movie in the old Tarantion style, I was young and needed the money, etc, etc. The fact remains that I ended up at a buddy's place with a movie I though was on pair with Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs and Kill Bill. Even if I knew old Quentin has released a lot of movies of "less then average quality".

So what did I get? Well, the movie is 1:46, and it starts of with four girls in a Sex And The City setting (except, believe it or not, S&TC is funnier) with what is suppose to be a cool dialogue about sex, men and such (which was so obvious written by a man). So this goes on for about 50 minutes, and if I hadn't been such a big looser, I should have turned it off after 10 minutes. To make things even worse, the movie has a 70's vibe on clothes, car, music and scenery (completed with grainy effects and flickering colors to simulate "old film"), but the girls still have brand new cell phones and iPods.

Anyway, enter Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) which act as a kind of a butt ugly Mr. Big for about 10 minutes. Then the girls leave in their car, and Mighty Mike deliberately crashes his car into theirs and killing all four girls. All within a couple of minutes. End of story.

Over to four new girls in a different state. In a Sex And The City setting (except, believe it or not, S&TC is funnier) with what is suppose to be a cool dialogue about sex, men and such (which was so obvious written by a man). So this goes on for about 30 minutes, and if I hadn't been such a completely looser, I should have turned it off ages ago and been on my way home by now. But did I? Nooo... I watched the whole thing. And again, enter Mighty Mike, which again tries to kill these girls by crashing his car into them. But what he doesn't know that two of the girls are stunt women! Ta-da! Guess what? The girls crash into HIS car and kill him after a 10 minutes car chase.

To summarize: Two thumbs down. An all time low for Mr. Tarantion.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The east wing !!!!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Sex& The City Of The Desperate Housewives

....'cause I'm wall-to-wall evil and a pusher of buttons

Monday, November 12, 2007

Another sexist commercial...

I remember W-masters post about the double standards in the Bohus commercial, so when this ad in this weekends Dagbladet, were Bricks Personell wants to hire plumbers, I just had to post it! I'm not sure if they're trying to be funny or not. If they are, they sure fail miserably. And the fact that they have included models agency, called Glamstars, does not in any way help convince me that this is meant as a joke. Basically this is good ol' fashion sexism, but it might just be stupid enough for them to get away with it.

After checking out their webpage, it seems that Bricks Personell has made it their trademark to have borderline sexist ads:
Yeah, really creative guys. You guys are really "naughty" (rampete) indeed.
What's next? Oh, why not top it off with a little manly joke? Talk about brand building...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

That 80's Blog

Stumbled across this treasure of a blog by acident like a week ago.

It's got SO many music videos categorized by artist and year, it's amazing. I wish I'd found this before I organized the "blind test"/music quiz Pigeon so decisively won yesterday.

Tough to be Jack Bauer...

... in 1994.

For the nostalgics !!!!!!!!

Joe Le Taxi...

...or rather, Taxi, the french movie. It's some years old, but I heard that this was a good movie (note: Not "good for a french movie, just "good") so I decided to watch it last weekend.

What can I say? Is this the french version of "The Fast And The Furious"? Yes, it's perfectly OK to make movie about fast cars, but how 'bout a story? The so-called story was pretty lame: A cop wanted to catch a gang of German bank robbers to impress his bigbreasted, blond, femal collegue (played by Swedish Emma Sjöberg) and recruits a taxi driver/ pizza delivery boy wannabe rac driver to help him out. And guess what? The manage to arrest the german gang. But only after a long car chase through Marseilles, and off course helped by a bunch of pizza delivery boys on scooters...

Good car scenes, crappy story and average performance of the actors. I will say it's an OK watch if you're really bored, but I guess you have to be french to fully appreciate it.

Edit: What the... is up with the layout on this post???

Friday, November 9, 2007

How to make fun of the guy sitting next to you in a plane.

1. Take your laptop out of your bag

2. Open it slowly and calmly

3. Start it

4. Make sure the jackass sitting next to you is looking at the screen

5. Start your favourite browser

6. Look up and close your eyes

7. Take a deep breath and click on :

8. Check out your neighbour's face.

Nobel Laureate Scott Adams

Scott Adams makes excellent arguments for why he should win the Nobel Prize in whichever category. Frankly, his arguments far outweigh the reasoning for many a Nobel prize, as far as I'm concerned.

I'd vote for him.

