Archive for June, 2010

Exit Through the Gift Shop

H and I took in Exit Through the Gift Shop a while back at the Landmark Tivoli. I was moved and enjoyed it. It tells the story of Mr. Brainwash, a fellow who begins as an amateur filmmaker following street artists and then becomes a street artist himself. He makes big gambles on becoming an artist, and he makes it.

The question in the reviews is whether the story is real. It could be a fantasy from Banksy. I had read none of the controversy prior to seeing the movie, and I took it at face value. This New York Times review is one of many that addresses the doubt. Although I tend to be a stickler about urban legends and email forwards, I find the issue of veracity largely uninteresting in this case. Whatever the truth, the movie is a delight.

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Michael M. on June 28th 2010 in General, Movies

The Writer Who Couldn’t Read

The Writer Who Couldn’t Read aired on NPR‘s Morning Edition a week or so ago. I heard the preview, but then I missed the actual broadcast. H reminded me about it. It tells the story of Howard Engel, a writer who lost his literacy in a stroke. With great creativity, he taught himself to read again using a variety of tricks to harness still intact functions. The web edition of the story adds a great cartoon accompanying the story. Although terrible at times, it is  amazing that our brains work this way.

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Michael M. on June 28th 2010 in General

Indiana fiddling

The blogged Indiana Fiddlers’ Gathering, also known as Battle Ground, was great again. H and I headed out to Battle Ground, Indiana late Friday morning. We had a few great days camping and playing with Ryan Spearman and many others at the Tippecanoe Battlefield. It was packed with fun. I hope I can go to another festival somehow before the season ends.

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Michael M. on June 28th 2010 in General, Music

Teaching at the Folk School

Introduction to Fingerstyle Guitar through the Music of “Mississippi” John Hurt is a new class at the beloved Folk School. I will teach it! I am excited for the opportunity to share music from favorite Mississippi John Hurt. The class will meet Wednesdays from 8 to 9:20 PM from July 14 through August 11, 2010. My plan is to help folks who know their chords, but do not have fingerpicking experience to get their right hand fingers moving. I need at least three people to sign up, and I have heard that I got a first one already. It might be foolish to take on the commitment given my others. I could not let it pass me by, though, especially since I do not know when the chance will happen again. If you know people in the Saint Louis area who want to get started with this music, send them my way.

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Michael M. on June 28th 2010 in General, Music

Thuman Grill Open Mic

I have blogged about the Atomic Cowboy Open Mic several times. Back in April, I visited the one at Thurman Grill. H’s band River Bound opened the night. Then I followed. With nobody in the wings to play after me, I kept going until my fingers got too blistered to continue. H recorded a few of the songs with her camera. I extracted the audio for mp3s, and I cut the videos to make this playlist on YouTube. The tunes are favorite Mississippi John Hurt‘s “Big Leg Blues” and “Louis Collins” with an original in D between them. She also recorded my arrangement of the wonderful Beatles‘ “In My Life.”

H recorded one long video with the first three tunes. I used FFmpeg edit it. Her camera records AVHCD videos with the .MTS extension and AC3 audio. For FFmpeg to cut it into pieces, I had to put it in a .mov file first. FFmpeg then was able to split the .mov file using the -ss and -t switches, but the duration was always wrong. I had to adjust the duration specified with the -t switch by a factor of 2. When I uploaded the videos, the YouTube results lacked audio. I re-encoded the audio track to AAC, and YouTube was able to convert them. I also used FFmpeg’s audio extraction feature to make mp3s. Here are the results.

“Big Leg Blues” (mp3)

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“D Original” (mp3)

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“Louis Collins” (mp3)

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“In My Life” (mp3)

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Michael M. on June 8th 2010 in General, Live, Mine, Music, Recorded

Fiddle exploration

For Memorial Day weekend, H and I headed up to Alton, Illinois. A friend told me that blogged Banjo Billy would host a jam at Mississippi Mud Pottery. The Old Time Music Gathering and Fiddler’s Picnic was a small, but it had good players. It was a celebration of fiddling on the river stretching back to the Corp of Discovery. I had a good time, but then I forgot about it.

Today I decided to revisit the Fiddle Hangout on my day off. While looking at whether any of my friends had been active there lately, I found this video. It is also here on YouTube. I am in it. In fact, I called and led the tune, “Dog Treed a Possum Up a White Oak Tree.” I posted the tune several years back. I learned it from banjo buddy Robert Mallery and the Dear Old Illinois collection. A newspaper reporter recorded it although I was not aware at the time. “Fiddlers tip hats to the past” came out in the Telegraph.