We're experiencing technical difficulties

Damn! Hate it when this happens

Evaluating assessments

So.......I 've just had a full day of pedagogic training, and have been weighed down with yet another lengthy written + oral assignment to be completed by the end of the semester. This time, it was an "elective" topic - "Exams and alternative means of assessment", which is kind of similar to error messages displayed in Ye Olde operative system Windows NT - you've got options, but only one alternative, and that's "OK". Again, like an idiot, I had hopes of getting useful info on alternatives to written/oral exams and how to combine different methods in order to probe more aspects of student learning. Again, I came out with nothing except a temporarily higher blood pressure and level of frustration. This is getting really old, really fast.

I know what you're thinking - he's probably either exaggerating for comic effect, or he doesn't really want to learn anything new about pedagogics. SO; like Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue said back in 1988 - especially for you - here are two of the more significant bullet points we were treated to during a long day of pedagogic training (I slam-dunked in two more that I just made up - see if you can guess which ones are the actual bullet points from the course):
  1. Innovative assessment is about empowering learners
  2. Learning outcomes should be related to learning objectives
  3. Proper assessment improves learning outcomes
  4. Students should learn through assessment not learn to be assessed

If you get this right AND you can explain to me what "Formative evaluation" means, I'll buy you a beer or another alcoholic beverage of your choice. If you don't see what the fuzz is about since all the four statements made perfect sense and you use formative evaluation all the time, your medication might not be working.

The "student body" in this module was quite diverse, and fit very well with preconceived notions - there was the MD with who showed up too late and had to leave way early to play squash, there was the biologist with a Bergans windbreaker, five-day stubble, boots and a hyooge backpack, an art history professor dressed like a blind hobo, a marketing guy in a flashy suit, and an electronics/IT/physics guy who - in descending order of appearance - had Einstein-y, curly hair, coke bottle glasses, a very busy and colorful sweater, black dress pants, navy blue socks and medium brown shoes. Tremenduous. This dude should have been put in a jar of formaldehyde and studied for the benefit of future generations.

Being that I was in a diabolical mood - approximately equivalent to how you feel after four Long Island Iced Teas but without the relaxed sensation you get from alcohol - I decided that the best way of getting the time to pass by would be to actively participate in the discussion. This turned into a heated debate on several occasions, particularly when the topic of how grades are relevant was thrown open for discussion.

This debate got started by an MD who - in response to another course participant complaining about how her students would turn in formal complaints just for the hell of it unless they got an A - stated that "So why do you use grades at all? We only use pass/fail when training our medical students, and they demonstrate time and again that this system is sufficient." Dude was quite arrogant in how he addressed the problem, and since I was in my boredom-induced diabolical state, I couldn't let that go.

You don't need to know much about the standard grading systems to be able to drink fully from the elegance of my arguments here - it was a debate between a pass/fail at a limit of ~70% versus a letter-system between A-F, where A is above 90% and F represents Fail ( below 40%). What I said was the following.

"But what about other job markets than for GP's where there are many applicants per job - wouldn't it be good to be able to rank the applicants? In many branches of industry - plus when the economy is down - you've got 70+ applicants per job, so you can't give all of them a job interview. And so; if you draw the line at pass/fail and you give a "pass" criterion in the job announcement, then every applicant is gonna be qualified. So then what do you do?"

Now in a defensive position, the MD starts to attack the premise of a grade - i.e. a grades and understanding/performance are not related, and someone might have gotten bad grades because they were having kids and stuff, and having passed that stage, they're now working dynamos. Strike two:

"What the grades are a measure of is the student's willingness and ability to learn a new subject and demonstrate this aquired knowledge within a given time limitm which is quite pertinent to any job situation following higher education. Consequently, a student with all A's and B's has demonstrated that he or she is much more capable of doing this than someone with a consistant track record of D's and E's. And with all due respect, the odds of someone who consistantly pulls D's and E's being an Academic Behemoth are phenomenally low. The students go through - what - 30-50 exams by the time they graduate, and the odds of one student pulling all D's only due to bad luck or other causes beyond their control are infinitesimal."

Now the dude was starting to back down and mumbling about how in the medical profession it was as much about people skills and an ability to see the whole picture rather than just being good at each subdiscipline. So strike three:

"Please - its not as if you disregard grades, considering that in order to be able to get accepted into med school, you need to have a perfect average from high school. All you've done is to preselect the students with a high propensity for doing well on exams, which is exactly what you just criticized others for."

I'm not blind to the problems with grading students, and I've got no nostalgic reasons for holding on to the present assessment system - I've been through a number since my undergraduate days. What I do feel strongly about, is that we need some kind of objective ranking system that's more finely divided than the binary pass/fail, and unless you have a better system than grades for accomplishing this, then don't state nonsense like "We need a school system without grades". 'cause that just demonstrates that you've never, ever hired people with a higher education.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Pedagogic take-home assignment

...aka homework. My how time does fly, and next Friday, I have to turn in my "Project report from progressive development in my own teaching". Basically, we're supposed to turn in a giant essay on "How we have evolved as teachers, students of life and human beings through the infinite wisdom imparted on us by our benevolent and Infallible Pedagogic Teachers through whom we are one step closer to Spiritual Enlightenment from Their guiding us on the Path of Righteousness and honoring us mere mortals by Their Immaculate Presence."

In theory, this is all good and well - write up a report based on what you learned in the course and how you've implemented it in your teaching. But there's a catch. This is very much akin to writing a report on how you spent the money from a grant you never got. So I'm screwed.

As I struggle to define the structure of my report and - well - a topic, I find it hard to fill out even the simplest of sections and not lying my ass off. Honesty doesn't work in situations like these, or the "Background and motivation" section of this "What did I learn in Pedagogic training and how excited am I to write about it" paper would read "Same as what I had before the course started" and "None," respectively. But I strongly suspect that my pedagocic instructors are looking for something else, so I have done what appeared feasible considering the hand I've been dealt, and read through the final reports of some previous students. We were strongly encouraged to do so in the beginning of the course, so as to bear witness to the infinite untapped potential that mere mortal academics have become capable of carrying out after one full year of this course, and were encouraged again recently so as to catch a glimpse of Enlightenment.

Since the reports are specific for whatever course load, level, department and faculty the individual academic has to deal with, the best one can hope for is to get some idea on how it's possible to structure this thing. In reading previous reports, I learned that my predecessors have struggled with the exact same issues I have - they've had no clue what to write, and have consequently just jotted down pages with an information density startlingly close to zero. This is evident from the fact that I can read the same paragraph in any given report - especially the "background and motivation" - five times without any hope of figuring out what it really means. If I try to identify content-carrying, defining sentences, I come up empty.

I know - the joke's on me since I actually bothered to do the recommended reading. Serves me right. Besides, in retrospect I should have seen this coming just by reading the titles. If someone tries to pass of the phrase "Formative evaluation" in a title, it's pretty darn obvious that the rest of the document is void of content. Otherwise one would never put something meaningless in a title. "Formative evaluation" - what the hell does that mean anyways? "Formative years" makes sense. "Formative evaluation" only makes sense in the sense that it is built up by an adjective preceding a noun.

SO; I'm gonna use the same trick here and just insert pretentious, meaningless phrases in a gramatically semi-correct fashion. The working title of my report: "Formative evaluation of teaching and learning in a pedagogically conducive environment through pro-active synergy"

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A tribute to Mitch Hedberg

Mitch Hedberg - a great comedian who passed away way too early. His stand-up acts are in my opinion some of the best ever, especially if you appreciate disjunct and sometimes bizarre everyday observations beyond the cliché "Don't you hate it when ..." or "Have you ever wondered why ...". Enjoy these four Mitch Hedberg clips.

Maiden, Maiden, Maiden....

Woohoo! Iron Maiden is playing in Trondheim on the 22nd of July 2008. Tickets will be put out for sale this upcoming Monday. I never thought I'd have the chance to see Maiden in Trondheim, so this is teh awesome. Moreover, the "Somewhere back in time - world tour 2008" is gonna focus on the six first Maiden albums, meaning that they stop just short of "Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son", which kind of blows but still - we'll be treated to tunes from the self-titled debut album (1980), "Killers" (1981), "The Number Of The beast" (1982), "Piece Of Mind" (1983), "Powerslave" (1984) and "Somewhere In Time" (1986).

Impossible to sing along to,eh Chuck Klosterman?

Monday, November 5, 2007

The fine line between science and the seven liberal arts

Heard a story on the radio this morning that watching television is harmful to children. TV must be regarded as a national health problem, says British psychologist Aric Sigman to BBC News. According to Sigman, children who watch too much television get sleeping disorders, behavioral problems and weight issues. The latter comes from a tendency to snack while watching TV. Hence, he wants to outlaw TV for children under three years of age. he's also come up with specific timelimits for different age groups.