Banjo Billy is a regular at the three times blogged Indiana Fiddlers’ Gathering, better known as Battle Ground. I will go this year. I hope to play with Billy again. I know a number of Saint Louis players will go, too. I am excited for it!

“Dog Treed a Possum Up a White Oak Tree” (mp3)

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Michael M. on June 7th 2010 in General, Live, Mine, Music

Avatar

I had heard about Avatar for weeks before going. Fortunately, it ran in theaters for months. H and I finally saw it at the Galleria 6 St. Louis Cinemas. The visual impact of the movie is terrific. The morality of the story rubbed some moviegoers the wrong way, especially because it alludes to the current situation in Iraq. It also alludes to every other people who inhabited a place with natural resources desirable to outsiders including the settlement of these United States.

I only wish I had realized that the 3D system uses circular polarization. I thought it used linear polarizers, but I got no effect by tilting my head. I should have flipped the left and right polarizers. I wonder what it would have looked like with the visual disparities reversed.

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Michael M. on June 3rd 2010 in General, Movies

Greenberg

I saw Noah Baumbach on this episode of Charlie Rose a couple of months ago. It confirmed the idea that I should see Greenberg. I had been worried that the movie would be too sad. I caught it at the St. Louis Cinemas Moolah with H.

The movie sees the title character return to Los Angeles, the place he had almost made great success before submarining his band’s debut. In the interim, he has wasted his life while remaining proud and insulting to more compromising people. While definitely a downer movie in multiple respects, Greenberg the character is a subject for empathy, judgment, contemplation and rejection. It made for a good mix.

Looking through the credits, I noticed that Emily Lacy, recently blogged, made a brief appearance. What a fun coincidence!

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Michael M. on June 3rd 2010 in General, Movies

Machine Project

I heard about Machine Project on KWMU. Member Emily Lacy set up residence in the Contemporary Art Museum. Near the end of her time here, I had a day off and went to see and hear. It was fun. I had heard that she played the banjo, but she was not using digital looping devices called Earbees when I went. Anyone was welcome to pick up and Earbee and add to the sound environment. I just plopped in a beanbag when one became available and listened.

She also learned the wonders of favorite Pappy’s barbecue while visiting. She talked to the assembled spectators about eating there one more time as something she wanted to do again before leaving, and it is mentioned on the main page of her web site.

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Michael M. on June 3rd 2010 in General, Live, Music

Temperament

I enjoyed “The Wolf at Our Heels” in Slate. H sent it to me. The book How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony (and Why You Should Care) inspired the article. I have had a mild interest in temperament for a while, and this article hit a nice spot of education without bothersome detail.

I have an idea for a keyboard whose temperament changes depending on the other notes being played. For instance, it would change the pitch of a G slightly depending on whether the other keys pressed near it in time form a G major chord, a C major, an E minor or whatever. Somebody else, of course, thought of it long before me. Automatic Just Intonation outlines a system designed along these lines. I have not yet found an implementation, though.

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Michael M. on June 2nd 2010 in General, Music

California

For my spring vacation, H and I headed to California to visit my sister. It was good to get away. The first afternoon, we headed to the Getty Center. Leonardo Da Vinci and the Art of Sculpture was on exhibit. Of course it was amazing to see the products of such a great person, but the grounds of the Getty probably are the biggest attraction. The gardens, pools and balconies are excellent.

The next day we headed to Magic Mountain. Batman and Superman were good fun. We also rode a wooden roller coaster that was my favorite there. I wish I could have had more friends with me from my visits to Six Flags St. Louis.

Joshua Tree National Park spans two deserts, the Mojave and the Colorado. We started in the Colorado Desert part, and I was beginning to think the park’s name was fraudulent. It has few to no Joshua trees. Mastodon Peak was a reasonably easy climb, though, with a broad view. I was surprised by the recent history of the Salton Sea, visible from Keys View. The now huge lake started forming a little over a hundred years ago. Such a big geological change is weird. Then I saw more Joshua trees than I ever wanted in the Mojave.

A trip to the Brazilian steakhouse Porto Alegre Churrascaria was another highlight. It was a good choice by my sister. I was happy to stoke my interest in Brazil again. I was stuffed by the time we left the table for good.

It was great to see my sister. The place, though, is not for me. It was good to get away for a little while, and then good to get back again. I could use a little more vacation, though.

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Michael M. on June 2nd 2010 in General

Brain music

Exploring Music’s Hold on the Mind” in The New York Times is a short interview with Aniruddh D. Patel. I might like mixing my vocations and avocations.

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Michael M. on June 2nd 2010 in General, Music

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.