Way back in 1995, I took a "diversity" course dealing with - among other things - the history of science and how the human sciences used to be referred to as "liberal arts" rather than science due to their complete lack of scientific method. Statements and studies such as these make me wonder whether the inclusion of the "seven liberal arts" into the "science" concept needs some rethinking. By the way; the only useful thing I gathered from this course was the historical-biographical method, which I apply liberally whenever some douche with a ~50 year filter in their history knowledge tries to argue that communism works in real life, and that it's misunderstood due to bad PR. But that's a story for another time.

Conventional wisdom would agree with the conclusion that watching too much TV can't be all that good, because given the limited number of hours in a day, the more time you spend in front of the TV, the less you have available for other stuff which might be much better for you, like being physically active, developing social skills, playing some kind of sport, or reading. But the same argument would hold for computer games, reading comics and time spent online as well, so I hardly see how the TV can be accurately pinpointed as the culprit here. And by the way; if it took some story from a psychologist for you to figure out that spending seven hours every day in front of the television watching reality shows and eating potato chips might not be beneficial for your kid, then I propose that whatever problems your kid might have in the future are gonna be caused BOTH by environmental and genetic factors.

Also; isn't blaming television for children becoming overweight by chewing their way through an evening of reality shows and music videos kind of ...backward? It's like saying "On the basis of my observations, wearing huge pants makes you overweight" (I might have gotten that from Scott Adams, but I can't be bothered to do a proper literature search to find out for sure).

Still; what really makes me cringe about this is the complete breakdown of scientific method. I know; I haven't actually read his study, but riddle me this: How is it possible to reach a conclusion where one factor is singularly identified on a data set consisting of not just human subjects, but children. AND; not only would he need to have a statistically valid sample of all age brackets, but for each age segment he would also need several statistically valid control groups (i.e. one group with no access to TV but access to computer games, one with absolutely no access to anything, etc) in order to be able to draw any conclusion that does not include cross-correlated variables. If anyone can tell me how it was possible for this psychologist to reach this conclusion using proper scientific method without being in violation of just about every human right imaginable AND without just making stuff up, I'll buy you a beer.

Friday, November 2, 2007

My band...

Sometimes I really miss playing in a band, and everytime I watch a live DVD with a great band, I get all nostalgic. Even more so when I watch a live act. One might argue that I'm in the entertainment business already with what I do for a living, but it's not the same. I haven't played live since the late 90's, and I know full and well that I ain't got the time, but sometimes I wonder what kind of band I'd play in. Based on what I usually play and record at home, I've come up with the following list of genres/band types I'd be comfortable in:

Pop metal
Pros: I'd love to play in a good-time metal outfit in the style of Van Halen, Extreme, Wig Wam, Warrant or Poison. Lots of variety, plenty of opportunities for guitar solos, and an excuse to play the almighty power ballad every now and then.
Cons: Limited to feel-good party music. No double bass drums, blast beats or odd time signatures.

True Metal
Pros: Classic metal in the style of WASP, Dio, Firewind or Dream Evil. The latter is an example of true metal not being extremely self-conscious, which is a good thing, as it allows for something other than standing with your arms crossed and being serious.
Cons: Not too many, really. Less melodic hooks and fewer accessible lyrical themes.

Thrash metal
Pros: Every now and then, I find myself coming up with slight variations of Mustaine riffs and licks anyway, plus you have a real opportunity for releasing pent-up anger through the power of the E pedal riffs.
Cons: In a thrash outfit, it ain't cool to show any emotion other than anger, which doesn't exactly match up too well with how I am IRL.

Symphonic/progressive metal
Pros: I love bands like Symphony X, Treasure Land and Pagan's Mind, and it would be awesome to have the possibility of breaking up a "straight" metal tune with inverted themes and progressions and odd time signatures before bringing it all home to a catchy chorus. Plus - all the solos I might want.
Cons: In this type of band outfit, you can't play a simple rock/metal tune anymore, as you're expected to play math rock in weird time signatures. The freedom becomes your prison.

Power and extreme power metal
Pros: Helloween, Gamma Ray, Edguy, Labyrinth and Dragonforce. Nothing but sing-along choruses, double bass drums, speed picking, whammy pedals and high-pitch vocals. Awesome! Plus, you can get away with being happy every now and then, and you can even show a sense of humor and play the occasional power ballad.
Cons: No clean arpeggiated songs ever again...

Epic/symphonic metal
Pros: Mix of classical music and power metal in the style of Rhapsody and Kamelot. Technically challenging, fast, solo-friendly and catchy.
Cons: You're either stuck with some lame keyboard or sampling guru for the orchestrations, or you have to somehow find enough classically trained musicians to make it work. Difficult...

Neoclassic/melodic metal
Pros: What could be cooler than playing neoclassical/melodic metal in the style of Yngwie, Angra or Last Tribe? Metal versions of Air all night long..... Tight verses and open choruses - teh awesome.
Cons: It would be cool if someone outside the band liked the music...

Some cover band
Pros: No real limitations as far as style - you could even have different themes for different occasions. Plenty of opportunity for drawing crowds, i.e. potential revenue.
Cons: You can't play original material, and riding a bicycle from Norway to Cuba is more feasible than getting a record deal.

It wasn't all good, though. There are definitely aspects I don't particularly wish to relive, including but not limited to dealing with lead singers who think they're Roy Khan or Andre Matos, but in reality sound like a poor Axl Rose/Bon Scott imitator, which ain't a good thing. Playing in freezing or poorly ventilated venues for a staggering crowd of 25 people who are more busy fighting than rockin' to your act. Getting paid in beer. Being asked to play "Enter Sandman" or "Knockin' On Heaven's Door". Incompetent band members who are irreplaceable due to their having a van or a PA. Hungover and drunk band members who embrace the rock'n roll lifestyle but don't have the musicality to back it up. Pub owners who refuse to book you unless you play "Paradise City", "Sweet Home Alabama" or "Smells Like Teen Spirit". Even worse - being forced to play hits by Norwegian redneck bands such as DDE. Being billed as the opening act for semi-famous bands and having their lead guitarist ask you to "not play so fast". Et Cetera

Way to get your day started - TGIF

This morning, I missed a call on my cell phone, and it went straight to my answering service. Later when I checked my messages, I totally freaked out. The message was from "The bank", and a female voice from the southernmost regions of Norway kindly informed me that I'd exceeded the limit on my credit card, and could I please make sure it got taken care of.

I freaked out - partly because it ain't the kind of news you want to hear, and partly because I knew that if the limit had been anywhere near approached, it wasn't by me, which would have meant that I'd lost my card or that somehow the info had ended up in the idle hands of some up-to-no-good douchebag. It took less than five seconds to figure out that I hadn't lost the card, and I couldn't remember having used any ATM's with misspellings, like "VIZA", "Dinnerz" or "Amreecan Exprezz".

Needless to say, I went online to check my account at the earliest opportune moment, and I was partially relieved when no problems could be detected. Still; what if my online bank hadn't been updated or something? So I called the number left on my answering service.

When I got the message on my machine, the caller just informed me that it was from "The bank", without providing me with the name of the bank. Naturally, I assumed it was my bank. When I called the number, the same person who'd left a message called and presented the name of some local bank way down south. I stated my name and business, and it got real quiet for a couple of seconds - which didn't help me one bit, I might add - before she said that there must have been some mistake, 'cause my name didn't match the person she'd called up. And the fact that I didn't have an account in that bank also didn't track with me having exceeded my limit. So they had screwed up the phone number, and apologized a lot. In retrospect, I should have given them hell for screwing that up and freaking me out, but I was so relieved, it didn't matter at the time.

DAMN! TGI-freakin'-F!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Bicycle love

Did you read the story about the guy who got arrested for having sex with his bicycle? After being caught by his cleaners, this Scottish gentleman is now placed on the sex offenders' register. I think it's safe to say that if you start your day by getting caught trying to get to third base with your bike, the rest of the ain't looking too good either. Scott Adams has already milked this story for most of the good jokes on his blog, so he totally beat me to it.

I'll take great pleasure in forwarding the story to my Scottish friend James, though. He's already expressed some concern that my only knowledge of Scottish culture appears to be from Mike Myers, Braveheart and Groundskeeper Willy from The Simpsons. From now on, he might refer to that time as "The Good Old Days". The potential for jokes here is endless, especially if the bike turns out to be second-hand.

Also, this story explains quite a bit about the douchebags who insist on riding their bicycles in full-on condom suits in the car lanes despite Trondheim having excellent bicycle lanes which are virtually devoid of traffic. First of all I thought the term "condom suit" referred to the tight fit, not to the practice of safe sex. Second, I thought they were pedaling those bikes for all it's worth in order to get to where they were going, not to get their freak on. Third, I'm now wondering if the crotch padding of those condom suits also have some receptacle function in order to facilitate cleaning.